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Death, Taxes, and Rafa Nadal 09/27/2010 - 4:31 PM

Rf by Pete Bodo

Roger Federer has earned the right to feel awfully good about himself. He’s had a great career and, with the exception of a few relatively minor injury issues, a remarkably smooth one. He frolics in the deep end of the pool, but he wasn’t flung into it helter-skelter. Federer played 16 Grand Slam events before he won his first—an apprenticeship that introduced him to the perils of life at the top gently, and it probably made the rewards it brings taste that much sweeter when he finally began to accrue them.

Nobody can accuse The Mighty Fed of missing out on the joys of drinking a fine wine because he grew accustomed to the harsh taste of a young one. A player like Pete Sampras or Boris Becker had so much to defend at such a young age that, in the famous construction Ion Tiriac used to describe his protégé, Becker, “He was both formed and deformed by early fame.”  Federer’s surprisingly long breaking-in period has probably played a larger role in the development of his amenable character and persona than is generally acknowledged. And it has certainly helped him navigate the obstacles met by every top player.

In writing a marvelous book about Bill Bradley, the former New York Knicks forward and, later, U.S. Senator, author John McPhee chose a terrific title that was also highly relevant to just what made Bradley, a slump-shouldered victim of white man’s disease (he couldn’t jump), such an effective ballplayer. The book is called “A Sense of Where You Are.”

Federer has been a Bradley-esque figure in tennis, both on and off the court. He’s almost always had that “sense of where you are” on the court, which is one reason his style is so effortless and his game so fluid. More than any other player, he’s been blissfully free from having to develop a game plan, because he has the talent and ability to play what you might call aggressive-reactive tennis. It travels under the more familiar and now-fashionable concept of the “transition” game—how to turn a defensive position into an offensive one. The strategy let him down on only a few occasions, but more about that later.

About the worst thing you can say about Federer is that he’s been such a solid, mainstream, uncontroversial role model that he can bring out the cynic in anyone pre-disposed to skepticism. One of the words that repeatedly pops into my mind when I think of him is “inoffensive,” a quality that always strikes some as, if not exactly offensive, then at least highly suspect.

What’s not to like, after all? Federer apparently is a devoted husband and father; he has no in-your-face taste for flashy cars or high-stakes poker. He has great hair. And he’s always tried to maneuver those glimmerings of a prickly streak in a reasonable if not submissive tone and manner. So his life is good, so good that we can only look upon it with admiration or something like envy.

But like the rest of us, there are a few things Federer cannot escape, like death and taxes. Only in TMF’s case you can add, “Rafael Nadal.” And this additional inevitability looms like a storm cloud on his horizon. It’s appropriate to contemplate the gravity of the situation now that Nadal has won his ninth major, completed his career Grand Slam, and conquered the last territory formerly held exclusively by Federer, the United States (as represented by the U.S. Open).

Federer, whose domination of tennis was both grand and generally free of stress and conflict for six years beginning in 2004, is now on the horns of a dilemma. He’s said that he’ll continue to play while it’s still fun and challenging. But is he really prepared to do that if it’s going to have an impact on his legacy vis a vis his rivalry with Nadal? Or put it this way: Will Federer, whose pride is of the mellow sort but pride nonetheless, retain his appetite for tennis if he’s overshadowed, particularly if it’s by a single player?

Other players have faced a similar conundrum, but never one that seems so sharply and simply defined. Andre Agassi was often there to keep Pete Sampras on his toes, but Sampras remained in control of that rivalry, beginning to end. Besides, Agassi spent enough time undermining himself, and disappeared from the big stage frequently enough, to keep Sampras from feeling overly—or effectively—challenged.

Jimmy Connors thought he ruled the world defined by the tramlines until Bjorn Borg blew in like a chill wind from Sweden to challenge his sovereignty. The insult was so severe that at one point Connors swore to follow Borg “to the ends of the earth” in order to prevent him from winning a calendar year Grand Slam, although what he really meant was that he would hunt Borg until he won back what Connors thought was rightfully his own. Turns out all Connors would have needed to do is follow the Long Island Expressway to John McEnroe’s home and knock on the door. McEnroe showed himself more than capable of taking care of Borg, even to the benefit of his arch-enemy, Connors.

By the time Ivan Lendl became part of that conversation, it was pretty clear that nobody of that era was going to do much dominating of anyone else. The men basically each settled for a slice of the glory pie, canceled out each other out, and realized that none of them owned the planet. They all just rented space.

But the Federer vs.Nadal rivalry is different. For starters, long before he won his 16th major in Australia this year, Federer was hailed as the anointed one. This Greatest of All Time conversation, once started, was impossible to dismiss or ignore. And as Federer added to his resume, his status continued to swell until it matured fully when Federer completed the last leg of his own career Grand Slam in Paris in 2009.

That Federer scaled that final summit at a time when Nadal’s career appeared to hang in the balance only strengthened Federer’s case. And while Nadal’s subsequent resurgence—aided by a few missteps by his rival—was persuasive, the difficulties Nadal traditionally had at the last major of the year put a dampener on any valid comparison of the two players. Just as Federer had no pre-emptive claim on the GOAT label before he won the French Open, so Nadal could not be considered Federer’s equal—or better—until he bagged that U.S. Open title.

Of course, that didn’t stop diehard fans of either player from shouting their man’s praises from the rooftops. Now the most lavish claims on behalf of either man are supportable. Federer has 16 majors—almost twice as many as Nadal. He’s by far the most successful player of the Open era. But that isn’t the same as saying he’s the best one, and that 14-7 head-to-head advantage enjoyed by Nadal undermines any claim of dominion made on behalf of Federer. Like it or not, you can argue each man’s case pretty persuasively. The discussion is less about who’s the GOAT, something that can’t be definitively determined anyway, than about which guy is better, period.

And that’s just why Federer is in such a tight spot. Personally, I have no doubt that his game is in decline. Without wishing to take anything away from Novak Djokovic, that was the major takeaway for me from their semifinal clash at the U.S. Open. I don’t believe it’s an irreversible decline, or even necessarily a physical one. In fact, TMF’s critical weaknesses in that Djokovic match seemed entirely of the mental kind, and less related to any threat he felt from his rival, or the occasion (as if that could bamboozle Federer), than to the hours he’s logged on his competitive clock. For the lives of tennis players, like farm equipment, are best measured in hours of service rather than accumulated miles.

Federer’s dilemma is obvious. He can certainly enjoy the late stages of his career without duplicating his previous success rate. But can he afford to lose more matches than he wins against Nadal, especially if Nadal goes on to add to his Grand Slam title count?  The real question is not whether Federer can tolerate the implicit disappointment, but whether tennis will continue to remain as enjoyable to him, month-in, month-out, if Nadal were clearly in command. Those who really believe that Federer is a better player than Nadal can always hope that TMF will re-assert his superiority. I find it hard to imagine that happening, simply because Federer is at an age disadvantage.

