Nadal’s Rise Comes As No Shock

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – As Rafael Nadal sat on the podium with his well-earned US Open Men’s Singles Trophy, a smile came over his face when he was asked the last English question of the night.

You see, Nadal is a huge soccer fan, and since he doesn’t play the sport, but rather watches it as a fan, the little kid in him came out when asked if Spain’s World Cup win was more special to him than any of his nine Grand Slam Titles.

“So when Spain won the World Cup was amazing,” said Nadal, who completed the career Grand Slam by beating Novak Djokovic, 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2. “ I was crying like ‑‑ like today, maybe, no?  But is different feelings, but at the same time every feeling is unbelievable.  But is very difficult to compare.  Football is unbelievable.  You know how big is football in Spain, or maybe you don’t know, but we deserved that title.”

Frankly, Nadal deserved today’s title as much as his countrymen’s soccer crown. By becoming only the seventh player in history to achieve wins in all four majors, his rise to the top is complete.

Only a short time ago, the 24 year-old was considered a clay-court specialist, someone who could win Roland Garros every single year, but couldn’t do much in any of the other surfaces. Rather, that was Roger Federer’s turf. Sure he made the finals on the grass courts at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007, but he couldn’t get over the edge with the Maestro.

Then something happened in 2008. Nadal started to catch up with the other surfaces. He reached the semis in Australia and a month after his fourth consecutive French Open win, he played a classic at Wimbledon, finally beating Federer in a five set classic 6-4 6-4 7-6 7-6 9-7 to break the barrier.

“In Wimbledon, is true I have to adjust a lot my game to play in Wimbledon,” he said. “But in my opinion, play in Wimbledon for me always wasn’t that bad, because one of the most important things on Wimbledon is the movements, and I think my movements are good to play well in that surface.”

Nadal always relied upon his speed. It allowed him to catch up to balls, but he lacked the big serve which he needed to dominate on the hard courts. Yet in 2009, he won Australia and many though that it would be the year of the Spanish bull.

Unfortunately though, it didn’t turn out that way.

“Last year I had a difficult year,” he said. “Well, I had a great year because when you win a Grand Slam and three Masters 1000 you have a great year, but is true the second half of the year was very difficult for me, have some personal problems, home, and after, I have a lot of injuries, here the abdominal, before, the knees.

“So, yeah, wasn’t an easy year.  But is, at the same time, for sure, is not good have these moments but live these moments but at the same time, yes, because after that, when you come back, you are ready to (through translation) value how difficult is win titles and how difficult is be there all the time, no?”

Even coming into 2010, Nadal didn’t seem the same when he came back from his injuries with Quarterfinal loss in Australia.

But he remained positive and as he got healthy, something very interesting happened. As Rafa rose, Federer may have lost a bit of a step at age 28, allowing his Spanish rival to take his customary French Open title, and then Wimbledon.

But the US Open remained the one missing piece to the puzzle.

So coming in, Nadal made changes to his grip on his serve, giving him an extra 12 to 15 miles per hour on his shot and a true determination to make this his year at the Open.

“So always when you are playing well and when you are in the right moment with big confidence, seems like you improved a lot,” he said.  “But, you know, there are moments when you are not playing that good, when you lose your confidence, you lose matches, and seems like you are not playing that good and you forgot to play tennis.  It’s not like this, and it is not like this I improved a lot since 2009.  I think I improved my tennis a little bit but is not a radical change, no?

“Sure, to win in here in the US Open I think is the more difficult tournament for me to play, more difficult conditions to adapt, to adjust my game on this court, for the balls, for the court, for everything, no?”

Yes it was. And now that he achieved it, Nadal has the enviable task of being on top, something Federer did with grace for almost a decade. But, something says this talented young man will pass that test with flying colors as well. Because he specialty is still clay, and Paris is home to five of his nine Grand Slam title, he still will be able to dominate the competition there, especially now with his new found skills on other surfaces.

