Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Au Revoir, Paris
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Au Revoir, Paris 06/12/2007 - 3:10 PM

Greetings, everyone. I just dropped in to say Hi, I'm home,and getting in a grass-court frame of mind. I'll have a post on the Queens Club tournament from David Law, coming up later in the day (I have an appointment to make in 45 minutes, then I'll be back).

I talked with Pete Sampras a little earlier today. He watched the early part of the Roland Garros men's final, and told me:

It  looked tough playing Nadal, he's pretty aggressive, and he's one of those guys who grew up using the big racquet. Together with the new strings, it adds up to a very heavy ball he hits. That puts a lot of pressure on you, especially on holding serve. So if you're not right on top of things, you can find yourself in a pretty big hole, pretty fast. And before you know it, you're pressing, and that's never a comfortable position. Nadal is going to win that tournament a few more times, for sure. I still think Roger can win there (Paris). The guy grew up playing on clay, so that's not an issue. Oddly enough, I used to think that the place where Roger might struggle some is at Wimbledon, because he was never really an aggressive, attacking player, even though he had all the tools.

Pete's comment underscored something I didn't highlight on Sunday, The Mighty Fed's observation that Nadal, with his lefty shots and heavy spins, is not just a great opponent, but one with game different enough to make you uncomfortable (the comment is there in his presser transcript). That really rings true - just picturing Nadal's game in your mind ought to drive that point home, because he may have the most distinctive, individualistic game (stroke-production-wise) on the tour.

I'll be back later, everyone. Nice to be home!


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Posted by Sam 06/12/2007 at 03:39 PM

Welcome home, Pete! Good insight from Sampras.

Posted by 06/12/2007 at 03:43 PM

Is it just me or does Sampras always refer to the new raquets/strings when commenting on one of today's great players?

Posted by Slice-n-dice 06/12/2007 at 03:55 PM

Excellent points from Sampras, who should know what pressure feels like. Think Agassi's return game and annoying habit of running his opponent side to side to side to side to... well, you get the picture.

I believe that Roger needs to pull the trigger early, after getting a good lick in, but to do so is also to intentionally elevate the risk factor, which is something only a pure serve-and-volley player would ever feel comfortable doing (besides James Blake, Marat Safin, and Taylor Dent, and look where that's gotten them lately). Hence, for Roger to play the most strategically and tactically effective game possible against Nadal at Roland Garros, he must commit himself to playing what amounts to a hit or miss kind of game. That's a bit like playing Russian Roulette....... Who wouldn't get a little tight and hesitant in such a pressure-cooker?

Posted by Evie 06/12/2007 at 04:00 PM

Yes, when Federer commented on Rafa's game that he does not need to change it, I was thinking, can't Roger do the same thing on clay? Roger has a topspin too.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 04:02 PM

Mr. Bodo,

Why is everyone talking about how bad Nadal pounded Federer in their final showdown in RG? As if Roger did not have anything going on for him. Talking about Nadal's positive balance (8-4) like is the biggest issue of all?

I would really want that kid to make it to the finals in Wimbledon, US Open series tournaments and the US open itself and play against Roger constantly in other surfaces (though it will be hard if he meets Youzhny, Gonzalez, Blake or Berdych first). We could also mention all the indoor tournaments in Europe previous to the Masters Cup in Shaghai as well. If Nadal still manages to keep his potitive balance against him then (and only then) I'll admit Roger has reached his limit and that is Nadal's time to take over the top. Do you really think this kid has what it takes to dethrone Federer in anything other than clay? (Dubai 2006 is prety much the exception to my comment)


We really should never understimate the heart of a champion and Federer is the greatest active champion of them all out there and he is also only 25, 26 soon enough. Is not like "Federer has to beat Federer first in order to beat Nadal in RG". He is the best example of that Connoresque attitude when he said he would "follow Borg to the ends of the earth" to get another crack at him, isn't he? It is just that Federer actually takes this into action. He makes the finals on clay to get another crack at Nadal with much consistency, he has to keep in doing so and finally, someday, his day will come. He'll set a great example to all those who act with perseverance and tenacity.

Posted by Tim 06/12/2007 at 04:15 PM

its still a mystery to me, the yips Fed gets in Paris, but slowly the angst goes away .. I dont even care about the draw at WImby, last year was the worst, so anything this year will be an improvement.. and why does Nadal's success on clay always lead others to predict he's taking over on 'all' surfaces? didnt we go through this last year as well?

anyway nice to see SI give Federer the No. 2 slot on the "Most Fun Athlete's to Watch" list, up on the website now... the only other tennis player to make the list? Santoro!

and check out what Borg said about returning to Wimbledon this year for the first time in age, all so he can watch Roger match his record of 5 in a row... in defeat, Rog is getting his due in certain ways... doesnt take the sting away really, but nice...

Posted by Evie 06/12/2007 at 04:16 PM

Sampras point of view is in relation to himself: e.g. "Oddly enough, I used to think that the place where Roger might struggle some is at Wimbledon, because he was never really an aggressive, attacking player, even though he had all the tools." I think Roger has been a natural winner at Wimbledon.

Posted by johnduo 06/12/2007 at 04:19 PM

SwissMaestro, Nadal just turned 21 and has won a few hard court finals including Indian Wells and got to the Wimby final. So with time he will improve and start been a rival to Fed in those surfaces too.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 04:26 PM

And also, and just for the record. Federer's season highlight comes in the next 3 or 4 weeks in the lawns of Wimbledon, which happens to be the most important tournament in the world, yes more so than the French Open.

Posted by Sam 06/12/2007 at 04:27 PM

Evie: One thing to keep in mind is that when Sampras played, the grass was faster and more suited to an attacking (serve and volley) style of play. From what I recall, Roger did serve and volley quite a bit during his first Wimbledon title run, but not since then. His natural inclination is not to serve and volley, though he is certainly capable of it. If the grass were faster, I think we would see Roger coming in more. But he's not going to change what has worked so well for his so far. :-) Hope he wins #5 this year.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 04:29 PM

johnduo,

Federer has had more success on clay masters series tournaments (4 - all at Hamburg) and several other finals than Nadal on hardcourts (3-Indian Wells, Madrid and Montreal) and 1 final, that he happened to loose against Roger after being 2 sets to love and a break up.

Posted by ksajid 06/12/2007 at 04:31 PM

Folks - Sampras makes sense when he says he did not expect Federer to do so well at Wimbledon. I mean, who are those "great" players Federer has beaten to win Wimbledon? Roddick? Nadal(on grass)? There are no genuine grass court players left and I would say Federer has not been tested at all at Wimbledon. Heck, Federer does not even approach the net at Wimbledon.

I know somebody will bring up that 2001 match between Sampras and Federer. Well, Sampras was on a decline. Plus, Richard Kraijek beat Sampras in 1996 but does not mean he is better than Sampras!

