TENNIS Mutua Madrid Open 2014 – R. Nadal d K. Nishikori 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 ret. An interview with Rafael Nadal.
Q. Congratulations for your fourth title. Maybe it’s a little bit bitter because of the Nishikori’s retirement. Happened the same thing to you in Australia, or is it tennis?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, it’s not tennis. There are circumstances, and sometimes those things can happen. I’m sorry for him. I’m really sorry. Of course when you have the dynamic that he’s having, when you suffer something like that, it’s really tough, he’s hard.
Well, obviously I suffered a similar situation, nearly the same, in Australia this year. So I know what I’m talking about and how bitter is it, especially when you’re playing an important match. So for me it was that day was, and for him it was this day. That’s the way it is. All of us have a moment have to face it, and today it was his day. He had to face it today.
Of course for me it’s a really important title.
Q. Congratulations for another Masters 1000 for your career. I wanted to ask you about Nishikori. Seeing how he played the first set and the rest of the tournament and Barcelona, too, do you think that that potentially he can be No. 1 of the world?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I have no idea. To be No. 1 is pretty complicated. At the end, you know, I don’t like to put someone so high very fast, or when someone is not playing is well just throw them to the ground quickly. You have to keep your feet on the ground in every moment and think calmly.
Kei promised a lot of things, promised a lot a couple years ago, and he’s still very young. He has had a couple injuries. Whenever you suffer injuries everything is really complicated. I’m sure that he’s going to be within the best. I’m sure if he keeps playing that level he’s going to be a clear candidate to be up there.
To be No. 1 he has to show if he’s capable of playing with high regularity all year and being able to win on all surfaces.
To be No. 1 today it’s quite expensive. There are some players that play few matches, and to be No. 1, you cannot commit any errors. You have to commit very few errors, and the correct place.
If not, it’s really tough.
Q. Before he suffered, did you see another possibility to come back to the match? What was the percentage?
RAFAEL NADAL: You know I never look at the percentages when I’m playing. I just looking at the next point. That was my percentage, the next point, then the next one, and on and on. That’s all.
You know, I went through a really complicated moment in the first set. I think I played a really high level with the first two points. I played with aggressiveness, and then I was blocked.
There was some moments where, I don’t know, I couldn’t find myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play or I was missing intensity, I was just mentally blocked. I had to go over that block.
It’s also true that I had some moments to go over it, and I couldn’t do it, because at the beginning of the second set he played really well. He did a break and we were playing quite well. I missed two returns and he did an ace.
So there are circumstances of the match that strike you all during the match. When you’re blocked, you just need a spark to go out there and compete again. I think the most positive thing for me is that in the second set, suffering, having a bad time out there, I managed to find the way to compete. You know, I was competitive on the second set.
I was being competitive. I had to to get back into the match and I think I was getting closer. I think I was. I think when I broke him, I think he was not that bad. I think. I’m talking honestly. I try to speak honestly whenever it happens to me and when it doesn’t.
I think when I managed to recover from the break in the second set he was playing normally. I think I saved a couple good points. I battled with a lot of points to play aggressively. It’s true, after going back and doing the break that he was just gone. He was going down and he couldn’t play anymore.
So I was being competitive. I don’t know if I would have been able to win the match. I’m not trying to think on that. In this moment I’m pretty happy because of my attitude. Within the negativeness that was going on in the match, I was still with a lot of illusion. I still had the energy to keep on trying, even though it was pretty tough.
In the end, I was also thinking that I just after the match that I lost in Barcelona, after the match that I lost in Australia, the match that I also lost in Indian Wells I was also pretty close to winning in Dolgopolov in some way I wanted to think that this year, you know, I just deserved something.
I was just fighting, because if I had the option I was going to be there to pick it up. It’s for sure that if I didn’t fight that tennis wouldn’t have given me that prize.
Q. The first day that you sat here you said that you had some doubts. How do you leave Madrid to face Roland Garros?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, much better, of course. Of course whenever you win in sport, well, it’s something basic. It’s a vital part of sport.
Because whenever you win, you see things more clearly. You see again how to play. You are calm once again. You know how to strike the ball properly in the key moments.
Even though I think that today I did a not so good first set, I think I did a great tournament. This is the reality of the situation. You know, I didn’t do this in Monte Carlo or Barcelona. It’s true in Barcelona against Dodig I did a little bit better. Against Almagro, I played a set and a half pretty well, but without being secure in what I was doing.
That security here in this tournament, I’ve really had it here. I have felt again that I had that well, you know, it’s really complicated to explain. It’s a feeling that you have when you’re in the court. You know, the feeling of being secure.
