Rafa Nadal (Player Profile) has been reported this week to be taking the a moralistic stance to fringe benefits being offered to him to represent his country in this week’s Davis Cup match against Ukraine. Rafa was offered a private jet offered by his home federation to transport him to Spain in the best possible shape post his US Open four set win last Monday and pre this weekend’s tie against Ukraine.
He cited the current state of Spain’s fragile economy as being the main factor in his decision to turn down the offer – “I don’t think it’s the right time to make the State pay for my trip” he is quoted as saying. Known to be a great influence in his life his uncle and coach Toni (Antonio “Toni” Nadal Homar) was later this week similarly discussing the effect money is having on Sports in general and Spain in particular. Gareth Bale’s (rumoured to be costing Real Madrid £27,777 per minute, in addition to his £80m transfer fee) name came up in discussion in Toni’s appearance on Spanish radio. Rewards paid to Tennis players somewhat surprisingly came in the line of Toni’s ire, as did football coaches in Spain “..I also think that what Rafa gets paid is ridiculous, what Barça’s coach Tata Martino gets, or Xavi” (Barcelona midfielder)
Spain take on Ukraine this weekend, with Tennis firmly engrained in the country’s psyche as a source of national pride – Spain having won four Davis Cups in the last decade and having been the losing finalist twice. It’s been a mixed week for Spanish Sport all in all this week. Rafa’s win was levelled on the downside by Tokyo’s victory in a three horse race to win the hosting rights for the 2020 Olympics. Madrid was one of the two losing contenders. To pick up on some of the broader issues raised by Rafa and Toni back in the UK Manchester United’s outgoing coach Sir Alex Ferguson in the past referred to the rise of local rivals Manchester City as being similar to being housed next to noisy neighbours. A certain amount of Spain’s surrounding countries have not come out of the recent economic crisis all guns blasting. France has had imposed upon them by socialist leaning Francois Hollande (François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande, also the co-Prince of Andorra) the largest personal taxation rates in Europe to meet Economic shortfalls. Italy seemed to decide rather than take a time honoured path of seeking military crises in times of recession to distract its citizens, to finally take their Premier Berlusconi to task legally. After a number of court battles the legislature finally settled on perusing Silvio regarding something he really didn’t have much of a chance of defending, his sexploits. Portugal recently experienced democratic crises after the resignation of its Foreign Minister in protest with regard to the countries 78bn euro bailout package. This almost resulted in the toppling of a second Prime Minister in two years. Pedro Passos Coelho survived, for now. José Sócrates did not.
Nadal’s match up against the Ukrainian Stakhovsky yesterday was never really going to be anything other than a competitive mis-match. Stakhovsky did caused a huge upset at Wimbledon this year when he defeated seven-times champion Roger Federer (yesterday reported to be playing with China’s No 1 Zhang Ze in the Men’s doubles event in the upcoming Shanghai Masters) in the second round but Nadal had little trouble against the world number 92. Playing on clay Nadal dropped a mere four games in the match. Nadal has now won 21 of his 22 Davis Cup singles matches, including a perfect 17 out of 17 on clay. Spain number two Fernando Verdasco also beat Ukraine number one Alexandr Dolgopolov in the opening singles in the first meeting between the two nations. Spain are in the World Group playoffs along with Great Britain after losing away to Milos Raonic’s Canada in the first round in February when Nadal, who had just returned from a seven-month injury layoff, did not feature. They had last fallen in the first round in 2006 when a team also missing Nadal was beaten 4-1 by Belarus on indoor carpet in Minsk.
In other World Group playoff ties Poland’s hopes of joining the elite for the first time have been dealt a huge blow after Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz was ruled out with a back injury for the home tie against Australia in Warsaw (Australia current lead that tie 2-0). Andy Murray faced 16-year-old and recently crowned US Open Junior champion Borna Coric in the opening singles rubber against Croatia in Umag on Friday, duly winning in straight sets. Ivan Dodig beat Dan Evans also in three to level the match at 1-1 overnight. GB edge towards victory in the doubles to go 2-1 up in that tie. The Davis Cup began in 1900 as a challenge between Great Britain and the United States. 130 nations entered the competition in 2013.
The women’s equivalent the Federation Cup reaches its climax during the first weekend in November with Russia and Italy taking centre stage. Russia have come through two 3-2 victories against Japan and the Slovak Republic in the quarters and semis. The Japanese cause in the QF was not helped on this occasion by defeat in two of the singles matches of a 42 year old Kimiko Date-Krumm. Russia has been finalists five times in the past decade running out four times winners. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the competition.