Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - W: Report Cards
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W: Report Cards 07/08/2008 - 9:53 PM

RnWhen it was all over, when the only thing left to do was watch Brad Gilbert stand up, touchingly and awkwardly, and applaud for Rafael Nadal in the ESPN studios, I slouched back into the couch cushions, still sweating a little, and said, aloud, to no one: “Now I have to describe this?” Was it possible to do this match justice? Was it possible to give it a grade?

A few minutes later Nadal appeared in the pressroom. He was asked how he felt about his victory over Roger Federer, on Centre Court, after five hours and as many match points, 9-7 in the fifth set, with darkness surrounding him, for his first Wimbledon title. He answered in the only way that made any kind of sense: “Impossible to describe.” I thought: You’re right, Rafa, but you’re not helping.

It’s his job to play and mine to write. And can a tennis writer ask for anything better to write about than what happened at Wimbledon this past weekend? Let the A-pluses flow.

Rafael Nadal
The image of Nadal from Sunday that comes to my mind first is not of him pumping his fist, screaming “vamos!” or belting an inside-out forehand winner, though it’s easy to recall one of those if necessary. It’s of him holding the winner’s trophy in the dark on Centre Court, his face and the top of his white jacket lit up by a hundred flashbulbs, his headband gone and hair loose. This was a new Nadal. In the blink of an eye, he’d shed the pirate look and the beast of Mallorca image and taken on the bearing and style of a Wimbledon champion—albeit one who isn't above biting the trophy. He was no longer the world’s greatest No. 2, no longer the hard-working second-fiddle, no longer destined to be mentioned after the words those grand words, “Roger Federer.” Nadal is now part of the sport’s history and tradition in his own right. That’s what happens when you win on Centre Court. It’s why the all-time greats like Federer and Pete Sampras love this place the most—it made them. I could imagine seeing this photo of Rafa in 30 years, in the parade of Wimbledon champions from Jack Kramer to Roger Federer. “The Spanish great Nadal at Wimbledon,” the caption would read.

I said coming into Wimbledon that Nadal had a new aura about him, a No. 1-player’s aura, and he maintained it right until the end. Or almost until the end. He was the better player in the final, particularly once the rallies began, and could have won in straight sets. But like last year, he got tight at the finish line. Up two sets and tied at 3-3 in the third, Nadal played brilliantly to reach 0-40 on Federer’s serve. He may have let a brief vision of himself holding the trophy pass through his disciplined mind, because suddenly he couldn’t get the ball over the net, even on a forehand return of a second serve. Federer came back to hold, found his rhythm on his serve and forehand, and matched Nadal shot for shot the rest of the way.

Nadal got himself back to the brink again in the fourth set, only to suffer the same last-second nerves. Up 5-2 in the tiebreaker, with two serves coming, he double-faulted and dumped a routine backhand into the net. After the second shot, he showed one of the few traces of anger he would betray all afternoon, whipping his racquet like a fly-swatter. Again he pushed back to the brink, hitting one of the many, many shots of the match, a thread-the-needle forehand pass after a mad dash across the baseline. That brought him to match point, where he went with the percentages—swing serve to Federer’s backhand, swing approach to the same spot—and was beaten by Federer’s own thread-the-needle backhand pass into the corner.

At this point, Nadal could have been forgiven for wondering, Am I meant to win Wimbledon? As Nadal’s last return floated long to end the fourth set, I thought we may finally have discovered a weakness, a chink in the mental armor: Faced with the prospect of fulfilling his dream of winning the world’s biggest tournament, Nadal couldn’t close the deal. A couple points into the fifth set, I knew we'd found no such thing. Nadal came out and hit his first few backhands with the same gusto and confidence he’d shown on that shot all afternoon. By the time he’d held for 1-1, the fist-pumps were back. Somehow, the fact that his lifelong dreams had been horribly, cruelly crushed a few minutes earlier had been utterly forgotten.

The classic example of ice-in-the-veins willpower in tennis is Bjorn Borg’s victory in the fifth set of the 1980 Wimbledon final, after he had squandered multiple match points in the 18-16 fourth-set tiebreaker. His opponent that day, John McEnroe, has often wondered how Borg was capable of staying in the moment. Nadal’s achievement, while almost identical (this tiebreaker was 10-8 but equally heartbreaking), surpasses Borg’s for the simple fact that the Swede got to serve first in that fifth set, while Nadal had to serve second.

This is the equivalent of being the away team in extra innings in baseball. When you have to serve to stay in the match, you’re always just a couple of bad swings away from defeat. Nadal faced one break point in the final set, at 3-4. He took Federer’s return and drilled an inside-out forehand into the corner, then finished with an overhead and a fist-pump. Dick Enberg chuckled at the chutzpah: “Nadal has the guts of a daylight burglar,” he said. The term was apt: If he misses that go-for-broke forehand, he’s most likely just lost the Wimbledon final. He didn’t miss it. In the end, the match that I thought might reveal the limits of Nadal’s mental resources revealed the opposite. He had even more—more willpower in the head, more ice in the veins—than we knew.

What does Nadal’s win represent? Think back to David Foster Wallace’s allegedly brilliant essay from the NY Times two years ago, "Roger Federer as Religious Experience." I’ve brought this piece up before, but it’s worth revisiting because it’s representative of an attitude among traditionalist tennis aficionados, in my opinion. The setting was the 2006 Wimbledon final. Foster Wallace cast the calm, free-flowing, instinctive Federer as the modern-day manifestation of tennis genius. Nadal was summed up, in derogatory fashion, as a “martial” player, limited and earthbound compared to Federer. Could this article appear in a major publication and be lauded the same way now, after Sunday’s final? I don’t think so. Nadal has shown that tennis genius doesn’t have to be cool and free-flowing. It can be martial. It can be grinding. It can grunt. It can be unorthodox rather than elegant. It can have its roots in the grungy clay-court game yet still conquer the genteel grass version. It can wear pirate pants rather than cardigans. It can be all those things and still make you shake your head in awe, just as we do with Federer.

Think about the final game of the match, when Nadal attempted, after all the earlier failures and with the light speedily dimming, to serve it out at 8-7. He nervously sent his first forehand long. On the next point, he hit a serve wide, and, for the first time all match, followed it to the net, where he knocked off an easy volley. From some players, you might call this a bailout option, a way to avoid a nerve-wracking rally. From Nadal, it was the opposite: He saw that when he was trying to finish the match, the dynamics of the points were working against him—he was getting tight, playing the percentages, playing not to lose. So he changed the dynamic. It was a simple and gutsy—instinctive—move. If there’s such a thing as tennis genius, this was it.

What would a genius be without a little luck to help? On the final point, Nadal looked tight again as he popped a sitter backhand to Federer’s service line. It looked like a sure opportunity for Federer, and he closed on the ball. But it wasn’t where he thought it was going to be. It had taken a weird bounce and jumped right. Federer mistimed it and hit it weakly into the net. In the end, Nadal had triumphed on grass the old-fashioned way—with a bad hop.

I interviewed Nadal at Key Biscayne in 2006. He was antsy and guarded most of the time. But when I asked about Wimbledon, he became vehement. He made a fist and said, “I will do well at Wimbledon.” The year before, he had lost in the second round to Gilles Muller. I didn’t believe that this Spanish clay-courter would ever do much on grass. What I didn't know was that winning on clay, where he was supposed to win, didn’t get to the bottom of Rafael Nadal. He wanted to be a tennis champion. That meant winning on Centre Court. The photo proves it: He’s a tennis champion. A+

Men’s Final
Was this the greatest match of all time? SI’s Jon Wertheim had an unintentionally funny line when he was interviewed about it on the PBS Newshour yesterday. He said, “I’m usually pretty level-headed about these things, but I’m going to say unequivocally that this was the greatest match in tennis history.” I know what he means.

