Rafael Nadal fires back at John McEnroe criticism at US Open

Rafael Nadal still had work to do after his first-round win at the US Open.

The four-time champion at Flushing Meadows was asked about recent comments from ESPN analyst and tennis legend John McEnroe after the Spaniard’s 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over Aussie Rinky Hijikata at Tuesday evening.

McEnroe has long criticized the referee’s treatment of Nadal when it comes to the shot clock between serves and believes the star is given preferential treatment.

“I think it’s a joke, you know,” Nadal said when asked if he thought McEnroe’s insinuations would affect his legacy. “I went through a lot of warnings in my tennis career. Never for breaking a bat, but yes for the time clock. I have the problem that I sweat a lot. When you play in these very wet conditions.”

Nadal argued that due to COVID, the ball boys are no longer handing towels directly to the players and the process of picking one up from the “farthest place” can be time-consuming. Players have 25 seconds between points to serve.

Rafael Nadal celebrates during the US Open on August 30, 2022.
Rafael Nadal celebrates during the US Open on August 30, 2022.
USA TODAY sports
John McEnroe referees during a US Open charity event on August 24, 2022.
John McEnroe referees during a US Open charity event on August 24, 2022.
AP

“The problem for players like me who sweat so much is that when you go to get a towel you have problems with the time,” Nadal said. “I don’t think I have any other treatment for the umpires.”

It’s unclear if McEnroe criticized Nadal’s treatment during Tuesday’s first-round match. For the outspoken analyst, however, this has been a problem in the past.

“If you want to do it, do it, otherwise don’t bother. It’s like keeping everyone happy.” McEnroe said on the EuroSport show during Nadal’s run to his 14th French Open title in June. “It’s a joke! He takes another look at the clock… one. He cuts it off, doesn’t he? Shouldn’t they have it at 15 seconds on the second serve? 10? Something?”

Nadal is targeting his fifth US Open title and is on an incredible run in the Grand Slams this season. He won the Australian Open and the French Open and had to leave Wimbledon with a stomach injury after reaching the semi-finals. He meets Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the second round but it sounds like he will meet McEnroe first.

Rafael Nadal beat Rinky Hijikata in four sets in the first round of the US Open.
Rafael Nadal beat Rinky Hijikata in four sets in the first round of the US Open.
Larry Marano

“If I have more than 25 seconds, I get a warning every time. Look at the time…. I don’t understand why John can say that on TV, but I’ll chat with him later,” Nadal said.

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