Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Theatre of the Stressful
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Theatre of the Stressful 04/16/2010 - 6:38 PM

Nd Why do we watch tennis matches? It’s a minor, niggling little question, I know, but it wouldn’t leave my head Friday morning during the quarterfinal between Novak Djokovic and David Nalbandian in Monte Carlo. There you had a square red stage and an audience huddled over it, all next to a big blue sea. Usually this combination registers as little more than scenic to me. But today it made me think, maybe inaccurately, of a Greek theater. What used to happen on its stages? Catharis? An outward expression of the larger group's innermost psychological issues? Right? Watching Djokovic and Nalbandian fight themselves and each other for two sets, it seemed to me like a very modern ritual of catharsis. A catharsis of stress.

The spur for these thoughts came from a conversation I had this week with Allen Fox. He’s a former Davis Cupper and Pepperdine men’s coach, and a guru of everything mental in tennis. It’s hard not to learn something about the sport when you talk to him. Last year I wrote a piece for this blog, which was then adapted as an article in TENNIS magazine, about the excuses all tennis players make, and how they’re both ridiculous and inevitable. Fox takes the idea a step farther. While I’ve always thought of an excuse as a kind of lie to yourself, he says that it’s rarely a lie at all, that most excuses are, to some degree, true. In this sense, even the garden-variety “it just wasn’t my day,” qualifies as an excuse. We really can’t live without them; they’re what allows us to explain defeat, put it behind us, and try again. Fox says that unconsciously most of us start working on our excuses even before a match is over, instead of using that mental energy to figure out a way around whatever issue we're having. To him, good players are, at the most fundamental level, problem solvers. It’s not that they play their best, or even anywhere near it, more often than the rest of us. It's that they know it doesn’t matter. What matters is the ability to ignore that little excuse, that little escape hatch, that’s being prepared for you in one dark corner of your brain.

This week I talked to Fox for a magazine story I’m writing about how to approach, from a mental perspective, various stages of a match—the first game; the game after you’ve broken serve; if you're way ahead; match point, etc. In the middle of our conversation, he observed that tennis’s scoring system may be the most stress-inducing of all sports'. It’s one of the very few that isn’t purely cumulative; there are pressure moments built into the score—ads, games, sets—all the way through a match. These are particularly nerve-wracking because they’re all-or-nothing situations. If you play a long deuce game and lose it, you end up with nothing; ditto if you play a long set and lose it. You can win six games and dozens of points, but if you lose a tiebreaker, you walk away with nada. It’s a sport designed to keep you from escaping pressure. I’m rarely as nervous in a match as I am after I’ve come back from 0-40 on my serve to 30-40. I know that one shank will render my good work over the previous two points worthless.

From my experience, which wasn’t contradicted by the pros at Monte Carlo today, stress works equally on the player who’s winning and the one who’s losing. It’s a cliché of the sport that, right after you break serve, you’re in danger of being broken right back. That’s because you’ve done the natural thing and taken a mental breather after pushing hard and going through the tension of trying to break your opponent. Conversely, if you’ve been broken, you may react by letting your mental guard down and getting discouraged. Either way, you’re doing what we all do automatically: You’re running from the unpleasant experience of stress. I’m particularly, maybe even unnaturally, guilty of running as fast as I can from it on a tennis court. I’ve lost matches because, in the back of my mind, I was afraid to build a lead. I knew that if did I build it, I would then be faced with the horrible pressure of not blowing it. Call it pre-choking.

Djokovic is not that bad, of course. On most occasions he survives the stress, both of his opponent’s making and his own making. What he isn’t good at is hiding it. Against Nalbandian he cruised through the first set and played well to break early in the second. That’s when, just at the moment when he spotted the finish line coming up over the hill in the distance, the doubts set in. He breathed more deeply, he threw his hands in the air in exasperation for the first time, he took extra time toweling off and bouncing the ball before he served. The question was not whether Djokovic could beat Nalbandian to the finish line, but whether he could avoid tripping himself before he got there.

This is another terrible thing about the stress of tennis: Rather than dissipating when you play well, it builds to its maximum as you get closer to match point. There, on that precipice, you can see, feel, taste, victory on the other side—it tastes like relief (catharsis) more than anything else. It’s natural, as you get close to match point, to begin to hope you get there, rather than trying to make it happen. But of course you can’t hope anything into existence. Djokovic, despite some self-inflicted stumbles, made it across, in part because he got some help from Nalbandian. The Argentine rushed a backhand down the line at break point and never threatened again. After that moment, he may have been guilty of his own form of escape, of subconsciously caving into the bogus but convenient excuse that “it wasn’t his day.” It’s harder to tell with Nalbandian. He doesn’t ask as much from himself on the court as Djokovic does.

Stress, release, stress, release: What else is there to our days? I go to a meeting, the meeting ends, and I feel elated for no reason, except that the one event that I had planned for the day, the one event where something could conceivably have gone wrong, or at least unpredictably, is over. I don’t even care how it turned out; what’s important is that it’s done. This is the theatre of tennis: The sport takes one person—a proxy for you—and forces him, all alone, in front of the rest of us, to play a game that has the most tension-filled scoring system imaginable. He’s acting out our daily life in a much more glamorous, risky, and frightening way than we’ll ever experience. We watch because we want to identify with these player-actors at their most nervous and human. We want to know that it happens to everyone. But we also watch because we want to see them overcome those human nerves in ways that we know we never could. It must be terrible for these player-actors to live this out for us. It also must be addictive as hell.

Two moments stick in my head from Friday's matches (I didn’t see Verdasco react in his own inimitable way to the pressure of a lead). At match point, Djokovic hit a drop shot, which is the classic flee-from-stress maneuver, and one that he goes to regularly. As it sailed toward the net, he extended his arm forward, physically hoping that it would make it over, end the match, and let him relax again. The other moment came earlier in the day, when Rafael Nadal, down break point at 2-1 in the first set against Juan Carlos Ferrero, belted a few shots that might normally have won him the point. JC got them back, and Nadal ended up at the net, where he nearly made an excellent drop volley off a well-hit passing shot. But the volley caught the tape and landed on his side. I expected Nadal, like most other players, to stand and look at the net and the ball, put his hands on his hips, and allow himself a little stress-free dip into the well of self-pity—“how could the net do that to me?” Instead, without even glancing at the ball, he turned around, walked quickly back to the baseline, and called for the towel. He was right: Ferrero had played an outstanding point and there was nothing he could do about it. There was no reason, as Allen Fox might say, to let the perfect become the enemy of the good enough.

Two moments, two reactions to stress. As a member of this clay-court theatre’s worldwide audience, I enjoyed one—Djokovic’s—because I could identify with it. I enjoyed the other—Nadal’s—because I couldn’t.


