I’m Aware of My Pace: Rafael Nadal Penalized for Time Violation, Returns Four Seconds Late

Rafael Nadal eased through his second match of the new season in Brisbane without any great stress, except when he was asked to explain his mid-match toilet break to the on-court interviewer.

‘I know I am slow’: Rafael Nadal gets time violation after returning four seconds late

Nadal had received a code violation for over-running the prescribed five-minute time limit in the bathroom during his otherwise uneventful 6-1, 6-2 victory over world No 102 Jason Kubler.

He looked momentarily nonplussed when questioned about it afterward, but then launched into a detailed play-by-play analysis – which threatened to become so complete that the interviewer blanched and replied: “Don’t go too far, we get the idea.”

Nadal is known for being one of the slowest players on the tour, partly because of his litany of pre-serve tics, and the introduction of the shot-clock was to some extent necessitated by the number of opponents who queried his time-keeping.

In this instance, though, he was not far over the limit, and eventually seemed to see the funny side after a brief contretemps with the chair umpire. He would probably have been more stressed by the decision – which threatened the loss of a first serve if he reoffended – had he not been in such complete control of the match.

“I think it was something strange because I know I have five minutes,” Nadal told the crowd on Pat Rafter Arena. “Honestly, Brisbane is very humid and I had to change every single piece [of clothing], it takes a while. And then, on the walkie-talkie, they were calling me ‘Three mins, two minutes, one minute, half a minute’.

“I thought I was on time, honestly, then he [the umpire] told me I was four seconds late. I don’t know if it was me, I don’t think so in that time, but something happened. I am slow, I know that, and I’m going to keep trying to improve in 2024.”

Nadal was all over Kubler from the very start of the match. He won 10 of the first 11 points, with the only exception being a double-fault.

In these early glimpses of his 2024 campaign, it is noticeable how positive his tactics are. In the past, he has sometimes played with more safety margin, using his heavy topspin to grind out results. But in Brisbane, he has flattened out his groundstrokes, perhaps in an effort to shorten points and thus ease the workload on his 37-year-old body.

“For me every day when I spend time on court is great news,” said Nadal, who faces Kubler’s fellow Australian Jordan Thompson in the third round. “Happy for that, happy that I came back after a long time and I feel myself competitive. Let’s see how far I can go.”

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