Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - The Death of Wanting
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The Death of Wanting 07/06/2008 - 8:12 PM

Phpryscyrpm

Somehow, in the back of your mind, you knew it was destined to come down to something like this - 9-7 in the fifth, with the champion Rafael Nadal prone on his back in the tawny dirt, looking like he'd been shot to death, which in a way he had been: because ultimate joy is, in the end, not very different from ultimate obliteration.

And if  Nadal's exquisite moment of death - the death of wanting, the death of struggling, the death of so much longing and chasing and hoping in a match so full of winning and losing and squandering and earning that by the end all - all - of it was mixed up all jangly and tangled and equally meaningful - and equally meaningless. . . if that moment of utterly still, flat-on-your-back perfected nothingness seemed a scant and perhaps odd reward for what he had achieved, consider the plight of the man he had beaten, Roger Federer.

As Nadal lay there, bathed in the obscene blue light of that crepuscular galaxy he momentarily owned, swaddled in the arms of an absence more pure than feeling  (oh, the joy would come, don't you worry about that, it would come flooding and rushing in soon enough), his beaten opponent was suffering a fate far worse than obliteration - he was having to make that long walk to the empty chair beside the umpire's stand. He put one foot in front of the other, head down, his tread just as light as it had been just minutes earlier, when it was the lethal step of an assassin. But now it was just the step of a tired and beaten man, looking to sit down.

The purpose was gone from Federer's stride; he navigated toward the chair, whatever nascent thoughts he was about to entertain were stillborn, unable to punch through the shock and finality and surreal realization that, yep, it was all over - five consecutive Wimbledon titles, the drive for a sixth, all gone, like he knew it would be one day, but what great champion is ever prepared for that day?

The reality slowly  washed over him: it was over  - finally, irrevocably, irreversibly, no more tiebreaker reprieves or unexpected, unforced errors from his young opponent - and now he let the feeling have its way with him, for the reality never really hurts, not at first. At first, it's a welcome anesthetic.

So why did it have to come down to this? Why 9-7 in the fifth, in the twilight, at Wimbledon?

Fed Well, because there is nothing "easy" about Nadal's game, nor about the mission to which he set himself in recent years. It's always been clear that despite Nadal's proficiency on his beloved clay, the drive to  unseat Federer - the man Nadal himself described as the "greatest player in history" in his own acceptance speech tonight - would constitute Nadal's education in tennis. He was both that precocious and that marked. It was, if you will, his destiny. And nobody fulfills a role of destiny without the ritual test; it's a staple of myth, folklore, saga and epic poetry.

For about three years now it's been pretty obvious that in a sharp and vital way, the "test" for Nadal was Roger Federer - more precisely, beating Roger Federer on something other than clay. Nadal was not obsessive about this, nor was he arrogant - if he were, he never would have come close. He never declared that he would be the man who shot Liberty Valence, or set out to lay low the best player in the world so that he might stand over his prostate body and bellow triumphantly. Instead, he saw Federer as the standard against which he might measure himself. As the test; nothing more, nothing less. How might he measure up, against one so lavishly talented and accomplished?  That humility of Nadal's, upon which so many people remark? There it is, in a nutshell.

So it has all been a test, or rather a series of tests, to which Nadal has submitted. The parts of the test that he passed, he never dwelled upon or gloated over - has Nadal ever uttered a triumphant phrase or proud boast about his record on clay, or particularly his record against Federer at Roland Garros? Instead, Nadal looked to the grass at Wimbledon and, to a lesser extent, to the hard courts of North America.

After Nadal won tonight, he was asked to describe his emotions about winning Wimbledon, and he said: "Impossible to describe, no?  I don't know.  Just very happy. Is unbelievable for me have a title here in Wimbledon. Is probably well, is a dream. I always, when I was a kid, I dream for play here, but for win is amazing, no?  For any Spanish player win here is unbelievable.  For every player, no, but for the Spanish especially, because we don't have a lot of titles here, and have one is unbelievable."

What? No mention of the satisfaction of tagging Federer on his best surface? No fleeting reference to the hunt for the no.1 ranking? No coy allusion to taking his place among the great players of the Open era? No. He personifies that pious chestnut, "Think globally, act locally."

Given Nadal's background and history in the game, his quest to become a force in world tennis, instead of merely European clay-court tennis, has involved an intricate series of tests, all of them overshadowed by the ultimate test that any tennis player in recent years might have concocted - the challenge of beating Roger Federer at Wimbledon. This was the third year that Nadal took that test, and it was only fitting that the closer he came to passing it, the more the test came to seem like one of those Russian Matryoshka dolls. Each test nests in another, seemingly endlessly.

Win two sets, rolling in the third? How about a rain delay? Get Federer down, 15-40? How about an ace and one of those out of the world inside-out forehand placements? Get to match point?  Hold on, Rafa. You ever see how quickly a coral snake strikes, when you poke him in the wrong place?

The final test for Nadal was that nasty tiebreaker in the fourth set - the one in which he built a 5-2 lead with two serves to come; he could have won the match without Federer having the opportunity to serve another ball. Up to that point,  both men had played well. But that tiebreaker had another test nested inside the test: Nadal had never in his young life blown a match, flat-out screwed it up, the way he did by failing to win a tiebreaker that he led, 5-2, with two serves to come. At least he had never done that on anything like a big stage, against anyone like Roger Federer. If his competitive character was to be put to the ultimate test, this was it.

This is worth savoring. Nadal had never done what so many young players do: put himself in position to win when he isn't expected to, only to fail to win. It's a devastating, enervating, thoroughly awful - and utterly common experience. And Nadal acted out the narrative almost perfectly in that tiebreaker. At 5-2, he hit a let-cord double fault, then made an error on the backhand.  Worse yet, Federer - being Federer - took full advantage of that uncharacteristic failure of nerve. Surviving that tiebreaker, he lifted his game, and it would remain at that higher level the rest of the way.

Rafa1 But the reason even that wasn't good enough on this historic day is because Nadal ended up passing the final test. As empty and hollow as he must have felt, or should have felt, after losing that tiebreaker to see the match go to two sets each, momentum to Federer, Nadal never relented. He never lost confidence, or hope. That his level didn't drop, while Federer was serving aces and powdering lines with his big forehand, was the critical difference in this match.

I asked about that in the press conference with Federer; here's our verbatim exchange:

Q.  We know how much you respect him (Nadal).  Especially after that tiebreaker, were there any points in there where you're thinking, This kid has to fold up now?  He has to be a little bit mentally crazy?  A couple times you were down, served your way out of some real holes.  Did you think at any point that he's got to crack at some stage?

