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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 Rosangel 05/19/2009 at 09:24 PM

I could go on with the "excuses"...(this is fun):

+ Mohammed Lahyani says Player R is "special", so must be biased when he umpires his matches
+ Player G was only pretending to cramp when he had his legs massaged during the fifth set
+ The crowd played a part in the match because it was Davis Cup
+ Player Q choked
+ Player S is doping because she doesn't have the regular physique of a tennis player
+ Player F has allowed himself to become distracted by the idea of becoming the GOAT
+ Player N gave away the match
+ We think Player R really wanted his opponent to win because he looked too happy at the end
+ The clay season is too long and boring - no wonder he can't stay awake during his matches
+ The grass was slowed down to accommodate the claycourters
+ Rosangel didn't put up a new Overflow fast enough and my exhortations supporting Player H were eaten by TypePad
+ I shouldn't have watched the match because my favourite always loses when I do
+ Player V's dress didn't have adequate support and she kept having to pull it up in case she exposed herself accidentally
+ Player X always gets tougher draws than Player Y
+ The ranking system is wrong, so Player Z doesn't deserve to be ranked number one and avoid Player A before the final
+ Tim was in Arthur Ashe Stadium shouting "Vamos Player R" during a night match, and he went on to lose
+The curse of the Crisis Center photo strikes again
+ Real tennis fans know that Player R only has fangurrl appeal
+ Player F cut his hair and, Samson-like, he went down
+ Player K's girlfriend was at the match (grrrr), and he always loses when she's there
+ Steve Tignor made a prediction that Player F would win, and jinxed him
+ Andrew made a special trip to Indian Wells hoping to see Player F in action, so of course he lost early
+ Player F is too dominant, so he should be made to play with his cow tied to his leg to give the rest a chance

Posted by wm 05/19/2009 at 09:26 PM

Hello guys…delurking briefly…had to comment on remarks that Fed seemed so serene and confident.

It's no mystery where Federer suddenly got this new-found confidence, no mystery why he was practically licking his chops at a chance to play against Nadal after the #1 was depleted from winning tournament after tournament and had finished playing against a lineup of the toughest guys on clay while Federer coasted over hard court specialists like Blake and Roddick or second tier newbie Del Potro?

A day's rest for Rafa and it would have been a different story. It's crazy that people think any human can recover sufficiently from a 4 hr match in less than 24 hrs especially after such a hard-fought battle against the second best player on clay who is also a grand slam winner. That's the reason Nadal was tired and it was the only reason he lost a close match to Fed. Djokovic didn't even need to play at the top of his game to beat Federer recently. Against Nadal Djokovic said he played his best, even beyond his limits at times and still lost.

Rafa is a great sport, win or lose, so he downplays the effect of being tired because he doesn’t want to take anything away from Fed. We’re not in the same situation so why ignore the elephant in the room. It would have been a totally different match if Rafa had a day to rest and Federer would in all likelihood not even have made it to the final if he had had Rafa’s draw.

This situation is a lot like the movie "Gladiator." Federer is the Commodus of tennis and Nadal is the Gladiator. Commodus-Fed feels great confidence at the thought of defeating the Gladiator Nadal-Maximus if, and only if, Maximus is seriously wounded first. Glaringly obvious. Without these advantages, we will all see the return of the wimpy Fed.

Under the circumstances this match was an anomaly and inconsequential. Remember Hamburg.

Posted by broooklynNY 05/19/2009 at 09:28 PM

I dont understand why people are complaining or using the surface as an excuse.....
lets not forget the "slow hardcourts" and now "slow grass" of wimbledon.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/19/2009 at 09:29 PM

A few bottom-line statements:

1) The French Open is still the Rafael Nadal Invitational Tournament.

2) Let's wait to see whether Djokovic is in Rafa's half or Fed's half before we speculate on Novak and how the Serb will affect this tournament.

3) Fed took advantage of a favorable situation Sunday. He hadn't done so in past matches against Nadal. Players have to win; they can't just rely on opponents folding. Let this be the enduring lesson taken from certain sporting events: Luck can and does play a part, but elite athletes must be good enough to cash their good fortune into a victory. It's not whether you get breaks or not, it's what you do with them.

4) I can assure Nadal fans that this Madrid match will do nothing to dent Rafa's psychological fortress.

5) If you told me today that Fed would lose in the final, I'd take it. If you told me that Rafa would be the one to beat Fed, I'd take it even more enthusiastically. I'm proud that Fed has lost to only one man in a slam final. That's a merit rather than a demerit. We can discuss this point in good time.

Posted by Campi 05/19/2009 at 09:33 PM might put tennis on the front page everywhere. Except in the States. Unfortunately, tennis is a third tier sport here. And there really simply appears to be a disdain for the French Open. I think it's mainly because of this banterous disapproval we have of the French (which I do not at all side with), but also because clay has historically been--let's face it--very "un-American." Americans have an awesome history of producing tennis champions but America's history at the French is relatively subpar... to say the least.

Yes, Fed equaling Sampras and completing the career grand slam would make headlines, but for the majority of the sports world here it would continue to lag behind, say, the NBA playoffs as far interest. Sad but definitely true.

Posted by frances 05/19/2009 at 09:33 PM

Master Ace- agree on your thoughts about about the significance in history if RAFA will 5-peat RG this year - that will be the first five straights.

As for Fed winning in Paris, yes it is significant but can be plausible too next year (given he is still playing well and healthy). Meaning he can still make his 14 or higher and a french next year. The 5-peat scenario is a rare oppurutnity.

Posted by frances 05/19/2009 at 09:34 PM

headless me!! grr

Posted by Rosangel 05/19/2009 at 09:34 PM

wm: funnily enough, some of us had been referring to Nadal as Gladiator Nadalus Gluteus Maximus:)

Posted by Joe 05/19/2009 at 09:36 PM

Federer never ever is going to be the GOAT and let me tell you why. First he is going to losse RG, then Wimbledon and then AO and after that too old to get it. Otherwise he is mentally burn out, just read his interviews how he answer them

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 05/19/2009 at 09:38 PM

Rosangel Have you ever considered giving up your Day job for this?

