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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 Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:07 AM

I should have added... Graf and anyone. She was THAT special. ;-))

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:08 AM

And I did enjoy Goolagong v. Evert.
And Margaret Court v. Billie Jean King, though I saw only a handful of those, at most.

Posted by Tennis Fan 05/20/2009 at 09:08 AM

Sharapova wins her second match. Will face A. Bondarenko next, the player she was playing at IW when she injured her shoulder last year.

Zheng Jie out. Looks like Hantuchova will be the only competition is Sharapova gets past Bondarenko.


Medina Garrigues is out. Does not defend her win from last year. She has had a dismal clay court season since winning Fes. Peng & Dulko are the only seeds left and they have not completed play yet.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:08 AM

I'll shut up now......

Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 09:16 AM

Mike: 8:36 a.m.

Not sure what you're talking about Mike but the quote of mine you put there was referring only to a conversation with Matt about Roger at the FO. Not as an overall champion, which he is, and definitely a GOAT.

I have always maintained that Rog is my second favourite player. Whenever Rafa's not in a tournament I get almost as nervous and excited hoping Roger wins as I do when it's Rafa.

Matt's thought is that by making so many FO finals it really enhances his history and I was just playing devil's advocate by putting it in the context of "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" there and that some might see that as not necessarily enhancing his history.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!!) 05/20/2009 at 09:21 AM

i guess lilscot - because you get tired of crap like 'roger is a racist' because he appologizes for not speaking spanish...

jewell - i think i'd take one fan who pokes at fed, rather than the multitude of slaps. they just get tiring to read, and are more difficult to avoid.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:22 AM

Hey there Aussimarg (when did you start speeling is with a capital 'A'?). Good to hear from you, too. Hope all is well on your end. Yes, Borg was the first of the tennis gods in the open era, perhaps in all of tennis history, to be followed by Andre Agassi. Though Big Bill Tilden cut a wide swath, as well. His off-court life tarnished his image, though. The again, Borg's was not all peaches and cream, was it?

Funny, though, that when we look at and liusten to Agassi now, it's almost impossible to imagine him is those pink lycras under his denim shorts with the long hair flowing over the nape of his neck. Talk about a transformation! And our man Borg saeems to be well these days, too. Looking rather refined and gentlemanly, even.

Anyway, I cannot wait for the French to begin.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 09:22 AM

Slice Please dont I am loving every minute,

Gee Margaret Court with her outstanding record today,

She has won more singles titles than any other man or woman current,incredible,62 Grand Slam titles,also the 2nd person in the history of the game to win a golden Grand Slam.

Goolagong just mesmorised me on court,she just glided.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 09:24 AM

Slice My idol Borg has just launched his own underwear in the USA

Maybe you can buy a few pairs hey? lol!

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:25 AM

"Goolagong just mesmorised me on court,she just glided."

Noicely put. She was the queen of smooth. Chrissie Evert once said of Goolagong that when she struck the ball, particularly on a grass court, you could hardly hear it. She played such a fine finesse game, but with her speed and flair was also a great attacker. She's really the first woman player who I had a crush on. A giant crush, too. Something about that aboriginal look, coupled with the sophisticated playing style, and those beautiful legs.... MmmmMmmmmMmmmm.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Dinara Safina the new WTA #1) 05/20/2009 at 09:25 AM

Hey AM are you still around? I'm trying not to post too much this week.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:27 AM

Yes! I'll be donning my Bjorns the next tinme I play.
"Nothing comes between me and my Bjorns"..... sorry.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 09:28 AM

Slice She is doing a lot of work with the young tennis players in the country parts of Oz,she is a delightful person indeeed.

Hey I am a bit miffed you havent added in Maid Marion?mmmmmmmm.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 09:29 AM

AA Yes I am here,how are things with you?

Any news on the job front as yet?

Posted by Mike 05/20/2009 at 09:29 AM

Guess that's what happens when you read posts as individual entities ... as opposed to following the string.

My bad, lilscot ... Rafa is my second Favorite, so we're completely opposite ... yet, somehow, the same. ;)

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:30 AM

As in Bartoli! You must know how I feel about her game.... it's to painful to watch. And I'm sure she's a delightful little biotch, too. LOL

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/20/2009 at 09:30 AM

Slice: don't go. it's so nice to see you :) I loved goolagong too. the original supermom. win a major. have a baby. win another major.

AoS: are you trying to stay away from tw to avoid being sucked into all the pettiness?

have to take my daughter to the dr. to get checked out for possible swine flu. gah. can you believe it?

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Dinara Safina the new WTA #1) 05/20/2009 at 09:31 AM

AM No news on the job front yet, though it is picking up a bit.

I have missed out on a lot in the last couple of days, it seems to have been a little bit tense around here. Do we post here or at YC.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:33 AM

Oh my, Annie. I pray that your daughter does not have the swine flu. Be well!

And yes, I've gotten a little tired of some of the petty banter on the TW and COncrete Elbow boards. But I still lurk often and now and then speak up to say hi to my peeps.

Thanks for the kind words... both you and Aussiemarg. ;-)))))

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 09:33 AM

Slice We have renamed Marions serve,

The Crab serve? next time you have a chance and study it more carefully,ok I know its painful to watch,but hey it is like a crab lol!

