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Mr. Djoko Rising 09/11/2010 - 9:51 PM

104009475

by Pete Bodo

NEW YORK—I had intended to parse a Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic presser as a companion piece to my earlier post on Rafael Nadal, but the second men's semifinal here at the U.S. Open demands some commentary. You know, the match that "ruined" the putative dream final, but sent Djokovic's stock higher than it's been since he bagged his first and thus far only major in Australia a few years ago.

The other day I wrote that Rafa and Roger have been advancing through the tournament as if pulled on separate rails by an invisible hand. It began when each of them had one of the year's most dangerous players placed in his path: Rafa had Tomas Berdych (who didn't make it past the first round), Roger had Robin Soderling. Each man had an intense "wind match" and so forth. . .

But the most compelling parallel was hidden from view until Djokovic knocked Federer out of the tournament this evening, in a spectacularly entertaining match featuring the best fifth set we've seen in a long time. But instead of ruining the theme, it only reinforces it: For now, Rafa is in exactly the same position Federer experienced in 2009 at Roland Garros. With his great rival cleared out of his path, Rafa will have to take all the pressure onto his shoulders. I'm not going to underestimate the threat Djokovic represents, but when you go toe-to-toe with the consensus GOAT (an encomium that will hold up for at least 16 more hours) for three hours and 45 minutes, you will pay a price.

In Paris last year, Federer had to navigate by four dangerous opponents after Nadal lost, but everyone suddenly expected Roger to win the whole shooting match. He had some shaky moments against Tommy Haas, Gael Monfils, Juan Martin del Potro and Robin Soderling, but he came through. Rafa's task was made easier today by the fact that Federer survived to the semis; he's got just one man to beat, although he couldn't be any more dangerous—if you discount the 800-pound gorilla in the room, fatigue.

I'll say this for Djokovic, his attitude tonight after he dismissed Federer was strikingly good. He might have come in complaining about the general unfairness of life, or at least the USTA and the CBS network, but he chose to take the high road. At times, he even laughed at the dimensions of his problem. When I asked him to walk us through his next few, critical hours of recovery—if he would be taking an ice-bath, a massage, etc.—he quipped:

"No. Popcorn, watching TV, relaxing."

The cavalier way he said it caused the assembled reporters to collectively guffaw. Djokovic laughed right along with them, then added: "Yeah, I will do anything that comes up to your mind legally, recovery-wise. (More laughter). I will do it. You know, I cannot go into details too much. . . Emotional recovery with my girlfriend, and a couple of things that I cannot talk about. (More laughter). It's not what you think, I know what you're thinking. . . "

I pressed him on that—was he djoking around, or playing his cards close to his vest?

"Well, you know, everyone has his own private things he does off the court. Just not for public, I guess. But definitely I will have to do a lot of recovery."

I don't know how his legs will bounce back, but his spirits and good-natured optimism have already recovered.

All seven of Djokovic's wins over Nadal (the head-to-head is 14-7 in favor of Rafa) have come on a hard court, and Djokovic sees a slight mental advantage in that statistic. But he knows what he's up against and he appears untroubled. Djokovic also fielded a number of questions on the rivalry between Federer and Nadal. Under the circumstances, you couldn't blame him if he had yelled "What am I, chopped liver?" and hurled the mike at his interlocutor.

But of our obsession with the two top players, he said: "Yeah, well it's normal. They are the two most dominant players in the the last five, six years, so it's logical that people talk about them mostly and that they want to see them playing in the finals. Everybody talks about their rivalry, their, you know, match-ups, the greatness of each player.

It's normal. For me, I don't think I've done bad the last three or four years. I don't think I've done bad with my achievements. But I am not, you know, kind of disappointed that people are not talking about me more. It's just waiting for my moment to come.

I'm competing in an era of two, you know, great-greats. Two players winning most of the majors. It's not easy, if you know what I mean."

Spoken like a champ, no matter what tomorrow brings.


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Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/12/2010 at 10:36 AM

Jai - "As far as I'm concerned, he's already overachieved" - The funny thing is, if you follow Federer's pressers over the years, I think Federer's felt that way about himself since his first Wimbledon in 2003. He even alluded to that in his presser after yesterday. :) Its often only us fans that create these impossible expectations

Posted by Kwaku 09/12/2010 at 10:38 AM

Christopher, agreed. You can only play the guy across the net.
And I did not say I agree with Bodo in Rafa for GOAT tonight (if he wins). Just a major milestone if he is ever going to get there in the future.

