Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Out of Remission
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Out of Remission 09/16/2010 - 10:16 AM

104107413

by Pete Bodo

So you think Andy Roddick has had it tough, being denied an almost certain Wimbledon title and pehaps another U.S. Open championship as well. Well, it might be cold comfort but consider the plight of Novak Djokovic. Like Roddick, he's been stuck and spinning his wheels with one major title to his name (Australia 2008). But unlike Roddick, Djokovic is an all-purpose—or, all-surface—threat whose next Grand Slam title is just as likely to be captured on the red clay of Paris as on the verdant lawn at Wimbledon.

The just completed U.S. Open final accurately framed his dilemma; he wants to win, he's ready to win, but then...up pops Roger Federer. And if it's not Federer, it's Rafael Nadal, who's more of a contemporary of Djokovic's than of Roddick's. Roddick had one iconic player with whom to grapple even under the conditions most favorable to his game; Djokovic has two.

I'm not sure that, until the early stages of the fourth set on Monday, I've ever seen a Grand Slam loser play as boldy and courageously as Djokovic did against Nadal (well, there was that Federer-Roddick final at a Rafa-less Wimbledon in 2009...) Nor have I seen a truly great effort buried so deeply under the volumes of earned praise heaped upon the victor. Sorry, Novak, wrong place, wrong time. If it's any consolation, Roddick and Andy Murray often experience much the same problem.

Still... Everything was working for Nadal in the final. He's never played better on his least favorite surface, and were not for a newly developed serving superiority he still might have been in trouble. That's because Djokovic played remarkably positive tennis. And the adjective is the operative word for our purposes.

The narrative that emerged over the past few years has cast Djokovic—the ultra-talented, curiously personable Serb (has anyone from his part of the world seemed simultaneously so "exotic" and so familiar to us?)—as a perpetual semifinalist or quarterfinalist at the majors. The guy who, having already earned national hero status in his homeland, could certainly pick up the odd Masters 1000 title here and there. But he was soft at the majors. Sometimes, he seemed too preoccupied with entertaining the crowd and acting as an unofficial ambassador for his nation to pose a serious threat to Federer or Nadal.

But let's remember, 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro is the only man other than Djokovic to have won a major since Djokovic first played one (Australian Open 2005). It's a mind-boggling statistic, and enough to tempt any player to fling up his hands and say, To hell with it, I'm just going to have a good time and pick off whatever low-hanging fruit comes my way. I'm serious when I say that Federer and Nadal may have inadvertently ruined any number of otherwise impressive men. After you spend a few years in chains, you might find their rattle musical.

But on the floor of Arthur Ashe Stadium the other night, Djokovic suggested that he wants to cast off those shackles. He often outmatched Nadal in force of shot, and he managed to look—accurately—as a man both confident and fighting for his life. At times, the grunt accompanying his swing was almost otherworldly, more evocative of a death rattle or cry of anguish than the pleasantly guttural exclamation of a guy doing his job with complete attention and effort. More than once, he loaded up and tagged that forehand in a manner that made me think, Surely, this is the last tennis shot this guy will ever hit, and he's determined to go down in a blaze of glory and self-destructive abandon.

Yet those balls continually fell inside the lines. Djokovic made Nadal's life very uncomfortable for three-plus sets at the National Tennis Center.

You could put this heroic, almost Wagnerian degree of effort expended by Djokovic down to desperation. That extra day of rest he earned via the postponement of the final because of rain on Sunday was a godsend. But it's all relative. As many players have shown, the effects of a tough, emotional five-setter in New York aren't wiped away in fewer than 48 hours (just think about Fernando Verdasco, playing his semifinal against Nadal). Djokovic insisted after the final that he felt fine, physically, but I suspect that after the win over Federer, his emotions took charge and demanded that his body—the corporeal realities—stay out of it. But they never do. He was, in my view, more tired than he knew, but men are capable of doing extraordinary things when properly motivated.

I wrote yesterday about Nadal's forehand. But in the final, Djokovic hit one more winner (he had 22) off that wing than did Nadal. Nadal hit 12 backhand winners, to Djokovic's 9, giving Nadal a slight edge in the winner count (49 to 45). The key statistic was unforced errors: Djokovic had 47, Nadal just 32. So Nadal finished with a +18 net in the error-to-winner ratio, while Djokovic ended up -2. But the most important thing this tells you is that Djokovic was more inclined to swing for the winners.

The most startling element in the match was the way Djokovic played when he found himself in a do-or-die situation. He converted three out of the only four break points he held—a tribute to his courage as well as to Nadal's talent for taking care of his serve. Nadal, by contrast, converted a dismal six of 26 break points. But nobody who watched the match would call Nadal to the carpet for that 23 percent break-point conversion rate. Djokovic played so well with his back to the wall that Nadal was moved to joke about the trouble he experienced breaking serve.

"In the statistics of the ATP I was No. 1 in break points converted," Nadal said, grinning. "So I think after this tournament I don't want to [he meant "won't"] be No. 1 on the break points converted."

All this must have been a bitter potion for Djokovic to digest, but he took it like a man. The good news is that in the latter stages of the tournament, Djokovic played anything like the perpetual semifinalist. I had to ask him if he felt as if he reinvented himself. He replied: "I've played the best tennis certainly in the last seven, eight months, maybe the whole year... I feel much more comfortable on the court, more confident, and getting this aggressive game back, the game I need to have in order to stay at the top, and a game that has been a part of me, always."

A part of him, yes, but sometimes in remission. It was nice to see it back.


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Posted by Colette (US Hopin' - ON CLOUD 9) 09/16/2010 at 10:38 AM

"I'm not sure that, until the early stages of the fourth set on Monday, I've ever seen a Grand Slam loser play as boldy and courageously as Djokovic did against Nadal (well, there was that Federer-Roddick final at a Rafa-less Wimbledon in 2009. . .)"

AGREE

"... Nor have I seen a truly great effort buried so deeply under the volumes of earned praise heaped upon the victor."

DISAGREE

I think Rafa's career slam accomplishment and finally winning on HC have generated the high praise. However, I also think there's been lots of admiration for Novak's courageous performance and high level of play. As I said yesterday, I think it was a match where the "loser" was also a "winner." (The whole tournament made me a Nole fan.)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/16/2010 at 10:40 AM

Pete. Thanks for the post.Again great insightful thoughts.

I too have been waiting for Novak to come out of "remission".

I personally think the USO has given him the "belief" that he has soo desperately been seeking.Throughout the tournament he has gotton stronger.I think that was evident in his match against Roger and again in the final with Rafa.

He didnt go away in either matches to his credit.A few months ago I believe he would have surrendered.He kept swinging freely.His focus on "big points" which have eluded him in the past wasnt evident at all.He is such a well balanced athlete.He certaintly has the game for the hard courts his previous records on this surface alone testify that fact.

I feel he has to get the right balance.In ways too I felt he played his final with Roger.Some say it takes more than 48 hours to recover from a 5 set match.Though to his credit in the final he never went away.

Welcome back Novak I hope its for good this time.

Posted by CWATC 09/16/2010 at 10:42 AM

Agree it was an excellent performace by Djoko.
It seemed from what I saw that while he played great off the ground, it was his inability to win enough easy points off his serve which made the match an uphill battle for him. If he can improve the first serve I think he can still go up a level.

