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Final Thoughts 11/28/2010 - 5:59 PM

Hp 

by Hannah Wilks, TW Contributing Writer

On the protracted journey to North Greenwich this morning (London transport is laboring under major engineering works and facing a tube strike), almost every conversation I overhear is a discussion of Federer and Nadal. It makes me so pleased that on a weekend when the first Ashes test is underway, England have taken on South Africa at Twickenham, and the usual round of high-profile Premiership football clashes are on—Spurs v Liverpool being today's hot ticket—tennis can still fill the O2 arena.

It also makes me feel slightly ashamed of myself for not being more excited. As far as I'm concerned, the greatest rivalry in sport—as I understand we're now obligated to call it—reached its zenith at Wimbledon 2008 when Rafa carved out the heart of Roger's empire and more or less devoured it, and since then it's basically been one-way traffic. Rafa is the best player in the world right now, Roger has had one of the greatest careers; these things seem obvious to me. They don't even play each other that much—twice in 2009, and this their second meeting in 2010—meaning that their rivalry is mainly played out in records and statistics, and on their behalf in forums and blogs across the internet by their fans.

If I'm not excited though, I'm clearly the only one. The crowd applauds politely during the doubles final, a straight-sets victory for Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic; the trophy ceremony resembles a game of musical chairs as all four players acknowledge the end of old partnerships and the forming of new ones. It's good fun, but it's not what everyone's come for today.

Never has the O2 arena been so full of flags, Swiss and Spanish, and signs, some painstakingly-sewn and impressive, others scribbled in felt tip on what looks like scrap paper. The reach of the Federer signs is impressively global: 'Lugano Greets King Roger!', and more bafflingly, 'Namibia Loves Roger.' The Nadal supporters' signs read 'VAMOS RAFA' or simply 'RAFA!!!!', as if the man needs no introduction, just punctuation. It's a breathtakingly international crowd, too; in the past few days I've met people—not journalists, just fans—who have come from all over the world to be here. For every estuary voice which howls 'come on, Rog!', there's an 'allez Rafa!' or an authentic 'vamos!'

I've heard enough serious discussion of the crushing psychological blow that one opponent can inflict on the other by making him wait at the beginning of the match to note down how events turn out. This time, Federer manages to stay seated, visibly twiddling his thumbs, until after Nadal has got up to join him at net for the coin toss. It's either a minor miracle or a bold statement of dominance, but Nadal strikes back immediately by being substantially late in rising for play. In the chair, Mohammed Layani is already holding his head in both hands, like the mother of two squabbling siblings on a long car journey.

By the time the first three games have been played, it's obvious that we're not going to see any huge tactical surprises; nobody's come up with a masterstroke since the last time they played. Federer is going all-out aggressive, ending points quickly wherever possible; Nadal is trying to break down Federer's backhand. Not earth-shattering.

Stationary, Nadal looks squat and chunky across the net from the lithe Federer. That impression all but disappears once they both start to move. Nadal's feet scuttle across the baseline like a beetle; it's better to watch the unbelievable speed with which his racquet whips around his head as he delivers each forehand like a grenade. Despite that, it seems to have been all Federer so far, bounding on to every short ball like an eager puppy to smack a forehand winner. More impressively, his backhand doesn't seem to be leaking errors; indeed, more often that not he finishes a protracted exchange by finding an acute and unexpected angle off that side. The same shot gets him the first break, his fifth forehand winner the first set, 6-3. He hasn't lost a point on his first serve yet.

Federer is playing great. Nadal isn't, quite. Whether it's the remarkable speed with which Federer seizes his opportunities or not, the Spaniard looks a step slow, and his shots don't have the same penetration they did against Murray. Time and again his balls have been landing short and Federer isn't giving him a second chance at any of them. At the changeover, he sits miserably with his hands in his lap, looking between coach and umpire as if unsure who to expect a telling-off from first. His is the only long face in here; Maradona, Princess Eugenie, Thierry Henry all get big cheers from a happy crowd. Boris Johnson gets the biggest, proving once again that the fact that people in this city have the good sense to fill arenas for tennis doesn't mean they display the best judgement in all areas of their lives.

Nadal, inevitably, regroups. A return winner at 1-2 lets him fist-pump and strut, predatory for the first time, and he breaks on Federer's first significant forehand error. When Federer slips and falls in the next game trying to reach a bounce off the net cord, the Swiss is starting to look a little frantic and Nadal firmly in control. One weak service game and the set is gone.

The crowd at least are pleased about it; everyone would have felt short-changed if this one finished in straights. It feels almost like the match proper is starting now, and the rallies are growing ever more spectacular; the tennis that these two men can produce on pure instinct, playing on their veins, is breathtaking. Nadal is hitting much deeper than he was at the beginning of the match, but Federer's serve—after a brief vacation in the second set—is clicking beautifully, time and time again leaving Nadal stranded by the wide serve to the deuce court. He's still finding those angles off the backhand, giving him a toehold on Rafa's serve at 1-2 down. When that toehold becomes break point, the roar from the crowd is earsplitting. Lars Graff would have barked 'Please!' down the microphone as if having to restrain himself from adding 'stop embarrassing yourselves!'; Layani, on the other hand, milks the moment, drawing out the words 'aadvaantaaage Federer!' Federer manages to box Nadal into a corner until his attempted passer flies wide and consolidates the break despite alternating service winners and groundstroke errors, and is suddenly looking rather impregnable at 4-1. When he breaks again, the Federer fans are ecstatic and the Nadal fans are putting on their jackets. It's a cold day outside.

There's a slight oddness to the end of the match, as Federer's winning forehand looks out to seventy-five percent of the stadium. The fans sitting behind that line are the first to cheer, then as Nadal shakes his head and starts walking to the net, Federer is next. He's actually won, even if it's taken everyone a moment to realize it.

