Sunday, 31 May 2009
Saturday, 30 May 2009
In one of the most blatant pieces of gamesmanship ever, whilst Rafa was doing his usual 'preparing himself to serve' routine, he didn't realise that the Sod had gone back to his chair to change his racquet, thus rendering Rafa about to start serving to an empty court. The umpire called this to Rafa's attention who couldn't believe that the Sod had had the gaul to do this. He steadied himself, prepared again, and whilst the Sod was there ready to receive, Rafa stopped himself and promptly showed the Sod the new balls - to the hilarity of the court. So the Sod then attempted 30-15 by tugging the wedgie out of his shorts. He received the Rafastare ... and ultimately was beaten.
But the feelings remain, and the Sod continues to be someone that Rafa wants to tank. And he did. In Rome. 6-0, 6-1. And we were treated to a tonne of Rafaflesh at the end of it ... Will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow ...
Friday, 29 May 2009
It wasn't as if Hewitt played a bad match - he tried to use some intelligent play, mixed it up, altered his game plan ... to only come out winning 5 games. Watch out the rest of the field ... Rafa is back!!!
Rafa will next play Robin "the Sod" Soderling who beat David Ferrer in 5 sets. Punch him on the nose Rafa ...
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Rafa the ardent football fan (appreciator and supporter of Manchester United, but allying himself with his native Spain and his family Barcelona links) was keen to watch the Champions League final last night, and seemed in a hurry to get off the court ... (joke)
"Well, I thought about it, because I wanted to finish before the rain. I didn’t think about it because I wanted to watch soccer tonight. You know, I’m a professional. All I want is to win my matches. I don’t have football in mind all the time, don’t you think I have?"
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Monday, 25 May 2009
Rafa claims not be feeling the pressure as he marches forth towards an unprecendented 5th straight French Open title. “My only pressure is to try to play good tennis, try to play well, and later we will see what has happened. I was happy about my clay season. Win Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome, and playing the final in Madrid is almost a perfect clay-court season. And Roger. He was always there.” is his view.
“There is nobody in the men’s locker room who says the result of Roland Garros is already decided." said Verdasco. "Rafa is the favourite but all of us will fight to stop him winning it again. It’s tough for him because it is everyone against Rafa. Each time somebody plays him on clay they play that little bit harder because they want to be the one to end his run at the French Open.
He is very relaxed, but of course he is under some pressure because he has won four times. Maybe it was tougher for him when he came back here after winning that first time. But one year he needs to lose at Roland Garros, he can’t go on winning for ever.”
“The plan to beat Rafa in five sets on clay is to play unbelievable tennis and to be fitter than you have ever been before in your life,” he said. “Other players are aware that this is the standard we must attain. You have to play more than 100% on every point, like he always does. And just to have a better day than him because he is just human like everyone else and he has days when he is not feeling so good. He has an unbelievable mentality but you need to take him on one of those bad days. The reason he is No 1 and such a great player on clay is because there are hardly any of these days, but the chance will come for one of us. I want it to be me on the court with him that day.”
Forgive me for saying this Nando ... but I don't, not yet anyway. Rafa will play a Russian in his next round - either Igor Kunitsyn or Teimuraz Gabasvili.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Best of all though is that we get the opportunity to ask Rafa questions and leave comments ... and at the Australian Open, the Rafateers were very successful if the number of comments published and questions answered ... including yours truly.
I cannot begin to tell you the sheer joy of reading that Rafa had answered MY question ... it was as if he was talking directly to me!! Indulgent fangirl that I am, here's the link to my little offering (third question down):-
Corny, but cheese floats when getting these questions answered. Anyhow, I'll keep a permanent link to the blog in the side links.
OMG ladies, people, Rafateers ... poor old Wooffs is in reclined repose trying to recover from the image and beauty that is Rafael. When did our boy grow up??? because what we see before us is aaalllllll man. And absolutely gorgeous. I can't think of enough superlatives to describe him. I can barely write this post without flicking back and forth between this and my "new" screensaver. LOL.
Anyhow ... the article in question appears in the June edition of US Vogue (which will no doubt fly off the stands ... and I will go MAD if I can't get a copy over here in Blighty). The interview was done during the strange and lamentable Miami tournament, where Rafa uttered "its personal" ... though we never got to find out what that meant. But ... it didn't half result in some fab-u-lous pictures ...
If you can drag your eyes away from the beauty of Rafa ... here's the article in full at the link below ... enjoy!!
Friday, 22 May 2009
Below are the draw details from Rafa's website ...
