Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - UTennis: Rafaelito Returns
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UTennis: Rafaelito Returns 08/07/2009 - 1:44 PM

It’s been an historic summer, a tearful summer, a lordly summer. We’ll likely never witness a month of all-time achievements like the one we just saw from Roger Federer. But it’s also been one-sided summer, because the person who has defined this era with Federer, Rafael Nadal, has been missing. Like the months when Monica Seles was away from the tour in 1993 and 1994, it seemed like half of the sport—the grunting half—had vanished. Like Steffi Graf's then, Federer wins almost felt like an embarrassment of riches.

As you know, the other half will return next week in Montreal, as Nadal will test out his achy knees for the first time in competition since his loss to Robin Soderling in Paris two months ago. Rafa is in Canada now, practicing without wraps on his knees, though we know that doesn’t mean much—the pain might just have moved somewhere. New-father Federer will be there as well, so we should have the sport back in full.

To celebrate the occasion, we’ve brought back the end-of-week UTennis column. The first clip, above, is of Nadal playing the final of a junior tournament in Barcelona at age 12; below it’s 11 years later, and he’s in the semifinals of the Australian Open. It's just a little reminder of what the guy brings to the game. But first, young Rafa:

—The first thing you notice is how skinny and long-limbed Nadal was. He also, at least at this point in the match, doesn't have the fighter’s chest-out bearing that we’ve come to know so well. He’s a little flat-footed and slump-shouldered, like most kids.

—The second thing you notice is that this is a hard court. He obviously spent some time on them as a kid.

—The first ground stroke we see is a backhand that he sends straight toward the moon: classic junior stuff. But then we see something special. Nadal backs all the way to the opposite sideline to get a forehand, and he hits it with surprising explosiveness—even his opponent looks stunned for a second—before knocking off a textbook high volley into the corner. The pace Nadal got on the ball seems out of all proportion to his size.

 —How about that hat on Uncle Toni? He's less Buddha-like and more agitated then he does now in the stands.

—Does Nadal lose this match? It looks like his opponent wins it with a swinging volley and then points to someone in the stands to celebrate.

—The slo-mos of Nadal show him with a bigger wind-up on both strokes, and he uses a two-handed backhand slice when he’s pulled wide. He probably hadn’t developed the one-hander yet. His racquet, the blue Babolat that I assume he began using because Carlos Moya did, looks two sizes too big for him.

—The shrugs, the sighs, the eyebrow twitches: Those mannerisms are all still there when Nadal is interviewed today. His face is as expressive as his manner is guarded. I’m not sure what he’s saying, but Rafa seems to have been a stoic from the beginning.

Remember this match? It’s funny how quickly the Aussie Open can be forgotten—it’s like an island unto itself on the calendar, not quite belonging to either season. But Nadal-Verdasco was the first of the three best matches of 2009 thus far, along with the Nadal-Djokovic semi in Madrid and the Wimbledon final. Based on these 9 minutes of exhausting highlights, I’d say it remains the best. Certainly it offered the most great tennis.

We likely won’t see this Nadal in Montreal. He’s starting gingerly, he’s lost his French and Wimbledon titles, and he’s no longer No. 1. He even says he doesn’t care if he gets back there. He obviously doesn’t feel entitled to the spot, which is appealing, but the long-term No. 1s, the Federers and Samprases, always do feel entitled to it. Nadal's down-to-earth honesty and stoicism helps him compete on a daily basis, but it’s not a mindset that lends itself to ruling the sport. Still, all that's for the future; here's some of the best of Rafa's recent past:

 —The first thing I notice isn’t Nadal, but his opponent, who had never played this well before and hasn’t since. On this day, he's exactly as good as the then-world No. 1. After five hours, they would end up winning nearly the same number of points.

—The slow, rubbery hard courts in Melbourne, whether Rebound Ace in the past or Plexicushion today, have always lent themselves to the long and inspired classic. You can see that both of these guys have the time, and the assurance of a perfect bounce, to show off their best games. Penetrating shots are rewarded, but they can also be tracked down and turned into even better shots.

—The pace of the rallies seems to pick up as the sets go on. Their confidence grew at the same rate as their desperation to get the ball past the other guy.

—One of many peaks, playing-wise, comes at the 4:00 minute mark, when Nadal tracks down a sidespinning slice and hits an even better sidespinning hook over the doubles alley and into the corner for a winner. The announcers yell, “OHHH’ in unison and Nadal backs up and fist-pumps Connors-style. Verdasco can only shake his head.

—The emotional peak comes at 0-40 in the final game, triple match point, when Nadal’s eyes begin to shine with tears. I wrote at the time, “It was the face of a great tennis player on the ledge again. Leave it to Rafael Nadal to show us how far the sport can push a man.” 

Whatever his form in Canada, it will be good to have him back.

***

Have a good weekend. I'll be back Monday to talk about L.A. and D.C. and do a—slightly belated—Montreal preview. Nadal is back, Federer is here, the women are in California: Let the new season begin.


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by Nam1 08/07/2009 at 02:02 PM

Steve, Awesome writing!!

That part about Rafa's eyes having tears in them at 0-40, it briongs it all back, the excitement, the stress, the knowledege that we were watching one of the great matches of our time.

Rafa may not do very well in Montreal but as one of his fans, we just want him to play tennis and feel well as he said last week himself.

Vamos Rafa!!

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 08/07/2009 at 02:02 PM

For some reason I absolutely cannot wait for a spanish speaking Nadal fan to weigh in with background on the 12s match, either from the tape or otherwise.

Who was the opponent? I agree with you Steve, I think Nadal loses. Its such a commentary on junior tennis. Imagine the discussions after the match, how when you are 12 it is all ahead of you as a player. Anything still is possible.

However, it seems that "anything" was only possible for one of the two players on the day. The other kid might by trying out the lower level of the tour now, or perhaps is in college somewhere. I can't wait to find out.

