Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Rafa Review, Rome Preview
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Rafa Review, Rome Preview 04/27/2009 - 2:05 PM

Rn It’s a spring Sunday ritual. Take a walk, lie in the park, examine New York City as it turns green all around you, and then go back home and watch Rafael Nadal pummel some poor glum soul into the red European dust. After yesterday’s version of this scenario played out as anticipated, I began to wonder whether it was finally time to add a third item to the brief list of life’s absolutes: Can we now say, “Death, taxes, and Nadal on clay”?

Last week I stated that there isn’t much new to say about how Nadal wins, on clay or any other surface. At 22, he’s already reached the stage where he’s hoisting trophies for the fifth straight time, as he did on Sunday with the supersized cup that he can barely lift over his head each year in Barcelona. So, seemingly with nothing left to observe about the guy, I put down the notebook for Nadal’s final yesterday against David Ferrer and sat back to watch as a spectator.

But that’s the thing about Nadal. Within his seemingly regimented—“one-dimensional”—game, he rarely fails to come up with something unexpected, something you haven’t quite seen even after watching him hundreds of times. Against Ferrer it was Nadal’s down-the-line forehand that looked new to me. He routinely cut off the angle on his opponent’s crosscourt backhand near the service line and, without stopping to set up in any conventional sense, drilled his forehand into the corner for an easy winner. I associate this “running through the ball” style of transition attack with Roger Federer, not with Nadal, but the Spaniard had the confidence yesterday to throw all grind-it-out caution to the wind.

That said, there’s one other notable aspect about Nadal that continues to stick out this clay season: Even while he’s doing something unprecedented, and even while he can appear for long periods to be utterly invincible, he remains human on the court. That is, he remains subject to anxieties, dry spells, inexplicable shanks, and even the occasional tactical blunder. After winning the first set over Ferrer pretty much at will, Nadal’s level dropped in the second, and more than a few shots flew wildly off his frame. John McEnroe once said of Federer at his peak that he screwed up just enough to let you know he was human, before rising to the occasion and becoming infallible again. This combination made Federer even more impressive than if he’d been perfect all the way through. If anything, I’ve always felt this was even truer of Nadal: He lets you know that winning is work, and that one missed shot here or there—Ferrer nearly reached set point on Nadal’s serve in the second—is all it would take for him to end up on the losing side of any given day. As with Federer once upon a time, this only makes the fact that Nadal doesn’t lose those key points that much more impressive.

I went to bed Sunday night having just listened to Tennis Channel commentators Jason Goodall and Robbie Koenig call the Barcelona final. This morning I woke up, turned on the TV, and heard them announcing first-round matches at the Masters event in Rome—the tour is in full swing. As Nadal himself said after the final in Indian Wells, while contemplating a late flight that same night to Miami, “The good thing of tennis is when lose you have another chance next week. The bad thing is when you win, next Tuesday you are [playing] another time.”

It’s not that bad, Rafa: This week you shouldn’t have to play until Wednesday. But as I write this, the first round in rainy Rome is going on (speaking of spring rituals, James Blake is about to lose to a no name). The other members of the Big 4, Federer, Murray, and Djokovic, will all come to the Foro Italico with more rest than Nadal. Can any of them take him off my short list of life’s sure things?

First Quarter

The question for Nadal, and for this tournament, is how he feels in regard to his French Open preparation. Does he need some rest, or can he keep going at full speed all the way through Sunday? This question is tied up with whether he plans to enter Madrid in two weeks—apparently he’s wary of playing at altitude there so soon before Paris. Last year Nadal was in a similar situation when he came to Rome, and he lost early to Juan Carlos Ferrero. While he cited blisters afterward, he didn’t seem too broken up about getting a few days off before playing in Hamburg the next week and making the final push to Paris.

This year Nadal didn’t have to work overly hard in Barcelona. He won his semi and final in straight sets and didn’t have to play a quarterfinal at all after David Nalbandian pulled out. So I would expect Nadal, despite some trepidation, to go after the title in Rome the way he usually does, and to be fresh enough physically to do it.

But even with a couple days off, his first round could be tricky. Nadal will play the winner of Andreas Seppi, who has beaten him on hard courts, and Sam Querrey, who has challenged him on clay. The other half of his section is relatively stacked—Verdasco, Tsonga, Gasquet, Almagro, Gulbis, and Andreev are all there, but Nadal will only have to face one of them, in the quarters.

First-round matches to watch: Almagro-Gulbis, Tsonga-Gasquet. Semifinalist: Nadal

Second Quarter

After reaching his first clay-court semifinal in Monte Carlo, Andy Murray continues his learn-the-dirt campaign of 2009. Think of it as a tennis version of Hillary Clinton’s crafty “listening tour” of New York state in 2000. Murray is taking the pressure off himself by saying that this spring he's essentially conducting research for the future. 

