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Burn Baby, Burn! 05/19/2009 - 1:39 PM

Rog by Pete Bodo

Okay, I understand that it's not all about me, all the time. But I need to write a little about me to put this whole Roger/Rafa rivalry thing in perspective. My boy Luke, who's six, was invited to a birthday party starting at 10:30 on last Sunday morning, I knew that if I took him, I'd miss the live coverage of the Madrid Masters, but I figured I could catch the highlights later. One disadvantage of my job is that any Sunday is, at least in theory, a work day for me. I've had to learn not to feel guilty about taking Sunday off.

Anyway. I took Luke to the birthday party, but not long after noon I found myself wondering how things were going in Madrid. Nadal was the favorite, of course, but in a recent post for ESPN I speculated that Madrid might present Federer with an interesting window of opportunity. Just how off-base would I end up looking? So I punched up the browser on my Blackberry and, after much navigating, I learned that Federer had won the first set, and they were even halfway thorough the second.

Interesting, I thought, wonder if he can make it hold up.

By the time we left the party and made our way home it was around 3 pm. I got right on the computer at the apartment and checked the final score. My immediate reaction upon seeing that Federer had won  was: Wow, must have been something to see. . .

Now, I've basically spent my entire adult match watching and writing about tennis matches. At this point, it takes an awful lot to make me feel like I might really have missed something, and even more to make me go out of my way at an inconvenient time to watch a tennis match. In my world, there's always another match, another player, another controversy, another icon; the down-side of a sport that rewards a player so handsomely and immediately is that the here and now quickly becomes the there and then. Meanwhile, the game inevitably coughs up the next big thing.  Think you missed a "must see" or "once in a lifetime" event?  Just wait a week for the next one.

Yet I found myself thinking, I've got to see this match. . .   And it wasn't just because I knew I'd have to write about it here.

So that's how I ended up watching Tennis Channel at 2 am on Monday morning, with a bag of chips in my lap and a cold beer. The network was re-broadcasting the Madrid final starting at 1:30 am, so I dutifully set the alarm. I bolted out of bed at 1:20 and flicked on the tube. The fact that I already knew the outcome meant nothing at all. And that's the greatest endorsement of this rivalry that I can offer: It can get you out of bed in the middle of the night, even if you already know the outcome. This Federer vs. Nadal thing is special. Even to a jaundiced eye.

It's entirely possible that one day we'll all look back on this match -  Federer against Nadal, fighting it out in the dirt inside the Magic Box, 2009 - as a career-defining moment. It could  go on to be the most critical victory of Federer's career. For Federer has introduced a big question mark in the Roland Garros narrative, and revived the idea that he may yet win the clay-court major.

if Federer wins at Roland Garros - whether his final-round victim is Nadal or someone else - Madrid will stand as the turning point: the moment when Roger Federer finally got some wind behind his sails and floated free of the shoals of self-doubt and a self-protective embrace of disappointment. We all know just how much that Roland Garros title means in the big picture; the French Open championship match could have a more profound impact on tennis history than any other major final.

A Federer win in Paris would also represent an impressive act of courage and will, for one of the more compelling (and, for Federer fans, agonizing) aspects of the Swiss champion's hunt for the game's golden fleece is that fate threw him a curve ball so wicked that even the most perverse spoilsport couldn't have dreamed it up. Fate didn't give Federer a couple of good players to beat, the way it did Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, and others. It gave him one exceptional one - a nemesis who is especially able on the clay surface that deducts the most from Federer's game.

This challenge has been, and continues to be, as difficult as it must be unnerving. Just think about it - wouldn't Federer's life be a lot easier if he'd lost a final to a Safin here, a Hewitt there, a Roddick somewhere else? The guy hasn't lost a Grand Slam final to anyone but Rafael Nadal, to whom he's lost five. What's a genius supposed to do when someone out there can taunt, Who's your Daddy?

This state of affairs has to be as irritating as it is unusual, as demoralizing as it is unambiguous. But on Sunday, Federer shook his head to clear the cobwebs, looked around at the landscape, took a deep breath and played just the kind of match he needed against the guy who made him forget how good he truly is. Oh, I know Nadal was tired and curiously passive, I saw him fail to reach shots that are usually fodder for his topspin cannon. But that doesn't really matter - do you think it mattered to Federer? Do you think it mattered to Nadal? You all heard what he said:  . .If I'm tired it's because I played longer than I should have yesterday. . .

Translation: It's my own danged fault that I had a semi-final war.

Let's look at Federer's accomplishment on the two fronts that most count, the strategic and the tactical. On the strategic front,  Madrid could not have ended up on the ATP calendar at a better time for Federer. Given Federer's age (27), experience, and record, it's safe to say that playing the Euro-clay events was important to Federer in only one respect: the degree to which it might help him win at Roland Garros. He had little to gain by knocking himself out in the run-up events, and even that little could be negated if Nadal managed to rack up a few more Ws at The Mighty Fed's expense in the process.

Federer needed just two things out of this clay-court season: to experiment with whatever new tactics he could think up, and to get adequately comfortable to playing on red dirt under competitive conditions. That means one or two events, preferably without meeting Nadal, for it's far more important for Federer to make Nadal wonder what he's thinking than the other way around. The demise of the Hamburg tournament and the addition of Madrid was a great logistical development for Federer, even though he notched up his last win on clay over Nadal (in 2007)  at the event Madrid replaced, Hamburg.

The combination of altitude and surface speed at Madrid helped Federer a lot more than it did Nadal, who had reservations about the way the altitude would affect his preparation for the French Open, and who made it a point note that the red clay in Madrid was, at least in relative terms, extremely "fast." Looking back, I now believe that Federer probably only played Monte Carlo in order to remain in the good graces of a key sponsor, Rolex (he lost to Stan Wawrinka and seemed not too upset about it). That means he budgeted two tournaments as a run-up to Paris: Rome and Madrid. Although TMF lost to Novak Djokovic in the Rome semis, he got the matches he wanted, on a surface well-suited to his game (until Madrid, Rome was thought to have the fastest clay). He got the same - and more - in Madrid.

So, while Madrid posed an unwelcome complication for Nadal, it was a boon for Federer, enabling him to accomplish three important objectives: He tuned up his clay-court game under ideal conditions for building his confidence; he got the competitive preparation he needed and, as an unexpected bonus, he beat his rival, on his rival's home turf, to plant what doubts or fears he could in Nadal's mind. It's funny, isn't it, what a significant change a tweaking of the calendar can represent.

Strategically, Federer is in better shape going into Roland Garros than he has been since the year he took out Nadal in Hamburg. And while the clay in Paris isn't apt to be as slow as ever (slower than Rome or Madrid), Federer will be playing on it with greater confidence  - especially if the weather is hot and dry, as is sometimes the case.