Posted by SRao 08/07/2009 at 02:35 PM

Steve,
so many things to sum-up/write upon.
1.I'm happy to see there are just a few readers above me,so chances of you reading my reply is 100%.I'm saying this as it's 12am/8th Aug here,in Bangalore/India and I almost never reply to your posts because,a million of them would have already given their feedbacks and I always wonder if you'll ever get to read mine if I reply the next day morning,which is a much saner time to write,right?
I also feel the need to mention this-L.Jon says that he receives many Phillipino mails and replies to them too,but he has never replied to me on his mailbag.Guess he's not much of an Indophile :-(
2.I cannot wait for your-book-release![pls write one]I just adore you,your posts and everything you write about.I'm so torn between my fav...you OR Mr.Bodo!I read and re-read them several times.
3.I'm a tennis nut,and maddddd about Fed.But these last few months,I'm quite saddd about the turn of events at the helm.Ofcourse,I'm so happy for-Fed.But not the way it all happened.Fed's success is beyond fairytale maddness too.
Your phrase of not rooting for the rival was something I could-relate to.I hated Rafa and wished for him to lose all the time,though I just adore the Kid.I hate his game,his style and at one point I felt that Rafa was murdering artistic Tennis,by beating Fed so many times.
4.So looking back,I wonder if the ol'world order,say till Dec'07 was better than all the up's and down's of 2008 and 2009 so far.Fed and Rafa were happy at being No1 and No.2 and world was a better/happier place.The so-called change at the top from Jan2008 onwards left everybody unhappy including Rafa and Fed.
5.So now that Fed is back,can we hope for World Peace too?
6.I repeat..pls write a book....on Fed!
Everytime I read your post,you make my day...THANKS

Posted by Cesar 08/07/2009 at 02:52 PM

Here what that video says. It was the final of a tournament in spain. The commentator says that Nadal was the surpise of the tournament, getting to the final. He did lose and then the commentator says that there's no denying Nadal has always preferred to play than to do an interview. Nadal says the other guy played much better than him and there was nothing he could do. He didnt play as well as he wanted, as well as the other days/matches, but oh well. Then he says something about school, I think, going to school from 9-12, and then playing tennis from 4-8. She must of asked him about soccer or "futbol", cause he says he does play, but that's more for fun. She says he had to overcome his shyness as that was his first interview w/ spanish tv.

Posted by Cesar 08/07/2009 at 02:55 PM

The opponent was Jose Antonio Sanchez. Awesome video. He was such a humble kid right from the beginning.

Posted by Pspace (Lestat Time!) 08/07/2009 at 03:05 PM

That Nadal-Verdasco match was somethin' else. One of the best matches I've seen in years....oh well, maybe 6 months. Rafa's mid-court forehand is just ridiculous. He handles the slice, hip-level ball and high ball equally well. Goes for the corners, and he never ever misses. I wish he would step in a little more on balls that are about 3 to 4 feet inside the baseline, rather than waiting for them to come to him. But, I guess it's difficult to hit that extreme forehand on the rise with depth from those spots.

Perhaps hindsight is 20-20, but when you look at him run around like a crazy guy for some of those points, you wonder how he's held up for so long. The Decco won't be as forgiving as the Plexicushion, so he'll probably have to attack a little more.

Anyways, it's probably the first time he'll get to the USO hungry and rested. SF last year. So, if he can recapture his form from Oz, it's hard to see who will stop him. But, from recent comments from Nadal and camp, it seems a tad unlikely that he will.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 08/07/2009 at 03:51 PM

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I know more about Jose Antonio Sanchez-de Luna than I did earlier today!

He's bopped around the futures and lower tour level tournaments since 2001, which meant that if he was 12 in 1998, he started about 15 or 16 or so.

His career high was about 250, and he's currently about 450.

A very respectable tennis career.

And, of course, something that gives me an opportunity to point out what U.S. tennis needs to do to revive the glory days.

Easy -- far, far more lower level pro tournaments.

This kid has been able to play continuously for 8 years, get some respectable results, and probably never even had to get a plane ticket yet. There are so many futures and lower lever tour events in Europe now that there is no economic hardship.

He probably teaches tennis if not from a well off family, and at 23 or 24 can afford to stay at it for the three or four more years to find his true peak.

What if that peak is, oh, 102 or something? Enough to get a direct entry into a Slam? Hardly a waste of one's 20s, I would say.

This is why when you search the ATP rankings by "Spain" there are more Spaniards than Americans.

We used to have tour events plus the American intercollegiate system. Now, we don't have as many tour events, and the colleges are recruiting guys like Sanchez-de Luna who have a couple of years of pro tour experience and are better than 18 year old juniors from the U.S.

Posted by HK 08/07/2009 at 03:57 PM

Ever since Nadal shot into prominence in 2005, the media has focused on the power, spin and speed that Nadal shows on the court and this is no surprise since all these qualities combined with his atheticism are breathtaking and awe inspiring. However, this does a disservice to two other essential qualities of his game, namely his timing and his tactical/mental strength although the latter has become more recognized in recent years. You highlight both of these in your linked videos, the first with your young Rafa clip and the second with the AO clip.

The explosiveness with which Rafa was able to hit the ball even when young comes from great timing. No matter how strong he is and what racquet head speed he can generate, he cannot generate the kind of pace, spin and control that he does without immaculate timing. The clip of him as a youngster, takes away all the muscles and lays bare the timing aspect of his stroke-making.

The mental strength that he has shown throughout including in the AO semifinal is second to none in the history of the sport. However, it is not just the fighting spirit at which he excels. He is also a much smarter player than he is given credit for. While Federer has always been given credit for playing smart and using his variety, it seems to me that Rafa's tactical abilities are sometimes given short shrift. The changes in strategy at important junctures in matches including net rushes, suprising serve placements etc. are integral to how Rafa wins. And his mind never stops trying to figure out how to win and be a hundred percent invested in the next point. In addition, Rafa is one of the few players in the history of the game who can actually raise his game on the big points. Many greats simply seem to tighten their games and not let their level drop more than the opponent. But, Nadal, Becker, maybe Connors, are some players who come to mind who actually play better when it matters most. All this was in good display during this years AO.

Posted by lois 08/07/2009 at 03:58 PM

Missed all you guys, been sick but I am glad too see my favorite
player coming back. I hope he still has his drive and will too
win. Looking forward to seeing him and hopes he does extremely well, I was starting to get bored but I think for me the thrill
may be back. VAMOS RAFA
Stay Well and Safe Everyone.

Posted by Cathy in SD 08/07/2009 at 04:11 PM

think Nadal is way cute at 12 - like his hair better then (so important !)

Posted by Raven 08/07/2009 at 04:15 PM

Dunlop Maxply

Posted by Raven 08/07/2009 at 04:18 PM

Dunlop Maxply,

Let's try that again! Good observations on the different systems in Spain/Europe vs the US. There were a lot more opportunities at that level when we were younger. There was also a bit more stigma in those days about taking the time to pursue that level of a career. Today no one pays attention to it.

Posted by Holly 08/07/2009 at 05:38 PM

I can't wait to see him back on court!!

Posted by linex 08/07/2009 at 05:57 PM

A great youtube clip of Nadal aged 12. As Steve says the attitude and gestures are the same as today, quite amazing. It is good to see that fame has not changed his authentic true personality.

Posted by linex 08/07/2009 at 05:59 PM

And yes that semi between Nadal and Verdasco was in my view the best match in 2009 so far. Nadal Nole second best match. Third best match DElpo Roger in Roland Garros.

