Lastly, a transcript of the presser (as much as I hate copying stuff from elsewhere without adding something to it, I can’t snark on a withdrawal presser):
Q. Perhaps you could just take us through the situation you’re faced with. We assume it’s your knee. Could you tell us the story of the last couple of days?
RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, I started the since the beginning of the tournament I have problems, but the real thing is growing worse every day.
So after the last match, I saw that the situation were going to be complicated to play today. But, as always, I always believe that the things can improve.
So I waited until today in the morning. I did a lot of treatment yesterday, waiting, that we can recover a little bit for today.
But I am not ready to compete today. I am very sorry for the fans. I’m very sorry for the tournament. I’m very sorry for everybody who were ready to watch the match on the television, for television, for everybody. But I don’t have pleasure. I cannot do it another thing.
I am not ready to compete, and I cannot go on court and lie to everybody. That’s the thing today.
Q. Can you describe the problem exactly for us? Do you know what it is precisely?
RAFAEL NADAL: I have problems on the left knee. I cannot - I have to go to doctor, but looks like is nothing really, really different that happen a few times in the past.
Just go to the doctor hopefully tomorrow, and hopefully in a few days, with a few days off and with the right treatment, I will be in the right conditions to start to practice on the clay.
Q. Because obviously you want to protect as best you can for the clay court season coming up? You say just going out there and running around on the hard court is not going to do you any good in the long run?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, but not. Yes, I want to arrive to the clay court with the right conditions, but I want to arrive here with the right conditions. That’s why I rest all February.
So I am not thinking I am not going on court today not because I have the clay court season. I am not going on court today because I cannot go on court today.
No, no. Nothing about clay court season. Clay court season is there in two weeks, but this tournament is very important for me, and I feel very sad to have to go out before a beautiful match for me, semifinals against Andy.
Q. What is your clay court schedule? What are the chances that that may change now?
RAFAEL NADAL: Nothing change. Even if it’s sad to finish these two tournaments like this, playing two semifinals is a good result for me.
First three tournaments of the year I played final and two semifinals in very difficult tournaments, so that’s the positive thing that stays on my mind, playing good tennis. It’s true the last day I did not play good tennis, but my knee is not ready to play good tennis.
So in general, I am very happy almost about everything. My schedule gonna be the same. Monte Carlo, Barcelona, first two tournaments.
Q. How worrying is it to have the same thing happen again with your knee when you thought it was fixed?
RAFAEL NADAL: Less than if I have a new thing, because something that happened in the past, I know what to do to get better quick, and that’s what we’re gonna try.
Q. So where are you going now? Where are you going from here? Are you going back to Mallorca?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know yet. I gonna I have to check a few things. I want to go to visit the doctor, and I don’t know if I will be able to do it I will try to do it as fast as possible, to try to come back on court as quick as possible, too.
Q. Did you have any problems coming out of your training in February? When you went to Indian Wells, everything was good?
RAFAEL NADAL: I start to feel a little bit in Mallorca. But, no, everybody has almost everybody has pain when you are playing in this high level of competition, no?
The true is in Indian Wells I had I start to have problems on the knee before Indian Wells, and Indian Wells I have my problems on the knee. But that problem, no, are not limiting me to play at 100%.
So I played in Indian Wells with the normal conditions, playing in good shape physically and everything. Here is different.
Q. Is it described as tendinitis or something else?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah. But seriously the tendons are much better today than three years ago. The treatments worked fantastic.
Even if today a really bad knee and last couple of days were tough for me, but positive thing the tendon improve a lot the last couple of years.
I am more health with both tendons than now. So the treatments are working well. In 2009 I really compete but compete in very bad conditions a lot of times. For the last couple of years, 2010, 2011, I was able to compete with perfect conditions for almost all the year.
So that’s always fantastic when that’s happening. This year I started well with no problems. Today is bad news, but that’s the sport. We cannot expect playing as much as we play, be perfect every day of our life.
Today is my turn. Everybody have problems, and I will be working hard to be back quick on court and to play my best in Monte Carlo.
Q. You always play with a lot of injuries. Are you more cautious now? Because you always play with - I remember US Open when you have the other thing. Are you more cautious now?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, I always try my best. But today I feel that I am not ready to compete, no? I always start hard. I tried in the US Open like the example in 2009, but I have big broke of the abdominal at the end of the US Open.
Then after US Open I had to stop for one month and a half with no competition. So I cannot repeat mistakes from the past, but that doesn’t mean that I am more afraid about playing with pains or not.
I try my best in every moment with pain, without pain, but when I see the situation is done and I cannot, I cannot. That’s it.
Mercurial Vapor VIII: Cristiano Ronaldo vs Rafa Nadal
Are you ready for the full-length Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII football boots promotional video? Watch Rafa take on Christiano Ronaldo in a bit of tennis vs. footie action on grass. Who do you think will win?
I think that’s the most relaxed and natural I’ve seen Rafa in a commercial. Well done, guys!
Here’s a nice “behind the scenes” video with Rafa interviewing Ronaldo.
And lastly, pictures from the shoot:
(They are very large photos and may take a moment to display after you click on them. Photos courtesy of Nike Football.)
CRISTIANO RONALDO FACES OFF AGAINST RAFA NADAL IN NEW FILM FROM NIKE FOOTBALL
Game. Set. Match. Two of the world’s best athletes, Cristiano Ronaldo, and tennis star Rafa Nadal, come together in a new film from Nike to showcase the explosive speed and traction of the new Mercurial Vapor VIII launched on Saturday, March 24th.
The Mercurial Vapor VIII is designed to provide the world’s best players with a seamless fit, touch and traction that delivers explosive speed. A striking new design features a bright mango colorway with a new visual signature on the heel to help the boot stand out on pitch. Completely re-engineered to create a snug upper that locks down the foot and prevents unnecessary movement within the boots, Nike’s new Anatomic Last takes the fit of the boot to a new level of support and stability. This is enhanced by a more minimalist and softer heel area, maximizing both comfort and fit. The result is a boot that gives the world’s best players the performance they need.
The action unfolds in the film with Rafa Nadal intently practicing his serve at an upscale tennis club, when the tranquil surroundings are interrupted by the roar of a sports car engine. Cristiano Ronaldo, complete with tennis gear, enters the club and strides on court to greet his friend who questions Ronaldo’s choice of footwear for a game of tennis - a new pair of Mercurial Vapor VIII boots.
We then see the tennis and football legends trade serves and kicks across the net with a tennis ball, at first for fun, then things get a little more competitive. Nadal thunders a serve cross court which is half volleyed straight back by Ronaldo and the game is on. A rapid succession of volleys (from racket and boot) ensue as the players conduct a rapid rally of headers, volleys, forehands and seamless traction and stability for Ronaldo thanks to his new Mercurial Vapor VIII’s.
As each player dives and jumps to return the tennis ball, a football suddenly appears, Rafa takes a turn to don the boots, and the fun and skills from both players is displayed across the net. As Ronaldo and Rafa shake hands at the net after a memorable game of foot tennis, Rafa playfully decides to hold on to the Mercurial Vapor VIII’s he’s worn for the football session, much to the frustration of Ronaldo.
RAFAEL NADAL: My level? It wasn’t one of my best matches. That’s the real thing.
I didn’t play very well tonight. I think I started match playing really well, but later when I had the break at the second, after the break of the second, I don’t know which game I had the break of the second, but after that I started to play more defensive, no? To close the match, I played very bad. That’s my feeling.
Before, no. Before, I believe Jo had much more mistakes than usual. That’s makes the match make the match less complicated for me at the beginning.
But, you know, when he started to play a little bit better and I have advantage in the score in the second set with the break, I started to play more defensive. Finally, I played a really bad game serving for the match at 5-4, and then he started to play better. That’s the true. And I happy about my third set.
Don’t remind me of that game! Please - I beseech you.
The third set looked like you were having the same scores in the first set.
RAFAEL NADAL: Sorry?
The last set, he was about to break you again second set, I’m sorry. The third set, the last game was, you know, a very tough game. Were you worried at that point that, you know, that you…
RAFAEL NADAL: I had a few break points again in the last game serving for the match another time.
You know, losing the second set, serving for the set, stays on my mind when I have to serve for the match another time in the third.
