Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Hell on Wheels
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Hell on Wheels 11/27/2010 - 10:48 PM


by Pete Bodo

Somehow, we might have known all along that it would come down to this: Rafael Nadal has one man to beat to win his first ATP tour championships, a title that has been won at least once by almost every iconic player who spent his entire career playing in the Open era. Oh, there are exceptions—Marat Safin and Mats Wilander prominent among them—but through thick and thin, despite lingering questions about the format and the validity of the results, the top players have supported this event and the very top ones have secured it more than once.

Nadal stands poised to join that elite company (although he's already numbered among them on the sheer strength of his resume) Sunday, and the last man standing in his way, in the last match of the year, is Roger Federer.

Surely you remember him? The "former world No. 1." The man whose lunch Nadal, the current No. 1, has so often snatched off his plate. The man who's fought a grand battle but has been unable to stop the Nadal onslaught, even in places where he was once thought impregnable. . . Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the Australian Open. But there's still one fortress high up on the hill, one redoubt where Federer has sought and found refuge as well as distinction and confirmation of his ascendancy—the annual year-end championships.

Federer, 29, has won the tournament his 24-year-old nemesis has yet to master on four occasions, leaving him just one shy of the high-water mark established by Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras. The latter bagged his fifth title at the year-end championships, now called the World Tour Finals, in 1999 when it was played in Hanover, Germany.

If you had to choose a place for Federer to make a last stand, it would be at the O2 Arena, the site of the World Tour Final. He's 33-7 in year-end championships (both round-robin and single-elimination matches), and is a perfect 4-0 this year, ripping through opponents, suffering not a hiccup thus far.

Nadal, by contrast, was a paltry 4-7 before this year's World Tour Final (now improved to 8-7, one match above .500). Most significant, he's lost twice in the semifinals to Federer in previous year-end championship meetings without winning a single set or even forcing a tiebreaker.

Although Nadal slashed and bolo-ed his way through three straight round-robin matches to land safely in the semis, he was almost cut down by Andy Murray. Nadal had to go into overtime, 7-6 (6) in the third and 3:11 on the clock before he emerged as a finalist. Battle-hardened or battle-rattled? Take your pick.

So what you have here is a classic confrontation between a player looking to cap one of the most glorious years of Open era tennis ever (Nadal is the first man since Open-era pioneer Rod Laver to win three consecutive Grand Slam titles in the same year) and one looking to salvage one in a big way. Federer won the only major where Nadal faltered this year (the Australian Open), but the value of bookend wins over Nadal in 2010 can't be lost on him. Federer is too great a player to be driven by some sort of "stop Nadal" impetus, but he's not so great as to ignore the value of the old saw, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." With no chance at regaining the year-end No. 1 ranking from Nadal, there's no doubt that whatever lies on the plate is, at best, at room temperature.

This role of spoiler is something new to Federer, and we don't really know how he'll react to it. He's played some glorious tennis this past week, but he's still shown fleeting signs of his greatest shortcoming over the past 12 months—the inability to lift his game at those crucial moments usually traveling under the name, "break point." The tale of match points squandered is one of the principal themes in the larger saga of Federer's fall from the peak of grace.

It's good to remember that Federer is like certain race horses. Give him his head, let him run free and unlimber those muscles and instincts, and he's hell on wheels. But crowd him, make him taste the bit or the crop, and it can be a slightly different story. Although Federer has come through plenty of perilous situations, the feeling remains that wars of attrition are not his forte. He can handle stiff competition alright; he's shown that time and again, in major after major. But at times it also seems to have an inhibiting influence on his genius, as if being harried by an opponent is a unpleasant distraction.

Nadal, by contrast, seems at times to relish the basic insecurity that defines a very tough match. He's hell on wheels in a very different sense, less interested in demonstrating his genius than on showing off his ability to overcome the most daunting of challenges with strength, stamina and determination. That's why he was, almost from get-go, such a problem for Federer—what larger challenge can any tennis player have imagined when Federer was at the peak of his game?

More than any other player, Nadal has shown a willingness to be thrown into the fire, seemingly just to discover whether he can find a way to escape getting burned to death. His kind of courage is more visceral and elemental, Federer's is more ethereal and abstract, in the sense that execution under pressure is still in the end a matter of technique, or the ability to play with impeccable technique while under mental and emotional stress.

So these two long-standing and starkly contrasting rivals meet again, and don't for a moment think that each time isn't different. Nadal has to be bouyed by the fact that after his dismal showing last year (sure, there were reasons for that, but it was dismal nonetheless), he's shown that he's capable of winning this event. Federer has to be encouraged by the way he's playing, which is like a guy on a busman's holiday, with the understanding that in the end he doesn't really have a whole lot to lose should he come second, no matter how much he has to gain with a win.

To some degree, though, the performance of both men this week has to be seen through the narrow lens of court surface. It's had an impact on how both men have fared. The court has been slow enough to offer Nadal the options he likes, vis a vis how far back he plays from the baseline, or how willing he is to engage in rallies, which for him can almost be defined as opportunities to turn defense into offense—to sting and hurt an opponent just when the poor guy is entitled to feel like he's making progress.

But the height of the bounce, a characteristic easily as significant as court speed (and related to it, but not quite as obviously as it may seem), will work in Federer's favor. If he can hit more backhands somewhere within instead of above his strike zone, he'll feel more confident in the rallies. And both the whiplash forehand and go-for-broke down-the-line backhand will get great penetration on this surface. The fact that the tournament is indoors also helps Federer, for he's more comfortable laboring in the lab, while Nadal seems to take great pleasure out of working in the field.