Borg kept winning Wimbledon from the baseline until John Macenroe came and exposed him.

Posted by MZK 06/12/2007 at 04:32 PM

Interesting commentary from Sampras.

I do have to roll my eyes a bit when he keep trotting that line out about 'growing up' on clay as though that were the only possible way to be successful on it. Last time I checked Michael Chang (1 out of 2 FO finals won), Courier (2 out of 3 FO finals won) and Agassi (1 out of 3 FO finals won) didn't grow up in Spain. Heh.

Posted by MZK 06/12/2007 at 04:36 PM

SwissMaestro said:
***Federer has had more success on clay masters series tournaments (4 - all at Hamburg) and several other finals than Nadal on hardcourts (3-Indian Wells, Madrid and Montreal) and 1 final, that he happened to loose against Roger after being 2 sets to love and a break up.***

Did you happen to notice that Federer is nearly five years older than Nadal? It's a bit strange to compare their successes given that fact. At any rate you left out Dubai among Nadal's hard court titles, where he beat someone named Federer. And if you want to make a point of saying Nadal should have won Miami (which he should have), Federer probably should have won in Rome as well.

I'd rather avoid the contentious Federer/Nadal debate but I thought I'd point that out.

Posted by MZK 06/12/2007 at 04:38 PM

Whoops. You were comparing Masters titles! Sorry 'bout that. Point still stands about age difference though.

Posted by ksajid 06/12/2007 at 04:39 PM

SwissMaestro - Don't forget the 6-3 6-3 win of Nadal over Federer in 2004 at Miami. On hardcourts the score between the two is 2-2. So, we still don't know who will win the next time they meet.

Folks on this message board, please do not belittle Nadal's genius by saying he is a leftie and it makes Fed "uncomfortable". Let's unequivocably proclaim that Nadal is the best clay court player ever. I have seen Borg's game and I am 100% sure that Nadal is better than him.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 04:41 PM

Dubai is not a Masters Series tournament. I pointed it out as the exception to m comment in my first post if you scroll up a little. Also, it is very doubtful to me wether Nadal will get to win other important tournaments in faster courts having players that expose him oh these surfaces like Youzhny, Blake, Gonzalez and Berdych to name a few. Oh! almost forgot, Djokovic is not even 20 either...

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 04:43 PM

That 6-3, 6-3 victory in Miami in 2004 is to be given to Nadal, alright. It was known though that Federer played sick.

Posted by MZK 06/12/2007 at 04:44 PM

Comparing tennis styles is a tad subjective, ksajid. It's all well and good to say that Nadal is 'better' than Borg but the fact remains that the Swede won six FO titles. Nadal seems well on his way to meeting that (at the very least he should probably equal the four-in-a-row streak) but it's premature to start calling him the best anything.

I do agree that the lefty 'challenge' gets a bit overstated. Last time I checked Nieminen, Verdasco and Lopez didn't have leading H2Hs against Federer. Heh.

Posted by therodfan 06/12/2007 at 04:45 PM

I just finished reading Andy Roddick's presser after his match with Stepanek today at Queens. Once again somebody asks the same old boring question:

"Q. Can you say a bit about what Jimmy has brought to your game?"

Could somebody shed some light into why journalists insist on asking the exact same question over and over again, a question that's been answered hundreds of times, at every single tournament? Do they do this on purpose to annoy the player?

It's infuriating to keep reading the same garbage all the time. No wonder journalists have such a bad rep. I wouldn't blame Roddick at all if he finally brought down the hammer and said that he wasn't going to answer that question anymore.

I ask journalists to please add a little more thoughtfulness to your questions and stop asking Roddick about Jimmy Connors.

Posted by MZK 06/12/2007 at 04:46 PM

Yup, it's true that Nadal has too many nemeses on hard court (all those you mentioned) and Djokovic may be a new one if Miami was any indication. Honestly I don't expect to hear too much from him for the rest of the season. He's a lock for the No 2 spot as he has been for years but No 1 is still well out of reach in my opinion.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 04:46 PM

Federer has the edge in talent and skills. Nadal in mental toughness, I'll give him that.

Posted by Evie 06/12/2007 at 04:48 PM

Sam

I am glad that serve-and volley is not dominating Wimbledon, but more the varied things and situations that Federer and others has been producing. Can Sampras do serve-and-volley profitably now, if Fed or others are not doing it much.

Posted by Suresh 06/12/2007 at 04:48 PM

Pressure is a function of how well your opponent plays and what it does to your comfort level.

Sampras' comments about Nadal being a lefty and strokes loaded with topsin is not really a revelation as to why Nadal happens to be Federer's nemesis.

Just as Agassi running his opponent side to side can get annoying , so too can Sampras' ability to hit aces and service winners. If one cannot hit a ball, not much can be done.

Coming back to Federer, his free flowing style of play can be inhibited by an opponent like Nadal and also by someone like Nalbandian , Canas etc. - they all have more than an ability to counter punch. This in turn forces Federer to think and respond to his opponent instead of playing freely and it is under moments of pressure that the mental ability is questioned.

Getting beat by good shots is one thing, but under pressure routine shots or mid court put aways can become difficult.

Witness Federer's missing overhead , shanking shots etc against Canas. It is all too well known how many he has missed against Nadal. Agassi in that classic four set loss to Pete committed unforced errors in the tiebreak but played a clean set. ( Dont remember which set it was) . So many players are guilty of the same thing against Federer.

Nadal on the other hand hits amazing shots on the run , on the backfoot etc. When cornered , he is able to hit winners/passing shots against Federer - the recent final was a witness to that. This is what I meant by mental toughness - time and again Nadal has showed it on the big occasion.

Does it mean that Nadal beats Federer on clay only because Federer is mentally weak? No. It is a combination of various things.

The crux of my point being that - if we were to choose who between Nadal and Federer would miss 'makeable' shots at crucial junctures , it would be Federer.

On the other hand, if Federer were to raise his level, in all probability Nadal can and will raise his too - both mental and playing level as they go hand in hand.

Posted by Jenn 06/12/2007 at 04:50 PM

Welcome home, Pete.

Scoop Jackson of ESPN wrote a column about Fed and Nadal that posted today, in case anyone missed it.

http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/index

I like seeing writers who usually cover the NBA or NFL writing about tennis. This Rivalry is a great thing for tennis!

Is anyone else shocked (or at least midly surprised) that Gasquet lost to a qualifier today? eeek. I know he is not a grass courter, but what gives? (taking Paris results into account)

Posted by Sam 06/12/2007 at 04:51 PM

From http://tennisreporters.net/, a while back:

Patrick Rafter, on how racket technologies have evolved: "Rackets are not the main issue here. I would have to say the strings are probably the dominating factor in the whole change of the way tennis is played right now. … It creates a lot of speed on the ball and I know that the last couple of years that I was playing, I found it very hard to volley against a dropping ball that dipped. It enables these guys to get a lot of power and an amazing amount of spin from seemingly nowhere. I've tried to use these strings, but it really doesn't suit my type of game, I don't seem to volley very well with it."

