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Rivalry! 01/30/2009 - 3:01 PM

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by Pete Bodo

Alright. Now that we've all stopped hyper-ventilating over the Rafael Nadal/Fernando Verdasco bull fight (personally, I had trouble telling the bull from the matador through long stretches of that one), let's just wipe our brows and take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are to have yet another Nadal vs. Roger Federer Grand Slam final.

In fewer than three full years, we’ve been awarded six Grand Slam finals pitting Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal. By comparison, the last pair of players who had anything like a comparable rivalry, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, met in Grand Slam titles a grand total of just five times – and that’s in an 11-year span (compared to the mere 37 months during which Nadal and Federer have had at each other).

Any of you Nadal fans who aren't air-kissing your beloved Federer fans are ingrates; you Federer fans who aren't sacrificing furry little animals before Nike posters of Nadal are clueless. It's about time y'all realized that nothing in sports is better than a great rivalry, and a great rivalry can only exist between equals - or players close enough to being equal that the differences are academic, especially when they meet.

Rivals2 What? The outraged Federer fan might say. Roger is 24 hours from equalling Pete Sampras's Grand Slam singles title record. How dare you make that comparison! I'll tell you how: Nadal is 12-6 vs. Federer, 5-2 in Grand Slam play. It's a fact, get used to it. It underscores the validity of the hall of fame quote Mats Wilander uttered when he told me, at the height of the "Wilanders" controversy, "It's weird that Roger may be the greatest player ever, but that there's one guy in his own time who he can't beat."

On Sunday, Federer gets another chance to chip away at the inconvenient truth of the record.

So what we've seen created, in just over three years, is an all-surface, all-continent battle between perhaps the greatest player who ever lived and someone who might have been - fairly -  called a "provincial" player until it turned out he wasn't. The speed at which Nadal morphed from upstart into understudy into nemesis was remarkable. And while it may be irritating to TMF's fans, and the source of serious complications in Federer's life, Nadal's maturation into an all-around player has accomplished some things that no number of Grand Slam titles (not 15, not 22, not 38) could really do - heighten the awareness and appreciation of his abilities, add a measure of heft (the kind that can only come from one source - a guy you don't own) to his reputation, and provide him with a unique, personal yardstick by which to measure - and demonstrate - his worth.

We think of great rivalries as consisting of two components: Bird and Johnson, Sampras and Agassi, Namath and Unitas. The truth is that a great rivalry is a unitary thing, organically produced by two individuals. It exists independent of the individuals, even though it could not exist without the principals. A rivalry is an entity as well as a state-of-being; great rivals are Siamese twins, each tries to beat the other's brains out, but he's sustained by the same hot blood and leaves his counterpart showered in equal glory. Pete Sampras, it turns out, was right - we have proof of it right before our eyes: Nothing, but nothing, is as good for tennis as a great rivalry.

And there's more. I think we can all agree that we've got perhaps the greatest player of all time playing against perhaps the greatest clay-court player of all-time (an item that seems to be traveling southward on Nadal's resume, as in: Other Interests and Hobbies: Greatest Clay-Court Player of All-Time). We all love Andre, but Nadal has shown us what the Sampras-Agassi rivalry might have been, had Agassi's attention span in tennis been more consistent. If anything, Federer and Nadal are on track to be the next. . . Chris (Evert) and Martina (Navratilova).

Rivals In fact, some of the the parallels are striking, in a trans-gender kind of way: you have the mercurial "talent" pitted against the worker; the artist with the one-handed backhand matched with the bludgeoning double-fister; the slashing, attacking stylist dug in against the dogged, recalcitrant defender; the unsophisticated, un-intellectual athlete squaring off against the world citizen (oh, how often, upon hearing Martina air some vaguely political grievance, have I rolled my eyes, murmuring, . . Oh, please, Martina. Spare me.Thank God the comparison only goes so far. . .)

If they keep rolling down this path, can the day be far off when Federer and Nadal share a bagel (as Chris and Martina once did) while they wait to play yet another Grand Slam final?

I'm going to enjoy these finals - pass the lox.


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Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 12:07 AM

As for rivalries, think the one between Graf and Seles was left unfulfilled.

Posted by Russ 01/31/2009 at 12:12 AM

Word, Alias.

Posted by gary 01/31/2009 at 12:13 AM

Wonder what the bookies odds are on Rafa doing a slam this year vs. El Fed. Might be worth a few quid on both if the odds are high enuf.

Posted by Annie 01/31/2009 at 12:15 AM

headless at 8:58 was me!Just saw that now.

Posted by E. Thomas 01/31/2009 at 12:15 AM

Marian aka Mr. Sparkles (@11:29pm):

"Take one simple fact: No one and I mean no one can place the ball more precise from one corner to another, not even Fedex."

I am amazed how you use the word "fact," similar to some of my friends have done in the past - they always like to start the sentence with "as a matter of fact" followed by something highly controversial, such as "Obama is better than Lincoln."

And for the precise corner-to-corner you are talking about, give me 15 minutes on court, even I can show you some precise shots like that - just not as frequent as the top players can.

So your statement ("fact") is just nonsensical on many levels.

Posted by Mayes 01/31/2009 at 12:23 AM

rg.nadal: regarding your question on Murray, I would think that his patience has been limited, i.e., he might be ok with 10 to 15 shots once in a while, but he loses it when someone can grind for 30 shots point after point. But then that's my opinion mostly on the old Murray. We can wait and see how he does this year.

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 12:24 AM

Entertaining read:
http://tinyurl.com/dxghwm

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 12:31 AM

Mayes: Yeah. Ma be the new version of Murray would do well on clay. Someone might come and tell him that he is a born clay-court wizard (like Harry Potter was ). Think he would do well in Paris this year, where everyone least expects him to perform. With his speed and depth, he should be able to handle the likes of Almagro, Starace, Juan Monaco etc. He can worry about Rafa,a Roger ansd Novak once he reaches the R8 stage.

Posted by VC 01/31/2009 at 12:31 AM

"I could say the same, I guess for Shanghai YEC SF 2006, which was shown on tape delay. But that match is special to me for some of the most insane hitting ever."

Thank you! I am not alone in thinking that is Federer's best ever performance against Nadal to date. I didn't watch the Rome encounter, BTW. If only Federer can bring that hardcourt game to tomorrow's match...

However, the key to that match was the ease with which Federer was returning Nadal's serve, whereas Nadal was hardly making any headway in Federer's service games. We all know that Nadal's service and overall hardcourt game have improved immeasurably since that point. What stood out even then though, that Nadal was able to give him such a stern test, on a lightning-quick surface, and with a developing hardcourt game. I doubt any player in the game has ever got more out of his skills than Nadal at any given point in his career. This is not to imply that he hasn't continuously augmented that skillset, of course.

With Federer, you almost get the impression that he is a throwback to another generation. I fell in love with his game when I first seriously followed him in Wimbledon 2004, such a refreshing, fluid, approach to a game littered with ubiquitous baseliners and grinders who were starting to make themselves unpleasant even at Wimbledon :-). Having been a Sampras fan, I couldn't get excited over the Hewitt-Nalbandian finals and the uniformity of players, in fact, I lost interest in tennis between 2002 and 2004 Wimbledon, when I first followed Federer seriously.

