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Wisdom from a Whiz 09/11/2010 - 6:11 PM

104002695

by Pete Bodo

NEW YORKQ: The atmosphere out there was quite electric today. I mean, you know, it's the final weekend of the U.S. Open; it generally is. . .  but particularly when you broke back at 4-4 in the third, you really seemed able to pump yourself up, and the crowd was clearly with you at that point.

Mikhail Youzhny replied: "Yeah."

End of conversation.

It's a safe bet that Youzhny will not be invited onto a prime NPR radio show (what's that morning one called, Hot Air?) any time soon. Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, could snatch Larry King's job right out from under the nose of Piers Morgan if the latter isn't careful. For a youth who struggles with English, a language not his own, Nadal is a superb communicator, for reasons including his charm, his patience (he may get irritated at times, but he respects everyone enough to take even the dumbest of questions seriously) and his now intentionally and somewhat self-consciously uncomplicated sensibility.

This is a young man who clings to his determination to keep things simple and fact-based as if clarity of thought and feeling were the twin bladders of a life preserver with which he rides out the stormy seas of his profession. Nadal is never coy, nor does he duck an issue. Ask the man a simple question and you get a simple answer. Ask him a silly one and you get a simple answer. Ask him a complicated or convoluted one and you get Nadal casting quizzical glances toward the first friendly face he recognizes among the Spanish speakers in the room. He's the only guy with a player guest box in the media room, and he's not afraid to turn to it for a little off-court coaching. It's not a code violation, as far as I know.

Today, for example, we learned after his straight-sets deconstruction of Youzhny that he doesn't consider head-to-head records an important element in the ongoing GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate (sorry, Rafa fans but remember that he said it, not I).

"Head to head is not an element for me," he said today. "Is a part of the statistics, but is not the decisive element. Even a Grand Slam is important element, but is not all on the tennis. . . In my opinion, Roger won 16 Grand Slams already. But what he did, 23, 24 semifinals in a row, that's something amazing. It is impossible to repeat, in my opinion."

He soon added the caveat, "In the conversation, everybody is free to have an opinion. .. I am not the one to say the steps, 'For that, you are the best in history.' In my opinion, Roger is the best in history, the best of the history that I ever see. I don't know Rod Laver, how it was in the past, because I wasn't in this world."

That last remark, delivered with the trace of a smile, made everyone laugh. As well as he played, his press conference was even better. He also spoke about the on-court interview after the match, in which he expressed sympathy for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their families.

"Well, I think first thing, 9/11 was a big shock for everybody in the world. I remember—everybody remember where they were at that moment and I remember what happened that day and where I was. Yeah, it was a terrible shock for me, especially because I was in the top of the twin towers a few months before.

"So, yeah, that's just the minimum thing that I can say, all the support for the victims and for the families for sure is on my mind. When I came back after the disaster, in the first six years I was there at Ground Zero, every time watching that. So, yes, that's probably the most impact-view I had in all my life."

Six years at Ground Zero. It was a private vigil, as far as I know, but it would have been interesting to see how this emotional man-child comported himself there, or to get into his head to learn what he was thinking. I wonder, how many other players made the trek—not that it's mandatory, mind you, but on this day of remembrance it strikes me as an interesting thing to know, a reason to overcome whatever prejudice you may have for or against a certain personality.

Rafa also spoke about his tweaked serve, and the open-minded willingness he's shown toward toying with his technique and strategy. "The serve at the point of today is good, but not enough [that comes as a surprise]. I don't have the control of the situation with my serve because every day is new for me, and I served already very good for the last six matches. We will see what happens tomorrow, but I don't feel I have completely defined the serve."

And those other things? "I think I changed the strings in the end of the season. So yeah, you are in the top, and the things work very well, but can always work better—and worse. But always you have to have a risk, and you have to—" Rafa faltered, searching for words. "I don't know. In English is not—I am not inspired today. Only inspiration was on court. Forget [it]."

Again, the assembled cast laughed, yet USTA moderator Tim Curry allowed one more question, following up on Nadal's ongoing quest to get better. He said, "Well, because I always thought I always can keep improving. That's why I am playing, to keep improving and to feel myself a better player than before. I go to practice every day not to practice; I go to practice every day to try to learn something and to keep improving my level."

There's your quote of the tournament, and I can visualize it written in flowerly cursive on countless posters hanging in the bedrooms of a legion of young athletes:

I go to practice every day not to practice, I go to practice every day to learn something.

P.S.—I'll be back with a similar post on the presser of the winner of the second semi, and I'll have a reaction piece after the women's final tonight. I suggest you move the match-calling to this post, but figure it out amongst yourselves. And many thanks to ever-diligent Andrew Burton for providing this morning's Crisis Center.


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Posted by Travis 09/11/2010 at 07:02 PM

I wish Nadal's fans could take a piece of his mindset and apply it to their own thinking. No matter what, I firmly believe Federer is the greatest player to every pick up a racket. Regardless of titles, head-to-heads, what have you.

Either way, best of luck to both Novak and Rafa tomorrow.

