Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Rafael Nadal - Nike Sportswear


Nike Sportswear, the high-end, more lifestyle-focused arm of the iconic brand, is launching a new capsule lineup that hits retail today in New York City. The NSW Collection was originally created for athletes on Nike's roster to wear off the field, court, etc. But the forward thinking heads in Oregon wanted to give the average joe the chance to rock their top shelf steez. The 15 piece range (think cashmere crewnecks, a trench, a lightweight wind jacket, and a polo) will be available exclusively at the first standalone Nike Sportswear store, located in the heart of SoHo at 21 Mercer Street. And be sure to hustle down there today: like a cross court cannon from Mr. Nadal, this stuff is going to be tough to touch.

More photos after the jump.








Courtesy: GQ

Rafael Nadal - Press Conference Video

Courtesy: ksyuzi
Twitpic account updated with photos from last nights Round 1 match against Golubev.

Enjoy :)

Rafael Nadal - Struggles But Makes It Through

I didn't watch the match but from what I have read it was a bit of a shaky one from Rafa but still got the job done in straight sets.

Here are various match reports

Sky Sports - The world number two was forced to dig deeper than most people would have expected before eventually coming through 6-3 7-6 (7/1) 7-5 victory in the night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium.... Read more here

Telegraph - Rafael Nadal overcame a spirited challenge from Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev to reach the second round of the US Open with a 6-3 7-6 (7/1) 7-5 victory in the night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium.... Read more here

The Hindu - Rafael Nadal’s first match as defending U.S. Open champion was hardly a tour de force, with the Spaniard lucky to record a straight sets victory over the relatively lowly-ranked Andrey Golubev on Tuesday... Read more here

Courtesy: ksyuzi

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Rafael Nadal - Pre US Open Press Conference

Defending champion Rafael Nadal addressed the press at the US Open today. The Spaniard discussed the state of his fingers, his rivalry with Novak Djokovic, his book and more.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English first, please.

Q. What are your thoughts about being here during a hurricane, and how will you spend your time?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know what’s going on, I think. Nobody knows exactly what’s going on, no? But having the club closed, all the places in Manhattan will be closed, so not much. Just stay in the hotel. Maybe watch some films. But we will see what’s going on. I never had an experience with a hurricane. Is something new. I think is very bad for the city, for the weekend, for everybody. But, you know, that’s a new experience, and not enjoyable experience, but we know how is when is hurricane.

Q. How are the fingers?

RAFAEL NADAL: Much better. I am able to practice with normal conditions.

Q. Bandages? No bandages or anything?

RAFAEL NADAL: Bandages, yes. The skin is still very thin, but it’s fine.

Q. A lot of people have said you’ve been stymied, you’ve been flummoxed by Djokovic this season. I mean, do you feel like if you possibly meet him in the US Open this week or next week that you have good chance against him?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I am here. You know, I am here at the start of the tournament and you start to talk about a match against Djokovic. I have to win a lot to play Djokovic. And probably him, too. He’s not in the final yet. I am focused on try to play well and try to have very good practice this week. That’s what I am doing. And the good chances against Djokovic, those chances always depends how I am playing, how he’s playing. Not talking about here, talking in general. After we will see, no? I think I played a fantastic year this year. I had a lot of victories all the year; I am not happy about how I played against him.

Q. Could you talk about exactly what happened to your fingers? You got burned in Cincinnati at some restaurant, right?

RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I get burned in a Japanese restaurant. Probably, you know, the Teppanyaki grill was there, probably the plate. When I arrived at the restaurant the plate was there, so probably the plate stayed there for a long time. Not inside the grill. Something like this away to the grill. You know, when they put the food, I tried to put the plate closer to me and was obviously very hot. (Smiling.)

