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Speak, Warrior 07/14/2009 - 4:56 PM

86262095 by Pete Bodo

Well, we had that conference call with Pete Sampras a few hours ago.Pete made himself available on behalf of the upcoming Los Angeles Tennis Open (title sponsor: Farmer's Insurance Group), where he'll be honored, as well as play an exhibition match against Marat Safin.

Most of you remember that the Sampras-Safin U.S. Open final of 2000 was a match of astonishingly high quality - at least from Safin's end of the court, although truth be told it wasn't as if Sampras, the no. 4 seed, was off his game. We didn't actually get to see enough of his game to come to any conclusions about that.

Safin, who was seeded 6 and on his early-career upward arc, simply bludgeoned Sampras off his theoretical home court in what remains a high-water mark for power tennis. It was a 4-3-3 whitewash, and Sampras himself was so impressed that he couldn't be bothered to work out what he might have done differently, or even indulge in a little bit of that hateur to which a stung champion is entitled. Jimmy Connors would have snarled words to this effect: Yeah? Let's see if this Commie with the head shaped like a can of dog food can back it up for a few years, and then get back to me about how great he is. . .

Sampras, to his credit, just shrugged it off with the proverbial hat tip: The guy played great, give him all the credit. He's got a big future in this game.

Watching that match led many journalists (and other pundits) to a Jon Landau moment. Landau almost single-handedly launched Bruce Springsteen's career when, after seeing the E-Street band perform, he wrote a blathering rave review containing those now immortal words: "I have seen rock and roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." 

Well, Safin turned out not to be tennis's equivalent of Springsteen (although it would have been an appropriate analogy in many ways if he had). What we ended up with instead was tennis's equivalent to the Beatles in Roger Federer, and the more I think about the parallel the more it apt it seems. Let's stretch the analogy to the breaking point: in tennis we have the Beatles vs. Rolling Stones reprised in the Federer vs. Rafael Nadal rivalry. Almost everyone in the baby boomer generation fell into either the Beatles or Rolling Stones camp, although if you were insufficiently fanatical you got to enjoy both. Being more than adequately fanatical, I was a Stones man myself, and wrote the Beatles off for good after that much ballyhooed White Album.

So naturally, Pete was asked about the Federer-Nadal rivalry - specifically, if he felt that Roger could be considered the Greatest of All Time if he can't establish superiority over his career rival (as Sampras did in his rivaly with Andre Agassi). You'll see from Pete's answer that he was slightly flummoxed, but one of his outstanding qualities always was his determination to honest, even if it meant delivering his opinion or thoughts through clenched teeth.

"I do understand the argument as far as being the best ever. You have to be the man of your generation.  He (Roger) has come up short against Nadal. I can see the point. It's hard to answer that. I don't know how to answer it.You know, it's not done yet.  Roger's career isn't done yet. He's going to play Nadal a number of times over the next number of years, and he has to beat him. He has to beat him in the finals of majors. To be considered the greatest ever, he certainly in my book is (already that). But he has to figure this kid out.  He has to beat him.  He's lost to him a number of times. You know, you got to be the man of your generation. He certainly is the man of his generation; he just has to figure out Nadal."

Pushed to elaborate vis a vis his own experience wih Agassi, Pete added: 

"Well, God, you're giving it some thought, huh (laughter)? It would have bothered me if I had a losing record against Andre in majors. It wouldn't have sat well with me. Did it mean I was the greatest or not the greatest? I don't know. It's the debate of greatest of all time. We so badly want to pin it on someone.  With the numbers you have to give it to Roger.  His record against Nadal, okay, you might not give it to him. 

"I mean, if I was 7-15 against Andre and I was done, it's hard to say I was the player of my generation - just because he got the best of me. Like I said, the story's not over yet. We have another probably three, four years of these two guys competing against each other. If anything, I think Nadal is going to be hungrier now, seeing Roger getting back to No. 1. It's hard to give you a definitive answer when it's not done yet. I think Roger knows he's got to figure out this kid.  It's a tough, tough matchup.  Nadal is one of the few guys that believes in himself that he's better than Roger."

You may remember that in his Wimbledon press conference, Rod Laver took the position that in one match, on grass, he would pick Sampras over Federer. Laver wasn't the only one who took that tack. Just a few weeks ago, John McEnroe told me, "Watching these guys today, I keep thinking that if Sampras walked out there, he’d still drive these guys bananas. In my opinion he’s still the greatest fast court-player who ever lived. Where Roger is the greatest, period."

I asked Sampras about that, too. He said:

"Well, I think one thing Roger doesn't see on grass the last number of years is really a true serve-and- volleyer, someone that's willing to come in and put the pressure on and make him pass, make him return these big serves. I don't think anyone really scares him. I think my game would make Roger a little bit more uncomfortable. I would obviously come in on both serves and put the pressure on his backhand, sort of go from there. . . I would sort of dictate the play.  But, you know, he'd be a tough guy to break, especially when he's hitting 50 aces like he did (in the recent Wimbledon final).  It would have been a great matchup.

