(Do you know what time it is? Rafa could tell you, and he wouldn't even need to look at his fancy new watch. It's time for the 2010 French Open!)
The French Open officially kicks off tomorrow, and two weeks from now, hopefully I'll be watching Nadal pick up another trophy live from the grounds in Paris! After winning in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid, Rafa has to be considered the favorite to win another Slam title at the end of this tournament. You wouldn't know it by reading the nimrods who post "stories" on tennis.com though. I won't even call what the op-ed people do for that site writing articles - "posting stories" is much more accurate. They waste their time not actually analyzing the game, but trying to come up with ridiculous theories to discredit Rafa's accomplishments. For instance, just this past week there were a bunch of "stories" posted dealing with Federer and Nadal. Oh, how they hate this rivalry because Nadal comes out on top! How can the #1 player of all time (Federer) have an accomplished contemporary that gets the better of him 2:1? They don't know how to handle it. So instead, they keep posting these stories. Here's something they LOVE to trot out from time to time: Is it really such an accomplishment to have 18 masters series titles at such a young age? I mean they're MOSTLY from tournaments played on clay (which I guess is the bastard child of court surfaces because Americans typically have trouble playing on the dirt.) Their argument is that Rafa hasn't dominated ENOUGH on other surfaces. He just has Slam titles on all three. And he's only just now turning 24! And he was injured throughout all of last summer. So he did the majority of his work when he was 22! Nothing like giving a guy time.
Then there was this other ridiculous story about how we wouldn't really appreciate the style of Rafa's playing if he were an ugly person. Seriously, that's what it says. If Federer were ugly, he plays a game that we'd still consider beautiful, but if Rafa was ugly we wouldn't be fans of his at all. I mean, holey Jeebus, if that's how far you have to reach to discredit a 6-time Slam champion and a 18-time Masters Series Champion then you have huge issues and you need help. I sometimes think tennis.com only exists to make me angry. But since the jokers at tennis.com STILL don't see what's so impressive about Rafa's career, here are JUST A FEW more stats of note:
*Only male player to have won French Open, Wimbledon, and Olympic gold medal in the same year (2008)
*The only man in history to win the "treble" (2008) - taking titles at the French Open, The Queen's Club and Wimbledon
*Most singles titles won in a single season as a teenager: 11 (2005).
*The only player to reach 9 different ATP Masters tournament finals (all except Cincinnati, but I'm sure he'll get there too!).
*The only player to win the same ATP Masters event for 6 consecutive years (Monte Carlo Masters).
*The only player to win 400 singles matches in fewer than 500 matches played (401-91).
*The only player in history to win all three clay court Masters events in the same year.
*The only player to win three consecutive Masters titles, irrespective of surface.
*The only player to win at least three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in a season for four consecutive years
*Overall Nadal is 196-16 (.925) in his career on clay, the best winning pct. on clay in the Open Era
So suck on it, tennis.com writers. I'm done with you.
Deep breaths. Okay, so back to the French Open. I actually think Rafa has a pretty decent draw. His first round opponent is 18-year-old French wildcard Gianni Mina. This kid is ranked 653 in the world. On paper, Rafa shouldn't have any problem with him, but he'll probably be playing as if he nothing to lose and he'll have the hometown crowd really pulling for him, so it might not be as easy as it looks. He should still get through in 3 sets.
Looking head there's a possible third round opponent in the form of Lleyton Hewitt, who has lost to Nadal three of the last four years in Paris. I like Hewitt, but he's not much of a threat to Rafa at this point it his career.
Either Fernando Verdasco, (0-10 record against Rafa) , or Fernando Gonzalez (6 consecutive losses to Rafa) are potential quarterfinal opponents. The semifinals could feature a match against Djokovic (but he hasn't been playing well of late, so that seems unlikely), Juan Carlos Ferrero (Rafa leads 7-2 lifetime), David Ferrer (Rafa leads 11-3 lifetime) and Andy Roddick, who you know I love, but who has never gone farther that the fourth round at Roland Garros. If Rafa meets Fed in the Final, Rafa holds a 14-7 lifetime record against him and a 5-2 record in Slam Finals. So while nothing is a sure bet, you can see on paper why things are looking for a healthy Rafa this year.
Moving from tennis substance to style, Rafa's never shied away from some head-turning or head -scratching outfits. There was the hot pink shirt at last year's French Open, the crazy checkerboard shorts he wore at last year's US Open and Aussie Open, and now that he's gone back to more classic color patterns, he's moved into eye-catching accessories.
For the first time ever, Nadal will be wearing a watch while playing his matches at the French Open. But it's not just any watch. It's the new ‘TOURBILLON WATCH RM 027." The watch, was especially designed for Rafa Nadal, by Richard Mille and is so exclusive that only 50 of them will be produced worldwide. Oooooh!
It turns out the Tourbillon watch RM 027 is the lightest mechanical watch ever made (only weighing 3.83 grams) and it was designed over the course of 2 years by Mille. This watch can be yours for a cool $425,000. But like I said, there's only 50 so order now while supplies last!
I have to admit when I heard Rafa was wearing this "luxury watch" while playing, all I could picture was this gaudy clunky bracelety-thing that would weigh down his wrist and mess up his swing. When I saw the above picture of it though, I have to admit it's pretty cool. Maybe not for a half a million, but still it's pretty awesome. Although this will almost definitely open him up to criticism from opponents who'll request for him to "check his watch" when he starts taking too much time in between his service points.
So now that we've explored the style and substance of the upcoming tournament, I wish Rafa luck and the greatest of success at the 2010 French Open. I know he take home the trophy for the 5th time! Vamos Rafa!