Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Catching Roger
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Catching Roger 06/11/2009 - 4:31 PM

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by Pete Bodo

Mornin'. It looks like that Sprezzatura post (second one down) got a bunch of you animated, and while the celebrations of Roger Federer's historic win at Roland Garros continue on, as well they might, it's time to move along here to the yin to Federer's yang: Rafael Nadal.

Now, I understand the tensions and passions at play, and they sometimes lead fans of one or the other player to have a go at his or her counterpart across the Iberio-Swiss divide, but I really think that denigrating either Nadal or Federer by necessity diminishes the other man. We've seen over the past two years how each of these men is directly responsible for making the other a better, tougher, more dedicated competitor. To some degree, I agree with the "weak era" argument, although you can't hold that against Federer in any significant way. Any era dominated by a single player is, by definition, weak. Duh!

And while you there's a lot of fat to chew on in that issue, this much is undeniable: the emergence of Nadal in the last few years, and the rivalry he's established with Federer, really overshadows any depth-of-field discussion. How weak an era can it be if it boasts both the Grand Slam singles title record co-holder and the greatest of all clay-court players?

In any event, this idea that in Federer and Nadal we have this yin-and-yang thing ought to be taken seriously, and if it isn't it may be because that label gets thoughtlessly slapped onto too many relationships where it doesn't fit nearly as comprehensively. Honestly, can you think of two players more different, in every respect, than Federer and Nadal - but by the same token, two players so intimately bound in destiny?

I must say, we all should have been more receptive to what happened in Paris as soon as Nadal snatched the Wimbledon crown off Federer's head last July. If it was (and frankly, it still remains) a bit of a stretch to expect Federer to beat Nadal on the Parisian clay, but we should have been more prepared to see Federer swarm the ramparts of Court Philippe Chatrier the moment Nadal unexpectedly lost there. I'm not one of those people who thinks that the quality of Federer's victory would have been appreciably greater had he beaten Nadal in the French final; guys like Federer and Nadal understand that measuring themselves against another man, rather than against a task, is essentially to be subservient to that man.

For that same reason, I don't think Nadal gives a hoot about who he beats for the Wimbledon title - although gaining a big title at the expense of a top rival sweetens any player's sense of accomplishment. It's a pleasant aftertaste to savor. So while Federer won Paris without beating Nadal, I still get the feeling that the French Open final was a game-changer in exactly the same way as the Wimbledon final was last July.

It's hard to say when any boy becomes a man, but if we restrict our considerations to tennis, it seems to me that the day Federer won Roland Garros is the day Nadal became a man. For now he's encumbered by the same burden that distinguishes all men from children: responsibility. For the first time in his career, young Rafa has given significant ground, instead of gaining it and that calls for a response. Another way to put this is that up to this point, it's all been net plus for Nadal, and it's a credit to Federer that he's never made a point of this (if he has, I'm sure you'll let me know, and we can forget this clause). But Paris was a net loss - a painful blow suffered right in the heart of his comfort zone, on his own turf.

The rumors that Nadal's parents are about to divorce keep popping up in the gutter press and in my inbox via emails from acquaintances and sources, and I bring it up for this reason only: there's a parallel to be drawn between how domestic turmoil might affect an obedient son who's never questioned the impermeability of the familial cocoon, and how losing dominion over a patch of earth where he has known only spectacular success might affect a young and still not fully formed tennis player.

And before I go on or forget - isn't it just another bewitching aspect of this rivalry that the families of both men seem so level-headed and down-to-earth?

At any rate, any great player will tell you that in some ways it's far less stressful to be the hunter than the hunted. It takes a particular sort of person to comfortably put on that shirt that Pete Sampras says has a "great big target on its back." We don't really know how Nadal will take to that role after he's really been tested a few times, not by new challenges but by losses. By surprises. By setbacks in areas where he expected none. This is all new territory to him, because he's been living an uninterrupted dream since he won Wimbledon, and even his mildly disappointing result at the U.S. Open was moved from the "net loss" to the "net gain" column retroactively, on the grounds that it was good experience that enabled him to win his first major hard court title just a few months later, at the Australian Open.

In one of those art imitates life developments, it seems that Nadal is changing and maturing - and probably facing new and in some ways unanticipated challenges - as a person at the same time that he's morphing into a tennis player with a revised mandate. Don't take this wrong, because I respect Nadal's fighting spirit and his game as much as I ever did, but I no longer feel the same degree of affection I once had for him.

Rafa This is germane for one reason only - it's a measure of how much Rafa has changed, and grown.  As little as a year ago, Nadal still was very much like the world's eager, happy-go-lucky, ever so slightly out-to-lunch kid brother. If he resembled a cartoon superhero ("Jet Boy", as you may remember) he transcended the two-dimensional nature of his fictitious brethren because he seemed as personally soft as he was professionally vitrified. You couldn't walk by him in a hallway without wanted to reach out and tousle his hair.

That youthfulness is in ebb now.  He is, after all, 23 - and having the body of a sculpture by Michelangelo imposes certain obligations on the subject. The world around Rafa is changing, but the eyes through which he perceives it may be changing at an even more rapid pace. It may seem to him that suddenly he has an awful lot on his plate, and those unaccustomed to operating that way often rebel against having to do so, or feel they can't handle it.  I think Rafa is determined, aware and brave enough not to be laid low by that psychological pitfall, but he'll have to prove it.

Here's another yin-and-yang element: Federer often seems like he's made to rule. He doesn't do losing well. This isn't a matter of arrogance and conceit; it's a manifestation of how he perceives the natural order of things, and to him winning is the default state of existence, in much the same way that being doted up and deferred to is a natural state of being for a prince. This helps explain why he's so effective and so seemingly comfortable when he's in complete and utter control. It isn't that he takes particular joy in humiliating Andy Roddick or thumping Nikolay Davydenko. It's just that he innately seems to feel that all is right in the world, and the food chain is most stable, when he's perched on top of it. There's no point holding this against Federer - it's the way of genius.

In that same way, one thing that we can say with confidence about Nadal is that, so far, he's shown that he's made to challenge. The real question is whether he's also made to rule. Up until last July, his greatest asset in macrocosmic terms was the fidelity with which he pursued a seemingly impossible dream - his aim to unseat Federer. Now that he's accomplished that, does he really have the drive, and does he really feel the need, consciously or otherwise, to take on a trickier and more multi-dimensional role? Federer is good at being The Man, and he clearly enjoys being the paragon of tennis. He's at once the conscience and the king of the game, and those two do not, by any means, always go hand-in-hand.

I'm not at all certain that Rafa has a urge to play such roles. What ambition he's had thus far seems completely focused on the tennis court and the result tables. You can see how Federer has more or less groomed himself, to good extent consciously, for his present identity. Whereas Rafa is perfectly content to crush some poor bugger, than play video games until it's time to go decapitate some other journeyman.

