Rafa’s first round post-match presser transcript and video can be found here.
Q. How did you feel today?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, you know, I was practicing very well during all the week. I was for sure nervous. That’s normal. It’s normal start the tournament like this with some nerves. And what happened today, he didn’t help because he played very fast all the time. All the shots, he was trying to do a winner in almost every shot. So it was difficult for me to find the rhythm. Yeah, but it’s a positive start winning in straight sets, even if was unbelievable that I won straight sets. But is a victory in straight sets. So happy for the victory. Happy to come back here New York. I think I didn’t play that bad. But the mental part was positive tonight. The tennis for sure can improve. I have to play a little bit more inside the court. But I am confident I can do it.
Even if it was unbelievable that he won in straight sets - love that. And it’s true. It was another one of those “damn; that sucked; could you hold serve?; that other guy can hit! Oh wait, Rafa won?” matches.
Q. Are you concerned at all about your serve? You were broken five times the whole tournament 2010, six times tonight.
RAFAEL NADAL: Is impossible to win this year (laughter). No, I am joking. Sure, the serve was important part of my game last year. But the serve help me a lot to win the tournament, but I won the tournament because I was playing fantastic from the baseline. So my game is from the baseline. I never gonna be a big, you know my serve never going to be huge, I know that. But I can improve my serve, and that is what I am doing. Today I lost my serve six times. In my opinion, was not a fault of my serve. You know, was a fault that he was returning very fast all the time. Sometimes I hit the very good serves, 126, 128, and the ball came back unbelievable fast, no? And, you know, I was enough fast I was not enough fast to play aggressive with the forehand. That’s because I was a little bit more nervous. But that’s the sport; that’s the game. I lost six time the serve. Was not my serve, the fault.
I love how he excepts limitations and is focused on finding ways to deal with them and make them less of a weakness.
Q. So you’re not worried?
RAFAEL NADAL: You know, I cannot be worried today having two days off winning the first match. If I won today, I cannot go to sleep tonight, tomorrow, I not worried. I happy I’m through. I didn’t play a lot this summer. You know, I have a fantastic week of practice here. I was practicing really well, much better than in the previous tournaments. It’s normal start like this. It’s normal start with doubts, with more nervous. The confidence didn’t came like this (snapping fingers). You have to find your confidence. The confidence is spending hours on court, competing better, winning matches. Today was one of the matches. I am very happy to be through, and I am happy to be playing better. We’ll see if I am ready to make this improve that I will make.
Be happy. Don’t worry.
Q. How do you find the court? Federer said they are slow. What is your impression?
RAFAEL NADAL: I cannot say. I see the court very similar than last year. That’s my feeling. But everybody have a different feeling. When you arrive to one tournament, for one court the court is very fast, for another court the court is not that fast. It depends how you’re playing and your feelings. And your feelings are not the same every year. So your opinion on how you see the court depends how you’re moving, how you’re playing, you know. My feeling is the same.
Sadly, there weren’t as many hand gestures to go with this as I’ve seen him make in the past when trying to explain this.
Q. How are you moving and how are you playing then?
RAFAEL NADAL: I already talk about that 10 minutes. I said I had fantastic week of practice. Today I played with more nerves. Today I played nervous. That’s normal thing. You know, I lost few matches this summer. Even if I had a fantastic season before, had tough loses in finals. But this summer I didn’t play a lot, so the confidence is not arriving fast. Especially if you don’t win a lot of matches in the last tournaments, even if I was practicing very well, for sure that’s not enough. Important thing is have victories like I had tonight.
It never fails to amaze me how nervous he is at the start of a slam.
Q. You play against Nicolas Mahut next round. Are you ready to play 10 hours against him?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am not ready to play 10 hours. That’s not going to happen. That’s only in very special situations, in very special matches between two big serves. He will break me before.
Heh. Where’s the positive acktitude?
Q. How much does it help your confidence that tonight on the biggest points you came up with your best shots?
RAFAEL NADAL: I had a few good passing shots in important moments and to save set points in the second. You know, in the match point, I had a very good passing shot, too. In the breakpoint in the first set, I think backhand down the line I had a good one, too. I hit it, a good shots. I think I hit a good shots but not enough, no? I think I hit a fantastic shots for a moments, but I didn’t hit six, seven, eight points straight good shots, moving around, hitting forehands. The opponent didn’t help me. That’s the true. I didn’t play like this. For sure, always when you are finding problems, always the problem is here; it’s not the opponent. But for sure the opponent was playing very fast. You know, the ball never came like this. The ball always came like this (indicating very fast). It was difficult to try to hit four, five forehands in a row. Especially when you are a little bit nervous, your movements are a little bit slower. That’s what happened.
Yep, some killer winners, but not consistently good.
Q. You said the other day, talking about Cincinnati, that you didn’t want to discuss the backhand because you had the burns on your fingers. Tonight it seemed like you were having problems getting some length on the two handed backhand. Are the fingers okay?
RAFAEL NADAL: The fingers are much better. Is not hundred percent okay, but are much better. So the problem is not the blisters right now. I am happy how I hit the backhand. Is just the problem of position to hit the backhand more inside the court, to play the backhand with a little bit more confidence, because I was doing really well during the previous week. Hopefully for next match I will do it much better. That’s the way. The people forgets a lot of things, but last year my first match was really bad. That’s the true, even if I didn’t lose my serve, but I played bad against a similar opponent than today. He played very fast. Was different situation, but is very difficult to start one tournament playing very well from beginning. I am not saying that I will play fantastic next days, but I am confident that I can do it better.
Deeper, Rafa, deeper! (His shots into the court, that is.)
Q. You always put on awful lot into your practice sessions. Do you think you perhaps practice with even greater intensity and longer before this championship than you have for many championships just because you needed to get some more time on the court?
RAFAEL NADAL: My feeling was my movements during Montréal and Cincinnati wasn’t perfect, and that was the biggest issue for me, no, to improve. And I practiced hard. I practiced with positive attitude all the moments. Seriously, I’m very happy. I arrived here, I started to practice here on Monday, and since the first day that I was practice here, my feelings was much better than the previous tournaments. I think the conditions help me little bit more. But, you know, I didn’t win a tournament. I didn’t win a lot of matches. But I practiced during that two weeks with top level players. So that’s, for sure, help me to be in better conditions to arrive here. And, for sure, that’s going to improve. But I practiced at home three days, four days maximum before Montréal. Always is tough at the beginning.
Let’s hope it’s all uphill from here.
Q. It hasn’t been that long time wise since you won Roland Garros. You’ve talked a lot about confidence. If you think back to how confident you felt after that, where you were coming in here, was it a radical difference?
RAFAEL NADAL: You know, one player did fantastic probably very difficult to do it better was Djokovic. And I did very well. That’s what happened. The confidence is just because I didn’t practice enough, is just because for sure when you are having tough loses like the final of Wimbledon, your illusion goes down a little bit and you need to recuperate that after. I am playing with very high illusion here, high motivation. But, you know, I need time. Everybody knows it’s not easy to lose five finals this year. And at the same time I am happy that even if I was losing that finals, I was keep doing well. I lost the final, but next week I was in another final and next week in another final. Wasn’t big mental problem for me. I accepted really well the loses during the season. But for sure after Wimbledon I had to stop for one month, not play tennis. The illusion always after long season for me since Indian Wells to Wimbledon, you know, is the body stays tired, the mental part stays tired. I played all the matches during this part of the season, all the finals, and losing a few ones. So the mental part is tough and the physical part is tough, too. That’s why I had to stop and I need to come back. And that’s what I am doing.
[caption id=”attachment_28128” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by REUTERS/Kena Betancur”]
To start his US Open defense, Rafa played Golubev (#98) under the lights in Ashe stadium tonight. Golubev is the kind of player that can give Rafa trouble – especially in the early rounds. He’s a big hitter with a lot of easy power. His shots, when going in, take time away from Rafa and did not allow him to get into a steady rhythm. Rafa was often pushed deep and wide and in no place to create any offense. It was a very weird match with plenty of plot twists and turns. Rafa was broken early in each set and had to constantly fight his way back. He did, though, and he’s through to the second round: 6-3, 7-6(1), 7-5.
Golubev came out hitting and broke Rafa his second service game. Rafa, however, brought his USO serve with him. He found the range on Golubev’s shots and soon broke back. In the 8th game, Rafa broke with one of those beautiful, vintage, on the dead run, forehand down the line winners we all know and love. Rafa went on to serve out the set.
Golubev held to start set two and then went on to break Rafa in the next game. The third game was a marathon; Rafa had his chances, but Golubev eventually held. With a buggy whip forehand winner, Rafa broke back in the fifth game. In the next game, Rafa double faults when down triple break point. Showing just how confused he was, he walked like he was trying to go to a changeover when it wasn’t a non-changeover game. Serving for the set, Golubev got a bit tight and alternated between excellent shots and random looking errors. Rafa saved 5 set point and finally broke to put the set back on serve. Hitting hard and fast, Golubev earned a break/set point on Rafa’s next serve. He teed off on a second serve and sent it into the net. Again, he pushed Rafa deep and earned another break/set point. Rafa saved that with a forehand winner. By the skin of his teeth, Rafa went on to hold for 5-5. The next game was just odd. First, Golubev thought Rafa didn’t get to a drop shot in time and blew a subsequent overhead. This got him a bit hot under the collar, but a replay shown (on TV, not in the stands) showed that Rafa did get to the ball in time. On the next point, Rafa hit a bizarre forehand – it looked like it was headed up into the stands, but somehow dropped in. Rafa broke to go up 6-5. In the next game, Golubev broke right back and forced a tiebreak. After trading mini-breaks in the tiebreak, Rafa rolled and took the second set 7-6(1).
After the wackiness of the second set, the third started a bit subdued. I think everyone was expecting Golubev to go away, but he showed he wasn’t going anywhere by firing off a return of serve winner to break Rafa in the third game. Personally? I was really getting tired of Rafa giving up an early break in sets. In the sixth game, Rafa had triple break point (plus another one a bit later) and couldn’t convert. Golubev didn’t have that problem at all in the next game as Rafa netted a backhand to go down 2-5. Just to make things more interesting, Golubev broke himself his next two service games to put things back on serve: 5-5. Rafa broke in the very last game to claim the victory.
There’s an interesting article in elpais by Juan Jose Mateo (mangle). If the mangle isn’t misleading, it seems like Rafa’s foot was still really bugging him in Montreal and he’s been adjusting his training to help deal with the situation. This seems to be backed up by this interview sent in by Inés:
She didn’t have time for a translation, but she very kindly sent a transcription which I have sent through the mangler:
P: Rafa ¿Qué recuerdos tienes de hace un año aquí?
R: bueno, bastante positivos porque…. empecé el torneo no muy bien, empecé el torneo mal, la verdad, y cada día fui jugando mejor. Tengo el recuerdo que cada día era un pasito hacia delante y hasta que terminé jugando uno de los mejores partidos que he jugado sobre pista rápida que fue la final
P: ¿Cómo llegas este año después del problema del pie en Wimbledon, de haber solo jugado 4 partidos en los Máster 1000?
