No Denying Nadal, Not Even on a Grass Court
by Sean Randall | June 15th, 2008, 12:45 pm
  • 125 Comments

Rafael Nadal is getting scary good. A week after destroying the field for his fourth straight Roland Garros crown, Nadal could have taken it easy this week at the Queen’s Club grass tournament in London, but credit to the Spaniard he didn’t. Nadal carried his clay momentum into his first career grass title with a very impressive 76, 75 win over rival Novak Djokovic.

The win was Nadal’s 17th straight and he becomes the first Spanish grass winner since Andreas Gimeno in 1972 at Eastbourne.

Nadal was my No. 3 pick at Wimbledon, behind Roger Federer and Andy Roddick as the best grass players, but after what I’ve seen this week I have to bump him to the two spot now, and he’s closing in on the top spot.

Like Nadal, credit to Djokovic, too. I really didn’t think either player would reach the final – not because of their lack of grass/tennis skills – with each putting priority on getting match practice over going 100% for the title. But these two guys are really gunning for Federer, who by the way collected his 59th straight grass win today beating Phil Kohlschreiber in the Halle final.

As for the match, it was very high quality stuff with both players playing exceptionally well. How many shots did Nadal get back that you thought “no way he gets that?” But he does and that’s part of what makes him so tough on any surface, and grass really rewards speed and Nadal’s got it.

Djokovic was up in both sets (though he overcame a break down in the second), but Nadal, as he seems to do in such situations, locked down and played his best tennis when it mattered the most. How many times have we seen the last few months guys getting up on Rafael only to unravel? I’ve lost count.

When the odds are against him the Nadal is the toughest on tour right now, and the more he keeps getting out of these holes the more his opponents are going to let him do it.

And just because you got into a winning position against Nadal doesn’t mean you are close or that you’ll get him on the big stage at a Slam. Both Djokovic and Federer were close to Rafa in the French Open lead-ups, but how’d that turn out for them in the end at Paris? Not very well.

If you are a Fed, Novak or Roddick supporter, or just anti-Rafa, you can try and spin it that Nadal beat a hapless Karlovic, a rusty Roddick and a tired Djokovic, but the fact remains, a guy winning the French Open has no business winning a grass title seven days later – it hasn’t happened in how long? And doing it in a fairly comfortable fashion against some very tough opposition makes it that much more impressive.

That said, Rafa’s not going to coast through the Wimbledon draw like he did the Roland Garros. (Of course the draw could tell otherwise – I do hope Rafa and Novak end up on opposite sides for a change!) Unlike the French, where only Roger and Novak had any real hope of stopping Rafa, at Wimbledon I’d still give Roddick a chance and a few others. Rain, scheduling can of course be a factor. But again, the best-of-5 format really favors Rafa, and from what I’ve seen this week it’s still hard to see someone winning three sets over that guy in any one match.


Also Check Out:
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Andy Murray Was Practicing At Wimbledon On Sunday, But Still Not Sure About Queen’s [Video]
Date Change Confirmed: Starting In 2015 There Will Be Three Weeks Between The French Open And Wimbledon
French Open Champion Rafael Nadal Arrives In Halle, Will Test The Knee On Grass [Video]
Novak Djokovic: Grigor Dimitrov Is Undefeated On Grass, So He’s The Player To Beat!

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125 Comments for No Denying Nadal, Not Even on a Grass Court

jane Says:

Good article Sean, and fair enough.

The thing about Rafa is not only his mental edge but his physical one too; not only can he psyche out a player he can wear him down. That makes him extremely tough to beat. He’s not bad at defense either – LOL.

That said, I still think Wimbledon is more open than in the past.


rjnick Says:

According to the BBC site, Rafa is the first player to win Roland Garros and Queen’s Club in the same year. I don’t know if it’s always been played the week after the French though.


Joker Says:

“but the fact remains, a guy winning the French Open has no business winning a grass title seven days later – it hasn’t happened in how long? ”

Let us not get too caried away Sean! The difference between the surfaces has been levelled. federer won halle in 05 and 06 after reaching semis and finals at Paris. So it is in’t like the calendar/personal slam which has not been achieved in 40 odd years. Great but not like no one has come close

“If you are a Fed, Novak or Roddick supporter, or just anti-Rafa, you can try and spin it that Nadal beat a hapless Karlovic, a rusty Roddick and a tired Djokovic,”

Donot worry….. there are enough of us to come up with better “reasons” to undermine rafa :) You keep up your good and prompt work.


NachoF Says:

“but the fact remains, a guy winning the French Open has no business winning a grass title seven days later – it hasn’t happened in how long? ”

Exactly, there is nothing really new about this… Lets just remember that Federer and Nadal have both been at the Wimbledon and Roland Garros Finals consecutive times, so this feat could have very easily already happened, in fact it was bound to… if you look at it the opposite way, a guy that won Wimbledon had just come from winning a clay court title (Federer in Hamburg many times)


Voicemale1 Says:

That stats of the match related to Serving tell the whole story. And it’s mind boggling. Djokovic served 77% First Serves today, yet faced 13 Break Points, getting broken 4 times. Nadal served at a low (for him) 61% First Serves, faced 8 Break Points and was broken 3 times. Going deeper, you find two stats where the outcome lies: 1st Serve Points Won and 1st Return Points Won. Nadal led Djokovic in both categories by a 7% margin, and that made the difference. Djokovic won only 61% of his First Serve Points; Nadal won 68% of his. On Returning 1st Serves Nadal won 39% of those; Djokovic 32%.

What’s stunning is that Nadal won amost 40% of the points when Djokovic got his 1st Serve in play. You can understand that on clay, but on grass??? That’s crazy!! Especially when Djokovic was getting the 1st Serve in 77% of the time. Moreover, Nadal was well below his usual 1st Serve Percentage of around 70%, yet he won over 2/3 of the points on his own 1st Serve anyway. Nadal spotted Djokovic a 1st Serve Percentage advantge today of 16%, yet Nadal not only took care of his own below par serve better, he returned the Djokovic serve much better than Djokovic returned the slower, weaker Nadal serve. All this points out the real difference between them: Nadal is just mentally tougher. Nadal is a smarter match player (probably the smartes one out there today). He knows not only how to play the big points, but what shots to use during big points.

Nadal now has Djokovic 9-3 liftetime, and won 3 of 4 meetings this year including two huge mental battles: Hamburg & Queens Club. Djokovic leaves here with a lot to contemplate, wondering how on earth he can get almost 8 of 10 First Serves in play on a grass court and not win a single set, getting broken 4 times. Nadal leaves here knowing he can serve much better than he did today, knowing the Best of 5 Format helps him considerably, and knowing after this week he’s got a real live chance to win Wimbledon this year.

PS- Djokovic’s post match interview courtside show’s his mental fragility. Mentioning how he’s only played on grass for “3 years” having something to do with him not winning this?? Lame. As if Nadal was Federer-esque on grass!! Suck it up Novak – you got outplayed today by a guy playing nowhere near his best. Take it like a man :)


natureexplorer Says:

How come the winner of the Halle tournament gets more prize money than the winner of Queens?


andrea Says:

go nadal! and thanks for beating old what’s his name….


All_Roger Says:

2006 and 2007 saw Nadal in an outsider role at Wimbledon. This time nobody will underestimate him – which is why we won’t see him in the final this year …


Joker Says:

Nadal had about 70% 1st serves when he got swatted like a fly by tsonga at aus open or davydenko at miami. If anyone did not play their best today, it is novak. He got tight when he had the chance to close the deal. He will learn. Let us remember nadal lost last year to mahut in the quarters. Djokovic atleast made the final?

Things can only get better for Novak and only worse for Nadal. The 2nd half is not for the clay court sissies. The shot-makers are going to step things up.


RaaR Says:

@natureexplorer, Halle has fewer players so, despite having the same prize money, the winner gest more of it.


nadalian Says:

Rafa’s victory over Djokovic clearly highlighted some very important attributes of his game, not just the physical aspect but the mental aspects too. No matter what opportunities djokovic created for himself at the critical moments in the match, Nadal had a very clear awareness of how to handle the situation. He’s really developing quite a mature mindset in terms of knowing how to hold onto that sheer determination of his to simply hold his ground.Grass is becoming a relative comfort zone for Nadal,and while it may still be too bold to say that he could take our Federer,he really looks like the only contender who could realistically take three sets off of him. Andy Roddick, LLeyton Hewitt, Marcos Baghdatis, and the other few outsiders who could cause an upset over Federer simply don’t have that extra gear they need to put Federer to the sword. If Nadal gets through to the second week, surley he’s the one man Roger would pay not to have to play against to defend his title.


roki Says:

Nadal is anti tennis and Novak just didn’t play his game like in first 3 games of the first set. That said Rafa like Rafa he always come up with some shitty returns that are like balloons high up in the air that are landing on the line. When Rafa gets luck like that everybody starts to be crazy and they start to play less aggressive and risky. He just stopped playing risky not only on 1st but on 2nd serve and that play and state of mind cost him this match. Rafa is nowhere near of a player that plays beautiful tennis, and him wining a title on grass is just a mirror image of the crazy world we live in. Still he is a fighter but he should play beautiful, not painful. Last year i routed for Fed in SW18 Finals couse there were no Nole in the finals. This year i will hope that there will be no Fed and Rafa in the finals, everyone else is good enough for me :)
I’m not anti Rafa but still i cant like his game enough.


Voicemale1 Says:

Joker Says:
Nadal had about 70% 1st serves when he got swatted like a fly by tsonga at aus open or davydenko at miami. If anyone did not play their best today, it is novak. He got tight when he had the chance to close the deal. He will learn. Let us remember nadal lost last year to mahut in the quarters. Djokovic atleast made the final?

1) So I guess we can say Nadal’s just gotten better – serving worse yet still not losing a set.

2) Is it that tough for you to just admit Nadal’s better than Djokovic??

3) Djokovic made the final – but Nadal won the tournament. Or didn’t you get that memo??


blah Says:

“clay court sissies”?

That makes a lot of sense…

Seriously, joker, you’re worse than fed is afraid.

When the hell did fanboyism become a common trend in tennis


blah Says:

Oh and the irony of a djokovic fan calling other players sissies


Daniel Says:

Apparently Nadal is now on his prime! He only improve this year, better AO, won Hamburgo, destroy the field for a 4th RG and now a grass tilte. He has more wins this year and is the mentally tougher player now.

This Wimbledon could validate it as long as Nadal makes another final, which will boost his confidance going into hardcourts. But if he falls soon in Wimby, and Djoko advances, he still can loose his n. 2 which will cool of his momentum.

Strangelly, this year, all eyes will be on Nadal, will he win it?! Once we know Fed won’t loose 3 sets on grass for any other player out there other than Nadal or Djokovic (the ones who beat him in Slams) he is virtually in the final already, waiting to see how good Nadal really is rigth now!


