Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - W: Report Cards
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W: Report Cards 07/08/2008 - 9:53 PM

RnWhen it was all over, when the only thing left to do was watch Brad Gilbert stand up, touchingly and awkwardly, and applaud for Rafael Nadal in the ESPN studios, I slouched back into the couch cushions, still sweating a little, and said, aloud, to no one: “Now I have to describe this?” Was it possible to do this match justice? Was it possible to give it a grade?

A few minutes later Nadal appeared in the pressroom. He was asked how he felt about his victory over Roger Federer, on Centre Court, after five hours and as many match points, 9-7 in the fifth set, with darkness surrounding him, for his first Wimbledon title. He answered in the only way that made any kind of sense: “Impossible to describe.” I thought: You’re right, Rafa, but you’re not helping.

It’s his job to play and mine to write. And can a tennis writer ask for anything better to write about than what happened at Wimbledon this past weekend? Let the A-pluses flow.

Rafael Nadal
The image of Nadal from Sunday that comes to my mind first is not of him pumping his fist, screaming “vamos!” or belting an inside-out forehand winner, though it’s easy to recall one of those if necessary. It’s of him holding the winner’s trophy in the dark on Centre Court, his face and the top of his white jacket lit up by a hundred flashbulbs, his headband gone and hair loose. This was a new Nadal. In the blink of an eye, he’d shed the pirate look and the beast of Mallorca image and taken on the bearing and style of a Wimbledon champion—albeit one who isn't above biting the trophy. He was no longer the world’s greatest No. 2, no longer the hard-working second-fiddle, no longer destined to be mentioned after the words those grand words, “Roger Federer.” Nadal is now part of the sport’s history and tradition in his own right. That’s what happens when you win on Centre Court. It’s why the all-time greats like Federer and Pete Sampras love this place the most—it made them. I could imagine seeing this photo of Rafa in 30 years, in the parade of Wimbledon champions from Jack Kramer to Roger Federer. “The Spanish great Nadal at Wimbledon,” the caption would read.

I said coming into Wimbledon that Nadal had a new aura about him, a No. 1-player’s aura, and he maintained it right until the end. Or almost until the end. He was the better player in the final, particularly once the rallies began, and could have won in straight sets. But like last year, he got tight at the finish line. Up two sets and tied at 3-3 in the third, Nadal played brilliantly to reach 0-40 on Federer’s serve. He may have let a brief vision of himself holding the trophy pass through his disciplined mind, because suddenly he couldn’t get the ball over the net, even on a forehand return of a second serve. Federer came back to hold, found his rhythm on his serve and forehand, and matched Nadal shot for shot the rest of the way.

Nadal got himself back to the brink again in the fourth set, only to suffer the same last-second nerves. Up 5-2 in the tiebreaker, with two serves coming, he double-faulted and dumped a routine backhand into the net. After the second shot, he showed one of the few traces of anger he would betray all afternoon, whipping his racquet like a fly-swatter. Again he pushed back to the brink, hitting one of the many, many shots of the match, a thread-the-needle forehand pass after a mad dash across the baseline. That brought him to match point, where he went with the percentages—swing serve to Federer’s backhand, swing approach to the same spot—and was beaten by Federer’s own thread-the-needle backhand pass into the corner.

At this point, Nadal could have been forgiven for wondering, Am I meant to win Wimbledon? As Nadal’s last return floated long to end the fourth set, I thought we may finally have discovered a weakness, a chink in the mental armor: Faced with the prospect of fulfilling his dream of winning the world’s biggest tournament, Nadal couldn’t close the deal. A couple points into the fifth set, I knew we'd found no such thing. Nadal came out and hit his first few backhands with the same gusto and confidence he’d shown on that shot all afternoon. By the time he’d held for 1-1, the fist-pumps were back. Somehow, the fact that his lifelong dreams had been horribly, cruelly crushed a few minutes earlier had been utterly forgotten.

The classic example of ice-in-the-veins willpower in tennis is Bjorn Borg’s victory in the fifth set of the 1980 Wimbledon final, after he had squandered multiple match points in the 18-16 fourth-set tiebreaker. His opponent that day, John McEnroe, has often wondered how Borg was capable of staying in the moment. Nadal’s achievement, while almost identical (this tiebreaker was 10-8 but equally heartbreaking), surpasses Borg’s for the simple fact that the Swede got to serve first in that fifth set, while Nadal had to serve second.

This is the equivalent of being the away team in extra innings in baseball. When you have to serve to stay in the match, you’re always just a couple of bad swings away from defeat. Nadal faced one break point in the final set, at 3-4. He took Federer’s return and drilled an inside-out forehand into the corner, then finished with an overhead and a fist-pump. Dick Enberg chuckled at the chutzpah: “Nadal has the guts of a daylight burglar,” he said. The term was apt: If he misses that go-for-broke forehand, he’s most likely just lost the Wimbledon final. He didn’t miss it. In the end, the match that I thought might reveal the limits of Nadal’s mental resources revealed the opposite. He had even more—more willpower in the head, more ice in the veins—than we knew.

What does Nadal’s win represent? Think back to David Foster Wallace’s allegedly brilliant essay from the NY Times two years ago, "Roger Federer as Religious Experience." I’ve brought this piece up before, but it’s worth revisiting because it’s representative of an attitude among traditionalist tennis aficionados, in my opinion. The setting was the 2006 Wimbledon final. Foster Wallace cast the calm, free-flowing, instinctive Federer as the modern-day manifestation of tennis genius. Nadal was summed up, in derogatory fashion, as a “martial” player, limited and earthbound compared to Federer. Could this article appear in a major publication and be lauded the same way now, after Sunday’s final? I don’t think so. Nadal has shown that tennis genius doesn’t have to be cool and free-flowing. It can be martial. It can be grinding. It can grunt. It can be unorthodox rather than elegant. It can have its roots in the grungy clay-court game yet still conquer the genteel grass version. It can wear pirate pants rather than cardigans. It can be all those things and still make you shake your head in awe, just as we do with Federer.

Think about the final game of the match, when Nadal attempted, after all the earlier failures and with the light speedily dimming, to serve it out at 8-7. He nervously sent his first forehand long. On the next point, he hit a serve wide, and, for the first time all match, followed it to the net, where he knocked off an easy volley. From some players, you might call this a bailout option, a way to avoid a nerve-wracking rally. From Nadal, it was the opposite: He saw that when he was trying to finish the match, the dynamics of the points were working against him—he was getting tight, playing the percentages, playing not to lose. So he changed the dynamic. It was a simple and gutsy—instinctive—move. If there’s such a thing as tennis genius, this was it.

What would a genius be without a little luck to help? On the final point, Nadal looked tight again as he popped a sitter backhand to Federer’s service line. It looked like a sure opportunity for Federer, and he closed on the ball. But it wasn’t where he thought it was going to be. It had taken a weird bounce and jumped right. Federer mistimed it and hit it weakly into the net. In the end, Nadal had triumphed on grass the old-fashioned way—with a bad hop.

