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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 creig bryan GCT 02/06/2008 at 12:48 PM

> "...Talking about these guys beyond tennis is completely natural..."

So is applying what they do outside of tennis, TO the very tennis they play. Doesn't make logical or right. Just fun. Right, Sherlock?

ks

Posted by Rosangel 02/06/2008 at 12:49 PM

Sher: When Djokovic played Nadal at Roland Garros last year, Rafa had plenty of support (what I could hear above marieJ yelling "Vamos Rafa!", anyway).

At Bercy, though, as I wrote after I returned from there, there were some elements in the crowd who booed when Rafa came on court to play Baghdatis. He did, however, get plenty of support as well - it was a wonderful match.

Posted by Snoo Foo 02/06/2008 at 12:50 PM

I keep picturing that one james bond that never did anything else, the moonraker james bond, vs. charo.

Posted by ptenisnet 02/06/2008 at 12:50 PM

Jet Boy = Federer because he likes to charter airplanes to fly between tournaments.
TMF = The Mallorcan Fantasmico. That's rafa.

Or it may the other way around and
Jet Boy= Rafa because he's really speedy on court
TMF= The mighty Federer

Posted by creig bryan GCT 02/06/2008 at 12:52 PM

> "...You can always tell what a man's true character is when faced with adversity..."

Yeah, those "true" characters generally don't sign their posts...more adversity--who needs that?

ks

Posted by Rosangel 02/06/2008 at 12:52 PM

Mel; see the TennisWorld FAQs for nicknames (link in column on the above right):http://tennisworld.typepad.com/tennisworld/tennisworld_faqs/index.html

Posted by ptenisnet 02/06/2008 at 12:52 PM

Snoo,
You mean George Lazenby?

Posted by Evie 02/06/2008 at 12:57 PM

The Original French(ie): Great post!

Posted by CM 02/06/2008 at 12:58 PM

***Actually, I wonder at the reception the crowd of Paris would give to a match up of Djkovic/Nadal. They've never been particularly warm towards Rafa...I know in the case of Djokovic/Federer they'll side with Roger because of the history thing.***
__________

I've wondered the same thing, Sher. The French fans have never been real warm to Nadal but that is mostly due to the fact that they are sick of spanish players winning their tournament, not Nadal himself. Roger is much liked there and of course, it helps that he speaks fluent French. It will be very interesting to see how the French fans treat Djokovic.

Posted by Jenn 02/06/2008 at 12:59 PM

Hi everyone! I am late to this party because I was in Vegas for the Superbowl and was too exhausted yesterday to do anything but sleep. I also lost my voice screaming for the Gians and my moneyline bet!

This was an interesting piece and I think I need to reread it a few times. What does overwhelm me as a Rafa fan is that feeling of "missed opportunity" that Pete referred to from the Wimbledon final. I, too, was thinking about the match during the AO and the "what ifs" that go along with it. Perhaps everything would have been different from a confidence perspective for Rafa since then, perhaps not, but either way he would have under his belt the title that he covets most, Wimbledon, and would have dealt Federer a mighty confidence blow at Fed's favorite tourney in the process. The break points in the 5th and coming so close probably makes the loss much harder to get over for Rafa.

This piece was, for me, a great description of why I am a Rafa fan. His exuberance and love of the game makes me want to watch. But I don't agree that he plays far back, non-attacking at this point because he may jus tlike to play that way. Playing that way is leading to some embarrasing losses, and he definitely does not like those. There are many who want to write him off now, but he is 21! Even if he never gets to #1, he still has years of fabulous tennis left and I look forward to it.

Posted by Snoo Foo 02/06/2008 at 12:59 PM

pffft no way man, lazenby went on to procreate with our pammy, I mean the other one, after sean connery and before... roger daltry... the one from the 70s, the cold war... well they were all cold war but... OH DUDE I forgot all about The Prisoner!!! Who was the dude in the prisoner? Oh wait that was a different guy... the bond with the squarest hair.

Posted by beth 02/06/2008 at 12:59 PM

the other Bond
Mr Pam Shriver

or maybe she means Timothy Dalton

Tari - it's ok - "hugs"

Posted by CM 02/06/2008 at 01:02 PM

yadda, yadda, yadda anonymous.

Troll alert everyone.

Posted by Tuulia 02/06/2008 at 01:02 PM

CM - I've really enjoyed your pposts here, thank you. Special mentions to 02/05 @ 5:18 PM(sweeeet!), 9:34 PM (team, hehee, cute) and 9:58 PM. Excellent stuff! Hugs.


dnrood 02/05 @ 10:50 AM ... I hope you saw the Rafa-Charly Ghennai semi. If yes, you loved it I presume? I sure did.

