Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Rally: Those Guys Again
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The Rally: Those Guys Again 11/19/2010 - 9:24 AM

 

 

The Rally returns, only two days later than scheduled. This time fellow tennis writer Kamakshi Tandon and I will talk about a familiar, but seemingly inexhaustible, topic: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

***

Kamakshi,

I know you wanted something lively for our non-playing-week rally post, but are you sure you want to step into the middle of the Federer-Nadal fan wars? It is a fascinating topic, not so much because of the players themselves or even the arguments of their fans, but what it shows about our perceptions—though I'm not exactly sure what that is at the moment. So let me start with some questions.

First, is the fan rivalry more intense with these two than with past players, or is it just that the Internet has made it more obvious? I don’t remember an iron divide between Agassi and Sampras fans, but the Graf-Seles wars still rage online 20 years after they had their best matches on court.

Second, is there something about tennis itself that discourages bipartisanship? It’s the rare sport that gives you a chance to see two individuals meeting each other face to face. Maybe more important, it’s a sport that offers fans, especially on TV, easy scrutiny of a player’s every move, gesture, grunt, word, snarl, hair flick. We judge tennis players on how they walk, celebrate, fight through adversity, and call for the towel as much as we do the way they hit the ball. A lot goes into being a tennis fan. Unlike team sports, your favorite isn’t chosen for you, by the city where you happen to live. That makes the relationship an intense one, always in need of justification to the people who don't agree with you. I don't need to justify the character of any of the Philadelphia Eagles (except, well, bad example...)

Maybe, like the U.S. Congress, it’s evidence that we’re not wired for bipartisanship in the first place. As different as Nadal and Federer are in some ways, they’re alike in a lot of others, and they seem to get along well, as you can see from above. Yet on this blog and Pete’s blog, the idea of being a fan of both of them equally seems a little weird—or maybe just boring. When Tennisworld started, and to a lesser extent, when my blog started, both in 2005, most of the comments addressed the game as a whole rather than the merits of one player over another. But that slowly changed and people settled into different camps, which is the dynamic that drives much of the commentary now.

It may be inevitable that, as objective as we try to be, we’ll choose favorites for reasons beyond our comprehension, and all of our perceptions will be colored by that fundamental preference. What I’ve wondered is whether being a fan of one player makes those perceptions more or less reliable. From my own experience, I’ve begun to think that it’s the fan who sees his or her beloved tennis player in the truest light.

So my final question: What do you think of that?

Steve


***

Steve,

The answer is that Federer is the greatest of all time. Except that Nadal is greater. But Federer is the greaterest. No, Nadal is the greaterestish of all. No, Federer; no, Nadal; no...

And this is the problem. In general, being a fan of a player is a basic and vital part of pro tennis. It’s how most people are first drawn to the game, and it’s by watching their player that they get to know other pros and the intricacies of play well enough to develop an attachment to the sport itself.

Rivalries, too, are integral to tennis. Rooting interests play a big role in making a match emotionally relevant. But rivalries also invite polarization. Federer and Nadal are certainly good enough and different enough to make for a compelling rivalry—despite comparable demographics and values, they symbolize very different things.

Almost everyone agrees that Federer vs. Nadal is a great spectacle that elevates the sport to its highest level. The challenge is that it can also produce a level of intensity and polarization that threatens to suck everything else into its orbit.

I don’t object to what people want to discuss, of course, except to the extent that it becomes impossible to talk about anything without it turning into a pitched battle between Federites and Nadalians. Looks like Murray’s hitting his forehand better these days, doesn’t it? Oh yeah? It’s not as good as Federer's! Federer hah—Nadal's forehand is way better. No, Federer. No, Nadal..

Where were we? Oh yes. It’s a bit like the Cold War, a bipolar world where you’re either with us or with them, where neutrality only means you’re a spy for the other side, and where everything is defined in relation to that bigger conflict.

Or, as you said, a bit like American politics these days. It seems bipartisanship breaks down when there’s a perception of threat (or perhaps more accurately here, a threat to our perceptions), and Federer and Nadal are not only a threat to each other on court, but to each other’s claims as GOAT.

The Internet does plays a huge role in the level of intensity, because it’s made fans an independent entity for the first time, given them a voice. I’m sure people thought the same things before that they do now, it’s just that we didn’t know what we were all thinking and couldn’t talk to each other about it. Federer-Nadal is the first big epoch since the participatory Internet (blogs, message boards, social media) became fully mainstream.

So yes, it’s fair to say it’s an amplified version of a phenomenon that has probably always existed. In my subjective experience, the topics that shattered the peace and tranquility of the tennis community on the Internet in the late 1990s were:

 —Graf and Seles and the stabbing
 —the Williams sisters and race
 —Sampras' Grand Slam record chase and its meaning (this is incidentally
when we get the origins of the word GOAT)

For whatever reason, some players also seem to attract more militant supporters. I know this is probably asking for a storm in the comments (don’t take it too seriously), but here are the players I’d loosely say have the most reactionary fans:

 1. Venus and Serena Williams
 2. Roger Federer
 3. Monica Seles
 4. Rafael Nadal
 5. Stefan Edberg (though they’re always polite)

So two questions for you: One, what’s the good and bad in these wars? You made an interesting comment about fans seeing their beloved player in the truest light—what does that involve? Second, are you brave or foolish enough to make some general characterizations about Federer fans versus Nadal fans? We’ve all become familiar with the the on-court battle. What's the dynamic of the proxy battle?

Kamakshi



***

Kamakshi,

It’s true, sometimes I feel like I should begin every piece here with a warning: “This Post is Not About Roger Federer.” When I was at a Davis Cup tie a few years ago, I wrote a few pieces praising the winners, the U.S., and talking about Andy Roddick’s dedication to the cause. I noticed a few of Federer's loyalists in the comments talking about how easy it was for the U.S. to win, that it must be nice to have a great doubles team to rely on, that Roddick wouldn’t care about Davis Cup if he could win Wimbledon. The point being, that by praising Roddick for his dedication I was somehow implying a criticism of Federer, who skipped Switzerland’s first-round tie that year.

And you’re right, there are upsides and downsides to this war (I can’t bring myself to write Fedal, and definitely not TMF). When the discussion gets going, you can almost hear an “Oh God, here we go again” cry go up. But at the same time, it’s become so central that talking about anything else starts to seem drab and beside the point, and you can sort of feel people wishing that someone would come in with a vicious attack on either Federer or Nadal to get it started again—or maybe that’s just me. Either way, the stakes suddenly become much lower when you write or talk about anything else. As you said, Federer-Nadal is a vortex, and it even sucks other players into its orbit, like pawns in a greater game. Robin Soderling became a pet of Federer’s fans, and persona non grata among Nadal’s, after he beat Nadal at the French and thanked Federer for giving him “a lesson” in the final. Then, of course, he reversed those results the next year, so I’m not sure exactly where he stands. Maybe the Sod has broken free of the vortex and matters on his own now.

When I talk about a player’s fans seeing him in the truest light, I guess I’m saying that they’re close enough to see him the way a parent sees a child—no one has spent as much time, say, watching Federer’s mannerisms and game as his most ardent fans. Just as important, no one has spent as much time feeling his emotions with him—when you root for someone, you understand that player’s point of view; some of what they’re feeling seeps into you (it’s a strange relationship, isn’t it?). I’ve written about this before, but during this year’s Australian Open, I found myself rooting for Federer, and I noticed things about him that I’d never noticed. I could tell when he was nervous much more easily. I’ve also found myself rooting for Nadal in the past, and his fans typically say I “understand” him. I guess it depends whether you think a parent sees a “truer” version of their kid than anyone else. Maybe not, maybe they overlook or forgive obvious deficiencies. But fans do have insights into their favorites that other close observers don’t. Of course, they also say things like, “I love how Roger’s sweat stains are always heart-shaped.” 

Stefan Edberg had intense fans? I had no idea. I guess the gentlemanly types get that? Or was it just his hair? I was more of a Wilander guy myself. We can understand sympathy for Monica and the polarizing effect of the Williamses. In my experience, Federer’s fans are touchier than Nadal’s, maybe because he has been so dominant for so long that he seems to have elevated himself above all criticism—why nitpick the greatest tennis player ever when you should just be appreciating him? Or maybe there’s that gentlemanly aspect of his character as well, which get people to be protective of him. Federer makes his superiority look like the natural order of things. Nadal’s fans seem fanclub-ish or cultish, like they’ve known all along about this goofy but great kid that the world is just beginning to appreciate. That might change if he stays No. 1 for three or four years. I wrote something recently about how Nadal had had a good fall, but that he still needed to be at his best to win on hard courts; anything less and he would struggle. Someone commented, “Why is there always a ‘but’ when it comes to Rafa, why can’t you just say he's had an incredible year?” Greatness brings defensiveness. There’s more to defend.

