Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Wild Fires
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Wild Fires 11/02/2007 - 3:11 PM

RgToday we're graced with another report from the Paris Masters by interpid TENNIS Magazine intern Troy Venechanos

Hi Steve,

It's funny how quickly news spreads. Word of Martina's blow (no pun intended) to the WTA tour moved like wildfire. Journalists in the pressroom here could be heard typing faster than ever, dissecting transcripts, and calling contacts. I could hear the Parisian spectators chuckling about the news, doing mock 'snorts' and saying their 'good riddance's.

On the ATP front, their own battles were being waged. On Day 5, the players were like sharks. Sniffing out Race Points like blood in water, they knew the importance of each match and so did the fans. The French
fans seem to have a sixth sense about where the most important match, or even point, is going on.

"Berdych is about to be taken out by Ferrer. He needs this match if he has any chance of qualifying,"a fan would later say and a similar migration would ensue.

I'm beginning to become spoiled by the combined knowledge and intensity of the French fans. Usually crowds, especially in the U.S., consist of two types of tennis fans: the louder, enthusiastic fans driven by the spectacle of the match, and the more reserved stat lovers. The French seem to have evolved into a kind of hybrid of the two. Players have noticed the quality of the French fans as well.

"A good thing about playing in France is that they actually, you know, really understand tennis," Andy Murray said. "They know when there's been a great point. They know when you've hit a good shot. And they don't like it when guys aren't trying or are playing bad tennis."

During Ricahrd Gasquet's match against James Blake, the French sensation had a cheering section that would make the J-Block tremble in their New Balances. Not only was the whole section clad in red, white, and bleu, they had their own song dedicated to Gasquet complete with drums and harmonization. I don't quite remember the tune but I'm pretty sure it was a series of variations on "Richard," "Gasquet" and "allez." You can pretty much assume at any tennis match in France, or sporting event for that matter, that the word "allez" will make an appearance or two.

The hype surrounding the quarterfinal match between Gasquet and Murray is unbelievable. The clash has all the makings of a great match. It has shades of the England (via Scotland) vs. France rivalry and features two players who are in form after a streaky season. There was even some pre-match competitive humor, compliments of Gasquet:

"Murray already got a visa for Shanghai? Not me! But I hope he rips it up at the end of the match," he said in a French interview.

The two players are in a section of the draw made slightly less daunting after Federer's early exit. Much to the disappointment of an extremely pro-Federer crowd, 'le roi est mort.' Word of the upset also spread quickly in Paris. Before you knew it, Federer's name was being coupled with Hingis' on TV tickers across the city as players two making 'dramatic exits' today.

During his press conference, Federer furthered drama with certain comments as well as complaints about the court's speed.

While explaining he thinks Nalbandian should be ranked higher, the Swiss said, "He's way better than being ranked 25 in the world. I don't know what the hell he's doing at the other tournaments, but it worked these
last two."

The slowness of Bercy's courts has been a hot topic. They were apparently adjusted to suit Federer's game, but he disagreed. "Haven't been playing that much tennis on this type of slow surface for a while," he said. "It reminded me a bit of Indian Wells. Impossible to hit a winner from the baseline if you're . . . counter punching was very hard, I thought. Really not much comes out the ball."

Federer leaves Paris on Friday. He hopes to go to Shanghai early and adjust to the time and courts there. As for the possible Race contenders, excluding Murray, they're unsure of their travel plans over the next couple of weeks. But we can all be sure that where there is an important match and where there are points on the line, the French fans will be watching.

Troy


 
91
Comments
 

Posted by Chiconinja 11/02/2007 at 03:21 PM

First!

Posted by Chiconinja 11/02/2007 at 03:26 PM

Now that I got that out of my system...

I had my doubts about Rafa's game coming to Paris but, now I'm really liking his chances!

Too bad there's no place for both Murray and Gasquet in Shangai. When focused, these guys put up great matches.

Posted by Sher 11/02/2007 at 03:39 PM

"I don't know what the hell he's doing at the other tournaments, but it worked these last two."

That's a hilarious comment.

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/02/2007 at 03:56 PM

Couple of observations about Federer that I am wondering if anyone else shares. I see him losing some of the edge for closing points.

Yes, Nalbandian played great (in his own words, almost perfect) and had a bit of luck on key points. I have seen him in that zone during points before, but never serving that well (and he apparently did that all the way through in Madrid).

But Roger is missing something. He continues to play well most of the time and has very few really bad matches, a marvel over these last four years that are unmatched.

But in 04, it seemed that in every match he produced some shots that the announcers simply could not believe. He was playing with abandonment. Now I rarely see those unearthly shots in part, I believe, because he has the burden of being #1, maybe GOAT, and, topping himself.

So, he has fewer patches where he bagels top players. And, this is funny to me, he seems to lose more of those cute shot exchanges. I am referring to the ones where he is drop shotted, gets to the ball and he and the opponent play cat and mouse games using touch and anticipation to outmaneuver the other. He used to win all of those it seemed.

The first person to beat him on such plays was Nadal. Rafael seems to have a 6th sense enabling him to make stab volleys when he has no right being there. Now, other players are winning such points against Roger. He simply hit right to Nalbandian more than once yesterday when even an ordinary shot aimed right would have won.

And, he even lost a point hitting an overhead right back to David. In his heady days, when Roger got a put away shot (overhead, set up inside out forehand, etc), he almost always hit to the open court. Now it is as though players read him or he is more predictable. Some of his losses are due to his not winning points he has set up and then not finished. He used to be death whenever he got the upper hand in a point.

Anyone else see such trends or is it just my desire to see Roger keep dominating?

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/02/2007 at 04:17 PM

The luck of the draw matters.

Federer and Nalbandian are now 8-8. Interestingly, Nadal met him for the first time in Madrid and is now 0-1. I had always wanted Nalbandian to get a shot at Nadal before Federer and when he did he beat both of them. His backhand negates Nadal's ad court serve.

Roger has played Karlovic 5 times. Nadal only once (in 2004). Neither has lost to him but he is a threat to anyone.

Nadal has played Safin only once in Montreal this year; Federer is 8-2 with Safin, having played him hot and cold.

Blake has never lost to Nadal in 3 matches (none this year). Federer is 7-0 against Blake.

Berdych is 3-3 with Nadal and 1-5 with Federer.

Both players seem to have run into Djokovic a good deal. Hard to avoid him when he is doing so well, but Nadal never played Nalbandian during all those months when he was top 5.

Ever wonder how Nadal gets such easy draws, missing most players whose games are a threat to him? This week's Paris draw is a real laugh. His 06 trip to Wimbledon final was blocked only by Agassi with a bad back and he was 2 points from losing to Robert Kendrick of all people.

Posted by Sher 11/02/2007 at 04:22 PM

Robin Pratt, it's a bit silly to ask, but what do you think of his Wimbledon 2007 draw?

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/02/2007 at 04:34 PM

The luck of the draw matters.

Federer and Nalbandian are now 8-8. Interestingly, Nadal met him for the first time in Madrid and is now 0-1. I had always wanted Nalbandian to get a shot at Nadal before Federer and when he did he beat both of them. His backhand negates Nadal's ad court serve.

Roger has played Karlovic 5 times. Nadal only once (in 2004). Neither has lost to him but he is a threat to anyone.

