RafaLint: June 6th

Rafa arriving home:

Posted by Rafael Nadal King of Tennis.


FYI – for the most part, I’m not bothering with “Rafa is over” or “how dare you say Rafa is over” op-eds. Why? I think the first is silly and the second just brings attention to the first. I’ll let Rafa answer these assumptions/opinions on the court.

  • Nadal Still Upbeat for Rest of the Year – Reuters via nytimes.com

    “I hope I’ll be able to continue on the tour, and before the end of the year I’d like to be even fitter and to work on the parts of my game that I have to work on,” Nadal said.

    “Physically I have to be good. You know, last year I had some physical incidents, but so far this year I feel good. I’m not injured. This is something very important.

    “You know, when you’re injured, there is not much you can do. So far, as I was saying, everything is good.”

  • Analysis-Nadal a Spent Force? No! Say His Rivals – Reuters via nytimes.com
  • Rebuilding Rafael Nadal’s confidence could take time, tennis legend Billie Jean King says – by Michael McLaughlin (usatoday.com)

    Billie Jean King believes she could fix Rafael Nadal’s confidence issues.

    “He’s playing better than he was [before],” King said Wednesday. “I just don’t know if he knows it.”

  • El regreso en cuatro pasos de Rafael Nadal – by T Jaume (ultimahora.es) Here’s the mangle – as usual, he sounds so levelheaded.
  • The French Open: From Court to Catwalk – by Vanessa Friedman (nytimes.com)

    Consider the pinks and fuchsias of Lucie Safarova and Ms. Bouchard — not to mention Mr. Nadal’s tone-on-tone Nike blues, which the Twitterati labeled alternatively Smurflike and Cookie Monsterish, but seemed to me rather an attempt, perhaps unsuccessful but familiar to us fashion types, to reference the Côte d’Azur.

  • INTERVIEW: Carla Suarez Navarro carving her own niche in women’s tennis – by Reem Abulleil (sport360.com)

    As much as Nadal is appreciated worldwide, she feels we are yet to comprehend the magnitude of his achievements.

    She says: “It’s crazy. I think that maybe we won’t be able to value what Rafa’s achieving now, the possibility of winning a 10th French Open. In the coming years, when the likes of Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov and these people come up, we’ll value more what Rafa is doing and has done. It’s crazy if he wins this year. It’s not 10 times in 20 years, it’s 10 times in 11 years or 12 years. Losing one match here. I think it’s one thing we’re never going to see again.”

  • Larry Ellison Is Spending a Fortune to Save American Tennis – by Ashlee Vance (bloomberg.com)

    “It is so important for the tour to have someone like Larry buying a big tournament and pushing the other events,” says Rafael Nadal, a three-time winner at Indian Wells, shortly after losing to Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals this year. Nadal stays at Porcupine Creek as Ellison’s guest during the tournament. The estate has three tennis courts nestled into a grassy knoll with butlers on call from a central cabana to serve espresso, Champagne, or, as Nadal prefers, chilled coconut water. The cabana could be Nadal’s second home: Scores of his rackets fill a floor-to-ceiling locker; photographs of his trophy presentations dot the walls.

  • Rafa Nadal pasa el día en Menorca tras ser eliminado en Roland Garros – via menorcaaldia.com. Note, the image is from last year. (mangle)
  • Why Some Tennis Matches Take Forever – by Carl Bialik (fivethirtyeight.com)

    Speedy Roger Federer finished off relatively fast Gael Monfils in two hours and 12 minutes, taking 36 seconds per point. Rafael Nadal’s defeat of Jack Sock, on the other hand, required two fewer points but 41 more minutes; it took 47 seconds per point. All those seconds add up fast.

    In those matches, how many average hits were there per point? You have to take that into consideration when looking at overall match time too. Are there stats on that? I couldn’t find them. The footnote mentions that the Fed one had more long rallies, but what was the average number of hits per point? Without knowing that, the time per point stat is pretty meaningless, IMHO. Also, in the Rafa/Sock match, Sock was over the time limit frequently (more than half) of the time too. Why wasn’t he ever called?

    Look, Rafa takes too much time according to the rules. That’s a fact. He cannot really claim any moral high ground on that point. (Also, I watched the final set of the 2008 Wimbledon final last night – a tense match, with a lot on the line where one might need to stop and think a lot before a serve. Rafa takes much, much longer and has many more ticks now than he did then.) Rafa often violates the time between points rule on a majority of points in a match. So, why is he mainly called on break points against? Or deuce? Or late in a set in critical games? Why not early in a match or set? Or on the first point he exceeds the limit? Why was he the only one called for time violations in his matches when his opponents also exceeded the time limit – some on a majority of points? This is my problem with the situation. My bottom line is that the enforcement of the rule very inconsistent and unfair (to put it mildy – TM JMac).

