[caption id=”attachment_18183” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images”]
The draw for the 2011 Japan Open is up. Rafa will play wildcard Go Soeda in the first round - it will be their first meeting. Seeds in his half are Fish, Tipsarevic, and Troicki. Seeds in the other half are Stepanek, Ferrer, Monaco, and Murray.
"Whistleblower" of Ann Arbor, Mich.: "I had the strangest tennis-related experience today. I am a new hire at Chase, and I’m taking numerous online training courses on all of Chase’s policies and banking-related issues. In a course on mortgage fraud, there was a sample fraudulent pay stub. What was the fake employee’s name? Rafael Nadal. It cracked me up, especially because of Chase’s involvement in tennis. In the example, it was Nadal who was trying to defraud the bank. There must be a Federer fan deep in the heart of Chase bank."
Rafa was kind enough let us know that he, his white jeans, wings and boating magazine were finally heading home after a long time away. And, of course, the iB3 was there when he landed to give us some footage.
(mangle of text on video page - I’m thinking that, as if often does, it left a “not” out when talking about training during his week off. In other words, I think it’s “not without training.”)
There appears to be tons of articles floating around right now (like this and this) that are saying Rafa is close to sacking Toni. Quite frankly, I doubt their veracity. What are their sources? I see nothing but interpretations of some of the quotes in Rafa’s book - that’s all. Nothing to corroborate their interpretation of those quotes.
Ooodles of coverage on marca.com - feel free to explore.
Rafa vs the ITF:
I admit to having mixed feelings about Rafa’s recent comments about the ITF and DC scheduling. After all, he (and other top players) requested this schedule in 2006. The ITF agreed and implemented it in 2009. I fully agree that the season should be shortened. (As it is, it’s not a season, it’s a year.) I also agree that scheduling DC one week after slams is totally insane. But I can’t help but worry about how Rafa’s going about this. Maybe he should start with, “yeah, we requested it. Now that I’ve lived it, though, I think that request was wrong. Can we re-evaluate now?” I also wonder if he isn’t talking about a further restructuring of the whole DC format - another thing I have extremely mixed feelings about. One of the proposed format changes I’ve read about would have the whole competition taking place in one location over a week or so. While this would be ideal for players, I think it would totally gut Davis Cup of what makes it so special. It’s the whole “away vs. home” that gives these matches such an electric atmosphere. If they want to switch it to be in one place and play it all at once, just rename it The Hopman Cup.
It’s just another item for them to try and sort out in an already overly-complicated scheduling mess. There is no one governing party in tennis. There’s no one place for players to go to have their voices heard. Terribly, terribly complicated.
Bouncing happy singing Spanairds plus some match highlights. Since the headband is on, is the bouncing post-match? or is this pumping him up pre-match? @nidssserz points out the bandana isn’t right - perhaps it’s old footage. Still makes me happy. *goes to look again* Ah-ha! Feli’s hair is short. The jumping bit must be old footage. In fact, I think it was from the 2009 finals.
[caption id=”attachment_28718” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by REUTERS/ Marcelo del Pozo”]
In the fourth rubber of the Spain/France semifinal Davis Cup tie, Rafa played #10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who was substituted for Simon after his excellent play in the doubles Saturday. I’m not really sure the last minute substitution mattered at all because Rafa was focused, formidable and fierce today. He wasn’t losing many points on his own serve (none in the first set) and wasn’t giving Tsonga much of a chance to hold either. Rafa wins the deciding point for Spain and puts them into the final: 6-0, 6-2, 6-4. I predict many Spaniards will be dancing happily tonight.
Some of the stuff that happened:
It took Rafa four break chances and nine minutes, but he broke Jo’s serve in the first game of the match. Rafa followed that up with a quick love hold for 2-0. Jo’s next service game included a few deuces. Rafa got up a break point and Jo double faulted to give Rafa a double break lead: 3-0. Later rinse and repeat until Rafa took the first set 6-0 in just 35 minutes and without losing a single point on serve.
