Tennis’s best asset

Salon.com shows some Rafa love as they name him the 5th sexiest man living.

Everything about Rafael Nadal — beginning with his self-described “famous ass” — just seemed too damn big and overhyped in 2008.

Tennis fans were in awe of his athleticism — speed and raw power seemed to be all he needed to catch the more refined and elegant Roger Federer — but purists saw a thuggish player, winning his points with brawn instead of skill. (His serial tic — grabbing his seat to keep his underwear from riding up that pumped-up caboose — didn’t help.) When he toppled Federer in a remarkable five-set marathon at Wimbledon, it felt less like a win for Nadal than a loss for Federer, who noticeably seemed to crumble under Nadal’s constant pressure. As Nadal climbed to No. 1 and the media world joined Team Rafa, we remained unconvinced and uninspired.

But success and failure both agreed with Rafa in 2009. He seemed to grow more comfortable in front of the crowds, in front of the cameras, and with his own game, gradually adding more finesse to his brute power. When he came back to beat Federer in the January final of the Australian Open — reducing the usually stoic Swiss to tears — Nadal seemed genuinely dismayed and tried his best to console his rival. Sure, what else was he going to do? But he acted neither surprised nor uncomfortable, simply nodding and smiling as though he understood exactly what Federer was going through. We even liked those riotous neon tennis togs he sported, though they made him seem less the comic superhero Nike intended than an adorably musclebound friend of Hello Kitty. And when he was bounced from his beloved French Open and sidelined from Wimbledon with knee problems — while Federer again ascended the tennis throne — he seemed a man disappointed but, unlike so many sulky athletes, at peace with fate.

But what really got us behind Tennis’s Great Behind was his charming response to a jarring moment: A fan at the U.S. Open jumped onto the court and rushed him after he won his quarterfinal match. Instead of alarm or annoyance, he seemed to, well — watch for yourself:

More charmingly, he explained it later this way:

What’s better than an easygoing looker with a good sense of humor? Oh yeah: one with that ass.

There’s also a slide show here.

16 Responses

  1. Courtney says:

    Well, the article was half complimentary… I’m also a bit confused about their photo choices in the slideshow. I could have easily provided a thousand (uh, literally) better photographs of Rafa than those!

    • SapphireSwell says:

      Well, they couldn’t have put the very best pictures of Rafa in the Slideshow cause it would completely discredit this article. Putting Rafa as #5, pshhhh. (Seriously, James Franco? Really? He looks like a db most of the time, sleeping though classes and making awful videos for Funny or Die… Though still making the list, he’d be much lower.)

      They did however put a shirtless Rafa being kissed video and his sweet interview afterward. That’s something :)

      • SapphireSwell says:

        Making *my list. Ugh, proof reading fail again.

        I need to sleep.

      • Courtney says:

        Well, yeah, that’s why I said “half”! I did not like how they went on and on in the beginning about how little they cared for him in 2008. And one of my biggest pet peeves is when journalists mention his wedgies–they either make it into a much bigger deal than it actually is or they put it as a snide remark in parentheses (and it’s almost as if they’re all in competition to see who can make it sound the most absurd).

        I mean, is it that hard to write a completely positive and lighthearted article on Rafa? I could do it in my sleep! There are SO MANY good things about him and instead they waste space making him out to be some boring oaf in 08.

        • Atch2 says:

          Agree with you. All the good, sweet things about Rafa are true and some of the writing is funny but it would have been a nicer read if they cut out some of the snide tone and remarks.

          There was an article (on timesonline?) interviewing Fed and they mentioned about Rafa’s pants picking as well and I thought, Is there no other uniquely Rafa side/characteristic that they can mention instead of that?

          • Courtney says:

            Exactly. I mean, no one says, “Andy Roddick (you know, the guy who adjusts his junk between every point).” That doesn’t say anything about who these players are as people or as sportsmen–it’s completely irrelevant unless you’re listing tics that every guy has. It just gets on my nerves.

            • Diane says:

              Thanks, Courtney. I’ve made just that point, about Andy. No one says a word about that. Ridonk.

            • Phyzzie says:

              Courtney I am so glad someone finally mentioned Roddick and his special tics. I yell at the TV every time… what he does is just plain vulgar and “low-class.” But he does know how to serve aces!

    • Rafangel says:

      There are two things that drive me nuts more than anything else that the media say about Rafa:
      1) He’s all about brutish power and strength, and has no finesse. How dare this article suggest he’s only getting a bit of finesse in 09?! How do they think he did so well in 2008? He’s been building a subtle and sophisticated game for years, and has “unbelievable touch” (safin) and “a very complete game” (Roddick). Stop ogling his muscles and look at his game (OK, ogle his muscles, but don’t then damn him for it!). Fed-bunnies: Federer isn’t a fairy getting beaten up by a nasty troll – the guys who are only about power get nowhere with him. It does him injustice to suggest Rafa’s just about power.
      2) It’s always about Fed! Seriously, guys, it’s not! Rafa won the most astonishing sporting moment I have ever seen – he won it because he came out and played unbelievably from the start, and somehow (miraculously) stayed in the match despite the heart-breaker of the 4th set tiebreak and 3 missed ch’ship points and Fed-ex, the 5-time champion and GOAT, playing the best tennis of his career (oh, and no bollocks about Fed’s health by this stage, either). How Rafa held his nerve is something that most mortals cannot get their head around. He won by superior mental strength and superior tennis. He was better than the GOAT, in the GOAT’s home turf. Credit where it’s due, please. Nadal is a great by his own merit and in his own right.

      yes, I also hate the way people portray him as an oaf and a nasty man because they misconstrue his court-self and don’t bother to see his honour or his off-court loveliness.

      Grump.

      I just had to get that off my chest. Heh.

  2. SA says:

    They are idiots who are just discovering Nadal.

  3. Ch F says:

    Indeed. This article comes across as a bit ironic, but still the gist of it is that Rafa has won people over. Better late than never, I say. They are the ones who’d been missing A LOT, not us.

    I find it hard to believe anyone can ever be “uninspired and unconvinced” by Rafa.

  4. CC says:

    Jamie Oliver?! JAMIE OLIVER is sexy?!?! Pffft…
    And then George Clooney.
    *yawns*
    The rest of them, who are they?

    Oh, the humanity…

  5. natch says:

    Loved the article. Loved watching the vids again.
    FLOVED this line:
    Oh yeah: one with that ass.

    Natch likey.

  6. Maya says:

    Well it’s about time somebody recognized Rafa’s sexiness. Everytime I’m at the market and see PEOPLE magazines sexiest man of the year, I think yippee, a picture of Rafa. But no, he’s nowhere to be found. I’m like, how can you people not know about Rafa. COME ON AMERICA….
    Wake up and smell the coffee. Rafa’s the real deal and all they can come up with is Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, or George Clooney. Please!!!

  7. Rafangel says:

    I LOVE YOU! *KISS*