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The Problem-Attacker 02/05/2008 - 3:44 PM

[All photos by our very own Rosangel! - PB]

You know who I've been thinking about a lot lately? Rafael Nadal. I suppose this is because of the progress Novak Djokovic made over the past eight or so months, as well as the degree to which Jet Boy has been spinning his wheels over the same period.

Rafa5_3So how big does Roger Federer's win at Wimbledon last July look now? To me, plenty big - if not as a career-shaping encounter then as a huge missed opportunity for Nadal. I'm open to the idea that Rafa hasn't been quite the same player since that loss.  Certain matches stay with a player much like a lingering cough or cold sometimes remains with us so long that we forget what it's like not to have it.

To attribute Nadal's results in the second half of  last season, and so far in this one, to that Wimbledon final would be presumptuous, unless Jet Boy indicated otherwise. But unlike, say, Federer's recent loss to The Djoker in Australia, there's some distance now between us and that Wimbledon final. It looms fairly large in the rear view mirror, although it's more useful as a reference points for events of the recent past than as a predictor for future ones.

Anyway, I've been thinking that Jet Boy is in a bind. A pattern has been emerging over the past few years, and it suggests that Rafa isn't as well designed to compete in an 11-month season as in a six- month one. Throw in Rafa's increasingly frequent struggle with injury and the case becomes even more persuasive. The long year presents special problems for a player whose game is nothing if not "effortful" and whose zest for combat denies him the use of cruise control.

I wrote some time ago that Nadal is a child of the sun and south, while TMF is a man of the chill and hard north. I stand by that, and believe that the actions and sensibilities of both men bear that out. We are each the sum of history, of particular times, places and antecedents, albeit subject to subversion to greater or lesser degrees - and with greater or lesser consequences.

In an earlier era still dominated by Anglo venues, values and game theory, Nadal would have been deemed a "novelty" - an exotic, volatile, idiosyncratic and unorthodox challenger who was as formidable in his natural environment as a leopard on the veld, but as lost on unfamiliar turf as that same leopard in the boreal forest. The game once was choc-a- bloc with such characters, right into the early Open era. You could call them "provincial" contenders ("provincial" really being more about surface and surroundings than specific geography; remember that for a long time European clay was considered an aberration). Of course, when the "provincial" contenders made the long trip abroad, they often floundered. So let me ask you this: if you had to cast TMF and Nadal as the city mouse and country mouse, is there any doubt over who would play who?

We resist this kind of thinking today for fear of causing offense and stereotyping. We also like to think of tennis as a "one world, one game" enterprise, dedicated to a level global playing field. This reinforces certain strivings for "fairness," never mind the big theme of the brotherhood of man. So we conveniently forget that a playing field is only level in a meaningful way if the athletes bring the same skills and mind-set to it.  Of course, man certainly is more adaptive than a leopard (and you underestimate the powers of a leopard in any environment at your peril). But it's easier to understand people if you see them through the naturally imposed filters.

Hence, Rafa's clay-court game is still a clay-court game, even when it's played on grass, just as a leopard is a leopard even if it kills a stag on an Alpine peak - something of which a leopard is more than capable. The hard bits for the leopard are navigating the foreign terrain and habits of its prey, and whatever degree of instinctual confusion it experiences while so doing.

Rafa4_3Okay, that's a pretty highfalutin' comparison. There are on-the-ground aspects to consider as well. Practically speaking, all players are subject to conditioning, which is why it's usually important for them to establish winning traditions on various surfaces or at a variety of venues early in their careers. Nadal has accomplished this, on a large scale, with his Wimbledon performances and Masters shields.

Yet you could argue that Jet Boy has achieved that mainly on the strength of his fighting spirit and exuberant athleticism; in this interpretation, those have overrun the built-in controls and determinants. In theory, Nadal should not fare nearly as well as he has on those faster surfaces, but then the New York Giants weren't supposed to win the Super Bowl. One of the main reasons we love sports is because of their potential for sedition; we love to see theory ruined and expectations blown up. It tends to reinforce our hope that anything is possible in a way that poses no threat to our equally strong conviction and hope that it is not.

One critical aspect of Nadal's nature is that the non-clay tournaments in which he does well tend to be different from the clay events in which he shines only in the particulars having the most to do with technique and strategy - areas that are of lesser importance to Nadal's genius than others. That is, he does well at events that suit him, in some temperamentally  rather than purely technical way.

Nadal's performance at Wimbledon last year was impressive to me because he kept his desire and spirits up despite the rain and gloom, not because he managed to cobb together a passable game to go with his mental and emotional strengths. The further Nadal gets from the warmth of the sun, the breezes that wash over a court, and the smell of freshly watered clay, the less well he does. Come the Paris Indoors, and he's a mess of conflicting signals - never a good thing for a predator. I think he responds to environment in as significant a way as he does to surface speed, and I know that's a pretty radical notion.

The most puzzling aspect of Rafa's resume is his relatively poor performances at the sunny, warm, colorful US Open. But in this, he's similar to many other players who are essentially provincial. The American major has proven to be a formidable stumbling block for many players from outside the U.S., and often for reasons obviously having nothing to do with the surface - and everything to do with the full menu of New York's famed distractions. In fact, Roger Federer's ability to overcome the habitual European fear of the American challenge is a particularly powerful testament to his versatility and underscores the degree that he has transcended whatever provincial urges once defined him. His most valuable asset in that regard has been his cool temperament; he took measure of the event and then tailored his approach and game to ensure a good fit.

TMF is a problem-solver; Rafa is a problem-attacker.

That suggestion may ring true for those of you who are familiar with all those studies about how little boys tend to try to break through walls while little girls are more likely to navigate around them. Nadal's greatest strength, as well has his most outstanding weakness, is his boyishness. This is a lingering condition that all but defines him to many of us. It is why so many people love him, and why disliking him has always seemed to me a little like disliking a kid brother. Rafa is the Little Engine that Could, never mind that he what he "could" do is blast a tennis ball through your forehead with such force that it would leave a volleyball-sized exit wound on the back of your skull.

But for all his bellicose instincts (does anyone else spank the ball as gleefully as Jet Boy?), he continues to engage us with incredible charm and insouciance. We all know how Uncle Toni insists that Rafa not get a swelled head - that Toni makes Rafa carry his own bags, and has him sweep the court after practice. We all know that the photo ops of Nadal tend to produce images of Rafa blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, surrounded by Spanish journalists in some press room, rather than shots of him with a dude all in black on one side, and a ranking fashionista on the other.