What does each group dislike about the other player? Federer fans seem to think Nadal is falsely modest; Nadal fans think Federer is pompous. I'd say that each player has a different idea of what constitutes a genuine answer to a reporter's question. Federer believes in the truth as it applies to him, as he lives it—I''ve been the best for so long, the proof is in the results, so why should I pretend otherwise? Nadal is more philosophical, his truth more general. He's a tennis player, and tennis players lose, so it's natural for him to lose. The fact that they have these different ways of looking at the world makes their rivalry deeper and more interesting, and it makes their fans that much more exasperated when the other side can't see where their guy is coming from.

Overall, the whole thing is a positive, and I've been happy to learn on this site what tennis players can mean to people. I’ll finish by citing two commenters whom we’ve met, and who sit on opposite sides of this fence. Andrew Burton is a Federer fan—but not a bodyguard—who is always excited to see what Roger will do next and how he’ll play, no matter how seemingly insignificant the event. Seeing that type of passion from Andrew and others has made the tour more exciting to me, less routine; it’s easier to get into a tournament like Stockholm or Basel when you know that people get so much pleasure out of seeing what Roger Federer is up to, whether it’s his game or his hair or his shirt or his kids or the pattern of his sweat stains (sorry to bring that back up). That makes the whole sport more fun.

AmyLu is in the Nadal camp. A comment she posted a few years ago during the Australian Open stuck with me. Rafa made his debut for that season Down Under; he hadn’t played, or been shown playing, in at least a month. ESPN showed him walk on court and lift his hand quickly to the crowd the way he does. Then they cut to a commercial. AmyLu said something like: ‘I just got my first glimpse of Rafa of the year. Now all is well with the world and I can go back to studying.’ It’s worth the wars to know that a tennis player can make someone feel that way.

Steve

***


Steve,

Good points all. I agree with the general characterization of Federer fans and Nadal fans—the overall impression, though obviously there’s a lot of difference between individuals.
 
I think part of the touchiness is succumbing to the temptation to believe Federer is actually perfect, because he actually gets darn close to how a lot of people would indeed draw the perfect No. 1. Secondly, he climbed the mountain first, and now Nadal is at the gates, as it were. The established order must be defended.
 
Nadal is the challenger, and his energy and modern flair promise new and exciting things that it’s inviting to be a part of. Yet Nadal’s wins have often been in the context of Federer’s defeats, and sometimes the latter has taken prominence (Australia being a prime example). So there must be loud advocacy to make sure Rafa gets his due.
 
It’s natural, but it’s just a stage of fandom. You won’t feel about the next player the way you do about Federer or Nadal, probably. These two have attracted a lot of new and lapsed fans who are in the first flush of their enthusiasm. It’s great, but they don’t always realize that not everyone is in the same stage they are. Hence the “you're a Federer/Nadal hater” or “you’re a Federer/Nadal apologist” reactions (often to the same thing!) to what are, from the writer’s perspective, quite dispassionate comments.

Thinking about it, you’re right that we have a more ‘authentic’ perspective on a player when rooting for him (after all, people generally give themselves the benefit of the doubt). But paradoxically, it only increases the difference between perspectives. Pete’s post earlier this week contrasting a Federer-centered and Nadal-centered view of the London draw captured this quite amusingly. (Our goal for the next series should be to come up with a topic he doesn't write about the same week. ☺)

The flip side, as you say, is that it’s nice to see such delight taken in the whole tennis experience—identifying with a player, being captivated by the contests and getting to know the whole culture and vibe of the game. Hopefully what’ll last is the culture Federer and Nadal have united to create, and not what divides their followers.
 
Meanwhile, spare a thought for the tournament director of the Paris indoors, who spearheaded the faster courts at the event this year: “Before, we were accused with a slower surface of choosing it because of Nadal and now we are accused with the faster surface to do a favor to Roger.”

Kamakshi
 


 
172
Comments
 
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Posted by wilson75 11/19/2010 at 10:14 AM

Again? Sorry, if I sound ungrateful and rude but it's time to talk about something else.

Posted by @work 11/19/2010 at 10:24 AM

Wilson,
Looks like it's just us around (at least posting)
I hear you! I was hoping Steve would do his WTF predictions. I enjoy those even if others don't.

Posted by Master Ace 11/19/2010 at 10:33 AM

Wilson75 and @Work,
Agree that it is time for something else other than Nadal and Federer but we should know better that Nadal and Federer keeps tennis on the front page capped off by their exo matches being covered by ESPN2 in the USA with Fowler and P. McEnroe doing the commentary. Imagine if those exos would have been played with most International media covering it except the USA. Could you imagine the backlog of comments, including TW, for not covering Nadal and Federer exos in December.

Posted by gastrointestinal distress 11/19/2010 at 12:14 PM


Fedal is pretty tired Tig. No matter how many ways you cook it and present it... Spam is still spam.

Posted by Carrie 11/19/2010 at 12:31 PM

I actually enjoyed this column - if I must go against the grain of previous posters.

I have been following tennis since I was a toddler watching the 1980 Wimbledon final- and I have never noticed such a division of fans as there does seem to be withFedal. Was it always there but there was not the technology to illuminate it (ex. would it have been just as divisive during the Graf/Seles heyday if the internet was around) or is there something particular about this rivalry? I like that Kamakshi and Steve looked at the rivalry in terms of why is it the way it is in terms of fans?

It may be tiresome to some- but as someone who always enjoys looking at the metatext and not just the micro in terms of all things- including sports- I have often wondered if the Fedal fan wars are a product of the players, the current communication technology or both.

I have a question for Kamakshi and Steve- what rivalries from the past do you think would have been the most divisive regarding fan base with current technology?

My guesses are possibly McEnore Borg, Chrissie/Martina, Connors/McEnore. Pete/Andre, Graf/Seles....and my pick for the one that would have been the most divisive from my reading of them- Lenglen and Helen Wills Moody.

Posted by Oleg 11/19/2010 at 12:34 PM

Too long, too unfunny and I can tell Bodo has his paws all over this one. I'd rather read about Steve's predictions instead of this tennis match of opinions that no one cares about. As always it's going nowhere.

Posted by joey 11/19/2010 at 12:44 PM

What used to create fuzz mostly in the past was comments from the Fed fans about Rafa's inability to win anything outside clay.Not to mention all the doping BS.
He(Rafa)proved them all wrong;-)
of course it doesn't mean the "fights"will end cuz they won't.
In a way it's exactly how it should be to keep in order to keep the interest alive.
Even in 10-20 years from now the debate will remain the same no matter what.
It will be like Monica vs Steffi
btw Monica forever

Posted by karin1492 11/19/2010 at 12:47 PM

It's funny how people say that a discussion about Federer and Nadal fans is boring or over-done, yet most of the discussion in the comments in any post on this site devolves into a Federer-Nadal war. (I too, share the disain for "fedal") It's the whole "people are tired of seeing violence and sex on TV, but the highest rated programs involve sex and/or violence" argument. Individual commentators may be over the Federer-Nadal war, but as a whole, the tennis community is not.

Posted by omar 11/19/2010 at 12:47 PM

Talk about a contrived topic. This post is an indication that clearly you guys are grasping at straws to have something to talk about. What next, another GOAT debate?

Let's take a chill pill on all this Fedal nonsense, please. By and large, Nadal and Fed fans have a good deal of respect for each other. These blogs represent less than 10% of the collective tennis consciousness regarding how Fed/Nadal fans feel about each other. None of your viewpoints had anything new to offer. Weak effort.

Posted by coolh 11/19/2010 at 12:56 PM

To preempt Tignor's prediction:
Federer to lose at semi,Nadal the winner.
To Tignor's editor-Tell Tignor you dont need his column on his prediction-you got it already- from someone else.

Posted by jewell - back to the grind. Gah! 11/19/2010 at 12:57 PM

Well, I enjoyed it. :)

I think Soderling became persona non grata among some Rafa fans at Wimbledon a few years ago, in that long rain-delayed match. 2007? I thought it was amusing that it should have been Soderling who ambushed Rafa at the French after that. :)

We should so have a Fedal post/war/match bingo card. I will put myself on it in "crazy Aunt Jewell" mode - TM Andrew's Christmas scene - sitting in a corner, eyeing the shenanigans disapprovingly, and muttering, "Oh, why can't we all just get on?"

And, well, why can't we?! I think we can, however passionate we are about our favourites. I am not sure why liking Roger or Rafa needs to be a "like one, automatically hate the other" thing, either? I think it is perfectly possible to like them both even if you do prefer one; and even if you don't like one or the other, it should still be possible to appreciate their achievements for what they are.

Posted by Kongi 11/19/2010 at 12:58 PM

I like this column too. It tries to glean the psychology of the Fedal fans and how it influences tennis generally. I love both, but I personally don't have the same feeling of rivalry when they play for two reasons: my favourite player is someone else, and most importantly, I love the show they bring to the sport, and also want the best player of the day to win.

