Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Homeless Rafa
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Homeless Rafa 02/09/2010 - 6:38 PM

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by Pete Bodo

I see that the news out of the Rafael Nadal camp, via uncle Toni, is good: Rafa is getting insoles to wear, which is a good thing. I learned the hard way (three foot surgeries) that very few people really walk properly, and almost everyone can avoid some measure of discomfort or injury by using custom orthopedic insoles. Sure, they're a pain to move around from shoe to shoe, and impossible to wear with certain kinds of footwear, but you figure it out. And you can skip wearing them altogether at reasonable intervals. There's my PSA for today.

But back to Rafa. One of my big takeaways from the Australian Open and the performance Roger Federer put on was that no matter what he or anyone else said, Rafa was in his head - as deeply embedded as a piece of shrapnel - until the unexpected events of last spring, starting at Madrid. For as Rafa has appeared to become vulnerable and suddenly less than picador perfect, Federer seems to have flourished. It's almost like the guy can breath deeply and freely again, or like a judge has just thrown out a legal action that had been brought against him. Since Federer won the French Open last June, he's looked like a man with a new lease on life. Is it coincidence that this occurred at the same time that Rafa hit the first serious roadblocks in his career?

Don't get me wrong. I don't think Federer spent last winter and spring sitting around, picking his cuticles, fretting over the threat represented by Nadal. And Roger always bridled at the idea that Rafa was in his head. That wasn't surprising; Federer is the greatest player of all time, do you imagine a guy in that position has no pride?

But the way Federer has looked - not just as a ball-striker, but as a presence and personality - suggests that Rafa definitely had a pied a terre somewhere between Roger's ears, even if it wasn't his official permanent residence. Federer has looked nothing less than liberated. Until Rafa comes back and hurts Federer again, he's going to be just another rival (and even if he does hurt Federer again, Roger probably will continue to describe him that way), and one who's run into serious obstacles in pursuit of his goals for the first real time. It's a pity. Helluva player, that Rafa. Nice guy, too. Phew!!!

All of this makes a certain amount of sense, for the Federer vs. Nadal rivalry has many more layers and complications than did, say, the Laver-Rosewall, McEnroe-Borg, or the even Sampras-Agassi competition. It's all pretty nicely summed up by that oh-so-deceptive head-to-head advantage enjoyed by Nadal.

That 13-7 edge may be the most un-representative H2H figure ever generated by by two great players, although that doesn't at all diminish the truth of it. Nine of those 13 wins by Nadal have been on clay, the surface on which he's not only overshadowed Federer, but towered over him in a way that Federer cannot match on any surface of his choice. Remove those nine "gimmes" and Federer is 7-4, a statistic that may give him a no less a significant edge than the actual H2H, but one that also underscores the true danger that Nadal represented even without his clay-court advantage - a menace that was only coming to full bloom when Nadal was laid low by injury. 

That nine-match advantage had enormous repercussions - among them, Federers's failure to secure a clay-court Grand Slam title until 2009. If tennis history stopped right now, this much could be said: the only man who was able to win a title at Roland Garros during the Nadal era was Federer, but he was only able to do it with Nadal absent from the draw. That was a good effort by Federer. The guy can play on clay, but let's face it, he's no Adriano Panatta. You may recall that Panatta was the only man ever to beat Bjorn Borg at Roland Garros, and he did it twice - including a quarterfinal in 1976, after which Panatta went on to take the title. There's no real or imagined asterisk alongside that one, as there is beside Federer's Roland Garros triumph.

I'm not trying to yank the chain of Federer fans here; I just want to add another argument to the case that the Federer vs. Nadal rivalry is curiously and in some ways irritatingly asymmetrical. Until 2008, it could hardly even be called a rivalry in any meaningful sense, beyond the fact that it featured the top two players in the world. Nadal owned clay, Federer owned everything else. It was less a rivalry than the division of the empire - three parts to Federer, one to Nadal. It's too bad that Nadal had to come up lame just when things were getting interesting.

Nadal's recent difficulties have thrown this emerging narrative into utter confusion, and there's a real chance that the glory days of Federer vs. Nadal are a thing of the past - a half-finished masterpiece that's as intriguing and suitable for launching furious debate as the half-finished movie of some famous director, or an incomplete painting. Let's face it, we didn't even come close to having a good Federer or Nadal? brawl during the Australian Open. Everyone watched, holding his or her breath, not quite believing that we could be so lucky once again.

And we weren't.

The big question going into the spring clay-court events in Europe (personally, I wouldn't be surprised if Nadal takes a pass on at least one of the big upcoming hard-court events) will be whether Nadal can recapture anything close to the form he showed at those events through most of his career. You know that if Nadal plays anywhere close to the level of which he's shown himself capable, the Federer vs. Nadal theme will be re-ignited, and whatever happens at the French Open will really just be a table-setter for an ultimate showdown at Wimbledon.

Given the quality of the rest of the field, you'd have to be crazy to take it for granted that we can get back to where we once were in this rivalry. But the herky-jerky performance Andy Murray offered in Melbourne suggests that maybe this handful of promising contenders - Murray, del Potro, Djokovic, Cilic - are not as ready as some of us may think to challenge the two leading men.

I have a funny feeling none of those guys is looking forward to meeting a healthy Nadal on clay, and that nicely sets up a Rafa resurgence. Before you know it, we could find ourselves back where we left off in the early spring of 2009, although Nadal must be wondering if that space he so liked living in is still for rent.


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Posted by Jill 02/09/2010 at 06:54 PM

I have to take issue with one of your staements Mr Bodo-just because you don't play the number 1 or 2 in the final of a slam that you win does it mean your victory will be forever asterisked or cheapened- that conclusion would belittle most of the slam victors-it's just nonsense!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by VC 02/09/2010 at 06:55 PM

Oh dear, this one's going to go 20 pages, isn't it?