Rafparis_3 Nadal has resisted, or is impervious to, sophistication. If Federer is the game's ambassador to the world, Rafa is its poster boy; frankly, I'm amazed that nobody has come up with a comic strip character based on Nadal yet; instead of lugging around a football or a security blanket, he could drag around a tennis racket. We love TMF for his skill, we love Jet Boy for his exuberance. If there is a caveat to that, it's this: Going forward, it may be increasingly difficult for Rafa to rely on exuberance (and in him, even his stamina, strength and will seem subordinate to it) to the same degree he has so far in his career.

What got me thinking along these lines has been Djokovic's progress. Another man of northern inclinations, Djoker has matured as a player at an amazing rate. I get the sense that he's measured up his mission with a cold eye and concluded, "I can do this. This is what I need to do to make this happen." Yet when I try to come up with a comparably simple (and perhaps simplistic) formulation for Nadal, I come up only with: "I go and play my game and I fight, we see what happen, no?"

That approach is disarmingly honest and touching. And like any child - or, in this case, manchild - Nadal does "touching" very well. I'm not suggesting that Nadal would benefit from an intensive course of Tennis Technique and Strategy, 101. It's too late for that, and the elements at play here go much deeper. The boyishness of Nadal, which has always been such a great source of his appeal, may also hold him back. A comparison with Bjorn Borg seems in order here. Borg, at 16, played like he was 23, and at 25 he played like he was 23. Nadal at 16 played like he was 18, and at 21 he plays like he's 18.

Of course, you can reduce the line items on Nadal's resume to X's and O's. Sure, he could flatten out his forehand, play more from inside the court on hard courts and really force the action. But it would be naive to assume that Nadal and his team haven't thought about that; it's more likely that Nadal's game has changed so little because: a: it works, and, b: he has a temperamental disposition to play the way he does.

Hail, at some deep level, he may enjoy playing the way he does too much to bother with all the rest of it. Leave that to the "students of the game" and to those who are more inclined to calculation. This kid is having fun in a way he has not outgrown yet.

Whatever the case, Nadal is only 21, and - injury aside - he's got plenty of time to figure things out. I've always liked my youth young, if you know what I mean.


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Posted by 70's tennis fan 02/05/2008 at 03:48 PM

First!!! ???

Blimey Pete. That was deep and meaningful! I had to read it twice! Absorbing and interesting though.

Love the cold north warm south comparison

Posted by Pete 02/05/2008 at 03:49 PM

PS - due to a technical glitch, the photos may be slightly delayed - please bear with us!

Posted by marieJ in DC captain's shoes 02/05/2008 at 03:57 PM

i think i have to re-read a couple of times before i make any comment ;) and yes pics are "indispensables" !!

Posted by Sherlock 02/05/2008 at 04:06 PM

Dang, Pete. My little ol' brain is having trouble with this one. May take a few read throughs. :) The whole issue of him not stepping inside more and forcing the action, IW-style, is a fascinating issue to me.

Brilliant, as usual, Pete. Thank you, sir.

Posted by tennis talker 02/05/2008 at 04:06 PM

I think that's a bit too much speculation. While it may be true that some players might not be able to perform better in some countries/location irrespective of the court surface, there is nothing to indicate it is specifically more true for Nadal. I think the reasons are far more simple than that. Djokovic won on his best surface at 20. Nadal won 3 times on his best surface at 21. Djokovic's game naturally adapts itself to all surfaces. Nadal's game takes time for modification. Nadal's 2007 post Wimbledon season was an improvement over his 2006 season. Just because he suddenly didn't change his game style over the matter of an year doesn't mean he didnt improve. It has nothing to do with his being tired or his wanting to just play the game without worrying about his results. If that were the case, he wouldn't be continuously trying to improve his serve.

Djokovic played pretty poorly post USO claiming he was physically and mentally fatigued. Nobody questioned his endurance then. Nadal only had physical trouble during 2007 USOpen. So while I admit its interesting to speculate and romanticize, I think the reasons are much more simple.

Posted by Mlelly 02/05/2008 at 04:12 PM

Yeah, it's hard not to really like Nadal's disposition. No angst there, and seemingly none needed. Which is why it was so touching to see him after the Wimbledon final practically in tears on the court...and he admitted he lost it privately in the locker room afterward. Clearly he ached for that opportunity and greatly mourned it slipping from his grasp. Definitely his body is going to fail him in that "no holds barred" style of play and as you suggest he doesn't want a plan B. I for one hope he has a very sunny year!

Posted by Abby Road 02/05/2008 at 04:13 PM

"We love TMF for his skill, we love Jet Boy for his exuberance."

This line sums it all up for me. Like others, will need to re-read to absorb it and comment further.

Posted by Rosangel 02/05/2008 at 04:14 PM

If anyone wants to know - pics taken on Court 1 at Wimbledon v. Soderling, at Roland Garros v. Montanes (on that fateful day when I missed my plane out of Paris due to Rafa's late-finishing match, and ended up gatecrashing Pete and marieJ's dinner as a result), and in Paris (Bercy) after winning the SF against Baghdatis.

Posted by Ruth 02/05/2008 at 04:19 PM

"I've always liked my youth young"...I've always felt that way, Pete; precociousness has never been one of my admired qualities. Let the young be young!

Of course, the corrollary to that is my tendency to very hard when I detect immaturity or childishness among those who are supposed to be fully mature :)

It also probably explains my willingness to accept the slow decline of "aging" athletes instead of expecting them to perform at their peak for their entire careers.

Posted by Ruth 02/05/2008 at 04:20 PM

Great pictures, Rosangel!

Posted by Robin Pratt 02/05/2008 at 04:21 PM

Pete,

As I read your inimitable description of the essence of Rafael, I felt that you were capturing why Rosangel loves him so.

Thus, you have delineated some of the reasons why some resonate more to Federer and some more to Nadal. Oversimplified, but nonetheless profound and colorful.

Posted by darthhelmethead(lurker in reform) 02/05/2008 at 04:24 PM

"TMF is a problem-solver; Rafa is a problem-attacker...little boys tend to try to break through walls while little girls are more likely to navigate around them."

Are you saying TMF is a little girl?

Just kidding, I love these in depth pieces.

Posted by Pete 02/05/2008 at 04:30 PM

It's funny, Ruthie, but I wondered if that "youth-young" thing would resonate with anyone.

Posted by elenas 02/05/2008 at 04:33 PM

Nadal needs to seriously do something about his hard court game...It looks like Djoko will overtake him as the second best player...

Posted by Andrew 02/05/2008 at 04:37 PM

I'm going to repeat an observation that I made in a recent thread: here are four mutually exclusive outcomes for Nadal in 2008:

a) dominates on both clay and other surfaces, attains no 1
b) dominates on clay, not other, stays at 1-3
c) dominates on other, not clay, ranked 1-3
d) does not dominate on either surface, ranked 3 or below.

2005, 2006 and 2007 were each b) outcomes. Many of us are programmed to assume 2008 will be b), or if not, a) is more likely. But things do change.