    Personally, I think that if time violations were called every single time a player exceeded the limit, people would realize how ridiculous the rule is – especially in Majors when the limit is 20 seconds.



Rafa does social media:

(Um. Not sure if posing for a pic to promote a world hunger/poverty relief effort while wearing a watch that costs that much is a good idea.)

Social media related to Rafa:

Other stuff:
  • Break Serve? For Most Players, It’s a Struggle to Break Even – by John Martin (nytimes.com)

    Late last year, a major international study concluded that players must earn a minimum of $160,000 a year in prize money merely to break even (factoring in salaries and travel expenses for their coaches). Of more than 2,000 active players, fewer than 250 men and women earn the minimum, according to two Australian researchers.

10 Responses

  1. Thanks for all your hard work, miri. Don’t know what I’d do without this site. One thought – while Roger and Rafa lost early – for them – it wasn’t the young guns that took them out. Some of the “old guys” – especially Tsonga and Stan – stepped up but not the young guys. And I don’t see why losing to Djokovic should be an embarrassment or a shock. They’ve played a lot of close matches. Sometimes one wins, sometimes the other. Sometimes one of them doesn’t really show up and/or the other one gets hot. That’s normal.

  2. sam says:

    The way time violations are handed out they are not going to affect the general time that players take between points. There are stats to show that in his match with Sock Nadal took longer than 20 seconds on each and every point and Sock took over 20 seconds 66% of the time. So giving Nadal a time violation when he was serving for the match at 5-4, 30-40 would do nothing to make either player play faster as the match at that point was over (or should have been). The only effect that disrupting Nadal on a break point when he served for the match would be to increase the possibility of extending the match by helping Sock to break. That’s exactly what happened. Nadal has been targeted so many times on pivotal points in matches that the effects will most likely be cumulative. Sock got an Umpire assisted set.

    Nadal and Sock are not the only players to routinely go over the allotted time more often than not because all players do. Of the top players I have timed Djokovic and Murray and I’m not convinced that Nadal is even the slowest. During the FO both Murray and Djokovic did get time violations but they were timed not to hurt and as they are rarely given could be easily shrugged off. Murray even said he wasn’t bothered by it. He obviously wasn’t bothered because it had no effect on speeding up his play. Same with Djokovic. He was taking well over 30 seconds routinely in his semi with Murray so why would a time violation at 15-15 early in the third set bother him? For players other than Nadal time violation penalties are a joke of a punishment. They will be shrugged off as a one off incident and will not make them play quicker.

    I would like to know why is all the talk always about Nadal? I don’t remember any mention of timing players before Nadal became successful. There was a time guideline but that was in place to stop deliberate disruptive gamesmanship (shouting, swearing, arguing, racquet smashing etc) and a player with a regular service routine would not have been considered disruptive. Nadal does none of these things. What he does is what all players regularly do as part of continuous play take a few seconds longer than what was just a guideline.

    If the ATP and ITF are really interested in making players stick to a strict time limit they are going to have to do a little more than hand out the odd joke of a penalty a few times a year to individual players when it doesn’t matter. Of course the rule has had no effect on making players in general play quicker.

    The only effect of the rule that I can see is on one player. He is still allowed to play as slowly as other players most of the time. However he continually has his first serve taken away on crucial points in a match. That is far from a joke punishment as he has probably lost games, sets and matches because of it.

    There is no transparency. If there is a rule that is broken more often than not then Umpires can give out penalties pretty much whenever they want. If for the majority of the time Umpires ignore the rule breakers then a few questions need to be asked about the times when they give out penalties. If one player is being continually targeted on crucial points then I have to agree with John McEnroe. When Nadal got yet another penalty serving to stay in the first set against Djokovic at 4-5, 40-40 McEnroe said he felt “sick to his stomach”. That’s how I feel too. It looks a little like a witch hunt…

    • JayDee50 says:

      You make some really good points, expressed in a way which I found hard to put into words. I agree totally with you.

    • miri says:

      You have a lot of good points, but there is one factual error. There had been a set time allowed between points (not just a guideline) since before Rafa. The rule hasn’t changed, just the punishment. The punishment for exceeding it used to be more severe (warning, loss of point, loss of game, loss of match). The only recent change has been the lessening of the subsequent violations to loss of first serve. It was thought that umpires weren’t calling time violations because no one wants to default a player for taking too long and that by lessening the severity of the punishment, umpires would make the call more frequently and consistently. It’s only “helped” with the frequency, though.