Jo held to start set two and Rafa lost a point on his first service game. Oh my! In the 5th game, Jo imploded just a wee bit and Rafa broke at love to go up 3-2. Same thing on Jo’s next service game and Rafa found himself with a chance to serve it out at 5-2. And with a lovely forehand winner, Rafa took the second set 6-2.
Serve was held fairly easily the 3rd set until the 5th game. Rafa had a few chances to break Jo in that game, but Jo held after a long battle. In the 7th game, Rafa gave us a leaping scissor kick fist pump when he went up 0-30. Jo gave him double break point by netting a volley and Rafa took full advantage to go up 4-3. Rafa served it out in style by holding at love for the 6-4 win.
Verdasco subbed in for Ferrer in the final (and dead) rubber and beat Gasquet: 6-2 6-1.
On paper, I thought Llodra and Tsonga had the edge against Lopez and Verdasco, I didn’t think they had that much of an edge. Llodra is an excellent doubles player who was born to play at the net. While not as natural there, Tsonga is also a decent net player. On the Spanish side, Lopez is a pretty good doubles player and Verdasco? Well, he gets by. As a team, Lopez/Verdasco have had success, but they’ve often run into trouble when playing a team with a true doubles player like Llodra. So, I was expecting a French win, but a good solid fight. It wasn’t to be. Lopez/Verdasco were off their game while Llodra/Tsonga were on and knew that a win was vital. It was a no-contest affair. France gets their first point of the tie with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-0.
Rafa could have been forgiven for looking sluggish in his tie-opening match against Gasquet today. After all, he played a physically and mentally grueling final in New York on Monday, flew to Spain right after, and was practicing in Cordoba the very next day. Now, just a few days later, he found himself once again playing a key match for his country. Looking at the scoreline, though, you’d have thought he was fresh as a daisy. He did have a few off-moments during the match, but all-in-all, he was on his game, sliding into his shots, changing direction on the backhand…in short, he was Rafa on clay. And it was lovely. Even better, it was short match so he didn’t empty the tanks again completely. Rafa puts Spain ahead 1-0 with a 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 victory.
Rafa’s win was followed up by the second match which pitted David Ferrer against Gilles Simon - two men who don’t draw a lot of attention, but who you can never count out. I admit, I had thought this game could take awhile since both are excellent clay court players and willing to play for as long as it takes. Wasn’t to be, though, as Ferrer took care of things (6-1, 6-4, 6-1) to put Spain up 2-0.
[caption id=”attachment_28627” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by JOHN THYS/ AFP/ Getty Images”]
The draw for the Spain/France semifinal took place today in Cordoba. Per the Davis Cup site, Rafa will kick things off for Spain by playing Richard Gasquet. Next up will be David Ferrer vs. Giles Simon.
The full draw:
R1: Rafael Nadal (ESP) v Richard Gasquet (FRA)
R2: David Ferrer (ESP) v Gilles Simon (FRA)
R3: Feliciano Lopez / Fernando Verdasco (ESP) v Michael Llodra / Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
R4: Rafael Nadal (ESP) v Gilles Simon (FRA)
R5: David Ferrer (ESP) v Richard Gasquet (FRA)
Photos by REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi, Clive Brunskill/Getty Images, STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images, EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images, Nick Laham/Getty Images, Al Bello/Getty Images, Chris Trotman/Getty Images, and REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
First, let me say: there is nothing to back up these claims besides the word of David Nadal. I’m only posting this now because in the past he has been accurate and passed on good information. And let’s keep in mind that @davidjnadal said there was doubt about Rafa playing DC. Not that he wasn’t. Let’s see what’s going to happen. I hope that, if there is a problem, it’s not too serious and Rafa can still feel free to play the roll of “mad dorky cheerleader” (TM Atch2).
Odd that we have a very quickly posted transcript and no video yet, but I’ll take what I can get. Why? Because once again, Rafa proves he has more class, balance and wisdom than someone almost twice his age… No silliness from me, just Rafa:
Q. At any time was fatigue a factor in the match today?
RAFAEL NADAL: At the fourth. But, it was a tough match. Physical, mental, everything was, yeah, I think it was a quality match. Congratulations for him. He did great.
