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Rock Stars For a Week 11/25/2010 - 11:38 PM

Bb by Hannah Wilks, TennisWorld Contributing Writer

Numbers are a big part of any tennis fan's life, and there’s always a day at the year-end championship when the numbers take centre stage. Last year, Andy Murray was denied a place in the semifinals by an abstract mathematical calculation, a del Potro second-serve ace and a Hawkeye challenge; a matter of millimetres and the progress of the championships was altered. This year, Murray is ranked No. 5 and back at the O2 among the elite; del Potro, last year’s finalist, played six matches in 2010 and is currently ranked No. 262 due to the vagaries of injury. Sometimes numbers do tell the whole story.

It’s clear today that the organizers here at the ATP World Tour Finals have learned from the embarrassments of last year. Everywhere, the big screens flash group standings and qualification scenarios for the crowds; the media are handed briefing notes updating the latest outcomes and possibilities at regular intervals. Permutations and probabilities are bandied back and forth at the bar, on the stairs, in whispers inside the arena. It starts to feel like a drinking game (sponsored by Corona, of course)Soderling took it to a tiebreak: two fingers! Murray won more than four games in a set: down in one!

As it turns out, however, everybody might as well have left their calculators at home, as the Group B progressions were settled by the simplest of eventualities; Roger Federer defeated Robin Soderling 7-6 (5), 6-3 in a majestic defensive display, leaving himself in solitary state as the first player to qualify for the semifinals. The Swede is eliminated from contention and heading home for the holidays, with the second semifinal spot to be decided between Andy Murray and David Ferrer. The consensus is that Murray has to win a set, or win a minimum of seven games in losing. It sounds simple, but when is anything with the Scot ever as straightforward as it should be?

It turns out you can’t even depend on Murray to be undependable. He starts off in woeful fashion by losing serve, but before anyone can hunker down for a long night, he recovers and doesn’t look back, winning not just the first set but the second to book his semifinal spot. David Ferrer leaves London without winning a match, Murray gets to experience a semifinal Saturday at the O2, and everyone’s left with rather an anticlimactic feeling.

But the most interesting numbers of the day for me are the ones that come up in the Bryan brothers’ press conference, after the twins have sealed their qualification for the semifinals by beating Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes in straight sets, afterwards being presented with the ATP fans’ favorite award. Their numbers in 2010 tell their own story: two Grand Slams, in Melbourne and New York. Their 600th match win in Delray Beach. The sixth time they have finished the year ranked No. 1. Their 62nd championship win in L.A., surpassing the all-time career titles record. Those are GOAT numbers, even if they have to be marginally qualified with the insertion of' 'team.'

Having accomplished all of this, there’s a sad inevitability to the main thrust of the questionsthe health of the doubles game. Usually, it’s the aging of the viewer demographic that is the concern, not the participants. But the average age of the players in this year’s draw is 32, as opposed to 26 in the singles; the youngest player in the doubles draw is the 26-year-old Philipp Petzchner, a relative baby next to 39-year-old Dick Norman. The oldest player in the singles is Federer at 29 and the draw includes two 23-year-olds, Murray and Djokovic. A Bryan (I can’t tell them apart when they’re not holding their racquets) acknowledges the problem: These 20 guys are the same guys we’ve been playing against for the last 10 years. We’re all still at the top of the game. There aren’t a lot of guys breaking through. It’s being repopulated by singles players. It used to be the Top 50 guys used to have two or three singles players in it. Now it’s half and half.

Think about that for a minute. Then name, if you can, one successful doubles specialist who is under 25 and who promises much for the future. It’s easy to dismiss doubles, an attitude that I’ve been guilty of myself; it’s an opportunity to see more of your favourite singles players, perhaps, or a way to kill time while you’re waiting for some real action to begin. I’ve had the opportunity this week to watch the best playing the best, and yet until today, the most attention I’ve paid to the top seeds is to enjoy the slo-mo replay of Mike getting hit in the back of the head with Bob’s serve. Or possibly the other way around.

Doubles doesn’t just require discipline; it is a discipline. Jurgen Melzer, No. 11 in the world, teamed with a solid singles player in Petzchner, still found himself eliminated today by Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski. Nobody’s going to stop the latter team in the street, but they are masters of their sport and the specific skills it rewards. Power from the baseline can accomplish much, but it can still be rendered impotent by the cool head and practiced hands required to finish a point at the net. How different might today’s singles results have been had Robin Soderling had the split-second confidence to put away Federer’s high, floating ball?

It may all too often be treated as an encumbrance at worst, a consolation prize at bestnot a lot of kids growing up wanting to be the best in the world in doubles, as even said best players admitbut if doubles as an end in itself dies, to be replaced by singles players supplementing their incomes and match play, something will be lost. Not just the particular skills of serve and volley, familiarity and precision at net, but a sport that rewards eccentricity and uniqueness, the coming together of two players that separately would have been very ordinary to become something greater than the sum of their parts.