"One of my big takeaways from the Australian Open and the performance Roger Federer put on was that no matter what he or anyone else said, Rafa was in his head - as deeply embedded in his head as a piece of shrapnel - until the unexpected events of last spring, starting at Madrid. For as Rafa has appeared to become vulnerable and suddenly less than picador perfect, Federer seems to have flourished. It's almost like the guy can breath deeply and freely again, or like a judge has just thrown out a legal action that had been brought against him. Since Federer won the French Open last June, he's looked like a man with a new lease on life. Is it coincidental that this occurred at the same time that Rafa hit the first serious roadblocks in his career?"

*scratches head*
I don't see it. We've had stretches in the past with both players playing well (clay and grass seasons 2006-08), only Federer playing well (post Wimbledon 2006-07), only Rafa playing well (post Aussie Open '09 until Madrid). Why can't this be one of the passages where Federer is playing well but Rafa is not?

"There's no real or imagined asterisk alongside that one, as there is beside Federer's Roland Garros triumph."

Well, how about Madrid then?

Posted by Mr. X 02/09/2010 at 06:55 PM

Boy, i can already hear the Fedal wars coming.
However, i think that's a good one, Pete, and one that isnt particularly inclined towars any of the 2. I would still like to say that if you take Nadal's 9 wins of clay outside of the equation, it would be fair to take out Fed's own 2 wins on clay, leaving it at 5-4, which is pretty even. For the record, i fully understand that it doesnt mean Nadal was Fed's equal outside of clay for all these years. It's more a case of Nadal not being able to get to the finals to face Fed outside of clay as often as Fed did on clay (although it could also be pointed out that in the 05-08 period, Nadal did reach some HC finals of his own, and Fed wasnt there to meet him). But the general point is valid for the Slams, where Nadal got to no HC finals to face Fed till AO 09.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 07:02 PM

Pete, did you happen to see Steve's recent "Rest of Oz" piece and the ensuing melee it created? In a nutshell: Fed fans think the H2H with Rafa is unimportant. Rafa fans disagree. Here we go...


I hope you're wrong on Rafa taking a pass on IW or Miami. A lot of twibers are hoping to see him in California in a few weeks. I don't expect him to defend his title there but it would be oh so wonderful if he could.

Posted by Pspace (The Curse of Tommy Robredo) 02/09/2010 at 07:04 PM

LOL, Pete. This is gonna be amusing. Btw, which comes first the post or the podcast? About three times now that I've seen you use material from the podcast for a post. I'm guessing the podcast comes first? :-)

As for this rivalry, I have nothing to add that hasn't been said or will be said by someone on this thread. Andre and Pete gave us 34 matches. So, let's hope Rafa and Fed can produce a few more classics.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 07:04 PM

As far as your title is concerned, I think Rafa will be in Fed's head until he can beat him in a slam final.

Posted by federerfan 02/09/2010 at 07:05 PM

Andrew is gonna to have come up with something better than thermo-nuclear war for this one :)

Alright twibe, ready, steady, go....

Posted by Mr. X 02/09/2010 at 07:06 PM

About the article, i dont really know if it was a matter of Nadal being in Federer's head, as much of a case of Nadal being the perfect anti-Fed. Lefty, with that high-bouncing FH to get to Fed's weakest point (the high BH), and with the ability to fight for hours and hours without giving up.
Now, Fed looks more relaxed again, that's true. But is it because he's not facing Rafa? I think that might only be part of it. I'm sure because of the matchup reasons, he would probably take any player in the world over Rafa to face him at a Slam final, but i also think getting the FO title and surpassing Pete's record, the 2 things that seemed to curse him, also has gotten a huge weight of his back. Also, i dont think he will ever look at Rafa as just another opponent. I'm pretty sure Nadal will always be the biggest opponent he's had, even if he never becomes the same player again.

I dont agree about any asterisk attached to Fed's RG title (and Pete, i'm pretty sure as soon as you wrote that, you knew the millions...AND MILLIONS of Fed's fans were gonna go wild on you for saying it). He won the FO, period. Nadal was in the draw, and for whatever reasons (he lost to He Who Shall Remain Nameless), he couldnt get to the final. That's bad enough for him, but it's none of Fed's business. He beat everybody in front of him, and he is the champion. No excuses. And i say that mainly because i wouldnt like the obvious counter-argument about Fed's own issues (mono, back, whatever) playing a part on Nadal's biggest victories of his career at Wimbledon and the AO.

Posted by just a note 02/09/2010 at 07:11 PM

VC - haven't read a word past the title and thought the same thing. ;))

Maybe more than 20 into an overflow!! ;))

Posted by Fedfan 02/09/2010 at 07:12 PM

First of all, Nadal wasn't "absent from the draw" at the 2009 event. He lost. Just like he lost before the finals at every single US Open, and all but one Aussie Open. Now if Nadal didn't enter the event at all, that's one thing. But in the case of the 2009 event, Nadal wasn't good enough to make the final that year and Federer was.

Posted by Fedfan 02/09/2010 at 07:12 PM

Annie,

Federer HAS beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam final, TWICE. 2006 and 2007 Wimbledon finals. Do those not count any more?

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!) 02/09/2010 at 07:13 PM

"Well, how about Madrid then?"

Rafa was tired...

Frankly, I think 2008-2009 was the Fed's best year in showing what a fighter he was, going into matches knowing that your'e not fit, knowing that you can't defend, suffering all those losses, utter loss of confidence in your game, spraying FHs, BHs and just when you think I'm healthy bad back takes the serve away, it's a testament to his supreme belief in his abilities, lesser athletes would have believed the hype but he persevered and kept showing up and what happened?! He's got #16 and is still the #1 player in the world...

