Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - 'Nuff Respect
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'Nuff Respect 08/14/2010 - 7:38 PM

Rn-am Rafael Nadal’s second week at Wimbledon was so routine that the most surprising moment may have come immediately after his semifinal. When Nadal saw that Andy Murray’s last sad forehand volley had landed long, he dropped to his back in abject joy. This is a reaction that Nadal typically reserves for Grand Slam titles, Olympic gold, the occasional Masters win. If it seemed odd that he would pull it out in a semi, it shouldn’t. Murray makes him nervous.

Rightfully so: Nadal had lost their two previous major-tournament encounters, at the U.S. Open in 2008 and in Melbourne earlier this year. And while the Spaniard came into their match in Toronto today with an 8-3 head-to-head record, he was no less nervous about having to face him again. In fact, even for a guy who typically makes his opponents sound like a diabolical cross between Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg, Nadal seemed unusually, even puzzlingly, respectful of Murray as he looked ahead to their matchup.

Told that Murray had been singing his praises, Nadal returned the bromantic word-hug. “Play against him is always a challenge,” Rafa said, “because if you are not playing your best is impossible to win, and playing your best at the same time is very difficult, too. . . . If I really want to have chances to win, I have to play aggressive. Is not going to be impossible but not exactly like grass. . . . I hope I think I can do it.”

I realize that Nadal is a superstitious guy who knows a tennis match can go in any direction and that there’s never more than a hairs-breadth separating one top player and the next. But still, this seemed a bit much for a No. 1 player—how often do you hear someone with the status of an eight-time Slam winner use the word “impossible” when referring to his chances against any player, let alone one who he has beaten eight of 11 times? Nadal has said things like this about Murray before, and you could hear in his voice yesterday that it was neither false modesty nor a psyche job. When he said “I hope I can do it,” he sounded sincerely unsure.

After that Friday presser, I wasn’t surprised when Nadal came out passively against Murray on Saturday. It didn’t help that his serve was, as he said afterward, “horrible,” but he also allowed Murray to take the match to him early on. Nadal was also tentative with both ground strokes. He netted backhands on key points—he said he needed to work on that stroke before Cincy—and mistimed some very makeable forehands. What he mostly did was run back and forth along the baseline sliding and scrambling after Murray’s shots.

Does Nadal respect Murray too much? He said he felt a little slow at this tournament, and he came out equally flat on Friday against Kohlschreiber, but today’s match reminded me a lot of his semifinal loss to Murray at the Open two years ago. Nadal had no swagger to start, and it took him more than a set to begin to dictate points. In both matches he looked a little confused about how to play from the baseline, which is a product of Murray’s particular strengths.  Asked afterward what made him a difficult opponent for Nadal, Murray said that having a “double-handed backhand” helped. More accurately, it’s having a really good double-handed backhand that helps. Nadal can’t construct points by pounding the ball into that side, because Murray can handle his topspin and redirect offensive shots from there. A typical first-set rally today consisted of Murray moving Nadal to his right with a crosscourt backhand, then hitting the next floating ball with a crosscourt forehand. It was his point to lose from there, and he didn’t give many of them back.

This left Nadal with no blueprint for a rally. Instead of the brutally decisive player we usually see, he looked like he was feeling around for what to do from point to point. While he’s solved his Murray riddle the majority of times, he’s struggled against him on hard courts. Which side should he attack? Neither presents an obvious target. And when he does attack, Murray is fast enough to stay with him for longer than just about anyone else. If Nadal rallies, Murray can take the ball on the rise and move forward. This is why the word “impossible” comes up when Nadal discusses him. It's why he won't be looking forward to facing him at the U.S. Open.

On the other side of the net, Murray knows he’ll get a chance to take the offensive against Nadal, which is not typically the case with this dyed-in-the-wool counterpuncher. Today he returned serve from inside the baseline and gave Nadal a taste of his own medicine by looping his forehands deep to Rafa’s backhand. Most impressive was the way he handled the inevitable Nadal run, which came midway through the second set. Down 3-4, 15-40, Murray turned the momentum back in his favor by going after his forehand on the next two points. He eventually held. The aggression and positive energy spilled over into the next game, when he broke Nadal with a series of strong, compact crosscourt backhands.