There's something very appropriate about Roger Federer serving as the icon of a sport that has always had an up-market, bourgeoisie identity, and it's exactly that smooth and almost slick combination of man and image and game that leaves some people cold, or leads those who are antagonistic to the values implied therein to discredit Federer or his accomplishments. He's like the son every mother would love to have, which means a large number other sons and daughters, especially imperfect ones, would love to stick pins in his eyeballs.

The only thing that Rafa seems to symbolize, beyond the insouciance of youth, is the orgiastic abandon of the athlete-warrior. His sleeveless shirts, bulging biceps, guttural grunts and even that ham-fisted game (for if Federer is Muhammad Ali, Nadal is his Joe Frazier) serve as rebukes to the customary class and style associations of tennis. In the long run, that may be the strongest and deepest source of Nadal's popularity, and the one that will serve him long after his vanishing youth no longer sparks automatic affection or sympathy. And that youth disappearing quickly, as it always does for the gifted and talented. Nadal will always seem a man of the earth and a man of the people; it's as much part of his nature as civilized superiority is of Federer's.

But that still leaves the question hanging: Will Nadal be as great a player when it's not longer about fulfilling a seemingly impossible dream, or scaling an unimaginable heights? For many people, the test is more interesting than the reward you earn for passing it, and accomplishing a particularly demanding task is an end in and of itself. We know why that is: once you've really fought hard for and earned something, the next thing is taking care of it - the next thing is responsibility. Federer is in many ways a very responsible man - you can see it in, among other things, his relationship with his wife, Mirka. Nadal hasn't had to be responsible until now, and over the next few months we'll see how he likes it.

We're very luck that there's an age difference of about four years between Federer and Nadal; in tennis, that's half-a-lifetime. That difference keeps their trajectories from becoming intertwined to the point of confusion. Like candles in a dark gallery, the light they shed also serves to heighten the contrast between them, and it dramatizes each man's signature qualities. For some years now, Federer has been the bar by which Nadal has measured himself. But the events of the last 12 months have taken away that handy yardstick.

In the coming months, Nadal will have to find a new yardstick, or risk returning to the played-out game we might as well call Catching Roger. It will be very, very hard to beat Federer at Wimbledon, which is his Roland Garros, terra sacre. This year, though, Federer will have nothing to prove and nobody to impress. With a win at Wimbledon, Federer will surpass Pete Sampras's all-time Grand Slam singles title record. But more than being a test for that reason, Wimbledon will be Federer's victory lap following the completion of his career Grand Slam. Given that he'll be under no pressure whatsoever, and still basking in the afterglow of his win in Paris, you have to reckon that he's going to be one free-swinging, dangerous hombre.

I suppose those who would like to see Rafa win (or Federer lose) could always hope that Federer gets a dangerous journeyman,. a Robin Soderling or someone like that, in the fourth round at Wimbledon.

It's been known to happen you know, and it can change the tennis landscape.


536
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Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie - FINALLY this moniker worked!) 06/11/2009 at 04:45 PM

youre on a roll, Pete!

Posted by sadfasdf 06/11/2009 at 04:49 PM

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Posted by Eoin 06/11/2009 at 04:54 PM

Fed will be hard to beat at Wimbly but he's not unbeatable. Murray will take the US this year if he keeps his form.

Posted by jhurwi 06/11/2009 at 05:00 PM

Pete: A proofreading quibble on the phrase "an up-market, bourgeoisie identity" "Bourgeoisie" the noun form (= "the middle class"), "bourgeois" is the adjective form ("middle-class"), which is what you want here.
As far as content goes: as a Federer fan, I found it interesting and quite unexpected, given some of your past remarks. But I'm sure it's gong to stir up a firestorm among the Nadal fans!

Posted by Grant 06/11/2009 at 05:00 PM

"I really think that denigrating either Nadal or Federer by necessity diminishes the other man."

It amazes me how many people don't get this.

Posted by Sher 06/11/2009 at 05:01 PM

"In the coming months, Nadal will have to find a new yardstick, or risk returning to the played-out game we might as well call Catching Roger."

Great sentence that neatly summarizes Rafa's year so far. His innui after Australian Open was something I expected but it was almost strange to see him verbalize how lonely he felt after he won, etc.

I still think there is a lot of interest in what Roger does at Wimbledon but you are right, the weight of the expectations is different than in Paris or than it was last year at Wimbledon.

I really enjoyed reading this piece, Pete, thanks.

Posted by Luv10s 06/11/2009 at 05:01 PM

Some good writing in this article. I appreciate the question being asked of how Nadal will handle the pressure of being the hunted...the one with the target on his back as Roger had to do for 4 yrs plus. He did not do well at his first major test, but his knees were hurting so we have to give him a pass and see how Wimbledon and the rest of the season pans out.

One thing I would like to comment on is the idea that Nadal is a man of the people and somewhat the "peoples champion" and that by contrast Federer's appeal is mostly to the tennis "upper class". While I agree that Nadal is an extremely popular Champion and deservedly so, I think that Federer appeal is more broad based than the article would imply. In my opinion Federer is just as much a "peoples Champion" as Nadal is.

Posted by Sher 06/11/2009 at 05:01 PM

"I really think that denigrating either Nadal or Federer by necessity diminishes the other man."
It amazes me how many people don't get this.

Word, Pete & Grant.

Posted by Sher 06/11/2009 at 05:04 PM

This is the quote I'm talking about printed in some french magazine. I won't provide the translation since it's already probably translated from spanish to french and I don't want to get stuck in the details.

Q: Une rencontre que vous espérez?

RN: Roger Federer. Petit, je faisais un rêve: j'étais au pied d'une immense montagne et je regardais le sommet. Lorsque j'ai battu Federer en janvier, à Melbourne, en finale de l'Open d'Australie, j'ai éprouvé une excitation animale. Mais, ensuite, j'ai ressenti un vide et une solitude indescriptibles, comme si je n'avais plus de but. Pour moi, Federer reste le n° 1 mondial. Je veux le rencontrer à nouveau sur le court. Je sais qu'il peut me battre.

Posted by Sher 06/11/2009 at 05:05 PM

>In my opinion Federer is just as much a "peoples Champion" as Nadal is.

It's hard to argue otherwise after his reception in Paris and worldwide after he lost his #1 ranking. He gets standing ovations as a matter of coming to the court.

Posted by fedfan 06/11/2009 at 05:07 PM

Nice post. I don't necessarily see Nadal as such a lunch-bucket hero, but whatever. I hope he doesn't have to lose his golden-child aura too quickly or painfully. Hopefully his apparently close family ties and seemingly even temperament(notice how he never loses it during a match, despite the fierce game face?) will help him pull through whatever trials are in store for him.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Just say no to Fedal wars! 06/11/2009 at 05:07 PM

Hey Pete and everyone. :) *waves*

"He's like the son every mother would love to have, which means a large number of others, especially imperfect sons or daughters, are bound to resent him..."

