Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - The Monomyth
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The Monomyth 10/07/2009 - 4:49 PM


by Pete Bodo

You all saw that Juan Martin del Potro, the new US Open champion, lost his first match back on tour the other day in Tokyo, to a qualifier no less. No reason to be alarmed about this, right?  I look at that loss as symbolic, for just as winning the title in New York represented the end of something for del Potro, it also signaled the beginning. He's traveling on a different, faster track now, and it's impossible to predict how he'll react to the challenge. Could anyone have predicted the bottle-rocket arc of Marat Safin's career after he won his first major, in 2000?

Okay, Safin is everyone's favorite whipping boy when it comes to issues of consistency and talent-maximization. So let's look at an icon of productivity, Pete Sampras. He won his first major in high style, hence the frequent descriptions of Safin's debut a a Grand Slam titlist as "Samprasesque" - a comparison flush with biting irony because it was Sampras whom Safin bludgeoned to earn his first major title.

Sampras went almost three full years before winning another major, although he performed consistently enough always to be in the mix near the top. If I suggested that del Potro (and in this context, we can broaden the discussion to include Novak Djokovic) might go two, three years before he wins another major, would that make you want fling  yourself into the River Plate? 

It shouldn't, as Samparas's history clearly shows. The guy ended up winning 14 majors.

Sampras was just 19 when he won that first US Open title, Safin was 20 (although the difference in their ages was a more impressive-sounding 20 months; Sampras had just turned 19, and Safin would turn 21 in January of 2001). Djokovic was also 20 when he won his first major, Rafael Nadal had just turned 19 when he first struck gold at Roland Garros, and del Potro turned 21 just a few weeks after winning in New York.

So among the men under discussion, del Potro and Safin are the ones who feasted to Grand Slam table at the latest age, but the spread between all of them is relatively narrow. It makes sense that Sampras went almost three years until his next major because he was the youngest and had the most growing up to do, although Safin certainly didn't make the best use of his relative maturity, going over four years before he won his next (and only other) major, in Australia. But then, he's Safin. Nadal was the most consistent, although his startling prowess on clay is slightly deceiving; it took Nadal three years to win a major other than Roland Garros.

All this suggests that Djokovic and Delpo still has plenty of time to stay on track for greatness. But there's one other component in this discussion, and it can't really be quantified statistically, and that's desire. Sampras held a career-transforming conversation with himself shortly after losing the US Open final of 1992 to Stefan Edberg (almost two years to the day after he won his first major in New York).

Sampras ultimately made a conscious decision to pursue greatness at all cost. In his own words, he decided that it was easy to "hide" in the Top 10, popping up now and then to win a major or grab the no. 1 ranking. But he wanted more; he knew that the top player lived with a "target on his back," and he decided he could bear that burden. His fantastic run of Grand Slam success began in the middle of the following year with a win at Wimbledon.

I've sometimes wondered if Sampras's feelings, and his relative eloquence about them, bear some kind of cultural fingerprint. The story of his transformation from flirtatious contender into dominant champ is inspiring in a particularly American way, given this nation's pre-occupations with competition, second acts, and the ingrained Puritan work ethic. Would someone like a Djokovic, or del Potro, even be able to have such a black-and-white conversation with himself, given that it's initiated by something like a sense of culturally imposed accountability? Could he even conceive of having this dialog with an idea, one part of you telling some other part of you to man up? I don't know the answer to that. 

91477174 Roger Federer certainly hasn't entertained us with any tales of theatrical confrontations with himself - nor, for that matter, has Nadal imposed a dramatic, largely interior, personal narrative on his successful drive to break out of clay-court ghetto. Americans, I think, are inclined to ask themselves, What do I want out of life? in a fairly loud voice, whereas citizens in other parts of the world sometimes seem content to simply live and make their way as easily - or arduously - as their situation demands and/or their temperament allows.

Perhaps Federer was lucky not to have won a major at too young an age. He was almost 22 when he bagged his first title, at Wimbledon, but from that point on he operated on a stable platform at the peak of the game, and he has yet to experience his first serious drop in Grand Slam performance. His narrative is ridiculously un-dramatic; Joseph Campbell is probably rolling over in his grave, cursing the day this wretchedly easy-going Swiss was born.

Still, I have a feeling I know what Djokovic, or del Potro, would say if, on the eve of his first Grand Slam final victory, you asked if he wouldn't rather wait a few more years, when it might be a little easier to navigate the perils that accompany the benefits of becoming a great champion at a young age. 

Are you nuts?

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Posted by Master Ace 10/07/2009 at 05:01 PM

Good analysis on some players taking a while to win their 2nd Slam after winning the first, Kim and Svetlana won their 2nd Slam after winning their first one 4(2005 and 2009 USO) and 5(2004 USO and 2009 FO) years ago. Mary Pierce done the same winning in Australia in 1995 followed by the French Open in 2000. She had 2 chances to win a Slam in 2005 but was stopped by Justine at the French and Kim at the USO. Some people believe Ana is going to win another Slam in the future using Serena as a barometer. Yes, Serena won her 2nd Slam at 2002 French Open after winning the USO in 1999.

On the ATP, Juan Martin win at the USO will put his accomplishments in a different light like Novak did when he won the AO in 2008. So far this year, Novak is having a good year leading the ATP in wins which most players would like to have but since he won 2008 AO, most media people are saying that this is not good. Andy Roddick was in the same position when he won the 2003 USO and today, he still is but he has been stopped in Slam finals by a certain player who will remain nameless as I have a feeling I will see his name mentioned a lot in the comments after me.

Posted by Mr. X 10/07/2009 at 05:15 PM

Yes, they would probably ask that question, Pete: "Give me the Slam and then let's think about the consequences"
Of course, it's too early to know how Delpo will do after winning his first Slam, but if he keeps the level he has reached recently, he will win more of those soon. Nobody can be compared with Marat in my opinion. The Russian has just been king of the headcases.
As for Nole, i think the main problem people see in him is his attitude, as he sometimes seems too content when losing.
Maybe Muzz will follow Fed's career arc (with less titles, of course), as it looks like he will be a little later than others to his first Slam.
Anyway, even if Delpo goes through a slump, his game is so dangerous that his comeback will be very feared.

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeee!) 10/07/2009 at 05:21 PM

Also, thx to whoever it was that posted the article about Blake's coaching change. Didn't realize his ranking had dropped so much this year. I'm not a fan of his, but it will be interesting to see, what, if any changes he makes to his approach and tactics as a result of this new partnership.

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeee!) 10/07/2009 at 05:23 PM

Whoops! Wrong thread.

Posted by ladyjulia 10/07/2009 at 05:58 PM

"His narrative is ridiculously un-dramatic"

I have to disagree there Pete...Roger was going out in first rounds of GS before he won his first major. There were people who were asking him whether he was thinking whether he should just retire, even though he was hardly 21. From a racket breaking spree to an ice cold demeanor isn't exactly undramatic.

Posted by skip1515 10/07/2009 at 06:05 PM

Pete, I'd agree with all you've written *except* the bits about Sampras' and Safin's first big wins. Unlike everyone else you mention, Sampras and Safin got their trophies by bludgeoning top players. (And if I'm using the same verb you did, above, to describe what happened to Johnny Mac and Sampras, it's because it's the only one that suits.)

