Article a bit out of date but still interesting. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/tennis/article3883430.ece
May 7, 2008
Rafael Nadal knows only one way - full steam ahead
The Spaniard is halfway to a remarkable achievement - having won four successive tournaments in Barcelona and Monte Carlo - with Rome and the French Open left to complete the set
Rafael Nadal of Spain
Rafael Nadal of Spain
Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent, in Rome
Rafael Nadal was changing into full playing regalia of orange vest, shorts and bandanna at the Foro Italico yesterday when Roger Federer bounded by, reasonably fresh from being run around for 1hr 23min by Guillermo Cañas. “You have doubles?” Federer inquired. Nadal responded that, no, he was simply getting dressed for business. For him, a practice session and a match demands one and the same dedication. Federer rolled his eyes and walked on.
When history acknowledges the remarkable contribution of the Spaniard to his sport, that he never gave less than his all will be a resounding characteristic. In the past four years, it has brought unrivalled success on the red clay of Europe.
Here, at the BNL D'Italia Masters Series event, for instance, he is pursuing a fourth successive title, having done exactly that in Barcelona and Monte Carlo, where, in those eight championships, he has forfeited only five sets.
Consider the effort required to achieve such a feat. Andy Murray finds one word suffices: “Amazing.” Nadal has won 103 of his past 104 clay-court matches; he had amassed 81 when that run was ended by Federer in the Hamburg final 53 weeks ago and most people thought it was the first sign of a fracturing of Nadal's ascendancy on the surface. He has long put that one to rights.
* Nadal slams ATP schedule
* Supreme Nadal leaves Federer in the shade
* Nadal too good for Federer in Monte Carlo
There was standing room only yesterday to watch him practise. Bob Brett, the Australian who learnt his coaching trade at the knee of the legendary Harry Hopman and was in the corner of Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic and Mario Ancic at seminal career moments, was in the audience. “Just to watch the velocity he gets on the ball, even in practice, is remarkable,” Brett said. “At first, he just cracks the ball - pam, pam, pam - trying to establish his range, but once he does, he doesn't miss.
“What is incredible is how he has defended so many championships; no one can match that record in the professional era. He would have been the No1 in the world a long time ago at any other time in history.”
Nadal is not 22 for another month, by which time he may well be on the brink of a fourth consecutive French Open title, as well, matching Bjorn Borg's record from 1978-81. The concern would be that he plays too much for his own good and imperils the physique that takes such a battering from his playing style. There is an apprehension in the camp that a blister on his right foot will not settle down. He was favouring it yesterday, the occasional glance cast in the direction of Toni, his uncle and coach, and Rafael Maymo, his physical trainer.
They will leave nothing to chance. Nadal's long-term future is too important, his physical wellbeing the crux for someone who refuses to hold back, whether it be on the first point of practice or championship point at Roland Garros. The tennis cognoscenti loves him for that and because, from his arrival to international prominence as a 16-year-old in Monte Carlo in 2003 - he beat Karol Kucera, of Slovakia, in straight sets - to this day, Nadal has not changed one bit. “He is the same Rafa, always,” Benito Perez-Barbadillo, his public relations manager, said. “There is a tendency for those in Spain who achieve great fame to become far from the people, but not Rafa. To see the people in Italy fête him is very remarkable. He is greeted like a rock star.”
The beat goes on. As of this week, Nadal has won more matches on the tour in 2008 than anyone - 32. He insisted during the spring, hard-court swing in the United States, when holes were being picked in his game, although he reached the final in Miami and the semi-finals in Indian Wells, that he had played one really bad match all year - in the semi-finals of the Australian Open against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Today, Juan Carlos Ferrero, his compatriot, who won the French Open in 2003 and has done what Nadal may never do - become world No1 - faces him here. They have met four times on clay, Nadal winning them all.
- Roger Federer was upstaged for a while at the BNL D’Italia Masters yesterday when Francesco Totti, the captain of the AS Roma football team, walked in and the audience’s gaze was fixed on someone at courtside rather than the two on it (Neil Harman writes). These moments have a tendency to disrupt the main event, but Federer held his game together, defeating his nemesis, Guillermo Cañas, of Argentina, 6-3, 6-3 to take his place in the third round.
Juan MartÍn Del Potro, the Argentinian who limped out of his match against Andy Murray on Monday night, has torn a muscle in his back and is expected to miss the French Open.