Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Rushing to the Finish Line
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Rushing to the Finish Line 11/28/2010 - 7:06 PM

Rf There’s a phenomenon in basketball where a team gets behind, scraps hard and expends maximum mental and physical energy catching up, evens the score, and then immediately deflates. It isn’t just that they’ve exhausted themselves physically. The psychology of the game changes as well. There’s no longer a target out in front, urging them on. 

Something like that happened to Rafael Nadal today, and it happened in the second point of the third set. He had begun the match, as he had begun the tournament, on the flat side, and his opponent, Roger Federer, had succeeded in changing the usual dynamics of their encounters by nudging him out of the patterns he likes. Nadal forced himself to find some more energy in the second, and his dedication to aggressiveness tilted the rallies back in his favor. The first point of the third went the same way, as Nadal ran Federer along the baseline to go up 0-15. Federer’s early confidence had vanished, and he looked as if were groping for an answer. Getting broken here would extend Nadal’s momentum and begin to make Federer’s first-set performance look like a mirage. Now Nadal had him on the run again in the second point. Rafa moved inside the baseline and lined up for an open down the line backhand. He had the lead in his sights for the first time all day. It must have blinded him, because he caught the ball late and fanned it into the alley. He put his hands to his head in disbelief. Federer held. While Nadal would put together a strong hold of his own in the next game, Federer had evened the scales back up. Nadal’s run was over.

And that’s all it took. Federer began to serve well, as he had in the first set, and he had the confidence on Nadal’s next service game to chip and charge successfully on one point, and then break serve by cracking an aggressive return, a tactic that he had been trying to employ, with various degrees of success, all afternoon. He was, as they say, in full flight from there, and Nadal couldn't turn the tide a second time. 

This was a quality match, but not an intense one by Federer-Nadal standards. Points and games went by quickly; it took just 90-some minutes to get through three sets. What can we take from it? As far as the play itself, the most intriguing element was Federer’s determination in the first and third sets not to let Nadal lock his forehand into his backhand and dictate the terms of the rallies. This is as effective as Federer has ever been with his topspin crosscourt backhand against Rafa. Just at the point in the rally when he usually loses control, Federer stepped forward and sent a surprised Nadal scrambling to his left. In the crucial game of the first set, with Nadal serving at 3-4, Federer fended off a ground stroke assault with his backhand, and then broke serve by snapping off a sharp crosscourt backhand angle, an angle that stunned Nadal.

Is the topspin crosscourt backhand the answer for Federer? Notice that Nadal changed things up in the second and had success going wide to Federer’s forehand. Nevertheless, along with the backhand, two other gambits that Federer tried today worked. He won points serving wide to Nadal’s backhand in the deuce court, and his commitment to returning aggressively, while it resulted in a quite a few free points for Nadal, worked when he really needed it. It's a gamble, yes, but one he almost certainly needs to take in the future.

So we end the year exactly where we’ve ended it for the last five seasons. With Nadal and Federer at 1 and 2, and with another big title going to one of them. This event felt more like déjà vu than normal, though. Federer capped a post-U.S. Open stretch where he went 21-2, and looked as sharp as he’s looked over any extended period in the last three years. He seems energized, and more important, more narrowly focused on what wins for him, after a few months with a new coach. There’s a sense of slashing urgency to his game right now, particularly on the return side. While Nadal was able, as he usually is, to throw a wrench in his plans, Federer was simply playing too well all week to be stopped for long, even by Rafa. Maybe it was the lighting or the bright red shirt or his attacking game, but Federer seemed to stand a little taller in London. He’s brushed aside all talk of decline, added a new wrinkle to his match-up with Nadal with his backhand and his return, and made 2011 a two-man race to start. Still, my favorite Federer moment of the tournament came in his semi-rambling and highly excited victory speech. He thanked the ball boys and said that if the players had to pick up their own balls, the matches would go on forever. How does that come to his mind right then? Brilliant and goofy, Federer goes out like the Federer of old.

Nadal, on the other hand, looked weary in his runner-up speech. Weary from winning, I guess; he did a lot of this year. Whatever happened today, 2010 still belonged to him. He lost the final, but it was a characteristic tournament for him—there was a sense of deja vu to his performance as well. In every major event aside from the French Open, Nadal has struggled at first, improved over the course of a couple of years, and finally won it. In Australia, he reached the semis in 2008 before bringing home the trophy in 2009. At Wimbedon, he lost two finals to Federer before winning the third. After semifinal appearances in 2008 and ’09 at the U.S. Open, he struck gold this summer. Nadal had never been to the final of the WTF, and he started this one looking like he never would get to the final of it. Now he has—after his first-set loss to Andy Roddick on Monday, he seemed to will himself to believe that he could. If history tells us anything, we know what will come next for him here.

Nadal also gave us what he usually gives us: a classic, grueling, back-and-forth, emotionally draining match. His semifinal with Andy Murray may have been the best of 2010, and it ended with what was the highlight of the week for me. Nadal was nearly apologetic when he hugged Murray at the end. As Murray walked away to his chair, Nadal gave him one extra pat on the back, with a look of commiseration that his opponent would never see. It was, on a smaller-scale, similar to the arm he threw around Federer’s neck after their 2009 Aussie Open final. Brilliant and empathetic, Nadal went out of that match, and out of the best season of his career, like the Nadal of old. 