You are just too good. LOL!

Posted by Joe 05/19/2009 at 09:40 PM

Sorry, I wanted to say US OPEN, not AO

Posted by Campi 05/19/2009 at 09:40 PM

I think Nadal completing the calendar year GS would be more earth-shattering for the world of tennis. After 4 years of Fed domination and what seemed to be an inevitable new slam record, Nadal turned the tables on the sport and, if he concluded the odyssey, it would end at the US Open which would make Americans about 10 times more interested than if it ended in Paris. Not saying that the USO is more important at all, or that Americans' opinions count more, just that it's tougher to get the attention of Americans than the rest of the sports world. They (we) are so unique ;)

And yeah, I realize that Rafa winning the calendar slam is more of a longshot than Roger winning the French. I'm just commenting on the earlier discussion.

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 09:41 PM

Rosangel: 9:34 p.m.


Posted by Matt Zemek 05/19/2009 at 09:42 PM

One other thought:

As long as Fed keeps making French finals, he increases his stature in an expansive historical context... even if he loses said finals.

This point has never been adequately appreciated or discussed in the larger scheme of things.

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 09:42 PM

aussiemarg: 9:38 p.m.

Totally agree!

Posted by Tennis Fan 05/19/2009 at 09:54 PM

"with a bag of chips in my lap and a cold beer"


Posted by Carol 05/19/2009 at 09:56 PM

Look Nadals'practice when he was 13 years old

Posted by CL 05/19/2009 at 09:56 PM

And then of course there is Pete's last sentence, which, for some reason or other, most people on bOTH sides of the Fed/Nadal chasm, (abyss? tiny little space?), seem to have ignored: "For different reasons, the big challenge for both men will be fighting through the field to get at each other."

And don't you forget it, babies.

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 09:58 PM


I especially like the, "Tim was in Arthur Ashe Stadium shouting, 'Vamos Player R' during a night match, and he went on to lose.

Posted by frances 05/19/2009 at 09:59 PM

Matt Zemek -- you did however said rafa was going to win the madrid title:P hahaha now im SUPERSTICIOUS SO!!! hahahahah

but no I'm not frazzling just YET. Nadal will be OK:P the GF will calm him down for the meantime:P XISCA XISCA WORK THY MAGIC!!!

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 10:00 PM

Matt Zemek: 9:42 p.m.

As what? The perennial bridesmaid but never the bride? Not a legacy Roger would want I think. Going down in history as the guy who could never win doesn't sound very historic, at least not in a good way.

Posted by Rosangel 05/19/2009 at 10:00 PM

lilscot: you know, that actually happened - or at least, Tim claims that it did:)

Posted by frances 05/19/2009 at 10:01 PM



Posted by Tennis Fan 05/19/2009 at 10:04 PM

"who made it a point note that the red clay in Madrid was, at least in relative terms, extremely "fast.""

Maybe he won't have a problem with the changing to blue clay. Maybe it' slower.

Posted by Rosangel 05/19/2009 at 10:04 PM

frances: just a gentle note - all caps is considered shouting here, though what you were saying was just fine, so no big deal. Did you leave the caps key on by accident?

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 10:04 PM

Rosangel: 10:00 p.m.

Hey, who am I to tease someone. When I watch any of Rafa's matches I have all these weird OCD things I do like making sure the remote controls are in a certain order on the coffee table. The volume has to be set at level 28. My cup of tea has to be sitting to my left. And if anyone talks to me during a point and he loses the point or the game I think it's because of what them talking, etc. So I can totally relate to Tim if he really did that.

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 10:06 PM

frances: 10:01 p.m.

Okay, now I KNOW you're smoking something wacky! :)

Posted by lilscot 05/19/2009 at 10:07 PM

Okay, that's all for me tonight folks. Time for beddy-bye. See you all tomorrow.

Posted by Rosangel 05/19/2009 at 10:09 PM

lilscot: for what it's worth, the match was Rafa-Ferru, USO 2007. For some reason Tim had (in very good humour) promised the Rafa fans that he would support him during the night match during his day at the USO. That turned out to be the night that he lost.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/19/2009 at 10:12 PM


So many of the great hardcourt and grass players over the decades found clay to be a pronounced achilles heel. For Federer to keep reaching French finals, and to specifically lose to the greatest claycourter who has ever lived, represents an enhancement of his legacy.

Sure, Fed would really improve his career portfolio by winning one of these Frenches, but making finals--i.e., doing the maximum he can short of winning the tournament and/or beating Rafa--means that his claycourt credentials only become more impressive, not less.

If he were to lose in the French quarters or 16s, his legacy would be diminished. By reaching finals, his legacy grows to a small but real extent.

This little discussion reminds me of American politics, and of the culture of Washington, D.C.

Members of Congress, and also the (spineless, corporate) media who crave access to Congress (instead of wanting to be real watchdogs of entrenched power), often refer to "reductions in the rate of increase" for various expenditures as "an outright cut."

Witness how The Daily Show noted, a month ago, that a 4 percent INCREASE in Defense Department spending was spoken of as a "cut" by media talking heads and Pentagon officials.

So, when Fed gets his butt kicked by Rafa in a French Open final, the instinct is to view the result as a "cut" relative to Fed's legacy, when in fact, we should view such a scenario as a "reduction in the rate of increase" of Federer's legacy.

Making 3 straight French finals is the element of Fed's resume that puts him on favorable footing relative to Sampras, provided that he wins 14 slams at some point in the future. Yet, that accomplishment--and it damn sure is an accomplishment (as opposed to a failure)--is virtually unheard of in larger parlor-room tennis discussions.

Posted by frances 05/19/2009 at 10:14 PM


So sorry didnt reliaze that it meant that way:P the last one was by mistake my caps lock was in a "locked" mode if that made sense.. just able to fix it now. although i have intentinally posted in caps before. Glad to know about that- I already have a loud voice as is:P no need for me to shout:P

As for Tim- I should meet him in US '09 :P I will match him with my own gusto to Roger!!!