Have a good weekend. Try to relax.

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Posted by soderlingfan88 04/16/2010 at 08:48 PM

excellent article Steve, LETS GO RAFA! I'm nervous he'll blow it in the final(has the whole ,lost the last 9 out of 10 thing gotten in his head)? Hopefully not.

btw, first?

Posted by soderlingfan88 04/16/2010 at 08:49 PM

oh and to clarify, I mean last 9 out of 10 against top 10 players, since I think Djokovic will edge Verdasco in 3 and Nadal is going to give a beat down to Ferrer

Posted by TennisFan2 04/16/2010 at 08:49 PM

I wish I had 1/4 of Rafa's head game. He seems to be able to let it go like no other.

"Pre-choking" - LOL! Been there, done that (a few years ago I played a USTA singles match and was up a set and 4-1 and started thinking about an article I read about the pressure of finishing it off when you hold a 5-1 lead; proceeded to squander away the 4-1 lead, the 2nd set, and then lost in a 10 point tie break - remember it like it happened this morning).

"We watch because we want to identify with these player-actors at their most nervous and human. We want to know that it happens to everyone." If it happens to them it must be okay when it happens to us. :-)

Posted by TennisFan2 04/16/2010 at 08:51 PM

sodderlingfan88, first for you (you beat this Rafa-fan by 60 seconds) ;-)

Posted by Josh 04/16/2010 at 10:16 PM

Another sweet piece Steve. Thanks

Posted by Azhdaja 04/16/2010 at 10:25 PM

Right on, Steve.
A Rembrandt of the tennis. A psychological analisys of a moment: match point. That crucial moment of the match tells us almost everything if we know how to read it properly. Just like atom analisys tells us everything about the substance.

Your reading was pretty good. But there's more to it. I'd encourage you to tune it down to more details and deeper to its core. Compare two or more of those points of the same player of his different matches and see what you come up with. And then come back to us again. I'd like to read it.

Apparently Djoko is sort of disappointment to you. With reason, of course. Is it his change in approach to the game that affected his change in his playing style? Or something else changed it southern way?

It'd be interesting to learn how and why the most versatile talent out there downgraded his game over last couple of years. Is that factor internal or external? Is it the life that always ruins good things in us just because survival and social demands? A life of a professional who is not in control of it anymore just because he become so important and part of the cliche that directs and steers him? Instead of him steering the life? Did he give up like most of us (for the same reason: the more simple the better)?

And once you found the answwr than what would be the prediction? Is there a hope that we will watch that versatile talent gives to us what true tennis fans pay for to go out and enjoy more often than just once a season? Is there a hope, Steve? That's what i like to learn from you. But, please do not do white wash just to make sure I am not disappointed.

"I like Aristoteles, but the truth is that I like more.", Socrates.

Thank you.

Posted by highpockets 04/16/2010 at 10:38 PM


You did an amazing thing too ... you put all of that into words for us. Bravo!

Posted by tennisismental 04/16/2010 at 10:58 PM

I have watched every match this week, and would like to give my input on the tournament. I know that everyone is in awe of Nadal, and we should be because I believe he is one of the top 2 all time on this surface with Borg. What I have not been impressed with so far is the opposition that he has faced. Rafa has had one of the easiest draws I have ever seen at Masters Series level, and he is just mowing them down. Having said that we do not have a good idea of where he is at yet, and probably will not until Sunday. He has played two journeyman, and one fellow Spaniard who was in awe of him before they took the court today. The same thing will happen tomorrow with Ferrer. The point I am trying to make about Nadal is that I will wait to judge him until the week is over. He has not won a title in 11 months, and has blown some real oppurtunities this year already where he has had favorable draws in tournaments. Doha, Indian Wells, and Miami come to mind. Who I have been very impressed with is Djokovic, and the way he has played all week. He has beaten Wawrinka and Nalbandian in straight sets with much better serving numbers. He has had 1 double fault in his past 2 matches, and has hit the ball very agressively with confidence and purpose. My prediction for tomorrow is that both Nadal and Djokovic will win in straight sets, but Djokovic will be battle tested for the final. Novak has beaten Rafa 3 straight times with no sets lost in all three matches. I know it is clay, but whether we want to admit it or not this is not the same Nadal that we used to know. I honestly think his knees and psyche are wobbly, and at times today he was late turnin to the backhand side again which has been the achilles heel the last year or so. Ferrero is a great clay court player, but you could tell the Tsonga match took it out of the 30 year old, and he could not attack the short balls with enough pop to take over the point. Rafa did leave a lot of balls short today, and my point is that Djokovic will not let Rafa off the hook like Ferrero did today. My prediction for the weekend is that we will see a new Champion in Monte Carlo.

Nadal over Ferrer (2 sets)
Djokovic over Verdasco (2 tough sets)

Djokovic over Nadal (2 sets)

Posted by Steve 04/16/2010 at 10:59 PM

thanks, highpockets, TF2, sodfan88, josh.

sodfan, you're actually a rafa fan? seems like a hard bridge to cross.

i like these two semis as good matches on paper, but we will see. just hoping for sun, really

Posted by imjimmy 04/16/2010 at 11:44 PM

Excellent piece Steve - although I guess you must be tired of hearing it.

I'm really heartened by Novak. He's nearly at the form he was at the same time last year. I'm sure Djokovic will give Nadal all he can handle in the final.

As for the clay warrior, it's hard to say where he is. The technique was never really the problem ( although the backhand has declined considerably), it's more in his head. Throughout the hardcourt season he's started to fret when he gets close to winning. For the past few months, he's not been the Nadal that we've come to admire. I can't recall him blowing 3 matches from a winning position.

Let's see if the dirt beneath his feet can help him recover his mental tenacity.

Posted by Bhai Mirzai 04/17/2010 at 12:00 AM

Nadal has an excellent record in the finals. And his record of making a final in a clay tournament is excellent too. So, the chance of him losing is not that great --- based on past history.

But he has not made a final in last 11 months. I think he will win this one. But Rome, if played with the full field, could be interesting.

Posted by Azhdaja 04/17/2010 at 12:30 AM

tennisismental...very good analisys and a interesting prediction. If Djokovic takes Rafa down in 2 then that would mean switching of the guards too.

Posted by CPM 04/17/2010 at 01:36 AM

"'I like Aristoteles, but the truth is that I like more.', Socrates."

Is that supposed to be Aristotle's line, "To be a friend of Plato is to be a greater friend of truth?" I can't quite make heads or tails of it otherwise.

I haven't seen a point from MC, so I'll make a very qualified predication: If Djokovic and Nadal meet in the finals, Djokovic better win it in two -- cuz he ain't doing it in 3. Past performance is the best predictor around for future results, folks.

