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Beyond Words 11/28/2010 - 12:17 PM

Am 

by Hannah Wilks, TW Contributing Writer

The biggest challenge in writing about Rafael Nadal (apart from not letting my bitterness as an Andy Murray fan overwhelm me) is finding something new to say. It’s not just that his undeniable brilliance has already been heavily chronicled, as much as the fact that it’s very hard to avoid a certain mythologised persona, irresistible because it participates in the reality of the man. It’s difficult to see beyond the stereotype. It’s hard even to avoid certain words—raw, brutality, power. Before you know it, you’re using bodice-ripper phrases like powerful thighs and gleaming muscles and then there’s officially no help for you.

There’s one word that hovers in the air around Andy Murray. Slam. More than any other player I can think of, he’s defined by the lack of one. It’s the reason that he can’t really win today, or at this tournament for that matter. If he beats Nadal, he’ll only get asked why he can’t do it when it really matters, at Wimbledon this summer with the prospect of a Federer-less final waiting. If he doesn‘t, he’ll be a loser. It may seem logically impossible that someone with nothing to gain can have so much to lose. Welcome to the world of the British No. 1.

From the first point of the match when Nadal blasts an inside-out forehand winner, only for Murray to respond with his own forehand and an ace to hold serve, there’s a sense that this might be the one we’ve been waiting for, an epic contest to set the World Tour Finals alight at last. The arena has been filled every day by people hoping to see the promise of the event realized; the best in the world playing their best tennis against each other. Nadal has looked sharper with each match, shaking off whatever nominal rust was accumulated by skipping Paris. Murray has been at his best and his worst this week, but today he is playing, to paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw, like himself at his most fabulous; aggressive, striking out on his forehand with supreme confidence, thumping down ace after heavy ace. Using his groundstrokes like a crowbar to pry open the cracks in Nadal’s supreme defense, he works his way to the net to drop soft volleys into unreachable places on the court. It’s the game that the fans and media beg him to play on a more or less daily basis; intelligent, courageous, a sight to see.

Such an equal match-up has the effect of making me see Nadal in a different way after all. As commenters wiser and wittier than me have pointed out, when you tend to be rooting for Nadal’s opponents, it’s difficult not to view him as a larger-than-life automaton possessed of a preternatural ability to slough off multiple death blows and come back stronger, like the killer in a slasher movie. Not so tonight. When there is a kerfuffle at 4-5 with challenges and scoreboards, it displeases both the crowd and Nadal, at one in wanting things to be just so. A noise in the ceiling between first and second serves brings a double fault. With Murray seemingly intent on hitting winners past him at every opportunity, one is forced to accept Nadal as vulnerable, fallible. His concentration can be threatened, his invincible self-belief disrupted.

This only makes what he does in the tiebreak more remarkable. Murray fluffs a forehand down the line that would have given him the mini-break, then nets a defensive slice he should be able to make in his sleep. Once he gets to set point, Nadal is always in control of the rally; a backhand cross-court, a short ball down the line that leaves Murray floundering in no man’s land, and a volley that the world no. 1 is not about to miss. Game and set because one young man kept his head better than another. I think I preferred him as an invincible force of nature who was simply too good.

The spotlight now falls on Murray’s resilience and self-belief, or lack thereof. Surely, Nadal will steamroll from here, as he did to Berdych yesterday; capitalizing on the momentary floundering that comes from losing the tightest of tiebreaks. Once he gets the bit between his teeth, he’s unstoppable. When a net cord takes Murray’s ball wide, followed by a successful Hawkeye challenge from Nadal to get the point replayed, it’s impossible not to feel that events are conspiring against Murray. He plays his first tactically ill-advised drop-shot; he’s driven to his knees by Nadal’s forehand in the next game as the DJ, displaying a masterly sense of timing, plays ‘Sledgehammer’. It’s understandable; after the loss of the first set, I want to take to my bed in a darkened room for a week or so, and I‘m just watching.

But I’m not Andy Murray. Break point down, he hits a backhand cross-court winner and gives it a “c’mon”! At deuce, he opens up the court again as only he can and finishes it off with a drop-dead volley. Game point is his eleventh ace. He gets to 0-15 on Rafa’s serve at 3-3 when Rafa pushes an attacking forehand long. If a point on Rafa’s serve in the first set was an opportunity, right now it’s an offer Murray can’t refuse. A superb backhand winner gives him the break, his fifteenth ace consolidates. I cry aloud; we all do. A return winner gives him the set on Rafa’s serve and the match we‘ve been waiting for is going the distance.

There’s a moment, when Murray has 0-30 on Rafa’s serve at 0-1, when neither are playing as well as they have been. Both have an opportunity to seize the match. Two unforced errors, a drop-shot that bounces before it reaches the net, and that‘s it. You can’t give Rafael Nadal an opening and gamble that he won’t come up with something spectacular, because he will. He breaks with a return ace.

The point at deuce on Murray’s serve at 3-5 is the match in microcosm. A sequence of unbelievable shots and yet all it accomplishes is to highlight Nadal’s brilliance and tenacity. Little kids are already running down the stairs to wait courtside for the chance to get Nadal’s autograph, and I am mentally composing a biting epitaph for the match. Murray has won six more points, but all he’s done is give Nadal a nice work-out, buffing up those muscles until they shine with sweat, making sure he looks good for the final. Nadal will not let an advantage like serving for the match go.

He doesn’t. Murray takes it back, forcing errors and sealing it with an inexorable backhand down the line. The roar from the crowd when he takes it to a tiebreak shakes the stands, but it pales in comparison to the one when Murray goes 0-3 up with an ace and two gorgeous winners. This could really happen, I think. These are the matches that can leave careers forever changed.