R: La verdad que bien, la verdad que, a ver, …. nunca se puede decir, porque nunca se sabe como uno llega, depende uno sale a jugar, uno contra otro y uno pierde y otro gana, pero si tengo que decir mi sensación no es mala, no, no, mi sensación es mucho mejor aquí que los dos torneos anteriores. La verdad es que llevo 3 semanas entrenando y esto pues, me ayuda. Había entrenado muy poquito para Montreal y Cincinnati, lo que pasa es que los torneos son obligatorios y normalmente son un cero en el ranking y había que ir y yo fui con poca preparación …. En Montreal jugué bastante mejor de lo que me pensaba, lo que pasa es que perdí un partido que debería haber ganado y esto fue duro para la preparación quizás porque me venía mejor mas partidos hacia delante, aparte Montreal es un torneo que siempre se me ha dado bien históricamente, Cincinnati me quemé los dedos y encima es un torneo que históricamente es el torneo que peor me va, o sea que… bueno, yo creo que aquí estoy haciendo una semana muy buena de preparación, estoy entrenando muy bien, me siento bien, ahora después, veremos lo que pasa
P: Dices que, llegaste mal de preparación ¿Por los problemas del pie que fueron más duro de lo que pensaste después de Wimbledon?
R: Se alargó mucho el problema del pie que tuve con Del Potro que al final jugué todo Wimbledon con el pie infiltrado, , desde el partido de Del Potro hasta la final la jugué, bueno, desde el partido después de Del potro hasta la final jugué con el pie totalmente dormido todos los días y en teoría, en principio me dijeron que no era nada, pero después sí que el dolor seguía ahí y fui haciendo revisiones y pruebas y al final ,3 semanas después de terminar Wimbledon o 4 semanas parecía que el pie estaba peor que cuando había terminado Wimbledon, con lo cual probablemente el diagnostico del comienzo no había sido el adecuado
P: Y después de Wimbledon, de jugar con el pie dormido, ¿has tenido que volver a pinchar o no?
R: Me hice una pequeña infiltración de … bueno, eso te lo dicen los médicos mejor … ahí directamente en el pie antiinflamatorias para bajar la inflamación que tenía ahí, tengo líquido aun, un pelín ahí, la última ecografía aun tenía un pelín de liquido ahí dentro, que fue en Montreal. La verdad es que algún día me sigue molestando un poquito, pero bueno, hay que hacer el esfuerzo y ponerlo todo aquí, intentar dar todo lo posible para estar bien preparado y es lo que estoy haciendo
P: En cuanto a tenis ¿Hay algún ajuste que tengas que hacer especial para jugar aquí?
R: No, la verdad es que lo me estaba faltando más en los torneos anteriores era ese ritmo, esa continuidad en los puntos buenos y yo creo que lo estoy consiguiendo aquí en los entreno poquito a poco, ahora hay que conseguirlo en los partidos, me hacía falta hacer más daño cuando pegaba el golpe con mi drive, moverme mejor, jugar con un pelín más de intensidad, hay que seguir por este camino que estoy en el adecuado
P: Ya en el último grande de la temporada, ¿como se ven ahora las derrotas con Djokovic de este año?
R: La verdad es que ha hecho todo muy bien, ha hecho un año espectacular y ehhhhh… yo creo que he jugado muy buen año también, yo creo que he jugado muy bien, lo que pasa es que no estoy contento como he jugado contra él, es que yo creo realmente el único partido que he jugado realmente bien contra él fue en IW, el primer set y medio, es que después yo creo que no he jugado bien contra él, pero también es verdad es que si no he jugado bien contra él es porque él está haciendo algo bien que no me ha dejado jugar bien, yo creo que la parte mental ha influido un pelín ahí, ha entrado algo extra mentalmente para poderle hacerle el daño necesario. Que no es eso que yo haya sentido que haya jugado muy bien y haya perdido, es que en Wimbledon estaba jugando muy, muy bien y en la final fue el peor partido que jugué y….. Roma no me disgustó, yo creo que no jugué mal en Roma, pero de los demás partidos no puedo hablar cosas positivas porque no estoy contento.
P: Mentalmente ¿Te siguen volviendo a la cabeza esos partidos?
P: No, yo es que.. siempre lo digo, yo soy bastante buen perdedor, yo acepto bien las cosas, y yo siempre intento hacer mi camino. Cuando entreno no pienso, no entreno pensando en Djokovic, yo pienso en mi y yo sé que tengo que estar bien YO, después, si hay uno que lo hace mejor que yo le felicitas y te vas a casa, pero yo siempre he hecho mi camino y yo creo que es lo mejor uno tiene que hacer las cosas por uno mismo no por los demás, yo quiero mejorar por mí, ni tan siquiera por ganar a Djokovic o por ser mejor que Djokovic, yo quiero mejorar y quiero seguir haciendo las cosas bien y seguir como he hecho toda mi vida, es seguir con la ilusión de ser mejor para mi, y si eso pues, evidentemente la motivación esa está ahí ahora, después de haber perdido unas cuantas veces con él, quizás es un pelín más de estimulo pero siempre pensando en mi y haciendo mi camino
P: Cómo se explica un año como el que está teniendo Djokovic, tú que explicación le ves o le das
R: Yo creo que es muy bueno, esto es lo primero, después está haciendo las cosas bien, está siendo capaz de mantener la concentración, la ambición, las lesiones le están respetando y después a nivel tenístico está siendo muy alto. Bueno, yo creo que también algunos partidos yo creo que alguno de nosotros le deberíamos de haber hecho un pelín más de daño de lo que le hemos hecho, no hemos estado muy acertados y él ha estado siempre impecable, sobre todo mentalmente y físicamente y evidentemente tenísticamente también, pero creo que el mérito es grandioso y se merece evidentemente ser número uno y se merece ganar lo que ha ganado porque ha sido el que ha estado más acertado, eso no hay ninguna duda
P: Puede estar pasando lo que pasó con Federe e incluso contigo, que los rivales salen no sé si acobardados…..
R: A costo no ganas, esto no, no, por eso nada y además viniendo de mi, si te digo, depende de la forma que lo digas se puede tomar de muchas maneras….., sí pero esto es consecuencia de todo lo que has hecho bien antes con lo cual no es si le sale regalado o no, es no le salen regalados lo que pasa es que si que ven menos posibilidades de ganar por todo lo que tú has conseguido antes y eso es un mérito totalmente personal suyo
P: Goluvev, primer rival, ya dejando a Djokovic un poquito de lado, no has jugado nunca contra él ero me imagino que lo conoces bien, ¿no?
R: No le conozco tan bien, pero sí que es un jugador que pega muy fuerte, pega plano, es un jugador un poco desordenado pero bastante peligroso, veremos lo que pasa, yo intentaré llegar bien preparado, hacer lo mío e intentar que sus golpes planos fuertes no vengan de dentro de la pista, con lo cual, intentar hacerle jugar por detrás y a esperar
P: Pues nada, muchísimas gracias, y mucha suerte
R: A vosotros, gracias
Q: What do you remember Rafa a year ago here?
R: Well, quite positive because …. I started the tournament well, I started the tournament badly, the truth, and every day I was playing better. I have the memory each day was one step forward and ended up playing until one of the best games I’ve played on fast track was the final
Q: How do you get this year after the foot problem at Wimbledon, having only played 4 games in the 1000 Masters?
A: The truth, the truth that to see …. you can never say, because you never know how you get depends on one goes out to play against each other and one loses and one wins, but if I have to say my feeling is not bad, no, no, my feeling is much better here the two previous tournaments. The truth is I’ve been training 3 weeks and that it helps me. He had trained very little for Montreal and Cincinnati, what happens is that the tournaments are mandatory and are usually a zero in the rankings and had to go and I went with little preparation …. In Montreal I played a lot better than I thought, what happens is that I lost a match that should have won and it was hard to prepare better maybe because I came forward more games other than Montreal is a tournament that I have always been historically done well, I burned my fingers Cincinnati and above is a tournament that is historically the worst tournament I go, or whether … Well, I think here I am doing a very good week of preparation, I am training very well, I feel good now then see what happens
Q: You say that you got bad preparation Why foot problems that were harder than you thought after Wimbledon?
A: It greatly lengthened foot problem I had with Del Potro at the Wimbledon final I played around with the foot infiltrated from the party del Potro played until the final, good, from the party after the foal to the final I played with the foot totally numb every day and in theory, initially told it was nothing, but then yes the pain was still there and doing examinations and tests and finally, 3 weeks after the end of Wimbledon or 4 weeks seemed the foot was worse than when Wimbledon was over, which probably diagnose the start was not the appropriate
Q: And after Wimbledon, to play with your foot asleep, have you had to go back to click or not?
A: I did a little infiltration of … well, that’s what the doctors say you better … there directly on the foot-inflammatory to reduce inflammation that was there, I have still fluid, a tad there, the last ultrasound was even a tad of liquid in there, it was in Montreal. The truth is that some day keeps bothering me a bit, but hey, we must make the effort and put it all here, try to give everything to be well prepared and I’m doing
Q: As for tennis Is there any adjustments you have to do special to play here?
A: No, the truth is that what I was missing more in previous tournaments was that rate, the continuity of the good points and I think I’m getting here in the train bit by bit, now we have to get in games, I needed to do more damage when hit hit my drive, move better, play with a tad more intensity, follow this road I’m on the right
Q: Since the last great season, how they are now losing to Djokovic in this year?
A: The truth is that it has done very well, has a spectacular year and ehhhhh … I think I played very good year too, I think I played very well, what happens is that I am not happy as I played against him is that I think really the only game I’ve played really well against him was in IW the first set and a half, is that after I do not think I played well against him, but it is also true is that if I have not played well against him is because he is doing something right that has not let me play well, I think that has influenced the mental part a tad there, something extra has entered so that we can mentally make the necessary damage. That is why I have felt that he played well and lost, is that Wimbledon was playing very, very well and in the end it was the worst game I played y. …. Rome was not upset me, I do not think I played badly in Rome, but the other parties I can not speak positive things because I’m not happy.
Q: Do you keep coming back mentally at the top these games?
P: No, I’m that .. I always say I’m pretty good loser, I accept good things, and I always try to make my way. When I train I do not think, do not train Djokovic thinking, I believe in me and I know I have to be fine I, then, if no one does it better than I congratulate him and go home, but I always made my way and I think it’s best you have to do things for yourself not for others, I want better for me, not even to win over Djokovic or Djokovic to beat, I want to improve and want to continue doing things right and continue as I have done all my life, is to continue the illusion of being better for me, and if that then obviously the motivation is there now, having lost a few times with him, perhaps a tad stimulus but always thinking of me and making my way
Q: How do you explain a year like you’re having Djokovic, you will see what explanation or give
A: I think it’s very good, this is the first, then doing the right thing, being able to maintain concentration, ambition, injuries are respecting him and then at the tennis is still very high. Well, I think somewhere I also think any of us should have done a tad more damage than we have done we have not been very successful and he has always been impeccable, especially mentally and physically and obviously tennis too, but I think the merit is obviously great and deserves to be number one and deserves to win what has been won because he’s been more successful, there is no doubt that
Q: Can be going through what happened to Federer and even you, the rivals do not know if cowed out …..