Hm...that is annoyingly insightful. ;-) That said, whole post is insightful! And about both players. Agree with every word...scary thought though that is.

"ever so slightly out-to-lunch kid brother." LOL...so true. :)

Posted by Ryan 06/11/2009 at 05:07 PM

Great article Pete, it will be very interesting to see how the next few months play out with Roger and Rafa. The big question is obviously the state of Nadals knees. I agree that mentally Nadal will be facing a different challenge then he has faced in the past but his kneew will pose the bigger problem. Unfortunately his playing style has already reared its ugly head and hes only 23.

Posted by BERNIE 06/11/2009 at 05:08 PM

SO HAPPY TO SEE ROGER FINALLY WIN THE FRENCH---PISTOL PETE WAS GREAT ALSO. THOUGH HE NEVER WON THE FRENCH AND TEN YRS FROM NOW ANOTHER YOUNG MAN WILL EXCEL AND PERHAPS BREAK FEDERER'S RECORD OF 18 GRAND SLAMS. YEP, BEFORE FED RETIRES HE WILL WIN 4 MORE! VIVA FEDERER!!! LOOK, NADAL IS ALSO VERY GOOD BUT JUST THE WAY HE RUNS HIMSELF DOWN-I JUST HAVE THE FEELING HE DOESNT HAVE THE LONGEVITY. NICE ARTICLE PETE, YOU POINTED OUT SOME VERY INSIGHTFUL VIEWPTS. KEEP UP THE GOOD JOB! THESE PLAYERS HAVE SO ELEVATED THE GAME--SAME FOR THE WOMEN.

Posted by GC20 06/11/2009 at 05:08 PM

Being number one also means that Rafa is now great on all surfaces and thus no longer has as much time to rest, practice, and improve. I'm amazed Fed was able to maintain this pace for 4 years and it will be interesting to see how long Rafa can keep it up.

Posted by Samantha Elin(supporter of all things Scandinavian.) 06/11/2009 at 05:09 PM

Anybody else think if Rafa is fully recovered and healthy, he has a good chance to defend his title?

Posted by Or 06/11/2009 at 05:09 PM

What I'm worried about is that all of the confidence Roger gained in the French will be undone should he lose, especially to Rafa, at Wimby.

He needs to get that one, really.

Gosh, poor Roger, I still have demands.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Just say no to Fedal wars! 06/11/2009 at 05:12 PM

...oh. Am I not supposed to like it? (from jhurwi's comment.)

*goes back to re-read*

Word x 50 billion on the diminishing one diminishes the other, too.

Posted by Grant 06/11/2009 at 05:14 PM

"Anybody else think if Rafa is fully recovered and healthy, he has a good chance to defend his title?"

Of course.

Posted by SufM 06/11/2009 at 05:15 PM

Pete, c'mon man. You know better than to say things like, "denigrating either Nadal or Federer by necessity diminishes the other man" or that you think this is a "weak era". First of all, had there been no Nadal, and if Federer had dominated even more than he did from 2004-2007, he would be at 17-18 majors right now and would have no equal and you would be writing things about how he is "The Might Fed" and how he is the God of tennis. Second, this "weak era" thing sounds very cute and seems like its intriguing, but in reality anybody who knows about the sport in depth knows that the level that players even ranked 500 in the world today is MUCH higher than that played by legends of the past. A 5'10 Jimmy Connors would struggle to win points off of a Top 200 player if he were competing with his skill set these days. So, don't give me that "weak era" bull. The fact is that Federer and Nadal are playing against a more talented, hard working, athletic, and capable crowd of players around the world then ever before, and you know. So please, don't insult our intelligence by adding things like "weak era" into your pieces. But overall, I think it was a good article.

Posted by Cotton Jack (Boo hooo Maaahooooo) 06/11/2009 at 05:16 PM

Quite rare to see CAPS LOCK and a cheery demeanour going hand in hand.

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 06/11/2009 at 05:17 PM

Thanks for the nice article.

For Rafael, he had the goal of catching up before and it took him a little of three years to do it while improving his game. Besides the effects any personal/family issues could have on him, if he can also adjust his mindset and goal to that of being the hunted and staying the hunted he will be fine (dependent also on how his body holds up).

I also think that when Roger when he came to terms with the status quo of not being the hunted and started swinging more freely goals that seem so far away when he was the hunted became achievable.

The funny thing is now the ATP will eventually shift into the scenario of #1 changing hands more rapidly than it has been from time to time eventually.

Posted by Codge 06/11/2009 at 05:19 PM

Interesting read..

"It will be very, very hard to beat Federer at Wimbledon, which is no less his sacred ground than Roland Garros is Rafa's. This year, though, Federer will have nothing to prove and nobody to impress. "

I don't agree w/ your contention that Fed, is basically playing with house $ @ Wimby.
Federer is always hard to beat at Wimby irrespective of his RG results. However, Rafa is the defending champ, and Fed is equally eager to regain his crown.

I think if he makes it to a final against Rafa they will be pressure for both for dif reasons.
Should Fed lost to Rafa as he did last year, the narrative the tennis press chose to weave will be very different 3 weeks from now.

Or, I'm with you on that, he needs Wimby!

Posted by Master Ace 06/11/2009 at 05:19 PM

I will be very interested to see if Rafael can repeat any event other than clay. Out of his 36 career titles, 11 of them have been away from clay:

2005 - Canada, Beijing, Madrid
2006 - Dubai
2007 - Indian Wells
2008 - Queens, Wimbledon, Canada, Olympics
2009 - Australian Open, Indian Wells

As Pete said above(not exact words), Rafael has increased expectations and responsibilites. Roger has handled the role as being the "hunter" in the past and wants it again. With Rafael's warrior mentality, he is not going to give that role up very easily.

Posted by Sher 06/11/2009 at 05:20 PM

>Anybody else think if Rafa is fully recovered and healthy, he has a good chance to defend his title?

Well he is the #1 player in the world after all.

Posted by Sher 06/11/2009 at 05:22 PM

Actually it's easy to see what pressure is on Roger in this Wimbly...say next year in RG, would Nadal be expected to win? Or will he be "swinging freely"?

Posted by Pete 06/11/2009 at 05:22 PM

Sufm: Jimmy Connors would take Nikolay Davydenko, Tommy Robredo, James Blake and most of the other Top 5-300 and beat them so badly that they would pee blood for a week straight.

Posted by Pete 06/11/2009 at 05:24 PM

Cotton Jack: LOL!

Gotta go get the little shaver at school, everyone.

Posted by VC 06/11/2009 at 05:27 PM

I can't see the description of Nadal's "ham-fisted game" going down well with his fans. Doesn't that mean clumsy?

