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Life Imitating Art 07/29/2009 - 3:09 PM

87961097 by Pete Bodo

Yesterday I wrote about how Roger Federer is at a significant career crossroads, and one of the more interesting subplots in this plot-rich rivalry Federer enjoys with Rafael Nadal is that the same could be said for Nadal. And if the events of the last 12 months in Federer's life have been unpredictable and surprising, constituting a narrative of the kind on which Hollywood thrives, with all that Journey of the Hero baloney they teach in film school, Nadal's own trials have a decidedly Biblical flavor.

This is a case of life imitating art, because there's a measure of verisimilitude in those comparisons. Federer is tennis's version of a fabulous leading man in the old-school tradition: he's sophisticated, he bears his enormous gifts lightly (but without ever abusing or betraying them), he enjoys wearing $3,000 suits and feels no obligation to proclaim his manliness. He prefers a good fashion show to, say, deep-sea fishing. Mostly, though, his career has been distinguished (generally) by an extraordinary ability to make the difficult appear easy, and a penchant to let everyone else do his worrying for him. He's like a Swiss James Bond; they don't do gun-play, bedroom romps, and potent cocktails all that well there.

By contrast, Nadal is all grit, glistening biceps, and unruly hair. He's boyish; the second impulse many women feel in his presence is a profound desire to give him a motherly hug (that this is vastly different from the first impulse is a subject we'd better leave for another time). It's easy to picture Rafa as an extra in The Ten Commandments, although a more profound analogy might call upon a comparison of Nadal with the subject of the Book of Job. Only Nadal's relative youth keeps that one from hitting the bulls-eye, but with Federer unlikely to vanish from the tennis scene soon, even that qualifier might have to be discarded.

Nadal's accomplishments have been glorious, already. But a more intriguing and volatile story-line was placed over his developing record, like one of those transparent panels containing various body parts in a biology textbook. And that was the theme of Nadal's pursuit of Federer - an unavoidable theme, given the Spanish youth's ambitions. It's probably time to peel back that panel, because anybody who thinks that a primary goal of either man's career is bringing down the other is just plain nuts. That the accomplishment of either man's stated goals inevitably includes having to triumph over the other is more of an accident of the way the game is structured than a motivational force for either Federer or Nadal. Rivalries are not just wonderful, they're pre-ordained. And has any comparably riveting rivalry so conspicuously lacked what we would call "bulletin board" material?

Just as the tribulations of the past 12 months have tempered Federer, we can expect to see a different Nadal emerge from his recent, enforced absence from tennis. Already we see a more sober, muted champion than the one to whom those great prizes - a Wimbledon title, an Olympic games gold medal, the no. 1 ranking - were something to strive for, a job into which to put his back with blinkered eyes. In the coming months, Nadal will face challenges parallel to the ones Federer surmounted this summer; but the theme won't be catching Federer any more than derailing Nadal was a preoccupation for Federer. It will simply be getting back what he once possessed - health, stamina, and those cherished ATP ranking points. For Federer, this past year was largely a psychological call to arms; for Nadal, it will be a physical one, although we all know that the two are intimately related.

The news these days out of Manacor has been slightly disconcerting as well as puzzling. If you read the interviews and articles closely, you might also detect an undercurrent of doubt and perhaps even sadness in Rafael Nadal's remarks about the status of his knees. For example, did you note how he emphasized the need to learn how to "overcome difficult situations or face them with a positive mindset and learn to enjoy suffering. . . [it is] is a virtue that I’ve always had, I like to suffer, I have learned to enjoy suffering and I believe that is what helps me."

We needn't make too much of this; a taste for suffering is an attribute of of many great athletes, in all sports. The more alarming quote from Rafa was his simple explanation for why he pulled the plug instead of defending his Wimbledon title.  "I decided it was best to stop and recover because you lose the drive to go back to train and compete, because you are not with the same energy, little by little it destroys you."

This is not just dramatic; it's also a sad if unflinchingly realistic assessment coming from the mouth of the 23-year old. And if the observation can be construed as a threat to Nadal's career, it's chiefly in an area related to his love of the game - a theme we worked over pretty well yesterday. It's hard to love playing when doing so is downright painful, and the source of stress and anxiety. Nadal will have two major issues to deal with when he does return: the physical state of his knees, and the mental drain of worrying about those knees.

My own feeling, though, is optimistic. Nadal is a fighter, and he knows as well as anyone else what's at stake in the next few weeks. He's always done his heavy lifting for the year by the end of Wimbledon, which has hampered his enthusiasm and effectiveness at the U.S. Open. Soon, he'll embark for the first time on the quest for the American national title with a hard-court major in hand and plenty of rest. He could meet Federer's ante and complete his own career Grand Slam in 2009, which would certainly make this one of the most extraordinary of years in tennis.

Great players tend to see challenges as opportunities rather than daunting tests - witness how Federer took extra care to prevent Roland Garros from slipping away from him. One reason Nadal has seemed a little down lately may be less alarming than it may appear - the kid probably just misses playing. Pete Sampras was comparably bummed out when he was forced to miss the U.S. Open of 1999 with an unexpected back injury, and he's spoken eloquently of how depressed he became in the subsequent weeks. But he returned soon enough, and made the finals in New York for the next three years running (winning once).

Brushes with mortality, especially for the young, are never easy experiences.

Perhaps there will be an up-side to the time Nadal's had to spend away from tennis recently, although it would have to be a whopper to make up for having to miss Wimbledon and being forced the yield his no. 1 ranking without a fight. The time off has given Nadal ample opportunity to assess where he stands; the ways in which his career is no longer about achieving the typical goals that any great young player sets himself. In this next stage, Nadal needs to forget any distracting sub-plots and focus on what he wants out of the game, and his long-term source of motivation.

Sometimes it seems like the only two people who aren't especially interested in defining Federer and Nadal through each other are. . .Federer and Nadal. So, if you can see things through their eyes, Federer's accomplishments during Nadal's absence are not just irrelevant to the coming weeks (except in the sense that Federer will be a more confident player), they have liberated Nadal to adopt the role he knows best, and which has thus far defined his career thanks to the parallel excellence of Federer - that of the determined, hard-working underdog. But now he'll be motivated by a desire to recoup what's been lost, rather than to merely hang on to what he's earned, or add another title to his collection.

