Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Extraordinary Age
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The Extraordinary Age 07/12/2010 - 2:52 PM

Rn There are many perverse elements to the tennis season. We know them well: It’s too long, it starts too early, and in the end, rather than rising to a crescendo, it fizzles into obscurity. But what seems strangest to me at the moment is how, despite that meandering length, the core of the year remains so compressed. The tournaments that will largely define 2010 in the future, Wimbledon and the French Open, came and went, as they always do, in six short weeks. Right now it feels as if the year’s results were decided at one long Paris-to-London, clay-to-grass super-event. 

So let’s take a moment and look at what happened on the men’s side during that time. Unlike in the women’s game, a definitive change took place at the top of the ATP. Roger Federer went to Paris as the No. 1 player in the world and defending champion at both the French Open and Wimbledon. He left London ranked No. 3, and lost in the quarters at both tournaments. Rafael Nadal went in ranked No. 2, with virtually nothing to defend. He came out with both titles and the No. 1 spot likely secured for the rest of the season.

This flip-flop at the top has a couple of noteworthy aspects to it. First, the Channel Slam—the French-Wimbledon double—has suddenly been rendered routine. Before 2008, it had been considered one of the Holy Grails of the men’s game, a feat only the immortals of old were capable of pulling off. The last player to do it had been Bjorn Borg, who won the French and Wimbledon back to back from 1978 to ’80. As the years went by and no one managed to match Borg even one time, his triple-double grew to mythic proportions—“How did he possibly do that?” was all we could ask after a while. Now it’s been done three straight times again: Nadal in 2008, Federer in ’09, and Nadal in 2010.

On the one hand, the improved grass at Wimbledon has played a role in making this possible. The jump from slow clay to slick, unpredictable turf is not as extreme as it was in Borg’s day. Players no longer have to develop their games in one direction or the other, the way Pete Sampras did; you can succeed on both surfaces with the same power-baseline style. Still, the fact that two guys have done it in such rapid succession, after such a long dry spell, can’t merely be chalked up to a better brand of grass. To me, their Channel Slams are an example of the extraordinary moment we’re witnessing in tennis. 

We have a male player, Federer, who has won 16 majors and been touted as the best player, both from a statistical and an aesthetic standpoint, in history. Federer, for good measure, just went six years without losing before the semis at a Slam. We have another man, Nadal, who is likely the best clay-court player ever; he won a record 81-straight matches on the stuff, and has won five French Opens in six tries. Together Federer and Nadal have locked up the No. 1 and 2 spots for longer than any other pair of men, and, even more remarkably, they've won 20 of the last 22 majors. Beyond their rivalry, in the last year we’ve seen Ivo Karlovic hit a then-unthinkable 78 aces, only to have that record shattered a few months later, by two players, in a single match that lasted five hours longer than any in history. You might say all of this is just part of the evolution of the sport, and that records are made to be broken. But you would also have to say that any of the numbers above, taken separately, would be considered outliers. Put them together and it’s clear we’re seeing something special.

The other noteworthy element to this year’s Channel Slam is that Nadal won both of them in fairly similar fashion, while Federer lost at both of them in very similar fashion. Nadal has never been more versatile. He won tactically (the Wimbledon final). He won with raw consistency and speed (the French Open final). He won by taking it straight at his bigger-hitting opponent (against Soderling at Wimbledon). Overall, it appeared that he didn’t believe he could lose, and that’s a mindset that’s closer to Federer’s in his prime than it is to Nadal’s own normal way of looking at his game. It’s clear that Nadal has reached some kind of peak. It's not every day that you get to bite the World Cup.

Two questions emerge: Is Nadal the new Federer? And if so, can he catch his major-title count? I’ll start by acknowledging that neither of these is in any way answerable, or even semi-predictable. One thing we know about Nadal is that he has typically peaked around this time in a season, and that he gradually falls off from here. Up to this point, he has also lacked Federer’s ability to cruise into the semis at Slams. It’s harder work for Rafa all around, and he’s never gotten as many free points with his serve as Federer has. He’ll need to change some part of that equation if he wants to own the sport the way his rival has. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. In 2005, it would have been difficult to imagine Nadal ever winning a Wimbledon final, let alone winning one without being broken.

As for Federer, we know that he has recovered from a defeat at Wimbledon in 2008 and come back to win the next Slam, the U.S. Open. We’ll know more after this Open, and at the end of the year, about whether these patterns are ready to be broken, and new ones more favorable to Nadal put in place. I’d be surprised to see Rafa dip precipitously this time, and I'd also be surprised if Federer doesn’t revive himself and play better tennis in the second half of the year. Losing to guys he’s owned for years should provide some of the motivation that may have been missing after his record-breaking 2009.

Will it be enough for Federer to significantly add to his Slam total over the next few years, and put it out of reach of Nadal? Federer has said he’ll play at least until the 2012 London Olympics, and likely beyond. He’ll be 31 that summer, which means he could potentially play for three or four years after that. A lot will depend on his status in the game at that point. If he’s a perennial quarterfinalist, overpowered by the big men on a regular basis, I don’t see him sticking around for long; it would be tough for someone of his stature to swallow. But I also don’t see his game dropping off as quickly as Sampras’ did after 30, or Edberg’s did in his late 20s. The only player who has, as of this moment, surpassed him is Nadal. Murray and Djokovic have been treading water, del Potro seems to be fragile, and while Soderling and Berdych have beaten Federer, they’re not marching past him in the rankings anytime soon. There’s also no teenager on the horizon who appears ready to blow the whole thing up. I'd say Federer will win between one and five more majors. It's hard to be more specific than that, but for the sake of this article, I’ll guess that, barring serious injury, he'll retire with 19 Slams.

Can Nadal get to 19? It’s seems unlikely that, at 24, he has 11 more majors in him. OK, can he get to 16? Federer turned 24 one month after Wimbledon in 2005. Notice that that tournament represented a peak moment for him as well; Federer blitzed Andy Roddick in the most one-sided of his Wimbledon final wins (he would play Nadal in that round for the first time in '06). It’s hard to believe, but that was only Federer’s fifth major title. From that point until the beginning of 2008, from ages 24 to 26, he would go on a serious tear, one that no one had seen since Borg’s glory years of ’78 to ’80. Federer won seven of nine majors and vaulted into contention for Sampras’ Slam record.