Posted by Colette (US Hopin' - ON CLOUD 9) 09/16/2010 at 10:48 AM

Of course I meant "finally winning a GS on the USO HC"

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 10:52 AM

Titles (Finalist appearance if best result)

Ace WTA rankings
(1)Serena Williams (25-4): Australian Open and Wimbledon
(2)Kim Clijsters (36-6) : United States Open, Miami, Cincinnati and Brisbane
(3)Caroline Wozniacki (49-15): Montreal, New Haven, Ponte Vedra Beach and Copenhagen
(4)Venus Williams (38-7): Dubai and Acapulco
(5)Vera Zvonareva (39-15): Pattaya City
(6)Samantha Stosur(43-14): Charleston
(7)Francesca Schiavone (34-18): French Open and Barcelona
(8)Justine Henin (32-8): Stuttgart and s-Hertogenbosch
(9)Jelena Jankovic (36-17): Indian Wells
(10)Elena Dementieva (34-14): Sydney and Paris


Ace ATP rankings
(1)Rafael Nadal (59-7): French Open, Wimbledon, United States Open, Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid
(2)Roger Federer (44-11): Australian Open and Cincinnati
(3)Novak Djokovic (44-13): Dubai
(4)Andy Murray (34-13): Toronto
(5)Robin Soderling (40-15): Rotterdam
(6)Andy Roddick (40-11): Miami and Brisbane
(7)Tomas Berdych (41-16): (Wimbledon and Miami)
(8)Fernando Verdasco (41-17): Barcelona and San Jose
(9)David Ferrer (45-17): Acapulco
(10)Sam Querrey (38-19): Memphis, Belgrade, London and Los Angeles

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 10:59 AM

Nice piece Steve and well-deserved. I truly hope Novak can turn the corner and win his share of the majors before he is done.

The one thing I disagree with you on: "Djokovic made Nadal's life very uncomfortable for three-plus sets at the National Tennis Center." - If anything, I'd say Djokovic made life uncomfortable for perhaps 2 1/2 sets. Once the third set was in the bag for Nadal, the match was over. More broadly, when you have just 4 breakpoints in the entire match and your opponent has 26, I'd say Nadal made life vastly more uncomfortable for Djokovic than the other way around.

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 11:01 AM

I think 2011 will be a crucial year for Novak after he staved off elimination in the first round(Viktor led by a set and a break in set 4 and again led by a break in set 5 before losing) to make the finals(saving 2 MP against Roger with 2 good forehand winners).

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 11:09 AM

Sorry, that should be "nice piece Pete"!!!

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

Pete,
I was posting on the other thread about giving a little bit of love to Novak and you just did!.:) I hope he can keep focused now and grow to his potential next year. He showed that despite his obvious breathing problems during those terrible warm days he kept fighting up till the fourth set of the final. Well done!

Posted by zenggi 09/16/2010 at 11:21 AM

From Matt Zemek on Twitter: "Novak Djokovic gets his due in a typically well-crafted piece by Pete Bodo. Fabulous! RT @ptbodo Out of Remission"

Posted by Matt Zemek 09/16/2010 at 11:25 AM

Awesome piece, Pete! So well-deserved by the Djoker.

Tennis will greatly profit from this version of Djokovic if it can regularly manifest itself at all four majors over the next few years.

If Andy Murray can re-invent himself and find inspiration from what Nole has done in New York, so much the better.

A certain tennis discussion involving an animal with horns - four letters long and preceded by the word "Billy" - will be shaped in seven or eight years by the extent to which Djokovic and Murray compete with Rafael Nadal Parera.

One particularly salient point of Pete's piece is that Djokovic was mentally tired more than physically on Monday. In many ways, I can see parallels with Murray having to play and beat Rafa over the course of two days in the 2008 USO semis and then play a Monday final against Federer. Very similar trajectory, albeit with some differences, the chief one being that Murray didn't have a full day of rest. The Djokovic-Federer semifinal was longer, tighter and more demanding than Murray-Nadal was in 2008.

All of this, of course, magnifies the remarkable nature of the hammer-lock Federer and Nadal have maintained over the rest of the ATP Tour over the years, with Del Potro being the exception given the rapidity with which he learned how to stay in the ring (and bust the Fedal axis 12 months ago).

Lord, how much we need Delpo to become healthy and durable.

Posted by zenggi 09/16/2010 at 11:28 AM

Matt,
"Lord, how much we need Delpo to become healthy and durable."
Who is "we"? Very important to define, you know. :)

Posted by beth 09/16/2010 at 11:28 AM

glad to see Novak getting some good press for his wonderful effort in this tournament
and I am glad to see him get back into the mix
I expect that he will build upon this good performance
and be a serious threat for many big events to come

Posted by Kate 09/16/2010 at 11:31 AM

I add my kudos to Djokovic and his powerful game, but also to his gentlemanly behavior.

Matter of fact, I thought something (wonderful) has come over the entire family. Mama and Papa Djokovic don't seem so fierce and angry in the box anymore. They smile; they glow; they hug each other in delight. Their real warm pleasure and pride after the Federer match was dear; but they were just as warm after the final.

And Djokovic himself seems softer. Not so bitter, not so resentful, not so much The Victim. He can still throw out his arms in that why-me gesture on court (not sure this is such a good signal to send to any opponent), but he can also smile and laugh it off.

A healthier heart and soul, perhaps, is translating into a much healthier game.

And, indeed, a much more likeable man.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 09/16/2010 at 11:33 AM

Pete : Thanks you for posting about Novak today ! It's very fitting that he get his much deserved praise for the way he has fought his way to this final and has managed to overcome his breathing problems and many difficulties this year. I admire him so much for his great tenacity in fighting his way through the match too and agree with you that he must have been feeling some physical and mental strain.

He is a player to be admired and appreciated and I certainly hope that he can fulfil his dreams in GS tournaments. I think he fought his way into my heart too on Monday evening.

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 11:34 AM

Zenggi,
I think Matt "we" is the tennis world.

Posted by Matt Zemek 09/16/2010 at 11:41 AM

Zenggi:

Master Ace - as usual - is correct. The global community of tennis fans.

It was so amazing to watch the speed with which Delpo evolved in 2009, measured against Federer:

Australia: Takes two bagels in a limp, paralyzed quarterfinal performance when he was the deer caught in the headlights.

Roland Garros: He takes a two-sets-to-one lead on Federer, but his legs get taken away by Roger's consistent use of the drop shot (even when it didn't win Fed the point over the first three sets) and he falls in a narrow five-setter despite erasing a 3-1 deficit in the fifth. Ran out of steam just before the finish line.

US Open: Down a set, 5-4 and 30-love on Fed's serve, Delpo uncorks 3 world-class winners to break and level the match. Down two sets to one and two points away from losing at either 4-5, 30-all or 5-6, 30-all (forget which score), Delpo holds serve, then wins the fourth-set breaker, then wears down Fed in the fifth to become the ONLY MAN other than Nadal to beat Federer in a major final.

In eight months, he went from impotent child to fully grown man-champion. If there is a soul on the planet who might ever be able to follow in Roger's and Rafa's footsteps, it is the Tower of Tenderness and Timing from Tandil, Argentina. The sport needs him something fierce.

Posted by Ross (FOE) 09/16/2010 at 11:41 AM

We got the match we wanted in the USO final, even though it wasn't Roger/Rafa. Thanks Nole!

Posted by zenggi 09/16/2010 at 11:51 AM

MA and Matt,
I know, I was just teasing. We really want for Juan Martín del Potro - whose 22nd bithday is in exactly one week (September 23rd) and who has been able to play exactly 4 matches in 2010 - to come back healthy and fighting asap.

Posted by Matt Zemek 09/16/2010 at 11:56 AM

And Pete, I don't know where to go for (slightly) off-topic but still tennis-centric talk, but with CBS's US Open contract expiring next year, the community of American tennis journalists needs to make those negotiations an overwhelmingly central topic of discussion and debate. The CBS-NBC broadcast network cartel has to be broken up. At least in America, CBS is the focal point since it has the rights to our home-soil major championship.