Posted by streams 05/19/2009 at 10:15 PM

"What's a genius supposed to do when someone out there can taunt, Who's your Daddy?"

lol Vamos Rafa!

"For different reasons, the big challenge for both men will be fighting through the field to get at each other."
Thanks for reminding us that a Roger / Rafa FO final is not a given

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 05/19/2009 at 10:19 PM

Frances Hey make room for me please

Me and Tim are going on a romantic carriage ride in Central Park?

Its done and dusted.By the way he is shouting?

Tim and I have already a date for US OPEN 2010

OK you can have him for 2009

I am not a greedy person.

Posted by frances 05/19/2009 at 10:19 PM

lilscot- hhahaha just forward thinking that's all:P I am really curious of the draw system. I've ask rosangel before about the draw and it's tough to determine.

as for you OCD during a match - I have to have the crucifix in front of me while watching:P and whatever troubles or arguments I have with my mom at a given be forgiven from both sides if he won.. hahahahahah so weird i know!!!

Posted by streams 05/19/2009 at 10:19 PM

Rosangel - LOVE your list of excuses!

Posted by frances 05/19/2009 at 10:24 PM

AM- i have yet to ask Tim out for a date (blushing hahahahaha JK) he's been playing hard to get with me.

Tim- are you here?

You know how Amercian guys are, they love the challenge. But I'd be more that happy to be your driver in your romantic ride in central park:P or perhaps make sure to watch "The Phantom of the Opera" show as you might catch RAfA there. He's only seen it 5 times:P come come come to America!!

Posted by Rosangel 05/19/2009 at 10:30 PM

Perhaps we should add "Player R's iPod broke down so he didn't get to listen to Phantom of the Opera beforehand" to the list of excuses.

Carrie came up with a nice list of excuses on the previous page, streams, and it sort of got me started.

Posted by streams 05/19/2009 at 10:34 PM

Andrew @
"and he (Nadal) is playing at a level (measured in ATP Ranking Points) achieved by only one player before him in the Open Era, his great rival"
Thanks for this perspective, sometimes I think Nadal's achievements are lost a bit in the shadow of Federer's recent unprecedented run of success in a short span of recent years, we got so spoiled we don't recognize just what a consistently high level Rafa is playing - not just since he got No. 1, but for years as No. 2 prior to that. This really is am amazing era we are watching.

Posted by yello fuzzy 05/19/2009 at 10:35 PM

I don't know anyone who dislike the French any more than they dislike the Germans, or Nova Scotians, or their next door neighbors.Thats a media a myth, the whole freedom fries and toast far as americans record at the French, it's pretty good, considering we don't nurture clay court tennis in the states, it's just recently we haven't done so well, the same with the other slams....due to the nature of clay court tennis and its sometime extraordinary length, I would say has more to do with Americans aversion to The French Open more than some pervasive anti-French culture sentiment

Posted by streams 05/19/2009 at 10:41 PM

Carrie and Rosangel - you guys truly have me ROFL with your excuses for losing matches

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 05/19/2009 at 10:43 PM

Yellow Fuzzy

Gee Cheis Everts recoed on clay alone speaks for itself.amazing

Gee Jim Courier not bad either

Andre lets remeber he wasnt going to play at the French

Posted by Tennis Fan 05/19/2009 at 10:53 PM

Carrie and especially Rosangel: Hysterical with the list of excuses!

I just have one to add for Serena only: I had to play myself.

Some interesting comments:

"This situation is a lot like the movie "Gladiator." Federer is the Commodus of tennis and Nadal is the Gladiator. Commodus-Fed feels great confidence at the thought of defeating the Gladiator Nadal-Maximus if, and only if, Maximus is seriously wounded first. Glaringly obvious. Without these advantages, we will all see the return of the wimpy Fed."

"The French Open is still the Rafael Nadal Invitational Tournament."

"Americans have an awesome history of producing tennis champions but America's history at the French is relatively subpar... to say the least."

This can only be applied to the male Americans.


Chris Evert - won RG seven times, most of male or female.
Martina - but she is not really an American, no?
Mary Pierce - can be considered American
Nancy Richey - Who?
Monica Seles - who became an American after she won it

There seems to be more disdain for women's tennis than French things, clay court tennis and RG.

It's not as important because their is not the traditon of breakfast at Rolland Garros behind it. But don't forget or do forget no Charisma Courier Chang and Agassi. It was a big deal in the US when Agassi won it.

I think a lot of the problem on the men's side is this tournament more than others lens itself to no-name or obscure players winning. That is OK when it's and American but when its some Argentinian player that no one has heard of and will never hear from again it does no translate to ratings on American TV. With Nadal wining Wimbledon and his profile rising accordingly it may change.

Posted by woome 05/19/2009 at 10:56 PM

I hope Federer wins the French Open...he's such an elegant, talented, and artistic player. I'm sick of Nadal and his brute, physical power. BORING! All he does is bludgeon the ball.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 05/19/2009 at 10:58 PM

Yes Rafa doses Bludgeon the ball with "Style"

Posted by Master Ace 05/19/2009 at 11:07 PM

Another excuse:
Vika after losing to Vera at IW, I played only up to 10% of my capabilities

Also, just saw the last 2 games of Chris' 7th French Open title and she won that match. She consolidated the break with 2 topspin lob winners, FH passing shot DTL that JoAnne Russell(did commentary with Dick Enberg and Bud Collins) called the shot of her life and the last pt was a drop volley. Then, she broke Martina on her 3rd championship pt with a drop volley that Martina N got to but could not get it over the net. Shot was set up by Chris attacking Martina N BH consistently.

Posted by Tennis Fan 05/19/2009 at 11:13 PM

Watching RG classics on TC. Here is Bud Collins comment prior to Women’s RG final 1986:

“You know Alfred Hitchock the old movie maker, would have thrown women’s tennis out the Rear Window; no suspense. It’s always Chrissy and Martina. But when you do get to Chrissy and Maritina there is suspense.”

Can you interchange Federer and Nadal for Chrissy and Martina?