Posted by tina (in the "Đ-block") 09/11/2010 at 07:03 PM

I'll wait for the Djokovic piece.

Posted by DavidC 09/11/2010 at 07:18 PM

A classy player - both Federer and Nadal. How fortunate we are to live in an age that has BOTH of these great players.

Posted by Rig 09/11/2010 at 07:21 PM

"No matter what, I firmly believe Federer is the greatest player to every pick up a racket. Regardless of titles, head-to-heads, what have you"

LOL Travis you´re the epitome of objectivity!

Posted by patzin 09/11/2010 at 07:23 PM

You have to love Rafa. He is an incredible spirit and full of wisdom for all ages. We know (I think) his spirit/life philosophy comes from his parents and uncle. He learned well. He is the poster child for positive intentions and results.

Posted by Miles 09/11/2010 at 07:25 PM

Well, after tomorrow, Nadal will have NINE GS......I'm intrigue about the possibility of Nadal getting to 16 in the future. One smart thing he did is how he pace himself and peaked at exactly the right time this US Open. Also, it helps if you only play 1 player who is in the top 10 (Verdasco) throughout the whole tournament.
Fed's play was truly disappointing today. His serve and forehand wasn't working, and he's reverted back to the Fed in the French and Wimby.

My prediction: Nadal in straights (7-5, 7-6, 6-4)

Posted by Travis 09/11/2010 at 07:29 PM

Objectivity has nothing to do with it, Rig. Federer just has that "extra something" about him. Not dissimilar to what Michael Jordon had in basketball, or Tiger in golf. The fluidity, the gracefulness, the perfectness in his strokes. It's really quite simple.

Some people prefer the type of player Nadal is, but it would be foolish to consider him the more complete player.

Posted by Miles 09/11/2010 at 07:33 PM

I just didn't know why Fed did not come to the net on his first match point. Apply some pressure on Djokovic and maybe he will make some mistake. He became too passive in the last few games and his unforced errors racked up. It's like those tight matches he lost at the beginning of the year.

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 09/11/2010 at 07:35 PM

thank you Pete.

"I go to practice everyday not to practice, I go to learn something."

I love this guy! Vamos Rafa...go get the Golden Slam!

Posted by Laj 09/11/2010 at 07:35 PM

"Some people prefer the type of player Nadal is, but it would be foolish to consider him the more complete player."

Why foolish? Nadal was the bigger prodigy, arrived on the stage at a younger age (first GS title at 19), has improved consistently just about every year, makes the most amazing shots on a regular basis, and has the lefty advantage.

I am a Federer fan, but I've come to accept that Rafa can make just about every shot in the game as well. Federer at 19 was nothing compared to Rafa at 19, and now Rafa at 24 can easily give Federer at 24 a run for his money. So why are we loath to give credit where it is due, Travis?

Posted by amanaceo 09/11/2010 at 07:43 PM


"but I've come to accept that Rafa can make just about every shot in the game as well. "

yeah, but he makes it seem like drudgery in comparison to Federer's grace on the court.

"Rafa at 24 can easily give Federer at 24 a run for his money"

hmm. we will have to wait and see about that.


Posted by CWATC 09/11/2010 at 07:43 PM

Actually I knew about the visiting ground zero thing; it's been mentioned before in the press. I skipped the end of the Youzhny match (i think understandable) but I'm sorry I missed his tribute to the victims; that is very cool.

Nadal has always been very wise and mature for his years, and is much brighter than generally believed. I hope that as his English improves the press will dump the stupid narrative of the "simple (ie stupid) island boy w/ the big muscles . . .

Posted by will 09/11/2010 at 07:45 PM

Very cool piece, Pete! A lot of articles have already been written about the players so it's hard to find some new insights about these people we follow. This is refreshingly new. Thanks!

Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 09/11/2010 at 07:46 PM

Rafa doesn't need to call himself the greatest, that's what he's got us fans for ; )

"The fluidity, the gracefulness, the perfectness in his strokes."

A lot of people talk about Laver like that also.

Right now you hear from a lot of Fed fans "16 majors this" and "16 majors that" as the chief argument for his GOAThood, but I think once Rafa passes the 10 majors mark and begins to approach 16 majors, they'll tone it down a bit and you'll hear Travis' argument instead, hehe.

The thing is, a lot of this depends on what the individual finds aesthetically pleasing. Take for example Murray, the world number four, who says he could watch Rafa play all day. Me too ; )

Posted by eric 09/11/2010 at 07:51 PM

i like the train of thought, but you always ruin your writing with awkward poetic nonsense. strike me as a man that loves to listen to himself talk. check out steve tignor's style for some tips.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro believe!. 09/11/2010 at 07:51 PM

First, congrats to Noles, and commiss to Roger fans.The toughest matches to lose aren't the blowout, when you just get blown off the court and have no chance, but the close ones are the ones that hurt the most. Roger had two match points, so this one is going to sting. But there are also positives, Roger has shown that he's still a major contender for all the slams. The same is true for Vee, the match against Kim was tight and with less errors in the second she could have won it. The positives for her is that if you can make it all the way to a semi final without dropping a set, when you haven't played in months and you play that close to the defending champion, you're still in the mix for contender. What surprise me about V is that her level was very high for someone who hadn't been on a court in two months. I also feel that Caro can take away some positive by defeating her first world's no l and her deep run into the semi. For both Venus and Roger, these two matches are going to hurt, but they will come back fighting and still have the game that can win slams. Read Vee's post match and she seems committed to the Fed cup. If Serena agree to play then I think the US has an excellent chance to win, but if neither plays, then the US will go out in straights as they did last year against the Italian defending champions. If MJF can only bring Mattex-Sand, Huber and Oudin, you will have the same thing you had last year, a quick and speedy beatdown. Davai Vera!!