I'm determined to enjoy what's left of Federer's career, he has given his fans far more than they could have ever expected. He will probably be the last all-time great to have ever dominated the game with a one-handed backhand. With the new equipment, surfaces, balls and increasing reliance on power and athleticism, I just don't see anyone with a one-handed backhand dominating tennis as Federer has done.

The only area where I think Federer has fallen slightly short is that he hasn't improved his natural volleying skills as much as he could have potentially done. I was watching some highlights of the Federer-Safin 2005 encounter, and was astonished at how easy he was making some very difficult volleys look. I think the pursuit of the French Open Holy Grail has prevented him from exploring that aspect of his game. Paradoxically, if he had consciously tried to volley more often over his career, I think he would have had a better chance of beating Nadal at the French. As it is, he just isn't reliable enough at the net to rank among the great volleyers of the game, it is nowhere near as good as Edberg, Sampras or Rafter. He definitely had the tools, but to become consistent at it, you have to deploy it as part of your gameplan. He's never needed to do that to beat the rest of the tour, and he can't magically turn it on against Nadal.

Posted by mcakron 01/31/2009 at 12:41 AM

E. Thomas at 9:36 -- your Borg/Wilander comparisons to Nadal are apt .. to a point. Each was somewhat similar to Nadal -- premier clay court champions who mastered other surfaces (ok, bit of a stretch with Wilander on grass) but whose games still seemed best designed for clay right till the end. Yet I don't know if your "peak" analogy holds up. Wilander, in fact, did peak during the years HK suggested. If I'm not mistaken he was 24 in '88 when he won three of the four slams.

Moreover, I expect Nadal will stick around a bit longer than each. One of tennis's eternal mysteries will remain why Borg retired so early -- yes, I know the oft-referenced reason that Johhny Mac beat him at Wimby and the USO and Borg realized he would never again be the best but I don't know if I quite buy it. Seems a little too pat. Whereas we do know that Wilander was driven to achieve the #1 ranking but had no interest in retaining it. Thus, the rapid decline after his '88 season.

But again, I don't see Nadal retiring so early (a'la Borg) or declining so quickly (a'la Wilander). And even if he never wins another Wimbledon or never breaks thru at an HC GS, he still has Roland Garros in his back pocket. Thus, it's hard not to imagine him with seven or eight slams even if his grass and HC results never improve. And given how dominant he is at the FO even that estimate could be a mite conservative.

Posted by Andrew 01/31/2009 at 12:57 AM

Evening, all.

My daughter Cathleen and I just came back from our first father-daughter Calgary Flames game. Fun. Calgary won 3-1 (over the Nashville Predators, if anyone's interested).

Since this is an on topic post, back to the Rivalry. If any of you are doing the math out there, I have a scary stat for you: the matchup on Sunday means that we can be sure that 15 of 16 ATP GS finals since AO 2005 have been won by either Federer (9+) or Nadal (5+).

That is just insane.

The only period in Open Era tennis history that compares is an even more insane stat - between 1982 and 1985 15 straight WTA GS tournaments in a row were won by either Evert (5) or Navratilova (10). After this streak was snapped by Hana Mandlikova at the 1985 US Open, Evert would win one more GS title, Navratilova 5 more.

Arguably, Navratilova was at approximately the same stage in her career in 1985 that Federer is now. Born in 1926, she won her first GS in 1978, and lost her last major final in singles to Conchita Martinez at Wimbledon in 1994. Evert, born in 1954, is the Open Era queen of clay: she never completely dominated the WTA game in the way Navratilova would do between 1982 and 1987, but won two titles in a calendar year 5 times. Both women finished with 18 GS singles titles.

My point (and I do have one) is that betting against either Federer or Nadal winning a GS title right now in the ATP runs against a fair amount of recent history. After AO we have RG (Nadal 4 time champion, never lost on Paris clay); then Wimbledon (last three finals Federer-Nadal, last final snapped Federer 5 win streak; then USO (Federer 5 time champion, lost two sets in five finals).

Both these players could end up blowing past Sampras, if they stay healthy and motivated. It's an if. But if Nadal has cracked hard courts, and if Federer keeps making the SF stage in GS tournaments, 18 apiece could be the deal here. Would that be sweet, or what?

Posted by Syd 01/31/2009 at 12:59 AM

VC,

Lovely post. Thanks.

Posted by VC 01/31/2009 at 01:05 AM

Syd: Thank you.

Posted by Serini 01/31/2009 at 01:07 AM

Um, quick question, I saw it mentioned several times that Nadal and Verdasco played the longest match in AO history (5:13). But I remember quite clearly, in R1 or R2 this year, there was a 5:30 match (can't recall the players) and then in the R2 or R3 there was a match, I think Amer Delic was one of the players, that lasted well over 6 hours. Anyone else remembers?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 01/31/2009 at 01:08 AM

"Any of you Nadal fans who aren't air-kissing your beloved Federer fans are ingrates; you Federer fans who aren't sacrificing furry little animals before Nike posters of Nadal are clueless. It's about time y'all realized that nothing in sports is better than a great rivalry, and a great rivalry can only exist between equals - or players close enough to being equal that the differences are academic, especially when they meet."

Yes. THIS.

*back up to read the rest of the post*

Posted by lines 01/31/2009 at 01:09 AM

I think verdasco the way he playing would have beaten federer. Nadal was godly in his defense against verdasco and i dont see how fed expects to beat him if nadal continues to hit as well as he did against verdasco. Those were the most incredible rallies in tennis history and most of it was because of nadal's defensive ability to put the ball right back in the opposing corner. If hes not tired, i think he will run roger right off the court.

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 01:10 AM

jewell: Hello! Saw the whole match yesterday?

Posted by Andrew 01/31/2009 at 01:15 AM

VC: interesting post, and interesting argument. You write:

"The only area where I think Federer has fallen slightly short is that he hasn't improved his natural volleying skills as much as he could have potentially done. I was watching some highlights of the Federer-Safin 2005 encounter, and was astonished at how easy he was making some very difficult volleys look. I think the pursuit of the French Open Holy Grail has prevented him from exploring that aspect of his game. Paradoxically, if he had consciously tried to volley more often over his career, I think he would have had a better chance of beating Nadal at the French. As it is, he just isn't reliable enough at the net to rank among the great volleyers of the game, it is nowhere near as good as Edberg, Sampras or Rafter. He definitely had the tools, but to become consistent at it, you have to deploy it as part of your gameplan."

That's something we here often when the ATP TV commentators Goodall, Koenig and Adler are watching Federer matches - why doesn't he attack the net more when he's playing Nadal?

The problem is, I don't think it's just down to Federer's volleying skills. Nadal may be the best passer in the game, and the new strings hand a big advantage to the passer relative to the volleyer.

It used to be the case that the passer needed to hit a fairly narrow target on either wing - literally, to get the ball past the volleyer - to be favorite to win the point. Now, the passer can hit dipping shots which can force the volleyer to hit up, and very few players have the skills to stay in the point from that stage. One reason Federer owns Roddick is the American doesn't have soft hands at the net.

