Does Rafael Nadal ‘Own’ Roger Federer?

I’ve written a lot of late about Roger’s problems facing Nadal. When he lost to Djokovic at the US Open I blamed it on the fact that he sub-consciously feared losing to Nadal in yet another slam final. So I wanted to make a post that looked at the flip side of the coin. That doesn’t mean I have changed my mind, but it’s always good to look at other viewpoints in order to keep an open mind. Sometimes you can project your own feelings onto someone, and I don’t want to be guilty of that. For example, the Australian Open of 2009 was the lowest point for me as a Fedfanatic. It was literally traumatic. Roger had done well to play himself into form after having a dip in form due to mononucleosis. He won the US Open in 2008 and I had high hopes for him at the Australian Open in 2009. The 2008 Wimbledon loss to Nadal was also still fresh in the memory.

So when he ended up facing Nadal in the final it was the ideal opportunity to set a few things right. And what is more is that Nadal had played a marathon against Verdasco in the second semi, which meant he had one day of rest less than Roger. Everything was in Roger’s favor. Surely there is no way he is not getting revenge here. Yet somehow he let Nadal off the hook. In the third set he had chances to really put it beyond Nadal. Yet he lacked the killer instinct to really finish his opponent off, and of course that is fatal against Nadal. He smelled his opponent’s lack of finishing power like a predator and went in for the kill. If Roger just seized the moment in that third set and won it, Nadal would have given up the ghost. He was physically really battling at this point, and going down two sets to one would have been too much.

All things considered, this was an extremely disappointing loss for me. And apparently it was for Roger too, because he was an emotional mess during the prize giving ceremony. But maybe that was just his way of dealing with it. Maybe he is the kind of person who lives very much in the present and immediately discharges his emotions when called for. If that is the case then there will be no emotional residue left over from the past and the prospect of facing Nadal again would not be a problem for him in the least. But somehow I could never quite buy into this theory. I think Roger is the kind of guy who has a great amount of self-belief. He has to have great self-belief to achieve what he has achieved. To be that good you almost have to have a kind of unrealistic self-belief. It is that feeling that you are basically invincible.

And given how dominant Roger was in his prime, he couldn’t help but have this feeling of invincibility. But this feeling of invincibility is dangerous, because no tennis player is ever invincible. So when Nadal came along and showed that Roger wasn’t invincible, he had to deny those feelings. This is why I believe he never came to terms fully with what Nadal did to him. He was a tennis god, and along came a fearless Spaniard who hurt him in unimaginable ways. I don’t think Roger ever really came to terms with that loss in Australia, because whenever he was asked about that match, he responded that people forget how well Nadal played. That is fair enough. There is no doubt Nadal played amazing tennis. But why did I never hear him take some personal responsibility? There is no doubt that if he had more killer instinct that he would have won the third set and the match.

So for me this borders on denial. Another reason I believe this to be true is how he performed after that loss. It was a terrible stretch of form after that loss, until he finally got it together in Madrid. If it was just a question of crying and getting it out of his system, then he would not have struggled that much after Australia. Clearly there was something deeply bothering him. But of course in Madrid he defeated Nadal, after which I thought he exorcised his demons. But Nadal was going through some personal problems with his parents’ divorce there himself, which would have made him mentally fragile. And after all it was not a grand slam final. It was a satisfying win, but it wasn’t enough to offset at least two very tough grand slam final losses to Nadal. Roger then went on to win the French Open where Nadal was upset early, and Wimbledon where Nadal didn’t play.

He also made the final of the US Open after Nadal was beaten by Del Potro in the first semi-final. This year he won in Australia after Rafa was upset by Murray. It was a satisfying win after what happened the previous year, but again did nothing to relieve the hold Nadal had over him. In Madrid Roger and Nadal would square off exactly a year later after the Madrid final of the previous year, only the second meeting since that match in Australia. And to this day they have only met twice since that match in Australia. That is strange in itself, given how often they met before AO ’09. The only place they met was on clay, which is Nadal’s favorite surface and therefor no pressure on Roger to win. It is like Roger is trying to avoid Nadal all the time. When he gets asked about meeting Nadal, he says that they have met enough in the past and they are ‘tired’ of each other.

I don’t think Nadal feels that way. I think he would love more meetings with Roger. When Roger was asked after his loss to Djokovic whether he would have liked to face Nadal in the final, he said yes, but that losing to him would not have been nice either. That is pretty much a dead giveaway right there. He realizes he could have lost, even though he has the far superior record at the US Open and it is the best surface for him to beat Nadal on in slams. The pre-AO’09 Roger would not have even considered the possibility of losing to Nadal at the US Open. So what about the other point of view? The other point of view says that he lost to Nadal in AO’09 and then exorcised those demons in Madrid, even though Nadal erased that loss the next year in Madrid. After that he became the dominant player once more and Nadal’s injuries and drop in form has nothing to do with it.

