In a bizarre, caustic 3,500-word piece on Rafael Nadal for London's Sunday Times, writer Lynn Barber mocks the tennis star's English, calls his matches boring and insinuates he's gay. When this created an uproar in the tennis community, Barber acted like she was stunned by the feedback and made a crack about how she didn't know insulting Nadal was like -- hold on, we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Barber interviewed Nadal during the Italian Open and the resulting article was published this weekend. Part of me wants to say that you shouldn't bother reading the whole thing because it's so distasteful and obnoxious, but that's exactly why you should read the whole thing. (Actually, there's one piece of information buried within that's worthwhile. Did you know Nadal sometimes picks at his shorts when he plays? I have literally never ever noticed this before. Enlighten me more Lynn Barber!)
The piece is copied here, because The Times is behind a paywall. Here are the choicest quotes:
1. "Nadal was quoted as saying [about his girlfriend, model Maria Francisca Perello]: 'She is perfect for me, because she is very relaxed and easy-going and I've known her for a long, long time. Our families have been friends for many years.'
Hardly the language of passion, you'll agree, but at least from then on he had an official girlfriend, which made up for the fact that his sleeveless tops and bulging biceps reminded one inexorably of Freddie Mercury."
2. "I can only record that there was a big difference in the enthusiasm with which he said he phoned his mother and sister every day, and whatever he was saying, or not saying, about his girlfriend. I'll be pretty amazed if he ever marries her, though."
3. "Oh, for a McEnroe, a Connors, an Agassi! There was a time, o best beloved, when tennis players had temperaments, when they threw rackets, shouted at umpires and had sex in broom cupboards and quite often behaved very badly."
4. "One journalist found it incredible that Rafa still had the same mobile phone a year after winning Wimbledon that he had the year before. Rafa (good man) said it was a perfectly good phone, it worked, why change it? But the journalist seemed to take this as evidence of an almost saintly degree of unworldliness, right up there with the Dalai Lama."
5. "The sheer boredom of living on this treadmill without even the consolation of a regular sex life must wear anyone down."
Posting a link to Barber's piece is already giving it too much attention, so I won't bother responding to those quotes. Nadal fans have though, apparently flooding Barber's inbox with defenses of their favorite player. Barber seemed stunned that taking shots at the world's best tennis player and calling into question his sexuality would case an uproar. She expressed her amazement over the reaction on Twitter.
Well, I guess that's one way to handle it.