"If I would beat him?  If I felt my best on grass, I did feel unbeatable, especially in the mid '90s.  I was a tough guy to break, played well from the back court to have chances, and I moved well enough. It's a flattering comment.  Do I think I could have beaten Roger in my prime?  Sure. I don't think anyone could beat me in my prime on grass. I felt as Roger does now - he feels unbeatable."

In terms of this discussion, Sampras also made an interesting observation about Andy Roddick, appended to his evaluation of how much Roddick seems to have improved: "(Andy's) backhand driveup the line is better and he's slicing a little better.  His transition game has gotten better.  As you saw on that set point, 6 5, he's still a little uncomfortable, but he's getting better at it. (But) I was sitting up there watching, (thinking) just serve-and-volley one time on your second serve because all Roger does is chip it. Put something in his head."

This is to me an endlessly interesting if unresolvable discussion, and it's what tennis players talk about when they gather to jaw about the players and game of today. But let's wrap it up with a bit about Safin, the player whose personality is as big as his talent, probably to his long-term detriment as a player. Surprisingly, the two men (Sampras and Safin) were friends - at least to the degree that anyone as soulful as Safin could be friends with someone as coldly realistic as Sampras. Sampras explained:

"Marat and I always got along very well when we were playing. He's a really nice guy, great player, showed what he could do especially at the US Open the one year, he tuned me up pretty good. He's an expressive guy on the court, shows emotion. Off the court, he's a happy-go-lucky guy. I was pretty reserved when I was playing, to myself.  For whatever reason, he and I seemed to get on really well.  We practiced quite a bit together. 

"You know, he's a champion. He got to No. 1. He won a major, I think two majors.  It's sad to see him go because I think he brought a lot to the sport. Haven't sort of kept in contact with him.  But certainly when I see him, we'll talk about some of our matches.  When Paul (Annacone) was coaching (Tim) Henman, Marat would ask Paul, How is Pete doing?  He was always just a personable guy, really nice guy, and someone that I've always gotten along really well with."

One day, Federer will be talking about guys -  Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, maybe even Nadal - just like this, just like the tired warrior that he will no doubt have become.

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Posted by Beckham (Gulbis FTW @ Indy!!) 07/15/2009 at 11:26 AM

Gulbis T-minus 3 days and counting...anyone have any idea when the draw is?!

Posted by mcakron 07/15/2009 at 11:27 AM

See, Andrew, what you started. Oh well, a good topic. Ten times more civil than the Fedal and GOAT stuff.

I'd be interested if Master Ace might nominate his WTA matches. I would think Serena-Kuz FO SF and Serena-Dementieva Wimby SF would be no brainers.

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 11:27 AM

I was able to locate a clip showing exactly how much the Wimbledon courts were slowed down between 2003-2008.

I wonder whether someone like Federer makes a subconscious adjustment within a match or a tournament in deciding to S&V less, or comes in armed with the knowledge that the courts are playing slower, and therefore deliberately chooses to play from the baseline.

Roche was credited with a lot of improvement in Roger's volleying but it's interesting to note that Federer took the baseline approach at Wimbledon after he came on board.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 11:29 AM

Federer supports Liverpool??? That might well take him off my rooting list. ;-)

I think Andrew said both, NP. Whatever. I'm easier to please than you are. :)

Hopefully Master Ace is keeping his lists and will do the Big Reveals of both WTA and ATP at the end of the year again. :)

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 11:30 AM

"Federer supports Liverpool??? That might well take him off my rooting list. ;-)"

jewell : you have impeccable taste. ;-)

Posted by Grant 07/15/2009 at 11:33 AM

"Oh well, a good topic. Ten times more civil than the Fedal and GOAT stuff."

You idiot I can't believe you put Serena-Kuz up there rar rar rar!

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 11:34 AM

jewell, Kevin Keegan's mullet is just pure amazeballs.

Posted by NP 07/15/2009 at 11:34 AM

VC, as you know I'm certainly in the "Bring back the old grass" camp, but I don't think that particular video proves much. A few serves here and there can produce different bounces. But it's true that the AEC did change the actual surface around '01, and they were also experimenting with slow balls even in the '90s. That's the knock-out proof we have for the claycourting of Wimbledon.

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 11:35 AM

I also located some highlight clips from Federer's 2006 Wimbledon campaign. (IMO, his most impressive ever performance in a tournament)

Comments and comparisons would be welcome.

Posted by NP 07/15/2009 at 11:36 AM

"I'm easier to please than you are. :)"

Well, duh.