The other facet of Federer's win in Madrid was the tactical - the specific things he did to beat Nadal. First off, he played with a confidence we haven't seen in some time. At the start of the match,  while the strains of Disco Inferno still echoed in the Caja Magica, (Did they really play that cheesy number  to warm up the crowd? What next, Ion Tiriac doing the frug?), Federer looked grim and distracted, the way he has so often in the past year or so. While it's nice to know that even The Mighty Fed sometimes hates to go to work, the furrowed brow and tight lips don't exactly convey or inspire confidence in what he's about to do. But by the time he hit that marvelous forehand drop shot and held comfortably for 2-all, it was clear that things might go a little differently this time.

Ultimately, Federer's win rested on a few critical and mostly subtle changes in his game, and his approach to what might be called "the Nadal Problem." Federer seemed for the first time in ages to want to attack - to take the game to Nadal and pressure him. He played right on the baseline or even inside it, looking to take Nadal's ball on the rise (Nadal mostly played from a good six or seven feet behind the baseline). Although Federer rarely took his aggressive posture to the serve-and-volley or chip-and-charge realm, he served and volleyed some, and even chipped and charged a bit.

Mostly, though, he seemed to be looking for the short ball to jump on, and Nadal obliged him. Federer's ability to attack was a function of court speed and his position on the court, but it was also a sign of confidence. Federer has always been a little reluctant to engage in problem-solving, and it's partly because doing so undermines the sense that he's a spectacular natural talent whose every move is inherently and casually elegant. But inside the magic box, he was willing to get down and dirty.

Rafa Federer also showed more variety and deception than he has in the past. He used the drop shot sagaciously, and he came up with a new solution to the ongoing problem of finding himself pinned in his own backhand corner - that was the forehand, hit down his own backhand line (inside-in?) after Nadal had already started his sprint toward his own forehand corner in anticipation of the devastating Federer inside-out shot.

This time, Federer also handled Nadal's lefty serve better, even though Nadal managed an 80 per cent first-serve conversion percentage. One of the elements that has always hurt Federer in his matches with Nadal is the Federer has never been an aggressive returner; he likes to get the ball back in play, because he knows he can take control of and dictate the terms of a rally. That's not good enough against Nadal, who will seize on any opportunity to take control of the rally, starting with his opponent's return.

Still, it was Federer's serve, not his return, that played the biggest role in the victory. Although his first-serve conversion percentage was a solid if unremarkable 63 per cent, his second serve had sting and penetration, and so much spin that one ad-court delivery pulled Nadal so far off the court that he disappeared from my screen. Mainly, Federer served with authority, and the threat that he might attack behind any serve had to be a constant source of concern for Nadal. Federer attacked the net 18 times, and won 10 of those points. That may not sound like a great statistic, but it doesn't take into account the overall effect his willingness to attack had on Nadal's comfort and shot selection. As Mike Estep once told his then-protege Martina Navratilova, "If you're not getting passed 25, 30 times, you're not coming in enough."

When you combine all these elements, you end up with a textured, nuanced game distinguished by an exquisitely controlled aggression - the only kind of aggression that might be effective against as formidable a marksman as Nadal. All along, Federer has been insisting that he doesn't need to make any major changes in order to beat Nadal, and on Sunday he showed exactly what he meant by that.

Whether he can duplicate the feat against Nadal at Roland Garros is an entirely different question, and one it would be importunate to ask unless the meeting became imminent. For different reasons, the big challenge for both men will be fighting through the field to get at each other.

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Posted by whatever 05/19/2009 at 01:46 PM

back to work

Posted by Andrew 05/19/2009 at 01:48 PM

Pete: you write "All along, Federer has been insisting that he doesn't need to make any major changes in order to beat Nadal, and on Sunday he showed exactly what he meant by that."

I think what makes a lot of us Federer fans nervous is that if he doesn't make significant improvements to his game, he'll end up beating Nadal 20% of the times they play. I'd prefer the ratio to be nearer 50:50.

Posted by Mrs Tennis 05/19/2009 at 01:52 PM

Interesting analysis. In the long run, however, the scenario still boils down to Roger's one time effort against a subpar Rafa. I still say that if Rafa had been Rafa it would have been a different final.

Posted by Gina 05/19/2009 at 01:53 PM

Me, too!

Posted by Vie 05/19/2009 at 01:56 PM

I thought Roger was back to his Wimbledon 2008 form. And he did try to be more opportunistic and deceptive. Noticed also the wide serves which drew Nadal too far out.

Posted by tetsuo 05/19/2009 at 02:01 PM

Fed beat nadal because Nadal was tired and Madrid clay court makes the ball bounce differently compared to others clay court. I really don't think Fed will win French Open if he will play Nadal.

Posted by robbyfan 05/19/2009 at 02:03 PM

Can we just let it go people? This has been talked to death in the other thread, why start it all over here?

Posted by sally 05/19/2009 at 02:04 PM

roger will not win the french. he won't even get to the final.

Posted by zoey 05/19/2009 at 02:07 PM

Fed played well and it was a deserved victory. As Nadal himself said, if he was tired it was because he failed to play better against Djokovic.

The conditions are so different from Roland Garros, that I do not think this victory will help him much in any tactical sense. And while Nadal's tiredness should not subtract from Fed's victory, one cannot but take it into account when weighing Fed's chances against him in the future.

One thing I think this whole clay season showed, including Madrid, is that Djokovic is shaping up to be Rafa's biggest rival moving forward, because unlike Murray, he has shown that he can stand with him on all surfaces.

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 02:10 PM


All very good points for sure. If we are looking at the Madrid final in a strictly "Roger" sense, then I agree that this was a big boost for him. But in the larger picture of the FO I truly believe it means absolutely nothing. Roger himself said as much when he was asked if this loss would affect Rafa in a detrimental way. Roger said exactly what Rafa said in that this tournament is so completely different than RG in so many ways. It's probably close to a hard court than a clay court.

The strategy that has always been, and will always be, effective against Roger at RG, playing consistently to Roger's BH, hasn't changed. That strategy was ineffective against Roger in Madrid because of the different way the ball bounces.

The specific things you mention that Roger was able to do in Madrid to beat Rafa he won't be able to do as well in Paris, and we all know that. His serve won't be as effective, his BH won't be as effective, and he won't be able to run around to his FH as often as he was able to in Madrid.

I actually don't think Rafa was that physically tired. I honestly believe his heart just wasn't in it and I also feel he was trying to make sure he didn't aggravate his right knee any more so close to Paris. I'm sure if Roger had come out off his game we would have seen Rafa try harder, but once he saw that Roger was on the money the little fire left burning in Rafa's little heart was extinguished.

VAMOS RAFA! Come on Paris!

