article wimbledon2011

Rafa Demonstrates The Heart of a Champion


I'm posting this here due to its from thetimes & most of you don't have a subscription. The Rafa bits:

Rafael Nadal demonstrates the heart of a champion
 by Neil Harman TheTimes
When his left ankle was being examined before the first-set tie-break of his drama-laden victory over Juan Martín del Potro yesterday evening, there was a look in Rafael Nadal’s eyes you do not see often. It was of a forlorn, almost fearful man.

Nothing exemplifies the spirit of the No 1 seed more than his insatiable desire to play the game that he loves and when the physiotherapist whispered in his ear about “an unusual injury” and the tournament doctor was peeling back the wrapping from a packet of pills, it looked for all the world as if the Spaniard might have to stop.

That would have been a real pity. Del Potro, the Argentinian who has been loving Wimbledon for the first time, was stalking around the court, seething about the injustice of a medical time-out at such a critical juncture of the match and it probably was an infraction of the rules.

Sometimes the well of sympathy for the top players is in danger of running dry. When Carlos Ramos, the umpire, called “time to play” on Centre Court, Nadal and Del Potro served six more times each. That is an unacceptable delay of the game. Something needs to be done.
The champion’s recovery, though, was something to behold, as he held off one of the most powerful specimens in the game, winning 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 to take his place in the quarter-finals, where he will meet Mardy Fish, who is having to bear the cross of being the United States’ lone singles representative in the championships. He can ask Andy Murray how that feels.

In the last two sets, Nadal did not seem to be moving with any discomfort. That either speaks highly of the quality of the strapping that they place around the athletes these days, or, more likely, to the heart of the man who has won ten grand-slam titles and will be prised from his pursuit of No 11 only by a couple of stretcher-bearers.

Conditions at the end were not that far removed from those in 2008 when he made his breakthrough at the championships in a final full of superlatives against Roger Federer that was concluded in the semi-dark. The noises that Nadal makes are no different. Nor is the ceaseless chasing of so many balls, the stunning nature of his retrievals, the adulation showered over him from the people.

“We love you, Rafa,” was one cry as he left the court. Well, the vast majority do, but there are those who feel that he may sometimes push the buttons too far. When it was suggested yesterday that his time-out as the first set reached a stunning crescendo was a breach of etiquette, his PR tweeted that if Rafa takes a time-out, then Rafa is hurt.

“Very difficult match for me today against one of the best players of the world,” Nadal said. “I don’t know what the problem is yet, it seems like in the bone, I don’t know how to explain exactly. I will find out tomorrow. I thought I might have to retire, it felt really strange. The tape changed the position of the foot and we changed the distribution of the power.”
Nadal’s position as the world No 1 is under threat from Novak Djokovic, who is only 60 ranking points behind, although there is said to be some discrepancy in the present set of figures, with Nadal’s 500 for winning the Barcelona tournament a couple of months ago, not yet counted. That is something for the statistical boffins to work on.

Meanwhile, Nadal, MRI scan permitting, has to prepare to face Fish, who has become only the fifth American since the turn of the century to reach the last eight at Wimbledon, following Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and — wait for it — Jan-Michael Gambill. 

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