Wednesday, June 8, 2011

News From The Top

by Savannah

It's not often that The Monogram, aka Roger Federer, gets called out for his shit but apparently his last minute withdrawal from Halle- I think his people notified the tournament director at 8p Monday June 6 - has totally pissed the TD off.
Ralph Weber leaves no doubt about how he feels.

The world No. 3 traditionally uses the grass-court event in Halle, Germany, as his warm-up tournament for Wimbledon, and last year signed a lifetime deal with the event.

However, Federer withdrew late on Monday, citing a groin strain. The five-time winner is a big draw for crowds in Halle and Ralph Weber is unhappy with Federer's conduct

"For me this is a personal disappointment that I cannot describe at the moment. I am stunned," Weber said. "Our plans for the past year have been nearly exclusively with Roger appearing.

"And he never gave us any indication that he had health problems. I clearly expressed my disappointment to his management. We expect that this lifetime contract will be fulfilled in person - and not just a declaration of intent."

I was taught by my mother that "Your Word is your bond". Is the TD calling bullshit to Federer's reason for withdrawal? Did the Monogram go to Halle and do some publicity as the tours ask top players to do when they withdraw from a tournament? It's just interesting to see someone call the hypebeast out.
Then there's the nasty and rather mean spirited "interview" by one Ms Lynn Barber of Rafael Nadal for the Times of London. Ms Barber is known for her acerbic approach and it may appeal to some. I don't mind a hard hitting interview. An interview is supposed to let the interviewee reveal his or herself by answering a series of questions aimed to solicit the worldview or opinions of the person being interviewed. Ms Barber seems to have been in "gotcha" mode from the start.

If anyone else tells me what a lovely lad Rafael Nadal is, I shall scream. He is not a lad, he has just turned 25, which is admittedly young, but he is in his ninth year on the professional tennis circuit, has won nine Grand Slam titles and is worth at least £68m. And I didn’t find him lovely at all. When I finally met him in his hotel suite in Rome (he was playing the Rome Masters), he was lying on a massage table with his flies undone affording me a good view of his Armani underpants — Armani being one of his many sponsors, natch.

No doubt at this point all his millions of fans will start screaming with jealousy and resolving to kill me, but honestly, kiddos, it was a bit rude. He just lay there glowering at me while I perched awkwardly on a nearby table until eventually his PR, Benito Perez-Barbadillo, fetched me a chair. Benito remained in the background and whenever Nadal didn’t like a question (which was pretty much every time I asked one) he asked Benito to “translate”, which meant they conferred in Spanish till the PR delivered some smooth PR-y answer. Nadal’s command of English seemed highly variable but never great.

Everyone kept telling me that Rafa was so tired and had had a bad day. But then I was so tired and had had a bad day too, traipsing round the boiling Foro Italico stadium, surviving on bottled water, watching his boring match, waiting for his press conference, then hanging about with mobs of screaming fans waiting for him to emerge from the players’ entrance.

He eventually came out with a posse of security men, signed a few autographs, and was whisked off in his car. I was told to follow and meet him at his hotel, which turned out to be some characterless sports/conference complex miles outside Rome — it could have been in Croydon. His bad day only consisted of playing one short tennis match and signing a few autographs, which I thought was what tennis players were paid to do.


Anyway, back to the interview. Since I had such an unfettered view of his underpants, I decided to ask about them. Frankly, I’m amazed any underwear company should want to sponsor Nadal, given that his on-court behaviour always screams “My pants are killing me!” He can’t go five minutes without fiddling with them; they seem to get sucked into his buttocks and then he has to pull them out. I remember the first time I saw him at Wimbledon thinking: “Gosh, he’s supposed to earn millions… you’d think he could afford some decent underwear by now.”

Why is he always fiddling with his underwear? ‘That is something I am doing all my career, something that I cannot control’

I asked whether his contract stipulated that he should wear Armani underwear on court and he said: “I don’t have to but I am very happy to wear Armani because their underwear is fantastic.”

Then why is he always fiddling with it? “That is something I am doing all my career, something that I cannot control.” Has he ever tried to stop? “It is difficult for me because it bothers me all the time, and I play with different underwears — long, short — but it is impossible to stop.”

Perhaps it’s just another of those Rafa rituals that all his fans adore. Every time he comes on court, he waves at the crowd, sits down, gets his water bottles out of his bag, takes a sip from each, then carefully lines them up so that their labels all face precisely the same way.