Lastly, Nadal is entitled to feel ambivalent about his need to win this event. A player can't face too many moments of reckoning in a given year, not if the concept is going to have real meaning. And Nadal faced a number of them already in 2010, starting at Roland Garros. Those of us who were there had no trouble accepting at face value the enormous sense of gratitude and relief Nadal showed and articulated when he proved that he could indeed come back from a difficult 12 months to win his most beloved major again. And then there was the U.S. Open, where he faced the challenge of completing his career Grand Slam.

It's hard to imagine Nadal feeling like this is a "must win" tournament, as much as you might argue that it is. And losing to Nadal is just as unlikely to send Federer into crisis. He's beyond that. Both men are entitled to go out there and give the ball a ride, just to see how things work out. And that, I think, tilts the scales to Federer, for nobody can put on a comparable demonstration of sheer shotmaking skill and versatility.

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Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 03:34 AM

sorry I have been on the phone

Zenggi The dr gave him Champix though he still smoked on them

Holds 2 Love

Thanks.Its not very serious that this stage.Though he has been a heavy smoker for 30 years and he cant give up.At least his blood pressure is good.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 03:37 AM


Well the USO surface as also Rafa worst surface and he conquered that surface lol!

This isnt a fast as the USO.The bounce of the ball is low.Though I feel Rafa has improved on it which each game.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/28/2010 at 03:39 AM

Hi jodiecate & Holds 2 Love! I'm a bit ashamed of the wall-kicking but hey, at least it's the wall and not the dog. ;-)

Posted by BeautyAndJustice 11/28/2010 at 03:43 AM

Red is bloody and agressive; pink is sissy. My man is, however, Rafael Nadal; because he is the people's champion. Roger Federer is too arrogant. He used to humiliate his opponents before the confrontation. Remember the AO 2010? Rafael Nadal was born to cap the phenom. But I still like Roger Federer more than I do Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi. Americans are ugly!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 03:45 AM

Jewell I never thought you to be that aggressive

I mean its on clay at the USO I can understand that

I thought I was bad? you top me

By the way Pspace came on today

Posted by Holds 2 Love 11/28/2010 at 03:46 AM

don't be ashamed, jewell. we all do what we have to in order to get through tense matches. :)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/28/2010 at 03:51 AM

Ah, I'm sorry I missed Spacie! I've missed his comments.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 04:04 AM

Jewell He didnt stay for long.He has been busy at work and moving to San Fran which he says he likes and hasnt had much time for tennis.

Posted by philippe igoa 11/28/2010 at 04:25 AM

As a Fed fan, I've experienced many highs, some disappointing lows (watching Fed lose those three French Open finals to Nadal),and in two of those years, 2006 and 2007, Fed would have had the calendar year slam!!! I remember getting up on those Sunday mornings at 6 AM, hoping to see history, first because Nadal was always the guy who would deny Roger's first RG trophy, and secondly because you got that feeling that if he could get that French title, the calendar year would happen. As it turns out, that was true. Well, Roger did get his first French Open, if not at the expense of his chief nemesis. Let's face it, he can beat Njokovic, when he wants to, he beats Murray when it counts, Roddick-enough said... With Nadal, it's a different story. While he has beaten Nadal in two of his slam victories, Roger has avenged his two Wimbledon defeats, beaten Roger as we all know in three RG finals, and finally he beat Roger,on SB Sunday, at tge Aussie Open. It would have been nice to not only celebrate my Steelers winning, but also seeing Roger beat Nadal. Well, it didn't happen. How fitting it would be if Roger, regardless of what happens tomorrow, starts off the year with his 17th slam, goes on to recapture his French title, at the expense of his chief nemesis, recaptures his lost Wimbledon crown, which would be a record-tying 7th, sharing that distinction with Pistol Pete, and finally, winning the US Open for a 6th time. A calendar year slam, by the player, who I still is the most talented player that has ever played the game, even Laver said it. It would be a fitting way to bow out of the game, don't yo think? A couple of victories against his main rival would quell some of the naysayers who want to bring up the H2H disparity that clearly favors Nadal, but that most tennis experts say doesn't mean much. In the mean time, good luck Roger, the addition, was a smart move, his influence shows!!!

Posted by gliciouss 11/28/2010 at 04:29 AM

i am sure someone already did this but i calculated (quickly) how many sets each has won of the other guy....from their 21 it is
was going to add up the total games but too much they have played a lot...
so yeah...hope someone is interested in those numbers..

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 11/28/2010 at 04:34 AM

Eight hours till the final starts! I think I should try and distract myself by doing things or I will be a wreck by 5pm.

See you all later. :)

Posted by Fern 11/28/2010 at 04:37 AM

All is see is everyone coaching how to beat Nadal. What needs to be done to win, Why is that? I do not see anone saying to Nadal what he needs to do to win! All this tells me that it seems that the cards are always stacked against Nadal in favor of Federer. Nadal has always had to fight the odds.

Oh, come on. Don't you think tv commentators pass their 'coaching' tips to all players at different times when they're commentating or analysing matches? Cards always stacked against Nadal and Nadal always fighting the odds? You mean like coming from an athletically gifted, supportive and wealthy family with Uncle Toni as his coach since childhood? I think Uncle Toni continues to do a very impressive job telling Rafa exactly what he needs to do! Seriously, this is NOT a Rafa bash - I like the guy and his game even tho' Fed is my fave ... but this story that Rafa fights for everything while Fed just swans through is a) old and b) unfair.

Posted by zenggi 11/28/2010 at 04:40 AM

Holds2 love,

I just saw your comment. I cannot open your links but I think you are trying to post something like this:

There is also the astigmatism in common between Domenikos and Novak. :)

Novak has a fine long perfect El Greco face. Quite distinguished features.
He'll mature well.

Temperature is -2,5 already. Yay!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 04:47 AM

Well I will be watching the final in peace and of course with "colm"

There is now way I would come near this post when there is a Rafa v Roger game on lol!