The fact that they have met on so few occasions since then is just random coincidence, and the fact that Roger lost to Djokovic at the US Open was just a continuation of his struggles since Australia, even though he was the most in form player going into his favorite slam. The fact that he said he could lose to Nadal in the final was just him being realistic, even though he used to be a supremely confident tennis player. In this view Nadal have no kind of mental hold on Roger. I think most of you would agree with me that this argument is flawed. We know Roger is a real person with real feelings, otherwise I might have bought into this theory myself. It comes back to why we like Roger. He is not just some machine. He is an artist as someone put it so well in a comment on my last post, and artists are creative.

To create a certain amount of uncertainty is necessary. I think Nadal comes from a place of fear and thrives on certainty. All the compulsive habits he has on court points to the fact that he needs certainty to be comfortable. Roger comes from a place of love, and therefor he is not afraid of uncertainty. He thrives on it, because it allows him to be creative. Nadal is pretty much just a machine who plays with brute force. You know exactly what you’re going to get from him, which is an incredible mental and physical effort. With Roger you never quite know what you’re going to get, which makes it interesting to watch. There if nothing artistic and creative about what Nadal does. It is all so utterly predictable. In fact it doesn’t even take much raw tennis talent. What makes him so good is mental and physical, two things which is a part of almost every sport.

He doesn’t have much court craft, but rather relies on brute mental and physical force to better his opponents. Roger’s effortless talent and jaw-dropping shot-making ability is really what fascinates us. Sure Nadal can come up with an incredible passing shot on the run, but we all know it comes right down to physical strength and belief. Tennis talent has very little to do with it, relatively speaking. Nadal doesn’t have the genius factor, not in the purely tennis department anyway. So the answer to my question is yes, Nadal does ‘own’ Roger in the mental department to a certain extent. But so what? It had to be that way or else Roger would be a machine and we wouldn’t like him. We wouldn’t identify with him on a personal level. If he was a machine and was never bothered by Nadal, he would be on 20+ slams now and Nadal wouldn’t have a prayer of ever catching him, and nor would anyone else.

But it would have been empty. Winning and being the best by itself means nothing. The only meaning it has is given to it by a human being. Machines have no being, and therefor no meaning. There is a spiritual connection here. Do you think the universe is an dead and devoid of meaning, or do you think it is conscious and infused with meaning? This is pretty much what being a Fedfanatic is about for me. In Roger I see limitless possibilities and meaning in the way he plays and who he is. It is more than just liking a certain tennis player. It is almost a way of life and being his fan can certainly be classified as a spiritual experience.

Roger Federer


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27 Comments

  1. I think things really started to unravel for Roger when he missed that last forehand at Wimbledon thus relinquishing his title to Nadal. Losing on other surfaces was somewhat acceptable but losing at his beloved Wimbledon really took a piece of his soul. A year later Roger missed an almost identical forehand against Djokovic and I’m sure you recall Roger’s reaction, he smashed his racket to pieces. It was like a reminder of everything he lost. Granted he went on to win the French and Wimbledon that year which are great accomplishments in their own right but did little to resolve his own personal demons with Nadal.

    Next year Federer fans will be confronted by two serious problems concerning Roger’s GOAT status. If Nadal wins the Australian he will hold all the slam titles at the same time, something Roger has never done. Nadal will also have a realistic shot at the calendar slam, something at Federer’s age is highly unlikely. If Nadal accomplishes either of these monumental tasks we can kiss Federer’s GOAT status good bye. As a die hard Federer fan I hope this never happens but Nadal’s determination is a scary thing.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well put Addison. I would just say that we don’t know here exactly it all started with Nadal. One might as well argue it alls started in Rome 2005 where he had match point. If he had won that match on clay against Nadal in his prime, it would have been a big mental blow for Nadal. But it doesnt matter where it started. What matter is that Nadal has a mental hold on Roger and now there is the scenario where he could overtake him as the GOAT. The AO next year will be a crucial tournament and could go a long way towards establishing who is the GOAT.

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  2. Another great post, you’ve captured the dichotomy of artist vs. machine perfectly.

    The numbers don’t lie: the viewership of the FO, Wimbledon, and USO finals this year were all down from last year (significantly so in the case of Wimbledon and USO):

    http://www.sportsmediawatch.net/2010/06/french-toast-low-numbers-for-french.html

    http://www.medialifemagazine.com/artman2/publish/Sports_TV_52/Wimbledon-fades-in-glow-of-World-Cup.asp

    http://www.cbssports.com/tennis/story/13953990/viewership-for-interrupted-us-open-mens-final-down-from-09/cbsnews

    People love to watch Federer, and Nadal just doesn’t give them the same enjoyment.

