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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 mcakron 01/31/2009 at 11:07 AM

HK -- all in on your last post. Going off on a momentary tangent, I've never thought Lendl has been given the respect he deserves, and believe me, I was a hardly a fan of the guy. But if you think about it he was damn dominant/or next to dominant on two surfaces, and though he never won Wimbledon, he was right in the mix a few times. Plus, that backhand down the line of his was positively vicious. I can still see his cadaverous self bending down and lashing that thing. Btw, I believe Wilander won one of his Aussies on grass, though the fields Down Under were admittedly thinner back then.

And yes, agreed with you and Andrew about Fed's slight decline in athleticism. But hey, the man is 27. Still, the one thing that's given me most hope this tournament is that his footwork and defense, if not grade A, appear pretty solid, much better than they did the first week and a half of last year's USO. Even against Berdych, I thought his flat-footedness was attributable more to not reading shots well than dead legs.

Anyway, should be a nerve-frayer tonight.

Posted by felizjulianidad 01/31/2009 at 11:12 AM

"The matches between them are, in a word, tedious, tense, superfluous, and absolutely devoid of that exhilarating atmosphere which marks the truly historic matches. Federer-Nalbandian matches are symphonies, Federer-Nadal like endless repetitions of the same theme. I don't see how you can enjoy that."

- That's not one word. It took you fifteen "superfluous" (are you sure you know what that word means?) words beyond the one you were entitled to, if you're going to use that phrase.
- Too bad Federer and Nalbandián don't meet too often in historic, Grand Slam finals. Too bad Nalbandián is as talented as he is inconsequential, and his recent quality clashes with Federer in Madrid and Paris had little more gravity than Kooyong or Abu Dhabi.
- According to your view, RG F '06, 07', '08 didn't have exhilaratingly historic atmospheres despite the world's arguably best player in history's prospects of wresting his coveted last Slam from the world's currently best clay court player and defending champion. According to your view, the Wimbledon F '07 and '08 didn't have exhilaratingly historic atmospheres despite the world's arguably best player in history's prospects of equalling Bjorn Borg, or his closest challenger's prospects of equalling another one of Bjorn Borg's feats.
- You don't see how anyone can enjoy that.
- Given that the overwhelming majority of the tennis playing, viewing and commentating community enjoyed those matches beyond compare, YOUR perspective is the skewed one.

If you want "pretty" go to the Louvre and see La Gioconda. Make sure you stop by the Phillipe Chatrier and examine the list of champions.

Of course, if what you want is SPORT, then tune in to the Federer-Nadal rivalry, which has made tennis more exciting than anything since Sampras-Agassi.

Posted by stacy 01/31/2009 at 11:15 AM

what happens if men's final goes more than 3 hours... looks like espn2 coverage ends at 6:30 am?!

Posted by felizjulianidad 01/31/2009 at 11:16 AM

Moderator, I apologise. Please take down my other post too, since it can't be edited.

Posted by mcakron 01/31/2009 at 11:20 AM

stacy -- my guess is it's just a tentative schedule. far as i know, every round they've stuck with the last match on RL until its conclusion, and even offered commmentary and an interview afterward.

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 11:26 AM

Rafa is definitely the greatest GOAThood hurdle, that one I am sure most can agree, nobody has thrown the wrench into the GOAT argument better than him. If fed has been able to revive the GOAT argument, Rafa has definitely put the brakes on it like nobody else in history.
That speaks volumes, or atleast it must about both Rafa and Roger.

Posted by Andrew 01/31/2009 at 11:33 AM

1)Anyone remember Becker? Wimbledon at 18 yrs(?) and 19 yrs, final at 20 yrs(?)
Case of early maturation and then plateau.
2)Anyone know's what Mononucleosis is, and it's effect on the body? 3)Anyone knows at what tournaments did this illness resurface for the it's carrier ( apart from 2008 Australian ) where it's sufferer reached the final?
Apart from this inane head-to-head discussion, 4)does anyone know how many different players of different rankings and on different surfaces did each beat and how many times each?
I leave the answers to you

Posted by Moderator 01/31/2009 at 11:40 AM

Poster Andrew at 11:33am: there's an established poster here using that handle. If you're new here, welcome. Please choose a different handle for your comments. Thanks.

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 11:42 AM

Vincent : I have said this before, I liked your responses, you are cyrstal clear in what you like and what you dont and I will admit to a part of me that feels exactly the way you do.

I do have one question though : do you watch the olympics and like the 100m dash? ( I see bolt in your moniker). Can you bring yourself to ever appreciate the athletic part of Rafa?
And Rafa as a person : what do you think?

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 11:43 AM

Sorry : Guess i had three questions, not one.

