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A Day Late and a Dollar Short 05/31/2009 - 4:31 PM

Rs by Pete Bodo

Well, Roger Federer's life just got a whole lot more interesting, and y'all know why: Robin Soderling, not Rafael Nadal, is on track to meet him in the French Open final.

Somehow, it just doesn't have the same ring. And of course, any of three other able men - more able, on paper, than the 6-3 pale-skinned Swede - might have a say in that, for Fernando Gonzalez, Andy Murray and Nikolay Davydenko (who's manhandling Fernando Verdasco as I write this) all are in the hunt now. The first thing that struck me when Nadal half-chopped, half-pushed a forehand volley wide, cross-court, to end the match is that two enormous stories exploded in Paris today, with the one-two count that you can actually verbalize to mark the cock-and-fire beauty of a Nadal forehand on a day when he's hitting the shot well. Which was not today, at least not for stretches that are less well described as long or short than as critical.

Those two stories are: Rafael Nadal, who won four successive titles at Roland Garros and vaulted to the world No. 1 ranking before he lost his first match here at the French Open, has been beaten, and not by one of the usual suspects. Story number two, and one that may prove to be even more historic, is that for the first time since the beginning of his golden era, Federer is, on record, the best clay-court player in the diminished draw and thus the instant favorite to win the title on Sunday. And we all know what that means: a career Grand Slam, and nearly universal acclaim as the greatest player ever to swing a racket.

And the most tantalizing question to rear its head is: Will Federer be able to handle it?

But let's leave that one hanging for now and backtrack a few hours. It was just my luck that I arrived here, more or less fresh (or stale) off my overnight flight from New York, just as things on Court Philippe Chatrier were getting interesting. While waiting for my credential to be processed, stunned press amigos kept wandering by saying, Do you see what's happening to Rafa?. . . What do you think of the way Soderling is playing?. . . Can you believe what's happening out there?

Well, at that point,  Soderling was up a set and they were starting the second-set tiebreaker. When Rafa swept that one, I breathed a little more easily, and while I had no premonitions about Nadal losing, I had been thinking all morning about how quickly things can change in tennis. On a day-to-day basis, the game is predictable; the winning percentages of the top players attest to that. But you never really know where the land mines are buried, and when they go off they can alter the tennis landscape dramatically.

Running up to this event, I had a gut feeling that somehow we weren't going to see another Federer-Nadal final; that we'd had three successive ones already was remarkable, and in an odd way as much of a testament to the noteworthy superiority of both men. But for reasons that don't much matter here, I thought Federer was the one less likely to uphold his end of the deal. I was half-right, but instead of a mere scenery changer (for Nadal), we saw what might be a game changer for Federer.

In line with this reasoning, and cleaving to the conventional wisdom, could you have come up with a less likely spoiler than Robin Soderling, that lanky, stiff-armed Swede (the same one who lost to Nadal, 6-1, 6-0 in Rome just a few weeks ago)? This is as good an argument that exists for demolishing the inexact science of bracketology (as much fun as it is for some), or for lobbing thinly disguised insults over the Iberio-Swiss divide. Today, being in the same half as Soderling was a decided disadvantage, for he was very much on his game. But let me amend that first sentence slightly, in a broader perspective: Soderling is actually a picture-book spoiler: He hits pretty big and fairly flat (and guys like that are always a danger when they're feeling their oats), he's a veteran who appears to have a chip on his shoulder, and he tends to throb and then just as quickly detumescence on the radar.

I kept an eye on set three, and when Soderling wouldn't go away, taking it 6-4, I knew that even though I wasn't really in work mode yet, I'd better go out and sit in the sunshine to see if this was to be a four- or five-set opera. I started thinking about, instead of merely watching, the match in the third game, after it became clear that Rafa was going to have a hard time making that break of serve he earned in the second game stick. Soderling attacked Nadal's next service with brio. As Soderling later explained, "I tried to think, don't think. . . because you know, I just tried to play the next point after next point. . . I think I played exactly the way I wanted to play before the match. I didn't want him to make me run. I tried to be the one that make him run. I worked good with my forehand, and my backhand worked well. I worked my backhand flat and tried to go around and hit my forehand."

My first real note says: If there's an Appalachia in Sweden, that's where Soderling is from. He's big, raw-boned, woodsy-looking. His shirt theoretically is white, but it looks kind of dull, and the combination with those black-and-yellow shorts is pretty awful. But there's a deliberateness to his game today, and it projects danger, not clumsiness or poor movement as it might on another day . . . 

RnBy contrast, I was surprised at Nadal's outfit; I didn't know you could get such an aggressive shade of pink, and that seemed fitting. But something seemed missing in Nadal today, and even if you don't have a trained eye for technique or strategy, you could pick it up in the way he sometimes grunted between swings - not just as or immediately after he hit the ball, as if it was an effort playing - not just whacking that stupendous forehand.

At his best, Soderling at times showed what a combination of accuracy and aggression - as in serve-and volley play - can accomplish. It isn't all that complicated, you know. You dump the serve way wide, pick up the return coming in and go way wide the other way, then just cover your line as you close the angle and rumble to the net. What's so tough? Well, one thing you can control (your level of execution on the serve, approach, and killing volley) and one you cannot, which chiefly is the quality of the return. That's where Nadal can make it seem suicidal to attack; his return is not only upon you remarkably quickly, it's also someplace (down the line, cross-court, take your pick) where it isn't really convenient to implement your plan.

By the time Nadal held serve for 3-2, the skies were overcast, leaden clouds were waddling in from the west, and sitting in the stadium you would swear you could hear rolling thunder - only it was noise the wind always makes when it hits the courtside mikes. Soderling held, and the men exchanged holds again for 4-4. One point that Soderling served seemed particularly telling: at 30-0, he served into Nadal's body. Nadal tried to dance away, but didn't move quite quickly enough and awkwardly shoveled the ball out. It was telltale of the kind of day Rafa was having - a day late and a dollar short on too many occasions.

In the next game, Nadal appeared to come to life. He rolled to a 40-0 lead, and the overcast made him seem more dangerous, more vital. A red clay court never looks better than on an overcast day, when it has texture that is flattened out by sunlight. Under clouds, a red clay court looks like it's made of exquisitely soft, pliant buckskin. In the glare of an afternoon sun, it looks a dirt parking lot, but dimpled with ball marks rather than footprints of a horde tramping over to the sound stage.