Q. Did it put you out of your rhythm at all, the long timeout he took after the first game of the fourth set?
RAFAEL NADAL: Sorry?
Q. Did it knock you out of your rhythm when he took the long injury timeout after the first game of the fourth set after you had just won the tiebreak?
RAFAEL NADAL: We are starting the press conference in a bad way, I think. (Smiling.) Let’s talk about the match. It’s not the right moment to find excuses if he stops the match there or if I was tired. I fighted until the last point. I tried my best in every moment. I am happy with a lot of things, much happier than the previous matches against him. In another things I’m not that happy. But in general I think he did great, no? I had my chances. I really had my chases. At the beginning of the first I had two games to love. The first set was playing really the well beginning, and I lost a little bit the way how to play and lost a little bit the rhythm. Happened the same in the second set. You know, with that very, very long game, finally I had a mistake with the smash. So few tough points for me during the match. He’s doing well. He always did well in these kind of surfaces. I always had big trouble to beat him here in this surfaces in the past. It’s not an exception now, especially because he’s doing better than ever. But you know what? I go back home knowing that I am on the way. You know, I like to fight, I want to enjoy about this battle against him. Six straight loses, for sure that’s painful. But I’m going to work every day until that changes. So I have a goal, easy goal for me now. It’s going to be tough to change the situation, but the goal is easy to see. To have a goal always you know how to work every day.
Q. Were you gaining some hope when you saw his back was hurting?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. My hope always is about myself, not about the opponent.
Q. Rafa, has Novak Djokovic taken tennis to an even higher level? Please talk about this incredible year that he’s had and what that means.
RAFAEL NADAL: I already said one hundred times. I don’t know if he’s bringing tennis to another level. For sure this season he’s doing fantastic. His level is really, really high. But when one very good player stays with that confidence and winning so many matches. And the matches that he normal win and the matches that you can win, you can lose, and you keep winning, and the matches you have a big chance to lose you keep winning, the season is probably impossible to repeat. That’s why. His level for sure is fantastic. He’s doing very well mentally everything. So just accept that. Accept the challenge and work.
Q. What made Novak’s return of serve so effective tonight? What was the mental challenge for you of facing break points so many times?
RAFAEL NADAL: His return is fantastic always, not this year. Seems like this year, you know, he learned a lot of things, and in my opinion it’s not like this. He’s doing few things better, but he was fantastic player before. And second thing, my serve worked bad tonight. That’s the true. If I have to say two things about I’m not happy tonight, it’s my serve for sure the first one. Because if my serve works really well, I know I have the challenge, the mental challenge for sure. Losing six times affects in the match, and you have to know that. And I know. I was ready for that. So accept everything, to fight every ball, and that’s what I did. So I’m happy about that. But I didn’t have free points during all that games. I didn’t have not one free point in both sets. A few moments that you are tired and the few moments you really need something, I never had these free points. Last year I had; I didn’t have this year. That change a lot the match. My serve has to come back to another level.
Q. What did you like about the way you played tonight?
RAFAEL NADAL: I liked especially my mental part. In the second set, for moments in the third set, all the set, having tough moments, but keep fighting and keep trying to find solutions. The fourth, even if he was very bad from the back, I was very tired. That’s the true, no? But for the rest, I think I started to play aggressive, a little bit more inside the court, and changing a little bit the directions with the forehand. When I go inside you had more chances to change the forehand to down the line. I felt he was tired, too. But, you know, I have to take something in the first or the second set. I have to take some advantage there, and I didn’t, because it’s normal if you didn’t take advantage when you have to take advantage. After for sure I fighted a lot, I ran unbelievable in the fourth set. So during one match like this, very hard mentally and physically, you do this. You go up and down. So was a little bit normal. The first game of the fourth was really important. I had the deuce and I tried to play aggressive forehand. It was out like this. So that was a tough moment, because starting the fourth with 1 0 break I had the chance, and I felt that was at moment. But after, you know, he called the trainer I played a so so game. It was very important game to save the second, because after I came back to the place with the wind with me, it was tough game, that one.
