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The Fast(er) Track to Glory 09/24/2010 - 4:04 PM

51980265

by Pete Bodo

The last time we experienced a multi-surface, year-round, all-hands-present-all-the-time rivalry comparable to the ongoing one between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, it ended in tears. Actually, far worse than tears. It ended up with a sobbing Monica Seles crumpled on the clay in Hamburg, Germany, the victim of a knife attack by a deranged fan of her great rival, Steffi Graf.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since the question, “Who’s the greater player, Federer or Nadal?” achieved maturity when Nadal completed his career Grand Slam and won his ninth major—a landmark surpassed by only four men in the Open era: Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Federer (is it mere coincidence that “nine” seems to be the magic number that separates these competitors from the merely great players?).

In the spring of 1993, up to the time that Seles was attacked, her rivalry with Graf had grown as white-hot as our present rivalry between the top two men. And the parallels are interesting. Granted, the stylistic contrast between those two dominant female pros wasn’t as pronounced as the vivid difference between the games of Federer and Nadal. Graf was never as smooth and quick as Federer (although she was comparably swift, in relative terms), and she lacked the overflowing toolbox that leaves Federer in a dead heat with Laver when it comes to versatility. But she bucked the conventional wisdom with that one-handed, predominantly slice backhand, much like Federer does in this era of power two-handers. And the source of their genius is similar.

The Mighty Fed’s style is so appealing and, in Pete Sampras’s famous formulation, so “easy on the eyes” that it obscures the role basic athleticism plays in his game. It’s all well and good to be able to flick the cross-court, one-handed backhand pass at a severe angle, but you need the wheels to get you there, and the elastic limbs to make all those moving parts work in unison to produce the desired result.

Graf’s success was much more conspicuously linked to her athleticism, an impression heightened by the Do-It-Yourself nature of actual game. That hiccup with which she began her serve, the height of her toss; that forehand hit off her right hip, that backhand taken in close, with Graf hunched over the ball like some bird of prey—those mechanics no pro would teach. Federer wins partly because of his seamless style; Graf won in spite of her rough edges.

The comparison is less subtle on the other side of the draw. Seles, like Nadal, played a brand of tennis rarely seen before—both technically and conceptually. Her two-fisted shots off both wings were as novel as Rafa's violent, bolo forehand. And her go-for-broke sensibility, while more risky than Nadal’s version (because she hit flatter, more penetrating balls) was perhaps even bolder. Until Nadal began to flesh out his game with a slice backhand, he shared Seles' talent for simplifying the game. Hit the ball hard enough, steadily enough, and into the right places on the court, and the rest will take care of itself.

Seles was not in the same league as Nadal, athleticism-wise (who is?). But her zest for competition was no less visible and convincing. And that’s just what most perturbed their rivals. Both Graf and Federer must have asked themselves, “Who does this kid think he/she is?” when Seles and Nadal arrived on the scene to challenge.

The arc of these four careers bears comparison. Graf is three-and-a-half years older than Seles—that’s almost half a career, tennis-wise. Federer is almost five years older than Nadal, and the head-start he enjoyed must be repaid at the back end of his career. This process has already started, and it may play an increasing role in the longevity to which Federer aspires. It’s all well and good to say you want to play as long as you enjoy the game, but what if doing so entails seeing your legacy evaporate before your very eyes? Would that still be enjoyable?

Seles won her first major at Roland Garros in 1990, by which time Graf already had nine majors (there’s that number again). Rafa won his first Grand Slam event in 2005, by which time TMF had four majors in hand. But it’s become clear that Federer was a relatively late starter, so the difference isn’t as critical as it may appear. Graf and Federer were cast from day one as the hunted, while Seles and Nadal flourished as the hunters. The latter role is always easier and perhaps more comfortable, which helps explains how quickly they established themselves as equals.

At the time Seles was stabbed, she was on a faster track to glory than the one Graf had followed. Seles won her first major in the fourth Grand Slam event she played—Graf played 11 before she won Roland Garros in 1987. Seles won eight of the 14 majors she played up to the time she was stabbed, in a span of almost exactly four years. It took Graf six-and-a-half years of Grand Slam play to bag eight.

Nadal won a major in his sixth attempt, while Federer didn’t hoist the silver until his 17th Grand Slam outing. Nadal won nine majors in just over five years; it took Federer almost seven years to get to No. 9. These comparisons are handy but not entirely reliable, because of the other circumstances that shape tennis history as well as individual statistics. For instance, Graf had to contend with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova when she came onto the tour; like Federer, who overlapped with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, she was kept from fully blossoming by the strength of the field she faced. And there’s no doubt that both Nadal and Seles benefitted enormously if subtly from having the bar set high by the very players they were determined to unseat. There's no doubt in my mind that Federer made Nadal a better player, just as Graf did for Seles.

The head-to-head department is where the comparison gets shaky, although it's impossible to say what the final H2H between Graf and Seles might have become were it not for the stabbing incident. Graf holds the career H2H advantage, 10-5. Seles won just one of four meetings with Graf after her rehabilitation and return to the tour, although she never was quite the same player after the trauma. Here the roles are reversed, as Nadal (the challenger) leads Federer (the champ) by 14-7. The argument that so many of Nadal's wins were crafted on clay is less convincing now that Nadal has shown his proficiency on grass and hard courts.

Next week, I'll take a closer look at what the future might hold in store for the Federer vs. Nadal rivalry, and publish some thoughts on the relative strengths and weaknesses of each man's record. Meanwhile, have a good weekend, everyone. Use this as your Crisis Center post for Saturday.


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Posted by CL 09/24/2010 at 04:14 PM

This is a very interesting article. I am sure it will engender many interesting comments. I was more of a Monica 'appreciator' than 'fan.' Same for Steffi, I guess. But enough of an appreciator to enjoy their games. **holds up a weak hand for Gabby Sabatini.**

And, in the meantime, what's up with the different font size/type face in the last 2 paragraphs?

Posted by Master Ace 09/24/2010 at 04:38 PM

Pete,
Very interesting compairson to the current rivalry in tennis. Some people say that Monica would have more Slams than Steffi if she had not been stabbed. Starting with 1991 AO, Monica won all Slams until Wimbledon before her stabbing. If Roger ends up with more Slams than Rafael, some people may say that if it had not been for his knees and foot ailments which caused him to miss 3 Slams(2004 FO, 2006 AO, 2009 W), Rafael would end up with more. As of now, Rafael is healthy and is the reigning champion of FO, W, and USO.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 04:39 PM

Pete Many thanks.

My thoughts on Seles have always been she was the female version in ways of Jimmy Connors.She had that "street fighing mentality".Comparing her to Graf in a technical way is like "chalk and cheese".