Posted by Keith 09/11/2010 at 07:52 PM

Nadal is a great tennis player, he is a very great human being as well. I'm fortunate to witness Federer-Nadal era.

Posted by Fangorina (The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind) 09/11/2010 at 07:53 PM

Is everyone moving over here for Kim?Vera?

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro believe!. 09/11/2010 at 07:53 PM

Get ready for the Fedal wars to take over the board and the Roger is done, put a fork in him from the media. Sorry to Tim, I know he's a great fan to Roger.

Posted by imjimmy 09/11/2010 at 07:55 PM

Unbelievable press conference from Nadal. He's 10x better than other native speakers. I thought the GOAT answer was excellent.

Honestly, it's hard to think of a more humble (sounding) player in Tennis.

Posted by chicklet 09/11/2010 at 08:01 PM

Rooting for Kim tonight, but I really think that Vera will pull this out today. If she can stay positive out there, Kim is in big trouble.

Hoping for a competitive three setter. Good luck to both women.

Posted by Master Ace 09/11/2010 at 08:02 PM

Dick Enberg, Mary Carillo and John McEnroe doing the commentary on CBS for the WTA final between Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters

Last 3 set final at USO was in 1995 when Steffi Graf defeated Monica Seles

Posted by Fangorina (The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind) 09/11/2010 at 08:03 PM

imjimmy: "Unbelievable press conference from Nadal. He's 10x better than other native speakers. I thought the GOAT answer was excellent."

I was just saying the same thing to Mr. Fangorina. Rafa's 9-11 answer was so thoughtful and considered. Color me impressed with Rafa again.

Posted by Game Lover (Let's go Rafa, let's go!) 09/11/2010 at 08:03 PM

Great FHs from Nole and attacking tennis!

He'll probably win tomorrow as well against Rafa...Alas age is catching up with Roger, Nole was moving so much better. Great tennis to watch though!

And nice presser from Rafa, of course!

Vamos!

Posted by 2h4h 09/11/2010 at 08:03 PM

The following is speculation for what it is worth:

Roger's serving in not-so-winy conditions (read first serve percentage)
was sub-par today for him:
53% for the match
46% - Set 1
40% - Set 2
50% - Set 3
68% - Set 4
57% - Set 5

Sounds like back problem or issues similar to what Fed has had before.

There is no other reasonable explanation for such a drop in first serve
percentage.

My guess is that Roger's camp knew about this and that perhaps explains
the sad but proud look from Mirka as she watched Fed leave the courts.

Posted by Texastennis 09/11/2010 at 08:04 PM

So are we here for the women's? Tough act to follow that semi...

Posted by Fangorina (The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind) 09/11/2010 at 08:04 PM

Let's go VERA!!!!

Posted by Master Ace 09/11/2010 at 08:05 PM

Texastennis,
Yes, we are her for WTA.

Posted by Vic Manila 09/11/2010 at 08:05 PM

Rafa may not be the all-around complete player--even he admits to that. But me thinks he is turning out to be the all-around complete person! Kudos to Rafa for the insightful words about practicing. It helps inspire even people who have never been on a tennis court! And what an inspired piece of writing Pete! We don't got a lot of tennis of TV back here so thanks so much for giving us here in the Philippines something substantial to ruminate on.

Posted by Fangorina (The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind) 09/11/2010 at 08:07 PM

I am really developing an unexpected girl-crush on Vera.

Posted by Mike 09/11/2010 at 08:09 PM

I honestly think the only true way to compare Roger and Rafa is to wait till they both retire. I just hope someone comes along to give Rafa as much trouble as he's given Fed the last 5 years to keep it from being a blow out (Masters + Majors).

Posted by Kwaku 09/11/2010 at 08:11 PM

I prefer Kim to win, bc I don't know the other girl.

Posted by chicklet 09/11/2010 at 08:12 PM

"I am really developing an unexpected girl-crush on Vera."
+1

In her post match presser after the semi, she was so poised and witty.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/11/2010 at 08:12 PM

reposting from last thread:

AM - Your comments calling out mean-spirited comments no matter where they come from are so appreciated. You are a real tennis fan.

GB - I presume you were referring to me as MTF :) I really don't think Nole can do a AO 2009 Rafa given his history of physical issues, but we shall see. Good luck to your guy, but really hoping for a competitive match from my standpoint.

