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Final Thoughts 11/28/2010 - 5:59 PM


by Hannah Wilks, TW Contributing Writer

On the protracted journey to North Greenwich this morning (London transport is laboring under major engineering works and facing a tube strike), almost every conversation I overhear is a discussion of Federer and Nadal. It makes me so pleased that on a weekend when the first Ashes test is underway, England have taken on South Africa at Twickenham, and the usual round of high-profile Premiership football clashes are on—Spurs v Liverpool being today's hot ticket—tennis can still fill the O2 arena.

It also makes me feel slightly ashamed of myself for not being more excited. As far as I'm concerned, the greatest rivalry in sport—as I understand we're now obligated to call it—reached its zenith at Wimbledon 2008 when Rafa carved out the heart of Roger's empire and more or less devoured it, and since then it's basically been one-way traffic. Rafa is the best player in the world right now, Roger has had one of the greatest careers; these things seem obvious to me. They don't even play each other that much—twice in 2009, and this their second meeting in 2010—meaning that their rivalry is mainly played out in records and statistics, and on their behalf in forums and blogs across the internet by their fans.

If I'm not excited though, I'm clearly the only one. The crowd applauds politely during the doubles final, a straight-sets victory for Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic; the trophy ceremony resembles a game of musical chairs as all four players acknowledge the end of old partnerships and the forming of new ones. It's good fun, but it's not what everyone's come for today.

Never has the O2 arena been so full of flags, Swiss and Spanish, and signs, some painstakingly-sewn and impressive, others scribbled in felt tip on what looks like scrap paper. The reach of the Federer signs is impressively global: 'Lugano Greets King Roger!', and more bafflingly, 'Namibia Loves Roger.' The Nadal supporters' signs read 'VAMOS RAFA' or simply 'RAFA!!!!', as if the man needs no introduction, just punctuation. It's a breathtakingly international crowd, too; in the past few days I've met people—not journalists, just fans—who have come from all over the world to be here. For every estuary voice which howls 'come on, Rog!', there's an 'allez Rafa!' or an authentic 'vamos!'

I've heard enough serious discussion of the crushing psychological blow that one opponent can inflict on the other by making him wait at the beginning of the match to note down how events turn out. This time, Federer manages to stay seated, visibly twiddling his thumbs, until after Nadal has got up to join him at net for the coin toss. It's either a minor miracle or a bold statement of dominance, but Nadal strikes back immediately by being substantially late in rising for play. In the chair, Mohammed Layani is already holding his head in both hands, like the mother of two squabbling siblings on a long car journey.

By the time the first three games have been played, it's obvious that we're not going to see any huge tactical surprises; nobody's come up with a masterstroke since the last time they played. Federer is going all-out aggressive, ending points quickly wherever possible; Nadal is trying to break down Federer's backhand. Not earth-shattering.

Stationary, Nadal looks squat and chunky across the net from the lithe Federer. That impression all but disappears once they both start to move. Nadal's feet scuttle across the baseline like a beetle; it's better to watch the unbelievable speed with which his racquet whips around his head as he delivers each forehand like a grenade. Despite that, it seems to have been all Federer so far, bounding on to every short ball like an eager puppy to smack a forehand winner. More impressively, his backhand doesn't seem to be leaking errors; indeed, more often that not he finishes a protracted exchange by finding an acute and unexpected angle off that side. The same shot gets him the first break, his fifth forehand winner the first set, 6-3. He hasn't lost a point on his first serve yet.

Federer is playing great. Nadal isn't, quite. Whether it's the remarkable speed with which Federer seizes his opportunities or not, the Spaniard looks a step slow, and his shots don't have the same penetration they did against Murray. Time and again his balls have been landing short and Federer isn't giving him a second chance at any of them. At the changeover, he sits miserably with his hands in his lap, looking between coach and umpire as if unsure who to expect a telling-off from first. His is the only long face in here; Maradona, Princess Eugenie, Thierry Henry all get big cheers from a happy crowd. Boris Johnson gets the biggest, proving once again that the fact that people in this city have the good sense to fill arenas for tennis doesn't mean they display the best judgement in all areas of their lives.

Nadal, inevitably, regroups. A return winner at 1-2 lets him fist-pump and strut, predatory for the first time, and he breaks on Federer's first significant forehand error. When Federer slips and falls in the next game trying to reach a bounce off the net cord, the Swiss is starting to look a little frantic and Nadal firmly in control. One weak service game and the set is gone.

The crowd at least are pleased about it; everyone would have felt short-changed if this one finished in straights. It feels almost like the match proper is starting now, and the rallies are growing ever more spectacular; the tennis that these two men can produce on pure instinct, playing on their veins, is breathtaking. Nadal is hitting much deeper than he was at the beginning of the match, but Federer's serve—after a brief vacation in the second set—is clicking beautifully, time and time again leaving Nadal stranded by the wide serve to the deuce court. He's still finding those angles off the backhand, giving him a toehold on Rafa's serve at 1-2 down. When that toehold becomes break point, the roar from the crowd is earsplitting. Lars Graff would have barked 'Please!' down the microphone as if having to restrain himself from adding 'stop embarrassing yourselves!'; Layani, on the other hand, milks the moment, drawing out the words 'aadvaantaaage Federer!' Federer manages to box Nadal into a corner until his attempted passer flies wide and consolidates the break despite alternating service winners and groundstroke errors, and is suddenly looking rather impregnable at 4-1. When he breaks again, the Federer fans are ecstatic and the Nadal fans are putting on their jackets. It's a cold day outside.

There's a slight oddness to the end of the match, as Federer's winning forehand looks out to seventy-five percent of the stadium. The fans sitting behind that line are the first to cheer, then as Nadal shakes his head and starts walking to the net, Federer is next. He's actually won, even if it's taken everyone a moment to realize it.

