Try As He Might, Rafael Nadal Can Never Do This…

I’m getting a little tired of all the hype surrounding Nadal. So maybe he will will Australia next year, and maybe he will even end up winning more slams than Roger. I mean you just can’t rule out anything when it comes to Nadal these days. But there has got to be something that makes Roger unique and that no machine can ever replicate or surpass. We all know Roger is a unique personality, but I am strictly talking in terms of  tennis here. As much blood, sweat, and tears Nadal leaves out on the practice court, he could never do what Roger did in the above video. No amount of hard work can ever make you do that, because it is genius. Genius cannot be taught, and Nadal doesn’t have it. It doesn’t matter how many things Nadal ends up achieving, here is one area where he simply can’t touch Roger.

I saw Nadal do something similar at Wimbledon this year, but it just wasn’t quite the real thing. This shot from Roger has the genius trademark written all over it. And of course it is just an example of many from him. This is the kind of thing that makes grand slam viewer ratings drop when Roger is not around. It is this uncertainty principal, this never knowing what to expect next from Roger, that really draws the crowds in. They are always wondering what kind of genius he’s gonna come up with next, and without fail there is a moment in every match where he does something completely unexpected. With Nadal it’s not quite the same. Granted, he comes up with some amazing stuff himself. He hits targets no one else can hit, due to incredible physical and mental ability. Yet Roger hits targets no one else can see.

That is the difference between talent and genius. Talent doesn’t leave you gasping for air the way Roger’s genius does, although you can certainly admire it.  You know Nadal is going to be mentally and physically too strong for 99% of opponents. He is pretty predictable in that way. You know he is going to get to a ball that no one else could get to and hit a winner from it. However good it is, it is predictable, because it comes from hours and hours of work on the tennis court and in the gym. With Roger you simply don’t know what you are going to get, because it happens in the moment. There is nothing you can do to prepare for the moment. It is complete and utter improvisation as the situation requires it. You can’t work at such genius. You can do a certain amount of work so that you are prepared, but the genius itself can’t be taught, worked for, or achieved.You either have it or you don’t, and Roger has it in abundance.

Because of all this I believe that if Nadal keeps dominating and Roger keeps losing earlier in slams, we will keep seeing viewer interest in tennis fall as we have seen in the last three slams. Nadal simply doesn’t catch the imagination of the tennis public the way Roger does, try as he might. You always know what you are going to get with Nadal. Rinse and repeat. I suspect there are many in the tennis world who can’t wait for the return of Roger to slams finals, and I suspect they don’t mind the way in which that happens either. I certainly don’t wish injury on Nadal, but if he gets knee problems again I think there are many who would breathe a little sigh of relief in private. But the viewership in tennis  is not the exact point of this post. The point is there is something that Roger has which Nadal can never have, and it has nothing to do with titles and achievements. We don’t know what the future holds, but for the above reasons Federer will always be the GOAT in my eyes.

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Roger Federer


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12 Comments

  1. Tennis is about winning, not style. Federer is not currently considered the Greatest because he’s got a pretty game with an nice array of trickshots. If that’s the case, you might as well declare Mansour Barahmi and Richard Gasquet the GOATS or “genius” right now. Barahmi is like the Harlem Globetrotter’s of tennis. He can excecute more fantastic shots than Federer could ever dream of, but he can’t win like Fed. Federer’s status comes from the fact that he wins,. He’s a genius because he’s the most winingnest tennis player in history. It’s that simple. When you start getting to the GOAT level of winning these guys are on, they can all be considered “geniuses” of some sort. Laver, Nadal, Borg, Federer….no one else could do what some of these guys could do, and that is the definition of genius to me. Nadal is a genius. Not a pretty one, but a genius nontheless. Try and replicate his game, his forehand, his topspin…and you’ll kill yourself. His game cannot be replicated by other players.

    Picasso..is he a genius? Yes. To some, his paintings are ugly, mishappen and lack the fluidity and grace of some renessaince masters like Michaelangelo…but it only goes to show that genius comes in many forms. Federer may fit your traditional model of genius, but Nadal is a Picasso of sorts….non-traditional genius that will get it’s due, and will be appreciated in it’s own right for it’s uniqueness.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    First off, i never saw Barahmi pull off trick shots in slam semi’s and finals. He is a trick shot player, not a genius. The one is exhibition and the other the real thing. Huge difference. I bet you Roger can do what Barahmi does if he tried and more. Someone like Gasquet is just proof of Rogers greatness. What has Gasquet achieved? Most geniuses are mindless fools who wastes there talent. Roger actually took responsibility for his talent and made the best of it, which in itself is hard to do id youre a genius. Nadal may have some sort of genius, but its not tennis genius.

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  2. Ru-an said: ‘…I mean you just can’t rule out anything when it comes to Nadal these days….’