A: A cost not win, this does not, so anything coming from me and also when I say, depends on how you say it can be taken many ways ….., but this is another consequence of everything you’ve done well before bringing it out is not whether given or not given away is not what goes out is that if you are less likely to win everything you’ve got before and that’s a totally worthwhile his personal
Q: Goluvev, first opponent and Djokovic leaving a little aside, you’ve never played against him ut I guess I know well, right?
R: I do not know so well, but it is a player who hits hard, hits plane, a player is a little messy but very dangerous, we’ll see what happens, I’ll try to get well prepared, do my thing and try to make their strong flat strokes do not come from inside the track, thus, try to play behind him and wait
Bueno, es que nos habían dicho que no saliéramos del hotel, con lo cual me he quedado todo el día en el hotel, tanto la tarde de ayer como de momento el medio día que llevamos aquí y… he entrenado todos los días bien aquí, llevo una semana aquí entrenando prácticamente todo los días, he entrenado bastante bien, me siento bastante contento con la preparación y ahora, sólo falta competir
Which Google mangles to:
Well, we had been told not to get out of the hotel, which I have stayed all day in the hotel, both yesterday afternoon as noon time we’ve been here and … I trained every day right here, I’ve been here a week almost every day training, I trained pretty well, I’m pretty happy with the preparation and now just need to compete
Q. What are your thoughts about being here during a hurricane, and how will you spend your time?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know what’s going on, I think. Nobody knows exactly what’s going on, no? But having the club closed, all the places in Manhattan will be closed, so not much. Just stay in the hotel. Maybe watch some films. But we will see what’s going on. I never had an experience with a hurricane. Is something new. I think is very bad for the city, for the weekend, for everybody. But, you know, that’s a new experience, and not enjoyable experience, but we know how is when is hurricane.
So, you won’t spend it huddling in the closet with a flash light, a bag of Quelys and some Nutella? ‘Cause that sounds like a good plan to me.
Q. How are the fingers?
RAFAEL NADAL: Much better. I am able to practice with normal conditions.
Q. Bandages? No bandages or anything?
RAFAEL NADAL: Bandages, yes. The skin is still very thin, but it’s fine.
No surprise he’ll still be wearing them. Better to be safe than sorry.
Q. A lot of people have said you’ve been stymied, you’ve been flummoxed by Djokovic this season. I mean, do you feel like if you possibly meet him in the US Open this week or next week that you have good chance against him?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I am here. You know, I am here at the start of the tournament and you start to talk about a match against Djokovic. I have to win a lot to play Djokovic. And probably him, too. He’s not in the final yet. I am focused on try to play well and try to have very good practice this week. That’s what I am doing. And the good chances against Djokovic, those chances always depends how I am playing, how he’s playing. Not talking about here, talking in general. After we will see, no? I think I played a fantastic year this year. I had a lot of victories all the year; I am not happy about how I played against him.
We will see what’s going to happen. And glad to hear him say he wasn’t happy how he played against Nole. That’s step one in doing things differently next time.
Q. Could you talk about exactly what happened to your fingers? You got burned in Cincinnati at some restaurant, right?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I get burned in a Japanese restaurant. Probably, you know, the Teppanyaki grill was there, probably the plate. When I arrived at the restaurant the plate was there, so probably the plate stayed there for a long time. Not inside the grill. Something like this away to the grill. You know, when they put the food, I tried to put the plate closer to me and was obviously very hot. (Smiling.)
Q. So your pointing finger and two fingers?
RAFAEL NADAL: Two fingers.
Ah, he was trying to get closer to food. This explains so much.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about this book? Was it important for you to do something like this?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, it is something that we decided to do. Was the really first autobiography I was able to do. Was a good opportunity to work with John Carlin. We had a very good feeling together. He speaks in Spanish, too, so it makes a little bit easier everything to talk about the emotion and to talk about, you know… I think it was a fantastic experience. I talk a long time with him and remember a lot of things that you normally usually don’t think about the past, no? So when you start to talk you remember, yeah, few moments of your career, few moments when you were a kid. Was interesting and I had fun, and hopefully the book will like to the people.
I think the book likes the people just fine. So far, the feeling seems to be pretty mutual.
Q. In the book where you talk about your parents’ separation, it seemed like it came out of the blue for you, that you did not realize that they were having any troubles. Is that right?
RAFAEL NADAL: I didn’t understand that very well. (Translation.) You know, what happened there was but in the book - I never talk about my personal things in the press, but, you know, all the changes in your life needs a little bit of time. That’s what happened. So after a little bit of time I was perfect, but, you know, at the beginning it’s tough. But, you know, I am not the only one who has the parents divorcing in one moment of my life. Only thing is that Mallorca the family is very important, you are very close of the people that your friends, your family. So any change in this part, these people close to you, affects you, no? That’s happened. That’s past.
Q. I understand how it affected you. What I don’t understand is how you did not see problems between your mother and father. You did not notice problems between your mom and dad?
RAFAEL NADAL: I know the problems, but anyway, I gonna repeat you, I don’t want to talk about that now.
Good for the reporter to not let him off the hook by “misunderstanding” the question. And good for Rafa for standing firm on what he does and doesn’t want to talk about (as frustrating as that is for us).
Q. How does it feel to come here after having you won it last year? Do you see the tournament different? Is it less pressure because you won it once?
RAFAEL NADAL: The emotions probably are a little bit different, because when you come back after the victory of last year the emotions are higher. Of course, it was the last Grand Slam for me to complete all four. Was very, very nice moment of my career, one of the biggest moments of my career. That makes the comeback a little more special. But if we talk about the goal, is the same. Play well, try to arrive to the final rounds. That’s the same, no? Pressure? I don’t feel extra pressure. I am happy about how I did. I didn’t play very well during the summer, but I am practicing much better here. So we’ll see.
Hope the good practices continue and pay off.
Q. Have you been surprised this year by the turnaround, where before it was you and Roger for so long at the top, and now all of a sudden - Djokovic didn’t come out of nowhere, but he really has jumped up very quickly this year. Have you been surprised by that change?
RAFAEL NADAL: Djokovic didn’t arrive this year, no?
Q. But he was not playing at the level that you were…
RAFAEL NADAL: He was No. 3 of the world for three years. That’s not bad.
Q. But he only won one slam.
RAFAEL NADAL: Only one, and most of the people never won one. For me is a little bit strange about the people here from tennis talks about Djokovic, about his big new improvement. Djokovic was here before, no? Djokovic played fantastic before. He had fantastic potential to be where he is today. He’s doing great. He’s playing without injuries. He’s playing very solid, the mental, the tennis. What he’s doing is something very difficult to repeat. For me surprise? I think for everybody surprise see a player that he’s not losing. He’s only lost two matches during all the year. For everybody surprising, but for me is no surprise that Djokovic is No. 1. For me is not a surprise that Djokovic is able to win Grand Slams, because he’s very good. That’s not from six months ago.
I really don’t get all this “shock” at how well Nole’s being playing. Not at all. He’s always had it - just had problems with the mental part.
Q. Two questions: One, you’re 25 years old. Does it feel strange to have a book about your life at 25? And second, you seem like generally a pretty private person. What did you want to tell? What did you want to accomplish with this book?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I am lucky. 25 years old and I enjoyed a lot of experiences in my life. You never know if you can have another book in the future, but I felt it’s a good time to have that one. Is a little bit of the history of my life. Is a little bit of the history how I am where I am today. Just open a little bit more of my life to them, to the fans, to the people who support me, the people who are interested about me. For me, you know, now I am a little bit more open with the fans with the Twitter with the Facebook, and now with the book. So I am trying to be more connected with them, and that’s probably a good way to do it.
Or, you could just drop by the house anytime. That’s a good way too. Not practical for you, but good for me.
And a few photos from the presser and one random practice photo:
Photos by Julian Finney/Getty Images and AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
In fact, Nadal’s current 84% match-victory rate is his lowest since 2004, the year before he won his first Grand Slam title and began to threaten Roger Federer’s mid-decade dominance. He has won only three tournaments this year — including the French Open, his sixth, which ties him with Bjorn Borg for the most French Open championships. That’s his lowest number of tournament titles in, again, seven years.
It’s amazing to me that he’s had a higher then 84% winning percentage for 5 years (2005-10). I wish I could get things right more than 84% of the time. (Although, as @lithaNov pointed out to me, he was lower in 2009 - 82.93%. And, what do you know, he was lower than 84% in 2007 and 2006 as well).
When told about remarks by Nick Bollettieri saying that Rafa was losing because of self-doubt:
When I asked Nadal this week if Bollettieri’s words rang true, he didn’t snarl, like he does on the court. But he didn’t smile, either. “I didn’t lose because of doubt,” Nadal says in English…
"I lost because I didn’t play well," he says. Nadal points out that an achy left foot slowed him at Wimbledon and hindered his preparation for the North American tournaments. "That injury lasted more than a month," says Nadal. "I didn’t practice enough in the summer. I only practiced three or four days before Montreal. So it’s tough. I need more competition, I need more matches."
But, a lack of play often leaves Rafa without confidence. Is a lack of confidence that different from self-doubt?
Nadal was diagnosed with a rare congenital foot condition at the end of 2005. A bone in his foot, called the tarsal scaphoid, started to deform, causing intense pain. A doctor told him he might never play again. His father even brought up the possibility of pursuing a golf career. “How stupid does that sound?” says Nadal during our interview, laughing about that suggestion now. “I cannot be a golf pro when I start playing when I’m 19 years old.”
Bless them for getting this right instead of the sensationalist headlines from earlier in the week about how Rafa considered a career in golf because of the injury. It goes on to say that they are constantly tweaking the shoe supports built to help him play despite the foot condition.
In regards to moving past the initial pain of his parents divorce:
"The pain, the suffering is not forever," Nadal tells TIME. "I saw my mom get better, my dad get better, my sister get better. I started to get better."
It does get better. It also helps to have parents who remain civil to each other despite the split.
And despite his recent struggles, Nadal could easily surprise the naysayers at this year’s U.S. Open. “All my life, I’ve done it my way,” Nadal says. “It doesn’t matter what the rest of the people say — if Novak is the favorite, if Federer is the favorite. It doesn’t make a difference to me. If I’m going to lose, I’m going to accept loss in the same calm way that I accept the victory. Same thing if I win. That’s all.”
Let’s hope he has more victories to accept with colm.
[caption id=”attachment_17575” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Beth Wilson”]
The draw is a done deal. Who knows when they will get around to posting it, but we do know this: Rafa’s first round match is against Andrey Golubev - it will be their first time to play each other. Other things we know: Ferrer, Roddick, Gulbis, Youzhny, and Melzer are in Rafa’s quarter. Murray, Isner, Del Potro, and F. Lopez are in his half. The top half includes Djokovic, Monfils, Tisparavic, Verdasco, Fish and Federer.
Dave was his usual unprepared self. I think he was trying to “help” Rafa too much with questions that were easy to answer and ended up walking all over the segment. He’s certainly done better sports interviews before. He couldn’t stop Rafa from being totally adorable, though.