Voicemale1 Says:

What’s funny are the Djokovic apologists on this board like Joker & Roki expressing the sheer venom they do toward Nadal when he beats up on Djokovic, like he’s done for the 9th time in 12 meetings. They’re mad at Nadal for beating their hero 75% of the time. You’d hope this will put an end to all this crap about which of these two is the real “all court player”. Nadal’s beaten Djokovic on every surface: hard, grass, and clay. Djokovic has only beaten Nadal on a hard court, and that’s it. Nadal is clearly the better all court player in relation to Djokovic, whose only chance to beat Nadal is on a hard court.

Nadal has more Mental Toughness in his big toe than Djokovic might ever have in his whole career, and that’s why he keeps beating up on Djokovic. Nadal is the quintessential example that in the higher echelon’s of tennis beautiful strokes are an elective; Match Playing Intelligence is a requirement, and Nadal has that in spades. Djokovic gave more examples of his mental frailty again today – throwing his racquet around on more than a few occasions like some spoiled junior player. That behavior is Golden Signal for a guy like Nadal, who then takes his strengths and moves in for the kill while Djokovic’s mental meltdown seals the deal.

Djokovic has some excellent strokes, but he should wise up and learn from Nadal, or more importantly, Federer. When Federer won Wimbledon for the first time he’d said that before that moment, he could never understand why he kept losing to all these guys on the tour when he had far superior technique than they did. He learned then about what’s required “upstairs” to put together the career he has. And he could never have done that with just a “beautiful technique”. Djokovic gets outplayed by Nadal MENTALLY, and that counts for a LOT more than forehands, backhands and serves if you wanna stay in the Top 10. And any Top 10 player would say exactly that.


JCF Says:

Congratulations Rafa.

I was expecting Djokovic to win in two tight sets, or three, but well done.

Now if only people like Agassifan and Joker stop making fools of themselves and just give the kid the credit he is due.

“Let us not get too caried away Sean! The difference between the surfaces has been levelled. federer won halle in 05 and 06 after reaching semis and finals at Paris. So it is in’t like the calendar/personal slam which has not been achieved in 40 odd years. Great but not like no one has come close”

Yes Joker, the grass is really slow because he won it. If he had lost it, it would be a different story right? Nadal can’t play on grass… or the grass is too quick for a clay expert.

Since you acknowledge that the grass is slow, does that mean you give Rafa a chance at Wimbledon?


JCF Says:

Here’s what Joker said a few hours before the match:

“Today Djokovic will pummel nadal into the ground. Nadal may at best win a tight set. Djokovic is in prime form and has his killer cap on. He will be relishing the chance to take Nadal on a very fast surface. Will be fun to see Djokovic run nadal ragged like he did at Indian Wells. Watch out for nadal fans to come up with “fatigue” excuses after the loss.”

You must really enjoy embarassing yourself Joker. Keep it up.


JCF Says:

Hey Joker, notice how quickly you contradicted yourself? Before the match you described the court as a “very fast surface”. And now that Nadal won, you say “The difference between the surfaces has been levelled”.

Your credibility has just gone down the gutter, and I hope other people start ignoring your posts as they should.


Giner Says:

“2006 and 2007 saw Nadal in an outsider role at Wimbledon. This time nobody will underestimate him – which is why we won’t see him in the final this year …”

When you say this, aren’t you doing precisely that? Underestimating him. You’ve just contradicted yourself.

And the logic fails. The reason he made the finals was because people underestimated him, and now that they won’t underestimate him, he must fall early? How does that work? Did anyone underestimate him at the French? Look how that turned out.

HAte to tell you this, but a player isn’t going to win or lose based on what other people are expecting out of them. A player’s performance depends on their concentration, focus, and physical abilities. They can’t read people’s minds.


Dave B Says:

I hate to be so Pollyannaish but no matter who you like, I think it’s great living in a tennis era with such great, great players. It’s really exciting. Although I’m a Federer fan I’m starting to think that Nadal will beat him at Wimbledon in a five setter.


JCF Says:

“Nadal’s beaten Djokovic on every surface: hard, grass, and clay. Djokovic has only beaten Nadal on a hard court, and that’s it. Nadal is clearly the better all court player in relation to Djokovic, whose only chance to beat Nadal is on a hard court.”

I’m sad that Tsonga denied us a dream AO final this year. Nadal vs Djokovic. That would have been a VERY interesting match. Nadal played brilliantly all thoughout AO, not losing a set, until Tsonga thrashed him. I’m not confident that Djokovic would have continued on to win the AO. In the AO final against Tsonga he even took an injury timeout to have his tired legs massages. Yes, TIRED. The guy had made it to a final without dropping a set, and it was a set apiece, and he was tired! Against Nadal, this will not do. Jim Courier who was commentating said “Djokovic has been known to retire from matches due to fatigue. Do not be surprised.”

Thankfully, the fact that it was the final of a grand slam spurred him on. Tsonga was pissed that Djokovic was using an injury time out not for injury but for massage. But the rules say you can, so too bad I guess.


Giner Says:

Joker, you really got owned this time now that you got quoted.

Are the courts “very fast” or are they “level” with clay? We need your answer now before Wimbledon begins so that there won’t be any excuses in the event you get owned once again. Obviously the “slow” excuse will only work if you expect Nadal to go deep into the tournament. But you’re probably expecting him to lose early, which requires that the courts are “very fast”. So which will it be? Are you picking for him to make it far, or lose early? Decide now so that we can put your crystal ball scrying to the test. If you pick him to lose early because the court is too fast and un-claylike for him, but he doesn’t, then you won’t be able to use the excuse that the grass is as slow as clay.

What will it be?


not_joker Says:

@ joker:

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

….

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha


Sean Randall Says:

Gosh, I thought Nadal was merciless, but some of you guys have really taken it out on Joker!

And regarding the achievement in winning the French and a grass court tournament in consecutive weeks, sure Roger’s been close as have others, but it’s the focus and the desire needed that makes it so darn tough. Had Roger won one of the three French finals – even this year – there’s a decent chance in his euphoria and celebration he may have opted out of Halle. Hell, Sampras would have taken the rest of the year off had he ever won the French. But Nadal hardly celebrates and goes right back to work almost the very next day. That’s what’s so impressive and that’s why no one had done anything like it since Nastase in 1973.

Again, credit to Nadal. How many guys would actually play the week after winning a Slam, let alone play on a different surface. Fed tried it in Gstaad I recall in 2003, doing the reverse going from grass to clay but failed. (I’m sure it’s happened, but I cannot think of a anyone right now to have done it!) So I give a lot of credit to Nadal for this achievement and his determination. It looks easy on paper but it really isn’t, and the history books prove that.


JCF Says:

Fed had never won Gstaad, and the only reason he went back to it was because it was in his home town, and his country would sure appreciate seeing him play.

He lost in 2003 (finals I think?). He went back to it in 04 or 05 and won it, and then after winning it once, he never bothered going back ever again. This was the tournament that gave him a cow, and then some other fancy gift. In a way, they were relieved that they didn’t have to think up more meaningful gifts to give him.

I can’t blame him for not wanting to play the week after winning a slam. But the fact that he kept doing it anyway until he won it then stopped is a telling one about his character. And so is the fact that he abandoned Davis Cup shortly after ascending to #1 (before that he was faithful to it). He has priorities, and it would be a stretch to call him patriotic.


Sean Randall Says:

JCF, yup Fed won Gstaad in 2004 which I will say is the last time until now that a player won a title the week after winning a Slam.


Samprazzz Says:

I believe that I did predict on this site in the Winter, that Rafa had a good chance of bagging the French and Wimbledon. That was back when the rest of you were writing that he would never become ranked #1. It’s going to be very close between Rafa/Djoker/Federer – any of those 3 could take Wimbledon. But as a dark horse, I’ll take Tsonga. He’s got the serve, the soft hands, and the foot-speed. If he gets hot again, he’s got a shot.


Sean Randall Says:

Samprazzz, you might want to re-think that Tsonga pick. Last I heard – and maybe things have suddenly changed! – Tsonga was off the circuit until the US Open or so following knee surgery last month.


LOL @ Joker Says:

“Let us not get too caried away Sean! The difference between the surfaces has been levelled.”

If by ‘levelled’ you mean that the court is more or less the same as clay, then how do you explain the fact that Nadal’s wins have been so tight?

Karlovic: 67 76 76
Roddick: 75 64
Djokovic: 76 75

He was pushed in every set against these guys. If this was clay, it would have been brutal. He would have mutilated these guys. So if the two surfaces were level, wouldn’t we expect similarly one sided results? Obviously the fact that these guys almost beat him makes it clear that the court is NOT anything like clay. That he managed to overcome them is a testament to Nadal’s abilities, not the court favoring him, because the court is doing anything but favoring him.


Daniel Craig Says:

looks like joker got buried in all this rubble. where you at gravity man?


bobby Says:

It is because people like joker and rocky are existing,mental asylums are there.Maybe it is time for them to search for one of those where they can be fixed.


Skorocel Says:

Sean Randall said:

“But Nadal hardly celebrates and goes right back to work almost the very next day. That’s what’s so impressive and that’s why no one had done anything like it since Nastase in 1973.”

You’re making too much out of this, man. There’s no doubt that winning FO and then Queens in 2 cons. weeks is a phenomenal achievement (especially for such clay-court phenomenon like Nadal), but the fact is, it’s only logical that Rafa would be so motivated to do well on grass (where he’s been still titleless until this year’s Queens edition), so there’s no need to exaggerate it… Had Fed won one of those 4 matches against Nadal at RG, he would’ve done the same feat (at least) more than once… Actually, Fed did it in 2004 (winning SW19 & Gstaad in cons. weeks), but anyway, if Nadal wins the SW19, now that would be something! That would de facto make him a new No. 1 (even if Fed retains his ranking), but right now, it’s still 3 weeks till the SW19 will be over, so we better wait and see…


Danica Says:

JCF,
why should anybody here be ignored?! Who gives you the right to pick who’s gonna post on this board? Last time I checked, the First Amendment was still on.


Daniel Craig Says:

anybody who makes unsubstantiated claims out of pure fanboyism doesnt have the right to post on this board but they do it anyway. aka saying player x sucks just because hes player x and he defeated player y or you can pull the guy forget card and say about nadal “we don’t want to see construction worker arms in tennis.” in these cases the first amendment can be ignored and the perpetrators just need to shut the hell up.


Spirit Says:

All credits to Nadal, he deserved this victory 100%.

Djokovic, though, held the keys to the match till the very end. When you are:

1) 6:6 6-5 with the serve in a TB against Rafa, you need an ace OR a service winner, OR at least some gutsy and courageous play. Waiting for Rafa’s error has proven WROOOONG for so many times.

2) 5:4 with the serve in a grass court match – you just need to close this out. Even if you lose the first service game, you can’t afford to lose two in a row…

Djokovic was beaten mentally and needs to show much more courage if he wants to beet Rafa in their possible SF clash at Wimbledon.

Regarding Rafa, this is the first time he is recognized as a serious favorite to win the title at Wimbledon. In 2006 and 2007 nobody really thought he could do it, especially after his QF loses at Queens. But now, having beaten a handful of fast court and grass court specialists, expectations are – FINAL AT LEAST.

