Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Brothers to the Death
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Brothers to the Death 05/17/2010 - 5:35 PM

Rf-rn They say that married couples begin to resemble each other as they get older. Can it also be true of tennis rivals, who spend so much time in the same rarefied air, far above the rest of us? At their peaks, Borg and McEnroe each sported long locks and headbands. By the end of his career, Pete Sampras was beginning to catch up to Andre Agassi in the hair-loss department. If anything, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have gone their predecessors one better. Standing next to each other during the trophy ceremony in Madrid on Sunday, these two 20-somethings from Western Europe, each 6-foot-1, each smiling thinly and politely for the cameras, each with hair that has been tamed and trimmed from its youthful overabundance, looked more like big brother and little brother than they did hated combatants.

Watching them, I wondered whether this might be the beginning of a new, mellower, let-bygones-be-bygones stage of their rivalry, one that Borg and McEnroe never had a chance to reach, and one that, as we found out at the Hit for Haiti in Indian Wells in March, was never in the cards for Agassi and Sampras. After all, the driving dynamic behind Federer vs. Nadal for all these years was the fact that each wanted to win on the other guy’s Grand Slam turf—Federer at the French and Nadal at Wimbledon. Now, for the first time, that dynamic doesn’t exist. Even Nadal’s sincere words to Federer after this final—basically, “Congratulations on winning the Australian Open. You are amazing”—had a sort of, ‘At this point, there’s no need to belabor the fact that we respect each other,’ feel to them.

Thankfully, rivalries are just what they sound like: They can be friendly, but the core of the relationship is always adversarial. Even though Federer has a French and Nadal has a Wimbledon, the edge between them lives on, as it must. Nadal wants to add titles to his resume while he has the chance, while Federer, at the most basic level, doesn’t want to see Nadal pad his winning record against him even more. (If you thought Federer didn’t have any more reasons to be motivated, try to imagine the putative greatest of all time contemplating a career head-to-head with Nadal that continues at its current pace and ends up being something like 18 to 9 in Rafa’s favor. There’s some motivation.) You could see the edge between before the Madrid final, and hear a little more of it in their press conferences afterward.

From the first time I saw a 16-year-old Nadal play at the U.S. Open in—was it really this long ago?—2003, he has made a point of controlling the tempo of the match, and it begins even before the first ball of the warm-up is hit. Even then, when he was nothing more than a rookie prospect making his Open debut, he took whatever time he needed to concoct his fitness drinks on the sideline before the coin toss. While the chair umpire and his opponent waited somewhat impatiently at the net, he then took a couple of seconds to gingerly align his two water bottles in whatever mysterious configuration he needed them to be in. I remember being surprised, slightly annoyed, but in the end impressed by the kid’s willfulness. He made you take notice of him for more than just his forehand.

Nadal has never deviated from this ritual, and in the seven years since that Open I can remember only one time when he was the first player out to the net for the coin toss—last year against Federer in Madrid, when he may have decided that, with the effort he’d needed to put in to win his semifinal over Novak Djokovic the previous day, he needed to get the blood flowing right away. Aside from that day, Federer, like everyone else, has been the one kept waiting, awkwardly, hands behind his back, looking around aimlessly, while Nadal sits and sucks down a tube of energy gel (I’m guessing someone here can tell me what it is). Yesterday, Federer came prepared to do something about it. Rather than wait at the net, he stayed in his own chair until he saw Nadal make his move.

This spared Federer the wait with the umpire, but the larger point is that Nadal was still in control of the tempo, and Federer was still, whatever his status as the greatest player of all time, the one who had to react to what his opponent was doing. And this carried over into the match, where Nadal, as always, dictated the match’s pace. Whether you find his various tics irritating, or whether or not he’s taking too much time—obviously, he shouldn’t be allowed to do this—it’s difficult to play against someone who plays more slowly than you like to play. By the time the serve gets to you, you’re just a little more anxious than normal. Owning the tempo is not a small thing in a tennis match.

That’s not why Nadal has beaten Federer 14 times, or why he beat him yesterday. But the reason he did is related. Maybe it’s because they hadn’t played in a year and I’d forgotten exactly how their rallies typically unfold, but I was amazed at how efficient Nadal was at tilting them in his favor right from the first ball. When he’s been asked in the past about what he does differently against Federer, Nadal typically, and blandly, says something along the lines of “be more aggressive.” Specifically, he wants the points to take place from his forehand to Federer’s one-handed backhand, and not the other way around. With this in mind, Nadal forces the action and plays with more urgency against Federer than he does against anyone else. Of course, Federer wants to do the same thing as Nadal, and he did control his share of rallies, but Nadal can do more with his two-hander from deeper in the court than Federer typically can with his one-hander. At 1-1 in the first set yesterday, Nadal broke with a heavy backhand up the line, and he continued to hit it well, especially crosscourt, all match.

The bottom line is that on clay (and on other surfaces to a degree), Federer must come out of his comfort zone more often than Nadal if he’s going to make anything happen in a rally. He has to find an extreme crosscourt angle with his backhand, or, as the match progresses, he must go to the drop shot more and more. Federer hits the drop shot well, and contrary to what we’ve been told, he’s been using it for years—remember the vicious backspinner he hit against Safin late in their classic semi in Australia in 2005? But the drop shot will always be a risk, no matter who is trying it, and it will never win you a match the way a serve or a forehand can. Up 4-2 in the second-set tiebreaker, Federer missed what at first glance appeared to be an easy drop shot into the net, one that was almost certainly going to be a winner. He was disgusted with himself, and, judging by the way he played the rest of the breaker, he couldn’t get it out of his head. But the fact is, the judgment and touch needed to place a drop shot perfectly—and against Nadal they must all be close to perfect—will always make it a dicey shot to try under the pressure of a tiebreaker, and one you don't want to have to rely on.

The changes of pace that Nadal threw in were less reactive and more assured—more pro-active—than Federer’s. Down 15-40 in the first set, Nadal won the point by hitting, for the first time in the match, a kick second serve out wide to Federer’s forehand. On important points, Nadal was able to nail his first serve up the T after having sent a dozen straight out wide; his first ace of the match didn’t come until the second set, but it came when he needed it, on game point at 2-2. And at 5-6, 40-30 in the second set, Nadal won the game by suddenly and surprisingly drilling his forehand up the line instead of crosscourt. On clay, at least, Nadal has an uncanny way of staying one step ahead of Federer, from the coin toss to the clinching tiebreaker.

Afterward, Federer said that, fair or not, their clay-court seasons would be judged on the French Open alone. Nadal disagreed, understandably loath to say that the three titles he’d just won were meaningless. Federer is at a stage in his career when he can treat the Masters as a way to set himself up for the majors, for history. He wants to use his energy to go hard for the ones that everyone will remember. For Nadal, the Masters are a big part of what will be his legacy; he’s going to retire as the all-time winner of them. Beyond that, I’ve always believed there’s more to tennis than the Slams, because, well, there’s more to tennis than the Slams. Why are all of these other tournaments played, otherwise? Why shouldn’t they be enjoyed in their own right, with our total attention and commitment, and not just as appetizers for four tournaments that cover a mere eight weeks of the year? I’ve always liked Nadal’s attitude: Go for the win every time you set foot on a court, give every fan in every venue a chance to see you put yourself on the line, and honor them by celebrating and being equally proud of every win, no matter where it takes place. This, no doubt, is not as practical in the long run as the dour old Lendl-Sampras mantra, “Only the majors matter.” But look at it from a fan’s perspective. For us, as viewers who like to watch tennis more than four times a year, Nadal’s passion for every match offers a lot more entertainment and satisfaction.