Any commenter or commentator is familiar with those who lament tennis’ increasing homogeneity; they should watch more doubles. Yesterday, a day that saw public complaints from one singles player about the time his opponent was taking in order to be physically able to continue the match, I witnessed Max Miyrni bending down to the ground to chat to his partner Mahesh Bhupathi while he received medical attention, folding his angular limbs to put their heads close together. Their opponents, meanwhile, the soon-to-split Nestor and Zimonjic, were as far apart as two players could be, Nestor slumping in a chair shrouded in towels while Zimonjic took energetic practice swings at the far end of the court. Talk about the range of human experience. And today, I’m listening to two people I’ve often derided talk with warmth and a total lack of self-pity about the senescence of the sport they have dedicated their life to, the sport that has made them extraordinary. 

That at least is one thing that the World Tour Finals has going for it, despite the occasional limpness of the round-robin format. I haven’t seen the arena less than two-thirds full for a doubles match this week; they’ve been cheered, slow-clapped, bemoaned, had their names chanted. There’s nothing like it, a Bryan says; when you have intros, smoke, lights, music, you have goosebumps … We feel like rock stars.

To be treated like stars one week out of fifty-two isn’t the best ratio, but for a team who have broken the greatest of records, it’s a lot better than none.


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Posted by Andrew 11/25/2010 at 11:51 PM

Hi, Gauloises! I know it's you, even though you forgot to put your name in.

Great writing, and great insights. It's been a pleasure reading all your reports this week.

Posted by GB 11/25/2010 at 11:51 PM

Rafa wasn't complaining about how long Nole's MTO was taking, but rather was questioning the umpire's asking him (Rafa) to speed up his play.

Posted by crazyone 11/26/2010 at 12:02 AM

Andrew said what I wanted to say.

I hope we'll see more of your writing next ATP year, as well.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 12:07 AM

I would also like to see more of your writing next year Hannah

I have enjoyed reading every post soo far

Thanks

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 12:08 AM

GB Can we give that a rest please

I am soo over it

Thanks lol!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 12:12 AM

Arun If you are around my fears have been answered with the cricket.We cant bat period.

Posted by Andrew 11/26/2010 at 12:19 AM

At the computer now, rather than an IPod Touch.

(BTW, Steve Jobs has announced a takeover bid for the Irish economy. The new Apple product will be called ILand).

Anyhoo, Gauloises' piece reminded me of my own reaction to seeing live ATP doubles at IW in 2008. I was stunned at how bang-bang the whole affair was: there were very few points that lasted longer than 4 shots. Gauloises is absolutely right that Soderling hasn't developed the feel for the volley that comes from playing lots of doubles: I think both Nadal and Djokovic have used doubles to help their games around the net, and Federer, of course, is an Olympic gold medal winner with Wawrinka. Murray, too, picked up a title in Valencia with his brother.

It's quite rare, in recreational play, to find people who are equally skilled at either version of the game. In Houston, 95% of the matches I played were doubles: in Calgary, 75% are singles. Go figure.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 12:25 AM

Well while Andrew has brought up the volley? Hmmm.

Rafa to me ha improved his volley techinque.Nole who got Mark Woodforde in to help him intially has improved in the sense when to play the volley and of course the techinque.Still at times he plays the volley at the wrong time and in the wrong place.I think Murray is a instinctive volley player.Federer to me is the best all round volley at present .I think his forehand volley is the best.Robin needs to practice his volley technique for starters as he has no idea and his feet postion and his racquet position are awful.I agree the way to imporve is playing more doubles.

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 12:35 AM

Sorry AM. I raised it again because it was in the piece.

Oh, and I echo everyone else that these pieces have been great.

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 12:38 AM

Has anyone heard anything about whether Nole's vision has improved?

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 12:47 AM

GB No worries I saw it was mentioned though I think we have covered every angle on it lol!

No at present I read last night he was going to see a specialist to see if there was something more serious.Which I think under the circumstances is a good idea.When I got something in my contacts I used to take them out and give my eyes a good water eye flush.I guess Nole did try that when he had the toilet break but still he said he got worse.I hope he is ok.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 01:01 AM

Rafa News,website November 26th.

Rafa will meet Tomas Berdych on Friday.He sits on top of the standings in Group A with 2 wins in his first 2 matches.

Head to Head Rafa leads 8-3 (thats includes all surfaces)

If Rafa can defeat Toams he will set up a s/final meeting against Andy Murray.

Rafa's match is not before 2.00pm.

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 01:02 AM

True, AM, TW has gone in circles as usual:) I really hope Nole can qualify cause the Rafole match really took the gloss off the tourney for me.

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 01:05 AM

It's such a shame dubs isn't shown more on TV, or even available online

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 01:07 AM

Just seeing the Muzz-Ferru match now, I didn't realise Ferru led 2-0:( I really wish he could have at least won a set.

Posted by Schiavone's Tomato Sauce 11/26/2010 at 01:25 AM

The problem with doubles is, and please speak up if you disagree, that, well....it's boring. It's bland, wierd, eccentric in a bad way, and if doubles dissappears I HONESTLY think it will be great for tennis.

We don't need any players wasting time with a worthless thing like doubles. Seriously. End proffesional doubles ATP. Please.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/26/2010 at 01:59 AM

Morning, everyone. :)

Senescence! Another lovely piece, Gauly, and it's a real treat to read it first thing in the morning. :)

I agree with GB on Rafa though; looking over his career and his friendly relationship with Nole, it's hard for me to imagine that he was complaining about him, exactly; more about the consistency of the umpire. Although I don't think he expressed it very well in the press conference.