So I arrived at that moment, and anything can happen. That’s the true. I didn’t play very well the last game, as well. But I was able to find solutions and to go to the net a few times and to hit good shots.
I was lucky with one mistake of Tsonga with his forehand. He was unlucky he broke his strings.
So that’s the thing. Finally I won. That’s it.
Funny, “finally” was the word I used too.
Can you explain why you played more defensive? Do you know why? Confidence?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. Seriously my feeling was Jo was he was having much more mistakes than usual, so the match didn’t have the right rhythm.
When I arrive to that moment to serve for the match, you know, for moments I didn’t know if I have to play more aggressive, I have to play just defensive because, you know, he was doing almost everything, having few winners but at the same time having lot of mistakes.
So for moments I had the feeling that just playing solid without risk was enough for moments. So when I arrived to that last game, I really didn’t had the right line how to win the points.
So that’s the thing. My serve was bad. I really served bad tonight. Much worse than the previous days.
I understand it being difficult to get into any rythym when playing someone playing as irratically as Tsonga was. Totally. But are his instincts that far off these days? I guess that explains the nerves…
You said that you played well the beginning and then you played bad as the match was going on. Do you think it’s a fitness issue?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. Well, I have problems on my left knee. That’s the thing. I’m not feeling great. I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the next match, because gonna be a big match against one of the toughest opponents on tour, and probably I don’t arrive in my perfect conditions to that match.
But, you know, we talking about physical performance, I am feeling great, no? I am not tired today now after three hours’ match. My fitness is perfect. It’s not a problem, that. I don’t know the problems.
Don’t know the problems…how frustrating for him.
Andy Murray in the semifinals. You each have a mutual respect for each other. What do you think of that matchup, meeting here in Miami for the first time?
RAFAEL NADAL: Always playing Andy is a pleasure for me, and exciting playing against a player like him that push you at the limit on everything.
The negative thing is I have to recover well. I have to improve my knee if I really want to have any chance to win.
If not, gonna be almost impossible. But always is fantastic being in semifinals, first two Masters 1000s of the year, being in both semifinals in hard court are fantastic results.
So happy in that. Right now hopefully I can recover and can enjoy the match.
I’m going to keep my fingers crossed!
He was saying that he had too many complaints to the referee at the end of the game, that he had to challenge too much because the referee never say out, because he has a feeling that the referee doesn’t want to say out against you. He says that.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, well, that’s…
What is your feeling?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I understand sometimes the frustration on this situations, no? Because that is true that the referees with the Hawk Eye are doing less overrules than before. I said hundreds of times, too, no?
But is not because he’s playing against me. No, no. Happen to me a lot of times, no?
Easy to remember. In Australia, you remember against Berdych the very important points 6-All in the tiebreak of the first set? So he didn’t make overrule, too, and ball was clear out.
So I called the challenge late and the point was for Berdych.
So is not a thing with me. Is a thing, general thing with the referees today that with the Hawk Eye I believe that they feels that they have less pressure than before. So probably knowing that you have the challenge, they don’t take the risk to have to overrule.
He’s right in one thing; he’s wrong in another thing.
I think they have more pressure when over-ruling since they can be proved wrong, thus they are less willing to over-rule and defer the responsibility to the player to challenge the call. When you are having a bad day, it’s human nature to think things are conspiring against you. I remember an old cartoon: long lines in the grocery store with a thought bubble coming up from the last person in every line, “Why do I always pick the slowest line?” But, I do think Tsonga was a bit out of line with those comments. Did he just say them on court - heat of the battle - or after as well? I haven’t had time to check.
[caption id=”attachment_32292” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”AP Photo/ J Pat Carter”]
Rafa took on #6 Jo-Willfried Tsonga in Friday’s last match. I really don’t know what to say about this match. Tsonga was so far off for most of it that I had no feel for how Rafa was playing (other than he was clearly trying to hit deep). Then, despite how he was playing, Tsonga broke when Rafa got tight while serving for the match. Why in the world would Rafa be that nervous when playing someone so off? Tsonga started playing better; Rafa had this thigh rubbed twice. The third set was actually somewhat interesting and included some bits that seemed like competitive tennis. Rafa managed to break in the 9th game. I resisted the urge to curl up into the fetal position as Jo got a break points against when Rafa was trying to serve it out. It took 3 match points, but Rafa finally held to win the match: 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.
As it happened blatherings:
Ack! I didn’t get home until the warm-up was almost done. I need time to prepare – to get all my windows lined up and ready to go.
Tsonga was up 40-love, but some good shots from Rafa and some horrid ones from Tsonga and Rafa breaks for 1-0.
Beautifully crafted and executed point from Rafa – into the net, volley winner: 40-15. Tsonga’s shot is out and Rafa holds.
Rafa makes a signal to the chair…think he wants some tape cut.
Beauty of a drop shot volley from Jo: 30-15. Rafa out angles Jo: 30-30. Rafa pushes Tsonga around: 30-40. Second serve. Rafa’s forehand is long: deuce. Aggressive play from Tsonga draws an error: game point. Rafa can’t pull off that banana forehand attempt and Tsonga holds for 2-1.
They said the trainer is out for Rafa, but aren’t showing what’s going on – we are getting highlights instead. Ah, yeah. Looks like a simple tape adjustment to his left foot.
Second serve. Rafa nets a forehand: 0-15. Second serve. Double fault. Rafa snarl! 15-30. Nice deep forehands followed by one that’s too wide: 15-40. Jo sets up his angle, but his shot is just out: 30-40. Second serve. Rafa completely mishit the 2nd serve, but it went in. Tsonga’s backhand is out: deuce. Jo nets a backhand: game point. Running forehand down the line winner from Rafa; Tsonga challenges and it is out. We go back to deuce. Tsonga nets another backhand: game point. Rafa holds. What he actually holds, I’m not sure: 3-1.
Floating defensive volley from Tsonga, Rafa storms the net and hits a winner: 0-15. Tsonga slices a backhand into the net: 0-30. Nice serve: 15-30 Tsonga’s turn to storm the net and hit a winner: 30-30. Double fault: 30-40. A battle at the net ends in Rafa’s favor and he breaks: 4-1.
Another bad backhand from Jo: 15-0. UFE 18 from Jo: 30. Jo actually moves Rafa around a bit after putting him well back in the court with a huge lob. He finishes off with a clean winner: 30-30. Another long ball from Jo. Rafa holds for 5-1.
Solid hold for Tsonga for 2-5.
Oh. The backhand down the line passing shot has arrived. It was off a good approach too. 15-0. Rafa handcuff’s Jo: 30-0. Fierce forehand winner: 40-0. Two forehand winners and Rafa holds at love to take the first set: 40 minutes; 1 DF; 56% 1st serves in; 71% won on 1st; 73% won on 2nd; 6 winners; 8 UFEs; 3/3 at net. Jo ends the set with 17 UFEs and 6 winners.
Seriously? This play from Tsonga is painful. I’m tired of typing about his errors. I feel for him. I also resent him for making me sit through this.
Jo’s forehand is out: 0-15. Ace: 15-15. Service winner: 30-15. Jo doesn’t move well to a volley (one big step) and sends it well out: 30-30. Second serve. Long rally ends with Tsonga netting a forehand: 30-40. Rafa’s return of serve clips the netcord and drops back on his side of the net: deuce. Ace out wide: game point. A good looking rally ends when Tsonga sends yet another backhand long: deuce. Rafa sends a forehand well out: game point. A fierce forehand sets up a perfect volley for him, but Tsonga sends it long: deuce. Tsonga serves into the middle of the doubles alley. Tsonga forehand goes long: break point. Tsonga challenges a call and is right – Rafa’s ball is out: deuce. Rafa runs from beyond the baseline to to the other side of the court inside the service box to track down a drop volley, gets it back, but Tsonga hits a nice volley winner: game point. Again, Jo sets up a forehand and sends it well out: deuce. Good serve out wide that Rafa can barely get a racket on: game point. With and ace down the middle, Tsonga finally holds to start set 2.
Tsonga switches rackets for the 3 time in the game. Rafa holds for 1-1.
Quick and easy hold for Tsonga: 2-1.