Unless his knees prove troublesome, Nadal may find himself in a much better place mentally once he gets out on those hard courts and starts smoking the forehands and belting those returns.


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Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 02:51 PM

Looking at the Nadal question from another angle: who stands to benefit most from this injury? I think the answer is Andy Murray. If both Roger and Rafa are playing in form, then Murray's chances of a major must surely be grim indeed. But with at least one of the two out of the equation, or at least questionable, his chances surely rise.

This of course was already the case at Wimby, where Nadal's absence greatly increased Murray's odds. But he failed to rise to the occasion there. I reckon he probably fancies his chances for the USO, particularly if he goes in as #2, given there always the possibility that someone score an upset in Roger's side of the draw.

Posted by cliffie 07/30/2009 at 02:52 PM

Exactly where can I find Mr. X' translation of RAfa's interview?
Thanks!

Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 02:58 PM

cliffie,

Translation reprinted on page 2, this thread.

I never meant to imply that Rafa "lumbers" around the court (which is something I more associate with Roddick, who has always looked ungainly to me). But when I see Nadal at his best I think of pistons, whereas Federer at his best is like something between elastic and silk.

Posted by rafadoc 07/30/2009 at 03:01 PM

cliffie: Thanks for your comment on Rafa's footwork. He takes the tiniest, quickest steps sometimes to get into position. Amazing. Did you see the interview on Tuesday? There is video of him practicing footwork. It is mind boggling how quick and coordinated he is.

Mr. X's translation was originally posted at around 7:30 on 7/28 but MSF copied it to page 2 of this thread too. :)

Posted by rafadoc 07/30/2009 at 03:02 PM

There is a translation of the full interview at Rafa's website too...

http://www.rafaelnadal.com/nadal/en/home

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/30/2009 at 03:05 PM

Really the point I was trying to make - I don't know why I can't ever get straight to it, either - is that there are probably as many responses to any given player as there are fans or non-fans...everybody is different, after all. *shrug*

Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 03:12 PM

Just to be clear, I was not intending any criticism of Rafa, and there's nothing wrong with pistons. But it really struck me at the AO final (which I was lucky enough to attend) that the way he takes off after a ball from a standing start is all about power (and yes, underwritten by fantastic footwork). I was speaking to John Alexander after the match (he was doing commentary for Oz tv), who remarked that such a style of movement was unsustainable in the long term, in his view, though unquestionably very exciting to watch.

Posted by Sher 07/30/2009 at 03:22 PM

tina, good luck with your own battle

i think you hit it on the nail about the wearing aspects of it

Posted by Tfactor 07/30/2009 at 03:27 PM

Nice article Pete (as always)
Don't have much time now to comment but just wanted to say that having watched the interview a few times (as a native Spanish speaker) I can say Rafa was actually quite happy and relaxed. I have no idea why it would seem depressing to anyone (?)

Sorry for this off topic bit but I wanted to thank Jewell for being there the other (scary) night.

Posted by VC 07/30/2009 at 03:30 PM

Tfactor, I hope you are fine now.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 07/30/2009 at 03:35 PM

Tfactor,

I think you've just missed Jewell. Everyone was worried about you, hope all OK now.

Posted by Tfactor 07/30/2009 at 03:36 PM

Thanks VC. Not quite fine yet, out of hospital for a while but going back next week for surgery. In good spirts though and tennis is always a good distraction.
Off for now (again sorry for OT)

Posted by VC 07/30/2009 at 03:39 PM

Tfactor : Nice to know that you are in good spirits. I'm sure that will take you through your surgery in flying colours. :-)

Posted by Anand 07/30/2009 at 03:41 PM

My apologies for being rude back on the previous page... I've been thinking.

Pete Bodo sure can write. Often after I've read an article I find myself waiting for the next one... surely the mark of a *writer* as opposed to someone who does ball by ball commentary or spouts stats or merely takes a crazy position to polarize readers.

However, recently I felt some negativity in his pieces. It is as though he was being stingy about giving credit, or somehow looking for the one blemish in a person, in the midst of basically raving about perfection.

Sometimes my perception is that Pete has a soft corner for Sampras and Nadal. But then, there is something in their no-nonsense mindful intensity that surely appeals to everybody. It may be just that Pete loves that aspect of their personality rather than for example Federer's effortless nonchalant zoning. Anyway, I realize everybody has prejudices -- here I am looking for my own standard of perfection in Pete!

Sometimes I feel Pete is -- consciously or otherwise -- being a "voice of conscience". He is strict and unrelenting about what he expects in his champions (for example, am I wrong in thinking he has never actually "awarded" Federer a warrior moment?). And in that manner provides a steady mirror with which they can re-align themselves, should they choose to. This is an admirable, affectionate paternal instinct, it is almost like Pete is guiding the personalities of these kids who have become champions in his own way. They read his writings and he gives them the truth the way he sees it, without compromise.

In conclusion I must say, what I like about Pete's writing is that it is not only interesting, but it is transparent -- he does not attempt to hide his prejudices. There is sufficient appreciation for the strengths of a hero, but also some simple objections based on a certain ideal no-nonsense personality blueprint. Moreover, Pete does not force anything down the reader's throat, he merely suggests and invites.

Thank you Pete, for being who you are!

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 07/30/2009 at 03:43 PM

Tfactor: thank goodness we're hearing from you. we've been so concerned! going to read what you posted.

Posted by Master Ace 07/30/2009 at 03:46 PM

Tfactor,
Glad to hear from you :)

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 07/30/2009 at 03:46 PM

rafadoc: the ATP site says rafa is confirmed for montreal. is this true?

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/30/2009 at 03:49 PM

Tfactor - I'm so glad, and good luck - please keep us posted. :) Thinking of you.

Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 03:53 PM

Anand, I think Mr Bodo definitely has a soft spot for Sampras, and I suspect both Petes are having some difficulty coming to terms with Federer's record.

Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 03:56 PM

"the ATP site says rafa is confirmed for montreal. is this true?"

He is confirmed (as he is for the USO), but that doesn't mean he will actually turn up. The interview indicates that will depend on his assessment of how his knees are going.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 07/30/2009 at 04:11 PM

johnc: that's what i thought. he was going to truly test them these next couple of days. hope it goes well.

Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 04:13 PM

And if he is a no-show, that's another big, fat zero stuck in his ranking points for the next twelve months.

"Once a player is accepted in the main draw of these twelve tournaments [13 in the case of the top 8]…his result will count…whether or not he participates" (ATP Rule 9.03 A)

Posted by Mike 07/30/2009 at 04:19 PM

Hmmm...had severe tendinitis (tennis elbow) at 62. Took it very easy for a couple months and good as new. Feel like we might be overthinking this whole thing. Nadal's a young guy with all the available therapies within easy reach. He'll be fine.

Posted by cliffie 07/30/2009 at 04:53 PM

Mike -

Thank you for making all of us feel a little bit better about Rafa's injury. Yes, he is young, and I do hope that he does have access to all of the new therapies, etc.
JohnC - no problem. And thank you for clarifying what you mean when you describe Fed vs. Rafa in terms of their movement. I guess we should always be grateful for having had two such diverse and wonderful talents to wonder over, no?

Posted by Carol 07/30/2009 at 05:05 PM

Who is talking about "Federer at his best is like something between elastic and silk"?
Well, if we talk about elastic....and silk... nobody can play silky

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ta7DqyFPPA&feature=related

Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 05:12 PM

Carol, not sure what you are trying to say.

Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 05:30 PM

"I guess we should always be grateful for having had two such diverse and wonderful talents to wonder over, no?"

Yes, tennis has been fortunate indeed.

Posted by Carol 07/30/2009 at 05:36 PM

JohnC, I'm trying to say that Rafa is a great player, incredible movement, incredible technique, great backhand and righthand, Federer is a great player, great service, great righthand but not so good backhand. It doesn't matter how they play, who is more elastic or silky, both players in the same conditions, not injuries, Rafa is better player

Posted by just a note 07/30/2009 at 05:50 PM

Hi everyone! Trying to communicate when I can't get connected is very difficult;))!

Mr. X thank you so much for the translation. I loved "sea of doubts". How beautifully stated and pertinent to this time in his career. I look forward to seeing him; not just for his tennis but because he is a joyful young man and his presence is always welcome. It will also mean he feels he's ready to play!!

Tfactor and tina so glad you're here and will keep only positive thoughts (prayers too;)).

jewel's "Disarmament Treaty" is a powerful thing; so glad to see so many signatories. Lovely comments from lovely posters;)).

Be well all!

jan

Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 05:55 PM

"Rafa is better player"

Well, I don't think I've ever heard Rafa himself make such an assertion, and he's says plenty to the contrary. Tennis in the Open era is tournament based, and what history will record is the career achievements of each man -- as Sampras has found to his chagrin.

They have competed in 62 tournaments, of which neither man has won 13, Federer has won 29 and Nadal 20. I regard that as a deeply impressive record by Rafa, but not quite in the "better player" category, no?

To veer for a moment, I find it hard to make a judgement whether Becker or Edberg was the "better player" despite the 25-10 H2H. I reckon most will judge them different but equal, on the basis of 6 slams each.

I have no idea what Nadal will achieve in the rest of career, and neither might I humbly suggest do you.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 07/30/2009 at 06:01 PM

JustANote: so good to hear from you. wish you could drop in more often. are you in "bad signal" territory or do you need a new computer?

Posted by rafadoc 07/30/2009 at 06:08 PM

I think player "style" is kind of a hot button issue. Maybe not so much with tennis.com posters, but on other tennis sites I know the brute force v. beautiful tennis angers some Rafa fans. I think JohnC did a good job of trying to explain his perception of Rafa's style and has great respect for both players. I still don't quite get the difference, but that is something no one has been able to explain to me so I chalk it up to my own thick skull. ;-)

Glad to see Tfactor check in!

Posted by whatthedeuce 07/30/2009 at 06:17 PM

Beautiful Pete. It's all dead-on but I especially like the last part where you say that Rafa will be in his most comfortable role - as the driven hunter rather than the hunted. You wonder how fate?! may have determined that Roger is meant to be king and Rafa is destined to be the tormenting nemesis...always looking to dethrone which is his drive but unable to hold the throne for long because that is not his ordained role. In fact, with Roger as king, the whole level of the ATP is extraordinarily high...he is the benchmark that everyone else aspires to. As great as Rafa is, I don't think his game would raise the quality of others in the same way.

Posted by Anand 07/30/2009 at 06:22 PM

rafadoc, I wouldn't put Rafa in the brute force category! Maybe not in the silky category but unless strength of mind can be included under brute force, I suggest you can relax.

Posted by Carol 07/30/2009 at 06:24 PM

JohnC, you never are going to heard Rafa saying he is better than anybody, it's part of his personality, humility and respect to the opponent. He always says is trying to learn more and more because there is not "small opponent".
So I think his fans (like me) we have the right to say he is better player
And I'm not going to remind you Rafa is 5 years younger than Roger

Posted by rafadoc 07/30/2009 at 06:28 PM

Anand: Thanks. I hope my post didn't sound like I was "up in arms". I am not. I was actually trying to damper down any potential Fedal "style" war. :)

Posted by Sherlock 07/30/2009 at 06:42 PM

"It doesn't matter how they play, who is more elastic or silky, both players in the same conditions, not injuries, Rafa is better player"

Hmmm, Carol, not sure how one goes there.

Rafadoc, I don't quite get the difference either, so you're not alone. :)

Roger never uses brute force with his serve or forehand? And Rafa never hits gorgeous winners or moves gracefully? Ummmm, ok. :)

Posted by Carol 07/30/2009 at 06:49 PM

rafadoc, I'm not "up in arms" but I don't like how some, I've said just some Federer fans always try to compare the style of both players. To be number 1 or 2 is not just style or elegance, it's a lot more than that, is game, tecnique, mentality, intelligence etc etc like both players has too

Posted by JohnC 07/30/2009 at 07:00 PM

Sherlock, I think the court movement issue related in the first instance to injury potential. There is no doubt in the mind of anyone who has sat courtside and watched these two play that there is a significant difference.