Q. You were changing the pace, slicing the ball deep to him at the baseline. He made some unforced errors when you sliced the ball deep. Were you sensing that?
RAFAEL NADAL: I tried to play a little bit more to the middle. I tried to change a little bit the rhythms with the slice.
Q. Seemed to be effective at times.
RAFAEL NADAL: You feel? (Laughter.)
Q. I thought so. As you point out, he’s always had a great return and probably a great forehand. What do you think he’s improved this year the most in his shots that has brought him to this level? Serve or…
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, no. I think he’s always ready to — he’s having less mistakes than before. In my opinion, that’s all. He’s enough confident in every moment to keep believing in one more ball, one more ball. So that’s why. I think his forehand is not more painful than before; his backhand is not more painful than before; he serve the same. So what I have to say is what I feel and what I told you.
Q. How do you look about Grand Slam result this year? Are you satisfied?
RAFAEL NADAL: About the Grand Slams?
Q. Yeah. You won Roland Garros but you could not win Wimbledon and the US Open.
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t feel any obligation to win the tournament. That’s the true, no? I am not that one that feels that the final is a bad result. I don’t consider myself that good, you know. I fight to be always there. I fight all the time to win every match. I appreciate the result. Final is fantastic result. Winning ten Grand Slams this year I won another one, Roland Garros. I lost six finals, but I was there. So, you know, it’s smart accept the loses with the same calm as the victories, and keep working without thinking on the past. I was in the final of Wimbledon, final of US Open. I fighted both of them, especially this one. I go back to Spain more happy today than after the Wimbledon final, because after here I think I am on the right way to try to win him. After Wimbledon I didn’t feel that. That’s it. He was good. He did really well. Last year I won three Grand Slams; this year I won one. I played three finals, and I think I played the last six, eight Grand Slams I played around semifinals. So for me is a fantastic result. It’s a dream result.
Q. That long game in the second set, I think game three, how deflating was that on your serve to not come out of that when you put the overhead in the net?
RAFAEL NADAL: I keep fighting. I fighted a lot to come back in the second. I was ready to accept the challenges and to accept the problems. The problem is, I told you, I didn’t have free points. The serve didn’t help me. I didn’t start the points with an advantage tonight with my serve. That’s a lot. So I don’t think I need an ace or a winner serve, because I think I have enough good forehand later to have the control of the point. But a lot of times I started the point in the worst position than him when I was serving. So that’s tough.
[caption id=”attachment_28553” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Clive Brunskill/ Getty Images”]
#1 verses #2 in the US Open final, that hasn’t happen since the Samprass/Aggasi days. Then, it was the #2 who ended up winning. But this is hard-court and one that requires non-stop aggressive play. When confident, Rafa can do that. When not? It’s damn tough. Add to that a player oozing confidence and no visible weaknesses, and it’s not good. Rafa fought, he fought hard, but it just wasn’t enough. Djokovic wins his first US Open: 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1.
Some stuff that happened:
Just to muck with everyone’s mind, Rafa won the toss and elected to serve. It worked as he held and then broke Nole in his first game. In the very next game, his 1st serve abandoned him and he went down triple break point. He saved two, but then sent a forehand long, and we were back on serve. In the next game, Rafa had 3 break points, but failed to convert. Short balls and a forehand error and Nole earned a break point on the next game. He ran Rafa all over the place and broke for a 3-2 lead. Rafa pushed the game to deuce in the next game, but Nole held for 4-2. Nole went up triple break point in the next game. Rafa saved two, but netted a backhand on the 3rd and Nole was up 5-2. Nole serve it out: 6-2.