Although the Wimbledon final was exciting for the final score and the length of the match I did not enjoy the play involved very much. No long exciting rallies as let say in Nole Rafa or Rafa Nando.

Posted by Rwn 08/07/2009 at 06:00 PM

You must be a complete nutcase to compare this with what happened to Seles. Steve Tignor can´t be taken seriously ever again.

Posted by lollipop 08/07/2009 at 06:05 PM

Thanks for the video, Steve! Yes, it looks like we often forget the greatness of these matches. But looking over the highlights brings back so many memories. Just wonderful. I wonder when both those guys will be back to that level of play. I sincerely hope Rafa recovers well.

Posted by vc 08/07/2009 at 06:24 PM

Federer's slam wins an embarrassment of riches?

The rest of the article was a Nadalian embarrassment of riches. The first paragraph was merely an embarrassment.

The whole article would be richer without it.

Posted by VC 08/07/2009 at 06:34 PM

The Nadal banana shot was a great one, but a touch overrated, IMO. I also find it hard to enjoy matches where he retreats miles behind the baseline. Some of the rallying in the first four sets of the final (particularly in some of the long games in the 4th set) was better, IMO. I think Federer forces Nadal to play more aggressive than usual in the baseline rallies.

Posted by Mr. X 08/07/2009 at 06:48 PM

He is back indeed, although a sea of doubts surrounds him. I just hope he will be able to run, jumpo and bounce like he did in that AO SF soon.
I agree that's the best match of 09. Nadal-Nole in Madrid had the problem of Nadal's awful first set, Delpo-Fed the problem of Delpo slowing down in the final sets and the Wimbledon final was thrilling and significant, bu the actual quality of the shots wasnt at this level. This match just had everything. And as you said, the first thing you notice is Verdasco. It seems it was actually a once-in-a-lifetime tournament for him, but he was tremendous. What i remember most is his vicious reaction when he looked defeated in the 4th set, and the wild TB he played. But Nadal couldnt be denied at the AO. Little did we know what was coming in the summer...
It's certain that we wont see this Nadal in Montreal. Getting through Ferrer and Querrey would be a good performance, in my opinion. And you are right, he's not a ruler at heart. He has always seemed more confortable as the underdog. Well, he is back to that situation right now.
Let's hope his knees dont prevent him from playing more matches like that.

Posted by fay elisabeth coleman 08/07/2009 at 08:56 PM

Thanx for this steve, can always rely on youto right something gr8 about Rafael Nadal. He is my all time most favourite player, I adored watching him at the A0 but the rest of the season after Indian Wells even when he won on clay it was stressful yet rewarding when he won of course. For me there has never been a greater athelete on the court, when in form he is simply awsome to watch, last year was my absolute fave year for tennis, Nadal played some of the best tennis I have seen, he was amazing! I hope he refinds this form as no one else brings so much thrill, intensity and of course charisma to a tennis match, Vamos Rafa indeed.

Posted by Sher 08/07/2009 at 09:35 PM

That vid of Rafa is precious. So cute, and exactly the same manerisms as we see today. So cool and collected.

Posted by rafadoc 08/07/2009 at 10:37 PM

Steve: Well done again. I think you capture the sentiment of tennis fans, not just Rafa fans. I could watch that semi final match again and again and still shake my head.

The "banana shot" VC refers to is one of the best shots I have ever seen as a tennis fan. I try to look at it from the perspective of a tennis fan, not a Nadal fan...but I still drop my jaw at that one. If you are a fan of tennis, you have to admit that was an amazing shot.

Posted by rafadoc 08/07/2009 at 11:05 PM

^^ Shows where your heads at Russ. :)

Posted by Carol 08/07/2009 at 11:14 PM

rafadoc, well said, the "banana shot" is an amazing shot!!

Rafa says that probably is going to play DC against Israel. This a good news, it seems he is OK

Posted by rafadoc 08/07/2009 at 11:38 PM

Carol: The banana shot in that video that Steve posted defies reason. I really don't know how anyone can say it is less than amazing...unless you are a KAD of another player or something.

Again. I love that Steve has posted video of "rookie" Rafa and "veteran" Rafa. Fun to watch.

Posted by Carol 08/07/2009 at 11:58 PM

rafadoc, that kind of critics always are coming from someone who is a KAD of another player, you know.....

Posted by JohnC 08/08/2009 at 12:38 AM

There's no doubt that Rafa's having to face Ferrer as his first match is more of a challenge than Roger having to dispose of Kunitsyn. And the Canadian press is reporting that while he's looking better than on Thursday, he's still pretty creaky. (And I'm sure that Murray would have preferred to start his proceedings against someone other than Hewitt, which looks a certainty.)

Assuming all goes roughly to plan, an Elf-Rafa qf (or a Sod-Rafa qf) should give us a real sense of his recovery and form.

I know the odds are probably against a Roger-Rafa final, but what a treat it would be!

Posted by JohnC 08/08/2009 at 01:01 AM

Whoops, that should be "other than Chardy" (rather than Hewitt). The rest of Murray's draw is hardly a doddle either.

Posted by Ryota 08/08/2009 at 03:02 AM

This is my first post in 2 months. How time flies!

Delighted as I am with Federer's wins this spring (I did predict 14 and 15 to come this season ehem ehem), I may be in the minority in saying that the biggest news was Nadal's absence. It is remarkable how fast tennis' landscape has changed without him and it is eerily similar to 2004-2006 (all good but a bit one-sided). It also makes it clearer what an exceptional player Nadal is given what he accomplished against Federer.

Montreal will be interesting as it will be the 1st tournament where the big guns are all back in action. Some questions...

1. How will Nadal fare in his comeback? (It is strange to call it a comeback and yet it is.)

2. Will Murray be his usual self and win another Master after faltering in the Slams anew?

3. Will the 2007 Djokovic show up?

4. Is Roddick ready to make the Fab Four into a Fab Five?

5. Can anyone stop Federer?

Posted by VC 08/08/2009 at 03:04 AM

"The banana shot in that video that Steve posted defies reason. I really don't know how anyone can say it is less than amazing...unless you are a KAD of another player or something."

rafadoc : It was an incredible shot. But I've seen Rafa and Roger make similar shots on several other occasions. Rafa had time to set it up even though the slice was fading away. IMO, the greatest shot Rafa has hit in his career was the forehand pass to give him 7-6 in the fourth set tiebreak against Federer in the Wimby '08 final (and I say that as a Federer fan - since you suspect I have a KAD bias against Rafa :-)). He hit it off a powerful approach shot by Federer right in the corner, on the dead run. It broke my heart, but I gasped in amazement.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/08/2009 at 03:21 AM

Hey everyone. :)

Oh VC! I hope Roger winning that last classic final made it better for you. ;-) Very different match, but coming through to win hopefully goes a long way to healing the 2008 wounds (if the FO hadn't started that process...).