We will never know what further achievements Seles could have had after that "horrific" incident that took away her tennis career and also robbed us tennis fans.Monica has struggled with personal issues because of it though has come through ok now it appears.

Your thoughts regarding certain player make other players rise and play better is a interesting one.I suppose a case can bed made for that fact if say the players meet in a GS final for instance.Both rising to the occasion.Though in my mind to get to say a GS final both players need to be on their games throughout the tournament.No twp player is the same with technique etc.I have always found matches more interesting when we have 2 players with contrasting styles personally.Though is one "style" perfect in our game?.Many experts over the years have tossed this very thought around.Tennis is a evolving game both in technique and technology.We have all seen that over the years.Nothing ever remains stat.

I will look forward to your further post.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 04:56 PM

I have to disagree with you Pete thinking that Federer made Rafa a better player?

For instance both players have contrasting styles.Any player wants to keep improving in areas of there games.Rafa is one of the hardest workers on the tour.I love his quote recently "I dont go to practice I go to learn".I feel personally Rafa is a perfectionist in ways he just wants to keep improving.By the way we have all witnesses his improvement over the years.His serve for starters which was the main key he won this years USO.

Posted by Colette 09/24/2010 at 05:07 PM

Nice article and LOVE the picture - especially smiling Monica.

Posted by Mr Rick 09/24/2010 at 05:21 PM

"Agnes Szavay of Hungary reached the semifinals of the Korea Open ..."

Be still my heart - will this frustrating underachiever at long last WIN a tournament?

Pete - this article really made me sad - what a terrible crime that was committed against such a talented athlete. All of tennis really suffered by Seles absence. I also REALLY miss seeing Graf play.

Posted by Master Ace 09/24/2010 at 05:25 PM

Saturday Order of Play:

WTA: Seoul at 11 PM(Friday) - Kleybanova vs Szavay to be followed by Petrova vs Zakopalova
WTA: Tashkent at 5 AM - Elena Vesnina vs Alla Kudryavtseva
ATP: Bucharest at 7 AM - Montanes vs Chela to be followed by Granollers vs Andujar
ATP: Metz at 8 AM - Kohlschrieber vs Simon to be followed by Gasquet vs Zverev

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 05:31 PM

I think Agnes has been going queitly though this touramant and soo far has been playing well

Keep On Agnes

Must hand it to the crafty Monanes lol!

Ahhh Granola Bar as well

Vamos!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 05:33 PM

I would like to thank my "brainless" husband who decided to tape over Rafa's USO win with a bloody golf tournament?????????????????????????????????????????????????

Posted by Colette 09/24/2010 at 05:37 PM

AM, Dinara made him do it

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 05:38 PM

Colette We are making out new wills in a week.I will wait till then to KILL HIM

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 05:44 PM

Like it had on the Tape in Bold Letters Rafa 2010 USO

I have every match recorded in order

I will go into his Pete Sampras tapes and kill everyone of them

I am Livid.

Posted by jay 09/24/2010 at 05:48 PM

I also like the comparison between champion mindset--all four of these players have found a way to match their desire to win with their performance, but they all seem to find the motivation within themselves rather than their opponents or some outside force (family, adversity, etc.). With Rafa and Monica, I get the feeling they want to win regardless of who's on the other side of the court, it's a level of intensity that's overpowering. But they're so focused on their own performance, it actually doesn't matter to them who they're playing, or how their opponent is performing--it's all about challenging themselves to win on their skills. I honestly get the feeling that they hold zero negative feeling towards their opponents, took me a while to see that re. Monica, but think it's true. Remember reading somewhere that she really liked exhibition matches cause everyone was there to have fun; I think they play to win but don't want anyone to feel bad. Unfortunately, since there has to be a winner and they play to win, someone is going to feel bad. With Fed, I get the feeling that he's found his groove and actually truly is enjoying himself for the most part. All kudos to him. I think without the family issues, Graf might have enjoyed the game a bit more too. All four of them are great professionals though, true champions. Thanks for the post!

Posted by Mr Rick 09/24/2010 at 05:50 PM

AM - I used to agree with Pete's statement that "Federer made Nadal a better player, just as Graf did for Seles", but I am starting to wonder a bit also...

However, remember he did make that odd statement - I think sometime in late 08 - early 09 - about it being sort of a let down that he didn't have Roger as a such a big rival anymore - I'll try to find it - I'm really paraphrasing and it could just have been yet another wierd translation of something or other poor Rafa was trying to say...

But anyway, Rafa has gone so far beyond anything even I thought he was planning to achieve --- you just have to conclude he is the most uber-motivated athlete the world has ever seen --- he was always probably going to achieve incredible success with or without Roger as The Great Rival. With his dad and Tio Tony, the headstrong, anti-establishment Mallorquis, kicking his ass everyday especially.

Also, just as much as Roger, I think an equal motivator has been Carlos Moyas' success, the entire Spanish Armada's success, and the success of so many other Spanish athletes this past decade or so. Its really a big deal that such a small country has been so successful in international sports. It seems to mean a A LOT to Rafa to represent his country and be part of the Spanish athlete brotherhood.

Posted by Mr Rick 09/24/2010 at 05:55 PM

AM - I will serve as a charcter witness in any murder trial you might have to go through.

It is very clear who commited the crime here - your husband.

Justiable case of homicide if there ever was one.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 06:03 PM

Mr Rick Thanks for your support in this ongoing matter

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 06:11 PM

Mr Rick Rafa has exceeded my expectations ten fold.I knew he was special after watching him win his 1st GS title at RG in 2005.

He has worked soo hard in all areas of his game and still wants to improve.As I said his serve for starters? which was the main factor he won the USO this year and completed his career slam.

I mean who would have thought getting to the final only losing his serve twice? Amazing

I am soo proud of him and everytime I think of that it brings tears to my eyes.

Posted by Ruth 09/24/2010 at 06:22 PM

"These comparisons are handy but not entirely reliable, because of the other circumstances that shape tennis history as well as individual statistics. For instance, Graf had to contend with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova when she came onto the tour; like Federer, who overlapped with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, she was kept from fully blossoming by the strength of the field she faced."

Pete: I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. but it causes me to be even more baffled by the outrage expressed by some Federer fans when anyone dares to discuss or compare the levelof competitionfaced by Roger and Rafa when they won their -- let's say --first 9 slams. The theory is the same; a player's record or results are inevitably affected by the nature of the competition he/she faces.

There can be honest (and civil) discussions and differences of opinion about the relative levels of competitors that a player faced in one period or era and another, but to pretend that the level-of-competiton factor doesn't matter -- or that to merely mention it is heresy -- is just silly.

