Rafa Roundup: The numbers don’t lie – Rafael Nadal is much more than King of Clay

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The Spaniard now has a combined 46 ‘Big Titles’ — a collection of Grand Slams, Masters 1000 events, and Nitto ATP Finals — putting him one behind Novak Djokovic’s 47 and within five of leader Roger Federer, who holds 51.

#7 He’s the first to pass $10 million in prize money in 2017. Nadal now has $11,264,905 for the year, jumping over Federer, who currently has $9,419,735. Third place is Zverev with $3,570,885.

The significance of this season is impossible to sum up with a stat sheet alone. Coming off a 2016 season in which he suffered his second wrist injury in three seasons and was forced to withdraw from the French Open after the second round, Nadal’s 10th win at Roland Garros in June was especially sweet. It was his first Grand Slam title since the 2014 French.

The Spaniard’s fans can muster plenty of evidence to support the case for their hero as the greatest player of all time, but the three-major deficit is a challenging disadvantage to surmount. One of the best arguments left to Mr Nadal’s supporters is that Mr Federer padded his statistics in the weak era of 2003-07, before Mr Djokovic and Mr Murray reached their primes, and when a young Mr Nadal was primarily a threat on clay courts.

It has been an incredible year, with Federer winning in Australia and at Wimbledon, where he won the title for an eighth time, and Nadal adding the US Open title to his 10th French Open crown.

Nadal is in the driving seat when it comes to No.1, with a lead of almost 2,000 points, but he knows there is still a lot to play for in the remaining two months of the season.

Q: “There is still a lot of tennis to be played, but at this moment, who is your men’s player of the year?” John Wertheim: We were debating this on Tennis Channel. I lean toward Nadal. Higher ranked. More Slam matches won. And—while it was validated by the Wimbledon title—doesn’t Federer earn some sort of markdown for his decision to skip the entire clay season? Jim Courier sided with Federer, citing the 3-0 head-to-head record. Honestly, I could go either way.

“Can Rafa beat Roger’s record? Basically it’s up to Rafa and how much he wants to play and how much he loves the game,” said Sampras, who sits third on the men’s all-time Grand Slam winners’ list behind Nadal and Federer. “If he said: ‘Hey guys, I’m gonna play until I’m at least 35’, I’d say he’s got a pretty good shot at doing it.

“There aren’t many challenges left, but there are some. He is a very competitive person, a very demanding person and that helps a lot. He will keep finding motivation and his biggest motivation will be to keep improving, keep evolving, stay competitive and he knows that if he can do that, the options to win tournaments and fight at the top will be there.”

“I think that Nadal has a very good chance to catch Roger because he’s gonna win the French Open again at least once or twice and suddenly you’re one or two away,” said Wilander.

”Do we think that Federer is going to win another slam next year when he turns 37? I don’t know. He can win another one maybe but Nadal has another four or five years and people are wrong when they think that he’s physically wearing himself down.”

“I always go on court respecting my opponents. I’m not worried about what happened in the past or not. I just think about what can happen now.” – Rafael Nadal

‘We will get to Federer’s 19, yes,’ he told Spanish radio station Cope.

‘I think it will happen. It’s difficult, but there is some more Roland Garros and I am confident other titles will come.

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Rafa Roundup: We are not ready to say goodbye yet, Uncle Toni!

Al Bello/Getty Images

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“I am honestly not thinking about it being the last one,” Toni Nadal said. “I’m not in the beyond. I’m entirely in the present right now, very happy to be in the final and that Rafael is in another final. I’m not thinking about not being here next year. I’ll think about it next year when I’m in Majorca. Nostalgia is for then, not for now.”

Toni and Rafael have been a pair like no other in the modern game. Toni was Rafael’s first teacher, giving him his first lesson at age 3 on the Spanish island of Majorca that the Nadals still call home. Toni has remained Rafael’s mentor for the last 28 years as Rafael has become one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Nadal, who reclaimed the top spot on August 21, is defending just 100 ranking points after the US Open: 90 for a quarterfinal showing in Beijing, and 10 for a round-of-32 loss at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Shanghai.

The 31-year-old’s only real competition for No. 1 is the 36-year-old Federer, who will move past Andy Murray and into the No. 2 spot on Monday. Like Nadal, Federer has a great opportunity to amass ranking points this fall. While Nadal has practically nothing to defend, Federer actually has nothing to defend, given his decision to end his 2016 season after Wimbledon.

