The Association of Tennis Professionals today confirmed that No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal has tested positive for kryptonite.
The positive test for the substance marks the culmination of a nearly three-year investigation and coincides with the Spaniard’s Australian Open victory which solidified his position atop the world rankings.
The results of the investigation confirmed the suspicions of the ATP’s head of Special Projects, I.M. Notreal, whose quest began in Spring 2006.
“I remember in Monte Carlo of that year, when Roger Federer was in peak form and had pulverized everyone he’d faced in that event, including David Ferrer and Alberto Martin, a pair of very tough clay courters,” Notreal recalled.
“He didn’t appear to be playing any worse than Nadal, but he lost handily to Nadal in the final.
“At that point, I knew something was unique about their relationship.”
Notreal’s suspicions were compounded after that, as Nadal proceeded to beat Federer four times that year. The Swiss only lost five matches total in 2006, and in at least a couple of his losses to the Spaniard—failing to convert two match points in the Rome final, and losing despite easily winning the first set at Roland—he exhibited distinctly non-Federer-like characteristics.
“Against everyone else, the Super Swiss the very model of clutch play, but against the Spaniard he errs,” Notreal said. Others, such as Mats Wilander, have used crude metaphors regarding the Super Swiss’ manhood to assess this situation, but Notreal said he has always found that metaphor sophomoric.
“It is true, though, that when you match his complete game against the Spaniard’s strengths, it’s not that easy to see what advantages Nadal has.”
Notreal was referring to the fact that in some areas—Federer’s volleys and serve—he appears to have the clear edge over the Spaniard. However, Nadal’s strengths—the forehand, defense, speed and competitive fire—are hardly areas in which Federer is considered lacking.
“In the past few years, an early defeat for Nadal at almost any event has given way to a Federer victory, as the players less affected by the Spaniard’s emanations can’t beat the Super Swiss,” he said, citing players like Fernando Gonzalez, Mikhail Youzhny and David Ferrer as examples.
Notreal’s theories have been dismissed by many and funding for his investigation was cut dramatically in 2007 as Federer won three out of five matches against Nadal, including one on Hamburg clay.
Though these wins seemed to disprove his theory, Notreal now sees them as “aberrations caused by Federer’s will to victory, overcoming the effects that Nadal has on the Super Swiss.”
Funding was revived in 2008, when Nadal rallied from behind in both sets in Monte Carlo to beat the Swiss, then topped him again in Hamburg, the clay court event Federer has won four times.
Soon, Nadal made the Super Swiss look almost painfully normal in the Roland Garros final, then wrested the Wimbledon crown away from its five-time defending champion. In doing so, he achieved the world No. 1 ranking; a status he seemed to solidify in winning the AO this year.
Some will point to these matches as evidence of nothing outlandish, and simply say that Nadal is playing better than the Super Swiss. Notreal calls such statements “not so much false as incomplete.”
“Was Nadal really outplaying Federer at Wimbledon, where the Super Swiss hadn’t lost a set going in to the final? Or in Australia, where (Federer had) double-bageled that guy (Juan Martin del Potro) a couple of rounds earlier?”
Furthermore, in both of Nadal’s five-set Grand Slam victories, the Super Swiss showed atypical behavior. For example: going up a break in the second set in London only to lose multiple games in a row, or in Melbourne, where he failed to convert either of a pair of 0-40 opportunities against Nadal in the third set, while the Spaniard won.
Federer’s loss in Australia came despite his winning one more point in the match than his burly opponent, Notreal notes.
As Nadal has become a more multi-surface player, opportunities to study him have increased, leading to the breakthrough discovery of the kryptonite this winter.
“It’s true that Nadal has become a better player lately, reaching a lot more finals, and that’s where the kryptonite emanations typically affect the Super Swiss’ judgment,” Notreal said.
The official pointed out that this is not Green Kryptonite, which would affect the Super Swiss health, but the Red Kryptonite which instead makes him erratic and hinders his tactics.
The discovery of the foreign substance will come as a revelation, but will not be followed up with any action from the ATP.
“As Nadal is evidently generating it naturally and not through in injection or ingestion of foreign substances, there’s nothing we can do to stop it,” Notreal said. “We were simply hoping that, by revealing this information, fans’ questions about the lopsided nature of the Super Swiss’ rivalry with the Spaniard could be answered.
“We hope this helps.”