Posted by Kenny 04/17/2010 at 02:00 AM

Great one, Steve. Made me think back to your earlier essay where you said that Fed expects perfection, while Rafa's mental strength lies in his profound acceptance of the fact that we can never be perfect on the tennis court.

Posted by Maria 04/17/2010 at 03:15 AM

Aristoteles was born after Socrates died, so the quote is quite off...

Anyway, the semifinals look quite good on paper, as Steve said.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 04/17/2010 at 03:49 AM

What a lovely, thoughtful piece...sorry I haven't got more to contribute.

Posted by felizjulianidad 04/17/2010 at 05:23 AM

There is some inaccurate reporting here, though the trend is accurate.

Nadal has made two finals since losing at Roland Garros. He made the final of the Shanghai Masters Series (lost to Davydenko) and he also made the final of Doha in early 2010 (also lost to Davydenko).

Posted by Steve 04/17/2010 at 05:40 AM

imjimmy, one positive that nadal always has going for him on clay is that he doesn't have to hit the slice backhand as often as he does on hard courts. or at least he chooses not to, because of general confidence in the drive version.

what would i get tired of hearing again? i doubt it

Posted by Tfactor 04/17/2010 at 05:54 AM

Great post Steve, thanks.
I think Djokovic was the perfect subject for this story. I'm a big fan of his but he's, imo, one of the most emotional players out there.
While I agree Rafa is often able to avoid falling into the 'excuse' trap, he's seemed a lot more vulnerable this year (not without reason after the events of 2009).
I hope that playing on clay can help him regain the confidence/serenity he himself has admitted to be lacking of late.

Posted by Stewart 04/17/2010 at 06:04 AM

Steve your articles are always a joy to read. The language is vivid but not overly loquacious, and your ability to personalize the minute struggles of a tennis match in a way that is common to the pro and the rec player is something special.

While Novak played well toward the tail end of last year, winning Paris and Basel, he hasn't quite gotten back to the avaricious and cocky Nole of 2007-2008. I actually think he's a better match up for Rafa on clay than Federer is, as evidenced by their 3 super tight finals last year culminating in the Massacre of Madrid, and Djok's competitive 2008 FO semi where he took Nadal to a tiebreak before Rafa destroyed Roger 18-4. Should they both make the final, their match will be the real litmus test for form of both players heading into the heart of the season.

Nadal does indeed have a much easier draw, as Nole will have had to beat Nalbandian and Verdasco, while Ferrero took out the more dangerous Tsonga and then looked beat today. Ferrer will go down without much of a fight.

Anticipating one of the fledgling year's best matches if Nole and Rafa meet in the final.

Posted by Jai 04/17/2010 at 06:29 AM

"Nadal does indeed have a much easier draw, as Nole will have had to beat Nalbandian and Verdasco, while Ferrero took out the more dangerous Tsonga and then looked beat today. Ferrer will go down without much of a fight."

Not sure how Tsonga could be considered "more dangerous" on this surface than Ferrero, especially since Rafa beat Tsonga comfortably the last 2 times they played (on hard-court, which is a better surface for JWT). Also, Ferrero had won 16 of the 17 clay-court matches he had played this year. Ferrer also did very well during the south American clay-court swing. I think playing these two guys in consecutive matches makes for a tougher draw than playing an erratic Nalby and Verdasco.

That said, I agree Djokovic will be a really tough opponent in the final.

Posted by freddy 04/17/2010 at 06:46 AM

Delurking after a while..

Re the quote - the correct version is "Dear to me is Plato, but dearer still is the Truth' - attributed to Aristotle, who of course was Plato's student, but parted ways over fundamental differences of opinion.

Socrates doesn't enter the picture here - he was Plato's mentor, and of course was dead before Aristotle was born!

Good article Steve - the tennis scoring system must have been thought up by a fiend.

Posted by fedfan 04/17/2010 at 07:24 AM

Great post. You point out what I've always thought, clutch moments are embedded into even the mere scoring of tennis. I can't think of any other sport in which all one's hard work is made vulnerable to overturn several times after achieving it in the actual structure of the game. It's part of what makes tennis so enthralling to watch. I've sometimes wondered what post-tennis careers would benefit from practitioners who were so good at managing their emotions. I probably will never find out, because the players who are best at it seem to manage to make enough money so that they don't have to worry about second careers!

Posted by tina 04/17/2010 at 08:46 AM

It is often very frustrating to be a fan of players who show a lot of emotion, but I just can't help it. I can identify with all the so-called headcases. At the same time, though, I have deep admiration for young Cilic, who is so business-like on the court and rarely shows any emotion, because I can't identify with that at all.

Posted by Reza 04/17/2010 at 09:35 AM

Rafa hasn't lost badly this season, he lost all his matches in 3 sets while he had chances to win them (except straight set loss in AO)
And the point is those losses, Final Doha and SF in IW and Miami were on hard courts
But I really don't see Nadal losing to Djokovic in final
Clay always give him the time he needs to recover in bad positions

He will win the final also in straight sets, probably something like 64 63

Posted by A Tennis Coach 04/17/2010 at 10:08 AM

very good stuff, some of your best work to date

Posted by Azhdaja 04/17/2010 at 11:37 AM

Hey Steve, I found my answers! The answers I was looking for in my post @ 04/16/2010 at 10:25 PM.

Djoker is done! No help for him. The guy definitelly turned his great talent into a head case. Like it or noot, but that's the truth. The game he delivered against Verdasco today sucks. Pain in the brain.

I am sure that even Djokovic's nemesis were disappointed today. Beating this guy is not an achievement anymore. They have to look for big names somewhere else now.

Since I am always looking for good tennis to watch, I'll surely stay away from this guy. At least for a year or so. I simpathize with you. You are professional and you'll have to watch it.
GL to you.

Posted by Azhdaja 04/17/2010 at 11:41 AM

Posted by CPM 04/17/2010 at 01:36 AM

Thanks for correction. That's what i meant. Sorry it's been a while since I comprehended that one.

Posted by Voltaire 04/17/2010 at 12:25 PM


Most of the time I like your insightful, introspective, reasoned way of looking at sport(Tennis)and interleaving it with general life. This time i honestly feel this is overdone, Allen or not. Anyone(pro/amateur) who begins playing the sport(tennis in this case) would be attuned to the scoring system and will NOT have so many degrees of pressure at various points. More often than not a guy in the lead has more momentum unless he is Davydenko and a guy who has a crucial break wins! The dynamic of 'getting it over with' applies more to life than sport....even the most professional of sports are SPORT at heart....the participants would like what they are doing in general!

