Rafael, king of the jungle

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Sport

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Sport

Wooffie sent in this 2007 Times Online interview with Rafa to help keep us entertained during the down time.

How do you interview Rafael Nadal? Where do you start with this 20-year-old phenomenon? How do you unlock the secrets of the man-child?

How do you interview the king of the non-answer answers?

As the men in Rafa’s family and their friends talk around the table at lunch, Rafa’s Roland Garros victories start to be discussed…

They have all gathered upstairs this afternoon for lunch and Rafel intends to join them presently. Emilio Perez de Rozas, a journalist from El Periodico de Catalunya, and Andoni Zubizarreta, a friend and former teammate of Miguel Angel’s at Barcelona, have been invited and a debate has started already about whether his grandson’s second win at Roland Garros (when he bounced back from an injury to beat Roger Federer) was better than his first (when he beat Mariano Puerta).

“The second was better,” Rafa opines. “They were both satisfying in different ways, but the second left a better taste in my mouth.”

“Not in my view. I thought the first was more exciting,” his coach, Toni, counters. “It had been our goal since we began; the summit to scale, and when you won it, I thought, ‘If it was to finish right now, we’ve got this to take away: a Roland Garros. Fantastic!’ ” “I agree with Rafael,” Miguel Angel says, “the second was much better, because when you win after suffering so much, the victory has much more merit, especially if you beat the best. Federer is very, very good.”

Interesting that the two brothers don’t agree…and that the one who was a top-level athlete himself agrees with Rafa.

Toni is still holding court when his father arrives for lunch. The old man pulls up a chair and smiles proudly at his family as he glances around the room.

Toni is arguing passionately with Rafa; Miguel Angel is arguing passionately with Toni; Sebastian listens dispassionately in the corner. “Life, who can explain it?” he muses. “If only they were as passionate about music.”

Ha! Love it. I have a feeling that no family meals are passed without heated discussion in the Nadal household.

IT IS A Tuesday morning in Hamburg and Rafael Nadal is sitting in the back of a black, chauffeur-driven Mercedes, speeding towards the Jungfernstieg. With his sweet, self-effacing nature and fresh, Mowgli features, his off-court demeanour was described once (by my colleague Nick Pitt) as that of “a boy from the village bearing flowers”, but this morning he is wearing a face like a slapped baby’s arse.

Two days have passed since his successful march on Rome – his 13th successive tournament win on clay – and the fatigue of life on the road is beginning to take its toll.

He felt absolutely jaded when he opened his eyes this morning and he is anxious to get to the practice court and a feel for the slower German clay before his first match.

“How long will this take?” he snaps, staring out of the window.

“We should be done in half an hour,” his PR manager, Benito Perez-Barbadillo, says. “Okay, but that’s it then,” he huffs.

“No, you’ve got the round-table stuff with the press at 4.30 and an interview after that,” Perez-Barbadillo tells him.

“What interview?” “The guy from The Sunday Times, the one I told you about.”

“I’m not doing it.” “You’ve got to do it.” “What am I going to tell this guy, Benito?” he pleads. “There is nothing more I can say about me.”

This sounds like it could be the other side of the story from that Vogue/Miami article this year.

“I know, Rafa, but this is how the game works. You have to say it again and again and again.” waving hand-painted banners and singing their hearts out are waiting to greet him at the Jungfernstieg.

And again and again and again. He’s still answering the same questions two years later.

The chant is, “Vamos Rafa, vamos Rafa, vamos, vamos, vamos.” He retrieves a racket from the boot of the car and shakes each of the youngsters by the hand.

A plastic net is unfurled on the pavement beside the lake and he taps with the kids for 10 minutes. Three camera crews and 20 reporters and photographers have abandoned the tournament site at the Rothenbaum to cover the “story”.

“How do you like Hamburg?” he is asked.

“It’s very nice,” he replies.

*sigh* Same questions…same answers.

He was right. The guy didn’t ask anything he hadn’t been asked a thousand times before . . . except for that one question the journalist said that Brad Gilbert had told him to ask.

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.

“What about sex?” I inquire. “No sex,” he replies. “You’re joking!” I exclaim. “You wouldn’t have sex on a perfect day?”

He considers it for a moment. “No,” he says. “Sex is important in life, but if you’re having a perfect day, you don’t have time for sex.”

Sorry, natch.

“That’s interesting,” I observe. “So on your perfect day, you fish and play golf, two calm and relaxing pursuits, but your favourite film is Gladiator and you play tennis like it was war. How do I equate the fisherman and the warrior?”

“They are not so different,” he responds. “I love competition; I want to compete in everything and when I compete, I like to win.”

Is fishing competition?

While Sebastian inherited his father’s head for figures, Toni was the first to display a flair for sport. He loved swimming and excelled at football and chess. He was the Balearic Islands table tennis champion, but nothing matched the high he got from tennis. The game suited his temperament.

“When you play ping-pong and you lead 10-2 or 14-4,” he says, “it’s a certainty that you have won the match, but not in tennis. The scoring is structured differently; there’s a deuce in every game and you must learn to bear the burden of pressure. I liked that. For me, the head was always very important.”