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Posted by geniusinthehouse 11/29/2010 at 10:55 AM

pointless / meaningless
a land fill of stupid

Posted by ububub 11/29/2010 at 10:59 AM

The match did seem to whiz by yesterday. Usually when I'm at work watching the live scores change, Rafa matches go 6-8 minutes between changes in points, let alone games. I don't know if anyone said anything to Rafa beforehand, but he was serving relatively quickly for a change.

Posted by Reader 11/29/2010 at 11:01 AM

Great, it's all about Nadal. As this is how it needs to be Steve! Is it? Jeeez. The other guy happen to win the WTF. How about a balanced view?
A bit disappointing as you balance your views well normally...

Posted by Pete R 11/29/2010 at 11:14 AM

What a great match, you could cut the tention with a knife but they are both such great champions, Federer is not at his peak but he is still one of the best. That is the way two champions behave Congrats ro Roger and Rafa for a great final

Posted by MC 11/29/2010 at 11:22 AM

A good article Steve!
Please, not H2H war again! None of the players has control over who they play in any tournaments. None of the players can MANIPULATE the draw (as far as i know, and hope). There is always a draw announced a few days prior to the 1st match. Nadal doesn't face Soderling often because of their ATP ranking, not because of one avoiding the other.

As for the WTF, i agreed that Federer played well throughout the tournament. He played well in the final as well and he was a better player yesterday.

Here're some facts:

- one of the finalists played 2 days straight before going into the final
- federer had a game plan from the start, and he stuck to it
- nadal hasn't logged in enough hours on this particular surface to figure out his game plan

I think that the outcome is good for Nadal simply because his game still has a lot of flaws and he has a lot of improvements to do. As for Federer, i hope that he can keep this up. As i re-watched their previous encounters, they do bring out the best from each other.

And one more thing: Murray did play much better against Nadal than Federer. If he had the same level of play against Federer, honestly, no one knew if Federer would win, in straight sets.

Finally, and yes, I'm a Nadal fan.

Posted by Keith 11/29/2010 at 11:47 AM

I thought Federer looked a little thinner when I saw him on TV yesterday and thought that maybe if he had lost a little weight it was helping him - anyone know if that's the case? (I'm not saying he lost as much weight as Roddick, but just a little can make a difference sometimes.)

Posted by Matthew 11/29/2010 at 12:35 PM

Beautiful - Nicely done.

Posted by ebh 11/29/2010 at 12:47 PM

Bookies had Federer as favorite yesterday and they still have Nadal as favorite at AO. That is smart money talking.

Posted by Puffin 11/29/2010 at 12:50 PM

Rafael: Yes, that's exactly how I saw the match too! Thanks for your post - Cheers! :)

MC: "nadal hasn't logged in enough hours on this particular surface to figure out his game plan"

Er, I thought, during this tournament, that Rafa had played the most amount of hours of all the players, as all his matches took the longest time? Or are you talking "generally" about this season's indoor hard surfaces as a whole, as opposed to just the O2's own particular (rather slow) surface?

And maybe, just maybe, Murray was not able to play better against Federer, because Fed was playing more aggressively and didn't allow Murray to play his usual game, no? - Fed played very aggressive in all this year's WTF matches.

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

Steve,good article.Keep up the good work.

Posted by Lisbeth Sodlander 11/29/2010 at 02:14 PM


I have tremendous respect for people.

But can we just all agree that many Federer's fans are unable to see things from a different perspective other than their own?

I think it's time. Honestly.

Posted by So what if one of them loses 11/29/2010 at 03:00 PM

Steve you seem to always tease out the good and bad of each player in Rafa/Fed match up. The truth is that Fed was so far ahead of the field for so many years he did not feel he had to change anything in his game. Rightfully so. The guy's record the last 5-6 years will never be equalled in tennis. But he has always played Nadal on Nadal's terms. By trying to out rally and breakdown Nadal's game with a mix of defense and well timed offense. This match is the first where he took away Nadal's chance of finding rhythm and builidng up confidence by taking the best that Fed can throw at him, and at the same time mentally wear down Fed. The weariness we saw in Nadal was not physical, but mental. He had no answers when Fed went on the attack. There was some passiveness at the start of the second set, and Nadal pounced on it. Nadal started to get some wicked and deep topsin into Fed's backhand. Fed gave Nadal a chance to play his game and he pounced on it. Which is usually when the momentum swings between the two. The genius of Nadal is that he does not waste opportunity and he does not give away crucial points. Fed started serving better in the third set and took the momentum back. This match was not as reivetting as Wimbeldon 08, or Aussie 09, but it did not have to be. They're playing indoors and Fed played the right tactics for the surface to neutralize his opponent. More importantly, he did not cave mentally. Cliff Drysdale made a very interesting comment about Fed's play in the second set. He wondered why he would go back to trying to out-rally Nadal rather than just plain out-hit him. To us it seems more natural that Fed with his firepower should blast Nadal off the court as he did in the first set. But its more natural for Fed to feel out the player and attack when he feels it. But with Nadal, waiting to attack only leads to frustration. Going toe to toe with him also leads for a frustrating day. Look at Nadal vs Djokovic. When these two guys play it is an all out slugfest. And I think just as beautiful to watch as Fed/Nadal in full flight. But when was the last time Djokovic has beaten Nadal. Nadal cannot be forced into an error with just defense alone. This was the first match where Fed has changed his tactics to neutralize Nadal's strength. He attacked with serve, attacked with his net game, attacked with the service return, and more importantly improved his back hand to neutralize Nadal's forehand. We've seen Nadal improve by leaps and bounds over the last 4 years. Now I think Fed has started a metamorphosis of his own. He can play how he normally used to play against everybody else. But with Nadal, its a different story. If Fed keeps this up, he might have a chance at giving Nadal some of the same fits he had as all those years at number 1 with Nadal nipping at his heels. The greatest thing about Fed is that he has a hunger to stay on top. Some of Nadal's fatigue maybe, more complacency after such an amazing year. How do you keep the hunger after winning 3 Slams in a row? Nadal may have been suffering a little from the doldrums of his own success since winning the US open. Its only natural. But that's the beauty of tennis. The Aussie Open should be a rippa with Nadal trying to go for 4 slams in a row, and everybody else doing their best to take him out.

