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post #706 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-01-2006, 12:42 PM
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Mallorn, we know he's dead serious about Wimbledon this time..

Nadal focused on successful French Open defence
Mon May 1, 2006 12:39 PM BST
By Simon Cambers

BARCELONA, May 1 (Reuters) - Rafael Nadal, in sight of Argentine Guillermo Vilas's record claycourt streak of 53 successive victories, is dreaming of a successful French Open title defence later this month.

The 19-year-old Spaniard overtook Swede Bjorn Borg in the Open Era list on Sunday, claiming his 47th consecutive win on clay by beating compatriot Tommy Robredo 6-4 6-4 6-0 to capture the Barcelona Open for the second year in a row.

Victory in next week's Rome Masters Series event would put Nadal level with Vilas on 53, although he said the record was not his main goal.

"I've achieved my main objective (taking the title) here and I've overtaken Borg's number of wins," the world number two told reporters.

"I guess I could try to go for Vilas's total in Rome but I have my sights set on Roland Garros."

Borg achieved his run of 46 wins between October 1977 and May 1979 while Vilas's mark of 53 was set in 1977.


"It is a generation ago and perhaps the competition was not as great as it is now," said Nadal. "I am not understating their records at all, they are great, but it is hard to compare."

Borg sent a message of congratulations to Nadal after he passed the former world number one on the list.

The Spaniard said: "Borg is one of the greatest players of all time. I have only seen bits of his play on video but he won six French Opens and five Wimbledons, I don't know if I can do that."

Victories over Roger Federer in the finals of Dubai and Monte Carlo this year, in an era when the Swiss is all but unbeatable, have extended Nadal's winning record against the world number one to 4-1.

Nadal will go into the French Open as the favourite, having won in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

"It's normal to lose, not to keep on winning," he said. "Is it normal to win Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Roland Garros? No."

When told that Austrian Thomas Muster won at Estoril, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome in 1995 and 1996, Nadal replied: "Well, Muster was Muster".

The French Open starts on May 29.

Djokovic after his Madrid 2009 Semi with Rafa: “Next time I’ll probably take two rackets on the match point and try to hit with both of them. It’s frustrating that when you play so well you can’t win.”
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post #707 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-01-2006, 01:15 PM
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what happened there??? My Italian is a bit rusty but it doesnt look good....

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a prostetator came into the court during Rafa's game !!

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post #709 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-01-2006, 04:13 PM
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Moondancer of vr.com has kindly translated this article from French (it's from before Barcelona):
Eurosport – Julien Carrasco (24/04/06)

Nadal, a “one-dimensional” or “monolithic” player? Nothing is less true. At Monte Carlo, Roger Federer was beaten by an extra-ordinary counter-attacker who masters every aspect of the clay court game, that fourth dimension of the tour that still escapes the Swiss…

« The more I play against him, the better because he has a rather monolithic game », uttered Federer in a blustering way before challenging Rafael Nadal in the final of the Masters Series of Monte Carlo. Just a matter of convincing himself that there does exist a solution to the problem posed by the Mallorcan. Because in reality, the more the Swiss plays against Nadal, the more he accumulates his errors.

In five encounters, except in an unexpected turnaround of the situation in Miami 2005, Roger has not found good answers to the multiple choice question that is Nadal. Maybe the world’s number one does not fully take the full measure of the problem into consideration?

Federer considers that Nadal is a wall and there is clearly a breach to exploit and to widen so that the entire building comes crashing down, last obstacle in front of him before Roland Garros. “I was asking myself many questions before arriving here and it was a very beautiful week », he reassures himself. “I have taken a huge step forward. Today, I was almost there and I believe that my chances for Roland Garros have gone up this week. It’s another stage. Playing against Nadal helps me to progress. Since he’s there, I have improved things and the more I play against him, the better. »

”I feel like an equal to him”

This new defeat? A step in the direction of future success. « I have played a good match even though I have some regrets about the number of occasions I could not cease an opportunity, at break points in particular. My total of errors? That statistic is of no interest to me. Nadal leaves me no choice; you have to take risks against him. Those who say the contrary are invited to try it in my place. Having lost three times in a row against him does not discourage me. »

In a way, Federer feels that this is something that will pass. In the mean time, you have to keep up appearances. The Swiss was doing the chasing all along the match and could only pull off three rebreaks to try his luck in a tie-break but he does not accept the superiority of his young rival: “Nadal too strong for me? I don’t agree. Today, the difference was made by little things so it would be wrong to state that. I feel like an equal to him.” Beyond the generosity of the two actors in that palpitating and promising final and the mutual respect they have for each other, an authentic rivalry broke out on that big day in Monaco.

A glorious rivalry

With the glorious claycourts of Roland Garros in the backdrop, the two men find themselves already face to face. And the opposing styles on and off court is remarkable: Federer handles it with humour and ends with a flourish" “the only small advantage I will concede is that he is a lefty and there aren’t many of them on tour. I’m not used to it and it explains in part my bad start of the match. I have a left-handed trainer (Tony Roche) but, well, he’s a bit old.”

Nadal modestly reminds people that he simply does what it takes to win: “It’s a very beautiful victory. You never get used to a win like that, certainly not if it’s against Federer. It’s very special to start the clay court season with a title. The match was very tough, I was very disappointed that I didn’t take my chance in the second set. After that, I had some difficult moments. I was broken in the third set but he then made a couple of mistakes which allowed me to make a new start. All things considered, I’m very satisfied with my performance, I was very aggressive with my forehand, very consistent and focused throughout the match. The only thing I'm not pleased about is my serve. I had a problem with the sand (note: it seems that some of the French journalists misunderstood Nadal. They use the word “sable” = sand but in English, he talked about having trouble with the sun) but that’s no excuse. My serve was, quite simply, bad."

