ATP Clay Swing Preview: Who Will Beat Nadal?
by Ben Pronin | April 6th, 2010, 6:18 pm
  • 221 Comments

Tennis is one of those sports that has never-ending dilemmas that simply have no solution. The clay season officially began yesterday. Unlike the brief Latin swing after the Australian Open, there will be no overlapping hard court events.

So what’s the dilemma? The majority of fans really don’t care about the 250 events like the ones in Houston and Casablanca. There are very few, if any, players in the top 15 who will partake in these events. Also, we all just had a month full of Masters and I’m sure there are plenty of us who would like to digest the events, even if just for a week. But 99% of the tour didn’t play well or even play at all in Indian Wells or Miami, so they’re just itching to play another event. How do you make fans care about them? Unfortunately, you don’t.

But since this is the official start, I want to preview what we should anticipate over the next two months. The first big event starts next week in Monte Carlo. Although it is now optional, with Andy Murray taking wild card (and possibly Roger Federer), the field is stacked with most of the top players. There are a surprising amount of questions leading into this year’s clay season, all of them dealing with Rafael Nadal.

First, will the unpredictability of the hard court results ever translate onto the clay? In other words, will Nadal lose consistently enough to allow other players to share the spoils? It’s tough to say considering Nadal’s current state of mind seems fragile, but no. Monte Carlo’s clay, for example, suits Nadal better than almost any other clay out there. He’s the five-time defending champion there and I expect it to be the place where he snaps his title-drought.

But Nadal is still questionable. The King of Clay for the last five years is struggling mentally for the first time in his career. Known to never say die and play every point as if it were his last, Nadal has been showing cracks. I mentioned in my previous post that Nadal has lost three time this year after winning the first set. His body language is as poor as it has ever been and he had a little tantrum during a change over against Andy Roddick in Miami. So who is going to beat Nadal?

Nadal is an unbelievable 181-16 on clay in his career. That is a mind blowing statistic every way you look at it. Since becoming the clay king, he’s only lost to Federer (twice), Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Robin Soderling. So which of these guys is going to beat Nadal again? And will this list increase?

I’ve watched Nadal a lot over the years and I’ve caught some replays in recent months, too. There are very few players out there who can legitimately rally with and even bother Nadal on clay. Most recently, Novak Djokovic has been troubling Nadal on clay. He can rally with for large periods of time and he is also capable of pushing Nadal back, something that’s incredibly hard to do on clay. David Ferrer is also capable of rallying with Nadal but he doesn’t have the weapons to hit Nadal off the court. Tomas Berdych was giving Nadal all sorts of trouble in the first set of their Davis Cup encounter last year before Nadal ran away with the match.

Based on form and Nadal’s obvious hunger to get back to the top, he will suffer 0-1 losses. The only loss could be if he decides to play in Madrid again. He will probably be fatigued from winning everything else and will go down to either Djokovic or Federer. Ferrer doesn’t have the weapons and Nadal is going to want revenge if he runs into Soderling. Ferrero may have played well against a weaker field during the Latin swing but Nadal is a whole different animal.

If Nadal were to falter, however, I believe Djokovic would pick up the spoils. Despite the fact that both of them performed poorly at last year’s French Open, they were the best two clay courters last season. I wouldn’t say Federer is simply “third,” but he’s more of an enigma. If he plays well, only Nadal can beat him. But if he plays so-so, he can suffer losses to anyone. I think we will see more Nadal-Djokovic clashes just like last year and, if Djokovic pushes hard enough while Nadal is still fragile, he could finally get a win.

I think a match between Juan Martin del Potro and Nadal could be considered the most anticipated match of the season. Del Potro has the game to blast Nadal off the court but Nadal will definitely be looking to best the Argentine after that crushing defeat at the US Open. Unfortunately, Del Potro is still nursing and injury and will be a question mark whenever he plays.

Nikolay Davydenko can also trouble Nadal and make plenty of noise on clay but he might be out for the entire season because of a broken wrist. Andy Murray is still developing his feet on clay but, as long as he gets his focus back, will continue to improve and could be a real factor by the time the French Open comes around. Nadal said Murray could one day win the French but that’s a premature statement as far as I’m concerned. Murray needs some big clay court wins first but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine him getting some this year.

As for the French Open, it is too early and too tough to call. I’ll wait until at least Monte Carlo to declare any favorites.


Also Check Out:
To Rest His Knees, Rafael Nadal Might Not Play Indian Wells
Rafael Nadal Avoids The Hardcourts, Will Play Acapulco Clay In February
Juan Martin Del Potro Will Miss Asian Swing, Hopes To Return For European Indoors
Midpoint of the Clay Season, Nadal Still the King
French Preview: It’s Serena’s World, You’re Just Along for the Ride

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221 Comments for ATP Clay Swing Preview: Who Will Beat Nadal?

kait Says:

It’s too easy to call Djokovic the second best clay courter and ignore his RG result from 2009. Yes, he has talent for Africa and the dirt is fast becoming his best surface, but his mental toughness is lacking which is exactly where Federer excells. Federer’s results have been outstanding on clay and I don’t think he should be considered the third best or an enigma. He has been the second best clay courter for quite some time.


fadingis Says:

AND point wise federer came first at the clay court season last year:
fed 3360
rafa 3280
djoko 1540


Eliza Says:

I agree with the above comments. Federer is an outstanding clay courter and would be regarded as such with many French Opens to his name without Nadal around. So far, Djokovic has won about one clay Masters I think. He could win the French one day, but at present his achievements are far behind Federer – and Nadal of course. If he wins it this year, then we can acclaim him, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for it.


blank Says:

Ben – Djokovic is an awesome player. But considering the fragility he’s shown over the last whole year (since last year’s heartbreaking clay losses to Nadal), what makes you think that he is seriously going to challenge Nadal!? I think Murray is going through a similar confidence crisis. In his case, it’s thanks to Federer.

I think we are forgetting Nalbandian. He’s an excellent clay courter too. He’s (hopefully) going to be much fitter than during the hardcourt season where he pushed Nadal to the brink.


jane Says:

Nalby is a good one, obviously Delpo, if he is back and healthy, and Monfils, too, has shown promise on clay, particularly at the FO. I have no idea what to expect from Djoko this year as his form has been so, er, crappy. : / Or at least inconsistent anyhow. He’s shown some grit and fight in his wins @ Dubai and in Serbia, but he hasn’t had a reliable serve or crisp ground-strokes all the time. So don’t know what to expect. Anyhow, here’s hoping he can do well on clay again this season.


Kimo Says:

I expect Delpo to have a let-down post-slam-win year. It would take him some time to get to be a contender. He needs a few Ws under his belt.

I think this clay court season will be pretty much like last year clay court season, only with more Federer wins and less Rafa wins in the tune-ups. RG is gonna be one hell of battle between the two. Fed will try to prove that last year’s win was not just luck, and Rafa is gonna try to make declare that he’s still the man to beat.

Don’t take Fed’s form in the American swing as a sign of struggle. At this stage in his career, playing on a surface other than the one used in the coming slam makes absolutely no sense to him. As for Rafa, he is very mentally fragile at the moment, and the reason is that he can no longer trust his game. Everytime his instincts want him to gallop for every ball, his mind pleads “take it easy on those knees, buddy.” You simply cannot play your best game with something like that in your mind. Rafa has not won a title in almost a year. A YEAR!!!

I’m a Fed fan to the core, and I was pretty angry when people started doubting him after his below par 2008 and losing to Rafa at the AO. From the AO 2008 to the AO 2009, Fed reached 1 semi, 3 finals, and won the USO 2008. In Rafa’s slump from RG 2009 to AO 2010, he has reached ZERO slam finals, and 1 semi. Yet somehow, not as many people are doubting Rafa’s resurgence as those who were doubting Fed’s. I find that really puzzling.

Rafa’s game has been hit in the two aspects that were always considered his greatest strengths: His movement and his mental fortitude. I don’t know if rafa has enough tricks left in his bag to pull off a comeback.

My heart wants to enjoy a few more Fed-Rafa encounters, despite how much it’s been hurt over the years by such matches. My mind tells me that the rivalry has run its course because the younger player has run out of gas.


Voicemale1 Says:

Nadal is definitely a question mark at this juncture. But so is everybody else in the Top 5. Murray’s clay court game is precarious at best. Djokovic has almost as much to defend now as Nadal and has been performing much worse of late. Federer’s below par NA Hard Court swing makes him allegedly happy he’s going back to clay, but evidently not all THAT happy – he isn’t scheduled to play again until Rome in three more weeks. And who knows when or where Del Potro will surface again. So for the next 6 weeks of clay court tennis, there are doubts about them all.

On accomplishment alone as Ben notes, Nadal is still favored to achieve the most, especially with his most dangerous clay rivals (Federer, Djokovic, Davydenko and Del Potro) either on the sidelines or in worse form than he is. He keeps saying he’s now “ready” to play his best tennis, I guess we have to take him at his word until he proves otherwise. But with a heavy heart as one of his biggest fans, I can’t imagine what it is he keeps saying he’s been “happy” about in his game during these last two tournaments. From what I saw, he’s at a dangerous precipice of his career right now.

At IW & Miami, the fact he squandered leads in the Semis of both tournaments was only half of the story. In both events, the guys who have spent the last year doing the most damage to him on the court were totally cleared from his path. He faced no Federer, no Djokovic, no Murray, no Davydenko, no Del Potro and no Soderling. And even with all of those dangers cleared away, not only did he not win either tournament, he couldn’t even reach the Final of either one. And we’re talking about two tournaments where he’s done very well before: winning IW twice and reaching the Miami Final twice. That’s what makes his SF performances this year so uneasy, in spite of what he says publicly.

Maybe he’s been saving his energies for this swing of the calendar because he’s got so much to defend in terms of points. OK – I suppose we’ll find out how much truth there is to that proclamation soon enough. I have doubts about the severity of the knee problem. There was probably some issue, but it couldn’t have been too hampering since he swept almost everything on clay going into the French as it was. Even more then the parents-divorce stress, I think the real culprit for his downward spiraling fortunes was losing the Sodeling match at the French. Remember – going in Nadal had beaten Soderling Love & 1 in Rome just 3 weeks before. And Nadal got his head handed to him in the first set of their match dropping it 2-6 in less then 30 minutes. Nadal had to have been stunned. His mind never seemed to get around what was happening that day, watching Soderling play him on clay going for outright Winners as if it was a hard court. And watching his Winners go in. Nadal was playing exactly the same way then as he did in his 4 losing matches this year: dropping the ball extremely short, which is precisely how he plays when his game plan no longer works and he finds his stones lodging in his throat. At those times he does everything he can not to miss or make an error, hoping the other guy will either exhaust or err him these kinds of matches. Unfortunately, Davydenko, Ljubicic nor Roddick obliged. And I suspect a host of others in the future won’t either; too many guys know they can beat him now so they’re not afraid of him. It will take a very long time to get that “Man To Beat” status back again, if ever. His pseudo-coach Roig said his pre-NA Swing that he & Nadal both predicted he still had 6 or 7 more Majors in him. Given where he is today, I’d like to get some money down against that.

If Nadal starts losing on clay in the same way he’s been losing his matches this year – through fear – then we can presume to have already seemed the best of him. At the highest levels it’s never about the physical technique – it’s always about the strength between the ears that makes the difference. Everyone has long predicted it would be Nadal’s body that would betray him. It would be the ultimate irony if it was his storied strength of mind that leaves him too far behind the rest to take him where he wants to go


blank Says:

Nice analysis Kimo.

I think of all the players out there, Fed is the fittest both mentally and physically.

Murray and Djoko suffer from mental fatigue (based on recent comments perhaps Djoko is physically fatigued as well). As Kimo pointed out, Nadal is physically getting worn out and that’s making him dither. If he plays all the clay events he enters this year and goes deep, how can anyone confidently say that he is going to be the man to beat at FO – best of 5 sets over 7 matches?! If he chooses to skip 1 or 2 events, I agree he is the man to beat. He has no sense of scheduling imo.

Having said that, I am not very confident about Fed’s chances at the clay events leading upto the FO. I am not going to make any predictions there as in my heart I want him to defend the title.


blank Says:

Couldn’t agree more Voicemale!


Kimmi Says:

I hope nadal is back on clay and sweep everything. tennis needs Nadal back.

Delpo please get well, tennis needs you too.

Murray and djoko needs to get their act together.

I enjoyed Indian well and miami but I think it would have been more enjoyable to watch top players slag it out against each other. So here is hoping we get some amazing matches like last year.


jane Says:

I hope you’re wrong Voicemale1 – you’ve transfered that heavy heart yonder. Rafa is very fun to watch at his best, so I hope we get to see that again. I agree with Kimmi: tennis needs Nadal back; he brings a lot of excitement to the court, particularly at this juncture in the season.


Ben Pronin Says:

It’s too easy to call Djokovic the second best clay courter? Last year, he was the only player to take a set off Nadal before Federer and, later, Soderling beat Nadal. He made the final of all the Masters except Madrid where he lost to Nadal. And that Madrid match took a lot out of not just Djokovic, but Nadal as well. Considering Nadal went out one round later even though he had NEVER lost at RG before, I think Djokovic didn’t do THAT bad.

As for his current form and mental fragility, he has plenty of problems. But until proven otherwise, Nadal and Djokovic go into the clay season as the best clay courters.


arun Says:

Lol..Joker at second place before Federer ?? What a joke !!! You made my day.. I was waiting all day for something to laugh at..


Kimo Says:

Ben, it’s not a question of Djoko vs. Rafa on clay, it’s a question of Fed vs. Djoko on clay. It’s pretty clear that Fed has a much more decorated career on clay than Djoko. He only lost to Rafa for four straight years at RG before winning it. He has won Hamburg 4 times, Madrid once, in addition to a number of smaller tournaments. Prior to last year he reached the finals at at least two of the three clay masters consistently, losing only to Rafa. Two of his clay title came against Rafa in the final (hamburg 07, Madrid 09).

Fed and Djoko played on clay only three times, with the H2H 2-1 in Fed’s favor. Novak has played Rafa 9 (!) times on clay with Rafa winning all of them.