The feelings that the things that you want to do you’re doing, that things are going in the line you want them to. I think I did that with Berdych and Nieminen, and with Bautista I did it for a long time.
Overall I think I did a pretty complete tournament. For me, you know, I should have maintained the level that I played during the first two matches during the whole tournament, which was the ultimate match for me to close this tournament.
I also have to face a complicated match and know how to battle them. That makes you stronger. I also needed to suffer and face complicated situations. I needed to go over them.
In this situation I hadn’t gone over them in the previous tournaments, and here I have. I won here, and it’s a pretty important tournament for me.
Q. Rafa, are you working on going up to the net? Today you didn’t do a lot of that, but it was very effective. The second serve, sometimes people that return well, they attack it. Are you working on those things?
RAFAEL NADAL: The second serve, you know, I served that way because of my general block. You know, my second serve was because of my confidence, because of my mental block. When going up to the net, you cannot go to the net when you are two meters behind the line returning.
Whenever you striking the ball, if you don’t have the confidence that it’s going to go in the court, you cannot go up. You do it three or four times and you see the space and you go up. That’s basic and logical in tennis. You cannot go to the net when you’re striking a good ball and then you throw three balls out of the court.
You just cannot go up. To go up to the net you need regularity. That’s what gives you the opportunity to go up to the net when you have opportunities.
Q. Two questions: First all, the crowd was of course supporting you. But as you just said, you were a little bit blocked. Was the crowd a support? And then secondly, you said that you are no longer 20 years old and we have another generation of tennis players coming. Which point do you think you are in in your career now?
RAFAEL NADAL: First of all, in my life I’ve had the feeling that the crowd, whenever I played, goes against me whenever I play home. And when I say that, the pressure is more than what the audience gives me. True that today whenever I had that negative feeling, whenever you’re playing home, maybe makes you a little bit more blocked because you want to do things properly.
You don’t want to disappoint all the people that are supporting you. You just want to do things well. But at the same time that I say that, thanks to the support of them. In the second set I was capable of competing again.
With what I was doing, the crowd just pushed me a little bit more and gave me the rest. So if you ask me, I’m always going to choose to play with the crowd supporting me, in my favor, of course. Obviously.
And talking about my career, I don’t know what you want to know. I am where I am. I’m 27 years old, nearly 28 in a few weeks. I don’t know. How many years have I been on the tour? 12? That’s a lot.
But I’m where I am. I’m competing for the tournaments that I’m competing for. I feel well physically. I’m feeling better and better physically, better than a year ago. This is the most important thing.
Mentally I still have the illusion for what I’m doing. It still makes me happy. I still feel fortunate for doing what I’m doing.
So those things make it worth it for me. Just doesn’t make me think on which moment I’m in my career. Just makes me think next week I’ll play in Rome and the next one, Roland Garros.
THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.
Q. Can I get your assessment of the way you played today and what it means for you to have won this tournament four times playing in front of your home crowd in your home tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL: Always win at home is more special than wining anywhere. Have the chance to play in front of your crowd and enjoy the feeling, the full support, is unforgettable for me. This city give me a lot. Give me everything.
The feeling that it gives me to play in] Spain, and Madrid in this case, is very difficult to find this feeling away from here, no?
So a very important victory for me. Very sorry for Nishikori. I really hope that it’s nothing too bad and he will have the chance to compete very soon again. He’s very important for our tour.
Japan is a big market. He’s a good guy. He’s a fantastic tennis player. So he’s doing everything great, and I want to congratulate him for everything.
Q. Maybe somebody ask you in Spanish, but you said something on court after the match that he was kind of crying. You go there to say something to him. Could you tell me what you said to him?
RAFAEL NADAL: Just I was asking to him where was the pain. I thought was the back. He told me that was the leg.
I just tried to hurry up him, to give my support to him, because I know how tough is have these problems on court in front of a big crowd. Happened to me a few times in my career, and I can tell you that this is not fun.
These moments are tough to accept, and I felt very sorry for him.
Q. Maybe this also you answer, but could you just tell me your impression of Kei Nishikori, especially in the first set?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, he’s an unbelievable player. He’s a player that he will fight to be in London in the Masters Cup this year. I am sure of that. I really hope that the injury is not too bad and he will be able to compete in Roland Garros.
And he’s doing fantastic things since the beginning of the season. He’s playing at his best level of his career, and that’s great. I am really happy for him. It’s good to have a player like him on the tour.