Nadal, who is ahead of Federer’s pace by three at the moment, doesn’t need to match that run. Which is a good thing, because it’s borderline-unmatchable, even for a normal, clear-cut No. 1. Nadal is virtually assured of winning more French Opens—I’ll say three more; if that seems conservative for a guy who’s lost one match there in his career, it’s only because he’s made winning in Paris look easier than it is, and easier than it’s going to be even for him in the future. With the other Slams, it’s harder to say. Based on his past results, which have until now been more up-and-down than dominant, I’d give him two more each in Australia and at Wimbledon, and two at the U.S. Open. That brings Nadal to a total of 17. Somehow that number seems high when you put all the Slams together—can the guy really win nine more? It took him five years to win the eight that he has. But individually, 3, 2, 2, 2 sounds reasonable for his future at 24, doesn't it? And like I said, all bars have been raised in this era.

Recurring knee injuries could make this number much lower; we’ve always said Nadal's style was hard on him, and it’s already robbed him of potential major titles. But so far it hasn’t sidelined him for an extended period. He keeps getting back up, and I’d expect this pattern to continue. At the same time, Nadal could be entering a period of Federer-like, two-Slams-per-season period of dominance, which would make his career total higher. Whatever his final number, I think it will be lower than Federer’s final number. No matter how young he is, eight is going to be a tough number to erase.

Judging from the past, the one thing we can count on from Federer and Nadal is that the guy who is being counted out is the guy we need to watch out for. In July 2010, that guy is Federer. In the race for Grand Slam supremacy, it’s Nadal. If they’ve taught us anything, it’s to look forward to the extraordinary.

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Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 03:46 PM crap and arse are allowed words here and not G-D? Strange are the ways of TW...

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/13/2010 at 03:52 PM


I believe that geelis is making fairly strong arguments, and at least s/he is expending some time time and effort on them.

I suspect that the rackets/strings used today versus yesteryear probably would be a factor in the validity of the arguments.

Posted by ks 07/13/2010 at 03:57 PM

Another interesting stat is that Nadal is 3rd when it comes to percentage of service games won which is probably the more important stat than the percentage of actual points won per se on 1st or 2nd serve as in the end one has to win a game (leads to a set etc.)
Of course, tie breaker is different.

In this list, Nadal is behind Karlovic and Roddick, but ahead of Federer who is in the 4th position.

Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 03:59 PM

I was just joking, CL. :) I'm not getting in the middle of this one. The only part I get is that yeah, Rafa had to pull out of Wimbledon and some other stuff over the years because of the knees. Everyone knows there's an issue there. It's pretty obvious. And yes, Roger's back is an issue, but nobody here knows to what degree. I guess if Roger had retired against Berdy because of his back, things would be equalized a bit. :) Just kidding.

But I don't want to rehash the same old zombies over and over and over. In that sense, I don't understand why Pete chose to write about that now. Just more server space eaten up by stuff we're already written and read the past couple weeks.

Geelis, sorry, mate. I guess we're just after different things. We've had GOAT discussions here that last for DAYS, with X's and O's being spewed forth by the thousands. And in the end (no, not the love you take is equal to the love you make), we were at the exact spot we started, with nobody convinced of anything different.

In short, I could care less about X's and O's. :) I like the eyeball test. And mine tell me that Martina and Steffi could more than hold their own. Sorry, but that's what you're stuck with from me.

Posted by AB 07/13/2010 at 04:00 PM

I think TeamNadal should stop posting photoshopped morphed pics and start compiling actual video files of matches, edited to show how the GOATs would play against one another.

C'mon, how hard can that be? Let's take a Graf or Navritalova GS final and edit Serena in. We can compare movement, speed, power and shots.

Fed v Laver

Rafa v Borg

Surely we have some time-on-their-hands computer geeks who could whip up one of these dream match ups.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 07/13/2010 at 04:01 PM

ks, thanks for the stats.

So I was right about Feerer having the bst second serve in the game. Actually, it's the best (or second best, as your stats indicate) winning percentage on second serve; but that's close enough for me, for how else do we judge these things? As for the first serve winning percentages, while RNadal's is somewhat lower than Federer's (3 percentage points according to the stats that you cite), I contend that for Rafa, it doesn't matter that he has to earn the point. In fact, it may well play into Nadal's mental game that his serve produces a return that he can then begin dictating play from. Every time an opponent returns a ball that Nadal can seize the advantage on is a return that that opponent wishes he'd returned differently - done more with. Over the long haul, that can cause a player to press, to go for too much, or to simply collapse under the pressure.

Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 04:04 PM


Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 04:06 PM

No Goats, No Glory...

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 07/13/2010 at 04:07 PM

Sherlock - I will send you Fed's blood work re his mono forthwith!

TMFunk - Here at Steve's this is, I believe, an unmoderated board, whereas over at TW, it is moderated, and very capably too. So i THINK you will find some differences in what you can and can't say. If Steve's board gets too over the top, they just shut it down for a while, whilst trolls, bashers, blasphemers and those unduly fond of profanity go some where else.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 07/13/2010 at 04:09 PM

BTW - where is Pspace? I hope he isn't too upset about all that unmanly manly man cryin' happening in Minionville and the Regency.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 04:13 PM

Thanks CL. They actually shut it down if it gets too unruly? Thats pretty tight moderating, and welcomes, personally.

TeamNadal - I think you should take up AB's suggestion. Take your immense talents to the next level :)

Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 04:14 PM

I think I've mentioned this before, but I can't take credit for those photoshopped pics....I find them from other sources!!!!!!

Posted by Sherlock 07/13/2010 at 04:16 PM

TMFunk, just so you know, if people start agreeing with CL too much, that's another reason for shutting down the site. :)

LL, how's the rum? :)

Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 04:19 PM

ok, last one....Dinara and Marat in "The Shining"

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/13/2010 at 04:23 PM

Geellis Hmm I just read you post to me regarding Margaret Court?

I beg your pardon.Honestly.

Oh I see she was a part of that "weak era"??? LOL!

With all due respect please get your facts straight.If you are implying in any way shape or form her 62 GS titles were earnt in a Mickey Mouse fashion cause please go and look up her on Wika Peda.Most tennis experts hold Margaret in the highest esteem what she achieved in her great career.

I am from Australia and am very proud of her.Next thing you will be telling be that Rod Laver was in a "weak era" LOL!

Also another fact with Margaret she was the 2nd person in the history of the game to win all four majors though I guess according to you that means nothing.She was left handed but chose to play right.She also stated that she could have one more titles if she had played left handed.

For you to de mean her outstanding records which today have not been beaten,.for me as a tennis fan of more that 40 years is just not in my way of thinking.

Posted by ks 07/13/2010 at 04:43 PM


Sure, it also depends on how one infers the stats. I feel that a high winning percentage on second serve may reflect on the quality of the serve and also reflect on the quality of the concerned player's overall ability to win a point. Nadal wins 59% on 2nd serve points.

