Tennis Prose



Beauty Killed The Beast and Booing Killed The Bull

There’s an old saying in the sport of prizefighting that “Boxing is 90% bluffs.” The great champion Bernard Hopkins also said, “If you can bluff em you can beat em.”

In last night’s Australian Open final, it appeared that Rafael Nadal tried to bluff Stan Wawrinka, and court observers around the world. After falling into a set and a break hole to a man he’s never lost a set to, Nadal tried to change the flow. He was getting blasted off the court by Wawrinka and suddenly he showed back pain, bending over and grimacing in discomfort. Subsequently, Nadal started serving much slower, changing the rhythm of the match completely. The ATP world number one called for a medical timeout and left the court for six minutes – trotting off the court in a light jog – with no signs of any back pain.

Wawrinka was not believing the theatrics and was annoyed that the chair umpire Carlos Ramos permitted Nadal to leave the court and wanted an explanation during a fairly heated conversation. When Nadal finally reappeared back on the court he came out shirtless and astonishingly was greeted by boos.

The ESPN commentators were shocked by the disrespectful, dramatic reaction of the packed house inside Rod Laver Arena. As were millions of viewers worldwide. To see a great champion like Rafael Nadal booed was jarringly unfamilar. I can’t ever recall Agassi, Federer, Sampras, Lendl, Edberg, Evert ever getting booed like that. (Oh wait, I think Agassi got booed in the Davis Cup match in Argentina when he caught Martin Jaite’s serve.)

But no one was more hurt by the booing than the target himself, Nadal. He was a shell of himself after being booed, and wore a look of resignation for the rest of the match. Though he tried hard at times, there were no fist pumps or Vamoses, no fire or hint of spirit in his eye. Nadal was a ghost of himself after getting booed.

Nadal was oddly stoic without any positive emotions even after he earned a break early in the third and after he won the fourth set. Also after another key break to level the fourth set, Nadal again had no physical or emotional animation except for looking down dejectedly with more of a hint of guilt than pride.

It was as if the match was determined at the instant the crowd booed him. Nadal didn’t seem to want to win the match after getting booed. Even his box throughout the match had an embarrassed, almost shamed expression on their faces. They knew their man was traumatized by those devastating boos.

Wawrinka finally won the match by serving it out 6-3 in the fourth but his winning reaction was strange too, similar to Mauresmo’s win over Henin for her first major title win also in Melbourne after Henin retired because of supposed stomach pain. Although similar to last night, Henin was getting blasted off the court by Mauresmo who was playing the finest tennis, by far, in her life.

But full credit to Stan Wawrinka for playing magical tennis all week, defeating his two arch-nemisises Djokovic and Nadal, two players he had never beaten before. Wawrinka was simply not going to be denied last night, he could have beaten any man from tennis history in this Australian Open final. That’s how well he was playing this week.

Hat’s off to Stan Wawrinka for finally shining like a champion after such a long journey through so many adversities and heartbreaks. And special recognition and congratulations to Rafa Nadal, the greatest player in tennis history, who accepted with grace and class the painful truth that this was simply not part of his destiny to win the 2014 Australian Open.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · January 29, 2014 at 8:52 am

    This just in: Rafa’s back “injury” will not force him to miss any tournaments.

  • Abe Froman · January 29, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Scoop, we’re getting off tangent here from tennis but yes, kubrick’s films are amazing at face value and much more intertwined with other messages below the skin. a lot of his films have references to the illuminati and supposedly he was murdered by them after finishing eyes wide shut which on the surface was a marriage / infidelity drama film but beneath the lights and shadows it was a subtle expose of the illuminati’s hush hush gatherings, etc…..what town did his sister live in jersey ? (i’m a jersey boy myself)

  • Mitch · January 29, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    It’s male pattern baldness Dan, you’d have to look at the men on his mother’s side of the family. Didn’t Rafa take a medical timeout in the US Open final that he lost to Djokovic, or was it Novak who took it? I forget.

  • Dan markowitz · January 29, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    It might be male pattern baldness or it could be something else. Rafa always seemed to have a good head of hair. I think Djoko was the one who took the injury timeout in their USO finals. Look, why was that Spanish doctor linked to steroids list not made public? To protect who? David Ferrer?

  • Gaurang · January 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Mitch — I found a report on that 2011 US Open Finals match —

    Djokovic won 6-2 6-4 6-7 6-1

    The report says Djokovic required back treatment at the beginning of the fourth. Well, Djokovic may have gotten worried after Nadal won the 3rd set and was looking good — and so probably took a (fake) medical break just to break the momentum.

    Now that I think of it — most medical timeouts happen when the player is loosing. When he is being outplayed. In some cases, its genuine — that he perhaps he was being outplayed because he was not well — but I would say in the majority of the cases, the intention is just to break the momentum.

