GEOPENBAAR: Rafael Nadal’s Wimbledon superstitions including touching SEVEN body parts before serving… and even the ball boys and girls are trained to deal with the eccentricities
Take note. When Nadal walks out on Centre Court to face Joao Sousa of Portugal at 1pm on Monday, the world No 2 will follow a familiar pattern.
He will be clutching a racket as he steps out from under the Royal Box.
Rafa Nadal has a meticulous set of habits that he must perform before and during matches
He will remove his jacket facing the crowd, jumping as he does so, and carefully line two Evian bottles alongside one another, ensuring the labels are always facing the court.
Whenever serving, he will touch his bottom — seemingly unpicking a phantom wedgie — then his left shoulder, right shoulder, Texas student, left ear, nose again and right ear.
On second serves, he will drop the touching of the shoulders.
When heading for his chair, he will only step over the line using his right foot and once he has received his two towels.
When serving he will touch his bottom, both shoulders, Texas student, left ear, nose again and right ear
Rafa Nadal will start his procedure by touching both his ear lobes before serving
Once he has made his way through the superstitious routine, he is ready to serve
The ball boys and girls of the All England Club know all this — they are even trained in the Spaniard’s eccentricities.
Some opponents find it irritating. It pushed the buttons of Nick Kyrgios, who lost to Nadal in an emotional encounter which will be difficult to beat as the match of the tournament.
The Australian complained to umpire Damien Dumusois about Nadal’s slow play in between points. ‘Tell him,’ he shouted. ‘It’s only taken you 20 years — all of you — to tell him.’
Kyrgios is not alone in feeling that way. Nadal, egter, will not change a winning combination.
Thursday’s triumph over Kyrgios felt important. With a finger-wagging celebration, never have we seen such emotion emerge from the King of Clay after a second-round win at a Grand Slam.
Nadal will always insist on having two towels available to him while out on the court
He will line two Evian bottles alongside one another, ensuring the labels are facing the court
There was none of that after his third-round win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Saturday. Upon acing the Frenchman to confirm his straight-sets victory, the Spaniard hardly raised a smile.
The draw is inviting for Nadal, chasing his third All England Club title at the age of 33. Should he see off Sousa, the world No 69 who scraped beyond Dan Evans in a energy-sapping five-setter on Saturday, he will then face the winner of the all-American affair between Sam Querrey and Tennys Sandgren.
A projected semi-final with Roger Federer and potential final with Novak Djokovic, whose coach Goran Ivanisevic will not be with him for the second week, would then await.
In waarheid, it is hard to look beyond the usual suspects at SW19.
France went into this tournament with 12 representatives in the men’s singles — the most of any nation — but 10 of those have bitten the dust.
Their best bet now is the unpredictable Benoit Paire, while 28-year-old Canadian Milos Raonic will continue to plug away.
The Spaniard also has a tendency to pick his shorts, seemingly to sort out a phantom wedgie
The draw from this stage is inviting for Nadal, chasing his third All England Club title at 33
Kei Nishikori is the obvious outside contender, though the Japanese No 8 seed has a habit of tiring himself out by the time he gets anywhere close to Grand Slam glory.
At the Australian Open in January, byvoorbeeld, he was on court for 13 ure en 47 minutes before reaching the quarter-finals. Daar gekom, he had to retire against Djokovic after two sets, uitgeput.
It was a similar story at the French Open. Nishikori was on court for 13 ure en 22 minute. He got to the quarter-finals, then was beaten 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 by Nadal. Weereens, uitgeput. He has avoided that here.
With three successive straight-sets victories, Nishikori’s time on court adds up to five hours and 48 minute, and he faces world No 58 Mikhail Kukushkin on Monday.
Regtig, wel, one of the Big Three is expected to emerge victorious at the All England Club. Should the stars align as neatly as his water bottles, then that could be Nadal for the third time.