After the match, Murray said he was “enjoying himself” without a coach. On one level, he meant that he could enjoy spending time on the road with his coterie, his buddies. But in his last two matches—straight-set wins over guys of the stature of Nalbandian and Nadal—Murray has also been calmer than normal, both in his game plan and his demeanor. It makes sense. With no coach, this edgy and at times stubborn young man has no conflicting advice in his head. He has no last-minute instructions to remember. And, at least for today, he had no face in the crowd to scream at.


 
61
Comments
 

Posted by austen 08/14/2010 at 08:12 PM

first

Posted by Davidjdanon 08/14/2010 at 08:39 PM

Great discussion Steve. However, I think it's important to revise your statement re their prior major tournament meetings. Nadal trounced Murray in Wimbledon 2008 - 3, 2 and 4. I agree that Nadal has particular difficulties with Murray, but think it's reserved for hard courts. He has won six straight sets against Murray at Wimbledon. I also think Nadal (who I revere) is a player of entirely different stature on grass than on hard courts (he's made 4 straight Wimbledon finals and only one hard court major final) and attribute this match and his general lesser success on the hard court masters to this fact, more than anything else.

Posted by Jojo 08/14/2010 at 08:40 PM

Impressive display by Murray. He dispatched Nalbandian (he was on a roll) and Rafa quite easily (if there is an easy way to beat Nadal). I wonder if he is peaking to soon, thinking on the US Open.

Posted by ashok korwar 08/14/2010 at 09:18 PM

I really dont see how Nadal will EVER win the US Open.. for the same reason Borg didn't, either..this is just a preview of things to come..

Posted by ebh 08/14/2010 at 09:26 PM

Come on! Murray definitely gives Nadal trouble but Murray gives everyone trouble. And you are trying to interpret his words in a second language!?! Give me a break. Also, Nadal always talks about everyone this way. When he played Isner, before the match he talked about how it would be nearly impossible to beat Isner and how Isner was one of the greatest players. Isner is good, but not that good (yet) and this was before Isner started playing so well. Don't read too much into this. Murray is dangerous (for everyone) and Nadal knows this. End of story.

Posted by stan lee 08/14/2010 at 09:58 PM

Exactly ebh,

and i'd like to add nadal say this sincerely? food for thought....

Posted by mightywind 08/14/2010 at 10:13 PM

Although I realize it's your job, nonetheless, thanks for all of the great reports from the front, Steve. It's really a great gift for a tennis fan to read your vivid prose.

I think Murray IS the one player that Nadal fears. He respects all of his opponents but Murray freaks Rafa out, the way Rafa freaks Roger out. He just doesn't feel comfortable out there, even when he wins.

It's surprising how Rafa can't seem to hit through the court the way the other guys can on hard courts. He's certainly strong enough. I guess the buggy whip motion is hard to change.

Beating Murray is suddenly a tall order for Roger tomorrow, especially after a needlessly long match with Nole and a short turnaround. Can't wait to read about it here on Monday.

Posted by Orimar Samuel 08/14/2010 at 10:14 PM

Seems to me that Nadal is getting Murray in his head, the same way Federer has Nadal in his head.

Posted by petewho 08/14/2010 at 10:14 PM

I didnt see the match but was suprised to see Nadal lose in straight sets.

In theory Nadal should be able to beat as Murrays best is not better than Nadals best , even on hard IMO.

Though there, hard US open and theres Oz open and it seems its on the faster US open styled courts Rafa has his most problems.

IMO part of this is because his backswing makes it hard to take the ball early , .

Posted by Nina 08/14/2010 at 10:15 PM

Nadal says things like this all the time, I don't believe half what he says. Uncle Toni is the same, they're always so restrained... Of course Murray is top 4 and always very difficult to beat, so any player would feel like that against him or any other top 4. I just hope tomorrow he crushes Fed, the guy has been too lucky. I feel that if Novak had got his serve back he would have won this match in the end. What he did is nothing short of admirable, kudos to the Serb. I hope tomorrow's final is electrifying.

Posted by Fudoshin 08/14/2010 at 11:30 PM

I believe that Nadal gives everyone credit before the game because he doesn't want to take things for granted. It is easy to be ambushed if one is careless. Judging from the performances of Murray and Federer respectively this week, Murray can easily be considered the favorite in the match tomorrow.

Posted by wilson75 08/14/2010 at 11:46 PM

I too was surprised at the result today. I think that is may be Nadal less confident when playing Murray on a HC. He was certainly a different player in this match from the one I've watched all week.

