Roger Federer Returning To No. 1? Tim Henman Thinks So
by Tom Gainey | December 15th, 2011

For Top 10er Tim Henman thinks that Roger Federer can regain his No. 1 ranking. Speaking after a hit with the Swiss in London last month, Henman was not ruling out that his good friend could return to the top spot in men’s tennis.

“I think with a rolling ranking it will be interesting to see if Federer can get back to number one,” said Hemman who won six of seven matches against Federer, losing only in a retirement. “He is just short of Sampras’ record for most weeks at World Number One. I know Roger will really want to break that record, so I think it’s possible. I think he will win more Slams, I really do. If the conditions favour him then Roger at his best is still better than anyone else.”

Federer was ranked No. 1 for 285 weeks, just one excruciating week shy of Pete Sampras’s all time mark of 286.

The third-ranked Federer will have the luxury of not having to defend many points early in the season. Federer lost in the semifinals of the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami through the first three months of 2011, so he’ll have ground to gain next even by reaching the final.

But now 30 and with more competition from the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and of course Rafael Nadal, the odds are stacked against him to get back on top let alone win more Majors. Or maybe Henman was just having a “senior moment”.

Federer opens his 2012 season on December 30 at the Abu Dhabi exhibition followed by his title defense in Doha before the Australian Open.

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110 Comments for Roger Federer Returning To No. 1? Tim Henman Thinks So

Baily Says:

It’s not impossible. I do think he needs to win te AO atleast to have a chance for next year. If he would get back to number one it would be absolutely incredible. He probably wouldn’t keep that position long, as fed has a lot of ups and downs in a year but he doesn’t reallly have to remain on top for long. He just needs 2 weeks to overtake sampras.

Humble Rafa Says:

If he would get back to number one it would be absolutely incredible.

That would also cure depression among 2 million people who admire the Arrogant one. On the other hand, if he drops out of the top 10, we need to call in a Tennis-x psychiatrist.

Baily Says:

@humble rafa

Seriously don’t you have anything else to do then hate on federer. It’s kinda sad. Going by your name though you’re probably a die hard fan of rafa which would explain your behavior. It’s only unfortunate that fans like you can’t appreciate both. I for one am not a fan of nadal’s ‘gamesmanship’ but I still respect him for the champion he is and wouldn’t waste my time in bashing him. Maybe you should do the same and get rid of the anger you apparently have piled up.

mat4 Says:

@humble rafa:

There’s no cure for a broken heart.

Skeezerweezer Says:

HR a Fed hater? Lmao!

jane Says:

mat4, what about time? ;)

mat4 Says:


There was an american b serial here (the detective Nick Slaughter, if I remember well). And in one sequel, an old lady said:

“We keep saying we shall forgive, but never forget. The truth is that we always forget, and never forgive.”

It was twenty years ago. I didn’t forget. Nor forgive.

Happy you’re here, in the virtual ether.

mat4 Says:

Who could think there’s poetry in detective b stories?

jane Says:

You just never know where you will find poetry. :)

Dan Martin Says:

On one hand he has 3000 points in the bank until Nov. On the other, Novak won 3600 points at Canada, Cincinnati and the US Open so the math will be interesting to say the least. The fact that Roger is still in the thick of things in 2012 should give him some hope. In 2008 people were writing obits for him after the FO and Wimbledon.

skeezerweezer Says:


So true, btw….when is the last time Fed comes into a year without having to defend a gazillion points? He should make some headway….but it all comes down to…just win baby!!! I like his chances..imho it all depends on on his AO appearance, he needs a good start.

Michael Says:

How can you ever discount a Great Champion like Federer ? He is surely capable of regaining the No.1 spot. All that he has to do is to win about two majors in a year which is not impossible even at his age when he is in the pink of health and also playing relatively well. There are nagging doubts about the fitness level of Djokovic and Nadal, while Murray is always a non-starter in Majors and fumbles at the last post. Moreover, Djokovic has a mountain of points to defend and Nadal too which makes their task still tougher than say Federer. Federer has all to gain especially in the intial period of next year. I am sure, if he manages to win the Australian Open, then that will do his confidence a lot of good and from thereon he can take it forward to Wimbledon and US Open. I do not think Federer can win at the French Open though he surprised us last year with his brilliant performance. All things considering, Federer is always the best and we fans hope to see him emerge victorious and set more records.

Rob Says:

Roger can make it to Number One again, but maybe nor for long. Here’s hoping from a dedicated fan that he can clinch the AO. Would be a confidence booster for him and make his dedicated fans very, very happy. CoMMmmmmmmmmmmOOOnnnnnnnnn Rog.

Mila Says:

It is possible, of course.

However, Henman is the guy who, for several years in a row, kept thinking he could win Wimbledon. We all know how that has turned out.

I don’t know exact ranking points but believe that Roger needs to win at least 2 grand slams, but also the remaining 2 slams would have to be won by someone other than Novak or Rafael. Or Roger wins 3 slams and Novak and Rafael do not make finals, or something like that…
Yes, it is possible but not very realistic.

Skorocel Says:

Nice headline: “Roger Federer Returning To No. 1? Tim Henman Thinks So

And then we read: “Speaking after a hit with the Swiss in London last month, Henman was not ruling out that his good friend could return to the top spot in men’s tennis.”

Talk about giving the Fedtards a hardon here, LOL :-)

Cochran Says:

“Hemman who won six of seven matches against Federer, losing only in a retirement”

Well, he won six matches but lost 7 actually :

He won the first five

Dc Says:

All Fed needs to do is let Nole & Rafa battle it out, especially on the slower courts, where these two could take hours to finish a 3 setter.
Already broken by injuries, they would destroy each other in a few months leaving the field open for Fed to take a few masters and a slam or two and #1.

Alternatively, Fed could just play well.

Stella Says:

Can it happen? Sure! Why not!Nadal is limping into 2012 with a dismal game and outlook and Djokovic is backed against the wall with a gazillion points to defend.And there are some other guys just waiting for the chance to show what they can do.
Anything can happen but with Roger healthy and confident and with his game in tact there is every possibilty that he might win a few slams this year and get that #1 ranking back!

alison hodge Says:

@stella rafa had a solid year this year,and was the 2nd best player on tour,any other player would kill for that,and as he has said many times that hes looking forward to 2012 to try to turn things around,he may or may not do so,but i think he is still fully commited to next year no matter what,as for roger regaining the no 1 ranking its within the realms of possibility and so is a slam or 2,only time will tell i suppose.

alison hodge Says:

baily i have only been posting on the forum for a few months,and i still have no clue whatsoever of who humble rafa actually likes,for what its worth jmo i dont think he is a fan of his namesake either,so i wouldnt take it personally as an attack on fed,i dont know maybe its my british soh,but i just dont get him,others may feel differently to each his own i suppose,as brando says its the age of the internet everyones free to have an opinion,its just some are not worth bothering with.

opus Says:

Federer doesn´t play any worse today than a few years ago. The fact that he hit 30 doesn´t change that, so he could obviously regain the top ranking. Either way, I can´t wait for another year with top players like him, Nadal, Novak and Murray. Tennis fans, we live in exciting tennis times, and everyone should enjoy the party with Roger before it ends!

Kimberly Says:

Humble Rafa in my opinion is a mild Djokovic fan. At least he is the only one of the four he doesn’t rag on mercilessly.

With Roger being the Arrogant One, Murray being Mr. Lady Forehand, and Rafa cheats, and bathroom breaks, and butt picks, and MTOs etc, Djokovic was my guess. Any other guessers?

jane Says:

Humble Rafa likes to talk about the Egg, nah, I don’t guess that he is a Djokovic fan. I have always thought he is an ironic Rafa fan, jokingly poking fun at all the cliche criticisms people bring up against Rafa, most of which, as he shows, are rather silly.

alison hodge Says:

maybe kimberly or jane are right,dont get me wrong theres nothing wrong with my soh,i just find his posts confusing alot of the time,i would just be curious to know who he does like,although maybe thats the whole point,in that he does not want us to know,to keep us guessing.

Baily Says:

@alison hodge

Yeah your maybe right, I don’t know as I’m incapable of noticing irony sarcasme ect. I just can’t stand that you have a lot of annoying fans who always have to hate on someone whether it’s rafa, fed, djoko. I mean just enjoy tennis.

Humble Rafa Says:

Alternatively, Fed could just play well.

Now, that’s an idea worth exploring.

sar Says:

Some new Rafa Xixca photos, please excuse if these are already posted.

alison hodge Says:

thanks baily too right enjoy the tennis whether you love roger,rafa or nole,nothing anyone can say will ever change what any of them have already achieved,please just call me alison though,as i once said to the ever brilliant poster called grendel,you sound like one of my old school teachers telling me off when using my full name lol.

carlo Says:

Xisca looks especially lovely, sar. Nice looking family.

Isn’t Tim Henman a huge Federer fan?

Thangs Says:

If Rafa is not smart with his schedule in 2012, he is gonna risk his position and letting Fed to knock the door for No.1 position. Rafa must take break after Aussie until IW..And skip Madrid… that he can play with full potential.

I dont think Fed has a chance for No1 unless injury happens for nole and nadal.

alison hodge Says:

thangs one or the other been injured seems likely due to there physical style of play,both been injured at the same time is unlikely though,i think at the moment the number 2 ranking is more of a possibility,having said that rafa and especially nole both have a mountain of points to defend so who knows roger does have a chance of reclaiming the number 1 ranking,many say it will be hard for rafa,but what about nole too,what are the chances of him having another year like this one slim i would say,as rafas shedual i think judjing by the way hes been talking i think hopefully hes ready to cut down,reading between the lines.

Kimmi Says:

thanks sar. rafa sister looks very nice. pretty too

Dc Says:

@Humble Rafa Says:
Alternatively, Fed could just play well.

Now, that’s an idea worth exploring.
Fumble Rafa – Fed used this technique for a few years that helped him win 16 GS’s and made him the goat.
You are right – its time to re-explore.

Daniel Says:

Guys, Please!!

Humble Rafa is a Fed. He even started his first post in this forum: “If he would get back to number one it would be absolutely incredible.”

The fun part is that in order to mock Nadal (which is his sole purpose) he has to mock Federer either, which makes him so unic.

Thangs Says:

yes, i too believe that he is Fed fan..or else why to choose name ‘Humble Rafa’??

jane Says:

Daniel, thanks for clarifying that. So far we have that Humble Rafa is a Djokovic fan, a Rafa fan and a Fed fan, with the most votes for Fed fan. Maybe he is a Fedalovic (Skorocel’s word I think) fan? Unless we want to add in Mr. Lady Forehand, in which case, someone else must come up with the name for it. :)

Sar, those pictures are great. Nadal and Xisca look lovely all polished up, and wow Rafa’s sister looks a lot like her mother there.

carlo Says:

No, jane and Daniel – Humble Rafa didn’t say the following:

“If he would get back to number one it would be absolutely incredible.”

Baily said it in the 1st post of the thread, to which Humble Rafa replied:

“That would also cure depression among 2 million people who admire the Arrogant one. On the other hand, if he drops out of the top 10, we need to call in a Tennis-x psychiatrist.”

And I for one lol’d. Also, my guess is the same as Kimberly’s that Humble Rafa is a “mild Djokovic fan.” (If) indeed H.Rafa is a Federer fan, he or she is a fairly disgruntled one; my other guess.

Humble Rafa, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Or, leave us in mystery – it’s interesting this way, ha!

madmax Says:

Humble rafa, me thinks, is NOT a federer fan, nevertheless, he is still funny.

dari Says:

Haha, everyone is trying to decipher HR’s loyalties! He’s done a great job then, if we can’t quite figure it out. Cheers to you Humble!
I also rather enjoy @PseudoFed on Twitter. Between him and Humble Rafa its a lot of laughing out loud on the train

Kimmi Says:

humble rafa, mr. lady forehand, the arrogant one…wait, he/she hasn’t come up with djokovic nickname. he must be a djokovic fan!!

madmax Says:

What is really interesting about Federer is that for a player who is supposedly in decline, his statistics shown on the Ricoh stats site state the following. If you are interested in how the other players are performing, I’ve posted a link at the bottom:

Roger Federer showed he still has the game to compete with the world’s best by finishing the 2011 season with a 17-match winning streak.

Following a heartbreaking defeat to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the US Open semi-finals, Federer played his best tennis of the year in the final weeks of the season. His improvement can be measured with the RICOH ATP MatchFacts, which indicate significant upgrades in first serve points won and break points converted during his undefeated reign.

After triumphing in Basel and winning his first BNP Paribas Masters title in Paris, Federer hoisted a record sixth Barclays ATP World Tour Finals crown to return to the Top 3 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

Analysing Federer’s Win Streak

For the season, Federer ranked second behind leader Milos Raonic for first serve points won with 78.7 percent, but the Swiss has done more damage since the US Open, winning 83.2 percent of those points in his 17 match victories, a 4.5 percent difference.

Additionally, Federer, this year’s top dog in second serve points won with 57.1 percent, maintained his level by winning 58 percent of those points since the US Open.

His success on serve during this period has resulted in an improved service games won percentage, as Federer held serve 93.1 percent of the time. This is 4.1 percent higher than his season average of 89.6 percent, which ranks the 30 year old in second place behind John Isner, who claimed 90.7 percent of his service games.

The 16-time major champion has also been more opportunistic with his return game throughout the win streak. Placed outside of the season-long Top 10 in return games won at 28 percent (11th), Federer increased this figure to 31.4 percent.

But his most compelling return statistic was a dramatic improvement in break points conversion percentage. Ranked in just 29th position for the season with a 41.5 percent success rate, Federer was far more proficient during his title run, converting 49 percent of his break point opportunities, a 7.5 percent differential. Had he been this effective throughout the year, Federer would rank first in this category, ahead of Xavier Malisse, who converted 48.5 percent of his break point chances.