Nadal has played Safin only once in Montreal this year; Federer is 8-2 with Safin, having played him hot and cold.

Blake has never lost to Nadal in 3 matches (none this year). Federer is 7-0 against Blake.

Berdych is 3-3 with Nadal and 1-5 with Federer.

Both players seem to have run into Djokovic a good deal. Hard to avoid him when he is doing so well, but Nadal never played Nalbandian during all those months when he was top 5.

Ever wonder how Nadal gets such easy draws, missing most players whose games are a threat to him? This week's Paris draw is a real laugh. His 06 trip to Wimbledon final was blocked only by Agassi with a bad back and he was 2 points from losing to Robert Kendrick of all people.

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/02/2007 at 04:41 PM

Sher,

Obviously Nadal's 2007 draw was noticeably tougher. I don't remember all the matches but do recall his having that multi-day 5 setter with Soderling and the5 setter with Youzhny. He had no business letting Soderling extend him, even under the circumstances, and Youzhny was up 2 sets when his back went bad (and Nadal got his game together).

Much was made of Roger having the week off (which did him no good) and Nadal playing for 5 straight days, but Nadal ended up having a walk over Djokovic after a set because Novak was spent and was giving him a tough time anyway. Roger got a spent Gasquet, but at least Roddick was in his half and Roddick is a serious threat at Wimbledon. Would like to see Nadal play Roddick or Karlovic on grass. He lost to Mahut at Queens I think.

Sorry for the redundant post--got confusing messages from my computer or browser.

Posted by felizjulianidad 11/02/2007 at 04:50 PM

It's funny to observe how anyone but the most fanatic and irrational of KADs thinks it's an incontrovertible truth that for the past 2 and a half years, Roger Federer is undisputably the world's best, and Rafael Nadal is without a doubt number two. And they've been way ahead of the pack the whole time, except the past 6 months, which saw the rise of Novak Djokovic for a Triumvirate. Nadal's poor records with certain players is in part due to his diminished efficiency, both on hard-court and the second half of the season, but also because we're looking at a career-long thing. Nadal started out as a clay-court specialist, but he was so amazing at it that it was enough to be world number 2 (with a few great hard court performances in Miami, Dubai and Madrid). However, he still picked up a bunch of losses such as an early US Open exit against Blake, and an unremarkable Wimbledon campaign. The next year, though, he would begin to experiment on faster courts, and became increasingly aggressive and successful. Still not a shoo-in semifinalist, but significantly improved. I believe he was 19, going on 20, or just 20, at the time. And I don't think his draw was any easier than Andy Roddick's this 2007, who failed to make the semifinal appearance expected of him, on the surface that favors him the most. By early 2007, he had learned to make serious winners, and no one but his most feverish detractors still thought he was a clay court specialist after he smacked Andy Roddick (US Open 2003 winner, 2006 Cincinatti winner), Juan Carlos Ferrero (US Open 2003 finalist and Cincinatti 2006 finalist) and Novak Djokovic (US Open 2007 finalist, Montreal and Miami 2007 winner) around at Indian Wells. He absolutely confirmed that when we all saw how much he learned "on the job" at Wimbledon 2007. As Sher put it, what did people think of his draw there? I give greatest importance to how he faced someone who had previously beat him up pretty bad on fast surfaces (Berdych): Nadal sent him away with his tail between his legs in straight sets.

So.

What I really wanted to say was: my hats off to David Nalbandian.

In addition to romping through Madrid, taking out the likes of Berdych, Nadal, Djokovic, and the number one Federer, he's shown he really can shine at another Masters Series event. This week at Paris, he's taken out no less than the wiliest veteran on the circuit and world number 15 in Carlos Moyà (and the active player with the second highest career wins, overtaken this year only be Federer), the seemingly invincible greatest-player-ever, and now the toughest returner and most improved player on the circuit this year, world number 6 David Ferrer. What a match. Two tie-breaks, and then Nalbandian showed that precisely what he used to lack (fitness) was stronger than one of the fittest, dogged players on the tour. Ferrer sweat his heart out the third set, but just couldn't keep up with Nalbandian's terrifying standard.

Hats off to him.

I really hope he keeps it up so that next year we can see some Fourplay at the top. I'd even love to see the Four of them claim a Slam a piece, each one on a surface outside their expertise.

Posted by RedClaw 11/02/2007 at 05:05 PM

Tasty tasty, thanks Steve.

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/02/2007 at 05:13 PM

Robin pratt

those stats you pulled for Fed-Nalby or Fed-safin, could you be so kind to mention which year they belong to?

you seem to forget that Fed has been on tour a good number of years and it is just natural to play older players like Nalby or Safin more than Rafa.

interestingly selsective memory!

Posted by Aabye 11/02/2007 at 05:13 PM

You cannot use Federer's career head-to-head and compare it to Nadal's. Federer has been at the top much longer than Nadal has.

As far as the courts are concerned, has anyone else felt they played like IW? 'Cause we all know who won there...

Well, Baby Fed, having one the first set, might still be able to cause Mopey to regret his slightly hasty action of buying a ticket, but he'll have to do it in the third most likely because he is about to eat a bagel or breadstick in the second.

Posted by linex 11/02/2007 at 05:27 PM

I am happy for David´s win I could not see the match on TV because I was at work but just saw the highlights in the AMS TV website. I did not understand why David used so many drop shots today when he knows that David Ferrer runs so much and is very quick. While Nalbi won some of those points I saw that he lost a crucial break point when serving out a set for hiting a drop shot that Ferrer reached quite easily. It seems that Nalbi was slicing a lot from the backhand side today. I prefer when he hits his regular best double handed backhad on tour either crosscourt or his perfectly disguised down the line one.

We´ll see what happens tomorrow but I think we will have interesting semi finals. I guess Murray Nalbi could be interesting.

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/02/2007 at 06:40 PM

You can check the h2h records under players at ATPtennis.com

Yes, I know that Federer has been around for longer than Nadal.

I admit to being a huge Federer fan, obviously biased towards him and his style of play and his persona. I think he is great for the game. I also admit to feeling I would give up watching tennis if I had to watch Nalbandian and Canas play all the time. And, I am so old, that I wish they would make all real men play with one handed backhands. And I want Federer to win much more than I want Nadal to lose, but I find many of Nadal's mannerisms and displays (e.g., before the French open final this year) pathetic if not for the poor sportsmanship and arrogance he shows by them. Yes, I give him full marks for his hustle, tennis IQ, continued improvement, and clutch play. But aside from his sheer athleticism which is the best I have seen on a tennis court, his game is not pleasant to watch. His grips look awkward, etc.

One other thing that bugs me in the Nadal-Federer rivalry is the way they have slowed down Wimbledon to make it favorable to clay court players. I know they did it before Nadal (Hewitt's win was the signal), but that court is now slower than US Open and the balls are purposefully deadened by taking them out of the can two weeks before the tournament. Why would they try to make all tennis play like the French Open. Most of the hard courts have been slowed down as well from Indian Wells to the Paris Masters. When it is almost impossible to hit a clean winner, something is wrong. Yes, the players today are amazingly quick, but I want to see a tennis match not a track meet.