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Dinara Safina the new WTA #1) 05/20/2009 at 09:34 AM

Annie I am not even sure what all the pettiness is about, so it is better that I do stay away.

I don't know how I am going to go when the real action starts next week.

I am jumping on the Pico train, he is going to be my dark horse.

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 09:39 AM

One of the inevitable Laws of the TW Universe appears to be that all conversations, wherever they start, inevitably lead to the GOAT discussion, some way, somehow.

So what are people's favourite players of all time who are definitely not part of the GOAT debate, or even near-GOATs?

Living in England, I grew up watching Virginia Wade, and still vividly remember her winning Wimbledon (in her little Ted Tinling dress), after so many years of agonising attempts.

On the men's side, it probably would be Vitas Gerulaitis. That man really knew how to light up a tennis court with his hustle and larger-than-life personality.

Inevitably tending back to the GOAT discussion, it often seems that Rosewall is the forgotten man, at least in the circle of near-greats. In the bio that was wrteen of Rosewall, it's pointed out that when you look at his record as a pro, compared to Laver he had an even better record in the "pro major" events before the start of the Open era.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Dinara Safina the new WTA #1) 05/20/2009 at 09:39 AM

Speaking of Maid Marion, where is she? She hasn't played for a few weeks.

Posted by Kofi 05/20/2009 at 09:39 AM

Hi Slice-n-Dice! Long time no see.
I remember one of my first conversations (if not the first) in TW was with you regarding advantages/disadvantages of serving first in a set or serving first to the deuce side in a game. Remember?

Posted by jewell, at work. 05/20/2009 at 09:42 AM

*hugs jb*

The grass is always greener, and all that - I didn't mean to tirade at you. :)

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:43 AM

I'm sure I told you about my awful U.S. Open experience last year, when my brother and his wife and I waited in Louis Armstroing Stadium thorugh two excruciating sets pitting Bartoli against Bammer, while we prayed for one of them to die so we could see Tsonga v. Robredo before we had to skidaddle to the train back ouyt to Princeton Junction, New Jersey, where we had parked.

I've never witnessed two uglier serves. Bartoli's, which is nearly indescribable (you done good), and Bammer's, which features a 25 ft. high toss.

That match lasted 3 hours and 8 minutes (a record), and we caught about 1:45 of it, becasue I had suggested we give Bartoli about 1:15 to dismantle Bammer while we grab a bite and a beer. Boy was I pissed.

Hence, I cannot ever forgive either woman for ruining my Sunday at the U.S. Open. ;-)

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 09:44 AM

By the way, I think it's fine if the conversation here drifts in tennis-related directions that connect to Pete's original post, but just in case anyone was thinking of using this post for match-calling of current matches or the day's news - that should stay on the last YC for now.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Dinara Safina the new WTA #1) 05/20/2009 at 09:44 AM

I'm not so sure I want Kimmy to come back. Though she did look good on the Wimbledon green. If she does make a successful comeback I think the WTA will look a bit of a joke.

Annie I hope everything is ok with your daughter.

AM it is raining right now, the first lot we have had in quite a while.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/20/2009 at 09:49 AM

Lilscot (and Mike):

It's a very productive conversation the two of you are having. No need for apologies on either end...

Lilscot is quite correct in noting that the "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" tag is readily applied to players or teams who finish in second. This might have resonance around the world (I can't really say), but I can know with certainty that in America, the overwhelming majority of sports fans--at least to the extent that sports fans form and create a larger cultural attitude--detest finishing in second place. A major American athletics company (I think it was Nike, but am not sure), in conjunction with the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, put out a T-shirt which said, "Second place is the first loser."

Teams with a reputation for losing Super Bowls (Buffalo Bills) and World Series (Atlanta Braves) are stigmatized in America, to the point that people will make references to "The Buffalo Bills of baseball," or the "Atlanta Braves of basketball." The uniquely excruciating pain of reaching a championship match or round, only to come up just short, has led the American sports fan to, in his/her anguish, lament attaining the second-place status that is really a misnomer.

"Second-place" or "second-rate" are terms meant to convey a sense of inferiority. Yet, those phrasings--which should be junked in favor of "low-rate" or "bottom-rung"--are applied to teams or players who manage to be No. 2 in the world in a given event or pursuit.

With that little semantic rant over with, back to sports discussions....

The "always a bridesmaid" label is more effectively applied to teams or players who have never won any (elite/national)championship of any kind. A particularly salient example comes from NCAA men's basketball roughly two decades ago. When the Duke Blue Devils were beginning to regularly make Final Fours in the earlier years of the Mike Krzyzewski era, they were never able to win the national title.

Louisville stopped them in 1986, Kansas in the '88 semis, Seton Hall in the '89 semis, UNLV in the 1990 title game. By that point, people were wondering if Duke was ever going to get over the hump.

In '91, they finally knocked the door down, and the bridesmaid became the bride.

The angst and the national ridicule were predictable, though still unfortunate (as is the case for any team or player who is second-best in the world within a given endeavor). However, there was at least a certain legitimacy to the label.

