The official acceptance list for the Indian Wells doubles draw was finalised on Monday, and an unusual pairing caught everyone’s eye.
Rafael Nadal and Bernard Tomic will team up for the first time and have used their singles rankings to gain entry into the field.
Both Nadal and Tomic have doubles rankings outside the top 100, but their ability to use their singles rankings – No.6 for Nadal and No.31 for Tomic – put them ninth-highest on the entry list with a combined ranking of 37.
“It did surprise me a bit,” Ferrer said. “I am pretty sure he will have his own thoughts and there is still a long way to go this year. Maybe what he thinks now will change at the end of the season. It would be sad not to have Toni on the circuit.”
… “It makes me so happy seeing Roger and Rafa back at their best level,” he said. “They give a lot to this sport and as a fan of tennis, I like to watch them. Besides, Rafa is a great mate and I have played almost all my career alongside him and Roger. So the longer they go, much better.”
Peter Fleming: “Rafa is a creature of habit – he needs structure – and I do think that he was caught off guard when Toni said ‘I’m not doing this next year’. I think Rafa probably took a little time to get accustomed to it but it’s an opportunity for growth.
“Carlos Moya, who grew up in Mallorca, and was Rafa’s idol growing up as a kid is now in the team as his coach and Francisco Roig has been there for many years on a part-time basis.
“It’s not like Toni’s job is really crucial to the team – I think it will be fine.”
The Swiss tennis great made the confession at the unveiling of the new tournament scheduled for Prague in September which will pit a Bjorn Borg-captained European team against John McEnroe’s rest of the world.
Federer, who beat Nadal in an epic five-set Australian Open final last month, admitted on Monday: “I’ve always wanted to play with Rafa… just because our rivalry has been so special.
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are still the top two men’s players in the world, respectively, and Roger Federer won his 18th Grand Slam at the Australian Open last month. But none of those players, in Boris Becker’s mind, are the favorites to win the French Open. Rafael Nadal is the man to beat in Roland Garros.
Toni said that he finally discussed his plans with Rafael this week and that Rafael was initially surprised, in part because of how well things had gone in Australia.
“He was thinking about the short term, and the short term looked very good,” Toni said. “But it was not like I was stepping down immediately. If I had stopped with Rafa overnight, that clearly would have been big news, but I really didn’t think me deciding to focus on the academy next year would be big news.”
That, judging from the Spanish headlines, was a miscalculation.
“My error,” said Toni, who said he should have spoken to Rafael directly before saying anything publicly. “If I thought it was big news, I would not have said it there in Budapest in that setting.”
“Now I am really excited to be in the academy. I step down, but [Rafael] is in good hands. Now I am going to make the most of this 2017. It has been a very long journey, loads of seasons. If instead of my nephew, I had coached somebody else, I would have stepped down much earlier.”
Toni said he would always be ready to give a hand when needed, even though Carlos Moyà and Francis Roig will now take the reins.
“Let’s imagine a scenario where Moyà is not available in 2018 for a few tournaments. And my nephew asks me to help him,” Toni said. “I’ll do it for sure and I’ll enjoy it. My intention is to work at the academy and if they need me, I’ll be there.”
Q. Which of these players has taught you the most with regard to their work ethic? Marc Lopez: Rafa, once again. By spending time with him on a daily basis, I’ve been able to learn about his routine, how professional he is, and everything he’s done for tennis. He lives for tennis, he trains obsessively and is very ambitious… And he’s very humble. I’ve known him since he was 14 or 15 and I’ve been to Mallorca to train with him on several occasions. He tries to surpass himself every day and that’s how he’s achieved all that he’s achieved – and I’m sure that he’s not finished yet. I have a lot of respect for the player and man that he is. He’s a very special player, different from the others. And, since he’s also a good friend, that further strengthens our bond on the court.
Given where Nadal and Federer were/are in their careers, given the arc of their rivalry, given this joint stand against the Murray/Djokovic duopoly, given their ages, given the unlikely sways of the match (As a colleague asked me days later, seeking confirmation: “Wait, Federer came back against Nadal? Isn’t it always vice versa?”…… maybe we just agree that they were both magical, historical moments for tennis. We are in debt to both players and the rivalry they built. And that one man won the first match and the other man won the second leaves us with a nice bit of symmetry.