Snoo Foo 02/06 10:37 AM ... I think bad English actually does suggest lack of sophistication or even lack of intellect in some people's minds. Doesn't make any difference if one is actually bilingual in other languages (like Rafa - Spanish is his second languege). If you start learning a new language when you're practically an adult, it's not likely to be great all of a sudden, maybe mever. Everyone should try it... :-)

Posted by Pete 02/06/2008 at 01:07 PM

"blahhhhhhhh citing Thomas Pynchon won't cut it Mr Pete !!!!!!!!! What's baloney (if I may) is cowardly hiding behind this "attempts to connect the dots" explanation."
=======

Look, I'm not trying to hide behind anything, and I don't especially enjoy being called a coward. What on earth do I have to hide from (other than the tax collector)?

So let me try again to explain what "connect the dots" means. It means I am trying to have a feel, and create a feel, for an individual who, like all of us, is a combination of personal qualities and a unique, multi-generational history, shaped and conditioned by time and place. In your comment, you make it seem like "combative" is part of this big ghastly stereotype, when it is anything but - a true stereotype would have Rafa as a laid-back, unambitious sun-worshipper.

I think the characters we end up loving (just look to literature)often capture our affection because they represent something broad and general about their culture, time or place.

Are you really going to look me in the eye and say that there are no distinctions to be drawn between Germans, Italians, the Irish and Mexicans, in broad cultural terms, habits and predispositions? Good grief, and here I thought sociology was a valid field of study!

I am also puzzled by how Mrs. Santa found these characterizations "viciously drawn." Curious word to use, IMO.

Posted by ptenisnet 02/06/2008 at 01:07 PM

Roger Moore did quite a few.
Timothy Dalton did 2.
Lazenby was the only one who did 1 bond movie.
Maybe also David Niven who played Bond in Casino Royale, but I doubt you mean him.

Posted by Sherlock 02/06/2008 at 01:10 PM

"So is applying what they do outside of tennis, TO the very tennis they play. Doesn't make logical or right. Just fun. Right, Sherlock?"

Logical or right...depends how the application is performed, Creig. Sometimes it's accurate, sometimes not.

Posted by Voks 02/06/2008 at 01:11 PM

Voks, all I'm saying is that Novak obviously got the fans against him and just beating another player is not going to cause that. I'm not writing off Novak or believe that he will be forever booed for the rest of his career. But I would think he would want to change that reception the next time...and it all in his control.

Id say its a combination of it all. If he had won it in a 5-setter after six hours of grueling rallys, spiced with applauds to opponents points and smiles to his own mistakes, with a cherry on top ending of fed slip-and-miss due to wet court of hectoliters of swet dropped, I think we would indeed have a different "fanfeel" at the finals. But to say its all down to Novak, is negating those people in a way, but also Federer and Tsonga, and theirs effect on fans. Anyway, there is not much dissagreing here anyway, as I think that he should (as I think he would) reflect on all that happent down under. ;)

Posted by beth 02/06/2008 at 01:18 PM

Pete - maybe the vicious was just Mrs S being her usual acerbic self

welcome back , Jenn - hope you won big

now you want to hear some real stereotypes , and this is OT - so I apologize
last night I left to go to a high school basketball game
and my daughter's high school team won
and with that a chance to represent our league in the playoffs , here in LA
so a team of suburban white kids and asians will be playing for a basketball title here in LA , the home of the gangsta and inner city street ball
how is that for breaking the stereotype
Go Panthers !

Posted by Snoo Foo 02/06/2008 at 01:19 PM

Roger Moore!!! ding ding ding! doy doy doy. for some reason I am suddenly extremely relieved I'm not german, italian, irish or mexican!

Posted by Pete 02/06/2008 at 01:23 PM

Well, I think it's time to move on. . . post coming soon.

Posted by Maplesugar 02/06/2008 at 01:27 PM

Pete, you're really getting knocked here.

Just have to say, it's too bad more people haven't read John McPhee's wonderful stereotypes about Graebner and Ashe in LEVELS OF THE GAME. Outside the court, inside the court, around the court, you ARE how you play...you play how you are.

Anyway, don't sweat the small stuff. It's great to have you back with another tantalizing piece!

Mapes

Posted by beth 02/06/2008 at 01:31 PM

is anyone else having trouble with typepad?
every time i try to post or refresh the whole thing seems to stick at a post around 11 pm last night
weird

Posted by Snoo Foo 02/06/2008 at 01:33 PM

Hey everybody please vote for Lllloooooooooodraaaaaaaaaaaahhhh to get a wc into marseille! Although i don't know if this poll even makes any difference, plus kind of, meh, to vote against fabrice but he didn't get his entry in on time! so there! I don't know how many more times I can vote... c'est urgent!

http://blog.open13.fr/sondages/

Posted by Evie 02/06/2008 at 01:34 PM

Pete, thanks for your writing and for the fact that it generates critical and creative responses.

Posted by Snoo Foo 02/06/2008 at 01:35 PM

P.S. he can't play qualleez cuz he's representing his country in davis cup, what a champion! and a patriot!

Posted by ptenisnet 02/06/2008 at 01:38 PM

That's a heartbreaking choice Snoo.

Posted by highpockets aka "Madame 'Pockets" 02/06/2008 at 01:45 PM

"Of course, when the 'provincial' contenders made the long trip abroad, they often floundered."