Let me return to the two rivals on the victory stand, looking a little like brothers. Why choose between them at this point? Here you had the greatest men’s Grand Slam winner in history next to the greatest Masters Series winner. Here you had two guys who keep coming back coming back coming back, even as the contenders/pretenders below them fade into the woodwork. If they’re starting to look more alike as time goes on, that may be because, as they continue to defy the odds of tennis gravity year after year, Federer and Nadal both keep looking better and better to us.


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by Geellis 05/18/2010 at 08:54 AM

felizjulianidad
Thanks. It's just that some Fed fans have short memories and wish to believe that Nadal's win in '08 was either an aberration or due to Federer's illness. That's true no less than that Nadal's loss in '07 was due to a rain-soaked Wimby at which he, and not Fed, played 7 consecutive days. Fact is, it was just a matter of time before the poor match-up that is Federer against Nadal began to show on other surfaces.

Someone asked a really great question: what would their H2H look like if Nadal were the same age as Federer. Moreover, would Fed have 16 GS titles. The simple answer is, heck no. Nadal was competitive against Federer from the beginning of their rivalry. He would have, nonetheless, still had to learn to play other players. But many of them are also better now than they were 5 years ago (Davydenko). It would, at least, have been very interesting. I think Nadal would have eaten into the Fed's haul at Wimbledon and perhaps one more at AO. Nadal would, and will, always have had a tricky time at the USO.

Posted by lightforce 05/18/2010 at 09:01 AM

I have to say Mr Steve Tignor that you are the best blogger of Rafa articles, ever. If at some point, Rafa retires and have a book, especially for the American audience, I'd recommend you to write it for him........not that my suggestion counts, just saying.

If Bodo writes to sensationalize, you have the uncanny ability to write something with substance and analysis. Good job !!!

Posted by lilscot 05/18/2010 at 09:01 AM

Mike, you poor disillusioned thing you. I know it's hard to accept certain hard facts of life. Just remember, denial is not a river in Egypt. So, by your own account, Roger was injured for 7 months? Yet he still kept playing and winning Grand Slams? Hell, I'd love to be injured like that. Yes he had mono. Lord how we all heard about the mono. Oh yes, and the back, the terrible back pain. GMAB.

It's fairly simple. You can only beat your greatest career rival on one surface in a Grand Slam final, but he can beat you on all three surfaces in Grand Slam finals says it all. You can repeat 16 over and over again, but it still doesn't change the fact that he has only been able to beat Rafa on ONE surface in a GS final.

Posted by tony barnes 05/18/2010 at 09:10 AM

Reporters constantly talk about Rafa's heat-to-head advantage over Roger, but they fail to mention that part of why Rafa's record is better is that the two tend to meet on Rafa's turf, the clay court. The statistics are not as much in Rafa's favor when he is lucky enough to make it to a final on other surfaces, something Federer achieves regularly.

Posted by lilscot 05/18/2010 at 09:37 AM

tony barnes: 9:10 a.m.

So? Why is one surface any better than another? Why is grass given more importance, or hard courts? Every surface is just as important in the pages of history. Fed fans tend to make it sound as if winning more on clay is somehow a lesser achievement than winning on the other surfaces. If one was to follow that logic you could say something like, "well, Roger's only dominated Rafa on harcourts." But, that's not even true.

While Rafa has absolutely dominated Roger on clay, Roger has a much smaller record over him on the other two surfaces. He has a 2-1 record of Rafa on grass in GS finals and Rafa has a 1-0 record of Roger in hardcourt GS finals. And I think overall, Roger has only a 3-2 lead over Rafa in all harcourt finals, but I'm not 100% sure of that stat.

But, since Fed fans seem to want to focus only on the GS finals that's just the way it is. Yes, Roger has made it to many more GS finals on the hardcourts but that's just an issue of age. Roger's had more time to make it to those finals. Give Rafa another 4 or 5 years and then do the comparing.

As someone said earlier, by the age of 23 Roger had hardly any GS titles to his name. Rafa has six.

It was me who said earlier that if Roger and Rafa had come onto the scene at the same time at the same age the numbers would be very different.

Posted by geikou 05/18/2010 at 09:55 AM

I just want to say, this age mantra is getting rather tiresome. (And every year, the gap closes.) At the end of Roger's 23rd year, he, in fact, had *five* GS titles. Not Rafa's six, certainly, but also not "hardly any". He subsequently went on a serious tear. As you guys say yourself, we'll see where things stand in five years.

Posted by Geellis 05/18/2010 at 09:55 AM

@lilscot
Good points. Actually their HC H2H is 3-3. There's just no water at all to the argument that it's clay that has so bolstered their H2H. It is true, however, that there are far more players who can threaten Nadal on other surfaces than there are who can threaten Federer (i.e., the Federer of old at least).

Posted by Chris 05/18/2010 at 10:09 AM

What really struck me in this match besides the incredible level of both players as usual was the fact when one ball hit by Federer was called out, Nadal got close to where the ball had bounced and reversed the umpire call / conceded the ball to Federer since he judged it had been in!!! Have any of you ever seen something like this in a tennis match?? Not me for sure. That is one of the reasons Nadal has such a strong following all over the world. To those that only look on the superficial on people Nadal might be annoying at times, given all his manias, but his core is rock solid and an example for any sports fan all over the world. He will be a worthy and valuable citizen long after he has retired from Tennis.

Posted by Geellis 05/18/2010 at 10:12 AM

@geikou
I stand corrected, you are correct that Fed had 5 GS by the end of his 23rd year. That said, he was nowhere near as prolific as Rafa at the other tournaments. Moreover, it simply doesn't make sense to not discuss their ages. This is simply a factor of the differing rates of maturation for various player's games. It's obvious that Nadal's game has evolved (and has had to) over the past 5 years. I assume I do not need to catalog for you how. Similarly, Fed's game grew substantially between the time he was 18/19 and the time he was 23/24. So it just doesn't add up that, somehow, age doesn't matter. If it didn't matter, why do we see very different H2H that Roger has against his contemporaries now versus the beginning of his career Of course age matter. Just ask: Nalbandian, Roddick, Hewitt, Safin, Haas, etc. As Roger's game grew/matured, he put serious distance between he and his rivals. So, again, age matters a great deal to the maturation process of a player's game. That doesn't mean there's a positive linear relationship here. Just ask Hewitt. Age mattered to his game as well, but in a negative sense. In some senses, ditto Roddick. These two had greater success earlier than later, because of the evolution of the game and the ascendancy of Federer and then Nadal.

