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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 Andrew 11/28/2010 at 08:21 PM

Not that anyone will listen, but I think tennis fans might make a distinction between how a match is "spun" before and after the event, and what you as a fan actually saw.

Federer was under pressure for a fleeting couple of moments today: once at 0-30 in set 1, and at 0-15 in the first game of set 3. Nadal didn't get a BP in either game; in the latter, he made a UFE on an attacking FH, and knew instantly he'd blown a big opportunity.

Yes, I know Nadal broke Federer and won set 2: but Federer was a set up, and not (then) in danger of going behind in a match where most service games weren't getting to 30 for the returner. Federer served at 65% for the first set, and 77% for the third. He won 37 of 40 points when his first serve went in. If Nadal was fatigued - and I do think he was - the explosive 1st step you need to do something with a well placed first serve might not have been there, and that cost Nadal dearly.

As for the match significance, I agree that a Nadal win would have been spun harder against Federer than a Federer win over Nadal will be. You can fill in the blanks: it's a good surface for Roger, Nadal played a long, tiring SF, he still owns the H2H 14-8, and as manuelsantanafan points out above, he's still no 1 by some 3600 points. Plus Federer has a ton of AO points to defend, and Nadal just 360. Plus Nadal is going for the Rafa slam. Pretty easy story to write.

Had Federer lost, the stories would also have written themselves. "Nadal nails the coffin shut on the Federer Era.". "Brilliant Nadal completes his trophy cabinet." "Sorry, Fed, the party's over." "Before this match, Rafael Nadal merely owned Roger Federer. Tonight, he moved in and took final possession.". And so on.

But these two are playing a long, long game. Forget the spin and everything - they're playing for the next three years. The hiring of Annacone, and the changes Federer has made since then, have all been about those next 3 years. 2010 rightly belongs to Nadal, by a mile the best all surface player for the year. Roger Federer just laid down a small marker for 2011-2013 by beating the world nos 7,5,4,3 and 1 in that order, dropping just a set along the way. It might not, quite, have been Federer's finest hour, but it should stand next to them.

Posted by Vie 11/28/2010 at 08:21 PM

Enjoyed very much your splendid writing Gauloises!

Posted by Vishal 11/28/2010 at 08:22 PM

@ladyjulia,


Rafa comes across as a mature guy in so many other ways. I do not think he needs to be told by Roger in so many words that he is breaching basic etiquette. His actions (and subsequent presser) during Madrid '09 should have provided him enough hints, but he did not take them. I am sorry, but I think you are being a little naive here, to think that Rafa is doing this because of his OCD.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:24 PM

CfR,

nervously? This is a 16 time champ, pro for more than 10 years with 900 matches on his legs.

Next time, Roger just has to tell Rafa in the locker room that can he please hurry up, because he is tired of waiting. How hard is that?

If they played five times a year...like 2008...we will have the umpire holding his head five times. I side with the officials. These two need to grow up.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/28/2010 at 08:24 PM

"So, why does Roger let it affect him? I don't understand." Because he's a human being, not a robot who can turn his emotions on/off on demand.
He also has a competitive edge to him - he wouldn't be the great player he is if he didn't have that. And part of that competitive edge also means that he is not above playing tit-for-tat !

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 08:25 PM

Gee, Lynne...thanks!

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 08:27 PM

But Lynne, remind me dear, what did I direct to you?

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 08:27 PM

julia if you dont get this aspect of the game, and the hidden messages it NOT so subtly sends, well, so be it ... crazy for rog said it all ...

i see no one's gonna touch my 3 hour question, LOL! Id really love to ask every tennis journalist out there this question, and get their response... why is Nadal so tired after one 3 hour match, he cant properly compete the next day?

imagine fitness gurus like Jim Courier or Lendls response to THAT one! LOL!

Posted by freddy 11/28/2010 at 08:27 PM

Gauloises -

My compliments on another excellent piece, and overall on the fantastic job you've done at Paris and London. Really liked the Rafa-Murray one as well.

