Australian Open Rd 1: Federer def Kudryavstev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, Twins Make an Appearance

Certainly no complaints with this performance. If there are any it is that Nadal won his match slightly easier 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 against a similar player. Even though Nadal picked up yet another injury(is he ever not injured?), he put in an impressive performance. This time it is the knee again. He said he heard a crack in his knee when he sat down on a chair, and had to play with some kind of support for his knee. But like I said it didn’t look like it affected him at all. He clinically destroyed his opponent and looks like he is gonna be a real threat here. He always steps it up for the slams and we can pretty much assume he is going to make semis. Roger on the other hand was only slightly less clinical in his match, but I was happy with his performance. We weren’t quite sure what to expect after his withdrawal from Doha.

So it was nice to see he continued his good form and that his back held up without any problems. He said before the tournament that his back was 100% and in his presser after that match he said that he went full out to test his back. Everything seems fine and tomorrow he will also feel if there is problems, but he doesn’t think there will be. He also said in his presser that he makes no secret about these things, which is something I also said in my post. Some people thought he just said he is 100% not to give anything away to his opponents, but that is not how Roger operates. So for Roger this was pretty much a test match. But you could say the same for Nadal. This Kudryavstev guy was pretty decent for a world number 172. He put up good resistance in the first set. At 5-4 Roger held a set point but Kudryavstev saved it in confident fashion.

Roger held serve to take a 6-5 lead and then he stepped it up. He hit two return winners to go up 30-0 and then hit a sweet backhand down the line winner behind the Russian’s back to bring up three set points. He wasted no time as he crushed another return which the Russian could not return. From there on it was straight forward as Roger broke twice in each of the following two sets. There were some good moments in this match. At one point the Russian almost decapitated a ball boy when he mishit a backhand that rocketed into the umpire’s chair. Then Roger hit one of those fake drop shots where it looks like he goes for a drop shot and then slices the ball deep. Late in the third set Roger also hit a return through his legs for a winner after a serve from the Russian clipped the net. Of course it didn’t count but it still takes unreal skill and entertains.

Roger served well again today and had a 63% first serve percentage. Roger was serving very well during the indoor season last year and it’s nice to see him keep that up. On break points he was 6/13 which is fair enough. Like I said I have no complaints and I am feeling positive about Roger’s chances. Djokovic was in action today and he double bageled Lorenzi. There is no doubt that Djokovic is once again the man to beat here. I can’t tell any difference from his form last year this time. He looks unstoppable once more. The other member of the top four, Murray, is playing as I’m writing this post and he’s down two breaks to Harrison in the first set. Will we see Murray crack up under the pressure of expectation once more? A first round loss sure would be an embarrassment and a bad start for the Murray/Lendl partnership.

In other matches Tomic defeated Verdasco 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5. That was the much anticipated first round and it lived up to it’s expectation. Tomic looked nervous and passive in the first two sets, a lot like Murray does when he is under pressure, but to his credit stepped it up in the third set. From there on there was basically just one winner. In the fifth set when things got tight Verdasco was always going to start yelling at himself and choke. Such is the nature of the biggest choker in tennis. Tomic will take a lot of confidence from this match and I feel like he is now the most likely to make the fourth round and face Roger. The other guy who could make it is Dolgopolov, but he needed five sets to win his first round and is very unpredictable. Del Potro also won against Mannarino, but only after losing the first set.

We will see how he progresses in the draw. I’m still not convinced he will make quarters, although he only really has Fish in his quarter who can stop him. Fish had a pretty good straight set win in his first round against Muller. The other two young guys that I mentioned before the tournament, Dimitrov and Raonic, also made the second round. Dimitrov needed five sets to overcome Chardy while Raonic destroyed Volandri in straight sets. Dimitrov plays Almagro in the second round which should be one of the more interesting second round matches. Roger on the other hand will play Andreas Beck. They have met once before at the 2010 US Open where Roger won in straight sets. Should be another straight forward win. I must say I’m just happy to still see Roger out there playing good tennis and entertaining us.

Now I want to get back to the Fedal rift. About 80% of Roger’s post match presser was dedicated to this issue. As expected Roger handled it with the utmost grace and diplomacy. There were no ill feelings or thoughts of replying in kind. Nadal on the other hand apologized in his presser about what he said to Roger and obviously didn’t think before he spoke. I guess that is just the difference between a true champion and a good player as one of my readers said. Roger handles himself with class and maturity, while Nadal looks like a child in comparison. Children are after all selfish. They feel like they are the only one in the world and that everyone have to meet their needs. This is why I love and admire Roger so much. He is more than just a good tennis player. He is also a good human being. The following excerpt from his presser sums it up:

So I choose not to talk about those issues with you guys.  That doesn’t mean I don’t support the players.  I think of the players first.  Usually when I take decisions, I think of the lowerranked players first.  I hope they know that.

Otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting on the council, just trying to do what’s best for the top guys.  I mean, I’ve been around for too long to just say, Okay, we need more stuff for the top guys.  I’m very happy if the lowerranked players are doing better, too. 

Hehehe too cute  :D

In my last post I told you that Nadal was not speaking for the majority despite him claiming to do so. He was only speaking for the majority of the top players who would benefit the most from his suggestions. It would be the easiest thing in the world for Roger to agree with these guys and not give the younger players a second thought, but this is what distinguishes the men from the boys. Roger is a real man in that sense, while the other top players are still selfish children only looking out for themselves. Saying that we live in a competitive society where everyone must look out only for themselves is certainly not an excuse. How are things ever gonna change if there is no people who cares about others? Just because everyone does something doesn’t make it right. That is the stance a weak person takes who have not yet formed their own identity.

So what I want to say is that this is for me the essence of Roger Federer. There is something magical about him. He was not voted the second most trusted and respected person in the world behind Nelson Mandela for nothing. Mandela is another great example of this because his actions was self-determined. He did what he did because he thought it was right, not because he wanted to fit in. We all have to do things even if we won’t fit in, if we want to be mature. The world is changed by such actions. Since January 15 was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I may as well mention him too. These are the kind of people who acts from truth, and that takes courage. I believe Roger is such a person and that is why I respect him so much. Aside from all his achievements he has a champions heart, and that is something Nadal can only ever dream of.

Correction: Roger broke three times in the third set and was broken once(I didn’t actually watch the third set as I fell asleep).

Short highlights:

Long highlights:

On-court interview: There was a funny moment in this interview where Roger was asked whether he would coach his daughters and he said he would be happy to leave it to his wife, after which Mirka made a funny reaction as if she wouldn’t wana do it either!

Presser: http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/interviews/2012-01-16/201201161326713844804.html

OOP: http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/scores/schedule/schedule8.html

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40 Comments

  1. About this so called rift, I think this issue is not even worth hashing anymore. Roger did the right thing to not blow up the issue. He didn’t get sucked in by Nadal’s pre-tournament mind games and instead prefers to focus on his tennis now that the tournament is going on.

    We all know Nadal is a lock to reach the semis with the draw he has. Even if Nadal were truly playing with one knee, the guys in his section don’t stand a chance against him. Once again Nadal has avoided all big hitters and dangerous hard court players. Let’s just hope Federer can make it through his draw too to face Nadal. It would be great to finally see a Federer/Nadal SF in a slam for the first time since the 2005 French Open.

    Regarding Federer’s section, both the Dog and Tomic were down 2 sets to none and both came back to win in 5. That’s some good mental strength from both of them to turn it around after sluggish starts. I believe they will meet in the 3rd round and that will be a very interesting match. Verdasco looked like he was out of gas in his match and let Tomic back in it, where as in the Dog’s match he flipped the switch and owned his opponent with some great shot-making. It was over fast and was a solid turnaround for the Dog.

    Federer vs Karlovic is a decent draw for the 3rd round. There is an element of danger in tight sets but I believe Roger will come through to the 4th round where he will face the winner of Tomic/Dolgopolov. I think Roger has a tricky 4th round vs either of those guys because they both have an unorthodox style. The Dog for me is more dangerous. Tomic has less experience and more pressure to thrive in his home country. The Dog just basically goes out and cracks winners with no pressure. He has the experience of playing Roger before, and also has the experience of reaching the QF in Australia. He could really complicate things for Roger in that 4th round, for those who are under-estimating him.

    It will be a fun draw regardless though. There has been a lot of good tennis played so far in other matches as well.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good comment Booya. You could be right about Dog. He is maybe more dangerous than Tomic but also less consistent. If Tomic and Dog meet in the 3rd round then i guess a lot will depend on the Dog’s form on the day. But I agree it should be an interesting match as both players have unique styles. For Roger Dog will probably be the most dangerous because like you say he can just start hitting winners and stuff. But he can also play really bad and get destroyed by Roger. Tomic is more solid. If he plays like he did in the last three sets against Verdasco he is a tough customer. But yeah I agree with you that the Dog is probably more dangerous. Good observations.

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    Tomic is clearly very talented and has a natural tennis mind, but I don’t find him a very exciting player.

    Federer has an attacking style, trying to open the court and create an opportunity to make a winner.

    Tomic sort of lulls his opponent with a weird mix of balls. For a long time, he won’t seem to be doing much, but then he will redirect the ball suddenly to catch the opponent off guard. It’s soporific tennis–if it’s intended to put the opponent to sleep, it surely will do the same to the audience.

    He said he played possum in the third set to fool Verdasco into lowering his guard. It worked, but it’s hard to be a fan of a player who uses that kind of mind game.

    Federer won’t be so easily lulled as the baseliner Verdasco and he will go on the offensive a lot more.