I interviewed Nadal at Key Biscayne in 2006. He was antsy and guarded most of the time. But when I asked about Wimbledon, he became vehement. He made a fist and said, “I will do well at Wimbledon.” The year before, he had lost in the second round to Gilles Muller. I didn’t believe that this Spanish clay-courter would ever do much on grass. What I didn't know was that winning on clay, where he was supposed to win, didn’t get to the bottom of Rafael Nadal. He wanted to be a tennis champion. That meant winning on Centre Court. The photo proves it: He’s a tennis champion. A+

Men’s Final
Was this the greatest match of all time? SI’s Jon Wertheim had an unintentionally funny line when he was interviewed about it on the PBS Newshour yesterday. He said, “I’m usually pretty level-headed about these things, but I’m going to say unequivocally that this was the greatest match in tennis history.” I know what he means.

Rn2What are the elements that go into “greatest” matches? First there’s the level of play. The highest-quality match I had ever seen before yesterday was the 2007 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal. This beat it. By a lot. The winner to error ratios, particularly Nadal’s, were excellent, and Federer served like a dream. But it was the shots that didn’t become winners that were even more remarkable. So many balls that would have screamed past anyone else were returned, with authority. You won’t find them on the stat sheet.

It was tough to tell the opening of the first set from the closing of the fifth. At both times, Federer and Nadal were running full out and playing forcefully. It was go-for-broke tennis, but within intelligent limits; rallies consisted of a short series of probing jabs, quick moves up and back, and then a haymaker to end it. If one guy left a ball hanging, the other rifled it toward a corner every time. Nadal has improved his backhand from last year. He slaps through it with more flat pace than he gets on his forehand. Federer not only couldn’t break it down, he couldn’t push Nadal into his backhand corner and open up the court. Nadal played a version of the game he uses against Federer on clay, but he was more willing to go into the forehand corner and take risks even when he wasn’t positioned near the center of the court. He mixed up his serve constantly, and went to the body at the right moments. As for Federer, he started slowly but gained traction by giving a master class in grass-court tennis over the last three sets. Wide serve, forehand into open court: This is the modern equivalent of the serve and volley, and no one does it as effectively as Federer. He seems to love serving on Centre Court more than anywhere else.

Beyond the basics of tactics and execution, it was the style with which these two played that raised the match still further. Borg vs. McEnroe in 1980 was a long series of forays and angles; Sampras vs. Ivanisevic in 1998 was a long series of serves bulleted into the frames of the returners; Federer vs. Nadal was a series of topspin missiles that bent and dove in midair and landed in the farthest reaches of the court. For all their differences, if you just watched their strokes and the paths their shots took, you’d have a hard time telling who had hit what. Both swing with a violent upward motion around the head that carries their bodies off the ground. This co-style is how tennis circa 2008 will be remembered.

Of course, it’s the differences that made the match worth watching. Federer’s characteristic winner was a seemingly impossible forehand that he hit inside-out while floating away from the ball. A remarkable shot, since he gets almost none of his body into it. (In his own way, Federer blows up the textbook every bit as much as his opponent.) Nadal’s version of this shot was the crosscourt backhand that he consistently hammered with a completely open stance and his upper body jerked downward, in the opposite direction of the ball. He used this for offense, and also as a sort of goalie-style defensive shot when Federer sent a hard approach down the middle. In both cases, his control with it was uncanny.

In a “greatest” match, the high-quality play must be backed up with drama, personality, history. We had plenty of all three. The personalities and body languages, as always, were polar opposites: Nadal bustled around the court between points, chest out, brows furrowed; Federer leaned back as he flipped his feet in front of him with casual assurance. The history was tied to the same legend, Bjorn Borg, who was sitting in the stands: Federer was trying to break Borg’s modern record of five straight Wimbledons; Nadal was trying to become the first man since the Swede to win the French and Wimbledon back to back. As for drama, it was heightened by the race against encroaching darkness, which lent a wild edge to the end of the fifth set. This match would always have been a classic, but the flash-bulbs that peppered the dusky trophy ceremony ensure that it will be instantly recognizable in the future, its atmosphere as unique as its shot-making.

Then we came to the end. Nadal’s celebration—a helpless, painfully relieved fall to his back, with his legs and arms splayed—was electric. You felt like he was at the center of a current that was circling Centre Court and exploding in flash photos. But there are two moments I’ll remember just as much at that. Before the final point, Nadal’s Uncle Toni finally couldn’t take it anymore. He had to get out of his seat and move down to the front row of the player’s box. He lifted his arm and gestured to his nephew to do it now. The spontaneity and urgency of that gesture captured the excruciating nature of the moment. After the final point, when Federer put the last ball into the net and Nadal hit the dirt, you could see Roger Federer’s father, Robert, proudly sporting his son’s red RF logo hat, immediately stand to clap. He kept clapping as Nadal climbed the player’s box, crushingly hugged his parents and Uncle Toni, and stamped past the Federer entourage to shake hands with Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick. Would you think less of me if I told you I had a tear—or two, or three—in my eye, for Rafa, for Robert Federer, for Uncle Toni, for Mirka, who touched Nadal’s leg as he walked past, and for Mr. and Mrs. Nadal, who sat tormented for seven hours before they could let it out? In what other sport, in what other arena, on what other night, would you see anything like this?

Greatest ever, by a mile. A+

VwVenus Williams
Poor Venus. She rolls through the draw for a second straight year, doesn’t lose a set, and handles a difficult win over her sister in the final with easy dignity. Then everyone forgets all about it 24 hours later. Don’t: This was not just a customarily imperious and focused effort from Venus—the sight of her crazy legs gobbling up ground along the baseline is now as much a part of Centre Court lore as the sight of Pete Sampras bombing aces there—it also felt like a landmark in how the Williamses handle playing each other. It was winner-take-all competition and sibling rivalry at its most adult. The edges, and the awkwardness, weren't as obvious. I wonder: We say it's hard for them to compete because they love each other, but isn't your sibling also the person you want to beat more than anyone else in the world? Has this edge been dulled in Serena over the years?

Either way, it was the best match they’ve played—not a classic contest, but a compelling one. Venus weathered an early Serena storm calmly, and took control of the match methodically. I’ve always thought their matches can be scratchy in part because each runs down shots that would be winners against anyone else. That leads to extra shots and, eventually, errors. This time, little sister looked she had nowhere good to go with the ball by the end. A+

Roger Federer
For a world No. 1 and five-time defending champion, Federer looked oddly aggrieved through much of his final against Nadal. HawkEye had it in for him, the chair umpire annoyed him, a Nadal shot that landed inside the line inspired a wild, hopeless challenge. The force of Nadal’s momentum over the last few months seemed to have put doubt in Federer's mind, and he wasn’t happy about it—why should he, Roger Federer, doubt himself on Centre Court against anybody? But he did. You could see it in the way his shots on break points found the net. You could see it in the way he quickly surrendered a 4-2 lead in the second set and lost four straight games. That just doesn’t happen to him against anyone else.

