Nadal Out, Roddick, Murray, Tsonga, Ward Into Queen’s SF
by Staff | June 10th, 2011, 4:22 pm

World No. 19-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came from behind to oust world No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the AEGON Championships on Friday at The Queen’s Club, joining Andy Roddick, Andy Murray, and surprising Brit James Ward in the semis.
After splitting the first two sets, Tsonga, who also beat Nadal at the 2008 Australian Open, raced past the tired-looking Spaniard in the third set.

“I didn’t play badly at the beginning,” Nadal said. “He was serving really well. Second set I had my chances, in my opinion. Probably after losing second set mentally I lost my concentration. First game [of the third set] mentally a little bit tired. A lot of matches in a row. And after that with the break in the third it was a mountain for me to come back into the match.”

In the semis Tsonga will meet the Brit wildcard Ward, who beat France’s Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 6-7(14), 6-4 to reach his first tour-level semifinal. The 24-year-old Ward earlier in the day in rain-delayed play upset American Sam Querrey in a resumed match.

The four-time Queen’s champion Roddick weathered a rain-interrupted meeting with Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco, prevailing 6-2, 6-2, over the Spaniard to set up a semifinal meeting with Murray, who received a walkover from Marin Cilic who withdrew due to an ankle injury.

The 28-year-old Roddick beat Murray in their last match in the 2009 Wimbledon semifinals.

“It’s going to be tough,” Roddick said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of surprises either way. I feel like we’re probably in the two hands’ worth of guys that really feel comfortable on this surface and feel like they can play well on it. It’s certainly going to be tough. He’s played a lot of matches. He’s playing well. It’s going to be a tough one for sure.”

Ward is the first British wildcard since Chris Bailey in 1989 to reach the Queen’s quarters, and Murray and Ward are the first two Brits to reach the Queen’s quarters since 2001.

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97 Comments for Nadal Out, Roddick, Murray, Tsonga, Ward Into Queen’s SF

tfouto Says:

i would say this Nadal loss doesn’t mean anything to Wimbledon. Last year he lost to Lopez early and won Wimbledon, so i believe that Nadal is probably the most favourite to win Wimbledon.

andrea Says:

nadal has always had a tough time on grass with big servers. he managed a 5 set win against kendrick in the first round a couple of years ago and of course the epic multi day 5 setter against soderling.

doubtful that he will win again this year. not feeling it.

c’mon canucks.

Anna Says:

Mentally, Rafa was a bit depleted going into RG (Nole had given him the once over a few to many times)but now he knows he can still when a slam in spite of Nole. In his OC presser he said he would be feeling less pressure for the rest of the season, so hopefully he’ll recharge in Majorca this week and return to Wimbly with great “motivation and illusion”.

Anna Says:

Wow Andrea, your going back a few years. Not to worry though, I wasn’t feeing it last year at all and what do you know…he won it. How crazy is the life?

sar Says:

I think he just might have wanted an extra week off too.

Seth Says:

Rafa is a momentum player. He puts together a great run by getting on a roll and letting his confidence build. Can’t say I’m too upset about his loss today, with that in mind.

Kimberly Says:

i like tsonga and maybe im biased but I would call this one a “mulligan” to quote Brad Gilberts term for the Lopez win last year.

skeezerweezer Says:

^Mulligan indeed.

Thangs Says:

First time, I wanted Nadal to loose…Thanks Tsonga!

Rafa will repeat 2010 in wimby..

Kimberly Says:

Jane, we will be watching your team tonight. Hopefully they will do better than my Miami Heat did last night.

My Ivanovic Wimbledon dress arrived. Its REALLY short. Not sure about it. Will probably wear tomorrow morning anyway.

On other news front Patricko4 has committed to a bracket for Wimbledon as Colino6 has offered to help him win and with all of his picks.

Kimmi Says:

yap, canucks didnt do well in their last 2 games..hope they do well tonite.

I think queens is faster than wimbledon. rafa himself said, after first week… wimbledon is like clay.

But congrats to tsonga for the win. He needed another rafa win. Hopefully when they play again he will play with a little bit more confidence.

Go muzza for Queens.

Roddick results are promising. I think he is looking good again.

jane Says:

That’s a funny pic Kimmi, did he shave his legs too? Didn’t Fish do that? Or am I imagining.

Kimberly, Kimmi, yeah, hope they can play their game tonight and get some pucks past that Wall o’ Thomas. Everything is crossed. If they don’t win tonight it may be all over as we have a horrid record in TD garden, Boston’s building.

jane Says:

Kimberly, You probably know Ivanovic is doing well in her Wimbledon warm up event: she is into the semis, and I hope for her sake it translates into a better slam run for her. I guess she still has no coach.

Kimmi Says:

now that I look closely at that pic, yap..looks like he is shaved his legs. could broklyn be giving him some fashion tips? lol

jane Says:

Phew, just one more Canuncks. Just. One. More.

jane Says:

oops misspelled team’s name in the excitement, lol. Canucks!

Skeezerweezer Says:


So what are you going to do to celebrate if your Canucks win it all?