I think Federer does have superbly developed volleying skills - of the top players, Radek Stepanek may be the only better volleyer. But their volleys look (and are) less effective than their predecessors, not because they're less skilled (in my view) but because they're hitting a different ball, one which is lower, faster and spinning quicker when it gets there.

Fabrice Santoro was recently taken to the woodshed by Nadal in Doha:

"It was really impressive being on the other side of the net against Nadal," said Santoro generously.

"Now I understand why Roger Federer missed volleys playing against him, something I previously couldn't understand," he added, referring to the deceptive weight of shot which Nadal creates, rather than the speed of hitting.

http://tinyurl.com/bwaguy


What say you?

Posted by Serini 01/31/2009 at 01:17 AM

OK R1 Gilles Muller playing Feliciano Lopez, 16:14 in the 5th, but curiously, this particular match is the only one for which match statistics are not available? http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/scores/cmatch/06ms.html
I think that one was 5:30 or so

Posted by gary 01/31/2009 at 01:19 AM

linas - have you seen god playing tennis lately?
He's no match for Rafa.
(Joke - people)

Posted by Moderator 01/31/2009 at 01:23 AM

Posters have already been notified that this is an On Topic thread. Off topic comments, particularly edgy ones, will be deleted.

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 01:26 AM

How come there is no talk around about Federer getting a coach. Seems like the topic has died , since he won the 08 USO.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 01/31/2009 at 01:30 AM

Also, what Grant and jb said about the worst nightmare being to have either player injured and their career cut short. I guess lots of people felt that over Roger's mono and Rafa's knees over the end of last year.

What Sher said about it being possible to like both players.

And, I realise this makes me a 'lunatic', but I love watching Rafa's tennis - those hard, sharp backhands and huge wild forehands, the blazing spin, the smashed-down overheads, the occasional, beautifully-delicate dropshot executed from behind the baseline, the new, improved serve, the improved volleying particularly on the backhand side, whipping passing shots, and the unrelenting accuracy with which Rafa can hit the lines for improbable winners.

Also the intelligence with which he manoeuvres the other player around in a rally, and his ability to hit an amazing winner off the back foot, when it looks as if he's out of a point.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 01/31/2009 at 01:32 AM

Er...I didn't mention Roger's tennis being stunning and elegantly beautiful because it kind of goes without saying. ;)

Posted by NP 01/31/2009 at 01:32 AM

Lemme sum up the GOAT discussion so far and present the true all-time Top 10:

1) Federer
2) Federer
3) Federer
4) Federer
5) Federer
6) Nadal
7) Federer
8) Federer
9) Federer
10) Federer's clone

If Rafa wins the final tomorrow he'll move up a notch. What a Golden Era of Tennis! Now only if the powers that be weren't conspiring against the inevitable progress of these two titans.

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 01:33 AM

Rafa is special, like no other. I became a RAFAKAD the first time i saw him play. Also clay is my favourite surface and FO is my favourite tournament and the fact that he does well there helps too.

Posted by crazyone 01/31/2009 at 01:34 AM

rg.nadal...because it's probably not going to happen.

Posted by NP 01/31/2009 at 01:37 AM

Serini, the Muller-Feli R1 match was indeed declared the longest match in AO history, but that was due to a timekeeping error. Rafa-Nando is the official longest AO match ever.

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 01:38 AM

crazyone: Sorry, but I don't understand. What wouldn't happen?

Posted by gary 01/31/2009 at 01:42 AM

NP@1:32AM
Truer words words were never spoken.

Posted by crazyone 01/31/2009 at 01:46 AM

rg.nadal: sorry to be unclear. I don't think Federer will get a coach any time soon, so that event (Federer naming a coach) is probably not going to happen.

Posted by NP 01/31/2009 at 01:47 AM

Thx, gary.

Posted by VC 01/31/2009 at 01:50 AM

Andrew:

That's interesting, probably volleying has just gotten harder, period. Fabrice has played with Sampras's generation, so I guess he knows a good volleyer when he sees one. And yes, probably no one in the game has ever imparted more spin to the ball than Nadal does. Even Federer's no slouch when it comes to that whipped topspin forehand, is he?

Has the equipment made it easier to hit impossible dipping passes from unbelievable angles? I don't know, maybe Nadal would have done it anyway, regardless of equipment. In a parallel universe, Federer might have retooled his game after the French Open 05-06 losses, to consciously try and finish more points at the net. Would it have made a difference in their subsequent encounters if Federer trusted that part of his game more? Maybe not, Nadal is a freakishly good passer. But we'll never know, will we? I didn't watch the Rome 2006 final, but the stats indicated that Federer volleyed very frequently in that match, with a high percentage of success. Maybe it could have given him that extra option, just a little bit extra to make the difference. It certainly would have come in handy at last year's Wimbledon final.

I still believe a great volleyer is the hardest challenge for baseliners to overcome, because of the continuous pressure he puts them under to make the eye-of-the-needle pass over and over again. That kind of relentless pressure can wear even the best down. Even on a slow surface like Roland Garros, I remember Tim Henman giving absolute fits to Coria in a semifinal encounter, at a time when Coria was one of the best claycourters in the world.

Think of Federer continuously mixing things up, not letting Nadal camp out in that forehand corner hitting the crosscourt topspin to his backhand. The match-up might have played out differently if Federer had refused to give him any rhythm whatsoever. It's all speculation, but we'll never know, will we?

Having said that, in last year's Wimbledon final (and the one before that), I don't remember Nadal winning most of his points by simply pounding Federer's backhand and breaking it down eventually. He constructed and finished off many brilliant points of his own, which shows how much he's improved. Maybe the earlier version of Nadal could have fallen to those tactics, and Federer might have sneaked his French Open if he'd tried that.

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 01:50 AM

crazyone: Ah ok. May be for the FO he would bring back Hose H.

Posted by crazyone 01/31/2009 at 01:53 AM

rg.nadal: Jose Higueras has been named in charge of young player development for the USTA, which is why he and Federer terminated their arrangement. So he will not be returning as Fed's coach.


Posted by Mayes 01/31/2009 at 01:56 AM

Andrew, did you write up there that Martina Navratilova was born in 1926? She cannot be that old, else she would be like the Queen of UK. (remember, she won USO mixed doubles in 2006?)

The analogy though, sounds pretty refreshing.

Posted by VC 01/31/2009 at 01:56 AM

BTW, Andrew, I read this site regularly (OK, only during Grand Slams :-)), but don't post that often. I always look out for your posts, as they give me the most reliable barometer of where Federer's game is at. You analyze the game very objectively, from a Federer fan's point of view, and your thoughts are always beautifully reasoned.

Posted by gary 01/31/2009 at 01:58 AM

Jose may be a great coach for some, but I don't think he made
Fed any better.

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 01:59 AM

crazyone: ah ah. That slipped my mind. Thank you.

Posted by Mayes 01/31/2009 at 02:01 AM

gary: that's the thing on any potential coaches' mind - how can they ever prove that they made Roger better - for that even the best in the business hesitates to even consider coaching Federer.