I get bored and distracted by the internet and it’s 15-30 on Rafa’s serve. Another missed backhand by Tsonga – that was more wind, which has just kicked up, than Tsonga, though: 30-30. Jo nets a forehand: 40-30. Rafa holds for 2-2.
Rafa into the net, Jo has a doable pass, but he sends this backhand well out: 15-15. Again, Jo half steps up to the ball and hits it well out: 15-30. Low volley into the net: 15-40. Hey! Tsonga played a point well: 30-40. Tsonga goes for a spinning 360 backhand from midcourt. Yeah. He’s broken. Rafa up 3-2 in the second.
I don’t like seeing any player this out of sorts. It’s painful.
Jo’s lob attempt is out: 15-0. Jo again overhits a forehand: 30-0. Rafa’s shot is out: 30-30. And Rafa sends a forehand well out: break point. Toni is scratching his head. Rafa serves up the T…and it pays off: deuce. Nice serve, good reply, nice deep shot from Rafa, but Tsonga hits a beautiful backhand down the line winner: break point. Second serve. Oh. My. God. WTF? Tsonga was hitting beautifully – nice, deep and fierce. He was moving Rafa deeper and wider…then he tried a dinky drop shot that didn’t make it half-way up the net. Deuce. Nice serve: game point. Rafa holds for a 4-2 lead in the 2nd.
Well constructed point from Jo: 15-0. Drop shots and lobs and a smash winner from Jo – oh my. Dinky second serve and Rafa smacks a backhand winner down the line: 40-15. Tsonga holds.
And now it’s TV slowing down play…they’ve managed to sneak in a bit more commercial time so that it’s now behind the stream.
Jo takes another huge cut and pays for it: 15-0. Jo hits a beauty of a backhand behind Rafa: 15-15. Rafa’s backhand goes wide: 15-30. Jo sends another forehand long: 30-30. Low slice to Rafa’s backhand and he nets it: break point. Jo into the net and Rafa threads the needle with a backhand pass down the line: deuce. Both guys unhappy about a squealing baby – they smile and step off the line. Net cord pops into the service box, Rafa runs in, mishits the backhand, but Jo nets the reply: game point. Another backhand pass down the line and Rafa holds, but should I be worried that, playing this poorly, Tsonga can still get a break point?
Rafa’s serve return is out: 30-0. Second serve. Fan yells during the middle of the toss. Tsonga resets and double faults: 30-15. Tsonga holds for 4-5. Rafa will serve for the match next.
Rafa’s shot is long: 0-15. Rafa? If you don’t hold, I might have to come down there and spank you. Second serve. Rafa’s ball skids off the baseline and Jo nets it: 15-15. Jo stops a point to challenge and is correct: 15-30. Second serve. Rafa double faults to 15-40. He really needs to get over this problem with serving out matches. Rafa’s backhand is out and he is broken. 5-5.
Another ill-advised drop attempt by Jo: 0-15. Second serve. Nice volleys from Jo: 15-15. Rafa nets the serve return: 30-15. Forehand down the line winner from Jo: 40-15. Tsonga, showing life, has an easy hold for 6-5. Rafa will serve to stay in the set.
Rafa’s volley clips the netcord and dribbles over: 15-0. Excellently angled winner from Tsonga: 15-15. Second serve. Rafa nets a backhand: 15-30. Second serve. Jo slips and sends a ball to Brad Gilbert courtside: 30-30. Second serve. Jo into the net and a nice backhand cross court passing shot winner: game point. Excellent return of serve: deuce. Rafa moves Jo well, but nets a forehand: break/set point. Second serve. Jo tees off on a weak second serve, breaks and takes the second set 7-5.
Potty break for Tsonga.
Jo fires a forehand winner: 15-0. Second serve. That one went out: 15-15. Forehand down the line winner from Rafa: 15-30. Nice shot from Rafa: 15-40. I lose track: 30-40. Ace: deuce. Second serve. Aggressive play from Jo: game point. Second serve. Jo holds.
Nice forehand from Rafa: 15-0. Jo attempts another dropper, Rafa gets to it and hits a down the line winner: 30-0. Tsonga into the net and Rafa nets the passing shot: 30-15. Again: 30-30. Another stupid drop shot attempt – into the net this time: 40-30. Rafa holds for 1-1.
I’ve gone for feeling sorry for Tsonga to hoping he keeps trying those crappy drop shots.
Jo smashes a floater: 30-0. Second serve. Deep return and a deep shot from Rafa – Jo nets: 30-15. Stunning angle from Jo, Rafa tracks it down and angles back, Jo hits behind Rafa: 40-15. Service winner and he holds for 2-1.
Trainer out for Rafa - rubbing his left thigh just above the knee. There was no injury time out, just some treatment on the changeover.
Rafa won the point, but pulled up a bit and then looked at his camp: 30-0. Rafa pulls Tsonga wide and draws and error: 40-0. Second serve. Jo’s shot is out, and Rafa holds at love for 2-2.
Big forehand winner from Tsonga: 15-0. Long rally ends when Rafa sends a backhand out: 30-0. Nice reflex volley from Jo: 40-0. He earned extra style points on that one. Tsonga holds at love for 3-2 in the final set.
More rubbing for Rafa. He doesn’t look like he’s enjoying that at all. Again, no injury time out.
Longish rally ends on a Jo error: 15-0. Nice serve out wide: 30-0. Rafa over hits a forehand: 30-15. Jo takes control of a point and finishes it off at the net: 30-30. Forehand error from Rafa: 30-40. Rafa storms the net, Jo was there…but nets the passing shot: deuce. Rafa at the net tracking down a dropper, Jo’s shot is well out: game point. Backhand passing shot winner for the hold.
Double fault: 0-15. Service winner: 15-15. Second serve. Rafa pulls Tsonga out wide and then hits down the line as Tsonga runs back to the open court: 15-30. Nice serve puts Jo in control: 30-30. Second serve. Jo’s forehand is long: 30-40. Excellent serve: deuce. Ace: game point. Another good serve and Tsonga holds for 4-3.
So…is this worse than the Rafa/Verdasco match in Cincy last year?
Rafa’s forehand is out: 0-15. Jo nets a serve return: 15-15. Jo nets another one: 30-15. Jo mishits a serve return, and Rafa holds for 4-4.
Is that a banana I see? 0-15. 15-15. Second serve. Rafa’s backhand is out: 30-15. Forehand winner from Rafa: 30-30. Tsonga double faults to break point. Rafa hugs the baseline and he breaks for 5-4. I’m not going to say what he can do next game…
Tsonga is not happy about challenges for some reason - missed the start.
Rafa gets help from a lines person and Jo doesn’t challenge: 15-0. Rafa’s forehand is long: 15-15. Rafa’s backhand clips the net cord and bounces back on his side: 15-30. Rafa into the net and hits two tough volleys in a row: 30-30. Into the net again and he sends an angled volley that Jo can’t deal with: 40-30. Second serve (he went for that one). Rafa has the open court, tees off on a forehand…and it goes long: deuce. He pouts massively. I join him. Masssive forehand winner from Tsonga: break point. Jo’s backhand is out: deuce. Jo paints the line with a forehand and Rafa’s reply is out: break point. Jo’s string breaks when he tries to return an easy looking second serve: deuce. Jo comes into the net, Rafa passes: game/match point. Jo digs out a winning volley from a good passing attempt from Rafa: deuce. Second serve. Rafa spins in a second serve and Jo nets the reply: match point #3. Finally. This match is over. Rafa defeats Tsonga 6-2, 5-7, 6-4
Roig talks about DC team. Per cami_melescanu, Roig says that they wished Rafa could play, but he has physical problems. Rafa had wanted to play so he could train with the team that week (good players on clay to hit with). Also that Rafa is a team player and always wants to play for Spain and he loves it very much!
Q. Well done. The score didn’t quite reflect the match. It was a bit tougher than that, wasn’t it?
RAFAEL NADAL: At the beginning, yes. The beginning was a very tough match for me. I think I start playing more aggressive, I started playing shorter, so I suffered a lot with my serves the beginning of the match.
But seriously later, at the end of the first set, I felt that I start to win my serves easier than him. So the last couple of games of the end of the first set, I believe that I had more the control of the game, you know.
On the second set I started well, 3-Love, so after I didn’t suffer a lot with my serve. Just in the last game with the 5-3 that I didn’t play my best game there and he break me, no? Happy to have the break back later and finally win the match.