In any case, I wish for someone to occasionally beat Nadal especially on clay. I wish Roger had not misfired on MP in Rome 2006, but he did. So, I thought about Nalbandian and I began wondering why Nadal never seemed to face him (until Madrid). I figured that Nalbandian and Safin when he was on were strong enough and fit enough to handle Nadal, yet he never faced them. So, I looked up the records.

And, here is the point, during the three years when Nadal has been #2, he has faced DN and MS only once each and that was this year. He went two and a half years at #2 without facing either one. I used to teach statistics and I know about probabilities and those outcomes happen but not very often. During those same years, Federer faced both of them a few times (not going to look the exact dates up again, but I know he faced them and Safin cost him the 2005 AO after he beat him in the 2004 AO semis.

In case I have not offended every one of you who harbors some resentment against Federer (and I have trouble figuring out the backlash against him on this site), I love to watch Murray, Gasquet, Baghdatis, Henman, Blake, Safin. My previous favorites were Sampras, Agassi, Becker, Rafter, Edberg, McEnroe, Borg, Vilas (now there was a strong guy with a one-handed backhand with wood), Laver (after I got over his beating the US Davis Cup team), all the way back to Hoad and Trabert.

I have seen all the players since Gonzales and watch the films of 1940's and 50s players and think that tennis was much better to watch in those days. And, I think you could put Federer into any era and he would have prospered.

I know one thing--if the rules changed for 2008 and everyone had to play with wooden rackets and the surfaces returned to the way they were, Federer would not lose any matches unless he was physically out of sorts. He would not miss a beat.

Can you name another top player who would not be thrown by such changes?

Posted by Duello 11/02/2007 at 06:52 PM

I've always liked the idea of Nalbandian, the dark horse lurking in the men's draw. Let's face it, we need another wildcard in the mix. It used to Safin. Almost everybody, including myself, has written Safin off instead as a joker. Maybe, Nalbandian can add some more excitement and unpredictability to the tournaments.

As to Hingis ... Question for you. What substances are players not allowed to have in their systems? Could a player come out on court hopped up on a six pack of red bull? I can see the player in the brief pre-match interview, twitching nervously, eyes darting around, switching their bag from shoulder to shoulder to shoulder.

And what about Sharapova? She must be dangerously close to crossing the line for infraction of illegal potassium levels with all of those bananas she eats during her matches. (I'm thinking Chiquita should approach her as a sponsor, but that's an aside.)

What if a player showed up drunk out of their gourd. Okay, not fall down drunk, but slightly liquified? Is that cause enough to get suspended or banned? I think it might be quite entertaining to see a professional athlete play while slobbering fall down drunk, if nothing else to see the poor commentators come up with something intelligent to say about the proceedings.

Come to think of it, I think they should force Federer to take a few shots of whiskey before he steps on court. Or maybe once during each change over. Maybe they could even have a standing bar on court for players who would like a mixed drink after the even games. Think of the post match speeches they'd make. The players would suddenly sit down during the middle of the interview on court and start giggling.

On a more serious note, I wonder how many players--perhaps even McEnroe--would have gotten into trouble in the '70s and '80s for their substance abuse, if they had the same rigorous testing. I hear many of the players partied hard. If, say, a scientist were able to get a strand of McEnroe's, or Borg's, or Connor's, or Vilas' hair from back then, who knows what they'd find - LCD, horse tranquilizers, etc.

One scientist examining the strand of a player's hair back then might turn to the other and exclaim, "Take a look at this! Can you believe this @#*#!!! This guy should be dead. They should take his trophy back and give it to his liver."

Just random thoughts to share...

Posted by Carrie 11/02/2007 at 07:08 PM

Robin-

I am curious as to why you lump Canas and Nalbandian together. They are very different players. They both have two handed backhands, sure- but Nalby is much more a point creator. I always thought that most Fed fans appreciated Nalby's smarts on the tennis courts and his incredibly clean ball stroking ability- even if his back hand is gasp...two hands.

I happen to like Fed, Nalby and Nadal (and a number of other players). I like that they bring out different aspects of the game.


Posted by Sophia 11/02/2007 at 07:58 PM

Robin Pratt - I think the draws have more than evened out over the year. At times Nadal has had it easier, at times Federer has had an easier path. You certainly can't say that Rafa has had easier draws on the whole this year IMO.

Just one thing I would point out - look at how many times Djokovic has been on Rafa's side of the draw as opposed to Federer's. It's quite amazing! For instance, I think Novak has been on Rafa's half for every single grand slam this year - with the possible exception of Australia. (Which I can't remember).

Not saying Federer has had it easy...but it has at least been even.

Posted by sophie 11/02/2007 at 08:14 PM

Robin, just to add to your details re Federer and Nalbandian:

They have met in 2 Finals, 3 SF, 2 QF and earlier rounds.
They have met 2x at AO, 1x at RG, 0 at Wb, 2x at USO.
They have met at TMS Madrid 3x, Rome 1x, Cincy 1x, MC 1x, Paris 1x and 3x at TMC.

I do not believe that either of them has met another player more frequently than these 16 meetings from 2002 to the present, though Roddick comes close for Federer.

Posted by sophie 11/02/2007 at 08:21 PM

Sophia, just to pick up on a point. Nadal joined the tour in 2001 and yet, as Robin pointed out, it was not until 2007 that he met Safin and Nalbandian for the first time, both of whom had been regularly meeting Federer. Perhaps Djokovic will be Nadal's regular match up in turn.

Posted by Suresh 11/02/2007 at 08:30 PM

Robin, agree with your 3:56 comment on Federer having a great 2004 year. I had expressed almost similar opinions some time back.

He used to finish points more often after setting them up. There is also a tendency to shank more shots - but I guess inspite of all this he has the been the most dominant period in the open era over a 4 year period.

Being at the top obviously will take a toll on him.

One more thing - he tends to play a little passively when he gets the chance to break, though he plays aggressively to get the break points.

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/02/2007 at 08:32 PM

Carrie, Obviously Canas makes Nalbandian look elegant by comparison. For some reason, I have always thought that Nalbandian was a grinder even given his obvious ball striking talent. His matches just bore me. If I never see another match of his, I would not miss anything. He has had his chance. And I have been offended by the way he kept reporting his weight as about 20 pounds less than real. Even if he had a slim waist, he is thickly muscled in the shoulders and legs and there is no way he was weighing 175 pounds in 08 and 06, even now that he had dropped significant weight.

Sophia, yes, statistically things even out. That is why I wondered how Nadal kept avoiding Nalbandian when he was playing well before and still giving Federer trouble. It did not.

Yes, as I said, Djokovic and Nadal have run into each other frequently. {From earlier post, "Both players seem to have run into Djokovic a good deal. Hard to avoid him when he is doing so well," ] Nadal beat Djokovic in IW in the final. Federer beat Djokovic in AO about 3rd round. Nadal and Djokovic met in FO and Wimbledon, but Novak was a shell of himself by then. They were scheduled to meet in USO, they met in semis in Montreal, and were scheduled to meet in Madrid, but not in Paris. Djokovic is the one person who threatens Federer and Nadal who has played Rafael (2-5) as much as Roger (1-5).