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 04:54 PM

You might be right, though take into account the fact that Federer is more likely to miss those shots because he goes for them. He is the offensive player. Nadal only stars leading the point if the rally is long or if a ball is left in midcourt.

Also, Federer has always found the way to reverse the negative tendecy against players that have dominated him in the beginning (Hewitt and Nalbandian being 2 of them) I do not expect to hear much from Nadal the rest of the season either.

Posted by Tim 06/12/2007 at 04:54 PM

Im sure this has been posted somewhere, but its very interssting, Borg on ROger and WImby, etc. Curious to see how Borg lovers who dont care for Roger feel about Borg's
kindred spirit thing for Fed... I fully expect to see Borg applauding Roger on Centre Court as he collects his 5th WImby in early July!

source: www.telegraph.co.uk/hodgkinson

Posted by Samantha 06/12/2007 at 04:55 PM

I wish people would stop trying to say Nadal is as good as Borg because he's not until he wins more on the clay. NOBODY can predict how someone will do in the future. Who would have thought Borg would have been done at only 26. Injuries and Burnout can take the most promising players out for good. Rafa is great, but it's a big exaggeration to say that he'll become another Borg. Go Sweden!

Posted by Sam 06/12/2007 at 04:56 PM

"Can Sampras do serve-and-volley profitably now, if Fed or others are not doing it much."

With the slower grass that is currently being used, I'm not sure. I prefer the serve-and-volley (not serving contests) style, especially on grass.

I just look at Sampras and Federer as two grass-court greats who have suceeded using different styles. I don't think he was knocking Federer, and he has a great deal of respect for him.

Posted by Suresh 06/12/2007 at 04:57 PM

Sam.... thanks for the link.

Todd Martin on the tennis channel has also said how volleying became more difficult in the mid 90's even before the courts started slowing down. Without naming any specific player he was of the view that net rushing became more difficult - he had to adapt and wait , rally longer and choose an opportune moment to venture to the net.

Ditto with Henman.

Posted by Samantha 06/12/2007 at 04:58 PM

Tim, I honestly get the feeling that Borg would love to coach Roger. Go Justine!

Posted by ksajid 06/12/2007 at 05:00 PM

SwissMaestro said:
**Federer has the edge in talent and skills. Nadal in mental toughness, I'll give him that.**

I hope you are refering to hardcourts and grass courts. On clay courts Nadal's skills, talent and genius overshadows those of Federer.

Posted by Evie 06/12/2007 at 05:04 PM

Sam

I did not think he was knocking Federer either. But he seems to think that it still should be a big weapon these days. If so, then why don't we see it used some, when the opponent and surface warrants using it.

Posted by Tim 06/12/2007 at 05:05 PM

ksajid, talent and skills should translate to ALL surfaces, not just clay ... Nadal's genius is mental, on clay, and the technology of today makes his topspinny game even possible... IMO, of course ... and lets have Rafa win a Slam over Roger on another surface, even ONE time, before we get too carried away here...

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 05:07 PM

ksajid,

I meant overall. Federer's touch is unmatched by anyone, not even Nadal has it. Did you see this last RG final when he told the referee the ball was too flat? Unheard of. That only shows how the racquet is pretty much an extension of his arm. Nadal is good at running and at putting a lot of torque and topspin in his shots but I'd like to see him winning a point with 5 different backhand shots like Federer did against Hewitt in Indian Wells in 2005 instead of just janking his forehand to other players' backhand.

Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 05:08 PM

I don't get the discussion about racquets and strings. Are they patented to one player? Can Federer use the same racquet as Rafa? or vice Versa? didn't he win Rafa using the same racquet?

Topspin....Evie said it all. Why can't Federer try to use topspin on Rafa's backhand? Do the same trick to him? He is fit enough to do that....

I think they each want to keep their games, but still win the other. Rafa is trying to make minor changes to his game. Maybe if Federer makes some too, it might help him against Rafa in RG. He is perfect everywhere else.

Tim,
as soon as a tennis player loses, most of the media jumps at him. Being a Nadal fan I have seen this tooo many times. So just ignore them . First win in Wimbledon and everything will turn upside down....

Fed is 25 and one day will not be No 1 anymore. That's natural as everything has an end. But that won't be this year and not before he bags a few more GS titles.

Posted by Tim 06/12/2007 at 05:08 PM

I dont see Borg as a coach at all, Samantha, just doesnt seem like his personality at all...i love that he admires ROger so much, and that he wants to be at Wimby to see him with his 5th title, that would cause some misty eyes (in a good way) for a lot of us, thats for sure!

nice to see Borg in a good place in his life now, thats for sure... but i dont see Borg like Connors, who kinda seems to live through ROddick out there, seeem that Borg doesnt need tennis like Connors does, or at least the spotlight... who knows

Posted by KP 06/12/2007 at 05:10 PM

I understand why sampras would think that about federer(that he didn't think he would be able to dominate wimbledon)
Look at all the W winners of the 90s. Except for Agassi they all S&Ved 1st & 2nd serve. Federer is so different from all past dominant W champions, even when the grass was faster(up till '01)
Fed never S&Ved on 2nd serve, which was what almost everyone else was doing(Henman, Rafter, Sampras, Becker, Ivanisevic, Krajicek) Now Fed doesn't S&V much at all. Even Borg S&Ved on every 1st Serve when he was winning W. Fed is the only multiple winner of W to stay back as much as he does(even Connors came to net more)
Fed is a great player, but if he played in the 90s, I don't think he would be able to equal his record at W(though would probably be just as good on other surfaces), its just not his natural game.

Also as far as the "slowness" of grass today, don't forget Mirnyi almost doublebagelled Blake last year in the last 2 sets of a 5 setter, by coming in on every serve.
And the grass was already slow in '03, yet Philippoussis made the final by S&Ving 1st & 2nd serve. It can be done still, you just need a big serve & be reasonably solid around the net. Roddick has just as big a serve, but is unnatural around there. Fed's serve isn't big enough, nor is Henman's.


Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 05:12 PM

About RAfa winning other slams....

don't forget Rafa's age. MAny players including Federer didn't have more than one or two titles ( let alone a slam) . Rafa's greatness shines when everyone forgets how young he is.

At age 21, he has 22 titles and 3 GSs. Fed started from hard courts, Rafa started from clay. He still has time to change his game ( and he is willing to do that) to win other slams....let's judge him when he is 23 or 25!

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 05:19 PM

by that time Djokovic and Murray will be on fire... Nadal will have to do a titanic effort to win something important on anything other than clay.