Federer has almost double the number of aces that Nadal has. Assuming that most of them are on the first serve, it can be assumed that in Federer's case a greater amount of returns are NOT put in play by his opponent. Yet when we look at the percentage of game won , Nadal is pretty close.

If Nadal were to win more free points on serve, it might mean less effort spent on his part and of course winning more points.

Posted by AB 07/13/2010 at 04:53 PM

S-n-D, ks: fun with stats...

Points won stat doesn't extract the value of Nadal's forcing oppos to play more balls. As commies have noted many times, Nadal's defense and defense-to-offense is as wearing as the work that he puts on all his balls. So, if he loses a couple of points on his serve, he effectively makes the oppo work hard, which always favors his stamina and strength.

As has also been said before, why do his oppos not complain about his "time wasting?" They are happy to catch their breath between points. That's pretty obvious watching his matches. He takes their legs out. Agassi did this too, but in a different way.

Haase, PP and Sod were done after 3 sets. Murray could have gone longer and might have been dangerous, but Rafa shut him down. Berdych never played 7 matches before. He had only the slimmest of chances to beat Rafa in that final.

Rafa's GS final stats are pretty impressive. Oh wait, it's because of the weak era, right?

Posted by Steve 07/13/2010 at 04:58 PM

slice, nadal's serve has improved, but as ks says here, federer has more aces and total unreturnables. nadal holds because of his overall skill, but he can't rely on a heater when he's down break point. he plays a more labor intensive game all around.

makes me think the decisive shot in the men's game isn't the serve right now, but the forehand. that's what sets players apart at the top

wow, bodo is getting ripped here for a post from another site. the guy has still got it

Posted by Tari 07/13/2010 at 05:01 PM

Oh, holy named that's banned. I don't have the strength. But...what CL said. *hand CL a well-deserved martini* *mixes one up for own self* :)

Posted by ks 07/13/2010 at 05:02 PM

Of course points won on serve does not reflect the value of what Nadal does to his opponents - and at the same time on his own endurance/health.

The other point being - each time a return is made, the opponent atleast gives himself a semblance of a chance to win the point. Sure it depends on the return, and on the server's ability to turn a neutral position into an advantageous one.

Coming back to the original point of this discussion, I believe in general it can be stated that winning one's own serve more easily provides for more breathing room on your opponent' one.

Posted by Gee 07/13/2010 at 05:03 PM

Federer is no Nadal. Federer is an average player, he was lucky to have had his time with few real threat.

For example, Federer record against Nadal and Murry is dismal. It is possible that Federer is the luckiest Tennis player in the history of Tennis.

Gee & Gee

Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 05:04 PM

Sherlock - the rum is free flowing just like Dustin's hair, especially when mixed with orange juice, a dash of clear soda and free floating strawberries. My friends and I actually embibe in this particular spirit quite often when camping. It's called Joe Juice (not very orginal as you can imagine a guy named Joe made it up), but what makes it special is he stirs it with his finger. ARRGGHH!!


Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 05:06 PM

"but what makes it special is he stirs it with his finger. ARRGGHH!!"


Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/13/2010 at 05:07 PM

LOL, AB at 2.14, I think I probably drove a lot of people insane with all the frazzling. Particular apologies to Andrew. :) It's a nice thought that perhaps it went to some use in animating "Rafastein".

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 07/13/2010 at 05:12 PM

TMFunk- yup...that's just here Steve's. At Pete's TW, you will just get your ass moderated and, should you persist in questionable behavior, get banned either for a 'time out' period or permanently. All the moderators are scrupulously fair, but/and they NEVER reveal their secret ruminations. I bit like the pope...smoke rises and 'ppof', someone is gone...or returns. If you ever have an issue with a moderator at TW, which I deem unlikely as you seem entirely to sensible and level headed, you e-mail them directly. They don't discuss stuff in 'public.' (Though if you spot a post that you think is objectionable, you can draw their attention to it. Obviously they miss some stuff.)

Oh, I dunno Sherlock...maybe I'll just settle in here? Of course it will be overrun by trolls and loonies eventually, and no mods for clean up duty. but at the moment the company (CEO ) seems better. :-)

Posted by lilscot 07/13/2010 at 05:16 PM

TheMightyFunk: 3:43 p.m.


Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 05:19 PM

Team Nadal - it's not that bad. And gross says the person that posted that Fed picture earlier? ;)


Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 07/13/2010 at 05:19 PM

hmm.."I bit like the pope" sounds like something that could get you banned from LOTS of different places. Typo amnesty please. Maybe even a typo 'indulgence.'

I do believe what I MEANT to write as "'A' bit like the pope."

Posted by TeamNadal 07/13/2010 at 05:20 PM

LL - just wondering where that finger has been!!! :)

Posted by Lucius the Luscious (Head Cheerleader - Team Dark Side) 07/13/2010 at 05:23 PM

Team Nadal - ahhhhh, yes, the mysteries of life. It's a pyrate's life for me! ;)


Posted by Andrew 07/13/2010 at 05:29 PM

Steve: re your 4:58pm - I have it on good authority that has had to backorder Pete voodoo dolls - they're apparently more popular than IPads, for some reason.

I'd write more, but for the twinges in my typing fingers... :-)

Posted by Steve 07/13/2010 at 05:36 PM

pete should start making those dolls himself, with an orange huntin' cap.

i liked the post, if for nothing other than the mental picture of nadal and federer at denny's.

Posted by camelot is about to end 07/13/2010 at 05:39 PM

It's irrelevant if Peter Bodo or anyone else has a double standard. It's also irrelevant to bring up Federer. Forget Federer. His era is over anyway. What is important is that there is about an 85% chance that the entire sport of tennis is being permanently tainted because its best player is cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs. The sports journalists who should investigate this know that their jobs depend on the popularity of tennis, which would take a huge hit if Nadal was outed. Other players who know are probably terrified to speak up because of the titanic backlash that would ensue.

The Nadal's comments about Rafael's physique, physical condition, etc. are all over the map. Toni said that he does hardly any resistance training (which would guarantee his physique is not natural) but later said that a local PE coach (!?!) came up with a special secret resistance training regimen for Nadal. So which is it, no training, or the secret PE-teacher training? And why aren't all the athletes of the world beating a path to that PE teacher's door?

We were told that Nadal had knee trouble during the clay season, necessitating the secret injections. Then he rushed over to England after the FO, practiced in the rain, played Queens, briefly re-embraced his knee troubles to throw off Petzschner's serve, then stormed to the title. So which is it, severe chronic patellar tendinitis, or two straight months of effortless play in a manic cycle to win 7,000 ranking points, after having not won a tournament in nearly a year?