Posted by Slick 11/29/2010 at 03:33 PM

I gave this match some more thought. Even though Rafa lost, he still managed to take a set when he was obviously fatigued and Fed was at his best. Fed can't play Rafa any better than he did yesterday but we have all seen Rafa MUCH better than his performance yesterday... So the loser of this particular match is really the overall winner in the whole scheme of things.

Also watching the Drysdale/McEnroe version of the final in hyping the numbers as to how close Nadal is to Federer's accomplishments they neglected to put up total weeks at #1 or consecutive weeks at #1 in their graphics. Isn't the #1 ranking an important statistic for legacy or has Master's shields and Olympic medals topped that in stature?

Posted by nrs1044 11/29/2010 at 04:01 PM

My gawd!! Fed fans seem to think he still needs defending, the way so many of them go on the attack mode against Nadal - EVEN AFTER he plays great and beats Nadal!! I don't understand why they can't just enjoy Fed's victory instead of slinging ugly criticisms at Nadal! Makes one think they're trying to build up confidence that their idol will continue in this winning form, rather than going out in quarters of the slams like he did in 2010.

Posted by just another troll 11/29/2010 at 04:39 PM

nrs1044, let me say right off im one of those Fed fans you're referring to. see, i'm defending Fed right now. my question is, why are you doing the same to Nadal? does he need defending? no, he is a big boy who can take care of himself. why don't you just sulk in the corner and lick your wounds instead since your guy lost? there isn't anything said here that merits your sanctimonious utterances of disbelief. now, was i right in admonishing you? of course not but there you go.

Posted by SS 11/29/2010 at 05:24 PM

Can Berdych please stop whining about how he felt slighted by Fed at Wimbledon? And why are we even putting this in the Ticker? He sounds like a colicky baby...and his comments just make him sound really petty.

Posted by Ty 11/29/2010 at 05:45 PM

Slow serving needs to be addresses by the ATP. I see it as a form of cheating. You can't blame Rafa and Djoker for using that tactic if there is no rule against it. Issue a time limit and players will change their pre-serve rituals!

Man that was fun seeing Fed play y-day!!

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/29/2010 at 06:45 PM

The only thing that wasn't "deja-vu_ this time around was Federer's approach, his strategy. He did not come out, as the Federer of old, trying to pin Nadal in his backhand corner. He went deep and hard, and often, to Nadal's forehand wing. And he served out wide to open the court for pre-emptive one-strike tennis more often than in the past. And he came forward with relish and commitment, often ending with a volley on top of the net. For these adaptations, he was rewarded with a W.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/29/2010 at 07:33 PM

Old my assets, you go Roger!! Kom sa, Caro, Kom igen, Robin.

Posted by denise 11/29/2010 at 08:01 PM

Lisbeth Sodlander

this has nothing to do with perspective.
Roger is the better tennis player, Rafa himself will tell you that (as Uncle Toni said himself).

I'm not telling you who to cheer for, you like who you like.

but to be honest, I'd rather watch roger's mishits than rafa's winners.

Posted by vr 11/29/2010 at 08:06 PM

So Steve,
You don't see Federer's mastery at any point?

Posted by Statitician 11/29/2010 at 08:12 PM

Who knew I'd ever aqree with Slice-n-Dice???

Great thoughts as usual Steve, and to echo the sentiment, thanks for writing.

Excellent win for Federer, his play was the best of all the eight guys. On a surface that was seemingly built for his game, he ruled the court with penetrating, early offense. As Nadal was the only player to take him to three sets, to me, the long term outcome will be equal, but Federer ends the year as the best player this week.

If only a major tournament was held on this surface!

Posted by melanie 11/29/2010 at 08:45 PM

I thought this was a lovely article by Steve but some of the postings are definitely out of control. Roger won yesterday fair and square but that was only one result on one day. Thats it. Doesnt mean that Roger is the best player or Rafa is the best player. Pro tennis is a game that is played 11 months of the year, and its impossible to win every single match, if you think that you need your head examined. Thats why they have the points system, even with Roger winning yesterday hes still about 3000 points behind Rafa which is a lot. This is Rafas year as was 2008, whilst Rogers year was 2009,2007,2006, and 2005.

I think everybody needs to remember that this was played on a hard indoor court with a low bounce, which is to Rogers advantage. he knew that and took full advantage of it. If this was played at Monte Carlo on a 30 plus degree day in summer then the advantage would be to Rafa. At this level you probably only need to be 1-2% below full par and you will have probs. Rafa has admitted and people who love tennis know that this court is his hardest court to play and win on, particularly as it reduces the effectiveness of his main weapons. to get to the final is a big result, and Ive no doubt that he will win it, as Alex Corretja said, not winning this gives him something to aim for as it is really the only big trophy he has not won. Not a lot of players can say that.

