Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - We Saw, No?
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We Saw, No? 09/14/2010 - 12:41 AM

Rn We’ve heard for years that the French Open is the toughest tournament to win. But what about the U.S. Open? It’s not on clay, it doesn’t require as many hours of work, but it does require that you play in two entirely different sets of conditions in each week, from the stiflingly humid to the chillingly blustery. Even Rafael Nadal, playing some of the best tennis of his career, dropped a set along the way. No shame in that: The last time a man won it without losing one was 50 years ago. Let's see how Nadal, and everyone else, fared over two tough weeks in 2010.

Rafael Nadal

In the next couple of days, you’ll hear a lot about Nadal’s heart and legs and cussed competitive spirit. You’ll hear even more about whether he can become the greatest of all time someday. But since I’m writing this a few minutes after watching his arduous, rain-delayed win in the U.S. Open final, I’ll let those topics go for the moment and talk about of a few other elements that made this performance a special one. It’s not hard to find them: Nadal’s wins are always in the details.

***

I watched the first few games on my press-room monitor before heading onto the court. Only there could I get an idea of what Novak Djokovic had to do to make any headway against Nadal’s shots. Even on routine balls, Djokovic was jumping, and grunting, and putting every ounce of energy he had at that moment into the ball. And then he was doing it all over again.

***

You know that phrase, “Make the other guy hit a volley”? It’s rarely heeded, even by the pros; it’s so much more fun to go for an outright passing shot winner. And no one hits those better than Nadal, especially tonight. But he also had the discipline, when the outright pass wasn’t there, to flip his running backhand crosscourt up over the net and at Djokovic’s feet, and let him deal with the volley. Djokovic, to his credit, handled these tricky shots well, but the tactic paid off for Nadal in the nervous final game. There, Djokovic hit a drop shot and followed it in. On the dead run forward, Nadal, instead of trying to rip the ball past him, went to the safe backhand flip again. It was just enough to get Djokovic out of position and set up an easy volley on the next shot.

***

As he did at Wimbledon, Nadal got tight after winning the first set. Djokovic started to dictate down the line and went up 4-1. Nadal bottomed out during the first point of the next game, when he hit a very uncomfortable-looking forehand long. But this is where the confidence that Nadal has built this season kicked in—even at 1-4, nervous and playing poorly, that core confidence was strong enough to generate its own momentum seemingly out of nowhere.

From 0-15 down, Nadal was a new player. He shrugged off everything that had happened in the second set to that point, began to hit with more depth, and carved up a neat drop volley to hold. On the first point of the next game, he tried an entirely new tactic, sliding a low forehand return down the line and following it up with a looped backhand deep and crosscourt. He won that point and broke serve. Nadal’s confidence, as I’ve said before, is tied up not with his timing or his ball-striking as much as it is with his intelligence. It’s often said that athletes shouldn’t think when they’re on the court. Nadal proves that cliché wrong.

***

In the third, it looked like Nadal was going to leave Djokovic behind. His shots had more weight than they’d had all tournament. But he couldn’t shake the Serb, who saved innumerable break points with lightning-strike forehands. When Djokovic saved a few more to make it 4-5, the crowd stood, pushing for him—New York loves a doomed battler. Nadal suddenly looked pretty lonely standing at the baseline to serve. He played two tight points to go down 15-30. If he lost this game, you could sense that the whole match might go with it. The dark-suited Serb fans in the section next to mine were on their feet, in full bellow. Nadal hit a service winner. He hit an ace. He hit another service winner for the set. Djokovic’s fans sat down. Afterward, Nadal seemed as happy and surprised by those three serves as he was his victory. “I have something happen that never happen before,” he said, “and believe me it was nice.”

We’ve heard about Nadal’s new serve, of course, but it wasn’t only the bomb that got him out of trouble tonight. It was just an additional weapon among many. He won tonight with 115 m.p.h. body serves, 105 m.p.h. serves out wide, 125 m.p.h serves up the middle. He only out-thought himself once, at set point for Djokovic in the second. Instead of the wide one, he went to the body, and Djokovic timed it for a perfect return and the set. That lost point was notable mainly because it happens so seldomly to him.

Nadal owns the career Slam, a stunning achievement at 24, and a ground-breaking one for Spanish tennis—there’s no precedent for him. He also has a couple of Davis Cups, an Olympic gold, and umpteen Masters titles. This was his most masterful and complete performance yet; as Djokovic said afterward with a laugh, the frustrating thing for Nadal’s opponents is that he's getting better. Can he become the best ever? Nobody can say. “We gonna see, no?” is how Rafa might answer the question. We gonna see more of Rafa. For tennis fans, that’s the best part of the story. A+

Kim Clijsters

It should be said: No Serena, no Justine. But from 5-4 up in the third against Venus Williams, Kim showed us everything she has. She shook off all of her considerable nerves, as well as a horrible attempt to hold two games earlier, and played what may have been the finest finishing game she’s ever played in a match of this magnitude and against a player of Venus’s stature. Then Kim went out and did it for two sets in the final, in a match where it didn’t appear she could miss if she'd tried. I’d like to think that match-winning hold against Venus might be a career-changer, but it’s probably too late for that for Kim. She’ll keep rushing when she gets nervous, she’ll keep throwing in clunker matches at unexpected moments, and on her best days she’ll keep giving us the finest combination of ball-striking and athleticism of any player today. A+

Novak Djokovic

From the first point, his quest to win against Nadal felt valiant and tragic. He won the first point after a barn-burning rally, and then came up limping. Djokovic brought everything he had over and over, lifting himself off the court to hit each ball, while at the same time acting like he didn’t quite believe it was going to work in the end. He was right, but he did everything he could to make sure.

It’s hard to remember now, but Djokovic was hardly considered a threat at the start of this tournament, and in the first round he was down two sets to one and a break in the fourth. He looked more likely to end up in an ambulance than holding the runner-up trophy two weeks later. But Djokovic returned to his finest form, his hungry form of three years ago, against Federer and Nadal. He surprised all of us by derailing the Federer-Nadal express and eventually giving us a final worthy of the one we had hoped to see. But my favorite Djokovic moment came in the trophy ceremony. He congratulated Rafa, thanked the crowd, and told his coach he missed him, all with the open-hearted honesty that makes him such a valuable—necessary—part of the emotional fabric of tennis today. Good to have you back, Novak. Don’t go anywhere. A

Novak Djokovic’s father’s shirt

Why not? Why not wear his first-born's face plastered across him? His first-born gave us more to watch over the course of the last two weeks than any other player. A

Pam Shriver

She’s not the smoothest sideline reporter, but how many other former Grand Slam finalists are willing to schlep around Flushing Meadows all day to track down interviews? It’s not often that we get to hear from Uncle Toni on the sidelines, but Shriver got him. A-

Vera Zvonareva

It would be nice to give her the benefit of the doubt, to offer some sympathy. And judging by many of the recent women’s finals here, it’s not easy to go out and play the Saturday night match for the first time. But after Zvonareva’s smart and patient dismantling of Wozniacki in the semis, it was a disappointment to say the least. All the old nerves and instability which she seemed to have banished came rushing back to the surface. Clijsters can’t play much better than she did in the final, but after this it’s hard to imagine Zvonareva taking the next step. B+