Pete, I just have to say that the above statement (although true) bothers me because the same could be said for Americans going to Europe to play on clay courts.

Do we assume that Americans are correct in not wanting to play "boring" clay court tennis, and their "floundering" is somehow justified?

Should Europeans realize the error of their 'provincial' ways and embrace the presidential blue hard courts of America?

Perhaps I'm being silly about this, but I'm getting that "feeling" again.

Posted by MrsSanta 02/06/2008 at 01:47 PM

Pete by vicious I meant blunt and unflattering (even though I recognize that this is very much a love letter). The analysis of Rafa via stereotypes most of which I find unpleasant just seems to reduce to so much less than he really is.

Posted by MrsSanta 02/06/2008 at 01:49 PM

That should read "reduce him to so much less than he really is".

Posted by CM 02/06/2008 at 01:50 PM

***But to say its all down to Novak, is negating those people in a way, but also Federer and Tsonga, and theirs effect on fans.***
_____

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree then. I just think that the negative response Djokovic got was more to do with what he did. Sure there are always going to be people who cheer for the Underdog, or always cheer for the favorite, or always cheer for a longer match and therefore whoever is behind. But like I said, that kind of cheering has a different feel...you can tell it is not anything personal against the other guy. That was not the feel for Djoker. That's why I said that he has the most control over changing that perception...and I hope he does.

Posted by Bismarck 02/06/2008 at 01:54 PM

hmm. after reading the comments i feel a bit like a weathervane in regard to Pete´s post.


and re the new unity of the fedal fans, my impression is that there is a good deal of hypocrisy at work (for a lack of a better or "softer" word, or maybe it is just a tendency to colour the past rosier than it was).
nole threatens rafa´s position as challenger no.1 and threatens fed´s overall stranglehold of the game.
he threatens the status quo. that´s why he gets coloured as evil by a vast number of fedal fans here imo.
two years ago nadal was the grunting/ugly/piratas-wearing/cheating/stalling/butt-picking dirt-baller cause he denied fed of a couple of titles.
seems like it is now nole´s turn to receive an equally warm welcome.
i think i have never read here so many positive posts about nadal from non-nadal fans as in the time starting with fed´s semifinal loss to nole.

Posted by Pete 02/06/2008 at 01:54 PM

Just had to take a break to respond to this one, Madame 'Pockets. First, I was talking about the past - two decades and far back beyond that - which is related to Second, which is that for better or worse, the most important events in an Anglo-centric world were the grass and (to a lesser degree) hard court meetings where the clay-court experts struggled. There are still vestiges of this divide today, although the clay events have made great strides and the old-fashioned clay-court expertise no longer cuts it - even on clay.

So, in a condition that to some degree remains true to this day, a US or Aussie player could easily afford to skip or go to Europe and flounder; the tournaments just weren't that important - or numerous. By contrast, clay-court experts who did well on clay had to go to the "big events" next and there they often struggled.

Posted by oscalu 02/06/2008 at 01:57 PM

Great Analysis Pete:

I think that Nadal's hunting skills need to improve. The leopard is better known for its adaptability in the hunt. He is more like a raging bull, or better, a leopard who thinks he is a lion. As long as he continues to use brutish tactics on the court and not keep pace with the Federer's intelligence or Djokers wit, he will "outwill himself" to the lower end of top ten in rankings very quickly a la Roddick and Blake.
Rafa has two choices. Either brutishly improve his serve (placing it in key constructive places as to open up the court more) and impose his "vamos" from the begining of the match. Win some more easy points on serve. OR He might benefit from actually bulking down and becoming more light weight and better suited for the long hunt. I think the first choice is his best chance.
Either way he better adapt soon because the Tsonga's and Djokers of the tour will figure him out. Brute strength will only get you so far.


Posted by omar 02/06/2008 at 01:59 PM

Pete,

You were dead on with your comparison of Rafa to Borg. Neither one of these guys have a great mind for tennis, nor are they great thinkers of the game. What they both have in abundance is great instincts for THEIR game. Their strategy in every match is to play their game, and see what happens.

borg never changed his game; he always played the same exact way, he just played his game better and better as he got older. Same with Rafa. If he reaches No. 1 it won't be because he made any adjustments to his tennis; it'll be simply a matter of him playing his limited game at a higher level.

They both try to keep things as simple as possible, and simplicity is the highest form of genius. The reason they both struggle so much at a venue like the US Open is because their instinct mechanism keeps getting jammed by all the stimuli a tournie like that presents, from the people to the conditions to the traffic to the smell even (has anyone noticed how the US Open smells different than any other tournie or is it just me).

It's why when Borg made his abbreviated comeback he did it using the same wooden racket as before; that's all he knows.

Rafa is not going to change his game, nor should he. He just has to do what he does a little bit better than he has. Remember his body is still getting stronger, so it's not inconceivable to imagine him playing better tennis while still playing the same exact game.