Q. Congratulations on another victory. What was it that surprised you most about Kei’s performance in the first set, if there was anything that surprised you? And even when you were losing it did you feel you could still come back and win the match?
RAFAEL NADAL: Normally I am a positive guy in general, so I always believe that I can find a solution.
But it’s true that for moments it was really tough, because I really didn’t have not one good feeling.
So was frustrating for moments during the match, but it’s true that I was fighting and fighting mentally. Physically always is a little easier part. Mentally is the most difficult part.
I was trying to fight a lot mentally to change the direction of the match and to change my personal feelings. That was the thing that I was focused on, because I know he was playing great.
Okay, nothing to say with that. The thing that I had to do was play better on me, no?
I need to forget about the pressure and forget about the bad feelings and try to find my game.
Travelling across tennis, relationships and life with John Lloyd
Ubaldo Scanagatta spoke to John Lloyd about a series of topics on his professional and personal life.
In an exclusive talk with Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta, John Lloyd, former British No.1 and Davis Cup Captain provides insights on tennis, a changing world and his personal history
Edited by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
Wimbledon and the recent publication of “Dear John”, John Lloyd’s autobiography, set up the occasion for Ubitennis to meet up with John Lloyd and have a long talk which embraced four decades of tennis and personal anecdotes.
“Friend” is the word which most often recurs in John’s tales and unveils his unique empathy in his relating to people, to life. Always eager to embrace new experiences, yet loyal to his past.
Indeed, John Lloyds’ best run in a major was halted by a friend. In 1977, in fact, he reached the final at the Australian Open, which he lost in five sets to Vitas Gerulatis:
“The Slam in Australia wasn’t like it is now. It was still a big tournament, but some of the big players didn’t come over because it was over Christmas. I got to the final. I should have won that match. I lost in five sets to my friend Vitas, which was a big disappointment although if I was going to lose with someone, he’s the guy because, you know, he was a great guy. It was one of the saddest days when he passed away at 40 years old with that tragedy with the carbon dioxide poisoning.“
John is not a person who allows rear-view perspective to indulge in regrets, yet in terms of tennis he admits he regrets never managing to make a breakthrough at Wimbledon, where he says he always suffered from a self-inflicted pressure:
“For some reason at Wimbledon I never played my best tennis. I won two mixed doubles, which was great [in 1983 and in 1984 with Wendy Turnbull] but in singles I was always very disappointed with my performances. I had a couple of big wins. I beat my friend Roscoe Tanner when he was seeded number 3 and a lot of people thought he was going to win the title that year. I beat him on court number 1 but it was typical of my Wimbledon performances that I lost the next day to a German player called Karl Meiler who I should have beaten [after comfortably winning the first two sets he ended up losing in 9 7 in the fifth]. I let myself down after having one of the best wins of my career. And that was my Wimbledon story.“
“Dear John” was written with Phil Jones, BBC journalist, while the foreword is by a tennis great, and friend, Bjorn Borg:
“Bjorn is a good friend of mine. We’ve had many good times together when we played and also when we played on the senior tour. Bjorn is a lovely man and I called him up and asked him and he said no problem, I’d love to do it. We’ve had so many good stories. I’ve always thought he is one of the greatest champions of all time. I beat him once in Monte Carlo on clay [1975, 60 57 64, in the quarterfinals]. It was probably my best ever win although there are rumours he was out until four in the morning with some ladies…but that’s not my fault!“
When we mention how there was a moment when he became very popular also outside the world of tennis, owing to his romance with Chris Evert, John opens up about the difficulties in getting married so young and to a worldwide tennis star:
“We had some good times. We were married for 8 years but we were too young, both 24, on the tennis circuit, going to different places. If we had been married 10 years later we could have had a chance. We had some good times and some bad times, but we are still friends. I married into someone who was a huge legend. It was fortunate I was well known in Britain so I was used to having press around and that kind of stuff, but it was nothing like until I got married with Chris. It opened a lot of doors to me, to be honest. I met people I wouldn’t have met before. We went to wonderful places, met amazing people.“
As well as broadcasting for BBC, John Lloyd’s working life spans from selling real estate for Sotheby’s in Western Palm Beach, where he is currently living, to some coaching, and some tennis lessons in Mar-a-Lago club run by Donald Trump, former US president and a man who built a financial empire with real estate. Mr Trump’s knack for business is well proved by a story John recalls:
“I’ve known Mr Trump for 40 years. I saw him about three months ago at the golf club and had a chat with him. He said “John, how about you doing some celebrity lessons at Mar-a-Lago?” I said “Mr President, that could be good”. He said “This is what we will do: I’ll tell the director of the club and you’ll charge 500 $ an hour. So that’s good and I’ll take half.” “That’s a good deal” I said. So that was the president. He knows how to do business. There was no negotiation. It was like I’ll take 250, but 250 is not bad so I’ll do that.“
Donald Trump is only one of the celebrities John Lloyd met in his journeying around the world and that he writes about:
“I do a lot of name dropping. I’m very good at that. I’ve been around with a lot of celebrities. I’ve had some funny stories about celebrities that people would like to hear, I hope. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve met presidents, the queen, the royal family, I’ve met billionaires, amazing businessmen.