On another topic: all players say it is hard to play against friends. Well, Rafa and Nole are clearly NOT friends (would never go to a restaurant to have supper together) but they seem to be getting along much better than a few years ago. Nole said Rafa is "a great person off the court", and Rafa said "he's a great guy". The have also played doubles together. Anyone thinks that can play a role?
(And I don't know why I've thrown this, because I don't think it will play any role at all... :)

Posted by Kombo 09/12/2010 at 10:52 AM

Thank you Djokovic for saving tennis from Fedal homogeny.

† Hallelujah

Posted by Jai 09/12/2010 at 10:52 AM

"The funny thing is, if you follow Federer's pressers over the years, I think Federer's felt that way about himself since his first Wimbledon in 2003."

TheMightyFunk: I don't find that surprising at all - players who have achieved at that level know better than anyone what it takes to win even a single Slam. If Roger was as "entitled" or "arrogant" as some people make him out to be, he would never have achieved so much.

Posted by tan 09/12/2010 at 10:56 AM

weather report: right now, there is rain. it's that kind of rain that lingers a whole day in ny in autumn. stay tuned...

Posted by Kombo 09/12/2010 at 11:02 AM

Let's be honest Pete. There really was no 'parallel' to speak of. Tennis journos wanted parallels so they could write preconceived articles and even as reality conspired against such parallels. Berdych lost in the very first round, that should have put a damper on the 'parallel' paths meme, but no, it continued. Then Murray laid an egg, surely this would shake some sense into folks. Alas, a quick look back at articles about the semis continued with this 'parallels' theme that was already laughable. Fed and Rafa's fortunes with the draw were totally different. Fed's opponent played up to their seed while Rafa's laid eggs and left him with a relatively soft draw. Verdasco is the highest ranked player Rafa's played so far. Still y'all insisted on hanging on to that meme until it became utterly untenable. Djokovi won. Had Fed won in 5 tough sets, I doubt you would have acknoledged that their roads to the final were totally different, we'd probably be reading about "destiny" "mirror opposites" and "deserving each other." Eeww

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/12/2010 at 11:02 AM

Thank you Djokovic for saving tennis from Fedal hegemony - Suggest we wait till the final is done and dusted before proclaiming tennis has been "saved" from the hegemony? :)

Posted by Christopher 09/12/2010 at 11:04 AM

"The funny thing is, if you follow Federer's pressers over the years, I think Federer's felt that way about himself since his first Wimbledon in 2003."

Yes, for all his alleged arrogance (and I'll freely admit I can see why people feel that way), he constantly talks about how lucky he's been and how "incredible" it is that he's managed to do these things. The latter is what gets taken as arrogance but I think he really is surprised things have worked out so well. I read an interview with Federer in which he says he's frequently terrified that he'll simply forget how to hit the ball.

Anyway, enough babbling about Fed for me today (maybe). I'm hoping for a final at the level of the Olympics match, but with a different result :)

Posted by Kombo 09/12/2010 at 11:18 AM

TheMightyFunk - Perhaps, but do you believe Fed at 29 would have recovered better than 23 yr old Djokovic? He'd be even stiffer and more set up on a plate for slaughter, imo. I think Djokovic's game matches up better against Rafa on a hard court and as the younger man he should recover better. He probably won't recover enough, but even TMF can't beat biology.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/12/2010 at 11:22 AM

kombo - Maybe we are talking different things. imo, if Nadal wins today, all four slams this year have been won by either Federer or Nadal. hardly a dent in the hegemony. Hence my comment about waiting for the final to be in the books before declaring that the hegemony has been broken. If you are simply talking about Fedal finals, well that's been broken for a while now, going back to AO 2009.

Posted by Kombo 09/12/2010 at 11:25 AM

true true, I hope Nole wins.