With Federer, the label lacks credibility... Sure, one could accurately note that Roger has never won the French, but he's won so many other major championships, and owns so many impressive records within the realm of Grand Slam tournament competition, that he shouldn't be saddled with that kind of baggage.

This is running long, I know, so I'll wrap up with this conclusion:

Hank Aaron, the legendary baseball player, had a little-known brother, Tommie.

Tommie hit 13 home runs in his very modest career. Yet, his place as Hank Aaron's brother enabled the Aarons to become the all-time leaders in home runs by a pair of siblings.

After all, Hank hit 755 homers in his Hall of Fame career.

Many broadcasters--and people like my late dad, who attended some of Aaron's Milwaukee Braves games in the late 1950s--would often be heard to say, "Hank Aaron and I have combined for 755 home runs," or something to that effect.

Similarly, one could say, "Just like Roger Federer, I've never won the French Open."

The point, of course, is that such reductionist thinking doesn't do justice to the measure of Fed's achievements at Roland Garros. The number of people who have made 3 straight French finals is pretty small... win or lose.

Fed's legacy at Philippe Chatrier is one of achievement... just not the highest level of achievement. Fans of the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Braves would understand that point in a way many (more casual, less sophisticated) American sports fans wouldn't.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 09:49 AM

AA I dont know,though she hasnt been winning many matches at them moment

Alize Cornet has had a shoulder injury

Gee Alize,Marion and my favourite Amelie really are the only girls to carry the French Flag.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Dinara Safina the new WTA #1) 05/20/2009 at 09:50 AM

Thanks RA for the YC clarification.

I also like the idea you have suggested about our favs not making the GOAT list.

Posted by Tuulia 05/20/2009 at 09:50 AM

Carrie @7:41 yesterday... LOL - that was brillian, thanks!

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 09:52 AM

Rosangel I see you point there with Kenny and his title wins etc, the only say blemish if one wants to see that on his great carrer was he wasnt able to win that elusive Wimbledon title.

Posted by Tuulia 05/20/2009 at 09:55 AM

Rosangel @ 8:10 pm yesterday, thank you as well! :D

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 09:55 AM

Hi Kofi!

I hope you are well, and playing lots of tennis!
And yes, I do vaguely recall that conversation. Thanbks for reminding me of it.

In fact, I have devised the perfect way to mitigate the inherent advantage that a lefty enjoys (because every close game must logically end in the ad court, where the lefty has the advantage on serve and on return).

Here's what we do: return the symmetry in the game by offering the lefty a choice: begin each service game from the ad court, thereby making sure that every close game (one that reaches 30-30) ends in the deuce court, or begin each receiving game in the ad court, thereby effectively achieving the same balance. Bit not both in the same match.

It could be made even more interesting if the rules stated that the lefty could change course at the beginning of each set. So for the first set, he/she elects to begin receiving serve from the ad court; the next set he/she elects to beging serving from the ad court. And so on. That would throw an interesting wrinkle into the game, wouldn't it?

Posted by jewell, at work. 05/20/2009 at 09:57 AM

I suppose I liked Tim Henman better than anyone for a while. Goran, too. For the women - Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. Loved them both.

I like watching Bartoli, too - I find her appealing - not sure why.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Dinara Safina the new WTA #1) 05/20/2009 at 09:58 AM

Jewell, if you are still around, I am going to the other thread. Hope you are having a good day.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 09:58 AM

Slice Yes indeed I am a leftie,though I am not into wrinkles at all.Lol!

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 10:00 AM


Yes, I too loved Virginia Wade, and was so happy for her when she finally one the Big One in front pf her adoring (though always doubting) crowd.

As for great players who might not be GOAT contenders, I loved Rosewall, of course. And Nastase, for his shear talent and flair, not for his antics. I'd also have to say Ivanisevic and Krajicek, both big men with very different styles. Ivanisevic's serve was the most lethal single weapon I've ever seen brandished o a tennis court -- a monster. And Richard (the original Richard) was a smooth cat with a nice all-arouund game. He was a gentleman, too, a la Edberg, whom I should also add to the list. In fact, I'm a huge Edberg fan, as TW favorite Sam can attest.

Of the ladies, I'd have to say Mandlikova nand Novotna, though the latter was sometimes difficult to watch, being prone to those awful throat-constricting episodes. And, of course, Gabby. I mean, who did not lobe Sabatini? Although I think her backhand had too much loop and hieight on it, for my taste. But no one looked better in a white tennis skirt.

Posted by Mike 05/20/2009 at 10:01 AM

I understand and appreciate your in depth follow up, Matt.

But I honestly feel that Tennis fans know the difference between a player that could nearly win everything, and come so close for 3 straight years ... and all the matches it entails, to winning everything ... and those that couldn't even get into the conversation.

Guess I feel that way because Tennis is pretty much the most absolute and challenging one on one sport there is ... no one out there but you and your opponent against the conditions, elements, and each other. That being taken into consideration, Roger came about as close to winning everything (GS wise) multiple years in a row as you can get. I don't see it as a failure in any way ... kind of like horseshoes and hand grenades for me. ;)

Anyhoo ... I've nowhere near your knowledge and experience regarding the sport ... just my opinion.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 10:03 AM

Aussiemarg, you are too funny. Wrinkles or no, I still love you.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 10:07 AM

Slice I am in love with you too? LOL!