Q. So your pointing finger and two fingers?

RAFAEL NADAL: Two fingers.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about this book? Was it important for you to do something like this?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, it is something that we decided to do. Was the really first autobiography I was able to do. Was a good opportunity to work with John Carlin. We had a very good feeling together. He speaks in Spanish, too, so it makes a little bit easier everything to talk about the emotion and to talk about, you know… I think it was a fantastic experience. I talk a long time with him and remember a lot of things that you normally usually don’t think about the past, no? So when you start to talk you remember, yeah, few moments of your career, few moments when you were a kid. Was interesting and I had fun, and hopefully the book will like to the people.

Q. In the book where you talk about your parents’ separation, it seemed like it came out of the blue for you, that you did not realize that they were having any troubles. Is that right?

RAFAEL NADAL: I didn’t understand that very well. (Translation.) You know, what happened there was but in the book - I never talk about my personal things in the press, but, you know, all the changes in your life needs a little bit of time. That’s what happened. So after a little bit of time I was perfect, but, you know, at the beginning it’s tough. But, you know, I am not the only one who has the parents divorcing in one moment of my life. Only thing is that Mallorca the family is very important, you are very close of the people that your friends, your family. So any change in this part, these people close to you, affects you, no? That’s happened. That’s past.

Q. I understand how it affected you. What I don’t understand is how you did not see problems between your mother and father. You did not notice problems between your mom and dad?

RAFAEL NADAL: I know the problems, but anyway, I gonna repeat you, I don’t want to talk about that now.

Q. How does it feel to come here after having you won it last year? Do you see the tournament different? Is it less pressure because you won it once?

RAFAEL NADAL: The emotions probably are a little bit different, because when you come back after the victory of last year the emotions are higher. Of course, it was the last Grand Slam for me to complete all four. Was very, very nice moment of my career, one of the biggest moments of my career. That makes the comeback a little more special. But if we talk about the goal, is the same. Play well, try to arrive to the final rounds. That’s the same, no? Pressure? I don’t feel extra pressure. I am happy about how I did. I didn’t play very well during the summer, but I am practicing much better here. So we’ll see.

Q. Have you been surprised this year by the turnaround, where before it was you and Roger for so long at the top, and now all of a sudden - Djokovic didn’t come out of nowhere, but he really has jumped up very quickly this year. Have you been surprised by that change?

RAFAEL NADAL: Djokovic didn’t arrive this year, no?

Q. But he was not playing at the level that you were…

RAFAEL NADAL: He was No. 3 of the world for three years. That’s not bad.

Q. But he only won one slam.

RAFAEL NADAL: Only one, and most of the people never won one. For me is a little bit strange about the people here from tennis talks about Djokovic, about his big new improvement. Djokovic was here before, no? Djokovic played fantastic before. He had fantastic potential to be where he is today. He’s doing great. He’s playing without injuries. He’s playing very solid, the mental, the tennis. What he’s doing is something very difficult to repeat. For me surprise? I think for everybody surprise see a player that he’s not losing. He’s only lost two matches during all the year. For everybody surprising, but for me is no surprise that Djokovic is No. 1. For me is not a surprise that Djokovic is able to win Grand Slams, because he’s very good. That’s not from six months ago.

Q. Two questions: One, you’re 25 years old. Does it feel strange to have a book about your life at 25? And second, you seem like generally a pretty private person. What did you want to tell? What did you want to accomplish with this book?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I am lucky. 25 years old and I enjoyed a lot of experiences in my life. You never know if you can have another book in the future, but I felt it’s a good time to have that one. Is a little bit of the history of my life. Is a little bit of the history how I am where I am today. Just open a little bit more of my life to them, to the fans, to the people who support me, the people who are interested about me. For me, you know, now I am a little bit more open with the fans with the Twitter with the Facebook, and now with the book. So I am trying to be more connected with them, and that’s probably a good way to do it.

Courtesy: OfficalWebsite

My Tennis Lounge

I now have admin rights to the Facebook page of the tennis forum I use.

Please have a look around this forum as it is a great place to chat about tennis with other fans from around the world.

We cover all the ATP tournaments and also have threads for other sports & interests. It is free to join and is open 24/7.

Here is the website The address is also posted in the link bar at the top of this Blog.