Before you know it, Nadal’s beaming and raising his arms, telling us once again how many Slams Murray’s going to win. I don’t think I can be the only Murray fan who is tired of hearing those words from him under these circumstances.

Murray takes it like a man. His press conference is dignified, honest; he doesn’t shrink from the harsh realities. "It was a great match to finish the year. But I need to improve because I’m competing with the two best players of all time. So if I want to win these tournaments, I want to win the Grand Slams, I need to get better."

I’m back to my semantic conundrum. The word I keep finding to describe Nadal’s performance is ‘terrifying’. On his supposedly worst surface, against an opponent who’s capable of beating him playing at his absolute best, he still won. The narrowness of the margins merely emphasize his victory. If his opponent tomorrow and the rest of the ATP aren’t viewing 2011 with a serious dose of apprehension then they’re simply not paying attention.

As for Murray, he played about as well as he can play. He stretched Nadal to his limits and brought the tournament to life. He played one of the best matches of the year. He gave the 17,500 people inside the O2, as Mark Petchey tells us in Nadal’s post-match interview, a memory that they will never forget.

Great. What trophy does he get for that?


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Posted by gamegrrle 11/28/2010 at 04:38 PM

TMFunk

Brilliant. Concise. Spot On.

With your permission I may cut and paste that every time someone brings up the tiredness issue. ;-)

Posted by AB 11/28/2010 at 04:39 PM

Agree, TMFunk: see my post about fighting battles that don't exist.

Very good win by your guy, BTW. Great finish to the year for Roger. He'll be pumped to begin 2011 which is excellent for tennis.

And of course, AM does not yet have the original TMF's autograph yet so she'll be swinging her fabulous bags at the kiddies in Melbourne next year, Remus perched on her shoulder, trying to get Roger's attention for the signature.

Posted by Mr.X (Live, from Minionland!) 11/28/2010 at 04:40 PM

TMFunk,
I dont know if we've "met" many times before, but let me say i absolutely agree with your 4:29 post.
AB,
Maybe it's just me, but i dont want to se another match between these 2 on grass. It will never be as good as the last one, because tha's impossible, so it would probably feel like a little of a letdown.
However, i do think they will meet again at Wimbledon if they are both healthy (which hasnt been the case the last 2 years)

May i ask what's this Edberg award you guys are referring to?

Posted by AB 11/28/2010 at 04:40 PM

Thanks Tim. Did you see your guy throw up the moonpies? He drew some errors from Rafa, too. Hah!

Posted by AB 11/28/2010 at 04:45 PM

Hola, Mr. X:

Rafa won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship award this year for the 1st time. This award is voted by the players.

Tim probably thinks Rafa stopped and stole yet another streak from Roger with his sneaky, underhanded ways. Maybe Rafa bribed the ATP with his favorite Quely beeskweets.

I absolutely want another Rafa v Roger match @ Wimbledon, preferably a final.

Why? Because IMO it's the most neutral surface for them, therefore the best possible match up.

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 04:46 PM

Mr X
We haven't met but allow me to address a part of your post.
I agree that another meeting on grass may not result in a match as dramatic as Wimbledon 08 (part of the drama was provided by your guy choking but no shame in choking when one wins in the end) but I do think we may be treated to a good match precisely because grass is where they're more equally matched, imo.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/28/2010 at 04:47 PM

mellow yellow writes:

It's really quite sad that every time Nadal loses a match it's because he's injured or tired or not 100%. I swear he's the only player on tour that, in the eyes of many fans and the media, never loses a match fair and square. Never is outplayed. It's always because he's T&I. So annoying.
__________

I absolutely agree.

It is annoying that Rafa occasionally gets tired and occasionally is injured.

If Rafa had never been tired or injured this year, he might have won four, not three majors, and he would have a lead in ranking points greater than the 3600 or so he currently has.

Boo, hiss to Rafa injuries and fatigue.

Posted by Fern 11/28/2010 at 04:48 PM

Congrats to my fellow Fed fans. Roger has had a brilliant week - to beat Nadal, Djoko, Soderling, Murray and Ferrer must be one of the best achievements of his career. So much for his decline!- he earned this one.

Commis to the Rafa fans - tbh I didn't think he played his best today but he had a good week and of course a fantastic year.

Both Fed and Rafa looked very tense/nervous during this match - but I reckon the Swiss/Spanish exhos could be great fun - imagine the quality of the tennis if they retain form and enjoy themselves :)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/28/2010 at 04:49 PM

I'm not sure I could call the world no. 2 (and likely GOAT) beating the world no. 1 an upset, exactly. :)

Mr X - hi & welcome back, I missed your comments. :) It is part of the ATP player awards thing - Rafa won the Edberg sportsmanship awards voted on by fellow players, Roger won the fan favourite award for the 8th year running, Haase the comeback player award, and I have forgotten all the others. LOL.

Hannah - I'm sorry I didn't read your piece thoroughly until just now but as always I love it, and this line - "Before you know it, you’re using bodice-ripper phrases like powerful thighs and gleaming muscles and then there’s officially no help for you" - made me giggle. :) It's even harder to avoid if you actually read bodice-rippers. ;-)

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 04:49 PM

AB LOL!

I am taking a new way on getting Rogers autograph at the AO 2011

I am going to adopt Twin Girls for the day

That surely will get his attention no?

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 04:50 PM

AB,
We seem to be on the same page about Wimbledon although we're on opposite camps.
Hope we both get our wish: a Fedal Wimbly final in 11.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 04:51 PM

Fern Well I was right saying Roger was the one to beat in this tournament wasnt I? lol!