ESPN2 just extended its deal with Tennis Australia through 2021, and because there's no CBS/NBC interference, the Deuce is able to cover a major with the expansiveness and freedo it doesn't just deserve, but demand. After Davis Cup this weekend, those contract talks need to become front and center - primarily for Americans, but also certainly for the players who get disadvantaged by the US Open's way of proceeding, and for global tennis fans who got taken for a ride as well. The ESPN2 outrage on Monday night - with the trophy ceremony getting cut off for 5 minutes of football PREGAME talk - has to be the last straw.

Had to get that on record here. This story has to be chased and given the focus it requires. Fans here should also be given a proper comment/feedback mechanism or outlet to the USTA to express their grievances (politely, Asad Raza-style) and offer solutions.

Thanks again for another year of terrific tennis writing at the majors, Pete!

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 12:04 PM

Guess who will be number 1 at the end of 2010:

http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2010/09/Other/Nadal-ATP-World-Tour-Champion.aspx

Posted by CL 09/16/2010 at 12:08 PM

The silence is deafening.

Moving on...I agree with TMFunk that Novak made Rafa VERY uncomfortable, but only for 2 1/2 sets, tops. Maybe only for 2. And like all players who play against the very best at the apex of their dominance, it is virtually impossible to keep up that level for extended periods...as in 3 out of 5 full sets.

As the often maligned Mary C has put it...it is hard to "red line" your game, stroke after stroke, game after game. But that is what Rafa makes an opponent do and what Fed used to be able to make his opponents do, and sometimes still can.

Wither Novak? will only be answered in time. Will he maintain this re-energization and high quality play, or slip back into a 'Muzzy' funk? I think one of the things that both Novak and Muzz discovered is that it is one thing to beat the best of the best...each has beaten both Fed and Rafa...but to KEEP doing while at the same time beating the guy ranked 20 spots below you in tournament after tournament in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds is WAY more challenging. Climbing the mountain/tough. STAYING there/tougher.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/16/2010 at 12:15 PM

Beth If you are still around and sorry to go off topic

What is the reason for Richard and his withdrawl for DC is it his back?

Thanks

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 12:15 PM

MuzzyFunk - Now there's an idea for a new moniker in 2011 if Fed gets out of his and Murray stays where he is now... :)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/16/2010 at 12:16 PM

Master Ace You have got to be kidding me lol!

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 12:20 PM

Hong Kong exo in January:

Russia: Maria Sharapova
Asia Pacific: Na Li
Europe: Caroline Wozniacki
Americas: Venus Williams

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/16/2010 at 12:22 PM

Fed's longevity has been so good that even Pete (first paragraph) often mentions him as though he was peers with Nole and Nadal, while highlighting that Roddick, who's about a year younger than Fed, is from the previous tennis generation.

Posted by zenggi 09/16/2010 at 12:23 PM

Cl,
Not totally deafening, alas! I found the perfect slogan if you want to check by the way. :)

David Nalbandian says that he is more motivated to play Davis Cup than the ATP tour. Sigh! On the other hand, Pico is ready to go also for DC.

I hope Novak can step on it against Stepanek. Not an easy task.

Posted by tina (forever proud to be in the "Đ-block") 09/16/2010 at 12:26 PM

Hvala puno, Pete. :))

Like you wondered a few days ago, I felt the extra day might help Novak physically, but also disrupt his momentum after FINALLY getting past Fed on Ashe. It was a fabulous final (and that's what I would call the "dream final") and I was glad to see Novak fight so hard. If people still don't think Djokovic has quite thrown off that "quitter" mantel, at least nobody can say he hasn't re-inserted himself into the conversation. Absolutely nobody talked about him until he was in the USO semis again, for the fourth consecutive year. So I, for one, was frustrated, but am now happy that tennis journos are going back and giving him credit.

I don't get the relevance of the ACE rankings. According to the South Africa Airways ATP Tour rankings, Djokovic is #2 - (again). Which one is supposed to be "official"?

The television situation is a disaster - I do not for the life of me understand why CBS bothers to buy rights to a prestigious final only to cram it in between football and 60 Minutes (had it not rained Sunday) and then completely flub it on Monday. When I can say that the coverage was probably better in Croatia, that's an indication of the utter catastrophe here.

Posted by Pat frm Philippines... 09/16/2010 at 12:32 PM

thanks pete.. lovely...

thanks for a wonderful novak post...

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 12:35 PM

Tina,
The Ace rankings are done by me only which is similar to the ATP Race. As we both know, the ATP rankings are what everybody go by.

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/16/2010 at 12:49 PM

Djokovic was good for 2.5 sets. He blinked once too often in the first set (a nervous set for both players) and wilted in the 4th. Roddick's Wimby 2009 was a much more epic effort in defeat. He only got broken once and never let his nerves cost him a service game. Until the very last game, after extending the match into OT.

Djokovic deserves praise for playing bette thanm he had been for a while. His serve is a dubious problem and he should address that asap, but that's complicated by the fact that it was ruined by over-coaching in the first place.

Posted by truedy3 09/16/2010 at 12:50 PM

**I'm not sure that, until the early stages of the fourth set on Monday, I've ever seen a Grand Slam loser play as boldy and courageously as Djokovic did against Nadal**

What about the Grand Slam loser at 2007 Wimbledon final? Til the 5th set, that was a bold and courageous battle from both sides!

Posted by AB 09/16/2010 at 12:54 PM

Thanks for the Novak piece, Pete. I had him playing Rafa in the final, but never imagined it would be as riveting as it was. It was exciting to watch Novak play in a high-stakes match and not wonder when he would throw in the towel. From the moment the first point was played, he seemed focused and determined.

Very enjoyable to follow his development and see him fully committed again. I sincerely hope this version of Novak sticks around.

Posted by tina (forever proud to be in the "Đ-block") 09/16/2010 at 01:00 PM

Oh, MA - I see: the Ace is for Master Ace. with so many tour and tournament sponsors to keep track of, I get confused. oops.

We can talk endlessly about Slam "losers'" performances, but can't people (rudy3/truedy3) just give Novak his due? Shall we go back to 1980? To 1974?


Posted by wilson75 09/16/2010 at 01:02 PM

Just dropping by to endorse everything Matt Z has said about the TV situation. The USTA cannot be satisfied with treatment it got over the weekend and must realise that CBS has caused them enormous embarrassment. Furthermore Super Saturday has go. It has outlived its purpose and does not make for good tennis nor is it fair to the players. The time has come for the USTA to stand for tennis and its fans.

Posted by Sherlock 09/16/2010 at 01:08 PM

Tina, so happy for you on Nole's performance. He was incredible. I can hardly wait till he wins another slam. That post-match speech will be a lot of fun. :)

I love watching his matchups with Rafa and Roger. And Andy too. Here's hoping for good health for all those guys and Delpo in the coming months and years. Should be some great tennis.

Agreed, Wilson75. If we could kill the CBS contract, kill Super Saturday, and build a new, more intimate stadium with a roof, the USO would be in good shape again. Right now, the AO is kicking it's hardcourt butt in a lot of ways.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 01:08 PM

A bit off-topic - Thanks Master Ace for the link to the ATP Year-End #1 stats. I didn't realise Becker had never finished as year-end #1. Has he ever been #1 in the world? I was a big "boom-boom" Becker fan as a kid, but just too young to care about whether he was #1 in the world or not. All I wanted to see were those full-length diving volleys at the net. :)

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 01:26 PM

Tina,
No problem. Novak gets full credit for making it to the USO F. We all know what happened in the next Slam he played after making USO F therefore, it is why I said 2011 will be crucial for him.