Posted by skip1515 06/12/2007 at 05:19 PM

Earlier, I wrote that going over what Federer has to do, or not do, to beat Nadal implicitly takes away from Nadal's win. I still believe that. Federer is the challenger in this H2H, however, so the discussion naturally revolves around how he might find a way to even the score.

With that in mind...

1. Nadal is lefthanded. Give me one thing to change in my game, and that's what I'd do. It's not outrageous to say that that's worth 1 point every two games, even at their level.

(Personally, and without rancor, I think they should all have to play each other and leave righties alone. Or, barring that, begin serving each game into what is now the ad court. That'd fix 'em.)

2. Is it me, or does no one get as close to the net anymore as the volleyers of old? I spent some time at youtube, watching clips of McEnroe, Edberg, Becker, etc., and they always finished volleying points 1/2 way between the service line and the net, at least, once they'd hit an approach or first volley.

If anyone has a tape of the French final, I encourage them to watch and see where Federer finished a slew of net points (sic), especially the ones he lost. Time and again he was only one step inside the service line. Roddick, too, exhibits this routine.

I suspect they're playing the net with a baseliner's perspective: "I'll see where you hit the ball, run there, and hit it back. And I'll add some anticipation when I can."

The best volleyers always went in tight to the net, putting all their chips on their reflexes and volleying skill (and their ability to cover the lob). Hedging your bet by staying too far from the net is a losing proposition.

This may be partially a result of hitting topspin approaches that travel faster, sit up higher, and leave the volleyer with footwork that isn't as conducive to moving forwards quickly after hitting the approach.

I could be wrong, but if you have a tape take a look and let me know.

Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 05:21 PM

Swiss Maestro,

Let's see some results before jumping into conclusions. Murray was supposed to replace Federer. GAsquet was named "baby Federer".

Consistensy is everything.

Posted by Ana 06/12/2007 at 05:22 PM

Isn't it strange how people keep pointing out that Federer cannot be annointed GOAT yet because he is not as accomplished as Laver (who won the complete Slam) and Sampras (who won 14 majors), but already everyone is saying Nadal is the GOAT on Clay even when he has nowhere near accomplished Borg's 5 FOs.

Posted by omar 06/12/2007 at 05:23 PM

I think we should chill out on all this GOAT talk, whether it's for clay or overall. Why can't it be enough to say someone is the best of this era? Isn't that sufficient. Plus, when we compare others from different eras, we imagine how those guys played in their era, and that's the big mistake. Don't imagine Borg vs. Nadal on clay, cause in your mind you'll picture Borg the way he played in his era and Nadal's game in this era. That
s a mistake. What you have to do is imagine both guys, growing up in the same era, using the same equipment. You have to imagine Nadal being born 30 years earlier playing with the wood or Borg 30 years later playing with the today's equipment. That being said, both players are too great to get dominated by the other.

Posted by Tim 06/12/2007 at 05:23 PM

zola its just that the equipment makes extreme grips and topspin the way to play for many now, but tennis players arent quite coming off an assembly line yet, so not everyone can hit extreme whippy topspin like Nadal, nor does everyone want to play that style, which requires enormous energy and reserves..

i still say, thats the danger to Nadal long term, how long can he keep that intensity up? he's gonna get tired, mentally for sure, as we saw last year after WImby... Roger has proved this year he's not a machine, and Rafa is not a machine either, so its dangerous to expect his RG success to translate to other surfaces and Slams year round... not that easy, as Henin finds out so far ...


Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 05:24 PM

slic-n-dice

thetennischannel.com has the highlights of the final.(in the highlights section of course).

I thought Rafa was playing very close to the net ( when he moves forward). I think his doubles game has helped him a lot. Of course we will see how they move on grass in a bit!

Posted by jhurwi 06/12/2007 at 05:24 PM


Re Gasquet's loss to Qureshi: Repeating what I posted on the Monday Net Post thread. This is info from the Kings of Clay site, which has a lot of British posters from the old BBC site:
Qureshi is something of a grass specialist who plays an old-fashioned style of grass-court tennis. He came very close to beating Mario Ancic last year on grass, so his beating Gasquet on the latter's first match of the year on grass is not as much of an upset as it might appear.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 05:25 PM

Consistency is 277-19 in 4 years. Consistency is 8 straight grand slams finals. Consistency is almost 180 weeks in a row being ranked No. 1 in the world. That is consistency.

Only when Nadal start reaching the Australian, Wimbledon, US Open and year ending championship (and not only RG) finals year after year I'll call him consistent.

Posted by Tim 06/12/2007 at 05:28 PM

and sorry but Laver didnt win on EVERY surface, the Slam was all on grass, one on clay... why is that never discussed? Federer is by far the best all surface player in the world, and one day he will nail that damn French title, and as he said, it will be sweeter becaus he had to wait!

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 05:28 PM

Zola,

Gasquet was called "Baby Federer" only because of the beauty of his game and his ability to do well on every surface. Not for his results.

Posted by rudy3 06/12/2007 at 05:29 PM

Nadal and Federer are the 2 greatest talents on the ATP tour. Period! They consistantly win and trouble opponents. Rafa has won 5 titles this year, and as he says "playing the best tennis of my carerra". Fed's results so far have been less that stellar by Fed standards, but he has Wimbeldon and the hardcourt season ahead and he will get things motoring. I don't see why he won't repeat his results of last year.

Although I hope Rafa comes through and upsets the apple court. And I hope Rafa schools Djokovic everytime they play. i am already sick of that kid.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 05:30 PM

I completely agree Tim. In both of your points.

Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 05:30 PM

Tim,
so, it IS a personal choice. I am not talking about Rochus playing like Nadal, but Fed is certainly capable of generating the same amount of spin if he wants to. what I meant was that reducing the success of the players to eacquets and strings is just ridiculus to me. I bet Rafa or Roger are not the only ones using those racquests. why the other ones can't get the same results?

About Rafa's game, he is already making changes and he is winning faster. One thing that Pete says and I agree is that this will evolve into a "Rafa" game. He is able to play offensively or defensively according to the opponent and the situation. He and his team are aware of the toll his game takes on his body. So let's see what happens this year.

Posted by Tim 06/12/2007 at 05:34 PM

look this is a great time of the year for the Nadal fans, and its great for them, but again, this is nothing new, its been like this since 2005, and at least Fed got a win on clay, and snapped the streak, so it was a GOOD clay season for Fed, really...

we just expect SOOO much from him, because his game is so overhwleming when he's on...
all credit to Rafas clay record, but on clay it remains, and his consistency elsewhere has been non-existent when it comes to challenging for No. 1 -- I need to see Nadal beat a Roddick and Blake and Youzney and Berdych, etc., over and over and reach the final of a few other Slams, before we even talk about No. 1 changing hands...

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 05:34 PM

Exactly, he rarely wins a match without putting in a ton of work. By the time he is 25 his knees are going to give too much trouble to handle the other young guns. He was the tennis with most injuries the lst couple of years.

Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 05:35 PM

Swiss Maestro
***Consistency is 277-19 in 4 years. Consistency is 8 straight grand slams finals. Consistency is almost 180 weeks in a row being ranked No. 1 in the world. That is consistency.*****

you are so heated up that you don't even read what I have written. I have lots of respect for Federer and I know how consistent he is. You talked about Djokovic and Murray and my reply was about them.

Sorry, but I will not engage in a Federer/Nadal battle here. I am a Rafa fan, but I respect Federer for the Champion he already is.

Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 05:40 PM

Tim,

of course Nadal is better on clay and winning FO doesn't mean he is No 1. (unless Fed retires or something like that) . You know I don't buy these things. But! RAfa is only 21 and has an amazing start to his career. Federer had to struggle for a few years and figure out the other players. RAfa will do the same and one day he will be able to win Youzhny, Berdych, Blake , etc... If you look , he has reached QF or better of many hard court events. So he is already better than many. I don't expoect him to be the best on all surfaces at 21. Do you?

What I expect from RAfa is to gradually fine tune his game and one day win a Slam on a hard court. I don't think that's impossible.

Posted by Rosangel 06/12/2007 at 05:41 PM

Tim: it is discussed. I've discussed it myself in the last 48 hours. The reason I've abdicated from the GOAT debate is because IMO it is impossible to fairly compare between someone like Laver and someone like Federer. Neither of whom had any choice as to what surfaces they played Slams on. And in Laver's case, because he spanned the amateur and open eras, he wasn't permitted to play some of the Slams he could have potentially won. Different eras, different players, different style of play, different equipment, different surfaces, and probably many other differences as well. But as our regular poster skip1515 has noted (I'd take his word over mine most days), Laver won plenty of events on surfaces that could compare to today's hardcourts.

Both players are great. But different.

And I agree that Federer is easily the strongest all-surface player of today. Hard to argue otherwise.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 05:45 PM

Zola,

Nope, not heated up. Sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I am huge Federer fan but I respect Rafa too. What heats me up is people talking about Rafa almost as already being the best tennis player in the world and saying he is much better than Federer and it is so not, at least not yet. He is the best on clay and since that is the surface they meet the most on he happens to beat Roger frequently. I just wonder how would it be if they could have met in another 5 finals last year? What would the balance look like between them? lets say they could have met in the Toronto, the US Open, Tokyo, Madrid and Basel. Federer was there playing in hot form. What do you think?

Posted by Kenneth 06/12/2007 at 05:46 PM

I don't know of anyone on this board who actively dislikes Federer. How can you, the guy plays brilliantly. It's always the other way around here, hoite toite's who just 'love the artistry' of Federer and don't care at all for Nadal. It's such a snapshot of how tennis still languishes in it's country club mentality. No other sport would place less emphasis on an outstanding physical speciman such as Nadal. Well, maybe golf. You can still don a beer belly there, and sweating is not allowed.

I also don't understand how, after three consecutive RG titles and several wins on hardcourts, a Wimby final and wins over Federer on hardcourts as well, that Nadal isn't given more the benefit of the doubt. Last I checked, not only was Nadal's offensive game improving (obviously it was good enough for the Wimby final last year), he's already claimed a hard court master's shield as well as a final, two tourny's that Federer was bounced out of. It's just so backwards here, sometimes, I really don't get it. Add in the fact that Nadal has more titles AND slams at his age than anyone left on tour, including the venerable Federer, and it gets even more confusing. At this age, Federer was still trying to harness his talent. Nadal has harnessed his, and is improving. Improving. Denial only lasts for so long. Like has been said before the French, even if Nadal goes title-less again, how many tour players would kill for his record this year alone? In fact, aren't Federer and Nadal now tied for titles on the year??
Woops, not quite; Federer's got some catching up to do...

Posted by Bismarck 06/12/2007 at 05:50 PM

I liked most the picture someone (was it Rosangel?) posted some days ago of a "pantheon of greats" rather than one goat.
in my book there is no such thing like a goat. the times they are a changing, you cannot compare. even in the last 10-15 years the game has changed visibly and if anyone really wants to compare level of play or general accomplishments between players who are 20, 30 or 50 years apart i am surprised. it may be a nice game in your mind but the forcefullness of these discussions about one single GOAT is too much for me.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/12/2007 at 05:53 PM

I'll say it again. Nadal does not win without putting in a great amount of work. He is the player with most injuries the last couple of years and by the time he is 25, his knees are going to give him a lot of trouble to handle young players that do not rely as much on their physical abilities like Djokovic, Murray and Gasquet. They'll claims those slams Nadal won't be able to win.

Posted by KP 06/12/2007 at 05:54 PM

I see the usual "Laver isn't the best because he played slams on 2 surfaces" nonsense is appearing again. Do you really want me to list all the hardcourt events Laver won? Its a pretty long list, far longer than the amount of grasscourt events he won. Does anyone find it absurd to penalize a player for playing in an era where certain conditions didn't exist? That argument sounds as dumb as saying, "Federer isn't as good because he's playing with larger racquets than anyone had 30 years ago"
And its not that hard to adjust to hardcourts, its pretty damn hard to adjust to clay/grass, which Laver had no problem with. Check out how many players have reached slam finals on clay & grass & not done well on hardcourts. There aren't any.


Posted by 06/12/2007 at 05:55 PM

Q. His winning three times in a row here, does it make him more dangerous in the other Grand Slam tournaments, on other surfaces?

ROGER FEDERER: I'd say more dangerous, yes. Because -- well, that's it. I mean, that's simple.


Q. Why simple?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, because when you win one Grand Slam tournament, you can win the others. It's just like me, when I won my first Wimbledon, I thought, "Well, I know how to win a Grand Slam tournament, so I can win the US Open, the Australian Open, and Roland Garros." It gives you motivation and confidence.

And given his final in Wimbledon last year, he knows that on all other surfaces, he can win the title. He won Indian Wells easily, and that's a surface which is very similar to that of the US Open or to that of Australia. So why not the other Grand Slam tournaments?

Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 05:58 PM

SwissMaestro

How can someone say Rafa is a better player than Roger? The numbers are there and the results are there. On clay, maybe, on other courts absolutely not.

However, I think Rafa has the potential to be a better player than what he is now. He is willing to fine-tune his game. That's all. And him being a better player, doesn't mean Federer is not. He has his place in history already.

What I am saying is that you cannot compare these two, mainly because of the age difference. The best of Rafa may come when Fed is not even playing anymore.

Posted by LINDSAY-D FAN!!!!! 06/12/2007 at 06:02 PM

Congratulations to Lindsay Davenport on giving birth to her first child Sunday!!!

One note on this subject: Lindsay please don't disappear completely off into the abis, PLEASE!!! You are an amazing champion and the fans love you, we want you involved in the game (commentating for ESPN2 with Mary Joe Fernandez, WHAT A PAIR!!) But at the same time enjoy your life with you new family and most of all congratulations!

