An investigation into his love life was just what Rafael Nadal didn’t need after a shock loss to Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals as one tennis reporter discovered when he was called out for his “bulls***” question.
The Spaniard was in a sour mood after being outclassed 6-2 6-4 in London, suffering his first defeat in six matches against Zverev as the normally ice-cool left-hander also lost his temper at the chair umpire at the end of the first set.
Already grumpy with his below-par showing at the prestigious season-ending tournament, Nadal had no time for queries about whether life as a newlywed was hampering his performance.
Famously private when it comes to his relationship, the 33-year-old married longtime partner Mery Perello last month in a glamorous ceremony on the Spanish island of Mallorca, becoming husband and wife after nearly 15 years together.
But when a journalist asked whether Nadal’s on-court woes may have something to do with a change in his off-court situation, the 19-time major winner lost it.
Reporter: “Tonight you were playing very short many times. I don’t know why, because you’re not used to that. I’d like to know, for many people to get married is a very important, distracting thing before the marriage, during the marriage, after the marriage. I’d like to know if somehow your concentration on tennis life has been a bit different even if you were going out with the same girl for many, many years?”
Nadal: “Honestly, are you asking me this? Is a serious question or is a joke? Is it serious?”
Reporter: “It’s serious. Is not something that …”
Nadal: “OK. I am surprised. Is a big surprise for me you ask me this after I have been with the same girl for 15 years and having a very stable and normal life. Doesn’t matter if you put a ring on your finger or not. In my personal way, I am a very normal guy. Maybe for you was … how many years have you been with your …”
Reporter: “Wife, 30 years this year.”
Nadal: “And before? Ah, maybe before you were not so sure. That’s why. OK. We move to Spanish, because that’s bulls***. Thank you very much.”
But while the world No. 1 vanquished one curious reporter, he had no such luck with Zverev. The Spanish top seed, who has never won the season-ending event, came into the tournament at London’s O2 Arena under an injury cloud and was well short of his imperious best.
Nadal is locked in a battle with Novak Djokovic to finish as the year-end No. 1 but was not serving flat out in practice last week due to an abdominal strain that forced him to pull out of the Paris Masters at the semi-final stage.
Nadal led Zverev 5-0 in head-to-head contests coming into the match but was uncharacteristically sloppy in the first set, conceding two breaks of serve.
Buoyed by his dominant start, Zverev, seeded seventh, broke in the first game of the second set to take an iron grip on the match.
Nadal dug deep, urging himself on but his 22-year-old opponent proved too strong. The German did not concede a single break point in the entire match.
Zverev hit a total of 26 winners — double his opponent’s tally — and Nadal managed just three forehand winners in the entire match.
“The physical issue was not an excuse at all,” Nadal said, claiming he did not feel any pain from his abdominal injury. “The only excuse is I was not good enough tonight.
“What really matters is I need to play much better in two days. That’s the only thing.
“We knew that it was going to be tough, because the period of time since the injury until today is very short, but we are here trying.”
Defending champion Zverev, one of four players under the age of 24 at the event in London, was delighted to recapture his best form after a mixed season.
“This means so much, playing here again after winning my biggest title so far in my career here last year,” he said. “This means everything to me.
“Playing here, playing in front of you all, playing in the O2 is something that we don’t have during the year, and this is so special.”
Nadal faces a tough task now to qualify for the semi-finals from the group phase, with matches still to come against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev.
The Spaniard has qualified for the year-end championships for 15 years in a row but has only made nine appearances due to injuries.
Leave a Reply