So who is better on clay? Fed, or Novak?


Ben Pronin Says:

I never said Djokovic was better than Federer on clay. That’s like saying Roddick is better on hard courts than Federer. But I think Federer is an enigma. He can beat anyone, obviously, but is he going to kill himself to beat Djokovic or even Nadal the way they killed each other in Madrid? I just think Federer’s results will likely be more sporadic whereas Djokovic will probably be more consistent overall. Djokovic lost only to Nadal during the clay season until RG. He even beat Federer.

It’s getting harder and harder to compare someone to Federer or vice-versa. Until last year’s RG, he was the best clay courter to never win the French. So what is he now? Arguably one of the best clay courters ever.


Andrew Miller Says:

Soderling is my bet. I think Nadal’s still down.


Andrew Miller Says:

I’d agree that Soderling, Murray, Djokovic and Federer certainly have a shot. The outsider chance: Verdasco if Federer and Nadal both lose.


Kimmi Says:

“But until proven otherwise, Nadal and Djokovic go into the clay season as the best clay courters.”

Are you serious? federer is coming in as the defending champ of the biggest clay court tournamnet. I agree with Nadal being the best but Djoko need to prove more that few finals last year to be considered the second best clay courter going in. he could well do it this year but until he out performs federer all the way to the FO then I can rest my case..clay court is not just about Monte carlo and Rome..that’s my opinion.

“And that Madrid match took a lot out of not just Djokovic, but Nadal as well.”

It does not matter why or how they both lost in madrid or the FO for that matter.

Federer won a master series title and a grand slam. he could so easily come in as the best clay courter…But we all know nadal’s record on clay and even if he lost the french last year, he will always be the man to beat.


Andrew Miller Says:

I think Novak’s results all depend on his conditioning and his serve. Will he be Djokovic of 2008, who looked more like a champ? Or more like Todd Martin, who could only dream of Djokovic’s results even before they paired up?


Kimo Says:

I’d also put in Ferrer. He didn’t go down easy in Miami.


Ben Pronin Says:

Real quick, who was the second best clay courter in 2005?


Andrew Miller Says:

Kimo is right, Ferrer should get some scalps! I kind of believe anyone Ferrer knocks out will be to the benefit of the favorites – Nadal and Federer.

Ferrer’s job must be awful – he takes out better players only to benefit Nadal and Federer! That’s why it pays to have the top 4 rankings: life just goes better!


Andrew Miller Says:

The 2nd best of 05 had to be Federer, even if only a SF at Roland Garros.


blank Says:

As far as who the favourites are going into the clay season, we are taking about two different things here.

Outside RG:
1. Nadal (provided he is fit)
2. Djoko (provided he plays like last year)

At RG:
1. Nadal (provided he is fit)
2. Federer (provided he stays consistent in GS)

Overall for clay season (I think RG gets more weightage than all other clay events)
1. Nadal
2. Federer


Fernanda María Says:

I think the most probabbly to win Nadal is Juan Martín Del Potro because he has a very good game and if he’s playing very well I think he can beat anyone, he even beat Roger Federer in the Us open, and I think that is more easy that Del Potro beats Nadal than Novak.


Von Says:

I said it last year and I’ll say it again. Federer has proved time and time again, that he’s the better clay courter, NOT Djokovic. Last year has been the best year for Djoko on clay and he also picked up a few titles. One good year does not make him the second best clay courter, no way. It’s Federer.

I can’t believe that one year later that Madrid match is still being cited as for its detrimental effects on Djokovic. It wasn’t easy for nadal either, but his fans are not belaboring the point. Move on puhleez.

People tend to overlook Juan Carlos and Ferrer. They’re pretty good clay courters and JCF did beat Nadal in Rome in ’08.


Von Says:

Wasn’t Coria the second best clay courter in ’05. He got to the finals in Rome in ’05 and was beaten by Nadal.


Kimo Says:

I was gonna say Gaudio but Coria was pretty good too.


Ben Pronin Says:

It was Coria. He lost to Nadal in Monte Carlo and then nearly beat him in Rome. (Absolutely awesome match, btw).

But Coria lost to Davydenko (QF?) at RG. So is he suddenly disqualified from being one of the better clay courters that year?

Djokovic was the most consistent player on clay after Nadal last year. The both of them played better clay court tennis than anyone else. Then they burnt out by RG. As for Federer, he’s better than everyone overall. But should we expect him to make the finals of every clay event? Does doing well at the French mean Federer’s just that good on clay or has it become that surface doesn’t matter at this point, Federer will always do well at the slams.


Kimmi Says:

“Does doing well at the French mean Federer’s just that good on clay or has it become that surface doesn’t matter at this point, Federer will always do well at the slams.”

by your theory. federer does well in slams including last year FO but was not the most consinstent player on clay..

ben, it does not make much sense to me.. winning a master series title and a grand slam is pretty consistent~


Kimo Says:

Amen, Kimmi :)


blank Says:

Ditto, Kimmi! I was thinking the same.

Surface does matter. FO is played on CLAY and is the most important and toughest tournament played on that surface. It does matter how one performs there, more than anywhere else.


Voicemale1 Says:

Unless Nadal outperforms Djokovic all through the clay season (meaning Djokovic has to lose a lot), there is a distinct possibility we could have a Federer-Nadal Semi Final again at The French Open.


Von Says:

Ben: How could Djoko be the better player on clay last year? Wasn’t it Federer who won the FO? To me the player who won the GS IS the better player.

BTW, I saw both the MC and Rome matches in ’05, when Nadal beat Coria and they were excellent.


blank Says:

As fadingis put it, these are last year’s clay season points:
fed 3360
rafa 3280
djoko 1540

How does this make Djoko No. 2 fav player going into this clay season?


Von Says:

blank: I’m going to put an end to all the speculation of who’s going to be the best on clay this year — it will be ANDY RODDICK. LOOOOOOL

It will indeed be a world gone mad if Roddick were to win the FO.


Ben Pronin Says:

So if we’re going by points, Nadal is the second best clay courter and Federer is first.


blank Says:

Von – We planned on making Roddick the Wimbledon champion this year, remember?!

If he wins the FO, like you said, the world would go mad and Wimbledon may be canceled :-)


blank Says:

“So if we’re going by points, Nadal is the second best clay courter and Federer is first.”

We should not just go by points. But this year (based on form and fitness), we can certainly make an argument that Fed could be favoured over Nadal going into this clay season. However, I personally favour Nadal.

My question is: considering everything (including points), how can Djoko be considered No. 2 fav for this clay season?


Ben Pronin Says:

I’ve watched highlights from last year and Djokovic played like a real clay courter. He held his ground against Nadal in a way that few players can. He was incredibly consistent and he did score a win over Federer. He was a part of one of the greatest 3 set matches ever.

If we’re going to include every single factor, then there are no favorites.


NELTA Says:

I was watching the 06 Monte Carlo final Fed/Nadal and I was surprised how much quicker Nadal played back then. It was about 25 seconds between points. His routine was shorts adjustment and 2 hand ball bounces then the serve. Sometimes it was 3 or 4 ball bounces following longer points. Now he does the shorts adjustment, hair adjustment behind both ears, wipes fingers on shorts, 4-5 ball bounces with the racket, then 4-5 hand ball bounces, then the serve. His serve is much better now then it was in 06. Fed looked the same except he had no forehand drop shot back then. He did hit a bunch of backhand drop shots.


blank Says:

You certainly have a point. However, imo, losing in the 3rd round at the most important tournament of the season does not make him ‘incredibly consistent’.


Ben Pronin Says:

So what was Nadal last year?


Kimmi Says:

I think this year is pretty open. there is no best clay courters or second or third.

Djoko, federer and Nadal are coming in with few doubts. We will see how it all pans out. Djokovic could all turn to be the 2nd or the best clay courter..who knows!


blank Says:

Nadal won 2 Masters, won Barcelona reached and reached the finals at another masters. Then he was injured. Djoko did not win anything big and was not injured (unless mentally).


Ben Pronin Says:

Oh right, Nadal and his “injury.”

Federer didn’t win anything big in 2006 or 2008 on clay, but he was still obviously the second best clay courter.


Voicemale1 Says:

Ben:

It’s tough to read what you write about Nadal because everyone here knows how much you don’t like him and root against him. Even your respect is grudging and written through gritted teeth, as though you wish you could write about such accomplishments for ANY other player. Just leave it at that – we all get it. We can all see how much you dislike having to write about how accomplished he’s been – even against Federer & Djokovic – your sweethearts :)


David Says:

Voicemale1

It’s way too early to count Nadal out or even to say he’s at a “dangerous precipice” of his career.

I remember in 1998 Agassi was making his comeback after drifting out of the top 100 and he kept coming up short. He lost to Rios in Miami, went out early at the French, lost to Kucera at the USO and I remember thinking maybe this is it. He’s 28 years old and he’d done a good job getting himself back into the top 20 or wherever he was, but maybe he had no big titles in him.

Of course we know what happened after that. As it turns out, 1998 wasn’t Agassi’s swan song, it was a bridge to bigger and better things.

Now, I’m in no way suggesting that Nadal is going to have Agassi’s longevity. But Nadal’s a full five years younger than Agassi was in 1998, so I just have to believe this guy is going to achieve more big things in tennis, maybe at this year’s FO. Of course the one X factor is a serious injury that just doesn’t let him compete.


Ben Pronin Says:

Voicemale, aren’t you the one talking about how you doubt what Nadal will be able to do this year?


blank Says:

This year, Djoko by no means could “obviously” be No. 2 going into this season.

Even if we don’t consider Nadal’s injury as valid (though he missed defending Wimbledon last year), he did one better than Djoko at the FO.

Fed reached RG finals in both 2006 and 2008. Question is what did Djoko do last year (that was better than Nadal or Fed) to put him above either of those two going into this season?


Ben Pronin Says:

I didn’t say Djokovic was above Nadal. I didn’t even say he was above Federer. I took Federer out of the list. I put him in his own little realm. I said he’s an enigma. Do I have to start quoting myself? If Nadal loses in, say, the quarterfinals of Monte Carlo, I don’t think Federer would be the obvious pick for the title seeing as how he could have very easily lost at that point. Since Djokovic was the finalist last year, I think he’s the most likely to win after Nadal.

However, RG doesn’t fall into the “spoils” section. If Nadal were to lose before the finals in RG, then Federer would be the immediate favorite, if he’s not the top favorite already. Federer will tell you himself how different the slams are from normal events. At the slams, Federer is always the favorite. Elsewhere, things are wide open.


Von Says:

Ben: “Oh right, Nadal and his “injury.””

That’s very sarcastic, don’t you think? He WAS injured., and he was sidelined because of that in jury.

It’s amazing to me how much you keep emphasizing Djoko/Nadal’s Madrid match, and its deleterious effects on Djokovic, but you just seem to think of Nadal’s injury, which stemmed from that match, as incidental? Why the bias??

We’re always hearing about Djoko’s fitness or lack thereof, and his alleged asthmaa, (which is questionable, as he’s never admitted to it) but whenever there’s a reference to Nadal’s injury, you talk about it as though it’s all conjecture. WHY??? It’s one thing to have a fave, but when you’re the writer of an article, your bias should not be so obvious.
________________
Blank: I forgot about our Wimby date. Wouldn’t it be fun for Roddick to upset the bookies though? I’d love to see the confusion it would cause. Whappa!! LOOL


blank Says:

Now, I agree with you :-)

IMO, if Nadal were to lose early in Monte Carlo, Rome and/or Barcelona, I’d say that’s better for him. He can preserve his body for a real push at the FO. I just hope that Fed and Nadal end up in opposite draws over there. The worst thing that could happen is a Fed-Nadal SF. I don’t like that. Each one should meet Djoko/Murray in the SF and the victors in those matches would have well and truly earned the right to play in the finals.


Voicemale1 Says:

David:

It’s apples & oranges – the comparison you make. Agassi in 1998 had to claw back from the Challenger Circuit and #141 because HE gave up by the end of 1996. And Sampras fully believed Agassi’s slide was directly attributable to the 1995 US Open Final Result. Agassi had a very tough time coming to terms with the idea he’d won just about everything that summer, plus the Australian that year, and yet Sampras was better. And when Agassi came back, his generation was largely depleted; Courier, Chang, Becker, Rafter, and even Sampras to some extent were either less than they were or on the verge of decline. The up and comers were named Moya, Rios, Guga and Magnus Norman. That’s hardly a comparable group. Agassi’s resurrection was ideally timed – the newcomers weren’t as good as he was, even at their best.

Nadal is in a different position. His game itself is being exploited even when he’s the one saying he’s playing well. This is a far cry from where Agassi was.

Ben:

My point was you wrote about Nadal almost hating to do it. I think you should have written what I did – it’s what you really wanted to write anyway :) So you’re welcome for me letting you off the hook LOL


jane Says:

Voicemale1 says: “Unless Nadal outperforms Djokovic all through the clay season (meaning Djokovic has to lose a lot), there is a distinct possibility we could have a Federer-Nadal Semi Final again at The French Open.”

Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Djoko loses a bunch of points on clay, but the thing is that Nadal has a lot of points to defend too. I guess if Rafa wins Madrid in addition to defending all his other winner’s points, and Djoko continues to slump, then Rafa could be #2 again by the time Roland Garros seeding happens. I suppose they don’t have “special seeding” like at Wimbledon? It would seem sort of criminal to see Rafa seeded #3 at the French!!

I have to agree that Fed is second best on clay. Novak had a great clay season last year, and personally I enjoyed watching him and Rafa duke it out in those few matches. But Fed won a MS title and the clay slam, not to mention his previous years’ clay results.


David Says:

blank

Djoko’s obviously strugging big time at the moment, although he’s been an extremely consistent clay court player in recent years. Murray, I’m not so sure about. I actually think all of his craft and guile, mixing up pace and spins is more effective on faster courts. On clay, I’d rather just be able to relentlessly go after the opponent with one huge, heavy ball after another and that’s not Murray’s game.


blank Says:

Since Nadal-Djoko Madrid match keeps coming up in the discussions, how about Fed-Nadal Rome 2006? That was best of 5 lasting over 5 hours. Fed didn’t get mentally bulldozed after that.