C’mon….you have to share ;)

Skeezerweezer Says:


Wish the guys shorts were shorter like the older days, well not too short. Don’t the ladies like to see the guys legs too?Kudos to Rafa in those Pirates shorts and won, don’t know how he did that.

jane Says:

Skeeze, streak?? Lol. I will party like it’s 1999.

Skeezerweezer Says:


I got that….Prince ! :-)…. Great party song …great choice.

Michel Says:

nothing is certain but I think Nadal will actualy falter before the semis. If you look at other years 2010 and 2008. Him winning Wimbly he was so dominant on clay. There was just nobody who could touch him. But now? He was not impressive(still won the french;-)) On the other hand I think Federer is better than 2010, 2009 and 2008…..

kriket Says:

Anna wrote:

“but now he knows he can still when a slam in spite of Nole..”
Same as Federer knows he can win FO in spite of Nadal, that is, if he doesn’t play him at all.
Now before everyone jumps at me for comparing Fed to Novak, I’m not, I’m just making a point. Nadal did not have to win over Djoko to win FO. That’s what’s written in small print under the asterisk on that trophy, this year at least.

kriket Says:

Now, I’m not good at this ATP math, how many points players win/lose etc. but maybe if Novak went to play Queen’s and made it into the semis, maybe he would’ve been No.1 already?

Daniel Says:

Murray is playng excelent. He is destroying Roddick!

Colin Says:

Outstanding win by Murray. He was seeing the ball like a football, and seemed to be able to put it just where he wanted.
By the way, didn’t someone wonder how often Queens winners go on to win Wimbledon? On commentary, Andrew Castle said six men had done so, though I’m afraid I can’t remember who they were. I think Becker, MacEnroe and Sampras were in the list.

margot Says:

jane, kimmi, dari, expect u guys are asleep..but shame you couldn’t see the match. Andy gave an absolute master class, don’t think I’ve ever seen him play better. In the zone, calm, aggressive not breaking sweat! Bring on Wimbledon! Come on!
Colin, add Rafa to that list.

dari Says:

Margot! Ah! Late to rise, but look at the score 63 61!
How did Andy do that to Andy R on grass with his serve- wow.
I like AndyR, but that must have been some performance by andYM. Now I’m getting all amped for him at Wimbledon! Will watch replay later for sure :)

margot Says:

dari: u r in for a treat :)

Kimmi Says:

MUZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAAA! yeah bring it on at wimbledon. Its about time.

Saw bits of it margot..roddick was going to the net a lot..and getting passed. I guess he was successful last time they played at wimbledon, he might have thought it would work again..NOT! Go Muzza.

This ward guy is in the semi..great tournament for him.

Kimmi Says:

woz got it easy in Copenhagen..semi with a 142 ranked player.

Kimberly Says:

congrats margot-just got back from a brutal match in the heat with kaiser and saw murrays score. Wow!

Nina Says:

Muzza looks dangerous. He has an honest shot at Wimbledon. I think this year the field is so open… any of the Big 4 can win it. Exciting times.

Rick Says:

Thanks Tsonga for giving Nadal some rest! He is crazy to risk himself for injury.

jane Says:

Oh margot, so sad I missed Murray!! WOW, What a scoreline! He must have dominated Roddick. I love watching Murray on grass, but was too tired to wake up early. WOW.

margot Says:

Thanks for good wishes guys.
jane, he was hitting winners off Roddick’s FIRST serve! Yikes! He really looked in the zone :)
Just hope he maintains this for Wimbledon. Yay!

sheila Says:

this nadal loss @ queens will not affect him @ wimbledon imho, although i am rooting for federer all the way. i would love 2c roger pick another wimbledon trophy up.

Eric Says:

Wow, what a bamf performance from Murray. And on another note, methinks he will not be the only top 200 British player for long now, J-Ward seems to have some thoughts on that subject.

jane Says:

margot, wooooooot! Yes, must maintain. But first, get the title tomorrow. :)

Eric Says:

Meanwhile, Petzschner finds himself suddenly up a break in the deciding set against Berdych. Figured Kohls would go through, but I didn’t think Berdy would have much trouble with PP.

Eric Says:

Question: has arguing with the umpire ever gotten any player anything? Berdych having heated discussion about PP being awarded a point for a serve called out then successfully challenged, which he had returned into the net…

Eric Says:

And three minutes later…nothing to show for it.

Eric Says:

All-German Halle final, courtesy Roger Federer. Maybe R Weber should thank him instead. :)

grendel Says:

Once upon a time a very angry Czech named Ivan Lendl got to the final of Queens where he was due to face the new-ish young superbrat Boris Becker. This presumptuous youth with the flaming golden hair and the fresh face with wide open blue eyes and the puppy fat and the lazy madsnap of a serve had strolled to a couple of Wimbledon wins as if it was the easiest thing in the world. One of his victims had been the stern Ivan, all effort and angst and slavic doom.