Posted by Steve 07/13/2010 at 05:53 PM

camelot, we know what you think. give it a rest

Posted by Andrew 07/13/2010 at 05:56 PM

Steve: I did once literally bump into Nadal at the Beer Hunter during IW 2008 - maybe Federer had decided that was his night for TexMex.

Posted by lilscot 07/13/2010 at 05:58 PM

Man, I sure wish camelot was about to end! Listen, I was going to just scroll by you as usual, but I had to say just one thing. If you're going to run around like Chicken Little screaming about steroids you had better offer up some proof or evidence other than just your own opinions. These are serious allegations you are constantly making, and borderling slanderous. For example, where do you get the figure 85%? Or any kind of investigative evidence would suffice. You keep calling on the journalists to uncover this scoop, but what about yourself? You're the one throwing around the accusations.

So, put up or shut up because the rest of us live in the real world, not some fantasy world out of an old fable like camelot.

Posted by lilscot 07/13/2010 at 06:01 PM

And if your paranoi about performance-enhancing drugs is so severe and full of vitriol why do you even watch tennis? Maybe lawn bowling would be a better event for you to partake in.

Posted by AB 07/13/2010 at 06:03 PM

...but I don't think that stats tell you how easily you're holding serve. The unique scoring system of tennis doesn't allow you to make assumptions that easily.

Let's say you serve 3 aces the first 3 points in your service game. You get taken to deuce and fight for another 10 minutes to hold serve, coming up with, 5 more aces, but never at AD-IN.

Nadal's BP save ratio is superb this year, and I guess Roger would argue, every time he's lost to him. Does Rafa's low-ish Ace count mean he had to work "extra-hard" to hold? He could serve 2 unreturnables at BP at not do much running at all.

The scoring system skews the ability to extrapolate energy expenditure so neatly.

Posted by Ty 07/13/2010 at 06:06 PM

Not a chance. Fed will win a few more slams and Rafa's style of tennis is way to demanding to stay healthy for long periods of time.

Posted by Steve 07/13/2010 at 06:10 PM

used to see federer and mirka at a little ice cream place near indian wells. you gotta take what you can get out there.

Posted by Tari 07/13/2010 at 06:24 PM

Aww, come on. I think if you call some of your critics "foaming at the mouth", you are, maybe, just mayyyyyybe, ever so slightly...proving their point. ;-)

No voodoo dolls here. I like Pete. I think we should stay at twenty paces about the man who is most definitely the GHOAT, but I like him bunches. =)

And Steve, I liked this piece. It really will be interesting what happens if Roger kind of falls away. I have no clue if Nadal can maintain that kind of dominance. Obviously, I hope not. Besides Roger, my rooting interests have mostly been the underdogs. I'd like the various underdogs I'm supposing are going to be in my future to have a snowball's chance. I'd love it if Del Potro could come back and take a few more Slams, too.

We gonna see, I guess.

Posted by patricia 07/13/2010 at 07:22 PM

23 consecutive GS or better is the most amazing accomplishement any tennis player could have...and we know who that is....ask rafa and he'll answer the same...

Posted by Kwaku 07/13/2010 at 07:32 PM

"Steve 07/13/2010 at 04:58 PM
makes me think the decisive shot in the men's game isn't the serve right now, but the forehand. that's what sets players apart at the top"

I think that was after inspection of stats like %1st serve won, 2nd, etc.
But it is difficult to infer it from such stats.

Bodo says that the serve is the most important shot because it's the only one your opponent can do nothing about --you're on your own. But his "reason" is pseudo logic. Both things actually have nothing to do: if the rules of tennis made it just a point starter (e.g. with smaller service boxes located further behind and/or no more than 150km/h allowed), there would be no aces, no cheap points thanks to serve, but it would still be the only shot you do on your own. Hence, nothing to do with that.

I say you only use serve about 1/2 of points, and only once, but fh and bh in most of the points, and typically more than once. So serve should not be so important as those.

Furthermore, think of truly dominating number ones without a huge serve. At least one exists: Nadal. Truly dominating number one without a big flat/topspin bh... At least one exists: Graff. Even Sampras and, to a lesser extent, Fed. But truly dominating number ones without a huge forehand? I can't think of any.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 07/13/2010 at 07:36 PM

Steve/Andrew - you reap what you sow..vodoo dolls, no extra charge.

Sorry - gotta run to the vet's...late for my next shot. Don't want to endanger anyone with all that foamin'.

Posted by Corrie 07/13/2010 at 07:39 PM

"As for fair play, it's less about Rafael Nadal's character than TONI Nadal's character, and Toni designed his nephew to win at all costs."

Now this is something i can agree with. Uncle Toni is a fascinating character and the brains behind the Nadal enterprise. Of course he has designed Nadal to win at all costs. So what? We're talking modern sports here, with massive money involved, not some genteel tennis game in a 19th century manor house.

Nadal fans seem to get offended that he uses all these gamesmanship tricks. They shouldn't be. They should be greatful Rafael has a brilliant Uncle T behind him who has imbued him from an early age to have a fierce will to win and to do whatever it takes. Fed fans should gnash their teeth that he has no Uncle T behind him nor the same fierce will to win.

Posted by Tari 07/13/2010 at 07:50 PM

I don't know, Corrie. I see your point, but it's hard to gnash my teeth about Roger's will to win. Maybe vs. Nadal. Yeah. I'd like to borrow an Uncle Toni for him for those matches, but overall, nah.

Posted by Tari 07/13/2010 at 07:59 PM

Actually, I'd really liked to have borrowed an Uncle Vito. Hehe. I kid.

Posted by Kwaku 07/13/2010 at 08:01 PM

Winning at any cost is nothing to be proud of. You have to win fairly, respecting the rules and your opponents. Which of course Nadal does.
Sometimes human mind looks for "inventive" explanations of reality which are plain wrong.
The posts of some Fed fans unable to accept or understand Nadal's true greatness often make me laugh. They look like poor creatures disoriented about the meaning of a world full of evil and without justice (remember Obama and international terrorism?).
But things are sometimes simple if you remove your own demons and nonsense. Rafa gets great results because he is an all-time great. He will never give a positive because he is clean. He sounds like a basically good and humble person (not a saint) because he is.

Posted by Kwaku 07/13/2010 at 08:02 PM

Winning at any cost is nothing to be proud of. You have to win fairly, respecting the rules and your opponents. Which of course Nadal does.
Sometimes human mind looks for "inventive" explanations of reality which are plain wrong.
The posts of some Fed fans unable to accept or understand Nadal's true greatness often make me laugh. They look like poor creatures disoriented about the meaning of a world full of evil and without justice (remember Obama and international terrorism?).
But things are sometimes simple if you remove your own demons and nonsense. Rafa gets great results because he is an all-time great. He will never give a positive because he is clean. He sounds like a basically good and humble person (not a saint) because he is.

