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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 Christopher 09/15/2010 at 07:27 PM

I think it was actually Murray who said playing Nadal is like playing someone with two forehands, but no matter.

The McEnroe/Nadal comparison is interesting. I think watered down versions of either, which may be the only versions possible if one is not actually Nadal or McEnroe, would not be very successful on the tour. Without McEnroe's astounding hands, it would be suicide (even in the early 90's) to dare your opponent to pass you as often as McEnroe did. Without Nadal's incredible speed and depth (and now, much stronger ability to flatten out shots when necessary), you end up with high bouncing balls that set up too much and be crushed by a quality opponent. Heavy topspin works well in the 14-and-unders, but only Nadal really makes it a successful weapon on its own at the top of the game (as Borg did).

One big difference between these two that does bare on their influence on the next generation (and especially on junior tennis): Nadal is gentleman while McEnroe was, for lack of a better word that I can write on this site, a jerk.

I played junior tennis in the early and mid- 80's (note: I didn't play it particularly well, though I was lucky enough to play against and be destroyed utterly by others who did, like Malvai Washington, Todd Martin, and others). I and many other kids in our early teens (but thankfully not Washington and Martin) saw McEnroe as a role-model. Of course we couldn't play like him, but we seemed to think that great players are tortured geniuses who yell, throw rackets, argue close calls, etc. In other words, act like jerks. I often wonder if things would have been different if Borg had just played for 4 more years. He was my first idol but had left the game by the time I was 12.

Juniors today see Nadal and Federer. They're geniuses, but they're not tortured. When they fail, they usually blame themselves (not the umpire) or their opponents' excellent play and talk about how they want to improve. They act like gentlemen towards each other and have a real sense of the history of the game. Even before Hawkeye, they rarely argued with officials and were never demeaning towards them when they did (very unlike McEnroe, Connors, and alas, Roddick still).

If today' juniors really emulate these two great champions, we have a good future to look forward to. We may indeed not see a new crop of juniors with massive topspin succeeding, but if they do treat each other with respect (a more achievable goal), then we'll be all right.

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 07:28 PM

Once again I hope Rafa to pull out of bangkok even if it's very unlikely as he pulled out last 2 years. 3 years of pulling out after signing contract will anger Bangkok people, so.... But I fear Rafa may get injured, playing so soon. If you all remember in 2009, Rafa played Rotterdam after only a week or two rest after his win at AO. He got injured in his knee against Muzz in final there and he struggled big time afterward for the rest of the year. Now after win at US open, he's playing at Bangkok with only a week or two rest. hmmm.......... Rafa, either pull out or lose early in Bangkok. Not happy for Rafa's 3 weeks of Asian Death Torture tour...

Posted by gabriela valentina 09/15/2010 at 07:28 PM

aussie!! i wasn't thinking of you!! You are always quick to point out excellence in a player and tell it as it is!! but although Nole has always been a great player, sometimes it seemed as if the joy had gone out of him and in NY it was back in full force this time! i really believe that he has had health problems which he seems to have overcome. We know about Roger's mono and rafa's knees. i think that Nole's asma has been very debilitating,moreso than has been acknowledged.

Posted by gabriela valentina 09/15/2010 at 07:31 PM

Good night all! great to see Carrie, sherlock,aussie, and many many others. great to have something so incredible to celebrate. my cup runneth over!!!!

Posted by Mr Rick 09/15/2010 at 07:31 PM

Red Blood - why don't you inject a brain into your head instead

Posted by gabriela valentina 09/15/2010 at 07:32 PM

Mr Rick!!! that was priceless.. wish i had your talent for quick comeback!!!

Posted by Grant 09/15/2010 at 07:35 PM

red red whine

Posted by Mr Rick 09/15/2010 at 07:46 PM

...well ...hell, I give up...everyone jumping from room to room today... its making me dizzy...

Grant, you the man!

Gabriela, that guy comes in here all the time, sheesh, some people...

Posted by Joy 09/15/2010 at 07:46 PM

So invigorating to see such insightful commentary already!

IMHO, while Rafa could be a one-off, there's still a lot of takeaways besides the work ethic and the mental fortitude. His phenomenal footwork, for one. USO commentator and college coach Luke Jensen thinks it's next to impossible to teach the way Nadal moves his feet, but I feel it's only impossible until some inspired coach manages to break it down and teach it in a more organic way (e.g., like a tarantella dance).

In the end, the 'constructedness' of Rafa's style (thanks, MarieJ!) may be the very thing that could effect a sea-change in coaches teaching upcoming tennis generations. When mentors out there realize that it's no longer impossible to 'create' a winning style from non-natural talent, who knows what could happen?

Posted by Joy 09/15/2010 at 07:47 PM

So invigorating to see such insightful commentary already!

IMHO, while Rafa could be a one-off, there's still a lot of takeaways besides the work ethic and the mental fortitude. His phenomenal footwork, for one. USO commentator and college coach Luke Jensen thinks it's next to impossible to teach the way Nadal moves his feet, but I feel it's only impossible until some inspired coach manages to break it down and teach it in a more organic way (e.g., like a tarantella dance).

In the end, the 'constructedness' of Rafa's style (thanks, MarieJ!) may be the very thing that could effect a sea-change in coaches teaching upcoming tennis generations. When mentors out there realize that it's no longer impossible to 'create' a winning style from non-natural talent, who knows what could happen?

Posted by Joy 09/15/2010 at 07:49 PM

Sorry for the double-post [spanks bad mouse].

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 09/15/2010 at 07:52 PM

"I've never seen anyone hit a tennis ball as persuasively as Rafa Nadal. ... The sheer brutality of a typical Nadal forehand is a quality that attracts some and repels others."

Id like to add something very critical here, Pete. It's not JUST the sheer powewr, force, bon-crushing brutality, or whatever adjective you'd like to apply, though that's a huge part of it, to be sure.

When I first saw Rafa live, in Cincinnati in 2006 (where he lost, by the way, 7-6, 7-6 to Juan Carlos Ferrero), I had a chance to watch him on the practice court from, say, 15 feet away. And the first thing that popped into my head was, "How in the world does the ball stay intact? Why doesn't it simply implode when Rafa hits it?" He hit the ball in a way I'd never witnessed. "Brutal" would be a good descriptor.

But since then, I've learned to appreciate another aspect of Rafa's game--his pinpoint accuracy. He is the only guy on the planet, I am convinced (except for Fernando Gonzalez when he is really on, which occurs once every three years), who can unleash ALL of his prodigious physicality into the ball and still put it on a dime. It is uncanny. No, it is frightening. And even more so to his opponents, I'm sure.