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 11:50 AM

Go flyer!

Posted by Moderator 01/31/2009 at 11:50 AM

felizjulianidad: thanks for the gracious reply at 11:16am.

FWIW, if you're referring to your post at 11:12am, I honestly don't have a problem with it.

Per the TW site rules, "Repartee, playfulness, sarcasm, fierce debate – all fine. Harsh and ugly personal attacks, not allowed."

I see sarcasm, playfulness and a bit of repartee in the 11:12am comment. My judgement about the post's contents isn't an endorsement of it, just an observation that it's a legitimate post.

OK, moving on...

Posted by krebs 01/31/2009 at 11:56 AM

This match between Nadal and Verdasco can now be considered as another great epic match of the same weight and class with the Wimbledon 2008 Nadal-Federer finals.
The draws that Nadal and Verdasco has to go through were the most difficult in this year's AO. Their opponents were all very tough, dangerous and all heavyweights (Murray, Tsonga, Simon, Haas and Gonzales).
While Federer's draw was relatively easy with only Berdych giving him some troubles. Safin has lost his touch, thus the decision to retire from the tour this year. Del Potro was overrated and overhyped weakling of a giant. And lastly, Roddick who has all the luck in the world to eliminate Djokovic with help of the excruciating Melbourne heat, but still has a lot to learn how to master the art of beating Federer.
Both Nadal and Verdasco deserved to be in the Finals.
With Verdasco's new-found talent and skills, I believe that Federer has no match to our boy from Madrid.
Nando, you made your country, Spain proud of you as the hero of last year's Davis Cup and your magnificent performance in this year's AO. Good luck to your new top ten ATP rankings.
Federer enjoying a much longer rest is another way to pamper him to come fresher and energized for Sunday's Finals, although this is not his fault.
I do believe that with Nadal's tenacity, deiscipline and strong determination to execute his mission to win his first HC Grandslam title, all these obstacles and "unfairness" by the event scheduler and organizers will all be overcome by Nadal, for the true measure of one true tennis champion is all found in Nadal.
Hail to the "One True Number One Grandslam Champion of All Time" RAFAEL NADAL OF SPAIN!!!
VAMOS RAFA!!!! VAMOS NANDO!!! VIVA ESPANA

Posted by farzad 01/31/2009 at 12:03 PM

RAFA is the winner.

Posted by nansei noirine 01/31/2009 at 12:05 PM

It is going to be a total Rivalry, but Nadal is the driver now. If he wins, and he's going to win I predict, the French, he is the Man for the SLAM! Bear Bryant always said 'a great defense beats a great offense'. Nadal has both, although I like his old clothes better.

If Nadal loses, then we have a Rivalry! Nadal will still be Number 1, will still the French, will still be enthroned when Wimbledon's time. But Federer will be still number two, maybe still losing to Murray, and Wimbledon will be his last best chance this year.

The future is Verdasco's Thunder and Lightning. And drizzle. Better than Federer's genius and Nadal's warrior. I think so.

Posted by mcakron 01/31/2009 at 12:07 PM

Andrew -- yep, had Mono once. It cannot only be misdiagnosed by trained physicians (my own case was) but take months upon months from which to fully recover. It often left me feeling like I'd been run over by a truck and even played tricks with my sense of balance and equilibrium. And yes, as you can guess, I was not globe-trotting and playing a world-class/physically grueling sport.

Becker I believe, like Wilander and Chang at the FO, won Wimby at 17. You're other two questions I'd be a fool to presume answering.

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 12:08 PM

"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"
Absolutely second that, there are always a few people that I like to scroll and find both Fed & Rafa fans, some for the reasoning, some for the pure wisdom, some for the humour and some for blunt opinions. It used to Hank or Dunlop for wisdom! but Andrew is now the first amongst that for wonderful reasoning and decency, and not least bcos he is from beautiful Calgary. I am not ashamed to admit I look out for Matt, crazy, Rosangel (she ticks me off the most but I cannot ignore what she says :) Beckham for the sheer frazzling of it! Gauloises/ptenisnet for humour and more humour! and definiely for a dose of all-shook-up from Vincent!!!

Why does this sound like an Oscar award thanksgiving speech when I havent won anything? i am sure forgetting other people but thanks to all of you for making the time here worth the while! :)

Posted by Marian aka Mr. Sparkles 01/31/2009 at 12:12 PM

Word Jean 01/31/2009 @ 9:08 AM

Many other posters have valid points and I'm also with Andrew at 11:33

Vamos Rafa!

Posted by tennisfan65 01/31/2009 at 12:12 PM

Comeback Justine wrote:

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.