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 11:36 AM

BTW, those are from the matches against Gasquet, Bjorkman, Ancic and Nadal.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 11:37 AM

Does Federer support Liverpool? Like, why? So does Caroline Wozniacki apparently. Why do I never hear about tennis stars supporting The Gunners?

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 11:38 AM

L Jon has things to say about that clip in Strokes of Genius...he doesn't think it's conclusive prove. But the change in composition of the grass and soil depth have probably had some effect.

I cling to the idea that racquet and string technology has something to do with it all as well.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 11:40 AM

Proof, I mean. *feels illiterate*

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 11:41 AM

"Why do I never hear about tennis stars supporting The Gunners?"

Soooo tempting to answer that. ;-)

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis FTW @ Indy!!) 07/15/2009 at 11:42 AM

Ummm, I feel I have to stop this viscious rumour...thankfully the Fed is a FC Basel man, apparently he was invited by Liverpool to come and see them train and dude went, got a jersey, no rooting interests of whatsoever.

Posted by mcakron 07/15/2009 at 11:42 AM

Grant, I accepted my intellectual limitations long ago. Kinda like it that way. I delude myself into thinking I'm a smart moron. And yes, if I ever start a consulting firm, it will be called General Specifics. One can never have enough oxymorons. Ooops ... there's that pesty moron term again.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 07/15/2009 at 11:42 AM

Hello, everyone,

I'll bet there is no other single "Owls" supporter on this board, is there?

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 11:43 AM

"Soooo tempting to answer that. ;-)"



Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 11:43 AM

Don't tell me Wozniacki's a Liverpool fan as well.

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis FTW @ Indy!!) 07/15/2009 at 11:43 AM

The Fed is NOT a Liverpool supporter, dude may have questionable taste sometimes but even he can't be that unfreakingbelievably

Posted by NP 07/15/2009 at 11:45 AM

Right, jewell. There are other things that affect the bounce. Weather, for ex.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 11:45 AM

VC, she is. Hang on a sec and I'll post a link. But her favourite player is Torres, which is thoroughly acceptable in my view.

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 11:46 AM

Beckham : Thanks. :-) They should be queueing up to see him practise, not the other way round.. ;-)

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 11:46 AM

Point about the weather, think we saw that the last fortnight with all the heat, and the importance of the serve, maybe.

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 11:48 AM

"Why do I never hear about tennis stars supporting The Gunners?"

Isn't Golovin the WAG of Samir Nasri?

Posted by Grant 07/15/2009 at 11:52 AM

"And yes, if I ever start a consulting firm, it will be called General Specifics. One can never have enough oxymorons."

I like it. It's a bit more highbrow than my present favorite business name, 'Camel Towing', but good.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 11:53 AM

"Isn't Golovin the WAG of Samir Nasri?

Yeah but apparently Arséne doesn't like her, and he is God.

Proof of Blahroline's love of the Scousers.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 11:55 AM

Reeshie's suspension is over!!! He proved his case!!! Yay!!!!

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 11:57 AM

Emma : She calls it "soccer", so it doesn't count. ;-) Even Serena has the decency to call it football.

Well, Nasri has a good thing going, and I'd imagine there's not a lot Arsene can do about it. :-)

Posted by Arun 07/15/2009 at 11:58 AM

AYFKM, Emma?? That's totally awesome.. links pls?

Posted by NP 07/15/2009 at 11:58 AM

Arun, this is what The Ticker sez:

Richard Gasquet has received a reduced penalty of two and a half months for testing positive for cocaine in Miami. The independent tribunal hearing Gasquet's case accepted that his positive test was the result of "inadvertent contamination in a nightclub the night before his scheduled match" and that the Frenchman bore "no signficiant fault" for the positive test.

The suspension, which was dated from the time of Gasquet's last scheduled competition on May 1, ended today at 8:00 am GMT.

Posted by Arun 07/15/2009 at 12:00 PM

Thanks, NP and Emma!!

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 12:00 PM

Good for Reeshard, sensible decision, I would think. Shame he had to miss out on Wimbledon, where he always does well.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 12:00 PM
^ Free Reeshie link

Posted by NP 07/15/2009 at 12:00 PM

Of course it's still ludicrous that they're suspending him at all for taking COCAINE, but a plea bargain sometimes can't be helped.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 12:00 PM

Awesomeness...happy for Reeshie. :)

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 07/15/2009 at 12:02 PM

I'm very happy to hear about Richard. Anymore news on the sad case of Montcourt?

Posted by NP 07/15/2009 at 12:02 PM

NP, Arun.

And I'm off. Later, folks.

Posted by jbradhunter 07/15/2009 at 12:06 PM

Grant- you have the high brow/low brow sensibilities of Margaret Cho- nice

Posted by Babe 07/15/2009 at 12:08 PM

Hass - Cillic Wimby 09.

Posted by mick1303 07/15/2009 at 12:12 PM

Posted by mcakron 07/15/2009 @ 9:54 AM

In fact, from 18-23 the only player whose results are comparable to Nadal's is Borg..



