Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Pebble in the Shoe
Home       About Peter Bodo       Contact        RSS       Follow on Twitter Categories       Archive
Pebble in the Shoe 05/04/2009 - 4:37 PM

by Pete Bodo

At some point, the superlatives fail you, and just putting them down on paper makes you feel like a phony because they're not supposed to roll off your tongue (or fingertips) left and right. They're called "superlatives" for a reason - and dispensing them as if they were gummy bears seem, well, contrary to the whole notion of the superlative. So what am I going to say about Rafael Nadal, now that he's won his fourth Italian Open, and pulled ahead of all those other legendary players who once trod the golden clay of the Foro Italico?

Just this: Nadal might make us re-think how we view tennis history, and our collective baseline for greatness. That's what I found myself thinking this morning, trying to digest the full meaning of the news that Rafael Nadal had just won his third clay-court tournament in as many weeks, and bagged his 15th Masters Series title, moving ahead of Roger Federer - and just two titles shy of Andre Agassi's record 17 wins in those blue-chip events. All this, at age 22.

Rafa A few years ago, I wrote a post noting the odd (and counter-intuitive) way tennis in the Open era keeps churning out players who are are instantly hailed as unique talents of unprecedented dimensions, or once-in-a-lifetime grade champions. The claims hold water only if the "lifetime" in question is that of a dachshund. In my own career, I've seen half-a-dozen players singled out as potentially "the greatest," only to have someone come along in their own time to show the boast premature.

As I got my bearings in the game, I came to the realization that everybody can't be the greatest, ever. Some of this talk was just hype, some of it just an outpouring of enthusiasm. But there was also this uncomfortable disconnect at the bottom of it all: how could the game be that much "tougher," the standard so much higher, and the the players so much better when tennis keeps producing players who dominate, and accumulate major titles at a clip that puts many of their talented forebears to shame?

Pondering this, I came to one conclusion: the magic number that separates the top dogs from the not-quite-great is seven. If you've bagged seven or more majors, you're right there in the first rank with the best players ever, and whomever the GOAT is. Check out the theory; I'm pretty confident it's useful.

The other issue I resolved in my mind has to do with players of historic importance who did not get to play in the Open era. Our standard of judgment might be very different if, say, Pancho Gonzales had been able to play all the majors through the best years of his career. By refusing to allow professionals to compete at the Grand Slam (or other ITF sanctioned) events, the tennis establishment ensured that we would never have a truly accurate picture of the game's past, or establish a self-evident baseline for greatness. Hail, Pancho Gonzales, with his great grass-court game, might have won 20 or more majors (remember, he wa a force on the tour into his 40s) in that period with three of the four majors were on grass. How would we feel about Sampras, Laver, or Federer then? And how about Laver, the onlhy player ever to record two Grand Slams, one each in pre-history (the amateur era) and the Open era.

It's just something to think about. Anyway,Bjorn Borg had the entire world spellbound and lying on its back with four paws in the air until John McEnroe suddenly came along. Pete Sampras made us forget McEnroe (as well as McEnroe's own nemesis, Ivan Lendl), but then along came Roger Federer, piling up Grand Slam singles titles so fast that at one time, a fan could predict that Federer would wind up with 20 majors and not get laughed out of the room.

And then came Nadal, to perform one of the most visceral and graphic reputation demolitions we've ever seen. The Nadal vs. Roger Federer rivalry started as a charming pas de deux, danced out on clay (where Nadal led) and grass (where Federer led) with great discretion, politesse, and a ritual formality that did not challenge the status quo - that is, the notion that Federer was safely advancing toward GOAT-hood. Oh, Nadal might be remembered as the "go figure" guy - the exotic dude with the crazy strokes who just happened to present Federer with problems no other player could articulate. Sheesh, Roger lost that semifinal at Roland Garros to that kid Nadal, with the clamdiggers and ugly strokes. . .Go figure.

This theme was simple: Nadal was the pebble in Federer's shoe - more of an irritant than threat. And it was a good thing that Federer had some push-back from him, because you wouldn't want the prospective GOAT's journey to be too easy. So what if Nadal's  prowess on clay, even two, three years ago, made a powerful statement about Federer's mortality? Sampras never won the French either, and many pundits felt that his collection of 14 major singles titles wiped out whatever caveat his failings at Roland Garros suggested. So let's say Roger never wins Roland Garros, but ends up with 16, 18 majors. . . surely he has to be the GOAT, right?

Right. Or is it? Over the past year, the pebble in the shoe has become the boulder on the chest. Maybe it's just me, but everything Nadal has accomplished in the past 12 months has seemed just as relevant to, and a comment on, Federer's quest for Goathood. It all goes back to the perceptive line Mats Wilander dropped at the U.S. Open of 2007: How can a guy be considered the greatest player ever if there's a guy he can't beat in his own era?

Almost everything Nadal has done since I first published that remark (I paraphrased it here, but it's very close to the original) has underscored the oxymoron at the heart of this rivalry. Nadal's success couldn't be more damaging to Federer's case if the express purpose of Nadal's existence were to besmirch Federer. That realization has helped me understand why fans are so polarized when it comes to this rivalry, and it's made me question if this really is a "rivalry" at all. Rivalries usually involve two parties who are more or less equal; this rivalry has never quite conformed to that model, at any number of levels, including the head-to-head (in which Nadal has a disproportionate lead, 13-6).

Up to this point, I haven't thought of Federer vs.Nadal as a rivalry as much as a chase - the saga of the upstart Nadal trying to lift his game sufficiently to catch Federer. It only became a rivalry last summer, when Nadal proved that he could take the measure of Federer on a surface other than clay. Those last two majors in which the men met in the finals represented major no. 14 and 15 for Federer. Is there a more telling fact when it comes to the dynamics of this rivalry? I hope this isn't the case, but this rivalry might be less about two stars on a parallel track than two trajectories - one rising, one falling - that happen to coincide for a few brief and glorious Grand Slam moments.

Sometimes it doesn't seem like either man is eager to engage in a rivalry - for instance, can you imagine Federer and Nadal doing anything like those "guerrilla tennis" television commercials featuring Sampras and Agassi?  Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, they knew how to use their natural rivalry as a way to simultaneously exploit and enhance each other. Their rivalries took on a life of their own, and they added up to something that was far more than a sum of the parts.  I haven't sensed that kind of synergy coming from Roger and Rafa. To me, Roger has basically tried to pretend that Rafa doesn't exist, and Rafa has tried to pretend that he's just a humble, hard-working lad, trying to improve his game.

