Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Extraordinary Age
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The Extraordinary Age 07/12/2010 - 2:52 PM

Rn There are many perverse elements to the tennis season. We know them well: It’s too long, it starts too early, and in the end, rather than rising to a crescendo, it fizzles into obscurity. But what seems strangest to me at the moment is how, despite that meandering length, the core of the year remains so compressed. The tournaments that will largely define 2010 in the future, Wimbledon and the French Open, came and went, as they always do, in six short weeks. Right now it feels as if the year’s results were decided at one long Paris-to-London, clay-to-grass super-event. 

So let’s take a moment and look at what happened on the men’s side during that time. Unlike in the women’s game, a definitive change took place at the top of the ATP. Roger Federer went to Paris as the No. 1 player in the world and defending champion at both the French Open and Wimbledon. He left London ranked No. 3, and lost in the quarters at both tournaments. Rafael Nadal went in ranked No. 2, with virtually nothing to defend. He came out with both titles and the No. 1 spot likely secured for the rest of the season.

This flip-flop at the top has a couple of noteworthy aspects to it. First, the Channel Slam—the French-Wimbledon double—has suddenly been rendered routine. Before 2008, it had been considered one of the Holy Grails of the men’s game, a feat only the immortals of old were capable of pulling off. The last player to do it had been Bjorn Borg, who won the French and Wimbledon back to back from 1978 to ’80. As the years went by and no one managed to match Borg even one time, his triple-double grew to mythic proportions—“How did he possibly do that?” was all we could ask after a while. Now it’s been done three straight times again: Nadal in 2008, Federer in ’09, and Nadal in 2010.

On the one hand, the improved grass at Wimbledon has played a role in making this possible. The jump from slow clay to slick, unpredictable turf is not as extreme as it was in Borg’s day. Players no longer have to develop their games in one direction or the other, the way Pete Sampras did; you can succeed on both surfaces with the same power-baseline style. Still, the fact that two guys have done it in such rapid succession, after such a long dry spell, can’t merely be chalked up to a better brand of grass. To me, their Channel Slams are an example of the extraordinary moment we’re witnessing in tennis. 

We have a male player, Federer, who has won 16 majors and been touted as the best player, both from a statistical and an aesthetic standpoint, in history. Federer, for good measure, just went six years without losing before the semis at a Slam. We have another man, Nadal, who is likely the best clay-court player ever; he won a record 81-straight matches on the stuff, and has won five French Opens in six tries. Together Federer and Nadal have locked up the No. 1 and 2 spots for longer than any other pair of men, and, even more remarkably, they've won 20 of the last 22 majors. Beyond their rivalry, in the last year we’ve seen Ivo Karlovic hit a then-unthinkable 78 aces, only to have that record shattered a few months later, by two players, in a single match that lasted five hours longer than any in history. You might say all of this is just part of the evolution of the sport, and that records are made to be broken. But you would also have to say that any of the numbers above, taken separately, would be considered outliers. Put them together and it’s clear we’re seeing something special.

The other noteworthy element to this year’s Channel Slam is that Nadal won both of them in fairly similar fashion, while Federer lost at both of them in very similar fashion. Nadal has never been more versatile. He won tactically (the Wimbledon final). He won with raw consistency and speed (the French Open final). He won by taking it straight at his bigger-hitting opponent (against Soderling at Wimbledon). Overall, it appeared that he didn’t believe he could lose, and that’s a mindset that’s closer to Federer’s in his prime than it is to Nadal’s own normal way of looking at his game. It’s clear that Nadal has reached some kind of peak. It's not every day that you get to bite the World Cup.

Two questions emerge: Is Nadal the new Federer? And if so, can he catch his major-title count? I’ll start by acknowledging that neither of these is in any way answerable, or even semi-predictable. One thing we know about Nadal is that he has typically peaked around this time in a season, and that he gradually falls off from here. Up to this point, he has also lacked Federer’s ability to cruise into the semis at Slams. It’s harder work for Rafa all around, and he’s never gotten as many free points with his serve as Federer has. He’ll need to change some part of that equation if he wants to own the sport the way his rival has. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. In 2005, it would have been difficult to imagine Nadal ever winning a Wimbledon final, let alone winning one without being broken.

As for Federer, we know that he has recovered from a defeat at Wimbledon in 2008 and come back to win the next Slam, the U.S. Open. We’ll know more after this Open, and at the end of the year, about whether these patterns are ready to be broken, and new ones more favorable to Nadal put in place. I’d be surprised to see Rafa dip precipitously this time, and I'd also be surprised if Federer doesn’t revive himself and play better tennis in the second half of the year. Losing to guys he’s owned for years should provide some of the motivation that may have been missing after his record-breaking 2009.

Will it be enough for Federer to significantly add to his Slam total over the next few years, and put it out of reach of Nadal? Federer has said he’ll play at least until the 2012 London Olympics, and likely beyond. He’ll be 31 that summer, which means he could potentially play for three or four years after that. A lot will depend on his status in the game at that point. If he’s a perennial quarterfinalist, overpowered by the big men on a regular basis, I don’t see him sticking around for long; it would be tough for someone of his stature to swallow. But I also don’t see his game dropping off as quickly as Sampras’ did after 30, or Edberg’s did in his late 20s. The only player who has, as of this moment, surpassed him is Nadal. Murray and Djokovic have been treading water, del Potro seems to be fragile, and while Soderling and Berdych have beaten Federer, they’re not marching past him in the rankings anytime soon. There’s also no teenager on the horizon who appears ready to blow the whole thing up. I'd say Federer will win between one and five more majors. It's hard to be more specific than that, but for the sake of this article, I’ll guess that, barring serious injury, he'll retire with 19 Slams.

Can Nadal get to 19? It’s seems unlikely that, at 24, he has 11 more majors in him. OK, can he get to 16? Federer turned 24 one month after Wimbledon in 2005. Notice that that tournament represented a peak moment for him as well; Federer blitzed Andy Roddick in the most one-sided of his Wimbledon final wins (he would play Nadal in that round for the first time in '06). It’s hard to believe, but that was only Federer’s fifth major title. From that point until the beginning of 2008, from ages 24 to 26, he would go on a serious tear, one that no one had seen since Borg’s glory years of ’78 to ’80. Federer won seven of nine majors and vaulted into contention for Sampras’ Slam record.

Nadal, who is ahead of Federer’s pace by three at the moment, doesn’t need to match that run. Which is a good thing, because it’s borderline-unmatchable, even for a normal, clear-cut No. 1. Nadal is virtually assured of winning more French Opens—I’ll say three more; if that seems conservative for a guy who’s lost one match there in his career, it’s only because he’s made winning in Paris look easier than it is, and easier than it’s going to be even for him in the future. With the other Slams, it’s harder to say. Based on his past results, which have until now been more up-and-down than dominant, I’d give him two more each in Australia and at Wimbledon, and two at the U.S. Open. That brings Nadal to a total of 17. Somehow that number seems high when you put all the Slams together—can the guy really win nine more? It took him five years to win the eight that he has. But individually, 3, 2, 2, 2 sounds reasonable for his future at 24, doesn't it? And like I said, all bars have been raised in this era.