A: "Not really. I was just hoping, you know, or I was seeing that he was getting very nervous, you know, in that, what was it, fourth set tiebreaker where, I mean, I think he should have never lost the breaker in the end, you know. But he was really nervous.  He didn't make the returns he usually does.  He couldn't play aggressive.  I played some okay shots, and it was enough to come back.

"So, I mean, I really thought, you know, that he was feeling it really a lot, you know, maybe the first time in his life (my italics) So I was hoping, like I said, with the momentum going into the fifth set, that it was going to be enough just from my end that I would play a little bit better. But I couldn't really, you know, play maybe my best when I really had to. And towards the end, like we know, with the light, it was tough.  But it's not an excuse. Like I said, Rafa served well and played well and deserved to win in the end."

Nadal would later describe his mental state after he lost that tiebreaker like this:

"I was sitting down, and just say, well, I am playing well, I am doing well, I am with very good positive attitude, so gonna continue like this and wait, wait what's happening. I feeled (sic) confident with myself, so for that reason I was confident on the match still, no, in the fifth. So just very happy because I played with very positive attitude all the time, fighting a lot. So win here is unbelievable for me."

Only a fool could have expected (rather than merely hoped for) a win by Nadal in the fifth set. Serving the odd game, Federer was always in the lead. Execution-wise, both me were playing at a high level. But there was the lingering memory of that fourth-set tiebreaker, and the knowledge that Federer was the five-time defending champion. It seemed impossible that Nadal could win, but at the same time an undercurrent of inevitability - the same tug that had so many pundits brazenly forecasting a Nadal win in recent days - exerted a nearly equal gravitational pull. The tension became nearly unbearable, but it also imbued everyone watching with a sense of wonder; we all knew we were witnesses to something extraordinary.

Somehow, we all knew it was destined to come down to this: Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer, in the Wimbledon final, 6-4,6-4,6-7,6-7,9-7.


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Posted by 07/07/2008 at 10:15 AM

If raptor link doesn't work, article is from todday's telegraph.co.uk

Title:

Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal: A Battle of wills that takes the game to new level

Posted by sic 07/07/2008 at 10:21 AM

Wow those stats tell the story for me. Rafa had more winners and less UFEs, but Roger with 25 Aces! Dynamite serving. Still the key to victory was Rafa's serve which was only broken once in 5 sets. Most importantly 0 times in the final set.

Posted by Ricardo 07/07/2008 at 10:22 AM

"The Swiss is too motivated, too talented, too strong, too fit, too professionally organized and too proud to give up working toward winning the biggest titles," Stauffer wrote.

This from a prominent Swiss writer.

I believe he's right. Federer must dump the cosmetics around him(Gwen Stefani, et al) and get back to hard practice. He's still the most talented player in history and still young and healthy.

Posted by Marian...vamos Rafael! 07/07/2008 at 10:22 AM

Nice post!

I am glad that Rafa is not playing in Stuttgart, better rest...

Among all the posts here, the one I like most, was Mat. Z's before the final, when he was contemplating the scenario of defeat for his favourite (Roger). WTG man!

Grendel's insight, about us, the fans, was second best :)

Posted by † Hallelujah 07/07/2008 at 10:35 AM

I'm relieved Fed finally lost. With each successive victory the weight of history and expectation was building to near unbearable extremes. I'm curious to see how he responds in Beijing and the USO, where his main challenger will probably be Djokovic since Rafa hurts himself on hard courts.

Great match from both, no obituaries required. It's a testament to his dominance that Fed losing 9-7 in the fifth is enough for some to write him off as a spent force. Take a glance at Sampras' career with its barren patches and no FO finals for some context.

We'll see on the court.

Posted by spacenoxx (hoping for a rain/stress free Rafa win) 07/07/2008 at 10:46 AM

Samantha, you are being way to generous.

Ivanovic and Sharapova = F (Fail)
Zheng on the other hand should atleast get a B+ if not A.

Posted by Bermuda 07/07/2008 at 10:49 AM

ana I will say it again Sir Roger is like poetry in motion never has anyone constucted a point like this guy.
Rafa reacts and this will be his down fall as balls that a now landing in will start going out.

Posted by Bermuda 07/07/2008 at 10:49 AM

ana I will say it again Sir Roger is like poetry in motion never has anyone constucted a point like this guy.
Rafa reacts and this will be his down fall as balls that a now landing in will start going out.

Posted by Bermuda 07/07/2008 at 10:51 AM

Sorry about the double post.

I think Roger's back hand was a disaster but despite that it still went to 5 and a tie breaker to boot.

Posted by Tom in S.C. 07/07/2008 at 10:53 AM

There was some amazing "class" demonstrated by both players in this outstanding contest. First of all, both players showed no bad behavior during the match. I always hated to watch John McEnroe (and others) argue with line judges, etc. The use of profane language and temper tantrems are a discredit to the sport. There was none of that in this contest.

Roger's post match interview was humble and respectful. He didn't denigrate his opponent's victory by saying "I just didn't play well today."

Rafael's interview was also a class act. No bragging, no fist-pumping. He actually displayed genuine humility. And, he showed appropriate respect for the man who he had beaten.

Both of these men are GREAT champions. It was a shame that both could not have won.

Posted by fed 07/07/2008 at 11:01 AM

roger's number 1!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by mmmm8 07/07/2008 at 11:11 AM

Great Piece

Posted by Syd 07/07/2008 at 11:12 AM

sic:

The number of "winners hit" stats in that NYT Box is wrong:

Roger hit: 89 winners
Nadal: 60

Posted by fed 07/07/2008 at 11:13 AM

fed is number

Posted by sic 07/07/2008 at 11:19 AM

I just watched the Fifth set again (Spanish TV has the match playing on two different channels) and what a set it was. In the heat of the moment, with all the tension, it's difficult to appreciate the actual tennis, but there were many many "points of the tournament" with both players hitting "winners" all over the place and doing incredible retrieving. In the end it came down to one thing, Rafa would not allow his serve to be broken. I think they could have played 20 more games in that last set and Rafa wouldn't have been broken. It's astonishing that he could come back so strong mentally after giving away the tie break in the 4th.

Posted by sabrina 07/07/2008 at 11:35 AM

i ;oved what you wrote pete

Posted by Joseph Zohar - USPTA certified 07/07/2008 at 11:44 AM

Great article, Pete! So, what's next?

I believe that Roger Federer has ample physical and mental potential to elevate his tennis game to a new level, matching the recent surge by RAFA NADAL.

Specifically, he can and should improve his backhand, serve, and footwork.

Roger's backhand needs to become more effective defensively, as well as more of a weapon offensively, like his forehand.

Roger's first serve should produce more 'free points' and weak service returns, and his second serve should be more difficult to return and attack.