Dan Martin Says:

Great article! I think JMDP would have been a big road block, but he is injured and being less than 100% physically on clay is a bad idea against great players. I think Rafa has a great clay court run, but I think he will lose at least once on clay this year. If it happens before Paris, great season. If he loses in Paris …


blank Says:

David – That’s true. I love Djoko’s game, I only wish he was as mentally gritty as Roddick or Nadal.

As with Murray, he’s not a GS winner yet and has not been around at the top for as long as Djoko. So I’d give him more time. However, he did outpower Nadal at the AO…so if he works on it, he can pull the heavy ones as well as anybody.


Voicemale1 Says:

Blank:

True Federer didn’t get “mentally bulldozed” in that Rome 06 match. But Coria the year before in Rome did. He had a 3-0 Double Break lead against Nadal in that Final, only to watch Nadal crawl and scrape his way to the title right out from under his Argentine nose. It finished Coria, figuratively speaking :)


Von Says:

jane: Weren’t you one of the many who kept saying Djokovic is the second best on clay last year? Are you now changing that for this year??


David Says:

Voicemale

But Nadal’s always been vulnerable on hard courts, so this is nothing new. Even in his best year of his career so far in 2008, he got really manhandled by Tsonga at AO and convincingly beaten by Murray at the USO, also by Djokovic in Cincy.

I really didn’t see anything all that discouraging about that loss to Ljubicic. Nadal didn’t come up with the goods at the end, but it was a very winnable match. The one against Roddick was different. Andy just went for broke with his forehand midway through the second set and everything went in. I just don’t think Nadal (maybe not even Federer) can beat Roddick on a fast court the way he was playing. If he’s got both his serve and forehand clicking like that, there’s not much anyone can do.

But the reason why I say his situation is a bit comparable to Agassi’s in 1998 is because he’s getting close. He’s right there, just a couple matches away from winning titles. That’s usually how it works with players. They get close a few times, make a semi, make a final. They’re right in the thick of things and then all of sudden it just all clicks for them and they find themselves on top of the world.

It was like that with Sharapova in 2006. The reporters were asking her. What’s wrong? Why are you always losing in the semis? Why aren’t you breaking through? Sure enough. She breaks through at that year’s USO.


Dan Martin Says:

Cilic could be interesting to watch on clay too if he has not overplayed. 6’6″ makes the high bounces less of an issue even if Cilic is not as ruthless off the ground as delpo is.


blank Says:

Voicemale: I just hope what Nadal did to Djoko last year isn’t as damaging as that.


Von Says:

Blank @11:11 pm, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say. The Djokovic fans need to move on.

Long Live the King mentioned that same match a week or so ago and he used the same rationale. I personally dislike post-mortems about matches that are negative, and the ’09 Madrid SF is waaaay over the top now.


Voicemale1 Says:

David:

The point I made was that Nadal had won IW twice – in fact was defending his title there. He was a Miami Finalist twice. Cincinnati & The US Open courts are WAY too fast for him – which is why he hasn’t been past the Semis at either event. And I think the Tsonga win was an aberration – it’s the ONLY win Tsonga has over Nadal in 6 meetings, and all 6 have been on hard courts.

And you describe that IW SF with Ljubicic as a “winnable” match. Uh..that was exactly my point. It was indeed “winnable”. And he didn’t win it. That’s, well, the problem :)


blank Says:

Von, More so I think Djokovic needs to move on. If I remember right, late last year or something, he was still saying that the Madrid loss continued to affect his game and his mental state.


Ben Pronin Says:

Voicemale I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. I wanted to write an article about the clay season and it just happens that Nadal is the King of Clay and it’s unbelievably easy to talk about him when trying to talk about clay. I didn’t even realize how every single question that can be posed for this clay season is completely dependent on Nadal. I didn’t have to grit my teeth to write it, Nadal is absolutely unbelievable on clay. Maybe in 2006 I hated how he kept beating Federer, but it doesn’t matter now. I had to stop myself from comparing Nadal’s clay statistics to all other statistics out there to emphasize how incredible a 181-16 career record on the surface is. I know I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not Nadal’s biggest fan, but that doesn’t stop me from being awestruck by his results.

Btw, Federer was also up a break in the 5th set of his Rome match against Nadal. He had 2 match points and had a few chances in the tiebreaker, too. Wow, Federer’s ability to bounce back really is uncanny.

Von, I don’t exactly get what you’re saying. Both Nadal and Djokovic were clearly extremely affected by their Madrid match. Hell, it’s possible Nadal might struggle even more against Djokovic if they were to play again after he came so close last year. And he failed to get a set off him in 3 more meetings late last year (I know it wasn’t the same Nadal but it’s not like Djokovic isn’t crackable). I really don’t want to get into the injury discussion. It’s not about bias because it’s not only Nadal I question.


Voicemale1 Says:

Ben:

You forgot in that Rome 06 match, Federer not only had Match Points at 5-6, 15-40 (where he hit two brutally ugly Forehand errors on both points, one long and one wide, both by “feet” out), he also led Nadal in that 5th set tie break 4-1. And let that lead get away too.


Kimmi Says:

Cilic started very well in the beginning of this year but for some reason he is retreating to his old self. He is not attacking as much anymore and his serve seem to be having more problems.

Delpo is the guy. If he comes back in MC ( I read somewhere that he wrote on his website he is still undecided) and get enough matches under his belt before RG, he could be a big force.

last year he demonstrated he could be one to beat over there.


David Says:

Voicemale

And my point is that he’s building up to something big.

I mean, maybe not. He could have another setback with an injury. But right now he’s just barely losing to people, which is way better than the way things looked at the end of last year, when the losses were just brutal and demoralizing.

I get your point about the court speed, but we’re obviously heading into a stretch right now that could be perfect for Nadal. He’s got a lot of match toughness from getting himself into the quarters or semis of everything he’s played recently and now he’s back on his favorite surface. I see these close losses as a positive, not a negative. If he were losing in the first or second round, or getting blitzed 2 and 2 in the semis then I might be talking about “precipices” too. ;)

I certainly don’t think he’s going to sweep the clay-court season, but I think now he should play a maximum of 3 FO tune-ups, no matter what his results are, and he should be in great shape to give it a go in Paris.


Ben Pronin Says:

Yeah, I’m not going to lie I think that was their best match. That was probably the best clay court tennis I’ve ever seen.


Von Says:

blank: djokovic has a difficult letting go of anything. he talked about the USO incident and the AO MTO (which he subsequently referred to as a walkover, LOL) for months after, ad nauseam. That coupled with the Madrid match is like an on-going litany.

________________
Ben:

My point is that even though that match may have affected both of them, Djokovic is the only one who still talks about it. I’ve never heard Nadal say anything more about that match.

About the injuries, I’m glad to hear that it’s not only Nadal you question.


jane Says:

Von, I may’ve said for the 2009 season leading up to the French he was, but never overall. I have maintained that Fed is second best on clay overall, and as it turned out, after winning Madrid AND the French, when the clay season was done and dusted, he may’ve even been the best, if not tied for the best, with Nadal, on clay in 2009.

———————————————-
As for the epic Madrid match with Rafa – not sure who even brought it up – but if Djoko did have a bit of psychological hangover after that, he must’ve been over it by the time he hit hard courts in the US, (maybe even before that? ) as he did well from then on throughout the remainder of the season. Finals in Cincy, semis USO, etc.

Many players probably have hangovers from losses that are very important to them for whatever reasons, or be haunted by close losses (e.g., Murray after AO, Rod after Wimbledon, possibly Fed after AO last year??) but generally they bounce back fairly quickly. For example, I’d assume Murray will be back to his best soon; it’s been a couple of months since the AO loss, and I am sure he’ll take away something from Dubai, IW, Miami.


Ben Pronin Says:

Von, you’re right. Djokovic was still actually talking about it during the US swing. I found it absolutely ridiculous. I’m not trying to say Djokovic is Mr. Tough Guy mentally, but he is tremendously talented. If that match STILL affects him, well, what can I say? Weak sauce.


jane Says:

Ben, Djoko talks too much to the press. He should be more selective and think through what he says more. And also move on. If it was still affecting him, on the court, he was managing to do alright! Other than the FO loss, he made Halle finals, Wimbledon QF, Toronto QF, Cincy Finals, USO semis, etc. So I guess that matters more than what he said in interviews — in the long run anyhow.


Voicemale1 Says:

David:

I understand. The question is this: was Nadal just using the time at IW & Miami to hone for something else, or not? I understand you think he was. I don’t. He’s titleiless for almost 1 year and counting, and for a guy who was #1 in the world for almost a full year to go that long without winning isn’t exactly a confidence boost; in fact I’d argue it’s even more pressure each passing week he incurs a loss. It also would have sent a very loud message to the locker room that he was back in a big way had he won one of those events. Even if he wins MC, the rest of the guys will say “Yeah, Nadal won again on clay. That’s news? I should be scared? Not!” And Nadal is unlikely to get another Masters Series tournament where his main hard court conquerors were all out of his way before he had to play them. The opportunity was golden for him to assert himself. That he didn’t is what was troubling. And that he had it in his grasp both times (he led both Ljubicic and Roddick by a Set) and then let it slip away is a direct result of confidence being lost, and nothing more. I mean, Ljubicic hadn’t beaten Nadal in 5 years. I’ll agree Roddick pulled it together to deny Nadal in Miami. But the other match really is bothersome, considering how well Nadal had played to beat both Isner & Berdych prior to Ljubicic.

I’d like to believe you in that Nadal is sitting on his launching pad to a far better year. And I suppose it’s possible. But he’s got mental blocks to overcome. And they are not small ones.


#1Rivalry Says:

Predictions for clay court season:

Monte Carlo- Djokovic
Rome- Djokovic
Madrid- Federer
French Open- Federer


blah Says:

I read through the best two clay courter argument in this thread, and in the masters series tournament I could see Djokovic having better results than Fed, but when it comes to French Open, I still have Djokovic out of the top two. Just not sure how his body and mental game would hold up during the slam. But with the way his serve has been working, he might not even do that well in the masters events. With all that I would say Nadal and Fed are still the top favorites, with Djokovic, Soderling, and Del Potro in the next group.


Lenny Says:

Von: Thank you for defending Rafa against Ben’s sarcasm

It infuriates me when people – and Ben isn’t the only one guilty of this – put his knee injuries in inverted commas. Or insinuate that he uses it as an excuse for a loss. He has categorically said time and again his knees were NOT why he lost at RG last year. He gave Soderling FULL CREDIT. YET, the question marks and sarcy quotes continue to be thrown at him.

Yeah, he missed out defending his Wimbledon title just to give himself a legit excuse for losing at RG? Sure. THAT’S more credible than a genuine injury. * rolleyes *

And Von: Nobody expected Agassi to win Wimby, now, did they? So who knows with A-Rod and RG ;) Alternate universes DO exist, you know. :D But Andy’s only my 2nd man, Rafa’s my No. 1. So I won’t be supporting that impossible dream unless Rafa’s out. Sowwy.


SheWho Says:

People seem to have forgotten that not too long ago it was Federer who was being written off and ‘past it’. Now it’s Rafa’s turn. Sure he’s been had a rough time of it but he was by far the best player of the Top 4 in IW and Miami. He’s not quite back to his awesome best yet but he’s on his way. Write Rafa off at your own peril!


noleisthebest Says:

I agree with the article. Nadal and Djokovic play the best clay tennis, they will do the same this year, as well. Mu big question is whether and is so how much does Federer influence the draws.
How come Djokovic is always or almost ALWAYS in Nadal’s half.
I can guaranee the same will happen this year. OK, they may put Nadal in Federer’s half for a token tournament, but come Roland Gaross, Rome and Madrid you can safely place your bets.
Despite his tennis brilliance, Federer seriously tied to avoid Nadal as much as possible.
My theory is that that’s why he is not playing Monte Carlo: he is safe at his number one spot, and he can afford to watch others play and suss out the current form of others, mainly Nadal, Delpotro and Djokovic.
Federer is one huge coward.


Polo Says:

If Nadal is lacking confidence, what can you say about rest of the top 4 players? They are even in worse mental shape. Nadal is generally considered to be “weaker” on hardcourts while the other 3 are supposedly better there. But it was Nadal who did way better than the 3 at Indian Wells and Miami. I don’t think his mental ability has waned. He just happened to lose against players who played excellently againts him in those two tournaments. Sometimes you lose not because you became mentally weak but rather because the other guy played better. Psychoanalysis is not always necessary when a player loses.


stu Says:

I think it is unfair to judge Djokovic’s clay results against Federers simply because Federer has never (hardly ever) met Rafa the king before the finals of any tournament. Djokovic had a disastrous FO last year, but people should not forget that in 2006 (QF), 2007 (SF) AND 2008 (SF), he had to go thru an in-form Rafa to make it to the final. That has to be bigger than any challenge that Federer faced in those years.

And please don’t go by the points last year decide who the best was on clay, coz points are biased towards the slam, and at the end of the day, Rafa and Nole underperformed at _ONE_ tournament.


guy Says:

french too early to call?

no one can beat nadal in five when he’s healthy

the only matches he’s lost on clay since maturity are two fed losses where he was physically exhausted, and two injuries, ferrero with blisters and soderling with knees.

only djokovic and federer can realistically trouble him in 3. but if he’s fit he beats those two every time.


Eliza Says:

Well, how about comparing how many clay court masters Fed and Djok have won. Djok, I think one, in 2008, at Rome,against Wawrinka in the final. Fed, Hamburg several times, (four?)and Madrid, twice against Rafa, also Safin and Coria – another top claycourter before his shoulder gave way. But above it all, Roger’s RG win towers over all else.

To me Rafa and Roger are head and shoulders above everyone else on clay, Rafa probably the best ever, which makes Roger right up there too.

I think Novak’s problem may be that he dwells too much and too long on past troubles, whether it’s his barney at the USO or tough losses and retirements. And maybe he rationalises these past things inside his head into excuses for things not going well in the present.