Posted by wm 05/19/2009 at 11:25 PM

Hi Rosangel, that's cute. I actually wrote Nadalus-Maximus first then decided to keep it to Nadal to match Fed's but Fedus-Commodus would have been fun too.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 05/19/2009 at 11:36 PM

Well I am off to Bludgeon the ball myself.

Later Everyone.

Posted by Andrew 05/19/2009 at 11:36 PM

Hmmm.... Federer classic matches that don't involve Nadal.

For five set matches, Rosangel has already picked the two that would be on my list. I think it needs to be an F or SF to count - the Tipsarevic A0 2008 R32 match was pretty good, and the last set a nail biter.

Non 5 set matches: Agassi Houston YEC RR 2003. Nalbandian Rome SF 2006. Srichiphan Basel SF 2006. Lopez USO R16 2007 (TMF once walked the earth). Nalbandian MC QF 2008.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/19/2009 at 11:43 PM

Pete...great article and thanks for reminding us that Fedal is not given.

That is actually 25% of the fun, the restless anticipation if they will meet again after 6 matches...their consistency is mindboggling.

And everybody has something in both players to like....their collective mass appeal is amazing.

However, I do appreciate how Federer has not pulled a Borg, after figuring out everybody in his generation, he stays on to solve the biggest challenge as you say...of course he is ambitious, but with his mental fragility, it should have been pretty easy for him to give up...after all how many grand slams can you lose to the same guy in the same manner over and over again? After being so close, yet so many times!

Posted by M&M 05/19/2009 at 11:45 PM

What struck me about run baby run, Federer in Madrid, was he seemed to have a distain towards the spanish people. He took real joy in his off the wall comment "NO SPANISH HERE" after receiving his award. I think he should of shown more respect to the spanish speaking people. He showed his dislike towards them instead! IS HE RACIST OR WHAT?

Posted by jv 05/19/2009 at 11:45 PM

...Carrie and other Nadal fans..

... I've noticed you have engaged in futile discussions with a few, rather pedantic if I may say, Roger fans that call themselves tennis experts, lovers, etc but who, at the same time, repeat at nauseum that Nadal has no tennis skills...Let me tell you something, it is just an stupid and childish this moment Nadal has every inch of tennis talent if no more than Federer...physicality, determination, running, etc won't make you Nadal unless you have huge tennis skills..otherwise we would have many Nadals (just think of Bolt!) need much (much) more than running.... Nadal was a prodigy ... He even won a well-known Wimblendon winner when he was 15 or 16 y.o. ..we won't see many like him in a long time... He is just 22 yo and has 6 gs in three different surfaces...You cannot do that unless you have huge tennis need for explanations that fact is quite impressive.... If only he could have an even better service, then he would be even more dominant than he is today..
...I may suggest that some Roger's fans still in denial that his heroe was repeatedly defeated by a teenager and finally dethroned....Rafa spoiled the long party for them and for some journalists (specially their own predictions, which were proven dead wrong)...suddenly the greatest was not the greatest any more....For them it was (an is) easy to rationalize that Rafa is a machine with no tennis skills than to admit that another talented tennis player simply is better than Roger ....too radical in my view for a tennis fan...
..Obviously Sunday match made Federer's fans, including myself, very happy, and understandable so, but you can feel that some (like I guess the autor of this article) are overeacting...It was good to see Roger win again but "turning point' a "resurrection" is just too much,...they seem to want the party to resume and his hero to be admired by all like if Nadal doesn't exist or was just an accident caused by mono or who knows what other excuse is just too even all Roger's losses during 2009 were part of a plan to get his crown back!!! it's just a bit hilarious...
..what I think is that this match will give us tennis fans, at least those like me who are fan of both Roger and Rafa, a great RG.. and without doubt a renewed rivalry between Roger and Rafa ....and their respective fans...time for some fun and regrettably some nonsense..


Posted by ladyjulia 05/19/2009 at 11:47 PM

Andrew, I don't know what is the criteria for "classic" matches...there have been some where there was no tension, no third set, but the match rocked...

and in my mind, Fed's win at TMC 2006 against Nadal and again at TMC 2007 in the SFs. It was in TMC 2007 that Nadal said "When he plays unbelievable tennis like that, you have to play unbelievable tennis yourself, otherwise you won't win" after the 6-4,6-1 loss.

Posted by L.Rubin 05/19/2009 at 11:54 PM

Oh lawdy! Good stuff, Lady Rosangel! Rafa's taste in music is somewhat puzzling, but at least he doesn't listen to Ivan Lendl's erstwhile favorite--the soundtrack to "Alvin and the Chipmunks." (I kid you not. Bodo mentioned this a few years back.)


What did you want him to do, M%M? Get down on his knees and plant one on the prince's behind?


Posted by Joe 05/20/2009 at 12:14 AM

M&M, Rafa said the same in Monte Carlo and I don't think he is racist.
Maybe Roger doesn't fell good playing in Spain, you know, the spaniards like him, but he is not the favorite player there, for obvious reasons

Posted by M&M 05/20/2009 at 12:15 AM

I want him to show some class and treat other people with respect!

Posted by SUNNYROSE 05/20/2009 at 12:19 AM

When you started off writing about Madrid, you even predicted Roegr losing to Roddick !! He was not even close to that. And he came up beating Rafa. Everyone has an excuse that Rafa wasn't Rafa. But wasn't the condition the same at Melbourne fifth set when Roger wasn't Roger.
I think your estimation about Roger went completely wrong in Madrid, but nevertheless, watching you write good about Roger is pleasing enough.

Posted by Joe 05/20/2009 at 12:20 AM

M&M, me too!!

Posted by Arun 05/20/2009 at 12:26 AM

LOL. I guess I should never underestimate how MUCH some people could decipher from what is being said. The "No Spanish from my side" comment was made in an apologetic tone as in he couldn't speak Spanish and hence would address the people in English.

Posted by Roger That 05/20/2009 at 12:39 AM

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's a nice win, give Roger a boost of confidence. But Rafa is the overwhelming favorite. I'll be interested to see how the early rounds go. If you want to win a slam, you have to roll your first few opponents in double-quick time.