    Dolgopolov is impossible to predict. If he’s on, it’s very difficult to stop him. But when he’s off he misses by a mile. Federer will know how to take advantage of the down periods.

    Dolgopolov could stay hot for three full sets, but then Federer has ways of disrupting his opponents’ rhythm and taking their time away that other players haven’t got. He has played Dolgopolov before so he won’t be going in totally blind.

    I guess we will find out by the end of the week.

    [Reply]

    Aravind Reply:

    Dog is coming off an injury and he may struggle against Tomic. we shall mostly see Tomic in the fourth round, but hopefully he will play two five setters before that. Tomic has taken a set off from Federer earlier, but that was after US open in the Davis cup when Federer went from US all the way to Australia. His match against Hewitt then was also very close. So we can’t read much into it.
    Of the new players, I think Federer is less vulnerable against Tomic than someone like Raonic for e.g. Players that trouble Federer are players like Tsonga, Berdych who can overpower him. Dont’ think based on what I have seen, Tomic falls into that category…
    “Once again Nadal has avoided all big hitters and dangerous hard court players” – I think this is not correct. I think Federer and Nadal have more or less same draws. Delpo fit and firing is a nightmare, BUT, he is not back to US open 2009 form yet(whether he will ever be is another question).
    I think if they get there, both Isner and Berdych can trouble Rafa. With the slightly heavier racquet, physics dictates that Nadal should lose control while gaining power. This lack of control could trouble him against big servers. Nadal is not the best returner, he puts returns into play and wins by defense most of the times. A slight loss of control returning could be a big problem. Before folks pounce on the Berdych choking phenomenon, remember that there was a guy once called Soderling who lost 14 straight times to Federer and then beat Federer in French open two years ago for the first time.. If you lose speed(natural process as you accumulate matches), you can become vulnerable against big hitters. Sometimes one match is all that it takes. Berdych had a very poor record against Federer as well, he won once in Miami against Federer and since then has constantly troubled Federer. So you never know. If Nadal is slighly down, he is beatable on this surface..

    [Reply]

    booya719 Reply:

    Isner has got a big serve and that’s all. When the ball is in play he does not possess much firepower at all. He can make shots but there’s not much on them. Nadal’s ground game will really punish Isner’s poor mobility and lack of ground game on a fast court. Plus, at the French Open, Nadal took Isner lightly and played a couple weak tiebreakers. Nadal will not make the same mistake again. If he gets another chance against Isner he will come out and basically destroy Isner in 3 solid sets.

    Isner will be in tough however to get past Nalbandian actually. We could very well instead see a Nalbandian/Nadal 4th round to be honest. Not that Nalbandian would fare much better than Isner against Nadal. At least Isner would win some cheap points off his serve.

    Berdych, in his entire career of 9 seasons, has only made it past the 4th round of a major on 4 occasions. One result 2 years ago where he played the match of his life vs Federer who had an injured back doesn’t suddenly make him a grand slam contender. Berdych’s odds of even making it to a slam QF are very slim and he does not really deserve a top 8 ranking. If he somehow gets to Nadal he does not stand much of a chance either way. It’s highly unlikely we will see Berdych in that QF.

    Nadal has a cakewalk to the SF compared to Federer’s draw no matter how you look at it. Federer is guaranteed to face one of the Dog/Tomic and one of Fish/Del Potro. Federer’s draw is tough no matter what scenario occurs.

    About Tomic/Federer, that was true grass court tennis they played. The court they played on in the Davis Cup tie was true fast grass and plays nothing like Wimbledon. The serves there in the Davis Cup were like bombs exploding up off the ground compared to what we see at Wimbledon. Chris Guccione in the doubles was virtually unbreakable on his service. It was true grass tennis…Federer was serving and volleying for goodness sakes. You can’t really draw anything from that match going into what the match will be like here in Australia.

    [Reply]

    Aravind Reply:

    I think you are really underestimating Isner. His FH is very good if he has time to set it up. He is not going to hit screaming winners on the run, but if you drop your return moderately short, you will not win a point against him. This is why he is able to hold relatively easily, even against top players. Isner makes Rafa nervous. Rafa gets over cautious while serving and sometimes this can backfire. He is a very bad matchup.
    Same thing about Berdych. He hits a flatball which troubles Nadal and has a decent BH. He has the matchup to trouble Nadal is he is not playing well. That he has not done so far is a different issue.

    If you see the Isner Murray match last US open you will know what I am talking about. It was 4 close sets and ended up tiring Murray who basically did a no show in the first two sets the next day against Nadal!

    [Reply]

    booya719 Reply:

    Duly noted. We’ll see how it plays out but I would be very surprised to see either of those guys stop Nadal here. Matches are indeed played for a reason however.