Posted by Snoo Foo 02/06/2008 at 02:01 PM

"i have never read here so many positive posts about nadal from non-nadal fans as in the time starting with fed´s semifinal loss to nole." amen bizzer, it's like someone took all the anti-nanner talk that was flying around the past couple years and did a find/replace for nanner and put in nole. whoo whoo, changing of the guard!

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

***he threatens the status quo. that´s why he gets coloured as evil by a vast number of fedal fans here imo.***
______

That might be true for some Fed fans, but not me. I didn't suddenly hate Djoker and love Nadal. Heck if what you way was true...I would have hated Djoker back when he beat Roger in Montreal - but I didn't. My warming up to Nadal has been coming along for a year now. And I was actually warming to Djoker too after what I saw as some vast improvements in his sportsmanship since his DC debacle with Fed. But it seems to me that Novak might be retreating a bit with more questionable injury timeouts and some of the things he has said (and his parents). Then the slow-nodding at the AO and even more parental comments just rubbed me the wrong way.

And then some of the hype over Novak winning the AO. I absolutely agree with the positives - he deserved those. But the blatant disregard for both Roger and Rafa just irked me. So it was easy to show more outright affection for Rafa.

Posted by Tari 02/06/2008 at 02:07 PM

Oh...wow, you guys. That's really an awful thing to say, and think, if I might add, of your friends here that are Fed fans. :(
But OK. Holy moly.

Posted by Beckham (TMF still rocks!!!) 02/06/2008 at 02:08 PM

I can honestly say I am one of the Fed fans that is still very indifferent to Nanner, I actually quite like the fact that Nole and the Fed don't like each other...makes things more interesting, which of course means that I hope like hail Fed annihilates him the next time they play...which of course doesn't have meany anything about my feelings for Nole 'cos I also hope like hail Fed annihilates anyone he plays...

Fed and Nadal fans please don't unite...love-fests are vastly overrated!!!

Posted by Sam 02/06/2008 at 02:08 PM

"The Federer fanboys need to stop kidding themselves."

That's very offensive. There are Federer fangirls too.

Posted by marta 02/06/2008 at 02:13 PM

couldn't you write this piece in spanish, pete? I mean, I had to re-read it 7 or 8 times using the dictionary to understand everything.
seriously, though, I really loved it.
my favourite lines:
"Nadal is a child of the sun and south, while TMF is a man of the chill and hard north."
"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." (can anyone deslike rafa?)
thanks for the amazing pics rosia.
snoo, sorry mate, I'm gonna vote for fabulous fabrice though I like lllodraaaaah!
vamos rafa
|

Posted by zonie 02/06/2008 at 02:16 PM

I agree with you Omar. I love the uniqueness of Nadal's game. It is his strength as well as his weakness. No part of his game is textbook which also means that there are no proven tactics out there for someone with his style to beat another player when they have the upper hand. I think he is learning his own game better as he gets older.

The uniqueness of his game is also what makes him so great on clay. His game is not just better by a matter of degrees, it is unique. In my view, this is the reason Federer and others have had so much trouble against him on clay. There is no precedent and no way to prepare for his powerful strokes, coming from someone who moves so well on that surface. One just needs to look at the faces of those who face him for the first time on clay..'what the heck??'..to realize that they have encountered a totally different animal.

For what it is worth, Pete, I am half-spanish and grew up in Spain, so am quite sensitive to negative stereotypes and did not feel offended by your post in the least. I do think that there is some more depth to Nadal than you describe, but I think your main point is valid.

Posted by CM 02/06/2008 at 02:17 PM

***Fed and Nadal fans please don't unite...love-fests are vastly overrated!!!***
_______

LOL! I'm not at the love-fest phase and probably never will be. But there's no doubt that at this point in time, Rafa is more likeable to me than Djoker. As much as I've preached about cheering for someone as opposed to cheering against someone...I can also attest to the fact that cheering against someone can be monumentally fun! :)

Posted by robbyfan 02/06/2008 at 02:19 PM

I am in the minority with Beckham. Don't like Dirt Boy or his tennis. Go Fed all the way!

Posted by Maplesugar 02/06/2008 at 02:25 PM

Sam, thanks for sticking up for us! Chivalry is NOT dead!

"The Federer fanboys need to stop kidding themselves."

**That's very offensive. There are Federer fangirls too.**

Posted by Pete 02/06/2008 at 02:29 PM

Gracias, Marta, pero mio Espanol es feo y yo tengo problemas sufficiente en anglais!

Posted by Bismarck 02/06/2008 at 02:40 PM

Tari,
what is offensive?
first of all, i wasn´t aiming at fed´s fans, but at both fan bases, fed´s and nadal´s.
second, i wasn´t even commenting on anyone special, but more on the general "feel" of the posts.
i can´t even remember when was the last time i read "butt picking" in a post about nadal.
i´m just puzzled how completely the tables have turned. in a very very short time (and again, i´m commenting on the mass of posts here, not so much on singular voices).

but i want to take back the *hypocrisy* word, cause it doesn´t fit in the meaning i intended (but i´m too lazy to look up the word i have in my german mind) and it is judging in a way i didn´t intend it.

sorry, really didn´t want to offend you or anyone else. my words may have been poorly chosen, but my perception is the following:
amount of negative posts about nadal: close to/at all time low.
amount of negative posts about nole: close to/at all time high.
interpretation?