He’ll have to be a quick study, because his first opponent might be Argentine dirtballer Juan Monaco. The two played a three-setter on hard courts on Miami last month before Murray prevailed. If they play again in Rome, we’ll get an idea of how the Scot matches up against a guy who makes his living on this stuff.

If he succeeds there, Murray might have to play either Nikolay Davydenko or Fernando Gonzalez in the quarters. He beat Kolya, a more natural clay-courter who seems revived after coming back from an injury, in a tough two-setter in Monte Carlo. If they play again, it should be equally tight. Semifinalist: Davydenko

Third Quarter

Which Novak Djokovic will we see in Roma? He’s the defending champion, and he’s coming off a Monte Carlo run that brought out his best tennis of the year so far—more than at any time in 2009, he fought well when he had to and didn't let his emotions get the best of him. 

But if we’ve learned anything about the Serb over the last year, it’s that he’s more prone to unpredictability and mental inconsistency than we once thought. Still, I like his draw. Of the guys in his immediate vicinity, only Safin and Robredo seem at all capable of beating him, and those two play each other in the first round. On the other side we might get a showdown between Del Potro and Wawrinka, a match I’d give to Stan based on current form. Semifinalist: Djokovic

Fourth Quarter

Do you have a clue as to how Roger Federer might play in Rome? If so, you’re a step ahead of me. No matter what he says, his personal life must be a bit of a distraction at the moment, and so far it’s one that hasn’t relaxed him on the court.

Federer’s draw won’t help take the edge off, either. Last year he lost to Radek Stepanek in Rome, and he might find himself across from the Agitator again this time—they’re slotted to play in the third round. That is, if Federer gets past his potential opening match against Ivo Karlovic, never a fun thing to do, no matter what the surface.

On the other side, Simon, Ferrer, Berdych, and the improving Italian Fognini will fight it out to make the quarters. I got burned picking Ferrer to reach the final in Monte Carlo, but I liked the way he dictated much of the play in the second set against Nadal in Barcelona. Semifinalist: Ferrer

Semifinals: Nadal d. Davydenko; Djokovic d. Ferrer

Final: Nadal d. Djokovic


Posted by maedal 04/27/2009 at 02:30 PM

Steve, thanks for the essay on Rafa...I think his essential humanness, which you comment on, is why so many of his fans are always on frazzle-alert, regardless of his dominance.

i have the same picks are you...hope we are right!

Vamos Rafa!

Posted by Bobcat 04/27/2009 at 02:36 PM

Thanks Steve. I asked a friend this AM Can Rafa sweep his clay season? I wouldn't bet against it.

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever) 04/27/2009 at 02:37 PM

If there's anything to be done about his reputation, this is it - for Fed. Steve, look at your own writing. So much yearning in your writing for the "years gone by" when Fed ruled. Agreed. Rafa seem invincible nowadays. I have a feeling that it is Fed's time in Rome. I strongly feel it. It's in the water man. If he doesn't make it to the finals in Rome (he is aiming for semis he says - talk about the Champ who used to win everything. Mmph!), his rankings would look pretty shaky heading into Summer. Who knows, Fed playing Rafa in the semis for a change may not be that bad...after all!

Posted by Master Ace 04/27/2009 at 02:45 PM

My Rome picks:
SF: Nadal/Murray and Djokovic/Federer
F: Nadal and Djokovic
W: Nadal will win his 4th Rome title in 5 years.

Posted by Ronald A.Osborne Jr. 04/27/2009 at 02:50 PM

But did not Ferrer crush Novak Djokovic on clay in Davis Cup so why pick him over Ferrer.

Posted by rafadoc 04/27/2009 at 02:57 PM

Thanks for the great preview Steve. I picked Murray instead of Kolya. Ferrer burned me in MC too but I picked him for Rome SF too. I would like to see him continue his momentum. Federer certainly is a huge question mark right now. It will be interesting to see if his intensive practice of the past week has him in good form.

Posted by coccaine 04/27/2009 at 03:22 PM

U TRYING TO TELL US THIS???Simon, Ferrer, Berdych, and the improving Italian Fognini will fight it out to make the quarters. I got burned picking Ferrer to reach the final in Monte Carlo, but I liked the way he dictated much of the play in the second set against Nadal in Barcelona. Semifinalist: Ferrer????????

Posted by Bibi 04/27/2009 at 03:24 PM

I would like to see repeat of the Monte Carlo final in Rome, only with a different winner

Posted by FocusShift 04/27/2009 at 03:28 PM

My Rome picks:
SF: Nadal/Murray; Djokovic/Federer

Who knows what the heck will happen in that fourth quarter though? If Ferrer plays the way he did in Barcelona and Federer has an off day then Ferrer could win that matchup. All that could of course be out the window if either of them hiccup early, which, based on the year so far, is certainly possible. Even if the Federer/Djokovic semi does pan out, it could easily go either way too.

At least I can feel confident about the Nadal/Murray matchup. (knock on wood).