Posted by Lawrence Ian Reed 05/19/2009 at 02:11 PM

Regarding the quote: "All along, Federer has been insisting that he doesn't need to make any major changes in order to beat Nadal, and on Sunday he showed exactly what he meant by that."

With something that is working well (as Federer's game always is), the bigger the adjustment that is made, the more likely that that adjustment is going to end up making things worse.

Federer is already doing "well" and some adjustments may need to be made in order to beat Nadal. That being said, whatever these adjustments are, they are small.

Posted by John Culhane 05/19/2009 at 02:13 PM

Great, nuanced and penetrating post -- as usual.

But don't you have a DVR??

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 02:14 PM

And no, to you Fed fans out there, I am not in some kind of denial and have no problem at all with Roger beating Rafa. Roger is my second favourite player and if Rafa can't win a tournament then I usually want Roger to win, although lately I am losing a bit of my affection for TMF just by some of the off-court comments that have been a bit unseemly for such a great champion like him.

This win in Madrid will be great for Roger's confidence. Big wins usually are and he was in desperate need of some confidence boosting, but that is where the conversation begins and ends. Madrid was all about Roger getting his groove back, and he did that.

But, for Rafa and probably Nole, Madrid was just one last chance to polish up some of their game before heading to Paris. They've both already played plenty of clay-court tennis and Rafa has plenty of big titles going into RG.

The only guy who may be in trouble in the confidence department in Paris is Murray who has failed miserably to live up to even the smallest expectations for someone who is supposed to be the #3 player in the world.

Posted by melancho 05/19/2009 at 02:15 PM

Interesting post, Pete. I do recall however you once remarked, after FO 08, that we had seen in Rafa, the endgame on clay. I see no reason in this analysis to conclude any differently that Federer has solved this. RG 09 won't be a blowout, but if these two reach other again, I expect fully for Rafa to win. We underestimate him all the time.

Posted by burnbabyburn? 05/19/2009 at 02:15 PM

**If we are looking at the Madrid final in a strictly "Roger" sense**....
Seems this whole article was written in that vein, as is typical, right?

Posted by Mrs Tennis 05/19/2009 at 02:16 PM

On time management, a musing and a reminder:

On time management: Rafa's pace comes more from deliberation, training and personality than a flagrant desire to flaunt the time rules or gamesmanship. He has actually said he does not want to get a warning so he heeds the time much more closely than in his earlier years. But, come on, calling a time violation on either Rafa or Novak in that Madrid semi-final would have grossly interrupted the spirit of that match which was extraordinary. It also would have dented the spectators' enjoyment and participation - and they were all over that match. Even the commentators were running out of superlatives to describe the shot making and all that was going on. I think the Chair showed great wisdom and discernment in leaving the players alone to just play their hearts out!

A musing: I wonder if the officials will schedule any of Roger's matches on Court 2 at Wimbledon this year? (Or is Court 2 gone already?) Thinking of the controversy over scheduling Venus on Court 2 last year and of course the infamous outing that happened to Sampras on that court. Hmmmmmmm.

A reminder: At the Battle of the Surfaces (remember that one?) where Rafa and Roger dueled on both grass and clay in one exhibition - Rafa won.

Posted by Nic 05/19/2009 at 02:16 PM

"Federer has always been a little reluctant to engage in problem-solving, and it's partly because doing so undermines the sense that he's a spectacular natural talent whose every move is inherently and casually elegant. But inside the magic box, he was willing to get down in dirty."

Can someone please explain this for me?

On another point, I'm still not convinced that the subtle changes while refreshing (and thanks Pete for pointing them out so clearly) employed amount to anything approaching a Nadal solution. They worked on this particular day, but shots like the 'inside-in' are high risk - or at least they have been for a misfiring Federer who has for the most part of this year struggled with with consistency of his forehand. I don't know that he could do the same on any given day, and I don't yet believe that he could sustain it over 5 sets.

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 02:16 PM

robbyfan: 2:03 p.m.

I think people are still talking about it because, well, that's what Pete's post is about. Isn't it showing a sign of disrespect to Pete to NOT comment on what his piece is about?

Start up another conversation if you want. I'm sure if it's interesting we'll all join in. I'd love to have something else to talk about too.

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 02:20 PM

burnbabyburn: 2:15 p.m.

Really? Then why so many references to Rafa in the article??? Or did you read it?

Posted by Marie 05/19/2009 at 02:21 PM

LOL Oh man, the press the last couple days has been hilarious. This is probably just what Rafa wanted, for everyone to turn their eyes to Federer and let him prep for his Holy Grail in peace.

Comparing Madrid's failure clay court to the pristine lush clay of Paris is a joke. In best of five, whether Federer had one good day or not even with his confidence boosted, Rafa still wins. Novak poses the only real threat and even then, it's questionable. At least theirs is becoming a decent rivalry.

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/19/2009 at 02:22 PM

MrsTennis, did it ever occur to you that if Roger had been Roger, the AO Open would have been different? Hamburg last year might have been different? Monte Carlo (4-0 leads!) would have been different?

this form on the day doesnt just go ONE way, Roger has been abysmal for months, and finally showed some life...i think that was the biggest surprise for Nadal, who sorry to say is human and isnt going to play like Superman every single match of his life...

Posted by thebigapple 05/19/2009 at 02:23 PM

Excellent post.

Nadal is still the prohibitive favorite in Paris and as the younger man, he will likely own the future. But it was great to see the aging lion roar again.

Posted by Ronnie 05/19/2009 at 02:23 PM

In that final in Madrid, it was fresh Federer and on the other side it wasn't real Rafa. On 15:40 in the 10th game, he missed two shots that he never misses. I don't think Pete that you would wake up to watch the re-broadcasting, lol. Yes, Fed played well in the final, but that's not the real picture. On Roland Garros there are so many opponents that can beat Fed: Murray, Novak, Tsonga, Verdasco, Wawrinka... How many can beat Rafa? Only one-Novak!

Posted by TB 05/19/2009 at 02:24 PM

Wow, astonishing insights by "sally" and "testuo" above, you guys are some real thinkers.

Posted by Timothy Burtle 05/19/2009 at 02:24 PM

I'm just going to say it:

I don't know why you all love Nadal so much. He's simply a slugger. Sure, he's improved over the last few years, but he still doesn't have the skill and/or talent that Federer does.

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/19/2009 at 02:25 PM

Pete enjoyed this, i know i give you a bad time but honestly this is one of those posts where I sense only respect in the tone and none of that dismissive stuff Ive noticed so often, even after some Wimbledon finals... gotta say props about the Madrid predictions, now im a tad nervous about your RG crystal ball, but I too think this win could prove vital to both their futures, this is worth far more than Madrid, thats for sure, it sends a messsage to Rafa AND murray and Djoker, Fed is formidable and can pull it off on the BIG sure both Murray and Djoker still have big doubts they can do the same...