---

Numbers do not lie over the long period of time when we are talking about careers. And numbers do not lie in head-to-head matchups if each encounter was under identical conditions. As it is, Rafa has played Roger 10 times on his favorite surface, and 8 times on all other surfaces. Predictably, he has the winning record, but we all know that they would be close to even if they met on hard courts 10-12 times earlier in Rafa's career rather than present 5 matches. So yes, numbers do lie in this case. Rafa is tougher competitor than Roger, and I suspect he would have a winning record even if they met 10-12 on hard courts by now. But 12-6 head-to-head just doesn't tell the story.

I'll paraphrase part of my earlier post: If Roger wasn't making finals of clay tournaments, meaning if wasn't the second best clay-courter, he would have winning record against Rafa (5-3 without matches on clay). Furthermore, Roger would have the best winning percentage in major finals (93%), and both he and Rafa would have had exactly the same number of major titles as they have now. Applying this logic strictly, Roger would have been a better GOAT candidate if he wasn't good on clay. Does that make sense to anyone?

I think we have to look beyond their head-to-head numbers in judging their accomplishments, as many have already suggested.

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 12:23 PM

Actually everybody is talking about how great an era we live in with fed and rafa, sure. But when they are both gone, the hole will be like a nuke explosion crater that will take 50 years to fill.....the hewitts/safins/kafelnikovs or the world will rule it for a much longer time than the 1999 to 2003 timeframe.
Even if some of them are quite good tennis players.
On another thought : the game may be evolving so fast (like the technology in it) and we (the fans) may be so fickle (like the movie going or music loving public) that the murrays and djokers of the world could make us forget rafa/roger by 2010? :)

Posted by Wes Choi 01/31/2009 at 12:32 PM

Anyone actually knows that Nadal's GS record against Federer is 4-2 and not 5-2? And 3 of them in RG

Posted by Pierre 01/31/2009 at 12:48 PM

No one seems to remember the gap of ages between Federer and Nadal. Federer 's in 81, Nadal 's in 86, so what 's conclusion here? How do you call them rivalry? Federer has no rivalry in his time(Nadal's peak is not the same Federer's peak time). His peak 's at 2004 and 2005, he was moving like Nadal 's moving now, he hit the ball with great hands and so exactly. But now, he dumps forehand when moving. That's it. It's ridiculous to compare Fed and Nadal based on H2H

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 01:09 PM

How to solve the chicken and egg question?

Is Roger the GOAT bcos he won 13 and 3 RG finals or is Rafa the GOATs GOAT bcos he undressed roger at Paris and pushed him away at wimby? but then, this guy has won only one non clay GS? cmon? but then roger lost 12 times to such a guy?

We know that drill as fans.

When I think of Sampras and Agassi or Becker and Lendl or Mats, the thing that comes to my mind is so and so won this major or this many majors or didnt win this major even after trying hard and stayed #1 for what seemed like forever (lendl & sampras) etc.

I never thought about "how can lendl be good if he lost to becker twice at wimby finals" etc?
Each of these guys tried climbing the mt.everest of tennis from a different route and reached wuthering heights!

I think the best honour one can achieve is to earn the right to be included in the GOAT discussion. (I am not listing mcenroe/borg in the conversation bcos they were before my time). It is easy to talk nadal/fed right now but if GOAT is really "Of all time" then the conversation has to stand the test of time but like cry babies, we are impatient and we need to have the discussion now :

So having a theoretical GOAT debate in say 5 or 8 years, the question will not be about how can fed be GOAT if he couldnt beat nadal playing right handed? fed will be in the discussion alright, without him, we wont even be reviving the discussion right now.

I suspect, for nadal to earn his right to be in that discussion at all he will have to do more in these areas :

Win atleast 5 to 8 more majors, be #1 for a long long time (#1 shows domination and usually means you won majors too) enough for people to remember you were #1. (do we really think people will remember kuerten #1? hewitt? roddick? etc so this has to be a substantial reign)

He has to do more in tennis than just beat Roger federer and he may just do it but he is still far away and working on it, he will also pretty soon have to worry about the likes of murray/djoker who are not too far from peaking either, if he is going to get there.

In a way, he has enjoyed teeing off from fed by dismantling him AFTER he had become a great, he is still feeding off of it (this weekend is no exception and this is not his fault either).
Infact, there may come a time, when he laments the fed not being around anymore, for him to torment and that the likes of murray/djoker/tsonga/monfils and his knees are the only ones around tormenting him.

The law of karma points in that direction.

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 01:16 PM

In other words, the way things stand right now, the 13GS trophies that fed has are reflecting some of their shine onto nadal's trophies. Fed never had that luxury nor will he in future (it appears) and pretty soon, nadal will have the youngsters biting at his ankles trying to rob the luster from his trophies for theirs.