Congrats he played well today and deserved his victory

Posted by Mr.X (Live, from Minionland!) 11/28/2010 at 04:51 PM

AB, x-fan,
It's right that grass is where they are more evenly matched, but i dont know, i keep feeling it would be a letdown. Anyway, as i said, i think it could very well happen again next year, if both are healthy.
I also think that the high-bouncing AO surface could be quite neutral, too. Certainly not indoor HC or clay.

AB,
Rafa won the Sportsmanship Award? Tim, how the hell did you allow this to happen?:)
Anyway, if the guys voted for him, good. I feel he has several of the members of the younger generation in his corner (Nole and Muzz, to name 2)

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 04:53 PM

Well if I have to be honest I would want also AO and USO Fedal finals in 2011.
I could do without a FO showdown though ;-)

Posted by AB 11/28/2010 at 04:54 PM

x-fan: great minds and all that...

AM: the twin tactic could work, particularly if you dress them identically in RF™ gear.

I'm off to get in a run before it's too cold.


Posted by Nic 11/28/2010 at 04:55 PM

Golubev won most improved. Don't forget ;)

Posted by CL 11/28/2010 at 04:56 PM

Mr. X - yeah...agree about the returns...we will discreetly avert our eyes from BH mire...but here's the thing, even though Fed didn't have a lot of success on his FH returns, I still think going for them was both important and valuable. Kept Nadal a bit unsure and even more importantly, kept Roger in the right aggressive frame and forward moving. So it was still a 'winning' shot in away even if it wasn't a winning point very often.

So glad you dropped by.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/28/2010 at 04:57 PM

Tim:

According to the ATP, I believe, neither the Paris nor this tournament (perhaps no more tournaments) are played on indoor carpet.

However, on other occasions, the ATP has been wrong about indoor court surface.

I find it somewhat strange that at temporary tennis venues, like 02, a more permanent hard court surface and (I assume) subsurfaces are used, instead of carpets.

I hope to get some clarification on this matter, at some point.

Incidentally, the company which put down this surface is owned (at least partly) by one of the Sanchez Vicario brothers who played on the ATP tour.

The company got the speed correct. However, the bounce was not satisfactory for the Mallorcan. Maybe, if Rafa wasn't such an ardent Real Madrid fan--and so vocal about it--Sanchez Vicario would have done the "right thing."

Posted by Mr.X (Live, from Minionland!) 11/28/2010 at 04:57 PM

Hi jewell! I assume you've kept trying to mantain sanity in the asylum:)
Upset? Indoors, Fed is the favourite, IMO. The famous H2H says it, too.

"I am going to adopt Twin Girls for the day"
AM, i think you mean "kidnap":)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/28/2010 at 04:57 PM

Cheers Nic! I knew there was someone else.

Posted by Mr.X (Live, from Minionland!) 11/28/2010 at 05:03 PM

Thanks for reminding me about "the match", msf. And this year, i dont have the undisclosed location of last year available. Hey, with Mou, we may get something. Although most likely, we wont.

x-fan,
Now, now. AO could be, but if there's USO, then there must be FO too, or we wont have a deal:)

CL,
My point is that the BH return charging the net seemed to be more succesful on 2nd serves, but hey, after such a performance, i dont feel like going and questioning Fed's tactics.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 05:07 PM

Mr X I am not into breaking the law as yet

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 05:07 PM

Mr X,
You force my hand but I agree then, Fedal finals all through!
Heck, as your man would say: where do I sign? :)

Well time I leave too.
I will be back next weekend for Davis Cup action.

Posted by CL 11/28/2010 at 05:09 PM

TMFunk - hmmm...pondering your 'tired is as tired does' post. (At least I am not pandering. Yet.)

OK, so I get, or think I get from your post that Rafa genuinely earns his tiredness because of the way he genuinely earns his wins. By relentless and dogged pursuit of tennis balls. Ok. But all the other guys out there are equally relentless... in their own way. If Muzz had won his semi and had faced Fed would the automatic default position of some...not all, but some...been that Muzz would be/was tired? I honestly don't know. i remember at the USO FedUzz final a couple of people mentioned tiredness as a factor after the match - because Muzz had that 2-day face off against Rafa in the semis. But I don't think it was presumed/set up so much. And Mr. Murray has been known to cover quite a lot of ground in HIS pursuit of tennis balls.

And in your theorem, does Fed get any points for, generally speaking, making quick instead of long work out of his matches?

I dunno..I am genuinely not trying to tick off Rafa fans who I can see feel a bit miffed about some attitudes expressed here. But it seems to me that Roger and Rafa went through the same tournament in the same set of conditions. Even had days off between RR matches. And that Federer is spotting Rafa 5 years. But nobody thinks Fed was or should be the one who was tired.

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 05:16 PM

CL,
I saw your post and would like to respond if you don't mind.
I think that was precisely TMFunk's point.
That's it's all about the way each plays.
Yes, Fed and Rafa had the same amount of matches in basically the same space of time but how many under 1 minute serves Rafa had?
Not saying that being tired is an excuse, but I also don't think why it should be taboo to mention it as a possible explanation for a lower than expected performance.

