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Unfair Advantage: Nadal And The MTO

June 29, 2011

It’s hard to speak out against Rafael Nadal. Lynn Barber found out just how hard when she wrote about the world number one in a negative light. “Why did no one warn me that being rude about Rafa Nadal is like being rude about prophet Mohammad? Terrifying hate mail from his worshippers,” she posted on Twitter. And she’s right; post a negative comment about Nadal on Twitter and you’re bound to get many replies aggressively disagreeing with your point. Even Roger Federer isn’t this off-limits; fans have learnt to deal with accusations of arrogance and bad sportsmanship over time. Yet whilst Nadal may tick all the boxes when it comes to sportsmanship and humbleness off-court, his medical time outs (MTO) have raised suspicions. In particular, Nadal’s latest ill-timed MTO hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Having saved a set point when serving at 5-6 in the first set, Juan Martin del Potro looked focussed and ready to give his all in the tiebreak. That is until Nadal ran to his seat, swiftly accompanied by a trainer. Nine minutes later (three times the legal allowance) del Potro was angry, confused, and completely distracted. Despite taking a mini-break lead on two occasions, del Potro failed to stay focussed and lost the set to Nadal. Nadal’s foot, which supposedly hurt so much Nadal believed it was broken, was suddenly Ok. Nadal showed no further sign of injury and ran down del Potro’s best shots to win 7-6 3-6 7-6 6-4. By the end of the match, it was del Potro who looked worn-out and barely able to move. The usually reserved del Potro expressed his anger after the match, saying “He was running everywhere and running the same as always. I never thought he’d stop.”

Dodgy MTOs called for at crucial times in matches are nothing new for Nadal. He upset Phillip Petzschner last year at Wimbledon; the German lost focus and his two set to one lead when Nadal called for a trainer before the Petzschner serve. Nadal called for a trainer at 2-5 down against Federer with Federer serving during this year’s Roland Garros final and proceeded to win the set. This was nothing new for Federer, Nadal had done the same thing at Monte Carlo 2006 and Hamburg 2008 with the same result: Federer blowing a substantial lead. His medical time out’s are frequent and often seemingly unnecessary. Yet Nadal seems largely immune to criticism from journalists and fans. Players like Fabio Fognini are heavily criticised when they attempt something similar, but Nadal gets away largely scot-free.

Although Nadal’s actions seem largely unfair, it’s hard to say exactly what tennis can do about Nadal’s MTOs. What Nadal does is more unsportsmanlike than illegal, so umpires can’t put a stop to it, (unlike Nadal’s time wasting, which they are well within their right to punish). It’s easy to say players need to learn to expect MTOs when leading Nadal and deal with them better, but that has to be easier to say than do. It is therefore up to players and journalists to let Nadal know his actions are unacceptable. Much like del Potro, certain bloggers, and some brave writers have heaped scorn upon his abuse of the rules. Perhaps with further criticism, Nadal will put a stop to what some people have gone as far to call cheating. It seems at least part of the tennis community is starting to see through the world number one.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2011 4:35 am

    “Yet whilst Nadal may tick all the boxes when it comes to sportsmanship…” Seriously? I didn’t follow Nadal closely just only when he played my fav. So I’d been neutral about him up until what happened at WTF 2010 vs Berdych.

    Here’s what happened to Berdych (who was playing well in the zone up until that point, well honestly he was going to lose the match anyway 😉 )

    Berdych was f* by Nadal and the umpire at the same time.

    1. Nadal raised hand as if he stopped the point; a second later (or almost simultaneously) Carlos overruled ‘Out’

    2. Berdych argued saying Nadal challenged.

    3. Carlos told Berdych “You can challenge” (the Umpire’s overrule).

    4. Hawkeyes showed the point was ‘In’, Carlos gave the point to Berdych.

    5. Nadal was furious because it should be replay, as Berdych challenged the umpire. They were arguing for a very long time.

    6. Nadal said in the press conference afterwards that he didn’t challenge, he continued playing the point (with his back turning towards Berdych and one hand up to keep balance perhaps?)

    It was Carlos’s fault to letting the argument out of control > Nadal’s fault in this scenario but it’s Nadal’s press conference afterwards that pissed me off… Seriously, he believed he was continuing playing the point, Youtube existed, no?

  2. June 29, 2011 4:37 am

    Opps sorry for lengthy post which is quite not relevant to the ill-timed MTO.

  3. June 29, 2011 4:44 am

    @cbfowler “Nadal’s Dr just said foot scare caused by too tight tape-job, which Rafa mistook for injury. No concern for semi v Fish.”

    Don’t tell Delpo.

  4. Eugene steenackers permalink
    June 29, 2011 8:59 pm

    Great article. I don’t understand that the press always takes Nadal his words for granted.

    Spread the word (this article)

  5. phc permalink
    July 2, 2011 2:08 pm

    Its not just the injury timeouts, it is the constant violation of the time allowed between points. Why is this allowed to continue. He obviously has no respect for the rules of the game. He shows no repsect for his opponent or the umpire by keeping both waiting for the coin toss and start of the match. Also there is the completely unnecessary shows of aggression clenching his fists and glaring straight at his opponent. Most players gee themselves up but I haven’t seen anyone else behave like this.

  6. niamh permalink
    July 9, 2011 8:52 am

    This article is very selective in not mentioning that when Rafa crunched due to the pain in his foot he had set point, he didn’t just decide to run to his chair just before the tie-break because he somehow knew that Delpo was psyched up for the tie-break, indeed as if Nadal wasn’t. Delpo wasn’t leading in the match at that point, they were exactly level, hence the tie-break. Delpo actually took an MTO right in the middle of Rafa’s service game in the same match, but no mention of that.

    No one wrote any articles about the fact that when Rafa was 2 sets to 1 down against Isner in the 1st round of his precious RG he did not take an MTO, nor when he was 1 set and 1-5 down to Lorenzi in Rome on his precious clay to a player well outside the top 100. Had he lost either of those matches, it would have been catastrophic for his reputation as the King of Clay, but he didn’t. No one ever mentions that Rafa regularly concedes bad line calls even at the most critical points in a match like against Lorenzi.

    The fact is, Nadal detractors are just disappointed that he beat Delpo, that’s all there is to it.

  7. Logic permalink
    July 16, 2011 9:04 pm

    I agree completely with this post. I really do like Rafa, I think he’s a great tennis player, but he calls MTO’s at the most inappropriate times during the matches. It’s ridiculous.

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