Australian Open Draw 2011

[1] Nadal vs Daniel
Q vs Gimeno-Traver
Tomic vs Chardy
Falla vs [31] Lopez

[20] Isner vs Serra
Stepanek vs Q
Machado vs Giraldo
Q vs [15] Cilic

[10] Youzhny vs Ilhan
Q vs Anderson
Q vs Phau
Chela vs [22] Llodra

[27] Nalbandian vs Hewitt
Berankis vs Matosevic
Russell vs Ebden
Nieminen vs [7] Ferrer

[4] Soderling vs Starace
Q vs Q
Istomin vs Q
Mello vs [30] Bellucci

[24] Gulbis vs Becker
Dolgopolov vs Kukushkin
Seppi vs Clement
Petzschner vs [13] Tsonga

[11] Melzer vs Q
Ball vs Riba
Sela vs Del Potro
Q vs [21] Baghdatis

[32] Garcia-Lopez vs Berrer
Schwank vs Mayer
Marchenko vs Ramirez Hidalgo
Beck vs [5] Murray

[6] Berdych vs Q
Kohlschreiber vs Kamke
Harrison vs Mannarino
Q vs [28] Gasquet

[23] Davydenko vs Mayer
Fognini vs Nishikori
Zverev vs Tipsarevic
Schuettler vs [9] Verdasco

[14] Almagro vs Q
Andreev vs Volandri
Q vs Paire
Luczak vs [17] Ljubicic

[29] Troicki vs Tursunov
Dabul vs Q
Karlovic vs Dodig
Granollers vs [3] Djokovic

[8] Roddick vs Hajek
Przysiezny vs Kunitsyn
Berlocq vs Haase
Benneteau vs [26] Monaco

[19] Wawrinka vs Gabashvili
Q vs Golubev
Gil vs Cuevas
De Bakker vs [12] Monfils

[16] Fish vs Hanescu
Robredo vs Devvarman
Stakhovsky vs Brands
Kubot vs [18] Querrey

[25] Montanes vs Brown
Andujar vs Malisse
Lu vs Simon
Lacko vs [2] Federer

http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/scores/draws/ms/index.html

I just want to say thank you to all the people who have left supporting messages to me after I was brutally attacked and assaulted Saturday night on my way home from town. We live in a world where these kind of things and worse happen on a daily basis and who am I to feel sorry for myself? The important thing for me to realize is that they can destroy my body, mind, and soul, yet what I truly am can’t receive as much as a scratch. Even when we die a part of ourselves survive, and when we are in touch with this part of ourselves nothing can touch us .Everything for me now is about getting in touch with that part of myself and thereby becoming immune to this world.

The Oz Open draw was made today and both the top seeds will be pretty satisfied with their draws I’m sure. Nadal got Ferrer of all people in the quarters while Roger got Roddick. Given their respective records over these players you have to say it’s cakewalk quarter finals. Nadal got Murray in his half but Murray is so mentally unstable that there is no guarantee he will make the semi’s, as was the case at the US Open last year. Then there is also Soderling and Tsonga in the second quarter of the draw with Murray. That quarter looks like the toughest. Nadal’s quarter doesn’t look very strong. A noted first round match in the section is Hewitt/Nalbandian. Nalbandian is in the final of Auckland and looks to be in decent form. I am hoping he can make the quarters to face Nadal but not getting my hopes too far up.

Notably Nadal has got another Spaniard, Lopez, near him in the draw. This just makes things easier for him given that Spaniards are all too happy to lose to him. It’s a shame that Davydenko isn’t near Nadal either. Nadal would probably not have survived Davydenko. It is now possible that there will be a Davydenko/Djokovic quarter with the winner facing Roger. Roger wouldn’t be bothered by either player I’m sure. I hope it is Djokovic so Roger can show once more what a fluke that US Open loss to Djokovic was. I will never get tired of it. Roger can face Gilles Simon in the second round who has given him some problems before. Simon is also in decent form making the finals of Sydney. Roger is just in too good form to be bothered much in the draw though. I see him making another final comfortably.

Then it all depends whether Nadal will be there to face him. Id’ say Nadal got the easier draw given that Murray is completely unpredictable and Soderling have never done much at the Oz Open. Tsonga can also make semi’s. We will just have to wait and see. If Murray makes semi’s he can possibly take out Nadal but he first has to make it. Other than that we are seeing another Fedal final. Not that I would mind. I’d love to see Jesusfed avenge the 2009 loss and crush any hopes of the Nadal slam himself. If Nadal keeps getting easy draws then it’s up to Roger to make it hard for him.

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52 Comments

  1. So glad you are back doing what you love and why we are here. Giving your opinion and predictions. I hope your body and heart are healing, how is the eye and headaches? Sincerely

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Susan its better. I may have permanent damage to my right ear though. We will see.

