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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Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/15/2010 at 03:14 AM

@ suzzanne
'Fedrer's last three slams were won in rafa's absence due to a knee injury'??? On which planet? On planet Earth Fedrer won French in 09 when Rafa was destroyed by soderling. Then wimbledon rafa was absent. Then rafa played again at asutralian open in 2010, where he lost to murray at quarters. just like we are used to with rafa, he was down 2 sets to love and received a spanking from murray in the 2nd set TIEBREAK when he suddenly decided it was time sto get 'injured'. and so he retired once again.
so on planet earth, rafa was playing and TRYING HIS BEST in 2 out of the last 3 slams that FEDerer has won! It is just fanatic rafa fans who dont acknowledge the truth.

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 05:08 AM

RogfaNafederal 07/14/2010 at 08:06 PM
First ever post here... and a Great post!
That's exactly how this Rafa fan feels about Fed's greatness. When people say that diminishing your favourite's opponents belittles your favorite, that's what I mean (and very well expressed --I wish SamE could read that post, because now she would understand).
So, as a Rafa fan, am I interested in Roger being considered great? Yes, but that's not the reson I do. I do because I do think he is great! (Sorry for the grammar.)

Espnananaldo,
Totally wrong re meaning of h2h (same surface, time, etc.). You lose credibility not for being harsh, but for saying these things. What you say would be true only if tennis were transitive, i.e. if A>B and B>C implied A>C. But that is absolutely not the case (matchups exist). That's why greatness is measured against the field. I totally agree with Aussiemarg and others that h2h will only matter as a decider when the overall numbers of slams AND OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS are comparable.

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 05:35 AM

Prashant Sharma,
I do think (he later missed Wimby!) that Rafa's knees were bad when Sod beat him, but: a) Even if Rafa had been healthy, if he had a bad day, an on-fire Sod could beat him (although an unlikely possibility imo); b) His knees are part of Rafa's overall tennis virtue-deffect compound, so Sod deserved his win.
Wimby: Rafa absent bc of injury (clearly!).
Match with Murray: was very close, high level, for 2 sets. Rafa could still come back I think. Then Rafa suffered a pull at back of knee (not the usual tendinitis!) and soon retired. He didn't lose the first sets because of it, but also it didn't happen because of the sets! Simply no cause-effect involved in either way.

Don't confuse correlation with cause-effect. Often Rafa loses because of injury, but people interpret that injury comes just in time to excuse his loss. What a coincidence!? No coincidence, injuries do make players lose or retire! A player's legacy includes his injury proclivity and management, so look at his records and stop the gossip!
I wish I could explain at length, but I write painful slow with this device.

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 05:53 AM

Re: how difficult it is to win Masters vs. Slams.

Winning a Masters is 4/9 as hard as winning a slam, times small correction factors.

4/9 bc of number of them per year, with basically all the top field in play and basically trying hard. No matter if 7 or 70 matches must be won: if the top field is there and the game is zero-sum, then 4/9, period.

Most of the correction factor (which is small anyway) is due to format (3or5 sets, every 1or2 days). For 'older' players like Roger it is even prolly easier to play one more set and have a full extra 24h to recover. Recovery is prolly what changes the most with age.

I think Masters should be given more importance when evaluating career achievements. It often looks it's just the slams. I'd propose, as rule of thumb, no.slams + 4/9*no.masters.

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 06:19 AM

BTW, there is one big inconsistency in my rule of thumb, see who gets it!

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/15/2010 at 06:38 AM

At 3:00 a.m., Prashant Sharma wrote: ". . . Rafa is always 'injured' when he loses."

Brilliant observation, Prashant.

At this point in his career, Rafa leads Federer 14-7 in overall H2H and 6-2 in H2H in majors.

Prashant, are you suggesting that, were it not for Rafa's injuries, Rafa wouldn't have such pathetic H2H records against Federer?

Prashant, by the way, have you calculated the impact of Rafa's injuries on his margins of victory?

For example, have you determined the impact of the well-documented excruciating hangnails from which Rafa was suffering during the 2008 Roland Garros finals?

During this finals match, Rafa was beat Federer: 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.

Were it not for the abovementioned debilitating injuries, would Rafa have given up any games? Any points?

Prashant, have you calculated the impact of Rafa's injuries on his ATP ranking points?

Currently, Rafa leads Federer by more than 3800 ATP ranking points. Were it not for Rafa's injuries, how wide would this gap be? 7000 points? 10,000 points? A billion?

Please get back to us.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/15/2010 at 06:49 AM

Kwaku:

Regarding measurement of career achievements, certain observers argue that Federer's considerable success at the Year End Championships (whatever their monikers are) is not given enough credit.

What weight would you accord to these YECs?

Posted by Chapaqua Red 07/15/2010 at 07:39 AM


Roger is having some difficulties these days; motivation seems to be a bigger problem than injury. I wonder if Rafa wins the U.S. Open this year and then completes his own version of the Serena Slam (winning Australi in 2011), if it might not stir Roger to put in the extra hours on the court that he's been wasting in Mirka's marketing of him.

Needless to say, after the Murray mugging and Berdych beat down at Wimbledon and the Sod slaughter at the French, Rafa seems on his own mission of putting exclamation points on his wins against would be challengers.

Seeing how he paces himself on the hard courts this Summer and late winter 2011 will be a key factor in guess-timating his potential slam wins. His fans wait with guarded hope that he remains healthy and plays well.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/15/2010 at 08:24 AM

manuelsantanafan
i was being sarcastic when i mentioned nadal's 'injuries'. I hope you got the sarcasm. as far as ATP ranking points go I am surprised at your query. Since Rafa did poorly last year at French, and did not play at wimbledon, he had NO POINTS TO DEFEND. This is the reason why there is such a huge difference between his Roger's points at the moment because Roger had won BOTH the tournaments last year.This is how ATP point system is constructed. Next year if Federer were to win both these tournaments (highly unlikely at 29) he will get a truckload of advantage over Rafa.
Rafa leads Federer in H2H and that is a fact. Whether they mostly play on clay and hardly on asphalt is just a matter of discussion. Cannot take away the H2H.
Similarly, Rafa is a player who never 'actually' loses is also a sad fact. He would rather feign injury and deny the pleasure of victory to an opponent. It was evident he did the same to Murray in Aus open.
so actually Rafa gets 'injured' at will. It is a big weapon for him as philip petchner would vouch.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/15/2010 at 08:34 AM

@kwaku
your posts are intelligent and i give you that. no one dislikes rafa. i dont although i am a huge roger fan. however, when one sees the kind of fanaticism and blind following that some people have for rafa, i am forced to retaliate by facts. how can anyone in their senses call rafa GOAT at this stage of his career? How? By what criteria. There is a long way ahead of Rafa and I wish him all the best. However he still has 8 slams to win. he needs that luck!
ao all Rafa fans like manuelsanatanafan, espanaldo and corrie etc Rafa is great. But he is not Roger. I am sure he can be. He is just not there yet and time will tell us the answer to this question. Till then Roger is the GOAT. Period.