Posted by beth 09/16/2010 at 01:28 PM

AM - and apologies for OT , but she asked me -
I can find nothing about Richard being injured. I think the choice to leave him off the team was one based on the week's practice and play in warm ups . As well as Forget's assessment of who of his available players has the best chance of beating Argentina.
All reports I have read said the French practiced well - and except for Monfils ' ankle twist that has been resolved - the team is fit and ready.
Simon beat out Richard as the alternate based on the week's play . Richard was there as a practice partner and possible alternate as a doubles partner if Clement and Llodra could not work out their differences. ( Apparently the breakup of their team a year or so ago left some hard feelings on Clement's part , and it was not sure he and Llodra could work together. But seems they have worked through their issues . )
Llodra played beautifully against the Spanish and totally deserves the nod as the #2 singles guy . Simon is ready to go if , he cannot play on Sunday.
Forget is not stupid - putting Richard into a 5th and deciding rubber would be horrible -
As much as I cheer for him , I recognize his mental frailties under pressure - and so does everyone else , including Richard. On top of that Nalbandian is Richard's personal nemesis on the court - the game simply does not match up well for him.
I am sure that Richard is disappointed , but Forget made the best possible choices for his team.
and there is no report of an injury at all . No reports on whether Richard will stay and cheer the team on against the Argies - but if he does , you can bet he will leave his phone in his pocket :)

Posted by linex 09/16/2010 at 01:29 PM

Off and on topic as Nole after his success in the US is taking part of Davis Cup weekend.

I really liked the pictures of the argie and French teams they seem to all get along as shown yesterday when monfils and simon played soccer tennis against Nalbi Shwank and in the pictures of the dinner yesterday. They say Lyon is a great place to eat as the best French Chefs are from that Region, here is hope the argie team leaves food and drinks for Sunday after an upset victory.

Posted by charlie 09/16/2010 at 01:34 PM

Nadal beat Federer from the very first time they played in Miami in hard court at 17 years old...7 years ago.

How can somebody as Federer be considered a GOAT with a negative head to head to anybody at his own time ?

History will confirm that Federer will be the # 1 of his no big players era, before Nadal appearance...and that's it.

Too late to be a Goat for him right now...

The big difference between Nadal and Federer at this time is that Nadal can be a Goat... Federer not anymore.

By the way Djokovic will be consistent # 2 for a while...

Regards


Posted by beth 09/16/2010 at 01:40 PM

oh - and AM - I also just read that Forget bowed to the wishes of Llodra
who openly stated his preference to play dubs with Clement over Gasquet

please no more GOAT discussions
This post is about Nole , and his great results
I know , I kept going OT , but that is the last I will say about it

I am sort of looking forward to Nole winning another Slam - and if CBS or whatever network shows us the
trophy presentation - I bet his speech is a great one
You just never know what he is gonna say

Posted by sf (aka sod'sfriend) - GOATee 09/16/2010 at 01:44 PM

Kate wrote: "They smile; they glow; they hug each other in delight. Their real warm pleasure and pride after the Federer match was dear;"

i saw that, too, kate. and it was very sweet, with the kisses and sheek-pecks! i only wish papa djoker will lose that t-shirt. from a distance it looks like novak is sitting on his daddy's lap - lol!

on a more serious note, pete, thanks for extolling djokovic's efforts during this year's usopen. he played at a truly remarkable level, despite the travails of the troicki match.

i only hope that this "equal-opportunity spoiler" will contend with the fedal hegemony to give other players hope, and not settle for the "low-hanging fruit comes (his) way" as you so eloquently put it.

foops unite!

Posted by Jay 09/16/2010 at 01:49 PM

Another nice read, Pete. I tend to agree with Colette. Both players have received their appropriate due. Nole has received praise for his great play, but in the end (and at the end) it was not the closest of matches.

Primarily a Rafa fan, I fully expected Nole to give Rafa all that he could take, especially on a hard court surface. He has given Rafa some of his toughest competition on clay (Hamburg '08 and Madrid '09, for example), too. Toronto and Cinci did little to encourage my Rafa hopes. At the end of the match, I was more surprised by Rafa than by Nole--I'd never seen Rafa look this good against a top player on hard courts.

Nole certainly did raise his profile by making it into the finals, and by making the final so competitive. Time will tell if this will benefit him. I thought that he was helped this year by being so under the radar in Queens. He seemed to be most people's fourth pick, at best (behind Roger, Rafa and Murray--some even picking Berdych, Soderling and Roddick above Nole). It will be interesting to see how he handles being ranked #2 defending his end of the year points. He'll be a target again.

I wish him the best.

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 01:58 PM

Davis Cup Weekend Matches(* - number 1 players on team)

World Group Semifinal Lineups:

France vs Argentina (7:30 AM - 9 AM - 7 AM)
Michael Llodra vs Juan Monaco*
Gael Monfils* vs David Nalbandian
Arnaud Clement/Michael Llodra vs Eduardo Schwank/Horacio Zeballos

Serbia vs Czech Republic (9 AM - 9 AM - 8 AM)
Novak Djokovic* vs Radek Stepanek
Janko Tipsarevic vs Tomas Berdych*
Viktor Troicki/Nenad Zimonjic vs Jan Hajek/Ivo Minar

World Group Playoff Matches

Israel tied with Austria 1-all (started today - 5 AM - no play - 7:30 AM)
Sela* defeated Haider-Maurer 6-4,6-1,6-3
Melzer* defeated Levy 6-4,6-3,6-3
Erlich/Ram vs Melzer/Peya
Sela vs Melzer
Levy vs Haider- Maurer

Colombia vs United States (11 AM - Noon - 11 AM)
Falla vs Fish*
Giraldo* vs Querrey
Farah/Salamanca vs Harrison/Isner

Germany vs South Africa (5 AM - 9 AM - 5 AM)
Kohlschreiber* vs DeVoest
Mayer vs Van Der Merwe*
Beck/Kas vs Coetzee/Moodie

Sweden vs Italy (9 AM - 8 AM - 7 AM)
Vinciguerra vs Starace*
Soderling* vs Fognini
Aspelin/Lindstedt vs Bolelli/Bracciali

India vs Brazil (2 AM - 5:30 AM - 2 AM)
Bopanna vs Bellucci*
Devvarman* vs Mello
Bhupathi/Paes vs Melo/Soares

Australia vs Belgium (9 PM Thursday - 11 PM Friday - 9 PM Saturday)
Hewitt* vs Darcis
Ball vs O Rochus*
Hanley/Hewitt vs Darcis/O Rochus

Kazakhstan vs Switzerland (4 AM - 4 AM - 2 AM)
Golubev* vs Chiudinelli
Kukushkin vs Wawrinka*
Korolev/Schukin vs Allegro/Lammer

Romania vs Ecuador (4:30 AM - 5 AM - 4:30 AM)
Hanescu* vs Endara
Ungur vs G Lapentti*
Hanescu/Tecau vs G Lapentti/N Lapentti

Posted by lilscot 09/16/2010 at 02:04 PM

Hey Pete, great piece. Totally agree. I was very impressed with how Nole quickly and quietly worked his way through the tournament once he got past Troicki and how he handled all the attention being placed on Rafa and Roger. That probably helped him stay focused.

He played magnificent tennis, especially that semi-final Roger. I'd have to put that match right up there with the Rafa/Verdasco AO semi in '09 as far as high-quality tennis, mind-numbing shot-making, and tests of heart and will.

To all you Nole fans out there, and I'm a new one after Rafa of course, congratulations on a great tournament for him. And Rafa is right, Nole will win a USO title one day if he keeps everything going upwards like he has been lately.

Posted by Andrew 09/16/2010 at 02:54 PM

Now that the dust has settled just a bit after the USO, I'd like to springboard off Pete's piece above to ask TW members to read the next few paragraphs carefully.

My thoughts on the excellence of Rafael Nadal, as tennis player and sportsman, are laid out in comments to Pete's "The Radical Conventional" post prior to this one. I admire his play wholeheartedly.