A few hours ago, I filed a post for ESPN on Federer and how he'd be best served if he looked ahead to the next few weeks as a time of opportunity (and no, I did not write the teaser caption on the tennis home page). I understand that Roger is holed up in Switzerland with the mysterious Monsieur Pierre Paganini, and not because they're collaborating on a violin concerto. Nadal hasn't officially dropped out of the Madrid Masters yet, and I'm very curious to see exactly what he's going to do. When you analyze how playing - or skipping - Madrid might affect Nadal, or Federer, you begin to see how shoehorning an event of Madrid's status into the ATP tournament schedule has far-reaching implications.

Because Madrid is a Master Series event, Nadal is automatically entered. Will he withdraw? It's like a game of chess, sometimes, and some guys take more time than others, and not just because they need to adjust an undergarment.


486
Comments
Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.
<<      1 2 3 4 5      >>

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 09:42 AM

[To me, Roger has basically tried to pretend that Rafa doesn't exist, and Rafa has tried to pretend that he's just a humble, hard-working lad, trying to improve his game.]

lol, interesting view point, Pete.

[ When you analyze how playing - or skipping - Madrid might affect Nadal, or Federer, you begin to see how shoehorning an event of Madrid's status into the ATP tournament schedule has far-reaching implications.]

The politics around Madrid are _fascinating_. Particularly with the majority of the top players playing an unofficial exo before RG.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 05/05/2009 at 09:42 AM

Sounds good to me, Annie. :)

Posted by streams 05/05/2009 at 09:43 AM

Oh Pete you are funny, I laughed outloud several times already and I'm only half way thru your post! Thanks for the entertainment. Go Rafa, the Go Figure Tennis Hero

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 09:44 AM

jewell, but Rafa had been playing plenty of HC events but didn't become dominant on the surface until '08, so I don't see why you'd think his performance on grass would've been any different. Oh, but there are more good HC players, you say? Then I can point to the fact that he was out by the QFs at the Queen's Club in both '06 and '07. Sure, he did have to retire in '06, but the loss to Nicolas Mahut in '07 was his own doing.

For the record I'm not saying Fed would've won every additional match on grass, but it's reasonable to assume that he would've won the bulk of their encounters.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 09:47 AM

[And what about the painful blowout in the Roland Garros final?]

And what does their respective record vs Nadal has to do with their relative merits as clay courters? Are we measuring clay court players according to how many games they take off Nadal now? In which case, obviously Federer still wins (having actually, you know, won against Nadal) but let's not get stuck in the details since I think it's a fairly arbitrary measurement of their relative strength on clay.

[I haven't been trying to build the case that Djokovic was definitely the number two claycourter in either 2007 or (more possible) 2008.]

He was quite obviously number 3 considering his record (semis vs finals) and his h2h on clay vs Federer up till 2009. In 2009 so far he is clearly the #2 clay courter in the world, based on his results and his h2h vs Federer.

>Just that that honour is at least mildly debatable - in 2008 (and maybe earlier) Federer didn't look like the "clear" number two claycourter to me.

Why not?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 05/05/2009 at 09:52 AM

I don't know, NP, we probably agree more than we disagree. :) I don't think Roger would've necessarily led the H2H by a huge margin, that's all.

But we don't know how it would've worked out. What might've actually happened would not necessarily be the same as what was most likely to have happened. So it just feels like speculation to me.

or maybe I'm just being KAD-dish. You decide. ;-)

Posted by Tfactor 05/05/2009 at 09:52 AM

Annie,
I love to watch them play on clay, I was terrible on it back in my day and that's where my sort of dislike comes from. But like I said, it's hard to understand the double standard (if that's the appropriate term) when it comes to clay. For me it was the most difficult surface to play in, go figure!

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 09:55 AM

Sher, Rosangel's point was that whether Fed was the clear no. 2 on clay is mildly DEBATABLE. She wasn't saying Fed wasn't the 2nd best claycourter, period. I'd say Fed was indeed the 2nd best in '07, but not in '08.

Posted by Syd 05/05/2009 at 10:01 AM

Right, well 08 was a disaster due to the various factors that have been well discussed. However, he reached the final of the Clay Slam AGAIN. No one else made it. I think it's fair to say that he was the second best in 2008. Otherwise, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 10:03 AM

jewell, it IS speculation, but at least we have enough grounds to base it on. IOW we're making an educated guess. And I don't think the H2H on grass would've been a 9-1 blowout in Fed's favor myself, but a 7-3 sounds reasonable, no? That would bring the overall H2H to 15-11, which clearly isn't as one-sided as the current one. That was just my point.

Posted by streams 05/05/2009 at 10:03 AM

Late to the party here so no time to read everyone's undoubtedly fascinating and intense comments, but just want to say I Love what Rosangel was talking about a few days ago about the 'group of GOATS', (goats come in herds don't they?). Seems kind of meaningless to need to judge all of them against each other and say that guy is The Best. Pete I like your 7+ Slams = GOAT theory and they are a group of GOATS. (The 7+ GOAT Herd?)
Also, Nadal is heading for the Master's Crowns record, but am not sure he'll surpass Roger in Slams ... his peak may have come early and may end at a younger age than Roger's. We'll see. I plan to enjoy watching to find out! I hope that Roger will come out to play and we'll see some more R&R Finals before the two trajectories move past each other.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/05/2009 at 10:06 AM

I didn't realize that Andy Roddick has won Queen's 4 times, the latest being 2007. was on the website looking to see about tv coverage. nothing.

Posted by Rosangel 05/05/2009 at 10:09 AM

Sher: "why not?"

Surely I've already said so. Probably more than once. I'm not about to repeat it.

The real point wasn't to wrangle about who was number two based on ranking points, but to say that Djokovic would have been a worthy challenger to Federer in an RG final - we can't assume that if Nadal wasn't there that Federer would have won those RGs. I think Djokovic was playing sufficiently well in both years versus Federer's level to make that a reasonable statement.

Posted by Sandra 05/05/2009 at 10:10 AM

Pete, I must say that the combination of your article and Steve Tignor's article today are truly food for thought. Excellent piece.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/05/2009 at 10:11 AM

Channelsurfing has links to estorial, rome and belgrade folks. there's tennis to be watched.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 10:12 AM

NP, you keep addressing me as you though expect that you deserve an answer. Considering your previous comments to me and other posters on here, it is, indeed, puzzling.

Posted by Tfactor 05/05/2009 at 10:14 AM

Thanks for the info on the links Annie :)

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 10:15 AM

Sher, I wasn't expecting an answer. Just pointing out one of your numerous misunderstandings and misreadings, which are why I stopped responding to your own posts a while ago.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 10:16 AM

[Surely I've already said so. Probably more than once. I'm not about to repeat it.]