Posted by ptenisnet 02/06/2008 at 02:48 PM

Bissy
Maybe you are looking for "fickle". But you'll prolly offend even less people if you say "whimsical"

Posted by Tari 02/06/2008 at 02:51 PM

Bissy: Look, it's just very hard...I think you're right in a way. But there are many of us that were coming along on Rafa anyway, and have said this before. It's disheartening to read, is all.
This is sometimes the nature of sports. Changing alliances...you know? But thank you for your post. I think that Fed fans will tend to get harder here, is all. I'm having a sensitive day/week/year. Sorry. (and sorry, Snoo) ;-)

Posted by Evie 02/06/2008 at 02:54 PM

"the old-fashioned clay-court expertise no longer cuts it - even on clay".

Agree. all-court vs. specialization. All-court the way it is played by TMF and Nole will win clay grand slams. This will be interesting to see.

Posted by jos 02/06/2008 at 03:05 PM

Pete,
I too want to comment long and hard on your post but I am too much pressed for time right now. ( I reserve the right though!!)

Bizzy,
Regarding Djoko and Fed and Rafa fans, I think that you think that we all say what we say because Djoko is a threat to both Fed and Nadal.

Djoko was criticized when he was not No 3 and when he was not close to Rafa and Fed and started those silly imitations in the USOpen QF. That's where I started to dislike him.
Now , as a new and upcoming champion, don't you think any tennis fan deserves some decency from a player? Was he behaving all good and his family were all nice and polite and people attacked them just because they are scared Fed and Rafa might lose their spot?

Apart from Djoko's ranking and points, did you find his behavior in AO acceptable?

People said all those things about players like Sodeling, Bjorkman and even Roddick and Blake. The difference was that not so many people took them as personal as some Djoko fans.

Posted by Sam 02/06/2008 at 03:07 PM

Maplesugar: Anytime ;-)
Your earlier post has me curious to check out that John McPhee book.

Posted by Rosangel 02/06/2008 at 03:09 PM

Pete: I just want ask - to what extent (if at all) do you think that Rafa's performance at Wimbledon in the past two years has benefited from the confidence that he must have felt after the clay season - defending so many titles including the big one? (I'm also wondering whether that could be a factor this year - positive or negative, especially with the crowded schedule).

For that matter, to what extent may the same thing have happened with Bjorn Borg in the years when he achieved the back-to-back Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles?

It remains very interesting to me how Rafa just seems to know to step up the court when on grass, in a way that he rarely does on hard courts (in spite of claiming that he had tried to do this when playing Tsonga, I saw very little evidence of this).

Posted by Pete 02/06/2008 at 03:16 PM

Two part answer, Rosia:
1 - there's nothing like the confidence that comes from being on a roll; interestingly, Pete Sampras told me that some of his "tougher" Wimbledon's were in years when he felt he had a shot at RG, but failed. The disappointment was hard to overcome. (Of course, if you apply this to TMF, his ability to bounce back is noteworthy)

2 - Grass is, first and foremost, for athletic players (as opposed to stylists, or great ball strikers with lesser sheer physical attributes), so Nadals's success on grass is no more surprising than was Borg's, or Jimmy Connors.

Posted by Maplesugar 02/06/2008 at 03:16 PM

Sam, it's a great read by a great author. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Duello 02/06/2008 at 03:17 PM

Pete,

There were some interesting things in your piece, such as the comparison between how Nadal and Borg play(ed) for their age. But, you're stretching with the whole hot/cold climate thing and the animal analogy.

Posted by Snoo Foo 02/06/2008 at 03:23 PM

wha? I was implicated? all I meant was I totally agree re
"amount of negative posts about nadal: close to/at all time low.
amount of negative posts about nole: close to/at all time high." I could be imagining it, but at least bizzer's imagining it too. the same kinds of things that used to be said, not too long ago, about the nanner (he cheats, he disrespects his opponents, he has no class) are now said about nole. but in light of the disappearing deuce club, it could all be a hallucination.

Posted by 02/06/2008 at 03:23 PM

"there are many of us that were coming along on Rafa anyway".

Nole is antagonist.

Posted by vie 02/06/2008 at 03:28 PM

Others are more careful about dissing Rafa nowadays because they do not want the same for Nole.

Posted by jopa 02/06/2008 at 03:29 PM

Whoa, whoa, whoa - hold on just a cotton pickin minute, y'all.

I like how we all break out the crystal ball once a tournament finishes. Rafa is 21 years old, dude. He's a lefty with speed, talent, strength, athleticism, heart and intelligence. Give any tennis player those ingredients and there are numerous possibilities. Granted, he doesn't always make the adjustments when someone is grooved and successfully first striking. Tsonga had a great day- you just tip your cap and put it in the databank. (Roger will with the Djoker). He(Rafa) has plenty of upside despite his past failures and he can make a lot of good strategic and tactical choices this year to build a better game.