    [Reply]

    booya719 Reply:

    Isner is through but I lost a lot of respect for him today because of the way Nalbandian was cheated at 8-8 in the 5th. Isner should have conceded the fault on break point. The whole stadium knew it was out and the umpire was plain breaking the rules by not allowing Nalbandian to challenge and overturn the blown call. It’s unfortunate we had to see that and I give full respect to Nalbandian for the way he handled himself with class after being cheated.

    The umpire broke the rules and Isner played dumb when he knew he faulted. I hope in his press conference Isner apologizes to Nalbandian at the very least. A terrible end to a great match. And without a doubt, it was the worst umpire decision I’ve ever seen. It’s the first time I have seen an umpire flat out break the rules.

    Isner is only in the 3rd round due to a blown call, so I still don’t have much faith in him to challenge Nadal legitimately. From what I saw today Nadal will have no problem handling Isner.

    [Reply]

    Aravind Reply:

    Isner might not make it through the next match after this 5 hour marathon. Did not see the match so cannot comment about the incident.

    On another topic, Nadal did not look great today. He won, but I did not expect Hass to push him. Of course early rounds Nadal is different from super Nadal, so we never know! Great that Roger is getting a bye. Dog has killed his chances with a second 5 set match. Tomic is having a tough one against Querrey. So looks like the draw is opening up for Federer, BUT Delpo lurks!!!

    [Reply]

    booya719 Reply:

    The Dog came through again. He is wildly inconsistent but was capable of coming up with the goods when it counted. He really saved himself with some incredible shot-making when he was down 3-0 in the 5th. I have to admit he is a very fun player to watch. He hits a lot of shots which remind me of Roger when Roger was that age. Roger always had way more consistency though.

    The Dog on the other hand, one set he will spray 30 errors and lose it 6-3, the next set he comes out and hits 30 winners of amazing shots to win the set 6-1. If the Dog ever found some consistency to his high level of play then he would be flat out scary to play against for anyone. Matches are definitely played on his racquet which is very similar to Federer. They both live or die by their errors/winners ratio and play high offense tennis.

    If the Dog ends up playing Federer that could be a really, really good match for the shear quality of tennis we could see. The Dog is definitely a player I enjoy watching and I am giving him the edge over Tomic in the 3rd round. Dolgopolov isn’t bothered by that unorthodox stuff Tomic does to unsettle guys. The walk, change of pace, and all that stuff. If anything that plays into the Dog’s strengths. He can lose a set and come back and win sets 6-1 anyway in the same match. The Dog seldom gets bothered at any point during a match and he doesn’t seem to ever get tired either. He’s already played a ton of 5-set matches in his career and has won almost all of them as far as I can remember.

    [Reply]

  2. Hi Ruan,
    Lovely post as usual and a very good follow up to the Fedal rift too.
    I have to admit, I was shocked by Nadal’s comments yesterday, and my first impression was that it’s such an irresponsible and low class comments by him. But after Davydenko came up with his own jib at Roger, I was a bit worried that these will make Roger looks very bad, especially if more players come out with such comments.
    After spending some time reading through various reports and quotes, at least I now have a better grasp of Roger’s stand on the matter:
    1. He has to take care of the welfare of the lower ranking players too, not just the top players;
    2. He understand the (top) players’ concerns and will be fully supportive if a strike is the last option;
    3. He still believes there are better ways to resolve the issues with ATP before drastic action, such as a strike, is taken.
    The incident really showed us how matured and sophisticated a person Roger is, unlike a lot of simple minded and selfish sportsmen nowadays, we know who they are.
    Regarding his performance yesterday, I am happy that he won in straights. Just a minor concern with the amount of UE. I hope it is just the initial rust, which will be shaken off as he progresses. He needs to be sharp and clinical if he were to beat Nadal in the semi, imho.

    [Reply]

  3. Concerning Roger’s performance, I share your concerns with the amount of UE Roger makes, and have also a minor concern with the average speed of his first serve which was only 181 km/hour. In the Roland Garros final against Rafael Nadal, his average first serve speed was 192 km/hour. I think he will have to increase gradually the speed of his first serves, if he wants to have a chance against Nadal.
    http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/scores/stats/day20/1701ms.html

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good point Wilfried. I forgot to take that into account. He said he went full out in his presser though so i don’t think he served slower because of his back. 11 km/h is quite a significant difference though, so like you say he needs to step it up.

    [Reply]

    booya719 Reply:

    I think Roger was feeling out his opponent and was not really going all out. He took the cautious approach which was the right thing to do when you play a guy like Kudryavtsev. This was a journeyman that has never played in a slam before and has only played a handful of pro matches in his life, but this guy knows how to play tennis and has been around for years.

    The first set Roger played a bit conservatively but dominated the points on his serve. He let the ball get put in play and wanted to see how this guy plays. When Roger felt comfortable after the first set then he turned it up and put him away. Stats in matches like these do not tell the tale so I wouldn’t be too concerned. Roger’s return of serve will be the important part of his game when he takes on Karlovic.