Posted by Cotton Jack 04/27/2009 at 03:29 PM

Blimey. Kids: just say "no"

Posted by COCCAINE 04/27/2009 at 03:32 PM


Posted by COCCAINE 04/27/2009 at 03:34 PM


Posted by Tfactor 04/27/2009 at 03:34 PM

I picked Ferrer again (even if he didn't come through in MC)
Ever since he won his two DC matches earlier this year I have high hopes for him on clay.
Having said that, I would be over the moon if Federer makes through, but like Steve I think he has too many personal distractions at the moment. Let's see if he proves us wrong :)

Posted by COCCAINE 04/27/2009 at 03:40 PM


Posted by imjimmy 04/27/2009 at 03:54 PM

Brilliant piece Steve- thanks!! As usual the first few paragraphs about Rafa are fabulous.

"Death, taxes, and Nadal on clay”?
Very eloquently put . Perhaps we could officially add the last part to the phrase, if Nadal does manage to win everything on clay(including the RG 5th) this year.

""Even while he’s doing something unprecedented, and even while he can appear for long periods to be utterly invincible, he remains human on the court. That is, he remains subject to anxieties, dry spells, inexplicable shanks, and even the occasional tactical blunder""
That's a very astute comment. That said, I do think that this fallible aspect of Rafa's game, occasional unforced errors, seem to happen more this year (especially after the Australian Open). I guess that's understandable: Being no 1 and all the expectations do take their toll.

As far as your picks are concerned, I would think that Murray and Federer should not be under estimated. I feel that Murray, for one, should definitely make it to the Semifinals in his quarter. I anticipate a excellent Nadal vs Murray Semifinal.

Finally I like the article title : Rafa Review: Rome Preview - it rhymes nicely, doesn't it?

Posted by ava 04/27/2009 at 04:03 PM

I really enjoyed the brilliant analysis of Barcelona finals.
I don't know who to pick in Rome.
I have a feeling we might see a non-Top 4 member of the ATP may win. I'm thinking Kolya or Ferroo.
It's a wild prediction but I would like Rafa to lose once before RG to ease the pressure. So I hope he goes out in the quarters so points are gained and Murray won't get any strategic advantage. He HAS to win Madrid if he's playing there. Losing just before RG is a dangerous proposition.

Posted by birthday 04/27/2009 at 04:06 PM

Ah, Steve. Nothing more enjoyable than finding an article from you on Nadal while in the midst of trying to procrastinate studying. I am ashamed, even as die-hard fan I have become occasionally immune to his charms during this season. I tend to frazzle rather than observe and reflect. Great observation on the forehand down the line.

As for his occasional lapses, I think it's as simple as the cost he has to pay for a game of increased aggression.

Predictions: Nadal vs. Federer
Winner: Nadal

Posted by marblanc 04/27/2009 at 04:11 PM

Nadal has 500 points less this week than last week, why? I can't understand it. He won in Montecarlo and Barcelona, so this week he should have the same points he had last week. Do you know why, Mr Ace, or anybody else?

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever) 04/27/2009 at 04:27 PM

Stretching out on my limb to predict Fed-Nadal final in Rome. Fed Wins. I have serious money riding on it this time. I recently watched the 2006 Rome Finals. What a match! 3 out of 4 sets he had chances to close - with 2 championship points to boot. His forehand ("the liquid whip" as DFWallace termed; "the greatest weapon in the history of this sport" - Johnny Mac rued) is the one that got him there and his FH is the one that lost him there. Rafa played like a Martian possessed. Well, nothing new right!? Listen, I know Fed doesn't play like that anymore...but I have a feeling that he is bringing that over to Rome this time around. Every time he loses a GS, Fed plays poorly - as if the loss is hard to take and the minors (masters included) don't count. Now it does. And he knows it. See you all next Monday. Stay tight.

Posted by Master Ace 04/27/2009 at 04:32 PM

Don't forget that Rafael won 81 matches in a row on clay before Roger defeated him at 2007 Hamburg so don't sweat it at RG while he takes Rome and any other clay tournament prior to RG.

Posted by TennisFan2 04/27/2009 at 04:36 PM

Steve, I so look forward to your articles. Another good one.

"He lets you know that winning is work"

This is what has drawn so many tennis fans to become Rafa fans. If you play the game (at any level) you know just how hard it is to maintain the physical and mental stamina to close out matches. Rafa's ability to shake off errors and turn defense into offense is just phenomenal.

Federer in his prime made the game look easy. Rafa shows us how hard it is to really win. His gritty determination makes him a joy to watch.

Enjoy it while it lasts tennis fans.

Posted by BDC 04/27/2009 at 04:55 PM

"It’s a spring Sunday ritual. Take a walk, .... and then go back home and watch Rafael Nadal pummel some poor glum soul into the red European dust."
I used to think something similar (though not nearly as nicely worded) ...
"It's Sunday - and I'm watching a Roger-Rafa final. All is right with the world."
Indeed, as previous poster said, Enjoy it while it lasts...