Glad Murray is through! The first two games were a bit worrying. And I'm sorry Ferrer leaves without a win.

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 02:28 AM

Very nice piece Gauloises, well done.
Just let me point out that the comparison with Nadal complaining was not very fair imo. I don't like to discuss these things too much, but here it goes. Rafa prolly didn't know it was an equipment time out rather than a medical time out, so after six minutes and then another break for Nole's "equipment" to be "implanted" (by the way, the medical doctor also came) I think he was already being quite "generous" from his point of view. He didn't even complain about that and did sympathise with Nole (read his presser, or listen his on-court post-match interview when he says "poor Nole" (in Spanish) or when he asks Nole at the net). Still, if in the middle of that, the umpire takes the opportunity to tell him to hurry up between points, isn't there at least some irony to it? I think his reaction is just natural and human. Not perfect? Ok, not perfect. I think some doubles players would also be less than perfect in that situation.
Summarizing, I think you can use better and more fair examples to illustrate your point than Rafa there.

Posted by Northernboy 11/26/2010 at 03:51 AM

Can anyone else figure out what is up with Daniel Nestor? Does he just have a prickly personality or something? He splits with Mark Knowles just after they finally win the French Open, then wins several slams and becomes world #1 with Zimonijc, then they plan to split as well?? Weird.

On the downside, I'm sad Melzer/Petzchner didn't make the semis.

Posted by Anonymous Canadian 11/26/2010 at 04:28 AM

I was at the O2 yesterday (yes, I'm a Canadian living in London at the moment).

I'd say that, in this case at least, the doubles match was actually more interesting and competitive than the singles match...

Some observations:
- Petzchner looked rusty (they said he was coming back from an injury layoff). He hit several first serves under 100 mph and a couple of dud second serves around 78 mph. The Polish team were teeing off on his second serves late in the second set. Petzchner also missed a few easy volleys. All of the breaks against the Melzer/Petzchner duo came on Petzchner's serve.
- Like Gauloises perhaps, I was sort of expecting Melzer to be the dominant player in that match, but it was not quite the case, although he certainly played well and hit a few great shots. I was very impressed by the Polish team. One of their strengths is that they don't miss the "easy" shots. That might not seem like a major skill but at the end of the match it may give you the win over a team that flubbed a half-dozen easy shots. Matkowski has a huge serve (regularly hitting around 135 mph) and both Polish players hit some laser-like passing shots. I get the impression that for some of these players like Matkowski, their only weakness (granted, it is an important one) is their relative lack of mobility compared to the top 100 single players. Otherwise, all the shots seem to be there (big serve, great passing shots, outstanding touch; difficult to judge the "rally-type" shots as there are so few of them in a doubles match).

- As for the singles match, there is not much to say. I like Ferrer's energy but is style is boring and displays a total lack of variety and creativity. This is even more obvious when seeing him live rather than on TV. He is really as close as you can get to a pure baseliner. Granted, I'm sure that he can play better than he did yesterday but I suspect his style wouldn't change much.
- Probably obvious to most readers here, but it bears saying again: Murray really has an amazing touch with his drop shots coming out of nowhere and his ability to change the pace/height/spin of the ball in the middle of a rally. I would say that, apart from the serve, his variety was his main advantage over Ferrer yesterday. Ferrer had lots of troubles handling the drop shots, slices, and other "junk" coming unexpectedly in the middle of an otherwise "regular" baseline rally.

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 04:53 AM

Northernboy, no! Doubles players don't have prickly personalities :-)

Posted by gauloises 11/26/2010 at 05:04 AM

Morning guys. Thanks for the nice words as always.

Point taken about the Nadal comparison. I'm aware of what he said in his press conference, but I was writing from an eyewitness point of view and from where I was sitting, it *looked* very much like he was protesting the time Djokovic was taking. Equally, it only *looked* like Miyrni was bending down to keep Bhupathi company during his MTO - he might have been telling him to get up and stop being such a weak, lazy git. At the end of the day I'm just writing about what I see - but that particular one might have been a touch irresponsible. No offense intended (and people wonder why I don't want to write about Rafa ...)

Petzchner definitely looked to be having shoulder problems (that is not to exclude the possibility that said problems were actually somewhere else entirely), and I totally agree with Anonymous Canadian that the Poles were very impressive. One of the things that led to me writing about doubles was the realisation that while what they do might not seem necessarily flashy or spectacular (although it can be), they get it right point after point after point.

As for Murray's drop shots (his favourite shot, as the VT has informed us repeatedly), I kept an informal count last night. I think it came out something like:

Oh Lord What Were You Thinking = 2
Lucky To Get Away With It = 4
Actually Good = 1

I may have been a bit harsh though :)

Posted by Lennon 1980 11/26/2010 at 05:14 AM

Hannh Wilks, TW Contributing Writer
Please continue to "contribute" in 2011. Your pieces are so well done that you have spoiled us. Your insightful viewpoints are a pleasure to read and I want to look forward to more in the coming new year. thank you

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 05:21 AM

Sorry AM, I tend to post my views before reading the thread of comments so that *maybe* I can post something a little original (otherwise I tend to repeat what others have said).
This time it looks it worked just the opposite :-(