Both Borg and Nadal celebrate their respective birthdays during Roland Garros (neat trivia btw). Both were reaching their 23rd birthday with 6 Slams. Nadal was beaten in the 4th round of Roland Garros and withdrew from Wimbledon.
Borg in 1979 won both. If Nadal were like Borg, he would have 8 by now.

Posted by mcakron 07/15/2009 at 12:13 PM

Did anyone mention Hott Sauce/Muzz from A0 '09?

Posted by Babe 07/15/2009 at 12:14 PM

Good for Gasquet. Now let's see if he can put some of that talent to good use.

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 07/15/2009 at 12:16 PM

Good news about Gasquet. He should be back in Montreal as well, I hope.

However, the statement does beg this unanswered question, "Dude, what were you doing in a club the night before you hade a match?"

Hope the kid can gather some perspective on this whole thing, and soul search his career, to much talent to be a never was.

Tour needs an exciting player like him.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 12:17 PM

Grant, your "Camel Towing" line made me both LOL and draw back in disgust. Not often that one is both amused and repulsed at the same time. Kudos.

mckaron, you wrote: "In fact, from 18-23 the only player whose results are comparable to Nadal's is Borg.."

I very much agree.

Posted by Sherlock 07/15/2009 at 12:18 PM

"See, Andrew, what you started. Oh well, a good topic. Ten times more civil than the Fedal and GOAT stuff."

And a billion times more interesting. :)

Well, maybe not a billion. Told you once, told you a thousand times, don't exaggerate.

Posted by OnlyHuman 07/15/2009 at 12:19 PM

Borg and Rafa are not comparable - just look at their arms.

Posted by mcakron 07/15/2009 at 12:19 PM

mick1303 -- you're right. And Borg only contested three slams a year. Sloppy phrasing on my part. Was only trying to suggest that Borg had the results to match or surpass Rafa's at a similar age.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 12:21 PM

my 12:17 should read mcakron, apologies.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 12:21 PM

So "comparable" now means "must have absolutely identical records"? Interesting. :)

Another mullet for the contest:

Posted by Mike 07/15/2009 at 12:21 PM

"Borg in 1979 won both. If Nadal were like Borg, he would have 8 by now."

Let's hope McEnroe doesn't come out of retirement to fulfill the end stages of the prophecy. ;)

Posted by Sherlock 07/15/2009 at 12:22 PM

Great news for Gasquet.

*ponders Hingis' ridiculous 2 year suspension*

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis FTW @ Indy!!) 07/15/2009 at 12:22 PM

Yay for Reesheee!!! But seriously how dumb is that?! What the hail is he doing in a nightclub the night before he has a match?! How on earth did he plan on winning the match if he was partying the night away?! Unfreakingbelievable!!!

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 12:26 PM

Jewell! WTAF? That mullet is epic!!!

Posted by Grant 07/15/2009 at 12:27 PM

"Not often that one is both amused and repulsed at the same time. Kudos."

It's what I do.

Posted by mick1303 07/15/2009 at 12:27 PM

Posted by OnlyHuman
07/15/2009 @ 10:11 AM

Hrbaty is the GOAT, he has winning record against both Federer and Nadal. - End of GOAT discussion.

Prepare to laugh hysterically.
Hrbaty against other Slam winners
Ivanisevic 1-1
Kafelnikov 9-4
Kuerten 3-2
Safin 7-7
ToJo 7-2

Definitey a GOAT of head-to-heads.

Add 1-0 against “sure future Slam winner” Murray – to level the things.

Posted by Sherlock 07/15/2009 at 12:27 PM

"So "comparable" now means "must have absolutely identical records"? Interesting. :)"

He he, Jewell. Yes, they're obviously not even close. How dare someone try to make this comparison?!? Off with their heads! :)

mcakron, it was a good point.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 12:28 PM

It's Pat Sharpe from a kids TV programme called Funhouse - this article made me laugh SO much just now:

Posted by mcakron 07/15/2009 at 12:29 PM

Emma, no worries. It's mis-typed often.

Posted by mcakron 07/15/2009 at 12:32 PM

That's funny about Hrbaty. All cred to OnlyHuman for bringing it up. A kickA trivia question.

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 12:34 PM

mcakron :

Another interesting piece of trivia : Santoro has defeated 17 players who were ranked World No. 1 at some time during their careers (Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Thomas Muster, Marcelo Ríos, Gustavo Kuerten, Carlos Moyà, Pat Rafter, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt, and Andy Roddick).

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/15/2009 at 12:36 PM

Jewell, I remember. I used to watch some of his shows in the nineties as a child. That mullet is beyond epic.

Posted by mcakron 07/15/2009 at 12:39 PM

VC -- interesting. Said this last week, but if I were a sports Lit agent I'd be inclined to give the Magician a buzz to see if he'd write a book about his years on tour. Seems quite insightful and funny whenever I come across some of his quotes.