Posted by Mr.X (Live, from Minionland!) 11/28/2010 at 05:18 PM

"Mr X I am not into breaking the law as yet"
Does that mean that if you keep failing to get Roger's autograph, you'll re-think it?:)

CL,
If i may, i will give my opinion about your question regarding the "tiredness". If Lestat had won yesterday, and he had given the signs Rafa gave today in the match, i would have considered fatigue a factor, too. Or if it had been Fed, for that matter. I seem to remember there was a lot of talk back in the USO about how Nole was going to be exhausted for the final, and then about how it was good for him that the final was on Monday. And i do think Muzz had to be more tired than Fed in the 08 USO final, and that was even worst, because it was because of the USO Super Saturday screwing up things once again.
As for your question about wether or not Fed gets any points for his style, he gets plenty, IMO. That style allows him to feel less fatigue, to be better prapred for consecutive matches, and probably to be at this level being 29. As i said, Rafa was tired, but that's his problem; Fed wasnt, and that's to his credit.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/28/2010 at 05:19 PM

Hehe, Mr X, more like being the dotty old aunt sitting in the corner & muttering. ;-)

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 05:21 PM

under 1 minute serves = under 1 minute service games

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 05:22 PM

Ok Mr. X said it a lot better than me! :)

Anyway really off now!

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 05:24 PM

TMFunk,

Next time i will listen to you..you were right. But flukes happen, no? Let's see if you get it right next time.

GB...nope, not the scoreline..i was just reading into what fans were saying about their players..which Nam1 clarified later. I think you would know better than me about your fave because you spend much more time analyzing your fave. So, I was just going by what i was reading.

Carrie, I agree with your breakup for the surface wise...but if the rivarly was beginning, it would be determined by the surfaces.

Once a player keeps losing to the player and one side hardly wins 50% of the matches played, it becomes difficult for the player to conquer the nemesis. Its like Roddick and Fed at Wimby 2009. Roddick can try all he want, but Fed has the confidence from the lop sided H2H. Someone was bound to make a mistake in that final...and one could sense it was going to be Roddick after all the losses. Even Roddick-Fed's matches have been close, numerous TBs, but one player has an edge tactically and once they win...it gives them confidence to win next time, and its like the snowball effect. It dominates other factors and the player has a tough time to beat his nemesis. So, i think its the same with Fed and Rafa to some extent. Fed has an ordeal every time he faces Rafa in the sense that he holds no tactical advantage, he cannot play his game, and he has the memories of the lost chances. All in all, I would always bet money on the nemesis, regardless of surface. Who knows..this win by Fed is merely a fluke..in all probability its a fluke. He might have the surface advantage...but he's got a mental baggage to carry every time he faces his nemesis.

For sure, the Fed's playing really well every time he faces his nemesis though. Its the least he can do.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 05:26 PM

Mr X

There are other ways and I am a Woman On A Mission

I hope by now you are well aware of the fact no?

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 05:26 PM

CL: I thought that was the whole point of TMF's post - that Rafa had to live with the tradeoffs of not being as efficient/aggressive/versatile etc.

In terms of whether Fed should have been the one who was tired, well apparently Rafa was on court for 5 hrs and 5 mins in the two days before, and Fed 1 hr 19 mins (his last RR match was on Thursday, rather than Friday).

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 05:27 PM

CL,

Oh...so Berdych said that...how interesting. LOL on the campaign managers. In a way, i think its a good lesson for Fed. He does deserve some sympathy for whatever leg and back issue he had at Wimby..but really Venus sets the golden example...never talk about injuries or issues. So, in a way...good lesson for the Fed. Though I didn't like how the media treated him, its good in the long run.

Posted by crazyone 11/28/2010 at 05:29 PM

was the surface in London this slow last year? I remember it being faster.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 05:29 PM

Ho Hum

These players are professionals right?

If a player takes the court in my view they are fit and rearing to go

No excuses at all.

Or as fans are we looking for excuses?

Roger was too good on the day.Fact.

Moving On.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/28/2010 at 05:29 PM

“Everybody saw the match of yesterday, so everybody’s free to think his own opinion,” Nadal said. “I’m not going to say I lost the match because I was tired. What I’m going to say and what I feel is I lost the match because I played against a very good Roger Federer in one of his favorite surfaces. And when he’s playing like this, it’s very difficult to stop him, no?”

LOL ! That, my friends, is a masterclass on the art of making an excuse ! ... I won't say I lost because I was tired. No, I'll be magnanimous and say the better player won. But everybody saw yesterday's match, so there !

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 05:31 PM

thanks ladyjulia and sorry if I overreacted.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 05:31 PM

Actually Rafa said

He was tired but still mentally fresh?

Which is a big difference in my mind

Though laugh at it if you wish

Yawn!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/28/2010 at 05:33 PM

Time I went to sleep, I think - 'night all. :)

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 05:36 PM

Bye Jewell

I am leaving too off to see Cezanne at the art gallery

Later Everyone

Play nice and fair lol!

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 05:37 PM

Also, I do think that Fed being tired has been discussed more this year. I remember some fans feeling his late night matches against Nole left him less fresh for the Masters finals he lost to Muzz.

Posted by Mr.X (Live, from Minionland!) 11/28/2010 at 05:39 PM

AM,
I think i'll address your last 3 posts with a simple sentence: you are indeed a hard woman:)

Well, it's always nice to spend some time in TW. Nice to chat with you all. Enjoy the off-season, unless you are Serbian or French. If you are, get ready for the fight.

See ya, everyone.

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 05:41 PM

Ladyjulia: I thought this match was a great performance from Fed mentally. He got off to such a great start and stayed totally true to the aggressive mindset. I mean 2/2 bps converted!

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 05:41 PM

GB..no worries.