Posted by jabeau 07/15/2010 at 08:37 AM

Prashant Sharma

Didn't Rafael lose against Sod in 2009? Or against Del Potro? Or Fed in Madrid? Or against Murray? He's lost plenty of time.
At this year's Wimbledon didn't Petzschner call the trainer too? Didn't Sod call the trainer as well? It's a bit unfair calling Rafael out conveniently forgetting that others get injured and get on-court treatment.

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 08:57 AM

msf,
I don't know how much.
It's only once a year, so that makes it valuable. The top full field is not there (8 players that may not be at their best moment of the year is a small sample), but on the other hand you must have qualified, which is prolly about the most difficult part... if you are a year top-8 and are in a good moment, you will have chances (Ferrer did a final there).
So I just don't know (maybe somewhere between Master and Slam?). Likewise Olympic gold (in singles!).

Posted by sportsfan 07/15/2010 at 09:07 AM

The US Open will be crucial this year in my opinion for both Nadal and Federer. Whomever wins that title will have alot of confidence going into next year's Australian Open. If Federer wins the US Open after being written off than he will be the favorite in Australia. If Nadal wins the US Open and completes the career slam than he could have a chance at 4 in a row coming to Australia. My money is on Federer winning the US Open for # 17. We will see.

Posted by Tuulia 07/15/2010 at 09:10 AM

Prashant Sharma - He has both lost and won when injured, and both lost and won when fully fit. I imagine that's the case with many other players, too. There are different kinds of injury issues and some have a bigger effect than others, some are easily treatable, and a MTO may help - which is what happened in the PP-RN match in Wimbledon, it was a small muscle problem - it was NOT a knee injury like some here have claimed to discredit it altogether, but he was worried any muscle problem in that area might affect the knee, and it would have been stupid not to take precaucions, he had played a 5-setter the previous match, too, and this was a much longer one, close to 4 hours, plenty of time to start feeling any niggles. He has learned from bitter experience that small niggles can grow into big ones. What he had a year ago was obviously more serious, increasingly painful, and it hampered his movement and shots, and it showed in the match against Söderling - bad movement, short shots - and while he didn't talk about it at the time, he did then skip the whole grass court season to recuperate, unless you missed that.
Of course Söderling was playing well that tournament, but that's another issue. Rafa himself said after the match simply that "He played better than me", which of course was true - it usually is when one wins and another loses. ;) But to say that Rafa wasn't injured at all is silly and hateful, as is the claim that he's "always injured when he loses". He has injury issues and believe it, they're real. Many other players have injury issues, too. And illnesses. It's hardly surprising. it's a tough sport, in many ways tougher than most sports, and anyone can have illnesses, too, viruses, stomach bugs, fever, allergies, and of course they cause problems on court. To say a player's injuries or illnesses are not real because you dislike the player is not very mature.

Posted by RogfaNafederal 07/15/2010 at 09:14 AM

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/15/2010 at 08:24 AM: "Rafa is a player who never 'actually' loses is also a sad fact. He would rather feign injury and deny the pleasure of victory to an opponent."

That is an ignorant, misinformed statement. For example, Nadal on his AO loss to Tsonga, “I was playing fine, He played unbelievable. Congratulate him.”

Nadal on his USO loss to Blake, "I lost a little bit of confidence about me, I am not playing good this week...There are moments when you don't have the confidence and this is one of those moments."

Or Nadal on his loss to Del Potro at the USO in response to questions about his ab problem, "I'm going to repeat: He played much better than me, and for that reason he beat me,"

The list could go on...it doesn't sound like a player who NEVER acknowledges losing to me.

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 09:20 AM

Prashant,
* Very few rafans call him GOAT. Just Espnanaldo and a couple. Msf certainly not. So don't spill nonsese because others do (even less if they are few). Some fedfans also talk nonsense (I won't give names) and I don't respond with my own nonsense (I try).
* Even if Rafa only lost when injured (which is not true), that would say nothing in his favor. It would say his health is a liability, and health is included in the sport like having a good/bad forehand, serve or fighting spirit.
* You talk like having no points to defend is a gift from heaven, or having points to defend is an unfair punishment for having fairly earned those points. Rafa leads Roger by thousands of points bc he was much, much, much better in the last 52 weeks. Period.

Posted by Juliana 07 07/15/2010 at 09:27 AM

@ jabeau 07/15/2010 at 08:37 AM
"At this year's Wimbledon didn't Petzschner call the trainer too? Didn't Sod call the trainer as well?"

You are correct, they did.
* Petzschner took a medical time-out after the 4th set of the match Petzschner versus Nadal;
* Söderling took a medical time-out after 5-5 in the 4th set of match Söderling versus Nadal. Söderling just sat on his chair, took his shoe off and waited for near 10 minutes for a trainer. After that he took a three-minute-time-out to have his foot re-taped.

Posted by antoinette 07/15/2010 at 09:51 AM

@Kwaku

"Rafa leads Roger by thousands of points bc he was much much much better in the last 52 weeks"

A bit of an exaggeration don't you think? The last 52 weeks would have included the WTF in London last year when he did not win a set. Prior winning in MC in April Nadal had not won a tournament of any kind for 11 months. A more accurate statement would be that Rafa leads the tour ( not just Federer) bc he cleaned up in the clay season as he usually does and benefited by having no points to defend at Wimbledon so winning the title was a points bonanza for him. Those are the facts, Nadal is rightfully atop the ranking by virtue of his sweep of the clay season and his Wimbledon Title not because of dominating the tour for the past 52 weeks.

Posted by antoinette 07/15/2010 at 09:55 AM

For all those people piling on Prashant Sharma, he clearly said his references to Nadals injuries were meant in a sarcastic way to counter the Roger is lucky , no talent cry baby posts that some people ( I hesitate to call them fans) insist on posting.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/15/2010 at 10:03 AM

Kwaku,
The ATP seems to agree with you on the status of the YEC. I believe it carries 1500 ranking points for the winner - between a slam and a masters in that respect. I do agree that overall career achievements should factor in not just the majors but masters series as well (and to me, total # of weeks @ #1 is very important), but by that token the YEC should be included as well in the "head count" of tournamnets to take into consideration.

In my view your point about 8 players who may not be at their best at that moment is not particularly relevant as that is the case for every single tournament - its just the nature of sports that not everyone is at their best at the same time, but interested in your perspective on why you felt that was important to note. I may be missing something there?

cheers!