Caroline Wozniacki

She didn’t make it as far as she did last year, and she didn’t live up to her top seeding, but this was still a step forward. When Wozniacki won, she won convincingly, and her straight-setter over Maria Sharapova was an impressive display of control and opportunism. The trouble is, when a crack develops in the wallboard, as it did against Zvonareva in the semis, there’s not a whole lot that Wozniacki can do about it. Wallboards are solid and hard to move, but they’re not known for their flexibility. B+

Roger Federer

Federer looked like the player to beat through the first week, and he put on a dominating performance against Robin Soderling. Aside from his serve, he didn’t have a terrible day against Djokovic in the semis, but he can thank his reputation for helping him get as far as he did. Djokovic, who was up a break in the first set and narrowly lost the third, said afterward that Federer feeds off his opponents’ nerves. While Djokovic gave him plenty to feed off near the end, for the third time this year Federer couldn’t cross a match-point finish line. As he said afterward, the fact that this keeps happening could be bad luck, or good play by his opponent. This time it was clearly good play by his opponent; Djokovic said he “closed his eyes” and went big on the two match points, and there was nothing Federer could do about it. Yes, he served poorly overall, and yes, he missed some forehands at the end, but if there was a sign of decline for Federer in this match, it was equally a sign of incline for his opponent: In the fifth set, on the final weekend of a Grand Slam, a player was good enough to beat Federer when Federer was pretty darn good. That hasn’t happened all that many times in the past. B+

Venus Williams

This was a tough one, and maybe her last best chance at the Open. She began with an imperious display on her serve and forehand in the first set against Kim Clijsters, and then, just when Kim was ready to give her the second, Venus couldn’t find the court in the tiebreaker. However well, however confidently, she seems to be playing, it always slips away from Venus here. The fact that, as usual, it happened against the eventual champion won’t be any consolation for this proud player who believes she should win every match she plays. Maybe she should blame it on her dad. When Venus evened the second set at 6-6, Richard Williams suddenly popped up from his seat in the second row on her side—he was nowhere near the player’s box—and began to shout in her direction. I’m not sure even Venus knew he’d been sitting there. She barely won another point in the breaker. Before it was over, Richard was gone. B+

Stanislas Wawrinka

He’ll never be a dynamo or a crowd-pleaser, but at least his new coach, the bellower-in-black Peter Lundgren, had him using everything he’s got in this tournament. And while he blew a spot in the semifinals at the last second, it may have been the best sustained performance of his career. The first question for us now is: Are we ready for more Wawrinka? The second question: Are we ready for more of those guys in his player’s box? B+

Sam Stosur

She beat Dementieva in one of the better matches of the tournament, then faltered against Clijsters in the quarters. She struggled with her serve at times, and never matched her form from the spring. Net loss or net gain? Big picture, it’s as far as she’s ever gone here. Small picture, she couldn’t sustain her best when she had a shot at going even farther. B

Francesca Schiavone

After a tough couple of post-French Open months, it was nice to have her back and nipping at her opponent’s heels, pit-bull style. She was just hopelessly overmatched against Venus in the quarters. B

Fernando Verdasco

He looked like he didn’t believe against Nadal in the quarters. And why should he? He played the match of his life in Australia last year and couldn’t beat him. But before he went out, Verdasco did give us one of the great moments of the tournament: his scrambling, hooking forehand to win a fifth-set tiebreaker over David Ferrer, complete with celebratory fall to the court. B

Maria Sharapova

She’s only 23, but after this tournament, the question can be asked: Will she ever win another major? On this evidence, I’d say no. Too many things can go wrong with her game now, from the service toss to the most routine forehand. She’s always played on the risky edge, but no one gets more accurate as they get older. C+

Andy Murray

We’ve always asked when he’ll get more aggressive, when he’ll find a way to make use of his various talents. Maybe it’s time to ask whether he can change at all. When he tried to create against Wawrinka, he was clearly out of his comfort zone. And when he fell behind, his answer was to hit . . . drop shots. C+

Andy Roddick

His all-time high came here seven years ago, which only made this one seem one lower on the career scale. Roddick lost early, he lost a match he would and should normally win, and he lost his cool in embarrassing a tongue-tied lineswoman. Granted, Roddick came here on the heels of an illness, but it’s his attacking game that could use a cure. As with the other Andy, the patient style that worked at the Masters events wasn’t enough to get it done at the Slams. C

Gael Monfils

Conclusive proof that tennis is not, and should never be, entertainment and entertainment alone. It's no fun like that. C

The Fight Guy

Welcome back, New York tennis. We missed you. D


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by Nadal THE GREAT 09/14/2010 at 12:49 AM

Today's win convinced me that there are no GOAT. There are only two best tennis players. Named Nadal and Federer.

Posted by latagaw 09/14/2010 at 12:51 AM

I'd give Vera an A-.

Posted by Frances 09/14/2010 at 01:23 AM

thank you for staying up steve


love this post u are a rafakad for sure!! luv u !!!

Posted by nadalite 09/14/2010 at 01:26 AM

I am overjoyed that NADAL won and in such a fashion. It is good to shut up his critics about the USO being out of reach for Nadal by playing amazing tennis. Congrats to Novak for a wonderful match andwe hope to see more of those in the future with Nadal winning of course. It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and by Uncle Toni that nadal is one of the GOAT.

Posted by Frances 09/14/2010 at 01:26 AM

love you recognition of novak's dad-- they are very proud of their son!!

Posted by Frances 09/14/2010 at 01:28 AM

It is indeed great to have novak back !!!

Posted by nadalite 09/14/2010 at 01:33 AM

It is truly amazing what one can achieve at such a tender age. Nadal you make me proud to be a fan and thanks Steve I bet you could not stop watching

Posted by Frances 09/14/2010 at 01:35 AM

"We gonna see more of Rafa. For tennis fans, that’s the best part of the story. A+"


AHHH perfect ending!! rafa we your FANATICS ARE SOO PROUD OF U!

Posted by jason 09/14/2010 at 01:35 AM

"Today's win convinced me that there are no GOAT. There are only two best tennis players. Named Nadal and Federer."

at the end of their careers one will be better than the other.
Nadal has a good chance of being the GOAT if he gets in sniffing distance (Roger's slams weeks#1)because he's playing in one of the best era's.

Posted by Jasmine 09/14/2010 at 01:39 AM

Always a pleasure to read your articles Steve, especially in regards to Rafa's tactical adjustments during matches. It is one of his biggest strengths, that and the mental fortitude.

Posted by Joseph Chung 09/14/2010 at 01:41 AM

At today match between Nadal and Djokovic, commentator of ESPN2 were pro-Djokovic. But Nadal prove them wrong that he finally won the match and complete his Slam. I don't think the 2 commentators are professional enough to comment on TV.

Posted by susan 09/14/2010 at 01:48 AM

i loved the t-shirt. every time the camera cut to his parents, i couldn't resist smiling or laughing. endearing.
if my parent wore one of those, i would feel so *loved*. that was a hoot.

and brad gilbert has finally revealed his goat thoughts on twitter. using the analogy avis to his hertz. oh, boy.

Posted by Northern boy 09/14/2010 at 01:48 AM

So glad the Djokovic of 2007-2008 is BACK! Avaricious, yes, but this time around he wasn't just doing it on indomitable self-belief, but sheer nerve and courage.