And as if that weren't enought to make Rafa a champion of champions, he plays perhaps the most sophisticated tactical tennis on the tour today. If you watch closely, he isn't merely looking for the next opportunity to slug his forehand, though he does that plenty. He's moving himself around the court as a chess master would move his knights and bishops and pawns into positions that force his opponent into making moves that weren't in their playbook.

And on top of all this, he's still eager to learn neew things and improve his skills. Witness his serves and volleys, which have improved not incrementally but radically over the past two years. I can't say enough about Rafa, really. And I'm a Federer fan.

But no one deserves to have won the U.S. Open this year more than Rafa. He earned every point. Like he always does.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 09/15/2010 at 07:54 PM

I think the only thing Pete left out of his piece, probably because it is too technical and boring, was how difficult it would be for anyone other than Nadal to play the way he plays.

I thought Andrew's comment about Nadal being in the same class as McEnroe was spot on.

When McEnroe first burst on the scene, many sought to copy his style. It turned out to be basically un-copyable. You can only take short swings like McEnroe took if you have two things, and you must have both: (i) unbelievable touch, and (ii) extremely good nerves. Every serious players knows that what usually happens when you block the ball too much -- it ends up too short, and then, without the unbelievable touch you have difficulty adjusting the next shot or series of shots. During the high point of the net rushing era, many blocked approach shots were hit, few were hit with McEnroe's placement.

I have seen many, many players try to play in the same general way Nadal plays. Topspin is not that new. If you want to be technical, the thing Nadal has which is really unique is that he does not pay much of a price for a short topspun ball. True, he hits many deep topspun balls, but the real uniqueness is that he has such speed, and such ability to use angles, that you attack a short Nadal shot at your own peril.

Without Nadal's speed and talent, a short ball is simply that.

In addition, every great player seems to take one part of tennis which is obvious to its higher level. Nadal's contribution is simply that for the most part you must beat him, he will not beat himself, and so far he has been willing to continue to put in the hard work this style of play demands. It sounds easy to do. But it is in fact extremely difficult.

Not so much, apparently, for Rafa. :)

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 09/15/2010 at 08:00 PM

Yes, I too, love Rafa's footwork and I did from the first moment I ever saw him play. It was the thing I noticed straight away about him. He has added so much more to his game since then too.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/15/2010 at 08:02 PM

Thanks soo much Dunlop

That last paragraph indeed sums up Rafa to a tee.

Posted by Sherlock 09/15/2010 at 08:07 PM

Wow, so many great posts. Awesome stuff from everyone.

Reading Christopher, Slice, and Dunlop on the same page is quite a treat. Thanks, gentlemen.

Posted by chestertown 09/15/2010 at 08:07 PM

I like the comparison Andrew does between Mcenroe style and that of Rafa's as being strangely uniques and terrificly efficients. I agree. There isnt any school teaching McEnroe serve&volley as well as Rafa forehand because you can not teach to do art, something that is suitable only for yourself.

On the other hand, I would like to point out something that comes across my mind repeatedly about the strong mentality of Rafa, a kind of conection I always do in my head during these years I've been following Rafa's game (I knew about his special talent for the first time at the Davis Cup final 2005 against Roddick, and I became fan since then).

The level of focus Rafa developes on court is the same type of focus needed for martial arts at their highest levels of practice. You can see it and feel it easely in the details: the type of Rafa rituals, his pace between points, his approach to the key moments, his "never say die" attitude as well as his killer instinct, or his ability to adapt his tactic on the run or his beginner's approach for learning. All these aspects matchs perfectly with the old "way of martial arts", with that spirit of the ancient Samurais. Indeed, Rafa's mind is so strong simply because he has developed naturally that way of living in the now (point by point attitude) over the years so tipical on many asian cultures. And you can feel it : Rafa deals so good with his nerves and his fears because he is in meditation mode the most of the time on court, just like a Buda, a Jedi, or a Samurai in the battlefield.

In martial arts you need to get to 4º-5º dan (10-15 years of daily training) in order to adquire these abilities such as calm and mind control, total awareness and availability to use the whole power of your active/inner force (Ki in japanesse). It is very rare to see a sportman holding all these sets of skills (more rare even in his twenties), which are better suited for fighting monks and martial artists than for athletes. But the singularity of Rafa's game lies in that he has more of samurai skills (and values) than that of sport. It is therefore a very rare case in the history of the sport. I dont know of any other case (Ali could be another one but I cant discuss it because I didnt live in his era).

Simply, Rafa has too much guts comparing with the rest of the guys of the circuit.


Posted by d 09/15/2010 at 08:12 PM

on the court rafa looks like a conquistador, a killer, and with his ridiculous elvis sneer, calling the lines, slow-motion control-freak obsessiveness, deliberate deciding whether to challenge or not... oh my! nadawl! no me gusta, el tiene ojos del diablo, as my friend maggie says. the incongruous juxtaposition of his malevolent, brutal, murderous attitude on court and his sweet gentlemanly humility off court is completely absurd. why doesn't anyone call him on it? the modesty is a silly little act, a hot-air balloon to be punctured.

to weigh in on aesthetics - his way of winning; staying 20 feet behind the baseline, running faster than anyone else, and hitting impossible looking backhand passing shots while open, splayed, outstretched, and falling down, and oh yes, hitting twenty consecutive heavy topspin forehands - well I hope nobody else comes along to emulate that!

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 09/15/2010 at 08:12 PM

"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."

Skip1515... I rarely disgree with you, my friend. But his one doesn't add up. In your defense, you did say "from a technical perspective," but I am still left scratching my head at the comparison. Nadal is not simply physicallymore gifted than Solomon was (and hat's not a knock on Solomon, who was a superb athlete). He has also mastered a technique to the point of it being nearly impenetrable. He can defend with it, and he can take the offense with it. He can go from Defense straight to offense, bypassing the neutral zone. And he can hit ooutright winners with it. Do we owe much of this to racquet and string technology, the general slowing of the courts, the balls? Yes, no doubt. Otherwise Ernests guilbis wouldn't exist. Or marin Cilic. Or Juan Martin del Potro. or Sam Querrey or John isner. They all possess wonderful technique, but none of them could generate the kind of power they do today with the wooden racquets of Solomon's day, and particularly not with that Garcia racquet.

But I think there's more to it than this. Rafa is simply a better athlete and a better tennis player, in the classic sense of the word--as a shot-maker and technician.

Posted by Texastennis 09/15/2010 at 08:14 PM

AM - I can't understand why you are upset with me for mentioning something Rafa himself said. I do understand we are in the hagiography phase apparently and no I don't think he walks on water although I'm a big admirer of his play. I'm sure that makes me a hater...