The way I see it there are only a precious few players who can beat either RF or RN which they are playing well. Yes, tennis could go either way with many players, but the ones I include are Safin (used to be), Djokovic, and Nalbandian. I would say someone like Karlovic is a threat to anyone, but not likely to pull it off when push comes to shove (tie breakers). And Blake could get hot and beat anyone (as he has done to Nadal 3 times). He has had a jump on Federer but could not sustain the heat. Obviously Gonzales was in a once in a lifetime zone when he beat Nadal at AO and he has talent but not the heart. I think Murray shows signs of being able to play with both. He has the talent.

So, the only really fair tournament would seem to be the YEC wehre you can be sure that one loss won't keep the best players from playing each other. Here's hoping that everyone is in good shape in Shanghai.

Posted by mamasue 11/02/2007 at 08:36 PM

Troy, are you even watching Rafa's matches? It would be nice if you would be so kind as to write about them, too.

Robin Pratt, here's something to chew on, the placemnt of joker in the 2007 draws --

Australian - Fed
Dubai - Fed
Indian Wells - Fed
Miami - Rafa
Monte Carlo - Fed
Rome - Rafa
Hamburg - Fed
Roland Garros - Rafa
Queens - Rafa
Wimbledon - Rafa
Montreal - Rafa
Cincy - Fed
US Open - Rafa
Madrid - Rafa
Paris - Fed

Now it looks like Nalby's placement will need to be taken into consideration, unless he disappears like he did after the 2005 TMC.

Posted by Sophia 11/02/2007 at 08:56 PM

Sophie, Robin - I wasn't really arguing with anything, just pointing out Djokovic as I have found it incredible how many times they have been on the same half of the draw this year since IW. Even if they haven't ended up playing against each other. It has just felt as if they have constantly been drawn in the same half.

However, after looking at Mamasue's post, it is actually a lot more even overall than it has seemed. Although you can see the run of same half draws that was probably to blame for making it seem worse than it has actually been.

Posted by AmyLu 11/02/2007 at 09:39 PM

Robin, the fact of the matter is that Safin and Nalbandian have both been in Rafa's side of the draw several times in the past two years, and in the vast majority of instances neither Nalbandian nor Safin made it to Rafa. They lost beforehand.

In this past year alone, Nalbandian has been on Rafa's half of the draw often: Madrid, USO, Cincy, Montreal, Wimbledon, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Indian Wells, AO

Posted by AmyLu 11/02/2007 at 09:50 PM

And, now looking at Safin's placement in 2007, he was in Rafa's half of the draw at the USO, Cincy, Montreal, Queen's, Rome, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, and Miami.

Posted by superSnark 11/02/2007 at 09:55 PM

"For some reason, I have always thought that Nalbandian was a grinder even given his obvious ball striking talent. His matches just bore me. If I never see another match of his, I would not miss anything. " - Robin Pratt

*gasp :0 Bwahahaha, where's the karma police when we need them?

Posted by Arcilla Tacones/ Andrea 11/02/2007 at 10:48 PM

Robin Pratt-
Your 'Rafa didn't play Nalbandian and Safin for 3 years' argument is weak. The draw is what it is. Unless you are suggesting that there is something going on behind the scenes.
What about Roger playing Roddick 14 times and Rafa only facing him 3 times? Is that suspicous too? But I don't see you complaining about that (mainly because Roger has a very good record against Roddick).
How about Justine and Serena squaring off in 3 GS quarterfinals? How's that for a 'one-in-a-million' chance?
How about Djokovic being in Rafa's half in FO, Wimby, Montreal, US Open?
You keep saying "luck of the draw matters". Are you saying Rafa has spent the record number of weeks at #2 because he has gotten lucky draws for 3 years?

Posted by felizjulianidad 11/03/2007 at 02:08 AM

Robin Pratt appears to center his knowledge and argument on furthering an argument that he espouses mainly for emotional reasons. Thus, the bulk of his statements are rationalizations of the irrational. I happen to admire all of the players (except Cañas, whom I don't know well) he's either praised or vituperated. Of course I have my "favorites", just like most of us here do. But Pratt's vitriolic insecurity re: Nadal, as well as his needlessly sentimental scrambling for Federer, are not becoming of the best person ever to hold a tennis racket, nor the only person capable of being his rival. Their accomplishments stand on their own, regardless of Pratt's feelings. Of course, Federer's accomplishments stand a step or two higher than Nadal's. And that, regardless of who you like more, is a fact.

Posted by Carrie 11/03/2007 at 02:52 AM

All I can say is I get tired of the posts just trying to bring down a player as opposed to propping up the sport. It makes this board no fun for me when the posts are all angry about a player. Sorry.

Posted by 11/03/2007 at 02:55 AM

I AM SO SICK OF RAFAEL NADAL'S ERROR-INDUCING SPIN GAME! Spinning the ball straight back to his opponent until his opponent can't hit in back for the sixth time and hits it out. The negativity of dragging the other player down from a high/normal level to win the game is pathetic. I know spin and defense is a valid part of the game but can we stop pretending it's something to celebrate and admire. It's ugly. It's negative. And it's pathetic for a man of Nadal's talent to rely on.

Posted by Sage Hall 11/03/2007 at 05:05 AM

MERCURY RISING

Did you notice 3 things different in DAVID NALBANDIAN compared to the time he retired against Federer in semifinals RG'2006 after he took the first set from Federer?

1. Nalby has lost weight, is much quicker, can cover even the most acute angles.
2. The first serve is much improved. Percentage is higher.
2. His putaway forehands and backhands are much flatter -- really clean, clean, clean winners.

I've been a Nadal fan since 2005, but i believe Nadal will lose again to Nalbandian.

That's called objectivity.

Posted by Eddy 11/03/2007 at 06:26 AM

I hope Nalby doesn't let two good tournaments get to his head. But he is an excellent player on the indoor courts.

Posted by Or 11/03/2007 at 07:26 AM

Roger's assesment of Nalby as a top 5 player seems just about right to me.

What is Nalby's h2h vs Roddick and Kolya?

Posted by Eddy 11/03/2007 at 07:43 AM

I'm not convinced about Nalby yet. Anyone can have two good tournaments. And he happens to match up against Federer, and he plays well on indoor. I can't remember why he dropped out of the top 10, but I don't see him back there--and definitely not as a top 5. He's the last player I thought could drop out of the top 10, but it's hard to get back up there. As far as I know, Blake and Haas are the two players in the top 10 who dropped out and re-entered it. And they are both on the outer edge of the top 10 anyway.

Posted by Mick Hucknall 11/03/2007 at 07:51 AM


Blake and Haas are extremely overrated, thanks to you Eddy.

GrandSlams are not coming their way.

Djokovic, Youzhny, Berdych etc have better games.

Posted by Eddy 11/03/2007 at 08:06 AM

That is not what I was trying to say...but it's more true than not anyway.

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/03/2007 at 10:38 AM

I apologize for setting the bar low in some posts yesterday. I was too tired to edit what I wrote and thus have misrepresented some of my points. So, I have left myself open for the smack from felizjulianidad and others.

Yes, Feliz, most of sports rooting is emotional. I have a Ph.D. and can be very rational but have allowed myself to choose sports favorites for whatever reason tweaks me and I know it. I readily admit to wanting Federer to do well because he plays the way I could not even dream of growing up and I think he has done as much as anyone to revive tennis interest (if my American brethren were not so US-centric, he would be on par with Tiger Woods). I am 67 years old and have a decided preference for the way tennis used to be played brought up to date in the person of Federer.

