Originally Posted by 35ft6
Nadal is just as consistent, more powerful, faster, mentally tougher, a more explosive backhand... Not even close IMO.
Nadal uses a Luxilon/Babolat combo. Bruguera was VERY fast, Richard Krajicek said he "couldn't believe how fast," level fast. Nadal on the other hand tries MUCH harder point in and point out than Bruguera like Muster did, but pound for pound, I would not say Nadal was any faster if you eliminate heart from the equeation. Bruguera's max level forehands when he went for broke are as hard and as explosive as anyone I've ever seen, his racket head speed was second to none when he decided to let loose. The difference is that Nadal is of the new Luxilon breed like Blake, Gonzales, et. all that's been trained into the mentality of swinging all out all the time, because the Luxilon lets us get away with it. The older generation had to pick and choose when to let loose, I believe it was AndrewD who was an Australian Open linesman for a great period of time who said that. The old guys he said could smack it just as hard, but they picked their spots when to swing for the fences because the technology created and made that kind of mentality a necessity. As far as backhand goes, Tony Trabert wrote a Tennis Magazine instruction article on Bruguera's backhand saying that when it was on it was one of the best and most versatile in the game; he could definitely bop it as Malivai Washington said, it's just that he didn't always choose to. Volleys and touch, when it comes to feathered topspin, drop volleys, etc. Bruguera in my opinion was clearly better, whereas I consider Nadal merely a solid volleyer, and his topspin is not as much of the finesse variety that Bruguera could generate (watch the Leconte-Bruguera Paris Indoors match to see what I mean). As far as clutchness goes, I would say Nadal tries hard but he's definitely not an ice vein level of clutch like Muster or Courier.
I've said it before, but Nadal IS in another class than Bruguera on clay, but in a one-match your life is on the line situation, I would defintely give Bruguera a real chance.
Nadal is to me, the best combination of Muster and Bruguera. He's not quite as fit as Muster, but he has the natural foot speed of Bruguera. He's not quite as clutch as Muster, or even a fully commited Brugera, but he also doesn't space out in matches and give half effort for large portions of matches. He's a lefty like Muster, yet has the height of Bruguera. He's got more of the natural talent and feel of Bruguera, without quite as soft hands, but he's got more feel than Muster.
Also, Bruguera wasn't in shape for the 95 French due to injury and his legs "felt like spaghetti." He may have won three or four in a row had his body held up. He and Krajicek are actually best buddies practically, and they both share something in common...really fragile bodies. Had they been able to stay healthy, I believe they each would have won at least one or two more slams.
Before anyone question's Bruguera's pure talent level, note that he came within two points of a 6-love set against Sampras at the year ending championships when the courts actually played really fast, he was playing so well in fact that Sampras shook his head and bowed down to him in jest at the beginning of the third. He serve and volleyed his way to victory over Rafter at Wimbledon in the match of the tournament in 94, again when grass played like grass.
He also only played on hard courts one time in his entire life prior to turning 18. His mentality and game developed differently. Guys back then simply weren't told to swing all out all the time. Bruguera used Technifibre multifilament strung low in his RD-7s. A lot of free swinging western grippers would have a hard time keeping the ball in play at all with that kind of setup these days.
Bruguera vs. Nadal, one match only with life on the line, there is definitely a comparison in my opinion. The rest of the time and a career though, definitely no comparison. It's the same deal with Muster and Kuerten.
Muster has better fitness than Nadal, Muster would outlast anyone in his physical peak including Nadal. On a blistering hot day, or with my life is on the line stipulations, I give Muster the same real shot as Bruguera. Muster was one of the most clutch players I've ever seen, Nadal on the other hand gets tight but fights through and masks that tightness with his heart. Muster with a gun to his head, however, would be my pick in the clutch everytime. Again, one time only deal, Muster's got a real shot; career wise? No shot. As I said, Nadal is like the perfect hybrid.
Kuerten? Same deal. One match with life on the line, you've got to give him a real shot. He brings tremendous angled power to the table and more importantly like most one-handers isn't bothered by high-bounding topspin at all (Muster being the only other one like this). Kuerten was the Korda of clay, but with way more heart day in and day out, which got him through his bad days quite a bit unlike say a Krajicek who unless he was "on" he was already heading to the locker room. However, over a career, same deal; Nadal is superior. Kuerten's heart wouldn't save him on his off days against Nadal since Nadal's heart is just as big, BUT he also never really has truly off days either and has way more margin for error on his strokes.
Overall, Nadal's the greatest clay courter of all time, no question (though we'll never know what a genetic freak like Borg could have done with modern technique and equipment). However, you can't say that no other former king of clay's wouldn't have a chance against him. Coria gave him all he could handle a few years ago, and Coria in my opinion while great is definitely not quite as good as previous kings of clay at their peak.