    [Reply]

  2. Hi Ru-an, Oh, you made my day – you are back! First of all, happy you are on the road to recovery. Look ahead, Ru-an, never look back. I prayed for you, there is nothing stronger than the power of a prayer. Am your old, old friend wishing you continued recovery from your drama and wounds. We also hope and wish for Roger to do well in Australia.
    Kind regards,
    Dolores

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Dolores ;-)

    [Reply]

  3. Good to have you write again, Ruan.
    Nadal’s draw is again the easiest, but he earned it with the #1 rank. Soderling/Murray may be a thougher semi for him than Djokovic, but they have a tough quarter (Gulbis, Tsonga, Del Potro) and the winner will probably be tired against Nadal. So Nadal will reach the final. Djokovic may be tested (Berdych/Davydenko) but I believe he’ll reach the semi.
    Federer should should make it to the semi too though it won’t be that easy with Simon, Fish/Querry and then Roddick/Monfils (I hope he’ll get Monfils cause Roddick is too stubborn). He’ll have to start every match strongly so the other player will quickly lose hope of surprising and let go. If Federer reaches the semi he will make it to the final and then he has a good chance winning it. The main challenge for him is keeping the good form through 7 matches and that’s not easy. Good luck!

    [Reply]

  4. Very happy you are recovering Ru-an, you made my day.
    In fact I was just wondering where there´s another rule that Nadal must have an easy draw.But i don´t want to resign to this “oh well Nadal will take it all” attitude, this title is not his.!Nobody wants to get BULLIED anymore! It could be a surprise in the quarter, Murray in the semi or even better Roger in the
    final KILLERRR…
    Nadull bitting the trophy? Oh no! Roger you can´t bear to see that! Roger all the way!!!Come on!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Ines :-)

    [Reply]

  5. First-time poster here (though lurked for a while). First, really sorry to hear about your horrific ordeal. But glad to see you’re back.

    On the draw, one small’ish point: Fed’s first round, Lukas Lacko, looked very impressive in Doha against Rafa, pushing him to a first-set tiebreak before nerves lost it, and then recovering to take the second 6-0. Not that I think it’s cause for serious concern, but I do think it’s a somewhat tougher first-round opponent than we’d like.

    [Reply]

  6. Ru-an,

    I didn’t even care to read your blog this time around; I will do that once I finish writing to you. Just seeing you back with your beloved passion is enough for me and it made me immensely happy. I am so happy that you are back where you belong to and I assume the pain (both mental and physical) is receding gradually. I will write back to you once I have gone through the real staff.

    Take care.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Jiten. I still have physical and mental problems though. We will see how it goes.

    [Reply]

  7. An amazing read as always Ruan. I bumped into your blog a few months back when roger was down and out and since then I have been a regular follower. When I didn’t hear from you for a while I thought it’ll be better to subscribe to your blog. And when u finally did post on your predicament, I couldn’t help commenting. The attack on you was definitely shocking and my prayers as well as best wishes are with you. As for Roger and the latest news on him, he seems to have for the first time acknowledged that Nadal is a bigger favourite than him at an event. Especially a major like the Oz open as claimed by this article ” http://www.sify.com/sports/federer-tips-nadal-to-win-australian-open-news-news-lbpmkhadgcd.html “..

    His comments reflect the state he is in – extremely calm. And as u have so often pointed out, Roger of late, hasn’t been performing well under pressure, but he is at his best when he is genuinely enjoying himself on the court.

    His current state therefore holds him in good stead for a run at the title in Melbourne. This change is probably due to the fact that he now believes, like he did in the early stages of his dominant period, that he has what it takes to pull of a win even in the most difficult of situations. All said and done, the results in the Aussie open will tell us what the true story is. All we can do is wish him luck and pray for his success.

    Once again, wish u a quick and speedy recovery Ruan….cheers!!

    [Reply]

  8. Ru-an, I am happy to see you have returned to writing about the sport you love so much.

    They haven’t really beaten you unless you let them break your spirit. I am glad to see that your spirit remains intact. Best wishes for your continued recovery.

    Go Roger!

    [Reply]

  9. Well, Nadal seems to have achieved a ‘US Open” draw – another virtual stroll to the final. He can breathe a sigh of relief that Davydenko will be nowhere near his part of the woods. I expect that the second week in particular will see one of the strongest recoveries from flu yet seen, and a serve of near Sampras proportions. I guess the only real suspense in the tournament will be whether Federer meets him in the final and in the kind of form he has demonstrated since the end of last year. If so, the tournament is Federer’s to win. If not – be prepared for more trophy ‘biting’.

    Of course, there is still a shadow that hangs over the tournament, that will not be officially commented on but will be there nonetheless. Ruan, the following should reinforce quite a few of your perceptions about the game today.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2221980/

    In the meantime, we shoud be prepared to see yet more instances of unbelievable athleticism as the tournament progresses.