That being said, I would like to add one compliment to Nadal that some of you might not expect. It is obvious that Nadal could play almost any kind of game he would choose (even right handed if he wanted to). I have seen Nadal hitting and when warming up, he hits a ball so clean and early and penetrating that I have wondered if he would not be even more formidable playing a less extreme game. He can hit clean winners from either side, yet chooses to hit the most extreme topspin in the game especially on clay. He obviously is doing quite well with his game, but it reminds me of Borg. Borg found that he could win just by outrunning and out-topspinning opponents and so he did. Twice I saw him shift into another gear and it was awesome but a bit more risky. [I think Borg could have hit McEnroe off the court if he had tried.] So, in some ways, Nadal and Borg may have limited themselves due to their reliance on their physical dominance and games with plenty of margin of error. Ironically, both flattened out their games and serves for Wimbledon and did (have done) much better than expected there.

So, I must concur somewhat with the authorless post above who wrote

I AM SO SICK OF RAFAEL NADAL'S ERROR-INDUCING SPIN GAME! Spinning the ball straight back to his opponent until his opponent can't hit in back for the sixth time and hits it out. The negativity of dragging the other player down from a high/normal level to win the game is pathetic. I know spin and defense is a valid part of the game but can we stop pretending it's something to celebrate and admire. It's ugly. It's negative. And it's pathetic for a man of Nadal's talent to rely on.

Back to my thoughts--I guess that is why I consider most of today's game boring. On many points, you could edit in the middle of the point and could not tell a) who served and b) who will eventually win the point. Why? Because everyone has heavy topspin on both sides, almost everyone moves well and can hit these safe shots on the run from side to side. Canas actually hits many backhands with a split grip, basically pushing the ball back and usually deep.

Go by any tennis club and you will see countless youngsters who can rip such shots off of both sides. They all look the same. The big rackets help and the dead Luxilon strings so that even mishits fall in most of the time. I think Federer and Nadal have more mishits land in, thus getting them back in the point, than any one I have seen. Borg used to win many points during which he had a shot come off the racket funny, but with his racket strung at 80 pounds, many fell in. Because so few current players attach the net, a floating shot simply resets the point more often than not rather than presenting the opponent with an easy volley.

So, I root for some players who have some flair and imagination. And the one who can play any style (except he won't moonball) is Federer. But even he has put his serve and volley game on the shelf (the one that beat Sampras at W but lost to Hewitt a lot). Since Roger quit coming in on Lleyton, he has not lost to him. Once Federer, Justine and Amelie are gone, I think tennis will be a wasteland to watch at the top level.

Posted by Arcilla Tacones/ Andrea 11/03/2007 at 12:21 PM

Robin Pratt-
I'm sorry that you think tennis these days is boring and everyone plays the same. Look at all the different styles and personalities we've got- Roger, Rafa, Djoko(you don't like this guy either?), Roddick, Stephanek, Gasquet, Murray, Baggy, hail even Santoro!
And 2008 is going to be an exciting year- with Djokovic, Gasquet, and Murray all coming up.
And to let you know, even after Federer is gone, there will always be someone else like him. There will soon be someone else who will be challenging Roger's records. And I'm betting that person will have a pretty great game. That's just how sport works right? Look how short the gap was between Roger and Pete. Pete (then the GOAT in most people's minds) had been retired for only 1 or 2 years before Roger broke through and started winning 3 out of 4 and the GOAT discussion was brought up about him!

by the way, Rafa does not use Luxilon strings. That's what I heard PMac say once.

Posted by Michael 11/03/2007 at 02:03 PM

Rafa in the final!!!!

Posted by Joji 11/03/2007 at 03:56 PM

It is so sad that some people consider tennis as wasteland when people they think has a pretty game are gone. As if people who are rooting for players who does not have a pretty game are missing what is so "divine". Sports is about winning. Boring is not the word that I associate in watching someone who willed himself to win even if he does not have a pretty game. Tennis is exciting because of all the personalities and different games that different players bring to the game. I am becoming tired of all these rhetoric. as Ruth as said in another thread, if we want art, we should go to museum. End of rant.

Posted by superSnark 11/03/2007 at 04:48 PM

Whatever Pratt. Your personal preferences masquerade as a moral quest. To dislike an athlete for finding a fair way to win is laughable to say the least. Maybe you should analyze your favorites and why it is they sometimes lose to these 'lesser' players. You seem offended when pragmatic, mature tennis acumen defeats your preferred flabouyant, finesse tennis. Tough luck. Nalby is not a grind, but he can grind when the situation calls for it. He didn't defeat Fed by grinding passively, he aggressively took the game to him, ran him ragged with power, depth, sharp angles and aggressive returns (something TMF failed to do). Watch the replay if you think I'm making this up.

Posted by nikdom 11/03/2007 at 04:51 PM

Arcilla Tacones/ Andrea- Rafa does use polyester strings - they're just not the "Luxilon" brand. Yes, luxilon is just the brand name of the most popular polyester string that the pros use. The polyester strings give a "dead" feel, allowing players to take a huge whack at the ball. Contrary to popular understanding, the string does not "grip" the ball better. Since it allows players to take a bigger swing at the ball without sailing long, the exaggerated racquet brush-up motion against the ball produces a lot of spin.

Polyster strings became popular in the relatively poorer tennis playing nations like South America because they are cheap and more durable. Lighter racquets (allowing for faster swings and therefore faster racquet head speeds), polyester strings, slower courts like clay (which negates an advantage of trying to hit a ball "through" the court, since the ball sits up) have all pushed the game into the direction of heavy spin production.

Contrary to Robin Pratt's opinion, and I respect him for years of knowledge of the game as a fan (remember younger posters, we will all be old someday and we too may not like some new development in the game. Let's be tolerant and appreciative of elders who have seen and been through much more), even from a purely aesthetic perspective, I like the geometry of the ball arcs produced by spin. I think it adds a variety and spice to the game that may or may not (depending on your opinion) make up for the lack of net play. Personally, I would hate for tennis to be like in the 40's or 50's - serve, go camp at the net, block a couple of balls, and point over.
Volleys and touch can be beautiful to watch, and I do wish there is more all-court play (which I think Nalbo DID exhibit with superb serving, groundstrokes, volleys, drop shots, lobs and angles)
, but I think the game's past reflects its more skill-exhibiting and less athletic roots. Today's game is better because you have to be a very good athlete first no matter how deft a touch you possess. And rightly so! Imagine the flack tennis players would get from other sports people like soccer players, heck even beach volleyball players, if they wore pants and skipped around on the courts like in a ballet!

I'm a big Federer fan too. His aesthetic appeal is only PART of what I like about his game. I credit him with raising the bar in terms of the standard of play and style (all-court). I think as much as some of you dislike the "boring" nature of one player dominating, I think it actually produces a more "followable" drama in the game than a musical-chairs or merry-go-round cast of GS winners who win one day and fail to show up another. Because of Federer, I now follow OTHERS with more interest, in their bid to better their game and challenge him.

Posted by dropshotdragon 11/03/2007 at 06:06 PM

nikdom: Nadal uses a gut and polyster combo on his strings. I don't see what the big deal is though.