We sat in a pleasureable anticipation of Becker breezing all over Lendl. And then the gaunt unsmiling Czech proceeded to give what many seasoned observers reckoned to be the best display of grass court tennis they had ever seen. Becker wasn’t beaten, he was dismissed with cold exactitude. Clearly, here was the new Wimbledon champion -if only he could keep it. Of course, he couldn’t. Come the final against Cash, and all the old uncertainties resurfaced. Those crisp, devastating volleys which had astonished Becker landed tamely in the net as the wretched Lendl dragged himself grimly about the court, trapped in the mindset of old world fatalism.

These thoughts popped into my mind as I watched Murray destroy Roddick. I have to admit that I can’t always tell when a player takes the ball early. The commentator says he does, and I think to myself: “oh, aye. If you say so, gov.”
But even I couldn’t help noticing it today. What a great pleasure it was to see Murray receive a fast ball from Roddick and hit it on the rise with perfect timing and absolute precision of placing. And to know that the reason Roddick was utterly confounded was because time had been, so deliciously, taken away from him.

I’m no Murray expert, but I’ve always understood his bh was his main weapon. Not today, it wasn’t. His crosscourt forehand was supreme. Incidentally, in the last game of the first set, Murray played a very unusual shot (at least, I’ve hardly ever seen it) and that is a forehand slice. Of course, it’s sort of like a drop shot, but it isn’t, it was a legitimate slice (and doesn’t it look awkward – which suggests it must be pretty difficult to play well)and it did the job of drawing Roddick in, for the umpteenth time, and presenting Murray with yet another opportunity, clinically taken, of passing him. Murray’s serve was far more potent than Roddick’s, even allowing for the fact of his infinitely better returns, and yet as far as I know, he didn’t have a particularly good percentage of first serves in. This suggests that he served with ferocity as and when he needed to. A good sign.

So, thinking back to the Lendl match, my thoughts were, if Murray can play like he did today in a best of five match at the back end of the tournament, then he will win Wimbledon. No one could have beaten him today. The thing is, though, will he produce when it matters?

Eric Says:

“Becker wasn’t beaten, he was dismissed with cold exactitude. Clearly, here was the new Wimbledon champion -if only he could keep it. Of course, he couldn’t. Come the final against Cash, and all the old uncertainties resurfaced.”

Of course, you are talking about completely different years. Lovely evocation, though.

Murray… well, Murray is Murray, isn’t he? He’s ripped through the very best players in the world to get to a slam final thrice now – only to play like a lame duck when it counts. Unfortunately, he is unquestionably one of those star-crossed sorts who seem unable to conjure up their best upon demand, but only when it comes upon them unannounced.

grendel Says:


This is an interesting interview with Nadal by Lynn Barber – a fine English journalist. It has apparently upset Nadal supporters, but it’s hard to see why. Barber is actually quite gentle with Nadal (the stuff about the underpants, obligatory apparently, was the one tiresome letdown, though it did elicit a valuable insight into Nadal’s state of mind)- you should see her rip into pretentious megastars like Stephen Fry.

If anything, we get to learn the sad side of the life of a huge international sports star. Barber is not a softie, but I think I detect a guarded sympathy. Also, it’s precisely because Barber does not play the usual sycophant role (which is the only role which will satisfy a certain type of fan) that she actually highlighted something important. Her sceptical comments about the Nadal rituals (bottles and so on) provoked Nadal into a an explanation. It was all about focus. We know this anyway, but it was impressive hearing it from his lips – simply because Nadal’s capacity for sustained focus is so awesome that you can’t help being interested in anything he has to say, personally, on the subject.

Eric Says:

This interview is quite fantastic, actually, and in patches very perceptive. I would say it is easy to see why some people find it upsetting, though; Barber is, in parts, unnecessarily negative and clearly thinks Rafa is a colorless idiot and some sort of charlatan. No one likes being told their idols are a bit fake, especially not by someone who doesn’t know anything about tennis but still tries to spice up her writing with sport shibboleths (“his ace whizzes past me…”). The bizarre fascination with his underwear and his private life (what _does_ she care if his girlfriend isn’t a bit part of his life?) point up this last fact. Barber doesn’t know tennis, so the interview and article are about Rafa, not about Rafa’s tennis. And she hunts with journalistic cynicism. This makes for unpleasant reading compared to the usual hagiography passed off as sports journalism; but it also sets it a big cut above that dreck. Great piece.

(Even if she thinks Borg was “boring” because he didn’t throw his racquets.)

Eric Says:

“In 2010, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs heard Barber admit to sleeping with ‘probably 50 men’ during two terms at Oxford. ‘It was quite good going – I was just jamming them in,’ she said.”

I guess she didn’t always mind men’s unzipped flies in her vicinity…

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Wow. Definitely Barber comes out really negative, so its difficult to know how much trust to put in her assessments (her assessment that Rafa deserves zero credit for being loyal and unchanged is just bizarre, especially given the facts on the ground in the celebrity universe).

I’ve also had the impression of Rafa seeming to need translation on questions he obviously doesn’t want to answer. Even reading skeptically, the part about the girlfriend is kind of weird. On the one hand, I can offer Rafa the consolation that I don’t really care about his girlfriend. On the other, when you get into a sports star, you’re naturally interested in them. So to some extent, its unavoidable. And that part is weird.