And even though, he still has a ways to go to catch Federer’s 16 major titles – and counting – with a little luck for his health, Nadal could become the greatest of all time before everything is said and done.

Right now, though, the Spaniard is just looking ahead to the rest of the season and one other goal he has for his career.

“But my goal remains for me that the Masters Cup is the big, yeah, probably the last big tournament that I didn’t win,” he said.  “That’s true is the most difficult title for me to win, because we play it in indoor, and when indoor, indoor very quick surface, so going to be always very difficult if we don’t change that.

“But at the same time is a challenge for me to keep improving to have the chance to play well there and to have the chance to win.  So that’s what I going to try this year.  For me right now the next goal is try to finish the season much better than what I did in other years.”

Spoken like a true champion.

Hall of Fame Classic Exhibition to Feature 2010 Inductees Gigi Fernandez, Natasha Zvereva, Mark Woodforde and Owen Davidson

NEWPORT, R.I., July 6, 2010 – Inconjunction with the 2010 Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. will host an exhibition match featuring the newest inductees to the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 11 at 10:00 a.m. The Hall of Fame Classic will feature the highly successful women’s duo of Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, as well as Australian doubles specialists Mark Woodforde and Owen Davidson. Tickets for the exhibition are $20 and are available now on tennisfame.com or by calling 866-914-3263 (FAME). In addition, tickets may be purchased at the ticket window on the day of the match. Box seat tickets for the finals of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Sunday will be valid for the exhibition match as well.

The day offers a full day of action on Center Court, as the match will be followed by the finals of the Hall of Fame Doubles Challenge, a first of its kind amateur event that will feature local players from area tennis clubs competing on Center Court. That tournament will be followed by the finals of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, an ATP World Tour event being contested July 5 – 11.

“An exhibition match featuring the newest inductees to the International Tennis Hall of Fame on the historic grass courts that have hosted the game’s biggest stars since 1881 is a great way to top off induction weekend,” said Mark L. Stenning, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. “The match up of these legendary doubles stars playing together offers a once-in-a-lifetime match that tennis fans won’t want to miss.”

The exhibition will be a highlight of 2010 Hall of Fame Weekend, during which these four players will be among the seven newest inductees to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Since 1955, the game’s greatest champions, innovators, and contributors have been awarded induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which is the highest honor available in tennis. When the Class of 2010 is inducted on July 10, the Hall of Fame will have recognized a total of 218 individuals from 19 countries.

Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva amassed an impressive 14 Grand Slam titles together. Their passion and skill on the court was remarkable, and it is hard to find a pair who showed as much enthusiasm and love for the game as these two outstanding players. They hold the second-longest Grand Slam doubles title streak in Open Era history, winning six in a row from the French Open in 1992 through Wimbledon in 1993. The pair also completed a non-calendar year Grand Slam that ran from the 1992 French Open to the 1993 Australian Open.  Fernandez and Zvereva were named the WTA Doubles Team of the Year four times.

Mark Woodforde is one half of the legendary Australian duo known as “The Woodies.” The partnership of Todd Woodbridge and Woodforde, produced 61 ATP doubles titles, including 11 majors. The Woodies won two Olympic medals – doubles gold (1996) and doubles silver (2000). The duo was named ATP Top Doubles Team five times between 1992 and 2000. Mark Woodforde captured 67 doubles titles, four singles titles and five mixed doubles crowns. He held down the No. 1 doubles ranking for 84 weeks during his career, and held a singles ranking within the top 20.

Owen Davidson is a member of an elite group of just 13 people in tennis history who have won a calendar-year Grand Slam, which he earned in 1967, partnered with Lesley Turner Bowrey and Billie Jean King.  His 15-year career is highlighted by 12 Grand Slam titles.

For additional information about the Hall of Fame Classic, please call 866-914-FAME(3263) or visit tennisfame.com.
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About the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum
Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines, and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum was recognized as the sport’s official Hall of Fame in 1986 by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis. For information on the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum and its programs, call 401-849-3990 or visit us online at www.tennisfame.com.