"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."...lol

A few points though, reflecting on the context and import of this match -

a) As others have noted earlier, Wimbly 2008 may have been a watershed match, in that it reflected the passing of the baton...but the rivalry still goes strong. 2009 was Fed's resurgence, and this year was Rafas...so while yes, Rafa is the dominant numero uno, it isn't as if Fed has gone away...

b) I guess for Rafa, the loss may not mean as much (given his overall year, and the fact that he improved at the WTF over previous performances, which is his modus operandi for all the biggies), but winning was certainly HUGE for Roger. 14-8 reads a lot better than 15-7 for starters. Plus, Rafa was the litmus test for Fed's rediscovered aggressive play under Paul Annacone. You could see how much it meant to Roger in the awards ceremony.

c) Don't know about agreeing with Pete Bodo. The WTF / YEC is important - and has been for every great player

Posted by mela 11/28/2010 at 08:29 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. "

it's voted on by his peers, genius. But it's not surprising you wouldn't get what constitutes grace.

Awesome post, Gauloises. You write so precisely and elegantly.

And +1 on the hilarity of calling Gauloises a Rafa fan - knowing that she's not, she produces prose of astonishing objectivity. Thanks so much.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:29 PM

Vishal,

It could be OCD, it could be mindgames. I don't know.

If I were Roger, I wouldn't rely on Rafa reading my presser.

They are on good talking terms offcourt..can't imagine why they would not talk about this issue. Its for the better of the sport.

Posted by WTF 11/28/2010 at 08:31 PM

tba: I think it was your comment about her stating she fell asleep during the Federer-Djokovic match. Seemed like you implied she falls asleep a lot when Federer is playing from the way you answered her and not when her fave player is playing. You know, feeding the "Federer is boring" meme.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/28/2010 at 08:31 PM

"nervously? This is a 16 time champ, pro for more than 10 years with 900 matches on his legs."
- ladyjulia, are you telling me that you have never seem him be nervous? Just because he's an accomplished champion, he doesn't have any weakness on that front? Hmmm. I have seen him get nervous and lack conviction many a time, notably when playing Rafa. The French Open '08 final being a masterclass on nerves !

"Next time, Roger just has to tell Rafa in the locker room that can he please hurry up, because he is tired of waiting. How hard is that?"
- Why should he let him know it's bothering him? That would be playing into his hands, no? Why not turn the tables on him once in a while? That is definitely more fun for me to watch !

Posted by Pspace 11/28/2010 at 08:32 PM

Gauloises, thanks for all the great write-ups this week. I've enjoyed 'em all, and it's really nice to have a fresh voice describing a tournament.

Posted by Andrew 11/28/2010 at 08:34 PM

Tim: it was a pretty tough match yesterday, and I thought Nadal was showing less than his usual intensity from the middle of set 1 today. By set 3, I saw him wincing, and I have a suspicion (just based on viewing the match once) that one of his groin muscles might have been giving him a twinge.

It doesn't diminish Federer's victory by a hair, and it's not part of a narrative that Nadal only loses when he's not fully up to snuff. It's just what I saw, and what I thought I saw.

I will say that, after resting up following the Asian swing, Nadal should have had plenty in the tank for the event. No player at the top relies so much on stamina as Nadal; if he was feeling puffed, it would be a bit of a crack in the facade. Let's see what 2011 brings.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:34 PM

Tim..let's just disagree..i admit i don't understand it. I have not played any serious competition.

CfR,

He is..isn't he? So, he gets affected. Then approach Rafa and talk about it. Now its upto Rafa to oblige. And I am 100% sure he would.

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 08:37 PM

WTF, thanks. Lol, minor, minor...she bleeds easily.

Tonight is a very emotional nights on the board.

Let them work it out of their system.

It takes more than they have (individually and collectively) to faze me.

Posted by mela 11/28/2010 at 08:37 PM

Great post Andrew.

But I think "spinning" is always balanced - we fans berate the media for our various purposes, but for every article writing off federer there's a writer that doesn't. for every article that says this win was from nadal fatigue ( i've yet to read it ) there's one that acknowledges that this was all about fed's brilliance.

"They are on good talking terms offcourt..can't imagine why they would not talk about this issue. Its for the better of the sport. "

so true.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:37 PM

CfR,

I don't think that talking to the player to hurry up is playing into their hands.

Sorry, but i don't seem to understand. I always think a direct approach is easier than a tit-for-tat one.

Posted by jabeau 11/28/2010 at 08:41 PM

I think the umpire's name is spelt Lahyani.

It's a shame people don't write about the match, but Rafael's mind games and psychological warfare that he employs against players. I usually enjoy the lively discussion and the things I learn from the analysis offered after an important match like this.

