Rafa Roundup: Rafael Nadal yet to decide on playing Saudi Arabia exhibition

Photo via Paris Masters


“I slow down a little bit the intensity of course… I stopped [practising] for a while after the US Open so then I started to practise slowly, step-by-step,” Nadal said. “It’s nothing new for me. It’s something that happened in my career a couple of times. So more or less we know the process, and we know the thing that works good to us, things that don’t work good.”

“I just go day by day, no? I am happy to be here. I am having better feelings on court. I am practising a little bit more every day. And, yeah, trying to improve the positive feelings. That’s all what I can say today, no?” Nadal said.

Nadal, who was won 17 major titles to Djokovic’s 14, added that the match had been agreed over a year ago, a long time before the recent controversy surrounding the regime emerged.

“It’s terrible that one journalist lost his life. I know something very bad happened inside there,” Nadal said.

“We are looking about how the situation evolves and I hope things will be clarified as soon as possible.”

The pair will enter the main draw on Monday with Nadal just 35 points ahead of his Serbian rival in the ATP rankings – 7,480 to 7,445 – and the equation is simple enough; whoever lasts longer in Paris will be the number one by the end of the week. So if they both get knocked out in the same round, then Nadal will hold on to the top spot going into the Nitto ATP finals in London but if the Spaniard loses in any round that the Serb successfully negotiates, then Djokovic will take over. And if they both progress to a final showdown in Paris? Well, then we really will have a sensational, winner-takes-all finale!


Rafa returns to the ATP World Tour at the Rolex Paris Masters and discusses his year-end No. 1 battle with Novak Djokovic.


Rafa Roundup: Will Nadal and Djokovic cancel their exhibition match in Saudi Arabia?

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The Barcelona defender, who spearheads the company behind the new format of the Davis Cup, said Wednesday that Nadal has told him he will play as long as he is not injured.

”If the No. 1 in the world is playing, that’s more than enough,” Pique said in the official presentation of Madrid as host of the Davis Cup finals for the next two years. ”Rafa is very positive about this event, especially because it is taking place in Madrid.”

While Rafael Nadal has been recuperating – and helping with the flood-relief effort – in Mallorca, Djokovic has settled back into that familiar metronomic rhythm of clinically dismantling opponents and hoovering up titles.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, men of conscience and integrity, continue to risk their good name by accepting an invitation to play in a meaningless exhibition in Saudi Arabia, a regime under critical scrutiny for the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The kidnap-and-murder story has led news bulletins around the world – alongside Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the conflict that has contributed to the famine engulfing Yemen – yet efforts this week by the Guardian to elicit a response from either player over playing in Jeddah on 22 December have proved fruitless.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, two incredibly popular athletes who don’t need to consult with teammates or colleagues in order to make a decision about their participation, are in the ideal position to pull out of the match and make a statement about how the world should view Saudi Arabia’s pattern of state-sanctioned killing. The question is if they mind being shiny baubles, dangled in front of the country to distract from a murderous regime, or not.

The world No 1 was the first player to mathematically secure his space in London with victory over Marin Cilic in the Rogers Cup quarter-finals on August 11.

“I know how important Majorca is to Rafa and I have been in touch with him to see if I can help with anything,” Federer said in a video message recorded in Shanghai where he is currently competing.

“I have seen him helping in the village where he comes from and to see that is super-inspiring. Rafa, you have our support. We are thinking of all the people in Majorca. We wish you strength in these difficult times and I hope to be back on Majorca soon.”

Rafa Roundup: Here’s why Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself becoming a father anytime soon

Photo: Splash


“My life leads me to live things one way, or to do things another. I also have a partner and it is not just me who decides things. You have to adapt to the situations that are happening. I enjoy what I love in tennis, as well as outside of it.

A family? I don’t know; things are not so easy to foresee. At this age, I thought I would be retired and would have a family. To me I think I see a more structured family with a more stable life and that is what I would have liked. The years are going on but it depends on what happens with my tennis and with my career; there will come a time when a decision must be made and when it arrives, it will come without any kind of stress. These are natural things that you go through in life.”

I would take Nadal on Chatrier without hesitation because of his remarkable 86-2 win-loss record. In his 13 appearances at Roland Garros, the Spaniard has won 11 titles, making him a  sure bet. Federer, on the other hand, has won eight Wimbledon titles in his 19 appearances. Though he is considered the best grass-courter of all time, he hasn’t dominated at the All England Club the way the way Nadal has in Paris.