The shots they hit in 2008, though - no, I'm not tired of it yet, LOL - just stunning.

I'd better admit to having 12 year old Rafa video bookmarked now, hadn't I? Adorable and so much himself.

"We likely won’t see this Nadal in Montreal. He’s starting gingerly, he’s lost his French and Wimbledon titles, and he’s no longer No. 1. He even says he doesn’t care if he gets back there. He obviously doesn’t feel entitled to the spot, which is appealing, but the long-term No. 1s, the Federers and Samprases, always do feel entitled to it. Nadal's down-to-earth honesty and stoicism helps him compete on a daily basis, but it’s not a mindset that lends itself to ruling the sport."

Agree with this and have made peace with it. :) Guess he'd like to be number one again, but not at the expense of niggling injury. And knee-wise and tape-wise, I think he's said they removed the tapes because the pain had moved and that the tape was not helping.

all that said, he could still surprise us in Montreal; for me one of the characteristics of Rafa's career is his ability to surprise everyone.

I never saw the AO SF match - only the last four points - but it's not forgotten; still mentioned a fair bit on TW. Going to watch the highlights now...thanks for those. :)

Posted by VC 08/08/2009 at 03:34 AM

"Oh VC! I hope Roger winning that last classic final made it better for you. ;-) Very different match, but coming through to win hopefully goes a long way to healing the 2008 wounds (if the FO hadn't started that process...)."

jewell : I kind of looked on that match fondly even before the Fed renaissance started in Madrid. It's just one of those classic events that you can feel proud that your guy was part of. As I told Andrew, it's obviously easier to be gracious when your guy has 5 Wimby titles and 12 Slams already at that stage. ;-)

Anyway, I still haven't given up hope that Federer will come out on the right end of one of these classics some day (Federer-Safin AO '05, Federer-Nadal Rome '06, Federer-Nadal Wimbledon '08 all ended in honorable losses...).

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/08/2009 at 03:52 AM

LOL...no love for 2009 Wimbledon final? It was an odd one, though, but still classic in my eyes. Feel badly for Roddick still.

"As I told Andrew, it's obviously easier to be gracious when your guy has 5 Wimby titles and 12 Slams already at that stage. ;-)"

Love you for that, but it isn't always the case. :)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/08/2009 at 04:06 AM

Oh!!!!! Forgot just how much I *love* watching Rafa when he's playing well.

Verdasco played an absolute blinder, too. Real pity about that last game - he just went for a little too much on his serves.

thanks again for the highlights, Steve. :)

Posted by rt 08/08/2009 at 06:02 AM

Federer will be rusty now with 5 weeks off, little practice or training since Wimbledon, and he is a father of 2 babies now.
Nadal only has the rust, not the other 2. More than 2 months off should be more than enough rest and recovery for knee tendinitis. It wasn't surgery. No excuses for him now. If he loses, it's not bad form and injured knees and parents separating. It's being outplayed on the day and not being very good on hardcourts with his chosen style of play. 1 Slam win and final and 3 semis, including that 1 win speaks for itself in his career so far on hardcourts, which include 2 Slams of 4 (1/2). Facts.
Federer has more legitimate reasons and excuses for losing and playing badly and not being focused and motivated and passionate now than Nadal does. Those are facts.
What form will Federer be in now and the rest of this year?
The world #1 needs to play and focus on tennis until he retires. Then family should be priority, unless sick, injured or emergency with family during tennis career. Then family should be priority until those issues are settled and improved. But if/when everyone in his family is happy and healthy, tennis should still be his priority even after winning Slam #15. If it's not, and family is now, then he should retire now if he can't focus and doesn't have passion, dedication and motivation to play, have fun and continue winning like he says he does and wants to do.

Posted by Tuulia 08/08/2009 at 06:08 AM

Steve - *big hug*
Thanks for another great article.

Posted by Vincent 08/08/2009 at 06:09 AM

"The pace of the rallies seems to pick up as the sets go on. Their confidence grew at the same rate as their desperation to get the ball past the other guy."

To be fair, it was not a very long match, it only lasted like, what, 5h+ ? If that match had lasted 10 hours, or a whole day, maybe Nadal or Verdasco would have shown teeny-tiny signs of fatigue.

Posted by Tuulia 08/08/2009 at 06:48 AM

"Federer will be rusty now with 5 weeks off, little practice or training since Wimbledon, and he is a father of 2 babies now."

...rrright. It may have escaped your notice, but he didn't actually give birth to the babies himself, his wife did. He should be fine to practise, and indeed play matches. ;)

Naturally 5 weeks with "little practice" makes a player far rustier than an actual injury plus and 2 and a half months of little practice. Oh, wait...

----
"Federer has more legitimate reasons and excuses for losing and playing badly and not being focused and motivated and passionate now than Nadal does. Those are facts."

According to some people (possibly including you by the sound of it) Roger's had those for a year and a half already. :)


Posted by Ro'ee 08/08/2009 at 06:55 AM

Steve, what I remember best of that Oz semi is that I'd gotten out of surgery right before the match.
at the beginning of the fifth my painkillers were wearing off, but I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want any interruptions.
Let's just say that with my thumb (hey, I didn't say major surgery) hurting like the dickens this was more intense for me than any of the past 3 years' Wimby finals

Posted by Tuulia 08/08/2009 at 06:59 AM

Ro'ee and thumb - *waves* :) Thanks for sharing.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 08/08/2009 at 07:04 AM

If an AO win, an Olympic gold medal and a fair few MS titles is "not very good on HC" - well, this Rafa fan certainly isn't going to complain. :)

Posted by Tuulia 08/08/2009 at 07:10 AM

jewell - remember to compare to actual HC players like Blake, Roddick and Murray. What they've achieved clearly... it... well it... does... sort of... hmmm.
It IS confusing isn't it? ;)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 08/08/2009 at 07:19 AM

I really thought after the AO that I would stop hearing about how Rafa can't do much on a HC. *feels naive*

Accept it may not be the ideal surface for his game, but he can certainly play on it. :)

Posted by Tuulia 08/08/2009 at 07:29 AM

I've accepted the fact that some people are living in a time capsule somewhere a few years ago when it comes to Rafa. Once deemed a clay courter, always a clay clay courter. Winning big tournaments on hc, beating so called - or rather NOT so called since such a term doesn't seem to exist - "hard courters" is irrelevant. He's done better than anyone on hc during the last year and a half, hasn't he? Does it make any difference? Apparently not. *shrug*

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 08/08/2009 at 07:34 AM

I left you a comment on the YC thread, btw, Tuulia. :)

Posted by Bobby 08/08/2009 at 07:38 AM

Steve... the best blogger on tennis.com

Posted by Tuulia 08/08/2009 at 07:44 AM

jewell, saw it, thanks :)

I think I'm now off to make some tea like you suggest... or maybe rather milkshake, it's hot.