Posted by Evie 02/05/2008 at 04:40 PM

" it may be increasingly difficult for Rafa to rely on exuberance (and in him, even his stamina, strength and will seem subordinate to it) to the same degree he has so far in his career."

Totally agree, Pete.

Posted by SwissMaestro 02/05/2008 at 04:41 PM

Nadal is closer in ATP ranking points to Federer than Djokovic is to Nadal and for some reason we all have got this feeling the Djoker will be catching Nadal before Nadal catches Federer... don't we?

Posted by waylandboy 02/05/2008 at 04:45 PM

Very thought provoking as usual Pete. Thanks for another great article. With your recent mention of football in your columns I see comparisons to Nadal's style and those QBs in the NFL like Michael Vick (before the dogs) that rely on their legs as much or more than their arms. Many people worry about trying to "change" them into something they're not to avoid serious injuries. But like you said with Nadal it's too late. It's the only way they know how. Everyone can just enjoy him for what he is because most likely his style won't allow him to play competitively for as long as guys like Federer and Djokovic. He might win another 2-3 FOs and maybe 1-2 other slams and there is nothing wrong with that.

Posted by Sherlock 02/05/2008 at 04:48 PM

Rosangel, love the pictures. :)

Elenas, I don't know. How many 21-year olds have had the success he's had on hards? He's not Roger for sure, and he probably won't be Djoko on that surface when all is said and done, but I for one am ok with where he's at.

Can someone remind me, how many sets did Djoko win in Shanghai last year? :)

Posted by Rosangel 02/05/2008 at 04:49 PM

Robin: it must be a case of "opposites attract", I think - in that, there's no way I (in my analytical role) could be characterised as anything other than a problem-solver. So in many ways I'd fit the opposite characterisation - I'm a thinker first, and a do-er afterwards. That said, I can completely identify with the idea of being a fish out of water, or a non-sophisticate sampling the big city. Plus, the character that acts on instinct and feeling has a definite charm, and it's always been very attractive to me (as well as mysterious - surely a prerequisite for some kinds of attraction) provided that it's focused positively.

Posted by Delurker 02/05/2008 at 04:54 PM

Actually, my feeling is that Djoker will start eating away from Roger's HC points causing Nadal to become #1 if Nadal continues to dominate on clay. I really hope that doesn't happen. I hope Roger wins the French and Wimlebdon this year.

Posted by elenas 02/05/2008 at 05:00 PM

Nadal is vulnerable on hards...yes hes achieved a lot for his age but he doesnt seem to be improving much

Posted by Tari 02/05/2008 at 05:02 PM

Really enjoyed this piece, Pete. You write very passionately about Rafa, and every time you do, I feel a definite tug of interest towards him. Well done, there. :) *kicks kid brother under the table*

Delurker: Interesting. I'm heartened by that scenario, actually.
I'd like Rafa to ascend to number one eventually, and certainly before Djoko....

Posted by Sherlock 02/05/2008 at 05:08 PM

I totally agree, Elenas. He is most vulnerable. But I guess I see it as all guys not named Roger are vulnerable. It's a brutally competitive sport, so when you're not as skilled as Roger, not perfectly suited to the surface, and don't get a lot of free serve points, it's going to be a constant battle for sure. It just is what it is. Think of what he'd be if he had Roger's, or even Novak's, serve? :)

Posted by horizon_greene 02/05/2008 at 05:11 PM

Reports of Nadal's demise have been greatly exaggerated, in my opinion. He's had an excellent start to the season; let's see how everything shakes out on clay and on grass...

Posted by CM 02/05/2008 at 05:18 PM

Great piece, Pete. Probably the first piece that I truly enjoyed about Rafa. I fully admit that I have not been a fan of his, but man, my heart is definitely opening up to the guy. And as I said, that all started because of how much Roger likes him. I mean, I adore Roger so if he likes Rafa...how can I not?? I started to really soften towards Rafa after the FO final. I know that seems weird considering Rafa stopped my Roger once again. But I was so taken by how respectful Rafa was after the match. He seemed to temper his celebration out of respect for Roger. And I felt bad for Rafa since most of the fans seemed to be behind Roger. Then at Wimbledon...even though I was ecstatic that Roger won, I really felt for Rafa. And the way that Roger and Rafa hugged afterwards...it was just so nice. Roger knew how Rafa was feeling because he had experienced it in Paris.

And now I'm even more in Rafa's corner because of so much disregard for him after the AO. It just irks me to no end that Djoker seems to think that he's just going to leap-frog right over Rafa without a second thought. Rafa deserves more respect than that. I can honestly tell you that I will be cheering for Rafa alot more now.

GO ROGER! GO RAFA!

Posted by CM 02/05/2008 at 05:22 PM

I found the part about Roger and the US Open very interesting as well. If there was one GS that I would have thought Roger would have trouble with because of the atmosphere...it is the US Open. I was a huge Borg fan and it was always so apparent how much Borg hated that GS. He hated playing at night and he was just never comfortable there (despite making 4 finals).

Roger seems to exemplify Wimbledon so it just seems weird that he would fit NY...yet as you say, Roger figured it out and enjoys playing there. Borg never did.

Posted by SwissMaestro 02/05/2008 at 05:22 PM

CM,

Hre is something for you to enjoy...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDCXqWNqIfA

Posted by CM 02/05/2008 at 05:25 PM

I'll watch it later, SwissMaestro....my work prevents access to YouTube and similar sites.

Posted by smee 02/05/2008 at 05:26 PM

I think some of the points are valid, but I am a little surprised by how sharply the contrasts are drawn. The danger in such comparisons is always a little bit of oversimplification. I do think Rafa's game has developed more than is recognized in this post, but on the other hand, the point made about Rafa at 21 playing like he is 18 also strikes me as more accurate than I might care to admit. I often wonder about Rafa and Mallorca. There has been a fiery debate about this elsewhere. I think living there with his family and friends makes him truly happy and allows him to go back to the well to replenish his reserves and be the happy island boy. But others have said, with some truth to it perhaps, that it would be better for him to move out of the comfort zone, to practice more on hardcourts, have better hitting partners (At one point last season, he was reduced to only hitting with Toni) and dedicate himself more to all around improvement by opening up his insular circle a little. I'm not sure it would help much at all, but I'll put it out there as part of the country-city debate.

Posted by Robin Pratt 02/05/2008 at 05:31 PM

Rosangel,

You have described what was so surprising to me about your affections for our top two players. Thus, you have taken some mystery out of your seeming incongruity while adding to it. :-). I readily admit to the folly of thinking one knows one from these posts so will let it drop at that. I am sure I would enjoy getting to see some key tennis matches with you, however, and seeing that world through your photographer's eye and analytical mind.