Posted by Chany 04/17/2010 at 03:08 PM

Hmm I wonder what analysis Tennisismental has to give now?!

Posted by rgrace 04/17/2010 at 03:34 PM

Looks like Novak didn't relax at all - Verdasco clobbered him. We get an '09 Aussie SF rematch now! Hope Nando gives Rafa a battle.

Posted by Chany 04/17/2010 at 03:42 PM

rgrace - i think it will be a good match tomorrow. although i have a good feeling that Rafa will win. He is playing exeptionally well. But you never know...!

Posted by Cami 04/17/2010 at 04:17 PM

wow, brilliant article. brilliant. and yes, nadal is something else when it comes to the psychological side of tennis. i still haven't figured out how he does it.

Posted by Cami 04/17/2010 at 04:22 PM

but I'm happy that he does it :)

Posted by Eugenia 04/17/2010 at 06:23 PM

As Always great article and very wise. I enjoy all your writing ( no side ).I feel sad for all the fans who have so much hate for others players that their favorite and so fanatics and ridiculous in their predictions. I love Rafa for been so mature and never had a bad actitud , is so much fan and agony to watch him playing with so much passion.I enjoy all the goods games and respect all the players who knows how to win and more important how to lose ( unfortunaly not to many ). tennis is sport of endurance and I admire and respect all the right ones. And you Steve keep doing what you do the best be honest and impartial

Posted by Corrie 04/17/2010 at 06:55 PM

The play in this tournament has been very disappointing and very dull, probably because the draw lacked all the most interesting players with games big enough to make it a bit more than a cake walk for Nadal. Nadal has had a very easy draw and did what was expected of him.

Novak was a huge disappointment. I certainly don't think he's the greatest talent, but to justify his #2 ranking he really should be making a better fist of things. Verdasco hits great shots but his aversion to the net should not have made it such a thorough beating by him. Novak plays a lot of tournaments and gets his ranking up with smaller tournaament wins but he doesn't look like a #2 ought to look. And i don't put it down to stress - it's his game that's flawed fundamentally.

Posted by Ray T. 04/17/2010 at 08:42 PM

Djokovic's loss today is another proof that his current #2 ranking has more to do with Nadal's injuries than anything else:

Djokovic has only faced one Top 10 player this year and lost(Tsonga) and he has done nothing but struggle against Top 40 players to either go the distance (Isner, Troicki, Kholshreiber, Bagdhatis) or lose (Ljubicic, Youzhny, and #59 Rochus).

The high seed and weak draws have kept him afloat for now, but he's not likely to defend his points from last year playing this way against the Top 10.


Posted by zolarafa 04/17/2010 at 09:00 PM

What a great read. You are a writer and a tennis analyst at the same time.


MC had a very strong field. 3 of the top 5 played there. The fact that Murray or Djoko were beaten doesn't mean the draw is easy.However, I think a Rafa-Ferrero QF and a RAfa-ferrer SF are very difficult matches. The factthat Rafa breezed through them does not mean they were easy opponents.

On the other side, it was Djoko, Nalbandian, Verdasco, ...who says these players are not good on clay?

I think Verdasco is playing great tennis right now and will be a very tough opponent for Rafa tomorrow. I hope and wish for Rafa to win his 6th MC title tomorrow.

Posted by Suntree 04/17/2010 at 09:09 PM

I'm a great fan of Djokovic and am quite concern about his lack of confidence, especially on serve. I, too, like the cocky Nole of 2007-2008 much better. Hopefully, both Novak & Andy Murray can turn their games around by the French Open or else, we'll have to be content with another Federer/Nadal show for the rest of 2010.

Posted by Zora 04/17/2010 at 09:17 PM

kinda dig how steve's jinx works both ways - mention that FeVer has never made it past the quarters at a Masters and he immediately makes the final!

sigh Djoko was woeful - not to take anything away from Verdasco, but 42 unforced errors to 8 winners is not the kind of stat you expect from the number 2 player in the world, even on a bad day.

Posted by Geellis 04/17/2010 at 09:28 PM

First @Tennisismental: wow weren't you miles off target.

Second, it's unfortunately going to be a str8 set affair. Look at their H2H and there's just no reason to believe that Verdasco comes anywhere close to giving Nadal a tough match tomorrow. I think they're in positions relatively similar to where they were a year ago with respect to each other. That means, neither of them is playing as well now as they were in '09 AO, but they are, it seems to me, roughly equivalently far from their respective bests. Verdasco has NEVER taken a set off Rafa on clay, and it's hard to see him doing that tomorrow. As for the rest of the clay court season? Should my prediction re tomorrow prove true, it's hard to see Rafa not reclaiming his RG title. I think he goes into Barcelona and Rome as prohibitive favorite and, so long as the knees hold up, he just gets deeper and deeper into the heads of ALL (including Federer) the players' heads. Add the horrific performances of Murray and Djokovic and you've really got no one who should really threaten him on the dirt. And those Soderling fans should look out. Prediction 3, Nadal puts a BDBP (beat down of biblical proportions) on Soderling the next time they meet on clay, similar to the 0/1 that he did to Robin in Rome last year.

Posted by zolarafa 04/17/2010 at 09:43 PM


I read somewhere that Djoko teamed up with Martin to improve his service motion or to find a motion that would not bother his shoulder. Djoko had a great serve and I am wondering wether his recent lapse is related to that shoulder problem. I am a Rafa fan and I think Djoko has always been very dangerous on clay. So keep faith!

One more thing,MC is the first clay court tournament of the year and the transition from hard court is not easy. I think Djoko should improve with every tournament.

Posted by Rafanatic (marguritaspecial ) 04/17/2010 at 09:55 PM

Here comes the KING OF CLAY . I hope that tomorrow RAFA lives up to my expectations and put a BDBP on Fernando to begin his climb back up to # 1 which is his rightful place in tennis .I like Fernando but I love RAFA I just don't know what it is about Spanish men .

Posted by Corrie 04/17/2010 at 10:13 PM

The absence of DelPotro, Federer, Davidenko and Soderling certainly made it easy for Nadal. Since when has he ever had trouble, on clay, with Ferrero, Ferrer and Verdasco, let alone the easy draw in the first two rounds? It's been a painless way for him to ease himself back into form. He's a very great clay court specialist and with this tournament as a base to build on, I think he'll have a great clay court season, especially as all the big hitters will be rusty, if and when they return.

Posted by zolarafa 04/17/2010 at 10:30 PM

players play the draw. What about Federer's FO draw. Dis the absence of Rafa make it easier for Fed to win it or not? Or what about wimbledon?
Remember that he would not have played them all. he would perhaps had federer in the final and maybe soderling or Delpo in QF or semi finals. Has Rafa beaten Fed in a MC final before? How many times?
It is painless for Rafa, because he is playing great tennis and he has been dominant in this surface for the past 5 years. Try to appreciate that!