CL..agree about the winning shots versus keeping guessing part. I think that worked very well today. Overall, Roger did everything from his side...serving, moving etc. The result is the result.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/28/2010 at 05:41 PM

“Everybody saw the match of yesterday, so everybody’s free to think his own opinion,” Nadal said. “I’m not going to say I lost the match because I was tired. What I’m going to say and what I feel is I lost the match because I played against a very good Roger Federer in one of his favorite surfaces. And when he’s playing like this, it’s very difficult to stop him, no?”

LOL ! That, my friends, is a masterclass on the art of making an excuse ! ... I won't say I lost because I was tired. No, I'll be magnanimous and say the better player won. But everybody saw yesterday's match, so there !

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 05:42 PM

Bye Mr X. Hope you'll be back for the AO

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 05:43 PM

* sorry, I guess that was more than 2/2 on bps, huh? *couldn't watch Rafa's last service game*

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 05:44 PM

CL..in addition to your post...Roger said he plays in some kind of pain 80% of the time. He also said most of the tour has nagging injuries or soreness of some kind, but they still come out and play.

But we never hear them talk about it. I still think Venus sets the best example. Keep quiet and simply play. When media asks, don't answer.

Posted by Fern 11/28/2010 at 05:44 PM

@AM - tips hat :) indeed you did say Roger was the player to beat ... and glad you've not been tarred and feathered, as we feared :)

I did keep faith in the Fed, as advised, but he sure tested that faith when he lost the 2nd set. Good on him, though - he did play 5 good matches, something he hasn't done for a while and has hopefully shut up his detractors. Nice to know he wasnt psychologically maimed by that debacle against Monfils a fortnight ago, as was suggested by his worst critics, here and elsewhere :)

Just seen your guy interviewed on CNN - very gracious and classy - I wish more fans could appreciate both players.

Anyway, out for now, R&R have kept me up long enough!

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 05:50 PM

Mr X,

Agree with you..if Rafa was tired..its his problem. Fed did everything he could control from his side.

Also, Rafa should be worried if a three set match (let's not talk about 3 hrs, since both Rafa and Muzz play slow) is going to get him tired. As PMac said, all RRs had a day of rest and it was a three set match. Rafa had the earlier match..to which he should be thankful that Muzz was in his group otherwise he would be scheduled the later match. If he cannot recover..its a big problem for him..because the whole world is not going to start spinning the other way around to let Rafa get 2 days rest everytime he plays a 3 set match. If he loses titles, he loses.

The media is sympathetic right now...but when Roger retires, and Rafa gets scheduled the night matches..you can bet the opponents won't be that sympathetic in their pressers, even if the media will be.

Posted by jb (chocolate FTW!!!) 11/28/2010 at 05:51 PM

crazyone! *waves*

i think the surface this year was significantly slower than last year]s court. it looked like it was playing much slower than most hard courts you see; though the contrast may seemed more pronounced in comparison to bercy.

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 05:55 PM

I have heard the court this year was slow but with low bounce. So while folks may latch on to slow for helping Raga- slow bounce does not.


Yes ladyjulia- we get it. It was Rafa's problem if he was tired. I agree. :) But it to me is from the play and not from a character default or defect or him letting down the fans or media as you have alluded to. Was it Nole's character default when the pundits were wondering if he would be tired before the USO finals. It cuts ALL ways.

And Roger still deserved to win.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 05:56 PM

From twitter...the roles have reversed a bit..now tennis needs Fed to beat Rafa it seems, they need someone to stop Rafa...earlier, it was the other way around..ofcourse, that is determined by who is dominating the tour:

@DavidLawTennis
Federer beating Nadal in the final has given Men's tennis a lovely feeling of balance going into 2011. Nadal still favourite for Oz though.

@TennisReporters
Final thought: Federer now has sufficient confidence going into Aussie Open to try & stop "Rafa Slam" but Nadal loves 3 out of 5. Enticing

@jon_wertheim
What a statement # Federer is on the verge of making....

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:04 PM

Carrie,

Nole played a five setter...and he said he would recover. He didn't say he didn't know how he was going to play (atleast i don't remember)...overall, like I said..Venus sets the best example for this issue. Never talk about it.

Its not a crime Rafa said that...Roger has said way more irrelevant and unenthusiastic things than Rafa has ever said in the presser. But on this occasion, it was Rafa who sounded unenthusiastic about the match he was going to play next day. So, I expressed an opinion that i felt as the #1 player, it would have been nice if he sounded like he had the same enthusiasm that the fans and media had for the culmination of the tournament. I get it that you don't agree with me. I don't think Rafa is horrible or some character fault because of that...its just that this instance is not one if his best lines that is all. Rafa is otherwise very careful in his pressers and almost always says the right things (now..Toni is not..but that's for another day). Much more than Roger ever is.

We can agree to disagree.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 06:04 PM

Hi Folks!

Congratulations Roger and fans. He played mind boggling tennis in the two matches I was fortunate enough to see.

Sorry to read that Rafa was making excuses. Roger's 29 to his 24. That's a wee bit disappointing. But I can say that from what I saw at the awards ceremony first-hand, rafa was pretty devastated to lose and he couldn't wait to exit the court. I'm going to cut him some slack for anything he said in the presser following the loss. Maybe Hannah can give us her impressions from the presser.

Anyway, it was an absolute gas at the final today. I sat next to 3 Fed fans with their flag and cowbells! In front of me was a couple who were Rafa fans with their flag. And we enjoyed every minute of the match. We all cheered the great play of the other player and had fun. I'm pretty sure that trio made it onto the tube so I hope to catch a repeat of the final after I get home. I think this win for Fed was great for their rivalry. Actually, I have a feeling that Federer has renewed desire (if it even ever left him) what with Annacone around and he's going to be very very dangerous next season. Like a couple of majors dangerous.

