Articles through the years

As part of putting together the birthday post, tiemyshoe dug up some of her favorite Rafa articles…

Wimbledon 2003 (SERGIO CARMONA/EFE/Corbis)

Wimbledon 2003 (SERGIO CARMONA/EFE/Corbis)


‘Caracter tranquilo’ is how Albert Costa, his first major scalp, described him this year. Certainly Nadal, who was brought up playing on red clay, took to the green stuff yesterday as only a player with exceptional timing can. His passing shots frequently had Ancic plunging about, and when he had time to wind up on the forehand there was always trouble for his opponent. ‘He is only young but he has all the strength he needs,’ says Carlos Moya, the former world No1 who has been his mentor. ‘He is a great player now. He’s also more mature on court and off it than anyone else of his age.'” – Richard Jago, “The boy from the red stuff is anything but green,” The Guardian

2004 Australian Open (via Jamd)

2004 Australian Open (via Jamd)


It (physical presence) is something you either have or you do not and it comes naturally to him. But I believe he needs the big stages — nothing else makes too much sense. The Davis Cup final in Seville last December was his arrival. He saw the stadium, he saw the people and his response was a performance for his nation against Andy Roddick of such self-belief it took the breath away. – Boris Becker, on Rafa beating Roddick to help Spain win the 2004 Davis Cup

2005 Monte Carlo (PASCAL GUYOT/ AFP/ Getty Images)

2005 Monte Carlo (PASCAL GUYOT/ AFP/ Getty Images)


Men’s tennis can get giddy once again. With his powerful ground strokes, hunky looks and seductive playfulness–not to mention the fluorescent shirts and white Capri pants–Nadal, 19, could give tennis its next real box-office star. That’s a little unfair to Roger Federer, but pizzazz isn’t the strong point of the stone-faced Swiss who ranks No. 1 in the world. American Andy Roddick has a laser serve and smile but often fails to pack his A game when he travels. And Australian Lleyton Hewitt is too much of a crybaby to win any popularity contest.

Nadal is already leading the tour in charisma. Says television analyst Mary Carillo, a former pro: ‘He has this different vibe. He goes from looking downright predatory to all of a sudden having this big goofy smile. The energy, the passion is just dripping out of him. When he’s playing, it’s hard to watch the other side of the court.’ – Sean Gregory, “Court Conquistador,” Time Magazine

Sprawled on a couch in his suite of rooms at hotel in downtown Madrid, Nadal exuded the languor of a rock star between performances. This was a brief lull before he took the Spanish tennis press out to lunch, having posed all morning by a pool under a poster of himself looking strangely like Che Guevara, and he was clearly favouring inertia as an occupation. So different from Paris. From the effort and the electric effect when he dressed like a matador and played like a bull. How was it for him? “Himposseeble. There’s nothing I can say,” he said, in sweetly hesitant English, before reverting to an interpreter. “You spend your whole life thinking about, talking about, how to win a Grand Slam. Suddenly you find you’ve won it. What can I say? I just have to be very thankful. Everybody now pays attention to what I do.” – Sue Mott, The Telegraph, “Spain under spell of swashbuckling sensation

2006 Wimbledon (via dppi)

2006 Wimbledon (via dppi)


Nadal turned 20 on June 3, but he isn’t a LeBron James 20, or a Boris Becker 20, or even a Lindsay Lohan 20. He’s a sweet kid with chipmonk cheeks who fiddles with his cellphone while he talks, a typical Mallorquino – a native of the Spanish island of Mallorca – who charts his course by the breeze and takes life as it comes. “A simple guy, very much at home, very humble,” says David Ferrer, Spain’s third-ranked player. Fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya adds, “People like him so much because he’s still a kid in many ways.” And Tommy Robredo, the second-ranked Spaniard who has known Nadal for years, says: “He’s so shy, he doesn’t even look in your eyes. Last year when I was playing doubles with him,
he was shy with me.”

