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The Radical Conventional 09/15/2010 - 12:33 PM

104068554 by Pete Bodo

Mornin'. I'm coming off eight hours sleep for the first time in weeks, so watch out, keyboard! Ha. Seriously, though, a regular night's sleep in the cool, tangy country air is tonic for the soul and mind. And I find it helps me think clearly and maybe get a little further under the skin of things, including the huge achievement of Rafael Nadal.

The problem for me on the night of the U.S. Open men's singles final was having to choose between writing a "gamer" (a story emphasizing the match play and its attendant details) or a "reaction" piece analyzing the big picture meaning of the match, and how Rafa managed to complete a career Grand Slam. I felt appropriately torn. Whichever I chose, I had to ignore some tantalizing issues. But as journalists have been said to be the authors of "the first draft of history," I thought I ought to go with the Big Picture piece. Besides, you all saw the match—you didn't need my eyes to tell you what just happened.

It's a pity, in a way, because I am still trying to figure out how to explain why this final seems likely to lodge in my mind as one of the best tennis matches I've ever seen; it's right up there, as of now, somewhere in the top half-dozen. That's because I've rarely seen so compelling a display of the pure, shotmaking sensibility that Novak Djokovic brought to the court, nor the gale-force power, consistency, and athleticism of Nadal. And while Novak hit the most glorious winners, one of my match notes says I've never seen anyone hit a tennis ball as persuasively as Rafa Nadal.

Roger Federer (don't ever expect me to write about Rafa without Roger's name lurking eight or 11 characters distant) routinely produces magical shots, and he's been as close to an embodiment of quicksilver as anyone who ever played this game. But nobody, including Federer, swings the racket (at least on the forehand side) with the unique combination of raw, explosive power and absolute control as Nadal. Every decent player can do this now and then—time the arrival of a ball and generate adequate racquet-head speed and force to hit the most punishing shot of which he is capable. But nobody can do it as routinely, and make it so intrinsic a part of his game plan, as Nadal.

The sheer brutality of a typical Nadal forehand is a quality that attracts some and repels others. Those who are put off by it might appreciate the gladitorial splendor a bit more if they also acknowledged that to belt a ball with such force requires enormous natural power (is there a better one word description of the essence of life in all its forms than "power"?), applied in a very different way than, say, crushing the skull of a sabertooth tiger with a rock. To hit a tennis shot the way Nadal does repeatedly also demands exquisite timing, body control, and an astonishing degree of discipline and self-assurance—the latter being qualities we generally hold in the highest regard. Each swing of that piledriving forehand basically shouts, "I was born to do this."

Nadal's self-assurance—or should I say, the self-assurance expressed in the shots he hits and the way he hits them—is a radiant, somehow soothing thing to behold. Whatever else you say about it, the only thing you know for sure is that he can't possibly do that thing he's doing any better. It's a fully-realized idea. Don't you wonder how it feels to Nadal himself to hit that shot, a jolt of satisfaction that can only be blunted by the startling frequency with which he must experience it?  Most of us get to experience that feeling now and then, but rarely in an undertaking involving ball and racket, and never with such frequency.

I don't think you can appreciate what Nadal brings to the table without backtracking to his early days on the ATP tour, or without contemplating the sometimes fierce disdain some have for Nadal. Think of it this way: If you look out your window and see your neighbor walking to the bus station on his hands, you're likely to jump up and shout: Kids, come quick, Kowalski is walking to the bus upside down! But see it repeatedly, and by the third week you're likely to just glance up and mutter, Look at that silly Kowalski, those socks don't even match his shoes!

That's how it is with Rafa; he's turned the radical into the conventional. To say he plays "ugly" tennis has evolved from an aesthetic and already somewhat irrelevant observation into an astonishing declaration of ignorance. A bitter fan of one of his rivals can cling to it; any port in storm and all that. But the reality as I see it is that Nadal figured out a new way to accomplish the paramount goal in tennis, or any game: to win.

The more important truth is that Nadal plays "successful" tennis, and that matters. It's why they keep score, and also why we can appreciate beautiful tennis as well. I don't think you would sell many tickets to a tennis match if it were just a demonsration, like dance, even if the star were as gifted and eye-pleasing a player as Federer. And if you still haven't gotten over that that "ugly tennis" hump, just try to appreciate that a player who hits his forehand like David Ferrer—in other words, a wonderful, effective, even pretty forehand—can only aspire to be as good as Ferrer, which is danged good, but nowhere near as good as is Nadal.

I don't know that Nadal will transform tennis, re-making it in something like his own image the way the trinity of Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert and Bjorn Borg did when they showed up at roughly the same time with their two-handed backhands—the repercussions of which are still being felt. That's a big ask, because what Nadal does calls for a potent combination of superior, natural and learned abilities not easily distinguished from each other. Nadal may not transform the way the game is played, but there's no doubt in my mind that Nadal is essentially a transformational character, pointing the way toward a place that perhaps nobody else can reach.


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Posted by lightforce 09/15/2010 at 12:36 PM

FIRST !
I was longing to do that

Posted by lightforce 09/15/2010 at 12:40 PM

Although I am late for the celebration (just transfered to a new place), here's a toast to Rafa and all his fans around the world !!!

Vamos Rafa !!!

Posted by Ross (FOE) 09/15/2010 at 01:13 PM

Crushing the skull of a saber-tooth tiger with a rock is damn impressive too. :)

Posted by TeamNadal 09/15/2010 at 01:14 PM

A M A Z I N G to have been able to witness H I S T O R Y......VAMOS BABY!!!!!! KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by skip1515 09/15/2010 at 01:43 PM

I believe all you said is true, Pete. What's more, I believe Nadal's genius includes the fact that he did all you say at the beginning of his career – when standing 12' behind the baseline was his MO – and has divined a way to do that on faster courts that don't let him "lengthen" the court for his violent forehands, too.

You could make the argument that with his wonderfully excessive topspin Nadal is better off 12'behind the baseline; it gives him free reign to swing as hard as he wants, insuring that his spin has enough time in which to take effect and prevent the shot from going long. But to do that from a hard court position, closer in, is truly amazing.

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 01:48 PM

He picks his butt an awful lot, clearly an attempt to cheat by distracting his opponents.

Posted by kroigton 09/15/2010 at 01:49 PM

Nice post Pete. Here some words from uncle Toni:

Amid the celebration, Toni Nadal was asked where his nephew stands in the tennis pantheon.

"The best of all time Federer, Borg, Laver. They're the best. Rafael is very far away from those guys. Rafael is a good player. I think he's a very good player," Uncle Toni said. "But I don't know if he's part of that group."

Could he be, one day?