Might Rafa have more Wimbledon titles if the French Open and Wimbledon were not played so close together? —@viralmep11

Interesting. You have a sense that the French—understandably—takes a lot out of him, as much spiritually as physically. In this sense, sure, he could benefit from a longer transition to grass. On the other hand, note that both times Nadal won Wimbledon, he won the French four Sundays prior. And note as well that Nadal reached the Wimbledon finals five times between 2006-2011 (and didn’t play in 2009) and those were the days where there were only two weeks between the two events. With the added week in between, his results have worsened.

“She is one of the best players on the women’s tour,” Nadal told the media after defeating Dominic Thiem to seal his 11th title in Paris. “It is nice that after the final that she lost last year, with so many chances, with breaks in the second and the third, that she was able to win a Grand Slam.”

“She deserves it,” said Nadal. “She is No.1 in the world and she is very hard-working. I like people that work hard and have success because I believe that they deserve it. She is one of them, so I am happy for her.”

Twenty minutes after Rafael Nadal finished dismantling Dominic Thiem in the French Open final on Sunday evening, we were invited to experience more destruction.

Roland Garros was throwing a “Demolition Party,” toasting the last night its 30-year-old media center would be in use. Built into the side of Court Philippe Chatrier, the tournament’s principal stadium, the media center was slated to be torn down, along with most of the rest of the building.

VIDEO: 10 Mind Bending Stats to Celebrate Rafael Nadal’s 11th Roland Garros Title

Rafa Roundup: What does Rafael Nadal do before a match?

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Q. After so many years and so many victories, what routines do you follow and which have you changed?

I always shower in the same shower stall in the locker room, the one furthest to the right; I also always have the locker 159. I haven’t changed much honestly. I have introduced some new things and what I do now may not be the same as what I did eight years ago. I used to get to training 20 minutes early, wrap my hands with bandages and move around a little and that’s all… now I arrive an hour early, I go to the gym, I warm up a lot more seriously. Routines change depending on what is required.

Criticism of Nadal on these grounds is obviously not valid. While he always peaks for clay, it’s not as if he’s given up on other surfaces. Over the last year and a half. Nadal has played 14 hard-court events, and 10 on clay. Since 2005, he’s missed Wimbledon just twice, and he plans to be there again in two weeks. Like Federer, Nadal has the exemptions he needs to skip every mandatory event if he chooses, but since the start of 2015 he has played 25 of 28 Masters 1000s and 13 of 14 majors. His 67 wins last year, including seven at the US Open, were the most he had in a season since 2013.

No GOAT candidate has ever been as dominant on any surface as Nadal is on clay. However, Nadal also has been successful enough on the other surfaces that he has a strong case as the best tennis player of all time. His success at majors outside of the French Open compares very favorably with anyone in the Open era — including Federer. Nadal is the unquestioned King of Clay, but taken as a whole, he is very likely the King of tennis as a whole. Long live the King.

“You can always improve something, and I think that everyone can improve. There is no limit. You never know where is the limit,” Nadal said. “If you don’t have the will to improve, you don’t understand the sport, because the sport is always about improving. That’s the meaning of sport. It’s playing with the dream of doing something better than what you’re doing before… When you’re not working with passion of doing something better, I think that sports will lose its sense.”

“I remember when he won the first time at Roland Garros, someone said to me ‘Rafa’s going to win a lot more of these trophies.’ It seemed outrageous to think he’d win 10 more after that but I can see how he’s managed to do that. He works as hard as possible; he’s always trying to lift his game to new heights.”

VIDEO: Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem | Roland Garros

Rafa Roundup: ¡A por la Undécima!

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Nadal has never lost after the quarter-finals on the Parisian terre battue, holding a 21-0 record in semi-finals and finals en route to his 10 trophies, which is the most captured by any man at a single major.

But perhaps it is the left-hander’s performance in championship matches that is most striking. The World No. 1 has won 50 per cent of his sets in Roland Garros finals by a margin of 6-3 or greater.

If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he’d have to expand his belief that death and taxes are life’s only certainties and add a third — Rafael Nadal winning the French Open. The Spaniard chases an 11th title at Roland Garros on Sunday and 17th major of his career. He has 85 match wins on Paris’ famous crushed red brick against just two defeats in 13 years.