Posted by KATCH22 05/18/2010 at 10:12 AM

@Tony Barnes

Reporters constantly talk about Rafa's heat-to-head advantage over Roger, but they fail to mention that part of why Rafa's record is better is that the two tend to meet on Rafa's turf, the clay court. The statistics are not as much in Rafa's favor when he is lucky enough to make it to a final on other surfaces, something Federer achieves regularly.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
When Fed reached the final on clay tournaments, most of the time Rafa was there. Rafa's the finalist on 10 non-clay tournaments and lost to Fed 3 times (the rest to someone else). If Fed'd reached all of these finals their H2H would have been even.

Posted by jb (Chocolate FTW!! ) 05/18/2010 at 10:33 AM

chris - actually, I've seen Rafa, Fed, Nole, and Roddick do this very thing; acknowledge a ball as out/in and concede it to the other player. These guys, as well as most of the players on tour regularly exhibit great sportsmanship.

Sadly, it seems to be their fans that have problems exhibiting that same sportsmanship, or acknowledging that charecteristics they see / love in their favourite player exist in their rivals.

Posted by Nam1 05/18/2010 at 10:35 AM

"What really struck me in this match besides the incredible level of both players as usual was the fact when one ball hit by Federer was called out, Nadal got close to where the ball had bounced and reversed the umpire call / conceded the ball to Federer since he judged it had been in!!! Have any of you ever seen something like this in a tennis match?? "

Rafav has done this many times, the previous time being the semi final against Almagro in Madrid.

I dont recall seeing any other tennis player, including Federer do this; if anyone knows different then I am happy to defer to them..could be I watch a lot more of Rafa than any other player!!

Posted by Tuulia 05/18/2010 at 10:36 AM

"Rapha's energetic game and Roger's technique would be a double pair the world of tennis would never forget if this two decide to form a team in doubles. It is just a proposal, and I would wish that these two give it a thought."

Dick, they have given it a thought. Rafa has said since long ago that he'd love to play doubles with Roger, amd he also asked Roger, who said no. If it was up to Rafa they'd already have done it. It ramains to be seen if Roger ever changes his mind. I'd love to see it happen - tho since doubles don't get televised anyway I doubt I would actually SEE it...

Posted by zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 10:42 AM

Geellis,
KATCH22,

totally enjoyed your posts.

It seems like when something benefits Federer, it is relevant ( 16 GS vs 6 GS) but when it benefits Rafa , it becomes irrelevent ( age!, accomplishments by age, records broken by age, H2H, etc!).same old story!

----------------

I respect Federer as a player ( not so much as a person) and I think this is a golden age for tennis. Having two greats playing at the same time. We can compare them till the end of the world, but the truth is that tennis is not as exciting when one is not playing. we saw that in the past two years for both of them.

After all the drama, ups and downs and upsets, here they are again. standing next to one another, on top of the tennis world!
what are they if not champions? they both struggled through some rough times but worked hard and came back. They went through illnesses, injuries, self doubt, harsh criticisms of some not very qualified armchair analysts who announced the end of their careers, ...but they came back,...stronger, and better...

To me that is the measure of a champion and they have both passed the test.
They force us to admire them even if we are not the fan or the KAD or whatever....

Posted by bmars250 05/18/2010 at 10:43 AM

I rlly doubt that rafa doesnt consider majors more than masters esp RG and wimbledon. I'm pretty sure given the choice he wld sacrifice a lot of his masters for a few more wimbledons and RG...

Posted by zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 10:44 AM

lightforce,

you are right! I hope Steve would write Rafa's biography. He is a rare combination of an excellent writer and an excellent tennis analyst.

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 10:50 AM

@ lilscot

Hi there

To add on your point - nadal 3-3 H2H over Federer in Hardcourts - even actually but one of them is a grandslam win

On Grass clearly Federer is ahead 2-1, which I think is not an intimidating H2H comparison and the last game nadal triumph which also happen to be the best tennis game ever..hhehhehehe

Some have argued had there been more grass- Fed would have more wins- which I disagree- maybe ofcourse Fed myt have a better h2h on grass but I doubt it's no where near H2H on clay... or at least that's what I think.

Posted by bmars250 05/18/2010 at 10:52 AM

I don't agree that if rafa and fed were the same age it would have had a major change in any of their results simply becoz on grass and HC fed's BH can push nadal back compared to clay which gives him the age and also the fact that rafa's knees would have gave way making clay the only surface rafa wld have the edge,

Posted by lightforce 05/18/2010 at 10:56 AM

zolarafa,
I hope I get a commission from Steve for making the suggestion......lol

Posted by Mandeep Ghuman 05/18/2010 at 10:59 AM

Great players, great sportsmen, great ambassadors,..both of them...Classy guys. Contrast that to immature, overgrown punks like Sampras and Agassi. Tennis fans of this generation are fortunate to find Fed and Nadal still very much at their prime 5 years into their rivalry. And Steve..excellent article too :-)

Posted by zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 11:00 AM

lightforce

***
I hope I get a commission from Steve for making the suggestion......lol
****

When that day comes, don't forget that I SUPPORTED the idea! lol!

Posted by just horsen 05/18/2010 at 11:06 AM

Great Article Steve.

lets hope that we won't have to wait as long to see them play again.

I do wish Roger would consent to playing doubles w\Rafa! That'd make a great pair.

Posted by lightforce 05/18/2010 at 11:07 AM

Zola,
deal! I'll give you 30% because I'm feeling generous...:)

Posted by bmars250 05/18/2010 at 11:16 AM

fedal H2H will always be controvesial due to the uneven amount of times they faced on clay becoz as sm1 said it is unclear what it would have been if there were more grass events or had met in more HC events. becoz of the few times they have faced each other away from clay fed may have the edge but it may not mean if they met more there wld be a huge margin. The same thing wld apply if there were few tounarments there or if fed had not reached that many finals except for Hamburg 07, Madrid 09 and the the last 3 finals to, then the H2H wld have been 2-2 with pple citing rafa's knees and fatigue as reason for his 2 loses and last yr RG which for me also eauals the fed mono & back in 08 & 09. But of course fed has been better on clay than rafa has been on other surfaces therefore he pays the price and pple use it against him. So for me now, until rafa actually beats a fully fit and healthy fed atleast 4 times on other surfaces other than clay, fed still remains the best and a better tennis player than rafa while rafa for now is the best and better clay court player than fed. At the moment this is the only coclusion you can get from their H2H

Posted by zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 11:20 AM

lightforce
30%!
wow!
I am printing this page right now to keep as the proof!
Now we should convince Steve to write the biography !

Posted by Mike 05/18/2010 at 11:28 AM

Good points, but the 5 year younger thing is a bit skewed, when comparing Fed and Rafa. Rafa started full time at least 2 years earlier than Fed, and the former's aggressive style has obviously started taking it's toll ... not wishing Rafa anything negative, but he's got a lot of rough terrain mileage on that frame. It's unlikely his career will remain at the highest level as long as Fed's.

Also ... it's obvious that Fed's game does not match up as well against Rafa's, period ... but it's magnified a great deal on clay. Simply look at the H2H on all surfaces.