Posted by Genuine Realist 05/19/2009 at 02:26 PM

I have been meaning to post a review of 'Strokes of Genius' and other comments for a few days now, and this would seem to be the time.

(a) I got Wertheim's book, 'Strokes of Genius' about two weeks ago. It basically covers the 2008 Wimbledon final set by set, using the rhythm of the match as a platform for various digressions into the players and background of the game. The model is obviously John McPhee's classic Levels of the Game. It's pretty good, but not that good, mostly because McPhee could use the disparate backgrounds of Clark Graebner and Arthur Ashe for deeper social comment.

The book is in decent balance between Nadal and Federer. That said, I do believe Wertheim favors Federer just a bit. Early on, he quotes the boxing writer AJ Leibling on a fight between Archie Moore, a very skilled light heavyweight boxer of the early 50's, and another fighter, to the effect that watching Moore lose to the other was like watching a skilled opera singer be drowned out by someone who could only shout. The opera singer in the equation per Wertheim is Federer. Nadal is the guy who can only shout.

(c) That must sound pretty annoying to Nadal fans, but hold the phone for a sec. Although Wertheim doesn't give context to the Leibling quote, I'd bet money the guy 'who could only shout' was Rocky Marciano, who had quite a cachet (as well as a pulverizing right hook) back in 50 years ago. Boxing analogies come easily to tennis, for the obvious reason that they are both one on one sports. The distinction between boxer/slugger goes way, way back = Corbett/Sullivan, Dempsey/Tunney, Robinson/LaMotta. Moore/Marciano, ALi/Frazier, etc. - and being cast as the slugger is not necessarily negative. Sluggers are usually more popular. So casting Nadal in the slugger's role is not necessarily faint praise.

(d) These are great times for tennis, a fact about which the US public remains blissfully indifferent. You have one player who exhibit an almost angelic grace and efficiency, and the other who has (or used to have - more of that anon) more raw vitality than any athlete I have ever seen in my life. I was amused by the controversy in the blog yesterday about Federer's comment on Nadal's one dimensional game.

So all he can do is retrieve? Yeah, and all Galli-Curci can do is sing (quoting Damon Runyon).

(e) Finishing off with the book, I found myself most enlightened about Tony Nadal and the Nadal family. They've been impressive to me with their sportsmanship and good nature in the stands, but are even more impressive as Wertheim describes them. Rafa's tenacity and fire obviously have an origin in his talent, but his uncle's firmness and philosophy, thoroughly thought out, have doubtless refined the ore to the current razor sharp edge.

All in all, a good book.

I have some comments on the Madrid match and Roland Garros. But this post is long enough. Later.

Posted by just horsen(1234, IT'S TIME FOR #5!) 05/19/2009 at 02:26 PM

I don't really think that the Madrid final will effect RG excepting Roger's confidence, where it will probably have a big effect that will at least have something to do with the outcome in Paris. But, there are alot of factors that were invloved in that match that, I think, will not effect on RG at all, and it just so happens that alot of these factors DID make a huge difference in the Madrid final. To begin with Nadal really wasn't keen on playing Madrid in the first place, followed by the outrage over the proposed blue courts. Nadal has a personal feud with Evil Lord Blue Tiriac, which affected his atitude toward hte whole thing to some degree. The you've got the altitude, which can effect accuracy among other things, the fast courts, etc. Nadal also had that slight thigh pull or whatever it was combined with wearing himself out vs. Nole. My point is that all of those things will have no effect on Paris whatsoever. The area's where Madird will have some affect on Paris are limited to Roger's confidence and Nadal's sudden inablity to play remotely close to the basline. I mean like if the guys learned anything the last year it should be that playing passively vs. Fedex does NOT work! The other thing was the negative, I don't care what happens I just want to get this thing over with, atitude that Nadal exhibited in part of the Semi vs. Nole, and was faintly present in the final. I don't know if most of that was still over his disagreements with Tiriac, but I hope he gets over it before Paris. Overall, I don't think anybody's got much of a chance to challenge Nadal this year.

Posted by fedexfan 05/19/2009 at 02:27 PM

Fed may not win the FO. Heck he may not even make it to the finals! But, his willingness to problem solve & retool his game will provide rich dividends in wimby. For the first time, I've seen fed try something different. He cut out his suicidal chip return, he was willing to move forward & was serving much better. With the current form, TMF is due for a GS either in Wimby or US open.

Posted by robbyfan 05/19/2009 at 02:28 PM

Lilscot-I wasn't trying to diss Pete, believe me, I have done that enough, just ask him! I am not sure why this new post was written at all, it was all said in the other post. I do agree with the above poster who asked Pete, don't you own a DVR?

Posted by Master Ace 05/19/2009 at 02:30 PM

Interesting view in your post and your ESPN post on 5/4/09 was spot on. We will see if Roger can complete the career Slam in less than 3 weeks at Roland Garros. Right now, I think Rafael will win his 5th consecutive French Open title. If these guys played in the final, Rafael and Uncle Toni will be making adjustments to what Roger done in Madrid. One of those adjustments would be that Rafael would play on the baseline and not 6 to 7 feet behind. In 2008 on clay, Roger got off to the lead but once Rafael got on the baseline, he dictated play with his accurate groundstrokes which kept Roger from attacking.

Posted by Arun 05/19/2009 at 02:30 PM

"The only guy who may be in trouble in the confidence department in Paris is Murray who has failed miserably to live up to even the smallest expectations for someone who is supposed to be the #3 player in the world."

I'm not so sure about it. For a man who started this clay court season with 11-14 winning record on this surface, a SF and a QF appearance in two of the clay court Masters is commendable. He should be more confident than ever when he enters RG.

Posted by Nick 05/19/2009 at 02:31 PM

The truth is, neither of them played that well. Federer coughed up 25 errors in two sets. And is this post points out, Nadal's less than inspiring foot speed resulted in an equal number of winners for Federer, all of which he needed. But it's still dangerous living to give up that many errors in less then 90 minutes.

But lest we forget, it's been Novak Djokovic who's been the all around 2nd Best Clay Court Guy this year, winning his own tournament and reaching 2 Masters Series Finals and a Semi Final. He's truly turned a corner mentally, hanging in there point by point in every match he plays. His effort against Nadal in Madrid was pure courage. But even more impressive was his dispatching of Federer in Rome, coming back from a set & a break down, saving break points from being a double break down in the second, and even coming back from a break down in the third. Very impressive. In two sets in Rome, Djokovic stepped up to serve when down 1-3, and in each set reeled off 5 games in succession against Federer. I'm thinking he'll have plenty to say about the outcome of The French Open.

