Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, Davis Cup 2004

After victories over Czech Republic and the Netherlands, Spain defeated France to reach the 2004 Davis Cup final.

From Rafael Nadal’s autobiography, Rafa:

Until then I hadn’t felt as nervous as I should have been. If I had been older, I would have been more aware of the national weight of expectation on my shoulders. I look back on it now and I see myself playing almost recklessly, more adrenaline than brains. But I sobered up and gulped when I saw the stadium where we were going to be playing the final.
It was in the beautiful city of Sevilla, but not in the most beautiful of settings. The Centre Court at Wimbledon it wasn’t, nor was I going to be hearing the echo of my shots once the hostilities began. Silence was not going to be on the agenda.
They’d improvised a court in one half of an athletics stadium around which they were going to seat 27,000 people: the biggest audience ever to watch a game of tennis. Add to that the Sevillanos’ famed exuberance and you could well and truly forget the hushed reverence of Wimbledon, or for that matter anywhere else I’d ever played before. This was going to be tennis played in front of a crowd of screaming football fans.

Although, going into the final I was only down to play one doubles match, and although I was going to share the load with Tommy Robredo (who, as a senior partner here, would actually be carrying a disproportionate share of the responsibility for success or failure), at my eighteen and a half years I felt more pressure and more tension than I had ever felt in my long decade of relentless competition. Although, going into the final I was only down to play one doubles match, and although I was going to share the load with Tommy Robredo (who, as a senior partner here, would actually be carrying a disproportionate share of the responsibility for success or failure), at my eighteen and a half years I felt more pressure and more tension than I had ever felt in my long decade of relentless competition.

Our rivals were the twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, the world number one and quite possibly the best doubles pairing ever. We were not expected to win, but the sense of occasion just in the buildup, the mood in the city, the excitement every time people saw us, was unlike anything I had ever imagined witnessing on the eve of a game of tennis.
I had far from given up hope, but the calculation our captains made was that we’d lose the doubles match, giving one point out of a possible total of five for the Americans, and that much would rest on Carlos Moya, our number one winning both his single games. He’d beat Mardy Fish, the American number two, but beating Roddick was by no means a foregone conclusion.

The advantage we had was that we were playing on clay, our favorite surface – not Roddick’s. But he was a formidable competitor, a high-voltage American, and he was a formidable competitor, a high-voltage American, and he was world-number two, ahead of Carlos, who was then number five. The betting was on Carlos, who would be playing before his own fans, but it was by no mean a safe bet.
Juan Carlos Ferrero, who was 25 in the rankings (but he was better than that, injuries that year had brought him down) was expected to beat Fish but against Roddick the odds seemed fifty-fifty. The critical thing was to win both our matches against Roddick, because we really did think we had the beating of Fish, twice. […]
So the big game, as we saw it on the day before the matches began, was the one between our number two and Roddick. And our number two was supposed to be Juan Carlos Ferrero, French Open winner and US Open finalist in 2003. Except that it wouldn’t be our number two. It would be me; me against Roddick.[…]

So I played, going on court after Carlos had done me the additional favor of winning the first match. If I beat Roddick, we wouldn’t win the Davis Cup, but we’d have a big foot in the door; if I lost, it would all be up for grabs.
I was as motivated as I had ever been, fully aware that this was, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest match of my young life. I was also afraid that I would not be up for the challenge that Roddick would give me the same beating he’d given me at the US Open, that he’d win 6-3 6-2 6-2 something like that.[…]
But then I went out on court, the adrenaline pushed the fear away, and the crowd swept me along on a tide of such emotion that I played in a rush of pure instinct, almost without pausing to think. Never has a crowd been more behind me, before or since. Not only was I the Spaniard flying the flag in one of the most fervently patriotic cities in Spain, I was the underdog, the David to Roddick’s Goliath.

I’d never achieve my childhood dream of becoming a professional footballer, but this was the closest I’d ever get to feeling the atmosphere a football player feels walking out onto the stadium for a big match, or scoring a goal in a championship decider. Except that every time I won a point, practically, all 27,000 people erupted as if I’d scored a goal. And I have to admit that I quite often responded as if I were a footballer who’d just scored. I don’t think I’ve ever pumped my arms in the air or jumped in celebration more often during a game of tennis. […] I’d always known about the benefits of home advantage, but I’d never felt it before; I’d never quite known the lift a crowd can give you, how the roar of support can transport you to heights you had no idea you could reach.