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 05:32 AM

Schiavone's Tomato Sauce,
You put it rather harshly. Still, I do agree that the "meat" is in the singles. Sorry Gauloises et al. ;-)
First, for material reasons: court sizes, ball speeds, human arm spans and court coverage... make the game "pim-pam-pum" (if you know what I mean).
Second, for psychological reasons: team sports have their specific values (coordination, "we are a team and win and lose together", etc.), but those values are well represented in eminently team sports like soccer, basketball, etc. Individual sports also have their specific values (personal battle, "nowhere to hide", etc.) and tennis represents those marvelously and almost uniquely.
Of course this is a matter of taste and I respect lovers of doubles.
P.S. I'm talking from the spectator's viewpoint. I have not played doubles in ages, but I do remember having a great time playing doubles, specially crossing the court at the net to attack with a surprise volley like a falcon predator, that was fun! :-)

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 05:42 AM

Gauloises, your

Oh Lord What Were You Thinking = 2
Lucky To Get Away With It = 4
Actually Good = 1

might be part of a pattern (I say *might*). If most of the times the "Lucky To Get Away With" is a good portion of the total (in this case, absolute majority), then it would mean that the real reason is not luck so much. Yesterday I was dropshotted and arrived very well in time to hit the ball before the second bounce, but still arrived in the middle of full running, and I knew it would be difficult for me to control the shot. Of course it went long by 2 meters. That is a pattern at my level, and it might be a pattern at the top level too if the one across the net is also top level and you cannot just put it inside the court without being punished.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/26/2010 at 05:58 AM

Gauloises..excellent writing. I like to watch doubles..its usually faster than the singles game and team camaraderie is fun to watch.

Unfortunately, its not easy to follow the doubles players as there is not much written about them, and the matches are not marketed enough, and I hate watching on sloppy streams. Its hard enough for just trying to watch the Fed on streams.

So, one hears the names...but its difficult to build a personal level with them and invest emotionally as one hardly reads about them. There are articles written about them, but its not much really. Also, it would help if the singles players also played doubles a bit..who knows the media might actually devote a whole article to them now and then.

If the ATP/ITF does enough to market the double teams, interest will pick up there too.

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 06:07 AM

Since I am alone, I'll do some stats on my posts this morning according to my own proprietary categories:

1 gossip and "dead horse beating" (at 02:28 AM)
1 short joke (at 04:53 AM)
1 meta (at 05:21 AM)
2 tennis only (at 05:32 AM and 05:42 AM)
1 more meta (at unknown) (this one)
0 fashion and hair

I'll try to improve my stats ;-)

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 06:09 AM

Hi ladyjulia!
I have liked your take on some issues regarding Rafa recently, like his Edberg award. I would have expected you to be more critical of it :-)

Posted by gauloises 11/26/2010 at 06:15 AM

Cheers ladyjulia. I completely agree with you about not being able to watch doubles on TV.

Kwaku - sure, the point is often to draw the error with the drop shot. I still think Murray cuts it far too close sometimes. But I am extremely harsh on him due to the love I have for him ...

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 06:17 AM

Can Rafa make sure he is second in his group by getting some losing result with Berdych (but not by too much so he qualifies for sure) irregardless of what happens later with Roddick and Nole?

Posted by Metro 11/26/2010 at 06:20 AM

Anonymous Canadian,

Thanks for your observation from the double and Murray/Ferrer match. Glad to hear you had a nice day at the O2. I think more double matches had more suspense and drama in them whereas most single matches were only straight sets (exception: Nadal/Roddick). Most fans expect more drama given the margin in the top10 is closer.

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 06:21 AM

No, impossible. See http://www.barclaysatpworldtourfinals.com/News/Tennis/2010/Tournament/London-Qualifying-Scenarios.aspx

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/26/2010 at 06:23 AM

Good morning all, been away for Thanksgiving so just catching up. What sad news from Serena. I can well imagine that some in the American media, ie Cronin, Austin, Carillo and the rest are shouting "Yes, we finally got rid of her and we thought it would take a blond with a ponytail." Carillo, "this kid is better, on Sharapova after Serena beat her. To them I say, don't get your hopes up, she is a fighter, one of the best in the game and she will be back. Count on it. Miss her so much. Kom sa, Caro, World's no l, the best player in all of Scandinavia. Kom igen, Robin, Sweden no l. Jag, ja vill leva, ja vill leva i do Norden. In thee I live, in thee I die, oh Sweden. Ciao dudes, black Friday shopping. I'm psyched.

Posted by rafafan 11/26/2010 at 07:14 AM

This is great tennis writing if you take out 27 unnecessary words.

Posted by jackson 11/26/2010 at 07:21 AM

Kwaku, why would you want Rafa to finish second in his group? I'm sure he's only thinking about going out and winning his match which would ensure his moving on to the semis.

Gauloises, you write so well and your articles are very entertaining and interesting but I have to say I'm disappointed that again Rafa's match was ignored except for a rather unfair snipe about him. It's not just you, it's Tennis World in general. Rafa and his match with Roddick got a brief write-up on Steve's blog and an article on Racquet Reaction. That's been it. On Racquet Reaction, of course all three of Roger's matches got full writeups and Bodo can't write any article without at least a few adoring mentions of Roger. It could almost make one wonder who's #1 in the rankings. As a Rafa fan it would be nice to see him get some attention too (of the positive kind).

