So close, so far… Young gun Alex Zverev wasted a matchpoint at 5-3 in the third set and Nadal rallied back to win 6-7 6-0 7-5. A cruel defeat but a learning experience for the 18-year old German, whom many see as a future world number one and Grand Slam champion.
Nadal had to fight deep but he produced a good match. Is the good old Rafa back?
Photo credit: Jerry Hammond
Thanks a lot to Tony for sharing his story and pictures!
Despite attending the BNP Paribas Open every year since 2008, I have never been in an ideal position to take some good Rafa Nadal photos… until today! Rafa has been working hard on his comeback everyday since Saturday on the practice courts of the BNP Paribas Open. It seems crazy to say a player who’s currently ranked #5 in the world is “working on his comeback,” but that’s how high the bar is for Rafa–who is arguably the G.O.A.T.. It would have been better if there was sunlight on the court instead of shadow, but I’m pretty pleased with the results. I’m also pleased with Rafa’s awesome jersey-style tennis outfit and his $850,000 Richard Mille watch. Just another day in Tennis Paradise!
Article by Franck Ramella for l’Equipe Magazine, translation by Tennis Buzz:
Since 1983, Les Petits As tournament welcome players aged from 12 to 14 who sometimes write the beginning of a long story. Like Richard Gasquet, winner in 1999 after a victory of Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Q: Before we speak about the young ones, let’s talk about a soon-to-be 30 who has a bad back. Are you feeling better since December?
There’s no more pain. I hit again only since last week. I mostly did bodybuilding and an infiltration. I always went to Spain to consult an osteopath.
Q: Les Petits As, it reminds you memories?
Q: Do you remember your opponents?
The first year, in 1998, I lost to Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals. The next year, I was the favorite. And I was happy to have won the tournament. A beautiful victory. In the final, I beat American Brian Baker 7-5 6-1 (7-5 6-3 in fact). I was born in 1986 but played aginst players born in 1985. I remember I beat Frenchman Antoine Tassart 6-0 6-0. And then I beat Rafael Nadal in the quarters (6-7 6-3 6-4).
Q: Was it already a special match?
You get to know that only later. This match has been much commented afterwards. And it remained in the minds of the people. If you have told me he would win 9 Roland Garros titles, I would have said no. But he was difficult to play. He made no unforced errors. He ran everywhere. He was so full of energy! (Nadal won Les Petits As the year after).
Q: Some say you used to whimper on court throwing you racquet
I don’t know if I used to cry, but throw my racquet, yes, for sure. Losing is difficult. I did not lose often back then. I also remember that with my father, we used to leave the hotel early, even though the matches were later in the day. We were going around the stadium, I was discovering, but I was losing my influx. I was exhausted.
Q: What advice would you give to the young generation?
Les Petits As, you’ve got to be there. The whole experience made a strong impression on me. But beware, it’s not an end. It’s just a step.
Q: Do you follow the results?
Yes, I like to see how the guys evolve. I know Rayane Roumane won two years ago. Now, I sometimes train with him. He plays really well, He is the number-one French hope.
Q: You would like to return to Les Petits As?
I went back for an exhibition in 2006 with Gael (Monfils). But yes, I’d like to see how it goes now.
Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz:
Q: In 1997, you reached the Australian Open final, even though you had previously only won two matches at Grand Slam level. Do you think we’ll see that again one day?
Yes why not? But perhaps not in the next five years, because of the top guys.
Q: That year you had beaten the defending champion, Boris Becker in the first round…
People tend to forget I was world number 25 at that time. But there were only 16 seeds back then, so this kind of first round was possible. What had really helped me is that I had beaten Becker (then world number 6) two months before in Bercy. And I had just reached the final in Sydney. I was feeling good.
Q: Milos Raonic just captured the Brisbane tournament and has yet to lose a set in Melbourne. Players are a bit scared to face him…
Good.. Having beaten Roger sends a strong signal. Not everybody can do it. Milos is the only player born in the 90’s to have beaten Roger twice (the first time was in Bercy 2014). He has also beaten Rafa at Indian Wells last year, and Murray three times. Only Djokovic misses.
Q: What misses too is to beat them at a Grand Slam tournament. That’s why his match against Wawrinka, who leads their head-to-head 4-0, is so much expected.
