French Open Dish: Almagro Bows Weakly Before Nadal
by Staff | June 3rd, 2008, 11:33 pm

Nadal v Djokovic in Semis at French Open

Not that you need extra help when you’re Rafael Nadal on clay, but it doesn’t hurt when the guy on the other side of the net lays down in reverence.
That was the story at the French Open Tuesday in fourth-round play where the world No. 2 Nadal spanked his heartless countryman Nicolas Almagro 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. You could visually see the fight leaving Almagro’s body early in the contest when he realized he was on a different planet than the player he holds in the highest regard.

“I tried to play it at the beginning, but I did not expect such results…He starts playing and his balls bounce up six meters high,” Almagro told reporters. “These are things I’m not used to. I’m not used to that on the tour, to have such heavy balls, such pace, such rhythm. His level is very high. It’s very difficult to play equal.”

In the other fourth-round match Tuesday, No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic edged his former junior practice partner, 19-year-old Latvian Ernests Gulbis 7-5, 7-6(3), 7-5.

“He has all the elements in his game,” Djokovic said of Gulbis, who many are already projecting as a sure-fire Top 10 player, speaking to reporters. “He has great potential and he’s a very nice guy. We knew each other’s game but we never met officially in tournaments so it was a bit tricky for both of us. I knew he was going to be aggressive and go for his shots so I was trying to be patient and just try to calm his game down a little bit. There were a lot of interruptions with the bad weather but I think it went to my advantage because when there is rain, the courts are getting slower which makes his serve not so effect[ive] as in other conditions.”

Nadal and Djokovic will square off in the semifinals.

“There is no such thing as a pre-written script before the tournament starts, and anything can happen before any match,” Nadal said of his anticipated meeting with Djokovic. “You never know if you’ll make it to the semifinal, final, and win. This is something that we all have in mind. We all know that.”

Scheduled for Wednesday at Roland Garros are men’s quarterfinals Gael “Force” Monfils vs. (5) David Ferrer, and (1) Roger Federer vs. (24) Fernando “Gonzo” Gonzalez.

Ivanovic, Jankovic Set Up All-Serb Semis at French Open

The Serbian Express eased into the semifinals on Tuesday at the French Open and a head-to-head clash after No. 2 seed Ana Ivanovic defeated No. 10 Patty Schnyder 6-3, 6-2, and No. 3 Jelena Jankovic beat unseeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro by the identical score.

Ivanovic, last year’s runner-up, is looking forward to taking it a step further than when she choked and suffered a nervous straight-set beating at the hands of now-retired Justine Henin.

“I feel like [a] different player this year,” Ivanovic said. “I don’t want to forget last year. I want to remember it and use it to play better.”

Ivanovic leads Jankovic 5-1 in their head-to-head meetings.

In fourth-round play, No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova eased past No. 16 Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-3, and Kaia Kanepi defeated Petra Kvitova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in a battle of unseeded players.

Kanepi is the first Estonian to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal.

“I have been believing in myself that I can play top players for a long time,” Kanepi said. “I was hoping for a breakthrough someday.”

Unfortunate news flash for the Estonian: Kvitova is not a top player.

On the schedule for Wednesday at Roland Garros are women’s quarterfinals (13) Dinara Safina vs. (7) Elena Dementieva in an all-Russian, and (4) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Kaia Kanepi.

Novak Djokovic has won 15 straight sets at the French Open…But Rafael Nadal, who celebrated his 22nd birthday, has won 26 straight matches after his second straight 3-game surrender to a countryman. Nadal has given up just 25 games through 5 matches, which is the fewest for any male player at an Open Era Slam entering the semifinals. Nadal is also 26-0 at the French, and 39-0 in best-of-5 clay matches…All four matches Tuesday went straight sets…If Kuznetsova loses tomorrow, the Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic match will be for the No. 1 ranking…While Ashley Harkleroad will be on the cover of the August Playboy issue, Ana Ivanovic will reportedly have an 8-page spread in the next FHM…Rafael Nadal is 3-0 on his birthday — he beat Federer in 2005, Montanes in 2006 and now Almagro in 2008…Novak Djokovic has reached five straight Slam semifinals…Ivan Ljubicic once made the second round at five straight Slams. That’s good too…During a post-match interview Monday, Mats Wilander of Eurosport actually apologized on air to Roger Federer for the “lack of balls” comment he made about the Swiss a few years ago…A Russian women has been in the French Open semifinals for seven straight years now (Sveta or Elena will make it)…Gael Monfils is appearing in his first career Slam quarterfinal…Rafael Nadal’s birthday beatdown on Almagro was the second-most lopsided quarterfinal match in Slam Open Era play, just behind Vilas’s 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 trashing of Ray Moore at the 1977 US Open…Fernando Gonzalez has yet to lose a match on clay this year…When was the last time Roger Federer played a five-set match?…Forecast: The dreary, cool conditions continue in Paris on Wednesday…Robby Ginepri was the first American male to reach the fourth round of the French Open since Andre Agassi in 1997…Oft-arguing Indians Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have reportedly mended fences after a dinner in Paris at the French Open and will play the Beijing Olympics together, and at least two tournaments during the run-up…According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the attourney representing the four Italian players fined and suspended by the ATP is getting ready to counter-sue the ATP, which is already being sued by the Masters Series-Hamburg event…Now Japan’s Akiko Morigami said she did NOT receive instructions from a coach to throw a doubles match at the French Open last week — according to damage control by the WTA Tour. “I am aware of the media reports, and unfortunately, my comments were misunderstood,” said Morigami in a statement released by the WTA Tour.