Bobby - yes he is, by a mile.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 08/08/2009 at 07:51 AM

Tea is a good drink for when it's hot, it can cool you down more than a cold one. :)

I forget the science, so you'll just have to trust me...LOL.

Posted by Carol 08/08/2009 at 08:15 AM

Wow rt, how can you compare to be out of the court for more than two months because an injury and just to be able to practice one week ego and saying Federer will be rusty now with 5 weeks off?
Well, be sure that Federer has been practicing day by day, he doesn't have any injury, just his wife did give birth to the babies, that's all

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 08/08/2009 at 08:47 AM

"Steve, what I remember best of that Oz semi is that I'd gotten out of surgery right before the match.
at the beginning of the fifth my painkillers were wearing off, but I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want any interruptions.
Let's just say that with my thumb (hey, I didn't say major surgery) hurting like the dickens this was more intense for me than any of the past 3 years' Wimby finals"

LOL!!!! Ro'ee, I bow to your fandom!!!!

Steve,

I little story that I remember about Rafa...When he was 12 or 13, about the age of the Rafa we see in the video, he won some big title in Spain. The Nationals for an age group or something (can't remember that part)

Anyhow, he won this big title, and was feeling a little cocky about it. Toni and his dad, then pulled out a list of names of tennis players in their twenties, and asked Rafa if he had ever heard of any of them. Rafa answered "No"

To which Toni & Papa Nadal told young Rafa that all the players on the list had won the same big title too. But failed to do anything after.

Lesson learned, back to work.

Posted by ava 08/08/2009 at 08:49 AM

As always Steve never disappoints with any of his pieces. And being a Rafa fan I definitely loved this.
The AO semi was amazing. That Rafa would absolutely beat anyone including Fed. I think the only factor stopping Rafa from being Fed-like is the knees. That's partly his fault but it is what it is. The knees would be Rafa's undoing. But I'm still optimistic. He can get back what he's lost. That's tennis.
No one inspires me more in a tennis court than Rafael Nadal and I'm glad that we get to see him again.

Already the detractors are out in full force, I wonder what will happen if he loses early or wins the whole damn thing....

Posted by Carol 08/08/2009 at 09:28 AM

ava, the detractors usually don't know so much about tennis but they sympathise just with one or two players and they hate the "other ones", it doesn't matter how great these are

Posted by manuelsantanafan 08/08/2009 at 10:13 AM

rt writes:

Nadal only has the rust, not the other 2. More than 2 months off should be more than enough rest and recovery for knee tendinitis. It wasn't surgery. No excuses for him now. If he loses, it's not bad form and injured knees and parents separating. It's being outplayed on the day and not being very good on hardcourts with his chosen style of play. 1 Slam win and final and 3 semis, including that 1 win speaks for itself in his career so far on hardcourts, which include 2 Slams of 4 (1/2).

_____________________________

Is rt an orthopedic surgeon or some other type of medical professional? Even if he is, has he personally examined Rafa or looked at the pertinent medical records?

I suspect that the answers to the above questions would suggest that rt is talking out of a certain orifice that is not often bathed by gentle (or any other type of) sunshine.

As far a rt's allegation about Rafa not being very good on hardcourts, previous posts have addressed the spuriousness of said allegation.

Posted by yfish 08/08/2009 at 12:11 PM

I love it that people are really talking (writing) about Nadal again. It make it much more interesting to read the blogs. Thanks to all you contributors. From a lurker.

Posted by goody 08/08/2009 at 01:53 PM

Federer is very artistic in the way he plays tennis. He makes a lot of shots very easy but if you 95% of the time he won, it was always one sided. There was very little drama and the opponents were just outplayed. I am not saying they are bad players but there was no one that could make federer play out of his comfort zone and then federer has the uncanny ability to get a lot of returns. Roddick is good but if you take away the serve, then there is nothing that is really worth watching and that is one reason why he has always lost to federer. Wimbledon final was good but it was a serving game. French Open was good but they were one sided. I like fed a lot but the players who really get the best out of him are Nadal, Murray and Djokovic. All the four players share one common quality and that is they all are very good returners. Federer hits a lot of aces but when he plays these players he does not get many because they all can return very well.
So finally I think the matches between nadal and federer, murray and federer, Djokovic and Federer, Murray and nadal, djokovic and nadal, murray and djokovic are very entertaining because there are rallies and there are absolutely incredible winners.

Posted by french open fanatic 08/08/2009 at 03:02 PM

i am SO happy that Rafa is coming back! i've been so bored the past few months! in all honesty, i don't have much hope for him getting high results from the rest of the season - but i'll be cheering for him, healthy knees, and a much anticipated comeback - however long it takes!

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 08/08/2009 at 05:39 PM

Steve, yet another fantastic article. Loves it! Thanks!

Aww Rafa was adorable as a kid. You're right, exact same mannerisms.

I love that 2nd vid. That match was incredible. I was rivetted for the whole thing. *That* shot at 4:00 is truly a thing of beauty. I love watching Rafa play on clay, but watching that vid reminds me of just how exquisite he is on HC as well. Hott Sauce was also incredible during that match. I felt so awful for him.
Excited and frazzling about Rafa's upcoming return. Vamos!!

Posted by Carol 08/08/2009 at 06:55 PM

This year I think Nadals'results are going to be the opposite to the last year. After to win so many Tournaments during the summer on clay and with a great perfomance en Wimbledon plus later Montreal, he arrived to tired to US OPEN, and he lost.
Well, I don't think he is going to do so well in Montreal (too long out of the court) but much better in Cincinnati and probably to win the US OPEN, very exciting!!.
Vamos rafa!!!!!!

Posted by CC 08/08/2009 at 07:48 PM

I really liked that post. Thanks for reminding all of us how great Nadal is. He, unlike some competitors, is not elitest, nor is he arrogant, he is not pretentious nor does he wear expensive watches. At the Olympics he truly embodied the Olympic spirit by living in the village unlike others who stayed at posh hotels, arrived in expensive limousines and, overall, felt as if they were just a little above the rest. Nadal is needed in this era of men's tennis because it just feels like it's not truly tennis. I didn't watch any of the French open after Nadal lost and I watched none of Wimbledon. It all paled in comparison to last year. I loved the AO Final because it was won fair and square without excuses of knees or mono or anything else. That is how it should be, always.
I am looking forward to Rafael's return in full form so that he can have the career grand slam at his young age. By the age of 27 or 28 he will have surpassed many, many records that seem impossible to break now. I look forward to a long career for Rafael and many more ATP and Grand Slam victories. Vamos!!

