When I read this quote from yesterday, I just had to smile, and yes, roll my eyes ever so slightly:
“I don’t feel I am the biggest favourite to win the tournament this year. It’s not easy to win this tournament. I will go day by day,” Nadal told a media roundtable Monday (via ATP) “It’s not possible to win every year. Some day that’s going to stop. I will try my best to make that happen, but that’s life. Not everything is forever. But I am very excited to be here and have a high motivation to play well and put myself in position to have a good tournament. I am a candidate if I play my game.”
“I am excited to play here and play this European clay-court season. It’s one of the best parts of the year without a doubt,” said Nadal. “I really enjoy playing in all these tournaments. There are a lot of big emotions that happened in the past.
“But this year is probably more special because I had a really tough year. To be back and playing another time at these places is fantastic. I don’t feel pressure that I’ve felt in years in the past, because I know all that happened, I cannot repeat all of this. But I’m going to try and be competitive and give [myself] chances to play well.”
Rafa’s not talking about being the favorite at, say, Indian Wells, which he won this year as a slight underdog, or the ATP table tennis invitational (I’m assuming there is one!) He’s talking about the Monte-Carlo Masters, and event he’s won a mind-boggling eight years in a row, where he holds a 44-1 win-loss record with that only loss coming in 2003 when he was 16 years old and playing Guillermo Coria in the round of sixteen.
Rafa’s extreme modesty is both endearing and irritating at this point. Wouldn’t it be fun if he, just for once, shook his head at the reporters and said, “But of course I’m the favorite, no? The only way I can lose this tournament is if they make me play right-handed. . .and even then. . .well I’d give Djokovic a set.”
Dream on, right? Rafa’s a creature of habit and why should he suddenly change his tune? We might as well get used to it, because he’ll be singing it all the way through Roland Garros, claiming the role only of “candidate” up until he’s taking a bite out of that Coupe. Then again, perhaps we should take his comments to heart. It’s not just modesty according to Rafa, but a sense of reality setting in. Like he says – nothing lasts forever. And if Rafa is starting to feel the weight of the years on his body and his tennis, who are we to scoff?
I like to entertain myself by thinking of a situation where Rafa would admit to being the favorite. Perhaps at The Mallorcan Open, with the draw reserved only for family members – his mom, dad, and sis, the Bull of Barcelona, Xisca? Who am I kidding – Uncle Toni would be the favorite, of course!
Nadal plays his first match on Wednesday, versus Marinko Matosevic, who took out Fernando Verdasco today in straight sets. Think he’s the favorite in that one?