Traveling all the way from Oregon to attend W&S Open, I had 3 goals: (1) see as much Rafa as possible (2) don’t pass out in the sun (3) get Rafa’s autograph on my Davis Cup Spanish flag - joining Daveed, Feli, Nando & Marcel. Success! From the draw party to the final Sunday, I was lucky enough to see Rafa 14 times.
Rafa 1: Saturday morning – The site is not telling where and when Rafa is practicing. I’m thinking I’ll have to troll the courts all day to catch him - but wait!… When I walk on site I can hear Rafa on court 14. Woohoo! His first practice at Cincy! Pico too! Rafa looking quite serious and already sweaty enough for a shirt change. Long practice followed by a competitive set that lasted more than an hour. Rafa tweeted that he practiced “two intense hours” with Pico. Yep. Sure was. I’m feeling lucky already.
Rafa 2: Sunday morning – Court 16. Sunny bleacher seats. Large crowd. For today’s practice he began hitting with Marc! Another 2 hours on the schedule, but oh what a great 2 hours. For the first time I got to see Rafa working baseline drills. AMAZING. Darting at top speed from center line to doubles alley for a powerful backhand, center, backhand, center, backhand, center, forehand, center… again and again. WOW. Rafa was really working hard. Bent over gasping for breath. After a quick shirt change, Rafa played a partial set against Simon. When he was leaving the court the crowd (it was high school day) was screaming for autographs. Rafa turned back twice, smiling that big crinkly smile and gestured for us to meet him at entrance to the players’ lounge. Finally he sent Benito out to tell us the same. The crowd sprinted off. See you later, Rafa!
Rafa 3: Sunday evening – Luckily I was walking by the practice schedule marquee around 6:30 and saw a late addition – Rafa practicing tonight at 7:00?!? Yippy! I sent the info out on twitter and headed to the court. Blake v Baghdatis on center court, but I was all in on grandstand – front row, service line, opposite the bench (my favorite spot). Rafa smiling and looking happy. Hitting again with Marc! In addition to the regular practice stuff, Rafa did some forehand shots at targets. Maymo was counting his successful shots and Rafa had to make 10 in order to stop. Vamos! Then we were treated to some shirtless serving. Grandstand lights come on just in time. Rafa sat down to check his phone (again – he was checking it quite a bit) and surprise, surprise Maymo and Benito got on court for a bit of a hit. After a few false starts, Benito got Rafa’s racket, as if that would somehow help. Benito seemed to be Maymo’s target, but he kept missing. Rafa was laughing and calling out “Beauty!” and “Nice One” at Maymo missed shots. Finally Maymo’s serve connected and the crowd cheered. What fun!
Rafa 4: Sunday evening – After the practice on grandstand I darted to the player lounge exit to try to get my Spanish flag signed. No luck. Rafa exited signing on the opposite side. Note to self: remember that Rafa is right-handed, next time position on his right side…
Rafa 5: Monday morning – Back on court 16. Youzhny is on the other side of the net. Maymo takes pictures on court while Rafa changes his racket grip. These are later posted to twitter. Good hard practice, as well as a competitive set. Rafa so sweaty I can easily see the Armani logo through his shorts. Nice to know he supports his sponsors. After Youzhny leaves the court Rafa does some really though, fast drills. Between rounds he sits on the court looking spent. It’s workouts like this that help me see how he can do what he does in matches. Wow. Rafa is gracious with fans and signs alot of autographs, including my flag! Monday late afternoon – I’m at the Pico v Haas match and I begin to wonder if Rafa will practice again. I tweet Benito. He replies “We are back at the hotel! No more practice today. Maybe Japanese restaurant tonight. We’ll see”. Wherever they went is where Rafa burned his fingers.
Rafa 6: Tuesday morning - Court 14. Practice with Nalbandian. This is the first time I see the bandages on Rafa’s right hand. He does not look happy, but seems to be having a good practice. He still has a cold and is coughing and spitting phlegm into the grates along the court. Before the practice is over there is a cluster of Spanish speaking players across courts 13 & 14: in addition to Rafa and Nalbandian, I see Pico, DelPotro, Feli Lopez, Nico Almagro, Daveed Ferrer…Vamos, indeed.
Rafa 7: Tuesday afternoon – Doubles, baby! Team Cuteness v Troicki/Tipsy. Court 3. It’s not luck that has me parked in the front row. I sat thru ½ a women’s match as well as Simon v Meltzer to stake my ground. Perfect spot. Worth every sweaty moment. I fear I will miss my 2nd goal, but I’m saved by as fresh cup of ice (thanks Deb!). I barely have words to express how awed I am by this match. It is truly my most amazing tennis moment so far. To be in the front row, service line, when Rafa comes charging toward me to hit a backhand return with a 360 spin, with that look in his eye. I could laterally feel the air shift. It was breathtaking. And then there he is, crouched at the net. So intimidating. If you ever see Rafa play doubles, be sure to sit on the deuce side so you can get the full impact. This was worth flying across country for.
Rafa 8: Wednesday morning – First time Rafa and Marc! practice on center court. I get there an hour early. Get my favorite spot in the front row. It is a good solid practice, but Rafa seems bugged by his burned fingers. Ow!
Rafa 9: Wednesday early afternoon - Hey if no one is going to kick me out of the front row seat, I’m not leaving on my own! Wow. I get to stay front row for the entire match. So lucky! I didn’t take a ton of pictures because I wanted to fully experience the moments. Rafa went to the ice towel right away: neck, ears, cheeks, thigh, thigh. Nice repeatable pattern Rafa defeats Benneteau in straight sets. I’m chilling with a couple other Rafa fans after the match when a reporter from Cincinnati Enquirer comes over to get our names. The next day we had our picture in the sports page.
Rafa 10: Thursday early morning - Rafa hits center court for practice at 8:45. Venue opens at 9, so I get there as quick as I can. Back in my favorite front row seat. Rafa is wearing a quite nice outfit of white on white. Length of the shorts is, how shall I say, just fine. As Miri might say – thigh porn. It is agreed by Rafa fans present that this is the best outfit Rafa has worn yet and it just gets better as time goes on. Maymo is wearing his “Make Your Move” shirt. Love that!
Rafa 11: Thursday late morning - Rafa v Verdasco! I did not get to stay front row. Oh well. Edge of the seat kind of match. Both were not playing their best but fun to see them scrape and claw for advantage. I took almost no pictures because I was so intent on the action, as well as cheering for Rafa. Very exciting. We all needed a drink after this one.
Rafa 12: Thursday evening - Team Cuteness plays again. Court 3 (aka The Oven). Match is delayed a couple of hours so Rafa can get some rest. Rafa got a standing ovation when he took the court. He looked honored and pleased for the support and acknowledgement. It’s a testament to his respect for Marc! and his fans that Rafa played at all. His tank was pretty empty – at the end of the match he was barely moving for balls. That Ok, Rafa. You got heart! Once they were down a break it seemed that they loosed up and just played for fun. Lots of laughing and smiling. Marc! giving support and encouragement to Rafa with a pat on the back more then once. I pleasure to see.
Rafa 13: Friday morning - center court practice with Marc! This time I’m on the side of the court where Rafa enters, front row. Maymo says “Hi” to me as he goes by. Cool. Rafa seems fresher then I was expecting, but it is a quick practice. The fire alarm is going off for a good portion of it, but I figure that if they’re not rushing Rafa off the court, I’m not going anywhere either. I overhear one of the security folks saying there was a small grease fire in the players’ kitchen. Rafa spends a lot of time signing autographs, extending it even into the singing of “America the Beautiful.” He even takes time to do good ones on t-shirts by asking fans to “stretch” the fabric. Respect.
Rafa 14: Singles match v Fish. We all know how this went. I can tell that Rafa wants to fight, but he doesn’t have it today. I’m a fan, win or lose.
That’s it! I have thousands of pictures, great memories and a pretty good sunburn. If you look back at your own pictures or the TV coverage and see that chick with the bright tie-dye shirts, that’s me. Maybe I’ll see you at Indian Wells. I’ll be there. VAMOS!
* This consists of book excerpts about the 2010 USO final, but differs from what is in the book.
Match point. Championship point. Everything point. I glanced up at Toni and Carlo, asked them with a gesture they recognized where I should hit the serve. Amid the pandemonium of Arthur Ashe Stadium, I heard their reply. ‘Wide!’ they said, in Mallorquin. Fighting back the tears again, I served. Wide to the backhand as instructed.
Compare to the copy in the book:
Match point. Championship point. Everything point. I glanced up at my team, as if imploring them to give me courage, seeking from them some measure of calm. Fighting back tears again, I served. Wide to the backhand as instructed.
Interesting, no? Perhaps someone read the first version and said, “Hey! Not wise to admitting to being coached in the final of the US Open.”
[caption id=”attachment_27960” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Shelley Moeller”]
miri has asked me to create a post on my thoughts about Cincy. I have been back home for a few days now (and back to work, unfortunately) and I have had a few days to reflect back on what the 2011 Western & Southern Financial Group Open was like. This was my third time attending the Cincy tournament, my first time being back in 2007 as a Ticket Office Intern and my second time was last year. The tournament site has expanded and it is bigger (minus the food court – which will be expanded for next year’s tournament) but it has still retained its small tournament charm and feel. I have enjoyed going to Cincy because of the access you have to the players. The practice courts have un-obscured views (except for courts 13 and 14) of the players and most of them have seating (courts 11, 12, 13, and 14 are stacked so there are only two walkways with no seating).
On the first day that I attended the tournament (Sunday), Rafa’s first practice was on Court 16 – which is a small court to the side of Grandstand. Courts 15 and 16 are probably my favorite courts to watch players at because the bleachers are so close to the court and it is small. Rafa practiced for about an hour with Marc Lopez and then Gilles Simon arrived to play a practice set with Rafa. The only thing I really remember from that practice was Rafa fiddling with the pointer finger of his left hand. He kept bending it back, I guess trying to stretch it. Maymo came to the rescue and taped it up. I don’t know if he had it wrapped the rest of the tournament or not. Rafa practiced for a second time on Sunday evening at 7pm on Grandstand. This practice was not on the practice schedule on Cincy’s mobile website because the practice schedule ends at 6pm on the mobile website. Thanks to @tennissavesme for letting me know about Rafa’s evening practice! There were quite a few people watching Rafa’s practice instead of watching the match on Center Court (Baghdatis vs. Blake). Rafa came on court with basically nothing but two racquets. He hit with Marc! for a little while then Rafa and Marc! took turns doing drills. Roig had Rafa and Marc! doing running drills where they would hit a forehand then a backhand then repeat about 15-20 times then they would switch. Then it was shirtless serving time! Rafa took his shirt off to change it but quickly realized he didn’t have another shirt to put on so he just practiced serves with no shirt on. That was fine by me! I got some of my best photos during that time. Prior to him practicing his serves (shirtless – ok, I will stop mentioning that now), the Grandstand lights were off and it wasn’t that bright out because some dark clouds were passing through (no rain just big dark clouds). Once Rafa started to serve, the lights came on and I was able to get better photos too! While Rafa was serving, Benito was in the umpire’s chair, with his headphones on. This was the funniest Rafa practice that I saw all week. Rafa was relaxed, joking around with Marc! and Maymo, and Rafa even jumped in to help Marc! out with some of the drills. At the end of the practice (close to 9pm…yes, he practiced for 4 hours on Sunday), Maymo and Benito decided they wanted to play too. Maymo tried his hand at serving and he wasn’t horrible but Rafa could not stop laughing the whole time. Rafa had the hugest grin on his face while he was watching the two of them attempt to play tennis (of course my camera battery decided to die on me before I could get a good picture of Rafa smiling). All of a sudden though, Maymo hits an ace to Benito and everyone on the court began to cheer and laugh. It was my favorite Rafa practice ever.