    [Reply]

  10. The Doping Issue: I read the piece in Slate, and it raises suspicions, that’s for sure. There’s very little evidence, but plenty of doubt, and a stricter testing regime seems to be upcoming.

    And where does that leave a fan? Someone who suspects Rafa watches his game cynically; someone who loves Roger (as I do) watches his game…how? What do we actually know about Roger except the game he plays, which we witness? So, I believe in his game. And Rafa’s fans believe in him. I’ve seen, for many years, players out on the court for four or more hours, giving their all, getting tired, losing form, then regaining it. Are we now to suspect every great exhibition of endurance and skill? We’ve recently seen Rafa get beaten; we’ve seen him lose form, then regain it. Because of drugs? Or because his opponent was taking the game to him, taking the ball early, playing out of his mind–which is what anybody playing Rafa must do–which is, also, what anybody playing Roger must do.

    Can we no longer believe in extraordinary will, discipline, and skill? Do I have to think, “Well, Rafa must be doing drugs because of his new serve,” while I look at Roger’s new game (which is actually an updated version of Roger’s old game) and say, “Roger and Annacone are working on new tactics to play Rafa and other hitters like him”? I don’t know any basis for not believing Roger uses drugs except my sense of the man and his game; the same applies to Rafa. Agassi, in his book, says that he used drugs a couple of times, one time almost getting caught. And then he stopped. How then, to account for his extraordinary tenacity, his ability to play for five hours at a torrid pace? Why is it that folks find it so easy to discount the years and years of training the elite players endure and seem to revel in?

    So, if it’s finally belief–in the absence of evidence–I’ll stick to my belief that what I see Rafa and Roger do comes from a complete commitment and bodies honed and shaped and energized by a burning will to be the best, which is a part of human nature rarely seen but amazing (and inspiring)–and therefore hard to believe–when it is.

    [Reply]

  11. Hi Ru-an
    I have to say that I’m getting a bit fed up of these pathetically easy draws for Nadal. If he holds all 4 slams history will not say- ‘but he had very very easy draws and the French, US Open and Aussie open. Nadal could have had Davydenko, Del Potro, Warwinka, Cilic, Meltzer, Murray all before the Semi finals stage.
    Instead he got a load of Spaniards who he always thrashes!! It’s getting a bit silly. How do they actually make these draws? Who witnesses them?
    So after looking at the draw I was annoyed. But then I thought that Roger’s half doesn’t have Murray in it (I would be worried about Fed having to play Murray before the final) and Roger’s quarter final opponent is the generous Roddick who he usually beats. Roger also totally avoided Del Potro.
    Murray and Soderling being in Nadal’s half is therefore a big bonus (but as you say you never know which Andy Murray will turn up!) Murray could knock Nadal out but because they play such defensive tennis they could exhaust each other and that’ll make it easier for Roger to win in the final.
    In the draw there are pretty much no players who I wanted Fed to avoid apart from Del Potro and Murray so I’m happy- I’m also just frustrated because as hard courts are Nadal’s worst surface there are lots of players who could have troubled him early on! He’s so lucky to avoid them.
    Nadal’s easy draw also means he can stroll into the semi finals and that’ll give him more ranking points- if he’s got a bad draw he might have been knocked out early on and that would’ve made Roger’s job easier to get back the number 1 ranking.
    Anyways- all in all it’s a fair draw for Roger. As you always say Ru-an, it looks like only oner super talented guy can put Nadal down! Come on Roger!!
    I also wish you all the best Ru-an and I hope ur physical and mental scars start to heal soon. I’m sure it will take some time but ‘time heals all wounds’…. Eventually. God bless
    Andrew

    [Reply]

    Ed Reply:

    Andrew–Do you happen to know how the Draws are arranged? I don’t know how it works. Are names drawn out of a hat? Who decides who plays whom and on what basis? Is it on the basis of ranking? And if so, then how, exactly, does that work? Is it luck or some sort of mathematical/ranking combination? Thanks!

    [Reply]

  12. Andrew said: …”I have to say that I’m getting a bit fed up of these pathetically easy draws for Nadal. If he holds all 4 slams history will not say- ‘but he had very very easy draws and the French, US Open and Aussie open. Nadal could have had Davydenko, Del Potro, Warwinka, Cilic, Meltzer, Murray all before the Semi finals stage…”

    Sure, history will not say this. But neither will history say ‘Roger Federer didn’t have to play Rafael Nadal for HIS French Open win, thus completing his own career slam.’ You can’t have it both ways.

    There are those out there who moan and whine about ‘Rafa’s easy draws’, or Federer’s ‘not facing Nadal in the FO’, but in the end, a win is a win, no? Still counts in my book.