Posted by lilscot 07/15/2010 at 10:05 AM

Wow...just, wow.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/15/2010 at 10:07 AM

antoinette - To your point @ 9:51 I'd also add that Nadal also benefitted by Federer being unable to defend any of his points post AO. Just defending a few SF's here and there would have kept him @ #1 at least until Wimbledon. Of course Rafa would have taken over #1 at the end of Wimbledon anyway, but the differential would have been smaller than it is now.

ok, really got to get some work done now! :)

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 10:30 AM

TMFunk,
Simplifying for brevity: If the full top 64 field is there and half are not near their peak, there are still 32 to fill the last 5 rounds. If the top 8 are there and half are not near their peak and you are, you are in semis. If you are really peaking you do final (Ferrer). Or better (Nalbandian won YEC but not slam).

Posted by Nam1 07/15/2010 at 10:37 AM

Time for Steve to write another post!! I think everything to be said on the issue has been said here.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/15/2010 at 10:39 AM

hmm...thanks kwaku. I see where you are coming from, but still don't agree. To me, seeding matters in that discussion - It is not as important for the #1 to be at his best against the #20, lets say, at his best - The #1 still finds a way to win (usually). I guess what I'm saying is that imv peaking/being at your best really matters only when players ranked close to each other are playing each other (not always of course, but typically), so the smaller sample size of the YEC as compared to the larger size of the masters or slams is not much of a factor. By the time it is a factor (quarters on typically), the sample size is pretty much the same.

Sorry if my post is confusing - trying to get my thoughts out really quickly!

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 10:45 AM

antoinette,
No exaggeration at all. 3820 points is almost 2 full Grand Slams. Maths don't lie.
And saying "Rafa leads the tour (not just Federer) bc he cleaned up in the clay season as he usually does and benefited by having no points to defend at Wimbledon so winning the title was a points bonanza for him" is wrong at several levels:
* Cleaning up the clay season is doing much, much, much better than Fed. The fact that he did it 'as usual' does not diminish it a bit (rather the opposite).
* Saying "he benefited by having no points to defend" automatically means not understanding why the ATP point system is fair. Read my post to Prasham above. And also the interesting book "The anumerical person", if you want.
* If that was a bonanza, he earned it! Fed did not, and so he gets his due.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/15/2010 at 11:03 AM

Kwaku,
Just responding to you r post above only because I added a comment to antoinette's original post: The intention was only to describe the factors leading to Rafa re-taking the #1 and having a pretty sizable lead currently in doing so. No desire/attempt to diminish his accomplishments by any means. Of course he earned where he is now by winning pretty much every single tournament he entered from the start of the clay season except Queens. I only wanted to point out that Federer's inability to defend his own results during that same period contributed to WHEN Nadal got to #1 and also the points differential that exists today. I don't think that can be argued? That does not in any way take anything away from Nadal's accomplishement.

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 11:04 AM

TMFunk,
"By the time it is a factor (quarters on typically), the sample size is pretty much the same".
In normal tourneys the quarters are filled with top players and/or red-hot players (as dangerous or more).
In YEC (forget RRobin) 'quarters' is first round including top players near their valleys, who wouldn't have reached quarters in a normal tourney with the full top field there.
I said I simlified, but for me the effect is clear. If it didn't exist, normal tourneys would always have the top-8 in quarters (not even the top 8 seeds!). And the players in QF are always more dangerous than the top-8-in-last-52-weeks. That's why they reached quarters!

Posted by antoinette 07/15/2010 at 11:05 AM

@Kwaku

You missed my point whether deliberately or not I don't know. My main point of contention was the 52 weeks part of your post. I was not trying to diminish anything that Nadal achieved. I have no problem with the ATP point system. Roger has won and defended points season after season hence the 237 consecutive weeks as #1

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 11:08 AM

TMFunk,
of course to your 11:03, there was no need to clarify that ;-)

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/15/2010 at 11:19 AM

Thaks Kwaku, and also for clarifying wrt your rationale for the YEC being a factor. I think there's still room for an interesting debate on the effect of the size of the field, but I do see your point, and unfortunately work beckons! :)

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 11:20 AM

antoinette,
As I said, Rafa did much, much, much better than Fed in the last 52 weeks (3820 points exactly, or almost 2 GSlams --you can remove one of the 'much'es if you want). That means the 52 weeks OVERALL.
If your point was that he didn't do much, much, much better than Fed in ALL and every single one of those 52 weeks, then I admit I missed your point.
I just hope that was not the point you wanted to make, because it's ridiculous. (True, but ridiculous.)

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/15/2010 at 11:39 AM

Kwaku,
In all fairness, I think all antoinette is saying is that if you take the 52-week period between say, Wimbledon 2009 and Wimbledon 2010, Rafa basically surged and overtook Federer in the 3-4 month period starting with Monte Carlo 2010 as opposed to a steady, evenly distributed "overtake" over the last 52 weeks. I don't see it as opposed to what you are saying, and don't find it ridiculous either. Just fact that Nadal did really, really well in the last 3-4 months. Nothing wrong with that, no?

ok, my addition to posting here is really starting to concern me. must-get-back-to-work..must-get-back...

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/15/2010 at 11:42 AM

that should be "addiction"..and must-get-back-to-work...must-get-back...

Posted by antoinette 07/15/2010 at 12:12 PM

@ TMFuk

Thank you for the clarification as I was not going to bother to respond as I do not engage in debate with people who can't resist the temptation to label differing opinions as ridiculous, puerile etc.

Posted by PRASHANT SHARMA 07/15/2010 at 12:40 PM

@Kwaku, espanadlo and other rafa fans
there is no end to this debate. is there? i did not like what rafa did at wimbledon to petchner and what he did to murray at australian open. what is wrong in that? dont cite examples like 'soderling also did it'. is rafa comparable to soderling? rafa is rafa. he is not supposed to indulge in this kind of gamesmanship.
anyway as i said, he still has to win 8 more slams. let us see whether he has it in him or not. in any case the next 2 years are going to be very interesting. we will probably see a fading federer with flashes of sudden brilliance. we will also see whther nadal has it in him to beat soderling, berdych & del potro again and again, slam after slam.
maybe after 2 years there will be no need to argue about rafa versus roger eitherways. the matter would be settled. so let us look forward to the tennis guys....cant wait for montreal (roger's cup) to start...

Posted by Juliana 07 07/15/2010 at 01:16 PM

@PRASHANT SHARMA 07/15/2010 at 12:40 PM
**i did not like what rafa did at wimbledon to petchner and what he did to murray at australian open. what is wrong in that?**
Nadal did not do anything to them. You should not have double standards.