During his speech, Nadal's voice creaks with fatigue. In a possible Freudian slip, he thanks the crowd for their support 'in Wimbledon.' Federer quickly reiterates the mention of Wimbledon in his own victory speech. Deliberate or not, both of them know that the real battleground is elsewhere. This has been an extended trailer for Roger and Rafa, 2011; coming soon to a Slam near you.

Watching the confetti and camera flashes, I think about the significance of this victory. I'm starting to share some of Pete's skepticism about the format and implications of this event. Nadal may have been defeated, but no-one can deny it's been his year, and a rocky one for Federer by his lofty standards. I doubt that this defeat will impact Nadal for long; and I don''t know what Federer's victory can give him in terms of motivation and confidence for next year that the champion doesn't already possess. The Fedal numbers may have shifted a little, giving the hardcore fans fresh ammunition in their ongoing battles, but I'm not sure it means much more than that.

But it has been a week of great entertainment, of tennis that's encompassed the entire range from execrable to exceptional. It's given the ATP a chance to showcase their product, and London an opportunity to demonstrate another facet of its nature as a tennis city. On a personal level, it's been a week of staying up until 3 a.m., trying to find the right words for the best players in the world; a week when taking longhand notes during Nadal matches left my fingers blistered, and Djokovic's smile distracted me enough that I left my mobile phone in his press conference. (He didn't call.)

It may not quite be the 'fifth Slam' just yet—but it's been a bloody good week all the same.

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Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 01:44 PM

Ren, where in the Caribbean (if you don't mind moi prying)?

Posted by Sherlock 11/29/2010 at 01:44 PM

Ren!!!!!! Good to see you. :)

TMFunk, hope you come back soon. You're one of my favorite posters here. Never change your style. It's perfect. Even better than CL's! Just by a hair, though. :)

The good news is that we've got what, six weeks until the AO to talk about this tired issue? :)

Posted by Gina 11/29/2010 at 01:45 PM

[Mod edited]. Please respect the writer because she's unbiased and her articles are insightful and very much appreciated by tennis lovers. If you think you could do it better, I'm sorry to break it to you: you couldn't.
I loved the analysis Hannah, very fair. And I believe I'd be distracted too if Nole smiled at me. ;)
Keep going, you're my favorite blogger right now (maybe Bodo should give you this column). :p

Posted by Sherlock 11/29/2010 at 01:48 PM

"Posted by @work 11/29/2010 at 01:39 PM
I'm almost afraid to post today since I don't like confrontation (some may translate that to being a chicken) ;-)"

@work, glad you overcame your fear. :)

And I wouldn't say being a chicken. I would say showing a lot of wisdom today. :)

Posted by ladyjulia 11/29/2010 at 01:48 PM


as in you want the media to ask the question to Rafa on how he can be tired?

They did tell him that nobody believed he could be tired just after a 3 hr match. His response was that everybody saw the match and can form their own opinion.

I think the media did a good job to ask that question. Except for Neil Harman and all British journos, who want an excuse to bring Murray in so that he determined the outcome, most journos i read (and commentators) said they did not believe Rafa when he said after the Murray match that he was tired and won't know how to recover for the final (forgot exact quote).

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 01:48 PM

I think that coaching helped. Unlike Pete, Fed behaves and is motivated like a 23 year old, according to coach. That is why he still keeps up with the younger guys.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 01:48 PM

I don't know why two things - Federer playing brilliantly in a number of ways (serve out wide, beautiful angly BHs, attacking on the return, great defence, forcing Rafa to try to come up with the brilliance & generally putting the pressure on), and Rafa looking a little flat & not at his absolute best (late to some balls, hitting short, missing some shots you would expect him to make, and occasionally looking unsure of which shot to play) - can't both be true.

No-one cared when I said Roddick seemed lacklustre and lacking in energy against Djokovic on Friday...some things only seem to matter when it is Fedal. I guess the passion is a good thing. :)

It's good to see you here, Ren. :)

Posted by CL 11/29/2010 at 01:49 PM

TMFunk - It makes perfect sense, and yes it will indeed be sad when that day comes. And any writer worth his salt would be remiss not to remark on it. But if they had written that when Fed was 24 wouldn't we be "head scratching" and saying, HUH? Why would such a young guy suddenly 'fall from grace.'?

Nam 1 - yes, exactly. And they, the media, are the ones I have a problem with. Alas, since no one will let me write for THEM, you all are just stuck hearing me rant. Of course, you can prob. And for about the 5th time I will say that what it driving me crazy is NOT coming from Rafa fans on this is simply what has dribbled out to the media over the years which they have now completely bought into.

Posted by Joe 11/29/2010 at 01:50 PM

Carol, don't waste your time with that guy, it's not worth it. He always is talking about Nadal, the poor guy is obsessed with him. Can you imagine how he is feeling right now? He's bursting with happiness

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 01:50 PM

Sherlockk!!!! Howdy my good old friend! Nice comment about work there!

Jewell, miss the good ole TW days, no?

Suriname, NP, this time.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/29/2010 at 01:51 PM

NP..yes, i agree..the H2H is what it is. Whichever way its spun.

Posted by Andrew 11/29/2010 at 01:51 PM

jewell: +1

Posted by CL 11/29/2010 at 01:51 PM

Madhatter - may I quote you? Perfectly put, thanks.

Yeah...what ABOUT that second set?! Poor Fed, can even put a tired Rafa out of his misery in straights. lol.

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 01:52 PM

I am just so happy for Fed's win, and I don't have time arguing why.