Tennis has always had strong polarising rivalries. Any one who has watched tennis for a long time would have one rivalry that they hold dear. Mine was Agassi/Sampras and Evert/Navratilova, and on a different level Serena/Venus. Rivalries, even fanatical, are great for the sport, and demand analysis. I enjoyed reading this piece!

Posted by Andrew 11/19/2010 at 01:02 PM

Hi, Steve. Thanks for the mention. I am, of course, a fully declared Federer fan: I also spend some of my spare time at RF.com, where I occasionally comment.

If you're a passionately commited fan, you're emotionally invested in the success or failure of your favorite player or team. Some fans are also invested in how a player or team wins, and some are invested in how a player or team acts (I can't imagine being a passionate Tiger Woods fan in 2010). You may also be affected by the behavior of other players (or teams), and (and this is important on a public forum like Concrete Elbow or TennisWorld, or RF.com) you may be affected by the behavior of supporters of other players/teams.

For my part, I grew up as a fan - mostly of soccer, then rugby. I grew up going to games and mingling with the fans of the other teams, most of whom were just as passionate and knowledgeable as we were. So when I got interested in tennis, I didn't have any negative feelings about supporters of other players (especially Nadal). It's just an observation that many other people who comment don't feel this way - as well as an affinity for those who praise or console their favorite player, some people enjoy criticizing that player's rivals and their fans, hence Fedal wars, etc.

Having a dog in the fight when you're watching a sports contest has an enormous impact on the emotional experience of watching the contest. You pay a lot more attention to it, which could account for what Steve felt when he followed Federer at the AO. Also, of course, you do become attuned to how well a player is hitting his or her shots: I am obsessively interested in Federer's FH, for example, but I honestly have a much less nuanced appreciation for how well Nadal or Murray is hitting his FH. For my own part, being interested in the outcome of Federer's matches doesn't mean I feel the need to defend Federer's play: if I think he's played well or poorly, that's just an observation.

I think, though, for many fans this is hard - observing that one's favorite isn't playing well gives rise either to feelings of defensiveness or even betrayal. People do lash out when they're unhappy, and watching your favorite player lose can make you feel very unhappy.

Many people who aren't Federer fans (likely overlapping with a lot of Nadal fans) see Federer as being arrogant (that 15 jacket!), a bad loser (complaining about injury after the loss to Berdych at Wimbledon QF 2010) and self obsessed (the Anna Wintour connection, the tears after AO F 2009). People who aren't Nadal fans (who I know include a lot of Federer fans) complain about on court coaching (he's a cheat!), MTOs and general hypochondria (those knees, those knees, all those MTOs), or are put off by his unique playing style and intensity. I waded into a firefight at RF.com when I supported the statement that both Federer and Nadal are classy individuals. For my part, I think that the atmosphere of sportsmanship and grace at the top of the ATP game owes a lot to both men.

But in the end, for me, it all comes down to the tennis play. 2010 is the first year in five years when we haven't had a classic Federer-Nadal five setter (Miami F 2005, Rome F 2006, Wimbledon F 2007, Wimbledon F 2008, AO F 2009). Those matches are the main reasons we care: we see tennis played almost as well as it can possibly be played. We want our favorites to win, but years later we're grateful that they played as well as they did for so long. Number of titles, streaks, H2Hs - it's all ephemera. Watching those final sets in the London sunshine, Rome dusk or Melbourne night has been sport at its finest, and you need both of them for that.

Posted by Tallboyslim 11/19/2010 at 01:03 PM

I like it !
Steve and Kamakshi - Maybe I am wrong but do you realize that, off-late, the discussion on this rivalry has shifted from Federer and Nadal to Federer fans and Nadal fans ? Have we reached the point that we are now judging (for the lack of a better word) the fans of these two camps now, since the arguments for the players themselves have been exhausted ? Just a thought based on some recent articles and posts.

IMHO there are two seperate aspects to this discussion which invite the "touchiness" from each camp:-
1.) On a player level, head-to-head, Nadal has beaten Federer in GS finals on all 3 surfaces. Fair and square. He has an insurmountable lead in their matchup.

2.) On the GOAT discussion, the Nadal camp knows that there is long way to go for Nadal because the hallmark of Federer has been the ability to dominate over a LONG period of time. Maybe Nadal will do it, maybe not. We have to wait and see.

So the problem for the fans is, because of the ease to communicate we have had the opportunity to thrash out all details of this rivalry BEFORE we had a chance to see how it will play out eventually. (Nadal has had ONE year with 3 GS titles while Federer had a few. Nadal is beginning to dominate but Federer has by no means flickered out.....etc.)

Posted by CL/AtheGOAT* 11/19/2010 at 01:09 PM

I am still dealing with the idea of Stefan Edberg having "reactionary fans" Really? Really, really? I mean STEFAN? I was/am a huge Edberg fan, but I think the only thing I am 'reactionary' about is his legs...as in I react to seeing them with a need for a cool drink of water.

It seems to me that the internet is a BIG factor in the intensity of all sorts of fandom. Where you can meet up with all sorts of people who are not only willing but eager to indulge and share your fandom while at the exact same time encountering people who are more than willing to tell you that your fandom is idiotic and you really should be a fan of this other person/team over here.

And there also does have to be a Yin and a Yang. Red Sox/Yankees; Celtics/LA; Federer/Nadal. McEnroe/Borg, McEnroe/Connors, Anybody/Conners. And you bet, Sampras/Aggasi

Posted by Abraxas 11/19/2010 at 01:09 PM

It is perfectly possible to be a fan of both Federer and Nadal; this is because, although their tennis games and personalities vastly differ, there is a common character trait they share: they are extremely respectful and polite. They genuinely like, admire, and respect each other. They are considerate with other tennis players, as well, even when some of these players are not considerate or respectful of them (for instance, Soderling and Berdych).

Further, both Federer and Nadal revere the tennis game and value its history. They understand the importance and position they themselves hold within this history and highly appreciate and respect tennis fans. What is not to like about that?

Posted by claudia celestial girl 11/19/2010 at 01:11 PM

OMG! these posters are incredible! To not be engaged by Fedal? Boring!

(just kidding).

I found this a fascinating article, mostly from the perspective of how professional tennis writers react to fan reaction in this social media age. I disagree that there has never been this level of rivalry among fans before. There used to be talk radio. My dad was a devotee, and we had sports talk on all the time in my house growing up. When it came to Conners/McEnroe, the switchboard would light up! And I also remember some divisive (and scurulous) verbal wars in the Martina/Chrissy period.

I also happen to think that it is a reflection of how a fan internalizes all the facts and figures, the dates, the mannerisms, the particular points of historical significance ... all these things that are part of fans learning the game, and their history, are made 'accessible' when there is an argument going on. A casual spectator is not going to go to Wikipedia to find a quick fact, or order that archived match from a DVD site. Being passionately devoted to a particular player, and determined to prove a point, serves to educate the serious fan, and in the end also allows fans of both sides to appreciate (though they will not admit it) the talent of the other player.

I hear you about Lenglen and Wills! It might be fun to do just that over on The Bleacher Report.

Posted by CWATC 11/19/2010 at 01:27 PM

Is it possible to like/appreciate both?

Here's a twist: let's ask Fed himself, if you guys ever get an interview. He's said that one of his earliest tennis-viewing memories is watching Becker lose the wimby final to Edberg; he was a Becker fan at the time and cried (there's a shocker, huh). But his friends persuaded him to take a 2nd look at Edberg who they said was cool and a gentleman and he eventually became a fan of both.

So who did he root for in the following years when they faced off against each other? Hmmm . . .

For the Nadal fans out there, was he ever a fan of a particular player as a kid (other than Moya b/c of the Majorca connection)?

Posted by Ramana 11/19/2010 at 01:27 PM

We need new blood in mens tennis. Fed is over the hill, Nadal is too predictable. To watch; Andy Murray is the best of the new crop.

Posted by Texastennis 11/19/2010 at 01:54 PM

Cl - lol and agree. Edberg!

I think the current climate is very very largely tied to new social media - which in this area as many others seems to foster two antagonistic camps. While many fans are as reasonable as Andrew:-) All too many will not brooke any critique of their player, no matter how justified or reasoned - that instantly makes you a hater...There's way too much of that even on this site and others boards are absolutely dominated by it. I agree it's nice to have a dog in the fight watching sports, but I am baffled by the "my guy is absolutely perfect and don't you dare say a word otherwise" take no hostages approach.

Posted by Or 11/19/2010 at 01:56 PM

Funny, talking about Stephan and his reactionary fans (such as it is) makes me think how they ATP players would do if you let them argue about THEIR favorites.

I wonder whether Kaddism is something you lose when you become an ATP pro yourself.

Posted by Diwakar 11/19/2010 at 02:15 PM

Post/no-post, discussion/no-discussion, I loved the video, cannot believe how grounded they are.