The very harsh judgement the young prodigy has on his serve is proof of something that we don’t find with Federer : Nadal is human. He’s not made out of one solid piece of wood or stone, like an Iberean pilar planted in the middle of ‘court Philippe Chatrier’. He too can lose against Federer and the crude mistakes he made in the second and fourth set of the final are proof of that. But he too can improve.

On clay, against Nadal, Federer is no longer looking at himself. He, who has the potential to become the best player in the history of tennis, has to break that mirror. Learning how to play against a lefty will not suffice to win Roland Garros and win the ‘little grand slam’. He will have to be better than Nadal, who has yet to reach the age of 20 on the 3rd of June 2006 and who will improve even further….We have seen that on Sunday, Rafael often tried to smother his elder opponent by coming forward and firing volleys at the net…an attitude that is far removed from that of a simple returner.

A matter of instinct.

A fierce fighter, Nadal transforms any clay court into an impregnable deserted island, a fortress that looks like Manacor, his home town. His hunger for the victory does not cease. And Federer, for whom it took 4 years to get control over an impulsive temper to win his trophies, will have to go back to his instinctive hatred of defeat to get to the level of the Spaniard. “I loved our battles”, Roger admits after the confrontation, almost looking pleased, not for having been beaten but for having found those emotions back that were too strong to control just like when he was broken in the 4th set and he launched a ball wide over the public into the sea, after which he continued with newly found energy.

On the other side of the court, Nadal keeps on pumping his fist. Much more than a mere “supreme worker”, the ‘protégé’ of uncle Toni Nadal is developing into an exceptional champion, forged by the solid and continuous battle on clay courts, mixing pride with humility: “Every day, I can lose, even on clay. Well, at the moment, I’m at 100% and I know that I have a good chance to win but to be frank, there are plenty of players who can beat me.” This week, he's starting the challenge again: "sure, I’m happy with having won 42 consecutive matches. The record of Borg and Vilas (46 and 53)? Yes, I’m thinking about it. It’s already nice to be n°3 in the history. Now, to get beyond Borg, I will have to reach the final at Barcelona. That’s not easy.”

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post #710 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-01-2006, 04:20 PM
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From The World of Tennis via Pro Tennis Fan:

Scouting Report: Rafael Nadal (Spain)

Birth Date: 6/3/86 Height: 6'1" Weight: 188 lbs. Plays: Left-handed

Overall Analysis

Nadal is his brief time as a professional has almost inarguably established himself as the best defensive player the game has ever seen. Traditional thinking had it that great scramblers were little guys like Guillermo Coria or Michael Chang with not much reach or power, not a 6'1" muscle-bound, prototype like Nadal who is so much more than a human backboard. The Spaniard's forehand - struck with a spin rate that is also virtually unprecedented in tennis - is an especially feared weapon that opponents must respect and try to avoid on every surface. Nadal also brings to the table a competitive drive and will to win that is almost unmatched. All of these attributes make Nadal virtually untouchable on clay, but on fast courts his lack of a big serve and defensive mindset can be liabilities, as big hitters and servers are able to take it to the Spaniard with a far a greater chance of success.

Serve - (6/10)
It's fair to say that Nadal has one of the best service games in tennis in spite of his serve. He does get a high percentage of first balls in play by hitting mostly slice or kick serves, which is excellent strategy since he nearly always has the edge from the baseline. Though he rarely hits aces or gets outright "free" points, Nadal can also be effective at stretching an opponent wide, forcing them to slice and then whipping a huge forehand winner on the next shot. Clearly, though, the Spaniard would lose serve much more frequently if not for his great scrambling, so it's essential for him to develop more power on the shot if he wants to be playing great tennis into his late-20s.

Return of Serve - (8/10)
Like most of his game, Nadal has a defensive mentality on the return of serve. The whole idea for the Spaniard is to simply get the ball back in play anyway, anyhow and then let his consistency, spin, forehand and legs take over from there. This strategy works incredibly well on clay, as he's able to position himself well behind the baseline, consistently get big first serves back deep and regularly break the likes of Roger Federer. On fast hard or grass, though, he doesn't have the time he'd like to set up for the return and can tend to hit too many balls back weakly and allow lesser players with good serves to hang with him.

Forehand (9/10)
Nadal's has shown in his matches with Federer that his forehand is nearly the equal of the Swiss great's. His greatest strength is that he almost never misses the shot because of all the spin and his large margin for error. But he's also capable of driving "through" the ball and - much like Roger - executing powerful shots near the lines that are also high-percentage plays because of the heavy topspin. My only complaint is that in some matches he doesn't seem to use this weapon enough and his defensive instincts allow lesser players to dictate play too frequently.

Backhand (9/10)
While this is supposedly Nadal's weaker side, the Spaniard's backhand compares favorably overall with just about every player on Tour. It's true he's not going to pound a lot of winners with it like Richard Gasquet or Andre Agassi, but then again those players can make many more backhand errors in matches than the Spaniard and don't defend on this side nearly as well. Nadal also has great feel on the backhand, enabling him to hit delicate angle passing shots and drop shots on clay. He does lose a point, however, for not possessing a great knifing slice that he could use as an approach shot or to take pressure off his topspin backhand on really fast courts.