Below is a table comparing Federer’s season RICOH ATP MatchFacts with the numbers from his 17-match win streak.

MatchFacts Win Streak 2011 Season Differential
1st Serve Points Won 83.2% 78.7% +4.5%
2nd Serve Points Won 58.0% 57.1% +0.9%
Service Games Won 93.7% 89.6% +4.1%
Break Points Saved 67.7% 64.8% +2.9%
1st Serve Return Points Won 31.2% 33.0% -1.8%
2nd Serve Return Points Won 54.2% 51.3% +2.9%
Break Points Converted 49.0% 41.5% +7.5%
Return Games Won 31.4% 28.1% +3.3%

While Federer did not win at least one major title in a season for the first time since 2002, it’s interesting to note that his first serve points won percentage of 78.7 in 2011 is better than what he registered in the years he tasted Grand Slam glory, with the exception of 2009:
2010-78.2%; 2009-79.3%; 2008-76.9%; 2007-77.3%; 2006-76.7%; 2005-76.3%; 2004-78.2%; 2003-78.5%.

The Rest Of The Big Four
In contrast to Federer, who has relied on strong service numbers to stay at the top, the rest of the Big Four have depended on their return games.

World No. 1 Djokovic, second-ranked Rafael Nadal and World No. 4 Andy Murray marked themselves as the elite returners in 2011, placing inside the top four in three return categories.

Djokovic is at the front of the pack in return games won.

Thangs Says:

I don’t know how deep we can beleive these statistics. It may help to anyalyze certain extent. Fed’s statistics might have been improved over the years, but the thing is he didn’t win a slam in 2011..

madmax Says:

He’ll rectify that in Australia, I think – but I see it as a positive that Federer is actually back to where he wants to be in terms of a more aggressive game. I think the rest will follow.

Swiss Maestro Says:

Skorocel says:

Talk about giving the Fedtards a hardon here, LOL :-)


I will tell you something even more disgusting/pathetic – you seem to be getting a hardon imagining fedfans getting a hard on.

get out of your momma’s basement and get a life, jokerel.

Swiss Maestro Says:

The biggest things Roger has going for him is his efficient and smooth game that just flows like a river.

You see nole/rafa huffing/puffing their ways to victories. Roger never had to exert himself so much physically as he is the most aggressive player of all time. [sampras had a more attacking serve game and connors/agassi had a more attacking return game] but when you look at the overall game. fed comes out as the most lethal player of all time.

This conservation of energy/effort bodes well for the mozart of tennis as he plans to play well into his 30s like connors/agassi/rosewall. To quote steve tignor : “Federer used to outplay players at his prime, now he is outlasting”.

The odds on fed’s career outlasting rafa/nole’s career are getting shorter by the day. I will be a millionaire if Rafa retires before Fed. I have wagered some good money on Fed retiring after rafa, way back in 2008. I am wondering if I should check the odds on fed outlasting nole/murray’s career.

I know a lot of morons who predicted fed would be retiring by 2009 (mostly of the skorocel ilk) and fed slammed them bad. real bad.

Let’s just hope skorocel’s wife wont do a bobbit on him if and when federer gets to no.1 [why else would he be fantasizing fed fans having a hardon!]

Swiss Maestro Says:


thanks for those stats. let’s hope rogi takes those numbers forward to 2012. the break point conversion is the most critical. Even at his peak, fed wasted break points by the buckets.

ofcourse since he is not a scrapper like nole/rafa/murray and keeps changing gears depending on match situation, it is always going to be a challenge for fed to be great on bp conversion, but as you say, if he can keep being positive on the return, the pay-off could be substantial.

grendel Says:

To say Federer is the most aggressive player of all time is unduly dogmatic imo. The smoothest and most energy conserving, undoubtedly.

Connors, on the other hand, was one of the huffers and puffers. When he was 19, I think, and had either just beaten the 39 (?) year old Rosewall for the Wimbledon title or was just about to beat him, he was asked if he thought he could last as long as the little Aussie. He demurred, citing Roseall’s velvety smooth style of play as contrasted to his own bustling, energy sapping play.

And yet oddly, Connors, in terms of matches played outlasted them all (please? it’s true, isn’t it?) Incidentally, in retrospect, whoever that was doing the interviewing, what remarkable foresight he showed. What was it about the 19 year old Connors that might have lead anyone to suspect an immensely long career? I recall one sporting journalist suggesting that Connors at 26 was already too old.

We all make mistakes.

Swiss Maestro Says:

Grendel :

check which of those 2 won more GS beyond the age of 35.

Swiss Maestro Says:

If I remember right, connors won his last GS at 31 and rosewall won 3slams after 35.

let us not forget rosewall played much more doubles matches too.

there is no doubt that a player with an efficient and less-taxing game style will out last a guy who has to grind out wins.

taking federer and rafa/nole. federer @ 30 has outlasted these 2 when they are 25/24 respectively. let us be clear these 2 have had no MAJOR injury issues. it is also quite clear that this is not the only year. federer averages more matches per year than these guys since they turned pro.

76.38 for Fed, 65.7 for rafa and 63.13 for djokovic, but hey why talk about facts when we can build castles in thin air, eh?

Swiss Maestro Says:

oh also, connors/agassi were baseliners, but they were not grinders like rafa. they were aggressive baseliners. nole is obviously not a grinder like rafa but compared to connors/agassi his game is much more taxing on his body, not to mention he has more “quit” in him than those 2 as proved by his retirements.

is there a player who has had more weapons than Roger to end a point? serve, return, volley, groundstrokes,forehand, backhand, overheads, lobs, up-down movement, lateral movement, finesse, power. if you assign points out of 10 to each of those, can you tell me a player who would outscore roger? i think laver would be the closest, followed by rosewall/borg.

grendel Says:

Swiss Maestro – A propensity to shout can sometimes blind you to what is in front of you. My point about Connors was a fairly innocent one, simply that he appeared to be rather an exception to the rule. I have often wondered about that. There are limits to it, though, and certainly he was finished for the highest honours at an earlier age than Rosewall – as you would expect.

Labelling is difficult. Connors himself was happy to describe himself as a grinder providing this wasn’t seen in a limiting way. Certainly he was an aggressive player overall. When Connors commented at Wimbledon, he rather identified with Nadal whom he greatly admired. And to describe Nadal simply as a grinder is unrecognizeable to me, at any rate. Nadal’s use of aggression is stunning when he’s on, and most unusual too. I have never seen a player quite like him. I am sorry that I have never been able to warm to him, for reasons which are mostly not admirable.

The thing about a word like “aggression” is that it is open to so many different interpretations. The qualities you attribute to Federer – pretty contentious in some eyes, I would say, though not in mine – I would prefer to gather under the heading of “variety”. In my book, no player has displayed more variety than Federer. But as tennis fans, we are not scientists, making conclusive and objective statements about players. Human beings don’t lend themselves easily to that sort of measurement, thank the lord. We bring our own perceptions and tastes to bear upon sport.

It is difficult,though, since obviously comparisons can be made. Some players just are objectively better than others. The poet Robert Graves tells a funny story at the outset of his autobiography “Goodbye To All That” (largely an account of the horrors of the trenches in World War 1.) When being interviewed for entry to University, a puzzled professor complained that he (Graves) had eccentric views regarding literature.”It appears, indeed,” the professor concluded “that you prefer some authors to others”.

We can prefer some tennis players to others, I think, whilst conceding that tastes differ. Watching Djokovic this season, I do understand how some people feel he plays more thrilling tennis than anybody else. It is a special brand of greatness he displays, and I see no point in trying to downplay it.

As for the very best, nobody really knows. Perhaps the concept is just incoherent – like saying Beethoven is better than Mozart, or the other way round. Some people think McEnroe is the most talented ever. Many have gone for Lew Hoad, including Jack Kramer, and some still around – Frew Macmillan for instance – think he (Kramer) was the best. Laver and Gonzalez of course have their advocates.

I don’t deny the potency of records. I am as anxious as any Federer fan that he hangs onto his solitary perch with his 16 slam haul, and if he can add to it, so much the better. But records aren’t everything, and I confess to a sneaking regard for cavaliers like Lew Hoad who seemed to care little for such things.

It is possible to believe several apparently contradictory things before breakfast without necessarily being weak in the head. In fact, science (on this occasion) rather bears one out, with the current modular theory of brain processes. Don’t know about anyone else, but I have often felt warring factions inside of myself, sometimes pulling in opposite directions, and it is reassuring to know that this is not necessarily indicative of terminal nuttiness.

jane Says:

Great post grendel and the one about Teapotism was very funny too. I liked “Goodbye to All That” and I like some things, including some tennis players and writers, more than others. Human tastes are wild and unruly.

mat4 Says:


As usual, I enjoyed your post.


Borg was the personification of a grinder. I hated him so much…

About the number of matches:

I thought about it lately, and I am more and more convinced that it is not a question of physique, but of mental, especially emotional fatigue.

For Djoko and Rafa, a year when they play the other three from the top more than ten times each, or six times each in decisive matches in GSs, is very taxing. First, it was a fight to the death between them starting with Madrid. It was also a electrifying rivalry between Roger and Djoko in the slams (they played three times). Those kind of matches took a big toll on the players.

We should also notice that, from 2007, Roger is playing less. There are more than one reason for that, but I am certain that those kind of savage encounters, matches that you can lose – even when you win, affect a player very much. We have been witnesses of Novak’s slumps after his repeated defeats against Rafa in 2008, we all know about AM’s, but it is fair to noticed that Roger had some difficult post AO months: he played badly in Dubai, he was shaky in IW and awful in Miami. He needed months to recover.

But Roger is not an emotional player. And what’s more important, he is a great server. That’s the difference between his matches against Novak at the AO and those in Paris and New York: in Australia, he couldn’t rely on his serve to protect himself, he had to fight for every point. At the USO, he wisely choose to relax when broken, to be mentally fresh for the following set.

Nadal and Djokovic don’t do that. And they can’t rely on a big serve to win free points and stay calm. That’s why their matches with each other take so much from them.

Novak is in a similar position against Roger: he has no easy solutions, can’t rely on his serve so much and has to win every point. One false step and the set is lost.

So, I am not surprised he feels “overloaded”. I am not surprised Rafa is weary. The rivalry of the big three, or the big four, is taking his tribute. In more than one way.

mat4 Says:

This reminds me a chess anecdote: somebody asked Paulsen (a great player then) what he thought about Steinitz’s (the world champion) slow beginning of a tournament. Paulsen replied: “Don’t worry about Steinitz, he has an unfair advantage over all of us. He hasn’t got to play against… Steinitz.”

Roger has an unfair advantage over the others. He hasn’t got to play against himself.

Humble Rafa Says:

Roger has an unfair advantage over the others. He hasn’t got to play against himself.

What kind of non-sense is this?

I have an advantage too. I don’t have to face a certain moon baller on clay.

Daniel Says:


I agree with Swiss Maestro on this one, Federer once himself even said that against Nadal he was the one taking all the risks.
I think the only player who makes Federer not be the most aggressive player on court is Tsonga, when playing Fed!:) By far Fed is the player who prepare and trigger to finish the point as sons as possible, in history I may add. The servers seems more aggressive due to serve, as Sampras. But to take control of the court as Federer does, I can’t see nobody else…People have to change every time they lay him, exception Nadal, but when Fed is on his Top level, not even him can sustain (WTF 11′)

On Humble Rafa topic, if he were a Nole fan, he must have another alias, because he never posts anything related to Djokovic, is always pro Fed, with irony and against Nadal. The “arrogant one” is the contrast to Humble Rafa, and he always uses it with a different tone, that’s why is so funny. At least it’s my take. The only way for him/she to be a Nole fan is if he/she is one of the regular Djoko fans. But you guys have a point, if I am not mistaken, Humble Rafa only appears on this blog this year, When Djoko raised. Food for thought…

Daniel Says:

mat4, agree with everything you say in your previous posts.

Djoko mental state is the problem. And the question going to AO 2012 is: will he be ready?! Maybe the recent loss send him back to earth and the other players mentally can change against him as well. It’s like the players will think: ohh, that’ was just a one of year. And he himself in his mind have to find the mental energy once again. If he second thought for a minute this latest experience in his head, he can pay for it.

As much as he fully deserved the US Open, not even he, if he remember those minutes in the final set where suddenly he was 15-40 2 match points down on Federer serve, that he will be lifting the trophy a few days later?! And the way he alms lost the match when Nadal win set 3. To me they are all signs of a mini slump, together with injures. Will see, to me this AO is a toss up between top 3. Murray only have a shot if he doesn’t face Djoko Nadal or Fed in the finals. The pressure will be huge if he reaches another final and if he met one of the big 3, to me they will eat him alive.

Kimberly Says:

Humble Rafa appeared during the French Open if I am correct, when Nadal stated he was not a contender to win the tournament and he had no confidence prior to its start. When he beat Soderling HR came out with “i play really bad, no” etc and then during WImbledon (3 unforced errors is waay to many I will practice for 6 hours, no playstation). He is one of my favorite posters for a good laugh even though he bags on my guy. Frankly I wish Rafa would get a little more arrogant. He is too self-depreciating in his pressers. You know inside his head he is more confident and he is just trying to be polite but he takes it too far.

grendel Says:

Daniel – I think you have the Humble Rafa puzzle just right. When you say:”Federer once himself even said that against Nadal he was the one taking all the risks.”, that puts me in mind of this, from mat4′s interesting link:

“Many years ago, Ivan Lendl solved the puzzle of Jimmy Connors. Connors’ flat style, his hard charging tactics really pressured Lendl and Connors won many of their early meetings. One day, Lendl decided to push. Slice that backhand. Give Connors no pace to work with and keep doing this over and over and over. As long as he kept the ball deep, Connors was not prepared to attack and despite being one of the steadiest flat players in the game, he would eventually cough up an error. Connors exclaimed that he would rather lose playing like a man then win playing like a woman. Lendl, clearly unaffected by this taunt, simply preferred winning.”