Anyway again good luck to both player and I hope bring their best games to the court and it will be of high standard.

Well they are the no 1 and no 2 players in the world.

GB I will pass you now 3 bottles of Vodka.Remember pace yourself ok.

Bye and peace to all lol!

Posted by Fern 11/28/2010 at 04:54 AM

Well the USO surface as also Rafa worst surface and he conquered that surface lol!

@AM - good to hear - you're one Rafa fan not afraid to tell it like it is.
Can I ask outright who you think will win today? I have loved the way Roger has played this tourney - saw him live against Ferrer and Soderling and especially the latter match he was terrific - but I don't trust him to play 5 good matches in a row ... plus, of course, it's against Rafa and we all know the h2h and the lousy match-up. I think Rafa is doing fine on this surface - sure he was rusty in his first match, then faced an in-form Murray yesterday? Why all the frazzling from (some) of his fans?

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/28/2010 at 05:04 AM

Fern Hey thats a million dollar question and do you want me "feathered and Tarred? lol!

Well my thoughts Roger to me is the player to beat.I have said that.He has played well to the final.

Though you can never count out Rafa I guess we all saw that today.He is at his best when down and always "ups his game" and comes up with some incredible shots.Some of the volleys he picked up were on his shoe laces at the net.Just amazing to watch.I also like the way in a match he adjusts even though he comes out with a game plan.He served well when it mattered.I love the way he served into Murrays f/hand and at his hip stopping Murray on his reurn.

Honestly I dont know.I just want a good competive match.

I really have to go

Keep the faith in Roger who also happens to be a fav player of me and is the best shot maker I have seen.,

Posted by fedrafafan 11/28/2010 at 05:11 AM

I feel people should give Rafa more credit. He has several attributes that give him an advantage over all the other players, and I believe have made him number one:
(1) He is ambidextrous to a certain extent and therefore never plays a backhand in any match.
(2) His fitness and strength levels are probably in the top 1% of all tennis players ever.
(3) He has a superior mental attribute and can concentrate intensely in a match all day, if he has to. Even Roger these days does not always do this as well as he used to.
(4)He studies his opponents and is versatile enough to have a different game plan for each one, which he can change quickly if placed under pressure.
(5)His on-court speed and footwork is phenomenal.

I hope this will be a great final, as we have seen in the past between these 2 great contenders. I will enjoy the match though whatever the outcome.

Posted by Fern 11/28/2010 at 05:17 AM

Thanks AM - I certainly don't want you tarred and feathered :) this board can get quite nasty sometimes - I realised straight after i'd hit the submit button I was putting you on the spot - my apologies, no damage done I hope :)

As you say, here's to a competitive match and hope both players play their best.

Posted by Northernboy 11/28/2010 at 05:36 AM

A strong column Pete, but for the following phrase:

'even in places where he was once thought impregnable'

Seriously? That's a hell of a misused word - I think Mirka would be amused to think of her husband as 'pregnable'. Can Fed overcome his big baby bump? lol

Posted by Abraxas 11/28/2010 at 05:41 AM

This match matters. Make no mistake about it, every match between Roger and Rafa matters. It matters to the fans and it matters tremendously to Federer and Nadal. It is especially important because it is a final and the final of the YEC (or WTF) where they have never faced each other before (at a final).

Roger is the favorite to win and he does not want to lose to Nadal in a final of a key tournament again. Both Federer and Nadal have a very deep understating of the history of the game and their own place in it. Federer has already lost to Nadal in the final of every single major; adding a loss at the YEC is not what Roger envisions.

So, no matter who wins, this match matters. In matters a lot!

Posted by Mike 11/28/2010 at 05:49 AM

Let's also put it in perspective that the only reason Fed has not won 3 in a row 3 times is due to the way the events are scheduled ... everyone knows that Rafa has owned RG, and clay ... in general, for 5 of the last 6 years.

We can also say Fed was 3 matches away from 3 GS ... something that has never been done by anybody, ever. It's all in how you access things, and both sets of KADs can cherry picks stats. ;)

Posted by Abraxas 11/28/2010 at 05:53 AM

Correction Roger has not lost to Rafa in the final of the US Open. What I intended to say is that Roger has lost to Rafa in the final of a major in every surface: clay, grass and hard.

Posted by Abraxas 11/28/2010 at 05:59 AM

Objectively, Roger ought to be the favorite to win. The hard court, the low bounce and the indoor conditions favor him. Further, he has played with phenomenal ease all week while Rafa has had demanding battles all week.

Then again, we have been here before. Perhaps the most impressive character feature from Rafa can be summed up by the fact that he keeps on winning when he is not supposed to. Djokovic, Murray, Roddick and Berdych are all better hard court players than Rafa and yet, Rafa beat them all. How does he do this?

What does Roger fear the most about facing Rafa? Rafa's fearsome attitude, tenacity, and sheer will. Federer will remember that he also was the overwhelming favorite at Wimbledon and the Australian Open where the conditions also favored him and yet, Rafa found a way to beat him there too.

I expect another extraordinary battle between two of the greatest players ever to play the game.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 06:10 AM


ok i'm on the hotel computer and the keyboard is weird so please excuse any typos...

OMG- yesterday was so great! My sister and I had breakfast at the O2 with hannah, jewell, nic and Or -- lovely and fun. The O2 is an awesome arena. very cool. the rafa/andy match was astounding. i'm hoarse from the yelling and cheering. what a great match. and the second semi, although pretty much a blow out for roger was wonderful for me because I had the pleasure of seeing full flight Fed up close and that was simply beautiful and quite astounding. Nole and Roger were firing missiles at each other in some of the rallies (which will not bode well for Rafa today I fear) and Fed's netplay was superb. There was nothing 'twenty-nine' about the way he played yesterday.