No need to make judgements about which is "better", but certainly the consensus seems to be that Rafa is unprecedently "athletic" while Roger is unprecedently "graceful".

Posted by TennisFan3 07/30/2009 at 07:05 PM

""
They've competed in 62 tournaments, of which neither man has won 13, Federer has won 29 and Nadal 20. ....but not quite in the "better player" category, no?
""

Disagree with your argument. Nadal started to peak in '08. After that it's 3 - 0 in slams (on 3 diff. surfaces). So there's no doubt that Nadal has been a better player since '08.

That said, the Fed fans might argue that Fed was past his peak in '08. And that's reasonable. But then Nadal still had a superior record over Roger from '04-'07 when Fed was at his peak and Nadal was still learning. Which IMV makes the h2h even more impressive.

Again if Nadal were born 4 years earlier, do you think Fed would still have 15 slams? What would the h2h look like then? Of course Nadal getting injured is not Rog's fault who can only beat the player in front of him. But Nadal was still far away the #1 player when he retired and clearly superior to Roger at that time.

Consider for a moment what would have happened if Jmac would've been injured @ Wimb '81, withdrawn from Wimb and then proceeded to loose early at the UsOpen. Wouldn't Borg have got a new lease of life, and gone on to win @ Wimb and Flushing?

Posted by Tfactor 07/30/2009 at 07:22 PM

Thanks everyone for the nice sentiments. I didn't realize I had so many of you worried. I thought it was just Jewell and I during my dark hour :)

On to Rafa. I got the impression from his interview that he's ready to return to tennis, give it his best and hopefully enjoy himself while doing it. At the same time though he seemed pretty calm and accepting of the fact that things may be different and the results he wants may not happen. I guess it's something that I have always admired in Rafa, as much as he loves the game and wants to compete with all his might, he understands the temporary essence of it all and that nothing is given.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 07/30/2009 at 07:25 PM

let us not go there folks. this topic apparently can be debated every which way to sunday with statistics and "what ifs" regarding injury and illness. both these great players have great style, grace, poise, fierceness, heart, skill, athleticism, power, touch, silky soft, rock hard everything. And they both can beat each other on a given day. i mean come on. Borg and Mac were an incredible rivalry but Fedal is the absolute BEST.

Posted by Sherlock 07/30/2009 at 07:28 PM

"There is no doubt in the mind of anyone who has sat courtside and watched these two play that there is a significant difference."

JohnC, maybe I'm thick, but I'll need you to help me out on the court movement/injury potential issue. I don't see it. Style of play, perhaps a bit. Court movement, not sure.

But either way, "no doubt" of "anyone" is pretty strong. :)

As for your second paragraph, ok, maybe. But Roger is pretty dang athletic and Rafa pretty graceful too. Maybe I'm just too tired of Fedal wars to be open to applying labels. I'm sick of simple labels. :)

Anyway, good discussion, JohnC. As long as the wars don't start, which it seems they are beginning too. Time to head for home. Have a good evening, everyone.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie ) 07/30/2009 at 07:54 PM

15 Grand Slams, amazing clay court record, even amidst the second best clay courter in history... Go Fed!

Rafa has had one great 12 month stretch, which is great, but Id say he needs a few more years like 08 to get anywhere near Fed Territory, isnt that just common sense and statistically accurate?

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/30/2009 at 07:58 PM

Well John Alexander to me at times his views on tennis are highly questionable? to say the least.

In regards to Rafa's footwork he can He come to that conclusion for starters? gee Johns record in tennis cant comapre to Rafa's for a start

Your footwork for starters plays No part in your longevity in the game.Goodness me he is bodering on Matts Wilander and his thoughts who by the way was at this years AO with Pat Cash,geez I need to say no more there do I?

Yes Matts Wonder Wildander said Rafa should not play h/court tennis at all,just clay and tennis,ok Matt he went and won the AO by the way in great fashion.Go check out the stats for one???

Your footwork as anyone knows is vital,gee if you cant get your feet in correct position for a shot,forget about it.

Roger also has sublime footwork,he is a pleasure to watch,the same as Rafa.

John Alexander yes the Aussie Wonder Man of Tennis.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 07/30/2009 at 07:59 PM

'05 was pretty great for rafa too. numerous titles and some masters shields. But until he or someone else can break fed's record, fed is king.

Posted by Carrie 07/30/2009 at 07:59 PM

*Rafa has had one great 12 month stretch, which is great, but Id say he needs a few more years like 08 to get anywhere near Fed Territory, isnt that just common sense and statistically accurate?
*

True of course. :)

But conversely, sometimes Rafa fans may just want to discuss Rafa, where he is right now, appreciate what he has achieved in the past, etc. without being reminded again and again how he is lesser than Fed, how he is lacking, etc. Sometimes it may be nice just to discuss Rafa for Rafa and not have everything be about how he relates to Federer.

And the same for Federer too- sometimes it can just be nice to discuss Federer for Federer.

Posted by imjimmy 07/30/2009 at 08:05 PM

Tfactor: Good to see you back. Hope you get well soon.Most of the TWibers were worried about you.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 07/30/2009 at 08:07 PM

I don't like to compare Rafa and Fed too much. One player has had a longer career than the other.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/30/2009 at 08:10 PM

Tfactor Gee you did have me worried.I left a message for you when you told Jewell how you felt.I asked if you had you appendix out or not.Anyway my prayers have been answered.Your ok.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie ) 07/30/2009 at 08:11 PM

weell talk to tennisfan3, a nadal fan who brought all this up in the first place@ lol

I think the comparison is a waste, too, they are so totally different, and yet age means nothing, Fed could end up having a longer career, just like you never know with Borg, Hingis, Austin, Jaeger, etc etc. each player's career is unique and age is no guarantee of anything...