Now that Federer, always a poor matchup against Nadal, is on the decline, the men's game needs someone capable of standing up to the awesomely complete and uniquely dangerous game Nadal possesses. Here's hoping Delpo gets well soon too.

And Clijsters was incredible this tournament. Terrific matches with Stosur and Venus and then utterly dominant in the final. Think we'd all like to see her win something in addition to the US Open though :).

This tournament was interesting for the players that seemed dominant...until they weren't. Federer, Wozniacki, Zvonereva, Sharapova, even Soderling and Murray.

Posted by Brian 09/14/2010 at 01:58 AM

Novak is great, I agree. I really hope we see him competing in more finals. As for Nadal he is amazing and inspiring. I wasn't sure he'd ever win this title and it was so impressive to see him do it in this fashion.

Posted by MindyM 09/14/2010 at 02:02 AM

Steve,

Loved reading your article on Rafa's finest hour. In a year of shining moments, this was the icing on the cake!

I asked if you were going to change your mind about who would win the USO this year! Remember? I could just feel that it was Rafa's destiny to win this one slam that has escaped him.

I had a moment when I found myself thinking back to 1981 and remembering Borg walking off the court after he lost a second time to McEnroe. I knew then that he was walking away from tennis. Now Rafa has shown us that if you don't give up, if you keep on trying, keep on working hard and chasing your dream, then it can come true. I felt a sense of closure tonight as I watched Rafa do what Borg couldn't. I can now be at peace.

Rafa never walked away. That is one of many reasons why he is the tennis love of my life. I was just glad that I was able to see him make history. I cried right along with him when he won and just crumpled to the ground and put his hands over his face in disbelief and emotion. We aren't privileged to see these moments that often in this life. It is one that I will treasure. I just wish that somehow I could make time stand still and see Rafa's reaction when he won. I want to stay in the now for a while longer.

I don't think it will all really hit me until some time tomorrow. I am still in shock at all that Rafa has achieved at only 24 years of age. Now he is in elite company. Only the seventh man to win the career slam. I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for us!

For now my heart if filled with gratitude and thanks that we have someone like Rafa in the sport of tennis. They don't come along that often. I feel as though I have waited all my life for Rafa.

Posted by Sofie 09/14/2010 at 02:03 AM

Let's be honest here, the tennis tournament lately has been such as this: the other players do well when Rafa is not around, & when he is & he's healthy NO one beats him!

vamos Rafa!

Posted by mw 09/14/2010 at 02:05 AM

I'd like to give an F to CBS. I work 3rd shift, so I have to record everything when I can't watch TV. I was just LUCKY I got up in time to see the rain delay and the channel switch.

If CBS or NBC doesn't want to interupt there precious programming for tennis, then they should just let ESPN have it.

Posted by Max 09/14/2010 at 02:10 AM

I dont see anyone in men's tennis that can beat Nedal. Perhaps four years ago, a very consistent Federer could but those days are gone. In women's tennis Kim Clijsters plays a similar kind of tennis but she can be overwhelmed by big hitters. They are fast enough to get to almost any ball, hit it with amazing consistency deep and to the corners, and have an unlimited stamina. But by far the conssitency is the main key. If Nedal stays healthy, he would break Federer's grand slam record for sure.

Posted by Bob Sacamano 09/14/2010 at 02:11 AM

This is one hardcore dyed in the wool Roger Federer fan who must now admit the obvious: Rafa is the hero and the GOAT. He beat Roger the first time they played in Miami. He has a 6-2 record H2H in major finals, as well as the overall H2H. Yes, it would have been great to see them play again tonight but it's frankly hard to imagine a different outcome. Rafa beat Roger when he was at his peak. Now that Rafa is peaking it's really no longer a contest.

Rafa is the best ever, then Roger, Pete, Laver, Borg, in that order. Rafa has proven that he can consistently beat Roger. The fantasy match I would like to see? Sampras at his very best against Rafa right now.

I still would rather watch Roger play almost anyone simply because his game can be so dazzling. But Rafa is an indomitable force. Felicidades!

Posted by Voltaire 09/14/2010 at 02:21 AM

Absolutely we SAW! This was redemption complete for Rafa after the soul crushing year 2009. The serious injuries, family issues of 09 have indeed thrown Rafa near the edge and critics/opponents had field day belittling Rafa's achievements and pretty much writing his career off. Like zillions of his fans,his opponents actually knew that Rafa would roar back and there would be no hiding place. By winning 3rd straight GS and vanquishing all his opponents summarily Rafa has exceeded even his die-hard fans' expectations! How happy, fulfilling and memorable they are! While Roger, even during the very peak of 05-07, has never changed/added anything to his game(he may never had to) Rafa keeps surprising even the experts with constant addition of arrows to his quiver.....with 130mph serve he can win as many Wimbledons as Roger if not more.

I thought Novak not being a genuine GS threat as his game seemed somehow to lack the killer weapons....watching the final point by point I realized how wrong i was....Novak can really rip and his angled backhand is super dangerous........if he can sustain this quality he would definitely win a 2nd GS as soon as 2011. Poor Murray has to completely reinvent his game or hope the top 10 collectively falls ill one GS and he can scrape a win.

Posted by susan 09/14/2010 at 02:24 AM

wasn't bob sacamano one of kramer's friends on seinfeld?

Posted by justice 09/14/2010 at 02:29 AM

Congratulations to Rafa and his fans... I'm Novak fan forever and I'm very happy with his performance altough I thought he has a better chance of winning it. Great article of Tignor - I like it very much. Djokovic is the second player of the world again ;) And hell yeah - he's always present and going nowhere - don't you worry :p

Posted by Peggy 09/14/2010 at 02:52 AM

I can only say..wow..what a match. Nole is a very good player and I will give him the respect that he deserves for that, and yes, I do think he will win another Slam at some point in his career even though I am not his biggest fan, I can and will say that. But from the beginning, this was Rafa's to have and to hold. He came wanting this more than anything, though being modest and not admitting it, we all knew, this was the one he wanted. The one missing in his trophy chest. And as tough as it was to play some of his close friends and countrymen, he now has it, and has made history and I have to admit, I shed a few tears..As I did when Agassi did it as he was my guy for many years and Rafa took his place as no other could. Thank you Rafa. It was a pleasure to watch you these past two weeks play and win like a true champion.

Posted by Alex 09/14/2010 at 03:00 AM

How about an B+ for Youzhny. He worked hard to get that semifinal which is a nice result for a guy who is just a solid pro with a nice backhand.

Posted by Alex 09/14/2010 at 03:00 AM

How about a B+ for Youzhny. He worked hard to get that semifinal which is a nice result for a guy who is just a solid pro with a nice backhand.

Posted by Srivatsan Tallam 09/14/2010 at 03:05 AM

Rafa is the best. Am a die hard fan of this mallorcan. But what I observed today was rafa was not at his best. He was doing more unforced errors than one would expect. His forehand let him down in the first 2 sets.He could have broken more games of Novak. His serve was not as good as the one he did with youzhny.

But still he was able to win. The major factor is physical fitness. Rafa wins most of his opponents by playing the waiting game. He tires them out and thats when the unforced errors creeped in.