Posted by frances 04/27/2009 at 05:25 PM

master ace-- why do you think nadal will win?

i have a gut feeling murray will win against koyla-- but i would love koyla to win -- he's getting better and i really like his personality!!!

As for the winner-- no doubt I would want Rafa to win


Ava-- I do share you concerns but I feel like nadal seems much rested coming into rome this year-- and about loosing in madrid-- he did loose to Federer in '07 -- with a bagel in the third set in Hamburg-- but as much as I get worried-- I really have this gut feeling he will do just fine!!:P

Posted by maedal (Vamos Rafa!) 04/27/2009 at 05:29 PM

re the *enjoy it while it lasts* sentiment, rafa said virtually the same thing in a recent interview, that he's living an experience that will not be repeated.

Posted by mint32 04/27/2009 at 05:31 PM

great writing as usual steve, you're the best

Posted by Master Ace 04/27/2009 at 05:41 PM

At the moment, Rafael is finding ways to win without playing his best according to him. He said that playing David was the best he played on clay this year.

Posted by marblanc 04/27/2009 at 05:47 PM

Mr Ace,

Why does Rafa have 500 less ranking points this week? He defended the Montecarlo and Barcelona points from last year. Shouldn't he have the same points he had last week?

Posted by Syd 04/27/2009 at 05:49 PM

Thanks Steve, always good to read you.

Nadal's level dropped in the second but Ferrer went crazy in the second also; very, very, aggressive stuff from our Ferru. He just couldn't keep it together a the end. I think the guys are now seeing, like Murray in MC, (too late) that aggressive play is the only chance they have against the new King.

I predict a Fedal final.

Posted by Glenn 04/27/2009 at 05:51 PM

Hi Everybody!

Put me in the camp that sees Rafa winning Rome, skipping Madrid, and dominating RG(he's going to peak at just the right time!).

I also am very happy to see Kolya back. He's one of the most exciting players to watch(his ability to change the ball's direction is a delight!).

I'm thinking Murray might not get that far in Rome and like you said Steve, it's anybody's guess which Roger we're going to get.

Master Ace: you continually amaze me in your ability to bring up salient points and to stay above the fray. Vamos Master Ace!

Posted by Orpheo 04/27/2009 at 05:54 PM


This year it was played a week later so those points hadnt come off till today. He actually had points from last year and this year on.

Posted by marblanc 04/27/2009 at 06:01 PM


Thanks for the explanation.

Posted by frances 04/27/2009 at 06:01 PM

master ace-- like ur answer-- do def have a point!!thanks

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 04/27/2009 at 06:21 PM

Thanks for a great article steve. i've got nadal, murray, djokovic and ferrer for the semis.

Posted by Christine C 04/27/2009 at 06:25 PM

I was glad to hear that David F. made Rafa work for his Barcelona trophy. Let's see who will challenge him in Italia. :)

Posted by Ahmed HB 04/27/2009 at 06:30 PM

federer will silence all of the doubters when he win rome by defeating nadal and by winning Ronald garros , Wimbledon and the us open and i a sure that he will end the year as no.1

Posted by Ahmed HB 04/27/2009 at 06:30 PM

federer will silence all of the doubters when he win rome by defeating nadal and by winning Ronald garros , Wimbledon and the us open and i a sure that he will end the year as no.1

Posted by Sandra 04/27/2009 at 06:37 PM

Ahmed, I think you meant that federer would silence the doubters by winning Ronald McDonald.

Posted by Lyta 04/27/2009 at 06:38 PM

Thanks again for an interesting essay Steve.

"He lets you know that winning is work, and that one missed shot here or there—Ferrer nearly reached set point on Nadal’s serve in the second—is all it would take for him to end up on the losing side of any given day."

That sums it up so well. Talent and working like a madman to focus and improve even when your serve's gone AWOL. Truly impressive and truly human.

@meadal "frazzle-alert" can I steal that?

Posted by Lyta 04/27/2009 at 06:42 PM

"(speaking of spring rituals, James Blake is about to lose to a no name)"

Ouch Steve! ;)

Posted by Corrie (not Carrie or Cory) 04/27/2009 at 06:54 PM

I want to see Roger and Kolya do well. Kolya is a seriously undersung hero - glad you like him too Glenn.
At the opposite end of the spectrum Roger seems to have lost the magic song book and it would be great to see him get it back and add some spice to the mix. It just depends where his confidence is and if he found his game in the hills of Italy.

Posted by Ade 04/27/2009 at 07:15 PM


I love the way you hinted as what many used to say "one dimensional",,,,,WRONG, oh how wrong those people were!

I actually got the wording from a past world number 1 who is slipping. That's how he used to describe Rafa's game until he got beaten over and over and over who's "one dimensional?"