- Did federer really say he hopes Nadal wins? Does anyone have the full question and answer, coz these "sound bytes" sometimes distort what was actually said or meant. I hope he didn't...that really would be hurtful to Novak especially after his performance today.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Queen Bee,Do It For Wayne Rafa! 09/11/2010 at 08:15 PM

Pete Thanks for the post

Thats why I admire and respect Rafa

I dont go to practice I go to learn something

Rafa keep learning.

Posted by Tony 09/11/2010 at 08:16 PM

Well, Well, Well. all the commentators, predictions and cri5tics appeared to mhave been so wrong. This is why I love the sport of tennis. You can never tell. CONGRATULATION TO NOVAK DJOKOVIC IN GETTING TO THE FINALS OF THE US GRANDSLAM!!!!

Posted by Master Ace 09/11/2010 at 08:17 PM

Mary Joe Fernandez is doing interviews with Vera and Kim

Will Vera win her first Slam?

Will Kim win her 3rd USO in as many attempts as her streak is at 20?

Posted by J. J. 09/11/2010 at 08:18 PM

Travis- Re Fed being the greatest player to pick up a racquet.

Please . . the problem with Roger is he has no humility. It's always about Roger.
When asked about D'joker before the match he said quote "(3) times he has had to go thru me and hasn't been able to get it done." Well Roger there's always a first time!

Posted by Texastennis 09/11/2010 at 08:19 PM

Interesting how CBS has Jim Courier on board for the USO - I like him commentating but he hasn't done it much at all in recent years.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Queen Bee,Do It For Wayne Rafa! 09/11/2010 at 08:20 PM

I must say at Wimbledon the players get better flowers than here at the USO lol!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Queen Bee,Do It For Wayne Rafa! 09/11/2010 at 08:21 PM

Marina N and Chrissy getting a photo with Kim and Vera

Posted by Texastennis 09/11/2010 at 08:21 PM

Am - so true about the flowers. lol. When I saw Kim getting those flowers which look like they come from the local supermarket, I had just that thought - ans then why bother if that's what they are like?

Posted by Master Ace 09/11/2010 at 08:21 PM

Dick Enberg, Mary Carillo and John McEnroe doing the commentary on CBS for the WTA final between Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters

Lynn Welch will be the chair umpire

Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert on the court for coin toss

Last 3 set final at USO was in 1995 when Steffi Graf defeated Monica Seles

Posted by reckoner 09/11/2010 at 08:22 PM


look, rogers the goat but his time has passed

nadal wouldve vanquished federer tmr had federer held up his end of the bargain and capitalized on either of his 2 match pts against djoko today... instead, the death knell for roger sounded a day earlier than it otherwise would have anyway, DING DONG, um yeah

still a compelling final tmr; you could argue the level of tennis btwn the two will be higher than if federer somehow made it only to shank his way to another loss against rafa

psychologically speaaking, at least losing in the SF roger protects his mental state more so than if he were to lose another final to nadal

Posted by Fangorina (The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind) 09/11/2010 at 08:23 PM

One would think that Dick, JMac and Mary would have laryngitis after blabbing unceasingly during the two men's semi's....

Posted by Master Ace 09/11/2010 at 08:24 PM

WTA Final Preview:

(A-7)Vera Zvonareva vs (A-1)Kim Clijsters

Zvonareva road to final: Kucova, Lisicki, Dulgheru, Petkovic, Kanepi and (A-2)Wozniacki
Clijsters road to final: Arn, Peers, Kvitova, Ivanovic, (F)Stosur and (A-3)Williams

Zvonareva(Dr. Wind) has made her 2nd consecutive Slam final by winning all 6 matches in straight sets capped off by getting revenge for her loss at Montreal against Wozniacki, who had won 13 matches in a row and 19 out of 20. She has kept her emotions in check during the last 2 Slams and in her last 2 matches, she handled the wind very nicely and executed her match plan yesterday against Wozniacki. Zvonareva has won the last two matches against her opponent today in Clijsters. Clijsters is on a 20 match USO winning streak with her last loss being to Justine Henin in 2003. In her last 2 matches, Clijsters play have been up and down but when it came to the crucial points in the 3rd set, she has came up with the answers. Jamaica Karen raised a good question on whether to call Clijsters a USO HC specialist since V Williams has been called a Wimbledon specialist.

Prediction: Vera Zvonareva finally gets her first career Slam

Posted by Fangorina (The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind) 09/11/2010 at 08:25 PM

Master Ace: I hope you are right!

Posted by Tennis Fan 09/11/2010 at 08:25 PM

I think Zvonareva is going to win. Had a dream last night that lot of people were reading newspapers talking about Zvonareva. Well see.

Posted by Master Ace 09/11/2010 at 08:25 PM

Aussiemarg and other WTA followers,
Look like some TWibers are back on Super Saturday CC so I will move there also.

Posted by Resa 09/11/2010 at 08:30 PM

I think that Rafa should meet federer in teh final tomorrow. "Just because they deserve each other"! At least that's what Steve Tignor said yesterday in his famous column.

What? Rog is out??? NOO!
Who dared to knock him out?? Must be a Serb defiant guy!