Which makes his stubborn comeback effort all the more impressive. Federer, as he said afterward, “tried everything.” But he was playing a guy who could match him, jaw-dropping winner for jaw-dropping winner, and who was using his tricky serve to keep him terminally off-balance. Late in the fifth set, Federer opened a return game by hitting a forehand winner down the line. It was an intimidating shot that might have rattled another player. Two points later, Nadal cracked his own, equally intimidating forehand winner and eventually held. Against everyone else, Federer can, and does, assume a natural superiority; he knows he’s better, and that if he plays well, he’ll win. He can’t assume this against Nadal. He has to start on equivalent mental footing with the Spaniard. This leaves Federer, as I said, a little aggrieved and unsure of himself.

Federer was a good loser. He looked gutted and exhausted when he talked to Sue Barker, his hair uncharacteristically sweaty and lank, a far cry from the ebullient winner in the white jacket of previous years. We might have wished that he hadn’t mentioned how dark it was and that the conditions were tough—they were for both guys—but Federer managed to keep it light when he said he played the “worst” opponent on the “best surface.” To ask for perfect grace and no trace of bitterness from him at this moment would be to ask too much.

Federer showed off the runner’s-up plate with surprising, classy enthusiasm, and walked around the court waving as if he were still the champ. What’s that Kipling line we hear so much about at Wimbledon: “If you can meet triumph and disaster and treat them just the same…”? On Sunday, Federer came as close as anyone could expect to living up to that brutal ideal. A

RfThe Cardigan
I began by hating it, especially the big RF monogram. But on Centre Court, after the match, as Federer tried to hide his crushing disappointment, it worked. This is the traditional outfit of the tennis gentleman. And the gentleman, as Kipling says, defines himself by how he handles defeat. Whatever Federer was thinking on the inside, he looked sporting on the outside. A

Serena Williams
She had another Grand Slam resurgence. Let’s hope it lasts. My lasting memory of her will be one of confusion. She couldn’t find the key to beating her sister, and she couldn’t quite believe she was losing. She was flummoxed—by the wind, by the slippery surface,, by Venus, who made her hit better shots than she normally has to and pushed her out of her comfort zone at the middle of the baseline. Even in the trophy ceremony, as her sister was singing her praises, Serena looked distracted, squinting blankly and unsmilingly into her second-place plate. A-

Marat Safin
He showed he still can command the big stage now and then, but, unlike the two finalists, he doesn’t have the ambition to make Centre Court his home. He’s got everything else, and seeing—hearing—that old fabulous backhand walloped down the line again made the tournament a little more fun. A-

Brad Gilbert
I didn’t see much of him, so he couldn’t become grating. But how can you not like a guy, who, right after a 9-7 fifth-set final, states that it will not be Federer who breaks Sampras’ record of 14 Slams, it will be Nadal. Never mind that Gilbert once said Federer would win 20 Slams and recently gave TENNIS Magazine three reasons why Nadal wouldn’t win this year’s French Open. He's a man with big ideas, even if they can be a little hare-brained. A-

Dick Enberg/Patrick McEnroe
The best call of the final was by these guys, for ESPN Classic. Not too much talk, and a couple of good lines from Enberg, who called the match what it was: “excruciatingly entertaining.” A-

Bjorn Borg
The tie, the shirt, the unflappable demaeanor: The guy’s as good at watching as he was playing. Let’s bring him to Flushing Meadows, even if he can't stand the place. A-

Jie Zheng
Enjoyed her short, sharp, low to the ground grass game, even if I won’t see it again until next year’s Wimbledon. A-

Agnieszka Radwanska
Watch the smooth ground strokes, smile at the transparent facial expressions, remember the name, no matter how you pronounce it in your head. B+

Andy Murray
Has the teeth-barer turned a corner and begun to rein in his disorganized game? I’m going to say yes, even though he reigned it in too far against Nadal. The match with Gasquet was hilarious. B+

Chris Fowler
He tries too hard when he calls matches, but he’s a pro in the studio, and I thought ESPN’s post-final wrap was solid and entertaining. It did justice, with a little wackiness thrown in, to the match that had just been played. B+

Amelie Mauresmo
We’ll miss when you go. B+

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
We welcome you, if you want to stay. B

John McEnroe
I thought he had an off day on Sunday. He’s always low-key, but this time he seemed to be restating the obvious more often than usual. Still, I wouldn’t want to hear anyone else call Federer-Nadal. B

OK, I can’t write any more at the moment. I’ll have to say good night to the best fortnight—or at least the best final two days of a fortnight—I can remember.

Who did I forget? Who deserved an F?


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by Carrie 07/10/2008 at 11:11 PM

great- the steroid accusations again.

I guess we should think that Miguel Angel is on the roids too since he has a similar physique to Rafa and was built when he was young as well.

My boyfriend in high school was a gymnast and was built when he was 15. He was clean.

Rafa has improved his serve yes- but he has been working on it hard over the past year. There have been accounts of him working on it for long stretches at practice. His agenda with the serve has changed- it used to be to just roll it in and get the point going. He has worked to make it a weapon not a means to an end. He has been practicing and working on it. And as John McEnroe pointed out- it has taken him longer to find the form that works because he is a natural righty.

Not all progress is the result of drugs Jim. Would you just want people to dismiss and sneer away Rafa and say of course he has been on drugs- negative tests be damned.

It should make you happy that Skip Bayless brought up roids in his comments when he was saying that Rafa is so big. The funny thing is is that Rafa is actually a lot leaner in person. And Becker was very built when he was 17 but he had sleeves that covered it up. Are you going to say that he was on roids too? What about Borg- who could run all day?

I don't like the inference that drugs are the only way Rafa has sucess. It is dismissive and says that his success is undeserved. A lot of those who sneer away his acheivements like that say that they are the only explanation. Actually there are a number of explanations- but the accusers just want to hear one. Hard work can have a pay off. And people have seen Nadal put in the hard work.

And for all this talk about Rafa;s body- he has a scrawny chest. lol

Posted by Andrew Miller 07/11/2008 at 12:07 AM

Steve Tignor: A+
Peter Bodo: A+
Kamk & Perrota: A+

I think you both wrote the premier articles/items on Wimbledon, with only KT and TP nipping at the heels.

I read everything I could everywhere I could, and only the Times of London came close, and some work by Chris Clarey/Matt Cronin. ESPN/CNNSI/SI then followed. Some interesting queries from Tennis-X.

But Tignor and Bodo really won this tournament from a writing standpoint.

Posted by John B 07/11/2008 at 12:53 AM

I'll tell you who deserves an F every year. Mary Carillo. Why do we all have to listen to her still? She has been horrible forever. She is the reason ratings have been low for a decade. I don't know anyone who can stand to listen to her or watch her.