Posted by mick1303 07/15/2009 at 12:42 PM

Well, when he says "Agassi is not in the same league, only Borg is comparable", to me it sounds is that Borg is almost the same, but not quite there. And I think it is the other way around.

Posted by mcakron 07/15/2009 at 12:55 PM

mick1303 is right. Any half-decent editor would have busted my chops for the same thing. Sloppy phrasing. And an honest catch.

Posted by RealTennisNut 07/15/2009 at 01:06 PM

How about this for a teaser. Out of their 20 meetings, Federer has played Nadal only 6 times on Hard courts and have split their meetings. There are twice as many hard court tournaments played in a year as clay and grass combined. Even on this skewed stat over the court surfaces in their meetings, the greater devil is in the details. Nadal's wins came early in 2004 and in 2006. After that he did not win a hard court match against Federer until the Australian Open in 2009. Well they met only twice and that too at the year end Masters. Why? Because they were seeded #1 and #2 and Nadal did not make a single final in Hard court tournaments where Federer had also entered. The year end masters meeting was made possible because of the round robin format and they ended up meeting in the semifinals. Both matches were won by Federer in straight sets. Arguably, Federer played his best hard court tennis between 2004 and 2007.

If Federer is not such an excellent player on clay, they would not have played 11 of their 20 matches on clay. Assume for the sake of argument that Nadal had played better on Hard courts between 2005 and 2008 to reach some finals. Also assume that Federer had not played as well on clay to reach the finals during the same time period. Then the H2H would be a valid comparison as the court surfaces would be more evenly balanced.

Another thing that is to be mentioned is the age difference. They are nearly 5 years apart unlike Sampras and Agassi. It is silly to penalize Federer for his overall excellence on all playing surfaces. How different would the H2H between Sampras and Agassi be if more of their 34 matches were played on clay? For the record, only 5 of their matches were on clay and Sampras won 2 of them. One of those wins came at a time when Agassi was making his way back into the elite rankings from the mid 100s.

I understand that many different positions could be taken on this issue and that is what makes this fascinating. Still, I hope I have presented a case based on empirical evidence. The mere H2H is a misleading statistic in Federer vs Nadal as the meetings have largely occurred on a surface that favors one player the most and on which he (Nadal) is considered by many as the greatest player ever on clay. How does that invalidate the claim to Federer's greatness as the GOAT or as the best player of his generation.

Posted by Jbradhunter 07/15/2009 at 01:10 PM

Saying Nadal needs 8 Slams to be comparable is leaving out the Variable of increased depth in Men's Tennis.

Posted by Muhammad Raza 07/15/2009 at 01:21 PM


As you said, this GOAT thing is an unresolvable debate --- so why keep writing about it.

For the Nadal-Federer rivalry at the slams the record is 6 -2 (5-2 in the finals). But 4 of the six wins are on clay where Nadal is at least one of the two greatest. Who knows how Samprass would have fared against Nadal at the slams. Who would say that the record would not have been 6 - 2.

Then who would know how Federer would have done against Agassi in his prime.

My point is, they faced two very different rivals and hence their records can not be compared.

GOAT criteria is to abstract to define. Federer, Samprass, Nadal ... and other top players are all great players. And one is better then them all --- But who knows.

Posted by mick1303 07/15/2009 at 01:25 PM

Re: OnlyHuman 12-19: Yes, their arms are not comparable. This is precisely why I think Borg would beat Nadal in this imaginary match-up on clay (putting aside the issue of modern rackets). Everybody agrees that this would be a long running match. Somehow they take Nadal fitness as something unquestionable. But good luck to him trying to outlast Borg while carrying these excessive muscles.

Posted by Vick Gower 07/15/2009 at 01:39 PM

kudz 07/14/2009 @ 5:13 PM

so to conclude, if roger had been a slightly worse claycourter from 2004-2008, and lost in semis instead of finals on clay, then he'd be the best of his generation??


Ha, ha, ha! Loved this posting. What else is there to say. It's pathetic, petty, but evident that the definition of GOAT now being sold by Sampras/Bodo and some other thumb twidlers is that one has to be the best ever on every surface to be considered GOAT. Because that is all the disparity between Federer and Nadal's record is representative of. Nadal is the GOAT of clay and he has built his lead over Federer through clay. By that I mean playing on clay and using his clay to eke out victories on other surfaces. Without the constant beating of Federer on clay what are the chances he ever would have the confidence to beat Federer on grass/AO HC?

It's time to put aside the pettiness, to untangle the desperate convolutions of your tarnished souls (oh no! there I go Bodo again ... that literature I read, gotta squeeze it in somehow!) and give Federer his due. I understand Sampras's pain but now he is making a true ass of himself by insisting in the high visibility media that Federer is simply the best ever in his books while leaking all kinds of doubts behind the scene.