Posted by Sherlock 06/12/2007 at 06:03 PM

KP, that was a great post about Laver.

Kenneth, good thoughts about Nadal. Unfortunately, he's cursed by his timing. Even though he's several years younger than Roger, there are no other rivals, so he gets thrust into that role. Thus, you get the Einstein comparisons like "Well, yeah, but Roger's won 10 slams on grass and hard courts and Nadal hasn't won a non-clay slam yet" that leave me thirsting for a GE.

Posted by Ginger 06/12/2007 at 06:04 PM

I agree with Rosangel that it is impossible to compare players from different eras. I love to watch both Nadal and Federer and enjoy their different playing styles. I consider myself a lucky fan of tennis.

Posted by Kenneth 06/12/2007 at 06:07 PM

If at age 25 Nadal is still only an RG champion, then consider Nadal's talent wasted.

Posted by patrick 06/12/2007 at 06:23 PM

Lindsay-D Fan!!!!!,
I would like to see Lindsay doing work for ESPN2 too especially when the WTA do the California swing in the summer (along with IW in March). She probably can give the normal fan insights on today's players more than Shriver,Fernandez,Carillo,and etc...

Posted by Andrea 06/12/2007 at 06:23 PM

Well said Kenneth. I see Rafa winning the AO as the first slam besides RG.

Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 06:28 PM

Andrea,

they changed the AO surface to something similar to the USO. So , we have to see. the good news is he is changing his game and his win in IW was very encouraging.

Posted by darthhelmethead 06/12/2007 at 06:33 PM

If I can just make a quick point here,

Nadal's title at indian wells keeps popping up, but is it just me or was that court playing EXTREMELY slow? It seemed that tournament was more of a clay court event than a hard court despite the lack of sliding. It was nearly impossible to hit a winner on that court, take the Nadal Roddick semifinal as proof. The reason Nadal won that tournament so easily is because it is a perfect hardcourt for a claycourter's game.

I just want that tournament to be taken out of the conversation when pertaining to Nadal's transferance to other surfaces.

Posted by Andrew 06/12/2007 at 06:41 PM

For me, Nadal's improved over last year. Ray Stonada and I were in full agreement on this when we watched him defeat Roddick and Djokovic at IW in February.

I saw Federer's game improving until November last year: his dismantling of Blake at the YEC final with something like 17 BH winners was amazing. 1H 2007 has not been the same story. If there are any Federer KADs out there who feel Federer has played consistently better in the first six months of 2007 than he did in the first half of 2006, well, you're seeing something I'm not.

As to what will happen in the second half of the year, and into 2008 - I have no idea. Maybe Federer will get it out of his system, maybe not. Nadal may continue to improve. And Djokovic is getting better, and Murray should recover from injury. And maybe Kolya (hi Kolya!) will discover that he can actually compete with the big dogs.

Should be fun.

Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 06:45 PM

darthhelmethead

if it eases your mind, Indian wells was clay painted in blue! Even the players don't know about it.

Posted by Rsquared 06/12/2007 at 06:48 PM

Kudos to Kenneth on the cool common sense of his 5:46 p.m. post. You've diagnosed and summed up biases on this blog and the game of tennis in one concise take. A must read.

Posted by rudy3 06/12/2007 at 06:50 PM

Hey, did Lindsay have a boy or a girl? Name? I hope she comes to USO so the crowd can give her a proper goodbye.

DHT: good lord, Rafa won IW, it was a hard court Master's event. The 4 semi finalist were Murray, Djokovic, Roddick & Nadal. Last I looked Roddick is not a clay court specialist. Give the guy credit. He won. Why take it out of the conversation? With that standard lets take Hamburg out of the conversation, the Hamburg clay played completly different from all the other clay court events. It was slowed and heavier, therefore Federer's one clay court win over Rafa doesn't count...

Sorry, I get testy when people down play Rafa's accomplishments, or try to quailify them as a fluke or luck.

Posted by temes 06/12/2007 at 06:56 PM

I think the reason why some people are not complete into Nadal hype, dispite his (much) better record at 21 than Fed had, is that they don't believe Nadal as much talent in him to unleash, and that his game is mostly physical and that will only take you so far. I think I'm one of those people. But I'd be hugely suprised if Nadal didn't win AO, USO or Wimby atleast once during his career.

Posted by Stack 06/12/2007 at 06:56 PM

My Observations and Opinions about Nadal

I think that Nadal has the potential to be just as good as Federer against all opponents on all surfaces if he makes the following adjustments:

1 - Do not hit the ball short if at all possible

This is what enabled Blake, Berdych, Youchny, et, al to
"tee off" on his returns

Sometimes you have to have to hit the ball short to recover

Posted by Zola 06/12/2007 at 07:08 PM

temes,
it is a matter of preferance. Everyone likes someone's game and style for different reasons, which make this sport so much fun. But I think one reason some people don't like Nadal is that they know he is the only one that can challenge Federer. I bet many Fed fans don't like Canas either.

NAdal has improved a lot during the last year. To me many of his shots are just amazing.

Posted by Stack 06/12/2007 at 07:16 PM

My Observations and Opinions about Nadal

I think that Nadal has the potential to be just as good as Federer against all opponents on all surfaces if he makes the following adjustments:

1 - Do not hit the ball short if at all possible

This is what enabled Blake, Berdych, Youchny, et, al to
"tee off" on his returns

Sometimes you have to have to hit the ball short in
order to recover from a shot by your opponent . But
unless this is the case, don't do it even though you
use less energy

I think Nadal is realizing this and is trying to
minimize this tendancy

2 - The second most important thing is to consistently do
what Federer is very good at. Waiting until the last
split second to decide which side to hit a forehand or
backhand to. This is not always possible, but n needs to be practiced consistently. The key is to keep the opponent opponent off balance as much as
possible


3 - The most importent adjustment if he can do it wouuld be develop

Posted by AmyLu 06/12/2007 at 07:20 PM

rudy, I believe that Lindsay's son's name is Jagger. I do hope she makes an appearance at the USO or one of the tournaments in California this summer so she can receive a proper good-bye.

Posted by temes 06/12/2007 at 07:24 PM

Well Zola I think that believing Nadal does not have quite enough to dominate hard and grass is not a matter of preference.

"But I think one reason some people don't like Nadal is that they know he is the only one that can challenge Federer. I bet many Fed fans don't like Canas either."

I really don't think so. I mean, it would be incredibly childish to dislike Nadal just because he challenges Fed. LOL.

I think also that Nadal has improved a lot, and without Federer he would definitely be number one easily. But I don't think he will ever dominate like Fed, just because he playes such a different game. I think he has a very different style, and he has pretty much developed it to the maximum. I think he just had a better mentality earlier than Fed, that's why he was so successful during his teens.
I think he can win any Slam, he can improve his versatility, and when all click, he can win AO ,USO or Wimby(here he needs an easier draw tough). But I think he can't do it many times, because there are always players with better serves and grounds strokes that suit hard/grass much better. I think Nadals topspin is a disadvantage on faster courts.