Recurring knee injuries could make this number much lower; we’ve always said Nadal's style was hard on him, and it’s already robbed him of potential major titles. But so far it hasn’t sidelined him for an extended period. He keeps getting back up, and I’d expect this pattern to continue. At the same time, Nadal could be entering a period of Federer-like, two-Slams-per-season period of dominance, which would make his career total higher. Whatever his final number, I think it will be lower than Federer’s final number. No matter how young he is, eight is going to be a tough number to erase.

Judging from the past, the one thing we can count on from Federer and Nadal is that the guy who is being counted out is the guy we need to watch out for. In July 2010, that guy is Federer. In the race for Grand Slam supremacy, it’s Nadal. If they’ve taught us anything, it’s to look forward to the extraordinary.


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by Jai 07/13/2010 at 06:19 AM

Um, just for the record, the "Jai" at 3.01 AM isn't me. Way too many ellipses and exclamation marks for my liking.

Posted by BlackCat 07/13/2010 at 06:26 AM

Hey guys, the simplest way to measure playes is to sum all the points they earn during their playing career.

How many points has Fed amassed? How many Nadal? The guy with more points sure is the more successful at this moment. How they end up in the future only time will tell and what we say about that is pure guessing game (albeit interesting one).

We can measure up all other players in the Open era as well. It's more complicated with pre open era because we need some kind of point system for tournies during that time.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 07:28 AM

@ yesyourright and camelot is about to end
You're one person try to seem like more. You keep publishing non-sense but fortunately, the majority of us on this blog don't respond. Your arguments have no merit for a host of reasons, not to mention, Rafa has actually gotten smaller over the past 18 months, not larger. Also, you've apparently never gone to youtube to watch video of the muscular 16 y/o Rafa. But, of course, I conjecture you're imagining (since that's all it is) that the teenage Rafa was taking PEDs and steroids as well. Yeah, to win those junior tournaments. Ok, enough time responding to a moron.

Posted by lilscot 07/13/2010 at 07:32 AM

Geellis: 7:28 a.m.

Well said! Thanks for saving me the effort of responding to that drivel. :) Man, the conversation was going so well for the first few pages there. I guess we have to accept there's always going to be some fool come along to try and spoil things for there rest of us, sigh.

Posted by Account Deleted 07/13/2010 at 07:32 AM

There is no doubt at all that the Fed is the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) tennis player. There is also no doubt at all that he is the GOAT whose head-to-head record against Nadal is a dismal 7-14...

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 07:34 AM

@javed
not sure what or who's game you've been watching, but I suspect it's not Nadal's. First, his BH is absolutely stronger than the Fed's has ever been relative to their total game. In other words, you cannot just play Rafa's BH hoping for mistakes. It doesn't happen. That said, I posted during Wimbledon that Rafa's FH and BH are like a Captain and Field Marshall in battle. The FH is the field marshall. It's with the FH that he dictates the play and manages the strategy of the confrontation. The BH is a fiesty captain looking to prove himself through gallant attacks. As EVERYONE who follows tennis super close knows, you approach to Rafa's BH side at your own peril. Furthermore, his BH, though not the shot with which he prefers to manage the action on court, is the more stable side, the side least likely to produce errors.

Posted by Juliana07 07/13/2010 at 07:38 AM

"Up to this point, he [Nadal] has also lacked Federer’s ability to cruise into the semis at Slams"

Comparing them at the same age - 24 years plus around 1 month - Nadal has cruised into MORE semis (also quarterfinals and finals) at Slams:
Federer: 6 Wins, 0 Finals (runner-up), 2 Semifinals, 2 Quarterfinals,
Nadal: 8 W, 2 F, 3 SF, 3 QF.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 07:41 AM

@aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] and Evelyn
There's a reason ppl forget Margaret Court, it's cause like 11 of those GSs were AOs when no one other than her was going down there. Furthermore, and most importantly, we forget her because there is simply NO DOUBT she is NOT the best female to have ever played the game. She just came along in a time and from a country, Australia, that hosted a GS that not that many players outside of Australia payed much attention to. Furthermore, she played in a era where women's tennis was nowhere near as competitive as it is now. But as J. Wertheim says, there's just no doubt that Serena Williams would "crush" the likes of Margaret Court (actually Wertheim applied this to ALL of the other GOAT contenders, including Steffi, Navratilova, and Evert, and based on any rationally deduced argument, the veracity of this conclusion cannot be gainsaid).

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 07:58 AM

@remain anonymous
Hmmmm. Interesting to think how Pete would fair against Rafa at Wimbledon. I think it would be a great match and I think it would be tough for Pete. Like the Fed, Pete's BH is his far weaker wing. Probably as big an opening (for a player with the skill set of Nadal) as there is with the Fed of his BH side. And don't give me Agassi (as in "why didn't Agassi 'exploit' the supposed weakness of Pete's BH side?"). Agassi didn't move well enough to hit the type of aggressive passing shots of which Nadal is capable. So, unlike when playing Agassi, Pete would have more often found himself in trouble coming in against Nadal. That said, I expect Pete to hold most of his games. However, I expect Nadal to hold a similar number of his games due to the brilliant placement he has on his serve. Pete is no Agassi in terms of returning. He's probably more similar to Fed here. Therefore, we're in tie-breaks where one/two points makes the difference. On paper you'd give this to the better server. However, having watched Pete's entire career and Rafa's entire career, I just think the latter is a better big point player than the former. And, yes, I know how many GSs Pete won. But I've never seen a player play more aggressively on the biggest points more often than Nadal. And this I consider an "x" factor that would allow him to prevail against Pete on the slower lawns of today's Wimbledon. So, interestingly, though Pete won more Wimbys than USOs, if they played today, Pete would amass a better record against Nadal at the USO than at wimby. I guess that should not be surprising when you look at Nadal's record at the two tournaments. Four str8 finals at Wimby and none at the USO.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 08:00 AM

@remain anonymous
Hmmmm. Interesting to think how Pete would fair against Rafa at Wimbledon. I think it would be a great match and I think it would be tough for Pete. Like the Fed, Pete's BH is his far weaker wing. Probably as big an opening (for a player with the skill set of Nadal) as there is with the Fed of his BH side. And don't give me Agassi (as in "why didn't Agassi 'exploit' the supposed weakness of Pete's BH side?"). Agassi didn't move well enough to hit the type of aggressive passing shots of which Nadal is capable. So, unlike when playing Agassi, Pete would have more often found himself in trouble coming in against Nadal. That said, I expect Pete to hold most of his games. However, I expect Nadal to hold a similar number of his games due to the brilliant placement he has on his serve. Pete is no Agassi in terms of returning. He's probably more similar to Fed here. Therefore, we're in tie-breaks where one/two points makes the difference. On paper you'd give this to the better server. However, having watched Pete's entire career and Rafa's entire career, I just think the latter is a better big point player than the former. And, yes, I know how many GSs Pete won. But I've never seen a player play more aggressively on the biggest points more often than Nadal. And this I consider an "x" factor that would allow him to prevail against Pete on the slower lawns of today's Wimbledon. So, interestingly, though Pete won more Wimbys than USOs, if they played today, Pete would amass a better record against Nadal at the USO than at wimby. I guess that should not be surprising when you look at Nadal's record at the two tournaments. Four str8 finals at Wimby and none at the USO.