You are way too cool for a tennis player.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 10:08 AM


Your post above is the best piece of lucid thinking and concise writing I've read from you on this board. Very well put. It should be enshrined somewhere... not kidding!

Slice ;-)

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 10:09 AM

Thanks, Aussiemarg. Though I'm really not very cool.

Posted by Kofi 05/20/2009 at 10:11 AM

Slice, yes, I play tennis twice in the week, but not at a competitive level.
I remember you already proposed that or something very similar. What I am still not sure of is the very existence of that "inherent advantage".
Just one of the reasons, and very condensed: if you think Federer would normally choose to start serving/receiving to the ad side in a game, then he would also normally choose to receive first rather than serve first, and he does not. Because the important or deciding points/games would be played with his advantage (serving for sets, or serving to the deuce or receivint to the deuce for games).
Maybe Rafa normally prefers to receive first so that the "important/deciding" games are played on his serve? (I have a very different theory of the reason, but stil...)

Posted by Andrew 05/20/2009 at 10:16 AM

Slice-n-Dice: Maria Bueno. That is all.

Posted by Kofi 05/20/2009 at 10:17 AM

Slice, I really have to go right now, but if you post some answer I will read it later.
(Incidentally, if you came more often you would not have to have conversations with about 5 people at a time ;-)

Posted by Grace 05/20/2009 at 10:17 AM

Anyone with any sense, who isn't a Fed-obsessive, can see that this match meant very little in the grand scheme of things. Let's see how things fair in Paris, then we can come up with an accurate and unbiased assessment. Well, WE can... I doubt YOU can.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 10:17 AM


My premise is that while lefties enjoy an inherent advantage -- lefties who have a naturally wicked hook, or can-opener, serve and a naturally wicked hook forehand, like Nadal -- there is no inherent advantage for the righty. This is because the righty's advantage would come, as you suggest, in the deuce court, where he can swing a slice serve out wide to a lefty's backhand. But the troubloe is, that never occurs on a game-deciding point in close games (those that reach 30-30).

So yes, Roger might get a jump to 15-0, or even get to 30-15 on the strength (advantage) of his slice serve out wide to Nadal's backhand, but when it comes time to seal the deal at 40-30 or to defend against the break t 30-40, he is at an inherent disadvantage.

That's the premise, anyway. We csan certainly debate its validity all you want, and I'm glad to oblige, because I loove this stuff.

Posted by Andrew 05/20/2009 at 10:19 AM

For near GOATs, male edition: Open Era, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl. One step below: Mats Wilander, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg.

Female edition: Venus Williams, Justine Henin. One step below: Martina Hingis.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 10:21 AM

Andrew, terrific pick!

I only got to see Maria Bueno once inm person, and for a very brief time. It was at the Orange Lawn torunament in which Chrissie had her first major breakthrough, just before her U.S. OIpen debut, where she lost to BJK in the semifinal. Miss Bueno had lost in the second or third round.

Maria Bueno was the epitome of beauty and class and elegance. She was truly fit for thr silver screen, if it hadn't been for tennis.

Posted by Kofi 05/20/2009 at 10:23 AM

Slice, either I don't understand reading your last post fast (I am already late to where I have to to) or my point still stands (comparison of parity of important points in a game with games in a set).
This time I am really off, but will return.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/20/2009 at 10:25 AM

Rosangel Have you had a chance to watch the federer v Nadal match in Madrid as yet.

Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 10:30 AM

jb: 9:21 a.m.

I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. What's this "Roger's a racist crap" you're talking about? Are you saying you think Roger's a racist because he doesn't speak Spanish? Are you saying you think I think Roger's a racist because he doesn't speak Spanish? You've got me totally lost unless you're getting me mixed up with someone else.

Posted by Andrew 05/20/2009 at 10:30 AM

Grace: hate to say this, but the majority of Federer fans agree with you, rather than disagree. Sorry.

Slic-n-Dice/Kofi: in my view, there's no intrinsic lefty/righty, serve first/receive first advantage. It's a myth. There's a symmetry principle at work. I'm running to a meeting, but I can go into this later.

Posted by rafadoc 05/20/2009 at 10:32 AM

Interjecting a little humor into the convo "Rafa was tired, Roger was great" yadayadayada :)

Viewing requires a sense of humor! :

Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 10:36 AM

My favourite female players of all time:

1. Chris Evert/Monica Seles
2. Martina Navratilova, Mary Pierce
3. Margaret Court
4. Jennifer Capriati
5. Justine Henin

Favourite male players of all time:

1. Bjorn Borg, Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi
2. Jimmy Connors
3. Rod Laver
4. Vitas Gueralitis(sp)
5. Pete Sampras

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 10:36 AM

Aussiemarg: no, I haven't seen it yet, as I posted a few minutes ago over on Steve Tignor's latest post. I was thinking of leaving it until the conversation has died down a little - so much has been written about it that I'd rather approach it with fresh eyes.

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 10:36 AM

Aussiemarg: no, I haven't seen it yet, as I posted a few minutes ago over on Steve Tignor's latest post. I was thinking of leaving it until the conversation has died down a little - so much has been written about it that I'd rather approach it with fresh eyes.