And on that one, I think he and Rafa probably agree. Rafa’s always seemed to like a good close fight on the court.

Nadal on court is a horrible, cruel person, and his opponents know they are prey. Those who face Federer can expect to have winners hit past them that will make them wince in astonishment, and may shatter illusions of reaching the very top, but to be beaten by Nadal is to suffer a prolonged agony. For although he can hit the pure, clean winner when he needs to, his preferred method is prolonged torture. – Nick Pitt

That description has me picturing my cat playing with a bug – not killing it, but batting it around, staying in control and almost killing it. I can’t really say that I think of Rafa on the court the same way. I don’t think he’s intentionally dragging things out, it’s just the way things seem to happen with him.

In regards to Rafa’s rituals:

“So, what’s all that about?” I ask later of Toni. “I would never have imagined he was superstitious.”

“I don’t know,” the coach replies, clearly exasperated. “I never pay any attention to the things that aren’t logical. I only look at the logic and ignore all that.”

Heh. I can just see Toni rolling his eyes and letting out a “Phhpt!” when asked about Rafa’s ticks.

“I like the sensation of suffering,” he says. “I suffer and fight and it makes me feel good. In every match you have games like that. If you can play good at these moments, you win the match. Today I played good.”

Suffering and self-punishment – someone get this guy a hairshirt.

Listening to Rafa’s press conference (which sound exactly the same two years later), the reporter has a thought:

And as you listen to his answers, the penny finally drops. There is something about those words that rings a bell. It’s as if you are listening to Toni.

Is he saying Rafa doesn’t have a mind of his own? Or that Toni has skilled him well in the standard sport cliches?

Nadal was christened Rafael after his paternal grandfather, whose initial ambition for the youngster was for him to play the trumpet in Manacor’s municipal band

Heee! He would never be able to sit still long enough.

100 Responses

  1. CC says:

    *flove* this article/interview. Thanks miri!

    Must listen to The Jungle Book before I go to work now. :)

  2. AnaR says:

    Really, I can not imagine to Rafael playing the trumpet in Manacor’s band!

  3. killian says:

    “Heh. I can just see Toni rolling his eyes and letting out a “Phhpt!” when asked about Rafa’s ticks.”

    Great comment, Miri–and it reassures me that Toni is not a Svengali, or else he would try to change this about Rafa. Fortunately, Toni knows to leave well enough alone, at least when it comes to the famous arrangement of the bottles!

  4. mary says:

    God it sounds like my household at meal times. Everbody has an opinion! Thanks miri you are a life saver! Without my daily fix, I’d be in a straight jacket about now. Not far off it though! Not just from the lack of Rafa’s presence, but from my argumentive family.
    “Fishing and Golf”, and thats a perfect day? Gosh!, I love fishing but there is so much more to enjoy than golf!! (it’s only because I couldn’t hit a golf ball even if it was the size of a tennis ball). Fly a helicopter now that gives you buzz…………………

  5. faecoleman says:

    Great article Thanx Miri, another reminder of how much the tennis world needs Rafael Nadal….

    • mary says:

      He has turned the tennis world on it’s proverbial head. Thousands maybe millions are tuning into tennis all because of you Rafa.. Its your personality, charisma and beautiful soul!!!!! I’d bet you could run for president of the world and win!!!!!

  6. Diane says:

    Thanks so much. The drought was starting to get to me.

  7. aRafaelite says:

    Great article and comments! I love the comparison with Mowgli, that really suits him well! I wonder what will make him break away from Bagheera (Toni?) and take off with Baloo (for some reason I’m thinking of Djokovic & also Brad Gilbert)?! A little bit of fun wouldn’t do him any harm right now!

    His apparently contradictory on/off court personas are so compelling, but why do people so often seem surprised about these two aspects of his personality? Isn’t he a Gemini?! If I had to pick only one quality to describe Rafa it would be BALANCE. You need yin AND yang to achieve that! Sadly I think we’re gonna see him off balance for a while, but when he finds the balance again… there’s gonna be plenty more fireworks!!!

  8. CC says:

    “What about sex?” I inquire. “No sex,” he replies.”

    OK, since nobody has commented on this yet (I’ve waited patiently), I see it as my duty to do so. ;)

    I find it intriguing that the journalist for one second thought that Rafa would list sex as an activity on his perfect day. He’s far too reserved/shy/private to admit to that. This, I’m sure, does not mean that he doesn’t want it…no?

  9. natch says:

    “‘ “What about sex?” I inquire. “No sex,” he replies. “You’re joking!” I exclaim. “You wouldn’t have sex on a perfect day?”

    He considers it for a moment. “No,” he says. “Sex is important in life, but if you’re having a perfect day, you don’t have time for sex.”