"I don't know," came the reply. "Ask me in five or six years, and maybe I can say."

By then -- if not sooner -- maybe the rest of the world can, too.


Posted by marieJ 09/15/2010 at 01:53 PM

quoting : but there's no doublt in my mind that Nadal as essentially a transformational character, pointing the way toward a place that perhaps nobody else can reach.

hi pete, nadal like so many other players of the RF era as been overshadowed by the artfull, effortless, smooth technique of the swiss. watching tennis through fed lenses has changed the perspective of the way tennis has been watched before him.

if federer plays in a unique way, close to perfect circa 2006/07, there is no doubt in my mind that rafa has played an equaly unique game of his own. that's why both are special and have become legends of the game. It's not given to play unique and be successfull.

the only difference in my mind, is that fed needed time to use all his tools he was gifted, rafa needed time to construct them.
and rafa had one of the most underrated qualities :he was gifted to learn, experiment, be patient, and go back to the begining if necessary. you need to be very smart and modest to do that. of course in that process, his uncle is the pivotal piece of who he's on a tennis court.
in a recent interview to el pais they reveal how they try new things (serve)or go back to old things, and they say that you don't win in every department, you win some, but you lose some too, let's hope your web translator works fine, i'm just givin the link not the translation here ;)

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/deportes/laboratorio/genio/elpepidep/20100915elpepidep_4/Tes

the hardest part of playing nadal, it's that he doesn't play like the others, even the other lefties don't play like him. Everyone has to adjust or not, depends what are the other guys strengh.

Djokovic has enough game to adjust minimal things, every player with 2HBH has less things to adjust than others, imo.
i though djoko played a hell of a match considering he came a little short even with another day of rest.

Posted by TeamNadal 09/15/2010 at 01:54 PM

Kombo and company.....hope this works, if not I need to find something more industrial strength:

http://i55.tinypic.com/19unok.jpg

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 01:55 PM

He's cheating by winning too much, that sneaky bastard.

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 02:05 PM

No way I'm clicking on that link TeamNadal.

On a serious note, I'm glad we all now admit that Rafa is a power player? He uses his weight of shot to control points without necessarily taking much risk. Most of the time, it's like seeing two kids fight, but one's swinging a hammer and the other has a pencil.

Posted by marieJ 09/15/2010 at 02:23 PM

kombo i don't mind if he picks his butt and if it's not very elegant as far as he can kick his oponent butt too ;)
btw, i agree it's not pretty but, there are worst things you can do on a tennis court that other players do :
- berate to the umpires, lines judges
- yell to the ball kids
- get pissed at the ball kids not running to get the towell, balls, whatever

far more unelegant in my book, if you don't know how to conduct yourself with others.

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 02:41 PM

Roddick's behaviour (not so much the crotch and shirt tugging tics, but the 'tude) is worse, clearly. There are worse thing one could do on a tennis court, the worst of which is losing.

Posted by TeamNadal 09/15/2010 at 02:44 PM

Regarding Roddick, his on court behavior makes my skin crawl...

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 02:45 PM

Pete, great piece!

"To say he plays "ugly" tennis has evolved from an aesthetic and already somewhat irrelevant observation into an astonishing declaration of ignorance."
Well said! Anyway, astonishing only in those who follow tennis. I can understand it (and often find it) in the casual spectator (the people from the real life you encounter daily). I don't know if you people share this experience of mine, but I'm afraid many of you do: it's extremely difficult to transmit the falsehood of that meme to the random real-life person. First, because beauty is supposed to be subjective ("in the eye of the beholder"), so from start there seems to be nothing provable. This often prevents you from even starting into the discussion. And then, because in order to appreciate the incredible beauty and miracle of nature in Nadal's shots, you have to have some sensibility to it, and not everybody has it. Or has the patience to try and learn. So sadly I now give up most of the time.

"I don't know that Nadal will transform tennis."
I agree. To play the way Rafa plays, you have to have some very special natural talent --not just brute force, but an incredible eye-body coordination, etc. The proof that it is not true that Rafa has just less talent and more physicality is (will be) that nobody else can play like that, even if they try to imitate him. That's why he is one of a kind, and that's also why he won't transform tennis (I think).

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 03:04 PM

marieJ, nice post and also a very interesting link, thanks!

Posted by CPM 09/15/2010 at 03:05 PM

To your last paragraph, Pete, Rog & Rafa both strike me as sui generis players -- weird & wonderful anomalies in the gradual development of tennis. A bit too soon to say, but I wonder if Del Potro won't be anomalous in his own way, too: the giant who can actually move.

If any player looks like the future of men's tennis (in the sense of being a kind of pattern that will be followed in the coming years), it's Novak. Once his serve is 100% back, I think he'll look like the culmination of power-baseline tennis: great athleticism, high shot tolerance, excellent RoS & passing shots, and wow-inducing baseline winners.

Posted by Andrew 09/15/2010 at 03:26 PM

Pete: one thing that will, I think, always be true is that Nadal and Federer have become intertwined, and it is now almost impossible to talk of one without invoking the other, at least in shadow. But I think it is very, very interesting to think about what Nadal's influence on the game will be 10 or 20 years from now. And a player I have in mind is... John McEnroe.

Well, I'll wait for people to pick themselves off the floor for a second. OK, they're both lefties. But the brash American vs the gentlemanly, shy Mallorcan? The best clay courter of his era vs Mr serve/volley? What gives, Andrew? Have post-surgery drugs completely addled your brain?

I don't think so, and here's why. A year and a half ago, at Indian Wells, I spent some time talking about Nadal with Cynthia Gorney, who went on to write a very interesting article in the NY Times magazine. And one thing I put to Cynthia (who I don't think used this in her article) is that Nadal is sui generis, a thing of himself.

Pete writes above about Nadal's forehand - measured by John Yandell as the heaviest shot in tennis, with the greatest amount of spin. This FH is literally unique - some players use bolo FHs for passing shots, but no-one else in the ATP or WTA has attempted to use this shot, copy it, or master it on a regular basis. If anyone out there is scouting juniors, and thinks there's a set of Nadal clones coming through, let me know.

One thing that makes this FH not just amazing, but also almost supernatural, is that Nadal is naturally right handed but is hitting this shot one handed with his "other" hand. The wiring in the guy's head, to hit with this immense combination of power, spin, control and accuracy must be just insane.

Now add in the right hand, which helps to give the 2H BH so much power and pop. Several years ago, Federer said something about playing Nadal on clay which I think has been overlooked - that being a natural RH player, Nadal could hit shots with power from both wings with an open stance, and this meant he had to cover a bit less court than Federer did.