During his speech, Nadal's voice creaks with fatigue. In a possible Freudian slip, he thanks the crowd for their support 'in Wimbledon.' Federer quickly reiterates the mention of Wimbledon in his own victory speech. Deliberate or not, both of them know that the real battleground is elsewhere. This has been an extended trailer for Roger and Rafa, 2011; coming soon to a Slam near you.

Watching the confetti and camera flashes, I think about the significance of this victory. I'm starting to share some of Pete's skepticism about the format and implications of this event. Nadal may have been defeated, but no-one can deny it's been his year, and a rocky one for Federer by his lofty standards. I doubt that this defeat will impact Nadal for long; and I don''t know what Federer's victory can give him in terms of motivation and confidence for next year that the champion doesn't already possess. The Fedal numbers may have shifted a little, giving the hardcore fans fresh ammunition in their ongoing battles, but I'm not sure it means much more than that.

But it has been a week of great entertainment, of tennis that's encompassed the entire range from execrable to exceptional. It's given the ATP a chance to showcase their product, and London an opportunity to demonstrate another facet of its nature as a tennis city. On a personal level, it's been a week of staying up until 3 a.m., trying to find the right words for the best players in the world; a week when taking longhand notes during Nadal matches left my fingers blistered, and Djokovic's smile distracted me enough that I left my mobile phone in his press conference. (He didn't call.)

It may not quite be the 'fifth Slam' just yet—but it's been a bloody good week all the same.


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Posted by jb (chocolate FTW!!!) 11/28/2010 at 06:08 PM

gauloise! brilliant write up, of course. thank you for writing for us this week. its been lovely having you share your pov with us. thank you.

Posted by Ram 11/28/2010 at 06:12 PM

First! Nice job, Pete! Unbiased reporting!

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 06:12 PM

oh Hannah, what a great write up of the final. You are GOOD. I was there and couldn't have said it better.

It's not quite the fifth slam but Roger made it pretty clear in his remarks that it's a VERY important tournament to qualify for. So great meeting you... until next year!

Posted by Randy Burgess 11/28/2010 at 06:13 PM

Lovely write-up. Especially like (even as a Federer fan) the sentence about Rafa carving the heart out of Roger's empire.

Posted by tennis muse 11/28/2010 at 06:14 PM

Gosh it disturbs me to see you, Nadal
Looking so down in the dumps
Ev'ry guy here'd love to be you, Nadal
Even when you’re not pumped up.
There's no man in tennis as worshipped as you
You're everyone's favorite guy
Everyone's awed and inspired by you
And it's not very hard to see why:

No one’s quick like Nadal
Swings his stick like Nadal
No one’s arm’s as incredibly thick as Nadal’s
He’s won all the slams in a hurry
He’s perfect, a pure paragon
You can ask any Gael or Murray
And they’ll tell you whose juice they’d prefer to be on!

No one’s been like Nadal
Thick, then thin, like Nadal
No one uses growth hormone to win like Nadal!”
“As a specimen, yes, I'm intimidating!”
My what a guy, that Nadal!
Give five "hurrahs!"
Give twelve "hip-hips!"
Nadal is the best
And the rest is all drips

No one’s fleet like Nadal
Moves his feet like Nadal
In a tennis match, nobody cheats like Nadal
His changing physique is unnerving
You can see he’s got biceps to spare
And he takes forty seconds when serving
Which is breaking the rules and is really unfair.

No one tries like Nadal
To disguise like Nadal
That he shoots HGH in his thighs like Nadal
“I find it so fun and invigorating!”
My what a guy, that Nadal!

“When I was a lad, I would prick my behind
Every morning to help me get large.
And now that I’m older, I pick my behind
Which is roughly the size of a barge!”

No one used like Nadal
To get juiced like Nadal
No one towels off and picks his caboose like Nadal
But now he’s been whipped, and it’s so deflating,
My what a guy, that Nadal!

Posted by Honeychile 11/28/2010 at 06:17 PM

I really enjoyed your pieces from London. You made me wish I was there. Thank you and hope to see more from you soon!

Posted by Snorting Donkey 11/28/2010 at 06:18 PM

WAZZUPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP, BODO!! OH....YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Posted by patzin 11/28/2010 at 06:19 PM

Really enjoyed your commentary this week. Hope there is more to come in future. Chao

Posted by Emma 11/28/2010 at 06:25 PM

'During his speech, Nadal's voice creaks with fatigue.' oh please... good writeup otherwise.

also all i've been hearing from certain commies (pat cash, looking at you) is how tired rafa was.. um what? he's had 5 weeks off and if he didn't manage to put murray away in straights it's his own fault for getting tired. best player deserves the win, end of.

Posted by outofoffice 11/28/2010 at 06:30 PM

Congrats to Roger and us fellow fans. He played great today, and throughout the entire week. What a great ending to 2010. I cannot wait for 2011. Go Roger. Reclaim what is rightfully yours. You are the GOAT.

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

Dude.. Ashes is Eng vs Australia. Not South Africa. Otherwise, a good note.

Posted by 10snut 11/28/2010 at 06:33 PM

One other thing to mention, because of the round-robin format, Federer had to play more of the top 8 than he would in a regular tournament, GS or otherwise. Forgive me if my memory serves me wrong, but he beat Ferrer, Sodering. Murray and Djokovic in straights, and then of course Nadal in 3 in the final....

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

Oops sorry misread that. Understand that you're talking about Rugby.

Posted by p 11/28/2010 at 06:34 PM

I don't think Nadal saying "wimbledon" was a slip:

he says something like "thank you for your support here (pause) in wimbledon..."

sounded to me like he meant that to mean, "thank you london for you support here and at wimbledon"

Posted by JamesOQ 11/28/2010 at 06:35 PM

This writer is clearly a Rafa fan, and she stated in her other article, a Murray Fan. Two players who both have head to head winning records against Federer.
So in other words, she dislikes Federer.
Nadal's voice creaks with fatigue? He was not tired. He's proven to us time and time again that he can have a hard match the day before and still come back and win. Australian Open 09 being the best example. So please, no excuses for a loss.
I also don't think you gave enough credit to Federer here for Nadal's loss. Nadal did not beat himself. Federer played fantastically and simply outplayed Nadal.