So I've got the final I wanted and can't wait until tonight. There were alot of Rafa fans in the crowd last night but more Fed fans I think. It's going to be quite the crazy atmosphere!

Enjoy the tennis everyone-I'll report back after the final.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/28/2010 at 06:16 AM

Oh one more thing: i was talking to a Brit outside the O2 yesterday who seemed to think that the year end championships were only going to be here for one more year - then move on to somewhere else. Pete, I hope that's not the case. Leave 'em be! London's the perfect locale for this event. Besides it needs to stay put so the fans can get used to it etc. - just my two cents/pence.

Posted by temes 11/28/2010 at 06:19 AM

Fed was something along Mighty Fed last night...if he plays that level he will have a good chance. Though I don't think even TMF is going to make it a breeze against Nadal, hopefully it's an epic. Nadal certainly won't be tired he wasn't tired after the semi against Verdasco at AO.

Posted by Ivo 11/28/2010 at 06:22 AM

my sense is that Federer fears two things: and these are much simpler than what we usually like to emphasize: i.e. the big and intangible qualities of tenacity, mental stamina of Nadal, or the more tangible attributes such as Nadal's super-conditioning etc. I think that Federer fears that his serve will not give him enough free points; i.e. that he won't have the best serving day. In many of their matches, he didn't serve well; he didn't serve badly either but against Rafa you need to get some free points off the serve, for there are no other free points. I don't know if anyone remembers this, but one of the things that really let Federer down in the AO final was his serve - on that day he just did not do with it what he can on a better day. People don't mention his struggle with serve often because his second delivery is very effective. But anytime I see Federer lose, it's always on a day when his first-serve percentages are low (the US open semi being another example, by the way).

Second worry for Fed, and a clear strategy for Rafael, as it has always been, is this high-bouncing ball to Fed's backhand side. I know this is nothing new...we've debated it hundred times here already. But watching yesterday's match with Murray, it just once again became so clear to me why Murray can be trouble for Rafael Nadal. He just can unload on that wing, he keeps his options against Rafa on both wings open...very very important given the fact that Rafa is just too quick to be beaten from one corner only. And all the matches that Federer won against Rafa, I have a memory of his backhand working well. So the second worry for Federer is his backhand, will he be able to push with it as well, and to get some direct points of it when Rafa doesn't allow him to hit his forehand?

Thinking about their match-up, I still don't know who will win, though think that Rafa is the favorite. Fed win will only if he serves well and if his backhand is reasonably solid (of course I assume here his forehand will be as laser-sharp as it's been this week). If not, Rafa is through in 3 sets.

Posted by Mrs Tennis 11/28/2010 at 06:30 AM

Why is the final on delay on TV and not live?

Posted by Holds2Love 11/28/2010 at 06:46 AM

Hi Annie, Thanks for taking the time to report on your adventures at the WTF. Your excitement is palpable! So glad you are having such a great time. Enjoy, and please post details if you have a chance.

Posted by Mike 11/28/2010 at 06:51 AM

Rafa is a strong favorite for me irrespective of what happened against Murray. That match just showed how high his level can be. Federer hasn't even been properly challenged yet. We all know this... Federer to crumble in straight sets. Vamos Rafa

Posted by x-fan 11/28/2010 at 07:08 AM

I'm a Fed fan but I don't understand your point about RG.
Same thing could have been said about Rafa winning Wimbledon when Roger had been so dominant in the surface.

Thanks for the report. Hope it's a great final for you guys in attendance and the rest of us watching a tv/internet broadcast.

I feel Roger has a slight edge here but with Rafa anything is possible. He has been tested in this tournament while Roger hasn't. We'll see how it plays out but most of all I hope for a very competitive and entertaining match (3 sets if possible)

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 07:10 AM

So happy for you Annie! Sounds like an awesome, awesome time.

Posted by rob 11/28/2010 at 07:13 AM

its really true from now on, the roles are reversed, its no longer that fed is denied by nadal if he loses as he was supposed to win, now its nadal to be denied by fed
this should be a change in mental attitude for fed, and i think a positive one!

Posted by 2kool 11/28/2010 at 07:14 AM

Rafa cares little for this title, he will probably gift this to the old geezer,after all can we bare another Roger meltdown like AO'09 again. The Rafa-slam is what he really wants, anything outside the majors,Davis Cup and olympics is just cheese for Rafa.

Posted by GB 11/28/2010 at 07:15 AM

Holds2Love: I don't know if I should know this but who is your favorite player?

OMG - so frazzled.

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/28/2010 at 07:16 AM

i think i got confused by the time, i thought the match was midday, which would mean 6am for me! can't believe i'm up for nada!!!
just heard on french news , match is at 6.30pm paris time, which means 5.30pm london time and hence me 1.3Opm gahhh i could have slept in quite a bit more oh well i'm tired enough to fall right back to sleep,

OT: zenggi i thought u were a guy...jewell so happy u get to see rafa and other players live , i'd love to go back to england and see them play , could be a good idea for next year, xmas in the cold lol, what a novel idea for this tropical gal!

Posted by Calm down 11/28/2010 at 07:24 AM

For obvious reasons, Fedfans are overestimating the importance of this final. But it's a WTF final event, not a slam final. Its outcome won't alter Nadal's or Roger's legacy or how their rivalry will be discussed in the future.

Posted by Calm Up 11/28/2010 at 07:28 AM

For obvious reasons, Rafafans are underestimating the importance of this final. It is, after all, the 5th most important tournament of the season (1500points at stake) and a lot of prestige too. If Fed wins, it will be an important part of the legacy between the two players, though clearly not as important as any GS final.

Posted by Pierre 11/28/2010 at 07:29 AM

“…Nadal seems to take great pleasure out of working in the field.”