    [Reply]

  13. Ed, your comments are thoughtful and intelligent. However, I might suggest that your concluding observation, about sticking to your ‘beliefs’, is more a demonstration of hope than realism. ‘Belief’ that the sport is clean is undermined by what we know; there is ample ‘evidence’, if you like, that ped’s are being used in tennis as they are in other pro sports (as the article indicates) but we don’t have conclusive proof, as such (like a failed drug test – that we know of), against certain players whom we might suspect. The position I take is that I have serious doubts about those players who appear more likely; however it sullies our enjoyment of the sport and is a situation that is allowed to continue through the indifference and laxity of the sport’s ruling bodies in failing to do everything they can to ensure tennis is clean.

    [Reply]

    Ed Reply:

    Fair enough, Neil. I’m hoping that the “ruling bodies” do, in fact, take every step they can “to ensure [that] tennis is clean.” My point, as you saw, has to do with “our enjoyment” being sullied. For my part, in the absence of any evidence about Rafa (for I believe you’re very suspicious of him) and in the face of having watched a lot of tennis and seen the extraordinary efforts that the top-flight makers exert (think, at a slightly lower level of David Ferrer, a dynamo of a player)I choose not to have “serious doubts,” for that would undermine the enjoyment, at times, the joy,” I experience watching tennis.
    I can’t both suspect and enjoy, so until there’s proof positive, I’ll enjoy. Believe me, I’ll stand corrected (and mortified) if proven wrong: until then, I’ll believe what I see because of what I’ve seen.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    But this is the dilemma for a tennis fan today. That area of uncertainty. The fact that you are left in the dark by a governing body who couldnt care less about you. It is what it is. Everyone who knows a thing or two about the sport knows its dirty and that the testing is a joke. This spoils tennis for me to a big extent. Knowing that Nadal could be winning all these slams and threatening Rogers records because of doping is a disgusting thought. If he wins the AO im not sure i will watch the FO and W. The FO and W was already a massive anti-climax last year with Nadals anti-tennis dominating and easy draws. Its just not worth my time anymore.

    [Reply]

    Ed Reply:

    Ru-an: I know that you’re hurting, and all who’ve written wish you well, wish you to not surrender what you love.

    Do you think that Roger would continue to play Rafa, knowing that Rafa is doping? Why would Roger be silent about such a travesty?

    [Reply]

  14. Ed, why would he (Federer) be silent? That’s hard to answer. He may (like you) prefer to trust his opponents are genuine – even though he knows some of them are not, and has said so. (He is on record for advocating keeping blood samples for up to 8 years, and has welcomed tougher testing – ‘if that’s what it takes to keep our sport clean’. Nadal, incidentally, has not supported that poistion and has protested vehemently against tougher drug testing.) Federer may take the view that if he doesn’t know for sure about a player then he should say nothing. There are also pragmatic (as well as principled) reasons for not accusing any other player – he would be punished by the ruling bodies of the sport and he knows he would bring the game into serious disrepute. Finally, I can’t recall an instance where one sportsman has directly accused another of drug cheating – except when they stand accused themselves, like Floyd Landis implicating Lance Armstrong. It goes against the ‘code’.
    Ultimately, we have never been able to rely on the locker room to expose the extent of drug cheating in sports. Although there are hints dropped from time to time (Rochus’s comments last year; while Jose Canseco’s autobiography “Juiced” in which he claimed 85% of pro baseball players use ped’s is the most explicit I have seen on this topic) the issue is left in the hands of those whom we have to ‘trust’ (sic) with enforcement, even though we also know it is not in their interest to damage the commercial brand of their sport by exposing marquee names. In the meantime, I have to keep rubbing my eyes at the incredible physical feats I keep seeing on the tennis court that never used to occur with previous generations of professional players. I just can’t buy that it is all in the training or the ‘genes’. Too much now convinces me otherwise.

    [Reply]

  15. Ed, by the way it is interesting you mention David Ferrer. I watched him this week in Auckland. It was a frankly incredible physical performance, the way he could run to virtually every ball without slowing or showing signs of fatigue, day after day. And those guys are hitting cannons! In the end it was too much for his opponent in the final, David Nalbandian. Ferrer is getting faster as he gets older – he is 28. (So are a number other players I saw there, like a French player almost as old as Fabrice Santoro, who could have tried out for the French Olympic track team. And none of these guys are breathing hard or even sweating!)

    [Reply]

    ed Reply:

    Neil–Once again, I take your point. Professional sports has had examples of world-class athletes who doped. Though I’ll remind you that no one (at least I haven’t heard) has yet accused Ursain Bolt, the fastest runner in the world–inhuman speeds–of doping. So, it’s possible, I’d argue, to be gifted and trained and disciplined and undoped.
    Do we wind up saying that every player who’s athleticism is superb–beyond what we (untrained, barely athletic folks can attain) is doped? That Ferrer and Nalbandian and Del Potro and Djovick, etc, that all top-flight players are doped because they perform beyond our expectations? Then who isn’t doped? Roger? Why would be believe that? We’ve all seen Roger not appear to tire over five sets; in fact, we’ve seen Roger dominate after being being broken and being beaten in a set. What are we to make of that? And he’s 29? Who says that 28 is “old” to a professional athlete whose training regime is, to most of us, unimaginable?
    But, we’re on two different sides of a line about this issue. As I said, I can’t suspect and enjoy simultaneously, so, until there’s proof, I’ll (perhaps to you) naively continue to believe that what I’m seeing is real, that what makes these men (and women) worthy of our focused and devoted attention is an earned excellence that is beyond the rest of us.