As a consequence, they both brought the weight of higher expectations upon themselves. Eke out an unexpected victory and no one looks for you to do it again quite the same way (e.g., Richard Krajicek). Pound out a devastating win and folks look for the chart of success to only go up from there.

Posted by jjermann 10/07/2009 at 06:11 PM

i saw del potro tokyo match and delpo looked clearly ill to me, guy didnt serve any serve over 200km/h some of his serves were like 170/h middle of the service box and he was moving very very sluggishly.

Posted by jjermann 10/07/2009 at 06:14 PM

and i forget to mention that delpo called trainer 3 times that tokyo match im sure that everyone who watched that match saw that he wasnt feeling well.

he said after match that he had jet-lag and stomach ache but didnt use them excuse but thats normal that these guys doesnt do that

Posted by lollipop (Elfole forever) 10/07/2009 at 06:16 PM

Pete- Love the article, and the player comparisons. Cool picture of Nole. :)
Hopefully someday Nole will have that talk with himself? maybe this "slump" stuff is just part of Novak really figuring out what he wants and how he's going to go about achieving it.
Thanks again for this post, really enjoyed the insight.

Posted by observer 10/07/2009 at 06:20 PM

Del Potro wasn't serving bombs by any means in the US Open final, either, after two or three double faults in the same game to throw away a set frightened him. Maybe it's his natural reaction to getting nervous-- I've not seen enough of his matches to know for sure.

It's obviously premature, but if true, getting nervous while playing Edouard Roger-Vaselin in his first match since the US Open would be a bad sign. Could the pressure already be getting to him? Fall results post-USO mean very little, but that is never a match Del Potro, even before winning in NY, should lose.

Posted by jjermann 10/07/2009 at 06:23 PM

no, he was clearly looking ill, like i said he called trainer 3 times and looked like he doesnt want to be there...didnt celebrate any important point.

and btw he wasnt serving bombs us open final because he said that he had CRAMPS and he COULDNT serve, so he had to be more aggressive and try to dominate baseline.

Posted by skip1515 10/07/2009 at 06:41 PM

Also, Pete, do you think Sampras' conversation with himself is also typically American in it's clear admission of ambition? That comfort level with ambitiousness also seems a particularly American trait to me.

Posted by Andrew 10/07/2009 at 06:43 PM

"His narrative is ridiculously un-dramatic."

Hmmmm. Maybe we should bring in one of tennis' top writers to discuss this:

"The biggest question in my mind is how TMF is going to react to this turn of events. Will he prove, like Bjorn Borg, to be too brittle, and too tired of the pressure of his position, to continue playing with his customary degree of desire and focus? Or will he find a way to draw emotional fuel from this loss for the final phase of his career, with such enormous honors at stake? I don't think there's any question but that it will be the latter; the Borg retirement was unique (at least in men's tennis). But I have two caveats: first, he must be willing to go three, four, five majors without winning, and still retain the drive and confidence needed to bag his next one. Second, he has to be prepared to face a relentless barrage of questions about these issues.

Keep in mind that for Pete Sampras, the toughest part of that two-year drought that finally ended when he won his 14th Grand Slam, in New York, was the unending stream of negativity and implied criticism: Will you retire if you don't win a major this year? How long do you plan to keep playing? Do you think you can still beat [Hewitt, Safin, Nadjoko?]. Don't underestimate the stress potential of this scenario; as Sampras has told me, this kind of negativity gets to you, no matter how hard you try to fight it. Federer, like Sampras, is human."

[The author in question, of course, is Pete - "Spartan In A Cardigan, post Wimbledon 2008].

My point here isn't to play gotcha with Pete - it's to highlight how short term a lot of assessments are, at least to my eyes. Thinking about the direction tennis players are going is part of the job description, but it's so easy to be swayed by what's happened in the last two to three months.

[And BTW, Pete was right that Federer would get asked those questions. He just answered them in his own way, reaching the next 5(!) GS finals, and winning three (losing the other two in five sets).]

Posted by jimbo 10/07/2009 at 06:54 PM

Hey Pete,
I would be shocked if Delpo doesn't win another fairly soon. It is certainly not going to be because of mental failings or hesitations. The guy is solid as a rock, and mature beyond his years. He will put himself in position to win. He may be beaten but not because of his mentality.

Posted by Shannon 10/07/2009 at 07:00 PM

I could not agree more with this article! People are so quick to judge these two and a few others. I say we just leave them alone! It's been a really long season and they both played great tennis. 2010 is looking extremely bright for them!

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 10/07/2009 at 07:03 PM

One thing that Safin and Del Potro have in common is that in each case, that being Safin's defeat of Sampras and Del Potro's defeat of Federer, each player played in incredible match of high risk tennis, cracking relatively flat balls low over the net and hitting lines.

Mostly, multiple grand slam winners are defined by their solidity, not by the degree of risk in their game.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/07/2009 at 07:07 PM

Interesting thesis, Pete. And interesting, too, to note the comparative ages of these recent champions, two of whom still have lots of proving to do. The difference, as I see it, between Del Potro and Djokovic, at least in the light you've thrown, is that Del Potro has been steadily rising through the ranks for the past 18 months so his US Open title seems to me almost a natural culmination of this rise and "coming of age" whereas Djokovic has been hovering near the top (3 and 4) for some time now, and had shown signs of his potential three to four years ago. He seems to have plateaued some. Of course, that may simply be a perception that has more to do with the two guys who have occupied the no.s 1 and 2 spot for the past four years.

"I've sometimes wondered if Sampras's feelings, and his relative eloquence about them, bear some kind of cultural fingerprint."

Here we might have different views. While the puritan work ethic might have a good deal to do with the internal wiring of some of America's more notable high achievers, I'm not sure that people born in South America, Europe, and elsewhere are any less motivated. We only have to think of great champions like Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles to find examples of players who worked and worked and worked in conditions that were anything but ideal. Granted, Seles made her way to Bollettieri's at a young age, but her flame had been stoked in those games of stickball in the steets of her hometown in Yugoslavia, if I recall correctly. And Djokovic, Jankovic and Ivanovic certainly had some limitations to overcome. These players all had to have an incredible self-motivation. What inspired it is to a large extent unknowable, but my guess is that it has less to do with their cultural "fingerprint" and more to do with their own dreams and family-instilled sense of what their limitations were and what they were capable of accomplishing.

What started out as clear to me has become muddy and I'm babbling now. So I'll just leave it at that.

Posted by Kaitepai 10/07/2009 at 07:33 PM

Nice article... only I take offence to you saying that Americans are the 'doers' the ones that fight for what they want and their dreams and ambitions. I really do not see that in tennis (or anything) at all. Look at the state of American tennis compared to other countries. How can you possibly say that Russians, Serbians, the Spanish, or the Argentines don't have that fighting ambition? I am from New Zealand and we have some of the best atheletes in the world, the competitive drive over here is just as big as it is over there. We may not have the money or the media coverage, but that doesn't mean we don't have the ambition or drive to make the most out of life.

Also, it almost sounded like you were suggesting delPo or Djokovic don't have the intelligence to have that kind of Sampras like conversation with themselves.