On Monday, I arrived too late to Rafa’s practice to get a seat in the stands so I went to the top of Grandstand and peered over. Rafa practiced with Mikhail Youzhny and played a practice set for about an hour and 30 minutes or so. Then it was time for drills. Roig had Rafa do the same running drills as the night before. Rafa was exhausted by the end of this practice and made his escape out the back door of the court and was taken away on a golf cart.
On Tuesday, I skipped Rafa’s practice because it was on Court 14 which is a difficult court to get good pictures, not just because there is really nowhere to stand but also because this year they added a tall fence. But, it was Team Cuteness Day! I watched a little bit of Tipsy’s match on Grandstand before heading over to Court 3 to sit and wait for Team Cuteness. I was able to watch Simon’s match against Melzer (my BFF – another story for another time) which was actually a really good match. Then it was time for Rafa and Marc! to play their doubles match. I don’t really remember much from the match except that Rafa was talking a lot to Roig, Maymo, and Benito. Every time he would miss a shot, Rafa would shoot the team a look and be a little upset with himself. Rafa and Marc! were able to beat Tipsarevic and Troicki 7-6, 6-7, 10-8.
On Wednesday, it was the day of Rafa’s first match. I debated sleeping in or going to Rafa’s practice but ultimately Rafa won. I didn’t know he was practicing at 10am until about 9am that morning because the Cincy mobile site never updated their practice schedule until about 2am the day of. So, I rushed to get ready and thought I was going to miss it. I arrived about 10 minutes late but there was no Rafa. He was scheduled to practice on Center Court from 10-11am. Rafa finally showed up around 10:20am. Whew, didn’t miss him! He just hit with Marc! and then hit some serves. There was a funny moment though. While Rafa was hitting with Marc! the tournament decided it would be fun to play some of Rafa’s commercials. They played Rafa’s bag check, his USO gambas commercial, and some other ATP uncovered video. Rafa just laughed it off and I think he was a little embarrassed by it. Rafa was the second match scheduled on Center Court that day so I went back to my hotel to eat breakfast and finish getting ready for the day. I was a little worried about Rafa’s second round match against Benneatu because Rafa had such a hard time playing him last year in the third round. Rafa was able to pull out the match in straight sets!
On Thursday, it was double duty for Rafa. Rafa’s third round match was first up on Center Court then his doubles match was fourth on Court 3. I was again worried about Rafa’s third round match against Fernando Verdasco. When I saw the draw and saw that Rafa would most likely have to play Verdasco, I told Miri I was very worried about this match-up. She pointed out that Verdasco has never beaten Rafa which was true but I guess I just flash back to the 2009 AO semifinal every time they play each other. I am sure most people saw the match, so I don’t need to go too much into it but let me tell you, it was extremely frustrating to watch that match in person. The worst part was the third set tiebreaker where Rafa could not win a match point! After that long match I wasn’t so sure that Rafa was going to play his doubles match but he did. The match got pushed back so it wasn’t scheduled to start until 5:30pm. Kalliopeia and I decided to sit on Court 3 for over an hour just to make sure we had good seats. We got second row seats on the player’s side. I saved a seat for @ally_richardson who was driving from Pittsburgh and made it just in time to watch Rafa and Marc! play their second round double match. After warming up, Marc! had to use the bathroom (I think) and so Rafa decided to take out his phone and take a picture of Marc!’s ATP mug shot. Rafa could not stop smiling and laughing at Marc!’s ATP mug shot! It was pretty hilarious. I didn’t expect Team Cuteness to win this match since they were playing Paes and Bhupati and also because Rafa had to have been tired from his singles match. Team Cuteness fared well in the beginning, earning the first break of the set. Rafa decided to wear a hat instead of a bandana for this match but he seemed very relaxed on court. Rafa and Marc! talked more and Rafa looked over at his team less compared to their first round doubles match. They lost in straight sets to Paes and Bhupati which wasn’t unexpected. I didn’t stick around for the night session since it was a repeat of the 2007 Cincinnati Final (Federer vs. Blake) which I attended back in 2007.
On Friday, @ally_richardson and I had breakfast then headed off to Rafa’s practice on Center Court. We got there early and had front row seats on the baseline. Rafa came out, on time this time, and was suppose to be hitting with Gilles Simon but instead just hit with Marc! Then all of sudden, the fire alarm starts blaring on Center Court. The security people were confused as to whether or not we could stay or if we had to leave. @ally_richardson and I were not going to leave. As long as Rafa was still on court, we were determined to stay. The fire alarm stayed on for a good 20 minutes. It became so annoying! Maymo and Benito even started clapping once it was turned off! Finally about 15 minutes before the end of Rafa’s practice, the fire alarm was turned off. Rafa practiced right up until they basically forced him to get off so that the first match on Center Court could be played (play started at 11am). Then, we all know what happened next. Rafa lost to Mardy Fish in straight sets. At first, I texted Miri and said I thought it was worse than Rafa’s loss last year to Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals but after thinking about it and what miri said, I don’t think it was. miri said it wasn’t as bad because Fish played a really good match. Last year, Rafa and Marcos didn’t play a great match but Rafa didn’t step it up and ended up losing. A loss is a loss though and this was a hard one to watch. I agree with what Rafa said in his post match presser, “Today is not a big mistake. Big mistake was last week in the first round (actually second round for Rafa).” Rafa’s confidence wasn’t at its peak in Cincinnati but at least he defended his quarterfinal points from last year! It is onto NYC for Rafa and I will be attending on Labor Day weekend. I hope to see one of Rafa’s matches but we will see. This was a long write-up but I had a wonderful time in Cincinnati and wanted to share it with you all. Thanks to @olerafa, @ally_richardson, @jvpow, Kalliopeia, and miri for making it such a fun trip! I hope to see all of you at Cincinnati next year! You can see my photos on rafaupdates.com and on www.flickr.com/shelleyellie
Thank you miri for asking me to write up my Cincinnati experience!
[caption id=”attachment_25328” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Beth Wilson”]
Rafa has been added to the Wednesday guest line-up on the Late Show with Dave Letterman: guest list. (Cracks me up that his “credit” is listed as “Babolat Tennis Racquets” and not something like, say, “Tennis player.”) Huge appearance for him! Wonder if he’s going to do a top ten list? Oh, the line-reading fun…
[caption id=”attachment_27949” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Megha529”]
I’ve been a hardcore Rafa fan for about two years now, following him only occasionally before that. Thanks to the Internet, I have now caught up on all things Rafa as far back as they go. The ultimate dream of course was to watch him play live. The few times I had tried at the US Open I had missed out. Finally out of college and with an income of my own, I decided to take things in my own hands and go to a Masters 1000 tournament, where I would be sure to catch a match. Cincinnati was perfect; it is budget friendly, intimate and placed right during my vacation. So I dug into my savings and booked tickets for QF and SF and 3 nights hotel stay for a friend and me.
The Journey Begins
After what seemed like a long time, it came! Cincy had started and it was my chance to see Rafa live. On Thursday August 19th at 11am I hopped on my plane from Newark, New Jersey and headed for Cincy. This was also the exact time when Rafa was due on court to play Verdasco. The moment I landed, I scrambled to text people, hoping for good news. miri returned my message and informed me that they were still going, Rafa had won the first set and they were playing the second. I rushed and made to the hotel in time for the last set. It very easily was one of the most stressful tiebreaks I have had to sit through, not only because how bad losing would be for Rafa’s morale but how much it meant to me. I sat on the verge of tears praying as hard as I ever have. Then just like that, he won! I had a date with Rafael Nadal!!
Once the euphoria wore down, I realized I was starving! So I made my way over to Chipotle. After my meal, I headed back to my room where my friend with our rental car was waiting. We realized we didn’t have a damn thing to do that evening, so we decided to try our luck with evening session tickets. On the way I got news Rafa is playing doubles. Could it be that I would get to see Rafa in the flesh sooner than expected? Turns out, yes! I really didn’t know the layout of the place so I did not know where I would find him. Lucky for me, right at the entrance on the side courts I saw a crowd, and sure enough the board read Nadal/Lopez and Bhupati/Pais. The second set had just started. I walked around the corner and as I entered I caught my first glimpse of Rafa. It’s difficult to describe what that is like. At first, it all felt so surreal, hard to believe he was right there! The court was really small so I was hardly a few feet away from him. He was so tan, tall and lean, and every bit as lovely as he looked on TV. I can’t say I focused on the tennis too much that evening, I just sat there watching Rafa, squeaking out a “Vamos!” now and then. Soon after the match, I saw the crowd run out back and realized they were trying to get autograph. When I got there, there was a mob of fans trying to get to Rafa and security had to tear through them to make room for him. Right then, I realized how difficult it all might have been for him. I couldn’t find it in myself to be aggressive and so I had to go empty handed. It did not matter though, I had seen him live and up close and if I had to go home that day, I would have gotten more than I had hoped for! After watching some of Roger/Blake and Monfils/Kohlschreiber I headed back to rest up for the next day.
Rafa vs. Fish
I woke up really early the next day, I was fortunate enough to meet some Rafa fans who had told me that to catch Rafa practicing I should be ready to get there early. That morning they let me know that he was practicing at 10 on center court and that we should get there by 9 to secure good seats. My traveling buddy was still in bed so I made my way to their hotel to drive to the site with them instead. We reached slightly after 9, and since I was new to this I asked my friends to tell me where to sit so I could get an autograph. As per their suggestions we parked ourselves between the player entrance and the chairs. Meanwhile Sam Stosur finished up her practice followed by Sharapova. Finally, it was time for Rafa to arrive, he came on a few mins late but ready to go. It was all so exciting, and I was doing my best to soak it in. I blocked out the rest of the world and just watched him go about his routines, snapping a picture every now and then. He was practicing with Marc and even in practice I could see just how hard they were hitting the ball. You could see the fibers flying off. Every few shots Rafa and Roig would have a quick conversation.
Then midway through the session we heard a loud emergency alarm and we were told to evacuate the premises. My heart sank, both because Rafa’s practice would be cut short, but also because I would lose my autograph opportunity. However, Rafa did not look like he was budging which meant I was not budging. Fortunately soon enough they told us we could stay, but the alarm continued for most of the remainder of the practice session. Rafa was so well behaved about it, looked up a few times but otherwise practice kept going. Finally it was time for the ladies to come on and the moment of truth for my autograph getting. Thanks to my friends I was in the perfect place, he came over and started signing right about where I was and I got my autograph! I was ecstatic!