What about AO 2010, I refer to the article in ESPN, January 29, 2010:
==Rafael Nadal will miss up to four weeks of competition to recover from a knee injury that forced him to quit in the third set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Andy Murray.The No. 2-ranked Nadal had his right knee assessed in Spain...MRI and ultrasound tests showed a small TEAR at the back part of Nadal's right knee, which can be treated with physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory treatment, Dr. Angel Ruiz-Cotorro said in the statement... "After two weeks and depending on the results of the different tests and controls, he will steadily resume his sporting activity with a total recovery time to resume competition in fours weeks," Ruiz-Cotorro was quoted as saying.==

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/15/2010 at 01:46 PM

umm, antoinette @ 12:12 pm - Just stopping by to say that would be TMFunk, with an 'n'...I'm sure you can see how the loss of that strategically placed 'n' can change the whole complexion of my moniker in wholly undesireable and unintended ways... :)

Posted by Tari 07/15/2010 at 02:26 PM

Oh! Heh. I'm sure antoinette will be (hopefully) be less embarrassed than the lady who typo'd ptenisnet's moniker! ;-)

Typo amnesty!

Posted by antoinette 07/15/2010 at 02:44 PM

Oh TMFunk.....oops my bad!! Unfortunately typebad does not allow editing of posts!!. Next time I will double check before I hit post....good thing I did not accidentally type in the other consonant!

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/15/2010 at 03:20 PM

No worries :)

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 04:22 PM

"antoinette 07/15/2010 at 12:12 PM
@ TMFuk
Thank you for the clarification as I was not going to bother to respond as I do not engage in debate with people who can't resist the temptation to label differing opinions as ridiculous, puerile etc."

TMFunk,
Thank you too for the clarification. After all antoinette was right I had missed her point (if that's what she meant, because that was not what I understand even when I reread her original post).

antoinette,
Expecting Rafa to do much, much better than Roger in every single one of those 52 weeks is indeed ridiculous, but it's enough that you just tell me "of course that's not what I meant!" and you will find very reasonable answers from me.
And in fact, I think you were the first one engaging in a debate with me when you asked if I didn't think I was exaggerating, and then I just answered explaining why I don't think I was exaggerating in the least.
Maybe if we both try again we can engage in meaningful conversations. I do with some fedfans.

Posted by real tennis fan 07/15/2010 at 04:36 PM

@ Kwaku

When I responded to you @ 11:05 am I clearly said that the 52 week part of your post was the part that I had an issue with. That indeed was OTT in my view, you inferred from that that I was requiring Nadal to have been much much much better than Federer for every week of the past 52 weeks I said no such thing. When you then went on to state that my opinion was "ridiculous" I thought it was time to take my marbles and go home.

I have no problem engaging in meaningful conversations with anyone, but I do not like when my comments are (it seems to me) deliberately misrepresented and then help up to ridicule.

Posted by real tennis fan 07/15/2010 at 04:41 PM

For the sake of clarification, I am posting at a different computer, so Antoinette and RTF are one and the same poster

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 07:14 PM

I did not misinterpret anything deliberately.
What is OTT?
What other players do you like? I like Federer, McEnroe, Santoro, Mahut (before marathon!), Llodra, Borg, Dent, Almagro...
My all-time favorites are McEnroe and Nadal.

Posted by Kwaku 07/15/2010 at 07:21 PM

I forgot Del Potro, Davydenko, and probably others. I like quite a few. And I like to play, though I am bad.

Posted by John P 07/15/2010 at 10:43 PM

The Nadal-Federer debate can go on and on and on.....

I'd be interested in people's thoughts on:

(1) Which is the greater rivalry: Nadal-Fed or Borg-McEnroe; and
(2) Which is the greatest match of all time: Nadal-Fed Wimbledon 2008 final or Borg-McEnroe 1980 Wimbledon final

Posted by kym 07/15/2010 at 11:36 PM

When I saw Nadal won the French Open title, I wrote a poem and posted on this website.
When I saw Nadal won Wimbledon, I intended to write a poem to congratulate him and sent it to www.wimbledon.org because I saw the poet in residence of this organization wrote very scrapy poems. I did not do that because with the way Nadal played and served I believe that he will win this year's US Open title. So I will wait for this result and if Nadal win the US open title this year, I will write a poem to congratulate him and send it to his website. The probability density function for winning the US open title this year is

- Nadal : 0.6
- Federer : 0.25
- Other major contenders (Murray, Roddick, Soderling, Berdych, Djockovic, Davidenko): 0.15.

Anyone want to bet?

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/16/2010 at 03:26 AM

RogfaNafederal,

You are a straddler; a waffler maybe too strong a word. No shame in it but hardly admirable. At the attempt of trying to be "popular" to both sides, you lose a spine.

But a word of caution. The moniker of GOAT presumes an overall domination of the field, particulary your main rival. Thus, you cannot invoke that stupid "Goatness", if Roger is being pommeled by RAFA 14-7! and by Murray and all others in major contention at Slams in a lopsided ratio.

The same could not be said of Rafa. What Davy at 5-4 H2H? Wooopteedo? Break out the Champagne!!! That is basically a tie. Now, a Sampras/Agassi of 20-14 and Rafa/Roger of 14-7 that is entirely a whoppin', considering the level of tennis they play.

By the way, 1-0 is a stupid H2H, as the other person had no chance to fight back. That is why the revenge win by Rafa over Roger at the Madrid Open is very significant. Or, the dismantling of Soderling by Rafa at the French Finals, which validates the fluke win because of injury.

Get off the GOAT issue. No such thing. It is just for suckers.

Thus, there is no hands down. And there will always be debate. 14-7 is the biggest elephant in the room that rogerlings would like to ignore and deny.

And, when Rafa gets 16 even 14 GS, that hands down debate of yours will make you look even sillier, just like every other Roger wannabe.

Posted by Kwaku 07/16/2010 at 03:31 AM

John P,
The Borg-McEnroe rivalry was great because of playstyle overall (more net play than nowadays), contrasting playstyles, contrasting personalities, and overall greatness of both. McEnroe's genius at net was always surprising. I was able to appreciate it even as a child. But it ended too soon (Borg 'should' have continued).
But overall I prefer the Fedal one for personal reasons irrelevant to others (as an adult I am more aware of everything, and Nadal being my countryman prolly counts even if it shouldn't) but also because contrasting styles and matchup almost produces paradox (h2h heavily against goat) and because Nadal won't quit at 26 (I'm sure).

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/16/2010 at 03:45 AM

Suzanne,

Excellent points on the overlooked Masters series. No day off and just as hard as Slams.

And yet, Rafa accomplished a lot more and faster than Roger can hope for. 18 and counting,

Posted by Kwaku 07/16/2010 at 03:45 AM

Espnananaldo,
"The moniker of GOAT presumes an overall domination of the field"
No. It means and presumes greatest of all who have ever lived. I a world where all players won between 40% and 60% of matches and everybody has one nemesis against whom he is 0-20, one player winning 90% and being 'only' 7-14 against his nemesis is a worthy goat.
As we say in Spain, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is the king". (And a very worthy king, by the way!)
I'm curious to see if you understand this, agree (logical consequence of understanding) and, very specially, if you modify the content of your future posts accordingly.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/16/2010 at 03:48 AM

Prashant Sharma,

I can say the same thing about Roger's bogus MONO and lung infection or long bathroom breaks, each time he loses.