My own personal preference in terms of who I root for is Roger Federer.

A year and a half ago, Mr Federer completed a career GS in Paris. For many of us, it was a very happy moment. Later on, we found that some people felt that this achievement was in some way diminished since Federer did not have to face Nadal (the 4 time champion) in the final.

I believe that there was an alignment of the stars for Federer that year, but he had to fight through many hard matches (especially the SF vs Del Potro) to win the tournament.

This year, Mr Nadal had to play well to win the tournament. But it is the case that he played four matches (Simon R32, Verdasco QF, Youzhny SF and Djokovic F) in which the opponent played a tough 5 set match the round before, with the knock on effects for his opponent Pete outlines. And Djokovic's stupendous achievement in knocking out Federer in the SF (the 5 time champion and prior year finalist) had the dual effect both of eliminating a very strong potential opponent and (as Pete writes) putting the winner into a final more tired than he knew.

So, here is my plea, and it's a plea for consistency. I personally believe that every tournament winner fully earns the trophy by being the last person standing - withdrawals, retirements, quick wins, seeds falling - I don't care. You win the final, you win the trophy, end of story.

If you believe otherwise, that's your prerogative. If you want to say RG 2009 came with some breaks, well, have at it. But then own the same line of argument for USO 2010.

And so we're clear - I will be at the front of any line saying Nadal's achievement in winning USO 2010 should never be diminished, for any reason. But I hope you can see why I'll be at the front of the same line for Federer's own career slam in 2009.

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 03:02 PM

Andrew,
Well said asking for consistency. I remember Pete put an asterisk(which is not right in my book) on Roger's win at the French because he did not face Rafael so do not be surprised if someone decides to put the dreaded asterisk(again, not right in my book) on Rafael win Monday as he did not play Roger. In the end, the history books read Roger Federer - 2009 French Open or Rafael Nadal - 2010 United States Open. Also, a lot of people do not remember who Andre Agassi defeated to win the 1999 French Open. Only thing remembered is that Andre completed the career Slam(and Golden Career Slam with Steffi Graf and as of Monday, Rafael Nadal Parera)

Posted by CL 09/16/2010 at 03:05 PM

Andrew - Bravo!

"some people..." lol

Posted by claudia celestial girl 09/16/2010 at 03:08 PM

a wonderful 9 seconds for Rafa and Nole fans:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0CLCCAwKZI

Posted by Sherlock 09/16/2010 at 03:14 PM

Andrew, good post. I'm not into official asterisks, and certainly neither title should be diminished, which in the long run, they won't. 20 years from now, nobody will care whether Rog didn't beat Rafa in Paris, or that Rafa got an easy road to his 2010 title in NY.

But I do hate that we can't be honest about it to a certain degree. Rafa didn't exactly beat a who's who of hardcourt tennis on his way to this title. And Roger didn't have to play the guy he'd gotten 4 games from the year before.

As a Rafa fan, does Rafa's easy draw bother me? Yes. I wish it was more difficult and more "well-earned", to use a phrase I'll get torched for I'm sure. :) I love the fact that before this year, Rafa had to go through Roger for all his slams. I think that's an amazing accomplishment. So while this title was great to see, it's not near that level of accomplishment to me. But if Pete wanted to asterisk it, I could care less. :)

By the same token, I've never understood why Roger fans get so upset about the "asterisk" issue on the French title. Just like Rafa this year, why not just take your gift and be happy with it? :)

Anyway, once again, Fedal fans are in the same boat. But I'm sure we'll still argue about it for days. :)

Posted by Sherlock 09/16/2010 at 03:16 PM

Btw, I mean nothing against Nole in my comments about Rafa's draw. To me, there wasn't much difference this year between seeing Roger or Nole in the final. But a gassed Dasco and Youz were the spots where the draw can reach up and bite sometimes.

Posted by tina (forever proud to be in the "Đ-block") 09/16/2010 at 03:20 PM

I am equally in love with Rafa and Nole as a rivalry as I am a full-on Djokovic KAD.

Posted by CL 09/16/2010 at 03:22 PM

Sherlock - ah, but YOUR gift DOESN'T have an asterisk attached. Yet. When and if it does...and IF that asterisk comes, not from some Twibe poster, but from a respected tennis journalist like Pete...well then you MIGHT feel a little less sanguine.

Just sayin'

:-)

Posted by john smith 09/16/2010 at 03:24 PM

Good article.

There's definitely something Novak should adopt asap from Nadal, and that's the "always keep improving attitude". I think, in the past he was worried about wrong things, too emotional and in the end it affected his game negatively as he went backwards. Thinking too much dragged his game backwards. It wasn't the racket, it wasn't Adidas, it wasn't Todd Martin. It was his head.

In professional sports you can't accumulate losses, to spend time and energy thinking about what happened yesterday. In the end the only important thing is what's going to be today (and tomorrow) so he must remain constructive and to keep working on the elements of his game.

So, lets see:
Nadal had by far the worst serve in top for a very long time.
Novak had once one of the best serves in the business according to J-Mac (2007).

Let's look, today:
http://www.atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/Top-Players/Novak-Djokovic.aspx?t=mf

On Monday, it was clear the serve made the difference. Nadal's serve was all about business, while Novak's serve was his biggest liability. It wasn't the day off, the SF win against Fed or the pressure. He lost because right now, even though he improved from what was the rock bottom (IW2010), his serve is still worse than before we has in top 10 (pre 2007). And that changed the outcome of Mondays final. When you have to fight 26 BPs in a match and you can't serve an ace, it must be quite a problem. Losing so much energy to conserve the serve affects your ability to attack opponents serve. Trying to conserve some of it makes you go for broke so the UFs pile up. You can do it for one set or maybe two but you can't sustain it in best of 5.

Credit to Nadal for great returning, but when a #2 player in the world has a bunch of DFs more than aces in a single year, oh boy, it does makes the difference. On a yearly basis, the differential must be at least 200 points in favor. As of today, he is ranked 42nd in aces, barely a bit better than Albert Montanes (who)?! He went from being a top 3 in pctg. of service games won to 24.

So, exactly here Novak should try to find some motivation, here's the immense space for improvement. He should see a glass half full rather than empty. Beyond any doubt, he is more experienced and better competitor than he was ever before, his power on forehand side is back, his movement and defense is spectacular. He is now even more complete player.

But, he must go back and work his ass off on that serve. If he keeps improving it and makes it again one of the top serves in the game I really wouldn't worry anymore about that 2nd GS or even Nadal. With 10-15 aces in a match, enough free points and the ability to "dial" for it when he is down, this guy is to be feared. It doesn't really matter who is on the other side of the net...

Posted by john smith 09/16/2010 at 03:25 PM

Good article.

There's definitely something Novak should adopt asap from Nadal, and that's the "always keep improving attitude". I think, in the past he was worried about wrong things, too emotional and in the end it affected his game negatively as he went backwards. Thinking too much dragged his game backwards. It wasn't the racket, it wasn't Adidas, it wasn't Todd Martin. It was his head.

In professional sports you can't accumulate losses, to spend time and energy thinking about what happened yesterday. In the end the only important thing is what's going to be today (and tomorrow) so he must remain constructive and to keep working on the elements of his game.

So, lets see:
Nadal had by far the worst serve in top for a very long time.
Novak had once one of the best serves in the business according to J-Mac (2007).