Posted by Carol (Rafa/Contador) 07/13/2010 at 08:05 AM

Camelot is about to the end (2:am)

What a shame that people like you can write in this post, a shame. I can't believe that it can be so much poison in your words and just because your fev player is not doing so well. I think Nadal deserve a lot more respect as player, as Champion he is and as great person
People and kind of fans like you don't show anything good, just hate

Posted by abel 07/13/2010 at 08:23 AM

Great article steve. fed and nadal have a long way to go i thing fed will retired with 18 slam and nadal will reach 19.

Posted by Fair 07/13/2010 at 08:51 AM

I do not know about steroids or drugs, but I think it is not fair to presumes things that are not confirmed.
The confirmed facts that I know is that Rafa is a fair player, who would even declare points that are called out in his favour if he clearly saw it in.
Furthermore, I believe he is the only tennis player that I know of who had never smashed a tennis racket out of fustration before, which is a proof of his good personality, who would not vent his fustration on the poor racket.

Posted by tennisfan76 07/13/2010 at 09:39 AM

Fair - I agree that Rafa seems far too even tempered to be a steroid user. My sister, who studied sports & exercise science at university, maintains that Rafa isn't anywhere like big (or mean) enough to be on steroids. He obviously just puts on muscle quite easily. I must add that, as a long time fan of Marat Safin, racquet smashing doesn't really bother me :)
I can see Rafa retiring with 12/13 slams, including another couple of FO and Wimbledon titles and maybe a second AO title if things go right for him. The USO will probably remain "a bridge too far" for Rafa, it's at a difficult time of year for him and there are too many excellent HC players who can take advantage of that. Roger could easily retire with 18/19 slams, depending on how serious his back problem is and, of course, how motivated he remains.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/13/2010 at 10:22 AM

Qualifications for a GOAT candidate include durability and establishing records against your peers.

S.Williams is not close to being the GOAT on the women's side.

S.Williams' numbers are nowhere close to being in the same ballpark as Navratilova's, Graf's, and Court's.

S.Williams' body constantly breaks down, so S.Williams is unable to generate the necessary numbers.

Furthermore, when Wertheim yaks about S.William destroying Graf's BH slice, Wertheim is talking right out of his ass.

Graf kept her BH slice low enough that it wasn't easily attackable.

If S.Williams had insisted on attacking that slice, S.Williams would have been generating too many UFEs to win matches.

A shame that Wertheim insisted on embarrassing himself in this matter.

Posted by Nam1 07/13/2010 at 10:43 AM

I suspect that camelot, yesyourright and btaylor are the same poster. Best to ignore.....work that scroll finger.

Posted by Fionski 07/13/2010 at 10:59 AM

Federer may be 5 years older than Nadal, but he has only been playing 3 years longer. Fed turned pro in 1998 and
Nadal in 2001. Also, over the past 5 years Fed has been sick or injured more times than Nadal. Yet for some strange
reason the media ignore this, or call him a liar.

Posted by CPM 07/13/2010 at 11:09 AM

"Furthermore, when Wertheim yaks about S.William destroying Graf's BH slice, Wertheim is talking right out of his ass."

LOL & hell yeah! Go get 'em, msf.

Posted by CPM 07/13/2010 at 11:15 AM

Oh, and thanks, Jai for the correction above on the Rafa/Djokovic H2H on HCs. 7 - 3 is certainly closer to 'owning' territory.

That having been said, count me as deeply suspicious of the current Nole's ability to take out the current Rafa on any surface -- esp. if we're talking a Grand Slam venue. I'm not happy about that, but Djokovic's given us all ample reason to doubt his ability to step up on the big occasions imho.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 11:20 AM

@manuelsantanafan
this time you're just plain out of your mind. Wertheim is not alone in his assessment of Serena's chances against all of the prior greats. Bodo and Perotta seem to agree. Furthermore, let me just outline the "x's" and "o's" for you and see what you come up with.

Attribute

Forehand: Gotta call this one even
Backhand: Advantage Serena
Serve: Advantage Serena
Return: Advantage Serena
Movement: close, but slight Edge Serena
Volley: Advantage Serena
Overall Athletic Ability: Advantage,Serena
Intangibles: Advantage, Serena


You're just too tied to the issue of respect for past players to see beyond your own nose. There's no serious tennis fan who would argue the x's and o's as I've just stated. And that, my friend, is the game. No other shots to be had. No magic to be pulled out of a box. Steffi's BH slice (a shot Roger plays easily as well as Steffi) is simply no match for raw power (just as Roger). It's not a close call and only your disdain for Serena keeps you from seeing this. But, to be fair to you, it's your allegiance to the old timers and your inability to reconcile yourself to the truth of the evolution of the game. I guess some ppl probably still think horses are a better form of transportation than cars and planes and those people live in Pennsylvania Dutch country. But for the rest of us, that Serena would beat every one of the supposed GOATs is just obvious. She's just too good an athlete. She's got a ridiculous number of GS double's titles that substantiate my claim that she's a better volleyer than Steffi.

Posted by Nicky 07/13/2010 at 11:24 AM

Rafa might surpass Roger but it is really depend on his health. the way Rafa's play is too physical more about speed and power. but as the age catch up he will like Roger being catch up by younger player and with injury he might suffer how much more can he give?

Roger's way is more like strategy and tactical way where as it prolong his career but he does face difficulty when he face opponent that too strong in physical.

Djokovic is someone play more like Fed's way but really unlucky him with 2 Big players there to prevent him from the GREAT.

Posted by camelot is about to end 07/13/2010 at 11:26 AM

Carol,

Proclaiming what I said to be "hate" doesn't make it less likely to be true. No one attempted to refute what I said because you can't. And it's possible (though far less certain) that Contador could disappoint you as well.

Fair,

I admit the evidence is circumstantial, but it's overwhelming nonetheless. The "hear no evil, see no evil" mentality is foolish, and has brought other sports to their knees because the people who should have kept the competitors honest had a vested interest in looking the other way. Of course we as fans can't "confirm" a player's steroid use. But we can see an elephant in the room, and it's absurd to ignore it.

As for fair play, it's less about Rafael Nadal's character than TONI Nadal's character, and Toni designed his nephew to win at all costs. But in any case, Nadal fans seem curiously blind to the fact that it's only in little and insignificant matters like an occasional line call that Nadal respects the rules. Non-Nadal fans see a serial cheater who stalls, plays possum, receives coaching, and generally follows a carefully scripted plan to beat his opponents by any available means, fair or foul.

tennisfan76,

Nadal had a vein-popping fit when he was warned for receiving coaching.

