• Language gap protected Nadal from Agassi-Sampras brawl

    3/14/10 7:28 PM | Johan Lindahl
    Language gap protected Nadal from Agassi-Sampras brawl The language gap provided a safety margin for Rafael Nadal, who missed most of the trash-talking between Andre Agassi and rival Pete Sampras during the Hit for Haiti 2 at Indian Wells.

    While Nadal speaks decent "tennis English," the North Americancorner-of-the-mouth jibes between Agassi and Sampras from opposite sides of the court went right over the head of Nadal, partnering Agassi in the exhibition charity doubles.

    "I didn't understand nothing," said Nadal, whose relationship with Roger Federer is decidedly more cordial than the simmering ill feeling which has always marked conditions between Sampras and Agassi.

    Nadal said he was unable to get the gist of the slanging between the pair of senior Americans, and anyway, he was too concentrated on tennis to notice anyway. "I was very happy I didn't understand anything, I didn't feel any tension. That's what I can say."

    Nadal admitted that he was a bit intimidated with playing while wearing a head mic so that the crowd could hear comments from the court.

    "It's not be easy be all the time with the speaker, it seems like you have to say something all the time. But I don't have any problem because for me difficult to say a lot of things in English."

    Agassi and Sampras, never the best of friends, slammed each other during play, with Agassi making fun of his fellow multi-millionaire's reputation as a poor tipper and Sampras hammering serves at Agassi's body.

Tell a friend »


I think Rafa should have talked during the match in Spanish to kind of equalize everything. That would have been great. He was lucky not to understand the caustic remarks flowing back and forth.

patzin , 3/14/10 8:15 PM

what would be the point of Nadal speaking in Spanish? That just would have been rude. Of course he never would have done that.

RickyDimon , 3/14/10 8:27 PM

Don't you think that Rafa prudently uses his lack of english comprehension as a reason when perhaps he'd simply prefer not to comment?

CindiT , 3/14/10 9:24 PM

That excuse is getting old. Even Manny Pacquiao speaks better English than Nadal and most boxers have little grey matter left after the constant pounding. Can we all chip in and buy him a Rosetta Stone English package for his birthday? Or maybe somebody can post him a link for the free torrent download?

chr18 , 3/14/10 9:52 PM

Have to agree with you CindiT. He understood things just fine at the first HfH and it doesn't get much more american than Serena and Andy! It's probably just easier to say he didn't get it than risk being forced to expantiate on his thoughts on the matter.

Zooni , 3/14/10 9:53 PM

haha, bless him :P. probably just as well

but just to clarify... he didn't understand that much in the first h4h. he said so himself in the blogs he did for the australian newspaper

Sib69 , 3/14/10 11:10 PM

Actually, after the H4H in Australia, Nadal actually said he couldn't understand most of the banter going on. I think he should spend more time with Shakira who speaks perfect English and Spanish. He told Jim Courier in an on court interview that when he speaks fast he doesn't understand anything.

Rafa is an Islander, he was not exposed to English until he turned pro, all his team are spanish so he hasn't had the opportunity to speak English regularly, like Verdasco and Lopez who come from big cosmopolitan cities in Spain.

carrie , 3/14/10 11:14 PM

Rafa's english is just fine when he wants it to be ; like any perosn on this earth for whom English is a second or third language ( myself included); its great to be able to say that " I did'nt understand nothing" when anything controversial occurs; I myself have used the "no english" excuse many many times!!

Rafa is no fool!!

Nam1 , 3/14/10 11:46 PM

Rafa's english isn't fluent. Like that adorable thing in the first h4H when he thought Courier was asking him to jump up and down:) The difference is the relationship between the players/atmosphere -- the Aus match was all about affectionate Fedal sledging (i.e. Fed throwing in some Spanish phrases etc). All the players there ENGAGED WITH each other -- i.e. the Rafole rubdown/chest bump/teasing.

This version was mainly about Agassi taking the piss out of Fed and Sampras (obviously much more), with Fed being able to respond. Apart from Fed (i.e. I floved the 'I was talking to Rafa" when Agassi was going on about the party in his head), no one really bought Rafa into it.

Also, when he comes back to the tour after awhile, he's always much more adorably reliant on Spanglish.

There's no way in hell he would have inflamed the tension in the presser, or taken sides, irrespective of language. He would have downplayed it anyway, but I don't think he really knew WTF was going on. He was just happy, smiley Rafa even while it was going on.