Posted by bemol 08/15/2010 at 12:00 AM

"Nadal says things like this all the time, I don't believe half what he says" (Nina)

Everytime Nadal gets on court, he accepts the fact that he could lose. Always.
It could explain why he is not angry or acerb about it. It is a game; if you give your 100% you can't be angry at yourself, but you know why you failed and you hit the practice court with that in mind.
Some reporters in Indian Wells I think, saw Rafa after winning a match and giving interviews, hit the court to practice the shots he missed, he said it is like a penalty he gives himself.

Murray warmed up his HC season in LA, it helped him and also wanted desperately to hold his 4th place.
Nadal will progress in Cincy I think.

We had a great high quality match today and the best prevailed.
Final will be a thrill to watch with Federer against Murray.

Posted by !whatthedeuce? 08/15/2010 at 12:46 AM

Right on with analysis. Murray, At 6'3" and with a very good 2handed backhander, Nadal doesn't have the target that helps him focus against Fed. Also Murray can rally and run just as well as Rafa so all of Rafas strengths run up against a wall. Murray has to force himself to be the aggressor to take advantage of this matchup and to further befuddle Rafa. If Murray falls into his self-enforced passive trap then Rafa will pounce. The clay is another story enhancing Rafa's spin and their head to head record is largely due to the fact that Rafa was a mental and physical beast before Murray figured out what it took to play against him.

Posted by Arif Hashim 08/15/2010 at 01:11 AM

I don't think, Nadal loosing today was a big deal for him. Like earlier, this year before Wimbledon, Nadal lost in QF of Queen to Feliciano Lopez, but he end up winning Wimbledon. Nadal is totally different player in Grand Slams. I saw the match, and I didn't saw Nadal trying hard for every point like he always used to do, maybe he is saving his energy for US open and making British media happy. For Murray, I think he is over ratted and he will loose early round of US open to nobody like he did last year.

Also, Nadal is always respectful about his opponent, the best example of how Nadal respect his opponent was he handled of Federer crying after loosing Australian open 2009.


Vamos Nadal.

Posted by felizjulianidad 08/15/2010 at 01:19 AM

Nadal is much more afraid of Nalbandián and Djokovic than Murray, in my humble opinion. His matches with Murray have always been close. The common denominator between the three, of course, is an incredibly strong two-handed backhand. Nadal did admit, after his first-ever win over Nalbandián, that he was "too scared" of Nalbandián's backhand. Nadal was also asked something about the most challenging players on the tour (something like that) and he said "Djokovic - when he's on a roll, he's just impossible to stop." Several lopsided Djokovic wins on cement corroborate that comment.

Posted by EvanG 08/15/2010 at 01:21 AM

Murray won, because Nadal played badly. Even with his bad play, things could have gotten the other way, had Nadal challenged a double fault that would have earned him the first break of the match.

Posted by serengetisunset 08/15/2010 at 01:25 AM

Del Potro is another player who is a bad match up for Nadal. And unlike Murray, Del Potro has won a slam and knows that he can beat the big players on any stage.

Posted by VMK 08/15/2010 at 01:25 AM

Agree! Rafa has to be on the conservative side. I dont see him losing in straight sets when he is having the season that he is having. Maybe this is a smarter Rafa Nadal that we are seeing who knows when to give it all and when to hold it back.
The last thing he wants is a niggle going into the USO. I see him making a run at the USO.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/15/2010 at 01:39 AM

Enjoyed the piece very much, Steve.

Can't remember all Rafa's comments on other players, and I know he's respectful of everyone, LOL, but it's always seemed to me that he's made something of a point of his respect for Murray. Then again, that view could be influenced by being in the UK, with the press likely over-reporting all compliments heading Murray's way, and always asking everyone who has ever had anything to do with tennis, "So what do you think of Murray?" in interviews. ;-)

Regardless - I am very glad that Murray seems to have snapped out of his funk. If all the top players are fit and healthy and vaguely in-form we could have a fantastic end to the season.