Posted by Andrew 01/31/2009 at 02:07 AM

Mayes: egad. Oops. I meant 1956. Navratilova was 28 in 1985 - she began her dominant period in 1982 when she was 25, some years later than Federer's run of dominance.

When discussions run into GOAT territory, I sometimes suppress a smile, because how anyone leaves Navratilova or Graf out of the discussion is beyond me.

VC: thanks for the kind words. I try to be an objective partisan. I think Pete's original post beautifully encapsulated a deep truth: if you're a Federer (or Nadal) fan, you have to want these kind of matches. A sweeping aside of Del Potro isn't satisfying, and a dismissal of Almagro (RG QF 2008) ought to feel the same to Nadal fans. Instead of "why does it have to be him," let it be "let it be him."

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 02:12 AM

"A sweeping aside of Del Potro isn't satisfying, and a dismissal of Almagro (RG QF 2008) ought to feel the same to Nadal fans. Instead of "why does it have to be him," let it be "let it be him."

Andrew, you are right there.But sometimes it is impossible to think what each would have achieved if the other was not so dominant.

Posted by gary 01/31/2009 at 02:13 AM

Mayes - I woundn't have made that statement if Roger had won RG. He didn't. Period.

Posted by just a note 01/31/2009 at 02:14 AM

Andrew - I enjoy reading whatever you have to say about tennis and second VC's opinion. And I know 1926 was a typo - 1956 being the year Martina was born. But I do agree with Mayes that were it 1926 she would be "Queen of the UK".;)))

jan

Posted by VC 01/31/2009 at 02:15 AM

Andrew: Unfortunately, I can't say I personally look forward to their encounters. Too much pain :-)

That doesn't stop me from acknowledging Nadal's greatness, though.

Posted by Andrew 01/31/2009 at 02:15 AM

On the coach thingie (then I have to call it a night) - I think I'd go to church and light a candle for the first time in 35 years if I read that Federer had engaged a top flight coach and said what Roddick said to Stefanki:

Q. You've learned a lot from a lot of different coaches. Larry comes in. Is it you who are asking questions or him saying this is what I think you needed to?

ANDY RODDICK: No, I didn't want to. I said, Listen, I'm hiring you to be the boss. Whatever you tell me to do I'm going to do. I don't have a problem with that, and I haven't had a problem with that. I think he was a little bit surprised that I was ‑‑ and I said, It's your show. Just let me know what I need to do.

http://tinyurl.com/blpkte

I honestly can't imagine Federer ever making as humble a statement as that to a coach, but it just might, just might, be something he'd later feel happy he had said.

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 02:18 AM

@ 2.12 : I meant to type "impossible to not think what .."

Posted by rg.nadal (Vamos RAfa!) 01/31/2009 at 02:23 AM

Ciao, Twibe. Enjoy the match. Got to go. :-)

Posted by Sherlock 01/31/2009 at 02:28 AM

Is anyone else tired of talking about this already?

Grant and CL, hope you don't go away. Grant, all your posts on this one were gold, but especially your 8:05.

"To the lame Fed and Nadal fans (and i suspect you do not know who you are): hope you have a power outage and miss it."

I so second that emotion. :)

Life's too short to argue. A week from now, a year from now, five years from now, we'll be wishing we had this moment back again.

Posted by Syd 01/31/2009 at 02:29 AM

"I honestly can't imagine Federer ever making as humble a statement as that to a coach"

Not at this stage of his career I can't.

I've often thought of Federer and his statement about centre court Wimbledon when he said he knows it "like the back of my hand". Probably Federer knows more about winning at SW19, in today's game, than anyone alive; so it's a tough decision for Federer to decide to take on a full time coach. The part timers, have either not worked to anyone's satisfaction (Roche) or have been of such short duration (Hingeras) that they're hardly worth talking about. Essentially he's been on his own since 2003.

Posted by Syd 01/31/2009 at 02:34 AM

spelling: "Higueras"

Posted by gary 01/31/2009 at 02:40 AM

Oh, how I miss the good old days When the Women's final was played at 1PM Aussie time. (Prime time Fri. night in the States).
But no, the spent millions of dollars to build a air-conditioned arena so they could play it at -
NIGHT.
Oh well, nite all.
May the best lady win.

Posted by Genuine Realist 01/31/2009 at 03:01 AM

This GOAT thing, originally begun to generate interest in the game, has taken a life of its own. So has the rivalry.

I am looking forward to the match, but also looking forward to the not-so-distant day when Murray, Verdasco, DelPotro, Djokovic, Gulbis, and others blow this two-man show off the map.

Posted by Master Ace 01/31/2009 at 03:18 AM

The poll on the home page has Rafael winning tomorrow at 53% with over 6,000 votes casted.

Posted by Master Ace 01/31/2009 at 03:19 AM

Meant to say Rafael winning in 3 sets at 53%. Overall, Federer winning at approx 33%

Posted by Rosangel 01/31/2009 at 03:41 AM

After I hit "post", I knew some people wouldn't agree - I'm not going to argue with them. Though I will say that I don't see how Rafa has "tarnished" Federer's legacy. The competition is what it is, and stronger competition is surely a validation rather than a tarnishing factor? The best Wimbledon victory achieved by Federer was (in my book) that in 2007.

Posted by Christina 01/31/2009 at 03:46 AM

You calling Nadal unintellectual? HA! You should be working in a Burger King somewhere instead of writting a column. You are full of prejudice and ignorance.

You are basing Nadal´s intelligence on his lack of command in English. I´ll let you know that in Spanish he comes across as a very intelligent young man. I´d love to see you trying to express yourself in a foreign language.

Posted by Rosangel 01/31/2009 at 03:54 AM

HK: thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

Posted by BackHandLob 01/31/2009 at 03:56 AM

I believe a great player's h2h record against his/her main rivals is an important criteria for goat discussion. A simple example would be to compare Bjorn Borg and John Mcenroe. Borg won 11 slam titles and Mcenroe won 7. However Mcenroe won the last two grand slam finals that they played and become no.1 in the world. Borg retired soon afterwards(Borg was 26). Therefore It can be argued that Mcenroe was actually a better player than Borg even if it does not look that way when you look at their slam counts. The same can be said of Nadal and Federer. If the Nadal-Federer h2h continues to be lopsided in the manner it is now, Nadal must be considered the better player even if his grand slam tally does not come anywhere close to Federer's

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa for AO 2009!!! 01/31/2009 at 03:58 AM

I think Pete was making a distinction between 'intellectual' and 'intelligent'.

In other words, he wasn't trying to say Nadal was unintelligent. (I hope...)

Er...I forgot to mention Rafa's beautiful backhand slice with the wicked bounces. I love that one, too. ;)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa for AO 2009!!! 01/31/2009 at 03:59 AM

also I forgot to say, I really appreciated your posts on this, VC and Andrew. :)

Posted by Marian aka Mr. Sparkles 01/31/2009 at 04:25 AM

Word Joe 01/30/2009 @ 11:47 PM, VC and Jewell!!!

Even more so Christina 01/31/2009 @ 3:46 AM lol

As for Tim, he's just a trouble maker, always picking on Nadal.

