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Petzschner Unhappy With Nadal’s Medical Time Out

June 27, 2010

Wimbledon 2010: All eyes on Rafael Nadal's uncle after claims of illegal coaching

There’s been a fair bit of talk about the medical time out Rafael Nadal took in the fourth set in his five set match against Phillip Petzschner. No one has been more vocal about it than Petzschner himself. The lively German lost focus after Nadal took treatment for a leg injury and proceeded to squander his 2-1 set lead. He was quick to berate himself in his interview, saying he needs to work on his focus when disruptions happen in matches. But he also shed some light on Nadal’s time-out, and although careful not to say all out that Nadal used the time to break his opponent’s rhythm, he hinted strongly at it in his press conference. When asked outright if he thought gamesmanship had been used Petzschner replied:

“I cannot say this. You have to ask him what it was. But I didn’t feel any difference afterwards or before. So he was ‑‑ I thought he was moving great. I only could say if I would be injured like this once I would be happy. No, but I don’t know. Maybe he had something. Maybe it was just a clever part to take a timeout there.”

Pushed to elaborate further by the eager press, Petzschner gave a little more:

“I don’t assume that he didn’t had anything, that there was just a timeout for no reason. I mean, you know that he has problems with his knee all the time. I think he got treatment for his knee again. So I don’t assume that he just did to break my rhythm. But that’s what happened, and that’s mostly my fault. Yeah, that’s what I have to work on.”

All and all it was clear that whilst reluctant to accuse Nadal of gamesmanship he certainly believed that to be the case, even saying that he would ‘love’ to be injured like Nadal if that kind of movement is the result.

Petzschner has a point. Nadal took his time out before Petzschner was to serve, causing his muscles to cool and him to lose the momentum. He was broken immediately and was never the same player.

Nadal is known for playing mind games, despite his reputation as a thoroughly nice guy. Patrick McEnroe sums it up nicely in his new book, Harcourt Confidential.

Rafael Nadal, as nice a kid and good a sportsman as he is, gets into the mind games a bit, wittingly or not. He makes his opponents wait on him, not just between points (for which he gets criticized) but in the locker room and on the sidelines as well. When the tournament officials call Nadal’s match, he goes to take another piss, making his opponent stand there, waiting. When the umpire calls them out to the center of the court for the coin toss, Rafa will often stay in his chair, fiddling with towels or his bottles while the other guy walks right out— and has to wait.

Fans know half of this, they see Nadal taking his time before the coin toss and after time is called. They see him take time between points and whilst a few unhappy fans, (usually of his opponent), moan, hardly anything is said openly. This is because Nadal, as McEnroe said, is a nice guy and good sportsman. It’s just during the actual tennis he tends to leave those manners behind. It’s because of this that I am willing to agree with Petzschner and say that yes, Nadal called an injury time-out to disrupt the momentum of the game. Nadal offered the following explanation for his time-out:

“No, everything is fair to think what they want. I never call a treatment ‑‑ I never call the physio when I don’t have nothing, not one time in my career. If I call the physio today, it was because it was bothering me a lot, the knee, no?
The last day, it starts a little bit, and I didn’t call the physio because I can’t resist that. But today I needed to take little bit time. I have the quadriceps muscle very tight and I need to relax it a little bit. Maybe with this relaxation, the knee works a little bit better.”

Nadal’s explanation seems to be somewhat of a half-truth; he probably does have some kind of niggle at the moment, what kind of tennis player doesn’t? But the timing in which he decided to treat it is the key. There was no evidence reason he couldn’t have waited until his own service game and even he said himself that he had the problem for more than one match. He just happened to call for the trainer with Petzschner leading two sets to one and on serve.

The problem is that other than it being a little rude Nadal isn’t breaking any rules. Players use injury time outs to break momentum all the time; Nadal isn’t the first player to do this and he won’t be the last. It’s hard to blame them, a lot of players will do whatever they can to win including breaking momentum whatever way they can. Instead of blaming Nadal the rulebook deserves a long hard look. My suggestion is that players can only take injury time outs on their serve. If they wish to take one at any other time I think they should have to forfeit their opponent’s service game. It would reduce the number of time-outs as players could no longer use it to break momentum so effectively. Anyone seriously injured probably wouldn’t be too concerned about dropping that one game. In the meantime, players will have to get better at keeping their focus in this situation. It certainly won’t be the last time it’s used this Wimbledon.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. tennisdeva permalink
    June 27, 2010 7:19 pm

    If you can’t keep your focus, that’s your problem and no one else’s. Rafa took a medical timeout at 2-sets all in the 2007 Wimbledon final. If you want to be fair with it, that helped a muddle-minded Fed to get his act together for the 5th set. Come to find out… there is something genuinely wrong with Rafa’s knee. For the rest of that year, he spent it taped up. He doesn’t take them he doesn’t need them. The timing should not be an issue. If you’re hurt, you’re hurt. If you want to prevent further injury, you take it when you think you should.