Posted by antoinette 02/09/2010 at 07:14 PM

This analysis is as shallow as it is inane. Once again this writer talks down to his readers and insults their intelligence with this unoriginal take on the Federer/Nadal rivalry. It is this kind of simplistic dumbded down "journalism" that I find really annoying .

At the end of 2007 the h2h was 9-6 in favour of Nadal. Come 2008 and Nadal has his "year for the ages" at around the same time as Federer hits a bump in the road caused by illness and injury. As Jim Courier has said all the tennis journos missed one of the big stories of 2008, Roger's illness and his struggle to regain his form and fitness for most of that year. Roger's competitiveness and sheer talent saw him reach 3 claycourt finals in 2008 where he was upended by Nadal and after the mauling at the FO Roger loses to Nadal at Wimbldeon in 5 sets...still not back to full fitness. In 2009 with Roger regaining health , fitness and form they have split the matches they have played each taking a victory. However while Roger made it to all 4 GS finals, Nadal did not make it ( and by the way Mr. Bodo Nadal was in the draw at the French, he just got beat).

After all the years of these so-called experts predicting the eminent demise of Federer ( they have been bleating this since Wimbledon 2006) I feel confident in ignoring any analysis/commentary from tennis writers and prefer to believe Roger when he says that he is back to full health and fitness and that has resulted in increased confidence and thus better form. This combined with the release of pressure after winning the FO and breaking the GS record as well as his personal happiness with marriage and fatherhood has resulted in the newly liberated Federer we see on and off the court and nothing to do with Nadal being injured and thusly being evicted from Roger's head.

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!) 02/09/2010 at 07:16 PM

"And i say that mainly because i wouldnt like the obvious counter-argument about Fed's own issues (mono, back, whatever) playing a part on Nadal's biggest victories of his career at Wimbledon and the AO."

Ooh please Mr. X, Federer obviously lost Wimby because he was recovering from Mono, shouldn't have been playing, and of course he couldn't serve at the AO...and we all know if not for these things Rafa would not have won the match period...;)

Posted by federerfan 02/09/2010 at 07:16 PM

"But the herky-jerky performance Andy Murray offered in Melbourne suggests that maybe this handful of promising contenders - Murray, del Potro, Djokovic, Cilic - are not as ready as some of us may think to challenge the two leading men"

Don't think so, we have had 4 GS finals now without fedal, for one reason or another and the underlying factors have not gone away, imho.

Secondly, I really think some of those mentioned here and adding davy into that mix, are really finding their way, very slowly but surely, between rafa;s own ears and it will be very, very interesting seeing rafa face off against them this year....esply djoker on clay & hards, muzz/delpo/davy on hcs and muzz on grass.

I am not holding up my breath for a fedal final anytime soon.

Posted by Mr. X 02/09/2010 at 07:18 PM

About the future, well, it all depends on Nadal's body. Fed will be there, basically, because he always is. Ans till that match comes to happen again, we'll all remain holding our breath, as we were doing during the AO.
I think Nadal's biggest problem wont be beating Fed (that certainly wont be easy, but he can do it, specially on clay). The main question is: can he get to him? Now that his ranking is going down and will probably fall even more, i think it could be more likely, since Nadal could face Fed before having to face the guys that are really stopping him in his attemps to go back to the player he was able to become, in his attemps to regain the biggest weapon he ever had: his unbreakable confidence. Guys like Murray, Del Potro, Djokovic, Davydenko. There will be the real test. And of course, the test wont happen in IW or Miami, which are not very relevant as far as Nadal is concerned, IMO. Not at this point, not with those knees.
The test will come when he faces those guys on clay. If he's able to beat them, and get rolling again, i think Fed and everybody else will be in trouble till the end of the clay season (and maybe even Wimbledon), or till his knees act up again, which is the main matter in all of this, as far as Nadal is concerned.
Nadal might be facing the biggest test of his career in the 2010 clay season. He's had slumps before, but never before was he facing the challenge to go back to such a high level (since he has never played as good as he did during 2008 and the end of 2009), with his confidence so mined (due to the repeated loses to those guys and the frequent injuries). If he can pass that test, it might be the biggest achievement of his career.
And we all know Fed will be right there, to be the ultimate test once again, as he has always been for Rafa.

Posted by Jill 02/09/2010 at 07:20 PM

Also Mr Bodo, since when did you acquire the divine ability to get priveledged access to other's mental states? Perhaps your unbounded talents are being significantly repressed in your present vocation of tennis scribe

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Congrats Feli on Winning Jo'burg) 02/09/2010 at 07:23 PM

G'morn' twibe

I haven't got anything to say about Rafa's situation as I am not an expert on the subject.

I have just gone back to read a few posts on the last thread and was a bit confused at the bruha over Brooklyn Roddick's photoshoot. Isn't that why Roddick choose to go on a date with her in the first place? Why should she stop modelling just because she is married or goes out with someone high profile?

BTW if Ren comes here to delurk or post HAPPY BIRTHDAY for the 10TH. It is also my birthday today but unfortunately I am stuck at work and it is a grey day. Not very inspiring.

Ok off to check overnight scores and pull up the scoreboard for Brazil and San Jose matches.