Posted by Pam 01/31/2009 at 01:20 PM

Lets go Roger, lets go!

Posted by Matt Zemek 01/31/2009 at 01:22 PM

Wes Choi:

In addition to their six finals--3 each at Wimby and the French--they met in the 2005 French semis.

Nadal is 4-2 in FINALS, but it's 5-2 in slams overall.

Posted by Penny 01/31/2009 at 01:22 PM

It's a good think Martina dyed her hair back to brown, the blond is so harsh on her.
Anyways, tennis would not be the same had Rafa and Roger never had this spectacular rivalry. We would be missing out on so much!

Posted by Lynn 01/31/2009 at 01:23 PM

VAMOS RAFA!

Posted by Marian aka Mr. Sparkles 01/31/2009 at 01:27 PM

Vamos Rafaelito! :P

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 01:30 PM

Vamos Rogelito ! :)

Posted by federerfan 01/31/2009 at 01:30 PM

Allez Rafa!

Posted by temsu jamir 01/31/2009 at 01:37 PM

wes choi are you forgetting the semi-final match bet nadal and fed in RG 2005....... their grand slam meeting is 7 times ( nadal won 5 times and federer 2 times). for someone to be even considered in the condenders of the greatest player ever he has to have a win record of all the slams no matter who they play against or what the surface..... so till nadal and federer both achieve the said things.. lets all end this discussion of greatest ever for now.
and as for tomorrow Nadal( who is craftier and better than all other years) will be fit enough to bet federer... so come on rafal.. nadal wins in straight sets. :)

Posted by temsu jamir 01/31/2009 at 01:38 PM

wes choi are you forgetting the semi-final match bet nadal and fed in RG 2005....... their grand slam meeting is 7 times ( nadal won 5 times and federer 2 times). for someone to be even considered in the condenders of the greatest player ever he has to have a win record of all the slams no matter who they play against or what the surface..... so till nadal and federer both achieve the said things.. lets all end this discussion of greatest ever for now.
and as for tomorrow Nadal( who is craftier and better than all other years) will be fit enough to bet federer... so come on rafal.. nadal wins in straight sets. :)

Posted by Pierre 01/31/2009 at 01:52 PM

Have anyone ever thought that Federer have only Nadal whom many call his rivalry but Nadal have NOT only Fed? Murray and Nole can trouble Rafa not badly and match-up him so comfortable on hard-court. There will be much more player like that challenging World No 1

Posted by Octennis 01/31/2009 at 02:11 PM

Fed hasnt won against rafa in over a year. Nadal in five. Federer also is no longer the #1 player in the world. Nadal is the number 1. Nadal in five. VAMOS RAFA!

Posted by alias 01/31/2009 at 02:23 PM

All I can say now, is may the best man win. This match will set the tone for the rest of the year, I believe.

Good luck Roger. :D

Posted by mcakron 01/31/2009 at 03:05 PM

federerfan at 12:23 -- yeah, who knows what will follow. But remember after the borg/mcenroe/connors era came that mid/late eighties era, which was the deepest era ever in men's tennis. Not only were Jimbo and Johnny Mac still kicking around, but at the top you had guys like Lendl/Wilander/Becker/Edberg, and then one slam winners like Cash and Noah, as well as wild card guys like Mecir, LeConte, etc, as well as brash upstart from Vegas named Aggasi. What's more everyone of the guys mentioned proved proficient on two of three major services. In other words, there was not a Brugera or Kuerten among them.

But yeah, once Fed fades off into the sunset, it looks like it will be up to Murray and the Djoker to challenge Nadal. At least for now.

Posted by tennis god 01/31/2009 at 03:40 PM

GO BIG RAFA!! WHOO!! =D

Posted by Marian aka Mr. Sparkles 01/31/2009 at 03:41 PM

My final thoughts on this match, has been echoed by the commentators on TC ( J. Gilmestob sp):

While I said "never underestimate the heart of a champion, Federer being the one having something to prove" They said exactly the same thing: "Federer has been wounded, so he is dangerous"

Having said all of that:

Vamos Rafalissmo!

Posted by Marian aka Mr. Sparkles 01/31/2009 at 03:43 PM


RaFaeLiSSiMo!

Posted by ACardio 01/31/2009 at 04:09 PM

Federer is 1-9 against Nadal on Clay, and 5-3 on grass/hard. If there were an equal distribution of the three, Federer would definitely have a winning record against Nadal.

I am a Fed fan, but I really like and respect Nadal, and get excited each time they both meet. Looking forward to the final off the Aussie in T minus 12 hours!!