Let's look, today:
http://www.atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/Top-Players/Novak-Djokovic.aspx?t=mf

On Monday, it was clear the serve made the difference. Nadal's serve was all about business, while Novak's serve was his biggest liability. It wasn't the day off, the SF win against Fed or the pressure. He lost because right now, even though he improved from what was the rock bottom (IW2010), his serve is still worse than before we has in top 10 (pre 2007). And that changed the outcome of Mondays final. When you have to fight 26 BPs in a match and you can't serve an ace, it must be quite a problem. Losing so much energy to conserve the serve affects your ability to attack opponents serve. Trying to conserve some of it makes you go for broke so the UFs pile up. You can do it for one set or maybe two but you can't sustain it in best of 5.

Credit to Nadal for great returning, but when a #2 player in the world has a bunch of DFs more than aces in a single year, oh boy, it does makes the difference. On a yearly basis, the differential must be at least 200 points in favor. As of today, he is ranked 42nd in aces, barely a bit better than Albert Montanes (who)?! He went from being a top 3 in pctg. of service games won to 24.

So, exactly here Novak should try to find some motivation, here's the immense space for improvement. He should see a glass half full rather than empty. Beyond any doubt, he is more experienced and better competitor than he was ever before, his power on forehand side is back, his movement and defense is spectacular. He is now even more complete player.

But, he must go back and work his ass off on that serve. If he keeps improving it and makes it again one of the top serves in the game I really wouldn't worry anymore about that 2nd GS or even Nadal. With 10-15 aces in a match, enough free points and the ability to "dial" for it when he is down, this guy is to be feared. It doesn't really matter who is on the other side of the net...

Posted by Sherlock 09/16/2010 at 03:25 PM

He he, CL. :)

As MSF said the other night, asterisks dipped in Spanish olive are quite a yummy appetizer. The more, the merrier. They aren't changing this career slam. Nor Roger's. :)

Posted by Colette (US Hopin' - ON CLOUD 9) 09/16/2010 at 03:29 PM

Andrew, Amen! The draw is the draw, and unless Kim Clijsters had X-ray vision and strong favoritism (or an axe to grind), it's random! Hey, Rafa was supposed to play Murray, but guess what?

The only "theoretical asterisks" I can see would be in cases like Monica Seles' career.

Posted by Andrew 09/16/2010 at 03:29 PM

Sherlock: thanks for the 3:14pm above. It's in the spirit I'd hoped for (but of course, which I'd expect from you).

When you write "I've never understood why Roger fans get so upset about the "asterisk" issue on the French title," it's my sincere and earnest hope that you don't find over the next 18 months that people give you and other Nadal fans the trouble of going over the same arguments!

Now on to the happier thought of which player will get no 2 first - Federer at RG, or Nadal at Flushing Meadows... :-)

Posted by Sherlock 09/16/2010 at 03:33 PM

Well said, Andrew, as always. :)

I kind of wish Pete would give it an asterisk, just so all of Fedal is on equal footing. And then I'm pretty sure you'd be asking my question 18 months from now. :)

No fair on the last sentence though. I'm still exhausted from the stress of getting through one, and now you're throwing those hopes and fears on me. Ouch. :)

Posted by lilscot 09/16/2010 at 03:39 PM

Andrew:

Very well said indeed. Personally I feel putting an asterisk beside anyone's win is a bit of an insult to the winner. Where does it end? "Oh, Roger had an easy draw," or, "Rafa didn't face any real hard-court specialists," etc. If someone's main competition doesn't make it through their section of the draw that sure isn't the champion's fault. I mean, you don't win because you had an easy draw or because your rival fizzled out, or because the earth tilted just right on its axis during a full moon.

You win because you battle against and win against all the elements involved in a big tournament; the draw, the competition, the weather conditions, the fans, foot-faults, airplanes, crying babies, physical injuries, and even some personal demons.

In the end an asterisk only belongs at the bottom of a book page. But not on a champion's record.

Posted by lilscot 09/16/2010 at 03:41 PM

claudia:

Thanks so much for that great little short video of Rafa an Nole. It's so nice to see the real and honest comraderie they share. :)

Posted by Just-the-truth 09/16/2010 at 03:53 PM

Are you kidding me? This is one of the worst, most anti-climax US Open I have seen in my 10+ years watching tennis. This applies to both final matches. It was completely one-sided on women's final (With Zvonareva freaked out right from the beginning) and just a spent-guy-versus-average-hardcourt-guy final on men's side.

Modern tennis is really boring, dull and muscle-full :-((

Posted by Matt Zemek 09/16/2010 at 04:01 PM

Andrew,

Thank you.

If one were to review all the majors won (or almost won, or badly butchered) by elite tennis players over the years, one would find the stars aligned in various ways.

Say, that's an interesting topic for a post. (For some, anyway.)

In the long run of history, the champions announce and reveal themselves.

As is said of people who proudly wear religious labels, "By their fruits you shall know them."

Winning is winning. Handling the hand you're dealt is all a man (or woman) can do.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 04:03 PM

Very well put Andrew. Now let me start by saying I do not subscribe to asterixes of any kind unless there is proven cheating involved that materially impacted the outcome. That said, I do think there is a factor that contributed to all the asterix talk when Federer won his FO that you missed in your post. It is also a factor that is missing in Nadal's USO win and therefore will keep the asterix talk from being raised in his case. That is, Federer had been thwarted (unfortunately from the perspective of this Fed fan) several times by Nadal in the pursuit of the FO title. Enough times and badly enough once for the circumstantial evidence to accumulate that Federer would NEVER beat Nadal in the FO. Therefore the "asterix" when he won the FO but without beating Nadal. Unfortunately again from my standpoint, that circumstantial evidence does not exist vis-a-vis Nadal, Federer and the USO. In other words, Nadal has never LOST to Federer in pursuit of the USO, so there is no evidence that he would if he met Federer in the final of the USO. Yes, he has never put himself in a position to be beaten by Federer at the USO in the 5 years that Federer won it, but that is not quite the same as being beaten by Federer. All the H2H debates attest to the fact that "But Nadal would have lost if he'd kept his end of the bargain" is a non-starter and losing argument based on hypotheticals. It is because of this difference in circumstances that I feel Pete and the rest of the media will never bring up asterixes with reference to Nadal's USO win. That is the right end result, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 04:08 PM

And btw, Sherlock - I'm 100% with you in your sentiment. The word "asterix" semantically has some connotations that are very negative, so I shy away from using it. That said, it is just the reality of human nature, at least my nature, that some successes are/will be sweeter than the others. Do I take anything away from Federer's FO win? Absolutely not. Would it have been infinitely sweeter for this fan if it had been Rafael Nadal across the net as opposed to Robin Soderling while he was doing it? HECK YES!

Posted by CL 09/16/2010 at 04:08 PM

"modern tennis is ...... muscle-full :-(("

Not as long as Roger Federer is playing, its not!!!!

;-)

Posted by adicecream 09/16/2010 at 04:13 PM

Asterisks? Keep me a break. The winner is the winner.

Posted by Mike 09/16/2010 at 04:18 PM

Hi Bodo,

here you come again: "The narrative that emerged over the past few years has cast Djokovic—the ultra-talented, curiously personable Serb (has anyone from his part of the world seemed simultaneously so "exotic" and so familiar to us?)".

Your roots are most likely from the same part of the world. In fact, the history shows that a lot of people of Hungarian origin emigrated from the north Serbian province to Austria (after WWII), fearing of revenge. After that, most of them went to to the U.S., Australia, or Canada.

So, take it easy. How does it matter where Novak comes from? The part of the world you call his could be yours as well. Novak spends almost the same amount of time in the US a year as you are - and for him it does not matter if you are coming from "his" or "Bodo's owned" part of the world.

Posted by CL 09/16/2010 at 04:18 PM

TMFunkster:

"Pete and the rest of the media will never bring up asterixes with reference to Nadal's USO win. That is the right end result, but not necessarily for the right reasons."

Yes, and in Fed's case where they DID apply an asterisk, they are just plain wrong.