Posted by Mr. X 02/09/2010 at 07:25 PM

antoinette,
Isnt saying that Nadal's best year happened because Fed wasnt entirely healthy the exact same thing that saying Fed's comeback happened because Nadal wasnt entirely healthy?
This is exactly the argument i knew Pete's article was gonna bring up, and the one that i consider the most unfair of all.
As far as i'm concerned, Nadal won W 08 and AO 09 fair and square, with no excuses whatsoever (and i mean Fed's mono or back), the same as Fed has won FO 09, W 09 and AO 10 fair and square, with no excuses whatsoever from Nadal's knees. If we start with excuses, we're gonna find one for every damn match they played. Heck, we're gonna find one for every damn match EVER. So we might as well go ahead and say that nobody ever won anything fair and square because of this and that.

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!) 02/09/2010 at 07:26 PM

OOh my, it's still quiet?! I'm eagerly awaiting the fire storm...lol

Posted by federerfan 02/09/2010 at 07:27 PM

As a counter point, I rather actually believe, that nadal;s stock goes up everytime fed's goes up and goes down when fed's goes down....i know i simplify but...here it is...knowing the 13-7, when roger is TMF and rafa keeps beating him, it helps the aura of the superman, the ONLY one who can beat the all conquering TMF...conversely, when fed hits the bottom....and others start beating him (not just rafa)....for rafa's aura to flourish he needs to do what fed has always done...beat the rest of the field, consistently....
Ofcourse, throw in rafa;s knees, it just lends credibility to pete's theory abt the unfinished masterpeice.

Posted by Mr. X 02/09/2010 at 07:29 PM

Ah, Beckham, i'll take it from you, but only from you:)
By the way, looking at your boy Gulbis, doesnt really seem you are gonna have the chance to call me "A--hole" after the USO:)

And just to counter you, we obviously all know that Fed wouldnt have had a snowball's chance to win Wimbledon if Rafa had been there. As you can see, i'm not even mentioning RG. That goes without saying:)

Also, do you want to bet something that these 2 posts of ours will be referenced later in the thread as weapons for the inevitable Fedal war?


Posted by federerfan 02/09/2010 at 07:30 PM

that shld ofcourse mean, rafa has to come roaring back now (w/fed flourishing).

if fedal happens, I am just a tiny/weeny bit curious to see how the newly refurbished b/h from fed, that staved muzz off, fares against rafa.

Posted by antoinette 02/09/2010 at 07:32 PM

Mr. X

I did not say that Nadals best year happened BECAUSE of Roger's issues. I was just pointing out that there is more to the story than the stupid "Nadal is in Roger's head" line. The story is more nuanced than that but these writers prefer to wade in the shallow end of the pool because it fits in with their established narrative. It would be great if they could do their readers the courtesy of actually writing something original and challenging which can spark intelligent debate rather than 'Fedal wars". I am not holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon.

Posted by federerfan 02/09/2010 at 07:34 PM

the twibe has realized the call for war and have gone back to the barracks for loading up on the ammo :)

Posted by Carol (Nadal the greatest) 02/09/2010 at 07:35 PM

Peter, I agree with you in many things that you say but I don't think Nadal is homeless. Nadal has clay, grass and HC home and we'll see it very soon

Posted by federerfan 02/09/2010 at 07:35 PM

Mr.X true but Roger got sick first....rafa could only 'follow' him with the excuses ! :)

Posted by VC 02/09/2010 at 07:39 PM

I agree with antoinette that this is an unnecessarily provocative post to both sets of fans. The topic of Rafa's knees and future prospects could have been dealt with independently. But I guess it brings in the site traffic, doesn't it?

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!) 02/09/2010 at 07:40 PM

Mr. X, I'll have you know that Rafa was lucky he didn't attempt to play Wimby, I was seeing bagels and breadsticks, I don't blame Rafa, it's not his fault that he's not as gifted as the Fed who just glides from corner to corner, even when injured, just unfreakingbelievable talent, it's a gift that mere mortals don't possess...;)

As for Gulbis, the USO is not till September, he's using the early part of the year to work out the kinks on the Gulbis freight train, he is going to win the USO and just for you, he's going to shellack Rafa enroute to the title, looking forward to calling you a$$hole, it would be so much sweeter than the shellacking of Muzz (sorry spacie...lol) mwahahahahaha

Posted by just a note 02/09/2010 at 07:40 PM

"Also, do you want to bet something that these 2 posts of ours will be referenced later in the thread as weapons for the inevitable Fedal war?"

My money's on it. :))

Posted by federerfan 02/09/2010 at 07:41 PM

can anyone help me with how i can watch muzz/rafa AO '10 online other than at espn360? I dont get espn360

Posted by antoinette 02/09/2010 at 07:42 PM


@VC

The cynic in me says that increased site traffic is exactly the goal of this post....maybe we should all just stay away in protest?! lol...

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeee!!!/*hitting snooze until Rafa comes back*) 02/09/2010 at 07:43 PM

Carol - I took "homeless" to refer to that cozy space Rafa occupies (occupied?) in Fed's head.

Fun read, Pete, but I guess this is your way of saying that things have been a little too quiet around here?

*grabs new Sade CD, Wimby '08, RG '08, and AO '09 DVDs, and a few boxes of wine and takes cover in TW bomb shelter*

Posted by wilson75 02/09/2010 at 07:44 PM

I'm not going to into a fedal war about h2h, who's in roger's or rafa's head. I just hope that the next time they meet both will be healthy and fit and they could give us great match.

Posted by Mr. X 02/09/2010 at 07:48 PM

Beckham, the only player i've seen Gulbis shellack is himself:)

And with this "gliding from corner to corner", i know you obviously mean chasing Nadal's shots, looking utterly lost in the middle of a nice clay court:)
As for bagels and breadsticks, i would imagine Fed has some of those left. He collected some in the RG 08 final:)

Now, it's your turn to go back to saying he was injured, and we will have a perfectly nice circular Fedal war going:)

Back to seriousness (not that all of the above wasnt serious, of course it was), antoinette, i have as much of a problem with implying one thing, as Pete did, as with implying the other, as you did. To me, that whole argument is simply rotten from its basis. About the tennis writers as a whole, i dont know. I let them say whatever they want. In the end, it doesnt really mean all that much, IMO.