      Personally, I don’t think this is a Rafa only thing. It’s mainly become a talking point after that AO final between Rafa and Nole. I think the length of that match combined with the fact that BOTH of those players take too long and it looking like they were destined to meet in more and more finals caused the crack down. Rafa became the poster boy for time violations because he is the most consistent breaker of the rule and, in my personal opinion, because part of his pre-serve routine (the shorts tug) is deemed to be unsightly and off-putting by many people.

      • Merrill says:

        I didn’t even think about Rafa’s shorts tug tic as a factor in why he is so frequently targeted for time violations, but, after thinking about it, I am convinced that you are absolutely right. I also believe that television companies, their desire to have relatively predictable schedules for their sports events, and money are another reason for this crackdown. Otherwise, how can you explain why obscenity and “bad boy” behavior are tolerated (dramatic grist for the television mill) and time violations are not.

      • sam says:

        There was no transparency about what was changed at the beginning of 2013. Talk was that Umpires were no longer able to exercise discretion and had to give out penalties when players went over the time limit. At the beginning of the year there were quite a few penalties handed out and it caused disruption and protests from the media, fans and players that the rule was unfair. However after a few months Umpires reverted to largely ignoring players going over the time limit. Since then time violation penalties have been issued in the way that I indicated in my previous post.

        The lesser penalty meant did make Umpires more likely to give out time violations to Rafa on crucial points. There is no way they could have taken repeated points, games and matches off him so blatantly. As it is continually disrupting him on crucial points and depriving him of a first serve can have a similar effect but is less likely to cause anyone to cry fowl. Being deprived of a first serve in men’s tennis on a crucial point is not a trivial punishment as there is a huge difference between first and second serves won. Added to that is the feelings of injustice and the cumulative effects of being targeted. It is hardly surprising that Rafa has lost the mental edge when dealing with pressure at tight moments in matches.

        Clearly the ATP and ITF are not going to shorten matches by handing out a time violation on what was likely the penultimate point in a match. They are not going to shorten matches by allowing players to take 30, 35, 40 seconds between points regularly without penalty. If the intention was to shorten matches they should tamper with the scoring system as they have done in doubles. The Nadal/Djokovic final was regarded by many as one of the most exciting matches of the decade. It was long because it involved long rallies and a remarkable comeback. If it had been best of three and/or on a faster surface it would have been shorter but probably forgotten. Shortening the time between points would do nothing to shorten matches such as the Isner/Mahut one at Wimbledon a few years ago.

        If the ATP and ITF want to prevent Nadal from adjusting his clothing between points they should make it clear and it should apply to all players. Rules should be transparent. Personally I can think of many players who do things on court that I find unsightly and off putting. Some of these things are actually breaking the rules (unlike adjusting clothing).

        • miri says:

          There were many press releases and news stories about the changes and why they were made. It just seems that you aren’t buying what was said. Which is somewhat valid because, like you say, these changes are not really shortening matches. You won’t get any disagrement from me on that. (For one thing, a time violation for being 5 seconds over often leads to a minute of bitching. If they follow the rules to the letter, they should give players a code violation for delay of game for that bitching time.)

          Thing is, this isn’t happening with any consistency – as you and I agree. Players not obeying the rules shows a lack of respect for the rules. Rules that aren’t enforced clearly and consitently, shows a lack of respect for the players.

          My main disagreement with you and some others is what appears to be a belief that this was/is a campaign designed solely to fuck Rafa over. I can’t buy that. He makes the industry way too much money. Now, do they pick on him more compared to other players? Yes. As I asked in my post, why was Rafa the only one called when the other guy exceeded the time limit on a majority of his points? It’s not right. The main reason I can think of is: Over the years he’s made himself the easiest target by taking too long too often – and he’s gotten longer and longer each year. He takes too long at just about every juncture in the match – getting to the net for the coin toss, warm-up time, changing ends after the first game of the set, etc. Many people see this as a lack of respect; some see it as gamesmanship. Is this a valid reason for calling Rafa at a different rate per rule infraction reasonable or right? Nope.

          Also, it’s utter bullshit that they wait until important points. They should start by calling a time violation the first time any player exceeds the limit and continue to call it. Players do often take longer before important points, but the 34 seconds they took at 15-0 is just as much a violation of the rule as the 40 seconds they take at break point down. I think they feel that waiting is a way of making their point stronger without having to call it every time he serves. But it just comes across as, at the least, random and willy-nilly enforcement of the rules or, at the worst, provides massive fuel to conspiracy theorists.