Okay, then . ;-)

[to say that Djokovic would have been a worthy challenger to Federer in an RG final - we can't assume that if Nadal wasn't there that Federer would have won those RGs.]

Of course, I agree with that. Of course, I'm of the mind that many atp players are worthy challengers to Federer, now and in previous years, like 2006, on clay and off. I know some people believe that he deserves to win by virtue of his divine game, but that is not me.

[I think Djokovic was playing sufficiently well in both years versus Federer's level to make that a reasonable statement. ]

I may have misread your statement as saying that you didn't think Federer was a clear cut #2 on clay in years prior to 2009, rather than that he would have been challenged by Djokovic. With the latter, I obviously have no issues. Nalbandian and Davydenko are two other people who always give Roger and Rafa trouble on clay as well.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/05/2009 at 10:19 AM

If Roger is going to retire in 2012, I guess we will see a good run during that year (maybe 2 or 3 slams).

Roger seems to be the kind of player who tries to find the ultimate solution to beat a player...he lost to Hewitt 7 times before completely dominating him. Same with Agassi, Safin, Roddick and others. He dosen't seem to mind losing to collect information, then he pieces it together and never looks back. He also dosen't seem to go match by match, its more like a long term formula he is searching for.

And that is why he cannot defeat Nadal. How do you defeat a supreme defensive player who stands miles away from the baseline on a slow court? Not to even mention the topspin left handed forehand to the weak backhand.

This time around, Nadal has had the ultimate long term formula.

I do hope they continue to meet in GS finals till 2012.But Roger turning around that H2H? Nadal's level will have to go down for that.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/05/2009 at 10:20 AM

AoS: these are supposed to be the 'beautiful people?' just goes to show without makeup some of these models are pretty plain! I thought juanaco's gf was very pretty and nole's is gorgeous.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/05/2009 at 10:23 AM

I don't know, NP. It just seems mad to me to formulate a comparison based on an imaginary H2H.

Posted by Rosangel 05/05/2009 at 10:27 AM

*so I don't see why you'd think his performance on grass would've been any different.*

Grass, as Pete has pointed out in the past, is a surface that tends to reward very athletic players, and those able to adapt their movement, and Nadal showed quite early promise on grass in spite of his unfamiliarity with the surface at first. If he'd played more on it, it's also fair to assume that his learning curve might have been steeper. Sure, Federer - and all other players - would have been more familiar with the surface too.

When you watch Rafa step onto grass for the first time at Queen's, it's already obvious how he's changed his court positioning and even abbreviated his backswing for returning.

In the sense that it's such a rare surface, no-one is a grasscourt expert these days. Not Federer, not Nadal, not anyone. Much of the secret to winning Wimbledon is being able to adapt your game quickly and utilise your strengths on the surface to their full advantage. Sure, it favours strong servers, but grasscourt tennis as it's now played involves a lot of baseline rallies too:)

Posted by Tfactor 05/05/2009 at 10:27 AM

I don't know, NP. It just seems mad to me to formulate a comparison based on an imaginary H2H"
Hear, hear!

And is there a difference between addressing someone regarding a previous post of theirs and responding to their posts? :-)

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 10:30 AM

jewell, but then pretty much every tennis commentator should be thrown in a mental asylum. Again, my point is that the Fed-Nadal H2H is misleading because there are no MS events held on grass, and I'm sure the overwhelming majority of tennis experts and knowledgeable fans would agree with me that Roger would've won most of their encounters on grass. No comparison of players or eras is possible without speculation. What matters is whether the speculation was based on sound reasoning and evidence.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 10:30 AM

erm, typepad ate a part of my post in @ 10:16 AM after "okay then", but it wasn't anything substantial so doesn't matter I guess.

Tfactor, I wouldn't bother :-)

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 10:34 AM

Rosangel, I certainly grant that Rafa would've been readily adapted to grass-court tennis, but still a 7-3 H2H sounds reasonable, no? Maybe Rafa would've won or lost one more match, but I don't see him winning the majority of their encounters on grass, at least not before '08.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/05/2009 at 10:36 AM

...assuming that Feddy and Rafa had got to all those grass court finals isn't a given, either, as Annie pointed out - Roddick and Hewitt would've likely been in the mix and probably others I can't think of. Nalby maybe?

it feels more likely that Rafa wouldn't have got to the finals than Feddy, but who the hell knows? if there's one thing Rafa can do brilliantly, it's mess up predictions such as "Spanish clay-courters hate grass." And if they did play all the finals, the Roger-Rafa match up - in tennis terms and psychologically - and the difference between grass and hard could've changed everything. Rafa gave Roger trouble on grass in 2006, and I think he's the only player who had even a small chance of winning against Roger at Wimbledon then - that's my subjective belief, based on nothing much. ;-)

There are just too many factors in play to make the call, imo.

Posted by Tfactor 05/05/2009 at 10:37 AM

I know Sher :) I'm just mischievous and couldn't pass up that extremely amusing statement. I will be off now and stop being off topic on a read meat post, my bad

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 10:37 AM

Tfactor, I was talking about her half-addressing my posts (half 'cause she usually quotes 'em without addressing me directly) on previous threads. Looks like you also seem to be pretty good at it.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 10:39 AM

jewell, but then that only shows Roger would've been a better player on grass in the early years. IOW that actually reinforces my point that their one-sided H2H is misleading.

Posted by Rosangel 05/05/2009 at 10:42 AM

OK, NP - just to put a few different points across here - I don't necessarily agree that Federer would have won most of their encounters on grass, but I suppose it depends how far we go back and how many grasscourt events we'd be talking about. Starting in 2007, I'd say there's a case that either might have won those encounters more often, or that they could have been split evenly. It's never hurt Nadal that the grass season follows the clay season, so at that stage of the season he probably feels pretty good about himself and his game.

But then, I can recall being laughed at for thinking that Nadal could reach the Wimbledon final in 2006, or that he could repeat it in 2007. Nadal's grasscourt credentials were being questioned by some observers right up until he reached his third final and won Wimbledon:)

Posted by streams 05/05/2009 at 10:43 AM

Jewell (page 2) I love this!
"Although we should remember, in a way Roger was chasing immortality all through that time, while Rafa was simply chasing Roger"

Jewel that's cool. That's exactly what was happening, and do you remember at the beginning of this year after AO there were some quotes from Rafa where he seemed to have lost his way a bit with his focus after all the time of chasing Roger and then suddently discovering Roger not up ahead to catch anymore! He was saying things like he felt there was a let down now he was at the top, and saying " I know Roger can still beat me", its like he was feeling the loss of not having Roger to spar with on equal terms, or better than him, like he was used to having the Roger challenge to focus on, and he wasn't qutie sure how to figure out that he was now ahead of Roger. I think he is over this now and chasing his own goals, not just chasing Roger anymore. (I've totally misquoted Rafa here but some of you may remember the interview I'm talking about).

