The curse of Rafa or simply the ‘Rafa curse’ has been a popular terminology in tennis fraternity, especially among the fans, experts and authors. A simple definition of the term is that whenever a player defeats (or eliminates) the 14 times Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, in a knock-out tournament (all ATP events other than the Tour Finale), the conqueror of Nadal certainly faces a defeat in the very next round in the tournament.
So in all likelihood, for such situation to arise we will only look at those specific ATP events where the Spaniard did compete but could not reach the last stage – in other words, eliminated before reaching the final. The so-called ‘curse’ – which has been doing the rounds in various tennis discussion groups and publications – became a phenomenon last year in 2015. The reason was mostly due to the fact that the 9-time French Open champion had an off-season where he failed to reach the final of a likely unprecedented 16 of the tournaments that he participated.
Without mincing further words, let’s go through the comprehensive list of the victims of curse of Rafa since 2011.
|Nikolay Davydenko||22||2011 Doha||SF|
|David Ferrer||7||2011 Australian Open||QF|
|Ivan Dodig||41||2011 Canada Masters||2R|
|Mardy Fish||7||2011 Cincinnati Masters||QF|
|Florian Mayer||23||2011 Shanghai Masters||QF|
|Gael Monfils||16||2012 Doha||SF|
|Andy Murray||4||2012 Miami Masters||SF|
|Fernando Verdasco||19||2012 Madrid||3R|
|Philipp Kohlschreiber||34||2012 Halle||QF|
|Lukas Rosol||100||2012 Wimbledon||2R|
|Steve Darcis||135||2013 Wimbledon||1R|
|Juan Martin del Potro||5||2013 Shanghai Masters||SF|
|David Ferrer||3||2013 Paris Masters||SF|
|David Ferrer||6||2014 Monte-Carlo||QF|
|Nicolas Almagro||20||2014 Barcelona||QF|
|Dustin Brown||85||2014 Halle||2R|
|Nick Kyrgios||144||2014 Wimbledon||R4|
|Martin Klizan||56||2014 Beijing||QF|
|Borna Coric||124||2014 Basel||QF|
|Michael Berrer||127||2015 Doha||2R|
|Tomas Berdych||7||2015 Australian Open||QF|
|Fabio Fognini||28||2015 Rio de Janeiro||SF|
|Milos Raonic||6||2015 Indian Wells Masters||QF|
|Fernando Verdasco||34||2015 Miami Masters||3R|
|Fabio Fognini||30||2015 Barcelona||3R|
|Stan Wawrinka||9||2015 Rome Masters||QF|
|Alexandr Dolgopolov||79||2015 Queen’s Club||1R|
|Dustin Brown||102||2015 Wimbledon||2R|
|Kei Nishikori||4||2015 Canada Masters||QF|
|Feliciano Lopez||23||2015 Cincinnati Masters||3R|
|Fabio Fognini||32||2015 US Open||3R|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||15||2015 Shangai Masters||SF|
|Stan Wawrinka||4||2015 Paris Masters||QF|
|Fernando Verdasco||45||2016 Australian Open||1R|
Rafa’s Davis Cup team-mate David Ferrer and Italian Fabio Fognini had been on the receiving side of the curse for a maximum three times since Ferrer’s 2014 Monte Carlo semi-final exit and Fognini’s 2015 US Open ouster respectively, where as another compatriot, Fernando Verdasco’s latest ouster from the Australian Open made him join them to be recognized as the heavily ‘cursed ones’. Dustin Brown and Stan Wawrinka come next in the list – having bitten twice each.
Now let us have a look on the following table where the column ‘Chances’ indicates the occurrence of a likelihood for ‘Rafa curse’ or in simple words, no. of tournaments in which Rafa could not make to the final and ‘Successful’ denotes the ‘curse’ had worked.
It shows that since 2011, the curse has worked an astonishing 85% of the times till date, with a mind-boggling 14 out of 16 times in the season just concluded – the worst of the Mallorcan since winning his first of the 14 majors way back in 2005. Most importantly, the curse had worked finely in all situations – be it a first round exit at a Major or several semi-final exits at the Masters or anywhere in between the extremes. Further, the curse had occurred on 6 times to players ranked outside top 100 (four of those coming at Wimbledon), 15 times to players outside top 30 (covering most of his Slam disasters) and 11 times to players within top 10 (at late stages of a tournament).
The phenomenon is a bizarre and hence it is really difficult to explain the reason behind it. One definite reason for those early round defeats (especially on grasscourts) is due to a low-ranked player not having enough in his casket to effect another upset in the very next game. Another explicit reason that can be attributed to those top-seeds losing in the final stages may be due to their clash with more superior ones – like Djokovic, Federer and Murray. Though Andy Murray narrowly got his share of the curse way back in 2012 at a summit clash, Novak Djokovic had successfully dodged the Rafa curse twice last year at the Monte Carlo Masters and the French Open. Roger Federer is also a player who till now avoided the dart successfully – having won the Indian Wells Masters in 2012 defeating Nadal in the semi-final.
Curses are widely superstitious entities with little logical explanation to them at large. So it is better being just empirical at times with the statistics than trying to find some creepy psychological issues associated with the cursed ‘bites’ for defeating the ‘man who certainly bites his winning trophy’.
What do you think of this superstition – curse of Rafa? Let us know in the comments below!