What I used to complain about the guy was, and I do say "was" the long amount of time spent between points. He cleaned that up. Offside coaching from Uncle Tony. Gone.
And last but not least, the grunting while he plays. Not gone but I don't hear it as much.

As a Federer fan who is not in denial, I have a ton of respect for him now a days. He is unbeatable on clay and I can't see anybody taking Rolland Garros from him for a few years.

Poor Roger. Unfortunately, as long as Nadal is there, he will never, ever win it.

Posted by Orpheo 04/27/2009 at 07:22 PM

Ahmed HB:

I am sure Roger will win Ronald Garros....Rafa will have to live with winning Roland Garros, poor soul....

Posted by lois 04/27/2009 at 07:39 PM

I hope Rafa will win his 5th R.G.

Posted by Rafa lost 04/27/2009 at 07:40 PM


Posted by Ryota 04/27/2009 at 08:02 PM

If Nadal loses Roma, it wouldn't be so bad. The break would be a welcome breather really. Here's the thing's the bothering me about MC and Barcelona - though Nadal won, he looked surprisingly beatable.

Posted by frances 04/27/2009 at 08:24 PM

and Steve-- i always enjoy your writing-- like you said it must around this clay season to continously remeain inovative with the same topic to write-- and yet you always come up with something original-- thank you again steve-- we rafa fans appreciate it and hope other funs as well ..VAMOS RAFA!!!!

Posted by Fot 04/27/2009 at 09:23 PM

For those who wanted an explanation about Nadal and his points, this sums it up perfectly from:

Nadal takes Barcelona
A week after winning his 5th straight title at Monte Carlo, Rafael Nadal equaled the task by taking his 5th straight Barcelona title. Nadal did not drop a set en route to a 6-2 7-5 victory in the finals over David Ferrer. It is his 4th title of the year. But players lost their points from Monte Carlo last year and Nadal was the defending champion. So he lost 500 points in the rankings. Our Mover of the Week, Gilles Simon, didn't even play this past week. Here's how it works: Simon lost in the first round last year in Monte Carlo, which represented 10 points. Once that fell off this week, his next best result, which was 350 points from Indianapolis, was added back to his total. So he gains 340 points this week and with it 2 spots in the rankings to #7. Fernando Gonzalez did play and reached the semifinals in Barcelona. He gains 1 spot to #13.

On the down side
With Monte Carlo going off the rankings from last year, lots of players lost some big points. Our Loser of the Week is Roger Federer, who reached the finals there last year, where he (of course) lost to Nadal. Federer loses 700 points while Nadal loses 500. Novak Djokovic also lost 360 points so the top 3 dropped a total of 1,560 points. But their solid positions do not change.

Posted by just horsen 04/27/2009 at 09:42 PM

1st: Nadal
3rd: Djoko
4th: Ferrer
Semi: Nadal d. Murray, Ferrer d. Djoko

Final: Nadal d. Ferrer

Posted by tetsuo 04/27/2009 at 09:58 PM

quote from Ahmed HB "federer will silence all of the doubters when he win rome by defeating nadal and by winning Ronald garros , Wimbledon and the us open and i a sure that he will end the year as no.1"

I hope he is not talking about Roger Federer that we all know off. Come on, the guy is 27 yrs, he has a busy life ahead, plus back problems. He can't achieve all that :)

Posted by the mad baller 04/27/2009 at 10:09 PM

Check it out folks. Nadal is on his way to a CALENDER GRAND SLAM! He will never come out and say that this is his goal, but I mean come on. Rafa keeps on getting better and there is nothing out there at this time that can stop him. Of course anything can happen and someone may take him out in Paris this year, but that would be unlikely. What is more likely to happen is Nadal will win Paris with the comfort he won the title there last year and then do is darndest to defend his title in London. By that that time he may even be better than he is now and that is going to be scary for other players. With three Grand Slams in his hand Rafa may be able to win New York on sheer will power alone. Just a prediction but there it is folks a CALENDER GRAND SLAM FOR RAFA.

Posted by Sad Smiles 04/27/2009 at 10:18 PM

My pick for this week:
SF1 : Gasquet vs Davydenko
SF2 : Federer vs Wawrinka
Final: Federer vs Davydenko
Winner : Federer (welcome back...Roger!)

Posted by Sufm 04/27/2009 at 10:49 PM

Your gonna get burned picking Ferrer again this week.

Posted by BenGman 04/27/2009 at 10:55 PM

Why does Murray have 70 points for a R32 exit in Rome 2008 and Rafa only has 10 points for the exit in the same R32 round in Rome 2008?

They both had first round byes, so why does Murray have more points for the second round loss than Rafael Nadal?

Thanks in advance for the reply!

Posted by lito hontiveros 04/27/2009 at 11:34 PM

TO ALL FED FANS: Before u predict that Fed will win, lets just keep our fingers crossed that he will beat Ivo today and then Stepanek (whom he might face next). Remember that Stepanek defeated Fed last year????????????????????