Posted by Kwaku 09/12/2010 at 11:26 AM

TMFunk,
thank you, but I also tend to interpret things too literally very often; maybe that's why I didn't really know what you meant. In any case, I'm sure that we basically agree and just express things a bit differently (as happens so often). That's why I am a bit ashamed to further elaborate on this, and you'll prolly find the following unnecessary, but I cannot resist :)

For instance, your
"Federer stays were he is currently irrespective of the result today"
had been answered by my
"while Federer's [achievements] remain the same, well, Federer has not moved, but his position has undoubtedly changed, because that position, by definition, is relative to the other contenders'".

In this case you prolly think of "position" as just the order in which things come (i.e. Federer's position in terms of achievements will still be ahead of Nadal's, and in that sense unchanged, no matter what happens tonight), while I think of position as their coordinates in a continuum (i.e. if Nadal wins tonight his achievements will be, say, 56% instead of just 50% of Federer's achievements, which does change Federer's position relative to Nadal's.)

I told you this was unnecessary :)

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/12/2010 at 11:27 AM

me too, but for different reasons :)

Posted by Mark 09/12/2010 at 11:30 AM

I think it's unfair to compare this to the French Open that Roger won, but Novak is a MUCH, MUCH tougher opponent than Soderling is. Especially since that was his first Major final. That makes this all the more impressive if Nadal wins.

Posted by federerfan 09/12/2010 at 11:31 AM

Jai : its not negativity, it is relief of completing a long journey, albeit with a few mis-steps.

With Fed...looking always in the rearview mirror, the 16GS, all the time can get in the way of seeing whats coming straight ahead..reality...even for critics of fed....and in that sense unloading some of the weight of expectations is definitely welcome....his manhood is over, his fatherhood/old manhood has started. Roger has won and defended 3 GS's in a year for a long time....he will never ever threaten that again.

For Rafa, while you may prefer to still be in disbelief about rafa's achievements, his boyhood is over, his manhood starts now (maybe at wimby), gorilla et all. Rafa has the chance to get his first 3 slam year....every step is either a furthering of the great coronation or the fall to unknown depths....always walking on a knife's edge.

This, to me, is slightly different than # of slams, surface etc etc....the true mental capacity of Rafa will come out in the next year or two...and he may yet come out on top due to his strong fundamentals, the promise is there but the journey is yet to be completed, while i watched fed, it was always with anxiety but now i like the prospect of watching it without any vested interest in it.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/12/2010 at 11:34 AM

"After Bodo's claim that Federer's FO win deserves an asterisk because he didn't play Nadal, if Nadal wins I'm waiting for a similar asterisk article because Nadal didn't have to play JMDP, who completely destroyed him 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 last year. At least Federer beat the guy who beat Nadal at the FO. JMDP isn't even in the event this year."

Christopher - yup...

btw, I left you a note on some other thread about the Fri., or was it Thurs.? night dustup. Think it is on the Wisdom from a Whiz thread. Didn't want you to think that even more people who were posting at the time. didn't 'get it,' even if one resolutely refuses to.

Posted by CWATC 09/12/2010 at 11:35 AM

Fed has said in multiple interviews that his career goals when joining the tour were to hit #1 at some point and to win a slam (preferably wimbledon)or possibly two. Had no expectations of anything more than that.

Once he accomplished that,he enjoyed it so much he figured he'd better keep going. :)

As a fan, I've really, really hated all this GOAT talk that has surrounded his career. Instead of a way to praise him, it almost became a way to insult him because people perhaps annointed him too quickly and then began to change their minds.

I blame Sampras for all this nonsense. Unlike Fed, in his autobiography he openly admits that he very much wanted to be known as the greatest ever. He and his team were the ones who made a big deal of his breaking of Emerson's so called GS "record", altho' as Pete and others have pointed out multiple times, no one ever considered Emerson GOAT and players in prior eras made no attempt to break that "record", I mean Borg retired at 25 with 11 majors and didn't even bother playing AO.

End of rant. I guess all the GOAT stuff is good publicity for the sport, and no question we are lucky to be witnessing an era of two such remarkable players, Federer and Nadal. Classy of Roger to say he hopes Nadal wins USO as it will make a good story.

Posted by Matt Zemek 09/12/2010 at 11:40 AM

Just want to toss out this note in the midst of what is a busy day for me:

I realize that close doesn't count, but did any of you know that Federer came within one point yesterday of becoming the only man in men's tennis history to reach seven straight finals at TWO different majors?