“Rafael recovered his game,” Toni Nadal told L’Equipe in an interview in French. “His tournament was good, his attitude was good and his matches were not bad against [Grigor] Dimitrov, [Gael] Monfils and [Milos] Raonic.
… “It must not be forgotten that arriving at Roland Garros [in 2016], Rafa had excellent sensations,” said Toni Nadal, who is usually sparing in his positive assessments of his nephew’s play. “There was just this physical issue … For the first time in a long while, Rafael has no physical problems to manage … Since he has been playing with no pain, he has regained a high level.”
On the evidence we saw in Australia, Nadal could reclaim his “King of Clay” title this spring. But he will have to remain healthy, and he will have to deal successfully with the same kind of pressure that caused him to implode in 2015. Remember, Nadal reached the quarterfinals before losing to Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals at Brisbane before the first major of the year. He’s off to a great start, but it’s just start.
Federer and Nadal are largely exempt from the commitment demands of the ATP World Tour. But they must play if they want to continue making headway in the rankings. Right now, both are entered in one warm-up event followed by the two upcoming U.S. hard court Masters 1000s.
Rafael Nadal to win Roland Garros — Predictions the Spaniard would fail to win the one major he has virtually owned for more than a decade rang true in 2015 and 2016. But a surprise run to the Australian Open final to start this season has reinvigorated belief the 30-year-old is well and truly back in the mix and in pole position to recapture the Coupe de Mousquetaires. The Raging Bull’s biggest threats on the terre battue at Roland Garros will not come in the form of defending champion Novak Djokovic or world No.1 Andy Murray, but instead from his own rickety body.
“Esta es mi última temporada con Rafa. Desde el próximo año ya no seguiré a Rafa y me dedicaré exclusivamente a nuestra academia de Manacor. Quiero ocuparme de la formación de jóvenes talentos, que es el momento más delicado”, afirmó Toni Nadal en declaraciones publicadas hoy por la página web “Il Tennis Italiano”.
“My simple answer to that question is: No, they can’t,” said Alan Seymour, a sports marketing consultant and former professor at the UK’s University of Northampton. “There will be a void in the short term.”
Sports stars such as Federer and Nadal, plus Australian Open winner and now 23-time major singles winner Serena Williams and her sister Venus, “have taken on iconic status,” Seymour said, adding it will be difficult to replace them once they retire.
“Federer and Nadal have both stood against that in everything that they do,” Seymour said. “They’ve been great ambassadors for the sport and they’ve given a lot back.”
Two weeks later, the expectations that we’re so used to having are back. Not only can Nadal win another Grand Slam, but he should win another Grand Slam. It’s easy to forget because of his injury history and early success, but The King of Clay is still just 30 years old. He has plenty of tennis left in him, and if the Australian Open was any indicator of what lies ahead, plenty of titles left in him.
He’s still hungry, still focused and still as dangerous as anyone in the world.
Rafa wasn’t a popular pick to win the Australian Open, but would you dare bet against him at Roland Garros? Didn’t think so.
What would a Federer-Nadal one-two in majors say for men’s tennis in 2017? That the standard is the best it has ever been, and rising? That winning even a single Open is a serious triumph? That this captivating game, played by some of the best athletes of any discipline, should be enjoyed with the knowledge that we are living through the best of times? Yes, all of the above, and more.
Roger Federer has the trophy but the glory belongs to both of them.
Roger and Rafa, geniuses and gentlemen: thank you. Thank you.
Eurosport is celebrating a record-breaking Australian Open with yesterday’s men’s final between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal smashing the channels audience records and cementing its status the Home of Grand Slam tennis.
As the game’s greatest rivals faced each other in a Grand Slam final for the first time since 2011, more than 15.2m simultaneous viewers tuned in to Europe’s number one sports destination during yesterday’s final set drama… The dream final between two legends of the game has become Eurosport’s most-watched tennis match of all-time…
ESPN said the men’s final — the first Federer-Nadal matchup in a Grand Slam final since 2011 and their eighth overall — drew a record audience since it moved to an overnight ET time slot in 2005. Starting at 3:30 AM ET Sunday, the five-set match posted a 0.9 overnight rating, up 80% from the 2016 final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. The network said it likely will be the most-watched program at that hour in ESPN history.
Time will tell if their reunion here was a fleeting epilogue or the resumption of another chapter. There is sadness in the fact that the Roger and Rafa show cannot last forever, but profound pleasure in that happened again at all. Tennis, indeed sport, is incalculably richer for its return.