I needed the help. Blood wasn’t spilled, but it was a battle we waged out there, Roddick and I, in that amazing amphitheater, in the warm winter sunshine of Sevilla. It would be the longest match I’d played in my life up to that moment, 3h45 of long, long rallies, constant slugging back and forth, with him looking for opportunities to charge to the net and me almost always holding back on the baseline.
Even if I’d lost, I’d have done my bit for the cause, exhausting him for the match two days later against Carlos, who’d won his first game comfortably. And I did lose the first set, which went to a tiebreak, but this only encouraged the crowd even more, and I ended up winning the next three sets, 6-2 7-6 and 6-2. I remember a lot of points well. I remember in particular a return I made to a very wide-angled second serve that went round, not over the net, for a winner. I remember a backhand passing shot in the tiebreak of the third set, a critical moment in the match. And I remember the final point, which I won on my serve when he hit back a backhand long. I fell on my back, closed my eyes, looked up, and saw my teammates dancing for joy. The noise in my ears felt like a jumbo jet flying low overhead.

We were 2-0 up in the five game series; we lost the doubles, as predicted, the next day; and on the third day Carlos Moya, who was our real hero, and who had been chasing this prize for years, won his match against Roddick – and that was that.
I didn’t have to play Mardy Fish. We’d won 3-1 and the Davis Cup was ours. It was the highlight of my life and also, as it turned out, the moment when the tennis world stood up and started paying close attention to me. Andy Roddick said something very nice about me afterward. He said that there weren’t many truly big game players, but that I was definitely a big game player. It had certainly been big pressure I’d had to overcome, after the controversy of me being chosen to play Roddick, and it gave me new confidence on which to build for when the time came to play big games Grand Slam finals, all alone.

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.

Read more:
Rafael Nadal Davis Cup debut back in 2004
2004 Davis Cup final: Nadal defeats Roddick

Estoril Open 2017: Harrison and Venus win doubles title

Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus captured their first title as a team, beating David Marrero and Tommy Robredo in the final of the Estoril Open.

Estoril Open, 07.05.2017 - The Finals!

Estoril Open, 07.05.2017 - The Finals!

A good day for the former big American hope who celebrated his birthday on court:

Estoril Open, 07.05.2017 - The Finals!
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Andy Murray and Fernando Verdaco, Wimbledon 2013

From Andy Murray‘s autobiography Seventy-Seven:

Having won the Olympic gold medal and the US Open the previous year, I expected to go into Wimbledon with a bit more confidence, but the feelings of nervousness and stress were still the same. Maybe after the US Open, I felt that playing a Slam wouldn’t be the same arduous challenge anymore because I had won one, but for 99 per cent of the British population Wimbledon is the only one that really counts for the British players. I couldn’t change that. I felt that pressure.

Getting the first in under the belt can be the trickiest at Wimbledon. I am always nervous before the opening match because the court plays differently for a couple of days; it is extremely green and tricky underfoot. So I was really pleased to put in a decent first-round performance against Benjamin Becker.

Elsewhere, Rafael Nadal went out in the first round to Steve Darcis of Belgium and Roger Federer was beaten in the second round by Sergiy Stakhovsky from Ukraine (the guy I had beaten in the US Open junior final in 2004). Both Rafa and Roger were in my half of the draw and as soon as they were out, all the media talk about how tough it was going to be for me suddenly turned. ‘This is Andy’s Wimbledon to win.’ ‘If he doesn’t get to the final it will be a catastrophe.’ That’s why I never get obsessed with draws. But it is hard to block out that sort of talk and avoid complacency.

The fact that a lot of players were slipping and sliding on the courts in difficult conditions was also a concern. Against Lu Yen-hsun in the second round, I didn’t feel comfortable at all. My movement was stiff and tentative. I was also playing on No.1 Court which plays a little differently to Centre Court so I wasn’t settled. I felt anxious throughout, but managed to get through in straight sets.