Posted by just horsen(irritated Braves fan!) 05/20/2009 at 10:37 AM

Matt Zemek,

Your post above has some good points but as this life-long Braves fan can tell you, the Atlanta Braves problem is not losing World Series, the Atlanta Braves problem is making it that far. They've only made the playoffs 2 in the last decade.

Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 10:39 AM

Mike: 9:29 a.m.

No worries friend. :) It's interesting you mention about being the same but opposite because that's how I've always seen Rafa and Roger. Their histories are forever intertwined. No future sports historian will ever be able to honestly discuss one of their careers without having to mention frequently the other. That's why I find their rivalry and their stories so intriguing.

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 10:41 AM

Obviously one point that I don't agree with Pete on is " I've got to see this match. . ."


Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 10:42 AM

lilscot, you said a mouthful there (at 10:39 AM). So true.

Posted by Game Lover 05/20/2009 at 10:42 AM

Andrew: Remember what I told you about Rafa's weak returns?

Well now Steve Tignor points out as well that:

"If Nadal has a weakness, it’s the forehand return of a second serve on break point"...

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/20/2009 at 10:44 AM

Ah, Rosangel, are you letting your Nadal KAD self show through?

Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 10:44 AM

Matt Zemek: 9:49 a.m.

Completely agree. There's absolutely not one thing wrong with coming in second place. I used to wrestle in high school and I wrestled this one guy for three years in most of the tournaments I was in and always came in second to him. Yet I always felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. Please don't think I'm saying that Roger coming in second place at the FO is "second place is the first loser."

I don't think that way at all. Not all second place finishers are on the level of greatness of Roger. That's the only reason I say finishing second at RG doesn't enhance his history. It doesn't diminish it either in any way, shape, or form.

Also, I'm not American...

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/20/2009 at 11:31 AM

Since many of us are talking about near-GOATS, which could also be referred to as "most underrated greats", it's worth mentioning the towering accomplishments that wind up being overlooked in the court of public opinion when these near-GOATS' careers are dissected.

One example that comes to mind is Ivan Lendl's 19 Grand Slam finals. Dude finished second A TON, but few maintained his high-level consistency.

Connors? Probably the fact that his 5 US Opens were won on 3 separate surfaces. I haven't really heard that fact trumpeted all that much when Jimbo's legacy is re-examined in the public eye.

McEnroe? Try this one: he reached Grand Slam semis 15 years apart--in 1977 and 1992 at Wimby. We think of Johnny Mac as a fiery virtuoso who burned brightly for a short span of time, and then flamed out after his awesome 1984 run. There's considerable truth to that, but he remained a presence on court into the early 90s, a reality forgotten by those intent on taking a full measure of his career.

Sampras? The fact that he lost only 4 Grand Slam finals. Fed has lost 5. (Nadal, only two). Sampras was the best closer tennis has ever seen to this point. Rafa could challenge that distinction given the passage of time... and sustained health.

Sampras also made at least one Slam final in 11 consecutive years (1992-2002), another unreal achievement.

Agassi? Try this: 26 semifinal-or-better showings at slams.

As for Laver and players of older days, I don't have as much of a feel for the underappreciated achievements that set them apart. At any rate, a discussion of near-GOATS and great players assembled into various categories of rank should involve a discussion of notably underappreciated/overlooked achievements.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/20/2009 at 11:36 AM


You had said earlier that you were being a devil's advocate in the argument, so I knew that you were speaking from a thoughtful place and were just trying to lend texture and depth to the conversation. (Which you did!)

Just Horsen:

Recent years have been lean in Atlanta, but this was a franchise that won its division 14 seasons in a row, the '94 lockout season excepted. When those Braves teams are analyzed, it's the World Series losses that are beaten into the ground.

I was an Expos fan during those years (I will never root for the Washington Nationals because of their connection to the Expos leaving Montreal), so the Braves gave me plenty of pain, but I admired the team and I loved Greg Maddux, so I rooted for them in the playoffs. They did get stuck with a bad reputation, when their accomplishments merited so much more praise.

A play here and a pitch there, and we're talking about a true dynasty. Instead, the Braves became a punching bag. Not fair, not right.

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 11:37 AM

lilscot: I honestly hope that Rafa goes on to have at least one other rivalry that's also remembered as a great one - other that Djokovic, I think maybe Andy Murray is the one. I'd want this largely because I think the way their styles match up is very entertaining, but also because I think sometimes too much is made of the "Federer set the standard, everyone else had to raise the bar in order to catch him" narrative that's often laid out. Pete has even written a piece to the effect that Federer set a series of test and Rafa worked away in order to pass all of them. I'm utterly convinced that Rafa would have been one of the greatest tennis warriors we've seen even if there had been no Federer - to me he's too unique and hard-working for that not to be true. I do think there's something - probably a lot - in the idea that top-flight rivalries, including this one, have the effect of causing one or both parties to raise their games, but I also haven't forgotten that Rafa beat Federer the first time he played him, on a hard court at that, so he's always had the game and the mind to beat him, and has consistently shown that throughout their matches.

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 11:39 AM

Matt Zemek - Sampras is a near-GOAT?

Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 11:39 AM

Matt Zemek: 11:36 a.m.

Thanks Matt! :)

Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 11:42 AM

Rosangel: 11:37 a.m.

Couldn't agree with you more. I also think that Murray could be his contemporary rival for a few years to come, along with Nole. Roger is a different generation so he won't be able to maintain the heated rivalry for as long as some of the younger ones coming up.

I think it's going to take both Murray and Nole to fill the shoes of Roger as Rafa's rivals. Murray on hard courts and possibly grass, and Nole on clay.

Posted by Helga 05/20/2009 at 11:43 AM

i love fed and i think he needs to end nadal's running streak at roland garros like nadal did to fed at wimbledon.

Posted by Syd 05/20/2009 at 11:44 AM


Lol. I'm with you. I'm with you! :)

Posted by lilscot 05/20/2009 at 11:46 AM

Helga: 11:43 a.m.

That would sure add to their historic rivalry. Since it was Rafa who ended Roger's long streaks on both grass and hard courts, and Roger broke both Rafa's clay streaks.

The only problem with that scenario is that as each year passes Roger's chances of beating Rafa in any GS diminishes, especially on the dirt, while Rafa will still be very young for a few more years. That's not a tennis problem but a physiological one that none of us can escape, even Roger. But, dreams are made to come true right?

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/20/2009 at 11:49 AM


No.... I realize that I lurched into restricted-access territory and lost control of boundaries.

Sampras obviously resides in the highest, most lofty pantheon. I simply meant to shine a light on the underappreciated achievements of many great players.

So I apologize. Good catch on your part.

With that out of the way, what would be--for you--the most underappreciated/overlooked achievements in the careers of Borg and Rafa? Those are questions you're well positioned to answer.

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 12:02 PM

Most underappreciated achievements in Borg's career? How about four US Open finals, only lost to Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, the other two great players of his generation? You'll like that one given the earlier discussion about the Roland Garros final and Federer. Also Davis Cup - between 1974 and 1980 he had a 33-match winning streak in singles.

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 12:10 PM

The 33-match streak was a record - unbroken at the end of his career.

I could add that neither Borg or Rafa ever went out in the first round of a Grand Slam - the only two players I know of who have done that that, but it's minor compared to everything else. It can still happen to Rafa, obviously.

I've just checked, at at age 19 Borg already had a 19-match singles-winning streak in Davius Cup, and clinched the for Sweden to win them the final, also playing on the winning side in the doubles.

Posted by Master Ace 05/20/2009 at 12:12 PM

Matt Zemek,
Here are 2 on Rafael:
(a) 33 match wins on clay recently stopped by Roger at Madrid
(b) Rafael run starting with Monte Carlo 2008. I will have to give details later. He won over 100 matches losing only 9 times with 13 titles
(c) 32 match winning streak in 2008 starting from Hamburg until the Cincinnati semifinals winning titles on 3 different surfaces.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/20/2009 at 12:13 PM


Funny you should bring that up about Borg.

One can look at multiple greats and find positive value in noticing how many Grand Slam finals they lost.

After all, take a guy like Lendl.

He lost 5 U.S. Open finals. Some might view that as a net negative (pun not intended in a tennis discussion) with respect to his legacy.

But when one then realizes that me reached a still-absurd 8 straight U.S. Open finals from 1982-'89, one then realizes that the loss of 5 finals was built on the back of a really amazing achievement.

Borg's US Open struggles and Fed's French struggles ("struggles being a very relative term in this case"; wouldn't we all want to "struggle" the way they did at certain tournaments) fit into a similar category.

Borg was indeed an accomplished player on ALL surfaces. Lots of (more casual) sports fans, though, look at the lack of a U.S. Open crown and think, "oh, he wasn't so special on hardcourts."

Anyone who saw the 1980 U.S. Open final knew how good Borg was on cement. Johnny Mac was just a slight bit better.

Posted by Master Ace 05/20/2009 at 12:13 PM

Add Serena on the WTA on that list of never losing in the first round at a Slam.

Posted by AmandaO 05/20/2009 at 12:14 PM

Peter - love your writing.

One question on this post: why did you name it Burn, Baby Burn? I didn't see you explicitly talking about that in the post and I was trying to make the connection... the title of the post is compelling, which is why I read the article, but I didn't see you refer to that in your post.


Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever 05/20/2009 at 12:15 PM

Replay: TennisChannel is replaying the match in its entirety as we speak. Just started (noon eastern).

As you tend to observe the 'change in routines' at the beginning of the toss....

Fed sitting still looking into the nether land.
Rafa adjusts bottles with a vernier caliper.
And then adjusts more.
And then looks at Fed.
And looks at Fed again.
Fed looking into the nether land as if it's alright.
Rafa fidgets.
Rafa stares ahead.
And then Rafa looks at Fed again.
Then...Rafa didn't know what to do...stands up and goes to toss.

Very funny.
I think this affected the OCD guy very very badly no?

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 12:19 PM

Amanda): you would need to investigate the lyrics to "Disco Inferno", which Pete refers to in his post. But perhaps you're not of the "Saturday Night Fever" Generation"?