Posted by ladyjulia 07/15/2009 at 01:43 PM

I actually agree that the GOAT has to be GOAT on all surfaces...that excludes Federer...but excludes Sampras as well, and that leaves Laver (did they have hardcourts at that time?).

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis FTW @ Indy!!) 07/15/2009 at 01:45 PM

I read the full report on Reeshee and you can tell it was written by lawyers or in the alternative with a majority of help by do have to say I was wrong upthread...Reeshee had already decided to withdraw before he went to the he could club all night if he wanted to.

Posted by ladyjulia 07/15/2009 at 02:02 PM

Can we call Nadal and Federer the greatest players ever and leave it at that?

Federer for his danged consistency..21 SF,15 GS, 237 weeks at No. 1,denying Nadal the No. 1 ranking for 3 years and Nadal for his danged consistency...158 weeks at No. 2,6 GS by 23, 81 match streak on clay and repeatedly denying Federer whatever he wanted (6th consective Wimby, career slam, calendar slam). They have also played FO and Wimby finals for three consective years and won 17 of the last 18 slams....

It won't be far fetched to say that there has never been a pair like these two.

Neither Borg-McEnroe or Sampras-Agassi...none of them played FO-Wimby GS finals for three consective years... and WON every slam between 2005 FO and 2008 AO...that's a whopping 11 slam unbroken streak.Together they have have never been ranked No. 3 since 2005...that's unbelievable 4 years. They also hold the open-era streak records...and their streaks have been broken by nobody else except the other person in the pair.

I think its not right to compare to any other era...these two have defined their own unique's not right to compare them to anything before.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 02:03 PM

fwiw, the first match-up between Roger and Rafa was on a hard court - a Rafa win. The second match up - also on a HC - Roger took that one in five. 3rd, RG SF. The fourth, another HC, a Rafa win.

I don't want to deny the importance of clay victories giving Rafa confidence, but it's also true to say that Rafa is a tough match-up for Roger on any surface, and has been from the start.

It's not as if Rafa didn't win any HC titles prior to 2008-2009, either. There were the occasional tournaments where Federer did not reach the final, also, no?

Note, I am not trying to argue that Rafa was as good on a HC as Federer through 2005 to 2008, far from it. Or that Federer shouldn't be the GOAT purely because of this H2H (see early morning comments.) Or even that clay doesn't skew the H2H.

I'm not sure what point I am making, come to that - just that Rafa has always been a problem for Federer, and not just on clay. *shrug*

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 02:04 PM

Maybe they are the GROAT - greatest rivalry of all time? I could buy into that one wholeheartedly. :)

Posted by ladyjulia 07/15/2009 at 02:13 PM


GROAT is very head is spinning just writing those numbers for those two...

just imagine if they played least somebody else wins the GS over there.

I mean other than Safin and Djoker...nobody else has won a GS since 2004 Wimby...and I don't want the weak-era argument...Andy Roddick, the one slam wonder played 30 games in a deciding set against one of the greatest players of all time.

Posted by Andrew 07/15/2009 at 02:15 PM

jewell: Nadal is basically an extraordinarily good player - at the very least, one of the ten best of the Open Era. His strengths to date have been maximized on clay, but he's always been a very difficult opponent on any surface/

I always disliked the cliche that Nadal was "in Federer's head" - that the main problem posed for Federer was psychological. Nadal's movement, his ability off both the FH and BH wing, and warrior spirit troubled everyone from the get go. The way he developed and improved on an already formidable arsenal is even more noteworthy.

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 02:18 PM

Nadal got even better on HCs and grass when he shortened his swings, and played closer to the baseline in 2007-08. And Agassi pointed out as early as Wimbledon 2006 that his movement translates well to all surfaces, which makes him a major threat. I don't remember previous clay court specialists having good footwork on grass.

Posted by ladyjulia 07/15/2009 at 02:19 PM

Also, neither Borg-McEnroe or Sampras-Agassi played such high stake matches as Fedal (as far as I remember).

Federer was going for calendar slam twice (06 FO final, 07 FO final) slam twice (05 FO SF, 08 FO final), Nadal as first spaniard to win Wimby since 66 in 2006 and 2007...Federer going for sixth consecutive Wimby in 2008 final...Federer going for 14th slam at AO 2009 final...that's 6 GS FINALS with history on the line.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/15/2009 at 02:19 PM

"Ientical" has become a synonym for "Comparable" in the minds of some.

I guess Borg isn't comparable to Nadal at Roland Garros, in light of the fact that Nadal won his first thirty some matches there and Borg didn't.

Incidentally, one achievement for which Borg doesn't seem to receive enough credit is winning 33 straight singles matches in Davis Cup. That's pretty damn amazing and something none of the other GOAT candidates have come close to matching.