Posted by Kwaku 07/13/2010 at 08:02 PM

Winning at any cost is nothing to be proud of. You have to win fairly, respecting the rules and your opponents. Which of course Nadal does.
Sometimes human mind looks for "inventive" explanations of reality which are plain wrong.
The posts of some Fed fans unable to accept or understand Nadal's true greatness often make me laugh. They look like poor creatures disoriented about the meaning of a world full of evil and without justice (remember Obama and international terrorism?).
But things are sometimes simple if you remove your own demons and nonsense. Rafa gets great results because he is an all-time great. He will never give a positive because he is clean. He sounds like a basically good and humble person (not a saint) because he is.

Posted by Purcell 07/13/2010 at 08:04 PM

Sharon: so, I see from your post that you're a Nadal fan. So far so good. But what if Nadal ends up with more slams than Roger-even one? Also, has it occurred to you that you are demeaning the achievements of the many players who have worked hard to win slams?
Yes there are plenty of other ways of comparing players, (and I'm avoiding the GOAT and greatest terms) and proper tennis fans will make up their minds in regard to whom they prefer/support using a selection of criteria. We just don't need this not so subtle dig at Fed's legacy to help us on our way. Thank you.

Posted by John P 07/13/2010 at 08:06 PM

Hi All,

The following is text of an article I submitted for publication to my local newspaper in advance of this year's Wimbledon...........along the theme of this thread's discussion....

Nadal’s Resurgence Revitalizes Tennis’ Greatest Rivalry in Time for Wimbledon

Tennis’ greatest rivalry is back on the front burner in time for Wimbledon, which begins June 21. Rafael Nadal’s recent French Open victory capped a 12-month period in which doubts surfaced concerning his legacy, and in which Roger Federer, Nadal’s arch-rival, conquered any doubts about his. Tennis fans eagerly anticipate Wimbledon 2010 hoping Federer and Nadal can compose another chapter in their incredible rivalry. At a time when too many sporting heroes have been tarnished in one way or another, Federer and Nadal continue to exemplify what professionalism is all about.

Their 2008 Wimbledon final, considered by many the greatest tennis match ever played, included terrific sportsmanship in addition to its quality and drama. Sports Illustrated author Jon Wertheim said, “…it was a five-hour infomercial about everything that is right with the sport—a festive display of grace, strength, speed, shotmaking, and sportsmanship that crackled with electricity.” The event represented a nexus in the Nadal-Federer rivalry, a point at which their respective career trajectories intersected, with Nadal dethroning the Wimbledon champ and a few months later taking his #1 ranking.
Perhaps, however, the shining moment of their rivalry came at the 2009 Australian Open. Nadal and Federer produced tennis worthy to represent any rivalry, with Nadal winning in five sets. Although not as dramatic as the Wimbledon final, many fans remember the post-match trophy presentation during which Federer broke down while addressing the crowd. Nadal applauded along with everyone else the broken champion, who desperately wanted this victory to tie the men’s record of 14 major championships. A gracious and empathetic Nadal, one arm cradling the trophy, then consoled his rival, revealing his worth as a champion.

Above the players’ entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon reads Rudyard Kipling’s famous “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same...” Not all who have represented the sport on its greatest stages have embodied that sentiment. Nadal and Federer, however, epitomize it, composing their own poetry whenever they meet. They have carved without question the greatest rivalry of the past decade and arguably the greatest rivalry in tennis history. They have met seven times in Grand Slam finals, Nadal owning a 5-2 edge. Nadal has won 14 of their 21 head-to-head matches overall. As an indication of how they have collectively dominated the sport since 2005, either Federer or Nadal has won 19 of the past 21 Grand Slam events.

With victory in Australia, Nadal had become the undisputed best player in the world, and had beaten Federer in three of the last four Grand Slam finals. What had looked inevitable – Federer breaking Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles – became doubtful.

In a sense, the rivalry has come full circle since that day in Australia in February 2009. Nadal followed up victory in Australia with his annual rampage through the clay-court season, and was considered a lock to win his fifth straight French Open title.
Then came the 2009 French Open, a tournament that will be remembered for the cementing of Federer’s legacy and for the end of Nadal’s dominance, albeit temporarily, on clay. Federer had his elusive French Open title, thus tying Sampras' record, and soon would regain the number one ranking. Federer was Federer again – or was this a new Federer? Nadal, injured, then watched Federer, no longer burdened by the weight of history, win Wimbledon for the sixth time to break Sampras’ record. Federer extended his record to 16 Grand Slam titles by winning the Australian Open to begin 2010.

On the verge of Wimbledon 2010, Federer hasn’t won a tournament since, and Nadal, by winning the French earlier this month, has regained the number one ranking. Nadal appears to be Nadal again, having recovered from the injuries and his parents’ divorce that affected him during the past 12 months. Or is this a new Nadal, armed with the wisdom only experience can bring, evidenced by his decision to pace himself by playing less? As for Federer, he’s proven his doubters wrong before. One thing is certain: Federer and Nadal embody Kipling’s words wherever, whenever they play.

Federer’s genius inevitably will fade, and Nadal’s rough style of play predisposes him to physical breakdown. With challengers Andy Roddick and Andy Murray closer than ever to an elusive Wimbledon title, is it asking too much that Nadal and Federer pass beneath Kipling’s words for the fourth time in five years on the final Sunday at Wimbledon? Perhaps not. They have proven capable of exceeding expectations.

Nadal and Federer, while possessing all the hallmarks of a great rivalry, have added a unique element of mutual grace to rivalry. Although familiarity can breed contempt, tennis fans would be happy to see Nadal-Federer XXII in the final of Wimbledon 2010.
In an era in which many athlete role models have disappointed – their accomplishments tarnished by performance-enhancing drugs or their characters tainted by their infidelity or brushes with the law – Nadal and Federer have raised the level of their sport and have upheld a standard of sportsmanship. Give tennis’ contemporary heroes a look. You may just find a sport worth watching not only for the skill, heart, and mental toughness of its best, but also for the grace its heroes display.

Posted by SlamChannel 07/13/2010 at 08:06 PM

Interesting how some people seem to think they know so much about Toni Nadal. I wonder where they get their facts, honestly.
Anyone who knows anything about the relationship between Nadal and his uncle knows that Toni instilled in his nephew the will to do his best but understand and accept defeat always.

Posted by ChannelSlam 07/13/2010 at 08:08 PM

LOL! I just realized I inverted my moniker.

Posted by Kwaku 07/13/2010 at 08:09 PM

Sorry for triple post. My present Internet access is totally unfriendly.