Posted by 1963USCtennis 04/17/2010 at 10:47 PM

"and we should be because I believe he is one of the top 2 all time on this surface with Borg."

Borg lost his first match vs Rod Laver. Laver was about 36 or so, Borg about 18 or so. Rosewall was the dominant clay player in Laver's era

there have been others.

Borg was great, but not head and shoulders better than Laver nor Rosewall or Budge on clay.

Posted by ebh 04/17/2010 at 11:01 PM

Why is Fed not given credit for his clay court skills? He is certainly the best after Rafa at clay, not Novak. And he is tougher on Nadal than the Djoker. This is in comment to an earlier post.

Posted by Azhdaja 04/18/2010 at 01:31 AM

Tennisismental made a good analisys. Positive.
However, it is Djokovic who did sort of fraud today! and who would expect that? Loss is loss and that happenes, but this game today was more than just a loss. That was a shame!

A shame that will take a while before Djokovic can wash it out. If ever?

So, Tennisismental has nothing to do with a tennis fraud deliever by Djokovic. That guy is a head case for sure. And other fans who admire his game, they admire what?? Novak made misses tooday that were by few meters out!?

Watching him playing one would asked a question: who is this guy? How did he make it this far? Did he ever learn how to toss and hit the ball?!

Verdasco? Do not delude yourself! It was Djokovic and not Verdasco who beat Djokovic today!

Posted by jita65 04/18/2010 at 01:35 AM

Very interesting insight from player's perspective. One would have thought that since they are professionals, start playing at very young age and having played hundreds of matches, they eventually learn how to deal positively with this pressure, but I guess it is easier said than done.

Also found it interesting that you can identify with Djokovic's reactions (drop shot at match point!). Novak's actions & reactions are somewhat of a mystery, even though he is one of my favourites. He has put his fans through the wringer last couple of seasons, the perpetual dilemma of whether he is talented enough or driven enough to handle all aspects of tennis or not. I hope that this latest ‘serve drama’ ends soon otherwise there is a danger that he could unconsciously use it as readymade excuse. Perhaps a bit uncharitable given the efforts he put in most of last year & early this year to win matches, but watching him play yesterday, with no disrespect to Verdasco, I couldn't shake the feeling that he had came to court with a pre- plan on the amount of effort he was going to put into this match, irrespective of results.

Also, “Why are you watching.. is a question I am often asked by my more objective family members when they see me frazzle during matches. Hard to explain sometimes.

Posted by Azhdaja 04/18/2010 at 01:36 AM

djokovic played cowardly today, and that stays! It will stay forever. The only problem is that he doesn't give a s*it about it.

Well, honestly neither will I.

Posted by Jay 04/18/2010 at 02:25 AM

Some interesting thoughts. I completely agree that the winner-takes-all scoring of tennis is part of what keeps the players and spectators on an emotional roller coaster during close matches. It was great imagery to think of Monaco's great stadium by the sea as reminiscent of ancient Greek ampitheatres. However, I don't agree that we all experience catharsis through the course of tennis matches, despite the potential for high drama.

Great theatre takes for granted that all spectators will experience the same emotional journey through drama, but, only those sports fans who somehow remain impartial can feel rejuvenated by matches, no matter who wins. The last two Wimbledon finals (mens singles) illustrate the type of drama that tennis can produce, on the level of great theatre. However, those rooting for Roger in 2008, and Roddick in 2009 experienced something other than catharsis at the end of those matches. If you rooted for Rafa ('08) or RF ('09), or if you did not care who won, then perhaps you would call your experience a catharsis. Same for the players...if you win, it applies, if you lose, its probably more like depression.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Just Do It 04/18/2010 at 04:52 AM

Thanks Steve A great read as usual.

I agree thank goodness Rafa dosent have to use his b/hand slice on clay.His b/hand is still found wanting.No where it was over a year ago.

Hopefully Rafa can win this title in MC which I hope will be a stepping stone for the rest of the clay season.

It will be interesting to see Novak compete in his next clay tournament.His game on the clay is good.We only have to look at his results last year.I am sure there will be positive improvement.

Posted by Corrie 04/18/2010 at 06:39 AM

zolarafa, no need to sound so condescending especially as you didn't seem to take in what I was saying. I'm sure Nadal is glad to have had a fairly soft draw and easy passage at MC, with so many top guys out of it, and so should his fans be, because you can see it's helped him get his game and confidence back. He said himself he'd lost some confidence in his backhand.

Of course you can only play the draw. This is just the start of the clay court season. I'm sure he's going to have another great run, as he has every year, but this fairly easy tournament is just what he needed to launch into clay, even if he loses in the final.

Posted by ebh 04/18/2010 at 10:11 AM

Finally an easy draw for Rafa!?! It is about time. How many times has he had to win going through really tough draws? When has he last had an easy draw? Usually the ones that are always there end up getting an easy draw occasionally (Djoker in Rome, Fed in FO, etc.). Now Rafa here. It is the reward for always being there. What is odd is that it has not happened before. Rafa usually has to beat both Djoker and Fed and maybe someone else like Murray/Roddick/Del Potro.

Posted by Ryota 04/18/2010 at 10:24 AM

And Nadal wins Monte Carlo. Scratch that. He annihilated the field!

It's not his fault Djokovic faltered in the semis. But even so, I think with his form, Djokovic would have had trouble keeping up with him (Nadal) today.

Verdasco only managed to win 1 game in the final. How crazy is that?!?!

Next up Barcelona.

Posted by Ryota 04/18/2010 at 10:27 AM

"I expected Nadal, like most other players, to stand and look at the net and the ball, put his hands on his hips, and allow himself a little stress-free dip into the well of self-pity—“how could the net do that to me?” Instead, without even glancing at the ball, he turned around, walked quickly back to the baseline, and called for the towel. He was right: Ferrero had played an outstanding point and there was nothing he could do about it. "

That's one of his strengths, isn't it? Point is over. Move on. Play the new point correctly.

Posted by TeamNadal 04/18/2010 at 10:39 AM


Posted by Jeu Nadal!! 04/18/2010 at 10:45 AM

Six in a row!! ALLEZ RAFA!!! VAMOS RAFA!!!

Posted by Nina 04/18/2010 at 11:11 AM

@ Azhdaja said: "A shame that will take a while before Djokovic can wash it out. If ever?
So, Tennisismental has nothing to do with a tennis fraud deliever by Djokovic. That guy is a head case for sure. And other fans who admire his game, they admire what?? Novak made misses tooday that were by few meters out!?"