As it is, Federer is the only man to reach six straight finals at two different majors.

The short list:

Eight straight finals at one major: Tie - Bill Tilden and Ivan Lendl, U.S. Open

Seven straight finals at one major: Tie - Richard Sears, U.S. Open; Roy Emerson, Australian Open; William Renshaw and Federer, Wimbledon.

Six straight finals at one major: Tie - Rene Lacoste, French Open; Jack Crawford, Australian Open; Wilfred Baddeley and Bjorn Borg, Wimbledon; Federer, U.S. Open.

This is why I only wanted yesterday, and would have been happy to see Rafa dismiss Federer in straight-sets today; I use the term "happy" in the sense that I wanted Federer to attain a few new pieces of historic achievement. Even if Rafa had crushed him in the final, I would have felt extremely satisfied about a runner-up showing.

As it is, though, it's still amazing to find more remarkable facts about Federer's career. Kudos, though, to Mr. Djokovic for being good enough and tough enough to wrest some history away from the Swiss. It makes the Serb's much-deserved moment that much sweeter.

(It should also do absolutely nothing to diminish Rafa's career slam; I hope we will refrain from trying to minimize the enormity of Rafa's accomplishment. What we should do is push to have the US Open put a day between the men's semis and the final.)

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/12/2010 at 11:40 AM

Kombo- "Still y'all insisted on hanging on to that meme until it became utterly untenable"

see my link last night around 11-ish...

Facts apparently don't trump dearly held memes...either for journalists or anyone else....and the more dearly held, the harder it is for facts to overcome truthiness with factiness. ;-) (If you do look at the link, the BG story is OK, but the best piece is the Hear&Now piece either in audio or pdf form. A study applied to politics but clearly applicable to sports fandom as well. )

Posted by TheMightyFunk 09/12/2010 at 11:42 AM

kwaku - ha ha, you are not an engineer or an IT person, are you? :) I'm both and I know exactly where you are coming from. I think we can put this one to bed. We are on the same page, I'm just not using the precise words I should :)

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/12/2010 at 11:44 AM

CWATC - excellent rant...interesting point about the mythical questing GOAT.

Matt Z - if you are gonna question the 'classy-ness' of Fed's post Wimby presser, I think you are gonna have to go back and question the classy-ness of some of Rafa's pressers, at last years USO; and this year talking about how his knees were hurting him in Miami...too bad Andy Roddick...not really a win for you! Don't mean to tit for tat this, but again, this is the sort of thing that Fed gets tagged with, justly or not, and Rafa is allowed to slide on for some reason.

Posted by Jai 09/12/2010 at 11:46 AM

federerfan: I think we're talking completely at cross-purposes. I don't understand statements like "every step is either a furthering of the great coronation or the fall to unknown depths". As far as I'm concerned, Rafa has already had a "fall" last year, and the very physical, intense nature of his game being what it is, he might well have another such fall next year. Or the year after. But as of now, he has 8 Slams, 18 Masters titles, Olympic gold and over five years ranked in the top 2. That, to me, is a very successful career already.

"he may yet come out on top due to his strong fundamentals, the promise is there but the journey is yet to be completed"

When you say "come out on top" or "complete the journey", are you talking about Rafa's potential to overtake Federer's achievements or become the so-called GOAT? Because none of that matters to me. Everything he does needn't be viewed through the prism of Roger's achievements. It will be very strange if all top tennis players from now on are expected to measure up to those once-in-a-lifetime standards.

Posted by Letty 09/12/2010 at 11:55 AM

Regarding these repeated accusations of arrogance yet again resulting from the oncourt interview after the QF and the serving in the night quote, it honestly distresses me how so many people can hear the same words and interpret them so differently - and not just in how it affects a silly tennis blog but in the world as a whole.

The whole quote if anyone's interested is this:

"Look I've practiced my serve a whole lot my whole career. If I can't serve in the wind I got a problem, you know. You can wake me up at 2 in the morning or 4 in the morning, I can hits serves, you know. That's what we do and I'm happy it worked so well tonight."