I wasn't encouraged on Federer's behalf at the U.S. Open, when he volunteered that he hoped Nadal would win the final, and made a point to say that he won't watch it. A curious soul asked him, "Why," and his answer bordered on the snappish: "Look, I've been around tennis for weeks and weeks and weeks right now. Last thing I want to do is watch another tennis match where I'm not a part of it. I will spend some time with my kids and take it easy, maybe go shopping. I don't know if shops are open here in New York on Sundays, but I'm sure something is open. We'll see."

I couldn't help but think how Nadal, just a few days earlier, admitted to the press that he was going back to the hotel to watch tennis, that he enjoyed watching tennis. And the way he said it, he might have started his answer with, "Duh!. . ."

In all fairness, Federer made his remarks on the heels of a bitter, perhaps devastating loss. You couldn't blame him for wanting to have as little to do with tennis as humanly possible at that moment. Still, the contrast in the attitudes of the two men was memorable. TMF appears to be one tired, Fed up warrior.

In some ways, we may be on the verge of seeing which thing TMF loves more—winning or playing. At one time, they were synonymous, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, and that's always when things get difficult.

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Posted by Master Ace 09/27/2010 at 04:40 PM

Tuesday Order of Play:

WTA: Tokyo at 9:30 PM(Monday)Pavlyuchenkova, Pennetta vs Kirilenko, Schiavone and Stosur scheduled
WTA: Tokyo at 10:30 PM(Monday) - Safarova vs Azarenka, Zvonareva and Dementieva vs Shvedova(match to be streamed on scheduled
ATP: Kuala Lumpur at 11 PM(Monday) - Dolgopolov vs Recouderc to be followed by Soeda vs Andreev
WTA: Tokyo at 11 PM(Monday) - Kuznetsova vs Petkovic, Pironkova, Bartoli vs Ivanovic and Peer vs Kanepi scheduled
ATP: Kuala Lumpur at Midnight - Kunitsyn vs Raonic scheduled
ATP: Bangkok at 1 AM - Sela, Schuettler, Nieminen and DeHeart scheduled
ATP: Bangkok at 2 AM - Garcia-Lopez vs Berrer scheduled
WTA: Tokyo at 4 AM - Hantuchova vs Date Krumm to be followed by Wozniacki vs Arn(both matches will be streamed on
ATP: Kuala Lumpur at 6 AM - Baghdatis vs Nishikori
ATP: Bangkok at 8 AM - O Rochus vs Del Potro

Posted by Nam1 09/27/2010 at 04:42 PM

wow, way to start yet another Fedal war, Pete!!!

what , the Dmitrov blog did not get enough traffic?

Posted by Master Ace 09/27/2010 at 04:45 PM

Pete did say in one of his threads last week that we may get a thread or two about Rafael and Roger this week and what the future will hold for either guy. Guess tomorrow will be about Rafael.

Posted by Firerider 09/27/2010 at 04:56 PM

I think Federer was saying he hoped Nadal would win the final, not Djokovic. Here's the context from his press conference (when Federer says "he", he is always referring back to Nadal):

Q. As somebody who's made plenty of history yourself, what are your thoughts on the opportunity that Rafa has to make history with a few straight slams and creating the career Slam?

ROGER FEDERER: Fantastic. It's great for tennis, and it's great for him at the young age, you know, he is to have that opportunity already.

I don't know when I had my first opportunity in Paris, how old I was, but my guess would be that he's younger, you know. It doesn't really matter if he's younger or not. It's a matter of can he make it, and chances are good now, especially that Novak is so tired and Rafa has been playing so well.

But it's exciting for tennis that we're doing something very special in tennis at the same time. Yeah, I won't watch, but I hope he wins. (Laughter

Posted by Roddick fan from Virginia 09/27/2010 at 04:57 PM

Good read Pete. I would personally hope that Roger would be a Agassi/Conners type and play until he can't pick up the racket. There is still the possiblity that his health will outlast Rafa's. They perform two different forms of tennis. Roger puts less stress on his body.

Posted by Arun 09/27/2010 at 04:58 PM

Hello Pete! A very interesting take. Overall, a good article.
But this line is not right - "when he volunteered that he hoped Djokovic would win the final". He actually said he hoped Nadal would win the final.

[As somebody who's made plenty of history yourself, what are your thoughts on the opportunity that Rafa has to make history with a few straight slams and creating the career Slam?

ROGER FEDERER: Fantastic. It's great for tennis, and it's great for him at the young age, you know, he is to have that opportunity already.

I don't know when I had my first opportunity in Paris, how old I was, but my guess would be that he's younger, you know. It doesn't really matter if he's younger or not. It's a matter of can he make it, and chances are good now, especially that Novak is so tired and Rafa has been playing so well.

But it's exciting for tennis that we're doing something very special in tennis at the same time. Yeah, I won't watch, but I hope he wins. (Laughter.)]

Posted by Arun 09/27/2010 at 04:59 PM

Sorry, didn't read Firerider's post before hitting 'Post'.

Posted by Noam 09/27/2010 at 05:01 PM

Fed. said he hopes Nadal would win and not Novak. You should watch the presser again.

Posted by CWATC 09/27/2010 at 05:05 PM

The overall question of how long Roger will stick around if it's just to play punching-bag to Nadal is a valid one. Of course it hasn't been all that relevant lately, as Roger hasn't been able to reach the finals to play Nadal. And while Nadal has had an incredible year, it remains to be seen if he's really the next Fed: will he be there waiting in every GS final in the same way Fed was? Time will tell.

The point about Fed not watching the USO final was unfair IMO. (and btw he said he hoped Nadal would win) You cannot compare Nadal talking about watching a match while he's still in the tourney, to Fed talking about watching after he's lost. I very much doubt Nadal watched much of the FO 2009 (Nadal fans can correct me if I'm wrong).

Anybody who knows anything about Fed knows how much of a tennis fan he is and how much he loves to watch matches (in general; not the day after a big loss). There's a cute interview from 2006 where he even says Mirka sometimes gets annoyed with him for watching too much. I remember whenever the USO had those crazy late-night thrillers, like Blake/Agassi, you could always count on Fed to watch the whole thing even if it went 'til 1 or 2am and even if he was playing early the next day.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/27/2010 at 05:06 PM

Pete Many thanks.

Yes one thing Roger will always have over Rafa apart from him holding a very desisive GS title against him at this stage is his wonderful hair.I am so glad you picked up on that very important factor.

Roger to me loves the game of tennis.Hey he has completed his Grand Slam career and other great records and could just hang up his racquet and enjoy his new young family.He has enough money in the bank and investments so its not as if he has to continue playing to put food on the table.Roger also is very aware of the tennis history in our game as well.Of course being a forme no 1 player for many years he still wants to get back to no 1 wouldnt you? I am sure he just doenst want to make up the numbers in that ATP.

In saying that his age is a factor.Anyone at his age of course slows down that is a pure fact.Though I must admit I too watched the s/final at the USO and was concerned at his serve which was so great before this game though he was slow into the ball.Another factor he made too many u/errors so "un Roger like".Though I give credit to Novak who was placing balls soo deep and controlling the game from the baseline and not giving Roger the control.

I am glad that he has Paul Annacone as his coach and another "pair of eyes" dosent go astry.Roger has done ok in the past without a coach and has a wonderful tennis mind.