Posted by Genuine Realist 11/29/2010 at 01:52 PM

FWIW, my own impression is that neither player looked like a terribly happy warrior yesterday. These matches may be great fun for the fans, but I suspect neither player enjoys what (for want of a better word) I might call the monumentality of these occasions.

It remains significant to me that Rafa did not even ask for a review of the last point. He challenges much less important calls on bases that are much more dubious.

Those who suggest that he was fatigued aren't doing him any favors at all. The issue is how a 25 year old athlete at his peak could possibly be so tired that it accounts for his defeat. Finding explanations of that ilk is not where you want to be as a supporter.

Posted by zenggi 11/29/2010 at 01:53 PM

If you want to keep ranting, I can give you some links of the Spanish press... :)

I remember you wrote that. And what did Andy Roddick said in his presser?
Oh no, wait, what did the newspapers said about Andy's performance?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 01:53 PM

Do I have to release puppies and rainbows, or what? :)

I thought Tim was very gracious after the match yesterday.

Posted by CL 11/29/2010 at 01:53 PM

"TMFunk, hope you come back soon. You're one of my favorite posters here. Never change your style. It's perfect. Even better than CL's! Just by a hair, though. :)"

Sherlock!!! ****sputters****'re gonna PAY for that my friend!

Posted by Aube,"Colored girls" is a fine movie... 11/29/2010 at 01:54 PM

Fairdingome Rafa and Fed fans both?

Hey I think we all should be very thankful we have such incredible tennis players named Roger and Rafa,although I strongly have weaknesses for Nadou,I can't but be wild eyes with admiration on the shot makings of Federer...

Yes, if I had my way, Nadou would have won and I rejoice that he did grab a set but isn't hard courts suppose to be Murray and Federer and even Djoko's for that matter??? hey, it's Fed fans turn to have a ball and I'll suck it up!!!
Cheers everyone!!!

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 01:55 PM

...but I'd like to do a factor analysis why Rafa lost. Sure, many factors must have played important role/s, him being tired included, but not the sole predictor.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 01:55 PM

MSF, I don't have as many Gonzales stats memorized as I do Laver's or Pete's, but the overall picture you get when you study his resume is that Pancho was good enough to win a big thing on clay here and there, but fell just short of claiming the biggest one (geez, sound familiar?).

Anyway this is about right:

"As I've repeatedly said, almost anyone who says that ONE particular player is the GOAT is not qualified to make such an assessment because they do not have the requisite background and knowledge--and that includes Andrew Murray, Rafa, J.McEnroe, and many others

""AT" (ALL TIME) is part of "GOAT." If someone is yapping about a particular person being the GOAT without having seen hours and hours of players like Tilden and Pancho in competition, then that person is talking out of his or her ass."

As you noted, Murray, JMac and others are either pundits or public figures who happen to play tennis professionally. These guys have barely watched Laver play, let alone Gonzales, Kramer, Tilden, Budge, etc. And you can rest assured that they're far less familiar with the pre-Open era GOATs' achievements than real experts and historians like Bud Collins, Gianni Clerici and Raymond Lee, and even their opinions are not pronouncements from the chair (to paraphrase Mel Gibson's characteristic remark about the Church).

Now, I really hate to sound like one of the kids here, but based on the few short clips I've seen I sometimes do wonder if Tilden could make it on today's tour after just a couple months' training. (OTOH, I have no doubt that Laver, Connors, Borg and the more recent GOATs would do quite well after such a short training period). But, of course, that's an irrelevant point, because Tilden and his contemporaries were products of their own environment. We don't know how they would have developed had they grown in this era. And Tilden was the ultimate thinker on the tennis court, always trying to find a weakness in his opponent's game and come up with just the right strategy, and the fact that his insights about the sport are valued to this day speaks volumes about his tennis IQ. You can't teach things like that. They are inborn, innate, somehow unique to the rarest champions.

BTW I've got a good anecdote about Budge somewhere. Let me dig it up.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 01:57 PM

I didn't read any of the match reports in the media, zenggi, or the press conferences, so I can't tell you. :)

I meant, in fan terms, sometimes you can get away with saying things about any other player that you could not about Roger or Rafa.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/29/2010 at 01:57 PM


The problem I have with your analysis is that Rafa is a nemesis to Federer. Therefore, a 50% chance of winning for him on non-clay dosen't seem right.

Therefore, the chances are more that Rafa would win..regardless of surface (not sure how to quantify nemesis factor)...and then 14-8 would not be not statistically significant.

If everything was a coin flip, I agree. Also, 6-4 was when Rafa was not at his peak on non-clay. Again, we have no way of knowing what the H2H would have been on non-clay had Rafa and Fed been both same age and peaking (kwaku did some analysis on that)..

I just think there is not enough information right now. Rafa and Fed need to play more on non-clay. But unfortunately for my fave, he isn't at his peak.

Its a no-win situation for my fave.

Posted by zenggi 11/29/2010 at 01:59 PM

Tsk. You were there! Didn't Hannah asked him? :)

Any other player aren't Roger or Rafa. Respect or not respect....

Posted by Genuine Realist 11/29/2010 at 02:00 PM

I am with Manuel on the GOAT thing.

My own cynical belief is that it began as a marketing ploy, in the US, for a sport that was not getting the attention it deserved. It is NOT the result of Fed's unprecedented dominance between 2004-2008. When you watch some of the matches back in 2003-2004, the talk had already begun to surface.

In any case, I have been following the sport for forty years, and I can't think of another player - not Laver, Borg, McEnroe, Sampras, none of them - that had to live with that burden. It does have an effect on the Fedal, ambience, as Fed seems always to be playing defense, protecting his spot on the charts.