I think it something very human to want the best out of life and push yourself to the top. Everyone has dreams, some people push forward and fufill them, some people don't. It is a human trait, Pete, not a freaking American one.

Posted by CL 10/07/2009 at 07:49 PM

Andrew - to quote Audrey Hepburn in "Charade," whilst gazing at Cary Grant:

Her: Do you know what's wrong with you?"

Him: "What?"

Her: "Absolutely nothing."

Me: ":-)"

And to think I thought this was an article trying to throw doubt on Fed's bout with mono. Speaking of Super Mario is gonna trying to come back AGAIN?!? Really, the dude is heading into Judy Garland territory, comebacks-wise.

Posted by Christopher 10/07/2009 at 08:17 PM

Interesting, but I disagree completely with the notion of Sampras's conversation with himself and change in resolve being a uniquely American thing (which is an especially odd notion after you basically wrote one or two columns back that Americans are too coddled to have the resolve of Spanish players).

You write, "Roger Federer certainly hasn't entertained us with any tales of theatrical confrontations with himself."

Maybe not theatrical (was Sampras EVER "theatrical"???), but he's spoken on numerous occasions of undertaking a very significant self-assessment after losing to Horna in the first round of the French in 2003. He knew it was time to make a significant change in his mental and physical approach to the game it he wanted to fulfill the promise of his talent. The rest is history, just as it was for Sampras. In fact, their paths from talented and threatening top-ten players (albeit in Sampras's case with a major in hand) to the greatest-players-in-history level have far more similarities than differences.

I really enjoy your writing, Pete, but I do think you push the whole America-is-special thing far too much in a context (namely contemporary tennis) in which I just don't think it works (speaking of "monomyths").

Posted by Ramana 10/07/2009 at 08:32 PM

Many players who have won the Australian and US Open fail to win anything else (Andy Roddick, Joker and a few others) On the other hand guys that win the French and/or Wimbledon seem to win more of the same or other tournaments. It seems like hard courts are neither here nor there and therefore anyone has a chance, whereas clay and grass are specializations so we have the same guys winning it more often and some others. Perhaps it means that if you have one specialization you might be a better candidate to adapt to the hard court environment and not vice versa since hard court is not a specialization!!

Posted by Ivo 10/07/2009 at 08:35 PM

"Americans, I think, are inclined to ask themselves, What do I want out of life? in a fairly loud voice, whereas citizens in other parts of the world sometimes seem content to simply live and make their way as easily - or arduously - as their situation demands and/or their temperament allows."

I can't help it but anytime you talk about culture (and it's not that I don't like to generalize about the impact that a culture might play), you just sound horribly silly to me. Like the quote above. Americans are inclined...who do you mean by that? James Blake, for example? Who are these Americans?

This planet has produced champions...from Sweden, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, the United States, Argentina...the list goes on. In fact given how huge the United States are (i.e. population wise) and what resources it commands, I'd ask a different question: shouldn't Americans ask more and in a louder voice what they want from themselves? It seems to me that these fiercely competitive traits, work ethic, etc. whatever you're referring to should not be abused or overgeneralized when you try to analyze individual players and their failures or successes.
Anyhow, the point being that I simply don't see the American exceptionalism that you're talking about (and you are clearly saying, it's Americans and the rest of the world and these two differ---btw. the second category is not very small, you do realize that, don't you). I can see Pete Sampras having a hard talk with himself as I can see Nadal doing the same thing at home..or anyone else. If it does not come off in the public that way, well call it cultural differences, but don't assume that's what makes the difference between them when it comes to success or failure.

Posted by Ivo 10/07/2009 at 08:55 PM

And just to add one more thing: I think you often like to make Andy Roddick the epitome of American work ethic and competitiveness. YOu like that boy, and I do too (in my case especially for his pressers, though:). But honestly, I think you could totally put him on the list of chokers...together with a few others from other countries. Roddick choked on many occasions with Federer - by this I am not saying that ultimately Federer isn't a better player - but he was often very close and should have closed out the deal. And once he didn't, he seemed angry, but not really too surprised. In a weird way he seems to have gotten used to loosing to Federer without asking himself the hard questions that the fellow Americans ask, as you suggest.

Posted by wilson75 10/07/2009 at 09:17 PM

I don't think nationality has anything to do with ambition. Any player who wants to be at the top of his game questions himself and looks for ways to be better. I'm sure Novak is doing as much soul searching as Sampras did in the past.

Posted by arbiter 10/07/2009 at 09:17 PM

With the current rate of successful challenges, Novak hardly has a chance to win anything important. One day, when they stop calling so many bad calls on him he may win something. Meanwhile, he is a good sport - smiling, as he understands how the system works.

Maybe, one day...

Posted by Andrew 10/07/2009 at 10:01 PM

There's another player that we might want to bring into the discussion, who illuminates some of the questions Pete's asking in a unique way - Andy Roddick.

It's six years since Roddick won his first and only major, the 2003 US Open. And if there's one virtue Roddick prides himself on, it's his work ethic.

Roddick has reached 4 GS finals (3 Wimbledons and 1 US Open), and 3 SFs (AO 2004, 2007 and 2009) since that win. In six of those matches he's gone down to Federer. Sometimes, there's this one guy....

So it may not just be around the determination to put it all out there. Avoiding injury is part of it. Having the talent level that puts you at the 99.8th percentile, not just the 99th percentile, may be part of it. But sometimes, dumb luck is going to play a role - whether it's being born at the right time, or having your nemesis fall in the R16.

Posted by thebigapple 10/07/2009 at 10:18 PM

Bodo, you sound like a country hick..that bull about American's asking themselves what they want and people fom other countries just accepting....

Do you know Sarah Palin?.

Posted by thebigapple 10/07/2009 at 10:24 PM

Also, I cannot understand why a slave nation can talk about Puritan work ethic? Of course, the ones with the work ethic were the slave masters. Just lovely.

If they loved work so much, the Americans should have planted their own farms.

Posted by Anne 10/07/2009 at 10:26 PM

If I were a betting gal, I think I would put more
$ on Delpo not winning another slam. And this is coming from a Delpo lover! Dunlop M. hit the nail on the head-Delpo won with high risk, thin margin tennis. And I will go to the sweet hereafter firmly believing Rog threw that USO away. As much as I love that gangly Argentine, does he have to lose the first match he plays? I think the Djokster, Mandy, heck maybe even RAndy (in my dreams!) will win a biggy sooner.

Posted by jjermann 10/07/2009 at 10:37 PM

Anne, try to read what i wrote here, Del Potro was ILL and couldnt run or serve.

He said himself that he had upset stomach and jet-lag but he OBVIOUSLY refused to use those excuse but anyone who watched that match could see that he wasnt fit.

for example Murray refused to use his wrist injury excuse when he lost Marin Cilic US open and it was clearly bothering him.

Posted by Anne 10/07/2009 at 10:40 PM

Ok jjerman, I do love Delpo, so I'm up for any reason to cut him some slack!

Posted by linex 10/07/2009 at 11:05 PM

Delpo risky tennis? He is usually criticized by Argentine commentators for not taking risk with his always fast basline shots. Delpo hits consistently hard and with margin so I do not think that is his problem. The problem for him in the future could be his phisique it is always tricky to be so tall because it can lead to back or hip injuries, Safin had some of those and is not as tall as Delpo.