Posted by Joy 09/15/2010 at 08:21 PM

Triple Pound,

You've made your point about not wanting Rafa to play in Bangkok. You're worried about him--we get that. (Heck, I myself never cease worrying about his knees.)

But here you go again with the derogatory racial slur 'Asian Death Torture tour'. If I recall you've made this exact same comment at the previous 'Long Journey' thread. And you were also told off there. Yet you still keep doing it; what's up with that?

Rafa's 2008 Olympic Gold was won in Beijing, which is in ASIA. Need I remind you that if he hadn't won it in ASIA, we wouldn't be celebrating his momentous Career Golden Slam right now.

Posted by Christopher 09/15/2010 at 08:25 PM

It's also worth noting that Rafa, perhaps more than any other top player, benefits from the stiff poly strings. It would simply be impossible to generate that amount of topspin with less stiff strings. If his shots don't jump as high, the short balls become more of a liability.

The string question seems to be one of the topics that many sportswriters (but not Pete and Steve) got wrong after Federer lost to Soderling and Berdych at RG and Wimbledon. The oft-repeated mantra was that Fed was behind the times because he wouldn't use new technology and that Soderling and Berdych plus new string technology made Federer's game irrelevant. Problems with this notion:

1. Fed uses gut AND poly strings, like so many others. He needs the poly strings for the huge topspin on his forehand.

2. Soderling and Berdych especially hit a fairly flat ball. Yes, they can benefit from the poly strings when they want to use more spin, but these strings won't make huge changes to their game.

Nadal, who does not play like Soderling and Berdych, really does benefit from these strings. I should be clear that I don't mean this as a knock on him at all. Part of being a great participant in any sport is doing the best one can within the parameters of that sport. Maximizing the potential of the equipment is just what top athletes should do.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 09/15/2010 at 08:27 PM

Well said, Christopher.

Posted by J 09/15/2010 at 08:32 PM

'on the court rafa looks like a conquistador, a killer, and with his ridiculous elvis sneer, calling the lines, slow-motion control-freak obsessiveness, deliberate deciding whether to challenge or not... oh my! nadawl! no me gusta, el tiene ojos del diablo, as my friend maggie says. the incongruous juxtaposition of his malevolent, brutal, murderous attitude on court and his sweet gentlemanly humility off court is completely absurd. why doesn't anyone call him on it? the modesty is a silly little act, a hot-air balloon to be punctured.'

Despicable iconoclasm from an obvious Nadal hater. Why don't you just accept that Rafa can be a professional on court and a gentleman off it. Calling his modesty 'a silly little act' is insulting and doesn't match up with his humble upbringing and discipline.

Posted by TennisFan2 09/15/2010 at 08:32 PM

One of the most fascinating things about Rafa and is his game is the evolution of both. The kid with the smile, facial expressions and old soul becomes the man with the smile, facial expressions and old soul. The kid with ridiculous topspin, speed and court sense becomes the man with ridiculous topspin, speed, court sense, an incredible volley, a flat shot and a new and improved serve.

It amazes me that between his first and most current GS championship he has managed to maintain all of the skill he first won with but add on so many new ones. He is a joy to watch and most certainly his evolution has been tremendous to witness.

Posted by Julian 09/15/2010 at 08:34 PM

Brilliant appreciation of the aesthetics of Nadal's game, Pete.

I believe Rafa's detractors often point straight to the supposed ugliness of his game, which derives from their pre-disposition to blithely ignore anything admirable about him as a player or person. I think I've said before that one way of thinking of Rafa's game is by its approximation to the philosophical concept of the sublime - his game is not necessarily beautiful in the usual sense, but the way in which he relentlessly ravages opponents is arresting, and awesome. Nadal doesn't just beat opponents when he's playing well, he possesses them, yes even Federer. There were innumerable points against Djoker where the Serb was run ragged from corner to corner as if on a string.

That must be what it feels like for other players to play him, seeing a destroyer on the other side of the net who cannot be stopped and will never tire. That for me, is a terrific (in both senses) and sublime experience.

Posted by M&M 09/15/2010 at 08:42 PM

Thank you for the great post, and how true your words are about Nadal.
Thank you Highpockets for that wonderful Poem.
Rafa is awesome, and has done a lot for tennis. I read somewhere that Pete Sampras has changed his racket to the same brand that Nadal uses. So I'm sure it all true, Nadal is a transformer, and like the poem says I hope he stays awhile!

Posted by Christopher 09/15/2010 at 08:52 PM

It is true that Sampras is now using a Babolat, but so are a whole lot of pros and he's not using Rafa's model. My guess is that that particular choice had more to do with money than with wanting to be like Rafa :).

And to be fair, we also have to credit Rafa with the most horrible result of influence in tennis history: a 50+year-old McEnroe playing in a sleeveless shirt and piratas. It was not a winning look on him.

Posted by deuceThe3rd 09/15/2010 at 08:54 PM

Slightly off topic here. But this surprising kid Rebeca Marino just knocked off top seed Marion Bartoli at the Quebec challenger in straight sets. I'm pretty excited about this Canadian women's prospects.

Posted by lilscot 09/15/2010 at 09:00 PM

IL must say it is soooo nice to see all us Rafa fans mixing so well with all the Nole fans. What a nice change from the old "you-know-who" wars. :)

Red Blood:

I'm sure if Roger or Nole had serious tendonitis in both their kneess the blood treatment would most likely help them be able to play as well. That doesn't mean it makes them play better. It's only to help ease the pain of the tendonitis. Nothing "performance enhancing" about it, if that's what you're insinuating.

Posted by Texastennis 09/15/2010 at 09:03 PM

Christopher - yes it was a $$ issue for Sampras and lol about McEnroe in the sleeveless shirt. I have to go look for that....

Posted by ebh 09/15/2010 at 09:05 PM

Texastennis-

Where is the link to that interview? You can't just state it without giving a link.

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

DueceThe3rd--

Why is Bartoli playing in a challenger?

Posted by Master Ace 09/15/2010 at 09:08 PM

Christopher,
Quebec City is a tour event and Marino got a wildcard.

Posted by lilscot 09/15/2010 at 09:10 PM

It was a beautiful match for sure. It doesn't need to be five sets to be brilliant. It was almost four hours of scintillating tennis by two tough warriors. Nole played amazing and I'm happy to be a new/old fan of his.

But watching Rafa and how he's come back this past year has just been awesome. I told a friend of mine who was concerned about his play during Cincy and Toronto not to worry because it just felt to me like he was holding back a bit. Not trying to do too much, but just enough to be ready. And I also think he's been keeping this new serve a secret too. For good reason. Never show your hand.

Nole himself put it best when he said the most frustrating thing for him and the other young guns is that Rafa keeps getting better.