Posted by Nova Villa 11/28/2010 at 06:36 PM

Wow! Tennis Muse must really hate Nadal in using moronic poetry to mock Nadal. To come up with a poem as stupid and lame as what Tennis Muse posted [mod edited - please refrain from personal insults! Thanks.]

Posted by evie 11/28/2010 at 06:39 PM

Those who favor Rafa, consciously or unconsciously, believe the rivalry ended in 2008. The impulse is understandable -- "Rafa beat Roger at Wimbledon. Game over!" -- but it didn't end. When they are both still entrenched at #1 and #2, it's impossible to write off the obvious rivalry. Roger will never break even with Rafa in their H2H, but there are still matches to be won, from both sides. And for a while to come, those matches will be in finals. That's a rivalry.

Really enjoyed your posts this week, esp the Rock Stars piece. Hope you get a regular spot during Wimbledon as well.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:41 PM

"This time, Federer manages to stay seated, visibly twiddling his thumbs, until after Nadal has got up to join him at net for the coin toss. It's either a minor miracle or a bold statement of dominance, but Nadal strikes back immediately by being substantially late in rising for play. In the chair, Mohammed Layani is already holding his head in both hands, like the mother of two squabbling siblings on a long car journey."

Can't the umpire fine these two? The ATP needs to make a rule about this...top 2 players in the world...does not set a good example in my book. They are not siblings and the WTF stadium isn't their nursery.

At least Rafa is 5 yrs younger, you can forgive him. But Roger is 29 yrs old capable of much more mature behavior.

Its silly and Roger should act a bit more mature as the older player among the two.

Posted by JamesOQ 11/28/2010 at 06:42 PM

Being 24 does not excuse you for rising way late in a tennis match. Maturity has nothing to do with that.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Flavia and Gisela YEC Doubles Champion and Winner of 7 Titles in 2010) 11/28/2010 at 06:43 PM

Hidey Ho one and all

Hannah great writing all week,just a shame I haven't been able to follow the tennis all week.

Congrats to Roger and commies to Rafa but at least you made the final which is one up from last year.

I think Hannah knows the Ashes is being played in Australia and England might just pull out a draw after a great display of batting yesterday.

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

Umm ... this place is just as bad as "before".

Lovely write up, so lovely, in fact, that I thought to myself "this can't be Bodo?"

But of course. :)

I'm just going to go into my corner and scream some more.

xx doots

Posted by Dr. Johnson 11/28/2010 at 06:47 PM

Interesting little political dig about Boris Johnson from Gauloises, who evidently preferred the communist mayor of London who preceded him. Perhaps a little jealousy also, since Johnson is not only mayor of London but a fantastic scholar, editor and writer, and could easily pen a better (and definitely funnier) column on the match than Wilks without knowing a thing about tennis.

You're a lovely writer, Hannah, but sneaking political jibes into a tennis article for an audience largely unfamiliar with the politics in question is a cheap way for a journalist to get her secret lefty thrills. There are Americans who know the difference between the Spectator and the New Statesman, you see.

Posted by Maria 11/28/2010 at 06:50 PM

I dislike how the author sounds so jaded. Also, consider the sentence

"I doubt that this defeat will impact Nadal for long; and I don''t know what Federer's victory can give him in terms of motivation and confidence for next year that the champion doesn't already possess."

I agree to the first statement: Nadal had a phenomenal year and this defeat will not impact him. However, for Federer this has got to boost his confidence. He's coming after a not so great year when among others he lost 4 matches holding matchpoints, most significantly at the US Open, and had a 4-4 record in finals. It's huge for him to win this! Also playing perfectly the whole week.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/28/2010 at 06:50 PM

JamesOQ writes:

This writer is clearly a Rafa fan, and she stated in her other article, a Murray Fan. Two players who both have head to head winning records against Federer.

So in other words, she dislikes Federer.
_____________________

So you're saying that, if one is a fan of Rafa and Murray one has to "dislike Federer."

Let me try to explain something to you:

One can be a fan of one or two players without "disliking" their opponents.

Again:

One can be a fan of one or two players without "disliking" their opponents.

Got it?

Too difficult a concept for you to grasp?

Posted by Flyer 11/28/2010 at 06:50 PM

Roger played a great tournament.

The real point about Roger winning the year end Championship is how well Fed has played since Wimbledon - and how well he played this week by beating the world's #5,4,3,and 1 players.

That is one great accomplishment for anyone - and especially sweet for Roger at this juncture in his career.

He played fantastic tennis all week - and did so again today.

Nadal's game was just that bit off because he faced an opponent who took the balls early and was on top of his game using the entire court and finding amazing angles.

Nadal played very well - but his level was topped by Federer's.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:51 PM

Gauloises,

Excellent writing. I love how you describe the crowd..we never do get the whole picture watching on tv. And the players as well.

Posted by Hints 11/28/2010 at 06:53 PM

"reached its zenith at Wimbledon 2008 when Rafa carved out the heart of Roger's empire and more or less devoured it, and since then it's basically been one-way traffic"

Slightly odd sentiment given they've split wins 2 a piece since then, have won the same number of slams (4), and have both held the #1 rank.

other than that, reasonable article on the day.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 06:53 PM

Gauloises,

And unbiased writing as well...this coming from a rabid Fed KAD.

Posted by Queeny 11/28/2010 at 06:58 PM

A great player was beaten to day by an even greater player. It was a wonderful moment for Roger and his fans and will bode well for him going into 2011.

Congratualtions to both Roger and Rafa!

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 06:59 PM

For 'Dr.' Johnson, and the other lurkers who may not know, Hannah is a tennis fan and not a professional journalist. yet.

besides, she can say whatever she likes in her article -- that she's writing gratis.

lighten up, for christsakes.