Posted by Alexis 07/15/2009 at 02:22 PM

The one sad thing about a GOAT discussion is that it is always about what a player lacked...not what he accomplished. I would rather celebrate what these great champions did rather than what they didn't. No one player is going to hold all the records, which is fitting, I think. Each one had something that will probably be unique to them.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 02:23 PM

and I suppose, if you think about it, that whole style of play - going from Canas and Rafa to Murray - is a weak point for Federer. Something to put in the "cons" column but not necessarily a GOAThood dealbreaker.

And, I guess we talk so much about Rafa because he's talked of as a future potential candidate for GOAThood.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/15/2009 at 02:28 PM

Laver won plenty of hard court tournaments on the pre-Open era pro tour, when that tour had the best players. He also won plenty of hard court tournaments during the Open era.

Rafa hasn't won enough majors yet to be in the GOAT discussion.

Saying that Rafa is "in Federer's head" probably does Federer an injustice. Federer is plenty strong mentally. Rafa's success against Federer probably more due to how his game matches up with Federer's game, not superior mental strength.

Posted by jewell - Campaign for Fedal Disarmament 07/15/2009 at 02:28 PM

Nice point, Alexis. :)

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 02:32 PM

Well said, Alexis.

Also agree that the theory that Nadal is in Federer's head does both players an injustice. Might have been the case for some of their clay-court matches in 2006, but definitely not since then.

Posted by Alexis 07/15/2009 at 02:34 PM

I have always given Nadal tons of credit for his 6 GS titles, because he had to go through Federer in all of them (1 semi and 5 finals). Big kudos to him for that.

I think it is incredible that in the last 5 years, Federer has made at least every GS semi, and been in 16 of 17 finals. In all that time, he never lost to anyone outside the Top 5.

Federer has played in 20 GS finals. His record is 15-5. And somehow the fact that Federer lost only to Nadal in those finals is worse than had he lost to lesser players. When you're #1/#2, how is losing to the other #1/#2 player worse than losing to #10 or #20, etc? I think the fact that the only guy who could beat Federer in a GS final is his closest rival.

If you are going to 'temper' Fed's 15 GS by the fact that his losses have come to only one man (his closest rival). Then I think you need to temper Nadal's 6 titles by the fact that he didn't make the final in many other GS...losing to lesser guys (not Federer).

Posted by mick1303 07/15/2009 at 02:49 PM

Can we call Nadal and Federer the greatest players ever and leave it at that?
No, we can't! It is insulting to Sampras, Borg, Lendl, Connors and Agassi.

Posted by Babe 07/15/2009 at 02:51 PM

"Can we call Nadal and Federer the greatest players ever and leave it at that?"

No, Ladyjulla, we cannot. That's not a fair statement to Federer. He has won 15 slams, how can you put him in the same sentence as one who has won just 6--most of which is on one surface.

When Nadal is Federer's age & can still make it to slam semis & finals, with abject consistentcy, then we can talk. For now, all this Nadal GOAT talk is silly. Let's not forget that Sampras is not exactly an uninterested bystander--the more he diminishes Federer the better his record looks; at least so he hopes.

Nadal is a great player, but really, let's be real.

Posted by Babe 07/15/2009 at 02:53 PM

If we can call Nadal the GOAT then we can call Becker, Edberg, McEnroe etc the same thing. Why does Nadal get to be elevated above the rest when he has earned only as much as they have?

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 03:00 PM

"Let's not forget that Sampras is not exactly an uninterested bystander--the more he diminishes Federer the better his record looks; at least so he hopes."

Let's not assume Sampras has any ulterior motive in making his statements, he has been incredibly gracious towards Roger over the years, and came personally to see his record get broken. He is entitled to his opinion, like anyone else. He feels the "GOAT" title is not to be lightly bestowed, so he should not be expected to hold back on his opinions. As he said :

"It's the debate of greatest of all time. We so badly want to pin it on someone."

I agree with Alexis that we should just stick to celebrating the achievements of these great players if we want to avoid offending anyone.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/15/2009 at 03:00 PM

As I said earlier, Rafa hasn't won enough majors to be in the GOAT discussion.

And as others have said, GOAT discussions are flawed if the appropriate weight is not given to the accomplishments of Laver, Rosewall, and Gonzalez on the pre-Open era pro tours.

At best, Rafa is the GOATMASTER, but only if Federer is the GOAT, which has yet to be proven by convincing arguments.

Posted by Matt Zemek 07/15/2009 at 03:06 PM

Late to the dance, but perhaps this dance can and will continue for a good while longer.

Various points/references:

1) See "Statistics" on the TennisWorld homepage (right-hand side list of categories) and check out the tremendous work done by Rosangel and Andrew over the past few years.

2) Go to page 3 of the "Lumping and Splitting" thread from Friday/Saturday, which mystifyingly never gained much traction or consumed many TypePad pages.