VAMOS RAFA. I know that u will win in ROME (ur 4th) and u will surpass Fed for the most number of MC trophies (u are currently tied with Fed with 14 apiece)

Posted by Yohan Chappaz 04/28/2009 at 12:03 AM

No Fed in the semi's? Man i guess people really have lost faith in him. I wouldn't blame them but i think he'll strike back

Posted by dnrood 04/28/2009 at 12:12 AM

Mad baller,

I hope your right about Rafa going for a calendar grand slam this year. There would be unbelievable energy heading to the USO for tennis. A sport that gets very little attention here in the
States. Its just what the sport would need to generate some media attention here.

However, as a Rafa fan, I don't want to jinx him in the next two slams. I just hope he can incorporate all the new changes in his game by RG. If he can get comfortable with his game and return to his low ufe self, I think he'll be tough to beat at the next two slams. Its just hard to keep the guy down for best of five.

Posted by Holly 04/28/2009 at 12:28 AM

"It’s a spring Sunday ritual."
Indeed it spring!

Love your writing Steve.

Vamos Rafa!

Posted by deeps 04/28/2009 at 12:30 AM


Murray didn't have a first round bye last year. Last year first round was the infamous match against Del Potro with the mother name calling.

Rafa gets only 10 points because he had a first round bye last year. Same reason Delpo got only 10 points for R32 at MC this year.

Posted by tennisconnected 04/28/2009 at 01:29 AM


I like your picks mate. I think we are pretty much on par.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 04/28/2009 at 01:31 AM

*loves the Barcelona review*

We all forget so often that Federer was always human, too...his winning didn't look so much like work, maybe, but he still had to actively win. It just emphasises how small the difference between winning and losing is.

Shallow note: Rafael looks lovely in that shade of orange.

I picked Rafa, Murray, Djokovic and Ferrer for the semis, but then, I also picked Blake to win, so...*shrug*

Posted by SwissMaestro 04/28/2009 at 01:58 AM

I will never loose my faith in Federer and you shouldn't either, never understimate the heart of a champion....

1st Quarter semifinalist: Nadal
2nd Quarter semifinalist: Murray
3rd Quarter semifinalist: Djokovic
4th Quarter semifinalist: Federer

Murray d. Nadal 6-4, 2-6 and 6-4
Federer d. Djokovic 7-5, 3-6 and 6-4

Federer d. Murray 6-4, 3-6 and 6-3

Posted by felizjulianidad 04/28/2009 at 03:08 AM

Nadal is more error-prone now because he is increasing the risk in his game. He's working the kinks out--on some days (like against Tommy Haas in the AO 2009) he will have 55 winners to 8 UFEs; on others, he'll just tank.

I don't think anyone can come out and beat him at RG. It is all just a matter of his own concentration.

Wimbledon is a different story; he's made the finals three years in a row, but his game will never be "natural" on grass. Nadal truly is the best in the world at making a non-grass game succeed on grass.

Posted by svelterogue 04/28/2009 at 04:15 AM

roger will never win on clay. especially with rafa in the finals. ever.

vamonos rafael the king!

Posted by Sid 04/28/2009 at 05:04 AM

Now I'm hopeful of Federer making the semis. Steve is usually good at making wrong predictions and I hope he's keeping up the form.

Posted by Rosangel 04/28/2009 at 05:44 AM

Hi Steve. Thankyou for your thoughts on the Barcelona final and the Rome draw, and on Rafa. One of the things that has always drawn me to him as a fan is his very human qualities; there's nothing ethereal or mystical about him - to me he always seems a creature of the earth - so I love to see him moving on clay again, as these days he plays relatively little on the surface. I always love this time of the year, but for me he's brought something special in the past few years. It's hard to believe that I've been watching him since 2003, when he was beating then-reigning Roland Garros champion Albert Costa in Monte Carlo - have six years really gone by? His game has evolved so much since then, and that's also been very interesting to watch. The essentials are still there, but he's been maximising everything he has.

Posted by steve 04/28/2009 at 06:46 AM

Excellent post Steve. Rafa for the title. I predict also no more Slams for Fed. Finals if lucky.

Totally unrelated but wonderful article I just read:,9171,919078,00.html

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 04/28/2009 at 07:16 AM

Steve Thanks again for your thoughts on Rome,

I would also like to echo Rosangel's thoughts,I have too seen Rafa invole over the years.I just sit in awe of him.Now especially because he is not so one dimensional any more? lol.

When he won his 1st Roland Garos title I knew then one day this young man would be the no 1 player in the world.

Yes how right I was,ok long time coming one might say? but what a wonderful ride it has been especially last year.I am so proud of him.

This year to win AO,IW,MC and just the other day Barcelona is a pure testament to him.

Rafa you just keep on keeping on.Vamos.