Posted by Maria 11/28/2010 at 07:03 PM

Hints, I agree, with you on the sentence

"reached its zenith at Wimbledon 2008 when Rafa carved out the heart of Roger's empire and more or less devoured it, and since then it's basically been one-way traffic". This is pure nonsense, the results have been balanced since.

Also, as I said before, minimizing the importance of the outcome for both players is wrong. For Nadal it is not an important loss, but for Federer is really very good. A defeat would have been a sour end to at times quite sour year. As it is, he asserted himself a bit by playing so well in London.

Posted by Account Deleted 11/28/2010 at 07:04 PM

Last Match of this season came as a Treat to watch, World Tour Finals, FedEx Vs Nadal [6-3, 3-6, 6-1]. Congrats Roger :)

FedEx re-emphasized again that NO ONE can write him off, but this time bit Stronger & Straighter to RAFA directly... May be beginning for a new streak :|

Evetually he defeated No.1, 3, 4, 5 & 7 to be named as Master of Masters'2010. Doing it for the fifth time in same fashion...
~~~The Guy named Roger Federer

I dont have any offence against RAFA. If it seems like he was tired to enter the final, he got to do it to enter finals. Its up to him he how manages that. Do we call RAFA didnt worth to have US Open'10 becoz Djoker was tired to play final against him ?

Its as simple as that, If you're not fit & DONT HIT THE COURT.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 07:04 PM

msf: what bizarre logic, no? If one likes nadal and murray then they must dislike federer. it just boggles the mind..

..still thinking about federer's backhand. a thing of beauty but so damaging at the same time. sigh.

LJ, I'm not as disappointed as you might think. Rafa had an amazing season and Fed deserved this title 100%.

Posted by Ross (FOE, even Gael) 11/28/2010 at 07:07 PM

Thanks Roger, for a great start and conclusion for this year, and for your dedication to the game of tennis (and for a career that has given me more enjoyment than anyone else in my 60 years as a fan).

Thanks Rafa, for a historically great year of tennis, and for your continuing quest for perfection (now you’ve even added body serves). You've missed a few things on your to do list, but you have plenty of time.

Thanks London, for your class, enthusiasm, and support of our sport; you deserve the WTF in perpetuity.

And thanks Hannah, for a wonderful week!

Posted by Account Deleted 11/28/2010 at 07:08 PM

Last Match of this season came as a Treat to watch, World Tour Finals, FedEx Vs Nadal [6-3, 3-6, 6-1]. Congrats Roger :)

FedEx re-emphasized again that NO ONE can write him off, but this time bit Stronger & Straighter to RAFA directly... May be beginning for a new streak :|

Evetually he defeated No.1, 3, 4, 5 & 7 to be named as Master of Masters'2010. Doing it for the fifth time in same fashion...
~~~The Guy named Roger Federer

I dont have any offence against RAFA. If it seems like he was tired to enter the final, he got to do it to enter finals. Its up to him he how manages that. Do we call RAFA didnt worth to have US Open'10 becoz Djoker was tired to play final against him ?

Its as simple as that, If you're not fit & DONT HIT THE COURT.

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 07:10 PM

Well, since the writing was done for free..we have to bear what is offered. The writer is a better Nadal fan than she is a writer. Good, even solid writing is hard if your talent is limited. Fandom is a easier thing....

On this site, Steve Tignor is the most reliable writer. I hope they pay him.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 07:15 PM

what a bitchy and unkind post. you're a real charmer.

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 07:16 PM

Well, since the writing was done for free..we have to bear what is offered. The writer is a better Nadal fan than she is a writer. Dood, even solid writing is hard if your talent is limited. Fandom is a easier thing....

On this site, Steve Tignor is the most reliable writer. I hope they pay him.

Posted by Account Deleted 11/28/2010 at 07:17 PM

Last Match of this season came as a Treat to watch, World Tour Finals, FedEx Vs Nadal [6-3, 3-6, 6-1]. Congrats Roger :)

FedEx re-emphasized again that NO ONE can write him off, but this time bit Stronger & Straighter to RAFA directly... May be beginning for a new streak :|