Back to lurking. Or better, leave the site.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/28/2010 at 08:41 PM

Tim - there's also no mention of the fact that Roger was playing his fourth tournament in 5 weeks, whereas Nadal was playing his first tournament after a long break. Apparently, the mental/physical fatigue expected from playing so much tennis (Shanghai, then back-to-back tournaments in Stockholm, Basel and Paris, then London after just a week inbetween), is never a factor for Federer, because he "never gets tired" and "never sweats" !

Posted by Genuine Realist 11/28/2010 at 08:41 PM

One point of interest.

Does anyone know whether the actual championship point was in or out?

I was surprised the point was not analyzed, one way or the other, as it was clearly a close call.

Posted by Ross (FOE, even Gael) 11/28/2010 at 08:44 PM

Now I'm thinking of watching the match a third time to see the pre-match high jinks I missed the first 2 times. :)

Posted by Andrew 11/28/2010 at 08:44 PM

Genuine Realist: nope. It was enough for the line judge, the umpire and Nadal. One hint - the guy in the chair didn't yell "out!!!" Mo would have enjoyed that moment.....

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 08:44 PM

thebigapple- for me it was not about being "emotional" for me it was what I felt to be quite rude comments towards a writer I enjoy when you said...

*Well, since the writing was done for free..we have to bear what is offered.*


Alas- as I press to compress to my fevered brow...we don't always have to agree with what is being written- but perhaps we can bear to be polite. Or not......

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 08:45 PM

Looked out to me...but does not maater.Ruled in.

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 08:46 PM

"And +1 on the hilarity of calling Gauloises a Rafa fan - knowing that she's not, she produces prose of astonishing objectivity. Thanks so much."

+1, Mela. But those people know, they just KNOW, that she's a Rafa fan. :)

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 08:46 PM

cool Julia, but trust me, if youve played competitve tennis, the whole scenario changes in the dos and donts of this situation, the rules of the locker room arent the rules on the court, this is outside the rulebook but very much a part of the game all the players know about and deal with differently ...

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/28/2010 at 08:47 PM

ladyjulia - I just think you're blowing this a tad out of proportion. So - let's just agree to disagree. It's between the two of them, and they at least, fully understand what's going on. These are competitive guys, and they are neither of them naive regarding the psychological mind-games that are being played. They both conduct themselves admirably for the most part, and are great ambassadors of the sport. A few mind games here and there are not that big a deal to harp about.

Posted by CL 11/28/2010 at 08:48 PM

"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."

Oh c'mon people - this is FUNNY!! Sheesh.

Lady J - You know I am totally with you about rule enforcement...I am breathlessly awaiting that Federer indictment...but what you are basically asking for is to drain all personality out of sports. And really, I don't even know if there IS a rule regulating how quickly a player has to get up to the net for the coin toss. Essentially, what you are asking the umpire to do is to walk over and grab Rafa by his ear lobe and drag him to the net at some as yet undetermined moment. Rafa takes that particular time... and the time in the runway before the event...to play mind games/deal with his OCD. Players can either choose to respond or not. You could look at it simply as, during those particular moments, Rafa is rude. Rude is obnoxious, but not, as far as I know, against the rules.

As for tired...OK...let us say that the guy who is 5 years younger, had 5 weeks off before coming to London and 2 tough matches and 2 straightforward matches to get his court legs beneath him, played 4 matches in 7 days, ends up being more tired than the 29 year old who played 4 tournaments immediately before the WTF, made 1 semi and 3 final. If true, that is, if nothing else, bad news for the Rafa camp and Rafa fans. I have never bought into this whole meme of Rafa's career being circumscribed by his style of play...actual injury to the wonky knees yes, but just style of play, in and of itself, no. Load of bunk, thought I. But if this tournament, with it comfortable day off between RR matches, that he can't keep up with the old guy whose butt he regularly whips, then he is on some very rocky ground indeed.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 08:50 PM

but is 3 hours of exercise TOO much for a pro athlete, Andrew? i just dont see it, sorry ... every workout they do offseason must include this much tennis, AND the gym and road work, no?

i guess for ed fans perturbed here, i wonder if Rog right now is worried about any of this? NOT!

Posted by Genuine Realist 11/28/2010 at 08:50 PM

I am a little surprised there wasn't curiosity at least.

Rafa fights for every point, so it is counter-intuitive, but not impossible, that - down two breaks, with two MP and Fed in terrific form - he might have decided to call it a day without a challenge.