This stems back to when he was a little bitty baby and his mama would rock him in his cradle. But when the cotton balls got rotten, he couldn’t pick very much cotton, so he decided to focus on professional tennis instead.

Posted by sisu 11/28/2010 at 07:36 AM

Just in case you missed the matches yesterday, ESPN2 is rerunning. The program started at 7am EST/TW time and now showing Rafa/AndyM in the 3rd set. The time slot ends at 9am EST/TW time so I imagine they'll show some of Roger/Nole.

The final is scheduled for 12:30pm-2:30PM EST/TW time.

(Haven't read the thread so apologies if this has been posted.)

Posted by Feddiani 11/28/2010 at 08:04 AM

I do not like Rafa's over aggressive face between every single point. It makes me sooo sick. And on top, he always gains the psychological advantage over his opponents by his disturbing grunting and because he takes off the pace of the opponents momentum by using way too much time for his serving.

It makes me so annoyed, is this fair play? And when Djoker has serious problems with his eyes, he laments like a baby to one of the ATP guys. What a fair player.

Federer is just out to play great tennis, not by irritating his opponents by unnecessary noises or fist pumps!!!

Go Federer!!!

Do not let this animal take that title from you, YOU deserve it. Tennis fans, Djoker and so many other players and experts agree!

Posted by Evang 11/28/2010 at 08:10 AM

Ever since Nadal started winning in non-clay surfaces, sunddenly for some inexplicable reason, all surfaces got slower. Firt it was the Australian hard court that got slower. Then the Wimbleton grass court got slower. After Nada's win there I kept reading that the only true quick court remainning was the USO and how he would never win there. Then Nadal goes on and wins USO and yet again I read after his win, that the same USO Deco Turf surface that's being used the last decade or so, also got slower. Now the Q2 arena is also somehow slower then it used to be. Can somebody explain to me how this is possible?

Posted by Feddiani 11/28/2010 at 08:13 AM

@EVANG: Lobbyism!

Posted by Matt Zemek 11/28/2010 at 08:30 AM



The comments here are actually............. wait for it .............. CIVIL so far! I thought the Korean conflict would be replicated here. NICE JOB TW! YAY!

Pete, marvelous piece - you framed these two men so well, and though I haven't had the time to comment here due to football writing, I still check in here and have savored your writings plus the deliciously elegant work of Gauloises over the past few weeks.

I must also extend to you hearty congratulations to your Oklahoma Sooners, who once again went into the lion's den of Boone PickensVille and pierced the Pokes when it really mattered. Have fun against Nebraska!

Posted by Matt Zemek 11/28/2010 at 08:34 AM

As far as this match is concerned, I'm a Fed fan who's not going to overestimate the importance of the occasion.

Fitness is a wash; Nadal had the far more draining semi, but Federer played the late match. Upon waking, I thought the match would start a 45 minutes from now, just past the hour, but I find that it won't start until 12:40 p.m. TW time (at least, that's what ESPN2 tells me).

At any rate, my pick is Nadal, 7-6, 7-5. May the historic comparisons not emerge in a non-major final. Good luck to fans of both players.

Posted by Rick T. 11/28/2010 at 08:41 AM

"Surely you remember him? The "former world No. 1." The man whose lunch Nadal, the current No. 1, has so often snatched off his plate. The man who's fought a grand battle but has been unable to stop the Nadal onslaught, even in places where he was once thought impregnable. . . Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the Australian Open. But there's still one fortress high up on the hill, one redoubt where Federer has sought and found refuge as well as distinction and confirmation of his ascendancy—the annual year-end championships."

Tonight, this one remaining fortress that has never been conquered, the YEC, will be impregnated by NADAL....

Posted by mmy 11/28/2010 at 09:10 AM

While it appears you favor the Fed express in this one, I will agree with you for several reasons, Fed has had a much easier time as this is his best surface and has spent less time equally on court. He is rested fresh and playing on his best surface and therefore should prevail. However, I will advise and remind you of Australia Open 2008, same situation different locations and different tournaments, Nadal who whas worne out by that classic match between him and Fernando prevailed. I love Nadal's chances and will be there to hail Nadal should this come true.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/28/2010 at 09:13 AM

paul annacone caught coaching on the Sky sports camera last night. There I said it!

Posted by Charlie 11/28/2010 at 09:22 AM

"His [Nadal's] kind of courage is more visceral and elemental, Federer's is more ethereal and abstract"

great line, totally agree, and is what makes me love them BOTH, as the one makes you appreciate the other.

I'd be happy with either winning, though I think it will be tough to top yesterday's first semi for drama and intensity. Gotta say I think unless Fed steamrolls a Rafa who looked a bit tired yesterday, then when it gets down and dirty Rafa will come out on top.

but, I mean, like, guys; Fed and Rafa fans alike, and anyone elese who loves the sport - it's an absolute dream match up for the final match of the year or what?! And whichever way it goes, too!

Posted by Kwaku 11/28/2010 at 09:23 AM

It's true Fed does not need to win this since he has won it many times, but he relishes no.1 and 500+500 = another 1000 point difference hanging on that one match. Rafa may not sweep the entire clay season again (Mc+Rome+Madrid+RG) then Wimby+USOpen, but Fed will have to do very well to take advantage of it in order to regain no.1. Starting today.
And Rafa's career won't necessarily be short, but his first Masters Cup win is due this year if he is to ever be successful here. Quite like USOpen.
So there's too much at stake for both just to let it roll and enjoy the outcome whatever it is.

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/28/2010 at 09:27 AM

Feddiani 11/28/2010 at 08:04 AM

I do not like Rafa's over aggressive face between every single point. It makes me sooo sick.

And I am sickened by Federer's haughty sneer.