Rafa comes off nicer than she does, anyway.

Eric Says:

Barber’s interviewing technique – in her own words – is to go into it with animosity and contempt for the interviewee, whose task it is to win her over. With such an ego, it’s no surprise that her writing attempts to knock everyone down a peg. I’d like to see her interview herself – that would be something. But, obviously, such an approach also leads to interesting revelations and observations; Rafa is no exception. I just wouldn’t want to meet Barber myself, know what I’m saying?

funches Says:

Nice try, Grendel, but you’re timeline is three years off.

Lendl lost to Cash in the 1987 Wimbledon final. He crushed Becker in the 1990 Queen’s Club final.

The mind plays strange tricks on all of us.

jane Says:

I loved Barber’s memoir, “An Education”. I just finished it but a week or two ago. The way she returns, at the end of the book, to the lesson she sets up at the beginning, I found to be very affecting, kind of like a sucker punch. It hit me.

She writes a fair bit about her reputation as an “demon” feared interviewer, how she came to learn that this was her favourite type of writing, how she discovered, and pioneered, really, a deliberately non-objective style of interviewing/ and reporting.

Thanks for the link grendel, am off to read it now. Also enjoyed your take on the Murray match.

jane Says:

Ah, I didn’t find it so negative. But I get her humour having just read that book. She calls Rafa a lovely man and feels for his having to live such a strict lifestyle.

“Oh, for a McEnroe, a Connors, an Agassi! There was a time, o best beloved, when tennis players had temperaments, when they threw rackets, shouted at umpires and had sex in broom cupboards and quite often behaved very badly.”

The whole PR thing irks her. As an interviewer, she wants to break through the script, and I loved the part when her and Rafa have a laugh over her not really giving a “toss” about his relationship with his girlfriend.

Players are so heavily criticized when they don’t act the right way or say the right thing, when they aren’t classy or when they don’t say the right thing about their opponents. Her article reminds me that they should be allowed to have flaws. They are human. Not machines, PR or otherwise.

margot Says:

grendel, Andy’s first serve percentage was 70 something. It was fabulous serving. More astonishingly Roddick’s was 80 something….;)

Colin Says:

Not looking good for Queens. Ten minutes to the (re)scheduled start of play, and it’s raining, as it has been all morning.

grendel Says:

Funches – ah, well, one does one’s best… Pity Lendl didn’t meet Cash in 1990 final, Edberg (in semi)different kettle of fish.

margot, I was just going on the figures presented in the course of the match, can’t remember when. But it hardly matters, figures can be misleading – eg Roddick serving at over 80%. There’s no doubt Murray served great. Hope he can keep it up.

re Barber – she gave more credit than is seen by some of you, but she doesn’t spell it out. Her “ego” is almost non-existent – damagingly so, I’d say. But out of her own distress, she has learnt to spot humbug a mile off and in an age of sycophantic celebrity culture, that’s a rare asset. She clearly thinks Nadal is genuine, his entourage bizzare.

Kimberly Says:

Barber isn’t fit for Rafael Nadal to wipe his feet on. No class, poor writing, worthless nasty tacky low class low rent human being.

Kimmi Says:

petz retires in the second set, gives kohl a trophy.

Kimberly Says:

“In 2010, listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs heard Barber admit to sleeping with ‘probably 50 men’ during two terms at Oxford. ‘It was quite good going – I was just jamming them in,’ she said.”

I can’t imagine what was wrong with the men to be with her, they must have been really desperate.

grendel Says:

Naturally if a man sleeps with 50 women at University, he is applauded as virile, a lad about town, nudge nudge, and all the rest of it. Barber knows this of course and was having a little bit of fun with the humorourless amongst us.

margot, for instance re Roddick again. Although he did one or two humungous serves – one at 145 I believe – his average speed was low. Average 1st serve:119-121, Murray just 1 mph below what ever the figure was. I think for the whole match – not certain, though.

margot Says:

grendel, yes although Andy M was serving lower, lol, he served loads of aces, just shows it’s about placement and ROS ability combined, not just power.
ROS isn’t Tsonga’s strong point either.
Wasn’t Barber making the point, as you yourself have done, that Rafa lives within a very carefully structured public carapace and who “knows” what he’s really like? And, seeing what the press did to an incautious young Murray, who can blame them?

Ben Pronin Says:

I liked the article, thanks grendel. First and foremost I loved Nadal’s comments on Woods. Absolutely spot on. But even though Barber kind of pressed on random bs like his girlfriend, I like the observations she made. Like how people make such a huge deal about Nadal having the same friends and being loyal and all that jazz. Just because the world is full os sleaze balls doesn’t make Nadal a saint, necessarily, but does validate that he’s a pretty good guy even though it’s really hard to tell with all the PR around.

And it’s true. My friend and I discuss this “issue” fairly often. Athletes are condemned whenever they step even remotely out of line. I’m surprised and a little disappointed to learn it’s non different in tennis, but it’s typical for all American sports. Football and basketball players are given scripts for what to say to the press. We can never really know what athletes really think about anything.