Volleys, Net Game (7/10)
Rafa is an adequate volleyer relative to most ATP players but is clearly not going to - and doesn't want to have to - execute difficult shots at net consistently. Still, his size and quickness do allow him to get his racquet on many more balls than most other players and allow him to win a majority of "athletic" exchanges when both players are at net. His good height and mobility also enable him to put away overheads from difficult positions.

Court Coverage /Defense - (10/10)
This area of the game is clearly where Nadal separates himself from the pack; indeed, there's almost nothing to quibble with. He has great speed, reach and athleticism that make it extremely difficult to get a ball past him. When he does get his racquet on the ball, he uses great spin and touch to get nearly everything back in play, even from the most defensive positions. From the baseline, he is great at neutralizing big shots so that - even though he willingly adopts a defensive attitude - opponents can't put winning patterns together. His extra hand on the racquet on the backhand gives him extra strength and support when he is attacked on that side. Finally, when a player does come to net, his passing shots off both sides are consistently well-placed and powerful.

Mental Toughness /Tactical Ability - (9/10)
It's also probably impossible to be more mentally tough than the Spaniard, who showed in the 2005 Madrid Masters that he could battle from two sets down, even on a surface that's not entirely to his liking. Tactically, in that match and others, he has shown that he can go to a plan B and play more aggressively when he's getting beat. Against Ljubicic in Madrid he started getting the Croat on the defensive with the first chance he had and that turned the match around. He can do the same on clay, where he not only intimidates players with his competitive fire but can also outthink them by mixing in huge, heavy forehands and drop shots to go along with his unparalled defense. I'm docking him a point only because I want to see how he responds to the pressure of defending his French Open final before I make him Federer's equal in this category.

How to Beat Nadal
Nadal's opponents are faced with the fact that they are up against the greatest defensive player in the world, yet unfortunately the only way to beat him is to challenge that defense and make him prove it's better than their offense. The obvious key when faced with a defensive wizard is patience. Patience, patience, patience and more patience. The Spaniard wants you to get exasperated at all the shots he gets back and all the incredible shots on the run that he hits, so it's important to never show him you're frustrated. The opponent instead has to calmly construct points by generally playing his backhand, using heavy spin to pull Nadal wide on either side, force him to slice and then go for the kill on the next shot. It's also important for an opponent to try and serve big and get as many 1-2 punches as possible so he doesn't have to get involved in grueling rallies with the Spaniard. Another tactic that can be effective on clay if used wisely is to bring Nadal into the net with short slices and drop shots. Obviously, succesfully executing a game plan against Nadal is much more feasible on a fast court, as it is much easier to use pace to force errors off his racquet.

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post #711 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-01-2006, 04:26 PM
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From The World of Tennis via Pro Tennis Fan:
Nadal: Best Teenager Ever?

Spaniard's Record Compares Favorably to Other Precocious Greats of Open Era

By David McPherson

All the talk swirling around the tennis media this week has been about Rafael Nadal's attempt to set the all-time (or at least Open Era) record for most consecutive clay-court matches won.

As fun as it will be to see him try to break Guillermo Vilas' mark of 53 straight wins - heading into Sunday's Barcelona final Nadal has 46 - I thought I'd bring attention to another record Rafa is chasing, namely most Tour titles as a teenager, and also use The World of Tennis.com's own criteria to see how his accomplishments stack up against some of the other great teenagers of the Open Era.

The player with the most tournament titles as a teenager is Swedish great Bjorn Borg with 16; Nadal has 14 and can make it 15 by beating Tommy Robredo in the Barcelona final on Sunday. Nadal, by the way, will turn 20 during this year's French Open, so it's probably only realistic for him to tie Borg since the Italian Open will probably be the only other tournament he'll play before Roland Garros.

Other than Borg and Nadal, the other players to win 10 or more ATP titles as teenagers are Mats Wilander (13), Boris Becker (12) and Andre Agassi (10), obviously all among the greatest players of the Open Era - see my men's Overall Open Era Standings.

In an effort to try to determine which of these players - plus Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg and Michael Chang, who won Grand Slam titles before the age of 20 - is the best teenager of the Open Era, I thought I would use the basic criteria I employ for my Open Era Standings, meaning I tallied up Grand Slam Points, Ranking Points and Year-End Championship Points for each of the players, and see who would come out on top.

In determining the ranking points, I decided to award points to the players if they finished in the top 10 the year they turned 20 (which obviously means they were 19 for part of the year).

In determining Grand Slam Points and Year-End Championship Points, I decided to award the points to the players as long as they were a teenager when the event started.

The results were as follows:

1. Bjorn Borg
Grand Slam Points - 1207
Ranking Points - 850
YEC Points - 160
Total Points - 2217

2. Boris Becker
Grand Slam Points - 1250
Ranking Points - 560
YEC Points - 160
Total Points - 1970

3. Mats Wilander
Grand Slam Points - 1266
Ranking Points - 405
YEC Points - 40
Total Points - 1711

4. Rafael Nadal
Grand Slam Points - 560
Ranking Points - 700?
YEC Points - 0
Total Points 1260

5. Michael Chang
Grand Slam Points - 676
Ranking Points - 210
YEC Points - 0
Total Points - 886

6. Stefan Edberg
Grand Slam Points - 616
Ranking Points - 250
YEC Points - 0

Total Points - 866

7. Pete Sampras
Grand Slam Points - 549
Ranking Points - 210
YEC Points - 0
Total Points - 759

8. Andre Agassi
Grand Slam Points - 198
Ranking Points - 480
YEC Points - 0
Total Points - 678

In conclusion, Nadal's achievements as a teenager put him in some rarified air, but are not quite enough for him to be considered the greatest teenager of the Open Era. If he wins the French Open and finishes the year No. 2, he will move into third place, but Becker will still be ahead of him based on his results at the year-end championships. Borg, meanwhile, surpasses everyone because he was so great at such a young age. At age 18, the Swede finished the year No. 3 in the world and the next two years finished No. 3 and No. 2, respectively. No male player in the Open Era, by the way, has ever won three Grand Slam titles as a teenager.