I love having this young crop of hot-shots around now. There will be a huge hole when Roger finally steps aside so we need all these guys to keep the passion going, with Rafa leading the way into the future.

Posted by lilscot 09/15/2010 at 09:13 PM

Marino made a huge impression on everyone in New York. I live here and I'd never heard of her. As soon as I saw her hit her first few forehands I was just like, "wow, who is this? She's from here?"

Apparently a lot of people in the game are watching her very closely. It would be so amazing for us to finally have a big gun come up on the women's side. Alex just doesn't seem to be able to keep her game together. Rebecca seems to have the killer instinct that so many of our Canadian players seem to lack. Like Hurricane Helen Kelesi!

Posted by ebh 09/15/2010 at 09:16 PM

Texastennis-

I just read the interview. You can't conclude that he was coached. He said "they said serve open and he did." But that could be what they told him to do before the break. Or maybe people were shouting it. It is not clear at all.

Posted by Texastennis 09/15/2010 at 09:16 PM

ebh - I didn't say anything about interview. There was a lot of discussion about Sampras's switch on another board - Wilson doesn't seem to be interested in keeping its legends (Graf also left/let go and now playing with Head) whereas other companies are interested in picking them up.

Posted by skip1515 09/15/2010 at 09:25 PM

Unnh, no Marie, I'm not kidding. If you or I say something is the best this or that we've ever seen, or that something has affected how *we* personally view the world, that's entirely legitimate. But to limit the whole world's view of history – history of tennis, or politics, art or science – to what the speaker has experienced personally is to believe that nothing exists or is true that you don't know firsthand.

No, I did not see von Cramm, and I'm sorry for it. My not having seen it doesn't mean it didn't happen, however, or that those who did didn't find themselves stunned by its beauty. I've just read about it enough to incorporate it into my understanding of the game.

There is a long history of fan and journalistic appreciation for beautiful tennis. That tennis has never been as effective as Federer's, I'll grant you, but he hasn't "changed our perspective of the way tennis has been watched before him." It's only changed our understanding of how it can be strung together long enough to win.

Posted by Max 09/15/2010 at 09:26 PM

Mr. Bodo, in your first post after the final you wrote about Rafa's journey to be a complete player. You miserably failed for the simple reason you did not have the time to read about the real journey.

You focused your writing around misconceptions about Rafa that have been around for years. This is basically unacceptable for a serious journalist. But it is your blog and your audience.

Rafa for his age was an extraordinary player long before RG 2005, not only in the dirt but in hard and grass courts as attested by his results. At that time, Rafa was a boy playing with men. By ignorance or own choice, you decided to continue with this stupid fairy tale that fighting and dedication can make you a GS winner at 24.

The fact is simple, Rafa was something extraordinary as a pre-teenager. It is not in the script but it is what anybody can find with little effort. His uncle (an accomplished tennis player and trainer) and even Carlos Moya were so impressed with the kid that the great Boris Becker was brought to the training court to have a look to this one of a kind child prodigy.

You are supposed to feed your reader's with something more than tale fares. I know it sounds good to have this tale of a ferocious "brute" and your wonderful, delicate hero but the real history, the one you and others like to ignore, is that Rafa was the real tennis raw talent of the two, the one who showed his potential at a very early age as others immense tennis talents did before.

Hence, it is not surprising that he got his GS at 24 while your hero got it a 28. Time will say what will be Rafa accomplishments when he retires. But something is sure, what you and other pundits like you write or comment about this young man do not do justice to his tremendous talent and it is as shame because we will not have a Rafa in many years, like we will not have a Roger. They are unique players. Simply wanted to let you know that not all your readers can be feed bs or metaphors like "raised by wolfs", etc...unacceptable by all standards.

Posted by Roddick fan from Virginia 09/15/2010 at 09:27 PM

Does anyone know how often Nadal can get these injections? Will he get them every year as long as he plays?

Posted by Kate 09/15/2010 at 09:34 PM

Red blood:

They're not injecting red blood cells into Nadal's knees, it's the platelets. Platelets don't enhance performance; they are the coagulators in the blood (apparently, having more of them helps ease the pain and symptoms of tendonitis).

So, I guess if Rafa were to get a paper cut while serving, well, yes, he'd be at the advantage.

As long as it was in his knee, which is where they are (carefully and with careful supervision) injecting the platelets.

Otherwise, he's like the other players and is gonna have to get a band-aid.

Posted by Texastennis 09/15/2010 at 09:36 PM

ebh - Sherlock pointed out to me that this thread is for hagiography only (so also no questions here about the knee injections Roddick fan) whereas there has been a long discussion about it on Longest Journey. You will see there what he said seems quite clear. I didn't realize that because I was at work all day.

Posted by Christopher 09/15/2010 at 09:36 PM

Over at L. Jon's mailbag there's a picture of Federer with a caption that says, "Roger Federer has failed to deliver in quarters and semis of majors, whereas Rafael Nadal has made four straight finals."

Am I missing something or is the second part of that wrong. Nadal has made the finals (and won) the last THREE majors. He lost in the semis of the AO to Murray.

Posted by Kate 09/15/2010 at 09:42 PM

Texastennis: I beg pardon. I didn't mean to go off topic--didn't realize.

Posted by Andrew 09/15/2010 at 09:47 PM

Christopher: AO QFs (Murray d Cilic in the AO SFs).

After Federer won RG 2009, Pete published a post called "Sprezzeratura" - an attempt to appreciate a great player, and a great achievement. I see this post as a counterpart to that post. It isn't hagiography - it's Pete's and our appreciation of something rare and wonderful.

Posted by CL 09/15/2010 at 09:50 PM

Christopher - it amazing how often they get even the EASY stuff wrong. Mary Carillo told us during the semis that it was Nalbandian that took out Rafa and Roger at the 09 US Open....you know..one Argie is pretty much the same as another. I mean I don't expect New Yorker style fact checkers, by these people do have access to a variety of sources on the internets, some of them quite reliable, which might help them through these tricky 'facty' thingies.

Posted by Christopher 09/15/2010 at 09:51 PM

Thanks, Andrew. I completely forgot about the Cilic match.

Posted by Roddick fan from Virginia 09/15/2010 at 10:01 PM

Texastennis- did Elijah have his knees injected before he outran the King Ahab's chariots?

Posted by Roddick fan from Virginia 09/15/2010 at 10:07 PM

Texastennis- did not Samson have the have the all time goat forehand and backhand using gut?

Posted by Stu 09/15/2010 at 10:17 PM

Why don't you EVER cite the source of the photographs on this blog???