    Sorry, natch.”‘

    I KNEW he was too good to be true!
    *stomps off in a huff*

    Welll…he was only twenty, didn’t you say? But even then, his hormones should be raging. Rafa, why have you forsaken me???!!! A perfect day for me would be nothing BUT sex.
    *resumes huff*
    *stomps back off*
    *bursts into tears*

    • CC says:

      OK, natch, I have another take on this:

      Last year, just before Wimbly, there was an article written by two female journalists for one of the big newspapers in the UK. One of them was pro Rafa and one pro Roger. (I cannot find it.)
      The one who was rooting for Rafa for Wimbly brought the “no sex on a perfect day” up, saying the reason for Rafa’s answer was that he had not met somebody who could give him what he needed/wanted in that department, therefore wouldn’t include it in his perfect day.
      She went on to say that he obviously needed somebody with experience and finished it all off by saying “Rafa, come to mama…”, which cracked me up!

      Anyway, do you maybe think you’d fit in nicely here, natch? Would it make you feel better that the reason Rafa left sex out is because he hasn’t met you yet? ;)

    • Nadalover says:


      • Lou Lou says:

        Jajaja!!Oh you crazy gals!!!Soo ADorKable!!! Laughed sooo hard!Hee! Always loved this piece on Nadal.

  10. June says:

    You’re absolutely right, girls just wanna have fun (or in this case it seems sex w/RAFA is #1 on everyone’s mind — he is making everyone like this — it’s his fault really (jk) since he’s not on the court playing & making everyone think those lusty thoughts)! At least he wasn’t jail bait back when he was 20 so no one could be accused of robbin the cradle ;-)

    • natch says:

      Yes, June. You are absolutely right. It IS all Rafa’s fault.
      But for being himself, not for being absent. Well…okay…maybe a little bit for being absent. ;) Right now I’m too upset with him to think properly.
      *goes away grumbling*
      No time for sex…pffft…
      …Honey, you MAKE time.

  11. ava says:

    I agree with whoever said above that sex was not mentioned simply because at 20 Rafa was really shy. I don’t think he wouldn’t include it in his perfect day. With a wonderful GF like Xisca, who wouldn’t?

  12. AnaR says:

    I read these statements, but in spanish, which was the language in which Rafa talked at time .. and are not accurate. He did not say that for a perfect day better no sex .. He said that for a perfect day within tournament .. better no sex. It is a little different but he always complains that he is not well interpreted or translated when he talks. The solution (say for him) is to speak English well enough (as Roger) that there be no misunderstanding in his words. I imagine that Rafael is working with english language because his english is better than before. It is difficult for a boy of 20 years and SPANISH FOR MORE DETAILS (here we are not given very precisely to chastity) .. say that the perfect day is a day without sex. Almost impossible if you know something about us.

    • miri says:

      But he’s obviously not describing a tournament day in his “perfect day”, so I’m still confused.

      • natch says:

        Maybe he said (in Spanish) that a perfect day playing in a tournament would be…blah blah blah, even though the interviewer didn’t ask about a tournament in his/her question. Confusion in the translation? Maybe? Hopefully?? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease????

        I’ll tell you what. I’ll make it my mission to find out how perfect he finds sex. Restraining order or not. ;)

        • miri says:

          But he’s talking about waking up in Porto Cristo, going fishing on a boat with his father and friends, cooking the fish they catch for lunch, playing golf with uncles, playing soccer, having dinner with his family and then going out for a party with friends…that doesn’t sound like a tournament day to me!

          And no, I’m not trying to say that Rafa doesn’t like sex, just that I don’t see how his answer could be interpreted to be a perfect day at a tournament.

          • Suzanne says:

            Actually, I think that our boy is a normal, healthy, well-rounded young man who is not obsessed with sex. He loves to have fun and be active all day long and I think that it’s refreshing that he projects a wholesome image. He is shy and private and we should honor that. It’s great to love him in a proper perspective, but I think he’d be horrified to know that people were so forward in lusting after him…

            • mary says:

              Suzanne we all respect Rafa and his privacy. We are just having a bit of feminine titillating fun! He was asked the question, he responded and we shared our comical thoughts. If Rafa had this interpreted and read it he’d see the funny side too. I don’t think he mentioned he was studying to become a monk……….!!!!!!

              • Suzanne says:

                I’m sorry Mary, but I just think it’s gotten a little out of hand. Most people love Rafa because he’s so classy in his behavior on and off court, and I just think it’s out of place. I want to treat him with respect as I see he treats others…

                • mary says:

                  I understand what you are saying. I speak for myself and tell you he is respected for the gentleman he is 1000%. But sometimes “girls just wanna have fun”.

                • natch says:

                  Awwww, Suzanne. Did I rain on your classy parade? So sorry. How about if you don’t read my posts then? Then you won’t get upset. Problem solved. Fear not, for come Monday I’ll be gone until after the USO. But, until then, please address me directly if my posts upset you. I think that’s a way of showing respect. If my posts don’t upset you, then by all means, read away! ;)

          • natch says:

            Oh, alright. Gotcha. I couldn’t think that far back. You know, once I heard about the sex, I forgot everything else! ;)

    • mary says:

      You’ve saved the day AnaR. I think maybe we better all learn espanol. Nothing then will get lost in translation. I was almost worried about our delicious muffin eater. “Come to mama” and mama will give you all the muffin you need!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • natch says:

      “Almost impossible if you know something about us.”
      *breathes HUGE sigh of relief*

      • aRafaelite says:

        Don’t get your knickers in a twist girls, I’m sure that was just his Mowgli side talking… and we know there’s a darker side to him as well!!! But isn’t this getting just a little bit “El Toro de Rafa”? I find that more than a little bit disturbing… (and besides, surely you all realise that adorable as Rafa is, Fer would surely be more fun in that department)?! ;)

  13. miri says:

    “Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.” – Rodney King

    Hug it out, people!