Nadal won’t have any psychological issues with being a top favorite (along with Federer) to win SW19 for the first time. He handles the pressure brilliantly. However, the road to the final is not going to be easy.

What if he takes the title? It won’t mean the end of the world. Really, the guy played two consecutive finals, was so close to winning the last one. This year he won the 2nd best grasscourt tournament and kinda put the spells off.


jane Says:

Spirit,

Good post: I agree that Rafa deserved to win it in the end, but that Novak had chances to win both sets, and really should’ve won at least one of them. Someone said above that Rafa is mentally stronger, and that’s true. He’s probably the strongest guy out there at the moment, mentally, and most definitely physically, so that gives him an edge.

Wimbledon will be really entertaining this year. So many great players, as Dave B pointed out.


momo Says:

Do you remember the 18 yrs old kid, Nishikori who beat Nadal 2nd set 6-3? Even Djoko could not steal one set from Nadal. Watch this Japanese kid who will be playing against T.Johansson at the Slazenger Open on Tuesday.


Andrew Miller Says:

Gosh, I was really impressed by Nadal’s performance. While on clay there is no ball he can’t get to (almost no ball) I did not expect that the grass would also reward his footspeed. Clearly there is something to be said about Nadal’s return of serve: it was Agassi-like during the Djokovic match! And coupled with the speed, that is just formidable. Though I am wary of seeing Nadal win an AO or a USO, I think Wimbledon’s lawns will be forgiving and will accomodate Nadal’s physical style of play. Though I pick Federer to win it, I cannot deny Nadal. He is just playing way too well.


Joker Says:

JCF:

So surfaces being levelled = pace being the same? In other words you think pace is the only thing that characterizes two surfaces? Even my dog knows better than that. What kind of an idiot thinks pace is the only difference between two different surfaces? You dont even have to play tennis for that. It is just common sense and a little bit of thinking. Unfortunately you dont seem to be capable even of that.

You are so intelligent to call other people to ignore my posts? I will be only glad if other idiots who agree with you ignore my posts. I dont want to discuss with morons who dont know how many factors can contribute to two surfaces getting levelled.

Voicemale:

Nadal leads the H2H 9-3 between djokovic and nadal and 11-6 against Federer. Those numbers are lopsided only because Federer and Djokovic go deeper into the Clay tournaments more consistently than nadal does on hardcourts. 10 out of the 17 matches against Federer and 5 out of the 12 matches against Djokovic were on clay. Look at andy roddick’s H2H with nadal. 3-2 in nadal’s favor. So you want to tell me roddick is a better player than the other 2? And roddick had 4yrs for their H2H to pan out, while Djokovic and nadal have had only 2!

We know how nadal fans like you are most vociferous at this time of the year. We are used to this by now. 2 months from now it is all about knees and fatigue. Getting smacked by David Ferrer or smoked by nalbandian or retiring against juan monaco. Thanks for your “informative” post! we will wait for the injury drama to play out again.

I can see a lot of Andy roddick fans(you know who you are) jumping like a pack of hyenas after the lion. Much like how roddick is in the atp tour which is a 3 lion race.


overhead Says:

Nadal won’t have any element of surprise at Wimbledon this year. He’s powerful, he’s a lefty and he’ll crawl over rusty nails to return a ball. But the way he got clubbed to death by Tsonga at the Aussie Open this year should offer clues to the power hitters on grass – Nadal can be blown off court with the right tactics (not on clay of course). Perhaps it will be a Nadal/Federer final again but for me it’s Nadal who’s vulnerable in the early rounds and there are only so many early round bloodbaths he can survive.


Amy Says:

Andrew,

This is what I’ve been saying. Nadal’s return of serve has dramaticaly improved. Rafa flattens his backhand out and now, it’s also a weapon. Anyone betting against Nadal at Wimbledon is going to be disappointed. He’s better this year and even fitter. As much as I love Roger – He’s going down. Rafa is the new Borg!


Voicemale1 Says:

Joker Says:
Nadal leads the H2H 9-3 between djokovic and nadal and 11-6 against Federer. Those numbers are lopsided only because Federer and Djokovic go deeper into the Clay tournaments more consistently than nadal does on hardcourts. 10 out of the 17 matches against Federer and 5 out of the 12 matches against Djokovic were on clay. Look at andy roddick’s H2H with nadal. 3-2 in nadal’s favor. So you want to tell me roddick is a better player than the other 2? And roddick had 4yrs for their H2H to pan out, while Djokovic and nadal have had only 2!

Again, this is an attempt to nullify Nadal. After all – you were the one that said grass was gonna be Djokovic’s surface to beat Nadal, and it has yet to happen. So if you take out clay matches between them Nadal still Beats Djokovic H2H 4-3. And if Nadal is so vulnerable off clay, his H2H with Roddick is even more impressive. They didn’t have an ATP match on clay – all their matches were hard court or grass.

In fact, as long as we’re looking at H2H’s – it’s Djokovic’s H2H vs. Top 10 Players that’s weak – he’s below .500 for his career, and well below it for this year. In 2008, Djokovic is 3-6 vs. Top 10 Guys, and that’s on all surfaces. Conversely, Nadal is 12-3 vs. Top 10′s this year on all surfaces.

Joker: you wanna bash Nadal here, OK. What you won’t get away with is the overrating you do of Djokovic. I can’t remember if it was you or Agassifan that was claiming how “lucky” Nadal was in his draw at Wimbledon to make 2 Finals. It’s BS, but I can easily say luck is on the Djokovic side too: he’s won 3 titles this year, and in NONE of them did he play the title match against a seeded player!! Talk about luck! You gotta beat Tsonga for the AO (not even Top 40 then)?? You gotta beat Fish for IW Ranked 98 then)?????? You gotta beat Wawrinka to win Rome (ranked 24 then)??? Djokovic might never get softer title matches for the rest of his career. And even with all that unseeded competition, he managed to lose a set to all of them in those title matches. And take note; two of these were on a hard court. All you Djokovic apologists keep ramming down out throats since last year has been how he was gonna “dominate” hard courts this year. If you lose Sets to guys outside the Top 20 on your best surface you’re not dominating anything.

From the time he won Canada last summer, Djokovic has lost to 10 different guys on hard courts since then, his supposed best surface. With the hard court season starting next month, Djokovic finds himself with a large number of points to defend between Canada and Paris. And when you’ve taken the number of losses he’s had on hard courts in the last year, defending what he’s got is no lock. He’s nowhere near the guy on a hard court that Nadal is on a clay court. Djokovic will find the Waters of Defense are a lot rougher then the Waters of Ascent.


Bojan Says:

Get real. I’m fan of Novak, but Nadal was playing way too good tennis to be beaten. Novak could play better, but just like in Hamburg and RG, everytime Nadal gets a bit lucky Novak gets really upset. That’s one of the thing he could work on. Chances like break points for 4-0 lead in the first set, 6-5 in the tiebreak and 5-4 + serve in the 2nd set were really too much. Even if you say Nadal had a bit of luck, he could have it in 2-3 points, but Novak let too many points…
The main problem for Novak IMO was his mental strength. He is very confident when he plays lower ranked players, and he often comes from a set down to win the match, but when he plays Rafa and Roger, he simply gets frustrated and starts with worse game.
Big minus were volleys too. Very bad performance, but he has the time to fix it till Wimbledon. I’d like to see Novak in Rogers part of the draw for a change, just like as the author of the article said!


jane Says:

Fans of Djokovic’s or just for anyone interested; here’s a link to a good article by Peter Bodo at ESPN about the 3rd wheel dynamic:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?entryID=3446537&name=bodo_peter


noel Says:

Dave B,
“I hate to be so Pollyannaish but no matter who you like, I think it’s great living in a tennis era with such great, great players. It’s really exciting. Although I’m a Federer fan I’m starting to think that Nadal will beat him at Wimbledon in a five setter.’
I couldn’t agree more.we are really fortunate to have three amazingly talented players playing against each other.while fed has had a dip this year after four dominant seasons,rafa seems to be in the form of his life and appears almost to be the favorite for wimb given his current form.
we should also appreciate the fact that while fed’s best is probably-i hope and pray that i am wrong here- over and rafa seems to be in his prime,novak is still relatively new to this.novak’s achievements so far are unbelievable considering who he is up against.let us not get too harsh on novak.after all,he has reached five straight slam semi finals and is not too far behind rafa in the race.he is far from being in his prime and still is a big threat on all surfaces.i also disagree very strongly with those who say that novak is not strong mentally.he has played a large majority of big points as well as any other player this year.
i’d still say that he is more likely to dethrone fed than rafa is although the way rafa is playing at the moment is quite astonishing.i wonder if rafa can take this form into the rest of the season.any which way,fed has a big problem defending his rank with tons of points to defend and two hot players snapping on his heels.it’d take a monumental effort from fed to defend his position.rafa or novak should take over sooner or later this year unless there is a sharp dip in their form or if they get injured.


Glenn Says:

Yes, Nishikori is one to watch on the fast courts!!!

I like Voicemail1 and Bojan’s comments. I agree with them 100%. Djokovic is weak mentally against Nadal and Federer. Just like Nadal is Federer’s kryptonite on clay, it seems Nadal/Federer is Djokovic’s kryptonite on all surfaces. He does well against lower-ranked players because even when he’s down, he retains confidence (and thus his mental composure) that he’ll win against the lower-ranked players. But against Nadal and Federer, his confidence wanes or is not as steady, and he breaks down mentally (which you can tell from his on-court behavior). He sees that Nadal and Federer can return a lot of shots that other players cannot (and make winning shots on the run that other players often cannot). You saw that in the Artios final. If he cannot get over that mental block, there is no way for him to overcome them, and take the #1 spot by the end of the year (about which he has boasted). Of course, it’s hard to imagine he will EVER get rid of the mental block since there is a real and good reason for that mental block – Federer and Nadal’s games/athletic prowess.

A few have commented that Djokovic did not play his game. From what I saw, Djokovic DID play his game. Did everyone notice how many times Nadal wrong-footed Djokovic? Did everyone notice how often Nadal made returns that were seemingly impossible? THAT is about Nadal playing great tennis – better tennis than Djokovic – not about Djokovic playing poorly.

Djokovic fans might say, “Djokovic should have made that shot which proves he was not playing his best.” But the fact is, there were also not a few shots that Nadal missed that he normally makes. So one can say that Nadal was also not playing his best? But why make excuses? Take it for what it is. DJOKOVIC WAS OUTPLAYED, even during moments when he had his confidence up, and even when it seemed like “luck” was on his side (one of Nadal’s shots sprayed out after catching the net, one of Djokovic’s shots fell way short after catching the net and Nadal could not get to it, and Nadal had a bad call on a shot). The fact that the match was so close proves that Djokovic was trying to play his best. He just wasn’t good enough.

Amy,
Andy Roddick commented that Nadal’s serve has improved and has now become a weapon. You can add that to your list of weapons that Nadal has.