Posted by just horsen(1234, IT'S TIME FOR #5!) 05/19/2009 at 02:32 PM

lilscot @ 2:10

I completely agree with you. Rafa's heart wasn't in it, and that made all the difference.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa and JJ for FO Champions 2009!!! 05/19/2009 at 02:32 PM

*waves hello*

As a Rafa KAD - *frazzles* This could be such a turning point in the rivalry...and although the rivalry fan in me wants that, the Rafa fan wants desperately for my boy to keep his dominance. ;-)

As a clay freak - YES YES YES it's nearly the French Open!!!!! *dances*

As someone whose tennis imagination has been completely taken over by the Federer-Nadal rivalry - totally sympathise with the "Roger-Rafa, MUST. SEE. MATCH." feeling. :)

As something of a Fed fan, it was fabulous to see him get his game together and play with real confidence again. :)

I do have two questions, though - is Feddy still in denial, and does he still need a coach? ;-)

I've thought all this year that Roger would go all-out for the FO, and I do kind of expect another Fedal final. It's about time we had a classic FO final from these two. :)

Wish could stay and follow but am exhausted and lots to do, will check back in in the morning, goodnight, all. :)

Posted by Andrew 05/19/2009 at 02:33 PM

Once more, with feeling: Federer's comments in his press conference referred to the suggestion that a very long match would lead to Nadal's not being in good condition to play Sunday's match, not an attempt to work the refs.

Nadal and Djokovic played 245 points in Saturday's match: Federer and Nalbandian played 229 points in 2 hours, 45 minutes in their Rome 2006 SF. Federer's point was that he expected Nadal wouldn't have any problems with fitness. From experience, Federer is aware that Nadal is very fit.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa and JJ for FO Champions 2009!!! 05/19/2009 at 02:35 PM

Agree with Arun on Murray.

*really goes*

Posted by just horsen(1234, IT'S TIME FOR #5!) 05/19/2009 at 02:36 PM

One more thing, I'm pulling for a Nole\Rafa final in Paris. It would make things so interesting. And I think that Nole has the ablity to beat Fedex on clay if they meet in the semi's.

Posted by Nic 05/19/2009 at 02:40 PM

Arun - perhaps Muzz should be more confident, but the way he spoke about his clay season during the Wimbledon roof opening, it didn't sound like he was.

Posted by Tfactor 05/19/2009 at 02:42 PM

Nadal and Djokovic played 245 points"
Ah, but how many shots did it take to win those 245 points?

Anyway, I was impressed with Roger during that final and whether Rafa was tired, unispired (or what have you) it was a convincing victory for Roger which should do wonders for his confidence.

On the other side though, I happen to think this defeat will also work to Rafa's advantage because it will inspire him to try harder the next time they meet.

As a tennis fan, may long live the rivalry! As a Rafa fan, I agree with Jewell, may Rafa continue to dominate.

Posted by Tigress 05/19/2009 at 02:44 PM

Very perceptive and informative post, Pete, as per usual. Well worth waiting for. You caught the key of what Roger must do to beat Nadal in the phrase "exquisitely controlled aggression".

This is the magic median that Federer must achieve against Rafa, in between the fatal passive baseline defeatism and chip returns we've seen so often, and his kamikaze suicide tactics of RG 2008. Roger managed to achieve this exquisite perfect balance on Sunday, and it worked beautifully. Just maybe this will be his magical career turning point against Nadal. Starting in less than 3 weeks.

BTW, I can't believe that a top professional like you doesn't record major matches on VHS or DVR. What if TC late-night coverage got disrupted, or your alarm didn't go off?

Posted by Cheshire Cat 05/19/2009 at 02:44 PM

This win's a sure confidence-booster for Federer. His chances of winning in Paris have doubled, at the very least.

Sadly we are dealing here with the arithmetic of infinitesmals...

Posted by Arun 05/19/2009 at 02:47 PM

Nic: Perhaps Muzz is humble too? :) Nah - what I mean is there is no reason why he shouldn't be confident enough to do better than the previous years. But honestly I don't know if he can survive more than 3 or 4 best_of_5 matches on clay atm (though the loss could be truly coz of his relative incompetence/inexperience on clay rather than a confidence issue).

Andrew: Nice points at 2:33.

Posted by Andrew Friedman (a.k.a. Rolo Tomassi) 05/19/2009 at 02:49 PM


First of all, I know what I'm getting you for Christmas: A TIVO!

I was stunned by how perfectly Fed allocated the different aspects of his game on Sunday and by the straight set result. I was also blown away by how well Djokovic has played Nadal in their last two clay meetings. One does get the feeling that there will be some kind of big surprise at Roland Garros this year, although if one has that feeling, can it really be considered a surprise anymore?

Beyond that, I found Nadal to be strangely weakened by Saturday's match - it wasn't just his speed. His shots on Sunday seemed to have no pop on them, at least on television. But, to me, he didn't look as tired as he played... don't know what to make of that. His whole performance struck me as odd.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 05/19/2009 at 02:50 PM

Interesting piece Pedro. Obviously, as a Rafa KAD, I had wanted him to win, but tbh, I'm happy for Fed and Fedfans, and happy that the so-called "greatest rivalry in sports" can accurately be described as a rivalry again. Twas becoming one sided.
I actually think Rafa was quite pleased for Roger as well, but then again that's no surprise as he's the ultimate Fed fangirl.

For my money, Rafa will 5peat at RG, but as Am would say, we gonna see, no?

Thanks Pedro.

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/19/2009 at 02:51 PM

lol i agree Pete, DVR is the best invention of our time, get it! any kind of cable you get will have the service, and trust me, when certain players play FOUR hour matches, you thank your stars for fast forward through all the ticks, towels, trainers, water bottle shuffling, etc.

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/19/2009 at 02:52 PM

Tfactor, had to laugh, do you really think Rafa EVER needs to 'try harder' on the tennis court?

Posted by tina 05/19/2009 at 02:57 PM

Love, love, love the Rafa/Nole rivalry - both in terms of the tennis and the personalities. Count me in as one of those people hoping they meet in the RG final, instead of in a semi.

Posted by Tfactor 05/19/2009 at 02:58 PM

He could have tried harder on Sunday, no?

Posted by Eugene 05/19/2009 at 03:04 PM

Same story again with rafa's fans.
Should Fed loose - oh ... "the King is dead" ,
Should Rafa loose - oh ... he is just tired or injured or "personal issues".
Time to change the broken record.

Great, great post. Of course, it's all about opportunity for Rogers, nothing more. Nadal is not in the mood to hand it over easily.

Posted by Rosangel 05/19/2009 at 03:05 PM

Pete: you should have heard what they were playing during the trophy ceremony in Rome this year - Chariots of Fire music followed by the Village People's "Macho Man". I said that we shouldn't tell you because it would give you even more reasons to repeat what you used to say - that the old Rafa in piratas looked like a Village People reject. But what the heck.