And it sucks. The media is completely to blame for this, overreacting to every small thing. Acting like soulless monsters when a Woods type scandal breaks out. Why would athletes say anything but what we want to hear. But personally I’d much rather hear a player say he’s pissed off about a loss because the refs are idiots and the other team can f off, or something of that nature. But it’s not going to happen as long as the media is allowed to function the way it does.

margot Says:

grendel, Daily Mailon line, talking of low life media, has a quote which I actually liked…… about Andy “with his wiring more complex than the Large Hadron Collider, anything could happen with the mercurial Scot.” :)
Ben in UK some media likes nothing better than to big someone up, so they can tear him/her down. It is extraordinary, spiteful stuff.

scoreboard66 Says:

Barber comes across as blatantly honest. I suppose she has some charm for 50 guys wanting to be with her.

scoreboard66 Says:

For Tsonga to win he’ll have to refrain from taking mindless, huge cuts at the ball, and not overhit as he’s prone to do. Murray will be the fresher of the two as Tsonga had to play a tough 3 setter with Nadal, while Murray’s had an extra day’s rest from the Cilic walkover, and the other guys have had to deal with the rain messing up their schedules and most probably their recovery time.

Skeezerweezer Says:

Wonder who the 51rst guy will be? Well…..not really.

grendel Says:

margot – I get your point about placement and so on, certainly. After all, that’s why Federer is such a great server. But I suppose it must be the case that power plus accuracy and variation must be better than the latter two without power. Federer is a more beautiful server to watch than Sampras because his serve has so much more variety. All the same, the Sampras serve was probably more effective. But my impression about Murray – tell me if I’m wrong – is that he pulls out the really fast one for surprise. It’s great that he has it for a weapon. Roddick, on the other hand, surely depends upon speed to be truly effective – so you can’t help wondering why his speed has dropped. Niggle with the shoulder perhaps?

It seems to me, margot, that we kind of get the media we deserve. It’s very far from being pure – yes.

Kimberly Says:

skeezer, i hope you are not volunteering your services, i credited you with more taste!

grendel Says:

Ben – the media are hypocrites of course about Tiger Woods, and Nadal’s response here is exemplarary. But why are the media like this? Apart from a few mad evangelicals it cannot be on moral grounds. The reason (imo) is economic – it’s what sells. And that’s food for thought.

Ben Pronin Says:

I know. I don’t like it.

Skeezerweezer Says:

@k haha be asssured it will not be me ;-)

Re: media…..ugh.

Anyone see the Borg / McCenroe special on HBO? A must see :). Both had no more GS titles after the tender age of 25.

grendel Says:

Weather looking particularly English. That is to say, it is quite impossible to predict whether there can be play. Everything is incredibly grey, but the heavens are witholding total wrath. Thus, the covers are taken off, everybody shiveringly contemplates the prospect of play, then a few drops appear, and back on go the covers. The Commandant or whatever he is called is interviewed, and he importantly pledges that they are getting weather updates every two minutes – forgetting, perhaps, that this is not terribly reassuring. After all, if the weather boffins contradict what they said only 60 seconds ago, why should we believe any sudden splurge of optimism?

There are rumours that Lyn Barber has been contacted with the view to her interviewing God. Apparently, it is hoped that she will make some sharp comments on the dismal prevarication of the divinity. Why, she will ask, can His Omnipotence not start showing a bit of potency? It is unbecoming, she will point out,in the omniscient to give such a dithering display of agnosticism. Word is that God is thoroughly alarmed and has hinted that he may refuse to turn up. He is aware, of course, of the charms of Miss Barber (he too having heard of the famous 50 and indeed is known to have expressed a certain curiosity), but in a singular display of petulance God crashed his heavenly palms together and exclaimed he will not be held accountable for the vagaries of the British weather. Miss Barber has been unavailable for comment, but close associates aver that although Lynn is up for anything (generally speaking), conversing with imaginary figures is something she stopped doing a long time ago.

Meanwhile, if there is no play today, the match will be played at 12.30 tomorrow (about 7.30 New York time).

Kimberly Says:

apparently barber is been subject to tons of hate comments and obscenity due to her blasphemous article!

jane Says:

margot, that is how I interpreted the article too. I like Barber’s writing, what I have read of it, which isn’t a lot, admittedly. Not to over-psychologize, but I imagine the experience she had when she was 16 shaped her personality (inability to trust? tendency to distance?) and her actions throughout her life, even the way in which she writes. I think that is a key point in her memoir.

I hope the Murray/Tsonga match starts soon.