That doesn't exhaust the set of attributes which have made Nadal such a great tennis player - his desire to improve, his athleticism, his competitive fire, his tactical and strategic intelligence, the way he's the best bouncing ball player at the net in the mens' game (not the best volleyer, though). But (in my view) others can duplicate, or even better, some of those traits, singly (or even in the future as a package). Gael Monfils is a better pure athlete, I think. Murray's quite a bright chap strategically, and so on.

But put those traits together with the unique way that Nadal plays the game, and I think you have a player who just can't be duplicated. And that's why I raise John McEnroe, in terms of the influence Nadal will have on the way the game is played twenty years from now.

McEnroe's greatest influence on the way the modern game is played is paradoxically through the rule book - code violations, umpire/referee cooperation. In terms of actual tennis play, just about no-one plays the way John McEnroe did. Not just in terms of serve-volley - the actual shots McEnroe played, the grip he used for groundstrokes, and the bunted volleys, and the corkscrew serve. Many people enjoyed watching John McEnroe play, but it's hard to think of anyone who went on to play the way McEnroe did. He was a one-off. In contrast, you can see Connors', or Borg's, or Lendl's legacy throughout today's ATP.

If I can briefly mention Federer, his game comes across as late Australian updated for the power baseline era. The 1H BH, and commitment to attack the net and finish the point on your own terms, are rarities in today's ATP, but not entirely vanished. I can imagine strong juniors wanting to try to emulate the way Federer plays. I know for a fact that there are an enormous number of very strong juniors lost in admiration for the way Nadal plays, but very few of them will bring forth a game that his his unique stamp. It's hard for me to think of another sportsman whose game is so formidable, and so far beyond the reach of anyone else.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/15/2010 at 03:29 PM

mariej - "the only difference in my mind, is that fed needed time to use all his tools he was gifted, rafa needed time to construct them." - wow. The best, most concise and elegant framing of Federer and Nadal's respective gifts I've seen. Well said mariej. You've put Bodo and Tignor to shame. :)

Posted by tony m from north cali 09/15/2010 at 03:33 PM

Pete, great blog. To compare Rafa & Roger, I will use a football analogy. Fed's play is similar to a West Coast style offense where he surgically dissects his opponents. Fed is pretty to watch and precise like a Swiss watch in his shotmaking. Rafa, on the other comes from the old school NFL, like the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, NY Giants, & Washington Redskins, his tennis style is smash mouth football. Let's put the football helmet on and tighten up the chin strap because he's coming right at you.

Rafa is relentless and never gives an opponent a second to breathe as was the case in the final against Novak. Novak played Rafa on even terms from the backcourt. Yet when Novak slightly tried to catch his breath, Nadal sensed the moment and seized control. Rafa's intensity and force just comes through like a gale force hurricane. His laser focused concentration is unequaled right now.

Look at Djokovic's semi-finals win over Fed, Novak rolled him in the 2nd and 4th sets, 6-1 & 6-2 respectively, after losing 7-5 sets. It was as if Fed thought that Novak would roll over and go away, so his concentration wavered and Novak came storming back. Fed didn't go for the kill.

Rafa would never think that an opponent would go away in a match. He never takes a point off let alone a set. And to think he feels he has areas to improve on has to frighten the rest of his opponents. Only time will tell where Rafa ends up in history.

Posted by RP 09/15/2010 at 03:36 PM

According to me Fed and Nadal have totally different forehands and cannot be compared. Fed uses it more to end a point kind of quick strike weapon. while Nadal uses his forehand to methodically break down the opponent and gain control of the rally and either force an error or make an easy winner to end the point. Though i agree that he has used it more offensively to end the point as well especially the cross court forehand(inside out) from his backhand side is an absolute killer of a shot.
I would call Nadal's forehand the most consistent high quality shot in the game today. The great thing about it is not just topspin,most of the top players can hit with the same topspin on occasion but the secret is to keep hitting it consistently shot after shot. That is what wears the opponent down at the same time the placement of those shots is so perfect that it invariably pulls the opponent off court or in a bad court position in a rally. That is the genius of Nadal.
But for a powerful point ending forehand strike from anywhere in court, i would take Federer's forehand any day. Just watch some of his matches during 2004-2006. Amazing power and control.

Posted by Kate 09/15/2010 at 03:53 PM

TeamNadal: May I please order a case of Troll Spray? Industrial Strength?

Posted by CL 09/15/2010 at 03:57 PM

***whistles****

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 03:59 PM

Pete. Many thanks a great insightful post

Skip Great minds indeed.My thoughts exactly especially on a hard court too.

Though another factor was Rafa's serve and how he picked his spots thoughtout this tournament.

Which indeed served him well right up till the final.Mind the pun please.

Rafa your continual improvement on your serve over the years has fared you well.

Still I keep going back to this thoughts

"I dont go to practice I go to learn something"

Rafa completing your Career Slam at the age of 24 yes you have indeed been learning.

Well Done!

Posted by TeamNadal 09/15/2010 at 04:00 PM

Kate, it's on back-order....apparently it's a big seller :)

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 04:07 PM

Aesthetics aren't irrelevant Pete, they are secondary to success, but they still are important and relevant. IIn sport, the competitors' objective is to win. But we are not the competitors (try as much as some may to live vicariously through their faves), we are the audience and we watch to be entertained. There simply is no entertainment without aesthetics. Even trends that try to be anti-aesthetic (Jackass, Adult Swim, for example) become an aesthetic of their own. Different styles appeal to different people, for personal and social reasons. Simply winning isn't what draws the vast majority of us to tennis or any sport for that matter. It's a clear objective that focuses our effort if playing and intensifies our experiences when watching, but it's not the only relevant thing. I enjoy watching a lot of guys who don't win a whole lot, but I can't stand Monfils, he's awful.

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 04:08 PM

Andrew, great post! I think Federer phrased it saying that it was like playing against someone with two forehands.

Posted by Benny 09/15/2010 at 04:09 PM

What makes Nadal so tough in a match is that once he's zoned in and comfortable, it seem's as though he can go for 45-60 minutes without an error. Two large occassions I recall this were of course in the 3rd set with Djokovic and in the 2008 FO against Roger. I can only imagine how mentally challenging it is for the opponent when you have to hit winner after winner to earn a point, and you must ask yourself how long can i keep this up?

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 04:17 PM

I have said many times Rafa's mind is like a "steel trap"

I was in awe of Borgs mind

To me Rafa has a even bigger one.

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 04:17 PM

Kombo, you are a professional of aesthetics. I am very interested in your opinion. Is Rafa's game ugly to you, or you find it beautiful? And do you think 100% that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or there is something objective about it? Thanks.