Mr. Pratt: Reading through your comments, it sounds like you think Nadal is #2 because he avoided playing Nalbandian and Safin during that 2 year period.

Posted by Arcilla Tacones/ Andrea 11/03/2007 at 06:08 PM

Robin Pratt-
Did you enjoy this year Wimbledon final?

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/03/2007 at 06:25 PM

Robin Pratt

Of course I can chack H2H on ATP page. but since you are making these allegations, it will be good if you do the research and see how much of it is bias and how much is objectivity.

I respect your passion for Federer and hard court. It would have been very boring if everyone liked the same style of play. but apart from tht being fair and objective just raises the level of an argument when lack of it does the reverse.

It is amazing that when more than half of the tournaments are played on the hard courts, people still complain about the hard courts or wimbledon being slowed down! is it going to be all or nothing?

maybe from now on federer should go and inspect each and every court or even play a game or two. If it is to his linking and he is absolutely sure that he can win there, they should go ahead and start the tournament. If not, they have to change it until he is happy about it.

Posted by Michael Bartels 11/03/2007 at 06:44 PM

GASQUET ON NALBANDIAN

At the presscon

Gasquet acknowledged he was "a level under" Nalbandian.

"I'm not sure I played a player as good as he is," Gasquet said. "Even when I played (Roger) Federer six times I never felt that way."

"Backhand, forehand, he really plays well," Gasquet said.

I HOPE NALBANDIAN WILL NOW RISE TO THE TOP.

Posted by Sage Hall 11/03/2007 at 06:45 PM

I've been a fan of Nadal since 2005, but i believe Nadal will lose again to Nalbandian.

That's called objectivity.

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/03/2007 at 06:51 PM

Sage,
I believe Rafa will do all he can. It will be good to see how he plays this time against Nalby. But Nalbandian is playing incredible tennis and I think he is the favorite here. I won't be surprised if he wins tomorrow, although I want to see Rafa win.

Posted by sophie 11/03/2007 at 06:58 PM

At one time there looked as if there would be some middle ground between the serve-fests of Sampras and Ivanisovic on hard and grass, and the longer rallies and different techniques on the clay.

Changes in court surface, racket technology and the balls meant that the majority of players were more able to transfer their skills to the various surfaces, and the lines between the clay courter, hard or grass court player rightly began to blur, without individuals losing any specialist skills when needed. Much more entertaining for player and fan and the development of the all court player.

But now, I do feel that the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Courts, both grass and hard, indoor and outdoor have been slowed down and the balls slowed as well. The Paris-Bercy tournament has seen numerous "clay court" matches, lengthy rallies with players camped on or beyond the baseline and finding it difficult to end points with outright winners or net play.

In what used to be a fast indoor tournament, Robredo and Canas took 2 and a half hours for 2 sets. Nalbandian was 10 minutes shy of 3 hours against Ferrer, Baghdatis was 1 and three quarter hours against Ljubicic, even Karlovic was on the baseline. Look at the doubles matches and note how many went to a match TB.

Now one could say that it depends on the opponent and point to those matches over in just over the hour, but, generally speaking, my memories of this tournament are of lengthy rallies, very little use of the volley and the techniques more applicable to a clay court. And I don't want that all the time, just as I didn't want points over after 3 shots and no rallies.

There are already 18 weeks in the year with 1 or more clay court tournaments, and hard and grass tournaments are now in name only, and it's a shame.

Posted by patrick 11/03/2007 at 07:21 PM

Zolarafa,
Even though Rafa had a battle today, I believe Rafa wins in 3 tomorrow. David has more firepower than Rafa but Rafa has more will and plays the big points better than his opponent.

Posted by felizjulianidad 11/03/2007 at 09:34 PM

I don't think there's any need to go on "smacking" on Pratt. He's explained that he does have a sentimental approach to the game, and he's aware of it. So people can just bear that in mind when he's speaking, and take it with a grain of salt. Perhaps his experience as a tennis fan, and the overall lengthiness of his career as a leadership consultant and the expertise that comes with his PhD means it's hard for him to drop the pontificating tone even when he's just chit-chatting his preferences in tennis, but hey, what another poster said about seeing changes in the game is true: it's normal for people to resent newer styles and prefer something more classical. And Roger Federer has amazingly come up with a new type of all-court play, yet have such a classic demeanour to him.

As for the speed of the surfaces, I wonder if we see more rallies now in hard courts because today's baseliners or rallyers just happen to be better than the players who favor serves and big forehands. Let's face it. Mardy Fish is simply not as good as, say, even a washed up old champ like Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Posted by Sam 11/03/2007 at 09:49 PM

sophie: I'm with you - I would like to see less homogeneity in playing styles, with more net play. I don't think longer rallies are necessarily better - the quality of the rally is more important to me than the length.

Posted by Sam 11/03/2007 at 09:56 PM

patrick: I think the Nadal-Nalbandian match is a pick 'em.

Robin: One thing I've noticed the past few years, even with Federer, is that players often hit a lob that puts their opponent far back in the court, but rather than come in and pick off a weak reply, they stand back at the baseline or in no-man's land.

Posted by Bored of trolls 11/03/2007 at 10:06 PM

Mick Hucknall (or should I say Sage Hall or Michael Bartels):

Career singles titles:
Blake - 10
Nalbandian - 6


Posted by felizjulianidad 11/03/2007 at 10:54 PM

I think the surface favors a player of Nalbandian's hard-hitting calibre. I'd have to go with him, though I think Nadal is mentally stronger, and if fit, more capable of handling a longer match.

If forced to bet, I'd go with Nalbandian.

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/03/2007 at 11:01 PM

Patrick,
you are an angel. I'll buy you a drink if Rafa wins tomorrow!

Posted by Tennis 76 11/04/2007 at 01:46 AM

Bored of trolls... what it counts is the important tournaments like G Slams or AMS...

You said Blake won 10 and Nalby 6 but David won a Master Cup and a AMS, and reached the 4 GS semifinals, he defeated the 3 top ten in a week.. who have done this? is able Blake or other top 10 to defeat Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in the same tournament? Nalby is playing like a top 4, with real chances for the next year to fight fot the 1

Posted by Eddy 11/04/2007 at 04:24 AM

When in doubt, I usually go with the higher seed. Rafa. And I hope I'm not picking Rafa because I'm rolling my eyes at everyone who thinks Nalbandian is suddenly an elite player.

Posted by dropshotdragon 11/04/2007 at 07:28 AM

I think the court surfaces are very balanced actually. Wimby has slowed down, but AO has speeded up. Equals out. Now we've got one very slow GS (RG), one medium-fast (Wimby), two very fast (AO, USOPEN).
I like the Wimbledon change. Just look at what we got at this year's final compared to the Sampras serve fests. And when it comes to regular tournaments, we've got our slow hard-courts in the spring, clay season, grass season (should be made longer), fast hard-courts, indoors, and finally the YEC- played on a very quick surface. To me it seems balanced, but that's just my opinion.

My predictions for Rafa/Nalby:
Nalby is too hot right now. If Rafa doesn't come out playing very well, it will be a 2 set steamroll 6-3, 6-4.
But if Rafa plays well enough to take it to a third, I favor him.
So, I think Rafa will be motivated and ready because it's a final, he'll want to avenge the 1 and 2 drumming he got in Madrid, and it's Paris...so Rafa in 3.