I see Petz retired in the final at Halle so Kohls wins. Anyone know what happened there?

jane Says:

Lol grendel, not much faith in the match happening then? : /

Kimberly, I think Barber courts controversy to a degree, but in her book she also seems to have been sincerely blind-sided by the reaction to some of her work.

margot Says:

Match called off. Good, conditions looked horrible and we don’t want darling Andy slippery sliding do we ;)
jane: Barber does lots of interviews, often for The Guardian and always interesting.

margot Says:

kimberly, how was the article “blasphemous”?

jane Says:

margot, thanks for the update. Yes, better for the players that the match is called off, though the timing tomorrow means I may not get to see it. :( I will watch for Barber’s interviews and try to read a few more of them: am just now reading up on some of the criticism of her Nadal piece. I can see how people took issue with some aspects of the article, but I do think some of it has been misinterpreted.

grendel Says:

Barber, in a small way, brought Nadal to life. And that’s something the devotees don’t like – they prefer a holy statue.

jane Says:

The “privacy” debate raised by the article is an interesting one. I looked into it when I was teaching a Biography course. There are even property laws for “personality”. In the age of information in which we live, we certainly have to filter through a lot to get at what might seem to be a semblance of reality. No wonder we are obsessed with finding authenticity. Maybe that even backfires sometimes.

Eric Says:

Like I said the first time around, it’s a great piece and, unlike sports journalism as a category, full of actual insight and real questions about the subject. It was even a bit touching that Barber came around to sympathizing with Rafa by the end.

I’m not sure, grendel, where her “distress” and “damaging” lack of ego are evidenced. On the contrary, she sets up an article about Rafa – and thus presumably designed to be interesting to tennis fans – by complaining about what a terrible day she had, having to drink bottled water cooped up in some of the best seats on the court while watching Rafa’s “boring” match. More of the first half of the piece is about her than is about Rafa. She then embarks on a rant about how fake he must be, for having the same friends he did five years ago and for controlling his image, only to follow it up with probing questions about his girlfriend, which is really an attempt to “out” him (sidebar: this is much more of an issue on the women’s side; I once read an article claiming that the Williams sisters, Kuznetsova, Schiavone, Stosur, and probably others were all lesbians) and to criticize him for (she assumes) lacking a vibrant sex life (which I guess she is very familiar with). And then of course there is the section where she talks about how she hoped he would fall into her net and say something juicy and damaging about Tiger Woods. As I observed before, her interviewing attitude is profoundly egotistic; the things she found worthwhile to pursue show she was just interested in getting something sensational to splash across her article. If you want to be charitable, I guess you could characterize it as trying to find something “real” beneath the PR facade, but it seemed rather a lot more like trying to find some damaging juice on someone she doesn’t actually care about who does something she knows even less about.

So in the end, we get a few interesting insights into Rafa’s personality, a couple of revealing quotes, one or two thought-provoking reflections from Barber, and a whole lot of rant-y negativity about Rafa’s entourage and several vaguely insulting insinuations about his personal life.

Barber simply wasn’t really the right person to interview a sports star, one feels. While the result is certainly a cut above sports journalism as a whole, it was a bit too redolent of Barber’s own preoccupations rather than revelatory of Rafa’s character or thoughts. The other day I was reading a very old (1959) interview with Lawrence Durrell, prefaced by a remark to the effect that Durrell was the ideal interview subject because he turns “quite stupid questions into intelligent ones, by assuming the interviewer meant something else.” How different from Barber and Rafa.

Kimberly Says:

Margot—“blasphemous” as it is derogratory to a god, Rafa. I was kidding. At least kind of.

grendel Says:

jane, you’ve made some interesting points on the Barber business. I’m going to have one more blast (sorry), because I think the reaction has been significant. Even two non-Nadal fans have completely misinterpreted Barber, and you can’t help wondering why. For instance, one of them says: “her assessment that Rafa deserves zero credit for being loyal and unchanged is just bizarre.” This is what Barber said (she is addressing the PR chap):”And why do you find it so remarkable that he is still close to his family and still sees his old friends? Presumably because you’re the sort of sleazeball who dropped your old friends and family the minute you moved up in the world”.

Another poster says:”Barber… clearly thinks Rafa is a colorless idiot and some sort of charlatan.” Barber at one point says:”Nadal, for the first time in our interview, turns his full attention on me, a laser stare, and for a second I can imagine what it must be like to stand on the baseline waiting to receive his serve.

“But do you care about my relationship?”

Well, no, I have to admit, as the ace whizzes past me, of course I don’t give a toss about his relationship, I’m just trying to interview him. Somehow this breaks the tension, and we both laugh”.

Not only is the mutual respect palpable, Barber clearly knows she is pushing it at this point. That’s her job, and you sense Nadal (unlike his worshipping acolytes)understands and respects this, and he is also not going to give an inch more than he wants to – and Barber understands and respects that too. It’s a dance they weave about each other, and it’s fascinating to observe.

Elsewhere – it is to be found in the link jane gave, Barber says:”I came to believe that other people – even when you think you know them well – are ultimately unknowable. This was a good basis for my career as an interviewer, but not, I think, for life.” Barber is, in my view, genuinely trying to see what makes Nadal tick – she is not just after doing a hatchet job,she comes across as being constantly puzzled – why are people like this, why do they do the things they do? – and so she probes. That’s what she does. Whether she is good at it or not is a matter of opinion, it goes without saying. There is, it has to be said, an apparent lack of compassion in Barber, most notably seen in her public excoriation of her own parents. But contrast her words with her actions – she actually has long looked after her parents. Similarly I, at any rate, can see a sympathy for Nadal not too far below the surface in the Barber interview. But she’d be damned if she’d admit to that, whilst she is happy to say she was “rude” about Nadal. You might argue that she is, rather uniquely, her own PR machine.