Roger's footwork is generally excellent, but needs some refinements, to reduce uncharacteristic unforced errors, and enable Roger to play more consistently both offensively and defensively.

With Roger's talent, all of the above is very doable, and if RF stages his own 'surge', we can all look forward to some more phenomenal duels between ROGER and RAFA.

Posted by 07/07/2008 at 11:47 AM

Very nice piece of writing. It appears that simply being a witness to brilliance inspires everyone invested in it to raise their games. Great job.

I've been waiting for this Nadal victory for three years, but something strange has occurred in its wake. After the initial elation for Nadal, I had the thought that I had spent the day watching the player that I'm now certain is the greatest player in history -- Roger Federer.

To get on that court and play the two most ordinary sets of tennis he has played at Wimbledon in the last six years, and then have the guts, focus and calm to play that kind of tennis from the edge of a cliff for the next 3-plus hours is simply superhuman.

Sampras had his superhuman moments as well, but this was beyond huge. With every reason to hang his head and succumb to the pressure of the moment (because like you said, he had to be somewhat shocked that Nadal didn't either), he made Nadal prove he was just about willing to die to take it away from him. Only the greatest know that they have a responsibility to their greatness. He's set yet another standard for Rafa to shoot for.

Posted by Ricki Bobbi 07/07/2008 at 12:16 PM

the slowing down of the wimbledon grass made Nadal's win inevitable, he played the same way he would have on clay, there was no grass court tennis played, except for the serve, after that, it was all backcourt dirt, so the distinction between Roland Garros and Wimbledon is more apparent than real. Very very different than when Borg went from clay to grass. Anyway, this non-difference, stipulated to by almost anyone with expertise on this, puts Federer at a distinct disadvantage, the fact that he almost won, and did win last year is a testament to his genius. But his time has passed, I can't imagine him really recovering from this because there is nothing he can do about the in-built disadvantage he has on dirt surfaces. On faster surfaces, he'll mostly win against everyone, but thats probably not interesting for him. He might, to break Sampra's recond, stay around to win at the US open a few more times and the Australian (he's still supreme there, getting to the semi's with mono counts as genius too) its kind of sad, really.
There will be no one like him to play again, his lightness of foot, improvisation, calm, are really amazing. Oh yeah, all you people who suggest Federer needs to improve his game, this is lame, he's perfectly dialed in, he moves like the wind, has a serve for the ages and he has a ONE HANDED backhand, which puts him at a major disadvantage on high bouncing surfaces, like the dirt of Paris or Wimbledon.

Posted by Steve Dobson 07/07/2008 at 12:30 PM

Beautifully captured story! I stir just as in the hero-epic films, Lord of the Rings..., when I read your words of fable. Tnank you for seeing it and saying it.

Posted by 07/07/2008 at 12:33 PM

Vincent and Bermuda: get over yourselves. You're epitomizing being sore losers.

Posted by mcakron 07/07/2008 at 12:38 PM

I wouldn't worry too much about what Sports guy/Bill Simmons thinks. He's just a fair-weather fan who will always find any era wanting in comparison to his childhood memories of Borg/McEnroe/Connors. Funny, I don't even know if that era was the best in my lifetime. The post-Borg era of Lendl/Wilander/Edberg/Becker/Cash/Noah ... and yes, even Johnny Mac and Jimbo in the mix, seemed to be the most competitive I witnessed. Regardless, anyone who dismisses the era of Federer, Nadal, and even the Djoker as boring has little or no credibility.

In terms of the match, what can one say without sounding redundant? I'm a Fed fan, but it's hard to bedgrudge Rafa his victory. It was more than well-earned, and the kid's humility is every bit as impressive as Fed's class. In the end, he was the just the better player and maybe a tad stronger mentally, though I do think Fed showed what true champions are made of by digging out of that hole and coming up with a tiebreak (4th set) for the ages. A remarkable match in many aspects.

Regarding the end of Fed's reign, I tend to agree ... to an extent. I never thought the Sampras record was a given, and gone are the days when he'll ever face a Bagdhatis or Gonzales in a GS Final. Short of injuries, Nadal and Djokovic are just too good now for that to occur. But let's the give the man credit. With or without the GS record, he still has my vote for greatest of all-time (though in fairness to Sampras I'd still take Pete on grass in their respective primes). More importantly, Federer probably gave us the greatest three/four year run ever. In some ways, he was a victim of his own success. Let's remember that winning three GS finals in a single calendar year used to be something that occured every fifteen or twenty years (Wilander in '88, Connors in the early seventies, Laver back in the 60s). And his consecutive streak of GS semi-finals might be the most impressive record ever in men's tennis.

But he's obviously on the downside of his career and if he hopes to win a GS again I think he needs to re-evaluate a few things. What those things are exactly is the million-dollar question. Nadal is obviously in his head, which is to be expected. Maybe he should work on his serve-and-volley game a little more. Again, in fairness to the guy, he's a heckuva baseliner ... you don't reach the French final three years running without being one. But it's not going to work against Nadal ... at least on grass or clay. Fed has never been the volleyer that Sampras was, much less McEnroe or Edberg, but there's room for improvement. And obviously his backhand needs tightened up a bit too. Finally, though I think the guy handled the celebrity and pressure of being #1 better than any player in my lifetime, I too think he sould divorce himself a bit from the Darth Federer/white cardigan stuff. Yes, it's only clothes, but even the slightest distraction could end up compromising your focus enough against guys like Nadal or Djokovic to make a difference. Same too regarding his fashion show stuff and rock star friends. Get back to basics. Who knows, maybe not being #1 could be helpful to the final years of his career. And though I think his reign all-supreme is over it's not like he should fall out of the top five and not be a threat to win any GS short of the French. Or I should say short of the French where a healthy Nadal is playing.

Anyway, can't wait for the US Open. Interested to see how Nadal handles being #1 and if he can improve his GS results on hardcourts. And beware the Djoker. So far he's looked best on that surface this year and should prove extremely tough to beat. In fact, he might be my odds-on-fave at the moment were I a betting man, though I'll obviously be pulling for Fed.

Posted by Long 07/07/2008 at 01:03 PM

To me Roger and Rafa are both great tennis champions. It is a treat to see them go head to head against each other. There will always be a winner and a looser. There is no "what if" and "then" in the winning or loosing, this is a sport and as in any sports, you battle through all elements and come out ahead. Roger is great, Rafa is great, the age difference might come into play and in all fairness to Roger, he is no longer at his 22 as Rafa.

I do beieve if they did not get interrupted by rain, it would be all over after 3-sets.

I do not wish Roger to retire or retreat to retirement, as i said earlier, it is a treat everytime the two of them go head-head. It will not be the same if either one of them is no longer playing Grandslams..............