Discuss more, get more people in to it, beat each other up(not literally) and make Tennis prime sports in the US of A. Let all the free channel cover them, is all I ask for.....Tennis Channel through Charter is costing me a fortune.

Go Stephan!

Posted by Me 11/19/2010 at 02:24 PM

I am, above all, a tennis fan, and as such, I can appreciate to the maximum both Federer's and Nadal's unvelivable talent. But they do have a completely different style of play --watching Roger is the equivalent of watching Barishnikov, an extremely athletic classical dancer, with absolutely elegant, perfect moves and lines. Watching Rafa, on the other hand, is like watching one of those incredibly athletic free-style hip-hop street dancers, full of force and energy, almost scary at that. How can you comapare these so completely differente styles of play? Yo can't. Period. So the next best thing is to look at the statistics, which seem to favor Nadal as faras head-to-head goes. But then you look at Federer's numbers in terms of playing finals and semifinals --astonishing! And also look at his record of loses to Rafa at Rolands Garros, only to realize that were it not for Nadal, there would not be enough augmentatives to define Federer's role in tennis history. Now, Rafa is five years younger than Roger...
The only other proven fact is that both Rafael and Roger ar above and beyond their fans --two really classy guys, with naturally humongous egos despite of which have taken tennis to the top of the top. But there will be others ...

Posted by skip1515 11/19/2010 at 02:30 PM

I've never before seen or read the kind of fan-oriented perspectives we see today online over Federer and Nadal. Yes, there were Sampras and Agassi camps, and Evert/Navratilova and Graf/Seles afficianados, but there weren't Sagassi, Evertilova or Grafeles wars. [Say, "Thank you, internet..."]

Of course, the anonymity of the internet aids in the vitriolic tack taken by many (NYTimes writer David Pogue's phrase "Your courage.com is showing" is appropriate), but so does the accessibility of the information itself; there was no DoubleA.com for Agassi fans , no way to find out the latest news in real time (or at all for many tournaments), and of course a dearth of photographs of what happened last week, let alone two minutes ago.

I also wonder how much this new-ish fandom is fueled by how much easier it is to be a fan without being a player. Before, you got tennis news from the tiny box scores newspapers infrequently printed or other tennis players. Now you don't need to belong to a club (country or not) or hang at the public courts to hear the latest gossip.

I think Pete once said something about there being a fans of the game, and fans of players. It's not that the two never coexist in one body, but it's less common now than it used to be.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 02:34 PM

Id love to know how many Federer fans are actually tennis players themselves, as opposed to Rafa fans, I would expect a disparity there-- Rafa gets the local country support and/or the 'he's so hot' fan brigade (as does Fed to a lesser extent) that are more drawn to fistpumps than forehands, but thats just my instinct after having, oh, a zillion hours here reading posts and comments for the years ...

thats my opinion and Id love to see some stats ... doesnt the ATP keep records of these kinds of things? :)

Posted by Chris 11/19/2010 at 02:38 PM

I am a Federer fan. My wife is a Nadal fan.

Nadal in my opinion defeats Federer because Federer has a mental block when playing him. Nadal wins in this match-up many times because he refuses to lose rather than necessarily being the better player. Federer is accustomed to people accepting defeat after being outclassed.

Nadal told Mary Joe Fernandez before the Australian Open in 2008 that he has a good chance to beat Federer if he keeps thing close. Nadal is mentally tougher than Federer which is hard to accept but true.

Every close match betweeen these two is won by Nadal. My dislike for Nadal stems from his style of play ( my mother thinks he should have been a boxer ), the tugging of his shorts before serving and the grunting noise with each shot. It was intensified after he made it look like he was retiring in the Hamburg final in 2007 or 2008 when his Uncle Toni was advising him to do so from the stands. Federer subsequently lost his concentration and after being up 5-2 at the time lost the set 7-5. Federer lost that match and all subsequent matches with Nadal I believe.

Posted by Jay 11/19/2010 at 03:01 PM

skip1515: I liked what you said, but I think that Monica Seles might beg to differ. Perhaps if there had been blogs and chat rooms, etc., her assailant might have vented his frustration online rather than courtside.

Posted by Schiavone's Tomato Sauce 11/19/2010 at 03:10 PM

Oh my Steve,

This post is good, but it needs the perspective of a young, vibrant, Italian woman! Oh how I miss the scenery, the food, the delicious wines of Italy! Why you not post about Francesca Schiavone? Me amore! Oh me amore!

How I loved the smell of pizza in the morning. The sound of Nadal's groans on the courts of Rome. Oh me amore!

Posted by Vie 11/19/2010 at 03:14 PM

“Before, we were accused with a slower surface of choosing it because of Nadal and now we are accused with the faster surface to do a favor to Roger.”

This director is definitely twisting and milking the gullibility of fans.

Posted by Schiavone's Tomato Sauce 11/19/2010 at 03:15 PM

@Chris

Oh, your writing sends shivers through my spine like the wind running through the fields of the oak trees in the Italian countryside! Oh me amore!

But Federer has defeated Nadal since Hamburg me amore. He won in straight sets in Madrid in 2009. Oh how I love being an Italian woman! Me amore!

Posted by Nam1 11/19/2010 at 03:16 PM

"Federer lost that match and all subsequent matches with Nadal I believe."

Not true

Fed won Madrid 2009 against Rafa.

Posted by Schiavone's Tomato Sauce 11/19/2010 at 03:17 PM

Oh by the way, for everyone who hates that Nadal picks at his shorts

He has addressed this SEVERAL TIMES. Nadal has explained that he regularly wears thong or g-string underwear during matches to give himself more flexibility and such. So his picking at his shorts is understandable.

Posted by Sunny nine 11/19/2010 at 03:22 PM

First of all, none of the discussion or comments (i think) speaks to me. I have been a Federer fan since 2000. Especially after seeing him beat Sampras in 2001. In becoming such a fan, it would be difficult to just switch to a Nadal fan only. People forget there are 5 years difference. A lot of fans that I have noticed jumped on the train of tennis because of Federer or Nadal. Well I loved tennis long before and again, Fed came along first. So in the long run my loyalties lie with him. But this does not stop me from liking Nadal and appreciating his differences (although I am somewhat perturbed over the Uncle Toni-coaching off court situation.) I noticed Nadal before he won the French in 2005. I thought well of him. But that was a few years after "signing up" with Federer. So I think there is a case to be made that a fan can like both but may favor one over the other. Look it, there has always been a difference in age. The difference really counts now given Nadal is 24 and Federer is 29. One started before the other. I moved from ST.Louis (USA) to Seattle. I rooted for the baseball Seattle Mariners when I was there because I like baseball and that was my new city's team. But my first love will always be the baseball St. Louis Cardinals. I started with them first and will always root for them over any other. It is the same with Fed and Rafa. It can be war during the match, but then the war is over.

Posted by aaa 11/19/2010 at 03:26 PM

@Chris And that's exactly the kind of post that unleashes the hell LOL

Posted by just horsen 11/19/2010 at 03:33 PM

Disagreeing w\the general consensus here, but I enjoyed the above column! Thanks, Steve and Kamakshi!

Fedal debates, while they can be tiring on occasions, I generally find to be amusing, fun, and informative. However, trolls, namecalling, and useless insulting are a whole differnt ballgame (and Fedal wars can deteriate very quickly into such arguements!). But I mean seriously, look at it this way, w\o Fedal what would we talk about? Just reading through comments, there seems to be quite a bit more interest in the men then the women at present and alot of that has to do with the presence of Fed and Rafa on the men's side. We, and tennis as a whole, are a lot richer because of their abilities, and I'd rather put up w\endless Fedal wars then lose any second of the journey we've witnessed these two travel the past several years.

Talking about good tennis though: recently a poster on TW (who shall remain nameless) took me to task over my rooting for a certain player in a match because this poster believed that the other player would be an easier match for Rafa to win the next day and therefore "it was my duty" as a Rafa fan to pull for him. My reply consisted of telling him I the reason's I was pulling for the player I was because I value good tennis over a easy match for my favorite and that this one player and Rafa generally made a good match of it, even if he might have been a little harder for Rafa to beat. So all that to say, Rafa is my favorite but I value other players and high quality tennis.

Posted by Schiavone's Tomato Sauce 11/19/2010 at 03:43 PM

WHY YOU NOT SPEAK OF FRANCESCA?! HOW DARE YOU< YOU DOG!

Posted by Corrie 11/19/2010 at 03:51 PM

When it comes to passion, you've got it all wrong - forget Fedal, Edberg had zillions of passionate fans!

You American journos may have thought he was boring, but here in Australia he was hugely popular. Rod Laver arena would be filled with chants of adoration, drowning out those tedious Swedish Barmy Armies who used to descend on us.

When Edberg retired the display of thousands of cards, poems, lamentations and well wishing filled the lines of tents supposed to be selling stuff.