To me he is the greatest shot maker I have seen.I have seen him play live and is a pleasure to watch most recently in the final at the AO this year.He was "soo on" in that match and said in his speech on court afterwards playing at the AO always brings out the best tennis in him.He also stated that he looks forward to playing at the AO in 2011.

I will never write him off.Hey even when he has been struggling he has turned things around and made a few people eat Humble Pie.Champion players have a habit of doing that dont they?

At this point in time I cannot say if he will get back to no 1 etc though in my eyes it dosent matter he has brought soo much to the tennis world and is a great ambassador for our game and yes indeed he still has "The Best Hair In Tennis".

Posted by Roddick fan from Virginia 09/27/2010 at 05:12 PM

If Roger is willing to contend for Slams knowing he is not the odds on favorite, he can still grab 1-4 more. Next year Rafa will be a heavy favorite at each slam. Federer, Djokovic, and Murray next. Once Del Potro gets healthy he should be a top contender.

Posted by Kwaku 09/27/2010 at 05:12 PM

* I was surprised to read that Federer had "volunteered" Nole to win, and then again surprised (but not so much) to see that Pete had just not got it right.

* For me there is an obvious connection between not wanting to watch tennis and not wanting to play tennis. The first can be the beginning of the second. Can anyone really believe Federer will stay motivated to play tennis for another few years if he is not motivated even to watch it because he is "fed up" (my words) with it? Because that's basically what he said...
(And by the way, I occasionally don't feel like playing tennis --like if I have played very recently and/or are tired--, but I basically always feel like watching tennis --if it's a good match, of course--.)

Posted by Jenn 09/27/2010 at 05:16 PM

Wow. This one is not exactly destined to be a crowd pleaser for Fed fans. I agree with everything in this piece, though, except this: I am certain I read that Fed said that he hoped that Rafa would win the match, not Djoko. And I would be surprised if he said he wanted Djoko to beat his friend, Rafa. But I might be misrememberi g the quote. *shrugs*.

Posted by CWATC 09/27/2010 at 05:17 PM

I don't think Fed has ever watched a GS final after he's lost in the semis. Clearly his career has gone on fine. Don't think it means anything at all.

Posted by skip1515 09/27/2010 at 05:19 PM

I couldn't agree more, Pete. If there's such a thing as platonic motivation – a love of something for the thing itself and not any other tangential rewards – it's hard to believe it can remain sufficiently passionate in the face of declining competitive results to fuel continued participation on Federer's part.

For what it's worth I've thought this trend could be seen in the increasing number of 3 set matches Federer's had to play in the last 3 years; after winning the first set his response was, "Okay, I've shown (yet again) that I can take this guy," after which he'd relax as if the concept had been proven, full execution wasn't required, and can't we just move on to the waving-thanks-to-the-crowd part? Of course that's when his opponents would keep up the pressure and, with his 2nd set play reflecting an unwitting ennui, they'd even up the score.

I have no stats to back this up, no 3-sets-played-after-2006 versus 3-sets-played-pre-2006, but there has been a drop in intensity.

Who of us wouldn't do the same? (Will I be relieved if it finally happens to Nadal and he's shown to be human, or disappointed?)

Posted by marieJ 09/27/2010 at 05:21 PM

hi ! sorry for nitpicking, Pete, but fed completed his carreer slam in 2009... 2008 was his RG horribilis final for him.

will fed enjoyd just playing ??? though to answer right now, imo...
after his unbelievable year in 2009, i don't think he expected himself to repeat, he knew he would have more chances to get in the final spot, and i think that's what keeps his motivation on... he lost his semi's streak this year, and the guys who stopped him produced some fantastic play in order to make it happen.

those guys have been starving for wins, for honors to play the big stage, to challenge the very best, whether it was rafa or fed keeping from happening, it doesn't matter, they felt greedier (can you say that) after 16 GS, it's something you lose in the process of collecting those wins. Fed lost a bit of appetite, it wass something due to happen at some point.
will he lose it for good ? it's simply too early to tell.
but i know one thing, those guys he's been owning time and time again are queuing right now on his side of the draw for a chance of payback... not everyone will get the chance to beat him, because he's still that good.
one of the things he'll hate for sure, is getting beaten the hard way, like RG 2008.
as hard as it was losing his match against djoko, he was so close he had his chances. when he will start feeling roddick old shoes in a couple of matches he outplayed him, we will see how badly he still enjoys tennis.

Posted by Dave 09/27/2010 at 05:29 PM

Must be slow in the tennis world to have to write about stuff like this.


Posted by thbigapple 09/27/2010 at 05:33 PM

I hope to see Fed play again soon.

Rafa vs Fed...yawn!

Posted by AB 09/27/2010 at 05:34 PM

Thanks for this was a thought-provoking piece, Pete. Your last paragraph was very good:

"In some ways, we may be on the verge of seeing which thing TMF loves more—winning or playing. At one time, they were synonymous, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, and that's always when things get difficult."

I believe Roger when he says he wants to keep playing and think he has a few more Slams in him. I do, too. The big *but* is, this is an intellectualized statement. He is still adjusting to the new reality of where his playing norm is, and it will take time.

skip1515, you touched on this with your "platonic motivation" comment. I think there is a big adjustment between his "platonic motivation" and his 29YO body that has to happen.

He simply can't execute *as reliably* as he once could. That means a combination of intensity over a set period of time, equally difficult; in regular 3-set tournaments where he can face higher-quality oppos early as well as less rest between matches *and*, the Slams, more matches spread over a longer period.

The tricky thing with aging is that, even while staying extremely fit and able to perform at elite levels, the recovery period gets more and more taxing. It's recovery that starts to play with your mind. Many more aches, pains, and tweaks, big and little things mysteriously going wrong. This means inventing new work-arounds. And the work-arounds cannot be counted on to last.

I think it's this post-performance area that becomes the X-factor in a risk vs reward analysis for any player who is now closer to the end of their career than the beginning.

Posted by Joe 09/27/2010 at 05:50 PM

Federer says "I don't know when I had my first opportunity in Paris, how old I was, but my guess would be that he's younger"
Is he talking about RG?

Posted by CWATC 09/27/2010 at 05:53 PM

One further thought about how aging effects preformance, beyond the physical issues.

I think it's normal as we age to become more cautious and risk-averse, and it happens to players as well. That can be good up to a certain point, but can also lead to a decline in "killer instict" which affects performance when things get tight.

I recently watched an interview w/ Sampras after he lost to Fed at Wimby 2001, and was struck by how he discussed in detail how he'd blown his "chance" to win the match when he had two BP's on Fed's serve late in the 5th. The first one he played OK but was outplayed by Fed, but on the second, in response to a Fed second serve, Sampras hit a defensive chip return, which allowed Fed to take intiative in the point. He berated himself for that choice, saying he should have returned more aggressively instead of hoping that Fed would make an error.

For anyone who watched Fed/Djoko, can I say deja-vu all over again???