So, basically…he started out half a sleep.
Q. In the first set you took a trainer break. New injury? Left knee? Is it okay?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, well, I had this since Indian Wells. During the week of Indian Wells, the knee was getting a little bit worse, so I arrive here so so, and happy I still play in quarterfinals.
I am not probably at perfect conditions today with the left knee, but important thing is try to win as many matches as possible. For me here is important tournament, and every victory have, you know, very, very big value for me, especially without being perfect.
But important thing after this is I have two weeks to recover for Monte Carlo. I’m happy to be in quarterfinals, and I will try my best for the next round, for sure.
I hope it’s enough time.
Q. It’s rumored that you stepped down from the ATP player council. Can you just explain to us about why you made that decision.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I have been there for a couple of years. You know, I really don’t know how to do things without put my 100%.
So if I go to play golf, I try my best in every moment. If I go to the player council, you know, I try my best in the player council. I put all my energy there.
So last year at the end of the season, you know, was a lot of things there. You know, finally I believe I put too much energy there. I am happy to represent my players there for the last couple of years.
I believe that we did few things well for the sport. I believe it’s not enough. So today I believe that I am not the right one to keep working there. So I think another people can do better than me today.
I have such mixed feelings about this. Change can never happen if the change-makers walk away, but I also think that, in this case, change is just never going to freaking happen. The ATP seems to have no control over tournaments. Hell, one tournament can even get away with changing the way the ATP site links to LiveScores in order to boost their web traffic. (Yes! This is still driving me batty.)
Q. You have played Kei previously three times and this is the fourth time. Did you feel like he played differently this time or did you see any progress?
RAFAEL NADAL: He’s doing well. He’s playing great tennis. He’s able to do the most difficult things of this sport very easy because he’s able to go inside the court, change the direction of the ball. That’s probably the most difficult thing of this sport. He’s able to do it very easy, no?
When he improves and he plays with a little bit of less mistakes in some moments, he will be fighting for everything. So I like a lot how Kei plays. Seriously I have big respect for him. Before the match I know this match was a very dangerous one for me, and another reason I’m very happy to be through.
And I think Kei has a good tennis brain; his instincts seem to be correct in shot selection.
Q. You said before Kei will be a top 10 in the future. You say before. So do you have same opinion right now?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes. Which ranking he has today?
RAFAEL NADAL: He’s still young, no? No, I believe he was very unlucky with the injuries in the past, so why not, no? He ends the season last year very well after a period, hard period with injuries. You know how tough is coming back after the injuries.
So he’s playing very well another time, starting the season with quarterfinals, and he made quarterfinals in Australian Open.
So, you know, it’s a fantastic start of the season. If he keep playing well, he will have his chances, for sure.
*cough*It would be tougher for him to make it back to 16 after injuries with a 2 year ranking system*cough*
Q. Just back to the player council thing, can you tell us what areas you suggested you have been very frustrated.
RAFAEL NADAL: I never said that I have been frustrated, no. I just said that I am not the right one. You know, I don’t have enough energy to, you know I cannot still put in my 100% there in the player council, no?
I can be there just listening, but that’s not my style, no? I understand my period finish, and that’s it. No, no, I am not frustrated. I believe that we can do much more things than what we have done until the day that I left.
My feeling is a great opportunity to improve the sport, because today the players are very unified.
So, you know, there is always troubles there. I understand sometimes the trouble from the other part, from tournaments, but I don’t understand sometimes the trouble from our part, from the - from our reps, no?
So that’s all. No, no, no, I am not frustrated. I try my best. I go. I resigned to the player council knowing that I tried my best and I put all my effort to try to represent my players - the players that I represent they are the top 25 players as good as I can.
So today I feel that another player can do better than me, because I spend probably three, four years. We did things, but not enough. That’s my feeling.
Tilting at windmills takes a hell of a lot of energy for someone who cares and doesn’t like to give an inch.
Q. Can I just ask you a little bit about slow play, Rafa? There were situations today where the match on Grandstand had played five games before the match on Stadium Court even started.
RAFAEL NADAL: We went on court like 15 minutes later than the Grandstand.
Q. Why is that?
RAFAEL NADAL: That’s television, I believe.
Q. Don’t you think there should be an obligation to actually start the match at 11:00?
RAFAEL NADAL: But 11:00 is not the time to start the match. 11:00 is the time that we go on court.
Q. Over on Grandstand with an 11:00 start they played five games before you had even started your match.
RAFAEL NADAL: You know, I have a lot of things to think. That’s not my job. (Laughter.)
Q. I just wonder, if the time of the match says 11:00, should the players be on the court at 11:00?
RAFAEL NADAL: I went to you know, I am a late guy. (Laughter.) That’s the real thing.
But today I went on court when the supervisor told me. So that’s the real thing. So for one time is not my fault (Laughter.)
I would have loved to have seen this whole exchange.
Q. I have a question about David Ferrer. He’s been in the top 5 for so many years and never won a Grand Slam or Masters Series. Do you have any idea why?
RAFAEL NADAL: Today because we are living a very difficult era of the tennis, no? That’s the real thing. No, no, no. Probably another year David will have much more chances with his level to win an important titles.
Because he’s a fantastic player, very regular player. His level is very, very high. But today the situation is that he was unlucky, because every time that he was there he has to fight against a very, very top guy.
Sure, he can win against everyone because his level is unbelievable. But today, to win a Masters 1000, to win a Grand Slam, you have to win against minimum two top 4. That’s what happen the last couple of years almost in every tournament.
So he was there a lot of times. He will keep having chances to win. He did a fantastic wins in his career. He’s having an unbelievable career.
He win three Davis Cups, so that’s a lot. And he plays the final of the World Tour Finals in Shanghai couple years ago.
He’s doing great, I believe. Remain just probably a big, big title for him. But the era today is the situation to win these kind of tournaments probably one of the more difficult.
He always has a chance, he just seems to have problem with belief when playing the top guys. He believed tonight though. Oh, did he ever.
Rafa had two early wake up calls today. One: he was first up on the main stadium in Miami. Two: his opponent #16 Kei Nishikori earned break points in the first game (which lasted 13 minutes) and then broke him in the third. That seemed to kick-start Rafa a bit and he broke back the next game. Rafa’s holds got easier as he stepped things up. After holding for 5-4, he called the trainer. His left leg was wrapped immediately below the knee (giving me an unwelcome flashback), and his left thigh massage just above it. In the next game, Rafa broke to take the set after Kei got a little too excited about a floating ball at the net and hit it out. In the second game of the second set, Kei double faulted on break point against. He still fought, however, and broke Rafa when he was serving for the match. Rafa broke right back to win: 6-4, 6-4.
Q. I believe you’ve lost six games in two matches. How do you feel you’re playing?
RAFAEL NADAL: Good. I did good, solid start of the tournament, no? Two good matches, comfortable wins. So happy to be in the fourth round. That’s good.
Just happy to be in the fourth round winning two matches with, you know, positive feeling and with comfortable results. Just try to keep doing well and try to keep improving a little bit the level.
It is good to be in the fourth round and, if that backhand passing shot keeps firing like it did for most of the match yesterday, I think there’s going to be more good new.
Q. You played with Marc in Indian Wells and you’re playing with Marcel here. Do you know who you’re going to play with in the Olympics?
RAFAEL NADAL: I said the other day I’m going to play with Marcel, yeah, if nothing strange happens.
Q. Since the subject came up, are you planning on playing mixed doubles at the Olympics?
RAFAEL NADAL: That’s very far, three tournaments, you cannot play three tournaments in a row during the Olympics, so you never know what’s going on. I don’t know if I am gonna be in both competitions competing when the mixed starts.
If that’s happen I will not be able to play, because the rules says you cannot play the three in a row, well, three at the same time. So I didn’t decide that. I don’t have any plan to play mixed, but I am open.
Please note: he’s open to playing two at the same time. Three? Not so much. (That was for you, CC.)
Q. Where do the Olympics fit into your priorities for this year? How important are you treating the games?
RAFAEL NADAL: Seriously remain a lot of important tournaments for me before the Olympics. Olympics is a great event, probably the greatest event in the world of sport, and I am very excited to be back there in the Village, enjoying with the family of sports, family of the world.