Posted by Stack 06/12/2007 at 07:32 PM

My Observations and Opinions about Nadal

I think that Nadal has the potential to be just as good as Federer against all opponents on all surfaces if he makes the following adjustments:

1 - Do not hit the ball short if at all possible

This is what enabled Blake, Berdych, Youchny, et, al to
"tee off" on his returns

Sometimes you have to have to hit the ball short in
order to recover from a shot by your opponent . But
unless this is the case, don't do it even though you
use less energy

I think Nadal is realizing this and is trying to
minimize this tendancy

2 - The second most important thing is to consistently do
what Federer is very good at. Waiting until the last
split second to decide which side to hit a forehand or
backhand to. This is not always possible, but n needs to be practiced consistently. The key is to keep the opponent off balance as much as
possible


3 - The most important adjustment,if he can do it.would be to to develope an inside-out shot going from left to right
the same as the "nasty" inside-out shot he now has going
from right to left. This curving-spinning shot is lethal
and even though it would be from his backhand side since
he is a lefty, he is apparently a natural rght hander and and if if could perfect this along with the the last
minute decision about the direction of the shot, he
could really keep opponents off balance.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 06/12/2007 at 07:51 PM

Not that I expect to slow anyone down with this, but the level that Federer and Nadal are playing at has really warped normal tennis statistics.

For example, at this point in 2006 Nadal had three losses on the year, the Clement, Blake, and Moya on hard courts. In 2006 Nadal was undefeated on clay at this point.

This year, Nadal has lost to Malisse, Guccione, Gonzalez, Youhzney, and Djokovic on hard courts, and has one loss to Federer on clay.

It would be sort of ridiculous to cite those statistics as proof that Nadal is "playing worse than he was in 2006," no?

For some reason I'll also take this opportunity to point out that history shows that "no one ever sees their last slam victory coming" with the possible exception of Sampras's last win.

Its very difficult to attain a high level of play, and once attained, perhaps more difficult to maintain.

What can be done is to simply try to understand what is going on out there, while enjoying it while we are lucky enough to see it.

If my kids every get to watch McEnroe, it will be the gray haired champions tour version. Not the version that somehow used Star Trek technology to move from the baseline to inside the serviceline faster than a molecular transporter. The only way they will likely ever see Borg is on a youtube clip, where for some reason the ball looks like it is going two miles per hour, when, seeing it back then, I will swear to them that was not the case.

These eras go by more quickly than you think.

Posted by Sam 06/12/2007 at 08:06 PM

I like the a "pantheon of greats" idea that Rosangel posted a few days ago. It's difficult to compare different eras, especially since during certain eras Slams weren't played by all the best players due to the pro/amateur split.

"does no one get as close to the net anymore as the volleyers of old?"

I agree, skip. I've already recorded over the men's FO final, but I have some tapes/DVDs of McEnroe and Edberg which I've watched a fair amount, and the positions from which they hit their volleys seems closer to net than anyone I see today. Mac in particular would come in a few times a match on a "bluff" approach, and just use his phenomenal hands to deal with the passing shot. Love to watch that.

Posted by daylily 06/12/2007 at 08:11 PM

wow, i really wonder where all you nadal supporters have been the past two years.....certainly not posting here! i guess better late than never, and the reinforcements are certainly appreciated by the cavalry, consisting mainly of rosangel, amylu, and me as the oldtimers mixed in with some more recent verbal fans like zola, jenn and so on. it's been pretty hard times around here at certain intervals, overrun as tw is with roger KADs, so now it's rather amusing to sit back and reread the very points we've been trying to make about rafa for a long time -- but written by fresh troops.

happy to have you along!

Posted by Matt Zemek 06/12/2007 at 08:20 PM

Kenneth:

Superb insights that I don't have to add anything to.

Pete Sampras makes a great yet simple point: Nadal makes Fed uncomfortable. Fed is a precision player, and Nadal's style of play takes Fed out of his favored hitting zone while also making it hard for Fed to:

A) generate power;

B) find winning angles;

and C) employ his typical defense-to-offense style in which Fed assesses the methods of his opponent and plays within them to defuse and defang his opponent's strengths.

Tim:

Losing to a better player is not "getting the yips." Getting steamrolled in straight sets or giving up (or pulling an Ivanovic against Henin) is "getting the yips."

Roger choked away 2-3 break points in the first set when he had sitter forehands. On no other points of appreciable significance did Federer choke. Rafa had all the answers in sets 3 and 4, in a match that was hardly a classic, but still noticeably better than last year's RG final.

Oh, one final thought: failing to make the final would truly be considered "getting the yips in Paris." But Roger has held up his end of the bargain and met Nadal each of the past 3 years in Paris to satisfy tennis fans. (Would that Fed and Rafa could have been on opposite sides of the draw in 2005; oh, well...)

Posted by Matt Zemek 06/12/2007 at 08:29 PM

Andrew:

Fed's 2007 Australian Open was the best non-Wimbledon exhibition of tennis I've seen from the Fed in the last three years of grand slam competition.

Then--as he freely admitted during the fortnight in Paris--he started thinking about the French, and that lack of concentration and hunger cost him in IW and Miami.

In Paris, we saw something close to full-flight tennis in most of his matches before the semis and final. He definitely entered the semis in great form after dismantling Robredo 1 and 2 in the third and fourth sets of the quarters.

I don't think we've seen a deterioration of Fed's game at all this year; he allowed his focus on the French and the clay season to detract from the hardcourt spring in the states. His losses to Canas were caused by insufficient fire in the belly... and by crafty, valiant play from a battler whom Fed hadn't played in a while.

I'm not concerned about Wimbledon. The Djoker, if in Fed's half (semifinals), is the one player I'd be somewhat concerned about--SOMEWHAT. Canas wouldn't scare Fed at SW19 the way he would have in Paris. Davydenko's not made for turf. Hewitt doesn't match up.

Maybe Ivo Karlovic on a day when the "Doctor" serves flawlessly and forces 4 tiebreaks, but Fed took down Doctor Ivo in the 16s two years ago in straights.

Maybe perennial pest Nicolas Kiefer, but the German is woefully rusty and just not ready.

Nalbandian (perhaps a 4th-round foe) is just not match-tough, and couldn't threaten Fed on grass.

I won't sweat until the final against Nadal, whom I think is primed to only get better.

Final Wimby thought: Fed can't possibly have a draw as potentially tricky as last year, and look what he did with last year's draw.

Bottom line, Andrew: Not overly worried, because Fed's game hasn't suffered this year so much as his focus, FOR OBVIOUS AND VERY HUMAN REASONS.