Am happy for Rafa and Toni. Lets not forget to thank Toni who made this Man RAFA

R - RAREITY

A - ADORABLE

F - FANTASTIC

A - ACHIEVER

Posted by omar 09/14/2010 at 03:10 AM

I hope 2011 is a better year for tennis. This year the only player that consistently played at his highest level was Nadal. Everyone else was mediocre. Not putting down Nadal at all, I think he would have still won three slams. But we could have had a much better year in tennis overall, 2008 and 2009 had great epic matches from many players and through the whole year. To all Nadal fans congrats, to tennis fans, hope next year brings some epic tennis.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Queen Bee,Do It For Wayne Rafa! 09/14/2010 at 04:25 AM

Steve Many thanks and I am soo happy you gave Nole's father some credit for his Tee Shirt

Back a bit later

Cause Rafa winning here still hasnt quite sunk in as yet.I am still trying to compose myself.

Posted by Vic Manila 09/14/2010 at 04:33 AM

The lost year of 2009 was not really lost on Rafa. He'd had time to think, reconsolidate, grow up, be more mature. The fruits of all that pain and personal grief is what we witnessed this year when he triumphantly hoisted the trophy at the FO, Wimbledon and finally, the USO. The frustration has turned him into a scintillating athlete that's so breathtaking to watch. But off court, in his many pressers, the effect is even more admirable: a Rafa that's mature, kind, understanding and accepting! Vamos my champion!

Posted by Vic Manila 09/14/2010 at 05:01 AM

Another winner was Novak's dad for wearing that shirt Novak's match after Novak's match. Never mind if some people call it a fashion boo-boo--a father's love for his son is never cheesy, never out of style, and deserves respect and admiration! Novak is so blessed to have a dad like his dad!

Posted by Charlie 09/14/2010 at 05:03 AM

The average GOAT comment is a thing of dull predictability. Enjoy having had two contenders in the same era. Congrats to Rafa. Commiserations to Djoko, and anyone else like me for whom the rain spelled: read-about-it-in-the-morning, after seeing that 2nd set where the whole thing was building towards something epic. Thanks rain.

I hope Roger comes back fighting. I feel sorry for him not quite making the grade when coming so close, but I can't help thinking Rafa would've beaten him quite convincingly (and we wouldn't have had such a smiley award ceremony as seems from the pics -Rafa and Nole look so happy. Rog would've looked kind of grim with dish methinks)... but then Fed's off court life is the polar opposite of mine so there's only so far sympathy goes! He said he was off shopping, so... prize-winning horse for Mirka? New island for the kids? Holiday on The Moon? I'm sure he can cope.

Posted by Vanessa 09/14/2010 at 05:06 AM

Thank you Steve!!!!

Nice to read about Rafa from someone who understand and appreciates his game!!!

A+++++++++ indeed for you and for Rafa :))))

Posted by chinkyv 09/14/2010 at 05:12 AM

wow, I haven't posted here in forever but have still been following up on everything. But on this huge occasion, i just had to!!! So happy right now after Rafa's win last night. I stayed up till 5am watching it all unfold even though I had to be up for work at 7:30am!! But there was no way in hell I was going to miss even a second of this match and boy am I glad I didn't!!! It was an unbelievable match and showcased both players awesome tennis! And when it was all over... I couldn't help shed a few when I saw how happy Rafa was! It hasn't quite sunk in yet but reading all the coverage about it is helping with that. Congrats to fellow Rafa fans. I'm sure you're as proud and happy as I am. And commies to Nole fans. He played an outstanding match too so I'm sure his time will come soon too.

Posted by Eva 09/14/2010 at 05:22 AM

"Novak Djokovic’s father’s shirt

Why not? Why not wear his first-born's face plastered across him? His first-born gave us more to watch over the course of the last two weeks than any other player. A"

LOL, Agree. To all the people who thought it was so clever to criticize that: you're just bummed that you don't have a dad this awesome, period.

The whole Djokovic family looks so close and full of love for each other that it's a sight to behold in these strange times. Kudos to them!

I'm not a real Nadal fan, but hats off to Rafa, he's truly the nº1 tennis player right now and if he keeps going like this he can really become a legend (yeah, the GOAT debate, not so impossible now). I really don't see any cracks in his armour, his game overall has got even better and he's an emotional rock. It will be very difficult for anyone to beat him in the future. I only see Djokovic, maybe Federer and Murray having a shot. The rest can't compete.

And to Novak, what can I say: you made us proud, you're such a great kid and I hope everyone realises that. You're also an extraordinary player born in the wrong era indeed, you deserve better, but life is like it is. However, quoting Rafa, I don't have any doubt that you will win another slam soon, Nole. You put out on a magnificient effort and the reason those semis and final were so exciting to watch is mostly because of you. WE LOVE YOU! DON'T GO ANYWHERE INDEED, KID!

Posted by sigmund 09/14/2010 at 05:24 AM

I am just happy that this year's final was played by two of the most genuinely classy guys on the tour now. Sure, Roger is a gentleman and a good guy no doubt, but he so clearly cannot help but be full of himself, that the dynamic between Rafa and Novak is just so much more endearing to watch. If Roger lost, he would still centre the whole situation on himself and probably how Rafa's win is all the more significant because he had to get past himself as opposed to a lesser opponent. That's why I could never fully root for him.

Posted by TJ Hughes 09/14/2010 at 05:24 AM

Rather generous, I'd say, to give a C to Murray and Roddick.

The former is on the cusp of mediocrity. In three-set matches his cat-and-mouse style occasionally gives him a big win over Roger or Rafa. But over five sets, Murray's passivity is his worst enemy. It allows his opponent back into the match and gnaws away at Murray's own self-belief. With all due respect to Stan Wawrinka, Murray should not be losing to guys like that.

As for Roddick, he seems to have lost the mobility and variety that took him to that great Wimbledon final in 09. It's been the story of his career - a failure to embed the good changes in his game. Sooner or later he always reverts to the one-dimensional slugger.

Posted by Denise 09/14/2010 at 05:37 AM

I'd give Venus an A+. Still at the top of her game at the age of 30 is phenomenal. The semis between her and Clijsters was the true final. Too bad they were on the same side of the draw.

I'd give Schiavone an A as well. She brougt a tough game against Venus. Likewise with Stosur. Had they all been on Wozniaki's side of the draw, Wozniaki wouldn't have made it past the 2nd round. And to think she was the true #1 seed with Clijsters, Venus and Schiavone in the draw was certainly wishful thinking.

Sharapova, even though you picked her to win, is a has been....she gets an F. Too much hype and not enough game!

Posted by Mia (exuberantly happy in Jakarta…..) 09/14/2010 at 05:39 AM

It’s official!!!!

Tennis has a new emperor called Rafael Nadal.

Congratulations to Rafa.

He is truly the greatest of all time!

Posted by Corrie 09/14/2010 at 06:08 AM

Yes, Youzny deserves a mention and a good score and Murray doesn't. Not just his loss and his poor play, but the manner of his losing, pouty and whining, grim and glum. Djokovic is clearly the better player in the majors and a far more attacking one.

Posted by Tennis fan 150 09/14/2010 at 06:09 AM

Great post, Steve.