On an interesting but somewhat pessimistic note, it's noteworthy how little most of these tennis phenoms accomplished after turning 25. Excluding Sampras and Agassi, who demonstrated outstanding longevity, the rest of the players combined - not including Nadal - won just four of their 31 Slam titles after the age of 24.

Those titles were Becker's 1996 Australian Open win, Edberg's 1991 and 1992 U.S. Open victories and Borg's 1981 French Open title.

Let's hope Nadal can make the necessary improvements and adjustments to his game during his career that will allow him to buck this trend.

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post #712 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-01-2006, 04:32 PM
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A Grand Slam for Roger in 2006?
Between The Lines
April 29, 2006 Article
Ray Bowers
Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.

Not since Rod Laver in 1969 has a male player captured all four Slam tournaments in a single calendar year, the classic Grand Slam. Indeed, no-one has won the first two Slams in a given year--Australia and Roland Garros--since Jim Courier did so in 1992. But this year, 2006, there seems a plausible chance that these rare achievements could indeed happen.

The man that could break through is of course Roger Federer, who has already captured the year's first Slam, Australian Open 06. Roger brings superior credentials to the quest including seven career Slam triumphs to date. At age 24 his tennis is probably at its career peak or nearly so. His recent triumphs on hard courts at Indian Wells and Miami strengthen his place as favorite to repeat as champion at both Wimbledon and U.S. Open later this year. Thus Roger's most difficult barrier enroute to his possible Grand Slam appears to lie just ahead -- at Roland Garros, the only Slam played on clay and the only Slam that Federer has not yet conquered.


Five different players have won Roland Garros in our current century, none more than once. All five champions have come from either Spain or South America, and four of the five runners-up have also been from the same regions. All dislike being called clay-court specialists, as all are also attractive competitors on hard courts. Still, none have them has won a Slam other than at Garros, and Gaston Gaudio, for example, Garros champion in 2004, shows a lifetime record at the other Slams of only 12-19. Meanwhile the recent champions of the grass-court and hard-court Slams have come from other parts of the world. Their primary strengths have been generally in their in powerful serves, attacking ground-strokes, and, especially in earlier decades, skills at net.

Federer's top achievements to date have come on fast courts, which along with his magnificent skills in serving, stroking, and volleying clearly place him in the latter group. He started tennis early and, after winning Switzerland's junior crown, lived at the Swiss national tennis center. He captured the junior singles at Wimbledon in 1998, becoming the world's top-ranked junior for the year. Tennis-watchers noted his superb talents, and expectations became high for Roger's future success as a pro.

Roger's fast-court abilities, including superb net play, soared in his Wimbledon triumph of 2003. Since then in winning six more Slams--two more Wimbledons, two U.S. Opens, and two Australians--he has shown a wonderfully balanced game of both power and finesse, finished in all areas. Most remarkably, he has shown an unusual ability to produce his very best tennis when it counted most--i.e., late in important matches late in tournaments. Opponents in early rounds sometimes win sets, where Roger typically plays a quiet tennis, well within his capabilities.. But whenever matters became climactic, Roger always seems able to step up the pace and pressure, employing as main weapon the penetrating velocity and fierce topspin of his attacking forehand. The result has been an almost-perfect W-L record in the final rounds of tournaments. In short, Roger has become world's champion by producing relentless attack when needed.

But clay is a surface that helps the defense not the offense. The attacking player's best thrusts lose energy on the clay-court bounce and tend to pay off less immediately. As points become extended, the attacker's winners can become outnumbered by his errors.

But if Roger is the game's supreme attacker, he is also excellent defensively, and he is entirely comfortable against most opponents amid neutral play. He patiently exchanges corner-to-corner backhands, mixing overspin and slice, varying pace and placement amid superb court movement. Meanwhile he brings the speed and stroking ability of a top counter-puncher--able to reach opponent's volleys and angled shots early enough to nail the exposed openings. His serve, like everyone's, loses forward energy on the clay-court bounce, but his command of spin, variety, and control in serving are inestimably useful on clay. Finally, he is excellent, perhaps superior, in the close-in cat-and-mouse game.

Roger's appearances on clay are only moderately frequent. But he has competed at Garros in every year starting in 1999. He reached the quarters in 2001 but his best showing came last year, when he reached the semis before losing in four sets to the eventual champion, Rafael Nadal. All five of his match victories were achieved in three straight sets, and his victims included several hard-hitting clay artists.

He has also competed regularly in the German Open, held in Hamburg on red clay two weeks before Garros. Roger triumphed there in 2002, 2004, and 2005. In winning all six of his matches there last year, he revenged an earlier clay-court loss to Gasquet and also defeated top-level clay warriors Davydenko, Coria, and Robredo. Roger has also sometimes entered Monte Carlo or Rome, and he reached the final at Rome in 2003 and at Monte Carlo in 2006 (to be discussed below). The Swiss national open is played on clay, at Gstaad, and Roger won it in 2004. Meanwhile his Davis Cup record on clay courts has been excellent.