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 04:19 PM

AM, nice to find you over here. Hyperspace? ;-)

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 04:20 PM

btw, I loved your reference to the minions right on the home page! :D

Posted by ks 09/15/2010 at 04:20 PM

Andrew, that was a good point (and post) about the uniqueness of Nadal's game.

Federer did mention once that playing Nadal is like playing someone with two forehands. In the modern game, the double handed backhand, generally speaking has proven to be more of a consistent shot over the single handed backhand. Moreover, in Nadal's case, it provides him with an added advantage as he is a natural right hander.

The passing shots that he routinely comes up with from defensive positions time and again is simply brilliant. Backing someone into this kind of a defensive situation would be a high percentage play for a player coming to the net, but not against Nadal. He is able to hit passing shots with an open stance when stretched wide and low on his backhand side. His game does require him to be physically fit, but hitting those kind of shots also require a great amount of skill.

Posted by lior 09/15/2010 at 04:22 PM

pete, i love your writing, but more than that your insights.
they always make me say to my self - thats right!
but there is something i got to know, and i know you get that all the time.
who to your opinion is the better player? you know who i'm tlking about..
i must know!

Posted by lilscot 09/15/2010 at 04:22 PM

TMF: 3:29 p.m.

What mariej said! Never saw anyone put it quite like that before and it immediately made sense the second I read it. Thanks mariej! :)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 04:22 PM

Kwaku LOL!

Posted by temes 09/15/2010 at 04:25 PM

Rafa's game is beautiful in the same sense that a rusty flower pot is in a garden. :)

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 04:28 PM

temes, but can you prove it? ;)

Posted by gabriela valentina 09/15/2010 at 04:29 PM

interesting post Pete and worthy of considered commentary and I see that you have already received some of the finest!
A lot of noteworthy stuff written by my fellow posters but 2 posts with which I especially agreed , while admiring their elegance and clarity. Mariej's piece and ANDREW's!!

They made between them some original observations, but essentially they both came to the conclusion that only Nadal will ever be able to play like Nadal. MarieJ wrapped up the Federer/ Nadal story in a perfect little package and ANDREW drew a an illustrative,thought provoking parallel for us ...Mac and Rafa !!

@ Pete...

"To say he plays "ugly" tennis has evolved from an aesthetic and already somewhat irrelevant observation into an astonishing declaration of ignorance."

That statement struck me as surprising coming from you. I have always been willing to believe that some people just need to put their thumbs into the wounds and even their whole fists before allowing the evidence to convince them. "Aaaah" I said to myself. "It has taken time but he has finally come around to believing what has been startlingly clear to a lot of people for some time now."

However....if one reads the sentence quoted above within the context of the entire article, it is apparent that you really haven't moved very far from your state of confusion on where you stand with respect to Nadal. You no longer hold truck with the ignoramusses(the ignoramii???) who hold out for the "UGLY tennis" theme but you have yet to openly admit that he plays beautiful tennis. "Powerful" tennis?.. Sorry,Pete. That's just a more politic version of the "caveman' tennis label so often pasted on his game. "Successful" tennis? That's a bit better but it still sounds as if you have been brought round kicking and screaming. Somewhere inside you you still begrudge this boy( or wolf cub or noble savage) his due.

I absolutely loved Kowalski amd his mismatching socks and shoes. I totally agree with the Federer/ Nadal symbiosis. I enjoyed the read and thought you were spot on in many of your observations and analysis of the BIG PICTURE..

BTW, I wouldn't have minded a blow by blow account of the match either. Yes, most of us saw it with our own eyes but you were ringside and everyone takes away something different.No one sees the same match! An eyewitness account from your facile keyboard would have broadened our own experience!!

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 04:33 PM

gv, I wrote you a post in the previous thread, at 3:48 PM.

Posted by Kenny Ching 09/15/2010 at 04:34 PM

Come on, NOBODY has ever hit a forehand better than Federer. Especially the Fed of 2004-2006. I am not a Fed fan. But nobody has ever combined grace and brutality in a single shot like Federer did with his forehand.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_lN3AhmKqo&feature=related

just look at these!

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 04:36 PM

gv, great post! This page seems to contain quite a good number of them...

Posted by temes 09/15/2010 at 04:45 PM

Kwaku, not sure I understand the question. A rusty flower pot is not quite how it should be, though many find it beautiful and it still does it job, sometimes even better than a clean one. Though it's not for everyone's tastes. lol

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 04:47 PM

temes, the answer was more intelligent than the question, lol! Well said.

Posted by Ruth 09/15/2010 at 04:48 PM

I realize that my opinion or judgment re: tennis may be suspect or dismissed because I have never been one of those millions :) who consider that famous Fedal Wimbledon match to be one of the best (or the best) match ever played. Nevertheless, allow me to add my voice to Pete's and say, simply, that the Rafa-Nole final is one of the 5 or 6 best matches that I have seen in my 40+ years of closely following professional tennis. Period.

Posted by Moshi 09/15/2010 at 04:55 PM

It took more than 20 years for someone (Sampras) to beat Borg's record for most Grand Slams. It took about 7 years for someone else (federer) to beat that record. Now Nadal is chasing the all-time record. Is it just me or is there a trend going on. Who will be next after Rafa?

Congrats to Rafa for the career GS. He absolutely deserved it the way he changed his game. The difference between Rafa and everybody else on tour is the mentality. Its something Roger use to have.

Posted by temes 09/15/2010 at 05:01 PM

There's gotta be a lull after if Nadal beats Fed's Slam record with no other chasing it for a long time...otherwise these guys are just making fun of it!

Posted by pschwarztennis 09/15/2010 at 05:04 PM

Hey Andrew, thanks for putting that into words. Good comment. I think that's a fundamental reason why Johnnie Mac can go on at the age he does ... there's no souped up, improved version of the 1980 model running around, whereas there are many new and improved versions of Ivan Lendl, for example.

Not to get all deep on everyone here, but we are not the future judge of what is important, useful or lasting about what we do. We can't dictate that.

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 05:05 PM

Kwaku - Beauty is in the eye of the observer. However trends and memes exist and certain ideas of what is beautiful become the norm and can appear objective.

I respect Nadal's success, but I don't find his game beautiful, there are lesser players I enjoy watching more, but to call his game ugly would be unfair. I gravitate most naturally to players who play more aggressively and with less margin (call me a romantic if you will). I remember watching some matches a couple of years ago where Nadal hit like a dozen forehands cross-court, and it felt like a very bleak exercise to me.