Don’t you just love Connors’ “I’d rather lose playing like a man…..”

Earlier, this writer says:”At one point in the Australian Open semis, Federer seemed puzzled what to do. He tried playing his usual style, but couldn’t hit through Djokovic. For a few games, he tried moonballing and off-pace junk, and that worked for a while, but then he went back to hitting out as if he felt dirty playing that way.” The Lendl/Connors comment follows, and the writer adds: “Perhaps Federer felt this way. In any case, Djokovic had a straight set win over Federer, perhaps one of the more shocking of the year.”

I remember making some such comment on this site at the time, and you came in and agreed. At any rate, you may well be right about the aggression, I’m not really sure. I CAN say this: I have seen Nalbandian, Davydenko, Murray, Djokovic, Kuerten, Gonzalez (above all the last 2 – in one match each)all boss Federer around, although Davydenko could never keep it up sufficiently to win. Others, too – Hewitt, Roddick, Haas have all dictated against Federer for at least patches of matches. Federer has great staying power, and usually did a Houdini in these matches. So I don’t think it is straightforward. Nevertheless, overall, Federer tends to be in control, and if you want to call that aggressive (one might say, instead, that it is demonstrative of great skill), fair enough. Actually, Federer sometimes seems to me like a prize fighter in this sense: for 4 or 5 games he will go all out as if trying to floor his man, producing the most extraordinary pyrotechnics. Then he seems to relax, as if content that he has knocked the stuffing out of his man. Nadal was the first player to ride this particular type of storm, and he did show the way to a few others.

re what you have to say about Djokovic at the US Open. In a recent interview (which annoyingly I can’t locate) Nadal said he felt that even though he lost, he was on the right track to finding a way to beat Djokovic, whereas he hadn’t done so at Wimbledon. Is this the sort of thing you meant? Actually, I thought Nadal’s comment was surprising.

mat4 Says:


You’re right, of course. It was the logical presupposition of this sentence. On the other side, it was not the only one.

Daniel Says:


agree about players having dominate Federer for patches, but overall, career wise against the entire field since 2004 (7-8 years), in terms of agression is Federer, hands down. It’s like he played 90% of those 1000+ matches begin aggressive. You can’t make the case for any other player.

Kimberly you are spot on, it was after the French Open remarks about confidence, it’s like the person under Humble Rafa felt: this is just too much, I have to come forward, and the gem Humble Rafa came to life:)

Dave Says:

Carlos Moya: “If we talk of perfection, the one that comes very close and Federer. In 2004 and 2005 he was unbeatable. Djokovic seems to have taken the same road, but for me, perfection is not just about winning matches, but as you win, how do the shots and the way that you move on the field. I think if we consider these aspects perfection is Federer. it’s hard to make comparisons, especially for me that I have not seen Rod Laver or other players of his generation, but I’ve seen Federer play and is definitely the person who comes closest to being perfect.”

John Newcombe (23 grand slam titles): “It’s not going to surprise me if, by the end of July next year, Roger is very close to being No.1 again.”

‘Can Roger Federer maintain his Slam form in his 30′s the way Andre Agassi did? “I think he’s going to have a big year next year,” Gilbert said. “A Slam? Yeah. I thought he’d have to do something different to win one this year. Change a racket or something drastic. But he just kept doing what he does. I mean, the guy never sweats.” Gilbert believes that Federer can win a major next year… Gilbert, who coached Agassi, sees some parallels with Federer. “Roger can take a lot of stock in what Andre did seven years ago,” Gilbert said. “He was in the finals of the U.S. Open at the age of 35. He won the Aussie Open at the age of 32. I think Roger’s in better physical shape than Andre. I can see him playing until he’s 35.” ‘

“I’ve seen plenty of great players at 30,” said Brad Gilbert, who coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, “and they seem old. I’ve seen nothing of that with Fed. “Obviously, his career has been epic from 20 to 30. But he’s kept himself in phenomenal health. He hasn’t lost a stitch of hair. He plays young.”…”People want to write the obituary,” Gilbert said. “I give the guy the next three years, 12 majors in the thick of things. I mean, he’s right there. For him, that’s what’s more frustrating than anything. He isn’t some guy who thinks he had a great tournament getting to the quarters — he wants to win… I won’t take away from Djokovic and Nadal. They’re five, six years younger. (Federer) pushed those guys to another level. Man, the only thing he’s guilty of is making the other guys better.”

‘Agassi won two majors after his 30th birthday — the 2001 and 2003 Australian Opens. He also reached two more Grand Slam finals, this time at the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2005. “I saw it with my own eyes,” Cahill said. “If you’re looking for a guy to say Roger can’t do it, you’ve got the wrong guy. I mean, look at the history. It is possible… I thought the French Open was his least chance to win a major. After seeing [2011], you have to believe he can still win any of them.” ‘

grendel Says:


I like what Moya has to say, and personally go along with it. It is subjective, though. Tastes differ, thank goodness.

Apart from the people Dave instances, there’s a lot of people thinking this is going to be Federer’s year. Just to be personal (the views of nobodies can be interesting in the sense that they appear to be representative), my elder son said to me yesterday on the phone:”so, what do you think of Federer’s chances next year?” I equivocated a bit, and he laughed.”You always put on a pessimistic air. I don’t see anyone who can beat Federer at the moment”. “What about del Potro?”, I countered. His voice visibly brightened over the phone. “I hope delPo’s coming back to his best and can win something….”

Humble Rafa Says:

Some “Fed-in-the head” people feel win a slam or two before he is done. But I am a very rational and organized person (butt picks, water bottle line up, 5 step run to baseline when I step on court etc). So, naturally, I analyze before I make conclusion.

Aus Open: Courts are too slow for Fed. He can’t hit through opponents like Djokovic. So no, Aus Open going forward.

“Your Humble Highness” Open: Fed’s only French Open was possible because of one thing. No, not destiny or other crap. I had a bad day. To win another French, he has to beat Djokovic AND ME. It won’t happen.

Wimbledon: Fed is having big time trouble against big servers. He can’t win return games anymore. Look for a losses to Mohammad Ali, Crazy Tommy, The Aussie, Birdsh*t, etc.

Flushing Meadows Fish Market Open: Now that the schedule has been “freed up”, the old man “may” have a shot. The courts are still fast enough for him to win. But as we all know, Roger’s favorite place to choke is the US Open. He goes the hatrick choke next year. We will see. If he is going to win another slam, it has to happen in the NY fish market, where everyone talks, on the phone, neighbors, etc as the point is played.

Your Humble Highness also recommends that Roger hire “Old Age Specialist Coach” Brad Gilbert. The contract should specifically state that Brad is only allowed to talk about tennis to Roger.

Your Humble Highness also predicts that Roger will end up with 4 kids before he hangs it up.

rogerafa Says:

There is bad news for those banking on less than 100% Nadal, Murray and Djokovic for Roger’s 2011-end ‘streak’ to continue into the new year. Sorry guys! I don’t mean to shorten the period of euphoria,hype and optimism but I think a reality check is needed. All of them are fit and ready for the new season. This can only mean trouble for Roger.

rogerafa Says:


I agree with your reasons regarding the first three majors but I don’t see the possibility of a win even at the US open. Djokovic and Murray should be able to prevent that. Then there are the likes of Del Potro, Berdych and Tsonga.

Gilbert won’t sign the contract if he is told to shut his mouth:-)

Jamie’s friend suggested that Roger would have a second wife. I wonder if the other two children will be hers.

I also congratulate you on having successfully created and sustained the suspense around the player who you like. I am surprised by the speculation though. I can not recall any poster engendering this much discussion about who their favorite player was. I wonder if you will ever spill the beans yourself. You must be having a bit of a chuckle…

Thangs Says:

/*Apart from the people Dave instances, there’s a lot of people thinking this is going to be Federer’s year*/ Because his fanbase is high, it sounds so.. Rafa’s fans think that he could go for GYGS next year..Nole fans thinks the same. Murray fans think he would win Wimby/Olympic double..Its all hype. Amoung top 4, one would be slamless next year…Any guess who it is?

Cindy Brady Says:

I dont know about his favorite player, but I have a hunch that HR is homo$3xual. Let us hope HR will be humble enough to spill the beans on that one.

If I have to guess his favourite player, I would say nole. I know he is too smart/funny to be a djokovic fan [not that it takes much] but this is the internet and as someone said a jillion monkeys typing on jillion keyboards could recreate even shaksperean works. a funny post is nothing [probabilistically speaking] compared to that.

grendel Says:

@Cindy Brady:”a jillion monkeys typing on jillion keyboards could recreate even shaksperean works”.

Richard Dawkins has calculated that the odds of one monkey typing “methinks it is like a weasel” – just that single phrase from Shakespear’s Hamlet – are 10^40 (10 thousand million million million million million million) against. Of course, if you could assemble 10^40 monkeys, each with its own typewriter, then one of them would indeed type “methinks it is like a weasel”. And, for that matter “grendel is a stupendous bore”
and “Ben Pronin will win a grand slam” and “George Bush fancies the Queen” and so on. But how would you assemble that many monkeys? Apparently, if all the matter in the Universe was reshaped into monkeys, that still wouldn’t be enough.

Now that’s just for a 6 word phrase. Imagine typing the entire Shakespearean cannon. The numbers simply don’t bear thinking about, and it is only theoretically possible if you are allowed to extend the age of the Universe to the degree where perhaps there will no longer be a universe – just zillions of dead particles floating in infinite space. No monkeys left.

grendel Says:


I don’t think the optimism over Federer’s prospects has anything to do with his fan base. Obviously the diehard Fedfans will be optimistic, but I get the impression lots of non-Fed are tipping Federer.

It’s only partly because of Federer’s late run this year. The other half of the equation is to do with his rivals. Nobody really believes Djokovic can be the force he was this year. Djokovic himself says (from rogerafa’s 1st link):”I think it doesn’t make any sense to be anything other than optimistic. I need to believe in my qualities and my abilities and I need to believe that I can repeat the success.” That doesn’t sound convincing to me. For one thing, you either are optimistic or you aren’t – it’s got nothing to do with sense. Djokovic sounds like he is on a think positive course.

Then there is Nadal. There is a degree of scepticism around that he can recapture his old form. And Murray is Murray – he still has it all to prove.

Of course, none of this means Federer WILL do well. Not at all. Nobody has any real idea what is going to happen, we can just make semi-educated guesses. And right now, the omens are a little bit brighter for Federer than they were this time last year.

If I was kidnapped, and my kidnapper said that I had to predict whether or not Federer would win a grand slam this year, and after the US Open, I would be released or executed according to whether I had got it right or not- and I knew that he meant it, something about his eyes made it impossible to doubt him: then, with a great deal of fear and hesitation, I would predict one grand slam for Federer. I wouldn’t have done that last year.

Dave Says:

You believe soundbites the players’ publicists have trained them to say.

Djokovic has probably been injury free since late September, if this soccer match is any indication (see link). The day after his theatrical retirement against Del Potro at Davis Cup, Djokovic announced his injury was not serious. One week later he played in the soccer match, and was reported as moving well. However, a few days after the soccer match it was announced he had still not recovered and would be skipping the Shanghai Masters, lol. And magically, Djokovic’s not-serious injuries managed to continue for the next two months into Basel, Paris and WTF, even though he played only 8 matches after the US Open. But of course Novak is now conveniently fully fit two weeks after the WTF.

Djokovic has claimed “nothing has changed” in his training and diet, and he is doing the same routine. But a lot has changed. For one, his magic doctor Igor Cetojevic — who can do far more for a sportsman than just gluten free diets — is not longer with him. NomCetojevic, no mojo for Djokovic. Second, when Djokovic won the Australian Open in 2008 and 2011, he used the Hopman Cup in Perth as his main preparation for the Australian Open. He arrived in Australia before the New Year and trained for at least three weeks there in both years. This year he also trained with Andy Murray in early January, after the Hopman Cup. Instead of sticking to his routine, Djokovic is following the money to the Mubadala exhibitition. If Djokovic is smart, he’ll lose to Gael Monfils, take his million dollar appearance fee and go to Doha, lose early, take his appearance fee and fly straight to Australia. Otherwise Federer is going to tank his Mubadala match to Djokovic to let him and Rafa wear themselves out… if Tsonga doesn’t beat Nadal again. In most years Federer won the Australian Open, he lost the exhibition event so he really does not care about putting in 100% effort into exhibitions.

(Look for Berdych, Mardy Fish and Verdasco to benefit from the Hopman Cup).

Nadal has been targeting a return to No. 1, since October… working hard with a Portuguese junior. So far it hasn’t helped.

As for Andy Murray… heard all that before.

jane Says:

Djokovic is already there, preparing for 2012.

Dave Says:

Humble Rafa… must be another “Fed-in-the head” person given how much you like to talk about Federer.

Federer won last year’s Doha tourney, also on plexicushion (assuming the court speed is the same). Federer obliterated Davydenko (see link) just a little better than Davydenko obliterated Nadal who went on to win the doubles.

Federer won the 2010 Australian Open beating both Tsonga and Murray in straight sets on this same plexicushion surface.

