Nadal’s incredible achievement and the high price he paid with his body – and the problem of night sessions at Roland-Garros – Match Points #39

In the latest episode of Match Points, the main topic of discussion is Rafael Nadal, his amazing Grand Slam winning record – and what he might do next after exacerbating his troublesome chronic foot injury

June 12, 2022
The figures

Rafael Nadal secured his 14th Roland-Garros title on Sunday – but at what cost? That’s the main topic of discussion in the latest episode of Match Points.

Host Josh Cohen speaks to former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli and journalists Carole Bouchard and Ben Rothenberg to get their views on the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s health and fitness.

On Match Points, they also discuss the supremacy of women’s world No 1 Iga Swiatek – and the ongoing debate over night session scheduling, which caused such controversy in Paris. Amelie Mauresmo, the tournament director, has come out fighting, defending her record as a supporter of women’s tennis – but people are still asking questions about how matches are selected for the high-profile, prime-time spot.

Key moments on Match Points:

1.11 – Host Josh Cohen asks if Rafael Nadal pushed his body too far in order to play and finish the French Open. Bartoli says she could see the suffering in his face from early on in the tournament – and she thinks that his goal was simply to win Roland-Garros without considering anything after that point.

3.38 – Bouchard says it is our business to consider his physical condition – and that it is clear that without his medical team he wouldn’t have been in the draw. “He knew the sacrifice he was making,” she says.

8.00 – Nadal has always said that having the Grand Slam record doesn’t mean that much to him – and Cohen wonders what the panel think about that. Rothenberg says he thinks it has the unintended effect of annoying Novak Djokovic, who does care about having that record. He thinks that Nadal is more philosophical, considering the journey as also the destination.

9.30 – Bouchard says that Djokovic is motivated by wanting to be the best and hold the records, whereas Nadal says his life won’t change any more as he has already achieved his dreams. She says that perhaps Nadal doesn’t care about the number of Grand Slams he wins, but maybe he wants to finish above Djokovic.

10.50 – Bartoli points out that winning 14 editions of one Grand Slam is incredible and unlikely ever to be bettered. “His career has been shaped on that court,” she says of Court Philippe-Chatrier.

13.35 – Nadal says that Djokovic is in the best position to win the most Slams by the time his career is done, and the panel agree – although Rothenberg raises the possible obstacle of Covid vaccination, without which he would still not be allowed into the US or Australia.

17.45 – Iga Swiatek was utterly dominant at Roland-Garros, but Cohen asks if she is still being underestimated. The panel discuss the state of the top of the WTA Tour, and Bouchard wonders if nobody else is willing to put the necessary work in to step up and challenge her.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” says Rothenberg.

24 – Next up on the agenda are Amelie Mauresmo’s comments that men’s matches were more attractive than the women’s when it came to scheduling the night session. Bouchard says that those words were wrong – and adds that very few of the male players would constitute a “fascinating” match at the moment.

29.45 – Bartoli – one of Mauresmo’s former on-court opponents – says that it was her first year as Roland-Garros tournament director and she will have taken note of what works and what doesn’t for future reference.

35.50 – Inevitably, the discussion of whether men should play best-of-three has come up again – this time it was Billie Jean King who raised it. The panel aren’t unanimous about this particular question – and Bartoli suggests another solution entirely, while Bouchard points out that the players hate being on court in Paris at night anyway because of the cold conditions.

43.07 – This edition wraps up with a discussion of the current situation in Ukraine, and the banning of Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon. The panel talk about what the ATP and WTA could have done – if anything – other than remove ranking points from the tournament. Bartoli surely speaks for everyone when she says, “I just want this war to end.”

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