Friday, 26 August 2011

Rafael Nadal - iReporters video

Here is a short video of Rafa answering a few questions by fans for CNN iReporters.

Video link here

Sorry but the Embed function has been disabled

Rafael Nadal - Armani Video

Courtesy: Armani

Rafa at The US Open Tennis Clinic

Rafa returns the love with 10 and Under Tennis

By Nicholas J. Walz
Thursday, August 25, 2011

For the campers of the Child Center of New York (CCNY), coming to the US Open and getting a chance to experience SmashZone was more than enough to classify August 25 as the red-letter day on their summer calendar.

Then Rafael Nadal wanted to see what all the fun was about, and a great day turned into an unforgettable event.

The defending Open champion and No. 2 seed stepped out from Interview Room 1 and the 2011 US Open Draw Ceremony and ambled over to the Chase Center, where SmashZone is housed, in full tennis gear, ready to take part in a 10 and Under Tennis clinic. Rafa's appearance is part of the "Returning the Love" initiative, with the US Open and the players of the ATP & WTA tours are proactively reaching out to New York City communities and surrounding areas— including youth, families and non-profit organizations—to create a positive and lasting impact.

It took a few seconds before each of the 30 kids from around the Greater Queens area realized who had just walked in the door - but when they did, they raced to the court in the middle of the floor.

"Thank you very much," Nadal said to each child as they lined up to hit, smiling as he swatted a few trick shots over the net with the foam balls designed for the QuickStart play format.

"Good job by all you guys - you should be very proud."

Not too long ago, the 25-year-old Grand Slam champion was in their shoes, taking his first swings as a small boy in Spain. In the United States, more and more youngsters learn the game through 10 and Under Tennis, which makes the game more accessible to children - with pop-up nets, smaller court dimensions and foam balls, a child can hitting successfully and have fun the very first day they pick up a racquet. SmashZone displays a wide array of 10 and Under Tennis-related games and activities which displace antiquated lessons and drills as introduction to tennis for today's kids.

"(The event) was a tremendous opportunity for our kids to learn a little bit about the sport of tennis and in real-life see a player like Nadal who is so great at what he does," said Laura Schenone, CCNY Communications Director. "We hope that this will give them the drive to achieve their own aspirations through tennis."

Schenone's CCNY outfit has operated in Queens for nearly 60 years as a non-profit agency to help at-risk children succeed in life. Their mission through programming - which includes Head Start, youth counseling, after-school mentorship and child abuse prevention in addition to recreational activities - is to create safe, active alternatives for children and their families to keep the family unit intact.

"We serve 18,000 kids each year with over 80 programs," said Schenone. "These kids are part of our summer camp program, and to have the chance to be here, where it all happens in tennis is thrilling - we're all so lucky."

Its true – how many kids in the world can say that they played tennis with the great Rafael Nadal?

For more information about the Child Center of New York and CCNY programming, please visit their website.

Rafael Nadal - Book Signing Update


Due to the bad weather this event was cancelled. I have no news of any rescheduled date.

Found courtesy of Rafaholics 

Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 6:00PM
Rafael Nadal
"Rafa: My Story"
Store Locator

Event Guidelines:

  • Books available at the cash registers starting 10AM
  • Customers are required to purchase book(s) at the event/store in order to receive a wristband
  • One (1) wristband per paying customer
  • Wristband will be placed on customer at point of purchase
  • Each person in line must have a wristband and a book
  • Line-up will be outside front entrance
  • Photography is NOT allowed
  • No personalization
  • Promotional material or memorabilia will NOT be signed

*Event guidelines are subject to change.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Rafa & Novak On A Date

The World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 10-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal has went out together for some entertainment at Mamma Mia in New York.

Djokovic and Nadal have spotted at the ancient old musical Mamma Mia in New York, where both the players has some entertainment on Tuesday night. The American people amazed to see the tennis stars together at Mamma Mia. The 2011 French Open champion Nadal said that, he come from Broadway to see Mamma Mia along with Novak and had taken picture with them. Djokovic said that he will be return back into the action at US Open tournament, where he will begin practice session soon.