Posted by L.Rubin 05/20/2009 at 12:39 AM




Posted by Genuine Realist 05/20/2009 at 12:45 AM

Who was the girl with 'the body to die for'? She's the one I'd like to meet.

And I swear to God, I'll root for whomever she's rooting for. First things first.

Posted by Glenn 05/20/2009 at 01:12 AM

"Who was the girl with 'the body to die for'? She's the one I'd like to meet."

Genuine Realist, There were like 7 of them. You have to be more specific than that! :)

Posted by Genuine Realist 05/20/2009 at 01:59 AM

Any one will do. You can only die once.

Posted by Roger's Restoration 05/20/2009 at 02:04 AM

The curtains

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa and JJ for FO Champions 2009!!! 05/20/2009 at 02:20 AM

Hey again all. :)

I see we did have to have a Fedal war. And of course I'm just as liable to jump in, sword swinging, as everybody else. :)

So - "Rafa got it because Fed clearly fell apart and lost his game." - yeah, Fed was so rubbish all year! He only got to AO SF, FO final, Wimbledon final and won the USO. *rolls eyes*

...and let's not forget that Rafa and Djokovic improved all through 2007 and to 2008 too.

I actually am sorry that Federer's year was interrupted by mono - but I'm not sympathetic. I can't help but think that if he was really so ill, he shouldn't have been playing at all.

Although I do admire his courage in continuing - and I think courage is the most under-estimated aspect of Federer all round, really.

It has *got* to be possible to discuss external factors in matches such as weariness, tendinitis, back injuries and mono, apart from using these as excuses. It seems to me there is a difference.

And we really should apply the same standard consistently to all players...hard to do when we're all such KADs. ;-) But to talk about such things in Roger's case and then criticise Rafa KADS for doing the same thing with a different factor is just silly. Yes yes, I know, some external factors are more valid than others, and that the validity depends on which player we're talking about. ;-) And I agree that it goes both ways.

It *is* possible to like both Rafa and Roger - I do. :) I do prefer Rafa - I prefer his game, and of course there's the whole wanting-to-spirit-him-away-to-my-hideaway-cottage dynamic, LOL - but I love watching Roger play and admire all his achievements, and I probably spend more time on here defending Roger than Rafa. ;-) (and have on some memorable occasions been told I am spoiling with Fedadoration...LOL) I think of myself as being a Rafa KAD and a Roger fan - and a Novak fan and a Murray fan to slightly lesser extent.

I would so much rather see Roger meet the challenge of Rafa than just dominate everybody without too much difficulty - it just makes Roger greater, no? And by the same token Rafa working so hard to overcome Roger makes Rafa greater. I feel so lucky and privileged to be watching tennis at the same time as these two guys are playing. :)

jb - agree that it goes both ways - I hate the lumping every which way but I probably do feel the lumping of Rafa fans more viscerally - but I don't remember seeing great lists of all the things that are wrong with Roger fans - or one person needling Roger fans as a lump twenty hours out of every twenty-four, six days a week, suitably ironic manner or not - or Roger fans being unthinking multitudes, totally classless, and responsible for global recession and everything else that is wrong in the world. Perhaps that's been more the case in the past, I still feel fairly new here and I don't know what it was like in say 2006 or 2007. But I find the incessant needling and then the "oh it's your fault, you have no sense of humour" when some of us snap and get upset deeply unsavoury

Love the excuses lists! ROFL.

Agree with Matt Z at 9.42 - same with Borg, USO finals, and hard court play.

I love the soundtrack to Alvin and the Chipmunks! Of course, being a Rafa KAD I have no taste and am a lunatic. ;-)

Back to Madrid. LOL. I think it's more significant for Roger than for Rafa. I don't believe Rafa's dominance was so easy last year as hindsight and that glorious tear through RG would have us believe. He's always had to work for it, and this year was no exception (also, three wins and a final out of four clay events - I'll take it! It's hardly undominant or terrible.) Djokovic was never an easy opponent and Roger is always dangerous - taking that RG final as the pattern for Roger against Rafa on clay was always silly, to me - that felt like an aberration even at the time. I do expect a Fedal final - I'd love to see a Roger-Djokovic SF, I believe it would be competitive but that Slam magic applies to Roger - and of course Rafa is heavy favourite. But I don't think anything is a given. I don't see Murray reaching the SF, but that's mainly down to clay inexperience not any real lack in Murray.

But for giving Roger confidence before RG Madrid could be amazing. And yes, it absolutely could be a turning point.

Posted by FedExRider 05/20/2009 at 02:46 AM

There's been so much debate as to whether Madrid has any implications for FO. Yes the conditions are different so no direct implication.

But if you think about Fed's confidence, you betcha it would make a difference.

Sometime back recently Fed said - I can beat Nadal on clay. As ardent a fan as me went "yeah, right". I can't imagine that Fed himself had so much of self assurance. Madrid might just give him that.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/20/2009 at 03:00 AM

Jewell: hey there! well it was the same old same old around here again today. the arguments just go around in circles. no one accomplishes a thing. but it's like an obsession. apparently this has been going on here for years. Do you remember the fedal knife fights from last year? It's amazing how this topic reduces smart, thoughtful tennis fans into bitter petty vitriol hurlers. the only thing remotely similar in my experience before tw is the hatred that red sox fans have with yankee fans. I gave my mom a yankees cap a few years ago and she made the mistake of wearing it in Boston. She said a number of people said pretty rude things to her. Boy people take their sports and their sports heroes very seriously don't they? But some of the attacks on rafa and his fans really stung me. We're likened to trailer trash and if we make a simple observation that the boy was tired we get strung up by our thumbs as well. One poster said it's all about beauty and grace and execution with fed, but it's only about winning with rafa. huh? Fed doesn't care about winning? that's not his ultimate objective? I just scratch my head!

And here i thought rafa was back in majorca this week. he must have gone straight to paris 'cus he's playing in an exho tomorrow. no rest for the weary. hope he has enough gas to make it through the next 2 1/2 weeks.