Evetually he defeated No.1, 3, 4, 5 & 7 to be named as Master of Masters'2010. Doing it for the fifth time in same fashion...
~~~The Guy named Roger Federer

I dont have any offence against RAFA. If it seems like he was tired to enter the final, he got to do it to enter finals. Its up to him he how manages that. Do we call RAFA didnt worth to have US Open'10 becoz Djoker was tired to play final against him ?

Its as simple as that, If you're fit & DONT HIT THE COURT.

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 07:17 PM

"lighten up, for christsakes"

+1

Take a deep breath, folks. Not everyone who writes about tennis is out to get Roger and Rafa. :)

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 07:17 PM

Annie...agree Rafa had an amazing season. He's starting to cement his legacy.

Agree about Fed too.

If the matchup of these two can still draw crowds, passion and discussion...its good for the sport.

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 07:18 PM

Thebigapple, what the hell is your problem? [mod-edited - no name-calling or insults, please.]

Posted by Vishal 11/28/2010 at 07:19 PM

@ladyjulia,

Clearly, this was Federer giving Nadal a taste of his own medicine. Nadal employs this tactic against every other player..making them wait while coming out of the locker room, for the coin toss, while serving etc. I do not think it is fair to call Federer out of this. It is a well-known Nadal gamesmanship ploy, and he deserves to be at the receiving end of it, at times.

Posted by Ruth 11/28/2010 at 07:21 PM

Well, I arrived home a t 7 (a little later than expected), and I'm glad to see that the match did end and that there was a winner. since I've also missed the first reply, I'll try to stay awake for the second one on TC at, I think 9:30 pm.

Because most fans give the greatest significance in tennis to the Slams, I can understand how the WTF can lose some of the importance that I would attach to any end-of-season contest, epecially one like this year's WTF in which, for a change, all of the top 8 players participated (no pullouts for injury, no alternates filling in). I admit to being a sucker for any and all end-of-year or end-of-season contests.

So, even though this may not be the 5th Slam (or the equivalent of American football's Superbowl), I think that it's a major, major event; and I congratulate Federer on a fantastic win today.

Hannah: Thank you very much for your insightful and delightful reports from the WTF. I've enjoyed them immensely. (BTW I was in London during the last week of the election campaign and on the day when Boris J. was elected, and I couldn't help smiling at your aside re: him.)

Posted by Geellis Ellis 11/28/2010 at 07:21 PM

Hmmmmm. Where to begin.

First, @ Queeney who writes: "A great player was beaten today by an even greater player". Not sure that's the take away from this match, but hey. Whatever works for you.

@10snut--everyone at the year ending plays more top 8 players than at a normal event. Because only the top 8 qualify. DUHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

Federer's BH--honestly, perhaps the best BH performance the Fed has EVER HAD. Seriously, it was stunning and without flaw. Question is whether Fed can repeat this performance or whether it was a one-off. The smart money is on one off. It's not likely that he's going to suddenly overcome what has been a career-long achilles heel. But I guess stranger things have happened.

I think it's a good win for Fed. But I think Nadal has really strong positive take-aways as well. Like Murray, Nadal was at his best today when he played very aggressively. That said, his level fell way off in the 3rd set. He'll have to work on playing aggressively on the faster surfaces and being able to sustain that. It ain't easy. As most of his opponents would tell him.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 07:22 PM

Vishal: fed's not the first to do this. Monfils did it once to great comical effect. Good for them I say. And I love Rafa but enough is enough.

Sherlock 'hugs' - really, posters like that giving blogging a bad name imo.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 07:25 PM

Vishal,

Surely, not by employing the same tactic himself..that makes the umpire hold his head.

Let Rafa employ the tactic all he wants...the way to negate it is not to indulge in it oneself, but to ignore it and not let it affect your play.

Or why can't Roger just say "Rafa, can you hurry up...we are waiting"? Is it too much to make a polite request?

Since when did tit-for-tat take precedence over a polite request if the time delay is bothering you? What is more mature?

Have to say I am disappointed in Roger.

Posted by fernando 11/28/2010 at 07:26 PM

ATP finals just proves how skewed the H2H Fed -Nadal statistic is So many of their matches were played on clay. If Fed and Nadal played on hardcourt as many times as they played on clay, what would the H2H be? And why are so many of their matches played on clay? Because for the past 5 years,Fed has been the second best clay court player in the word and only recently is Rafa going deep enough in tournaments to even get to Fed. Put the H2H on the shelf for a while.

Posted by naughty T....urbane gentleman 11/28/2010 at 07:26 PM

G... welcome to the big time. you have a-holes being horrible about you.
anyway G great job again, you are just a pleasure to read.
Though I fervently disagree with you in thinking that this has no implications for the coming year. This really is, I hope, an indication of what Annacone has brought to the table for Fed.. it is nothing new, in fact it is a throwback to a Fed of yore and boy are we Fuddtards happy to see it. I really think a victory like this goes a long way to vindicating his approach to the end of the year.
... and those 1500 points will come in jolly handy too.

Posted by Andrew 11/28/2010 at 07:29 PM

I had to pass the paragraph about Layhani and the two squabbling kids to Sylvia (it's her IPad, after all). One more great image from a great week of writing.

I had my regular Sunday doubles at 1:30pm ET, so I decided to wait for the tape delayed TSN match at 4:30pm ET. I've seen the match once through, but I haven't gone over the match calls at TW.

Commiserations to Nadal fans: a great 2010, and almost the perfect ending. I have to say that I did think Nadal was battling fatigue. People at TW know that I disagreed with the widely held view that Nadal lost the 2009 Madrid F because of exhaustion - I saw no evidence that was the case. Today, from about the fifth game, I thought Nadal wasn't hustling for wide balls as he usually does, and his footwork was a hair slow when Federer attacked the net. In set 3, Nadal made a brilliant running get off a Federer volley, and hit a FH winner DTL. There was a jump of exultation, but as he walked back to the baseline, a visible wince.

Which takes nothing whatsoever away from the winner. So, congratulations to Federer fans: 74-56, or 57% to 43%. 3 BPs taken out of 3, the first with a glorious CC BH winner. Great movement and defense, pretty solid play at the net. But the whole match turned on Federer's first serve. When the first serve popped its head into the nursery to check on the twins, Nadal struck: by set 3, it was ticking over like one of the Lexus SUVs driven off from Flushing Meadows.

This morning, I wrote that one of the two players might be a little luckier than the other. At 40-15 in the last game, Federer butchered a transition FH: he may have been the last person in the stadium to know it had been called good. I don't think he owed the win to luck, or having an opponent blowing hard, but having both helps a bit.

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 07:29 PM

