Tag Archives: Raphael Nadal

The Shark circles – Rafa mauled.

24 Jun

Rafael Nadal

Raphael Nadal. Gazumped by Belgium’s Steve “the Shark” Darcis

Raphael Nadal fell victim to the white hot form of #135 ranked Belgian Steve Darcis. Darcis, who has had a penchant for sharks from a young age, sports a shark tattoo on his shoulder, and even uses the shark moniker on his twitter account, was in a predatory mood. Like most sharks, Darcis showed no sign of fear, winning in straight sets and sealing the victory with a thumping ace. Rafa could only look on as the 29 year old Darcis struck an amazing 52 winners for the match.

In true Rafa style, when persistently asked if his knee was the reason for the loss said quite emphatically, “I don’t gonna talk about my knee this afternoon. Only thing today is congratulate Steve Darcis. He played a fantastic match. I don’t put any excuse when I’m losing a match like I lost today. He deserve not one excuse”. Rafa –  a true champion – all class, even in defeat.

Steve Darcis is one of the nicest guys you could meet in the locker room and his form today serves as a reminder to all. Despite struggling with form on the Challenger Circuit for the past 12 months – in his words – “I was playing really bad, with no motivation”, he kept working, and more importantly kept believing. So to all the sharks out there: work hard, dream big, and circle your prey.



Linesmen ready. Ballkids ready. Players ready. Play.

24 Jun

Federer practices at Wimbledon

Roger Federer contemplates Wimbledon title #8.

With the countdown to Wimbledon entering the last few hours, it’s time to leave the ugly verbal jousting between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova aside, and focus on some really entertaining match ups the draw has thrown up. While many are distraught that Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal are in the same quarter (due to Rafa’s ranking of #5), it does remind us that tennis tournaments, despite allegations to the contrary by Damir Dokic, are subject to the vagaries of “the draw”.

Have at a look at these 1st round matches. In the women’s there are a couple of standouts. In a battle of emerging young USA talent Sloane Stephens (seeded 17) takes on in form Jamie Hampton. Hampton has risen from a ranking in the 50’s to sit inside the top 25 following her runner-up result at Eastbourne this week. A week earlier and that ranking would have had her also seeded at Wimbledon. Tough for Stephens. Tough for Hampton. My tip Hampton in 3 sets. And in a battle of big hitters – Angelique Kerber takes on Bethanie Mattek-Sands in what is sure to be a slug-fest or the diminutive fast feet of Maria Kirilenko against the hope of the British, lefty Laura Robson.

The men’s draw has thrown up some cracker match ups. Baghdatis versus Cilic, Lopez v. Simon, or the battle of the Serbs – Troicki v. Tipsarevic. All enticing for the fans – but the hottest 1 st round seats may well be at the Aussie matches. Perhaps we may learn something about the mental toughness of Bernard (sans Dad / coach John) Tomic. Tomic is already something of an enigma on tour – he challenges conventional thinking, appears to “coast”, and often leaves us with more questions than answers. In a defining moment in his fledgling career, Tomic plays big serving American Sam Querrey. Will Tomic’s guile and court craft be enough to get him across the line? Where is his head at?

THE match of the 1st round is undoubtedly Swiss ball striking maestro, Stan “The Man” Wawrinka against Little Lleyton Hewitt. These two have history, and a genuine respect for each other forged from their tie deciding Davis Cup battle on grass at Royal Sydney Golf Club. That particular match was an epic affair, where Wawrinka dragged himself across the line in 5 brutal sets. The match had to be stopped due to bad light, as neither player would wilt, and a broken Lleyton Hewitt – yes his BIG heart broke his little body – AGAIN – meekly surrendered his serve the next morning to lose the match. Hewitt has a long memory – and that match hurt. Hewitt in 4 for me.

The PRO.

Ocho for Rafa. Bravo

11 Jun

Nadal slides to a reverse backhand return to Djokovic.

Raphael Nadal – rarely stretched in his 8th French Open victory.

Raphael Nadal proved once again what we already know. He is the greatest clay court player of this, and probably all generations with a clinical straight sets win over fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. And in a rare quirk of ATP computer treachery, the win saw Nadal drop from #4 to #5 on the rankings, while Ferrer moved up from #5 to #4. I won’t go into detail on the need to “defend” points from the previous 12 months – suffice to say Ferrer making the final was an improvement on 2012, whereas Rafa winning the final was the same result for him. It’s hard to improve on perfection – more on that later.

Rafa becomes the first man to win a Slam 8 times – both Roger Federer and Pete Sampras amassed 7 Wimbledon titles – and Roger will still start pretty close to favourite this year at Wimbledon. I’m not sure if Federer, Djokovic or Murray will be able to stop the runaway train that is Raphael Nadal. He is relishing his time back on court following serious knee trouble that plagued him in 2012.

In his victorious post match press conference, Rafa conceded “sure I have doubts, so I work as hard as I can.. that’s why I am back” David Ferrer summed things up. “Rafa was better than me – he has the best mentality I’ve ever seen in my career.  He has everything, no?”

Spare a thought for the rest of the players on the ATP tour with Rafa’s fitting final words – “I will keep practising with the same passion and intensity to bring my tennis to the highest level possible…in tennis, for sure, you can improve and keep improving”. Scary.