Posted by Netpick 09/15/2010 at 10:22 PM

I need all your imput to what I have finally determined regarding Roger Federer. Federer will not change his grip, strings, or racket. Martina said that if Federer doesn't change his strings, he will not win another grand slam tournament. The only reason why Federer hired Paul Annacone was to make a statement. He's not going to listen to Annacone. Nadal changed his grip a few days before the US Open. He goes out on the practice courts to learn, not to practice. Federer goes out on the practice courts to show his trick shots and to have fun. Everyone needs to write into his web-site and tell him that he needs to change his strings. Martina even said that thats why Djokovic beat him in the Semi's. Federer stubborness means more to him than winning. Please write into Federer's web-site with your thoughts on this and then maybe it might sink in. He is no longer a great champion. He made a run in his era and then closed the door.

Posted by Texastennis 09/15/2010 at 10:28 PM

Roddick fan - now that's really very funny.

Posted by Vic Manila 09/15/2010 at 10:41 PM

There is nothing ugly about a white shark leaping into the air to catch a seal with its mouth. There is nothing ugly about a lion stalking its prey and springing from the ground to sink its teeth onto its victim's jugular. To say that Rafa's game is ugly is to miss the vital essence of life: power and vitality. What makes Rafa's game so spellbinding to watch is the raw passion with which he takes the ball to the nether parts of the tennis court again and again and again--like a beast of prey that knows exactly where to deliver the crushing bite. Its born of natural instinct, patience, practice and discipline.

Posted by Christopher 09/15/2010 at 10:45 PM

"I need all your imput to what I have finally determined regarding Roger Federer. Federer will not change his grip, strings, or racket. Martina said that if Federer doesn't change his strings, he will not win another grand slam tournament."

Again, Federer uses gut on the mains and Luxilon on the crosses. This is very typical for current pros. And why on earth should he change his grip?

"Federer goes out on the practice courts to show his trick shots and to have fun."

Have you ever read descriptions of Federer's training sessions in Dubai? I imagine not. Read Jesse Levine's account of how Federer practices intensely for three+ hour sessions in the extreme heat and I think that will allay your fears that Mr. Federer is not serious about his tennis.

Posted by ndk 09/15/2010 at 10:53 PM

Interesting that Uncle Toni does not include Sampras with Federer, Borg, Laver.. He did win 14 GS, ended the year #1 for 6 years, unquestionably dominated his era etc..

Pete.. To put it simply, I don't think one can teach Rafa's style of play or his mental fortitude..

Posted by Tennis fan 09/15/2010 at 10:54 PM

No one can do what the dopper does it.

http://tennishasasteroidproblem.blogspot.com/2010/09/congratulations.html#comments

Posted by Netpick 09/15/2010 at 10:54 PM

Christopher-Why didn't Federer win the US Open? The match w/Djokovic was on his racket!!

Posted by Master Ace 09/15/2010 at 10:54 PM

WTA Thursday Order of Play:

Guangzhou at 2 AM - Groth vs Tanasugarn to be followed by Morita vs Gallovits
Guangzhou at 6:30 AM - Panova vs Pervak
Quebec City at 11 AM - Paszek vs Craybas
Quebec City at Noon - Arvidsson vs Lucic
Quebec City at 7 PM - McHale vs Tetreault to be followed by Dubois vs Glatch

Posted by manuelsantanafan 09/15/2010 at 10:55 PM

Many interesting and astute posts, among them Slice-n-Dice's from 7:52. The following selection from that post mirrored some of my thoughts when I've watched Rafa:

"But since then, I've learned to appreciate another aspect of Rafa's game--his pinpoint accuracy. He is the only guy on the planet, I am convinced (except for Fernando Gonzalez when he is really on, which occurs once every three years), who can unleash ALL of his prodigious physicality into the ball and still put it on a dime. It is uncanny. No, it is frightening."

In several of his pre-finals matches at this year's U.S. Open, during portions when the wind wasn't (apparently) encouraging Rafa to play more safely, Rafa was repeatedly hitting absolutely vicious forehands that were either landing on the lines or within one or two inches of the lines. Amazing, to me, at least, that he had so few errors playing such redline tennis.

During the Djokovic match, especially for the early part of the second set, Rafa was hitting most of his FHs much shorter, mostly to Djokovich's BH. Djokovich was handling these short FHs with ease, at least in the second set. Wasn't sure why Rafa dialed it in, during this portion of the match. Nerves? Reduced confidence because of early missed FHs? A desire to stretch out points, hoping that keeping Djokovic on the court longer would wear him down later in the match. (If so, to the last, this is a tactic that, obviously works better in best-of-five set matches than best-of threes--think Davydenko, who has had a much better record in best-of-three matches than in majors matches, where he is often unable to maintain his exquisite precision as long as he needs. However, there is usually at least one exception, such as Davydenko's January 2010 match against Rafa, where Rafa blew Davydenko out in the first set, then Davydenko's game improved considerably in the 2nd and 3rd sets, which he won.) A combination of these factors.

I'll be interested to see how Rafa plays during the fall season, during which he traditionally has his least success--often because players like Davydenko and Nalbandian feast on Rafa's short balls (as did Cilic in the 2009 Rafa-Cilic match, the first set of which featured one of the worst beatdowns that I've ever seen Rafa take). Will Rafa play more aggressive tennis than he often has in the past, especially if the matches start with his opponents beating on his short balls?

In fall 2009, during which he was impacted by lingering injuries (IMSHEO), Rafa started off hitting short and never changed his tactics throughout several beatdowns. IMSHEO at back in 2009, Rafa would have been better off going for broke during these beatdowns, as he did in the Murray Rotterdam match, where he got hurt, then won one set by hitting out. But, since fall 2009, Rafa has won three majors and three Masters 1000 shields. So, he appears to know what he was doing. Was it part of Rafa's mindset that taking a beatdown playing a conservative style still sends some type of message to his opponents that will help him in the future? Don't know.

Rafa has been commended for developing various parts of his game, giving him more options. Will this occasionally create a problem Federer was said to have early in his career--having so many options that damaging uncertainty in his mind was sometimes created? We'll see. I'm thinking, to some extent, of the slice BH Rafa hit so well in the finals match against Djokovic. In many matches, Rafa hits that shot tentatively, setting up his opponents to attack it. Would Rafa, in these types of matches be better off grooving his drive BH, hitting some short, than being hampered by a stroke in which lack of confidence hurts him. Again, we'll see.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 09/15/2010 at 10:55 PM

Hi Folks! Pete, really lovely piece on Rafa. Loved every word! And I agree that he is a one-of-a-kind. Kids can certainly aspire to playing like him but unless they have his inate athletic ability, work ethic and fiercely dedicated uncle, they will only approximate what he does out there. The same can be said of Federer, too. But it's great to have such great players to emulate. Nole included!