Hey ... of course you're going to take a player of Rafa's raw ability a lot more seriously than anyone else, especially if your game doesn't match up as well ... and he's killing you on 1 surface, but there is an 18 month period that Rafa did most of the damage in, until his aggressive style caught up to him. Take out those 18 months from their 6 year H2H, and they're almost even (and I don't mean the last 18 months, obviously).

Long story short ... when you look a little deeper into it, they are a lot closer than their H2H would lead you to believe, even now.

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 11:38 AM

"until rafa actually beats a fully fit and healthy fed "

I find it hard to believe that in the 21 meetings that they have had that Fed was not fully fit and healthy.does this imply that all 14 losses has an "asterisk" to them....I mean did Federer has mono STILL at AO '09?

Posted by jb (Chocolate FTW!! ) 05/18/2010 at 11:42 AM

nam1 - they're so routine that most of the time its simply not remarked upon. in madrid I recall several players doing that - not sure who, perhaps ferru - maybe nico? as i said, too many to track, (NOT to say its not laudable, just common)

the most 'famous' that i can recall were when roddick called a ball good to overrule the out call, and then went going on to lose the match, (years ago, clay match in germany i think? I believe it was match or set point to his good) and of course, the infamous 'be quiet' point during Fed vs nole, where Fed checked the service line and scratched out the mark.

On clay, you'll often see the players check the mark then scuff it out. it means they've conceded it; and its fairly common. They ask for the ump when they really can't tell.

Its more unusual for a player to accept a call from another player that goes against them, and not request the ump to check it. I've seen that a few times, and its a reminder how well these guys know each other and the trust that exists there.

The most unusual, imo, is seeing that occur on a hawkeye court.

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 11:44 AM

"Long story short ... when you look a little deeper into it, they are a lot closer than their H2H would lead you to believe, even now."

Alas I actually in agreement with this comment..most of their games played are always tight in terms of points except for the very few dominant play here and there..

Posted by Martin 05/18/2010 at 11:46 AM

I enjoy your article, but would like to comment on their head to head record. If you look at their matches on fast surfaces( anything but clay) roger leads 5 to 4. When it comes to clay Nadal leads 10 to 2, which is not much of a rivalry. I definitely believe Rafa is the best clay courter of all time and he will surpass all records on that surface if he stays healthy. However when it comes to other surfaces, Roger has proven to be better not only against Nadal, but the rest of the field.

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 11:51 AM

@ Martin

I agree with you 100%

Roger has proven to be better than the rest of the field in HC and Grass

Rafa - is competitive on HC and Grass- definitely Fed is better- however Rafa is DOMINANT on clay - that's the real fact-- not just the H2H against Fed- he has a stellar clay win loss %

Posted by zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 11:58 AM

Frances

****
"until rafa actually beats a fully fit and healthy fed "

I find it hard to believe that in the 21 meetings that they have had that Fed was not fully fit and healthy.does this imply that all 14 losses has an "asterisk" to them....I mean did Federer has mono STILL at AO '09?
****

Rafa beat Roger in their first meeting when Rafa was just 17 and Federer was number 1 in the world, had just won AO and was beaming with confidence! Rafa won him on HARD COURTS in straight sets! now that I am thinking, maybe Roger had mono and didn't know about it!

Posted by Mike 05/18/2010 at 11:58 AM

Martin + Frances, I'll even give one back to Rafa and call them pretty much even on grass (though we don't have a heck of a lot of matches to base it on) ... everything else is pretty much spot on ... IMHO.

Posted by Precious Dee 05/18/2010 at 11:59 AM

Steve, thank you. You always get it just right. We don't really have to choose between them & in the process, belittle Nadal's achievement. Which seems to be Bodo's mission & I hate to drag all this into this much less earth bound environment, that is, this blog is less spiteful & inciting/ inciteful. If that makes sense but Bodo is just so irritating. Guess I'll have to start avoiding his blog again.

Posted by Mim 05/18/2010 at 12:00 PM

Love your captivation with Rafa. I appreciate the article and your insights and thoughts on Rafa and one of his aspects that makes him so great. His spirit and heart is just so captivating and immediately grabs hold of you. There are so many articles out there commemorating Federer and his accomplishments. It's nice to have one that focuses, not only on Rafa and Roger as a whole "Fedal", but also soley on Rafa.

Keep it up Steve, thanks a lot.

Rafael, congratulations on your awesome hat-trick. You are simply amazing. Your matches are always exciting. I, like many tennis fans, really enjoy your matches veruses Federer. You are always so eager to face him, always up for the challenge...you are the ultimate competitor.

P.S. I think that when it comes to H2H, between Rafa and Roger, Rafa has an edge no matter which surface. He clearly dominates the clay, and on grass they are close. Even on hard courts. If only there were a real grass court season, I would love for them to have opportunities to go at it more often on the green. As people like to say, "if it weren't for Rafa, Federer would have four FOs." Well, if it weren't for Federer, Rafa would have had three Wimbledons. To think that Rafa, as a youngster, pushed the king of grass to the brink and made the finals three times in a row pushing Federer (and coming out on top in the epic '08 battle) leads me to think that they are very close on grass. On hard court Roger has a slight edge when facing Rafa. But only a slight one because Rafa is just so spectacular when facing Roger and is always up to it. Like Richie said in his comment, there battles are personifies a chess match. It's beautiful to watch.

Posted by KATCH22 05/18/2010 at 12:00 PM

@Zolarafa, thanks! I enjoy reading yours too!

@bmars250

..."So for me now, until rafa actually beats a fully fit and healthy fed atleast 4 times on other surfaces other than clay"...

There H2H off clay is 5-4..,that's 4 already. So Rafa needs to win 2 more because his 2 wins from 2008/2009 are invalid? And why isn't the same rule applied to Fed? Does Fed have to beat a fully fit and healthy Rafa AT LEAST 4 times on clay too to make thing fair for both of them?

Posted by zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 12:02 PM

sorry, I didn't mean to be mean! in my above post. Just wanted to say that people don't need to make excuses for Federer.

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 12:08 PM

@ zolorafa
Hi There-- yes toaly agree on what you said-- i didnt bother mentioning miami '04 because Fed did mention that he had a fever or something...but yeah spot on!

Posted by Nam1 05/18/2010 at 12:09 PM

thx jb, it is good to see the sportsmanship displyed by so many players..

Posted by bmars250 05/18/2010 at 12:10 PM

the reason why rafa is completely dominant on clay and fed isn't on HC is simple, apart from spaniads everyone else isn't comfortable and competative on clay which allows rafa to win even when he doesnt play his best, whereas every1 can play and is competative on HC and if fed isn't playing his best he can be beaten by a hot player

Posted by Pedro Rivas, M.D. 05/18/2010 at 12:13 PM

They look very much alike...so much UNLIKE any of the rest of them, and the rest of us. In the end, only the rivalries remain in the memory banks. The lefty slice serve into the ad court is a difficult problem to solve on the clay with a one-handed backhand, and with a smaller frame...actually, most strokes are more difficult to execute with Federer's game & frame. Thus, at least Nadal is smart enough to know who is the greatest of the two...more matches need not be played. That said, this rivalry makes everything else about our sport quite, ah, boring...and quite exciting, at the same time. There could not be the one without the other. When the adversary is known and appreciated, sport transcends itself.