The win set up a third round meeting with Tommy Robredo of Spain, the number 32 seed and a very fine player. We played under the roof on Centre Court which changes the conditions somewhat. It gives the court slightly different characteristics, which was something I needed to use to my advantage. I think I did a good job; it was my best match of the tournament.

Saturday afternoon brought some light relief as I got the opportunity to meet again some of my fellow Team GB Olympians, who had been invited into the Royal Box for the day. It was great to see some familiar faces, all decked out in the box, so after a quick switch of clothes from my practice gear into a suit and tie, I walked out to an ovation that was one of the most profound of my life. These are not the kind of occasions I particularly relish – I don’t know quite what to do or say, but everyone wanted to shake hands, have their pictures taken, say a few encouraging words. That was special for me. My spirits were rising all the time.

On Monday, I felt really good in defeating the Russian Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets. My quarter-final opponent would be Fernando Verdasco of Spain, a left-hander, the first time I had played one since Feliciano Lopez in the third round of the 2012 US Open.
It might not be easy for the layman ot understand why, but playing lefties is very different because of their variety of spins and angles. And when Verdasco is having a good serving day – as he was this time – he is a daunting challenge.[…]

Even though it was a five-setter, there was not too much running involved – only three kilometres over three-and-a-half hours. Many of the points were quick ones. After the match, I was more mentally than physically tired. The whole affair was really draining and emotional. Often guys come back from two sets to love down and end up losing that fifth set because it is hard to keep that concentration and not have a dip for a few games. Luckily I didn’t do that in the fifth and it was great to know I could come back to win without playing my best tennis.

In the semi-finals, I was drawn to play Jerzy Janowicz of Poland. He had been one of the stories at the end of 2012, racing through the field at the Paris Masters indoor event to reach the final and his ranking shot up as a consequence. He beat me in that tournament – I had match point, but didn’t follow through with a shot when I had a chance.

No one could predict how Janowicz would feel playing in his first Grand Slam semi-final. I know from experience that you feel so close to a final, but it also seems a huge distance away. […]
My opponent hit a 139-mph ace in his first service game, a statement of intent. Against someone like Janowicz it is important to let them know you mean business, that whatever they do, you are right in there with them, not prepared to give an inch.
I lost the first set on a tie-break. It was clumsy on my part but it was only one set. I broke his first service game in the second set. It was past eight o’clock and I could sense he was getting agitated by the gradually worsening light. It was perfectly playable but he kept on chuntering to the umpire about it. When I won the third set from 4-1 down, which he wasn’t happy about (neither was I that I let him have such a lead), he was going at the umpire again. I didn’t see Andrew Jarrett, the referee, walking on to the court, but I suddenly sensed his presence.

‘We’re going to close the roof,’ he told me.

I just thought he had to be kidding. Just because Janowicz is moaning about the light, we close the roof? Why? I wanted him to explain the rule to me but, as far as I recall, all he said was,

‘It’s the fairest thing to do… I’ve decided to close it.’

Back in the locker room, Janowicz was soon on his mobile phone, which was pretty hilarious when I come to think about it. It wasn’t a quiet conversation either, he was pretty agitated. I just sat down with my team, had a shower, and got ready to come back out to play. Anyone would be a little angry at the circumstances. I had the momentum and the light was good enough to play. It was 8.40pm, hardly night-time at that time of the year. There was at least half an hour of playable light left.

But I knew I had to put that grievance behind me. I had a job to finish. I wanted to win the match and win it now. And I was pleased with how quickly I settled down when we went back on court. I played a really good fourth set.
And so I was into the Wimbledon final again, against Novak. it was a match-up I was beginning to relish.

Kei Nishikori

While Tsonga and Melzer were playing on Court Central in front of 10,000 people, Tommy Robredo and Kei Nishikori were battling on Court 1 in front of about 300 people.
Court 1 is terrible, the ceiling is low, it is really noisy and looks like a warehouse or a bunker. The only good thing is that spectators are close to the players.

I arrive just in time to see the Spaniard take the first set 7-6.

Tommy Robredo

Playing more aggressively, the recent US Open finalist won the next two sets, defeating Robredo 6-7 6-2 6-3. The season is now over for Robredo, but Nishikori remains on course for the London ATP finals.

1989 French Open champion Michael Chang watching the match with his wife and daughter:

Michael Chang

Game, set, match Nishikori:

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