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/05/2009 at 10:44 AM

Please, no fighting...I have a headache already. :)

I'm not really objecting to the general view that the H2H is skewed, NP, just that making up a concrete H2H out of what amounts to nothing isn't likely to be definitive.

General speculation along the what if? line seems to make sense, trying to quantify exactly doesn't, to me. *shrug*

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 10:46 AM

Tfactor, it's difficult to pass them up, I know, but only at first.

jewell, I actually think thanks to their h2h, Rafa had a greater belief he could win vs Roger than perhaps a different grass court player. Meaning, the mental advantage Roger enjoyed over many other players in the final wasn't there vs Rafa after the first bagel in '06 which was likely due to nerves. Even so, Rafa didn't have as much of a plan in 06 as in 07, and as much in 07 as in 08. Maybe he could have won without that much of a plan against a different player. Interesting speculation, I think.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/05/2009 at 10:46 AM

NP, one thing that supports your argument is that grass was a faster surface (compared to now) during that time. That favors Roger.

The counter argument relies on how fast Nadal would have adapted. It took Nadal three years to dislodge Federer from his perch at the top,despite having a positive H2H..infact until Roger lost in SF of 2008, Rafa wasn't anywhere near.

So, Rafa's rise was in some way fueled by a slight dip in form of Roger.

But then you know, if Roger ran into Rafa so many times on other surfaces, how much it would have affected his confidence is also a factor. He is never comfortable facing Rafa except at the indoor fast courts at Shanghai or at the US Open fast courts where he was so eager to face Rafa in the final last year.

Shows that when we speculate, there are still hundred of factors! It might have been...could have been...lalala.

The only certainty is that (if their games would remain unchanged) in a world full of fast courts, Roger would have a postivie H2H and in a world full of slowing courts, Rafa will rule.

Posted by suresh 05/05/2009 at 10:48 AM

Food for thought:

Everyone agrees that the Grand Slam Finals records of the top players are at the heart of the matter in judging their greatness. So, let's examine this record in the Roger-Rafa rivalry, on all the surfaces:

Grass: Roger-2, Rafa-1

Hard: Roger-0, Rafa-1

Clay: Roger-0, Rafa-3

Total: Roger-2, Rafa-5

Posted by Rosangel 05/05/2009 at 10:49 AM

Also (while making Nadal's case vs. Federer on grass), even the 2006 final contained two tiebreak sets, so Nadal did have some chance of going up two sets to one. Put another way, he wasn't completely outclassed - he was a worthy challenger, albeit not the favourite. And no, I haven't forgotten the first-set bagel:)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/05/2009 at 10:49 AM

agreed, Sher - that's one reason I think Rafa really *was* the only player in with an outside chance of beating Roger in Wimbledon final in 2006. And I do think he rattled Roger even then.

The wins on clay certainly helped Rafa confidence-wise against Roger, imo.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/05/2009 at 10:51 AM

ah, it was coming back AFTER that bagel that made me certain Rafa would win it one day.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 10:52 AM

>Nadal's grasscourt credentials were being questioned by some observers right up until he reached his third final and won Wimbledon:)

Were? That's unbounded optimism. ;-)

Their credentials are always being questioned, that's the nature of the sport. Just as Roger's clay credentials will be dismissed if he fails to repeat RG final this year, if Nadal doesn't win another wimbledon, his 2008 win will come down to "one game in the fifth set in the near darkness". You're only as good as your last win, etc.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 10:52 AM

Rosangel, guess I need to go into details then. I actually agree that their encounters would've been split evenly in '07, prolly one or two more in Fed's favor. But surely you'd agree Fed would've been able to dominate in '06? Plus this brings us to the point jewell just made, namely that Rafa might not have made too many finals to begin with. If that's the case then it's highly likely that Fed would've been a better grass-court player, despite the still one-sided H2H. Which, again, reinforces my point that the H2H isn't a very reliable tool for comparison.

Posted by streams 05/05/2009 at 10:53 AM

One aspect of Rafa's career which I think is good to remember is that before reaching #1 he had a record number of weeks at #2. (some of you will remember how many weeks)
That means that he already had a long time playing consistently at the top level of the game before finally reaching #1. Credit for that too.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 10:57 AM

Or looked at another way:

>Grass: Roger-2, Rafa-1

Wimbledons: Roger-5, Rafa-1

>Hard: Roger-0, Rafa-1

US Opens: Roger-5, Rafa-0
AO: Roger-3, Rafa-1

>Clay: Roger-0, Rafa-3
Roger-0, Rafa-4

>Total: Roger-2, Rafa-5

Total slams: Roger-13, Rafa-6

They do have to actually _meet_ in the finals, as well. Different perspective, makes for a different statistic, here.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/05/2009 at 10:58 AM

Roger at the Wimby 2007 trophy ceremony:

"I am happy with whatever I get now before he (Rafa) takes them all away".

Roger at AO 2008 press interview:

"Rafa is ready to be No. 1. He has been consistent the past three years".

And ofcourse AO 2009, where Roger predicted that Rafa would win rather than Murray.
LOL, Roger has had way more confidence in Rafa's abilities than the journos.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 10:59 AM

jewell, but the thing is that there's that much of a difference between the "what if" and quantification lines. When we say Borg would've won the AO had he entered in his prime years, we're basically saying he would've a few AO titles. Now would you say quantification doesn't enter into this? No, of course not. I'm not saying my imaginary H2H is definitive, only that it's a reasonable one to assume based on Fed's and Rafa's previous performance.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 10:59 AM

There's NOT that much of a difference, I mean.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 11:01 AM

>ah, it was coming back AFTER that bagel that made me certain Rafa would win it one day.

That's what made me certain he'd be back in the Wimbledon final and eventually become #1, even when he had those times when he went almost a year without titles and had some injuries that made people say he would retire by the end of 2008 (which: still lol). I remember times when we were talking about how it would be "unfair" if he never became #1 before Djokovic did, considering how accomplished he was, but I was saying that we don't actually know that once Nadal climbed to the top, he wouldn't stay there for a long long time. He's very good at defending his ground. It'll be very interesting to see how long he can stay at #1, for me.

Posted by frances 05/05/2009 at 11:01 AM

Frances: I meant that since Rafa turned pro very early; he started produced meaningful results as early as 2004, was ranked #2 in July 2005, and has been a rival to Fed ever since. He was there competing with Fed for most (not all) of Fed's peak yrs (2004-2007). So yeah, their careers might be off by a few years, but Fed is not in another era , so to speak. I think the h2h and other comparisons are relevant.