Posted by mayetc 08/09/2009 at 01:57 AM

Thank you for this post, Steve! It means a lot to this die-hard Rafa fan. :)

SURREAL is how I'd describe the last two months of Rafa's break from the tour. I can't believe how quickly Rafa's and Federer's fortunes changed in that short period. Rafa's achievements in the first half of the year were completely obliterated by Federer's back-to-back Slams. Which is understandable, I guess. The emperor's back in his throne and the whole world is lapping at his feet once more.

But my heart goes out to Rafa. The world (or is it the media?) seems to have completely forgotten him and hastily pronounced the demise of his career because of his nagging knee problems. I hope he'll prove them wrong. I don't expect him to win championships anytime soon. I just want to see him play again, see the fire in his eyes and watch him compete and do his utmost best against his peers for as long as he can.

I don't think he's born to rule and he doesn't crave for entitlement as Federer does. He just wants to play tennis, do his best and try to win tournaments. I couldn't care less if Federer is hailed as the greatest player in the universe. Rafa will always be number one in this fan's heart and I'm deliriously happy to see him back on tour.

As always, VAMOS, RAFA!!!

Posted by rafa4ever 08/09/2009 at 02:24 AM

Steve, you rock!
I miss Rafa! I miss the fight in tennis matches. Glad to see him back. Fans for life!!!

Posted by JohnC 08/09/2009 at 03:40 AM

Google tells me that neither the world nor the media has forgotten Rafa. He is half the equation of biggest narrative in men's tennis, and there have been more articles discussing him than any other non-playing player in history over the past two months.

Posted by VC 08/09/2009 at 04:26 AM

It's always amusing to see how an innocent article starts out with positive, well-wishing comments for one guy, and how quickly it all degenerates into veiled (or not-so-veiled) digs at the other, who's done nothing but go about his business quietly. Oh well.

Posted by JohnC 08/09/2009 at 04:41 AM

VC, I reckon one needs to be a little bit empathetic; the past couple of months have been not a good time for hardcore Rafa fans, coming as it did just as it looked as if their guy was going to conquer the world. And I've also read some pretty gruesome things by Fedkads about Rafa that have been completely uncalled for (of which rt's post previous page is a mild example).

As a Federer follower I try to emulate the attitude of both those guys and encourage mutual respect and civility. In the end the rackets and records are the only talk that matters.

Posted by real 08/09/2009 at 07:51 AM

msf,
You are back to your normal insulting people again that state factual results and statistical #s that you don't want to hear but are still facts regardless.
Carol,
Federer is a father of 2 babies and a husband too. That does require responsibility, devotion, priorities, focus, work, time, loss of sleep, loss of training and practice, etc, etc, etc.
It can very easily have a negative affect on his game, passion, play, priorities, form, etc.

Stating continuous facts is never uncalled for, like me.
8 Slams - 1 on hardcourts.
15 Slams - 6 overall.
242 weeks overall #1 and counting to 46.
20-8 in Slam finals.
23-10 in Slam semis.
Since AO 2008 (last year), both have won 3 Slams (equal there), with Federer reaching more semis and finals than Nadal, and with Federer having much tougher draws consistently in terms of higher ranked and better players faced overall and more successful career accomplishments in opponents' careers too. Stats, #s, results and facts prove me right.
Biased opinions (like CCs guaranteed predictions way before they actually happen and Federer's injured back and horrible serving and still easily winning 2 sets in AO final and losing in 5 is not won fair and square) and inaccurate, false, ignorant statements (like many posters here) are.

I'll be back tomorrow for more facts to set these Nadal fans straight. He is fine. For the most part, his fans are not good.

Posted by JohnC 08/09/2009 at 08:35 AM

Please, people, you are not in kindegarten anymore. On the one hand we have a Federer who is "arrogant", "wears expensive watches", and "craves for entitlement", while Nadal now has "no excuses" and his fans are "not good".

Real, consider it possible that Federer's career record (the best in the history of the game) actually has little bearing on the excellence of Nadal's game, the excitement it generates, and the importance of that enthusiasm to the attraction of the sport among fans and the broader public.

Posted by JohnC 08/09/2009 at 09:02 AM

A post from the immediate previous thread:
"I can't seem to find any kind of reason to agree with the bi-partisan attitude regarding devotion and KAD attitude as a fan. I am a big Rafa fan ... Because Federer is Nadal's main rival I root against Fed no matter whom he is playing against ..."

This is an admission of not only personal infantalism but also a complete perversion of sport and its underlying ethic, which is a celebration of excellence.

Posted by Carol 08/09/2009 at 12:05 PM

Relax real, relax and try yourself to look at the mirror
First, no excuse if Federer is not going to play so good because his wife did give birth the babies, believe me, they have a lot of help and he has never stop to practice
Second, we know perfectly well Fed records, great tennis player and has all my respect, but at the same time I consider him the GLOAT, this means "the greatest lucky of all times"
Third, don't forget the age, a fact, big difference at the time to count results, although there is another fact too: Rafa-Roger, 13-7
As tennis fan I love this sport and I know what great Federer is, but in my opinion Nadal is better player. Just an injury has made Federer to reach "the 15"
Now, I hope all the good luck to Nadal, even if he's not going to play so good in Montreal, big hope he's going to be ready to US OPEN

JohnC, I agree with you, but I've read worst comments from Federer fans

Posted by Vincent 08/09/2009 at 12:27 PM

You make a very good point by reminding everyone that Federer and Nadal haven't the same age, Carol. Obviously, at 23 Federer hadn't won as many slams as Nadal has now.

However, it's also worth to remember that, at 23, his knees were not so banged up as to put him off the tour for two months. In fact, at 28 years of age, Federer is still in a better physical shape than his 5-years younger adversary. Quite funny, isn't it ? But there's something funnier : after Fed turned 23, he started racking up the GS to the tune of 3 per year. So, if little Rafa wants to keep up, he should win something like two Slams a year for at least four years.

Now I've got this weird feeling that the task may prove somewhat difficult for someone who already needs infiltrations to play through the pain in June, at 23 :).

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 08/09/2009 at 12:46 PM

Thanks for lovely article, Steve. As a long time Rafa fan I am delighted to see his return. But I am not expecting much of him, I think it will be a while before he return to 'top form.'