    After staunchly arguing against Scoop — I think I am having second thoughts here. I hadnt thought a lot about this before — but it may be true that most injuries, esp the ones that are reported when the player has been loosing for the past set or two — are fake.

  • Gaurang · January 29, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Dan, personally I wouldnt infer that a person takes drugs based on his hair patterns.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 29, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    I’m not factoring it totally on Rafa losing his hair. But when you start adding up factors, I think there is certainly a strong case he might be taking steroids.

    1. The guy is built unlike any other tennis player we’ve ever seen in terms of bulk.

    2. He comes from a culture where doping is part of the sporting scene, i.e., cycling, I don’t know about soccer, but Dr. Fuentes.

    3. It is a closed society, meaning, we found out who was on Tony Bosch’s list of dopers, but we never found out who was on Dr. Fuentes’ list.

    4. Rafa has incurred a lot of injuries at a relatively young age and instead of seeing his body and condition deteriorate, he seems to come back stronger.

    5. He’s the only major player who has skipped slam events with the possible reason of missing drug tests at these events.

    6. He’s the only top guy who has kept his coaching in-family. No outsiders, no secrets revealed?

    7. Finally, he’s losing his hair suddenly when he seemed pretty hirsute when he was younger.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 29, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Gaurang has seen the light ) Like John McEnroe once said on the air, “It’s been scietifically proven that everything hurts more when you’re losing.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 29, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Marcelo Rios quote from my book: “I know that if Nandrolone was found on Agassi, they would not disclose it. He is a very prominent, very popular player and if he were to fall, the world of tennis would fall with him.”

    Jonas Bjorkman made a quote in ’98 that appreared in Sports Illustrated which stated: “I have heard of cases of the ITF covering up positive tests.” Bjorkman was not sued for making this quote.

    Connect the dots…

  • EddietheEagle · January 29, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    I pretty much go along with everything Scoop writes in his blog post. The impression I gained though was something amiss with Nadal from the start. His court demeanour, movement, error count, copious sweating (compared with Wawrinka) pointed to something not quite right. Whether it was shellshock or something more sinister is impossible to say.

    He messed up big time leaving the court. You don’t need to do that to have your back diagnosed. The crowd sussed out the bluff for what it was. Also, what did he take from his bag just before he trotted off?
    He was holding it close in the palm of his hand. Pills? Surely, if something’s awry with your body, you wait for a doctor to tell you exactly what to take?

    I think you are spot on with your remarks about the emotional effect the booing had on Nadal. The effect was monumental. I agree that he crumpled emotionally at that point and never really made it back. Stan made matters worse for himself and only just managed to limp over the line. Two performance of near-Shakespearean stature if you ask me.

  • Gaurang · January 30, 2014 at 1:11 am

    Dan — the arguments you make to suggest Nadal might be taking drugs are very superficial to say the least. You can practically make such arguments for every player.

    I think we should let ATP/ITF find out which players take drugs instead of us guessing. I mean, they do drug tests ALL the time. They dont warn players — “ok, we are going to do tests at the US Open” — so Nadal can drop out of the US Open due to knee injury. AFAIK, they probably do drug tests in ALL the major events, isnt it?

    Regarding the other point that Scoop mentioned — that ITF may hide positive results — even if thats true — I dont think they will consistently hide it for a particular player. I mean, maybe they will hide ONE positive result. But if that player is coming out positive in every tournament, I dont think they will hide it.

  • Bryan · January 30, 2014 at 1:23 am

    I don’t know if Nadal had a legit injury. He seemed in pain and if he wasn’t the bizarre decline of serving speed to 78 mph was one helluva bluff.

    One thing I do know – Nadal’s injury was a lot more legit than Serena’s so-called back injury she cited in her post-game press conference after getting demolished by Ana. The sheep mainstream media gave her a pass for whatever reason.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 30, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Eddie; For people who have watched in excess of over a hundred Rafa matches like me, it’s pretty darn clear he fakes and exaggerates injuries and aches (on certain occasions) and uses them to stop matches and break the rhythm and momentum of the hot opponents. This match with Stan was exactly the same pattern of the methods Rafa has used in the past. But this time the crowd openly and boisterously booed him and that reaction was not expected or anticipated. It clearly through him for a loop. I believe Rafa is the kind of person who will go out of his way to try to make amends for this and be an even greater sport in the future. I say no way will he never play the fake injury card again while losing. Even if Uncle Toni gives him the signal to.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 30, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Bryan, the slow speeds were on purpose to try to show the disbelieving fans he truly was hurt. Once he played the injury card he had to keep playing it for the rest of the match to save face. It truly was a Shakespearean drama out there )

  • EddietheEagle · January 30, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Scoop, what’s wrong, let alone annoying, is that the regulation of pro-tennis actually provides for, encourages even, abuse of the medical timeout. We constantly see it with Rafa, and Djokovic too, but they are are only doing what they are allowed to within the rules. Rules which are open to such abuse ought to be changed, the sooner the better. I thought there was a basic rule of tennis that “play must be continuous”. What happened to that?