As to: "Yes, he has never put himself in a position to be beaten by Federer at the USO in the 5 years that Federer won it, but that is not quite the same as being beaten by Federer."

Perhaps it is not, but that is ALL on Rafa, not Roger. Rafa's failures. And to somehow twist that fact...which is what I believe SOME..not you..but SOME posters and even profesional journalists do is the ultimate in unfairness, IMO. Roger showed up at PLENTY of FO finals to get his hat and head handed to him by Rafa, whereas Rafa, until this year was no where to be seen at the USO finals - yet somehow this is a mark against Roger..not Rafa...Go figure.

The world is one whacky place.

Posted by Grant 09/16/2010 at 04:25 PM

"The only "theoretical asterisks" I can see would be in cases like Monica Seles' career."

yessssssssssssssssssss

Posted by lilscot 09/16/2010 at 04:26 PM

Hmmmm, I thought we were talking about Novak? Are we going off-topic so quickly? Maybe there should be another thread for asterisk talk. It would be an interesting one too.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 04:28 PM

The world is one whacky place. - Yup! Asterixes, by definition, are unfair, irrespective of who they are applied to. I was just pointing to an unfortunate but very real set of factors that contributed to that unfairness for Federer.

Posted by L.Rubin 09/16/2010 at 04:29 PM

Andrew,

Amen, brother.

TMF deserved the 2009 FO, and those who pooh-pooh his achievement ought to take another look at his matches against Haas and JMDP, matches in which he showed a great deal of heart.. Some people (winks at CL) also pooh-pooh Ivanisevic's 2001 Wimbledon win, arguing that the absence of Pistol Pete--who was sent home by a rather baby-faced Swiss kid with a ponytail and a bandana-- diminished the Croat's breathtaking accomplishment; I urge those fools to take a look at Ivanisevic's gutsy match against Henman. As for Nadal, El Campeon (!) defeated seven players (including one who had his number on hard courts) en route to his unforgettable USO victory. That's what it takes to win a GS--seven victories. Any sane fan should attach not an asterisk, but an exclamation mark to these accomplishments.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 04:30 PM

lilscot - b-b-but Andrew started it! ok, you are right. Another topic. Another thread. :)

Posted by Grant 09/16/2010 at 04:31 PM

Asterisks don't make sense to me when there is no anomaly involved. Repetitive stress injuries aren't anomalies. Aging is not an anomaly. They are inevitabilities.

Posted by Master Ace 09/16/2010 at 04:31 PM

Off the topic for a moment

Venus Williams has played 12 USO winning 2. Now, out of the 10 that she did not win, the player who defeated her has gone on to win the title. Therefore, the USO does goes through Venus. Venus did not play in 2003 and 2006 due to injuries. The only 2 years where the USO was won without going through Venus was in 1999 when Serena won(Venus lost to Martina Hingis in SF) and in 2004 when Svetlana(Venus lost to Lindsay Davenport in R16). In those 2 years(1999 and 2004), that player lost to the eventual champion.

Posted by Jay 09/16/2010 at 04:33 PM

Kudos to the no-asterisk crowd. The players are all subject to the same circumstances (rain delays, wind, etc.), and the impartiality of the draw. The higher you are ranked, the more lower-ranked players should be in your draw.

Players can only take care of themselves and win the matches presented to them. If their presumptive toughest rivals don't meet them finals, too bad. Same if some players do not win their matches easily, and are worn out near the end of tourneys.

Of course, we often know about extenuating circumstances surrounding a player's uncharacteristic performance. Walkovers and withdrawals can provide short-term statistical bumps, but if the better player was injured, they'll have more opportunities, and if a lesser player benefits, over time they'll be eclipsed.

I agree that Seles' misfortune was a unique situation, but in the end, her injury was more (understandably) mental than physical. We all react differently to adversity...some other players might have recovered sooner. But, no asterisks to Graf. She had her own injuries and off-court battles that might have cost her a few majors.

I believe that a fit Rafa would have beaten Roger in Paris 2009, but the fact is that he was not, and did not. So, no asterisk. The best player in the tournament won.

Getting back to Nole...the good news is that neither he nor Federer has made any excuses for their losses. We fans should be such good sports, too.

Posted by CL 09/16/2010 at 04:34 PM

TMFunkster -

'for' or 'to'?? Or, what is the meaning of is, anyway? ;-)))

But even with Monica...we can definitely put an asterisk...or something way more heavy..on her career because of the actions of a lunatic with a knife. But, do we then hang little jingling asterisks on the careers of her WTA contemporaries...that she didn't get to face and who didn't get to face her?? Lots of people say with great belief, if somewhat less authority, that had Monica not been stabbed, Graf never would have won the number of tournaments and GSs she did. So no matter HOW careful you are with the care and feeding of asterisks, they are bound to cause havoc in the end.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 04:36 PM

CL - err, maybe "towards"? I don't know...:)

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/16/2010 at 04:37 PM

anyway, off to go home and see the lovely family, ladies and gents. Later. Enjoy the rest of the evening.

Posted by Jay 09/16/2010 at 04:39 PM

Very nice and interesting stats on Venus at the Open, Master Ace. I hope that some of the commies read them. So tiring to hear the negative side all of the time, i.e., "has not won since..."

Posted by CL 09/16/2010 at 04:41 PM

L.Rubin - "Some people (winks at CL) also pooh-pooh Ivanisevic's 2001 Wimbledon win, arguing that the absence of Pistol Pete--who was sent home by a rather baby-faced Swiss kid with a ponytail and a bandana-- diminished the Croat's breathtaking accomplishment; "

****sputters indignantly*** I have NEVER asterisked Goran's win. I hate that he won it just 'cause I can't stand the guy, but that is a whole different thing than asterisking his unfortunate, (for me), win.

But here... I wink at you anyway. ;-)))))))))))))))

;-)

Posted by Sherlock 09/16/2010 at 04:47 PM

"Would it have been infinitely sweeter for this fan if it had been Rafael Nadal across the net as opposed to Robin Soderling while he was doing it? HECK YES!"

Lol. I bet. :)

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/16/2010 at 04:51 PM

TMFunk - I know you're not for them, but please don't even half-heartedly try to rationalize asterixes. Someone could argue Nadal was beaten so badly last yr that he'd never beat Delpo at USO, THEN someone would respond by asterixing Rafa's loss(es) with the injury card, THEN someone could argue it was Rafa's own fault for getting injured, he should manage his schedule better and play less defensively, THEN blah blah ad nauseam.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Vice-President...eek! 09/16/2010 at 04:52 PM

Djokovic looked as if he had the "zing" back for me - that's the best way I can put it. Hope it stays with him because I love to watch him playing like that.

What are all these new names for TheMightyFunk? I will get hopelessly confused and start adding in unwelcome y's again. ;-)

Well put, Andrew. (as everyone else already said but I might as well say it again.) & I'll happily say that Rafa got a slice of draw luck with his QF opponent and with the way the draw played out after that - I don't see that takes away from Rafa's win here, or Roger's at the FO (as I think you can say the same about that, regarding a bit of draw luck) - how many times have we seen players get to the same point and fail to take their opportunities?

I'm not into asterisks - not for Roger, not for Rafa. Whoever wins deserves it in my book.

TMFunk - I agree - I don't think it was because Rafa was defending champion at the FO that Pete used the asterisk term - it was because Rafa was Fed's one and only nemesis at the French. I think that if it had been the other way round at the USO Pete would've made a similar post - in a few months time, as he did about Roger. Rafa's problem at the USO wasn't in the shape of one single player, and to me, not going through Roger to take the title wouldn't make anyone think about asterisking. Playing clay-court specialists in every round might. :)

Master Ace will remember - I did jokingly suggest before the tournament that we should call it the Asterisk Open, whoever won, in the absence of JMDP. :)

Thinking about consistency - I read a lot in the last few days about Novak being tired and coming off a five-set-match. I dislike Stupid Saturday as much as anyone else - but I do believe that if it had been Rafa with the second SF and I had posted something about him being tired - I'd have picked up a fair bit of criticism here for that.