Exception: 08 Roland Garros. It was a blowout, a trashing in fact, that Roger just was stunned to even think or manufacture an excuse.

LOL!

Posted by Kwaku 07/16/2010 at 03:52 AM

kym,
I'm quite close to you: I'd give Nadal 51%, Federer=Murray 25%/2 and the rest 24%.
But Rafa needs no more than 51% to win, so...

Posted by Kwaku 07/16/2010 at 03:55 AM

Espnananaldo,
I also made that point of difficulty of Masters, with some attempt at quantification included.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/16/2010 at 03:57 AM

Kwaku,

Unfortunately, you are getting waku.

Knowing a saying or quotation does not presume knowledge of how to apply it. Sorry.

What good is it of being called the greatest when all you are defeating are not even high caliber players of the order like Nadal. Just hollow argument.

Again, it is like being a big fish in a small pond, but when that supposed big fish is thrown into a big lake with a player like Nadal, the fish becomes pathetically small with a 14-7. So, how great is great? It is all relative until you set the bar high. Sorry to say, versus Rafa, Roger is having a hard time even clearing that bar. In Grand Slams, a pitiful 2-6.

GOAT? Well, you can goat my cheese with that!

If this does not make sense to you, nothing will.

Posted by Kwaku 07/16/2010 at 04:08 AM

Espnananaldo,
My claim "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed is the king" is irrefutable.

You are changing topic, i.e. trying to refute something else. Maybe I waku (I don't know what that means), but I notice the movement.

For your 'new' claim my answer is partly already written, i.e. my post yesterday about transitivity and matchups. See also Tignor's reflection on ATP.no.500 vs. Tilden in his latest post.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/16/2010 at 04:25 AM

Corrie,

I love those three players - Roddick, Safin, Hewitt. Roddick because he is an American and he just lays out there everytime during press interviews after matches. Honestly, I look forward to them just like Safin's or Medvedev's. They are quick at wit and boy, no holds barred retorts. Very funny, very raw and very right on.

Unfortunately, Roddick is one dimensional even though he is making every attempt to be a more well rounded player. His serve is phenomenal. But just like Ivo, that will only get you so far. Confirmation of serving prowess? One Slam. Frankly, he needs more mental toughness in tight situations. Instead, he "touches" his package, way too much, has too many adjustment antics of the shirt, the cap, the shoulder, etc. And of all the players, he just sweats the most!!!. Yes, change those shirts as often. Hopefully that will do the trick but then, he does not follow through even with this simple change. He should have gazillion free shirts from sponsors. Use it!

Safin to me is the most talented of all players but sad to say, he is LAZY. He is just magic when the ball is right up his alley. But if he has to stretch and run like rabbit, forget it. He simply will not do it! In my estimation, I think he feels it is beneath him as a player to be scampering around like a Nadal or Chang. Well, too bad. Confirmation? Two Slams, right?

Hewitt is 5'11", tall by most standards but the field is getting bigger. And hip surgery. Ouch. He is a better version of Chang but sad to say just defense in the backboard can only do you so much. Confirmation? Two Slams.

Roger is lucky because he burst into the scene when the competition is relatively weak, being depleted of great talents in Sampras, Agassi and then succeeded by the aforementioned three. Thus, creating this perceived air of invincibility ...

Until Rafa came along and ... made him cry.

I think there is a methodology and deliberate strategy to Nadal's play.
First, master Clay, then grass, then concentrate on Olympics since it only comes once in 4 years, then start making defense to offense transition, go to the net more which means I foresee, that he will eventually master serve and volley at US Open, transition from clay to grass and finally grass to hardcourt.

But the mental fortitude is one ingredient that makes him stand tall above all the rest. You can teach it but it is innately Rafa.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/16/2010 at 04:31 AM

And the most stupid comment on the message board title goes to espanaldo....'Roger is lucky' well well...how luck can make you win 16 slams and almost 60 ATP titles....

Espanaldo, we all have our liking and disliking. However such blind fanaticism and discounting the unmatched greatness of a class player is unbecoming of a tennis fan. worship rafa if you want to, but show at least a semblance of understanding the sport.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/16/2010 at 04:36 AM

And the most stupid comment on the message board title goes to Prashant Sharma.

Or, simply put. Ditto.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/16/2010 at 04:45 AM

Kwaku,

The transitive argument does not work when comparing only TWO players.

An argument is only as good as the assumption.

Clear as day?

Posted by Kwaku 07/16/2010 at 04:48 AM

espnalanaldo,
I liked your 4:25.
I disagree with some things (Roger is not just lucy, etc.) but one of your nicest posts. I mean, many fair points, agree or not.
I also love Roddick's pressers ;-) My favorite was when he said re Fed: "I knew the stats were in my favor. Nobody has ever beaten me 13 times in a row."

Posted by Kwaku 07/16/2010 at 06:22 AM

goat is not about comparing 2, but all.
I really gotta go. Back in maybe 7 hours.

Posted by RogfaNafederal 07/16/2010 at 08:03 AM

Re: espnalanaldo at 03:26 AM

Thank you for the kind words! If Rafa plays as aggressively as you argue, he is a lock for this years USO.

As for a few specific comments, "Get off the GOAT issue. No such thing. It is just for suckers." I wonder if you will be saying the same thing if Rafa passes Roger at 17 or better? When Nadal fans scream GOAT will you be there to calm the hype?

But your main contentions against any Consideration of Fed as GOAT seems to be the Nadal H2H. You refer to it as the elephant in the room. It matters, it does. It's a blemish that some Fed fans dimiss too lightly. BUT...as some others have effectively stated it can't be considered primary. Match-ups matter in all sports. this match-up has always had advantages for Nadal. Specifically, the Nadal lefty top spin forehand going to the FED one handed backhand. While especially effective on clay, it has proved itself on other surfaces as well. Nadal's topspin is unmatchable - no other player could damage Fed off that wing the way Nadal has. While always a real weapon, that same shot does less comparative damage to two-handed backhands. Nadal's poor record against Djokovic on hard courts is partially explained by this.

As much as I'd like to think otherwise, Nadal has not (as of yet) been good enough to get through the field to take advantage of that match-up advantage often on hard courts. Fed has done his part in making the final at the USO six consecutive times and the final at AO five times. Nadal has made only one of those finals, beating Fed at the AO in '09. Fed didn't beat his rival (Nadal) but instead beat men who bested Rafa earlier.

Fed's greatness is slightly diminished by the H2H. It's an interesting dynamic. Prior to RG & SW19 in '09, it was reasonable fodder for those that might argue Sampras, Laver, etc. But now, his OVERALL accomplishments make the H2H moot.

However, if Nadal continues to win GS's, the H2H will matter ALOT. His dominance on clay will also come into play then as well. Once he gets to 13 or so GS titles, I will be happily bringing up the H2H with Roger - it will then truly be an elephant in the room.
Until then, I reasonably concede Roger is the best tennis player to have held a racket.