IMJIMMY-- BTW good morning:P hhahahah
yes- I do agree that there H2H is relevant especially if you consider that RAFA was always ahead of their H2H during Federer's prime (2004-2007) whilst Rafa was still developing or as Steve calls it, "tinkering his game". I wanted to shy away from that reasoning because I might be deemed as "biased" since I'm obviously a big RAFA fan:P and also I wanted to emphasize that to neutralize the suggestion that their H2H is skewed because RAFA was not really a big threat in Hard Courts during that time. As a fan, I wanted to defend that he was just a teen, still young and was born playing in clay court and thus adjusting to different surfaces. Yes he turned pro early which makes it even more outstanding as he is sure to have less experience or games in his belt and yet he manage to develop his game quickly. HECK I even wanted to point out the Federer was also blessed the he happens to play his best tennis in Hard Courts (also grass) which pretty much covers 70% (just estimate) of the tennis tournaments in a given year. The irony of it I think is that I PERSONNALY think that the H2H is simply telling real facts: Clay 9:1, Hard 3:3, Grass 2:1 Implies that NADAL is better than Federer on clay, at par on hard and the main threat on grass.



Posted by frances 05/05/2009 at 11:01 AM

Frances: I meant that since Rafa turned pro very early; he started produced meaningful results as early as 2004, was ranked #2 in July 2005, and has been a rival to Fed ever since. He was there competing with Fed for most (not all) of Fed's peak yrs (2004-2007). So yeah, their careers might be off by a few years, but Fed is not in another era , so to speak. I think the h2h and other comparisons are relevant.

IMJIMMY-- BTW good morning:P hhahahah
yes- I do agree that there H2H is relevant especially if you consider that RAFA was always ahead of their H2H during Federer's prime (2004-2007) whilst Rafa was still developing or as Steve calls it, "tinkering his game". I wanted to shy away from that reasoning because I might be deemed as "biased" since I'm obviously a big RAFA fan:P and also I wanted to emphasize that to neutralize the suggestion that their H2H is skewed because RAFA was not really a big threat in Hard Courts during that time. As a fan, I wanted to defend that he was just a teen, still young and was born playing in clay court and thus adjusting to different surfaces. Yes he turned pro early which makes it even more outstanding as he is sure to have less experience or games in his belt and yet he manage to develop his game quickly. HECK I even wanted to point out the Federer was also blessed the he happens to play his best tennis in Hard Courts (also grass) which pretty much covers 70% (just estimate) of the tennis tournaments in a given year. The irony of it I think is that I PERSONNALY think that the H2H is simply telling real facts: Clay 9:1, Hard 3:3, Grass 2:1 Implies that NADAL is better than Federer on clay, at par on hard and the main threat on grass.



Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 11:02 AM

>LOL, Roger has had way more confidence in Rafa's abilities than the journos.

LOL that's true enough. He was saying since '07 or so that he expected Rafa in the final in AO.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/05/2009 at 11:03 AM

Might, NP. Might.

that's my point, really. :)

Based on the evidence of 2006 Wimbledon final, I can't see that much justification for Roger dominating the grass H2H with Rafa all through a grass season. Again, partly the tennis match-up, partly psychological factors, as Sher said, partly Rafa's little way of confounding easy prevailing narratives.

although I agree with the general idea that a H2H isn't the most sensible way to compare.

And, agree with Sher that 13 in the bag is a massive improvement over 6 plus maybes.

streams - I remember those interviews, funny. :) I wondered how Rafa would do without Roger to chase so directly...seems ok so far. *optimistic*

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 11:06 AM

ladyjulia, I made the point earlier that Rafa had been playing plenty of HC events before '08 but didn't become dominant until that year, so I think it reasonable to say his grass-court dominance would've been delayed as well.

As for the point that Rafa suffered close losses to Fed on grass, we should remember that it's not like Fed's own losses to Rafa on clay had been blowouts, either. What seems like a small difference between two players can literally decide a match, and I say that's another reason to favor Fed's chances in the early years.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 11:08 AM

jewell, he's doing great in that regard. I thought there was some innui in the begining of the american hard court swing, but once back on clay, Rafa's happy as a clam. Personally, more than Wimbledon ( where a lot will depend on how fast he can adapt, who he meets, luck etc) I'm curious about how he will do in USO. More than luck, I'm curious about how much he truly wants to win that tourney. It seems like his least favourite slam, but I want to see if he makes the final push this year. (Of course, I know who I want to win, but that's besides the point ;-)

Posted by frances 05/05/2009 at 11:10 AM

sorry for the double post - i dont know how that happens

Posted by deeps 05/05/2009 at 11:11 AM

ladyjulia, my problem with the faster/slower argument is I feel like Fed has also benefitted from the slowing of Wimbledon. I could see somebody like Roddick winning a couple of them. Also, is the surface really that much slower since 2006 that it would affect their H2H so much? Plus Rafa won Queens last year which still hasn't been claycourted and he won it against pretty good grass court competition.

But back to the larger point, Fed was a more consistent grass court player pre-2008 than Rafa and so the most reasonable scenario (and I said reasonable not definite) is that if we had a grass season comparable to clay, Fed would have made some dent in that H2H. However it could have also ended up like hard where other players stood in their way (and its not just Nadal, Fed could have been more vulnerable too in best of 3 formats) and they didn't meet that many times. But that is part of the larger point that pre-2008, the H2H shouldn't be used as the defining factor of their rivalry. That is why Wilander's comment is off-base.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 11:13 AM

jewell, I just addressed your 2nd point re the '06 Wimby final above. Again what seems like a small difference is a decisive factor in tennis.

And when did I ever dispute your "might" point? I mean, I usually get a fair share of straws from a few amusing posters who apparently can't read, and I surely got a few today, but when I speculate I generally characterize it as such.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/05/2009 at 11:15 AM

I kind of think that last year he made the Olympics a priority over the USO, Sher. This year I think he'll have more focus on the USO.

and after that Verdasco SF at the AO - all bets are off for me, in terms of scheduling/fitness. I think Rafa can do it.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 11:16 AM

Well said, deeps. You just summarized what I've been saying for the last hour or two.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 11:16 AM

>I kind of think that last year he made the Olympics a priority over the USO, Sher.

Definetly.

Considering how much I love the Olympics, it was heart warming to see so many top players take it so seriously. :)

Posted by Rosangel 05/05/2009 at 11:18 AM

NP - for all I know, Nadal could have done better in the 2006 Wimbledon final if he's got an earlier look at Federer's grasscourt game. I do think he'd developed comfort in moving on grass by that stage - always find it amusing that after Ancic put Federer out of Wimbledon, Nadal did it in the first round of the following year. I also think he'd worked hard on aspects of his game in between 2006 and 2007, so his chances were better then. So yes, of course Federer was the favourite on grass between the two in 2006, but Nadal was always in with a chance. Unlike....oh, who remembers the Federer-Bjorkman Wimbledon semi?