What I am really hoping for is that he can complete this season without aggravating the knee problems. Anything more than that is a bonus for me. Sometimes though, I do wonder what he could have achieved had he not had this condition. The sky would have been the limit!

Posted by VC 08/09/2009 at 02:41 PM

"Just an injury has made Federer to reach "the 15""

Carol : You are entitled to your opinions but that statement is factually incorrect. None of Federer's opponents retired in the recently concluded French Open and Wimbledon. Everybody he faced was beaten fair and square over five sets, but still, go ahead and trivialize his achievements if you must. The record books speak for themselves.

Posted by Melanie 08/09/2009 at 06:30 PM

For me, quite simply tennis just hasnt been the same the past few months without the man who 'fights' the best on court of anyone I have seen.

The French and Wimby were not the same, yes there were lovely matches to watch and the final was a classic, but for me none of these games got my heart pounding and sitting on the edge of my seat cheering and clapping.

I love Rafa, there is no absolutely no question about that, but I love the competition and the intensity that he brings to the game. Without that, tennis is pretty mundane and Federer just cranks up more and more titles - which is cool as he works hard and deserves them. But isnt it better when you know that there is going to be something magical happening on the court as soon as you hear Federer-Nadal?

Where we would be within the Borg-McEnroe, Agassi-Sampras rivals? Who knows how many grand slams each of these guys would have won without the other, or maybe they would not have won so many since it was the rivalry that kept them fired up?

There is no right or wrong answer as to who is the better player: Federer or Nadal. The most important thing is that these guys are doing incredible things for tennis and making it a game for all to watch. Who knows what amazing young kids are out there watching these two greats battle it out on the court, in the hope that one day they will win the the Grand Slams like these two do?

Fed has the most grand slams title today but in the next 20 or 30 years someone else will overtake him, and he and Rafa will only be a distant memory, talked about by people who can remember them. To me Rafa along with Agassi will always be the greatest. They've had the ups and downs in their careers which makes it that much more interesting to watch them play.

Thanks Steve for a lovely post about our Rafa, and I think he will play it cool for these two Masters and then crank it up for the US Open. As he said he is now ready to play mentally so look out!

Posted by Dani 08/09/2009 at 07:20 PM

Anyone thinks (like me), that the Aussi semi-final between Verdasco and Nadal was the highest quality match of all time? I mean, I know it is not the best match (not a final, etc.), but still, it seems to me that the quality of those highlights is beyond that all the matches I have ever seen.

Posted by JohnC 08/09/2009 at 07:21 PM

Carol, my point is that to support your favourite, even to the point of fanaticism, you NEVER need to denigrate his rival. To dismiss Federer's achievement as "lucky" is as juvenile as someone trying to trivialise Rafa's recent successes as due to Federer's form slump. Compare your mean-spirited post to the tone and content of Melanie's. Bit of a difference, no?

History beckoned Roger, and he answered the call, decisively. Rafa has already booked his place in Tennis Valhalla but only time will tell whether he can keep the appointment. I wish him the very best.

Posted by Carol 08/09/2009 at 08:09 PM

JohnC, I don't think that to say Federer is "lucky" is "mean-spirited", maybe you could be a little more fair and to read anothers Federer fans comments to judge who is more "mean" most of the times, and more when they are talking about his injury and his lost in RG

Posted by JohnC 08/09/2009 at 08:32 PM

I was sort of anticipating that line of reply: "They say bad things too". That's why I described this behavious as juvenile before, it's the way children reason before they develop a moral sense. I'm calling out both sides on this silliness.

As for RG, Nadal played so by definition he was fit. He lost to Soderling fair and square, just as Soderling subsequently lost to Federer. There's no asterisk on anyone's performance here.

Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon on the very eve but it is pointless to speculate how he would have done had he been able to compete, and certainly such speculation cannot detract one iota from Federer's victory.

And now we are in runup to the USO, with both players having time and a couple of tournaments to regain top form. Whoever wins that (and it could also be Murray or Djoker or Roddick) should not have some demented fans trying to asterisk their victory in advance because of Roger's babies or Rafa's knees. You can only play whomever is across the net.

Posted by Carol 08/09/2009 at 09:02 PM

So my question is, when Nadal got the injury? maybe after to lose RG? in the airplane when he flu to Wimbledon? after to lose the exhibition match against Hewitt?. Maybe nobody remenber that in he first exhibition match in RG he lost one set against a guy that was something like 110 number in the world?. Do you think that if Rafa was fit (the best player on clay) he could lost that set?
Sorry, but even must of the Federer fans want to admit this point, Nadal lost RG because his injuries in his knees

Posted by Carol 08/09/2009 at 09:06 PM

I meant "many of the Federer fans doesn't want to admit this point"

Posted by JohnC 08/09/2009 at 09:25 PM

If you step onto the court, you're fit to play. That's the way it works for Roger (mono, back), Rafa (knees), and everybody else. That's not to say players don't have pain, I reckon half the tour is playing with some degree of chronic pain at any given time.

But it's not up to others to make judgments. It's up to the players themselves to determine whether they are fit enough, and they make that decision known by either entering or withdrawing from tournaments and matches.

Nadal played RG, he lost. End of story.

Posted by VC 08/09/2009 at 09:50 PM

Must be hard to be Roger Federer (particularly after Nadal's upset in RG). If he had failed to go on and win the tournament, it's because he was too inept to take advantage of Nadal's defeat. If he somehow managed to win, it was because he got some ill-deserved luck.

I think it's possible for Federer fans to acknowledge that he deserved his win, but the injury played a part in Nadal's loss, and it's also possible for Nadal fans to do the same and give credit to Roger.

Posted by nyorkina 08/09/2009 at 09:59 PM

Steve, thanks a lot. Rafa is just so humble,due perhaps to the influence of family values but he is a warrior and what warrior does not play to win? Some people want it all but some people are destined to have it all.

Vamos Rafa.

Posted by Carol 08/09/2009 at 10:02 PM

Nadal played RG, he lost because his knees injury. End of story

Posted by J 08/09/2009 at 10:15 PM

Nadal played RG,Soderling beat him. Get over it.

Posted by Carol 08/09/2009 at 10:35 PM

j and the others Federer fans, if you are happy with that idea, keep it, no problem, be happy!! I understand you....

Posted by jabeau 08/09/2009 at 10:45 PM

"Nadal played RG,Soderling beat him."

As much as it pains me, that is the truth. If you front up at the net, you're fit to play. No ifs and buts. I am a fan of Rafael, but you have to be objective.

Of course it would have been better if he played against Roger and I'd preferred a loss against him in the final, but it's over now.

Melanie, I enjoyed your post, I feel exactly the same.

JohnC thanks for bringing your cool headedness and well formulated responses to the discussion.