Posted by Swede 01/31/2009 at 04:31 PM

Interesting how everyone is quick to point out the head-to-head advantage the Nadal has over Federer when 4 out of the 7 come at the French Open. This is Nadal's first hard court slam final and yet everyone thinks Nadal dominates all surfaces, Hardly.

Posted by Vincent 01/31/2009 at 04:53 PM

federerfan, interesting question. Do I like athletics ? Not at all, and that is precisely the problem. Since I was young I always found those competitions based on sheer physical prowess absolutely stupid, then again, I was pretty much your run-of-the-mill bookworm... The only sport I practiced then, and that I still practice now 2-3 times a week, is tennis. So, I was biased from the start.

Then came the doping scandals. I liked cycling, I really did. I loved to watch the Tour de France, since the mid-90s. I saw how this sport changed. How suddenly fatigue just wasn't a factor anymore. I saw an ex-journeyman, Bjarne Riis, rise to the top. The rise and fall of the infamous Festina team and Richard Virenque. Armstrong and his insane physical capacities. My father climbed the Mont Ventoux a couple of time. When he learned that Armstrong averaged 20 mph in the final stage, he just laughed. You only realize how surhuman, utterly incredible such a feat is, when you try it yourself.

Long story short, the little respect I still had for pure athletic disciplines was destroyed with all the doping scandals. Doping is a plague, a virus which can destroy entire sports. And tennis is the sport I love most. A sport where sheer brilliance could always trump brute force. I loved Sampras. He didn't look like Superman. He could puke, cramp, get tired. He was human. I disliked Agassi, who was too... Surhuman for my liking. From the beginning I had a great defiance against seemingly superior physical feats. In the world of today, such feats can be bought and paid for.

Now you know where I'm coming at. Even if Nadal is clean, which is entirely possible, he just gives a bad example. I know, it's bad to say that. The guy has this style and wins a ton. I just don't want to see tennis go into this direction. Don't want to see less physically gifted athletes juice up to imitate his style. Besides, such a style isn't pretty. An opinion I share with uncle Toni, apparently.

For tomorrow I don't really care anyway. For what it's worth, I think Nadal may take It. Anyway I'm at peace since Federer won the last USO. Whatever comes after that will always be a bonus. Hopefully I will be able to enjoy the match tomorrow.

Posted by Mayes 01/31/2009 at 05:18 PM

Nadal just was not consistently good enough on hard court in the past few years to meet Federer in HC finals, while Federer was consistent enough on clay to meet Nadal, thus the biased H2H records, majority on clay.

Posted by E. Thomas 01/31/2009 at 05:27 PM

Pierre @1:52pm:

What are you trying to suggest? For what I can see, Federer had his other challengers like Roddick, Hewitt, Safin, Agassi, etc., he just fended them off, easily, effortlessly. Nadal, on the other hand, cannot match that at this point. Arguing that Federer's competition was weak is just stupid to me. It's not that guys like Hewitt were worthless, Federer made them look worthless.

On a higher level, Federer has made so many great things in tennis look effortless (when they were not), that some people (who are not used to think clearly) think that now the new No.1 Nadal will automatically do the same. How foolish.

Posted by wahooligan 01/31/2009 at 05:44 PM

My favorite quote about the difference between Rog and Rafa said that, "Roger makes an art out of hitting the ball. Rafa makes an art out of winning a match."

Nadal in five.

Posted by wahooligan 01/31/2009 at 05:46 PM

Oh and could someone please tell me what KAD is supposed to stand for?

Posted by Pete's worst nightmare on grass 01/31/2009 at 05:55 PM

You all are huge losers. It took me a good eight minutes just to scroll down to write this.

The only reason Federer lost to Nadal last year was because he had mono.

Late 90s Sampras would beat both of them.

Serving and vollying them into oblivion.

Posted by kamret 01/31/2009 at 06:06 PM

The Borg-McEnroe rivalry is not mentioned in this article! I find that shocking as it was much a much greater and more intense rivalry than the Sampras-Agassi rivalry and it happened at a time when people really cared about tennis and the game was extremely popular worldwide. But I do agree that the Nadal-Federer rivalry is perhaps the greatest rivalry of all time.

Posted by Corrie 01/31/2009 at 06:07 PM

It's a pity mono robbed Roger of last year (like others, I've had it and even mildly it robs you of energy for months and months) because now he's definitely past his best, losing foot speed and consistency. And he's got massive pressure on him to prove himself against Rafa and win #14.

I'm astonished that Rafa can still deflect favouritism like he does even though he's #1. Not only is he a brilliant tennis player who I think will end up as the best ever, he's brilliant at mind games and gamesmanship on and off the court. He's the complete package of a modern tennis player who keeps raising the bar. He'll pulverise Roger today like he does everyone.