Thus the nature and quality of his weaponry and his past record on clay verify that Roger is a superb clay-courter. Indeed, anyone who has won Hamburg three times in four years before reaching age 24 is no clay neophyte. Federer is probably the world's second-best clay-court player today.

But the world's best player on clay is Rafael Nadal, Roger's current nemesis. The highly charged Spanish teen-ager won his last 36 clay-court matches in 2005 and has added to the string with every win so far in 2006. Rafael and Roger have played each other two times on clay. Both meetings became immediate classics, high in quality and intensity. Together they provide intriguing perspective toward a possible, indeed probable, meeting at Garros 06.

GARROS 2005 -- NADAL d. FEDERER 63 46 64 63

Stadium Chatrier was filled for the semi-final show-down, pitting Rafael Nadal, the upstart recent winner at Monte Carlo and Rome, against the current world champion and recent winner at Hamburg. The day was cool, damp, windy--conditions scarcely favorable for Roger Federer's attacking style. Roger started poorly, losing the first game and eventually the first set amid far too many errors. At net, Roger's success rate was dismal. An intruding shower promised even slower conditions to come--i.e., more trouble for Roger. But upon resumption, Roger improved his consistency and raised his forcing play, often drawing returns from Rafael that were attackable. Roger's favorite sequence--serve, forcing approach, then volley, all delivered with punch--were too strong even for Rafael's superb counter-punching skills. When returning serve, Federer regularly stepped inside baseline to paste Rafael's offering to a far corner.

Although Roger was generally the attacker, many points followed other patterns. There were countless neutral exchanges, and Roger also was more than occasionally on the defensive. Meanwhile every rocket to a corner and every sortie forward by Roger was chancy in the face of Rafael's speed afoot, power, and accuracy. At four-games-all in the third set Rafael raised his pace and overspin in stroking, and the teen-ager finally won the set with a fine swinging volley in forecourt. Federer's errors had been increasing, especially off his forehand, and his first-serve percentage was badly in decline. It was Nadal ahead, two sets to one.

Roger captured an early service break in set four. Most points were well contested, and most games were drawn-out amid fading twilight. The unraveling began in game six, Roger serving, when the Swiss star missed two set-up forehands from inside baseline. Roger's distemper with the conditions and his own mistakes now grew. Rafael pulled ahead in game eight helped by a close Federer error and a heavily overspun mortar by Rafael that just clipped the baseline. Rafael now needed only to hold serve, and he produced three outright winners to the corners in doing so. It had been a memorable affair, settled by narrow margin.

Rafael afterwards went on to defeat Puerta in the final and thereby capture Garros in his first try. It was a remarkable achievement for so young a player, honored in the decision to honor Rafael as Tennis Server's Player of the Year for 2005. The high-energy Mallorcan was, however, sidelined for several months late in the year with a persistent foot injury. Federer meanwhile captured Wimbledon 05, U.S. Open 05, and Australia 06.

MONTE CARLO 06 -- NADAL d. FEDERER 62 67 63 76

The two men next met on a hard court in Dubai in early 2006, Nadal winning two of three sets. Both then returned to the clay wars in mid-April 2006 at Monte Carlo. Both advanced to their final-round meeting by winning five matches with loss of only one set.

It was another wondrous affair--well played, intensely contested. I did not watch the match, but my colleage, Pablo Sanfrancisco, whose photography has appeared often on Tennis Server, viewed and re-viewed substantial segments on tape. Pablo grew up and learned his early tennis in Spain prior to attending college in America.

Pablo warmly admired the quality and evenness of the play. Nadal habitually roamed his comfort area 5-10 feet behind the baseline, using his speed afoot to maintain rallies and using the clay surface to reduce the sting from Roger's fire. Rafael's heavy, overspin ground-strokes from deep court made it difficult for Roger to attack. Pablo especially noted Rafael's quickness at moving forward to produce firm, angled deliveries designed to move Roger well away from optimum position. To Pablo, Rafael seemed at least equal to Roger in his ability to punish balls that were only moderately short and then to advance and exploit net position.

Federer, in contrast, operated generally up close to baseline, even more intent to attack any vulnerable offering by his opponent. Roger started the match poorly, however--in trouble throughout the first set under Rafael's consistency and firm hitting, but Roger recovered to reach and capture a second-set tiebreaker. Rafael then seemed to gain in command, winning set three and moving ahead by two service breaks in set four. Roger battled back to reach six games all and took the early lead in the tiebreaker, but the world Number One then faltered in making several close errors on forcing attempts. Closing in on victory, Rafael raised his play beyond even his general high level. To Pablo's admiration, it ended with Rafael first moving Roger to the backhand corner, then executing a high-risk down-the-line drive to the same corner, wrong-footing Roger for the concluding winner.


Afterwards, Roger was quoted saying that he was gradually learning how to play against Rafael. We must guess at his full meaning, but several things seem obvious.

Roger of course must maintain his confidence against Rafael, and his words, just noted, are probably part of his doing so. He must not allow fear of losing to sap his ability to find and sustain his very best tennis. Second, it seems obvious that if Roger is to defeat Rafael, whether on clay or hard, it must be with his attacking game. Perhaps Roger, who lost the first set to Rafael in four of their five of their matches to date, should move away from his penchant for working his way into matches gradually. Thus he should resolve to unleash his attack earlier in matches, and--probably more important--he must not wait too long during points to start weighing in his wonderful power forehand. Roger knows that his rocketry will not yield from Rafael the immediate openings it sometimes creates. But the heavy barrage, once begun, must be sustained with high resolve and, of course, without error. To retreat to neutrality is to sacrifice the boldness and risks already invested in the point. Corollary tactics follow--occasional drop shots and short angles mainly to keep Rafael a little shorter in court than he prefers, attacks against Rafael's serves by stepping in to find better angles, lots of variety in serving.