I wasn’t interested in the women’s match so I headed out to explore the site a bit. I sat in the Murray/Simon match for sometime but it was much too hot. Then I received word that Rafa was practicing on court 8. I thought that was a bit strange since he had just practiced but decided to investigate anyway. There was a LOT of crowd, so I thought maybe it IS Rafa. Alas! It was Roger. I tried to get an autograph but he signed on the other side. It was also time for me to head back to watch Rafa. I was nervous, I knew it was going to be a tough one for him, he wasn’t too happy at practice and Fish had been playing really well. For me though, it was the big day, my first live, Rafa singles match. My seats were pretty good, given the size of the stadium I think most seats are. I was close enough to be able to distinguish his facial expressions and that worked for me. It might not have been his best performance but it was still unreal. There was so much intensity in his game and the power with which he sets up and strikes the ball. It was something every Rafa fan should see at least once. Quite honestly TV does not do justice to it! I was of course bummed that Rafa lost, but in a way I had been prepared for it, and it really helped to chat up with other Rafa fans after. I wish I could do this every time he lost a match! Meanwhile we headed out to the “experience booth” and took goofy pictures of us with Rafa’s poster and our autographed paraphernalia. It helped get over the loss.
After that I went back to go watch the Roger/Berdych match which was a real dud. I got news that Rafa was expected at the player’s lounge entrance and so right before the second set tiebreak I headed over there. I had realized that it would be great if he could sign my USO 2010 hat, not to mention I would love a final glimpse of Rafa. Who knows when I’d see him next? I felt a bit scummy because I already had his autograph, and if I got one, it might mean that one other person, who didn’t have it, couldn’t get one. But I suppose selfishness got the best of me! After sometime we saw Roig emerge and then soon after Maymo, and we knew Rafa could not be too far behind. Finally, the fences were closed and out came Rafa. Everyone hunched over to try and get a signature. He had a half smile, not happy but not looking devastated either. Definitely disappointed, but that was expected. Once again lady luck sided with me and he signed my hat! Content, I headed to go watch Djokovic play Monfils and after dealing with several obnoxious Nole fans, and some drama from the man himself, it was a wrap for us. Good day, lots of fun memories and unfortunately, no more Rafa.
I slept in late on Saturday since there was no practice to run to, and matches did not start till 1PM. The first match up was the Murray/Fish semi. I was the sole person in my section rooting for Andy, and got plenty of dirty looks for it. I could not find it in me to root for the guy that took out Rafa. Sorry if that makes me a bad American! Plus, I liked Andy! It was sunnier and hotter than the previous day and I was wearing the hat, Rafa had signed for me. The sun was causing the marker to fade, so I decided to step out and find some shade. After wandering I finally came up to a place that said “broadcasting center”. The site does not have many screens showing the matches, but given the name I figured it HAD to be playing there. There were only a few people hanging around and they were discussing where to stand to get on TV. The kids had their Andy Murray player cards and were testing out their markers. Puzzled, I asked them what the chatter was about and they said the winner of the match was due there to talk to Pat McEnroe and Chris Fowler. They added that we would be on ESPN2 if we stood in just the right place. Now, I really wanted Andy to win. Soon enough, both Chris Fowler and PMac showed up, jacket and tie on top shorts and tennis shoes at the bottom. Gotta love journalism!
As Murray walked out, the crowd began to cheer for him. He made his way through them avoiding all eye contact, and then plopped himself on the chair in front of me. Meanwhile I texted everyone to turn on ESPN2! After the interview, I managed to snag an autograph, which was basically a squiggle I could have drawn myself. It was time to head back and watch Djoko/Berdy. Once again, Tomas did not have a lot of people rooting for him, but I rooted loud and proud. It was too bad that Tomas had to retire, because the first set was very good. Once the match was over, I plan to meet miri for dinner at the Marriot. Where, several other Rafa fans joined us. The rest of the evening was all about Rafa really filled with lots of gossip and chatter. We heard about personal experiences with Rafa and at the various tournaments. To add to that we managed to get a waitress who told us the most outrageous tales about her interaction with players, much to the amusement of the women at our table. At about midnight I headed back to my hotel, to catch some sleep before my flight back the next day.
At The Airport With Rafa.
Okay, so I’m sure a good amount of Rafa fans have had that dream where we somehow ended up on the same airplane with Rafa. Flying from who knows where to who cares where. Well, I know I have, and with some serious luck, it happened!
My day started in not the best way. I woke up barely in time to make breakfast and I had less than two hours to pack and check out. To add to that Delta called me and told me my flight to Newark had been canceled and that they had rescheduled me on a flight that would reach really late and with stop-over. The thing about Newark is that it is in New Jersey and I live in NY and with public transport and crappy weather it would take me 3 hours to get home. I was determined to fight to get on a different flight, preferably to one of the NY airports. As I slipped into my bummy airport clothes and reached for my glasses. I suddenly thought, what if I bump into Rafa? It seemed that he was still in Cincy and we were both headed in the same direction… I dunno, it was just a gut feeling. So I ditched the sweatshirt and went for a cuter outfit, left the sneakers for the flats and went with contacts over glasses. My travel buddy found this absolutely hilarious but what does he know!
At the airport the lady at the desk told me everything was full and that she could put me on standby for a flight to Newark at 3. I tried to convince her to put me on standby to flight going to a NY airport, but she pretty much ignored me and so I headed to check-in. My travel buddy is a Delta elite member and so had access to the Delta Sky Lounge, and with a long wait ahead of us, free food and drinks sounded good. There was also this tiny voice in my head saying, Rafa might be there. All this while and unknown to me, Rafa had been updating his Facebook and Twitter with his airport woes. We walked into the lounge and up the elevator. We got out and walked up to the desk. I quickly scoped out the place and there, right in the middle of the room, on the floor I see these two huge Babolat bags. Immediately I thought YEAH RIGHT! This is a joke. SO I peered over and there sat Roig, then Maymo then Benito. No Rafa. Maybe he wasn’t with them? So I head in that direction, and got past a pillar and there he sat curled up lazily on a sofa chair. It looked like he was sleeping, but had on these big red headphones and his Macbook on his lap. It looked like he was watching a movie. He was wearing a long sleeve grey shirt, and white shorts. He had taken his sneakers off, so just socks. The picture was completed by a huge bag of Quelys on his table. So I yank out my mirror, quickly fix my hair and my face. Then we walk to the sofas next to where him and his team were and sat down. I had a dumb smile plastered over my face and I’m quite sure I was gawking. Just then he looked up and looked around, I know he caught me, but he seemed unbothered and I was shameless!
I decided that I was not gonna budge till I got a picture with him, and I also was not going to go up to him while he sat so comfortably and ask for one. So I would stay put, even if it meant missing my stand-by flight. Lucky for me, Rafa’s movie/show finished and he got up. It was my chance. I leapt up and asked “Rafa, can I get a picture with you?” “Sure” he said. He did not seem grumpy about it, so I was happy. My friend quickly took a pic, but it was against the light, so I apologized and asked if we could turn. He said no problem and we did a retake, much better! Then, I remembered one of the girls mentioning that when they got his autograph off site he wrote the long one. SO I grabbed my book and pen and blabbering a lot about how I was sorry and last bit. I’m pretty sure he was checked out. I did get my long autograph though! With that I said thanks and sat back down.
Finally Rafa got antsy sitting around for so long and got something to eat and drink. Now that I had my picture, I too finally went to the bathroom and ate a little something and got coffee. Then he disappeared and Roig stayed and watched some Spanish soap on his laptop. Meanwhile my friend and I were following the Murray/Djokovic match. Murray won the first set and I had the biggest urge to say VAMOS! Except, for obvious reasons I stayed quiet. Rafa was in and out, but he was sitting there when that happened. I got used to Rafa’s presence after a while so my friend and I soon got lost in our own conversation. I was nervous though and when I’m nervous I talk loudly. Then again, Rafa and his team were also talking loudly. Oh how I wish I knew Spanish!
Soon, everyone was back in their seats and I was nibbling on some cheese and crackers, Roig turned to the team and said Murray wins by retirement. There wasn’t a huge reaction from him, although I did not look at his face so maybe he did raise an eyebrow or two. Whatever they said was in Spanish, but it was a mild reaction.
Anyway, I think Maymo is cute, so I wanted a pic with him, but it was too intimidating with the whole team there. So when it was his turn to watch stuff, I ran over and asked for a picture. He was surprised but obliged. I told him, thanks, and to tell Rafa good luck for the USO. He said he’s coming back soon! I’m thinking, right, I have the guts to strike up a conversation with Rafa! I asked Maymo if Rafa’s finger was okay, he said it’s better and that he’s good to play at the open.
Finally at 3PM, I saw them starting to gather their bags and I’m like oh no! They are leaving! Then I hear the last boarding call for the Delta flight that I had a standby ticket on and I’m thinking holy crap, can it be??? As they leave a man calls his kids over and asks him to take a picture. “Okay” said Rafa, “but quickly because I don’t want to miss my plane.” So after they leave, I wait for my friend and hurl an okay gotta go at him, “I think Rafa is on that Delta flight.” As I got up and grabbed my bag, it had been open and EVERYTHING fell out. So embarrassing, but thankfully Rafa and his team were long gone. Anyway, I shove it all back in and run. It was about two gates down and I could not find it at first, but I had to get on that damn plane. So I run like a maniac and reach the desk and there is Rafa and his team getting their boarding passes, and I get there breathing hard, and all four of them turn at the same time and look at me as I come to a screeching halt at the desk. AWKWARD. I avoided all eye contact and waited for them to go in. Before entering Rafa asked how long the flight would be, I think she said an hour and a half. He said thanks and went in. I handed her my boarding pass and told her that I’m on standby and I asked if there was any room. She said there is a couple who hasn’t showed and if they don’t come in the next 10 mins then I can go in. It was going be a LONG 10 mins. To hurry things up I tell her this story about how my sister is getting married and if I missed this plane I would miss the rehearsal dinner and a lot of other soppy stuff. I know it’s bad to lie, but this was for Rafa! Well, she felt sorry for me and after only five mins she said, “alright sweetie, you can go.” SCORE! So I give them my bag and almost skip down the tunnel. I was hoping that I would get a seat close to Rafa, but instead, I was 10 rows back and right next to the bathroom. At this point though, I had no reason to complain. Rafa sat by the window and next to him Maymo took the aisle seat. On the other side it was Roig in aisle and Benito got the other window. The plane was stuck at the airport for 30 mins, which for me meant more time on board with Rafa! I tried to read a book, but it was impossible, I was too damn giddy. I was blabbering in excitement to the lady next to me about how much I loved Rafa and I showed her my pictures, until finally she pulled out a magazine. Code for “Shut up”.