One thing about the head-to-head - I'd say it couldn't be totally irrelevant in the way that it developed in reality (no parallel grassy universes here). No matter the surface, Nadal learned very early in his career that he could beat Federer, and by the time of the 2006 Wimbledon final had done it twice in a Grand Slam setting. All of his wins have been a chance for Nadal to build confidence against Federer, and to practice the tactics that have proved successful on all surfaces in the end.

Posted by Rosangel 05/05/2009 at 11:20 AM

Well, let's not say "in the end". Let's say "as of now". Too early to write TMF off, in case that's how it looked.

Posted by suresh 05/05/2009 at 11:23 AM

Sher-10:57

Your statistics correctly reflect the overall GS performance of Roger and Rafa, where Roger clearly dominates. However, since the discussion here has been clearly about their rivalry, the statistics that matter, imho, are when they actually met in GS Finals which are what I had provided. Also, if they had met only on Clay GS Finals,it can be argued that they were biased in favor of Rafa, but they are for all the three surfaces.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 11:26 AM

Rosangel, I agree Nadal would've been no pushover on grass as early as in '06, but that still leaves out the earlier years. I think it safe to say Fed and Rafa would've met in a few finals on grass before '06.

And of course the H2H isn't totally irrelevant. I just wanted to point out that their rivalry hasn't been as one-sided as the numbers suggest.

Posted by deeps 05/05/2009 at 11:27 AM

Rosangel,

I don't think the H2H is totally irrelevant. But it doesn't ultimately define how they compared as players either - there are a lot of other factors like Nadal's relative inconsistency outside of clay compared to Fed's consistency on all surfaces. And that is why despite the skewed H2H, Fed was number 1 over Nadal by a huge margin for a lot of that period.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/05/2009 at 11:30 AM

I don't know, you sounded quite certain, NP, all those "highly likelys" and "reasonable assumptions" and "would've beens."

But this is getting ridiculous, and I don't want to get into a fight with you, so let's just agree to disagree and leave it.


Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 11:30 AM

suresh, wouldn't you say that Nadal had more trouble than Federer in actually getting to the hc/grass finals until recently? That was the main point of my statistic. Any other gs comparisons between the two are moot, imho, because of the age difference.

Posted by Rosangel 05/05/2009 at 11:32 AM

As far as the Federer-Nadal rivalry goes, I think it's accurate to say that there isn't another active player (not sure if there's even an inactive one - don't think so) who's clocked up as many as six wins against Nadal:)

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 11:35 AM

jewell, "highly LIKELY" and "reasonable ASSUMPTIONS" don't suggest certainty to me. I choose my words carefully and that's why I presented my predictions as speculation, not facts. I was just trying to show that this kind of speculation doesn't amount to "nothing," that's all.

Posted by Rosangel 05/05/2009 at 11:40 AM

deeps: I don't disagree with the "incompleteness" of the rivalry. I've been saying it's not a complete rivalry for over two years here, because of the differences in relative performances on the various surfaces, and also because Nadal and Federer are in different stages of their careers.

I also don't forget that it took Federer a while to appear comparably proficient on all surfaces too, which makes the entire discussion a little awkward, because by the time Nadal began challenging him Federer was number one, and expected to do well on all surfaces. This wasn't the case in Nadal's career - that's just the way it is, that Nadal's bigger challenge to him on other surfaces developed later.

The comment about the psychological impact of the H2H is really separate from the discussion about the surfaces.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/05/2009 at 11:46 AM

Ros,

"No matter the surface, Nadal learned very early in his career that he could beat Federer"

This is true...Nadal infact beat Federer the first time they played...on a hard court. True, Fed was recovering from fever or something like that, but Fed himself said "The first time I played Nadal, I knew he was going to be a legend".

The second time they played...which was again on a hard court, Fed had to smash a racquet and had to come back from two points from defeat to win...this was when Fed was at his peak.

I agree that Nadal may have dominated Fed if they met on other surfaces, except the fast indoor ones. Fed had a very good record there and Nadal has never taken him to a third set at the indoor courts of Shanghai.

deeps, they said Wimby has slowed down considerably from 2003...I have no idea how much (they showed an analysis during Wimby 2009 final) and I don't know how much it has slowed down from 2006.

I think Clay is one extreme where Nadal dominates (9-1) because of his defensive game and indoor fast courts are the other extreme where Fed dominates (2 - 0) because of his offensive game. All other surfaces are somewhat a neutral ground for them.

They should meet in the US open final.

Posted by you'vegottobekidding 05/05/2009 at 11:53 AM

Pete read your posts from time to time and it's always the same underlying tone. There's something you really dislike in Federer and it always shows up. As for this GOAT argument Federer said there is no clear GOAT unless a player wins 25 or 30 plus majors. Then there is a very strong agrument. Federer always said judge me at the end of my career and he believes in Greatest of his era. Just like Sampras for his decade, Lendl or McEnroe can be debated for there decade, Borg for his decade, Laver for his decade and so on.
You need to get over this bias against Roger and write something about all those other wonderful players on the tour. Crazy how Rafa is winning everything at the moment and the talk and pressure is still on Federer from the media. Yet Rafa has a legitimate shot at a GS this year. Time to turn your pen towards him and let him feel the pressure that goes along side being the #1 in the world title and dominating.
Once Federer is finished with his career then you can truly judge his accomplishments against all those others before him and during his career.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/05/2009 at 11:56 AM

For all this speculation on Federer and Nadal, I would hate it if Murray came out blazing and won Wimby this year.

Murray can win Wimby all he wants after a few years, I still want a Fedal final as long as both are playing!

Posted by Mr Rick 05/05/2009 at 11:56 AM

Roseangel "No matter the surface, Nadal learned very early in his career that he could beat Federer"

Yes, I just learned that Rafa actually beat Federer the very FIRST time the two ever played together (3rd round Miami a few years back?)

Posted by Interested Bystander 05/05/2009 at 11:58 AM

Sorry to interrupt this fascinating rivalry discussion, but am I the only one who sees the bitter irony in the argument that the one sided head to head does not truly reflect the nature of the rivalry over the past four years ? Who really cares whether IF Fed & Nadal had met a few more times on hard courts or grass in 2006 & 2007 (while Nadal's all-court game was still developing), their head to head might have been more equal in the early years. Surely the most relevant statistic is the here & now - fact : in the past 18 months Nadal is 5:0 against Fed, 3 in GS finals, no less. Fed's last win was in Shanghai 2007 - he has been unable to defeat Nadal IN OVER 18 MONTHS ON ANY SURFACE. Surely Wilander's point (which was recently reiterated by Agassi) is even more telling in light of recent events.