Posted by Tony 05/19/2009 at 03:06 PM

How many clay matches did Rafa play? How many did Roger? Rafa played four tournaments, won three and reached the final in the fourth. And the Fed? He played in three, did not reach the final in two, reached the final in and won one. All in all, who is much better prepared for Roland Garros then?

The Fed was never really challenged in Madrid. Blame it on a lackluster performance by Murray,who could have challenged him. Same comment re Roddick, who basically crumbled in the third. And Del Potro was just uninspiring. But I suspect that Roland Garros will be very different. It is after a best of five sets tournament. Who can stand up to the rigors of the French Open???

Much depends on who comes to Paris in a much better physical shape and mental outlook...

Posted by BlueDog 05/19/2009 at 03:07 PM

Ummm, I think we can all agree (<---sarcasm) that Nole is the THIRD best clay court player. Rafa-2 ATP 1000, Fed 1 ATP 1000, Nole 1 ATP 250.

As to RG, by all means put Nole in Feds half. As someone else said, if Fed can't beat Nole he wouldn't beat Rafa anyway.

Also, why don't we reframe the discussion on Rafa being tired. I like to think of it as Federer making much more efficient use of his resources. Rafa is the Hummer, Fed the Prius; guess who goes further on a tank of gas? Rafa is causing global warming!!!

Arun- Thanks for resurrecting my earlier post, it's nice to know someone was reading!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa and JJ for FO Champions 2009!!! 05/19/2009 at 03:08 PM

*dashing back in*

do we *have* to have a Fedal war in the comments? - Rafa's fans are this, Fed fans are that, well Rafa takes too long, well, Fed is arrogant...etc etc etc.

this would be a good post to just appreciate the riches/heights/depths of the rivalry, no? Or even to suggest that there were other tennis matches played in Madrid last week?

*feels horribly preachy* - but I can't help it.

Posted by frances 05/19/2009 at 03:13 PM

Tfactor_ I agree on how this defeat kept the rivalry arrive- build roger's confidence and inspired rafa to continue to try his very best!!!! I was happy for roger to win his first masters title since 2007...and Happier for Rafa smiling during the ceremony.

Lilscot - you have officially become a constant twiber here:P

HI to all Rafa Fans:P

Posted by Tigress 05/19/2009 at 03:17 PM

Madrid has electified and changed the clay season. More keyed up for RG than I have been years, including '07 after Hamburg. And the whole clay season last year was just so dismal: mono, collapses, the RG slaughter.

Roger needs to emulate his BP % at Madrid: 100% (2/2). Definitely better than that 0/10 or whatever it was in the 1st set of '07 RG final. Painful just remembering it.

I sense Something Big in the air this year at Paris. Change. Think Roger or Nole is ready to take down Rafa this time and provide some real drama. Fed says he's gotten a "moral boost" from getting married and becoming a father. It's translating into his game as well. Career Grand Slam coming up in 3 weeks. Then the "Channel Cup", joining Rafa and Borg as the only winners in 30 years.

Posted by rick 05/19/2009 at 03:18 PM

I agree with the general outlines of Pete's interesting, albeit long-winded, post.

But all this only becomes significant if RF wins the French. If he doesn't, and particularly if he loses to Nadal in Paris, his win in Madrid is just a footnote.

Also, I think Pete's analysis is premature. We simply don't know how much of RF's win is due to a successful change in strategy, and how much owes to the faster Madrid clay and Nadal's lack of energy. Moreover these things are interactive--an aggressive strategy that worked on fast Clay against Nadal at less than his best may fail in Paris. If it succeeds in Paris, it certainly is big news. If not, who cares about another failed RF strategy tow win the French?

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/19/2009 at 03:21 PM

how can analysis be 'premature'...isnt that the nature of analysis? when should be analyze RG, after its over?

Posted by Tfactor 05/19/2009 at 03:23 PM

Hi Frances!
Yes, I believe this will inspire Rafa for RG.
I think Rafa really enjoys playing (and beating) Fed, and I say this having heard some things he said, in Spanish and away from the tennis courts, after the AO'09 final. Things I'm sure he wouldn't be caught dead saying in English and for public comsumption.

Posted by Ryan 05/19/2009 at 03:26 PM

I think that maybe what we can glean from Madrid '09 is that Nadal's clay dominance is no longer a 100% foregone conclusion. I'm not suggesting in any way that Nadal isn't the overwhelming favorite in Paris. But Djokovic has slowly chipped away at Nadal's clay-stained armor, and Roger showed that he can make the small changes (forehand returns, staying glued to the baseline, the lovely dropper that I think would be key in a potential Roland Garros final) to at least ensure a competitive match. Rafa's still marching to the semis and finals in any clay tournament he plays, but he's also going to have to face the pressure of being the pursued in a new way.

Before he became #1, he could bludgeon through any draw on clay, and everyone would marvel, and then the presser comes and he'd remind everyone that, wait a minute, I'm still #2. Clay may have been his domain, but there was still something higher to reach for. Now he's at the apex, expected to win virtually EVERY tournament he plays, but especially on clay. And I think this ratchets up the pressure to a different level. (Remember how Roger = grass, and his loss at W last year immediately meant END OF AN ERA?) Furthermore, Nadal doesn't have convenience? of knowing there's only one guy nipping at his heels (as he was to Roger).

As I mentioned, Nadal looks to be in great shape for his 5th RG. But if Djoko meets Rafa in the semis, and the Roger awaits the winner, we could be in for a stunner.

Posted by just horsen(1234, IT'S TIME FOR #5!) 05/19/2009 at 03:26 PM

"I don't know why you all love Nadal so much. He's simply a slugger. Sure, he's improved over the last few years, but he still doesn't have the skill and/or talent that Federer does."

Nadal is not just a "slugger". He's a thinker, a highly skilled tennis player, and has a highly underrated net game. On top of that he's a personality who makes the game that much more interesting.

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/19/2009 at 03:27 PM

Rick, how are Masters Series tournanetn wins just 'footnotes' for any player? Im sure every player would love to have Madrid's 'footnote' in their year, no to mention the ranking points!

though for Federer, yes, it is nothing as a tournament, but a second win over Nadal on clay acutally DOES mean a lot and when people write about Nadal on clay they have to include Federer as the only player with any notable success, snapping two big winning streaks...

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/19/2009 at 03:29 PM

if Djoker plays Rafa again in RG< its gonna be a beatdown, just like last year....DJoker blew his...chance... this time around, he wont be up for that kind of fight again, mark my words...

Posted by imjimmy 05/19/2009 at 03:30 PM

Selected parts from Rafa's presser yesterday. I like the confidence reply... It's just amazing how much grief Rafa gets after one loss :)

Q: Is your confidence affected by this defeat?
R.N.: I am the world number one, I won three out of four clay court tournaments, I?m still on the list for London. I?m delighted with the first five months of the season. I don?t know what else I can do to be confident.

