Rafa Roundup: Did you know Cher is a big Nadal fan?

(Photo by Tnani Badreddine/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)


This rivalry has been marked by extreme momentum swings. Nadal found his top gear on tour earlier than Djokovic and won five of the first six matches between them; then they split four. Nadal won seven of the next eight, then Djokovic found himself and won 10 of 12. Nadal got the upper hand again, winning six of seven over the next two years, but Djokovic won 11 of 12 from 2013 to 2016 while Nadal was battling injury and form issues. But then Djokovic dealt with his own set of injuries and issues, and Nadal had won five of the past eight — with all wins coming on clay — before Djokovic’s Friday win.

From 2012 to 2016, Nadal hit 30 percent of his first shots after his serves from inside the baseline. But each year he has worked with Moya, that number has risen, first to 36 percent, then to 39 percent, then to 41 percent, and last year to 42 percent.

Why is that so important? Because when Nadal hits that first shot from inside the baseline, he wins 74 percent of the points. When he hits the first shot from behind the baseline, he wins just 59 percent of the points.

And while Nadal often drifts deep into the back court when his opponents serve, the points quickly evolve into a fight for him to get forward, to that nub of tape in the middle of the baseline he earlier kicked clean to give himself a target to scurry toward during the point.

Even though Nadal is giving himself less time to set up by stepping into the court for that first shot, he is still hitting the ball back as hard as he always did, on average about 75 miles per hour, according to Hawkeye, with a fierce level of topspin that makes his ball feel like a rock on his opponents’ rackets.

Novak Djokovic’s epic battle with Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros semi-finals began trending on Twitter long before the match ticked over the four-hour mark. After 13-time champion Nadal won the opening set, Djokovic fought back to win 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 to set up a meeting with Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final.

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  1. If Stefanos doesn’t win I hope he is arrested and jailed for giving me false hope🤣😂

  2. The possum is thoroughly invested now. Looks like ne set shoot out to come. Hope he hasn’t broken the spirit of Stefanos.

  3. Here goes Novak again!! Down 2 sets but looks like he’s going to win it. Come on Stefanos!! Take it take it!!

  4. Oh no! The trainer for Stefanos. Not a sight i want to see. Novak will take heart from this and make him run 😫

  5. Superb skill shown by Stefanos. His stroke production is brilliant 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 Hope he can hang tough and continue to take advantage of a very jaded looking Djokovic .

      • OK so you know ND is down 2 sets. Stefanos HAS to win one more. CALL on the Greek gods, voodoo, and brujeria for a Stefanos win. 😂

      • Yes, I started watching when Stefanos was a break up in the 2nd set.
        👌 I will do whatever!😂

      • What was that ND yelling about? Was it this match? I had to run into the kitchen and when I got back he had his arm raised and big mouth yapping. I thought it was from some other match that they split in?

      • Thanks Mimi. I saw only part of that match. Glad I missed his histrionics. Now I understand all the comments here about ND’s behavior in that match. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!

        This crowd is for Stefanos and every time the camera pans on ND’s wife she looks as if she’s about to burst out in tears. She was doing the same thing during Rafa’s match every time Rafa won a point. Two peas in a pod.

      • You’re welcome Margo. Is Stefanos okay? He called the trainer earlier.😬 ND is up two breaks in the fourth set……

  6. I can empathize with all you, guys. Personally, and I am in my 60s, this is my worst time rooting for Rafa, and this is perhaps because of a sense of urgency knowing that he may just have a couple of good years left. I was hardly able to sleep the whole night back here in the Philippines where I was monitoring the match with my fellow Rafa diehards whom I organized into a Messenger chat group called Rafa Fans. It was sometime at 2:30 a.m. or thereabouts here in Manila when I decided to monitor his match with Djokovic while my chatmates were awake and watching the TV broadcast the whole night until it finished at about 5:20 a.m.

    But I really think it was simply not meant to be for him to win this match and go on to annex his 14th French Open title. We here in the Philippines have done everything to support our guy, even offering prayers for him. Personally, I’ve always rooted for players or teams whose character could be a model, and this is a big factor why I’ve rooted for Rafa since the late 2000s. But there are certain times when what we wish for simply does not come to pass, and this is one of those times.

    In retrospect, this is a very hard loss to take for us Rafa fans. The most disappointing aspect of this loss of course is that it had to come against Novak Djokovic, who as we all know doesn’t exactly radiate the best of characters particularly ranged against Rafa or even Roger Federer. But looking at it from the perspective of a sportswriter like me, the most depressing factors in this loss are, first, it deprived Rafa of a chance to go up in the Grand Slam standings by his lonesome with 21 major titles. Second, it also deprived him of his best chance to tie Djokovic in their head-to-head matchup. Now, Nole is again up by two 30-28.