    Federer is like a dancer. Dancers can do glorious and lovely things with their bodies, but the ultimate excitement of dancing comes from the fact that the dancer might fall and embarrass, even possibly injure, himself. The dancer places himself in peril to attain the height of his art. He is always walking a delicate balance–too little and he will fail to create the beautiful movements he dreamed of, too much and he will fall. This is the dynamic tension that gives Federer’s tennis its precarious beauty.

    By contrast, Nadal is like a meat grinder: a mechanical process, whose sole virtue is that it produces a consistent product every time. There is no thrill and no peril.

    He has forgotten he is really a human being and not a machine. To play the way he does, and convince himself that he is a machine, requires awesome, near-delusional powers of denial. That comes at a huge mental cost, which must be paid someday. He has been able to remain in denial by using injury or exhaustion as an excuse for his losses, but that does not pay the debt, it merely defers it.

    When he is reminded that he is, in fact, human–which happens to us all sooner or later–all the mental burdens that he has been deferring and deferring for so many years will come crashing down on him. Because he plays from fear rather than love it will be much harder for him to come to terms with loss and mortality.

    On the other hand, I believe Federer can transcend his limitations and attain a new level, where he plays with joy and total freedom. To do this he has to accept the possibility of loss and the fact that he is getting older and will not continue forever, but decide to rededicate himself to tennis for love of the game and the pursuit of excellence, in spite of the fact that it’s all ultimately ephemeral. It is a spiritual challenge.

    If he does this he will open new vistas of tennis and be able to share new marvels with us.

    So I’m not very worried about Nadal. Maybe Federer will sort it out, maybe he won’t, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that he remains committed to the quest. As fans we are on board till the end wherever the journey may lead.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Steve, those numbers don’t lie like you said. Roger is just much better to watch than Nadal. This has been a particularly disappointing grand slams year, apparently not only for myself…

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    nwanokwu mary Reply:

    Sure, though I think roger is fading but on a second thought, I may be lieing afterall Serena williams went down at a point I thought she was heading to rank 12,  and she later came back to rank No. 1.  Its not over for Roger. He is one player I LOVE  and will always Love.  Nadal is good aswell , I think each player is unique.but as human we have the right to choose’  I think I choose Roger

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  3. It has been a disappointing year for men’s tennis. With the focus of the sport of tennis on the men’s game, it’s been a Nadal fest. OK. He took advantage of Roger having his worse year ever. And Rafa with his best year ever. The Australian Open will be key for both of their careers. I am actually looking forward to see how they play. 2010 is a wash for Roger. Nothing has gone right for him, with everything going right for Nadal. Rafa, man, he’s a machine, which goes well with his image as fearless and a bull. His mental fortitude is unmatched. That’s why the GOAT (Greatest of all time) is in question when a few months ago, it was no question. I do agree when Rafa puts his mind to something, it comes true. You know that Uncle Tony has him training like an animal beating Roger’s records. Here in the states, that is the way people think, to be better than everyone else by becoming machines overworking to exhaustion and superhuman robots. Does Rafa have a soul? No. I wish that Roger strives for perfection, and actually achieves it. It will be hard, maybe impossible, to recover and get back to the top as Roger is past his prime and Rafa is in his prime. I will wonder what Roger will say when he writes his book after his career is over, or will he keep the Nadal chapters to himself.

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  4. Very interesting article. I can not justify Roger’s sobbing in AO09. Roger himself has won many grand slams should have known that who ever plays well win the game and hence should be far more gracious to his opponent. It showed how flawed he is as a human being.
    Nadal is not a machine, rather he is a more perfect human being than Roger ever was, is or could be. He gives his 100% percent to on court but off court he is far more realistic, modest and has a good sportsmanship in accepting the outcome of the match. Much younger than Roger and far more successful than Roger was in his age Nadal gives more importance to the sport than to the titles.

    Yes do agree Roger is a good artist but in the end its all about learning with time. While Nadal is improving his game day by day Roger is having a hard time to accept the reality that some one could be better than him.
    Roger is a great artist but Nadal is a great a sportsman and a greater human being.

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    steve Reply:

    Nonsense, utter nonsense.

    Here’s Federer after various big losses:

    AO ’05, SF, l. to Safin:

    “He was the better player in the end, you know, because we don’t have ties or draws in tennis. So the winner is the better man, and that’s him.”

    FO ’08, F, l. to Nadal:

    “Rafa played well today, made it hard for me, and, yeah, was better.”

    W ’08, F, l. to Nadal:

    “Rafa served well and played well and deserved to win in the end.”

    USO ’09, F, l. to Del Potro:

    “I thought Juan Martin played great. I thought he hung in there and gave himself chances, and in the end was the better man.”

    This sound like a poor sportsman to you?

    Nadal’s modesty is really just a way of taking the pressure off himself. He wants the privileges and praise that go with success, but he doesn’t want the burdens and responsibilities that necessarily come with it–pressure to perform, media scrutiny, other players wanting to kick your ass, etc.