Posted by bailoutmadness 04/28/2009 at 08:13 AM

Mine: Rafa v. Murray; Roger v. Djoko. The finals? I agree with you steve - it is now one of the absolutes in life, Rafa on clay after taxes and death!

Posted by Marcus Shaffie 04/28/2009 at 08:57 AM

James Blake is losing to a 'no-name'?! Wow! I guess the guy is of a different species so as not to warrant proper recognition on this, our beloved Tennis Magazine website...way to show some respect...

Posted by Ahdaja 04/28/2009 at 10:09 AM

That a bold one, Steve!
I like it. Omitted Murray and Rog in the semi is unusual. Hwoever, you know that some upsets happenes in almost all tourneys. And if you wanna pick some, I agree, at least one of the should happene between Murray and Roger.

The only one thing that I would add: another one is waiting in the final. Djoker is gonna beat Rafa this this time, Steve.

Interesting tourney.

Posted by Ahdaja 04/28/2009 at 10:13 AM

My prediction:

S/f #1: Rafa vs Murray
s/f #2: Djoker vs Federer
Winner: DJOKER (over Murray in final)

Posted by PC 04/28/2009 at 10:36 AM

And my vote for winner: Potito Starace!!!!

oh. he just lost.

Blake needs counseling.

Posted by Mr Rick 04/28/2009 at 12:34 PM

...I thought Roger was taking a break til Halle to heal his back problems?!?

... will he get fined if he doesn't show up at these clay court tournaments?

Posted by frances 04/28/2009 at 01:37 PM

Nadal vs Davydenko

Djokovic vs Federer

Nadal Djokovic

Winner: NADAL

Posted by Allen 04/28/2009 at 02:48 PM

Timeline of Shaquille O’Neal’s lawsuit against PRISM and Perry Rogers
Oct. 16: Perry Rogers and Andre Agassi, friends since childhood, announce the termination of their business relationship. Rogers had been Agassi’s longtime agent.
Dec. 5: Rogers and his company, PRISM, sue Agassi’s wife, fellow tennis icon Steffi Graf, for $50,000 in a Nevada court, alleging unpaid fees.
Dec. 17: Rogers steps down unannounced from PRISM, the firm he started. According to Rogers, as part of an arrangement with Agassi, the tennis player and others received the firm.
Dec. 29: Rogers registers his new agency, PR Partners, with the state of Nevada.
Jan. 13: Rogers drops the Graf lawsuit without prejudice, meaning he retains the right to refile it. Agassi Graf Holdings later said there was no settlement that led to the action.
Jan. 23: Shaquille O’Neal terminates his agent relationship with Rogers and PRISM, according to the player’s lawsuit.
Jan. 30: Rogers sends a letter to the National Basketball Players Association seeking arbitration to settle a dispute between PRISM and Rogers over who is entitled to representation fees for O’Neal.
Feb. 10: O’Neal sues PRISM and Rogers in Florida, saying they no longer represent him and that the two entities were fighting over which side was entitled to fees.
March 12: Rogers asks the Florida court to dismiss the O’Neal case, arguing that the dispute’s proper venue is before an NBPA arbitrator.
April 21: Rogers says the lawsuit will be dismissed within a matter of weeks and that O’Neal is still his client. PRISM does not respond to a request for comment.
Sources: Court filings, Perry Rogers, Nevada Secretary of State Web site

Posted by tennisfan2 04/28/2009 at 10:19 PM

You are a witty guy, Steve. I hope your prediction is true. Vamos Rafa.

Posted by jp2506 04/28/2009 at 11:07 PM

Posted by Ivo 04/29/2009 at 12:14 AM

I just watched an interview with Roger Federer. He didn't say anything special: repeated the same stuff he's been repeating for a while now: tough last year, mono, back problem, now I finally feel physially well..etc. All the same, truly, all the same. And then something surprised me: Roger, what is your ambition? Roger: well a semifinal would be nice.
Did I hear right? Roger Federer said, in a Master's tournament, that a semifinal would be a good result?
I mean he does usually say he wants to go far, but he never sets his goal so precisely and if he does, he talks about winning the tournament. Now, he's saying that a semifinal would make him really happy?

Clearly all those of us who have accused him of not having realized what's happening to him (i.e. the argument that Roger is living in a denial), this one liner seems to suggest that Federer has started the process of adjusting- expectation readjustment.

And this only confirms the previous hypothesis that I had about him coming to Monte Carlo. Peter Bodo speculated that it was just to try a few new things. I and many of you were saying that he was there because he's worried about the points, his rankings..also that he immediately wanted to give it another go. After this interview with him, this seems a eve more plausible.

Now I have a question for you: do you think that him playing some smaller tournaments and winning those, could that little success not help him? I mean everyone needs a positive feedback...and he's been not getting any with the exception of USO last year. I actually think that he might want to enter a few smaller tournaments and win those. Well, my speculations...what do others think?