Posted by Sam 11/04/2007 at 09:27 AM

"what it counts is the important tournaments like G Slams or AMS..."

Tennis 76: I agree. I like Blake, and though he has more titles than Nalbandian, none of them are AMS, and he hasn't done much at the Slams (I think USO QF is his best showing).

Posted by patrick 11/04/2007 at 09:59 AM

Sam,
Agree that Rafa/Nalby is a pick 'em but still believe Rafa will win.

Posted by Sam 11/04/2007 at 10:02 AM

dropshotdragon: Is the new AO surface is supposed to be similar in speed to the USO? If so, that would play really fast when the roof is closed.

Posted by Sam 11/04/2007 at 10:03 AM

patrick: I just picked Rafa in 3 over on Pete's blog, so we're on the same page.

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/04/2007 at 10:15 AM

Sam, Eddy, Patrick.....
you guys rock!

Posted by Nigel 11/04/2007 at 11:22 AM

Anybody else think Gasquet's a bit of a bluffer? He seems to want to keep the points short because his groundshots aren't grooved enough or he's not confident enough to rally. Or maybe I'm just bitter cos he beat our Andy.

Posted by Sam 11/04/2007 at 11:59 AM

So much for that pick. Well done by Nalbandian.

Posted by anna 11/04/2007 at 12:47 PM

I agree with Robin; Im worried that I will have to stop watching tennis if the oourts around the world continue to be slowed down to favour baseliners.Its ugly and boring tennis to me.Although if the majority of fans prefer it then so be it.I wonder if ATP is doing it to break Federer's domination because they think the fans want more competative tennis.

Posted by anna 11/04/2007 at 12:58 PM

wow,..my post got through Tari..
Ive been trying to post for the last 4 months..with no success...this is great,hello again everyone.I wonder if there was something wrong with my computer or if it was my internet provider. THANKS TARI..whatever you did worked,awesome.

Posted by anna 11/04/2007 at 12:58 PM

wow,..my post got through Tari..
Ive been trying to post for the last 4 months..with no success...this is great,hello again everyone.I wonder if there was something wrong with my computer or if it was my internet provider. THANKS TARI..whatever you did worked,awesome.

Posted by Sam 11/04/2007 at 01:02 PM

Hi anna - it has been a while. Welcome back!

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/04/2007 at 01:04 PM

Patrick, Sam, Eddy,
it did not happen today. but thanks for rooting for Rafa. we have to see how he reponds in 2008 or maybe in Shanghai.

Posted by Sam 11/04/2007 at 01:09 PM

zola: No problem. We'll see what happens in Shanghai.

Posted by patrick 11/04/2007 at 01:30 PM

Nalbandian just outplayed Rafa today. Can not believe that Rafa won only 7 points in set 2 on his way to getting bageled.

Welcome back David Nalbandian. Can he keep this up in Shanghai(???) and 2008 AO?

Posted by Eddy 11/04/2007 at 01:59 PM

Oh wow...Nadal got pasted. I thought Nadal would win just because of his fitness. I guess Nalbandian was simply the better player today. Unfortunately for him, the season is over so he doesn't get to carry this momentum to the other tournaments. There's still no telling what could happen to him in two months' absence from the tour. Whatever happens, by no means do I think he can challenge for no. 1 or 2.

As for Shanghai, both Federer and Nadal have been looking strong (except for the Nalby part). Which is surprising to me because Nadal hadn't played any tournaments lately...then he just came back and ripped it up on the court anyway.

Posted by Sam 11/04/2007 at 02:21 PM

Looks like the coaching change to Jaite was what Nalbandian needed.

Posted by Eddy 11/04/2007 at 03:48 PM

What did Jaite do for Nalbandian? Otherwise it'd just be a honeymoon period between Nalbandian and Jaite.

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/04/2007 at 05:31 PM

Picture in your mind me eating crow.

I never expected anyone to make Nadal look so helpless, so weak almost. Nalbandian has certainly had a couple of masters for the ages.

I am hoping that Federer can learn from the way Nalbandian has been playing, fearlessly. I know Roger does not have his two handed backhand, but he so rarely takes a good whack at Nadal's second serve, being passive most notably on break points in the first set at Roland Garros final.

It is hard to figure out how someone who did not make it past the querters in 15 previous tournaments does what he did in Madrid and Paris. Everyone has known he had talent having been in the semis of each major, but has shown such irregular results, often going down two sets early in GS to some unknown, only to rally and then lose one or two rounds later. I know losing 10-15 pounds must help, but not that much (he beat Federer in Shanghai weighing too much and yet going 5 sets). How does someone suddenly develop that kind of serve after being a top player for so many years? Jaite must have some magic.

But it was good to see how he stepped in, took the ball on the rise, and dictated points. He took time away from Nadal. I have seen Roger do that to Rafael on occasions but not keep it up. He certainly has the forehand to do it and he can both drive and slice his backhand. You would think he could learn how to return Nadal's serve in ad court if Blake and Youzhny can do it.

But in my mind, the difference is mental. We all know how easy it is to play when you have nothing to lose. Nalbandian was playing on house money but certainly well both weeks. Federer was like that in 2004 before he became TMF with all the burden of living up to that hype.

The remarkable thing about Federer is how he has kept it going for 4 years, the best 4 years ever or since Tilden. Yet, his high end has diminished while he rarely has a truly rotten match (except for Vilandri and Nadal in MC).

So, as we look at 2008, we obviously have at least 4 to consider, each of whom can beat the other on a given day. To the big 3, we have to add Nalbandian, at least in terms of potential. I think Berdych has the talent to do this, but not the mental toughness to keep it up (I would love to take the court with his game or tools). He, too, can hit through Nadal, but has not recently.

I am still concerned that the tennis powers have tried to even things out courtwise, maybe to keep Federer from dominance. He certainly would have dominated on the old grass at Wimbledon, AO, and Forest Hills. But those days are not coming back. I can see no rationale for making the grass at the Big W play like clay, though. If we are going to have each court retain its distinct personality, then quit slowing up the grass. I support their trying to improve the grass so that the second week is not played on dirt, but why slow up the balls?

One more thing, tennis has slowed up the balls since my youth. Obviously the rackets are much more powerful and big, but, unlike golf which has amped up both the equipment and the balls, tennis has sought to balance out things by slowing down the balls (except that they have gone away from the old dead balls at the FO, balls that Ashe said almost killed his arm).

Pete had a piece last week that opined that Federer had come to be dominant in part because the courts are now all mid-range on speed. I agree that this has happened except that I feel that Federer would be more dominant on faster courts. He even complained this week about how difficult it was to put the ball away in Paris. About the only way to beat him is the way Canas did--keep getting balls back until he misfires when he is slightly off. Slower courts give someone who is steady and covers the court a chance. Obviously Nadal on clay is the epitome of that situation.

So, in signing off, I will give Nalbandian one more prop--he has almost outhit Roger the last two times. Both were close, but he had just enough. We will see if he can keep it up.

At this point, I feel the biggest threat to Nadal's dominance on clay and FO is Nalbandian. If I were Uncle Tony, I would hope that someone else puts him out at Roland Garros. He can replicate these two victories on clay if he is playing well when they meet.