Ben Pronin Says:

That’s what I’m saying, stu. Obviously the French is more important but looking at every event equally, I felt that Djokovic was the more consistent guy. And it’s not because I think Federer is below him, it’s just that Federer is doing his own thing where he aims to peak at only one event. Not that it’s a bad idea but look at the “real” tour, Djokovic and Nadal are the best. Look at the “Federer” tour, Federer rules all.

Lenny, I never said Nadal used anything as an excuse or he didn’t give Soderling credit. The injury issue is related to a completely different topic I cannot get into. Either way, I’m not trying to discredit Nadal because something was clearly bothering him throughout the clay season last year and it was mostly his parents’ divorce.


Ben Pronin Says:

Guy, I agree Nadal can’t be beat when he’s fit and well, but that’s just the thing. Is he going to be fully fit? Is he going to have any mental problems?

This is the first time in his career where he really has dealt with adversity. I know he’s been written off before and come back, but this time it is significantly different. He has to recover from being the all-dominant force to an 11-month title drought. Even before when he struggled for some months, he would come back because he was still the underdog to Federer. 2008/early 09, Nadal went as high as he could so when he started to fall, it was the first time he ever fell in his entire career. Federer went through a similar phase in 08/09 and he regrouped. Will Nadal be able to follow? I think he will. As long as the clay season exists, I think Nadal will always be able to bounce back. I don’t know if he’ll ever get back to his super dominant play, but I wouldn’t count it out until he really falls down the rankings and maybe even loses before a semifinal. (For a guy having confidence issues, he’s still posting better results than just about everyone else).


David Says:

Voicemale

I think Rafa definitely wanted to win both IW and Miami badly, but I don’t think we should read much into his not winning. In fact his results in those events were similar to what he did in ’08 right before he went on the best run of his career. I’m not saying he’ll repeat that, but I do think his game is close to his best level and he could be just at the cusp of doing something big. I agree he’s struggling with confidence right now and that was apparent especially in the match against Ljubs. Rafa did not really play to win on the big points, but I think he’s very match tough right now and maybe the clay will be just what he needs to get that edge back.

I think we may have different expectations too about what Rafa can do. For me as a Rafa fan it’ll be great news, not just ho-hum, if we wins Monte Carlo. If he wins the French, for me he’ll already have had a great year even if he doesn’t win another tournament the rest of the year.

Despite that great year he had in 2008 and that amazing AO 09 victory, I don’t think it’s realistic to “expect” Rafa to win Slams off of clay.


Polo Says:

Of the top guys, I find Djokovic to be the most immature. He keeps dwelling on the past instead of moving forwards. He thinks he has to please everyone that is why he keeps talking without restraint to the press. His behaviour on court also lacks maturity the way he handles the crowd when they seem to favor his opponents over him. He has catapulted towards the top so quickly while his mental maturity lagged behind.


Polo Says:

No matter what people say about Nadal, I will be very surprised if he loses at the French this year.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

My big four on clay this year, in order:
Nadal
Federer
Soderling
Djokovic.

I think Roddick will be a contender- he showed he could go deep at RG last year, and he is playing great tennis right now. Murray SHOULD be able to do well as he showed a pretty good facility for clay at RG last year, but we don’t know where his head is at.
DelPo COULD be a contender, but he has to get back on court first, and then get the rust off.

I think its going to be tooth-and-nail between Federer and Nadal this year, with Soderling and Djokovic as their major obstacles.

A good conversation starter Ben, but your pick of Djokovic as second best clay courter just can’t be backed up. He had ONE great season and was still third best. Fed is no enigma: He’s been in every French Open final for years running, plus many of the Masters finals, a few Masters shields and last years victory. That is bona fide credentials, year in, year out.


steve Says:

Player A: wins several smaller titles, in addition to a Grand Slam. Loses one GS final in straight sets, two GS finals in five sets. Remains world #2 throughout the slump, and beats some top five players.

Player B: does not win any title of any kind for nearly a year. Does not make a Grand Slam final for over a year. Drops from world #2 to as low as #4. Does not beat a top five player for nearly a year. Withdraws from a Grand Slam match with a sudden injury, after proclaiming himself fully healthy before the match.

Would anyone say that Player B’s situation was in any way comparable to Player A’s? Would anyone argue that just because Player A reversed his fortunes, that Player B would? Would anyone argue that Player B would surely regain the year-end #1 ranking, when only two men have ever done so (one of whom is Player A)?


jane Says:

Polo says “If Nadal is lacking confidence, what can you say about rest of the top 4 players? They are even in worse mental shape. ”

True Polo! You can add Delpo and Davy in too, as they’re injured. Really, of the top ten, only Roddick and Soderling seem to have been solid all year thus far. Many of the players at the top are all seemingly having some sort of struggles at the moment, so who knows what will happen, particularly in the MS events?


Skorocel Says:

stu: „And please don’t go by the points last year decide who the best was on clay, coz points are biased towards the slam, and at the end of the day, Rafa and Nole underperformed at _ONE_ tournament.“

Uhm… Too bad that that „one“ tournament happened to be the most important one ;-) LOL! Ask Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, or any other player whether they’d like to win all 3 MS clay events in the same year or the FO. I’d bet my house they’d choose the latter. In other words, of what importance were the Nadal’s & Djoker’s results prior to the FO when they sucked in Paris?

P.S. Federer didn’t win only Paris, he also won Madrid, beating Nadal in the finals. Something which even the supposed „No. 2 on clay“ Djoker couldn’t manage to do.


Skorocel Says:

Ben: „The (Nadal’s) injury issue is related to a completely different topic I cannot get into.“

What topic?


stu Says:

Skorocel – not denying that the FO is the most important, but it is still a question of having a bad day and losing one match. does anyone argue that Rafa is not the best on clay because he lost that one match at the FO?

As for Federer winning in Madrid, you have to admit Rafa wasn’t Rafa in that match. And the person that I think is #2 on clay lost to the person I think is #1 on clay. by a whisker. as would be expected.

Anyway, this year will tell.


Skorocel Says:

Voicemale1: „But with a heavy heart as one of his biggest fans, I can’t imagine what it is he keeps saying he’s been “happy” about in his game during these last two tournaments. From what I saw, he’s at a dangerous precipice of his career right now.“

I don’t know. I actually trust the guy. I mean, whatever he says he’s happy about (be it his game or his health), I feel like he’s really believing in it. In other words, he sounds to me like he just needs some time and patience (even though that recent tantrum in the Roddick match actually indicates the opposite), and the results will come.

I still think that if anyone can come back from such a „slump“, it’s Nadal. It’s true that the way in which he suffered his most recent losses against Ljuby, Davy and Roddick is quite unusual and may signal something which Nadal thus far has yet to experience (i.e. him struggling mentally), but still, I wouldn’t be so pessimistic. Even though these 2 semifinals in IW & Miami certainly aren’t something which a player of his calibre would be extra proud of (especially considering how well he did there in the past), it was still miles ahead of what Fed, Djoker, and Murray produced there. He literally smashed Tsonga in the quarters, which, however, may signal 2 things: that he’s either closing to his best (which is the better scenario) OR that his best is no longer enough to beat 2 or 3 elite players back to back (the worse scenario)…

Anyway, though I’m not a Nadal fan at all, I’d rather wait till the clay & grass season is over, and then revaluate. IF he starts losing on clay regularly, THEN there’ll be some real cause for concern. You know, the funny thing is, we can ramble here about what will happen and what not, and the guy may once again sweep the whole clay season including the FO + claim his 2nd Wimby crown, OR he may never win a big title again (a bit unlikely, but still possible). In other words, what we proclaim or prophet here may turn out to be a complete nonsense 1 month later. Would be funny to check these comments when the clay season is over…


Skeezerweezer Says:

Ben,

Great job on the article. Look how many comments have been generated……nicceee topic!

Andrew Miller says:

“The outsider chance: Verdasco….’

and someone else said “Cilic?

I love those two picks as dark horses.

The top five …..geez roll the dice?

Have to say Nadal didn’t look that bad on HC and as someone said earlier he got deep and gave very tough matches in his losses…..all in all a very good prep for coming back for “his surface”.

He SHOULD win, imo he looks the best prepared out of the other top 5 right now based on IW and Miami…..we’ll see :)


Skeezerweezer Says:

Skorocel April 7th, 2010 at 10:55 am….

Thanks…you basically gave the long form of what I wanted to say….must be a mind meld….:)


Voicemale1 Says:

Skorocel:

I think we are saying essentially the same thing. This whole thread is meant to predict what is yet to come :). Nadal did play well in 2 of his matches during the NA Swing: vs. Berdych at IW and Tsonga against Miami. But the Tsonga match, in hindsight, might not hold a great portent: Jo Willy is now something of a Pigeon for Nadal, having won just once in six meetings, and all of them on hard courts. Granted Tsonga beat him on a big occasion that one time, but he’s not been able to back it up over the last 3 years.

Nadal has only played on clay once since losing at The French: The Davis Cup Final in December. True that he crushed Berdych there, but Berdych is like Tsonga to Nadal these days, not having beaten him in a few years. Soderling played at The French like he plays Nadal on a hard court: blasting shots and going for winners, making sure NO extended rallies would take place. My thinking is a lot more guys will be eager to try their brand of that tactic, win lose or draw. That’s what I meant by a lack of fear when they face Nadal. And that lack of fear is going to make his matches far more difficult to navigate than they would if guys would just be ready to surrender before the match starts because it’s clay. Maybe Nadal can in fact step it up and do what he’s always done on clay once again. Let’s just say if he has aspirations to play at the highest level for the rest of his career, he’s going to need to.


Lenny Says:

I’m a huge fan, so it bothers me to agree with Voicemale’s doomsday scenario about Rafa. I’m worried, reeealllyyy worried. Sure, on the surface, you can say, hey look, he performed the best of the big 4 in IW & Miami. On the surface, you can say, sure, he’s not at his best, but he showed flashes of his old brilliance there. On the surface, you can say, it was his weakest surface, and he still got to the semis and made the eventual finalists really fight for their place.

BUT.

Here’s the worry. He lost both those matches on bad errors at the wrong time. Since WHEN does RAFA NADAL – the game’s toughest mental beast – DO that? That “tantrum” (in quotes, coz it was barely a mutter, but def a tantrum by HIS cool standards :) ) IMO was frustration about just that. NOT to take ANY credit away from either Andy or Ivan, but the Rafa pre RG-2009 just didn’t DO that. And it’s been happening with worrying frequency. It’s the same thing Fed fans were worried about to. Losing matches you’re way on your way to winning, losing crucial points on silly errors. Let’s hope, Rafa manages to claw his way back to a win on his fave surface. As somebody else here said, tennis NEED Rafa back in top form. VAMOS RAFA!


Skorocel Says:

stu: I’m not gonna question Nadal’s status as the king of clay just because he lost a TIGHT 4 set match to Soderling at FO. But Djoker? He lost 4-6, 4-6, 4-6 to Kohlschreiber. And this when he was supposed to give Nadal a legitimate trouble at FO…

And that’s not the first time when the Serb disappointed – just recall the fall of last year. He conquered Fed in Basel, beat the sh.t out of Nadal en route to the title in Paris, and then when he had the chance to crown it all at the YEC, he didn’t even advance to the semis… LOL!

Tired Nadal or not, Federer did beat him in Madrid. Let’s put it this way: WHO do you think would’ve won that Madrid final had there been Djokovic playing Nadal (who’d happen to have a gruelling 4 hour semifinal against Fed the day before)? Fact is, of all the matches Novak has played against Nadal on clay, you could maximally find 2 which he had a REAL chance of winning (Madrid 2009 and Hamburg 2008), at best. Fed, on the other hand, beat Nadal twice (Madrid 2009, Hamburg 2007), held 2 MPs in Rome 2006 (which was a best of 5 set match, btw), was leading by a break or two in almost every single set of their MC & Hamburg 2008 clashes, and almost pushed Nadal to the deciding set in their MC 2006 final (again, a best of 5 set match)…


Skorocel Says:

„If we’re going to include every single factor, then there are no favorites.“

There you go, Ben! ;-)


Skorocel Says:

„I can’t believe that one year later that Madrid match is still being cited as for its detrimental effects on Djokovic. It wasn’t easy for nadal either, but his fans are not belaboring the point. Move on puhleez.“

Exactly my thoughts, Von! It’s maybe true that these three losses which Djoker suffered to Nadal in Rome, MC, and especially Madrid were heartbreaking, but didn’t he BEAT THE SAME NADAL THREE TIMES on hard (out of which 2 were kind of beatdowns which even the mighty Fed would be more than happy to inflict upon Nadal, btw) AFTER THAT?


Venu Says:

I want to see Rafa loose in MonteCarlo and then how he reacts to that for the rest of the clay court season. Fed already did came back from huge losses many times in his carrier. But I’vent seen Nadal doing that becoz for the very first time he dominated and then he started loosing(maybe injuries) Now can he rise again?


bojana Says:

Von said:Djokovic has difficult letting go off anything.
I think that You have the same difficult.Be sincere and tell the truth did you let go what Nole said about Rodick.Could you please let go what so ever Jane said about Nole and do not ask her the questions as a judge.


Ben Pronin Says:

I completely agree with Lenny. I was saying the same thing after the Roddick match; you never see Rafael Nadal miss “those” shots, and you never see him get so frustrated. By “those” shots I mean things like getting tight on a slice and dumping it into the bottom of the net. I’ve never seen him do that.

But I still don’t think it’ll be that big of an issue on clay. I was rewatching highlights of his loss to Soderling (of course) and Soderling was not missing anything. The guy was truly on fire. But he, nor the rest of the tour, will be able to replicate that every time. I didn’t think Nadal played that bad, he was really taken out of his comfort zone that match. but if he can put the hammer down early and win the first set 6-2 instead of losing it, then he’ll win the match. Soderling never let him get into the match, which is extraordinary, but I can’t imagine every player on tour doing the same thing. That’s why I mentioned the players who can trouble Nadal, there are more than enough to leave him titleless throughout the clay season, but I can’t see it happening. Nadal’s game will reawaken on clay, even if it’s just on clay.