    • mary says:

      Luv you Rafa and luv you too miri. I’m cool. Hugs to everyone!!!!!
      “Girls just wanna have fun”.

      • Suzanne says:

        Hey all, I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad, I just thought we could enjoy Rafa without taking it too far. Since Miri has set the standard of not invading his privacy, I hoped we could keep it classy. Please don’t think you are being picked on, after all, we all love Rafa and have the same desire in the end and that’s to see him back playing in tip top form and winning the whole US hardcourt season, ending in hoisting the trophy at the US Open!!! Hugs to you all!!!

        • miri says:

          Just speaking from my point of view, there’s something different about jokes/fantasies made in fun than hanging out on Rafa’s doorstep stalking him or trying to get pictures of him while he’s relaxing on the beach. To me, this isn’t invading his privacy, it’s just being naughty in public.

          • Suzanne says:

            Okay…have fun. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. I still enjoy hearing from you all, though.

            • natch says:

              I, personally, don’t see any reason for you to keep your thoughts to yourself. Where I live (US), we have Freedom of Speech, which allows us to say anything we want. It’s Miri’s site, she can censor anyone she wants. I’m not upset at all. I just used your word, “classy” to see if you could take it as well as you dished it out. I simply asked you to address your concerns to me if my posts upset (for lack of a better word) you. I don’t see anything wrong with disagreements or debates at all.

    • natch says:

      I’ll see your quote and raise you two:

      “There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees.” — Michael de Montaigne

      “He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own.” — Aesop


      Honestly, Miri. No hurt feelings. I just prefer direct confrontation. Debate is always goooood.

  14. CC says:

    OK, so I’ve been worried about people getting offended about the sex talk and if miri says “stop”, then I shall stop. It’s just that…Rafa is the sexiest guy around and I don’t think some of us can help ourselves. The naughty thoughts just appear. And if I can share them with somebody, then I am grateful. If not, I’ll keep them to myself.

    Also, I think we must realise that this is fantasy. We are “in love” with an image and not a person. I don’t know Rafa, have never met him and it’s very unlikely that I ever will.
    I find it hard to believe that he would, however, get offended if he read the comments. (He’d probably go “Pffft…”) There is nothing sinister about them, they are, after all, out of love…for the image of Rafa.

    • natch says:

      Wow, CC. You worry too much! ;) Are you a mother? (All the moms I know constantly worry.)

      • CC says:

        Not a mother, but definitely a worrier!
        I didn’t mean for that post to sound so worrisome (is that a word or did I just make that up?!), though. Because about the Rafa-sex-talk I don’t really feel worried. ;)

        • natch says:

          Alright. You’re a Swedish, dark-haired worrier and Rafa-obsessor who can’t cook. Got it. ;) *pictures CC* Or, wait…did you say you CAN cook? I’m going to put the chef hat back on you, if you do.

          • CC says:

            Heh, I can cook wicked Swedish meatballs and make nice brownies, but would never admit to being a good cook. I am Swedish after all, we are not allowed to say that we’re good at anything… ;)

            Hm, I’m trying to picture you, thinking that you’re not blonde…but not dark either. Very fit. Cool. Tanned? Difficult, no?

            • natch says:

              Have you seen Sorana Cirstea (WTA player)? Except for the nose and eyebrows, she could be my daughter. My tennis bff and I saw her for the first time at the FO, and we both freaked out. I had to check my date book from 1991 to see if I gave birth without knowing about it! ;)

              Hair color: identical, even the color of the highlights from the sun. Hairline: identical. Shape of face: identical. square lower jaw with a chin. Eyes: My irises are bigger than hers, but otherwise almost identical.
              Nose: Hers is more angular than mine. I was born to Romanian father and Polish mother (adopted and brought to US as infant), so I have a Polish bulb on the end of mine.
              Eyebrows: Hers are angled, mine are arched.

              I’m mostly mistaken as Spanish. (You listening, Rafa?) Mostly because my skin turns gold when I tan. I used to get so jealous of people who got to turn brown. We always want what we can’t have, don’t we?

              I’m not very tan right now, but I’m about to be mostly outdoors for three months straight, so I’m thinking that will change quickly (I get a tan if I run outside to get my mail.)

              *removes chef hat from CC* I think I will put you in a karate suit. So you can kick some a$$. ;)

              • CC says:

                Sorana Cirstea, yep, she’s beautiful! If you look anything like her, you’re lucky!