Posted by Ggirl 02/09/2010 at 07:51 PM

Of course Rafa is in Federer's head. He's that hurdle that the media has put up as the one to really beat. However Rafa at number 1 has not even attained the consistency in even - "staving" off other players, let alone winning and establishing anything that resembles the dynasty Federer has. Don't get me wrong - I love Rafa but let's not discredit Federer - Yeah, I'm a RF fan first.

If I remember correctly, he was bounced out of US Open 08 by Murray in the semis - after the Olympics - while being the world's #1. Rafa was at the top of his game then.

Rafa also looked "like he could Win the thing" as John McEnroe said last year at the US Open 09 but he got straight owned - I mean, owned by Del Potro. That was painful to even watch.

Fast-forward to AO 2010 where he was "again" looking more on fire than anyone, he got completely deconstructed by Murray before unfortunately, being forced to retire injured.

Nadal at his greatest will still have hard trials getting to the finals to even face Federer so we can continue with the ongoing debate about trying to determine who's the best. Federer's already down in the history books and still full-steam ahead. He only needs Nadal to get that 'monkey off his back" that allows people to retain the GOAT preventing them from bestowing it upon him. Not discrediting Nadal at all but despite all the talk, Federer has stayed consistent more than any one else.

At Roland Garros last year, Federer wanted Nadal and mentioned he looked forward to Nadal being healthy.

Honestly, at this point, this is a new Federer and it didn't matter who was on the other side of that net at AO finals' or whether Murray played better; Federer was all about business the entire tournament and I do believe (not b/c I'm a fan) he would have found a way to beat anyone in that final, Del Potro, Nadal etc. I know Federer really wants Nadal this season in a final. Ideally to beat him at Roland Garros would be a sweet feat.
LOL but Federer has never backed down from wanting to play Nadal - I've seen him talk about wanting to play Nadal, again, particularly last year at RG and Wimby.

Federer has always made sure he made it to the finals of every slam to meet Nadal there... so let's see what happens. As always, I wish Rafa the best with his health and hope to see him back soon - but even Nadal knows, he's not truly the better all-around player than Federer.


Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!) 02/09/2010 at 07:57 PM

Mr, X, I do remember the Fed handing some bagels and breadsticks himself to Rafa on clay, HC, and grass...I believe that covers all surfaces, and is the same Rafa who has defended exactly zero titles off clay that Federer should be scared off?! The luckiest person during the Fed's mono/back debacle?! Rafa 'cos he would still only have clay GS and nothing off it...wait he hasn't won a title since when again?! I forget?! mwahahahahah

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 07:58 PM

fedfan: oh i know he's beaten him twice in a final. But fed hasn't beaten him in a slam final since 2007. I think rafa got into fed's head sometime in 2008 and won't be totally evicted until Fed beats him in another slam final. I'm hoping they will have that opportunity again. I love their matches.

Posted by Master Ace 02/09/2010 at 07:58 PM

"At the end of 2007 the h2h was 9-6 in favour of Nadal"

Antoinette,
The H2H was 8-6 Rafael at the end of 2007. Since then, Rafael won at 2008 Monte Carlo, 2008 Rome, 2008 French Open, 2008 Wimbledon, and 2009 Australian Open with Roger stopping the tide at 2009 Madrid, which Pete picked correctly before Madrid was played.

Posted by antoinette 02/09/2010 at 08:05 PM

@ MA

Thank you for the correction....I was too lazy to check the stats and was relying on memory!..lol, but your post makes it even more obvious that this h2h deserves a more nuanced analysis than thus far advanced.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 08:07 PM

sblily: is there room for me in there? I've got all of seinfeld on dvd. I bet we could get through all 9 seasons.

Posted by Mr. X 02/09/2010 at 08:10 PM

Beckham,
Do you really want me to say Nadal has not gone out of his way to win cheap tournaments, as Fed did during his slump, when he was all "sick"? Estoril, Estoril? Helloooooo...:)
Or that Fed probably hurt his oh-so-sensitive back making babies at some point between the AO SF when he was all gliding and all that nice stuff you keep saying, and the final when he ended up, well, sobbing like a poor kid whose mom wont allow him to go out to play?:)
IS it necessary?
Anyway, we could continue this for a long time, as the wars past and (probably) future prove, but i must go to work tomorrow and be an actual person, so it's time for me to get some sleep.
Yes, i'm fully aware you are gonna call me a chiken. Serves me right for getting into a war with a lawyer:)

See you tomorrow, everyone.

RING THE BELL!

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeee!!!/*hitting snooze until Rafa comes back*) 02/09/2010 at 08:14 PM

Annie - Of course!

Posted by ladyjulia 02/09/2010 at 08:16 PM

oh dear...Pete..isn't baiting against site rules?

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!) 02/09/2010 at 08:16 PM

Mr.X, youza chicken...*insert chicken clucking sounds here* off to watch the sound of music...

Posted by Texastennis 02/09/2010 at 08:17 PM

We need Mr Bodo to blog about something else. We already went through all this at very great length just last week...

Posted by ladyjulia 02/09/2010 at 08:20 PM

I don't think Rafa is in Roger's head..unless you mean that Roger has no solution to Rafa which is true. Which is true. Atleast on clay.

I think Mr. X said Rafa being the best "anti-Fed"..its true. Its a coincidence but Rafa is probably the best solution to discomfort Roger...on clay. And Roger is pretty consistent on clay as well....leading to a 2-9 H2H.