Rn2What are the elements that go into “greatest” matches? First there’s the level of play. The highest-quality match I had ever seen before yesterday was the 2007 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal. This beat it. By a lot. The winner to error ratios, particularly Nadal’s, were excellent, and Federer served like a dream. But it was the shots that didn’t become winners that were even more remarkable. So many balls that would have screamed past anyone else were returned, with authority. You won’t find them on the stat sheet.

It was tough to tell the opening of the first set from the closing of the fifth. At both times, Federer and Nadal were running full out and playing forcefully. It was go-for-broke tennis, but within intelligent limits; rallies consisted of a short series of probing jabs, quick moves up and back, and then a haymaker to end it. If one guy left a ball hanging, the other rifled it toward a corner every time. Nadal has improved his backhand from last year. He slaps through it with more flat pace than he gets on his forehand. Federer not only couldn’t break it down, he couldn’t push Nadal into his backhand corner and open up the court. Nadal played a version of the game he uses against Federer on clay, but he was more willing to go into the forehand corner and take risks even when he wasn’t positioned near the center of the court. He mixed up his serve constantly, and went to the body at the right moments. As for Federer, he started slowly but gained traction by giving a master class in grass-court tennis over the last three sets. Wide serve, forehand into open court: This is the modern equivalent of the serve and volley, and no one does it as effectively as Federer. He seems to love serving on Centre Court more than anywhere else.

Beyond the basics of tactics and execution, it was the style with which these two played that raised the match still further. Borg vs. McEnroe in 1980 was a long series of forays and angles; Sampras vs. Ivanisevic in 1998 was a long series of serves bulleted into the frames of the returners; Federer vs. Nadal was a series of topspin missiles that bent and dove in midair and landed in the farthest reaches of the court. For all their differences, if you just watched their strokes and the paths their shots took, you’d have a hard time telling who had hit what. Both swing with a violent upward motion around the head that carries their bodies off the ground. This co-style is how tennis circa 2008 will be remembered.

Of course, it’s the differences that made the match worth watching. Federer’s characteristic winner was a seemingly impossible forehand that he hit inside-out while floating away from the ball. A remarkable shot, since he gets almost none of his body into it. (In his own way, Federer blows up the textbook every bit as much as his opponent.) Nadal’s version of this shot was the crosscourt backhand that he consistently hammered with a completely open stance and his upper body jerked downward, in the opposite direction of the ball. He used this for offense, and also as a sort of goalie-style defensive shot when Federer sent a hard approach down the middle. In both cases, his control with it was uncanny.

In a “greatest” match, the high-quality play must be backed up with drama, personality, history. We had plenty of all three. The personalities and body languages, as always, were polar opposites: Nadal bustled around the court between points, chest out, brows furrowed; Federer leaned back as he flipped his feet in front of him with casual assurance. The history was tied to the same legend, Bjorn Borg, who was sitting in the stands: Federer was trying to break Borg’s modern record of five straight Wimbledons; Nadal was trying to become the first man since the Swede to win the French and Wimbledon back to back. As for drama, it was heightened by the race against encroaching darkness, which lent a wild edge to the end of the fifth set. This match would always have been a classic, but the flash-bulbs that peppered the dusky trophy ceremony ensure that it will be instantly recognizable in the future, its atmosphere as unique as its shot-making.

Then we came to the end. Nadal’s celebration—a helpless, painfully relieved fall to his back, with his legs and arms splayed—was electric. You felt like he was at the center of a current that was circling Centre Court and exploding in flash photos. But there are two moments I’ll remember just as much at that. Before the final point, Nadal’s Uncle Toni finally couldn’t take it anymore. He had to get out of his seat and move down to the front row of the player’s box. He lifted his arm and gestured to his nephew to do it now. The spontaneity and urgency of that gesture captured the excruciating nature of the moment. After the final point, when Federer put the last ball into the net and Nadal hit the dirt, you could see Roger Federer’s father, Robert, proudly sporting his son’s red RF logo hat, immediately stand to clap. He kept clapping as Nadal climbed the player’s box, crushingly hugged his parents and Uncle Toni, and stamped past the Federer entourage to shake hands with Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick. Would you think less of me if I told you I had a tear—or two, or three—in my eye, for Rafa, for Robert Federer, for Uncle Toni, for Mirka, who touched Nadal’s leg as he walked past, and for Mr. and Mrs. Nadal, who sat tormented for seven hours before they could let it out? In what other sport, in what other arena, on what other night, would you see anything like this?

Greatest ever, by a mile. A+

VwVenus Williams
Poor Venus. She rolls through the draw for a second straight year, doesn’t lose a set, and handles a difficult win over her sister in the final with easy dignity. Then everyone forgets all about it 24 hours later. Don’t: This was not just a customarily imperious and focused effort from Venus—the sight of her crazy legs gobbling up ground along the baseline is now as much a part of Centre Court lore as the sight of Pete Sampras bombing aces there—it also felt like a landmark in how the Williamses handle playing each other. It was winner-take-all competition and sibling rivalry at its most adult. The edges, and the awkwardness, weren't as obvious. I wonder: We say it's hard for them to compete because they love each other, but isn't your sibling also the person you want to beat more than anyone else in the world? Has this edge been dulled in Serena over the years?

Either way, it was the best match they’ve played—not a classic contest, but a compelling one. Venus weathered an early Serena storm calmly, and took control of the match methodically. I’ve always thought their matches can be scratchy in part because each runs down shots that would be winners against anyone else. That leads to extra shots and, eventually, errors. This time, little sister looked she had nowhere good to go with the ball by the end. A+

Roger Federer
For a world No. 1 and five-time defending champion, Federer looked oddly aggrieved through much of his final against Nadal. HawkEye had it in for him, the chair umpire annoyed him, a Nadal shot that landed inside the line inspired a wild, hopeless challenge. The force of Nadal’s momentum over the last few months seemed to have put doubt in Federer's mind, and he wasn’t happy about it—why should he, Roger Federer, doubt himself on Centre Court against anybody? But he did. You could see it in the way his shots on break points found the net. You could see it in the way he quickly surrendered a 4-2 lead in the second set and lost four straight games. That just doesn’t happen to him against anyone else.

Which makes his stubborn comeback effort all the more impressive. Federer, as he said afterward, “tried everything.” But he was playing a guy who could match him, jaw-dropping winner for jaw-dropping winner, and who was using his tricky serve to keep him terminally off-balance. Late in the fifth set, Federer opened a return game by hitting a forehand winner down the line. It was an intimidating shot that might have rattled another player. Two points later, Nadal cracked his own, equally intimidating forehand winner and eventually held. Against everyone else, Federer can, and does, assume a natural superiority; he knows he’s better, and that if he plays well, he’ll win. He can’t assume this against Nadal. He has to start on equivalent mental footing with the Spaniard. This leaves Federer, as I said, a little aggrieved and unsure of himself.

Federer was a good loser. He looked gutted and exhausted when he talked to Sue Barker, his hair uncharacteristically sweaty and lank, a far cry from the ebullient winner in the white jacket of previous years. We might have wished that he hadn’t mentioned how dark it was and that the conditions were tough—they were for both guys—but Federer managed to keep it light when he said he played the “worst” opponent on the “best surface.” To ask for perfect grace and no trace of bitterness from him at this moment would be to ask too much.