                Polish and Romanian, wow. I love Polish people, so friendly and SUCH hard workers. One of my best friends in Sweden is Polish, she is the most beautiful girl ever.

                “I used to get so jealous of people who got to turn brown. We always want what we can’t have, don’t we?”

                I’m deadly jealous of people who turn brown straight away. My mum’s black haired and has beautiful, brown skin (she’s Swedish, but must have anscestors from somewhere else), my dad’s two metres tall and blonde with red skin. I got my mum’s hair colour and eye colour, but not her skin…

                People say I look like a pixie. Or Björk. But only vaguely, I think.

                • natch says:

                  Bjork. SHE’S beautiful. I always wanted dark hair, and didn’t get that, either. *seethes*
                  *puts Bjork in karate suit, with plate of brownies and with Rafa bubble over her head*
                  Yes, there you are.

                  “If you look anything like her, you’re lucky!”
                  I’m not so sure she’s beautiful, but I’m older. She looks like me, not me like her. I was here first! *stomps foot*

                  “I’m deadly jealous of people who turn brown straight away.”
                  I used to want that so badly. Now I realize it will never happen. No brown for me, but at least I never burn. I think I’m more olive-y. Like the color of Ana Ivanovic. It’s funny, but I didn’t even know olive was a color you could assign to skin until recently.

                  • CC says:

                    OK, you were, of course, here first! And she is a stunner!

                    Olive skin is sooo much better than white/pink skin that turn brown after two weeks in the sun with factor 50 on…

                    • natch says:

                      uh-oh. Do you mean you look like Andy Murray for the first two weeks? He’s whitey-red, but he stays that way. I kind of like his skin, though. It makes him stand out. And…alright…it’s fun to make fun of him. ;)

                      Okay, spf 50, huh? I don’t even need spf, except to prevent sun damage. I was talking to someone outside this morning (for maybe 10 minutes), and my left arm is already darker. Yes, you have my deepest sympathies.

                    • miri says:

                      Andy Murray’s positively bronze compared to me. I once had on capris with sandals and my roommate (who, albeit, didn’t have her glasses on) asked me why I was wearing white socks with my sandals… Of course, thanks to the varicose veins, that doesn’t happen anymore…

                    • CC says:

                      OK, not as pale as Andy, but…not like Rafa.

                      Miri, I have friends with really, really pale skin like you say you have. What I’ve always envied them is how beautiful and smooth and peachy their skin is. Never a spot!
                      See I’m somewhere in the middle.
                      I’d rather be one or the other.

  15. sia says:

    So … the day before yesterday I finally returned to playing a little tennis (recovered from my own tennis injury), naturally I’m thinking of Rafa. I practice my serve a bit … see how fast I can make the ball spin (like I have any way of measuring this ?) and then decide to try playing left-handed. I’m naturally right-handed.
    It was kind of bizarre and of course I was not very good. But, and Miri I was thinking of you and your thoughts on right sided vs left-sided abilities, after a few tries there were some shots (usually those closer to the net where I didn’t need as much power), that seemed to almost be hit by another person. I’m not quite sure how to esplain it, I had to almost stop my brain and let my instinctual side take over. I left the courts with a tingly feeling all over.

    • miri says:

      Yeah, the brain is a weird and wonderful thing that we know so little about. Have you read any of the books by Oliver Sacks? I highly recommend them. Also, this article is fascinating, if not entirely on the same topic. But it’s interesting to see how we can trick the brain. :)

      • natch says:

        OMG, OMG, OMG!!! I just saw Oliver on PBS! He did a wonderful report, part of which involved some Tourette Syndrome patients, who had no symptoms when playing a musical instrument. They all were together in a room, “ticking away” as he put it, then when they played the song? No ticks.

        • miri says:

          Yeah, one of his books as a great story about a surgeon with TS. He’s perfectly fine when he operates. Other than that? Twitchy to the max.

  16. sia says:

    Whew … that article was fascinating. I found myself scratching most of the way through and have decided I must have a Rafa itch. (I can’t seem to get him out of my mind.) The whole thing about the mirrors seems to make sense, it is funny how the medical profession has such a hard time allowing these kinds of solutions.
    When you study drawing you really have to learn how to see, because we often think we know what something looks like, but in reality once you follow the lines with your eyes, and then your pencil, the shape can be quite different. I guess this is another example of what the author meant when speaking of how our brains make the best guess. We like to create a stylized version of something.

    ps I think natch has the Rafa itch also.

    • miri says:

      Yeah, the whole thing about perception being memory made sense to me when I thought about music. How many times have I been some place with music playing quietly where it was annoying me because it was just a wee bit too quiet to figure out the song. But, once I did recognize a song, it was suddenly loud enough to follow along completely. Or at a concert – how a song you aren’t familiar with sounds like loud cacophony, but once they start playing a song you know, it sounds like it’s perfectly put together.

      Getting back to the left/right thing, since they think the different spheres of the brain are for different kinds of thought, it’s interesting to me what left/right brain dominance might mean. And are people who are ambidextrous (either naturally or learned) using more of their brain? Or just using it differently? I remember reading something about visual studies and ambidextrous people (or people who had a dominate eye on one side, but dominate hand on the other) and how their scores were different than others and that they tended to have better hand/eye coordination. I wonder where the heck that was….