Posted by SexyCommenter 08/15/2010 at 01:45 AM

Now there is a danger for Rafael Nadal not winning a US Open title here! There is Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro. Delpo might not be fully recovered, Roger Federer can still be slumped, but the two other guys are a threat. I have not seen Rafael Nadal hits the ball flat enough. His top spinning balls are not effective as on grass on clay. Uncle Tony must find a way and new strategy for Rafa for this hard-court surface. Even though Rafa has lost to Murray twice on hard court grand slam matches. But these matches can be due to injury, especially the AO one. However, Murray’s two-handed backhand is stronger than his one-handed forehand, so Rafa cannot attack Murray very well by placing balls in his backhand side. This is the reason for Rafa to play with his left hand, and it has been so successful with Roger Federer. Because his backhand is two handed, Murray can also not attack well. So even though Murray has a little advantage on hard courts, it is not huge. For Rafafans, as myself, what is the solution for Rafael Nadal? With luck, he can win a US Open title! But we are not talking about luck; we want analysis! Rafa cannot hit the ball very flat because this requires precision and Rafa plays with his un-natural left hand. I think the only solution for Rafa is slicing and waiting for an opportunity to whip his two-handed backhand to Murray’s forehand!

Posted by Voltaire 08/15/2010 at 03:04 AM

Steve-You are partially right. I saw every round of FO and each time Nadal said he has to play his best to beat the next opponent. And before the final and after the final he was effusive in his praise for Soderling. So, he's not giving too much respect to Murray unnecessarily or uncharacteristically! It's also true that Murray worries him since he's more than good match on hardcourts and can swing from inside the baseline when the mood takes him....Nadal cannot play his regular style and expect to win against Andy on HC as both his FO/Wimbledon strengths are somewhat diluted(baseline grinding/volleys).....the way he's comeback this yr makes me very confident that he'll figure out USO and Murray and many pretenders. In my very humble opinion he has to crank up his serve by at least by 20% and flatten his forehand up-the-line for closing the points quickly!

If Delpo remotely plays like he did last yr....nobody has a chance!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/15/2010 at 03:47 AM

"But these matches can be due to injury, especially the AO one."

I thought Rafa was well behind when he injured himself & had to retire?

Anyway I am not prepared to put Murray's ability to discomfit Rafa on HCs particularly down to injury. As far as I know he's almost always given Rafa all he can handle on the surface - going back to a five-setter in the AO in 2007 (I think it was 2007.)

Posted by jackson 08/15/2010 at 04:22 AM

No, Rafa wasn't well behind when he was injured at the AO. He lost one set by one break and another on a tie breaker. He was injured near the end of the second and in the third set he couldn't run and was down 0-3 when he retired but had he been healthy, who knows how he would have done? Rafa's come back from two sets down before and he had been playing very well before he was hurt (so had Murray).

I agree with you though that Murray has almost always been a tough match-up for Rafa. Their games are usually pretty close, especially on hard courts. At least Murray's on the other side in Cincinnati.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.I'am Back and I Am Taking No Prisoners! 08/15/2010 at 05:48 AM

Steve Thanks.It really didnt surprise me that Murray won today overall execpt that blip against Monfils he to me has been the most consistant player in Toronto.This is Murrays best surface and he knows it.His records also back that up.He had a good Wimbledon after being in a slump from the AO earlier this year.

I dont take much notice of Rafa and his attempt sometimes at expressing.I still laugh whe he said it was "a accident he lost" that was earlier this year.

Murray had the right game plan today against Rafa and he executed well.To me thats the big difference in any one beating another player.Doing your home work and being able to do it on court.

Rafa knows he too will have to do his home work in Cinncy.

Posted by fedfan 08/15/2010 at 08:14 AM

Great breakdown of what the wire guy (or gal) called Nadal 'not being able to get into a rhythm,' and we all know how murderous that rhythm can be once he establishes it. I kept expecting Nadal's tremendous will to extricate himself from the Murray match, he has about the coolest head in the game, but it wasn't to be. I think he just wasn't feeling his game on the day against a great player. While I watched the match, though, I kept thinking how the fiery seeming young Spaniard always seems to conjure up the cliche of 'nerves of steel.' You just expect him to find a way to grind down his opponent no matter what his level of play that day.

That said, we tennis fans have two potentially mouth-watering matches to look forward to today, a battle of virtuosos in Toronto on the men's side, and a battle of the big, blond babes in Cincinnati on the women's. For once the women's match looks like it will be as fiercely fought as the men's. Just hope Kimmie and Maria are both on their games.