It takes a long time and his opponent is meanwhile standing by the net, waiting for the coin toss, getting quite irritated, I imagine. Eventually, when Rafa has faffed and fiddled enough, he leaps to his feet and does a sort of Superman swoop across the court and starts jumping up and down in his opponent’s face while the umpire tosses his coin. Then he races to the baseline as if he’s dying to start the match and his opponent has been unfairly delaying things. The fans love it. What can I say?
I asked if he suffered from OCD, but of course this required translation and much conferring with his PR and produced the eventual answer: “It is something you start to do that is like a routine. When I do these things it means I am focused, I am competing — it’s something I don’t need to do but when I do it, it means I’m focused.” Does he have other rituals, perhaps in the locker room, before the match? “I always have a cold shower.” Any particular rituals before he goes to sleep? “No. I have to have the TV or computer on, but I turn it off if I wake up. What I normally do is have dinner, do some work with Rafael, my physio, then sleep.” Gripping stuff.
I asked if his history of knee injuries meant he would be more crippled when he is 50 than someone who had never played tennis. He said: “For sure. When you play 11 months of the year, mostly on hard courts, that’s what happens, yes.” So, it’s a hard life, and a very, very unnatural one. The players live inside a bubble surrounded by these great phalanxes of middle-aged minders, big-bellied habitués of the hospitality tent who don’t seem to have anything much to do except talk on their mobiles. If required to do so by a journalist like me, they will effuse about their “boy” and what a lovely lad he is, and how he loves his football and his fishing and is so close to his family, etc, etc, wheeling out their tired old stereotype of what a lovely lad consists of, and you think, hang on, your “boy” could eat 10 of you for breakfast — why do you talk so patronisingly about him?

And why do you find it so remarkable that he is still close to his family and still sees his old friends? Presumably because you’re the sort of sleazeball who dropped your old friends and family the minute you moved up in the world.

One journalist found it incredible that Rafa still had the same mobile phone a year after winning Wimbledon that he had the year before. Rafa (good man) said it was a perfectly good phone, it worked, why change it? But the journalist seemed to take this as evidence of an almost saintly degree of unworldliness, right up there with the Dalai Lama.
Anyway, I asked if he was going to marry The Girlfriend and he said flatly, No.

Me: “No??!!??!!”

Rafa: “Not now, no. I don’t have any plans in that way.”

Me: “Do you mean you’ve split up?”

Rafa: “No. I don’t talk about the girlfriend in public, but I have the same girlfriend since many years.”

Me: “When do you meet?”

Rafa: “Her house is very close to my house, so when I am in Majorca I see her, and when she has holidays sometimes she comes to the tournaments, but she cannot follow the tour around because she has to do her work. [She works for a big insurance company.] She has her life and I have my life.”

Me: “Do you think she’ll wait for you? To get married when you finish tennis?”

Rafa: “I didn’t ask her to.”

Me: “But if you only see her — what? — 30 days a year, it can’t be a very fulfilling relationship?”

Nadal, for the first time in our interview, turns his full attention on me, a laser stare, and for a second I can imagine what it must be like to stand on the baseline waiting to receive his serve.

“But do you care about my relationship?”

Well, no, I have to admit, as the ace whizzes past me, of course I don’t give a toss about his relationship, I’m just trying to interview him. Somehow this breaks the tension, and we both laugh.

Rafa: “I understand your point, but I never talk about my girlfriend. I have a fantastic relationship with her, we understand each other. It is not a problem for her if I travel every week, and for me not a problem if, when I am in Majorca, she has to work all day.”

Me: “Do you talk on the phone though?”

Rafa: “No. When I am in a tournament I have to concentrate. Sure, I talk every day with her.”

Me: “I’m confused now.”

Rafa: “Forget about my girlfriend.”

Me: “Do you call your mother every day?”

Rafa: “Yes. My mother, my sister, my father, everybody.”

I am confused.

I can only record that there was a big difference in the enthusiasm with which he said he phoned his mother and sister every day, and whatever he was saying, or not saying, about his girlfriend. I’ll be pretty amazed if he ever marries her, though.

I think you get the idea. The good people at NadalNews posted the entire interview on their site. To read it at the source you need to be a paid subscriber

As I read it I knew that the woman doing the "interview" was "of a certain age". Sure enough she was born in 1944. She has also had a "difficult" life which is detailed in her Wikipedia profile. I'm sure sports figures will be lining up to have a sit down with her.

I think most of my readers are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions about the tone and point of view of this piece and don't need me to spell it out.
Then there is Jarmila "Jarka" Gajdosova formerly Jarmila Groth. Jarmila suffered what was apparently a painful split from her husband Australian player Sam Groth and at 24 finds herself back in the game.
Some are calling her out for posting pictures like the ones above on her Twitter account. They also imply that she's out to get Thomaz Bellucci, the player from Brazil. Did I mention she's 24? Did I mention Bellucci is 24? Are they both adults? I don't see why some got their drawers tight about this. Then again maybe I do. Both Jarka and Thomaz are free to follow their libido's wherever they go. It's really none of our business.

There is one thing I should mention. The ATP issued a lifetime ban for match fixing to Austria's Daniel Koellerer. This happened during the first week of the French Open. Three instances were cited. Koellerer who was known as "Crazy Dani" was a fixture on the Challenger circuit. Knowing how the ATP rolls for them to issue a lifetime ban and a fine means Crazy Dani was caught red handed so to speak. Good work.


vw said...

Now that clay season is over, I don't know what I'm going to do. At least grass is short. Anyone else feel the same?

Savannah said...

I really miss it when it's over. It takes time but I get used to it. I just wish they hadn't sped up the clay this year.