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48 Comments for French Open Dish: Almagro Bows Weakly Before Nadal

FoT Says:

If Almagro is the 2nd best clay court player as some had reported, then tennis is in trouble! lol!

playboy august 2005 Says:

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hiding behind our keyboards Says:

For kicks, I think I’m going to try to keep tabs on how many times Gonzalez and Ferrer say “hijo de puta” if ever something really doesn’t go their way. I can always make out the “PUTA!!!” part more clearly. Ferrer is much rougher on himself. His eyes maintain the expression of intense frustration, but he knows how to pick back up.

jane Says:

Re Staff question from Notes: “To say the least, we deserve a better semi on Friday than Rafa-Almagro match.”

this year, against tipsarevic, at the australian open, which roger won 10 – 8 in the 5th.

do I get a prize? airmiles? tickets to the final?

jane Says:

Correction – staff question was “When was the last time Roger Federer played a five-set match?”

See correct answer above…

Glenn Says:

Aaaargh! Djerkovic does it again! Here I am watching a thoroughly enjoyable match, and then Djerkovic resorts to his assinine behavior AGAIN at the end of the third set! Even the commentators were calling Djerkovic on his sarcastic behavior against his friend Gulbis. That Gulbis managed to put up a smile and hug Djerkovic despite the latter’s behavior is a testament to Gulbis’ upstanding character.

Aside from that, the Gulbis/Djokovic match was thoroughly enjoyable. Some REALLY great tennis. I had stated in another thread that I would choose Bolleli and Wawrinka as dark horses. I’d like to change that to Wawrinka and Gulbis.

Glenn Says:

I think Djokovic lost some fans after that Gulbis match because of his bad behavior. I noticed that the crowd cheered more loudly when Gulbis waved while going off the court than when Djokovic did his salutary victory wave.

Joker Says:

“Robby Ginepri was the first American male to reach the fourth round of the French Open since Andre Agassi in 1997”

Am I missing something or did Agassi reach the quarters in 2002?

jane Says:


It’s true: crowds love breakout stars like Gullbis, who is indeed sensational! Same thing happened at the USO final last year; the crowd cheered Djoko a little longer than Fed, likely for his overall appearance in the tournament and first GS final. It was no slight to Roger.

Don’t know what commentators you’re referring to, but when I watched the match, both Novak and Ernests were applauding one another, laughing and so forth. While it was excellently contested it seemed friendly. I heard nothing negative from the commentators. What did they say on your coverage?

I haven’t read 1 other comment on any threads that said anything negative about Novak’s behavior in that match.

jane Says:

Anyway, as you noted elsewhere, perhaps it IS time to get back to the tennis, rather than commenting continuously about behaviour.

It becomes to subjective: what’s a class act to some might not be to others.

I am happy we have all types in tennis.

jane Says:

Just one more thing with regards Gulbis’ “upstanding character”; I suppose you know that Gulbis and Novak are long time friends, from childhood, so I am certain the hug was sincere on both ends. The reason Gulbis self-admittedly has not yet achieved what he is capable of in tennis is because he said after matches he would go out and party with friends until 6:00 in the morning and then have a match the next day.

Personally I don’t have a problem with this; it’s fairly normal behaviour for a teenager. But I am not sure it’s the best for a professional tennis player. He says he’s more dedicated now; I sure hope so, because I’ve liked him for a year now and was hoping for the kind of results he finally got at this tournament.

Shital Green Says:

Gonzu is turning Fed into another Almagro. He just did that in the 1st set. Fed was able to hold on to his serve only once in the 1st set. It’s just the 1st set and too early, and I am not ready yet to accept an upset until it happens, but there are early signs. Gonzu is playing great. I am throwing my support behind him.

jane Says:

Hi Shital,

Well an interesting exchange of sets there; Roger righted himself, mainly his serve, to even the score. I wonder if Gonza can keep up the competition? Be nice to see an exciting match. Set 2 was over in a heartbeat!

Shital Green Says:

Federer says, “Not yet.” He takes the 2nd set almost in the same style. The match is looking more unpredictable by the minute.

Shital Green Says:

Gonzu had triple break point in the opening game of the 3rd set, but he could not convert any. Mr. gentleman breaks his racket. That is not enough to quench his frustration. He kicks the racket to further disfigure it, only to get a racket abuse warning from the umpire. He loses his cool completely, consequently gets broken in the 2nd game. As Gonzu’s backhand topspin starts faltering, Fed is on the way to take the 3rd set and to prove that the 1st set was just a fluke, a glitch in the start-up. He has the match under control.