Ed.Thomas, so all you need is 15 minutes on the court to do what Rafa does? Hmm, maybe you can teach Fedex then eh from your lazy boy chair?

Andrew: Yes the discussion on volleys is pretty common (myself I don't think that Roger is exceptionally good at them though, but VC answered you in more detail) and I happen to agree with you that Federer needs a coach but he's probably too stubborn to admit it. Actually a joke I make very often is that there are only 2 advanced players in the world that don't need a coach anymore: one being Fedex and the other a friend (I'm speaking tongue in cheek for both).

Posted by VC 01/31/2009 at 05:08 AM

Maybe the time has arrived for the ladies to play best of 5.

Posted by Beckham 01/31/2009 at 05:09 AM

Andrew: can we please not mention the Fed and coach??? It makes Beckham all kinds of crazy, I've been campigning for a coach since 06 and it's 09 still not one in sight...Roger's game has not improved since 06, if anything, the FH and volleys got "lazy"...

My dream is for the Fed to get a great coach like Andy and actually listen to what said coach says...but this is the Fed that got his DC captain fired as a teenager, I'm not holding my breath...

I find it really mind boggling that he refuses to get a coach to improve his game, no one can argue, he's a real hardworker, what I don't understand is why a coach doesn't figure in the equation??? I will never understand it...

Posted by felizjulianidad 01/31/2009 at 05:12 AM

C'mon people, doesn't anyone remember the Chennai '08 final (6-0, 6-1 loss to Youhzny), US Open '07 R16 (four set loss to Ferrer, with Nadal ending up crumpled on his knees), US Open '08 SF (empty four-set loss to Murray), Madrid and Paris-Bercy '07 (absolute demolition against Nalbandián)?

Nadal can be absolutely ridiculed when he's run out of steam on a hard court.

Nadal can lose plenty of times on a hard court, but there's a huge difference between him being outplayed (AO '08 SF loss to Tsonga, Dubai 08 QF loss to Roddick) and him simply not having the capacity to carry out his game anymore.

Nadal's loss to Federer in Hamburg is an example of how it can even happen on clay.

I may note that it's more a matter of psychological exhaustion than physical. When Nadal is injured, he retires (Paris-Bercy QF '08 vs Davydenko). When he's tired but able, even if hurting, he hangs in there and gets beat badly. Most importantly, he just deflates, and loses the resolve to chance down balls and hit his forehands deep into the opponent's court.

If that's the Nadal that shows up on Sunday, it'll be straight sets for Federer--and he'll only have to win 18 games, at that.

However, if Nadal has anything left in the tank, that may (combined with Federer's jittery nerves when he plays Nadal) be enough to make it a tough four-five setter.

Posted by felizjulianidad 01/31/2009 at 05:16 AM

Christina, I agree that Bodo's characterisation of Nadal as a charming, genial, rustic diamond-in-the-rough with a visceral, instinctive, unconscious form of greatness is silly, condescending and flat out inaccurate.

Just so you know, Bodo wasn't born in the US, but tennis aside, he's got conservative America screaming all over him.

Nadal is not an "idea" person--I'd wager a lot of money (if I have any left...) that he's an S and not an N on the MBTI model. That being said, he's articulate in Spanish, which is his second language (by the way, for anyone who thinks it's Catalan, please refer to the latest El País interview where he says it's Mallorquí). He doesn't have Federer's talent for languages, but neither does Peter Bodo or most Anglophones in general. It's not easy to compete with a non-nation state confederacy with four official languages, three of which have over 50 million speakers each residing next door.

Posted by melvel 01/31/2009 at 06:07 AM

Where was that picture of Nadal and Federer taken?

Posted by banti 01/31/2009 at 06:29 AM

Picture is from the US open children's day event. Federer said when asked about winning the open the following week, that he will do his best but someone may have something to say about it, and smiled/laughed at Rafa.

Posted by temsu jamir 01/31/2009 at 06:33 AM

YOU KNOW GUYS FOR ALL THE TALK OF WHO THE GREATEST PLAYER EVER IS IN TENNIS.. I JUST BELIEVE THAT BY THE END OF NADAL'S CAREER(AS HE HAS MANY MORE YEARS OF TOP CLASS TENNIS LEFT IN HIM) NADAL WILL BE REGARDED AS THE GREATEST THERE EVER LIVED .... AND WHAT WILL ADD MORE VALUE TO THE ARGUMENT WILL BE THE FACT THAT HE DOMINATED ROGER ( WHO IS CONSIDERED TO BE THE GREATEST EVER BY MANY) ON ALL SURFACES WHEN ROGER WAS PLAYING IN HIS PRIME FORM(NADAL HAD TO BEAT ROGER IN ALL HIS FIVE GRAND-SLAM VICTORIES, FOUR IN FINALS AND ONCE IN SEMIS.. PHEW WHAT A TASK ANW WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT).......... SO I GUESS WE JUST HAVE TO WAIT FOR THEIR CAREERS TO GET OVER BEFORE EVEN STARTING TO DEBATE ABOUT WHO THE GREATEST PLAYER OF TENNIS EVER IS...

Posted by memeyyyy 01/31/2009 at 06:38 AM

nadal is good.. but his game is boring to watch...endless topspin from 3-4 meter behind the baseline..just defend defend defend waiting for opponent to make a mistake..same as murray..bowwwrringg...

Posted by TEMSU JAMIR 01/31/2009 at 07:01 AM

HEY CALLING NADAL UNINTELLECTUAL BECAUSE HE CANNOT EXPRESS HIMSELF WELL IN HIS THIRD OR FOURTH LANGUAGE IS REDICULOUS. NADAL DID NOT TAKE MAJORS IN LINGUISTICS OF THE WORLD... HE IS A TENNIS PLAYER BY PROFESSION AND IS THE NO.1 IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD AT IT, WHICH SHOWS HIS INTELLIGENCE BECAUSE WITHOUT IT NO ONE WILL BE ANYONE IN THIS WORLD..... SO ANYONE TALKING OF NADALS LACK OF INTELLIGENCE SHOULD BE MADE TO HOLD A TENNIS RACKET AND PUT IN THE COURT AGAINST HIM AND SEE HOW THEY LOOK OR MAY BE CHRISTINA WE SHOULD MAKE THEM EXPRESS THEIR INTELLIGENCE IN A NATIVE INDEGINOUS SOUTH AMERICAN AMAZON LANGUAGE AND SEE HOW THEY SOUND.... HA HA HA HA

Posted by Edwin in Dubai 01/31/2009 at 07:07 AM

Whether we like it or not, Nadal and Federer's destinies are intertwined. Nadal standing up to Federer's quest for a Career Slam and Federer blocking Nadal's ascendancy to hard court supremacy.

As for the match-up on Sunday, it is going to be a titatic battle.
Nadal has 1.5 days to recover. I don't think the emotional and physical drain he had against Verdasco will have an effect on Sunday. Federer's 2 days off will also factor in. Two days without competitive tennis is not a good thing in sports that also relies on momentum. Nadal wants his first HC Slam much as Federer wants a historic Slam No. 14. Both players will be hungry. Whoever shows up with his grit and determination on Sunday will be the victor.