All I want for Christmas is a Fed-Nadal final in Roland Garros in 2011. Nadal likely wins, but it would be fun to see Rafa worried about protecting turf for a change.

BTW, I am lying above. That's NOT all I want for Christmas.

Posted by Sebastiaced 11/29/2010 at 02:00 PM

well im tired that always nadal and its fans says: i lost a match because i was tired, what a bad loser, why he didnt accept the superiority of his rival, he would never recognize that, he will always think that he is the best player of all time, (bet he would ever win one more slam and if he did, its partly because his rival is tired, or is not playing at his best, like all the slam titles he earned at wimbledon, usopen and aussie open........

Posted by @work 11/29/2010 at 02:01 PM

Thanks but it gets a little too intense for me around here sometimes and fearless I'm not :)

While some may have been looking forward to a break, I'm actually counting the days till Davis Cup Final. Maybe the Serbian and French teams will give us some juicy controversy to talk about to forget the 'tired' theme ;-)

Posted by Madhatter 11/29/2010 at 02:01 PM

Sure, CL, keep on keeping on. You're a brave 'un.

Posted by CL 11/29/2010 at 02:01 PM

Genuine Realist - that's a good point about neither player looking esp, happy yesterday. Actually, Fed said in his presser that he was completely exhausted...not just be this match, but by all the tennis he had played in the last 5 weeks. Good thing he won, or we'd NEVER hear the end of a comment like THAT.

jewell - It certainly is is just that what you said, is not, for the most part what is being reflected in the media which is featuring a lot of more of B and a lot less than A. Wertheim notwithstanding.

Ren - I completely agree about the coaching and I wish that some journos would focus a bit more on that. Fed was asked a couple of question in his presser and I think maybe even PA made some sort of a statement, but you would really have to dig to find much reference to such a 'minor detail' as that.

Posted by Sherlock 11/29/2010 at 02:01 PM

"I am just so happy for Fed's win, and I don't have time arguing why."

Lol, Ren. So happy for you on Roger's win. That guy might have a future in this sport if he keeps working at it. :)

CL wants to quote a poster named Madhatter? Let me revisit my favorite poster rankings. :)

Btw, just kidding, Madhatter. :) Actually, I agree with a lot of what you said. As much as I don't understand why it annoys some Fed fans so much, I also don't understand why some in the media have to write those ridiculous headlines to begin with. Although I do remember the "Djokovic will be dead tired" story was a constant Saturday night into the rainy Sunday last September in New York. So maybe it's not just Rafa?

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 02:02 PM

Ren, weren't you in Suriname last time we talked? Or was it Guyana?

ladyjulia, good to know.

Posted by TMFunk 11/29/2010 at 02:03 PM

CL - I think our good friend Sherlock is just trying to cause a few rifts in the FedFan household...It is inconceivable to me that I could even dream of having a better style than yours! Blasphemy I say!

Sherlock - Never, my good but Machiavellian friend will you be able to break through our armour! Your evil designs will forever be rebuffed and thwarted by the Fellowship of the Fedheads!

pssst- but thanks anyway! Felt good, ma man...wink,wink,nudge,nudge :)

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:03 PM

What is amazing about Federer is his ability to come back. 2010 was not a good year for him, yet he always seem to have this spirited way of not losing the motivation to win. It is the way of a bull.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 02:03 PM

zenggi - it was a really dull match, so I only read Hannah's piece. :) I know we were texting each other about Roddick looking lacklustre after about four games.

Posted by andrea 11/29/2010 at 02:05 PM

shame that the 'tired' thing has come up again. of course, the other side of the spin would be how freaking miraculous it would be yet again, that if nadal had won over federer on sunday, he would be superhuman..a la the AO 2009.

there isn't anyway to win this argument..if nadal loses, it's because he's tired; if he wins, it's because federer has nadal in his head.

at the year end championships in 07 i believe, federer breadsticked nadal in the second set as well, due to phenomenal serving.

nadal managed to win all of his matches this time, but not as comprehensively as federer did; fed was playing better all around. even if nadal's semi final match with murray would have been 2 hours, fed would still have come out on top this time around.

Posted by CL/AtheGoat 11/29/2010 at 02:05 PM

Oh! Are we going into GOAT herding? WHEW! Finally a new dead non equine.

GOATS? I'm with this guy:

Sherlock - don't think I will forget! I'll get you and your little dog, too! Now, where the hail did I put that broom?

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:06 PM

Was In Guyana NP.

Sherlock, thanks! Gosh, give me a break,when you're happy you're just it. Why waste time analyzing your happiness!

How are you though?

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:08 PM

THanks CL. Agree.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 02:09 PM

"What is amazing about Federer is his ability to come back."

I think this is constantly under-rated about Roger.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 02:09 PM

Ah-ha! Here it is, and note that this comes from some1 who has been watching and playing tennis since Laver's heyday, and who actually knows his tennis:

"Are you kidding! And I was as guilty as anyone. When I went to Budge's camp I had already seen several pro events, including several Laver matches when he was still considered #1. I had no idea how good Budge was. There was no internet. No information superhighway. I would have laughed at the idea that Budge could even compete with Laver, much less take a set off of him. Well, Budge told me himself how much he admired Laver, and what a great champion he was. That was right before he mentioned that he split sets with Laver in an exo match the year before, 1972. Laver would have been 34 and Budge would have been 58, with a double chin, pot belly and skinny legs. This conversation occurred after I'd seen Budge dismantle a couple of his young, hard hitting, coaches in practice sets. Budge's groundies and serve were brutal. So, I didn't doubt what he said was true.