Federer showed off the runner’s-up plate with surprising, classy enthusiasm, and walked around the court waving as if he were still the champ. What’s that Kipling line we hear so much about at Wimbledon: “If you can meet triumph and disaster and treat them just the same…”? On Sunday, Federer came as close as anyone could expect to living up to that brutal ideal. A

RfThe Cardigan
I began by hating it, especially the big RF monogram. But on Centre Court, after the match, as Federer tried to hide his crushing disappointment, it worked. This is the traditional outfit of the tennis gentleman. And the gentleman, as Kipling says, defines himself by how he handles defeat. Whatever Federer was thinking on the inside, he looked sporting on the outside. A

Serena Williams
She had another Grand Slam resurgence. Let’s hope it lasts. My lasting memory of her will be one of confusion. She couldn’t find the key to beating her sister, and she couldn’t quite believe she was losing. She was flummoxed—by the wind, by the slippery surface,, by Venus, who made her hit better shots than she normally has to and pushed her out of her comfort zone at the middle of the baseline. Even in the trophy ceremony, as her sister was singing her praises, Serena looked distracted, squinting blankly and unsmilingly into her second-place plate. A-

Marat Safin
He showed he still can command the big stage now and then, but, unlike the two finalists, he doesn’t have the ambition to make Centre Court his home. He’s got everything else, and seeing—hearing—that old fabulous backhand walloped down the line again made the tournament a little more fun. A-

Brad Gilbert
I didn’t see much of him, so he couldn’t become grating. But how can you not like a guy, who, right after a 9-7 fifth-set final, states that it will not be Federer who breaks Sampras’ record of 14 Slams, it will be Nadal. Never mind that Gilbert once said Federer would win 20 Slams and recently gave TENNIS Magazine three reasons why Nadal wouldn’t win this year’s French Open. He's a man with big ideas, even if they can be a little hare-brained. A-

Dick Enberg/Patrick McEnroe
The best call of the final was by these guys, for ESPN Classic. Not too much talk, and a couple of good lines from Enberg, who called the match what it was: “excruciatingly entertaining.” A-

Bjorn Borg
The tie, the shirt, the unflappable demaeanor: The guy’s as good at watching as he was playing. Let’s bring him to Flushing Meadows, even if he can't stand the place. A-

Jie Zheng
Enjoyed her short, sharp, low to the ground grass game, even if I won’t see it again until next year’s Wimbledon. A-

Agnieszka Radwanska
Watch the smooth ground strokes, smile at the transparent facial expressions, remember the name, no matter how you pronounce it in your head. B+

Andy Murray
Has the teeth-barer turned a corner and begun to rein in his disorganized game? I’m going to say yes, even though he reigned it in too far against Nadal. The match with Gasquet was hilarious. B+

Chris Fowler
He tries too hard when he calls matches, but he’s a pro in the studio, and I thought ESPN’s post-final wrap was solid and entertaining. It did justice, with a little wackiness thrown in, to the match that had just been played. B+

Amelie Mauresmo
We’ll miss when you go. B+

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
We welcome you, if you want to stay. B

John McEnroe
I thought he had an off day on Sunday. He’s always low-key, but this time he seemed to be restating the obvious more often than usual. Still, I wouldn’t want to hear anyone else call Federer-Nadal. B

OK, I can’t write any more at the moment. I’ll have to say good night to the best fortnight—or at least the best final two days of a fortnight—I can remember.

Who did I forget? Who deserved an F?

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Posted by rafafan 07/09/2008 at 12:02 PM


A+ for you. Great write up, I always look forward to reading yours.

I have to give all of the Nadal doubters a D-. I can understand taking a stand for your favorite, but every Federer fan out there should have been a little scared for him. I have watched Rafa play every match I could see since he became pro. I have seen his game improve and change over time. I could see so much of the progress this past year, and oh how he played the FO. That was no fluke and luck had nothing to do with it. That was just tennis being played at a level that had not been reached before. So much so that even Federer said himself that he had a strategy but could not use it. He brought that same level of play to Wimbledon and once the match commenced, it once again suprised Federer. I believe if it had not been for the rain delay in the 3rd set, Nadal would have finished him off right then. Roger needs to thank the heavens that he had that chance to regroup and get back in the game. He needed the mental time out. Looking back, I am glad there was a rain delay, that gave us almost three more hours of fabulous tennis, albeit nail-biting.
Now that Nadal has earned more respect from the tennis playing and tennis watching world, I am looking forward to reading all of the posts leading into the USO.

Posted by Rafafan 2000 07/09/2008 at 12:04 PM

"He had even more—more willpower in the head, more ice in the veins—than we knew."

How true. I am a huge Rafa fan. I was sick and nervous the entire match because I knew from the many, many matches I've seen, that people don't lose opportunities like that and come back to win a match. No one, I thought, has that kind of mental strength. I was wrong. I can't believe I underestimated Rafa.

Witnessing that kind of mental toughness has given me the strength to know that I can handle my life in the near future--including labor and the birth of my first child and my mother's ongoing fight with terminal cancer. Thank you, Rafa.

Posted by frances 07/09/2008 at 12:06 PM

Steve. Steve. Stop the hating. Federer deserves an A+. I rooted so hard for him to win, and it was because of his fight and courage and the way he would not let go of the champion's cup until his knuckles were bloody that I am now a big Nadal fan.

Posted by SwissMaestro 07/09/2008 at 12:14 PM


You saying Federer should be thankful and that Nadal should have finished him off right there and then in the third set is as out of place as mentioning that Federer should have taken the second set 6-3 when he was up 4-1 and the win in 4 (4-6, 6-3, 7-6 and 7-6), right? Then, as you can see, the question can be often argued both ways. Watch it please, we Federer fans can just take so much.

Posted by Michael Malas 07/09/2008 at 12:18 PM


Posted by Mr Rick 07/09/2008 at 12:21 PM

Monica, Steve and those who are still pondering the psychological aspects of the final, I guess I finally need to agree with you a bit. I have been loath to put Roger on the couch because of my tremendous respect for him as a truly sublime tennis champion - no one could do what he has done without having their head on straight 99.99% of the time.

But I re-watched the 5th set (for the 97th time...heh...) and I started to notice how irritated and impatient Roger seemed to be getting towards the end of the set. After he failed to break Rafa for the 12-13th time, I am sure he was starting to think, jesus h christ what to I have to do to bring this guy down?!!! And I think it started to affect his play - by 6-6, or 7-7, his serves seemed to be more and more impatient and some of his strokes were done almost in anger (and therefore why he was missing some key ones). I am not sure if in the end, this is what did Roger in, but I think it was taking at least something away from his game. Rafa on the other hand, seemed to be getting more and more resolute. I think I have seen enough evidence that psychology did play at least some part in how things turned out on Sunday.

Posted by frances 07/09/2008 at 12:22 PM

On Brad Gilbert -- any friend of Agassi's is a friend of mine. But that guy is surprisingly always off with his predictions. It's weird. First he predicts Nadal is four sets (as if Federer has five straight Wimbledon's for nothing). His prediction on Nadal having 20 slams. NO WAY. Federer will end up passing Sampras. Nadal does not have the game to rack up that many slams -- and by that I mean Nadal's game is so unbelievably physical, his body just won't produce that many majors. The spookily injury free Federer on the other hand will float to maybe six more slam titles.

Posted by Master Ace 07/09/2008 at 12:23 PM

Andrew Miller,
Your post @ 10:37 AM talking about the similarites b/w Monica Seles and Rafael Nadal is great.

Steffi Graf - Thorugh AO 90, 9 Slams with accomplishing the Golden Slam in 1988. From 1991-AO 1993, only 2 Slams won and both was at Wimbledon while Monica won the others. After AO 1993, 11 Slams won. Wished that she was not stabbed b/w AO & FO in 1993 as she was going for a 4-peat of the FO.
Monica Seles - Pre 1991, won 1990 FO. From 1991-AO 1993, won 7 Slams(all of them except Wimby). After AO 1993, she won 1996 AO.

Posted by geikou 07/09/2008 at 12:27 PM

I don't doubt that the rain delay helped Roger regroup. But please do recall that he saved a 0-40 game at 3-3 before that delay. ^^ (And if that game was an example of Rafa choking, then wouldn't the delay have helped him as well? ^_~) Also, by the time of the delay, the 3rd set was still on serve with Roger up 5-4. It's not as if Rafa had been poised to take the set immediately.

Posted by Monica 07/09/2008 at 12:28 PM

SwissMaestro, I fully agree with you. It would have been a very different match if Federer had won that second set. I think he had a bigger burden to shoulder and I think that may have made a difference psychologically.