    On the subject of possible Nadal doping, his personal physician, Cotorro, happens to double as a doping control officer of the Spanish Tennis Federation. That’s a blatant conflict of interest. It’s circumstantial evidence like that, his support of Contador and so on, that add to the level of suspicion about him which in my view, is well-founded.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 30, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Eddie; At least Djokovic has curtailed his use of injuries and timeouts it was a lot worse in his early ATP years. I can’t think of the last time he did it in a big match which was offensive like Rafa’s vs. Stan. As far the doping, check this…Times could be a’changing……0KW1KC20140122

    The athlete biological passport will be fully effective at the elite level in tennis by September, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said on Wednesday. The passport, which uses blood tests to detect the likelihood of doping rather than testing for specific substances, came into operation in the final quarter of 2013 and covers around 50 of the world’s top players.

  • Gaurang · January 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Scoop the link to the Reuters articles appears to be broken..

  • Dan Markowitz · January 30, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Oh, that’s good. September when all the slams have already been played.

  • EddietheEagle · January 31, 2014 at 8:29 am

    All the dopers have been warned off by the ITF. That’s why the rankings are in a state of churn presently. The ITF blood passport is almost an irrelevance. It’s six years too late for one thing and there will still only be a couple of blood samples taken a year per player anyway. That provides scope for all kind of medical and legal Troicki/Cilic-style argument when the flag is waved. Contrast that with cycling where a rider might have fifteen samples taken over the course of a season. The way the ITF are doing it, it will take ten years to establish any normative data by which time a player will be safely sunbathing himself on a beach in the South of France counting his mega millions.

    A good indicator of tennis doping is that of younger players not breaking through. The average age of an ATP professional is rising. Career longevity is sustained by doping as players extend their twilight years. That’s a known risk factor in ped use. When you get notorious doping doctors hanging around the tennis scene like del Moral doping becomes a given.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 31, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Eddie, this topic fascinates me and you seem to know a good deal about it. Who is this Del Moral character, and who’s Nadal’s doctor who’s the ITF doctor on how to police dopers? Are you sure about those figures, only 2 blood tests a year for tennis players and 15 for cyclists?

    That’s a very good point you make about the longevity increasing in tennis players now. Look at a guy like David Ortiz, who’s 38 I believe, hitting like .700 in the World Series last year. I’m even suspicious of a guy like Haas who had a great year last year at 35 and now seems to have fallen off the charts. In your knowledge, does PED use maybe make the body so strong that you’re more prone to injury because you’re building the body through unnatural means?

  • Bryan · February 1, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    The biological passport may be late in coming but tennis is now the only major sport along with cycling doing it. So I’ll give credit to tennis for being more proactive than any of the major US sports.

    MLB, NFL and NBA are filled with roids ragers amid the weakest drug testing in sports. The NBA players union still won’t accept synthetic testosterone and EPO testing which are the drugs du jour over traditional steroids.

  • gustarhymes · February 2, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    At Dan,

    I never said Rafa’s injuries are from steroids causing his body to break down. that is what you said. Steroids actually prevent injury. Look at Lance Armstrong during his run. As I stated before, rafa getting injured more than other players, actually indicates he may not be using.

    Dan, you are correct that steroids causes hair loss. You are right about something for a change. However, if rafa or other players are using something, it is HGH, which does not cause hair loss becuase it is not testosterone derived. Is Andy Murray using steroids for the same reason? i see a bald spot coming coming there too. The genetics of hair loss are multifactorial, and even his mother’s side having thin hair may not explain it. I don’t

    Dan, you need to read about gluten and celiac disease. I can give you a short lecture after. Gluten “sensitivity” is a fad. Celiac disease is real and is a gastrointestinal problem, not a respiratory one. And, unlike you, I am qualified to say this. Djoker has somatization disorder; you can read about that too.

    I would be more suspicious of players who don’t get injured of steroids.

  • EddietheEagle · February 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Dan, don’t listen to me but rather listen to what those in the know know; like this man for example:_

    You have a very good anti-doping expert in the States, Don Catlin. He has positively ridiculed tennis. Your own Victor Conte Tweeted that doping in tennis is “likely rampant” due to the flimsy controls.

    Those are the people to listen to. Then just look around and draw your own conclusions. Do you trust those performances you see, as entirely genuine?

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