The most fun I've had watching Tennis was Fed 2004-2007, Fed vs Nalbie WTF 2005, and Delpo 2009 USO. Philosophically I believe ideal offense beats the ideal defense, and this is why Murray for all his lauded tennis acumen, doesn't really get it imho. This is the main reason why Rafa 2.0 easily beats Rafa 1.0. That old defensive mindset was a big turn off for me, made worse by the frustrating fact he was fast, strong, and determined enough to get away with it, knees be damned. It may be petty, but I don't like the butt-picking, huge racquet and the seven-sided string stuff either. *shrug* The guy wins.

Posted by Ethan 09/15/2010 at 05:07 PM

Nadal's forehand is not just brutally hit and consistently heavy and accurate, it kicks up shoulder height for most players. To really appreciate how tiring this can be for an opponent, go out and hit 15-20 balls in a row coming at you at similar height and velocity. It's literally like punching a bag and it wears you down very quickly.

There was an absolutely shattering rally in the 4th set where the two players slugged each other from sideline to sideline for over 20 shots and you could literally hear Djokovic gasping for oxygen and yelping before he finally "closed his eyes and hit a winner" to end the point.

As both players sucked in the air, Nadal turned quickly and got the balls ready to serve. Even though he looked spent, it was as if he was daring Djoker to do it again and again and again and again...for about another hour.

As if to say "This feels better than dirt-facing Soderling's IKEA & SAAB face into the mud at Rolland Garros then the worm infested soil at Wimbeldon!"

Posted by Carrie 09/15/2010 at 05:08 PM

GabbyV! So lovely to see you here.

The discussion about aesthetics has always interested me when it comes to watching tennis.

I for one have never found Rafa’s game ugly- even though I understand others feel differently. I feel there is not always a set objective standard of what is beautiful or ugly in tennis.

I think often the more elegant style of tennis (such as Roger, Gasquet and Justine version 1 pre-retirment) tends to be held up as the standard of what is prettyland tennis that does not have the same type of elegance is sometimes derided as being ugly.
But I have found aspects of Rafa’s tennis beautiful. I am not saying pretty because pretty to me implies a certain delicateness that outside of some of his net play- Rafa’s may not have. But I can find it beautiful. For me- beautiful does not have to have a delicateness that I associate with pretty. I think of this also in terms of people- for example, I think Angelica Houston is a beautiful striking woman. But I would not call her pretty. I think the soccer player Mehut Ozil is beautiful (I know a lot of folks don’t agree with that one) but one would never call him a pretty boy. But yes- to me- Rafa’s cross court back hands, his forehands, etc. can be beautiful. I love watching him play and I find beauty in it even if he does not have the traditional strokes.

Of course- many folks can find Rafa’s tennis ugly – and do. Many may find delpo’s tennis ugly- and do. (I find his forehands very appealing and therefore they are beautiful to me.) But I don’t think that just because some folks think that it is ugly means that certain types of tennis do not hold beauty for other people.

To use a rather bland anaology- I like krump dancing when it is done really well. I know it does not appeal to a lot of folks who may prefer purely the asthetics of ballet, contemporary or broadway. I have often read about krump being ugly (it is a powerful style), But to me- when it is done well there is something inherently beautiful in it to me. While I can enjoy a great ballet piece and see the beauty in it- a well done krump or say Capoeira also touches me and I find it beautiful. Rafa is my capoeria of tennis!

Posted by maedel (vamos Rafa!) 09/15/2010 at 05:11 PM

Pete--

Very thoughtful post that elicited some equally thoughtful responses--and even got mariej to come out of the woodwork! Great reading here today after an invigorating final.

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 05:11 PM

All that said, I think he's good for the game. The ladies are into the whole feral thing and I can see his on court persona being a hit with sports fans in general.

Posted by Rosangel (honorary minion) 09/15/2010 at 05:13 PM

Um, Kwaku, as for beauty being in the eye of the beholder....one of the great philosophical difficulties in discussing beauty - and I mean beauty in a strictly physical sense (whether of motion or appearance) is that to some observers, the seeing of it, the emotional reaction it produces, takes on a kind of moral force.

Which is illogical.

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 05:14 PM

Thanks Kenny Ching.

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 05:17 PM

In those clips linked, note the absence of 'feeler' forehands, the very first attackable shot hit to that side got murked for a clean winner.

Posted by marieJ 09/15/2010 at 05:20 PM

well i never though i could raised so much praised in just one little post ;)

considering english is my third language, it's probably one of the reasons i'm more consise than others who can have more material to elaborate their thoughts. feels like a nice compliment to me TheMightyFunk !

well, most of the fans who loved rafa allways found his game and personality unique, i think.
there are plenty of guys who can fire their FH like federer, think of berdych. i don't say it's easy, bud fed's technique it's THE technique.

but like rafa ? none, and i don't think there will ever be one another.

so andrew thinks, there won't be a ndal legacy to the game ?
what about excellency and commiment to get better ? rafa just followed federer path.
he did the only thing he could do with a super domninant player :work to get better.
since rafa came in and started to challenged fed in every possible surface, he opened a new door : work harded, get better and wins will come if you are good and not afraid.

djoko, murray and verdasco come to my mind as some of the players who started improving their teams, their work attitude to get the results they looked for.
well, some succeed, some are a work in progress, some can work as hard as they can, they still lack of something. but they got the better they could with what they had in store.

rafa won't change the way the game is played, but he will force plenty of guys to change their mentality if they want to beat him in the future.
soderling is there to prove it.


Posted by Colette (US Hopin' - ON CLOUD 9) 09/15/2010 at 05:21 PM

Ruth @ 4:48 - I agree! And one of the greatest things about it, for me, was how much the "loser" was also a "winner" - like the infamous Nadal/Verdasco AO match. This tournament made me a Nole fan.

Andrew, loved your thoughts and JMac analogy.

Posted by Mr Rick 09/15/2010 at 05:24 PM

oh boy, FINALLY I got to leave NYC...

but while I was there, SOMETHING TOTALLY AWESOME HAPPENED....VVVVAAAAAMMMMMMMMMOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by temes 09/15/2010 at 05:24 PM

The one thing I will remember most about Nadal's game is his backhand passing shots. I know weird but I don't think he would be as succesful with a worse one. lol

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/15/2010 at 05:29 PM

Bellucci's forehand is the closest approximation to Rafa's and it's pretty far off, but the intent is clear to me.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 05:34 PM

MarieJ Just keep on keeping on

Agree with your thoughts entirely

I have always said

"Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder"

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 05:35 PM

Rafa has the highest rotation spin on his f/hand

Roger's spin rotation comes in 2nd

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 05:38 PM

Mr Rick Vamoooooooooooooos to you

I am soo happy you were there to watch Rafa complete his career slam

Like I am soo jealous

I will have to wait until he comes Down Under for the AO next year.I have already booked

He just better be there thats all lol!