"BTW, Budge was using a 16oz, 5 1/4 all wood handle (with a leather strip around the butt as a butt cap), Rawlings, custom made to be exactly like the frame he used in his prime. His groundies were classic, textbook Eastern drives, and the result was very much like Connors' groundies - hard, low clearance over the net, and always very deep and penetrating. The difference was that Budge hit a bit more topspin on both sides. His serve was equally textbook perfect. The timing and tempo of all of his shots was poetic. And the sound of the ball coming off of that wood racquet with natural gut strings was CRRRRRACK! All around, an amazing experience and education about the history of tennis."

I love this part:

"I would have laughed at the idea that Budge could even compete with Laver, much less take a set off of him."

As you can see, even the old-timers had to undergo that "players today are better than ever" transition period. Some things never change.

Posted by zenggi 11/29/2010 at 02:11 PM

LOL at that picture. I read somewhere that Robert fell asleep while watching Rafa practising with Ferru. It cannot be true, can it?

I'm sure Novak was playing brilliantly though. :)

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:11 PM

Wondrin where is AM?

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 02:11 PM

Ren, gotcha. So are you still finishing up your training? What exactly do you do these days?

Posted by Sherlock 11/29/2010 at 02:11 PM

TMFunk, lol! Dang. I'm so transparent. :)

CL, have I told you lately that I think you're the greatest? Far better than TMFunk. :)

Ren, completely agree. Happiness is hard to find sometimes, so just enjoy it. :)

Well, horror of horrors, my boss is expecting me to do some work. It was fun. Catch you later, gang. And Ren, if we don't see you for a while, take good care. I hope things continue to go well for you.

Posted by TMFunk 11/29/2010 at 02:13 PM

later Sherlock...too's my "I'm going to totally goof off at work coz Fed won yesterday" day... :)

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:13 PM

I am an organizational development advisor NP. And you, any new girl? job?

SHERLOCK: oh my, you goin?! Hmp! But thanks man!

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:17 PM

"As you can see, even the old-timers had to undergo that "players today are better than ever" transition period. Some things never change."

Indeed NP.

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:19 PM

Now, I noticed that I just appear in TW when Fed wins, and it is getting to be rarer and rarer. Heaven forbid!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 02:22 PM

Sherlock: I hear you about Djokovic at the USO. I think I said it myself. :)

I think we should be able to consider all factors and potential factors in any given match without being accused of "making excuses".

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:22 PM

I can only laugh at my last post! LOL!

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 02:22 PM

And here's Budge playing Riggs in what appears to be a USO final from the '30s:

But that's not the real reason why I posted this link. See how Riggs takes Budge completely by surprise with his almost criminally disguised drop shots (@ :38 & 1:29). It's really impossible to guess if Riggs is gonna hit his regular groundies or go for a DS right until the contact point.

If you know of any other decent clips of Riggs, in particular his equally legendary lobs, let me know.

Posted by TMFunk 11/29/2010 at 02:22 PM

Now THIS, from espn's Ravi Ubha is spin at its worst:

"Rafael Nadal (A): Nadal had the type of 11 months Federer produced in 2004, 2006 and 2007, winning three majors. He surpassed Fed, though, by claiming three in a row in a single season."

Say what??? 3 in a row in a year surpasses 3 slams in 3 years? Even putting aside the irrelevance of 3 consective within a year given it just depends on how the slams are scheduled...Not to mention the ridiculous W-L stats Fed had those three years? Nadal had a phenomenal year, no question, but saying it surpasses Fed's 3 such years is just BS, no disrespect to Nadal fans here :)

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:23 PM

I think we should be able to consider all factors and potential factors in any given match without being accused of "making excuses".-JEWELL


Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 02:23 PM

Ren - I'm not sure I can say I miss the No Ma'am Club, but I do miss the Three Musketeers of TW, especially in the mornings. :)

Posted by sisu 11/29/2010 at 02:24 PM

Hi everyone. Haven’t commented on the epic match or read most of the epic comments. To be honest haven’t been able to watch the whole match yet. ;(( One thing I know for sure (TM Oprah), ladyjulia and CL are the best of the best debaters without becoming meanies.

More important matters are in play at the moment - less than 40 min to bid on 3 of the 4 remaining priceless art pieces. ;)) Current prices -

Rafa - $26,500
Nole - $21,210
AndyR - $11,100
Roger - $27,100 (for some reason this has 1 hour, approx. 50 min.)

Hope to be back later.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 02:24 PM

"And you, any new girl? job?"

Ren, let's just say my life hasn't been too lacking in either dept.

Posted by Joe 11/29/2010 at 02:26 PM

Andrea, Nadal/Murray match was 3 hours and 18 minutes

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 02:28 PM

If only I had $30 000 I could win the painting war for Rafa! ;-)

TMFunk - you know journalists are always obsessed with the new, right? :) I expect when Roger first started doing miraculous things, the press went a little overboard with that too, pushing Sampras's achievements back along the way. Or perhaps I've talked to NP too much, LOL. Also my guess is that Ubha was trying to say that one 3-in-a-row year surpasses one 3-slam-year.

Posted by CL/AtheGoat 11/29/2010 at 02:29 PM

jewell - which 'we'? Because if you mean the 'we' here, I totally agree. The 'we the media' - hmm..that's a bit trickier...excuse/factor; reason/rational. Fine line. Honestly don't think anyone, here or in the media can, or should even be expected to walk it completely objectively. But once in a while, wouldn't kill them.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 02:29 PM

aargh, I've talked too much, now I'm going to have to speed-cook before University Challenge starts.