The 2011 Wimbledon Champion Djokovic has been recovering from shoulder injury, where he sustained in the 2011 Cincinnati Masters final against Andy Murray on last week end. He added he was amazed to watch the Mamma Mia participants. The 25-year-old Nadal said that he has enjoyed a lot at the ancient old musical Mamma Mia in New York on Tuesday night. Spaniard has begun his training session on Tuesday afternoon at the Center Court in New York. Djokovic will be seeded No. 1 following with defending champion Rafael Nadal, five-time US Open champion Roger Federer and three-time Grand Slam finalist Andy Murray.

Courtesy: LiveTennisGuide

Rafael Nadal - Bacardi Event in New York City

I have updated my Twitpic account.

Rafaholics have a report & video

Rafael Nadal - The Time Is Now

When 2011 dawned nine months ago, not a single soul predicted that Rafael Nadal would become Novak Djokovic's lapdog. After all, Rafa had won three straight major titles, the last by beating Djokovic in the final.

Of course, now we can all see that the turnaround was inevitable. Empowered physically and mentally by a new diet, a Davis Cup title and a better serve, the streamlined Novak no longer had a soft spot -- i.e., Roger Federer's backhand, Andy Murray's brain -- to brutalize. As a result, Nadal suddenly understood what it felt like to play against himself. And he didn't like it.

This harsh reality has been harder for Nadal to accept than one would have expected. He's come right out and said that figuring out how to turn the tables on Djokovic is such a big job that it can't possibly happen before next season. Federer, with his bird's eye perspective on the game, recently hit on why that is: Rafa's never been dominated before. "I don't think it's rattling him badly," he said, diplomatic as ever, of Djokovic's five straight wins over Nadal. "But it should have some effect on him, because he doesn't have losing streaks against many players, or hasn't had, because he was such a good teenager, really."  
That's a key point. Nadal was so good at such a young age that he skipped over an important step in development. The natural order of things is for a player, no matter how talented, to get beaten like an old rug early in his ATP career. Back in his pony-tail days, Federer regularly got pounded by Andre Agassi and even Lleyton Hewitt, before his 2003 breakthrough. But the same didn't happen to Nadal. He was a true prodigy, a phenomenon. In addition to his freakish teenage physique and skills, injuries kept him off the circuit early on. So when he made his very first appearance at Roland Garros, he won the thing. He even won his first-ever match against Federer, then the new number-one player in the world. And it was on a hard court.
This led to the Rafa Mythos, which Nadal bought into with equal or greater fervor than even his opponents. "I think I have the capacity to accept difficulties and overcome them that is superior to many of my rivals," he says in his new book
That certainly has been true. Now it's more true of Djokovic than it is of Nadal.
The Spaniard's tail-between-the-legs response to Djokovic's rise has been a bit of a shock. Rafa has never been one to swagger -- that's always been an important aspect of his appeal. He's a pleasant, genuine guy. The idealized Nice Young Man. He brings boyish enthusiasm, not marking-my-territory arrogance, to the court. But there is a flip side to that humility: Abject acceptance of the Way of Things, whatever it might be. There will be no Connorsesque, "I'll chase that S.O.B. to the ends of the earth" bluster from him. He's number two again? OK, Rafa doesn't like it, but he accepts it.

To change this new, unpleasant reality, he needs to go away for a while, soak in the hot tub, gather his brain trust -- and work, work, work. 
At least he thinks he does. He actually doesn't. And maybe Soreshouldergatewill convince him that the time to strike isn't 2012 but right now, in New York. Djokovic retired in the Cincy final against Murray, kicking up speculation that he's seriously hurt, that he's burned out. That he won't be ready for the U.S. Open next week. He'll be fit and ready, make no mistake. But the Djoker is amental block for Nadal, not a physical one. Rafa just needs to believe the Serbian will be 99% instead of 100%. 
Yes, Djokovic can beat anyone at any time. That includes Federer and Nadal and the ghosts of Budge and Laver. He's that good. But the same is still true of Rafa. He's the defending U.S. Open champion, let's remember. And it's not like Djokovic has been blowing Nadal off the court this season. Their matches have been close, and Rafa just needs that little extra oomph to get over the hump. I never thought I'd be saying this, but he just needs to believe in himself.