      • CC says:

        Yeah, the left/right thing is interesting.
        I work in a school and was chatting to a kid yesterday, who had just broken a bone in his right hand. He is naturally right handed and when I asked him if he was writing with his left hand now he was like “Whaa?! Left?! Nooo…?!”. OK, so he may just be lazy, but the fact that he refused to even try, as if he was almost scared of it, was quite intriguing.
        Some kids I’ve seen in the same situation seem to swap over really easily and I remember a boy in my class at school who broke his arm really badly, had to write with his left hand for ages and then found it difficult to swap back once the arm had healed.

        My dad was born a natural left-hander, but was discouraged to use his left hand when he was little and is now a complete right-hander. Sad…and weird.

        • dutchgirl says:

          I myself have an injury in my right hand at the moment that causes me all sorts of trouble since I’m right-handed. I’ve already got myself used to using my computer mouse with my left hand, and with a little practice it’s not so bad.
          I’m not sure whether I’ll try to play tennis with my left though.

          • aRafaelite says:

            I’m right handed but can do most things with my left hand as well (mouse is no problem, and as a kid I could even write legibly with my left hand but don’t seem to be able to do this anymore, and certainly have more strength in my left arm than my right). I’ve even found myself once or twice playing tennis or badminton switching my racket to the left hand without even thinking about it (haven’t tried serving though – maybe I should as I’m hopeless most of the time)! I was fascinated when I learned abot Rafa being right-handed but playing with his left. I still think it’s extraordinary that he can be World No 1 playing with his left hand. Incredible. He proves again and again what a determined and exceptional young man he is!

    • natch says:

      “I left the courts with a tingly feeling all over.”
      Thinking of Rafa, were you? ;)

      “I think natch has the Rafa itch also.”
      Understatement of the century. :D

      My tennis bff, who taught me how to play, was ambidextrous. He was crazy, serving those 120 mph bombs at me from both arms. It was like playing a freakin’ windmill. I had to learn to use my left hand when I was 12-13ish, and broke my collarbone/shoulder (I can’t remember what bone(s) I broke.) Now? I’d be up the creek without a paddle. My left hand is for show, spare part, and to assist with my backhand. My right hand is for use and serving.

      • CC says:

        OMG, you guys actually PLAY tennis?! Like hold a racquet and a ball and serve and stuff?!
        I’m so impressed I had to stare into space for about five minutes.

        Me, I’m scared of balls. Terribly. The bigger and the harder the worse. (I’m OK with smaller, softer ones in…um…bags and things…)
        In Sweden boys and girls have PE together until we leave school at 19. It ain’t no fun playing sports with full grown men. It hurts.

        • Diane says:

          I’ve not been able to play, more than once this spring/summer. I have dyshidrotic eczema, and it has been absolutely debilitating this spring. If it wasn’t for you guys and Rafa on telly, I’d have gone nuts.
          And, CC, I’d flove to play some sports with some full grown men. Oh yes indeedy. ;)

          • CC says:

            Nooo… Well, if it was Rafa I was playing with, then yes. I’d play any sport with him.
            But it wasn’t. Just annoying, immature, far too competitive, cocky boys that loved to hit really hard balls. Actually, thinking about it, probably just like Rafa! Just not hot. ;)

          • natch says:

            Oooo…sounds painful. I know what eczema is, but not dyshiwhatever. I know the skin has a tendency towards itchiness when warmer weather arrives. Funguses, allergies, and that sort of thing.

            You should have hit some hard balls yourself. Nineteen year-olds can be brought down with one well-placed kick. ;)
            Erm,…can you tell I grew up with an older brother?

        • natch says:

          “I’m so impressed I had to stare into space for about five minutes.”

          Pick up a racquet! You’re never too old to learn how. Maybe you can get a teacher who KNOWS Rafa?

          “(I’m OK with smaller, softer ones in…um…bags and things…)”
          Oh, yeah. I learned this from my kids, but I forgot what you’re supposed to put around it. I think it’s like this: Anyway, put a weg, however it’s supposed to be done, after my “Oh, yeah.”

          • CC says:

            “Oh, yeah. I learned this from my kids, but I forgot what you’re supposed to put around it. I think it’s like this: Anyway, put a weg, however it’s supposed to be done, after my “Oh, yeah.””

            Eh…whaa?! I meant the ones that men have.

            And yes, I know I could maybe learn to play tennis. I have tried it. I think maybe I prefer ping pong, though.

            • Diane says:

              I didn’t pick up a racquet until last year. (Guess what brand? )That hottie from Mallorca inspired me to get out and try it. I suck at it, but I love it. I don’t keep score, or anything, but it’s great exercise and just fun.

            • natch says:

              “Eh…whaa?! I meant the ones that men have.”