Posted by Ruth 11/28/2010 at 09:31 AM

Just finished my usual morning review of the TW "overnights," and I'll take the lazy way out and let jewell's comment (quoted below) express my feelings:

"Hm, I think I am going to pretend that all the chest-thumping and asterisking and other rubbish that is attendant on any Fedal match *on both sides* doesn't really exist.
Fedal is special, and I'm determined to enjoy the match whatever the result, and whatever silliness fills up the internets."

Thanks, jewell.

My usual Sunday rituals followed by several hours of family activities (sunny and 60 degrees -- terrific!) will prevent me from enjoying the match LIVE. However, as I said yesterday, with so many of the fans of both players telling us why their guy won't or can't or doesn't need to win today, I may return home around 6 pm to find "old" Roger and "tired" Rafa still flailing at each other in an unwinnable contest. Wimbledon 70-68 all over again! LOL

(x-fan: Saw your comment addressed to me on the other thread. Thanks.)

Posted by youtailgate 11/28/2010 at 09:33 AM

This could be a great match!

Posted by zoilena 11/28/2010 at 09:37 AM

Pete, I have to aggree with you. Although instinctively I identify more as a Rafa than a Roger fan, this time we have to give the credit to Roger: the man has been playing tennis as naturally as breathing this week. It will be difficult to stop him from winning another time.On the contrary Rafa has seemed tight and stressed many times this week and yet he has pulled through brilliantly. I really hope we will have a close match full of suspence. But if you ask me, yes I give Roger a few more chances to win this one. Have a nice time all of you Roger or Rafa fans throughout the world.

Posted by Syd 11/28/2010 at 09:38 AM


Gee, that's too bad. But who bloody cares?

Posted by Mike 11/28/2010 at 09:41 AM

I'm a Fed KAD that has great respect for both players ... it's just a few overzealous Rafa fans that get me going. ;)

It should be pretty obvious to both sets of KADs that the better man on the day will win it. Congrats in advance to the one that does ... regardless of who it is. And praise for the one that doesn't ... as both men are worthy.

Posted by 1221 11/28/2010 at 09:50 AM

...let's just all be happy that we are once again bestowed with this great honor of watching these two play..we all know it's getting less and less every year..

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/28/2010 at 09:50 AM

People, let me ask you this: does "KAD" really stand for, ahem, "Kiss A D$ck"? I highly doubt that, but then again I don't really know what it stands for anyway. What is it? huh? If it is, I guess it definitely describes those crazy kids who falls over themselves to hero-worship their idols.

Posted by Mike 11/28/2010 at 09:54 AM

"Kool-Aid Drinker', OMF ... though it may mean other things in other forums, who knows. ;)

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/28/2010 at 09:55 AM

Fed kool-aid drinker? That doesn't make any sense. It has to be something else.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/28/2010 at 10:00 AM

Morning everyone !

I'm really glad that we've all got the final that we wanted. Tennis doesn't get any better than this and just hope that this match will live up to it's billing.

Posted by M&M 11/28/2010 at 10:19 AM

Thanks for reminding me Ausiemarg,Madame President, Nadal did win on a faster surface at the USO, you are so right. I sure want to see him win this one! He can do it. Sorry about the typo's I have poor vision.

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever): Bleed the Vermillion! Girding up! Fedal it is. Yum! Yikes! 11/28/2010 at 10:28 AM

Already 2 pages of back-and-froths (that's right!)

I see lot of "old timers" back in the ranch for this...Liron, Matt Z, Kwaku...that is folks i havent seen during the last few "minor" tourneys.

My pick is Fed. 6-0, 6-0.
Who is drinking what?

Posted by sisu 11/28/2010 at 10:31 AM

The part where at the end of the match some will be jubilant and others could feel miserable is what I don‘t like. Whatever the outcome, hope it’s a good match. They’re both great guys and though I may prefer one to win as opposed to the other, that doesn’t change the fact I respect both.

Enjoy the match everyone.

But first, we get the doubles championship match and they're about to begin!

Posted by Blue moon 11/28/2010 at 10:34 AM

"And I am sickened by Federer's haughty sneer."

And Nole is sickened by-- just about anything! :)

Posted by Ruth 11/28/2010 at 10:35 AM

Lynne: I think that it's a good thing that the #1 and #2 players are meeting simply because they haven't played each other for a long time, but I wouldn't say that "we've ALL (my caps) got the final we wanted." I'd bet that many Murray and Nole fans not to mention Berdych's parents and any supporters of the 6 other WTF contestants would take issue with that statement. :)

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/28/2010 at 10:37 AM

So, both dubs pairs are splitting after this final? I didn't know Bupathi/Mirnyi were also "divorcing".

Posted by jita65 11/28/2010 at 10:38 AM

Away for work, so couldn't watch matches all week, though it appears I didn't miss much except for the first match yesterday. Tough luck for Murray and his fans.

A bit disappointed with Novak for not trying harder against Roger, but doubt that results would have been much different; never easy to beat Roger for him, more so if he is not fully focused and if his heart isn't in it. His best chance to improve their h2h was in Shangai, which he blew.

Novak finishes no.3 FOUR years in a row, very mixed feelings about that. Still there is next year, but worried that unless he changes his coaching team and works harder, he may end up with same or worse results next year. I mean what more could his team do to help him that they haven't tried already in last few years. If Roger can still benefit from getting a new coach, then surely Novak can too. Novak shouldn't let his not-so-great experience last year stop him for trying that once again, hopefully with someone more suitable this time.

Look like Roger has been truly awesome all week so rooting for him today. But Nadal is the current number one player so it will be a fight. Both guys seem to really want it so should be a good match.

Posted by isabelle 11/28/2010 at 11:03 AM

"And I am sickened by Federer's haughty sneer."

"And Nole is sickened by-- just about anything! :)"

Ad, Blue Moon

but seriously, does anyone else happen to think the top four players all actually seem like pretty decent guys? Anyone?????