I am a Rafa fan :-)

Posted by chévere 07/07/2008 at 01:08 PM

I'm still reeling from that extraordinary match and an entire Sunday's worth of glorious tension, so Mr. Bodo's post was the perfect antidote and release: it gave me giggles. Big points for the most hyperbolic and overwrought sports writing I've ever seen. Yes, the final was truly magnificent, poetic, heroic, memorable. But Bodo's cringe-inducing, ostentatious impressions--everything the man writes begs pathetically for attention (look what I asked at the presser!!)--is almost unreadable, except for its unintentional hilarity. The Death of Writing, perhaps.

Posted by Leo Von 07/07/2008 at 01:09 PM

It’s ok Roger I know you’ll be back with vengeance next year and I’m not just talking of Wimbledon but getting the CALENDAR YEAR GRAND SLAM. I’m telling those who are in doubt of Roger’s capability, “YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN YET”.

Posted by svelterogue 07/07/2008 at 01:11 PM

to federer's fans,

my mother is one of you, an undying fervent fiercely loyal roger-loving tennis fan. allow me to share with you a piece i dedicated to the first woman in my life, my mother:

http://tinyurl.com/5gukn4

svelterogue

Posted by Dian 07/07/2008 at 01:12 PM

I just want to say..Rafa, stay gold.

Posted by prettsg 07/07/2008 at 01:23 PM

I dont think Federer can win the US Open 2008 either, after losing the wimbledon, which is his favourite surface. It might take another couple of years for him to equal the Pete sampras' GS record of 14.

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

No other two players would have created that stupendous final like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer did. This loss for Federer was clearly heart breaking as a he sat there looking forlorn and very much ready to burst into tears, but to a certain extent it does add some glory to his already scintillating name. Nadal was brimming with willingness to whip massive forehands and squirt backhands as well as serve supremely well for almost 5 hours! And if the final lasted longer he would have rose to the occasion. Actually they both rose to the occasion, neither backing down for long periods of time. There were sometimes where Nadal (in the 4th set tiebreak, pulled up on backhands at 5-4 then at set point against him and Federer every now and then shell shocked himself the crowd and the world when he knocked forehands into the net or way beyond the titanium pasted lines!!)
But besides those times which there werent much of, Nadal and Federer pounded their strokes even harder or applied more slice to slice shots which produced colossal rallies that thrilled every one watching. Federer will not just fade away because of this crushing loss, he will be back obvioulsy at the US Open! But Nadal hasnt had the same sucess there as he has had at the French Open or now at Wimbledon, so this year will be very much intriguing for the King of Clay and the newly crowned King of Grass in Flushing Meadows. Ted Robinson proclaimed at the conclusion of this duel of the Kings that, Nadal's win was a changing of the guard, but if Nadal were to defeat Federer at the US Open, that would truly suffice for a changing of the guard because that would only leave the Aussie that Nadal hasnt captured! So be on the look out for the sealing of the "change" at the US Open and in the not too distant future Grand Slams. With Nadal winning Wimbledon, people are going to start thinking that Nadal can win all 4 eventually. He already has complete dominion over the clay at Roland Garros and has snatched Wimbledon from Federer, so naturally he will look to win the 2 hardcourt slams, but I feel Nadal will have to take a different mental outlook when going into those slams, where more players are more of a threat. The bottom line is Nadal captured what Federer was trying to capture..............Roland Garros then Wimbledon in the same year! Who would of thought Nadal would do it before Federer and how many people gave Rafa a chance at Wimby at all? For as of right now, Nadal rules and Federer is oddly and uncannily second best which is so alien to him and the rest of the tennis world and thats the shock we are all feeling due to Nadal's want and desire that killed us all!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Scott 07/07/2008 at 02:25 PM

Great match. Big Rafa fan, big Fed fan.

A few thoughts:

- Roger hasn't proved he's the GOAT, he needs to pass Sampras and win the French to do that (which may prove tough!). I put Borg at the top of my list until someone else can win all four majors. Roger is, however, probably the most tennis-gifted of all time. He's up there with McEnroe. I've never seen someone do so much so effortlessly -- the way he glides, he looks like he's floating. I doubt he works HALF as a hard as Nadal off the court.

- Why do so many pure Fed fans point out that Fed made some key errors? Everyone makes key errors in a 5-set match, otherwise it wouldn't last 5 sets. Do you guys really think Nadal played perfectly? To me it was both players played at about 85-90%, which is what puts this match in the pantheon of greatest matches, though I'm not sure I would say it's the greatest (the Sampras/Agassi US Open 5-set final was pretty amazing too). Both guys were at about 2:1 winners:UE. That's incredible.


Yeah, Fed could have been more aggressive on some of those breaks. Yeah towards the end his forehand was failing him. Yeah, he hit some unfortunate UEs. But so did Nadal. Nadal should have won this match in 3 at 0-40 on the Fed serve. Nadal should have closed it out in 4 at 5-2 in the tie break, at 7-6 on his serve. During that 7-6 point in the TB, many people point to the beauty of the Fed pass down-the-line. I point to Nadal's mediocre approach, followed by a lack of recognition that the only realistic pass (outside a ridiculous 2% chance) was DTL, so he should have been covering it.

Neither player was perfect, but in the end Nadal was just too strong, too consistent, and too fit. Does anyone else think Federer's fitness let him down in the fifth? His footwork was very questionable.

Anyway, my main point is that let's be realistic about this. Nadal was just slightly better and it was good enough to win. I'm personally just glad that Roger finally has someone to push him to that next level. He's had NO ONE around who was mentally tough enough to stick with him the way that Sampras had Agassi & others, etc. It takes a rival to really reach greatness and these guys can push each other to be so good it's sick. The way Federer moves I can see him playing top level tennis for at least 3-5 more years. What is tougher to say is whether a guy who has been so dominant can handle having someone around who has had his number.

Posted by Gopal 07/07/2008 at 02:29 PM

You are right Leo Von ............

I know you’ll be back with vengeance next year and I’m not just talking of Wimbledon but getting the CALENDAR YEAR GRAND SLAM. I’m telling those who are in doubt of Roger’s capability, “YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN YET”.
Roger is THE BEST

Posted by Scott 07/07/2008 at 02:37 PM

By the way, entirely not enough was made of the absolute sportsmanship and class shown by the families and players themselves. We're privileged to have two such amazing people as role models for the tennis players of the next generation.

Posted by andbec 07/07/2008 at 02:39 PM

congrats to "chrisauhc" for very apropriate media action/reaction analysis.
and a curious thought: a lot of paralels between Borg/McEnroe and Federer/Nadal... and, from these two, Borg is at the top of the pantheon, Mac a slip after him. Lets see now if Fed can (i think he will) get over this bellow average year and solidify his GOAT strong possibilities. To be continued...