Posted by Purcell 07/13/2010 at 08:11 PM

So where do these people ' who know anything about the relationship between Nadal and his uncle...............' get their facts?

Posted by ChannelSlam 07/13/2010 at 08:13 PM

I know both of them and followed young Nadal's career when living in Spain.

Posted by ChannelSlam 07/13/2010 at 08:14 PM

Obviously something is wrong with me.
My last post was addressed to Purcell and meant to say first that my moniker is really ChannelSlam.

Posted by Tari 07/13/2010 at 08:15 PM

Kwaku, not sure who you're talking about. Hoping it's not people like me. I don't care for Nadal. I doubt if I'll ever be a fan, but I suppose it could happen one day. Simply a matter of taste for me, along with the rivalry over the years with Fed. Doesn't mean I don't accept and respect his greatness.

Posted by Kwaku 07/13/2010 at 08:18 PM

JohnP, I think that was a good piece for a broad public. Well done.

Posted by Corrie 07/13/2010 at 08:21 PM

Slam channel, I agree that part of instilling the will to win is the ability to accept defeat. Of course they go together. There's plenty of interesting info around on Toni. And for easy access there's also Wertheim's book, which mentions Toni's intelligence and multifarious interests, and the sporting code the Nadals are imbued with. Toni is one of the few characters in tennis who have interests beyond the court.

I can't understand how people expect these modern athletes who are playing for massive amounts of money, not to do everything it takes to win, especially when the rules are so fuzzy and variable in enforcement. Tennis is a lot of fun but there's no need to get too starry eyed about it.

When Federer crumbled in the fifth sets against Nadal's implacable will in AO09 and Wimby 08 I bet Fed fans would have taken Uncle T's instilling package, warts and all, like a shot.

Posted by yesyourright 07/13/2010 at 08:23 PM

Camelot is making a lot of views is that...Nadal actually got pinched in some test for using steroids but the atp decide not to tell.....just like Andre crystalmeth issues........The ATP never released the result...covering for Agassi....

Nadal has to be doping...look at his shape....Camelot is bringing interesting views on the manner...

and for those who always uses ages as a factor for Nadal future Goat status...let me remind you some stats...

best ratio at Slams

Federer 16 titles out of 45 slams....35.6%

Nadal 8 titles out of 25 slams 32%

Grand slam titles on successive years

1 year Rod laver 4 1969
2 year Federer 6 2006-2007
3 year Federer 8 2005-2007
4year Federer 11 2004-2007
5 year Federer 12 2003 -2007 Nadal 8
6 year Federer 14 2004-2009
7 year Federer 15 2003-2009
8 year Federer 16 2003-2010

Titles By age

1 titles Michael chang 17 years old
2 titles Boris Becker 18 years old
3 and 4 titles Mats Wilander 20 years old
5 and 6 tiltles Bjorn Bjorg 22 years old
7 and 8 titles Bjorn Bjorg 23 years old
9 and 10 titles Bjorn Bjorg 24 years old
11 titles Bjorn Bjorg 25 years old
12 titles Federer 26 years old
15 tiltes Federer 27 years old
16 titles Federer 28 years old

Posted by JBOMBSILVER 07/13/2010 at 08:24 PM

Five more majors for Roger seems like a stretch. Nine for Rafa also seems like a lot. You've also got to take into account the rise of Grigor Dimitrov. He's going to be an animal.

Posted by Tari 07/13/2010 at 08:26 PM

Corrie, Roger has actually won some matches against Nadal. Did Nadal crumble then? And really, I was kidding about Toni. I really don't have a gripe with Roger's play over the many, many years I've had the pleasure to watch him play. I don't buy into the idea that Nadal's wins diminish Roger in any way. He had a player that he struggled against over the many years he dominated the sport. That same player became No. 1 in the world. So, not too shabby.

Posted by Kwaku 07/13/2010 at 08:26 PM

Tari, of course I'm not talking about you.

Posted by ChannelSlam 07/13/2010 at 08:27 PM

I may be mistaken so feel free to correct me, but I thought you implied it was Toni Nadal who taught Rafael Nadal to use gamesmanship to win 'at all cost' and I was objecting and wondering where you got that from.

Posted by Tari 07/13/2010 at 08:28 PM

Kwaku: Whew. =) I never want to come across like that. It's just not how I feel.

Posted by antoinette 07/13/2010 at 08:33 PM

@ Corrie

Interesting perspective you have call loosing 9-7 in the 5th set crumbling??

Nadal's implacable will to win is legendary, it is wonder he ever loses a match. Oh I forgot the only time he loses is when he is tired or injured or the opponent doesn't crumble as Roger is wont to do. A good thing for Roger that the other players are even more crumbly than him or else goodness knows how he would ever have won a title let alone the 700+ matches he has won.

I wish we could get past this simplistic and shallow characterisaton of both Federer and Nadal.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/13/2010 at 08:43 PM

I wouldn't say Federer "crumbled" in the fifth sets before Rafa at Wimby 2008 or AO 2009.

At Wimby 2008, Federer came from two sets down and fought to 9-7 in the fifth, losing when both men could barely see the ball due to darkness.

At AO 2009, Federer ran out of gas in the fifth set of a major's final. Federer was still compiling his streak of reaching 23 straight majors' semis and several majors' finals--something no one else, including Rafa, has come close to accomplishing.

Over the past six years, Federer has been the most consistent player, by far, at going deep in majors. No one has "crumbled" in majors less than Federer.

Posted by Kwaku 07/13/2010 at 08:58 PM

What signs are there that Grigor Dimitrov is going to be so good?

Posted by Rafalicious 07/13/2010 at 09:13 PM

John P, I enjoyed reading your article. Thanks for posting.

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/13/2010 at 09:13 PM

It is very obvious that those posters who cannot carry on a good argumentation resorts to the lowest level of adult conversation. Name calling.

For instance, all of us have tags so clearly identified. To make some sort of debasement of the name like instead of espnalanaldo, into espnwhatever or espnalandodo, etc, is a clear sign of immaturity. And to think that these are the same posters who have no shame in pontificating erudite conversations.


Just sad.

Which begs the same eye for an eye strategy.

Who let SERVUS out of his straightjacket?! ASAP, mental health wardens!!! SERVUS on the loose!

Hey, sometimes it works. If only to drive home the point.

But I digress.

Yes, we should all be thankful that something extraordinary may yet come our way this summer.

Posted by Tari 07/13/2010 at 09:21 PM

I think it's just easy to misspell your name, esplainado. And I'm teasing you.

Or something wicked this way comes, depending on your point of view, of course. ;-)

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 07/13/2010 at 09:25 PM


An escellent article, thank you so much.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 07/13/2010 at 09:25 PM

Sorry, excellent.