As for Rafa's footwork, I think it was CBS that zeroed in on his feet during a particular point and highlighted it. Dozens of little quick steps so that he was positioned exactly where he needed to be before he pulled the trigger on some colossal bolo forehand. I loved seeing that.

Posted by NP 09/15/2010 at 10:56 PM

It's always amusing to see the wannabe experts of TW babble breathlessly about whatever suits their fancy at the moment. Of course the "what" this time happens to be Nadal and the holistic constitution of his apparently unprecedented and supernatural game. And surprise, surprise, there's the usual "You-gotta see it to believe it!!!" fanboy talk about the otherworldly topspin off Nadal's trademark FH.

Unfortunately for these faux experts, though, there are these things called facts. And I suppose facts do matter even around this funny farm, so let's look at some of them.

From a John Yandell article:

http://i43.tinypic.com/n1do5f.jpg

As you can see, the Topspin King's highest spin rate is merely 400 rpm higher than Federer's and 700 rpm higher than Roddick's, and his average spin rate just 500 rpm more. Now think of the difference between flat and topspin strokes. Guess which of the two better resemble Rafa's most dangerous/offensive FH shots?

Ah, but nobody but Rafael Nadal in this unfathomable multiverse could generate so much topspin, right? Actually, there's this other Spanish dirt-baller from the '90s who goes by the name of Sergi Bruguera. Remember him? Again according to John Yandell himself, Bruguera averaged 3331 rpm within the range of 2941-3751 rpm. Oh, no! How can this be?! That's actually a higher average spin rate than Nadal's! How outrageous! Nadal's FH is supposed to be the shi-ite!!!

But Bruguera's measurements are nowhere to be found in that table I linked to earlier. How come? If you still find yourself asking this question, congratulations, you're even more gullible than our resident experts. And yeah, yeah, I know Sergi's top spin rate is rather lower than Rafa's, but you need to keep in mind two things:

1) The sample size in Bruguera's case was rather small, with measurements of only 9 FHs. (BTW, this should make you more cautious about appealing to authority for stats like these.)
2) He probably did not have the same benefits of today's "advanced" technology as Rafa at the time of the testing.

There's your "expertise" filter, free of charge. Now Nadal's FH doesn't seem so "supernatural," does it?

And make no mistake, Sergi could match Rafa not only in topspin but also in mobility, and even surpass him where it hurts him the most: the return of serve. Grab if you can a few Bruguera matches, and watch how close he's standing to the baseline on RoS. Hell, watch how he's approaching the SERVICE line on his opponent's 2nd serves. And he had great flexibility and reflexes which allowed him to take stabs at the ball a la Hewitt and get lots of balls in play (which is one of the reasons why he was a tough matchup for Sampras, but I digress). You'll be hard-pressed to find many instances where the same could be said of Rafa.

So why is Nadal Nadal and Bruguera Bruguera? In case you haven't guessed by now, where Nadal has the clear edge over Bruguera, and other all-time greats have over most top players with comparable "talent," is mostly in the cranium. JMac would praise Sergi's net instincts and touch (gee, sound familiar?), but not even he could tame the lazy Spaniard. Sergi played pretty much the same clay-court game throughout his career, although he clearly had the talent to diversify it further. Not exactly a workhorse. And it showed: unlike with most other dirt-ballers, fitness/endurance was not one of his strengths. Nadal, OTOH, wasn't just happy with his triumphs on clay. He kept pushing himself, despite recurring and possibly career-threatening injuries, and now he's got 9 major titles and a career GS, 18 MS and 24 other titles, and 3 DCs. And counting.

So celebrate him as the champion and all-time great he is. Just don't be fooled by the blather about his revolutionary FH and other phantom innovations. The fundamentals of tennis have changed very little since the heyday of Tilden. The "experts" used to rave about Agassi's "new" power compared to Lendl, Sampras' "invention" of the reverse FH (sorry, imjimmy), and so on. The clueless nonsense about Nadal's FH is only the latest manifestation of our infatuation with the present.

Posted by Tennis fan 09/15/2010 at 10:57 PM

Nadal is a cheater

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/deportes/he/terminado/historia/elpepidep/20100915elpepidep_2/Tes

Posted by Roddick fan from Virginia 09/15/2010 at 11:01 PM

Netpick- that almost makes want to cry for Andy R. All these years practicing hard, trying for just the right balance and Roger trick shots, and probably goes shopping with Mirka too.

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 11:04 PM

since when "3 weeks of Asian Death Torture tour" is a derogatory racial slur? This poster named 'Joy" seems to be new here, but geez!! I say "death torture" since it is 3 weeks of non-stop tourney after tourney on fast hard court/indoor hard court and say "Asian" since they are Asian tour, meaning geographically happening there, for crying out loud! And no, I was not told off in the previous page. You got to take it easy, my friend. Do some people just turn words into what they want to read it these days?

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 09/15/2010 at 11:05 PM

NP: if Sergei's game was as amazing as Rafa's then why didn't he have a Rafa-like career? And why weren't all the seasoned journos and fans oohing and aaahing over his shots flying up and off the court? So, sorry, not buying your expert commentary on this one.


Posted by NP 09/15/2010 at 11:11 PM

Annie, your 1st question is a straw man, and your 2nd is a fallacy of appealing to the majority/authority.

Posted by Andrew 09/15/2010 at 11:16 PM

Ah, NP. Thanks for the contribution, in your usual "aw, shucks" cheery style.

Here's some thoughts from back in the day (January 2009) from some folks who've played some tennis in their time. I think their message is that spin is one thing (and a pretty useful thing), but what you do with it matters too. I'm sure we can all agree on that.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/the-spin-doctor/story-e6frf9if-1111118651047

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 09/15/2010 at 11:18 PM

triplepound: I certainly didn't find anything wrong with your calling the Asian swing a torture tour. People need to freakin' lighten up around here.

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 11:18 PM

Joy, think before you write, okay? Not that anybody here cares, but I just checked the previous page you mentioned. Needlessly to say, you're dead wrong. Hmm.. maybe that was just a random troll trying to create a controversy...

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 11:20 PM

Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature), thanks for supporting! I knew I was not delusional!!

Posted by NP 09/15/2010 at 11:27 PM

Andrew, yes. And I believe I made the same point, if in a different style.

Posted by Rikyu 09/15/2010 at 11:29 PM

How do you Nadal-a-holics explain Nadal getting injured time and time again, yet coming back bigger, stronger, and faster every time?