In any case, inquiring minds would like to know/

BTW, the amusing, but scandalous lyric posted above to the 'Gaston' song doesn't scan. Ashman's original lyric used three men's proper names - Tom, Dick, and Harry. The write should have written 'Gael, Nole, and Murray'. I have no comment on the lyric otherwise.

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 08:51 PM

Tim, do you ever think that you're just a bit over the top? :)

Fed obviously likes Rafa. Murray obviously likes Rafa. I think Nole and Rafa are good friends too. After reading your posts that drone on and on about Rafa's poor sportsmanship, one would think Rafa is the most hated guy on tour.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:51 PM

CfR and Tim,

Agree to disagree.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/28/2010 at 08:52 PM

You could tell by the look on Roger's face just how special this one was. All credit to him, there is a lot of tennis left in this young man. But I would sure appreciate if my countryman would STOP getting him in the draw.

Posted by bob cape cod 11/28/2010 at 08:53 PM

What an amazing end of the year final by two of the most outstanding athletes in professional sports. Several years into their rivalry contending now with countless rising talent from around the word, and when it appeared both Federer and Nadal had seen their best days, the two finish yet again at the very highest level.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:54 PM

CL,

That is what I said..I said Rafa wasn;t against the rules. Roger should not let it bother him.

I just said I am disappointed in Roger that he was playing tit-for-tat. I didn't say anything against Rafa.

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 08:55 PM

Sherlock you fool!

Don't you realize that no one on tour likes Rafa. They are paid and or influenced by Tio Toni to pretend they like him. Because nothing Rafa ever gets is genuine. He is a talentless hack who is training to take over the reigns of Hades as he is Lucifer's sidekick. Posh....when will you learn.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 08:56 PM

CL,

That is what I said..I said Rafa wasn;t against the rules. Roger should not let it bother him.

I just said I am disappointed in Roger that he was playing tit-for-tat. I didn't say anything against Rafa.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 08:56 PM

i love the way the crowd exploded the second Federer raised his arms signaling that he won, after the split second of confusion ...

and Fred takes a 3-1 lead in their London head to heads! ha

and now for more good news... Dexter and Boardwalk Empire are almost on... fabulous Sunday

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 08:56 PM

"Since the writing is voluntary, we need to cope with the output."

Is that more polite?

Listen, I pretty much say what I mean.

Corrie, I glad you enjoyed it. I did not. Could allow me that?

All week..until I stopped reading them. I much prefer Tignor's coverage but I imagine the budget made that dificult.

Posted by CL 11/28/2010 at 09:01 PM

Andrew- I do hear what you are saying, but honestly, you giveth with one had, 'Nadal might have tweaked something in his groin," and taketh away with the other, "not that that diminishes Fed's win one whit.'

Sorry, can't be both. Fed may say...indeed he DOES say and often, that even without mono he would have lost to the Djoker in the AO '08 semi. specifically, he often says, because Novak was serving so well that day. But by the same exact logic you apply to Rafa, Fed's mono may well have made him a fraction of a reaction time late to the Djoker's very good serves. Fed's fans may claim mono as a factor- the media rarely/never does. Its why he was landed on so heavily by the press post Wimby. Rafa's tiredness/twinges ALWAYS a factor. When will the media...not just us...hold Rafa to the same standards they hold Fed to? I guess when he starts being more direct and less backhanded in his pressers. "YOU may think tiredness was a factor. I couldn't possibly say."

Geese and ganders...winners and losers.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/28/2010 at 09:01 PM

Tim asks:

" . . . why is Nadal so tired after one 3 hour match, he cant properly compete the next day?"

Tim:

Rafa took a set off one of the best players in history, something three other players ranked in the top 8 this year were not able to do.

So, why are you suggesting that Rafa did not "properly compete?"

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 09:07 PM

thebigapple- yes, we can have different opinions. That is cool- but I was just taken aback with your implication that iht was such was a millstone around your neck to oh my lord read her work when imo and many others- she had written some nice pieces this week. Can there be a way to offer criticism without acting like the person writing it has not talent?

Whatever- we can agree to disagree- but I was taken aback by what I felt to be rude comments just because you did not like a piece. Your mileage may vary.

Posted by daniel 11/28/2010 at 09:07 PM

@ladyjulia

you say "Rafa wasn;t against the rules. Roger should not let it bother him." so why is it a problem when roger does the same? you're bothered by rogers "tit for tat"? how can you be fine with rafa's 'tit' but disappointed by rogers 'tat'?