Posted by GC20 06/11/2009 at 05:29 PM

"This helps explain why he's so effective and so seemingly comfortable when he's in complete and utter control."

I thought so too until he revealed his honest but surprising insecurities when serving out the match against Soderling. Fed was hoping Soderling would make four easy errors and was praying for Soderling's last shot not to make it over the net. I figured Fed would have been brimming with confidence with a two set lead and serving it out.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!) 06/11/2009 at 05:29 PM

"He's like the son every mother would love to have, which means a large number other sons and daughters, especially imperfect ones, would love to stick pins in his eyeballs."

ok - i'm only part way done and this just made me laugh very hard. I'm at work, alone in my office cackling. people prolly think i'm looney tunes.. :)

*off to finish reading*

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 06/11/2009 at 05:31 PM

Thanks Pete,

I feel Rafa has a steel trap mindset probably of the Best ever in the game.

His Never Say Never attitude has gotten him over the line in matches.

Well at just 23 years of age he has won on every surface Grand Slam wise except that elusive US Open title.

Gee Roger has just finally won the French,maybe Rafa will complete his this year in the US?

Roger will be breaming with confidence after RG and will be out to consolidate at Wimbledon this year.

Rafa beating Roger last year to me was worse than that thrashing he received at the French Open.

It comes down to very interesting times indeed,but hey there are a few other players in the mix

Remember in tennis nothing Ever is a Given.

Posted by L. Rubin 06/11/2009 at 05:32 PM

"Sufm: Jimmy Connors would take Nikolay Davydenko, Tommy Robredo, James Blake and most of the other Top 5-300 and beat them so badly that they would pee blood for a week straight. "

Hee hee. He'd probably beat up the J-Block, too. Jimbo, what with his class resentments, would never--ever!--take scheise from a bunch of clowns yelling "H-A-R-V-A-R-D" after a successful challenge.

--Liron

Posted by olive 06/11/2009 at 05:33 PM

sher, in french, that quote reads so "romantically."i wonder if it comes across the same way in spanish. it's quite lovely - the dream of being at the foot of the mountain, the animalistic twittering, the void feeling...yes, lovely...

nadal and federer are both people's champions.

bad knees, parents divorcing? but he's number one, anyway, so bah! will these things make him falter for good or does he want the number one so badly he will overcome these things now or later? it seems a no-brainer he will over come them. the question is, regardless of these two niggling issues, does he want to be number one?

don't dissuade the nadal-federer debate. it's what's keeping this blog alive!


Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!) 06/11/2009 at 05:33 PM

grant - word @ 5:00.

and why don't so many realize a compliment to one is not an automatic 'dis to the other.

*off to finish the comments*

Posted by thebigapple 06/11/2009 at 05:36 PM

Rafa has a great shot at winning Wimby. Roger is still dicey, if a few points has gone another way, he would have wiped out French pretty early. The news on Nadals knees is a bit confusing and not clear if this just the funky Uncle creating noise or not. Even then grass is not too punishing and he should do fine. As for the divorce - he is 23 and rich enough to keep everyone happy...enough of that.

The article explains something - the sense of grievance of the Nadalfans, the seething sense of inferiority that always often seems a subtext in the comments on this site. Now things are a little clearer - fury at the golden sibling.

Posted by gillian 06/11/2009 at 05:37 PM

"The real question is whether he's also made to rule."

*bows* Pete – Great observation and another stellar post. I could not for the life of me put my finger on what it was about Nadal’s July 08 to Spring 09 reign that was - not exactly bothering me, more like niggling, the way a low-grade headache does. This nails it. He seems to be most comfortable as hunter, not as hunted. That’s not a knock on his ample (and evident) gifts as a player. It’s just that I, too, wonder if he takes to being King the way he thoroughly embraced being the Prince.

That said, one of the things I love about watching tennis as closely as I do is seeing the players grow up before my eyes. There is something poetic about it.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Just say no to Fedal wars! 06/11/2009 at 05:37 PM

No...I still like it. :) *relieved*

Posted by L. Rubin 06/11/2009 at 05:39 PM

"The article explains something - the sense of grievance of the Nadalfans, the seething sense of inferiority that always often seems a subtext in the comments on this site. Now things are a little clearer - fury at the golden sibling."

Thank you, Freud.


--Liron

Posted by surinamer 06/11/2009 at 05:41 PM

I don't think Pete meant to say that this is a weak era, in fact he used the co-existence of both Nadal and Fed as argument against it.
Im a Nadal fan and still agree totally with Pete. I think that after Australia, Nadal realized his place in tennis had changed, by beating Fed in the three surfaces his pursuit of Fed was over, and I must confess that the version of Nadal in the court after Australia has never been the same, at least not to me. I have heard that since early in his career Fed wanted to be among the greatest in history, I dont know if Nadal wants that as badly as Fed. His candid admiration for Federer made it look like his goal was to reach Federer's level. Having achieved that, it seems to me that he has lost that candor he had last year and that youthful joy he had in every point. To the point that in Miami ppl were questioning what was going on in his life. His success in the clay season made us forget this but after failing in RG it is clear that Nadal the Kid is gone, and Nadal himself knows it. I really think that the real trial of Nadal starts now and I dont have any problem to admit that we may be in for some drought of titles, but we already saw it with Fed, trials and obstacles when applied to the great only magnify their coming triumphs.

Posted by Charlie Mueller 06/11/2009 at 05:42 PM

Yes Federer could be formidable at Wimbledon due to the weight off his shoulders, or he could role over due to letdown. Either would be no surprise. He is so professional, that I think he will go deep into the draw at least.

The most likely cog in Nadal's career is not really Federer (they will compete hard, and both will also compete hard against Murray, Djokovic and others, some unknown) but his legs. Is his latest bout of tendonitis, coming early this year, really tendonitis or is it more of what Pete discusses above? Nadal may not have physical staying power if it really is his knees.

Staying healthy is so important. Did you all catch Tiger Woods comments about how Federer has NOT been healthy until very recently (mono and then his back) and did you also catch that French interview where Federer said he was aware of the physical decline in his game (for what ever reason) and in his recent training he decided to throw caution to the wind and push his limits so that he would stop playing with the fear that his body would not do what he wanted?

Neither Federer nor Nadal give away much of what is bothering them physically or mentally. I think that is a testament to their class and sense of respect for their competition. These two do not make excuses.

But yes, Nadal is not as secure in his position at the top as Federer was during his run- noblesse oblige does not Nadal naturally. He prefers to play down his talent. But then we know he is not as secure at the top by his record compared to Federer's. Federer won everything all the time, except the French. Nadal has had a couple of good years, but nothing like those few years where Fed lost 4-5 times per year- and in two of those years, mostly only Nadal, on clay- and reached 20 slam semis running which is astounding.