Posted by Steve 07/13/2010 at 11:28 AM

sharon, one good thing about a tennis blog is that you have the space and time over a season to write all kinds of different articles, even if the topics are similar. i get to do the personal appreciations of a player, but there's also room for speculation/stat pieces like this. predicting future slam wins is slightly ridiculous and hardly scientific, but it's also something that goes through the head of every fan, and comes up in lots of sports conversations. so why not talk about it here? to me, it's more interesting than an assessment of the world team tennis standings.

you don't like this post, maybe you'll like the next one.

thinking about it again, nam1, 17 does seem high for nadal as a total. but like i said when you break it down per-slam, it seems more reasonable. maybe i would switch to 1 us open for him total, instead of 2.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 11:29 AM

@manuelsantanafan
Additionally, Wertheim made a much more nuanced argument than you represented. Perhaps you just didn't understand the subtelty of the distinctions he drew so I'll try to elucidate them for you. He accepted that Serena will never amass the GS numbers of those other players. However, Court won 11 AOs at a time when everyone, except perhaps you, acknowledges that the best players did not necessarily travel to Australia. Additionally, he argues that no tennis expert has argued for either Court or Maureen Connolley as GOAT contenders. From this he adduces that, unlike perhaps for the men (though, given the pre-Fed arguments in favor of Laver and Borg, it's arguable for them as well), GS titles alone are insufficient to merit GOAT status. The point he makes is similar to mine above. Namely, when we watch the video with our own "objective" eyes (and that part might be difficult for you), there is simply no question that Serena "crushes" the other GOAT contenders assuming all of them playing at their general match best. I distinguish that from their absolute best because no player plays at this level more than a few times during their careers. I'd use their match play in GS finals as the measure of the skill we're looking to compare. So, please, while your allegiance to the old, tiny, too slow men of tennis' past is legend, it's simply a non-starter with Serena. Just let go cause you make yourself look silly. She's just that much better than every other woman who has ever played the game and it ain't even close.

Posted by wilson75 07/13/2010 at 11:30 AM

Hear, hear MSF re: Serena. Wertheim's piece is full of suppositions and assumptions. Serena can only be judged at the end of her career. At 28 we don't even know how long again she will play and if she will be fit to play. She's among the greats but she's not the greatest.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/13/2010 at 11:33 AM

It's not about whether Serena could own Steffi or not, or whether or not she has better shots or game even, though, is it? Wouldn't that be just one part of a much bigger debate?

(I haven't read EJW's original piece - probably obvious, LOL.)

Someone - I think it was Steve actually - had a post a few months ago about one of the matches that Serena and Steffi played - maybe an early one at Indian Wells? - that I remember as fun to read.

They played twice in 1999 and honours were even. I guess neither were right at their respective peaks then though.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/13/2010 at 11:37 AM

Geelis:

You might want to stop orbiting Planet Reality and touch down some time:


Attributes, Navratilova versus Williams:


Forehand: Williams
Backhand: Williams, slightly
Serve: Williams, slightly
Return: Even
Movement: Even.
Net Game: Navratilova, by a mile
Overall Athletic Ability: Even
Intangibles: Williams, slightly
Durability: Navratilova, by a mile
Class: Navratilova, by a mile


As far as Williams vs. Margaret Court, the bottom line is that Court could only compete against the players in front of her.

Court was at the top of the game--in both singles and doubles--far longer than has Williams, and Court did not have the advantage of having Venus Williams as a doubles partner.

GOAT candidates dominate over the long haul--they don't spend major portions of several seasons on the sidelines, like S.Williams.


Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 11:44 AM

"Overall Athletic Ability: Advantage,Serena"

I would argue this one.

"But for the rest of us, that Serena would beat every one of the supposed GOATs is just obvious."

Umm, speak for yourself. :) Martina and Steffi would handle themselves just fine.

"She's got a ridiculous number of GS double's titles that substantiate my claim that she's a better volleyer than Steffi."

Geellis, come on. This proves nothing. Do you think Steffi and Venus could not win a few doubles titles today? :)

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/13/2010 at 11:50 AM

Part of my most recent post was lost, so I'll put the portion in here:

Attributes, Graf versus Williams:


Forehand: Graf, considerably
Backhand: Williams, slightly
Serve: Williams, slightly
Return: Even
Movement: Even.
Net Game: Even
Overall Athletic Ability: Even
Intangibles: Williams, slightly
Durability: Graf, by a mile
Class: Graf, by a mile

Furthermore, Graf played Williams twice when Graf was around 30, past her peak, and split two three-setters.

I watched a replay of one of those matches and the quality of play of the two women was very close.

Again: GOAT candidates show up. If you're MIA much of the time, like Williams, you are not in the discussion.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/13/2010 at 11:51 AM

What exactly are these intangibles? They confuse the hell out of me. :)

Posted by mja 07/13/2010 at 11:52 AM

I tire of the comparisons between Federer and Nadal. They play two very different styles of tennis. Federer by far is a better representative of the way the game was meant to be played and has the style and manners that raise this sport above others. Nadal's style is more like a street fighter and his superstitions, gamesmanship and manners on the court are not what I consider to be the way I would like to see younger players imitate or admire.

Nadal has had great success but will never be in the same class as a Federer or a Sampras. Futhermore until he stops being stubborn and open his mind to other ways of playing, his knees will be his downfall.

Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 12:04 PM

Jewell, lol. :) Must be the mental aspects. Or the better earrings, one of the two.

Posted by CPM 07/13/2010 at 12:05 PM

Initially misread that as "better earnings," Sherlock -- which also works :)

Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 12:11 PM

He he, CPM. Well done. :)

One thing's for sure. In a fantasy world of time machines, etc., I'd certainly pay to see Martina, Steffi, and Serena on a barnstorming tour playing each other about 20 times. Adding a fourth player would make it work out better, but not sure who that would be. Court? BJK? Oudin? :)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/13/2010 at 12:19 PM

LOL @ Oudin. Is she really that overhyped, Sherlock?

I imagine if a British player got to the quarters at Wimbledon beating Dementieva and Sharapova or equivalents the press would go a bit silly. :)

Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 12:23 PM

He he, Jewell. I just couldn't resist. I hope Samantha sees it. :)

You're right, though. That WAS an amazing run by Melanie. Hype or no hype, it was a lot of fun. She deserved some accolades after that one.

Posted by AB 07/13/2010 at 12:30 PM

Hi Sherlock, CPM and Jewell:

Don't you think sometimes that Rafa was was invented by:

A. Sports writers

B. The Spanish Tennis Federation

C. The Tennis Deities of Clay

D. Tim, so he could use the word "knees" 4 times in one sentence

E. Roger Federer

Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 12:44 PM

Lol, AB. Nice list. :)

"E" is an interesting one. Without Rafa, Roger has more slams, but also MUCH more talk of a weak era.

As for "D", only four? Hi, Tim!! :)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/13/2010 at 12:50 PM

Hello AB, how are you? Recovered from the FO-Wimbledon intensity yet? :)

Posted by Nam1 07/13/2010 at 12:51 PM

" Federer by far is a better representative of the way the game was meant to be played and has the style and manners that raise this sport above others"

Why? Where is it written how this "game was meant to be played"?


"Nadal's style is more like a street fighter and his superstitions, gamesmanship and manners on the court are not what I consider to be the way I would like to see younger players imitate or admire."

Same old Same old accusations....here's a tip that will stand you in good stead thru' life and tennis "NOT everyone is the SAME, PEOPLE are DIFFERENT, doesnt mean they are bad ,just different!!!

"Nadal has had great success but will never be in the same class as a Federer or a Sampras. Futhermore until he stops being stubborn and open his mind to other ways of playing, his knees will be his downfall."


I dont get what you mean by "class" that Federer has brought to the game? He seems to have his on court tantrums like everyone else on occasion. only human after all

And finally, if you dont think Rafa has changed his way of playing recently, you must not know a lot about tennis or must not watch him much. No other player has tinkered with all aspects of their game as much as Nadal.

Posted by CPM 07/13/2010 at 12:53 PM

AB: Heh. Maybe:

F. Fans of Rear Admirables?

E. does make for an interesting choice; while Sherlock's right that there'd be a lot more 'weak era' talk, something tells me Mr. Federer might manage to console himself through such hurtful discussion with the 1 or 2 calendar slams he'd likely have. Which may point more to your option C. :)

Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 01:08 PM

"Nadal has had great success but will never be in the same class as a Federer or a Sampras. Futhermore until he stops being stubborn and open his mind to other ways of playing, his knees will be his downfall."