    Whether or not Nadal can or can’t do ‘this’ or ‘that’, what I’m appreciating is that finally – FINALLY – he is being recognized for a tennis great in his own right. Your blogs have been more fair-minded about Nadal than some, Ru-an, despite your bias. Good on ya. As a Nadal fan, I’m simply enjoying the talk on the boards, since there’s no more ‘Nadal will never win Wimbledon…’, or ‘Nadal will never win Wimbledon a second time…’, or ‘he can’t win on hardcourts…’ or ‘he can’t win on a fast hardcourt…’ , or ‘he can only play on clay…’ talk. It’s gone. Anyone with objective eyes would have seen Nadal could and did win on hardcourts years ago, it was only a matter of time and him figuring out what he needed to do (and some luck, every player has benefitted from luck now and then, even Roger) to get this last slam in his resume. I watched him dismantle Agassi in 05 at Toronto, when Agassi was playing near his best, on a hot run of wins – and with no serve to speak of. Rafa is a genius on the court too. Maybe just not your kind of genius, but that, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder as well.

    Cheers!

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  3. well done Ru-an everything you said was true. Nadal is a great player but it’s all hardwork, muscles and when you watch him play you know exactly what he’s going to do on the court – torture the guy on the other side of the net it’s like punishment with throwing stones at you until you slowly give up and die – for me Nadal’s style of play is like watching an action movie with no story (main character always a winner of course) and that’s what you want to emphasize here.

    Maybe it’s just me but I noticed lately no offense but Nadal is somewhat the male version of Sharapova before he serves pulls his shorts touch his nose with the same fingers, tuck his hair behind his ears then grunts.

    Not enjoyable to watch.

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  4. I like to see the debate from everyone but may I bring your attention back to the sport of tennis which has been blessed with Roger & Rafa whom have done wonders for the sport of tennis. We need them for the survival of this sport and it is exactly their points of differences that we are enthralled with anxious expectations when they do meet that it would be a match to end all matches. No fun in watching Fed vs Djocko or Nadal vs Murray is there? Here we have 2 ultimate sports warriors with their own unique talents or genius, or whatever we call them giving us the best they have so that we can talk about them to see who is the best. Please remember that each in their own way is the best there is. Whether they are ranked 1, 2 or 3 is our ratinf of them, not their rating of themselves. Enjoy while it lasts!

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  5. Ru-an,
    Well said. Hey! everybody, Ru-an is saying the way Roger plays his strokes is genius-like – smooth, beautiful, unpredictable and unique. Genius is different from talent. Nadal is great; maybe even eventually be the greatest player in the world. Nadal is unique. Nadal is talented. Nadal works harder than anyone else. But he is no genius. He is what he is because he is talented and worked hard. And no one wins and cluth plays like he does. If you want to call this quality of winning mentality and cluth play “genius”, then by all means, Nadal is a genius. But we are talking about genius stroke-making here. And as much as Nadal’s strokes are uniquely beautiful in its own way, it is not technically/traditionally/whatever you want to call it, as genius-like as Roger’s. And if you have to take a vote in all of tennis world, I’m sure Roger would get the vote for most genius-like strokes. That’s all what Ru-an was trying to say. No need to be defensive about Nadal. We all agree he has earned his place of respect, there are a million and one great things one can say about Nadal; but genius stroke-making? I think we have to give it to Roger.

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    marron Reply:

    Not defensive about Nadal here. I simply disagree with you, Veronica. I think Rafa has genius in his tennis – strokes, shotmaking, whatever. There are plenty of examples on youtube, just as the one posted above re: Federer. Rafa IS a genius.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hes a physical and mental genius, not a tennis genius.

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    marron Reply:

    Well, I respectfully disagree.

    We each have our opinions.

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    steve Reply:

    Nadal’s tennis is like a big-budget action movie like Transformers. Dazzling CGI special effects. Big explosions. Booming soundtrack. Sexy girls in tight clothes.

    But there’s no real drama, no reason to care about the characters, no spirit. Only pure stimulation of the senses.

    You must admit it’s impressive, from a technical standpoint. You need lots of skilled technicians working very hard to do all the cinematography and CGI.

    So is Michael Bay a genius? Given that anyone who has enough money and a big enough production facilities can make equally impressive movies, I would say no. There’s no individual creativity or human spirit involved, only mass production. And that is how I feel about Nadal’s tennis–the physical resources he deploys are impressive, but it’s got nothing to do with creativity, just sheer relentless repetition and overwhelming force.

    Bay’s movies make tons of money, just as Nadal’s tennis wins lots of titles. So by those measures they are smashing successes. But there are other measures.

    To exalt Nadal as a genius is to implicitly endorse the ideal that the more a man becomes like a machine, the more perfect he becomes. The more a man blocks out emotions, and focuses monomaniacally on pure mechanical execution to the exclusion of all other things, the closer he comes to the ideal.

    To me that seems a cold and inhuman system of values. I’m sure there are those who will defend it, though.

    Federer’s tennis is fundamentally creative; it’s based on variation of patterns, and inventing new and beautiful ways to solve tennis problems.

    Artists can’t always produce a masterpiece, and that’s why he can’t play “perfect” tennis in every match. That’s what makes it so beautiful and precious–you never quite know what you are going to get. Every performance is different and has its own individual qualities.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    This is true. Nadals fans are often the type that would like Backstreet Boys, Justin Bieber or Britney Spears. These people sell huge amounts of records but they suck beyond belief for anyone who can appreciate good music. Theres just no depth to it whatsoever.

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