I don't have too many hopes on Roger leveling that H2H..Rafa has to reach more non-clay finals than Roger reaches clay finals for Roger to have chances to defeat Rafa. Till now its not happened consistently.

Still, these two have a long way to go..their careers have not ended. Let's watch how it plays out.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 08:21 PM

ladyjulia: ROFL, very good!!

Happy Birthday Angel! Sorry you're stuck at work but hope you haven't something fun planned for later.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 08:23 PM

Texastennis: i know. does pete even read what his colleagues post? I mean, there's no way we can go there again. I'm still shell-shocked from the last one.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Congrats Feli on Winning Jo'burg) 02/09/2010 at 08:23 PM

Beckham one of my favourite movies. I am currently watching a reality tv show about finding a new Maria for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Sorry for going OT but I thought we could do with a distraction.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 08:25 PM

What am I thinking?

Angel, hope you HAVE planned something fun...:)

Posted by ladyjulia 02/09/2010 at 08:27 PM

Happy birthday Angel!

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Congrats Feli on Winning Jo'burg) 02/09/2010 at 08:27 PM

Thanks Annie for the wishes. I am off to sister's tonight for dinner then out tomorrow with friends to see a play. I did celebrate on Saturday night with loads of friends and drank a little bit too much red wine.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 08:29 PM

Feli won a title? hey, vamos.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Congrats Feli on Winning Jo'burg) 02/09/2010 at 08:29 PM

It's ok Annie I knew what you meant. How is the job hunting going?

Posted by AmyLu 02/09/2010 at 08:33 PM

Just popping in to make a note of clarification about Rafa and his insoles. As far as I know, there's nothing new on the insole/foot front from Rafa. He's been wearing insoles since the beginning of 2006 (I think he may have gotten them at the end of 2005, but the first tournaments in which he played with them were 2006 as far as I know). Toni Nadal made comments to the Spanish press about Rafa's injuries in general (and talked about his foot and the need for him to wear insoles) and since he made those comments, I've noticed that some articles in English have been indicating that Rafa now has insoles. I think that's basically just been an error in translation, as I don't think Toni's quotes give any indication that anything has changed with Rafa's foot.

For those who understand Spanish, here's the one Spanish quote I've seen about Rafa's feet and insoles in the articles I've read on Rafa's injuries/recuperation period. Here's the link to the article http://tinyurl.com/yeqt4fx and here's the quote:

Parece que las lesiones se han convertido en un tema capital en torno al tenis del jugador de Manacor, "si vemos la carrera de Rafa, es cierto que ha habido algunos problemas, pero este es un deporte agresivo donde se juega muy rápido y donde es normal que haya lesiones", explica el técnico. "Por problemas en el pie, Rafa tiene que llevar unas plantillas que le cambian los apoyos. Pero además de eso nada más, nosotros estamos contentos de cómo nos han ido las cosas" añade.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 08:38 PM

AmyLu: thanks. I knew he had insoles too so i thought maybe toni meant new ones, better ones or whatever.

Angel, enjoy your ongoing celebration!

Posted by VC 02/09/2010 at 08:38 PM

Angel of the Surf : Happy Birthday!

Posted by just a note 02/09/2010 at 08:41 PM

I do hope Beckham and Mr. X are off planning the road trip schedule for their comedy routine; sorry we couldn't have a longer show tonight. ;))

Happy, Happy Birthday Angel!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwscb3QIVSg&feature=related

(I know it's for Dr. ML King but I love the happiness in it!)

Posted by Master Ace 02/09/2010 at 08:42 PM

Angel of the Surf,
Happy Birthday!

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeee!!!/*hitting snooze until Rafa comes back*) 02/09/2010 at 08:42 PM

Angel - Happy birthday. Hope it's fabulous!

Amy - Thx for that link. Embarrassing how closely I follow the status of the man's knees and feet (but yay for learning about anatomy through fandom, even if I wish it weren't my fave's travails providing the education!).

Posted by Master Ace 02/09/2010 at 08:45 PM

Amy Lu,
Good evening! How is Juan Jose? I remember him saying that Roger needed help to win another Slam. Well, Novak got sick against Jo-W(I picked Jo-W to make the SF before AO started) and Rafael lost to a determined Andy M. In the end, Roger defeated a "red hot" Nikolay and Andy M to win. What was/is Juan Jose's analysis?

Posted by AmyLu 02/09/2010 at 08:47 PM

Happy Birthday Angel! :) Hope you have fun celebrations planned!

Annie and sblily, I figured most Rafa fans knew about his insoles, but I've found the reports in the English press on it now to be somewhat confusing. I feel like he has enough current issues with his knees for me to worry about, without throwing in new foot problems! :)

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 08:49 PM

i think pete's timing on this piece was way too close to the last war over on Steve's blog. I mean, there's still smoke on the field of battle over there and the wounded are still moaning. Too soon to re-engage. whew!

Posted by thebigapple 02/09/2010 at 08:50 PM

What happens when the blogger tries to start a Fedal war?

Geez, Fed had mono and back worries and a pregnant wife with twins and so on. He is back looking more relaxed now his life is cleared up a bit. Nadal is ill but will also be back. What is the matter with you?

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 08:50 PM

Does everyone agree that Brookyn Decker Roddick is seriously gorgeous?

Posted by Rafafan 02/09/2010 at 08:50 PM

Pete, why don't you just stick to your strength of bragging endlessly on Federer? You suck (capital S) while even trying to write on Rafa, and your hate for the particular guy easily shows up.