“I’m a boy from a place called Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, a small town. From a family below middle class. And I’ve seen every country in the world I’ve wanted to be. I’ve been very very fortunate.“
We can infer that John Lloyd’s autobiography is not just an album of tennis memories:
“I think that the word “great” in tennis is a very overused word. I think great players are players that have won slams in singles. I was a good player and a good player cannot write a book on just what he did on the court. But I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I’ve lived in four decades of professional tennis. I came in at the end of the Rod Laver era, and then came in with my era which was Borg, Connors and McEnroe. Then I went into the next era where I was Davis Cup captain with Henman, Rusedski, and Agassi, Sampras. Then the TV puts me into another one. So this book is really stories more than anything and I’m proud of it. But there’s also some serious stuff. I do a chapter about when six years ago I had prostate cancer and I’m very honest about that.
“I also talk about my family and my son, who I’m very proud of. He had an addictive problem and he’s been clean now for thirteen years. When I wrote the book he asked me if I was going to mention it and I said no. And he said I want you to, because maybe it will help someone. So that was a very emotional and difficult chapter to write, about that period in my life which was without doubt the worst period, but then it became the most wonderful period to see my son turn out to be this amazing person.
Venturing back to tennis, since John has just spoken about players who were and still are good friends of his, we ask him if there were players he actually didn’t get along with. We learn that the toughest times came as a Davis Cup Captain:
“I struggled a little bit with Andy Murray at times. I put in the book how much I admire him as a player, but I struggled a bit with his behaviour with coaches, the way he would say things to them. To be honest, it was one of my fears when I took the Davis Cup job that he was going to be on the court with me. I always thought to myself that if someone behaved like that and I was coaching them, I would just walk out, no matter how much they paid me. But as a Davis Cup captain, you can’t do that. I got really nervous about it. Then I came up with a good idea. At the time when I was captain he was being coached by Brad Gilbert. So I asked Brad to give me some instructions when Andy was playing, and he agreed to. And when Andy was coming up to me and I could see he was mad, I told Andy, for instance, “Andy you need to come in to the net on the forehand more.” And he was about to say something, and I said, pointing at Brad, “He told me to tell you! It was him!” So Brad got all the shouting and I just gave him [Andy] the towel.
“I struggled with Greg Rusedski a little bit too. He was fine on my team but, after he left, he was then trying to get my job and made a few remarks about me on TV, that I was picking the wrong players, the wrong chords, that kind of stuff that I wouldn’t do, sure.“
This is the prompt that leads up to a comparison between tennis of different eras and John has a few prickly ideas.
“Most players were good in my era. There were some guys that I struggled with a little bit, but, you know, we didn’t have entourages around us the way they do now. We had a group and we’d play matches, we’d be in the locker room and the guy who lost, it was like “Let’s go out tonight.” Now they’ve got managers and physiotherapists and parents, they are in all these groups… I always say to people I’m envious of how much money the players of today make, of course I would love that, but they don’t have as good a time as we had. I have friends that I still see. And I’m lucky I wasn’t in the era with cell phones and Ipads. I would probably have got locked up about twenty times for the things I did, but nobody could catch me.“
As John has sailed through so many tennis eras and is well docked in the current harbours, we ask him if he expected players to be able to win twenty and more slams, and three players to win 62 [63, after Wimbledon 2022]. We also cannot but be curious to hear his say on the GOAT debate:
“It’s a remarkable feat that these three players have done. I also wrote a chapter on this, called records. I like all those players but one of the things I like about Djokovic is that he is not scared to tell you that he wants to win the most titles, that’s his goal. Rafa and Roger come up with all this rubbish where they say “Oh no, that’s not my concern.” That’s just lies, of course it is. It’s in your DNA. Records are records, that’s what you live for if you are a player. And for them to say that is nonsense.
