Rafa Nadal, Beijing Olympics

Excerpt from Rafael Nadal‘s autobiography Rafa:

I stayed in the Olympic village with all the other athletes, and once again, as in the Davis Cup, I had a taste of that team spirit that I loved so much when I played football as a kid. Living with my Spanish teammates, in the same residential compound, meeting and making friends with the Spanish basketball team and track athletes (some of whom, a little embarrassingly, would stop me in the corridors, or in the communal laundry room where we all washed our clothes, to ask me for my autograph) and stepping out in uniform alongside them all for the opening ceremony – these were unforgettable experiences. But my sense of good fortune came accompanied by a strong dose of indignation.

I understood better than ever just how privileged we professional tennis players are, and how unjust is the predicament of so many Olympic athletes. They train incredibly hard, at least as hard as we do, yet the rewards tend to be far smaller. A tennis player ranked number eighty in the world has economic benefits, social privileges, and a degree of recognition beyond the dreams of someone who is number one in track and field, swimming, or gymnastics. On the tennis circuit everything is laid on for us all year round, and the money we receive allows us the chance to save for our futures. These people train with the discipline of monks over a period of four years in preparation for the one competition that stands out above all others, the Olympics, yet the vast majority of them receive very little support relative to the effort they invest. It’s admirable that they should prepare so rigorously, at so much personal sacrifice, for the mere satisfaction of competing and because of the passion they feel for their sports. That has a value beyond price. But that shouldn’t have to be enough. With all the income the International Olympic Committee generates from the Games – an event that depends for its success on the commitment of the athletes – you’d think they might be able to share the cash a little more fairly. In my case, I have no need to be paid, luckily, but an athlete who runs in the 400 meters or the marathon needs a lot of financial backing just to be able to train at the level required to make it to the Olympics and then compete for the top prizes. I understand that tennis has broader public appeal, at least over the course of a calendar year, but I think it’s unjust that more of an effort is not made to allow these incredibly dedicated people to live more decently and train in better conditions.

But these were my reflections after it was all over. Moaning and griping was not what defined my time in Beijing. What stays with me, above all, was the camaraderie between the athletes and the chance I had to learn about so many different new sports and discover how much we all had in common. Just to be able to participate, and to have access to a world I never thought I’d get to know, was uplifing enough.

Then to win gold in the men’s singles, after beating Djokovic in the semis and Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in the final, and to see the Spanish flag being raised to the accompaniment of the national anthem as I stood on the winner’s podium: well, it was one of my life’s proudest moments. People don’t usually associate the Olympic Games with tennis. I certainly didn’t when I was growing up. The game only reappeared as an Olympic sport in 1988, after a 64 years absence. But in tennis players’ minds Olympic gold has become something to covet. After a Grand Slam, it’s now the prize we most cherish.

Andy Muray climbs into the stands, Wimbledon 2013

Like strawberries and cream, the Queue and all-white outfits, the champion’s climb to the players’ box to celebrate his victory with his closed ones has become a tradition at Wimbledon. It all started with Pat Cash back in 1987:

“Champions of the past had celebrated their wins in time honoured fashion. Most used to jump the net and run up to commiserate with the person they had just beaten; this was the style of the Australians such as Laver, Emerson, Hoad and Fraser. But I wasn’t prepared to do that with Ivan Lendl; I didn’t like the guy at all and I wasn’t about to sympathise with him.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a great lover of Wimbledon’s traditions and everything they stand for, but I wanted to go where no champion had ever gone before. Suddenly I made up my mind, and nothing or nobody was going to stop me. I had looked up to the players box, and so many of the people who meant so much to me were there: my coach Ian Barclay, my girlfriend Anne-Britt, my dad, my sister Renee, my uncle Brian, and the woman who had helped me become one of the fittest players ever to walk on a tennis court, Ann Quinn. I had to be up there with them, and I was going to show my gratitude by climbing up to them.