Posted by AmyLu 02/09/2010 at 08:52 PM

Hi Master Ace -- JJ thinks Federer can get three to four more Slams without changing a thing -- just needs to avoid injury, which he's been pretty good at doing. JJ thinks Murray's only chance to win a GS Final against a "top" player is if he faces Djokovic. He thinks Djokovic at his best beats Murray, but he's not sure that Djokovic at his best is all that attainable any more.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Congrats Feli on Winning Jo'burg) 02/09/2010 at 08:54 PM

Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 08:55 PM

AmyLu: i was a little surprised pete was reporting the insole thing as news. I was also surprised that Brad Gilbert, who's usually on top of all the new info regarding the top guys, did not know rafa was playing with new strings. Did you catch the match where he was wondering why rafa's strings were a different color?

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Congrats Feli on Winning Jo'burg) 02/09/2010 at 08:56 PM

Annie - I think she has a nice beachy look IMO.

Posted by Master Ace 02/09/2010 at 09:04 PM

Amy Lu,
For JJ to say that about Novak means it is not good. Novak did well on Tour events but when it came to the Slams and YEC, he could not finish. I thought Novak was the best player on the tour after USO until Nikolay got hot. Also, surprised that JJ said that Roger can end his career with at least 19 Slams which would catch Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, and Helen Willis Moody. If he gets to 20, the race would be on for him to catch Steffi Graf-22 and Margaret Court-24. However, Steffi is the only player to win each of the major at least 4 times and for Roger to catch that, he would have to win the French 3 times starting in 2010.

Posted by CL 02/09/2010 at 09:10 PM

Aw Pete - I really I think everyone is tired of the Fedal wars...you just may not get as much of a rise from this little bait dangling. Maybe you should move on to the MuzzEnt wars of the future?

You say potato/I say poTATo. You say Rafa lodges in Fed's head/I say he mostly lodges in Fed's backhand. Bad match up for Fed, ya know? Just like the Ent is a bad match up for Rafa. But, whatever. Thanks for playing.

Posted by AmyLu 02/09/2010 at 09:10 PM

Annie, yes, I did catch that match. And it made me laugh.

Master Ace, yeah Djokovic has definitely had problems in the big tournaments recently. To say that neither one of us has exactly been overjoyed with the start of the tennis season would be an understatement. :)

Posted by Master Ace 02/09/2010 at 09:14 PM

Amy Lu,
Still got 3 Slams and 9 Masters to make a statement for 2010. Do JJ think Roger and/or Rafael will catch/or surpass Andre's 17 Masters Shields this year?

Posted by thebigapple 02/09/2010 at 09:17 PM

Lodging in Fed's backhand, lol!! ...Good one CL. It is such a beautiful backhand, Rafa must like it there. A high end Swiss chalet.

Posted by thebigapple 02/09/2010 at 09:21 PM

Decker is pretty in a cliche kind of way. No mystery, depth, texture to her.

Posted by CL 02/09/2010 at 09:23 PM

The real question, IMO, is of course, the state of Rafa's knees. and yeah, even I knew about the foot/insole thing...long before this...and I don't even get paid to blog about tennis... Tsk,


It seems to me that if Rafa is fully healthy by the clay court season...and has had decent results throughout IW and Miami to regain some confidence and "colm," we are pretty much back to square one. He is a young and a ferociously talented competitor. Game on. If he DOESN'T regain full health and/or confidence, then we may well have a new game.

Posted by Tim (Year of Aussie Rogie ) 02/09/2010 at 09:36 PM

Fedal wars? where? Fed has won 3 of the last 4 Slams, has 16 overall, shattered every record, and sits atop the history of the game, bar none...THIS is non negotiable...

Rafa cant beat Del Po, Murray or Soderling or basically any of the top 10 in basically a year..the fact that he matches up perfectly with Federer on court is historyical fate, or Federer would have shut down the sport long ago... bu tlets be clear, players Nadal loses to regularly are still dominated by Fed...lets not forget, Soferling and Murray DOMINATED Nadal, and then, Fed dominated THEM in the final...

Posted by Lauren 02/09/2010 at 09:37 PM

Wow, another unoriginal take on the Fedal rivalry. Blah blah H2H, psychological games, injuries, hypotheticals and what-ifs ... didn't we go through the same shenanigans like a week ago?

Nice job trying to bait the Federer fans with the "real or imagined asterisk" comment but Nadal competed and lost in RG09 and Federer didn't. Simple as that. All we can do is hope that all the top players are healthy enough to make the clay court season interesting and maybe find something better to do before IW than rehash the same old stats and shallow analysis and fan baiting. Save it for Wimbledon at least.

Posted by Tim (Year of Aussie Rogie ) 02/09/2010 at 09:45 PM

its also funny to me how Nadal can lose for bascially 8 months, but if he say wins Monte Carlo this spring, Pete and everyone here is gonna be back on the Nadal bandwagon, in an nonosecond..Fed can win 3 Slams but if Nadal wins ONE clay event, suddenly, its GAME ON! I still dont get how a 16 to 6 Slam title comparison seems to make zero difference to tlaking heads desperate to stir the pot...

I will say Pete is a genius at making the most lopsided stats seems dramatic and letting Nadal off a hook he snags Federer with again and again and again....

Posted by antoinette 02/09/2010 at 09:48 PM

As my daughter would say this post is an epic fail.

I think it is enough now, I will take a break from this site, the european (barring GB) sports journalists provide much better insight I think I will stick to L'equipe and Tazes Anzinger, even Marca!. It is no wonder that Federer saves his more indepth interviews for these kind of outlets.( he also speaks candidly with C Clarey of the NYT)....apples to oranges

Posted by Tim (Year of Aussie Rogie ) 02/09/2010 at 09:52 PM

seems to me NADAL went into RG with another massive clay court season under his belt, BIG titles, epics victories, and somehow, his losses then are excused, CAN YOU imagine if Federer lost on GRASS to a Soderling type? Nadal hasnt beaten Fed, Djoker, Murray, Cilic, Davydenko for almost a year, if he's on par with Fed, I can only imagine the uproar if FED was on such a losing streak...the endless double standards will continue if Fed gets to 20 Slams...