Posted by Sophie 07/09/2008 at 12:33 PM

He derserves an A* for his preformance and for coming back after losing the championship point

Probably an A- for a good match and coming back in the 3rd and 4th set.

Yes he may have lost in the second round but it was unlucky and we should give him some credit for hanging in there and for gracefully admitting he screwed it up!!!! I still think he is a good contender for the USO, because it is his best surface (also if he is in Federer's half of the draw he'll be fine because he knows he can beat him!)

the Bryan Brothers
They made the semi-final which is good thing and it was a close match!!!! and Bob came back to win the mixed doubles!!!

It'll be very interesting to find out who'll come out on top for the USO!!!

Posted by frances 07/09/2008 at 12:39 PM

Who deserved an F. Oh stop it, Steve. just can't have a post where Sharapova's name isn't mentioned. You guys ain't slick. Who deserved an F. Oh. Let me see...

Posted by Monica 07/09/2008 at 12:41 PM

Mr. Rick, exactly. Plus, Roger mentioned in one of his pressers something like neither he, nor Nadal had conceded his territory yet. Well, Nadal had already successfully defended his territory at the French Open. Now it was Roger's turn to defend his. Isn't that like the equivalent of serving second? Except that the best you can hope for is a tie, whereas the other guy gets a chance to topple you over. Roger strikes me as a big picture kind of guy. It would be difficult for all of this not to weigh on his mind (and may be limbs). Wasn't it, after all, an unforced error from Roger that settled the match?

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 12:44 PM

Posted by Eddie 07/09/2008 at 12:48 PM

Steve, that cardigan really worked with the long pants. But that RF log bugged me too. I've loved Roger ever since I found out he'd been dating a three year older woman from the time he was eighteen (come on, how many guys can appreciate a woman like that?) but a little humility will do him good. He was very gracious when he ruled the tennis roost and the fact that he was gracious in defeat (if not to the reporters who were chomping at the bit to humiliate him, then to Rafa who really mattered) only makes me like him more. Rafa's a great guy, too. If these two guys genuinely like each other, how can their fans not?

Posted by rafafan 07/09/2008 at 12:50 PM


Sorry, Didn't mean to be insensitive.

Posted by Veruca Salt: Still Reeling 07/09/2008 at 12:52 PM

Great writing Steve!

A:To Steve, Kami, Tom, & Pete. Your thoughts on this match have been nothing short of brilliant.

Now to the bad grades:

-To NBC for cheating West Coast viewers out of live tennis. F!
-To Davydenko for playing a clay warm up and then crashing out early. F! I mean c'mon, Marat was no fan of grass either but at least he made an effort.
-To Thomas Berdych. Once he was the bane of Spanish tennis. Now he's a regular punching bag for Hot Sauce, Ferru, Rafa, and F-Lo. F! Forget loyalty. Time to change coaches.
-To Pat Cash for accusing Rafa of cheating. F! Hard to take a guy seriously who has no qualms with exposing a butt cheek at any given opportunity.

I'm being lenient with some of these but:
a D to:
Sharapova & Ivanovic-Deciding to to play a grass warm up was a boneheaded decision, ladies.

James Blake-The air just keeps blowing out of that balloon. For such a smart guy, he plays remarkably dumb tennis.

Nole-The time for talk is over. If he wants to be the number one player, he needs to let his racket do the talking for him for now on.

Karlovic-The guy has the biggest serve in tennis and yet has lost in the 1st round for the 4th straight year. The clue bus containing a complete tennis game is making it's next stop. Time for Dr. Ivo to climb aboard.

Posted by rafafan 07/09/2008 at 12:54 PM

but you have to admit, 2 sets to love is a bigger mental battle to fight than 1 set all.

Posted by Vie 07/09/2008 at 12:55 PM

This is an excellent tribute to the wonderful, wonderful match Steve. I am so touched by your decription of your feelings and impressions. Love you for it.

Posted by SwissMaestro 07/09/2008 at 12:55 PM

what an article...

Posted by Mush 07/09/2008 at 12:58 PM

Yep, gotta be an F for Nole this time round. Was big news in the Brit press moments before Wimbles began, then couldn't back up the mouth when it counted. Waiting for Safin to crack is no wnnabe number 1's attitude.

F too for Sharapova. I mean the cardigan was one thing, but that outfit was just plain nauseating and would've made every opponent she might've met want to oust her just to see the back of it's awfulness. Doesn't bode well for her future fashion career, or maybe it does, to a fashion type. Perhaps reveals her preoccupation with that world rather than the tennis. Obviously more time spent on the outfit than the serve, as both Wimbles and FO revealed.

Posted by SwissMaestro 07/09/2008 at 12:58 PM


Yeah but you were subjective, each situation represents a change in directions and any upcoming of different events. Given the fact that Federer could have won that second set could also have meant no tie-breaks at all, thus no nail-bitting nerves. The match was played how it was played. The only people that should be thankful is us.

Posted by Red⁺ = Legacy Solidified 07/09/2008 at 01:00 PM


Great stuff as always. Expected nothing less.

As a true blue Fed fan, I am crushed but am elated for Nadal. Well done!

I agree whole-heartedly with your 11:38 post. For the longest time I've pondered that very thing. Nadal always concedes verbally to the Fed, giving him props, deserved or not. Most see it as humility, I see it as psychology. What a great pressure deflector (sp?) This kid is smart. At some point however Fed has to accept he isn't alone at the top of the heap and Nadal has to do the same with the pressure that comes along with his elevated stature.

Posted by Jeremy 07/09/2008 at 01:01 PM

i put my money on roger coming back next year and winning the title.

Posted by Lo Svizzero 07/09/2008 at 01:04 PM

I also think Nadal is smart for all the mental games he plays to get under his opponent's skin: bouncing like a boxer, sprinting towards the baseline, making the opponent wait for the coin toss, slow motion and 'adjustments' to serve, etc.

If I was a referee in one of his matches I'd time warn him everytime. I just don't see how those mental games can be good for the sport.

Posted by rafafan 07/09/2008 at 01:04 PM


well said.

Posted by Chiconinja 07/09/2008 at 01:06 PM

Nalbandian deserved an F.

Davydenko as well, it's not that we expected much from him but it was obvious he just doesn't care about Wimbledon.

And I'll giva Ana Ivanovic an F as well, for not playing a grass tournament before the biggest slam of the year. Specially when she was seeded number 1.

These three deserved an F grade.

Posted by SwissMaestro 07/09/2008 at 01:07 PM


I think so too. I even think Roger will win this coming US Open. He is still the best on hard courts and the 4 time defending champion so I don't know if winning a 5th in a row would make it a record.

Also, Federer will go onto Wimbledon ranked as the 1st favorite due to the fact that Wimbledon uses that weird way to seed their players.

Posted by Vie 07/09/2008 at 01:10 PM

Wow, Rafa is finally there as an international figure for great spirit in sports and tennis . Thank you, Wimbledon. Thank you Borg, McEnroe, Roger, the media, Steve and Pete for giving this event prominence. Thanks nature!

Posted by cafe-au-lait 07/09/2008 at 01:11 PM

Thank you for this insightful and very moving article. It's been 3 days since the men's final and I still can't get it out of my head. Yesterday, I rewatched that ridiculous 4th set-tiebrak and the last 3 points of the match on and I still had goosebumps. What a memorable event!

Here are some more grades I would turn in:

Djokovic/Ivanovic/Jankovic: F (very disappointing showing by the unprepared Serbian squad)

Sharapova: F (what can I say about that butt-ugly shirt!)

ESPN and NBC: F (the simulataneous coverage by both networks was especially frustrating in the second week)

Andy Murray: F (for writing his autobiography before he's accomplished anything and especially for that unsportsmanship-like arm-flexing at the end of the Gasquet match)

Justine Henin: F (for retiring too damn early and missing out on winning the one major she doest't have in her trophy collection).