Posted by Joe (Rafa's fifth RG crown in 09) 08/10/2009 at 12:58 AM

Great post Steve like always!!!

Great Nadal, the fine young tennis Champion, he's back!!!
I hope the best to him, now I can enjoy more tennis when he's playing. Not idea what he is going to do in Montreal, if he's rusty or not, but I know I'm going to celebrate the US OPEN

Carol, I agree with you 100%

Posted by Joe (Rafa's fifth RG crown in 10) 08/10/2009 at 01:04 AM

Glup!!!! hehe, time to change the year (Rafa's fifth RG in 10)

Posted by regisREMY 08/10/2009 at 01:31 AM

Hi Steve,
I liked the article and all those well-observed facts. What Rafa has done and will probably do is amazing. He certainly is an extraordinary champion and always a sport and a gentleman.
I would make 3 remarks:
- It is difficult to compare the situation between Nadal and Federer, with the one between Seles and Graf. Injuries are part of sport. If you get injured, maybe you have a weakness somewhere in your body, or you do too much. When i see Nadal come up with those amazingly demanding shots, i think that sometimes he does too much to himself.
Now we should remember that Seles was also dominating Graf (as much as Rafa has been dominating Roger), but the BIG difference is: Monica had been STABBED (by a Sfeffi's fan, which is even more symbolic). Seles did stop playing 2 years because of that and never came back to the same level. I remember that Graf was so pissed by Seles victories over her at the time that she was talking about retiring, before that 'crime' happened.
I think Roger, and some other players sometimes, pushes Rafa to his limits, and beyond the limits that only an extraordinary player like him can reach.
So, that's part of the sports to get injured and have to give up.

If you listen to a game with Rafa, you hear all those grunts showing how much physical effort he has to put in nearly every shot he makes, including the serve.
Now, listen to Roger. Ever heard a noise? effortless, it seams. It looks like he never
has to dig into his physical reserves.
And If you listen to this amazing AO SF, you notice that Carrasco produces nearly the
same output as Nadal, without making any noise. That was my second remark.

My third one is: Carrasco is a left-hander. That makes a huge difference and that's probably why he was so hard to beat for Rafa. His famous top-spin reaches Carrasco's forehand, not his backhand. Plus they know each other very well. McEnroe once said that if Rafa had not been a left-hander he would never beaten Roger. I leave him with his opinion, but McEnroe was one of the most gifted left-hander the game has ever produced.

And I have a fourth remark:
Where is Roger's coach when he plays? What's his name? Where is his Toni?
Well, he does have any. Except on some special occasions, sometimes. All those big champions in the last 20 years had to have a coach, including Sampras and Agassi. Federer knows what he has to do. Even when he has lost (only to Nadal), he was doing
the right thing, but just could not do more...
When he loses against Nadal, it is because Rafa forces him to play this extra master shot on every point. If you want to score against Nadal, you have to kill 3, 4 times the ball. And we all know how difficult it is to kill it even once. Even Master Roger misses after a while.

Should I make a fifth remark (!) about what happened to Andy during that WIM final? ... and he has a coach. When you have that HUGE serve, currently the best in the game, and you are 6-2 in a TB, with four set points, how can you lose the TB that is bringing you the match?
That's probably a question Andy will have to answer every morning of his life when he wakes up. But that is out of the current subject. It is called 'mental strength' and both Rafa and Roger have that.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/10/2009 at 02:13 AM

I guess it's too late for a chant of "Just say no to Fedal wars!", but, better late than never. :)

1) There is no need to swipe at Federer when praising Nadal. And in fact, quite often doing so diminishes Rafa's own achievements, no?

2) If someone *does* take a swipe at Federer, there is no need to retaliate by taking an answering swipe at Rafa. I know it's tempting, but it tends to escalate things by angering other people, no?

3) It would be nice if Soderling could get some real credit for his win at RG. He played tremendously well, he deserved to win, and he deserves all the plaudits that should go his way. How would we Rafa fans feel if people kept showing up and saying "Roger lost in AO because his back was hurting."? My guess is most of us would not be very happy.

Melanie and VC: enjoyed your comments very much. :)

Posted by JohnC 08/10/2009 at 02:31 AM

"It would be nice if Soderling could get some real credit for his win at RG."

Indeed. Disparaging Soderling's win and subsequent excellent performance (shame he appears to be temporarily sidelined by injury, but journeyman he is no more) is just part of the collateral damage of the Fedal war nonsense.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/10/2009 at 02:53 AM

Excellent performance not just at RG but onwards, too, including a title in Sweden, no? Pity about the injury and needing to withdraw from Montreal.

Making Soderling sound second-rate doesn't really help Rafa's cause, either, come to that. :)

Posted by Vincent 08/10/2009 at 04:03 AM

CC : "I really liked that post. Thanks for reminding all of us how great Nadal is. He, unlike some competitors, is not elitest, nor is he arrogant, he is not pretentious nor does he wear expensive watches."

But he does drive an Aston-Martin, surf on a jetski, and buy himself houses in the Dominican Republic. Now can we call it quit with this sort of cheap shots ?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/10/2009 at 04:34 AM

I'd rather we quit the cheap shots altogether. :)

Must say, Rafa sounds rather glamorous and Bond-esque the way you put that, Vincent...the Aston...the jetski...mmm. :)

Posted by Zico 08/10/2009 at 05:33 AM

I've never been a Nadal fan, but it took me a 2-month of Nadal-less tennis to understand his importance to the sport. Now that Roger has his record, I hope they both stay healthy and give us more hall of fame matchs.

Posted by Vincent 08/10/2009 at 06:36 AM

"Must say, Rafa sounds rather glamorous and Bond-esque the way you put that, Vincent...the Aston...the jetski...mmm. :)"

Now all he needs is a Ursula Andress... Any candidates :) ?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/10/2009 at 07:24 AM

*begins stampede despite not looking quite as good in a white bikini as Ursula*

LOL. Although, I'm not going on a crash/starvation diet or dyeing my hair white-blonde even for Rafa. ;-)

Posted by luck 08/10/2009 at 07:34 AM

Montreal and Cincinnati for Men.
Cincinnati and Toronto for Women.
Then US Open for everyone.
Exciting and important hardcourt events and season now.
Federer and Nadal both have something to prove for different reasons.
See what happens.

Posted by JohnC 08/10/2009 at 07:39 AM

Don't worry about the white bikini, Jewell. In the book she ain't wearing anything at that beach first meeting, LOL

Posted by Joe (Rafa's fifth RG crown in 10) 08/10/2009 at 08:26 AM

Nadal is going to play doubles with his coach, that's not bad, great to practice and to get confidence

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