I'm glad everyone is acknowledging Nole's amazing performance. That guy gave it his all, Nadal was just better. It was amazing to watch these two sparring. Always is. They've had numerous epic (final worthy) Semi-Final matches, like in Hamburg 2008 where they fought for the no.2 ranking in the world, then again in Roland Garros.SF 2008. The Madrid MAD EPIC Semi-Final 2009, were they basically killed each other! Novak played better than Nadal in that match, but Nadal's nerves of steel held out better. Then, there's Cincinnati Semifinal 2008 & 2009 and Bercy Semi Final 2009.

After all their EPIC Semi Final battles, we finally have a FINAL worthy of their amazing rivalry. This final was all we tennis fans hoped for and expected out of these two great rivals and friends.

I've always enjoyed Nole's game. I love that he has the capacity to keep up with Nadal, meet him shot for shot, rally after rally. I love watching them spar. I enjoy watching them out play each other.

I'm a huge Nadal fan, always have been and I can tell you now, all this GOAT talk is BULL Droppings! I have no interest in it. I really don't care or worry about Nadal actually surpassing Federer's records. Nadal is 24, he has at minimum 4 to 5 more years in him. Is he the GOAT right now, No. But he might be by the end of his career, he has the capacity, capability and mentality to be the GOAT but that's a long way away.

For now I just want to enjoy and cherish Nadal's present achievements and eagerly look forward to whatever he has in-stored for us tennis fans.

Posted by Woz 09/14/2010 at 06:17 AM

Still going on about wallboards are we?
Here's an interesting fact:
You can mount trophies into them. Wouldn't that be cool!

Posted by HeavyD506 09/14/2010 at 06:26 AM

MEN's TENNIS - A+
When I see players like Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and the many other amazing tennis players who not only display such amazing athletic tennis skill but also such quality role model characteristics, it makes me humbled to call myself a tennis player. I can only try to live up to the model of excellence in human behavior that they display.

To be specific:
Nadal's humble and respectful attitude after winning the US Open and commenting on Djokovic's role model behavior! Not to mention his super human athletic skills.
Djokovic's endearing comments at the match end and how close he is to his "family" and his appreciation of the fans! Not to mention a missile launching backhand and forehand!
Federer's amazing patience with all the ridicules media questions in his post match interview. He demonstrates that patience on and off court. Not to mention he is considered in most tennis conversations re GOAT!
What an amazing trio of valiant and noble court warriors!

Yes I'm glad to be a tennis player!

Posted by svelterogue 09/14/2010 at 06:27 AM

steve! you're always going to be one of my favouritest writers ever even if you scare me with your picks and you choose nole or rafa to take it all. your jinx on picks is simply infamous in these parts.

sigmund, i have to agree with you --- roger losing in the final today would have blubbed and made it about himself instead of about rafa. nole has always been the classier player on court, parents notwithstanding.

it was a beautiful moment, the moment rafa finally won. i knew i didn't want to miss a thing. so in the middle of a crowded bacolod airport with everyone preparing to board the plane, i shouted with joy and kissed the screen when rafa slid to the ground.

vamos rafa! ajde nole!

Posted by e normous 09/14/2010 at 06:28 AM

I need to know what the big deal about Wawrinka's players' box was. INFORM ME

Posted by Charlie 09/14/2010 at 06:45 AM

yeah, a C+ for a favourite, an apparent Slam contender as we are reminded at every slam (bar the French), yet goes out in 3rd round? A player who's attitude and body language when not in charge is gaping hole in any argument? C- if not D methinks.

T-shirt- smart move. Every time Djoko looks at his box, he sees himself emblazoned almost as big as his dad. Must remind you you're worth something, worth fighting for, to see yourself looking successful in print.

Posted by skip1515 09/14/2010 at 07:42 AM

"(Sharapova's) always played on the risky edge, but no one gets more accurate as they get older. C+"

Well, Steve, actually they do. They just start playing dubs at the club with the other duffers and give up the drive for the jag, the chink, the poke and the chop. Oh, and they get to add the alleys and fbi. :)

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/14/2010 at 07:46 AM

Incredible. Just incredible!!! at 24!

Congratulations Rafael Nadal. You are the best. and better than Roger.

Amazing achievement in just 3 months, 3 majors!!!

A career Golden Slam!!!

Can you say Olympic GOLD ... in singles ... fed fans and fed fanatics???!!!

Ouch.

And Rafa in just starting to peak!

Just incredible!

Posted by Gustavo 09/14/2010 at 07:55 AM

Kudos to Nadal for winning the career Grand Slam. He's accomplished so much at such a young age and may one day be considered the GOAT. But now, I don't think so. He needs more than 1 US and Aussie Open finals appearance (granted he won both!) to go along with his 4 French and 2 Wimbledon titles, both of which he'll surely add to. In addition, I think he'll need more than two year ending #1 rankings. He'll also need to add to his H2H against Federer on a surface other than clay. As of now, it bodes better for Federer that he's lost quite a number of times to Nadal on clay (especially in the finals of the French) than it does for Nadal who is 2-2 vs Fed in other GS finals (1-0 in Oz and 1-2 at Wimbledon). Both are great players and will go down as the top two without a doubt if Nadal's knees hold up.

Posted by didi 09/14/2010 at 08:08 AM

All the people saying Rafa is the best are not looking at the whole picture
Weeks at number one - Roger 285, Rafa 60
GS- Roger 16, Rafa 9
Roger GS finals 22, Rafa 11
Roger multiple finals of all GS, Rafa 1 AO, 1 USO.
Laureus awards, fan favorite, player sportmanship award- Roger ALOT, Rafa ZERO
I for one will not watch while Rafa dominates as his style of play does not appeal to me- grunting, ugly tennis. Also you have to wonder how many years those knees are going to hold out.

He has accomplished alot but the GOAT discussion is premature.

Posted by Bill Chillden 09/14/2010 at 08:25 AM

Don't foegot the fat fight lady and her grandpa, they were the instigaters

Posted by Kombo (GOATarded) 09/14/2010 at 08:40 AM

I don't think Nadal's era is any better than Federer's. Murray hasn't won a single slam to speak of and Djokovic only has 1. Compare this to guys like Roddick (1, less game, but a better competitor than Djokovic), Safin (2, I hope Delpo returns so we don't have parallels on what could have been), Hewitt (2), Ferrero (1). These were Fed's peer group, and for all the talk of how strong the current 23 ish yr old group is, they largely haven't delivered as only 3 of them have won a GS.

Posted by max 09/14/2010 at 08:45 AM

didi...do not forget to close the door when you leave....a good example of sour grapes. Nadal was sublime as was Nole. Great final and a deserved winner. One of the best era for men tennis with outstanding players, two GS winners and lot of talent. We are blessed to witness this.

Posted by Kombo (GOATarded) 09/14/2010 at 08:49 AM

Bob Sacamano - "Rafa is the best ever, then Roger, Pete, Laver, Borg, in that order. Rafa has proven that he can consistently beat Roger. The fantasy match I would like to see? Sampras at his very best against Rafa right now. "

Nah, I'd rather see Delpo play Rafa, he could clearly out hit him and didn't make many errors. That's a much better match up than Sampras who would've be defenseless from the baseline. The courts aren't as quick as when he was playing, he'd be passed a lot and not get as many service winners.

