Rafael Nadal Gets His Game Face Back

The Spaniard is coming off a 2011 that saw him served as a whipping boy for Serbian sensation Novak Djokovic in a series of tournament finals. He insists that his game -- and his will -- are back in full stride.

Nadal says the passion is back (globalite)
Nadal says the passion is back (globalite)
Isabelle Musy

MELBOURNE - It is the curse of illustrious champions: any failure is seen as catastrophic, any weakness as fatal, and it all stubbornly sticks to their reputation. Rafael Nadal should know. His doubts, setbacks and injuries in recent months have been debated and ultimately forced him to remind us of his physical and mental integrity as the 2012 Australian Open begins.

"Yes, I'm fine. Yes, I'm motivated," he said just before the tournament began. "It is true there were a few matches at the end of the 2011 season that I played with a bit less enthusiasm than usual. Things happen when you're tired, but I'm here, in 2012, full of passion. I'm happy, the training is going well and I'm ready."

One year ago, as the first round of the Grand Slam approached, all eyes were turned toward the Spaniard, then No. 1 in the world, with this recurring question: would the Majorcan, winner of Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open, realize the Rafa Slam by winning the Australian Open? The verdict was already in by the quarter finals. The small slam was not be this time. With an injured hamstring, he lost to his compatriot David Ferrer. What happened next is well-known: Novak Djokovic marked the beginning of a dizzying series of victories over a year with 10 tournament wins, including Grand Slam titles.

The main victim of the Serbian hurricane is Rafael Nadal, who fell six times to Djokovic during the 2011 season. The campaign of destruction unfolded gradually with an initial raid in Indian Wells, a second in Madrid – particularly painful because it took place on a clay court, the Spaniard's turf – and a stunning coup at Wimbledon. Dethroned of the top world ranking, he left London shaken. His final act of bravado in the final of the US Open was when he went all out, disputing each point he was not awarded.

As for his 2011 results, the No. 2 seed, constantly reminded of his inability to dethrone Djokovic, goes into defense mode. "For me, it was a positive year. In my opinion, a season with a Roland-Garros title, a Davis Cup title and 10 finals can be considered good. Yes, I lost many finals, but it would be too arrogant – and I am not arrogant on this point – to think that it was a bad year. I do not consider myself good enough to claim it."

It is the paradox of champions. By dint of elevating people to the exceptional, they deprive them of the right to make mistakes.

If Nadal, humility personified, counts himself happy enough with 10 Grand Slam wins, his Olympic title and his five victories in the Davis Cup, he is already a man not content to rest on his laurels. This is a fighter in search of perpetual improvement, with the goal of being a better player today than yesterday having been his credo since childhood. "If you can get there, the rest will follow. I set goals for myself day to day. The important thing is to continually progress. It is daily work. This year, there are small things I want to improve upon." To reverse the gains of Djokovic, for starters, and to achieve his dream for 2012: a double Wimbledon/Olympic Games on English turf.

Weight of the racquet

Among the notorious measures taken by the Spaniard include three extra grams of weight added to the head of the racket for a batter match against the Serbian offensive. "Three grams along the sides will probably make no difference, but at the top of the racquet, it does. It gives a bit more power so you can take the high balls earlier and hit evenly, since the racquet arrives faster than the ball."

The question is whether his recent shoulder pain will suffer as a result. Nadal must have given the matter thought for and against those three extra grams. The wearing out of his body remains a source of concern for the Spaniard for whom the game, unlike that of Roger Federer, does not favor his physique. "I do not know what state I will be in when I retire. The courts are hard, like here in Melbourne, at the US Open, in Miami and at Indian Wells – they are very hard on the body as well. Look at Lleyton Hewitt and his knee and hip injuries."

For Rafa, the hard surfaces are problematic, but also the faster balls and a merciless ranking system. Hence his crusade against an overloaded playing schedule…But about that, he does not have much to say. "I will only comment if there is a real opportunity to change. But for now, seeing as we do not have the necessary support in the world of tennis, there is no hope of change. So, apart from filling your newspapers, that does nothing for me, and if you are looking for someone to speak negatively about the sport, I will not."

Roger Federer reportedly told the New York Times that the comments of some players, Nadal among them, were tarnishing the image of tennis. Such is the burden of champions: each word has a resounding effect.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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