Glenn Says:

Besides mental toughness, do Djokovic fans feel there is anything that Djokovic has to improve?


Glenn Says:

Roki,

How do you define “sh*##* returns?” Are they the ones that Djokovic can’t handle? It doesn’t seem like you are a real TENNIS fan, if you can’t appreciate Nadal’s phenomenal skills. “Not anti-Rafa,” yet you call his line shots “luck.” Hahahaha!


Andy Says:

I seem to remember last year people talking about Wimbledon’s grass having been made to play slower. Was that announced as an official policy? Did they switch to a different kind of grass? Cut differently? Water less? Curious about what this year’s lawns might act like.

Andy


Amy Says:

Glenn, Oh Please!

Djokovic won the Austrailian open and beat Federer along the way. Djokovic also beat Nadal in the Indian Wells semi-final in straight sets. Djokovic also beat Roddick, Nadal, and Federer back to back to back to win Montreal last summer. How can you say he’s weak mentally. He’s the youngest of the 3. Give him a break. I think he’s very mentally tough. Good grief!


Branimir Says:

Just because Nadal is so tough mentally, that doesn’t mean that Djokovic is weak mentally! It just means that Nadal is tougher MENTALLY! Just that!
As Djokovic fan I can see many aspects of his game which need to be improved:
Movement on clay and grass. His coordination on grass and clay is very week, he is half foot slower on these two surfaces and that is why he cannot beat Nadal.
Volleys/net play. I mean that one is easy. His volleys are so weak sometimes, it is hard to watch if you’re fan.

Anyway. I strongly believe that Djokovic will beat Nadal next match on grass: Wimbledon. Djokovic got too very easy matches before Nadal, and he started good, and got too relaxed.
Grass on Wimbledon suits both Nadal and Djokovic better than one in Queens.

The only thing that I am afraid of is that Djokovic might get blisters again playing on grass, simple because he moves bad. I am very worried about that, since movement really comes naturally and it is very hard to fix it. It is automatic/uncontentious reflex, which is hard to improve on. Lendl knows it best.

Last but not least: FITNESS, FITNESS, FITNESS! Djokovic gets physically exhausted when he plays Nadal. Djokovic fitness affects his mentality.

————————————————–

Last thing: Nadal got so much better lately. Djokovic really doesn’t play much worse than he played, but Nadal really stepped up!


jane Says:

Glenn,

Novak has a very good serve but it could be more consistent – particularly in keeping his first service percentage up. That said, he served well against Rafa in the final. His first serve percentage was high, as someone above noted – *except for in those key moments* when he couldn’t seem to knock in a first serve precisely when he needed it. Which actually is unlike him: often he’s a fairly good clutch server. But he didn’t come up with first serves when he needed them in that match: at 6:5 in the tiebreak and at 5:4 in the second set. He needs to work on being more steady. That’s why I’d say the loss was partly focus/mental. He could still improve his game at the net, but from the back of the court -his groundstrokes and his returns – he’s excellent. He’s top 4 in all of the returning categories, and high in 2nd serves won and break points saved. But he needs a more steady first serve, something he can definitely improve. He’s an athletic mover, quick around the court. And he can play aggressive offense and good defense. I agree that he gets more demoralized when behind in matches against top players. He’s played plenty of excellent long matches against other players though, which makes me think his fitness is fine. But he’s more of a frontrunner.

All-in-all he’s a great player with the potential to improve. I’ll be following to see if that happens.


jane Says:

Branimir maybe makes a good point about movement on grass & clay versus on hardcourts, but I still think Djokovic is a good mover overall. He’s got to watch the slippage though; that lead to last year’s injury. Although it was also the back-to-back marathons with Baggy and Hewitt.

Anyhow, he’s not perfect but he’s darn good and a very deserving #3. I hope he can be consistent throughout the rest of the year. So far, he’s done a fine job of equaling and even bettering last year’s points – the only major slip up being in Miami. Otherwise, he’s done well to defend his points from last year. I just want to see him do that the rest of the year; it’ll be tough but he does have a couple of places he can pick up points: Cincinnati and Paris. So long as he stays number 3 this year, I’m happy.


JCF Says:

“JCF, why should anybody here be ignored?! Who gives you the right to pick who’s gonna post on this board? Last time I checked, the First Amendment was still on.”

First amendment gives you the right to free speech, it doesn’t mean that others have to listen to you. I didn’t say he couldn’t talk. The First ammendment doesn’t say that you aren’t allowed to ignore other people’s free speech.


JCF Says:

Joker:

“JCF:

So surfaces being levelled = pace being the same? In other words you think pace is the only thing that characterizes two surfaces? Even my dog knows better than that. What kind of an idiot thinks pace is the only difference between two different surfaces? You dont even have to play tennis for that. It is just common sense and a little bit of thinking. Unfortunately you dont seem to be capable even of that.

You are so intelligent to call other people to ignore my posts? I will be only glad if other idiots who agree with you ignore my posts. I dont want to discuss with morons who dont know how many factors can contribute to two surfaces getting levelled.”

So then, answer the question…

If the court surfaces are “levelled” (whatever that means), why weren’t the results levelled too? On clay he would kill these guys. On grass, he almost lost.

Go on. Keep grasping at those straws.

And you still haven’t answered the question. Is the court “very fast” or not? And how far do you expect Nadal to get at Wimbledon? Tell us now so we can put you to the test.

I’m now trying to think what ‘level’ means in your opinion. Bounce? Certainly not. Speed? Nope. Sliding ability? Of course not. Spell it out please… I’m too dumb, like you say. Yet you didn’t, because you know you’re talking out of your butthole.


JCF Says:

overhead:

“Nadal won’t have any element of surprise at Wimbledon this year. He’s powerful, he’s a lefty and he’ll crawl over rusty nails to return a ball. But the way he got clubbed to death by Tsonga at the Aussie Open this year should offer clues to the power hitters on grass – Nadal can be blown off court with the right tactics (not on clay of course).”

He got his revenge on Tsonga on hardcourt later. So I don’t think you can draw too much from that one match.

He also got clubbed to death by Gonzalez the year before that.


Glenn Says:

Branimir and Jane,

Thanks for your perspectives. I too think that Djokovic’s movement needs to improve. He does the splits very well :), and has a great reach, but it seems to me he is often too stretched out in those moments. But I feel he is a bit lanky, and perhaps cannot improve in this area.

To improve his volleys, I think he needs to play more doubles. He shouldn’t feel the need to be #1 in singles right now. I think that is self-defeating at the moment. I think the worst thing going for Djokovic right now is that there is so much pressure on him. He should just relax, forget what his parents or anyone else says about being #1, and simply focus on improving. It will probably also help his humility. One thing commentators are always apt to say about Nadal is how humble he is, despite his greatness, and what a great ambassador for tennis he is thereby. Wouldn’t it be great for you Djokovic fans to hear that being said about Djokovic one of these days?

As far as his mental toughness against the better players, I think a great part of it is the pressure put on him by his parents, the press, his fans, and whoever else is trying to push him too hard. When he is not living up to expectations, I think that brings him down, and results in unsportsmanlike behavior. If he relaxes and just focuses on the tennis, he will be a much better player for it (and gain more fans, besides).

His attitude and behavior during the Artois final was sportsmanlike. It was a pleasant change, and made the match so enjoyable to watch. When he made that complaint about a line call, I fully expected him to do his usual death glare at the ump – but he didn’t! I made a mental note, “cool.” Of course, it seems as though he let that call affect him. Against a lower-ranked player, he would have sloughed it off, knowing he can always regain the advantage. But against Nadal – or Federer, for that matter – every point is so crucial, and what he perceives as a bad call haunts him more than it normally would. Once again, his mental toughness against the top players has to improve.


funches Says:

I would be stunned if Djokovic lost to Nadal at Wimbledon. He’s simply a better player on grass. And he actually has less chance of getting upset before the semis. He’s made five Slam semis in a row. Nadal’s best streak is two.

No way would Nadal have lost only five games combined to Hewitt and Nalbandian at Queen’s. He won the important points against Djokovic in the final, but Djokovic plays better in the Slams than regular tour events.


angel Says:

I think this Wimbledon would be really competitive and Nadal has a pretty good chance to take the trophy home but maybe some suisse guy has something to say about that…just let’s wait and see.
Djokovic really needs to grow up, it’s a shame that behind such a great tennis is such an annoying person.


Sean Randall Says:

Funches, Djokovic may play better in Slams, but so too does Rafa! Right now, I can’t see Novak beating Rafa at Wimbledon. Maybe on hardcourts this summer, but not at Wimbledon. Novak’s never beaten Rafa in the best-of-five match and I think it’s going stay that way for a long time to come.

I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, Novak’s got a great game. A game of a No. 1 player. And I put him at the top of the list – ahead of Federer – as the guy who can beat Nadal at the French Open. But where guys like Roger and Rafa have Novak beat – and why Novak’s been stuck at No. 3 – is between the ears. Rafa got him on the big points at Queen’s and Hamburg. Roger did so at the US Open last year.

So Novak’s got a ways to go in that department, and getting to that higher level mentally where Roger and Rafa are at is no easy feat. It takes time. Unless you were born with it like a Federer, Sampras or even a Hewitt, there’s no overnight pill or training regimen or clear path to follow.

Sure, Novak’s reached a heap of Slam semifinals and he broke through to win the Australian Open and he reached the US Open final, and those are all great building blocks to getting tougher mentally. But you need to repeat that success over and over and over again. Fight from the brink, save break points, save match points, overcome adversity, win for your country, and on and on.

And it’s not really a fault of Novak’s (though he really needs to cut out the retirements when playing the top guys!), it just takes time and likely some luck (let’s face it, he’s playing in a time with both Federer and Nadal). He’s also younger than both those guys in age and in experience so maybe a year from now he does get to the top.


Shital Green Says:

Amy and Branimir,
There is something about you guys I feel it you could be my new friends. I will catch up with you during Wimbledon.


funches Says:

I think Rafa’s mental strength on surfaces other than clay is overrated. He had Federer on the ropes at Wimbledon last year and choked on his break points early in the fifth set. He missed some easy shots for no reason. If Djokovic had done the same thing, everyone would have pointed to his lack of mental fortitude.

I don’t see the mental frailty others see in Djokovic. Yes, he played horribly on all the key points vs. Federer in the U.S. Open final, but that was his first Slam final. It would have been abnormal for him to not be nervous. He won the Aussie Open with ease, and mental frailty had nothing to do with his losses to Nadal on clay. Nadal’s simply better on clay.


Shital Green Says:

Sean,
Let’s say you are Rafa (and I like you, too), and I am Djoko during the Wimby. I will play point by point, will try to go toe to toe with you. Am I mentally tough enough? It all depends on how motivated I am on a particular tournament plus the distance I have to cover. My distance with you is not that big on grass, certainly not as big as on clay. I will be motivated enough on big stage and will give everything to fight hard. And I will play to win, not just go out there and try my luck. I will give you good match.
I will be posting shot by shot while my alter will be on the court.
Thanks for the balanced post, though. We owe you a great deal for all the hard work you put in to keep the conversation going.