Milos is 25. He has to do it step by step. He won’t win a Grand Slam all of a sudden.
Q: So you don’t think he will win this tournament?
I did not say that (smiles). But Milos needs to prove he can beat these players one after an other in a tournament. And that’s a hard task.
Q: Why did you decide to join Raonic’s team?
It was a good proposal to start my job as a coach. Milos’ project inspired me. There’s a clear goal: to be number one. Milos could not reach its maximum potential so far, mainly because of injuries. What I like is that Milos is mature. He knows what he wants.
Q: On how many tournaments will you follow him?
15 weeks including the four Grand Slams. I did notant to be too much away from home. I have three young children. But I know that in my absence things will be done right because he has a solid team around him, in particular Riccardo Piatti (former coach of Ljubicic and Gasquet).
Q: What has impressed you most since you work with Milos?
He’s one of the most professional guy I have ever met. He is fully committed: on court, in the gym, after his training…
Q: When you were playing would you have liked that a former world number one works with you? If so, who would you have chosen?
Of course, I would have enjoyed it. I would have chosen Stefan Edberg, even if our playing styles were completely different.
Q: We often hear that Milos’ game is boring, that he looks like a robot when he plays. Could these remarks affect him?
No no no, I don’t think so. If you watched his game against Troicki, I don’t think it was boring. These comments don’t bother me. We should even use them. That our opponents expect a difficult game, with no rythm, can be a weapon for us.
Q: Before Raonic, how many players asked you to coach them?
A few. But either it was not at the right moment or these players asked me to travel with them for too many weeks.
Q: For the last two years, there has been a constant rumour about a Moya-Nadal collaboration..
It comes from the media and John McEnroe. But we’ve never spoken even once about that possibility. I’m sure Rafa will end his career with Toni and with the same team that’s been with him all these years. I know Rafa well and I think he’d think it unfair to split with Toni because things aren’t going so well. I’ve never looked to be a member of his team. We’re good friends, we often eat together, and we trained together at Christmas. That’s all.
Q: Do you think he’ll win another Slam?
Of course I think so. He’s not 30 yet. He needs to improve in certain areas and he knows that. He works. It’s a normal process: first of all, you try new things at practice, and then you apply them in matches, under pressure, and then you don’t think about them any more. It worked at the end of last season, but not here. You can see he wants to play more inside the baseline. Against Verdasco, he was a metre inside the baseline, but he wasn’t doing any damage. Positioning isn’t everything. Being a metre inside the baseline and pushing the ball, that’s not the answer. Right now, Rafa is a bit confused when he plays under pressure. He should develop this game without thinking. And now, we see him thinking.
Photo credit: Andrew Robertson
Follow our Australian Open 2016 coverage.
“I came out, I gave everything I had like always. I left nothing in the locker room and that’s something I can always be proud of.”
“I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had such a great career and that I had the opportunity to go out on my terms. A lot of great sporting athletes don’t have that opportunity.”
— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 21, 2016
Lleyton Hewitt played his final singles match on Thursday, a straight sets loss to David Ferrer. The youngest ever world number one, the Australian won 2 Grand Slam titles (US Open 2001 and Wimbledon 2002), 2 ATP Tour Finals (2001 and 2002) and 2 Davis Cup (1999 and 2003). A skilled volleyer, he also captured the 2000 US Open doubles title with Max Mirnyi.
He inspired loads of today’ players (Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer among others), and his never-die-attitude and counterpuncher skills changed tennis forever.
David Ferrer had some really nice words for him during the on-court ceremony:
“He’s one of the best players in history and I have to tell you that … I don’t have idols, but Lleyton is my idol, I have a shirt signed by him seven years ago … it’s the only t-shirt of a tennis player I have. He’s an amazing player. He deserves everything. Tonight is the day for him, not for me.”
— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 21, 2016
After the match, past and present champions took on Twitter and Instagram to pay tribute to the legend.
Leyton Hewitt– you gave it your "all" every match– and always showed the "grind"- the "grit"- and the "passion"… Congratulations!!!!!
— Jimmy Connors (@JimmyConnors) January 21, 2016
2014 Australian Open champion Li Na: