They don’t call him the “King of Clay” for nothing. Rafael Nadal claimed his 11th French Open title on Sunday — his 17th Grand Slam singles title. To celebrate, here are four profiles of Rafa looking back at his career.
“Barely 19, He’s Got Game, Looks and Remarkably Good Manners” (Christopher Clarey, New York Times, June 2005)
Carey on 19-year-old Nadal, freshly off his first French Open win.
“I hope all this won’t change me,” he said, speaking in Spanish. “I would like to stay the same as I’ve always been. I hope that I will pull it off, and I believe I will be able to pull it off. I want to continue being a 19-year-old youngster and play my tennis.”
Nadal, at 23 and the No. 1 men’s tennis player in the world.
Yandell chuckled. “Federer is hitting with an amazing amount of spin, too, right? Twenty-seven hundred revolutions per minute. Well, we measured one forehand Nadal hit at 4,900. His average was 3,200. Think about that for a second. It’s a little frightening to contemplate. It takes a ball about a second to travel between the players’ rackets, O.K.?” He grabbed a calculator and punched in numbers. “So a Nadal forehand would have turned over 80 times in the second it took to get to Federer’s racket. I don’t know about you, but that’s almost impossible for me to visualize.”
Roger Federer has been Nadal’s greatest rival. They are practically equals on the court (though one clearly dominates on grass; the other on clay). But Wertheim tells us that Federer earns three times as much in endorsements, and Nadal’s playing style is frequently compared to Federer’s:
Roger Federer is such a graceful tennis stylist that Nadal has been cast in the role of the grinder, Hephaestus to Federer’s Apollo. The contrast is entirely too facile. There’s artistry in Nadal’s capacity to go from defense to offense in a single stroke, and in his ability to generate ungodly spin on shots whose angles defy the laws of geometry. “The nuances aren’t past him,” says Andy Roddick. John McEnroe calls Nadal the most skilled net player this side of Federer.
“Who’s the Greatest Clay-Courter of Them All — Chris Evert or Rafa Nadal?” (Steve Tignor, Tennis magazine, May 2017)
It’s difficult to compare the women’s game with the men’s game, but we like to do it anyway. While Rafa continues to dominate on clay on the men’s tour, Tignor reminds us that Chris Evert also dominated on dirt.
At 30, Nadal is still going strong. He could be on tour for another five years and end up winning a dozen French Opens. Even so, it won’t be easy for him to leave Evert behind. The American won seven French Open titles, the women’s record. But that still isn’t indicative of what she did on the surface.
Two of the world’s best tennis players meet for a match 1912, just weeks after they both survived the Titanic disaster:
Now consider a scenario in which two of the survivors were dashing, world-class athletes in the same sport, destined to face off against each other many times. The hype surrounding those matches would be immeasurable. After their playing careers, the two men would be bracketed together—the Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomson of the sea—perhaps cowriting a book, then hitting the speaking circuit.
A century ago the culture was different. Look-at-me sensibilities were considered gauche. Many passengers lucky enough to have ended up on the Carpathia struggled with what today would be diagnosed as post—traumatic stress disorder. This was especially true for the men, whose survival was seen by some as evidence of cowardice.
It’s been two autumns now since Russell last played a down of organized football. This fall, when capable quarterbacks have been in high demand and short supply, he’s gotten no calls. The Raiders lost his successor, Jason Campbell, to a broken collarbone on Oct. 16, and last week they acquired 31-year-old Carson Palmer, who had chosen to retire rather than play for the Bengals. Oakland sent Cincinnati a first-round pick in 2012 and a conditional second-rounder in ‘13, and will pay him a guaranteed $7.5 million over the next two years. Yet Russell still counts himself among Mobile’s legion of unemployed.