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:07 PM

I'm completely failing at leaving my computer behind :)

Ladyjulia,

I'm trying hard to give you a pass but you're really being harsh on Rafa lately :)
I wouldn't want to believe he expects to be given preferencial treatment for being tired! I think TMFunk meant that Rafa lives by the sword and has to die by it (meaning his style of play)
Don't know why it's such a bad thing to mention that a player is tired. As someone upthread said, it has been mentioned about Federer and other players too. It's not an excuse because as you said it's not the opponent's fault.
I think if nothing else, that Nadal gets tired and Roger doesn't at his age is huge credit to him and should make his fans happy, no? :)

Posted by Kwaku 11/28/2010 at 06:08 PM

Congrats to all Fed fans. Today he played beautifully and won. His bh didn't collapse, his serve was clicking, and he was too good for Rafa today. His only lapse was mental in the second set, he himself left Rafa back into the match, and he himself closed the door to him later in the third.
Congrats to Rafa too for a great tournament, specially if we consider the indoor hard and his previous performance here. Good big step ahead, maybe one of the next years he can win it.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 06:08 PM

LadyJulia: just saw your posts about twitter etc. thanks, couldn't agree with those tweets more. This is good for the game, no?

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:10 PM

Carrie,

About the media...they can ponder how much ever they want...but it grates after some time.

Like i said...Roger said he plays in pain 80% of the time.I never read the media writing about it. Which is good too, it would irritate me to no end if i heard Roger complaining about his aches and pains. Am really not interested. I am not his nurse and I am not interested in how he manages his bad back.

Like I said, both Roger and Rafa (and Novak) can take a leaf out of Venus's book. Even Roger has started complaining about soreness and leg issues this year more than often. I think its a good lesson Berdych didn't vote for him.

Posted by Kristy 11/28/2010 at 06:11 PM

Hi everyone, and Annie, so glad you're enjoying yourself!

I'm soooo happy for Federer! Hurray for "middle-age" sports legends... sorry Rafa didn't have quite his usual spark today but that's so rare, it's occasion for amazement. I loved what Hannah said about him - that after searching for a word, the best is "terrifying."

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 06:12 PM

Rafa is the best backhanded excuse maker in history! its amazing that the storyline for Rafa has become so fixed, as if its some badge of honor to lose a match because youre tired!

shouldnt it be a total badge of shame to not be in good enough shape to play two matches in a row without falling apart? hes done this over and over, and it inspires pity rather than scorn, amazing for a pro athlete!

can you imagine th e Aussies of the old days who played 3 of 5 sets and doubles in every Slam and didnt even have chairs on the changeoevers saying they were tired after they lost?

they would have been laughed out of the game ...

Posted by Fern 11/28/2010 at 06:14 PM

@Annie, glad you enjoyed London - sounds as if you got the really great matches! I saw Fed against Ferrer and Soderling - Fed really had upped his game since Wimbledon when I last saw him live, you could tell the difference ... I tried to reply on another thread but typepad ate my response - I was informed by Wilson yesterday that 02 will host WTF until 2014. Like you, I want the 02 to host it permanently - well organised, full house and most importantly, easier to get tickets :)

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:14 PM

Anyway, don't know who appointed me as Nadal's defense lawyer today :)
To think not too long ago I was accused here of hating on Rafa, hehe.

I guess I just don't like to pile on the loser of any match for his fans sake more than anything else.

Be nice, everyone :)

Posted by Kwaku 11/28/2010 at 06:16 PM

This has proved Rafa must finally change Uncle Toni for another coach.
He should hire... Paul Annacone ;-)

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 06:18 PM

Ladyjulia: Nole did talk about being tired in his semi presser. Although he did say he'd be up for the match

Q. You say you're exhausted. How tired are you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I am. I am tired, you know. There's no secret about that.
For four sets I've been quite okay. Fifth set was very intensive mentally and physically and took a lot out of me. But, you know, in the end it's just a remarkable win, and I'm sure I will find the strength to give my best tomorrow in the court.


Q. No, but seriously, I mean, is it your don't want to talk about it because you don't want to give away your training secrets or...
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. 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, because it's been exhausting match. I have to be ready in less than 20 hours.


Posted by outofoffice 11/28/2010 at 06:20 PM

Congrats to us Roger fans. Sooo happy to have this win. Woohoo!

Posted by Kwaku 11/28/2010 at 06:20 PM

What I have found the most worrying of this all is that Rafa's energy levels can get so low over a few mere 3-setters... that was it for the "fittest player on tour" theory / urban legend.

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:20 PM

Kwaku,
Lol good one

Btw, There is a new write up on the final by Gauloises.

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 06:21 PM

I can't believe Djoko talked about being tired. How lame. They should suspend these guys for being honest about their health. Get with it, ATP.

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 06:21 PM

lol- lady julia....I feel like we have been in a tug of war today.'
Let's jsut say- Rafa has done things in the past that have made me give him a side eye. His response to that question that made you annoyed did not make me give him the side eye since he was not asked about Fed (and the finals were not set) and it was right after the match with Murray- that is all. It did for you. High fives.

My favorite folks at the end of matches for no exuses tend to be Venus, Roddick and Murray.


Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 06:22 PM

And Fed, in Shanghai, talked about how he lost the USO semi cause of fear of tiredness:)

"I think just mentally, it wasn't just Rafa who won that match before us, I just think the short recovery time made it hard on both of us to focus on what we really had to do.
I think I maybe let a game here or there go a bit too quick and next thing you know, it's the second or fourth set went by in a hurry. That at the end came back to haunt me. I think that was the biggest problem for me. Overall I still think it was a good match. I could have won, should have won. Obviously, that was the disappointing part. Who knows, maybe we'll get to change the Saturday/Sunday format at the US Open. We'll see. "

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:22 PM

xfan

because i believe that if a person takes court, they are 100%....surely, you don't want the tour to turn into a walking hospital, with drips courtside? Maybe we should have spa sessions in between sets.

Even Roger is following Rafa;s example and talks about being tired, or sore..or back or leg issue.

With Novak, its breathing, or heat or something else...

With Roddick..its mono

with Roger..its mono, back, ankle, leg, thigh, twins, not to mention fossilization (i love to bring up the age factor while talking about Fed)...

With Rafa, its knees, shoulders, #4 made him work hard...#3 made him work hard, #10 made him play for 5 hrs..

with Murray..its wrist, some tendon injury from playstation

With Del Potro...its wrist

seriously...i work in a hospital all day where people have tougher lives and worse diseases than this...and these youngsters are millionaires and all i read about in the press is how they couldn't run because they were tired.

Sorry, for not being sympathetic to these players.

The ATP world tour is like a walking hospital. Is there anybody who is fit and can play for one hour properly without complaining?

I wonder if Laver, and all those guys who played till 40s made such big issues about their tiredness/soreness/injuries.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 06:23 PM

dont pro tennis players like practice 3 hours every single day, i think its a little rich to be so worn out after a 3 hour match which involves LOTS of toweling off and sitting down, again, the old day Aussies must laugh their arses off over this brand of 'fitness' ...

Posted by mellow yellow 11/28/2010 at 06:25 PM

Never in doubt. Media making excuses for Nadal, like Neil Harmon saying Roger should Roger raise a glass to Murray. And Jimmy Arias saying Nadal wasn't 100% today. As if any player is ever feeling 100% in a match. Nadal doesn't need to comment about being tired as the media will do it for him.

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:27 PM

Ladyjulia,
Nothing to be sorry about.
I have no problem with you not being sympathetic to the players citing tiredness. I was merely referring to your:
"because the whole world is not going to start spinning the other way around to let Rafa get 2 days rest everytime he plays a 3 set match"

I agree with you Nadal or any other player should not make the tired/injured excuse but I really don't think that by mention these things they are actually expecting preferencial treatment which is what I thought you implied (I could be wrong on both counts though)

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:28 PM

GB,

Roger is an ass and deserves to be thwacked on the head for losing that semi. That's all i can say. After being a professional for 10 yrs, its disappointing that his mind works that way.

Yes, I do expect him to be perfect.

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 06:29 PM

Kwaku:
I've been thinking about Rafa's getting tired re long term too. I do think he's not as fit as he was to be (whether that's because he's had to modify his training etc, I don't know). I'm hoping though, that the following factors contributed:

(a) the fact that he hadn't played in 5 weeks. He's said that he struggles for fitness when he has to 'stop'. That lingered all of last year. Although, as far as we know, he only missed one week of training. Still, training isn't match play, and players have talked about being more tired in their first tourney back (Muzz in LA springs to mind)

(b) the cumulative effects of the system.

(a) the physical nature of the match. There was a lot of running involved and Muzz was tired too.

Also, even when he was at his fittest, a big match could take it out of him (i.e. Chennai). it was the being tired in the middle of the Muzz match that worries me though.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:31 PM

xfan

I don't know what your age is..but at my age it seems that the younger generation is too spoilt. Complains too much all the time. But then I am biased. But I see this as a trend in sports too. Maybe its media..

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:31 PM

mention=mentioning

Anyway, I'm going round in circles and I'm getting dizzy :)

I'm here thinking 2011 could be a great year for Old Feddy and that's a happy thought!

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:31 PM

GB,

Roger is an ass and deserves to be thwacked on the head for losing that semi. That's all i can say. After being a professional for 10 yrs, its disappointing that his mind works that way.

Yes, I do expect him to be perfect.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 06:31 PM

but again de ja vu, a Rafa loss, the 'tired' excuse is flying .. why should today be any different? its embedded in the psyche of him and his fans and the media by now, the only thing I imagine is he was tired of watching winners fly by him

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:32 PM

Annie,

I read your report and you must be at least happy about yesterday.

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 06:32 PM

Again: I would just like to say it's not only Rafa the media talks about being tired. There was a lot of talk about Nole being tired for the USO. Wertheim tweeted about Roger getting an assist. Even this week, supposed Rafa KADs Jason and Robbie said Rafa only won the USO because Nole was exhausted (they even forgot about the rain delay).

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 06:33 PM

*With Del Potro...its wrist

*

Now Delpo talking about his wrist is something to be mocked at? And he rarely ever mentioned it- at all.

He has a severe wrist injury that took him out of most of the year and may not ever let him be able to complete the career he thought he could have.

I work for a hospital network. But I also know that athletes careers can be very short and they have to earn the bulk of their money in a short period of time.

Sure- he may have earned some millions- but the career that he thought he may do for a number of years may have ended at the age of 21. You may not feel pity- but I think it is rather sad.

Athletes because they earn so much so young and then do not have the same pay scale are at high ranks for bankruptcy. So I can pity a 20 something whose career can be over too early.

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:34 PM

Ladyjulia,
I'm probably way older than you :)
And with a military background, complaining and excuse making was a no-no so I understand what you're saying.
I'm probably reading too much into your posts.

And not to make excuses but I think we're all probably 'tired' from all the tennis in 2010, ha!