But, you know, I am thinking about Miami now; then I will think about Monte Carlo.
One step at a time, people. Seriously!
Q. You haven’t won here. Does that bother you, or are you going to change it this year or try to? Obviously try to.
RAFAEL NADAL: That’s not bothering me. No, no, no. I don’t gonna win in every tournament. That’s the real thing. I don’t gonna finish my career winning all the tournaments of the tour.
I will try my best every year here. I tried in the past playing three fantastic tournaments, three finals.
So I didn’t play enough well to win. I will keep trying the rest of my career, but that’s the game. No, no, you win, you lose.
But, but…I’d love for you to win all the Masters at least once. Oh well, I know you’ll try.
Q. You are next opponent is Kei Nishikori. You played with him last year. You won. But I think Kei improved a lot from last year, so it will be close match I think. What do you think?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, well, he’s a fantastic player and will be a very difficult match for me.
He has a big talent to hit the ball very early, to play very aggressive. So, yeah, will be a really tough opponent, no?
If I am not playing my best, I will have not very good chances to be in the quarterfinals. So I gonna try to play well. I gonna try to play aggressive with no mistakes. If not, gonna be very difficult.
Was anyone else mouthing the next word before actually reading it?
Q. You said many times that you play a lot of golf. I was wondering how often do you play? Why? Is it a way to relax for you to play golf?
RAFAEL NADAL: I play golf because I love sport in general. I love all the sports.
Golf today is a sport that the risk for injury is, you know, very small.
I love the game in general, no? I was watching all the afternoon the last round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. I am a big fan of the sport in general, and golf is one of my favorites.
Golf is great, because you are always in beautiful places when you are playing. Most important thing at the same time is you can spend three, four hours, four hours and a half with good company, with friends, with family.
So that’s makes the round good. You are not playing with people that you don’t know. The family is completely different, no? Spending time with friends, with family, when I am going to play golf and I will play with them, that’s great.
Awww. Wish he could play more often. I still don’t get the appeal and think it’s horrid for the environment, but if it makes him happy…
Q. A question about your next opponent. You have played him both on grass and also hard court. On which surface did you feel comfortable when you play against Nishikori?
RAFAEL NADAL: Every match is completely different, but I beat him two times on grass, I believe. One time here last year.
I remember all the matches really difficult. No one match can be easy against him. I said before, so will be a really difficult match.
Got it. Difficult.
Q. Nice to catch a little break? You came on a little later so you didn’t get the heat and the humidity that you would get if you played earlier here in Miami.
RAFAEL NADAL: I am happy playing that late. For me is not a problem. I like to play at this time. Well, if I play before it’s fine, too.
No, no, no. So I don’t have any problem playing earlier or playing late.
Early, late…it don’t matter. What matters is fighting well. See you first thing Tuesday, Rafa.
[caption id=”attachment_32174” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Al Bello/ Getty Images”]
In a battle of new-school vs old-school tennis, Rafa played #25 Radek Stepanek in the early Miami evening. At first, Stepanek’s constant changes of pace were throwing Rafa and he was having some difficulty holding serve and was committing too many unforced errors. The backhand passing shot of beauty made its way into the match early though and Rafa seemed to settle. Grumpily, but he settled and broke twice in the first set. After holding in the first game of the second set, Rafa broke for a 2-0 lead. His play alternated between brilliant and weird errors, but the match itself was really no contest. He’s through: 6-2, 6-2.
As it happened blatherings:
Rafa serving to start the match. Nice serve: 15-0. Forehand shank from Rafa: 15-15. Second serve. Stepanek nets a ball: 30-15. Nice return: 30-30. Scrambling point that Rafa takes total control of with two nice forehands: 40-30. Rafa’s backhand slice goes well wide: deuce. Steps is giving Rafa weird balls to look at and I think it’s affecting him. Nice serve: game point. Another service winner and Rafa holds for 1-1.
Rafa mishits a service return: 15-0. A short slice pulls Steps into the net and then Rafa passes with a backhand down the line: 15-15. Steps pushes Rafa and takes time from him: 30-15. Nicely executed point from Steps: 40-15. Second serve. Rafa returns from within the baseline and Steps sends his next shot long: 40-30. Rafa mishits that return and Steps holds.
Longish rally ends when Steps tees off on a forehand and it goes well wide: 15-0. Second serve. Rafa’s shot is out: 15-15. Steps takes time away again and Rafa nets his backhand: 15-30. Ace down the middle: 30-30. Nice body serve draws an error: 40-30. Second serve. The net cord pops Rafa’s ball out: deuce. Stepanek angles Rafa off the court to get himself a break point. Second serve. Steps into the net and Rafa runs down the approach to hit a beautiful backhand passing shot down the line: deuce. Smash: game point. Nice serve out wide and Rafa holds for 2-1.
Rafa’s backhand is long: 30-0. Steps nets a forehand: 30-15. Rafa had his shot, misses, says words to his box: 40-15. Ace and a strong hold for Stepanek: 2-2.
Rafa nets a forehand down the line: 0-15. Serve out wide draws an error: 15-15. Rafa sends a forehand long: 15-30. Backhand error from Stepanek: 30-30. Ace down the middle: 40-30. Another great serve and Rafa holds.
Steps is doing his thang - mixing up pace and shots; Rafa’s not always dealing with it well. His service holds more difficult than Stepanek’s.
Beauty of a shot from Steps: 15-15. Beautiful backhand cross-court winner from Rafa: 15-30. Rafa working a rally until he miss-times a forehand: 30-30. Rafa hits deep and then follows that up with a forehand that lands in the midcourt which Stepanek nets: 30-40. Nice backhand pass attempt from Rafa, difficult volley from Steps, forehand passing winner from Rafa - he breaks for a 4-2 lead.
Second serve. Rafa nets a forehand: 0-15. Steps fails another challenge: 15-15. Second serve. Steps nets the return: 30-15. Again: 40-15. Rafa holds without going to deuce. He’s up 5-2.
Rafa pushes Steps to draw an error: 0-15. Double fault: 0-30. Forehand down the line passing shot winner: 0-40. Rafa breaks at love to take the first set 6-2.
43 minutes; 2 aces, 66% 1st serves in; 79% won on 1st serve; 40% on second; 2/2 on BPs; 8 winners; 11 UFEs; 1/2 at net.
Step’s volley is out: 15-0. Rafa in midcourt, Steps get the ball at his feet and Rafa’s pissed that he nets the volley: 30-15. Passing shot winner from Steps: 30-30. Rafa nets backhand: 30-40. Ace down the middle: deuce. (Well, it was out, but Steps doesn’t challenge.) Steps cross-court forehand is out: game point. Rafa holds for 1-0.
Rafa’s service return sails wide: 15-0. Return winner: 15-15. That one is out: 30-15. Steps shot is out: 30-30. Stunning backhand passing shot winner from Rafa: 30-40. Second serve. Steps double faults to give Rafa a break: 2-0.
Short angled ball from Steps that Rafa can’t get to: 15-15. Second serve. Rafa sends a forehand wide: 15-30. Nice serve out wide and he follows it into the net to knock off a winning volley: 30-30. Rafa works a point well to draw an error: 40-30. Rafa consolidates for a 3-0 lead.
Strong hold for Stepanek.
Rafa’s forehand is well wide: 15-15. Many challenges in this game. I got bored. Steps finally won one, though – replay the 30-15 point. Nice slice volley from Rafa: 40-15. Players all over the court – point ends with a winner from Steps: 40-30. With a fierce forehand and a fist pump, Rafa holds for 4-1.
15-15. How the hell did Rafa hit that running forehand passing shot winner??? HOW? 15-30. Steps nets a backhand: 15-40. Steps dealt well with that passing shot attempt: 30-40. Rafa’s backhand return goes out, he challenges, but it was out: deuce. Second serve and Rafa’s return goes into the stands: game point. Another return of serve sent well out and Steps holds for 2-4.
Rafa works a point, but sends a forehand well out: 0-15. Nice serve out wide gives Rafa control of a point: 15-15. A bug flies into Step’s mouth? 30-15. Second serve. Rafa spins a slice that throws Steps off: 40-15. Stepanek’s shot is called out, he challenges, but the call was right. Rafa holds for 5-2.