A short history of Rafa’s injuries:

2004
Rising tennis star Rafael Nadal of Spain broke his left foot and will miss the French Open, Wimbledon and the Athens Olympics.
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/tennis/2004-04-22-roundup1_x.htm

2006
Foot injury delays Rafael Nadal’s comeback
http://www.rediff.com/sports/2006/jan/05nadal.htm

2007
Nadal plays down foot injury fear
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/tennis/7117076.stm

2008:
Knee injury forces Nadal to retire in Paris
http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLV49845520081031

2009:
“I have been playing with pain on my knees for some months now and I simply can’t go on like this.”
http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/news/story?id=4245078

2010: Part 1
Nadal retires with a right-knee injury against Murray at the Aussie Open
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/tennis/8478297.stm

2010: Part 2
Nadal announces knee treatments to follow Wimbledon
http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/news/story?id=5331883

Posted by Kombo (GOATarded) 09/15/2010 at 11:29 PM

Kwaku - "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!"

Unless I missed the memo, the parameters of a tennis court are fixed, as are the rules. I stick with my previous point about A+ offense> A+defense, Rafa 2.0 > Rafa 1.0, especially if you consider he appeared marginally slower at the recent HC masters and this may be the reason for the minor dip in the consistency of his BC. A more offensive mindset is serving him so much better he's willing to accept a few more errors creeping into his game. His recent arc makes my point I think.

I'm not sure what 'minion word' on my homepage you're talking about.

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 11:30 PM

awfully slow day for TW? I guess it'll be like this until Friday morning. Well, I guess everyone is still pinching their cheeks and in a party mode after the awesome event we'd just witnessed. 3 slams in a year, oh yeah. Rafa can do it, too, you know!

Not trying to beat the dead horse, aka, Fedal war, but now at least Rafa can match 2 of 5 TMF years, circa 2004-2007 and 2009, with his own 2008 and 2010 seasons!

Posted by Kombo (GOATarded) 09/15/2010 at 11:31 PM

Woops, I see what you mean, Kwaku. That's not tennis related at all, just describing how beautiful women often have hordes of servile men orbiting them.

Posted by Sherlock (AgnostiGoat) 09/15/2010 at 11:36 PM

Rikyu, umm, youth? It's been know to heal things in a timely fashion. :)

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 11:36 PM

Rikyu, well I hope Rafa can finally start avoiding those injuries with his new and improved serves! Rafa himself said that with his new serve, he could relax more during return games and not have to fight as much in his service games. Also hopefully after having the most successful season yet, Rafa and his team can finally realize having a better schedule during the clay season and hopefully post-US open season... In my opinion, he just need to drop Rotterdam 500 and Barcelona 500 like he did this year. Barcelona might be a bit harder for him, but unless schedule changes, he can't possibly play 3 weeks in a row and 4 tourneys in 5 weeks before Roland Garros. Since he either wins or goes deep every tourneys, it's too much...

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 11:38 PM

Kombo, what's GOATarded? Some kind of a code for a clan?

Posted by £££ 09/15/2010 at 11:46 PM

Just checking next year's schedule quickly... And unfortunately, Rotterdam is once again scheduled only 1 week after the conclusion of AO 2011. And Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome are once again back to back to back. Madrid is 1 week after Rome. So basically the same as this year.

In 2012 schedule, there used to a week rest between Monte Carlo and Barcelona, but I think they are revising that year's schedule to add 4-5 weeks to the year end break and therefore shortening the season. So all bets are off. I wonder how they will be able to shorten 4-5 weeks with crowded clay and grass swing? Perhaps they should cut IW and Miami swing. It's too long for 2 master events as they take 1 whole month to complete... Anyway it appears that Rafa should continue to skip Barcelona.... bummer.

Posted by Christopher 09/15/2010 at 11:53 PM

NP-- You often have interesting insightful things to say that I enjoy reading. But I have to say, dropping in at the end of a day of posting to belittle everyone and everything they've said in the last 12 hours with blanket insults gets a little tiresome (though at least this time it wasn't followed by two hours of basketball comments).

I know you see yourself as wiser than us mere mortals. Perhaps you are. But your comments would play a more useful role in discussions here if they did not so often begin by telling us we're all idiots. (Heck, even your kinder comments often begin with something along the lines of, "Sorry, I thought you were one of those morons who believes X").

I honestly don't mean this as an attack and I hope you'll take it in the spirit in which it is intended.

Posted by Netpick 09/16/2010 at 12:08 AM

I only received one feedback from my inquirey:
I need all your imput to what I have finally determined regarding Roger Federer. Federer will not change his grip, strings, or racket. Martina said that if Federer doesn't change his strings, he will not win another grand slam tournament. The only reason why Federer hired Paul Annacone was to make a statement. He's not going to listen to Annacone. Nadal changed his grip a few days before the US Open. He goes out on the practice courts to learn, not to practice. Federer goes out on the practice courts to show his trick shots and to have fun. Everyone needs to write into his web-site and tell him that he needs to change his strings. Martina even said that thats why Djokovic beat him in the Semi's. Federer stubborness means more to him than winning. Please write into Federer's web-site with your thoughts on this and then maybe it might sink in. He is no longer a great champion. He made a run in his era and then closed the door.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 09/16/2010 at 12:11 AM

Rikyu, 11:29.

I had the explanation you seek expeditiously delivered to you personally.

Reach behind you, then direct your hand upwards forcefully.

You'll be able to grasp the knowledge you have done so much to deserve.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 09/16/2010 at 12:17 AM

Triple Pound:

I suspect that Rafa will plan to drop one of the clay Masters tournaments, perhaps Madrid. I doubt that he skips Barcelona two years in a row.

Rafa appears to have a good relationship with the Rotterdam promoter, Richard Krajicek, I believe. My guess is that Rafa plays Rotterdam if he is reasonably healthy.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 09/16/2010 at 12:26 AM

Extremely bad news for the WTA.

The Ever Persistent Hammer of Chengdu will have wrist surgery and is likely out for the rest of the year.

Let's hope that the extremely comely Zheng Jie comes back stronger than ever in 2011.

Posted by tenniscitizen 09/16/2010 at 12:27 AM

There is no way this NP poster is smarter than anyone else, if he were he wouldn't feel the need to put down other posters.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 09/16/2010 at 12:30 AM

Rikyu: it's called injury, treatment, recovery, rehab. then the player, in this case rafa, can go back out and ply his trade. the next time he's injured, he gets treatment, he recovers and then rehabs until he can go back out and play again. this is not rocket science. and sometimes, the rehab causes secondary problems like his ab tear in 09. Nalbandian has just experienced a secondary injury after hip surgery. so now he goes through all these steps. part of the process.

Posted by tenniscitizen 09/16/2010 at 12:31 AM

Hit post before includin my thoughts on Nadal.