Posted by reggie 09/11/2010 at 08:30 PM

Nadal's greatness is, being at the very top for the last 4-5 years, after winning 8 slams (and counting) at 24, and even being number 1, he is stubborn with his humility, pays huge respect to all his opponents all the time and never cease to improve, ever. That makes him the greatest tennis personality of all. Greatest ever for the every young tennis players to learn from - especially, when you are not naturally born a tennis prodigy, like Mr. Richard Gasquet nor Mr. Roger Federer (they probably happen only one in a million), Nadal is the model that a young player can aspire for, that if they work hard enough, they can become another Nadal one day!
Counting a great player by style? Playing style is moulded and determined at a very tender age with the player's talent, his cultural background, his coach, his inclinations - as of this generation - in my humble opinion, Richard Gasquet is the greatest, most beautiful, most stunning player of all - Mr. RF comes close, but, compare the single hand backhands - no comparison.

Posted by Resa 09/11/2010 at 08:34 PM

What made my day is that journalists must throw away the entire volume of the papers already printed with Roger Fededer meeting Nadal in the USO 2010 final!!

Well, yeah, throw it away. You appeared to be too smart in your prediction earlier. Now get what you created.

Posted by cmac 09/11/2010 at 08:34 PM

Bodo, when will you stop calling Rafa a "man-child?" He is a man - mature, level-headed, honest and courageous.

Posted by Resa 09/11/2010 at 08:37 PM

Posted by Miles 09/11/2010 at 07:25 PM

Fed's play was truly disappointing today. His serve and forehand wasn't working, ..
///////////////

Tis cannot be futher from the turth!
His forehand was as lethal as ever. (watch the match). But , he just faced the guy who had it (lethal FH) a bit better than his!!


Posted by marieJ 09/11/2010 at 08:38 PM

hi pete !
about the practice quote, it's maybe me, be i think uncle toni allways tried to keep it simple for rafa. you know to keep the motivation, and as rafa said, he better learn something practice after practice, because his uncle was not an easy teacher, i think.

rafa is really a great player and person, and maybe for the first time, i hope djoko wins on sunday, just to keep rafa learning a bit more and keep going after something to win the USO.

btw, commies to the fed fans, the man has been unbelievable for so long it's tough to see him going down, step by step in every big house he used to own... as more time goes on, i can't help to think about the coldplay's song viva la vida , who looks taylored for him.
i know it's not going to help.
i'm still pretty sure and optimistic that fed has a another big one in him. he did great wining one this year, what more can you ask, he's not in his prime anymore.

Posted by manolo_orantesfan 09/11/2010 at 08:43 PM

Listening to Virginia Wade commentate.

How soothing. How enjoyable.

Posted by imjimmy 09/11/2010 at 08:48 PM

""Listening to Virginia Wade commentate. ...How soothing. How enjoyable.""

Absolutely. I really think she's one of the best female commentators. Hell..I could watch WTA just to listen to her commenting!

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro believe!. 09/11/2010 at 08:59 PM

Darn, the crazy Vera is about to come out. Just keep it together Vera, it takes three sets.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 09/11/2010 at 09:02 PM

Pete, thanks for this post. Rafa's continues to amaze me. I knew he had been to ground zero but I didn't know he'd been six times. He's got a great heart and a good soul that one. wow.

and the "I go to practice every day not to practice. I go to practice every day to learn something." This is why I like this guy so much. He's very special.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 09/11/2010 at 09:08 PM

Nice piece, Pete. One of the reasons I like Nadal so much is for that reason - he is the person that he is. A very pleasant and thoughtful young man.

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

"Greatest ever for the every young tennis players to learn from - especially, when you are not naturally born a tennis prodigy, like Mr. Richard Gasquet nor Mr. Roger Federer (they probably happen only one in a million), Nadal is the model that a young player can aspire for, that if they work hard enough, they can become another Nadal one day!"

Umm, if Nadal is not the very definition of a tennis prodigy, I don't know who is. He won his first ATP match at age 15 and was ranked in the top 50 by age 17. Yes, he's a great model for hard work, but he was also blessed with near super-human athletic skills.

Posted by topher_ph 09/11/2010 at 09:11 PM

"Didn't I hear Brad Gilbert assert, just this afternoon, that if the wind keeps blowing like stink, it would be a huge—huge!—advantage for Rafael Nadal, who would be able to calibrate the degree of spin in his ground strokes to meet whatever challenge the wind presented on either end of the court? I've got news for you; if Nadal makes it to the final, the conditions remain what they were today (which they won't), and Federer plays like he did today, the only thing Nadal will be calibrating is the size of the runner-up's check."

typical fanatical writing i have read days ago. the writer really is a fed fan, i would love to understand him but i just can't shrug the feeling that these statements are kinda arrogant, very assuming & so premature. same reason i started not to follow jon wertheim's columns when he declared serena prematurely (in my opinion) as the female GOAT which is an utter disrespect for steffi, martina & evert.

Posted by linex 09/11/2010 at 09:20 PM

Vera got the tactics wrong moving kim from corner to corner with powerful shots is not the tactics to go vs Kim. She needs to mix it more and come to the net when feasible.