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/27/2010 at 06:04 PM

If these other guys step up and beat Rafa where they ought to beat him, the notion of Fed being overshadowed by Rafa will be lessened. Think back a year. it looked for all intents and purposes that Rafa had been bested on hard courts by Delpo and would have to start looking in his rear for once as a younger player had his number. I just hope I can catcha a live Fed match while he's still on tour.

We shall see, no?

Posted by D Blaze 09/27/2010 at 06:05 PM

Most of the pros say they don't watch matches in tournaments that they have played in and lost in. I'm a 21 year old college player and I've played a lot of tennis tournaments over the years and I've never gone back to watch a final after losing in the semis. I have even wanted to a couple times but I've never been able to drag myself to watch.

Also, like it or not these guys do not play tennis like us. It's their business. They have practiced more hours than anyone can enjoy and to absorb crushing defeats and still love the game when they go their next tournament they have to give themselves distance. Put simply, Rafa went to watch tennis after he won and Fed didn't watch after he lost. I don't know if Federer would have watched tennis after he won but I promise Rafa wouldn't watch the final after losing in the semis, and neither would any experienced pro.

Posted by Kombo (GOAT-curious) 09/27/2010 at 06:06 PM

I meant "rear view," Rafa attempts to look in his rear enough as it is.

Posted by AB 09/27/2010 at 06:10 PM

CWATC: interesting. Momentum swings can hinge on 1 or 2 points, but "swing" menas it can swing back. I don't know if it's risk aversion as a part of getting older, so much as not being able to reliably call upon yourself to swing the momentum back in your favor.

You may have plenty gas left in the tank at any given moment in a match, but it's not Premium.

Re-watching some of the more recent GS finals, I can see how my memory plays tricks with me. There are many more momentum swings in a match than I remember. Usually I think the winner had more, the loser, less, but in re-watching, the swings are equal....until someone wins. In fact, it's fascinating to watch with an eye to understanding just *how* the winner manages to pull it off, given the numerous times he/she loses a point, DFs, plays a dumb shot, gets unlucky, etc.

I think the weight of remembering how many times you've come back successfully vs its opposite, the number of times you remember succumbing, starts to slow response time.

It's interesting that Pete boiled down that loss to those 2 points because the reality of any given match is that there are opportunities until, quite simply, the match is over.

Posted by Andrew 09/27/2010 at 06:10 PM

Occasionally, there are times when I feel like it's time to lower my head towards that old brick wall. OK, time for another dent in my forehead.

Roger Federer loves being a tennis player. He enjoys playing competitive tennis matches. He loves the experience of playing in tennis tournaments. The experience of winning lots of tournaments from 2004-2007 was very enjoyable, but something he didn't expect, and doesn't require to continue enjoying being a tennis player at the highest level.

He believes he's capable of winning each tournament he enters, not all the tournaments he enters. He currently believes he has the skill, the motivation and the game to retake the number 1 spot. He believes that Nadal fully deserves to be the no 1 today. He fully expects Nadal to win more GS titles, and has demonstrated that he looks forward to playing more matches against Nadal - partly because he genuinely enjoys them.

In this respect, Federer is the anti-Agassi, or anti-McEnroe. Both these men didn't enjoy the experience of being tennis players - they liked winning tournaments and beating opponents, but in their mid 20s they weren't settled people or sporting competitors. For as long as Federer's body isn't exacting too high a price (and I think there is a genuine question of how his back issues play out over the next five years or so), Federer will continue to enjoy being a tennis player.

If memory serves, Nadal didn't watch the 2009 RG final as it was being played - and I don't feel any need to reprove him for that. I'm sure a message of congratulation went from Federer to Nadal, just as Nadal texted Federer in 2009. The two men, of all people, know what it's like to be at the top of their sport - and they both know that they're not as good as they're made out to be when they're winning, but they're not as bad as they're accused of being when they're not.

Although it isn't quite on topic, I can't think of a player whose prospects have been so underestimated as Nadal's have been, and I can't think of one who's had to wear the mantle of expectation for so long as Federer has. But the two men together share a joy of playing tennis, competing, then embracing their opponent in friendship afterwards, win or lose. You can go to your favorite stats, matches or memories to elevate one over the other (or Borg, Sampras or Laver) if you choose, but it's more fun to enjoy watching them continue to play tennis and make history.

Posted by Tak 09/27/2010 at 06:11 PM

Honestly, It's Nadal time right now. Fed needs to move out the way and stop trying.

Posted by noa 09/27/2010 at 06:14 PM

thanks for the post, Pete.

i think it is evident for us Fed fans that TMF won't be as dominant as he was on the glory years, but with some smart schedule-managing, a smat game plan and motivation he can certainly stay at the top of the game and bag a few more majors.

i agree that the motivation question will be the burning one - but i actually think Nadal's achievements will encourage Fed to try harder and make the necessary adjustments in order to secure his records will remain unbeatable, especially the GS records.

i do believe that most of Feds losts last 2-3 years were mainly caused by his lack of focus and determination, ans i guess that is only natural after having all that success but i hope this demise will spur him to fight harder rather than give in.

Posted by Corrie 09/27/2010 at 06:30 PM

I endorse the yawns. What else is there to say except that he's on the down hill slope and when champions start to age and lose it, it's not much fun anymore for either them or the spectators - beats me why they want to stick around to be beaten by the younger generation.

Posted by wilson75 09/27/2010 at 06:32 PM

I must point out that all the players named in the piece who had difficulty with a rival stealing their spotlight were American. I believe that there is a cultural difference which is not put in the equation when discussing Federer. Furthermore, I believe that he has already reconciled in his mind that he will not dominate forever and that Nadal will probably overtake him at some stage so I don't think he has any problems with not being the main man. I get the feeling that he feels that he has already written his name in the history of tennis and that now he just playing because he can and he wants to. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he would love to win a few more slams but if he doesn't he'll be fine with it. As for not watching the final, he never watches any final that he's not in, so I don't see the what's the big deal about him not watching the USO Final. In fact, Rafa has said that he didn't watch the RG final when he lost last year. There's a big difference in a player watching tennis while still in the tournament which Rafa was doing and which Roger does as well and when he's out of the tournament. Who wants to be reminded of the last match they lost by watching the final involving the opponent you just lost to.

Posted by RustyNYC 09/27/2010 at 06:47 PM

hi Pete -- good to see a piece on TMF here again, im just curious about one thing: How many of the US Open finals Federer was in (of the 6 in a row) did Nadal watch? Seems to me Rafa was asked about this before and he was likely out fishing with tennis being the last thing on his mind! Or am i wrong?

I think for most losing semifinalists, the last thing they ever wanna do is watch a final they feel they should be playing in, too painful... it amazes me that after a rough loss anyone would expect Federer to be bright and cheery and say, 'yeah, im gonna be front row, cant wait to see the final!' .. if Serena Williams say lost to Kim Clijsters in the semis, would any writer ever ask her if she was going to watch the final?

not if he or she values their life!

Posted by Christopher 09/27/2010 at 06:52 PM

Andrew-- A-freakin'-men.