Posted by Cosi 07/30/2009 at 08:19 PM

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/30/2009 @ 8:28 AM

I got this from Matt Cronin's website. Sampras revisits the GOAT debate, "It would have bothered me if I had a losing record against Andre in the majors." Don't want to comment on it, just thought it was funny and telling about how much he wanted to keep his most GS record."

I wonder if it bothered him that he never beat Richard Kriajcek (sp)

Posted by Cosi 07/30/2009 at 08:22 PM

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/30/2009 @ 2:02 AM

LOL at comparing Nadal to Petrova or even Demmy. Yeah, he's such a headcase. :)

I think he's worried now; once he gets back on court and starts playing he'll start banishing those doubts. I hope. :)"

If you're replying to me as if I did say he was "like Dementieva or Petrova" you would be completely off base.

Posted by rafadoc 07/30/2009 at 08:35 PM

I missed Sherlock again. :( I do agree with 'lock in that court movement doesn't have a thing to do with injury potential. I do realize that there are factors that contribute to injury, such as longer points. For Rafa, being able to get points with the serve and being able to shorten points will be great. He seemed to be able to do that in some of his matches this year.

Carrie: Well said. Comparisons are tiresome, no matter "who started it".

AM: Great post regarding footwork. We were talking about that earlier.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 07/30/2009 at 08:47 PM

Carrie: thanks for your post. sometimes rafa fans just want to talk about him.

Posted by anon 07/30/2009 at 09:10 PM

test

Posted by Syd 07/30/2009 at 09:18 PM

How can on court movement not have to do with injuries? They don't get injured standing still. There are certain injury-prone patterns of movement, as well as repeated loading of a particular group of muscles that leads to repetitive stress injuries.

So, not sure what you mean.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/30/2009 at 09:27 PM

test

Posted by rafadoc 07/30/2009 at 09:35 PM

Syd: Thanks for that explanation. So, I guess exemplary footwork would probably help to prevent injuries. So, that is ONE thing that has on Rafa's side! :)

I just hope he can get that serve back to the level it was at, say, Wimbledon last year. That, along with more net play, will help him shorten points.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/30/2009 at 09:36 PM

Regarding Cosi's allegation that "he never beat Richard Kriajcek (sp)," I hope Cosi isn't referring to Sampras and Richard Krajicek. Sampras beat Richard Krajicek four times.

As far as Sampras never beating Richard Kriajcek, that should not be held against Sampras because he never played anyone with that name.

Posted by Syd 07/30/2009 at 09:47 PM

Rafadoc, well I'm sure everyone's very excited that he's coming back. :)

Posted by rafadoc 07/30/2009 at 09:54 PM

Syd: For sure. :) Now we just have to know WHEN he is coming back. I expect an announcement tomorrow regarding Montreal.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/30/2009 at 09:55 PM

Rafa just turned 23. He has already won six (6) majors, has won an Olympic Gold Medal, has been a member of two Davis Cup winning teams, and has 1 13-7 winning record against Federer, including a 5-2 winning record in majors.

Federer will be tyurning 28 in about ten days. When he reached 23 years of age, he had won one or two majors and no Olympic Gold in singles (still hasn't)

Federer is almost five years older than Rafa and has entered many more majors.

In light of the above facts, if I ever argued before a court that Federer is a superior player over Rafa or that Federer's greater number of majors is pertinent to the discussion, the judge(s) would either laugh me out of the court or attempt to sanction me for incompetent practice of law.

Posted by imjimmy 07/30/2009 at 10:16 PM

""I wonder if it bothered him that he never beat Richard Kriajcek (sp) ""

Krajicek had a 6-4 h2h against Pete. And it was 1-1 in slams. Furthermore Krajicek was not really a "great" player. He had 1 slam win, no slam runner up and his career high ranking was #4.

It depends on who the h2h is against to consider it significant w.r.t career accomplishments.
Surely you don't consider Fed's 0-2 h2h with Simon or 2-6 with Murray as conclusive?

Interestingly NO prominent player other than Krajicek had a winning record against Pete by MORE than 1 match! ( Andy Roddick 2-1 Sergi Bruguera 3-2 Marat Safin 4-3 Michael Stich 5-4 Lleyton Hewitt 5-4 ). Furthermore Pete dominated in his era with decisive h2h stats against the top pros ( Agassi 20-14, Courier 16-4, Becker 12-7, Rafter 12-4, Muster 9-2, Ivansevic 12-6, Kafelnikov 11-2, Chang 12-8).

Posted by Rosangel 07/30/2009 at 11:21 PM

Tim: some of us don't really give a toss about the comparison, which inevitably puts down one at the expense of another. There does exist a very large part of the tennis universe that has no need to reference your hero. Putdowns of someone who has achieved far more on a tennis court than any of us posters here ever will are always irksome, especially as this isn't a post dedicated to the endlessly tedious GOAT debate. From the point of view that tennis as a whole benefits from having a varied array of characters that can appeal to all kinds of people, Rafa's story is just fine on its own - unless you think it's necessary to put down almost every player that ever picked up a racquet because in your eyes he wasn't or isn't as good as your hero. Tennis "the game" depends on there being a large competitive field, and each and every guy or gal who makes it into the professional ranks where we notice them generally has worked hard and has something out of the ordinary going for him or her.

And yes, I speak as one who, in possession of a Wimbledon Court 1 ticket a couple of years ago worth hundreds of pounds, went ahead and bought a Centre Court ticket for the same day because my favourite was playing on Centre and yours on Court 1.

The yes, but.... conversational strategy is almost guaranteed to get some people's knickers in a twist, unless they see it coming, which many of us do:)

Posted by Neha 07/30/2009 at 11:35 PM

manuelsantanafan
when Federer was 23 he won 3 slams.Yes Federer hasnt won a gold medal but even Sampras hasnt.Agassi has won a gold medal.But no one is considering it against Sampras.So why consider it against Federer.And Federer did win in doubles which is a great accomplishment as well.Anyway I am a Federer fan who respects Rafa a lot.I hope he recovers soon.frankly speaking even I am fed up of Fed-rafa comparisons.Both are great players.fedex has the edge.But Rafa has a lot of years left.So lets see.