Posted by ladyjulia 05/20/2009 at 12:27 PM


"I'm utterly convinced that Rafa would have been one of the greatest tennis warriors we've seen even if there had been no Federer - to me he's too unique and hard-working for that not to be true."

What you say is true..if Federer was not there, Rafa would have been No. 1 for 3 years already with all those MS and RG titles. He would still be one of the greatest ever, without Federer.And I agree about the uniqueness too.

But, from the uniqueness point of view, however, don't u think that the most accomplished and intriguing thing that Rafa did, and that nobody else in history has ever done, was to knock off a 13 GS winner in near-darkness in the longest Wimby final ever? Not only that, how many players in tennis (only men's) had a winning H2H against a 13 GS winner...not just a winning H2H but a 13-7? You have to admit, that Federer makes Nadal look superhuman, not in this world.

If Nadal is unbeatable,practically unbeatable, isn't one of the reasons because he has made Federer bite the dust in 7 grand slams, 3 of those finals a five setter?

That gives an aura unparalleled compared to if Nadal had been rolling over 6-1,6-1,6-1 over others. Ofcourse, Nadal has that mental strength with everybody, but don't u think it enhances his reputation sky-high that a guy who rolled over everybody for 4 years can take Nadal to five sets, but never can win? Don't you think that that gives an added dimension to the word "WARRIOR"???

I doubt if Murray can make Nadal look like that.

I am not talking about the game matchups...but their overall place in history. With all due respect, Murray has still to prove that he can win 13 GS, win 3 GS in a year and repeat it three times!
And Nadal outdid that player, that;s what makes him unique in my eyes.

Also, Nadal's taking of the No. 1 ranking will go down in history as one of the biggest events in history of tennis... because it was so hard to take down...that gives an added dimension of greatness to his achievement.

Sure, he would have been No. 1 at the age of 18 and all that, but i think his being No. 1 at the age of 22 is more significant and a tribute to him as a player that he dethroned somebody who was a very consistent remarkable player. If there was no Federer, Nadal would have dethroned Roddick who had some 3000 points as No. 1. Now, I like Roddick but i think achieving 7000 points to get the No. 1 ranking is more earth shattering than achieving 3100 points to get to No.1!

Regarding the technical aspects, Nadal is definitely unique, but i don't know if he would have improved his serve to that extent where it is now (if i remember correctly, Nadal said in 2007 that Federer wins free points on his serve, and it is important to be able to do that) if he had winning and dominating since the age of 18.

Ofcourse, that is hard to predict, but i like the combination of these two players when they meet...rather than Djoko and Murray or somebody else..also because they are so polarizing in their personalities.

One shoots his mouth off regularly, the other refuses to speak anything that dosen't sound is stringent on time, the other takes his wears classical colors, the other dresses up as an easter dosen't do visible fist pumps, the other has his signature fist pump and is silent as the night, the other grunts like a puts his hands in the pocket while waiting for the match, the other does kangaroo wants to win at all costs, the other refuses to lose at any cost..i mean this list is practically endless..I couldn't write like this about Djoko-Nadal or Murray-Nadal.

Murray-Nadal dosen't bring out the same enthusiasm in me, .but to me, what Nadal has achieved with Federer has much greater significance than what he would have achieved without Federer.... without chasing the No. 1 ranking for 3 yrs,without losing two Wimby finals, without defeating a multiple GS winner in 7 GS, without defeating somebody who had a very bad habit of winning!

I am sure Nadal's Wimby final win was much, much sweeter to him because he defeated a 12 GS, 5 peat winner in near darkness...rather than winning over a 1 or 2 GS winner at the age of 19 or 20.

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 12:28 PM

Matt: as for Rafa's most underapppreciated achievement - undoubtedly it is the fact that he's the only man in history to concurrently be the defending champion at Slams on three different surfaces. To me that should have been the lead story after the AO, not the fact that Federer cried at the trophy ceremony.

The MC at the AO just after that victory should also have pointed out this fact about the new AO champion, rather than introducing the loser as "everybody's favourite champion" and losing the real narrative. It was the most bungled trophy ceremony I've ever seen, and and I don't hold Mr Federer responsible for that.

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/20/2009 at 12:36 PM

ros, spoken like a true KAD! cmon, dont be heartless! roger's tears made even Chrissie cry, sorry people respond to emotions, not statistics ... i had a great idea for a video about the last few days, does anyone know how you can access YouTube video and put it into editing programs like iMovie?

a large GE to anyone who has the answer ;)

Posted by RealTennisNut 05/20/2009 at 12:38 PM


You have the wrong link to the article where you speculated how Madrid could work in Federer's favor. The underlying hyperlink is

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/20/2009 at 12:41 PM

Ros -

I recall you mentioning that point about Nadal. So true.

Posted by Carrie 05/20/2009 at 12:42 PM

Ros- I agree with you in a way.

I can understand why Roger's tears were a big story. It weas a unique moment.

But then they seemed to become the only story. But of course- I am deluded Rafa zombie fan who thinks he has some talent and so would have liked to see his achievement of being the only male player in history to be a defending champ of three different surfaces mentioned more. But I am sure that is because I am idiotic neophyte who knows nothing about tennis as I like Rafa. Ready for the hurlse of how Rafa is boring and no one likes his style- only the country bumpkins ,etc.