Yes, the Rafa tennis can fail but at Roland-Garros, it happens once, maybe twice, in a Paris blue moon. For Soderling and Djokovic, can we now read Thiem? Well, Team Thiem can dream but so often it’s the nightmares that grab hold in Nadal’s very own personal chamber of horrors.

The reality is that Nadal is not just greatest and latest in the distinguished line of clay-court titans — he’s probably the last of the breed. Enjoy him while you can, because this king has no successor nor even a kingdom. The dominion he’s had over clay events hides the fact that there’s no longer a subspecies of tennis player worthy of the title “clay-court specialist.”

AUDIO: The Tennis Podcast: Can Thiem Topple Nadal?


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Rafa Roundup: There is no way Rafael Nadal said this about equal prize money!

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This was the ideal result we were looking for. Defeating Del Potro in this manner proves that things have come together and the devised plan is working. Between today’s result and the win over Diego, I’m pleased. The last six sets he has played here are the finest he has played so far.

By now, you get the picture. As Rafael Nadal prepares to return serve, he’s so far back beyond the baseline that he’s almost out of the camera shot. At times, perhaps even into a different area code.

But Nadal summons the strength to return hard and high, pushing his opponents back. By the time they connect with their second shot, Nadal has moved forward onto the baseline ready to attack.

It’s a tactic Nadal has used more and more over the past year, mostly on clay and here at Roland Garros.

We know Thiem can take the rallies to Rafa on clay. But can he push him around in Chatrier, in the Roland Garros final, over best-of-five sets? Thiem says that all of those factors will make this match a very different animal from the ones he won over Rafa in other places, and will make Nadal the obvious favorite.

He’s right. This is a match we want to see, and one that could be very competitive and entertaining. But it’s also one that can only be predicted one way. The most important stat has nothing to do with Thiem; it has to do with Rafa’s record in French Open finals. He’s 10-0. Winner: Nadal

“Being in a final here is something I should rejoice about and be happy about. It may sound easy and logical, but I don’t want it to be. It’s not a routine. I don’t want anyone to think that it’s a routine,” Nadal said. “It’s a day that I should rejoice about, enjoy. And from tomorrow on, I will do what I have to do to get ready for Sunday.”

On a completely different topic, Nadal entered the equal prize-money debate with an opinion that is bound to prove controversial. Speaking to a weekly Italian women’s magazine called IO Donna, Nadal said: “It’s a comparison we shouldn’t even make. Female models earn more than male models and nobody says anything. Why? Because they have a larger following. In tennis too, who gathers a larger audience earns more.”

“My body is about 40 years old, but I’m not really focusing on that,” Nadal explained. “I’m just playing tennis. I’m not really interested by all these things, and I don’t think that – you can’t really know the reality of how old your body is.”

“I’m 32, and I’m how I am. I’m happy. I accept my age,” added Nadal. “I try to adapt to all the changes that the body is going through over the years. There are things that are lost and there are other things that are gained, and I’m trying to improve all the time. That’s it. I’m happy for Cristiano that he’s 23, his body is 23.”

“It is almost impossible to beat Rafa. He’s too strong. He’s improving his backhand a lot. That’s why he’s the No 1 and beating all the guys,” said Del Potro.

“He looks fresh. He is healthy. And the strength that he has and the mentality – everything is perfect, works perfect for him playing on clay.”


Roland Garros Final: What time does Rafael Nadal play against Dominic Thiem?

The final of the men’s singles tournament at Roland Garros 2018 between defending champion Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will take place on Sunday on Court Philippe Chatrier at Stade Roland Garros.

Date: June 10, 2018

Match time: 3 PM local time / 9 AM EDT –  New York, Montreal / 2 PM BST – United Kingdom / 3 PM  CET – Spain, France, Germany, Italy / 11 PM AEDT – Melbourne. To convert to your local time, use this website.

Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Rafa on playing Thiem:

He’s an amazing player. He beat me this year in Madrid. He has big power, he’s playing with big confidence. I know I have to play at my best. I believe I can be ready for that final. It’s going to be a tough one.

If I play well, I normally have my chances. If I don’t play well, it will be almost impossible, because I play against a player that’s going too well.

Thiem on playing Rafa:  Continue reading “Roland Garros Final: What time does Rafael Nadal play against Dominic Thiem?”