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 07/07/2008 at 02:43 PM

I assert that we witnessed Federer's "warrior moment" in yesterday's final. The trouble is, it simply wasn't enough. He needed 10 of them.

Sadly, though, Federer's forehand let him down on the most important point of the match, the last one.

Posted by Maggie 07/07/2008 at 03:11 PM

"The next time someone says they should do away with five set matches I'm dumping a bag of wet grass court clippings on their head."

i completely agree. i find the "let's make the men's game as boring as the women's" line of thinking extremely annoying.

this loss must be tough for fed, but i hope he rebounds to win the us open... i am sick of the media writing his tennis obituary. he may not be as dominant as he was in previous years, but he was bound to come down to earth after playing ridiculous, peerless tennis year after year. nobody can sustain a 3 majors a year average forever.

AMEN TO THAT! NOW LET'S GET THE WOMEN TO PLAY FIVE SO WE CAN HAVE SOME DECENT WOMEN'S MATCHES.

Posted by sic (rafa, grass court specialist) 07/07/2008 at 03:13 PM

Judging from the way he was moving at the end of the match, I am assuming that Rafa's knee is alright and that he just used it as an excuse to get out of Stuttgart. I read in El País today that Rafa flew to Stuttgart so that he could tell the organizers he was dropping out in person, which I think was a classy move. But he's a classy guy, isn't he?

So if his knee is not too bad, I actually think he's coming out of the clay/grass season quite a bit stronger than he did last year. Perhaps that means that he will have more staying power during the USO series? We'll see.

Posted by Wayne Hawkins 07/07/2008 at 03:29 PM

Congratulations Rafa Nadal! You played one hell of a match against a great champion and the victory was yours. Enjoy your triumph.

Posted by Jade, USA 07/07/2008 at 03:33 PM

Winning Wimbledon by Nadal is NOT as grim as DEATH. Nadal has improved greatly as a Tennis player that's why he WON. Roger Federer, I think, is still winning that's why he was in the Final.
But, tennis is also a "conditioning and adaptability as well as mental game". Having lost dismally to Rafa in the French Open Final, Roger may have that in his mind when Rafa was on the other side of the net at the Wimbledon Final. Rafa had the mental advantage over Roger and, thus, he WON. Bravo to both players for giving their fams/audience an entertaining & breathtaking battle of the best in Tennis.

Posted by mcakron 07/07/2008 at 03:42 PM

Scott -- Don't quite understand your rationale behind GOAT. On one hand, you say Fed has to beat Sampras record and also win the French. But Sampras never even came close to winning the French. In fact, the dirty little secret about Pete was that he was barely a top-25 player on clay. Then you say you have Borg at the top of your list. Ok, as an all-court player, I'd rank him above Sampras too, but in comparing him to Federer, Borg never won the US. So unless you're claiming Borg's grass/clay prowess trumps Fed's grass/hardcourt prowess (which could be a fair sliver of an argument) don't know quite where you're going.

Lastly, though I get your point about Sampras having Agassi to push him, keep it in perspective. There was a good chunk of Sampras's career where Agassi fell completely off the map and slid precipitiously in the rankings. (If memory serves he was forced to play qualifiers so he could get GS invites.) In reality, the majority of their rvialry occurred in the second half of both of their careers.

Anyway, helluva match. On to Flushing Meadow!

Posted by Bermuda 07/07/2008 at 04:10 PM

Now it will be Nadal who will have to take much time off from tennis in order to attend photo ops and other marketing duties as Roger has had to do and a wonderful job he did at it but it takes away precious training time.
Let's not forget Roger was sick for the first few months of the year, he even lost some matches to players who had no business even coming close to take a set off him...wiw will se a stronger, faster, wiser Roger over the next year....I say right now that he will take the U.S. Open.

Posted by the light 07/07/2008 at 04:18 PM

It would be nice if Federer would stop talking about how bad the light was. Rafa had to deal with it too.

Posted by GVGirl (Spain in September!) 07/07/2008 at 04:26 PM

Nice one Pete!

I'd like to congratulate Rafa and all of his BIG fans. I like Roger followed by Rafa so it was a good and a bad day for me. Great efforts made by both men and tennis is the winner!

Posted by RAFA FAN 07/07/2008 at 04:39 PM

I've read almost every article written about this DAY, and Pete yours is among the best; the most honest and so vividly described. Thank you for a beautiful article.

CONGRATULATIONS TO NADAL! I wanted for you to win Wimbledon so bad and you did. During the 4th set tie breaker, I was literally screaming, and you when you lost 2 points during 5-2 in tie-breaker I died twice over there -- but I was still believing in you ... You're a great WARRIOR!

As for Federer, I'm sorry. You played extremely well and I like your display of humility. My heart sank a little for you too because I knew how much it meant for you and your hard fight.. Man, you were unbelievable as well. Hope you know you're still a great champ!

Posted by daylily (proud owner of "bubbles") 07/07/2008 at 05:06 PM

ESPN has redeemed themselves somewhat for their tennis coverage this year -- i am absolutely astounded that TENNIS, yes, TENNIS has been the biggest story today, all day long.....it's about demmed time!!!!!

Posted by Mad 07/07/2008 at 05:38 PM

Still no sign of Tari and Tim ? I haven't seen them here since the finals... Hope they're allright. I know it can be really hard when you're 200% behind one player.

If you read this, try to think about something else for a while. It helps. Our man will be back on track soon, and he'll need his fans :)

Posted by toni child 07/07/2008 at 06:03 PM

I love the article Pete.
Am becoming 1 of ur greatest fans.

From now on, i will never have 2 explain again why i love tennis soooooooo much.
If some1 asks, i'll just point them towards this match.....

From now on, i swear never 2 give up ever again, and just persevere. The end result is always worth it.

Gracias Nadal.
Te adoro.

Posted by Jay Roten 07/07/2008 at 06:44 PM

It has become obvious to observers of the Nadal-Federer rivalry that Nadal got into Federer's head a long time ago, forcing Federer to play all too tentatively at times and exposing weaknesses in Roger's game that few have been willing to acknowledge. It is time to do what all great, isolationist players do at various points in their careers, and that is to seek counsel/coaching to address these flaws, both mental and tactical. Until Federer improves his backhand (especially off high spinning shots), keeps the ball deep and low against Nadal, and chips-and-charges on Nadal's serve to keep him off-balance, Nadal will continue to punish him on grass and other fast surfaces.

Posted by nadallover 07/07/2008 at 06:47 PM

cool nice aritcle pete

Posted by nadallover 07/07/2008 at 06:47 PM

cool nice aritcle pete

Posted by Bhaskar Patel 07/07/2008 at 06:54 PM

We have seen this before. Connors couldn't get pass Borg, McEnroe and or Lendl at one or other time in his career.