Nadal is attempting to win at least two Grand Slam titles in a season for the fourth time in his career (3 in 2010, 2 in 2008, 2013). He is trying to win his first hard court singles title since January 2014 in Doha (d. Monfils). He has played 34 hard-court tournaments, reaching eight hard-court finals since his last title on the surface. Nadal has not faced a Top 20 opponent at the US Open and the last Grand Slam champion to do that was Pete Sampras at 2000 Wimbledon.

The problem for Anderson is that Rafa has been looking less and less troubled with each match at the Open. He found his game in the third round against Leonardo Mayer—the Argentine’s game bears more than a passing resemblance to Anderson’s—and played with his old swagger in his semifinal steamroll over Juan Martin del Potro. Anderson’s serve alone should allow him to stay close in sets, and it’s easy to imagine him wiping away a dozen break points with it. But Nadal has played 22 more major finals than Anderson. That may be the only stat you need to know for this one.

“He played very smart from the second until the end of the match, because I was just standing all the time on my left side and once he played down the line, he won the point.

“I think at the beginning of the match, he was playing all the time to my backhand, trying to see how good is my backhand at this moment. It was good, but it wasn’t good enough to play a four-set, five-set match. And I couldn’t make any winners in the match, which you must do a lot of winners against Rafa.”

Hard courts will never be Nadal’s favorite surface. That will always be his native clay, to which his game is so naturally suited. But like few others, Nadal has continually tweaked his game, adapting it to compete and win on a surface that began as a challenge.

Had Rafael Nadal had never played a professional tournament in his life on dirt, he would still have a Hall-of-Fame career.

The world No. 1 has been uniquely willing to treak his game and work to improve, rather than stubbornly stick with something that has worked in the past.

Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza ensured a Spanish double at the top of the rankings next week, with Nadal set to stay No. 1 in the ATP rankings and Muguruza reaching the top spot in the WTA rankings for the first time in her career.

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  • Rafa on fire 🙂 Love it!

🙂 #usopen thanks for this. #newyork #final

A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal) on

Wimbledon 2017: July 1st practice photos + video

Here’s a few photos from Rafa’s practice today.

Rafa prepares for his assault on The Championships at Wimbledon in a practice session with Grigor Dimitrov.

 

WATCH: Rafael Nadal thanks Uncle Toni in victory speech

Julian Finney/Getty Images

After receiving the French Open trophy, Rafael Nadal addressed the crowd to discuss his emotions:

First of all Stan, congrats on a great career in last couple of years. Well done, sorry for today. You’ve had an unbelievable two weeks. I wish you the best for the rest of the season, keep going.

It’s difficult to talk today but the only thing I can say is thank you. For me to be here for many years is difficult to describe. I come back and see people I have a good relationship with and it’s very special. It’s difficult for me to compare this to any other event. You are always going to be in my heart.

Thank you to my friends, family and team. All the people who come from all around the world for the final.

Our champ also had a word for uncle Toni, his coach, too:  Continue reading “WATCH: Rafael Nadal thanks Uncle Toni in victory speech”

VIDEO: An interview with Rafael Nadal – 2017 French Open (3R)

Rafael Nadal’s on court interview following his third round win at the French Open 2017.

Quotes from Rafa’s presser:

On his win against Haase:

I think I played a good match. I played a solid match. I’m hitting the ball very well. Better than the day before. I was more or less under control during the whole match. Robin is a valiant opponent always. It’s obvious that I’m a player that if I lose the intensity or concentration then my game becomes a normal game. To be a little bit different I need to play with higher intensity than the rest and use my forehand.

On Maxime Hamou being expelled:

I can’t talk much about. They took that decision, they’re free to do what they want. The only thing I can say is I watched the video and it was a little uncomfortable for the girl.

(Note: French player was banished from the Roland Garros for the duration of the tournament on Tuesday after he attempted to forcibly kiss a female reporter during a live TV interview.)

On Uncle Toni leaving at the end of the year:

Every year is different. I am not thinking about that at all. He is the most important person in my tennis career without a doubt. Lots of things I achieved are because of him since I was three.

Lots of people have helped me too. He’s free to do what’s good for him. It’s good for him and the kids to be more involved with the academy. It’s probably not the last time he’ll be here at Roland Garros. He’s my uncle more than my coach so he’s always free to come wherever he was.

On wrist:

It’s better we don’t talk about these kinds of things. I don’t feel anything on the wrists since a long time ago. It’s good news.

