Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick, 2004

The story of a 18 year old kid who defeats the world number one to help his team win the Davis Cup trophy.

From Rafael Nadal’s autobiography, Rafa:

You didn’t need especially fine antennae on the eve of the Davis Cup Final of 2004 to spot the disgruntlement in the faces of Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo, denied their places in history by the eighteen-year-old upstart Nadal.
It was obvious by anybody watching the team press conference the night before the first day of play, seeing the foursome pose for photographs, that the Spanish team was not a portrait of patriotic harmony. Carlos Moya, Spain’s number one, spoke with ambassadorial poise; Ferrero and Robredo looked as if they would rather be somewhere else; Nadal fidgeted, stared at his feet and forced smiles that did little to disguise his unease.

“When Rafa came to me and said he was willing to cede his place in the match against Roddick to one of the two older guys, I said no, that was the captains’ call and, anyway, he had my full confidence. But inside,” Moya recalls, “I had my doubts.” Moya transmitted the same message to Toni Nadal, who was also uncomfortable. “The decision has been made,” Moya said, “and I saw no point in causing even more tension in the group, and adding to the pressure on Rafa, who was in a dilemma, by saying anything else.”

Moya spoke bluntly to Ferrero, asking him to take the decision on the chin and remember that he had played his part in getting Spain to the final. The Davis Cup record books would show that, and wins for him and Nadal would mean victory for him too. Whether they bought the argument or not, Rafa’s doubts as to the legitimacy of him playing was now an added factor of concern for Moya. Had Rafa been more brash, less sensitive, had he either not picked up on, or simply not been bothered by, the ill feeling that suddenly plagued the group, he would at least have been going into the decisive match against the experienced American number one in a less cluttered frame of mind. But that was not the case.
Moya knew very well that beneath the gladiatorial front he put on during a match there lurked a wary, sensitive soul; he knew the Clark Kent Rafa the indecisive one who had to hear many opinions before he could make up his mind, the one afraid of the dark, frightened of dogs. When Nadal visited Moya at home, Moya had to lock up his dog up in a bedroom, otherwise Nadal would be completely incapable of settling down.

He was a highly strung young man alert to other people’s feelings, accustomed to a protected and harmonious family environment, out of sorts when there was bad blood. Spain’s Davis Cup family was distinctly out of sorts now, and making things worse, Nadal was – if not the cause – certainly at the heart of the problem. Getting his head in order for the biggest match of his life, Moya sensed, was going to be a bigger challenge than usual for his young friend. As if that were not bad enough, Moya could not help reminding himself that Rafa, however sharp he might have looked in training that week, had lost just fourteen days earlier against a player ranked 400 in the world. And his serve was conspicuously weaker than Roddick’s, which was almost 50 percent faster.

But Moya did also have reasons to believe in his young teammate. he had know Rafa since he was twelve years old, had trained with him scores of times, and had been beaten by him two years earlier in an important tournament. No top professional had been closer to Rafa, and none would continue to remain on more intimate terms with him, than his fellow Mallorcan.

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2004 Davis Cup final: Nadal defeats Roddick

Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro, US Open 2009

Back in 2009, Roger Federer made history by reaching the four Slam finals and winning a record-breaking 15th Grand Slam career title at Wimbledon.

From Bud Collins The History of tennis:

But there would be no number 16 before the year slipped away. Standing in the way at the US Open was the 6-foot-7 Argentine pillar, del Potro, cool in the tie-breakers, 3-6 7-6 4-6 7-6 6-2, in 4:06 – the first five-set men’s final in Flushing in ten years.
The 20-year-old del Potro, who had jolted Nadal with his most one-sided major defeat (6-2 6-2 6-2) in the semis, started nervously against the champion, and was two points from gonezo at 4-5, 15-30 in the fourth set. But as Delpo got his massive forehand in gear, along with belief, Federer began to fade and hardly competed in the last set. Their final was pushed back to the third Monday, a one-day rainout slightly marring otherwise gorgeous weather.

Roger had won all six previous matches with the Argentine, including a 6-3 6-0 6-0 throttling in the Australian Open quarterfinals at the start of the year. He had won 40 matches in a row at Flushing and threatened to equal big Bill Tilden’s record of six straight (1920-25) US titles. However, del Potro was muy caliente in the stretch, becoming the first Argentine man to win the US title since Guillermo Vilas in 1977.