The concern for Federer is that Nadal had the ideal warm-up partner in Dimitrov, who plays a similar all-court game to Federer and also has a flashy one-handed backhand.
Dimitrov hit it beautifully under pressure on Friday night, particularly down the line, and yet he still lost. Federer’s backhand, which has generally looked strong, even off deep balls to the corners, has long tended to break down under the relentless pressure of the left-handed Nadal’s whipping forehand.
All that said, this certainly looks like a more neutral venue in tactical terms than a clay court or a slow hardcourt, which would heavily favor Nadal.
Just seeing Nadal and Federer in this setting again should be reward enough for most tennis fans. But I expect they’ll give us a lot more than just their names and reputations. As they’ve showed us over the last two weeks, they can still play with—and play better than—anyone.
Perhaps encapsulating the excitement and occasion best was not a newspaper or online outlet, nor fans on twitter, but instead Andy Roddick, the American former world No.1 who played both Federer and Nadal at their peaks.
“It might be, as far as history goes, the biggest match ever in Australian Open history,” he said, “and maybe grand slam history.”
“He’s an incredible tennis player,” said Federer, who described himself as Nadal’s number one. “He’s got shots that no other one has. When you have that, you are unique and special.”
Should Nadal win on Sunday, he will be the first man in the Open era – and third overall – to win all four Grand Slam titles twice. Federer, meanwhile, is trying to become the first man to win three of the major titles five times.
“It’s exciting for both of us that we are still there and fighting for important events,” said Nadal. “It’s very special.”
“I have said and argued with John McEnroe and Ted Robinson during our French Open telecasts for many years that you cannot anoint Roger Federer the greatest of all time if he isn’t the greatest of his own time,” Carillo said in Melbourne on Saturday. “And it’s not just on red clay. Nadal has the edge on hard courts as well. Like in boxing, it’s all about the matchup. When Roger is playing at his luminous best he has no need to worry about the other side of the net.
“But if he is playing Nadal, even his best is often not enough.”
With 35 titanic clashes over the last 13 years, Federer and Nadal have staked their claim as the greatest rivalry in sporting history. In tennis, time is a commodity. Careers don’t last forever. It’s not the longest-running rivalry of all-time, but it is arguably the most pervasive, transcending Federer and Nadal themselves and becoming a staple of modern culture.
From Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo in football to Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier in boxing, Jack Nicklaus-Arnold Palmer in golf and Larry Bird-Magic Johnson in the NBA, there have been many legendary rivalries over the years, but few have captured the imagination quite like Roger vs. Rafa. They have made each other stronger, more influential figures both between the lines and away from the court.
Nadal has won each of their last six meetings in Grand Slams, twice in Paris, three times in Australia and once at Wimbledon. Going by all these numbers, it is likelier that Nadal’s Grand Slam tally will go up to 15, than Federer climbing to 18. Unless Federer can combine the break opportunities of the first 26 matches with the conversion rate of the last eight.
“It’s arguable their biggest ever match and I think, assuming that Roger is fit, then you kind of feel the conditions will suit him. But it’s 51 per cent, 49 per cent – I don’t think there is a clear-cut favourite right now.”
This is the final no one expected but nearly everyone wanted. A fortnight ago, nobody outside their immediate circles would have predicted that the title would be decided between the world No17 and the world No9 in a stretch of competition where Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are so far ahead of the field that their nearest rival is Milos Raonic, the ailing Canadian who went out to Nadal in the quarter-finals.
John McEnroe believes that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are already the two greatest male tennis players ever to draw breath. Ahead of the final, which will be played on Sunday morning in the UK, McEnroe joined Catherine Whitaker (Eurosport) for an interview that we can hear in its entirety here on the Tennis Podcast.
“They are the two greatest of all-time already, but this gives Roger a change to extend his lead to 18 Slams or Rafa to narrow the gap to just two,” said McEnroe.
Rafael Nadal of Spain looks on in his third round match against Alexander Zverev of Germany on day six of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Jan. 20, 2017 – Source: Scott Barbour/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Xisca Perello, girlfriend of Spain’s Rafael Nadal, uses a smartphone during his men’s singles third round match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev on day six of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 21, 2017. / AFP / PETER PARKS / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE (Jan. 20, 2017 – Source: AFP)
“He’s looking for his forehand again, and I like that he’s using his forehand down the line more,” said Conchita Martínez, the Spanish Davis Cup captain. “To hit that shot, you have to be well balanced and well set, and he’s doing that and he’s running good, getting to balls early, and being aggressive.”