Sean Randall Says:

Funches, true. Rafa is not the strongest on the hardcourts, especially later in the year. And he did blink, not once but twice in the final last year v. Roger twice having 15-40 in that fifth set. I can’t see him blowing that chance again if it comes to it.

Re: Novak. In some ways that Australian Open win was too easy. It may sound weird but he never had to tough out a match there. Overcome the odds – all those lovely sports cliches! I remember Roddick hitting that ace down matchpoint in the US Open semifinal v. Nalbandian. Wow. Novak needs a moment like that.

Shital, thanks, but I’m not quite sure I follow what you are asking – serves me right for staying up so late. Are you saying that Novak will give his all, stand toe to toe with Rafa if they play at Wimbledon. If so, that’s all well and fine, but from Rafa’s vantage point, he’s going to walk out onto that court feeling that of the two he’s the tougher guy both physically and mentally. Will Novak think that same way? I doubt it. Again, between the ears it’s advantage Rafa.


Janadev Says:

Sean,

I totally agree with you, Rafa ia the toughest player on tour at this moment. Even if Novak goes Toe to Toe with Rafa, do you think Rafa will be just watching the balls go like that??

He wants to prove a point this time in Wimbledon. He desparately wants to win another Slam other than French to prove that he is not juat a clay master and he is master of other surfaces too..


Junaid Says:

I am new here to read your comments. It looks like JCF and Joker are more big rivals than Federer vs Nadal -:).

We should accept that both Nadal and Federer are great champions. Also both have leveled the Borg consecutive winning record on Grass and Clay.

Obviously Federer have advantage and will try to win wimbeldon 6th time and also Nadal have peak form of his career. So lets see what happen….

Surfaces of Grass and clay are totally different. On grass you can’t take winner against Nadal but on grass Nadal was failed to resist the winner of djokovic in Queen’s club final. so it proves grass is faster than clay.


Hypnos Says:

Was it Navratilova who said that “the athlete comes out on grass?”

Nadal is a world-class athlete — power and speed all day. Also, he can handle bad balls and doesn’t get down on himself. Seems natural that he would succeed at Wimbledon.

The question is, what does Nadal need to improve, or has already improved, to take down Roger? Roger is perfectly suited to the post-millennium grass, and in the talent department may give up only a little power to Rafa.


Junaid Says:

correction:

“On clay you can’t take winner against Nadal but on grass Nadal was failed to resist the winner of djokovic in Queen’s club final. so it proves grass is faster than clay”.


Von Says:

Shital Green:

“Amy and Branimir,
There is something about you guys I feel it you could be my new friends. I will catch up with you during Wimbledon.”

So this is how it works, eh? You dump your OLD friends and collect new ones along the way? ET TU BRUTUS? OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW :) That’s OK, the way my luck’s been running lately I’ll be surprised if I have any friends left. Anyway, don’t let my feeble attempt at placing a guilt trip on you stop you — I expected better from my guy’s homey, Just carry on smartly. :) The operative word being “smart-ly”. :)

The following is dedicated to you, but why should you care? :)

“There is nothing more necessary than truth, and in comparison with it everything else has only secondary value.
This absolute will to truth: what is it? Is it the will to not allow ourselves to be deceived? Is it the will not to deceive?
One does not want to be deceived, under the supposition that it is injurious, dangerous, or fatal to be deceived. (Nietzsche, 1890)


Skorocel Says:

Sean Randall said:

“Right now, I can’t see Novak beating Rafa at Wimbledon. Maybe on hardcourts this summer, but not at Wimbledon.”

Again, you’re making too much out of Nadal’s win in Queens. The truth is, Djoker will still be the favourite (even if only a slight one) if these two meet themselves within 2 weeks at SW19… Nadal’s certainly improved on grass – there’s no doubt about that. His 2 Wimby finals certainly weren’t flukes, but still, his percentage-tennis-based game has some considerable limitations on these faster surfaces – and it’s only a matter of time when someone explores them on grass as well… On clay, all he can do is to run and return everything back, constantly destroying everything what his opponent’s trying to create – and it’ll suffice, but on grass, his running won’t save him…


Amy Says:

Funches,

You’re absolutely right. Novak has made steady progress each year. He’s NOT mentally weak like all these so called tennis experts in here seem to think. Nobody beats Nadal on clay right now. No one. Mental strength or not. Federer can’t do it and he’s mentally tough. A mentally weak player would not be so consistent in grand slam play. The only two players he’s had trouble with are Federer and Nadal but who hasn’t?

On the Nadal hard court game. Nadal has trouble winning against the big power hitters on hard courts. Those courts reward flatter pin point shots because the surface makes the ball fly faster at more severe angles than clay or grass. Nadal’s severe top spin can sit up on the court and allow players like Tsonga, Yohzny, and Blake (who all beat him in straight sets in grand slam events) to flatten out their big shots and crush winners. Clay absorbs those kinds of shots and gives Nadal time to retrieve them. In fact clay makes his top spin shots bounce that much higher and make it more difficult for power players to make an impact. this is not true on hard courts.

Mental strength is only as good as the game you present on a tennis surface. Nadal has mental stength on clay because his game allows him to. Novak has mental strength on hard courts because his game allows him to. Federer’s has mental strength on grass because his athletic all around game allows him to. Grass rewards that. All this mental strength talk is over rated. All 3 are mentally strong. Good grief!


gaobest Says:

I was amazed to see Rafa come from behind in both sets – especially in the 2nd set!

I had just had DirecTV installed with The Tennis Channel (!) a few days prior, so watching the final on Sunday morning (California time) was such a pleasure.

It would be interesting if Wimbledon seeded Roddick as 3rd and Djokovic as 4th, so that (theoretically) Federer would face Djokovic in the semis and after Roddick loses in the 3rd round, Nadal ends up facing Tsonga or Davydenko in the SFs instead :D I do think that both Nadal and Djokovic are super-tough, and it would be nice if Federer had to face at least one of them in the SF this time around. His tournament draws seem just way too easy in the slams (admittedly the Australian Open ’08 was a toughie, possibly the toughest since the ’05 AO/FO!).

Mike


Sean Randall Says:

Skorocel, “The truth is, Djoker will still be the favourite (even if only a slight one) if these two meet themselves within 2 weeks at SW19.”

You call that truth? If that were the truth Djokovic would be installed as No. 2 favorite among the bookies going into Wimbledon – can you find me a credible online betting agency with Novak at No. 2? Granted things can change during the tournament that can impact the betting favorites, but if play go as scheduled and there are no injuries or outside factors, Nadal will be the betting favorite over Novak if they meet. And I’d even go out on an limb and say that even had Novak won that Queen’s final 76 75, Rafa might still be the favorite to win a rematch with the Serb at Wimbledon.

Again, Novak’s never beaten Rafa in best-of-five.

And out of curiosity, just what do you think his limitations are on grass? I can name some, but I’d like to hear it from you.

Amy, where Nadal also runs into serious trouble on hard courts is people can punish his second serve, something they really can’t do on the clay and it’s much more difficult to execute on grass. As for his mental toughness, I’m not saying he’s mentally weak, he’s just not as strong right now as Roger and Rafa and that’s why in the big points he’s coming up short against them.


Sean Randall Says:

goabest, I believe Novak will be seeded No. 3, Roddick at 4. A simple coin flip (or a chip) will determine which player goes into which half, be it the Roger or Rafa halves. That said, I’d love to see Novak play Roger again and Roddick v. Nadal on the grass would be a great match as well.


nadster Says:

Roddick will be seeded 6th for Wimbledon. Even though the Wimbledon guys do make adjustments for past grass court play to adjust seedings, Roddick still wouldn’t have enough points to catch Daydenko or Ferrer. The mens tennis forums site has a detailed thread on this.

It is possible that one of the big three has to face Roddick in a quaterfinal.

If Roddick is not in the Davydenko quarter, then one semifinalist will be wide open.


jane Says:

Sean,

You say Novak needs to…
“Fight from the brink, save break points, save match points, overcome adversity, win for your country, and on and on.”

Er, have you been watching his matches? I mean, in addition to the ones in which he plays Fed or Rafa? He’s done this: he’s actually one of the best players at staving off break points – check the stats. He’s overcome amazing adversity, including a number of fantastic 4 and 5 set matches last year in the slams – at Wimby and at the USO so that he could reach the semis of 5 straight slams. He fought through HOW MANY match points when he played Rafa in Hamburg? 5? Sure he didn’t win but he gave Rafa one hell of a competition, one of the best he’s had on clay all year.

You say of Rafa missing his chances to win the 07 Wimby title “I can’t see him blowing that chance again if it comes to it.”

Well, Novak has *proven* that he wouldn’t blow his chance after losing in the USO final – as Funches points out, his first slam. He had to beat Federer to win the AO Sean, and he fought until the last point, which, b.t.w., included a phenomenal and risky return in a tiebreak to win the match.

You say ” In some ways that Australian Open win was too easy. It may sound weird but he never had to tough out a match there.” Ummm… again this sounds rather biased: so was Roger’s 07 AO too easy? Or Rafa’s 08 RG win too easy? They didn’t have to tough out matches either, because they were too damn good! Novak had to play a lot of potentially threatening players -and I am not talking about rankings – Hewitt in Australia is always dangerous; Ferrer had a great end to 07 reaching the semis at the USO and performing well on hardcourts. Oh yes, then Novak beat Roger! Oh and then the hottest player of the tournament – Tsonga – the one who creamed Rafa (no offense to Rafa, whom I like). So easy? I think not.

Roger has rarely had to play 5 sets in slams because he’s been too darn good; like Novak, he’s a good front-runner. Rafa, on the other hand, is a good come-backer. He sometimes starts slow. Being one or the other (a front-runner or come-backer) is not necessarily “better” than the other; it’s just the different player’s strengths and weaknesses.

You need to give Novak a little more credit no? He’s a great player and good fighter. We’ll have to wait and see how he does at Wimbledon, but no matter what, he’s proven his quality.


Amy Says:

Sean,

I agree with you on Nadal’s second serve dilemma on hard courts. Lendl had this problem early in his career but later developed an excellent non attackable second serve. This allowed him to make 8 straight U.S. Open finals.

On the seedings at Wimbledon this year. Roddick should be upgraded passed his rank to #4. Both Daveydenko and Ferrer are not good on grass. Andy’s resume should give him the seed. Novak is the real key. Which ever half he ends up on will make life very difficult for either Roger or Rafa in the semi-finals. Roddick will probably be in the other. I know Rafa and Roger would far rather play Roddick in the Semis than Djokovic.
It seems Roddick is the mentally weaker player now. After his stunning loss to Gasquet last year and his loss to Rafa at Queens Club this year he can’t be feeling very confident. Who ever doesn’t have to play Djokvic in the Semis is probably going to win Wimbledon. I can’t imagine Djokovic being able to beat Federer and Nadal back to back in a best of 5 set match at Wimbledon. It’s too tall an order.