Slice backhand
Court positioning
Faster Serve
Flatter Forehand (across the body, not buggy whip)

LL

Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 01:12 PM

8 Majors and a kajillion Masters Shields...

I'll take that kind of "downfall" any day.

LL

Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 01:17 PM

Steve, forgot to say, excellent article!

LL

Posted by Mills 07/13/2010 at 01:20 PM

Even though the results are skewed because of the clay events let's not forget about Rafa's already owning the Masters Series record...and he's only 24.

Posted by AB 07/13/2010 at 01:29 PM

Jewell: I manage my ChannelSlam withdrawal symptoms by increasing my physical activity level. My mental activity seems to be declining in direct proportion to my year tally increases.

Sherlock and CPM: Roger knows that a Roger dominated era would not bring in the interest = advertising/sponsorship money as much as compelling stories of rivalries/nemesis/Fedal wars, etc. Would he like to own the rest of the records including the Modern Era Grand Slam? No doubt, but not if it only came in a trade with the money sponsorships. He is Swiss, or at least half Swiss, after all.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 01:36 PM

@manuelsantanafan
well we're living in alternate universes. You're crazy if you thing Graf had more power on her FH than Serena. Man open you damn eyes. Serena's guns are twice the size of Graf's and that means something. It means she's got power that Graf simply did not. Period end of story. Unless you're gonna somehow manufacture power from somewhere else. And let's remember, Graf's strokes are not like, let's say, a Davydenko. The potency of her game is not about timing, it was about raw power. And on that score, she pales in comparison to Serena. On serve you say Williams slightly. You're on drugs man. Evert, Navratilova, Davenport, Carillo, etc. all say with one voice that Serena has by far the greatest serve in the history of the woman's game. Serena just served 90 ACES AT WIMBLEDON!!! By far besting the previous highest number that she also owned. Again, pay attention to the game. Watch her use of the serve. Graf was not remotely in this class of server. No woman ever has been. If you cannot acknowledge this, there's no real point in addressing you for you will have proved yourself hopelessly and unredeemably ignorant of the game.

Return is even? OMFG man. Have you EVER watched Graf play. She approached the return of serve similar to Federer. It was a shot to get the rally started (unless you were foolish enough to serve to her FH side, which Serena would almost never do). Movement, I'm willing to back-track on this and call this one even. Net game? I just think Serena's double's experience (which far exceeds that of Graf) would be telling here. I don't mean to suggest that Serena has the softest of hands; but she's got more experience in more pressure situations at net than Graf brings and, thus, I give her the slight edge here.

Overall athletic ability? have to give this one to Serena as well. She reminds me a lot of Rafa in this respect. She's just able to do more with the ball from more difficult positions. But it's only a tiny edge and not dispositive cause I think Graf was a phenomenal athlete.

As for Class? Not at all sure to what this refers and really don't care. Unless you provide more insight, I do not recognize this as an attribute that matters one wit to who would win a tennis match between Graf and Serena playing at their best.

Finally as for Intangibles? For those who asked, we mean fighting spirit here. I have to say, I loved Graf's spirit so I'm willing to stand down on my former nod to Serena and call this a draw as well.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 01:41 PM

AB: Who invented Nadal? I now reveal to you a secret known only to two men on this planet and three others on Phobos XVIY. Nadal was created by the evil genius scientist and decent tennis player Andrew Stephen Roddick. Early in his career Roddick realised he was destined to lose all but two matches in his career to the chosen one, Roger Federer. Seething with anger, frustration and helplessness, he went back to his secret lab in the Grand Canyon determined to create the perfect anti-Roddick who would wreak havoc on the chosen one. Thus was born Rafael Nadal.

Fantasy, you scoff? Ah, but the evidence has been staring you in the face all along, glorious yet devastating in its simplicity: Roddick is right-handed, Nadal is left-handed - only on the tennis court. Roddick's serve is his biggest weapon. Nadal's serve is his weakest link. Roddick cannot play on clay. Nadal can play on clay. Roddick is a hoot in english press conferences. Nadal can barely speak english. Roddick is a study in sarcasm, caustic comments and referee-berating. Nadal is as nice and politically correct as they come. First letter of Nadal's first name is the same as the first letter of Roddick's last. First three letters of Nadal's first name is an anagram of the first three letters of Roddick's first name - The unmistakable imprints of a brilliant egomaniac. Still don't believe me? ok then...in a stroke of blink-and-you-miss subtlety, Roddick created an entity that adjusts the back of his shorts to his front. Coincidence you think?

Are there others this madman has created for his own perverse reasons you ask? I give you Brooklyn Decker.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 01:45 PM

@manuelsantanafan
as for you x's and o's re Serena and Navratilova, they're even wackier. Have you watched what serena does to balls that come to slow? Have you watched where she stands to take even the first serve return? Navratilova was serving on avg around the mid-90's to max 100mph. That's just not going to scare Serena who routinely serves in the mid 1teens. As for the likely potency of Navratilova's S&V style, here's what a former top 5 player (think that beats your or my best ranking) says about the matter:

"But Mary Joe Fernandez, ranked as high as No. 4 in 1991 and now a commentator for ESPN, says the women's game is less about power serving than power playing style. "Serve and volley is practically nonexistent nowadays - there's none of it on the women's side," she says. "I think the return has become such a big shot, and the girls hit the ball so hard, that's one of the reasons you don't see that anymore."

Navratilova would simply watch all of her serves go flying by her with interest and she'd have to abandon the net, her only hope of staving off a Serena victory.

Posted by Nam1 07/13/2010 at 01:46 PM

TMF your post above is hilarious!!!

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 01:46 PM

Amendment to previous post: Paragraph 2, line 5: That should read First three letters of Nadal's last name, not first. Thank you.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/13/2010 at 01:46 PM

LOL AB. I was fine when I had the football to throw myself into but now everything is a bit quiet, although it is nice to be a bit less tense and to get more sleep. :)

Hm...I could buy that sponsorship point looking at tennis as a whole - doesn't Roger tend to say that having everyone healthy and consistent and playing great matches is good for the sport? - but not so much in terms of personal gains.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 01:47 PM

@Sherlock
I think if you read my response to manuelsantanafan, you'll see that I put a little more bones on my assertion about the slight advtg I give to Serena over Steffi in terms of volleying. All that GS doubles experience has placed Serena's volleying skills under more championship pressure than Graf's. Not a big edge I give Serena here, but a slight one still.

Posted by AB 07/13/2010 at 01:49 PM

Forgot to thank Steve for this piece. Thanks, Steve.

At this point in his career, Roger has to be keeping himself motivated by that H2H with Rafa. They are both students of the game and its history. While Roger does not asterisk his FO title, he has got to be playing for his legacy. I mean, he doesn't need more money or titles, unless he's hoping to put everything out of reach in his lifetime so he doesn't have to sit court-side, Borg-like, and congratulate the guy that breaks all his records.

He would probably prefer that his girls do that, sometime in their dotage.

I also think he wants that Olympic Singles Gold and he believes his best shot is on the grass at London. But let's face it, he can keep playing for Switzerland as long as he chooses.