Nadal won that ninth game whistling a passing shot by Soderling from close quarters; en route to his chair, Rafa waved a clear apology for hitting so close to his rival. It was a nice gesture, given that Soderling made fun of Nadal and more or less tried to bully him around at Wimbledon a few years ago, and if you think Nadal may be a bit intimidated by him, just think about the score in Rome. It's more likely that the person who thought the least about that Wimbledon incident was Nadal; Soderling's punishment for being such a boor has been having to answer questions about the incident, even today.

After Nadal won the 11th game in partial sunlight,  you could almost hear Soderling thinking: Just get to the tiebreaker, just get to the 'breaker. As it was the fourth set, Soderling would be playing with house money if he got into the ever-dodgy tiebreaker, and if he made a hash of it there was still the prospect of a fifth set, stretching away toward the gloaming. Soderling struggled a bit; his 40-15 lead melted away to deuce, but he played a pair of great serves to hold and force the tiebreaker.

Nadal lost the first point, on serve, when he smacked the net with a forehand to end a rally. After Soderling elicited a forehand service return error, Nadal won his only point of the tiebreaker when Soderling drove an inside-out forehand out. When Nadal was broken twice to fall behind 1-4, the match was over.

I've often noticed that outstanding or significant matches very often don't generate terrific press conferences, and so it was today. It's pretty clear by this time that Nadal's hard-edged realism and logical way of looking at things is not a function of his age (and particularly not of a lack of worldliness or experience). This time, he found a few different but always simple ways to say the same thing: "I think I didn't play my best tennis, no? I didn't play my tennis, and for that reason I lost. That's it. I congratulate him and keep working hard for the next tournament."

Nadal's short version was that he was beaten because Soderling played well and he himself did not; his length was poor, all day.

A reporter tried to throw him a lifeline with a question about the wind, and the "difficult conditions," but Nadal replied: "No, no, no, no. The wind is there for both players, so no, no, no. I not going to put any excuse now. I think I played short because I played short. I didn't have my day."

You might have thought that, given Nadal's credentials, especially on clay, Soderling would have forgiven Nadal for expressing disappointment in the way he played, but in his own presser Soderling seemed to take issue with Nadal's assessment. He said: "I think I played very good for two weeks in a row, four good matches here. If he (Nadal) thinks he played bad, I mean, that's his choice. I would never say something like that, but. . ."

Never waste a chance to ruin a great moment, right?

So there you have it. The terms of the game have changed for everyone left in the draw, and we already saw how one potential champion handled the opportunity: Fernando Verdasco lurched out of the tournament, beaten in straights by Nikolay Davydenko. This sure is going to be interesting.


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Posted by Isaac Lawrence 05/31/2009 at 01:52 PM

Wow.

Yeah, and the only question that remains is whether or not The Mighty Federer can keep it together and not be over-anxious.

History is only a week away.

Posted by Aabye 05/31/2009 at 01:52 PM

WOW. Still in shock. Federer, here's your chance. Grab it by the horns and don't let go. I'd hate to see him squander an opportunity like this.

But me, I'll be cheering the two French players left: Tsonga and Monfils. I really want to see a hometown hero take it.

Posted by Master Ace 05/31/2009 at 02:01 PM

20 years ago, Michael Chang won the FO from nowhere as he defeated Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg(Chang kept Edberg from the career Slam) along the way.

10 years ago, Andre Agassi won the FO to complete the career slam as he defeated Carlos Moya and Andrei Medevev(rallying from 2 set down and got help from a rain delay) along the way.

Now, we got Andy Roddick who has made it to the R16 which is his best effort ever and talk of Americans not doing well on clay. Will Andy pull off a major surprise? Already got help as Novak Djokovic lost in straight sets to Philipp Kohlschreiber in R32 and Rafael Nadal losing in 4 sets to Robin Soderling. He got Roger Federer in this quarter who is trying to complete a Career Slam and get his 14th Slam.

Posted by Acordeon 05/31/2009 at 02:04 PM

Thanks for posting a quick response, Pete. I gotta say, I'm a little tired of all of the constant GOAT talk surrounding Fed. (And I'm a big Fed fan).

You're not the only one to engage in it - it seems it's the duty of every tennis writer to keep the meme going. And I'm sure a lot of the reading public is interested.

But not me. I'll judge who's the GOAT after both Fed and Rafa's careers are over. (The one thing that seems most likely is that we won't know who's had more success until they're both done playing.)

And as for this FO, I guess I don't get the logic. If in past years, the only thing keeping Fed from winning the FO and being proclaimed the GOAT was Nadal, how does he then become the GOAT if this year he beats everyone else except Rafa. Isn't that what he did the last several years?

To me the more interesting story is just to see how Fed will react. Both whether he'll be able to capitalize, and whether he'll be revved up or disappointed now that Nadal is out.

Posted by Tommy Balls 05/31/2009 at 02:05 PM

I still cant beleive that Nadal lost...it seems, well impossible. I feel bad for the guy, but i hope Fed can get the job done and gain this elusive title. You know he's going to feel some pressure and there is still Mr Murray, who could spoil the whole thing with his annoying self. Man, i was really hoping for a Nadal-Federer Final!

Posted by Tommy Balls 05/31/2009 at 02:09 PM

Acordeon......Im inclined to agree with your post. So if Fed wins people will still say that its not as legitimate because he didnt beat Nadal along the way.

Posted by Aabye 05/31/2009 at 02:11 PM

Acorden, I don't really like the GOAT talk either (but I'm not a Fed fan so maybe that has something to do with it)

But really, the guy has done everything he could, except beat Nadal at RG. And while he won't get that chance this year either, if he still pulls this off, I've got to hand it to him simply for his doggone stubbornness (I mean that in a great way). People talk about Nadal's chutzpah in every match, but Federer has been doing it every Slam for the last 6 years now. Bravo, Sire Jacket.

Posted by Maria 05/31/2009 at 02:13 PM

There's a lot of pressure now on Roger, undoubtedly -- and still very good players left in the draw, in particular the two Frenchmen, Tsonga and Monfils, who will have huge crowd support.

Posted by olive 05/31/2009 at 02:18 PM

congratulations to nadal! amazing run!

and federer! yay! let's hope history doesn't psyche him out...please! slay two dragons with one tennis racket: get # 14 and the fo.

mr bodo, your predictions on the men's side weren't so bad. you spelled the names of some of the players in the draw correctly.


Posted by Andrew Miller 05/31/2009 at 02:27 PM

Scoreboard says Roger got his revenge in Madrid - he doesnt need to beat Rafa in Paris to complete the quest.

So who's left for Federer: Tommy Haas (should see him off quickly); maybe Monfils, maybe Roddick (if Roddick can box Monfils in, I think we'll see Roddick there); in the semis, maybe Tsonga, del Potro, Robredo or Kohlschreiber - I only like Tsonga's chances in front of a French crowd, and if Federer's already played Roddick he's more than prepared.