"The French Open draw is out, and these are the players that will be standing on Rafa’s way to a fifth consecutive RG title. In the first round, Rafa will commence his bid against a qualifier, and if he wins, either Igor Kunitsyn or Teimuraz Gabashvili will be waiting for him in the next.
Looking ahead, he could potentially meet former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt in the 3rd round, compatriot David Ferrer in the fourth, and Fernando Verdaso in the quarterfinals.
The World No.1 would be happy to know that he is sharing the top half of the draw with Andy Murray (who he could meet in a hypothetical semifinal), while Roger Federer has been drawn to meet Novak Djokovic in the semis, should all of them get that far.
“Paris has always been very special to me and I have beautiful memories of my victories here. [At the same time] I’ve had a great start to the clay season and I feel like I’ve arrived in Roland Garros well prepared. I will try to do the best I can to win again, but right now, I’m just concentrating on training well,” said Rafa yesterday after an exhibition match at the Paris Masters Guinot Mary Cohr tournament, which he won 6-3 6-3, against Arnaud Clément.
“We will see if I’m ready to win or not, but there is no doubt that it would be a dream to win here again for the fifth time”."
Thursday, 21 May 2009
At the Cannes Film Festival on 19th May, it was reported that Rafa is to be the subject of a documentary:-
"Cannes Diary: - Sporting hits Mike Tyson and Zinedine Zidane have been the toast of the Croisette in past years at Cannes. Eric Cantona was the sportsman of choice this time round in Ken Loach's film. Next year, it may be the turn of tennis titans Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer, who are to be the focus of a new documentary by José Luiz Lopez-Linares, according to industry sources at Cannes. The as-yet-untitled film will explore the rivalry and friendship between the hot-blooded Spaniard Nadal and the cool Swiss star Federer, who have had many tussles in finals of major tournaments, from Wimbledon to the French Open."
This led Rafateer Laliga to throw down a gauntlet ... if you could write the plot for an appropriate movie - what sort of theme would you use? Here's my offering ...
A gangster movie ...
The Plot ...
Roger “the Feds” Federer is Boss of three Slamilies ... one in Melbourne, one in London and one in New York. His reign of terror has lasted 4 long years between 2003-2007, but is largely considered asterisked (*) as most of his victims have rolled over like puppies in his quest to rack up the numbers so that he can achieve the title of Boss of all Bosses – or GOAT – a title still held by the now retired “Pistol” Pete Sampras ... slayer of 14 hapless victims.
But all that changes in 2008 as he loses control of Melbourne in a bloody coup, lead by a battle worn Serb - Novak “the Nole” Djokovic - supported by his own fearsome family. Feds lasting cry of “Shut up!” means nothing to the Serb as Pops gave the infamous “thumbs down” signal for his son to deliver the killer blow. And control of this Slamily is lost.
Undeterred, Feds pushes forth in his quest to equal Pistol’s record and marches on to Paris, searching to acquire control of the one remaining Slamily that has thwarted him thus far. Paris is headed by a young upstart - Rafael “Rafa” Nadal - whose brutal control of its red dirt streets has struck terror into the heart of many an opponent since 2005. The impending showdown ensues ... and Feds is utterly obliterated by the powerful Spaniard.
Feds returns with his tail between his legs to his bastion, Wimbledon, in old London town ... surely he is safe from the onslaught of the Armada here? ... but no, in the darkness of a July Sunday night in a battle royale lasting 4 hours 48 minutes, Feds takes aim to fire at the Young Pretender ... misses his target and lands his shot tamely in-the-net. The ruthless Spaniard takes the London Slamily.
But Feds, the wounded lion is not quite finished yet, and with the help of the weather and his Federer worshippers bribing the scheduling authorities, and an opponent who’d been “roughed up” a bit before he dares to do battle, he continues to reign large in New York.
Fast forward now to Melbourne, 2009, and control of this Slamily is now up for grabs as Nole the Serb has relinquished his control by ... quitting !!! The stakes are high ... will Rafa extend his Paris and London empire to take control of an unprecedented 3 Slamilies built on 3 different surfaces? Will Feds finally equal the legendary Pistol’s murderous record?? Another momentous battles ensues, until Feds capitulates under the might and wrath of the brutal Rafa and is left crying like a baby at his superior mercy ... The legends of the old Melbourne Slamily shake their heads in muted and embarrassed silence and shame.
TO BE CONTINUED ............
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
But lets spare a moment for where it all began ... a 19 year-old Rafa in 2005, making his mark on the tennis world. And I just want to hug him to death.