I hope Nadal plays Wimbledon like everyone else, and may the best man win, at this given tournament. I think both will win more slam, Nadal maybe many more, depending on the knees. But it may not be either one of them at the upcoming Wimbledon.

Posted by Matt Zemek 06/11/2009 at 05:43 PM

Lusciously layered, this piece. Thanks, Pete, as always!

I have the feeling, though, that it will unsettle and displease some Nadal fans, so let me pre-emptively interpret the key segment of the piece as I read it:

Dear Rafa Fans:

When Mr. Bodo talks about losing affection for Rafa, it's not as though Pete is disapproving with or even remotely objecting to Rafa's emergence as player and person.

Note Bodo's earlier line about denigrating Fed or Rafa being a diminishment of the other man....

When Bodo is talking about a loss in affection for Rafa (I'm sure that's the most controversial or alarming statement in the piece for a Nadal fan to read...), he's merely observing a not-too-controversial reality: namely, that Rafa is having to become more and more serious, sober and focused at this stage of his career. The jumpy "Jet Boy" of 2005, 2006, and early 2007 simply cannot (and will not often) emerge as an everyday manifestation of the new Nadal identity. That's a part of Rafa's self that's been largely, if not entirely, relegated to the past. Bodo's diminished "affection" is not a lack of caring or admiration, but simply a lamentation about the loss of Rafa's tennis innocence, if you will.

So please don't read that remark negatively. It ain't personal, and as Bodo (once again) said, knocking Rafa or Fed diminishes the other, which is so thoroughly accurate and true.

I naturally think Rafa will be up for this new challenge/test, but much as Fed consulted "Doctor Strange Move: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Drop Shot," Nadal will simply have to learn how to win matches quickly and with less stress on his body. If there were doubts about that whole issue, they can't be ignored any longer.

Smarter scheduling, and increased commitment to a bigger and more attacking game--those revisions, among others, need to be part of Nadal's plans going forward.

Posted by Master Ace 06/11/2009 at 05:43 PM

"Roger has handled the role as being the "hunter" in the past and wants it again. "

Meant to say the role as being the "hunted" not "hunter".

Posted by jhurwi 06/11/2009 at 05:44 PM

Jewell: everything that isn't 100% adoration for their hero (or that can be perceived as less than 100% adoration when quoted out of context) seems to raise a firestorm among some of the Federer fans and Nadal fans on the board. I thought some Nadal fans would be likely to take exception to Pete's statement that "I no longer feel the same degree of affection I once had for him."

A rough translation the passage quoted in French by Sher, above:

Asked "What matchup would you like to play?", Nadal replies,"Roger Federer. When I was little, I had a dream about being at the foot of a mountain and looking up at the top. When I beat Federer in Melbourne in January in the final of the Australian Open, I felt "an animal excitement". But afterwards I felt an emptiness, and an indescribable loneliness, as if I no longer had a goal. For me, Federer is still the world #1. I would like to meet him again on the court. I know he can beat me."

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!) 06/11/2009 at 05:46 PM

sadly olive, the fedal wars are a good part of what drives people away from this blog. the endless round and round arguing, the attacks etc. its not even remotely fun, imo, as having any kind of rational discussion is well nigh impossible. and trying to talk about any of the other players can be a losing battle. *shrugs*

that being said, these 2 posts by pete on fed and now rafa have been great. not sure how long these thoughts have been perculating, but heavens, they came out well.

it will be interesting to see the tennis landscape play out, and see how the top 4 respond. rafa and his knees, fed swinging freely, murray still with something big to prove, and nole needing to continue getting his game back on track. going to be a fun summer! my only regret, selfishly, is that feddy may be off changing swiss diapers instead of playing the us hard courts, but whatever, I'll deal!

Hooray tennis!

Posted by AmandaO 06/11/2009 at 05:49 PM

Hey Pete. So good once again! I loved your article.

However, I noticed you revised it right after first making it live, and I have to say one thing: I REALLY like your original far better. Sorry, that's not encouraging, but as a writer myself, I had to say so. I noticed changes all over the place and liked the original far better.

Either way, awesome stuff!

Posted by SilentP 06/11/2009 at 05:49 PM

Nadal's been no 1 since July last year and has handled it extremely well. How many titles has he won since then? Six wins and two finals. Not sure a loss at RG means the roles have reversed that much. Sure, there's a switch in momentum, but come the start of Wimbledon Nadal will do everything to defend that title - surely the role and behaviour of a ruling no 1.

I really hope Nadal's knees and "personal problems" sort themselves out so he can keep playing at the top of his game.

On another note I agree that Federer will be swinging freely at Wimbledon in a couple of weeks, but he still won't want Murray in his half. A semi-final between Murray and Fed still makes me very nervous for Fed.

Posted by Aneirin 06/11/2009 at 05:52 PM

I hope Rafa recoves, really. I agree it has been Rafa's growth that has made Roger rethink his need to keep improving; just as well, Rafa's two lost Wimby finals made him work harder to finally get Roger last year.

I think it will be difficult for Rafa to get back to speed tennis wise in time to play at the level he reached in 2008 on grass.

I do not doubt his ability to fight through it, though.

Still, I expect Roger to get one more slam this year.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 06/11/2009 at 05:54 PM

Well Rafa has said after reaching the no 1 postion he knew it would be hard to stay at the top.though he did say he would Fight to stay there.

Rafa played extremely well at the AO this year.He did get that monkey off his back.People saying he cant win a slam on a hard court surface

Of course there is going to be a let down as such.As a player you are Up on a High.Then the reality of it all sets in.

Rafa has already qualifed for the end of season Masters Tournement in London later this year which is a testatment to his great results thus far this year.


Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever(Wimby: 15th, no?) 06/11/2009 at 05:56 PM

Mr.Bodo

You are a first rate craftsman. You write well. Very well. Very very well. Quite a few lines here in this article...they stand out, leap out of the page to punch you, lick you, kiss you and slap you. Well done to you Sir.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 06/11/2009 at 05:56 PM

Whether you agree with that article or not, it is extremely profound.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 06/11/2009 at 05:56 PM

Nice work, Pete.

Federer at Plato (motioning to the heavens); Nadal as Aristotle (pointing to the ground).

Ironicaly, it was Aristotle who believed in all things finding or assuming their natural "place" or station.

- Slice

Posted by the fan child 06/11/2009 at 05:56 PM

Peter Bodo is the RF of Tennis Journalism. What an interesting look into the psychological elements of the inner rivalry that Rafa now faces.

I think this year's Roland Garros might set Rafa back for a while, but ultimately, I've got a feeling that he will show himself to be a man worthy of the throne again.

Posted by Ray T. 06/11/2009 at 05:57 PM

"Any era dominated by a single player is, by definition, weak. Duh!"