I greatly admire Roger's success to date often without on-site help by a professional coach. But the problem presented by Rafael may require of Roger a level of mental strength that comes from having a close and demanding mentor who holds Roger's confidence.

Rafael's formula, of course, has already proven successful against Roger, having prevailed in four of their five past meetings including two of three on hard courts. Rafael is surely thirsty to extend his success, and his willingness--indeed eagerness--last year to compete on Wimbledon grass is absolutely exemplary. Rafael has the advantage of being nearly five years the younger, though his foot problem at young age is slightly troubling. He has probably learned not to waste energy on meaningless displays between points and during changeovers.

As to their chances in their next meeting, I rate the two men just about equal. Roger is a slight favorite in calculations predicting outcomes at Garros 06, though the results of the forthcoming Italian and German Opens will greatly affect the final computer prediction. (The current calculations rank the tier just below the two leaders as follows: Coria, Nalbandian, Ferrer, Gaudio, Davydenko, Ljubicic.)

Whether or not Roger keeps his Grand Slam chances alive this year, we can be sure that many historic meetings between the two lie ahead. I thank Pablo for his perceptive comments, sketched above.


Djokovic after his Madrid 2009 Semi with Rafa: “Next time I’ll probably take two rackets on the match point and try to hit with both of them. It’s frustrating that when you play so well you can’t win.”
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post #713 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-01-2006, 05:00 PM
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Re: >> Rafa news and articles <<

Nadal leaves Borg behind with 47th clay win running
Scott Williams in Barcelona
Monday May 1, 2006
The Guardian

Rafael Nadal, who was born too late to have watched any of Bjorn Borg's matches, yesterday surpassed the master Swede by earning his 47th consecutive victory on clay to win the Barcelona Open.

The 19-year-old Nadal's 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 win over his compatriot Tommy Robredo on the home clay of the Real Club de Tenis in front of nearly 7,000 wildly cheering Spanish partisans raised the French Open champion's status even higher.

"This was not an easy match for me," said Nadal, who suffered with a foot injury before starting this season in February. "The last time I played in Spain was in Madrid [which he won last October].

"It's a dream to keep on winning. Tommy is a tough fighter but I was able to beat him. I'm playing well on clay. I'm working to keep my level. I will need this kind of form in the coming weeks."

Ever the quiet hero, the world No2 Nadal lets modesty take priority, even after lifting his third title of the season and the first of 2006 over an opponent other than Roger Federer. "I only saw a few points played by Borg on television," Nadal said as he prepares for a week off before tackling the Masters Series in Rome starting on May 8. "I was too young."

But what tennis history he might have missed while in nappies at home in Mallorca, Nadal has surely picked up through wise mentoring from his uncle Toni, who has coached the talented youngster from the start and whose influence helps to keep one of Spain's most beloved sportsmen well-grounded in the company of runaway success.

After triumphing in two hours, 18 minutes, Nadal is not likely to be finished with his record-breaking. Having surpassed Borg's 46, he has in his sights the 53 clay matches in a row won by the legendary Argentinian Guillermo Vilas during a magic spring and summer in 1977 - nine years before Nadal was born.

Rome, where Nadal will be seeded for another final against Federer, could produce an even more dramatic scenario. Should the prolific Spaniard successfully defend his third clay title of the spring at the Foro Italico, victory would pull him level with Vilas on 53 in a row.

Such an achievement might not be unthinkable to Nadal, who recognises the chance and hopes to take it. "I think I can reach the record but I can't say how long it will take."

Already the teenager with a Roland Garros defence beginning in three weeks, is awed to be mentioned in the same breath as Borg. "He made tennis history with five straight Wimbledons. I can't see myself doing that. I'm still learning in the game."

But rolling over Robredo for the thrid time showed Nadal to be a quick learner and assured the hosts a fourth champion in as many years in Barcelona.

More remarkably Nadal dominates on clay in the same way that Federer does on hard courts, with an 11-0 clay finals record during his short career and 15 trophies on all surfaces to hand. One more would pull him level with Borg, who won 16 as a teenager.

Meanwhile Alex Stober, the German trainer and physio who was instrumental in helping Pete Sampras win his 14th and final grand slam title at the United States Open four years ago, has teamed up with Andre Agassi, who plans to make his comeback at this year's Stella Artois tournament at Queen's. Agassi has played only seven matches this year because of a sciatic problem and decided to miss the clay-court season.

Andy Murray has pulled out of this week's tournament in Estoril, Portugal with a sore back.


Djokovic after his Madrid 2009 Semi with Rafa: “Next time I’ll probably take two rackets on the match point and try to hit with both of them. It’s frustrating that when you play so well you can’t win.”
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post #714 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-04-2006, 10:31 AM
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Re: >> Rafa news and articles <<

Has this article been posted somewhere?


Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Pages: PlayStation or on-court, Raging Bull wins
By John Pages

You think Roger Federer is the best tennis player on this planet? Think again. Think Rafael Nadal. The two have met five times and the score stands, 4-1. Of course, in favor of Roger the Great, right? Wrong! Four wins, one loss in favor of Nadal. “I’ve had three losses in a row against him,” Federer said in disbelief.

Well, Roger, believe this: Rafael Nadal just broke the record of 46 straight wins on clay by Bjorn Borg, the owner of five Wimbledon crowns and six French Open trophies. Borg is one of the best. Ever. And Nadal, only 19, broke one of his most elusive records.