Posted by james 07/11/2008 at 01:33 AM

i am always surprised how all people turn on the champion wen he slips in one of his steps...

just give the man a break(federer)... i am a HUGE fan of federer, and honestly that was the hardest loss he can eva encounter, but we all have to admit that he played as a complete champion... if you all remember wat he said before the match began- "i hope i play a good match" , and thats definitely wat he did. we all have to admit that if federer lost on sunday, he lost with great honor, a champion's honor.

i also must admit that nadal played super tennis,(i totally salut him) and federer had his little mistakes which could have made him the winner. but ,the best thing that i saw in this match was fedrer's comback, thats wat makes champion, a champion!!! he defended his title as much as he can despite his little mistakes!!!

wat i am looking forward to now is the next grand slam( US Open I think), am really looking forward to see federer playing nadal again, that would definitely be the revenge!!!

Honestly, i dont bet on nadal to e num 1 soon, because i belive that it s just black cloud fopr federer , and it will pass away very soon.

all nadal fans: execuse me if i was offensive in any way, but i really adore federer, and i give all my respect to nadal and the way he plays!!

Posted by wimby moon 07/11/2008 at 02:10 AM

Vix: "It is so surprising that a lot of people think Nadal's game is not elegant. Photo after photo (of this and other tournaments)shows how Nadal's game photographs beautifully. Photos freeze increments of time and they invariably show Nadal's fantastic body positioning whenever he's playing. Yet unlike Federer's game which photograph's like a dance, or a butterfly in flight, Nadal's has a more primal beauty to it: like a lion leaping on his prey, or lightning bursting from a cloud. Yes, I believe power can be graceful."

Well said, Vix! Thank you for expressing what many of us feel.

Beauty is obviously in the eye of the beholder as I see nothing particularly elegant about Roger's game. His game and technique are standard and predictable whereas Rafa uses the court in a very unique, creative way which shows real genius. Fed is more of a ballbasher. His one tactic, the short slice, works on a lot of players but Rafa makes him eat it most of the time. Besides which, Fed's hairy stick arms are quite repellent to see each time he serves. That cuts into the "beauty" argument quite a bit.

As for the person who denigrated the accomplishment of Rafa winning the French Open and Wimbledon back to back, I'm willing to bet you would not see it that way if your man, Federer had won.

Federer played his best, better than he has in a long time, but it was not enough. As he said, he tried everything. If not for the rain delay and some nervousness from Rafa (which was natural given that he was going for his very first Wimbledon title against the current and soon-to-be former #1) Federer would have been out in three sets, four at most. Federer is mentally weak but he was backed into a corner and then offered some hope so he started to fight back since his territory, his future and his reputation were at stake. He came up short and then blamed the lack of light for his loss. Now we have snide, mean-spirited attacks on Rafa by some Fed fans. It's over. He lost and no amount of sniping at Rafa is going to change things. He's the Wimbledon champ and he took two slams from Federer.

Posted by Sean 07/11/2008 at 03:52 AM

Chris Fowler deserves a C. He sucks big time as a commentator. He doesn't know how to make relevant comments and because of this he just tries to instigate and stir up unnecessary drama as discussion instead of focusing on the game. Props do go to him for the Venus Williams interview though. Brad Gilbert gets a D for his abrasiveness. He needs to simmer down. Ted Robinson gets a F every time he commentates! I wish NBC would fire him already. He has the most annoying voice and all he knows how to do is just babble on and on about nothing worth mentioning. He is by far, the worst commentator ever.

Posted by Smudge 07/11/2008 at 08:42 AM

Just focusing on one aspect of this in this comment: comparing Fed against Nadal.

Objectively: I wonder if Nadal will be able to keep up his level seeing as what happened to Llewton Hewitt who burnt out a little bit after a while. From my (limited) perspective, it seems one of Nadal's main strengths is his strength and fitness so it's natural to think he might dip at some point.
Whereas Federer appears (once again from my limited perspective) to have maintained a consistent level due to technique. So can Nadal maintain his level in the same way?


Personally speaking, I like both players for both of these respective reasons, and I hope that Federer doesn't get used to the losing feeling every time he plays Nadal so that he's still able to provide us, the public, with some good matches vs Nadal in the future.
I also think that Nadal's improvements in technique recently will probably compensate for any fitness dips/burn outs in future. But whatever happens, it will be interesting to see.

Posted by mona 07/11/2008 at 08:56 AM

Jim,

Venus Williams also hits serves in the 120s. Do you really think that Rafa has spent the last year taking roids to become just as physically strong as Venus? Or has he perhaps been working on his serve technique. Maybe you think Venus is on the roids too. And as for Andy Roddick and his 142 mph serve...

Topspin is also a matter of technique and control. James Blake hits the ball as hard as anyone, but he hits it flat. It is not just to do with physical strength and power. American players tend to use less topspin, associating it with slow, defensive (claycourt) play. They prefer to hit the ball hard, fast and flat. Federer uses a combination of speed and topspin, which is what makes his forehand so devastating.

I wonder if you would have been grasping at straws like this if Federer had won Wimbledon by a narrow margin, as he did last year, instead of losing by a narrow margin?

With all the sour grapes floating around the internet, it's as if the lunatic fringe of Federer fandom is throwing itself into vinegar production on an industrial scale.

Posted by 07/11/2008 at 11:09 AM

" Besides which, Fed's hairy stick arms are quite repellent to see each time he serves. That cuts into the "beauty" argument quite a bit."


Lol!

Posted by the king is dead long live the king! 07/11/2008 at 11:10 AM

Rafa gets an A+++ for single handedly saving tennis from Federer's visegrip and also rescuing fans from Federer's self-indulgent and so-embarrassing fall and cry act every time he wins. So glad we didn't have to see that bad acting again. Now if only we could black out Federer's arrogant outfits, bags, and hats. What an ego! and a phony.

Posted by rafafan 07/11/2008 at 11:16 AM

Carrie,

You hit the nail on the head. The whole Nadal family has the same body type, athletic.
Rafa is not so unusually big. He just wears the sleeveless shirts that show his physique. I wonder what Safin would look like if he wore sleeveless shirts?

Posted by 07/11/2008 at 11:44 AM

"why is venus' fifth title being overlooked?
because women's tennis has no depth and variety.....
all the sisters did was whack that ball as hard they can and occasionally move in for a volley....i'm sorry but this style of play i get enough from the other women on tour......

women's tennis is dead, nothing can save it!!!!!"


I feel sorry for those of you who feel this way. That was the best women's match of the tournament and the best match they ever played against each other. There were few errors and both ladies have all the tools. The best athlete of the two won IMO and the same goes for the men's match. Again,I pity those of you who can't recognize the history with Venus winning her fifth title against her sister. Very sad.

Posted by mwu 07/11/2008 at 11:46 AM

If anyone's on steroids it's Federer! According to the ATP profile pages, he now outweighs Rafa by 6 pounds; he also outweighs Nole by 18!