    It’s up to the opponent to keep their focus; as said by Petzschner himself . That’s not Rafa’s problem. My biggest pet peeve is that medical timeouts are called to be “momentum breakers” or “mind games” for their timing alone. They aren’t. A player who isn’t mentally tough loses his concentration. It’s subjective whether or not one thinks they broke the rhythm of the match.

    If it’s going to be called a “momentum breaker,” then call foul on the weather, too.

  2. passingshot permalink
    June 28, 2010 1:17 am

    I have to disagree with the preceding post. No one can do anything about the weather but gamesmanship is a choice by a player – and it doesn’t fall into the category of sportsmanship.

    As for Nadal’s “knees” – well if you believe what he says about them you will believe anything. As a player who has also suffered patella tendonitis – ultimately cured only by an operation – I am staggered at how Nadal incurs so many seriously debilitating maladies of this sort, and then recovers within an unbelievably short period of time, and all the while his phenomenal court speed undiminished. You simply cannot run on bad knees. Gilles Simon has had knee tendonitis and was months of the tour. Not so Nadal – he missed two weeks last year. Boy, I wish I had had his knee problems. (Actually, I think Petzschner beat me to that observation!)

  3. June 28, 2010 3:01 am

    The bookies certainly believe the knee story … Rafa’s odds against Mathieu are running a lot tighter than usual for tomorrow’s match.

    Personally though, it’s hard to deny Rafa’s obvious attempts to milk a few more seconds out of the clock. Nearly every opponent of his complains in one way or another of his stalling tactics. I’m not calling it gamesmanship, because it’s a benefit of the doubt thing (and I’m a big Rafa fan) — but I’m not not calling it gamesmanship, either.

    As for Petz’ complaints, it’s always a bit harder to swallow when you’re on the losing end of it all. I won’t deny him that. Though it reminds me of a contentious NBA game, where the loser invariably complains about the referees. Just one of those things you gotta swallow, I guess.

    • June 28, 2010 10:13 am

      He has also gone five sets twice… the bookies would be tighting their odds regardless of any “injury”.

  4. passingshot permalink
    June 28, 2010 7:30 pm

    Well, surprise, surprise – no signs of any knee injury in today’s straight sets win over Mathieu. I wonder if it will resurface when he meets Soderling in the quarters? It’s fun to guess.

  5. robert permalink
    June 29, 2010 6:04 pm

    Too much uninformed yammering, apparently borne out of frustrated Fedfandom.

    “Gilles Simon has had knee tendonitis and was months of the tour. Not so Nadal – he missed two weeks last year.”

    Nadal missed more than 2 months last year (from going out at RG the end of May all through June and July untill Canada Masters the first week of August; in that period he withdrew from both Queen’s and Wimbledon where he was a defending champion).

    All that time he spend at home, heavily rehabilitating his knees and working out (Spanish national TV had a lengthy interview from his house by the end of that period, featuring his numerous physio therapies and physical routines, mostly lengthy swimming pool and vibra-plate equilibrium exercises, lasting for hours each day).

    As for the silly brouhaha with his MTO during Petzschner match – you see, a certain Mr Paul-Henry Mathieu also requested a MTO at the moment when Nadal was prepared to serve for the first set in their last match. Didn’t hear anyone accuse Mr Mathieu of gamesmanship or of disrupting Nadal’s momentum. Nadal just sat in his chair during these 3 minutes, then got up and served out the first set. What’s the big deal?

    Petzschner had no momentum at the moment of Nadal’s MTO – his game already started to go south, he barely held his service games, he began to visibly tire and that MTO could have in fact helped him rest a bit, if anything. Remember, he also requested a MTO later – was that gamesmanship, was he disrupting clear Nadal’s momentum?

    Players have the right to take a MTO. Get over it and stop using it as an excuse to bash certain players.

    • June 29, 2010 11:37 pm

      I am sure had Mathieu won he would have been accused of gamesmanship. So many people who take MTOs are, Nadal just usually escapes it because of who he is and how nice he is off-court.

      It was more the fact Nadal didn’t move any differently before or after his MTO and he was losing at the time. Petzschner had just won the set, how had his game started to slip?

      Don’t bring Federer vs Nadal into this, surely we are above that? It has nothing to do with Federer.

  6. passingshot permalink
    June 30, 2010 12:25 am

    Yes, Nadal missed Queens last year but I recall he played an exo against Wawrinka and Hewitt immediately prior to Wimbledon – to test his knees. He then withdrew from the Wimbledon fortnight but was back on court at the commencement of the North American hard-court season at the beginning of August – along with the rest of the men’s pro-tour. We can assume that he put some time in on the practice courts before he played in competition. So, give a week or so, he was really only away from the courts for about a fortnight. If his knees had not been a hundred per cent when he came back they almost certainly would have blown during the hard-court season – but no problems. Pretty amazing for an apparent case of serious tendonitis.