Skorocel, I can’t get into the topic, it doesn’t matter what it is.


Von Says:

Bojana: I’m not the one holding on to what happened to Djokovic at Madrid, the AO and the USO. He’s the one who keeps talking about it, non-stop, and his fans also make reference to it without him even being in the conversation. Some of his fans, including jane, feels that Djokovic can’t let go of things that he should. Just read the posts here and you’ll see how jane and other people feel. So why are you singling me out?

In what way am I being a judge towards jane? If I feel that jane is not consistent with her comments and changes her stance, I think that’s my prerogative to ask her. And, by the same token, it’s her prerogative to ask me if she so chooses. She’s also privileged to change her feelings as she sees fit. I asked her because I’d like to know where she stands for this year’s clay season.

FYI, jane’s in the past questioned my stance several times, in an effort to clarify my feelings on certain topics/issues, and I’ve not taken offense, so why are you? This is between jane and myself, and I don’t think I’ve seen you mentioned by me at all, presently, or at any time in the past. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know of your existence.

I can understand that Jane being the most vociferous of the Djokovic fans here on this forum, has earned your loyalty, and that is fine with me, but you should have all the facts on hand, before you begin reprimanding me, don’t you think?

A few days ago, jane herself stated that Djokovic talks too much, so there you go, right from the pipeline to the horse’s mouth.


Von Says:

Skorocel:

“It’s maybe true that these three losses which Djoker suffered to Nadal in Rome, MC, and especially Madrid were heartbreaking, but didn’t he BEAT THE SAME NADAL THREE TIMES on hard (out of which 2 were kind of beatdowns which even the mighty Fed would be more than happy to inflict upon Nadal, btw) AFTER THAT?”

Djokovic most certainly did put a beatdown on Rafa after that Madrid SF match. Therefore, that should be his satisfaction, and instead of lamenting the Madrid loss, he should be looking at the positives and rejoicing over those.


Von Says:

Lenny: You’re welcome re your post of a couple of days ago. Points noted: If Rafa should play Roddick again, you’ll be rooting for Nadal, and I, most certainly, will be rooting for Roddick. All’s fair in love and war. :)


MarkoPolo Says:

Well I simply think we will have a new clay court beast this time around. Fed is out of form and lacking matches, Nadal is not even close to his 2008 form and Nole is lost in translation, somewhere between the old and the new service motion. One of them will make the finals, but will fold to a non-contender, a new rising star!!!!!! I cannot pin point who will that be, but it will not be one of them!!!!!


Polo Says:

MarkPolo, got any candidate in mind for that new-rising star who could win, particularly the French? I could not think of anybody outside the top 10 who could do that. There are just too many good players to go through in five set matches seven times to do that. But honestly, I would love to be surprised.

By the way, I like half of your name.


Ben Pronin Says:

Polo, don’t forget Soderling almost did it last year. But I can’t see anyone outside the top 10 winning, either.


Polo Says:

Djokovic is still quite immature. That is his bete noire.


MarkoPolo Says:

Nobody in mind, but I guess it will be more interesting not knowing and just wait for it to happen. Polo, I am glad you like half of my name, because the other half calls for “new discoveries and a new tennis order”!


Polo Says:

But Marko (from marcus) really means warlike. So your name is like a warlike ballgame. Hehehe! Appropriate for your love of tennis.

About surprise winners, I don’t think we will see a teen-ager win a major at any time soon. Those days are gone. But who knows? How old is Cilic?


MarkoPolo Says:

Cilic is 21 if I am not mistaking and his game is not suitable for clay!!!!


Ben Pronin Says:

Monfils has been the to the semis and quarters the last two years. And he only lost to Federer on both occasions. He could be a surprise.

Cilic is 21.


MarkoPolo Says:

Monfils could be “the surprise”. Who knows, maybe this time around if he comes accross a satisfied Fed who accomplished all his career goals and claimed the GOAT status, the story might be a little different…..


NELTA Says:

Soderling has withdrawn from Monte Carlo with a knee injury so we can take him out of the discussion.

http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/08042010/58/soderling-monte-carlo.html


bojana Says:

Von I did not ask YOU for any explanation about Madrid I just ask you if you could let go what Nole said about Roddick because Your comments about Nole have became more on personal remarks than comments about his performance.
I have all the facts from this forum because I am following it for long time.I did not comment because I am not good in English as you are.Jane is the person that has and deserve loyalty from all Serbian people visiting this site.SHE stand by Noles side on time when it was very difficult to be SERBS or say anything good about them.But this time my comment about YOU asking Jane as a judge do not have to do any thing with that loyalty it is just one more proof that You cant let go any thing as You sad for Nole.Yes YOU did not mentioned me and YOU do not know about my existence but Nole das not know about your too and you are commenting about him having difficult letting go off anything.That was Your opinion and my was that you have the same difficult.Did You say that about Nole to make him look as a fool or it was Your advice to Nole to let thing go.I think that You wanted to make him look as a fool.That is way I commented.


Ben Pronin Says:

Soderling has plenty of time to rest his knee.


jane Says:

“That is his bete noire.” – LOL, Polo. We all have one of these I suppose. Being immature? Hmmm, I think it could be worse. He can still grow out of that one. Some of us have black beasts that are much more difficult to get rid of! He’s turning 23 next month so he’s still quite young.


Voicemale1 Says:

Ben Pronin Says:

“But I still don’t think it’ll be that big of an issue on clay. I was rewatching highlights of his loss to Soderling (of course) and Soderling was not missing anything. The guy was truly on fire. But he, nor the rest of the tour, will be able to replicate that every time.”
————————————————–

Only one guy will need to replicate that one time for Nadal to be out of a tournament. The “rest of the tour” doesn’t have to do that “every time”. That’s exactly the point of the concern about Nadal since he lost that match a year ago. Soderling could play that way again on clay, as could Djokovic, Nalbandian, Davydenko and Del Potro. The number of bullets Nadal will have to dodge even on clay now has grown, simply because his Grind Them Into The Dirt Game isn’t doing the damage it used to do – except to him physically. Nadal was asked at an IW press conference whether not having that “Kill Shot” to end the rally was hampering him against bigger hitters. And he himself said that was a “fair question”. Soderling showed that tactic can work on clay in a Best of 5. It’s a pretty good bet the coaches of the other guys capable of upending him also watched that match too, Ben :). And probably have notebooks full of comments to give their clients.

If Nadal were to win Monte Carlo, it’s not something that’s likely to illicit a lot of fear in the Locker Room – after all, Federer, Davydenko and Del Potro are not scheduled to play. If Nadal can sweep MC, Barcelona and Rome again? Then I’d say he’s back to what he was, and that the ATP Players would be impressed enough. If he starts losing on clay to other Top 10′s in the same way he’s lost over the last year, then I’m not sure we’ll see him at what he was ever again.


Ben Pronin Says:

That was my point. There are more players who can trouble Nadal than there are tournaments. However, they all have to make it to face him, first. And then, they have to be playing amazing. Dont’ forget that in Madrid, Djokovic really did play just about as well as he could and he still came up short (Nadal mental toughness > Djokovic mental toughness).

The other thing is that Nadal was not playing his best throughout last year’s clay season. Both him an Uncle Toni weren’t happy with his form after he won Monte Carlo, even though he only dropped 1 set. Also, Berdych did try to employ the Soderling-tactic in Davis Cup. And it looked like it would work when he had chances in the first set. But then Nadal hit the gas and ran away with the match. Nadal’s best on clay is still unbeatable. The “fear” will always be there against him just like it’s always there against Federer. Sure the aura isn’t what it once was, but I doubt players are going to be itching to play Nadal because he’s showing some fragility.


MMT Says:

I don’t understand what all the fuss is about Nadal. He’s playing very well these days. He only lost to the eventual champion in both Indian Wells and Miami, but be beat the hell out of everyone else.

I can’t understand why Federer gets a pass for losing in smaller tournaments (because he doesn’t care about them…I don’t buy that, by the way), but somehow, if Nadal gets further in those same smaller events, but loses, there’s a question mark next to him. Doesn’t add up.

Great players loses matches – it’s not necessarily a sign of a problem. It’s about how their game comes together, and it seems to me that Nadal is about to hit his peak. His movement is good, he’s hitting the ball fairly cleanly, and for me, he’s the overwhelming favorite in every tournament he enters until Wimbledon.


Ben Pronin Says:

Actually, the one thing that might hinder Nadal in the end might be his knees, again. I think he’s playing well, but let’s not forget his little tantrum during his match with Roddick. Yelling about his knee and hitting it, something Nadal’s never done. I hope Nadal takes care of his schedule. He has 4 events leading up to the French but, assuming he does well, he should try to cut them down to 3 or maybe even 2. I think everyone, including him, would rather he do well at the French than kill himself trying to win everything before it.


Voicemale1 Says:

Ben:

I understand your point. At the highest levels of tennis, what’s in your head matters far more then your production os strokes. My stepdad put it well: you need technique to compete; WINNING is all in your head. When the “head” goes south, or isn’t back to where it was, you won’t go far on the tour. It’s Nadal’s head that’s problematic. He choked against Davydenko in Doha; and squandered leads in his last two events losing those matches.

Maybe the Nadal camp has a Grand Design of something few of us are privy too, and these mounting losses are being treated as blips on the radar. In fact, Nadal seems rather unconcerned about all of it, judging by his professed optimism of his own future. You may be right that it might be prudent to give the guy the credit of his word. But based on what has happened so far this year, the skepticism of Nadal has merit. It requires a willing suspension of disbelief.

Again, the question facing him is this:


Voicemale1 Says:

Is he on the verge of reaching the hights he used to be, or is he putting “lipstick on a pig”?


Polo Says:

jane Says: (re:Djokovic)

“…Being immature? Hmmm, I think it could be worse. He can still grow out of that one…He’s turning 23 next month so he’s still quite young.”

I have no arguments with that. Age is still on Novak’s side. But he better mature soon because there are many younger ones coming up who seem to have both the game and the good attitude…like del Potro, maybe Cilic. Djokovic in my opinion, started out fine. He seemed to have a goal and appeared single-minded to achieve it. Then when he got close to it, he changed…for the worse, attitude wise.


arun Says:

Joko is an entertainer..and the story stops right there.

He has not done anything important other than to beat mono-Federer in Aus semi.


Sean Randall Says:

It’s too bad some of the top players who can beat Nadal are banged up: Del Potro, Soderling, Davydenko. Any of them would and do give Nadal a lot of problems on any surface, even clay.

Soderling’s injury doesn’t sound serious, but Del Potro and Davydenko (both wrist) may even be questionably for the French Open at this rate. And that’s a shame.


Kemik Says:

Well, Djokovic is surely not above Federer on clay. First of all, Roger came in Monte-Carlo last year directly after he got married, so he hadn’t any chance to prepare properly for the event. In Rome, he started to do well, but he still had something to do, he had to play more matches because he was out of the rhythm before. He was clearly in control of a semifinal match against Djoker in Rome before it started to rain (before it was similar to their meeting in MC year before where he outclassed Djoker before Serb retired without any signs of illness). He was 6-4 and 2-0 up, with having a break point for 3-0. He had like 10 break points compared to Djoker’s only one till that moment. Then, after the rain ended, it is a question-mark what happened. Maybe he estimated that it was too early to meet Nadal on clay (most probably) or he was rusty after delay or both reasons. In Madrid he played better than in Rome for sure. He beat Söderling, del Potro and then Nadal (on Spanish home court) in the way to the title. In Madrid, there were tougher conditions for Rafa and he was in trouble against Verdasco (0-4 in the second set) and Djoker, too. But only Federer was capable of winning against him (as it was proved; Nadal played in the finals just like the whole tournament, not better nor worse) and he did it. Roger wasn’t playing that well as in Madrid at RG. But he was the only player between the best three clay-courters who could put himself together in the match and change his game, so that he could make some comebacks while Rafa and Nole couldn’t when they were outplayed on RG. Del Potro was clearly in the best form at Roland Garros by all (along with Söderling, of course), he could very well win the title, but still Roger found his weapons in 4th and 5th set of the semifinals. In the finals, Söderling couldn’t do the same thing as he did to Nadal. Federer cleary had a tactics against him with diversity and variety in a game while Rafa played only one-dimensional game and it suited him (Robin streaks forehand high and so topspins from the other site suit his game). Federer deserved to win RG for the first time and he was better than the others, the new king of clay for the moment because he beat Nadal in Madrid, too. :)

But let’s take his performances from Rome on. In MC he clearly was not there just after marriage two days before the tournament. So he did SF in Rome and then he won Madrid and RG. Is this not consistency you are talking about? And if you say that Djokovic is second best because he won against him in Rome, then why Nadal is first and not Federer, he won against him in Madrid for a God’s sake? :D What about Roger’s four consecutive finals at RG (one win), 4 wins in Hamburg, 1 in Madrid, three MC and two Rome finals compared to Djoker’s win in Rome after Nadal lost against Ferrero? For me, Rafa is still ahead on clay, although Federer had more points last year, but there is Nadal’s success on clay over the years, just like his amazing record on the surface. But Djoker can’t be above Roger as I said. So Swiss is the second best clay-courter now and he was in the past.

For this year, I say that these will rule on clay: Federer, Nadal, del Potro, Djokovic and Söderling. Robin was in a great form lately, del Potro will surely be a monster on clay in years to come (the high bounce suits his height very well, just like topspins from the others, Nadal too) and also this year after he comes back after his injury. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were not in their best for some time, but I don’t have a doubt at them. Some players that must be also viewed: Ferrero, Ferrer, Bellucci, Monfils, maybe Verdasco, Gonzalez and also Nalbandian. Murray, in my opinion, still isn’t a force on clay and he was clearly the beast in the time last year, but he isn’t now.


jane Says:

Sampras recently told Djoko (at IW) that “you win with your mind and your heart” which kind of goes to what Voicemale1 is saying @ 11:53.

However, MMT is also right that when a player’s game comes together, the confidence builds too. Also, “great players do lose matches”, and it doesn’t necessarily signify an issue. Sometimes it does, but not always.