We all need to remind ourselves from time to time that fandom is based more on emotions than logic anyway. It has always been this way. We should keep such decisions separate from more important ones like politics and choices of work. Obviously passion will play a role in all decisions, though.

Posted by marieJ in DC captain's shoes 02/05/2008 at 05:46 PM

pete, this might be your best piece on rafa so far.

Rafa is the Little Engine that Could... LETC ? i'm just picturing that 6 year old boy unstopable with a raquet ;P
i'm sure his uncle toni would love this line. i do ;)

you compare him to some leopard... i allways felt that rafa is pure animal instict on court, more like a black panther to me ;)
i think he said in IW after his win, that he needs to smell victory before he steps on the court, that particular feeling it's a combination of many factors, i have no idea if he even knows how it works ! he reacts to his own life, own wishes, own desires, and he's living on it to play tennis. it might not carry him forever, and when the bad will come we will see if his exhuberance was overrated or not...

the comparision with djoko is perfect, djoko is clearly the more cold blooded from the 3 pack, roger has some ups and downs, but djoko has only ups for the moment...
sometimes i see him more cold blooded than you might think he is, the way he took that beatdown from tsonga is quite revealling. like you say, he went to play his game and just couldn't, stonga was too good, and he took it like a man...

i had to smile at the "provincial" player you describe, and i think it's rafa NY city... too big for him, simple as that.
rafa is feeling at ease in any european or hispanic environement, IW or miami have worked for him and it might be for the hispanic flavor those cities bring to him, but the big apple, no way... not yet, maybe he needs more maturity, and as you said he's been impervious to sophistication, but most of the guys at 21 do, i think so, no ?

one thing i'm sure, is that his family is trying to keep this provincial aspect in him, he likes the simple life he has in his hometown, they don't push him in any ways to do otherwise, to want more than a simple life in mallorca where he will live after his tennis carreer...

could this be the key of his limited success, i don't know, i guess you need to meet the nadals in mallorca to figure this out, could be a nice trip, pete ;)

Posted by Tari 02/05/2008 at 05:46 PM

smee: These players get so little time at the place they call "home" that I think it would be too much to ask for a player to sacrifice the place they love best for their sport. And it might very well have detrimental effects.

He's so young, still. The effects of his game on his body might mitigate that advantage, but he still has time, I think. I hope. :)

Posted by Chiconinja 02/05/2008 at 05:52 PM

If Rafa stays ranked 2nd after Wimbledon this year then once again he's got a good shot at reaching Roger.

I'll be very hard for the next few months because he's defending a lot of points not only on clay, but in Indian Wells and Miami as well.

If he has clay season like the ones he's been having the last 3 years, he'll have some pressure off his back and more confidence to face the 2nd part of the season.

Posted by Pierre 02/05/2008 at 05:52 PM

I wish to congratulate you, if you were going for the all-time greatest performance in stereotyping, I can’t think of any piece of writing that has excelled this.

Posted by smee 02/05/2008 at 05:53 PM

Tari, I agree with you. The argument for leaving Mallorca, as I understand it, has to do with how insular the inner circle and home is and that he needs fresh perspective, both from hard court specialists and new people around him as he grows up. I honestly think if that happened we would see a depressed Rafa who would have less joy in his game. And that might just break my heart.

Posted by Veruca Salt (17-14, that is all.) 02/05/2008 at 05:57 PM

Forgive me Pete but I got the impression that you are saying that Rafa's not exactly the greatest tactician? If you are I would have to disagree. I watch him a lot and I swear sometimes I can see the wheels spinning in his head between points. I do think he uses his head on the court. A lot. As far as his problems on hardcourt, I think that has more to do the composition of his game and the fact that there are just more guys on the tour who play well on hardcourts.

And no, I don't think his game has regressed nor is it stagnant. His constantly tinkering with his serve and he is much more willing. to finish points at the net. That's something that I did not see when he was 18.

Everything else I pretty much agree with though.

Posted by tennis talker 02/05/2008 at 05:57 PM

Pierre

You have stated in two lines what I said in so many words.

Posted by Tari 02/05/2008 at 05:58 PM

I feel the need to add a little spice to this discussion. I'm sort of bristling (hmm? maybe not the right word..) at the thought that a millionaire, who comes from a wealthy family lives a "simple" life. It's a privileged life, no matter where you live it, no? ;-)

Posted by Rosangel 02/05/2008 at 06:00 PM

Robin: I'd love to have the chance to watch tennis together some time.

I confess that when selecting the above picture of Rafa at Wimbledon, I did think about our recent conversation about his volleying there.

Posted by Veruca Salt (17-14, that is all.) 02/05/2008 at 06:01 PM

Tari-you bet. If you've ever seen the Nadal home you'll know it's not a shack on the beach. Maybe Pete means is that Rafa tends to avoid the regular trappings of success. Wild partying, trophy girlfriends, tabloid behavior, etc.

Posted by smee 02/05/2008 at 06:02 PM

Veruca- I definitely agree with you about Rafa's tactical abilities. I also think he is one of the best problem solvers I've seen on the court. You can see him figuring out his opponents and trying different things, which this post does not give him enough credit for. I think contrasts can help illuminate sometimes, but here they are obscuring a more complex picture of Rafa.

Posted by Samantha Elin 02/05/2008 at 06:17 PM

Rafa is so cute, I can see why my grandmom has a thing for him.

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 06:23 PM

love this Pete -
I do think Rafa is a better tactician than given credit for - I have seen him lose many a first set - only to right the ship , change his game a little and yes, wear down his opponent. Still , it is his joy and enthusiasm that I love about his game . The boyish charm of it all
I particularly got a smile out of the part about boys walking through the wall , and girls going around it. As a mother of both a boy and a girl , I can verify how true that is. Jake was forever leaping over the back of the couch, climbing out of a crib , scaling cabinets to get to a cookie jar perched high on a top shelf. Missie walked around , and asked sweetly for our help .
The older I get , the more I realize just how young 21 really is - and Rafa will certainly mature along the way.
As for his life of privilege. I don't know much about his home life - but what i have read is that Manacor is far from the wild party scene of Palma de Mallorca and other Spanish nightlife. He lives in a large extended family home with grandparents, parents, uncles and a sibling. Not exactly a swinging bachelor pad. Heck , it is not even an apartment shared with other young single guys. I would say he is "younger " than his 21 years by American standards.

Posted by marieJ in DC captain's shoes 02/05/2008 at 06:29 PM

tari, i had been reading so much about rafa, last anecdote about his simple life :
he has the worse mobile phone one could think, it doesn nothing but phone calls and it's from the has been generation and all his buddies are making fun of him about it... can you imaging the second best tennis player in the world not caring about how dumb and "provincial" he looks with that old phone ??
i found that anecdote quite funny... rafa doesn't care about so many simple things ;) he sticks to the basics, what can you do against that ?