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:07 PM

oooh does this mean Freddie gets another ATP 1000? is he at 18 now or is this a seperate thing? silly side stat I know ...

i really dont care anymore who likes or doenst like Rafa, blaming Fed for not being mature enough to just let Rafa's pre match games slide is a bit much for me

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

Hi everybody

Thanks Gauloises, great article!

Lynne, how are you? I can imagine you are feeling the same like me, sad but happy at the same time

Rafa for the first time in this tournament has played in the finals. After the long match against Murray I had the feeling that today he could have a tough match and he knew it too. Federer was playing very sharp and difficult to beat him in that conditions
But anyway, no big deal after to see the wonderful season that Rafa has performed. Now good vacations and ready for 2011 that like he says he hope to do it as well as this year
By the way, congratultions to Federer! he made a good tournament
I understand what happy Federer's fans are......

Posted by crazyone 11/28/2010 at 09:09 PM

Tim: it's a separate stat. The 17 that Fed has doesn't include his 4 previous YECs.

Posted by jodiecate 11/28/2010 at 09:10 PM

So glad you've had a bloody good week Hannah!!
Thank you for supplying the beautiful words that convey all that to us.
VERY MUCH appreciated here i can tell you!

Here's my favourite line from today's post:
"...it has been a week of great entertainment, of tennis that's encompassed the entire range from execrable to exceptional." what a classy way to put that! WELL DONE & CONGRATULATIONS!!

CONGRATULATIONS TO BOTH ROGER AND RAFA FANS!!
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL TENNIS LOVERS!!

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:10 PM

Tom Perotta has a short write up at the Wall Street Journal about today:

"Tennis has a rivalry again. In London on Sunday, Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the ATP World Tour Finals. Though the match wasn't a classic, it did much to reinvigorate a clash that recently had become one-sided."

http://tinyurl.com/2f57lb6

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 09:11 PM

Carrie, lol! Well, at least it's Lucifer's sidekick and not Lucifer himself. Or is that Toni? :)

Bigapple, plenty of people say what they mean around here. If they have enough intelligence, they can do it while still showing an ounce of class. You should try it sometime.

Posted by Diane 11/28/2010 at 09:12 PM

Hannah

I have enjoyed your writing this week but today I have to disagree with you as to what this win means to Roger. You say not much.....but to me I think it will give him some incentive for 2011. Yes it was certainly Rafa's year and I can't fault you for saying that as it's a fact but I also feel from your writing that you are not a Roger at all. That's fine with me sa I mentioned before, your vivid descriptions made me feel like I was in the stands watching live, great job.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/28/2010 at 09:13 PM

LOL Tim, you're a blast!! I miss Scandinavia's beautiful and talented world's no 1

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:13 PM

msf, because he LOST, and that's my way of addressing the host of peeps out there who are bascially saying Fed won because Nadal was 'tired' ... we all konw if he competes 'properly' he wins, no?

i cant believe any national TV commentators are idiotic enough to say the No. 1 in the world has any excuse in being 'tired' after one long match ... again, Lendl, Courier and a lot of other top guys would laugh their asses off at that one

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:13 PM

Tom Perotta has a short write up at the Wall Street Journal about today:

"Tennis has a rivalry again. In London on Sunday, Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the ATP World Tour Finals. Though the match wasn't a classic, it did much to reinvigorate a clash that recently had become one-sided."

http://tinyurl.com/2f57lb6

Posted by Carrie 11/28/2010 at 09:14 PM

thebigapple- yes, we can have different opinions. That is cool- but I was just taken aback with your implication that she had no talent and was a millstone around your neck when imo and many others- she had written some nice pieces this week. Can there be a way to offer criticism without acting like the person writing it has not talent? And I greatly disagree with your assertion....greatly.

Whatever- we can agree to disagree- but I was taken aback by what I felt to be rude comments just because you did not like a piece. Your mileage may vary.

Yes- time for Boardwalk Empire.

Posted by jodiecate 11/28/2010 at 09:14 PM

So glad you've had a bloody good week Hannah!!
Thank you for supplying the words to convey it all to us.
VERY MUCH appreciated here i can tell you!

Here's my favourite line from today's post:
."..it has been a week of great entertainment, of tennis that's encompassed the entire range from execrable to exceptional." what a classy way to say that! WELL DONE & CONGRATULATIONS!!