Courtesy: OregonLive

Rafael Nadal - Less Pressure This Year

Rafael Nadal

Photo credit: Rafael Nadal/Bacardi

Defending U.S. Open champion Rafael Nadal enters the year's final Grand Slam with less momentum than last year, but also less pressure to repeat as champion.

"After winning last year, the pressure is less," Nadal said in midtown Tuesday. "I now have all four Grand Slams."

In the time since he beat Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final last September — completing his major trophy collection — Nadal has dropped to the No. 2 ranking while struggling to stem the rise of Djokovic, the new No. 1 and the Open's top seed.

Nadal appeared Tuesday as part of Bacardi's "Champions Drink Responsibly" event at Bar Basque, and he was asked about his own drinking habits. (In his memoir, "Rafa," which was published yesterday, the 25-year-old Spaniard writes, "I barely touch alcohol.")

"I am the first one, when I have a chance, to go out with friends," Nadal told reporters during a news conference. "Alcohol is part of that all the time. The thing is ... it's not necessary to take a crazy amount of alcohol. ... I have [had] fun 1,000 times without drinking too much."

Courtesy: AMNewYork

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Rafael Nadal - Should Thank The Strings

BabolatBen Hider/Getty ImagesFor the longest time, racket technology outpaced the strings. Not anymore.

More than anyone, Toni Nadal has always understood the subtle weaknesses of his sublimely talented nephew.

Which is why several years ago, chatting with Jean-Christophe Verborg, Babolat's international tour director, Uncle Toni asked for some assistance.

"Rafa is going to get older and older," he told Verborg, "so we have to help him a little bit."

Rafael Nadal already had won four straight French Open titles, plus another at Wimbledon. He was 22. But he had been playing with the same old-school polyester Babolat Duralast 15L strings for nearly a dozen years.

Verborg first approached Rafa with the company's red Revenge string, but because Nadal was the No. 1-ranked player in the world -- and famously superstitious about virtually every element of his game -- he said he didn't want to change anything. In 2009, pushed by Toni to come up with a little more "pump, a little more spin," not to mention a few more free points on the first serve, Verborg's engineers created a new, sleek black string.

When the ATP World Tour came to Paris, in November 2009, Verborg invited Rafa and Toni to Babolat's headquarters in Lyon, France.

"Come out to the factory," Verborg said. "Give me one hour. Let's try it. If you no like, OK. You like, could be interesting."

String is the (new) thing

Verborg, lounging at Babolat's hospitality site at Roland Garros, laughed. Wearing stressed jeans and a gray jacket, accented by a scarf, Verborg clearly enjoyed telling this story. At the time, though, he wasn't sure if there would be a happy ending, much less a global marketing phenomenon.

"The string," he insisted, "is as important as the racket. If you have a good racket -- and bad strings -- it's still bad."

This is true of concert-quality violins, and it's true of the modern sticks tennis professionals carry into battle. These days the string, many agree, is quite the thing.

Although the graphite racket technology has flattened, rather like the world economy, recent advances in strings have utterly changed the game. They have names such as Luxilon ALU Power, Technifibre's Black Code, Prince's Poly Spin 3D, Head's Sonic Pro -- and, of course, Rafa's black string: Babolat's RPM Blast.

Back in the day of wood rackets, natural gut was the string of choice. With today's synthetic polyester strings, which players can combine with gut for a hybrid string arrangement, they can hit shots that Borg and McEnroe never dreamed of. Athletes are stronger than their predecessors, and that strength is rewarded. Instead of the gentile, one-foot-forward, weight-transfer-from-back-to-front classic forehand, players now open their stance and hit the ball nearly as hard as they can; their follow-throughs can actually wind up behind them. Employing an extreme western grip, they can impart severe torque, causing the ball to spin ferociously. Elite players play a more vertical game than club players, so their aggressive swipes maintain unprecedented speed, yet still manage to find the court.

