Rafa Roundup: ‘Rafael Nadal is to clay what Michael Phelps is to water’

Photo: Marco Strullu
Photo: Marco Strullu


Federer, the winner of 17 Grand Slam titles, but 13 times a loser against Nadal on clay, sums it up like this: “Clay just helps his game overall because he’s the best mover we’ve ever seen on clay. Because of his sliding, he saves a lot of metres. I think what always shows up is his mental strength and his physical strength: even if you play great, he can still beat you and that’s what makes him the legend he is today.” … “He’s an example for all the Spanish people and for all the kids in Spain,” Alonso tells BBC Sport. “Not only for the people on the street but also for us, other sportsmen, when we see him fighting the way he does. He’s never giving up, he’s always believing in his power – it’s very inspirational. In Spain, he’s the biggest sportsman probably in history.

The sixth seed improved to a 67-1 record at the clay-court major after he beat wild card Quentin Halys 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 50 minutes. He will next play fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who won two less points than Alexandr Dolgopolov in a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) victory over Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Since winning his first title in 2004 at Sopot, Nadal has suffered just 20 losses on clay. Five of those have come this year—the most clay court defeats he has experienced in one season since 2003 (six). “I had some up and downs during the season, [and it] is normal that can happen here,” he admitted. “I am trying to avoid that, and I am here to try to play good tennis and to give me a chance to play well and to compete for everything. My mentality and my goal is the same always.” Nadal will face fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the second round.

The clay in Chatrier is playing unusually slow this year, and Rafa had some trouble hitting his heavy topspin through it early on. But he took advantage of the opportunities presented by his erratic opponent, opened up on his shots as he relaxed, and finished in something close to full flow. The stat that tells the story of the 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 match is the unforced errors: Nadal committed 13, Halys 52.

Usually Rafael Nadal is to clay what Michael Phelps is to water, what LeBron James is to hardwood. … But Nadal looked sharp as well, winning his 67th French Open match in 68 starts. He knew little about his opponent—French teenager Quentin Halys—but was never really in danger, advancing 6–3, 6–3, 6–4. It wasn’t flawless. It wasn’t Nadal in turbo mode to which we’re accustomed here. But it was solid. Which is about all he could ask for.

 Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

If Roger’s outfit startled for its contrasting purple and pink, Rafa went for shocks with blocks as he stepped out onto court today fully clad in blue from head-to-not-quite-toe. Opinion seemed to be divided on this outfit but I will say that I think it’s a great look, and everyone who thinks otherwise is utterly incorrect.

The line of questioning stemmed from controversy over Spain choosing Gala Leon as their first female Davis Cup captain following Carlos Moya’s exit. … “People have said I was macho so I won’t say anything about that any longer,” Nadal told reporters. “I don’t want to talk about sexism because I’m not macho. Women are very important to me. My mum, my sister, my fiancee. There are lots of people in my life, lots of women who play a pivotal role. I don’t want to be embroiled in that story because this will fuel lots of stories that are not true.”

After his first-round victory at the French Open on Tuesday, Nadal said he respects Bernardes, but it is “better for both of us if we are not (on a) court at the same time for a while.” … Nadal said he felt Bernardes was “not enough respectful” during a match in Rio de Janeiro, when Nadal put his shorts on improperly and asked if he could go to the locker room to change. Nadal said Bernardes told him he would receive a time warning. “For me, that’s not fair,” Nadal said.

“Even so,” Nadal says today, “it is not a product to show off, even if it is beautiful. It’s a real product. It costs so much because it is an extreme watch. A lot of work goes into producing the best watch possible, [it shows its] real value [in that way].”



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