Posted by antoinette 07/16/2010 at 09:40 AM

So let me get this straight all Nadal has to do is get within touching distance of the GS record currently held by Federer, and he can be considered greater than Federer because of the h2h? Boy I wish Roger had known that , he could have tanked in the semis of all those clay court finals in order to make sure to keep the h2h respectable. But consummate professional that he is and because of his overall excellence , he routinely made it to the finals of Monte Carlo, Rome, Hamburg, the French Open and latterley Madrid where the clay master, mastered him as well as everybody else for the most part. And lo and behold his excellence on clay is now a rod for his back and some people want to use it to downplay and downgrade his achievements in favor of his "nemesis". Strange reasoning.

So lesson for all future goat contenders, please note that if you have a nemesis make sure that if you are due to meet him/her in the next round, TANK THE MATCH!!, must keep that h2h respectable as you know it will become the most important factor in evaluating your career. Never mind if you hold records in tennis that your nemesis will never match, never mind that you have dominated the entire field for longer and more throughly than any other, the only thing that will matter is the h2h, so whatever you have to do KEEP THAT H2H RESPECTABLE!

Laughable.

Posted by Juliana 07 07/16/2010 at 11:04 AM

@ RogfaNafederal 07/16/2010 at 08:03 AM
** Fed has done his part in making the final at the USO six consecutive times and the final at AO five times. Nadal has made only one of those finals, beating Fed at the AO in '09**

Comparing them at the same age - 24 years and near 1 month- there is no big difference between them:
-Federer:
USO: 2 wins, no more finals, no semifinals; AO: 1 win, no more finals, 1 SF;

-Nadal:
USO: 2 SF; AO: 1 W, no more finals, 1 SF.

Nadal is 5 years younger and he has a lot of time to catch up with Federer.

Posted by Puffin 07/16/2010 at 11:40 AM

Juliana 07

Nadal maybe 5 years' younger than Fed, but he has only been on the Tour for 3 years' less than Fed. It is not really fair in a sporting sense to compare Roger and Rafa at the same age. Currently, Rafa has now been on the Tour for 9 years; Roger, at 24, had only been on the Tour for 7 years - surely, (if you are comparing ages) that means that Rafa has had 2 more years, since he first played professionally, to win matches, no? If you really do wish to compare them, why not try comparing with years on Tour, ie, 9 tour years at 24 and 26 years old, respectively. Actual age is irrelevant, imo - every player matures differently, which is why, personally, I think that "tour age" is a better timeline.

Posted by Tari 07/16/2010 at 12:09 PM

Singing again: "This is the thread that never ends...it just goes on and on my friends..."

;-)

I'm completely convinced now that there are very few truly objective fans of Rafa or Roger. We're all going to see it somewhat through the prism of our fanship.

I hope the objectivity does come down the road, though. I think it will take quite a while, though. Even a lot of the sportswriters right now are (sorry, Steve) biased, in my view.

So, some new blood, some distance, some perspective after the Fedal era is over...and we gonna see. ;-)

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/16/2010 at 12:36 PM

"I'm completely convinced now that there are very few truly objective fans of Rafa or Roger" - Ah, but Tari, you may be mistaking non-existence of evidence to mean evidence of non-existence. :) In other words, "objective" fans (is that an oxymoron?) have probably long since moved on from this post... :)

Posted by Tari 07/16/2010 at 12:38 PM

Hahaha. Good point, TMFunk!

Posted by Juliana07 07/16/2010 at 01:09 PM

@Puffin 07/16/2010 at 11:40 AM
**Nadal maybe 5 years' younger than Fed, but he has only been on the Tour for 3 years' less than Fed. It is not really fair in a sporting sense to compare Roger and Rafa at the same age. If you really do wish to compare them, why not try comparing with years on Tour**

Nadal turned pro in 2001, he was then only 15 (!) years old - almost a child. It is not fair to compare a child with an grown-up man!

Posted by Tari 07/16/2010 at 01:40 PM

To be fair, with 5 years (almost a different generation in tennis years) difference between them, the age of the two players should be considered consistently throughout the comparison. Maybe not so much when Roger was at his peak, but for the rest of their coexistence on tour, I would think.

I wonder how many number one players had a major rival 5 years younger for so long during their career? Pretty remarkable that Roger held Nadal off for number one and continued to win the slams at the pace that he did, really. I think this will be viewed in a much kinder way toward Roger when it's all sorted out.

Damn. I'm still here. :)

TMFunk intervention needed.

Posted by Juliana07 07/16/2010 at 02:00 PM

@Puffin 07/16/2010 at 11:40 AM
(I continue my post of 07/16/2010 at 01:09 PM)
According the rules of ATP, players under the age of 16 are not allowed to play as many matches as adults.

From ATP WORLD TOUR - RULEBOOK:
7.02 Entries
A.Gender / Age Limitation
...Players under the age of sixteen (16) are subject to the following entry
restrictions in ATP World Tour or ATP Challenger Tour tournaments (includes entry as
a wildcard):
...
3) Male players aged fifteen (15) shall be eligible for entry into a maximum of twelve
(12) ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour tournaments.

Posted by Kwaku 07/16/2010 at 04:14 PM

So you people think
that the horse is dead?
The horse is just good!
You think of the thread
as Isner-Mahut! :-)

Posted by Kwaku 07/16/2010 at 04:39 PM

Don't get ahead of yourselves.
In the future, Rafa may or may not do merits (not just slams) against the field comparable to Roger's.
Until then, the consensus seems to be he's goat. (I know there's also the nonsensus, but never mind it).
And if Rafa gets there, we will have time to discuss the significance of h2h as tiebreaker.
I personally don't care much. I am enjoying every achievement of Rafa, and if he gets there the way will have already been pure joy in itself.
I think Fedfans know what I'm taking about.

Posted by sisu 07/16/2010 at 05:36 PM

Years ago, when Roger was younger and Rafa’s game was “raw” and more focused to clay, I would have given the edge decidedly to Roger in winning against Rafa on other than clay surfaces. But while Roger continued to reach clay court finals, Rafa was unable to do the same on hard courts. So Roger didn’t have the opportunity to increase his winning percentage against his great rival. Rafa’s pure excellence, with some beginning tinkering of his game, helped propel him to the later stages of grass tournaments but not to the late season hard courts. And whether or not it’s politically correct or proper tennis etiquette, Rafa’s foot injury and painful knees play(ed) a part in his inability to compete in many full seasons. I only remember Rafa being able to compete at three year-end championships -2006, 2007, 2009- playing magnificently in the two semi-finals he lost to Roger.

Now, Roger is “the old guy” on the tour, with a body that is starting to show it’s age from the wear and tear of the number of matches he’s played corresponding to how deeply he’s gone into many tournaments year after year. Now that he’s older, scheduling and recovery time will be essential to the possibility of his winning. At the same time, his fitness going into a tournament must be running on all cylinders or winning isn’t even a possibility.