Posted by Ruth 09/11/2010 at 09:25 PM

"Even a Grand Slam is important element, but is not all on the tennis. . ."

I think that Rafa's indicating that the "Slams are EVERYTHING" attitude ( very popular among some TWibers) is not one he has adopted is at least as inportant for me to hear as his opinion on the relative significance of the H2H.

The young man has a good head on those muscular shoulders. :-)

(OT: Nice to be back in TW land after a few days with no access to a computer and not much time for TV! I was driving down I-81 heading to Atlanta yesterday while my dear Venus was being beaten by that annoying and ubiquitous Kim Clijsters. :))

Posted by JoeD 09/11/2010 at 09:26 PM

Tennis.com jinxed a Rafa/Fed final by talking about it incessantly. Will you never learn? Hopefully next time you'll just let it happen (or not) rather than overly hype a speculative future.

Posted by Carlos Aribalo 09/11/2010 at 09:32 PM

RAFA FAN
I came to appreciate him late
I was never a Roger Fan, I felt like he was Sampras clone
What I learned from Rafa play is watching him build or contruct a point - PATIENCE
you felt like he was a boxer more interested in body blows then get first
the knockout will come later kind of player

Posted by Resa 09/11/2010 at 09:34 PM

2h4h: There is no other reasonable explanation for such a drop in first serve
percentage.

yes there is!
Djoko's excellent retruns throught the match! That can shake just anybody's serving confidence. Actually that was the key of Nole's success tonight.

Nole IS the best returner in the game. (check stat).

Posted by Christopher 09/11/2010 at 09:35 PM

Ruth-- Good to see you back. But for the record, Youzhny said quote, not Nadal. Also, he went on to say that he thinks the 23-consecutive semis record is even more impressive and important than the 16 wins. He clearly thinks the slams are still the most important thing overall. This doesn't mean he's right (and I know your thoughts on this, with which I respectfully disagree), but he does seem to make the slams the most important events.

Posted by John 09/11/2010 at 09:35 PM

Thanks Pete, great article!!!!!

Posted by Frances 09/11/2010 at 09:35 PM

thanks for this post pete

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/11/2010 at 09:49 PM

Christopher - btw- from the other night...you're only mistake was to assume that a combination of logic, grammar and common sense actually has any weight with a certain poster. You are not the first to make this mistake and no doubt will not be the last, but you should know that you were NOT misunderstood by 99.9% of the TW population.

Posted by JoeD 09/11/2010 at 09:55 PM

I agree with Resa. But something no one mentioned is how I analyze this match:

Roger won 2 sets.
Rafa won 2 sets.
Novak earned the win by balls out play w/ 2 match points down.

Roger had Rafa in his head. And started to spray the ball all over the place. He didn't do that, or have the flu he caught from Mirka and the twins, or any other excuse, when Rafa was injured.

Ever since Rafa beat Roger at Wimbledon, you'd see Roger with that bug in his head. Suddenly Rafa's injured and the confidence comes back. Rafa comes back, Roger starts losing again.

It's that simple (and complicated).

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro believe!. 09/11/2010 at 09:57 PM

Brilliant CL!!

Posted by Resa 09/11/2010 at 10:03 PM

After Nole's disposal of Rog tinight,
Do you now understand how Mardy got "spanked" a few days ago...
..and how "wind" helped Monfils to lose. lol

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/11/2010 at 10:05 PM

JoeD - well, simple is as simple sees it.

Posted by Eamon 09/11/2010 at 10:08 PM

Good lord, Peter, try to compliment Nadal without implicitly endorsing the 'Federer is better' narrative. I think you'll find it surprisingly easy.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro believe!. 09/11/2010 at 10:18 PM

Caro would have put up a bigger fight and given us a better final. I miss her already.

Posted by Sendebar 09/11/2010 at 10:23 PM

It seems that speaking English fluently is a must in the tennis world. I guess that what bothers some people is Nadal´s inability to express in this language.
Well he is already fluent in spanish and catalan and the best player right now. That is enough for those who are aware of what it is like where he comes from. People from Mallorca don´t have the need to be part of a show that has nothing to do with their culture (I am sure that this applies to people from many other cultures).

Posted by Gotham21 09/11/2010 at 10:33 PM

"but he was also blessed with near super-human athletic skills."

He also has bigger biceps than Mohammed Ali had in his prime. Super-human, is one way of looking at it I guess.

Posted by wilson75 09/11/2010 at 10:33 PM

It's unfortunate that because Rafa doesn't speak English fluently the press believes that he's a dumb jock. By reading his pressers, it is clear to see that is as intelligent as Roger but the press is not patient enough to actually listen to what he has to say. At least Pete has realised that Rafa is not stupid.