              Sorry, my fault. I knew what you meant. I was trying to put in a wicked, evil grin guy that the kids I teach all know how to do. It didn’t even show up! *laughs at own ineptness* But I should know better than to try anything that has to do with technology. If it’s newer than 1989, I don’t understand it.

              So, here we go, the old-fashioned way:
              “(I’m OK with smaller, softer ones in…um…bags and things…)”
              Oh, yeah. *grins, wickedly and evilly*

              • CC says:

                Ah, I see!

                • dutchgirl says:

                  I only started playing 2 years ago, when I was 42. So no, you’re never too old. But I often wish I started back when I was a kid, because I know I won’t be able to learn to play like I want to.
                  And my playing is no big deal, because I don’t play competition and don’t intend to either. And I don’t spend more than 1 or 2 hours a week on a tennis court. But I really like doing it.
                  So CC, why don’t you give it a try?

                  • CC says:

                    I know I’m not too old (I’m 32), it’s just that I find it difficult to do any scheduled activity apart from work. If I had my own tennis courts, I’d play every day! (Not well, though…)
                    I prefer cycling, walking, running where I can decide exactly where and when.
                    Maybe one day I’ll give it a go.

                    • dutchgirl says:

                      Yeah, I’m familiar with that feeling; I usually want no obligations apart from work either, and I sometimes have to talk myself into going to my tennistraining, but every time I’m there, I’m so glad that I did.
                      But hey, you can take a couple of years to prepare yourself :)

                    • CC says:

                      Hah, yeah, I’ll need at least a couple of years… And as I mentioned I am (genuinely) scared of balls.

                    • dutchgirl says:

                      Maybe you should start with those softer balls they use with kids – they come to you much slower than the regular balls. And if that’s too big a step at once, you could try those soft balls that baby’s play with ;)

                    • CC says:

                      Soft balls are fine, and tennis balls are not too bad. If I had Roddick serving the way he did today at me, though, I’d die… ;)

  17. sia says:

    Such a vast, and wonderful, topic to visit.
    The musical motif reference is so lovely, we are immediately drawn in once we hear those few notes in a row. The fact that it then can evoke memories and somehow touch our hearts is powerful.
    My Mom is left-handed and I’m sure as a child I naturally learnt to interpret the world partially through her eyes (as children do). I’m not really sure how this affects me today but I am sure it does.
    Miri are you ambidextrous?

    • miri says:

      No, I’m not ambidextrous, but when I was little, I really, really wanted to be! I would practice writing with my left hand. Never got very far. Oddly enough, with my left hand, I could write better backwards than forwards. (I also really, really wanted green eyes and thought I had a chance since my Grandpa had them and I heard my mom asking my aunt if she thought her baby’s eyes were going to stay green or turn brown. From that, I thought your eyes could change color at any time and didn’t know it was a baby thing. Heh.)

      As a dyslexic person with borderline Asperger’s and someone who grew up with a father dealing with traumatic brain injury, I think I just have a bit more interest in these kinds of topics than the average person. I spent my tiny-tot days wondering why my world was backwards, why my brain would get stuck on one idea and not be able to move beyond it no matter what I did, and why talking to people made me so painfully nervous it often gave me hives. Then, when my dad’s aneurysm burst when I was 9, I freaked out over how much of who and what a person is can be altered by a slight change in brain tissue. (Okay, my dad’s change was more than slight, but still.)

      If you have any interest in stuff like this and haven’t read Oliver Sack’s book, “The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat,” I highly recommend it. It’s a series of short stories about some of the interesting cases he’s encountered and it’s written for a general audience (a.k.a. – you don’t have to be a science or medical geek to enjoy it.) It’s a short book and doesn’t take long to read. For a longer book with a similar idea, try his book, “An Anthropologist on Mars.”

      • dutchgirl says:

        I’ve read Oliver Sack’s book you mention, it’s impressive. But I was struck by the story of what kept you busy in childhood! Must have been difficult at times to deal with all that!
        And ofcourse it does always effect you in your adult life as well, but I hope you’ve gotten stronger by it.

      • natch says:

        Asperger’s?! One of my kids has Asperger’s, and she is one of my favs! I don’t know much about it, other than what her parents told me. Her dad tells me that it is sometimes difficult to deal with, but I love her outbursts.

  18. June says:

    I’m a righty & my brother’s a lefty. I could play guitar left-handed, cut my food w/my left hand & play billiards w/it also, but I am definitely right-handed. I wonder if RAFA’s sister is a lefty naturally! I remember kids in school who were left-handed & the teachers always tried to tell them to use their right hands when cutting paper, writing, etc.

    • natch says:

      Well, June, you can do more than me with your left hand! :D
      I don’t even think I could lift a cup and drink out of it with my lefty.

  19. sia says:

    Oh Miri, the green eyes story is priceless. (But brown eyes are nothing to sneeze at … see photo above)
    I have a friend who writes backwards, beautiful, flowing script all in a mirror image. Oh course I tried to do it too and was hopelessly bad. My brain would not allow it. Another friend, who teaches at a local art college, came in and added a paragraph easily. He told me he used to do it at school while growing up. He is dyslexic and has one of the most creative minds I know. I think he had to find different ways of doing things and new ways of solving problems; naturally a higher being was created.
    I have been working with a Director on a film (it is just in development) who’s hero is a young boy with Asperger’s (like you a mild/borderline case). One of the film’s visual themes uses the patterns created by the kaleidoscope. The boy loves repeating patterns and his room is filled with these kaleidoscopic images.
    Isn’t that lovely?