Posted by Bill 09/14/2010 at 08:50 AM

Hi, Mr. Tignor,
Am from the philippines and this win by RAFA has just converted me. Am now thinking of TGR and sorry for TGF.
I believe he is still using his OLD WILSON racket, which I heard is the smallest of all the Pro's.
Maybe with Anacone, he may change to something bigger which may extend his service life.
Thanks for all your write-ups.

Posted by tennisblog 09/14/2010 at 08:54 AM

rafa will win the grand slam next year...you heard it here first^^

Posted by Kombo (GOATarded) 09/14/2010 at 09:01 AM

wanna place a bet tennisblog?

Posted by Why? 09/14/2010 at 09:06 AM

People are always so caught up in the moment around here.

"He is truly the greatest of all time!"

hahahahahahaha

Posted by fuzzyball 09/14/2010 at 09:09 AM

#1 NADAL
#2 NOLE

Posted by reggie 09/14/2010 at 09:13 AM

Though we narrowly missed the “greatest ever” Fed-Nadal final - phew, I am so glad we have this great Rafa-Novak match instead. With this match-up, an all smiling heart-warming champion presentation is ensured, the real champion will be at centre stage and enjoy his deserved glorious moments - rather than the “heart-breaking & consolation” one back at AO – what a relief. If it were Roger, he would be the focus, no matter what the outcome. Even if Rafa won fair and square, Roger would look like robbed – master of ceremony, organizer, interviewer, everyone felt sorry, awkward and uncomfortable – back at the 2008 Wimbledon, the interviewer did not even congratulate Rafa’s win – hush, don’t hurt the greatest Fed’s feelings, right?
So glad that Rafa and Novak are both great players, with genuine and high respects to each other – they are the future of tennis! – "We gonna see more of Rafa. For tennis fans, that’s the best part of the story." Thanks, Steve, the best punch line, as always!

Posted by Vic Manila 09/14/2010 at 09:34 AM

Wow! A lot of people do enjoy eating sour grapes!

Posted by treetop 09/14/2010 at 09:37 AM

nadal is the best player ever. that is why it seems to me quite childish to be his fan, especially you steve. come on, when he plays it is like men against boys. he is the strongest physically and mentally.
i am not interested in being a fan of superman. give a human underdog with no supernatural powers. to be a nadal fan is for people who like heroes. for me whaen someone is the hero, wins everything, he is the best- i want the little humans to beat him. felt the same way about federer and now about nadal

Posted by Kombo (GOATarded) 09/14/2010 at 09:48 AM

curious how folks think this years tourney compares to last years. Tennis wise, not in terms of outcome.

Posted by frances 09/14/2010 at 10:05 AM

sTEVE i will buy a book if you will do an autobiography of nadal!

Posted by RDM14 09/14/2010 at 10:07 AM

Steve,

Always love to read your comments. Nadal was never expected to go all the way and win the U.S. Open by his critics but he proved them wrong. The variety of shots that he delivered against the equally talented Djokovic were a pleasure to watch. The serve immensely added a lot to his arsenal of shots making and more. The wide serve to the odd court was very agonizing for any righty just to put back in play and when the ball comes back, Nadal is ready to dictate the game and win the point. Further, Nadal's focus on his attack was so brutal against Djokovic that gave him so many chances to break his serve. Granted, he didn't make even half of those break opportunities but he definitely tortured Djokovic mentally and that is just too much to handle. Last, but not least, I am glad that the game was postponed on Sunday and that gave Djokovic an extra day to recover from the five setter against Federer. I wanted Nadal to win fair and square and he did that. Kudos to Uncle Tony for delivering us a modern gladiator.

Posted by 1963USCtennis 09/14/2010 at 10:13 AM

How about giving a grade to CBS (and ESPN, and the USTA for letting this happen)?

How about a grade for the USTA?


The horrible job that these orgnizations did in the matter of broadcasting this final is a major black eye.

How is one supposed to tape (yes there is a marvelous machine called THE DVR) a match if they switch the coverage from one channel to the next?

The USTA is linked here for two reasons: A) they have not excersised any pressure to have this tournament broadcasted by The Tennis Channel so no matter how many rain delays are there I can record on a Monday (yes, some of us have to work, unlike the TV execs with their "let them eat cake" approach to the world), a situation that has been created by...
B) the USTA narrow vision of the world (again, execs mentality of infalibility) where a roof is not necessary for this tournament... we'll just whip out the boys out there with some towels (pathetic). Notice how the AO passed the USTA in this regard MANY, many years ago, and so has Wimbledon (even Roland Garros might beat the US to the punch; and notic ethat on clay you can play tennis far longer into rain conditions than at any other surface).

Thank you TV execs for your visionary work so I could only tape 1/2 of the match. Your great wisdom is surely making Tennis a more popular sport in the US (please cut to NFL coverage as quick as possible, just awesome). Thank you, job well done.

Posted by wilson75 09/14/2010 at 10:18 AM

I agree with those who say Youzhny should get a mention. B+ Excellent play to get to SF and he's in the top ten.

Steve where's the F for CBS. Super Saturday was exiting 25 years ago but now it's just ruining the USO. Furthermore, the overhyping of the final that never was was ridciulous and a direct result of Super Saturday. If CBS is unable to show the finals because commercial considerations, i.e. 60 minutes and Two and a half men then they should get out of the tennis business. This weekend's debacle actually demonstrated how good ESPN's coverage is and that they should get the rights to the USO instead of CBS. ESPN B+.

F to the USTA that allows TV to make it look inept year after year.

Posted by pollypurebred 09/14/2010 at 10:25 AM

To everyone who complained about the channel switch, here in good old upstate NY, this match wasn't on either channel. Consider yourselves lucky - I was so p****d I couldn't watch.

Posted by ben 09/14/2010 at 10:42 AM

nadal 0/10

Posted by PIXMAN 09/14/2010 at 10:48 AM

There is no doubt that Nadal is peaking right now. Everyone wanted the dream matchup but I think the outcome would have been the same. The only person who can stop Nadal now is himself. I can't see Nadal maintaining this style of game for many more years. Enjoy it while we can. BTW, has anyone noticed that Nadal is getting thin on top?

Posted by pablo 09/14/2010 at 10:54 AM


1963USCtennis,

I remember that in early 2008 you posted here stating that Rafa would be one of the greatest ever, you had such faith in the kid. Now seems that you were right on the money. Some of the pundits that post here were very skeptical in that regard: "His body won't hold up", "He doesn´t have the game to win the USO", "i think his best days are behind us (that was, of course, last year, and this year before the clay season), and so forth. I want to be clear, they're indeed pundits (as you seem to be), not just tennis aficionados, who teach or play good tennis. they were wrong and conversely you were right.

Kudos to you 1963USCtennis.

Posted by Jay 09/14/2010 at 11:09 AM

Steve--Nice write-up (Much better and fairer than your colleague, Mr. Bodo). My only disagreements or comments:

1. Can Shriver. Whatever happened to the traditional quiet when someone is serving? Celebrities always welcome attention, but the fans around them, who seemed to be actually interested in the match, looked as perturbed as James Blake was at Wimby.

2. Give Venus another half grade for reaching the semis, after being out all summer. A couple more practice matches, and I believe she would not have faltered.

3. $harapova looked pretty good. She just had a bad draw this year. Woz was too hot and consistent, but $har showed some flashes of greatness.