Posted by Sherlock 09/15/2010 at 05:49 PM

"The one thing I will remember most about Nadal's game is his backhand passing shots."

Not weird at all, Temes. :) I love those passing shots. When he really goes after his backhand, it's a cool shot to watch. The cc rip is a beauty.

Posted by Texastennis 09/15/2010 at 05:50 PM

Tweet from Miguel Seabra (very prominent European sports journalist based in Portugal) - this is the week for Toni and Nadal to be upfront about coaching during matches apparently.
It is interesting and I'm wondering whether it will start a wider debate about coaching.

"Interviewed by ElPaís, #Nadal admits not knowing where to serve while serving for the #USOpen title & that he was told what to do. Coaching!"

Posted by Sherlock 09/15/2010 at 05:52 PM

Texastennis, it's easy for people to get lost in all the threads, but on "The Longest Journey" thread, the "coaching" issue has gotten quite a bit of airplay today. Take a looksie if you feel up to it. :)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 05:55 PM

Okay I am out of this post if this is brought up here

I had to leave the other post cause I felt that I was going to be moderated if I stayed any longer.

Posted by Colette (US Hopin' - ON CLOUD 9) 09/15/2010 at 05:56 PM

whoops

Posted by Mr Rick 09/15/2010 at 05:56 PM

In my humble opinion, Rafa has not only changed the game of tennis, he has transcended tennis into the wider world --- much the way, say, that an athlete like Muhammad Ali transcended boxing.

People are not just entertained by athletes like Rafa and Ali, they are moved and inspired by them. The lessons they teach go way beyond sport.

Most tennis players will not try to emulate or be influenced by Rafa's particular physical style of play, it really is quite unique to him, but you better believe that players have been greatly influenced by his mental and emotional attitude towards tennis. The way Rafa has picked himself up off the floor more than once in his career and learned to do things NO ONE thought he was capable of (135 MPH serve??? winning TWO hard court grand slams???? winning all 4 slams????) is tremendously inspiring.

It's now hard for ANYONE --- tennis player, other athlete, other human being --- to say "I can't" when you see Rafa saying "well, maybe I can" - and then actually do it.

And that ain't "ugly" at all - that's beautiful - in the truest sense of the word.


Posted by Neil 09/15/2010 at 06:02 PM

Great post as always, Pete, and I'd like to echo the main implication of your post, as Andrew did above: Rafa's game is so unique that it's unlikely there will ever be anyone who follows in his footsteps and plays the game like he does. More and more, he seems to me the male equivalent of Monica Seles: a player who arrived from out of the blue with a bizarre, one-of-a-kind game. The very "out of the box" nature of the Nadal and Seles games is part of what makes them such brilliant players (although hardly the only thing). No one ever played like Monica Seles before she arrived, and no one has since (or likely will). I suspect it will be the same with Rafa. I say this as TMF KAD who can only but admire what a phenomenal athlete and great sportsman Rafa is.

Posted by Mr Rick 09/15/2010 at 06:07 PM

AM, I will do all in my power to make sure your Rafa is there at the AO!!!!!!! It really seems that he has gotten a grip on his schedule and his physical vulnerabilities and he has so much momentum now that it should carry him right into the AO, no problem. The question just remains, who else will show up too??? When its so early in the season, it is hard to make predictions...

I must say, I agree with Pete's statement about "rarely seen so compelling a display of the pure, shotmaking sensibility that Novak Djokovic brought to the court." Nole's ground strokes are stunning ----perfect --- at points I wasn't sure how it was Rafa was still beating him. His movement was also awesome. If Nole can improve his serve and of course try to up his physical stamina a bit more, he will be in the mix big time for the foreseeable future.

Posted by Suzanne 09/15/2010 at 06:09 PM

Fierce competitor, pinpoint focus, brute force, deadly accuracy, considerate conqueror, committed to disciplined improvement, gentle humanitarian, lovely young man, beautiful person inside and out. 'Nuff said.

Posted by marieJ 09/15/2010 at 06:14 PM

well i'm not the only one coming off the woods, chère maedal ;)

right now i should be in bed, waithing for my 5.30AM wake up call... but WTH !
it's great to discuss at TW;)

some of my fellow french anf francophiles friends of the web, find rafa's technique ugly specially the fh... because it's simply not the technique.
i can live with it, i don't think that anyone should lose sleep over it.

i belong to the category of persons who enjoys to see winning with whatever wins the point, the match. sometimes it's pretty, henman or edberg were pretty playing the game, federer may be the more creative, but not essentially the most beatifull.
beautifullness doesn't necessary win, otherwise oliver rochus would have won some slams.

rafa for me is creative, you may no like the way he creates a bh pass but i love the way he finds that shot time and time again, he can find angles that can only be matched by fed or nalby, that's something special considering both guys talent.

beauty is another matter, no one will agree on the most beatifull woman either, even if a large majority decides she's italian or indian, in the end nobody has the yardstick of what's the beauty standart to decide if federer'game is more beautifull than X other guy.
more balanced ? maybe, more effortless ? that too but most beautifull ? i don't know

Posted by Ruth 09/15/2010 at 06:24 PM

"And one of the greatest things about it, for me, was how much the "loser" was also a "winner""

So true, Colette. It's interesting that Djokovic's performance in this "losing" endeavor reminded me and made me appreciate more fully why Pete had called him "the perfect tennis player" a couple years ago.

Posted by Mr Rick 09/15/2010 at 06:25 PM

sheeesh, mariej, at some point, you just have to ask the francophiles "do you want "technique" - whatever that may be - or would you like to start winning some bloody trophies???"

now, go to bed Mademoiselle!!!!!

Posted by skip1515 09/15/2010 at 06:26 PM

mariej wrote:

"nadal like so many other players of the RF era as been overshadowed by the artfull, effortless, smooth technique of the swiss. watching tennis through fed lenses has changed the perspective of the way tennis has been watched before him."

Marie, no offense intended, but that's just not accurate. Read "A Terrible Splendor", for instance, and see how Gottfried von Cramm's game was revered for its elegance and effortlessness (?). One cannot come away from reading accounts of tennis through the years without realizing that there is very, very little that is entirely new under the sun.

Certainly there are differences of degree; the technique that makes them possible may make for sea changes in the way the game is understood and can be played, e.g., there were two-handed backhands before Evert, Connors and Borg, but for a variety of reasons theirs affected the entire spectrum of the game, as Pete's suggested.