The beauty (and the poignancy) of the meta discussion is that neither may win another Grand Slam and we may never get treated to another Master Class final between the two. I'm not trying to cast a pall but, rather, I'm savoring what we've already been treated to by their continued excellence over the years.

It's amazing to me that, 3 months ago, the story was Rafa's return. Jewell mentioned she thought he looked nervous and not at all confident during the French. I think it was a bit more complex. He was nervous. Full stop. He needed to know he could win at the highest level which was symbolized by a Grand Slam title. That anxiety was not necessarily directly related to whether he thought he was playing good enough to win.

Now we're talking the possibility of him winning 3 in a row? And it's possible with his schedule management, re-tooling of his game, and ongoing medical treatment. How crazy is that?

It will be very interesting to me to watch Mr. Federer over these next couple of months. Will he make any changes? Tiger changed his putter for the 1st time in 11 years. That putter won him 13 Majors. I wonder if he and Roger still text.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 01:50 PM

@Sherlock
just cause you say it, don't make it so. Please elucidate for me the roadmap by which Graf or Navratilova get by a game Serena. Tell me where they go? What weakness they exploit with sufficient regularity to overcome the onslaught of game that Serena brings. Don't just make declarations. Make the case or concede.

Posted by Nam1 07/13/2010 at 01:56 PM

To fuel the Fedal injury war, I give you Pete Bodo's Espn blog where he openly gives Rafa a break on the injury issue while calling Federer out for mentioning his injuries post match!!!

http://espn.go.com/sports/tennis/blog/_/name/bodo_peter/id/5375976/incessant-injury-talk-become-pain

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/13/2010 at 01:58 PM

I could quite well have been projecting my own feelings at the TV, AB. :) I remember that Rafa didn't seem that happy with his play in the early rounds, for example against Gianni Mina.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/13/2010 at 01:59 PM

Geelis:

One of the many areas in which you have to improve your understanding about the efficacy of S&V tennis, especially that practiced by lefties, is that speed of serve is not paramount--placement, moving the serve around, and spin plus slice are.

I've seen Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez's lefty S&V game give Williams plenty of trouble at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows--even allowing Sanchez to take a set off Williams at Roland Garros--and Sanchez is not even close to having the athletic ability or S&V skills of Navratilova.

Keep on studying the game. The journey towards enlightenment is a good one.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 01:59 PM

Thank you Nam1. :) I aim to please (and find creative, amusing and entertaining ways to pass the time on a slow work day)

Posted by jsprmrtn 07/13/2010 at 01:59 PM

I`m sorry Fed will never b considered 1 of the greats, except 4 Rafa who has he played. Looking back 2 the era of Borg[11] consider who he had 2 play 2 win those majors. Connors,Johnny Mac, Lendle, Nastase, Ashe, to mention a few. Face it Fed played n the weekest era tennis has ever witnessed. How many do u think he would of won n Borg`s era. As I mentioned earlier the only great player Fed had to deal with was Nadal & he has took him to school & will continue to do so. As Fed gets older that will b his excuse n his decline while Nadal will have to deal with this new generation of young tennis players. Sure he won a record amount of majors but like I said look at the competion.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/13/2010 at 02:01 PM

Oh yay, round 693298.

LOL, TheMightyFunk. :) Although Rafa's English has improved quite a bit over the past few years.

Posted by jr 07/13/2010 at 02:03 PM

don't forget guys RAFA is RAFA!!! who happened to dominate Roger. he is the only person who made Roger cry a few times. ENOUGH SAID.

Posted by Nam1 07/13/2010 at 02:05 PM

"I`m sorry Fed will never b considered 1 of the greats"

?????

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 02:08 PM

Jewell - I agree...That was a case of me indulging in a little creative license for the sake of the narrative :)

Nam1 - Don't know where to start with that Bodo blog, so I won't. In any case, IMO its a little too obvious in its attempt to keep the Fedal-flame burning and dosn't deserve a lot of attention. Nothing that hasn't been hashed to death already. But if you are in the mood for some "out there" posts, just visit the espn board response to that blog in an hour or so. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. **sigh**

Posted by jsprmrtn 07/13/2010 at 02:11 PM

The greatest of his era, big difference than GOAT.

Posted by AB 07/13/2010 at 02:14 PM

TMFunk: riddle me this - why can't Dr. FrankenRoddick make his acknowledged off-court smarts match his on-court smarts?

We must add:

F. Fans of Rear Admirables, and,

G. Dr. FrankenRoddick

to the list of Nadal, Invented by;

Jewell: you're a true frazzling fan. Not quite as anxious as Mr. X, but hey, you never know, maybe Rafastein channels all that nervous fan energy into on-court sprinting, vamosing, and rafasaulting.

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 02:15 PM

@manuelsantanafan
well the one thing on which we agree is that the continued study of the game is a good thing. Venus is also not the returner that her sister is. Serena is much more lethal off both sides. Moreover, one match tells us nothing. That could have simply been a bad day for Venus. So you not only need to continue studying the game, you need to learn the basics of statistics.

Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 02:19 PM

TMFunk - Sheer, freaking genius. I cannot believe I didn't see it before. It seems SO clear now.

AB - Rafastein - LOVE IT!

Btw, LOVING Mr. Brown, yummy. :)

LL

Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 02:26 PM

Here is your GOAT

http://img22.imageshack.us/img22/7784/goatij.jpg

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 02:27 PM

AB: But that would be too obvious and immediately raise suspicion of foul play among the more, umm, rabid tennis followers. Consider: Just today, there were some who claimed Nadal was on steroids/cheating because they don't understand how he can take an MTO one match and seem fine the next (little do they know that the MTO is really a cover to recharge the plasma-batteries in his knees powered by his $500,000 "watch", but that's another story...) When there is such baseless, irrational reaction to mundane events on the tennis court, what do you think would be the reaction to seeing Roddick suddenly turn the tables on the Fed? He's a smart one, that Roddick...always thinking ahead.

Besides, Roddick's true love in life is creating these entities. Tennis is just a platform that allows him to give manifestation to his genius.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 02:29 PM

TeamNadal - Although some of them hurt to the core of my being as a die-hard Fed fan, I got to grudgingly admit your jpg's are freaking HILARIOUS!

Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 02:30 PM

and Rafa is still celebrating...

http://img94.imageshack.us/img94/1089/nadance.gif

Posted by Nam1 07/13/2010 at 02:33 PM

TMF,

I took your advice about visiting the Espn comments section and wow, just wow!!!

I know it's been said before but can I just repeat that it's such a relief to have this site to post on...some of the comments on that blog made me cringe.

Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 02:34 PM

TMFunk - I see a comic book/animated series being born.....

by the way, (and I'm embarrased to admit this being a a lifetime fan of tennis and a fairly computer/tech savvy person) the live stream of Simon/Brown is the first one I've ever watched. I see now why everyone around here is so high on them. Very cool.

LL

Posted by Nam1 07/13/2010 at 02:34 PM

Teamnadal, you are too funny!!

That expression on Rafa's face is to die for!! The choice of the white jacket is very accurate BTW.

About the picture of the GOAT, I am not going there!!!