I just went back to reflecting on everything that had happened that day, occasionally peaking down the aisle to see Maymo and Roig chatting away. I assumed Rafa was napping since he didn’t eat or drink anything. As we approached Newark we experienced some of the worst turbulence ever. Roig and Maymo looked unbothered, but I was nervous! Then I thought, “well at least if I die, it will be with Rafa!” Needless to say, we made it. I tried to snap a picture after everyone got up, but all I got was Rafa’s hat. Which kept falling off his head as he gathered his stuff from his seat. Once we got to the entrance of the plane we were all waiting for our luggage. Rafa chose to stand right at the doorway, hat on and on his phone. They brought out our carry-ons, and since we checked in last they dumped our stuff together. Roig, Benito and Maymo grabbed their bags and left one Babolat bag for Rafa, still on his phone. My bag was stuck behind his foot and no way was I gonna ask him to move. So I kind of stood there, until another lady asked him to move and I quickly grabbed my bag and walked out the tunnel.
It was PACKED outside and I thought oh no! He’ll be mobbed. Fortunately, it was only one couple who had been on the plane that asked for a pic and he took his hat off and posed. Maymo, Benito and Roig had already walked ahead and were spread out waiting for Rafa. Then I had this brilliant idea of saying bye to Maymo. So I tap him on his shoulder and I say “bye! Take care!” He smiled and said okay bye. He clearly wasn’t expecting it and what on earth was I thinking?? Then I walked ahead slowly, I wanted a picture of Rafa in his silly hat. But they were all sort of spread out while walking and I did not want them to catch me creeping. By that I mean more than I already had. I let them pass and was trailing behind when Rafa stops at an airport shop and peers in. You’re not going to buy souvenirs are you, Rafa? But then I heard him say something about comida, which I know is eat, so I figured the boy was hungry. I considered stopping to see what he was getting, but again, his team was around and I realized I needed to keep moving before I got myself arrested. I contemplated going to baggage claim, but I decided to just let it go. I said goodbye to Rafa in my head and off I went. As I went up the escalator I heard their voices in the background but I did not turn. I knew I had to keep going.
It had been the experience of a lifetime and for a few hours Rafa had not been Rafa anymore. He had been just another person sitting near you in the airport lounge or just another passenger on your airplane. The fact that he can become that person speaks volumes about who he is in his private life. He does not have an air about him. He picks up his own bags, sits with everyone else, never demands special treatment and if you didn’t recognize him he would never stand out. At the same time, when you ask him for an autograph or a picture it comes naturally. I only met him once and at a time when he’s probably not his happiest, but he was very cordial. When I got on that plane on Thursday, all I had wanted was a chance to watch him play live, and I came back with so much more. I’d say my luck card has been maxed out for the next 10 years.
[caption id=”attachment_27933” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Beth Wilson”]
Not pretending this will catch you guys up with everything. I’m so far behind I’m just having to cut my losses at some point. I’m still exhausted and haven’t sorted through my photos beyond the ones posted by TennisConnected on Facebook.
Rafa in the city:
Rafa’s making appearances all over the place… (I think I’m missing one…am I? Help?)
[caption id=”attachment_27922” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Beth Wilson”]
The heat can burn you, an opponent can burn you, and it turns out, a plate at a restaruant can burn you too. Hampered with burns on his fingers, a long match the day before and, most importantly, an opponent playing well, Rafa lost to Mardy Fish in the quarter finals of the Cincy Masters: 3-6, 4-6. The good news? Rafa defended his points. Let’s hope he has enough time to heal up for the US Open.
And just how bad are those burns? This bad.
[caption id=”attachment_27923” align=”alignnone” width=”450” caption=”Photo by Beth Wilson”]
It’s time to vote for the winners of the Win a Copy of RAFA contest. A neutral party has helped me narrow the entries down to a final ten. Vote for the four you like the best. Voting ends at midnight (Eastern US Time/GMT -5) on the 22nd.
[caption id=”attachment_27912” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Beth Wilson”]
Sorry I abandoned you guys! I wasn’t thinking and forgot that Kalliopeia who usually helps me out by posting match results when I’m away was going to be at the tournament too. And last night, I was too tired to post anything.
So, what’s happened since we last talked? Well, Rafa’s won 2 singles lost 1 doubles match. You guys know all this, but I feel the need to get the results up and out there anyway.
Defeated Benneteau: 6-4, 7-5
A nice improvement from last year’s score line against Benneteau.
Defeated Verdasco: 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 7-6(9)
I don’t know what to say about this match other than…holy shit. Rafa was nervous, he was edgy, he was playing okay, he wasn’t playing okay. He was pretty much all over the place. He went a few fewer places than Verdasco and that’s why he squeaked out a win.
Defeated by Bhupathi/Paes: 6-4, 6-2
Really though? Not a sad thing. I think they pretty much gave up after being broken in the 1st set. I’m not saying they tanked, but they got much more relaxed and just had fun while doing their best. Rafa was so tired by the end - letting out a big yawn on one changeover and spending another staring in to space looking totally zoned. While I’d love to see more Rafa/Marc!, this was probably for the best.
[caption id=”attachment_27903” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Elsa/Getty Images”]
Rafa and Marc! played Tipsarevic and Troicki in the first round of the men’s doubles in Cincinnati today. I have no idea how they played or how the match went since I was trying to get a bad hair-cut repaired, but looking at the score it might be a good thing I wasn’t watching that second set tie-break. Maybe someone who saw it can weight in. Bottom line? They won 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 10-5. Onward!
[caption id=”attachment_24012” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for Bacardi Ltd”]
The Champions Drink Responsibly campaign would like to know who your champion is. Nominate your champion (a friend or family member who is drinking age) and if they are picked, you’ll get a shout-out from Rafa. The deadline is 16.00 GMT Wednesday 17th August, so hurry!
[caption id=”attachment_27890” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Shelley Moeller”]
A transcript of Rafa’s pre-tournament presser is up at ASAPsports.com:
Q. In 2008, you won a bunch of tournaments to overtake Roger Federer for No. 1; Novak is doing that this year. Can you compare the two years in terms of Novak’s success versus yours?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, he’s having better season than what I had in 2008. Nine titles already is a lot, no? I won the Olympics that year, too, so I don’t know.
Every season is different and is difficult to compare, no? But I think what he is doing is really amazing, and probably impossible to repeat. Just congratulate him, because it’s really, really difficult what he’s doing.
Nine is a lot. It’s a nice number too, don’t you think? No reason to add one more.
Q. Did you watch the Rogers Cup final? I was wondering if you could talk about Mardy Fish. He always plays well here. If you watched the match, how do you think he played and how do you think he’s been playing this year? He’s had a pretty good year.
RAFAEL NADAL: I didn’t. I didn’t watch the final, no. He’s playing well. I think he improved from few years ago. His mental part a better now. I think he’s a very complete player: His serve, his aggressive game is really good, and now he’s better able to defend than before.
So I think he’s doing really well, seriously.
Q. Getting ahead in the calendar, are you planning on representing Spain in the Davis Cup final?
RAFAEL NADAL: Semifinals.
Q. Yes, excuse me.
RAFAEL NADAL: We don’t play the final before the semis. (Laughter.) But if the captain wants me there, I’m going to do it, yeah.
I always love how he pretends he might not be wanted by Costa.
Q. What do you need to do to get back on track here in Cincinnati after having an unexpected loss in Montreal last week?
RAFAEL NADAL: Play well. I need to practice well. You know, last week in that match I thought I didn’t play bad, but I didn’t play enough well the important moments and the decisive points. I had too many opportunities to close the match, I didn’t, and finally he played really great with determination.
So after losing like this, the confidence stays a little bit so-so, especially because I didn’t practice a lot during all the summer. I had the problem in the foot after Wimbledon, so I was able to play just — if we’re talking about practice well, it was just three days before I had to fly to Cincinnati — sorry, to Montreal.
So wasn’t enough, but that week there before the match, I think I did well. I had a few good practices and I felt competitive before the third-round match. Wasn’t enough.
I will try another time here. If not, I will try in the US Open. So that’s it. For me the season is not done, but even if I am not playing bad the rest of the season, I had a very good season.
The thing that remain for me is try to finish well, no, try to finish with good feeling. That’s what I going to try. I going to work hard to do it. Not only for this season, for next season, too I have to improve a few things to be really competitive, to keep having chances to win important titles. I want to work on that.
Here’s wishing you get a happy ending, Rafa. Wait. That’s not what I meant! Don’t go there!
Here’s hoping your season ends strong, Rafa.
Q. What do you think of adding another tournament where the men and women play concurrently? Do you like having the women here at a tournament? What are your thoughts? Is it a different vibe or atmosphere?
RAFAEL NADAL: Do you want the true?
Q. I want the truth. No sugarcoating it.
RAFAEL NADAL: It’s different. Seriously, it’s difficult to say, because I think it’s good for the atmosphere; it’s good for the fans; probably is good for the tournament.
Is not that good for the players, because — well, I love to have the women around us. It’s not a question of that. It’s a question of courts, a question of less space.
But this tournament improved a lot. I think they make big improvements with the space, with the players’ lounge, with the place where we are having lunch. So that’s a big improve, and that makes possible that we are having a combined event.
But if you talk about being comfortable for practice court, for everything, I don’t say about myself. I am very lucky. All the people is having fantastic words for me, and they are giving two hours of court every day without problems. I just can say thanks a lot to the tournament.
But probably for a lot of players, they are having more problems than usual.
Didn’t he mention the lunch place at another tournament too? He has his priorities.
Q. You joined Twitter in the last few weeks. Talk about what made you decided to do that, and what has surprised you about it so far?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, we decided to start with Twitter. We started with Facebook a long time ago, and that’s to be a little bit more in contact with the fans. I like, no? I think it’s something different. It’s something that can have good fun and the fans can have a little bit more information about what I’m doing daily.
So I think that’s good.
It’s a good new.
Q. Do you have any superstitious or pre-game rituals or good luck charms that you do?
RAFAEL NADAL: Before the matches?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, always cold shower before every match. That’s what I did all my life. Not much more.
I know that’s more a mental than physical thing, I don’t undrestand it. Seems like it would tighten up the muscles (instead of warming/loosening them up). But, I obviously know nothing!
Q. After the tough loss in Wimbledon this year, you said you had to really improve because you played Novak so many times and lost. What specifically do you need to improve next time you play him in order to win?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, seriously, I didn’t find the solution yet. (Laughter.) You know, I know what I have to do, but the difficult thing is do it.
So I have to play aggressive, without mistakes; I have to serve well; I have to play long, close to the lines. Everybody knows what you have to do to win a match; not everybody knows how to do it.
So that’s the main issue, the main thing, no? I know I can do it because I did in the past. I’m going to work hard to try to do it in the future. I don’t know if I am ready today. I don’t know. Maybe yes, maybe not.
But what is sure is that I’m going to work hard to be ready in a few months to do it.
Yes. You’ve done it before and can do it again. Keep thinking about that, Rafa.
Q. You befriended Rory McIlroy after he won the US Open. It’s been reported that he’s in Cincinnati visiting his friend, Caroline Wozniacki. Have you talked to him at all? Have you played any golf when you’ve been in town?
RAFAEL NADAL: I met him last year in the US Open. We keep in touch for that year. I like him a lot. His character and he’s a humble guy, very, very normal, very relaxed.
I have a good contact with him, and, yeah, he told me few days ago that he going to come here and was a nice surprise.