The essence of Rafa. When you stop to think what turned you on to Rafa in the first place, what is it? Of course, you can state the bleedin' obvious ... body, bum and biceps ... but watching him play makes you sit up and marvel ... the prowling, the shot making, the noise!! But have you ever seen anyone before who fights like that? ... who has the passion? ... who has the sheer will just NOT to be beaten? Pretty it ain't sometimes ... but damn, its real on-the-edge-of-your-seat type stuff. But once you find the attraction of the man that's the tennis player, it leads you to start finding out more about him ... and he is an absolute treasure. I marvel at just how well brought up he is, his manners, his totally endearing personality. Anyone who gets close to him to get an interview never seems to be able to write anything other than positive stuff.
Attached is another superb article about Rafa, given during Indian Wells this year. But for all its well written words, one paragraph to me stands out that exemplifies the absolute essence of our boy:-
"If you ask the people closest to Nadal for a story that explains him, they don't tell a Wimbledon story or a French Open story or even a story about women ogling him. They talk about a semifinal match in Hamburg in 2007 against Lleyton Hewitt. Nadal had lost to the Aussie previously, and after he lost the first set, Roig sent a text message to a worried group of Nadal's people. The message, in part because it preceded another Nadal comeback, has become their motto. It read:-
Don't worry. He is Nadal."
Monday, 18 May 2009
Rafa was in reflective mode in the immediate ending of his match in Madrid yesterday as his on-court interview revealed.
On his hopes to play Federer at Roland Garros, Rafa said:- "In Paris, we’ll see who makes it to the end ... Federer has the potential to win in Paris, to win anywhere. He is a favorite there, but the tournament begins not with the final but with the first round. I hope to play with him in the Paris finals. If you give me a paper now, I’d sign it.”
He was quick to deflect from any sort of excuse-making by declaring:- "I normally do not make excuses. If I’m tired, it’s because I used more time in the semi-final than he did. It stinks to play four hours yesterday, yes. That can’t be denied. But the reality is that (today) he played better than me."
Rafa made sure to point out that the fast court and altitude of Caja Majica in Madrid favoured Federer’s game, and that this loss wasn’t going to effect his chances at Roland Garros:- “My feeling is that this tournament has nothing to do with Paris. I ’m not saying that I will play better in Paris, but this surface is completely different from Roland Garros.”
Federer - in contrast - was in more (unsurprisingly) upbeat mode, revealing that he played with more aggression, served well and took his chances when they came. After the match, he also revealed that he’s tweaked his mental strategy as well:-
Interviewer:- "Two things stood out today. Nadal ordinarily keeps you waiting at the net before the match. This time you kept him waiting. And instead of serving, you decided to receive. Psychology?"
Feds:- "I simply thought to do something differently today. The players allow him to do too much, let him determine his rhythm. From the time one leaves the locker room to the first rally, twenty minutes have passed against him. Normally, five to ten minutes should be it. So today I simply took my time to see how patient he is. And today I had little to lose, so I did it with humour. Perhaps it helped that I played more relaxed."
Woooooo ... crafty old fox, Roger Federer. He probably always felt that it was “below” him to use mind games and on-court gamesmanship to his advantage, but now he’s realized he needs to use every advantage to beat the superhuman Rafa, and therefore it is "game on" to use such tactics.
Lets hope this is drawn to Rafa's attention and he wises up to his auld adversary that as far as Feds his is concerned, the gloves are now off, and he will use any tactic going in his attempt to beat him. One of the last people to take the p*** out of Rafa was Soderling ... and look what mincemeat he made out of him in Rome. Get a grip, Rafa old man - things are about to get dirty ...
Sunday, 17 May 2009
Sad that Rafa lost, but hats off to Feds, as he did play one of the best matches I've seen him play against Rafa in a long while. He was definitely thinking out there, changed up his play, was effective and he was bold on the big points. There was not doubt that Rafa did look one step slower today as he participated in the 4 hour epic and best match so far of the clay court season yesterday, which had us all on the edge of our seats, and in some ways, I'd rather he lose fighting like that than what we saw today. But ... its been 4 finals and 3 victories, and even Rafa sometimes can't win them all.
In a funny sort of way, its good thing that this has happened to him, because Rafa's approach to a match and his opponents is always "this guy can beat me" and it seems to motivate him. What he can take from the clay court season so far is that Murray played a fantastic second set against him, Nole is pushing him all the way, and that Feds was able to come up with a game plan which he executed to beat him. So he knows he still has to work very hard, take nothing for granted and step it up even further to continue to be the champion that he is.