But: it's one match at a time out there. If Federer wins (a big if) this would be as huge a victory as can be. It's not like Federer made Nadal lose. You need luck to win. Besides: Federer has enough work ahead of him as it is. He doesnt need it any harder than it will be.

Posted by Samantha Elin(supporter of all things Scandinavian) 05/31/2009 at 03:58 PM

Takk Robin, I hope you win the whole thing so you can increase the love people have for you on this board. Go Swedish tennis!

Posted by jb 05/31/2009 at 04:05 PM

loved this phrase pete > A red clay court never looks better than on an overcast day, when it has texture that is flatttened out by sunlight. Under clouds, a red clay court looks like it's made of exquisitely soft, pliant buckskin.

Posted by kron 05/31/2009 at 04:06 PM

In my opinion, it will only be tougher for TMF as nadal loses this early. All the pressure is on him now and my gut feeling tells me that he may crash out before reaching the finals. However, I do hope that he can finally complete his personal GS.

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 05/31/2009 at 04:09 PM

awe Pete, hold my hand...this is tough. My hombre will not be biting the coupe.

Posted by Corrie (not Carrie or Cory) 05/31/2009 at 04:10 PM

I want to see a bit more respect shown to an unloved, unappreciated player like Soderling. I am very happy that he won, I certainly don't see him as a boor, just a great fighter, and I'm equally glad another unappreciated player - Davydenko - won.

It's also great to have a break from the relentless grinding play and boring go slow tactics of Nadal. Long may it last.

It may be a pipe dream but I hope Davy or Gonzo can win the whole thing. Gonzo holding up the trophy would be a great thing for South American tennis. Or Roddick too, but now I'm really dreaming.

In the meantime, Robin, you've hit a mighty blow for all the unloved underdogs!

Posted by Sher 05/31/2009 at 04:10 PM

Rafa's shiny answer in the presser was "if you think 4 years was quick"

Pete, why do I get the feeling that you are salivating at the opportunity to write about Federer losing this golden opportunity? Oh the things people will write if he missteps -- Nole and Rafa will be forgotten in a moment. Have I become too jaded? Oh well.

Good article though. I like how you called Rafa's shirt "agressive pink". I was searching for a way to describe it, but that's perfect. Have a good stay in Paris!

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/31/2009 at 04:11 PM

Haas.

Haas.

Haas.

Oh, and another thing: Haas.

That's the only relevant opponent/aspect/challenge/match/task in front of Roger Federer right now, and the only thing his fans and intimates and coaches and trainers and friends should be thinking about.

Tommy Haas.

Tunnel. Vision. Focus.

Posted by Andrew 05/31/2009 at 04:15 PM

Nadal won two points in the fourth set TB, one at 6-1 (MP down). Having seen Nadal save five MPs at IW 2009 R16 vs Nalbandian (non-consecutive), I didn't think the match over even then.

I'm rewatching the third set right now. What's striking is that Soderling is moving Nadal around, rather than the other way round.

Right now, I have no interest in discussing what this means for Federer, who hasn't even gotten to the QF stage yet. It's a day to congratulate Robin Soderling, who came in with a plan and pulled it off. And it's a day to acknowledge the achievement of Rafael Nadal, who until this day in 31 matches had never lost two sets in a match at Roland Garros, let alone three.

Posted by jb 05/31/2009 at 04:16 PM

ok - finished reading!

nothing brilliant to add, really, as i'm waiting for the replay on ttc, to see the play for m'self.

there's a hail of a lot of tennis left to play, that's for sure. we'll need to see who's ready to step up. there's any number of players that can hoist the trophy come next sunday.

hope rafa enjoys his days in the sun; he's had a tough tiring season and pretty soon, he'll have queens and wimby to tackle.

Posted by Or 05/31/2009 at 04:22 PM

Actually. And oh God. I'm going to regret saying that - I took a little issue with Rafa's presser.

On the one hand, not enough emotions - maybe I'm just used to Roger's emotional pressers, but I have a hard time buying into 'season goes on, have a meeting with my swimming pool in a couple of days' - Rafa had so much on the line here, chances for five in a row, Borg's record, the RG streak, chances for a Grand Slam, etc, etc. I'd love to hear him say 'It hurts, I'll get over it - but I'm not happy at all right now'.

I know that's the kind of guy Rafa is, but I don't believe anyone is capable to this kind of nonechalant attitude after losing like he did today, with what he had on the line. I've never seen any other player (not just Roger, who is more emotional than most) handle such a big loss as easily as Rafa seemed to. Hell, I've seen that interview with Sampras after Roger took him out in the forth round of Wimby, and he looked crushed and disappointed.

I want to be able to feel bad for Rafa, it's hard when he doesn't give you anything out there.

Moreover, I thought Soderling played a fantastic match, regardless of what Rafa did or didn't do - I'm more than okay with Rafa saying he played short (He did) but Robin deserved a touch more credit than that, and I'm a bit surprised by the tone of the presser.

Though I imagine that if it was someone else out there, and not Soderling, he would have complimented a bit more.

Posted by Or 05/31/2009 at 04:23 PM

As for Roger, I have nothing to say other than 'take it baby, take it".

Posted by Nancy J 05/31/2009 at 04:37 PM

I'm watching Nadal v Soderling right now on NBC. I couldn't wait see how it turned out, and logged into TW. I'm in total shock!

Roger should get his career slam now. Emphasis on "should," as maybe this loss by Nadal will fire up whose left in the draw!

If I had my way, it would be either Del Potro or Roddick holding the trophy. Or Andy Murray cause I bet a local store clerk two weeks ago that Murray would win (I was feeling crazy at the time -- and angry at his loud comments that NO WAY would that happen! LOL).

Posted by Corrie (not Carrie or Cory) 05/31/2009 at 04:38 PM

Or, why be surprised that Nadal gave little credit to Soderling? Nadal doesn't like Robin because he made fun of his ludicrous habits on court. I remember how Nadal whined to the press about it. I don't know how he'd have coped in the Connors Macenroe era. As I said earlier it's about time Soderling got some respect and his great play recognised. And it's great to have different players to watch for once.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 04:39 PM

Sher, totally agree, the press will eat him alive if he loses, but if he wins on Sunday, he's the GOAT... talk about pressure and a swing of fortunes!

im frazzled beyond belief now

Watching the match on NBC, Rafa is totally playing not to lose, hard to believe but the presssure did get to him u can see it in his face...