I think that Delpo is hard working and ambitious that is why he says number one is a goal. However, given the pressures of the Argentine society that already treats him as a heroe he will need intelligence to keep focused with his goals and not get distracted with all the opportunities and temptations that come together with glory.

The Argentine society has a lot of positives in terms of the support they offer to their sportsmen but on the other hand they put a lot of pressure on them and they treat them as celebrities which is not so good. Here the society is small and in two minutes Delpo can get a call from the hottest Argentine model or actress, which in my view is a downside.

But as the Argentine press says Delpo is "the champion we always wanted to have" because he seems to have a plan that includes being responsible and complying with all the necessary off court obligations and training regime in order to achieve his ambitious goals.

Posted by Vie 10/07/2009 at 11:23 PM

I think Delpo has enough comparative talent and maturity at this point to follow up for a second Slam win sooner. He did not just appear out of the blue. He almost toppled Roger at RG semifinal this year and that's another surface (though granted, RG seemed hardcourt-ish this year). I also think Roger was genuinely beaten by Delpo at USO because of his strength and height.

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 10/07/2009 at 11:32 PM

I dunno, but Pete seems so insistent on giving a break to the less talented, mortal types as being able to fall from grace without being whipped, and someone like Federer can win 40 some matches in a row on any number of occasions, and he deserves critisism as a flakey player who fails when temps get too high...

I mean, Nadal has lost how many tourneys in a row now, after an injury no more serious for sure than Fed's back, and he's still noted as the toughest, meanest competitor in tennis...

still amazes me that Fed loses ONE tournament and he's written off even AFTER breaking the ALL TIME Slam record...

i just wonder how these scales are created and who balances them...

Posted by Vie 10/07/2009 at 11:58 PM

Pete is still in Fed's corner Tim. He has the question mark and wondering about delPo and his favored one Djoko.

My view of "Fed's back" as you mentioned above compared to Rafa's injuries is Fed's is more an infirmity than a real injury which appears when he has a particulary gruelling physical time usually resulting in a major loss.

Posted by Carrie 10/07/2009 at 11:59 PM

Tim- didn't Roger lose his first match after his first major or nearabouts? I hope a graceperiod would have been applied to him then and I think it should be applied to Delpo, Nole still and Sampras back at the time after he won a first major.

Granting Delpo a grace period now at the age of 21 is not an insult to Roger imo. I just don't see it. People forget that Roger was young once too. I remember after he won his first grand slam in 2003- it was not a given at that time that he would win 15 grand slams and he was given some breathing room. So I fail to see how giving young players breathing room right now has to be related exactly to Roger where he is NOW in his career.

Praise for other players is not an insult to Roger. Not damning other players is not an insult to Roger.

Posted by Carrie 10/08/2009 at 12:01 AM

And where is Roger being written off here....scratches head. I guess I just don't see it....whatevs...

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/08/2009 at 12:21 AM

I guess we could look at Safin's Australian Open 2002 Final (Loss), 2004 Final (loss) and 2005 Final (Win) as pointless, but the fact is that, up through age 25 Marat Safin was a threat to win every hard court major he entered.

That's not something that Del Potro can say. It's not something that any players on the WTA tour not named "Williams", "Henin" or Sharapova can say either.

And Safin is also a two-time slam winner.

Maybe Djokovic and Del Potro can ask Jim Courier about how to win slams. At the very least, then can call Safin and ask for advice on how to win the 2nd slam. If they do nothing more than that, that's still a pretty darn good result, especially in the Rafa-Federer era, which call me crazy, still seems like it offers some opportunities for players.

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/08/2009 at 12:27 AM

Roger lost to Nalbandian at USO 2003. Roger regrouped and won Australia in 2004, then lost to the outstanding Gustavo Kuerten at Roland Garros in 2004, before going on to win the last 2 majors of the year.

(The match with Kuerten remains a classic).

Posted by Carrie 10/08/2009 at 12:31 AM

Andrew- I know that Roger lost in the USO to Nalby- but I seem to remember him losing a match shortly after his W final (I am not just talking about grand slams). Pete used to do that a bit- lose a wtf match after garnering a major title. So I am not ready do damn Delpo yet. :)

Posted by jjermann 10/08/2009 at 12:56 AM

delpo was sick,sick,sick,sick,sick all the speculating is useless because guy was sick,sick,sick so he couldnt play his normal level.

UNDERSTAND? i really doubt it.

Posted by jjermann 10/08/2009 at 12:59 AM

Andrew miller, uh oh? he just won US open and it was last grandslam so what in earth you are talking about? he has not had even chance to win his 2nd grand slam yet :D

"Maybe Djokovic and Del Potro can ask Jim Courier about how to win slams. At the very least, then can call Safin and ask for advice on how to win the 2nd slam. If they do nothing more than that, that's still a pretty darn good result, especially in the Rafa-Federer era, which call me crazy, still seems like it offers some opportunities for players."


Posted by Leah 10/08/2009 at 01:20 AM

Of course no-one apart from an American could "have such a black-and-white conversation with himself" because no-one else apart from an American is so obsessed with the importance of his or her own opinion. The rest of the world might engage in the same discussions but they don't use them as a way of drawing attention to themselves. THAT is where the whole myth of America's "ingrained Puritan work ethic" goes down the drain because there's nothing Puritan about working to feed your ego.

Posted by Brian 10/08/2009 at 01:34 AM

I don't know what Tim is talking about. "TMF" is worshipped by most all the commentators, analysts, and writers in every outlet of tennis media. I actually find it all quite sickening and that is the reason I strongly root against him now. Federer is a fantastically talented player, but he has also been lucky in that he has an injury-free career. He had mono last year, but he can't parley that--or the mysterious "back injury" Vie mentioned--into an excuse for every tournament he doesn't win. Sometimes the opponents you play are just better or just have a better match.

Posted by mick1303 10/08/2009 at 01:41 AM

Roger did not lose a next match immediately after Wimbledon 2003 win. He reached the finals of Gstaad where lost to Jiri Novak.

It was a last lost final before a streak of 20+ finals won in a row. This one ended at YEC 2005.

Posted by John 10/08/2009 at 01:48 AM

Tim seems like he doesn't have any idea what is a really a bad injury or what is an excuse, time to learn a little bit....

Brian, you are so right!!!!!

Posted by rg.nadal 10/08/2009 at 01:50 AM

Great article. I see Potro having a better slam tally than Nole.

Posted by Serge 10/08/2009 at 02:24 AM

I remember an interview of Boris Becker where he said that the worst thing that happened him is his first Wimbledon victory...

Posted by Hajduk Stana 10/08/2009 at 02:51 AM

"The story of his transformation from flirtatious contender into dominant champ is inspiring in a particularly American way, given this nation's pre-occupations with competition, second acts, and the ingrained Puritan work ethic. Would someone like a Djokovic, or del Potro, even be able to have such a black-and-white conversation with himself, given that it's initiated by something like a sense of culturally imposed accountability? Could he even conceive of having this dialog with an idea, one part of you telling some other part of you to man up? I don't know the answer to that. "

Oh, I think you do. Or, shall we say, you think you know the answer to that.