Posted by Rosangel 05/05/2009 at 12:03 PM

Mr Rick: yes, that was Miami in 2004. I have seen all of their matches, including their first one. I'm fond of that one, because many people don't remember it. Nadal didn't become number two until 2005, but he was making waves on the tour as early as 2003, and I always tried to watch him if I could.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/05/2009 at 12:03 PM

Interested Bystander,

The 5-0 record is when Fed is not playing at his peak and is 3 yrs from retirement, with Nadal who is 5 yrs younger has peaked.

Therefore the discussion was what the H2H would have been if they played on more surfaces when Fed was at his peak and if Nadal would have peaked earlier.

If that record is not lopsided by the time Fed retires, it goes against nature. It really depends on who peaked first.

Posted by suresh 05/05/2009 at 12:05 PM

Thanks, Sher. I agree with you on the point you are making in your 11:30.

However, my whole point is that, in a rivalry, we cannot talk in subjective terms like 'what could have or would have happened if they had met in more finals or even how the outcome was very close etc.' which is where this discussion seems to be turning to. We have to focus on the statistics when they actually met in some way. and, for this I was suggesting that their record on the 'GS Finals h2h on all surfaces' would be a meaningful thing to look at. That is what i had provided in my 10:48.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 12:05 PM

suresh, okay I agree with your 12:05.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 12:07 PM

Interested Bystander, deeps addressed your point earlier, but to repeat, Fed had his best run from '04-07 while Rafa began his dominance just last year. IOW their best years didn't intercept each other's. And of course Fed isn't done yet and neither is Rafa, which is why we should wait until their careers are over to assess their ranking in the GOAT ladder.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 12:12 PM

Mr Rick, indeed Nadal had Federer with two sets down in Miami 05 as well, and he was a break up I believe before he got too tired and the better conditioned Federer pulled it out in five sets. It's often forgotten that there was a time when Rafa wasn't as fit as he is now. I remember that Federer said after that five setter that he thinks Rafa "will learn a lot" from it, and patronizing or no, it was the absolute truth because Rafa really worked on his conditioning and was in a much better form in 2006.

As for their Miami 04, it's obvious that Federer had no idea how to play him back then. It took him until Shanghai 06 to figure out a quick way to beat that period's Nadal on hard, rather than getting mired in baseline battles.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 12:16 PM

suresh, first of all not everyone agrees that the GS finals are "at the heart of the matter in judging their greatness." Sure, they certainly matter a lot, but many would say that GS encounters at any level (though preferably higher) and other records enter into the equation.

2nd, we (or most of us) WERE focusing on the actual stats. That's why we based our predictions on the actual results of their past meetings. You are, of course, free to disagree with our predictions.

Posted by suresh 05/05/2009 at 12:19 PM

Sher, thanks for your 12:05.

Posted by Nancy J 05/05/2009 at 12:22 PM

Rod Laver said it best a short while ago, a player can only be judged on how he or she performed against the competition in one's era. Everything else is fiction! Perpetrated by pundits and over zealous drinkers of the kool-aid!

Monica Seles has an interesting quote in her new book. She says that Chris Evert, after Monica bested her in her first tournament win, told her to enjoy the moment. Because it wouldn't last forever, and one day before she knew it a new era of player would come along who was faster and stronger and eager. It reminded me of what Billie Jean told Chris in 1971 at the US Open. With this idea of every generation being physical better in mind (which I think is true in life as well as in every sport), of course nearly every next generation produces the "new" GOAT!

p.s. Interesting insights into the Nadal v Fed "rivalry." I agree with you 100%, although, I will say that Wimbie 2008 match was incredible! However, I remember some hellicious matches from every era that I've watched tennis. How quickly we forget how great this game has been all along! It doesn't have to go at the speed of light to be a competitive and beautiful game to watch. In fact, I preferred it better when it was more a chess match than who could hit a rocket.

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 12:24 PM

Mr. Rick actually two quotes people often find interesting from that Miami 05 final:

======================

Q. What does that say about Federer, that even with 73 errors he's able to come back and win?

RAFAEL NADAL: (Through translation) Federer is a player who makes mistakes, and that's not his strength. His strength is the way he can surprise you, and that usually in those important moments he doesn't make mistakes.
======================

Q. Another state-of-mind question for you. The final point, after all the misery you had gone through in this match, the unforced errors, blown volleys, the crazy overhead off the frame of your racquet, there you were at 15-40, a chance to put the match away, had you cleared all that stuff out of your mind?

ROGER FEDERER: By then, of course, yeah. By then I'm the most happiest person because I know I'm in the situation that I want to be in. You know, it's one thing to come back from two sets to love and then start the fifth and then in the end losing, you know. So I'm really happy that I came back, because, you know, like you said, I've hardly ever done it in my career. This is a big moment in my career. Especially in the finals against a player of this caliber, you know, to really come back, this is not the normal thing I'm doing usually.

======================

Posted by deeps 05/05/2009 at 12:26 PM

ladyjulia, its definitely slowed since 2003 - just not sure how much it has slowed down since 2006-2007. And on the flip side RG clay has become faster over the same period - it doesn't get talked about that much though. But yeah I would agree with your assessment of their surface capabilities.

Rosangel, agree totally about the psychology of the early wins. The H2H has given Rafa a psychological edge.

Posted by Tuulia 05/05/2009 at 12:29 PM

deeps wrote "Federer was the second best clay courter of 2007 on virtue of reaching finals in all the tournaments he played and winning two - Estoril and Hamburg, defeating Nadal in one of them."

You are mixing different years there. ;)

In 2007 he lost to Volandri in the 3rd round in Rome, and he didn't play Estoril - he played there in 2008.

Posted by Mike 05/05/2009 at 12:37 PM

What year did Fed pwn Nole at MC ... the one where the latter retired with a sore throat rather than lose? ;)

Posted by Sher 05/05/2009 at 12:39 PM

They did play in '06 as well, Mike.

Posted by Tuulia 05/05/2009 at 12:39 PM

Mike - 2008

Posted by suresh 05/05/2009 at 12:42 PM

NP, I agree with your 12:16 comment that, in a rivalry, there are many factors other than the GS Finals h2h records that matter. I also have no problems with anyone making educated predictions on things based on historical data and current conditions. We all do that in all walks of life every single day.

My only point is that,in judging a rivalry, imho we should, as far as possible, rely on some kind of hard statistics and not on subjective opinions.