3) I reiterate that instead of trotting out a few select and very familiar arguments/stats, we can actually make GOAT conversations FUN (GASP!), MEANINGFUL (YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!), and PRODUCTIVE (SHUT UP!) if we erect large architectures of long-term analysis and overarching commentary.

Another post coming up.

In the meantime, do your referencing and researching. GOAT talk can make you happy... if you work hard enough! :-)

Posted by Babe 07/15/2009 at 03:09 PM

VC: Well, he lightly bestowed it upon himself, didn't he? He was the one who really got this whole thing going, wasn't he? He thought that his 14 slams would likely never be surpassed...or would, at the very least, take a very long time.

You can feel what you want, but I am not convinced that his nose isn't bent slightly out of joint. If, in fact, he made those comments to Pete then that detracts significantly from his graciousness, IMO.

Posted by Slick Sparrow 07/15/2009 at 03:11 PM

You know what I find interesting about this whole GOAT and Fedal stuff is that it seems every time there's a post about it, the conversations are so much more lively and we get so much more participation from fringe posters (like me). Just goes to show how much Federer has done for the sport (and Nadal of course).

I've already posted a lot on the GOAT debate, but I continue to insist that a poor head-to-head against a SINGLE other player, even if he is your main rival, is not as much of a knock on a player's greatness credentials than other (and in my mind, larger) problems in a player's resume.

Just for the sake of argument, let's say in an alternate universe Nadal played in Sampras' era, and he won like 8 Roland Garros crowns, but never won a fast-court slam because there were too many good fast-court players at the time (the so called Sampras had a strong era argument) Sampras, courtesy of his habit of losing to the Kafelnikov's of his day, never made a Roland Garros final, and never had to play Nadal on clay because Nadal was ranked number 2 courtesy of his clay-court dominance and so could only play in finals, the result being that Sampras had a slighly superior head-to-head courtesy of his slightly better fast-court play. Then this Sampras is a greater player than the Federer of this universe because he kept choking away clay matches to Kafelnikov??? What the *^%%$#???

Yet the leading pundits of the sport, including practically everyone, even the usually generous Sampras, has succumbed to this line of thinking. I personally think it is very poetic and fitting that the best of the best has a nemesis. Every Bellerophon needs his Chimera as they say. I posted on another thread that I would have difficulty cheering for Federer after he has achieved history. I now realize that I do have something to hope for. I hope Federer wins like 30 slams, thereby eliminating any qualms about his "competition", or "weak-era", and finishes with a 7-200 H2H with Nadal, just to shut up this stupid convoluted argument once and for all. Yes I'm a strange guy.

Posted by Arun 07/15/2009 at 03:13 PM

VC @ 3:00 -- Very well said!

Posted by VC 07/15/2009 at 03:14 PM

"Well, he lightly bestowed it upon himself, didn't he?"

Babe : Well, I'm not aware of that. It's very hard to believe he would do that. Maybe NP, imjimmy or one of the Sampras fans here would know more about it. It wasn't unreasonable of him to estimate that it would take a while for the record to get broken - after all, it did take over 30 years for Emerson's record to get broken.

Posted by Benny 07/15/2009 at 03:21 PM

Thank goodness Fed beat Pete h2h - If not, I am sure that Pete would hang on this for his GOAT claim, because he consistently feels he is a better grass court player than Fed and believes his 1st & 2nd serve S&V style would be more effective against Roger. Also, I would heavily argue that Roger dominated Agassi much more than Pete was able to and in my opinion, Agassi was a better player in his 30's than 20's. For J-Mac to say that he thinks Pete would beat Roger on Grass is puzzling and not sure what it's based on although I think he has the right perspective overall.

Posted by Babe 07/15/2009 at 03:26 PM

"It wasn't unreasonable of him to estimate that it would take a while for the record to get broken - after all, it did take over 30 years for Emerson's record to get broken."

No, VC, it wasn't unreasonable, but that's exactly the point isn't it. That's another notch in Federer's belt, isn't it? That he did something that in this amount of time that took over 30 years previously. Yet, the same Sampras who first called Federer the GOAT now turns around & likens his rivalry to Agassi to the fed/Nadal rivalry, forgetting of course that Federer is 4 years older & was the hunted when his rivalry with Nadal began. He also neglects that he & Agassi are a year apart & came up together. He also neglects the very important claycourt factor. Give me break!

Posted by jn 07/15/2009 at 03:26 PM

Um, I have a question. IF Nadal retired tomorrow, either pulling a Borg or because of injuries, would the negative H2H Roger has against him still be a black mark on his record? Roger won RG and Wimbledon. Nadal lost R4 at RG and didn't play Wimbledon so Roger had no opportunity to reverse the H2H wtih Nadal. I'm not saying 100% he would have beaten Nadal, but that he had no chance.

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