Posted by FDR 09/27/2010 at 06:59 PM


If he had your stupid mentality, he would have quit years ago when he lost at the FO finals. Luckily, he's not a defeatist (wish I could say that about you) so it follows that he will attempt to add more GS titles to his already impressive resume. Nadal should step out of the way now that Delpo is back! lol

Posted by RustyNYC 09/27/2010 at 07:05 PM

Tak, i think you're right, the way it loooks now, the whole ATP ought to take a few years off given how ineffective the field is at challenging Nadal in a serious way ... lets see, he lost ONE set en route to 3 Grand Slams, is that right? thats the Grand Canyon in terms of disparity between Nadal and the field, isnt it?

With Fed, Roddick, Gonzales, and longer tier top players fading, and the performances of Soderling, Berdych, and Djokovic and Murray seriously lacking when push comes to shove in Slams, Id say the whole challenge falls to a guy named del Potro

Posted by Tic 09/27/2010 at 07:11 PM

About watching or not matches after being kicked out of a tournament, recent Toronto example comes to mind.

After losing his semi to Murray, and upon finishing his post match things, here's Rafa watching (carefully) the other semi, Federer-Djokovic:

Posted by Roger Fan 09/27/2010 at 07:12 PM

Fed's game in May be, but certainly the SF loss against Novak was not the proof of it.
That a Roger Federer serving less than 40% first serve throughout the match can push No. 3 (then) player to 5 sets in itself tells the story. He had a perfect open till the SF & one bad (serving) day cost him & people (even the knowledgeable) wants to call his game declined............ Way to go Roger!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by RustyNYC 09/27/2010 at 07:17 PM

I can't think of a player whose prospects have been so underestimated as Nadal's have been, and I can't think of one who's had to wear the mantle of expectation for so long as Federer has.

this is a great topic for a story, andrew! the story line for so long has been his injuries, and chasing Federer, always the underdog, I am fascinated to see tennis reporters' take on the Nadal era, and if his future losses cause the same earthquakes as Federer's, and the same resulting death watch ...

Posted by Tic 09/27/2010 at 07:18 PM

The full view:

Posted by ladyjulia 09/27/2010 at 07:21 PM

Nice article Pete...agree with most of it.

Though isn't it ironical that a guy who was one point away from making it to the "dream final", " the most important match in open era" ....forgot what else was written..but yeah, one point away after battling for five point away *from the most important match in the history of the open era* and came up *that* short...came up short from making the 7th consecutive final which tv producers, media, writers, tournament organizers were banking on (that CBS had already tweeted even before he played that day)...and then he is expected to watch that too?

How many players are one point away from making it to the "most important match in the history of the open era" and then sit and watch the final?

Sure, it would be great if Roger could have watched it...but I wonder how you would feel if you had two matchpoints and didn't take your appointed place in the supposedly most important match of all time when you were banked on and expected to.

Posted by wilson75 09/27/2010 at 07:25 PM

Tic: Remember that was the SF not the finals. Plus, I look at the happenings in Toronto with a cynical eye as that whole tournament was "the Rafa and Novak show" starting with the doubles. I got the feeling that it was a whole PR thing to promote the new No. 1 and No. 2 aka Rafa and Novak and they are BFFs. They do have the same PR man who the mastermind behind last year's PR stunt to get USO fans to like Novak again after he was booed off the court the previous year.

Posted by RustyNYC 09/27/2010 at 07:27 PM

well Tic, i think its far different to be still on site the same day, after your massage a shower, and step out to peek at the match in progress than to two days later watch a final of a Slam you just missed out on ... as a player i guarantee you, there's a big big difference..

Posted by Syd 09/27/2010 at 07:27 PM

Yeh, it's kind of ludicrous to take Fed to task for not watching the final. But the head to head is skewed also.
Just as Nadal was not present in FIVE of the US Open finals that Fed went on to win; Federer WAS present in Five of Nadal's French Open wins. So ya, Fed should definitely not bother making the French Finals again (or semis, or wherever his seeding takes him) to skew the stats even further.

Posted by Ruth 09/27/2010 at 07:29 PM

Pete: The Fed comments after his USO 2010 loss that you cited (and many others that I could cite) convince me that the answer to your question about whether Roger would be content to stick around under the extended Nadal-dominant circumstances you mentioned is a loud NO. But he's not going to slink off without a fight -- hence, Annacone etc.

And that's just the way it should be. I do not and would not want to see Federer "go gently into that good night." It's raging time, people! :) In spite of my calm exterior (tee hee), I am, as you know, Pete, a Johnny Sample-Terrell Owens-Deion Sanders type of fangirl. So, I find the snappish, jock-y talk that Roger indulges in occasionally -- and the attitude and feelings that engender it -- quite amusing and highly appropriate. Unlike some of Roger's other fans and most of his devoted KADS, I would never explain it or excuse it -- or deny it!

Posted by ladyjulia 09/27/2010 at 07:35 PM


Its not about us KADS explaining or defending it...its about the unbelievable expectations of the media from the Fed (including CBS tweeting that Fedal was happening before Fed played his SF match!).

Do you not find the expectations absurd sometimes? He is supposed to make the final...he is *sure* to make the final...and then when he dosen't, he is asked why he won't watch the final.

Its not about the answer, its about the questions the players are asked sometimes.

Posted by lilscot 09/27/2010 at 07:36 PM

Pete never said that Roger said he hoped Nole would win. In Pete's piece he quotes Roger as saying he hoped Rafa would win.

BTW, Pete, great article and I couldn't agree more. Yes, it's slow in tennis world, but it's never too dull to discuss the greatness of both Roger and Rafa.

It's always dull having a Fedal war however. :(

Posted by RustyNYC 09/27/2010 at 07:37 PM

I do think it interesting that so many tennis reporters expect federer to be a Zen master / saint in a press conference, without a hint of snark or disappointment or shortness, after a tough loss ... I also enjoy seeing Federer dishing it out and showing he's human he's an athlete not a politician

Posted by ladyjulia 09/27/2010 at 07:41 PM


And those expectations were fine when Fed actually dominated...which the last time was like 2007. Now they talk about *the* decline but at the same time expect that he will make it to take his place in the biggest match of all time,for the 7th consecutive time, and if he dosen't, he will be asked if he will watch the final that tv producers, tournament organizers, media and journalists did not want!

Its very ironical at times.

Posted by kav 09/27/2010 at 07:42 PM

Nadal is a show boy,he plays great tennis and he is very cool even if he lost a match.Thats how a sports man should be like and thats why he is the best.

Posted by wilson75 09/27/2010 at 07:45 PM

lilscot: I'm guessing that Pete initially had Roger saying he wanted Djokovic to win and then changed it to Rafa when others pointed out his mistake to him, as is often the case on this blog. However, having to correct the names kinda makes the point he was trying to make in that paragraph moot.

Posted by Christopher 09/27/2010 at 07:46 PM

lilscot-- I think (correct me if I'm wrong, Pete), that Pete "silently" edited his post after commentors pointed out the mistake.

Posted by CWATC 09/27/2010 at 07:49 PM

Ruth, I also really hope that Fed will make use of this Annacone period to take some risks and do what he can to reverse the tide. Recently watched the Fed/Sampras '01 match and some of Fed's volleys just took my breath away. I really think he has untapped potential in that area, if he can start practicing it seriously again.