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 06:36 PM

BG, 3 of 5 sets and 2 of 3 are two VERY different things, are they not?? how can you even compare the two?

Im not sure if we should marvel at Rafa's lack of fitness or the ludicrous concept of being tired ... think of a guy like Lendl, or Muster, NEVER in a million years would they even discuss this kind of thing, nor the press, but with Rafa its a common storyline... very odd

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:36 PM

Carrie,

I wasn't mocking Del Potro...i just listed him because its a big injury..and he was a top 10 player.

I agree he dosen't talk about it..infact there is nothing in the media about it either, sorry for bringing Del Potro in..

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 06:37 PM

X-fan, lol. I've enjoyed your posts today. :)

Embedded in our psyche? Tim, there are many fans who could give a rat's behind about the tired issue.

Though I'm amused by how much this is talked about today. If I was a Fed fan, I'd be so happy about the match, I could really care less about anything involving Rafa.

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:42 PM

Sherlock,

Phew! Glad you did. I was starting to forget what I was on about :)

These guys (rafa and roger) really provoke some intense reactions in fans. Wonder if they ever read the blogs and laugh their heads off!

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:43 PM

xfan,

oh..military background..you are quite forgiving from that point of view.

Posted by AB 11/28/2010 at 06:44 PM

As normally happens between generations, even tennis generations, there's been a cultural shift in discussing what used to be considered personal.

I don't put a value judgment on the change from a Laver to a Lendl to a Nadal in terms of players giving us a snapshot of their current mental/emotional/physical state, nor do I equate it with excuse-making.

Everyone these days shares more of their personal information. Athletes are not immune to this cultural shift.

Posters say more about their own value system then illuminate anything about the athletes. I note that gauloises is being "accused" of being a Nadal Lover in her "Final Thoughts" post. Hah!

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:45 PM

xfan,

what do you think about the umpire holding his head before the match? From Gauloises post?


Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 06:46 PM

Kwaku @ 6:08 - perfect post.

I agree that all this 'tired talk' from the players is a bit much. They're athletes for crying out loud and are supposed to be exhausted after a match. geesh.

Fern: glad to hear the O2 will host until 2014 - hope it becomes permanent!

Also, Ruth, wanted you to know I also sat near a really nice guy who has been following rafa around the globe for years. I asked him if he posted on any blogs and he said the NYT's. He goes by the moniker Bjorn6 and remembers you!

Posted by TMFunk 11/28/2010 at 06:46 PM

howdy folks. Had to step away for a couple of hours to entertain guests and couldn't respond to comments earlier. In order of posts:

gamegrrle, AB - Thanks! And more than anything I'm happy that this shuts the "Fed is in decline, done, old, allof the above" narrative at least until his pre-SF loss in a major :)

Mr X: You are right, we haven't really "met" here. I started posting in the summer and remember your delirious-with-joy posts after Spain won the World Cup. Is it too late to congratulate you for that? :)

CL - x-fan summed it up really well...my point is essentially that to me at least, the Rafa may have been tired narrative is not a slight on Fed. He may well have been. I don't know if he was, but if he was, thats a consequence of the way he plays and often wins matches and is par for teh course with Nadal. Just as if Fed goes on a shankfest, its a consequence of the way HE plays the game. There's a reason why Nadal hardly ever shanks like Fed does and Fed hardly ever goes through 3 hour matches in a best of three, win or lose.

ladyjulia - fluke??? fluke???? Really???? c'mon, you can do better than that :) You got to admit I called glass on this one with my points about the surface not particularly aiding Nadal's lefty topspin to Fed's backhand :)

***Now back to reading posts more closely***

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:47 PM

Ladyjulia,
Not that forgiving with family and close friends :)
When it comes to players I tend to focus on their performance on the court. I don't pay too much attention to what they say in pressers or what the media/fans say about them.

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 06:48 PM

"I was starting to forget what I was on about"

Lol. I am that way most of the time. :)

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 06:49 PM

ladyjulia- thanks.

I do think there is a difference between the constant....oh- it is sunny, my hair hurts of tennis at times (which even some of my faves can do) and real, legitimate injuries that can end or negate a career.

I think at times both are thrown in the bathwater together.

And again- a lot of athlestes are to get their money in big chunks when they are young. Do I like it...not saying. But that is what they are trained for. So if you have someone like Delpo who gets a horrible injury or a basketball player who gets a horrible injury at 22- it can be easy to say- well they earned 4 million so who cares. But this was there career- this is what they thought they would do until 30 and earn their life earnings that way. 4 million may last for a while but not for a lifetime in all places. (Geeze New York) And if you were just trained to be an athlete....


I think Delpo will be okay if this wrist injury is it. He is bright. Iirc he graduated in the top ten of his class so he could go to university and etc. But still- I just can't shurg at times when I see young athletes get their careers eneded early. It does make me sad.

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:51 PM

Ladyjulia,
Not sure what you're talking about.
You mean the new post? I don't remember reading anything about the umpire (must have missed it)

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 06:52 PM

"I don't pay too much attention to what they say in pressers or what the media/fans say about them."

No wonder you seem so sane, x-fan!

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 06:59 PM

Ladyjulia,
I just saw that part of the new post.
It made me smile imagining Layani's expression :)
I honestly can't blame Roger for trying to outwait Rafa. It's a mind game and I happen to think Fed is good at those.
In the end, it's up to the umpires to keep the match progressing at an appropriate pace. It does not appear that the umpires or ATP officials are too interested in enforcing the rules though.

Anyway, I really have posted way too much already. Feels like I'm going to become part of my computer one of these days.

I will take a break until next weekend though.
Enjoy!

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