Nadal’s game has looked to be coming together at every event I’ve seen him play this year: Doha, AO, IW, and Miami. He’s come up short of a title at all of them, but he’s had some strong wins along the way. Once he gets a title win on clay, and I think he will, the momentum will build as will his confidence.

I guess the knee question still remains, since he retired from the AO and he did hit it during the changeover when playing Roddick. But hopefully he’s well.

———————————————-
Polo, Djoko will continue to evolve & hopefully in the right direction; you’re right that the young dudes seem to have a calm and collected attitude – Cilic is very cool on the court.

In my view, Djok seems like a truthful sensitive person, which sometimes gets him into trouble with the press. Being quite open has come back to haunt him a few times. Murray recently, too, with his comment about “practicing” at Dubai, was perhaps open to a fault. Or initially when Fed made comments about Murray’s playing style to the press, the comments were taken in a somewhat negative way by fans/press (though Murray himself tried to see them as constructive).

Live and learn I guess. I don’t expect to see Djok turn into someone he’s not and suddenly be calm all the time, but stronger focus and reserve wouldn’t hurt that’s for sure.

————————————————
arun: “He has not done anything important other than to beat mono-Federer in Aus semi.”

I would beg to differ: 17 titles, including a grand slam, 5 masters series titles, another 6 masters series finals, a Year End Championship title, year end #3 ranking for three years in a row (first since Wilander to do that). These seem like pretty important achievements as far as pro-tennis goes. While he’s not up there with Fed or Rafa, he’s been doing fine so far.


Kemik Says:

“Nadal’s best on clay is still unbeatable.”

I don’t agree.

Federer’s best > Nadal’s best

Even on clay, even Murray said it this way two years ago. Pity Roger can’t play his very best more times on clay, but the way he played in the 2nd and 3rd set in the Hamburg 2007 finals on clay (6-2 and 6-0 against Nadal), there is no player who can beat him on any surface. On clay, he normally does too much unforced errors against Rafa who wants to prevent him to do best game, of course with usual tactics – lefty forehand topspin on one-handed backhand. But if he would play on Federer’s forehand, he wouldn’t stand the chance even if he played best. Regardless of good tactics against Roger, he also couldn’t do anything in Hamburg 2007.


Ben Pronin Says:

I don’t agree. On clay, Nadal is simply better.


Polo Says:

I agree with Ben to disagree…
if Nadal and Federer play their best on clay, Nadal will prevail.


Long Live The King Says:

I think Nadal is ahead of the class, much like Roger at his peak was on hardcourt and grass. That said at Hamburg and Madrid (from the one year sample we have, Roger is better than Nadal at those two places.)

And anyone who says djokovic was better than federer or nadal on clay last year, needs to go see what happened at the french. Djokovic was thrashed sound and good by kohls.

Ben, you have been skeptical when people say Fed lost at AO 2008 because of mono, yet you are ready to jump on the Novak bandwagon and say he was fatigued by FO last year. Why these double standards?


Skorocel Says:

Kemik: “Even on clay, even Murray said it this way two years ago.”

What exactly did he say & where did he say that?

———-

“Pity Roger can’t play his very best more times on clay”

Pity indeed. Seems to be a “habit” against Nadal, isn’t it? ;-)


Ben Pronin Says:

If you recall, Djokovic was up 4-1 in the first set before Kohls ran over him. Fatigue can set in at any random time. Mono is something that makes you feel fatigue 24/7. Either way, it’s not like I’m saying it’s ok Djokovic lost because he was tired. He’s supposed to be a champion, that’s unacceptable.

Federer seems to be better on slow, low bouncing clay courts but Nadal still beat him in Hamburg in 08.


Kemik Says:

And what is Nadal’s best on clay then? If you say RG 2008 (compared to Federer’s last two sets in Hamburg 2007 and his best on clay), I still can’t agree, but it is just my opinion, we can just speculate about it. My way of thinking is: Nadal has a great forehand topspin (pressure on racquet after reaching the ball is high, the bounce is high, balls are tough and heavy on clay) and can reach every ball, but mainly still waits to long rallies and unforced errors of his opponent (believe or not, but I saw many of his matches on clay in 2005/06 and last year and he was more aggressive with topspins in 2005/06 than now, although he had weaker service games), while Federer in his best can blow off any opponent (even Rafa on clay) with his attacking game, in case of clay on baseline attacking game, mainly, but he can change his rhythm of playing very quickly, too. Without unforced errors, Federer is just a monster.

As of Djoko, he is the player of inspiration. If he is inspired, he can do very well on tournament or two, maybe three in a row, and then he fell in his results. Although he is mentally very tough player, he just isn’t that good physically. He had asthma when he was younger and he still has some breathing problems, then heat doesn’t suit him, he is ill many times, he is losing a match and has a thought of retire … (it is a joke, the last one, don’t take is as a fact :) ) I think that he just isn’t that consistent on the long term because of that. At his best, he can compete with Federer and Rafa, can also beat them sometimes, but on long term he can’t be better than they.


Long Live The King Says:

and Coria better clay courter than Roger in 2005? well, let’s see

who won their only match between them? Fed in hamburg

who went deeper at the french? fed into the semis, while coria lost in 4th round.

who won a masters on clay that year? Fed at hamburg.

yet we have to believe Roger is inferior to coria in 2005 on clay…. not happening guys.

The fact is fed might have had trouble dislodging nadal as the top player on clay, but he has held on to the no.2 spot more than admirably. Ironically in the general rankings, fed was the clear cut no.1 and nadal the no.2 for most part of the last 5yrs…..


Polo Says:

Novak is not anywhere near Federer on any surface. He may have beaten him before but those were more of an aberration rather than the norm. The same way that Federer has occasionally beaten Nadal on clay, and Nadal beating Federer on grass in that classic final two years ago. Nadal owns clay. Federer owns grass. Djokovic owns none. Changes will happen in the future but this is where things stand right now.


Long Live The King Says:

Ben:

” He’s supposed to be a champion, that’s unacceptable. ”

and it makes Djoko unworthy of the no.2 player on clay in 2009. Infact, Roger has a better case for being the no.1 player on clay in 2009 than Djoko has for being no.2 on clay in 2009.

“Pity indeed. Seems to be a “habit” against Nadal, isn’t it? ;-) ”

Pity that all players on clay have that ” habit ” against nadal. atleast roger beat him twice :)


Kemik Says:

Long Live The King, Roger is still ahead of class on grass, but no longer on hard courts. I agree, it is the same Rafa on clay and Roger on grass, it is just something different when they play on their beloved surfaces. But Nadal is more a player who needs his confidence badly (while Roger still could reach the finals of all Slams when he was low confident). When he is (over)confident, he is very dangerous, even on grass (after success on clay) and hard courts sometimes, too. When he has a low confidence (in his body and game), he is very beatable on hard courts, we just saw it (he lost three times in a row against Davydenko, del Potro and Djokovic), we just need a prove that it is just the same way on grass (more probably, he lost against Hewitt and Wawrinka last year just before Wimbledon) and on clay, too. This year it will be maybe for the first time that he will be with that type of low confidence of his game (against Top 10 players especially) and, more importantly, in his body (his knees, they are problem, sometimes he is scared of being hurt at them). We will see about it. He seemed to be tired in some matches (against Roddick and Nalbandian in Miami, for example), it was just different than years ago when he could play all the time and he wasn’t even tired after 5 hours or more. In Australia, his knees didn’t hold out. So, what about Roland Garros, physically the most challenging and the most exhausting tournament in the world? Will he be fit enough to win it again? There is a question about it in my and some other’s heads.


Voicemale1 Says:

Long Live The King Says:

“Ironically in the general rankings, fed was the clear cut no.1 and nadal the no.2 for most part of the last 5yrs…..”

————————————————-

This is an excellent point which cannot be stressed enough. If you look at these two, it’s easy to forget how their own individual careers pay a handsome tribute to the other guy. Look at Nadal. Here’s a man who is but 23 and has won 36 Titles, 6 of them Majors. And he’s spent less than a year as World #1. Only the unprecedented career of Federer could have denied Nadal the #1 Ranking he would have held for multiple years had Federer not existed.

Conversely, look at what Nadal had to do to dislodge Fedrerer out of #1: he went on a 13 month tear that was, in it’s own right, extraordinary. It’s why Federer know in his soul guys like Djokovic, Murray, even Del Potro don’t have it in them to put together the year Nadal had to TAKE #1 away from him. Federer knows only Nadal has what it takes in him to do it, even if it’s not apparent at the present time.

That they have been Year End #1 & #2 for the last 5 years is astonishing. And it’s possible it could happen again for a sixth.


Long Live The King Says:

kemik@ 3:19pm, i agree with what you say. Nadal has some tough questions to answer, but as the surface is clay, I am sure he is more than ready for it.

As Sean says, it is terrible that delpo and davy are injured, but then again it might be a boon in disguise. Generally Nadal uses the clay to put beat downs on opponents so it gives him a psychological advantage, when they play on other surfaces. His superior H2H Vs roger and djokovic is because half those matches are on clay. He has arrested losing streaks against youzhny and berdych when they play him on clay.

delpo, blake davy and even nalby have been able to avoid nadal and clay and can boast of better H2Hs vs nadal than Roger or Novak.


Daniel Says:

Well the match-up we will never see and question that always hunted my mind is: if Nadal was a right handed would he be what he is today?! Even on clay?


Long Live The King Says:

” Federer knows only Nadal has what it takes in him to do it, even if it’s not apparent at the present time. ”

Yes, Fed and Nadal are in a separate league all together. One is the King of slams and no.2 on clay and masters series, the other is no.2 at slams and king of clay and MS…. Awesome twosome ;)


Polo Says:

Long Live The King Says:
“…Fed and Nadal are in a separate league all together…Awesome twosome.”

And what is even more amazing is that they have a lot of admiration and respect towards each other. And they and get along very well. They should play doubles. If you combine their strengths, they would make an unbeatable team. That would be a surefire way to increase double’s popularity.


Kemik Says:

“Skorocel Says:

Kemik: “Even on clay, even Murray said it this way two years ago.”

What exactly did he say & where did he say that?”

Here:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/more-sport/tennis/2008/05/25/andy-murray-i-m-still-mr-grumpy-98487-20429673/

Murray thinks Roger Federer is better on clay than his great rival Rafael Nadal – even though the Swiss star has lost to the Spaniard in the last two French Open finals.

Federer begins his quest for a belated first French title today with Nadal’s supremacy on clay showing no sign of abating.

The 21-year-old Mallorcan has lost only two of his last 110 matches on the surface but Murray said: “I believe Federer’s highest level on clay, when he plays to his potential, is better than Nadal’s.”


Voicemale1 Says:

Kemik:

I think drudging up the Murray quote from 2 years ago regarding Federer’s best on clay being better than Nadal’s best on clay – inlight of what happened in that French Final of 2008, is well..ill timed :). Federer had a First Serve Percentage that day varying in the range of 65-75%, and he lost his serve 8 times.

The real motive behind the Murray comment lies in their “adversarial” relationship the two of them have. I think Murray, who likes to spar in the press with Federer, was ideal at setting Roger up with a comment like that. Given that Nadal had just beaten Federer in both MC & Hamburg (Federer’s biggest choke job ever) that same 2008 season, it was brilliant of Murray to call Federer “better” at a stage when Murray knew there was no way Federer was going to beat Nadal at the French that year. It was a setup to sting Federer by Murray. And a shrewd one :)


David Says:

Kemik

Federer just won the most recent hard court Slam in style. He’s been in the last 4 hard court Slam finals, winning two of them and losing the other two in five setters.

We can’t say he’s not “head of the class” on hard courts just because of some losses at lower tier events.


Duro Says:

LLTK, I owe you something European… Don’t worry, I didn’t forget it. Just came bye to find you if possible. I was absent for a while because of some personal reasons. I hope you didn’t call me over for not being present when I lost my bet, cause I didn’t have a chance to read it, if so. Now it’s time for you to come up with technical solutions for my obligation. How do you want me to do it? Shall we exchange mails or something, so we could agree on details?


jane Says:

Hi Duro! Hope you’re well.


Duro Says:

Hi, Jane. Not really. As I told you, my father was very ill. What I was afraid the most of happened in the end. He passed away two weeks ago. That’s life, Jane…


Kemik Says:

David, I meant ahead of the class (not “head of the class”), well above all the others on the surface, to be nearly unbeatable on it (Roger is still like that on grass, but not on HCs anymore, times with 50-1 and 59-2 on the surface in the season with 56 consecutive matches won on it passed away). Hard courts are the most unpredictable today because all the players play on them. Clay and grass are still more predictable, I say. There are some clay specialists, but we can predict their better results there.

Voicemale1, I say (and said) it in my view of their games (after I watched a lot of matches of both of them, on clay too), not on Murray’s, it is just coincidence that Murray said the same then. And it is just my opinion, as I said.


jane Says:

Duro, I am so sorry to hear that sad news : ( Take good care of yourself, and look to your little ones; they’ll breathe new life into your world, always, when things seem bleak.


Kimmi Says:

duro, sad to hear about your father. take care and wishing you and your family the best.


Duro Says:

Thank you, Jane. It seems so… I must move on, that’s all I can do now. Say hello to my dear friends in my name if you can, cause I won’t be posting that much for a while. See you, Jane and thank you again.


Duro Says:

Kimmi, thank you my dear friend. Take care. Gotta go now. See you in brighter circumstances…


MMT Says:

I’m very sorry for your loss Duro. I wish you strength and resilience.


Long Live The King Says:

Hi Duro,

sorry to hear about your loss :( I have been in similar situation about a year back. Stay strong, put your head down and plow through. Memories can help the healing process.

Regarding the bet, dont bother. We will just say it was a friendly bet :) I did look for you (but did not call on you for running away or anything as I trust you as a man of your word) Jane said something about you dealing with personal things and I let it be.

Thanks for dropping by in such tough times with the offer.

My condolences for you and your family.


jane Says:

Here is a pretty clear summation of the points the current top 6 ranked players have to defend during the clay season (would’ve liked to see the full top ten laid out but oh well…).