Americans are a superior nation, no one competes like that, right. That is why Djokovic is just a Djokovic, and he comes from a country where there is nothing in the culture to make him a champion. Maybe there is no culture, either, right?

Yep, great article, Pete, really grrrrrreat. Just like all your articles which induce a feeling of sickness in my stomack. Do you ever miss a chance to not make sexist and nationalistic comments?

Ah, I think I know the answer to that question.

Posted by Ray T. 10/08/2009 at 02:59 AM

Unlike DelPotro, Djokovic's Slam was a fluke that would've ended in the semis if Federer had not been sick with mono, or in the final if rookie Tsonga had not played the match of his life against Nadal. That's why Djokovic hasn't won another one or even reached another final since, ok ? And what has Tsonga done in the Slams after that flash in the pan run ?

By the way, mono is for real (just ask former #7 Ancic) and it sure was a different result when Djokovic played a recovered Federer in the semis of the US Open months later. Like that 5 setters at the AO against Tipsarevic, who has still never won a singles title, would've happened otherwise...yeah right !

Djokovic is a top player without a doubt, but until Federer, Nadal and now DelPotro are also at the top of their game, you can forget about him winning another best of 5 Slam. Even Roddick has been showing him the door lately, pffft.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 10/08/2009 at 03:11 AM

Hello all. :)

I thought this would be about Ancic. And then I had my "of course Federer had mono!" lecture all planned out. ;-)

Agree about getting off del Potro's back, anyway.

"The story of his transformation from flirtatious contender into dominant champ is inspiring in a particularly American way...could he even conceive of having this dialog with an idea, one part of you telling some other part of you to man up? I don't know the answer to that."

I wonder how much of this is actually more Sampras having a peculiarly American narrative stamped onto his words? Don't know...perhaps he really does think in Hollywood.

Aside from that, it's not just about "manning up", though, is it? Sometimes you can "man up" and still fail - it's not just up to you.

"Roger Federer certainly hasn't entertained us with any tales of theatrical confrontations with himself - nor, for that matter, has Nadal imposed a dramatic, largely interior, personal narrative on his successful drive to break out of clay-court ghetto. Americans, I think, are inclined to ask themselves, What do I want out of life? in a fairly loud voice, whereas citizens in other parts of the world sometimes seem content to simply live and make their way as easily - or arduously - as their situation demands and/or their temperament allows."

I do *hate* it when you make me feel I am part of a Henry James novel, Pete. Those decadent, lazy Europeans! But then you see I wonder how much of that is simply me being distrustful and assuming something that you don't actually mean to be there at all, simply because you're American.

So, maybe it works both ways...?

I'm not at all convinced that Federer and Rafa haven't had those conversations with themselves. I am quite sure you could put Rafa's attempts at storming Wimbledon into a cultural narrative of hard work and redemption - if you wanted to. Same with this year for Federer. I just don't think that stark comparison really works...not to say there aren't differences, just that I'm not sure they're as black and white as you seem to think, Pete, really.

for me, if there is a difference, it's perhaps in being more or less willing to state boldly and publicly such ambitions, and maybe more likely to find a receptive audience for them?

Posted by Caroline 10/08/2009 at 03:42 AM

Jewell, thank you for your post - it's great.

I've just started reading Shelby Foote's enormous narrative of the Civil War which starts with short descriptions of Davis and Lincoln. William Hemdon who was Lincoln's partner in their law firm in Springfield wrote of Lincoln 'His ambition is a little engine that knows no rest.' He thought it was an aspect of Lincoln's character that was little known. It seems to me that all the great champions (in politics, sport, business, anything) have that little engine. The engines may all be different and the bodywork (!) may be different but they are all generating power that mere mortals in every field don't have. I apologize for the long-winded analogy but, it seems to me, if you have one of those engines you have to be the equivalent of an F1 mechanic to manage it successfully. There are a lot of 'diagnostics' involved and they're not confined to Americans.

For the record, I think Pete is wrong about Roger's easygoing-ness. As a person he may be, but professionally he's anything but.

Posted by Or 10/08/2009 at 04:48 AM

Did you hear Murray is out of Shanghai?

Posted by Edengrave 10/08/2009 at 05:39 AM

I believe nationality is the very last parameter in that equation, if it is one at all. You often ascribe too much importance to it.

Posted by md 10/08/2009 at 05:48 AM

I wasn't at all surprised that DP lost his first match back. First of all he had to go through the celebrations in Argentina - that must have been emotionally draining no matter how satisfying. Secondly, it is clear that none of the top players really want to play the Asian tournaments. The amount of early losses is simply staggering. Further, it is simply an anti climax to play the rest of the season in tournaments that really don't matter at all. It is similar to the US hardcourt season following the Australian Open. Those tournaments really don't matter. Federer for one clearly couldn't wait to get to Europe to play the clay court season to prepare for the French. Clearly it is now time to radically restructure t he tour with all tournaments being built around the Slams. The Australian Open should be moved to February to allow for a series of preparatory tournaments, the French has plenty of clay court events preceding it, Wimbledon needs to be moved back a week or two to allow for more grass court events that actually matter - neither Halle or Queens should be clashing for instance, and the US Open is probably fine - it could profitably be put back a week. I know this renders the Indoor season a bit obsolete, but if the end of season Masters is kept indoors those tournaments gain relevance.

Ideally the top players should be required to play two preparatory tournaments (maybe even just one) (injuries permitting) before each Slam and ditto for the end of season Masters which brings the required tournament level to a not unreasonable 10 - 15 tournaments a season which is probably about right if Davis Cup is also factored in. This would enable the Masters to have perhaps the top 32 players participate in a straight knock out tournament with matches over best of five sets, with rest days built in. Doubles should be included also to fill in scheduling gaps.

As for the Davis Cup it continues to be somewhat irrelevant if the top few don't play it. Serious consideration should be given to a two week event every 2 years with the top eight teams participating, held on a different surface to reflect the Slams and Masters.

I appreciate there is virtually no chance of this happening but one can dream.

Posted by md 10/08/2009 at 05:56 AM

For the record there is a different ethos in the US to Europe - i am not in a position to comment on Sth America, or Asia. Players like McEnroe and Connors (to use two examples) played to win in just about every match. Wilander and Borg clearly didn't feel every tournament was equally important. I seem to remember Wilander in 1988 getting pretty drunk the night before a match in Indian Wells (I think) and losing 6-1 7-6 the next day as he felt he didn't need the match play - the went and won Key Biscayne which was the next event. The point I am making is that Americans (to generalise for a moment) seem to regard winning every match as important whereas the Europeans tend to focus on the bigger events. Having said that Lendl had a very American attitude and Sampras openly admitted that only the Slams interested him. There are exceptions to every rule but clearly in general terms there is a difference.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/08/2009 at 07:12 AM

Andrew, I completely agreew with your 10:01PM comment. And let's not forget that in 2003, when Roddick won his first and only major to date, he was only 21 or 22. He had been the World #1 Junior player, but I can't say how many of the junior slam titles he won.

Most inmportant, after the talent, physical health and menta strength, is that little luck factor. All the players readily admit that "you need a bit of luck" to pull off a major. That admission doesn't diminish the achievement, but it puts it in perspective.

Posted by Corrie 10/08/2009 at 07:27 AM

The generalisations about cultural differences have no foundation. The burning ambition for success is essential for anyone to reach the top in their field, it's just that some great achievers show it more externally than others.