Posted by wilson75 11/26/2010 at 07:27 AM

jackson: What more do you want? Rafa is No.1 in the world and is written about all the time. As for the Novak match, it stopped being a match after 5-5 when Djokovic had problems with his contacts thus there was nothing to write about. I can guarantee that come AO, win or lose, he will be talk of the tournament.

Posted by x-fan 11/26/2010 at 07:34 AM

Wilson,
Even as a Fed fan I understand what Jackson is talking about.
I agree that Nadal gets talked/written about all the time elsewhere but here at TW is pretty much mostly about Fed. It's not as if Fed's matches were that compelling but they got racket reaction posts written about them.
Also, if I remember correctly Mr. Bodo once said he didn't know what to write about Nadal something about not finding him compelling (I'm paraphrasing so don't take it literally)
All that said, it's not as if I don't understand the fascination with Federer, as good a year as Rafa has had he's a long way from achieving what Federer has achieved and I understand the intrigue that now an older Fed has for writers/bloggers and fans in general.

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 07:36 AM

I don't know if this has already been posted, but here's a translation of a really nice article Rafa wrote about Moya: http://tinyurl.com/26fhfft


Posted by temes 11/26/2010 at 07:36 AM

I strongly doubt any player calculates anything else except winning a match...chances are if you don't just concentrate on giving 100% in elite pro tennis you will lose very badly. Unless of course that is the intention... lol

Posted by mellow yellow 11/26/2010 at 07:36 AM

Looks like Nadal should have an easy time of it in the SF. From Murray's presser yesterday:

Q. I'm intrigued with you saying you don't think you have much chance to beat Rafa. You beat him the last time on hard courts. Why don't you think you'll have a good chance this time?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, I mean, he's obviously the best player in the world. I've watched his matches here. He's been playing unbelievably well. You know, I don't seem to beat those guys in the big matches. So, you know, I'm going to have to play my best tennis against him to win. I need to do it in a big match, in the semis. I have to see whether I can do that or not.

Q. So you're not confident?
ANDY MURRAY: No, not really. But I'll try and win against him.

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 07:42 AM

rafafan, remember the two commas, one after another wouldn't look good :-)
jackson, of course, because that's what champions do. I'm no champion and would prefer Rafa to meet Roger asap. That will give him confidence for the final :-P

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 07:43 AM

"chances are if you don't just concentrate on giving 100% in elite pro tennis you will lose very badly."
Yeah temes, MAndy said in his presser that his poor start was due to the unique nature of RR play.

Mellow yellow: Rafa is the only part of Fedal that MAndy has beaten in the big matches. He's also on a great h/court run against Rafa. So he does play him with belief. Given the grief he's gotten over the Fed match and the fact that he's playing at home, I think he's probably emphasizing, perhaps for himself, that's he's the underdog. I don't think that means he's gonna lie down.

Posted by wilson75 11/26/2010 at 07:44 AM

x-fan: I don't go around counting how many articles are written about my favourite player but to be fair to the staff here, a Racquet Reaction about Rafa's match on Wednesday was unnecessary because there was nothing to write about. Not to mention, given that it was the day before Thanksgiving in the US, there was probably nobody around to write it.

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 07:47 AM

temes, of course I'm kidding. And specifically Rafa, he hates to lose even playing ludo.

Posted by x-fan 11/26/2010 at 07:47 AM

Wilson,
I see your point but I'm also trying to be fair to Jackson and I understand why he has that perception. It's not just about the racket reaction posts and I don't think one needs to count the posts in general to know that Fed gets talked about a lot more on TW than any other player which like I said I completely understand.

Posted by mellow yellow 11/26/2010 at 07:48 AM

GB, it's always worrying though when a player admits they don't have confidence in beating a certain player. But maybe Murray is trying some reverse psychology since Nadal is usually the one to claim he's the underdog, has to play his very best etc. in order to transfer the pressure to his opponent.

Posted by wilson75 11/26/2010 at 07:48 AM

mellow yellow: I think Murray has the right approach. He knows that this is a big match and that the Rafa he will be facing will not be the same player he faced in Toronto. It's better keep expectations low than to build them up and then look like a fool in the event of a loss to Rafa.

Posted by wilson75 11/26/2010 at 07:54 AM

x-fan: Well, as long as Federer is around he's going to be talked about. After the career he's had he can't be ignored. I think Rafa will be the main talking point next year because of his strong position at the top and his attempt to get the Rafa slam. Jackson doesn't to worry about that.

Posted by fedfan 11/26/2010 at 07:54 AM

I used to think doubles was boring, but with the shortened format and the highly proficient teams now on the circuit, it has become very enjoyable. It's fast paced and involves more strategy than even top level singles. I think a viewer who has played and enjoyed doubles is at an advantage as a viewer, though.

Posted by temes 11/26/2010 at 07:54 AM

Kwaku, I know. I was sort of half talking to myself and not replying to anyone in particular. lol

Posted by x-fan 11/26/2010 at 07:54 AM

Murray has won 4 of the last 5 hard court matches he's played against Rafa.
I can understand wanting to lower expectations but it does come across a little disingenuous on his part to say that he basically has no chance.