As for Federer and Nadal it simply shows how human nature likes to polarise everything. Politics is another good example. You're either for us or against us. It's ironic, because off court and in their backgrounds Fed and Nadal seem very similar.

Posted by Jay 11/19/2010 at 04:21 PM

"For whatever reason, some players also seem to attract more militant supporters. I know this is probably asking for a storm in the comments (don’t take it too seriously), but here are the players I’d loosely say have the most reactionary fans:

1. Venus and Serena Williams
2. Roger Federer
3. Monica Seles
4. Rafael Nadal
5. Stefan Edberg (though they’re always polite)"


Kamakshi: Surprised and happy that more fans did not react to this statement. Do you mean reactive (meaning they are likely to respond) or reactionary as in right-wing, eschewing progress?

I disagree with you totally. Rather than having "militant" supporters, I believe that the players that you listed perhaps have the most militant detractors. The strongest fans do not need to be militant. Its the few haters who go negative.

In the case of the Williams sisters, the people who are most against them are not necessarily supporters of any other particular female players, as is the case in the so-called Fedal wars, for example. Its usually people who just don't like them, for whatever reason.

Posted by Mike 11/19/2010 at 04:27 PM

I honestly have a great deal of respect for both Fed and Rafa ... though a Fed KAD. I realize that Mens Tennis would have been pretty boring the last 7 or so years without them.

My only gripe is that the H2H is only what it is today, due to Fed's natural decline from TMF. Prior to January 2008, they were almost dead even ... with Rafa getting most of his wins on clay. At that time, Fed had only lost a Major to Rafa on 1 surface ... again, clay. Fed has simply not been TMF since, and Rafa (aside from his injury period) has been peaking since. When you have to guys that are that close in ability, off peak and on peak makes a big difference.

Before anyone has the chance to say it ... I do realize that Rafa has always been a bad match up for Fed, TMF or otherwise ... but peak vs. peak, they are a heckuva lot closer than the current H2H would have one believe.

Posted by Kamakshi 11/19/2010 at 04:59 PM

Carrie -- the inter-war era, esp. the 1920s had a lot of faceoffs it would have been interesting to see the reaction to. Definitely a potential Lenglen-Wills Moody rivalry -- the problem is that they hardly got a chance to play each other. But they did take part in one French exo, which was huge news at the time and indicates how much they would have galvanized the public. Tilden and the Musketeers as well, and then there were the lopsided but still polarizing rivalries -- 'Big Bill' Tilden vs. 'Little Bill' Johnson, Helen Wills and Helen Jacobs.

Later, Pancho Gonzalez and Ted Schroeder might have divided into two opposing camps, and maybe Rosewall and Hoad. I'm sure there are lots of others. Tiriac and Nastase in Romania?

But the culture was so different that it's hard to know if people would interact differently even with today's tools, or whether the technology would lead them to interact differently. A bot of both, probably, but it's hard to figure out how it would evolve.

Posted by Kamakshi 11/19/2010 at 05:00 PM

Carrie -- the inter-war era, esp. the 1920s had a lot of faceoffs it would have been interesting to see the reaction to. Definitely a potential Lenglen-Wills Moody rivalry -- the problem is that they hardly got a chance to play each other. But they did take part in one French exo, which was huge news at the time and indicates how much they would have galvanized the public. Tilden and the Musketeers as well, and then there were the lopsided but still polarizing rivalries -- 'Big Bill' Tilden vs. 'Little Bill' Johnson, Helen Wills and Helen Jacobs.

Later, Pancho Gonzalez and Ted Schroeder might have divided into two opposing camps, and maybe Rosewall and Hoad. I'm sure there are lots of others. Tiriac and Nastase in Romania?

But the culture was so different that it's hard to know if people would interact differently even with today's tools, or whether the technology would lead them to interact differently. A bot of both, probably, but it's hard to figure out how it would evolve.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 05:24 PM

lets let the boys play a few matches soon before we talk about how Fed 'cant beat Rafa' theyve barely played for the last 2 years! and frankly, what is their individual Slam tally in that time? I believe its 3 for Fed, 4 for Nadal, not exactly a blowout!

their lack of hardcourt matches in their careers has been astonishingly low, and we all know it... i think its great theyre playin the exos, good practice for Fed no doubt about it going into 2011... Rafa likes to climb, not defend the mountain, that much we know

Posted by FED FRED 11/19/2010 at 05:25 PM

Fed Fans are idiot morons and losers...

RAFA is 20 million times better than the crybaby...

All FED fans do is quote his majors...
Good thing because FED can;t even win a 250 these days...

FED fans are compost.

Posted by Kamakshi 11/19/2010 at 05:25 PM

Andrew, skip, Kongi, Tallboyslim -- thanks, interesting comments. Skip -- you know what I'm talking about. :)

CL and Texas tennis -- on Edberg, see Corrie. :)

Jay -- I was surprised too. It wasn't anything scientific -- just how actively fans will promote and defend a player.

Of course, it only measures the segment that actually reacts, not those who are silent or reasonable. So it may not be representative of the whole.

Posted by FED FRED 11/19/2010 at 05:27 PM

If you are a FED Fan.

stick you head in the toilet
and flush.

Posted by Abraxas 11/19/2010 at 05:27 PM

Ndal on his chances of winning the YEC:

“For me personally it is more difficult to win four matches against the Top 8 players indoors than to win seven matches in a Grand Slam on another surface.” - Rafael Nadal.

As always, Nadal is candid, realistic and humble. Sadly, he is also absolutely correct this time. Nevertheless, he is a fighter and would truly love to win the YEC. Perhaps that proves enough this time.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 05:28 PM

Fed your 5 year old's mentality/posts doe not do the greatest PR for Rafa fans, in case you didnt already realize that! LOL

(...er, Rafa, is THAT you?)

moderator check the IP address, if its from mallorca, we have a scandale on our hands!

Posted by FED FRED 11/19/2010 at 05:29 PM

I'm the only one that makes sense.

Morons....all you Fedites....

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 05:33 PM

Abraxas, of course its true, in a Slam rafa's cupcakes fly off the table, in THIS event he actually has to beat everybody, no wonder he's never won it!

in a Slam Rafa beats 1 or 2 good players, max, and at the French, he has barely anyone who can play on clay at all ...

Federer's won it 4 friggin times, that says it all...

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 05:33 PM

FED FRED = Rafa Nadal

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 05:40 PM

my last comment, name ANY event where Rafa has beat 3 top 10 players in the same event, and ask the same of Federer...

enough said for now..

bye Fed Fred (Rafa) ... mods, dont Slam champs have to use their real names when they post??

Posted by Jay 11/19/2010 at 05:43 PM

Agreed, Kamakshi. I do believe that their is a vast silent majority who do not get mixed-up the frays.

Like others have said before (and much more eloquently), I don't know how one can be a serious fan of the sport, and not appreciate its greatest exponents. Its a relatively small community of hard-core fans (compared to team sports, for example), and whenever I go to a tournament I usually leave having had some great conversations with other fans, no matter who I've supported. I guess I've been lucky.

Posted by CL/AtheGOAT* 11/19/2010 at 05:43 PM

Corrie/Kamakshi - Well honestly... i always thought those somewhat inebriated Swedes were simply glad to me in a warmer clime than home in the dead of winter. And Stefan was simply the beneficiary of that. Any 'ol Swede in a blizzard would have done for them, I thought.

But if indeed they were passionately attached to that particular Swede, well than good for them all. Including me. And including Stefan.

Posted by x-fan 11/19/2010 at 05:47 PM

LOL @ Tim accusing someone else of being childish and then responding in a childish manner!

I too enjoyed the post but I understand how some fans may want some attention played to other players, esp. during the breaks in between tournaments.

Posted by x-fan 11/19/2010 at 05:49 PM

played = paid

Oh I see there is a newer post.. off to check

Posted by Cotton Jack 11/19/2010 at 06:04 PM

Some kind of automated moderation thang censored my last post into oblivion. Your loss. It was funny.

