Vamos Rafael Nadal!!!

A blog of Rafael Nadal's news, photos and videos.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pics of Rafa & Roger's Exhibition Match on 24 August 2006

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fierce Rivals

VOL.29 :: NO.34 :: Aug. 26, 2006

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Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal is a marquee rivalry that should, as things stand, suffer nothing in comparison with Borg-McEnroe, Navratilova-Evert and Sampras-Agassi from the Open Era, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

There he was, minding his business. Going quietly about it, with the petulant tucking of a wisp of hair into his headband, or the sharp bark after shanking a forehand his only concessions to emotion. Maybe, he pumped his fist on the odd occasion. But most of his demeanour on court —— index finger raised to the sky, head down or gentle racket wave not unlike a composer twiddling his baton to applause —— was of a man supremely at peace with himself.

Roger Federer was in the business of destroying opponents; his love for beauty in stroke creation, and his knowledge of the greats that had gone before him, however, made him something of a benevolent aggressor. Scarcely had Pete Sampras retired his 85-square-inch-head Wilson Pro Staff that there was talk of a greater force gracing tennis: a force that might be the greatest ever.

Amidst all the titles and the streaks and the glory, a statistical oddity raised its head. A statistical oddity that slugged a muscular, left-sided forehand, and got to everything. A statistical oddity in capris or clamdigger pants —— a distinction depending on your sartorial preferences —— called Rafael Nadal. At first, it seemed a glitch. But, it grew and grew, till Federer could no longer say, "But I don't know, you guys have to have more to write about than I have to talk about. So this is for me one night, and I'll be on the road and forget it, so... " as he did at Rome after one of many defeats to his nemesis, and sound convincing.

How can you be the greatest of all time if the second-best player of your generation beats you at will? Not the kind of thing that looks pretty on the resume. Going into the Wimbledon final this year, Federer had lost five straight times to Nadal. The right-hander's only four losses in the year till then had been to the Spanish man-child the media had anointed his rival.

Andy Roddick, ever one for self-depreciatory humour, when asked about his `rivalry' with Federer, said he'd have to start "winning a few of them" for it to be called a rivalry. Federer, in audience then, had laughed politely. Stepping onto the lawn at the All England Tennis Centre, the Swiss, could have forgiven for thinking the same with regard to Nadal. In the event, Federer closed out the match for his fourth successive Wimbledon title, joining Sampras and Bjorn Borg as the only men to have done it. The difference was the first set —— a bagel —— that featured all of the champion's artistry: bow-bent crosscourt backhands, forehand swipes on the run that looked nothing like swipes.

But, Nadal hadn't rolled over on the surface he is most vulnerable. Anything but. There are many technical facets to the 20-year-old's seemingly one-dimensional game; his strength of mind is another thing altogether. He will not go quietly, or as Federer put it, "no matter if he's love-40 down or 40-love, you're always going to get the same guy." Federer, himself a master of mind control, had tightened up, looked anxious, and confessed as much after the match. "It was important to get him back, not to let him beat me on grass, on hard court, on clay, on all surfaces this year," said the 25-year-old. "It was a big, big match. I stepped up to the plate." What about the rivalry? "I like it again now."

The Wimbledon final marked an important phase in the Federer-Nadal dynamic. Yes, it could now be legitimately called a rivalry —— despite being 6-2 overall in Nadal's favour, it's 1-1 in Grand Slam finals. But, more importantly, it marked the rise of Nadal as a challenger on all surfaces. With the two separating themselves from the rest of the field, they will meet around the year in finals. Or at least that's what tournament directors will be hoping. For, Federer v Nadal is a marquee rivalry that should, as things stand, suffer nothing in comparison with Borg-McEnroe, McEnroe-Connors, Navratilova-Evert, and Sampras-Agassi from the Open Era.

Tennis needs such rivalries. Two belief systems, two representations, two forces: one-on-one sport thrives on duality, on polarisation. As Richard Zago wrote in the Guardian, a rivalry brings into conflict two emotional chemistries. "It certainly has all the components that can capture the imagination of the sporting public," said Agassi of Federer-Nadal. "It's number one and number two in the world with two entirely different games. Their personalities are entirely different. These are the layers that are needed for a great rivalry. Something tells me they will be deciding Grand Slams for the next few years."