Posted by x-fan 11/26/2010 at 07:56 AM

Wilson,
Yes I agree with you, I just didn't want to dismiss Jackson's perceptions.

Posted by x-fan 11/26/2010 at 07:58 AM

Jackson,
Btw if you are still around, Steve does write more about your favorite which I think provides some balance between concrete elbow and tennis world.

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 07:58 AM

Murray --"I’m playing with the two best players of all time in front of me."

Well, I hope msf does not read this :-D

Posted by x-fan 11/26/2010 at 07:59 AM

Kwaku,

LOL!
You've given me a good parting laugh! How dare Murray forget the great oldies??

Will be back later for Berdych versus Nadal.

Posted by wilson75 11/26/2010 at 08:01 AM

x-fan: re. Murray, I think he's being cautious and probably trying to play down the hype that the British press is notorious for. I think it's a good tactic. Just imagine if he said "I think I will beat Rafa" and then he loses, the press will have a field day. I don't think he actually believes what he says, it just a defense mechanism.

Posted by story of Os 11/26/2010 at 08:03 AM

Hi Northernboy
Nestor left Knowles in hope of more slams and there was nothing wrong with that as a professional player.
From what I read, he was the dumpee in Zimonijic's case.
Nestor never has good stamina, otherwise he would have been an interesting tennis player to watch in both singles and doubles.

Posted by jenny 11/26/2010 at 08:03 AM

Great point of view

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynnGL_IPhiU

Posted by ladyjulia 11/26/2010 at 08:13 AM

kwaku,

I am critical quite a lot about Rafa, but i don't see anything why Rafa would not deserve the Edberg award. I think he deserves it and its nice that players have acknowledged that as well.

xfan,

I think Fed gets written about more because he has cemented his legacy. Like the crowd, he pulls in crowds for matches as well as media attention since he is sort of a living legend.

Now, so is Rafa..but Rafa is still young. He is only beginning to cement his legacy sort of. So, he will start getting all the attention, scrutiny (he already pulls in crowds) in a huge measure..especially as he goes for calendar slam next year or all four slams in a row at AO. The media won't let go of him then. I am sure if he even sneezes, it will be reported.

As Rafa reaches the boring part of the narrative (i.e. domination of the tour)...Fed is on the more interesting part of the narrative since he is vulnerable, likely to lose and lots of psychoanalysis since he was so dominant before...that its such a big contrast now. There is much more to write about now...than say 2007 when writers didn't know what to write about the Fed..unless he hit this shot or that shot..but he dominated so clearly that it was boring to keep repeating the same praise over and over again. Rafa will no doubt reach that stage too...but its probably not for another two years.

This WTF is sort of low key this year...i think because its a bit too late..but i think its just an outlier that there were three articles on Fed and one on Rafa.

Posted by mellow yellow 11/26/2010 at 08:13 AM

I don't expect Murray to come out and say he's going to beat Nadal. But to say "But I'm not sure I've got a whole lot of chance if I play against him"? That seems quite defeatist.

Posted by jodiecate 11/26/2010 at 08:14 AM

I'm surprised more people aren't interested in doubles tennis, i guess all the "non-marketing" is a big part of it - it's just i remember from high school people seemed a lot more interested in playing doubles rather than singles, it was more of a fun thing to do as you had people to hang out with - you didn't have to do it all on your own. Perhaps it's something that's more fun to do than to watch others doing???

Not that i watch doubles much, or played it at all even (i was a ballet dancer then - tennis not really compatible), but i do enjoy watching it as it's interesting to see how the "team" aspect changes the game so much. You have a bigger court, but as there's two of you, you don't have more space, you have less, but you've doubled your arm and leg count so can get to more, cover more space - but so does your opponent.

Anyway... i'm surprised, given the Bryan's success that we don't see more twins teams playing doubles tennis, it would definitely be an advantage to have a partner who you knew soooo closely and understood all their expressions and gestures. I hope it doesn't die off, perhaps the singles players using it to fine up their close court game can bulk it out for a time until we get more folk interested in developing the specialist craft.

Is an interesting conundrum. What will happen???

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 08:17 AM

I think Murray is making a distinction between beating Federer in general, and doing it where it counts: "I don't seem to beat those guys in the big matches". His h2h with Federer is positive overall, but not even once! at slams or WTF.

With Rafa it is different in two ways: he beat him twice at slams (USO and AO) but his overall h2h is negative (4-8). However he seems to make a comparison between both.

And the form of the moment of course makes a difference. If he saw Rafa play with Nole (even just the first 10 games), I understand he thinks it will be difficult. But I think he has more chances than he thinks (or says) himself.

P.S. Or maybe his confidence is 100% and we don't get it: he didn't just say he would try to win, he actually said he would win. Even twice:
"But I’ll try. I’ll try and win."
And then again:
"But I’ll try and win against him."
:-)

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 08:23 AM

Anyway, Muzz shouldn't be getting ahead of himself, Rafa's a long way from the semis

Posted by ladyjulia 11/26/2010 at 08:26 AM

Murray seems to be copying Rafa in humbleness now. He has not beaten Rafa on the big stages? How about USO 2008?

What next..Nole saying he has no chance before a match?

Whatever happened to players putting pressure on themselves and living up to the pressure?