Posted by geikou 05/18/2010 at 12:20 PM

"I stand corrected, you are correct that Fed had 5 GS by the end of his 23rd year. That said, he was nowhere near as prolific as Rafa at the other tournaments."

I guess 12 titles in a single year isn't prolific enough? Or a stretch of three consecutive years with an average of 4 losses a year? Look, each guy has his numbers and they're each amazing. Respect them both but don't try to denigrate the one in order to raise the other. This goes both ways. And sure, age matters. So does the age at which someone's game matures. Rafa matured much earlier than Roger did.

Posted by bmars250 05/18/2010 at 12:27 PM

@Katch,

I thought I actually conceded that rafa is better than and dominates fed on clay so no matter what fed does from now on (on clay) will never change that but make it a bit more respectable and show his progress on clay. On fed I just said he is at the moment the better tennis player than rafa bcoz apart from clay fed is better and has the edge unless rafa beats him at least 4 more times on other surfaces to prove he doesnt just dominate fed on clay. Analysing the H2H doesnt show that rafa dominates fed in tennis but rather on clay.

Posted by TeamNadal 05/18/2010 at 12:30 PM

Group shot of Rafa w/the Madrid Ball Girls....

http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash1/hs507.ash1/29979_118053214897418_100000782196392_97407_3523607_n.jpg

Posted by nancy 05/18/2010 at 12:36 PM

I would still like to read the transcript of both Roger's and Rafa's post-final press conferences, but cannot find them anywhere. Does anyone have a link???

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 12:38 PM

@ Mike

Cheers!

Posted by KATCH22 05/18/2010 at 12:44 PM

@bmars250

"On fed I just said he is at the moment the better tennis player than rafa bcoz apart from clay fed is better and has the edge unless rafa beats him at least 4 more times on other surfaces to prove he doesnt just dominate fed on clay."

Fed is the GOAT, so the fact that he's the better tennis player than ANYONE is a given to me. NOTHING can change that fact. The H2H with Rafa only suggests how great Rafa is on his fav surface. Funny how Fed's fans can feel insecured about the H2H after all of his GSs wins.

HOWEVER, there's no need to try to put Rafa down by pointing out Fed's GSs number everytime Rafa won SOMETHING. We Rafa's fans just want to celabrate his 'come back'. Our boy just managed to do well after the 11 months of doom and doubt. No need to remind us how the guy he's just beaten is BETTER than him.

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 12:58 PM

KATCH22

Amen to you last post! hahaha I couldn't agree any better.. of all Fed has accomplished beyond everyone else..i find it very weired that fed kads can't get over the fact that rafa leads their H2H status..

Posted by TennisRone 1000 05/18/2010 at 01:06 PM

It's amazing how many legs this debate has....lol......we've been going at this for what, 5 years? Glad we can enjoy these battles.

I'm with Steve regarding the observation that they appear to have shifted to that point wheree they truly appreciate and respect each other's games and accomplishment. What's the old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder? With Nadal's FO streak vanquished and Fed finally eclipsing Sampras....both are probably at a point where they don't see each other is in the other's way, but appreciate the level they've helped raise tennis to and the respectfulness they've showed towards the game and towards its fans......which can't be said for a lot of sports stars.

The relationship feels like it could become a Bird/Magic Johnson style friendship relationship.........

Cheers all! Looking forward to this FO........it usually has a few surprises in store, and I look forward to them....

Posted by Nam1 05/18/2010 at 01:26 PM

I dont see them as brothers or even as friends, heck I dont even think they like each other that much or shall I say they dont know each other that well to be more than aquaintances..

Now they do respect each other but that's a far cry from being friends and there are many instances to prove this;

When Rafa was asked a couple of years ago if they were friends he said" My friends are in Majorca" he laughed it off as his English did not allow him to talk to too many people but that response is clear..he does not consider Roger his friend.

Second.. when Rafa withdrew from Wimby 2009, before his presser to announce his withdrwal he met Roger walking by at the Club; Afterwards when asked about it, Roger said the encounter lasted exactly 30 seconds; he said "I am sorry to hear about your injury and Rafa said "thx"

Rafa then sat for about half an hour with Novak Djokovoc and chatted. I would say he is mych more friendly with Novak, same age and all than with Roger.; all this talk about them being friends and all has been pure media hype , IMO.

Posted by Rafalito 05/18/2010 at 01:31 PM

Great article, Steve. As opposed to Bodo always trying to incite Fedal wars. In any case, so happy for Rafa to have come back this far after last year's setbacks---personal life upheaval, knee problems, and then the abdominal tear that he carried into the US Open. Strange that no one talks about that--the commentators kept talking about his serve and how it had changed, was too slow, blah blah. Try serving with an ab tear and see how hard you can hit it. Whatever, glad to see Rafa and Fed competing again and look forward to RG and Wimby. Vamos Rafael!

Posted by zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 01:31 PM

TeamNadal,

thanks for the link. Now if we can find out what happened to the master shields. they didn't give one in MC, or Rome , OR Madrid! ( you can say that they did not give ANY trophies in Marid!)

frances,
so there IS and excuse firmly in place already!

nancy,
I don't think there is a transcript of Madrid interviews available (unless you are a reporter). I was very disappointed in the website. You can't find nothing there. For clips of interviews, visit http://tennistv.com an press on the interview tab.

Posted by Geellis 05/18/2010 at 01:48 PM

@geikou
First, you lost the context of my remark. When speaking about prolific, I was speaking about the time from the beginning of their careers to age 24. Rafa will have won many more tournaments than Federer by the same age. But I've certainly acknowledged, and will again, that it's not possible that Rafa will ever DOMINATE the field as Roger did. Just not gonna happen. Both resulting from technical vulnerabilities in his (Rafa's) game and his knee issues. I think you'd be hard pressed to find me "denigrating" Federer in order to press a claim on behalf of Rafa. However, I did predict that Rafa can get close to Rogers GS haul if his body stays healthy. But, at this point, that's a pretty big IF.

Posted by Julian 05/18/2010 at 01:59 PM

I was so nervous watching Rafa and Fed on sunday - my hands were clammy and my heart rate up a few BPM. I support Rafa as well as enormously appreciating Federer but it was not just a case of wanting my man win, it was the awe of the occasion, and it had visibly overwhelmed both men that they were meeting each other, manifested in the number of unforced errors and breaks in the first set. For the first time in a while I saw it as both of them acknowledging how central they have both been to the sport; the aura either man exudes alone is enough to enrapture people, but when they are together they seem to step out of reality and off to another plane of existence where we mere mortals can only gaze on in wonderment. It really is that kind of feeling I get when you see them play, and whoever wins seems to matter less than the experience of seeing the sport played to a transcendant level. For me there really is no equivalent occasion in sport.

