With the sporting calendar coming to a grinding halt because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and no action on court these days, tennis stars are finding other ways to fill up the time on their hands, such as Serena Williams’ recent YouTube interview in which she neatly dodged questions about her close friend Meghan Markle, and Rafael Nadal’s online Instagram session featuring Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
It’s true I don’t understand very well because we cannot play tennis when many people are going to work and even more so in our sport, where we keep at a large and safe distance and we play on opposite sides of the court. Rafael Nadal
Serena pretended not to know the Duchess of Sussex, while Rafa struggled to get his guests online.
Nadal faced perhaps the tougher challenge on Monday, agreeing to interact with friends and fans but battling with the technology involved.
“As you can see, I’m a disaster in everything. But I’m trying hard,” Nadal admitted as he struggled to host his first live online session for the ATP.
Murray took the opportunity to take a jab at Rafa in the comments section, writing: “This is brilliant… He can win 52 French Opens, but not work Instagram.”
Nadal’s Instagram Live session included Federer, Murray and Marc Lopez, and the Spaniard finally managed to engage the Swiss in conversation, who revealed that he is happy with the progress he has made so far in his recovery from right knee surgery in February.
“Are we in? Did we make it? My God, I didn’t know if it was you or me,” an exasperated Federer said on screen.
“I had a really good first six weeks, then things got a bit slower, now it’s good again. But I have plenty of time obviously. There’s no rush.
“I’ve been hitting a bit against the wall, doing my rehab and my fitness. The good thing is that the second surgery is easier than the first one. I don’t need to experience a third one, though,” Federer added.
He then grilled Nadal about playing as a lefty when he is naturally right-handed.
“I cannot play righty. That’s just a legend!” Rafa said. “My basketball skills are with the right [hand], everything else is with the right, but not with football or tennis.
“I started playing with a two-handed backhand and forehand. The people I was working with probably didn’t know if I was righty or lefty.”
Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II and Nadal’s favourite Grand Slam at Roland Garros has been pushed back for a 20 September start.
“I am not playing tennis, I do not have a court at home and I miss it a little,” Nadal admitted to Federer.
“I am sticking to my physical routines. From the gym of my academy, they were able to bring me some machines when lockdown began – so I try to work a little in the morning, a little in the afternoon.
“It is very important to have both the head and the body focused and it is what I am trying to do at all times,” he added.
The Spanish government has extended the country’s shutdown at least till 9 May, with the entire population confined to their homes except a small working number.
“It’s true I don’t understand very well because we cannot play tennis when many people are going to work and even more so in our sport, where we keep at a large and safe distance and we play on opposite sides of the court,” the World No 2 observed during his chat.
His Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar currently has 82 kids along with coaches and other staff in isolation.
“They are all taking care of the kids and everything is fine,” Nadal assured.
“I understand that we are in a very critical situation, that the government is dealing with something unprecedented and I also understand that the last thing they think of is who can train and who cannot train.
“I understand the situation and obviously there are many things that are not logical – but you have to accept the rules,” he shrugged.
Federer, meanwhile, admitted he missed playing tennis but then reached out to the frontline staff out there.
“These are tough moments out there and it makes one uncomfortable, but the reality is that all of us are in this situation and together can be stronger,” he noted.
Once the Swiss maestro left the session, Murray joined Nadal for a conversation and the Brit also updated about the recovery from his right hip injury.
Both Murray and Nadal are playing the Madrid Open Virtual Pro later this month and it was a good opportunity for them to catch up on their playing ability.
“I played last night and I played as you,” Murray said. “I played as you against Roger, on clay obviously.
“We, I mean me and you, we were playing unbelievable but after a set your character was unbelievably tired.
“The energy bar on the side of the screen was almost empty. I thought I had never seen you getting tired after one set before.”
The pair set up a Playstation 4 date for later the evening to get some practice in.
During the course of fun-filled Instagram Live session, the players also spilled the beans on other subjects, from building the perfect tennis player, to traveling back in time to change one moment in their careers, to dealing with an adversarial crowd, to their current mental and physical health.
Before signing off Nadal said with a laugh: “Next time I’m going to be more ready!”
Meanwhile, in an hour-long chat about fashion, beauty, business and more, during which Serena and sister Venus Williams joined supermodel Naomi Campbell for an interview on the ‘No Filter With Naomi’ YouTube series, Serena pretended not to know the Duchess of Sussex and remained tight-lipped about her friend.
She showed her loyalty to her close pal Meghan Markle when Campbell asked: “Are you happy that your girlfriend’s moved to America? Meghan Markle?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t know nothing about that,” Williams joked.
“Never seen her, never heard of her, don’t know her,” she added, with a nonchalant whistle.
The remark’s similarity to Mariah Carey’s famous ‘I don’t know her’, line, when she was asked about Jennifer Lopez in the early 2000s, was obvious.
Markle and her husband Prince Harry moved to Los Angeles last month after deciding to step back from royal duties in the UK.
This week, the couple announced they would cut off communications with four British tabloids and have hinted that intrusive media coverage contributed to their decision to withdraw from their senior royal positions.
Williams has been friends with Markle since meeting at a Super Bowl party 10 years ago.
The two have fiercely supported one another over the years and at the Australian Open earlier this year, when quizzed by a reporter about Markle’s decision to step back, Williams was just as dutiful.
“Yeah, I have absolutely no comments on anything with that,” she said.
“But good try. You tried. You did good.”