Sean Randall Says:

nadster, thanks. Sorry, I don’t frequent the men’s forums, but if you have the calculations I’d love to see them.

Jane, Novak’s no doubt a great player. He’s likely a future No. 1. But right now when he gets behind big he hasn’t shown me much to make me believe he can still come back and win against the top players. Yes, he can fight off break points, etc., but I want to see him fight them off and WIN the match. Big difference.

With Federer and Nadal, even if they get behind a set and a break or even two sets I still give them a decent chance. Right now, I don’t see that with Novak. How many truly great comeback wins has the guy had? Stepanek at the Open? How many times has he been on the brink of losing and come back to win?

And I guess with the “too easy” comment I made, which I also made with Roger a while back, it shows you are a great frontrunner, but again, in a fifth set situation, or if you are down matchpoints or getting blown out, what experience does Novak really have to draw from to get him out of such a circumstance? Not much right now.

But that’ll come i think with more time and experience.


Sean Randall Says:

Amy, I would agree with most of that. Novak’s the better player right now than Roddick. But I wouldn’t put it past Andy to light things up at Wimbledon if he can get his serve going. Remember he did win Dubai thumping both Novak and Rafa, and on grass he should have a bigger advantage. Obviously his result last week doesn’t help his cause but I think he’ll be able to shake it off for a good Wimbledon run.


funches Says:

Nadal’s weaknesses on grass are relative because he’s an incredible player on the surface, but he does not return first serves well. That’s Djokovic’s clear edge on him. In a head-to-head match, he should win more points outright on the serve or be in position to put away the first shot more often than Rafa.

In a best-of-five set match, that is a huge difference.


jane Says:

“With Federer and Nadal, even if they get behind a set and a break or even two sets I still give them a decent chance. Right now, I don’t see that with Novak. How many truly great comeback wins has the guy had? Stepanek at the Open? How many times has he been on the brink of losing and come back to win?”

Well first all, if we’re talking slams, Novak’s only been playing them for a few years. So how many chances has he had to play a “top player” in best of five sets?

But in 2005, he beat Monfils at the USO in five sets and Garcia-Lopez at Wimby in 5, down from 2 sets to love.

In 2006, he beat Gonzalez at RG in 5 sets and Mardy Fish at the USO in 4 tight ones.

In 2007, he fought off a spirited challenge from the aptly named Patience at RG in 5 sets; at Wimbledon he beat Kiefer in 4 tight sets, then Hewitt in 4 tight ones, then Baggy in 5 sets in the quarters, and by then he was injured. But he still took one set off Rafa in the semis, and if he was healthy, without infected blisters and having played all those other matches back to back, I’d argue that one would’ve gone 5 sets, or at least 4. Of course there’s the amazing win against Step, and a pretty strong challenge from Monaco at the USO.

This year he hasn’t had to play one 5 set match in either of the two slams; I’d argue that’s because he’s improved.

How many 5 setters has Roger won in a slam – against top players or otherwise?

2004 – 1 against Agassi at the USO
2005 – lost to Safin in 5 at AO, zero other 5 setters at Slams
2006 – 1 against Haas at AO
2007 – 1 against Rafa at Wimby
2008 – 1 against Tipsy

Rafa?

2005 – AO won against Youz in 5; lost against Hewitt in 5
2006 – Wimby, won against Kendrick in 5
2007 – AO won against Murray in 5; Wimby won against Soderling & Youz in 5, and lost to Roger in 5 (the only player ranked higher than him)
2008 – like Novak, Rafa has played no 5 setters in slams so far; in fact he hasn’t even played 4 sets.

So to compare 5 set slam results:
Novak has won 6 from 2005-8
Roger has won 4 from 2004-8
Rafa has won 5 from 2005-8


Branimir Says:

So Novak never lost best of five game in a slam?
I find that hard to believe. Hehehe that epic match against Stepanek was so entertaining!!

Anyway Djokovic retired 2 times in slams against Nadal.


mariel Says:

You gotta beat Tsonga for the AO (not even Top 40 then)?? You gotta beat Fish for IW Ranked 98 then)?????? You gotta beat Wawrinka to win Rome (ranked 24 then)???

So what? Who did Tsonga beat. Who did Fish beat.


jane Says:

Branimir,

I was list only Novak’s wins in 5 setters at slams in response to Sean’s question.

If you want to know how many 5 setters in slams he’s lost, here they are:
2005: lost in 5 sets against Verdasco at USO
2006: lost in 5 sets against Ancic at Wimby
2007: lost no 5 setters
2008: played no 5 setters.

So to compare losses in 5 setters at slams:
Roger: lost 1 between 04-08
Rafa: lost 2 between 05-08
Novak: lost 2 between 05-08

Yes he did retire against Rafa twice, both times with valid reasons: French 06 with back injury and breathing issues, for which he has subsequently undergone surgery. And Wimby 07 for infected blisters on his feet due to overplaying in back-to-back matches due to the weather. The same injury -infected foot blisters- that caused Rafa to lost Rome this year, which was also arguably due to overplaying & the condensed clay season (plus he played doubles in MC).


jane Says:

mariel makes a very good point “So what? Who did Tsonga beat. Who did Fish beat.” It doesn’t matter that Novak had to win those titles against Tsonga and Fish. To win the AO, Novak beat Fed and Tsonga beat Rafa; therefore, they were the deserving finalists. To win IW, Novak beat Rafa and Fish beat Fed. Therefore, they were the deserving finalists. Sheesh.


Sean Randall Says:

Jane, thanks for the info. Novak’s won his share of tight matches, but I want to see matches he’s won that he had no business of winning. Matches he’s overcome large odds to win.

I’ve seen Roger do it and we’ve seen Rafa fight his way back many times this year alone, but show me some situations in which things looked bleak for Novak but he came back to win.

And because he’d had so few such comebacks that’s why I still give the edge to Rafa and Roger right now. Even when they are down they know how to come back and win. I don’t think Novak’s has that in his makeup yet.


jane Says:

Sean,

I haven’t followed Roger as closely as some of the other players, but which ones has he won “that he has no business of winning. Matches he’s overcome large odds to win”? Can you tell me? I am sincerely interested.

Rafa is a fantastic, unheard of really, as a comebacker – he’s usual compared to most, a rare exception. That’s why I think they should add his name to the dictionary under “tenacious” right?

I showed you a couple above, in which Novak “overcame large odds”: the 05 win at Wimby against Lopez (2 sets down); the 07 wins against Baggy and Stepanek, both great players, having been in the top ten, and Baggy having been in a slam final, and both matches extremely tight until the last point. Things looked bleak in those matches but Novak toughed out the Ws.


Sean Randall Says:

Jane, yes, I guess there was Lopez for Novak at Wimbledon. Guillermo Garcia Lopez mind you. Further, wasn’t Baggy a near choke job? Wasn’t Novak up two sets and a break? I hardly call that a comeback. Tight match, yes, but no comeback.

Re: Roger. Recall Hidalgo. 5-1 down in the third. And he’s twice come back from the brink to beat Rafa – Miami i believe he was down two sets and a break, and in Hamburg last year when he was getting squashed.

And yes, you can make a case that Hidalgo was a patsy and that Rafa was tired (Hamburg) or too young (Miami), but fact is Roger toughed it out, didn’t lose hope and won.


jane Says:

Thanks for the info Sean – those comebacks against Rafa & Hidalgo weren’t that amazing considering that both were best of three set format so of course he could come back; I thought we were talking best of 5 here? I am sure I could find you some more best of 3s that Novak has won after losing one set (for example, Murray in Madrid 06, Novak came from behind to win the next 2 sets – similarly against Verdasco Madrid and Soderling Rome in 07). The comeback by Roger against Rafa in Miami? Okay but you’re going back a loooong way for that one. Any others? Novak has come back from behind in sets to win them too: against Tipsy at Queens, or how about against Roger at the AO in the semis – Roger could’ve won that set, but Novak stuck with him and pulled it out. Remember?

As for Novak vs. Baggy at Wimby – yes, he was up 2 sets – BUT both were won in tiebreakers, so the two were neck and neck. I’d hardly call losing the next two a choke! Look at the match stats. It was a dogfight to the end. As was the Step match.

You’re undervaluing Novak’s fighting ability – his ability to not “lose hope” and win. He’s done it; he’ll do it again. I hope so anyhow.


jane Says:

I’m referring to the first set in the semi at the AO; I believe Roger was serving for it and lost; Novak won the next 3 games to take the set. Came from behind against the number 1. I believe he did that in Montreal too?


Sean Randall Says:

Jane, I’m not talking about instances when Novak lost the first set and came back to win – many guys have those type of victories. I’m interested in times when he was really in danger of losing. Down a set, down a break or two. All hope is gone. Turn the TV off, this one is over.

And sorry, Novak’s doesn’t get a Gold Star for beating Baggy after being up two sets and a break on a grass court. Great effort, yes. But Novak has to win that in three.


Jack Says:

The 3 times Djokovic has beaten Nadal and the 2 times he beat Federer he won the 1st set. Put another way, Djokovic is yet to beat either of them when he loses the 1st set.

The biggest issue for Djokovic against Rafa or Federer will be his ability to keep it together for, very likely, 5 sets. Even in the AO semis where Fed was not at his fittest, the 3rd set started looking more and more like Fed was leading 2 sets and not Djokovic. If his match goes 5 sets against Federer or Rafa, what are the chances that there will be no injury time-outs? The day I see Novak win a 5 setter against Fed or Rafa without an injury time out is the day you can be convinced he has figured out how to play a 5 setter. It is just hard to trust a physically (or is it mentally?) unstable guy who has to resort to injury time-outs (perfectly legal by the way) like he did against monfils a few years back.

A very underated thing about Federer is how seldom he takes an injury time-out. When is the last time Fed took an injury time-out?


jane Says:

Sean,

“Down a set, down a break or two. All hope is gone. Turn the TV off, this one is over.”

Well, as I said above, I don’t think Roger’s done that much either. You cite the recent Hidalgo match but many have noted that the latter player choked. I don’t know if it was Roger’s fight that got him that W. And in the Hamburg final against Rafa, Roger was merely down 1 set (as Novak has been other times including against Tipsy at Queens) and Roger won the next two against Rafa relatively easily. How many 5 setters has he been “down a set and a break or two” and come back from? Not many! Novak lost the first set in the AO final and fought his way back, just as Roger did against Baggy in their AO final. Roger’s had a longer career so maybe you can find a few more instances, but you’re still undervaluing Novak’s ability to fight out WINS.

Roger and Novak, as I said, are better front-runners. Rafa is the tenacious dude who can come back from the brink more often and win, due to incredible physical and mental strength. I don’t know Roger’s or Novak’s 5 set win/loss records, or their coming from behind and winning records, but I’d love to know them, taking into account Roger’s lengthier career.


jane Says:

Jack,

Your post is about a different issue -time outs- so I won’t go into that.

But the fact that Novak hasn’t beaten Roger or Rafa without winning the first set doesn’t say much does it? He’s really only played them at his “best” (which is still improving) since last year, maybe in the Spring, but he really broke through in July.