As a roger fan, i think he realizes the young guns have arrived so, don't expect him to dominate but, he'll end up the year number 1. He's just too good and too versatile. I think if the Djoker would have run into even someone like Blake in the quarters, we'd all be not so high on him yet. He's solid, no doubt but, a good, fast aggressive baseliner can give him fits. He'll be wearing a bullseye the rest of the year so, if he has holes they will be exploited. Roger's had four years with the bullseye and now he's got some more motivation to tap into.

Posted by CM 02/06/2008 at 03:29 PM

***interestingly, Pete Sampras told me that some of his "tougher" Wimbledon's were in years when he felt he had a shot at RG, but failed. The disappointment was hard to overcome. (Of course, if you apply this to TMF, his ability to bounce back is noteworthy)***
_______

Great point, Pete (both of you). I think that is one of the reasons why Roger's victories at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007 are even more impressive. He had to have been monumentally disappointed to have lost both finals...and then he had to turn around and face the guy that beat him both times! And people say Roger is mentally weak...yeah right!

Posted by CM 02/06/2008 at 03:33 PM

***Great point, Pete (both of you). I think that is one of the reasons why Roger's victories at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007 are even more impressive. He had to have been monumentally disappointed to have lost both finals...and then he had to turn around and face the guy that beat him both times! And people say Roger is mentally weak...yeah right!***
_______

I meant he had to have been monumentally disappointed to have lost both RG finals and then turn around and face Nadal at Wimbledon both times.

Posted by Bismarck 02/06/2008 at 03:36 PM

Tari,
maybe i shouldn´t have asked questions about the sudden big amount of rafa love here. must be my curmudgeoness, jejeje.
it IS nice to read after all. so i should just enjoy it while it lasts. ;)

ptenisnet,
i like whimsical. translates into some fun german words. not a perfect fit, but still maybe the best for now.

anyway, si tacuissem...

Posted by Tokyo Tom (tt) 02/06/2008 at 03:42 PM

along side the absolute number of GS titles, I always thought Borg's multiple FO/Wimbledon doubles is another one of the major benchmark statistics along with weeks at nunber one. While the clay at the FO has not speeded up, it is well known the radical changes with the grass in recent years. After Borg's days quite a few of the real clay court guys did not even bother to enter Wimbledon.

As hinted at by Pete- and prehaps I am stretching his comment, Borg was the clay court guy of his day who also happened to be one of the best athletes to ever play the game.

Posted by ptenisnet 02/06/2008 at 03:51 PM

What does it translate to bissy?

Posted by SwissMaestro 02/06/2008 at 03:52 PM

Have you people seen this insane 96 shots point between Borg and Guillermo Vilas at the French Open??? It is sick... they even have to play the camera in fast motion at some points during the rally...

I know you'll love it Steve...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0_v4gD_QnE&feature=related

Posted by CM 02/06/2008 at 04:01 PM

Yes, TT...I think Borg's 3-straight FO-Wimbledon double is one of the most remarkable feats. Back then the grass was so much quicker making Borg's ability to win on the slow clay at Paris and then turn around and win on the fastest surface even more spectacular. That feat today would still be good...but not nearly as great because of how slow the grass is now.

Posted by Bismarck 02/06/2008 at 04:08 PM

ptenisnet,
launisch, schrullig, wunderlich = whimsical says my dictionary.

Posted by JR 02/06/2008 at 04:13 PM

"Your earlier post has me curious to check out that John McPhee book."
It's a good one, Sam.
I wonder what ever happened to Graebner.

Posted by ptenisnet 02/06/2008 at 04:18 PM

I like wunderlich - sounds like a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream flavour.

Posted by jb 02/06/2008 at 04:19 PM

oddly enough - i think a lot of the fed / rafa fans lovefest has been coming around for quite a bit; a good part not necessarily from nole, but because many of us here really like the fans of the 'other' guy. So there's less mudslinging, or tolerance of mudslinging, and a lot more commiserating and consiliatory offerings of tea and sympathy. Or GE's....

Posted by Jenn 02/06/2008 at 04:24 PM

Ahah - so really its a Tribe lovefest, not a Fed/Rafa love fest, right jb? *winks*. I agree! When a player loses, even one that I don't like, I always feel badly for my TW friends who are fans of that player. Fed and Rafa fans have had many meetings of the mind over virtual GEs the last few years.

Posted by Rosangel 02/06/2008 at 04:25 PM

You know, after the comeback in the five-setter against Robert Kendrick in 2006 (when I decided to bet on Rafa reaching the final) I remember thinking that there was the confidence, coolness and application of a double Grand Slam champion, even though he'd only played a few matches on grass in his life.

I also hadn't forgotten that at Rafa's first Wimbledon in 2003 (actually his first Grand Slam), he reached the third round - the youngest to do this since Boris Becker.