4. Could not agree more about Djok. I'm a Rafa fan, but before last night I thought that if anyone could beat Rafa (after Murray lost), it would have been Djok. Although I don't usually root for the Joker, in the long run I hope that he does win more big tourneys. The tour does need him--both his skills and his wit and humor.

Posted by SteveO 09/14/2010 at 11:22 AM

Some of the posters here seriously need to get a life.

Posted by 40love 09/14/2010 at 11:24 AM

U.S.Open.org had free live streaming with NO commercials!!!!! What an awesome match!!! Nole and Rafa, true sportsmen, unbelievable tennis players. Thankyou for being so dedicated.

Posted by 1963USCtennis 09/14/2010 at 11:25 AM

pablo:

I just enjoy tennis. Rafael Nadal is a joy to watch and he enjoys playing immensely. BTW I also enjoy watcthing many other players, including Roger Federer and his great capabilities.

Right now Rafael Nadal is sitting on top of the world and he has achieved so much, but he knows there is a goal in sight which only two other men in the history of the game have achieved. Four majors in a row will place this young man in a place where he will be untouchable, if he can make it.

When i saw him in the post match with JMac in Roland Garros I knew something was up.

"see you in NY John" WOW!

two of my favorite players
Rafael Nadal World Champion 2008, 2010
Rafael Osuna World Champion 1963

Posted by Tennis fan 150 09/14/2010 at 11:38 AM

"Posted by frances 09/14/2010 at 10:05 AM

sTEVE i will buy a book if you will do an autobiography of nadal!'

I SECOND THIS!

Posted by Iris 09/14/2010 at 11:43 AM

Remember folks, Roger is 5 years older than Rafa and is still in the top 3 of the world. Let us see how long Rafa can hold up with his style of play. Rafa has had more injuries in his years of play than Federer. So, before we crown him the GOAT, let us see where he is at a few years down the road. For me, Federer is the most interesting player to watch. I don't care how many Rafa ends up winning because he will never be as graceful and spectacular as Roger

Posted by vv_varaiya 09/14/2010 at 11:49 AM

The boxing analogy is overused in tennis... but it does fit when describing Nadal. He delivers body-blows that eventually wear his opponent out. Everyone predicted Roddick's style of serve would induce injuries... and they were wrong. So it goes for Nadal, but there is little beauty in his style of play. As Jim Courier pointed out long ago, there are many sides to talent: desire, will-to-practice, patience, tenacity, etc. Nadal has these and more... nevertheless he is champion that doesn't please my tennis aesthetic.

As long as we're giving out grades: Tennis Magazine F for not covering Serena's injury as someone pointed earlier. The greatest player woman player (according to Tennis) is missing from the US Open due to a mysterious injury and Tennis can't go on the record describing the where, what, when and how? The USTA monopoly is forever operating don't offend mode, how can we grow the game, watch out for sponsors. Cowardly "journalism".

Posted by Rush 09/14/2010 at 11:51 AM

Vamos Robo Rafa!

Posted by PaniniLuncher 09/14/2010 at 11:53 AM

When Federer burst into scene in 2003 by winning his first Wimbledon, few critics had predicted something great will come from this guy. It was 7 years ago and now Federer at 29 owns 16 GS. Now people say Federer is the greatest of all time. But people under appreciate Nadal.

I am Federer's fan, and so far have not been a Nadal's fan. Something about Nadal that I just don't connect to root for him.

HOWEVER, I do feel that Nadal is a GREAT player, and believe he CAN break Federer's record if Nadal stays healthy and hungry. 2010 is definitely Nadal's year. He played unbelievable at French, Wimbledon and now US Open. He is only 24, and has NINE GS. That is amazing. At 24, how many GS that Federer had won?

While Federer is becoming older and vulnerable, Nadal is increasingly better and stronger. I hope he stays healthy and win more grand slams.

Posted by petewho 09/14/2010 at 11:56 AM

Good post Steve.

I do think ive agreed with any of your conclusions or grades yet.

I do however think Rafa got a little lucky with Delpo no being there , purely because he has the potential to hit him off the court more than any one else - at least on hard.

Not sure where Fed goes from here , he did look very good at times , but had 2 bad lapses in that Djoker match that Nadal would have ripped him on , will they ever meet in slam final again ?

Does ROger want to risk having an even worse head 2 head against the biggest threat to his Goathood ?

Somehow I doubt , hes prob better of retiring before things get worse instead.

Posted by Bhai Mirzai 09/14/2010 at 12:11 PM

Will Djokovic be the Roddick of Nadal's era?

Posted by RedShoes 09/14/2010 at 12:19 PM

I think you overlooked that fighter David Ferrer. Back in the top 10. Vamos!

Can't wait to see the rest of the grades...

D- to CBS, F to Dick Enberg (shut up during the point!) & a big fat F- to ESPN! They (ESPN) owe Rafa (and the rest of us) an apology for rushing, cutting away then not even picking up the trophy ceremony on ESPN Classic like they promised!!! No trophy bite! No photo flashes! No wrap-up, nothing!

Posted by Jay 09/14/2010 at 12:20 PM

Forgot to give a D to ESPN. They delay tennis matches for third-round little league baseball to conclude, then, unceremoniously cut away from the Open men's final before the final ceremony. Why not put the tournament on a channel (including one of ESPN's many) where it will be given priority transmission, even with rain delays.

Posted by Iris 09/14/2010 at 12:59 PM

Nadal's kind of play has induced injuries. Remember the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open last year? I think there is a price to pay when you play that agressive year after year. It may not happen this year or next, but it will happen. Anyway, it would be nice to see someone else win a couple of slams other than Nadal or Federer. If Fed was playing Nadal yesterday, he would have won at least 2 sets. I love Djokovic because of his personality and because he is from Serbia (my country) and I hope he wins soon.

Posted by frances 09/14/2010 at 01:03 PM

"Forgot to give a D to ESPN."

Jay-- I'm giving ESPN and F!!! or a Z if that is considered a grade!!! I was sooooooooooo annoyed last nyt for that!!! argh!!

Posted by Iris 09/14/2010 at 01:05 PM

@ PaniniLuncher:

" I believe Commentator John McEnroe referred to the fact that Rafael Nadal, at age 24, has won three more Grand Slams than Roger Federer had won by the time he was 24. If he continues to maintain his good health, he could possibly overcome Roger Federer's list of Grand Slam titles. Critics, however, have noted that Rafa's aggressive hard-fought game can make him subject to injury." So, at 24, Roger won 6 GS's.

The important thig here is "if he continues to maintain his good health."

Posted by Denise 09/14/2010 at 01:07 PM

Nadal THE GREAT - "Today's win convinced me that there are no GOAT. There are only two best tennis players. Named Nadal and Federer."

Completely agree! no goat. just FEDERER and rafa.