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 02:36 PM

Nam1 - Second that!
LL - He he - now that's an idea :)

Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 02:36 PM

O M G

http://i29.tinypic.com/104gfit.png

Posted by AB 07/13/2010 at 02:37 PM

So Dr. FrankenRoddick tweeting about Rafastein being the best clay court player, ever, was just a sly, self-congratulatory red herring tossed out by an Evil Genius.

Is Gimelslob his Maxi-Me?

LL: Jamaicans are a conservative bunch, but there was much lady-gushing over Mr. Brown in the run-up to Wimby. Hmmm. That didn't sound right.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 02:38 PM

Is Gimelslob his Maxi-Me? - AB, please, there are some things it is forbidden to ask or respond to.

Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 02:40 PM

Geellis, chill out on the "make the case or concede" crap. We aren't deciding the fate of nations here. :) You're pulling stuff out of your arse as much as myself or anyone else trying to analyze stuff like this. The last few years, Serena's lost before the semis more often than not. And one French final in her entire career? One?? Maybe Steffi or Martina couldn't exploit those weaknesses, but someone obviously is.

Posted by lilscot 07/13/2010 at 02:54 PM

TeamNadal:

RFLMAO! Your jpg's made my day! Someone said that the comments section over at espn is terrible. I've never checked it out before so maybe I'll brave it and see what it's like. Should I take a Gravol first?

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 02:59 PM

lilscot - Depends. If you go there as a fan/KAD, absolutely. If you can take your fan/KAD hat off and head over there as a completely detached observer, you may find it very amusing as I do :)

Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 03:02 PM

AB - well add me to the lady gushing masses. he is fiiiiine.

Sherlock - I love it when you get forceful *blushes*

We just had our weekly tsunami warning drill in my neighborhood. I wonder what will happen if we actually have a tsunami at noon on a Tuesday?

LL

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 07/13/2010 at 03:08 PM

"Up to this point, he has also lacked Federer’s ability to cruise into the semis at Slams. It’s harder work for Rafa all around, and he’s never gotten as many free points with his serve as Federer has. He’ll need to change some part of that equation if he wants to own the sport the way his rival has."

Agree with this, in general, except that I think you've overstated how many free points Federer gets on his serve and how difficult nadal struggles to win his own. If by "free points" you simplyu mean 'aces" then sure. But in my mind, Federer may own the best second serve in tennis (although he himself tips his hat to Gulbis), but he cleasrly dos NOT own the best first serve, and I'd hazard that it isn't among the top 3 to 5 first serves. And on the other hand, Nadal's serve, while not notching up as many outright aces, has been plenty troublesome. In fact, I'd suggest that nadal's serve is the better at producing a "neutral" return, or at least one that is no more than neutral in the mind of his opponent. And, as I've stated before, a point begun on neutral terms is a point that will end on Rafa's.

As for the futures of these two men.... your prediction for Federer, Steve, is right in line with the ones Sampras and gassi made about Rogr a few years back, when they each predicted he'd end his career with around 18 to 20 majors. I'm hesitant to extend him that much kindness, because I don't think Roger is the type of guy who can stand to be the number 3, 4 or player in the world month after month, year after year. At some point, we've got to look at his motivation. Three of his biggest motivators are already taken care of - the Sampras record, the French and subsequent career Grand Slam. As far as personal achievements, there are only two that remain - take home the Davis Cup and win Singles Gold at the 2012 olympics - and only one of them is at all solely in his power, and even that is debatable. And chasing a hypothetical Nadal career slam record? That just seems silly to me. The only other motivator I can surmise is his dream of having his twin daughters see him play (and win, I think we can assume). Well, how does he feel about having his girls see him lose? That is a distinct possibility now.

So I don't see Federer hanging around much past the 2012 Olympics, which would mean he's got two more Aussie opens, two more French Opens, two more Wimbledons and, if he plays out the 2012 year, three more US Opens to rack up three more slams to reach 19. That would be 3 titles in 9 majors. And, if we take the French out of the equation (assumiing a healthy Rafa is in the draw), that would be 3 of 7. I frankly don't see it. It will only get more difficult with each passing toournament, so if he doesn't turn his ship around and win this year's US Open, I'd say he'll leave with just two more - another Wimbledon and one of three US OPens - for 18.

As for Nadal... what more can be said except "the knees"? I mean, a healthy and completely fit and prepared Rafa is a beast and a competitor like none the game has seen since Pancho Gonzalez. It wasn't so much that "he didn't believe he could lose" this year at Wimbledon, as it was that "he wouldn't allow himself to be beaten." This guy wants to win more tham anything and clearly, more than anybody. But can he chalenge federer's slam total of 16 (or 18, by my reckoning) when all is said and done? Yes, if his knees remain healthy. But that's one BIG BIG if.

As for those two US Open trophies on Rafa's shelf one day, I'm not so sure. A couple of things are working against him there: fast hard courts and a long US hard court summer lead-up. And all this after wining the French and Winbledon, which I can't imagine Rafa ever foregoing just to secure a US Open title. It COULD happen, but I would bet on it. He's not that fond of New York, and he's a rhythm/groove player who needs to get a series of wins under his belt in order to be properly groomed for the majors. Doing so would mean winning a couple of of the US Open Series events - perhaps even the back-to-back Masters level events in Toronto and Cincinnati - and history suggests that such success would spell doom to is knees, and his chances at a US Open title.

Similarly, Federer needs to string together a few regular ATP event wins to rekindle his mojo. The days of waltzing up to the sign-in desk, showing his ATP player's pass and declaring that he is going to win the event because it's a major and he owns the patent on winning majors - are over. He'll need to commit to the hard work of winning day-in and day-out.

For Nadal, I see trouble ahead at the hard courts, with continued success at the French and at Wimbledon for the next three years, barring injury. Does this mean titles? Not necessarily, but surely some. His advantage at the Australian Open is that it is a slow hard court, it is played in intense heat (so his fitness becomes a factor), and he has had some time to rest, rehab, regroup and retool. His fortunes Down Under going forward may have as much to do with potential changes to the court composition and scheduling as to the status of his knees.

I canot even hazard a guess as to how many majors Nadal might amass by the time he's ready to hang up his sneakers, but I'd put it no less than 10 and no more than 15.

Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 03:13 PM

LL, well, let me slip on my Dustin Brown mask.... :)

Hope you're sipping lunchtime spirits rather than floating away. :)

Posted by lilscot 07/13/2010 at 03:14 PM

TheMightyFunk: 2:59 p.m.

LOL! Even though I'm a Rafa fan I don't think I'm a KAD and don't get upset when I see opposing views about him. Having said that I didn't find the comments too different than some of the ones here. You know, the usual back and forth.

What I don't understand is why Pete even found it necessary to write the article in the first place. As if there hasn't already been enough debate about the whole injury thing. Not sure why Pete thought his article was adding anything new to the discussion.

On the other hand, this piece by Steve is much more well-balanced and fair to both guys, and at least makes an attempt to show the two men as great equals in terms of tennis lore. I'm not talking GOAT here. Hate that discussion. Just that Steve really helps us appreciate the greatness of both men without having to bring down the other in the process.

That is a rare thing in today's "journalism."

Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 03:14 PM

lilscot, are you back yet? I am LOL at this comment from Pete's latest entry at ESPN:

"Peter, tell us all what we really want to know--what did Roger and Rafa order at Denny's :)"

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 07/13/2010 at 03:15 PM

"I will give Nadal a break on this (hence, I'm accused of having a double standard by foaming-at-the-mouth Federer fans), because we know the guy has had trouble with his pins."