Posted by Geellis 08/15/2010 at 09:28 AM

I actually liked a lot about what I saw from Nadal. I thought he took some big cuts at the ball that is necessary on a HC. Furthermore, look at Nadal's court position on second serves, very aggressive. He was always inside the baseline. Very good as well. Finally, he was trying to play super aggressive from his BH side, also a good sign. The one real sour note was his serve. He served far better at Wimby and he'll need to serve at least that well to have any chance at the USO. So, did everything come together? Obviously not. But I actually thought he looked better against Murray than he did in his loss to Lopez prior to his winning Wimby. Of course, he prefers grass over HC, of that there can be no doubt. But I do think it's important to always remember that Nadal is a guy who simply needs a few more matches than most of the other top 6/7 players in order to martial his best stuff. And with a few tweeks here and there, I think he'll be on schedule for a deep run at the USO.
One possible caveat, I thought Murray played particularly well. I think both he and Nadal must play aggressive to have any chance at the USO and it was obvious to me, at least, that both players realized that. Murray just executed the plan better yesterday.

Posted by maedal 08/15/2010 at 10:13 AM

i haven't been here for a while, so it's nice to see a thoughtful article (as usual) on rafa and the good, measured, reasoned discussion/analyses it has generated so far.

Posted by Vic 08/15/2010 at 10:24 AM

Whereas Murray is a bad opponent for Nadal on HC,we have to consider also that for Murray is a very important tournament, he is defending many points and for Nadal side we Know that all people pushes Nadal to Rogers'CUP be a warm up for the U.S. Open, we see clearly
Nadal is not 100%, Nadal is not Federer, he can't win every tournament he enter, we can only hope to be 100% in the U.S. Open.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 08/15/2010 at 11:00 AM

The usual Rafa brigade is missing (espanaldo, coria etc)....anyway, the fact is that this is not Rafa's best surface. Murray wil beat him 8 out of 10 times here & Roger will also beat him convincingly here. I am talking about asphalt. Now, cincinnati is even faster than Toronto. And US open is the fastest of all tennis surfaces now (yes, much faster than than mud court like grass at wimbledon).
It is no co-incidence that Nadal hasnt yet reached a final at US open. I am not syaing he cant win it! He can. But it will be mighty tough. Tougher than it was for Roger to win at Roland Garros.

Posted by Mike 08/15/2010 at 11:02 AM

Man, you get tired of hearing crap like 'he was at 82.6667% today, which is why he lost'. The man with the better game plan and execution on the day won ... period.

Posted by Wes C. Attle 08/15/2010 at 11:04 AM

Rafa isn't a very versatile player. He's got one game plan for everyone: hit the ball deeper and with more pace and topspin than the other guy. It's a great game plan that will destroy most opponents on any level. And as a lefty, it's the perfect kryptonite for Federer.

It's much harder to play like Murray and Federer. For this reason (and because of their tennis IQ and versatility), I hope they beat him every time they play him.

(I used a fake name so all the women who only like Rafa because he has a nice butt won't know who I am).

Posted by Mike 08/15/2010 at 11:10 AM

Sucks that we have same day tape for both Toronto and Cincy Finals on ESPN. Early matches I can see ... but the Finals? Pathetic .. :P

Posted by Prashant Sharma 08/15/2010 at 11:33 AM

I agree with Mike. These are masters series tournaments. The tennis fans deserve a live telecast. It is just not the same catching recordings.

Posted by scoreboarding 08/15/2010 at 12:38 PM

I don't think for a moment that Murray is in Rafa's head. Rafa said in his presser that the thought Murray played well but not perfect, not his best.
I think Nadal played below his level even for hard courts, had he been serving and returning better the match could have gone to three sets although I think Murray would have still won.
The serve is key for Murray and when is working he is one of the toughest players to beat on hard courts.
I agree with those who say that it's very difficult to imagine Nadal winning the USO based on last night performance. Let's see how things develop in Cincy where the court is more like that at the USO.

Posted by VE 08/15/2010 at 01:18 PM

It's funny to read people say Murray can win the US Open and Rafa can't. The hardcourt majors tally still remains: Nadal 1, Murray 0.

The reality is, while Federer and Nadal have been inextricably linked over the past few years, they are very different No. 1s.

Federer is a once-in-a-lifetime player, a Graf-like No. 1 (sorry the men have never had a player so dominant) who managed to dominate everyone he played (except Nadal) for a stretch between 2004-2007 and frankly benefited from Rafa's injury-hit 2009 season in the same way Fed fans would say Nadal benefited from Fed's mono and back issues in 2008.