Anyways, enough of my Wordsworthian imagination; great article, again articulating the unmatchable importance of Rafael and Roger to the sport.

Posted by David 05/18/2010 at 02:02 PM

I love these two guys

Posted by zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 02:12 PM

Julian,

What a beautiful post!

You are right. Love them or hate them, they are the champions. Each with achievements beyond imagination. May they both play for a loooong time!

Posted by Julian 05/18/2010 at 02:28 PM

Thanks zolarafa :)

I really wonder what to do with myself after they stop playing; some of the new generation players are exciting - Delpo, Murray, and of course Djoko are brilliant players, but they can't I don't think, reach the heights of the two greats. It's an overwhelming burden to place on the new generation to emulate them, yet the bar is that high in the sport right now.

It will be a day for mourning when either retires I think !

Posted by Zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 02:48 PM

Julian,

I know what you mean. I feel the same. When Rafa was injured I tried to watch others, but no one has his intensity. Each and every match is like a battle for him. And Federer ( against Rafa) is the same. Although he does not show his emotions in action, he expresses them by other means. He is there to prove that he is still the best. The result as you said is a high voltage match, even if they are not at their best.

let's hope they do not retire any time soon.

Posted by sremmal16 05/18/2010 at 03:29 PM

great article.

As in countless other articles on Fedal, the HEAD-TO-HEAD argument goes on and on.
I would like to do my best to set it straight (as naive as that might be).
It this thread it has been repeated that Rafa even won their very first match on hard-court in straights. As for that one, a bewildered Rafa afterwards said something like: I would never have won, if he had been well", referring to Federer's illness, Federer who struggled badly in the round before. However, this is just a minor thing obviously, but as it has been repeated, I feel bound to correct it.

Their overall head to head it clearly in Rafa's favour. The funny thing is that it came in stages. Nadal had a 6-1 lead until Wimbledon 06. For the next year and a half, that is until 2008 came along, Federer made it 6-8 in Rafa's favour. Since then, he has lost 6 of the last 7, some of them mono-affected, others not. All in all: 10-2 on clay, 3-3 on hard and 1-2 on grass. So if you remove the clay, it is pretty equal. But, and this is where it gets interesting, while everyone would agree that Roger is in the top-3 ever, if not more, on both hard courts and grass, very few would put Nadal in top five or even ten or perhaps 15 on these surfaces (yet).

Put in another way: As Roger clearly has been dominating the field in the non-clay surfaces more so than Rafa has (and thus is a better player here), the fact that Rafa is only one behind in these meetings (5-4) speaks 1) tremendously about Rafa and 2)about Rafa being the worst opponent Roger can possibly face largely because of the left forehand to the one-handed backhand.
Moreover, when speaking of their head to head, I do believe it cannot be ignored that Rafa seems to be inside Roger's head. Rafa almost consistently plays the big points better than Roger, converts more break opportunities and so on. Almost all of their matches are pretty close and could, in theory go either way. But more often than not, Rafa is capable of edging it in the end.

Thoughts, comments?

Posted by mel 05/18/2010 at 03:31 PM

As always, Federer tries to belittle his opponent's win- what a sore loser! The guy does not even appreciate that Rafa is the winner of 18 ATP 1000 Masters tournaments at 23!!!!
Am I the only one who thinks he often does a sour grape when he loses? If he is not crying, he is doing a sour grape when he loses to Rafa. Grow up, man. Rafa is five yeqrs younger than Federer but he shows more maturity and empathy to the loser. I hope Rafa bagels him again in the French Open.

Posted by Voltaire 05/18/2010 at 03:35 PM

If Steve surreptitiously wanted to start Fedal war...they he has his wish.

Geellis/lilscot-Enjoyed your posts and passion for Rafa....I've great company.

TeamNadal-Your remark that they look like doubles team who just won their runner-up plate-Priceless. Kept smiling thru the night!

Finally whichever we slice and dice, fact remains Rafa simply beat Roger fair and square and sometimes bloody hollow(RG 08). Get it folks Rafa is simply better than Roger in their rivalry......will wait another 5 yrs to see who's the greatest ever at that point in time! Funny that any greatest ever argument never account for future which inevitable will be even greater;-)

Posted by Brian H 05/18/2010 at 03:44 PM

At some point, Rafa... like Fed... will stop being so polite. I want to see it when it happens. Rafa's been such a good sport for years, he deserves to speak his mind freely...

Posted by CL *TMF-Undefeated when rested & fit* 05/18/2010 at 03:53 PM

Wow - now the Rafalites are asterisking his defeat at Fed's hands in the Wimby 07 final. You ARE desperate, aren't you? You all should revise my moniker..**Rafa-undefeated when rested and fit** - only I mean it ironically and some of you REALLY mean it. Amazing.

Posted by tennisforthebest 05/18/2010 at 04:05 PM

I would have been really really surprised had Fed won against Rafa. What surprises me is that after getting repeatedly beaten by Rafa on clay, Fed still shows up without any game plan wishing that he might get lucky this time and catch Rafa on an off day but it never happens. And if by chance he gets himself into a position where he might be able to make things difficult for Rafa he would blow up all the chances (like the tiebreaker in second set) and let Rafa come back in the match. He desperately needs to get some technical help if he wants to beat Rafa otherwise he should prepare to buy tons of kleenex as he'll have to do a lot of crying at the end of each tournament.
On a separate note I strongly feel that emotionally Rafa on clay is somwhere at the same point where Federer is when it comes to proving himself. Time is coming when he would ask himself that how many times do I need to prove that I am the best clay courter and now everyone knows (including Fed) that any match on clay is Rafa's to lose. Sooner or later he might not have this motivation which will push him to prove himself on other surfaces if his knees hold up.

Posted by Dennis 05/18/2010 at 04:09 PM

Come on people, let's take off the rose coloured glasses for a second. Yes Nadal is the "potential" GOAT, no doubt about it. But if we take our emotions out of it for a second he has a lot, A LOT of ground to make up. Grand slam titles, consecutive weeks at #1, total weeks at #1, grand slam semifinal appearances. Federer has historical achievements already, Nadal has some historical achievements too, (and the H2H advantage) but what will the future bring? "He's only 23, if he stays healthy etc..." If Rafa was truly the MAN since 2007 then how come the computer didn't say so except for those months in 2008/09? Is the computer ranking system flawed or biased against Nadal?

Posted by zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 04:20 PM

Dennis,

True. Had Rafa started his tennis career at 11!!!..... instead of 16! , then he would have had 5 more years to catch up with Federer! His fault that he did not!

At the end of the day, Rafa has a 14-7 H2H over Federer and has beaten him not only on clay, but on Grass AND hard courts in the finals of majors....so better not even go there.

Why so much bitterness towards Rafa? Why not just appreciate the fact that there are TWO outstanding champions? and enjoy this golden time in tennis?

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 05:02 PM

Zolorafa!

I wish nadal knows how much we love him!!!