Posted by jita65 11/28/2010 at 11:08 AM

I agree that all four seem like pretty decent guys.

Posted by Kwaku 11/28/2010 at 11:12 AM

I think they're decent, but not so sure about "pretty".

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever): Bleed the Vermillion! Girding up! Fedal it is. Yum! Yikes! 11/28/2010 at 11:20 AM


All 4 are very decent guys.

Fed and Rafa won early and won a lot + the highest accolades...and given their personality it made them ever more centered.

Nole and Murray were hugely talented but were getting nicked constantly in big, bigger stages by the other two. They might have showed some attitude (combination of pride, confidence and self belief + age) in the locker room early on but they have made amends. They need not have. Still...they tried. Nole especially. He jokes around and sluts about a tad bit too much to win over the public. Remember the Roddick episode in USO and how much Nole tried goofing about in the subsequent attempts? Or the ruckus (supposedly) his family created on the sidelines of Rome? Even the latest eye-patch episode. Love the guy. Murray on the other hand - bugger could get pretty feisty - went back to his core introverted self. Every time he comes closer it goes a step further. I am sure he is frustrated and is driving him crazy (especially the semis yesterday). Like 'wtf am I supposed to do to win *that* point that matters in the end'. Still, they keep it together. In the press, on the court, in sundry comments they make...

All 4 of them are exceptionally decent, dignified guys.

I like at the top 40...I don't see a single peeved irritable sniggering bugger! A few of course...Canas is a cheat. That SA turned american is another. Rios is heck 10 years ago. Mostly very decent guys of late.

Posted by Joe 11/28/2010 at 11:22 AM

During this tournament Federer hasn't had any resistance with the opponents and he has had a great serve (main factor on this surface). Rafa's serve is not so good but you never know what is going to happen today. If Federer's serve doesn't work so well, Nadal will win for sure

Posted by izidane-It's t-shirt tyyyyyyyyyme! Nole face/hawk shirt on. 11/28/2010 at 11:22 AM

Hi tennis fans(I hope).

Looking forward to a great match. Will be back later, just trying to avoid this...

'I do not like Rafa's over aggressive face between every single point. It makes me sooo sick'

'Do not let this animal take that title from you'


Should be a good one.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 11:29 AM

i still waiting for the day Matt Z loses it and starts a snarky, rage fueled post of some sort defeding TMF, kinda like cranky Fed, it would be fun to see :)

peace and civility on tennis boards is totally overrated, i just happen to be having an epiphany on the untouchability of Federer's career and impeccable brand of tennis, as he's proven this week, watching him is like nothing else ever and its sheer fun, makes no difference what Nads does or doesnt do, if he does somersaults or takes 10 minutes between serves, the way Fred dismissed murray and djoker and sod this week has been a keeper... at least for me...

Posted by prashant sharma 11/28/2010 at 11:31 AM

cmon...nadal has NEVER beaten federer at the US open. on what basis bodo says that? The fact is that Nadal was never good enough to face Federer at the fastest hard court of US open during his prime. Anyway, now Federer is 29 years old. He is still giving others a run for their money and it is amazing! But definitely Nadal is the favourite to win this match. Although I do hope that Federer makes him run a little bit and gets him to retrieve a few! Help in burning off a few calories of those big buttocks! But still Rafa will win in the end. Too strong at the moment.

Posted by Master Ace 11/28/2010 at 11:31 AM

BM = Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi
DN = Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic

Nick Lester and Ashley Fisher doing the commentary

Nenad serving to begin TB
DN 1-0 Max return long
Max serving
1-all Max smash too hot for Nenad
BM 2-1 Nenad return long
Daniel serving
2-all Mahesh nets return
NZ 3-2 Nestor service winner wide
Mahesh serving
3-all Daniel service return wide

This is the teams 3rd TB against each other in their 2 meetings this week with both of them previously won by Daniel and Nenad

BM 4-3 Mahesh volley winner that lands inside doubles alley
Nenad serving
BM 5-3 Max volley winner set up by low return by Mahesh
BM 5-4 Max nets return
Max serving
BM 6-4 Daniel volley long
BM 6-5 Mahesh volley long
Daniel serving
6-all Daniel volley too hot for Max
NZ 7-6 Max nets return
Mahesh serving
NZ takes the set as Max nets volley

Posted by Sal Anthony 11/28/2010 at 11:32 AM

Dear Mr. Bodo,

Federer only faces one crisis, and he is most certainly not beyond it. Nadal owns him, pure and simple, and the asterisk that puts on his legacy is therefore the size of the sun. And despite most everything being in his favor for today's final (nothing to lose, hardcourt, having just crushed Djokovic), look for Nadal to prevail once again, yet another nail in the coffin of any claim to Fed being the best ever.

Sal Anthony
(One hour before match time)

Posted by Fangorina 11/28/2010 at 11:34 AM

Hi all. Back for Fedal! Vamos.

Posted by Master Ace 11/28/2010 at 11:34 AM

Lars Graff is the chair umpire for the doubles final

Posted by Fangorina 11/28/2010 at 11:36 AM

I return with greetings and boxes of wine...

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/28/2010 at 11:36 AM

Ruth : Yes, you are right ! I should have said Rafa and Roger fans. No disrespect meant to Andy and Nole or fans !

Posted by prashant sharma 11/28/2010 at 11:36 AM

@ sal anthony
Nadal doesnt think he owns federer. YOU think he owns federer. Nadal is not that stupid!
Just take out the clay matches from that head to head! you will get the truth. Anyway Nadal has to win 7 more slams still! We will see how much he can run from 2012 onwards.....we will much those knees hold out.