He's obviously speaking for tennis professionals in general. "That's what we do." He means tennis pros practice serves almost every day of their life to be prepared for whatever conditions come their way. He's not saying it's only him who has a special ability.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/12/2010 at 11:58 AM

So, according to the Weather Underground, there is light rain in Flushing now and 70% chance of showers all day. Does not bode well. Though, heaven knows I HAVE known a forecast to be wrong once or twice before.

Jai - "Everything he does needn't be viewed through the prism of Roger's achievements. " I SO very much agree with this..just as eveerything Fed does needn't be viewed through the prism of Rafa's achievements. And it holds true for all the other players as well. We often speak so 'dismissively of 'one slam wonders.' SHEESH.

Unfortunately, here at TW, the need/desire to see player A's achievements in direct contrast to player B's seems irresistible. Partly, I think because we ARE talking about athletes here, so competition is kind of the bedrock of the whole idea, and partly because humans seem innately drawn to competition, (we'll put 2 frogs against each other in a race for lack of any thing better to do), even if sometimes the beliefs drawn from that competition are as inane as the drive is innate.

Posted by Christopher 09/12/2010 at 12:02 PM

CL-- Thanks. I did see it but didn't want to respond there and draw additional fire from up North, if you know what I mean :)

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/12/2010 at 12:07 PM

Letty - I send you back to page one of this thread at around 11-ish pm to a link I provided for a study about the inability of actual facts, (the use of the word 'we'), to overcome an idea that people already have, in this case, that Roger is "arrogant." And that what he said just proves it. Again.

When I was talking about that quote, also on the first page of this thread, I was just talking about the irony of it. Bitter and/or giggle worthy irony depending on how you look at it. That his serve WAS so amazingly good, especially in that QF match, under such 'orrible conditions, and yet so poor yesterday in perfect conditions. As when jewell, a major Rafa fan, had the stones to say that she couldn't help but giggle a BIT that it was Soderling..the hated by so many Rafa fans, Baby Punter...that put Rafa out of the FO. She was NOT happy about Rafa's lost but she couldn't help but see a bit of irony at work. I am NOT happy about Roger losing and I don't think his comment was arrogant at all, but I did also see a bit of irony....along with wondering why the match couldn't have been held at 4am. ;-)

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/12/2010 at 12:07 PM

Christopher- Roger/Wilco. :-)

Posted by Matt Zemek 09/12/2010 at 12:08 PM

CL -

I'm not really letting Rafa slide because I've not addressed his pressers. Given his minimal English skills, it's hard for me to understand nuances of meanings that are better and more honestly expressed in his Spanish tongue. Therefore, I really don't bring up the subject. What I can say is that since Federer is the foremost English-speaking ambassador for tennis (Rafa being the Spanish-speaking ambassador), I do hold him to a high standard and feel that it's quite appropriate to do so.

Moreover, I think Federer has consistently lived up to that standard and has been an exemplary sportsman over the course of his career. I do, however, think that the post-Berdych Wimby presser was a noticeable departure from that; it was not one of his finer moments. A rare moment, but a bad moment nonetheless. I'll leave it up to others to assess Rafa, whose pressers I've never dissected in depth.

I'm just as irritated and floored as you are as I witness the ways in which many of Fed's words get twisted to be interpreted as arrogance rather than gratitude or - heaven forbid - levity, especially after a really satisfying win. The fact that the quality of questions posed by press-room interviewers or (worse) on-court TV interviewers is so poor only increases the chances that a statement will get bent way out of context.

PS - I'm loving the insights and the context that you're bringing to this larger discussion! Thank you!

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 12:10 PM

"As a fan, I've really, really hated all this GOAT talk that has surrounded his career. Instead of a way to praise him, it almost became a way to insult him"

+ 10000

Hopefully, Rafa will be dealt with velvet gloves and much more perspective and appreciation. He already is, but 5 years later, I still hope he is remembered and appreciated like the legend he really is rather than "he didn't win this" or "he won that" etc etc

I am so glad Rafa brings up the 23 SFs when people ask him his opinion on this. I don't care who is the GOAT really, but each legend has their own respective stories..and I hope Fed won't be forgotten for the 23 SF run...it was something we were so used to, it was so bankable even when it got ridiculous..that its impossible to imagine how he did it now that he can't make three semis a year.