And you call yourself a fan? Typical overreaction. Who needs enemies with fans like these? Go find another bandwagon to jump on.

Djokovic is still in the same slump that was provoked by his sudden loss of serve. Did you honestly think he would fix that in two weeks? No chance in hell!
He did play brilliantly at long spells during this week and he had a great match against Nalbandian, never an easy opponent. But that doesn't mean his problems have evaporated. Actually on Spanish TV Feliciano Lopez was commenting his match against Verdasco and revealed that he once asked Janko Tipsarevic what was the problem with Djoko's serve, if he was making any technical or physical adjustments and Janko told him that Nole had gradually developed a hitch in his serve without knowing quite why, apparently his shoulder was so tired after last season that unconsciously his body started changing the serve motion to adjust to that. Then Martin entered his life and ruined it completely. And that affected his game entirely and made him lose confidence. It's all a vicious cycle. So it's all down to the serve. Actually when his old serve was working again (vs. Nalbandian) he played very well, similar to old Nole. But when his serve was not clicking (vs. verdasco) his whole game was weakened. There is nothing Nole can do right now but work on that serve and get back his confidence. Fans have to be patient. He's smart and knows what he's doing.

Posted by zolarafa 04/18/2010 at 12:32 PM

you did not get my point. What would have been a hard draw? You are discrediting all the players in Monte Carlo. How can a draw with Warinka, Kohlschrieber, Murray , Djokovic, Ferrero, Ferrer, Verdasco, Tsonga, easy?
Just because Federer chose not to play there it does not mean it was an easy draw.

Posted by zolarafa 04/18/2010 at 12:48 PM

to that list add: Nalbandian, Berdych, Ljubicic( to whom RAfa had lost the semi in IW), Cilic, Almagro abd Chela.

Posted by ava 04/18/2010 at 01:14 PM

you did not get my point. What would have been a hard draw? You are discrediting all the players in Monte Carlo. How can a draw with Warinka, Kohlschrieber, Murray , Djokovic, Ferrero, Ferrer, Verdasco, Tsonga, easy?
Just because Federer chose not to play there it does not mean it was an easy draw.
Zolarafa is right. Besides judging Federer's present form in best-of-three I really do not see him beat Rafa in MC. Roma will be interesting but Fed needs to get to the final first. Which he hasn't done in any best-of-three tournament this year, I think.
But his focus is on slams and it's paying off. Personally I do not see Fed performing that well in the MS's but will definitely make the finals of RG(I'm pretty sure; he's predictable like that)

Posted by tina 04/18/2010 at 02:33 PM

It really is a shame that Djokovic couldn't follow up the great Nalbandian win with a better performance against Verdasco, since Verdasco then collapsed entirely in the final. As a tennis fan, it's not much fun to watch such one-sided matches.

Posted by Tfactor 04/18/2010 at 04:27 PM

For the record, I'm a Rafa fan first but also a huge fan of Fed.

I know that if Roger had won Monte Carlo (or any other tournament) in the same fashion as Rafa did today with a similar field and let's say beating Wawrinka in the final with the same score, the attitude of some here would have been totally different.

It's quite unfortunate that people allow their 'Kad-hood' to cloud their judgement.
Rafa deserves to be congratulated for his historic achievement, just as any other player who accomplish anything similar.
Vamos Rafa!

Posted by Geellis 04/18/2010 at 04:51 PM

Hey, I am a huge Rafa fan. I admit it. However, I can also admit that his draw was relatively tame. That's obvious. But the better question is, given what we saw this week, are there any players in tennis who would have taken a set from him here? The answer must be no. Soderling? Rafa beat him 0/1 just weeks before they met in RG, and given the form we saw this week, Soderling would have been mowed down in str8s. Delpo? Not a chance. Delpo and Soderling are simply not better clay court players than Ferrer, Ferrero, and Verdasco. The Mighty Fed?? Certainly he wins a few more games than Verdasco, but let's be clear. Judging from the form we saw at IW and Miami, the Fed's scoreline would have been no better than, perhaps 4/4 or 4/5. No better and probably not even that close. That's how big the gap is between a healthy Nadal on clay and EVERY ONE of his rivals. No one in tennis enjoys this big an advantage on any other surfrace (as Nadal likes to pronounce it). In other events, on other surfaces, it's fair to say the draw can make a big difference. That means, to win Wimby again, or the USO, Nadal would need a favorable draw. To win a clay court title, however, THE ENTIRE MEN'S FIELD needs just one man to be absent, Rafael Nadal. It's that simple and that obvious.

Posted by Tfactor 04/18/2010 at 05:07 PM

My point is that whatever the draw is, the standards should be applied across the board, not just to the players who are not our favorites.
The draw was what it was and no, I wouldn't call it 'tame' but to each his own.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/18/2010 at 06:59 PM

geez I guess this means Rafa's knees have miraculously healed in the last week?


i say this thread is fair game to rant, will leave the party at TW alone for a day out of respect to ending the year long title drought :)

the best part of the last year has been not seeing that asinine trophy biting shot that for some reason every photo editor in the free world feels they must print, and Rafa feels he must reproduce over and over again...

And sorry but Verdasco bent over like a minion today it was a pathetic performance in a Masters Series finale, ONE game?? gimma a friggin break... if I was a ticket holder Id want my money back...

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/18/2010 at 07:09 PM

oh dear the Rafa kids go from despair to arrogance in the space of a week, amazing!

i guess beating a string of Spaniards has somehow erased all of Rafa's injuries, he's fully recovered, fully fit, and can beat anyone literally by a double bagel now! wow... as I said, TW is off limits for the Rafa party, but here, open season reigns...

frnakly, for such an epic switch to take place over the space of a week says more than ever that Nadal is a clay court specialist now more than ever before...the scorelines this week pretty much prove that point, Id say...

Fed, hit the practice court pronto!

and I think it was a little disingenious for Rafa to fall on the court after winning a match 61 60, well, its beyond ridiculous in my opinion, and pretty disrespectful to his battered opponent who should have been embarrassed with that effort...

Posted by frances 04/18/2010 at 09:12 PM


No he wont regain his #2 ranking-- he also won this year's tournament last year so it reverses itself completely. his ranking points will stay flat as in... Djokovic points will go down but now down enough to be below rafa...

but for the record.. i am soososososososos happy for rafa to finally have happy tears.. he played really well this week. VAMOS

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 04/18/2010 at 10:05 PM

frances: such a nice thought about rafa having 'happy' tears. This really meant alot to him. And it's so unfortunate that we have to read about soft draws and weak fields when you know if it was federer lifting the trophy none of that would be mentioned.