GBG , 3/15/10 12:15 AM

chr18 your contempt for rafa nadal is driving you over the edge! why would rafa need to comment on something when everybody watching saw what went down?
so, before you so thoughtfully go out and purchase rosetta stone for rafa, would you kindly give me your take on why you think rafa was asked that question instead of roger, especally since roger speaks several languages fluently and roger was also on court! i'm sorry that you guys are disappointed that rafa didn't give you some special headlines to read! all you get to read is, " i didn't understand anything."
what's the big deal? you are so famous for making something out of everything rafa says and does! what is it? something about rafa kills you; it must be hard dealing with those kind of feelings on a daily basis! lighten up, enjoy the tournament; you can always find something negative if you look for it!

memi , 3/15/10 12:19 AM

It was meant as a funny comment. You need to lighten up. I think the only thing he could have told Agassi was to shut up which he may have since he lifted up his mic (so nobody else could hear) to talk to him on the changeover. I'm actually warming up to Nadal these days especially after the classy way he and Fed interacted during the h4h but fans like you I may never warm up to. Even carrie and I have had civil conversations lately so she can obviously lighten up. You should try it.

chr18 , 3/15/10 12:36 AM

So boooooooooring.....
OK Rafa's english isn't fluent.... SO WHAT???
It's much better than Sampras's, Roge's and AgasiJunky's Spanish...

zare , 3/15/10 12:38 AM

Can't say I'm a fan of the expectation/assumption that everyone should speak English. Rafa does his job just fine: it's not like it effects his play; he and Fed have done a great job promoting the game through their rivalry; and he gets his point across just fine (in fact, from blogs/tweets etc it seems that a lot of journos like the fun atmosphere he creates at pressers; and he got the Ambassador of the Year for 2008 by the International Tennis Writers Association award last year Ambassadors of the Year for the 2008 tennis season by the ITWA for openness and cooperation with the media).

I'd personally be sad if he lost his adorable Spanglish. "sportivity", "talentous", "the windy" etc all rock.

GBG , 3/15/10 12:48 AM

chr18, i'm touched that you are warming to nadal, although i have yet to feel the warmth! doesn't matter though! again, lighten up, you don't have make something out of everything!

memi , 3/15/10 12:50 AM

We receive excel covers of the tours on our tellies this year I might add. It is punctual at this time of year being in the United States. I wake in the morning to be greeted by the ATP 1000 is most consoling or comfitting.
I was that magnetized I even did a good run over the garden while Fish, Monfils, matches were on. I did see a little bit of Nadal's game yesterday. My dear confid'ante needs to get over that horrible pink he seems to wear around. Well; my flatty is on holiday from today so I better cruise on. Best of lucks.

tkip4n01zmun , 3/15/10 1:06 AM

tkip4n01zmun, you reminded me of one of the reasons i admire nadal; he doesn't seem to give a rip about what people think about him or what he wears; i love it that he continues to wear what he wants regardless how it's talked about, and the great thing about it, he can pull off wearing any color at any time! i love seeing him in pink with his tanned complexion! i love uniqueness; creativity and courage to be yourself; courage to deviate from what's popular or expected! such a great attribute to find in any individual!

memi , 3/15/10 1:20 AM

memi: you are spot on! chr18's contempt for rafa is never missed in any single post. must definitely be hard feeling so threatened and insecure all the time. pathetic. you've to feel sorry for people like that consumed with so much hatred and bitterness that they can't see past it in any single moment.

homos , 3/15/10 2:23 AM

If you had half the class of your man Nadal, you'd have a better time on tennistalk. I'm cool with Nadal. Cheers.

chr18 , 3/15/10 2:36 AM

Nadal probably understood most of the words

I'm sure he had no idea what was really going and understood none of the "jokes." So yeah, "I didn't understand nothing" would actually be an UNDERSTATEMENT.

RickyDimon , 3/15/10 2:39 AM

homos, so true! so true! did you note his response that it was meant as a joke? he uses that line when has no defense! i dismissed it because it's meaningless. but his resentment of rafa is building for sure, i wouldnt be surprised if he explores at some point! i feel sorry for anyone carrying such a huge burden and the sad thing is nobody cares!

memi , 3/15/10 2:39 AM

Ricky, since you are lurking what do you think about the upcoming match between Nadal and Ancic ?

smr , 3/15/10 2:54 AM

Nadal 3 and 2

RickyDimon , 3/15/10 3:01 AM

Thanks ... I just realized that I may have jinxed the match. Oops. :)

smr , 3/15/10 3:29 AM

Rafa's just coming off spending a lot of time back home. His English always takes a few steps backwards when that happens. I've noticed his accent sounds thicker in his pressers as well.

miri , 3/15/10 5:25 AM

and the same applies to you too chr18.

memi i did note the cheap and pathetic defense. it just wasn't worth commenting on.

homos , 3/15/10 6:37 AM

homos= 0.00001 of Nadal's class

torres9 , 3/15/10 7:12 AM

and here is an additional eg of a pathetic fed fan. they're coming of the woodworks as we speak. your parents must be proud of your level of intelligence and self-respect torres. give yourself a pat on the back.