          I loved the AO final. But for every person who loved it, you can find someone who thought it was an overly long battle full of long rallies of “sameness” with no variety. That’s the problem – people like different things in their tennis. There are people who actually love serve-bots. I can’t for the life of me understand why, but they do.

          Tennis goes in cycles. You always have groups that like long rallies and groups that like fast paced serve/volley tennis. Then you have a vast middle ground that likes either as long as the tennis is exciting. What happens is, when one style starts to dominate, the group in the middle slowly kind of get tired of it and start to move over to the other camp and then people start whining and bitching about how they want change.

          Back in the day, I hated clay tennis. Why? You had constant 80 hit rallies that were just so boring – it was like a game of pong. Then rackets sped up, players sped up, players started hitting the ball harder, faster, and I stopped watching tennis (men’s tennis especially, I stuck with the women longer). Why? Because fast “hit hard; thinking optional” tennis bores the crap out of me. Play got so fast and serve-based that those people in the middle (like me) started going…wait, this is boring. When I came back to tennis after a long hiatus, I preferred clay because I thought it gave the best balance of power, speed, excitement and strategy.

          There’s usually one watershed match that is so on one end of the spectrum, people cite it as the reason for the need for change. Currently, that AO final is the match people point to when they talk about the need to speed things up. Quite awhile ago, it was the 1994 Ivanisevic/Sampras Wimbledon final that people pointed to when they wanted to slow down tennis. That match is often cited when talking about why courts were slowed over the years (of course, no one can agree on if they were actually slowed or not, but that’s another story). That was a 3 set match with 18 games (two tiebreaks) and 42 aces. That’s an average of 1.4 aces per game. (And that’s not even counting service winners.) For me, the match was as exciting as watching paint dry. (Much like the Isner/Mahut match you mentioned.) It was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many people – just like the AO final was for people now. Years from now, people will go back to bitching about things being too fast. It’s the endless cycle of things.

          (By the way, I feel the same thing is happening with people complaining there’s no “personalities” on the court. Tennis went from being full of “bad boys” to being full of gentlemen. Some people feel it went too far and they want more spice on the court – more mouth. I can’t say I agree with that either.)

          Bottom line: if they are going to keep the rule in place, they should enforce it uniformly. If not, they are making a mockery of their own rule. If they really want to speed up tennis, this isn’t the way to do it.

          And, that’s about all I care to say on this subject. I’ve already said too much. I’m giving myself a time-wasting penalty for spending this long on it.

          • sam says:

            I think we agree on a lot. But if the ATP and ITF have decided they want to speed up their product because of what you call the watershed match at the AO they have done nothing about it. I don’t buy the talk about speeding up the game by handing out time violations because they haven’t done that. It’s obvious that this would do little to speed up the game even if they did. The game was speedy in Sampras’s day so they know what to do. They could also alter the scoring if it is the length of matches rather than the style of play that is the problem.

            However all the focus is on Nadal. He is talked about as the problem. It’s not so much that the game in general is thought to need speeding up because I don’t hear complaints about other players no matter how slow they are. As you say its perhaps not the seconds he takes that some choose to dislike. It’s all his quirks and habits that are not against any rules. It’s not on. They may as well take his first serve away because they don’t like his appearance.

            There is way too much talk about Nadal taking too long to serve but barely a whisper about other players doing exactly the same. As if he is “making a mockery of the rules” as one UK headline accused when the truth is the ATP and ITF are using this rule to target him with time violations on crucial points leaving it unused at other times.

            In Nadals match with Isner in this years Monte Carlo Nadal was serving to Isner at 4-4, 30-40. Isner asked the Umpire to give Nadal a time violation and the Umpire obliged. Isner was gifted an Umpire assisted set. The commentators never even mention what had happened! There was no talk in any of the reports I read either of what had happened. Way too much silence about Umpires interfering in Nadal’s matches. I for one can’t keep quiet and pretend I haven’t seen what I’ve seen.

            I have no idea why the ATP or ITF should want to “fuck Rafa over” (as you put it) but using the time violation rule as they are is doing precisely that. It makes little sense as he’s brought so much money into tennis. Maybe they think someone else could bring more? Whatever the reason he is the only player that has been affected.

  3. Tina says:

    Thanks Sam, you really nailed it, and I totally agree with you as well.
    The thing is, that my commies in the semifinal said, that the umpire seemed to give both Murray and Djokovic extra time during points because of the heat, and that was – to them- quite allright. But when Rafa is playing, regardless of the weather conditions, they never have the same attitude and understanding towards him. And that is discrimination against Rafa in my book, and it has to stop. For Rafas sake, and for the game itself.