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 04:40 PM

and whoever said nadal likes to storm the armada, and not defend, is right on, exactly right, its way more fun to rise to the top than to try stay there...

Posted by Ivo 05/31/2009 at 04:41 PM

I have just looked at the scores that Federer has against all the opponents left in the draw. It it ridiculous, it would come to something like 80:10:). I mean there is only Roddick who defeated Federer 2 times (18:2), then Haas (8:2) and any Murray (6:2) and Gonzalez (1:11?). I can't remember the exact figures, you can look it up yourself as you know. I do remember though that none of the other players have ever won a match against him. The bottom line: as all of you have been saying it: this is IT: Federer's CHANCE to make HISTORY. Will he do it?
I admit I would love to see him do it. I always like when people rewrite history. And it would surely make the whole thing even more interesting in the coming weeks as far as the fight for regaining no. 1 goes. Think about this. Rafael Nadal lost today 1800points, and in August he will loose 800 points. IN other words soon he'll be down to 12300 or something and yeah, there's a Wimbledon + Queens defense ahead of him. On the other hand, if Federer were to win this tournament he'd be close to 11 000.
And it gets even more interesting..if Murray continues the way he does, we could see further changes...he's now 9000 something and only gaining points. Yeah, the summer season could be really interesting.
But back to the loss of Rafael. Dementeva said in her presser yesterday that Nadal looks tired and won't win this year. I have to admit that I had the same impression. Despite his winning his early rounds he's been making a "tired impression" on me ever since Madrid.
Unfortunately I have the same feeling about Federer. He just doesn't seem sharp enough to me in this French open. You might call me crazy but I am worried that he won't make it pass Haas or the next round(I think that both Roddick and Monfils can give him very very tough times....many will probably doubt my judgment but this tournament has had already very huge and surprising upsets and to be honest with you....the only person who really pushed Roger in Madrid was Andy Roddick...maybe after all the years that Roger spoiled all the grandslams for Roddick (look at the stats, I feel almost sad for Andy), this is the time for Roddick to spoil it for Federer? It would be so ironic....And the same goes for Davydenko. Once again, you will probably call me crazy but this Russian can make it to the final...and if Roger is there, he might, for the first time ever, be beaten by him. These are my premonitions - I am picking these guys against Roger because their game on clay is annoying to his style of game. and of course there is Andy Murray....well my hope and hunch is that Davydenko will take him out.

All that said, I hope i am WRONG. What I am certain about is that if Roger Federer is going to make this, it'll be very very ugly.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 04:41 PM

interesting comment about Nadal playing in the Connors, McEnroe Lendl era of horrid sportsmanship and rudeness, makes all this seem so silly...

Posted by Rosangel 05/31/2009 at 04:43 PM

Thanks for the post, Pete. I honestly can't comment intelligently on the idea that it just got a whole lot more interesting, because the opposite is true for me. Congrats to the winner and all that, but really, I can't summon up even the remotest spark of excitement about the rest of the tournament at this stage.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 04:43 PM

Ivo i think youre wrong about Fed, he looked very good to me vs. PHM, who played great tennis, he's here, in form, and if there isnt a spring in his step from here, well, the world has really gone mad...

Posted by Tfactor 05/31/2009 at 04:44 PM

Pete,
Nice post.
You were into something thinking we wouldn't have the final we've had for three years.
I never expected Rafa to go out so early but I too had a sense that this French Open was going to surprise us all.
Thanks for your comments on the actual play, I really appreciate it and also agree that Rafa was not returning the ball the way he can and of course Robin was on fire, as you say it was one of those days for him.


Or,
I actually feel the opposite. As a fan of both Rafa and Fed (in that order) I'm quite appreciative of Rafa's philosophical ways while I cringe when I see Fed being so emotional. It just doesn't seem something you do in public but maybe it's a cultural thing ;)
Also, many times I have defended Roger when people call him arrogant for not giving enough credit to the other player and here again, much like Fed, I thought Rafa was just concentrating on his part in the loss and yet he did say more than once that Soderling played well.

Posted by Beckham (Bus Conductor!!!) 05/31/2009 at 04:45 PM

All I still have to say is just UNFREAKINGBELIEVABLE...

Tim & Sher: frazzled enough yet?? You have to believe in Beckham's crazy bus...your conductor has spoken...and my word is law around here...lol

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 04:45 PM

Ros, i totally get it, now you know how i felt when Rafa was winning a zillion clay court tourneys in a row, different strokes, just no interest after awhile when your fave is out ...

Posted by Chun 05/31/2009 at 04:46 PM

Wow, I've heard lot's of people say that having a fourth final with Federer and Nadal was not going to happen.
But I bet they didn't expect that it'd be Nadal that's out

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 04:46 PM

put me on the crazy bus, please! Im freaking out now, there is no one left Fed cannot beat, for sure, on this surface... but after today, anything is possible...

Frazzle Rock time, open the bar!

Posted by sally 05/31/2009 at 04:50 PM

i have never appreciated roger's incredible consistency till now. he has not lost as early as nadal in a slam in years. and certainly not to a journeyman, my hat is off to roger federer. his incredible career will not be matched not even by the great nadal.

Posted by Rosangel 05/31/2009 at 04:54 PM

Tim: that excitement might return if Murray or Tsonga or even Monfils does well here. I'm gutted right now, but I'll see what happens over the course of the week.

Looks like the best thing that might come out of this RG is that the number one on the WTA side could prove that she unreservedly deserves her current ranking.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 05/31/2009 at 04:55 PM

LOL, Pete - finally a post about Rafa's tennis, and it's when he loses. ;-)

I am still laughing at the irony of it being Soderling to do the deed.

It's one hell of a chance for Federer now. And this Rafa fan would love to see him do it.

wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have a Fedal war in these comments? *wistful looks*

lack of emotion in Rafa's press conference might, you know, be down to a very private person not wanting to share his feelings with the world, no? Still waters run deep and all that.