Posted by crazyone 11/29/2010 at 02:32 PM

*Robin Soderling (B-): Soderling proved he was no fluke. He goes down in history as the guy who snapped Federer's outrageous semifinal streak. Has the imposing Swede hit his ceiling, however? Soderling was outclassed by Nadal and Federer in their head-to-heads after Roland Garros. According to reports from Sweden, Soderling will cut ties with coach Magnus Norman in the offseason.*

From Ubha's article, linked above: whoa. I wonder why he's splitting with Magnus.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 02:33 PM

"Or perhaps I've talked to NP too much, LOL."

No, you're just starting to gain some sense. Sampras is still the bestest. Pistol Pete of the '99 YEC final would've destroyed either Fedal yesterday.

Posted by TMFunk 11/29/2010 at 02:33 PM

jewell - Yeah, you are probably right in that he's talking about 3-in-a-row surpassing 3 non-consecutive, which makes a bit more sense. Of course, I think that's a dubious case as well given its just the luck of when the slams get played, but whatever :)

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:35 PM

some people just couldn't get it right.

Posted by Sutemi 11/29/2010 at 02:35 PM

All this delay, and keeping other players waiting is a psychological warfare; those of you who don't understand it will dismiss it as "oh Roger is a grown up boy he should not react to this"... blah blah.

It's interesting that Murry took a leaf from Federer's book (Madrid) and did the same and waited on the bench...

As for Federer, he is royalty; and no one makes royalty wait :-)

Ya'll be cool!!!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 02:36 PM

CL: I meant we here really. Although yells of "Roger's back!" and "Rafa's knees!" two minutes after a match are not what I mean. :) I truly don't take most of the newspaper media stuff seriously.

I am not sure about biases for or against any player but I do believe they have prevailing, easy narratives that they will try to slot stories into - sometimes they are so lazy. TW detailed analysis is better. ;-) But then most papers are probably writing stories for more casual fans than we mostly are. And stories are what sell, I guess. Then there are more structural things like championing the new over the old, etc. I think most of what's talked about here tends to fit into those sorts of things.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 02:38 PM

That's an argument for the long empty days of the off-season, TMFunk. :) I honestly don't know.

Splitting with Magnus? That's weird considering how far Magnus has taken him.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/29/2010 at 02:38 PM

"Rafael Nadal (A): Nadal had the type of 11 months Federer produced in 2004, 2006 and 2007, winning three majors. He surpassed Fed, though, by claiming three in a row in a single season."

Bur Roger went through Nadal atleast in one of those slams twice (2006 and 2007).

Rafa go through Roger (who owns 6 Wimbledon titles, 5 US Opens) for those three in a row?


Rafa's three in a row is unique in open era...should be compared to Laver who won four in a row.

But by no means does he surpass Roger's 3 a year....three times.

Its a separate accomplishment...not surpassing Roger's accomplishment.

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:39 PM

"Ren - I'm not sure I can say I miss the No Ma'am Club, but I do miss the Three Musketeers of TW, especially in the mornings. :)"

PSPACE, NP AND REN: The 3 musketeers! Ha-ha-ha! Miss it too Jewell!

Posted by Federax 11/29/2010 at 02:41 PM

This "whining" from Fed fans is not because of ungraciousness of the opposing fans. It is that we are tired of reading headlines such as "Federer Defeats Exhausted Nadal" - as if Roger's efforts have nothing to do with it and that was the first time Roger had won a match up against his nemesis. It seems to me the media has a packaged narrative for every Nadal loss. The only thing some fans can do is somehow try to dispel that notion by posting on these blogs.

+++Exactly. TW Nadal fans have been really gracious (and Nadal too in his presser). It's the lazy a$$ narrative the media has been using since at least 2008 (though I remember it was also used when Roger broke Nadal's clay court streak in Hamburg (?) 07 or 06) that is irritating. And when it's not fatigue, they go out of their way to talk about knee or elbow issues or - the best one - his parents' divorce! Would any serious reporter in any other sport have used someone's PARENTS' divorce - not their own, mind you - as an excuse for underperforming???

Posted by Deuce 11/29/2010 at 02:42 PM

Oh boy - this debate still wages on! I agree in general that the media needs to make up their mind as to which story they want to play. Roger beat Rafa fair and square yesterday with no footnotes or anything. If you walk on the court you are fit to play. Rafa said when Roger plays this way he is too good.

Posted by CL/AtheGoat 11/29/2010 at 02:42 PM

jewell -totally agree.. back in the beginning of Roger's hey day, he was praised beyond reason. A British of the Simons... I always get them mixed up...spilt more purple prose than a dozen bodice rippers recounting Fed' s exploits. He was every bit as over the top about Fed as, say, Robbie and Jason are now about Rafa. But the difference is, when Roger DID lose, the press narrative was more 'Wow! That guy played great to take Roger down.' 'He, (say Canas or Rafa), really showed weaknesses in Fed's game.' With the possible exception of the summer of mono recovery, Fed was never cut any slack in a loss. And even that summer, it was sort of a delayed reaction/after the fact kind of 'ok, maybe he wasn't fully fit' sort of thing. With Rafa, the narrative is, if he loses, there must be SOMETHING other than his opponents' play...knees, teeth, parental divorce, shoulder, feet, exhaustion, more knees, abs... that is a REALLY BIG factor in that loss. I remember when Rafa lost to Ferruu at the USO, listening on TV it was ALL about Rafa's knees...virtually nothing about Ferruu's play. (Of course, that was JMac and Poodle and I guess we shouldn't judge all journalists by them. But, just for now, I think I will. ;-) And anyway, they were pretty representative of the meme.)

Posted by Vetmama 11/29/2010 at 02:42 PM

CL, you still around?
I saw a comment from you recently that pulled me up short.
Do you actually live far enough out in the sticks to have a "general store"?
That is SOOO cool!
I think the last time I used that term was when I was talking about an episode of "Little House On The Prairie".:)

Must be lovely where you live. Especially for snow lovers.

