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What the papers say

Rafael Nadal talks about his surprising First Round exit at The Championships.
by Clive White
Tuesday 25 June 2013

The American writer Christopher Clarey heard echoes of another great champion’s thoughts on defeat in Rafael Nadal’s post-match interview following his shocking loss to the Belgian journeyman Steve Darcis in the first round. “I tried my best,” said Nadal. “Was not possible. That’s all I can say, just congratulate the opponent. At the end, it’s not a tragedy. That is sport.”

Commenting on the quote in the International Herald Tribune, Clarey writes: “It was an inadvertent echo of a long ago quote from Boris Becker when he was stunned in the second round of Wimbledon by the Australian Peter Doohan in 1987. “No-one died out there,” said Becker. “I just lost a tennis match.”

Clarey thought that Nadal’s physical issues were only obvious in the final set and quotes the views of Nadal’s early conqueror last year, Lukas Rosol, of the Czech Republic.

“On clay he can slide,” says Rosol, “so it’s not so hard for the knee. It’s the same for my hip. But it’s much harder to stop on the grass. You have to take little steps, so it hurts more. It’s not easy.”

James Lawton pays tribute to the unlikely hero who defeated Nadal in The Independent. “If you were in No.1 Court yesterday,” he writes, “the likelihood is that you are still numb from the impact of his three-set defeat by a slight figure from nowhere, with thinning hair, baggy pants and a manner which would seem mild enough if he had been attending a social evening at the neighbourhood tennis club. Yet sometimes something quite astonishing happens in the lives of relatively ordinary men.”

Alan Fraser, in the Daily Mail, is a little more cynical. He writes: “Name a famous Belgian, they always say. Well, Steve Darcis can join the likes of Hercule Poirot, Eddy Merckx and Audrey Hepburn for today at least, though probably not long thereafter. The predetermined fate of the shock maker is to be here today and gone tomorrow.”

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Paul Hayward, in The Daily Telegraph, talks of how hope has given way to expectation with regards to Andy Murray’s potential in the past 12 months and whether or not it will all end in tears. Covering Murray’s straight sets defeat of Germany’s Benjamin Becker, he writes: “A year ago they greeted him here as a nearly man: more gifted than Tim Henman, but a Wimbledon nearly man nonetheless,” he says. “Twelve months later Andy Murray made his Centre Court entrance as the Olympic and US Open champion. Hope is now closer to expectation,

“A slither of history is that Murray is now the most successful British player in grand slam history, according to matches won. This was his 107th victory, one more than [Fred] Perry.

So the story has a new tone and feel now: more positive, less precarious. Britain already knows he is a winner. Now it just wants him to win here, at the garden party where the host always ends up crying in the kitchen.”

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Giles Smith, of The Times, sees a change in the appearance rather than performance of Roger Federer who saw off the challenge of Romania’s Victor Hanescu in straight sets in the opening match of the Championships on Centre Court.

“Those who turn to Roger Federer on opening day for signature tailoring and the flourishing of bespoke monograms found him cutting a sadly diminished figure,” writes Smith. “Breathtakingly imperious at times. The proud blazers and heritage trousering of previous years were a distant memory as the champion took to the court in what could only be described as a tennis kit.

“The match between the soles of his shoes and the orange detailing on his shirt was dandyism’s only muted hurrah. And this on the 10th anniversary of his first Wimbledon title, too, when a suit of lights or even something semi-inflatable might have been in order.”

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In his column for The Independent, Nick Bollettieri, the American coach, has a few words of advice for Laura Robson, the British No1, who has to find a way past the No10 seed Russia’s Maria Kirilenko today: “Get on the grass and play your own game,” he tells her. “Don’t bother who is across the net. Hit your big serves, sling those big forehands, play to win.”

He also finds she has another weapon in her arsenal. “The main one is something she has been blessed with. She is a leftie. For me – and, hey, in this case I really don’t care what others say – a gifted leftie has it over a gifted rightie. They think differently, their hands are like magicians and they create shots that are far different. Look at some of the shots a guy like Marcello Rios used to come up with.

With a mind to Robson’s sometimes fitful serve he adds: “But with that comes a big must. When you are a leftie you must win your serve to the advantage side. Even if the opponent knows the wide slice is going there, who cares, because it takes them way off the court and then you have the whole court to hit into.”

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Matthew Dunn, in the Daily Express, quotes the multiple Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova suggesting that male players will be crippled with injury unless they reduce Grand Slams to best-of-three sets. “It’s really becoming so taxing that I believe one day we will have two out of three sets in the men’s Grand Slams, otherwise they’re going to be taking people off on stretchers,” she says on Laureus.com, the sports charity website. Dunn points out that even playing three-set matches, Navratilova had to have surgery on both knees near the end of her career.

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Neil McLeman gives an insight into Laura Robson’s television tastes in The Daily Mirror, possibly with a view to some giant-killing in these Championships. He quotes Robson as saying: “I just started watching Hannibal. It’s really gruesome but it’s good. I like it a lot and I don’t mind gruesome.”

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