Posted by Jbradhunter 05/31/2009 at 04:57 PM

Soderling does deserve credit for playing such a great match-- atleast Rafa can take heart in knowing that.
Plus, Soderling's absolute best was only slightly better than Nadal's mediocre play... Not that it matters really, because a W is a W

This is the fall from grace many people were waiting for... Hopefully Rafa won't take the cynicism personally

Posted by banti 05/31/2009 at 04:57 PM

Soderling in Nadal's draw was always going to be a tough match up. The mental game is always with Soderling in this match up as there matches in the past have shown. Rafa has had easy draws recently in the slams. Australian being a great example. This was coming. This loss of Nadal's just lifts Fed's incredible streak of 20 semi's and 19/1 slam finals just that much more amazing. Roger is the most consistent player in men's tennis. I see him lifting this trophy on sunday. Look for him to take down Wimbi and regain his number 1 ranking all before he has his kid. This is story book stuff for his all his fans. Hand over the GOAT trophy :)

Posted by beth 05/31/2009 at 04:58 PM

well - I have to say I am very disappointed that Rafa lost
but , I will cope with it - loss is inevitable in sport
so congratualtions to Soderling on his win

for Rafa and his fans there is always next year - I feel fairly certain he will be in contention again .
I have not completely lost interest in the tournament - even though my favorite players are no longer in contention
I would not mind seeing one of the French boys winning it - that would be good for either of them , Or , Maybe I will cheer for the improbable chances of Andy Roddick - now that would really be a crazy bus , don't you think?
Deep down , I do think this is now Federer's tournament to win - and no - it does not mean less because Rafa will not be there
You play who is across the net from you - and if you win - you are the deserving champion

Posted by Mike 05/31/2009 at 04:59 PM

A whole slew of Top players with nothing to lose, and Fed with a target on his posterior. I'm hoping this will be a very long week. ;)

Posted by Mike 05/31/2009 at 05:00 PM

Kind of disappointing. If I was Federer I would be bummed that Nadal is out. I think he'd feel a lot better whether he won or lost in the final against Nadal. Then again he really wants to pass Sampras and complete a carrer slam.

I would laugh so hard if Roddick somehow won.

Posted by Codge 05/31/2009 at 05:01 PM

Pete, Thx for the insider view.

Read both presser, nothing out of order there from either man.

Also, since the Wimby incident will be revisited in perpetuity, Soderling had every right to be aggravated. Loads of players are, he had the guts to show it.

Rafa's handling his loss well, after all the man is still #1 and will be the favourite for Wimby still.

Although no one picked him to win coming in (I believe even Novak was considered a valid alternative) the press is going to try to create their own narrative and put pressure on Fed.

Rafa losing doesn't equate to a Fed win. Much like Djoko losing as Fed addressed yesterday as well.

Only thing we know for certain is that there will be a new FO Champion..on both sides!

Posted by Mike 05/31/2009 at 05:03 PM

Uhh ... the Mike at 5:00 is not the same Mike @ 4:59 (FedKAD, lives in NJ, Gemini, been here a few years, etc.)

Posted by Mr.and Mrs. D. 05/31/2009 at 05:04 PM

Or: are you irritated that rafa is not emotional after such a devastating loss or just that he isn't emotional in public (or press)? I'm not quite sure what you're trying to express.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 05/31/2009 at 05:04 PM

it would've made a better story if Roger had beaten Rafa in the final, imo, but if he wins without beating Rafa, it won't make him any less of a champion.

Posted by Ruth 05/31/2009 at 05:05 PM

Thanks for the report on the match. I am watching it as the end of the NBC replay approaches. I can't say that I wish I were there to see the match, but I'm glad that we have you there giving us your insights.

With the losses by Nadal, Ana, and Venus and Serena in doubles, today has been the second sad day of the FO for me, but I guess 2 out of 7 ain't too bad. :) I just wish that alnost all of the 7 days have not in some way been spoiled by the attitude of many of the French fans to some of the players, most notably Nadal and Serena.

Or: Unlike you, I am able to feel bad/sympathy both for players who, like Nadal today, publicly accept their losses with dignity and stoicism and for players who are publicly "crushed and disappointed" -- even weeping -- after big losses.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/31/2009 at 05:12 PM

HAAS.

Only HAAS.

Nothing but HAAS.

Beckham, Tim, Sher, Or, and everyone else (Andrew's already wisely advancing this line of thought, as usual):

You can't beat four players at once. Can't beat Tsonga and Le Monf at once. Can't beat Murray tomorrow.

Only Mr. Tommy Haas.

If you look ahead, you get your butt beat. If you allow yourself to dream about a draw, you lose sight of the bracket-buster staring you down on the other side of the net.

One German already bagged a big dog on Saturday, as Kohlschreiber jumped the Joker.

Fed has to play another German, and if he doesn't beat him tomorrow, the rest ain't worth a warm bucket o' spit.

HAAS. That's all I want to think, hear, or talk about.

HAAS.

The more anyone (but especially Fed fans) talks about winning the French, the more nasty the fallout will be if Roger loses.

For your own sake as well as Roger's, limit the attention to HAAS.

I don't want Roger to become "HAAS-enfeffer."

Neither should you.

This is not one 4-match tournament.

It's four 1-match tournaments.

HAAS is the first tournament.

Let's get our game face on. No smiles, no relief, no easy confidence. This is about nose-to-the-grindstone determination. No distractions... just like Soderling's manner and method of play today against El Rey de Clay at Chatrier.

Posted by lurker 20 05/31/2009 at 05:13 PM

Or:

" I've never seen any other player (not just Roger, who is more emotional than most) handle such a big loss as easily as Rafa seemed to".

No one looses that match, with that history both behind and potentially in front of him and isn't absolutely gutted. I personally felt like you could hear it hurt --like if he wasn't trying to laugh, he'd be crying.

It doesn't seem right to take issue with his reaction IMO: it would be one thing if he was like 'whatever, sun's shining, all these people are here, may as well put on a show'; but he fought to the end with the skills he had available on this day. He didn't go down tamely, he pushed it to two breakers.

Posted by Vanity 05/31/2009 at 05:13 PM

So...Dementieva was right. Who could have guessed?

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 05:15 PM

well not to echo WImby last year, but this is kinda of the end of an era, no?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 05/31/2009 at 05:16 PM

Think Or is perfectly entitled to her reaction, no?

Posted by ladyjulia 05/31/2009 at 05:17 PM

Jewell,

Federer at the US 2008 said that if he beat Nadal in the final of US open, it would mean more to him than beating Murray. The trophy would mean more to him.

Posted by Beckham (Bus Conductor!!!) 05/31/2009 at 05:17 PM

MattZ: this post is about Nadal, try and stay on topic, eh?? lol and for the record Beckham's crazy bus' next stop is Haas...I'm the bus conductor, I know the route!!!

Posted by Seven 05/31/2009 at 05:19 PM

Acordeon...Spot on!
As for Nadal's loss WOW. Double WOW WOW!
As for Fed's chances.......this is it right here and now. Maybe not against Nadal but it's Slam Trophy all the same buth with one difference....it's on clay and he's never been able to achieve that. I believe 8 players are presently in their second week at RG that have never been there before. Something tells me it's about to get really interesting.......