If the next Australian Open is at normal temperatures, look for Federer to hit through any opponent. When Federer crushed Lucas Lacko in the first round of the 2011 AO (Lacko had bageled Nadal in a set just two weeks earlier), Mats Wilander said “I have never seen Roger or anyone ever play better than he did in the first two sets winning both 6-1″

What was different at the 2011 Australian Open? Most importantly, the night matches were unusually cool which dampened the effectiveness of Federer’s shots. Thus Federer had trouble not only against Djokovic but also Gilles Simon in night matches. Had the night matches been at normal seasonal temperatures or if their match was played during the day, it’s quite possible Federer would have beaten Djokovic. Djokovic may have beaten Federer in straight sets, but it was a closer match than most Nadal-Djokovic matches — Djokovic won only 51% of total points (on the other hand, every time Djokovic beat Nadal this year, he won 53 to 54% of total points). Second, Djokovic was considered the fourth favorite to win the Australian Open, so the improved Djokovic caught Fedeerer and others by surprise. Third, Federer also wasted his time (on charity matches with Rafa at Christmastime and then helping to initiate a charity event for the Australian flood victims).

It takes too much arrogance to look beyond the Australian Open, even though Humble Rafa claims to have figured it all out. As Humility is my middle name, I won’t confirm fed’s calendar year grand slam just yet.

jamie Says:

Djokovic is trying to become the fourth player in the Open Era to win 3 consecutive slams after:

Pete Sampras (1993-94)

Roger Federer (2005-06, 2006-07)

Rafael Nadal (2010)

Wog boy Says:

Dr Igor Cetojevic finished with Novak after Wimbledon and that was part of agreement with Novak, he is not miracle man, otherwise we would see him commanding milion dollar fee, he doesn’t and as I can see he is not in demand by other tennis players, he did good job when it comes to food, how to eat, what to eat and when to eat. He has learned that from Chinese tradition. Novak changed few thing last/this year, not only one, and it worked. He brought fitness guru( Thomas Musters one) in his team, few things that had nothing to do with tennis were taken off his back by his familly, finally, so he could focus on tennis and only tennis and not business. The most important thing, he MATURED, very much, his mind was at the right place, “he learned how to forget point that he just lost and concentrate on next one”Sampras, and few more things. And he had Lady luck with him couple of times, but that comes together as package deal with other things.
I look at this year as break against other three players, 2012 is going to show us whether he can convert that brake, or other three are going to break back. I hope he can convert that break what is really going to put him where, I believe, he belongs, top shelf of greatest tennis player ever, but if he doesn’t….well, there is always nex year.
Either way ,match is still on and I love it.

P.S. His schedule in the first three months is telling me that he plans to go full throttle from Miami on, those midyear six months are going to be very, very demanding, somebody is going to crack, hopefully not may man.

Wog boy Says:

“greatest tennis PLAYERS ” not “player”. That mistake changed meaning of what I wanted to say, he can not be greatest…not yet :-)

Michael Says:

Now coming to the Australian Open, I would give the edge to Novak Djokovic with Federer and Murray coming next (exactly in that order) as favourites. Nadal is not finding my favour because his record here is not so colorful with one just one trophy and a semi-final. Yet you can never discount Nadal and may be he might surprise us. The dark horse will be Tsonga, Del Potro and may be Berdych. I cannot think of any other winner.

alison hodge Says:

i agree with micheal although rafa wont be the favourite at the ao,he could still surprise everybody(time will tell),it was 2008 when nole won his 1st grand slam at the ao,and it was not till 3 years later that he did the same again,it will also be 3 years since rafa won the ao,so its possible he could do it again so who knows,one things for sure rafa loves to proove people wrong,i just hope hes fully fit this year unlike the last two years.

Dave Says:

Wog Boy, some of your comments have been paraphrased from various comments Djokovic made to the media… which Novak has surely been coached by his paid publicist what to say.

In the mess after winning the Australian Open, Djokovic let his guard down. He admitted that Dr Igor is “a great psychologist” as well, suggesting that the magic doctor helped him with his mind, not just diet. If Dr Igor helped him with other treatments, why would Djokovic reveal his secrets?

Dr Igor is not a conventional medical doctor, so his diagnosis of gluten sensitivity is not a mainstream medical diagnosis — though it doesn’t mean it was not valid. But there are many better experts on gluten sensitivity and diets than Dr. Igor. For all we know, the supposed gluten sensitivity was the cover story cooked up or blown up to explain Djokovic’s sudden improvement in performance. In any case, a gluten sensitivity diet has litle to do with Chinese medicine (you’ll eat gluten in the Chinese diet, and tradional chinese medicine does not address gluten).

Anyone who has a deep understanding of holistic/altermative/integrated/complementary medicine knows that Dr Igor can and does do much more than just diets. He can apply electrical, magnetic and other energy fields too stimulate the body, and thus help improve performance. It’s unlikely any rich patient would use such a magic doctor with those multidisciplinary skills — and keep him on your entourage — just for a gluten-free diet. You don’t need a doctor to follow you around to keep watch on your diet — a cheaper nutritionist or special would be more than suffice, or even a disciplined member of your team. Even on the diet aspect, Dr Igor would have probably done more than just recommend a gluten free diet — he would have used his machine to identify those foods most and least compatible for Djokovic’s body and performance, even if they are unrelated to gluten sensitivity.

You don’t know that Djokovic didn’t pay a million dollar fee to have on his entourage Dr Igor, who proudly states on his website “During 2010 – 2011, Dr. Igor worked with the Serbian tennis star, Novak Djokovic, helping him to reach the number one ranking in the tennis world.” Maybe the media scrutiny of what Dr Igor was doing for Djokovic is what led to some media reports in September that Djokovic had fired Dr. Igor. The period of Djokovic’s improved performance August 2010 to August 2011 roughly corresponds to the period that Djokovic worked with and benefitted from Dr Igor. By Cincinnati and the US Open there were signs that Djokovic was struggling.

Most tennis players seem quite backward on these issues — just look at Federer and his bouts with mononucleosis, pneumonia and back injury. Most tennis players and their coaches lack the knowledge on such matters. Djokovic is probably on the leading edge by employing alternative medicine experts like like Dr Igor – but as a Serbian national hero he also has the best and brightest Serbians willing to help him or advise him what to do.

Dave Says:

jamie, Rod Laver also won 3 consecutive slams in the Open era (1969), though it was part of his four straight to achieve the Calendar Year Grand Slam.

Both Sampras and Nadal’s three consecutive slams were book ended with quarterfinal losses in the slam they failed to win, before and after. Nadal lost in the quarterfinals of both the 2010 and 1011 Australian Opens. Sampras lost in the quarterfinals of both the 1993 and 1994 French Opens. On the other hand, Federer lost in the 2005 French Open semifinal and 2006 French Open final. He also lost in the 2006 and 2007 French Open finals. During the period Federer won the 2009 French Open, 2009 Wimbledon and 2010 Australian, he was just a couple of points from winning the 2009 US Open against del Potro.

If Djokovic wins three consecutive slams at the Australian, it would be a tremendous feat arguably better than Sampras and Nadak’s accomplishment.

Michael Says:

@Dave dec20 11.03. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. You seem to have done a lot of research relating to the serb’s success. What do u think is the REAL reason he has suddenly become SUPERMAN?

jamie Says:

Dave Says:

Both Sampras and Nadal’s three consecutive slams were book ended with quarterfinal losses in the slam they failed to win, before and after. Nadal lost in the quarterfinals of both the 2010 and 1011 Australian Opens. Sampras lost in the quarterfinals of both the 1993 and 1994 French Opens. On the other hand, Federer lost in the 2005 French Open semifinal and 2006 French Open final. He also lost in the 2006 and 2007 French Open finals. During the period Federer won the 2009 French Open, 2009 Wimbledon and 2010 Australian, he was just a couple of points from winning the 2009 US Open against del Potro.


Well, Federer is better than Sampras and Nadal.

If Djokovic wins three consecutive slams at the Australian, it would be a tremendous feat arguably better than Sampras and Nadak’s accomplishment.



grendel Says:

Can there be such a thing as a deep knowledge of Alternative Therapy? Even the title is dubious. For, as a matter of simple logic, should an “alternative therapy” ever achieve results in line with statistical significance, it would no longer be “alternative”, but, automatically, would come under the rubric of “conventional” medicine.

Perhaps the alternative medicine which has come closest, in the public eye, to being successful is acupuncture. But this has been severely questioned by investigators. Ben Oldacre, for instance, in Bad Science:”a review of trials of acupuncture for back pain showed that the studies which were properly blinded showed a tiny benefit for acupuncture, which was not statisticaslly significant. Meanwhile, the trials which were not blinded – the ones where the patients knew whether they were in the treatment group or not – showed a massive, statistically significant benefit for acupuncture. (The placebo control for acupuncture, in case you’re wondering, is sham acupuncture, with fake needles, or needles in the “wrong” places, although an amusing complication is that sometimes one school of acupuncturists will claim that another school’s sham needle location are actually their genuine ones)”. Oldacre goes on to comment:”So, as we can see, blinding is important, and not every trial is necessarily any good. You can’t just say,”Here’s a trial that shows this treatment works”, because there are good trials, or “fair tests” and there are bad trials.”

And, one might add, there is cheating. For instance, the series “Alternative Medicine: The Evidence”, presented on BBC2 television, “was the subject of a successful complaint at the highest level, on account of it misleading the audience. Viewers believed they had seen a patient having chest surgery with only acupuncture as anaesthesia: in fact this was not the case, and once again the patient had received an array of conventional medications to allow the operation to be performed.” Ben Oldacre adds in a footnote:”The series also featured a brain-imaging experiment on acupuncture, funded by the BBC, and one of the scientists involved came out afterwards to complain not only that the results had been overinterpreted (which you would expect from the media, as you will see), but moreover, that the pressure from the funder – that is to say, the BBC – to produce a positive result was overwhelming. This is a perfect example of the things which you do NOT do in science……The programme was defended by the BBC in a letter with ten academic signatories. Several of these signatories have since said they did not sign the letter. The mind really boggles.”

And that’s acupuncture. Igor Cetojevik mentions on his web site:”More recent developments include homeopathy, Bach Flowers, Cranial-Sacral, Chiropractic, Sound and Colour therapies, REM, EFT, biofeedback, and many, many more.” These “remedies” are far less reputable than acupuncture – see Ben Oldacre again for an incisive analysis of homeopathy – and barely go beyond the idea of mumbo-jumbo.

As to how pseudo-science can get such a hold on the public, John Allen Paulos’ little classic:”Innumeracy; mathematical illiteracy and it consequences” is still well worth perusing. One doesn’t want to be too harsh. This is a painful world, and it is easy to understand why people who are suffering will grasp out at anything to relieve the suffering.

And meanwhile, the alternative brigade are enormously helped by the placebo effect. This is absolutely real (and endlessly documented) and not at all understood. But then the mind can hardly be said to be understood. Here is a remarkable instance of the placebo effect: there was a patient who didn’t believe in the placebo effect, who took part in a trial, who knew that he was being given a dummy pill – and yet his “treatment” proved beneficial. That is a good example of the extraordinary power of the placebo effect, and of course accounts for a good deal of the success of quack medicines throughout the ages – medicines plenty of which in themselves could have been expected to have done more harm than good.

One has to assume that the relationship between Djokovic and his alternative “doctor” was a good one, for a while anyway, and any beneficial results Djokovic might have received can certainly be put down to placebo. Maybe he now has sufficient confidence in himself that he no longer needs this type of relationship.

dave Says:

jamie, I agree with your agreements :)

Michael: good question.

How did Djokovic suddenly develop the Soul Of A Champion?

I think Dr Igor has helped him in more ways than we know. Mental, energy, physical: Djokovic is a different player.

Dr Igor likes to think of himself as a psychologist. Even if he is not trained in sports psychology, I suspect he is quite inspirational and motivational to listen to — in other words effective. Mentally Djokovic at times seemed to mimic 2005-2006 Federer’s mental stability, coolness under pressure and ability to shift gears. In the first half of 2010, before Dr Igor, Djokovic was a mental wreck: the only tourney he won (2010 Dubai) was an adventure, even against Youzhny.

The energy technologies — from his machines to magnets — that Dr Igor uses could help boost Djokovic’s energy, vitality and performance. This site explains the concepts — though it doesn’t use the machines that Dr Igor uses. You can use the concepts and training in this site to help boost someone’s energy.

The CVAC “Egg” is possibly one of a number of unique technologies that Djokovic is using. He is possibly doing other things we do not know about. The CVAC pod is only about $80,000, so Djokovic could easily buy 3 or 4 and have it located in different regions he plays. Nadal uses a similar but less effective device. What is good about the CVAC is that it trains your body to perform as if it is at high altitude. Like a marathon runner from Kenya having an advantage over other runners at sea level.

Diet and supplements can be a major boost. If Djokovic is indeed gluten intolerant, just a gluten free diet could be a tremendous help. But there is much more that can be achieved by diet than just removing gluten.

For example, if you want to improve your tennis, recovery, vitality or brain performance — or reduce your weight — here is a practical way to do it through diet. Simply replace one to two meals a day with the following smoothie mix and try it for at least three weeks (before expecting results):

- Put 1 scoop of AOR’s Beets ‘n’ Berries (powdered fruits and vegetables, formerly called Greens ‘n’ Berries), 1/2 to 1 scoop of Genuine Health’s Proteins+ (or any high-quality whey protein powder in a flavor you like) and 1/2 scoop of AOR’s Essential Mix (powdered multivitamin-minerals) with about a cup (250ml to 350 ml) of water or juice. Shake vigorously for 10 to 20 seconds in a capped cup (or other closed container) or use a blender at low speeds.

- Drink once or twice a day, preferably before a workout or meals or mental work. It works even better if you substitute/replace one or two meals each day (breakfast especially, and lunch and/or dinner) with this nutrient rich-beverage.