The Eastern Europeans and others from poorer places in the tennis world probably have to fight the hardest and have the most obvious drive. But it can burn within the least likely too, including in two middle class lads from comfy backgrounds in Basel and Majorca.

I agree with Lady Julia that Federer made a most dramatic change from racket throwing, failing, hothead to determined, controlled achiever.

To Brian, I can think of several - American and UK - commentators who love to criticise and downplay Fed's achievements, one just very recently. And you imply that he goes around making excuses for losses out of his ailments. Check your facts, he's always done the opposite, including this year.

Posted by tina 10/08/2009 at 11:08 AM

So "everyone's favorite whipping boy" beat Gonzo, wish I had remembered to watch it when I woke up in the middle of the night. Nice one, Marat!

But whenever anyone brings up hard work in the tennis world, the only player I ever think of is Thomas Muster.

I, too, expected some mention of Ancic, given this title. I'll check some sources to see if he is planning yet another comeback, but there's a guy whose career was completely derailed through no fault of his own - and I don't think anyone would blame him if he just wanted to play a a couple more years, even if he's losing. I always laughed at people bringing up Fed's mono.

Posted by Syd 10/08/2009 at 11:11 AM

Jewell, very well said @ 3:11.

Posted by Kenneth 10/08/2009 at 11:16 AM

Americans can be extremely loud and voracious, especially when it concerns others. Unlike Europeans (and I know a WHOLE lot about them, lemme tell u) there isn't a 'live and let live' attitude here in the states. More like 'I can do this, but you cannot.' Or, 'this is the way to be rich, or to be successful', and any other barometer falls short. New money vs Old money.

While it's surely not something to boast or be proud of, the desire to have your success showcased in as egregious a manner as possible might be a relatively pure American trait, Donald Trump. Perhaps Djokovic and del Potro won't end up having those 'career-altering' conversations because they view success as something more than a closet full of trophys, and at the end of the day, the trophy haul is the least of their worries. In that regard, people like Sampras, Graf, Navratilova and Federer should be grouped separately, as they share a more related mindset to each other than to others.

Posted by ixvnyc 10/08/2009 at 11:31 AM

@Ray T

Did you even watch AO08? RF did not play that bad at all. He had some much shakier showings in other events when no one mentioned mono.

It's just that Djokovic played the tennis of his life. Djokovic did not do much at GS level since not because others wouldn't let him, but because he himself never again played as well as he did at AO08. He did not drop a single set until that first set with Tsonga (another player who played tennis of his life there). Did everyone else also have mono?

I guarantee you: if Djokovic can find it in him to play like that again, he will wipe the floor with everyone again. That's a big "if", however, as I think that Djokovic may never again get into that state of mind.

Posted by Blockhead 10/08/2009 at 11:47 AM

Good article Pete. A lot of people I know from other countries don't understand the ingrained pressure of success that comes with being born an American male. Every American male, with more than half a brain, has that same black and white conversation with themselves that Pete had, oftentimes more than once.

America was built on independent success. It is the cornerstone of our political and economic system (save the destruction that Obama is attempting to do), and it is the burdensome birthright of every American male.

I think that's why, if you do see an American male near the top of tennis, they're usually there to stay for the long haul. That's not to say there haven't been exceptions, but for the most part, they stick in for the long haul - because that's what's expected - demanded.

Posted by omolara 10/08/2009 at 11:53 AM

America is already destructed and that's not Obama's fault. You just do not want to reflect on your own weaknesses. Believe me, from the outside, we were just watching and waiting for this to happen.

Posted by linex 10/08/2009 at 11:55 AM

That Delpo can´t say that he is not a threat to win any hard court major? I think that is a statement that lacks proof to back it up. Since Delpo reached won his first 4 titles and reached the top 20 first and then the top ten, in every hard court major he entered he at least reached the quarter finals stage. And every time he lost he did it against one of the three or two best hard court players that is Andy Murray Us Open 08 or Federer Aussie Open 09.

At the AMS hard court events Delpo did not lose before the quarterfinals niether and always against a top player Nadal in the quarters of IW, Murray in the semis of Miami, Murray in the final of Montreal.

And he won 2 of the hardcourt 250 and 500 Atp he entered Auckland and DC. His first round defeat in Tokyo was the first one in more than a year and half.

His only unexpected loss this year was to IVAn Lubijic in Montecarlo in his first clay court tournament.

Like Safin in the beginning of his career and until his Wimbledon semis in 2007, he only has difficulty in grass courts.

Posted by Argh 10/08/2009 at 11:59 AM

"Ugly Americanism"....there you have it, in full.
Or maybe not: maybe it's just simple and pure stupidity.

Steve T. would never write anything close to something like this - thanks Steve for hanging around.

Posted by federerfan 10/08/2009 at 12:11 PM

MJ sung "Before you judge me, try hard to love me".

When manuelsantanafan says "when you dress like a clown, you play like a clown" to a player no lesser than Rafa!, it doesnt come across as petty criticism, infact, it comes across as another form of supporting someone you like and are very eager to see them do better and better.

I don't think the perceived criticism re: djoker and delpo above comes across like that and the nationalistic angle leaves an even bitter taste for people who see themselves as hardworking/self inquisitive and happen not to be americans.

Sorry for what is now going to be a long post.

Read a story about how a father who was anxious to see his son do well by working hard and smart instead of just lazying around and taking it easy, taunts him as a good-for-nothing dead-weight, something gets lit in the boy but not quite enough to take any concrete action. Dad says "next time you earn 5 'money' (wont mention the currency as that indicates the nationality :), then come to me, until then you are useless to me.
Next day the kid flashes a fiver as his dad is getting ready to go to work, the dad just takes it out of his sons hand and tears it to peices. The kid is surprised but not hurt, after all, it was the money he asked from his mom.
The next day, the kid catches his dad again going to work and says, here is a two-er, now do you still think of me the same way? Dad says nothing, crumples the note and throws it out the window, the kid is baffled and wonders if the dad knew that the kid secretly stole it from dad's pocket last night.
Next day, the kid is bent on earning some money and spends all day finding a customer/any customer that will let him earn, morning turns to afternoon turns to evening when finally at the market place, he lands someone for a few coins to carry an overloaded baggage.
Returning home late at night, after everyone has had their dinners, bruised and hurting and hungry and dishevelled, he goes straight to his father, who is sitting by the fireplace reading a book and stands silently....after a few minutes, the father notices him and says "what do you want?"...the kid, nervously holds out his bruised hand and a single solitary coin sparkles in the light....the dad, takes it from his hand and without even a casual glance throws it into the fire.
The kid, instinctively, reaches into the fire and pulls out the coin and turns to his father in a bit of an outrage to find him smiling. Dad says "Now, dear son, you have learned how to be good, for yourself".

I, sincerely, dont think the above happens only, in any one particular country.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/08/2009 at 12:43 PM

Uh, my guess is the dad in the story comes form an authoritarian regime.

Posted by federerfan 10/08/2009 at 01:07 PM

Slice : lol

Not really, if that were true, the kid wouldn't have had a chance to become lazy and taking-everything-too-easy in the first place, I cut that part out worrying about the length of my post.