Ladyjulia, I actually applaud Roger. There's no reason for him to wait for Rafa. Lendl, J-Mac, or Connors certainly wouldn't wait. :)

Posted by Vishal 11/28/2010 at 07:32 PM

@ladyjulia,

It is not Fed's job (or place) to tell Rafa that he is taking too much time, but the umpire's. Unless he/she develop some cojones and assert his/her authority, the umpire deserves the discomfort resulting from the other player's similar behavior. Against any other player, Federer is the model of on-court etiquette. While Rafa is a true gentleman off-court, I cannot say the same of his on-court behavior. Therefore, I do not think a little tit-for-tat behavior is unjustified. Maybe it will force the authorities to take some action. :)

Just my opinion.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Flavia and Gisela YEC Doubles Champion and Winner of 7 Titles in 2010) 11/28/2010 at 07:33 PM

Hannah is a Delpo fan and first off if I am not mistaken.

Annie, long time no see. Glad you had a great time in London and meeting up with some new twibers. Are you back home yet?

Good grief I am glad I didn't watch the final if these posts are anything to go by. Some days it is better not to come here.

Posted by Slick 11/28/2010 at 07:34 PM

If Rafa had won this, the scribes would be saying that Federer was finished, the decline irreversible etc - since Nadal lost, well Rafa just wasn't at his best, he was tired, hurt or something.

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 07:36 PM

thebigapple- while you are being incredibly rude to the writer- it may be good to know that Hannah (gauloises) is first and foremost a Murray and Del Potro fan. She is not a Rafa fan.

But hey- nothing to get in the way of being rude I guess. Have fun being a mean girl!!!!

Posted by naughty T....urbane gentleman 11/28/2010 at 07:36 PM

Ladyjulia I am with Sherlock... I am all for fudd sitting there and waiting for Nadal to get his ocd rituals over with... he is the guy with the Stefan Edberg award.. let him act like he deserves it for a change.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 07:37 PM

Sherlock,

Lendl, J-Mac or Connors weren't my faves :-)

I don't mind if Roger giggles like a naughty kid dis-railing the shooting of an ad..but he isn't a little kid on court.

He's the older guy there..he's supposed to set an example, no?

What is this i-will-not-get-up-until-YOU-get-up-no-i-won't-get-up-till-YOU-get-up game???

Its not tennis.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 07:41 PM

why can Rafa play these little delay games and his opponents not counter him? isnt 24 a tad old to be immmature, whether youre playing someone who's 14 or 34?

its this small but clear concept that Rafa should be allowed to take extra time, get coached courtside now and then, and be slow, because he's... Rafa ...

and can ANYONE please tell me why a pro tennis player cant play 3 hours of tennis and recover a whole day later to play again? how is this even reported in the media, this isnt a junior tournament, and frankly any junior could manage it, why on earth not Rafa?

the crowd by the way was deafening in the 3rd set for Fed, i doubt that made Rafa very happy...

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 07:42 PM

Vishal,

I am not sure if there is a rule about how much time the player can take to get up from their chairs for coin toss.

I don't think Rafa is breaking a rule here. He breaks a rule if delays serving. Not for getting up for a coin toss (atleast i think so).

Posted by Vishal 11/28/2010 at 07:43 PM

@ladyjulia,

Roger has tried, but that kid never seems to listen. Time to take action, no? :)

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 07:43 PM

Annie- I hope you had fun at the tournament. :)


Btw- I am so freaking tired of If Rafa had done this the media would have said that...If Roger had done this the media would have said that.

Roger speaks French you say- how dare you make fun of Rafa for not speaking French.


If you say anything good about Rafa that means you hate Roger!!!! Let me tell you 1,234 times how much better Roger is than Rafaa.

Sigh....

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 07:43 PM

Vishal,

I am not sure if there is a rule about how much time the player can take to get up from their chairs for coin toss.

I don't think Rafa is breaking a rule here. He breaks a rule if delays serving. Not for getting up for a coin toss (atleast i think so).

Posted by Vishal 11/28/2010 at 07:44 PM

@ladyjulia,

I am sure there has to be one, else Rafa might just sit there for an hour! :)

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 07:45 PM

julia! then WHY on earth does Rafa get to play that little mind game every single match, and be allowed to set the tone, however slight, of every single match? so if a new phenom comes along and does this to Rafa, would it be OK because he's younger?

sorry Rafa is middle aged now, you cant use the youth excuse anymore for anything he does

have you ever played a tournament tennis match? Its INFURIATING to deal with, let me tell you... i think youre way off base here, all due respect...

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Flavia and Gisela YEC Doubles Champion and Winner of 7 Titles in 2010) 11/28/2010 at 07:45 PM

Thank goodness I have work to keep me occupy.

Will check back later.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 07:46 PM

Vishal,

I still think as the older player Roger has a bit more responsibility on court to be mature.

If Roger was 19 and Rafa was 24, sure...go ahead with the tit-for-tat. But Roger is 29.

Anyway, how is tit-for-tat going to solve the issue?

Posted by Joe 11/28/2010 at 07:48 PM

Well, in my oppinion Federer has played well, Nadal didn't.
After the second set and beginning of the third Nadal was sunken, dead.
During the tournament he looked very nervous, tense, he played on friday and saturday he had a tough and loooong match and today he payed it

Congratulation to Fedex, he deserved to win but Fedex's KADS, please, relax, I understand that you can feel enthusiasm because at the end he could beat Rafa (on his worst surface) but try to celebrate in one way more relax more friendly and of course more respect to the #1, he can't win all the time, he is a human been same like Fedex and the other players

Posted by crazyone 11/28/2010 at 07:49 PM

to me it's just hilarious that Gauloises is being called a Rafa fan.

Great work, Hannah. This Fed fan really appreciates your writing, and I hope to see more of it in the future.

Posted by Anthony 11/28/2010 at 07:50 PM

I disagree with the author that this match was not significant or that the pattern of play was the same as in their previous matches. Up until this time Nadal has been less dominant on indoor courts. This would have been his first year end championship and it was very important to him. This would have established him as the master of all surfaces and capped off a dominant year. For once Federer was able to stop Nadal's progress and deny him an important vistory, just as Nadal as done to Federer many times. The other two times that Nadal made the semi final of this tournament it was Federer that stoped him. Conversely Federer was able to win a fifth year end title, matching others for yet another record. It was also very significant because many people were starting to feel that Federer is slipping, especially in his rivalry with Nadal. Nadal has won most of the important finals. Another loss by Federer in an important final when he has been playing well would have made the head to head rivaly even more one sided. In fact it could have ended it with even most Federer fans wondering whether Federer would ever beat Nadal again. That did not happen. By his win today, Federer has demonstrated that he stll has an advantage on indoor courts and that he is willing to adapt his game. He made some subtle strategy changes that served him well. Nadal had the more dominant season but Federer has demonstrated that he is not going away and by this important and dominant win in an important final he has taken a step toward reestablishing himself. He also sent a message with one sided wins over two of his other competitors Murray and Djokovic. I agree with other commentators that the article was well written but it appears it was written by a Nadal fan.