Not necessarily Pete, as Sampras' era (#1 from 1993-1998) was hardly weak: Agassi, Courier, Edberg, Becker, Kafelnikov, Rafter, Muster, Ivanisevic, Chang, Bruguera, Krajicek, Stich, Korda all were in the Top 5 and ended up winning at least one Slam in their career. This was the most competitive era by far and somehow Pete was able to have the longest streak as #1 ever...Roger is the best all around player of all time in my book, but Pete was definitely the most dominant of all time on hardcourt and grass.

Posted by Matt Zemek 06/11/2009 at 05:57 PM

Oh, forgot one item for the Federistas here:

One could say now, at this point in time, that Fed is a people's champion. However, Rafa was always held that distinction ("people's champion") inherently, for the reasons Bodo offers in the piece.

Rafa's style of play is not consistent with the "sprezzatura" and classical-form elegance of Federer, which is associated with traditional old-school tennis. One can say that Federer is a Russian/Eastern Europen figure skater of a tennis player, whose technique is accepted by longtime judges and connoisseurs; Nadal is a Kurt Browning or Elvis Stojko-type figure skater, a loud Canadian with jawdropping athleticism that busts out of the TV screen like someone nicknamed "Jet Boy" or--as Juan Jose once put it here--"Balco Mowgli."

Both kinds of tennis specimens (errr, uhhh, figure skaters) represent greatness, but they do so in different ways. Nadal, by owning a manner of play that is countercultural to tennis traditionalism, is a street-fighter of a hero, the flag-carrier for the enemy of the up-market bourgeoisie: the pitchfork-wielding proletariat!

(VIVA LA REVOLUCION, one can imagine Nadal and the Vamos Brigade shouting in exhilarated rapture! :-)

Nadal, in style and in the energy projected during on-court combat, is and will always be a people's champion in a way Federer never INHERENTLY was.

Fed has become a people's champion since the loss of the 2008 Wimbledon final, which created a wave of sympathy for a finally-beaten human figure who rarely if ever had to absorb a stomach punch in the spotlight. After that epic loss to Rafa, though, crowds--particularly at slams--have warmed to Fed in ways they never did before. Roger mentioned this dynamic during press conferences at the French Open; he didn't link this new feeling to the 2008 Wimby final, but it's clear that's what happened. In New York and in Paris, throngs who once wished for competitive Federer matches and/or extended tennis suddenly began to rally to Fed's side in ways that would have been inconceivable before the '08 Wimby final. Fed earned sympathy, and that's what's turned him into a people's champion.

Nadal? He's been the tennis champ of the people all along the way.

Posted by the fan child 06/11/2009 at 05:59 PM

Btw, not buying the weak era argument either.

Posted by Grant 06/11/2009 at 05:59 PM

"One can say that Federer is a Russian/Eastern Europen figure skater of a tennis player, whose technique is accepted by longtime judges and connoisseurs; Nadal is a Kurt Browning or Elvis Stojko-type figure skater, a loud Canadian with jawdropping athleticism that busts out of the TV screen"

The fact that I get what you're saying disturbs me a little.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 06/11/2009 at 06:02 PM

Ray T.

By my reckoning, you left one out -- Kuerten. Of course, Becker and Edberg, but they were not wuite of the same generation.

No matter how you slice it, though, Pete had to face a slew of giant-killers to be the man. I still think his "era" (to borrow Pete's term) was more fully loaded with potential champions.

Posted by SilentP 06/11/2009 at 06:02 PM

This is almost off topic and some of you may have seen this already, but here's an interesting interview with Federer from 2001, before he beat Sampras at Wimbledon. It includes questions like "Is it getting harder for one player to dominate the game?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxXDBDRfIA4

Posted by olive 06/11/2009 at 06:04 PM

jb,

i think the majority of people appreciate both of these remarkable tennis players. a few here don't, and some of those that don't i think are just pulling our legs. i have to say i find it fascinating how personally people can take their fanhood, and how far people will go to be pretend to be vitriol throwing. neither are bad things - not harming anyone. it certainly isn't harming the players. i certainly don't love vitriol, but it has it's place in life and can be entertaining.

and you can post around the debate, so to speak. i think many people do.


Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 06/11/2009 at 06:04 PM

Iam loving Petes thoughts

"having the body of a sculpture by Michelangelo"

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 06/11/2009 at 06:07 PM

Slice

My hubby would be delighted in your thoughts of Pete Sampras and his playing era indeed.He still takes Petes book to bed at night I am sure,slips it under his pillow for good measure.

Posted by rafadoc 06/11/2009 at 06:10 PM

Thanks Pete. As someone else said, a very layered piece-will probably need to re-read. First thoughts:

SilentP said: "Nadal's been no 1 since July last year and has handled it extremely well. How many titles has he won since then? Six wins and two finals. Not sure a loss at RG means the roles have reversed that much. Sure, there's a switch in momentum, but come the start of Wimbledon Nadal will do everything to defend that title - surely the role and behaviour of a ruling no 1."

Couldn't agree more (although he officially took over number one in August, I believe) He has handled the pressure well. One loss at RG to a tough opponent doesn't make me believe he will handle it any differently. Rafa has a good head on his shoulders and a solid team around him. Oh, and he has said many times...he thrives on the competition. Roger winning the French is going to give him "huge motivation".

Posted by Grant 06/11/2009 at 06:11 PM

"Nadal, by owning a manner of play that is countercultural to tennis traditionalism, is a street-fighter of a hero, the flag-carrier for the enemy of the up-market bourgeoisie: the pitchfork-wielding proletariat!"

That would have had a far greater impact in past eras when a sort of punk rock ethos was more significant to culture at large, but in what is largely an aspirational rather than revolutionary culture you can be upmarket and stylish and 'of the people' at the same time.

Posted by imjimmy 06/11/2009 at 06:11 PM

""Not necessarily Pete, as Sampras' era (#1 from 1993-1998) was hardly weak: Agassi, Courier, Edberg, Becker, Kafelnikov, Rafter, Muster, Ivanisevic, Chang, Bruguera, Krajicek, Stich, Korda all were in the Top 5 and ended up winning at least one Slam in their career. This was the most competitive era by far and somehow Pete was able to have the longest streak as #1 ever...Roger is the best all around player of all time in my book, but Pete was definitely the most dominant of all time on hardcourt and grass. ""

Word, Word, Word, Word....and then some!

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 06/11/2009 at 06:11 PM

I think at Wimbledon will see full flight Fed. He will mow the field, win every set, heck may not even drop his serve, and pick up his 6th title.
But as we saw in Paris, the only given at a slam is that Fed will reach the semifinal, and more likely than not the final.
Of course if Tommy Haas had had the gonads to finsh what he started, we would be having a whole different conversation.

And...on the hunter/hunted dynamic...hmm?
Is there anybody who doesn't see TMF as the favorite, top dog, I wouldn't be surprised if the Wimbledon seeding committee makes him #1. So by definition that makes him the hunted.