Federer-Nadal has enough for the regular fan: the clean-cut FedEx versus the bicep-popping Rafa, or, perhaps, as the American media will have us believe, Superman and his Kryptonite. But, it's the technical pedantry when the two face off that fascinates most. Why does Federer's serve break down (he has never had a higher first-serve percentage than Nadal in any of their meetings)? Why, oh why, does his space-creator shot, the inside-out forehand implode even when struck from within the baseline? Will Nadal continue to wear him down with those heavy roundhouse forehands that Federer has to pull from above his shoulder on the backhand side?

McEnroe spoke of each forcing the other to improve. The evolution in Nadal's serve is a case in point, as is his desire not to allow Federer "play aggressively with forehand (because) I can do nothing, I playing very short, and it easy for him". So, will Federer continue to stay back, as he did to his advantage on a quicker surface like grass, or will Nadal force him to serve and volley, hence changing modern tennis?

As the two head to the US Open, they throw into relief another thing that makes rivalries great: simplicity. It's a simple theory, one that two-time US Open champion Tracy Austin verbalised: Nadal owns clay (he is Federer's biggest stumbling block on the path to a career Grand Slam); Federer owns grass; hard courts then are the middle ground for battle. It's the kind of simplicity essential for main-eventing an American tournament, whose major stars aren't expected to be American.

Rod Laver v Ken Rosewall
Career titles: Laver 39; Rosewall 25
Prize money: Laver $1,564,213; Rosewall $1,600,300.
Head-to-head: Laver ahead 12-5.

Bjorn Borg v John McEnroe
Career titles: Borg 62; McEnroe 77.
Prize money: Borg $3,655,751; McEnroe $12,547,797.
Head-to-head: Equal at 7-7.

Bjorn Borg v Jimmy Connors
Career titles: Connors 109
Prize money: Connors $8,641,040.
Head-to-head: Borg ahead 13-8.

Ivan Lendl v McEnroe
Career titles: Lendl 94.
Prize money: Lendl $21,262,417.
Head-to-head: Lendl ahead 21-15.

Stefan Edberg v Boris Becker
Career titles: Edberg 42; Becker 49
Prize money: Edberg $20,630,941; Becker $25,080,956.
Head-to-head: Edberg down 10-25.

Pete Sampras v Andre Agassi
Career titles: Sampras 64; Agassi 60.
Prize money: Sampras $43,280,489; Agassi $31,110,975.
Head-to-head: Sampras ahead 20-14.

Nadal continues his quest for skills to unseat Federer

Updated on Wednesday, Aug 23, 2006 9:09 pm EDT

By Simon Baskett

MADRID (Reuters) - With his long brown hair, sleeveless shirts, pirate pants, bandana and bulging biceps, Rafael Nadal does not fit the archetypal image of a tennis player.

But appearances are deceptive. The 20-year-old Spaniard's high-octane mixture of aggression, athleticism and steely determination have helped make him the most entertaining player on the men's circuit.

The left-hander is the only player who has consistently managed to mount a challenge to Roger Federer's imperious domination of world tennis.

He has upset the Swiss six times in their eight meetings to date and is the only player to beat Federer more than once since he took over the number one spot in February 2004.

Nadal is the undisputed king of the clay court, extending his unbeaten record on his favored surface to 60 matches as he claimed his second consecutive French Open in June with a four-set victory over Federer.

However, he is not the sort to rest on his laurels and the young Mallorcan is desperate to acquire the all-court skills that will give him a chance of one day unseating Federer as world number one.

Unlike many of his predecessors as Roland Garros champion, Nadal has also been keen to try his hand on grass and surprised many by making it all the way to this year's Wimbledon final, where he lost to Federer in an enthralling four-setter.

His enthusiasm to learn has earned him admiration from some of the game's most experienced players.

"It shows you the competitor's heart he has," Andre Agassi said during the grasscourt season. "Any time you got a ticker like that, you got to leave room for some great things."


Four-times Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman agreed with the American.

"When you compete as well as he does, it is dangerous to write him off on any type of surface," he said.