Nadal's a great player too, undeniably so, and one who would loom larger if he wasn't facing a Haley's Comet of a player in Federer. To wit, some of the biggest names of the recent past McEnroe, Edberg, Becker, Lendl, Connors, Agassi are are at or below Rafa's level when it comes to major titles won. As far Nadal's winning patterns, thus far, he's more like Sampras. He's a guy who's going to win a lot of titles every year, be remarkably consistent (six years in the Top 2), but will lose a fair amount of matches everywhere except his favorite major.

Posted by Tallboyslim 08/15/2010 at 02:11 PM

Can someone PLEASE tell me WHY (oh WHY)ESPN will buy rights for a match and NOT show it live ?
And you wonder why Tennis is on a decline in US.
Oh by the way, I don't get Tennis Channel unless I pay $100 plus for the cable package.
Also, ESPN360 is blocked by cable provider.

Posted by proclear contacts 08/15/2010 at 02:18 PM

"Down 3-4, 15-40, Murray turned the momentum back in his favor by going after his forehand on the next two points. He eventually held. The aggression and positive energy spilled over into the next game, when he broke Nadal with a series of strong, compact crosscourt backhands."

HUH??? Aggression and positive energy? Going "after his forehand"????

What you didn't say was on both of those points, Nadal hit Murray's second serves about 6 feet inside the service box giving Murray early Christmas gifts. It would have been plain DUMB not to go after such short balls.

What you also didn't mention was at 3-3 in the first set, Murray serving 30-40, he double faulted yet the umpire and linesman missed it (replay showed it was out) which would have given Nadal the break and very likely to have won that set. And this article would be singing a very different tune.

Murray isn't in Rafa's head. When Murray is 14-7 against Rafa, that may be a valid point. He is 4-8 and I think this was actually a very timely loss for Nadal. One he needed to really fine tune evertyhign he needs before the USO.

Nadal figured Murray out late in the second set (then played short on the second serve returns at 15-40). Simply hit deep in the middle of the court. Murray hates it, and cannot change direction from that position like Djokovic can. He did it for about two games very well - Murray returned it somewhat back up the middle, Rafa runs around it and pounded his forehands.

He'll beat Murray on hardcourts next time they play.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 08/15/2010 at 02:42 PM

I do think you've hit on something important in Murray's mental makeup, Steve. He's always seemed like one of those guys who had a lovee-hate relationship with his coaches. Maybe it was more a matter of him not beeing able to (a) get their voices out of his head, (b) keeep their words of wisdom in his consciousness, and (c) not always agreeing with/being at war with what they were advising. Add to that their ever-presence in the stands, urging him on with words and gestures that I think we can all agreee are endcoded through hours and hours of hearing and seeing the same things in practice sessions. I would imagine that for some players--and Murray may be one of them-- it's al a bit too much to digest and manage, when combined with his own inner dialog and strugles.

Posted by eric 08/15/2010 at 03:27 PM

i don't see the need for alarm. something tells me that if the two were to meet in the open final, with the stakes sky high, nadal will come out, compose himself, then proceed to grind murray into the ground. nadal's a bull and murray just doesn't have the same steel. sure, murray beat him a few years ago when nadal was smoked from playing too much tennis, but that's the exception, not the rule. nervous or not, with a grand slam title on the line, nadal will not lose to murray.

Posted by RC27 08/15/2010 at 03:46 PM

As a Rafa fan I dont take this loss too seriously. Murray had a warmup tourney in LA + Rafa looked rusty. I dont care if he doesn't win here or in cincy, it is the open that counts! Let these other guys beat themslves up in the warmups. Rafa + his team hopefully realize by now that the slams define a career, little else matters. The goal is to peak for the USO.

Posted by Tuulia 08/15/2010 at 05:23 PM

"...Rafa plays with his un-natural left hand."

Not true, he plays tennis left-handed, because that came naturally, he says so himself, just did in Toronto, too, when asked about it in a presser. There's nothing "un-natural" about him playing tennis left-handed.

Posted by Tuulia 08/15/2010 at 05:31 PM

"...Nadal is not Federer, he can't win every tournament he enter,..."

Indeed, Nadal is not Federer :) but Roger never won every tournament he entered, either. Obviously.

Posted by tina (...then there's ARMY STRONG) 08/15/2010 at 05:47 PM

Nadal or Federer, different in many ways, but both beaten by Murray this weekend!

Posted by alex 08/15/2010 at 06:29 PM

Does Nadal respect Murray too much? On the evidence of three consecutive victories against an on-fire nalby, rafa and now fed, without even being pushed to a tie-break let alone dropping a set, the answer has to be "Absolutely not!"

