Celebrity Madridista Rafael Nadal paid tribute to Zinedine Zidane — who shocked the football world on Thursday by announcing he has resigned as Real Madrid coach — and hopes the Frenchman returns to the Spanish club in the future.
The Spanish world No. 1 admits that, like the rest of the world, he did not expect Thursday’s sudden news of Zidane’s departure.
“Of course was a surprise for everybody, no? But at the same time, Zidane is a top person. He’s a person that is tough to accept that he’s leaving for different things, different reasons. First thing because he’s a great coach and he was having a lot of success with our team,” Nadal told reporters following his straight-sets win over Guido Pella in the French Open second round on Thursday.
Zidane led Los Blancos to three consecutive Champions League titles during his short two-and-a-half-year tenure as manager, along with six more trophies.
Nadal received his first of 10 Roland Garros trophies from Zidane on Court Philippe Chatrier back in 2005.
“Second thing, he’s a good person, normal person, humble person,” Nadal continued.
“He represents, in my opinion, the right values, and he’s a perfect example how somebody with a lot of success have to do the things of every day with being normal, being humble without saying negative things about the players, about the club, about nobody. Never, I never heard, referees, nothing.
“He was always fine and smiling on the press conference. Even when the things were not going well this year, that was so difficult moments. At the end of the year, he won the Champions League and nothing happens, but during the year has been a very tough year during the year for the team.
“He always have been positive and believing on the players and on the club. He deserve to choose what’s better for him. For my side, I just can say thanks for all the things that he did for Madrid. I hope will be back.
“And like sportsman and person, just thanks for the right examples that he gave to the rest of the people.”
The Maria Sharapova press conference experience continues to get more and more fun and it’s usually the subtle moments that end up becoming the real highlights.
On Thursday after her victory over Donna Vekic, a colleague’s phone briefly emits a sound and Sharapova quickly fires a sarcastic, “That’s a yellow flag, Ben”. A reporter asks her if she knows much about, Roland Garros — the pilot the tournament was named after — and she in turn asks the woman to enlighten her with info on him.
Sharapova’s press conferences are often more like back-and-forth dialogues rather than simple question-answer routines.
One journalist asked her if she was looking forward to return to the Philippe Chatrier centre court for her third-round on Saturday and she immediately quizzed him on how he knew the schedule so early?
The following exchange took place:
Journalist: What’s your feeling before returning on the center court for the next round? You have great emotion on the Philippe Chatrier?
Sharapova: Do you know the schedule?
Journalist: Could be very possible to be on center court.
Sharapova: I don’t know. Yesterday I got the schedule at 7:30 p.m., so if you know the schedule today for Saturday, please let me know (smiling).
Journalist: Because it’s [No. 6 seed Karolina] Pliskova and it’s possible to be on centre court. If you are on centre court, what will be your emotions or…
Sharapova: Well, there is also Sharapova. So…
It was a brief but telling moment from the Russian five-time Grand Slam champion — two-time winner in Paris — who reminded everyone that her presence alone can warrant a Centre Court assignment.
She then continued to answer him, adding: “Well, I would love to be there again, of course. And, yeah, I think from a draw perspective, it’s an anticipated seeding match of, you know, if those two seeds kind of went through, it’s a match that maybe people anticipated. And it’s been a while since I played Pliskova. It will be our first meeting on clay.
“As you said, it’s been a few years since I have been back on the court; so if I do have a chance to play on it I will welcome it with open arms, and if it’s another court then it will be great.”
Later in her presser, veteran Spanish journalist Manolo Poyan asked Sharapova about her lefty forehand shots which she sometimes pulls off during her matches. The right-handed ex-world No. 1 can switch her racquet to her left hand and hit a forehand instead of a winner. It doesn’t always work, but it has on several occasions.
“I grew up naturally left-handed, so I do a lot of things with my left hand, and I played tennis with my left hand for some time, so I sometimes do it on the run. It’s called the desperate shot,” she said with a laugh.
I made a guest appearance (along w @Sugarpova ) on SHOWTIME on #Billions alongside Damian Lewis &John Malkovich. What an amazing experience! The 5am call time 😱 isn’t so bad when you get to sit in a chair next to these two talents. 🎥 #oscarnom #dontthinkso pic.twitter.com/MwytaOOJRq
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) May 28, 2018
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Another must-attend press conference at any tennis tournament is that of Andrea Petkovic.
The charismatic German can steer conversations into art, film, literature and anything else you can think of. The ever-interesting Petkovic, who is into the French Open third round, where she faces top-seeded Simona Halep, has been writing for a couple of magazines, in English and in German. She joked that if we knew anyone interested in hiring her as a columnist, we should let her know.
“I’m writing for Süddeutsche magazine. This guy here is the boss, in the front, of that,” she said in her press conference on Thursday.
“So I’m writing a column, which appears Mondays. About — well, it’s kind of complicated to explain, actually. It’s about films, more or less. I always pick one film that I talk about, and then I sort of make a connection to my life. It’s makes more sense when you read it than now when you actually hear it.
“But, yeah, and then Racquet, and that’s it. And that’s more than enough for now. But if you have a job for me, I’m always here. I need some extra cash on the side.”
Greece’s Maria Sakkari moved into the Roland Garros third round for the first time in her career with an impressive 7-5, 6-3 victory over Spanish No. 23 seed Carla Suarez Navarro on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old world No. 38 next takes on Russian No. 14 seed Daria Kasatkina, who survived a bizarre last-minute court change and beat the darkness by completing a 6-3, 6-3 win against Kirsten Flipkens just before sunset.
Sakkari has now made the third round in four of her last six Grand Slams and is looking to make the second week at a major for the first time.
“I know I have a very tough match in the next round, playing Daria. It’s going to be a battle because she’s playing well this year. It’s actually my third year now on the tour and I’m feeling much better and now more confidence on the clay as well. I’m ready to make the next step, I will give my best and if the result doesn’t come this week, I’m sure it will come next time,” Sakkari told Sport360 following her second round triumph.
Find out more about Sakkari in the video above as she answers some rapid fire questions I threw her way.