CONGRATULATIONS TO BOTH ROGER AND RAFA FANS!!
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL TENNIS LOVERS!!

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:14 PM

daniel,

Because RAfa isn't against the rules as far as i know...and Roger is just getting back to him because he's irritated (instead of speaking directly to him).

In the midst of all this, the umpire hangs his head. That's why I am disappointed with Roger's "tat" as a fan.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:15 PM

daniel,

Because RAfa isn't against the rules as far as i know...and Roger is just getting back to him because he's irritated (instead of speaking directly to him).

In the midst of all this, the umpire hangs his head. That's why I am disappointed with Roger's "tat" as a fan.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/28/2010 at 09:15 PM

Oh my, I see perfect Sherlock is back to criticizing us lesser humans who have flaws, tired from shopping, and putting up decorations, so good nite all. AO, can't wait!!

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:15 PM

LOL!!!

samantha thank you for adhering to that ban as long as you did, feel free to espouse about 'beautiful and talented' Caro the rest of the year!

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 09:18 PM

Carrie, I zestfully do many things at which I have no talent. I just do my best.

I did not say she was a moron. My note may have implied that her talent is limited. That is quite different from NO talent and also different from being Borges or another such. Frankly in life most of us are mediocre. However, that does not hammper great success - lots people with tiny talent go on to great fame and success. Luck just has to smile our way.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:19 PM

daniel thats exactly my point, well said ... but our dear Julia aint biting! lol ...

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 09:20 PM

Samantha, I've only got a few thousand flaws. :)

Being polite in one's criticism of a guest writer isn't exactly a difficult task, is it? Do you really want to go on record as defending that behavior?

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 09:21 PM

"I did not say she was a moron": a lot is understandable if that's the standard you're applying.

Posted by Middle-age man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/28/2010 at 09:21 PM

I still don't get this: what happened to Rafa's US open serve???? I used to call him Rafaddick with his new laser serves. It's just gone as if it never happened. He's back to barely cracking 120mph. And when he really hits it's 125 instead of 135. It was only mere two months ago. The 3rd set could have been more entertiainging had Rafa remember how to serve!

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 09:22 PM

It must kill you, Tim, that Roger likes and respects Rafa. :)

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:23 PM

Just realized Fed completed winning every "type" of tourney the top 10 play this year...1 250, 1 500, 1 MS, 1 WTF and 1 GS.

Let' see what he can do next year.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/28/2010 at 09:24 PM

Carol :

If you are still around, I am absolutely fine. Yes, it would have been great to have seen Rafa win but he was beaten by the better player on this occasion. I am very happy that Rafa got to the final this year and I'm proud of him too, we all know that this isn't his greatest surface.

Hannah : It's been a great pleasure to read you this week. I know I've said this before, but I'm running out of superlatives !

Posted by CWATC 11/28/2010 at 09:26 PM

Geez.

To me the story of this week is the success of Fed's fall campaign and his post-wimby campaign in general. He's been playing better and better now for months, capping if off with a dominant run at TMC.

He was the best player of the tournament no question. He also didn't let the fact that he had to beat his frequent nemesis in the final derail him and prevent a victory.

Honestly I don't know what was up w/ Nadal. Watching the match it did seem he let balls go that he'd normally run for. There's been talk about how he shouldn't have been tired today from yesterday's match, but what's strange is that he was quite obviously tired yesterday during the second set of the Murray match (and i think said as much in the presser?)which surprised me as well.

Every match has context and it's extremely rare that both players are in top form at the same time. Sometimes they are, sometimes one is, sometimes they are both off. My opinion of AO '09 final has always been that Nadal was indeed somewhat off in that match and did not play his best. Which made Fed's failure to capitalize on that all the more frustrating. Then again Fed himself was at less than 100% IMO because of his back problems which had been affecting his serve all month.

Fed has lost to a below par Nadal multiple times anyway. Today he won.
Yeay!

If they play more on hard courts next year we can analyze the match-up with a bigger sample of matches.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/28/2010 at 09:26 PM

Tim writes:

"we all [know] if he [Rafa] competes 'properly' he wins, no?"

But, Tim, Federer was the clear favorite going into today's match.

He had won the YECs four times and been a runnerup once. He had beaten Rafa the two times they had played at this championship.

He was the most in-form player during the roundrobin portion and the semis.