Steps nets a backhand: 0-15. 0-30. Steps sticks his racket out for a volley and the ball completely misses it: 0-40. Second serve. Rafa’s shot is out: 15-40. Rafa wins!
[caption id=”attachment_32165” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by AP Photo/ Alan Diaz”]
Rafa’s second round presser is up. It’s another short one. I actually had a funny twitter exchange with the ASAP Sports account and the last short transcript. They said that with a lot of the local media being Spanish speaking, most of Rafa’s pressers are in Spanish and they don’t transcribe those.
Q. Do you feel it was an easy night tonight, very easy?
RAFAEL NADAL: I never feel an easy match at this high level of competition, no? No one match is easy, no, even the score was very easy.
Because 6‑2, 6‑Love is a big difference in the score but not in the tennis, no? Every point, you have to fight every point. Every point is tough. You have to find solutions every moment.
And Giraldo is a very dangerous player, no? He hit the ball very hard at the beginning of the match. I thought it’s gonna be a very difficult match, no, 2‑All, Love‑30, anything can happen.
Later I came back in that game with few good serves. I think after that I didn’t have mistakes. I played very solid match with no mistakes.
You know, when I had the chance to hit the ball with my forehand, I did. I think I did a very good match.
A lot of people think that Rafa’s being falsely humble with that “every match is difficult” thing. But I believe him. I think getting into and maintaining “match mode” in his head is difficult. We can see that it’s harder these days than it used to be…or he’s just showing us more these days…or I’ve stared at him and done too many couch potato analysis sessions in my head.
Q. Do you feel extra pressure in Miami because you’ve come close as a finalist but have not won here yet? Do you feel more important to win in this tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. I answered the other day. But, no, the answer is no. I try my best in every tournament, you know. I believe that almost every 1000 tournament are the same.
Every one is very important. It’s true for the Latin crowd, that makes this tournament very, very special. I would love to win one time in my career, but I did well. I played three finals; I lost all three. I played, I believe, quarterfinals few times, too.
So I am here, and I’m gonna try my best for another year. But seriously, I don’t feel more pressure here than the last week in Indian Wells, no?
I would love for you to win it at least one time too, Rafa.
[caption id=”attachment_32141” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Matthew Stockman/ Getty Images”]
Rafa played #57 Santiago Giraldo in his first singles match at the 2012 SEO Open in Miami tonight. As myself and others on twitter have been whining about all week - there was no TV or internet coverage. *sigh* Bottom line? He gave the tournament a nice howdy-do by winning 6-2, 6-0.
From the sounds of it, Rafa didn’t suck:
It says a lot when a man you’ve seen play tennis 500 times still hits shots that make you jump out of your seat and shout ‘no way’. #Nadal
[caption id=”attachment_32122” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Dianne S.”]
This was my first trip to Indian Wells. I had heard many great things about this tournament and was excited to see why players and fans loved it so much. Actually, this was my first visit to California and my grown daughter came with me. She’s also a huge tennis fan and had many favorites on her list to see. We arrived in Palm Springs on Friday, March 9th, coming into Palm Springs Airport and got our rental car. The first thing we noticed out of the airport were mountains! We had never seen them before and were in awe of the sky and the palm trees. The weather was beautiful!
We didn’t have tickets to the tournament for Friday, just drove around and got settled in. Saturday morning we were up and ready to go. The drive to the tournament was an easy one, down one street the whole way. Parking was very organized, entering the tournament was simple, no lines, but we got there about noon. They quickly checked out bags, scanned our tickets and we were in! We looked around and said “We’re here!” And then said “What do you want to do first?” We decided to head over to the practice courts. They have an electronic board listing every practice and what court it will be on. We saw a few players practicing, took photos, walked over to the grass area where they play soccer sometimes. We caught Bob Bryan signing along the fence and politely telling every other person, “I’m Bob”, when they asked “Which one are you?” Gilles Simon’s son was toddling around the grass. Richard Gasquet stepped right in front of me. There is a very casual, relaxed feeling about Indian Wells. Players seem to feel it too as they whiz by on a golf cart waving after a match.
Then we noticed it was almost time for Juan Monaco’s match against Mahut, so we walked over the smaller court and we pleasantly surprised we could get a really close seat. It was a great match, he won and we were happy. I loved how you could see the top players on the smaller courts during the week, very intimate and if you come early enough you can even get a seat in the front row. We did that a few times, I was in shock most of the time. I have never been that close. You can hear them talking to themselves after a point, or whispering strategy to their doubles partner. It was fantastic. One of my favorite moments was watching Andy Murray and Jamie Murray play doubles. Before every point, Andy turned to Jamie behind him and said, “We got this one.” Every single time. We also saw Juan Monaco and Kei Nishikori a few times. Pico would give Kei a little rub on the head after a good point, it was sweet. They really played well together.
Sunday was the first day I saw Rafa, he was playing against Leonardo Mayer and for that day we had general admission but found out we could get in to Stadium 1 if seats were available and there were many. I don’t know what happened to me, but the moment I saw Rafa come out of the tunnel and walk to his seat I had goose bumps on my legs and arms. Then I felt my eyes tear up. It was finally hitting me that I was here. My daughter chuckled and said “Oh my goodness, this happened to you in Cincinnati, we’re not even close up!” And we laughed. I’ve only seen him one other time before this tournament so maybe the reality of it all makes me emotional. We cheered, took photos and he won with no problems. It was a good start to the week. I hope I never get used to seeing him and always have that reaction.
Monday was the first time we saw Team Cuteness, and we were ready. We knew you had to get there early for a good seat, so we scurried up the stairs and into the bleachers and plopped ourselves down for a long time. We made sure to have everything we needed for a few hours, and it was a long wait but worth it. We saw Rafa fans with flags, signs, and shaking pom poms. My daughter said coming to a tennis tournament is a little bit like being on Survivor, and I had to agree. But fun! Stay hydrated, but not so much that you have to leave to use the restroom. Make sure you have eaten before because you may be there a long time. Bring a blanket, scarf, or light jacket. It gets cold at night. We were in the sun, but I wanted a seat facing their chairs so I suffered through the heat. I fanned myself with my cardboard fan. Ana Ivanovic was playing a match that went on for hours, and the crowd was getting restless. We all knew Rafa and Marc were coming out next and the atmosphere was electric. Finally, it was time! By now, the sun was down, it was getting chilly but we were happy, and it became a night match. There is something so special about seeing Rafa play doubles with Marc! He is playful, smiley, just loving the game and it shows. There is a bounce in his step, his face comes alive. He shows emotions he doesn’t when he plays singles. They giggle, snort, and grimace. When they introduced them, the crowd goes wild. A shy smile and wave from both Marc! and Rafa as they come on the court. When one makes a mistake and is discouraged, a pat on the back or a “low-five” seems to make it better. They take bathroom breaks together, which I found hilarious. My daughter says “I see Box Cuteness!” at every match and they were always there. Roig, Maymo, Benito, and Tomeu. One day it was so hot that Maymo and Tomeu had white towels draped over their heads and put their caps on top of them. His loyal Box Cuteness.
Team Cuteness wins the match, everyone is on their feet and clapping cheering, chanting for Rafa and Marc. They sign a few balls and Rafa hits one into the crowd as a man trips and stumbles to the ground trying to catch it. Rafa puts his hands to his head and runs over to the man to see if he’s okay. He is, and someone snaps a quick picture as Rafa gives the man a hug. Next to me is a little girl who is about four years old and is convinced Rafa is her uncle. “Vamos Uncle Rafa!” she yells out in between points. I hear her say, “That’s my uncle, Rafa.” Wouldn’t everyone want an Uncle Rafa? She was adorable. The woman sitting next to us asked us to send her some photos of the match. No problem for us, and as she gives us her email address, she hands us two front row box seats for the main stadium. Says she’s going home and we could have them. That was a fun night.