Posted by Tfactor 05/31/2009 at 05:19 PM

Matt,
I learned that same thing the hard way. I will admit here I was looking ahead not thinking for a minute that Soderling was going to even trouble Rafa.
I had a bad feeling about Rafa in this tournament but I was worrying about Verdasco in the quarters and neither Rafa nor Nando made it there.
One match at a time.
On paper Roger is the overwhelming favorite against Haas but so was Rafa today and Djoker yesterday.

Posted by john 05/31/2009 at 05:22 PM

I thought the blog was strangely written Pete. You made mention of how this is Roger's chance and if he wins he'll be considered the all time best. What a statement. I don't agree with it, but you never followed up with anything on that subject.
Regarding your description of the match, it seemed you were straining to come up with some analogies and descriptive comments. Please, don't try so hard. The match speaks for itself.
As far as Rafa is concerned, I have always thought his style put a great deal of strain on his body. Yes, he is a great player, but there is a lot of torque needed for each swing. I have never seen another player put his body in such a difficult place. Perhaps this will eventually cause him to have a shorter career.
I don't see Roger playing to anything like a high level these days. He's having his worst year yet. If he wins the French I will be shocked. What's happening now is that we have a little lower quality at the top and things are opening up. There is no dominant player, although Rafa is still the closest.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 05/31/2009 at 05:22 PM

I am so glad, extra glad, now that Rafa won the AO, even if last year turns out to be just one year sandwiched by years of Federer dominant greatness.

Agree that this loss shows Feddy's brilliance more, too - and I guess how out of the normal pattern of tennis careers it was.

Borg's records look better, too.

Posted by Tfactor 05/31/2009 at 05:24 PM

Oops didn't mean to type Djoker!!! Nole is also one of my favorites and I have no idea why I used that name, my bad.
Wonder if Rafa and Nole are comparing notes and consoling each other :-)

Posted by Flyer 05/31/2009 at 05:25 PM

Like I said on the other thread.

Stay off of Roger's back! And that especially includes the journos!

One point, one game, one set and one deem match at a time.

A long week ahead.

Everyone is dangerous at this point in the tournament - nothin' is a given - TODAY should prove that beyond a doubt to anyone.

I just hope that tomorrow will see that the week still goes ON for Roger.

Then I'll worry about Wednesday.

Posted by Mr.and Mrs. D. 05/31/2009 at 05:28 PM

Ruth, Thanks to ESPN2 and tennischannel.com, I had the rare pleasure of watching all of the Venus and Serena doubles matches. I found they had so much support from the crowd when they played doubles. Did you notice? I wonder why such a difference?

Posted by Flyer 05/31/2009 at 05:30 PM

Besides which - ALL the talk for at least today should be about Nadal & Soderling.

Nadal deserves it for being the 4 time FO champion and putting forth a real fight and Soderling deserves it for the totally unexpected commanding win.

Soderling played tough on point penetrating tennis all match - scary good stuff from him.

Posted by georgia 05/31/2009 at 05:32 PM

OK DONT GET ALL CRAZY AND A HEAD OF YOUR SELFS NOW FEDERER IS NOT GOING TO WIN....AND EVERYONE IS SO UNAPPRECIATIVE OF HOW HUMBLE NADLE IS AND SUCH A GREAT PLAYER AND ALWAYS GIVE THE HIGHEST AND MOST RESPECT TO EACH PLAYER RECORDLESS IF HE WINS LOOSES....HE IS ONE GREAT TENNIS PLAYER THE MOST HUMBLE AND WELL DESERVING OF ALL HIS HARD WORK IT WAS NOT THROWN IN HIS LAP....HE WORK SO HARD...

Posted by twist serve 05/31/2009 at 05:32 PM


Hey, I'm coming inlate to this discussion, but did anyone see that a blogger for the NYT almost saw this Nadal defeat coming?

http://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/history-says-odds-will-catch-up-to-nadal/

Posted by Coscientious Observer 05/31/2009 at 05:34 PM

Too bad Soderling has the personality of a wooden racket.

Seriously just about the most anti-climatic "upset" possible.

"Hooray for the tall blond swedish alpha-male with the boring, mindless power game that is drawing millions away from the sport.."

WOOHOO

Posted by Rolling of the eyes 05/31/2009 at 05:35 PM

Soderling made fun of Nadal and more or less tried to bully him around at Wimbledon a few years ago, and if you think Nadal may be a bit intimidated by him, just think about those score in Rome. It's more likely that the person who thought the least about that Wimbledon incident was Nadal; Soderling's punishment for being such a boor has been having to answer questions about the incident, even today.
*******************************

His punishment for crossing one of the media's sacred cows is more like it.

Opening the fifth set, Soderling realized belatedly that there was a ball change and headed back to his bag to switch rackets. Nadal, immersed in his extensive pre-serve ritual and failing to notice, became perturbed upon realizing he'd have to wait for Soderling to get back in position to receive serve.

After Soderling again took his position at the baseline, Nadal bounced the ball several times, straightened up and began his service motion...only to abort it and hold up the ball for Soderling to see, directing a derisive "New balls" at him, at which point Soderling backed away from the baseline and began tugging at his shorts in an I-won't-be-mocked-for-my-mistake-by-a-guy-who-routinely-causes-interminable-delays-by-picking-at-his-ass gesture.

But, please, keep pushing the Classy Nadal Bullied By Boorish Soderling narrative.

Posted by KB 05/31/2009 at 05:35 PM

Or: I expected Nadal to handle his presser the way he did. I have NO doubt in my mind that he cried (and maybe is still crying) over this loss. I just read an article in one of the several magazines that Rafa is on the cover of here in the US and it said that he cried in the shower after his Wimbly loss in 2007. And that either Toni or his dad (can't remember) heard him crying like a baby later that evening in his room. Just because he was able to hold it in for the press, doesn't mean he wasn't devastated. Heck, I cried for him. I'm sure he cried for himself.

For those people who think shoving Fed's unbelievable record in my Rafa lovin' face is supposed to make me hand Fed the GOAT trophy, think again. I respect Roger's incredible career and really like him a lot. However, I agree with whoever posted earlier that we'll wait to see who the GOAT is at the end of BOTH of their careers. I have read more than once today that Fed fans are using Rafa's inability to win RG 5 times in a row as justification to Roger's record. Roger has a great record in slams and but please keep in mind that Rafa is 22 years old!!! Give him a few more years before you hold Roger's record up as proof of Roger's superiority over Rafa. Roger's run is ending and Rafa's is beginning. Roger was going to lose his #1 ranking eventaully and he did. The same can be said for Rafa's run at RG. Nobody can win forever. But again, Rafa is 22!

