Grapevine: Analysis: Alonsomania Beats Soccer

In a soccer-obsessed country like Spain it takes something special to push what they call "el deporte rey" (the king of sports) off the front pages of the sporting dailies

Grapevine: Analysis: Alonsomania Beats Soccer

Fernando Alonso and Rafael Nadal did just that this week.

Alonso, 23, won a thrilling duel with seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher in Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix hours before 18-year-old Nadal produced a superlative display of high-energy tennis to win the Barcelona Open title.

For once sporting conversations are revolving around the exploits of these young men rather than the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Over the years Spain has produced its fair share of exceptional sportsmen and women. Seve Ballesteros upset golf's established order in the 1970s and 80s while cyclist Miguel Indurain won five consecutive Tours de France.

Like Ballesteros, Nadal has charisma, talent and good looks.

The only matches that drew a capacity crowd at the centre court in Barcelona were those involving the Mallorcan.

Every one of his matches was carried live on state television and his doubles matches pulled in more fans than most of those in the singles draw.

Adoring Hordes

Such was his popularity that the organisers of the tournament were obliged to put on extra security to protect him from the hordes of fans that tracked his every step.

With his long brown hair, fluorescent orange sleeveless shirt and bandana, Nadal is already one of the hottest properties in the sport.

Nike have made him the centre of an advertising campaign in Spain using the slogan "Tennis has changed - get used to it."

A member of Spain's Davis Cup-winning team in 2004, Nadal came within a whisker of upsetting world number one Roger Federer in the final of the Nasdaq-100 this month.

He became the youngest player since Michael Chang in 1990 to win a Masters Series event in Monte Carlo and his performance in Barcelona fired him into the top 10, displacing Carlos Moya as the top-ranked Spaniard.

With 25 wins and just two losses on clay this year, Nadal will have a real chance of claiming his first grand slam at the French Open next month.

Claycourt tennis has always been one of Spain's strong sporting suits whereas until the emergence of Alonso, Formula One was of minority interest.

Spaniards have a far greater passion for motorcycling, a sport at which they have traditionally excelled.

Formula One was seen as an exclusive and rather dull testing ground for the high-tech innovations of car manufacturers.

Snowballing Interest

Nothing breeds interest like success and ever since the Asturian's first Grand Prix victory in Hungary in 2003, the sport's popularity has snowballed.

Spain never carried Formula One races live on television until Alonso's emergence. A peak audience of more than seven million - a figure that comes close to rivalling that for a Real-Barca clash - watched his victory at Imola on Sunday.

The crowds at the final of the Barcelona tennis Open stayed outside the centre court to watch the end of the race, even Nadal and Juan Carlos Ferrero were late because they were glued to the screen in the players' lounge.

Racing Santander players refused to get off their coach for the Primera Liga match against Deportivo Coruna until they had finshing watching the race.

Interest in Alonso outstrips that in other home-grown sporting heroes like Real's Raul, NBA basketball player Pau Gasol and double motorcycling world champion Dani Pedrosa.

Children swap Formula One stickers at school and the remote-controlled version of the Alonso car is one of the biggest sellers in toy shops.

The driver's image is plastered on advertising hoardings in every major city and sales of Renault saloon cars are on the up.

A record 115,000 fans will pack the Circuit de Catalunya next weekend as Alonso attempts to win his home Grand Prix.

For the first time organisers say they expect the majority of fans to come from Spain itself, many making the trip across Spain from the driver's native Asturias whose blue and yellow flag neatly matches the Renault team colours.

For Spanish sports fans it is time to celebrate.

shares
comments
Rosberg Shines in Silverstone Test
Previous article

Rosberg Shines in Silverstone Test

Next article

Toyota Withdraw Ralf Appeal

Toyota Withdraw Ralf Appeal
The inconvenient questions posed by Vettel’s Williams run Plus

The inconvenient questions posed by Vettel’s Williams run

Sebastian Vettel's demo laps on board his own Williams FW14B was not only a great spectacle for the fans, but were carried out with a fully sustainable, carbon-neutral fuel. And it begs the question - for all of the money F1 has spent on championing hybrids and electric components, could it go back to V8s or V10s with a similar kind of fuel?

The pioneering pair who brought a new glory era to an F1 heavyweight  Plus

The pioneering pair who brought a new glory era to an F1 heavyweight 

With the team’s founder now retired and a new boss at the helm, change was coming to Brabham – change that would shape the future of Formula 1. In the third part of our four-part history of Brabham, DAMIEN SMITH examines the effect Bernie Ecclestone had on the team

The combination behind the Silverstone racing battles Hamilton called "F1 at its best" Plus

The combination behind the Silverstone racing battles Hamilton called "F1 at its best"

OPINION: The late battling in the British Grand Prix wowed Formula 1 fans and surely represents the best racing action of the season so far. And there was a cocktail of factors that created the action, from which Carlos Sainz emerged as a popular new winner

Formula 1
Jul 6, 2022
How Ferrari’s Monaco headache became its Silverstone migraine Plus

How Ferrari’s Monaco headache became its Silverstone migraine

OPINION: Ferrari won the British Grand Prix with Carlos Sainz, but it ultimately cost Charles Leclerc a chance to make a bigger dent in Max Verstappen's title lead by leaving the Monegasque out on old tyres towards the end. Like Monaco, indecision over strategy proved to be the Scuderia's biggest issue - and if the team doesn't reflect, the headache can only intensify

Formula 1
Jul 5, 2022
The five factors behind Sainz winning a British GP he’d twice lost Plus

The five factors behind Sainz winning a British GP he’d twice lost

Formula 1 has a newest race winner, in a grand prix the victor appeared to have lost twice, only to charge back to headline a sensational and dramatic British Grand Prix. From a massive start crash to a late sprint finish, here’s how five factors saw Carlos Sainz take his maiden grand prix win

Formula 1
Jul 4, 2022
Why there was no case to answer in Aston’s latest F1 copycat saga Plus

Why there was no case to answer in Aston’s latest F1 copycat saga

The appearance of a revised Aston Martin in Spain caused controversy but PAT SYMONDS explains why the FIA investigation found the Silverstone team had no case to answer

Formula 1
Jul 3, 2022
Why it's Red Bull that really leads a three-way fight so far at Silverstone Plus

Why it's Red Bull that really leads a three-way fight so far at Silverstone

After a slow start to Friday at Silverstone, all the Formula 1 teams had to effectively cram in a day’s worth of practice into one hour. But there was still plenty to learn and while Ferrari topped the times, a three-way battle is brewing ahead of the British Grand Prix

Formula 1
Jul 2, 2022
Why the future is bright for the British GP Plus

Why the future is bright for the British GP

It wasn’t so long ago the situation looked bleak at Silverstone with the future of the British Grand Prix under threat. But a transformation has seen it restored to one of the most important races on the Formula 1 calendar, with bigger and better to come

Formula 1
Jul 1, 2022