Posted by VE 02/05/2008 at 06:33 PM

That was at once thoroughly engrossing, honest and disheartening to myself as a Rafa fan. As I was watching this year's Aussie Open, I was wondering whose career trajectory seemed to be the most logical for Nadal to follow and it was that Aussie battler himself, Lleyton Hewitt.

Incredible early success, built on a solid game, extreme physicality and an almost preternatural urge to battle. Followed by a period of physical fraility and struggling to keep his claws into a game that he once held by the throat and shook for dear life. Let's not mention Lleyton seems to have been Rafa's hair idol.

The beauty of Nadal is that having seen a player not terribly different from himself, he has some time to change his future; whether or not he does so, we'll see.

Posted by Voks 02/05/2008 at 06:47 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDCXqWNqIfA

this is great

Posted by tlf 02/05/2008 at 06:55 PM

Rafa has started out the year by making the final at Chennai and semis at AO. Not bad, but because he was blown out by Youzhny after his long semi with Moya, and then lost in an unexpected and big way to Tsonga at AO, people have impression, built upon Rafa's slight down dip post-Wimby, that Rafa's not meeting expectations. I think in fact he's doing great, is just a few hundred points behind The Marvelous Federer, and has given no real reason for fans to believe he won't have a good spring (per usual) until proven otherwise. Djokovic still has to prove he can win day-in day-out the way Fed and Rafa have done for (most of) last 3-4 years. And of course, Fed has to 'prove' to folks that after tough AO he isn't 'washed up' at 26 and trembling in fear at up-and-coming Djoko (hint--previous line contains irony), prospect of meeting Tsonga, Willy Canas, etc even BEFORE nemesis Jet Boy.

Posted by Tari 02/05/2008 at 06:56 PM

I wasn't saying anything about his lifestyle in terms of whether it is wholesome or not, but it is far from simple, is my point.

That story is endearing mariej, but I'm a hard sell, here. I think some of the "anecdotes" are put out to cultivate an image, maybe not this one, but it's inevitable. These athletes are micro-managed. Yes, I think if Rafa cared to have a state of the art phone, he'd have one. Perhaps he's more interested in something else? Sports cars. We don't know, really. :)

I think he's a wholesome kid, and his family seems to be exemplary. But a simple life? My goodness. I'm not buying this. :)

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 07:08 PM

by all reports , Rafa drives a Kia - poorly
Tari - of course you are right, we don't really know the young man , it is all micromanaged and we are fed the information we are supposed to know about him
maybe not simple life - but he certainly does not appear to live a life of excess .
Compared to the kids here in California in Newport and PV , with their BMW's , designer clothes , cell phones , private SAT tutors, private baseball coaches and quarterback coaches, tutors who help them write college essays and prepare careful resumes to get into Stanford and the Ivy's, twenty thousand dollar sweet 16's - I would say Rafa is pretty simple
He wears Nike t shirts - have you ever seen him in anything else - other than the photo of the rented tux he wore to the Laureus , or that same brown sport coat he wears to every photo op? I haven't.

Posted by horizon_greene 02/05/2008 at 07:15 PM

Beth, I suspect that Rafa is handsomely paid to drive said Kia, and may (or may not) have additional makes and models stashed away in the garage ;)

But you and others are right - he does appear to be refreshingly unaffected by his fame and fortune, at least to the extent that we are allowed to see.

Posted by Tari 02/05/2008 at 07:16 PM

Ok, I think I'll be outnumbered here. :) He could have all of that, Beth - although most of it wouldn't really be relevant to his lifestyle, but that's beside the point - he chooses to wear Nike tees and own one simple brown sport coat and and old mobile phone. :) Oh, and drive a Kia. I get it. ;-)

I will say that I believe living a life of "excess" is relative - to your standing financially. No, I don't think he lives a life of excess. Nor do I find one thing wrong with the way he lives his life. I find it "simply" charming! ;-)

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 07:20 PM

Horizon - Kia is one of his sponsors - so yes, he is probably paid to drive it.
and he has won 2 Mercedes from the Stuttgart tournament, one he gave to his uncle - the other he was too young to drive when he won - so his parents use it.
He may , of course , have bought himself an Enzo for all we know

but have you ever seen clips of his driving ? for his personal safety - I hope he sticks to the Kia - or public transportation

Posted by Margaret 02/05/2008 at 07:20 PM

Sorry, but I don't buy your "boyishness" and "youthful" reasoning. Nadal's humility, perspective on- and respect for- the game of tennis evince a maturity usually seen in older players. How long did it take Agassi to reach this same outlook on the game? Also, I agree with others that Nadal's tactics are underrated. JMac (no less!), during last year's Wimbledon final, repeatedly remarked about Nadal's tactical adjustments as one of his greatest strengths. I think your characterization of him in this piece is condescending and overly simplified in order to make the comparisons to Roger and Djoker. Rather provincial of you, no?

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 07:27 PM

Tari
I get your point - he travels the world playing a game. he stays in fine hotels and eats tomato less , cheeseless pasta wherever he goes. he is surrounded by security - wearing clothes he did not pay for ...
professional athletes have a charmed life , much more glamorous than our existence
not really simple at all

but compared to some , who take advantage and enjoy all the perks of their lifestyle ,he seems content with his family and friends from home. It is refreshing really

Posted by horizon_greene 02/05/2008 at 07:27 PM

Beth, I've come across videos of Rafa's driving in the past, but never watched them. I think it would just make me nervous - reading about the Mallorcan electrical pole incident a while back was sufficient!

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 07:32 PM

horizon
I saw a video of his driving his newly won car at Stutgart
they wanted him to take his new car for a spin around the court
it was painful to watch - all I could think of was how much it cost me to rebuild my clutch because of trying to teach teens to drive a stick.


Posted by Tari 02/05/2008 at 07:33 PM

I admire that very much, Beth. And I think his family definitely keeps him grounded.

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 07:36 PM

Tari
I agree
unlike a few other nightmare tennis families we know of !

Posted by horizon_greene 02/05/2008 at 07:41 PM

Beth, you've made me vaguely curious about this video - I may have to look for it when I get home. In Rafa's defense, an unfamiliar manual transmission can be tricky, but...still? If it's as bad as you're describing, then admittedly I am quite worried about this boy.