I was a Monica fan for her entire career (kept her on my five faves list, usually reserved for active players, for four years after she'd played her last WTA match!), and I was never a big fan of Graf. However, I truly believe that, had Graf had a sound Monica across the net throughout their careers, she (Steffi) would have found a way to raise her game and meet the challenge that a healthy Monica would have presented in the later years. That's what great competitors (like Graf and Seles) do. And that is just speculation on my part.

Posted by Kate 09/24/2010 at 07:11 PM

AM: I have both versions of the USO win on disk, both the CBS/ESPN and the Tennis Channel. I don't know how to copy disk to disk, but I will find out how and get them to you. Can you run something recorded on a USA DVD recorder on your machine?

We have to save both you and your marriage.

Posted by Kate 09/24/2010 at 07:34 PM

AM My daughter says she is never getting married just because of issues like yours.

Posted by Christine S. 09/24/2010 at 07:39 PM

I think all great rivalries do push the other player to get better, maybe not in changing how they play though sometimes they do, but in motivation. I was a big fan of Chris Evert and loved watching Chris and Martina. They did push each other to get better and it's sad that Monica got stabbed because who knows where that rivarly would have gone. I'm just glad to have both Roger and Rafa around, though bummed they didn't play each other in any majors this year. Still hopeful for next year though.

Kate BTW, if you have all of it on tape, I'd love a copy too. My husband didn't tape over it but my machine wont play it back(it's a hard drive so I'd probably have to reformat it which would erase it)! I saw all but the last set!

Posted by lilscot 09/24/2010 at 07:59 PM

Pete, totally loved this article! I'm a long-time Monica fan and was just so upset when she was stabbed. I remember watching that match on t.v. and hearing her scream off-camera.

Having Rafa as my favourite player has helped fill that void left when Monica finally retired. I've always seen the similarity between them regarding their fierce competitiveness. Like Rafa, Monica always played every point as if it were match point. She was so difficult to break and nearly impossible to close out a set or a match against when she was in her prime.

Sigh, now I miss her all over again. :)

AussieMarg:

I can't believe what your husband did! Tell me, are his bags all packed yet?

Posted by lilscot 09/24/2010 at 08:01 PM

Oh, and did anyone else notice that the story that was up a little while ago about Rafa's doctor saying he could have another set-back with his tendonitis is now gone? Hmm, interesting. I thought it was strange for that story to appear in the first place. I would think something like that would have to go through Rafa's camp first before being approved for publication. Maybe that's why it was pulled. I can't imagine Uncle Toni or anyone in his camp wanting that kind of conversation going on at the moment.

Posted by Kate 09/24/2010 at 08:09 PM

Christine S. I will happily give you a copy, too. Just bear with me while I figure out how to copy disks. I'm not very technological, but my husband works with a computer guy, so there's hope. Email to [email protected] so we can work out where I sent these.

You, too, AM.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 08:26 PM

Thanks Guys for your support

Ok call me isane I still get up and play Match Point LOL!

This morning I died I cant believe it

Posted by reckoner 09/24/2010 at 08:33 PM


hmm-- at the absolute very least, this is a huge stretch... but curiously, even w/ the biggest benefit of doubts, if graf does somehow parallel federer, and seles nadal, then what ? *so* what ? not sure i get it

maybe i should wait for the latter write-ups but so far it seems contrived

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 09:12 PM

Guys one of my freinds taped the match twice and is giving me the tape.We hare lucky here Fox sports replay the finals a few times.Thank goodness for her.I will hide the tape so He cant ever tamper with it.

Posted by kj 09/24/2010 at 09:18 PM

Fed 2007 US open version v Rafa 2010 US open version = Fed in 4 sets. Sorry fellow Rafa fans, go on utube and try to argue.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 09:35 PM

Considering Federer has won most of his titles on a hard court and has contrasting styles to Rafa in ways you cant compare.Roger with his great record at the USO of course is sumpreme.Though for Rafa not to drop a set and lost his serve only twice going to the final to me was impressive especially on his first attempt.

Posted by CL 09/24/2010 at 09:47 PM

Hmm..Aussiemarge .."first attempt" kinda makes it sounds like it was the first time Rafa was even IN the USO. He was there plenty since, what? 2004...03??? This was his first time in the final...still a wonderful achievement. :-)

Don't mean to be the nit picker police...but...

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 09:58 PM

CL That was my point by making it to the final

Yes you are a nit picker

My point with Rafa being he has worked hard in his game.Faster hard court surface isnt his favourite at all which we have all seen in the past

Its a shame some people cant give him the credit he deserves rregardless if you are or arent a fan of his.

Though why am I not suprised by this.

Same old,same old here at times.

Posted by CL 09/24/2010 at 10:14 PM

Aussiemarge...SHEESH!! HEY!!!!! I give Rafa plenty of credit...it was just the way you PHRASED it! Look to your ownself!!

Just wish some people would give Roger the same kind of credit that Rafa is now reaping. But you are right, that is all just same 'ol/same ol.

How about this - here is a letter that appeared in the NY Times in response to a column that ran just after Rafa's USO win...we could ALL take a lesson from the letter writer.


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/sports/19inbox.html?scp=1&sq=Ilene%20Starger&st=cse

Re “Chasing Federer, or Pulling Away?” Sept. 13: Some of Harvey Araton’s comments about Roger Federer strike me as condescending, if not cruel: “probably spared a deflating and defining beatdown”; “we can wait another year before writing off Federer as a serious contender at the Slams”; “a healthy Nadal has the goods to restore the rivalry to full historical bloom by the time Federer is gone from the sport, playing family doubles with his wife and twin girls.”
Federer is a tennis genius: his record speaks for itself and cannot be diminished. He has forever changed tennis and its standards.
We live in a culture that perpetuates the idea that there is only one person at the top at any given time. Why not celebrate the extraordinary gifts and character strengths of Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic et al., and be immensely grateful for them? -Ilene Starger

That last paragraph from the letter writer is especially telling.

FWIW, and its not worth much...here is the link to the original Atherton column of 9/14.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/sports/tennis/13araton.html?scp=1&sq=chasing%20federer%20or%20pulling%20away&st=cse

The bit about "...restoring the rivalry to full bloom by the time Federer is gone from the sport, makes no sense. How can their be a Rafa/Fed rivalry if there is no Fed??? And he MIGHT have mentioned that before the Ent "bludgeoned" Federe in five sets, he needed a mere three to "bludgeon' Nadal. But, hey, a long as Harvey is happy in his alternate reality. ...**rolls eyes**

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 10:16 PM

CL I always give Roger credit as you well know.

To me it just sounds like "sour grapes" ok

Roger is the greatest player of this era I have said that many times

Though this is Rafa's moment

You will just have to live with it or dont comment and make snarky remarks.