Also read an old Fed interview from 2006, while digging for a different quote, which made me a bit sad. He was asked who would win at Wimby btw Sampras in his prime and him now. His answer: "that's not fair", because he didn't think he'd yet reached his prime. Said altho' he was winning, he hadn't fully explored all his potential as a player yet.

Truly hope that whatever the results he can do some exploring in these next few years and we can see some new and exciting stuff. Obviously some things are lost forever, but maybe some new things can be gained?

Here's to my current moment of possibly delusional optimism!

Posted by thebigapple 09/27/2010 at 07:52 PM

No fighting so far.

Good people!

Roger is not on a crossroads. It is more of a deep S bend..if you feel kind to him. For others, top of a steep incline. Blind corner for others, tossed to the curb for many, run-over road kill already for a few. Shall I start a poll?

Posted by RustyNYC 09/27/2010 at 07:54 PM

one other thought on this piece, re the rivalry, I think Federer and Nadal have played only twice in the last two years, and its' 1-1, and that's on clay, correct?

what part of this particular rivalry of late has showed Federer he's toast? if he'd lost a few straight setters to Rafa in say Indian Wells and Cincy, Id say the writing was on the wall, however ... for future matches though, is Nadal going to be the clear favorite and will it be a huge upset if Federer wins?

Posted by Ruth 09/27/2010 at 07:55 PM

ladyjulia: Just on this one page of comments, there are enough examples of people tryind to justify Roger's response when, in my book, it needs no justification. That is all that I am saying. Writers often ask players or coaches of teams who have lost the penultimate contest what they think about the final contest -- who will win, who has the better chance, will they watch etc etc. These are perfectly legitimate questions, and I believe that snappish replies are just as legitimate as-- but more fun and more honest in my book than-- the many polite, PC replies that such questions often generate.

Posted by Tic 09/27/2010 at 07:59 PM

Actually, it seems that watching Novak had a more mundane purpose than PR: Rafa just might have wanted to scout his hard-court nemesis being soundly beaten in the first set by Federer, in order to maybe get an idea how to do that himself later on. You know, in case they meet at the incoming USO.

Just like he moved from Intercontinental Hua Hin to Intercontinental Bangkok today, apparently ending his vacations earlier than planned, exactly the day a certain Del Potro actually arrived in town.

BFF doubles, Buddhist monks on beaches and other PR stuff are nice, but it appears that tennis is pretty important to him as well.

Posted by Ruth 09/27/2010 at 08:00 PM

BTW I should have said not go "gentle," not "gently" in my first comment and added "with apologies to Dylan Thomas." Don't want any DT fans getting on my case. :-)

In the meantime...Rage on, TMF. Then, leave proudy when you're good and ready!

Posted by lilscot 09/27/2010 at 08:04 PM

Oops, thanks everyone for pointing that out to me. Sorry that I missed Pete's correcting his initial post. :)

Posted by RustyNYC 09/27/2010 at 08:08 PM

but the point most people are going at here isnt that Federer gave a 'snappish' response, it's that it inferred that nadal would have watched the final because he says he loves watching tennis...i wonder how many Open matches Federer watching while he was still in the tournament? most of them, I bet...

I think some people are pointing out what is a very valid and gaping hole in this particular 'logic' that's utterly unfair to Federer, and implies he's a sore loser... if Rafa had lost to Youzney, does anyone think he would have watched the final? Id love to know how many Federer Slam final's Rafa has watched, Id very confidently say, if he didnt even bother to watch the French 09, that he's had better things to do in his free time

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/27/2010 at 08:09 PM

Lady Julia Was Rafa ever asked when he lost to Soderling at RG in 09 who he wanted to win? lol! I cant recall.I love some of these "in depth questions" that journos ask.

Posted by Colette 09/27/2010 at 08:13 PM

Well, we all know now that there's one thing Roger and Rafa are equally good at. And I sometimes wonder if they read this kind of stuff and just do it ... GIGGLE!

That said, I loved this comment from Andrew:

"The two men, of all people, know what it's like to be at the top of their sport - and they both know that they're not as good as they're made out to be when they're winning, but they're not as bad as they're accused of being when they're not."

Posted by John 09/27/2010 at 08:19 PM

I don't think that Roger is down hill at all. When he won Cinncy his fans were claping, celebrating his win and saying *he's playing as good as always*.
After playing against Nole and to lose, then *he is not the same any more, it's because his age, etc etc*
Why better to say that Nole played better than ever and that was the reason that he could beat him?

Posted by Texastennis 09/27/2010 at 08:26 PM

That should be *to* point out.

Posted by jdl 09/27/2010 at 08:29 PM

Also, the draw always plays a significant role in a major.

Posted by beng 09/27/2010 at 08:32 PM

Pete, agree with almost everything you wrote. And I remember you saying that the GOAT title could be Federer's but with an asterisk is extremely unfair just because he's H2H record with RAFA is 7-14. This is not 0-21. The man has accomplished almost everything we never thought would happen, 23 consecutive semifinals, and records after records. Can we not give the man the credit of the greatest ever for now until RAFA gets 16 GS? 16 IS NOT EQUAL TO 9 YOU KNOW. And Fed's consistency will never be matched. I would like to think RAFA was just extremely lucky that DELPO GOT INJURED AND MURRAY GET OUSTED EARLY , same case when you said FED was extremely lucky channelling his GS count when he won the French and WIMBY last year because RAFA was ousted by Soderling and got injured on his way to Wimbledon. GgREATNESS IS NOT DETERMINED BY JUST ONE OPPONENT.

Posted by AB 09/27/2010 at 08:33 PM

Ruth, I'm with you on the just say no to PC answers. Ugh. We follow news stories to gain understanding, sometimes even illumination. I can't stand stock answers, either. I would rather hear a snappy, even irritated comeback to a mindless question.

Sometimes I tire of Tio Toni and Rafa's martial arts movie dialogue. I want to send Rafa up the stairs of a mountain monastery carrying Buddhist nuns in buckets hanging from a yoke over his shoulders and ask him how long it will take him to reach enlightenment. Oh wait, he's doing that now in Thailand.

On the other hand, I "get" Roger more because I lived and worked in Zurich with mostly Swiss German colleagues.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/27/2010 at 08:34 PM

AB Please get with Rafa's current program he is Planting Trees.In a anti global warming thingy in Bangkok.

Posted by Tuulia 09/27/2010 at 08:37 PM

"But the head to head is skewed also.
Just as Nadal was not present in FIVE of the US Open finals that Fed went on to win; Federer WAS present in Five of Nadal's French Open wins. So ya, Fed should definitely not bother making the French Finals again (or semis, or wherever his seeding takes him) to skew the stats even further."

The first part of that: someone will always claim the h2h is skewed, which is kinda amusing - it shows insecurity and defensiveness, ignores several obvious things, and also the logic fails in the assumptions that are based on the presumed "skewedness". Oh well.

As for the second part of the quoted text: I don't believe Roger himself thinks that way and that's why this year he missed the RG final (- and the next 2 slam finals), but apparently he must have made some of his fans happy by not making it to the finals. I suspect Roger himself isn't freaking out about any h2h with anyone, including the one with Rafa.