    [Reply]

    Jonathan Reply:

    I take placement over power any day so speed of serve is irrelevant I think.

    If he served at 192 km/hr and only got 40% 1st serves in against Nadal, he’d lose. But if he served at 180km/hr and got 60%+ in then I believe he’d win.

    For a first round match this was steady away really, straight sets, comfortable so can’t ask for anything more.

    Djokovic looked impressive though..

    [Reply]

    Aravind Reply:

    It is a disturbing development if Roger and Rafa have the same average first serve speed. Having said that I think Federer did not want to go full tilt, given his back problem recently and Nadal might have pushed harder, given his new racquet and to get some mental edge. So no big worries there. If he does not increase it, he will be in trouble in the latter rounds. Federer will need to serve much better against Djokovic.

    [Reply]

    Jonathan Reply:

    But just because a guy is serving fast, doesn’t mean he’s serving well. I wouldn’t worry about speed in the slightest.

    Roger’s best serving days are when he is able to place the ball in 4 corners and get a high % of 1st serves in, not serve quickly.

    He can generate extra pace from the wrist snap anyway if he wants to go down the T.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Well Roger doesn’t have a massive serve so in my opinion an extra 10km/h definitely makes a difference. His placement is amazing but a little extra pace never hurt.

    [Reply]

    michael Reply:

    No worries mates with Roger’s serve. He served big down the T and mixed it up with some slice out wide on the deuce court. If you look at the average service speeds of other top players it lower as well. Not only the courts are slow at the Ozzi Open:
    Djokovic: 178km/h
    Roddick: 198km/h
    Monfis: 173km/h
    Berdych: 192km/h
    Fish 182km/h

    Most of these guys serve bigger on average.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks for that michael.

    [Reply]

  4. I just want to say something about Djokovic’s match today. I think in the first round of a slam, the top guys are often good enough to dish out double bagels to the unknown qualifiers if they so choose to. The question is do they choose to totally embarrass the opponents or let them live the moment, of playing on center court, of playing the first slam,… despite being exhausted from the qualifying rounds. Today Djokovic chooses to humiliate and bully. This match tells us something about Djokovic’s person, nothing about his tennis skills.

    [Reply]

    booya719 Reply:

    I wouldn’t hold that against Djokovic. I’ve seen Federer destroy guys back when he was 24, 25. Federer used to win many slam matches giving his opponents only 4, 5, 6 games in the whole match. 2005 Australian Open first round vs Santoro comes to mind. Although Santoro was actually a great player in his day and was a worthy opponent. Lorenzi not so much.

    That opponent was the perfect match-up for Djokovic. Small server, doesn’t move fast, can return serves somewhat but doesn’t really have any firepower at all to go with his ground game, and is a 30-year-old who is in the twilight of his career. Djokovic will destroy this type of player every time. It could have been a triple bagel with a bit more effort.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Agree with Booya. In tennis there is no such thing as showing mercy for your opponent. Not on the men’s side anyway.

    [Reply]

    booya719 Reply:

    Forgot to mention another match from the 2005 Australian Open 1st round. Marat Safin vs Novak Djokovic. That one was a dandy!

    [Reply]

    Aravind Reply:

    First round opponent or not Djokovic looked positively scary.. If this demolition is meant to send a message to the rest of the tour, then I think Djokovic has surely achieved his objective..

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    I recently commented on the mental part of the game, and how every player needs his own strategy to make points in the mental department. The best strategy is to create an aura of being unbeatable. Djokovic did just do what is needed to get that kind of image, many people have wondered after his 1st round match: Who could win against such a Djokovic? If players start to think the same way, he will have achieved his goal, and he’s on for a time of domination.

    [Reply]

  5. Wonderful post, Ru-an, you have touched all the bases.

    The winds of change are blowing all throughout the world, and professional tennis is no exception.

    There’s more to this controversy than just a supposed spat between Federer and Nadal. There appears to be a serious debate raging about how the ATP treats the players and what steps should be taken to ensure that the players at all levels receive fair recompense for their work. There seems to be a great deal of inequality between the top and bottom levels of the tour and it’s becoming a problem. Not to mention, that a lot of the profits go to the ATP itself and not to the players.

    Even on ESPN the commentators were speaking quite openly about the discrepancy in prize money at the Grand Slams: a first-round loser makes $20000, while the champion makes $2.3 million–that’s more than a hundredfold difference.

    The smaller tournaments are the bread and butter of the majority of the tour. Most players toil in obscurity and eke out a meager living playing at smaller tournaments. Top players can afford a coach, physio, travel, equipment, lodgings, etc. but most players live paycheck-to-paycheck.