Posted by Annie 05/20/2009 at 03:06 AM

A couple of people observed that as much confidence as this win has given Fed, it will give Rafa just as much impetus to do well in Paris. I hope so. But i think fed tried some new tactics on sunday, saw that they worked and will only get stronger next time he meets rafa, or murray or nole.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/20/2009 at 03:07 AM

tea time for typepad.

jewell, i gotta hit the hay. hope to see you later today!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa and JJ for FO Champions 2009!!! 05/20/2009 at 03:23 AM

Hey Annie - sorry I missed you!

it's no surprise to me that Roger tried some slightly new tactics to beat Rafa. And I always thought he was working on these - even at AO. This is Roger Federer and he doesn't have all those GS titles for nothing. ;-) I don't believe he takes anything for granted, really, except maybe his own talent - and if he was in denial - I haven't ever been that convinced of this - he seems to have got himself out of it now. Also I think he will go absolutely all out for the FO. It would be the ultimate prize. *wants classic FO final*

it also makes me wonder if any of his troubles this year have been partly due to his readjusting his game slightly?

Whether he'll continue an upward trajectory or whether he'll be patchy - who knows? I think patchiness is most likely but I still expect him to be in SFs and Fs at slams for a while longer. :)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa and JJ for FO Champions 2009!!! 05/20/2009 at 03:45 AM

...and, I should add, to be winning some of those SFs and Fs.

I don't think playing an exo will do Rafa any harm, will do him good to get that sharper practice in on Paris clay, no? Hopefully anyway.

I don't think he'll run out of gas in Paris...think the every-other-day rhythm of a slam is good for Rafa, it allows more time for mental recovery as much as anything. I expect him to start off a bit shakily - he did last year. Will *try* not to frazzle...*weary laugh*

I don't really remember any Fedal knife fights from last year in detail.

Posted by Roger That 05/20/2009 at 03:52 AM


* Clay Beast remains the overwhelming favorite to 5-peat Roland Garros

* Winning Madrid is a definite confidence boost for Roger
* Roger's health and mental outlook look to be positive
* Djokovic is the primary threat to take out Nadal at RG
* Murray is not ready for prime time on clay yet
* Verdasco is a wild-card in all this

Posted by Roger That 05/20/2009 at 03:53 AM

Roger's latest Twitter:

# I'm in Paris getting ready. Long day tomorrow, I will try and post the video on Facebook. I'm starting to understand twitter better. Rogerabout 13 hours ago from web

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 04:04 AM

Well I have had an awful practice session hampered by rain,grr

gee I coulnt even bludgeon the ball

Oh well tomorrow is another day

Rain in Paris,ahhhhhhhhhhhhh

Also they are getting a roof as well

Now all is left is Arthur Ashe sadium in NYC and all the majors will have roofs.

Posted by Or 05/20/2009 at 04:25 AM

My love for Roger has little to do with the attractiveness of his game. I fell for him before I knew enough about tennis to apprechiate what he's done. I recall watching the semis against Roddick in AO 07, and while I could see he was playing fantastic, I didn't quite get it what it was that was so impressive. Of course, I know a little more about tennis and able to understand it more now.

I just agree with Chris Evert. There's something about him that is totally endearing to me.

Posted by Or 05/20/2009 at 04:40 AM

I think trying to project Rafa's future slam results at this point is almost hopeless, we would be a lot smarter in two years time. If he gets to 10 by then and is still healthy - for sure he could

By AO 07, everyone were projecting Roger gets to 16, 17 slams. He played so great. We know what happened in 2008.

Posted by Meghna 05/20/2009 at 05:08 AM

Roger Federer winning at the French is a totally different ball game (not pun intended).
We'll see what happens anyway :)

Posted by Samantha Elin(supporter of all things Scandinavian) 05/20/2009 at 06:27 AM

I think those who made the statement that one win out of so many loses doesn't really tell us anything. You have to wait and see if Roger can perform like this over Rafa consitently one match after another. There is still a big question mark there. People see a big win and start to get ahead of themselves. Dokic is a perfect example, one good tourney in AO and now is being beat by qualifiers. Only time will tell in this rivalry. Rafa still is the big favorite. Although I still feel sorry for Roger when he was crying and people were teasing him and calling long in the tooth. Go Caro, Scandinavia's#1, world's#1O, 2OO8, new comer of the year, first Scandinavian girl to win 4 WTA titles, Du er den bedste, kom nu, Caro.

Posted by Or 05/20/2009 at 07:09 AM

Ohhh, check out those statements from Roger:

Loved that line:

"I wouldn't advise anyone to write off husband and father Federer."

"Noone should write off Father Federer" -- 19.05.2009
In the middle of the decade he was the best tennis player in the world. But Roger Federer actually conquered the fans' hearts for the first time, only during the last twelve months, when Rafael Nadal caused him consecutive painful defeats. In an interview on WELT ONLINE the Swiss reveals how he wants to achieve his latest great career goals.

Roger Federer (27) is the most successful active tennis player of our days - till now he has won 57 tournaments, among which 13 Grand Slam Titles. But recently he has shown signs of weakness, he has been defeated many times by Rafael Nadal, and he has been waiting since October 2008 for a tournament victory - until he beat his steady rival on Sunday at the final in Madrid.

WELT ONLINE: Mr. Federer, next week the French Open begins. Where do you see yourself standing right now, just before the major tournaments in Paris and then at Wimbledon?
Roger Federer: I'm convinced that, after a hard year in 2008, I am again fully on the right way. This has also to do with the fact that I feel much fresher and fitter.

WELT ONLINE: Can a single victory like the one in Madrid change everything?
Roger Federer: Sometimes a great success is enough. Everything comes and goes very quickly in tennis. I haven't been saying without a reason, when I was no1, that nothing is for granted when it comes to my dominance.

WELT ONLINE: It seemed like a given fact however - after all you have dominated the tennis world for many years. Now you're still only (sic) no2, and therefore recently people say constantly that you're going through a crisis.
Roger Federer: I myself have created these great expectations/ high standards. When you remain the no1 for so many years and you only lose 5,6 times in one season, with some more defeats a state of emergency will be proclaimed. But I was never in a crisis. I never really lost my calm, and I have always looked into the situation with composure.