I think it will be a time of reflection for the Rafacrew, but it will result in a positive move forward towards Roland Garros and hopefully that 5th victory!!
We're still very proud of what you've achieved Rafa. Vamos !!!
Link to Rafa's on court interview ...
Attached is a link to the clip of Rafa's post-match interview following yesterday's epic encounter.
Saturday, 16 May 2009
Rafa was out of sorts from the start - was he ill? - he certainly needed a time out for a troublesome knee. He never turned up for the first set and was soon down 6-3. He was certainly struggling to keep up in the second, but somehow he kept in it and towards the end of the set, was playing the kind of tennis we'd come to recognise. And so to the tie-break - which Rafa came out the 7-5 winner.
The deciding set went with serve, with Rafa struggling in a couple of games, but the dreaded deciding tie-break to seal the match loomed large.
And so to the drama .... a back and forth breaker with Novak getting the first match points ... and losing them. Third seed Djokovic had three match points in all, at 6-5, 7-6 and 9-8 during the breaker, but Rafa held his nerve and showed his class to advance. He won on his second match point to take the match 11-9.
"It's happened too often," said Nole. "It's very disappointing to play as well as I have and still lose the match. I played one of my best matches ever. I was a couple of points from the victory. I even played a few points above my limits and I still didn't win."
All of this is true - and yep - the guy still did not win. Another super-human, unbelievable display from Rafa. The man is astounding ... but knackered. What on earth will happen to him tomorrow and whether he will have enough recovery time will be the big question.
But he's there ... he's in the final. Vamos Rafa!
Friday, 15 May 2009
Then horror of horrors, he went down two breaks to be 4-0 down in the second. However, through a mixture of the odd great shot, but largely choking and mistakes from Hairnando, Rafa prevailed and came out the 7-5 winner. Hairnando choked in the face of possibly pushing lovely Rafa.
Below is a short report from Rafa's website on tonight's match ...
"Less than 50 of play was enough for Rafa to power his way into the semifinals of the Madrid Masters Series tournament after beating his compatriot Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 7-5 in tonight’s quarterfinal clash.
Verdasco was up 4-0 in the second set, but quickly lost his advantage to the World No.1, who now leads him 9-0 in their head-to-head encounters. In the semis, Rafa will play against Novak Djokovoc."
Bring on the Smurf ...
What I like about the article is that it moves away from the "Oh Nadal's just got into Federer's head" simplistic approach and offers an insight into just what hard work and application it took on behalf of Rafa, coach Toni and the rest of the team to turn Rafa into the world number #1 and winning machine we see today - and how Feds has stood still.
Probably the singular, most important phrase Toni has ever uttered and what eventually probably turned Rafa into what he is today is:-
"He's so much better than you," Toni would say, "but if you believe and work, you can win."
And so to work the Rafacrew went. The article reports: -
"Toni and Rafa both knew that Rafa's forehand, whose height was lessened by grass and hard courts, couldn't do the job alone. Every dimension of his game had to improve. Toni would list his nephew's deficiencies, stroke by stroke, each time they faced Federer."
And they didn't stop there:-
"The truth, however, is that Camp Rafa is a fairly sophisticated operation. A Majorcan trainer, Juan Forcades, oversees Nadal's conditioning. Physical therapist Rafael Maymo spends much of his day taking notes on when and what Nadal eats; when he goes to sleep and when he wakes; how much time he spends hitting forehands, backhands and volleys. Toni, meanwhile, has harped on his nephew's weaknesses so effectively that even in the earliest rounds of last year's French Open, Rafa was scared of losing. Toni reassured him -- "You're Number 1 on clay!" -- but it didn't matter. He never relaxes - Toni says - He's so afraid for every match."
Further insights are added by Mats Wilander and the excellent Jim Courier.
The greatest quote though comes from Feds himself:-
"Honestly, I preferred the days when I didn't have a rival."
... yeah, I bet you did.
Here's the full article.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
"It's a good thing in a way, but we would have prefered to play and win", said Rafa's uncle and coach Toni Nadal, then he continued, "We will now train for a while, otherwise we will have a very difficult match tomorrow."
Rafa will face Fernado Verdasco who came out a 7-5, 6-2 winner over Juan Monaco. Lets hope its a good match, but not the 5 set nail-biter the two of them went through in Melbourne. A great Friday night out for the locals though!