Roger couldn't get it done even when Nadal allowed multiple break-points in Set 1 & 2. Roger played exceptionally well but didn't convert when it mattered the most.

Nadal played with the right attitude and put in 100% efforts to win the match that he couldn't win on talent alone.

A well deserved & history-making victory. Congratulations.

Posted by Willrich 07/07/2008 at 07:17 PM

Roger Federer will bounce back from this very tough loss. It seems that most of the announcers on ESPN and NBC here in the U.S. seemed to be pulling for Nadal to win, nothing against Federer, but perhaps they wanted this for the sport.
Nonetheless, Federer has some history to draw from. After winning Wimbledon in 1981, John McEnroe lost a five-set match to his arch-rival Jimmy Connors. He came back to win two more Wimbledons. Ivan Lendl lost his #1 ranking to Mats Wilander in 1988 and returned to #1 the next year.

Posted by FEDERER FAN 07/07/2008 at 10:19 PM

Even though Federer lost he is still number 1 and I think on the 5th set Federer gave up and let Rafa win it

GO FEDERER

Posted by Helen 07/07/2008 at 10:20 PM

I'm still in shock from yesterdays final.
The best match I've ever seen.
Amazing.
Both should be very proud of themselves.
Congrats Rafa! You got what you deserved. Roger will bounce back, he is a true champion.

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/07/2008 at 11:06 PM

Mr. Bodo wrote: "Nadal had never done what so many young players do: put himself in position to win when he isn't expected to, only to fail to win."

Maybe because it was so long ago, I guess we would have to dismiss Nadal being up two sets to love vs. Federer in Miami 2005 and up 4-1 in the third set, basically either a hold and a break or two straight holds from winning the championship. Or, when Nadal was in the tiebreak of that very same set, up 5-3 and serving in the tiebreak, and lost the tiebreak and then the match. Though I feel that Nadal's Davis Cup match of 2004 against Andy Roddick "announced" Nadal's arrival on the highest levels of tennis' world stage, it was this match against Federer (in the Miami masters of 05, vs. when he beat Federer in their first ever match in Miami in 04) that really showed what Nadal was capable of on a big stage (though Miami may have favorable conditions similar to Davis Cup with its pro-Latin presence, which would favor Nadal more than Federer? It's pretty international everytime down there, but I feel it would favor Nadal).

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/07/2008 at 11:06 PM

Mr. Bodo wrote: "Nadal had never done what so many young players do: put himself in position to win when he isn't expected to, only to fail to win."

Maybe because it was so long ago, I guess we would have to dismiss Nadal being up two sets to love vs. Federer in Miami 2005 and up 4-1 in the third set, basically either a hold and a break or two straight holds from winning the championship. Or, when Nadal was in the tiebreak of that very same set, up 5-3 and serving in the tiebreak, and lost the tiebreak and then the match. Though I feel that Nadal's Davis Cup match of 2004 against Andy Roddick "announced" Nadal's arrival on the highest levels of tennis' world stage, it was this match against Federer (in the Miami masters of 05, vs. when he beat Federer in their first ever match in Miami in 04) that really showed what Nadal was capable of on a big stage (though Miami may have favorable conditions similar to Davis Cup with its pro-Latin presence, which would favor Nadal more than Federer? It's pretty international everytime down there, but I feel it would favor Nadal).

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/07/2008 at 11:17 PM

I think Federer would be well served to watch some of his own matches from the past. Even if this is something he probably doesn't do, I feel as if what Tony Roche had impressed on him stuck well. Maybe that's not true, but it certainly seemed that Federer's game had a little different direction.

Posted by Quinn 07/07/2008 at 11:26 PM

Roger lost because he made more unforced errors, especially some costly ones with the down-the-line forehands in the last four sets. Costly. Roger could have won, but Rafa did. Good for Rafa. If Roger had won, good for Roger. Fantastic players, great people, wonderful role models...too bad only one winner is allowed.
Why is the Fed making so many unforced errors when he plays Rafa?? I think Roger should hit with more spin and make shots that have a higher net clearance when he plays Rafa. That would reduce his enforced errors - I think.

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/07/2008 at 11:30 PM

My last note for tonight! I think Nadal's ability to "disguise" the direction of the tennis ball - his unpredictability in terms of placement - is something that has improved for him, and worsened for Federer, ever so slightly. In Federer's match in 2005 against Nadal in Miami, he disguised the direction of the ball very well over most of the last three sets, even before he caught on fire and rolled to that title. I think Nadal, in the Wimbledon final, also relied on a very refined capability to disguise the direction of the ball (Federer often couldn't tell whether Nadal was going crosscourt or down the line). This was the main ingredient in Sampras' serve and Sampras' ability to disguise placement - so few could get a good read on the ball during Sampras' serving heydey.

I think Federer has this well honed talent as well, only that it has diminished ever so slightly. Against Nadal, the quickest man in tennis with some of the most incredible anticipation, that's going to make it a little bit more difficult to pull out the win.

I think Marcelo Rios did a good job of deception and guile. Here is a little clip, even though the pace of this match, clearly, is less quick than that of Federer-Nadal, even if the courts at Wimbledon have been slowed down.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=9UlWD1z4MjU

Posted by dnrood 07/08/2008 at 01:17 AM

A quick comment before off to bed. There are no other players on tour who could have pulled off such an incredible final. Their talent, grit, heart, and mental strength are what made this the greatest final of all time. Roger fights off championship points and evens the match. Rafa admitted he was nervous in the fourth set tie break (a mini choke). He comes back in the fifth and plays with confidence and clarity of the moment. Just unbelievable from these two fantastic champions, as well as tremendous sportsmanship.

And Scott I agree with you that Fed may have started to fatigue in the last set. Rafa was getting more looks at breaks then he had throughout the match. I think a sign that Roger was starting to feel the exhaustion of the day. And Rafa didn't seem to be tiring at all. He was running all over the court like they had just started the match.

Posted by Sam 07/08/2008 at 01:39 AM

It would be testament to Federer's greatness if he slipped the no.1 position and fought back for it but I wonder if that would qualify him as the greatest player ever? He had so many winners I expect him to win next year... just like judging from last year I expected Nadal to win this year (I'm not sure about the winners vs. unforced errors for last year btw but Nadal did look better).

Also I thought Feds had a very calm demeanour (doesn't he always?) in the fifth set. Good for him because that's when he plays his best but it came across to me as though he could split the result either way: win or lose. The problem was that the fire and determination in Nadal's eyes were so evident that Nadal definitely wasn't going to lose. I'm very happy for him.