Federer has had a bit of a topsy turvy year, losing a few matches in which he held match points. There is no doubt that he played outstandingly well this past week, but the key question is: can he do that for 11 months of the year in 2011? if he can he will be No 1, if not he wont be.

I see it as a privilege to be able to see these two great players and explonents of the game I love to play at such an amazing level and to take the game to new heights. Thanks to the internet and sky tv we get to see these games whereas in the past it would have only been possible to read a short article in the paper. How about we appreciate and applaud the players rather than constantly whining and moaning. lets be thankful that we dont have someone who was a 'fill-in' no 1 such as leyton hewitt or Marcelo Rios- that was a truly dreadful time for tennis!!

Posted by susan 11/29/2010 at 08:55 PM

thx for an article that shows some balance and appreciation for both players.

federer was outstanding and should be applauded for his performance...instead of being overlooked.

Posted by ish 11/29/2010 at 08:59 PM

re: that Berdych quote post-Wimbledon

Q. Difficult moment, but what couldn't you do that you wanted to do? What let you down?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't think I played poorly. I think he went after it. I know Berdych. I think I've played him 10 times already before. That's the way he plays. I think he's been able to play more consistent last year or so, and I was just not able to defend well enough and I didn't come up with the good stuff when I had to. So it was disappointing. Yeah.

Posted by JimF 11/29/2010 at 10:25 PM

Although Fed's serve was the key ingredient in his victory, this final was basically a triumph of the old-school obsolete one-handed backhand over the two-handed modern backhand.

Both forehands were great, but both sides avoided them studiously. The difference, to my eye, was that Fed could generate winners off his backhand and Nadal made a batch of UFEs.

I've seen Fed play this way against Nadal only once before -- when he won the Hamburg final in, I think it was '07, winning 10 straight games against Nadal on clay.

I'd love to know the stats on backhand winners and UFEs from Sunday.

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

I see that there has been a lively debate about the latest in the series of Rafa vs. Fed matches. The usual warring between the respective fans of both players. Of course the Fed fans would love to think that he has reinvented the wheel with his approach on this indoor hardcourt that suits his game to a "t". Oh no, it's Annacone and his magical strategy of attack, attack, attack. Yes, Fed found the secret answer to beating Rafa.

It's all quite amusing, but the simple truth is that Rafa isn't going anywhere anytime soon. For Fed fans counting on this match as his resurgence, I fear that disappointment awaits. If you want to know why I say this, just take another look at Rafa's match with Murray. It's all there. The greatness of a young man who is never better than when he has his back up against the wall, when defeat is staring him in the face. Murray went toe-to-toe with Rafa and gave him all he could handle. He broke Rafa twice in the second set! Rafa was done for sure! He was losing his grip on the match as Murray held his intensity and showed extraordinary mental toughness. He wouldn't back down this time, wouldn't give.

There was Rafa serving for the match, with his fate in his own hands. Yet he didn't do it! Now this was surely the end. Rafa would fold, crumble, this time there would be no miraculous comeback. Then the tiebreak seemed to seal the deal - 3-0, Murray, 4-1, Murray! But then what happened? Was it magic you ask? A mirage? Surely someone was playing tricks on our eyes? Was it now 4-2, Murray, then 4-3, Murray, then 4-4 TIED! With phenomenal shot after phenomenal shot, with a fierce gritty, gutsy fire that seemed to come from somewhere deep inside him, Rafa came roaring back! How could this happen yet again? Why wasn't he defeated this time, when surely he had squandered enough chances to win? Yet there stood Rafa, refusing to lose, refusing to bow and accept the inevitable defeat. That last inside out forehand that came with a grunt that sounded like a roar of - I will win this match NOW! - and it was all over!

People here have debated the greatness of Rafa's tennis, the fact that it comes with physicality, grunts, effort, exertion, sweat, blood tears, whatever. They don't like it! It's not aesthetically pleasing! It's not effortless enough! As the fans watched on the edge of their seats waiting with baited breath to see if Rafa the Great could do it again, then maybe they should be the ones we ask for their opinion about Rafa's tennis!

This is what it's all about! Two great tennis players leaving it all out there on the court. Bringing their best and challenging each other in a game of can you top this! Playing strength to strength and refusing to give in, playing to the point of exhaustion, with Murray even slipping badly on the hardcourt surface near the end.

This is tennis! This is what Rafa brings to the game! This is why I love him like no other player I have ever seen! As I watched that match, with all its rollercoaster ups and downs, a thrilling ride all the way, I found myself thinking - will I ever see a player do this again? I have watched tennis all my life. I have studied the game as a devout follower. I have seen all the great champions and found something special to appreciate in every single one of them. Rafa will have his place in history when he is done. For now I just don't want it to ever end. I want to watch this young man, who lives to win even as he breathes, play many more matches. I don't know how he does it. My favorite nickname for him is Houdini! If you asked him, I am not sure he would even know where it comes from, where he finds the extra strength, to persevere even in the face of certain defeat. I don't care! I love it!