Why did I do it? Growing up I’d always seen myself as just a normal Aussie kid who liked rock and roll music, football and girls, but I suppose I was just a little bit left of centre. I was kind of crazy, and always tried to be a bit different. My family upbringing had never involved a lot of hugging, but I had it in my head that if I ever won Wimbledon I would show the world how much I actually felt for those people. I wanted to be with them for these most memorable minutes of my life, and the most public way of showing my thanks was to do it in this greatest arena in tennis. So off I went.” [1]

Pat Cash, Wimbledon 1987

Since then, 14 players have scaled terraces to the players’ box to embrace their family and coaches.
The most unexpected – and out of character – climb was probably Sampras‘ when he beat Pat Rafter in 2000 and broke Roy Emerson’s Grand Slam record:

“I finally won it, 6-7 7-6 6-4 6-2. It was dusk by then, and flashbulbs went off like a thousand lightning strikes. I looked over at Paul [Annacone] in the players’ box. He gestured up toward the area where we knew my folks were sitting. I was disoriented, but I knew what to do next – I climbed into the stands to find and hug my folks. And those flashbulbs just kept exploding. The scene was surreal.
Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have climbed into the stands. Thinking about it in advance, I would have said “None of us likes to make a really big scene, and my parents would find it embarrassing, I don’t think I’ll do that.” But when Paul signaled me, I knew immediately it was the right thing to do. Much like when I had to speak at Tim Gullikson’s funeral, my first reaction was to avoid drama and attention. But when the moment arrived in both those cases, I knew enough to do the right thing. As Paul said later, when I asked him why he had thought to signal me, “How often to you break the Grand Slam record, at a place that’s been so good to you, in front of people who have been so good to you?” [2]

The most spectacular was Nadal‘s one after his thrilling marathon win over Federer in 2008.

“I collapsed flat on my back on the Wimbledon grass, arms outstretched, fists clenched, roaring with triumph. The silence of the Centre Court gave way to pandemonium, an I succumbed, at long last, to the crowd’s euphoria, letting it wash over me, liberating myself from the mental prison I had inhabited from start to finish of the match, all day, the night before, the full two weeks of the greatest tennis tournament on earth. […] the tears came, and there was nothing I could do to stop them, and there was one more thing I had to do before the ceremony, one emotional release I needed before I could behave with some semblance of the restraint that Wimbledon tradition required.
I ran toward the corner where my father and mother and Toni, Titin, Carlos Costa, Tuts and Dr Cotorro had been sitting, and were now standing, and I clambered up the seats and scaled a wall to reach them. I was crying, and my father, the first to greet me, was crying too, and we hugged, and I hugged my mother, and I hugged Toni and the three of us all held one another in one great, tight family embrace.” [3]

After Rafa celebrated with his family, he made a U-turn towards the Royal Box to greet the Spanish Crown Prince and his wife.

Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon 2008

And the one the British crowd had been expected for so many years, is of course Andy Murray‘s celebratory climb in 2013:

“A few fraught minutes (and deuces) later, the title was mine. In the celerations after Novak’s decisive netted backhand, I was aware that people had started to come onto the court. When I finally sat down, I saw Andrew Jarrett coming over.
“Have I got enough time to go to my family and friends?” I asked.
“You need to be quick.”
I climbed up to the players’ box and went to Ivan first. He was sitting next to Novak’s team. It wasn’t a conscious decision to seek him out, but it was fitting that he was the first person I saw.
I’ve no idea if Ivan said anything to me or not. Two things I recall: my uncle, Neil, was sitting a few rows back and he was so desperate to high-five me that he reached forward and stuck his armpit right in Sir Chris Hoy’s face. Then, of course, I hadn’t seen my mum and someone shouted “Your mum, your mum”, so I went back and gave her a hug.” [4]

Sources:
[1] Uncovered by Pat Cash
[2] A champion’s mind by Pete Sampras and Peter Bodo
[3] Rafa by John Carlin
[4] Seventy-seven my road to Wimbledon glory by Andy Murray

Novak Djokovic Wimbledon 2016 outfit

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club:

Wimbledon guided tour – part 1
Wimbledon guided tour – part 2
Wimbledon Centre Court roof
Court 3 : a new Show Court at Wimbledon
Waiting in the Queue to Wimbledon
Wimbledon Museum: The Queue exhibition
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum: Player Memorabilia

A trip down memory lane:

Wimbledon ‘s biggest upsets
Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard
Wimbledon memories: Charlotte Cooper Sterry
Wimbledon memories: Dora Boothby
Portrait of Wimbledon champion Ann Jones
Wimbledon 1969: Laver’s getting beat by an Indian
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969
Around the grounds at Wimbledon in 1971
Wimbledon 1975: Ashe vs Connors
1976: Bjorn Borg first Wimbledon title
Portrait of 5-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg
Wimbledon 1976: Chris Evert defeats Evonne Goolagong
Portrait of Virginia Wade, winner in 1977
1981: First Wimbledon title for McEnroe
1982: Jimmy Connors defeats John McEnroe
1984: John McEnroe defeats Jimmy Connors
1985: Boris Becker, the man on the moon
1986: Boris Becker defeats Ivan Lendl, wins second Wimbledon title
Portrait of 3-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker
Wimbledon 1988: An era ends as Graf beats Navratilova
Wimbledon 1988: Edberg a deserving new champion
Portrait of 2-time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg
Wimbledon 1990: Becker vs Edberg
1990: Martina Navatilova’s historic 9th Wimbledon title
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1992: first Grand Slam for Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi: thanks to Wimbledon I realized my dreams
1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier
1994: Pete Sampras defeats Goran Ivanisevic
1995: Tim Henman disqualified!
Wimbledon 1996: singing in the rain
1996: Richard Krajicek upsets Pete Sampras
Wimbledon 1996: a winning streak
1997: Pete Sampras defeats Cédric Pioline
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal defeats Tomas Berdych
The Spirit of Wimbledon: a 4-part documentary by Rolex retracing Wimbledon history
Wimbledon 2012: Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray
Andy Murray’s road to the Wimbledon 2013 final
Wimbledon 2013: Andy Murray, 77 years after Fred Perry
Wimbledon 2014 coverage
Wimbledon 2015 coverage

Fashion and gear:

Polls:

Who will win Wimbledon 2016?

  • Novak Djokovic (53%, 50 Votes)
  • Roger Federer (21%, 20 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (17%, 16 Votes)
  • Dominic Thiem (5%, 5 Votes)
  • Kei Nishikori (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Stan Wawrinka (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Milos Raonic (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Richard Gasquet (0%, 0 Votes)
  • David Goffin (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Someone else (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 95

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Who will win Wimbledon 2016?

  • Serena Williams (33%, 8 Votes)
  • Garbine Muguruza (33%, 8 Votes)
  • Victoria Azarenka (17%, 4 Votes)
  • Simona Halep (8%, 2 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (4%, 1 Votes)
  • Someone else (4%, 1 Votes)
  • Agnieszka Radwanska (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Roberta Vinci (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Belinda Bencic (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Venus Williams (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Timea Bacsinszky (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 24

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Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2016

Former French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot said on French TV last March that “it is known that the injury of Rafael Nadal, which lasted seven months, was probably because of a positive control”. Nadal filled a lawsuit against Bachelot last month. Here are a few extracts from l’Equipe Magazine’s interview in which the 9-time Roland Garros champion talks about the doping accusations.

Why he filled a lawsuit:

Someone who is supposed to be serious, responsible, can not say those things without any proof, citing someone who’s not on the tour anymore and who has been banned for life (former player Daniel Köllerer). I am not afraid, but my credibility and sport’s credibility in general are at stake. No one can say things like that without information, so the only way to stop such unfounded statements is to take legal action. I have full confidence in French justice.

His reaction to Bachelot’s accusations:

I am serene. What she said can not hurt me because I know all the work I’ve done to be where I am today. On the contrary, for the people who know nothing about that and hear Bachelot’s accusations, it’s shocking. It damages the image of my sport, my image, and I can no longer tolerate it. I worked so hard throughout my career, always ensuring respect for my true values, applying to give everything every day.

On doubts about his physical playing style:

Maybe my way of playing encourages ill-intentioned people to think certain things. It’s unfair and it’s a lack of respect for my daily work. Some players hit harder than me, others are stronger physically, others even mentally. You need to have all those qualities to be the best. But I’d never put in doubts anyone.

About French players’ support:

I go very well with all the French players and I was heartened by their support. We are together on the tour, we see each other in the locker rooms everyday and we know each other well. I appreciated.

About his confidence in the anti-doping system:

I believe in my opponents. I am sure players I face are clean. Simply because I believe in the anti-doping system.

On his request to the ITF to publish all his drug-test results:

We’re in the middle of a lawsuit and my lawyers intend to use the results for my defence. They advised me to wait until the end of the lawsuit before publishing them. Once the legal procedure is behind me, I will share them. AnNd I’m sure that in a near future that’s something that will happen all the time. It would be a great way to show that our sport is clean. Today, it’s essential for its image that we are as transparent as possible.

On whether there are enough doping tests:

I can not say if there are enough tests or not. What matters is that everything has to be made public.

Interview by Georges Homsi for l’Equipe Magazine, translation by Tennis Buzz. Photo credit: Tennis Buzz.

Rafa Nadal at practice

Today was my first day at Roland Garros. I arrived just in time to watch the end of Rafa‘s training with uncle Toni on court Suzanne Lenglen. Rafa mostly worked on his backhand and drop shots. Here are a few pictures, enjoy!

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal
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