Posted by Marshall1 09/11/2010 at 10:41 PM

Well, I don't mind Bodo trying to defend Roger though while trying to prop up Nadal, as most other tennis analysts are already forecasting the end of Federer (just look at espn.com and you can see a lot of negative articles). You know what? Tennis personalities come in cycle. Look, Roger is 29 and Nadal is 24? So what if Nadal is playing the best tennis now? He should, as this is the peak of one's physical abilities. So give Roger a break and stop posting hateful messages. Nadal deserves to be in the final (so does Djokovic) and we should also appreciate Roger because without him, Nadal wouldn't push himself so hard to surpass the current GOAT (Yes, I use the word current)

Posted by NADAL FAN 726 09/11/2010 at 10:46 PM

"I wish Nadal's fans could take a piece of his mindset and apply it to their own thinking. No matter what, I firmly believe Federer is the greatest player to every pick up a racket. Regardless of titles, head-to-heads, what have you."

what? dont you think nadal is only being a nice guy and that he just "respects" roger? "try" to go beyond what rafa said. dont just take it word for word. and let me ask you a question? does roger respect rafa back?

Posted by Carol 09/11/2010 at 11:00 PM

Ive just came from a nice dinner whith friends and I've read this great article, well said Pete, I like it a lot

Rafa is speaking good fluid english with a strong accent so I don't think that is a reason that he can look *stupid* to anyone. More stupid is the one that knows to speak just one lenguage. Everybody knows he's a smart guy not just as person but as player too
I just wish the best to him tomorrow. VAMOS RAFA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Larry 09/11/2010 at 11:08 PM

They come to kill the king. They always do. Let's be clear - a player is not his tennis. A player's tennis is not the person. To be a 'fan' of a player and a person is fine, but to dis a player's game because your impression of his personality is unfortunate. We all do it, it's still too bad.

About Federer - there is no doubt in my mind that he is indeed the GOAT. I am old enough to have seen bits of Laver playing live towards the end of his career. I have seen McEnroe - saw him in person when he was young and I wasn't really a tennis fan, but recognized that this was an amazing player. Lendl, Edberg, Wilander, Connors; Sampras, Agassi and Becker. I have seen them all play either on TV or in person. I was a Sampras fan. He was an amazing player to watch, creative on the court despite his 'boring' personality, not only blessed with great power, speed and athleticism but also hit shots that required imagination. Pete's running forehand was a thing of beauty. I don't care about his natural gifts, he had to have imagination to hit it. And Sampras from '92 until about '99 could do it all, dismantling Agassi and Becker in the biggest matches. His Wimbledon victory over Andre in '99 was one of the best exhibitions of tennis ever.

Still. Along came this Roger - and I write this because he is now on the decline - and broke the mold. You talk about Rod Laver (and we shouldn't forget Gonzales, Kramer, Hoad, some of these stupendous players...Tilden), and you talk about Pete Sampras, and you see the best of their eras, great variety and dedication. They never dominated a whole array of opponents in the manner of Roger Federer.

So what does Federer have, what did he use to dominate the men's game (he no longer is) for about seven years? Superb coordination; the perfect tennis body, an ingrained habit of watching the ball into his strings that no pro has ever matched; amazing footwork that goes beyond innate speed. Great technique on every one of his strokes: every one. The forehand, which people respect is in fact the greatest forehand of all time, so amazingly varied and powerful, and he hits it from all angles. Clutch serving, reliable serving featuring a unique ball toss that almost no pros use, an 11:45 clock position for the toss. The volley ability.

But they all pass, the power they had at 25 doesn't stay at quite the same level for a whole match. The younger players have more energy; and along come players - Rafa, DelPo, Djoker and others - who can gradually begin to overpower him. So the fans, eager for a change and impatient, cry out 'The King is dead.' Then the new guy is suddenly the greatest ever. Rafa Nadal is a great player and a nice young man, but suddenly better than Fed and the GOAT. He himself says it's not so.


Posted by Neveah*Free Weezy! Vamos Rafa!* 09/11/2010 at 11:28 PM

Thanks for the article, Lovely read Indeed!;)

I'm rolling with you Rafa until the wheels fall off!!!

I'm super proud of you making your first final at the USO and I believe in you wholeheartedly!

Let's get it! Vamos! ;)

Posted by M&M 09/11/2010 at 11:30 PM

Bye! Bye! Federer! It's Rafa time! Come on Nadal, your the best! VAMOS RAFA!!!!!

Posted by Eamon 09/11/2010 at 11:30 PM

In fairness, NADAL FAN 726, Federer respects Nadal, no question, and his public statements have become more deferential as the reality of Nadal's ascent has sunk in. But J. J. is correct: Federer has no humility; he is gracious only in victory. He made the same weak excuse (poor light) after his first major loss to Nadal (RG '05) and after his worst (Wimbledon '08); probably the only reason he didn't trot it out in Australia was that it would have made no sense inside Rod Laver Arena. And, forget all the moralizing that goes on, the fact is that this attitude has been problematic for Federer on a purely practical level. Nadal isn't so consistently (and, as Bodo rightly points out, self-consciously) simple and self-effacing because he's a nice guy (although he certainly seems to be); it's good strategy, effective mental training. That's how Nadal is able to keep adjusting his game and, critically, to keep improving, even when he's world no. 1. Federer was famously stubborn during his first difficult streak, refusing to hire a coach at the same time he was donning ridiculous outfits at Wimbledon and filming obnoxious commercials for NetJets (the overloaded trophy cart) and Rolex (6 Wimbledon titles "and counting"). He believed his own hype, and that is never good for anyone -- athletes, artists, politicians, whomever. That's when you stop getting better and start to slip up. And the Federer-fluffers haven't helped him by calling him, absurdly, The Greatest Of All Time and praising his (middling at best) sportsmanship. I like Federer when he's being his natural, sheepish, undeniably appealing self, the way he was when he first started winning majors -- before Gwen Stefani, Anna Wintour, the Golden '15' jacket, and all these unforced errors.