It takes guts to say that you will beat a player and then go on to beat them. Even Nole has mellowed down so much in the years. His parents were a bit too far with king is dead etc...but it was nice to hear Nole say that he would beat the Fed, and that was when the Fed was virtually unbeatable. And he did it too at AO 2008. It takes guts to do that when the player knows that he can fail.

The Muzz ofcourse has to deal with the press...but i remember him saying he would knock Fed out of YEC 2008 because he didn't want to play the Fed twice in the tournament. And he did it too. Too mellow now, IMO.

Posted by wilson75 11/26/2010 at 08:28 AM

GB: You're right. But Murray tends to do that a lot. Just before this tournament he was talking about playing Rafa in the finals.

Posted by Kwaku 11/26/2010 at 08:29 AM

Why always look for second intentions? Murray is just not feeling that confident and he says it.

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 08:37 AM

wilson75: I saw the video of that interview. What he actually said was that he loves playing Rafa because the rallies are the most fun and they've known each other since they were young(he also said he loves playing Fed); and that he thought Rafa would be the toughest guy to beat (because he didn't want to answer the question of who would be the easiest:)) It was the interviewer who then ran with how a RafAndy final would be great.

Posted by jackson 11/26/2010 at 08:37 AM

x-fan, thank you for understanding the point I was trying to make. I know full well that Tennis World is Roger Federer World but still, Rafa being #1 and all, it would be nice for his fans if he was treated as such. And yeah, Steve is a great writer and he definitely has more of an appreciation for Rafa's game (and personality). Peter can never write anything about Rafa without comparing or contrasting him to Roger which gets a little tedious. Good thing for us fans there are other sites and forums where tennis is the main topic of conversation and not necessarily Roger's tennis. :)


Posted by Ruth 11/26/2010 at 08:43 AM

"I don't expect Murray to come out and say he's going to beat Nadal. But to say "But I'm not sure I've got a whole lot of chance if I play against him"? That seems quite defeatist."

Agreed. And what an odd attitude for someone who has beaten the "two greatest players of all time" (in his opinion)quite a few times ??!!! LOL

You wouldn't have to be msf to find that characterization of R and R a bit overblown, even if it comes from a 23-year-old who may not have extensive acquaintance with the history of tennis.

Posted by wilson75 11/26/2010 at 08:43 AM

GB: Thanks for the info. You know by the time an interview goes thru the media filter, the player ends up saying something completely different. BTW, re. Murray not feeling confident about playing Rafa, he did say that he would like to play Rafa in the SF in the on-court interview yesterday. That's why I don't truly believe what he said in his presser.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/26/2010 at 08:45 AM

jackson,

That's funny...when i came to this site in 2008...I thought Pete was a thorough Rafa fan. It was all about Rafa mostly and Pete was glowing in praise almost every time i read his article.

But you are right about this:

"Peter can never write anything about Rafa without comparing or contrasting him to Roger which gets a little tedious."

Its a little unfortunate that Rafa is 5 yrs younger to Fed..but usually a legend announces his arrival by beating the current legend of that time. So it was with Fed who defeated Sampras at Wimby...and so it was with Rafa too who defeated Fed and announced his arrival. It will take some time for Rafa to cement his legacy...and it will surely help if the Fed retires, so Rafa will be the only legend on the tour. But until then, Rafa will be compared to the Fed. Because Fed is the preceding legend who is still playing.

Posted by jackson 11/26/2010 at 08:46 AM

I think Murray's a bit befuddled right now about how he should react to questions in the press. Poor guy has been burned by the British media no matter what he does or says. He noted in his presser after the Fed match that they were on him about not showing more emotion and fight and, as he said, he gets a rough time from them when he's acted out on court and done his moaning and groaning and cursing act. He has a very dry sense of humour though so I wouldn't be surprised if he was just pulling their leg a bit with his overly humble comments this time. I can't believe he doesn't really think he's got as good a chance against Rafa as anyone.

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 08:51 AM

wilson75: the media definitely filters to find the angle they want!

Given how Muzz has talked about loving playing Fedal and wanting to play Rafa here etc, I think he enjoys stepping up to the challenge. Enjoying the insane level of expectation/pressure the brits put on him, especially in a home tourney, is another thing entirely. I can't speak for Muzz, he may well consider himself to be the underdog, but his play against Rafa has never betrayed a lack of hope or belief.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/26/2010 at 08:53 AM

So, when Rafa says he is not going to win and that he is an underdog, everybody believes him.

When Muzz says he is not confident that he is going to win, nobody believes that he believes himself to be an underdog.

That's interesting.

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 08:54 AM

Muzz had this mysterious tweet today: "If sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, why don't smart people get it? Or are they smart?"

Posted by mg 11/26/2010 at 08:56 AM

Thanks for the thought provoking post. I've been wondering about doubles as well. I used to avoid it like the plague until I went to Toronto in 2008 and saw the Bryans live. Unlike the singles matches, which usually took a couple games to get interesting, it was exciting from the first point.

Is doubles just one of those things where there's a huge difference seeing it live? It well may be, but I think the ATP is missing out on their opportunity to test this theory.

If any team is exciting enough to watch on TV it would be the Bryans. It would have been interesting to see the ATP get more mileage out of that. I mean didn't the doubles race last year go down to the last match? I think the Nestor/Zimonjic rivalry could have been exploited more.