Posted by richard hanson 09/24/2010 at 10:27 PM

Bjorn Borg did not win a career Grand Slam in the Open Era, It was Andre Agassi.

Posted by CL 09/24/2010 at 10:32 PM

AM - Its NOT ok...you can HEAR all the sour grapes you want, but that doesn't mean that they are actually there.

Snark? Believe me, if I am upset w/Rafa fans or something Rafa does, no snark will be needed...I will state it loud and clear. I have in the past and I will continue to do so.

I TRIED to correct the impression YOU left that the 2010 was somehow Rafa's "first attempt" at winning the USO in THE gentlest way...yet you think it is ok to dump all over me. Its NOT!!

You acknowledge Roger is the greatest player of his era- fine...I acknowledge the astonishing achievements of Rafa Nadal, including but not limited to the marked improvements in his game that have made him a superb all court player truly deserving of his current #1 ranking and his GS accomplishments.

But I vehemently disagree that this is "Rafa's moment." Though you may wish it, not all other players are going to vanish before the mighty Rafa...just as they didn't vanish when Roger was at his most dominant. NOBODY plays tennis alone. Or if they do it is one hail of a boring game.

pffft!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/24/2010 at 10:42 PM

CI Rafa has just got his career slam so the hype and praises are still coming so they should just when Roger got his career slam.

We are very lucky to have these 2 great champions with such contrasting styles playing.We might not ever be soo lucky to have players of this calibre playing again.Though nothing ever remains stat in our game.They are both great ambassordors for our game as well.

I am certain no real tennis fan would ever dispute that Roger with his incredible record and what he has brought to the game isnt the "greatest player of this era".I for one dont.

Of course Roger and Rafa arent the only players who with their skills have also brought a lot to the game at present.

I always give credit to any player regardless of their ranking etc.I just wish other people at times could also do the same.Human Nature being what it is.We arent all going to agree thats for certain.

I for one cant stand the silly arguements on Goat Debates and head to head etc.

We cant we all just accept I personally think that would stop a lot of the childish behaviour that is seen here from time to time.

Posted by ndk 09/24/2010 at 11:02 PM

Pete, Interesting perspective...

Just a comment on the personal interactions....
Rafa/Fed seem to have more of a genuine fondness (if that's the right word) for each other as did Chris and Martina (don't think these relationships are entirely choreographed). Between Seles and Graf, there seemed to be more of a grudging respect from especially Graf towards Seles. Seles' account of post-stabbing interactions with Graf are very different from potential Martina/Chris or Rafa/Roger interactions would have been..

Posted by barb 09/24/2010 at 11:12 PM

monica would have won soooooo many more titles than graf had she not been stabbed. monica was wonderful.

Posted by davesee 09/25/2010 at 12:16 AM

Crazy! I thought of the Graf-Seles = Federer-Nadal comparison just a few weeks ago. Such a sad, sad event was Seles' stabbing. I don't think enough is said about it in sports history.

Posted by Game Lover (Let's go Rafa, let's go!) 09/25/2010 at 12:21 AM

Don't give crazy people ideas by mentioning the stabbing.

Other then that, yeah, Rafa most ambitious athlete, a true warrior!

Posted by Tony 09/25/2010 at 01:30 AM

Of course there is one statistic where the Nadal-Seles analogy just does not work. Nadal won two Wimbledon titles, Seles absolutely zero. Wimbledon was a benchmark which Seles never reached, although she made it to the finals once where Graf demolished her.

Any speculation on the post-stabbing scenario where Graf and Seles are concerned is just that, plain speculation. I would have wanted Monica to take the incident as added flame-throwing motivation to even scale the heights further, but different people have different ways of dealing with tragedy. Nadal took the divorce of his parents in stride and got even better.

On the Federer-Graf analogy, Graf has 22 grand slams, Federer 16. He still needs to catch up.

Posted by joey 09/25/2010 at 02:18 AM

To compare Monica's stab with Rafa's parents divorce is a J O K E!!!

Everyone who was watching tennis at the time knew that Monica had Steffi's number in Grand Slams.The only major she lost to her was at Wimbledon and that after bad criticism for her grunt etc.

Steffi was a great player but before the stab Monica was on her way of becoming the best ever.

Posted by Glenn 09/25/2010 at 02:20 AM

Wow Tony! Let's see you get stabbed in front of thousands of people in a vulnerable monent and then scale the heights of tennis. :(

Posted by Glenn 09/25/2010 at 02:23 AM

Joey: You were way too kind. Tony's comparison was callous and idiotic at best.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 09/25/2010 at 02:39 AM

Interesting post, Pete.

"It’s all well and good to say you want to play as long as you enjoy the game, but what if doing so entails seeing your legacy evaporate before your very eyes? Would that still be enjoyable?"

I think it depends on how you view your "legacy". All records get broken although I agree it would likely be depressing to watch some of the ones you've set get broken quickly. But I'd still argue that Federer's and Rafa's achievements tend to boost the achievements of the other. I don't think one man's achievements will be wiped out by the achievements of the other - can't get my head around that concept - and I don't think legacy is entirely contained in headline records, either.

There's also no guarantee that it will happen. Long way for Rafa to go - and many more miles to put on those troublesome knee tendons.

One of Roger's records I can see not being broken for a very long while is the 23 grand slam semi-finals streak. It may not be the headline greatness record but it is spectacularly brilliant.

"There can be honest (and civil) discussions and differences of opinion about the relative levels of competitors that a player faced in one period or era and another, but to pretend that the level-of-competiton factor doesn't matter -- or that to merely mention it is heresy -- is just silly."

Ruth - yes, to a point; and despite career slam glory for Rafa, I cling stubbornly to 2008 as being my personal favourite "good year" - just because I feel Rafa was more consistently pushed by more of the top players. 2010 doesn't feel less earned, but it does feel less "vintage", to me. That is entirely subjective, though.

That said, it is not just Federer fans who can resent "weak era!" suggestions. It all depends on how it's said, I guess. When it's said with an agenda of cheapening, it's annoying no matter who you're a fan of, going back to William Renshaw or Suzanne Lenglen. ;-) And it so often is said like that.

Another trouble is that it's hard to determine level of competition, no? Particularly when a dominant player is preventing others from making, say, a slam breakthrough. We tend to go for the easy-looking measures which aren't necessarily all that meaningful. Probably one reason why people tend to dismiss level-of-competition discussions - just because they're so complicated and often inconclusive.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/25/2010 at 02:53 AM

By the way Margaret Court holds 24 singles GS titles lol!