But will there be golf? Or is Rory too busy swinging off the court? ;)
Q. You’ve had some time off with some vacation and just one match. How important is it for you to get some matches here under your belt before you get to New York to really feel where your game is?
RAFAEL NADAL: I would love to have the matches, but you never know. I could come here and lose first round. That’s sport. That’s tennis. If that happen, I’m going to think positive. I’m going to think I have to practice well to be ready for New York.
That’s what I going to try. I’m going to try my best to play a good tournament here, but, you know, it’s not easy. I never played well here. I never played well during all my career here.
Probably this year I am not arriving with the best feelings because I wasn’t able to practice a lot at home. During all the summer I had the problem on the foot. I just practiced three days before came to Montreal.
I lost an important opportunity, I think, in Montreal, because, you know, after long time without play is important to win the first match. That’s the most difficult thing to do. I didn’t there, and I had a big chance to do it.
So we start another time here. I will try for sure.
We gonna see whats happen.
Q. Are you worried or concerned about your confidence?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am worried — when I won Roland Garros, I am worried about the first round of Queen’s. For sure I’m worried about the first round here. I worry about every match on my year. That’s the true, no? Every match is important.
When you practice a sport, when you compete at the highest level, you have to understand and you have to accept that every time when you go on court you can win and you can lose. That’s part of the game. That’s the toughest part of the game. But at the same time, it’s the really beautiful part of the game. If you don’t lose, you cannot enjoy after the victories. So I have to accept both things.
I’m having a very good season. If I lose here another first round, accept that and accept that I am having a fantastic year and I am having a fantastic last seven years in my career.
It’s impossible to be all the time in semifinals and finals in every tournament of your career. That’s not going to happen. Try to make it possible as many times as I can, but is impossible every time.
There’s a first time for everything. Perhaps this is the year?
Q. Changing topics, it’s going to be the tenth anniversary of September 11th during the US Open this year. Talk about your memories of that day and where you were.
RAFAEL NADAL: I remember exactly what I did that day. I was playing a match to win my first point ATP, and I lost that match with 13 match points. So that’s the true. Just after that match I saw the tragedy at TV.
Just, you know, I was really sad about my match, because the first point ATP always is really important. But when I came back to the locker room and I saw that on TV, I really forget the match in one second, no?
I was there in the twin towers few months before, in the top. On the TV, that’s probably one of the views that had bigger impact on myself.
That’s one hell of a lesson on perspective.
Q. There’s a yellow Aston Martin that has Vamos, Rafa on it. It’s been in the parking lot. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. If not, what are some of the crazier things that fans have done to show their support for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: The car? I saw that in the picture. Last week I saw that in the picture, and I will met them.
Q. You will meet them?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah.
Q. They’ll be very happy.
RAFAEL NADAL: I have to do it when somebody brings Aston Martin like that, I have to met. I just can say thanks to them for the support.
Q. The tournaments are different, but Monte-Carlo you’ve won the tournament like nine years in a row.
RAFAEL NADAL: Eight. Nine is — even I don’t have nine years in my career.
Q. Is there anything mentally you can do to increase your chances for success here? Pretend you’re in Monte-Carlo for instance, even though the surfaces are different, that sort of thing, to do better here?
RAFAEL NADAL: I try my every year. I try my best in Monte-Carlo. I am not trying better in Monte-Carlo than here.
Pretend he’s in Monte-Carlo? Seriously? That’s a strategy?
Q. Is it just the surface difference then?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the part of the season. Maybe it’s the surfaces. Weather conditions. I don’t know.
But the true is I never went far away from the semifinals. I played two times semifinals?
Q. Semis. Never made the finals here.
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, for the sure the finals not, but semifinals I think I lost against Novak once - two against Novak maybe.
Q. Have to check it.
RAFAEL NADAL: Doesn’t matter. The true is, even if I play semifinals or quarterfinals, I never played well. It’s something in my mind that I have to change. I hope win first round here and I will be able to play with a little bit more confidence.
After that, you never know. Why not this year I play well? I always thinking positive.
Rafael Nadal: A Man Who Never Quits or Makes Excuses
[caption id=”attachment_27882” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Shelley Moeller”]
There’s a new article about Rafa by Michael Mewshaw in Newsweek/The Daily Beast, check it out. It deals with some of the same ideas as Barber’s infamous piece (tightly controlled images, but in a far less confrontational and underhanded way. And, it has this:
A fantastic chimera, part bull, part bullfighter, Nadal has his own supernal gifts and wins not by making the game look easy, but by making it look every bit as demanding and difficult as it actually is. While Federer is planning points four shots in advance, Nadal often kills the ball before Federer has a chance to realize his arabesques of excellence. Although his serve doesn’t have explosive pace—in this category Federer is the muscleman, outserving Rafa by 10mph—Nadal puts in a higher percentage of first serves and places the ball with accuracy and guile. He has good hands, a deft touch for a big man, and ballistic, if not balletic, movement afoot. He keeps the ball in play even when he is out of position and has a preternatural ability to go in a nanosecond from desperate retrieving to smacking a winner. Like a heavyweight, he can take a punch, stand up to an opponent’s best shots, then dole out punishment himself. He stays lucid during tense passages of play, quickly recovers after setbacks, and never quits or makes excuses in defeat.
And sends us off reminding us that Rafa is, after all, Rafa:
If he hopes to retain his U.S. Open title, he’ll have to shake off the rust after his defeat at Wimbledon and end a five-match losing streak against Djokovic. It’s not, however, as though his fans have to pray for a miracle. A player of Rafa’s character, ready to run until his feet bleed, is always a good bet to catch up to the best opponents and reconnect with the best in himself.
Kalliopeia is attempting to struggle through a slow internet connection to upload photos.
A big mish-mash of stuff:
There were so many Rafa related tweets today, my head started spinning. I really need sleep, so this is just some… Feel free to post more in the comments - it will be good training for when you are on your own a lot later this week. ;)
RAFA, the book, that is. Thanks to some nice promotion people, I have three copies of Rafa’s new biography to give away. Since they also gave me a preview copy to read and review, I’m going to throw in the one I ordered from Amazon as well.
How to Participate
1. Put on your thinking caps and think of a chapter title you’d like to see in the book, such as “Ode to my Famooos Ass”. Your title could be funny or serious, tennis related or not. I just ask that we stay PG-13. (Yes, I’m giving a few of you the eyebrow of warning.) I’ll get help picking the best 10 entries and then everyone will vote for their favorites.
2. Fill out the form below with your name, email address and title by midnight, August 19th US Eastern time (GMT -5).
3. On the 20th, I’ll put up the poll for everyone to vote. You’ll have until midnight, August 22nd US Eastern time (GMT -5) to vote.
4. I’ll announce the four winners on the 23rd.
The Entry Form
Entry form removed as the contest is closed
If two entries are deemed to be similar enough to be the same, the first one submitted will count.
Only enter once. I’ll toss any extra entries.
I’ve disabled comments on this so there’s less risk of someone putting their entry in the comment field.
About the Book
By Rafael Nadal and John Carlin
What does it take to be one of the greatest tennis players in the world? What goes on inside an athlete’s head during championship point? Are champions born or made?
A gladiator on court, Rafael Nadal is widely known to be an intensely competitive, ambitious tennis player. Off court, he is an immensely private person. A natural athlete, he was exposed to sports at a young age (his uncle, Miguel Ángel, played professional soccer), played competitive tennis and participated in an organized soccer league. But it wasn’t until he was 13 that he knew tennis was in his future.
In his first-ever memoir, RAFA (Hyperion Books; August 23, 2011; $27.99 hardcover), written with award-winning journalist John Carlin, Nadal reveals the secrets of his game and shares the inspiring personal story behind his success. The book covers Nadal’s childhood, growth as a player, and his remarkable career. It includes the highs, such as winning the Wimbledon 2008 final in what John McEnroe called “the greatest game of tennis ever played,” to the lows, when in 2009 knee injuries and family troubles caused Nadal to exit the French Open early and miss Wimbledon altogether. The book details the 2010 US Open, where Nadal’s rivalry with Novak Djokovic was born. It was also the tournament in which Nadal completed a career Grand Slam; he is one of only seven men to do so.
Nadal has made it through tough times thanks to his incredible team, chiefly his family, who are endlessly supportive. There’s his uncle and coach, Toni Nadal, a former tennis pro who subjected Nadal to a Spartan regime from early childhood to make him into a tennis warrior. Nadal’s father, Sebastían, and mother, Ana María, keep him grounded and have instilled strong values (discipline, respect for others, and good sportsmanship) that is evident in Nadal’s graciousness in victory and defeat. Nadal writes, “I build a wall around myself when I play, but my family is the cement that holds the wall together.”
Other sections in the book include:
A rare look into Nadal’s thought process while competing mentally and physically at the highest level;
His vital but sometimes tense relationship with his uncle Toni;
The chronic injury, which made him fear for his career after winning his first Grand Slam, and how he has battled through pain to conquer the tennis world;
Minute by minute chronology of what was going through his mind during the two biggest games of his life;
The effect his parents’ separation had on his tennis game;
The intense regimen he endures to prepare for a match; and
His fierce rivalries against Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
While this memoir charts Nadal’s trajectory from the day he was born to his achievements as a tennis champion, it is clear that his family, his team, and the Mallorcan community are his source of power and success. With candor, heart, and raw insight, Nadal takes readers on his life’s dramatic and triumphant journey. He writes in the book, “you get as much out of your game as you put into it.”
Rafael Nadal began playing tennis at age four with his uncle Toni, who is his long-time coach. He has won a total of 10 Grand Slam titles and a career “Golden Slam” — all four majors plus a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. He lives in Mallorca, Spain.
John Carlin, originally from the UK, is Senior International writer for El País, the world’s leading Spanish-language newspaper, and has written for the New York Times, Time, Wired, New Republic, and the Wall Street Journal. He also wrote the book that became the feature film Invictus.
By Rafael Nadal and John Carlin
Published by Hyperion
Publication date: August 23, 2011
Hardcover: $27.99 • Page count: 272
Also available as a Hyperion eBook
Rafa’s on the cover of the most recent copy of Tennis Magazine. The article that goes with the title is by Pete Bodo. It doesn’t really contain anything new - just talks about how incredibly honest Rafa’s post Wimbledon final presser was and Bodo’s feelings that Rafa is at a turning point in his career.
There’s also an opinion piece by Chris Evert on what she calls the seven-year itch. She feels that’s “the approximate amount of time top players seem to be able to compete on the tour before the physical and mental tolls cause them to want to take a significant break.” She said the same thing happened to her in her 7th year (when she was 24) and she thinks it’s the situation Rafa is in now. Time will tell.
Finally, Rafa’s mentioned in an interview with Jimmy Connors:
Who are your favorite players on the tour today?
Nadal for sure. And lately, Djokovic. Federer is now finding out what it’s like to have to beat Djokovic and Nadal in the semis and finals to win a tournament. So it’s going to be interesting to see how he handles that and what changes he makes to get back in the mix. But his game is more of elegance and style. Nadal is gritty and not afraid to get dirty. That’s my kind of guy.
Here’s a scan of the cover and an advert featuring Rafa:
Cover photo by Clive Brunskill/Contour by Getty Images)