Finally does it matter to us Federer fanatics if he goes past Sampras' record without winning another Wimbledon?

Posted by vetmama 07/08/2008 at 02:51 AM

I was so proud of how Roger handled his post-final interviews.

http://tinyurl.com/6flohf
http://tinyurl.com/6flohf

He was gracious and gentle, albeit visibly depressed with his answers. I can't imagine how hard this must have been for him.

Hopefully, today he was able to wake up with his typical wry smile and feel proud of his amazing effort.

For those who feel Roger was "complaining" about the dwindling light:
Watch the press conference (second link). When you see the actual interview, it's obvious he acknowledged that it was a factor but that it was irrelevant in the end. Reading transcripts, without accompanying facial expressions and tone of voice, can be misleading.

Posted by thibeault monique 07/08/2008 at 07:04 AM

The result of wanting burns in the hearts of winners.Death has nothing to do with losing,unless the loser decides to rest in peace .Tennis is a sport,the outcome is inevitably a winner and a loser hence both can not win the same trophy,but they shared in its making.Mr BODO if your (wanting)was to attract attention with your comment BRAVO .Quebec planet Earth

Posted by cecilia 07/08/2008 at 07:06 AM

I am neither a federer nor a nadal fan... but while watching this match i really found myself rooting for federer...if only he lifted his game earlier in the match, the result may have been different. Watching his post match interviews is painful..feel sorry for the poor guy, having to answer those questions which would stir up his emotions in front of media. If it was me i would just want to be alone for a bit and not bombarded with questions straightaway...but i guess that's life as a sportstar

Does anyone know where i can watch the short post match interview by McEnroe with Federer?

Posted by Meghna 07/08/2008 at 07:15 AM

Pete,
This is mind-blowing. It brought tears to my eyes, the final did. The most inspiring piece of tennis I have ever witnessed in my thirteen years of existance. They proved how hard it is to achieve something. Winning doesn't come easily, and that much I've learned in 4 hours and 48 minutes. The passion and skill the both of them procured made my ears pop.
And this article, I'd give it ten stars out of five. Touches the heart and soul, though I'm sure none of us are related to the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
For Federer, the legacy has ended at Wimbledon. But for Rafa, it has just begun.

Posted by Pinkskunk 07/08/2008 at 07:43 AM

on Sunday July 06 of 2008......... approx at hour 21.15, somewhere in England.......... a King has been Dethroned from his 5 long years of reign....... by a new young man from Spain named Rafael Nadal.....at age 22...... after conquering Paris..... Nadal became the first man in 36 years from Spain to rule the green court of England........This young man is now moving Westward in an attempt to conquer the West.................. with his beautifull swords and his uncle by his side.....may he be blessed and succeed in his attempt.....


Posted by sic (rafa nadal, grass court specialist) 07/08/2008 at 09:07 AM

Andrew Miller, that was some lovely shot making by Rios. Did he end up winning that match?

Posted by Ianesco 07/08/2008 at 09:38 AM

I think the only problem Federer has is, quite simply, Nadal. No one else really troubles him consistently (we saw, for example, that he was able to turn the mental tables on fast-talking Djokovic during the clay season).

Nadal has simply improved too much to the point wherein Federer can no longer assume victory against him on non-clay surfaces. Fed's game has declined a slight notch, whether through an early season fever, ennui, overconfidence, or a bit of natural decay (I suspect a combination of all). Yet, he is still a chillingly formidable player capable of winning any Slam, at any time, as this classic final made, at least, virtually evident.

However, now is the time for Federer to deal with Nadal's particular improvements, and with the uniqueness of Nadal's improvements. Federer should, common sensically, have won the Wimbledon final. Nadal prevented him.

1/13 in break point opportunities is insane for a champion of Federer's caliber. He is having trouble dealing with Nadal's improved lefty serve and dealing with it aggressively. If Federer retains a wise coach and focuses upon really fine-tuning his return-game (specifically against lefty Nadal) he can overcome this seminal career obstacle.

That's all he needs to do. Whether he has the self-awareness and humilty to actually do it--to admit that he now needs to actually improve something about HIS game--remains to be seen.

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/08/2008 at 09:39 AM

sic (rafa nadal, grass court specialist) - The match between Agassi and Rios actually never finished: it was tied at one set all, and Rios retired (he said he had a knee problem). That was the last match they played against each other (2002), it was their best match, and it never concluded!

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/08/2008 at 09:42 AM

For anyone interested in the Nadal/Federer effect on the "casual sports fan" (and the popularity of tennis for "sports fans")

printed in PALM BEACH POST NEWSPAPER, by Charles Elmore

"The match produced the highest U.S. TV ratings for the event in eight years. Even without an American man in that final, tennis worked its way to the forefront of water-cooler conversations all across the country.

"This is a huge victory for tennis," said Rich Hanley, an assistant professor at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut who follows pop-culture treatment of sports. "That's what sports radio in New York has been talking about today. They're comparing it to Ali-Frazier. This was two heavyweights of the game, going toe-to-toe for 15 rounds."

People were watching not only in sunny, recreational hot spots like West Palm Beach, the No. 2 U.S. market for the men's final and, not surprisingly, No. 1 for the women's final featuring the hometown Williams sisters.

The men's championship reached into the heartland too. St. Louis was the No. 1 market Sunday. Washington was third. Nashville was tied for fourth.

There's no guarantee it will last. It's a busy summer, with the Olympics as well as the U.S. Open Series of run-up events along the way.

"Tennis has to maintain this momentum into the U.S. Open to make it stick," Hanley believes.

But something extraordinary happened over the weekend.

The men's match buttonholed the kind of casual fans who have drifted a bit since the heyday of U.S. stars like Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Of course American tennis officials would love to see Andy Roddick or James Blake blaze a red, white and blue trail to the Flushing Meadows championship. But they're also seeing that a Wimbledon final between a Swiss five-time champ and a Spaniard with Popeye muscles in his left arm played in middle America as sheer athletic spectacle."

Posted by UMAR FAROUQ UMAR 07/08/2008 at 10:05 AM

Nadal,for me u are the real Igwe(king)to have beaten grass court king so guy for that i too beleive u....

Posted by Fudoshin 07/08/2008 at 10:15 AM

Great article, Pete. Thank you for your insight and the eloquence to express it so well.

Posted by Vanessa 07/08/2008 at 10:46 AM

I wonder if anyone would agree with me but from the get go I saw a different attitude in Roger (same as in French Open) to the one against other players. I think somehow Roger has to think long and hard about what he needs to do to beat Rafa (and I believe it's more of a mental thing). He is definitely more talented (and I say this as a die hard Rafa fan) but somehow he has lost his way as of recently. Yes credit Rafa for being the fighter he is but I still believe Roger will find the way and this will provide (hoping Rafa stays healthy) for one of the most mesmerizing rivalries in sports

Posted by tennis fanatic 07/08/2008 at 10:50 AM

Rafa has proved it. Everything was against him and yet he did it. Well done,Rafa!