Vamos Rafa!

Posted by 01/31/2009 at 07:10 AM

Congratulations Mike and Bob. It was an amazing comeback from a 1st set drubbing! Sorry for this unrelated post :-)

Posted by Edwin in Dubai 01/31/2009 at 07:13 AM

Nadal is a smart aleck. 4 Roland Garros, 1 Wimbledon (+ 2 runners-up), and SFs in USO and AO (and final now - and maybe a title) and a Worl No. 1 Ranking are enough proof. Nadal-haters: shut up and be thankful for the gods of tennis.

Posted by TEMSU JAMIR 01/31/2009 at 07:26 AM

PEOPLE MAY CALL NADAL'S PLAY WHATEVER THEY WANT BUT ONE THING IS CLEAR.. HE IS A BRILLIANT TACTICIAN. IF HE WAS AN ARMY COMMANDER HE WILL RARELY LOOSE A WAR.. HE KNOWS WHEN TO PLAY OFFENSIVE AND WHEN TO PLAY DEFENSIVE. WHAT TACTICS TO USE AGAINST WHOM ( SEE THE DIFFERENCE OF PLAY AGAINST TOMMY HASS WHERE HE PLAYED AGRESSIVE TENNIS AND AGAINST SIMON & VERDASCO WHERE HE HAD TO BE MORE CAREFUL WHERE HE PUTS THE BALL) ONE CANNOT PLAY THE SAME GAME AGAINST ALL PLAYERS AND COME UP WITH POSITIVE RESULTS. ONE HAS TO ANNALISE THE OPPONENT'S STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS AND PLAY ACCORDINGLY.THAT IS WHERE HE IS WAY AHEAD OF OTHERS AND WITH ALL ARSENALS AND WEAPONS READY IN HIS BAGS NADAL CAN EXECUTE HIS PLANS PERFECTLY . ADD TO THAT AN ICE-COLD MIND OF STEEL DETERMINATION WE GET IN NADAL THE PERFECT EXAMPLE OF THE PERFECT WARRIOR(EXTRAORDINARILY GIFTED IN BOTH MENTAL AND PHYSICAL SKILLS DEPARTMENT).

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 01/31/2009 at 07:40 AM

Those capital letters hurt my ears. ;)

I forgot to mention Nadal's charging, exhilarating movement around the court as, er, yet another thing I love about him. :) It's not like Roger's - but similar, as a thing to watch and admire in itself.

Posted by Kartz 01/31/2009 at 07:42 AM

One of the best I have read of you, kind sir... I grew up idolizing Pistol Pete and today, I am in awe of the artist and the warrior.

Kudos, Mr. Bodo. Let's hope for another surreal display of gamesmanship from these two.

Peace. Have a great weekend.

---
I would like to share one of my articles on this rivalry. It would be a pleasure to have you read it.

http://kartzonline.blogspot.com/2008/10/dazzling-panoply-of-rivalry_13.html

Peace.

Posted by temsu jamir 01/31/2009 at 08:23 AM

pardon me jewell......... just wanted to make a firm statement... hope it was loud enough...... ha ha ha..

Posted by temsu jamir 01/31/2009 at 08:39 AM

tennisfan65 if the eligance and movement of ROGER in the court is compared to a swan or a peacock dancing then the movement of NADAL is like that of a hunting lion.. cool, strong and very tactical. so one cannot compare between the two but can choose to like whichever they want... the lion or the peacock/swan dance.. its your call..:)

Posted by Vincent 01/31/2009 at 08:50 AM

Very good questions Matt. I like your quiz, and I will answer...

1. What defines a classic, top-tier, best-of-the-best rivalry?

A top-tier rivalry is when two players can produce their best game against one another.

2. What is the rare element that separates merely good rivalries from the very best ones?

When at the end of a match, you feel elevated and admirative of both players. When there are two winners and not one devastated loser. E.g. Agassi-Sampras 2002.


3. When considering the "impact upon a career" angle, does the impact need to be positive more than negative? Defined by presence more than absence? Prime year periods versus non-prime periods?

The impact has to be neutral. The best player has to win.

4. What shifts in surface-specific and overall records (if any) would make you re-calibrate your assessment of Roger-Rafa, whatever that assessment might currently be?

No shift. Records shouldn't come into play when analyzing Roger or Rafa's career. In fact, I'd argue records should have a lot less place in tennis than they have now.

5. The greater achievement: Fed making 3 straight French finals while cleaning up on hardcourts, or Rafa cleaning up in France while steadily rising on hardcourts at a still-young 22?

None of the above. The only things you should strive to achieve in tennis is to play beautifully, even if you never reach a GS final.

6. The greater weakness: Fed getting his butt kicked by Rafa in Paris, or Rafa not making HC slam finals before this Aussie Open?

Rafa not making HC finals, because, unlike Federer, it is the result of a game woefully inadequate to hardcourts.

7. 2008 Wimbledon: Did it stand out more for Fed's fightback, or for Nadal's unreal resilience in the fifth set? For the rain that blunted Nadal's momentum, or for the light that affected both players at the end?

It stood out for the fact that it was an exceptionally gruelling, monotonous, tense match, albeit played with very few errors, at least for Nadal.


8. Rafa's brief injury scare in the fourth set of the 2007 Wimby final? Significant in connection to the outcome of that match, or not?

No. There is almost an injury scare for each tournament Nadal plays (Hamburg 2007, US Open 2007, Wimbledon 2008, Paris 2008, etc.). In that sense, it was nothing out of the ordinary, except for the circumstances.

9. The 2008 French: How much should history judge "6-1, 6-3, 6-0" in favor of Rafa and against Fed?

As the victory of a nearly impregnable style based on athleticism and a few basic weapons. If, of course, enough people can muster the courage to watch this exceptionally boring and unimaginative match. At least it's short.

10. The better stat: Fed's 10 straight slam finals or Rafa's 28-0 record at Roland Garros?

None of the above. Stats shouldn't matter so much in tennis.

11. The better stat: Fed's 56-match hardcourt steak or Nadal's 81 on clay?

I'd tend to repeat the same answer. However, in this particular case, it should be Fed's 56-match streak, because he simply played more entertaining tennis and had tougher opponents on this surface.

12. How much would a different outcome in Rome 2006 have affected your perception of these men?

Not much. My perception of these men are based on their games.

13. Scheduling issues: this match, the 2008 US Open semis, the 2007 Wimby final. How much do they matter?

They don't matter. I never heard someone complain about scheduling issues until Nadal came on tour.

14. Compare: 2004 Roddick and Hewitt v. 2008-'09 Djokovic and Murray.

Murray is undoubtedly more talented and versatile than both. Djokovic has a more offensive mindset than Hewitt. Both are younger and will have better careers. However, Roddick and Hewitt were better competitors and could deliver when it mattered. Roddick was a better grass court player on the old grass.

15. Which slams offer the truest tests? Which slams are more aberrational? Should they all be accorded the same weight?

RG is the most physical, but rarely produces interesting matches. US Open usually produces the best games. Wimbledon has become an aberration since they slowed the grass and doesn't have any special meaning anymore. All in all, surfaces should be more, not less, different, in order to force players to adapt their games to the surface.

