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.
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.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands broke down in tears on Saturday as she relived the sickening injury which shocked Wimbledon and has left her facing surgery to repair a dislocated kneecap.
The 32-year-old American collapsed to the court after her right knee buckled in her second round match against Sorana Cirstea on Thursday.
She was left screaming in pain: “Please, help me, please, please” in scenes so distressing that TV cameras panned away from the stricken star.
On Saturday, Mattek-Sands said she had dislocated the patella and ruptured the patella tendon in her knee and will need surgery.
“I have had lots of injuries in my career but this is definitely the worst. I am flying to New York on Sunday to see more doctors to see what’s going on with the knee,” an emotional Mattek-Sands said in a Facebook Live video.
“I will be out for a while but I will get through this.”
Mattek-Sands, the winner of 24 doubles titles including seven at the majors as well as a mixed doubles gold at the Rio Olympics last year, said she has yet to see the video of the incident.
“I remember I heard a pop in my leg and everything went slow after that,” she said from her hospital room in Wimbledon.
“My knee felt really tight and I knew it was either dislocated or broken. I freaked out. It’s the most painful injury I have ever had.”
Concerns were raised over the amount of time it took a medical crew to reach Mattek-Sands even though Court 17 is just a stone’s throw from the tournament’s Centre Court.
Cirstea said only she, her physio and Justin Mattek-Sands, the player’s husband, attended to the American star and said it took around 10-15 minutes for a stretcher to arrive.
“I have seen photos and Justin telling me not to look at the leg but I said ‘FU, I have already looked at it,” she added. “I said please cover it up. Sorana came over and said it’s OK. She was there as my friend.
“I also remember telling the medics that if they tried to straighten my leg, I’d kill them! I want to be knocked out in hospital when you do it.
“I gave the medics a hard time because I didn’t feel the pain medication was kicking in. Then I woke up in hospital and my leg was straight.”
Mattek-Sands has her right leg in a brace and had been visited by close friend Sania Mirza as well as Cirstea.
Messages of support have also poured in while her Rio Olympic mixed doubles gold medal winning partner Jack Sock even painted her name on his tennis shoes when he played on Friday night.
Novak Djokovic also sent his best wishes.
“I feel for u and wish u fast recovery,” the world number four wrote on Twitter.
“So sorry that you are going through so much pain. Glad to see many people sending u love.”
* Provided by AFP
Wimbledon’s head groundsman dismissed claims the tournament’s court conditions are becoming dangerous after sustained criticism from top stars.
Several players have said the grass at the All England Club is more slippery than in previous years, with world number one Andy Murray claiming the courts aren’t in as good condition as previous years.
France’s Kristina Mladenovic branded Court 18 as dangerous after hot weather left many of the surfaces stripped of grass on the baselines.
On Court 17 on Thursday, American star Bethanie Mattek-Sands suffered a horrific right knee injury after her leg buckled. It was not clear, however, whether the state of the surface was a contributing factor in the 32-year-old’s accident.
Neil Stubley, the All England Club’s head of courts and horticulture, is adamant Wimbledon’s grounds team are on top of the situation and he doesn’t expect further issues.
“Obviously we listen to players, because their feedback is important. But the data shows to us those courts that are in question are within range of the other courts, and they are within the range of previous years,” Stubley said.
“That’s all we can work to, is the data that we feel is best for the health of the courts. We set them up to the exact standard that we’ve done in many previous years. They have their reasons why they’re saying that. More slippery? I don’t know if there’s been more slips this year or there’s just been a couple of high-profile ones.
Mladenovic, who tweaked her knee, and Alison Riske asked for the court surface to be inspected after two games of their second-round match on Thursday.
Stubley inspected Court 18 and saw no problem with its condition.
“We go out, we have a look. We looked at the baselines and the areas that they thought there was an issue. We didn’t feel there was,” he said.
“The Grand Slam supervisor and Assistant Referee didn’t believe that there was either.”
Stubley acknowledged the heat of the first week, which has seen temperatures hit 30 degrees most days, has been a challenge but insisted the courts are no more worn than would have been expected.
“Obviously we’re dealing with the extreme heat, which we’re not used to every single Championships,” he said.
“So from one Championships to another you will get variations in temperatures which will actually have an effect on how you manage the courts.”
Asked if he was certain the courts would be fit for the men’s and women’s singles finals next weekend, he added: “Absolutely. There’s not a doubt in our minds that the courts will be as good as they need to be for the end of The Championships.
“We have daily monitoring, we can keep a very tight rein on everything. It never gets to the point where it’s ever going to get away from us because we’re on top of it every single day.”
* Provided by AFP