“Who is the greatest of all time? It’s a fun conversation. I thought for sure that Novak was going to win more and then Nadal does what he does. I still think Novak is going to win more in the end, but for me when I talk about the greatest and all this, I switch it a little bit to say that what Rafa has done at the French Open, the 14 there, is the greatest sports achievement in any sport in history. So for me, whether he finishes second or third in terms of slams is not important. It’s a miracle he played 16 French Opens and won 14. It’s impossible what he did. That to me is the greatest achievement anyone has ever done.“
(EXCLUSIVE) Anne Keothavong Reacts To British Success At Wimbledon
The captain of the British Billie Jean king Cup team tells Ubitennis she believes her players can keep the momentum going beyond the grass swing.
This year’s Wimbledon Championships have without a doubt been a success for British tennis.
It all began during the first week when 10 Brits secured a place in the second round of the tournament – six in the men’s draw and four in the women’s. Making it the most successful start to the Grand Slam by British players since 1984. Continuing the momentum Liam Broady and Katie Boulter secured a place in the third round. Meanwhile, Heather Watson made it to the last 16 for the first time on her 12th attempt.
The stand-out Brit this year though has been Cameron Norrie who is only the fourth man from his country to reach the last four of Wimbledon in the Open Era. The breakthrough by the 26-year-old has been one in the making following a series of successes he has achieved on the ATP Tour. Norrie, who has featured in nine ATP finals since May 2021, will take on top seed Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals on Friday.
Watching the success from the sidelines is Anne Keothavong who is the current captain of the British Billie Jean King Cup team. As a player, she cracked the world’s top 50 in 2009 and was the first female player from her country to do so for 16 years. She played in 24 Grand Slam main draws during a 13-year period.
As it is with every Wimbledon, the task for the LTA is to continue the momentum generated by their players beyond the grass season. Something Keothavong thinks will be certainly possible.
“That’s the challenge. All the British players – men and women – have had an unbelievable grass-court season, not just Wimbledon,” she tells Ubitennis.
“Naturally there is a kind of a break to regroup after everything that has gone on but they will be back in training in no time and getting ready for the hardcourt season.”
Due to the ban on Russian and Belarussian players playing at British events this year, no ranking points have been issued. Undoubtedly an annoyance for the likes of Watson and Norrie but they have made peace with the situation already.
Keothavong is one of those nurturing the best female players in her country and providing any possible help if asked to. The British women have been thriving in recent months, especially Emma Raduanu who became the first qualifier in history to win a major title at the US Open. In total there are six Brits in the WTA top 200 and a further two younger players just outside. 21-year-old Francesca Jones is 219th and 20-year-old Sonay Kartal is 226th.
“On the women’s side, all of those players have so much confidence,” said Keothavong. “Their ranking is going in the right direction, they are able to enter tournaments which they might not have been able to do at the start of the grass-court season. It’s a good place to be but they need to remain focused and keep doing what they can do.”
The tennis community is described by some as a family. An analogy Keothavong can certainly relate to as she describes herself as a ‘big sister’ to the other girls. Throughout Wimbledon, the home players have spoken out in support of each other with Norrie mentioning their participation in the Battle Of The Brits exhibition helped them form a closer bond.
“If you ask them (the players) they probably say I am like a big sister to them,” she said. “In my role as Billie jean king cup captain, I guess it is important that I do maintain a good relationship with all of the players. I follow their progress and if they need extra support they know I’m there.”
“It’s really important to have that relationship with them as captain and we need to be open with each other. I don’t invade their privacy but they know if they need anything I’m there.”
Under Keothavong’s guidance, the British Billie Jean King Cup team has won six out of their last eight ties since 2019. Their only losses were to the formidable Czech Republic (2-3) earlier this year and Slovakia (1-3) in February 2021.
The team will return to action later this year in the Finals which will be held in Glasgow. Britain has been drawn in the same group as Spain and Kazakhstan.
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Brad Gilbert Makes A Bold prediction on Sinner, Backs Kyrgios To Trouble Nadal
Ubitennis has an exclusive interview with the legendary coach of Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray.
When it comes to looking at the current status of men’s tennis Brad Gilbert is perhaps one of the best people to speak to.
The American reached a high of world No.4 as a player, as well as winning 20 ATP Tour titles. After retiring from the sport in the mid-1990s he has become one of the most well-known coaches in the sport after working with an array of top names. Besides that, he is also an author and commentator on the sport.
Ubitennis caught up with Gilbert at The All England Club where he spoke highly of Italy’s Jannik Sinner who led Novak Djokovic by two sets before losing in the quarter-finals. He also looks ahead to Nick Kyrgios’ semi-final clash with an injured Rafael Nadal.
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