So that casts Rafa, in the roll of the hunter, Rafa is dangerous when he hunts.

How do I feel about this article? lets see, very well written, interesting, compelling, accurate, and what I expected.

But any article on Rafa that has the first comment being a praise from Tim...well, um, well, just, well.

Posted by olive 06/11/2009 at 06:13 PM

how bout names for people who love both players but show a bit more affection for one or the other for whatever reason!

a fedalist?

a naderer?

Posted by Vetmama 06/11/2009 at 06:15 PM

I prefer to believe Rafa's own words after he lost at the French, that losing makes the triumphs that much sweeter.
Now, he was talking in hindsight, saying that his previous record at RG seems even more amazing now that he has fallen from the podium, but looking through the prism of Fed's recent experience (I've never seen him so overwhelmed with happiness since his first Wimbledon crown), I think Rafa will gain even more pleasure from his next major victory because of his current difficulties.

Nadal is one tough customer, and I think he firmly believes in the saying, "that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger". This pain will eventually make him happier in the long run.

Posted by rafadoc 06/11/2009 at 06:17 PM

rudy3: Agree that after RG, Rafa will feel like the hunter again. He has tried to say "Roger is still the best player" in spite of him being #2. Now he, and many others, do believe Roger is the best right now. Perfect mindset for Rafa (the hunter).

And-you are right and made me laugh a bit on your remarks about Rafa's number one fan. ;-)

Posted by Andrew Friedman (aka Rolo Tomassi) 06/11/2009 at 06:17 PM

Great one, Pete. And that comment about Jimbo and today's players made me laugh out loud...

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 06/11/2009 at 06:18 PM

imjimmy All we need is for NP to arrive and we will have the Complete Fan Club,indeed. lol!

Posted by Dropshot Dragon 06/11/2009 at 06:19 PM

Nice post, Pete.
You mentioned that Federer was made to rule and Rafa made to challenge. Rafa has handled his role as "ruling" for the past few months...fairly OK. In my perspective, he's been very moody, matter-of-fact, borderline whiny at points, and just not himself since AO.
But if he skips Wimbledon he'll be back to #2 and back in a spot he's used to.
This is probably the lowest point for Rafa fans. I'm trying to remember the aftermath of Wimbledon 07, but I think this beats it.

***The article explains something - the sense of grievance of the Nadalfans, the seething sense of inferiority that always often seems a subtext in the comments on this site. Now things are a little clearer - fury at the golden sibling***

Whoever posted that comment- brilliant.

Posted by sigh 06/11/2009 at 06:20 PM

Thanks, Matt Zemek. I only hope that Pete realizes how lucky he is to have you interpret what he wrote. Some may think it's condescending or insulting but ... oh wait - no, sorry, it's both of those things. To the writer and the reader.

Posted by Nam1 06/11/2009 at 06:20 PM

Awesome article, Pete. This is one of the best peices i have read on Nadal and Fed's personalities and respective styles.


Matt Zemek,
No offence but I feel a bit patronised by your attempt to "explain" Pete's comments to Nadal fans such as myself.

This is such a great read and well written , only a very insecure person would take it out of context.

Again, no offence!!

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 06/11/2009 at 06:22 PM

of all the monikors that have been hung on Rafa "Balco Mowgli" is far and away my least favorite. I do not find it a compliment in any form.

Posted by L. Rubin 06/11/2009 at 06:25 PM

"Nadal, by owning a manner of play that is countercultural to tennis traditionalism, is a street-fighter of a hero, the flag-carrier for the enemy of the up-market bourgeoisie: the pitchfork-wielding proletariat!"

I like that, Matt! Let's all hope that Rafa's next victory speech will include a "Unabashed Wedgie Pullers of all Nations--Unite!"

--Liron

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Just say no to Fedal wars! 06/11/2009 at 06:25 PM

Think the Ali (Roger) - Frazier (Rafa) analogy is interesting...I guess you could see Frazier as the eternal challenger to Ali, no?

it kind of makes me sad that the Fedal/Fan Wars have gone on to such an extent that people perceive there is a need to explain that "I no longer feel the same degree of affection I once had for him" is not an insult. I mean...I know. And so, I imagine, would most of us. ;-)

LOL at the skater/streetfighter Rafa analogy, I see that. :)

*wonders who would be Candeloro*

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 06/11/2009 at 06:26 PM

Well at 23 years of age

6 Grand Slam titles and counting,
15 Master Shields and counting,

We Rafa fans are at there lowest Ebb for sure lol!

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 06/11/2009 at 06:29 PM

*wonders who would be Candeloro*

wacky genius... Mr.Safin maybe?

Posted by imjimmy 06/11/2009 at 06:29 PM

AM: he he.. I miss NP in this era of Fed GOATness :) BTW Pete's book is my desk at all times too!

Posted by rafadoc 06/11/2009 at 06:31 PM

Dropshot Dragon: I agree with Aussiemarg-not too much to complain about right now. He has done well for just turning 23. Let's face it, its been an awesome, awesome 12 months for Rafa fans.

I would add an Olympic Gold Medal to your list AM. :)

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 06/11/2009 at 06:31 PM

imjimmy Oh no,not you too?

Posted by tweetiwtennis 06/11/2009 at 06:32 PM

Pete your a joke as biased as always towards Roger Federer. Are you are a BIOGRAPHER or a supposed OBJECTIVE journalist.

PLEASE you didn't need to write "Federer is in many ways a very responsible man - you can see it in, among other things, his relationship with his wife, Mirka" You fool his married and has a wife who is pregnant obviously he has to be responsible more so than RAFA " You might as wrote ROGER has chest hair which means he is more manly than RAFA.

And who wants a son who is a "sook" and likes to spoil his opponents time of glory. Federer use to have modesty and be humble but i it was all fake it is easy to be modest and humble when you always win but as soon as RAFA started taking over he became "SORE LOSER" and in particluar towards MURRAY and DJOKER.

Everyone is so on Roger Federer's bandwagon at the moment YES he won the ROLAND GARROS but seriously did he really play well thru out the whole tournament? NO!

Besides the improvement in his serve and hit drop shots against the slowest players on tour what did he really do? YES he beat the players he was suppose to(with GREAT difficulty) he has not had to play against DJOKER, MURRAY or NADAL and we all know that once Federer plays these guys he starts to "shake in his pants" and we all know what thats like!

So lets just hope for ROGERS sake that MURRAY DJOKER and RAFA all LOSE before the semis and ROGER is the last man fans,"Like his Christmas occurs twice a year" PLEASE

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 06/11/2009 at 06:34 PM

Rafadoc oops my bad,sorry Rafa forgot that Gold Medal or by the way on the same surface as the US OPEN?