In other words, power and speed have increased without compromising control.

"When you have the ball in the string bed, there is a very good flexibility," Verborg said. "You have a feeling of the ball. You are thinking, 'I know where I am sending the ball.' "

Sounds like a deal with the devil, doesn't it?

"The players tell us they can swing with everything they have and, in the last 25 percent of the flight, the ball disappears onto the court," said Ron Rocchi, Wilson's global tour equipment manager. "[Roger] Federer and Nadal can create angles from the baseline that didn't exist four, five years ago. They can hit a ball three feet off the service line and see it bounce into the stands."

Tennis, at a distance, is a lovely, lyrical dance. Up close, though, the collision between ball and racket is disturbingly violent. Not unlike the gruesome slow-motion shots of gun fights by western director Sam Peckinpah.

Viewed at a few frames a second, you can see the flexed wrist and arm muscles of the player absorbing the blow -- while moving aggressively through the ball -- the racket head bending, chattering tremendously, the ball (typical groundstrokes for professionals average between 70 and 90 miles per hour) diving into the string bed, deforming and compressing into an astonishingly small yellow bit of rubber, the strings giving way until they reach their limit and snap back, spitting the ball out like a cannon.

It looks a lot like anarchy. The Babolat cameras used in research were actually developed for ballistics tests. The whole exchange takes about four-one-hundredths of a second. And yet that brief kiss between string and ball defines the entire arc of the shot.

Eric Babolat is the fifth-generation CEO of Babolat. He learned the business from the bottom up, stringing rackets at Grand Slams. His great-great grandfather founded the company that invented gut strings in 1875.

"The string is part of the racket and the racket is an extension of their body," he said, smiling. "There is lots of psychology involved."

Keeping it in the park

Fabrizio Sestini was an All-American at TCU, but he's also a solid post player in pickup basketball games at the ATP World Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

[+] EnlargeRacket
BabolatToday's players can hit shots they never dreamed of while using polyester string.

He's a tour manager for the ATP and spends a lot of time around the players and their equipment.

"Strings are a vital part of the equation, probably the second-most important aspect after the racket," Sestini said. "The comparison I would make is a downhill skier and the wax on his skis. They arrive at a level where they are so sensitive that they can feel if their string tension is a half a kilo more or less than usual.

"They are very, very picky. Sometimes, from the outside, it would look like they are crazy."

For the longest time, racket technology outpaced the strings.

"That was the problem," Rocchi said. "And then the polyester strings caught back up to the rackets. I thinkAndy Roddick was one of the first guys to go with a wide-body racket and 16 mains, an open string pattern. Before that, everybody played with a dense pattern. Guys would try rackets and the ball would fly off them. There was no way to tone it down."

No way to keep the ball in the park. Polyester strings changed that.

The watershed event was Gustavo Kuerten's victory at the 1997 French Open. The 20-year-old Brazilian credited his Luxilon strings for allowing him to hit the ball harder and impart greater spin. By the time he won his next two titles at Roland Garros, in 2000-01, the buzz over polyester strings was deafening.

Todd Martin, a two-time major finalist, has an exquisite tennis memory. He gave two examples of the breakthrough from his perspective. The first came at Roland Garros in 2002 when he was playing Alex Corretja in a second-round match.

"I was getting my clock cleaned," Martin remembered. "I served and volleyed out wide in the ad court and I hit a very good serve. Alex just got the return back, and I hit a forehand volley. I didn't angle it great, but it got on him pretty fast. I thought it was 50-50 that he would get his racket on it. He made a good play on it; late but a lot of racket. I'm thinking people in the first row on the side of court are in danger.

"The ball left the racket and missed only by four feet -- not the four meters I had guessed. It was shocking to me how much that ball moved considering how fast he hit it. It was alarming, and it was all strings."