Welcome to the record books, Rafa.

I think Nadal will continue to dominate Federer. That one loss Nadal took against the Swiss? He held match point. He was a point away from taking a 5-0 head-to-head record against Roger. Can you imagine 5-0 against Federer?

Rafael Nadal Parera was destined for glory since birth. At the age of four he first held his racket. When he turned eight, he won his first title. After Grade 4, he quit school and moved to another campus – the tennis court – for full-time studies. At the age of 12, listen to this...

“I remember that he came to the academy one day, when he was barely 12-years-old,” says former Spanish star Emilio Sanchez-Vicario. “I rallied with him for a while and we decided to play a set. Each time he won a point, he celebrated as if it was the best one of his life, and when we changed sides, he didn’t look at me at all. He had one desire and that was to beat me.”

RAGING BULL. Spain is known for it. Add one more bull to the fight: Rafa Nadal. Translated to English, it means “I WILL WIN!”
His neighbor from Mallorca, Spain, Carlos Moya (the former French Open champion), shared this experience: “A few years ago I asked him if he would like to have a career like mine. He looked at me with the sincerity that you usually find in small children and said, quite seriously, that he aspired to do more. And I knew that he would be a better player than me.”
‘“To do more.” That’s the Nadal motto.

One of his weapons is being left-handed. “I have to adjust a lot to play against him,” says Federer. “I have to make split-second decisions since the balls are coming from a lefty.”

But did you know that he’s right-handed? He writes, eats, carries stuff using his right hand. Then why is he playing left? When he was younger, Toni, his uncle and coach, decided that his two-handed backhand would benefit from a strong right arm. Imagine that? A right-hander playing left? My gosh, he owns two forehands.

Rafa’s family is a brood of sportsmen. The next-most famous Nadal is his uncle Miguel Angel Nadal, a former professional football player who played for FC Barcelona, Real Mallorca and the Spanish national team. Which explains why Nadal is crazy over football and, if he didn’t turn to tennis, might have been donning the Spanish jersey next month in Germany.

MONEY. Does Rafa love money? Crazy question, you say. Who isn’t? But after earning $5.3 million in prize money, here’s the surprise.

“Do I have any idea of how much money I made?” he said. “Well, yes I do have an idea, but I don’t know exactly because I don’t take care of it myself. And the tax returns and all? Ask my father. For me, the most important thing is to do things in exchange for nothing, because what makes you truly happy is not material.”

His father Sebastián (a glass business/restaurant owner) and mother, Ana María, recall that when Rafa was younger and went out to play events, he brought money with him. He wrote down every single expense in a piece of paper. The rest he returned religiously. Today? Just months back, he asked his parents for permission to buy a laptop computer. “An inexpensive one,” his dad added.

Who is Rafael Nadal?

Several months back, he went to Hard Rock Café with fellow player Feliciano López. They arrived at 8:30 p.m. Quickly, the two caught the attention of the cameras. An hour later, they’re back at the hotel. Why so quick? Nadal was eager to play his PlayStation. Of his buddy Carlos Moya, he said, “When we are in Mallorca, we never speak about tennis. We like to play the PlayStation.”

Rafael Nadal? French Open champ? Owner of a 47-match winning streak? Home early...for PlayStation?

Relax. He’s only 19.

But I bet I know what PlayStation game he’s playing. Tennis.

And I bet Player B “Roger Federer” is crying to Player A “Rafael Nadal.”


Roger, Chiudi, Stan the Man, Michi, Timea, Swiss guys and girls

good luck RF!!

my latest blog entry: a woman in a male locker room.. hello?? , Updated: January 6th 2009
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post #715 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-04-2006, 11:21 AM
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Re: >> Rafa news and articles <<

Wow, the author got carried away, didn't he?
You think Roger Federer is the best tennis player on this planet? Think again. Think Rafael Nadal.
WTH? I mean, I'd love this to be the case, but seriously...at this point it's

I'm allergic to morons.

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post #716 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-04-2006, 11:38 AM
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Re: >> Rafa news and articles <<

Originally Posted by mallorn
Wow, the author got carried away, didn't he?

WTH? I mean, I'd love this to be the case, but seriously...at this point it's
You think Roger Federer is the best tennis player on this planet? Think again. Think Rafael Nadal.
He-he-he Mallorn. He-he-he.
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post #717 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-04-2006, 12:02 PM
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I'm allergic to morons.

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post #718 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-04-2006, 04:22 PM
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Re: >> Rafa news and articles <<

Originally Posted by mallorn
Wow, the author got carried away, didn't he?

WTH? I mean, I'd love this to be the case, but seriously...at this point it's
And why not ? Why should thinking of Rafa as the best player in the world be unrealistic ? He IS the best right now, and, as the journalist said...he's only 19 !!!




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post #719 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-04-2006, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Ti-Anne
And why not ? Why should thinking of Rafa as the best player in the world be unrealistic ? He IS the best right now, and, as the journalist said...he's only 19 !!!
Rafa is on his way to being the best but not quite there yet (with the exception of clay).

I mean, objectively, Roger is still the number one player by a long mile, and their H2H doesn't really change this. The fact that Rafa has a positive H2H against Roger doesn't mean that he's the better player overall, just like the fact that Blake has a positive H2H against Rafa doesn't mean that Blake's the better player.

Of course, Rafa is still only 19 (I'm amazed every time I think about it!) and it's most exciting to watch him develop and achieve so much success and challenge Roger for the number one spot. I'm quite sure that (barring serious injury) he'll go on to become the best player in the world because he's got a great talent, drive and focus. If he remains healthy, the best is still to come.