    If the mandatory tournaments were decreased, it would be harder for these smaller tournaments to lure the big names: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Del Potro, Tsonga. They would lose money, and so the lower-ranked players would find it much harder to make a living. They might have to quit and try to find another job, no easy thing these days.

    (If I might make a suggestion, perhaps you might post briefly about your own experiences as a pro tennis player, and the difficulties in making a living at it.)

    For these reasons, precipitously shortening the schedule and decreasing the number of required tournaments would hurt the players, and that’s what Federer (and many other players) are talking about right now.

    At Bleacher Report there is an account of this controversy in the comment by Peter Dreach which begins: “and you know the full story? Lets not cast stones…”

    From what Dreach says, Nadal wasn’t able to get support for his proposals in the players’ council, so he went to the media and tried to provoke controversy in the hopes that it would force the hand of the council to do what he wanted.

    Dreach calls this a “mini-coup”. It totally backfired and Nadal has had to eat his words.

    Federer was wise to respond as he did: he said there was no problem between Nadal and himself, and he reiterated that all these issues should be settled by the players meeting and debating all points of view.

    Players giving distorted and sensational accounts of the situation in the media in order to further their own self-interest is neither a fair nor proper way to do this. But of course Nadal doesn’t care about that or respect the wishes of the majority. Typically, he only wants to get his way, and if he can’t do it by fair means, he will do it by smearing people and bullying them into submission. It’s he who would leave the rest of the tour to “all burn” while he gets what he wants.

    Federer wants to do justice by everyone, especially those who may not have the power to fight for themselves. That’s difficult and there are no simple answers like “shorten the tour”. Others are wanting to hurry the process for their own selfish ends, but Federer is determined to do it right: thoroughly, correctly, and fairly.

    Federer did say in his postmatch interview that if it came to a strike he would support the players. So although he sees a strike as an absolute last resort, there is no question that in the end, he stands with the players, who after all are the heart and soul of the tour, not the ATP.

    Working to resolve these disputes may be Federer’s greatest test as a tennis player. I have called him a statesman of tennis, and now he is literally being called upon to be just that and take a leadership role during a period of crisis for tennis.

    The comparison to Mandela may be apt. Not that Federer has endured anything like Mandela did, but he is fighting for what’s right even if some people think he’s trying to be aloof or avoiding responsibility.

    He has a lot to risk: his reputation and his prestige may suffer if he goes up against the powers that rule tennis. He has a career to think of, and he has no real reason to fight this battle if he doesn’t want to.

    Most men in his position would take the easy and comfortable route and either bail out altogether or make whatever selfish compromises are needed to ensure they survive personally, even if it means selling out.

    But he doesn’t play it safe in his tennis, and nor, I think, will he play it safe here. This is the sport he loves and he’s willing to sacrifice much for it. I hope this won’t harm his career, but in the end he must do what he feels is right no matter where it leads.

    Come on Roger!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Steve, great comment as well. I don’t always have enough time or space to write everything i want to. There was still a lot to be said about the Fedal issue and you have summed it up very well here. The distribution of the prize money is a very important issue here. This is something I noticed when I was playing too. There are many amazing tennis players out there who works very hard, but only the very top can make a living out of it. It is only really the top 100 that can make a good living out of tennis. I have always thought that was unfair. Like I said, there are some very good and hard working tennis players who struggle to make a living or who have to rely on their family to sponsor them. I mean these guys are very good at what they do yet they still get no or very little money for their efforts, while the very top guys swim in the cash. The prize money at the slams are a great example of this. The top guys take all the spoils while someone who isn’t much worse gets hardly anything. To make it in tennis is almost impossible. It really is incredibly difficult. If you play on the future or challenger tour you don’t make much. It is only the full time ATP players who really make a living from tennis. I would like to see a better distribution of prize money where the guys who play on the challenger tour can still make a good living from tennis, and even the future players can make decent money. I think the top players should also strike if necessary to get more money from the slams and big tournaments because apparently the slams make loads of cash. Then that extra money can be distributed better to lower ranked players as well.

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    booya719 Reply:

    I also agree that lower-finishing players should receive more prize money. It’s really absurd to see $2.3 million go to the winner, especially when it’s someone like Roger, Nadal, or Djokovic getting the lion’s share of the money when they already have millions of dollars beyond a normal man’s dreams.

    There’s no reason for the champion to receive that much money when the first round losers only get $20000 each. 64 x 20000 = $1.28 million dollars. Barely half of what the champion gets all to himself. They could cut the champion’s prize money in half, he still gets $1.1 million, and instantly double the prize money for the first round losers.

    $20000 barely covers the travel cost there and back for showing up to the event. Unfortunately we as fans can’t really do much about it. The normal tennis fan can rarely afford to even attend a grand slam themselves.