Rafa must really make some Fed fans nervous. Normal reaction. But bringing up his knees again for the 100th time? Rafa has stated repeatedly that he's physiclly fit so what is this repeated mentioning of his knees? He was injured last year and won three titles in a row and made the final of a fourth, all the while on bum knees. But he didn't say anything about them since it's a chronic condition. Unfortunately it became acute at the French and so he sadly could not defend his wimbledon crown. But I don't think he is carrying an injury right now. Even if he was he wouldn't talk about it.

I thought he and nando were adorable at the trophy ceremony. Nando's speech was lovely. Thanking rafa for all the great moments they've shared in their careers. Classy stuff. I'm going to be going through withdrawal this week waiting for the Barcelona semis.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 04/18/2010 at 10:37 PM

gee annie i guess because last week and the week before that, all we eever heard about what KNEES, and when he finally wins a tourney over some Spanish fan boys, he's suddenly fully healthy again! wow, its a miracle...

some make it really hard to genuinely be happy about the guy breaking a year long title drought, is all Im saying... that said, if rafa kids are gonna drop using the K word from their posts, it will have been worth it... we will see how long it lasts...

the great news form this is nadal is hot favorite again for the French, as its clear his clay court specialist tag is more relevant that ever...

the fact that Nando was so happy in an awareds ceremoney where he won ONE game says it all, if thats all he can muster well, go home Nando...

Posted by Jai 04/18/2010 at 10:42 PM

"oh dear the Rafa kids go from despair to arrogance in the space of a week, amazing!"

Oh dear, Tim goes back to his timeworn hobby of reading only a couple of bordering-on-arrogant comments by fly-by posters and proclaiming that this represents the general attitude of "the Rafa kids" on this board. And then using that supposed "arrogance" to post a series of graceless comments himself.

Dude, YOUR guy has won 16 Grand Slam titles, been number 1 for hundreds of weeks and is considered one of the greatest sportsmen ever. With a resume like that, why do you find it so difficult to let Rafa's fans have their moment in the sun after a very difficult 11 months?

Posted by lightforce 04/18/2010 at 10:57 PM

"why do you find it so difficult to let Rafa's fans have their moment in the sun after a very difficult 11 months?"
because he is......nevermind

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 04/18/2010 at 11:49 PM

I wonder the same thing Jai. Fed's records will never be eclipsed. Well, except for the Masters Series shields, but that's Agassi's record. Still, no one will beat Fed's slam record and that's the only one that matters, right? Or at least that's what tim tells us every chance he gets. The rafa hate must be because he's always going to be mentioned whenever Fed's legacy is discussed. The one player that could beat him consistently. And that just really really bugs some Fed fans. It's a small blot on an otherwise stellar career. The shame of it is Federer is such a great champion but some of his fans are classless. And I've got news for tim, rafa's fans are probably not going to stop talking about his knees as long as they're a chronic problem for him. But if he keeps winning like this and playing so beautifully we'll talk about them less and less. So, here's hoping for rafa's continued success this season! It'll be a win-win for everyone!

Posted by Jai 04/19/2010 at 12:10 AM

Annie: one of the things Tim refuses to get into his head is that the sensible Rafa fans don't use his knees as an "excuse" or as an external issue unrelated to his game. Fact: Rafa's game isn't anywhere near as efficient as Federer's (and he isn't as naturally skilled on grass and hard-courts), which means that the knees and other injuries will always be a factor in his career. If we're making a checklist where we note the positives and negatives for each player, Rafa's playing style - which takes such a toll on his body - will count as a red mark against him. It will factor into his overall legacy.

Posted by Jai 04/19/2010 at 12:17 AM

One more thing, at risk of dignifying this stupid "minion" talk: in clay-court matches where one player maintains a solid level throughout and the other player has lots of ups and downs, what often results is a very lopsided-looking score that doesn't necessarily tell the real story of the match. Most obvious example: Rafa beating Soderling 6-1, 6-0 at Rome last year - it was a match that was genuinely tough and competitive in patches, but the score doesn't tell you that story. (Another, slightly less obvious example: Verdasco beating Djokovic 6-2, 6-2 in the semi.)

On a hard-court, when a score reads 6-1, 6-0 or even 6-3, 6-2, you can be fairly sure that it was a beatdown. That isn't necessarily the case on clay.

Posted by Rafalicious 04/19/2010 at 08:36 AM

and I think it was a little disingenious for Rafa to fall on the court after winning a match 61 60, well, its beyond ridiculous in my opinion, and pretty disrespectful to his battered opponent who should have been embarrassed with that effort...

Tim, your hatred for Nadal is incredible. This was an emotional win for him after having a disappointing he made history.

Posted by ava 04/19/2010 at 08:49 AM

I don't care about what any haters say. This is a happy moment. I'm celebrating. Why do some people have such fragile egos. Federer is the greatest, no one doubts that. I don't see why one MC win by Rafa diminishes that. As for Rafa's knees that will always be a topic of conversation. It's not going to go away but very few people make it an excuse for a PARTICULAR loss. I think obviously there's a cumulative effect and it does eventually weigh down Rafa's chances in a lot of tournaments(especially in HCs). But it's a problem he's learnt to live with. He wins in spite of it. Eventually his career will not eclipse that of Federer's but I don't care. Rafa is a special player and I'm proud of all that he has achieved and will achieve in future.

As for Verdasco is a minion talk. That's really disrespectful. Verdasco worked hard to get to his FIRST MS final beating the #2 player along the way. He actually competed well for the points in the final. It was just that Rafa played the big points better and hence the scoreline.

Posted by Jai 04/19/2010 at 09:45 AM

"This was an emotional win for him after having a disappointing 2009..."

Exactly. I don't think any of us can guess what a huge relief this win must have been after all the self-doubt of the last few months - especially after he lost that Doha final to Davydenko despite taking the first set 6-0. And the uncharacteristic losses to Ljubicic and Roddick.

To see a more typical, gracious Rafa response after an easy win, see the RG 08 final. I remember that Tim was among those who appreciated Rafa's very subdued celebration on that occasion.

Posted by maedal (vamos rafa!) 04/19/2010 at 10:21 AM


Couldn't agree with you more about how emotional this win was, how important to Rafa. By winning here, Rafa ended the title drought and also showed he had overcome his demons--the niggling doubts (*doobts*) at important moments in a match that had kept him from the finals in the two previous tournaments and shaken his confidence in other matches over the previous 11 months. To say he was over-exuberant about a beatdown is simply meanspirited, and Jai rightly reminds us of Rafa's subdued reaction to his RG 08 victory over Roger.