He does seem to defy the laws of physics with some of his signature shots but I believe what sets him apart is his sheer determination and work ethic. He continues to work as hard now, as the undisputed #1, as he did when he first started out.

Posted by gerrywithag (formerly gerrynjapan) 09/16/2010 at 12:56 AM

Hey Pete, things sure have evolved from back in the Jet Boy Rafa days, haven't they? It's amazing. I still remember when Nadal did the South American leg of the winter tour, I think it was on his first year on tour maybe.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/16/2010 at 01:00 AM

I have never ever said or implied Rafa Walks On Water

I dont know why I am bothering to answer.

People that Know me are quite aware that I am a fair person

I have in the past and present critised Rafa and Uncle Toni.

I will also continue to do so when the ocassion arises.

This has been a most wonderful post

Many thanks to people like Skip,Slice and Dunlop who I hold in the highest estem and took time out to post their thoughts on Rafa and his win in the USO

Again Many thanks.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/16/2010 at 01:08 AM

Mr Rick I am going to Roland Garos next year.The officials have till February 2011 to ame up their minds to move.Hopefully that isnt the case.

Roland Garos is my favourite slam it holds soo much history and it happens to be on my favourte surface Clay.

Hopefully I might see you there.

You will then see The Master in all his glory

Posted by NP 09/16/2010 at 01:10 AM

Christopher, it's gonna be either my insults or endless b-ball comments. Take it or leave it. :)

Seriously, your criticism is fair. Now before I start let me make this clear: I definitely do NOT think you guys are "all idiots." If that were true I would not be still posting here semi-regularly after all these years (well, just two to be exact, but you get the idea).

That said, yes, I'm well aware of my often belittling tone/comments. Part of it has to do with my simple lack of patience; I personally find it hard to respond respectfully to, well, nonsense. Call it a character flaw if you will.

But what really gets my goat is not the nonsense per se, but the absolute certitude with which some posters trot it out. As you may know, there are people who claim to know FOR SURE that today's players would destroy even the Lavers and Borgs of yesteryear. Not defeat, mind you, but DESTROY. Almost all the seasoned fans and experts I know recognize how absurd this is. And I don't need the experts' opinions to detect the BS, as we already know and understand the following:

1) Laver was able to hang with Borg, who was able to hang with Mac and Lendl, who were able to hang with Sampras and Agassi, etc.
2) When you watch some of the exhibitions involving the past top players, you can clearly see that they're hitting the balls with clearly more pace on average than they ever did, but they have no problem handling the pace. In fact some of the old-timers have even expanded their repertoire. (Edberg's drop shots I saw the other day were splendid. Even Fed would've been jealous.)
3) It's true that players serve faster today on AVERAGE, but that's thanks to the bigger field of contenders. The top-end serve speeds in fact haven't changed much. The 10-20 mph gains are mostly due to the "juicing" of today's radar guns, NOT the unprecedented strength of the players.
4) As I often point out, the "new" strokes or training techniques are not new at all. (I know this particular point requires more thorough commentary, but that can wait till later.)

So the facts and common sense tell us that the highly confident pro-today posters are wrong. Now, I do understand there's a very slim chance that they might be right, but that's not the problem here. What really bothers me is their complete refusal to consider the other side. Doesn't matter if you feed them facts. They cannot even entertain the notion that the past greats of the sport could hold their own against today's journeymen, let alone top players. It's this stupidity coupled with ignorance and absolute certitude that I find so hard to accept gracefully, this complete unwillingness to engage in genuine debate. And this becomes painfully acute and obvious in GOAT discussions, when KADs do pretty much anything to boost their hero at the expense of other GOATs. And my almost pathological contempt for hero worship doesn't make matters easier, either. (The same applies to other debates as well, especially re: politics and religion.)

I don't say all this as an excuse for my behavior. Just wanted to explain why I sometimes act like a complete d-bag.

Anyway, I do see that this particular thread had been quite good, with little of the KADish talk that I have little patience with. So I had a knee-jerk reaction, then. My bad.

Posted by NP 09/16/2010 at 01:14 AM

And I'm off. Here's one of Rafa's greatest matches, "only the tennis":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iq6blFEndj8

Later.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/16/2010 at 01:19 AM

NP If that is one of your wierd sense of humour vidoes

I will pass thank you

Gee Laver got involved

Like who knew?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Vice-President...eek! 09/16/2010 at 01:28 AM

Morning, everyone. :)

Loved the post, Pete. To me Rafa's game has always had a sort of wild, storm-force beauty - maybe sublime rather than beautiful, I guess.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Vice-President...eek! 09/16/2010 at 01:48 AM

Is that a plain, simple Wimbledon highlight video, NP? :)

Great comments, too. Thanks, everyone. :)

Posted by jesse 09/16/2010 at 01:51 AM

perceptions of beauty are:
(a) bodily-conditioned, i.e. they're genetically 'in-written' capabilities of detecting regularities in form, colour, texture, etc. and as such they vary considerably from person to person, and
(b) socially-taught. at times of hunger, 'large' women were considered beautiful. at times of moral-sanction rampancy, small-mouthed women were considered beautiful. at times of industrial expansion, white-skinned, i.e. non-working women were considered beautiful.
in other words, beauty is taught and stamped on people's mind much more than we accept it to be.
in other words, all those tennis 'specialists' who speak of 'uglineess'' of shots can't really see a diifferent kind of beauty.
moreoever, they wouldn't accept there is another kind of beauty because - hey! if they don't understand beauty, what will earn them their bread.
and if they have to learn a new kind of beauty -- they wouldn't want to learn, would they?

Posted by manuelsantanafan 09/16/2010 at 02:02 AM

To add to NP's 1:10.

The 36 year old Rod Laver could hang with Borg, as demonstrated in their 1975 Five-Set match in the semifinals of the WCT Championships.

And anyone with half a brain who saw Borg play in his prime knows Borg could hang with anyone on the tour today.

Beginning

Middle

and

End

of Borg vis a vis Anyone on the Tour Today.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/16/2010 at 03:35 AM

NP I did peep after all

You know I cant help myself I thought it was one of Rafa's hard court matches when Adam and Eve were alive

Ok I am wrong.

LOL!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/16/2010 at 04:29 AM

Christopher Just reading back posts

I also agree with your thoughts on some our juniors today and they way the behave on and off the tennis court.

I also believe if they could model themselves on Rafa and Roger maybe we would not see some of the disgusting behaviour which I myself have witneesed with some Aussie juniors.

Some of these little "upstarts" as I will refer to them need to be called aside and promptly given a "thorough talking to" by higher officials.Hoepfully it might knock some sense into them.We can only hope for the ongoing future and conduct of our game.

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