    I do believe they have been making progress on this issue though. The prize money has been increasing each year steadily. Changes won’t happen overnight and the players understand that. They are working towards a solution that works for everyone and many knowledgeable people involved with tennis are aware of this issue and working on it. I don’t think this issue is what Nadal truly cares about though.

    Nadal’s beef is the scheduling more than anything else. By cutting down the season you create less opportunity for other players to play, thereby making it more difficult for them to earn money and ranking points. With less tournaments they would be forced into playing harder players more often and therefore lose more and get less prize money. You also cut off emerging tennis markets that generate a lot of revenue.

    If Nadal were in charge the season would end after the US Open, scrapping the Asian swing completely and ending the indoor European season. I don’t see how this can help generate better revenue for tennis by eliminating two major markets. The game has been growing in Asia over the years and it would be foolish to eliminate that market just because Nadal is no good on that surface and wants a longer holiday.

    Suppose that we were instead scrapping the clay season completely and ending it as a surface as carpet was ended, in order to achieve a 3-month off-season from March until June. It would be feasible because clay is the most physically demanding surface, and it only scraps 2 mandatory Masters 1000s in Rome and Madrid as well as a few small clay tournaments. The French Open can change surface to indoor hard and be moved to November to replace the tour finals as the climax of the European indoor season. Bercy can switch to Madrid to get a big tournament back in Spain and also be hard indoor.

    This would give the players a 3-month period of rest – exactly what Nadal is calling for. Do you think Nadal would still support that scenario I outlined? NEVER!! A lot of changes could be made to make the game better but what Nadal advocates most certainly is not a good method of doing things.

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    fry Reply:

    I see the point but let’s be fair, what’s the source of income: tv, ticket sales sponsors. And why do people watch live or at home? Some would argue the slams have history and can attrct crowds based on reputation and legacy (in which case you’d say the slams can give whatever prize money they want), some would say it’s the top players that people want to see and maybe some young potential top players (in which case you’d argue that the players should get a bigger share of the profits (although these associations do funnel a chunk of that money back to grassroots/youth level and davis cup and for the building of roofs and new courts and whatnot).

    However, nobody can argue that it’s the lower ranked guys that bring in the revenue. Nobody (family and friends aside) is getting a ground pass to see Bogolomov and he’s top 40 (?). So you know, there’s a reason why you’ll never see the first round loser make only 1/50 of what the winner makes. The system won’t be inverted.

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    booya719 Reply:

    Right, and I’ll add another thing. The slams need to keep the bulk of the revenue for growing facilities and a mass of other expenses they encounter. New retractable roofs like the one at Wimbledon, new courts, maintenance of courts and grounds, upkeep, labor and a million other tasks which go into these events all don’t come for free. These stadiums aren’t built and kept up overnight by the man in the moon. There is always the business side of things which requires capital to operate.

    I commend the slams for putting their revenue back into tennis and always improving their events every year. 17% or 20% revenue to the players is plenty the way the state of the game is currently. They are in the process of increasing that to 30% and it has already increased a substantial amount over the years but that is not the problem and it’s not going to fix the problem.

    Going from 17% of the total revenue for players to 30% of the total revenue for players, which is an increase of 13%, does NOT help the low ranked players by anything if at all. If you increase $20000 by 13% they would then get a whopping $22600 for losing in the first round!

    Now take the champion’s money, increase it by 13%. $2.3 mil becomes $2.599 million. Nearly an extra $300000 going to the champion alone. Changing the overall percentage of revenue going to the players does not fix the problem and only serves to increase the money going to champions and finalists. It’s merely a problem of distribution and can be fixed without even altering the percentage.

    The percentage they currently get is fine just that it should be distributed differently. Of course the top players draw in the revenue but you could give the 1st round losers 50k and the winner would still get over a million. Guys who finish in between would receive roughly the same as they are getting which is a fair deal. Losing in the 1st or 2nd round really should not have that big of a difference for prize money.

    That being said, changes are constantly being made in favor of everybody as the game grows bigger. Nadal advocates that nothing is changing and nothing is getting done but these athletes get paid more and more each year and the events are constantly growing bigger. I don’t agree with Nadal on most of the things he’s put forth.

    Striking and all this nonsense Nadal is talking about could only hurt the game. As Roger said a strike should be the last resort in any sports “crisis” because these athletes still live well in the grand scheme of things. I don’t see anything that severe or horrible for these athletes which warrants striking.

    A strike won’t hurt Nadal who has millions piled up in his bank account, but what about the lower ranked players who want to keep playing and keep getting an income? They don’t all live like kings but a lot of them still make a decent 6 figures in a year’s worth of tennis which is plenty to live off of and save for retirement with. Tennis players still make doctor and lawyer money doing something they love. It’s not as if these tennis players are suffering in dire straights to pay their bills or some such as an average worker could be in his day-to-day job.