Posted by WTF 11/28/2010 at 07:50 PM

Apparently, you can compliment someone's writing but not criticize it. Criticizing it making you a bitter a-hole!

This article, compared to the Murray one (clearly one writes better when the subject is dear to one's heart) is a dud. Stating it (even with an attitude) does not make someone bitter or bitchy. First part of it was the common cliché about the crowds, the signs, the chants, the banners, etc. This is sadly becoming a topo of tennis "journalism". Then, a lukewarm 'analysis' about the actual match basically stating that the result didn't matter one way or another. All around, average article, doing both Nadal and Federer a disservice.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 07:50 PM

julia ROger was mature and let Rafa have his way for years, and i think he got fed up with the games, only since Madrid 09 has he waited him out ... and Rafa is NOT a kid, he's No. 1 in the world...

i think watching a little of the end again, rafa might have been a little depressed the crowd was so loud for Fred, even at 5-1 they cheered like crazy on every won point... that could not have made him feel too good... just a thought

Posted by Or 11/28/2010 at 07:51 PM

I have to say, I see no reason as to why Rafa would be tired. Yes, his match with murray was difficult, but it was a far cry from his Madrid match with Djoko, for example.

That Madrid semi also came on the heels of fantastic achivements in the clay season right before that - not so much the case here, Roger played A LOT more tennis than Rafa since the USO, and is quite a bit older.

And - and IMHO this is worth mentioning. In 2006, Roger Won AO, won Miami, won IW, made it to the finals of Dubai, made it to the finals of MC, Rome, RG, won Halle (I think?), won Wimby, won Toronto, Won the USO, won Madrid, won Basel, won Tokyo. He played, I believe, maybe 15 matches more than Rafa did this year in 2006.

Still won the TMC - beating Rafa there in a great match, I might add.

So, while Rafa's performance today could be maybe blamed on his fitness and tiredness, he's not being requested to do something that hasn't been done.

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 07:52 PM

Frankly, I am also a better Nadal fan than I am a writer. I bet that is true about 90% of the people on the board are the same. I do not see anything painful is saying that or tell someone that.

As for the talent, few of us have a great talent at anything - writing or otherwise. And yes, solid, good writing does require more than what most of us have in us.

Any person that offers their writing to the public (via the Internet or otherwise) cannot be easily wounded by negative feedback. Crap, even Picassao had his critics.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 07:52 PM

Tim,

I think Roger should not let it affect him. He's a professional player.

I agree delaying serves is a legitimate argument because rhythm is affected and waiting between serves is infuriating but getting up for coin toss? How should that matter? Is it in the rules?

How is it even relevant?

Roger is fine if he complains about slow play...time delay between serves. That is in the rules.

I don't think there is a rule abt how fast you have to get up from your chair for a coin toss.


Posted by Vishal 11/28/2010 at 07:52 PM

It is psychological mind games that Rafa is playing. It is his way of saying , I am in charge of this match right from the beginning. And that, especially coming from someone who just won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, is not cool. Assert your dominance, but please let your racquet do the talking.

I am a little disappointed that Hannah chose to place equal blame on Federer for these little mind games, while it is very evident who indulges in them every single match. Excellent article, otherwise.

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 07:53 PM

Well- I do get tired of acting like these players must be angels or devils.

I think both Roger and Rafa are pretty good dudes. I know their detractors will want to say how much they suck and are horrible but I think they are both pretty neat.

I think a lot of other sports would be glad to have both- but hey- it seems like it is more fun here to tear them down. As a Rafa fan- I do get sad here for being told serveral times how he sucks in play, character and talent and alluding that any fan should be ashamed of being a fan of him and I am sure fans of other players feel likewise.

We don't all have to like the same players. Players have their good and bad spots. But lately- over the past year or two- this place has become more about going on and on and on about negatives. Maybe that is fun for some- not for me. I like a balance.

Since the convesation- once again- is about the minutae of how horrible one or the other is I will step out.

Posted by tennista 11/28/2010 at 07:53 PM

Iit all goes down to surfaces and kind of balls used. Fed BH was great today because the ball there does not bounce drastically, how may happened on other kind of surfaces (i.e. clay, rebound ace...). In this conditions Fed will not loose to Nadal, he can strike offensively on the BH side also.

Australian Open different story, I see Nadal having an advantage because his spin gets more traction there due to different surface.

AO - Better for Nadal
FO - Better for Nadal
Wimby - a bit better for Fed
US Open - Better forFed....

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 07:54 PM

so Julia, rafa should just get his way because he's a 24 year old baby? is that a solution? why not let Toni tell him where to serve, too, without consequence (oh wait, they DO let him do that!!)...

Posted by S. H. 11/28/2010 at 07:54 PM

One of the things I enjoy most about sports commentary is that it can give us all a break from politics.

As such, I'm disappointed, Pete, that you couldn't resist putting in a little blip of political opinion with respect to your comments on Boris Johnson.

Our opinions aside, isn't it more about the tennis instead of diverting to off-topic (and selfishly included) statements on politics of a country of whom you aren't even a citizen/subject?

Let's keep the smarminess to a minimum, Pete.

Posted by Ruth 11/28/2010 at 07:56 PM

I've always felt that if I were an opponent playing Rafa,I'd have a very hard time trying not to laugh as he goes through his rituals, from the bottles to the bouncing at the net to the zig-zag run to the baseline. But I'd also try very hard to remember, as lj intimates, that I'm a grownup and that it would be better for me not to allow his actions to determine what I do or make me change what I normally do before a match starts.

Posted by SkipOtennis 11/28/2010 at 07:58 PM

Great report from O2.

I think Federer carried himself exceptionally well during the whole match. He did not show ANY emotion, not before he won the last point of the match. He did not emote at all - no "come on"s, no "fist pumps", unlike Nadal's overly expressive flamboyance. All I can see is Federer's sheer determination and concentration. It is simply so much more pleasant to watch him at work.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 07:58 PM

