The Violence of Gentlemen

Everybody knows playing Rafa on clay is like going into a meat grinder. He is capable of wearing a player down, chewing him up and spitting him out with his signature brand of tennis. This is why Rafael Nadal is imminently watchable; watching him play tennis on clay (and any other surface) is like watching Beyonce on stage. He sheds the skin of a shy, soft-spoken Mallorcan and steps out in battle mode, utilizing that wicked, looping forehand and unrelenting athleticism to grind his opponents into the dust. Rafa is also capable of chasing almost everything down, and able to change from defense into offense in the blink of an eye. More than his forehand, more than his legs, he also has a will of iron, seemingly unable to just give a single point up, even if it’s the first point in the first match of a throwaway ATP event. To see Rafa at work is to see a fearsome gladiator with a racquet for a broadsword; he isn’t referred to as the Raging Bull for nothing. He has owned everyone at Roland Garros nine times.

Enter Stan. Long under the great shadow cast by Roger Federer, he’s clawed his way into the light with his own brand of violent, no-holds-barred tennis, hitting his way to three Grand Slam titles, making him the only men’s player to date never to lose a Grand Slam final he’s been in. Like Rafa, his athleticism is fearsome – Stan can go toe to toe with the fittest players of the day, sometimes outlasting them. And when he unleashes the blazing backhand he is known for, the reason he’s called the Stanimal is suddenly quite clear. On a good day, with a clear mind and his confidence high, the only sane thing to do is to steer clear of Stanislas Wawrinka and the cannonballs blasting off his racquet.

Raging Bull vs. The Stanimal. Forehand vs. Backhand. Will Rafa prevail and get La Decima? Will Stan triumph and  change the men’s tennis conversation from Big Four to Big Five?  Either way, it’s going to be a bruising Sunday morning on the red clay. I’m off to find a pub with great wings and a giant monitor.

Read the preview over on

For King and Country

For King and Country

Someone wasn’t just at Rio to hold the flag.

Anyone who knows me knows I only have one sport I reserve energy for – tennis. The glorious, solitary sport of kings, while ostensibly for gentlemen, is actually more of a gladiatorial contest of skill, mental fortitude, strength and endurance.

Anyone who also knows me would know this piece of news has thrilled me no end – Rafael Nadal, on a podium, winning, clutching a gold medal? My weekend has just gone from blah to awesome.

Rafael Nadal, Olympic gold medalist in singles, winner of two Wimbledon titles, two US Opens, one Australian Open and, most famously, an unprecedented nine French Open titles, just added  another Olympic gold medal to his bulging closet of  tennis trophies – this time in doubles. This makes him only one of two men who have an Olympic gold medal in both singles and doubles tennis. Clearly his absence at the 2012 London Olympics,  was a lingering sour note and he’s been making up for it in Rio this year. Each time you think Rafa’s done winning, he just goes and does it again. All things considered, this is a pretty stellar warm-up for the US Open at the end of this month, if he’s making an appearance.

Even a surface Nadal fan knows that he never plays half as well as he does when he’s called upon to represent Spain, and he’s at his best when he’s part of a team. (Ironic, since he’s made his name as a singles titlist). Doubles may not come as naturally to him as being alone on court, but the chemistry with doubles specialist Marc Lopez at this year’s Olympics  couldn’t seem to be denied.

After a disappointing, injury-plagued year and a half where he’s been forced to withdraw from the French Open and Wimbledon because of his wrist, winning again is probably the most positive thing that could happen to him.. Best of all, this win wasn’t for himself, it was for his country. Vamos Marc! Vamos Rafa!