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/375320-roger-federer-to-nikolay-davydenko-measuring-the-depth-on-clay


Voicemale1 Says:

Duro:

I’m sorry to hear about your loss. We lost my dad in February. My condolences to you and your family.


Skeezerweezer Says:

Skorocel Says:

“Pity Roger can’t play his very best more times on clay”

Pity indeed. Seems to be a “habit” against Nadal, isn’t it? ;-)”

I can’t remember every match against Nadal on clay, but I remember enough to know IMO Fed played great in some of those matches and had his chances, but in the end, Rafa was just the better player. Nuff said on that.

As far as his losing to Rafa being a “habit” on clay…

IMO what was the habit for Fed on Clay was he seemed to think he was so good he good outhit Rafa with his BH. Rafa obliged, and pounded Fed’s BH, and served almost entirely every serve to his BH. What happened?


Skeezerweezer Says:

Duro,

“Ditto” here with the rest of the posters :(


stu Says:

Sorry Duro :(. When you disappeared for such a long time I was afraid it was bad news…


steve Says:

I’m sorry, Duro, and best wishes to you and your family.


margot Says:

Duro: good thoughts from me too.


Mindy Says:

Djoko isn’t the same player that he was this time last year. Von is right! The guy never lets go of anything and that’s his problem. Djoko’s problem may be his serve right now, but it’s really in his head. I would not consider him the second best clay court player, even based on last year’s results. Fed was the guy who won RG. He was also the guy who got his first win at Madrid againt the king of clay himself. Fed has been working hard to get that win against Rafa. His efforts have been well rewarded. I am going to consider Fed the second best clay court player for now. I am expecting him to get into good form and peak at RG. This man takes defending his titles very seriously. I will take Fed’s superior mental strength and toughness, his savvy, fierce pride in winning over Djoko any day. It is what is in between your ears and that’s where Fed excels.

As far as Rafa, as a devoted fan I am not yet ready to accept the gloom and doom scenario. I don’t think his recent results at the last two hard court tournaments are necessarily indicative of whether or not he will win on clay. He was just coming back from yet another knee injury, on his weakest surface and probably not at his best mentally. Two semifinals is better than any of the other top four players could muster. If/when Rafa starts losing on clay, then I will start to worry. I still remember how, when he was in such poor form in the final months of last year, he came into Davis Cup and was literally reborn. That was when I knew that at least his game was still intact. He has always been at home on his precious clay. I hope that it will help him get over whatever confidence issues he is still grappling with right now.

In closing, it’s nice to see Sean Randall moaning about Rafa’s toughest opponents being out due to injury. You have got to admit, Sean’s all heart. I guess we can expect that if Rafa wins, Sean will chalk it up to luck not having to play any of his “real” competition. This site has always had such heart when it comes to Rafa’s injuries. If Rafa is hurt, it doesn’t count. If anyone else is hurt, then of course it’s real. After all, Sean is the one who so infamously questioned Rafa’s reason for withdrawing from Wimbledon. As I remember it was something to the effect that Rafa was afraid of losing, not anything to do with his knees. Like Rafa was making it all up because he was chicken! Yeah, good one! Anyone who doesn’t think Rafa has real knee problems must be delusional or just another fanatic Rafa hater.

Thanks to Von and Lenny for fighting the good fight. It’s a tough job keeping guys like Ben and Sean honest, but somebody’s got to do it!


Skorocel Says:

Kemik: „while Federer in his best can blow off any opponent (even Rafa on clay) with his attacking game, in case of clay on baseline attacking game, mainly, but he can change his rhythm of playing very quickly, too. Without unforced errors, Federer is just a monster.“

Kemik, they played no less than ELEVEN (11) matches on clay, and the score is 9-2 Nadal. It’s not like they played 2 or 3 matches. They’ve already met 11 times, out of which 10 were finals, btw, and Nadal lost just twice.

As for those 2 wins which Fed got, I really think he didn’t play his „best“ claycourt tennis in these matches, if you can call it like that. In my opinion, the best match which he ever played against Nadal on clay was in Rome 2006, which, however, he still LOST. The same for MC 2006, MC 2008, Hamburg 2008, or say RG 2005. In these matches, he played the same, if not better than in Hamburg 2007 and Madrid 2009 (which, as you may know, are his lone 2 wins vs Spaniard on clay), but still LOST. The question, therefore is, can his best beat Nadal’s best on clay? Or better said, can he bring his best vs Nadal on clay? I doubt he can… Nadal’s just too good for him to allow that…

Re: those „unforced errors“, I’d say it’s highly debatable to call them „unforced“. Nadal’s lefty FH has so much weight, height, and spin it simply squeezes the hell out of Roger’s BH, making it VERY HARD, if not impossible for the Swiss to return those shots with interest (which often results in an error). That’s hardly „unforced“. Even Roger’s FH, which is (or at least used to be) his biggest weapon, is under constant pressure vs Nadal. Against guys like Murray, Djoker, or JMDP, it can be a deadly shot when working OK (in other words, when Roger’s FH is working well against these guys, they can pretty much do nothing as it is THE shot of the match), but against Nadal, you won’t find many such examples – last but not least because it’s the Spaniard’s FH which dictates most of the rallies, not Federer’s. Not to mention that, because of Nadal’s excellent movement, feel for clay, retrieving skills and court coverage (which is second to none when compared to the rest, save maybe Fed and Murray) it’s VERY hard to hit a clean winner against him on the red dirt, YET to do it on a constant basis. In other words, you may think it’s an „unforced error“, but in reality, it’s not.


Skorocel Says:

LLTK about Nadal: „He has arrested losing streaks against youzhny and berdych when they play him on clay.“

Really?
http://www.atpworldtour.com/Players/Head-To-Head.aspx?pId=N409&oId=BA47
http://www.atpworldtour.com/Players/Head-To-Head.aspx?pId=N409&oId=Y061


Skorocel Says:

„I can’t remember every match against Nadal on clay, but I remember enough to know IMO Fed played great in some of those matches and had his chances, but in the end, Rafa was just the better player. Nuff said on that.“

There you go, Skeezerweezer! Fed played great (if not at his „best“) in many of those matches – yet it still wasn’t enough. Therefore, when someone like Kemik says „Fed in his best can blow off any opponent (even Rafa on clay)“, it simply isn’t true. In other words, Federer’s „best“ on clay < Nadal’s „best“ on clay


NELTA Says:

Monfils just withdrew from MC with a hand injury


MMT Says:

On this discussion of who’s best is THE BEST on clay, please remember that tennis is two way street. It can be argued that Nadal prevents Federer’s best on clay or that on the 2 occassions where Federer has beaten him, his best was too much for Nadal, and hasn’t brought it in the other matches. Who the hell knows, and who the hell cares.

If they meet any time during the clay court season, at this point, I would put the chances at 50-50, and just sit back and enjoy it. No one can make a proclamation that one is too good for the other, no matter what the conditions on any surface really, but even on clay.

I mean who knows under what conditions they would meet, if they did, at RG or anywhere else for that matter. That being the case, I would say at this point, any potential match up is a 50-50 toss up.


Ben Pronin Says:

That’s the problem right there. This whole “best” vs “best” thing is so hypothetical. The only reason I mention it is because we’ve seen Federer play some flawless tennis over the years. But he’s never done it against Nadal on clay. (I don’t even think he’s done it on clay in general).


jane Says:

Mindy says “Djoko’s problem may be his serve right now, but it’s really in his head.”

I hope you’re right actually. I’m worried his serve is deteriorating of late. But if it’s focus/confidence, I think he can get those things back more easily than one of the game’s most important shots faltering. After Rochus beat him, he commented on Djoko’s serve being weaker. Bummer. Oh well, judging by 07-10 Novak seems to be a roller-coaster type player, so I have to take the highs with the lows.

As for Rafa, it’s good that you’re being optimistic. As mentioned earlier on the thread, it looks as though he’s playing himself into form, but the knees remain a worry. At least clay and grass are less punishing to them than hardcourts (I think).

” If/when Rafa starts losing on clay, then I will start to worry.”

Of course, even if he loses a match here or there on clay, that doesn’t mean that Rafa is going to plummet or anything either. It could just mean that he might not dominate as much as he used to on the one surface. That remains to be seen anyhow. Winning a lot on the clay this season though could surely help to restore his confidence. I hope we get to see some classic Rafa on clay.


MMT Says:

Fair enough – it’s all very hypothetical and impossible to quantify – what we know is that Nadal is clearly the dominant player, between the two of them, on clay, but that doesn’t preclude a reversal of fortune for either on any particular occasion.

As for Djokovic’s serve – he is stiff arming the delievery to manage the timing of his point of contact, however, he’s losing racquet head speed and as a result losing control of that stroke.

His best bet is to work with a serve coach, and also consider altering his deliver to eliminate range of motion below the level of his raised elbow, because that’s where most of his trouble is.

Take a look at his serve in the AO2007 against Federer, versus today, and you’ll see that today he’s definitely stiff arming the delivery.


Ben Pronin Says:

What does stiff arming the delivery mean?

The raised elbow is the huge problem. He keeps the racket head way low for some reason. Before he bent his elbow upwards. I think everyone should do what Federer does and bring up the racket head right away and just go from there. The way Federer holds both arms up makes it look like he’s hitting the ball from a stand and can literally hit wherever he wants. What Djokovic does now is just plain stupid.


Kemik Says:

Djokovic has a Todd Martin as a coach for net playing and serving, he claimed him on the end of the last year. And Todd hasn’t yet been shown as a good choice for him. He wanted to change a whole Djoker’s serve, a whole system in it. At least service is not that important on clay and we will see what Nole will show us there. He defends a lot of points before RG, maybe too much for him.

Regardless, I speculate a new Rafa-Nole final in MC this year. The field is too weak after Federer, Söderling, del Potro, Monfils, Roddick, Simon and Davydenko (I am not sure about Kolya, though) aren’t there. OK, Djokovic is up and down player these days, but I believe that he can beat guys like Ferrero, Ferrer, Bellucci, Murray and maybe Cilic as his potential threats before the finals in MC. In Rome, I expect much harder work for all the best players, there the field will be excellent, I believe.


Ben Pronin Says:

The serve is not important on clay? Tell that to Nadal who hit 100% of his serves to Federer’s backhand in the 08 FO final demolition. The serve is the most important shot in tennis (for men) regardless of surface.


MMT Says:

Both Roddick, Federer and Nadal bring the elbow (almost) immediately up with the toss, and all forward motion originates from that point where the elbow is up.

Here are samples of Roddick and Nadal who bring their elbows up almost immediately, while Federer’s is slightly delayed:

Roddick:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muKDqiVer0k

Nadal:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijLU5PB44tc

Federer (note the slight delay as compared to Roddick and Nadal):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79tuHYoErQg&NR=1

Sampras’ motion, which is flawless in execution, is smooth and circular through the point of contact, even though he delays the raising of his elbow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8UqUBkmWBg&feature=related

Djokovic, on the other hand, delays bring the elbow up until after the toss, and although Sampras does too, Djokovic’s flaw is that his elbow straightens (slightly) as he rises up to point of contact, which you can see here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufWNY_FNc-M&feature=related

Club players do this all the time – they (unwittingly) straighten the elbow to manage the timing of the point of contact by reducing variability in the swing at the elbow through their forward motion to the point of contact. This flaw is exacerbated when Djokovic is tense or nervous (like break point).

He loses racquet head speed, because the elbow acts as a kind of gear, doubling up the racquet head speed as you bend and rotate it through the point of contact. You lose this “gear” if the elbow straightens.

If fact, Sampras’ serve motion is distinctive because of rotation in the elbow EVEN AFTER the point of contact, which is another place where the elbow acts as a gear (i.e. shortening the follow through, WITHOUT decelerating the racquet head before the point of contact).

Instinctively Djokovic recognizes this “elbow management” as you can see when he imitates Sampras here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APlFcadu6uw

Todd Martin, who also has a beautiful service motion, also brings his elbow straight up, and has coached Djokovic to do the same, as you can see here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9cjweDsIS8

Unfortunately, he was obviously not sufficiently committed to this changed motion, and it probably cost him the match against Rochus. But I would say if he can reduced that variability with the elbow by bringing it up immediately (thereby eliminating the straightening and also maintaining his racquet head speed) his serve will improve.

In the end, even the #2 player’s serving problems are in fact technical (not mental) or at least have a technical solution.


stu Says:

I understand Nole looking to TM for help with his volleying, but when was there ever a problem with his serve pre-TM? Yes he wasn’t a big server, but he was adequately precise and there were other things about his game that needed more urgent attention!

He will prolly still be working on his mental and physical issues this clay season and not get very far (seems like Ben/ jane etc are also resigned to the possibility). However, he does have the tendency to perform when nobody expects him to…


Ben Pronin Says:

Well the thing is Djokovic will be facing pressure this season with all the finals he has to defend. Based on his history, I’d say it’s more likely for him to have so-so results in the Masters and then perform particularly well at RG since he lost early last year.

Yeah I don’t know what the problem with Djokovic’s serve was either. Technique-wise it was perfectly fine. His only maybe problem was a sometimes weak second serve. But back in 08 he was also hitting 118mph second serves. Oh, Martin.


NELTA Says:

Ben,

This is what MMT means by “stiff arming”, Watch this video of the #1 player serving. It looks kind of like the Djoker serving.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jVJDdir5BQ&feature=related


Mindy Says:

Jane,

I have always felt that a lot of Djoko’s problems were in his head. He gets in his own way too often. But it does appear that there is something not right with the mechanics of his serving right now. I am not here to place blame on anyone. I don’t know the why of it, just that it’s not working for him at all.

Ben is right. If your serve isn’t working, then your game won’t work, whether it’s clay, grass or hard court. Djoko needs to find the rhythm again and get this straightened out. If you are busy fiddling with your serve, then you won’t be able to fully concentrate on playing.

As far as Rafa, I am realistic enough to know that he is in a tough place right now. This last year has been horrible. Some Rafa fans felt that he shouldn’t have come back and played in IW and Miami. I think he wanted to try and defend his points and get some matches under his belt. I don’t think that a loss or two on clay will spell disaster, however, if Rafa loses more often or can’t break the drought at MC or Barcelona or Rome, then I will be very concerned. But I just don’t think it makes any sense to worry in advance.