Posted by amanda townsend 04/29/2009 at 01:49 AM

I am fed up of Nadal.i dont watch tennis anymore because we know winner will be NaDAL...I am praying he will never make in even quarterfinals of any coming glandslam so that i can watch tennis with curosity.NaDAL has taken taste of tennis away.

Posted by Jessica 04/29/2009 at 02:56 AM

"Death, taxes, and Nadal on clay." That is pretty rational.

Posted by gk 04/29/2009 at 04:12 AM

amanda -
that must mean you havent been watching tennis for a while now seeing as fed was just as (if not more) dominant over the last few years just as sampras was a short while before him.

squash anyone?

Posted by Andrea 04/29/2009 at 12:14 PM much for the ferrer and davydenko picks!

Posted by frances 04/29/2009 at 02:01 PM

amanda towsend-- i think federer was worst!!! hahahha -- no offense to feder but the tennis was so predictable even..hc nad grass was his and nadal was clay

now murray and djoko is in the mix esp in the HC

Posted by Kris 04/29/2009 at 02:35 PM

Haha Steve. You have proved wrong again. Ferrer and Davydenko in Semis... They lost in first round. Next time when you make preview chose someone more Reliable like Federer and lose. But picking on partimers like Ferrer and losing doesn't make you a good preview expert

Posted by coccaine 04/29/2009 at 03:13 PM

hey steve,
ferrer????better luck next time

Posted by coccaine 04/29/2009 at 03:18 PM

hey mad baller
what does that mean , your balls are mad , or you ???
kindly advice

Posted by Masala 04/29/2009 at 07:19 PM

coccaine, thanks for toning down on the CAPS but it seems that you and your fellow RF fans are spamming the meesage board with their delusional nonsense. Can Federer beat Nadal on clay? Sure. Is it likely? Not at all - especially this year. As a Nadal fan, I am more scared of an 'in-form' Murray or Djoko but over 5 sets, the cream rise usually rises to the top. Vamos Rafa.

Posted by ala 04/30/2009 at 01:34 AM


Posted by reggie 04/30/2009 at 04:02 AM

Thanks, Steve.

Your insight and article is one worth waiting for and great pleasure to read!

Cant wait to read the next one from you!

Posted by gabriela valentina(NADAL, Death Cheater) 04/30/2009 at 04:33 AM

lovely and insightful(in spite of some huge prediction blunders LOL) with some memorable one-liners(the taxes,death and nadal on clay thingee)

an all too human and vulnerable Nadal said wistfully as he hoisted that monster Conde de Godó trophy " I'm sad because I doubt that I can win this thing for five more consecutive years again!" (Nadal feeling intimations of mortality,what?)

Posted by Limbo 04/30/2009 at 05:44 AM

Masala @ 7.19

Please do not use inclusive wording such as "your fellow RF fans".

Also, fans are entitle to voice in support of their idols, especially when they are not doing so well. Thats why they are fans, you included.

Therefore, I am not saying that coccaine using of caps is correct (which is not as it is quite rude) but there is nothing wrong in voicing out his support, just as you had obviously did for rafa in your post.

cheers all

Posted by Masala 04/30/2009 at 11:35 AM

Limbo, point taken and I definitely did not intend to paint all Fed fans (or Rafa or any other type of fans) with a broad stroke. I was reacting (maybe, over-reacting) to some of the inflammatory rhetoric from a selecte few RF fans(coccaine, Ahmed, etc.).
I think most fans of Rafa and Fed (and most educated tennis fans, in general) appreciate having these two transcendent players in our sport at this time. Salud!

Posted by Limbo 05/01/2009 at 02:49 AM

beautifully said and put Masala :)

Posted by Alen 05/01/2009 at 07:09 PM

Limbo, point taken and I definitely did not intend to paint all Fed fans (or Rafa or any other type of fans) with a broad stroke. I was reacting (maybe, over-reacting) to some of the inflammatory rhetoric from a selecte few RF fans(coccaine, Ahmed, etc.).
I think most fans of Rafa and Fed (and most educated tennis fans, in general) appreciate having these two transcendent players in our sport at this time. Salud!


Posted by pecas 05/02/2009 at 07:16 PM

thanks for being fair with Rafa.

Posted by afneworleans 05/04/2009 at 05:20 PM

I don't think I've ever seen Rafa and Satan in the same room, maybe that's a clue. I watch him and I marvel, I curse him for staying behind the baseline when his volleys are so exceptional,I worry that his body won't hold up and I will be left with despair and longing. I love him because he finds a way to win and when he can't luck finds him. Steve, (though I'm sure its been done) do a deconstruction of this demigod (pardon, I gush) from toe to head analyzing his WMD one by one including strength, strategy, stamina, sinew, and any of the unknowns to us common folk and help us to understand why we've become addicted to this young Spainard.

Posted by anon 05/10/2009 at 07:51 AM


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