There is something "of the elements" in the way he plays, and I'm sure it's the one of the keys to why I have always connected him with Borg. I think that the statement "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." also helps to sum it up.

I think, apart from the obvious boyishness, the other quality that I have always liked is the appearance of earnestness - that intense "play every point and try to win it" thing. There's exuberance, but also it's mixed in with seriousness. And the odd thing is that, although he does genuinely seem to be a little bit shy (or, guarded of his privacy) - not on court. It's not just the body language - also a very expressive, mobile face.

Tokyo Tom: yes, I have said the same thing about Borg's athleticism, even though the fabled "heart rate" statistic applies to a time when he was a youth - it may not have been that low in his playing days (I've quoted the relevant section from the intro to one of his books before now on that one - can do again if needed).

Posted by RedTennis 02/06/2008 at 04:30 PM

Rosagnel..I completly agree even if the top 3 players werent playing or my top ten players I would still follow just as closely. There is so much more to the sport then your favorite players. I love tennis for the game and all the nuances of the game.

Posted by Sherlock 02/06/2008 at 04:37 PM

Very good point, jb. And Jenn.

Posted by RedTennis 02/06/2008 at 04:38 PM

No way Roger is mentally weak..any one who has accomplished as much as he has I'd say is pretty strong mentally.
Djoko mental toughness has yet to be determined since now there is expectation and pressure in any tournament he plays in.
I still maintain Rafa is a clay court specialist and obviously a great player all around but not enoupg to win..but its not about his mental toughness its more about his game.

Posted by Sam 02/06/2008 at 04:40 PM

JR, Maplesugar: Thanks for the recommendation.

"Grass is, first and foremost, for athletic players (as opposed to stylists, or great ball strikers with lesser sheer physical attributes)"

Dating back to Borg's first Wimbledon win (1976), 13 different men have won Wimbledon:
one 7-time winner (Sampras)
two 5-time winners (Federer, Borg)
two 3-time winners (McEnroe, Becker)
two 2-time winners (Edberg, Connors)
six one-time winners (Hewitt, Ivanisevic, Krajicek, Agassi, Stich, Cash)

Posted by marieJ in fed's fan shoes 02/06/2008 at 04:51 PM

bissy, tari and all !
one of the things i know since i'm posting here back to 2005, it's that it takes time to really admire, respect or give more credit to some player when you have absolutely no crush on him...
and if he happens to beat your fav, the hardest it goes...
i was lucky to get to appreciate fed before rafa came in, it would have been harder for me to be in some fed fan shoes, to be honest ;)

nadal has been in the spot no one wanted him to be : into the goat path of fed, sacrilège !!!
and from a lone clay courter he has become in the eyes of most of the fans of the game someone worth to watch not allways i can admit, for many reasons the rivalry with fed, their mutual respect and apreciation, the fabulous hunt of RG for fed and wimby for rafa, they have made tennis even more special than it was in a long time... still many don't like his game but do like his persona, and since we are hanging in so much with each other here and in gatherings it has probavly change the perspective of some posters on their anti kads stuff ;)

we did have to wait this USO to get tim vamosing in the stands for rafa, no ?
ya que les idiots qui ne changent pas d'avis = only dumb people don't change their minds... and there are no dummies around here ;)

now, djoko shows more spunk and cockiness to step in the middle of the golden duo than any other player... total change, no ? something we forgot it could be...
he's not perfect, and at 20 i don't think he cares much how the fans really look at him, he probably knows he can't please everyone when beating fed or rafa... or the fabulous runner up tsonga.

he probably needs to mature, to prove he deserves what he fights for. we need plenty of different characters at the top of the game, no offense to you ptenis, but another kolya would have kill me... same for nalby, i love his game, but the guy is dull to no end to me...

fed fans were used to ride an unstoppable wave of success along with roger, the coming down to earth has been giving probably a bit of "everyhting is relative" way of thinking regard to the big losses.
rafa achievements are spectacular regarding the kind of players he has to beat to earn his succes, i've allways think that... it's probably a spreading virus by now ;)

Posted by Samantha Elin 02/06/2008 at 04:56 PM

I think it's so mean spirted and rude when people make fun of the way Rafa speaks, at least he's trying to speak a second language. I would disagree that a person's ability to grasp a second language tell me anything about their intelligence. People who think that have never tried to speak a second language particularly if you don't learn it at birth. I think Rafa does a great job with his English and it is very cute the way he speaks. It is getting close to Valentine Day, so does anybody know if Rafa is still dating his old girlfriend? Go Justine, world's #1!

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

Perfect, Marie. Where were you earlier?!?!? :))

Posted by marieJ in fed's fan shoes 02/06/2008 at 05:09 PM

sammy, i was thinking something else :
has justine found a new valentine ? after one year she deserves it, no ?
i'm sure rafa is fond of his chica xisca, no reason to change it when it works fine, no ? ;)

Posted by highpockets aka "Madame 'Pockets" 02/06/2008 at 05:10 PM

Pete,

Gotcha. Thanks for taking time to 'splain. I didn't read that paragraph in context.