Nadal was playing this way last spring before the injury, and he now has a big opportunity in the bottom half of the draw in Melbourne with Djokovic out of contention and nobody other than Nadal left in that half who has won a Grand Slam singles title.
Claiming his first Grand Slam title at age 19 and becoming known as the “Raging Bull” as he charged on to win 13 more, Rafael Nadal’s fighting spirit has never been in doubt. But translating that spirit into big wins has been a challenge of late.
… Nadal will be hoping that no such marathon is required in the fourth round against Gael Monfils, whom he leads 12-2 in their head-to-head record. The Frenchman’s two wins have both been in the season-opening event in Doha, Qatar – although it’s an anomaly that hasn’t occurred since 2012.
… Monfils’ No. 6 seeding does matter. He has been a more substantive and dangerous competitor over the last year than he ever has been before. In the 2016 final against Nadal in Monte Carlo, Monfils won the first and only set he’s ever taken from Rafa on clay. Monfils has also been sharp in his first three matches Down Under. He should make it interesting against Nadal, and might push it to five. But after his last win, over Alexander Zverev, Rafa should feel a little more confident in the clutch.
Rafael Nadal: Moyà ha venido con algunos ejercicios nuevos. Es cierto que yo soy mucho de pelotear y pelotear en los entrenamientos, pero desde que ha llegado Carlos lo estamos haciendo menos, probando cosas más específicas.
Toni Nadal: Sí, Moyà ha aportado ejercicios que son muy buenos para el juego de Rafael. En función de cómo ha ido el partido, hablamos y vemos qué hacer. Por ejemplo, en el segundo partido ante Baghdatis falló varias derechas invertidas y pensamos que deberíamos trabajar ese golpe al día siguiente.
Carlos Moya: “I wanted to see how eager Rafa was to be back at the top. He proved to me that he was doing and will do anything in his power to be back at the top. He’s not that far away, and he has time. The young players are not ready to be Top 5 in the world yet so he has a couple of years to make it back. He needs to win a few matches now, just to get the extra 10 or 20% of confidence. You can not change a 14-time Grand Slam champion when he is 30 years old, but he can evolve.”
Injuries and confidence issues have played their part in that time, but Nadal remains a potent threat when fully fit and fired up, no matter the surface. Should he reclaim the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup on January 29, the 2009 champion will join Roy Emerson and Rod Laver as the only men to win all four Grand Slam titles at least twice, and the first to do so exclusively in the Open era.
… Nadal is hoping he’ll benefit from his decision to end his season in October. Rest has always been something Nadal has been loath to try. Yet he did it.
Another sign of just how times are changing — and how seriously Nadal is seeking to reinvent himself — was Nadal’s decision in December to change up from his fierce loyalty to his longtime coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, and add countryman Carlos Moya to his coaching team after 40-year-old Moya split with Milos Raonic.
La vida no es sólo ganar y ser el mejor. Hay otras cosas también. Aunque en el deporte, de cara a los medios de comunicación o a la opinión general, sólo valga ganar también existen otras cosas. En la vida hay cosas más importantes que ganar. Está la felicidad de uno, hacer lo que te gusta si te sientes bien. Lógicamente, si no estás bien es un sufrimiento.
Entrenar a Nadal es el mayor reto que voy a tener nunca, el mayor desafío en toda mi carrera como entrenador. Primero, por lo que significa Rafa. Segundo, porque nunca voy a poder entrenar a alguien tan grande como él. Y tercero, por todo lo que nos conocemos, lo que hemos pasado juntos, lo que hemos vivido en la pista y fuera de ella. Ningún reto va a poder igualar a este que tengo por delante. Y estoy preparado para ello, le voy a incidir en muchas cosas que puede mejorar dentro de la pista, pero también fuera de ella.
“The thing is, Roger and Rafa can still win big titles; it’s the matter of doing it over the whole year that’s the challenge,” said Paul Annacone, who formerly coached Pete Sampras and Federer. “But I don’t see a reason why people should even wonder. Rafa can win the French Open playing average tennis for him, and Roger can win Wimbledon playing good. And there’s no reason why they can’t do that this year or for a couple more years if they stay healthy.