    I guarantee you he will claim that he is not the favorite at AO, despite having won 3 straight majors. That is nonsensical–how can you not be the favorite if you’ve won all four majors, including the AO, and 3 consecutive, and are number 1 by a large margin?

    Most other great champions–Federer, Sampras, Serena Williams–have willingly accepted the burdens that come with being number 1, as the price they must pay for their exalted position. Nadal doesn’t think he has to pay any price whatsoever, but he’s happy to take the sweet and leave the sour for others.

    The same thing goes with his membership on the Players’ Council. Federer uses his position on the council to advance the good of the sport as a whole. He understands that he has an obligation to the players who voted for him to represent their interests fairly and to eschew his own narrow self-interest in favor of the good of the tennis community. Although he has stated that of course he’d personally like more grass-court events, he has always said that that wouldn’t be fair to everyone to do that.

    Nadal also has a position on the Player’s Council, but he uses it in a completely self-aggrandizing way. He pushes for more clay-court events and fewer hard-court events, which of course means more opportunities for him to win titles and ranking points.

    He already wins at least two clay Masters titles and one clay Grand Slam pretty much every year, and it’s still not enough for him.

    It’s an abuse of trust, because he’s not representing the interests of the players who voted him into his powerful position, but instead using it for his own personal benefit and putting himself and his own needs above the community.

    This is why I find his sanctimonious moralizing (“people who write lies about people are bad people”) so totally empty. His idea of what’s fair and moral is identical with what’s good for him personally. It’s a very childish perspective.

    Nadal’s behavior may seem like modesty, but it is really an act of supreme arrogance toward the tennis community–he is saying that despite the great debt he owes that community, and the fact that it has accorded him its highest honors, he is above its rules and doesn’t have any obligations toward it.

    Either he is a citizen of that community or he is not–if he is, then he has to play by its rules. If not, then he has to accept being an outsider and forgo the benefits of citizenship. And so far he has had it both ways–enjoying the privileges of the community while thumbing his nose at its rules.

    It amazes me that he has gone so long without being called on it, but then again this world is full of inattentive and careless people who are slow to see these things and who are easily flattered by ingratiating behavior.

    Federer has been recognized with the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award five times. This award is voted for by the players themselves. A majority of the players apparently think he’s a great sportsman; do you know something they don’t?

    Many young players have spoken warmly of how Federer has taken the time to talk to them and help them in various ways; Sam Querrey mentioned how he got a text from Federer wishing him well after his near-career-ending accident, John Isner remarked that Federer congratulated him on his first title win, and also sat down with him for a conversation about how to deal with recovering from mono.

    He doesn’t have to do any of this; he’s a busy man with many commitments. Just being at the top of tennis would be enough of a burden for most people; to say nothing of running his own charitable foundation and his multitude of business obligations while also raising a family. Yet he finds the time to take an interest in all aspects of the game, and players at all levels, from the bottom to the top.

    And you dismiss Federer because a few tears shed. What a shallow and superficial way to judge such a great man!

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  5. What a load of garbage. They are both tennis players, not artists or machines. Federer is a great player, so is Nadal. Federer was fortunate to have been blessed with an abundance of natural talent, Nadal has less natural talent but he has made up for it in hard work and determination. Which is to be more admired? Someone who was born with a gift, like a singer with a golden voice, or someone who has practiced hours and hours a day for 20 years to master their instrument? Both are to be admired, but to my mind Nadal has shown much more character in achieving his accomplishments than Federer has. Roger has shown himself to be mentally fragile and unwilling to make the changes necessary to gain the upper hand on his only true competition. It’s easy to be a winner when you are the undisputed best, but when more than natural talent has been called for Roger has fallen woefully short. Sorry, but that does not a GOAT make.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good point Scott. It is true that Roger has not been able to adapt his game Nadal has, and one must admire Nadal for that. But you have to remember that Roger has also worked hard to master his instrument. I dont think hard work alone is enough to make a GOAT either. For now Roger is the GOAT because he has 7 slams more tan Nadal. If Nadal wins more slams than him then he will be the GOAT. But as far as the principle goes of who is better, ‘the guy with less talent but work harder or the guy with more talent that works less’, there can b no answer. Its either both or neither. It simply becomes a matter of preference and im not sure i prefer either tbh.

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    steve Reply:

    More crap. You talk like Federer didn’t have to work hard at all to realize his potential, like he just waltzes on court and blows his opponent away, then goes off for a walk in the park.

    It’s more superficial judgment based on appearances. Since Nadal grunts and sweats so much, and looks so awkward, and engages in masochistic self-punishment like forcing himself to run on the treadmill if he thinks he didn’t do a good enough job, people think he’s a hard worker (which he is), but those things have nothing to do with how hard he works.

    Federer doesn’t do those things and his style is efficient and smooth so people think he doesn’t have to work.