Posted by donh 01/31/2009 at 06:17 PM

crazyone: that 12-6 in favor of nadal is very lopsided. i'm sure if nadal reached as many hardcourt semifinals or finals as much as federer did, then the count would be much more even (or even in favor of federer). i want federer to surpass sampras, but he also has to earn it too.

Posted by Realistic_fan 01/31/2009 at 06:19 PM

I don't agree with Pete's post at all. He's obviously trying to make a big thing bigger by saying that Roger and Rafa are on equal footing. Please, Rafa is a great clay court player, and that's how he has that 9-1 record against Federer. Nadal doesn't show up in finals as often as Federer does, but I guess everyones already knows that. Anyways.
As for Federer, he is already the greatest of this generation. Win the Aussie open and a couple more grand slams, well, he'll become one for the ages.

Posted by larry 01/31/2009 at 06:23 PM

Let's put it like this. Someone had said, how can Roger be considered the greatest of all time if he has a losing record against Nadal? Up until last year, Federer made the final of every major he played in. Meaning, he was better than the rest of the draw at every major. Nadal, however, lost out early. yes, Rafael played stellar tennis at Wimbledon, but a 12-6 lifetime head to head record includes all the French opens, and only 2 of those wins came on hardcourts. If nadal can improve his game enough to consistently make finals like Federer does, then maybe the record will balance itself back out. If Federer plays the way he did against roddick, Nadal has no chance.

Posted by moxie 01/31/2009 at 06:29 PM

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Posted by Marian aka Mr. Sparkles 01/31/2009 at 06:35 PM

Vincent:

"Even if Nadal is clean ( of doping), which is entirely possible, he just gives a bad example"???!!!!

Nice going man!

Posted by Jc 01/31/2009 at 07:06 PM

Hasn't most of Nadal's success against Federer come on grass? If so, that's why he's not at Federer's status yet.

Posted by Matt 01/31/2009 at 07:41 PM

The whole head to head battle is skewed. nadal has only made a final on a surface OTHER THEN CLAY 3 times not including this tournament. Of those 3 federer has won twice. out of nadals 12 wins against Federer NINE of them yes 9!!! are on CLAY....

Posted by weng 01/31/2009 at 08:04 PM

rafa is the bull with seemingly unlimited energy and unperturbed will to go on.
peRFect must be the matador with all the grace and elegance of his moves.
contrary to the common perception that the bull should gore the matador early in order to win, it's the other way around. the longer the match go on, the bullish energy would come to more favorable effect.

anyways, the rise to power of the bullish rafa is a very welcome development in tennis. it would lace the tennis taste with another flavor. the sweet elegant taste of a peRfect laced with the brute force of a bullish rafa

Posted by weng 01/31/2009 at 08:16 PM

rafa is the bull with seemingly unlimited energy and unperturbed will to go on.
peRFect must be the matador with all the grace and elegance of his moves.
contrary to the common perception that the bull should gore the matador early in order to win, it's the other way around. the longer the match go on, the bullish energy would come to more favorable effect.

anyways, the rise to power of the bullish rafa is a very welcome development in tennis. it would lace the tennis taste with another flavor. the sweet elegant taste of a peRfect laced with the brute force of a bullish rafa

Posted by tina 01/31/2009 at 08:18 PM

Andrew at 2:07 am:

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.

-----------------

Andrew, I've been trying to bring Navratilova into the GOAT discussion since the first time I experienced one on here, almost three years ago, and I've had to give up, also suppressing a smile. Graf has more Slams, and the amazing 1988 Golden Slam, but I always give her record an asterisk due to the Seles stabbing. I feel certain that, after her one poor Wimbledon final when she appeared to be somewhat hampered by the Grunt-o-Meter and grief from Ivanisevic over not taking a stand on the Homeland Wars, Monica could have eventually figured out how to use her game on grass - and like Andre and Rafa, would've won there, too...had she not been taken out of the game in the most gruesome manner.

But from the very first moment I learned the term GOAT, I began stating the case for TOM - the Original Martina. It's nice to know there's someone else out there who considers women to be worthy of inclusion in the discussion.

Posted by Richman 01/31/2009 at 08:22 PM

Hei Pete, listen up...your reasoning doesnt carry much weight..
Roger score at Grand slams stands at 2-5 to Nadal. Look, 3 of them comes from the French, Nadal's favourite surface...Roger cant help it if Nadal cant make it to Wimbledon or any hard court slam final can he? Just ask how many semis or finals Roger has made vs Nadal over the last 3 yrs and that will knock some sense into yr argument..
i rest my case...