The fact is, Rafa is really quite lean in person -- he has a good genetic predisposition for shapely biceps, but his arms aren't very thick. I would bet there are a lot of players (Canas, Nalbandian, Almagro, Gaudio back in his day) who are physically stronger (in a gym sense) than Rafa.

Maybe it's from living in the US, where the smallest American football players are Rafa's size and known for their quickness only, but I just don't think steroids are that prevalent (or that helpful for men) in tennis.

Posted by rafafan 07/11/2008 at 11:47 AM

Here is another really good article:

www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtmlxml=/sport/2008/07/11/stnada111.xml

Posted by David 07/11/2008 at 11:53 AM

Totally agree with Mary C, who wrote:
"I have never been so irritated with the constant talking - just talking - instead of commentating on what was happening in the court at that instant. Hearing McEnroe's dronning grew so irritating that I finally turned the sound off and just watched that superb match. This is not just a gripe to be gripeing. Can't someone put a bug in McEnroe's ear? I'm tired of hearing of his history and his personal stories again and again and again. Am I alone on this? Mary"
It is high time for these commentators to shut up and just enjoy the game. And I did the same as Mary and turned to MUTE while watching the last 3 sets!!!!

Posted by izidane 07/11/2008 at 12:42 PM

IMO MaryC is the most impartial of the commentators during WTA and even the men's matches. The others tend to get a little shrill and negative towards certain players. She's very knowledgable and keeps the talk to tennis....and o.k occasionally, she'll indulge in a little of the drama behind the scenes. It paints the whole picture well for me. So MaryC gets an A.

Posted by Mike 07/11/2008 at 12:55 PM

Geez, "the king is dead long live the king!" ... you sound like you need a hug! LOL

Posted by 07/11/2008 at 01:15 PM

"Oh, and Steve you should give low grades to all of your media brethren who selected Pova to win Wimby even though she has been unsuccessful in getting through Venus at Wimby. "


I couldn't understand how with the 4-time Wimbledon Champion in the mix. Not the mention the beat-downs Shrieky got at the hands of Venus at Wimbledon and the commentators have the nerve to call it "Sharapova's house"? To me, that was very dismissive towards both sisters-especially Venus. Their attraction/lust to Sharapova is obviously clouding their judgment. IMO,their judgment is already suspect if they think Sharapova is attractive to begin with and I'm only speaking esthetically(because her "personality" or lack thereof is even worse),but that is another story.

Posted by Mr Rick 07/11/2008 at 01:47 PM

"but I just don't think steroids are that prevalent (or that helpful for men) in tennis."

mwu - bingo!

Lightness and quickness are far more important attributes for tennis players to have. Big muscles and steroids are no help. This is why Rafa doesn't weight lift either.

Posted by rafafan 07/11/2008 at 02:30 PM

"Obviously I am dreaming about the gold medal because being a number one in the world for so long, I am obviously going to have chances on my side. So I hope I can do well and reach my dreams over there," says Federer.


Federer needs to learn to be humble. This is why I have never been able to like him.

Posted by Lucius the Luscious 07/11/2008 at 03:18 PM

Jim to bring up steriods with absolutely no substantial proof is 100% irresponsible. It's tabloid-like. Just as others have said, steriods on the whole do not help tennis players. Rafa has actually LOST a few pounds over the past year. His biceps have looked like that for going on over 5 years now, so unless you are implying that his uncle has given him steriods since he was 17 years old, your hypothesis seems completely unfounded.

As for Rafa's serve, it's a situation of Rafa's approach. I'm pretty sure that even a couple of years ago Rafa could technically serve at 120 mph, he just couldn't be accurate, so we never saw it in a match. His approach was to spin it in and work the point from there.

Yet, after his crushing defeat in last year's Wimby (where most say that it was Fed's serve that helped him in the 5th set to win that match), he changed his strategy and approach and worked on serving @ 120 mph ACCURATELY. It's not the speed that he's increased over the past year, it's the accuracy, which is why we've seen it in his in matches.

LL

Posted by rafafan 07/11/2008 at 03:28 PM

Earl,

This thread is not for the purpose of bashing other posters. Keep personal comments to yourself.

The very reason Nadal became so endearing is his humility
and compliments of his opponents, whether he wins or loses.

Posted by rafafan 07/11/2008 at 03:49 PM

What makes a fan? Bias? Someone who supports a player or a team. There is no reason to make excuses for the performance of the player you support. Either they win or they don't. If you are a true fan, you support them through the losses and applaud them through the wins. I am a Rafa Fan. I am not delusional, only supportive of my player. Something about Federer's personality does not appeal to me, therefore I am not a fan. That does not change the fact that he is the #1 in the world. I am a fan of the #2 player in the world. I have not been disrespectful only supportive of my player.

Why is it do you think Roger doesn't "play his best" against Rafa?RF played well in the FO..... until the final.

Posted by rafafan 07/11/2008 at 04:08 PM

FACT GUY:

I have never tried to deny any of your FACTS. I am a Rafael Nadal fan and it just so happens, I don't care what surface, that Nadal has the head to head against Federer, and most others for that matter. Because of that fact, my opinion is he will continue to have the edge against Federer.

Posted by 07/11/2008 at 04:09 PM

Roger did his best against Nadal IMO(big difference). He made those uncharacteristic errors because he was forced to. Rafa had a lot to do with that.

Posted by sally 07/11/2008 at 04:09 PM

nadal has false humility. at least roger is honest about what he says, nadal isn't.

Posted by sally 07/11/2008 at 04:15 PM

how many times has nadal fallen to the clay dust? except for this year when it was no contest. and i am tired of those ugly clothes he wears and the butt picking and the stalling and the playing with water bottles.

Posted by sally 07/11/2008 at 04:17 PM

and nadal's popeye arms are quite grotesque.

Posted by rafafan 07/11/2008 at 04:40 PM

I don't like the pants picking, I love the arms, and the clothes.
If Rafa would speed up his serve, he might find that would be a new weapon. As much as he runs his opponents, if he could quick serve, he could keep them out of breath and get through the match much quicker.

Posted by Young guns 07/11/2008 at 06:10 PM


Federer is wavering and Djokovic is not a monster yet. Rafa's big chance at USO is NOW

Posted by zeg 07/11/2008 at 06:10 PM

rafafan,

LOL, kudos for remaining calm under attack.
I think Roger's tennis at its best is simply stupendous, but I prefer Rafa nonetheless because of his character. I frequently observe Federer's fans behaving quite unreasonably on various forums, especially on RF.com (which has deteriorated simply to the point of gathering of commiserating fawning groupies professing their hate for all things Nadal).
I think Rafa's fans are mostly SPORTS fans, while Roger attracts fashion/celebrity/perceived "purity of the game" crowd. They are the ones who like to "watch and enjoy" tennis like they do with figure skating, and they are the ones who tend to whine about their "Rogi" being unfairly treated by some uncouth island beast in funny pants. They like to dish out, but they sure can't take it.