    Nadal was a child prodigy, he started winning titles pretty much the instant he stepped on tour and won his first major at 19, easy peasy. Federer took years to get going, endured years of frustrating losses before his first title, let alone first major, because he had to work very hard to learn how to play such a complex and varied style without making too many errors. He did “practice hours and hours a day, for 20 years in a row, to master his instrument.” He doesn’t talk about it because his philosophy is that the audience is there to see great tennis and not to see how hard you had to work to produce that tennis.

    Most artists have this philosophy. Writers work through dozens of drafts. Filmmakers plan their productions for years. Musicians spend hours closeted away practicing. Yet in the end, all you see is a finished, perfect work, with no sign of the painstaking effort it took to create it.

    Of course there is a school of craftsmen that release all their rough drafts so that people can see how hard they had to work, and I guess Nadal belongs to that school.

    To me it’s utterly irrelevant how many hours Nadal spends hitting forehands; it’s none of my business. It doesn’t make his tennis any more enjoyable for me to watch.

    People think that talented people have it easy but great talent can easily become a curse, and destroy its possessor.

    Federer understands that his talent is a great gift and that he has a responsibility to work hard and develop his talent in order to be worthy of that gift.

    You take a look at players like Gasquet and Gulbis who have incredible natural talent but aren’t willing to put in the hard yards. They don’t live up to their gift and they squander it.

    Federer may have small lapses but ultimately he is willing to live up to the burden of responsibility his talent imposes on him. Already he has accomplished so much, it’s almost ridiculous to ask him to do more. Sixteen majors, 23 consecutive major semis, four consecutive years at #1, the longest Open-Era winning streaks on hard courts and grass, and so incredibly on–it’s absolutely insane. Yet he continues to strive to improve, he hired Annacone to help him develop further and surpass his limits.

    It’s an unfair comparison–since Nadal started out as a clay courter, and looks so awkward and seems to expend so much effort on court, he will always benefit from what an infamous politician called the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” everyone will always be even more impressed by his (already impressive) achievements because they never expected someone so awkward to do so well.

    On the other hand, since Federer has so much talent and makes it look so easy, nothing will ever be enough to satisfy the demands of the critics. Even if he wins 25 majors and spends another four consecutive years at the top, they’ll just yawn and say “Ho-hum, what next?”

    “From he who has been given much, much will be demanded,” said the good book, and Federer is example #1 of that.

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    veronica Reply:

    Steve,
    Excellent reply. I’ve seen many lame posts (usually very emotional ones) defending Roger and I’m not totally convinced coming to Roger’s defence although I am a die-hard Roger fan. But your replies are some of the best I’ve seen, very well thought- out, well- argued and backed up with facts and objectivity. You should start a site of your own entitled, “In defence of Roger Federer!” and all posts attacking Roger should go to you! Lol!

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    @veronica: Thank you!

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    Ozzie Reply:

    I am not sure why persons keep on talking about how many semi final Federer has reached. the only thing that matters is the silverware. There is no place for being second in any competition, ask Alex ferguson ( Manu), asked all those countries who made it to the world cup football finals and came second, ask Tyson Gay, how he felt after being thrashed by Usain Bolt. The only thing that matter is winning the trophy. That rubbish about semi final streak is utterly nonsense. Everyone plays to win the trophy, ask Stosur after being beaten by Schiavone. There is no place for losers, only winners counts.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    By this logic Federer is the ultimate winner anyway since he has won the most.

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    Ozzie Reply:

    I agree with that currently federer is ahead but it too early to deem Federer the GOAT, when Nadal is threatening to over take in 2.5 years time at this pace. I always think federer wins because of lack of competition and is not a fighter. There are times when the opponent gave the match to federer and not Federer winning the match. This being said it is not federer fault that no one step up to plate in that era and win, he got his chances and he took it but now he has to contend with players who standing up to him and how is he dealing with it? It is full time that the FEDITES and NADALITES accept that both players are striving to be the best and stop as fans stop fighting among each other. We will always have our own preferences in life but we have to give due respect when it is due. Federer is in a decline and I don’t see a Del Potro beating a fully fit Nadal. This talk about DP beating Nadal, is only when Nadal is injured. I enjoy watching both players but I rather watching NAdal because at no point in his matches does he give up. he fights to the end. What if Nadal does two calender year slams back to back? Who will be the GOAT? It is not impossible, as long as Nadal stays healthy. Fedites says the H2H doesn’t count but what is the margin of victory on Federer favourites surface in comparison to the margin of victory on Nadal favourite surface?

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  6. not fair to Nadal being compared to a machine. if your premise is court craft, does it still count even if this craft does not create winners to someone who has a “brutal” forehand? in other words, is artistry in tennis only confined to elegance of shot making?

    imo, artistry is subjective. while some people are in awe of the impressionist works of Claude Monet, some may prefer Marcel Duchamp’s dadaist art. that can be said to Roger and Rafa, too. calling one a machine and another an artist relative to the “pure tennis” department can be compared to a statement that compares two artists of different movement relative to the “pure art” – and that is just completely misleading.

    why discount the artistry of “brutal” brushstroke?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    When i call Nadal a machine i mean it more in terms of the mental department. He doesnt seem to have much emotion. But it obviously works for him.