Posted by Richard 07/09/2008 at 01:11 PM

this post was a little over the top. why the hell are you mentioning federer's father anyway? and federer's cardigan really looked hideous. giving that an A is a huge joke.

Posted by Mr Rick 07/09/2008 at 01:15 PM

I think low grades for Ivanovic are unfair.

She had just won the French Open - and rather unexpectedly became #1 in the rankings - its a lot for a 20 year old to deal with all at once if you're not quite ready for it. If she wanted to just stay home and re-group after the FO, and keep doing things at her own pace, that's fine with me.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 07/09/2008 at 01:23 PM

"Greatest ever, by a mile." No question. Beautifully, simply stated.

Posted by Monica 07/09/2008 at 01:25 PM

Thank you for posting the Harell article. It expresses the same sentiment as Steve's piece. That's what makes this rivalry so great. Two very different styles of play.

But I would not say that Sunday's final was the death of beauty. That's unnecessarily pessimistic. If I'm not mistaken, Roger and Rafa have met mostly on clay and that's why Rafa has an advantage. I would not say that Roger's style of tennis is inferior to, or "defeated" by Rafa's. I think it's not an "either, or" but rather a "both and" proposition.

Posted by Mr Rick 07/09/2008 at 01:26 PM

Lo swizzero - I am not sure if rafa really does all the bouncing and sprinting etc for the purpose of messing with his opponents' heads. As anyone will tell you who has followed his career, the guy is just extremely hyperactive by nature and very ritualistic the way he approaches each match.

But even if he did all these things on purpose, I don't see how they could be affecting his opponents at this point - he does all these little rituals like clock work, everyone knows he does them and have come to expect them --- so I don't see how it could be messing with people's heads anymore.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 07/09/2008 at 01:27 PM

Lesson to all of us wanna-be sports writers: only one person in Tignor's class gets the A+.

Kudos to Darren Cahill. Sue Mott is a disgrace. Rolo Tomassi (Andrew Friedman) rules!

Posted by Edengrave 07/09/2008 at 01:32 PM

Federer deserves an A+. It takes two. annd There had to be a winner. He played better and performed better than ever.

"a tennis champion" That he was already.
A Wimbledon title just add to his resume.
I believe Rafa will win them all eventualy, as he routinely win the hardest grand slam every year.
Brad Gilbert wild prediction is only foolish, Because he underestimated Federer. Nadal is well on course to go beyond 14, but not before the Fedex.

Posted by Karl Romano 07/09/2008 at 01:34 PM

Great comment Anjali. Suddenly, everyone forgot about... how did you call it? The Djoker? The world is, once again, two sided. For a brief moment, I thought Wimbledon organizers would elevate their status to the final's level we had just beheld and would bring two Wimbledon winners trophies instead of the cup-plate, one-two awards. Wouldn't it have been a worthy gesture? In my mind, there will always be three winners after Sunday's final, tennis being the third winner.

Posted by Mr Rick 07/09/2008 at 01:35 PM

Eben Harrell at SI has been reading too many Thomas Mann novels. This Wimbledon match has really brought out the drama queen in a lot of people ... I am really sorry if Roger is having to read much of this nonsense.

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 01:35 PM

Any insight re: the jacket Rafa was wearing on Sunday?

I don't think it was a disaster but certainly not the "correct" thing to wear to the final and what a missed opportunity for Nike as the pictures of him holding the trophy with that no-name jacket are now part of history. I think there is an unemployed marketing manager out there. I guarantee Nike will never make this mistake again.

Posted by Sam 07/09/2008 at 01:36 PM

Red and Monica, just one point. Safin did that too. He wrote himself off but when he proved himself right he came across as lacking ambition, as Steve put it. But of course it's better to do it Nadal's way than trash talk the opponent like Djokovic does and crash out in the second round. Some people say Djokovic' trash talk is arrogance, I say is plain old stupidity. Or both.

Posted by Mr Rick 07/09/2008 at 01:37 PM

Rafa's jacket looked sort of old-fashioned with the elastic at the bottom - my wild guess is that someone (uncle Tony, Carlos, or?) gave it to Rafa to wear as a good luck charm.

Posted by SwissMaestro 07/09/2008 at 01:39 PM

I find hard to believe Nadal can win on hard courts given the opposition he faces and the speed and more regular bounce of the courts. Federer is still the top dog but Djokovic has clearly established himself as superior to Rafa on the surface. Tsonga, Gonzalez, Blake and Davydenko to name a few can outplayed him as well so it is not a given he will win them all. Will his knees take all the stress he puts on them?? That is the greatest issue he'll have to deal with.

Posted by Red⁺ = Legacy Solidified 07/09/2008 at 01:40 PM

I see Djocovic' trash talk as infancy. Be that as it may, Nole's got game.

Posted by Demar 07/09/2008 at 01:41 PM

Wow, I didnt know Brad Gilbert felt that way about which one of the finalists would break the Americans record of 14 slams! But even though Federer lost, he didnt break an ankle or a leg after the match, like a true champion he sould come right back with a killer's vengence. But Nadal and Federer's next Grand Slam final will sing like a canary of just how damaging the Wimbledon loss was to Federer. Federer only has to win 3 more slams to eclipse Sampras, but I will not give him the French until he slugs it out sucessfully against the King of Clay and Roland Garros. And he didnt win the Aussie Open last year, so we will see what he can do in 2009. Is Brad Gilbert thinking of a Monica Seles like domination in slams, where she reeled off slams until her horrible stabbing. Will the Federer-Nadal rivalry escalate to crazed fans trying to take the other out? I hope not! Very intriguing because it could happen, both Seles and Nadal have many similarities: that sheer grit and insurmountable determination, those unmistakable grunts that seem to apply extra pace on the ball and more fear and tension in their opponents, fanatastic mobility and defensive skills around the court, creation of angles, desire and so much more. Once Nadal can defeat Federer in straight sets on a surface other than clay and in a stadium besides Philippe Chatrier, then I will be convinced that Nadal will eclipse Sampras and maybe even surpass him greatly!!!!!!!

A+: Nadal and Federer,Venus and Serena/and everyone else can make their own self assessments

Posted by Jeremy 07/09/2008 at 01:46 PM

I think that as far as their performances went, both Federer and Nadal deserve an A+; even if two students obtain the same grade in class, it doesn't mean that one of them didn't produce better work than the other.

A lot of sites have been discussing the question of Federer's greatness. In my little circle of tennis-playing friends, a lot of us are partial to Federer over Nadal, and we've been discussing just why we think of Federer as a great player, and Nadal a not-as-great player. A lot of this sentiment seems to stem from the completeness of Federer's game, and really how beautiful it is to watch. As for Nadal, he is obviously an amazing athlete, and his game is evidently effective. But when it makes you shake your head in awe, is it in awe of sheer genius per se, or in awe of the fact that somehow, he's managed to make this work so well?

I mean no disrespect to Nadal or his fans, but this is a question the response to which I find telling: Imagine a world in which ALL tennis players have Federer's type of game (set of skills, perhaps to varying degrees), and a world in which ALL tennis players have Nadal's type of game. In which world would you rather watch tennis? My preference should be clear right now. I find it challenging to see how Nadal-style-only tennis could appeal to anyone over Federer-style-only tennis, but I'm open to views. If you think you'd rather be in the world featuring Nadal-style-only tennis, why?

Posted by Lleytsie (Melon Collie and Infinite Sadness') 07/09/2008 at 01:47 PM

Great Post Steve - loved it mate

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 01:48 PM

Rafa fans have less class than Federer fans, even though their man won which usually makes it easy to act classy. Hard to imagine what they would be like if Nadal had lost.

Posted by Lleytsie (Melon Collie and Infinite Sadness') 07/09/2008 at 01:48 PM

yeah, but jeremy only one of then won the trophy - thats where your analogy fails

Posted by frances 07/09/2008 at 01:51 PM

Jeremy, I like both their styles. Yes, Federer does possess more shots, but... I like to seem them both play. However, I'll reiterate my point -- Nadal has a much shorter shelf life because his game is so physical. And yes, Federer is much prettier to watch. Sunday made me love Nadal though. But really, who among us thinks he is going to repeat at Wimbledon -- much less have multiple titles there...Hello! Are those crickets I hear...Hello! Anyone there.