Posted by dropshotdragon 11/04/2007 at 05:33 PM

Sam: yes, the new AO surface is supposed to be faster. very similar to the USOPEN. So when the roof's closed, it's basically an indoor fast-track.
What do you think? Are the surfaces balanced to you?

Posted by Suresh 11/04/2007 at 09:30 PM

I would like to point out the comments that Federe made after he lost to Nalbandian about the slowness of the surface and how difficult it is to hit winners from the baseline?

I would question this tactic. Seems to me that Federer thinks he can hit winners from the baseline, but it is a strategy that has a low percentage gainst great and steady baseliners on slow surfaces.

When Federer runs up a high count of unforced errors, part of it is due to his penchance for going for winners but which ultimately misses the lines by a few inches.

In Nalbandian's win against Nadal, correct me if I am wrong, I thought he did not go for the lines as much as Federer does. His style of play seemed forceful, yet had a higher margin for error than Federer's.

Posted by Sage Hall 11/04/2007 at 09:49 PM

Ranking in terms of QUALITY tennis, not computer points.

1. Federer
2. Nalbandian
3. Djokovic
4. Nadal
5. Roddick
6. Ferrer
7. Gonzales
8. Murray

Questionable:

Berdych -- when are you going to break through, pleeez?

Gasquet -- just got so lucky against Murray at Bercy

Davydenko -- a player who exerts "no effort" is in Shanghai, how come?

Grosjean -- where is my favorite player with the most aesthetics, elegance, and beauty of movement?

Paul Henri Mathieu -- when are you going to break through, pleeeez?

I don't watch tennis for 20 years, I play it.

Posted by Sage Hall 11/04/2007 at 10:07 PM


more pleas:

Isner -- show us again how a world number-800-or-something can have twice the number of winners as the World Number One in a Grand Slam match.

Youzhny -- please break through soon. it's now or never.

James Blake -- please stop your mockery of American tennis. Those of us who have gone to Ivy League universities actually excel in one field or another.

Ljubicic -- you have earned enough. please move on.

I don't watch tennis for 20 years, I play it.

Posted by Sam 11/04/2007 at 10:49 PM

dropshotdragon: I am surprised that the AO went to a surface similar to the US Open. I thought it was better that the Slams each had different surfaces.

Posted by zonie 11/04/2007 at 11:43 PM

Sage Hall

'Ranking in terms of QUALITY tennis, not computer points'

Computer points? No, they are points earned on real tennis courts, played with real rackets and balls against real opponents.

Posted by patrick 11/05/2007 at 07:42 AM

Robin Pratt,
Agree with you that Nalbandian can threaten Rafa RG dominance. Nalby has an all-around game that he can play on all surfaces. Will Jaite keep Nalby motivated? Will Nalby make a late career push like Agassi?

Posted by Suresh 11/05/2007 at 10:08 AM

Hmmmm - on clay, Nalby will not threaten Rafa - more so at RG.

Best of five format, stamina and endurance, movement on court and consistency will probably work against Nalbandian .. but then again who knows.

Posted by zonie 11/05/2007 at 10:15 AM

Earlier this year Nalby and Rafa played at an exhibition tournament on clay, where Rafa won in straights. Granted it was an exhibition tournament, but being the first time they played each other I would think they would try to size each other up. Anyway, we will probably find out next summer. If Nalby continues playing this well, it is certain that they will meet at some point. Nalby is also a good claycourter, so I am sure he could really trouble Nadal, but on clay I would pick Nadal to win.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 11/05/2007 at 11:58 AM

Robin Pratt ... your 3:56 PM post was dead-on. I too have noticed this about Federer .... he is simply not the same player he was in '04, when he used to play with such abandonment. There's been a steady decline since then, in his level of shotmaking. And it frustrates me so ! I wish with all my heart that he would regain that confidence and fearlessness. Roger used to be known for his ability to improvise on court, a player who would change strategy mid-match to turn around a match - like he did to Roddick in Wimbly '04. Now he seldom does that.

I also agree with Suresh's comments about how Roger retreats to playing passively when he has break point chances. Yes, it's purely mental - I think the hype about Roger's mental strength is just that - he is only mentally tough when he is in his "comfort zone", when playing against opponents that he knows are inferior to him. But deep down, there is still some mental frailty there - which shows up when he is playing against solid, steady players who can match him or beat him from the baseline, and who will not give him those free points.

My fear is that the passivity and tentativeness we now see in his play is happening on a subconscious level, and he doesn't realize how it is hampering his game, and that it may be too late by the time he does realize it. If only he had a coach who could point this out to him !!! Time is running out on him, and he will need to make a rapid change to his mental approach if he wants to continue winning the majors. Roger will need to put the pressure of expectations aside, ignore all the hype surrounding him, and just concentrate on playing the ball. He will also need to spend more time on the practice court, honing key areas of his game until he has full confidence that he can rely on his shots not letting him down in a crunch.

This is the man who once fought his demons and emerged as the most dominant player on the planet. Can he do it again? I pray and hope he does !

Posted by andrea 11/05/2007 at 12:08 PM

How about if Roddick drops out and Nalbandian becomes the 8th player in Shanghai? should be interesting.

Federer and Nalbandian have a long history playing each other - David won the first 5 or 6 times and suddenly Federer figured him. But there is history and some knowledge of each others game. i didn't get to watch either match (Madrid or Paris) that the two played but based on post conference interviews, Federer conceded that David was playing really well, better than he expected, and was waiting for the inevitability of David's game collapsing - which it didn't.

I'm blown away how David has beaten Nadal these last 2 times. Just dusted him. No history really between them.

I think (who knows if i'm rght) that Roger gets affected mentally by guys that have beaten him before - and i mean multiple times. sometimes it rears its ugly head.

so, i'm all for having david make it to shanghai - increase the stakes a bit! it doens't sound like Andy's head is reallty into anyway, so his tennis will likely reflect that.

Posted by Suresh 11/05/2007 at 10:44 PM

...Few more thoughts on Federer.

1. Have not researched yet, but how many times has Federer lost a set after holding set points? Or lost a match after holding match points? For a player of his calibre, I think it is one too many when compared to other greats.

2. After playing sublime tennis in the first set, he tends to lose the momentum in the second set - and often times it is not because of his opponent raising the level of play.

3. He is a great front runner, and when he plays freely , one gets to see his entire repertoire of strokes.

This also could be one reason why he has handed out bagel and breadstick sets to other top players - again have not researched this, but he could be a winner in this category.

Matches that come to mind are the 2003 YEC in Houston against Agassi,has bagelled Hewitt more than once - most notably in the finals of the U.S. Open, has bagelled Nadal and Nalbandian amongst others.

It is true that in the end it is winning that matters and not how 'easily' one wins, but if a player wins sets in a handy manner, it might also point to something - that playing sublime tennis comes more easily to him or perhaps he can sustain it for at least a set.

Posted by Sage Hall 11/06/2007 at 09:55 PM

Nadal serving, 4-6, 0-4, 15-30 at Bercy Final.

The battle of extremely sharp angles with Nalbandian.

The most magnificent point played in the last three years!!

I kowtow to the Majesty of King David.

Posted by 11/07/2007 at 01:44 PM

the french fans are the worst tennis fans in the world


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