Posted by Voltaire 09/25/2010 at 04:08 AM

Pete:

Very interesting and intriguing look at the not so distant past.....from time to time you do throw a wicked curve ball! Yes Roger/Rafa rivalry has some uncanny similarity to Steffi/Monica's in that it was supreme established champion against supremely confident upstart. I watched one Steffi/Seles match(must AO in 91 or 92) where Seles was literally bludgeoning the ball from both wings and hitting lines unerringly(so called redlining in modern lingo)and thought no one was ever going to win against her if she played like that.......she was just too far ahead of even Steffi. The only parallel i could think is Serena playing her best....who will win even a game?!

Seles would have won many more if not for that ghastly incident....unfortunate coincidence but this traumatic break for Seles breathed life into Steffi's latter career. More tragic is the very lenient punishment handed out to the perpetrator:-(

As Greg Couch constantly says...history will regard Rafa as much better player though Roger still seduces with his 'style' in the here and now!

Posted by spacenoxx (Vamos Rafa) 09/25/2010 at 04:44 AM

Ruth - "2010 doesn't feel less earned, but it does feel less "vintage", to me. That is entirely subjective, though"

I completely understand your point cuase I was kind of feeling the same way. However, I started thinking that coiuld it be because Rafa is not running down everything like he used to before?

Rafa lately is trying to pull the trigger much sooner and going for the lines while he used to wait for a better oppurtunitity previously. Like in the Wimby 2008 we are kind of used to Rafa running down everything and then hit a spectacular winner from a very difficult position. We still see them but not as many maybe because he is trying to go easy on the knees. I think this is one of the reasons why his US open may not look like the 2008 Vintage Rafa performance.

And then there is his new Serve which is robbing us of a few more Rafa moments ;-) I think this is a slightly tweaked Rafa we are seeing and need a bit more time to get used to.

Posted by spacenoxx (Vamos Rafa) 09/25/2010 at 04:47 AM

I must have seen the 3 Sampras like serves at 3rd Set 5-4, 15-30 in the USO finals a few hundred times so far. So may be this is different Vitage Rafa ;-)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/25/2010 at 04:50 AM

Spacenoxx I agree with your thoughts with this "new Rafa" we have witnessed this year.

He is playing soo much smarter.I think this year since April has been "amazing" when you look at how many matches he has lost compared to 08 its like chalk and cheese in ways.

To be able to maintain his great playing level he is playing smarter and still there have been some "incredible points" etc.One has to look at his complete dominence on the clay this year and the record he produced there.He and Borg are now tied.They are the only 2 players who have both won RG twice without dropping a set.Vilas has down that once.

We have also seen his serve which he has worked on being one of the main factors for him winning the USO.Only dropping serve twice before the final and not dropping a set until that final.

Posted by noleisthebest 09/25/2010 at 05:07 AM

I have often thought of the same comparison. Sees and Nadal have almost the same mental make-up, except I think Monica was even tougher, which for a woman is truly amazing.

Her tragedy always make me cry a little inside.

Every time someone writes about her, it's like talking about someone who has died young for me.

Posted by Mike 09/25/2010 at 06:00 AM

MA, let's not forget that Fed has had his own ailments that may just have started his own gradual decline, prematurely. It's not like Fed has been 100% his whole career, most notably the last 3 years. Let's be fair, even in 'what if?' comparisons.

Posted by lilscot 09/25/2010 at 06:30 AM

Just reading some of the posts above. The exchange between AusssieMarg and CL was interesting. From my angle it seems like CL misunderstood AM's comment about "Rafa's first attempt." It made perfect sense what AM said. Of course she was talking about his first chance to win the title after getting to the final, NOT his first ever time playing the Open. Can't in a million years imagine someone as tennis-savvy as AM assuming this was Rafa's first ever time trying to win the Open.

Oh, and the very idea that CL would say that he/she wishes Roger would receive the same attention for his accomplishments as Rafa has been receiving for his Grand Slam is laughable.

I love Roger too but if there's anyone in this sport that has received plenty of attention and praise, and well-deserved, it's Roger. How could anyone think that he hasn't garnered his appropriate, if not more, share of the spotlight?

As AM said, this IS Rafa's time right now and so what if he's getting praise heaped on him. What Roger did last year, and what Rafa did this year was nothing short of spectacular and both guys should and have been praised accordingly.

Yes, it does sound like sour grapes and I'm with AM. Enough of the childish games that go on here sometimes. My goodness, so someone other than Roger proved his greatness. Gasp! When the next guy/gal comes along that does the same thing we'll all be praising him/her too. And we won't be thinking Roger got cheated of the spotlight because of it.

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 07:13 AM

lilscot, I for one agree with CL. AM's comment was slightly confusing. Does that mean I'm somehow taking away from Rafa's accomplishments? No. I just have a thing for diction.

I also love how it's childish to disagree with you about a player or his game. Let's all be mature and change our preferences and beliefs so that they maximize the Rafa euphoria.

At the USO, Nadal had a cupcake draw and primarily won because of it (despite all the improvements he made to his game, which are noted). That's what I believe. He still has the trophy and the really large check, so obviously I'm not taking anything away from him. Stop being childish and deal with that.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/25/2010 at 07:18 AM

I would like to say maybe I didnt make myself clear in my first post.Though I did clear it up in my second post ok.

Go ahead and shoot me.

Cup Cake draw hey at the USO now for Rafa

Please dont me laugh.Any player can only Ever play what is in front of him at any given tournament.

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 07:34 AM

I never said he didn't play what was in front of him. Obviously he did, seven times, and he won each time, quite convincingly.

I'm suggesting the draw (and more specifically the "quality" seeded players on his side) was pretty nice for him: players he has totally owned for years (e.g. Berdych, who didn't make it and Verdasco, who did) or comprehensive losers (Youznhy).

I personally don't care whether you're laughing, (dis)agreeing with me, or doing anything else with your faculties. That's the joy about being an adult. You can live your own life and hold your own beliefs without getting in the way of others.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/25/2010 at 07:39 AM

Well I think from you post you have said it all.

No further comment needed.

By the way I am always in "joy" of being a adult lol!

I can assure you my "facilities" are 100%

I too enjoy being a adult.

No further comment from me.Your posts says it all.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/25/2010 at 07:46 AM

I find it a shame that true tennis fans have to put question marks on anyone's accomplishments full stop.

Its called "The Tall Poppy Syndrome" which happens I am afraid.

People love to knock a Champion.We have seen some incredible Champions in all era's.

Human Nature I suppose.We have been lucky enough to see Career Slams of Agassi,Federer and now Rafa.

Each totally "unique" in their own way.

Its a pity we can just acknowledge these wonderful accomplishments without the undue comments they attract.