Posted by md 07/13/2010 at 09:56 PM

there is no doubt that Nadal has now surpassed a fading Federer. Even at Federer's peak Nadal was too good for him on clay and was his equal on other surfaces, with the exception of indoors. Federer still has the chance to beat him at the US Open which does not suit Nadal at all. If Federer wins the US Open and then the season ending Master's he could still be regarded as No.1. To that he would have to win some tournaments in the run up to the US Open, as well as the US Open and then go on the rip on the indoor circuit. It is unlikely that he will but it is possible. I can see Federer win another 3 or 4 slams but that would be about it. If he really is in physical decline he may not achieve that. It is easy to underestimate how difficult it is to win 1 GS let alone 16. Nadal has probably another 6 majors in him, but a lot will depend on his physical well being. Baseliners tend to fade in their mid 20s, with the exception of Connors, Agassi and Lendl, but they played a very different kind of baseline tennis. The attrition based baseliner has a history of fading quickly once 25/26. Both Borg and Wilander were pretty much finished at that age.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 10:25 PM

That was a very nice read, and pays tribute to both without diminishing either. Thanks for sharing. Alas, the wish central to the article was not to be!

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/13/2010 at 10:49 PM

CL @ 5:12 pm - thanks for the quick tutorial on how this site is moderated. Now I'm really intrigued - I mean, how is a ban enforced? A banned poster can simply change monikers and keep posting, right? Or do they block "offending" IP addresses from being able to access TW? That would be quite sophisticated for a blog! Am I being too nosy? Am I going to disappear for asking too many questions?

Posted by cmoore 07/13/2010 at 10:56 PM

Camelot sounds alot like tim lol

Posted by Tari 07/13/2010 at 11:24 PM

TMFunk: Yes, they can tell what IP addy you're using and they can block it. At least I'm pretty sure they can. They usually publicly inform the poster that they are going to have to take a 24 hour break.

Posted by camelot is about to end 07/13/2010 at 11:44 PM


OK, it's your blog.

Posted by Geellis 07/14/2010 at 01:10 AM

I sometimes wonder what exactly folks are debating here. There can be no doubt that, at this point in time, Federer is the current GOAT and Nadal is the contender. Furthermore, Nadal currently stands behind a number of other players in terms of GOAT status. Although I prefer to think in terms of best player ever (where I would seed Nadal somewhere between 2-4), folks here like to think in terms of greatest champion ever (in which case Nadal falls somewhere between 6-10). I feel lots of Fed fans are all wound up defending their guy. Quite frankly, he needs no defending. The numbers speak for themselves. I'm a 100% Nadal fan but Federer's numbers are obvious to me and should be to everyone. However, two things are equally as clear. First, Federer has fallen far from the lofty perch he once occupied in terms of the quality of tennis he's able to produce on demand. And second, Nadal is absolutely in the hunt to catch Fed's GS total. Quite frankly, he's well ahead of schedule. And yes, we all know about the knee issues. And that's all anyone can/should say. If the knees hold, I see no reason he doesn't walk away from the game with like 15-18 GS titles. If they do not, the number should be closer to 12. A great career to be sure. Putting him amongst the likes of Rosewall, Laver, and Borg. I'd say if he amasses close to that number of GSs and has two HC GSs, that that would clearly move him past Borg, who never won a HC GS. So, if he just gets like 4 or so more GS in his career, or if he wins the USO, that will clearly mark him as one of the greatest champions to ever play the sport. Probably placing him at like the number 2/3 spot. Sorry manuelsantanafan, but the contemporary assessment of the sport is most likely going to carry the day for the vast majority of fans, notwithstanding your valiant effort to resuscitate the reputations/memories of guys like Laver, Rosewall, Budge, Pancho and crew.

Posted by felizjulianidad 07/14/2010 at 04:42 AM

This Nadal fan thinks Nadal will be lucky to get the USO and double-digits.

I'd be happy enough if he did. I'd put him on par with Borg on the all-time greats, and a legitimate challenge to Sampras.

Posted by Kwaku 07/14/2010 at 05:27 AM

After sweeping the 3 clay masters and knowing his knees were ok, I was sure Nadal would win RG and thought it quite likely he would win Wimby too.
After knowing his knees are under a new effective treatment and that Nadal has set himself the US Open as a goal, and seeing the changes he he's made to both his schedule and his game, mainly court positioning; and also seeing that Nadal is confident about the possibility, I also think he will probably win the US Open this year.
I don't know further into the future (I just expect more of RG) but I'm enjoying every day of it while it lasts. If Nadal reaches as many slams as Federer, I'll be very happy, but I have no idea jet. Too many unknowns.

Posted by Kwaku 07/14/2010 at 05:53 AM

Is Nadal the new Federer?
My first reaction was --no, he's much better!
But that was in terms of his playstyle and what he makes me feel on court.
All players are different, but, on second thought, the question is legitimate in terms of dominance. And Rafa has never been as dominant as Roger except on clay.
Will he? I hope so!

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/14/2010 at 06:05 AM

Geelis writes:

"There can be no doubt that, at this point in time, Federer is the current GOAT and Nadal is the contender."

Not only is there plenty of doubt, but that statement is patently false.

Rafa isn't a "contender" because he hasn't won enough majors and he hasn't won a "career slam."

Any assertion that Federer is the male GOAT is seriously undermined by the fact that:

(1) Unlike Laver and Budge, Federer never won a Calendar Year Slam;

(2) Federer is the only GOAT candidate who, in his prime, had a losing H2H record against his main rival;

(3) Unlike any other GOAT candidate, Federer has never led his nation to a Davis Cup title--despite having stronger teammates some years than did Borg when he led Sweden to said title.

Furthermore, Federer has yet to show that, unlike Laver, for example, Federer's game will be generally superior to that of his competitors into Federer's late 20s and early 30s.

Going back to the assertions that the frequently MIA S.Williams is the female GOAT, Bruce Jenkins and Steve Flink (who has covering tennis far longer than has Wertheim) shoot holes into those nonsensical arguments:

Posted by omolara 07/14/2010 at 06:51 AM

Please enlighten me! How could you call Nadal the best ever on clay and expect his h2h against Federer on that surface to be even? I doesn't make sense to me. Federer with game an experience, manages to be on the other side of the net only to prove Nadal superiority on the surface.
It doesn't make Federer any less good!

Posted by Juliana07 07/14/2010 at 06:58 AM

@Posted by yesyourright 07/13/2010 at 08:23 PM
"and for those who always uses ages as a factor for Nadal future Goat status...let me remind you some stats"

Let me call your attention to the fact that the ratio at Slams at the SAME age - 24 years plus around 1 month - is:
Federer 6 titles out of 28 slams...21,4%;
Nadal 8 titles out of 25 slams...32%.