Rafa held to start the 2nd set. Much like the first set, Rafa then took the 1st two points on Nole’s serve. Nole sent a forehand long and Rafa had triple break point. On his third break point, Rafa sent a smoking forehand winner and broke for 2-0. The next game was impossibly long with Nole earning and saving many break points. He double faulted to another one and then had three clear chances to finish a rally, but let Nole off the hook each time. Nole broke to put things back on serve and then held with ease. Down 15-30 in the next game, Rafa couldn’t get to a second serve return winner from Nole. Follow that with a double fault and Nole’s up a break: 3-2. Nole again held with ease: 4-2. With Nole serving at 4-3, Rafa hit a beauty of a backhand down the line passing shot to break and put the set back on serve. For the third time in the match, however, Nole broke back to give himself a chance to serve for the set which he did.
Rafa held at love to start set 3. Nole followed suit. In the third game, down 30-40, a long rally ended with Rafa hitting a forehand wide; Nole broke for a 2-1 lead. Rafa broke back to put them on serve, but, like every previous time, was broken in the next game. During the next service game, Nole started stretching his back a bit. He double faulted to triple break point and Rafa broke at love with a fierce winner. With more winners, he went on to consolidate his break to stay on serve. Rafa had his chances in the next game, but both players kept holding until the 10th game in which Nole broke to go up 6-5. A few loose shots from Nole in the next game and Rafa broke to force a tiebreak. Which Rafa won. Somehow. But it was amazing. And I screamed.
Nole had a bit of a massage for his back.
After Nole held to start the 4th set, he took a full MTO for the back issue. Rafa forgot how dangerous an injured man who needs to end things NOW can be and Nole broke. Rafa held nicely for 1-4. Nole held easily – to me it looked like Rafa was having some trouble with his hamstring. Nole broke again for a 5-1 lead.
Updated to put some stuff in bold since it took no time at all for people to bring it up:
BTW, if I hear one person say that Nole faked the back issue and it was convenient how well he played after the MTO, I’ll ask you to prove to me that you said the same thing about Rafa at Wimbledon. There is nothing more dangerous than an injured player who needs to win NOW and has the shots to fire at will. I’m trying to be with colm, accusations won’t help, and am likely to be rude. Enough said.
This was my third visit to the US Open having been here in 2006/7. A lot has changed since I was here, the new Chase center(smash zone) on the left as you enter through the East gate is just one of the newly added features to the tennis center. The biggest change has been the addition of court 17. It’s a mini grand stand and, I must say, very intimate. You get so close to the action. Reminded me of watching a club championship as I watched Karlovic and Dolgopolov fight for a chance to play Novak Djokovic in the next round.
The best time to go to any ATP event is the the first few days because you get to see a lot of players. This time I chose to go the Open during the labor day weekend. Naturally, the first player I wanted to see was Rafa. Unfortunately he was not scheduled to play on this Saturday. It didn’t bother me because I knew where to find him, the practice courts. I could tell by the crowd of people around the practice courts that there should a top seed playing there. My first sighting of uncle Toni picking up balls, confirmed my suspicion. There he was, Rafa having an intense practice session with Feliciano Lopez. The practice courts at the US Open do not have the easiest viewing for the fans. The courts are lined up in such a way that you can only view from one side, or you can try and craw under the hedges covering the fence on the other side. I slowly squeezed through the crowd of fans and being 6’3” kind of gave me a bird’s eye view standing on those bleachers. Armed With my Canon in hand I set out taking pictures. It was time for a break, and I think Rafa loves the attention he gets whenever he changes his shirt. The crowd went crazy as took off his shirt. Then he sat down to cool off in the shade. There was David Ferrer hitting with Andy Murray on the next court; Serena and her entourage on the other courts. Nole played after Rafa had left; he decided to use the court that was further away from the fans. They couldn’t hide their frustration and most of them left. I had a sneek at Sloane Stephens get ready for her match on Arthur Ashe. I thought she looked set to pull off another upset on Ivanovic, but that was not the case. I guess the occassion was too big to handle.
I had taken enough Rafa pics and it was time to scout for more players on the grounds. Walking past court 13, I heard this guy talking on the phone telling his buddy that he is actually watching Nadal and Roger practice. I just laughed. When you are at the USO all your friends will believe what you tell them…haha. Anyways, I watched the end of Serena and Victoria Azarenka on Ashe. I was surprised how many people were rooting for Azarenka. I thought to myself, I thought Americans have been crying at how doomed American tennis was and here is their celebrated champion playing and they won’t cheer for her?