Posted by CL 02/09/2010 at 10:03 PM

Er Tim - I didn't say ONE clay event..I said a fully fit Rafa for the clay season and yes then the game will be ON...which doesn't mean, of course, that EITHER Rafa or Fed will emerge as winners.

Posted by Juan José 02/09/2010 at 10:03 PM


Hey Master Ace,

I think both Nadal and Jacket can tie and/or overtake Agassi in MS titles this year, and I would bet the house on both doing it eventually. Which is no small feat.

I know this is sacrilegious for a tennis fan to say, but in the past few years I've been gravitating more towards the Master Series instead of the Slams. There's something about those loaded draws, the simplicity of having everything over in a week (IW and Miami have been falling out of favor, too), and the sudden-death feel of best of three tennis. I do wish finals were best of 5, though.

Posted by CL 02/09/2010 at 10:05 PM

Juan Jose - in a somewhat a** backwards way, I agree with you about the MSs vs. the Slams. Seems that the pendulum of importance has swung too heavily to the Slams.

Posted by Sherlock 02/09/2010 at 10:06 PM

Tim, I love how you use any opportunity to beat the hell out of Nadal. As much as you give Pete crap, you also need to find a new angle, my friend.

Posted by Carol (Nadal the greatest) 02/09/2010 at 10:11 PM

Tim, how often do you think Nadal can be beaten on clay if he is healthy?

Posted by VC 02/09/2010 at 10:14 PM

I think the ATP need to add a grass MS to add balance to the ATP 1000 calendar. And one of the medium to slower HC events need to be replaced by a really quick surface. Shanghai last year was too slow for my liking.

Posted by evie 02/09/2010 at 10:21 PM

I think it's odd how you constantly invoke these hypotheticals that seem to do nothing but incite wars, sometimes bitter ones. Just recently, it was the whole, "Well, Borg and Connors never TRIED to play AO, so all of Fed's titles there count for less." Now it's, "Well, if Nadal had been healthy..."

You clearly enjoy inciting a crowd.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Congrats Feli on Winning Jo'burg) 02/09/2010 at 10:21 PM

Just seen that Crazy Bird and Triple P are playing dubs together, oh what a lovely pairing they make. Two pairs of beautiful blue eyes. Much more interesting than Fedal Wars.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 10:23 PM

It seems to me ALL of Fed's losses at the beginning of the year have been "excused." His loss to Benneteau in Paris was pretty "soderlingesque."

Posted by Fedfan 02/09/2010 at 10:30 PM

You know what Fed should do to improve his h2h against Nadal?

A. He should make sure that he and Nadal NEVER play again on clay. If he gets within one round of facing Nadal: TANK! Maybe he should have done that in 2008 when Nadal handed him 3 claycourt losses including that humiliating one at the French.

B. Make sure Nadal plays him in hardcourt events held later in the season. Not sure how he can force Nadal to play well enough to face him, but I'm sure he could find a way.

Posted by CL 02/09/2010 at 10:32 PM

Annie - Indeed it was...but you do know that isn't the point here? The point is...oh well, never mind...if I say what I think the point is, I am just going to get in trouble. But IMO, its not about Fed OR Rafa wins OR losses in any meaningful way.

g-night all.

Posted by Tim (Year of Aussie Rogie ) 02/09/2010 at 10:35 PM

IM resonding to Pete's endless 'rafa is in fed's head' malarkey, i mean havent we haerd enogh of this garbage? how many Slams does Fed need to win, how many naysayers does he need to prove wrong, before we can end this stupidity??

exactly, Fedfan, exactly... this isnt about Nadal, who would never make these arguments for himself, it just amazes me that a day after a mea culpa from jouros, Pete comes up with this all over again, 'hey , he's FREE now, Nadal is losing, no WONDER he's winning!' funny how he beats every player Rafa loses too, with interest...

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 02/09/2010 at 10:36 PM

JJ @ 10:03--feel the same way re MS...pretty sure Ruth will be smiling and nodding her head as she reads your post:)

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 02/09/2010 at 10:36 PM

I enjoy the Masters Series tourneys almost as much as the slams, maybe more. Agree with JJ that the excellent draws and back to back matches make for great match ups. And MS demand a much more consistently high level of play in order to rack them up in the big numbers. It says more about the player than a possible hot couple of weeks necessary to bag a slam.

Posted by thebigapple 02/09/2010 at 10:37 PM

Anne, Fed seems to fare better in the slams or as he ages he gears mostly for the bigger events. For the last few years his perforamnce at the regular events have been dismal - he is even losing at Basel. In a little while he will start struggling at slams as well. His fans are just enjoying what we can while our 28 year old carries on. Nadal is 5 years younger and should have many more years if he is able to keep healthy. I did not see Benneteau beating Fed at a major, and he might not for a while yet. But we know the semifinal streak will die maybe to some "hot" young player.

Posted by Tim (Year of Aussie Rogie ) 02/09/2010 at 10:37 PM

in Rafa's OWN words, he was fully healthy all fall, and fully healthy in Australia until his tweak being down 2 sets to love and a break... he still lost to Dabydenko twice, Djoker, Cilic, Sod, and Murray... I can only imagine the funereal march if Fed had similar results without a Channel Slam to fall back on...

Posted by Master Ace 02/09/2010 at 10:39 PM

CL and Juan Jose,
Agree about the Masters Series. All players, except top 8 or 16 depending on the tournament, have to win 6 matches in 7 days. Final does need to be a best of 5.

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