The Rafa Rules
by Sean Randall | June 14th, 2006, 1:30 pm

The French Open showed once again just how tough a player Rafael Nadal really is. The 20-year-old Spanish Bull doesn’t have the greatest talent in the world, nor the greatest of gifts. But he does seems to have that rare ability to win at any cost.

Against Roger Federer, who many call the greatest ever, Rafa could have easily gone away after getting pounded in the first set 6-1. Instead, he just hung around and waited to get his game into gear. Once he did, the match was his.

Even at the end, when Federer won that remarkable point at 30-30 late in the fourth set that set up the break of Rafa’s serve, Nadal didn’t get down as most players would have. I’m sure many – i know i did – figured that when Fed got that break back and forced the tiebreak in fourth the Swiss would go from there and take the match.ADHEREL

Against other players that probably would be the case, but Rafa showed his mettle, stuck his guns, dug in and pulled out the win. Abusing that Fed backhand with high, heavy spinny balls that the Swiss cannot generate any real offense off of on a consistent basis.

Unlike guys with huge, flat two-handers like Marat Safin, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Andre Agassi, which can penetrate the court, especially cross court, Fed’s backhand is perhaps too loopy.

So where does Fed go from here? Hard to tell. He’ll likely win Wimbledon, certainly be the favorite at the US Open and finish No. 1, but his year is really shot. He’s 0-4 on the season against Nadal and may even lose to him again down the line. But the “Roger Slam”, “Calendar Slam”, etc are all history until next year when who knows just how much better Rafa will be, or how much worse Roger will be. Or vice versa.

The window for greatness in tennis is always a small one in this sport. Just ask Lleyton Hewitt and Juan Carlos Ferrero. Both players ruled the sport just three years ago, and many figured back then they would have been in the hunt for many years to come. But that didn’t happen. Even look at Andy Roddick.

That said, Roger has a short time to figure out how to beat Rafa. Two, three years at best before a realistic chance of him winning the French Open is over. Afterall, who knows how many new “Nadals” are on the horizon.


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13 Comments for The Rafa Rules

joe Says:

That was probably Federer’s best chance to win it. He may never get that close again.

Suzie Says:

Mr Randle, don’t fool yourself. We all know that Federer is not in the level of players like Hewitt, Fererro, and Roddick. If he were, he couldn’t have dominated this sport for last 2 1/2 years, not mention to having won 7 GS. Still he has a decent chance of being remembered as the best player of tennis history by many people in the future even if he shouldn’t win the FO ever(remember the guy named Sampras?). So give him a break. But at least I agree with you about the shortage of his time to figure out how to beat Nadal.

I don’t think that “where does Fed go from here?” is an issue at the moment since, as you said, “he’ll likely win Wimbledon, certainly be the favorite at the US Open and finish No. 1”. IMO, the issue is more important about “where does Nadal go from here?” Can he do better in coming Slams this year than he did last year? Can he reach the finals ‘consistently’ on faster hard court and indoor? I think he should show us something more in this year’s Wimbledon and USO. And, as Fed and Nadal can play each other only in the finals, their H-H would mean nothing more than stat if Nadal shouldn’t reach the finals on Federer’s favorite surfaces, esp. in Slams. If he will keep losing to lower-ranked players like Blake or Moya before finals, he can’t help just being called ‘a great clay court player who owns Federer in terms of the H-H’, no matter how many more FO or matches against Fed he will win.

So many ‘if’s here. Anyway I think the prospect of tennis is more up to Nadal.

joy Says:

I totaly agree with you Suzie. For you Mr. Randle…Rafa rules…yeah right…only on clay. Although Federer is 0-4 aganist Nadal this season, there is no reason Federer should be concerned. I think, Federer need just one win against Nadal and situation between them might change a lot.

Stupid Joy Says:

One win will change a lot? Are you fool?

tangerine Says:

It’s surprising how people have already forgotten that Lleyton Hewitt did indeed dominate tennis a few years ago. Perhaps not to the same extent that Federer’s domination has been lately, but not many players stood a chance against Hewitt in his prime 2001-2002.