Next up was the Tsonga/Vedasco match on grandstand. I got there in time to watch Pico(Juan Monaco) end Tommy Hass’ come back attempt on the ATP. Great run for Monaco who was reminded his next opponent was Federer. It didn’t seem to move him. Little did he know what was awaiting him. Federer may not have won a major this year but he is still way up there with Rafa and Nole. Am still ticked off about his loss to Nole.
Time was flying so quick; too many matches very little time. It was time to wind down and hit the Red Star cafe. This is my favorite hang out at the US Open. I get to enjoy the match on the screens while I down those Heneikens with the other tennis fans. Of all the ATP tournaments I been to this year, I think Miami was the best. The New York city experience can be too much sometimes; I prefer the South Beach madness. I can’t wait to get back there next year though Wimbledon is on the top of the list for next year. I hope the ladies enjoy the shirtless pics.
[caption id=”attachment_28528” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Patrick McDermott/ Getty Images”]
Before tomorrow’s final, I just want to remind people, this is a pro-Rafa site; it’s not an anti any-other-player site. No matter the outcome tomorrow, no matter how either player conducts himself on the court, this is not the place for hate and passing judgements on the perceived character of others.
The presser transcript from the post-semifinal presser is up on the US Open site. They’ve also put the video on YouTube in case you have problems with viewing their site.
Q. How does it feel to be going back to the final?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, for sure is emotional day for me, you know, winning against one of the best players of the world and being in another final of the US Open. So is very, very special, especially because it’s a final Grand Slam. That’s the first thing. Second thing, I had a few tough moments this summer, and I think every day I wake up with big motivation, big illusion to practice and try my best at every moment, and finally I had a very positive result. I am playing very good level, I think every day better, and today I played my best match against a most difficult opponent.
Let’s hope there’s more improve on Monday and that he’s saved his very best for last. Vamos!
Q. It’s a repeat of last year’s final. What similarities and differences do you think might be out there on Monday versus last year?
RAFAEL NADAL: Similarities is we are the same players. Differences, last year I don’t know if I had matches against him, but this year I lost last five matches against him, five finals. This will be the sixth. That’s an advantage for him. He’s obviously the favorite for the final, and I know I have to do something better than the other matches to try to change the situation. That’s what I gonna try.
This year might be the sixth final, but not the sixth one lost. Right?
Q. Did you watch his match against Roger, or were you already focused?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I was watching the football and I was watching the match in the same time, yeah.
Q. What do you think of his game?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think he play fantastic later. The beginning Roger I think was playing very well. His serve was working really well and he was playing aggressive with his forehand. Was a little bit of mistake for Roger in beginning of the third, in my opinion. But after, he was very unlucky in the fifth, no? Matches like this, you lose one every lot of, lot of matches, and he lost one two in a row in this tournament, last year and this year. Probably was worse this year, because last year he had the match points but on the return. This year he had the match points with the serve. The return from Novak with the 40-15 was — I don’t have words to describe, because, you know, you hit a shot probably without thinking because you see the match total lost with 40-15 and serving for Roger. Is not a normal serve. Is one of the best serves of the world. He returned the ball with eyes closed. The ball went to the line. After, one mistake from Roger and the match changed completely. Hats off to Roger. I think he deserves to be in the final because it’s hard lose two years in a row with a similar situation. But Novak this year is playing fantastic level mentally obviously, and he won few matches that in normal conditions he’s supposed to lose. That’s, yeah, big confidence.
For someone who was only half-watching the match while watching football, he really remembers a lot of details.
Q. Will you have a new strategy Monday? How much are you looking forward to having tomorrow’s day off that you really wanted?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think I gonna do serve and volley. (Laughter.) You know, I have my game, and I beat him in the past playing my game. The thing is play my game very well and be enough strong mentally all the time, fight every ball, believe in the victory in every moment. That’s something that for moments this year I didn’t. But just play aggressive, try to play a similar match than last year here. I saw that match a lot of times and I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I gonna be able to do it. (Laughter.) So that’s always the same.