Posted by chinkyv101 07/09/2008 at 01:54 PM

Steve, I absolutely loved you article! It was by far, the best one I have read about Sunday's amazing final between two of tennis' best (and trust me when I say I have been all over the internet reading every single one I find). Almost all of what you wrote was exactly how I felt watching the match... I was at the edge of my seat, and sometimes not even on my seat the entire time. I couldn't stand how nerve racking and brilliant the tennis was, and it killed me when I tried to imagine how it felt for Rafa and Roger who were actually playing! I almost gnawed my nails all the way to my knuckles trying to contain all the excitement. And my heart went out to Nadal as he fell to the floor in victory. I had been waiting for that moment since the first time he made it to the finals of Wimbledon (even though I had little doubt that Federer would win it that year). But I knew after last year's final, he was ready to step up to the challenge.

I agree with svelterogue who posted on 07/09/2008 @ 5:23 AM on this point. This was one of my favorite lines from your article because I knew exactly what you meant. I have liked Federer from the beginning but gained so much respect for Nadal as I saw his game improve every year that I became a fan of his too. So watching any match that featured these two was always great. One of the things I liked about Federer was the ease with which he played. He was so fluid with every stroke and cool, calm and collected. But Nadal's play also enthralled me! I loved the tenacity that he went after everything with; the furrowed brow showing his grit and will to try and win every single point. He was just such a great player to watch and the more he got closer to Federer, the more I realized that there was room for two great champions with such contrasting styles of play. It gave tennis so much more depth and great dimension to the sport. They are both classy, humble and definitely worthy champions. Which brings me back to one of my favorite lines from your article:

"Nadal has shown that tennis genius doesn’t have to be cool and free-flowing. It can be martial. It can be grinding. It can grunt. It can be unorthodox rather than elegant. It can have its roots in the grungy clay-court game yet still conquer the genteel grass version. It can wear pirate pants rather than cardigans. It can be all those things and still make you shake your head in awe..."

So thanks again Steve for bringing back all the emotions and memories of watching that much and I am sure I will not forget it for the rest of my life. Hail to the 2008 Wimbledon Men's Singles Champion- RAFAEL NADAL!!!!! (PS: It brought tears to my eyes as well when the called Rafa this as he went to collect the trophy! It was almost surreal to hear his name come after that title. And when he went to hug his parents, I was balling my eyes out!)


Posted by Snoo Foo 07/09/2008 at 01:55 PM

Dude I second (or 3d, or 4th) the A+ for this article. I laughed, I cried (really I did), it was better than Cats.

A+ also to Pa Federer's moustache and his magnanimity, both of which are substantial and impressive.

Posted by Monica 07/09/2008 at 01:56 PM

Mr. Rick, I agree with you about Harell's piece. It's masterfully written and has some good points but it is unfair to both Roger and Nadal. Rafa the butt-picking brute who makes Roger the angel fall? I don't think Rafa deserves to be demonized that way and Roger is not given enough credit for his own grit and determination. Plus, no one can take away from Roger what he has already accomplished. Writers tend to overthink things and can project their misguided romantic notions on almost anything. That's why I like this piece by Steve, which acknowledges the emotions of the match while remaining realstic.

If anything Harell's piece can help us further appreciate what Roger and Rafa and other great sports people have to deal with. Hopefully they know better than to pay attention to all the nonsense.

Posted by Lleytsie (Melon Collie and Infinite Sadness') 07/09/2008 at 01:59 PM

Rafa fans have less class than Federer fans,

ha ha ha --- theres somethin to chew about, you go ahead mate, am listening

Posted by Red⁺ = Legacy Solidified 07/09/2008 at 02:01 PM

I feel you. In my years of playing and watching tennis, I have never ever seen the likes of TMF. His style of play is simply breath-takingly beautiful and more importantly super efficient. However, as rarified as he is so is Nadal in his style of play.

Posted by Master Ace 07/09/2008 at 02:01 PM

"But really, who among us thinks he is going to repeat at Wimbledon "

If you think he repeats why? If not, why besides the physical game he plays.

Speaking of physical, Roger and Rafael styles reminds me of the LA "Showtime" Lakers and Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s where LA was an offensive machine who ran a lot of fastbreaks while Detroit was a defensive minded team where they clogged up the lanes and made you earn your points.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 07/09/2008 at 02:01 PM


Your Nadal-Seles comparison is fair enough, save for one major flaw: Monica did not move well around the court. She made her opponents move enough with her punishing cross-court angles to mask this rather major deficiency. Few could exploit it because she simply wouldn't let them breathe.

Posted by Veruca Salt: Still Reeling 07/09/2008 at 02:02 PM

Yanno, I'm getting just a teensy bit irritated with the goalpost moving that's going around on TW and everyplace else. Anything to diminish the monumental effort put forth by these two awesome tennis players has been tried. Give it a rest! We should be so lucky to have been treated to this great match, and we should pray to the God(dess) that we will have many more opportunities.

-It's about the cardigan!
-It's not about the tics, and the water bottles, and the ball bouncing.
-Roger will win another slam. He's Hall of Fame bound
-Rafa will win another slam. He's Hall of Fame bound.


Posted by Sam 07/09/2008 at 02:04 PM

Red, I can't argue with your point that Djokovic has game as he has proven it by winning the Australian open; however he hasn't been able to back up his bravado with tennis results recently. The second round exist and overall performance speaks more loudly than his words. And I would say twenty one is not too early to start growing up. I've known plenty of children with more grace and restraint than Djokovic.

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 02:05 PM

"Tracy Austin --- F (needs voice training)"


Posted by CPM 07/09/2008 at 02:06 PM

Is Nadal going to repeat at Wimbledon? Next year? Eh; who knows. I wouldn't dismiss the possibility, but I'd mark Federer the slight favorite. But will Nadal ever repeat? I'd sure as hell take that bet.

And Jeremy: both possibilities are a little depressing, actually. Federer's and Nadal's styles are both compelling in virtue of the athleticism, will and smarts that lay behind them; talking about them in the abstract is just a fancy way of saying "I like Federer (or Nadal, as the case may be) better."

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 07/09/2008 at 02:07 PM


I agree wholeheartedly. Djokovic's over-the-top prognostications sometimes make him look impish and foolish. Especially next to the mutually-respectful comments coming from Nadal and Federer. As tennis is as mch a mental game as it is a physical one, getting a handle on this propensity for narcissism may be the key that will either unlock Djokovic's potential or sink his ship.

He's too much of a drama queen, I fear.

Posted by Mr Rick 07/09/2008 at 02:15 PM

Monica, yes, and let's for sure hope Rafa and Roger aren't bothering to read all our drivel at here at TW, either :-)

Posted by jeff 07/09/2008 at 02:16 PM

"Classy" Federer gets an F for once again acting like a sullen sore loser when he loses. He is only a nice guy when he wins. Everybody's nice when they win but the true character comes out when he loses.

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 02:16 PM

"Oracene Williams, along with the Federer parents. Always good sports, all of them, always gracious and actually looking like they enjoy their children and their matches, unlike certain Russian fathers... well, you know!"

Agreed!! I don't know how Oracene does it. She claps for the opponents too. Truly a pleasure.

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 02:18 PM


Posted by Red⁺ = Legacy Solidified 07/09/2008 at 02:21 PM

Nole's Wimbledon humbling may well turn out to be a maturity turning point for him. We will have to wait and see but in his defense sometimes (to borrow a quote)"the apple does not fall far from the tree"(look at his camp) and I do understand your point of view as I used to feel the same way about him.