You can slightly increase the doses, but do not overdose on the Essential Mix multivitamins (no more than 1.5 scoops per day). You can also add some fibre such as a good quality sprouted flaxseed powder. It should work well for over 80% of people.

jane Says:

dave, I appreciate the relative objectivity of your posts, that they don’t come off as accusatory or conspiratorial in tone.

I do think that the motivational aspect of Nole’s doctor was important. Because he needed to believe in himself.. He also fixed his serve (until the injury) improved his forehand, and he tries to hit his backhand flatter versus Nadal. Small adjustments but important ones, especially the serve.

dave Says:

Thanks jane. Nothing wrong with using Dr. Igor, it’s within the rules. If the teams of the other top players were smarter, they’d include such experts and technologies. Federer hasn’t even progressed from updating his racquet to the latest technologies. So all power to Novak.

Djokovic did make a number of important adjustments that he had been trying to do for two to three years. I think his improved mental state helped him apply his adjustments from the practice court to the match court more succesfully and confidently.

dave Says:

grendel, interesting points. I hope to reply to your post on alternative therapy late tonight or tomorrow.

Wog boy Says:


Dave, read it, nothing wrong, but few things:

- I said that I am making my opinion by watching, listening and reading the other people opinions therefore I am using them to support my claims, same as you are using all those links, difference is, it would take me half a day to put it together the way you are doing it, because I think in one language, then have to put it in another and to make sure the words are put in proper places because we make our sentences differently then you in English language and to make sure that nothing is lost. It is quite an effort, believe me. Because of that I have to try to be short, like Novak against Rafa in 4th set at USO, and hit as many corners as I can, what is very hard to do with you people.
- Dr Igor is conventional doctor ( you said, he is not), qualified at the Medical University of Sarajevo, knowing this, one can think why he chose alternative medicine and started his practice at Cyprus…..
-”Dr Igor proudly states….etc” he would be without brain if he doesn’t do that and use to his advantage, can you imagine what his fees will be since everybody knows who he is???
-”million dollars fee” knowing Srdjan Djokovic, selfmade man that I respect very much,Dr Igor didn’t get that money, but he got ,has against his name that he was Novak’s doctor what is worth even more, you have to agree.
-Last bu not least..”best and brightest Serbian willing to help him….”, obviously you didn’t do your research about Novak and how he got where he is now and more importantly you don’t know much about Serbian people.I don’t want to elaborate too much in case my Serbian fellows are reading , they can think that I am bagging us. The reason I have huge respect for Srdjan ( Novak’s father ) is, as I said, selfmade man who started as ski instructor at Kopaonik ski resort from zero, raised beautiful family ( three sons ) build business empire and NEVER EVER had any help from ANYBODY in Serbia ( look at Novak’s team, how many Serbs you see there). He sold everything and rented flat when he sent Novak to Nick Pilic academy in Germany, he never forgave Boba Zivojinovic, former tennis player and head of Serbia’s tennis, for dissmising Novak as physically ( Novak had astma) sick and will never make good tennis player, so literary kick him out of tuornament in Belgrade in front of his father Srdjan just to make room for another young player. Not just Novak, but none of players you know had any help from anybody ( particularly government bodies) but their parents and sponsors, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Janko Tipsarevic, Viktor Troicki…yet they are so proud and happy to represent Serbia where ever they go and they don’t even live any more in Serbia, well most of them.
This is few things that you got wrong , rest is OK.
Now, if you don’t read this that took me one hour to wright, I am going to come over where ever you are and I will fix you up. Better read it, OK !

grendel Says:

Wog boy – fascinating story and, I can’t help thinking, an object lesson for those who long for British success. Romance still lives!

Wog boy Says:

Grendel, I wouldn’t know that, Novak’s father doesn’t talk about that, if it wasn’t for interview that Jelena Gencic gave while ago. She was Novak’s coach that talked them into investing in Novak,(they knew nothing about tennis, his mother was ski instructor too) by promising that he is going to be in TOP5 before his 18. birthday, she was wrong for two years and reason was that they didn’t have enough money to send him to certain number of tournaments. Jelena said how much they struggled until money started to come in, they use to borrow from one person, then from another one to pay back first one, with fair bit of interes. Nick Pilic let them pay him later. When his other two sons wanted to start to play, he told Jelena that he can not afford to have two more tennis players at home. She promised him that she is not going to make champions out of them :-)
We are still waiting for youngest one, Djordje (George) to see whether he can follow Nole.

The only thing that you can hear from Srdjan is about certain people from Serbian Tennis Association, and he is ( or was ) openly filthy with them.

alison hodge Says:

i was just reading dave and jamies posts,3 consecutive slams is a fantastic achievement whichever way you look at it,but just a thought though,would it not be regarded as more impressive to do 3 in the same year,given that you have a much longer gap between the begining of september till half way through january of the next calendar year,therefore much longer time to rest,where as between the begining of july and half way through august you have very little time to rest,just wondering.

madmax Says:

Hi alison!

Impressive, yes, but not only that to win 3 slams a year PLUS the year end finals – that’s ROger!

Great posts here right now, great to read and to read again in more depth.

Brad Gilbert:
‘(Federer) pushed those guys to another level. Man, the only thing he’s guilty of is making the other guys better.”

Dave, best statment of the year in my book.

dave Says:


Sorry this is late and long in reply to your comments.

You are presuming that Djokovic derived only placebo benefits from Dr Igor Cetojevic. I would not presume the effects are placebi based on Goldacre’s selective, dubious and incompetent opinions on acupuncture and homeopathy.

Yes, there is deep knowledge of alternative/complementary/integrated/traditional medicine, if you know where to look. Here’s one example. Read the four medical textbook quality books on Chemicak Sensitivity in the Amazon link. Dr. William Rea was a senior thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon in Texas who occasionally lost consciousness while performing surgery. Conventional medicine had no answers for his illness. He eventually discovered his problem was due to chemical sensitivity — the overload from pesticide residue in his body and the chemicals used to clean the operating room. Dr. Rea went on to start up an environmental medical center in Texas and Illinois to test and treat human health problems due to enviornmnetal health sensitivities to foods, pollens, molds, dust, chemicals, air, water, EMF, etc. One of the main treatments used to desensitize patients is based on homeopathic principles. E.g., they could desensitize Djokovic’s gluten sensitivity by identifying the appropriate low dilution of gluten to switch off his sensitivity. Some years ago I was at the clinic and met two parents with a 5 year old kid with juvenile arthritis that several rheumatologists were unable to help over the years. His father, a star player for the Dallas Cowboys who shall remain unamed, said they didn’t udderstand or beleive in the treatment but conventional medicine did not work. His kid limped and often screamed during testing. About a week later the same kid was running around, happy as can be. Apparently the kid was sensitive to tomatoes, and they managed to densensitize him to that food. A 5 year old kid who had symptoms since birth and who hated being tested and treated, is miraculously cured because of the placebo effect? I don’t think so.

A lot of alternative medicine cannot be explained by our curent understanding of medicine, chemistry and physics.

Btw, his name is Goldacre, not Oldacre. And now I’ll show you why he is certainly not the last word on these issues.

- What’s the study that Goldacre selectively based his conclusions upon? You should not claim that “(acupuncture) has been severely questioned by investigators” without checking the source/orginal studies. Goldacre is not the investigator. He simply claims to base his conclusions on a certain study. But we don’t know whether his interpretation of the study is accurate and honest.

- Other recent meta studies directly contradict Goldacre: “For people with chronic low back pain…The research also showed that acupuncture provided true pain relief. The benefit was not just due to the placebo effect… We wanted the studies for the analysis to meet the highest scientific standards. As a way to account for a possible placebo effect, we looked at many studies that used ‘sham acupuncture’ as a control group, where acupuncture needles were inserted only superficially or in the wrong place. The sham acupuncture studies were double-blinded, meaning neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was receiving the real or the sham treatment. When looking at those studies, the reviewers found the differences in pain ratings showed a significant difference between the real acupuncture and the sham acupuncture groups, indicating that the benefit was not just due to the placebo effect.” This is not the only such study. If I can find such evidence, it indicates Goldcare is hiding such evidence to reach his selective conclusions.

- What Goldacre does not tell you is conventional medicine is chockfull of bad trials and reporting. “There is considerable evidence that many published reports of randomized controlled trials (both blinded and unblinded) are poor or even wrong, despite their clear importance… Poor methodology and reporting are widespread” (see JAMA article Poor-Quality Medical Research: What Can Journals Do?). Professor Douglas Altman is a statistician who founded and is Director of Centre for Statistics in Medicine and Cancer Research UK Medical Statistics Group. In his BMJ article “The scandal of poor medical research”, Prof. Altman observed that research papers commonly contain methodological errors, report results selectively, and draw unjustified conclusions.

- Goldacre’s incompetence (and that of the researchers who did the trials) is revealed by his comment “The placebo control for acupuncture, in case you’re wondering, is sham acupuncture, with fake needles, or needles in the “wrong” places, although an amusing complication is that sometimes one school of acupuncturists will claim that another school’s sham needle location are actually their genuine ones”. The vast majority of acupuncturists are incompetent, especially in Western countries like Britain and USA. These incompetent acupuncturists follow formulas — e.g., for back pain, insert needles in these five points, and twist them in a certain way. Many people still obtain some benefit from such acupuncture. However, master acupuncturists from China, Japan and Korea will tell you that such amateur hour acupuncturists do not understand the basics of traditional acupuncture. To cut a long story short, a master acupunturist could have 10 different patients with lower back pain, yet insert and manipulate certain needles differently for each individual based on the assessment. Traditional Chinese Medicine requires an understanding of the human body as an interconnected, dynamic system. The Chinese people did not survive for thousands of years to become teh world’s most populous country fro sham medicine.

- Goldacre has managed to convince you that as a result of one Western (BBC) program, you should generalize that acupuncture is based on junk science. That “chest surgery with only acupuncture as anaesthesia” is not possible or that a properly-interpreted brain scan will always disprove the benefits of acupuncture. But what Goldacre does not tell you is other information (from the same article on the Guardian where Goldacre himself has his Bad Science column) that contradicts his claims: “A (BBC) spokesman said yesterday: “We take these allegations very seriously and we strongly refute them. We used two scientific consultants for the series, Prof Ernst and Dr Jack Tinker, dean emeritus of the Royal Society of Medicine, both of whom signed off the programme scripts. It seems extremely unusual that Prof Ernst should make these comments so long after the series has aired.” The spokesman said Dr Tinker said he remained happy with the tone and content of the films, stating: “Fellow medics at the Royal Society, including one eminent professor, said it was the best medical series they had seen on television.” The BBC had consulted other medical experts to ensure the series’ integrity: “There was no pressure from anyone to distort the evidence. The results of the acupuncture experiment were not sensationalised. It was Prof Lewith who, in the programme, described the results as ‘quite special’ and ‘something unique to acupuncture’. The results were not edited to give a distorted picture, any reservations scientists did have were fairly reflected in the programme. “The BBC’s science unit has a strong track record of making accurate, distinctive and high quality programmes which are rigorously scrutinised before being aired, and this series is no exception. We stand by the series.” The BBC continues today to advertise the program on its website. BTW, I do know a neuuro surgeo from China — trained in both Chinese and Western medicine — who told me that his Chinese hospital does brain surgery using only acupuncture, no anaesthesia drugs or herbs.

Goldacre is probably just a frontman for the interests of big conventional medicine and drug companies, etc.? The man is not without controversy.

dave Says:

Wog Boy,

Excellent comments and excellent use of English.

Thanks for correcting me on Dr Igor and the Medical University of Sarajevo. My mistake, which I should have known because I did read that on his website months ago and forgot about it.

You seem to claim that Dr Igor was unpaid. Do you have any evidence to support your claim?

Actually I do know what you wrote about how Djokovic got to where he is now. But I wasn’t talking about BEFORE Djokovic became a tennis star and Serbian national hero. What I meant by “as a Serbian national hero he also has the best and brightest Serbians willing to help him or advise him what to do” is that AFTER Djokovic became a national hero to the Serbians over the last four years, he has become a magnet for people wanting to advise, give him new ideas and help him (of course, often for their own benefit). Of course, the other part is that he and his team have to be open to new ideas.

dave Says:


Following up on my 12:06pm reply to you.

Much conventional medicine is based on questionable science, but we tend to accept it for various reasons.

Iatrogenesis is inadvertent adverse effects resulting from conventional medical treatment or advice. Accordng to this Journal of Americatn Medical Association study, iatrogenesis may cause 225,000 to 284,000 deaths per year in the US:
- 106,000 due to non-error, negative effects of drugs
- 80,000 due to infections acquired in hospitals
- 12,000 due to unnecessary surgery
- 20,000 due to other errors in hospitals
- 7,000 due to medication errors in hospitals (next link has full text of article)

Doctors’ sloppy handwriting kills more than 7,000 people annually and also injures more than 1.5 million Americans annually, according to a July 2006 report from the National Academies of Science’s Institute of Medicine.

Even worse, according to the meta-study “Death by Medicine”, adverse reactions to prescribed drugs to be 2.2 million per year. The total number of deaths caused by conventional medicine is 783,936 per year, making it the leading cause of death and injury in the US (more than cancer or heart disease). The number of unnecessary antibiotics prescribed annually for viral infections is 20 million per year. The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million per year. The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million per year.