Similarly, Tilden took an entire winter off and did nothing but rebuild his backhand (as did Budge), and Big Bill introduced the idea of applying intellect to the construction of the game in a way that hadn't existed before. Then, decades later, Lendl and Navaratilova did much the same by raising the bar for fitness. But Sedgman and the rest of the Aussies were very fit, too, and they predated Lendl by a good bit.

As long as the length of the racquet remains fairly constant, and the dimensions of the court do, too, students of the game like us need to do a good amount of research before naming something as wholly unique. In large part Nadal's forehand has been made possible because of changes to other "fixed points" of the game: new frame materials, bigger racquet heads, different strings, a general slowing of the courts, and perhaps the end of pressureless balls on the European clay court circuit. From a technical perspective, were he playing with an 85 sq inch, wooden racquet on the grass courts of the Eastern grass court circuit circa 1974 he would have been, oh, Harold Solomon.

Posted by frances 09/15/2010 at 06:29 PM

I love this piece Pete! Thank you !!

Posted by Andrew 09/15/2010 at 06:30 PM

marieJ: you write "so andrew thinks, there won't be a ndal legacy to the game ?
what about excellency and commiment to get better ? rafa just followed federer path.
he did the only thing he could do with a super domninant player :work to get better.
since rafa came in and started to challenged fed in every possible surface, he opened a new door : work harded, get better and wins will come if you are good and not afraid."

Excellence and a commitment to get better are baked into every great player. But as a hypotherical, suppose Novak Djokovic had continued his trajectory in early 2008, and become a multi slam winner, surpassing Nadal and Federer at the top of the ATP - or suppose Del Potro had not gotten injured, and won two majors this year (for argument's sake, AO and defended USO title). The way Djokovic, Del Potro, Berdych, Soderling and Cilic (and Sam Querrey) play the game is not really very different. Power baseline, flattened FHs, 2H BH - Pete's post on Djokovic from mid 2007 "the Perfect Player" shows that Pete had his finger on the main direction the ATP was going in.

And you can trace Djokovic's roots through Lleyton Hewitt, through Andre Agassi back to Connors and Borg. Each great player has his own individuality, as well as the commitment to get the most out of his talent (the same is true of great WTA players as well, of course). But these players are part of tennis "main sequence," to use an astronomical analogy.

Even Federer is on that sequence, the 1H BH branch from Laver, Newcombe (with an assist from Carter and Roche), Sampras, on to Haas and Blake and Kohlschreiber. Federer (to me) represents a distillation of one of the main pathways of tennis.

But Nadal is so different in the way that he hits a tennis ball that it's hard for me to find someone he resembles - and the fact that more than five years after he won his first grand slam there's literally no-one in the ATP who plays remotely like Nadal is very telling. In many of his attributes - his work ethic, competitiveness, sportsmanship, humility, grace under pressure - yes, he's a role model for players to emulate. In how he hits a tennis ball, I guess it's like trying to imitate Vincent Van Gogh - he's so individual, he defeats emulation.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 06:36 PM

Mr Rick I have witneesed Rafa on his beloved clay and hard courts live

His movement,shot making ability and that top spin f/hand has left me breathless at times.

To really appreciate Rafa and say the different spins he can place on 1 ball mind you,one has to be there live.

My Husband has called him a "Alien" for doing just that.He too has seen players like Borg,Vilas,Guga on the clay and has said

Rafa is in a league of his own.

Posted by SimonSays 09/15/2010 at 06:36 PM

Rafa has the best forehand in the history of tennis. Whoever disagrees is just ignorant :)

Posted by Ross (FOE) 09/15/2010 at 06:38 PM

Ruth,
Are you going to tell us about your week?

Posted by gabriela valentina 09/15/2010 at 06:42 PM

more excellent posts.

marie j again and mr rick this time(at 5.56) have a meeting of great minds. both of them ask if nadal's legacy is something that goes beyond tennis technique. perhaps no one will ever play nadal's game but what a wonderful thing it would be if present and future players took a page from his book and put on the mantle of the humility in order to learn and to change,to stumble,fall and return bloody but unbowed....and ,yes, mr Rick, that is beauty in all its splendour!!

Posted by gabriela valentina 09/15/2010 at 06:47 PM

aha!! all the Nole admirers are over here! i was wondering about that over at the other place(when i wasn't engaging Kwaku in some fun and games). It seemed awfully strange to me that there wasn't more oohing and aahing going on over Nole's near perfect U.S. Open and that tremendous fight he put up till almost the last moments.Not only 'fight" as in gumption but near perfect tennis!!... And that charming self deprecating grin!!! So winning!! It is nice to see that people are going to sit up and take notice of this player again. Too many were writing him off prematurely!!

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 06:50 PM

So I hope Rafa can play Davy D., Clic, and other co. who has a winning record against Rafa due to his lousy play during 2nd half of 2009 in the upcoming fall. FYI, Davy D has 5-4 record against Rafa and Clic 1-0. The good thing is that Rafa has turned around many losing records, such as against Blake (now 4-3 in Rafa's favor), Hewitt (6-4 for Rafa), Youz (8-4 for Rafa), Berdie (8-3 for Rafa)...

As far as I know other than lucky Davy D, the only active players who have a winning record against Rafa are C. Guccione (1-0), Mahut (1-0), Dominik Hrbaty (3-1!!), and Joachim Johansson (1-0). The last two are basically retired, so Rafa can't really improve it. Guccione and Mahut are struggling big time, so it's also highly unlikely that Rafa will play them. Nevertheless, 3 of them just have that 1 win before 2006 and even Hrbaty won all his 3 matches before 2006. So asterisk! asterisk!

Danger lists: Nalbandian (2-2), Delpo (4-3 for Rafa). Well at least against Fat Dave, Rafa turned it to a tie record, but fat Dave is always dangerous, especially this time of the year... Delpo is also getting mighty close to tying the record after 3 straight wins...

Well, again, as long as Rafa can tie or turn around the record against struggling Clic and Davy D this fall, I would be happy. They took advantage last year, but a year later, the table is turned! oh ha ha.

Posted by gabriela valentina 09/15/2010 at 06:50 PM

@ ANDREW...."But Nadal is so different in the way that he hits a tennis ball that it's hard for me to find someone he resembles - and the fact that more than five years after he won his first grand slam there's literally no-one in the ATP who plays remotely like Nadal is very telling. In many of his attributes - his work ethic, competitiveness, sportsmanship, humility, grace under pressure - yes, he's a role model for players to emulate. In how he hits a tennis ball, I guess it's like trying to imitate Vincent Van Gogh - he's so individual, he defeats emulation."

ANDREW, impossible to dispute this. Well put. Well observed.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 06:52 PM

Gabby Well not me.I am a fan of Nole and have been waiting for him to find himslef again.