WELT ONLINE: Really? Boris Becker, after a sudden fall from the top of the world, once said: Tennis is brutal.
Roger Federer: This is in the nature of things - when you're out there all alone, you can't hide. There's noone to catch (?) you, like in a football team. You can win ten tournaments in a row, everything's great. But even if you lose (only) two times in a row, people start asking questions. Sometimes even you yourself start wondering. That's something you can't prevent.

WELT ONLINE: Many great athletes have felt true/genuine support from the beginning, while you had to walk off with big defeats first. What do you think of this?
Roger Federer: Yes, particularly after Wimbledon, last year. People were sad for me rather than happy for Nadal. I found that almost bitter for him. Many suddenly understood: Federer's wins are not for granted. It makes someone more human, if one loses sometimes.

WELT ONLINE: There have been voices that said, Federer is not receptive to advice, he wants no guidance.
Roger Federer: There are many who say much. I am not standing on a memorial (pontium?) and say: I know everything, I can do everything. I see the weaknesses, I see the strengths. And I bear the consequences. I examine myself every day, I am my own strict judge. Otherwise I would have never managed to have these successes.

WELT ONLINE: Observers have interpreted the latest developments this way: The big pack, that has hunted in vain for years, have now lost their respect for Federer. Because he has no longer the aura of the Invincible.
Roger Federer: Maybe. I never felt though, that there was a great pressure for other players to stand against me. You could get out on court and you had an easy job: either lose, which was nothing special, or be the hero who brought Federer to his knees.

WELT ONLINE: You are still highly motivated, even though you have won everything. Are you ever tired of tennis?
Roger Federer: I love this sport incredibly. There may be a moment once in a year, that I think: Now it would be nice to stay at home. As a junior I had already those zero-willpower-days, because I only depended on my talent.

WELT ONLINE: How much have you been thinking about the Grand Slam Record? Pete Sampras' 14 titles record is to be beaten.
Roger Federer: A few years ago I said: let me win ten titles, and then we'll talk about it. Now I am damn' close and I would like to make it. But I don't chase this goal with sick ambition. This is imputed to me indeed, but it's not true. I read: Federer fails at Wimbledon, at the Australian, because he has Sampras' recond in mind. That is silly.

WELT ONLINE: A few weeks ago you got married to your partner Mirka Vavrinec, and you will soon become a father for the first time. How much will this affect your career?
Roger Federer: My life's gonna change for sure. But I don't feel that this is going to make me lethargic/unenthusiastic. More likely the contrary: this will give me a boost. Our shared dream has always been that our children would be born while I would still be playing tennis. And now the first child is on the way, and I already feel great anticipation.

WELT ONLINE: Will your wife still travel with you so regularly?
Roger Federer: I would like this very much. And we have the means - certainly more than others - to sort out the financial matters and to organise the practical matters. We will be a travelling tennis-family. Right now I feel very happy. And this happiness, this satisfaction in my life - these feelings inspire me. I wouldn't advise anyone to write off husband and father Federer.

WELT ONLINE: Have you already talked to other tennisfathers about the impact of the birth of a child?
Roger Federer: No, not yet. Right now all I wish for is that our child is healthy, that everything turns out well. In the beginning one thinks: is it going to be a boy? is it going to be a girl? But then there is only one thought, that there will be no complications. The attitude is changing very quickly.

WELT ONLINE: The birth date is during summer. Approximately during Wimbledon?
Roger Federer (laughing) : There is nothing to worm out of us - and this is the right thing to do.

Posted by omolara 05/20/2009 at 07:12 AM

Oh! please.
Why don't you just acknowledge that Federer won that game.
Rafa' heart was not into it! What do you mean? He was playing in Spain, Madrid, in a front of a large crowd roaring only for him and on top of that he is RAFA, the KING of clay and you want me to believe, he was not into that game?
The fact is, he lost. Period.
Was he tired after a four hour match against Djoko? Was the air too thin because of altitude? Was he reluctant to play Madrid? For sure if the answers to all the above is yes, then he really is in trouble because he is a first class athlete and knows better he must be ready for whatever conditions.
Let's not forget who was on the other side of the net. Whether you like it or not, it is Roger Federer, the GREAT Roger. He had his issues but is slowly coming back to his A+ game. That, we must acknowledge too.
Is Roger gonna play RG, is he gonna reach the final? I am thinking about that for the time being. We all know tomorrow is another day. When tomorrow comes, we'll see what happens.

Posted by Cotton Jack 05/20/2009 at 07:20 AM

Rafa always loses one clay Masters tournament and always wins RG.

But only wins Wimbledon once.

Rafa for RG!
Roger for Wimbledon!!
Andy for the US Open!!!

Ah, what I lovely year that would be :-)

Except for Djokovic. Whatever ;-)

Posted by frances 05/20/2009 at 07:31 AM

ladylujulia- TMC is the last tournament of the year- i think its fair/honest to say that rafa in in his down spiral mode towards the end of the year-that is every year-end as a matter of fact. At this point fatigue and exhausted. But KODUS to Fed on how he can manage to play high level all year round during his dominant erar..

TMC 2007 with Fed and Nadal among Fed Fans is like French '08 final feelings among Nadal Fans. But TMC '07 I am not sure if it can be considered 'classic'.

Posted by embug 05/20/2009 at 07:36 AM

Nice article, Pete. My hopes were in neutral as I watched Sunday's match. Nadal would be tired, yes, but he can rev up like a champ even when his pins lag. As for TMF... I was confident this was his match, as long as he changed his tactics. And, honestly, that was a lot to ask from him given his history with Nadal... has it really been five Grand Slam losses?

However, Roger had changed. He did run around his backhand. He did approach (10/12 net wins). He did what "everyone" has said he should do to put Nadal on the defensive. Oh, and, he served well.

In the semis, Djokovic played Nadal's game. Long rallies. Figure eights enough to make me want an oxygen tank. Spectacular stuff. But you cannot fool Mother Nature, aka, odds are Nole wasn't gonna pull it off even with three match points to his avail.