Posted by Tari 02/05/2008 at 07:42 PM

Oh, Beth! You're making me miss my last car with a stick shift. I do think they're more fun to drive...although I can't imagine teaching my kid to drive one. *ponders this and shudders*

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 07:49 PM

teaching my kids to drive a stick was a freakin' nightmare
My husband used to drive racecars - so he is a great driver - if you don't believe me just ask him
well he of course was going to teach the driving,until after one trip around the block with Jake , he was so irritated ! He has no patience , at all for this sort of thing. So I did it. I became a human bobble head doll. Jerking my way around the neighborhood. That first trip out on the actual roads was terrifying. I developed the strongest right thigh - slamming that imaginary brake. jake finally mastered it - and actually took his driver's exam in a car with a stick.
Missie was a whole different story. She still cannot drive a stick . Just did not ever master it. her car is a little Honda - automatic - and she does just fine - but , she wants to drive daddy's sports car - and he won't let her near it . I do not blame him

Posted by Bismarck 02/05/2008 at 07:52 PM

nice post, Pete.
sure, quite an amount of speculation, but it was a wonderful read i thought (have to look up a few words though ;)).

and Tari, you have to make sure that your son learns to drive a stick shift. the automatic thing is just... it just cannot compare. way less fun.

Posted by Tari 02/05/2008 at 07:56 PM

Human bobble head doll!!! LOL. That's so what I was picturing, too. :)

Hi ya, Bizzer! True, true. It's much too fun to deny him. I'll need some kind of helmet, though! :)

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 07:56 PM

driving a stick is a useful skill
glad I know how

just be sure you teach the kid on a rented clutch
destroying your own clutch on your car is a really bad idea


Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 07:59 PM

I needed the helmet with Missie
somehow the concept of yielding to oncoming traffic when she was making a left turn was a hard one to grasp
it was terrifying

Posted by zolarafa 02/05/2008 at 08:06 PM

Pete,
.............
you hide in the bush...disappear for days....send photos from remote places...wave to us from mountains and then BOOM! come up with an article like this.

Well, as ZolaRafa I am a Rafa KAD. I am even sensitive to "Jetboy". I don't agree with everything you wrote here. But it is so honest and so thoughtful that I dare not say anything. You talk with the care of a big brother or father towards Rafa and I am very touched by that. So I am just going to say "thanks for such a thoughtful article" and leave at that for now.

I think Rafa's boyishness and honesty and his genuine happiness and love for the game might be the reason that Fed likes him so much too. I think Fed thinks of him like a little brother. I would love to see Fed be an advisor or coach to Rafa if he decides he wants to retire.

One thing that I wanted to say was that do you think Rafa's year -around game would have been if the clay season was longer and we did not have so many hard court tournaments? The ATP tour is designed for players who hit hard on the fast courts. no master series on grass and only three on clay. Rafa puts so much milage on those legs during clay season and then Wibledon that by USOpen, he is either tired or injured.

It seems to me he is trying to change his game a bit. I am looking forward to see what happens this year.

Posted by Hart 02/05/2008 at 08:07 PM

oh boy, stick shifts...
when I was in college, my grandfather offered to give me his old Jetta after her bought a new car. Of course I was thrilled--except it was a stick, which I didn't know how to drive.
So I ended up picking the car up in Florida and driving it up to New Jersey, where I went to school, after only 1 day (yes ONE) of stick shift experience.
Every time I hit a toll booth and had to stop, it made me want to cry.

;)

Posted by Heidi 02/05/2008 at 08:09 PM

Interesting because I have always wondered about this with Rafa -- whether his attacking mentality is really the key or whether it just makes us pay less attention to his strategic abilities. Pete seems to be firmly on the side of the attack being the key. I just don't know.

That caveat issued, I do agree that the US Open is an interesting psychological hurdle and always has been, apparently, for many players who were successful elsewhere. I don't buy this "NYC distraction" thing. You can hole up in the hotel and avoid them nicely. Besides, some people benefit from distraction.

But back to the attacking, if that's the key, then the question is why he can't attack effectively for more than the RG-Wimby stretch. Does the attack tank empty? Then he's just not that much of an attacker at heart, no? It doesn't all hang together for me.

Posted by zolarafa 02/05/2008 at 08:09 PM

Tari

***Really enjoyed this piece, Pete. You write very passionately about Rafa, and every time you do, I feel a definite tug of interest towards him. Well done, there. :) *kicks kid brother under the table*

Delurker: Interesting. I'm heartened by that scenario, actually.
I'd like Rafa to ascend to number one eventually, and certainly before Djoko....***


*************BIG HUG for Tari....***************

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 08:17 PM

Hart-glad you made it but,
try stopping and starting on the hills around here -
that was really horrible
talk about wanting to cry

Posted by jb 02/05/2008 at 08:18 PM

Pete - I loved the post. While yes - it may be a wee bit of a simplification in that it draws rafa, fed and even the djoker in broad strokes, I gotta say i think you've captured each of them in those broad strokes.

I've always been a fed kad, and despite the annoying obstacle rafa has been to fed's capture of the French, I've always appreciated the difference in his game and his ability to appeal to different fans. I love that the 2 best players in the world are opposite in so many ways, but that they can still coexist without trying to bring the other down.

Obviously, I prefer the coolness of fed's game; as i also like the effiency of the djokers, but I can appreciate what Rafa and his style brings to the court.

I do think that he's been able to add some layers to his game in the last few years, his play at net is what most strikes me; but agree the base of his comfort zone remains essentially the same as it was as when he burst upon the tennis scene.

Tari - there's nothing that says simple cannot be very very nice and rather comfortable! I'd LOVE to vacation at Rafa's folks' house!

Posted by Sherlock 02/05/2008 at 08:21 PM

Trial by fire, Hart. It's the only way to go. :) My dad and I drove back east, from Oregon, when I drove for the first time. I did a few open road stretches across 2/3 of the country. But in Cincinnati, we hit rush hour traffic. Longest couple hours of my life, learning city stick driving and bumper to bumper all at the same time. Sure gets you over the hump quickly though. :)

Posted by Snoo Foo 02/05/2008 at 08:24 PM

the nanner's boy-creature-from-the-islands schtick, it's great for capturing the 11-year-old girl demographic but when I read his blog where he was roaming the streets on a rainy night desperately searching for a peluche, it was so far out of my, uh, cultural experience I was just like, there is something wrong with this boy. maybe it's an estadounidense thing, or a non-eleven-year-old-girl thing. send in the telenovela tramps!

I never drove a stick. I only learned to drive as an, ahem, adult. But when I drive the rental car, if the thingy doesn't switch over fast enough, it drives me nutz and I have to pretend to shift by growling. "rrrrrrr grrrrrr vrrrrrrrr!"

Posted by highpockets aka "Madame 'Pockets" 02/05/2008 at 08:25 PM

Yowzers, Pete! I do a drive-by to take a break from Super Tuesday and you're doing an in-depth analysis of my favorite super hero?

I agree with you that Djoker and Rafa are from very different molds. Both are competitive, but Djoker is into alpine skiing, and we all know how dangerous that is. He left home at a young age and is very worldly (like Fed). His language and social skills are excellent and there doesn't seem to be much he's afraid of. We’ll see how he copes with the enormous pressures of this coming year … so far so good, but watch out for head swelling.