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 07:52 AM

That's fine. Your choice. For the record, I only said that I found your original post a bit confusing.

I'm just a big fan of the "agree to disagree" mantra, and I don't think it's childish or otherwise immature to follow it.

Posted by Mike 09/25/2010 at 07:55 AM

I'm not taking anything away from Rafa ... he's incredible. But why is his greatness always at the expense of Fed in conversation? Though very different in their game and the way they approach it, both are great players. But when you start the 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' argument of why Rafa has not already equaled Roger's accomplishments ... you're reaching.

Let them both retire before you put the crown or the horns on either ... and even if one should ultimately outshine the other, be gratful we had both to push each other to achieve greatness.

Posted by jackson 09/25/2010 at 07:59 AM

Love how the Fedfans forget how cupcakey his draw was for the first three rounds when his opponents were all ranked in the hundreds. Rafa had a couple of very good players whose rankings are in the forties and rising. And then they add to the nonsense by whining about Rafa playing players he has owned for years. D'uh, what's Roger's record against Soderling? Talk about an easy draw.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/25/2010 at 07:59 AM

Mike I agree with your thoughts.

Roger's record to date "stands alone" also what he has brought to the tennis world as well.

Rafa is at the present time no where near him in say terms of GS titles.By the way Rafa is the first to acknowledge that very point.

I have always maintained in any tennis era lets wait for these players to retire before declaring who say is the better or whatever.

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 08:07 AM

AM, what makes certain comments undue? Because they don't express the same opinions you hold?

Why is it so sinful to disagree with you about Rafa, Roger, the way chicken tastes, or the color blue?

I, like you, think each player won his career in his own particular way. I believe some were better than others. For me, Laver is way on top. Nadal, way on the bottom, basement level. I don't understand why it's so bad or offensive to hold my opinion, and I definitely don't get how I'm knocking anyone. Nadal's name will be on that trophy until the tournament ceases to exist. He's a champion, by definition.

I'm actually a very big fan, but I'm not sure why people can't disagree about an accomplishment.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/25/2010 at 08:14 AM

RW Ahhhh a Laver Fan hey

Welcome to my world.We share some common ground.

My point being as I said before I dont agree with people that have to make undue comments on players achieving career slam titles.Simple as that.I find it totally demeaning to any player that has worked hard to accomplish that feat full stop.

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 08:14 AM

Jackson, you're complaining about the high quality of Rafa's first three rounds, really?

Is your post meant to be satirical?

Posted by John 09/25/2010 at 08:16 AM

RW, did Nadal have cupcake draw in USO? Did Roger have more difficult draw?
From the beginning of the tourney Nadal had MORE difficult draw, Nalbandian, Ferrer, Verdasco, Murray etc but it was not his fault that those players were eliminated. Minwhile Fedex just had Nole who was no playing so great before the USO but later he showed that he could beat Fedex

Guys, I understand your frustration but try to take things easier, this is just a sport
This is not just Nadal's moment, this is a great tennis moment (of course not for Federer fans)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/25/2010 at 08:19 AM

John Indeed.Its a Great Tennis Moment

We are lucky to have witnessed it.Some of us might not witness it again.Well depending on their age lol!

Posted by Mike 09/25/2010 at 08:23 AM

Agreed, AM. It just jacks me up when intelligent, knowledgeable posters use the 'if Rafa was 100%' argument to why he's not even more successful than he already is. Can any player be 100% their whole career? Has Fed ascended back to the level of TMF since the mono issue of early 2008? Glimpses, maybe ... but Fed has been on a gradual decline since, which is only natural for a 26/27 year old at the time. Look at Fed's record prior to early 2008 as compared to after against Top 10 players. All I'm saying is give both a chance to experience their full careers ... and the positives and negatives that are bound to happen, to make a fair comparison.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/25/2010 at 08:30 AM

Mike No player can ever be 100% in there career.These players are "human" after all.

The Whata Shouda agrument goes down the drain.Its all hypotetical nonsense.

In the true reality of it all players are judges on their records alone.

Posted by for the love of sport 09/25/2010 at 08:33 AM

Hi all...been in a happy haze post USO, so have been awol for a bit...
Let me say that Steffi Graf was/is my most favourite sportsperson of all time....Rafa is close, but not quite there :-)
Her match ups against Seles made for the most compelling tennis...even though they were sometimes heartbreaking affairs for Graf fans. I have tremendous respect for Seles, and I don't mean to be uncharitable, but I have NEVER understood why Seles' career came to a premature end after the stabbing incident. It was not a debilitating injury in the physical sense, and as far as psychological damage is concerned, Seles was TOUGH on court...so WHY? I mean people come back from far worse, Steffi herself had reconstructive knee surgery, Muster couldn't walk after his accident....What is the real Monica Seles story? Anybody...?

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 08:34 AM

John, you misunderstood my original post or I wasn't very clear, but I'm saying that his draw of POTENTIAL seeded opponents was pretty soft (with the exception of Murray, although he ALWAYS finds a way to lose when he really should win at a GS. Not Nadal's fault, but the truth). I think he would've always beat Berdych for example. The actual way the draw played out only made it worse.

I agree; it's Nadal's moment. Again, I am a fan (of him and plenty of other players. I just like good tennis.), but I don't think his accomplishment was as great as say his win over Fed a few years ago at Wimbledon or his clay court record or Fed's run of 5 USO's straight, etc etc. This USO was just not compelling, for me anyway. Plenty of people disagree it seems. I'm okay with that.

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 08:43 AM

For the love of the sport, she could have died, and that's pretty scary. It's hard to bounce back from something so traumatic.

Being tough playing a game and being tough in real life after someone tried to kill you are a little different, I believe.

Posted by for the love of sport 09/25/2010 at 09:00 AM

Ummm...ok RW, I get what you're saying...and I think what happened was horrific...but I don't recall it being a life threatening injury, whatever the intent of the insane attacker might have been...I mean, one knows there are people out there who hate your guts, just as there are people who love you...to be so paralyzed by that knowledge is puzzling to me...especially since I've always associated Seles with dogged tenacity....

Posted by John 09/25/2010 at 09:02 AM

This last USO final was one of the best played finals that I remember in years. Both players played their best

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 09:07 AM

Nadal had something like 20+ breakpoints in 4 sets. If the USO final was Djokovic's best, he's in trouble. I cannot understand where in the world his serve has gone in the last few years.

Posted by spacenoxx (Vamos Rafa) 09/25/2010 at 09:37 AM

Nice...Rafa plays a qualifier in the 2nd round (1st round bye) and then Delpo. Surely that matchup would have been better for a final than a 2/3 round.

Lets hope Gulbis plays well.