Two years later, Martin was practicing with Thomas Enqvist at Roland Garros and both men, Martin says, were using Luxilon strings.

"We went out to hit, and 10 minutes in, we realized we had gone through our entire batch of six, eight balls," Martin said. "We were hitting it hard -- and we weren't missing. With regular strings, if you wanted to take the baseline out of play [by spinning the ball], Thomas and I would have had to change our swing patterns.

"If my normal forehand stroke [with gut strings] produced an arbitrary, say, 100 revolutions per second, my same forehand with half Luxilon and half gut would produce maybe 200 revolutions. That's a big difference. Plus, you get more forgiveness on off-center shots when you're not clean."

Fabrizio Sestini laughed when he heard the Martin stories. They play frequently; Martin lives near ATP headquarters.

"Todd is a great example because he didn't even know what topspin was -- he hit the ball so flat," Sestini said. "He hits with the same style, so I try to use the topspin when I can see he's in trouble."

Stringing them along?

Rafa accepted Jean-Christophe Verborg's invitation to the Babolat factory. In fact, he met with the engineers and technicians and practiced in Lyon before the Paris indoor tournament in November 2009 using the new black string. Verborg, who had a new product line -- and the potential riches that can come with it -- riding on Rafa's test sessions, was a nervous mess.

"Rafa comes off the court and says, 'Um, hmm … not bad,'" Verborg remembered. "And when a player says not bad, well …"

Verborg slapped his palms together.

"& is good, no?"

Uncle Toni texted Verborg when Rafa arrived in Paris and told him the testing had gone well.

"He likes the strings," Toni wrote. "We'll try them."

Playing with the RPM Blast string, Nadal was knocked out of the 2010 Australian Open quarterfinals. He had now gone four straight Slams without reaching a final (missing Wimbledon the year before), his longest such streak in six years.

After the RPM Blast product line had been launched, amid much fanfare, Rafa sought out Verborg.

"I don't know if I play well with these strings," Rafa told him.

There would be one more chance for the black string: Monte Carlo, the official beginning of the clay-court season.

Impact on the game

The synthetic strings have helped turn tennis into a passive-aggressive game. You can actually watch the elite players sometimes take a few quick steps backward when returning serve -- and then swat a winner from what looked like a defensive position.

"You see it happen all the time," said ESPN analyst Darren Cahill. "The strings have made it a more offensive game, especially from the baseline."

[+] EnlargeJelana Jankovic
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty ImagesJelena Janovic, a runner-up in Cincinnati, is not the only player who should be extolling the revolution in string technology.

They also have placed a premium on retrieving ability. Perhaps the best two defenders in the game --Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki -- are the No. 1-ranked players on the ATP World Tour and WTA circuits. This is not a coincidence.

"The court is bigger," Martin said, "because the technology and skill of the players promoting just ungodly amounts of top spin -- without sacrificing pace on ball. The effect is that the court has become much wider than it used to be. More balls are in play and they are tougher to reach.

"As a result, lateral movement is more important now than it's ever been."

Last month, on learning that a string story was in the works, Mary Carillo started a stream-of-consciousness series of headlines that our tennis editor will no doubt attempt to steal:

A salute to strings.

String theory.

Super string.

Silly string.

"The string technology," the NBC and Tennis Channel analyst said, still cackling, "has created remarkable angles and amazing usages on the court. But the string giveth and taketh away. The one thing it's abolished is the net game. The ball just jumps around so much, it's hard to volley, hard to come in and attack the net against that level of spin and pace.

"John McEnroe has tried it -- his volley is so compact -- it kept him from feeling entirely comfortable. There's not as much variety as there used to be, which is why Djokovic is No. 1. He does everything better than everyone else from the baseline."

Brad Gilbert, who coached Andre Agassi, Andy Murrayand Roddick, keeps up with all the advances in technology. He owns a tennis shop near his home in northern California.

"I was hitting with a junior today, 16," Gilbert said. "He's been playing with these strings since he was 12. The younger generation has grown up with the technology and they're used to taking that big cut."

Gilbert does not mourn the death of the volley.