Posted by Carol 09/11/2010 at 11:39 PM

I'm not sure if the *King* (for someones) is dead or not but I'm sure that Nadal is giving a tennis exhibition. Tomorrow? if the blisters don't bother him too much (hope not) he will give another tennis exhibition

Posted by Mrs. Edgewood Cheesewater 09/11/2010 at 11:55 PM

Mr. Bodo:

I regret to inform you that I must report you to the United States of America Board of Grammar Assurance.

Posted by JoeD 09/12/2010 at 12:03 AM

"JoeD - well, simple is as simple sees it."

CL,

There was no need to get personal. I didn't even attack Fed and I happen to be a big fan of his.

I also respect Rafa and the rivalry. I was hoping for a great final between the two and wish that Rafa wasn't in his head so we could see some more amazing battles.

But over time I've realized that this is the case and being a Fed fan doesn't mean that you need to close your eyes about reality or get overly emotional when people talk about it.

What Fed has accomplished over the years is amazing and perhaps if they were the same age things would be different.

Rafa has not yet done what Fed has...he may wind up there one day. Perhaps not.

And someone one day may become to an older Rafa what he is to Fed.

But if you think Rafa isn't in Federer's head, then you're in denial. The breakdown in Australia speaks for itself.

Posted by held hostage 09/12/2010 at 12:06 AM

I thought I heard John McEnroe today before the first semi of Nadal-Youzhny, saying that in his opinion the greatest of all time are in order: Sampras-Laver-Federer-Nadal and if Nadal wins on Sunday(vs Federer!) then he goes straight to the top of the list!
Anyone else heard this comment?

Posted by dnrood 09/12/2010 at 12:42 AM

Held Hostage,

I think you may be thinking of a comment that Brad Gilbert made in one of Rafa's matches. BG is the master of overstatement and can't believe he really thinks that could be true.

By the way JMac listed Roger and Rod, 1 and 1A, followed by Sampras and Rafa somewhere in fourth or fifth place.

Posted by manning15 09/12/2010 at 12:50 AM

I don't think anyone can possibly say Nadal is greater than Federer yet. He was clearly off today and still barely lost in an epic 5th, and probably should have one. That's not to say that he can't ever pass him, but when he's only got 8 GS and Fed has 16, I don't care about head to head matchups, it's still double the number. It'll be interesting to see what the dynamic is between those two next year.

Posted by Miles 09/12/2010 at 01:08 AM

Yes, Fed fans should not get personal, but I also think that Nadal fans should not put down Roger (the logic goes like this: haha, I told you Roger wouldn't get past Novak....he's old now.....see, I told you he's in decline....etc). Yes, this is not the same Fed that dominates tennis for a few brilliant years anymore. I think Nadal's taking his place in the future. They both respect each other, so why not have the fans do the same thing? I think by tomorrow, Nadal will have 9 Grandslams.

Anyone know if Nadal wins tomorrow, how many points will separate between them? I think Roger has little to defend in the fall?

Posted by highpockets 09/12/2010 at 01:42 AM

Thanks Pete. My favorite part of Rafa's presser was where he told the questioner that he already answered his own question.

I'll keep it simple too ... I love this kid.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 09/12/2010 at 01:51 AM

Loved the read, Pete. :)

"he doesn't consider head-to-head records an important element in the ongoing GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate (sorry, Rafa fans but remember that he said it, not I)."

Some of us Rafa fans more or less agree with this. :)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 09/12/2010 at 01:53 AM

"Sampras-Laver-Federer-Nadal" - LOL, what happened to Borg in this little flock of GOATs? did he wander off to a different pasture entirely? :)

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 02:05 AM

Morning, Jewell. :)

Agreed about Borg. He has to be there. Rafa? No way yet.

I think it's kind of funny actually that Connors never gets mentioned at all. The guy played 2 Australians, early in his career. He won it once and lost to Newcombe in the final the other time. And I believe for 4 or 5 years when he was ranked 1 or 2, he didn't play the French. How many slams would he have added with all those missed opportunities?

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 02:05 AM

That should have been, "The guys ONLY played 2 Australians..."

Posted by Jai 09/12/2010 at 02:13 AM

Hello everyone!

"I think it's kind of funny actually that Connors never gets mentioned at all."

Sherlock: he was also the first male player ever to win Slams on 3 different surfaces (Wilander, Agassi, Federer and Nadal being the only others). Anyone who wants to talk about Rafa as a possible GOAT (Open Era) contender has to bring Connors and Lendl into the discussion as well.

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