Rafa, I will love you always and forever. You make me remember what it means to truly love this sport. You have given me so many special memories and moments, more than I can count. I just want to be there watching, as you continue on your march into the history books of tennis. Thank you somehow doesn't seem to be nearly enough, but in the end those are all the words I can say after yet another spectacular and unexpected win.

The final was like an afterthought - except to Fed fans, of course! For me, I was still thinking about another miraculous win from a young man who makes it seem like business as usual. Rafa, there will never be another like you. I will treasure every moment that I am privileged to see you step on a tennis court.

Posted by Vishal 11/29/2010 at 11:24 PM


While I am completely in agreement with you that Rafa is not going anywhere, I fail to see what this has got to do with Federer's resurgence and why we Federer fans should feel disappointed.

Posted by Swiss Bliss 11/30/2010 at 01:20 AM

Now Fed leads Rafa in Grand Slams and WTFs by 21 to 9. What a preformance, on to Aussie for a repeat performance!!

Posted by Lida 11/30/2010 at 01:22 AM

*After Soderling knocked Nadal out of the French Open in 2009, Nadal has always avoided Soderling.*

Remind me again- who did Rafa play in the 2010 French Open final?

.... and Wimbledon 2010???

Posted by Holly 11/30/2010 at 01:32 AM

Loved this Steve!

I'm a Rafa fan and Fed out played him yesterday....Congrats to Fed.

Steve, you so get it about Rafa...You get it about the person he is..his Spirit. I know that sounds corny but you know it's not! I so appreciate that about you.


Posted by jodiecate 11/30/2010 at 01:36 AM

Even though i shared the "I'm no GOAT" point of view from Rafa above - i'd like to make clear that i'm not siding with the "let's just agree, Roger is best" veiwpoint.

Firstly, i don't think it's good for tennis if "we all" agree about anything. PLEASE let's continue to disagree about loads of stuff, that's what makes the world go 'round imo :)

Secondly, is a point Pete made a few weeks ago that i think is worth considering: what do we actually mean when we say "better player".
Are we necessarily talking about someone who plays "with grace and ease" and seems to have a natural affinity for all aspects of the game... or COULD it be that someone who is not as "naturally" gifted, but has been able to construct our of their own raw materials a game that produces extremely successful results on a consistent basis, is actually "playing" a "better" game?

That's a RHETORICAL question folks, i'm not alleging one way or the other - i just think it's an interesting point.

Posted by MindyM 11/30/2010 at 01:55 AM


My point is that there is no Fed resurgence. You can wish it all you want, but one win here will not change the future. The future belongs to Rafa!

I wouldn't expect you to have a clue as to what I was talking about. You are a Fed fan, so why would you ever understand what I feel watching Rafa? I don't need him to win everything, break every record, count the days and mathematically quantify how/if he can be number one again.

I can just be in the moment. I can sit back with all my memories of this amazing year for Rafa. He has made history and will make even more. You may dream your dreams, enjoy this win. I will happily forfeit a WTF title for RG, Wimbledon and the USO, and winning the career grand slam, winning all the clay court Masters tournaments and the clay slam and being the first player to win RG, Wimbledon and the USO since Rod Laver in 1969, only Rafa did it on ALL surfaces!

Yet you think I am worrying about a Fed resurgence? Not likely! The #1 player in the world was given his trophy in a lovely presentation at this tournament. I wouldn't trade him being #1, winning all the slams and making history and breaking records, for the WTF title. Rafa has plenty of time to win it. You have that arrogance that I have come to expect from Fed fans. That's okay. Enjoy your moment. Rafa will be there when the 2011 AO comes around. If he wins that, then no one will even remember or care who won the WTF. He will make the kind of history that even Fed hasn't been able to do yet.

So, sweet dreams and see you next year!

Posted by vancouver13 11/30/2010 at 04:56 AM

weight loss vancouver

Posted by Fern 11/30/2010 at 05:19 AM

You have that arrogance that I have come to expect from Fed fans.

As Fed fan who likes and respects Rafa, I'd say the future does belong to Rafa - he's 5 years younger than Fed! A great tennis player and, sure, his passion on a tennis court is obvious and appealing.

However, your labelling of Fed fans as arrogant in such a superior 'amused' way is why Fedal wars continue. Fed fans have every reason to be delighted with Fed's performances at the O2. After Wimbledon Fed was described on these boards and in the media as washed up, deluded, too arrogant to get a coach, too lazy/complacent to make changes to his game, can't hit through the power players (eg. Berdych, Soderling), can't compete with his younger rivals - along with serious comments from extreme Rafa fans that Fed would hardly win a match again, never mind a tournament.

You don't think there's been a resurgence this Autumn? Aside from Fed winning 3 tourneys in 6 weeks, I saw Fed live at Wimbledon '10 and at the 02 against Soderling last week - trust me, you could see the difference in his movement, determination and attitude. He showed patience and skill to fend off an underrated Soderling, hammered Murray and Djoko (6 years his junior!) and beat Nadal fair and square. All of this takes passion and heart, and just because it doesn't come across in the same way as Nadal, and it doesn't personally appeal to you, doesn't mean it wasn't there. None of this takes anything away from Nadal - who's had, as Fed described it "a year any player would be proud of".