That’s why Nadal’s transformation on the court is so startling. Swathed in a folded bandana, muscle shirt, and clam-diggers, a Nike-created costume that makes him look part Wyclef Jean and part Jean Lafitte, he whacks balls with enough torque to power a drill bit. He pirouettes, kicks a leg, and exhorts himself at volume. When Nadal says, “My personality on the court is not the same as off it,” it may be the understatement of the year. – Barry Schoenfeld, “Rafael Nadal: Big Kid in the Big City,” Tennis Magazine

As the lift doors close, a hand pushes through the gap to stop it, and in steps Uncle Toni.

“Ah,” he says, spotting me, as I stand in the corner, fiddling with my tape recorder. “Journaliste. Halo.” Over the next few seconds we attempt to chat. He does not speak English. The only other language I speak is French. We both shrug and smile stupidly at one another.

“I have just interviewed Rafael,” I try again, speaking loudly for some reason and indicating the tape recorder and the notebook, bulging with notes about his famous nephew. Toni just nods and says a few things in Catalan which I think mean “How did it go?”, but may have meant, “I really don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

I battle on. “He was very good,” I say, speaking in the sort of slow, clear English that one might use when talking to a toddler or a helpless drunk. Still more smiles and nods, then we arrive at his floor. Toni stands in the lift door and takes a deep breath. “He good boy,” he says. “He work hard and he look after people. He nice boy. Goodbye.”

Then, with that succinct summary of his nephew in a language he can neither speak nor understand, he is gone. – “The Big Interview: Rafael Nadal,” The Sunday Timesl

2007 French Open (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

2007 French Open (Clive Rose/Getty Images)


Rafael Nadal has been asked to describe a perfect day in his life. He opens his eyes, not in Manacor but at the family’s summer residence by the coast in Porto Cristo. He’s out of bed at 6.30am with his father. After a quick breakfast, they walk to the harbour where his father’s boat is moored at the Club Nautico. Two of his closest friends, Miguel Cabor and Bartolome Salva-Vidal, have already arrived and are waiting. Miguel is studying English, but hopes to own a boat one day; Bartolome is the world’s 399th-ranked tennis player.

They spend the next five hours at sea bobbing gently on the waves and catch some bream and a magnificent stone bass. They return to Porto Cristo, fillet the fish for lunch, and after another heated debate with Toni and Miguel Angelabout sport, they decide to settle their differences on the golf course. The course at Son Servera is a 20-minute drive away. Toni hasn’t played much since his kids were born; Miguel Angel is a bit of a bandit off 13; Rafa takes the money with a birdie on 18.

They return to Porto Cristo in time for the evening football game. He showers and changes for dinner and is invited to a party by friends. It’s 3am when his head hits the pillow. He’s tired. But elated. It has been a perfect day. – Paul Kimmage, “Rafael, King of the Jungle,” The Sunday Times

2008 Wimbledon (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

2008 Wimbledon (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)


Somehow, in the back of your mind, you knew it was destined to come down to something like this – 9-7 in the fifth, with the champion Rafael Nadal prone on his back in the tawny dirt, looking like he’d been shot to death, which in a way he had been: because ultimate joy is, in the end, not very different from ultimate obliteration. – Peter Bodo, “The Death of Wanting,” Tennis World

2009 Australian Open (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

2009 Australian Open (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)


I thought the reason Nadal succeeded against Federer was that, from the first time they played and Nadal won in Key Biscayne in 2004, the Spaniard didn’t treat a match against the world No. 1 any differently from a match against anyone else. He would never entertain the idea that playing close against Federer and losing was acceptable. But I never really believed that Nadal was a better tennis player than Federer. Can I continue to think that now that he’s beaten him on grass and hard courts, in major finals on three continents? The Aussie final upended some of my impressions of their dynamic. Federer has always been thought to be tennis’ renaissance man, his creativity unrivaled; but it was Nadal, with his superior drop shot, invincible overhead, tricky serve, fearsome crosscourt backhand, skidding backhand slice, and reliable volleys, who showed off more variety, a more complete game, and more ways to win in Melbourne.