Posted by Juliana07 07/14/2010 at 07:09 AM

@Posted by camelot is about to end 07/13/2010 at 05:39 PM

I can ask, for example, what has made it possible that sick (chronic back-problem) Federer has won 16 GS! What medicines?
A quotation from a database: "Like all male Swiss citizens, Federer was subject to compulsory military service in the Swiss Armed Forces. However, in 2003 he was deemed UNFIT due to a long-standing BACK problem and was subsequently not required to fulfill his obligation."

Posted by LIDIA KUR 07/14/2010 at 07:43 AM

YES!!!RAFA is going to catch up and probably overlap Roger with the grand slam titles. He already has 8 and he has been playing amazingly well. Also Rafa is only 24 and he has around 4 to 6 years on tour were he would be in his best shape physically. Rafa is not going to be the new Federer, he is going to be the new Rafael Nadal from Spain whose coach is his uncle, Tony!!!
LIdia K
student in IMG ACADemies

Posted by Sal Anthony 07/14/2010 at 07:45 AM

Dear Mr. Tignor,

As much as I love Federer, it makes no difference how many slams Nadal wins insofar as any comparison between the two is concerned. The ordinary thing about this rivalry is how one-sided it's been, with Nadal thrashing him on clay and after a brief learning curve, matching and then surpassing him both on hard court and grass.

It isn't just that Nadal's 14-7 over him, or that he's beaten him in five of the seven slam finals they've appeared in, and twelve of the seventeen overall finals, or that he's won forty of the sixty-nine sets of tennis they've played against one another; these things matter, but not as much the psychological aspect of all this.

Nothing is more crucial in sports than confidence, and Federer knows that Nadal owns him, and because tennis matches are often won or lost based on just a couple of key points, I'd go so far as to say the main reason Federer "only" went as far as the quarters this year in both Wimbledon and Roland Garros is because he knew Nadal would be there in both finals, and he'd just as soon get beat by guys "he owned" rather than get thrashed once more by the rival he's never conquered, the de facto GOAT.

Sal Anthony

Posted by Kwaku 07/14/2010 at 07:57 AM

Sal Anthony,
Then why didn't he lose in the semis of both RG and Wimby?
And why didn't he also lose the Madrid semi?
And what can support your claim that Nadal is the "de facto" (???) GOAT?
*rolls eyes*

Posted by Kwaku 07/14/2010 at 08:05 AM

Sal Anthony,
Then why didn't Fed lose in the semis of both RG and Wimby? Maybe he was so afraid that he wanted to put at least two rounds of distance in between?
And why didn't he also lose the Madrid semi? Maybe he hadn't seen the draw recently and Mirka forgot to inform him that Rafa was going to be in the final...
And what can support your claim that Nadal is the "de facto" (???) GOAT?
*rolls eyes*

Posted by Kwaku 07/14/2010 at 08:10 AM

Sorry again, this damned PDA seems to post any time it wants...

Posted by EvanG 07/14/2010 at 08:14 AM

Most assume the worst for Nadal's body, but let's assume the best case scenario for a moment. Nadal through advances in medicine (he says left knee is fine after a new procedure he underwent) and his game (he has shown to evolve his game every year) manages to overcome his knee problems and stays healthy. With his athletic condition and of course if he wants to, he can still be playing well into his thirties. With this scenario Fed's record seems closer.

Posted by Corrie 07/14/2010 at 08:46 AM

ChannelSlam/SlamChannel - no longer sure which, lol! - Yes, I am saying that I think that smart Uncle Toni instilled into Nadal from a young age what we see now - the will to win, ability to deal with defeat, the playing at his own very deliberate pace, which hopefully confounds some opponents, the stopping the game when necessary. This is doing everything possible to win, which is what they all should be doing - and what player wouldn't, given the large amounts of money and glory at stake? Of course Nadal uses his own forms of gamesmanship, just as some of the women use shrieking as theirs. Good on them, it all adds to the interest and intensity - though sometimes too much in the case of loud shrieking.

I simply fail to see why people behave as if tennis is still a genteel game played with wooden rackets and long pants on lush lawns in affluent gardens and clubs. It's a tough, pressure packed, thoroughly gladiatorial contest. The players are remarkably well behaved considering this, but of course they'll do everything to win, short of bashing their opponents' knees like a certain ice skater once did.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/14/2010 at 09:10 AM

@sal anthony
well well. How fanatic people can get. Nadal 'owns' Federer? I am sure even Nadal himself would not dare to make such a statement. And by the way the skewed 14:7 head to head is sue to an abysmal 10:2 record on clay! What is federe's fault if nadal was NOT good enough to play him as much on his favourite surface asphalt as he was able to play him on clay? anyone with even a little knowledge of tennis would understand that due to this highly skewed match-up it is federer who shines as the best on ALL SURFACES.
And it is premature to give nadal 14-16 slams. The kind of running and rerieving he does will soon destroy his knees. Histroy has shown that such retrievers do not last after 25-26 years of age. Hence the big question is not how much rafa can win. the big question is how much rafa can run.

Posted by JohnP 07/14/2010 at 09:18 AM

Thank you to those who enjoyed and commented on my piece. I just felt it was an approprate time to cherish this time in tennis and to hopefully to draw in those casual or non-tennis fans into what they are missing!

Yes, THe Mighty Funk, the probability of seeing Nadal-Federer in another major final diminishes as we speak. I'm not ruling it out, however. We can always hope they have at least one more in the tank a la Sampras-Agassi U.S. Open 2002 final.

Posted by CPM 07/14/2010 at 09:35 AM


Thanks for the Jenkins' response to Wertheim's Serena-as-GOAT piece. It's a very polite, collegial, oh-so-eager-to-avoid-offense smack-down. Just what was called for in SI's own pages, imho.

Posted by lilscot 07/14/2010 at 09:39 AM

Corrie: 8:46 a.m.

Great points. IA. Tennis is now an actual "sport" and not in the same league as golf or lawn darts anymore. These are tough, physical, athletic players out there now and head-games and injuries are all part of the game.

EvanG: 8:14 a.m.

This is something I've also thought about. So many people are convinced that Rafa's knee problem is so serious that it's going to de-rail his career. I feel like you in that I believe his team (Uncle Toni) has this firmly under control. As you said, with medical advances and Rafa and Toni's ability to tackle problems at the very start rather than wait until things are too serious, will keep him in the game. I see him and Serena as very similar athletes. They both play a powerful intense game, but they are both physically built for it.

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