Posted by Mike 05/18/2010 at 05:05 PM

I'm a major fan of both Fed and Rafa ... they are 2 of the greatest Tennis players of all time. What annoys me a bit as a Fed Kad is that Fed is basically getting penalized for being a lot more consistent, overall. Though his peak was 2005/7, he's still managed to stay at the very top of the game with a few hiccups. Rafa may be hitting his peak right now, yet it's been Fed that has held the #1 spot for almost their entire rivalry, despite the H2H ... through consistent play on all surfaces.

Once again, all I am trying to say is that though Rafa is a bad match up for Fed regardless of the surface, the H2H record is not a true depiction of how close they are in reality ... even today.

Posted by fedfan 05/18/2010 at 05:21 PM

Great post. Don't you think that Federer used to want to ' go for the win every time he stepped onto the court,' but at almost thirty is more aware of the need to conserve his energy and body for the long run? This could cause him to make choices in scheduling and playing style which don't always produce the desired result. We don't see so many of the crazy highlight reel shots that the young Federer seemed to make just for the sheer joy of making them. I wish we did, but I understand Federer's more economical approach to grinding out wins as he's gotten older.

Posted by Geellis 05/18/2010 at 05:29 PM

@sremmal16
Thanks for quoting so many of my posts (without attribution).

Furthermore, anyone's who's talking about Nadal in GOAT terms is irrational. Nadal is unlikely to ever justifiably edge Roger from that spot, just too much dominance over too many years on too many surfaces. But he may be able to challenge some of Roger's accolades.

Posted by CherryNYC 05/18/2010 at 05:30 PM

Excellent Steve. I love both of them and that's that. Just enjoy and sip your
cocktail(s) when these two play... there's nothing else like it in sports.

I enjoyed watching Sampras and Agassi, but for whatever reason I never thought of them as rivals and both seemed like odd ducks to me.

Posted by Geellis 05/18/2010 at 05:34 PM

@Mike
as a die-hard Nadal fan, I couldn't agree more. At least until quite recently, Nadal has far more players than can hurt him on surfaces other than clay than Roger has on any surface, including clay. That's why all the talk about Nadal GOAT/BOAT is just so much silliness. Even if Nadal wins as many GSs as Fed (an achievement that's also unlikely though possible), he'll never realistically be considered the GOAT. As a HUGE FAN OF NADAL, I still accept this reality.

Posted by Colette 05/18/2010 at 05:41 PM

I find an amazing testament to Rafa's athletic prowess the fact that he's doing what he does with his non-dominant side - LEARNING to play left-handed! Imagine he must he must be somewhat ambidextrous or Tio Toni would never have suggested it.

Posted by TeamNadal 05/18/2010 at 05:50 PM

first paragraph of the new post Bodo has up....

While we're all sitting around, drumming our fingers on the table, waiting for the draw of Roland Garros to be made, let's take care of a few housekeeping chores. For those of you who are in tennis for the long haul (rather than merely until the retirement of that Spanish dude who makes you swoon and wonder, what's Shakira got that I don't have?), I have a new book to recommend: Tie Breaker, by Eleanor Dwight (Scala/ACC distribution).


Oh Bodo...

Posted by Zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 06:02 PM

frances,

I think he knows how much his fans love him. He is a good kid!

Mike,
I am a Rafa fan too and I tell you that the H2H does not mean Rafa is a more accomplished player than Federer. No one can take away all the records set and broken by Federer.
A couple of years ago the discussions were more fierce. Nowdays I see more fans from both sides appreciate the other guy. Their talents and great qualities has passed several tests.

Posted by mel 05/18/2010 at 06:13 PM

To Larry:
How can Federer be considered the best if he has a losing record to a rival in his own era?
In the Sampras-Agassi rivalry, although Agassi gave Pete a good fight, Pete has more wins over Andre in all the times they played each other. Federer just happened to be "unopposed" before Rafa came into the picture so he raked up the slams. When Rafa appeared, Federer finally met a real opposition. So while Rafa is younger, he still belongs to the same era as Federer.Until Rafa's and Federer's careers are over, we cannot proclaim Federer the best in his era.

Posted by Kombo 05/18/2010 at 06:18 PM

Sampras had a losing record against Wayne Ferreira

Posted by Corrie 05/18/2010 at 06:32 PM

Of course Nadal is in Federer's head, but especially where Fed knows the court is quite slow and he's going to have to put in a massive effort to overcome Nadal. He's blown away Nadal twice at the Year Ending Championships where the indoor court favoured Fed and he didn't look remotely bothered then. But since most surfaces are slow and outdoors that gives Nadal plenty of opportunities to set up a very comfy base camp in Fed's head with all the home comforts.

The first time they played in Miami in 2004 Fed was quite sick and probably shouldn't have played. A year later he beat Nadal, but with difficulty. I think Nadal got into his head later than that, during his annual sufferings in the French finals.

BTW Caroline, the AO loss to Djokovic was a semi and Fed is hardly likely to cry over that, especially as he knew he was sick. He's said it's the ceremonies that get to him and that the USOpen is the easiest to deal with and the AO is hard because of the silence between the speeches. It was definitely clear that it was the MC's words and the crowd's shouted words and the presence of the legends that moved him in 09.

Posted by Legoboy 05/18/2010 at 06:47 PM

Rafa 1 - Roger meh.

I hope that "like it or not" Rafa beats him in Paris too!

Long post....but the last couple paragraphs made it worth the read

Posted by Zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 07:13 PM

Kombo
cheap shot!

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 07:16 PM

RAFA FANS

TeamNadal just had this link at the other blog

http://i50.tinypic.com/xpahjm.jpg

Rafa's FO '10 outfit

Posted by Mike 05/18/2010 at 07:17 PM

"How can Federer be considered the best if he has a losing record to a rival in his own era?"

It's not how often you beat one player ... it's how often you beat them all that counts.

Posted by King of the Court 05/18/2010 at 07:34 PM

when rafa appeared, fed met a real opponent who could not turn up at an AO final till 2009 and at a USopen like ever! he also won 12 slams to nadal's 6 since nadal won his 1st slam.

and here is the icing he never withdrew from a GS or retired from it? now who do you think will long laster?

and one more thing, Pete also had 11 MS titles to andre's 17. You still know who the GOAT is. rafa's 14-7 against roger or 13-6 against novak is only because his game is more clay-skewed than the other 2. here is a statistic for you :

in a year federer, rafa and djokovic play 16 common tournaments. of which only 4 are on clay.(25%) yet federer played rafa 12/21 = about 60% time on clay. and djokovic like about 50%

davydenko and blake on the other hand have a 5-4 and 3-4 record against nadal. Federer doesn't have to pay a price for being much more talented on clay than nadal will ever be on hardcourt.

Posted by Zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 08:23 PM

Frances/team Nadal....

thanks for that link!

I love the outfit. the colors ( would have preferred sleeveless, but oh, well!)

Posted by Kombo 05/18/2010 at 08:30 PM

it's a fact Zolarafa, nothing cheap about it, no.

Posted by Zolarafa 05/18/2010 at 08:39 PM

Kombo,
sorry then,...

So, who was this guy and what was the H2H?
How many were in the finals? How many in the majors?