Look, for instance, at Roger’s and Rafa’s rivalry – going back all the way to 2005.

How many times has Roger beaten Rafa when he hasn’t won the first set? Twice – the two times Sean mentioned. That’s it. Every other time, Roger was the front runner winning the first set.

How many times has Rafa beaten Roger after losing the first set? Thrice – three times, but not once since 2006. Those 3 times were Dubai, the epic Rome match, and RG 06.


Sean Randall Says:

Jack, Federer’s never retired in a match. Don’t know the number of actually medical timeouts (I’ve seen him take a few), but from what I’ve read/researched he’s never retired.

Jane, before I can really put my chips on a guy I really want to see how he handles adverse situations, especially how he acts when he’s down. How he responds.

Right now if you’re a Federer or Nadal having to play Novak, the mindset in a best-of-five match may very well be to get on top of Novak early, win that first set and coast from there. The guy’s shown little resiliency when he gets deep in a hole.

On the flip side, even if Novak gets the first set vs. a Roger or Rafa, the task is still a long way from being over. Roger and Rafa both know Novak’s prone to physical ailments – he’s retired v. both in big moments – and he hasn’t played that many five-set matches. So that, and other reasons, is why I still give Roger/Rafa an edge over Novak.


jane Says:

My point is simply this: Djokovic is a great player who can, has, and will fight out matches to get the W.

He has only been at the top since last year, really, so comparing him to Rafa & Fed is somewhat moot considering his lesser experience: give him another year or two and then the comparisons can be fairly made. He’s only played 2 slam finals – won one; lost the other.

We’ve seen him fight back from behind in sets against both Rafa and Fed, winning those in Montreal and AO against Roger and coming darn close to winning the 3rd set on clay against Rafa. Even though he looked down and out at love-3, he got that set to a tiebreak, which was more than Roger did against Rafa this year. I’d argue that Novak has a tougher time overcoming Rafa than Roger so far. But give him some time and we’ll see what he can or can’t do. So far he can do quite a bit!


jane Says:

“The guy’s shown little resiliency when he gets deep in a hole.”

6-5 Fed serving for the set in Montreal, Djokovic fights through 7 Deuce points to get the break for a tiebreak and then wins that easily.

I’d call that pretty resilient considering he faced numerous set points against the most dominant number 1 ever -Roger. And you can say that was a choke by Roger, but if you rewatch it you’ll see some fabulous shot-making from Novak. It was a pretty fantastic bit of resiliency. :-)


Sean Randall Says:

Jane, down 6-5, first set is not my notion of being in a “deep hole.” (there’s a joke there somewhere!) That said, strange but great match. Credit to Novak. That along with his US Open performance leave me wanting another Fed-Novak match-up. Just hope the Tennis Gods let it happen.


jane Says:

Sean, fair enough. When Roger broke Novak to go up 6-5 and serve out the set, it seemed like a “deep hole” at the time. LOL.

Anyhow, good conversing with you. Pray to those tennis gods for some good Wimbledon draws/ match ups.


Jack Says:

The question is whether Novak will beat Roger or Rafa at wimbledon which is in 2 weeks. How things will be a few years later is less relevant than how things have been the last 1 year.

Djokovic has played Fed 3 times in the last 6 GS and Nadal the other 3 times. Even if you discount last years Wimbledon semi-final, He has lost 4 of those matches in 3sets and won the other in 3sets.At this point he is yet to have the Miami or wimbledon moments that roger had against rafa or the rome comeback that rafa made against roger.

At this point it looks like whoever beats Rafa or Fed at Wimbledon is not going to do so in straight sets. Given that, Djokovic has not shown us he can play at the least 3hrs of excellent tennis against the top 2. Anything less than that means federer and specially nadal have the door open just wide enough to keep them interested in the match. Rafa and Roger’s experience is something that Novak will have to deal with. Just like Roger dealt with 7yrs ago against Sampras at Wimbledon and in the same way that Rafa dealt with Roger in the Rome final. That he has not been able to do so in 6 matches doesnt give one confidence that he will do that in his next match.

Ofcourse much stranger things have happened so this is not a certainty. Just that it is more unlikely than the other option of Roger/rafa winning. Another interesting way to look at it is that if someone tells me after Rafa/Novak wimbledon match finishes (i am thinking too far ahead now) that it was a 3 set affair. I would guess Novak as the winner. If they say 4 or 5, my guess would be Nadal. It would be the same for a Roger/Novak match, but I may not be as confident with my guesses as I am with the Rafa/Novak match.


Giner Says:

“You’re absolutely right. Novak has made steady progress each year. He’s NOT mentally weak like all these so called tennis experts in here seem to think. Nobody beats Nadal on clay right now. No one. Mental strength or not. Federer can’t do it and he’s mentally tough. A mentally weak player would not be so consistent in grand slam play. The only two players he’s had trouble with are Federer and Nadal but who hasn’t?”

I don’t know… At Queen’s, Djokovic had him beat in both sets and blew it, and that wasn’t on clay. If that’s not mental, I don’t know what it is. The same thing happened at Hamburg.


jane Says:

Jack,

Just to point out a slight contradiction, you say what’s relevant in terms of Novak’s chances is “how things have been the last 1 year.”

But then in the next paragraph you say “Djokovic has played Fed 3 times in the last 6 GS and Nadal the other 3 time”

This is a quibble, but as far as I know there are not 6 GS in one year.

We could fairly say this: since his break through last spring in the US hardcourt stretch, Novak played Rafa in the semis at RG and lost, Rafa in the semis at Wimby and retired due to injury, Fed in the finals of the USO and lost, Fed in the semis of the AO and won, and Rafa in the semis of RG and lost.

If we argue that Novak truthfully had no chance to beat Rafa on clay at RG where even Roger hasn’t come close, that leaves us with 3 slam performances, one of which Novak was injured for. That leaves us then with his two matches with Roger: one loss in straights; one win in straights.

It’s tough to say how a fit Novak would fair against Rafa on grass; it’s true, what Giner points out, that Novak could’ve and probably should’ve won at least one of the matches at Hamburg or Queens. He has the game. But in tense moments against Rafa he hasn’t come through. Maybe it’ll be different this time. I am not saying the odds favor Novak, because they don’t; he’s number 3 and has less experience than Roger or Rafa. However, I have simply taken issue with the idea that he’s not a fighter or that he can’t pull out Ws in tense situations. He has and I suspect he will again. We’ll see; I hope it’s a good Wimbledon and not all rainy like last year.


milenka glisovic Says:

Jane,all I could say is thank YOU.Thank YOU,from me and from Srbija.


Shital Green Says:

Milenka Glisovic,
I was not going to write anything until Wimbledon. The warrior-Jane’s last woman standing made my vow break. I was also going to say “thank you, Jane,” but she deserves more than that. I will not promise you, Jane, but I will do everything I can to get you in touch with Djoko and have him read how you fight for him (a lot better than I did last year). I feel ashamed of myself that I stood as an onlooker when you were slaughtering the enemy line in the battlefield. You got bloodied there, but you won. Now you can pump your chest just like our huckleberry. The best part I envy about you is you know when to retreat and when to advance (when to say “sheesh” and when to say “sorry”). I am proud of you winning the battle singlehandedly despite all kinds of weapons pouring from all directions.
Djoko has Jane’s spirit to win the battle, be it World War III or Wimbledon.

Von,
I cannot “dump you[..] OLD friends”? I am stuck with you guys forever. And I don’t regret.
I will “carry on smartly” if that is the “operative” instruction. I don’t ask their names when they leave in the morning. I don’t recognize them when I see them next time. I met them at 2:00 am.


bob22 Says:

To Sean:
> why Novak’s been stuck at No. 3 – is between the ears.
This is not the first time you insult Djokovic and his mental state. You are repeating yourself, going against personalities you do not know. Your tennis knowledge is a joke, but we all know that is not your strength. You are coming from other side, going after personalities of individual players and glorifying one and dismissing some other player. You do this comparison in such way that it triggers a fight and insults between fan camps. Good example was Australian Open, where you trigger so much hate against Djokovic, his family and at the end against all Serbian people that it was discussing. The question is why. Why are you doing it? The answer is simple. You are incapable to do tennis analysis like some of your collegues, and this is the only way for you to stay on Tennis -X. The problem is that people like more trash talk, and that is why you are still on these pages.


Jack Says:

Jane,

This is from your own post.

“He has the game. But in tense moments against Rafa he hasn’t come through. Maybe it’ll be different this time. I am not saying the odds favor Novak, because they don’t; he’s number 3 and has less experience than Roger or Rafa.”

That is exactly what Sean is saying. As a fan you can hope it will be different. If you are analyzing the Rafa-Novak match up the next time they meet, you got to go with the odds and say Nadal has that X-factor. We are speaking in relative terms. Novak might be mentally tougher than most players. At this point you will have to definitely rank him below Roger and Rafa, especially in 5 setters.


jane Says:

Jack,

Thanks for your reply. But you will note that Sean was also implying that Novak has rarely come through in tense situations and that he’s not a fighter. Please see my 11:04 post to him from yesterday which started our discussion and you will see that the 3 points I singled out were not about comparing Novak to the other two but were about his efforts, his improvement and his AO win and whether or not it was a challenge. The discussion evolved from there.

Notwithstanding the quote you’ve already given of mine, if you scroll up further and read my comments to Glenn you’ll see that I am fairly objective in analysing Novak’s strengths & weaknesses. I merely take issue when people attack his efforts as a player; given that he’s won “most improved player” two years in a row and rocketed up the rankings, I guess I feel he deserves more credit sometimes.


jane Says:

Shital & Milenka,

Thanks for your kind words; what can I say? I got a soft (or tough?) spot for our huckleberry!


Skorocel Says:

To jane:

Even I (as a Fed fan) have to admit that Roger hasn’t gone through as many tough-to-turn-around matches as has Nadal. The Spaniard is simply the best in this category – at least from the current, active players…

To Sean Randall:

I don’t care what the betting agencies say… Every reasonable tennis fan knows that if Nadal and Djoker meet themselves on grass, it’ll still be (at least) a 50:50 situation… Yes, Nadal’s won both of their matches on this particular surface, but neither of them was a blowout…

What I want to say is, that, despite reaching the SW19 final twice and winning the Queens title this last Sunday, Nadal is still susceptible to a rather surprising loss on this surface… No matter what all those “experts” think, clay will always be clay and grass will always be grass… Just think of Kendrick, Soderling, Youzhny, or even Karlovic – they all had him on the ropes, but it was only because of his immense fighting qualities that the Spaniard was able to turn these matches around – NOT because he was suddenly playing some superb grass court tennis…

The point is, he just can’t suddenly change his percentage-tennis style of play to an all-out-assault type of game – that will never happen! Surely, he can add some new dimensions to his game (like flattening out that forehand a bit more), but still, he’ll win most of his matches NOT because suddenly firing 50 winners at his opponents, but because of them commiting more errors – and that’s not how you win the matches on grass, is it? There’s no question that he’s already achieved great things on this surface, but the fact is, even if he wins this year’s SW19 edition (I’ll have no problems to eat my words if he does so), he’ll always be A LOT more vulnerable on grass & hard-court than on clay…


Naydal Says:

grass is the closest thing to clay other than clay these days…..so not sure why it’s so hard to believe…..