As we all know, Rafa adores his island and lives with his family in one huge house. He's been well brought up, but he's still very much protected. He admits he doesn’t like risky, daredevil sports and he (ah-hem) rigidly adheres to routines. When he leaves home, he really is like a fish out of water. Mostly, it’s a cold, cold world out there, and this includes hot, humid New York. He seems to love NYC, but can you imagine how fast everything seems to him there when compared to the slow, easygoing pace of his homeland? He says he enjoys Indian Wells (for the golf courses), Monte Carlo, Paris, Rome (for the clay courts … duh!), and Wimbledon (because he rents a house there and is able to cook). Coincidentally, he does very well at those tournaments.

Like you said, he's not sophisticated, which of course should not be confused with lack of intelligence. I have read his Spanish interview transcripts and he is bright and thoughtful, although not terribly analytical. Like Rosangel, I think sophistication is way overrated. A lot of sophisticated people act rather uppity and pretend to be something they’re not. Rafa's ability to be himself is refreshingly honest and charming.

I do have concerns about his body holding up, but this year will really tell that tale. Pete, I think you’re absolutely right about the 6 month versus 11 month season, which is why I think he’d be wise to tweak his schedule to peak at the right tournaments ... even if he has to drop down a few places in the rankings. This year is tough because of the Olympics, but I think it’s crucial in the future. Perhaps he should take some of his millions and invite players to Mallorca for short training visits (to get new perspectives). If language is a problem, he could make that a priority, but there may be some Nadal family stubbornness (provinciality?) that could stand in the way of that endeavor.

This year will test the top three in different ways … all of them will feel intense pressure. Djokovic is only 20 and is riding a massive wave right now, Federer is once again staring down history at 26, and Rafael (at only 21) is fighting for his health and his #2 position.

I’ll never forget the '05 French Open final. We couldn’t take our eyes off of this charismatic Spanish kid as he stalked the baseline in his lime green shirt. My husband said, “He looks like a wolf boy who has been smacking coconuts in the jungle all his life.” We were awed by his intensity and the power of his hitting. I remember his breakout slogan was “Tennis has changed … get used to it!”

Toni Nadal said his nephew’s greatest asset is how well he bears pressure. I dare anyone to stand on the other side of the court from him and not be awed by his incredible focus and will to win. His innate ability on the court seems to be to wait for an opportunity and then to pounce … and, like the leopard in your post … he is patient.

"I go and play my game and I fight, we see what happen, no?"

http://tinyurl.com/34zsbc

Posted by Aussie Ange 02/05/2008 at 08:26 PM

I don't have a clue about Rafa's personal life or what his family did to earn their money but I think if you look at the other famous Mallorcan Moya, it is not hard to see why Rafa follows this lifestyle as both are pretty laid back guys. From all accounts they seem to be very similar in nature. Does Rafa train in Barcelona like other tennis players or just Mallorca? I think his transition to grass is unbelievable the way he beats the few grass courters around and can get to the final for the last two years. This to my mind tells me a lot about the guy that he is prepared to make the changes to his game. If Novak can do the same at SW19 for the next few years then more power to him.

Posted by Hart 02/05/2008 at 08:34 PM

beth--omg, while I was still figuring out the stick shift, "hill" became a curse word. I would go miles out of my way to avoid stop signs/lights that required stopping uphill. I can't imagine learning on them! Your kids are tough! Driveways frightened me back then. :)

Sherlock--trial by fire is right! I did figure it out eventually but when I finally arrived in New Jersey, I parked the car and refused to drive it anywhere for about 3 weeks. It took me that long to recover from the trauma. :) Wow, back east from Oregon, that's a long trip. Yeah, cruising was easy--it was the toll booths that did me in. :)

Posted by Lucius the Luscious 02/05/2008 at 08:38 PM

Being far from a statistician or strategist myself, I have always talked about how tennis makes me feel. I loved Agassi for years and I can't tell you the X's and O's of why, I just had a reaction to how he played. Nothing was better than when Agassi got into tha groove and just relentlessly whipped his opponent back and forth, back and forth. I feel the same way about Rafa. I like the way I feel when I watch him play tennis (not the way Tari feels when she watches TMF, ok maybe a little like that..ha ha) Seriously though, I just react to the passion, dedication and NEVER SAY DIE attitude he exudes when he plays. I try very hard to "attack" my job like that. So for that, I love this post.

However, I DO think he is a fantastic problem-solver. Maybe it's a little like the muscle guys or the pretty girls never get any credit for being smart. I think Rafa's tennis IQ is highly underrated. Yes, he plays smash and grab tennis, but he is a great point to point adjuster. Maybe this is why I admire TMF, but don't adore him like I do Rafa. TMF is a wonderful piece of art I know is perfect and brilliant and the best I've ever seen, and I know I should be swept away by him, but for whatever reasons I'm not. (Still love the hair, though!)

LL

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 08:41 PM

hart- our cul de sac has a hill at the bottom - we practiced stopping on the hill at steeper and steeper parts - until they could make the car go up without stalling
then we went out into traffic
It was a challenge
but , as we did not have any cars that were not stick, they did not have much choice
except that grandpa spoils Missie beyond belief , and he loaned his car for her to practice on ( automatic )
so - she never mastered the stick
and , of course, gpa also helped her to buy a new car once she got her license

wish I had a gpa like that one

Posted by jbradhunter 02/05/2008 at 08:44 PM

I read this post earlier and I start to analyze my Rafa fandom I have flashes of that Wimby final- oh the pathos.

I really appreciate this place- TW and all the people who post here and argue and make this such a wonderful blog to be a part of. Really. TW is a place for people with a passion for tennis- a passion which is ginormous- to come together and even though I've never seen most of you- I feel as if we are great friends. It's sorta like the the Blind Mellon "Bee Girl" when she finds the other Bee people. Thanks everyone! :)

Pete- nice post!

I am going to hit some tennis balls now- so until later!
BTW- I love driving stick shift cars myself

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 08:46 PM

Lucius- glad to see you here again
I believe the Roger analogy is that he is the boy your mom always wants you to date
polite, handsome , rich, polished , nice ....sorry ...boring
Rafa is that other guy - the one with the edge - that you want to date

at least that is how it seems to me

and I know , not everyone finds Roger boring, and Rafa does not seem like the bad boy in his interviews
it is just an analogy

Posted by marron 02/05/2008 at 08:46 PM

Lovely piece, Pete. That line about loving Jet Boy for his exuberance - so true for me anyway. And I agree with highpockets about his incredible will to win, I love that!

so guess I flove Rafa :)

Thanks.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 02/05/2008 at 08:48 PM

Beth, Tari & Hart,

You ladies can drive a stick? Wow, I'm very impressed. Never learned to do that. A college boyfriend insisted I learn how to drive his car, but he had nooooo patience and was screaming at me within five minutes. That was enough for me.