Thanks

Posted by Kombo 05/18/2010 at 08:49 PM

I have no idea, Zolarafa. I just know the fact is true.

Posted by Kombo 05/18/2010 at 08:50 PM

it's as true as Rafa's H2H advantage, and yet you try to censure it coz it doesn't jive with you.

Posted by eileen 05/18/2010 at 09:07 PM

great piece steve. i really love the way you write about rafa, my #1 idol

Posted by Tim (Year of Red Rogie ) 05/18/2010 at 09:09 PM

after a little chat with some Fed kids had to comment on this Steve...

it still amazes me that Federer can even get THIS close to winning so many of these matches on a clay court, given Rafa's resume and winning streaks and clear career synergy with red clay, would Sampras or Becker or any other all court player come anywhere near him? Not a friggin chance...

Roger could clearly win these matches and always mucks it up in the end, he lost on total points like by ONE point, right? thats not exactly domination, so the truth is Roger challenging Nadal so well on clay speaks to his overall prowess on ALL surfaces, but the fact he gets so close on clay and always loses is what kills his fans, its just stupidity on a few balls that make no sense at all, time after time...in this one instance, he's a mushhead lol

But while Steve might think its skillful to slow down the pace and run the match on your terms and make the player WAIT endlessly, Id say its more bushleague myself...every player has gotten annoyed with Rafa's slow play and whats genius to some is borderline questionable sportsmanship to another ...

i guess his complete self obsession with his tics and antics and tugging and whatever IS why he wins a lot, but its murderous to watch...

there's nothing left for Fed to do in his career, but a win over Nadal in Paris would be cause for immense, long term partying and endless replays on the DVR lol

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 09:22 PM

"there's nothing left for Fed to do in his career, but a win over Nadal in Paris would be cause for immense, long term partying and endless replays on the DVR lol"

@ TIM

hahaha I'm sure deep in TMF's head is somewhere along these lines... it should keep him motivated... i mean rafa has won against him on grass and hard on a grandslam PFFTT :P ehehehe --

Posted by Mike 05/18/2010 at 09:27 PM

"i mean rafa has won against him on grass and hard on a grandslam PFFTT :P ehehehe --"

But who has come closer? Fed to winning RG, or Rafa to winning the USO? Nothing close about this one .. ;)

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 09:29 PM

Oh Mike

Wait till Rafa makes it happen in USO:P

I mean hey therei H2H on Ausie is 1-0 :P

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 09:32 PM

I mean gosh it took TMF to win the FO 4 attempts right on a final and the one he won is with a what now? RIGHT an asterisk!!!

Peace guys!I'm just kidding

Posted by woodworking plans 05/18/2010 at 09:37 PM

Let's give each player the respect they deserve.

As an ardent Rafa fan, one cannot take away the mastery of Fed on hardcourts and grass. No player has ever dominated all other players no matter how brilliant they were. Fed is brilliant. Yet Fed struggles against Rafa. So what?

Sampras had a losing record against Krajicek and Ferreira and McEnroe & Connors were Lendl's bitches for a very long time.

It doesn't mean the legacy of those players is lost because they had a losing record against one, two or more players.

Again as a Rafa fan, when Fed retires, he will be remembered for winning all 4 Grand Slams, at least 16 Masters Series, at least 65 or so ATP titles, longest ever #1 plus a whole host of records too numerous to list here.

Sure, his biggest rival and nemesis will always be Rafael Nadal.

But when he's recognised by strangers on the street, they won't remark "hey look, there's that guy who Nadal beat 14 times!".

That's only for fanatical Rafa fans like me :-)

Posted by Frances 05/18/2010 at 09:38 PM

and Mike

one more thing -- you forget roger is in his mid twenties (28 or 29?) when he won the FO (with an asterisk)

lets see with rafa- he's still 23 (asterisk also because of those knees:)) but yes we shall see!!!!

Posted by ragnar 05/18/2010 at 10:04 PM

The French Open is now interesting. Can't wait for the tournament to start.

Posted by Statician 05/18/2010 at 11:31 PM

The surface removal game can be played by both parties. Take away the times where they have played on Grass, where Federer's streak was stopped by one man and one man only, or hardcourts, again where Federer was master, and the H2H is amazingly skewed. The truth is, Nadal has accomplished, at his age, more than any other man in the history of the game, and that includes TMF. All of Nadal's Major titles have come at the expense of Federer; every single one. I know that's a mighty inconvenient truth, but it cannot be altered. So only time will tell where Nadal sits on the all-time great list, and you can be sure that's a large reason Federer continues to fly around the world to battle his main rival whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Also, Federer handles, with ease, all the other lefty two-handers on tour. Wonder why he has such troubles, on every surface, with that one particular guy...

Posted by Dan 05/18/2010 at 11:44 PM


Im as big a Rafa fan as you will find. Federer being around is the best thing to have happened to Rafa in my opinion. Leaving clay aside, I dont think Rafa has the game to beat EVERYBODY on grass or hard but he has a great shot against Fed because of the matchup. First by being able to beat Fed repeatedely in 2006, 2007 and 2008 on clay Rafa's confidence grew leaps and bounds because he could do what nobody else could do - beat the great Roger. Nadal's confidence was soaring. The wimbledon close losses of 2006 and 2007 made him believe he could play on grass too. Australia 2009 basically Fed does Rafa a favor by knocking off Delpo & Roddick - two people who could have given Rafa problems. Rafa had a better chance beating Fed in Australia then anybody else because of the matchups and history. Rafa Nadal became loved for these fighter qualities that he exhibited against Roger which no one else could. He become loved as the underdog someone the working man could relate to vis-a-vis the tennis royalty Roger.

I am just surprised people take Fed's comments the wrong way. He said "for me and rafa its roland garros that matters" and everybody started picking on him as a sore loser. He has a ego (why wouldnt he after all he has done?). But what I see here is that he includes Rafa with himself as equals in his discussions by saying "for me and Rafa.." In the same inetrview in response to some great shots by Nadal Roger said " Well what do you expect. He is Rafa Nadal after all".....the entire tennis community says " Well he is Roger federer after all" and here the most successful tennis player talks of Rafa Nadal the way people talk about him. He genuinely likes the guy and the respect is very very mutual. After the Madrid loss when Fed whiffed air on match point - it was awkward. Rafa didnt celeverate he had a frown and an overwhelmed face and he ran up to the net and said Sorry to roger (reference to the last point which might or might not have been a bad bounce). Roger was smiling and replied "Its ok..."....(watch it...its on you tube). After seeing Fed off the court Rafa finally soakes everything in.

Rafa owes a lot to roger being around - I dont think had Roger not been there Rafa would ahve piled up US, Australian and Wimbledon titles like crazy. And for sure he wouldnt even have had thes emany fans and for sure the best ever to have played tennis wouldnt ahve paid the highest compliment " well what do you expect - he is Rafa Nadal"....

Posted by barret 05/18/2010 at 11:44 PM

Like old game as chinese chess, the classic one must be created by two superb players. So the tennis to be. This is really the shortpoint of tennis, and you can not enjoy yourself alone.

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