Many surgeries are unnecessary or questionable. E..g, some years ago a friend was recommended a hysterectomy by her female gynecologist. She asked a second opinion from another female gynecologist at the same hospital. When I heard about it, I said I’ll check options for her. Several alternatives existed that her doctors did not bother to tel her about. One was a senior gynecologist that apparently had success treating what she had without such radical surgery. She went to see him, and the treatment work. What’s amusing is that this senior doctor told her that her two doctors trained under him. He said that the reason why doctors over prescribe hysterectomies for her condition is because it is simpler to do and they are paid more for that surgery!

grendel Says:

About Ben Goldacre – I happen to have his book, so no need to correct me on sloppy typing. I hold no particular brief for him as a person – he seems to be fairly conceited and generally pleased with himself. I personally wouldn’t, in the immortal words of Tennisx poster margot, invite him to tea. But to question his credentials as an honest investigator is(at best) silly:”Goldacre is probably just a frontman for the interests of big conventional medicine and drug companies, etc.?” Try saying that in a public forum rather more exposed than this blogsite, and you’ll find yourself in a bit of trouble. Goldacre is in the tradition of muckraking journalists who is beholden to nobody. He obviously understands the whole culture of medical trials, but more important, he is accepted in the scientific community.
“- What Goldacre does not tell you is conventional medicine is chockfull of bad trials and reporting”. Goldacre’s book is not primarily an attack on alternative medicine, in which he professes to have little interest. He most certainly does attack pharmaceutical corporations.

I picked Goldacre on acupuncture, but there are any number of others one might have referred to. By and large, acupuncture is not accepted in the scientific community, though there are certainly exceptions. Acupuncture is taken more seriously than most complementary medicines. Homeopathy is regarded generally as utterly beyond the pale in the scientific community. No, that is not universal, few things are. On the BBC business, you refer to a Guardian article. This was written by Simon Singh, who is no friend of the alternative community. He has recently written a book, along with Edzard Ernst, called Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial, which I have not read (but which I suppose – groan, groan, I’ll have to). Here is a comment from a reader on Amazon:
“I thought it was fascinating that one of them, Edzard Ernst, has been a practising homoeopath and is now a professor of CAM – consequently I had expected him to be biased in favour of homoeopathy in particular, and CAM in general, and yet in spite of this the book’s conclusions are, on the whole, unfavourable for most flavours of CAM, homoeopathy included.”

Your anecdotal stories are just that, anecdotal. However moving or strange, they have no impact on the body of science. Your horror stories of conventional medicine are likewise irrelevant.Because of course all kinds of things go terribly wrong in medicine and, human beings being what they are, corruption is always a danger. By and large, I don’t think we do too badly in Britain at least. A comment like the following is deeply unhistorical:”The Chinese people did not survive for thousands of years to become teh world’s most populous country fro sham medicine”. Virtually ALL medicine until fairly recently, in every country and every culture, has been not “sham” exactly – that description is unfair to the heroic pioneers and explorers – but certainly deeply inadequate.Medicine was once as likely, if not more, to kill you as to cure you. Nevertheless, modern science didn’t appear out of nowhere. For instance alchemy and astrology were the necessary precursors of chemistry and astronomy.

And by the way, medicine is still young. Lots of pills work, if they work, through placebo – that’s quite as true of some conventional medicine as of the alternative variety. Everyone in the field knows that perfectly well.

I have had experiences with alternative therapy, negative as it happens, but I’m not that interested in it. Life is too short. What seems to me obvious is that the modern body of science which has overtaken the world (in China, for example, traditional medicine is still practiced, but overwhelmingly Western medicine is employed)is extraordinarily powerful – for good or ill. Knowledge has grown exponentially over the last century – of the sort which almost miraculously allows us to have this conversation – and medicine and surgery is part of that revolution. For what it’s worth, let me state my position vis-a-vis science. Whilst its power is plain for all to see, morally it is neutral – it can be used for good or evil. And it is, imo, limited in the sense that it does not offer, even potentially, satisfying answers to the kind of metaphysical questions which have always worried mankind. But then nor does religion – the prophets of science and religion are alike deluded in this sense. Ultimately, in my view, there is deep and unfathomable mystery, and we’ve just got to live with it and stop pretending we can find answers.

My suspicion is that w.r.t the claim of both conventional religions and science to have these answers, loads of people who just don’t buy that turn to absurdities like alternative therapy, hoping to get answers there. Yes, I say absurdities (although I have little knowledge) because in a field which overlaps with science, I trust the practitioners of science to tell the truth – and by and large,if not universally, they reject alternative therapy. You have to operate on trust like this for the most part. How many people understand Newtonian mechanics? It is reasonable to assume the knowledge without feeling obliged to check it everytime you get on an aeroplane. How do we know – as opposed to having heard – that the earth goes round the sun? We know evolution by natural selection is true, and do not feel we have to read the fantasies of the “intelligent design” brigade, because we trust the science. There are, of course, evolutionists who are obliged to read the nonsense if only to expose it, but the rest of us do not have to.

So, getting back to Djokovic, I see no reason whatever to doubt that such effect as his unconventional doctor had was due either to placebo or to the inspirational effects a relationship can undoubtedly have. In short, no big deal.

alison hodge Says:

hi madmax sorry only just read your post,and i completely agree,3 grand slams plus a wtf is like 4 slams really but hell thats roger for you,the one and only,but i was thinking more in mind of nole,if he were to win ao in january,not to take anything away from him,but he would have had more rest between the uso this year and the ao next year,over four months more rest,is that as impressive as winning 3 grand slams in one year?just wodering.

alison hodge Says:

er wondering not wodering sorry.

Wog boy Says:

Dave, thanks for reply, I was just about to come over to you :)
No I didn’t suggest that Dr Igor wasn’t paid, if that is how it looks, what I wanted to say, he wasn’t payed same ridicolous amount of money. They both (Novak and Igor) benefited from each other, since they met “by chance” last year in Split (Croatia), during DC match Croatia : Serbia. Nobody knew about Dr Igor, yet we are now talking about him here. He is now head of some institute in Belgrade (it is not disrespect, I just don’t know what kind of institute), I guess he is still running his private practice etc. etc. Don’t you think that Novak helped him too.
Life is a two way street, whenever we (humans) think that it is one way (our EGO) we end up at the dead end (no through road) then have to turn around and have to start ALL OVER AGAIN. It looks like it is easier to teach animals what is good and what is bad then us humans, we keep repeating our mistakes since the first man came down from the tree. He made mistake, he should never come down :)

Cheers and happy holidays.

dave Says:

wog boy, cheers and have a wonderful holiday. If I’m not mistaken, Serbians celebrate Christmas in early January.

I understand what you’re saying. But since nobody knows the arrangement between Djokovic and Dr Igor, we don’t know whether he was paid very little or a million dollars. Did Dr Igor receive publicity from working with Djokovic — yes, certainly. But he could have also been paid very well for it, we don’t know.

dave Says:

Grendel, it appears you have blind trust in Goldacre’s claims, even though (i) you probably haven’t checked his facts and (ii)you were unable to spell his name correctly (“Oldacre”). My conclusion on the first is based on your quotes from Goldacre’s book, which were so incompetently based on bad science (Goldacre’s claims, that is) that I actually checked the relevant pages at Google books to ensure you did not mistype or take his quotes out of context. It’s likely you did not verify Goldacre’s claims since you have not answered my simple question: “What’s the study that Goldacre selectively based his conclusions upon (regarding acupuncture for back pain)? You should not claim that ‘(acupuncture) has been severely questioned by investigators’ without checking the source/orginal studies.” Did Goldacre even give a source for that supposed study?

It’s orresponsible of Goldacre to cherry pick those parts of Simon Singh’s article that supports his position on acupuncture, yet ignore the other parts that contradict his position. That’s bad, misleading science. Both Goldacre and Singh wrote in the same newspaper.

Unlike you, I have shown that Goldacres claims on acupuncture and backpain are based on bad science. I gave you the scientific evidence to doubt his claims, or at least see him as a person who selectively cherry picks facts to support his positions. Yet you stand by him as an “honest investigator”. What’s silly is that you have not provided any evidence to the contrary.

You claim “more important, (Goldacre) is accepted in the scientific community”. Really??? By how many? 5%? 10%? Has Goldacre even gotten any award for his claims about alternative medicine? Why hasn’t the BBC pulled its program on acupuncture if the great Goldacre’s claims are true? When I wrote to the London Telegraph’s publisher and chief editor to complain about an article written by Mark Hodgkinson, they removed the article the same day. Hmmm, I guess I must be more accepted by the newspaper publishers’ community.

If this author — whose book publicly suggests that Goldacre supports the interests of big conventional medicine and drug companies — hasn’t found himself in trouble, don’t worry for me.

You claim “By and large, acupuncture is not accepted in the scientific community”. Really? 5%? 10%? Does this “scientific community” include the entire world or just those in Britain? A huge chunk of the scientific community is from China, where many hospitals apply both Chinese and Western medicine as complementary treatments.

You said “medicine is still young”. No, medicine is very old. E.g., in 2600 BC the Egyptian polymath Imhotep described the diagnosis and treatment of over 200 diseases in his texts on Egyptian medicine.

As I have shown, conventional medicine may be the biggest killer in the USA. And much of conventional medicine may be based in bad, poor, wrong science. It’s beyond hilarious to highlight alternative medicine which — by comparison — is rarely fatal and has been shown in certain cases to be more effective in proper studies ignored by people like Goldacre.

Allen Roses, then worldwide vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline, noted that most prescription medicines do not work on most people who take them. ‘It is an open secret within the drugs industry that most of its products are ineffective in most patients… “The vast majority of drugs – more than 90 per cent – only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people,” Dr Roses said. “I wouldn’t say that most drugs don’t work. I would say that most drugs work in 30 to 50 per cent of people.” Assuming he is being generous since Glaxo is a massive drug company, it’s possibole the figure is worse than 30 to 50%.

You mentioned a reader on Amazon noted that Edzard Ernst, author of Trick or Treatment, “has been a practising homoeopath”. He was never formally registered as a homeopath. You might have realized this had you read what another reader wrote on Amazon: “One of Ernst’s appeals is as an insider turned against the alternative therapies. But lately his professor of CAM qualifications have come under scrutiny. In April 2010 “the Deutscher Zentralverein homoeopathischer Aerzte” (German National Association of Homeopathic Physicians) published an interview with Ernst which was translated by Ursula Kraus-Harper. In this interview, it has transpired that Ernst, in Germany where homeopathy is regulated, has never passed an exam at the relevant regional branch of the German Landesaerztekammer (medical council) which is a prerequisite there. Asked whether he took further medical education courses in homeopathy, his reply is: “I never completed any courses.” It seems that the most trusted and referenced critic of homeopathy has no qualifications in homeopathy! Not only that, but surprisingly, at the time of writing this comment, a quick look at his cv on line has produced not a single qualification of any kind in CAM!”

You believe “loads of people who just don’t buy that turn to absurdities like alternative therapy, hoping to get answers there.” But some of these desperate people include conventional medical doctors whose lives are on the line: ”
An M.D., anesthesiologist, knew he had chronic hepatitis from an accidental needle stick from a patient with hepatitis. His abdomen was rapidly enlarging and he was becoming weak. An oncologist diagnosed him as having cancer of the liver and spleen. The lesions were so large they were meeting in the middle. Fetoprotein was present with a high titer. He was offered no help due to the extent of liver involvement. He was given an estimated 5-6 months of life. He read the chapter on magnetics in the book, Alternative Medicine, by Future Medicine Publishers (1993). He called my office but I was out of town. He proceeded on his own to purchase two 4″ x 6″ x 1/2″ ceramic magnets . He placed one over the liver and one over the spleen. I had no contact with him until several months later when he called to thank me for the information on magnetics which reversed his cancer. The liver and spleen had receded. The fetoprotein had completely disappeared. His energy had returned and he had not missed as much as a day of work. His comment was, “my fellow physicians will have a hard time believing this”. This occurred seven years ago. Being a physician, he proceeded to help himself with no more than information on magnetics in a chapter in a book”. The author is a medical doctor and researcher who later turned to alternative medicine, including the use of magnets to deal with health problems from broken bones to depression to heart disease to cancer.

You haven’t displayed any deep understanding of alternative medicine that qualfies you to conclude that Djokovic benefited from “either to placebo or to the inspirational effects” of his relationship wit Dr igor. I could continue to address your comments but I’ve run out of time given its Christmas. I just don’t find your arguments compelling or based on verified evidence, though I respect your right to believe what you want to believe. In a fantasy world conventional medicine is based on good science and is adequate as a solution for health problems– but the reality is far from the truth and I can prove which parts are and which parts aren’t. That’s why you have some very smart and highly-qualified medical doctors who have integrated and complemented their practice with alternative medicine.

Btw, I questioned the sloppy typing skills of conventional medical doctors who kill their patients. It wasn’t your typing skills that I questioned.,8599,1578074,00.html

grendel Says:


You again pull me up for mispelling Goldacre’s name – that’s a little desperate, isn’t it? Sorry, Goldacre does give his source: Ernst,E, White,A.R.Acupuncture for back pain: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Arch Int Med (1998); 158:2235-41.

I have already said I hold no particular brief for Goldacre, but all that 5%, 10% and so on – do come off it! Goldacre is not controversial in scientific circles. There is absolutely no reason why he should be, since he is strictly orthodox – though I can see why he will be hated among your fraternity.

Your point about China will be dealt with shortly. “You said “medicine is still young”. No, medicine is very old.” Oh, do wake up old chap. It’s completely obvious I was talking about modern medicine which – by a stretch – you could say began in around about the 18th century, the modern method, anyway.

The scepticism you show towards modern medicine is reasonable (though not the hostile, ranting tone)and shared by many, including Goldacre as it happens. The role of pharmaceutical companies – now heavily involved in China, incidentally – is notoriously dubious. None of that is remotely relevant. Science is never about achieving perfect knowledge, and always about self-questioning, discarding, improving where possible – and of course, it exists in the real world, where it is to a degree at the mercy of the powers that be. It has achieved huge triumphs in anaethesia and surgery, and, considering the history, there are impressive achievements in medicine. It is a pity greed and politics can get in the way, even so, progress is steady, if fitful. And there is nothing else. Science is what we depend upon.

