Tennis Prose



Facing Rafa Nadal

“Facing Nadal” takes an inside look at one of the most dynamic champions in modern tennis, the twelve-time French Open champion, Olympic gold medalist, Davis Cup champion, Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal.   The book is composed of interviews with over 50 players who discuss their memories and experiences of what it’s like to compete against the former ATP Number One Rafael Nadal.   

Over 50 ATP players – including Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Pat Cash, Stefan Kozlov, Francis Tiafoe, Radek Stepanek, Ivan Ljubicic, James Blake, Marat Safin, etc. – describe in detail the actual experience of playing tennis against Rafael Nadal. Also, this book includes Nadal interviews, media, celebrity, fan, insider perspectives.                                        

About The AuthorMark Scoop Malinowski has written about tennis for ATPWORLDTOUR.COM, TENNIS Magazine, Tennis Week,, Ace Magazine of U.K. Australian Tennis Magazine,, Tennis View, Australian Open Official Program,, New York Tennis, Totally Tennis Magazine, The Daily Record of Morris County, N.J.,, Florida Tennis, South Asia Life & Times Magazine. His previous tennis books were “Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew”, “Facing Hewitt”,  and “Facing Federer: Symposium of a Champion.”  

Book Excerpt…  

Novak Djokovic:  “I think challenges, big challenges that I had in my career changed me in a positive way as a player. Because of Rafa and because of Roger I am what I am today, you know, in a way, because when I reached the No. 3 in the world and won the first Grand Slam title in 2008, the years after that I struggled a lot mentally to overcome the doubts that I had. And all the big matches I lost to these guys was consistent but not winning the big matches, and then they made me understand what I need to do on the court. I worked hard, and, you know, it’s paying dividends, I guess, in the last couple of years. You know, obviously it’s not easy when you’re playing a top rival at the finals of any tournament, but if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, you know. You have to win against the best players in the world. That’s the biggest challenge you can have.”   


Pat Cash: “I played Nadal when he was a few weeks from being fifteen. In Mallorca. Boris Becker pulled out of the senior match and so they asked me last minute to come in and play, and play the world junior champion. And I said, ‘Yeah sure. I don’t mind playing. The show must go on.’ A bit of entertainment. I got a great photo of him, actually of us together. He played the same way. Obviously, he didn’t hit the ball as hard then. But he played the same intensity, top spin. I was kind of shocked by it all [smiles].” “As a young kid his age, it wasn’t as if it was something I couldn’t handle but, I mean, the crowd was quite amused when he won the first set against me. And I was sort of being nice to him, Okay, no more Mister Nice Guy. Because this kid is really good. He’ll beat me if he can. It’s not sort of like a fun game. He won the first set and the crowd thought it was hilarious. They were roaring for us. So we were on the court together, so I started chip-charging, serve and volley, that sort of stuff, won the second set pretty comfortably – 6-2 I think. The ten-point tiebreaker. As I said before, 99% of the kids would have choked. And fallen apart. And he was just tearing everywhere. All over the court. And hit some unbelievable winners. And you now, then I was 38, I was still hitting the ball pretty well.” 

“And so I lost that match. I don’t remember what the score was. It was close. He didn’t get nervous or anything. Obviously, he didn’t have anything to lose. But I came in the locker room after, the guys sort of looked at me, just to look at my reaction. And my reaction was losing to a fourteen year old. And I just sort of looked at them, Wow, this kid is something else…”  


Hugo Armando: “I played him in Stuttgart. He’s the toughest competitor I ever faced. It’s just something I’ve never seen before. It’s just everything about him. His energy, just everything. Before walking on the court, the guy’s doing ten-foot sprints side to side, just non-stop. It was just unimaginable [smiles].”


Fernando Verdasco

Question: Memories of your big win vs. Nadal in Madrid? 

Fernando Verdasco: “The memories are great. My first victory as a professional against Rafa. It took my best play as possible to beat him. Against a player like him, losing so many times and winning in Madrid, my hometown, with all my family and friends in front of me…it was like impossible to be better than that.”

Question: Before that you came close many times…

Fernando Verdasco: “Yeah many times [smiles].”

Question: Did you do anything different in Madrid? What was it that finally got you over the hump?

Fernando Verdasco: “I don’t even know [smiles]. I think I was even laughing because it was one of the times that I wasn’t even close to winning. I was 5-2 down in the third. He was serving, then all of a sudden, everything changed so quick. It went from 5-2 on his serve and I won 7-5. So it was like unbelievable change in that match. And many times I had like a break up in the third or like match point and I finally lost. So I don’t even know why [smiles]…”   


Stefan Kozlov hit with Nadal at the 2014 Sony Open in Key Biscayne: “It was one of the craziest feelings I ever had, to be honest. The first couple of minutes I was trying to move my feet as fast as I could and swing as hard as I could. And the balls were just slicing off my string because of the spin. I don’t know if everyone felt that before or it’s just me. The first five minutes there with Rafa were one of a kind. Then after that, the second day I hit with him, I actually had one of the best practices of my life. So I got used to his ball after one day.” 

Question: Rafa asked you back for the second day? 

Stefan Kozlov: “Yeah, we hit for like four days.” 

Question: Lasting memory of this experience? 

Stefan Kozlov: “It took me like two hours to get into the stadium. I was waiting at the stadium entrance for two hours because they (security) didn’t know I was hitting with Rafa. I told them I was hitting with Rafa and they didn’t let me in. It was pretty crazy. Toni (Nadal) came down and helped me. Two hours we waited.” 


Radek Stepanek:  “It’s always a standout moment to play Nadal. We played seven, eight or nine times, maybe more. Always challenging, very much so. He’s the biggest fighter on the Tour I have ever seen. Playing him, for me, is always good because he plays from the back of the court. I will try to create the play, not giving him much. I few matches I got really close, but never beat him. Yet. So I hope I will have the chance to play him still a few times.”

Question:  Your first memory of Rafael Nadal? 

Radek Stepanek:  “My first memory was we played in Davis Cup, deciding match in Czech Republic at two-all. For me, that moment was very disappointing loss because of, you know, playing as a team competition, which means a lot to me. So this was for me a toughdefeat.” 

Question:  Do you enjoy to play Rafa, or is it too difficult to be enjoyable? 

Radek Stepanek:  “Since I never beat him, it’s difficult to play him. For everybody I think. I’m not the exception, we are all trying to beat him.” 

Question:  Lasting memory of Rafa on or off court, that maybe captures his essence? 

Radek Stepanek:  “For me, a great fighter on the court. Biggest fighter ever. Great person also, off the court. He’s very respectful to other guys, to all the players. He’s a really true champion.”

Facing Nadal is available at amazon for $9.99.

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  • JohnnyTD · September 29, 2020 at 12:21 am

    Rafa’s new Roland Garros statue is awesome 🐂

  • Doug Day · September 29, 2020 at 6:20 am

    Scoop what is it with all these Italians tearing it up suddenly? Coaching & juniors programs? Since Cecchinato its fortissimo talent arriving almost monthly.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 29, 2020 at 7:37 am

    Doug, Italy has always produced junior talent. I think now there are many more atp futures and challenger opportunities in italy and so italians are earning more ranking points and getting the valuable experience.



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