Posted by Vie 09/27/2010 at 08:38 PM

I think Roger is still top 2 to 4 player, and he will continue to play. He definitely has opportunities in 8 to 12 of the next Slams. Rafa, even with his being second in consistency, has the history of gaps related to injury.

Roger and Rafa quotes on their paintball art for WTF:

Rafael Nadal
Qualified May 23, 2010

"Making the artwork was fun and something I've never done before. It's a great way to celebrate the World Tour Finals coming back to London. It was a little bit of a challenge to put the balls on the silhouette! Of course this is the least we can do for charity and for those who need it the most. It's very important that people in our position help those who really need help. I'd like to thank everyone for the support they give us."

Roger Federer
Qualified August 7, 2010

"It was great fun being invited to create my self portrait and I'm excited to see how the finished piece looks. Raising money for charity is always a great thing so already I would like to thank people who will buy these pictures and it's going to be for a good cause. I'm happy I can help a bit. I am very happy as it is the ninth consecutive year I have qualified for the year-end event. I have played in a lot of different venues during my career and I can say they staged a fantastic event at The O2 last year. I look forward to returning there in November and finishing the season strong."

Watch the video:

Posted by Jorge 09/27/2010 at 08:40 PM

Great post, I assume Pete changed Fed's quote so now we read it the right way.

I can't help but feel that Andrew just hit it... "I can't think of a player whose prospects have been so underestimated as Nadal's have been, and I can't think of one who's had to wear the mantle of expectation for so long as Federer has".

I'm spanish and I love to read international press after a big win "of my own", lets say F1, football and specially tennis, and I have found very often a slight disbelief when talking about Nadal's abilities, and I can understand it, because it used to be almost painfully to watch him sometimes ,even in clay but mainly in hard courts, when he used to have loads of BP's on his serve saved with pure rage. But it seems the guy's game has become mature (or mellow), and I actually enjoy it a lot, feeling that he is in control and delivering winning FHs in a regular basis. He is even serving! (stunned me that Federesque way of closing 3rd set vs. Djokovic)

Posted by John 09/27/2010 at 08:40 PM


Why better if we see what is going on in 5 more years?

Posted by Grant 09/27/2010 at 08:42 PM

"When he won Cinncy his fans were claping, celebrating his win and saying *he's playing as good as always*."

as a block, with our hive mind, oh yes

"Why better to say that Nole played better than ever and that was the reason that he could beat him?"

it's due to the presence of eyesight and cognitive skills, so i guess in this case the misunderstanding is to be expected

Posted by Dana99 09/27/2010 at 08:49 PM

Roger's lacking the motivation now and, interestingly enough, he's grown to truly like and respect Rafa (and vice versa). It's clear to me, anyway, that Roger could only put up with Rafa beating him...others, not so. With this in mind, I tend to think Roger is sort-of bending to the idea of Rafa taking over, like Rafa's "earned it." If anyone else took over, I think it'd be a real problem for Rodge. But Rafa's the one person I believe Roger considers on his level. Together they've ruled the tennis world for virtually YEARS and suffered the same withering criticisms individually from many tennis fans and analysts when times were tough (Rafa's 2009 year and Roger's 2008). They've each been in a place no one else in the tennis world over the last decade, really, has been...resultingly, their camaraderie is somthing we can only imagine. And rkeep in mind that they very recently agreed - happily - to meet in an exhibition match later this year and play each other for charity. That signals a competitive but mature relationship built on genuine empathy and solidarity...

Roger, our King of the Mountain, may be in the beginning of decline - we know age will do it to each of us. And Rafa, years younger, looks to be in a well-deserved upswing. But they're still the same to me. Both enormous champions, heads and tails above their peers.

Posted by AB 09/27/2010 at 08:49 PM

AM: Your boy is probably mere seconds away from running away to join a Buddhist Acrobatic Troupe. We previewed the somersault at Wimby and Buddha knows that the hair will have to be shaved off soon. It's just a matter of time.

Posted by Jorge 09/27/2010 at 08:49 PM

And for Federer, the very tellin number is that around -20 (i'm not feeling like searchin for it) in the winners/unf.errors balance. And I expected a few more aces for a 5th set match, or at least used to. The rise of Nadal/decline of Federer is not only in the numbers, but those are objective.

Posted by Vie 09/27/2010 at 08:53 PM

Good post Dana99. I sincerely hope what you're saying is true, mutual liking and respect by these 2 great champions.

Posted by Ruth 09/27/2010 at 08:54 PM

Thanks for the pictures, Tic.

Posted by Tuulia 09/27/2010 at 09:00 PM

what's with "BFF doubles"? Why would it be Benito's doing - just because he works for both? Benito doesn't work for Roger, but if it was up to Rafa he'd have played doubles with Roger, too, long ago. Rafa and Novak are hardly BFF, but they clearly get along very well. It's not a big deal if they want to play doubles together sometimes, they would have done it a year earlier if Rafa hadn't been injured, nothing to do with rankings (being ranked 1 and 2 at the time was co-incidental, not the reason to play together), or Benito, and since no-one outside of Canada could see it, even on some dodgy live stream, never mind tv, it was hardly a huge publicity thingy in that sense, either. Just two guys who get along well, who wanted some extra no pressure match-play practise and since it happened to suit both at that particular tournament, played together, something they had already planned the previous year. Of course the tournament was happy to milk it for what it was worth, and the media liked the story, too, but that was hardly the reason either player would have done it.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Did Do It For Wayne! 09/27/2010 at 09:02 PM

AB There is a wonderful monostry in Spain.I feel after Rafa retires from tennis he could surprise everyone and end up going there full time along with his fishing rod and golf clubs of course.

Posted by Fernando 09/27/2010 at 09:03 PM

How about changing his RACQUET !!!!

Posted by EDIE 09/27/2010 at 09:05 PM

I think your insights are very good, Pete

Federer is so much more a complete person than Rafa. That makes him so much more likeable.
Rafa appears to be a macho, materialistic(The outrageous watch he promotes,shows that!) guy who has tunnel vision about the rest of the world and life. Winning is all that matters. People joke that he is a vicious animal on the court!
Federer appears to be in touch with so much around him, ready always to contribute to better humankind through his fundraising, his African schools, now his family.
Maybe the difference in age separates them in their actions, as well as their persona.

I do not think Federer can conquer Nadal, now. He is 5 years older than his rival so they each peaked at different times., so what do I wish for?---A healthy, mighty Juan Martin DelPotro!!! He has the charm of a Federer that makes him likeable to those of us who admired Roger. And he can hit through Nadal, if he is 100% healthy. We could then have the conversation of what would amount to Nadal's quandary

Posted by Frances 09/27/2010 at 09:10 PM

Joe 09/27/2010 at 05:50 PM
Federer says "I don't know when I had my first opportunity in Paris, how old I was, but my guess would be that he's younger"
Is he talking about RG?

@ Joe

if you are still around .. they way i perceived it was that he is also reasserting that he had a chance to complete his career grand slam at an early age as well like nadal-which is very true- maybe a year older than nadal now.. in 2006 -he not only had the opportunity to complete a career but a calender year well.. it took him 4 finals in the French to win it... Nadal got his US open title in his first grand slam final attempt..