That being said, I really hope Roger wins this because he deserves a career slam. I also think both of these players (if health allows it) can potentially pick up a few slams in their early 30s. So we have a while before we can call either one of them GOAT. And who knows, by then we may have some new players making a splash in the game. How long did Sampras get to keep his GOAT title before we decided to give it to Roger?! The game is constantly changing. New players are always popping up. I applaud Roger's career thus far and Rafa's run on clay. I am crushed that he had to lose to Soderling since I HATE him. But he was going to lose eventually. Why couldn't it have been to Roger or Novak?! Even Roddick. WHY SODERLING?! WHY THIS YEAR?

Posted by Moderator 05/31/2009 at 05:37 PM

Tennisfan: this is Pete's site. Disagree by all means - a string of insults, no.

georgia: all caps = shouting. Indoor voice, please.

Posted by daz 05/31/2009 at 05:38 PM

federer could have 15 grand slams in a month!! cmon roger...

Posted by NP 05/31/2009 at 05:39 PM

So I wake up, start streaming and see Nadal had lost the 1st set. But he was up a break in the 2nd, all's right with the world... right? No, Sod breaks back and forces a TB after coming within two points for another break and the set. Of course Rafa wins the TB handily, and more or less plays like the GOAT of Clay again, though Sod is also playing as well as I've ever seen him (admittedly in my limited experience). NOW all's right with the world, I conclude, and after consuming about half of the 3rd set I take another nap, expecting the obvious result.

Fast forward to the afternoon. Wow. The Sod has vanquished the King of Clay. What can I say, hats off to the Swede. Looks like he played with controlled but devastating aggression and pinpoint accuracy today. Again, huge props to the guy.

Sorry, Rafa fans. This must hurt like the thrush of a rapier and a broadsword combined after a full-scale explosion of Little Boy. But I think the end of Rafa's historic run reminds us of the greatness of Bjorn Borg and the singularity of his accomplishments. Say what you will about his questionable decisions, but when you hear, for the umpteenth time, that we may never see another one like him again, you can rest assured that it's no mere boilerplate talk.

I bet a few posters have said that Fed cannot afford to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Agreed, but let's not count out Sod just yet. I can certainly imagine him winning the whole thing if he can play like this throughout the 2nd week. This year's French Open has sure gotten interesting.

Go, Jo-Willy!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 05/31/2009 at 05:39 PM

The tennis gods must be laughing so hard today.

Posted by Prakash Sri 05/31/2009 at 05:41 PM

As I thought Nadal was not looking that sharp and I think he lost a bit of confidence after the loss to Nadal a week ago. May be the clay court in RG is not behaving the same way as it used to for Nadal. We have all seen that the courts get faster not sure it that caused any issue for Nadal even though there is no altitude issue.

Here is my finals prediction. It could Fed vice Davydenko with Fed winning in 4 sets. I am still a hardcore Federer fan (-; and this is a golden opportunity for him to reach the 14th and RG trophy for the first time

Posted by Prakash Sri 05/31/2009 at 05:42 PM

Sorry I meant Nadal loss to Federer in the previous comment. my bad!!

Posted by Mr.and Mrs. D. 05/31/2009 at 05:42 PM

Moderator: I thought I'd responded to an imaginary post! Feel free to delete my response.

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 05:43 PM

I agree, I think this is Davydenko's final to reach, he's under the radar even more than usual, and he's gonna dismantle Murray on this surface...

I would greatly enjoy a Fed Davydenko final :)

Posted by georgia 05/31/2009 at 05:43 PM

SODERLING IS THE BIGGEST LOOSER HE IS SUCH A JERK....HE WON NO GRAND SLAMS DONE NOTHING IN HIS LIFE AND JUST BECAUSE OF JEALOUSY HE REALLY THINKS HE DONE SOME THING....AT ANY GIVEN DAY ANY PLAYER CAN BEAT THE #1 PLAYER IN THE WORLD AT ANY GIVEN TIME...WHY DO YOU THINK THERE IS SO MANY DIFFERENT TOP PLAYERS YOU CANT STAY ON TO FOR EVER....AND NADAL IS NOT GOD....BUT SODERLING IS A JACKASS....HE CANT EVEN BE RESPECTFULL TO NADAL THATS HE IS WHERE HE IS....AND HE WILL NEVER GET TO EXPERINCE WHAT NADAL ACCOMPLISH....

Posted by Corrie 05/31/2009 at 05:44 PM

Totally agree Rolling of the Eyes. Nadal is treated as someone sacred who can't be mocked. There should be more mocking when there are things to mock and Nadal's time wasting habits are an obvious target since they inconvenience players and spectators. I love Robin for his feisty attitudes, there's jsust too much reverence and fan girly gushing these days over the top players.

Posted by Veruca Salt (360) 05/31/2009 at 05:46 PM

thanks for the great post pete. i'm still in shock/bemusement mode here.

however, i'm not surprised at the haters coming in with the name calling. typical. i'm kinda with roseangel on not being excited-well, unless serena wins.

Posted by Moderator 05/31/2009 at 05:46 PM

Mr. and Mrs. D.: no worries.

georgia: second and final polite request - enough with the all caps.

Posted by Suny 05/31/2009 at 05:47 PM

After looking at the title of the post this is what I thought : Pete skipped the first week (frankly, who cares about the all and sundries fighting out in the first week and the top players are only warming up) and now regrets his ill luck for being too late to watch this monumental match. As it turns out he did saw it a bit; a close call indeed. I wouldn't like to be a tennis journalist who misses a match like this.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 05/31/2009 at 05:48 PM

Hmmm. Rosangel ... so you've lost interest now that your boy Rafa lost? And here I thought you were a tennis fan first and a Rafa fan second. Appears it's the other way around. In any case, your other boy Murray is still around. And if Federer blows his "golden opportunity" and loses, that should perk up your interest in a big way, no?

Posted by Tfactor 05/31/2009 at 05:49 PM

NP
"So I wake up, start streaming and see Nadal had lost the 1st set"

You know I read that and thought you said 'dreaming Nadal lost' and I was going to say wow you are really clairvoyant after all :)

I'm with you on Borg's greatness but not jumping on either Tsonga or Soderling's bandwagon. Hoping Fed gets his first French and completes his career grand slam

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 05:51 PM

holy crap there really IS something to the No. 1 seed curse at RG...

Posted by Sam 05/31/2009 at 05:52 PM

Ow, my ears.

Posted by olive 05/31/2009 at 05:52 PM

georgia, you are cracking me up!

you are soderling-esque trying to take typepad!