    [Reply]

  16. Welcome back, glad to know that you are back to posting your thoughts on AO men’s draw. IMO Fed’s draw is decent. He is in good form right now, only tricky customer will Simon in RD2 otherwise it should be pretty good. As always I will root for him to take 5th AO and stop Nadal. If he fails, he needs to shoot himself in the head while I jump out of my apartment balcony. Enuff said – btw take care of yourself there.

    [Reply]

  17. Hello Ruan,
    You are in my prayers buddy!! Glad to see you back, and I can’t say I blame you for feeling the way you do. I’m sure it will take some time to get over the pain, but be as strong as you can. You have tons of support as you can see. BTW, are you on FB? If you are, you can email me at mrkranen@yahoo.com. Looking forward to the Aus. Open and especially your great insight. Later Ruan, Gary

    [Reply]

  18. Marron
    You can’t compare the French Open 2009 with 3 slams in a row where Rafa has had really easy draws. Besides- at the French in 2009 Roger had to battle through two 5 setters against Del Potro and Haas (I think)
    The problem with Nadal’s draws recently is that there is no way in hell that he can lose before the semi finals stage. It is almost impossible!
    Even Roger has to beat an in form Simon in the 2nd round- Rafa has no threats until he plays Murray.
    Andrew

    [Reply]

    marron Reply:

    I’m not comparing anything. I’m simply saying you can’t have it both ways – if you want to ‘negate’ Rafa’s win at the USO because of an easy draw, you could make the same argument that others do about Fed’s win at the ’09 FO – that he didn’t have to play Rafa for it.

    They’re both wins. That’s all I’m saying. They both count.

    [Reply]

  19. Ed, enjoy the Aussie Open, by all means. But while you are watching it you might ask yourself why the players of today – even the lower ranked journeymen (and women) – make the best players of the even recent past look like schoolboys by comparison. Do you know that there are world records in track that are twenty and thirty years old? Runners of today can’t get near some of those times. So how is it that tennis players of today are, as athletes at least, on another planet compared with very best players of the 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s? They all have the same muscle, tendon and bone. Something doesn’t square here.

    [Reply]

    Ed Reply:

    And will you be able to enjoy the AO, Neil, with all of your suspicions? Are you able, these days, to enjoy watching tennis? Or, has the well been poisoned for you?

    Honestly, I don’t know enough about training regimes during the last thirty years as compared with today’s regimes. The little that I have heard about concerns huge advances in muscle therapy, diet, exercise techniques that hadn’t been developed during the 70’s, etc.

    And, Neil, I can’t deny your evidence: major sports figures have, to their shame and the shame of the sport and to the huge disappointment of their fans, doped. But, to put a bottom line to this–and maybe our difference mirrors our respective levels of cynicism, fatigue, and hope–we have different positions on this issue. All the best!

    [Reply]

    marron Reply:

    Re: comparing tennis players (athletes) of today, vs the ‘very best players of the 70’s, 80’s, etc…’ all having the same muscle, tendon, and bone – well, that’s simply not true. There’s plenty of literature out there, from former players, sportswriters, etc, about racquet technology, string improvement, and new commitment to fitness and strength since those days. Tennis itself has changed, as well as the pros who play it.

    [Reply]

  20. Ru-an I want to tell you that I made a contact with the ATP complaining for Nadal´s easy draws(with other people)We are not kids.Hope that more Fedfans will do the same.We´re tired of the stupid draws Roger often gets.Roger let´s bring on your FEDEROCITY FOR US FEDERITES to witness the happy moments to come for your sweet 17th GS TITLE.To all of us THINK POSITIVE GO ROGER!!!
    And for you Ru-an I´m going to use Dolores´words”Look ahead never look back”.These words were the key for my personal drama.Go Ru-an !!!Your readers love you.