The window of opportunity is open only for so long. Guillermo Coria lost his chance at becoming the King of Clay in 2004 when he choked away the RG final. The following year Rafael Nadal showed up and Coria hasn’t been close to winning a clay title since. With the way things are going for him now it looks like he will never get another opportunity to win a major title again.

David J. Heinrich Says:

Well, Federer has a hell of a lot better chance of winning the FO in the future than Nadal of winning Wimbledon.

Federer has clearly improved greatly on clay, and is now the 2nd best player in the world on the surface. His year is shot? I think not. I’d say he had an excellent clay-court season, although he fell short of his goal. So what?

Ya know, in the 80s, McEnroe was owned by Lendl early on. From 1980-1982, it was 7-2 in Lendl’s favor. From 1983-1984, it was 10-2 in McEnroe’s favor. (After that 1984, it was 11-1 in Lendl’s favor, but after ’84, McEnroe was basically a part-time player).

So, don’t count Federer out yet. He certainly has a great great mental strength. He can definately turn around the streak with Nadal. I think as he is right now, he has everything he needs to beat Nadal, it’s just a matter of execution. However, if Federer improves his backhand — probably better strength-training, or grib technique for high shots — he will definately be able to toast Nadal.

Nadal is a very tough match-up for Federer on clay, because Nadal’s strengths play directly into Federer’s weakness (high backhand). And it’s difficult for Federer to get to Nadal’s weakness (backhand) on the slow surface.

NiCoLe Says:

I agree that Federer has nothing to worry about. The thing is… he’s been ruling the world of tennis for 2 1/2 years now… he won’t be able to keep up like this forever. It’s just something that happens to everyone, great tennis players (as well as the worse ones) start to get worse. All of them did, otherwise McEnroe, or Wilander, or more recently, Hewitt, would still be on no. 1. Nobody can win forever. And then it will (probably) be Nadal’s turn. He’s very young, and he has plenty of time to improve on grass.
If this was any other year than 2004-2006, Nadal would be no. 1. It is clear that now there are two great players (Fed and Nadal) that win all titles and are clearly superior to the rest. But I think that it is only natural (due to age, or to improving their styles) that Nadal will end up being no. 1. Whatever people say, he deserves it, as well as Federer and many others. However, we know that Nadal won’t stop fighting for it.

Ryan Says:

As frustrating as that French final may have been, Federer has almost nothing but good to gather from this clay season. In previous years, there’s no way he’d be getting to the final of every clay tournament he plays. This year he makes the finals of 2 TMS and the French, and now Mr. Tennis Expert Sean is saying Federer’s year is “shot,” which is so absurd I won’t really address it. Federer is only improving on clay, and he’ll attack it with more zeal next year. This year was NOT Federer’s only chance to win that tournament.

Arun Says:

Mr Randall, I didn’t like your opening paragraph, who are you kidding here 60 straight wins on clay, 2 straight French Opens and you say he doesn’t have the greatest talent in the world? Sure Federer has a better all surface game, but bring on the hardcourts and trust me you will see the Spaniard winning the US and Aus Open soon. Wimbledon will take alot more work…..I prefered your other analysis.

Adolfo Says:

My english is not good but…
Not importante who is the best!(Nadal or Federer) Today Federer is nº 1.

But, Mr Randall, “this” is your opinion.
(The 20-year-old Spanish Bull doesn’t have the greatest talent in the world, nor the greatest of gifts. But he does seems to have that rare ability to win at any cost.)ok???

This is my opinion:
I dont’agree whith you .
Nadal have one of the best “nature” talent than i saw in my life (52 years), and i think that this kid could play also « basket, andball, run, tritenis, and so and so» …and still play football for Spanish Team in this World Cup/06

Tel me, how is possible be Nº 2 IN THE WORLD, without talent!

Have the rare ability to win???…THIS IS TALENT!!!

Adolfo Says:

Mr Randall
You remenber Stela Artois, when Nadal win the first set against Hewitt?

Now 4º Round in a G Slam/Wimbledon after defeat
Agassi , without Talent?

I hope you could change your opinion.

The kid have 20 years and a big…big Talent…

adolfo Says:

Mr Randall

“20 years and a big…big Talent…and 1/2 final!”

You already change your opinion?

Remember what i said about Nadal in ” can Rafa win….” 18th June

adolfo Says:

No more comments

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