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post #720 of 2274 (permalink) Old 05-13-2006, 08:35 AM
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Re: >> Rafa news and articles <<

An interview with Jimmy Connors, from Tennis Week (thanks, mamasue):
The Tennis Week Interview: Jimmy Connors

By Scoop Malinowski

Tennis Hall of Famer Jimmy Connors created a record that may never be broken by capturing U.S. Open championships on three different surfaces: grass, har-tru and hard court. And now the five-time U.S. Open champion is launching a comeback of sorts in taking his game to new territory: tennis instruction on DVD.

The 53-year-old Belleville native who crafted a larger-than-life on court persona is back working the small screen both an analyst for the BBC's coverage of Wimbledon and with his own six-DVD set of tennis instruction titled "Jimmy Connors Presents: Tennis Fundamentals" The DVD instructional series can be ordered by TVAtlas.com or by calling (800) 480-8200. The complete set of six DVDs retails for $109.96 or individual DVDs from the series retail for $29.98 plus $5.95 shipping and handling.

The series features appearances by Connors' former fiancee Chris Evert, as well as Tracy Austin, Pancho Segura and John Lloyd and current pros James Blake, Justine Henin-Hardenne and twins Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan. In "Conversations With Champions", one of the six DVDs in the collection, Connors interviews Rafael Nadal, Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, Sania Mirza, Paradorn Srichaphan, Evert and Henin-Hardenne.

"His passion and his emotion and what he's trying to get across to the crowd — that's what it's all about, in my opinion," Connors said of Nadal.


Tennis Week contributing writer Scoop Malinowski caught up with Connors at the ESPN Zone in Manhattan on Tuesday and conducted this one-on-one interview. The photo of Connors and Scoop that accompanies the interview was shot by legendary Tennis Week photographer Melchior DiGiacomo. In the course of this conversation, Connors identifies the greatest competitor he ever saw on the court, offers his opinion on both this generation's fist-pumping left hander who plays with passion, Rafael Nadal, and the all-court artistry of World No. 1 Roger Federer, discusses his new DVD collection and reflects on his time away from tennis spent largely with his family at his California home.

Tennis Week: These DVD's are high quality. What was it like shooting the footage used in the DVDs?

Jimmy Connors: I don't think there'll be anything like it anymore. No, I can't say that [smiles], but it's the first of its kind really, with the way it was shot. We had five cameras on the court at all times. So they could get every angle possible, so that you could really see everything that we were doing — from the grip, to the drills, and just everything. And it was shot in high-definition — it's the way they're shooting movies now. And that's the way the DVD was shot. And also with my friends and the new players we have on there. It's just amazing that — Chrissie (Evert) and Tracy (Austin) and John Lloyd, Pancho Segura, the Bryan Brothers, Justine Henin-Hardenne, James Blake, Nadal, Srichaphan — the mixture of old and new — so you get an opportunity to take what you like from all of this and go out and incorporate that into your game. But the shooting of it was a ball, I must say. You think it's gonna be, Oh, it's a lot of work. It was work. But with everybody that was involved sure made it a lot easier."

Tennis Week: Where did you meet Nadal?

Jimmy Connors: Nadal — we saw him during the Palm Springs event. Very, very shy...very...he's a very interesting young man. Very strong. It was interesting for me just to see somebody 18, 19-years-old with a build like that, that goes out and take that to the tennis court. And shows his athleticism when he plays. But very shy, very reserved, laid back. Almost nervous to be around, and be a part of it. But very interesting.

Tennis Week: A guy like you must appreciate his intensity levels. What do you think of his intensity?

Jimmy Connors: Oh, I like it [smiles]. I wish a lot more of that would be around. To show what you're feeling and your abilities and the way you go about trying to use your abilities. His passion and his emotion and what he's trying to get across to the crowd — that's what it's all about, in my opinion [smiles].


Tennis Week: Are you in accord with all the other tennis experts and legends of the game who believe Federer could be on his way to become the best ever?

Jimmy Connors: Well, what does that mean, 'best ever'? I mean, best ever of this time. And the best ever, is that a...how do you figure out what the "best ever" is when you haven't played against...I haven't played...I didn't play Laver in his prime. I didn't play Pete in his prime. He didn't play me in my prime. McEnroe didn't play Gonzales in his time. So how do you know what the "best ever" is? I think a lot depends on who you're brought up with, what kind of rivalries you've had, and who you played along the way, that's gotten in your way from winning. I mean, if I was Federer, I'd be very pleased with the position that he's in. Because his counterparts seem to be feeling that they're happy enough just to tag along on the number one's tail [smiles]. And so instead of stepping up and putting forth the right kind of effort, to try and overtake him and beat him and move him down, as opposed to just let him run away with it. I wish I would see more of that. That's why I like Nadal. He's stepped up and beat Federer the last couple of times (actually three in a row). So maybe that's the making of a good rivalry.


Tennis Week: Who are your favorite players to watch today?

Jimmy Connors: Well, I certainly like to watch Federer. I like to watch Nadal, because he's an emotion...he shows me the thrill of being a part of what's going on out there. And one thing I probably like best about that is he's not afraid to show it. So I enjoy watching him. And there's a lot of good kids out there that have shown me some good stuff. And I would like for them to be a little bit more — but you can't give them personality — either they have that or they don't — but I think they can show that they have passion for the game a little bit more. Which would bring the fans more into what they're doing.


I'm allergic to morons.

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