    [Reply]

  21. Ed, you are right in your observation about how I now see the game: yes, I believe it has become corrupted. I can no longer watch it with the enjoyment I once had. I don’t think that is being paranoid or subject to conspiracy theories: it is the product of the accumulation of information, and the judgment that comes from following the sport for 40 years.
    Marron, I am sorry but you are wrong. The human athlete is made of the same raw material as he always has, unless you know something that Charles Darwin didn’t about human evolution. Training, tools, technique and traditrion will make some difference but cannot explain everything. A demonstration of this is that the winning track times at last year’s Delhi Commomweath Games were no faster than those of the best runners in the early 1960’s. So where exactly has the advantage been gained in half a century? Against that, the rise of the tennis ‘Superman’ in this decade in particular is without legitimate explanation.
    Now, leading up to the AO, here is an interesting comment from Federer about Nadal’s game.
    ‘Intriguingly, Nadal is also tweaking his game, and has brought to Melbourne Park the flatter, heavier serve that proved so effective on the hardcourts at Flushing Meadows. Federer, naturally, has noted it.

    ”He hit it harder,” the Swiss agrees. ”Interesting. Interesting choice. Takes a bit of adjustment for him too. I’m wondering why didn’t he serve like this his whole life? But maybe there was a reason behind it, maybe it was confidence, maybe it was technique issues, I don’t know what it was, but I think it’s good he’s trying these things out. It’s important to try to evolve.”

    http://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/rally-cry-federer-unplugged-20110116-19sk8.html

    Yes, it is a good question, isn’t it? So much achieved from a simple ‘grip change’, we are told. So many more grand slam titles open to him if he had done it years ago. I don’t doubt Nadal’s motivation to put his hands on every grand slam trophy he can, as often as he can. So, taking my cue from Federer, I find it dubious that that supreme competitior that Nadal is has found a huge serve at a late stage in his career by the means he claims. It begs the question as to why so many other players (including Federer!) can’t do the same.

    [Reply]

    Ed Reply:

    Neil–You’ve commented, I think twice, about records in track. I don’t know a whole lot about track, but I thought I’d take a cursory look at some records. I certainly didn’t do an extensive search, but in terms of records set for several popular distances, from the 1960’s to as close to currently as I could find, this is what I discovered: For the 100m dash, the record in 1964 was 10.06; for 2009 it was 9.58. For the 100 yard dash, the record in 1961 was 9.3, while in 20010 it was 0.07. For the 200m dash the record in 1960 was 20.6, while the record in 2009 was 19.19. Now running is, I think we’d agree, a much simpler, less complex sport than tennis. The competitors are up against their human limitations: given that, these differences over some 40 years are significant, for in track, unless you’re dealing with a genius like Ursain Bolt (never accused of doping that I know), we’re talking about hundredths of seconds being knocked off, but each of those minute changes is huge in track; each represents years of new training, diet, and recovery techniques. None of the records I’ve quoted above, by the way, belong to anyone whose record has been disqualified because of doping. Marron’s point, I’m suggesting, cannot be dismissed so easily; it bears thinking about.

    [Reply]

    ed Reply:

    Oops! I meant 9.07 in 2010 for the 100 yard dash. Sorry.

    [Reply]

  22. Federer has immense natural gifts: he moves like Baryshnikov, has a limitless arsenal of shots, has perfect, biomechanically efficient technique. Through a lifetime of work and discipline, he has forged those natural gifts into a winning game.

    The story we are told about Nadal is that he was born without talent, but managed, through dint of hard work and sheer grit alone, to surpass the natural genius, Roger Federer.

    It’s very Hollywood, very heart-warming. But unfortunately, this is not a movie, but real life. There must be more to the story.

    So how is it that Nadal has maintained his amazingly low error rate even as his game has become more aggressive? Is he a better shotmaker than Federer or Agassi, to be able to make so many high-risk shots while keeping his unforced errors so low? And is it possible for someone to develop such an incredible shotmaking talent so late in one’s career, when he was totally lacking it when he was younger?

    The answer is almost surely no. Nadal is playing a totally different game from anyone else on tour, or even in the history of the sport. Essentially, he is playing a powered-up version of clay-court tennis that wins even on hard courts. Because of the enormous topspin he puts on the ball, his shots are very safe and low-risk, yet he is strong enough to outhit power baseliners. The security and consistency of a clay-court game, combined with the strength to pummel even the hardest hitters into submission. No wonder this guy’s crushing everyone–he can hit tons of winners without making any mistakes! Add to that a powered-up serve, and you can see why he is so formidable.

    Contrary to the claims that he is flattening out his forehand more, he still finishes most of his forehands with his racket over his head (“reverse” forehand). This stroke generates a lot of topspin, and it’s very safe, but unless you’re very strong, it’s hard to put much pace on it. Yet Nadal is strong enough to consistently nail clean winners through hard courts with this stroke. And he can do this throughout an entire Grand Slam tournament, during seven matches of three, four, five hours, against the best players in the world.

    I defer to those with greater knowledge of tennis history than I, but if I’m not mistaken, this kind of sheer physical ability has never previously been seen in the game.

    We are therefore faced with two possibilities. Either Nadal is a genetic freak to end all freaks, physically gifted beyond any athlete in tennis history, or he is getting special “help.”

    The first is so unlikely as to be all but impossible. (I say “all but” because I still believe in presumption of innocence). The latter is sad, horrifying, unthinkable–but far, far, far, far more likely.

