Rafael Nadal has hit back at a well-known Italian tennis journalist for suggesting he had lost motivation for his tennis career following his long-awaited wedding last month.
The world No.1 had an uncharacteristically mistake-filled performance in his ATP Finals opener against Alexander Zverev as the German eased to a 6-2 6-4 victory.
The match was his first since pulling out of the Paris Masters semi-finals with an abdominal injury, which came just weeks after he married long-time girlfriend Xisca at a lavish wedding in Mallorca.
Against Zverev in London, Nadal dropped his serve three straight times, didn’t force a single break point and his normally powerful forehand was responsible for more than four times as many unforced errors (13) as winners (three).
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The poor play led journalist Ubaldo Scanagatta – who has had numerous exchanges with Nadal, including at the Australian Open in January, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer over the years – to test his relationship with the Spaniard.
US: “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 distracted 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.”
RN: “Honestly are you asking me this? Is a serious question or is a joke? Is it serious?”
US: “It’s serious. Is not something that…”
RN: “Okay. I surprise, is a big surprise for me (that) 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 (partner)?”
US: “Wife, 30 years this year.”
RN: “And before? Ah, maybe before you were not sure. That’s why. Okay. Okay. We move to Spanish, because that’s bulls***. Thank you very much.”
Nadal has led a notoriously private life off the court but his relationship with Xisca has become the subject of regular tabloid reports in recent years.
Earlier this year he lashed out when supposed details of their wedding had been leaked to the Spanish media.
Nadal laughed amid the reporter’s persistence towards the end of the exchange with Ubaldo Scanagatta and clearly took issue with the line of questioning, having played through pain and returning to the tour from numerous injuries.
Scanagatta denied accusing Nadal of being distracted, saying he simply wondered how the emotions and intensity of a wedding affected his tennis.
“I think he should excuse himself because I wasn’t rude,” the reporter said in a Ubitennis video.
“My question was very innocent and I really don’t understand that kind of answer.”
The Spaniard has a history of being far from his best at the ATP Finals, which comes at the end of a gruelling season that often takes its toll because of his ultra-physical playing style.
He has qualified for the event for 15 years in a row but has pulled out of it on six occasions because of injuries. His best results are two runner-up finishes.
This year he hasn’t completed a tournament since winning the US Open in August – also pulling out of Shanghai because of a hand injury.
But he showed up to London hoping to stave off Djokovic for the year-end No. 1 ranking.
– with AAP