Likewise for Rafa's 81 match streak..that surely would have been 114 matches if a little tired Rafa didn't play Fed in Hamburg 2007 final. Or his 4+ years of being in the top 2 consistently despite being a teen.

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 12:12 PM

"Everything he does needn't be viewed through the prism of Roger's achievements"

Amen, Jai. And to CL's thoughts too.

Where did people go to argue incessantly before the internet? :)

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/12/2010 at 12:14 PM

Sherlock - BARS!!!! No we have to drink and type alone...NOT good!

:-)

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/12/2010 at 12:18 PM

Matt - thanks for that...we can just agree to only sorta disagree on this one.

I know you are very busy today,but I would highly recommend that you bookmark that link I put on the first page. Fascinating stuff and well researched. (As I said, read or listen to the Hear and Now version..Globe article is ok, but not as complete.)

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 12:21 PM

Lol, CL. :)

Can you imagine if all of TW was together in a bar arguing about GOATs? Oh, my. Alert the local constable. :)

Instead of G-O-D, I wish we would delete every use of the word GOAT.

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 12:22 PM

"Instead of G-O-D, I wish we would delete every use of the word GOAT."

+ 1 million

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 12:29 PM

I mean I don't think it should matter to Fed KADs if they anoint Nadal as the better player and GOAT-to-be ahead of Fed.

Fed has already said Nadal will win more than 16 majors and he says its very special that someone else is doing special things in tennis at the same time as him. He appreciates it, so can we.

Posted by Jared 09/12/2010 at 12:36 PM

I wonder if Fed came out tight because he was thinking more about the final than the semi...I think he underestimated the fight that Djokovic was going to put up, and he got bitten. He's an amazing player and still almost pulled out the win, but I think there HAD to be a part of him more focused on playing Nadal Sunday, than really coming out with the A-game against Djokovic.

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 01:09 PM

Ladyjulia, so many great thoughts, I can't respond to them all. But thanks for all your posts. :)

Posted by Andrew 09/12/2010 at 01:28 PM

Multiple threads emerging here, lots of civility... ah, bliss. Oh, wait a minute. What happened yesterday? Oh, pooh.

The joy of victory is only possible because of the specter of defeat. Knowing that your favorite player could theoretically lose (Federer vs Dabul, Nadal vs Istomin) is a heck of a lot different to thinking "wow, they really could lose this one" (Federer vs Djokovic yesterday, Federer vs Del Potro RG SF 2009, Nadal vs Nalbandian IW R16 2009. FOOPs insert your own example here).

When your favorite player does lose, often (amid disappointment and loss) there's a desire to blame, or to lash out - lash out at the victor, who must have cheated, or gotten lucky (nope - Djokovic was measurably the better player yesterday. Did get some lucky net cords, though. Grrrr). Lash out at your favorite player. How could he have been so bone headed, played so poorly, failed in the clutch? And lash out at others - kick some cats, get mean on TW, etc.

OK, so with luck most of us have gone through the four stages and are moving towards acceptance.

CL is right that facts very rarely change people's opinions. It's also the case that most people don't (genuinely) know what the facts are. BTW, Federer did serve and volley at least once in the match - Djokovic hit a strong lo BH return and Federer netted the volley. Many people hate to think that they might be wrong, so they just fall back on defending their position. Or they process one piece of evidence that seems helpful to their cause, and reject others (H2H! 23 GS semis! RG 2009 beatdown! 235 weeks! rinse and repeat).

I'm sorry no-one in the Federer press conference asked about the first serve, because it seemed like an obvious question. To my eyes, posted on TW during the match, Federer just didn't trust using the T serve to ad. One of the most prescient observations made, I think in a NY Times forum before the match, was that when Federer has poor serving days against strong players, he loses. He did, and he did.

But the fact that Pete's piece is about Djokovic should remind us to write Djokovic into the story. He's a puzzle to me: he's capable of behaving with the highest level of sportsmanship, and at other times he can completely set my teeth on edge. His post match comments were exactly right in tone: hard for me to cheer for one or against the other today.

Tennis journalism has "what have you done for me lately" in all its chromosomes, so a Nadal win will burnish his luster enormously (as it should) and lead to some questioning of Federer's status (as Federer's success led some to question Sampras' status). Things are as they are. Triumph and disaster are always two imposters.