Probably didn't matter much how well Rafa "competed" if Federer was playing at or near his Federer's best level--as Federer was doing for much of the match.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:27 PM

hmm did Rafa go back to his old grip??

LOL! hmmmmmm... what DID happen to that serve?

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:30 PM

how can you be 4000 points in the lead as the NO. 1 and NOT be the favorite in any match you play right now?

Fred cant win matches on ancient history or past titles won over the years, he has to play TODAY ...

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 09:31 PM

Speaking of killing Tim: Fed: "So obviously he's a wonderful player. He's proven himself that he can play on any surface now. The ones who still call him a clay court expert, they still don't know much about tennis. "

LOL. It's almost like he's directly rebutting Tim, who starts almost every gripe with how us Rafa Kids are fooled by the muscles and anyone who knows anything about tennis knows..."

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:31 PM

Roger on the match:

“I always knew it was going to be an interesting match [today]. I think we obviously have a huge amount of respect for each other. I admire his game. Today was another great match, I thought, with some fantastic rallies. I know it doesn't take anything away from his great season, because it was magnificent.”

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/28/2010 at 09:31 PM

"what happened to Rafa's US open serve????"

Well, Rafa pulled out of the recent Paris tournament due to a shoulder problem.

If Rafa's shoulder wasn't fully healed or he didn't want to risk reinjury, Rafa probably held back on his serve a bit.

Seems the smart thing to do

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:33 PM

one thing I disagree with the author about too...

Fed's 'aura' in the locker room got a BIG boost this week, that means a LOT going into 2011...you really think the other players don't notice these results? does beating Djoker 3 times in a row NOT help him, or Murray this week? or thumping Nadal in a big final? the players sense who's wounded and circle for blood and who should be feared... Fed got some fear back this week, and then some...

so yes, in these ways, it does im telling you it does matter...

Posted by Or 11/28/2010 at 09:33 PM

Re: Rafa new serve. I am really surprised nobody asked. He literally pulled a new serve out of the drawer for the Open, and it is completely gone afterwards? I wonder if it hasn't hurt his shoulder, whatever he added to it.

Anyway, it got him the career Slam, so maybe it was worth it.

Posted by TMFunk 11/28/2010 at 09:34 PM

there seems to be a bit of an urban legend being spun in the media following this match that the Fed/Nadal rivalry has been one-sided in "recent" times and it has now become a rivalry again. Hannah alludes to it above with her "one-way traffic" comment above and I've also seen the same in other outlets (do these folks compare notes before publishing?). This is simply not true. The only time the rivalry was one-sided if you take it year-by-year was in 2008 when I believe Nadal went 4-0 (Monte Carlo, Hamburg, FO, Wimbie), and 2008 was essentially when Nadal "ran away" with the H2H lead. Their H2H in years prior to and after 2008 were:
2005: 1-1, 2006: 4-2 Nadal, 2007: 3-2 Federer, 2009: 1-1, 2010: 1-1. Hardly on-way since 2008. Just thought I'd clear that up.

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 09:34 PM

In terms of the serve, I imagine fatigue wouldn't help. He talked in Shanghai about the new power being tiring. And, perhaps he didn't want to push it given he had had a flare up of tendinitis. Or, perhaps it won't be a constant feature for that very reason.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:35 PM

im NOT saying at all Rafa is a claycourt only player, GB, Im saying he just got some nice cupcakes this year on OTHER surfaces!

keep it straight will ya>? :)

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 09:35 PM

How do we know the serve was any different? Do you have stats, Tim?

Rafa hitting 135 at the USO grew into quite an overblown myth. His serve stats at the USO weren't that much different than his normal serve stats.

Posted by TMFunk 11/28/2010 at 09:36 PM

also 2004 1-0 Nadal

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 09:39 PM

Tim, as recently as today, I believe you called Rafa a clay court specialist.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:39 PM

i dunno i watched a lot of the matches i didnt see any Roddick style serving from Nads this week, whereas it was noticeable at the Open, u know, cupcakes aside :)

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:39 PM

Rafa seems to have played 223 points in his match with Murray..

I didn't read much media in 2006...but Roger was 24-25 yrs old..and in Rome 2006..he played six matches on consecutive days. [I got the stats from another site]..it seems

Fri - QF - Fed played 229 points to beat Almagro..

Sat - SF- 229 points to beat Nalbandian

Sun - F - sixth straight match in a row, Roger played Rafa for 353 points, for 5 hrs 15 min straight, and lost.