Posted by Sam 07/09/2008 at 02:28 PM

CPM, whole heartedly agree. I think what many of us have been trying to say here is that tennis is better off for having two such different (but equally gracious) players at the top. The more diversity, the better.

Posted by Carrie 07/09/2008 at 02:46 PM

Jeremy- silly me but I prefer a variety of styles in tennis. ;)

Yes, Roger has great beauty in his play. Rafa has great grit. I can like both. I don't like for all players or all teams to play the same in whatever sports I watch.

I think both men are to be admired. And I think their differences are what makes the rivalry special.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 07/09/2008 at 02:46 PM

Anyone else finds that Harrell article in SI insulting and demeaning to a top athlete?

If so, you can contact them, there is a link at the bottom of the page.

I don't understand how they can publish such garbage!

How is this much diffrent then Justin's Gimelstop's interview?

Posted by sally 07/09/2008 at 02:48 PM

jeff-you must have watched a different person than i did. you get an F for not seeing reality.

Posted by Carrie 07/09/2008 at 02:54 PM

Marian- I am so used to Rafa being dismissed as nothing but a death to "beauty" etc. that I have gotten hardened to it.

I do wish for some like Harrell who are lamenting how horrible it is that Rafa's style beat Federer- they could appreciate Rafa for what he has instead of what he is not.

Again- I love variety in tennis. The tennis "intellectuals" may say that one should always appreciate Federer's artistry the most- but I do think there is nothing wrong for appreciating the scarp and heart of Rafa. And I do think he has skills not just grit. I don't feel like it makes me less of a true tennis fan- the same way that I feel that an artist like Roger also has heart.

Posted by Sid 07/09/2008 at 03:05 PM

Someone posted this on a forum, and I think this is great to sum up Roger's performance... though I think he's far from dead!

How did you die? by Edmund Vance Cook

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?

Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it.
And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there -- that’s disgrace.

The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts;
It’s how did you fight and why?

And though you be done to death, what then?
If you battled the best you could;
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.

Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he’s slow or spry,
It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,
But only, how did you die?

Posted by Sid 07/09/2008 at 03:08 PM

Also, as someone who thinks the David Foster Wallace article comes closest to describing what I feel while watching Roger's game, I do find it annoying that you bring it up all the time. Wallace expressed an opinion that many share -- though I think assuming he called Nadal's style "derogatory" in any sense is just plain wrong. He didn't.

Posted by Anastas 07/09/2008 at 03:11 PM

camon roger

Posted by french open fanatic (now wimbleon fanatic?) 07/09/2008 at 03:14 PM

It's so refreshing to see that after winning Wimby, Rafa finally getting the accolades that he deserves. It seems as though even less than a year ago, people were always talking about Rafa as a one-surface wonder. I never agreed with this as getting to finals in minor tournaments - hard courts - and winning - proves that his skills translate. Getting to semis and finals in AO and Wimby also proved that to me. But, the naysayers always were quick to dismiss his talents.
The reason I like Nadal is not because of his bulging muscles or famous a** (though I do like those) - but because of his guts and his heart. His determination. When I first watched him in 2005 - in Rome - I was absolutely astounded at his tireless passion, belief, and well, chutzpah. In that one match, he made me fall in love with tennis all over again.
I've never been a big Fed fan - but I see why people adore his grace, beauty, and seemingly effortless shot-making.
However, this Wimbledon proves that beauty comes in all packages - all shapes and sizes. That you don't have to be a Michaelangelo's "David" to be considered beautiful. But, maybe you can be a Jackson Pollock or Jean-Michael Basquiat and considered one of the most precious things in the world...
I've completely gone off tangent here. But, it's the only place I can!
Sorry for the rambling.
Oh yeah - Brad Gilbert: F -
I absolutely cannot stand his overblown ego and ridiculous presumptions and predictions.

Posted by Anastas 07/09/2008 at 03:15 PM

HI I from Bulgaria and like tennis my favourite tennis players are Federer ,Djokovic,Nalbandian ,Hewitt and.........

Posted by frances 07/09/2008 at 03:17 PM

Master Ace, I DON'T think he is going to repeat -- thus my reference to the sound of silence greeting my question (crickets).

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 03:25 PM

wimbledon final --- it's fantastic

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 03:27 PM

Really??? there were a william sister match?? Yawn!!!

Posted by RF007 07/09/2008 at 03:34 PM

Great article!

I just started watching tennis this year and though I only have a few references, the match was absolutely epic!

Federer should have gotten an A+ too. He played superbly all throughout the tournament!

Posted by zeg 07/09/2008 at 03:37 PM

Harrell's SI article is a great example of a delusional elitist's ignorant drivel - no wonder he writes for TIME.
Tennis is not ballet, you "canny and "uncanny" word-juggling twit. It is a sport competition in which the victory is the only objective for both opponents. It is a microcosm that reflects our own life's struggles, day in and day out. Winning is a thing of beauty, it is the ultimate dream. Defying the odds, overcoming seemingly insurmountable difficulties and finding solutions to virtually unsolvable puzzles - that is the parallel between the two that transcends languages and cultures and turns athletes into superstars: everyone can relate to that. Everyone, that is, except a snobby pompous jackass with SI credentials. The inanity of his viewpoint is perfectly summarized here:
" He's [Nadal] a bruiser (case in point: on Sunday, he directed 25 percent of his serves to Federer's body; Federer chose that aggressive line only four percent of the time). "
Somewhere a loony bin is missing a patient. As for SI - stick with swimsuit issues,guys, - there's a reason why they sell most.

Posted by Veruca Salt: Still Reeling 07/09/2008 at 03:52 PM

I think Harrell's article is nothing but a big pile of "Meh!" His views don't bother me either way because I've always been a fan of power tennis. I can totally understand why some prefer Federer's or Henin's game. However, the most beautiful shot in tennis to me isn't some delicate backhand volley, but rather a searing service return from the baseline.

*gets all misty thinking about Agassi*

Posted by rafafan 07/09/2008 at 03:59 PM

Tennis would be boring to watch if each player didn't have their own unique style. I am with zeg, tennis is not the ballet. It is an all out battle.
I say thanks to Rafael Nadal for bringing life back to the game. Thanks for stepping up and giving us a good show to watch and providing us with some of the best tennis in the history of the game. The fist pumping, Vamos shouting antics only make him more endearing to his fans.

Posted by Alan 07/09/2008 at 04:14 PM

I think Roger deserves an A+ just as much as Rafa. To win a set off Nadal is hard enough, to when two when Nadal aleady up two sets would be almost impossible. Him winning those two sets and sticking with Nadal till the end show's that Roger is a great player no much how people try to down play him

Posted by zeg 07/09/2008 at 04:19 PM

While I admire Federer's sublime game, it is Rafa who brings genuine passion and excitement to the competition. His fighting spirit, awesome ferocity and "never surrender" spirit is a unique blend indeed.

Posted by DONT FORGET 07/09/2008 at 04:49 PM

TED ROBINSON. F-. The man is a moron and has a continual look of amazed suprise on his face. He is clueless. He talks about how players should go to college for a year and then jump to the pros and that is one of his smarter ideas.

Posted by Master Ace 07/09/2008 at 04:55 PM

Forgot to say congrats to the Williams Sisters for sweeping the singles and doubles title this weekend. This news has been buried under the Roger/Rafael match. Venus 5th Wimby and the WS 7th doubles Slam collecting their 100th match win in doubles along the way.

Posted by Red⁺ = Legacy Solidified 07/09/2008 at 05:04 PM

Steve what about Tipsarevic and old man Schuttler?

Posted by KH 07/09/2008 at 05:11 PM

Great article Mr. Tignor. No one blames you for getting a few tears in your eyes watching what happened when Nadal won. Hell, I got teary-eyed reading what you had written about it!

Posted by Earl 07/09/2008 at 05:15 PM

Roger deserves a C grade for this loss to end his 65 straight grasscourt wins and his 5 straight Wimbledon wins, and 11 straight grass matches won without losing a single set.