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  7. This is verry boring question which answer must be published at askabout.com, wikipedia, “yahoo answers” and so on…Who`s the GOAT as well – Federer since number of slam titles will always count more in the end than the H2H statistics. You don`t need to be a prophet to know which kingdom is comming this January and at least for the next 3-4 years to come.Juan Martin Del Potro owns Nadal in all departments – mental and talent. He is far superior mentaly and has proven this the last 3 games especially sfter beating him in Montreal 7:6, 6:1 after being down 5:2 in the 1 set tiebreak and complitely trashing him the 2nd set or in Miami 2009 again loosing 3:0 in 3rd set and finally win with a tiebreak.how about 6:2,6:2,6:2 – the final nail in the coffin…..nadal will never forget that loss when he meats him again. Truth is Del Potro nor recoverd fully after the surgery has 50/50 chance to beat today`s nadal. the difference for Nadal is he beacme a little better on hard courd other than that Del Potro is the clear winner.Thanks to Roger who`s doing his best not to play him anymore which is stuped cause if he ever had a coach to listen he would know that is still superior than nadal just his tactics against him were awful and the fear he geat to play the big points well. So as soon as Del Potro is back there will be no Rafa and no Roger- just the only best. if stars alingn for Roger which means both Murray, nadal and Del Potro are in the same side of the draws for the slams there is a minimal chance Del Potro to loose and quite high murray to beat Raffa so Roger can play a lesser player like he prefers already several years.After Delpo starts winning slams since january Nadal will never has chances to get closer to Rogers achievements unles the guy gets injured again. So Roger will pray for Raffa`s and Delpo`s injuries, Raffa will play only for Delpo`s injuries and Delpo himself will only need to stay healthy! At least Roger`s future early round big losses will give us topics for discussions – did he loose intentionally? Is he avoiding Raffa and Del Potro?Is he old or just not motivated or just affraid of the real competition?No real GOAT should ever give a single chance for thous thoughts to obsess tennis fans and specialists but is already too late – it`s been years already. At least he can show some more shots between the legs and beautifull losses against his main rivals if he ever decide to come out and play like a man and not hiding beacause….”he played better todays or it wasn`t my day”….Pray i`m wrong….

