Skip to Content Facebook Feature Image

Rafael Nadal's excellence at the French Open, as seen through the eyes of other tennis players

ENT

Rafael Nadal's excellence at the French Open, as seen through the eyes of other tennis players
ENT

ENT

Rafael Nadal's excellence at the French Open, as seen through the eyes of other tennis players

2024-05-22 21:37 Last Updated At:21:51

At this point in Rafael Nadal’s career, he is most eager for one particular spectator to get to watch him play: His 1-year-old son.

As the start of the French Open approaches on Sunday, no one knows with any certainty how much longer the clay-court tournament’s 14-time champion will try to compete after a series of injuries that limited his ability to play for most of 2023 and 2024.

“Well, I would love to play a little bit longer and give him a memory of myself playing tennis. That’s what will be the ideal thing for me and for my wife and family,” Nadal, who turns 38 on June 3, said about Rafael Jr. “But probably, I will not be able to make that happen.”

Plenty of other folks have vivid recollections of seeing Nadal display his relentless excellence on a tennis court. That includes the many players who have been on the other side of the net for at least one of his 1,299 professional matches.

No one has taken on Nadal more than Novak Djokovic, one of his rivals in the so-called Big Three of men’s tennis, which also featured the now-retired Roger Federer. There have been 59 installments of Nadal vs. Djokovic, more than between any two other men in the Open era of tennis, which dates to 1968.

Djokovic leads 30-29 overall, while Nadal leads 11-7 in Grand Slam matches — including 8-2 at Roland Garros.

Worth noting: Djokovic is responsible for two of Nadal’s three losses in his French Open career.

“It’s probably one of the biggest challenges that you can have in the tennis tour, playing Rafa at Roland Garros. We know his records there. I played him probably more than any other player has played him on that court. The court is bigger. There is more space, which affects visually the play a lot and the feeling of the player on the court. He likes to stand behind quite far back (to) return. You have some times when he’s really in the zone and in the groove, not making many errors,” Djokovic said. “You feel like he’s impenetrable. He’s like a wall.”

Here are other players’ perspectives on what it’s like to face Nadal — and observations from some of the sport’s top women:

“The thing is that, no matter which form Rafa is (in) or how he’s feeling, when he steps, especially, on clay — I would say it doesn’t matter if it’s clay or hard court, but especially on clay — you’re still scared. You’re still scared of Rafa.” — Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion and twice the runner-up to Nadal in Grand Slam finals.

“I’m going to be depressed when Rafa retires. He’s my favorite player. He’s my No. 1 inspiration. I admire him so much. His whole personality is unique.” — Maria Sakkari, a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist.

“Somehow you feel like you’re winning, but then somehow you end up not.” — Alexander Zverev, the 2020 U.S. Open runner-up.

“Playing Rafa is something special. It’s just different, especially on clay, the surface that he just dominated over the past 20 years. No one will ever have a record like him on this surface. He’s just bigger than the sport, at the end of the day.” — Hubert Hurkacz, who beat Nadal on clay at the Italian Open in May.

“When I was younger, he was basically the only player I looked up to -- but not because of his game on clay. More because of the way he is off the court, as well, and how he never gives up.” — Iga Swiatek, a three-time French Open champion and the No. 1-ranked woman.

“His legacy will live on forever. He has done some absolutely stellar performances and broken records that I don’t think will be broken again in tennis.” — Stefanos Tsitsipas, a two-time Grand Slam finalist.

“I feel a little bit sad about it, because he’s definitely one of my favorite players to watch. His mentality and intensity is something I admire.” — Coco Gauff, the reigning U.S. Open champion.

“Rafa has given so much to the sport, no? A different mentality. How to approach practice sessions. How to approach matches. How to come out from difficult situations.” — Jannik Sinner, the 2024 Australian Open champion.

“He's the best one who ever walked this planet, if we speak about playing on clay.” — Jiri Lehecka, after beating Nadal on clay in Rome in May.

“It’s very overwhelming to play him. ... The intensity he can give sometimes with his forehand and backhand — it’s brutal. ” — Zizou Bergs, who lost to Nadal in Rome.

“He’s as comfortable as someone can be on a tennis court.” — Sebastian Korda, who lost to Nadal in the French Open main's stadium in 2020.

“We cannot play like him or have the spin he does, of course, but we can try to pick up small things that can work for our game. Like, for example, the placement of the ball. The buildup of the point. The footwork. Everyone can learn something. It just depends what you see.” — Elina Svitolina, a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist.

AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.

AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

FILE - Serbia's Novak Djokovic hugs Spain's Rafael Nadal, left, after winning the quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament in three sets, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1, at Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. There have been 59 installments of Nadal vs. Djokovic, more than between any two other men in the Open era of tennis, which dates to 1968. Djokovic leads 30-29 overall. (AP Photo/David Vincent, File)

FILE - Serbia's Novak Djokovic hugs Spain's Rafael Nadal, left, after winning the quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament in three sets, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1, at Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. There have been 59 installments of Nadal vs. Djokovic, more than between any two other men in the Open era of tennis, which dates to 1968. Djokovic leads 30-29 overall. (AP Photo/David Vincent, File)

Next Article

Movie Review: A new generation drives into the storm in rousing ‘Twisters’

2024-07-18 01:15 Last Updated At:01:22

We have a complex relationship with disaster movies. Just look at the discussion about a “ Twisters ” poster, which became a perfect encapsulation of our love-hate tendencies.

In the promo for the film, in theaters Thursday, actors Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell and Anthony Ramos are standing in front a massive, menacing cyclone. It not only contains various objects swirling in mid-air, from houses to trucks, but also appears to be on fire. Some people wondered why the stars weren’t looking at said tornado. Others said if you’re asking questions like why the tornado is on fire, this movie isn’t for you.

Both lines of thought can be true though. Maybe their coexistence is essential. This makes no sense! Also, sign me up immediately! Disaster movies are almost required to be graded on a curve. And filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung’s entry into the canon is perfectly paradoxical.

It might not be fair, or rational, but there is something about the genre that inspires otherwise reasonable moviegoers to giddily give themselves over to a wild premise — the more ridiculous and illogical the better. There is something to be said about the joy of collective laughter where there wasn’t an intentional joke, or a spirited post-movie debate about the flawed logistics of a plan and exactly how many people have died from being sucked into a tornado. These are the movies that are hard to see clearly the first time but tend to become sneaky favorites over the years.

Such is the case with “Twister,” Jan de Bont’s film about storm chasing and remarriage. The modern collective love for it would probably surprise even the critics who reviewed it favorably in 1996. Part of that is certainly the fact that in the 28 years since it was released we lost both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Paxton. But it’s also just fun to watch with fresh eyes, to see the internet remember (or realize for the first time) that one of the storm chasers was played by Todd Field, the man who would go on to write and direct “Tár.” I re-watched it recently on plane and had a blast. I’d forgotten the insane opening but remembered Dusty’s impassioned foot chant.

There’s been a lot of cautious optimism surrounding “Twisters” that’s felt different from a lot of the reboots and “new chapters” (anything to avoid calling it a sequel) that have come and gone in recent years. Audiences are craving something big and fun, but worried that it won’t live up to their idea of what it should be. This is inherently flawed because “Twister” has earned its reputation, its quotability, across many viewings and many years. “Twisters” we’re just meeting. It’s hard to get too excited about a first date.

But Chung, a filmmaker best known for the comparatively small “Minari,” has made a solid film with escalating action sequences that look great on the big screen. There is once again a crazy opening that gives Edgar-Jones’ tornado-obsessed Kate a trauma origin story. Her hubris in thinking she could “tame” a tornado with science backfired and people died; But five years later her old friend Javi (Ramos) convinces her to come back to Oklahoma’s Tornado Alley to attempt a different kind of study.

The story is credited to Joseph Kosinski (who was once going to direct) and the screenplay to Mark L. Smith (“The Revenant”) and none of them can get the original out of their heads. Yes, these are all new characters (including Powell’s YouTube star storm wrangler Tyler) and the only real connection to the first movie is that the Dorothy technology exists. But it is so referential as to be distracting: Literal lines of dialogue (“I’m not back”); An attempt to make Tyler’s crew a gang of Dustys (which underserves actors like Sasha Lane and Katy O’Brian); Making David Corenswet wear what’s essentially a recreation of Carey Elwes’ baseball cap and earpiece. Don’t they want us to think of “Twisters” on its own terms?

But Chung clearly also had a vision, attempting to ground the insanity in a real place with regionally appropriate styles and music, and deeper characterization. The supporting players were thoughtfully cast. Its leads, Powell and Edgar-Jones, are endlessly watchable with palpable chemistry, even as they’re monologuing about sodium polyacrylate.

I wish I had the ability to know how “Twisters” will play 28 years from now, in 2052. Will the 12-year-olds seeing it this weekend go back to it as a comfort watch? Will it feel like it was part of the good old days of big studio movie making? Right now, it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s destined for that kind of longevity. And I’d love nothing more than to be wrong about that.

“Twisters,” a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for “intense action and peril, injury images, some language.” Running time: 122 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Sasha Lane, left, and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Sasha Lane, left, and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones, from left, Anthony Ramos and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones, from left, Anthony Ramos and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, from left, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Maura Tierney in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, from left, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Maura Tierney in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Harry Hadden-Paton in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Harry Hadden-Paton in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Brandon Perea, from left, Harry Hadden-Paton and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Brandon Perea, from left, Harry Hadden-Paton and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones, left, and Anthony Ramos in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones, left, and Anthony Ramos in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, right, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, right, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

Recommended Articles