Rafa Roundup: Rafa’s thoughts on Donald Trump

Ben Solomon / Tennis Australia
Ben Solomon / Tennis Australia

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“It’s not my style. I was in the United States when Trump was on the campaign trail,” Nadal told Spanish online site El Espanol as he limbered up for the Australian Open.

“It is true that I don’t care for his manner of speaking — his way of expressing himself is not a style I appreciate,” added Nadal, while conceding he was no expert on the US political scene.

“Also, I’ll be honest — the other option didn’t do much for me either,” added the Spaniard in allusion to defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

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.

Annabel Croft: With Rafa, there looks like a lot of work has gone in during that off-season. Again, he’s certainly not one to be underestimated and I think the tour is so excited to have him back.

“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.

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Rafa Roundup: Will Rafa and Roger have to face off in Australian Open third round?

Rafael Nadal during a practice session ahead of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 10, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

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The pair have contested eight grand slam finals but as the 2017 grand slam season begins on Jan. 16, the two heavyweights of the Tour may face off in the third round of the Australian Open.

That’s because after six months beset by injury woes for both, Nadal will be seeded ninth based on the rankings of the men’s ATP World Tour while Federer dropped one spot on Monday to No. 17 after Grigor Dimitrov won Brisbane and rose two places to No. 15.

“Carlos won’t teach Rafa to serve and volley,” Annacone said. “What he can say, based on his vast experience, is ‘Here’s why I think it would work for you.’ Those are experiential values Rafa can buy into. You have to figure out how to sell it. Great players are so great. You better be pretty darn sure you’re selling something that works.

“I give Rafa and Uncle Toni a lot of credit for adding Carlos. To hear it differently from Carlos Moya, or someone else, is hugely beneficial.”

Nadal will be looking to be the first man since Rod Laver to win all four Grand Slams twice and if he plays the way that he did in his first two matches in Brisbane he could prove a handful for anyone he faces.

“The good thing is that Roger is back on tour after probably his first important­ injury,’’ Nadal said after playing the Fast4 exhibition in Sydney. “That’s tough but he looks great. He’s played some good matches there in Perth so I’m very happy for him.’’

Channel Seven commentator and renowned tennis coach Roger Rasheed has revealed the Spanish superstar is also obsessed with the PlayStation game FIFA.

“You know Rafa is a mad PlayStation fan and he takes it all around the world,” Rasheed revealed. “There was a time in Barcelona I was on the same floor as him and he was playing a game on PlayStation. When he won and scored a goal, the door opened and he ran up and down the corridor. “I was thinking, who is that?”

PHOTOS: Rafa’s first practice at the Australian Open – January 10, 2017

Rafa Roundup: Will coaching change benefit Rafa in 2017?

Spaniards Carlos Moya, Rafael Nadal and Juan Carlos Ferrero pose with the ATP World Tour No. 1 trophy. ©Ella Ling
Spaniards Carlos Moya, Rafael Nadal and Juan Carlos Ferrero pose with the ATP World Tour No. 1 trophy. Photo: Ella Ling

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“Before he had the break in the second set, I think I was playing better than him. That’s my feeling. And I think that’s the real feeling. I was being better than him on court, and after that he was better than me… I had a big chance. I didn’t convert that chance. And then he was aggressive and he played well. He was a little bit better than me tonight. He deserved [to win], and congrats to him.”

“I feel that remain one week and a little bit more for the Australian Open start, so I really hope that I can be ready for it, and I’m gonna fight and to practise hard to make it happen. Then what’s gonna happen? I cannot predict, but anything is possible.”

With Moya working alongside Uncle Toni and Francisco Roig, Nadal should benefit from having a new set of eyeballs watching over his progress in 2017. If there has been one consistent complaint about Nadal’s approach over the last two or three years it is that he has been reluctant to step outside the box and rethink his tactics, particularly on serve.

… Will Moya’s presence help Nadal make an impact at the Grand Slams, where he has failed to reach a semi-final in more than two years? If Nadal can stay healthy, we think the odds are good.

“Having a longer pre-season allowed us to train in a different way,” said Toni Nadal. “Also we were lucky to train with some young talents from the [Rafa Nadal] Academy.That was really good for us because we were able to conduct different drills with them. It was really useful.

Toni Nadal hopes that injuries stay away from his nephew so he can fight for the biggest titles this season. “It’s pivotal to stay injury-free throughout all the season to be competitive.”