In the end, it may well be that doubles is like the theater, with just enough people realizing that it's vitally important but never enough to make it extremely profitable.

Posted by jackson 11/26/2010 at 08:57 AM

ladyjulia, I take your point about Fed being the legend and all but it's not as if Rafa has just suddenly burst on the scene in the last six months or so. I mean, he was #2 longer than anyone else has ever been and was #1 for a good period as well. He's been at the very pinnacle of the game of five or six years now and it would be fair to treat him and his reputation as pretty darned good in his own right.

I'm not saying he never gets praise or accolades. Of course he does and with good reason. After Rafa made it to #1 in 2008, he was widely acclaimed and then when he dropped back down to #2, it was a good story how Fed was able to get his top ranking back. I thought though, that once Rafa reclaimed #1, the focus would finally switch back to him but instead it's been as much about Fed's possible fading glory that's been as big a story. I sure hope we don't have to wait until Fed retires before Rafa as the best player in the world gets his due - Fed has said he wants to play another five or six years! :D

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 08:58 AM

Ladyjulia: I said I can't speak for Muzz. The distinction I wanted to make (which I also make for Rafa) is between considering yourself the underdog and considering yourself beaten before you step onto court.

There is also a slight difference in that this is a newly adamant stance from Muzz.

Posted by lilscot 11/26/2010 at 08:58 AM

Let's get read to ruuuuummmmmbble! VAMOS RAFA! Oh, and good morning everyone. :)

Posted by jackson 11/26/2010 at 09:01 AM

"So, when Rafa says he is not going to win and that he is an underdog, everybody believes him."

Ah, but lj, Rafa never say he is not going to win. He always always says the match will be tough, the opponent is very good, but he will go out there and try his best. Quite a difference from what Andy said.

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 09:02 AM

Good to see you delurking mg

Posted by Master Ace 11/26/2010 at 09:02 AM

Tomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal are on the court at London

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/26/2010 at 09:03 AM

GB 11/26/2010 at 01:05 AM

It's such a shame dubs isn't shown more on TV, or even available online
-----------------

GB: doubles streams are indeed available on the WTF site, the ATP's tennistv that ordinarily requires a hefty subscription. They stream the dubs for free, it's great. Now, that doesn't make up for the fact that we don't see lots of dubs on TV throughout the year, but I just watched Nestor/Zimi v. Marach/Kubot. M/K won, but N/Z are still through - to play the Bryans tomorrow.

As for the split of Nestor and Nenad, I think it's just that they're both family men now, and maybe Nenad has opportunities that will keep him closer to home, such as working with the Serbian Federation or promoting Serbia Open.

Posted by Master Ace 11/26/2010 at 09:04 AM

Mg,
Correct that number 1 was decided in the last match won by the Bryans after Nestor/Zimonjic could not close the deal in RR play. Good thought about the Bryans could have been on mainstream TV to advertise doubles.

Posted by jackson 11/26/2010 at 09:04 AM

Awww. Tomas was so sweet to that little kid.

Rafa? Not so much. LOL

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 09:05 AM

Robbie "Rafa is Poetry In Motion"???

Good Morning Everyone,

Both Players are on court

Robbie I see has his Rafa Hat On

Posted by Holds 2 Love 11/26/2010 at 09:05 AM

The child coming out with Berdych seemed quite nervous and Berdych seemed sweet about it. Nadal to receive.

Posted by Master Ace 11/26/2010 at 09:05 AM

Carlos Bernandes is the chair umpire

Rafael won the toss and elects to receive

Posted by lilscot 11/26/2010 at 09:06 AM

Wow, that's really strange to read those comments by Andy about his possible match against Rafa. Sure doesn't sound much like a pep-talk. I know players tend to downplay their chances in big matches to take some pressure off, but what Andy said is downright gloomy.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/26/2010 at 09:06 AM

Hey everyone. :)

Cheers for your comment at 5.04, Gauly. Makes sense. :) & I love your drop-shot classification.

Posted by wilson75 11/26/2010 at 09:07 AM

AM: You're here! I thought you weren't going to make it. I hope you have left the drinks and drugs in the cabinet today.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 09:07 AM

Rafa won the toss

I wish on a hard court he would serve first.Hmm

Posted by GB 11/26/2010 at 09:09 AM

AM: I completely disagree with wilson75 - I hope you have lots of vodka ready to distribute.

Thanks for the info Tina! BTW, have you heard anything more about Nole's eye?

Hi Jewel!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 09:09 AM

wilson75 I was just reading sone posts here.I see some Rafa fans have their Rafa Eyes on here already lol!

Posted by wilson75 11/26/2010 at 09:10 AM

GB: I'm sure you wont need it today.

Posted by Master Ace 11/26/2010 at 09:10 AM

Barry Cowin and Peter Fleming doing the commentary for Sky Sports

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/26/2010 at 09:10 AM

GB No.I havent heard anything more as yet.I guess we will "see" srry for the pun later when he plays.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/26/2010 at 09:10 AM

Andrew Castle thinks Murray was a bit negative & has no reason to be. If we need to pay any attention to Castle, that is. :)

Posted by Nam1 11/26/2010 at 09:11 AM

hello

any streams available?

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