Q: Do you think that Roger Federer has the possibilities to win in Paris ?
R.N.: He's one of the favourites in Paris. But before talking about the final, you have to get past the first round. A Grand Slam tournament is won by starting with the first round. If you would give me on paper that I would meet him in the Roland Garros final, I would sign right now.

Posted by tina 1 05/19/2009 at 03:30 PM

Pete, as always it is always Roger for you. You did not even bother to give a single thougt about Novak/Rafa match which was 5 levels better than this one. Roger will never win Rafa on RG.

Posted by just horsen(1234, IT'S TIME FOR #5!) 05/19/2009 at 03:32 PM

I still don't get how Rafa struggly in one tournament = Fed's got him figured out and Nadal's clay court dominance is over for some people. Y'all come one, the guy's been playing practically non-stop since march. On top of that you've got the altitude and the fast courts, Jetboy's grudge against Evil Lord Blue Tiriac. Madrid is not your normal clay tournament, especially this year with Rafa. The guy HAS lost on clay before. and believe it or not he's come back to dominate just as much in the next tournament.

Posted by Campi 05/19/2009 at 03:33 PM


Well... Rafa didn't sweep the clay season last year or the year before either. So I'm not sure how this year was so radically different. Maybe Djokovic improved, but that's about it.

Posted by Master Ace 05/19/2009 at 03:34 PM

Will not question Roger winning the 2nd leg of the "Channel Cup" again but I still see Rafael winning the 1st leg of the "Channel Cup" for the 5th consecutive year. Therefore, no 2009 Channel Cup for any ATP player. On the WTA, Justine came close in 2006 winning the French and making the final at Wimbledon. I remember that year because Brad Gilbert predicted that Justine was going to win all 7 matches in 14 sets. Serena was the last WTA person to accomplish this in 2002 during the Serena Slam.

Posted by just horsen(1234, IT'S TIME FOR #5!) 05/19/2009 at 03:34 PM

that was supposed to be "struggling" not "struggly". anyway I'm off to go make a cup of tea and do Algebra.

Posted by Syd 05/19/2009 at 03:34 PM


I enjoyed this article.

To those who say the win in Madrid doesn't mean anything for Paris -- on the face of it, it would seem not. But, I'm not so sure. Federer is coming back into some sort of stride right now, we'll see if he gets to the final, and then we'll talk. He should never be underestimated, and I'm sure the Nadals know that.

Posted by tina 05/19/2009 at 03:34 PM

Posted by Rosangel 05/19/2009 @ 3:05 PM

Pete: you should have heard what they were playing during the trophy ceremony in Rome this year - Chariots of Fire music followed by the Village People's "Macho Man". I said that we shouldn't tell you because it would give you even more reasons to repeat what you used to say - that the old Rafa in piratas looked like a Village People reject. But what the heck.

The dj in Belgrade played loads of Madonna, and that disco version of Alanis Morrissette's "Uninvited"- but when it was all over, Queen's "We Are The Champions". I was laughing so hard, I didn't really think too hard about which "we" they meant by choosing that song - The Djokovic Family, the Tournament folks, Serbia? Cos there was only one "champion" - and not as yet "... of the world". But even then I thought it was a better choice than "Chariots of Fire"

Posted by Mr Rick 05/19/2009 at 03:35 PM

Do tell Tfactor?!!! Was Rafa miffed Roger kinda put a damper on the AO trophy ceremony or something...?

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/19/2009 at 03:37 PM

horsin, take off these Rafa lenses and see life from another point of view, it IS significant on many levels, but no one is saying its going to change anything, either, it just stirs the pot and awakened a player who everyone knows at his best has the weapons to reclaim No. 1... Rafa got it because Fed clearly fell apart and lost his game, we havnt seen TMF for a long time and he finally showed up yesterday....

Posted by Campi 05/19/2009 at 03:37 PM

It's funny how Tigress and other Fedfans all claimed that they despised clay season as recently as a week ago... and now RG is supposed to be the most exciting thing on the calendar. Haha... Let's just say all it, tennis sucks unless Fed is winning. I'm overgeneralizing of course, but you Fedfans know who you are.

Posted by lottis 05/19/2009 at 03:38 PM

One thing can be sure, the win has taken some pressure off from Rafa’s shoulder and put some on Roger to create history and make sure people will regard him as the GOAT with no questions asked.
Funny that the same journalists that spend most of this year to talk about Rogers trouble, how he needs a coach etc seem so happy, like this is Roger year now. And this was the match that changed it. How he obviously was just using the clay masters as a practice for RG, not really to win them and that was just a bonus to win against Rafa, showing what he always knew how to beat Rafa.
Hindsight is, of course, always a nice thing to have, just as if Roger doesn’t succeed to win RG most will probably regard this win in the same way that we view Hamburg. That it was a final in which Roger took his chances, played good tennis and won.

But in today media you always jump ahead, kind of like talking about Rafa doing GS just after AO. If you arrive to the US Open with 3 slam wins that year you can start talking about it being possible before that it’s no point really. Same here, this win could mean a lot or it could end up meaning nothing. What we do know is that it’s way to early to tell.

Posted by Master Ace 05/19/2009 at 03:40 PM

Tina 1,
Roger winning Madrid was a surprise to a lot of people as Rafael was winning clay matches when playing below his expectations. Also, I am guessing Steve Tignor may have something about that 4 hour SF once he returns from vacation. Then again, Pete may surprise us all by doing a piece on the Madrid SF where both players made critical shot after critical shot in the deciding tiebreaker. For all the grief we gave Novak on missing dropshots, he saved a match point executing one and guess right on Rafael CC shot.

Posted by Ryan 05/19/2009 at 03:41 PM


He might as well have--his loss to Ferrero was flukish, and he has awful blisters. I'm just saying that Djokovic has emerged as a clear rival (or at least potential rival, which up until this year hasn't existed) for Rafa on clay. And if you'll recall, he swept RG without losing a set. I'm not sure anyone was expecting, after that match, that the next time they met, Roger would beat Rafa in straights.

I wish people here weren't so hyper-sensitive about others' opinions and analysis, especially when it comes to the top 2.

Posted by Tfactor 05/19/2009 at 03:41 PM

It's funny how Tigress and other Fedfans all claimed that they despised clay season as recently as a week ago... "

Campi, I'd say even three days ago. And yes it's very entertaining :-)

Mr. Rick, no he wasn't annoyed by what happened during the ceremony.

Posted by Ryan 05/19/2009 at 03:42 PM

--HAD awful blisters.

Posted by just horsen(1234, IT'S TIME FOR #5!) 05/19/2009 at 03:44 PM

Campi, yes I'd say it's extremely funny.

Posted by Charlie Mueller 05/19/2009 at 03:46 PM

Rafa was tired so Rafa lost? Rafa did not think so, and he also had a walkover in the quarters.