On weather conditions:

It was humid. We had two days when the heat went down a bit. I prefer to play with sunshine. Today was great conditions for me. I really don’t think much about if it’s dry or humid. If it’s somewhere between 18 and 25 degrees it’s normally good for me with good bounces on my forehand. If it’s raining or a little bit cooler, it’s normally worse for my game.

Source: metro.co.uk, Video: stroppa

Rafa Roundup: A long way to La Decima at Roland Garros

AFP Photo/Josep Lago

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The Spaniard capped a record-breaking two-week stretch, which saw him become the first player to win 10 titles at a tour-level event in Monte-Carlo and repeat the feat on his native clay of Barcelona. He has won 20 of 21 sets thus far on the European clay-court swing.

“I’m very satisfied. It’s been an emotional day for me. Winning a 10th title here is something difficult to describe. Playing in front of my crowd and my club and winning the 10th title here is something that’s impossible to even dream of. It’s very special and unique,” said Nadal. “I played my best match of the tournament this afternoon against probably the toughest opponent in the tournament, so I’m very happy.”

Toni Nadal: “… So you can understand that given what Roland-Garros represents to us Spaniards, winning 10 times in Paris would be… (he exhales, then spreads his arms out wide) enormous. … Yes. Because it would be the tenth. And also because every time Rafael wins Roland-Garros, we can then say already that he’s had a great season. … So yes, it’s true, we’re very confident at the moment. But maybe if Rafael loses in Madrid, we’ll be less confident. We’ll see! A lot of things can still happen by the time Roland-Garros comes around.”

… Nadal has to prove that he can beat Djokovic again before he can be considered the favorite. He’s lost his last seven matches to the Serb, including three on clay, dating back to Roland Garros in 2014. In those seven matches, Nadal has been unable to win a set.

Last year Rafa said his only regret was that, just at the moment when he was playing his best, during the clay swing, he hurt his wrist. Like last year, he has started that swing with wins in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. In 2016, Nadal finally met Djokovic in the semifinals in Rome, and he lost a classic. I could go for another showdown like that in the next couple of weeks.

Nadal, who was just 15 years old at the time, had only played three matches going into his first ATP event, one at the Futures level and two at the Challenger level, and he was ranked a lowly No.762.

But that first ATP event being held on home soil in Mallorca may have given him the boost he needed, as he beat No.81-ranked Ramon Delgado in straight sets in his first ever ATP-level match, 6-4 6-4.

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AUDIO: Alex Corretja: ‘Nadal favourite for French Open’ | BBC

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Rafa Roundup: Here’s why Rafael Nadal is playing doubles with Bernard Tomic in Indian Wells

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“If the top players are not playing very often, then you are making something not good – you need to change. But the ITF always thinks on the small picture,” Nadal added.

He called the competition “a beautiful competition, a very emotional competition”. He also proposed a massive lengthening of the format, producing a winner only every three years.

“I don’t mean one-year Davis Cup, one year no Davis Cup. I mean, for example, two ties per year. That will be something reasonable and players will be very motivated to play Davis Cup.”

“I was a little bit sick for two days, so I couldn’t practise. I started to practise yesterday for the first time. Today, I practised again and I have doubles. It is obvious that when you get sick you lose a little bit of the power for a couple of days. So I hope to recover myself well and feel ready to compete at the highest level possible.”

… “I play doubles for fun and to practise too,” Nadal added. “I was supposed to play with Bernard in Brisbane. That made sense, because it’s his house and for me it was something that I liked. But then I said to him that I could not play there. I said if we can change Brisbane for Indian Wells, will be great for me. That’s it.”

“Toni is completely free like he has always been, to take his own decisions and to choose what makes him happiest,” Nadal told the media in Acapulco. “I am comfortable with what he decides is best for him.

“I feel better when people who I love are happy and if it makes him happy, for me it’s OK. Before being my coach, Toni is my uncle. He has been with me for a lifetime and the relationship with him has been a little bit more special than the one I have with my other uncles because I have lived everyday with him and I am very grateful to him for all the things he did for me.”

“Obviously yes, for sure, everyone was surprised. But it’s not easy travelling on the tour for so many years,” said Murray in Dubai.

“I know he hates flying, I’ve been on a couple of planes with him and I know he doesn’t enjoy the travelling. Rafa is 31 this year and he was on the tour since he was 16, so it’s been 15 years of travelling on the tour and a lot of time before that as well.

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