Posted by lilscot 09/25/2010 at 10:07 AM

RW:

Well, aren't you full of yourself. I don't recall callling you childish, or even addressing you in any way. And, I didn't call anyone childish for disagreeing with me. Actually, what the hell are you talking about? All I was talking about was how Roger has definitely received just as much, if not more praise and press attention as Rafa has. And that he totally deserved the praise. The childish part was about how some people have to continuously try to put some kind of spin on a champion's achievements, whether it's Rafa or Roger, by saying the "other guy" got treated worse.

Waaaah.

Got it RW?

Posted by lilscot 09/25/2010 at 10:10 AM

And another thing RW. Cupcake draw? People like you want to make sure Rafa has to play every single player on the tour that is dangerous to him end up in his draw, and play them all in five sets, then have his finals opponent have to only play three sets in their semi-final in order for Rafa's win to be something? GMAB. When does that ever happen? Did Roger have to play all his greatest threats during the Open? No. That's not how draws work and you know it.

So, according to your thought-process, Rafa should have had to play Berdych, Soderling, Del Potro(if he had been there) Djoko, then Roger before his win meant something.

Posted by lilscot 09/25/2010 at 10:16 AM

Mike: 7:55 a.m.

You've actually got it backwards in this particular instance. And I do agree with you about people shouldn't put someone up on a pedestal and the expense of another. But, this conversation was talking about Rafa's accomplishemt and someone else had to throw in the boo-hoo about how Roger wasn't getting his fair share of accolades. This to me is exactly what you are talking about but in reverse. Why is it that whenever we Rafa fans want to enjoy something special "some" Roger fans have to stomp their feet and say, "hey, don't forget about Roger." How could anyone think that Roger has ever been neglected by the press or fans.

Yes, there are some Rafa fans like esplanadowhatever who embarrass us all with their diatribes and rants, but for the most part both Roger's and Rafa's fans respect each other and like the other player.

But, like Roger's fans, we'll call out anyone who gets all pissy and childish about us simply enjoying something our guy did without having to always place Roger's name in there with it, then tries to sound adult about it afterwards. Not talking about you here now just so you know. Speaking in general terms.

Posted by Syd 09/25/2010 at 10:30 AM

Interesting article and agree that Roger made Rafa a better player. He set the bar, for all players coming behind him.

Hey, who said Roger's name not be brought up here? Hello, the article isn't all about Nadal, in case you read it.

Posted by David 09/25/2010 at 10:32 AM

Before Rafa emerged, Monica was my favorite player. Both players share this innate desire to win regardless of the opponent or circumstance yet offcourt, so gracious and humble.

Also, watching Rafa hit his double fisted cross court backhand passing shots at the USO reminded me so much of Seles hitting the same stroke in the early 90's. The technique both players employ is strikingly similar.

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 10:54 AM

lilscot, actually, do you have it?

If you read my post, I responded to you only when you chimed in about AM's post and the misunderstanding that resulted from it. I then went on to speak in general terms about one adult calling another out for disagreeing with him or her. In my opinion, that's far more childish.

Then later I went on to share my thoughts about tennis.

I like Rafa, and I think he's a great player; I'm certainly a fan. I was disappointed with this years USO, and I think it took something away from Rafa's accomplishment. I hope you can understand my feelings, but I don't really care whether you do.

And, for the record, you may think I'm full of myself (and you have a lot to base that on, seeing as I'm a stranger and all), and I'm fine with that. It seems that you (or maybe just your head) are totally empty.

Posted by sajor 09/25/2010 at 11:01 AM

great post. thanks

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 11:05 AM

And yes, cupcake draw. I would have liked him to play some tough opponents, not the likes of Youznhy in the SEMI's. It just speaks volumes of the quality of this last USO. Just terrible. I'm not saying that's his fault or issue. He beat everyone he played comprehensively.

I'm simply saying the accomplishment would have been much greater, in my eyes anyway, had he found success against some better players. Foe example, we'd all be saying different things about Roger had he found a way to win the French by beating Nadal (the same way Nadal found a way to win Wimbledon by beating Fed...was the greatest match ever, etc). The fact that Nadal won the USO in this way doesn't mean he's not a champion or that the win isn't great. It is. It would've been better under more difficult circumstances.

Posted by Kate 09/25/2010 at 11:05 AM

CL:

When AM said, "...Though for Rafa not to drop a set and lost his serve only twice going to the final to me was impressive especially on his first attempt.

You responded: Hmm..Aussiemarge .."first attempt" kinda makes it sounds like it was the first time Rafa was even IN the USO."

Wouldn't it have been nicer, kinder, more generous and indeed more respectful to someone who *always* gives credit to all players (Roger, most definitely, as she had in the previous sentence, where she mentioned Roger's "Supreme" record) to have just said, "I'm assuming you meant first attempt in reaching the final, right?"

IMHO, It doesn't hurt anyone to assume the best of someone instead of the least, particularly when that someone has a proven record of fairness to other players.

Must go. Bye, all

Posted by MikeDC 09/25/2010 at 11:20 AM

If a Rafa/Fed post isn't enough to start a war... let's throw Graf/Seles in too! I remember an old tennis site where about 50% of the posts devolved into Graf / Seles throwdowns. This was also around 2000-2001 and a wee minority of posters always lammented how nobody wrote or cared about the ATP...

Anyways... I think the comparison is apt. Federer and Graf seem(ed) to win with game that was based on high risk precision. No matter how well they play there was always some UFE's going to fly. And of course they both always were working to position themselves to find the point ending forehand, while opponents try to keep it to the backhand.

Nadal and Seles - more like tanks to me. Nowhere safe to go for the opponent. When on, almost never hit errors (but still hit the crap out of the ball) and seemed to have an incredible intensity. Opponents playing well might get a set, but would be exhausted by the effort.

Posted by Mike 09/25/2010 at 11:37 AM

lilscot, why don't we just admit that you're never going to have a complete thread praising either Fed or Rafa without the other getting taken down a notch by somebody. Sucks, but it happens every time.

Posted by spacenoxx (Vamos Rafa) 09/25/2010 at 11:45 AM

I would rate Rafa's USO 2010 as slightly better than Roger's 2009 FO and that too because Nole performaed better than Sod. But by and large their performances are comparable. Not just in the competition they faced but also what they achieved at the end.

Whether Rafa was better than Roger or vice-versa is a mater of speculation at this point. Neither really had to play their A/A+ games or faced an A/A+ opponent. I would be the first to admit that all 3 GS's Rafa won this year were kind of (relatively) easy (boring to some).

I say in 2009 Roger had it easy during FO/Wimby and in 2010 Rafa had it easy FO/Wimby/USO...end of story. There were hardly any classic matches.