Posted by DMS 06/12/2007 at 08:56 PM

I don't elaborate on anything Pete Sampras says...like trying to add to add on what Picasso thinks about some painting. Pete is a master, just take into account what he says and think about it Fed fanatics. Thanks Pete Bodo for posting Pete Sampras' comments.

Posted by legnaleugim 06/12/2007 at 09:01 PM

Andrew: If Pete saids "he is not an attacking player even thou he gots all the tools " there is plenty in between lines! As an old coach I recognize the killer instinct in any sport including chess! You must go for checkmate or you are mate! That's an old gladiator adagio and RF got everything except that what Wilander remark last year! On the very ends is GUTS! And RN got plenty,that's why he scratch his right hand in his service ritual for his final insult over injury to his opponents! Want to shake his hand? On the green lawns of the AELCTC be prepare for the upsets,perhaps RF will not join BB club!

Posted by DMS 06/12/2007 at 09:03 PM

"i have already recorded over the FO final..." that is heresy Sam :)).

Posted by DMS 06/12/2007 at 09:06 PM

Andrew, I don't want to quibble with a data master, but I would qualify that since the AO final Fed has not shown the same form. He came off his YEC 06 with truly superb tennis. The full-flight dismantling of ARod was embarrassing. So after AO, yes. I agree with Sam or whoever up top said that.

Posted by Sam 06/12/2007 at 09:12 PM

"I'm not concerned about Wimbledon."

Same here, Matt. Federer has lost a total of 5 sets during his 4 Wimbledon title runs, and 3 of those were tiebreaks. Until someone shows that they can beat him there, I won't be concerned.

Moreover, he has fared as I expected in the Slams (losing to Nadal was the only acceptable loss at RG), so I anticipate him to follow suit at Wimbledon. His results inbetween the AO and RG are not up to par for him, but I thought that Matt explained why very well.

Posted by Sam 06/12/2007 at 09:22 PM

I think the AO will be the first non-RG Slam will win - better suited to his game (not sure about the impact of the new surface though), and since it is earlier in the season, his body is fresher. At the USO, he is more susceptible to big hitters as well as the rigors of a long season.

Posted by Sam 06/12/2007 at 09:24 PM

Oops, the last post was in reference to Nadal.

Posted by Bob 06/12/2007 at 09:32 PM

I personally expect tennis go continue as it is; with Federer dominating on all surfaces except clay. Nadal is probably not going to improve much. The truly great players display their stuff very early, and I haven't seen any appreciable improvement in Nadal's game (or Federer's, or any other top player) in a couple of years. They get more experienced, and accustomed to the huge situations, but these players had all the shots by the time they were 19 or so, as did Justine, Steffi, Serena, Venus, Evert, Monica, Sampras, Edberg, Wilander, McEnroe, Connors, Kim, Hingis, Borg, Lendl, Agassi, and the rest of them.

Justine made a Wimbledon final at 19. If you can make a final and especially take a set, you can win it. You have the shots. You might not have the experience, or the nerves, but you have the talent. Kim almost won the French at barely 18.

Federer had the talen to win Wimbledon the year he beat Sampras. He was about 19 then. In my view all the true greats reached their peak by the time they were 21, and stayed at pretty much that level for the next several years. A few of them stayed there past the age of 30.

The TV media is constantly telling us how these players will "improve". What are the facts/statistics to support that? They never refer to any, and such facts probably don't exist. I've seen Federer play at the same level for about three or four years. He's gotten more experienced, and might have added a few more bizarre shots to his repertiore, but he does't need them. I think he's simply fascinated by what he can do sometimes.

Ivanovic might improve. She might not. She will "improve" in terms of dealing with the big stage, but frankly you will hit the shots at 19 that you are going to hit for your entire career, if you are a great player. Justine had the game at 19 to win the FO and Wimbledon. She didn't have the experience. So did Kim.

JJ is 22. She's not going to improve her game. She is a top player, but she's #3 because she's played 30 events. She doesn't have the weapons to win a slam againt a few of the players unless they are off of their game (which does happen, and is why we see some unusual slam winners now and then). It's more then than now, however, with today's relative depth. Anyone who is expecting some dramatic improvement in a 19-21 year old player, in terms of physical talent, is not paying attention to the history of the open era.

Sharapova isn't any better now then when she was 18, though she has more experience on the big stages. Serena and Venus certainly aren't any better than when they were 19-21. Virtually none of the great players are. Federer is in fact 25, and will start to slow down a bit in a couple of years.

Vaidisova is 18, and might improve, but she might not. I am looking at Safarova, and that 16 year old, and Chakvetadze a bit (but she doesn't have the serve to win a slam, in my view). I am not looking at any player over 21 who hasn't already made the big stage. It's too late for them, though they might sneak in to one some day.

This idea that Nadal will "get better" on grass and the hard courts is not supported by tennis history. He has been at the top of his game since he was 19, with only slight improvements. He isn't going to get faster, or hit shots any differently than he's been hitting them his whole life. Neither is Federer. Djokovic needs to step up soon, since he's not going to improve much, except in experience.

The reality is that Nadal is vulnerable to numerous players on the hard courts, and that's probably not going to change. Even his speed can't get to too many of those shots, and he can't generate that heavy ball with the bounce which varies and is hard to deal with. He has the perfect game for clay, and one huge reason he's so successful on break points is that he's a lefty serving to the ad court against right handed players. As far as I'm concerned, he's the same player I saw two years ago and last year, in most respects. I've never seen a clay player like him, and he will win some hard court events, but not many. A bad draw will nearly always take him out, whereas Federer can roll through any draw on any surface until he reaches a clay final againat Nadal.

We'll see what happens, and perhaps Nadal will surprise me, but my honest view is that great players reach their talent peak by the time they are 20-21, at the latest, with almost no exceptions, and the media's chatter about "improvement" (especially with somebody Federer's age), is not supported by almost any evidence in the history of tennis. They may need a tournament or so they should have won to gain the mental experience, but their shotmaking and general tennis ability is not going to change.

Youth has always produced the new superstars, and it always will.

Posted by Sam 06/12/2007 at 09:39 PM

Jenn: Thanks for the ESPN link. The following passage stuck out to me:

"Spin it anyway you want," he told the press afterward. "I'm disappointed to have lost. I could care less how I played the last 10 months or the last 10 years. At the end of the day, I wanted to win [this] match."

Posted by ndk 06/12/2007 at 09:41 PM

Maybe I am too big of a Fed KAD, but I won't be worried even if he loses at Wimbledon (highly unlikely). Making 8 GS finals in a row, winning 10 GS over a 3.5 year period etc. are mighty accomplishments. Sure, his showing at IW, Miami, and RG were disappointing... But the ridiculous standards he has set for himself are unsustainable over a 10 year period- I would rather him be around and win 1-2 Slams a year rather than burn out or get injured...

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