Again, you give anecdotal stories – interesting, maybe, but of little value in an overall context. You are correct about one thing – “I have shown no deep understanding of alternative medicine”.

Absolutely! I disclaimed any knowledge earlier – but I also put that disclaim into context. The man in the street – and we are all men in the street in most areas – is not expected to be an expert, but nor is he without instinct. And that is what democracy is based upon – we, the voters, non experts, have come to our non expert conclusion that such and such a party of government has failed economically. Alternative medicine makes huge claims, and those of us who are essentially ignorant nevertheless can have gut feelings. We suspect Newton knew what he was talking about, we have a pretty good hunch Darwin was right – and until really striking evidence comes to fore, we will be deeply sceptical of any of the alternative therapies. We will suspect that they are “alternative ” for a good reason – they just don’t cut the mustard. If they did, then they would cease to be alternative, and would be absorbed into the mainstream.

Meanwhile, since acupuncture is a little bit more respectable in the public eye than all the other bizarre alternative therapies, I am going to quite extensively from Rose Shapiro’s “SUCKERS: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All”, but only from one chapter (Full of Eastern Promise, and even there, only acupuncture, and not for instance Chinese herbs). Most of what follows is Shapiro’s own words – this is my way of giving links, if you like, for most people won’t have the book. If they are interested in what they see, then the book is cheap to buy.

TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)– based on 5 humours –similar to the (4)mediaeval European humours. Extra – concept of Qi, energy flowing through meridians. Neither the meridians nor the Qi have ever been located. “In recent years Western acupuncture practitioners have become less likely to claim they can manipulate the flow of Qi, tending to restrict their practice to relieving pain, particularly that which is musculo-skeletal in origin, such as osteo-arthritis or back trouble”.

“those beguiled by all things Eastern believe that both principle and practice have remained constant for millennia…Nothing could be further from the truth. ……Early Chinese manuscripts mention nothing resembling acupuncture….The early Chinese had no concept of disease but instead believed illness was caused by evil spirits lodging in the meridians…..Fine needle acupuncture of the type seen today does not appear until the 17th century, by which time a total of 365 acupoints had been described, neatly corresponding with the number of days in the year. Today’s acupuncture diagrams feature more than 2000 ever changing needling points and there is no agreement on the number of meridians…..although ancient Chinese medicine had no concept of the continuous circulation of either blood or life forces, modern TCM practitioners now check for circulatory pulses at the wrist in apparent contradiction of the earlier anatomical view.

“Dr.Paul Unschuld of the University of Munich is the leading Western authority on the history of Chinese medicine. He has said that the origins of Traditional Chinese Medicine as we know it today actually lie in the very recent past, and TCM is a “misnomer for an artificial system of health care ideas and practices generated between 1950 and 1975 by committees in the People’s Republic of China”……”crucially, TCM was needed to maintain social and political control in a country beset by poverty and with fewer than 20,000 scientifically trained doctors, mostly practising in big cities, to serve a predominantly rural population of around 6 hundred million. Ancient practices were selectively cherry-picked with many elements re-interpreted” [to get a working co-operation between Western medicine and TCM – these were the days of the “barefoot doctors”].

The export of TCM “was reinterpreted to suit Western sensibilities. …In an interview published in the journal Acupuncture Today, Dr.Unschuld days “it is a fact that more than 95% of all literature published in Western languages on Chinese medicine reflect Western expectations rather than Chinese historical reality… while they reflect Western yearnings, they fail to reflect the historical truth.”

Shapiro goes on to consider research into acupuncture., after remarking “acupuncture has perhaps the highest status of all alternative methods. Even those sceptical about other sorts of alternative medicine are prone to believe that there is probably something in it. They have picked up on a widespread but vague idea about needles doing something unexplained to the body, perhaps triggering the release of painkilling chemicals. And that because there seems to be a kernel of hard science there, the other stuff about Qi energy might be true as well”…….Shapiro goes on to consider the methodological difficulties in testing acupuncture. For instance, “Any acupuncture research also has to answer the question of what is being tested, on a number of levels. Is it “acupuncture”, or simply the effect of needling? Traditional acupuncture, which for convenience let’s call the “qi” version, holds that needling a specific point on the body will have a specific effect. This can be tricky when different acupuncture methods have conflicting locations of acupuncture points. One Qi version acupuncturist may suggest, for example, that needles placed at points at the ankles will cure sinus problems. Another might suggest points on the scalp. Such disparity led one study to conclude that the most widely used methods of locating acupuncture points “are grossly imprecise [which] would rule out any specificity or function for acupoints because of the resulting overlap of points.” (Mark Aird et al, “A study of the Relative Precision of Acupoint Methods”, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2002). Shapiro comments:”So not only does any research have to demonstrate a specific effect, but it also needs to test whether random needling elsewhere on the body might also have that SAME specific effect.”

On the question of the relief of pain: “Acupuncture anaesthesia ….is surely TCM’s most audacious claim. But for years there have been allegations that these tales of acupuncture anaesthesia were either exaggerated or faked. “Unfortunately it was all a hoax,”alleges Kurt Butler,”the patients had been carefully selected and indoctrinated, and the demonstrations staged. Many if not all of the patients had been given a tranquilliser, local anaesthetic, and/or painkiller in addition to the acupuncture” (“A Consumer’s Guide to Alternative Medicine”, Prometheus Books)…….neurologist Dr.James Taub visited China in 1974 with the Acupuncture Study group of the Committee on Scholarly Communication. He visited the Acupuncture Research Institute in Beijing as well as traditional medical hospitals in the Shanghai region. The study group was able to “substantiate a number of previous reports that almost all patients operated upon under “acupuncture anaesthesia” received other additional agents. These almost always included Phenobarbital [a sedative] and meperidine [a painkilling narcotic] before and during the operation. Local anaesthesia was also used liberally. I personally witnessed operations in which local anaesthesia was used from beginning to end, but which were nevertheless classified as done under “acupuncture anaesthesia”. Similar practices were noted by a US delegation from the Committee for Scientific Investigation when they visited China twenty years later…….Historian Paul Unschuld reports that in recent years acupuncture anaesthesia in China in major surgical operations has “slipped into deserved oblivion”……..

“But despite such wide-ranging and long standing evidence we continue to be persuaded of the seemingly miraculous ability of acupuncture to provide pain relief during surgery. In 2006 an Open University/BBC documentary about alternative medicine featureda heart operation that a Scottish TV reviewer described as showing “a young female factory worker undergoing open –heart surgery with only acupuncture to control her pain. But those with a more questioning approach saw something very different. Simon Singh in the Daily Telegraph called this memorable bit of television “emotionally powerful but scientifically meaningless”. He pointed out that “in addition to acupuncture the patient had a combination of three very powerful sedatives”. These were midazolam (a powerful sedative used in surgery or investigative procedures) droperidol (a major tranquilliser which was administered as a pre-med in the UK until it was discontinued in 2001) and fentanyl (a heavy-duty narcotic). Large volumes of local anaesthetic were also injected into the chest. “With such a cocktail of chemicals, the needles were merely cosmetic,” wrote Singh. When he checked with several medics they told him the procedure was “neither shocking nor impressive”.

Conclusion:”American biochemist Thomas J Wheeler concludes in a review of acupuncture research that “in general, the better designed the study the smaller have been the beneficial effects” (A Scientific Look at Alternative Medicine, University of Louisville School of Medicine, 2005). Although some well designed studies have suggested that acupuncture can be effective in limited sorts of pain relief, such as in cases of knee osteoarthritis, positive results are few and are less likely in randomised controlled trials, where placebo is used and the researchers don’t know who is being treated with what. Bandolier, an independent journal about evidence-based health care, reviewed the research evidence for acupuncture effectiveness in treating a range of conditions and found it to be ineffective in treating (amongst other things) asthma, neck and elbow pain, headache, menopausal hot flushes, cocaine addiction and giving up smoking. There is a small amount of evidence that acupuncture can help several kinds of pain, including back pain, some sorts of arthritic and post-operative dental pain. It also seems to reduce post-operative or chemo-therapy related nausea and vomiting in adults, but not in children. But these benfits are tiny in comparison with the fulsome claims invariably made for acupuncture – namely that it can cure specific illnesses as well as act as an alternative to conventional anaesthesia during surgery”.

b.t.w.” A 2006 online survey by the national newspaper China Youth daily and found that 72% would choose western medicine before TCM.” And this is not only in the home of TCM, but following years of attempted indoctrination. (Mao, for example, whilst disclaiming belief in TCM, regarded it as extremely useful as a political and economic tool).

Anyone who devotes himself to a particular topic, even if it is essentially nonsense, can of course become expert in it, and in the course of his studies he will pick up some genuine knowledge. that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to shut up. I repeat, alternative therapy is not taken seriously except by a fanatical few, its claims are utterly fantastic. It is absolutely reasonable, imo, to poo poo the idea that Djokovic was the beneficiary of some outlandish alternative therapy.

dave Says:

Grendel, your guru Goldacre appears to be dishonest, a quack and incompetent. Goldacre misleads gullible readers to believe that acupuncture benefits probably stem from the placebo effect (in other words, acupuncture is ineffective) in his 2008-published book.

Goldacre based his false impressions on a 1998 source (Ernst,E, White,A.R.Acupuncture for back pain: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Arch Int Med (1998); 158:2235-41), according to you.

Based on this 1998 source, the great Goldacre pontificated ”a review of trials of acupuncture for back pain showed that the studies which were properly blinded showed a tiny benefit for acupuncture, which was not statisticaslly significant. Meanwhile, the trials which were not blinded – the ones where the patients knew whether they were in the treatment group or not – showed a massive, statistically significant benefit for acupuncture. (The placebo control for acupuncture, in case you’re wondering, is sham acupuncture, with fake needles, or needles in the “wrong” places, although an amusing complication is that sometimes one school of acupuncturists will claim that another school’s sham needle location are actually their genuine ones)… ”So, as we can see, blinding is important, and not every trial is necessarily any good. You can’t just say,”Here’s a trial that shows this treatment works”, because there are good trials, or “fair tests” and there are bad trials.”

However that 1998 study was updated in 2002 by the very same authors as “Acupuncture for back pain: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and an update with data from the most recent studies”. The updated study states: “The results from the majority of the most recent studies also support the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of back pain” and concludes “Collectively, these data imply that acupuncture is superior to various control interventions, although there is insufficient evidence to state whether it is superior to placebo.”

Earlier I gave you a 2005 meta-study that contradicted Goldacre’s claims in his 2008 book. Do you know who the study’s authors are? Eric Manheimer, MS; Adrian White, MD, BM, BCh; Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, et al.

Ernst and White were the original authors of the 1998 study that the great Goldacre cherry picked to use, yet Goldacre omitted more recent information in 2002 and 2005 by the same authors. In a press release of the 2005 study, the study’s main author stated: “For people with chronic low back pain…The research also showed that acupuncture provided true pain relief. The benefit was not just due to the placebo effect… We wanted the studies for the analysis to meet the highest scientific standards. As a way to account for a possible placebo effect, we looked at many studies that used ‘sham acupuncture’ as a control group, where acupuncture needles were inserted only superficially or in the wrong place. The sham acupuncture studies were double-blinded, meaning neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was receiving the real or the sham treatment. When looking at those studies, the reviewers found the differences in pain ratings showed a significant difference between the real acupuncture and the sham acupuncture groups, indicating that the benefit was not just due to the placebo effect.” This is not the only such study. If I can find such evidence, it indicates Goldcare is hiding such evidence to reach his selective conclusions.

What’s shocking is that even though his Bad Science book was published in 2008, Goldacre omitted to mention that the authors of the 1998 source he used to jump to conclusions… that these authors had updated their conclusions in a 2002 update and changed their views in a new 10 times larger 2005 meta-analysis. If I could find such info in 5 seconds of searching, Goldacre is either utterly incompetent not to find it or is deliberately omitting contradictory information. Eutrher way, his gullible fans who blindly trust him are misled if they are too lazy or presumptuous to verify his claims.

I have proven that Goldacre’s claims on acupuncture cannot be trusted.

Yet you claim that “Goldacre is not controversial in scientific circles” indicating that you trust his false impressions. Those members of the scientific community who trust Goldacre’s false impressions on acupuncture are guilty of bad science.

It’s Christmas and this is getting off topic. As I said, I disagree with what you wrote and could debunk the rest of your comments…. but it would take took much of my time. It’s clear to me that you do not have deep understanding of alternative medicine although you quote sources negative on it. I too can quote lots of negative information on conventional medicine. But I have done far, far more than just that.

You simply are in no position to discount that Djokovic benefit from various alternative therapies. But one thing is certain: had he been as closed minded as you, he would not have pursued those therapies and likely would not have had the results he had over the last 18 months.

Happy Holidays!

grendel Says:

So far from Goldacre being my guru, I read him for the first time the other day – doubtless that was why I misspelt his name. I am no expert, and have clearly indicated this, and why that is not important in this matter. But you have taken no notice. I am not in a position to defend Goldacre, but of course he could, and if it upsets you, I suggest you address your concerns to him. in any debate on medicine between you and him, I know who I would back to win.

The whole of my last post quoted all sorts of people. You ignore this, giving the feeble comment “I could debunk the rest of your comments”. But they are not my comments, on the whole. they are the comments of a very wide variety of people who know far more than you and I. My more general points, you have either not picked up or can’t understand.

Meanwhile, for those who are interested, I am going to post some more comments from the illuminating Rose Shapiro.