Posted by don ray 07/11/2008 at 07:27 PM

I think it is very interesting that Sharapova and Ivanovic get scolded for not having played a warm-up grass court event before Wimbledon. Many sportswriters have been remissed to state the obvious: Venus and Serena Williams never play grass court warm-up tournament. I think it is amazing that there has been a Williams sister in 7 of the last 9 Wimbledon finals, winning 6 of those titles. Serena actually won Wimbledon after winning Roland Garros in 2002 without a wsarm-up grass tournament. To think that the only grass court match they play each year is Wimbledon, and they do so well is absolutely amazing. Perhaps Sharapova is not the "grass court" queen she was touted to be in 2004 after defeating Serena in the finals. Kudos to the sisters for mastering the grass. By the way, Federer can also win Wimbledon without a warm-up grass match, and I would dare say that Nadal could accomplish the same.
So it is not as much Sharapova's and Ivanovic's preparation as it is their grass court prowess. However, I do think they would benefit for the preparation.

Posted by don ray 07/11/2008 at 07:30 PM

I just wanted to correct my previous error. The Williams sisters have been in 8 of the last 9 Wimbledon finals and won 7 titles.

Posted by wimby moon 07/11/2008 at 08:21 PM

Ditto re zeg's points about Rogi fans liking to dish out but not being able to take it.

Roger looks like he's playing great when he's up against low-ranked, non-seeded players. Hewitt, who badly needs hip surgery, was the one seed he played before the final. Roger did play his best tennis against Rafa and he looked worse doing it because Rafa's speed and game forces him to go for more. Roger is also more timid when he plays against someone who is not afraid of him and who he knows can beat him. That's not surprising given that he's so used to beating up on low-ranked players that go into the match already beaten. Then it's difficult for him to adjust on the rare occasions when he plays someone who has game and belief to go with it. Many of us are grateful that Fed finally has some real competition to put an end to the boredom.

I think most Nadal fans would prefer to overlook Fed's repeated references like "it got dark," "pity I couldn't win it under the circumstances" and claims that he lost the match because of a lack of light, but his fans make that difficult with their bitter denigrations of the validity of Rafa's well-earned victory.

BTW, anybody who thinks Rafa's arms are grotesque is obviously blinded by bias. The guy happens to be blessed with a beautiful body. On top of that he plays awesome tennis, retains his humility and is generous and forgiving in giving Federer a lot of credit that Fed doesn't deserve (e.g. Fed is usually a sore loser but Rafa wisely never calls him on it).

For someone to achieve what Nadal has at age 22 is remarkable. Federer had only one grand slam at that age and he was playing in a very weak field before Nadal or Djokovic came up. Rafa, on the other hand hand has 5 slams now and has had to contend with both Federer and Djokovic in the mix.

I understand it's sad for Fed fans to see the end coming but he has won plenty already. Every dog has his day and time moves on inexorably, so why not give credit where it's due, especially when Rafa has worked so hard to develop his game and has treated Federer with such unwavering respect and graciousness. Change happens and a bright star has risen even higher in the sky. That seems like a good thing to me. Tennis needed some real challenge and new life and Rafa has brought has to it. Cheers to the new Wimbledon champ!

Posted by rafafan 07/11/2008 at 08:52 PM

thanks zeg and wimby moon.
I knew you guys were out there somewhere.

I just really love to watch Nadal play. He is unconventional and outside of the box. Tennis is so many times viewed as a "rich mans sport" or a gentlemens sport. I love to get some personality in the mix. OMGosh, if it weren't for Agassi, we would have had a really long dry spell.
My husband has played tennis for 30 years and he is a brick mason. He plays on courts with rich doctors and lawyers and such and he wins so much, he is very unorthodox in his style, but so fun to watch. He really frustrates his opponents. I guess I feel tennis should not have a champion that is so "fitting" for the sport, but someone who brings excitement to the game. Otherwise, who really wants to watch?

Posted by filoluis 07/11/2008 at 11:33 PM

Federer deserves an A+, the same than Nadal. I applaud Rafa for his passion and intensity and never giving up, but as a Roger fan I know how close he was to winning the best match ever, and it would have been not only the best match ever (as it was) but also THE BEST COMEBACK EVER IN HISTORY... it would have been too much to handle. I think I can't dislike Nadal anymore and in retrospective I am glad that if Federer lost it was against Nadal. I hope for Federer to win the US Open, have the #1 ranking at the year's end, and graciously loose it against Nadal next year (he has a record nobody wants: most consecutive weeks as # 2).

Posted by wimby moon 07/12/2008 at 12:30 AM

You're welcome, rafafan. Our guy is really special and deserving of all the recognition he gets. : ) And cheers to your husband and his unorthodox game. May you have many more moments of joy watching him achieve his victories on the court.

I too enjoy Rafa's unconventional, outside of the box approach. His speed allows him to step around his backhand to an inordinate degree and allows him to use the court in a distinctly unique and creative way that often befuddles the opponent. The angles that he can create are astounding and now that his backhand is a big weapon, who knows how he will choose to build on that. He brings so much energy and excitement to the court, so much flair and passion. I love seeing him do those hops and zig zags to the back of the court for the warmup. He's like a playful lion or tiger prepping for action. It's amazing that people (picking up on Roger's put-downs) used to say he had a one-dimensional game. He can do it all. He's great with volleys and drop-shots, can serve and volley when he chooses, and his slice can be very dangerous when he uses it well(I thought he was using it badly in the final on Sunday and allowed Fed too many easy putaways but I'm not sure if he did that because his movement may have been slightly hampered by the fall and twisting of the knee early in the third set).

It will be a gross injustice if he does not become #1 on the computer soon since he is, at the moment, in substance, the de facto #1 player. Hopefully his game will continue to grow even more on the hardcourts. He's won tournaments there before and if he applies his flatter shots and stays closer to the baseline as he has been doing he could go really far at the U.S.Open although there's no hurry. That will all come soon enough.

Posted by berkee 07/12/2008 at 06:20 AM

Rafa and Roger and Venus - A+, Class of the field, bar none
Serena - B. Stop acting like a spoiled brat when you lose.
Safin - B+, well deserved since this is not his best surface.
Dementieva - B, to get to the semis with that serve, what an accomplishment
Aggie Radwanska - B+ - What a bright future. If only you didn't have to place Serena.
Kuznetsova - C. You won Junior Wimbledon years ago, you should know how to play on grass.
Djokovic - D. You did make it to the final @ Queens.
Sharapova and Roddick - F. Maria drop daddy as coach. Andy please hire someone other than your brother as coach. Darren Cahill perhaps??

Posted by zeg 07/12/2008 at 07:58 AM

Good show, rafafan & wimby moon.