Posted by rafadoc 07/30/2009 at 11:48 PM

Rosangel: You have managed to say so much in a such a concise way. I continue to be impressed with your writing. I particularly like how you have pointed out how many other excellent, hard working tennis players are in the field. They may not be named Federer or Nadal, but they have worked so hard to be in the mix and they do provide us with so much entertainment.

Posted by the truth 07/31/2009 at 12:03 AM

Getting tired of hearing who is better between Nadal and Federer. Let us remember who won French open 2008, Winbledon 2008, Australia open 2009(THIS YEAR) between the two. Who has the edge? Go figure!

Posted by rafadoc 07/31/2009 at 12:05 AM

Neha: Roger still has a shot at a singles Olympic Medal and I believe he has targeted that as a future goal, so evidently, the man himself thinks it should be part of the conversation. :)

I know some fans who don't hold it in that high of regard. I do. My family was always glued to the television during the Olympic games and I continue to hold the Olympics as a pinnacle of sports. So, as a Rafa fan, I am hugely proud of his Gold Medal, regardless of how it is perceived in the context of tennis history. Probably more importantly, is the way the Medal holder himself feels about it. Rafa was very proud to win that for his country.

Posted by the truth 07/31/2009 at 12:18 AM

Rafadoc-I completely agree. Rafa said in an interview that grandslams is considered in high regard than olympics in tennis world but he felt that as an ATHLETE to win a gold medal was more important and could'nt be happier.

Posted by rafadoc 07/31/2009 at 12:28 AM

the truth: Yes, I remember that now-his feelings in the context of great athletes (thanks for the reminder). As a Gold Medalist, Rafa is a part of an elite group of athletes and that broadens the historical context from just tennis. As a sports fan himself, that is, of course, a huge source of pride. :)

Posted by TennisFan3 07/31/2009 at 02:54 AM

If you're a tennis fan. you should be thanking your lucky stars for Nadal. Because without him, Federer would have broken every record in Tennis history several times over. Hell - they would've had to set up a separate factory in Basel to churn out record titles for Rog (to keep up with his pace as he broke records) . And pretty soon we would've been talking about challenger rounds for Fed in the slams.

Anyway, the truth is that we saw a "weak era" in tennis before the emergence of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. After the extraordinary depth in men's tennis during the 80's and 90's, we have an "opt out" generation. I mean .. Roddick? Hewitt? Safin? Baghdatis? Gonzo? Phillippoussis? Ferrero, Nalbandian? Davydenko? Haas? Ferrer? Blake? --you get the drift.. These guys wouldn't be great players in any era.

So yeah, it's good that Nadal came along and forced Federer to show his brilliance and fighting qualities. Federer will still go down as the greatest player of his era. I don't think the h2h will be a blemish on Federer's resume. It will just show that he had a 'worthy' rival during his time.
And when we look back after 15 yrs we would be able to talk about Federer and Nadal, just as we talk about Jmac and Borg - 2 great players in their own right.....

Posted by jabeau 07/31/2009 at 04:48 AM

"Rafa just turned 23. He has already won six (6) majors, has won an Olympic Gold Medal, has been a member of two Davis Cup winning teams, and has 1 13-7 winning record against Federer, including a 5-2 winning record in majors."

Well put, Manuelsantanafan. In view of this I can't see how Rafael is the underdog. Or enjoys being the underdog or suited to this role more than ruling tennis. After all he has to beat 7 guys for a GS title.

Rosangel, I liked your post, as always.

Posted by Kofi 07/31/2009 at 08:00 AM

Nadal's knees don't suffer because of playing style, but for genetics (and for playing too much). He should learn to play (and train!) less. He is already in the league of the all-time-greats and should concentrate on slams (and maybe masters as preparation for slams).

The two-day rests at slams (even between five-setters) might even help him (as I think helps Roger, who does substantially worse at masters, with the full strong player field also there just like at slams, but with consecutive-day matches).

I disagree with the ATP making some events 'mandatory', which is the main reason Nadal played Madrid. The ranking point system is objective enough to measure the players' value if they are set free to decide which tourneys they attend.

I understand injury-free consistency is a part of being a good tennis player, but only part, and within limits. At one extreme, someone able to play tennis 240 hours non-stop without injury (and sleep) should go to the Guiness book of records, not to tennis greatness. And any player would crack if made to play seven-setters every day, which would besides be necessarily mediocre. On the other extreme, there have always been hot players at a moment that do not qualify for tennis all-time-greatness. A red-hot Nalbandian beating consecutively nos. 1, 2 and 3 for a couple of tournaments in a row does not make him a goat (but undoubtedly closer than the 240-hour freak!)

So how do you measure tennis excellence? IMHO, excellence is measured at the peak of one's play (substantive) if 'reasonably' sustained (adjective, even if a necessary one). Slams might be a good measure of it. Ranking poits (with freedom of choice of events), too.

I think Nadal's reasonably sustained (how long was he no.2?) peak play has been at least comparable to Fed's peak play (more than reasonably sustained), if not better.

Can Nadal skip mandatory events on the grounds of injury prevention? I don't know, but I don't think so, because if every player did that, the 'mandatory' thing would be meaningless. Yet, at least in his case, that would be justified, not just an excuse. Skipping an event for a (real) injury or for (real) injury prevention are equally justified, imo. But how do you certify real injury prevention? I think banning mandatory events would be simpler and fairer to all. Leave the points there, and let the players go get them!

Posted by Carol 07/31/2009 at 08:44 AM

TennisFan3 and Kofi, great posts!!!!

Posted by JohnC 07/31/2009 at 09:38 AM

The ATP rules exist to sustain the travelling circus that is the tour, without which tennis itself would barely exist. The impression I get is that Rafa is quiet excepting of the fact that if he needs more time then his ranking will suffer further.

Posted by JohnC 07/31/2009 at 09:40 AM

Whoops, that should be accepting, not "excepting".

Posted by JohnC 07/31/2009 at 09:58 AM

To elaborate, take Connors who won a squillion titles but was always pretty choosey about where he played, with the bulk of his trophy cabinet coming from US tourneys. For instance, in 1976, a not untypical year, he won 12 titles as follows:
Wembley, Cologne, US Open, Indianapolis, North Conway, Washington, Las Vegas, Denver WCT, Palm Springs, Hampton, Philadelphia WCT, Birmingham.