Federer won, this time. He comprehensively out manuevered Rafa, this time. He used his game a little differently and kept his mind positive which is one big gap from past matches.

It may help him at the French, and it will help him at least as much at Wimbledon.

Posted by Campi 05/19/2009 at 03:47 PM


Ferrero last year and Roger the year before that at Hamburg. He didn't drop a set at RG but perhaps the only surprising thing about that was that he didn't lose 1 against Fed (and even that's debatable, although losing only 4 games was shocking to everyone). I mean, if he had dropped a set before the final that would've been a bit stunning. And I think he's still expected to blaze through similarly this year. Maybe not through the SF if he happens to draw Novak again, since Novak has recently taken a couple sets from him, but for R1 thru QF, wouldn't you be surprised if he lost a set or more? I think most people would.

Posted by iksius 05/19/2009 at 03:48 PM


so I understand that Rafa is not so respectfull, friendly, etc, etc, towards Roger as it appears?

Good to know :-)

Posted by just horsen(1234, IT'S TIME FOR #5!) 05/19/2009 at 03:49 PM

Charlie M., Agreed, Jetboy didn't lose because he was tired. Personally I think he lost because he didn't really care about, he wasn't into it. Well that and Roger played extremely well.

Posted by frances 05/19/2009 at 03:50 PM

imjimmy : thanks for rafas responses

i love his responses - he always sounds like he really thinks what he says

Posted by Mr Rick 05/19/2009 at 03:51 PM

If anything actually surpringing had happened during the clay season for Rafa, he probably would be wringing his hands now about the FO. But nothing surprising happened, not even Madrid. Rafa stated several times that Madrid was probably going to be difficult for him.

I think Rafa would be shaking in his boots A LOT more if Federer had beat him in MC or Rome, where conditions are much more similar to the FO. As it was, Roger went out in early rounds in MC and didn't even play in Rome or Barcelona. So the messages Roger has been sending Rafa really haven't been terribly scarey, IMHO.

You have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on old Tio Tony and Rafa...

Posted by Mike 05/19/2009 at 03:52 PM

Somebody recently said something about 'static' ... peruse this thread a bit if you want the definition of it.

Posted by BlueDog 05/19/2009 at 03:52 PM

I read these threads thoroughly, and I only recall Tigress and Tim calling the clay season boring. And for the record, I haven't seen anyone who thinks that Rafa isn't still the huge favorite to win RG, ( Just to head off any told you so after he does).

Posted by 05/19/2009 at 03:54 PM

*Rafa got it because Fed clearly fell apart and lost his game*

I must have been watching the Wimbledon final in a parallel universe in 2008.

In any other era, Rafa would have already been number one for a lot longer than he has been. How many other players have collected six Grand Slams, fifteen MS titles, plus a Gold Medal and participation in a winning Davis Cup final, while still only 22?

Posted by Mr Rick 05/19/2009 at 03:56 PM

c'mon Tfactor, you're not going to give us even a hint about those comments?!!

Posted by imjimmy 05/19/2009 at 03:58 PM

"""it just stirs the pot and awakened a player who everyone knows at his best has the weapons to reclaim No. 1... Rafa got it because Fed clearly fell apart and lost his game, ""

Sure..Rafa's just a mediocre player who happened to become #1 bcoz Fed decided to take a mental sabbatical..:) Right Tim? It's getting pretty old. You must recall that Rafa was handily beating Fed (on clay..and at times on other surfaces) in 05-07 when Fed was *supposedly* TMF and Rafa was a much lesser player.

"""we havnt seen TMF for a long time and he finally showed up yesterday...."""

I would hold up the proclamation for a little bit. Let Federer show he can right the 1-8 loosing h2h against the top 3. Let's see him beat Nole and Murray too. Let's see him holding his nerve, his serve bh and fh (basically his whole game) together in that close 3rd/5th setter when things get messy. That's something he's not done for a long while. One match alone is never a watershed.

Posted by Tfactor 05/19/2009 at 03:58 PM

As my kids would say: OMG! oh no you didn't! (Just kidding)
Maybe I was reading the threads a bit more throughly than you or maybe I am totally wrong.

Whatever makes you happy :)

Anyway I'm off, forgot to add I really enjoyed this post, Pete.
Imjimmy, I left a msg for you on the YC thread.

Posted by Contracturado 05/19/2009 at 03:58 PM

Rafa likes challenges.

If rafa meets Rog in RG he'll beat him throughly.

Posted by sally 05/19/2009 at 04:00 PM

campi-i was wondering, ultimately, who do you think will have had the better and more impressive career at the end, roger or rafa?

Posted by deeps 05/19/2009 at 04:03 PM

The win was good for Fed - he needed it badly.

The loss wasn't bad for Rafa - just look at his presser.

World peace everyone.

PS: In terms of his clay record coming into RG - this is the most dominant Rafa has been in the finals. Last year, Fed and Rafa played 5 sets - Fed won 1 and had huge leads in 3 of the other 4. Also Djoker really stretched him in Hamburg. What I am saying is this is normal for Rafa to struggle for hsi standards in the latter stages of clay masters - Paris is a whole another beast.

Posted by Ryan 05/19/2009 at 04:03 PM

Campi, you'll note that I called Rafa the "overwhelming favorite" in my initial post.

Not everyone who has something critical to observe is proclaiming the downfall of anyone's favorite player!

Posted by rick 05/19/2009 at 04:06 PM

No, analysis is not always "premature" Ever hear of post match analysis?

But my point is that placing so much emphasis on this win is premature. If it turns out to be a one-shot deal for RF then it isn't worth all the discussion.

If RF wins the French, then it is important. And there nothing to stop Bodo or anyone else from going back at that point and identifying the significance of this win. Just like analyzing a key battle AFTER the war is over.

Does that make it clear?

Posted by Tigress 05/19/2009 at 04:07 PM

Blue Dog: The clay season definitely isn't boring anymore. As I said at 3:17, it's more exciting now than it has been for years.

It's amazing how much lovelier and brighter the world seems after Roger wins a major tournament, especially on clay and over Rafa. Even the birds are singing more sweetly. My feelings for Rafa seem to be more positive and tender after Roger defeats him. Then it's much easier to see and acknowledge all of Nadal's attractive and admirible qualities. If Rafa loses to Roger in the RG final, I just might fall in love with him.

Posted by BlueDog 05/19/2009 at 04:11 PM


Just because Tim posts 70+ entries, he still only counts as 1;)

Posted by sally 05/19/2009 at 04:11 PM

timothy-so what if nadal is just a slugger. he sure wins and wins and then wins some more and isn't that what it is about? and his mental toughness is the best tennis has ever seen. oh if roger had a quarter of that, how many more slams would he have.

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