16. The draws both men have slashed through on their paths to their combined 18 slam titles---discuss....

Depends. Got to give the advantage to Federer. HC matches are inherently more dangerous, and there are more players who can play on it.

17. The best accomplishment of each player is?????????

Federer : each perfect forehand he ever smacked on a court.
Nadal : having good stats.

18. The biggest hole/gap in each player's resume is??????????

I don't judge players based on resume. I don't think we can talk about holes or gaps.

19. What represents the height of professional tennis and, by extension, sport? The ability to win competitions (matches/tournaments), the maximizing of one's potential relative to one's ability, or the fullness and impressiveness with which one wins (otherwise known as STYLE POINTS/AESTHETICS)?

Producing the most rounded, complete game, achieving perfection in technic, dominating matches, extending the boundaries of the possible. Being inspiring.

20. Outside of Grand Slam titles, the second most important measurement of an elite tennis career is????? (Be precise about this.)

The number of unforgettable matches you were involved in. The best tennis you ever played. Sampras-Agassi 1999.

Posted by Kofi 01/31/2009 at 08:53 AM

Thanks Pete. Just the kind of post I needed today.

crazy: Imo, no contradiction in Fed GOAT and Nadal beating him. You can win the Tour de France without winning one single day (leg?). You can win the league after losing all your matches with your immediate competitors. Nadal could be not only a clay specialist, but a Fed specialist too, which would not make him better than Fed as a whole. (Not saying he is any of those.)

Unless he gets more grand slams than him by the end of his career, including HC ones, which is still possible.

My prediction for tomorrow: Fed in 4.

Posted by sri 01/31/2009 at 09:03 AM

I am federer fan and always want federer to win. I always thought Federer the GOAT. But when Nadal beat hin in wimbledon and holds winning record against Fed, it is hard to convince myself that FED is the GOAT. How many Majors did Fed have at Nadal's age ? IF nadal wins tomorrow, he will be the GOAT in my book

Posted by Jean 01/31/2009 at 09:08 AM

Many of You commentators are strange. Or it seems some of You have not hold the racket. Those two: Nadal and Federer are the BEST nowadays players in the world. Some say strange things like: that's only Rafa's spinning FH against Roger's BH. Or that Rafa is just defending - it's kind of not interesting tennis. Yeah, Rafa is defending, but why??? Because other players have understood: otherwise it is impossible to win Rafa, but just attacking. And if some of the critics would be keen, then You would have noticed that Rafa keeps the defense, until the attacker a bit stops his attack and gives a shorter or weaker ball, then all of a sudden Rafa attacks with a low ball over the net and very, very precise one.
Psychologically, the thing that gives the mental winning factor are the winning of the long runs - when each hit the ball 10-15 times. So: can You hold the ball longer than Your opponent, attacking without putting the ball into net or outside the court? After 5 long series of attacking but loosing the point, a player WILL become inconfident of himself.
But playing a "regular" tennis is dangerous with Rafa, because then he starts putting so many short-wide balls, that the opponent breaks down...
Will Federer be stable and strong enough as to keep on with the long rallies with Rafa? He is one of the few who could do that, but will he mentally ready for that????

Posted by ebh 01/31/2009 at 09:13 AM

Vincent-

I can see you don't really appreciate tennis, just a certain style of tennis. That is fair, but jeez, give Nadal some credit. You make it sound like being good on clay is a bad thing and that Nadal has no game for HCs. Nadal has done very well on HCs. Federer has done better and Novak, but that is it.

Also, can someone please point me to the data that says Wimbledon grass is slower these days? And that courts are generally slower?

Posted by HK 01/31/2009 at 09:40 AM

Sher and E. Thomas are right that Rafa is a very early bloomer. He was very good very young and in that he is like Borg/Wilander. But, I feel his best years when looking at his own career will probably be the 2-3 year window that started last year. Borg did win his first French quite early (1974?). But, arguably his best years were around 78-80 when he was in his lower 20s. Wilander also burst on the scene quite dramatically. He won the French at 17. And he beat McEnroe in '83 even on grass if I am not mistaken at 18. But, his level of play probably peaked in 1988 when he got to no. 1 when he was 23/24.

So, I think there are exceptions with these early bloomers where players from two different mini-generations have a very legitimate rivalry (say Lendl vs Edberg/Becker/Wilander). But, it seems to me that when each player hits his absolute peak is roughly in the early 20s barring injuries etc. In that sense, 2 players five years apart may have a fantastic rivalry. But, their best years don't overlap as well as players who are closer to each other in age. Again, this is a general observation and there are bound to be exceptions I suppose.

With Federer, I feel he is definitely past his prime physically. But, the question is how gracefully will he decline. All indications seem to be that he is doing it quite gently. Andrew had posted here or somewhere else that Federer seems a hair slower than 3 years ago. I concur completely. He may be fast occasionally. But, his performance during a match and especially during a tournament seems a lot more uneven these days. This is what seems to hurt him most when he plays Nadal and even others, Djokovic/Murray etc. He has these periods where the unforced errors flow. Nadal on the other hand seems to be even sharper than he was a couple of years ago. It is amazing how few errors he makes.

Posted by ComebackJustine 01/31/2009 at 09:45 AM

So far - not one of the great pairings you mention would be what I call 'rivalries.'

Though Pete and Andre met in only 5 finals, they did meet a slew of times in semis and quarters (mostly due to Andre's ranking fluctuations). Some very great matches in that mix, but Pete clearly had Andre's number when it counted.

Martina and Chrissie seemed to be in every final for the better part of a decade. Again, while there were a few great matches in that time, Martina had pretty lopsided success against Chrissie.

Time will tell - but so far Rafa owns Roger in anything of significance. Most of Fed's wins against Rafa have come in lesser tournaments, and a few from when Rafa was still in diapers. Admittedly, some of their matches have been among the best - and I hope for more of those. But to this point in time, it's Rafa's show - and Roger is a spectator.

All that being said, these are as close to 'rivalries' as tennis has had, I suppose - not withstanding Borg/McEnroe, McEnroe/Connors, Becker/Edberg, Graf/Seles and a few others. I just think a rivalry means somewhat of a level playing field - and most of these have been pretty lopsided in reality.

Posted by Flyer 01/31/2009 at 09:55 AM

I have a great deal of trepidation when I consider Roger's prospects for winning the AO title tomorrow.

My anxiety level is so high because the desired result of seeing Roger claim his 14th Slam title is so great.

The wish to see Rog triumphant coupled with the added pressure of beating Nadal, the current #1 player in the world who has had an exemplary tournament so far, has engendered more nervous angst than I felt prior to the Wimbly 2008 final.

The multi and conflicting emotions swirling thru any contemplation of the coming final is exhausting me before the first ball has even been struck.

Yet, intermingled with all this hope, angst and pent-up excitement, is a hard knot of anger at the repeated innuendo or outright assertion that Nadal will be at a disadvantage in the match due to the long and demanding Semi he played.

Roger played a tough, taxing, 2 sets down, 5 setter and had to come back with the same time off to play his quarter final match as Nadal has for the final.