Posted by prashant 11/30/2010 at 06:18 AM

@Mindy M
extremely ignorant, arrogant and vitriolic post by you. Also displays a total lack of knowledge about tennis in general and federer in particular. So what if Rafa has won 3 slams in 2010? Roger has done it THRICE! Roger reached 23 straight semis in slams. Lets us see Rafa do that! Lastly, it is obvious that you DO NOT UNDERSTAND the importance of the masters tournament. Roger has won it 5 time! Sampras, Becker, Lendl, Agassi all gave this tournament the highest weightage after the Majors. Apparently you know nothing of tennis and this tournament. All you can do is spill your anger, dismay and vitriol on the message board. period.

Posted by Vishal 11/30/2010 at 07:06 AM

@MindyM, I do not see why appreciating Rafa's achievements AND 29 year old Federer's resurgence cannot happen at the same time? The future may belong to Rafa because of his relative youth, but Roger showed yesterday that he is not done either.:) This is reason enough for Federer and tennis fans to rejoice.

As for those achievements that you are crowing about, perhaps you forget that Roger was 2 or 3 points away from achieving the same himself last year (he played a rather casual match, and paid the price for it) and in addition, he has had 3 3-slam years before. So, by Federer standards, Rafa's feat this year is ..average. Really.

Posted by jackson 11/30/2010 at 09:39 AM

Average. Okey dokey Vishal. o_O

Posted by Vishal 11/30/2010 at 09:44 AM


You conveniently missed out the "By lofty Federer standards" part :)

Posted by fermendoza86 11/30/2010 at 10:14 AM

While it took RF about an hour to beat Murray, it took three to RN, there U can see the difference btw the GOAT and just a another great player, also RF did three years: 3GS and the Master Cup, at the age of 24 when U have endless energy and strengh and had rest for 5 weeks, and an old and tired RF with 3 more tournaments playing since US open.

Posted by TMF 11/30/2010 at 10:49 AM

I can agree that Roger is a more talented tennis player than Nadal. I however have trouble understanding the argument about the H2H record. Why is it that a player as great as Federer cannot beat Nadal consistently. They have played on clay so many times yet Federer cannot find a way to beat Nadal. Nadal has found a way to beat Federer on his favorite surfaces (grass and hard). One would think that a great player would eventually find a way or at least make gap narrower.

Posted by Slice-n-DIce 11/30/2010 at 01:41 PM

Statistician.. LOL!

TMF... it ain't over yet! Federer may narrow their H2H gap even more; we'll see. But I think the somewhat lopsided H2H has everything to do with Nadal's strongest shot being a ;efty forehand with ungodly action that he can hit to Federer's one-handed backhand, getting it up high on him where Fed has much less power and flexibility (and options). Also, I truly believe that tennis is a game that inherently favors the left-handed player, because every close game (30-30 and beyond) must be decided in the "advantage" court, where a lefty's spin out wide can neutralize the righty's one-handed backhand, setting up lots of short replies that can be pounced on.

If you look at their H2Hs, you'll see that Federer's break-point conversions are general dismal. On Sunday, he was 3-4 I believe, while Nadal broke Fed's serve only once. That was the tale of the tape, right there.

Posted by Frances 11/30/2010 at 02:12 PM

love this writing steve-- good things for both player!!!

Posted by TMF 11/30/2010 at 02:16 PM

Slice-n-DIce - you're right it ain't over yet. I agree with your statements but my point is still that Federer knows what Nadal's strategy is but still can't find a way around it. It's hard for me to believe that he can be considered the best when he can't find a solution to a player in his generation. Federer definitely had his chances to narrow the gap. From about 2005 to 2007 when Fed was at his best he could not get the job done. At that time Nadal was just coming into form. Now Nadal is scary good on clay (and starting to become so on other surfaces). Fed's chances don't look good in closing the gap. If you look at the number of times they have met over the years, it has declined.

Posted by MindyM 11/30/2010 at 02:23 PM


Name calling is NOT a substitute for making a coherent argument. You don't get to call me ignorant or decide who and what I am. Just because you may not like or agree with what I say, does not necessarily diminish the value of my opinion.

So I am the one who doesn't understand the importance of Masters tournaments? Now who is being hypocritical, as well as nasty and uncivil. As I recall, it was Fed and the Fed fans who tried to shamelessly demean Rafa winning ALL of the clay court Masters tournaments earlier this year. Guess what! You cannot have it both ways! This is why we have the Rafa/Fed wars! Fed fans cherry pick what is and is not important when it comes to wins and records. You callously and absurdly dismiss all of Rafa's considerable accomplishments this year and have the audacity to try to rewrite the history of this year. Rafa was the #1 player in the world, he won almost everything there was to win and nothing you can say in your angry ramblings can ever change it. So face the fact that Rafa was the best this year and just be done with it.

Do not pretend to me that winning the WTF somehow in any way, shape or form can possibly overshadow all that Rafa has done. That is an insult to the intelligence of everyone on this site. If you cannot accept Rafa's achievements and give him his due, then there can be no dialogue with someone as obsessive as yourself. Your anger and rage comes out loud and clear and it's an ugly thing to have to read.

I am sorry for you and your desperate and laughable attempt to try to make more out of this win. You have shown yourself up and destroyed your own weak and ineffective argument by saying that I am the one who dismissed the Masters tournaments, when we all know that Fed fans have famously said that it's the slams that count and nothing else. You want to have it both ways and demean anything Rafa does and build your guy up at his expense. I am not about to allow you or any other Fed fan to get away with that.