I am a little disappointed that Hannah chose to place equal blame on Federer for these little mind games, while it is very evident who indulges in them every single match. Excellent article, otherwise.

amen! its this little subconcsoius thing nadal and many fans of his believe, that he should b allowed these games, because he's... nadal, or young, or whatever... its to me a bit like a small spoiled child who's used to always getting his way, and if his parents say no one day, its like 'whaaaa?'

i still want someone to tell me why a pro tennis player cant handle 3 hours of tennis a day, prob because no one HAS a good response! its ridiculous...

Posted by Vishal 11/28/2010 at 07:58 PM

@ladyjulia,
Tit-for-tat may not help the umpire, but it will certainly help Federer in rattling Nadal a little before the match.

Posted by WTF 11/28/2010 at 07:58 PM

Also, great writing is about content and prose. Prose may be there, content not so much. Finding a way to eloquently say that you did not give a fig about a particular match is not "great writing".

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 07:59 PM

Vishal,

I will say this...I am a Fed fan...but Fed is a dumbass if he gets affected by Rafa's psychological games about a coin toss. As long as Rafa plays within the rules, he can do whatever he wants.

Seriously though...these are the two of the greatest players of this era...quabbling over a coin toss and who made whom wait for five years?

The umpire and crowd deserves better. I think the sport could do with some higher standards.

But we can agree to disagree.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 08:02 PM

well Ruth I highly doubt before playing a Grand Slam or Masters final youre gonna find any of Nadal's array of antics too funny, psychological games in sports are as old as time, and Nadal is among one of the best, subtle and not so subtle ... this is not club level tennis for a Denny's gift certificate theyre playing for ...

Posted by crazyone 11/28/2010 at 08:03 PM

S. H.: Pete Bodo did not write this article; Hannah Wilks, a citizen of the UK, did.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 08:04 PM

we definitely have to agree to disagree on this one, youre saying Nadal should just get his way and there would be peace ... he's sending a HUGE message with thise 'silly' games, that HE is in control of the tone and pace of the match, and YES the crowd and umpire DO deserve better, maybe Rafa should rise to the standard of a No. 1 in the world and stop the games?

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:05 PM

Tim,

You know i am big stickler for rules.

Rafa is not a 24 yr old kid...but neither is Roger a 29 yr old kid.

If the 24 yr old has OCD..either the 29 yr old spills it out clearly to the 24 yr old that he is tired of waiting and irritated or he makes up his mind to ignore it and not affect him.

Or..oh no...the 29 yr old has suddenly got an OCD of twiddling thumbs.

So, where does it end.

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

@ladyjulia,

So can Fed. So, since you are allowed to take as much time before the coin toss, why are you upset that Fed took a little longer just this once? Seems to be a non-issue, right?

Why are you holding Federer to a higher standard than Nadal? Nadal is 24, not a kid. And winner of the SE award. Was Federer behaving like this at 24?

The umpire and crowd deserves better behavior from *Nadal*.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:07 PM

Tim,

Umpire should control the pace of the match. There is a stipulated time for time between serves and all players should be made to follow it.

But I doubt if there is a rule for a coin toss.

So, we can agree to disagree.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 08:09 PM

so Rafa has OCD so he's entitled to play games and make his opponents play to his level?

oh come now...Fed took the high road for years and I think Madrid was the last straw ...

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/28/2010 at 08:09 PM

Now we have imbeciles criticizing Pete for words Pete clearly did not author.

Pete gets enough well-earned grief for his own submissions.

How about not kicking him for what others write.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/28/2010 at 08:12 PM

ladyjulia - I think you're overreacting a bit. In case you don't recall, the same thing happened during the Madrid Final '08. Roger surprised Rafa by waiting until he (Rafa) went up to the net for the coin toss. You should read Roger's comments after that match (which he won) to understand why he did that. According to him - and I'm paraphrasing here - "Everybody knows that's what Rafa does - he likes to set the tone before the match. He makes everybody wait for him - coming out of the locker room, then before the coin toss. I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine. Let him be the one who has to wait, for a change."

Whether you like it or not, these are psychological tactics that Nadal employs not because he's a bad person, but because, to him, this is all part of the competitive way of thinking and is part and parcel of the sport and does not break any rules. Set the tone before the match, make the other player wait for you, plant the seed in his mind early that I'm in charge. Coming from a sporting family, that way of thinking is ingrained in him.

Roger recognizes it, and twice now (once in Madrid '08 and now here) he has refused to play along. I think it's all fair. If the umpire had a problem with it, he could issue both of them a warning.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:13 PM

Vishal,

1. Federer does not have OCD. Clearly, he is stalling to get back at Nadal.

2. Federer does this only with Nadal and no other player. Nadal, on the other hand, does it with everybody. It could be genuine OCD..why does it have to be a mindgame?

3. Federer did this in 2009 Madrid too and later bragged to the media too when he was asked about it. He said he did it in "fun" or whatever it was. Not professional, IMO.

4. Federer has to be held to a high standard because he is the oldest, current, living legend in the game.

I just think if Fed spoke to RAfa about how irritated he is, Rafa will oblige by getting up from his chair. Rafa once said in a presser..that he will do anything what Roger tells him to do...time to take advantage of that, no?

Posted by Vishal 11/28/2010 at 08:13 PM

@Tim,
What happened in Madrid?

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/28/2010 at 08:15 PM

Correction to my previous post. Madrid '09 (not '08).

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:16 PM

CfR,

I think the solution is to not let Rafa have control of the match, no?

I mean sure...complain about the slow play, serve delays...those are legitimate...but if Rafa is playing a mind game..its not a mind game really, until you let it affect you.

So, why does Roger let it affect him? I don't understand.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/28/2010 at 08:19 PM

Oh ... and I guess you didn't notice that Nadal took a long time to come out of his locker room - while Federer stood there waiting for him in the tunnel, nervously fiddling with his fingers as he waited ... and waited ...

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/28/2010 at 08:19 PM

thebigapple :

In answer to your sarcasm directed towards me this week, I am sending you :

One LARGE bowl of specially sweetened cream (to be lapped up at once)

Meoooow !

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