Ben Pronin Says:

Wow I completely see what you mean. A stiff arm like that gives you almost zero control over the ball in tennis. You have to be relaxed and flexible.

So here’s a video that was apparently put up a month ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO1X4m7FOuI
This is not a good serve. He makes contact with the ball directly above his head (I don’t even know how he hit as well as he did). You’re supposed to make contact in front of your body.

Here’s another one that’s apparently right after the Rochus match: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9cjweDsIS8
It looks like Martin is trying to fix the motion. You can see he’s telling Djokovic to keep his racket head higher and not take it down so low. Djoker’s also taking it directly up the way Federer does, just like I was saying. Looks like they’re going in the right direction, so far. My fingers are crossed.


Ben Pronin Says:

Although, in the Martin video, I don’t get why he tells Djokovic to take his racket head down then up. There’s no need to create that “dragging” effect.


Kemik Says:

On grass and hard it is more important to serve well than on clay, that’s what I want to say. Especially against big servers where one break can decide the set on faster surfaces. On clay one break does not mean that much and you can still re-break with good baseline game with a good percentage of points in long rallies after you return the serve in, of course. Many clay specialists have a weak serve and they can still succeed on clay, with their good baseline game, of course. So if Nole has problems with his serve, he can still make it up with good baseline game.

Of course the best clay specialists want to do topspin or slice serve on the outer site so that they have free space on the court, but their serves are not powerful, fast and flat, so they make the most serves (first, too) in. But this is just a different story, I only said something about Djoker’s problems on serve this year.


Ben Pronin Says:

Hitting flat and fast isn’t the only way to be a good server. Clay court specialists usually have really good kick serves and are good at mixing up the spins and pace and placing the ball effectively. Also they tend to have high first serve percentages. Breaks don’t mean as MUCH but, again, this isn’t women’s tennis. You still need to hold serve to win a match.


jane Says:

Mindy, you’re a very level-headed fan – kudos to you. And may Rafa break the drought soon.

stu, I am resigned to the “possibility” of Novak struggling because of his service issues, but I honestly don’t know what to expect from him right now. I’m hoping for the best – would like to see him go further at the FO this year, and perhaps at Wimbledon too, though QF isn’t bad. I notice he’s playing at Queens again this year rather than Halle; generally I prefer watching Queens, so I am glad.


Ben Pronin Says:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZu4UtMfzp4&feature=related

So whoever said Djokovic doesn’t train as hard as the other top players wasn’t lying. How much does a tennis player gain from american football? No where near as much as soccer.


NELTA Says:

I agree with your most recent statement Kemik. If Djokovic isn’t serving big it won’t hurt him as much on clay, but if the double faults continue that will be a big problem. You could even make an argument that giving away free points with double faults on clay is more damaging than doing it on a faster surface.


Kemik Says:

NELTA, if Coria could have like 20 double faults in three set match and still won on clay, then Djoker can do it with his like 10 in a match, too. :D Just joking, hehe, surely double faults can be a problem, but I think that he will just want to make a serve, not to serve that big on clay as he wants sometimes on hard.

Ben, as you say about clay specialists and their serves. Between the players, it can be very important to have some easy points, like aces and service winners. Especially when they trail on their serves. Clay specialists don’t have them many times when they want them. Some of them surely have an accurate serve and great spin and slice serves out, but mainly it seems like they only want to push the ball in to succeed in long rallies then because they know they are very good at them, so that they don’t risk much to make indefensible serves, they are also satisfied if their opponent reach the ball. That’s why some of them have high percentage of first serves in. And that’s why it looks like they are weak on their serves, although they make some good work with their serve on clay.


MMT Says:

I wrote a short dissertation on Djokovic’s serve that’s been awaiting moderation for about an hour, but it included links to clips of his serve (as well as those of ther players), and that clip of him working with Martin.

Essentially, I don’t think bringing the racquet head low is inherently a problem if your motion through the point of contact is smooth like Sampras or Stepanek, for example. Djokovic’s problem is that hitch where his elbow straightens – he loses racquet head speed, spin and most importantly control.

In the Martin clip, you can see he has him doing the service motion with the fence just behind him to force him to bring the racquet head straight up, rather than straight back (at the elbow) and then up. Later he roates to his right, again with the fence close, to keep the motion on a circle perpendicular to the ground, rather than straight out (to his right – again with a straight elbow) and up.

In fact, his service motion in that clip is lovely, because it has the added effect of uninterrupted motion, and it’s also picturesque, with the racquet head up at the same time as the tossing hand. An alternative to resolve his flaw is to force the racquet head up by bringing the elbow straight up like Roddick and Nadal, who’s serves are far more consistent.

There are a lot of players who keep the racquet head low until the last minute, but the forward motion is smooth and uninterrupted by a straight elbow. But, the timing and transfer of energy, from the feet to the strike zone, on such a stroke has to be perfect.

Examples are Sampras, Stepanek, Nalbandian, Edberg, Karlovic, Lendl. All have/had great first serves, all delay(ed) bringing the racquet head up. However, it’s worth noting that Lendl and Nalbandian both have very high tosses, which caused them big problems on their second serves, but that’s another story.


Kemik Says:

“they are also satisfied if their opponent reach the ball”

And return it, too, that’s what I must add to this statement.


Ben Pronin Says:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhrfqjokS_Q

Another great server :D

MMT, I watched your clips and read what you said.

“There are a lot of players who keep the racquet head low until the last minute, but the forward motion is smooth and uninterrupted by a straight elbow.”

Key word there, imo, is uninterrupted. The dragging effect is unnecessary, but it can also be helpful. Agassi’s service motion was very circular. He took his racket “around the world”. But he still had a good serve. The important thing is to be consistent and effective. Djokovic brings his arm really low (and his knee bend slants his body so his racket head is even lower) and then he has to straighten it to get it up quickly. His contact point gets messed up as a result.


NELTA Says:

Kemik,

Djoker can still win matches on clay if he double faults a lot, but he will struggle against the better players. In reference to Coria look how he did against Nadal. In his only win he had 0 double faults. In his 4 losses their were between 3 and 8 double faults. At some point you will face an opponent where you can’t afford to give away too many free points on serve.


NELTA Says:

line three should read “In his 4 losses THERE were”


skeezerweezer Says:

RE: Skorocel April 9th, 2010 at 8:34 am post,

Thank you. I take that as a compliment of extraordinary measures!
And as you know I am a Fed fan, however I am not blind :)

As you so pointed out, to get down to the specifics,

Fed vs Rafa
Surface: Clay

Rafa’s FH to Fed’s BH

Rafa wins.

Now we are talking past, so this FO? I hope Fed if he plays Rafa better have one heckava better BH or a different strategy against him.

If I was Rafa, keep it going. Every lefty serve to the BH, every opportunity to hit the BH….


#1Rivalry Says:

The alarm bells are going to intensify for Rafa after Monte Carlo I believe, and he has nobody to blame except himself and his camp. They have made horrible decisions over the past 16 months, and when they decided to play Miami and Indian Wells I knew he was taking it to far. People keep ignoring the fact that Nadal has chronic patella tendinitis, and it is nt going to get better a month or two. The Nadal’s should have made the tough decision to skip the Australian Open and everything after that up until Monte Carlo. That would have been approximately four months of rest, and given him plenty of time to prepare for the French Open. The recent news is not good for Nadal and the state of his knees. I pick Djokovic for Monte Carlo and another title before Roland Garros. Rafa can do it, but I truly believe the knees and the mental burden of his injuries will be the rue of Nadal this clay court season, and possibly beyond. I am craving a rivalry renewal just as much as any of you, but Nadal’s knees are not going to allow it. I said it after the Australian Open, and will say it again. Roger Federer will pace himself winning one of the three claycourt tournaments going into the French Open, and than will defend his title in Roland Garros. Here is my pick for the biggest clay court titles.

Monte Carlo- Djokovic
Rome- Djokovic
Madrid- Federer
Roland Garros- Federer


#1Rivalry Says:

I repeat. I am a Nadal fan! I will not however bury my head in the sand, and pretend these issues with his knees don’t exist. It is taking a toll mentally as well as physically. The dreamers out there want to pretend a miracle is going to happen just because Nadal is playing on clay. Nadal has not won a tournament in 11 months, and that is no small problem people. It is becoming a habit.


Ben Pronin Says:

11 months, Nadal fan, knees, it doesn’t matter. Nadal will win at least 2 of the Masters.


Mindy Says:

#1Rivalry,

Goodness, with fans like you Rafa doesn’t need enemies! It must be nice to sit back and be an armchair analyst. All this second guessing over everything that Rafa has done! I guess you think Rafa wants to ruin his knees for good.

I am definitely living in the real world, but I don’t believe in a defeatist attitude. If Rafa thought like you, then he should just hang up his racket and forget about it. There are no guarantees in the sport of tennis. You don’t know any more than anyone else if taking off the first three months of the year would fix Rafa’s knees. As you said, knee tendonitis can’t be cured. It is a progressive condition. The only real solution would be for Rafa to stop playing tennis. Then his knees would get all the rest they need.

Rafa is the only one who knows how he feels, along with his doctors. If he took off more than three months, he would drop much lower in the rankings, lose a ton of points and have virtually no chance of ever being back on top. Also, Rafa needs a lot of match play because he is a rhythm and confidence player. The idea that he could just jump back into competition in time for the clay season and be in good enough form to win titles and even RG, is absurd.

No real Rafa fan would ever pick someone like Djoko over him. I will take Rafa any time, even now when he is not at his best mentally, over the likes of Djoko. Maybe Djoko will magically get it all together and prove me wrong, but until he does I will not pick him to win any clay tournament.


Ben Pronin Says:

I completely agree with Mindy. The idea of Nadal completely skipping the hard court season and then suddenly dominated the clay is a little ridiculous. Federer dominated the field at the AO and then came back and played like crap in IW and Miami. That’s what long delays do for you, sometimes.

And I have to agree that, until Djokovic proves otherwise, no way will Nadal simply go down to him on clay.


jane Says:

Yep, I have to agree; I wouldn’t pick against Nadal on clay -basically ever, even when he’s playing against Fed. : ) And though Djoko has played some well-contested matches against Nadal on clay, especially Hamburg 08 and Madrid 09, Nadal has nonetheless prevailed each time. So how does one go against that? Winner, until proven otherwise, or something.


Skorocel Says:

tennisfan#1 said: “I repeat. I am a Nadal fan!”

Had you took that “#1″ tag out of your nick, I’d have believed you, but this way it’s kind of appalling, you know… ;-)


Skorocel Says:

Ben: “11 months, Nadal fan, knees, it doesn’t matter. Nadal will win at least 2 of the Masters.”

Well, if he doesn’t win MC (without Fed, Soderling, Davy, JMDP) and Barcelona (without JMDP, possibly also without Soderling and Davy), then one really has to wonder about what’s in store for him in the months to come…


Polo Says:

I wonder why anybody has doubts about Nadal on clay. I saw how he played in Indian Wells and Miami and he played very well, on a surface where he is not considered to be at his best. Bring him back on clay and he will be more at home and definitely more confident the way a fish takes to water.


NELTA Says:

I’m not doubting Nadal either. If he plays like he did in Miami and IW he will win a few titles before the French. I am concerned he could become a victim of his own success by winning everything on clay then his body breaks down like last year.


Kimmi Says:

“Yep, I have to agree; I wouldn’t pick against Nadal on clay -basically ever, even when he’s playing against Fed. : )”

jane, I have to disagree. I think against fed in Master series is 50:50. against nadal i agree due to their past record. I could however pick Fededer over Djoko at RG due to federe GRAND SLAM record.

Last year they played one time on clay and Djokovic won the match in a close encounter. In 2008 they also played once in MC and Djokovic retired then. we don’t really have a lot of matches btw these two on clay to give federer the edge because they both demonstrated to be very good on that surface.

checking at their H2H. they also played on clay in 2006 MC..it was a close match also (three sets) even though djoko was not a force as he is now.


Kimmi Says:

“….even though djoko was not a force as he is now”

On my last para I could be wrong. I am not sure when Djoko really started to challenge the top guys, was it 2006 or 2007?


NELTA Says:

The MC draw is now showing on the ATP Challenge page, but I’m getting a blank page when I try and download it from the MC web site.


Kimmi Says:

NELTA: re: MC draw, just skimmed thru it, seem to be pretty fair. So federer is not playing, I can now relax knowing he is for sure not playing coz I though he might jump in for last minute WC.

Murray, OMG! every draw for him will be difficult on clay, defending a semi here..c’moon Murray get yourself going!


Kimmi Says:

Poor Tsonga, he gets nadal in the qtrs again. he can’t beat him on HC, maybe he could just manage on clay..not!


NELTA Says:

The draw looks stacked with good matches in the early rounds. Think what it would look like with Fed, Delpo, Davy, and Monfils in there. It’s still possible there could be some last minute changes to the draw which is what happened in Miami.


Mindy Says:

Ben,

Thanks for your kind words. It just bothers me when someone who is so obviously not a Rafa fan, comes on here and pretends to be his fan merely to take him down with utter nonsense.

The only qualm I have at the moment is Rafa’s left knee. I have to believe that it wasn’t serious or he would have called for the trainer or stopped playing, like he did at the AO in the quarterfinals against Murray.

On a Rafa forum, there was an interview in which he said that he was having some problem with the left knee, but declined to discuss it any further. He said that he’s talked about injuries so much and doesn’t want to do that anymore. So if there is anything going on, Rafa’s not talking.

I will just have to wait and see how he looks when he starts playing.


Rafa fan Says:

no one can beat Rafa in Monte-Carlo…On the hard he reached semifinal and on the Clay he will reach final and will win…King Of Clay and real Champion Rafa Nadal


Midpoint of the Clay Season, Nadal Still the King Says:

[...] my preview for the clay season, I listed several players who could potentially challenge Nadal on his turf. Fernando Verdasco has [...]

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