Posted by lottis 07/31/2009 at 10:10 AM

The good thing for Rafa is that he’s been here once before when he had to miss AO06 because of injury and he was out for some time. He has admitted that he felt pretty down during that time but he came back so that should give him enough confident knowing there is no reason why he shouldn‘t come back this time either.

And at that time he hadn’t done too much in tennis as he has today. If his career would end today it’s hardly like he has had a career full of missed opportunities. He has pretty much done what you can expect of a top player, won 6 major, been ranked year end #1, even got an Olympic gold and been on two DC winning teams, though he missed the final in one of them. Most players would be thrilled leaving their tennis career behind them with that kind of result.

Of course his confidence will be low, but once he get playing that will shortly return even if it takes some time. Rafa is “just” 23 so it’s not like time isn’t on his side. He just needs to take care of his body and listen. And figure out when it’s pain that can be played through and when it’s not. He has alredy made changes of his style of play and there is no reason why he won't keep trying to make changes.
And as been said millions of times, he needs to make some changes of the scheduling. Instead of cramping up everything before Wimbledon, spread the 4 500 out during the year and use the 2 250 in the way he did this year, one before AO and one before Wimbledon. Can’t say he should skip DC as he clearly loves that so unless they clearly don’t need him or he is in a bad shape and really need the rest he should play.

The interview was nice, thanks to Mr X for the translation. He seemed to be himself so not sure why some get a negative vibe from it. Hope he will be able to return in time for Canada but as he said, he shouldn’t return until he feels he is 100%.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie ) 07/31/2009 at 10:16 AM

well, James Blake and Mardy Fish have also been part of a winning Davis Cup team and Fed of course hasn't, and a whole lot of more obscure guys who's been on winning Davis Cup teams more than once...

by the way Ros, no one is my hero, I get a big thrill out of seeing Fed play tennis and I think he's a breath of fresh air in a sport I love, but Ill leave 'hero' labels to others, thank you

Posted by siggy 07/31/2009 at 10:29 AM

If the tennis gods allowed little me to walk (and play) in the shoes of one player for just one day in my life, I'd want to be in Rogi's shoes (I could pretend to be Wilander-ful for the day, hee!). Only because I happen to love the way he plays. The gazillions of prerafaelites would no doubt choose their beloved, and that's the way life works, no? If only we can be civil to one another while agreeing to disagree....

JohnC, your posts on this thread read like a voice of reason, this thread starting to remind me of a storm in a teacup... as usual. Wonder why Tari doesn't post here any longer....

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie ) 07/31/2009 at 10:43 AM

if the weak era argument has some merit, that goes double for women's tennis right now...i wonder, why with all the advancements in training, technology, the insane prize money avaiable, would tennis actually have FEWER brilliant players capable of winning Slams? it doent make sense at all ...

but lets be real, weak era thoerists only have to look at the early rounds of Slams back in the 70s and 80s to see that top players could sleep through the first 4 rounds of majors without playing anyone of note, today, not a chance...

Posted by Sherlock 07/31/2009 at 11:03 AM

"weak era thoerists only have to look at the early rounds of Slams back in the 70s and 80s to see that top players could sleep through the first 4 rounds of majors without playing anyone of note, today, not a chance..."

I think some tennis historians would take issue with that, Tim.

IMO, the eras are neither as weak or as strong as we love to make them out to be. But that's boring and gives us nothing to argue about. :)

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie ) 07/31/2009 at 11:56 AM

cmon Sherlock the early rounds in Laver's era especially were pathetic he said as much in an interview I read, no doubt the standard from round one is very high, but yet, a lack of supposed superstars in both mens and womens tennis now, i guess talent cant be induced by big pay checks alone ... maybe there are too many other sports now attracting top athletes, or tennis has just become such a power driven slug fest that its driven true talent out of the game? i hope that's not true but...

Posted by Sherlock 07/31/2009 at 12:29 PM

Well, you said 70's and 80's, not Laver's time. :)

It's just an endless argument, with no quantifiable data to help. How can even Laver himself compare the guys he played 45 years ago against the players now? It's impossible. Different technology, different time, different game. Plus, you know, Rod's memory and all. :)

As for the talent of today, that's a good question. I think tennis is attracting plenty of athletes. Or maybe I just like to think that.

Posted by bob k 07/31/2009 at 01:10 PM

I don't know how someone cuts down on their playing/practice time and stays sharp enough to win majors. This isn't golf. Conditioning and timing are much more important in tennis. Tendinitis is tough. It doesn't just go away as long as you continue the pounding that causes it. Nadal's body type and playing style puts those knees at risk. He's exactly right when he says he's going to have to suffer through pain many times.

Posted by rafadoc 07/31/2009 at 01:20 PM

bobk: Commentators and others who have witnessed Rafa practice say he puts in way more time on the court than he should. He has said when at home its not unusual for him to be on court all day. At tournaments he tends to be on court longer than most too. I think there is some "wiggle room" there. Thankfully. :)

Posted by federerfan 07/31/2009 at 01:33 PM

Ros : "And yes, I speak as one who, in possession of a Wimbledon Court 1 ticket a couple of years ago worth hundreds of pounds, went ahead and bought a Centre Court ticket for the same day because my favourite was playing on Centre and yours on Court 1."

If the intent of this is to show how much you loathe fed (like I will pay hundreds of pounds not to see him play) then I know people who are ready to voodoo to get the player they loathe do/not do things on a tennis court. I think that beats this :)

And yes but :) I did like the rest of your post Ros.

Posted by Cotton Jack 07/31/2009 at 02:17 PM

So, while the Tour de France was on, I took the chance, by and large, to take a break from TW, one that co-incided with a slump in the season. And what do I find on my return? More endless Fedal. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Toodle pip xx

Posted by JohnC 07/31/2009 at 03:58 PM

The problem with the "weak era" argument is that it is a gratuitous insult to just about everybody. Take the clay world: Borg's six FO wins involved beating Vilas (twice), Gerulaitis, Pecci, Orantes and Lendl in the finals, of whom only Pecci could be considered in the "second division". Nadal's four wins have "only" matched him against Puerta and Federer (thrice). Yet most people, myself included, have no problem with declaring Nadal one of the best clay players of all time.