His performance during that quarter final - was - spectacular - and apparently expected as no one, certainly none of the commentators, once stated Roger might be too spent to perform up to standard against Del Potro.

So why all the hand holding for Nadal - the younger competitor?

These types of negative comments do neither player justice, and shows a decided bias against Federer. It is distasteful in the extreme.

The two Titians of tennis will come to play - and I hope with every fiber of my being that after the dust settles and the last ball has been struck, Roger Federer stands as the winner in a decisive, brilliant performance reflective of the great champion he is.

GO ROGER - Claim that 14th GS Title and hold that trophy high!

Posted by Comback Justine 01/31/2009 at 10:00 AM

All you Fed fans are such cry babies !!

It's ALWAYS about how Roger didn't play his best, he didn't have a good day, he's past his prime and the younger guy has better legs -- all that bullshit.

News alert -- that's Tennis !!!

Roger is far from past his prime. If I remember correctly, while he didn't win as much as when younger, the great Pete Sampras was able to suck it up and dispatch a slew of fresh-legged teeny-boppers on his way to his last couple of Majors. That's studly, and that's why Pete is still the best of all time.

Every Fed fan alwasy has an excuse for why their guy loses to Nadal. The numbers don't lie over time, over surfaces, conditions, moments and opportunities -- Nadal is the better player - hands down.

Sure, Fed is prettier - but winning tennis, X's and O's is about getting the 'W' -- and Nadal has Fed's number in that department. Jimmy Connors had no serve - an ugly, clumpy, unorthodox game - and he still has the most tournament W's to date. Connors was out there whipping young ass at 38, Andre was doing it at 35 -- so please, please - quit your crying over Fed being past his prime, not playing his best.

The best play their best when it's needed. If Fed can't do that - then he's not the best -- it's that simple.

Posted by david 01/31/2009 at 10:12 AM

To everyone,
last year, Fed have suffer a virus infection which been hospitalized quite fluently in US (so let us put an end for his last year performance and it is such a bonus when he still won the USO)
if Fed played what his playing in those 2 match (QF&SM), he can completely destroy Nad... that's why till today, still don't have any current players can play as genius as Fed (as commented by officer-Australia Open Commentator).. it is very depended to Fed how he going to maintain the top form.. by the way i am not both player's friend. just the QF&SF have clearly tell us what will happen in Final (if Fed still playing as good as that). of course i already put my $ on Fed.

Posted by roddickluvr 01/31/2009 at 10:13 AM

YEAH.... IT IS PRETTY SAD HOW MANY SLAMS ANDY RODDICK WOULD'VE WON... if fed and rafa werent in the pic, he would've had 3 or 4 wimbledons atleast 2 us opens and maybe an australian!!! thats about 7 slams and he would be an all time great! But, sadly, thats not the reality, and he takes that in stride.

Posted by TennisAddict92 01/31/2009 at 10:21 AM

I don't think Nadal will be too tired for the match. He wont show any signs of fatigue. I mean come on, it's Rafa. But I just think Fed is better on hardcourts now. Fed will bring his A game, but Nadal will play well too.
Final Score: Fed wins 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5

Posted by mcakron 01/31/2009 at 10:39 AM

Tennisaddict92 -- my predictions as well, though I'll say Rafa takes the second set as opposed to the third. Seventeen hours and counting, folks.

Posted by mcakron 01/31/2009 at 10:42 AM

Oh, but I'll say it's Fed's A-/B+ game, which I've argued is really his new A game, which will be enough for a convincing victory.

Posted by felizjulianidad 01/31/2009 at 10:47 AM

Ebh, there was a graphic display in Wimbledon '08 which showed how serves skid less and bounce higher.

That would explain why Roddick doesn't get as far as he used to, but I don't think that many other servers have been too affected by it.

Federer, as has been pointed out, is no top-spin slouch. And his serve has looked simply formidable at Wimbledon; he punished Nadal terribly in '07 and '08 that way (I didn'get to watch '06).

Ignore Vincent.

As ebh said, Federer and Djokovic are better hard court players than Nadal, but compare Nadal to other hard court specialists, and you will see that his performance is nothing to scoff at. When we think of hard court specialists such as Blake, Tsonga, Youhzny etc, their best achievements were GS SFs or Fs, but never winning one. Nadal has matched the F, reached two other SFs, won at least three Masters Series on HC, beaten Federer on HC twice and gone the distance with him on another occasion, beaten Djokovic at least three times on HC and winning a gold medal on the surface, etc. Nadal would still be a Top 5 player without his clay court points.

Roddick has achieved more on hard courts than Nadal has, but his path to the USO 2003 was hardly impressive. Ferrero was toast in the finals, having dusted Agassi and Hewitt enroute to it, and has shown that he's probably the least capable player in the Top 100 to handle Roddick's serve. I've NEVER seen a player that unable to deal with it. That much was a tremendous displayer of brute power from Roddick, and a sure that Ferrero, while capable of producing awesome tennis, was not a true competitor.

Posted by felizjulianidad 01/31/2009 at 10:50 AM

Alias, that's factually incorrect.

Nadal's off-clay record against Federer is a losing 3-5, not 1-5.

Federer will probably increase that tomorrow to 3-6, though.

Posted by Leo Von 01/31/2009 at 10:57 AM

Well Muhammad Ali had some difficulty with Smokin Joe Frazier before but still he's "The Greatest". Guess die hard fans of you know who, knows what I mean.

Posted by onServe 01/31/2009 at 10:59 AM

If you want to compare which one of these two is greater, just look at who has accomplished more in the sport. Nadal has nothing on Federer there. One day he may surpass him, but he hasn't yet, no matter how many times he's beaten Fed. It'll take a lot more out of that kid for him to even compare to Fed. And as for being labeled the GOAT, Nadal isn't in the running for that just because he's the one guy making the most trouble for the guy who might end up being the GOAT. I don't see Nadal having more than a year at that top ranking to gloat about.

Posted by Moderator 01/31/2009 at 11:02 AM

felizjulianidad: by all means, feel free to disagree with other posters. Please don't cross the line into berating, though. I've taken down your 10:34 response to Vincent.

Posted by TennisAddict92 01/31/2009 at 11:02 AM

So many people are saying how Fed can't be the GOAT b/c Nadal is better, but Fed I would say is a better HC player and pretty even on grass. Nadal is just better on clay. And, everyong seems to forget 2004-2007 when Fed was the most dominate player the game has ever seen. Fed is definitely the GOAT.

Posted by temsu jamir 01/31/2009 at 11:04 AM

come on guys lets end this debate on who the greatest is bet nadal and federer ..... let them both finish their career at then begin the debate..lets enjoy their rivalry for now and thank GOD for such a blessing on tennis world. anyways going into sunday's match federer is the favourite by the sheer number of his slam wins on hard court but Nadal enjoys a certain advantage then all the other players when playing Federer because when playing with other plareer fed comes to court thinking he cannot be beaten....... but against rafa he comes thinking he might win or loose the match.. that is the distinct advantage rafa has over roger... so before the match is started rafa has already won half the match.. the mind games.. so this ao final will be a great test for roger's resiliance.. awaiting a great finale..

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