    Keep in mind that “genetic freaks” are not a new phenomenon; we have also seen them in other sports, namely baseball and cycling. We had the same pattern of baffled commentators and fans left groping for explanations for the unbelievable physical feats they were witnessing; One of those “freaks,” Barry Bonds, when asked about the source of his newfound hitting power, famously referred his questioner to God for the answer.

    In each of these cases, the real reason for these incredible performances turned out to be neither freakish genetics, nor divine intervention, not new “training methods” or equipment, but something far more prosaic and sordid: PEDs.

    Of course, it’s not just Nadal who is suspect: Odesnik was actually caught (and the ATP has reduced his suspension, supposedly for “cooperation”), and there are many others, some famous, others not so famous, who are exhibiting suspicious changes in their performance.

    Like Ed, I watch with trepidation, hoping against hope that what we’re seeing is real. Because if it’s not, then how can we possibly enjoy it?

    But I can’t ignore that champion athletes in other sports have concealed PED use for years while winning the biggest prizes in their fields, and I have no reason to believe that tennis is immune to the same problem.

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  23. Keep blabbing, those who have all these suspicions. If it makes the game less fun for you, well, too bad for you. I choose to be like others here, and will assume that things are OK in TennisLand until and unless proven otherwise. How can you enjoy any of this if all you ever think about is Nadal this, Nadal that, Nadal Nadal Nadal? It must be killing you!

    :-)

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  24. Ed, I won’t bore you with too much detail about this, as track used to be one of my sports, and I will say you are correct that from an absolute standpoint times have improved significantly over the years. However, the point I make is as simple as this example demonstrates: Peter Snell, who was an amateur in an amateur era, won the 800m at the Rome Olympics in 1960 and the 800-1500m double at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. He was running on tracks that don’t compare with today’s tracks. Yet his winning times at Rome and Tokyo would have beaten the best at Delhi in 2010 (that included the current world champions from Kenya) in those events. In fact, all the times from the sprints through to longer middle distances were comparable – for both men and women. This is quite incredible as half a century separates them – as well as the enormous distance between the amateur and the professional, and the improvements in technique, training and tracks that have developed over the years. If we now turn to tennis, I find it inconceivable that any of the great players of the 1960’s (Gonzalez, Laver, Rosewall, Roche etc.), or even of the later decades through to the 90’s (Connors, Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Wilander), could live on the same court as a Nadal and his ilk – even were they were to use the same equipment. As athletes they are universes apart. Yet the Delhi Games have shown that the best runners fifty years ago could still foot it (sorry about the pun) today. Essentially, that the disparity between top performances in track over half a century has been reduced to practically zero in championship events says to me that drug enforcement in track and field has improved significantly in recent years, whereas in tennis it has not.
    By the way, questions have often been asked about Usain but he has not (so far) failed a drug test. However, his female compatriot in the Jamaican team who won the 100m at the Beijing Olympics failed a drug test a couple of months ago. I am not saying that Bolt is a doper but in an era when ped’s seem to be part of every professional sport we should not be surprised by anything. Remember ‘Mr Clean’ Carl Lewis? Well, it turns out he failed a drug test, too.

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    ed Reply:

    You say track was your sport, Neil, so I have to defer to you, but…when i checked Snell’s 1962 800m record (1:44.3) then checked the 2010 time run by David Rudisha and saw 1:41.01, I don’t know what to make of your statement that Snell could have beaten the Kenyans, since Rudisha, who beat his record, is a Kenyan.

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  25. and how exactly was Nadal born “without talent”? He won an under 12 tennis championship when he was 8 years old. he beat Pat Cash when he was 15. Unless he was doping as a young boy too.

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  26. Mike, you are being a little absurd about your boy. No one here actually claims Nadal is ‘without talent’ (although it is not greatly remarkable for a good junior to win above his age group. And Pat Cash, by the way, was a retired pro in his forties playing an exhibition on clay – I don’t care how good you once were, a retired player in his forties will struggle against a top teenager.) Of course Nadal has talent, and you could generously say he has made the most of them. But it is arguable he has no more tennis talent than many other top professional players. You can’t make it in the game without it. What he does have is physical ability that is out of this world. And that is nothing to do with talent. With Nadal, that makes all the difference. Federer, by contrast, has ball-striking abilities that come along once in a life-time. I think I might know, because I have never seen anything like him, and I have seen them all since Gonzalez and Laver. Most former and current pro’s agree that Federer is a unique genius. I don’t think they say that about Nadal, even with his extraordinary record. They do however describe him, in less flattering terms, as ‘a physical freak.’ But yes, Mike, he is talented.