Roger choked away the 2nd set with a 4-1 lead, led 5-4 in the 3rd set before rain delay, was 1/13 on break points in match (many UNforced errors on simple misses long, wide or into net), committed 52 UNforced errors, missed 34% of his 1st serves, much higher in 4 games he lost serve, and he still lost as close, long and equal a match as anyone could, 9-7 in the 5th set and 4:48 long, 62 games, 209-204 (just 5 points total difference in match).

During the upcoming hardcourt season from now through next March and next grass season too, Roger will outperform and outplay everyone again, and maybe win many tournaments, including more Grand Slams.

Roger has won 4 straight US Opens, 5 Wimbledons, 3 Australian Opens, and now he will begin adding to these numbers.

Rafa will never win a US Open, unless his quarterfinal, semifinal and final opponents are really old, tired, not good or retire with injury.
He may never win an Australian Open either, or another Wimbledon, but definitely not a US Open unless he benefits from all of the luck I said in my last sentence.

If it wasn't for Roger choking in this match on most of the break points he lost, the 2nd set lead he earned, he would've won his 6th straight W and Rafa still would have 0.

Rafa got lucky that Roger played poorly for his normal standards in the clutch, Roger made many uncharacteristic, easy mistakes throughout the match, and Rafa knows it's true, but he's too proud and happy and classless and conceited to admit it.

That's all.

Posted by Liz (for Federer 4-ever & always!) 07/09/2008 at 05:26 PM


I'm sorry, but I think you were unfair to Federer. He deserved at least an A+ for the way he fought tooth and nail to hang on to his Wimbledon trophy. For shame. Just when I thought he had shown his fight in last years final he found another gear and made this year's final more memorable. Something tells me Rafa appreciates his win all the more considering the tenacity his opponent showed in trying to hold on to his title.

Pick on the poor cardigan if you must, but cmon Fed showed me something I didn't think he had in him on Sunday. The way he fought for his trophy made me even more his fan, if that's possible.

Rafa's A+ is truly deserved as well, since he was able to take his devastating loss from last year and channel it into a victory this year.

Brad Gilbert's A- is way too generous, in my humble opinion. He reminds me of those bullies on the playground who torment you just for being you. What was up with him wearing the Federer cardigan on the air during his commentary one day? I have a theory that I call the "common denominator factor" and it applies in BG's case. When you have such dispirate personalities like Andy Roddick and Andy Murray hating your guts, then its not them that's got it wrong it must be you. I think old Brad deserves a F

You forgot about Novak "I think Federer is vulnerable this year" Djokovic. Try as I might, I can't stop calling him Joke-a-vic and not Jock-a-vic. He gets an F from me for talking the talk but not walking the walk. It takes guts and determination to win Grand Slams and last time I checked he had to take an injury time out during his one slam win, the Australian Open. Sure, we can sigh and put it down to his youth, but someone needs to take him aside and give him a lesson in respecting his elders.

Posted by Tennis facts 07/09/2008 at 05:28 PM

Roger choked this match away and that's why he lost. His mentality and psychology versus Rafa is fragile in the clutch and worse than it is against everyone else for some reason.

For the people who said in earlier posts that other people know they can beat Roger (like Roddick and Djokovic) on hardcourts and that other people, besides Roger, are favored to win the US Open and Australian Opens and Wimbledon.

Roger has won 4 straight US Opens (Andy, Novak, and Rafa have won 1 combined), won 5 Wimbledons (the other 3 won 1 combined), won 3 Australian Opens (the other 3 won 1 combined) all by himself, has a 15-2 lead on Roddick head to head (yes, it is that big) and a 6-2 lead on Djokovic head to head (yes, it is).

Who else has those overall total Grand Slam numbers and leads over Novak and Andy head to head?

Nobody else is even close to his Grand Slams and nobody else is even close to having that good of a record against Andy, and only Rafa has more wins against Novak and one more loss too.

Posted by Jesse 07/09/2008 at 05:36 PM

This 9-7 5th set loss by Roger was much closer than last year's 6-2 win was obviously and factually, and since it barely ended his record streaks on grass and at Wimbledon, this was a very disappointing and devastating loss for Roger to deal with and endure.

Only time will tell if this devastating loss will linger for Roger and make him lose even more or make him hungrier, more determined, more focused, stronger, etc. to redeem himself in the near future and win the upcoming US Open, Australian Open, Wimbledon next year, etc.

Only time will tell and his mentality and psychology will determine which way he feels, thinks and goes in the future.

Posted by lulu 07/09/2008 at 05:39 PM

About Steve Tignor

> About this Blog

>> Notes from the week in tennis.

We want to know more about Steve Tignor !

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 07/09/2008 at 05:39 PM

Earl: "Rafa got lucky that Roger played poorly for his normal standards in the clutch, Roger made many uncharacteristic, easy mistakes throughout the match, and Rafa knows it's true, but he's too proud and happy and classless and conceited to admit it."

It's not Rafa's fault that Fed chokes against him, and fails to bring his Wilanders with him to their matches. Of course Rafa knows that he is in Roger's head. But he isn't going to rub that fact in his face by publicly acknolwedging it ... if he had, then that would be "classless". Roger played that first 2 sets without enough conviction. It was only towards the end of the 3rd set that he finally decided that he was going to fight to defend his title. But that is, again, not Rafa's fault if Roger didn't play his best against him. Bottom line - Rafa played out of his mind, and deserved to win.

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 05:41 PM

7.8.2008 -

We had to wait 13 days and in return we got the greatest tennis match ever played—bar none. On top of that it was the most dramatic sporting event I’ve ever witnessed. In the third and four sets Fed fought his way up off the canvas like a true heavyweight that didn’t want to surrender his belt. Nadal had the finish line in his sights in the fourth set tie-break when he was serving with a 5-2 lead, but instead of putting the pedal he let up on the gas and double faulted. Fed seized the opportunity and clawed his way back into the match forcing a deciding fifth set. That fourth set was the best tennis I've ever seen and set the table for the dramatic close to the contest. At the start of the final set I thought Ralph was done, but he came out swinging and fought his way off the ropes and delivered the knock out punch breaking Fed at seven games all in the fifth…When it was all over I had to take a 17 minute walk by myself to let what I had just experience settle in. The place was still a buzz and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still buzzing…For those who missed it ESPN Classic is re-airing the match this week.

Posted by Chris 07/09/2008 at 05:43 PM

This was a very close and obviously devastating loss for Roger on his beloved grass at his beloved favorite and most important, prestigious tournament in the world which he had won 5 straight years and very nearly 6.

How will he handle this? He's never had to before since 2003, before he won his 1st GS and before he became World #1 for the first time.

Posted by 07/09/2008 at 05:44 PM

WEDNESDAY, JULY 9 - The USTA will discontinue its use of Justin Gimelstob in its Olympus US Open Series TV ad campaign, Inside Tennis and has learned. “Gimelstob’s recent comments on a Washington DC radio program were derogatory and meaning to female players and to women in general,” the USTA said in a statement. “The USTA has long championed integrity, inclusiveness and equality, and cannot ignore such harmful remarks More than any other sport, tennis has benefited from the pioneering role and achievements of so many woman.”
The USTA went onto say that it has met with Gimelstob, who expressed deep remorse. Sports Illustrated has also stopped using Gimelstob as a blogger.

Posted by Lo Svizzero 07/09/2008 at 05:44 PM

Even Bodo says he thinks Federer is going to come back roaring to win everything there is left to win this year meaning Toronto, Cincinnati, Olypics, US Open, Stockholm, Madrid, Basel, Paris Bercy and Shanghai and to be honest I would be surprised to the extreme if Federer did not win the US Open blowing away everyone that crosses his path, the surface is just faster than Wimbledon and plays even more to Federer's strenghts than the grass itself, I would even make a case of Federer feeling more at home at the Deco Turf II than on the lawns of the All England club.

Here is to 5th consecutive US Open title!

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