And Steve, as for rafa's "horrible" serve against murray, his first serve % in the SF was 61, compared to murray's 48!

Posted by FED FRED 08/15/2010 at 07:15 PM

I can't believe the great FED lost to the Village Idiot Scot.

Roger needs to get serious.
He goofed around with Berdych and needed the help of the crowd.

He almost lost to Nole and Nole was playing terrible.

Roger you are the Goat...be a GOAT and
not a TURD....

Posted by FED FRED 08/15/2010 at 07:16 PM

3rd Set.

Kim Clijsters is steam rolling Sharapova
like a Belgian Waffle.

Posted by alex 08/15/2010 at 07:27 PM

Well done murray. the best man won today. straight sets as I predicted.

Posted by melanie 08/15/2010 at 08:06 PM

Hi

Im not really too bothered about the results, Rafa played average tennis, and still managed to get to the semis and gain extra points on what he did last year. I think he was really using this as a bit of a warm up and practise for the US Open which is only 2 weeks away, whilst he didnt look happy at losing, he also didnt seem to be too bothered either.

My feeling is that this is exactly what he needed, I envisage he will now be working flat out on the practise court on his game to get it in order for the next GS in 2 weeks. must better to be a bit rusty and the timing off a bit now than in 2 weeks time. And how will Andy Murray go? Well who knows, remember Aussie 09 he was the self-proclaimed favourite, and yet Verdasco knocked him out. I was at that match, and his brain just turned to mush. So whilst he remains at 4 in the rankings I dont think its the best thing for him - time will tell though!

Posted by andy 08/15/2010 at 08:18 PM

Steve, Steve, Steve....Nadal beat Murray in the Wimbledon semis a month ago...how can you say "Nadal had lost their two previous major-tournament encounters, at the U.S. Open in 2008 and in Melbourne earlier this year"...not asking you to remember stuff like "Orantes lost the French open finals to Borg in 1974 in five sets"...just a month ago

Posted by Ria 08/15/2010 at 08:24 PM

Melanie - I'm pretty certain that Andy has never declared himself favourite for any Slam so I would love to see the quote where he proclaimed himself the favourite in the AO 09.

I think it's fair enough for Rafa to respect Andy - they grew up together, they obviously get along well, they have a mutual appreciation society going on and I think Rafa knows that when Andy plays his best that it causes him problems. Most of their matches have been great to watch and usually involved them both playing great tennis, so I think if I were Rafa I would naturally be cautious especially on hard-courts. Give me that attitude than certain champions who treat the opposition as canon-fodder or who write off every defeat to them as inconsequential because something wasn't right.

I enjoy watching Rafa and Andy play because I genuinely like both guys and I think the match-up is just great to watch. I think you'd have to be a tennis idiot not to realise that talent wise Andy is up there and I think Rafa respects that, even if some people choose to write him off because he never won a Slam or has been number 1 in the world. See if Federer or Rafa are wary of Nalbandian when he's playing at his best - pretty much the same thinking. These guys, at their best, can take on anyone regardless of ranking so only an idiot, which Rafa isn't, would take them lightly.

Posted by buddy 08/15/2010 at 08:26 PM

Nadal should respect every opponent, definitely Andy Murray...there is absolutely nothing wrong with the concept of respect; I am afraid that your post could entice people not to show respect...see where it leads...no American player in top 10 since 1973 (might as well say in a 100 years...)

Posted by Neeraj 08/15/2010 at 08:27 PM

Excellent analysis of the match. Thought it was right on point. Probably worth mentioning that this was Nadal's first tournament since Wimbie, whereas Murray has been warming up (starting at the LA Open). Murray may be peaking too early for the US Open. We shall see.

Posted by amelie 08/15/2010 at 08:29 PM

as for Nadal level of play...I think he did fine against Murray when you conisder that his serve was indeed horrible and he did not play since Wimby (Murray warmed up in LA); I would see Nadal to be playing better next week and even better at the Open; if healthy I think he would beat Murray in a 5 setter, Andy can't sustain what he did over 5 sets, Rafa has done it and can...let's see

Posted by jackson 08/15/2010 at 08:39 PM

I fully expect Rafa to play even better in Cincinnati than he did in Toronto. Whether he'll win or not, who knows, because the other players are also ramping up for the Open, but he said in his press conference that he hasn't been going all out in practice, especially on his serve. He remembers last year when he 'broke his abdominal' in this tournament in Montreal after a long layoff so he's been more careful this year.

