Evaluating the ‘Rafa factor’ at Wimbledon

Sang Tan / Associated Press

Sang Tan / Associated Press

An article in the LA Times by Chuck Culpepper about the “Rafa factor.”

Talk of the dilapidation of American tennis has droned on for so long that it’s stale; talk of the dilapidation of Australian tennis has revved up long enough that it’s audible; and talk of the dilapidation of British tennis has blared roughly since dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Meanwhile, just look at the wake of the defending champion Rafael Nadal, even after he withdrew from this Wimbledon and took his muscles to Mallorca: six male Spaniards (plus two females) in the final 32.

Go Spain!

And as this Wimbledon so clearly accentuates the various states of tennis, with Spain only one example (and France another), it also bolsters a point made last year by Manolo Santana, the Spanish 1966 Wimbledon champion.

“Do you know what?” he said. “The guy who changed the whole thing is Rafa. Because he has been talking since he was 17 or 16, because in his mind or in his dreams he will win Wimbledon, OK?. . . . The other guys, they seem like if Rafa goes there, why don’t we try.”

Some force, that Nadal. He’s palpable even in absentia.

That Rafa, he’s so palpable.

16 Responses

  1. CC says:

    Yes, I think Santana is absolutely right, Rafa’s been SUCH an influence to not only the Spanish players.

    *flove* the pic with the kids and is it their mum (?) holding the signs. I’ve been watching quite a bit of Wimbly so far this year, trying to get into it, trying to root for Murray and Tabasco and some others. But it just ain’t the same… Rafa really is sorely missed.

  2. loverafa4ever says:

    “He’s palpable even in absentia.” So true! How I miss Rafa…

  3. sG says:

    Actually full credit should be given to Juan Carlos Ferrero, my first tennis crush. Around the time I became a full bore tennis fan a majority of latino tennis players pretty much dismissed Wimbledon and even the hard-court slams without a second thought. And those who showed up dropped like flies in the early rounds. Ferrero was the first among them who made an honest to god effort at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open; he went pretty far in both. It didn’t last very long, if memory serves, the following year his tennis started to deteriorate. However, at the time, I recall the surprise of the men and women in the commentator’s booth at his showing and they wondered if he might be enough to spur other latino players in off-clay majors. Then came the rise of Nadal. I give Nadal credit for solidifying it, for taking it to the next level, but this sea-change really started with Juan Carlos.

  4. nic says:

    aaww this is really sweet, seeing the fans still cheering for rafa. nice to let people know that he’s missed, and not forgotten. pretty good article, interesting to think that rafa was inspiration to other players. i know they didn’t say it themselves, but i believe that’s absolutely the case. rafa is such an amazing athlete who believes in himself, and believes in the dream. you got to be able to dream the future so that you can make it happen. and he sure has. how amazing that he had such lofty ‘illusions’ :) that ultimately brought us all together here in celebration of him… vamos rafa!!!

  5. natch says:

    sG,
    I think you’re right. I had a big-time crush on Charlie Moya, and he would always pull out of Wimby or not try very hard when he showed up. I DO remember the commentators surprise over JCF’s efforts at Wimby.

    But since Rafa loves Moya, I’m going to give Carlos a little credit. For no other reason than he’s hot. ;)

    • Suzanne says:

      Let’s not forget, however, that Charly made it to the finals at the AO and was a super strong hart court player and usually a second- weeker at the very least. The other factor that influenced the Spanish in the past was that the Wimbledon officials used to play with the seedings and didn’t go according to ATP rankings (not so much any more, thanks to our boy). The thought behind this was that some rankings were not able to reflect the way a grass court tournament should be seeded. That really set the Spaniards off and for at least a couple of years several of them boycotted Wimby. Because none of the other majors tinkered with rankings and seeds, it was an affront to them and their accomplishments. Many commentators were conflicted over the jugglijng of seeds, however, I specifically remember Johnny Mac bringing up the fact that it was wierd that Wimby messed with the seeds and yet Rafa was not seeded #1 at RG even when he’d blown apart many of the clay court records and had won RG twice. Oh well, Rafa has (as he so often does) blown all of those theories out of the water and taken away the mindset that Spaniards are only interested in clay. I’m with you all in missing him so very much, but I’m just imagining him having a really good rest, working out, playing with his pals and Xicsa, and soaking up the love of his family. I hope he’s been able to hook some really big fish, too!

    • Nadalover says:

      “But since Rafa loves Moya, I’m going to give Carlos a little credit. For no other reason than he’s hot. ;)”

      Completely agree with the statement above!!! :)

  6. patzin says:

    Rafa is an exciting player, to say the least. The video from 2005 US Open is “hot” – wow. It is interesting to note that Spain and France have the most players out there in the upper levels of men’s tennis. Because of Rafa I do tend to follow the other Spanish players too.

  7. faecoleman says:

    Wow I am really missing Rafa, and its fab to see people supporting him @ wimby!!! on which court was this and at which match out of curiosity??? I watched a match the other day and someone had a banner saying come on Rafa!!!, I also have found myself supporting the other spanish players because of Rafa! Watching all these clips of Rafa reminds me of just how much electricity he brings to tennis and how flat Wimby is without him, he really changed the look and speed of tennis! I hope he comes back fit and ready. The! hottest man in tennis. There was a beautiful full length pic of him leaving his house @ Wimbledon on the back of the Daily mail newspaper about 3 days ago. He was wearing simple khaki green shorts, a blue victory nike jacket and matching blue casual sport shoes. Such a beautiful physique he has! phew! He acknowledges the press around him, dignified as always and waves but so unaware of the charisma he possesses. A champion no matter what..

    • Bluetina says:

      Rafa is really missed at wimbledon this year :( about the picture it was in the match between cilic and sam querey in center court last wednesday.

  8. Atch2 says:

    Spain still has Verdasco and Ferrero. And Ferrero beat Gonzales! How cool and unexpected is that. Verdasco looks comfortable on grass and so does Murray. Hope Fed knows he’s in a fight.

    • dutchgirl says:

      I feel like every Spanish player that gets to the next round, is somewhat compensating Rafa’s absence. And yes, it is unexpected that both Verdasco and Ferrero are through!
      I’m really hoping for a surprise in the final – Murray vs. Haas or something like that (remembering the Haas – Federer match at RG).

    • aRafaelite says:

      Not so cool :( – I was REALLY looking forward to Fena v. Murray!!!Karlovic was brutal against Tsonga… if Verdasco can get past him then he’s in with a chance against The Fed. I’ll be dancing in the street waving a Spanish flag if he pulls that off (if only he had Rafa’s steely determination rather than a tendency to start show-boating and overdoing it)…!

      • mary says:

        You are so right. I am praying verdasco will make a strong stand against Fed and show us he can beat him. If that don’t work my money’s on Lleyton Hewitt. My home grown go getter! At least the Aussie fans are bringing a bit of noise and laughter to the game. Wimby would be just tooooooo boring to watch otherwise.

        • dutchgirl says:

          Hewitt would be great as well.

          • Atch2 says:

            Hewitt and Ferrero are great surprises. I really Verdasco wins bec I don’t like Karlovic bec he mostly gets thru bec of his serve and that’s no fun to watch.
            Spain won the football against Sth Africa! Was thinking that Rafa would be doing the same thing and happy with the result.