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Joker hot; Nadal cold as flu destroys his plans to play in Australia

Team Rafa out with a hot new iPhone tennis app

December 28, 2012 | 08:58 PM

While RAFA gave his umpteenth update on his on-again, off-again come-back, JOKER destroyed the acting king of Spain, David Ferrer, 6-0, 6-3, in the semis of the World Tennis Championship Exhibition Tournament in Abu Dhabi. The first set took all of 26 minutes, with Ferrer confessing he had not played well while praising his opponent. Evidently, Joker likes the conditions there: last year he took out Fed in the semis with the loss of only 3 games, 6-2, 6-1, while Ferrer eliminated Rafa in the semis (Rafa was nursing his gimpy shoulder back to health at the end of 2011). Joker then destroyed Ferrer 6-3, 6-2.

In tomorrow's final, Almagro will face Joker. The #3 Spaniard, who replaced Rafa after the Spaniard withdrew from the 6 man event, came back from down a set to defeat Tipsarevic 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2. Tipso had defeated Murray soundly in the semis, 6-4, 6-3.

Rafa's latest explanation for delaying his return

First it was to be in Asia, then Paris and London, then the Davis Cup final against Croatia. Then, having kissed 2012 goodbye before the season finale, it was to be in time to play the Australian Open. The Abu Dhabi exhibition tournie was supposed to be a tune-up for the tune-up in Doha, Qatar, next week. But now that his doctor havs said that Rafa needs at least a week to recover from a flu before competing, it's goodbye to all that. It took Uncle Toni to explain how it works, though neither Rafa or Toni mentioned a new date for his return:

Nadal's coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, explained that Nadal had opted against making his return at Melbourne since he wouldn't be physically fit to take on its five-set format.

"We consider not appropriate to play the Australian Open since we will not have enough preparation for a greater competition which is a Grand Slam tournament," Toni Nadal said in the statement. "It is simply not conceivable that his first event is a best of five sets event, he wouldn't be ready for that."

There's a sense in which this all makes perfect sense, as laughable as his pronouncements about his return have become - the only thing more delayed at the end of this year is Congressional action on the fiscal cliff. No one cuts Congress a break for acting like, well, Congress. Nor would the British media cut Andy Murray a break if he jerked the them around the way Nadal does. Andy's book Coming of Age, which is written in what sounds like his own voice and seems more candid than any tennis autobiography since Agassi's Open, is filled with anecdotes of how he's been roasted by the press for speaking his mind or minding his health. Skip a hopeless first round tie on clay against Argentina in Davis Cup, as Andy did in 2007 because of how knee inflammation? Even his own brother's criticisms became front page news. Rafa skipped the Davis Cup finals this year and has missed important ties before without receiving a harsh notice anywhere, let alone the universal condemnation and character assault launched on Murray. If Andy were a selfish badmouth in the mold of Johnny Mac, as he's often been labeled, he'd be having a hard time with the easy time Rafa gets no matter what he says or does. Rafa's efforts and accomplishments on court have earned him a lifetime pass from the press, who are delighted to report any statement he throws their way regardless of how many flip-flops he's made. Eat your heart out, Mitt Romney (oh, I forgot he doesn't have a heart... pardon me, my politics are showing - I know it's bad form to pile on, beating a man when he's already beaten; not being Republican, I'm not too angry to feel badly for Mitt: he's now generally considered to have been a poor candidate, which is a way of blaming him as the problem, or at least, not the solution; had he won, of course, he'd have been the new Reagan and the savior Amerka's been awaiting; aren't we all sick of this nonsense!).

So what might this delay mean for Rafa in 2013?

I think we'll see him in mid-February somewhere, maybe Rotterdam or San Jose, or the next week in Memphis or Dubai as a tune-up for Indian Wells and Miami. But the only thing I'd bet on is his playing the clay season, or as much of it as he must to get ready for Paris. With success at Roland-Garros, he couldn't be counted out as a serious contender at Wimbledon and beyond.

Meanwhile, team Rafa has been busy getting the marketing edge on his competition, preparing a new iPhone app: which analyzes his strokes and allows you to compare your own with the clay meister's:

Get a jump on your own competition by downloading the app from iTunes when it comes out next week (unless it's delayed... stay tuned for updates from team Nadal and team Apple).


ATP 2013 Tune-up: Abu Dhabi

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