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:42 PM

NP: that's good news!!! LOL! You always rejected the girls before, or just a mere insinuation from them!

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 02:44 PM

Federax: word.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 02:45 PM

Ren, I have no idea what you're talking about. :)

Posted by CherryNYC 11/29/2010 at 02:51 PM

Hi everybody -- Hannah -- thank you for your wonderful posts this week. I hope you can take a few days off and relax.
I missed everything over the weekend . . . . but I am thrilled for Fed. And hats off to Rafa, too -- he had one of the best years ever and should feel rightly proud.....
Long live TMF and the Magenta King!

Somewhat OT - I have an iPhone question and hopefully somebody can help. When I log on to from my phone (via safari), I get the mobile version of -- I can read Pete's posts,etc., but I can't see the comments or post a comment.... When I click on "go to full version of" on the home page, it just keeps taking me back to the mobile version. I used to be able to go to the "full version", which lets me read comments and post..., but I can't do it now.... If anyone has any thoughts on this, please let me know. I was hoping to be able to scroll through comments during the weekend while running around with the Little Cherries, but no luck....Thanks

Posted by Vetmama 11/29/2010 at 02:56 PM

Hi cherrynyc

I'm on my iPhone right now. It may be that you are trying to enter the blog through
I get in by typing the TW url:
See if that works for you.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/29/2010 at 02:57 PM

*frowns at slight upon Mac* You have to hear him tease Tim Henman in a commentary booth to appreciate his full genius. ;-)

That would surely have to be Simon Barnes.

As for the rest of it, I don't know, CL - not that I don't know if I agree, I mean, I don't know. :)

Posted by CL/AtheGoat 11/29/2010 at 02:58 PM

Vetmama - yup the General Store/Post Office combo package. Deer season just ended here and the general store is where the check point is. So this time of year there can be a sort of abattoir feeling to it. But the rest of the year it is a cozy place to bump into people, stocked with old videos, decent wine, newspapers, pretty bad pizza and that quart of milk you forgot to get at the supermarket which is 20 miles away.

It IS lovely here. We are very lucky and smart enough to know it. No serious snow yet.

I am glad to 'see' you - have missed you.

zenggi - I would love to see Spanish headlines, but given my lack of language skills it would all be Greek to me. ;-))

I am now, to the great relief of some, I am sure, off to the gym where, no doubt, I can work off some frustration at the general laziness, incompetence, and unprofessionalism of the media. And i am NOT just talking Federer/Nadal.

Posted by TMFunk 11/29/2010 at 03:02 PM

later CL, just make sure they aren't reviewing the final on the tv above your treadmill while you are there... :)

Posted by TMFunk 11/29/2010 at 03:02 PM

later CL, just make sure they aren't reviewing the final on the tv above your treadmill while you are there... :)

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 03:02 PM

will have to go now....bye old folks!

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/29/2010 at 03:03 PM


There's an outfit called ITN Source that has many old tennis clips (for a price), which tend to be very short, as far as I know.

Going back to Pancho, I'm not sure how many Roland Garros tournaments he entered before he turned pro. Couldn't have been many.

And I don't how he and Rosewall did against each other while they were on Kramer's tour and Pancho was in one of his motivated phases.

Your bringing up Budge, brings to mind other greats, like Perry and Jack Kramer, who also would have won many more majors had they not turned pro and/or had their careers interrupted by WWII.

I will continue to agree with those who believe that comparing the best players from widely separated eras is foohardy.

Posted by Ren 11/29/2010 at 03:05 PM

NP: your memory is too short...we had plenty of jokes about girls before, including AM inviting you for a date or so...but you just rejected the idea!

Being that said, I see you next time.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 03:25 PM

Later, Ren. Have fun down there.

MSF, thx for the info re ITN Source.

I don't think it's even necessary to wonder how many FOs Gonzales entered before turning pro. Big clay-court tourneys were available on the pro circuit, and as you may know, there were also a few on wood, another major surface back in those days. I don't believe Gonzales ever won a major equivalent on clay, though he did make at least 2 finals (at the '56 and '61 French Pro Championships, losing to Trabert and Rosewall respectively).

Agreed on comparing eras. That's why I prefer to separate GOATs into tiers now. The main reason why I'm hesitant to put Budge in the 1st tier is that his resume is rather lacking compared to that of the other 1st-tier GOATs. For example, he won about 42 events in his entire career. That's a surprisingly low # compared to the boatload of titles that Tilden, Laver, Rosewall and even Gonzales won before the Open era. Also, Budge won just over 80% of his matches in his best five years--which is good, but not again not great in the context of his time.

This is also why Hoad, another all-time great whose GOAT candidacy is based in large part on the level of tennis he was capable of playing, is rarely mentioned in the same sentence as Tilden, Laver, Gonzales, Borg, Sampras and Federer.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 03:29 PM

Ah, Ren, your memory serves you well. Take care, bud.

BTW, the only reason why I left out Rosewall in my last post was 'cause I was discussing the subjective creterion of playing level. Otherwise he belongs in the 1st tier.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 03:30 PM

creterion = criterion. Thought about using "criteria," but technically it's plural.

Posted by CherryNYC 11/29/2010 at 03:31 PM

vetmama -- thank you so much, but that is not working -- I just get a blank screen with "" across the top...?????? wacky...