“The game was exposed in Oscar Levant’s remark, “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin,” ie, before the studio got their mitts on her.” Barber is always trying to peer beneath the mitts, and that’s what she was doing with Nadal. Many Nadal supporters, and even tennis fans generally, seem to prefer the mitts to remain in place.

Ben Pronin Says:

Totally missed the gay insinuatuations, honestly. But if Rafael fans are mad at that, doesn’t that just show intolerance on their part? Barber isn’t the first person to imply or think this. And even if it’s true, who cares? I guess thats where she goes wrong because it really isn’t any of our business and she shouldn’t press him like that.

I would love to see Barber interview any of the other players. What’s the big deal if she’s negative? God forbid someone finds fault with these humans who are built up to be saints and then when an Agassi or Woods revelation comes out everyone turns their back on them and criticize them to no avail. It’s ridiculous.

jane Says:

“More of the first half of the piece is about her than is about Rafa”. Interesting.

In her memoir she argued with one of her bosses about her deliberately subjective interview style; she writes:

“…he was deeply wedded to objectivity and convention and said it was unprofessional and girlie to write in the first person. But with my new hospital courage [she’d suffered a slipped disc] I dug my heels in and said I couldn’t write it any other way. Eventually he conceded: ‘well try it your way, but then if it doesn’t work, you must write it my way’. I agreed. I wrote it my way and he never mentioned his again. From then on I wrote all my interviews in the first person and felt I’d finally found my voice. I never believed in objective interviews anyway – if there were two people in the room, you can’t pretend the interviewee is talking to space. I wrote with increasing confidence and soon afterwards, in 1986, won my first British press award.”

She intentionally writes herself into her interviews to suggest that they are about two points of view (at the least) not just one. It is this controversial style for which she has been both lauded and maligned.

grendel Says:

“I’m not sure, grendel, where her “distress” and “damaging” lack of ego are evidenced” – sorry Eric, I was talking generally. w.r.t.the article, I read it very differently to you.”More of the first half of the piece is about her than is about Rafa”. That is tendentious to say the least, whilst the references to herself are plainly humorously intended, although the style of attempted humour is English, I understand Americans can have difficulty with this. I don’t myself think the humour works well here, and the later comment “gripping stuff” is painfully wrong (and condescending).

” She then embarks on a rant about how fake he must be, for having the same friends he did five years ago”. This is so grossly mistaken – but I have dealt with it in the post above. And by the way, apart from the quote I give, Barber had reported on Nadal’s loyalty without comment but with implicit approval.

” And then of course there is the section where she talks about how she hoped he would fall into her net and say something juicy and damaging about Tiger Woods”. Absolutely no evidence for that. What, in any case, would be juicy and damaging in Eric’s eye might not be the same in Barber’s. It is clear what she was trying to get at – namely, the hypocrisy associated with the image of Woods. The actual fact of Woods sleeping around simply would be of no interest to someone like Barber. The idea she was after a bit of sleeze is to mistake your man, although one has to ask: quite what, in such an event, would she expect Nadal to reveal? It is unrealistic in the extreme. And that, in turn, casts doubt on the whole ego hypothesis.But the false image – that did interest her deeply, and it is a theme not only running through the entire article but a good deal of her work. That’s just a fact, not a “charitable” supposition.

” [she] criticizes him for (she assumes) lacking a vibrant sex life (which I guess she is very familiar with).” The bit in brackets:”vaguely insulting insinuations about his personal life” perhaps? Barber was very happily married actually. I didn’t see her as being critical of Nadal’s sex life – she was making inferences, probably unjustified, from a life style which she sees as unatural. That is, she was critical of the life-style imposed upon the players. Here, I think she was wrong – I agree absolutely about the minders, but I suspect that life on the tour isn’t so bad. In general, we can make too much of all this. It was just an interview, after all. But if you’re going to criticise someone severely, it behoves you to get your facts straight.

Durrell – I loved him as a teenager. Now there was an arrant egotist, a man almost insanely narcissistic. Given my affection for his work, I was pretty shocked to find out what he was like.

jane Says:

Barber wrote about how she didn’t like traveling a lot for her job. She didn’t want the Vanity Fair job because she didn’t want to be away from her husband & 2 daughters too much. Her inferences about the grind of the tour for Rafa and others may come from that.

Eric Says:

Grendel: I find your reading of the interview as some sort of delicate dance between two mutually-respecting people who think the world of each other and are just playing their roles to be naive and silly.

“That is tendentious to say the least,”

Clearly, I was exaggerating to make a point; perhaps that is “difficult” for you.

“Absolutely no evidence for that.”

Fair enough. I guess I read “I wanted to ask Rafa about Tiger Woods and spent a long time before the interview plotting how I could best raise his name without looking too obvious,” in a different light, but, upon re-reading, it doesn’t sound at all like she was trying to trip Rafa up.