On an unrelated note, I was in Hallmark today and the clerk said she couldn't wait until next week when all the men will come flooding in to do their last-minute Valentine's shopping ... mostly in a panic. She said it's hilarious. LOL

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 08:53 PM

Tangi- yeah - I drive a stick.My mini is a 6 speed. It is way cool. Mark taught me to drive a stick - and that was a mistake. Similar to your boyfriend incident. But ,as he was married to me at the time , he had to persist. And then - all of a sudden - a light went on , and i could drive it.
However, I have never allowed him to try and teach me anything else after that.
It is not worth the stress. I can pay for lessons if I need one

Posted by CM 02/05/2008 at 08:53 PM

***I think Rafa's boyishness and honesty and his genuine happiness and love for the game might be the reason that Fed likes him so much too. I think Fed thinks of him like a little brother.*** I agree. Roger does not have any brothers so I can see him thinking of Rafa like that. I know Roger said he thinks of Tiger Woods like an older brother that he can talk to.
______________

**I'd like Rafa to ascend to number one eventually, and certainly before Djoko.*** Me too. I want Roger to keep #1 as long as possible, but when he does give it up, no one deserves it more than Rafa.
_______________

***This year will test the top three in different ways … all of them will feel intense pressure. Djokovic is only 20 and is riding a massive wave right now, Federer is once again staring down history at 26, and Rafael (at only 21) is fighting for his health and his #2 position. *** Yup. Should be a very interesting year.
__________________________

***Tari said: You're making me miss my last car with a stick shift. I do think they're more fun to drive...although I can't imagine teaching my kid to drive one.*** The first car I bought was a stick but I didn't know how to drive it so my Dad test drove it for me. He then taught me how to drive it (what a nightmare!). But...I've always owned a stick since then and still do. Maybe, maybe my next car will be an automatic...

Posted by RedTennis 02/05/2008 at 08:55 PM

Rosagnel..well put your feelings about Rafa. i have always enjoyed the respect Rafa and Fed have for each other and it has definetly contributed to my gorwing admiration of Rafa, eventhough I am a huge Roger fan.

It will be interesting to see if Rafa remains as dominant on clay this year as the past two seosons.

Tari..
In terms of his image I agree he isn't a simple guy..a lot of his image is created..its refreshingly differnt which is always nice to see

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 02/05/2008 at 08:56 PM

Beth,

Have you ever had a car that's not stick? My girlfriend had a stick for 12 years that had no power steering ... you wouldn't believe how strong her arms were!

Posted by guess who 02/05/2008 at 08:56 PM

Who's TMF

Posted by Tari 02/05/2008 at 08:58 PM

Thanks, RedTennis - and welcome, btw. I never meant anything I wrote tonight as a dig to Rafa. I apologize if anyone took it that way.

Hi, tangi. :) Thanks. You're missing out - it's a lot of fun to drive a stick shift.

*off to watch election returns and turn in*

Posted by Hart 02/05/2008 at 08:58 PM

tangi--
It's amazing what the incentive of "free car" will do. If my granddad offered to pass his old car on to me, I wasn't saying no! (yes, my granddad totally spoils his grandkids) So it was learn to drive it and have a car, or no car. And since I wanted to continue with work and training during college, which required a car...well, the frustration was worth it.
It was interesting trying to teach myself. Sometimes I wished for an instructor, but if I had had someone like your old boyfriend screaming at me...probably would have given up too :)

once I got comfortable with it, however, I loved driving it

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 08:59 PM

Tangi-yes ,I had a few cars that were not stick
but my last few cars ( since i married the frustrated racecar guy) have all been stick shift

but now power steering I have always had

my arms would not be that strong

Posted by highpockets aka "Madame 'Pockets" 02/05/2008 at 09:00 PM

My favorite car was a stick ... a '65 MG Midget ... wouldn't be caught dead in it now with all the SUV's on the road. I'd be crushed.

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 09:03 PM

Hart-hooray for grandpas
my kids love their gpa
He dotes on them completely
particularly Missie
He had two sons , then two grandsons
she was the first girl born in the family in a while
and she has been the princess ever since

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 02/05/2008 at 09:04 PM

To any/all interested stick drivers,

Last question on sticks ... tell me why it's more fun to drive than an automatic? This intrigues me, for some odd reason. I guess cause I've never driven one. :)

Hart,

Good on you for teaching yourself. And you're right, it's amazing what the right incentive can do. BTW, he wasn't my boyfriend for much longer. That temper showed up too frequently for my liking. :)

Posted by Lucius the Luscious 02/05/2008 at 09:05 PM

Beth,

Thanks, nice to be back. I have posted a couple of times since my delurking, but I think you weren't here. I also have this thing about not wanting to know the score before I watch the match, so I have this conflict with being on the post during the Aussie Open. I was usually several hours behind in my recordings so I couldn't come on here for fear of hearing the results before I see the match.

BTW, your analogy of Fed as the boy your mom want you to date and Rafa is the boy you want to date is right on target. I had never thought of it that way before. Brilliant!

LL

Posted by CM 02/05/2008 at 09:06 PM

***I believe the Roger analogy is that he is the boy your mom always wants you to date: polite, handsome , rich, polished , nice ....sorry ...boring Rafa is that other guy - the one with the edge - that you want to date ***

Speak for yourself, dahling! So polite, handsome, rich, polished, and 'the nicest guy ever' is boring? Never in my book. And honestly, don't all those adjectives, except maybe 'polished' describe Rafa too? So...by your definition Rafa would be pretty boring also, right?

Edgy? Rafa? Where? Maybe in his oncourt Nike outfits...but certainly not from what we know about his personal life. So again, seems like Roger and Rafa would both be too boring to date in your opinion.

As for 'edgy' being something that makes someone date-able...well, maybe when I was 16 but hardly as an adult. Luckily most of us girls out-grow the need for the bad boy.

Posted by beth 02/05/2008 at 09:06 PM

madame pockets
I hear you
my mini is so tiny - I hate backing out of parking spots
it is very hard to see around those big tanks
However, I just laugh when they pull in to the gas station to refuel their friends of OPEC hogs , as I drive past them

Posted by Hart 02/05/2008 at 09:06 PM

beth--
not only was I the first girl, I was the first grandchild. So I admit to being particularly spoiled.
On top of that, I decided to go to his alma mater for college, which just made him SOOO happy...he loved (loves!) that school.

Posted by Lucius the Luscious 02/05/2008 at 09:06 PM

Guess Who -

TMF = The Mighty Fed

LL

Posted by Hart 02/05/2008 at 09:09 PM

tangi--
haha, ability to teach a girlfriend how to drive a stick might actually be a useful test for a potential boyfriend...if he passes, he might be a keeper! ;)

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