I always love a big change of strategy joke. And yes, the mental part will be key. Just remember: same court, same opponent, hell, same day of the week. You’ve done it before, Rafa. You can do it again.
Q. What about the Sunday off that you really, really seemed to want?
RAFAEL NADAL: Is beautiful have one day off after few days. It’s fantastic. Only negative thing I going to arrive later to the Davis Cup semifinals. But for me be in a final of Grand Slam and have one day off in the middle I think is a very positive news for me, because I played three matches in a row.
Yes, it’s beautiful. Although, I hope I can get off work to watch! I also hope this doesn’t screw up DC for him, but he’s got his buds there to back him up.
Q. You have played Andy many times. You know how good a player he is. He keeps getting so close and can’t quite win one of these things. How dispirited would you be if you were getting so close but couldn’t quite win a major title?
RAFAEL NADAL: One player who is ready to play the third semifinal of the four Grand Slams the same year is completely unlucky don’t win one. That’s the true, no? So when you are in semifinals, when you are winning Masters 1000, the normal thing is win Grand Slams. So he’s caring a little bit of unlucky in these kind of matches. I played very, very good match I this today, my best match here. That’s a little bit of unlucky, too because he’s ready to do it. I think if one player deserve to win a Grand Slam, Andy is the one. I seriously believe he gonna do it, and I really wish him all the best, because I really want to see him win a Grand Slam. When you win one, the second is easy. (Laughter.)
Q. He’ll take one. Can you just talk about how Novak’s two handed backhand comes back differently against your forehand as opposed to Roger or someone with a one handed backhand?
RAFAEL NADAL: Murray didn’t have a bad backhand. Andy, the player that I played against today. He has fantastic cross backhand, too, very similar to Novak’s. So that’s nothing new for me. Didn’t change a lot. If I play my good shot against his backhand, the forehand with topspin long, normally I will take advantage on the point. But I have to do it not one time. I have to do it 1000 times during the match. That’s what I really have to do, and that’s what I gonna try.
Heh. I love how he kind of starts with a “Topic, please!”
Q. At the start of your book, you say the hardest thing you have to do on court is to keep your mind quiet, and that Wimbledon is really hard because it’s so silent there, so quiet at Wimbledon. Could you talk about performing on Ashe Stadium where it’s so huge, so noisy. What is that like as a professional athlete?
RAFAEL NADAL: Every court is special. Every court is different. You have to understand the different situation and enjoy the different situations. I enjoy the tradition of Wimbledon. I enjoy the calm of the crowd. But for sure I enjoy a lot of passion from here, and the support from the fans was really important always. In Wimbledon I think I have huge support, but here, too. A lot of people here supporting me from two weeks and from few years ago. So I just can say thanks to them. Going out in a bigger tennis court of the world always is special, and that means playing in the center court of one of four Grand Slams. But I think the crowd is doing fantastic. Every feeling is different. Roland Garros is not the same than Wimbledon. Australia probably is a little bit more similar to here. But, you know, here we are here.
Here we are…and there you go.
Q. Do you ever take a moment before or during the match at all to look up at the arena? It’s such a huge, huge arena.
RAFAEL NADAL: When I go out and they say my name, I go out, I normally look around. That’s the only moment really. The rest I am there. I don’t look too high.
We know, you take it one step at a time. ;)
Q. At the end of your match on court you said a few things about 9/11 to the crowd and to New York. What prompted you to say that, and was that planned?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, for sure I felt real bad. Is the really — I don’t know exactly how to say in English, but the image, what I remember from that moment is probably… (Through translation.) Unforgettable. So that was really fresh for me at that moment, because I have been there, in the top of the twin towers, four months before. I went here for holidays with my family. So I really didn’t believe what’s happened. So, yeah, that’s a hard day for all the people here in New York tomorrow, all the people in America. But I think for all the people around the world, too, no? Because this kind of tragedy for everybody is hard to accept, hard to understand. I am not an exception. I felt much pain and I suffered, too.