Posted by marieJ 11/19/2010 at 07:07 PM

steve and kamakshi : interresting way to see the fedals, as well as the rivalry.

the fact that roger came first had an different impact on the rivalry, me thinks. he had allready plenty of very loyal fans, those who watch his game mature to fullfil his great potential... everyone was expecting roger to become TMF, he had the tools, the talent, some charisma and mirka to revamp his junior brat looks ;)
his fans said it, the experts and some players were saying it early in his carreer... apart the mirka revamp, no one saw anna wintour coming right ? fed was due to be TMF.

then came rafa, and his piratas... someone at nike was very smart to give him his "à l'abordage" look during 2005/2006, because it fit the way he stormed into the scene ;)

if federer showed no fear in winning, rafa showed ferocity in not losing and in wining as well...
if federer hit smoothly his shots rafa muscles them up, but was able to show some finesse in his game too : anyone remembers his drop shot DTL against hewitt at RG in 2006 or 07 ? i remember lleyton "how the hell he did that" look !
everything from the start teared them appart, their games, their personalities, and it's logical that his fans are so different too.
the only thing they have in comon and that's underrated his their quest for greatness, the hard work and dedication they put into the game and their carreers.

such different players and games attract different kind of fans, even if most of them can value what the other has, the joy to watch them comes from their own specifics for most of us.

if the fedals have reached such intensity over the years, it's because those 2 guys have reached levels that we may never see again in a long period... without internet where youd we be now ? no idea, but i certainly wouldn't have come down here :)

i've been watching tennis for more than 2 decades, but most closely from early 90's.
i went through edbergs, wilander, courier, becker, sampras, agassi, rios or rafter... i loved some and was indifferent or admirative of some others... Federer had the really bad luck to come to play some of my old fave's like guga or henman, bad timing for a swiss ;)
but no one took me into the game the way rafa did, and i'm pretty sure no one else will after him... but you never can say never in the end.

if federer mastering his game has been so joyfull to watch for his fans and some of his non fans who simply love the game, it has been equally the same for the rafaelites, i had no idea he would reach all the goals he set for himself, even if i was persuaded that if rafa wanted to win something he would simply find a way to do it, he's the most rentless guy around, i just tought it would take him longer...

but at some point you can't really come to appreciate the greatness of a new player if it comes to the expenses of your favorite, specially when he goes older, the years go even faster when they go downhill.

i've been hanging around plenty of forums, and there is some more bitterness in the way some federer fans see the fall of his carreer, they hate much more those close matches lost here and there, it's becoming an urge to see federer winning more things, some reactions are so often melodramatic and all gloomy, it tends to puzzle me to see how high and low some of them go through a simple tennis match...

as for the rafa fans, i don't know... since rafa came up, we kept hearing he was one of the best claycourters after his hot streak on clay but it was a joke to think he could accomplish more, since he proved everyone wrong, the arguments keeping from accepting his greatness are simply the new standarts of greatness that federer has set over the years, because in any other era, internet or no, it would have been more comonly accepted without the "yes, but someone has been better at...(insert your fave quote)"...

or maybe not because some of us just love to nitpick to no end ;)

sorry it was long, but i haven't post in a long time and the conversation was enjoyable :)
good night all !

Posted by Abraxas 11/19/2010 at 07:16 PM

@Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!)

Sorry but your argument is flawed. Rafa is perfectly capable of beating the best. In fact he is the only one of the 8 players in the tournament who has a positive record against the rest:

Djokovic 15-7
Federer 14-7
Ferrer 11-3
Murray 8-4
Berdych 8-3
Roddick 5-3
Soderling 5-2

Rafa is an incredible 66-29 against the rest of the field.

The point Nadal made and you choose to dismiss is that this surface and conditions (indoors) are the most unfavorable for him. In contrast, they vastly favor Federer, Soderling, Roddick or Berdych.

Posted by FedererFTW 11/19/2010 at 08:02 PM

While I am a Federer fan, I will respect Nadal and any other player on tour. Why? Because the game is a lot more than one or two players. There are hundreds and thousands of qualified professionals who are capable of providing us a great and most importantly, an honest and respectful match. I think both Federer and Nadal have provided us with that since their first meeting in 2004 (I believe). Likewise can be said with the Federer matches with Safin, Hewitt, Roddick, Agassi, etc. They are always exceptional in quality, but those guys have respect for each other. I can't go back further than the late 90's, simply because I haven't followed tennis before that, but I think this generation of players is not only very good, but also very respectful and respected(except for a few cases and individuals). I have a funny feeling that quite a few of Federer's and Nadal's so called 'fans' don't care at all about anything else and really don't know all that much about tennis and its history. That may sound arrogant of me to say, but I think it's true. I don't know how things were back in the Borg/Connors/McEnroe days when they had some amazing battles, or the Lendl/McEnroe/Edberg/Becker/Wilander glory days or the great Agassi/Sampras duels that captivated the tennis audience around the world, but I don't think fans of those players were quite as obsessed with each other and their players. Obviously with so much media attention towards Fed and Nadal, and so much internet exposure and these message boards, youtube, comments sections of thousands of sites, tv, radio, etc, something is bound to happen, but some of us take it a bit too seriously and you can clearly see it in some comments.
Sorry for the rant, but that's how I feel about the issue. Go check out the espn tennis articles and you'll see exactly what I mean, lol!

Posted by Schiavone's Tomato Sauce 11/19/2010 at 08:25 PM

I love this rivalry but can someone PLEASE discuss Francesca Shiavone?

One sec. I, uh, well...I have tomato sauce on my neck, excuse me

Posted by Mike 11/19/2010 at 09:27 PM

Abraxas, just for the heck of it ... can you find out the wins by surface for each of those? Curious to see if the majority of wins were on clay ... or evenly distributed.

Posted by warren 11/19/2010 at 09:51 PM

Until now, I still don't understand how a skinny guy at 15 turned out to be an incredeble hulk at 18 without spending enough time in the gym.
Rafael admitted of not enjoying working out. Everytime he got injured, he came back stronger. Someone commented he is seeing the same doctor as Lance Armstrong. LA is a world renowned cyclist who was found to be taking power enhancing drugs. Rafael's mucles are comparable to body builders. Body builders are known to take power enhancing drugs to attain their marvelous muscled body just like Rafael. Go figure!!!!

Posted by rafadoc...Waka Waka...Its Stanzi time! 11/19/2010 at 11:30 PM

Steve and Kamakshi,

I love that you are discussing "the elephant" in the room. The Rafa v. Roger "wars" are woven passive aggressively throughout many discussions here at Tennis World. Why not take a moment to analyze the phenomenon of the very passionate fans of Roger and Rafa and what this fandom means in terms of our appreciation of tennis today and their contributions to the sport we enjoy.

Well done. I continue to love this format!

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 11:32 PM

Abraxas what on earth does that have to do with my post? I said name an event where Rafa beats THREE top 10 players in the same event, did I not?

Id love to know how many of those head to heads were built on the red clay of Europe, by the way, not that that of course means anything to H to H obsessed Rafa kids, who think the world revolves around that stat alone!

anyway make up the rules as you like, just pointing out the obvious ...

AND I dont see how anyone can be a big fan of both-- Yankees vs Red Sox, Lakers vs. Celtics, cmon you have to choose! tennis is a sport, too, is it not?

Posted by AmyLu 11/19/2010 at 11:39 PM

Thank you for the mention, Steve. :) I don't post much any more, but am always reading -- and I really enjoy "The Rally" concept.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 11:43 PM

oh oddly enough, 9 of Rafa's 15 wins over Djoker are on, what else? CLAY!

big shock... we know he CAN play on other surfaces, but his career and head to heads are all built strongly on red clay, period end of story... can you imagine if he had played Federer 12 times indoors (instead of that same # on clay), instead of the just 2 times (both won by Fed)?

and 3 of his 5 wins over Sod on, what else, clay again!

it makes me think of the GOAT--would ANYONE onthis earth pick Nadal as the GOAT on grass, or hard court, or indoor??

not in a million years .. he's the GOAT on a surface that is played 2 months of the year of major play ...

Posted by acuvue oasys lenses 11/19/2010 at 11:46 PM

Whilst I'm a big Rafa fan, I love watching Fed play. I don't know why fans can't simply accept these two guys as great champions of the game and not squabble - they miss the train of history.

When was the last time we had not one but TWO male players playing at the same time who won career Grand Slams?

These guys not only have won it but have been the stand out players for the better part of the past 5 years.

When they are gone, we will truly realize just how much we miss and love them both.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 11:51 PM

oh and Davydenko has a winning record against Rafa, and that includes 3 losses on clay! take away clay and Davy 'dominates' Rafa 5-2 ...

i still say Djoker totally choked the US Open final, he had won the last 3 matches in a row with Rafa on hardcourt, big chance blown there, he played way too passive...

so he's 10-10 vs. Davydenko and Del Po, both oddly out virtually all year with injuries...

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 11:53 PM

Mike thoese head to heads were prompted by your post forgot to mention...roughly 70 percent of Rafa's titles and head to head wins against most of his rivals are all on clay, that is amazing

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/19/2010 at 11:56 PM

32 of Rafa's 43 career titles are on... CLAY

amazing...

Posted by amused 11/20/2010 at 12:01 AM

This piece is as insulting as ATP's candidate list for Sportsmanship Award. In terms of class, these two tennis players should never be talked in the same breath -- it would be an insult to Federer.
Federer: 900+ matches zero retirement -- don't tell me he did not have any health issues in all these 900+ matches;
Nadal: 2010 alone: AO - retire in QF 3 games from defeat; WO - on court coach warning + dubicious MTO; USO - admitted receiving instructions while serving for match.