Rafa, on the other hand, is at the peak of his career AND he has adjusted his game to hopefully win more on hard courts. He has always been a complete player but he continually took steps to tweak his game in order to compete more productively on surfaces other than clay. He’s also adjusted his tournament and practice schedules to accommodate his physical needs. Hopefully, this will serve him in good stead as he moves into the hard court season and the later years of his career.

I don’t hold much hope in Roger being able to defeat Rafa as much as my personal desire would like it to happen. I’m completely open to be proven wrong. ;)) Roger is 5 years older than the current “peak-Rafa” and even without the age difference, the lefty/righty, two-hand/one-handed backhand, and extreme topspin was always a match-up problem. Since Roger reigned for almost 5 years, maybe it’s just time that Rafa, in his number one position in the sport, romp over everyone like Roger did. ;))

I don’t have a crystal ball and my ouija board won’t answer my pleas so it’s left up to the good play of the players themselves and the tennis fates as to what the future holds. I may prefer Roger to win but there is no denying I love watching both these guys (along with many others); I just really don’t want them to play each other anymore.

One thing I’ve often mused about is that it never ceases to amaze me to see the effort and toll it’s taken on various players (Rafa, DavyD, JuanM to name a few) to compete at the level that Roger did. He did it for 4 ½ years. How did he do it, to dominate day in and day out, month after month, year after year? The other guys put a push on and within a certain period of time their participation in the sport is halted and they're out with injuries. Not having any answers, I can only guess - his style of play, his joy of the sport-its history and place in the world of sport, his pure happiness in being able to play the game he loves, and, of course, having fun winning - all play a part. As some have commented, it will be interesting to see how he responds if losing becomes the more dominant theme.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/17/2010 at 12:13 AM

RogfaNafederal,

When Rafa gets more Slams or even close to Roger's 16, only means he is better than Roger.

I am not one of those jumping on the bandwagon of "GOAT"ness. It was a manufactured appellation designed to titillate the unsuspecting tennis fan to buy more Roger starred Nikes or whatever or buy Netjets (wow, how about that!)

It was funny that Netjets was so gung-ho in their ad of Roger, pulling his cache of trophies in a kiddy cart and no sooner reverted to a more traditional ad, (no mention or picture of Roger) as soon as Berdych kicked Roger's behind from Wimby to Corsica. It is like Roddick's American Express losing his MOJO all over again. Very funny but I can imagine, no amount of advertising money, can ease the pain of such a critical defeat. But, hey they got paid up-front, right?

There is no such thing as GOAT ... as there will always be a talent waiting in the wings to excite us all over again.

2050 perhaps? Too bad most of us will not be able to enjoy it then.

Cryogenics, anyone?

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/17/2010 at 12:26 AM

Antoinette,

Your argument is laughable, indeed. (Darn, I getting suckered in this site much longer than I wanted to on a Friday night) Grrrr!

So, let me be brief. (weird sentence, but hey ...)

Laver has 11 Slams, definitely much less than Roger's 16, and yet a lot of tennis experts, including Sampras still are in awe of Laver's accomplishments. Laver is just being polite to defer to Roger as "great" since it will be too gauche for him to stick to Roger, "can you do Calendar Slam twice?"

There. Digest that so-called Quantity advantage over definitive Quality achievement.

Take as long as you can.

Posted by Juliana07 07/17/2010 at 12:42 AM

@sisu 07/16/2010 at 05:36 PM
**But while Roger continued to reach clay court finals, Rafa was unable to do the same on hard courts**

Federer reached FO (clay) final for the first time in 2006, he was then near 25 years old.
Nadal reached AO (hardcourt) final for the first time in 2009, he was then near 23 years old.
If the next time Rafa reaches hard-court GS finals, is AO 2012 (!), he would be at the same level with clay-Federer.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/17/2010 at 02:24 AM

To Rafa fans juliana, espanaldo etc
just because you scream harder doesnt mean you are right. Roger has done it! Rafa still has to do it! cant you see the BIG difference?
JUliana..no point thinking what would happen. Something which hasnt happened as yet is a matter of speculation. Only if one could predict the future by looking at the past! so if roger did xyz by age 25 doesnt mean rafa will do the same as well.
by the way after 25 Roger really launched into these slams. I think he won 6 of the next 8? My point is Rafa still has to win 8 more considering Federer doesnt win any more slams. That is a lot. No?

Posted by Juliana07 07/17/2010 at 03:38 AM

@Prashant Sharma 07/17/2010 at 02:24 AM
**you scream harder...by the way after 25 Roger really launched into these slams**

Screamily strange that some people blame Nadal for not achieving by now the same that Federer achieved after the age of 25. Nadal will be 25 in June next year.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/17/2010 at 03:56 AM

@ juliana
sorry couldnt get what you meant! must be my limited mental faculties.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/17/2010 at 03:59 AM

all i was saying was that rafa still has to win. just because he is young doesnt mean he will win. injuries, form slump are just two of many things that hamper a tennis player. so dont bet on the future. dont assume. take it as it comes.
federer fans can gloat as he has been there & done that already.
however, rafa can do it. there is no doubt in my mind about 'can'. however will he do it? entireley different story...

Posted by Juliana07 07/17/2010 at 04:21 AM

@Prashant Sharma 07/17/2010 at 03:56 AM

I kept, for example, in view a statement: **But while Roger continued to reach clay court finals, Rafa was unable to do the same on hard courts** (see my post of 07/17/2010 at 12:42 AM).

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/17/2010 at 09:10 AM

Kwaku @ 7/16, 4:14 pm: You are absolutely right!!! This post IS the Isner-Mahut of blogs. It just keeps going on and on and on...I just can't resist the temptation of coming back for a peek just to see if it is still going... What's the record for longest "living" post? :)

Posted by Puffin 07/17/2010 at 09:50 AM

Juliana07 @07/16/2010 at 01:09 PM

"Nadal turned pro in 2001, he was then only 15 (!) years old - almost a child. It is not fair to compare a child with an grown-up man!"

I'm sorry, but Nadal at 15 was hardly 'almost a child', just as Fed at 17 should not be considered 'a grown-up man' - they are both teenagers, with Rafa physically maturing much earlier than Fed and in fact a lot of the other players (ie, Rafa's 15 equals at least 17/18 in some other young players). Rafa was certainly deemed, by the authorities, to be mature/old enough to join the men's Tour at 15 (child or not!), otherwise he would have waited until the more usual age of 17, wouldn't he? And as you pointed out, even though he was only able to play a max of 12 tournaments during his first year on the men's Tour, he would still have gained valuable experience in playing with the "bigger" boys at an earlier age.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/17/2010 at 02:46 PM

Prashant Sharma,

Here is the flaw in your reasoning. What makes you think that Rafa cannot do what Roger has done in getting more slams at age 25-27? What makes you think that Rafa cannot improve his skills further?