Disappointing was number 2, Scotsman, Murray, the 2008 finalist, ineffective in falling to number 13, Croat Marin Cilic 7-5 6-2 6-2, in the fourth round, as was 2007 finalist Novak Djokovic, number 4, downed by Federer in the semis, 7-6 7-5 7-5 – the penultimate point of the match being won by Federer with a masterfully hit “wicket shot’, a between-the-legs blast that zipped by a stunned Djokovic at the net.

A Wimbledonian hangover seemed to grip number 5 Roddick, succumbing to 38 aces and serve-and-volleying John Isner, 7-6 6-3 3-6 5-7 7-6 in the third round. But 6-foot-9 Isner was brushed aside by number 10 Fernando Verdasco, 4-6 6-4 6-4 6-4 – and the quarterfinals contained no American men. The last time their number was down to one was 1986, Tim Wilkinson preventing a QF shutout.

Louis Armstrong Stadium, US Open 2006

Already 10 years since my trip to the US Open. Time flies…


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McEnroe Challenge for Charity

Thanks a lot to Tony for sharing his story and pictures!

Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Pat Cash, Madison Keys, Tracy Austin and others at the McEnroe Challenge for Charity, which kicks off the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA. I felt like I died and went to ‪Tennis Paradise

McEnroe Challenge for Charity

John McEnroe

 
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Extract from Andy Murray: Tennis Ace by John Murray

The early January tournaments were warm-ups for the main event of the month, which was the first Grand Slam of the year – the Australian Open. With a ranking well inside the top 100, Andy was guaranteed entry into all the Grand Slams and didn’t have to worry about qualifying any more. But his debut appearance in Melbourne was short lived, ending in a first-round defeat to Juan Ignacio Chela. With that, his Australian adventure was over until the following year.

His next tournament took him all the way back to Europe – nearly 10,000 miles away – to Zagreb, Croatia. The draw wasn’t kind to him: he was up against wold No. 5 and local favorite Ivan Ljubicic, and lost in three sets.

It had been a long way to go for another first-round defeat, but that was part and parcel of being a professional tennis player. Sometimes things don’t go your way, sometimes they do – as Andy was to find out in his next event. After he had travelled another 6,000 miles to get there, of course!

Andy had a new travel companion for his trip to the SAP Open in San Jose, California. Normally he went to tournaments with his coach at the time, Mark Petchey, or his mum, Judy, and sometimes both. Neither had made the journey across the Atlantic this time; instead he was accompanied by his girlfriend, Kim Sears.
Kim, also 18, had first met Andy at the previous year’s US Open. A student at the University of Sussex, she had an artistic side, having studied drama, music and art for her A-levels at school. Yet while Kim might not have been a fellow tennis pofessional, she certainly had the sport in her blood. Her father Nigel was a top British tennis coach (in 2011 he became the coach of former world number one Ana Ivanovic).

This was the first time Kim had travelled with Andy to a tournament. Could she be a good-luck charm as he tried to win his fist ATP title? It cerrtainly appeared that way in the early rounds as her boyfriend beat Mardy Fish for the loss of only four games and was no less dominant against Jimmy Wang, conceding six games. Robin Soderling won the first set of their quarter-final clash, but Andy bounced back to book a spot in the last four.
He would need more than just good fortune to advance to the final, however, as he was up against a formidable foe in Andy Roddick – the player with probably the most lethal serve in the world. The top-seed was the highest-ranked opponent he had faced since Federer, but that didn’t bother Andy. he refused to wilt under pressure and won 7-5 7-5. It was the highest-profile victory of his career so far.

Admittedly, not many of Australia’s Grand Slam titles had come in the past 20 years, but one player who had taken home a couple was facing Andy on the other side of the net. In 2001, the year he had won the US Open, Hewitt had become the youngest ever world No.1, aged 21.
The Australian, who was now ranked 11, had not won a tournament since 2003. He began the final with the drive of someone who wanted to change that – fast. Hewitt took the first set 6-2. Murray then gave him some of his own medicine, winning the second set 6-1 to level the match.
The third was much closer. Hewitt showed incredible resolve at 4-5 and 5-6 to hold off two championship points, both times finding a thunderous serve when he needed it most. That took the match to a tie-break, where it was third time lucky for Andy: he grasped the opportunity on his third match point and became the youngest ever Brit to win an ATP Tour title.

After shaking hands with his opponent and the umpire, it was time to thank his biggest supporter all week. He went and gave Kim a kiss.