They are professional tennis players: on court results AND on court behaviors are what matter. All else is smoke.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/20/2010 at 12:09 AM

Annacone says it best of Feddie ..."I still don’t think anyone else’s tool kit kind of matches up to his.”

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/20/2010 at 01:33 AM

Tim, 12:09:

Just like a Swiss Army Knife versus a sledgehammer.

In terms of versatility, the Swiss Army Knife is far superior to the sledgehammer.

Head to Head can be a different story.

Posted by Tom in Smalltown 11/20/2010 at 02:14 AM

As the internet has grown, it has spawned a new culture. The anonymity that commentary on a blog provides has given people permission to let their dirty sides show in ways that they would never dream of in face-to-face discussion. As such, blogs and blog commentary are vicious, and this acidic tone is becoming the acceptable norm. We are more amused by the vitriole than we would be in other settings. As such, I believe that we have seen a more bitter divide in this rivalry of tennis fans, at least in this venue, than we've ever seen. The environment of blog commentary is toxic, and I applaud those (like Master Ace)who do their best to bring some buffering logic that brings the ph closer to a livable norm. By the way, so-and-so is the GOAT, and anyone who says otherwise is a #$%^&**&^%$#@#@.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/20/2010 at 02:25 AM

i agree msf, watching rafa play tennis IS like watching a sledgehammer hit something, about as subtle and creates a massive headache lol ... thats a great way to describe his game ive never said its not effective, mostly on clay, but its an eyesore in so many ways too

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/20/2010 at 02:27 AM

Tom i would say any of this to anyone in a face to face converstaion, why not? its all stats and opinions, whats vitriolic about it? dont other sports fans talk this stuff in bars every night of the year all over the country?

geez, why in tennis do we need to whipser and say we love every player and theyre all just great and we have no favorites or strong opinions? just dont get how tennis is different than other sports...

Posted by tennis RIP 11/20/2010 at 03:04 AM

Tim,

Tennis is NOT different than other sports, such as cycling, baseball, track and field, swimming, etc., which all went through dark ages in which players with arms four times as massive as their opponents' (see the picture of Rafa next to Roger on the front page) dominated the sport with brutish, monotonous power and endurance. However, perhaps only tennis has the distinction of also being dominated by a figure who cheats during every match by ignoring time rules, uses medical timeouts in a dishonest and pathetic way, and can't tie his shoes or wipe his (nose) without help from his uncle.

Posted by MindyM 11/20/2010 at 03:46 AM

As someone who has found her all time favorite in Rafa, I can also speak as someone who had long periods of time without one. Borg was my first tennis love. I did not like John McEnroe at all. When I watched their matches I cheered loud and long for Borg. It was a bitter disappointment to see him lose in the final of the USO to McEnroe again and again. The last time when he walked off the court, I had the sinking feeling that I would not see him again. I was right. He threw in the towel. He stopped trying to win the USO and it was hard for me to understand why.

Lendl was my next favorite, but it wasn't nearly as intense as my love for Borg. I think that I just needed someone to root for against McEnroe and Connors, neither of whom I liked. I was always able to respect the greatness of both of these champions and enjoyed watching them play. It was easier when it was McEnroe and Connors, because I didn't care who won and could just sit back and watch the tennis. I didn't have a personal stake in who won the match.

It would be many years before I found my second, and probably, greatest tennis love, Rafa Nadal. I had actually stopped watching this sport that I love so much. I was bored with the lack of competition. Fed was winning far too easily and too often. I stopped watching for almost three years. Then people kept telling me about a young Spanish player named Nadal. I just had to see this kid, they said. So I tuned into the 2007 Wimbledon and the moment I saw him play, I had that feeling, a visceral reaction, an excitement that I had not felt since Borg. I had found my new tennis love. I also knew that he was destined for greatness? In the final Rafa pushed Fed to five sets and even had his shot at winning when he was up a break in the fifth set. However, it was not to be. I didn't mind. I knew in my heart that he would come back next year, better than ever, and go at it again with Fed. Sure enough, he did. Someone came along to conquer the mighty Federer. From that point on, I never missed watching tennis.

It's harder when you are emotionally invested in someone. You are exhilarated when they win and devastated when they lose. It's been a great ride with Rafa. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. The highs and the lows, the triumphs, the injuries, the pain of that 2009 RG loss to Sod. Now Rafa has come back triumphant this year, after so many had written him off. I don't see myself as a parent looking at Rafa as my child. It's more of a friend to friend relationship. One can look at their favorite as a sister or brother, child or cousin or friend. It doesn't matter in the end. It just means that you care that much more, the experience is heightened.

If I had to choose, having experienced watching tennis with a favorite and without one, I would choose to have a favorite, hands down!

Posted by mytennis 11/20/2010 at 04:35 AM

Tennis RIP,you are telling that because elephants,hippo,rhino,giraffe,wild buffalo are vegetarians,they should actually be on drugs?.Your theory is actually RIP.Book a grave for you distorted,ugly theory.

Posted by tennis RIP 11/20/2010 at 04:38 AM

MindyM,

Though you express it better than most others, I think your feelings are typical of Rafa fans: many of them view simple excellence as "boring" and despised Federer before they loved Nadal. They are more interested in drama than tennis. That is why the very attributes of Nadal that annoy others (the constant "injury" drama that only seems to crop up when it disadvantages the opponent or provides an explanation for low-energy play, etc.) endears them to him all the more. Crisp, clean, rapid play is bad. Grunting, grimacing, muscling, battles of attrition are good. Winners are boring. "Unforced" errors brought on by exhaustion are exciting, especially when accompanied by violent fist-pumping by the conquering hero. Consistency (i.e. 23 straight semifinals) is boring. Weird cycles of utter dominance followed by inexplicable helplessness (WTO 2009) are exciting. This is why I think there is little possibility of understanding or respect between fans of Roger and Rafa. It goes much deeper than liking particular players. It is the difference between Mozart and the loudest, most repetitive rock concert with the most flashing lights, smoke, and violent onstage contortions you can find. Not surprisingly, when you put them next to each other, you can only hear the rock.

Posted by Cotton Jack 11/20/2010 at 04:46 AM

tennis RIP - I think Mozart's Commendatore-Don Giovanni- Leporello trio is closer to rock music than your analogy suggests. For one thing, its very loud, and for another the music is circling round and round. Oh, and it too has slighly camp references to the devil and hellfire &c. &c.

Posted by mytennis 11/20/2010 at 04:58 AM

Rafa made me once again a tennis fan.Rafa has something magnetic about him.He makes a casual sports fan to take up tennis.Rafa made tennis look like sport rather than a sissy game for girls.His athleticism was praised by the all time greats themselves.Sledgehammer is better than a twig.

Posted by Tic 11/20/2010 at 05:15 AM

Mozart WAS rock music of his time: wildly popular, loud and flashy, slightly vulgar in presentation, overpaid.

Stick to the old reliable comparisons. You know, Astaire-Kelly and stuff.

Posted by jackson 11/20/2010 at 05:40 AM

Nice post Mindy M. As a kindred Rafa fan, it's probably not surprising that I feel the same way as you about many players (except I never could warm up to Lendl). While I could and can appreciate Roger's ability, I found/find him very boring to watch and Rafa was such a breath of fresh air. That he played such a wonderful and inspiring brand of tennis just made it all the better.

As you said, the ride with Rafa has been tumultuous, and after last year, for those of us who stuck with him through all the difficult times, this year has been especially exhilarating. One of my most favorite moments isn't even tennis related. Knowing how intense Rafa is about his futbol, to see him with his face painted and wearing his flag like a Superman cape and hearing him talk about how he cried like a baby when his team won the World Cup....what a year it's been for him!

I hope he ends his year on a positive note. A win would of course be nice, but even if he is just in the thick of things it will be good, especially after the tough time he had last year. Vamos Rafa!

Posted by x-fan 11/20/2010 at 06:44 AM

Not sure where little Tim is getting his figures but here is a run down of the top two title distribution:

Rafael Nadal
Clay 29 - Hard 11 - Grass 3 - Carpet 1 - Total 43 - Clay percentage: 67%

Roger Federer
Hard 43 - Grass 11 - Clay 9 - Carpet 2 - Total 65 - Hard percentage: 66%

Yearly surface distribution (approx)
66% Hard - 33% Clay - 1% Grass

Anyway, I wouldn't expect a true 'fanatic' to let facts and (accurate) figures get in the way of his obsession!

Posted by jodiecate 11/20/2010 at 07:27 AM

Yes, it's a good question - Why don't more people love them both???
I do, i love 'em both!! I love Roger coz he plays the BEST TENNIS POSSIBLE!! and i love Rafa coz he plays IMPOSSIBLE TENNIS!
And you know what's best? Watching them play each other - the tennis is AMAZING and sooner or later one of them will win.