Together with Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso, Nadal is Spain's most popular individual sportsman, although his relaxed and down-to-earth demeanour make him a more accessible figure than the somewhat stilted Asturian.

Nadal first hit the headlines in December 2004 when he beat Andy Roddick to help Spain lift the Davis Cup at the age of just 18.

The following season he became the first man since Mats Wilander in 1982 to win the French Open on his debut, and victories in the Masters events in Montreal and Madrid helped him wrap up the season as world number two behind Federer.

His successful defense of the French title confirmed his status as the world's best on clay, but he surprised even himself by becoming the first Spaniard since Manuel Santana in 1966 to reach the Wimbledon final.

He will be out to provide further evidence that he is capable of becoming an all-terrain player when the U.S. Open begins on Monday.

Nadal lost to American James Blake in the third round at Flushing Meadows last year and has never progressed any further in the tournament, but the same was true of Wimbledon until 2006.

He is now less reticent to come to the net so he should be confident of giving a better account of himself this time round.

Defending champion Federer is, of course, the overwhelming favorite, but neutral observers are hoping the world's two best players pitted against each other in the final just as John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg were at the start of the 1980s.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Nadal practice appearance stirs quite a buzz

Chris Elsberry
Article created: 08/22/2006 04:43:33 AM EDT

NEW HAVEN — They stood elbow to elbow along the top row of the bleachers on the neighboring grandstand court, looking down at two of the biggest names in men's tennis who were taking part in a friendly, little practice session on Court C.

Along the waist-high fence right next to the court, a couple of hundred people were bunched together even tighter. Some held their cell phone cameras in the air to snap a picture or take a couple seconds of video as the two players pounded the ball at each other and worked up a sweat in the process.

And buzzing back and forth from one end of the court to the other was Anne Worcester, in full mother-hen mode. She was working her walkie-talkie hard, issuing instructions and finalizing details, making sure that nothing could, or would, go wrong.

If first impressions are the ones that truly stick with people, then Worcester, the always-energized tournament director for the Pilot Pen, wanted to make sure that this first impression stuck in Rafael Nadal's mind. If the way to an ordinary man's heart is through his stomach, then the way to get a top-ranked tennis player to think possibly committing to your tournament is to pamper the heck out of him.

So, that's what Worcester did.

"I want you to put one of those Brook Brothers sweaters into the goodie bag," Worcester spoke into her radio. "Pick a nice color and make sure the size is right. I'll give it to him personally before he gets into the car."

Aside from the sweater and the goodie bag, if Worcester could have given Nadal the key to the city, she probably would have done that, too. But hey, that's what tournament directors do. Her mission — and she always accepts it — is to make sure that every player has the best possible time at her event. Even if they are just here to practice for a few hours.

"I think there's no better way to recruit a player than to have him experience the tournament," Worcester said. "I wish he was playing in the main draw, but this is the next best thing."

If you ask the hundreds that crowded around Court C for an hour Monday, watching Blake and Nadal hit balls back and forth, they would most certainly agree. They applauded shots that kissed the end lines, they oohed and aahed when a routine volley got a little more intense and they cheered when either player rifled home a winner.

Hopefully, that buzz is still ringing in Nadal's ears.

"I know James, playing with him was good," Nadal said. "I have a lot of friends here playing the tournament from Spain. I'm just alone in New York, and I wanted to practice here."

The whirlwind started on Sunday. Feliciano Lopez, who lost to Blake in last year's Pilot Pen men's finals, called Worcester and asked if Nadal, who is a good friend of his, could come and visit New Haven on his way to New York and maybe get in a couple hours of practice.

Worcester could have screamed.

What? The world's No. 2 player? He wants to hang out at the Pilot Pen? Are you kidding?

Worcester quickly organized a car to pick him up at the airport, booked him a hotel room and set up a two-hour practice window Sunday night.

She even recruited Blake to put the Pilot Pen bug in Nadal's ear.

"I tried," Blake said after the practice session. "It's a long way away to try and talk him into it, but I put the idea in his head."

And, as far as Worcester is concerned, that's a start.

"In my opinion, this is a great way to experience how easy it is to play the Pilot Pen," Worcester said. "He had a good time practicing and could not have been nicer. He's just a nice, shy, quiet unassuming guy."