Posted by Karl Romano 10/08/2009 at 01:24 PM

Athletes like Hussain Bolt, Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, Lazslo Papp, Teòfilo Stevenson, Manuel Ginòbili, etc. etc. etc. have demonstrated that you don`t need to be born in the mega-unique universe of North America (the country has no name) to think as a winner (whatever the concept they might have about this word).
And that's the main reason why Roger, yes, the Mighty Roger is so loved around the world: Because he represents the greatest qualities the rest of the Universe has to offer, and because he is so non-gringo. He is not the bully they'd prefer to see. Roger is the perfect gentleman, McEnroe, Connors and Sampras will never be.

Posted by A debate 10/08/2009 at 01:52 PM

Q: So why did you write this?
P. Bodo: well to provoke a good debate, that's all. I knew that would work. Especially with all the Europhiles here.
Q: Really?
P. Bodo: Really.
Q: Interesting, for it seems that anytime you do this (as we know this is not the first time) you get ripped apart by your readers. Europeans and Americans alike. Not even mentioning other less-worthy nationalities:).
P. Bodo: Yeah, that gets the discussion going. I can take it.
Q: Hm, as far as I remember, it does not. It ends up being a list of comments telling you to think before you write (or post). And eventually you do: you either delete those who criticize you or you simply close down the thread all together.
P. Bodo: The truth is no one is ready to accept the truth. There is nothing that you can do with a myopic mob on the web.
Q: Agreed. Web discussions have the tendency to be one-sided. For example, this post and the subsequent debate are very symbolic of that.
Still, Peter don't you think you need to stop reading all the Europeans?
P. Bodo: What do you mean?
Q: Tou know, Max Weber and those alike. I mean you love the argument about puritan ethic, don't you?
P.Bodo: Yeah, Max is right on. So is Tocquville.
Q: Yeah, they are. Max Weber got it right with the Chinese as well: predicted that their cultural inheritage will thwart their development.
P. Bodo: That's weird. China was actually the only country that came out of this whole economic meltdown rather unscathed....
Q: Whatever, Max Weber and his Protestant Ethic just rocks.
P. Bodo: Yeah, it's not popular to admit this with this crowd, but there's simply something different about the protestants...or put it in a way that you can understand it: they are not lazy Catholics.
Q: Right. That's about right. The Protestants....i.e.the English, the Swedes, the Swiss, the Germans, and of course the Americans.
P. Bodo: Hold on....hold on. I do not mean the Swedes, the British or the Germans, I mean the good puritan ethic of Americans.
Q: Oh I see, so you don't have Max Weber in mind either.
P. Bodo: Totally. There's a difference between various protestants and their work ethic...Weber got it wrong. There's Americans and there's the European the hell....don't you get it: WE ARE DIFFERENT. And go hell with that Weber of yours of whoever you're talking about.
Q: Thanks Pete.

Posted by thomas 10/08/2009 at 01:54 PM

Out of the finals of 11 big events this year on ATP:

Roger Federer:
W Roland Garros, Wimbledon, Madrid, Cincinnati
F Australian Open, US Open

Andy Murray:
W Miami, Montreal
F Indian Wells

Rafael Nadal:
W Australian Open, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Rome
F Madrid

Juan Martin Del Potro:
W US Open
F Montreal

Novak Djokovic:
F Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Cincinnati

Andy Roddick:
F Wimbledon

Robin Soderling:
F Roland Garros

Such a dominance from the top 4 (or 5 or 6).

Posted by arbiter 10/08/2009 at 02:11 PM

"Nobody does anti-semitism better than blond Europeans". Bodo said that, never retracted it, never apologized. How can we talk about ANYTHING with a perverted mind like that?

Posted by Alexis 10/08/2009 at 02:36 PM

Uh Brian at 1:34am... it seems to me that every KAD feels that their favorite player only loses when he is hurt or sick. Maybe some Fed fans blame many of Roger's losses on his mono and his back issues, but Roger certainly hasn't. And some Rafa fans blame many of his losses on being tired, or his knees, or , but Rafa hasn't.

As you say... sometimes the opponent is just better on that day. But ALL fans use excuses to explain away their favs losses. It's hardly a Federer thing. Geez.

Posted by Tennis served fresh 10/08/2009 at 02:44 PM

I think it's too early to compare to Safin. He's not retired just yet (though when he does, he will be missed) and he's got a bit left in the tank. Though Delpo did out play Federer with his power and determination to stay in the game. Djokovic, well, I don't know what to say about him, he seems to fade away and give plenty of excuses as to his loses. Who knows what the next season will bring.

Posted by noleisthebest 10/08/2009 at 03:13 PM

Bodo is right about protestant work ethics, predominant in , obviously, US, Australia (partly) and UK.
Just lok at the state of economies, and you get the picture.
East Europeans, Latin AMericas, southern Europeans all like a bit of siesta, even in the middle of winter.
Obviously, you can always find an exception, but, as a rule these are the facts.
That doesn't mean it's all bad news for the rest: russians, Serbs are very passionate and enjoy life far more than the machine-minded Westerners, just look at Safin ad Djokovic.

It takes a Swiss like Federer to coldly and single-mindedly annhilate entire life and just play/breathe tennis, or a diligent Sampras, who obviously couldn't hammer a nail in the wall, i.e all he CAN do is play tennis to do the silverware amassing.
As far as I'm concerned trophies are nice, a bit of fickle glory and plenty of fodder for media and guys like far as the big picture....I think you get the picture.....;) COME ON NOLE!

Posted by ixvnyc 10/08/2009 at 03:38 PM

So, let's review that fluke AO08 win for Novak Djokovic

Becker, Benjamin (GER) 81
6:0 6:2 7:6 (7:5)
(Looks like Becker had a bit of a mono, doesn't it?)

Bolelli, Simone (ITA) 70
6:1 6:2 6:2
(Wow. Bolelli got mono, for sure)

Querrey, Sam (USA) 62
6:3 6:1 6:3
(Is there even a question? Mono for Querry, too)

Hewitt, Lleyton (AUS) 22
7:5 6:3 6:3
(The home country favorite did not have a mono, however, he did not sleep enough)

Ferrer, David (ESP) 5
6:0 6:3 7:5
(Did the no.5 ranked player get bagled here? Mono!)

Federer, Roger (SUI) 1
7:5 6:3 7:6 (7:5)
(Mono, mono, mono. Repeat.)

Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried (FRA) 38
4:6 6:4 6:3 7:6 (7:2)
(Tsonga showed up to play. Then, after the first set, he unfortunately contracted mono.)

Posted by what 10/08/2009 at 04:08 PM

What type of protestant work ethics?
Oh, I get it mean the Japanese:)

Posted by CL 10/08/2009 at 04:09 PM

A debate @1:52- lol. quietly.