Posted by Richman 01/31/2009 at 08:22 PM

Hei Pete, listen up...your reasoning doesnt carry much weight..
Roger score at Grand slams stands at 2-5 to Nadal. Look, 3 of them comes from the French, Nadal's favourite surface...Roger cant help it if Nadal cant make it to Wimbledon or any hard court slam final can he? Just ask how many semis or finals Roger has made vs Nadal over the last 3 yrs and that will knock some sense into yr argument..
i rest my case...

Posted by benogon 01/31/2009 at 09:07 PM

In boxing we like to say styles make fights. I believe the same can be said of tennis. Anybody who assumes Federers victory over Andy Roddick is a good predictor of how he will fare against Nadal has something coming. The dynamics of the match ups are just so different. However i still give the edge to Roger based on the fact that he is the fresher of the two going into this match. It should be a great match.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 01/31/2009 at 09:22 PM

If Nadal gets on top of Fed early, Fed may just lose it mentally.

If Fed gets on top of Nadal early, Nadal will call the trainer and take an injury timeout.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 01/31/2009 at 09:34 PM

I hope the weight of history doesn't weigh too heavily on Federer's mind. I don't think Fed is that great at dealing with the pressure of proving himself to be GOAT. He just wants to play beautiful tennis. As soon as it got to the point where people were talking about him becoming GOAT, that's when his game became less free, and more ridden with unforced errors. Fed needs to block out what it means to achieve #14, and focus on just playing the ball.

Posted by dgrey 01/31/2009 at 09:55 PM

Federer won three sets...Nadal have no chance...And prove he is the best player ever in the world of Tennis.......

Posted by Joe 01/31/2009 at 09:58 PM

Vincent, I suposse you are Federer fan, because I don't have idea "where you are coming at"

Posted by tico vogt 01/31/2009 at 10:17 PM

It was one year ago that Federer began a defining season. I believe that 2008 will be the year that showed what he was really made of. Not because he had an "off year" and lost Wimbledon and his number one ranking. It was in the months of January through July that he struggled with mono and had to play with that serious deficit, never letting up, gaining the second best season on clay, winning Olympic Doubles gold, all the while performing at a level well beneath his best and losing a surprising number of matches, until his form started to emerge again in New York. Had he not had that illness, I think it highly likely he'd have grabbed the AO and Wimbledon, but he has kept on joyfully and skillfully competing without excuses or complaints and here he is, poised to win another major, playing superbly.
Indeed, Nadal is beat up from his semi-final, but how beat-up was Federer one year ago? If he wins tomorrow, no sour grapes, please, about unfair schedules, etc.

Posted by Joe 01/31/2009 at 10:24 PM

If Nadal wins tomorrow, I don't want to hear about "mono" please, I'm sick of that

Posted by Jai 01/31/2009 at 11:02 PM

"nadal has only made a final on a surface OTHER THEN CLAY 3 times not including this tournament."

Matt at 7.41 pm: actually, Rafa has made it to 16 non-clay finals, winning 9 of them. Check his ATP profile or Wikipedia, or whatever. He has a relatively high losing-finalist record on non-clay surfaces, but on a lot of those 16 occasions it was Roger who didn't make it to the final. (Of course, hard-court Grand Slams are a whole different discussion: as we all know, this is Rafa's first, while Roger has won 8 of them.)

Regarding non-clay finals between Roger and Rafa, the score is 3-2 in Roger's favour. Roger: Wimby 06 and 07, Miami 05. Rafa: Dubai 06 and Wimby 08.

Posted by 02/01/2009 at 12:37 AM

federer should storm if he wants to avenge his rival,to equal pete's 14 record,to win his 4th ao open............

Posted by temsu jamir 02/01/2009 at 12:47 AM

UNTIL AND UNLESS FEDERER DOES NOT WIN THE FRENCH OPEN ( NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES HE WINS THE OTHER SLAMS) OR NADAL WINS ALL OTHER GRAND SLAMS LETS NOT TALK ABOUT THEM IN GOAT LEVEL.... TO BE CONSIDERED FOR GOAT ONE HAS TO HAVE A MAJOR IN ALL THREE DIFFERENT SURFACES WHICH WILL SHOW THEIR TRUE VARIATIONS OF SKILL ,STAMINA AND MENTAL TOUGHNESS. EVERY SURFACE NEEDS A DIFFERENT BRAND OF SKILLS AND TO BE A GOAT ONE HAS TO HAVE ALL THOSE SKILLS AND ONLY A SLAM WIN AGAINST OTHER TOUGH OPPONENTS CAN JUDGE WHETHER ONE HAVE THE REQUIRED SKILLS AND TOUGHNESS TO DO IT.. come on guys even SAMPRAS with all his achievements cannot even be considered fo GOAT because he was terrible on clay.... ONE HAS TO BA A MASTER OF ALLL SURFACE TO BE CALLED A GOAT..