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    Ed Reply:

    “Unique genius.” “physical ability that is out of this world.” I’m struck, Neil, that your obvious knowledge of tennis founders when it comes to Nadal. I’m led to think that your serious suspicion about Nadal blinds you to the obvious. Roger is greater (?) because he’s balletic? Roger is greater because of his court-sense, timing, laser precision? Yet you’d deny Nadal his absolutely authentic greatness in this sport because you don’t like his style? It’s not to your liking, being all grunt, sweat, and merciless top spin? That’s just not fair, really. How many times have we seen Rafa make “impossible” hits, ridiculous angles, on the run? What does he have to do to earn your accolades? And do the same again and again and again, running down balls time after time? I’ve felt, from the first time I saw Rafa play that he’d rather die on the court than lose. That’s who I believe he is.
    We can get into the usual comparison game between these two masters: balletic/brutish; surgical/bludgeoning, etc. But all of us on this blog have seen those comparisons (and made them) a thousand times. And the result? The result really comes down to individual preference. There’s Ali and Norton. Norton lumbering and single minded, while Ali, in his own words, “floated like a butterfly.” But both were absolutely courageous men, both masters in their own styles. I can prefer one to the other; I can give my opinion about which I prefer, which, to my mind constitutes “complete” mastery, but in the end, to deny one greatness is to do the sport an injustice.
    Rafa’s not “unique”? Roger is “more” unique than Rafa? This comparison game misses, I believe, the capacity of tennis to bring to the surface widely different talents and energies: the puncher, the slugger: see them clearly enough and you see their beauty. It might not be one’s cup of tea, but preference should not, I think, be blinding.

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    marron Reply:

    Awesome post, Ed!

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  27. Gee, I just finished reading both ‘Hardcourt Confidential’, and ‘Open’, and both PMac and Agassi described Nadal’s game as unique, genius, and amazing. Agassi even used the word ‘balletic’ to describe Nadal. Talent. Tons of it. No one hits the ball like Fed. No one hits the ball like Nadal.

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  28. ‘Balletic’? I guess in ‘Vegas Agassi doesn’t get to see much of the real thing. For a start, grunting and fist-pumping (not to mention time-delays and on-court coaching) are not really in the Baryshikov repertoire. But I suppose such hyperbole convinces the star-gazers. It is scarcely analysis but it is certainly stating the obvious that ‘no one hits the ball like Nadal’ – and that’s where you have to question why.

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    marron Reply:

    LOL! This comment didn’t come from Vegas, but from Canada, in ’05, when Agassi was defeated by Nadal in the final. Oh, yes, on a hardcourt, yet. And I don’t feel any need to question why.

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  29. Ed, with respect you seemed to have missed my point about the track times. I was not saying that world records have not improved since the early 1960’s – of course they have – what I said was that in a major championship last year the best in the world ran no faster than some the best in the championships of the 1960-64 Olympics – a rather different point. (By the way, Snell’s 1962 800m world record (run on grass!) has been expertly estimated to be worth 1.42 on today’s tracks, putting his time within the current David Rudisha ball-park of 1.41. Kind of close don’t you think?) At the risk of further repeating myself, you couldn’t put some of today’s tennis players (like Nadal, I suggest) on the same court as players 20 years ago, let alone 50 years ago – even with the same equipment – because the athletic component of the game has changed so much in this decade. If you don’t agree that it has then I don’t think you understand the extent of the Nadal phenomenon.
    As for my liking or disliking Nadal’s style, that is irrelevant. My basic view of his game is akin to what Steve has previously (and insightfully) explained, which is that it is clay-court counterpuncher tennis writ large. That is not tennis characterised by remarkable talent, in the way say Sampras and Federer might be described, as brilliant shotmakers; it is tennis that essentially exhausts one’s opponent physically and mentally. That this style has never previously translated effectively from clay to other surfaces makes me suspect how Nadal is able to do it, because the apparent ‘secret’ to his success is incredible physical speed, strength and stamina, of proportions I have never seen before in tennis. Nadal is either a one-out-of-the-box athlete (better than I have seen in any sport) or a doper. Take your pick.
    Going back to Peter Snell – the example of track suggests that the very best athletes today are not really much better than the best 50 years ago – the advantages being professionalism, better training, nutrition, and equipment – but for some reason the best ‘athletes’s in tennis today are on another planet from players in the even recent past. Putting wood racquets to one side, it doesn’t figure – unless you enter doping into the equation. I know that Marron feels ‘no need to question why’ Nadal can play the way he does but fan denial has been a big part of allowing drug abuse in sports to continue.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Fan denial has to end. Thats why i see no reason to stop discussing doping here.

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  30. Ed, fyi. The winning times in the men’s 800m and 1500m at the 2010 Delhi Games were 1.46.6 and 3.41.78 respectively. At Rome in 1960 Snell won the 800m in 1.46.3, and at Tokyo in 1964 he won the 800m in 1.45.1 and the 1500m in 3.38.1. (These were also run on cinder tracks.)

    [Reply]

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