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  8. Ru-an,
    Just want to share a few thoughts about Roger since we are talking about the great man these last few posts and the very real likelihood of Nadal usurping him as GOAT in the future.
    1) Roger created Nadal – Nadal, being an extremely competitive person wants to come up to Roger’s standard. Since Roger started, his standards were many levels above mere mortal tennis players. Nobody could touch him and everybody got tired trying to reach him; except a certain spaniard. This Spaniard sold his body and soul to match Roger. By the time he could match Roger, he was a broken man (knees), like many other players who were also broken down who tried to compete with Roger. Roger, on the other hand, unknowingly, contributed to his own demise because by playing such lofty standards, he is pushing and “training” them to such high levels/standards that they wouldn’t normally reach if he himself was not there as the benchmark. And Nadal is so well-trained following at the heels of his hero that one day, which, maybe today, he overtakes the master. There are many historical facts about students becoming even better than their teachers. This, I see as very true in Roger’s case. By being utterly dominating, Roger unwittingly trained up another one like him; maybe even more effective because this new one is so deadly because it is machine-like! Lol!
    2)Rafa’s road to USO took much longer than Roger’s to any slam. Rafa never met Roger at his prime in USO. Any final with Rafa at USO now is meaningless as Roger reaches the tail-end of his career. Should Roger lose to Rafa in USO as of now, any media proclaiming Nadal better than Roger at USO is rubbish. However, proclaiming Nadal is better than Roger on clay is completely true as they met each other on clay in their prime and Nadal is definitely better. Conclusion – Rafa was never good enough to meet Roger on hard court/USO. Roger still rules hard court as GOAT and Nadal can only prove otherwise if he matches Roger’s hard court records in future.
    3)The comment Roger made that if he had lost in the final of this year’s USO it would have been more painful than the semi loss to Djoko was revealing as Ru-an said. But it just shows how honest, how transparent Roger is. He says it as he feels it. An artist as we mentioned many times. Isn’t it so much easier to deal with/relate to someone who is upfront, who lays down his cards? Isn’t it more human too? How do you relate to/deal with a person who is consistently humble despite changing circumstances? Either he is a saint (as saints are perpetually humble) or he is not comfortable owning up/taking responsibility. OK, Nadal is not a machine but the consistent way he puts himself down is machine-like : always the same, always consistent. Perpetual humility is suspect. Similarly, perpetual pride (like Roger) is also suspect. The thing is, I think Nadal is more consistent in humbleness than Roger is in prideful behaviour. Nadal is always humble while Roger is not always prideful. Who do you think is the more real person, the person who reveals himself more? The more one reveals oneself, the more one runs the risk of judgements. Roger has not been afraid to reveal his strengths and weaknesses and therefore he is always prone to attacks whereas Nadal has chosen the “wiser” road to stay in the “safe” place of humility. Sometimes I wish Roger would not be so transparent and just shut up and go train hard! It is hard for us fans when media attacks what he says. But then he would not be Roger Federer if he were any different.
    4)Tennis viewership and as a game grew since Roger. It may drop after Roger retires and even in the next few years may also drop if no one could challenge Nadal and he goes on a romp. During Roger’s dominance, admittedly a lot of people say tennis was boring but stil viewership didn’t drop because although tennis was boring, people still tune in to watch the beautiful play of Roger.
    5) About Roger being an artist. Because Roger is an artist, I believe he plays with feelings and instincts more than anything else. He doesn’t really go on court with a specific plan. He gauges, observes, feels how the opponent is, and then he plays accordingly. The great shots he makes, I don’t think he thinks of them consciously, he just flicks his racket according to his artistic genius and if a great shot comes out, it comes out. I suppose that’s why typical “working hard to improve one’s game” or “hitting the practice courts” don’t really work for Roger or makes such a hugh difference for Roger than it would do for Nadal; although of course it helps stabilise Roger’s game more if he practises hard. Roger just don’t function that way. I had an artistic brother whom I asked to write a song for an older brother’s wedding. He never got the song done until about a week to the wedding where I angrily accused him for being irresponsible. He replied (in a frustrating way), “I can’t just will myself to write a song. I have to have inspiration”. It was then I understood what an artist is. You can’t force them, you can’t go ahead of them, you can’t train them,(to a certain extent you can), you can’t give them deadlines. Sadly, I believe this is what Roger is. He has mastered his genius in certain ways and with a lot of hard work and discipline;(as what Steve said, it is admirable and beyond everybody’s expectations what Roger has achieved with his gift which is not always easy to manage) but ultimately, he is still an artist and there will be days when he cannot call upon his genius as and when he needs it; especially now that he is older and also has many other distractions/priorities (family, etc). When he shanks, he shanks, no amount of practice can put the shank right because he is not driven by discipline, but by artistry (and artistry is driven by feelings. He may not feel very good a certain day and he shanks more than other days) This is where Nadal differs from him. Nadal is disciplined, every shot is measured, practised, to perfection. There is a lot of thought, a lot of calculation, nothing is left to chance for Nadal. He goes to every match having to think out and do his best, otherwise he may not win. In this way, Nadal is a more consistent winning tennis player. Doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Depends on which one you like. But it is unrealistic to expect Roger to be like Nadal or keep on winning. However, Roger can climb to another level if he is determined or if he desires it because he has not quite pushed himself completely out of his comfort zone yet. He could discipline, train his artistry to be more reliant, or whatever it needs. If Roger decides to REALLY fight, we may see an even more invincible Roger in the future despite his age. He hasn’t really started stretching himself yet; haven’t really seriously start playing ugly to win yet; we haven’t seen him fighting to win yet; (all the matches he lost this year to top 10 players, he didn’t really fight). If Roger decides to fight, really fight, watch out because no one can win a fighting Roger. But again, he is an artist. He may not feel like he wants to be that desperate. He may think why should he prove himself anymore with all the records he has already set. If he doesn’t want to, nobody can make him. But if he wants to, nobody can stop him.
    6) As Addison said, if Nadal wins AO next year, we can kiss Roger as GOAT goodbye; more or less. Yes, it looks imminent and is very sad for Roger fans right now. But let’s live in the present. Let’s enjoy whatever Roger has achieved. If Nadal really became GOAT in future, we would be better off because we had rejoiced and revelled in the time that Roger was GOAT. If we worry now and can’t even enjoy what Roger has achieved and then if Nadal becomes GOAT in future, we would have been deprived of joy BOTH during Roger’s era and Nadal’s era! Let’s not get robbed by the future. The present is now, is here. And the present is Roger is GOAT, has 16 slams and numerous other records, is still playing beautiful tennis and still as lovable as ever! Enjoy Roger while he is still around. Appreciate all he has done, hope for the best last years of his tennis life and no matter what happens in future, never allow ourselves to be dragged down by negative comments from other people. We owe Roger that and he needs it now. Can you imagine his agony, losing to players he had owned, having to raise a young family, all the business/professional commitments he has to face and all the negative comments from the media? The poor man. I wonder if he can sleep at night. If he doesn’t win another title, he is still the greatest player we have ever seen play the game and we will keep reminding him that so he can live in joy and peace and satisfaction knowing what he has achieved has given happiness(and not anxieties!) to his fans. There comes a time for changing of the guards for every sport. We hope Roger’s records will remain for a long time. If they don’t, we need to accept it but our love, respect, enjoyment, admiration, defence of the man should never fail no matter he is the eventual GOAT or not.
    7) Agree with Ru-an that Nadal will never be as dominating as Roger no matter what he achieves in future. Only this year has Nadal shown some domination and he would have to continue a few more years as dominant as he is this year to even get near to Roger’s domination. If no one comes up to challenge him, I would say maybe the next 2 years he would be dominating. After that not sure. As for Roger, he was dominating across eras. He dominated at the end of Sampras/Agassi era, then Hewit, Roddick era and right through to Nadal, Djoko and Murray present era, until very recently where he has lost his dominance. He cuts across 3 generation of world class payers. Is there another player who has achieved this? None. Let’s be confident and secure, Roger fans. Roger may still end up as GOAT for many years to come. Yes, this has been Nadal’s year. But I’m not sure about the next year and the next. Roger may never come back but I’m sure Djoko, Murray, Del Potro, Berdych, Soderling are all coming of age and at the heels of Nadal. It is hard to keep all these hungry wolves off. Roger has held them away too long. They would not be deprived. I think Roger’s records are quite safe.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Very insightful post Veronica. We dont know what the future holds. Roger is the GOAT right now and to worry about what Nadal may do in the future is to miss the point. Its like saying whatever Roger achieved is irrelevant because Nadal has already passed it. He has a long way to go. So if he wins the AO next year then he will have gone a long way, but we dont know that he is gonna do that either do we? Living in the future is madness.