    It all comes down to how your manage your money and that’s a personal responsibility for a man to take care of and is not related to tennis. Mark Philippousis is good example of a tennis player who went through a broke period due to poor personal choices by living beyond his means. You don’t spend $1.10 when you only have a dollar. That is no fault of tennis or the slams for the athletes who can’t manage their money.

    All things aside, going to extremes over this issue is a terrible idea and Roger is right that there are better methods of settling these issues.

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  6. An informative post, Ruan, and I enjoyed reading the astute follow-up observations from commenters. There isn’t much I would add to that, apart from saying it was good to see Roger play comfortably in his first-round match, where I imagined that after his injury he would be feeling his way back into his game. It was certainly a more welcome start than the 5-set struggle that he had in his opener against Simon last year. I note the observations here about his serve; I would like to see a marginal lift in his power in all his strokes as the tournament progresses. He will need it. In last year’s semi-final he was averaging 10kph less on his groundstrokes than Djokovic; that is too big a gap against such a tough retriever/counter-puncher.

    On the Fedal issue, the actual difference of opinion between Nadal and Roger matters less than what it says about their respective characters. You pretty much nailed it with your comments. Nadal, by the way, is now trying to suggest it was all a media beat-up, yet he hasn’t corrected what was reported. I guess it’s like his “knee” or his “shoulder” – it’s all just a “media beat-up”. Never mind that he conspicuously parades his so-called injuries before the world, and changes his story to suit the moment. You never know what to believe with Nadal. Just as with his playing style, his conduct and his character stands in stark contrast to the greatest player in history, who is a true gentleman of the game.

    I liked Roger’s response to Courier when asked about coaching the twins; he said that it would be fine if his girls took up tennis, or any other sport for that matter, but that he and Mirka would support them in anything they chose to do. Quite a few tennis parents could learn from that.

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  7. And here are two more reasons for the strong connection I feel with Roger: his lovely twins share my son’s birthday—July 23rd. And Leos love the Big Stage, so I would not be at all surprised if the Federer girls storm the gates of women’s tennis in fifteen years and surpass the Williams sisters’ feats. They’ve certainly tapped into the right gene pool to make this a distinct possibility.

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  8. Prize money is a sticky subject for everyone. Its difficult to decide how much should early round losers receive, how much is good enough? I am not saying tennis players are not intelligent enough but sometimes they are too soaked up what is infront of them that they fail to see how much tennis contribute to local economy. Every GS creates a lot of job opportunities, help local businesses, tourism and part of the profits goes back to improving facilities. The more organisations/individual spend, local economy improves – doesn’t need a prof to figure that one out. Players do have right to demand more prize money but changes will not happen overnight. If they are to follow NBA, maybe they can get some headway but it might hurt Tennis a lot more than they anticipated. Just saying…

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  9. I just heard that Federer’s opponent retired and Fed receives a walkover to round 3. This gives Federer some extra rest that he will desperately need when he starts facing the hard part of his draw from R4 on. It could be the lucky break he needs to go far in the tournament. Karlovic will help Fed get his return of serve ready and should prime him for a run against the big guns. Fish is out so it almost assures Del Potro will reach the QF now. Federer really, really needed this break.

    [Reply]

    veronica Reply:

    Yup, Fed really needed this break but I’m so disappointed as I bought ticket to watch him today. Watching Nadal now and he is all JUICED up!!

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    It’s a mixed blessing. Surely his back will thank him, but on the other hand he could probably use the match practice as Beck wasn’t likely to trouble him. However, at this point I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

    Veronica, hope you can get your tix changed to see him in the third round.

    I was watching Haas on TV. His game is still pretty solid for a 33 year old who’s been out for so long, but he’s no match for Almost-Super Nadal (Super Nadal won’t show up ’till the quarters).

    The court seems really slow and the balls are bouncing very high, it’s hard to make a winner. Fortunately, the semis and final will likely be played at night when the balls don’t jump up so much.

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    veronica Reply:

    Yeah, gotta give it to Tommy. He played really well after being out for so long. Do you see ANY hampered movement with Nadal?!! The balls bounce high in the day when it’s hot and the courts are REALLY slow, as you rightly observed.

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    booya719 Reply:

    Agreed, much respect for Tommy for a good showing. Unfortunately he didn’t stand much of a chance against Nadal. It was really a good draw for Nadal. Nadal played at a level which was just sufficient enough to beat Haas in straights…but it could have been a rout if Nadal went full steam. Nadal was doing a great job in this match of pacing himself and trying some new things with his serve and backhand.

    It’s very evident that Nadal is going to be hard to beat. I think we need to see how Federer does in his next matches before we really know if his form is sufficient. With Federer’s tough draw the match with Nadal feels pretty far away. I for one am glad for Federer’s walkover because his draw is already hard enough as it currently is. I think the rest will help Federer more than it hurts him going into the Karlovic match.

    [Reply]

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