From Pete Bodo's blog at ESPN. I am keeping this for EVAH!! Me thinks the blogger protests too much. 'Who me? Double standard? Just because I have, in the same sentence, clearly demonstrated that I HAVE a double standard? Why, you must be one of those KADs who missed a round of shots!'

I mean good lord...'Rafa...yeah we all KNOW the guy has trouble with his 'pins'. Fed? Mono, back...well, how do we KNOW anyway...?? Aren't his injuries so very 'convenient.? Not like Rafa's at RG 09. No, certainly not. After all Fed has proven again and again his word can't be trusted.'

Just...the next time somone..ANYONE....even Andrew...sez, 'the double standard is all in your KAD head, dear,' I will...um...present this shabby, choc full 'o double standard blog as defense exhibit A.

Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 03:21 PM

Sherlock - as long as the "mask" includes the hair too. And if I'm enjoying lunch with you as Mr. Brown, than I can easily be persuaded to bring out the rum. ;)

btw, Slice-n-Dice - incredibly thoughtful post (as usual). I have neither the intelligence or patience to produce a post like that.

LL

Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 03:25 PM

CL, I think Pete's toying with you now. :)

Posted by Nam1 07/13/2010 at 03:27 PM

TeamNadal

That comment made me laugh too...

Posted by ks 07/13/2010 at 03:30 PM

Slice, may not be that overstated, it makes a difference...

Percentage of points won on first serve is a stat that does not favor.
From the atp website this year, Karlovic tops this list with 84% oints won on first serve, Federer is in the 8th position with 77% and Nadal 21st position at 74%. There are a bunch of players closely bunched together.

Federer (11th in aces) has 326 aces from 40 matches and Nadal (39th in aces)has 173 aces from 52 matches.

One can see from both the stats above that inspite of being way ahead in terms of number of aces, there is little difference in terms of percentage of points won on first serve between the two.

While this shows Federer wins more free points, it also shows that Nadal protects his serve effectively, but has to work harder for it. It does not matter if Nadal wins more neutral points - point is effort/energy is expended.

On the other hand, if one were to look at second serve stats, Nadal is at the top position followed by Roger. Nadal wind 57% points on second serve while Roger 57%.

Posted by ks 07/13/2010 at 03:31 PM

typo "first serve is a stat that does not favor Nadal"

Posted by leigh 07/13/2010 at 03:34 PM

There is an article in the July/August USTA magazine titled "6 Love, 6 Love", predicting who might
be in winning form in the U.S. for the US Open Series play.
In the Nadal section, the article states that Nadal won a title in Doha this year beating Davydenko.
I keep reading it, thinking I'm missing something. Did Preston and Crawford not do their homework??

http://www.zinio.com/reader.jsp?issue=416132350&o=ext&RF=USTA_MAG_JULY10

Posted by Geellis 07/13/2010 at 03:35 PM

@Sherlock
if i chilled out on the make an argument or concede stuff, I wouldn't be the me that is so adored and loved throughout our little virtual community. When we talk about best ever, that doesn't mean never beaten. That said, Serena has the best record in GS finals of all of the major contenders for female GOAT (like 13-3 I think). The point in these discussions is a theoretical one attempting to look at how the players would match up on their normal best days. It's just that after going through the effort of presenting you with the x's and o's of why Serena would beat the other contenders for this title, you didn't really add anything substantive in response; just said Graf and Martina would hold their own. Sorry, that's not only pulling arguments out of your arse, that's simply not an argument. It's a conclusory statement and there's a difference. That's why I asked you (beseeched even) to present an argument, a strategy for how Graf/Navratilova beat Serena. Is that really too much to ask a learned and wise tennis aficionado such as yourself? I did not think it was.

Posted by lilscot 07/13/2010 at 03:36 PM

TeamNadal: 3:14 p.m.

Haha, yeah I made it back. Wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. I laughed out loud at that line too!

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 07/13/2010 at 03:37 PM

Sherlock - ya know... I WISH that was true. Did you read the whole piece? "Toying" is not how I would describe it...even in non foamy moments. Exactly HOW I would describe it might get me banned even from an unmoderated blog.

And even if he WAS doing that, um, does that strike you as a very professional, or even HONEST thing for a supposedly professional tennis writer to do? Really? Shouldn't he be focused on things other than calling out Fed fans at random moments when most of the heat had died down anyway? Well, each to his own jollies I guess. But if that is really what he is up to, what's the difference between Pete and Tim? Except that Tim is more concise?

Posted by FoT 07/13/2010 at 03:41 PM

It's been interesting reading the post and seeing all the 'predictions' of grand slams for the future. The problem is that things can change in a heartbeat.

Remember last year - we hardly every heard from some of the Nadal fans because he was out hurt, or just wasn't 'winning'. He had gone almost an entire year! AN ENTIRE YEAR - without winning a tournament. Some folks were quick to write him off saying his knees and his tennis were finished. When he didn't even win a match at year-end last year - man, the 'writing-off-of-Nadal' was in high force.

Then for Roger. When he won the AO this year, many started predicting as much as 20 slams! Hey, I'm a Federer fan and even I thought that might be too high...but that was many predictions.

Remember - this was only in January - of THIS YEAR!

Now here we are in July -6 months since then - and the writing is now completely opposite. Many are predicting a lot more slame for Nadal and hardly any for Roger.

So my point is that things can change in a hurry! Right now Nadal looks invinsible! Roger looks like he's on his last leg. But if things can change that drastic in 6 months - how in the world can people think they know for the next 3-4-5 years? Who knows if either Nadal or Roger will even be playing tennis! lol! I know they expect too, but I'm sure Del Potro expected to be playing right now. Injuries, inconsistencies, bad days, other hot players - anything can happen.

As a Federer fan, I'm just glad to have experienced what he's done so far. (at least you can't take that away). I have no idea what's going to happen at the next tournament - much less the next 4 or 5 years! lol! And the good thing about some of these drastic predictions - they don't know either! lol!

Posted by lilscot 07/13/2010 at 03:43 PM

CL/Hold the Foam: 3:15 p.m.

Yeah, I found that particular statement epitomizes the very definition of double-standard. As I've said before, despite being a Rafa fan I don't like seeing any kind of double-standard being used by sports writers. It's hard enough for us as fans to find our common ground and have rational discussions, but when people like Pete write articles like that one over at espn it only goads people into fighting even more.

Tennis is above that kind of thing, in my mind anyway. Hell, I don't even mind our debates about GOAT, etc., but this whole injury thing has just gotten blown waaay out of proportion and too much importance has been placed on it. Almost every pro athlete lives and breathes with some kind of injury and has to be put into context as a factor in the way a match plays out in the same manner as someone's BH being off the day, or someone's footwork sucking that day, etc. But, it isn't the only factor. If it was then the player in question should not even walk on the court if they have an injury so bad that it's going to lose the match for them.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 03:43 PM

lilscot - Glad you made it back and you are right, it isn't that bad today. I think its missing some usual suspects who I've seen to really spice things in the past. Lots of references to "DUH", "Rafa's whipping boy", "Cry baby", "juiced up" etc repeated over and over again with nary a new point usually make for very entertaining drive-by reading :) Wonder if they are missing coz they are preparing to launch an invasion on the pristine landscape of TW?

***Face contorts in horror***

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