I will give you some time to reflect on that one.

If, at all, based on prior history of Nadal, of achieving milestones faster than Roger at the same age --- Olympics, Clay Slam, not losing a set twice in CLAY titles, more 1000 Masters, the best record of any surface at 81, roger a measly and distant second at what 63(?), of doing a Clay-Grass double where all the top stars are in contention, (as opposed to injury defaults), first to hold, clay grass and hardcourt consecutively, etc.

Your argument also subcribes and holds to that DEBUNKED presumption that Rafa is just a "claycourter". He is not. And you further assume, as most Rogerlings do, that Rafa's play is static just like Roger's. It is not. Rafa has certainly proven that is the best problem solver in the tennis courts, adjusts his game accordingly in the big points, and in the right moments. I have an inkling that Rafa will premiere his serve and volley into taking the US Open trophy.

And everydody will just say ... WTF? Ok, I am getting ahead of myself.

Lastly, what makes you think that Roger will keeep on winning forever? I know that you are blind in your adoration because aging has crept up with your senses as well. Winning Slams or other titles is not a continuous, linear function. It becomes geometric at ages 23-28, give or take, then logarithmically tapers down. Which means a disproportionate number of slams will occur at that range of ages. It could very well be that Rafa may get 3 this year, very possibly 4 next year for the Grand Grand Calendar Slam, then 3, then 3, then 1, then 1. Or, a lucky 21!

OK, that is the upside but I submit to you, very DO-ABLE.

On the other hand, once Roger starts losing and losing in the earlier rounds to lower and lower ranked players, I bet you once he gets another one, if at all, he will retire.

Such is the cycle to life.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/17/2010 at 03:08 PM

By the way, I feel obliged to explain the Rogerling and Federling references.

You see, in other related sports sites, like Bleacher Report or ESPN Conversations, there is a bunch of FED KADs who declared unequivocally that Rafa's injuries in 2009 is the end for him and that if at all he recovers, the "BIG guys" like Tsonga, Murray, Berdych and especially SODERling will just eat him alive with flat booming forehands. They were so elated at the prospect of ensuring Slams for Roger by supporting and hyping those so-called Soderling players to take out Nadal everytime.

The classic example was the 2009 Soderling win over Nadal at FO. What a fluke! as Rafa was clearly injured. Then, at every turn of potential matchups of Rafa with the "big guys", what did a HEALTHY Rafa do?

Those FED KADs kept on harping that those big guys will take Rafa to the woodshed for a good, old-fashioned beating. What did Rafa do to those booming forehands? He just blunted and shunted all of them. Take it long, turn defense to offense and finish with his classic top spinned ( and still spinning) forehand. Game, set, match, Slam - RAFA.

Or, to highlight the cruel ironic twist to it --- the very players that Roger fans want to take out Rafa for Roger to have a "smooth ride" into the Slams, became the same ones that skeddadled Roger --- Berdych in Miami and Wimby, Soderling in Roland Garros. Just SWEET JUSTICE!!! And sweet revenge. Thus, the Roger-Soderling connection. Or, RogerLING!

Murray? no prayer. Tsonga, AO fluke as well. now, with all sorts of injuries, no prayer, either.

In fact, Rafa defeated Soderling in two sets at the early 2010 non-ATP event, in spite of the earlier 2009 FO loss. Then, beat Soderling again, rather lopsidedly, at the FO rematch and again at Wimby.

So, the FederLING also got stuck.

Posted by RogfaNafederal 07/17/2010 at 07:28 PM

Closure??? RE: espnalanaldo 07/17/2010 at 12:13 AM, Ok, I can understand your unwillingness to deal with GOAT concepts. I don't think it is commericially manufactured title however. Similar discussion happened as Michael Jordan apexed. Perhaps it's a USA thing. Fair enough...no goat for you.

You also make some GREAT points in your later posts. Most reasonable folk here aren't suggesting Rafa can't continue to win in a big way. I certainly expect him to continue to impress.

I hope Rafa continues to handle the big guys on hard courts as he has recently on clay and grass. If he stays healthy I suspect he will. time will tell.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/17/2010 at 11:42 PM

RogfaNafederal,

Exactly!

I am not as gaga-driven to MJ now as GOAT since Kobe is a bigger "GOAT" now. Jordan has six rings and Kobe has to collect more. But then again, NBA is team sports vs. individual tennis.

We were all in AWE of Jordan then. But lo and behold, and fortunately along came Kobe.
To stir the pot even more, Le Bron is nothing, Goat-less so far (inspite or despite what other people say). Like a Murray, with no Slam or ring to show for yet.

But what is the basic refrain of these hyped-up, media driven concept? Ultimately, to sell more jerseys and ad spots and sport magazines and ... you get the idea.

Posted by prashant sharma 07/18/2010 at 12:12 PM

@espanaldo
i would refrain from commenting on your mental capabilities brother. That would be personal. However, I would say one thing. On what basis you are SURE that rafa would break the slam record held by Roger? This is just the opposite of the question you asked me...The point which I have been trying to make is WE DONT KNOW!!!
Is it so difficult to understand? Hence start making this idiotic GOAT claims AFTER Rafa has own these 8 slams. What part of this argument you dont get?
Enlighten everyone.

Posted by prashant sharma 07/18/2010 at 12:17 PM

and clearly logicla thinking is not your strong suite. Hence you are pretty convinced about WHAT WILL HAPPEN (according to you). Which means 4 slams for Rafa next year...3 after that...cmon ....i mean cmon...other guys also have racqets in their hands...or are they playing with sticks these days..
is this sounding a bit too much to me or are there other people who think this kind of ;OCTOPUS PAUL predictions by espanaldo are just too much..definitely beyond the scope of this message board :)

Posted by prashant sharma 07/18/2010 at 12:24 PM

and i am out of here. We are not arguing about tennis anymore..this is going beyond that and into the realm of absurd...hopefully catch everyone again after the last Big One of the calender..All the best to the US Open King federer..(5 out of 6 does make him that) and best of luck to all the contenders...INCLUDING RAFA!

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/18/2010 at 04:14 PM

Man oh man.

There is no such thing a GOAT, before Roger, during Roger, during Rafa, after Rafa.

No GOAT. That simple.

A simpler comparison is: Rafa better than Roger? Just two players. Contain the variables.

What do you think I'd say?

Posted by Kwaku 07/26/2010 at 04:18 PM

Last?
"Contain the variables."
Things as simple as possible is intelligent.
Things simpler than possible is not.
In h2h terms, A>B>C does not mean A>C. That's why greatness is measured against the field.
Roger is better than Rafa until Rafa makes comparable achievements against the field. (Here is hoping he will.) Then, the h2h could be a reasonable tiebreaker.

Posted by jordanshoes 08/13/2010 at 03:54 AM

I really like this article, I was a tennis fan, I like tennis

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