Posted by Tfactor 05/05/2009 at 12:50 PM

Surely the most relevant statistic is the here & now - fact : in the past 18 months Nadal is 5:0 against Fed, 3 in GS finals, no less. Fed's last win was in Shanghai 2007 - he has been unable to defeat Nadal IN OVER 18 MONTHS ON ANY SURFACE"

I couldn't agree more, in particular about the HERE & NOW. Of course to assess their overall careers we have to wait until they both end, but for now it is what is!

Posted by deeps 05/05/2009 at 12:50 PM

Tuulia, thanks for the correction but you get the general picture for 2007.

Posted by Tfactor 05/05/2009 at 12:52 PM

*it is what it is*

Posted by Tuulia 05/05/2009 at 12:54 PM

deeps, I agree with you that he was the 2nd best on clay in 2007, you were just basing your argument on wrong stats. :)

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 01:15 PM

suresh (and you, 2, Rosangel, 'cause this kinda addresses our conversation re the GOAT debate a few weeks ago, but there are different kinds of subjective opinions (provided that we do agree on what "subjective means," that is). I'd say that predicting how Fed would've fared against Nadal on the putative grass-court matches of yesteryear is a more reasonable subjective undertaking than, say, predicting how many GSs Rafa will eventually win before his retirement, 'cause we already have the past records to base our predictions on in the former case but not so in the latter. I think most people would 2nd this claim.

Of course we can simply avoid all things subjective and state the obvious: Sampras & Fed are the best players of their respective generation, Newton is the most influential scientist, etc. But that's frankly boring, and doesn't invite a useful debate. Now if we say the Fed-Rafa H2H would've been not as one-sided had there been more grass events, or that Bach is a greater composer than Beethoven--that's when the real debate starts. This is why I say those who think the GOAT debate is pointless is actually missing the point of the debate. No one believes that we can determine the one all-time GOAT conclusively, but by having this debate we find out more about the players that we wouldn't have without it, and learn more about the stats, history, evolution of the game, depth of competition and so on. I guess you could say that the GOAT debate serves an educational purpose. Just how many people today would know about an Adriano Panatta or a Miloslav Mecír if not for the debate? ‘Nuff said.

Again it's true that we'll never be able to reach a single conclusion that appeals to all. But then the Liberals and Tories of the world could bicker all day long but never come to agree on certain issues, yet no one says political discussions are pointless. It's what they say about perfection: We don't expect it, but we still seek to attain it. And as the pols can still find common ground after all the bickering, tennis fans can also reach a few points of agreement.

But more importantly these discussions should be fun, and if they don’t entertain you, then there really is no point for you to participate. Maybe they really are pointless in that sense. Me and others will say and feel differently.

Posted by NP 05/05/2009 at 01:17 PM

I forgot to put the closing parenthesis in the 1st sentence, which should've read, "suresh (and you, 2, Rosangel, 'cause this kinda addresses our conversation re the GOAT debate a few weeks ago), but there are different kinds of subjective opinions (provided that we do agree on what "subjective means," that is)."

Posted by Pspace 05/05/2009 at 01:34 PM

Was just watching the highlights of the last half of Wimby '08 final, or as I like to call it "Symphony in Forehand":

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

Two gods playing tennis is all I got to say.

I think several commenters (on this thread and in the past) have observed how crucial Nadal's improved backhand was to the victory. And, indeed, at 15-30 7-7 in the fifth, a blistering CC is what gave him those two all important BPs. Federer has not found anything close to an adequate answer for this pattern, mainly because he can't open up space by going to Nadal's fh. I thought the early part of the Oz final showed some improvement from Fed's side on the bh to fh exchanges, but all the usual caveats.

I certainly hope that the pattern of this rivalry is not set to finish in the current trend, and that Federer can improve, pushing Nadal to even greater heights and conversely.

Posted by Andrew 05/05/2009 at 01:47 PM

Coming in late to the party (workin' hard). I haven't read all the posts upthread, so forgive me if I ignore someone or step on someone's toes.

Federer is the player who has given me most pleasure, in terms of watching tennis, of any player I've ever seen. Federer is one of the best players to play the game of tennis. Whether he wins no more majors, two more majors, or eight more majors, there will be no answer to the GOAT question because it's unanswerable. I've thought that since the question was first posed, and I think that today.

Nadal may well (probability > 50%, as far as I'm concerned) go down in the tennis history books as a better player than Federer - at 13-6 H2H, and given the current trajectories of the two players. Nadal may well win many more major tournaments, is a prohibitive favorite if he meets Federer on clay, and at least 50:50 if the two meet on grass or hard courts. At the end of the day, will Nadal have a better claim than Federer at GOAT-hood? Quite likely, but for the fact (repeats self) that there really is no such thing as the GOAT. Tennis Valhalla, etc.

Right now, Federer is in a slump - he has significant issues to work through, some technical (the serve in particular) and some confidence based (3/13 vs the other big 4 since the start of 2008). I'd be delighted if the slump were resolved quickly, but I honestly don't think it's likely.

Right now, Nadal is on a roll, as Federer was in late 2006. How far that takes him, no-one can tell.

The one thing I don't agree with in Pete's original post is the suggestion that Federer has tried to pretend that Nadal doesn't exist. A lot of work has gone into countering Nadal's play: off the court, the two men have demonstrated a lot of mutual respect.

Posted by CL 05/05/2009 at 01:53 PM

Hey Pspace - thanks so much for that Youtube link. Of course is some ways it is very painful to watch for Fed fans, but as I said way back then, the hopeful and wonderful thing is that everything Fed needs to overcome Rafa...or anyone else...was all on display in that match. If he can avoid digging such a deep hole for himself, catch a couple of breaks, (ALL tennis wins involve at least on lucky break or 2), and regain this kind of form, there is NO reason he can't wrestle the Wimby trophy back.

On a lighter note, I hafta say that the shot after Fed wins the 4th set TB of Mirka standing and cheering while Tio Toni buries his face in his hands, is just wonderful... I mean I know it is not wonderful for Rafa fans, but fandom aside, there is just something so HUMAN about it all. It Fed and Rafa fans were exalted/tormented/overjoyed/crushed by this match- WHAT must it have been like for their poor families!?!

<<      1 2 3 4 5      >>

We are no longer accepting comments for this entry.

<<  Your Call, 5.5 Monday Net Post  >>




Wild Women of the U.S. Open
Wild Men of the U.S. Open
Roddick's Imperfect World
"It's Kind of a Dance"
Nadal's Kneeds
The Racquet Scientist: Canadian Tennis
The Long and Short of It
This blog has 3693 entries and 1646147 comments.
More
More Video
Daily Spin