Posted by AB 11/29/2010 at 03:36 PM

Cherry: I think it's a glitch. Try going to "Live Scores" first, and from there, click on the headline. You might get to the full version from that page.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 03:38 PM

Also, MSF, if we're talking about pure stats alone, it's really all but impossible to argue against Laver as the one and only GOAT. Almost every seasoned tennis fan I know--and I do mean every one of 'em who know their tennis history--place Laver at the very top or at least as a co-No. 1. I've seen an occasional shout-out or two to Gonzales, but that was mostly out of respect for his legend (you know, peak playing level, greatest competitor in tennis history, and so on). It wasn't because of his record of the most weeks as No. 1, probably the only major edge he has over Laver.

As for the rest of these fans (a minority, of course), they simply say one can't compare eras.

Posted by AB 11/29/2010 at 03:42 PM

TMFunk: since you're still rolling around, reveling in Roger's triumph I'll take on the 3 in-a-row statement.

In Agassi's memoir "Open" he states that the toughest challenge in pro tennis is making the transition to different surfaces.

If you're willing to accept Agassi's statement as a truism, then what Rafa did this year was unprecedented - he successfully made the transition from clay to grass to hard court, winning Slams on 3 different surfaces in the same calendar year.

I don't think even Laver did this in his 2 Grand Slams because at that time I think USO might have been on green clay - but there are other tennis scholars more versed than yrs truly.

Posted by Tigress 11/29/2010 at 03:51 PM

In the wake of Federer's huge career win yesterday over the great rival of his era, I suggest that the tennis world should institute a new category: "Majors". "Majors" includes the 4 Grand Slams plus the '5th Major", the Masters Cup/World Tour Finals. It should be separate from pure Grand Slam calculations. But it would be a significant category in itself, since it would include the elite grand finale ATP event of the year.

Majors category would be even more surface diversified, including medium/slow HC outdoors (AO), clay (RG), grass (Wimby), fast HC outdoor (USO), and medium HC indoor (WTF).

BTW: the present score in Open Era career Majors: Federer 21, Sampras 19, Borg 13, Lendl 13. McEnroe 10, Agassi/Becker/Nadal/Connors 9.

This gives a deeper perspective to the positioning of the top Open Era players.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/29/2010 at 03:55 PM


As you know, Budge's career (like Kramer's) was impacted by WWII.

He also, reportedly suffered some sort of arm or shoulder injury--I believe in the service--which made it difficult for him to play full matches at, or near, his top level.


Laver won both of his Forest Hills championships on grass. On the second ocassion, it had been raining and, because the finals was the last match of the tournament, Laver was allowed to wear spiked tennis shoes for better traction on the wet grass. Don't know if his opponent, who, I believe was Tony Roche, also used spikes or even brought them.

Green clay was only used at Forest Hills/the U.S. Open from 1975-1977, I believe.

Posted by jita65 11/29/2010 at 03:56 PM

"Priceless Paintings" price war won by....Andy Roddick!!
Way to go for some arbitrary Roddick fan :))

Posted by TMFunk 11/29/2010 at 03:59 PM

AB: Thanks for indulging me. With the TW conversation having died down, I was starting to wonder what else I could do to keep from work on this my "I'm totally goofing off from work today coz Fed won yesterday" day :)

I see your point, but would argue Fed navigated the change in surfaces as well when he won his 3 slams. Anytime you win multiple slams in a year these days, you are transitioning to different surfaces.

My point is: If the order of slams had been say, AO, Wimbie, USO, FO, or any order with the FO being the first or last major of the season, all things being equal, Fed would have won 3 consecutive and also made the transition you note, only in a different order. So to me, its just the consequence of how the slams are scheduled that Rafa has 3 consecutive and doesn't make it special in any material way. Now, if Fed had lost early in the FO because he struggled to transition from HC to clay, I'd say your argument has more merit, but that isn't the case either, as you know.

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 04:00 PM

"I don't think even Laver did this in his 2 Grand Slams because at that time I think USO might have been on green clay - but there are other tennis scholars more versed than yrs truly."

AB, I know you're one of the few good posters around here so don't take this the wrong way. Quite frankly, this is simply a non-issue that the Internet kids (again, I'm not including you among them) love to trot out. In '69, the year he won his 2nd official Grand Slam, Laver also won the most important HC events at Johannesburg (South African Open, over Okker) and the US Pro Championship (over Newcombe), not to mention the most important indoor events at Philly (Roche) and Wembley (Roche).

And as our own Pete Bodo has argued, one could say it's actually HARDER to transition from grass to clay when 3 of the majors are held on the former surface, because players are more used to it and its requirements. As you can see, it's possible to spin the surface issue either way.

Also, when most seasoned fans say Laver won 2 GS's, they're not talking about his official '62 GS, but his sweep of the most important pro tourneys in '67 (Wembley, World Pro, Wimbledon Pro & US Pro).

Posted by AB 11/29/2010 at 04:03 PM

muchas gracias, msf: I knew I could count on you or NP for historical accuracy.

Do you know what surface the Australian was played on at that time?

That would affirm the 3 different surfaces "record" if that was the point Uhba was making about Nadal's accomplishment.

Posted by TMFunk 11/29/2010 at 04:06 PM

btw NP - When I said TW conversation had dies down, only meant conversation that I could semi-intelligently participate in. Given I'm no tennis historian, that would not have been the case with your conversation with msf on Gonzalez, Tilden etc. Fascinating though...

Posted by NP 11/29/2010 at 04:08 PM

MSF, of course I'm aware of the injury Budge suffered while serving in WWII. It's unfortunate, to be sure, but the fact remains that the injury (or some other issue lingering from the war) prevented him from achieving more. Mind you, I don't dismiss extra-sport issues entirely, but unlike, say, Borg's thumb injury in the '78 USO final or Sampras' blisters at the '94 USO, Budge's injury was more permanent. In this case you have no reliable way of knowing how Budge's career would've turned out without it. That's an important distinction to me.

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