* worth reading this earlier post from the PRO on Rafa’s comeback


Rafa rules. OK

8 Jun

Rafael Nadal whizzed through his quarter final against Stanislas Wawrinka. The Spanish 3rd seed took the win in 3 sets, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

Rafa was stretched to the limit, but rules Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic almost did what he said he would do, claim victory over Raphael Nadal in the French Open semi final. It took Rafa all of his renowned athleticism, fighting qualities and mental toughness to hold off the belligerent Serb over 4 hours and 37 minutes of roller coaster tennis. The result a 9/7 in the 5th set win in a match that just adds to the back catalogue of classic Nadal / Djokovic  matches. In the other men’s semi David Ferrer, the Spanish ball machine, set up an all Spanish final by thrashing local favourite Jo-Wi Tsonga in straight sets.

While Djokovic licks his wounds and counts an 0-5 win loss record at the French against Rafa, he also rued the lack of support from tournament staff when he asked for the court to be watered as “it was too slippery, it was difficult to change direction, I don’t understand, it was wrong that they didn’t water” – perhaps in a rivalry where it is the smallest of details that can give one player the edge this excuse says more about Djokovic’s state of mind.

As for Rafa – his post match comments leave no doubt, excuses do not enter his thought process. “I lost a match like this in Australia. This one today was for me”. And in a telling philosophical moment he confided to the gathered media – “You need to love the game and appreciate every moment. I have learned to enjoy suffering in these matches”. Uncle Tony would be proud.


PS follow the link to The PRO’s blog on the importance of learning to “suffer” on clay.


French Open semis. The pointy end.

6 Jun

Muscle man

Rafa rips a forehand

With apologies to Roger Federer the men’s semi finals at this year’s French Open line up as most would have expected. And what a tantalising pair of matches these semis will be. The bottom half of the draw pits the bulldog, Spanish ball machine David Ferrer, against raging crowd favourite, the French entertainer – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. And while this will be a great match, it will serve as the curtain raiser to the main event.

In the most anticipated match of the tournament and a replay of last year’s final, world #1 Novak Djokovic takes on 7 time French Open champion, and current #4 Raphael Nadal. Both are in blistering form. Nadal is coming good, as he said in his courtside interview after demolishing Stan Wawrinka “very, very good” at just the right time.

After a long layoff with serious doubts being raised about the durability of Rafa’s knees, the King of Clay is well and truly looking to hold onto that crown. It is a stat that we all know, but almost incomprehensible to think about – Rafa has lost only once at Roland Garros – that’s 57 wins, one loss. He owns the place and must feel bullet proof everytime he steps onto Philippe Chatrier Court.

Nadal and Djokovic have met 34 times with Rafa holding a 19-15 edge and a 12-3 clay court edge – while this seems a solid case for Rafa – recent form is in Novak’s favour. Of the past 16 matches Novak has an 11-5 edge and more importantly they have split the last 6 clay court matches 3-3, and it was Djokovic who won their last meeting on the surface 1 month ago in straight sets.

Djokovic loves the big occasion – and there will be none bigger. He has beaten Rafa in every slam but this one (even if it took 5 hours and 53 minutes to do it in the epic 2012 Australian Open final) and hasn’t shied away from the fact that this is the tournament he has set himself for this year. With all of that on board, The PRO is making a bold prediction and going with the head – and not the heart – Djokovic in 4 sets.

The PRO.

Wow-rinka. Stan you are the man

4 Jun


Richard Gasquet – dreams of a French Open 1/4 final bite the Roland Garros dust.

In one of those epic 4 and a half hour 5 set contests, Swiss #2 and French Open 9th seed, Stanislas Wawrinka defeated hometown hero, 7th seed Richard Gasquet 6/7 4/6 6/4 7/5 8/6. Wawrinka, often described by legendary tennis critic John McEnroe as “having the best one-handed backhand in the game” was looking down the barrel as Richard Gasquet, with arguably as sweet a backhand swing and a partisan Parisian crowd egging him on, almost stole the match in straight sets.

Wawrinka is having a watershed year and is now back to his previous career high ranking of ATP #9. The catalyst for this could well have been the heartbreaking 5 hour “war” with Novak Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open – where Stan the Man won everything but the match, going down 12-10 in a gruelling 5th set. Gone are the days of Wawrinka surrendering meekly, and after treatment for a thigh strain he steadied to take the next 2 sets and the ascendency into the 5th. Gasquet would be the one on the mat as trainers tried to pump some life back into the Frenchman’s legs. Wawrinka prevailed 8-6 in the deciding set.

And what looms next for Stan the Man – a 1/4 final against Raphael Nadal – who must have been relishing the spectacle of his potential next opponent locked in a physically taxing “epic” – and Rafa also safe in the knowledge of a 19 and 0 win-loss aggregate in his favour against the pair of them.


Rafa. Clay please it’s easier on my knees.

7 Oct

Rafa on the run.

Raphael Nadal is hopeful of a return to the ATP tour prior to the season end, and may make himself available for the Davis Cup final. This will come as a relief to many who held grave doubts for Rafa’s continued longevity on the tour.

Nadal himself is now choosing both his words – and his schedule very carefully. As the call for less emphasis on hardcourt training and events, particularly for developing junior players reaches a crescendo, Nadal maintains optimism for his future in the game. Uncle Toni Nadal insists he will not be hurrying Rafa back to the tour – but that “Rafa should be back on the practice courts in 10-15 days”

It wasn’t surprising to also hear Uncle Toni comments in a press conference yesterday in Sao Paulo, among the comments were a call to the ATP Tour to think about playing the year ending Masters final on clay – at least some of the time:

“They should think about a revaluation of the calendar,” said Rafa’s mentor, in view of the many tournaments that are played on hard courts “it is better to protect the health of the athletes.”