An unassuming guy who, on Monday, created a buzz bigger than any match at the Connecticut Tennis Center.

"Everything was fine and I want to say thank you very much to the tournament," Nadal said before being whisked away to that waiting car and a sponsor commitment in New York. "They've been very nice to me here."

And playing in the 2007 Pilot Pen?

"You never know, maybe."

Hey, it's not a no. Worcester will take that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Nadal in New Haven ahead of US Open

August 21, 2006

NEW HAVEN, United States (AFP) - Rafael Nadal was completing his preparations for next week's US Open despite deciding to miss the New Haven ATP tournament.

Rafa practising with James Blake on the 2nd day (ie. 21 August 2006) of the New Haven ATP tournament.
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The 20-year-old French Open winner was bundled out of last week's Cincinnati Masters Series event at the quarter-final stage by compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero.

And he said that he had chosen to come to Connecticut to close out his buildup to Flushing Meadow instead of immediately heading to New York.

"I came here to give backing to my friends (compatriots David Ferrer amd Feliciano Lopez) and because it's calmer and quieter here than in New York," he said.

Nadal will be seeded second for what will be his fourth US Open hoping to beat his previous best of a third round loss to James Blake last year.

Updated on Monday, Aug 21, 2006 3:12 pm EDT

Saturday, August 19, 2006

18 August 2006 Post Ferrero Match Press Conference

August 18, 2006

7-6, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You played Juan Carlos four times before today. You were successful. What happened today?

RAFAEL NADAL: Maybe he play his best match against me for sure, no? For sure I don't play my best match in my life, but I wasn't play very bad. He play good match.

That's all. I am playing better this week. I am happy for that. I improve a lot than last week.

But today I have my chances, but he play good important moments. I play very bad especially the first tiebreak.

Q. The rain delay came at a very bad moment for you, didn't it, 4-5 down, second set? Did that increase the pressure?

RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, sure, was bad moment because I was coming back better. I have one 15-40 in the last game. He had two unbelievable serves. But I have a very good chance there for won the second set, no?

So after that he play good. He play unbelievable the second tiebreak. Very, very good all points, no? I was play very bad the first tiebreak, but after I have my chances, and he play better than me in important moments, no, so.

Q. When you double-faulted in the first tiebreak twice, did you lose focus? What do you think happened?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know. If I was know, I wasn't be the double-fault, no?

So, you know, sometimes you miss the feeling in some important moments. Normally I don't have this problem, but today I had mistakes in important moments.

Q. So how are you feeling about how you're playing heading into the Open?

RAFAEL NADAL: I am improving. I improve a lot here from Toronto. That's important for sure. Now I am disappointed but because I am playing better and was a good opportunity for me for play a good tournament here.

So I play the quarterfinal. Is not very bad tournament. But, sure, my expectative is a little bit better, no? Okay, we will see in the Open, no? I was practicing a lot this week. I was working a lot this week. That's important. Good work, so I gonna continue. I have one week and two days more for practice and for put me at my hundred percent physical in tennis.

So I will try that, no? I have a lot of illusion in the US Open, so I gonna try.

Q. Do you have the feeling that on hard court everything seems to be possible, more possible than on clay, on grass; every game seems to be very tough?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know. Maybe, you know, maybe if I am playing my best tennis today I was winning, no? I have my chances.

But if you are not playing your best, the match always is very similar against any player. And if Juan Carlos is playing with very good confidence - he was No. 1, he was one of the best players in the world - and he is playing well this week - he won against James Blake, one of the best on this surface, he won against Soderling yesterday - so that is a good result. He is coming with confidence. This is a tough match for me and for everybody. I can lose, and I lose.

Q. In the first set you seemed - very unusual for you - tired. Was it the humidity? You didn't seem to have the energy.

RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, yeah, I was tired some moments. The humidity was unbelievable today. Didn't know. Maybe one month out of competition, sometimes when a match come back tough, you feel tired, no?

But that's important for my preparation for the US Open, too. I play very tough match today, very tough match the first day, so that's important, too, for put me in my hundred percent, no? I gonna continue working very hard next week for arrive to the U.S. with my best.

I don't know. We will try.

Pics From Rafa Vs Ferrero

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