(Just got back from the evil dentist ... the entire bottom half of my mouth, including my tongue, is numb ... and I'm drooling. My husband is laughing hysterically at me. Good thing I didn't schedule a job interview for this afternoon.)

Posted by marieJ in fed's fan shoes 02/06/2008 at 05:13 PM

catching up !!! sherlock ;)

Posted by marieJ in fed's fan shoes 02/06/2008 at 05:20 PM

madame pockets...
i feel your pain, once the dentist gave me a long shot of anesthesia and the optical nerve got frozen, i was seing double with the feeling of dizzyness... i felt ridiculous when my sis' came for me to help me walking like if i was a granny...

Posted by Beckham (TMF still rocks!!!) 02/06/2008 at 05:25 PM

Ok seriously, this love-fest at the Twibe has gotta stop...please bring back the snark ASAP...

So, the Fed's anniversary for 4 straight years as #1 was Feb 2, 2008...but that's not the interesting part, apparently only 2 other players are still in the top 10 since the Fed ascended, Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian...who woulda thunk it...

Posted by Sherlock 02/06/2008 at 05:30 PM

That's no excuse, Marie. :) We needed your customary breath of fresh air. Glad you made it. :)

No worries, Beckham. A snark-filled Indian Wells will be here soon enough. :)

Posted by CM 02/06/2008 at 05:35 PM

***So, the Fed's anniversary for 4 straight years as #1 was Feb 2, 2008...but that's not the interesting part, apparently only 2 other players are still in the top 10 since the Fed ascended, Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian...who woulda thunk it...***
________

That is interesting...and I believe neither Roddick nor Nalbandian were in the Top Ten the entire time (didn't Roddick drop out of the Top Ten for a bit? I may be wrong on that one. I know Nalby did).

Posted by Tari 02/06/2008 at 05:38 PM

Thank you for that post, mariej. :) I will keep an open mind on Djokovic. ;-)

Posted by Samantha Elin 02/06/2008 at 05:43 PM

Marie, Tennisster Justine Henin heeft een nieuwe vriend, schrijft de kant Het Laatste Nieuws, Gregory Phillippin, 3O jaar en afkomstig ultAns, is volgens insiders de nieuwe vriend van Henin. Ans en zouden een prille romance beleven. This is from a Flemish newspaper and it says that Justine is dating Gregory Phillippin. He is a millionaire from Belgium. Go Justine, she has found herself a new guy.

Posted by marieJ in fed's fan shoes 02/06/2008 at 05:44 PM

sherlock thanks, but to tell you the truth i'm not feeling too fresh since i've been up all day, it's allready 11,40pm... should be catching up the pillow now !

i could have make it shorter :
too ado about nothing : rafa hates fed who hates djoko who hates fed and rafa ;) we should all love this no ?

kidding aside, fed fans are far more comprehensive since fed's big losses, i don't think they all had any kind of infatuation about rafa in recent weeks... but, wait for the clay season, and it will be all back to normal ;)

Posted by Schwab 02/06/2008 at 05:44 PM

CM,
I think he dropped out of Top 10 before he hired Conners to be his coach in 2006?

Posted by marieJ in fed's fan shoes 02/06/2008 at 05:52 PM

tari, just keep a eye would be enough ;)
i just hope he gets some tough competition on HC, just like we have wished that for rafa on clay, grass, hc...
mici are you available to set djoko the draw from hell ? i have plenty of suggestions ;)

Posted by marieJ in fed's fan shoes 02/06/2008 at 05:55 PM

sammy, i'm glad for your girl ! go justine :)
i'm going to see neil young in paris on valentine's day with and oldy valentine who's my best friend now ;)
should be cool :D

Posted by Samantha Elin 02/06/2008 at 06:01 PM

Cool Marie, have fun. My boyfriend is taking me to the Tropicana for Valentine day, so I'm really looking forward to it. Never been so very excited.

Posted by Sherlock 02/06/2008 at 06:24 PM

Marie, that's so cool. Go Neil Young! :))

Posted by jbradhunter 02/06/2008 at 06:25 PM

When did Hott Sauce start working out? I thought he was skinny, not too much muscle. Well not anymore
http://tinyurl.com/32ktto

Posted by marieJ in fed's fan shoes 02/06/2008 at 06:45 PM

waou the spanish team is hot or red just suits them ?http://tinyurl.com/3d4s4n

tommy looks...MMMMHHH.... i better not tell :P

Posted by jbradhunter 02/06/2008 at 06:47 PM

um- what is Almagro looking at?

Posted by marieJ in fed's fan shoes 02/06/2008 at 06:49 PM

jbrad, you naughty boy... ;p

how can anyone not love his smile...
http://tinyurl.com/3amn4d
damned to the cute journalist who got the intervieuw :(

Posted by Snoo Foo 02/06/2008 at 06:54 PM

oy they look like the afternoon shift at mickey d's... oh jeez I guess that's spain's colors... ooops. political correctness adonde fuiste?

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