Posted by Kirk 02/01/2009 at 01:25 AM

The better comparison to Roger vs Rafa is big serving, slice backhanding Stephie Graf vs ground stroking master Monica Seles.

Posted by nepters 02/01/2009 at 01:33 AM

Why do people always overlook the fact, when talking about Nadal's record against Federer, that 10 of the 18 match ups they've had have been on clay. It's a little unfair to act like Nadal beats up on Federer since Nadal's never even gotten far enough in a hard court tournament (until now, of course) to play Federer. On every surface besides clay Federer leads.

Posted by 02/01/2009 at 01:51 AM

Talking about Seles-Graf rivalry, Seles would have completely dominated had it not been for that unfortunate Hamburg stabbing. Seles would have registered more Slam titles than Graf.

Posted by Bob in Boston 02/01/2009 at 01:54 AM

Fed's game is a stylish thing of beauty. Virtually every move he makes on court has the purity of a ballet move. If you appreciate the tennis dance, you see Fed as the GOAT.

Rafa's game is narrower and it depends on 2 elements: superb conditioning and an insane forehand topspin. If you think GOAT is determined by a statistical calculation of won-loss record, or number of slams won, or amount of money won, Rafa may turn out to be the GOAT when his career concludes.

I regard Rafa's topspin as a trick shot that opponents have not (yet) figured out how to handle. But they will. Verdasco may have shown the way.

Posted by Edwin in Dubai 02/01/2009 at 02:10 AM

Tennis is a sports - not a ballet dance. Sports relies on physical and mental supremacy - not on gracefulness.

Posted by temsu jamir 02/01/2009 at 02:57 AM

hello bob....... if roger is a ballet swan dancer......... then rafa is a hunting LION........ you can choose whomever you like to watch but lets just not compare a Swan and a Lion ..

Posted by 02/01/2009 at 03:00 AM

SINGLES CAREER TITLES (31): 2004--Sopot; 2005--Costa Do Sauipe, Acapulco, ATP Masters Series Monte Carlo, Barcelona, ATP Masters Series Rome, Roland Garros, Bastad, Stuttgart, ATP Masters Series Canada, Beijing, ATP Masters Series Madrid; 2006--Dubai, ATP Masters Series Monte Carlo, Barcelona, ATP Masters Series Rome, Roland Garros; 2007--ATP Masters Series Indian Wells, ATP Masters Series Monte Carlo, Barcelona, ATP Masters Series Rome, Roland Garros, Stuttgart; 2008--ATP Masters Series Monte Carlo, Barcelona, ATP Masters Series Hamburg, Roland Garros, London / Queen's Club, Wimbledon, ATP Masters Series Canada, Beijing Olympics FINALIST (8): 2004--Auckland; 2005--ATP Masters Series Miami; 2006--Wimbledon; 2007--ATP Masters Series Hamburg, Wimbledon, ATP Masters Series Paris; 2008--Chennai, ATP Masters Series Miami

For those who say Nadal is a only clay-courter, think again. See above list of titles and finals he has contested. ATP Masters in Miami, Indian Wells, Toronto, and Paris Indoors! Add Wimbledon and Queens . . .

Nadal is an all-surface player. The fact that he excels well in clay-court doesn't necessarily mean he is not excelling in other surfaces. For Pete's sake, he is only 22 years old. He will amass more HC, grass and indoor titles.

Vamos Rafa!

Posted by 02/01/2009 at 03:03 AM

Can anyone tell me how many singles and Slam titles Federer had when he was 22 years old?

Posted by Marian aka Mr. Sparkles 02/01/2009 at 03:16 AM

Vamos Rafaelissimo!

What "new CC" Roseangel?

Posted by Achilles 02/01/2009 at 03:26 AM

One Slam (Wimbledon), 11 singles (including the Wimbledon)

Posted by Vicky 02/01/2009 at 03:37 AM

Sampras met Agassi only in 5 GS finals because in the Sampras era there were lots of other excellent players. Sampras had to face Edberg, Becker, Courier, Kafelnikov, Rios, Muster, Ivanisevic, Rafter, etc. Federer is not the GOAT but the LOAT, the luckiest of all time. Players in his age bracket (now 25-29 years of age) with the potential to beat him (Safin, Nalbandian, Hewitt, Roddick) all had some trouble, mental or physical. And he is lucky again, facing an exhausted Nadal after an extra day of rest when he attempts to win his 14th GS title.

Posted by temsu jamir 02/01/2009 at 02:14 PM

all you blind federer followers after the trashing by nadal IN AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINAL you guys should stop talking of roger as the goat.. the real goat is on his way.. RAFAEL NADAL

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