So who is looking the fool now? Or are you going to be honest and admit the historic importance of Rafa winning all the clay court Masters tournaments? If not, then you will show your true colors. I think it's sad that you have to be so enraged because Fed isn't dominating this sport anymore. He will have his wins, but this is Rafa's time.

Posted by MindyM 11/30/2010 at 02:35 PM


Just reference prashant's comments to me and then tell me that this isn't the reason for so much enmity between our two warring fan factions. Just read what he wrote in response to me, all of the gratuitous insults and name calling substituting for the lack of a real argument and some thought process.

All it comes down to in the end is pure vulgar nastiness. I am sick to death of it. I can see why Fed fans would want to make much of his win at the WTF. It has been a long time since he has bested Rafa anywhere. You are free to enjoy this win and his performance in recent months. What I will not go along with is any revisionist history. This was Rafa's year and why some Fed fans just cannot accept it, I have no answer. You cannot change what happened. It would be nice if for once Fed fans could be gracious enough to just acknowledge Rafa's tremendous comeback.

You are not the only one who has had to read about your guy being finished, through, washed up. Rafa fans had to read his obituary all over the place earlier this year. After he had to retire in his quarterfinal match with Murray at this year's AO, everyone was ready to write him off. His career was over, he would never win a slam or any other title, his knees were ruined, he was done. I can't count the number of times I read this drivel. It turns out that they were all wrong. We witnessed one of the great comebacks in the history of tennis this year. Rafa came back from the depths of despair to climb the highest mountain. Now some Fed fans want to somehow diminish what he did. That is abominable.

I fear that there will never be a truce in the Rafa/Fed wars. Not as long as Fed fans stubbornly refuse to just accept Rafa's greatness. Not as long as they have the ludicrous expectation that a 24 year old tennis player should have won all that it took Fed until the age of 29 to accomplish. Fed fans make Rafa stand in the shadows of their guy, ignoring the fact that Rafa is so much younger and just now in the prime of his tennis career. It shows just how threatened Fed fans are by Rafa's historic wins.

If you cannot accept Rafa's greatness that is backed up by his considerable achievements at such a young age, then I fear that there will never be any real understanding between us.

Posted by Tak 11/30/2010 at 03:03 PM

Fed was cheating 90% of match last sunday. If you noticed Fed change his game out the blues while Nadal was trying to play a fair game..Fed is old and Nadal prove that he can kill the old dude if he felt like it proof second set.

Anyway I think Nadal gave this match to the old man. He didn't care much for this one.

Posted by fermendoza86 11/30/2010 at 03:16 PM

We witnessed one of the great comebacks in the history of tennis this year????

RN Retired from that tournament because he had nothing to do with Murray, I remember in the second set, he was running to every ball, like he alwyz do, waiting for the mistake of Murray, but it had no use, then like all the times, he uses the excuse of a knew injury, is that, the GOAT, someone, who calls for the trainer just to mess the other player, take like forever and scrach his ass to make the service, did Sampras, Rod laver, Borg did that?

Posted by Lynne Danley 11/30/2010 at 03:28 PM

Funny how someone always brings up the draw in discussions about tournaments. So here it is AGAIN for those who don't know. Here is how a draw works, including this one: #1 and #2 are placed at the top of their halves (although #2 appears at the bottom, since that half works from the bottom up). #3 and #4 are then drawn at random and placed in #1 and then #2's half. The seeded players are drawn randomly and placed alternately in the places for seeded players in the draw, with one going into the top half and the next in the bottom. (In a larger tournament, the section leaders are drawn from the highest of these seeds.) Finally, the other players are drawn and placed in the same way. No one is "placed" by an individual anywhere except #s 1 and 2. In this tournament, the four remaining players after the top 4 were drawn randomly and placed into Group A and then Group B alternately. Remember that Soderling went into this tournament at #4, so he and Djokovic would have to be on different sides of the draw. And there are always players in attendance at the draw -- most often, the #1 and/or #2 players, so there is no way anyone could cheat or deliberately place someone against someone else. Federer and Nadal happen to be the President and Vice-President of the players association, too, so they aren't going to let that happen. So please, people, stop with the biased draw thing after every tournament. IT DOESN'T HAPPEN!! Luck happens -- can't help that one. But in this tournament, the draw seemed quite even and fair for both Federer and Nadal.

Posted by Sea 11/30/2010 at 04:36 PM

Let's see.

Nadal is a BEAST at Rolland Garros, losing VERY few sets.

Nadal is ordinary at Queens.

Nadal is a BEAST at Wimbledon.

Nadal is ordinary at Canada and Cincinnati,

Nadal is a BEAST at the USO, serving faster than he ever has before, losing only one set.

Nadal is ordinary through the fall.

It's almost like his game cycles up and down.
I wonder why ?

Here's a prediction for you.

Nadal will be a BEAST at the Australian open.

Posted by Douglass Graem 11/30/2010 at 04:43 PM

The gods smiled on Fed when Murray gifted their match to him.

Posted by Tim ('Hearing voices' and seeing Moonpies!) 11/30/2010 at 05:44 PM

does hitting aces, backhand winners, forehand winners and striking very few unforced errors count as 'cheating' ? I think for some posters, it clearly does!

LOL! that one might have to make the year's top 10 post list

Posted by 11/30/2010 at 08:30 PM

It's interesting to me that you bring up the Hamburg match - this also came to my mind.
I don't know exactly what I mean, if someone were to ask me to be more explicit, but I think with both matches, Roger needed the win more. So he found a way to win. Even though I am a Rafa fan, I felt calm after this loss (after the brief disappointment lol), just as I did after Hamburg. I didn't begrudge Rogi the win; it was his day. It will be fun to see the rivalry continue in 2011.