Also forgot to add,even though outed in the 4th rd of RG this year

Made History by beating Chris Everts record there with a 30 match winning streak.

Posted by Mr.X 06/11/2009 at 06:35 PM

Very interesting article, Pete. Somehow, i expected you to predict something about Nadal's future that analyze what he has been going thruogh in the last months. But that was just a personal idea.
First: so much word on the Fedal words. Usually, second page of comments on any post aboyt either one of them = knives coming out. Hopefully, this article will help stop that.
I agree on the change in Nadal after AO. He even said in the Spanish media something along the lines of: "It makes me disappointed that people see my victories as usual and routine, when i'm enormously happy every time i win". He's had a hard time adapting to his new role, but the results have not been all that bad, apart from RG. And i guess that had to happen that day. Right now, the most important goal for him should be to get the knees well. By the time that happens, he might find himself back in hios preferred role as the hunter.
Who knows, maybe another plot twist is waiting us at Wimbledon. Heck, for all we know, we could end the year with 2 guys having completed the Career Grand Slam. Now, that would take all the "weak era" discussion apart.

Posted by Dropshot Dragon 06/11/2009 at 06:36 PM

Rafa a people's champion vs Roger an elitist champion?
NO! Just ask the French crowd. Ask the Wimbledon crowd.

Posted by imjimmy 06/11/2009 at 06:37 PM

Can't help it, AM. For KADs like me, he'll always be the GOAT :)

Posted by rafadoc 06/11/2009 at 06:37 PM

AM: We have each other's backs, no? :) I forgot about the one good thing about RG-the record. Cool.

Posted by Matt Zemek 06/11/2009 at 06:38 PM

Grant,

You have too nimble a mind not to understand figure skating references!

Liron:

As a frustrated activist myself (just how to truly thwart Beltway and/or Wall Street machinations these days???), it's nice to feel the juices of revolt surging through one's own veins. Who knew tennis could stir such passionate feelings and yet avoid creating the inevitably disappointing comedown that always meets the activist in the politico-economic realm?

Such is the tonic of sports, where one can get fired up and stay that way for at least a little while longer....

(Gotta leave, but will eagerly check in later for more follow-ups on this thread...)

Posted by on cloud nine 06/11/2009 at 06:38 PM

tweetiwtennis - So I guess since Federer is no great champion after all, it's not such an accomplishment for Nadal to have beaten him on those big occasions, huh? I mean, if the Djoker, Murray, or anyone else could've done it, what's so special about about Rafa beating him? Really, do try wrapping your brain around this point of Pete's: "denigrating either Nadal or Federer by necessity diminishes the other man." You've just done a fantabulous job of diminishing Nadal in your tiresome diatribe. Many congrats on your accomplishment!!

Posted by rafadoc 06/11/2009 at 06:40 PM

Dropshot Dragon: Ironically, you make the point in your post. Or maybe you were trying to be sarcastic?

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 06/11/2009 at 06:40 PM

imjimmy My hubby would be soo proud of you with that Quote

He still thinks it was a conspiracy that Pete didnt win a RG title

As I have said he Has Major Problems in that area lol!

Posted by Mr.X 06/11/2009 at 06:40 PM

About the possible divorce, i'm not questioning your sources in any way, but it always surprises me to hear that, because i havent seen a single thing about it on the Spanish press.
Well, i suppose that wouldnt appear in the sports news, but more in the tabloids, and i run from those like they were the cause of all evil.
Maybe if Nadal sees himself again in the role of the hunter, ans is able to take down Fed again, he would be much more ready to be the hunted the second time.

Posted by Carrie 06/11/2009 at 06:42 PM

Rudy- here here. I always found that name as a way to smear Nadal. Juan Jose has become a lot more tempered since then. Still does not like Rafa but does not seem to want to spit fire at him- and can write some very nice and detailed posts about his game. I wonder if his wife has had an impact. :p

tweetiwtennis- did you miss the statement

*but I really think that denigrating either Nadal or Federer by necessity diminishes the other man*

I have to agree with that statement by Pete. I just wish that could be remembered more. The knife fights and fan base bashing wear me out. I don't have the energy anymore to have disagreements that consist of saying "Rafa sux, Roger is lame" whilst demeaning fans of said players. I have never been a fan of that though. I have gotten upset while at the bleachers at Wrigley before because I felt like the fans were "too mean." lol....(But really- they were....I swear.)

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 06/11/2009 at 06:44 PM

I can't say that I, as a Rafa fan, feel any sense of grievance about the events at RG. I was very disappointed for him but that is all part of being a tennis fan. I was an Agassi fan from the start of his career until the end and that was one bumpy ride from start to finish and I will be a Rafa fan come what may.

Posted by rafadoc 06/11/2009 at 06:45 PM

Carrie: Cub fans? Mean? Never! LOL. (Never been in the bleachers, btw...jealous!) I have a feeling alcohol *might* be involved with those occurrences though. :) Anyhooooooo-well said. The fan base bashing is what is the most tiresome.

Posted by Mr.X 06/11/2009 at 06:45 PM

Just one thought about the "people's champion" idea. It is pretty obvious that Fed started to be even more appreciated by the fans once he had his heartbreaking loss at his home turf of Wimbledon.
Will the same happen with Nadal now he has gone through a tough defeat in the French, aggravated by the general thought that he French crowd was unfair with him?
Maybe his youth will work against him in that sense, as Fed will always be seen as the "venerable" one, to say it somehow.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Just say no to Fedal wars! 06/11/2009 at 06:47 PM

Mm, yes, Safin would make a beautiful Candeloro. :)

and on that note, I'm going to bed. ;-)

Night, everyone. :)

Posted by Andrew 06/11/2009 at 06:48 PM

It's been interesting reading the two pieces on Nadal and Federer back to back.

The boy-to-man theme stes up an interesting question: is Nadal now the unquestioned captain of his own ship, or is he still someone who looks to others for direction?

At 22, Federer stunned many people by firing Peter Lundgren and going for a year - as it happens, his breakout year, 2004 - without anyone in a coaching role. Nadal is now 23, with an obviously close and supportive coach. But does he say "this is what I think we should do?"

BTW, the idea that supporting Federer (or Nadal) means that one can't give accolades to the other player baffles me. I have nothing but admiration for all that Nadal's achieved, and his qualities as a sportsman.

Posted by Grant 06/11/2009 at 06:50 PM

"You've just done a fantabulous job of diminishing Nadal in your tiresome diatribe. Many congrats on your accomplishment!!"

It's not just Fed and Rafa being diminished. I mean, Federer won despite clearly being awful, which must mean that men's tennis is just terrible, filled with people who couldn't be trusted to tie their shoes. Obviously second-tier athletes from other sports could break into tennis and dominate; the fact that they do not do so means that they are all complete idiots. We as sports fans therefore cheer for complete idiots - we all suck, etc.

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