And please, can we remember, the aggressive rant of dave is utterly out of keeping for a defender of CAM – a culture which is out of the mainstream, and rejected, on the whole, by orthodox science, responsible for the most impressive body of knowledge in history.

“You simply are in no position to discount that Djokovic benefit from various alternative therapies.” I repeat, I am, in the same way that anyone is. for we are dealing here with a rogue and pseudoscience which is absolutely on the sidelines. On these grounds, I reject as at best, unproven the alleged benefits for Djokovic, at worst – laughable.

grendel Says:

For anyone who is interested, I append a few more quotes from Shapiro, this time more general. After perusing these, a reader may have some idea as to whether he wants more – in which case, he must go to the library or something. This is my way of doing links, time consuming for me, I must say. Rose Shapiro sources everything, b.t.w., but generally I don’t give them for space reason – easy enough to find in the book.
“Barry Beyerstein ..described how people who hedged their bets often credit the wrong thing…”if improvement occurs after someone has had both “alternative” and science based treatment, the fringe practice often gets a disproportionate share of the credit.” If we feel better in the same time frame as the administration of an alternative remedy it is natural to associate the two: it appeals to the human desire to derive order and meaning from any combination of events…….This time-based association leads to the logical fallacy famously expressed in latin as post hoc ergo propter hoc which means “after this, therefore because of this”. Once an association has been forged in our minds, belief follows.
The power of belief is demonstrably apparent in Applied Kinesiology, a diagnostic method using muscle testing invented in the 1960’s by an American chiropractor, George J Goodheart. AK, it is claimed, can be used to diagnose illness as well as allergy and food intolerance, on the basis that every organ dysfunction is accompanied by a specific muscle weakness. It is said to be a “remarkable and precise diagnostic system” used “to uncover what your own body “knows” about why you are sick or in pain” and is offered by many osteopaths and chiropractors….One frequently used form of this method is for the patient to lie down and raise one arm. The tester first pushes down the arm to determine its muscle resistance. This acts as a baseline. A particular food or other substance is then placed either under the patient’s tongue or in a sealed container nearby. Again the tester pushes down the arm. If the arm strength is weaker the second time this is supposed to show the patient to have either a food intolerance or a specific deficiency. The patient may also place the other hand over specific organs to see whether there is any accompanying weakness in the tested arm.
“The idea is a mishmash of chiropractic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, with practitioners claiming to be able to evaluate the flow of Qi energy through the body. Magician and sceptic James Randi reports that AK practitioners have claimed “that while refined sugar can be clearly shown in a very dramatic manner to be a “bad” substance by this method when actual sugar is placed in the hand, the same strength of effect is also brought about by simply having the subject hold a scrap of paper with the word “sugar” or the chemical formula C12H22O11 (sucrose) written on it in place of the actual substance. Believers in AK have no problem rationalising the absurdity of such a claim.
“Randi explains that “the effect observed is entirely due to the expectations of the operator.” The product of suggestion in determining muscle strength and movement without the subject’s conscious intention is known as the idomotor effect and is surprisingly powerful. It was first discovered as long ago as 1833 when the French natural scientist Michel-Eugene Chevreul investigated the claims of dowsers and mediums, describing in an open letter to physicist Andre-Marie Ampere, how unconscious and involuntary muscle movement could be initiated by autosuggestion.” (Then an experiment is proferred to the reader, with instructions, to enable him to experience the ideomotor effect himself….. “Magical beliefs and ways of thinking are what fundamentally differentiate CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)`from orthodox medicine” – this is then explored in a fascinating section.

“In his essay “The Psychopathology of Fringe Medicine” Karl Sabbagh concedes that alternative medicine often “works” but says, “when it works, it works for none of the reasons given by fringe practitioners themselves.” Sabbagh identifies three reasons why CAM “works”. First, most of the illnesses it treats are relatively benign, like back pain, tiredness or wind. Secondly, there is a natural variability of all diseases and most get better of their own accord if you wait long enough – it’s called regression to the mean. There are few “quick fix” alternative medicine methods – instead, treat the patient for weeks or months and the odds are that they will recover. Thirdly, many of the ailments that CAM treats have subjective or psychosomatic aspects that are responsive to a placebo.
The so-called placebo response is when symptoms are altered for the better by an otherwise inert treatment, a “dummy” pill for example. It is often cited as the explanation for the apparent success and popularity of many CAM therapies. But in any discussion of placebo we need to make a distinction between the effect on the OUTCOME of disease and the effect on the EXPERIENCE of illness. As Peter Skrabenek and James McCormick write in “Follies and Fallacies in Medicine” “disease may or may not be accompanied by illness. Many diseases, including some that are potentially serious, are often symptomless. On the other hand, feeling unwell is not always the result of disease. Placebos have no effect on the progress or outcome of disease, but they may exert a powerful effect upon the subjective phenomena of illness, pain, discomfort, and distress.”
An intriguing discussion on the placebo then follows, including suggestions from some orthodox scientists and doctors that CAM has its benefits. “Alun Anderson, a former editor of New Scientist, has suggested that “alternative medicine could focus on finding ways to make the [placebo] effect more powerful instead of pretending to offer the same benefits as conventional medicine”….medical historian David Wooton also thinks that homeopathy deserves a place in the mainstream. “What homeopathy can do for you is thus a good indication of what a placebo can do for you, and, on the definition I am proposing homeopathy does neither good nor harm, though it is perfectly reasonable that it should be available (as it increasingly is) on the National Health Service, since it performs much better than no treatment at all.” Shapiro comments:”The proposal appears to be that we should be encouraged to accept anything a doctor gives us, regardless of whether or not it is a real drug or that the prescription entails deception. In any case, CAM users may not care. One devoted user of alternative medicine tells me she doesn’t care if the homeopathic treatment she believes cured her dughter’s tonsillitis was a placebo. All that matters is that the remedy appeared to “work”……………Of course, placebo response will never just be confined to users of alternative medicine. Everyone has the capacity to respond positively to a personally effective physician. A confident and empathic mainstream practitioner will evoke her patients’ placebo response alongside all the other material benefits of conventional medical treatment, whatever form it takes. Dylan Evans may argue that “the high levels of consumer satisfaction among users of alternative medicine suggest alternative therapists are better at evoking confidence and trust in their patients, and so better able to mobilise the placebo response, than are conventional doctors. But surely CAM practitioners learn to do it better because, in truth, it is all they have”. But also (me) they do it better because they have the time. Doctors are harried and rushed and have to fit in a lot of patients in a limited time. The economics of that are unavoidable. These economics do not affect the CAM practitioners, who generally have a great deal of time to spend on their patients.

“There are two definitions of the word “sucker” I had in mind when I thought about the title of this book. SUCKER; one who lives at the expense of others, and SUCKER: a gullible or easily deceived person. The growth of alternative medicine makes fools of us all, I am thinking not only about those who practise alternative medicine and those who use it, but those of us who simply let it carry on unchallenged. There is a pervasive tolerance of complementary and alternative medicine which allows it to flourish. I believe this indulgent laissez faire approach is no longer acceptable and needs to change. The growth of CAM matters – it trades in false hope, it is bad for our health, it threatens our intellectual culture, it wastes public money and it undermines some of our most important and valued institutions. Those who promote it and the junk science that all too often accompanies it, are, to quote Raymond Tallis, “enemies of mankind’s best hope for a better future. In short, enemies of mankind.”

One long, final quote:

The Enlightenment of the 18th century helped us move away from an approach to our bodies and our health governed by nothing more than magic and faith. Doctors were no longer able to make empty assertions and quacks could not invent cures with impunity. At the heart of the Enlightenment was science, but today we seem to have become confused bout what science is. Science does not necessarily mean scientists or technology or fixed body of facts under the rigid subheadings of chemistry, physics and biology; what it fundamentally stands for is an approach to knowledge. Science offers us a way of understanding and making sense of the world around us. And the scientific method amounts to a general framework which can entail the use of different research techniques depending on what is being studied. If you reject science, you reject rationality itself. We need to understand and value science if we are successfully to counter the attempts by CAM to replace it with superstition and chicanery.
“Using the model of hypothesis, experiment, analysis of evidence, peer review and publication of results, science provides us with the demonstrably best way of establishing how to tackle disease and illness. It is an essentially humble practice: it tells us that we don’t know anything without evidence and that the results of our investigations as well as our practices must always be open to scrutiny and challenge. Physics professor Rory Coker deserves quoting at length on this:

“Science relies on – and insists – on self-questioning, testing and analytical thinking that make it hard to fool yourself and to avoid facing facts. Pseudo-science, on the other hand, preserves the ancient, natural, irrational, unobjective modes of thought that are hundreds of thousands of years older than science – thought processes that have given rise to superstitions and other fanciful and mistaken ideas about man and nature – from voodoo to racism; from the flat earth to the house-shaped universe with God in the attic, Satan in the cellar and man on the ground floor; from doing rain dances and to torturing and brutalosong the mentally ill to drive out the demons that possess them”.

Shapiro:”Science nevertheless has to be open-minded and prepared to change its views when it meets new evidence that contradicts earlier findings. Its most fundamental assumption remains that all suggestions must be open to question. As Richard Feynman wrote in his famous essay descrying what he called “cargo cult science”, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid – not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked – to make sure the other fellow can tell if they have been eliminated.” Unfortunately, as Raymond Tallis explains, alternative practitioners make the most of this explicit fallibility. “The honesty of science about its limitations, its often reported failings to flourish, which in part depends upon exploiting the problems and failures of science. Even so, junk science should have nothing going for it; it should be laughed to scorn by even a half-educated public.”

“To bas our approach to health and medicine on anything other than the scientific method is both foolish and dangerous. Standards of evidence cannot be adjusted – why should there be one standard for testing a homeopathic remedy and another for testing a cancer drug? There is no reason why they should not both be subject to the same values of both methodology and ethics. As Richard Dawkins wrote in his foreward to John Diamond’s book Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations” “either it is true that a medicine works or it isn’t – it cannot be false in the ordinary sense but true in some “alternative” sense.” Or to put it another way, as expressed in an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association:”There is no alternative medicine. There is only scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine supported by solid data or unproven medicine, for which scientific evidence is lacking. Whether a therapeutic practice is “Eastern” or “Western”, is unconventional or mainstream, or involves mind-body techniques or molecular genetics is largely irrelevant except for historical purposes and cultural interest”. Extraordinary claims – like those made by homeopathy – require extraordinary evidence. As biochemist Thomas J Wheeler says, “we are entitled to ask for very strong evidence before we accept ideas that are contradicted by a large amount of prior evidence”.

“It is also true of course that while modern, evidence-based medicine cures some of the people some of the time, it is also far from infallible. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies sometimes use approaches that carry more risks than benefits – selling arthritis drugs which can cause heart problems, or over-prescribing the antibiotics which have facilitated the development of so-called “superbugs2 in Britain’s hospitals. Drugs can have terrible unforeseen consequences, such as thalidomide. Medical science has been accused of being slow to accept and act on discoveries, like the isolation of the organism Helicobacter pylori as a cause of stomach ulcers. Though recognition of H.pylori may have seemed to take too long at the time, the fact is that it took only twelve years to establish a complete and worldwide change of practice in ulcer treatment, after which its discoverers won a Nobel prize. It is worth remembering that the proponents of acupuncture, herbalism and the like believe one of the alternative medicine’s chief virtues to be that it hasn’t change in three thousand.”

In making these selections from Rose Shapiro, I have barely skimmed the surface of her book. And yet I have still presented a rich variety of sources. It looks like dave has caught Goldacre out, and I can’t say I am too displeased. As I wrote earlier, he is conceited and frankly intolerably smug. However, a bad mistake – if that is what it is – hardly vitiates an entire book. I have not read most of the book yet – but I do know that it has generally been well received. I had to correct dave on some lamentable historical inaccuracies, and that’s just in a post – but it doesn’t mean everything he says is worthless. Dave has something to say, so does Goldacre, and they both can make bad errors. That’s not the end of the world, for either of them. But I have shown in my quotes from Shapiro that there are deep doubts about acupuncture from many, many sources. And I can barely have brushed the tip of the iceberg.

I repeat – since dave has shown himself unwilling to take this on board, not only do I absolutely concede that I am no expert, and am happy to do so – it doesn’t matter in this case. CAM has absolutely not established itself as legitimate, and is regarded by many as a danger and a menace. I repeat, just as it is legitimate to accept that, for instance, the earth spins on its axis without actually having the least idea how or why this is so, so it is perfectly reasonable to reject the claims of CAM without knowing much about it. So long as they are alternative, they have failed to win the acceptance of their peers. And to believe there is anything sinister in this is a) delusory and b) entails believing in a mass conspiracy theory, though frankly, that is to be expected.

So again, I say I believe, with little knowledge but a perfect right, as is the case with everyone, that the idea Djokovic has been substantially helped by alternative therapy doesn’t even get off the ground. That doesn’t, it goes without saying, mean I can’t be proved wrong. If those who believe Djokovic has been so helped beyond placebo are able to mount a serious case, then I will indeed not be equipped to answer it, and that will be left to others.

Wog boy Says:

Dave, you are not mistaken, it is on 7th of january.
My family celebrates both, first one (25th) we give presents, second one (7th) it is strictly family fair as it was when I was a kid, no presents, lot of love, lot of food and drink and remembering ( after few drinks) ones that are not with us any more.

Wog boy Says:

Family” fare” not “fair”

Dave Says:

Wog Boy: HRISTOS SE RODI to you and your family.

Wog boy Says:


Dave you got me with that one, that was quite a suprise, thanks I think it is fair to translate for the other blogers. That is how we greet each other on Christmas day : one says CHRIST IS BORN and the other answers TRUELY HE IS BORN.

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