Q. What city were you in?
RAFAEL NADAL: I was in Madrid. I was in Madrid. I was playing a tournament.
The whole thing is still unfathomable to me.
Q. You lost a lot of big matches to Novak this year. Before that, I think you were very good against him in big matches. What about him tennis wise has changed? What are you feeling from him on the court that wasn’t there before?
RAFAEL NADAL: Probably his movements are better than before. He’s having less mistakes than before. His level is similar, you know. You cannot have big change in one moment. He’s playing with high confidence. Victories like today is big confidence for everybody. He’s great to keep his mind fresh in important moments, fight every point. He’s doing everything fantastic. I had to win one of the first two matches against him this year, the final of Indian Wells or the final of Miami. After that I felt favorite, a little bit more favorite than in the other places in the final of Wimbledon, because I think I played very well during all the tournament. Probably played my worst match against him. But when you are playing the worst match against him, and I was playing very well before. It’s because he is doing something really well. I cannot just look at me, on my side. I have to look around a little bit more and understand why I didn’t play that well. He’s doing a few things very well. I am not very happy about my mental performance against him this year. That’s true, no? Because for moments I didn’t believe really 100% with the victory. That’s big problem. Because when that’s happening, you have your chances less, much less than if you believe. Because if you believe, you are running more, you are putting one more ball inside. So that was problem, and that’s what I gonna try to change for Monday. If I’m not ready to change for Monday, I have a goal to do it for next year. So I am ready to work hard. I am ready to work my tennis, to work my mental part, and hopefully I will ready for Monday. That’s what I would like. But if not, yeah, I really believe that I can come back next year and do it better.
Believe, Rafa. Be-fucking-lieve.
Q. Was there ever any player — I’m assuming Roger would be it — where you didn’t have that belief, like you didn’t have against Novak this year, where you would have those moments? Were there other players where you had those same moments where you didn’t have that belief?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, against Roger, few matches. Against Nalbandian in Bercy I didn’t believe. And a fewer more times. That’s something natural, no? Not an obsession. I’m a human and I have my doubts. Everybody have, no? So that’s something really normal. But the most important thing for me is even if I wasn’t ready to beat him this year before here, I keep fighting and keep being in finals even if I lose painful loses. But next week I was in final another time, and that’s good. The mental performance was very positive in this way, not against him. But I was ready to recover and to put past, to forget the loses and keep fighting for the rest, for the next tournament. I happy about that, and not that happy the match against him, so I play against him and be happy with everything.
Be strong; be happy.
Q. In your book you described leading up to last year’s US Open final. You were very complimentary of Djokovic. You basically said he had no real weaknesses. How does that affect your approach when you admit that Djokovic is solid throughout his game?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think he’s very complete player. You have Novak in front and you say, How I can beat him? You know, the backhand is fantastic; the forehand is fantastic; the serve he’s doing really well; the movements are probably the best of the world today. The only way to beat him is believe in the victory, play aggressive, and play every moment perfect. So that’s what I have to try. My approach to the match is always the same: try my best in every moment and try to play my game very well.
Is this where I insert the Yoda quote?
Q. Andy said to me just a short time ago he felt the mood was a bit different because of the approach of this very sensitive anniversary tomorrow. A lot of New Yorkers will be silent at 8:46 and 9:03, the times when the planes impacted the Twin Towers. Just wondering, is that going to be part of your day tomorrow and whether it gives you a different perspective on tennis being here tomorrow at such a sensitive time?
RAFAEL NADAL: (Through translation.) I already say before, no? But tomorrow at this time I gonna be at the hotel. So, you know, I cannot do much. The only thing that I can say is all the support from the families of the victims for all the people here, from New York. You can have silence in memory of them, but the pain is done. It’s difficult to accept, and the only way to — you cannot do much. Just remember the moment and have the support for the families.
Photos by Chris Trotman/Getty Images, EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images, Patrick McDermott/Getty Images, Nick Laham/Getty Image, Jared Wickerham/Getty Images for USTA, HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP/Getty Images, AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, and Al Bello/Getty Images