    Third, it marks only his third loss at Roland Garros and breaks his aura of invincibility in the clay-court major. Fourth, it gives Djokovic bragging rights as the only guy to have beaten Rafa twice at Roland Garros.

    I’m expecting – or praying is more like it – that Rafa now takes the US Open title with him likely skipping Wimbledon, which I think is the right thing to do, or he could end up without a Grand Slam championship for the first time since 2015 and 2016. Only a 21st major this year would mitigate his loss in this year’s French Open.

    • I totally agree with everything you have said celticbert. It would be fantastic if Rafa could recover and re-group in time to win the US Open for a fifth time. It will be very tough for him to do it though, with the young, up and coming big hitters like Sinner, Medvedev and Zverev looking to take ‘big scalps’. Also, New York can be very hot and humid, which is not good for Rafa’s style of play or his well-being at the age of 35.
      I am also praying for a Tsitsipas win today, for obvious reasons.

      • Unfortunately, Ginagigi, our hope of a Tsitsipas victory never came to pass, as everybody now knows. But I and my fellow Rafa fans here in the Philippines have serious doubts about what Novak Djokovic had to take in order to beat Tsitsipas, and even Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the quarterfinals. If you noticed, the two matches where Djokovic had to come from two sets down had eerily very similar routines, with Djokovic calling for a timeout and going to the bathroom carrying his whole bag after losing the first two sets. I would not have suspected anything if he just brought with him his shirt or shorts if it was just to change, but the whole bag? How can the ATP allow such a method?

        Here are excerpts from ESSENTIALLY SPORTS.COM that support that suspicion on what really took place during those timeouts that Djokovic called. I really suspect that Nole did something extraordinary, to say the least, and what reinforces that suspicion is the fact that that exact routine took place.twice in this tournament under exactly the same circumstances.

        What adds an even stranger dimension is the way that his rivals, in this case, Stefanos Tsitsipas, inexplicably could no longer play the way they used to in the first two sets. Could there be a voodoo in play here? I guess the inexperience of Musetti made their match so lopsided that Musetti even took a bagel after beating Djokovic in two high-pressure tiebreaks earlier. The only difference with Tsitsipas was he was more seasoned to have given a more decent resistance when play resumed in the finals.

        You see the point?


        Tsitsipas highlighted that Djokovic’s time-out was the biggest turning point of the match. He stated that the Serbian legend went out for some time after the end of the second set and once play resumed, he was a completely different player. The Greek player even emphasized that Djokovic was a much better player after he returned to the court.

        “He left the court after two sets zero. I don’t know what happened there but he was another player after. Physically, anticipation, pace: he was much better than before. He could read my game better. Good for him, he did well,” added the 22-year-old.

        Tsitsipas said that Djokovic was able to read his game much better after his time-out. In the end, it really helped Nole as he was able to win the match from two sets down.

        In the post-match interview, Stefanos Tsitsipas revealed the real reason for his loss. He admitted that his rhythm was a little bit off and he faced a lot of difficulties to readjust in the match. However, strangely, he didn’t know the real reason for his poor performance in the last three sets.

        “I felt like my rhythm was off. I really don’t know why. It was very strange… suddenly I just felt cold and out of it. It was difficult to readjust. I lost my game a little bit. I wish I could understand why this happened. It was a good opportunity,” said Tsitsipas in the interview.

  7. The following is from Eurosport. I translated it and that is why I am leaving out quotes. Left out are musings by the author.

    Rafa was seen leaving from his hotel Saturday morning and headed for the airport in a van.

    He will not play Mallorca. I would love to play but I don’t have a choice. I am at the age that I am and will never play the week before a Grand Slam. I am unable to start training in three days; it is untenable.

    After two months of intense efforts on clay, without reaching my main objective, I was still able to bring home two titles. But my body is suffering after all of that. I don’t know what the immediate future looks like. This year Wimbledon is only two weeks after Roland-Garros.

    It was different when I was 25-years-old. I am now 35-years-old and have to see how I recuperate. I must turn away from all of that and rest at home. I was in a bubble in Paris for two-and-a-half weeks. I need to breathe and profit from the sun at Mallorca. Whatever happens after is less important.