Roger's confidence is notched up to a point that he is now a real threat to Nadal's number five FO victory. I don't want to predict, but can't help speculating. We do that all the time. And, about everything under the sun -- particularly the weather.

I speculate that it's possible for TMF to finally clinch the GOAT honor. That's as far as I"ll go. Otherwise, I'll get way too nervous and miss the tennis for what it means to tennis, to sports, and to this year's French Open.

Allez Roger!

Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 07:42 AM

Wow, how come Roger's fans are so angry and combative? Geesh, lighten up people. It's just a game and sports debates are supposed to be fun. Some people are acting as if THEY are Federer, or like he is their best friend or something. He's a big boy and I'm sure doesn't need his fans frothing at the mouth because some people are happy for someone else for a change.

Oh, and good morning TWibe!

Posted by frances 05/20/2009 at 07:45 AM


Rafa fans have accepted the Federer won Madrid.Period. But I don't think you can expect from us to convert to become Fed Fans:P

As for excuses-- gee you're making excuses urself "Fed now in his A+ game"? isn't that some sort of explanation some sort of excuse? That indeed you are finding a reason why Fed has lost a few times? So Mono and back injury is an acceptable excuse and simply fatigue is NOT?
Ang you talk of nadal in trouble becuase "first class athletes" can withstand perfect conditions? Gee you do know you're also implyning that Fed is not firt class then? he can't withstand mono therefore his not fisrt class....Geeeeeeeeee

Posted by frances 05/20/2009 at 08:08 AM

lilscot- morning there!! hahahhaah i know everyone has resurrected here!!!! worldward III

Posted by Ren 05/20/2009 at 08:17 AM

Thanks Or, that was a nice interview!

Hi everybody?

Let me say this Pete: That analysis is great if not incisive!

Posted by Ren 05/20/2009 at 08:19 AM


Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 08:20 AM


Hey, good morning frances. LOL! I know what you're saying. For over a year we had to hear all about the mono and the back problems and even the fact that Rafa was in his head. But someone even hints that Rafa may have been tired in Madrid and suddenly we're all making excuses for Rafa.

Look, Roger's a great champion, Rafa's a great champion. Let's all get along and realize and accept that these two guys are two of the best that ever picked up a racket. They BOTH get tired, as do all players, they both have oodles of confidence and fans.

Given all of that, there really is no reason at this point to think there might be some kind of shake-up in Paris this year. Maybe next year, who knows. But for right now, things seem to be following course. For five years at Wimby everyone said the same thing. Another title for Roger while the rest of the pack fights for second place. Now it's Rafa's turn at the FO.

Such is the nature of the sport. In a few years Rafa will be going through the same thing that Roger is now.

Posted by Ren 05/20/2009 at 08:22 AM

Oh no...I've got some good friends who happened to be Nadal Kads.

Posted by Ren 05/20/2009 at 08:24 AM

Hi Rafadoc, Marge, Jewell, RGNadal, Gab, among others!

Posted by Caroline 05/20/2009 at 08:26 AM

Pete has highlighted how little Roger has played in this clay season. I wonder if anyone else has considered cumulative fatigue as a possible negative factor for Novak at RG? This year Roger has played fewest matches by far of the big three (in all honesty, I don't yet rate Andy Murray on clay). He has played 11 matches against 18 each for Novak and Rafa. Last year Roger played 18 with roughly the same pattern as Novak - one minor tournament win and disappointing losses to Rafa in the big ones. The only difference is that Novak has played very well and Roger did not:) Maybe that is actually more psychologically damaging for the losing player. Novak certainly sounded very down after Madrid.

Interestingly also Novak has played far more matches this year than either Roger or Andy M. He has played 48 singles matches, including DC in 11 tournaments. Roger has played 32 matches in 7 tournaments and Andy M has played 36 matches in 9 tournaments. As far as points won this year is concerned, Novak (3630)is second behind Rafa (off the clock at 6625)but Roger is now only 170 points behind Novak at 3460 and 290 points ahead of Andy M on 3170. Points won per match are Rafa at 147, Roger at 108, Andy M at 88 and Novak at 75. Novak has been working very hard and it could catch up with him, especially since unlike the other three he hasn't been able to win a big tournament.

Posted by omolara 05/20/2009 at 08:28 AM

I am making no excuses. These are first class athletes we are talking about. Not only they are doing this because they love the game, but it is also the way they earn their living. What I am saying is they both know how to win. Don't get me wrong, there is no "polemique" in my writing. I do respect both players and above all I love the game.
IMO a win is a win and a loss is a loss whatever the conditions are. There is a say in my native language "the skies are not safe for any bird' (is that correct????) nevertheless they must fly.

Posted by Caroline 05/20/2009 at 08:29 AM

Andy M will now no doubt embarress me by getting to the final at RG!!

Posted by Mike 05/20/2009 at 08:36 AM

"Matt Zemek: 9:42 p.m.

As what? The perennial bridesmaid but never the bride? Not a legacy Roger would want I think. Going down in history as the guy who could never win doesn't sound very historic, at least not in a good way."

He's fared better than Sampras ... do we think the latter is any less the GOAT candidate? Do we feel Agassi is more of one?

Posted by Naydal 05/20/2009 at 08:38 AM

People seem to forget that the high bounce in the altitude only helped Nadal. So any added speed was definitely countered by the higher bounce.

I just see Nadal losing early this year. All it would take is a hard, aggressive hitter like Blake, Berdych or even Del Potro when he is on....

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 08:58 AM

Ren *waves and smiles* gee two days in a row?

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:00 AM

Pete, you won me when you wrote:

"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."

I feel precisely the same way about these two competitors. There have been only five other rivalries in tennis that I have felt nearly this strongly about:

1. Laver v. Rosewall
2. Borg v. McEnroe
3. Evert v. Navratilova
4. Edberg v. Becker
5. Sampras v. Agassi

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 09:05 AM

Slice Hey long time, yes I agree with all of the above,what great rivals they were indeed.

Being a Borg fan through and through to this very day he is still my idol,hey he is the Rock God Of Tennis remember.Brings back fond memories indeed.

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