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  9. Thanks Veronica for a good post. I would like to make just one point. Nadal has, on so many occasions, resorted to gamesmanship and has even been penalised. It is sad that such illegal thing is not taken into consideration while rating a player. Should not such an important point be taken into consideration while labelling a player as GOAT? You violate the rules of the game and still be considered as GOAT. How awful it is!

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  10. Excellent comment, very moving. Agreed that Federer will have to find a new reason to play well, not just for the sake of winning.

    The thrill of winning eventually palls. If you’ve won so many titles it all starts to blur together and it gets old. So at this point he’s not playing merely for the sake of winning titles.

    I think he can find fresh motivation in the challenge of creating new tactics to beat the younger generation and make up for the slight loss of physical prowess due to age. This is an artistic and creative challenge, because he enjoys creating new and beautiful shots. He has a vast arsenal of weapons he hasn’t begun to use, and it will be a big challenge for him to learn to use them in novel ways. If he can learn how to play with total freedom while using all parts of his game, that will be his supreme level of tennis.

    The records aren’t so important at this point, he’s won pretty much every big title there is, it’s enough for ten lifetimes. I just want to see him playing with joy and a light heart, and creating beautiful tennis.

    I do think Federer is a thorough professional. He trains very hard to make sure that he is fit and that his game is in the best possible shape he can manage. He does try very hard to improve. You cannot make 23 consecutive major semis without being extremely motivated and well-prepared, day in, day out.

    Someone like Gasquet or Gulbis will never come near that kind of consistency, even though they may have more raw talent than Federer, because they don’t have the dedication and mental toughness and they aren’t willing to put in the effort to realize their potential. Talent alone does not make a great champion, you need to work on it, and Federer has put in the work.

    But despite all the work and preparation there is a mystery, an X factor, something unpredictable, in his mentality. That’s the artist in him. Sometimes it ends in bad results, but often it’s sublime. That’s why I watch.

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    steve Reply:

    This was supposed to be a reply to Veronica’s long comment.

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  11. I don’t believe in these “pivotal” moments — the idea that ‘if it weren’t for this missed forehand or that unconverted BP… everything could have been different.’ You often hear it said athletes have to have short-term memories… shake off the loss and try again. Yes, we’re only human, and sometimes we let ourselves be haunted by the past, but we DO have the choice to walk away from that and say, “hey, nothing is written in stone” (tomorrow is another day, and all that stuff); it may sound trite, but it’s also true.

    Roger is human, so of course he is subject to doubt and other negative emotions, but I think he mostly tries to live by the more positive principles. Lots of great people are ruined by their inability to let go of some missed opportunity or perceived ‘stain’ on their record. It is a waste of time and energy to do this to oneself.

    Oh, and before I forget… the last time (before USO) that Nadal and Roger had a chance to meet, Nadal lost to Baghdatis. I mean, Baggy was playing well, but come on. Nadal couldn’t serve (double faulted on break point) and made a pile of unforced errors. There was no sign of that Nadal two weeks later at the USO. Just sayin…

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  12. Does Rafa owns Roger Federer? very good approach , but I really belive that Rafa has goals to go after “GOAT” and Roger don´t, imagine if Roger was 24 and Rafa 29 and 16 slam someone believe that he will have any chances playing Roger? I think despite all of those things Roger has been done a good job either Roger and Rafa has their own place in tennis history”in this order” first comes first.

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