The next day was Tuesday and my first Rafa practice. Some fans have already been there waiting for him to arrive, but we came after he started. I slip through a few people standing and catch a seat on the top bleacher. I’m excited I can see him so close. He looks taller and slimmer in person. Then all of the sudden, a few people up front leave and someone says to me “Go, go, go! Scoot!” and taps me on the shoulder.. I quickly move to the front row and start taking as many pictures as I can. The crowd is silent while Rafa practices. My daughter says to me “Watching Rafa is like having a newborn baby.” Look! He coughed. Quick take a picture, he sneezed! He has an itch on his nose!” Every little thing he does is entertaining. We are a strange group. He ends practice, signs autographs and walks out of sight while the mob of teens, middle-aged women and grandmothers chase after him. I don’t know how he does it, but he does. Rafa played Marcel Granollers that day and won.
On Wednesday, we stopped to see Juan Monaco “Pico” practice. We had an article about him that was in a magazine and were hoping to get it signed. After practice, he started jogging away and my daughter said “Pico, Pico, can you sign? He motioned he was sort of in a hurry but looked at the magazine and said “Is it me?” and we said “Yes!” He stopped, smiled, and signed the page. Then as he began to run off again, he stopped for a second, turned around, smiled and said “Ciao!” And off he went. That evening we saw Team Cuteness again play Paes/Stepanek and were really worried about that match but they won and were in the semifinals, which was very exciting. .” We went to find something to eat. The tournament had a nice selection of food. There were many healthy choices; salads, fruit cups, fish. However, I seemed to gravitate towards the huge plate of chicken nachos every day.
Thursday I caught Rafa practicing again by chance. I was walking past the court and there he was. He signed my green bandana that day. I didn’t plan it, but there were not a lot of people around and I thought this chance may not happen again. As he stood in front of me and carefully signed while he held it steady, I looked up at him and realized how big he is. Kind of took my breath away. I said quietly, “Thank you Rafa”. On Friday, we sat with clenched fists along with other Rafa fans and I held on to my lucky Mallorcan pendant I wore every day, praying he could come back and win the quarterfinal and he did. Saturday we had some bad weather but we were still there in a huddle ready to Vamos!
We saw Rafa play a total of nine times during the week and I feel very fortunate we were there to see him in the final and win the doubles title with Marc! on Sunday. Seeing the joy on his face as he bit that trophy with Marc! after they ran and hugged each other was the perfect end to a wonderful week in Indian Wells.
[caption id=”attachment_32109” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Beth Wilson”]
Thanks to Viva, we have an actual translation (no mangling here) of the full L’Equipe interview. Thanks so very much, Viva!
There have been Noah and the magic potion, the Puppets and the “magic fuel”. There have also been accusations of tax fraud in Spain and then, internationally, his role as the spokesman of the player’s discontent regarding the overloaded calendar. Over the past few months, Rafael Nadal has not only had to worry about his cross-court backhand and his footwork. The world number 2, six-time Roland-Garros winner (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011), has accepted to open up the day before his loss in the Indian Wells semi-final against Roger Federer (6-4, 6-3). His dirty laundry bag in the arms, he takes place in the backseat of one the organization’s cars, on the way back to his hotel, sat on the left to leave more space to his tired right leg. Composed and determined, Nadal goes back over all the polemics during half an hour, makes clear his position on the doping issue in professional sports and speaks, also, about Djokovic, Roland-Garros and some other things. All of which with simplicity and sincerity, an attitude that forces respect.
INDIAN WELLS – (USA)
You had planned to devote your month of February to an intensive preparation, just as to launch a new season from the Indian Wells tournament on, but in the end, have you been able to follow your plan with all of what happened?
It’s been peaceful and uneasy at the same time. Let’s get started with the accusation of tax fraud. I gave an interview to the Spanish television in order to clarify it all as far as my companies domiciled in the Basque Country were concerned. It was obvious that I had to talk publicly. [Me], I am a tennis player and I already have enough problems to deal with within my profession without having to cope with all of that as well. But when the press began to bring out those stories of so-called frauds, it was all but pleasant. And, above all, it was wrong. Everything was done within the law; I pay all my taxes in Spain. I did what I had to do; I said what I had to say. Especially for the people in Spain who are living a tough time economically. It did hurt me.
A few days after, came along on top of this polemic the broadcast of the Puppets’ sketch showing your puppet urinating in the tank of your four-by-four before going hurtling off, as if doped… Who acquainted you with the existence of that sketch?
I’m not used to reading what refers to me in the press at all and I’m not really aware of what is being said about me. But, on this one, I was talked about it a lot and I ended up watching this famous sketch. It didn’t make me laugh but everybody has their own humor. Every country has a different humor. The French humor and the Spanish humor are not the same. On one hand, I understood the first sketch but in Spain, there have been way too many reactions in respect to all of that. It was increasing day after day. Fortunately it stopped though.
So it did not amuse you at all?
I am the first one to love laughing, I like pulling pranks/jesting, but I think there’s most of all a problem at the bottom of this: there’s a part of the population that does not know at all what professional sport is. That does not know how the doping controls work, does not know that there are some almost every day. That we have to be localizable three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Never a free day! When you know all this, when you’re a bit in the sport circle, then this sketch keeps on being unpleasant but it’s not such a big deal. On the other hand, what bothers me most is that of the people who know nothing about the system and who do not know that with all those constraints, all those controls, it’s impossible to cheat, to have illegal substances in the organism and to slip through the net. We are subjected to an exhaustive system. I do believe that this sketch may create a negative opinion, on me as well as on the Spanish sport, for the people who know less about all of this. Tennis is a very clean sport. There have been very few doping cases.
But isn’t your way to see things naive?
I may be naive but it is better that way then. I’m so far away from the doping world that I have a total ignorance of it. I do not know it at all. Zero! I only know about the doping controls. For me, if there’s someone taking drugs, he gets caught and he pays for what he did. People can see me as naive. Some think that the controls are late on the drug use, but nothing allows me to think that way. I do trust people as long as nothing wrong’s been proved/revealed. The drug topic exists and will exist but I find that there’s a bit of an obsession around that theme in France. Of course, there can be cheating in sports, in business, in life, in everything. I am not a cheater; I’ve never sought to cheat. My lifestyle, it’s sport. And for me, the sport is the spirit of surpassing oneself, a daily personal effort, the strength of will to always seek to improve. And the best way to achieve that, it is work. I don’t understand the sport in any other way. Some may get it differently by taking illegal/forbidden substances, but I do think that the majority thinks like me and I’ll never accuse anybody without proof. The problem that you have, in France, and I don’t know why, is that you’re doubtful of everyone. I can’t be accused of having the magic potion because the magic potion, it is work and efforts. There are people who have taken drugs everywhere, whether it’s in Spain, in France, in Switzerland, in the United States, etc. In every place in the world. Those who did such a thing have been punished and that’s it. I do not accept to be labeled “doped” whereas since I’m seven years old I’ve been working thousands of hours every damn day! After a while, it’s tiring me out.
A last question on that theme. Could you clarify your position in respect to Alberto Contador to whom you addressed a public message of support through Twitter?
Before everything, I support Alberto Contador because he is my friend. He’s a great guy. He says that he did not take drugs and I believe him, because he’s my friend. When Richard Gasquet’s positive drug test came out in 2009, I told right away that I did not believe he was doped, because knowing him since the age of eleven or twelve I simply could not take it. And I wanted to be the clearest possible so that people would get it correctly, especially in France. Alberto was punished but Richard as well back then. What some persons don’t manage to believe is that it just takes anybody to put an illegal substance in a drink without you noticing it to break a career. Alberto was punished but I wish him from the bottom of my heart to come back strong, with the spirit of champion that characterizes him.
Could it be that in Spain, because of a very painful economic situation, the elite sportsman plays a disproportional social role? Just like a valve to the population’s daily problems?
I think we have to be examples, that the sport keeps on representing something sane/wholesome. It’s a daily effort with the victory or defeat in the end, but the pursuit of the maximum. For sure people are very involved, they like sports, but I’m the first one to like it! It makes me happy when I follow sports as a spectator, and it gives positive energy to watch the Spanish sport shine throughout the world.
Does it also give extra-pressure, or extra-motivation, to “play for the people”?
Neither one nor the other. I do all what I can, and I’ve always done it throughout my entire career. When you give it your all, it can’t be demanded more of you.
Since the end of last season and your implication in the players’ demand for a lighter calendar, we get the feeling that you have a lot to deal with off the court. Do you manage to practice as you wish and to keep your ability to be “here and now” on the court?