Anyway, in general — different readers, different readings; and Barber is clearly some kind of celebrity journalist in Britain and I must admit I don’t know anything about her that I didn’t learn from this interview and 2 minutes of Googling. But I don’t find it remotely uncharitable to question her motives. I found her approach distasteful (and, by the way, Jane, her interviewing style – non-objective, as it were – is standard, at least now and at least in American journalism) in her fixation on ferreting out details about his girlfriend and their relationship, which Rafa did not want to talk about, in her clear lack of interest in tennis generally and in Rafa as a tennis player (why did anyone think this was a good interview pairing?), and most of all in her blatant condescension towards Rafa and his personal life.

If that constitutes “severe criticism” (and I think it does not; I just think she was a poor choice to interview Rafa or, really, any sports star, as I said above) then I would just ask you read my first response again: “This interview is quite fantastic, actually, and in patches very perceptive….[her approach, as a real journalist] makes for unpleasant reading compared to the usual hagiography passed off as sports journalism; but it also sets it a big cut above that dreck. Great piece.”

Eric Says:

Oh, and as for Durrell, he was certainly far from being an A+ human being, but I doubt he was as bad as popularly perceived…

jane Says:

Eric, re: the current journalistic standard, for sure; but I do think she was a trail-blazer (to some degree), in terms of her style, so I thought I’d post that quote from her book since you noted how much she included herself in her interview, and since that is one of the many critiques of it. It’s clear there are aspects to criticize in the article, yet it’s a good read in other ways. Stephanie Myles makes some worthy points about Barber’s piece in her Montreal Gazette blog, including that – given Baber’s reputation – it’s perhaps surprising Nadal / his team agreed to the interview in the first place; the link, for anyone who cares to read more on it:

For Rafa fans, one way to think of (or forget about?) this article is that many people have come to Rafa’s defense and most others seem to have been more critical of the writer than anything Rafa might’ve said or done. It’s probably inconsequential in the end anyhow, especially for followers of tennis.

grendel Says:

“The severe criticism” refers to the charge that Barber sneered at Nadal for retaining his old friends. And yet, as I show, this is not only blatantly untrue, it is the actual reverse of what is the case – and there has been no retraction.

” I find your reading of the interview as some sort of delicate dance between two mutually-respecting people who think the world of each other and are just playing their roles to be naive and silly.” Well, of course, put like that it is naive and silly. But I didn’t put it like that. There was a dance in the sense of there being a mutual incomprehension leading to a more or less reluctant mutual respect. And that made for a good read, imo. Which is why I disagree that Barber was an unsuitable choice for interviewer. Actually, I bet that particular charge is made w.r.t just about everyone she interviews – by some. That’s the kind of effect she has. In fact, her not knowing much about tennis is great – in much the same way you don’t always want some political hack to interview a controversial politician like Tony Benn, the result can be all too predictable. i.e., there is room for both the expert and the non-expert, and Barber is the type of interviewer who will nearly always be non-expert whoever she interviews.

Will go part of the way about the “blatant condescension” – I mentioned it myself. But as for the intrusive bit, come on, for God’s sake, this is journalism, Barber was completely entitled to try it on, as Nadal was to block her. If the Nadal camp didn’t like the result, they should have done their homework before agreeing to the interview. And incidentally, I believe it was you, Eric, who wondered what Barber would be like facing someone like herself. Perfectly sanguine, I would guess. If someone started to pry beyond what she was willing to reveal, I imagine she would be amused. But then, that’s not fair on Nadal. He’s not to used to probing questions – through no fault of his own.

Eric Says:

“Eric, re: the current journalistic standard, for sure; but I do think she was a trail-blazer (to some degree), in terms of her style, so I thought I’d post that quote from her book since you noted”

Indeed, what I meant to imply was that I didn’t know how much that was due to Barber as a pioneer.


Grendel, I guess we both agree that it was a good interview and a good read. But your initial post of it (and thanks for that!) expressed mystification at why Rafa-fans were offended by it, so we’ve been focusing on the negative aspects of Barber’s article. If we different parts of it differently and find different things to focus on, well, such is language. At the end of the day, all I’m saying is that an even better interview piece would likely have resulted from someone with Barber’s ‘unique’ approach AND actual interest in and knowledge of tennis (say, someone who finds tennis more exciting than racquet throwing and temper tantrums). Then again, maybe not.

Kimberly Says:

You guys are so deep, I will leave it at shes a beeeeotch and move on.

Kimberly Says:

im more concerned with Eric Spoelstra needing to be fired than this loser chick at the moment

margot Says:

grendel: re durrell, now that’s a different and interesting discussion isn’t it? Should what we know about someone’s life effect what we think about their work? Read “Alexandrian Quartet” as a young teenager stuck in dark, damp, repressed, Methodist Wales and it blew me away.

grendel Says:

margot – I too was “blown away” by the Alexandrian Quartet at a similar age. I remember a very good English teacher expressing a certain scepticism that I would sstill like it when older. I’ve kept meaning to test that scepticism, and still haven’t got round to it. Will do, though…Yes, inevitably you are affected by what you know at least in priniciple. If the book is good enough or absorbs you enough, then you forget. That’s my experience.

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