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Yay The Youz has cracked the top 10) 09/27/2010 at 09:12 PM

Hi everyone

Hope you all had a great weekend as I had a long one in my part of the world and too busy to post or catch any results until late yesterday. Happy that Simon won a final at last. Cannot wait for Elf's first match, hope he has a good one.

Oh and congrats to Collingwood and St Kilda in playing out a draw in the football over the weekend.

Posted by wilson75 09/27/2010 at 09:15 PM

Tuulia: That's just how it looked to me. We can't underestimate the role PR plays in sport particularly in an individual sport like tennis. The time was opportune that both were No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. If Benito didn't milk that for what it's worth, he's not doing his job. I'm guessing that Benito was hoping that Rafa and Novak would've lasted longer that one match so that there would've been a chance to show them on TV. Monday was impossible as doubles is rarely shown on TV particularly on the first day of the tournament.

Posted by Tuulia 09/27/2010 at 09:17 PM

" if his future losses cause the same earthquakes as Federer's, and the same resulting death watch ... "

Future? But how about just last year - tennis earthquakes go, apparently Rafa's RG loss was a huge one. Starting then and until April this year his career was very much on death watch. Just like Roger's had been a bit earlier - and is again now. Ultimately it's ridiculous, but that's the way of the media - never let common sense, thoughtfulness or indeed facts get in the way of some dramatic speculation, gloom and doom, or scandal. :)

Posted by Frances 09/27/2010 at 09:18 PM

Pete I love the title!!

and I do like the post.. it could sound a bit depressing but it does make u wonder what Fed treasures the most-- the act of winning or playing..

Whichever the case is.. he's 16 grand slam isa surmountable feet to reach .. that alone should keep him feeling confident how good of a player.. at 29 years of age.. its amazing how he plays the level he is playing now.. i would like to think that maybe when he was younger.. winning is his drive... but now that he has his wife and family .. his priorities might have shifted.. TMF has brought tennis fans so much prowess ..and he still have something more to give

As for my rafa... you work ethic has trememdously rewarded you!!! i am soooo proud of you rafa.. you have surpassed all our expectations.. :Pvamos rafa!!

Posted by Tic 09/27/2010 at 09:24 PM

Searching enlightment in Bangkok whenever & wherever, Nadal was.

Horsing around on a real soccer pitch with Pico Monaco and Marc Lopez (just for them, floodlights included):

Checking into the Intercontinental Bangkok, carrying only the bare essentials (Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company shopping bag & his laptop):

And practicing tennis inbetween on the resort public courts:

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Yay The Youz has cracked the top 10) 09/27/2010 at 09:29 PM

tic I am sure that picture with Monaco is to die for but I am at work and cannot open it.

Some people cannot help themselves, this is one reason why I don't read these kind of posts.

Edie I wish I could swear on this board but it is lucky for you I can't.

I really hate when a few random posters feel the need to come here and compare the two with banal posts. I know I should not feed the trolls.

Posted by Frances 09/27/2010 at 09:30 PM


thank you for the pictures!!!!

Posted by Tuulia 09/27/2010 at 09:36 PM

wilson, I certainly don't oppose something like that being promoted in the media, obviously there's a story there that deserves publicity - and visibility, which sadly doubles simply don't have, no matter who's playing. (Not even when it's Masters finals, only slam doubles finals one may even be able to see on tv.) However, I simply don't believe the doubles was DESIGNED as a PR thing, it seemed to happen naturally (they wanted to play with each other first), and THEN PR happened, too.

Posted by srini 09/27/2010 at 09:38 PM

I think Roger mentioned in one of his interviews. He strongly believes he has a chance of winning, every time he takes the tennis court. And the day he stops feeling that, he may probably retire. I think he loves tennis and as long as he believes he has chance of winning, he will keep playing without worrying too much about his legacy etc.

Posted by wilson75 09/27/2010 at 09:39 PM

Tuulia: Doubles matches are shown in the later stages of the Masters, particularly the finals. Think of the hype if they had reached the finals. But I take your point.

Posted by beng 09/27/2010 at 09:44 PM

Dear John, oh yeah we'll wait for 5 years...and see what happens.. Roger might retire in 2012 and Rafa's knees holding (???) and DELPO coming back, and MURRAY AND SODERLING AND BERYCH AND NOVAC AND OTHERS TO CONTEND FOR GS..ALL THE BEST TO ALL OF US!!!

Posted by CL 09/27/2010 at 09:44 PM

As to Pete's last point about winning/playing. Anyone who has achieved what Roger Federer has is, by definition, a fiercely competitive person. He does not like to lose. At all.

However, he has tried the patience of many of his fans by jetting off to play exhos when would have been much better of resting and recharging. The exhos he played with JMac, Borg and Blake came when he was suffering with ongoing back issues. There was a huge amount of travel involved. And yet. Playing those exhos he looked supremely happy. A cynic would argue it was all about the money. But I think anyone who actually saw him play those exhos, or the Hit for Haiti or the Sampras exhos, either live or on tv, would find it difficult to deny the sheer, goofy pleasure he takes in being on a tennis court.

Whether that joy in playing will be enough to offset the no joy of losing on a more regular basis, if and when it comes to that, remains to be seen.

Posted by CL 09/27/2010 at 09:47 PM

Grant - I thought you flew the "hive mind" coop ages ago? (But thanks for coming back for stragglers. )

Posted by CL 09/27/2010 at 09:48 PM

AB - luv your Rafa as Kung Fu Panda Boy.

Posted by thebigapple 09/27/2010 at 09:49 PM

Roger's hair still rocks!

That much remains!

Posted by snowdrop 09/27/2010 at 09:51 PM

August 17, 2009

Rafael Nadal


Q: Did you follow tennis? Did you watch the French Open? Did you watch Wimbledon? Or did you completely tune out and try to not think about tennis?

RAFAEL NADAL: I was more outside than inside, yeah. Watch the final of Wimbledon, and I watched the last two games of the final of Roland Garros. That's it.
I watch the Davis Cup of Spain. I saw everything. But that's it. I watch Contador winning the Tour de France, and I saw Gasol winning in the NBA. A lot of good things for Spain.

Posted by WarrenPDX 09/27/2010 at 09:51 PM

Nadal is right handed yet he plays lefty. He won in Beijing. He keeps getting better. I like the way Pete said it. Fed is by far the most decorated player in the open era. 16 GS, kudos. Nadal may never achieve that level of success, but Nadal is simply a better player than Fed!

Posted by Tuulia 09/27/2010 at 09:51 PM

wilson, well, no doubles whatsoever apart from slam finals are ever shown on any tv channel available to me. My fave player has even won 2 doubles Masters titles and I never saw any of it. :( Maybe I need to relocate myself... US is clearly out of the question, tho - I've read so many complaints about tennis coverage there, so maybe I need to look around in Europe... ;)

Posted by CL 09/27/2010 at 09:53 PM

AB - btw - I left a response at the Aftermath as Titanic thread.

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