Posted by RW 09/25/2010 at 11:55 AM

Spacenoxx, totally agree with you there.

Posted by CL 09/25/2010 at 11:59 AM

And the Sour Grapes express rolls on...though some people seem as unclear about the term's meaning as Roger was when he made what turned out to be some pretty prescient remarks about Andy Muzz's game.

Small point...just because Roger has a very strong h2h against Robin S. does not make Robin a just sprinkle on Roger's 'cupcake' draw - this was the same Robin who broke Roger's semi record at the FO, had beaten him earlier in the year and who had played him scary close at the USO last year. All h2hs are not created equally. As I am sure Rafa fans would agree if Robin was to turn up on HIS side of a draw - despite the very favorable h2h.

Secondly - yes, I suppose we can ALL be a bit more polite. ALL of us. Not a one way street. AND more tolerant. NO one is innocent in the 'my way of the highway' sort of line.

Lastly, and this will probably get me in more trouble, but what the hail, in for a penny/in for a pound -

To me Roger is the dream..my dream how how I would play tennis if only I could play tennis like that. And a dream precisely because it is unattainable...to play with that balance, precision, (seeming) effortlessness, grace, variety, power, and serenity.

Rafa, OTH, is a nightmare...a nightmare opponent...the opponent who cannot be outrun, outgunned, outlasted. The scary guy with the snarl and the sneer who makes your arm turn to jelly and your legs to jello. (Yes, yes, I know - off the court he is St. Rafa the sweetest thing since cupcakes...but this is my analogy.)

and before Rafa fans flame me, again, the fact is that the 'Nightmare' is the #1 player in the world and is currently on the run of a lifetime. And again, it is just MY analogy...or is it metaphor?...always get those mixed up...but in either case, JUST a personal preference.

A little bit of that analogy applies to Steffi and Monica as well. Though Steffi was more the austere technocrat than Roger and Monica had less sneer and even more, if that is possible, focused intensity than Rafa. Steffi was the better athlete and a ferocious competitor in her own right, but I always thought Monica had the edge in their meetings, at least partly because Monica was less afraid to lose.

Posted by tina (forever proud to be in the "Đ-block") 09/25/2010 at 12:11 PM

It's no secret I am a bit obsessed with Monika: I can return to obsess more after I get some lunch. But for now I just wanted to note that both Evert and Navratilova were still playing when Monica arrived; in fact, I believe she played her last match at RG against the 15-year-old 5'2" Seles.

But there's nothing on TW I hate more than when it discusses itself - it's even worse than GOAT discussions and "Fedal" wars. Can we call them "Naderer" wars now?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 09/25/2010 at 12:21 PM

spacenoxx: from a long way up, no, that's not what I meant at all regarding Rafa. I just don't feel he was as consistently pushed to the limit by the top players as he was in 2008. I don't think he faced as many top players in SFs and Fs this year as he had to in 2008. It's just a personal preference. :)

"I say in 2009 Roger had it easy during FO/Wimby and in 2010 Rafa had it easy FO/Wimby/USO...end of story. There were hardly any classic matches."

I think we tend to forget the five setters - I remember Roger struggling his way through the FO until he reached the final, basically - Haas, del Potro were both five setters, and he had some iffy matches against...Acasuso? PHM? I forget who but Roger looked shakey all the way. Wimbledon 2009 final was not an easy match, either. Rafa 2010-wise, he went through the FO in straight sets, sure, but he had two early five-setters at Wimbledon and a scare against Soderling in the QF. I'm not sure any of those were classics, exactly, but I don't think I'd say either player had it easy all the time.

Reading down through the comments makes me rather dread Pete's promised post. :)

Posted by Sherlock (AgnostiGoat) 09/25/2010 at 12:21 PM

CL, that's why I like Rafa so much. His saintly sweetness balances my sour grapes quite nicely. :)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 09/25/2010 at 12:27 PM

"Rafa, OTH, is a nightmare...a nightmare opponent...the opponent who cannot be outrun, outgunned, outlasted. The scary guy with the snarl and the sneer who makes your arm turn to jelly and your legs to jello."

LOL, CL. You make him sound like a Terminator. :)

Posted by L.Rubin 09/25/2010 at 12:31 PM

The FEDAL fights will now give way to TW's new rivalry: CLAM (CL vs. AM). It's so on!

Tina,

Well said (about TW "getting all" philosophical about itself). Bah. Almost as bad as those constant updates about Rafa's knees and, worse, the female cries of "GSM Mirka" when TMF's engagement was announced.


--Liron

Posted by ocean84 09/25/2010 at 12:34 PM

good work,pete. very very interesting article,and `easy on the eye` writing.

Posted by SimonSays 09/25/2010 at 12:42 PM

I dont agree that Roger set the bar, makes no sense. for example in the 90's Sampras is the one who 'set the bar', so all young, up and coming tennis players should have known how greatness is achieved; dedication and hard work. Who watched Sampras growing up? Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Delpo and so on.

Federer AND Nadal have set the bar for the next generation.

Posted by Calvy 09/25/2010 at 12:46 PM

In the love of the sport,

Not everyone recovers or responses to tragedy the same way, pretty much in the way not all people grieves in the same manner. Some cry, some don't, and the fact that Monica herself has stated, it was the psychological that affected far more than the physical should be enough for you or anyone.

Having a steely manner on the tennis court doesn't mean you'll react to being STABBED on a tennis court with the same manner as to having another tennis player running you ragged all over the court.

Posted by x-fan 09/25/2010 at 12:55 PM

"CLAM"

:)) That's funny.

People will always disagree, esp. fans of different players but I'm with Kate, it's not what we say but how we say it that makes some think of 'sour grapes' and bitterness.

I pretty much like Roger and Rafa the same but I must say that it appears some Fed fans are too anxious to come to Fed's defense which it's a bit strange since the dude has won 16 GS on all surfaces and has dominated for so long!

By the same token some Rafa fans would do well taking it easy and enjoying the moment without thinking he's the GOAT in waiting... we all know how quickly things can change.

Posted by CL 09/25/2010 at 01:03 PM

Liron - **sniff*** feeling suddenly very clammy. Can't it be 'Clock' instead? Me vs. Sherlock in a TW throw down? The problem with any of it, of course, is that the 'wars' here depend on the ability and willingness of all the combatants to say the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over for days and days and days at a time. Where as, Clam and Clock, I give about 1/2 hour, tops. One good kick in the shins, followed by a rapier thrust, and BOOM, we're done.

jewell - well, in a way I meant to. But hey, the Terminator turned out to be the sort of good guy, right? Albeit, with a some anger management issues...Rafa seems to have few of those. Of course, downside is that you'll get some generation next Aaaahnold to play Rafa in the movie.

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