While it's a pleasure to watch Federer float around the court with deadly intent, I agree that Rafa brings an enormous amount of excitement to the game. Besides the serve, his backhand has also improved significantly, to the point of almost being a weapon as well. I'd like to see him charge the net more, rather than sometimes back away to the baseline instead.
Ii's amusing to hear the doom sayers now predicting Nadal's demise at the USO. The same crowd not long ago was also adamant Rafa will never win at SW19. Of course, they conveniently forget (or just don't know) that he has already won ATP Masters titles on hard courts, eliminating in the process all sorts of "hard court specialists." I was astounded by the way he dismantled Roddick at IW last year. It is only a matter of time before Nadal wins a GS title outside Europe.

Posted by embug 07/12/2008 at 12:45 PM

Pam Shriver -- F.
On Henman Hill, with unsuspecting Brits, she asked a woman if "Henman Hill" should retain its name. The woman said yes. Then, Pam asked the same question, adding if Murray became champion. The woman agreed that the name should change. "Wimp," Pam belted out, in a pejorative manner. Next, Pam turned to a near-by man. "What do you think, should it be Henman HIl even if Murray..." Oh yes, he said, no matter what... always Henman Hill. Pam then reached behind him and revealed for the camera, and millions of viewers, a stack of about 8 plastic, what looked to be, emptied beer cups. "This from a man who's had how many of these?" she said suspiciously. She peered into the top cup, saying, "with about 31 cigarette butts in here, too. Back to you Cliffy."

Mean-spirited to the last comment. That's Pam. An atrocious media representative.

ESPN should take a look and listen at Corina Moriau on Tennis Channel. Send her to Wimbledon next year and give all of us a break from the sourpuss Shriver.

Posted by abs 07/12/2008 at 02:08 PM

Why do all Federer fans criticize and downplay Nadal’s achievements? I don’t see/hear any Nadal fans doing this sort of thing. It doesn’t make you people more passionate about your player or bigger fans.

I am the only one in my family who supports Nadal. They boo every point that goes his way and wholeheartedly support whoever he is playing against. It’s quite infuriating!

Good to know I’m not the only one who noticed Roger’s arms :-P I do like his hairstyle though. Other players try to copy it but it just isn’t the same.

F to Gwen Stefani for looking bored to death during the entire match. She should have stayed at home.

Posted by 07/12/2008 at 02:22 PM

Federer played horribly (52 UNforced errors, 7% break point conversions, 66% 1st serve) and deserves a C grade for his 1st loss to anyone, anywhere on grass in 6 years, and he still lost just 9-7 in the 5th set. Nadal deserves an A+ grade for playing his best and still barely good enough.

Hardcourt season now.

Posted by kskate2 07/12/2008 at 03:41 PM

Berkee, you hit the nail on the head. Thanks so much. In addition, why did Andy ever split with Brad? Granted, he's not a great commentator/booth personality, but I thought he was a good coach. Andy won his lone GS w/ Brad and got to the finals of the USO w/ Jimmy Connors, correct?

As for Maria, I hate to say this, but it might not matter who she hires as her coach. The reality to me is she is not as good as she's talked up. What she has that I admire (most of the time) is a great love of competition and belief in herself. I believe it has helped her to win the titles she has though she might not have been as talented as her opponents. Kudos as well to Radwanska. Hey, didn't she defeat Maria at the USO last year?

Posted by rafafan 07/12/2008 at 03:50 PM

wimby moon,

hang tough. Sounds to me like some of the Fed fans are just a little nervous. Just like Djoko said about Nadal: "Here he freakin comes!"

Posted by rafafan 07/12/2008 at 04:29 PM

not nervous, hopeful.
He is not the best hard court player out there, I know that.
I said so in an earlier post. I am still a fan.
I am not one to make a lot comments that I might regret later.

Rafafan 2 very original.

Posted by grendel 07/12/2008 at 06:37 PM

As a fedfan, I'm not impressed by the attempts to dismiss Nadal's prospects on hc. People forget he's very young. He can't do everything at once. He's made a gargantuan effort to master the grass - and has clearly succeeded. One assumes his attention will now be turned to hard court. That's almost enough to guaranty that he will succeed. Probably not this year. But he'll certainly be at least 3rd favourite at New York and has, therefore not a bad chance at winning. You wouldn't put all your money on him - well, I don't know, depends on the odds.... Furthermore, if Nadal meets Djokovic, Djokovic wins, for the time being. But if he meets Federer, well, he's beaten him twice is it on hc ? I'd like to see Fed get his revenge. But experience has shown me that Nadal just fancies himself against Fed - on any surface. The converse, alas, is not true.Don't pay any attention to what Nadal says, b.t.w. That's strictly for the birds, and is simply designed to keep the pressure off him.

Posted by berkee 07/12/2008 at 10:15 PM

Here's my grades for the commentators.

Mary Carillo - A
John McEnroe - B-, I have yet to see a match that he's done the commentary when he doesn't mention the lack of serve and volley. Go teach somebody like Roddick or Sam Querrey how to do this!!!
The british journalist on ESPN - total waste of air time
Dick Enberg - C - Is "Oh My" the only words in your dictionary??

NBC - C - I would rather watch a close match featuring non Americans than a 6-1 6-1 blow out by Serena Williams.

Posted by wimby moon 07/12/2008 at 11:14 PM

Thanks, zeg and rafafan.

I think Nadal fans are pretty used to the put downs. No surprise. Not a big deal. It's a great time for Rafafans. The historic nature of his back-to-back French and Wimbledon titles is sinking in more and more for me. Truly fantastic!

Posted by dnrood 07/13/2008 at 12:05 AM

I know this is a bit late, but I would like to respond to Jim who seems to think Rafa is on some sort of performance enhancers.

1.) You claim his serve is bigger. Well, let's see he's not a natural left hander, maybe he needed to groove his swing and improve his technique. He has always hit ground strokes about as hard as anyone, so I guess the performance enhancing drugs helped his ground strokes first.

2.) Rafa is not all that big, except for a tennis player. In fact I would say in almost every other sport he would be considered somewhat undersized (this doesn't mean I don't think he is a great all around athlete).

3.) If I'm not mistaken tennis has one of the toughest drug/performance enchancing testing in any sport. Rafa must employ some of the smartest chemist in the world. Forget helping some tennis player, cure cancer and make some real dough.

4.) Because other sports have been tainted by performance enhancing drugs then obivously anyone outside the standard deviation is using them also. There's no chance for genetic freaks (I say this in the best way) like Tiger, Lebron James, and oh yea lets through Roger in the mix. What Roger does on the court no one else can do so he must be using performance enhancing drugs, right.

5.) Have any of the other players on tour seriously talked about this with regard to Rafa. It seems that Rafa is the only one accused, if he's the only one using and all the clean competitors on tour knew about it why wouldn't they say something. He's taking the bread right off their table. I think I would speak up.

Let me finish by saying that I am a huge Rafa fan, and it would be crushing to find out he was using performance enhancing drugs, but if he was I would be one of the first to crush him. However in light of no proof and really no smoke in the sense of other players or media reporting anything I think it is underhanded and plain wrong to accuse Rafa of doing something that just doesn't fit any facts.