Posted by Tigress 05/20/2009 at 12:44 PM

TC is re-showing the Madrid Final at the moment. Taped it on Sunday, now taping an edited version with all the best stuff: Intros, Fed break game and clinching game in Set 1, all Fed service games and break game in Set 2, fed winning moments, plus awards ceremonies, and no commercials. Can watch this until RG really gets going, and then into the future. They do a great 90 second close-up sequence about 5 minutes after match conclusion: close-up of Roger serving the winning Ace and raising his arms them finger and gesturing triumphantly to his box. Its a classic for re-editing into an continuous 30 minute loop. What a great match for the Ages. Hope there will be a Fed winning celebration in 3 weeks at RG to add. This tape is going to a prime spot on my video shelf.

TC is presently on Set 1, Game 4.

Posted by Tigress 05/20/2009 at 12:48 PM

Addition: TC replay is on the U.S. West Coast. Don't know if it's on elsewhere in America. Do you get TC in Canada?

Posted by Tim (Jaunty and Lovin it! 2009 Year of RED Rogie!) 05/20/2009 at 12:51 PM

hey Tigress, can you shoot me an email off the boards?

Posted by ladyjulia 05/20/2009 at 12:53 PM

Regarding Rafa going first at the toss, he is too great a player to let anything small affect him like that..

But, I also don't like Roger staying on the bench and letting Rafa go first, if the allotted time has passed. He might have done it good humor, mindgames etc, etc...but what is he going to do next? Take an injury timeout? I am not saying that Rafa takes injury timeouts because he dosen't have an injury, but i think it is a testament to Fed's fitness that he never took an injury timeout since 2003, not even when he had back pain with Murray in TMC 2008.

That is dependent on physiology though, so i don't expect that from other players.However, I personally do not like it if players take a lot of time, but that is mainly because i have to sit and twiddle my thumbs during that time.

I am not a big fan of mindgames, and I would rather that Roger concentrate on his serve and forehand than trying out these timing things.

Posted by Tigress 05/20/2009 at 12:54 PM

Yikes! Roger still needs to improve those hard FH's if he plans to beat Rafa and/or Nole at RG. Glad I'm not taping that one!

Posted by Tigress 05/20/2009 at 01:00 PM

It's great if Roger's doing a little of that mind-game stuff back to Rafa and Nole, who stretch (break) the rules and do it all the time. Fight fire with fire! Unlike them, Roger will never break the rules: he's too classy. Rafa and Nole are still quite young and hopefully they will learn better manners from Roger, who I think is in some ways a model-figure for them.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!!) 05/20/2009 at 01:00 PM

lilscot, mm at 11:45 came up with a gem which i refuse to repost. Wasn't saying that you would be insane enough to think that at all, I was responding to a post of yours that is too far back for me to locate, and using that as an example. The conversation has moved way to far on to even bother circle back. it really wasn't important.

I meant no offense to you.

Posted by Carrie 05/20/2009 at 01:01 PM


I didn't mind Roger waiting around. Rafa needs to learn that folks will try to disrupt his rhythm. Unlike some- I don't think his adjustemnt of the water bottles belies something untorrid- but rather some slight OCD tendencies. So he can adjsut away but he needs to be able to deal with the fact that some folks aren't going to let him always have the rhythm he wants. That will actually imo make his stronger as a player down the long road.

Posted by Rosangel 05/20/2009 at 01:06 PM

ladyjulia: yes, I agree with much of what you say. One of my favourites among Pete's articles is the one that talks about "Warrior Moments", and I think that particular Warrior Moment at Wimbledon was truly special for all the reasons that you give.

Here's the link to the original piece:

It's worth a look if you haven't seen it before.

I've thought for a long time that the fact that Federer made so many of his GS titles look so easy to achieve, when the road didn't involve going through Nadal, has worked against him in some people's perceptions. Obviously winning that many GS titles isn't easy, but it sure helps other people's perceptions of your achievements if it looks that you have overcome difficult obstacles along the way - great rivals being the obvious ones. Federer, through no fault of his own, lacks a great or near-great rival in his career other than Nadal - Agassi might come closest, but there's really only one memorable match there, not a whole rivalry, and they are not contemporaries. Well, there's also the Sampras match, but again, only one match.

So, one of my hopes for Nadal is that if he doesn't collect as many GS titles as some, he will be seen to face (and overcome) some other difficult obstacles. I don't measure greatness purely by the numbers - no player can choose his contemporaries, so those will never tell the full story. I think that Djokovic in particular has been a player who's pushed him, and the reverse is also true. Murray and Djokovic are still young - there's a lot that they can achieve. There's also plenty of time for some other young pretender to break into the big-time.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/20/2009 at 01:07 PM

Carrie...true..though as a Fed fan, I shudder at the thought of an even stronger Rafa (for me even a tired Rafa can beat the Fed)..but what you say is true for a player mindset...

it also makes a lot of sense that way, I hate the way Roger gets affected by wind, sun, rain, injury timeouts, Murray falling down etc etc...that shows mental weakness,no? I mean its like having the stars align for you to win. That is why I like Rafa's win at IW..wind, no!

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