I will be excited if Rafa manages to win the finals - as it is his worst surface so it will be a bit unexpected (after last yrs results). And he has said he wants to win it, and the last thing he said that about was the USO, and he's one very determined young man when he sets his mind to something! I have enjoyed watching the way he has altered his game for the different surfaces: for both Wimbledon and the USO it will be interesting to see what new he brings to indoors. (Can't wait!)

I will be excited if Roger wins, becoz i think people are writing him off too prematurely and that he's still finding his feet with the new "fatherhood" handicap, and it IS a handicap. When Roger's "precision" is firing it's a killer and a way that he can stay ahead of Rafa imo. ALSO, Rafa's won a lot this year already - he got the USO on his first "finals" appearance, i don't think it would hurt him to have to work harder at getting this one.

Actually, i'll be excited if anyone else wins it too becoz that'll mean some really remarkable tennis and surprises as always good!

I think in general fans go one way or the other is because people just like to argue. A way of keeping up a conversation, or even starting a conversation.

ALSO, do not think Roger would be hanging out and laughing his head off with Rafa if Rafa was beating him by using drugs. It just couldn't happen that they'd stay buddies like they are. And believe me, he would know! Unless you think he's using them too??? Which i don't think you were suggesting.

Happy Finals everybody!!!

Posted by Ruth 11/20/2010 at 07:29 AM

To return to something that Kamakshi mentioned in the original posteven , yes, if the profusion of Internet blogs existed at the time, there would have been just as many and perhaps more violent Sampassi wars as there are Fedal wars now. And I'd be right there among the "weird" and "boring" folk who actually liked Pete and Andre as I like Roger and Rafa equally --well, almost equally. :)

But, at least, I wouldn't be shaking my head daily about how ridiculous --even stupid -- it is for fans to make pronouncements about the achievements of players who are FIVE YEARS apart in age Fed and Nadal are!!!

It is one thing to have lively discussions about the performances of the two top players of any era; but some of the "final" judgments that some fans are making about Roger and Rafa's legacies/reputations/places in history etc, based on their current records, are just incredible.

Posted by FED FRED 11/20/2010 at 07:37 AM

Fe fans are rude, idiot morons that don't know squat
about tennis or sports...

They are all big time losers in life that glam on to FED.

That is the problem.
Nadal fan = cool, winner
Fed fan = ameba, moron

Posted by FED FRED 11/20/2010 at 07:39 AM

Tim,

You comments about RAFA and tennis
and the stupidest comments made in the history of mankind.

You are the new Mayor of Loserville.
Population You.

Posted by ilovetennis 11/20/2010 at 07:57 AM

I DON'T AGREE WITH YOU, STEVE, ABOUT THE PART THAT PEOPLE START WATCHING THE GAME BECAUSE OF THEIR FAVOURITE PLAYER AND THEN GET TO KNOW THE OTHER PLAYERS. I PERSONALLY STARTED WATCHING WHEN I BEGAN PLAYING TENNIS AND AFTER WATCHING FOR A WHILE I STARTED PREFERRING ONE PLAYER THAN THE OTHER.
I ALSO DON'T HAVE A FAVOURITE PLAYER,EXCEPT DEL POTRO OF COURSE. IN EACH MATCH I HAVE A DIFFERENT FAVOURITE PLAYER.

Posted by Mike 11/20/2010 at 08:33 AM

"But, at least, I wouldn't be shaking my head daily about how ridiculous --even stupid -- it is for fans to make pronouncements about the achievements of players who are FIVE YEARS apart in age Fed and Nadal are!!!"

I agree with you to a point, Ruth. But you really have to look at how long they've actually been playing, how old they were when they reached the top of their game, their playing styles and how it may affect their longevity ... to just look at age difference is simply not an end all.

I do agree that we won't truly know how they match up until they hang up their rackets, so everything in the meantime is speculation.

Posted by Andrea 11/20/2010 at 09:23 AM

¨I DON'T AGREE WITH YOU, STEVE, ABOUT THE PART THAT PEOPLE START WATCHING THE GAME BECAUSE OF THEIR FAVOURITE PLAYER AND THEN GET TO KNOW THE OTHER PLAYERS.¨

I don't agree either. I started watching federer because one day I watched him (I had no idea who he was) but I watched the whole match because I thought ¨he plays beautiful tennis¨, and when the comms said something about roger I was asking myself ¨who is federer?¨.
But I'm a fan of his game, not a fan of him. It's completely different.

BTW, I find the ¨GOAT¨ discussion so irrelevant. It's just a story who sells a lot. You can be the greatest of your OWN era, but not ¨the greatest of ALL the TIMES¨. What about the Lavers, Samprases, Borgs and Mc's of the world???

Posted by Ruth 11/20/2010 at 09:26 AM

I understand that, Mike. I even went to the ITF site to check when they started playing -- and playing regularly etc -- before posting my comment. The crux of my main point is that, barring unforeseen career-ending injuriesor illnesses, age will always be the main factor in determining how long a player is able to add achievements to his record; so the 5-year difference in age between Roger and Rafa should never be overlooked as some fans are clearly doing.

And, BTW, I have no problem at all with speculation; it's a wonderful and fun part of all sports talk. I just have a problem with speculation presented as "final judgment." :)

Posted by Andrea 11/20/2010 at 09:32 AM

I forgot to mention that my favourite players were Nalbandian and Coria. Then I watched roger.

Posted by x-fan 11/20/2010 at 09:45 AM

Ruth

Well said at 9.26am

I tend to think of Rafa and Roger as almost contemporaries since Rafa started on the tour so young but I completely agree with you that age difference cannot be dismissed.

Posted by Andrew 11/20/2010 at 10:15 AM

Morning, all.

Interesting news this morning - ATP awards are announced, with Nadal winning the no 1 player (duh!) plus the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award. Federer won the Fan Favorite Award.

The Edberg Award is very interesting - it's voted on by ATP players. In the context of this discussion, I'd say that obviously it's a tribute from fellow players to the way Nadal conducts himself, and well merited. I also predict that the majority of posters at RF.com will take a more jaundiced view.

Posted by Colts2011 11/20/2010 at 11:03 AM

Tim (5:40p & 11:32p posts):

Both Fed and Nadal have incredible records against top 10 opponents. If you exclude the YEC, Fed has taken out 3 top 10 opponents in the same tournament 6 times and Rafa 4 times respectively.

Here are Rafa's 4 tournaments:
Monte Carlo 2006 (Coria:9, Gaudio:8, Fed:1)
Rome 2007 (Djokovic:5, Davydenko:4, F. Gonzo:6)
Monte Carlo 2008 (Ferrer: 5, Davydenko: 4, Fed:1)
Indian Wells 2009 (Delpo:6, Roddick:7, Murray:4)

So I'm not sure what your point was in spewing those ridiculous claims, but you should probably check your facts before you make such bold statements. You also seem a perturbed by Rafa's overwhelming success on clay, so much so that you seem to suggest that clay court results ought to be irrelevant. I disagree. Carpet is extinct, and, if anything, grass is the "specialty" surface today, seeing as how those tournaments occupy only 5 weeks of calendar time (London/Halle, Eastborne/s'-Hertogenbosch, Wimbledon(x2), Newport). Your argument is analogous to a deranged Nadal fan claiming that there is much less grand slam disparity between Fed & Rafa if you discount Wimbledon altogether (thus, Fed=10 slams & Rafa=7 slams).

The "surface argument" died months ago when Nadal won USO. Both Fed and Nadal have proven they are capable of winning on ALL surfaces. Nadal will always be at his most dominant on clay, just as Fed will be on grass. This is not a negative for either player.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/20/2010 at 11:29 AM

x-fan didnt I say 70 percent of his titles were on clay (and that was just a guess!)... pretty darn close, Id say! the point is, Rafa's rode a specialists surface to am anazing career, and branched it out occassionally onto other surfaces, there is simply no denying that he's built his career on CLAY along with his head to head records ...

since hardcourts are where most of the game is played, shouldnt EVERYONE be a speciliast on a hardcourt, if they're truly a tennis player?? hmmm...

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/20/2010 at 11:32 AM

colts the obvoius point here is that Federer has dominated on TWO surfaces, and hardcourts being where 75 percent of the whole game is played, means Federer has dominated the game of tennis, period, for years... Rafa has dominated clay, I wouldnt brag too much even this year about his hardcourt record, a cupcake US Open draw being his gift from the tennis gods... what is he, about 2 for 10 on hardcourts? not exactly 'domnating' GOAT type stats, cmon!

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/20/2010 at 11:37 AM

hail just froze over if Nadal won the Sportsmanship Award, cmon, on court coaching, endless delays, fistpumping in other player's faces, that's just baffling...

of course Federer won the Fan Favorite award, no surprise there... Id say there's some ATP politics at play there, to boost the No. 1 player's stature a bit... no way is Rafa the best sportsman with all those games he's playing... that's the most baffling news Ive heard in ages ...

well at least the fans know who's the most fun to watch, some consolation!

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