Q. Is the collaboration going to continue?
Richard Mille: Yes, we just signed a new ten-year deal. I was in Monte Carlo recently and I was chatting with the driver who drives all the tennis players around. I asked him who was the nicest player and he said Rafa because he always asks ‘how are you?’ I saw him training in Paris once and afterwards watched him sign autographs for kids for one hour. Rafa is a fantastic, beautiful person.

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Rafa Roundup: “I don’t worry about how I am going to win the French Open next year”

Photo via Instagram: @gwladys_dtl
Photo via Instagram: @gwladys_dtl

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Nadal, the current world No 8, will use Abu Dhabi once more to fine-tune his game ahead of the new season and, in particular, the Australian Open. The Spaniard is also scheduled to play January’s Australian Open warm-up Brisbane International tournament for the first time.

“I really enjoy the fans, the competition and the atmosphere in the stadium in Abu Dhabi,” Nadal said in a release. “It is the best way to start my season. I’ve enjoyed many years playing in the UAE capital against the other top guys and I’m already looking forward to the next. After playing in Abu Dhabi I went on to play some great matches on the tour at the start of the year and I’ll be hoping for even better this time.

“Strange indeed,” said Paul Annacone, Federer’s former coach. “For a long time, we’ve wondered when this era will end. Maybe this is the start of it. I hope not. Roger and Rafa have been the cornerstones of greatness for so long, it’s shocking to the system when they are not there.

“Federer and Nadal have become global sports icons rather than just tennis stars,” Chris Kermode, the executive chairman and president of the ATP, said in a telephone interview. “And of course there will be a time when their careers will come to an end, and they will be missed. But having said that, no player is bigger than the sport itself, and men’s tennis has had an almost uncanny ability to consistently produce global stars that do transcend the sport. And Roger and Rafa aren’t done yet.

SPIEGEL: It is often said that if you want to be successful you have to set lofty goals.

Nadal: I don’t worry about how I am going to win the French Open next year. I think more in the short term: about my training tomorrow, what I want to achieve there. It is important to recognize the small successes. It is the small steps which bring you satisfaction at the end of the day.

SPIEGEL: You were always considered to be a gladiator on the court, whereas your greatest rival, Roger Federer, was considered an artist. Do you sometimes envy his lightness?

Nadal: Certainly I would like to have some of the qualities of other players and obviously from Roger. But believe me, there are plenty of other abilities that are important, particularly mindset and strength. These are attributes other players would like to have as well.

Not only is the 29-year-old the first Briton to achieve this feat, Murray is the only man who is not Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal to reach the top spot in 12 years. So the other members of the Big Four graciously extended their congratulations to Murray on Twitter.

VIDEO: Before being a double Olympic gold medallist, Rafa was a young tennis prospect with many dreams. Check out this interview with the Spanish superstar at age 16 .

Rafa Roundup: “I’m going to die to be ready again to compete for everything”

Rafael Nadal Australian Open 2016 Nike Outfit (3)

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“I’m going to die to be ready again to compete for everything,” he says. “I’m going to work more than ever to try to make that happen and I have big determination to put me in a position to fight again for important things.

“When I had the problems in my knees when I was younger it was so tough when I used to wake up in the morning and go to practise, and I didn’t enjoy that. When you are not healthy then it’s tough. It’s tough now, but it was also tough when I was 20. But at the moment I am enjoying what I am doing and having fun. For me, it takes a lot of effort to come from last year, when I had a tough year and it was hard work, to get back where I was before the injury this year. So I’m really motivated to come back to where I was before the injury happened because I feel ready for it.”

“I’m really here to honour the great man, Rafa. I think it’s wonderful that he’s taken this journey on to give the kids something back,” Federer said. “I’ve been around the game 17 years. I’ve seen a lot of hard workers and inspiring players, but you’ve been the one in my opinion who has been the most inspiring and most influential and made me the player I am today. Because you’re left-handed, because of your spin, because of the intensity you bring to the court, I had to re-invent and re-work my game entirely. And that’s because of the person you are and how much you’ve trained.”

Their tennis styles differ, but their work ethics and values are one and the same. They understand that life is much greater than being perhaps the greatest players to play their sport.

Their camaraderie grows as they slip into the twilight of their careers, but they have left indelible footprints in the sands of yesteryear.

Fedal is a special rivalry. It’s a warm day in the midst of a nuclear winter, a refreshing example of sportsmanship and friendship, first and last.