The weak-era theorists mistake the dominance of two extraordinary players for the weakness of the rest of the field. It's a barren line of argument.

Posted by Veruca Salt (360) 07/31/2009 at 04:11 PM

i didn't find rafa's demeanor during the interview particularly morose either. to me, he was his usual straightforward self. no doubt being out of competition was a serious blow, but i think he definitely has the right attitude about it all.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 07/31/2009 at 04:29 PM

Quite agree, JohnC.

Veruca Salt: Yes, he looked happy and contented to me.

Posted by Cosi 07/31/2009 at 09:35 PM

Posted by Neha 07/30/2009 @ 11:35 PM

manuelsantanafan
when Federer was 23 he won 3 slams.Yes Federer hasnt won a gold medal but even Sampras hasnt.Agassi has won a gold medal.But no one is considering it against Sampras.So why consider it against Federer.And Federer did win in doubles which is a great accomplishment as well.Anyway I am a Federer fan who respects Rafa a lot.I hope he recovers soon.frankly speaking even I am fed up of Fed-rafa comparisons.Both are great players.fedex has the edge.But Rafa has a lot of years left.So lets see."

It's simple, Roger has won more majors than anybody in history, he has had the longest unbroken number of weeks at number one than anybody in history, he is now number one again, has won every major on all surfaces (4 unlike some people who won multiple majores on the same surface). What CAN somebody hold against him? Not much, so they grasp at straws like "winning a gold medal" as some sort of prerequisite, of course if Roger had won the gold medal they woudl say "but he didn't win the gold medal in straight sets" yada yada yada..

Posted by rafadoc 07/31/2009 at 10:12 PM

Cosi: Rafa has won a gold medal but I for one would not say that makes him better than Roger in some kind of GOAT debate. Am I extremely proud and happy for him? Heck yah. But I would not say that makes Rafa better than Roger in overall tennis accomplishments.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/31/2009 at 10:55 PM

cosi:

I wrote "When he [Federer] reached 23 years of age, he had won one or two majors."

So, what you write about Federer winning three majors WHILE he was 23 doesn't address what I wrote.

Sounds like you would benefit from reading comprehension instruction.

By the way, who is this "Richard Kriajcek (sp)" to whom you refer and you say that Sampras never defeated?

Your recent postings are doing little to advance any credibility you may still have (and I'm being charitable).

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/01/2009 at 04:17 AM

Don't really know why I dropped back into this thread, but, couldn't we all just be a little more gentle with each other, however passionate we are about our particular favourites? I can't help but think that these things would go so much better if we were. :)

fwiw, the not-posting due to Fedal tediousness goes all ways - FOOPs because everything is Fedal, Rafa fans because their guy gets unfairly bashed/they get unfairly bashed, Roger fans for the same reasons. *shrug* I know everybody knows that but it still bears repeating. ;-)

you should petition for a piece on Mahut, Cotton Jack. ;-)

Posted by Jacob 08/01/2009 at 06:29 AM

manuelsantanafan,
You are flat out inaccurate and wrong on many levels.

For one, Federer actually won his 3rd major before he turned 23 (W 2004 when he was still 22), and he won his 5th Slam when he was 23 (W 2005), not the 1 or 2 you falsely and inaccurately said.
Facts prove me right and you wrong.

Krajicek also beat Sampras 6 times and Sampras won just 4.
Federer's beaten Nadal 7 times overall, just 2 on clay, not 0.
Facts.
Sampras never once won an Olympic gold medal.
Federer already has won Olympic doubles gold.
Davis Cups are team competitions, not singles.
Spain and US have much deeper rosters and better tennis players overall top to bottom (Davis Cup) and doubles teams than Switzerland does, except Federer, not his fault.
Switzerland is also a much smaller country than Spain and especially US, not Federer's fault either.
Facts.

You also said,
"So, what you write about Federer winning three majors WHILE he was 23 doesn't address what I wrote.

Sounds like you would benefit from reading comprehension instruction."

This statement actually applies to you much more than Cosi, much to your chagrin.
Check the facts. You'll see for yourself.

Your many postings are continuously doing little to advance any credibility you may have ever had, and I'm being charitable, msf.

Posted by Jacob 08/01/2009 at 06:40 AM

msf,
You will probably completely ignore my post(s) because everything I write is factual that you can't dispute honestly (dishonestly and inaccurately maybe), and you hate that and all the accurate things I said which make you look bad and inaccurately biased in many ways like you are, and you hate that too so you will probably ignore all I write since you can't dispute or deny any of the facts, and you certainly won't accept them (even though you should because they're all true and factual, and your posts are the opposite continuously in most cases) because that's not who you are or what you do or stand for.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 08/01/2009 at 08:42 AM

jacob:

I probably won't bother doublechecking to determine if Federer won three majors by the time the turned 23. Three, as opposed to one or two, are still far less than the six (plus the Olympic Gold medal) that Rafa had won by his 23rd birthday.

Regarding "Richard Kriajcek (sp)", cosi stated that Sampras had never beaten him. If cosi was referring to Richard Krajicek, cosi is flat out wrong, as I pointed out. If cosi was referring to some fictional tennis player that flits about in cosi's brain, cosi's statement is irrelevant.

I never stated that Federer had never beaten Rafa on clay. You are knocking down the proverbial "straw man." Congratulations.

Have an excellent day.

Posted by Jacob 08/01/2009 at 09:44 AM

msf,
Your many postings are continuously doing little to advance any credibility you may have ever had, and I'm being charitable, msf.

The fact that you don't even know when (time, place, tournament, year, age) Federer won his 1st Slam and each and everyone of his 15 current majors speaks for itself about you.

Have a not so excellent day and week and year and life yourself, msf.
You don't deserve any excellence in anything you do.
You may think you do, but you don't.


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