Posted by Seth 09/12/2010 at 01:38 PM

When Rafa's career is over and/or he surpasses Fed's total of 16 Grand Slams (or more, if Fed bags more), then he's in the conversation about being the GOAT. It's very simple. A win for him today will not knock Fed off the top of the heap of history simply because Rafa's history (as well as Fed's) is still being written.

Posted by OBdizzy 09/12/2010 at 01:45 PM

"With his great rival cleared out of his path, Rafa will have to take all the pressure onto his shoulders." I know you mean Roger, but if Rafa gets the win on Arthur Ashe, he should really take Wawrinka out to dinner and pricey libations. Murray damn near owns Rafa on hardcourt, and I'm a Rafa fan all the way.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 09/12/2010 at 01:46 PM

Andrew - yes, and yes.

- "I'm sorry no-one in the Federer press conference asked about the first serve, because it seemed like an obvious question. To my eyes, posted on TW during the match, Federer just didn't trust using the T serve to ad. One of the most prescient observations made, I think in a NY Times forum before the match, was that when Federer has poor serving days against strong players, he loses. He did, and he did."

Why DID no one ask him about that missing serve?** As you say, it seems so obvious. The only reason that the % ticked over the 50% mark was because it briefly got over the 60% in one set. But for most of the match, his 1st
percentage languished in the mid 40s and that's just not going to get it done against a returner of Novak's quality.
In the latter stages of the match, I think a vicious circle had been set up, Fed was missing his first serves, Novak was having good success attacking his second serve, so he tried to take something off the first serve to get it in, and Novak dealt with THAT. Or he tried for more on his first and missed even more. It was a self inflicted quagmire he couldn't pull out of...the commies kept expecting his 1st serve to improve and it never did.

But again, all this begs the question WHY? And any self respecting journalist had the perfect 'hook' to pose the question: "Hey, you said you could hit serves at 4am...why couldn't you hit them today?" Fed probably would have shrugged it off, but at least the question would have been asked. I for one don't think he was physically hurting..when he is not serving well, all of his game, including his footwork, tends to suffer. And maybe there IS no reason other than bad day at the serve office, but boy I wish someone had ASKED.


-"But the fact that Pete's piece is about Djokovic should remind us to write Djokovic into the story."

Absolutely! He is no bystander here...he took out Fed and he has a chance against Rafa. In some ways, he IS the story.

** I wish someone who Pete doesn't consider an 'ankle gnasher' would ask him that.

Posted by Nagan 09/12/2010 at 02:16 PM

It was very hard for Federer to hold starting around 3-3 in the fifth, and you can see the fear (that he knew he could be losing later, or that he knew he was getting more tired) in his eyes when the cam got closeup when he returned...

That is why he was mentally and physically gave up when serving at 5-5. When you think that way, your biggest weapon (his FH in this case) go haywire...

Posted by Joanie 09/12/2010 at 03:07 PM

Congratulations to Novak Djokovic. An excellent victory.

When if ever will people stop writing this player off? He's been right behind Nadal and Federer since 2007, for three years. Not Berdych, Not Soderling, Not even Murray. Djokovic has been the one at number 3 at the end of 2007, 2008 and 2009.

And now he's in his 3rd slam final. (Soderling has been in 2. Berdych in 1. Murray in 2 slam finals.) Djokovic has also won one slam unlike the others.

So is he rising? Now he is number 2. So maybe he is.

Posted by mick1303 09/12/2010 at 05:22 PM

re: Wawrinka - Not only beating Murray cleared the way for Nadal to the final. Nadal-Murray most likely would have been the second semi.

Posted by Rebecca 09/12/2010 at 05:48 PM

Just dropping in to thank everyone for contributing to such a great thread, which I've just been reading while waiting for the match to start. I have to say, it's one of the most civil I've read here on TWibe for a while. I fail at being a tennis analyst, but it's always nice to read other people's thoughts when they're well written, organized, and comprehensible.

I wish the Tim that showed up for this thread would show up all the time. Hope he's been having a good day.