I too have watched this young man live and he is such a well balanced athlete.

What he showed in this USO tournament to me was he can focus on those big points in matches and not go away.Something that has been lacking for some time.

Hopefully he too can find the right balance in big matches.He has the game on the hard courts and clay for sure.His previous results are a indication of that.

Posted by Texastennis 09/15/2010 at 06:54 PM

Oh Sherlock, very busy today. Sorry if it's being covered already.
AM - I can't imagine why you think it's a problem when he said it himself. I didn't attach any pejorative to it...

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 06:56 PM

Rafa 2010 to do list:

main object: win the London master cup
2nd object: win Paris indoor master
3rd object (bonus): win against Davy D. & Clic, win Shanghai master (he won madrid indoor, so even if he doesn't, it's okay).

oh yeah. Achieving any of the first two objects will be great.

Posted by Kwaku 09/15/2010 at 06:59 PM

Kombo, sorry for the delay, I was busy at the other thread defending that Rafa is an articulate person ;-)
(Btw, GV, nice to see you here again, hyperspace? :)
I like your answer but disagree with "Philosophically I believe ideal offense beats the ideal defense".
Not to take your words literally, but I think that question does not belong to philosophy, i.e. cannot be answered a priori. Its answer depends on the parameters of the game. For instance if the court were much larger and the net much lower, offense would beat defense. Under other parameters it could be the opposite. So if the answer depends on the parameters, you cannot think that "philosophically" (i.e. a priori).
And you didn't answer if the minion word on your homepage has something to do with tennis!

Rosangel, interesting. And of course I knew that's a well-known difficult philosophical question I raised. I wanted to know Kombo's view.

Posted by George Costanza 09/15/2010 at 07:02 PM

Nadal is truly the master of his domain.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 07:03 PM

Texastennis As a Rafa fan and who has just watched him completing his career grand slam I was a bit uspet if you can understand where I am coming from.Lets just move on.

Posted by Carrie 09/15/2010 at 07:07 PM

Triple Pound- if I recall correctly Hrbarty also has a winning record against Federer as well.

Regarding notching up another win against Delpo I guess one of the best times to do that is when Delpo's coming back from injury - even if it is on an indoor court (which is Rafa's worst surface). I wonder what combination of rust and caution Delpo will have when he comes back. I also wonder/fear that his game will be altered and less impactful for good.

I think Delpo's state upon his return will be a major factor for what happens next year.

Posted by Mr Rick 09/15/2010 at 07:11 PM

...sheesh, where is everybody today... keep moving around...sheesh...

yes, AM if I was a millionare I would spend huge sums of it going to live tennis matches --- I realize TV just doesn't compare to live tennis

Nole was stunning - I can't believe in some ways that Rafa beat him - he hits the ball so perfectly and moves so well.

However, there was an awful lot of bro-mance going on between the two of them after the match. I'm ambivalent about this at best! Right before the trophy awards - Rafa ran over from his chair to Nole's chair and gave him another big hug. I'm not sure he should be doing this!!!!!!! Nole is still capable of kicking Rafa's ass big time if he gets his full game together. I blame that agent they both have making them get all buddy-buddy, playing doubles together (horrible idea), etc. I would prefer Rafa kept his distance - there are still a lot of trophies to be won and Nole could be a problem in that area...

Posted by marieJ 09/15/2010 at 07:12 PM

skip1515 von cramm ??? really ??? you were there, or you are kidding me ?
i can only talk about what i've witnessed in my time, nothing more !
and since i've whatched only merely 20 years of tennis (and not every slam), in those last 20 years i think federer had left his print on the way abeautifull game his perceived.
it was my point, i can't go back to the genius of the game who played with wooden raquets, it was almost another sport.
i can't remeber in edberg time how many people were in awe everytime he went on court. of course those people could not tell since they had no internet, blogs twitters, and maybe tv's in von cramm era. now they can.

@ andrew fair point ;) vang gogh was unmatchable, just like picasso or dali.
but i don't think rafa's legacy had to do with his style of play, but more of his attitude on how to play as a professional. i don't doubt we can agree on that .

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 07:14 PM

ATP fan guide update:

Rafa's 2010 schedule: Bangkok 250 9.27-10.3, Tokyo 500 10.4-10.10, Shanghai 1000 10.10-10.16, Paris 1000 11.7-11.13, London 11.21-27
old man Fed's 2010 schedule: Shanghai 1000 10.10-10.16, Basel 500 11.1-11.6, Paris 1000 11.7-11.13, London 11.21-27,
Djoker's 2010 schedule: Davis cup 9.17-9.19, Beijing 500 10.4-10.10, Shanghai 1000 10.10-10.16, (maybe, Basel 500 11.1-11.6 if he wants to finish as number 2), Paris 1000 11.7-11.13, London 11.21-27
Muzz the pusher's 2010 schedule: Beijing 500 10.4-10.10, Shanghai 1000 10.10-10.16, Valencia 500 11.1-11.6, Paris 1000:11.7-11.13, London 11.21-27
Delpo the recovering man 2010 schedule: Bangkok 250 9.27-10.3, Tokyo 500 10.4-10.10, Shanghai 1000 10.10-10.16… after that, a bit unknown. He may just play Paris or he could play more.

Other players: who cares? I don't...

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 07:15 PM

Mr Rick I will have to talk to our boy

I know and understand European men are quite "out there" in showing emotions

I agree enough is enough.Though Rafa might have been "in the moment"

Hell I hope so.

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 07:16 PM

Carrie, yes Hrbarty got super lucky that he beat both Rafa and Fed when they were so-so. Fed had just one chance at Wimby to get to 1-2 from 0-2 while Rafa will probably not get a chance to improve his 1-3 record. And YES, Delpo is shadowing Rafa for the 3 weeks of Asian Death Torture tour starting the end of next week, so maybe Rafa can improve his 4-3 record, no? Rafa will surprise him with his new and improved serve...

Posted by Mr Rick 09/15/2010 at 07:21 PM

Boy, I just wish I could time-travel and watch that match all over again. I guess the Tennis Channel is going to re-broadcast starting to night so atleast I can watch a tape of it...

AM, now you got me checking the calender to see about the possibility of seeing Rafa play live ON CLAY next spring... I can imagine it would be a tremedous experience

Posted by Red Blood 09/15/2010 at 07:25 PM

Take away Nadal's speed, and he won't be able to set himself up for his forehand the way he did against Djokovic.

Wonder how good Federer or Djokovic would play if they had red blood cells injected into their arms or hips or legs before a game.

Nadal might be on to a good thing. Or should we say great or even GOAT thing?

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