Does anyone remember fatigue being part of the loss?

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:41 PM

I dont think I mentioned clay courts or knees today, sherlock but in my Fred stupor, anything is possible...

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:43 PM

TMFunk,

And why would you want to take 2008 away?

Rafa won 4 + 1 + 1 = 6 since beginning of 2008 while Fed is 2.

2008 is the year that Rafa made his mark. You have to count it.

So, its 6-2 since then.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/28/2010 at 09:43 PM

I don't have the stats in front of me, but I don't believe that Rafa was hitting many bombs against Djokovic in the U.S. Open finals.

I don't believe that Rafa's big serves are likely to get him many "free" points against good serve returners like Federer, Murray, and Djokovic--all of whom can handle speedy serves pretty well. The big serves, however, may have shortened Rafa's matches--leaving him fresher for the semis and finals--against lower ranked opponents.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:43 PM

julia send that stat to Robbie Konig, pronto! he's a big fan of the 'jaded' excuse ... why isnt old man Fred every jaded? he may shank like a madman, but rarely ever jaded ...

I think the one time was to Murray at Cincy long time ago, after winning Canada in many long 3 setters, he sorta kinda flailed through a match physically...

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 09:45 PM

In photos from the MAndy match, he also appears to have strapping on the left shoulder. If he got tendinitis after a relatively short period with the new serve, I despair about it being here to stay.

Just another eg of how you tie yourself in knots with the contradictions Tim. Needing cupcakes to win off clay implies being a clay court expert, no?

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:45 PM

i HAVE said that Rafa's vast majroity of titles and head to head wins have been ON clay, which is true, about 67 percent, as I recall...is this not a fact?

Posted by thebigapple 11/28/2010 at 09:46 PM

Sherlock, I just saw your note commenting on my class and intelligence. I may have been responding to something else when it appeared.

Listen, I aspire to neither class nor inteligence. I live a simple life. As long as I can keep hold of my persona; integrity I am pretty good.

I did not like the guest writers work...I assume that my opinion will matter naught to her as she continues her life.

However I hope your complaints about my free expression will improve the general level of intelligence and class on this tennis board. Unfortunately it is too late for me.

Posted by TMFunk 11/28/2010 at 09:46 PM

ladyjulia: Here's the specific comment above - "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"

- All I'm saying, with the support of facts, is that it is untrue to say that it has been one-way traffic **since** wimbie 2008. **Since** Wimby 2008, their H2H is 2-2. I'd hardly call that "one-way traffic"

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 09:47 PM

BG WOW that is a stretch, thats quite a translation! talk about putting words in someone's mouth, thats pretty rich indeed ... LOL!

Posted by Carol 11/28/2010 at 09:50 PM

Rafa says after the match " my possibilities were a little bit unfavorable because the surface and the match from yesterday and if you add that Roger is playing in a high level then it become a huge mountain.
He played better than me and I'm happy for him"

Posted by Middle-age man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/28/2010 at 09:52 PM

By the way, Rafa has only himself to blame for being exhausted at SF before Fedal showdown. That never ever happens to the middle-age man. So why does it keep on happening to Rafa? Well, let see, there is that Channel 4 hour 3 set SF, another 4 hour 3 set SF at Madrid clay, 5 hour 5 set SF at AO, 3 hour 3 set at YEC, I can just go on and on. If Rafa kept his head straight and finished Muzz off in straight when he had a chance early in 2nd set or at least closed out at 5-3 and save about 20-30 min, he wouldn't have been so dead tired. But NO! This kid likes to pick his shorts so much, he just keeps on grinding. And look at the middle-age man. Finished Djoker in 80 min clean kill. Finished off Roddick cleanly at AO SF. ETC ETC. And when midage man (tired of typing the whole thing) does grind on SF stupidly like US open SF against Djoker, he does what should be done and promptly lose. End of story. No drama. C'mon!

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:52 PM

TMFunk,

oh..you were responding to that specific statement. Yes, the stats support your argument then. She should have written since end of 2007.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/28/2010 at 09:54 PM

OMF,

"And when midage man (tired of typing the whole thing) "

LOL..."le" is shorter than typing "tired of typing the whole thing"..but you are funny..

Posted by TMFunk 11/28/2010 at 09:54 PM

well, even then it would not be true. It was one-way traffic in 2008 **only**. Not "Since", 2007 or 2008.

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