VIDEO: Rafael Nadal is back on grass

Rafael Nadal had his first grass-court practice today in Mallorca.

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PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal uses time off to take short holiday with friends

After winning a record 10th French Open title, Rafael Nadal is now enjoying a short holiday with friends on his yacht Beethowen.

Photos: Splash News, East News

Rafa Roundup: Rafa hopes his “knees hold up well” on the grass

Photo via GQ

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“If I have pain in my knees, then I know from experience that it’s almost impossible,” he said. “After 2012 what happened with my knees has made it tougher and tougher for me to compete on grass.”

“It’s been a while since I played a good Wimbledon,” Nadal admitted. “I love grass. Everybody knows that. It’s a surface that I really enjoyed playing on a lot. I missed playing Wimbledon again [last year], so I hope that my knees will hold up well and that I can have the preparation that I really need and want.”

He added: “I need to have strong and powerful legs to play well at Wimbledon. If I don’t feel that, then probably my chances are not good. But if I am healthy and I am able to have the right preparation and feel healthy during Wimbledon, then I will probably have my chances to play well.”

But Rafael Nadal reminds us that the best in any sport exceed not just our expectations of what an athlete can do physically, but what a human can do mentally. Nadal cares, with superhuman seriousness, about every game, every shot. You cannot coach a player to want to win as much as Nadal wants to win. It has to arise from some roiling, unquenchable, internal compulsion to be great.

What we saw over the last two weeks has been a nearly annual ritual since 2005, and barring catastrophic injury, it isn’t going anywhere soon. At 31, Rafa is not what he was at 21; revisit the highlights and this man wouldn’t be confused for his younger, even more yoked, faster self. But it is still more than good enough to dominate the current ecosystem. So long as he keeps finding ways to return to the tour healthy, and so long as the younger generation continues to struggle under the onerous slab of talent that is the Big Four, these titles will still be Nadal’s to win (and bite). Ten is a nice, clean number, but it is hardly a finish line unto itself.

Much has changed since his first victory at Roland Garros in 2005, the year of his first appearance in the tournament. Back then, Nadal was partial to sleeveless shirts and pirate pants, Court Philippe Chatrier had no aerial camera, and a fan could enter Roland Garros Stadium without being frisked by security officials.

The world is very different, but the men’s game has remained surprisingly resistant to change. Nadal’s career-long rival, Roger Federer, beat him to win the Australian Open in January at age 35. Now Nadal has won another French Open, closing the gap with Federer in the standings for career Grand Slam singles titles.

Nadal is 79-2 at Roland Garros. What may be most impressive is the fact that, on a court where he had never been beloved, he has won all 10 finals he has played without ever having to go to a fifth set. He has tamed his nerves every time, weathered rallies by his opponents every time, and closed the door early every time.

How does a player win a tournament 10 times? I said it after Rafa won La Décima in Monte Carlo this spring, and I’ll say it again after his La Décima in Paris: By playing every match as if it’s his last, and celebrating every win as if it’s his first.

“I was terribly surprised to win the Australian Open and then back it up in Indian Wells and Miami,” Federer said, “but I think Rafa winning the French Open is less of a surprise because he’s already done it nine times before, now 10, which is absolutely gigantic. It was incredible, really, simply that.

“I was hoping that he was going to dominate the clay court season like he did in the olden days.”

PHOTOS: French Open: Rafael Nadal’s Roland Garros evolution | CNN

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Tired Rafael Nadal needs rest before Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal says he will miss next week’s tournament at Queen’s Club as he needs to rest ahead of Wimbledon.

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images 

Our champ posted on his Facebook page:

I am very sorry to say that I am not going to be able play Queen’s next week. I am sad to make this decision because I love Queen’s, I won the tournament in 2008 and every time I reached the Wimbledon final it was after playing Queen’s.

I was hoping to take some days off and then be ready, but at 31, and after a long clay court season with all of the emotions of Roland Garros, and after speaking to my team and doctors, I have decided my body needs to rest if I am going to be ready to play Wimbledon.

Sorry to all the great fans in Britain and to the tournament organisers. I hope to see you at Queen’s next year.

Rest well, Rafa!

Rafael Nadal qualifies for Tour Finals already

Rafael Nadal has become the first player to book his place at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London in November after he won a record 10th French Open title in Paris on Sunday.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

He has claimed four titles on the tour this year, winning 46 matches and losing just six in a stellar 2017.

Rafa:

I’ve had a great season so far and I am happy to have already qualified for London.

I could not play last year because of injury so I look forward to returning in November.

Our champ has never won the event, but finished runner-up in 2010 and 2013, losing out to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, respectively.

The ATP World Tour Finals, which features the world’s top eight singles players and top eight doubles pairs, will be held at London’s O2 Arena from Nov. 12-19.

Source: Reuters

ATP Rankings: Rafael Nadal is so close to being No. 1 again

Rafael Nadal poses during a photocall to celebrate his record breaking 10th French Open title at Quai de Grenelle on June 12, 2017 in Paris, France. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The new rankings are up. After his success at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal climbed to second in the rankings (his highest placing since October 2014), cutting the gap on Andy Murray to just 2605 points.

Rafa didn’t play a single grass-court event last year. Andy won both Queen’s and Wimbledon so he will need to defend all those points from last year.

ATP Rankings (as of Monday):

1. Andy Murray – 9890
2. Rafael Nadal – 7285
3. Stan Wawrinka – 6175
4. Novak Djokovic – 5805
5. Roger Federer – 4945
6. Milos Raonic – 4450
7. Marin Cilic – 4115
8. Dominic Thiem – 3985
9. Kei Nishikori – 3830
10. Alexander Zverev – 3070

Novak Djokovic slid from No. 2 to No. 4, his lowest status in 7 1/2 years. Andy Murray retains his No. 1 ranking and Stan Wawrinka stays at No. 3. Roger Federer is still No. 5 after missing the French Open for the second year in a row.

Rafa is still #1 in the year-to-date rankings. ATP still hasn’t published it, but our champ is definitely the first player to qualify for the prestigious season-ending tournament, to be held from 12-19 November at The O2 in London.

Rafa was asked yesterday whether getting back to No. 1 in the rankings is important to him. He has spent a total of 141 weeks there, most recently in July 2014. He said:

I am playing well. I am in a good position. I just won the most important event of the year for me, so that’s the only thing that matters today, no?

Winning these kind of titles, then you have chances to become any number (in) the ranking.

The next Grand Slam tournament, Wimbledon, starts on July 3.

Source: The Associated Press

PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal’s Roland Garros trophy shoot

Rafael Nadal proudly holds up his Musketeers trophy from his win at the 2017 French Open while posing in front of the Eiffel Tower on Monday (June 12) in Paris.