Hard work paid off!!!!

Posted by sic (rafa nadal, grass court specialist) 07/08/2008 at 10:58 AM

Andrew,

I heard the commentator say "careful with that knee Chino" during one of the points.... he must have been crushed to have to pull out of that match as beautifully as he was playing...

Posted by sabrina 07/08/2008 at 11:07 AM

pete ,i read it more than 5 times but every time i read it all the felling i had during the match comes again and i start crying
i cried when he won cos' frankly i lost the hope to win but he did it after all .thanx rafa
love you rafa vamos vamos

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/08/2008 at 11:13 AM

Vanessa - I agree with Vanessa's comment! Federer needs to either have someone do some homework on opponents or review a DVD of the recent matches of other competitors, such as Nadal.

This quote from Federer was quite telling to me. I don't think Federer can "wing it" anymore in terms of his gameplans against Nadal and Djokovic (and other players). I feel as if Federer needs someone to scout his opponents and inform Federer of the "new shots" they are working on. Who wouldn't want a few games more because he was able to come up with some intelligent gameplan?

It's in Federer's best interest. Here's what Federer said before his match against Nadal at Wimbledon:

"I'm well prepared. I've had a good championship so far. No real worries. Feeling healthy. I think that's the best way I can feel," Federer said.

Saturday, he was asked why he hasn't watched more of Nadal's matches here and replied,

"At the moment, I think I know everything really I need to."

Posted by Ebd 07/08/2008 at 11:26 AM

An epic match definitely, but I'm surprised at all the gushing comments about the quality. Don't think Fed was in top form. I mean to be up a break in the 2nd set, only to be broken back twice on the way to losing the set shows that Fed's ability to focus his concentration lacked the sharpness he and other greats typically wield in such situations. Worse yet, he went down 0 - 30 on his last 3 service games in the 5th set, which leads me to believe his mind may have been a touch more pre-occupied with making history than with the moment of this match, and that made all the difference. It's not just raw talent; it's also about maintaining focus, especially when it really counts.

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/08/2008 at 11:48 AM

Ianesco - I agree with what you wrote also! Federer would be well-served to review some tape of Nadal - a DVD of Nadal's serving or something to help him. I think Federer's preparation (not fitness preparation - but his scouting of opponents) has not been "up to par".

He could benefit from someone else whose job is to scout other players and monitor their improvement, to report back to Federer and show video of what he sees. That's what boxers do, and Federer could use all the intelligent help he can get.

Posted by Helen L 07/08/2008 at 12:00 PM


Fed is a true champion in tennis and as a human. That makes me a desperate Fed fan. Come on Fed.

Posted by Samantha 07/08/2008 at 12:46 PM

I think I should congratulate both players for playing one of the best matches of the year! I think Nadal played out of his mind, but I think Roger also played great. I wish the journalists and people who comment on this blog would find a way to praise and elevate Nadal's game without constantly putting down Roger's game. And really, no excuse to Roger's fans. He lost to a better player, and the only thing he should do is train harder, maybe stop being so lazy about strategy. Personally, I think Nadal will be the new world number one because Roger has so many things to defend. But I hope he can remove his mental baggage now. However, I think it will be ironic maybe in few years (2 or 3 years??), the commentators will be saying Nadal's reign of number one is under assault, and eveyone will put him down (oh, his physical game is taking its toll etc etc). That is if Nadal dominates as much as Roger. I think part of the reason why there are people who hate Roger's reign is he dominates so much that the game becomes "boring". I guess you can satisfy everyone..lol

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/08/2008 at 12:55 PM

Nadal is a champion! No doubt about that one. It took a worthy opponent to wrestle the title from Federer at Wimbledon. Nadal was that and more.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 07/08/2008 at 01:25 PM

Pass the torch... and the tequila, please.

Posted by Scott 07/08/2008 at 01:28 PM

mcakron:

Scott -- Don't quite understand your rationale behind GOAT. On one hand, you say Fed has to beat Sampras record and also win the French. But Sampras never even came close to winning the French.

I don't think Sampras is the GOAT, I think Borg is, perhaps Laver, though comparisons to Laver are nearly impossible. Perhaps I'm being unfair and shortsighted, or perhaps the natural "historical halo" affects my characterization of my teenage idols and childhood heros (Sampras, Agassi, Borg, McEnroe, respectively). I just don't think someone can ever be named the GOAT without winning both the French and Wimbledon. To me (and I'm a New Yorker who loves the US Open), those two tournaments are the embodiment of tennis, emphasizing such dramatically different styles of play. While the argument has been repeatedly made that Wimbledon is slowing down enough to make it clay-like -- and I think this is probably true to some limited extent -- you still have to be capable of fast vs. slow.

So in naming Borg at the top of my list, I'm really just throwing darts. Maybe I'm too hard on these guys. But to me the US Open just hasn't been anywhere near as important. I'm not a big fan of hardcourts, as often as I play on them given their ubiquitousness in the US (because of maintenance cost).

With respect to Agassi, you're absolutely right. Really it wasn't just Agassi pushing Sampras, which is why I said Agassi & etc. (or something like that). You had two generations colliding -- you had the great players of the previous generation (Becker, Edberg, Lendl, maybe even McEnroe), players of the tween generation (Courier, Chang, Stich, etc.). I guess to me it seemed like anyone in the top ten had a realistic chance vs. anyone else, including the #1, whomever it was at the time. While Fed is amazing, it's never seemed like his dominance was totally a reflection of his own skill, but somewhat the lack of focus/dedication of his opponents. And I think had Fed been pushed harder by opponents he would have improved the glaring flaws in his game (HIS BACKHAND?!?!?). There have been one-handers with better backhands (Lendl!) and even if his real problem is the one-hander, look at what Tiger Woods did to his swing. If he can retool his swing, Fed can learn a two-hander.

I'm just excited to see him finally pushed. I hope for the sake of tennis fans he doesn't just rely on his ridiculous talent but improves his game. Assuming he does we're in for a real treat in the next couple of years while he's still at the top of his physical form.

Posted by Marc 07/08/2008 at 01:34 PM

Nadal always plays Federer a little different. This time he didn't go to his backhand all the time, and he kept serving into his body more than serving wide on the ad court. Also if you notice there were not that many crosscourt rallies. Great match with even greater intensity! They both played at a very high level... I don't think there's a player alive or dead that could've withstood what these two champs were dishing out on the court in this final.

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