Posted by Richard Williams 05/31/2009 at 05:54 PM

Am I the only person who thinks the court surface is playing little odd this year? I've never seen so many aces and so many big hitters through to the second week as this year. This court is not playing like a clay court at all. Something is just not right.

Posted by JAS 05/31/2009 at 05:54 PM

Here's the thing I don't understand.

You yourself have argued some time ago that one cannot be considered The BEST of all time if there is a player in his generation that he cannot beat.

If Federer wins (and this still has to happen) it will not be by beating Nadal, the way that Nadal has beaten Federer in Wimbledon, but by having someone else do it for him. Still there is a shadow of doubt that Nadal/Novak was too tiered, or whatever the reason may be. So, in any case, the same argument you made would still apply, even though Federer may have now won all the Grand Slams.


Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 05:54 PM

georgia turn down the caps please, and do u mean that Soderling was hapy and threw his racquet in the crowd? how is this disrespectful? sorry this is sport, its about winning and if you win, usually you act happy afterwards, no?

Posted by Or 05/31/2009 at 05:55 PM

Lurker, Ruth and everyone -

I didn't expect Rafa to burst into sobs, I guess I was a bit... surprised? in disbelief? about the philisophical attitude. I mean, I've seen him get emotional after winning and after losing - this was big, I expected a bit more emotions.

I'm sure he cares, a lot. I just wanted to see it a bit more.

For me, personally - it hard for me to relate to a player who try to make it look like something that hurts doesn't, especially as this wasn't just a match.

As for the rest of the presser, yeah - I thought he could have given Soderling a bit more credit.

Posted by Ruth 05/31/2009 at 05:56 PM

M/M D: Unfortunately, I haven't had access to TC while visiting with my son for the past few days, so I didn't see the V&S doubles match today. But the fans at the one doubles match I saw last week weren't very warm to V&S IMHO, and the announcers kept mentioning that great champions like V&S deserved more respect than they were receiving from the majority of fans in attendance.

I wouldn't even hazard a guess at the reasons...just say that its very, very strange and annoying.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 05/31/2009 at 05:56 PM

We are going to have a Fedal war, aren't we? *sighs*

if Rosangel says she's gutted and not interested any more - that doesn't make her a bad tennis fan.

Besides, think she also said that her interest could be sparked up again by a Tsonga run or a Murray run.

NP, agreed about Borg, and yes to the loss feeling. Ugh. I so much prefer the wins. ;-) But without a few losses the wins wouldn't be so good, I suppose. :)

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and just say NO to pink!) 05/31/2009 at 05:56 PM

JAS he's beat him in two Wimby finals, ok? its not like he's never beaten him, and he has 2 wins on clay, id say he's done his share of winning vs. Nadal ...

cmon, dont bring out your knives for Fed just yet, its not HIS fault Rafa lost..and he hasnt won the French Open, either, he's in the 4th friggin round!

Posted by sally 05/31/2009 at 05:57 PM

yeah the way things are going roger will wind up losing tomorrow.

Posted by olive 05/31/2009 at 05:58 PM

georgia...lol!

jas, federer is not 0-19 against nadal. if he were, well, then...

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever 05/31/2009 at 05:59 PM

Tommy Haas is the focus. Nothing else. Tommy Haas in straights. Game plan for Monfils or Roddick. Then the match after. I am sure Fed knows a thing or two about getting to the Semis (ROFLOL). That's all there is folks. Tommy Haas. Tomorrow. And then Wed. That's as much as far we could afford to see.

PS: Put an end to this GOAT crap. If Fed made it to 4 calendar GS finals 3 different times *AND*, and, won 3 out of 4 each time, to me, humbly, seems a big feat. I mutter GOAT to mutter and move on in life. Like I said, Bud Collins can now suck my socks.

Posted by Mike 05/31/2009 at 06:00 PM

Oh MAN ... now we have the 'how can F be the GOAT if he doesn't have a winning record against N?' debate in a thread that is supposed to be focusing on Rafa, Sod, etc. ... you can tell when it's time to move on to a new post. :P

Posted by Veruca Salt (360) 05/31/2009 at 06:00 PM

Or-after watching rafa for about 5 years, that's pretty much how rafa deals with losses. he's very careful not to show too much disappointment or sadness because he feels it takes away from his opponents victory.

as far as giving soderling more credit, i think his calm, philosophical approach during his presser was sporting enough.

Posted by Andrew 05/31/2009 at 06:01 PM

jewell: I dunno. I think that the national security apparatus of the Federerland and Nadalia are keeping things under reasonable control. There's a few unhinged militia types taking pot shots at each other, but I'm not seeing the big guns moving to DefCon 2.

Posted by ac 05/31/2009 at 06:01 PM

I remember Wilander said last year that Nadal should just forget about the French, we all know he can win the French, and he should focus on the other surfaces. Well he did that, winning Wimbledon and the Australian. Maybe he really did lose his clay court game in the process.

Or maybe he just had an off day. Maybe it was nerves. Maybe it's just the law of averages catching up. Except that I can't help but compare this loss with the one in Madrid and the near-one against Djokovic in Madrid. Mistakes off the forehand, his movement not up to par. I was worried after those matches, it was like Nadal had lost his game all of the sudden, and he did not claim to be sick or injured or even tired, there was no exterior reason for him to be playing badly (except arguably too heavy a schedule, especially considering he won three titles prior to Madrid and so was playing more matches than anyone else).

I feel bad for Nadal, but at the same time he has won this tournament four times, I mean he really doesn't have much left to prove here, and barring injury, he will probably come back and win it again. Still, it would have been nice to see him make history and have a chance at a grand slam.

I hope Federer wins the whole thing, but I can't say I'm going to be terribly interested in anyone's matches but his at this point. Without Nadal in the tournament, it really does lose some of its interest. And Soderling does not offer much interest, although he deserved the win.

Posted by Tennisfan 05/31/2009 at 06:03 PM

Ok Moderator, I will put it like this instead and in this way I am not insulting mr Bodo, only give you and everybody else my opinion. This post you should not remove.

Listen everybody, I think Mr Bodo is not a good tenniswriter. Mr Bodo predicted Fed to loose to Mathieu in the third round (Fed has reached the semis in the last 19 Slams and ALWAYS plays better in slams). Also, Mr Bodo predicted a final between Nadal and Djoko, Nadal beeing the winner. Every single prediction is wrong and we havent reached the second week! Moderator - what is your opinion about Mr Bodos predictions, dont you agree with me?

Now lets look for tomorrow and in Feds mind there is only one man, yes correct - Tommy Haas, and that is wise of him. Good luck Fed, you can do it.

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