    His near faultless performance against Mathieu this week suggests that whatever was troubling him in the Petzschner match, sufficient to call for the trainer 4 times, was unlikely to be significant – or it would have shown in the subsequent match. But no complaints. I continue to be impressed with his powers of recovery.

  7. July 1, 2010 2:42 am

    Based on his play and what happened today, Raha has to be the heavy favorite to win the whole thing.

    • July 1, 2010 3:18 am

      Actually, I really don’t know how “Raha” is going to do, but Rafa should be the favorite! : )

  8. passingshot permalink
    July 1, 2010 12:45 pm

    I feel I need to adjust my tv screen: I knew Berdych was tall but is he really that huge? Slow-motion shots revealed quads of monumental proportions, and seriously cut. Federer looked fragile by comparison (and unfortunately played like it.) But then so many of his opponents recently, who he once owned, are resembling and playing like powerhouses – some in mid or late career. Nadal appears to be the prototype – a highly muscled bludgeoning machine that never tires. The very look of the game has changed, never mind how it is played. I wonder why, and why Federer is so quickly being left behind.

    • July 1, 2010 11:29 pm

      Oh I don’t know he’s been quickly left behind. I mean he won the AO in January with some of his best ever tennis. I think perhaps motivation is an issue at the moment, not so much motivation to play and win Slams but motivation to hit the practise courts. At the same time, I think this loss might do him some good. he was so shitty in his post match presser and vowed to be back. I think Federer will be putting in some hard hours before the US Open. We cannot forget he also has children now and they will be his number one priority above tennis. The look of the game is changing, but Federer still remains an absolutely brilliant player and has the weapons to beat everyone on tour. Federer may not win three Slams a year any more, but bar an absolute meltdown, he will certainly win more.

      ‘If you are bored with life, you are too stupid to think of something to do’

      -Ernests Gulbis 2010

  9. passingshot permalink
    July 2, 2010 12:00 am

    I appreciate your optimism about Federer but I feel something is happening other than declining motivation and lack of practice. I think he wants to win as much as ever. But his game is often much looser than it was and that while still frequently cleverer than many of his rivals he no longer has an edge of outright power, which he used to have. Look at how his lower ranked opponents in the early rounds (Falla and “Bozo”) were often able to dominate him off serve and off the ground. That would never have happened a few years ago. And yet these are not new players on the tour. Once they would not have troubled Federer. The most striking feature of the game against Berdych was the greatly superior power in all aspects of Berdych’s game – to use a boxing analogy it looked like a good heavyweight against a good middleweight. There could only be one outcome. Yet a few years ago Berdych knew he could not outpunch let alone outplay Federer. I do wonder where these guys, who all look so much bigger now, have acquired so much more game as of late. At the same time, I fear we are seeing the “the Sampras Slide”, where a top player falls rapidly away from the pinnacle of his powers. For Federer, that might have been Australia.

    • July 2, 2010 2:46 am

      We’ll have to agree to disagree :) I’ve hard it all before in 2008 and look what happened there. By no means do I think Federer is going to reclaim dominance, but I do think he’ll win more Slams. Noone is as consistant as him and Nadal can’t play very well of a hard-court plus has massive injury issues. Berdych is a headcase and I’m not sure he will ever be consistant, Soderling is more ofa headcase than I ever realised, and Murray just isn’t that good. I’d love to see Djokovic do better, he is one with some variety, talent, and consistancy, and del Po, obviously. Actually I need delPo to get back on tour ASAP so I can focus on someone other thanold-manFederer!!!

      ‘If you are bored with life, you are too stupid to think of something to do’

      -Ernests Gulbis 2010

  10. passingshot permalink
    July 2, 2010 4:22 am

    So, with Federer out of the way, who is going to take the Wimbledon title?

    My pick is the oft-”injured” Nadal, unless Murray pulls it out of the bag tonight, like at the Aussie, or Berdych continues what he started with his win over Federer.

    • July 2, 2010 5:10 am

      The obvious pick is Nadal. BUT if Muzza somehow does manage to overcome his one-dimensional game and the crowd play on Nadal’s ever-focused mind… then perhaps Muzza has a shot. A long shot, but a shot. If Muzz gets through then I’d like to think Berdych or Djokovic will beat him in the final. The problem is that Berdych will choke. So it’s downto Djok to beat Berdych. The rallies should be short so as longas he wins then Djok should be reasonably freshfor the final. Of course there is a big chance that Berdych will paint lines again and beat Nole and then choke in the final. Djokovic is the most likely to beat Nadal. He always brings something special to their matches. I’m really hoping hecan anyway.

      ‘If you are bored with life, you are too stupid to think of something to do’

      -Ernests Gulbis 2010

  11. Norge permalink
    June 28, 2011 5:10 pm

    Nadal is an incredibly poor sport. I hate his constant medical timeouts. If he is 5-4 over an opponent in a set and his opponent brings it to 6-6 for a tiebreak, watch for Rafa to call for medical. I really dont like him at all and I think others should speak about it, particularly those he cheats against.

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