"Absolutely not," he said. "The strings take nothing from game. The people saying 'Go back to wood.' Well, that's just antiquated. Football was beautiful in the '70s, but we're playing a different game now.

"Same with tennis. I like what we're doing."

Secret sauce

There is a lot of intrigue surrounding the composition of strings. You might call it a tension convention. The proprietary blends that go into synthetic strings are guarded like the recipe for Kentucky Fired Chicken, the Big Mac and Coca-Cola.

Player preferences are not so closely guarded.

The Luxilon folks say that, based on stringing logs from the U.S. Open and Australian Open, player sponsorships and purchases, 73 percent of the ATP's top 100 use their strings, as well as 59 percent of the WTA's top 100.

[+] EnlargeString
Timothy A. Clary/Getty ImagesToday's strings place a premium on power and defense -- a winning combination.

One of those players isRoger Federer. He uses Wilson natural gut in the 16 mains, according to Wilson's Rocchi, strung at about 50 pounds of pressure, with synthetic Big Banger ALU Power Rough for the 19 crosses, at around 46. Most players string their rackets the opposite way, with synthetic strings in the mains and gut for the crosses. Djokovic, too, goes with gut in the mains and polyester in the crosses, but employs a higher tension on his larger racket, usually between 59 and 61 pounds. Djokovic uses a denser string pattern, 18 mains and 20 crosses. In theory, the more open string pattern allows players to produce more spin on the ball; Djokovic typically hits the ball flatter than either Nadal or Federer.

Nadal generally prefers an average of 55 pounds for all of his strings, but like Federer and Djokovic, he is quick to adjust when conditions change. Nadal goes into each match with eight freshly strung rackets. He changes every seven games, when new balls come out, but if he's due to serve he will play an eighth game. If the opponent is serving, he switches.

Another byproduct of these synthetic strings is that racket tensions have, generally speaking, come down in recent years.

"The average player has to understand they should lower tension with these products," Riocchi said. "A good rule of thumb is 10 percent. If you're playing with gut at 60, 55 with synthetic strings should give you a comparable feel. It's a mistake a lot of shops make, and when they're strung too tight a club player will feel like it's too firm."

Cahill thinks string tensions have come down about 10 pounds from the days when he was playing.

"Bjorn Borg strung his wooden racket so tight the strings would pop in the hotel room at night," Cahill said. "[Thomas] Muster used a racket like a board. With these strings and a looser racket, guys can put the ball anywhere they want."

A fine line

Toni Nadal is a successful tennis coach, but in the hands of clever producers, he's actually a decent actor. In opening scene of a Babolat commercial, Toni sits comfortably and speaks a serviceable French with English subtitles.

"At the time, he wasn't playing very well," Toni says of the search for a new string. "The racket is great, but &"

And then he raises his eyebrows and smiles coyly.

"In fact," Toni says, producing a 40-foot reel of 16-gauge (1.30 millimeters) RPM Blast, "his secret is this string."

The black, eight-sided string is described in Babolat literature as a "high-density co-polymer polyester monofilament combined with a new cross-linked coating."

As we now know, RPM Blast passed the Rafa test. The critical mass came at the 2010 Monte Carlo event, in which Rafa dropped only 14 games in a minimum 10 sets to win the title. He followed up with wins at Rome and Madrid, beating Federer in the final.

"Thank goodness," said Eric Babolat, the company's CEO. "The players' feeling is the key with these strings. It's not a mathematic formula. It's a fine line, sometimes you change something and you lose something."

This time, Rafa found something.

And so, he finished the 2010 season with three Grand Slam titles in a row, something Federer never did in the same calendar year. It was one of the greatest seasons ever.

Today, according to Babolat, about 20 percent of the elite players on the ATP World Tour and WTA use the RPM Blast string.

Toni Nadal, the pitchman, continued.

"It helped Rafa hit the ball harder, more topspin, while maintaining control," he said with a look of conviction. "Babolat made an amazing string. So we're very happy."

Courtesy: ESPN