Who knows what the future will bring, but Nadal climbed one step higher in my mind on Sunday. He’s no longer tennis’ greatest overachiever. He’s no longer the kryptonite to Federer’s superman. He’s no longer just ranked No. 1. He’s the best. – Steve Tignor, “Oz: The A List,” Concrete Elbow

9 Responses

  1. imjimmy says:

    This is a very nice compilation of the best articles on Rafa over the years. Thanks for all the effort. Much appreciated!

    Oh..a very Happy Birthday Rafael! All the best for the rest of the season.

  2. kefuoe says:

    What a great compilation. Thanks!

  3. mariajessica says:

    “‘He has this different vibe. He goes from looking downright predatory to all of a sudden having this big goofy smile. The energy, the passion is just dripping out of him. When he’s playing, it’s hard to watch the other side of the court.’”


  4. vamsi says:

    just loved the 2005 article
    so true

  5. patzin says:

    It is nice to read these older articles. I am kind of a new fan of Rafa’s – just got hooked after Oz. I knew who he was in the past but just recently recognized his many talents and attributes. I adore this young man.

  6. faecoleman says:

    I have followed Rafa’s career from when I first saw him @ wimby, he stood out from the rest, what with his looks and unique game, even the way he struck the ball was different, you could see he had something special, and its obvious I wasn’t the only one, the whole media world were totally fixed on him, with soo much charisma and passion. Thats exactly how he was, even though two players are there on the court, all eyes and camera’s are on Rafa, he draws people to him like a magnet, there he stood an absolutely stunning young man, destined to become no other than the best.

  7. Anvesh says:

    I am from India and I regularly follow your site. Thank you for all the efforts.

  8. Zombina says:

    Thanks for these posts. Classics many of them! Thank you very much for this site. I want you to know I appreciate it very much.

    I am one of the people who had stopped watching tennis, that Rafa pulled back into the game. I lived for a few years without access to tennis matches on TV and was happy with that.

    When I moved in 2006 I had forgotten about my former favourite sport, but tuned in to see the biggest tournament of them all, Wimbledon, with Agassii against some young spaniard. If Agassi lost, it would be his last exit from Wimbledon. The commentators and the audience were cheering for Agassi, but he didn’t stand a chance against Rafa.

    Rafa was a shining star who just wouldn’t be ignored, by somebody like me who was just zapping to watch a game. I couldn’t believe the way he played and his amazing intensity. I remember thinking after the match that I just got a new tennis favourite that I could cheer for. I had no idea that was a quite common thing to happen to people after watching Rafa play, so I can personally tell that you remember Rafa after seeing him play the first time. The X-factor is with him all they way, and I don’t how he does it, but he is just spellbinding.

    I watched the Wimbledon final that year realizing how much I wanted Rafa to win that match. I was hoooked. The commentators said he was “just a clay court specialist” but as a former tennis fan I knew that nobody gets to a Wimbledon final withouth being an extremely talented tennis player no matter the surface. I hoped that one day he would prove them all wrong. The rest is history, as they say.

    Since then Tennis again has become my favourite sport, and I watch a lot of tennis. It’s much easies these days when internett is around, so you can watch tournaments on streams, as opposed to the 80s and 90’s when there was only TV and I live in a country that had just a few TV-channels. In the 90’s tennis bored me so much because it(the mens game) was all about the serve. Not much playing, just serving. Gradually I lost my interest in the sport and did not miss it too much though I followed the slams just by seeing them on the news. Back in 2006 I found myself falling back in love with tennis, because of Rafa.

    Rafa is the full package for a sports fan. He’s got the talent, the passion, the sportivity, the charisma, the looks, the mental toughness, and the important victores. He is a true champion.