Giner Says:

“The point is, he just can’t suddenly change his percentage-tennis style of play to an all-out-assault type of game – that will never happen! Surely, he can add some new dimensions to his game (like flattening out that forehand a bit more), but still, he’ll win most of his matches NOT because suddenly firing 50 winners at his opponents, but because of them commiting more errors – and that’s not how you win the matches on grass, is it? There’s no question that he’s already achieved great things on this surface, but the fact is, even if he wins this year’s SW19 edition (I’ll have no problems to eat my words if he does so), he’ll always be A LOT more vulnerable on grass & hard-court than on clay…”

Isn’t that how Lleyton Hewitt wins his matches? He is good on grass, and he’s won SW19 before. Come to think of it, Lleyton and Rafa are similar in many ways… they retrieve everything and draw the error, and they are both mentally tough players. If they lose, it’s because the other guy didn’t let up, not because they packed it in. They fight for every point.


Sean Randall Says:

Skorocel, you say “Every reasonable tennis fan knows that if Nadal and Djoker meet themselves on grass, it’ll still be (at least) a 50:50 situation”. What happened to “The truth is, Djoker will still be the favourite”?

To you argument, true Nadal is the best defender on the planet, but defense is not his go-to weapon. Have you seen his forehand? Anything short to that side and the point is virtually over on any surface. He didn’t win the French by out rallying guys. If there was such a stat I’d bet that Rafa has the most forehand winners of anyone of the tour this! And his forehand translates on to clay, grass, carpet, any surface. It’s downright deadly and you could make the case it’s the single best shot in tennis today. His backhand may be more defensive but his forehand’s the killer.

And that said, why would he need to flatten out his forehand as you suggest? For what purpose?? So Roger doesn’t have to hit high backhands anymore?

And yes, I would agree that on grass (and hard court) he is much more vulnerable on clay. There are more guys that can get him, no doubt. Yet I wonder, since you say Nadal really doesn’t play great grass court tennis, who does play such a style right now? Federer of course, but in your mind who else right now plays great grass tennis? Just curious.


Skorocel Says:

To Sean Randall:

You’re right that there aren’t that many guys who can play great (or “true”) grass-court game nowadays… There certainly must be a reason why the S & V game (which was once so useful on the lawns of Wimbledon) is now literally extinct, isn’t it? Bigger balls (not those of Wilander, I mean :) ), better racquets, slower surfaces – you name it…

Yes, I can admit I put it wrongly… There’s simply no denying that when you reach two cons. SW19 finals and win in Queens, you simply HAVE to know a thing or two about playing on grass – I can admit that… It’s just that I wouldn’t be so sure of Nadal winning against Djoker – if they indeed meet within 2 weeks on the lawns of SW19, of course…

As for Nadal’s forehand, it may be the best shot in the game, but ONLY as long as you count clay. There, it kicks as high as anywhere (making the opponent’s backhand literally non-existent), but on other surfaces (especially on hard court), it’s nowhere near that good – AND there are many guys who can exploit this weakness… Golden example is Tsonga at AO, against whom Nadal simply didn’t have any time to generate any of that wicked spin in his forehand – simply because the Frenchman’s groundies were too hard & too quick for him, rendering his FH topspin literally useless… The grass may be a bit specific surface – that’s true, but still, the guy’s pretty vulnerable there as well. Anyway, within 2 weeks, we’ll know more, but as of now, I would still put Nadal behind Fed & Djoker as the No. 3 favourite to win the SW19 crown – that’s how I see it…


Sean Randall Says:

Thanks for the explanation Skorocel, to go a step further – and this is not an attack but rather just of further curiosity – if you could building a player just from strokes (not mental/speed/fitness), etc), where would you start. Roddick’s serve? Karlovic’s serve? Roger’s forehand? Gasquet’s backhand.

Myself, I might take Rafa’s forehand. Maybe Roddick’s serve. Tough call, but interesting because a few years ago it was probably Roger’s forehand that was the clear cut best shot in the game.


Jack Says:

Sean,

At what point did this imaginary player of yours shift to “Rafa forehand”? As recently as miami, Nadal was totally crushed by davydenko. before that he lost in straights to djokovic, roddick, seppi, tsonga and youzhny. Against tsonga and youzhny, rafa was running around the court like some yo-yo guy. There was absolutely no chance he could harm them.

So is this shift a post-clay season thing? If so it is too new a shot to already anoint in the single-most scary shot right now. I would say Djokovic’s forehand and backhand have proven themselves over a much longer period.

I agree Federer’s forehand is not the force it was and that is one of the main reasons why he has had an abysmal (by his standards) season so far. It still has flashes of brilliance but not the consistently lethal shot it was. Having said that it is perhaps the single most lethal shot of all time. (maybe the sampras serve comes close, but if you take lethality over all surfaces, federer’s fh of 04-07 might just nose ahead. It is mighty effective on clay too, except against that unmatched rafa forehand on clay)

My personal favorites of all of Federer’s fh are the fh whip shot treatment he gives to mid-court balls on his side of the net (that was the shot that made me a Federer fan in the 1st place). The other short is the angle he creates with a cross-court fh from the center of the baseline and the ball takes off viciously with the side-spin from the service line on the other side of the court. You get to see that shot a lot when he throws caution and tactics to the wind in matches against guys with monstrous forehands like gonzo or balke. They will be trading monstrous fh cross courts and suddenly fed will create an extreme angle and boom! winner.


jane Says:

I agree with Sean’s hypothesis; Fed’s forehand, as we have seen since last year, has a tendency to “go off” more than Rafa’s has of late. He overhits, shanks, or mistimes forehands more often, particularly against players like Nalbandian and Djokovic who take away some of the court and exploit that timing issue. In the AO semi, in fact, once Novak started going to the Fed forehand, he started to cruise (relatively speaking, of course; he was playing Roger after all) through the second set.

I noticed, too, in that ATP video about “the perfect player” a number of players picked Rafa’s forehand or at the least weren’t sure who to pick between Rafa and Roger. Some picked Fernando Gonazles’s forehand too.


jane Says:

Jack,

I don’t know for sure, but I would argue that the reason Rafa’s forehand isn’t as effective on hardcourts, and I agree with you 100% that it isn’t, is in part due to his poor court positioning; he tends to retreat too far behind the baseline on hardcourt (unlike Djokovic for instance) and so his forehands land like sitting ducks in mid court. They could still be a huge liability if he steps up and hits aggressively and strong angles.


Jack Says:

Jane,

I agree with you about the consistency of Federer’s forehand the last 1 year. In a way, you can actually say Federer’s fh during his dominance was like Nadal’s at RG – totally aggressive. Over the last 1yr he is trying to play percentages on the forehand (like rafa used to on clay till this year). Ofcourse when fed is being made to go for more on the fh side, over the last year or so – the shanks and errors are the result. The similarity with nadal’s fh on clay of 05-07 is still valid because nadal’s brilliance on clay meant he never was made to go for it on the fh side as federer is being made to these days.

About the impotency of rafa’s fh on hard courts, I agree that part of the reason is what you mentioned, but the bigger problem, I believe is that the top spin that kicks up high on the dirt, stays for a longer time in the air giving quick movers some extra time to get to the shot. Nadal cannot flatten the cc fhs enough to finish the points off.

Maybe I am wrong, but this year’s hc season will tell us if Nadal’s problem is just what you said or if my theory is right! He seems to have taken care of the court positioning for now. It remains to be seen if Rafa has turned a corner or if old habits die hard…. time will tell!


jane Says:

Jack,

Yes, I had thought of the top spin factor too; the time it seemed to work for him on hard was at IW in 07, which he won. But it was really hot there last year and the balls were flying almost like they do on a clay court, so that worked to his advantage.

In the final against Davydenko at Miami, Nadal did fall into old habits and played too far back, but you’re right that we’ve seen glimpses of him working on this, so I am, like you, interested to see how the late hardcourt swing works out for him –> time will tell indeed.


Skorocel Says:

To Sean Randal:

You chose Rafa’s forehand – that’s fine. But then again, if it’s that mighty of a shot, then WHERE it was during those demolitions which he suffered to Tsonga, Youzhny, Nalby, or Davydenko?! The answer is: NOWHERE!

For those who want to know how to beat this guy on a hard-court, I would still say: Watch that Tsonga AO semi! That was literally a textbook example of how weak (or better said vulnerable) that Nadal’s topspin FH can be on this surface. Remember, Nadal’s game is still pretty much a percentage tennis at its purest, and that forehand is no exception (even though it’s clearly the best shot in Nadal’s repertoire). It’s still not entirely suited on faster surfaces – and there are numerous guys out there which can exploit this weakness. Against Tsonga, in particular, he just didn’t have any time to generate that topspin – simply because the Frenchman put him under constant pressure from the first point on. On clay (where Nadal would simply run down every single ball and continue to spoil the opponent’s game until that error would come in), it would’ve been a different story, but here, he not only hadn’t had any time for any kind of counterattack, but also couldn’t spoil the opponent’s game at all… He just couldn’t do any harm to the Frenchman with his topspin FH, and was totally clueless…

So is that Nadal’s FH indeed the best shot in the game? Surely, on clay, it’s without question THE best, but it simply ain’t so on the quicker surfaces…


Skorocel Says:

To Sean Randall:

Apologizing for misspelling your name.


matt Says:

Every player has good days and bad days.

You can be defeated severely by a rival and you can defeat severely that same rival in that same court the very next day.

Agassi defeated Sampras 6-2,6-2 in the round-robin in the Masters’99 and Sampras defeated Agassi 6-1,7-5,6-4 in the final two days later.

Nadal lost badly to Tsonga 6-2,6-3,6-2 in that match. That was a bad day of Nadal (he didn`t feel confident or whatever), just as Federer lost badly to Fish 6-3,6-2 in Indian Wells, it was a bad day of Roger.

Nadal’s forehand is good or bad depending on the confident he feels in the moment.

When he feels confident, his forehand looks much better than when he feels unsure. (just like every other player and every other stroke).

But there are some differences:

When Federer is not confident, his forehand goes long out or just to the net one and time again, but he keeps trying to hit them hard.

But when Nadal is no confident, his forehand usually lands short and become an easy shot for the rival.

In other words, when he is not confident, he doesn´t hit hard and prefers to just put the ball in the other side while Federer keeps on trying to make winners even if he is making too much unforced errors.

Different mentalities.


cw Says:

Dear All,

what does Nadal takes so long to serve for every shot ? Is he slowest server in tennis history ?

And what about the obsessive toweling between points ? He seems to be toweling himself all the time. I have not seen anyone cleans himself all the time like Nadal. He is simply wasting time. I think tennis players in the world will agree to this !!!

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