“I think Rafa wants to get to 10 French Opens, that’s obvious. I think Roger Federer’s 17 majors are still within reach. He’s only 30 years old,” Wilander said on the sidelines of the tennis academy opening.

“People are worried about his health. Yes, he’s going to get injured because he’s a crazy man. He takes himself into the ditch. He drives himself into the ground and comes back. Realistically he’s going to win at least another grand slam...”

“The last two months before the injury I had been playing at the highest level, competing against everybody with good chances, and winning events,” he said.

That’s what I need — be healthy and keep practicing with the same motivation and the rest of the things are going to come back. I believe that I can fight for important things.”

VIDEOS:

Rafa Roundup: Rafael Nadal Plays Tennis With ADORABLE 3-Year-Old Fan

Rafael Nadal of Spain smiles as he talks to the media during day three of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 9, 2016 in Indian Wells, California. (March 8, 2016 - Source: Julian Finney/Getty Images North America)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images North America

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How many times have Roger or Rafa failed to give their best in any match, at any event? It’s hard to remember it ever happening. They’re never afraid to put it on the line and compete.

As these two competitors make their slow fades from the game, they’ll be replaced by a new generation. So far it is led by Kyrgios, who says he doesn’t really like playing tennis, and Dominic Thiem, who so far plays way too much tennis. Both could benefit from watching Nadal and Federer in action a little longer. Even if they can’t learn anything from how they go about their business and their lives, the rest of us can. Roger and Rafa have done more than enough for tennis, but their work isn’t done yet.

While neither Federer nor Nadal will be in the Top 5 next week, Djokovic suspects that they’re not done yet.

“It’s kind of expected to have some new faces in this sport,” the 12-time Grand Slam champion said, “but I still wouldn’t rule out Roger and Rafa, and I would not take them out of that context of the best players in the world.”

The passing of time — and injuries — can take a heavy toll on athletes but that said, tennis fans likely still did a double take Monday when they glanced at the men’s rankings.

For the first time since 2003, both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — titans of the game who hold a combined 31 majors — are outside the top four. Nadal sits at fifth, with Federer seventh.

They’ve each been outside the top four previously but never in tandem since the last week in June 2003, when Federer held down the No. 5 spot and a teenage Nadal was 76th. Back then they weren’t grand slam champions.

“Rafa told me some techniques and tips, for volleying especially, because of course at first I was nervous and did not know exactly what to do in an exhibition match whether to play all out or not, I did not have a clear idea. You feel like: What am I doing here in the middle of all this?

And Rafa helped me, especially at first to overcome the nerves and the truth is I think it went pretty well.”

VIDEO:

Rafa Roundup: ‘Rafa Nadal is my hero’

Rafael Nadal Australian Open 2016 Nike Outfit (2)

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Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro are among the players who will compete at next year’s Mexican Open in the Pacific port city of Acapulco, organizers said Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Nadal, the champion in Acapulco in 2005 and 2013, will be vying for his third title at the event, which will be held Feb. 27 to March 4, 2017, tournament director Raul Zurutuza said in a press conference.

“There’s always going to be someone who will try to take advantage of certain situations but his name is not Rafael Nadal that’s for sure,” seven-time Grand Slam winning Swede Wilander told Gulf News on Tuesday.

“If you get permission from the organisation that conducts drugs tests and will call upon you if you fail, and they recommend the dose and supervise its use then it’s completely different.”

On a hot, rainy summer evening in New York, Nadal’s hands are in a pizza-slice shape in his lap, and he’s giggling sheepishly.

Still, it’s clear he’s a Guy Who Knows Underwear. So what underwear does a guy who knows underwear—with a job that requires the utmost comfort at all times—wear to work? We talked to Nadal about his undergarment preferences (both on court and off) and his ongoing war against wedgies.

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Which famous athlete would you like to compete against in a game of badminton?

With Rafa Nadal, because he’s my hero, and in fact, I know that he doesn’t like badminton because he says it’s a tough sport. And that’s coming from a tennis player, who in my opinion is the best ever, that plays many hours of tennis, but the truth is that badminton is very, very tough.

Which celebrity would you like to have dinner with?

With Rafa Nadal. Yes, because for me, Rafa Nadal is my hero. He is the mirror I look into because I think we have same competitive and fighting spirit, and we never give up on anything.

#2 Rafael Nadal — There may never be a better shirtless cameo than the Spaniard in Shakira’s “Gypsy.”