    • miri says:

      Oh, the wonderful calming effect of repeating patterns. I bet that room is lovely. *starts thinking of rows of parking meters*

      Wait, what?

      Of course, when I was young, no one was talking about Asperger’s and none of my doctors knew about it. That’s not awful because I’m one of those people who, depending on what doctor I go to, am told that I either have mild Asperger’s or I just need to get out more. ;) Depends on the doctor. I do take medication that helps me to be able to talk to people (and not freak when people touch me – I’m a recovering non-hugger) and it also helps some with the OCD type thought patterns. They haven’t completely gone away, of course, or this site wouldn’t exist. ;)

      And CC, you can count me in the “not playing tennis” side. I’d love to, but have absolutely no hand-to-eye coordination.

      • CC says:

        Heh, and I’m just plain lazy… At least when it comes to sport.

        I have worked with kids at school with quite severe Asperger’s. Fantabulous children. So clever and curious. But some of them also quite troubled when they get into their teens.

        • miri says:

          Yeah, me too. :) That’s why I like Wii Grand Slam tennis – I can pretend I’m playing with a LOT less running!

          I have two friends who have children with Asperger’s. One is now a teen and doing well, but I know that’s the exception. The other is in first grade and…is going to be hell. I think, mainly, because Mom lets him do anything he wants. I can’t stand to be around them because she just lets him roam around at will. When they came over to my house once, 5 seconds into the visit he was back into my bedroom poking around in things. The hell? I was like, “Get the fuck out of there!” Mom just ignored it. So, basically, I think his main handicap in life isn’t going to be Asperger’s – it’s parenting!

          Bringing this back to Rafa a bit, I’ve noticed in quite a few photos that he has a lazy eye. I’m wondering if he’s cross-lateral in addition to being cross dominant – it might explain the coordination problems Uncle Toni said he had as a child and why he seems to be better at sporting things with his left side (football and tennis). Though, this site says that cross laterality is a problem specifically with racket sports. Huh.

          • mary says:

            miri I have two kids, one aspergers and the other autistic. They are twins! Apparently it is not uncommon for male twins to have (ASD). You’re not supposed to have fav’s but my autistic one is a charm. He is such a gentleman. The other(aspergers) well he is a raging bull. He has to be kept active 24/7. They both play tennis now and it’s hillarous to watch them practice. One spends forever trying to get his serve right and the other just wants to slam it at you (he has alot of raw talent).
            Unless you have a totaly organised routine it’s absolute chaos. The later is usually the case. So our household is never dull!!!!

            • miri says:

              Wow – It sounds like you have quite the hand full there! I had no idea ASD ran in male twins. Learn new stuff every day.

          • aRafaelite says:

            This is fascinating. So, I’m cross-dominant(predominantly right-handed, right-brained, strength on my left, favour left for some tasks, also have a lazy eye)! There’s actually a name for it!!! I have something in common with both Rafa and Einstein! Thanks for that link Miri! But I’ve always been good at shooting in sports, so not sure about that issue. Maybe the ballet training improved my precision and coordination.

      • natch says:

        “and it also helps some with the OCD type thought patterns.”
        This explains why the kid I teach notices every single change I’ve made in the studio. Heh. Imagine that. Thanks, Miri!

        “And CC, you can count me in the “not playing tennis” side. I’d love to, but have absolutely no hand-to-eye coordination”
        But…but…then you can’t play with Rafa! He won’t care if you don’t play well. Maybe it will endear you to him, and make him want to take off his clothes? Just a thought.

        • miri says:

          Asperger’s kids (adults too!) don’t deal well with change.

          I’ll just have to play with him off the court, silly.

          • natch says:

            “Asperger’s kids (adults too!) don’t deal well with change.”
            Good to know. We do the same routine every session, so no wonder she loves it! Now I know why she has the outbursts, too. It ‘s when someone disrupts her routine. Although, quite frankly, I LOVE her outbursts. They crack me up. I always want to say, “You go, girl!”

            “I’ll just have to play with him off the court, silly.”

            *looks at clock”
            OMG, ladies. I have been here WAY TOO LONG!
            TTFN. Ta ta for now.

  20. sia says:

    Well you guys, one of the best parts about learning to play tennis is the young, fit instructor who gently tosses balls at you till you finally manage to whack the ball over the net.
    I like tennis in the evening (but not too late).

  21. sia says:

    Miri, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing. Maybe this is one good thing that came from Rafa taking a break. We have all learned a little bit more about you, which wouldn’t have happened if you were busy putting up match reports, and photos showing how good Rafa looks in his Wimbly Whites (and what colour his underpants might be). I think we all love you for this site, but today I think I like you even more.