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Rafael Nadal moves at his own pace on the tennis court between points. The Spaniard has rituals he abides by both before and during matches, including his pre-serve picking of a wedgie routine that is noticeable by all. Given his attention to every little detail, he’s one of the slowest players on the circuit, but doesn’t like when someone calls him out for his slow play.
John McEnroe, being the most outspoken tennis star of all time, has been on record talking about Nadal’s pace of play and accusing him of receiving preferential treatment by officials. Players have 25 seconds between points to serve, and Nadal typically reaches that mark.
Following his first-round win at the U.S. Open, Nadal was asked if McEnroe’s comments and insinuations would affect his legacy. Nadal didn’t take kindly to that question.
“I think it’s a joke, you know,” Nadal said about McEnroe’s comments. “I went through a lot of warnings through my tennis career. Never for breaking a racket, but yes for the time clock.I have a problem that I am sweating a lot. When you are playing during these very humid conditions.”
Not only did Nadal blame sweat for playing a role in his slow pace, but also towels.
Ballboys aren’t handing towels directly to players due to tennis officials and organizers ongoing fear of COVID. This leaves Nadal and other players to fetch their own towels, which slows things down.
“The problem for players like me, who are sweating that much, when you go to pick up a towel you are going to be in trouble with the time,” Nadal said. “I don’t think I have a different treatment for the umpires.”
McEnroe’s Comments About Nadal’s Slow Play
While it’s unclear if McEnroe made a comment about Nadal’s pace of play during his first-round win, he has in the past, which is where the media’s question earlier this week may have come from.
“If you are going to do it, do it, otherwise don’t bother. It is like humoring everyone,” McEnroe said during Nadal’s run to his 14th French Open title this year. “It’s a joke! He takes a look at the clock again. He’s edging it, isn’t he? Shouldn’t they have it at 15 seconds on the second serve? 10? Something?”
Nadal later went on to say that he doesn’t think it’s right that McEnroe can say those sorts of things on television and he’ll be looking for him at the U.S. Open.
“If I am having more than 25 seconds I receive a warning every single time. Check the clock…. I don’t understand why John can say that on the TV, but I am going to have a chat with him later,” Nadal said.