I think it's great that Rafa understands his body so well and knows just how far he can push it and knows what's best for him and his tennis. I want to see him around for a long long time so a semi in a Masters is plenty good enough for me for now.

Posted by Ria 08/15/2010 at 09:19 PM

Melanie - I'm pretty certain that Andy has never declared himself favourite for any Slam so I would love to see the quote where he proclaimed himself the favourite in the AO 09.

I think it's fair enough for Rafa to respect Andy - they grew up together, they obviously get along well, they have a mutual appreciation society going on and I think Rafa knows that when Andy plays his best that it causes him problems. Most of their matches have been great to watch and usually involved them both playing great tennis, so I think if I were Rafa I would naturally be cautious especially on hard-courts. Give me that attitude than certain champions who treat the opposition as canon-fodder or who write off every defeat to them as inconsequential because something wasn't right.

I enjoy watching Rafa and Andy play because I genuinely like both guys and I think the match-up is just great to watch. I think you'd have to be a tennis idiot not to realise that talent wise Andy is up there and I think Rafa respects that, even if some people choose to write him off because he never won a Slam or has been number 1 in the world. See if Federer or Rafa are wary of Nalbandian when he's playing at his best - pretty much the same thinking. These guys, at their best, can take on anyone regardless of ranking so only an idiot, which Rafa isn't, would take them lightly.

Posted by Carol (Rafa ready for HC) 08/15/2010 at 10:51 PM

I don't think Murray is into Nadal's head, no way. Nadal has beaten Murray more than one time, 2, 3 or whatever
This Tournament results don't mean anything. Toronto has been a practice for all of them, playing well sometimes and not so well many times but someone had to win, someone playing better and more focus, that one was Murray, this one was his tournament.
Now is comming Cincy and probably we'll see *better players* better shots, better game and not so many mistakes like in Toronto
I DO see Rafa winning in USO, his objetive, it doesn't matter how he has played before, he has everything to win

Posted by Jai 08/16/2010 at 12:15 AM

"Steve, Steve, Steve....Nadal beat Murray in the Wimbledon semis a month ago...how can you say Nadal had lost their two previous major-tournament encounters, at the U.S. Open in 2008 and in Melbourne earlier this year"

Andy, Andy, Andy (@8.18 pm): did you actually read the first two paras of Steve's post? When he said Rafa had lost their 2 previous Slam encounters, he was talking about *before* this year's Wimbledon. It was an attempt to explain Rafa's relief after beating Murray in the Wimby semi-final.

Posted by espnalanaldo 08/16/2010 at 01:07 AM

Congrats, Murray. Great job.

fedex,

LOL! Roger has just lost his nth straight set against Murray on a hard court.. Lol. Roger can't hack it at all in hardcourts, anymore.

How about that, fedex?

Federer will not win anymore hardcourts because others, aside from Nadal will just dispatch him ... in the most cruel way ... close but no cigar situations like 7-5, 7-5 or 7-6, 7-6, or worst, 6-0, 6-1.

See the tennis ball is round, after all. Up now down. then toss it away.

Posted by Indian Fan 08/16/2010 at 04:14 AM

Nadal's game is built around his retrieving powers. On clay and, to a large extent now at wimbledon, the ball comes off court so slowly that it gives enough time to Nadal to counter punch with his retrieving powers. On clay court one can see Nadal running around to his forehand quite often and pummel the ball. Hard courts, especially in the US circuit, is a different ball game, though Nadal has won Masters titles occasionally on these courts also. In the semi finals against Murray at Toronto Masters one could see that Nadal hardly had any time to counter punch as the ball was skidding off the surface very fast. This is one of the reasons for Nadal's results tapering off after Wimbledon the past few seasons. Also, hard courts give more trouble to his knees and may be he does not want to hurt them by giving 110% which he does on clay and at Wimbledon. During this year's clay court season Nadal even went to the extent of saying that the hard court season should be cut short, because it has a telling effect on the knees of the players. It is not only Murray, other hard hitting players with a good first serve can certainly trouble Nadal on the hard courts in the US circuit. Everyone is hoping that Nadal will complete his career grandslam this year by winning the US Open. One wishes him well and hope he achieves this landmark.

Posted by utah asphalt company 05/09/2011 at 04:35 AM

I am hoping too Indian Fan that Nadal will complete his career grandslam this year by winning the US Open.

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