Posted by dnrood 07/13/2008 at 01:34 AM

Before I get off this steriod accusation let me just say if you think its just physical superiority that allows Rafa to win you must not have been watching him very closely the last few years. What he demonstrated last Sunday to the nth degree is that mentally he is as strong a player as has ever stepped on the court (or any sport for that matter). Listen to his presser after the final. A reporter asked him how it was possible to win that 5th set. I think Rafa answered something like "This is the Wimbledon final I have to keep fighting. My attitude is good, I'm playing well and I have confidence in myself. WHY can't I win this match."

How many other players would have felt that way playing against the greatest player of all time on his favorite surface? Not many I guarantee that. So any player can be bloated on steroids and it wouldn't have helped against a Federer who had captured all the momentum in that match.

Posted by ronster 07/13/2008 at 11:43 AM

you guys are too harsh on Djokovic. He lost a tight final to Rafa @ Queens. Yes, he lost in the second round, but Safin has won two Slams & is a class act. I saw Safin & Djoker practicing at Wimbledon 2 yrs ago & Safin hits with awesome power.

Both Roger & Rafa should get plaudits for producing one of the all-time classic matches.

Posted by Moderator 07/13/2008 at 01:33 PM

Just a note - multiple comments under different names were deleted from this thread - as always, courtesy of the troll originally known here as Victorious.

Posted by Serbian Joker 07/13/2008 at 04:53 PM

Djokovic lost in the 2nd round of Wimbledon. He is very vulnerable, as is Roddick too, who lost in the 2nd round of Wimbledon too.
Novak is right. He did make a surprise, a surprisingly early exit and defeat at the world's most prestigious and most tradition-rich tennis tournament in the round of 64.
He won't learn his lesson still and won't be quiet either, nor will he learn some class, sportsmanship, respect, humility, manners, etc.
No, not Djokovic. His parents raised him well. LOL.

Posted by Realist 07/13/2008 at 04:57 PM

Federer is finished. He will never ever win another Grand Slam title again, and very few titles period.
He used to be dominant, great and mighty, but not this year and never again.
His era is over.
Rest in peace.
His last and 12th career Grand Slam won was US Open 2007, more than 10 months ago.
That will be his last one ever.
Rest in peace, Federer. His very long, continuous, official World #1 reign will end by the end of the US Open too, if not before like after Cincinnati maybe.

Posted by zolarafa 07/14/2008 at 11:37 AM

Steve,
I watched the match again yesterday and I think both Nadal and Federer families deserve an A+. How many times Sebastian and Ana Maria Nadal clapped when Roger had a winner? and the image of Robert Federer clapping all the way when RAfa is on the stands is just a classic.(fed's Mon was also clapping and I think Mirka too). No wonder these two champions are so successful. They have great roots.

Posted by zolarafa 07/14/2008 at 01:05 PM

Ed, great piece as always.

I found this one funny too:
***"I feel it. In the last game, I didn't see nothing. The true, I wasn't see nothing, no? Was unbelievable. I thought we have to stop. Well, if I lost the last game we have to stop, that's for sure. But at the same time when I was preparing for serve in the - how was the final score? 9-7? 10-8?" — Nadal in his post-final press conference
****

btw,
why the heck this SI cover is so important? who cares if they chose Rafa or Roger for the cover? As if Rafa will think: "I have to win another Grand Slam this year , maybe SI will put my picture on the cover? or Roger will go: " Oh, I lost my chances to be on the SI cover?"...I don't think so !

Posted by zolarafa 07/14/2008 at 01:07 PM

oops wrong thread! sorry

Posted by Chitra 07/14/2008 at 03:08 PM

I think Brad Gilbert deserves an F for changing his mind on the "big predictions" all the time. The other grades are quite accurate though.

Posted by Ellison 07/17/2008 at 12:38 AM

post Justine-year!! WILLIAMS TENNIS ASSOSCIATION BABY!!!

Posted by Pooja_D 07/18/2008 at 09:45 AM

Whoa! An article which matched the genius of the match! Well done Steve! You too qualify comfortably to a parallel debate... whether this is your "greatest" article ever??!! :) Stupendous! (Thats all that I can reach in my superlatives!)

But well... jus a point...which has also been raised by many others here. Roger deserves as much an A+ as Rafa. Your justification of giving A+ to the "winners" alone does not suffice. Prima facie there seems to be a difference in your definitions of "WINNERS" and mine. For all that you know, this match may not have been even remotely close to being called "one of the greatest ever", had it not been for Roger's astounding levelling of sets. I think any other player on Centre Court, running down sets at 0-2, could not have exhibited such grit and valor to push it to decider set. The occassion is huge and intimidating. If we are talking about the mental scare that howls Roger against Rafa... we should do justice by quoting in the same breath a similar effect that Roger has on Rafa.

I was rooting for Rafa and praying as hard as I could for his prevalence on the Centre Court on July 6th'2008. However, that wasn't able to mark even a gentle scar on the bounty of respect I have for Roger. When Rafa won the match point, I shed tears... and a couple of them were for Roger too. No match can be brilliant without appreciable contribution from both players. And in a match like the final of Wimbledon-2008, where superlatives were tossed left, right and centre, with each rebounding in search of new ones... one could jus feel sad that there is "technically" ONE winner at the end.

Posted by Spaliwala 07/18/2008 at 11:37 AM

I saw a rerun. The article was as exciting as the match. Thank you for a brilliant piece!

Posted by Rafa1 07/19/2008 at 08:05 PM

Zeg, Rafafan

Thanks for defending Rafa. It's already sickening to read a lot of articles and blogs demeaning Nadal for his supposedly unartistic, unorthodox style. And what's more irritating is comparing it to Roger's artistic talents. It's always a yin-yang, ebony-ivory comparison. Steve is spot on...they're traditionalist tennis aficionados.

I am just a tennis fan and I get really affected. I just can't imagine how Rafa feels reading those comments. I feel sorry for him. It is just unfair, and that is why I have been really wishing that Rafa finally wins a slam outside of clay, to disprove the naysayers. I think that has contributed a lot to his motivation.

The other thing that I can't understand about this Roger-Rafa comparison is that I don't even like Roger's style the way 'they' glorify it. Honestly, I've been following tennis for a long time. But it was during Roger's reign that I lost interest in the sport, until Rafa came along. Roger's style is just a bit boring for my taste. And he didn't have real competition during his reign. Thus, my nagging question: Would Roger be this dominant had Rafa and Novak played the same time as him?


Posted by silvasurfa 10/21/2008 at 09:22 AM

vamos rafa! thanks rog for saving the 3 break points at 3-3 in the 3rd set. that would have robbed us of the greatest match in the history of the universe.

vamos!

Posted by Candace 12/05/2008 at 07:02 PM

Amen. Dnrood is soooo right. If you want to enhance the illegal way you're not THE MAN, RAFA. Thanks.

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