    • Thanks for that Margo. I suppose it’s a bit like USO and RG last year, too close together. Bubble life must be so hard, the photo of Rafa and Charly looking over the river in Paris, with a caption saying it’s good to be able to get out and breathe (or words to that effect) said it all. It’s looking unlikely that restrictions will be lifted in the UK before Wimbledon so Rafa and his team would probably be facing another two weeks stuck in a hotel rather than the lovely house in the village that they normally rent. There are a lot of reasons or him not to come, unfortunately.

      • You’re welcome jas_uk and thank you for the first alert. I looked a lot yesterday for news on our champ and came up empty. Went to sleep really early because I was stressed🙁
        Our Champion needs R&R.

    • Thank you Margo. The disappointment that Rafa is feeling and the toll that his clay exploits have taken on his body are clear. I wouldn’t blame him if he skipped the grasscourt season completely and concentrated on the USO, where he has had better luck in recent years.
      In kindness to his body and considering the hardcourt surface, I think it would be wise for him to play just one warm up tournament leading up to the USO.
      Rest well and enjoy the finer things in life, champ. Looking forward to seeing you return when you’re ready.

      • You’re welcome Lorna. I expected Rafa to take a good amount of time off because as I said earlier “it wasn’t Rafa.” I wasn’t looking for excuses for his loss, I was looking for an underlying explanation and prayed he wasn’t injured. Here’s to the return of a healthy and happy Rafa.

    • I have noticed that Xisca has missed a number of Rafa’s matches during this clay court season, which is very surprising, given that all of the tournaments are so close to Majorca and the clay court season is so important to Rafa. But there is no way that Xisca would miss Rafa’s Semi-Final at RG unless she is poorly or pregnant? I do hope it is the latter. Since Rafa’s family rightly value their privacy, I would not expect them to comment upon it, unless and until the question can no longer be avoided.
      The answer to that question may well influence whether Rafa plays Wimbledon. On the one hand he really needs the rest and Wimbledon is only two weeks away. On the other hand, he may well drop down the rankings if he doesn’t play, which would make life more difficult for him at the US Open. A tough call for him.

    • Yes, thank you Margo.🙏

      Take care Rafa, take as much time as you need.❤️ See you again whenever you are ready.

  8. By Marca Rafa is in doubt with the wimblendod participation. I wonder in rafa is physically ok…

    • I believe Rafa said in the Spanish part of his press conference that he wouldn’t play the Mallorca grass event and would decide about Wimbledon after a few days’ rest. I haven’t found a full video or transcript of that interview, but it seems someone asked specifically what his plans were. To me, Rafa didn’t appear to be OK physically towards the end of the match and I’ve seen others suggest online that the problems started earlier than that. I hope it’s just wear and tear that will go away with rest. It could be that Rafa and his team are also waiting on Wimbledon’s decisions on attendance, restrictions, etc with the tournament in turn waiting for government announcements.

      • Hi jas_uk,

        I think things don’t look good at the moment ……I am still waiting for the “green” light from UK whether I can go to Wimbledon or not, and was told by the tennis tour I joined there’s another announcement around the 21st.

        Hope Rafa is okay physically and mentally after some rest!❤️

  9. One point occurs to me. Mary (Xisca) wasn’t present in all matches, it seems. Saw her for a couple of Rafa’s matches – the rest she was absent – notably for the sfinals – even though all others incl Mum, Dad, sister were there for the sfinal. Is she Ok and well, I wonder. Very much hope so. Did her absence affect Rafa’s mental state and energy levels ?

    • Yes I also noticed Xisca Perello was absent from the semi finals match in Roland Garros, I hope she is well, sending hugs to all the family xxoox 😘

    • Yes I noticed Mary (Xisca) was absent also and Rafa’s Mum and Sister and all others were present at the Semifinals match in Roland Garros, I hope she okay and well 😘💐

    • There may be some validity to your suggestion but seeing how private they are it’s uncertain if we will find out the reason for her absence. There was a special event at the fundación on the 9th that she did not attend so it wasn’t related to her having to go back to Mallorca for that. We may learn something over the coming days but praying that it won’t be negative news.

      Nosotras te amamos Maria. Dios te bendiga.

      • I have a thought Pauline. Mery, knowing how exhausted he was and, worried about an injury preferred he not play. Rafa played anyway and maybe she decided not to be present at his matches.

        Knowing how private this couple is, we may never know.

      • Thanks Margo. I have been concerned (actually a bit depressed) about the situation but your explanation is one to consider.