Rafa's fellow recipients included Ingrid Betancourt, Google, and Margaret Atwood. In the sports category, Rafa joined past recipients Martina Navratilova, Lance Armstrong, Steffi Graf, and Carl Lewis. Past recipients from other fields were Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, J.K. Rowling, Woody Allen, Paul Auster, Susan Sontag, and Bob Dylan. A luminous list, I think you will agree.
Fast forward to January 2009 and this scene ...
Rafa's moment of triumph in his first ever hardcourt Major - the Australian Open. A moment of what should have been exaltation usurped by a blubbing Feds who could not contain his abject disappointment at what should have been HIS moment of history in equalling Pistol Pete's total Majors tally in front of the tennis "greats", wheeled out in his honour to witness it. But how did Rafa handle it? With empathy, grace and humanitarian care for his opponent - but his moment of victory had to be muted, regardless.
Following this display of what I considered to be selfish indulgence, it was then with some shock and surprise that I read that Rafa - yes Rafa!!! had in fact nominated Feds for the 2009 Prince of Asturias Award for Sport.
“I won the award in 2008 and of course I’d like a colleague and a friend to win it because he deserves it.” he explained. Sometimes I feel though that Rafa's good grace and class can be somewhat misguided.
However, nothing - yes nothing - could have prepared me for the report today that Feds has actually TURNED DOWN Rafa and Pau Gasol's gracious nomination for the award. The reason being that in order to be nominated, the nominee must guarantee their attendance at the prestigious awards ceremony (in October), and this apparently is something that Feds cannot commit to.
"I’d like to thank Rafa Nadal and Pau Gasol (L.A. Lakers basketball player) for having considered me, but it won’t be possible." said Feds. "It’s always difficult for me to travel to Spain because I have a very busy schedule and I also have to think about my personal life."
Hhhmmm ... I can see how a man with a private jet might find it difficult to make the one hour's flight from Switzerland to Spain, and whilst baby Feds is due in the summer time, this will not affect his tournament schedule and no doubt the lucrative commitments he's made to his sponsors which I am sure he will find the time to honour. This wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't - with typical Federer arrogance - ended his 'excuse' by saying:-
"Maybe next year is a good moment to nominate me.”
Stick it where the sun don't shine Mister ... and lets hope this might also be a lesson for Rafa in that whilst he may admire Feds' play and achievements as a tennis player with his record of 14 Master Series titles and 13 Grand Slam titles ... he is light years away in terms of the essence of being a gentleman with humility, class and an appreciation of grace that was to be bestowed upon him by a fellow rival, competitor, friend and human being. Shame on you!
Just a reminder of a wholly just and deserved Prince of Asturias winner.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
The world number #1 was pushed by Melzer's serve/volley tactics for the first 6 games, but in the seventh, Rafa prevailed and came out the comfortable winner in two straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, committing only a remarkable 3 unforced errors.
Summary of the match is provided by Rafa's website.
An hour and two minutes of play was all Rafa Nadal needed this afternoon to beat Austrian Jürgen Melzer (ranked 27th in the World) 6-3 6-1, in the second round of the Madrid Masters Series event. The match (played at the spectacular Magic Box venue and in front of Spain’s Queen) started off with an amazing standing ovation for the World No.1, who in spite of winning his first 3 service games in a comfortable fashion, was also caught off guard by Melzer's ‘serve and volley’ game strategy, which was actually working well for him.
In the second set however, things went downhill for Melzer and even though he tried to put up a fight, there was nothing he could do against the top seed. Rafael, always quick on his feet, snatched the first match-point opportunity he got to close out the match and has set up a third round date with Germany's Philip Kohlschreiber on Thursday.
Interestingly, it looks like this workout is being performed on the roof top of the family apartment in Manacor. I've read before that the apartment block is near the town's cathedral, so even better as this vid. gives us some markers for stalking him on Googlemap!!
Anyway ... this clip has given me all the motiviation I need to start a workout programme in my own back yard !!! Achem ....
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
The gist of the conversation (which has Toni in stitches and Rafa's left eyebrow to take on comic proportions) is about how a little Rafa believed Toni was a magician, because he could make players (footballers?) get injured if he wanted to whilst they were watching a match. They were recorded matches but of course Rafa didn't know that, and generally playing jokes like being invisible and things moving by themselves. (Thanks to Rafandready and Corazon for the translation).
In any language though ... Rafa looks ab-sol-utely lovely ...
All this might be a bit previous as we are of course hoping he does well in Madrid, but more importantly, he keeps his flawless winning streak at Roland Garros to lift his 5th consecutive French Open title. But the article makes astounding reading nonetheless.