When I get involved into something, I’m doing it at a hundred percent. Whether it is that I’m playing tennis, golf or when I’m fighting for what I think is fair. As far as the calendar is concerned, I think that 90% of the players agree with me on that issue. It’s overloaded, there are too many injuries. I love tennis, I love competition and I don’t want to retire at the age of 27 or 28; nobody wants that. And to stay at the top of the ranking, no choice, you have to play from January 1st until the end of November. So I told things vigorously because this is how I am in life. I lost a bit too much energy in all of this, that’s for sure, but I was thinking that the persons who represented us in the ATP were not fulfilling their duty. If 90% of the players want one thing and that doesn’t happen, it is that our representatives are not representing us well… And I have to admit that it tired me out more than all the stories of February. For that matter, it won’t happen again.
Back to the court. Especially to your best foe, Novak Djokovic. You said several times that you weren’t looking for a specific solution to play against him. However, some time ago, Roger Federer admitted that he was looking for an anti-Nadal plan. Would it be stupid/inappropriate, according to you, to think it’s your turn to lead that quest?
I have to improve my tennis comprehensively to have more options against Djokovic but I’m not obsessed with anyone. I think of myself before thinking of Novak, Federer, Murray or Ferrer. I get up in the morning to try to be better than the day before. For me, first and foremost. We’ll see later if that will be enough to beat those whom I’d like to beat. Novak is in spectacular form but I came really close to beat him in Australia.
Just a question on this fabulous final : this “easy” backhand passing-shot that you put out at 4-2, 30-15 for you in the fifth set, have you watched it again?
I re-watched the match when I came back home. No problem to talk about that point again. I missed that shot, but at 4-3 for Novak in the fourth set and 0-40 on my service game, it could have ended quickly too… It is what it is. A single point doesn’t sum up a six-hour match…
You said that you were happy of your game in Melbourne despite the defeat…
Because that’s the way: to play well, aggressively, and to find solutions. And the solutions are here (he points at his heart), not here (he points his forefinger towards the outside). I’ll have to be stronger, more constant, more solid mentally and physically than last year against Djokovic.
Playing more aggressively, isn’t that moving too much away from your personality?
Nothing’s easy, everybody has their own way to play that makes one feel at ease, secure. All the changes I’m trying to bring to my game are not easy. It has to be done, to be tried, while putting courage and enthusiasm in the process.
Isn’t there the fear to lose one’s strong points/main strengths by exploring other ways?
Everyone has fears, everyone has doubts, I’m not arrogant enough not to have them! But I’m very pleased with all the strides I’ve made since the beginning of my career. I feel very happy, thankful to life and to all those who have helped me.
Among the shots that have evolved a lot since your beginnings, there’s the serve. The fantastic one from the 2010 US Open, where is it gone?
I think I can find it back but that’s not my main goal. I’ve won many more titles without that serve. I can hit a serve at 215km/h today whenever I want, but to serve that strong presumably doesn’t fit the rest of my game. My percentage would risk to drop too low and I need a high percentage to take control of the rally very early with my forehand. It had worked very well during that US Open, I had a perfect feeling with my movement all fortnight long, but generally that is not the most efficient way to serve for me… It can give me more free points, but it doesn’t suit my mindset. I’ve sometimes tried to serve that strong again, but it gives me the feeling that I’m kind of losing the control of all my game.
Today, what is the role of Toni (Nadal, his uncle and coach since always) with you? Is he always undergoing change? Could you imagine, for instance, playing in a Grand Slam tournament without him?
Toni will be with me during the Grand Slams as long as he wants it. If he tells me one day that he’s tired of the traveling, I can imagine myself without him, but I’m happy with him, he brings me a lot. He’s brought me everything in my tennis career but I also have a team around me that’s been helping me for a long time. Everybody changes when growing, the relationship changes, we obviously do not have the same one as when I was twelve…
When you see someone like Lendl (Andy Murray’s coach since the beginning of the season) in the players box, do you tell yourself that the aura of a great name can have an influence on the opponent?
I don’t know. What I know is that it’s good that a champion like Lendl comes back in the business. What matters is that he helps Murray to improve. But if it was only about taking/hiring a great name, there would only be great names among the coaches…
Where does your position regarding Davis Cup stand at the moment? During the final won in Sevilla last December, you had said that you would skip the 2012 campaign…
We’ll see, it’s an everyday topic of reflection. It’s a great competition but you have to determine priorities, and I’ve already won four of them (2004, 2008, 2009, 2011). It motivates me a lot to represent my country, but I consider that I also represent it when I’m playing in Indian Wells or Miami. The Davis Cup is great, but very hard at the same time. The format hasn’t changed for a very long time in an ever-changing world. Its format does not favor the presence of the very best players in each round.
And a potential semi-final France vs. Spain, does that inspire you?
I don’t even project myself on the quarterfinal against Austria, so on the semifinal of September…
Does the number 7 hold a particular meaning for you?
No, not particularly but I’d like it to get one (laughter). By winning my seventh Roland-Garros… But there are a lot of tournaments and matches between now and then. I’m not thinking about it at all, how could I whereas I’m playing tomorrow against Federer ! (He was speaking right after his quarterfinals win against Nalbandian.). Fortunately, I don’ t have any trouble staying in the (present) moment. And then, I already would have never thought that I’d win as many as Borg, so… I’m gonna do my best to go as far as possible in Roland-Garros, like every time.
Do you remember your very first match in Roland-Garros?
Very well, in 2005 against Lars Burgsmuller (6-1, 7-6, 6-1); I was more nervous than usual because I was hearing a lot of people say that I could be the favorite of the tournament whereas I was still a kid. If I’m asked which of my titles is the most meaningful between 2005 and 2011, the answer could be 2005 because the first one is always special. But in the end, no, because with the experience, the difficulties, the injuries, the tough defeats, the good and bad times, you realize better how hard it is to win again. When I won Roland-Garros in 2010 and 2011, the emotions were very, very strong because you can never know if it’s the last time or not.
But every time you come back to Roland-Garros, it still boosts your confidence, doesn’t it?
Every time I come back to Roland-Garros, the first feeling is nervousness…”
[caption id=”attachment_32104” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Michael Regan/ Getty Images”]
Yeah, that’s right - Team Not Quite as Cute (I really need to work on that knickname), aka Rafa and Marcel, took out some tall guys in a doubles match today. In fact, they dominated Cilic/Karlovic in their first match in Miami: 6-1, 6-3. Vamos!
(And yes, I know that’s not a picture of them playing doubles together…there weren’t any posted yet!)
Gonzo played in the second live tennis match I saw in person. The court was jam packed and I was one of the last who got in. I ended up surrounded by Chileans who did their “Chi-chi-chi Le-le-le” chants and shared photos of their kids with each other by passing around their cell phones. They even passed the phones to me. It was a great introduction to the fun and camaraderie that can exist in tennis crowds.
[caption id=”attachment_32080” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Beth Wilson”]
There’s an exclusive interview with Rafa in today’s edition of L’Equipe. They have posted some excerpts online. From the mangle it appears that the interview covers a lot of current hot topics with Rafa - taxes, doping, the tour schedule and beating Djokovic. Sounds interesting. If I could read French, I’d see if any local stores carried it!
The Spanish press is also talking about the interview. Here’s an article on rtve.es. (mangle) This article seems to contain the same info as the online L’Equipe excerpts, but it is interesting to compare the mangles.
[caption id=”attachment_16134” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Photo by Beth Wilson”]
The draw for men’s singles in Miami is out: pdf. After a bye in the first round, Rafa will face the winner of a match between Pablo Andujar and Santiago Giraldo.
Murray is in Rafa’s half while Federer is in Djokovic’s. Seeds in Rafa’s quarter include: Tsonga, Kohlschreiber, Mayer, Isner, Nishikori, Granollers, and Stepanek.
Seeds in Rafa’s half (aka, people he would only face if he made it to the semis) include: Murray, Berdych, Chela, Dolgopolov, Tipsaravic, Simon, Melzer, and Ranoic.
Seeds in the top half (aka people he would only face in a final) include: Djokovic, Federer, Ferrer, Fish, Roddick, Troicki, Gasquet, Monaco, Monfils, F Lopez, Del Potro, Cilic, Benneteau, Almagro, Verdasco, and Anderson.