For someone who has been branded the ‘King of Clay’ for the majority of his career, Rafael Nadal’s grass or hard court credentials tend to be overlooked – at least by casual tennis fans.
One of just eight men to complete the career Grand Slam – winning each of the four majors at least once – Nadal is a two-time Wimbledon champion and two-time US Open winner.
Four of Nadal’s 73 titles have come on grass, and he reached the Wimbledon final five times between 2006 and 2011. He hasn’t enjoyed much success on the surface since then, mainly due to the fact that his knee problems were aggravated by playing on the turf, which requires him to bend them more for the low bounces.
Nadal was asked the other day, how he managed to transfer his success on clay to a surface like grass.
He made sure to remind the reporter that even as a junior, he had done well at Wimbledon.
“For me, at the end of the day, the only thing is the motivation that you have to do it. I always had the passion to try to be better player. Wimbledon is an event that is one of the most important events of the season, of course. Is a very special event. My dream always was to play well here,” said the 31-year-old Nadal.
“I worked hard. I really respect a lot this event. I really wanted to play well here. That’s why I worked the right way to play well here in the past.
“But I tell you one thing, because the people sometimes, because I have been winning a lot on clay, they forget other things. When I was 16 years old, two years less, I played the junior tournament here. I didn’t lose in the first round. I played the semi-finals, so I was not that bad on grass,” he added with a smile.
Nadal grew up playing both football and tennis, and while he says he doesn’t play football much now to avoid injuries – at least during the tennis season – he does spend a fair amount of time on the golf course, and is also an avid fisher.
He was asked to name his best skill in each of his main three hobbies – football, golf and fishing. He said: “In general terms, the best skill is when I do things, I want to do it well. I put all my effort to try to do it well. That’s the thing.
“I don’t understand the sport without trying your best. I don’t understand go to play golf, and don’t try your best. I don’t understand go to play, even a football match between friends, don’t try your best to win or to play well.
“The sport, in general, if you don’t try your best, in my opinion, lose everything. Is about competition at the end of the day. If you don’t have this competitive spirit, then the sport, just by sport, is better go running or these kind of things.”
That certainly explains a lot. It’s no wonder the Mallorcan owns 15 Grand Slam titles.
PHILOSOPHICAL IN DEFEAT
Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka got philosophical about her tight defeat to Venus Williams in the third round on Friday.
Before the match, the 19-year-old Japanese big-hitter spoke about the influence the Williams sisters have had on her when she was younger.
“I don’t think I would have started playing if Venus and Serena weren’t, like, there for me growing up,” said Osaka, who has a Haitian father, Japanese mother, and lives in the United States.
Following her match with Venus, she came up with this insightful gem.
“This is sort of a dream of mine, to play her. I can check that off my list. I actually feel like it’s better that she beat me because I can learn more from her, and there’s something more I can look forward to,” explained Osaka.
“There’s more of a goal for me to practice every day and stuff. Yeah, what was your question? I don’t know why I do this every time.”
Her quirky press conferences continue to be one of my favourite experiences at any tournament.