Posted by Holds2Love 11/28/2010 at 11:37 AM

see you're on the job, Master Ace. :) Zimonjic had a bit of treatment on his neck between sets. Apparently nothing too serious.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/28/2010 at 11:39 AM

oh hoy, Rafa totally own his toy Fed. you watch.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny server Rafa fan 11/28/2010 at 11:40 AM

oh hoy, Fed totally own that puny server Rafa on indoor courts. you watch.

Posted by Master Ace 11/28/2010 at 11:45 AM

I will be lurking during Nadal and Federer. Andrew will probably be giving changeover updates and other TWibe will throw in the commentary.

Posted by Reynaldo Materan 11/28/2010 at 11:47 AM

"VAMOS RAFA" Eres de los Grandes, gracias por este regalo de fin de año Saludos desde Caracas Venezuela .

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 11:49 AM

Sal, your knowledge of tennis is truly epic, I must say! SO Sampras is the GOAT, because of Fed's head ot head with Nadal? or Laver gets it because of a head to head thats going on 40 years after his Grand Slam? epic!

and how can Nadal be the GOAT, when Federer reached 18 of 19 Slam finals ar his peak, and Nadal's record is... 3? doesnt the GOAT need to do a little better than that against ALL his rivals? I could go on and on and on...

might wanna rethink your 'logic' here, or open up to some possiblities that go beyond being 'owned' on European red clay, which I would agreee on by the way ...

oh man its a full time job keeping these Rafa kids in line! LOL

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever): Bleed the Vermillion! Girding up! Fedal it is. Yum! Yikes! 11/28/2010 at 11:50 AM


Seems like you are girding for some action already, eh?

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 11:52 AM

"It's all in how you access things, and both sets of KADs can cherry picks stats. ;)

He he, Mike. Indeed. :)

But I'm guessing by the end of this day, you'll see a lot of cherry picking going on to prove that "MY GUY IS BETTER!!!", no matter which guy it is. :)

"The part where at the end of the match some will be jubilant and others could feel miserable is what I don‘t like."

This is why we love you, sisu. :) I've got many friends who are Fed fans, so at least I've got the silver lining of them being happy if Rafa loses today.

Posted by ebh 11/28/2010 at 11:53 AM


The surfaces have barely changed. The only thing that has changed is the subfloor at Wimbledon so now the court stays in better shape longer. It used to be that it would get in bad shape by the second week and thus, you saw more S&V since it was dangerous to let it bounce as the bounces weren't true anymore.

What has changed is that athletes are in better shape, are faster and more accurate. This makes staying back at the baseline a better strategy (in addition to the better subfloors at Wimby).

In my opinion, the game is faster now but since grass was always the fastest it had much less room to get faster (you can only play so fast) but the other surfaces had more upside. End result is that relatively-speaking the difference in speeds on the court is minimal. Hence more all-courters now. People like to say that the grass is slower, but really the other surfaces are playing faster due to the improvement in the athletes and the gear. Check out serve speeds at the slams last year. The fastest were posted at . . . RG, not USO nor WIM. While that doesn't prove anything, it certainly gives weight to my claim.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/28/2010 at 11:54 AM

by the way Rafa kids, Nads is the huge and epic favorite today, and every day, OWN it, get used to it, you cant call him the GOAT and then get excited when he beats these underlings ... and when he wins, yawn like Pete does, its all expected is it not?

the days of Nadal 'surprising' us all with his wins are, thankfully, OVER ... I see any losses here as fodder to the day Fed can sneak up in a Slam from nowhere, win it all, etc. one more Slam would be SWEET!

Posted by ebh 11/28/2010 at 11:55 AM

Nadal says he plays like he does because he can't play like Fed. He says that if he could play like Fed, of course he would, but he doesn't have the talent.

I like that quote since it is flattering to both and we are so fortunate to witness such a great rivalry firsthand.

Posted by Kombo 11/28/2010 at 11:56 AM

"Nadal has always had to fight the odds."

Give me a break and please stop deluding yourself. He's #1 by some margin and has won 3 grand slams in a row.

Posted by Joe 11/28/2010 at 11:57 AM

prashant, Nadal doesn't own Federer and Roger doesn't own Nadal, that's clear, they are enough smart to avoid to think the opposite. And yeah, we'll see what is going on at the future which it wont in your hands either mine
And don't worry about his knees, they are OK

Old man Fed, good points lol

Posted by Sherlock 11/28/2010 at 11:59 AM

Tim, have you been drinking already? :)

No sane Rafa fans are calling him the GOAT. Stop with the straw man crap. The surface favors Roger quite a bit, and he's looked much better this week, in my eyes anyway. Saying Rafa is a "huge and epic favorite today" is way over the top, even for you. It's like saying Roger was a huge and epic favorite back in those early French finals, just because Roger was #1. It makes no sense.

Posted by ebh 11/28/2010 at 11:59 AM

@Kombo, @Tim,

You are both wrong! Bookies have the following odds posted:

Roger Federer 33/50
Rafael Nadal 133/100

Clearly, Federer is the favorite. And if you don't believe he is, then put your money where your mouth and go make some more.

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/28/2010 at 11:59 AM

I think it's funny that it is okay for someone to be made sooooo sick by Nadal's game face, but for me to comment on Federer in a like manner ruffles feathers. Cheap shots at Novak are something I've seen on here for years; will it get worse in the future as Fed passes 30 and we eventually see more of Rafole? Or Murravic? Or RafAndy?

Don't let me rain on the Dream Final parade - sorry you didn't get it in Flushing!

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever): Bleed the Vermillion! Girding up! Fedal it is. Yum! Yikes! 11/28/2010 at 12:00 PM

I can't wait. Feeling uneasy already. Strong coffee didn't help. Feel like zhite right now. Talking to my friends - they are in my head (thanks Cobain)!

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"It's Kind of a Dance"
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