homos , 3/15/10 9:43 AM

i do not blame Rafa not getting involved in Agassi's jealous comments, Rafa like Sampras is great guy, Agassi has always been jealous of Sampras's great career, Agassi came off far worst than Sampras, he let himself down again.

theduchess86 , 3/15/10 10:27 AM

To be honest, I don't think Americans realise that some American accents are difficult to pick up by non-Americans even when their first language is English. Rafa usually has Benito in the background at his pressers because he doesn't always get the drift, especially when they use cryptic clues. It's understandable, because he is not bi-lingual, and spends most of his time with Spaniards. I totally agree that not being fluent in English is not such a big deal. Rafa is fluent in his own language, and most English speaking people are not fluent in Spanish. However, Rafa is improving all the time, and his 'tennis english' is coming on very well.

We also have to remember that it was a private spat between Agassi and Sampras, if Rafa hasn't read Agasi's book, he wouldn't have known anything about Agassi saying Sampras is tight, so Agassi demonstrating empty pockets would have been lost on him along with everyone else who hasn't read the book.

carrie , 3/15/10 11:33 AM

homos = 0.0001 of Nadal's intelligence

torres9 , 3/15/10 12:21 PM

Rafa has his PR who is in charge of reading the press and finding out stuff that might be interesting for Rafa to be up to date. He must have known about the issues between these two guys particularly when the media has diligently covered all the spicy details...I don?t think there is anyone interested or dealing with tennis anyhow who did not know about what has been the main content of Agassi?s book... Everybody knows about his rivalry with Sampras and about their recent tension regarding the ?tipping issue?...Rafa may have not understood the whole thing but this particular controversial issue he most likely was aware of...Rafa is no fool. He was smart enough to not get involved at any point...his decision to use his language barrier as an excuse of not being able to understand is more than wise...don?t underestimate Rafa and his team...

natashao , 3/15/10 12:25 PM

natashao, I've got Agassi's book although I haven't got past page 64 yet, too much moaning about his hatred of tennis, I'm saving it for when I go on holiday. I didn't know about the tipping thing until they told the story behind the tiff on Skysports after the event on Saturday. Just because a tiff between Agassi and Sampars is not the uppermost thing in your mind does not make you a fool.

There is a lot else going on in people's lives apart from Agassi's book.

carrie , 3/15/10 12:32 PM

Carrie, if anyone was interested to learn when the Hit for Haiti was to take place and searched the net it would immediately show the articles about controversial thing between Agassi and Sampras...if Benito did his homework he would have known it, and I bet he did...That is all I am saying...the main objective of being a PR in the first place is to know what is in the press worldwide...I don?t blame you for not knowing it...

natashao , 3/15/10 12:47 PM

OK maybe Rafa knew about the swipe, it really doesn't matter. Anyway it's a bit too much to expect people to do some research before a charity mtach to brush up on spats between the players.

I don't understand Spanish, I sometimes find American accents difficult to pick up and I did't know that Agassi said Sampras was tight in his book, does that make me a fool?

carrie , 3/15/10 1:01 PM

Carrie, you are obviously misunderstanding what I am saying: when I said Rafa is no fool I meant he was smart enough to not get involved in the discussion i.e., to speak to the press about the Agassi vs. Sampras verbal exchange, not that he was a fool for not knowing about it in the first place. Maybe it is my imperfect English that you have trouble with...

natashao , 3/15/10 1:10 PM


I understand. It's easy for things to get lost in translation.

carrie , 3/15/10 2:01 PM

American English has a lot of cultural phrases and other informal terms that sometimes confuse people in other countries who speak English as a 2nd or 3rd language. Spanish is more of a literal language and American sarcasm probably doesn't always come through that well. I think people in other countries sometimes can't tell if it's just fun sarcasm or somebody is being mean. So I could see where Rafa didn't understand everything going on.

But I DID think it was kind of odd that he acted like he didn't understand Justin's joking before the match about why he didn't have any kids yet like the other three guys, and asked about the Shakira video. I didn't think the question was that hard to understand, so that made me think maybe he just didn't want to answer it.

mdstn , 3/15/10 11:29 PM

Current ATP-rankings

1. Djokovic 12 500 pts
2. Murray 8 750 pts
3. Federer 8 670 pts
4. Ferrer 6 970 pts
5. Nadal 6 385 pts

Unibet Mobile prematch,live betting

Unibet Mobile betting Unibet Mobile betting

Scan QR code to access Unibet mobile.
Bet on Sports wherever you are and whenever you like, with Unibet's quick and simple mobile client you can place bets, check results and see live odds.
 For more info about QR codes & scanners click here.

ATP Calendar


Recommend Tennistalk

Follow us

Follow Tennistalk on Facebook Follow Tennistalk on Twitter

Tell a friend

Your name:

Friend's name:

Friend's email:

Other tennis links