Posted by L.Rubin 09/16/2010 at 04:52 PM

CL,

I winked at you because you mentioned "some people," not because I thought you pooh-poohed Goran's victory!!

I, too, never cared much for Ivanisevic (his serve was a delight, though). A fine specimen of Homo neanderthalensis, he was, and I cringed when he called that poor linesman a "fa--ot" after he had won The Championships: " All that hair on him . . .he looked like a fa--ot." (I'm no expert on such matters, but I never associated swarthiness with homosexuality.) The idiot then went on and called a lineswoman "ugly." Beast. Rafter was ten times the man and tennis player, and it's a crying shame that he didn't win that match.

--Liron

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/16/2010 at 04:55 PM

Also - It's perverse that Rafa losing without ever reaching the USO final prior to this yr is taken as "better" than Fed reaching the FO final several times, and losing to Rafa. That strikes me as really silly and reveals a Kadish obsession with beating Federer even as other players out-performed Rafa several times at the USO.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Vice-President...eek! 09/16/2010 at 04:55 PM

"Some people (winks at CL) also pooh-pooh Ivanisevic's 2001 Wimbledon win, arguing that the absence of Pistol Pete--who was sent home by a rather baby-faced Swiss kid with a ponytail and a bandana-- diminished the Croat's breathtaking accomplishment;"

I think this is where I play the rain card. ;-)

Posted by gauloises 09/16/2010 at 05:00 PM

Pete, I really liked this post :) Thank you.

"It's a mind-boggling statistic, and enough to tempt any player to fling up his hands and say, To hell with it, I'm just going to have a good time and pick off whatever low-hanging fruit comes my way. I'm serious when I say that Federer and Nadal may have inadvertently ruined any number of otherwise impressive men. After you spend a few years in chains, you might find their rattle musical."

Yes indeed, and your point in dealing with two iconic figures is well taken. For me, Djokovic's run to the final shared some qualities with Roddick's Wimbledon 2009 (as you pointed out), because it made such a statement about the incredible humility, dedication and determination required *not* to be content with the crumbs from the table, not to take the path of least resistance and just say 'meh, I'm screwed by destiny'. It's hard not to find that inspiring. I think it was Roddick during the lead-up to that Wimbledon who repeatedly used the phrase 'part of the conversation' - wanting to be a factor again - and that's exactly what Djokovic did in this tournament. Nobody's going to be discounting him as a factor in the lead-up to the Australian Open, and I love that (although it might not be good for him, but that's another issue).

I've actually been thinking about the ways in which Roddick and Djokovic are similar, and it's reminded me about that distinction between being an extrovert and an introvert that ... someone ... once drew, that it's about where you get your energy, what fuels you. I'm oversimplifying, but I think it goes along the lines that if you're an introvert, you draw your energy in the final analysis from yourself; and that if you're an extrovert, you're energised and refuelled by your interaction with others, it's relational. (Rather than the more behavioural definitions.) I would think of Federer and Nadal by that definition as introverts, and Roddick and Djokovic as extroverts.

I know these are reductive categories, but it's interesting. Djokovic seems so affected by how other people see him; the rebuffs that his initial ebullience received and situations like the one that arose with the New York crowds back in *mumble* 2008 seemed to have such a chastening effect on him, like for a while he was trying to turn into himself into someone unthreatening but well-liked. Then he seemed to go back into himself a lot, either toiling and seeming to struggle or doing all the chest-beating and so forth in kind of a hollow way. His body language during the Federer match was fascinating to me; for four sets, he didn't roar or celebrate or fist-pump really at all. He reacted very negatively, but not positively - and it seemed to work for him.

I don't know what I'm trying to say. It might be that I wonder whether Djokovic doesn't constitute his self-image in a much more relational context than either Federer or Nadal. I don't think Federer at bottom really cares what the world at large thinks of him, and I feel like it wouldn't really enter Nadal's mind to think about it much. Or maybe I just think that because Djokovic is so much more open than almost any other player I can think of. Or maybe I just like thinking of him as my delicate flower :)

Anyway, enough of that blathering. I'm glad you pointed out Djokovic's forehand - because really, where did that come from?! I've been thinking in a depressed sort of way about how toothless and ineffectual Djokovic's game had become - even when he was winning - and then suddenly he had so much bite on the court. His forehand used to be his weaker side, and then out of nowhere he was dictating points with it; not just when he had his back against the wall in the final, but in the semi when he was going after Federer.

Technical experts: did he make any significant changes to it, or was it just that he was going after it in a way he hasn't in the past? Was it a technical or a tactical change? Any insights much appreciated.

Posted by gauloises 09/16/2010 at 05:03 PM

I didn't realise I'd gone on that much. Sorry, too much caffeine I think.

Better even it out with some wine ...

No asterisks! (Asterixes? No, that's the Gaul.)

Posted by NP 09/16/2010 at 05:03 PM

You folks are all wrong. Pistol Pete was simply being mighty generous at 2001 Wimbledon. TMP!!!

Posted by beth 09/16/2010 at 05:04 PM

I totally agree with Andrew
no asterisks!
Federer won the career slam in 09 beating the 7 men who stood across the net from him at the French Open
Nadal won his career slam this year by beating his 7 opponents in the US Open
Neither man can control the draw - they just went out and won their matches
They are the champions of those events
no excuses, no ifs , no ands , no asterisks !

congratulations to them both

and good luck to Nole in his Davis cup matches this weekend . May he continue his good play there for his beloved homeland .

Posted by CL 09/16/2010 at 05:07 PM

Liron - oops...my bad...will it help if I wink more?..;-;-);-);-)

Wait... I think I have something in my eye..

Yeah, what you recited is pretty much what I mean about Goran. Its funny, I really do believe, if not in total forgiveness, that at least in a statute of limitations on players who say or do a few random dumb things, because who among us hasn't said or done such things...especially in our teens and 20s? And for all I know, these days Goran is rescuing orphans and marching in Gay Pride parades. But until I actually see or hear some of that, I'm sticking with the general feeling of Bleah-Ick that he gives me. (NOT that I think you were trying to talk me out of Bleah-ick...just sayin.,)

Indeed his serve was amazing..I remember when he played Agassi - the match was really VERY simple..Goran gets in first serve -point to Goran. Goran misses first serve - Andre has a serious chance. I remember nothing about Andre's serve games because it was like they hardly entered into it. Ball in play...Andre all the way..

Posted by 1963USCtennis 09/16/2010 at 05:09 PM

The big difference 09 RG to 10 USO

in '09 Roger baaaaaaaaarely escaped Hass, and DelPotro should have outlasted the older player, but Roger showed why he is a champion by seizing the opportunity

' 10 Rafael Nadal DOMINATED the field losing only one set (7-5) in the final


Nice try.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/16/2010 at 05:10 PM

Beth Many thanks for your response regarding Richard

Sherlock I hope you read my response to you on the other posts before you went to work.

Posted by M10009 09/16/2010 at 05:10 PM

Djokovic is the only player who can compete with rafa or fed. If there is anyone besides rafa or fed that wins a major, its djokovic.

Posted by gauloises 09/16/2010 at 05:11 PM

Oh - I remember what I was wondering.

Has anyone heard anything about what the personal reasons were that Marian Vajda wasn't in New York? Just curious.

Posted by Matt Zemek 09/16/2010 at 05:11 PM

Gauloises:

First-rate insights! Thanks for stopping by and sharing them.

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