Posted by 11/30/2010 at 08:32 PM

It's interesting to me that you bring up the Hamburg match - this also came to my mind.
I don't know exactly what I mean, if someone were to ask me to be more explicit, but I think with both matches, Roger needed the win more. So he found a way to win. Even though I am a Rafa fan, I felt calm after this loss (after the brief disappointment lol), just as I did after Hamburg. I didn't begrudge Rogi the win; it was his day. It will be fun to see the rivalry continue in 2011.

Posted by just another troll 12/01/2010 at 12:19 AM

Isn't it time for writers in these blogs to bring up the word - ASTERISK?

If there is one thing we can conclude from Roger's win in London is that Nadal's 3rd slam is a fluke. He was lucky to win it because he did not have to face Fed. Oh, yeah - isn't that what was said about Roger's win in FO09?

Come to think of it, this whole year Nadal is lucky. The guys who were supposed to be a factor this year were either injured (Del Potro, Davydenko and Gulbis) or in a slump during the spring-summer FO-USO run (Murray, even Djoko and of course, Fed, not to mention guys like Cilic, Roddick, etc). (Or was Tio Toni somehow responsible for this mass disappearance of potential Nadal-beaters?) No wonder Nadal faced fewer top 10 players during that period than the last 5 weeks of Roger's fall campaign.

Don't forget the joke of a draw Nadal has been getting - minions everywhere from Monte Carlo, all the way to and especially the USO. And 18 Masters? That should only be 16 since Monte Carlo is not a 1000 nor required event - the draw at this tournament was not even comparable to the 500 event in Basel. So really, Roger is still ahead of Nadal in that regard with 17.

So yeah, lots of ASTERISKS in Nadal's record this year. And Federer is still the Best of the Best! Real #1, indeed!

Posted by GB 12/01/2010 at 04:42 AM

Really loved the final paragraph! And the match and the hug. Rafa -Muzz is my fave rivalry ATM.

Posted by jackson 12/01/2010 at 05:48 AM

MindyM, your posts are so well written and I couldn't agree more. It's a waste of time though as the Fedfans on this thread aren't capable of rational intelligent discussion. It's sad how insecure and frightened they are and behind the anonymity of their computers they try and puff themselves up with insults and trash talk. It's probably going to get worse as Rafa continues to shine with his superlative tennis and, even more importantly, his integrity and sterling personal qualities.

Posted by jodiecate 12/01/2010 at 07:08 AM

Hi Tim,

re: your post @ 05.44 - it's strange, isn't it, how some people seem to take a very dominant display of tennis: excellent shotmaking, innovative game plan, incredible focus and very few unforced errors as PROOF that some player or other is CHEATING!! Just mind-boggling!!

But hey, you get all types on internet forums!! Don't let it bother you... i expect it's just jealousy. At the end of the day BRILLIANT TENNIS speaks for itself.

INTERESTING name change for you! Hope they're friendly voices! ;D

Posted by jodiecate 12/01/2010 at 07:29 AM

Hi Sea,

re: post @04.36 - so, are you counting a Title in Japan, and 4 straight wins over top 8 players on his least favoured surface as "ordinary"???

Sheesh, ur a hard task master!!

What's your prediction for his two exhibition matches with Roger?

Posted by 12/01/2010 at 10:21 AM

I've read every single post and after all this, I don't even know where to start. Some have said some good remarks and others have said poor remarks. I will add, there are too many variables to consider when the discussion gets into who takes how long to defeat an opponent in the third round or semifinal. Had Andy Murray played the same way he had played against Federer in his match against Nadal, perhaps it may have taken Nadal an hour and a half to dispose of Murray instead of three hours. What kind of match or time of match did Murray have prior facing Federer? How does anyone know when a bit of an off day will hit them. I will agree that when Federer's first serve percentage is low, he tends to lose matches. Just because someone is fit, doesn't mean they're invincible to exhaustion. But there are too many variables for some of the arguments which have been posted. I'm pleased Roger Federer won this tournament.

Posted by Sea 12/01/2010 at 11:38 AM

Rafael Nadal Tournaments played since May 17 2010 :

Roland Garros (Grand slam, won)
Queens club (not grand slam, didn't win)
Wimbledon (grand slam, won)
Canada (not grand slam, didn't win)
Cincinnati (not grand slam, didn't win)
US Open (grand slam, won)
Bangkok (not grand slam, didn't win)
Japan (not grand slam, won)
Shanghai (not grand slam, didn't win)
World tennis finals (not grand slam, didn't win)

Rafael Nadal grand slam tournaments played since may 17 : 3, tournaments won : 3

Rafael Nadal non-grand slam tournaments played since may 17 : 7, tournaments won : 1

Percent of grand slam tournaments won since may 17 2010 : 100%
Percent of non-grand slam tournaments won since may 17 : 14%

it's as though Nadal can do something that enables him to perform better at grand slams than he can perform at non-grand slams. I wonder what that something is ?

Posted by TennisFan2 12/02/2010 at 08:50 PM

Nice article Steve. Fed was the better player in the final for sure but Rafa had a good tournament. I fully expect to see him add the Year End Championship to his CV.

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