        Yes Mimi wishing nothing but good health and true happiness to Rafa and his lovely wife.💞

  10. What a match ! To lose ! Memories of that 2018 Wimbie sfinal – sad, painful memories – Rafa tiring at the end against the relentless tennis machine – not able to serve well enough – too tired to get power in those serves and legs.

    Cher was spot on calling Novak a major machine – how he does it, is beyond belief and comprehension. Such strength and resilience we usually associate with Rafa, but Novak just keeps stretching the limits each time. Kudos to both players – both magnificent – but Rafa’s my idol. Been his devoted fan for over 15 yrs – will always be his fan – and will suffer enormously his pains and struggles, and of course, rejoice greatly in his every triumph. Can’t put it better than Cher about Rafa taking your heart – one’s a machine warrior – the other a flesh and blood, guts and emotion, human warrior, who steals your heart – and keeps it for ever. This is why Novak will never have the appeal that Rafa commands – our Rafa is a heart- strings puller – a show-stopper, if ever there was one.

    So, life moves on, as Rafa says. There’s Wimbledon to look forward to – I do so hope he will play – and that he will win Wimbie one more time. 3 Wimbie crowns would be such a beautiful adornment to his glittering career. Here’s hoping – with all the other Rafans around the world – and in this forum too – which I always reading. Love to all of you 😊🌞

    • Hear, hear Sushi Krish!

      I couldn’t have expressed this better!

      We are so blessed by this extraordinary being.

  11. Even though i may be sad about Rafa, sport has to be put into perspective. In the Denmark v Finland European Championship football match, Christian Erikssen of Demark collapsed on the pitch a few moments ago..Everyone in the stadium was shocked into silence. They are trying hard to revive him on the pitch and the match has been abandoned. This just brings home to me that sport is secondary and life family and friends so important.
    I hope and pray that the medics are able to save Christian and i wish him well..

      • He has been stabilized and was alert when carried off the field. Obviously he will be going through tests to find out why he collapsed. Both teams decided to finish the game.

    • I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed for Stefanos today. I really hope he can combine talent, belief and stamina to win through. Where there’s hope there’s a chance!

  12. If Rafa has taught me anything when it comes to Rafa, it is to be more resilient. I thought I was prepared for the day he would lose Roland-Garros once he got older. How does one prepare for the unexpected.

    The signs were there and we knew he wasn’t playing to his potential but Rafa is beguiling in his way to beat an opponent when things aren’t looking good for him. I watched it all as I could not look away hoping to the end that Rafa would prevail. I watched him leave the court waving to fans. A true champion always.

    Here’s to wishing Rafa a quick recovery, mentally and physically. I hope he’s out on his Cat enjoying life with those he loves. I will be waiting for him when he returns to the circuit. Rafa always and forever my favored player.


  13. Rafael Nadal is the one great player/athlete who you can believe in on any surface in any circumstance. We love,pray, and follow Rafa now and always. Still cannot believe the loss occurred. We have gratitude that Rafa came along. No one will ever take his place at the top in our memory and in our hearts. Rafa May you continue to
    grow and create greatest you have in you. Always you fan. PCH

  14. Dear Rafa per his press conference he was very tired and also had pressure on his ankle from the support on it. Rafa will bounce back and give us all many more hours of sheer pleasure, those being privelidged to witness it. Vamos Rafa.

  15. Regardless of Novak winning the match Rafa is and allways will be the King of Clay. This record is extremely unlikely to ever be broken. Sad day today but on a positive note there is Rafa”s statue at Roland Garros to mark his incredible record.

  16. so sad that you lost the semi final at Roland Garros you tried your best.and fight until the end, your loyal fans will stand by your side no matter the outcome, please keep your chin up and stay positive, you will always remain the King of Clay! 😔👋👋🎾🎾

  17. Yes, there was that strange time when Rafa couldn’t beat Nole for love nor money, and Roger couldn’t beat Rafa for love nor money, but we seem to have moved on from that now.

  18. Thank you for the information…Cher has good tennis sense! We have a legend in Rafa Nadal…a superb competitor on all serfaces over many, many years. 2020/2021 very tough with Covid calling the shots (excuse pun) 13 titles in Paris! I am wondering if we supporters will enjoy more Rafa now that he has been dethroned in Paris. The stress of that has been almost too much for me since 10 titles. Greetings to all Rafa Fans from Melbourne Australia. Many blessings & thanks to our champion on la terre battue.

    • Regardless of Novak winning the match Rafa is and allways will be the King of Clay. Its extremely unlikely his record at this tournament will ever be broken. Sad day today but on a positive note Rafa has his statue at Roland Garros to make his incredible achievements.

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