P.S. To whoever posted the facts/beliefs link, thanks! I studied the same thing in college (one of my majors was political science) and it's just sad, but true. People tend to look for "facts" to support their beliefs, rather than basing their beliefs and attitudes on the facts. It's also one of the reasons why news networks that strive to be "neutral" are losing so much money and viewership to those with clear bias - people prefer listening to news that supports their own preconceptions. (*cough* so CNN is going down against Fox...)

If you want to get philosophical about it, you might ask what really distinguishes a fact from a belief ;) but then you'd have to talk about deconstruction and epistemology!

Posted by RC27 09/12/2010 at 06:24 PM

So much for fed and his fans thinking he was going to "glide" into the final. After hearing about his flawless performance against soderling you may have thought the semi + final were mere formalities. This is the arrogance of fed and some of his fans. How can anyone who plays or watches tennis consistently take any opponent for granted? No less Djokovic who is always dangerous irrespective of recent form. And quit the whining about the draw! On paper rafa's draw was tougher by far. Most of the experts picked Murray to breakthrough here and Djoker's summer results were mediocre at best. It is not rafa's fault Murray + Berdych lost early. That said I make the final 60/40 for rafa. Yes Djoker will be fatigued (either today or tomorrow) but this is his best surface + rafa's worst. Novak has to be sky high after finally toppling fed here + that adrenaline will help. As a rafa fan I hope he wins but I think it will be tough= 4-5 sets! Vamos!!

Posted by svelterogue 09/12/2010 at 08:23 PM

i tried to leave a comment yesterday (shoutout to tim, my most missed pot stirrer) but it didn't make it through.

happy for nole, who has finally grown up. happy it's a rafa-nole final, which will show classy, fiery, exciting tennis. i was never keen about a roger-rafa final (yawn) but have always loved the rafa-nole showdowns.

whoever wins deserves the title.

vamos rafa! ajde nole!

Posted by Glen 09/13/2010 at 02:53 AM

Hate to say I told you so. Well, actually I don't.

If Federer serves at his best, he wins this match, but truth be told he was second best in both the sets he won except for those set-deciding breaks. At those points I thought that his 'big points' ability and experience would carry him through, but Djokovic was consistently stronger from the baseline, and showed huge stones the way he came through in the end.

Alarm clocks ringing for Fed I think (sad to say). His backhand is really being exposed consistently and this time not by a lefty, and there are far too many unforced errors also on the forehand side, because he has to hit through from deeper in the court. Unless the serve is on song, that's going to hurt and it was in evidence already against Söderling who won something like 60-65 percent on Feds second serve until the third set when he lost it at the end.
What is even worse is that Nadal and Djokovic are notably faster and better movers around the court. Doesn't make Federer less than awesome, but the days of wiping the court with even very good players are over, and I wouldn't be surprised if he never wins another slam. He has lost a step, and that's enough to make all the difference the way his younger rivals are improving.

Great for the final that there was rain. Now the often frail Djokovic doesn't have the fatigue issue, and we should get another epic. May the best man win. If the Djoker can serve as consistently again and not make too many errors when going for it down the line, Nadal's career slam could even get postponed although I do believe he will swallow Novak in 3 or 4.

Posted by svelterogue 09/13/2010 at 03:43 AM

either way we're in for a history-making final and that alone is exciting in itself!

Posted by Lillian 09/13/2010 at 09:48 AM

First,

Thanks Pete for being objective, and praising Novak since he did play GREAT.
One thing reading these comments I do not agree with: "Roger did not play good he did not serve good" I say. Roger play good in the match against Djokovic, however Novak played EXTREMELY WELL for him to beat him.
His level of play is good with other players to beat, not with Novak.

So that said, I look forward for Novak to beat Nadal today. My favourite is Novak, but Rafa is my second favourite player. So would not upset me if Rafa won, may the best player win, right?? I'm sure the match will be terrific between these two players.

Some comments made about Roger's remark about his serving 2 am and 4 am from asleep.

Does not surprise me one bit, since he is one of the MOST AROGANT players in the tennis history, and yes, I find him to say the least not likeable at all, Raffa is currently # 1 in the world, yet he is the most humble player in tennis. As I mentioned before,it all comes from his upbringing, the way uncle Tony teaches him. I have a high respect for Raffa and Nole, both. Not so in case of Federer.

Well I had my say for the day, and good luck Nole, Ajde Nole, volimo te

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