Posted by Tfactor 04/19/2010 at 10:38 AM

What a load of BS about Rafa disrespecting his opponent *rolls eyes*
And this coming from a 'so-called' Roger fan after the way Rafa treated Fed at AO'09.
No wonder they say that the empty barrels make the most noise.
Right on Annie about the disservice some of Roger 'so-called' fans do to his great legacy. I choose to admire the player and give no credence to such 'fans'.

Posted by TeamNadal 04/19/2010 at 10:51 AM

"And this coming from a 'so-called' Roger fan after the way Rafa treated Fed at AO'09."

Excellent point....that loss for Federer was hard to take and he could not control his emotions.... but at the same time, he managed to ruin an amazing moment for Nadal who then felt compelled to console Roger.

I, for one, am thrilled that Rafa was able to overcome so much this past year. It's been difficult and he has pulled through. His "mental toughness" and "never give up" attitude is something to be admired.

Posted by maedal (vamos rafa!) 04/19/2010 at 11:09 AM

Tfactor and TeamNadal--Yes, how could I have forgotten..the AO 09 awards ceremony!

Posted by Frances 04/19/2010 at 11:24 AM

i cant wait for steve to write about rafa this week..STEVE are you catching my drif:P hahahaha

Posted by Jeu Nadal 04/19/2010 at 11:32 AM

It looks like Rafa is doubtftul for Barcelona per Mallorca news.

Posted by susan 04/19/2010 at 11:43 AM

"why do we watch tennis matches?" wow, big one. why do we watch sports? this reminds me of noam chomsky's provocative statements about sports and the media. i believe this was included in the documentary Manufacturing Consent years ago. I looked on youtube and there are a few clips. "it offers people something to pay attention to that is of no importance." ha! !!!! keeps them from worrying about things that matter in their lives that they could actually do something about, he says. (i wonder if student Noam ever played a sport?!?)

his theory was that the purpose of the 'true mass media' was to dull people's brains. divert them, get to watch the NFL, pick up the Nat'l Enquirer with the photo of the woman with six heads, etc. produces 'irrational attitudes of submission to authority". he mentions realising in high school that he questioned why was he cheering for his team.. he didn't know anybody on the team, he said. it didn't make sense. but, ah, yes it made sense because it was all part of the indoctrination set up by the system, to reduce people's capacity to think, he says. and advertisers play along...

well that just sucks the joy out of it... this coming from a man who wrote a paper on the fall of barcelona during the spanish civil war in the fourth grade. still teaching at MIT.

Posted by Steve 04/19/2010 at 11:59 AM

love chomsky. even if i can't think like him. i'd want to kill myself.

good posts, jai, thanks.

tim, good to see you again. thanks for the laughs

Posted by Jeu Nadal 04/19/2010 at 12:03 PM

> don't care about what any haters say.<

I second that. If Rafa had won 7-6 6-7 7-6 the haters would be saying that it's obvious Rafa is not the same player because he struggled to win against a no-name player. But Rafa wins 60 61 and it's the fault of the *other* no-name player and the lame draw. Either way Rafa is not the same player and unworthy of this win. Whatever. Rafa made history for being the first player in the open era to win six consecutive titles.

Posted by TeamNadal 04/19/2010 at 12:48 PM

Nadal will not play Barcelona.....probably a good precautionary measure IMO....oh, and Tim, before you comment: *YAWN*

Posted by TeamNadal 04/19/2010 at 12:51 PM

btw, here is the hilarious google translation of that article:

The tennis player from Manacor ³ trip by car from Monte Carlo last night to Espaà ± ay after undergoing some tests today mà © tips, has decided not to risk his battered knees and will not defend his rule in the Barcelona Tennis.³

Goda Trophy opens today with 13 games of the first round. The first attraction on Centre Court is the presence of former number one and champion ³ n Wimbledon and U.S. Open, Lleyton Hewitt, appearing for the second time on the slopes of the RCT Barcelona where in 2002 was ³ the semifinals.

Hewitt will make partner Mark Knowles. In the day's also © n debut of espaà ± oles Almagro and Ventura-faced among them-GarcÃa-Là ³ pez, Hernandez, along with Granollers-one of the wild cards, and two qualifiers in the previous: Riba and Ramos-Viñolas

Posted by Tfactor 04/19/2010 at 12:52 PM

I had seen the news earlier today about Rafa not playing Barcelona but since every article I read said there was no official confirmation I didn't want to post it.
It seems that now most people have seen it and they're also discussing it on TW.

Really hope it's more of a precautionary measure than anything else.

Posted by GB 04/19/2010 at 01:00 PM

Great post Steve! Relaxing certainly wasn't an option as a RafaKAD this weekend!

I agree with all the posts that it's a pretty big stretch to think that Rafa was rubbing Fer's nose in the enormity of his loss. It wasn't like Rafa was leaping around and screaming - he literally collapsed. IMO, that, coupled with both his tears (so strong that you could actually hear them and see his shoulders shaking) and Tio Toni's demonstrative cheering (feeling the need to be on his feet both during that difficult last service game, even though Rafa was up a double break, and at match point) revealed how bery, bery relieved and overjoyed Rafa was. Quite simply, everything that he's been through in the last year and his uncharacteristic stumbles this season meant that - easy score be damned- he simply couldn't convince himself that he was likely to win until he actually had.

Posted by Tfactor 04/19/2010 at 01:09 PM

It's official Rafa is out of Barcelona.

That's from the tournament official site in Spanish.

Posted by maedal (vamos rafa!) 04/19/2010 at 01:29 PM

So Rafa is managing his schedule better.....! and giving someone else a chance to shine on clay.

Posted by Nam1 04/19/2010 at 01:35 PM

"It's official Rafa is out of Barcelona."

can anyone confirm why, is it that he wants to rest up before Rome and obviously he will play Madrid then?

Ava, its good to see you back!!

Posted by Frances 04/19/2010 at 01:40 PM


Really? does that mean he will do madrid? hmmmmmm

Posted by Nam1 04/19/2010 at 01:41 PM

And Rafa fans, we can be as happy as we want to be; there are only a couple of "haters' posting here, just ignore them and lets all celebrate;

ith his gimpy knees and all, I would not cnage

Posted by Frances 04/19/2010 at 01:42 PM

its not yet posted on rafa's site nor ATP... i wonder if its to do with the weather?

Posted by maedal (vamos rafa!) 04/19/2010 at 01:44 PM

GB @ 1:00 -- love your post. you describe the context of rafa's reactions so well.

Posted by Nam1 04/19/2010 at 01:46 PM

Frances, I dont think it has to so with the volcanic ash thing coz, he could have driven to barcelona if he wanted, I think he is protecting his knees and managing his schedule.

Finally some sense from his team, tho' its a loss to all his fans in Barcelona and TV land.

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