Posted by spacenoxx (Rafa - All Surface Master) 09/14/2010 at 01:39 PM

didi 08:08 AM

"I for one will not watch while Rafa dominates as his style of play does not appeal to me"

Tennis is really going to miss you ;-)

Posted by tennisforthebest 09/14/2010 at 01:41 PM

Monfils should get C for being a Clown and Verdasco should get a J for being a joke, Murray should get a P- for being pathetic and Soderling a S for being an ass. Thats the difference between Nadal and these guys that Nadal has worked on his game on a daily basis and improved himself exponentially as compared to these guys who are still where they were.
I don't agree with your comment about Federer got beaten when he was playing pretty darn good. Actually Fed was playing pathetic (look at his first serve percentage) and still he almost won the match. All credit to Djoker for beating Fed but I can bet the result of that semi-final would have been different if Nadal had lost in the other semi-final or if Federer could have closed the deal in three sets. He realized in the fifth set that it was not even worth to win this match since he won't have any energy left to play the final against Nadal though he miscalculated the whole thing. Had he knew about the rain delay he would have beaten Djokovic though it was a wrong approach since nobody would have expected him to win anyway after playing 5 sets in the semi and seeing the age difference between him and Nadal its foolish to expect that he would play like a 24 year old. 5 year age difference is huge in Tennis. Nadal is at his peak right now just the way Fed was in his prime. WORSHIP THE RISING SUN

Posted by Endpoint 09/14/2010 at 01:51 PM

Roddick deserved a D grade. After he lost at the Open, judging by the various tennis blogs he also lost most of the respect & admiration he'd gained from his gallant effort at Wimbledon '09. When he's having a hard time on court, Roddick's tennis decorum too often reverts to bratty nastiness (granted, he's far below Connors & Mc in this regard). It's said that Federer in his late teens also had something of a brat's petulance. He disciplined himself into the gentlemen he usually is these days on court. Apparently Roddick has never managed to purge the brat from his personality & it returns under stress on court. Too bad; it makes it hard to feel much sympathy for him when he loses. On the other hand, we tennis fans, so often fair-weather friends, probably would have excused Roddick's rudeness to the lineswoman had he "gone deeper" in the tournament. Well, let us soldier on. We still have the memory of Wimbledon '09. After Emil Zatopek won his great track triple (5K, 10K, marathon) at the Helsinki Olympic Games, he commented years later on his feelings as the crowd cheered for him at the closing ceremonies: "It was a little sad . . . that it belonged to history. And I knew there could be no repetition. It is possible only once." I'm afraid Roddick's '09 Wimbledon moment was possible only once.

Posted by reckoner 09/14/2010 at 02:34 PM


pam shriver can track down jesus christ on the graveyard court and i would still say shes a solid, cranky F of a lady / reporter / person

the fight guy got a D but maybe the fat lady and her old man shouldnt have been that far off grades-wise; from all angles it looked like the fight guy was just running his mouth, but it was the fat lady and the old man that both escalated this incident by physically striking him, and whenever you add the battery component to any conflict you give up any sympathy

Posted by Aube,still sore and sad from V's loss!!! 09/14/2010 at 02:45 PM

Didi,
why? just why?

Posted by Matt Zemek 09/14/2010 at 02:48 PM

Steve,

Great overall write-up, as usual. I'm very grateful for your words about Federer... and the man who beat him. Perfectly calibrated and chosen.

I hope the rest of the global tennis media sees what you said about Fed and takes it to heart.

Much like del Potro last year, it often takes a max-out, heart-of-a-lion performance to barely eclipse Federer at a major. Even his losses magnify him (the Wimbledon Berdych match being an exception, not the rule).

Thank you, thank you, a million times thank you.

Ever Gratefully and Appreciatively,

Matt Zemek

Posted by sandy 09/14/2010 at 02:57 PM

I enjoyed this article...BUT I FEEL THAT DJOKOVIC DESERVED HIGHER PRAISE FOR BEATING FEDERER AND SCARING RAFA, CLOSE GAMES BUT NOT LUCKY ENOUGH TO WIN THE IMPORTANT POINTS WHICH IS ANOATHER AREA IN WHICH RAFA EXCELS..MANAGING TO STEP UP MOST OF THE TIME ON THE KEY POINTS.

Terrific matches between Djokovic and Federer and Djokovic and Rafa and Verdasco and Ferrer.

Posted by Foot Fault 09/14/2010 at 03:09 PM

Excellent stuff, Steve. I hope you do grade the TV coverage, although I know it's hard because they are colleagues. But you have to admit that there are plenty of po'd people out there. I just wish the networks (CBS, NBC and ESPN) would trust the sport a little more and let the play speak. The Tennis Channel does a better job of this, although they go off the rails from time to time as well. I think Martina and Connors are far superior to McEnroe and Carillo, if only because (either through direction or choice) they don't feel the need to gab incessantly and repeat themselves ad nauseam.

Also second your B+ for Stan Va-Va Vrinka, who really looks like someone who crafts cuckoo clocks. Hope some time he goes out on the court in lederhosen and an Alpine hat.

He is a surprisingly good player, and Rafa should consider sending him a thank you note for eliminating Murray, although Murray helped that cause considerably himself.

Posted by Bibi 09/14/2010 at 03:18 PM

I enjoyed this article very much. Thank you for the T-shirt grade - that was exceptional - I am back to liking you Steve

Posted by Lonnyhaze 09/14/2010 at 04:28 PM

This chewing of the hardware is getting old!. Get a new gimmick Rafa!

Posted by Darko 09/14/2010 at 04:46 PM

End of 2011 season:
1.Rafa
2.Nole
3.Delpo
4.Fed
5.Soderling
6.Murray

Posted by weak40player 09/14/2010 at 05:15 PM

A few thoughts.

I reckon Novak is embarrassed by those t-shirts. T-shirts, ok. Those t-shirts, yikes!

Full credit to the Djokerman though, he played superb tennis in the last couple of rounds, but what was most impressive was how he rose to the occasion. That was great to see. Andy Murray, please take note.

Yup, Murray was the biggest disappointment of the tournament. I've had him on my "bound to happen" list, but am now moving him over to the "better get his act (head) together or it might not happen" list. So much game, so few results.

Fed is clearly still one of the very best players in the world, but is just as clearly no longer "the man" to beat. That's Rafa.

Rafa, wow, great job. Beyond all of the technical and physical strengths of his game, what impresses me most is his ability/willingness to just accept that the previous point is over and fully engage in the process of winning the one that is about to start.

I'm neither a Fed nor Rafa fan boy, and am glad to have both of these GOAT-worthy players in the game. I must say, to my neutral eye, that Rafa is beginning to cause considerable oxidation to Fed's rep. Still, both great.

Finally, I'll point out that neither has won a CY Grand Slam, and that remains a difficult goal to attain. So, let's spare a moment to ponder Laver's achievement. Yes, yes, I know, but I don't really care that he was only 5'8", played mostly on grass, used a wood racket, had easier early rounds, is red-headed and left handed, or talks w/ a funny accent (to me). The guy knew how to play and win, and beat everyone in front of him to manage the CY GS t twice. So there.

Posted by marcela 09/14/2010 at 05:31 PM

Great summation, thanks Steve. What impressed me the most was that Rafa won this tournament by losing one set and being broken 5 times. What is even more impressive is that Rafa won 3 grand slams on 3 different surfaces in 3 months and lost only 6 sets in the process. 5 at Wimbledon and 1 at the USO. Those are pretty impressive stats for a player critics wrote off at the end of 2009 when he failed to win a single match in London.

I agree with some of the other posters that CBS/ESPN deserve an F. And that's being generous because their coverage was truly pathetic. At least we were spared Dick Enberg at the trophy presentation.

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