Posted by GOD 10/08/2009 at 04:55 PM

I'm a Roger fan but to say he has not made excuses for some of his losses is absurd. He has and so has Rafa. I never bought the mono shtick. Ancic loses a whole year to it and Roger didn't miss one tournament. His back is the real problem. As his back goes so goes his serve and his serve is paramount to his success. The US Open is just the latest example...the arch/bend in his motion wasn't there...a bit straight up and stiff. If he's good to go Delpo loses in 3. As for Delpo I wouldn't worry one bit about him. Anyone who can recover from the absolute thrashing Federer gave him in Australia by coming from 2 breaks down in the last set against Rafa (Miami?) and then hang in the way he did at the US Open will be just fine. The future isn't Murray or Nole, it's Juan. That kid is one cool customer. He acts wise beyond his years and looks it too, although his clothing sense could use an upgrade. One needs guns to pull off the sleeveless look. As for Federer lacking in drama, the arguement could go both ways which is exactly the way Roger would like it....his lack of mystery IS the mystery. Finally....a useless prediction to end on....Davydenko will not win the Grand Slam in 2010 but will stun the world with a spontaneous sex change operation and will rule the WTA schedule in 2011. Satan thinks I'm nuts for saying this but he's a punk and needs to go to bed.....That is all......GOD

Posted by Brian 10/08/2009 at 05:16 PM

To Corrie: I am curious as to who these commentators are. I watch every tournament I can get on TV (including the Tennis Channel) or on the online pay-site, and I don't think I have seen a match--men's or women's--where TMF does not get at least 5-10 minutes of conversation. As far as the excuse making (this is for Alexis too), I did not say that he officially makes the excuses, but there is not a tournament that gfoes by with him not winning where something is released afterward explaining away why he lost. All of his struggles in 2008, when I think Federer was actually playing some of his best tennis (with the exception of the RG final when he got pasted), were blanket-covered by mono. Then he continued struggling (by his standards at least) in 2009 and we suddenly hear about a mysterious back injury that was never mentioned at all, but covers up everything up through this fall. Then we add the wedding and the twins, and it's the stress of "changing diapers" and "crying babies at night" that contribute to any loss. Does anyone really believe that demigod Fed doesn't have nannies/assistants taking care of all that? I would love to have such stress...

I didn't want that to turn into an anti-Fed rant, and I don't think I did, I just want to explain the perspective of a non-Fed worshipper. I know all fans use excuses (legitimate or not) to try to explain why their faves did not win, but this structure seems to be further developed than elsewhere when it comes to Fed.

Posted by Brian 10/08/2009 at 05:30 PM

Dear GOD,

Thanks for the honesty and the laughs in your last post--although I shudder to think what Female Kolya will look like!

Oh, by the way, since you are all-powerful, how about helping the Phils to win the World Series again this year for my grandmother! Thanks and Amen!

Posted by manuelsantanafan 10/08/2009 at 05:36 PM

a noteworthy aspect of federerfan's 12:11 story is that it was originally set in Micronesia and the money used was the traditional stone money. Some of the coins that poor kid was lugging around weighed several hundred pounds.

BTW, one little-discussed impact of the mono on Federer in 2008: If not for the mono, Mirka would have given birth to octuplets in July or August 2008.

Posted by noleisthebest 10/08/2009 at 05:48 PM

"What type of protestant work ethics?
Oh, I get it mean the Japanese:)"

If you read your Bible you'd now....and don't get me started on Japanese work ethics, I WORKED WITH THEM!

Posted by Vie 10/08/2009 at 05:56 PM

Lol, MSF - octuplets in 2008.

Posted by GOD 10/08/2009 at 06:49 PM

Dear Brian
A female Davydenko might look something like Stepanek. God help wait, I'm GOD....I help us! As for Mirka and octuplets....please don't get any more virile Dear Roger for we've had just about enough of these ridiculous so-called reality shows. Speaking of ridiculous wasn't Djokovic's full un-cut commercial enough?.....actually I thought it was a scream, completely revised my opinion of him. Can you imagine Roger being that silly? He tried once during his Tsunami benefit in 2005 and it was embarrassing...see's like he's drunk, not at all attractive!.....GOD has yet again spoken and a nation yawns!

Posted by GOD 10/08/2009 at 06:51 PM

Dear Brian pt 2
To hell with the Philles. Go Dodgers!

Posted by Kim Seijnder 10/08/2009 at 07:19 PM

A few beauties from up-thread, gave me pause:

"Americans, I think, are inclined to ask themselves, What do I want out of life? in a fairly loud voice, whereas citizens in other parts of the world sometimes seem content to simply live and make their way as easily - or arduously - as their situation demands and/or their temperament allows."

"comfort level with ambitiousness also seems a particularly American trait to me."

"The point I am making is that Americans (to generalise for a moment) seem to regard winning every match as important whereas the Europeans tend to focus on the bigger events"

"the desire to have your success showcased in as egregious a manner as possible might be a relatively pure American trait"

"Bodo is right about protestant work ethics, predominant in , obviously, US, Australia (partly) and UK.
Just lok at the state of economies, and you get the picture."

"the ingrained pressure of success that comes with being born an American male"

travel a little. read a bit. you don't even have to leave your country. walk around town, meet your countrymen and neighbors.
open your mind.

Posted by Sherlock 10/08/2009 at 07:56 PM

"God help wait, I'm GOD....I help us!"

LOL. :)

"To hell with the Philles."

Being God, do you mean that literally?

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/08/2009 at 08:26 PM

the post season is pretty...point less. That's why Federer doesnt need it anymore - it doesnt affect his goals.

Del Potro doesnt need it either. If history means anything, the post season has no bearing on the slam season, whatsoever.

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/08/2009 at 08:28 PM

I disagree re: Federer and the conversation with himself. I think he's always having it and having it with Mirka.

Honestly the guy is always talking about himself in the third person.

Posted by Gaston 10/09/2009 at 10:31 AM

Great post Pete, and totally agree with the fundamentals.
But Del Potro has an AMAZING weapon in his favor..............he has already being thru hell. He had suffered ailments all the time (except for this last year and a half) and the guy was close to give it all up. So luckily he has endured enough frustration already that will serve him when he gets stones in his path in the future.

Posted by another perspective 10/09/2009 at 11:07 AM

People tend to stereotype and this article is a great example of that. Can this be attributed in some part to an endeavor to stimulate conversation? Don't know. Or is this partly because the author entertains such notions which he may believe to be the case? If it is the latter, then it does reflect a person's tendencies to stereotype.

Posted by kaitepai 10/09/2009 at 05:33 PM

I honestly think this whole debate just sums up why most of the world hates America. You talk about their ambition and drive to suceed, but face it, most of them sit on the couch eating pies and becoming fat.

Europe isn't the only country he is insulting either. I'm fully insulted and I'm from New Zealand - a place most Americans well never venture to. And yes, I have managed to visit America. Ambitious. I tell you.

Posted by jan 10/12/2009 at 09:20 PM

What cultural fingerprint? Slugger boy Andy, clearly the legitimate offspring of American cultural values, was obviously not a recipient of the 'fingerprint', that irrefutable mark of preferred DNA. Probably genetically challenged he failed to rise to the pinacle of world domination in tennis that was supposed to be his birthright, his legacy.
Further down the totem pole there is Blake, Ginepri, Fish , Querrey and Isner, a bunch who lacked the requisite nurturing necessary to develop the so-called uniquely American mindset that produces champions. Or maybe they were not accountable or inspired enough to have the dialogue.
If cultural dominance is manifest in the number of champions a nation produces, then the arrival of Roddick is a harbinger of things to come; cultural decline.
I believe this kind of thinking went out of fashion in 1945.

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