Joker Says:

Turn the lights off! The gonzo party is over!

jane Says:

It’s nice to see Monfils continue his form in that first set; he’ll have to be careful against Ferrer though.

Roger’s now up a break in the fourth so unless Gonza finds a way, this match is over. Fed has been taking great care of his serve since the first set.

Shital Green Says:

Hi Jane,
Despite a sketchy start, Fed comfortably marches to the semi. Yes, his serve improved as the match progressed. Fed played great at the net today, hit winner about 30 times, with only a couple of misses. But to be a real contender in the final, he will have to learn how to handle high bouncing topspin. That was the area he was struggling today, too.
If Monfils wins today, it will be an interesting semi to watch. Ferrer has started playing better in the 2nd set, just took a break. The problem with Monfils is he just freezes and stays immobile sometimes as if the ball would walk to him, and that is not going to help him.
Btw, did you see Monfils’ dance in jubilation after he beat Ljubicic?

jane Says:

“Btw, did you see Monfils’ dance in jubilation after he beat Ljubicic?” Yes, he’s a character – one of the reasons I like him. I know what you mean about the “freezing”; the commentators noted that in his last match. It’s good to see he’s sticking with David so far and is now up a break in the 3rd. Even if he loses, I’d like to see him play close. It’d be great to see a Frenchman go deep, get to the semis.

andrea Says:

the winds are currently in monfils favor but i’m not counting out the five set grinder (ferrer) just yet.

haven’t seen the fed/gonzo match yet but i had a suspicion gonzo would take a set.

i didn’t have the heart to match the nadal almagro match. i might as well sit on the side of the highway and watch cars crash.

Shital Green Says:

One quick note, Fed is a quick reader of his opponent’s weakness. Not that he did not know Gonzu errs in his forehand on the run, but he exploited it by luring Gonzu into that pit more often.

Monfils is leading 2-1 and 2 breaks in the 4th set. His serve is finding the same accuracy as did against Ljubicic. He is seamlessly able to switch from defensive to offensive and change direction. Everything is going his way. The crowd is going totally raucous at every winner he hits, and so am I. He will win this thing now easily.

I like tennis bullies not tennis sissies Says:

lol the mighty federer losing the first set in 20 minutes lol!

andrea Says:

wow. who would have guessed? monfils/federer semi…

grendel Says:

At last, Monfils gifts show on the big stage. Once or twice, even Ferrer had a grin for the sheer outrageousness of some of the Frenchman’s winners. This is a counterpuncher with a difference; he lulls the opposition with endless loopy balls, and out of nowhere: explodes! Ferrer hits the ball hard, especially if he can rely on his opponent’s pace. Monfils doesn’t give it to him, but tortures him with a smile. That languid, effortless reaching. Monfils hits the ball hard, really gobsmackingly hard, at his own time and convenience. Not very often, just – when it counts. Some serve, too.

I watched his match with Federer at Doha a couple of years ago – with Federer in his prime; if not perhaps, on that occasion, at his very best. It was a close tight match which fed barely survived – he just couldn’t shake Monfils off. This fellow is a fighter as well as everything else. If he doesn’t tighten, he certainly has a chance against Federer.

Does any Fed fan do what I do – as I was watching, for example, Fed against Gonzo today, I kept mentally putting Nadal in Gonzo’s place. Thus Fed hits a ball right to the corner, which Gonzo can’t handle; Nadal calmly picks it up and hooks it to the other corner immediately putting Fed on the defensive. Fed hits a screaming winner; well, true, Nadal wouldn’t have got that – but then he would never have given Fed the opportunity to hit that particular forehand.. And so on. This can become obsessive, and Nadal assumes inhuman, monster proportions.

The fellow is only human, isn’t he, isn’t he, isn’t he…….

Jonno Says:

Oh my God David Nalbandian must be looking at all this and wondering when the hell his injury luck will change………thrashes Nadal and Djokic in all their meetings (albeit only 3 combined and Nadal on hard courts but still, tough for them psychologically I would think, to believe either will beat him without playing at their absolute best)and winning here against Fed in the semi 2 years ago before bowing out this year quite clearly for the same reason. This guy more than any is the slam champion in waiting.

jane Says:

YAY Monfils; I can’t wait to watch the rest of the (taped) match tonight!

andrea Says:


i’ve been watching nadal play and thinking how he plays differently against players other than fed. but the same analysis can be done. nadal gets more aces against other players as they don’t have the return ability of federer. same with other shots – what becomes a winner against others, is not necessarily the case with fed.

nadal is human. he’s looking freakishly good though so as i mentioned before, fed can MAYBE sleep thru one set but that’s it.

both of them (assuming they are in the final, which i’m taking the liberty of assuming) will be nervous and nadal has slow starts..particularly against federer for some reason. if fed gets the lead in a set he has to hang on and close it out. none of this monte carlo/hamburg 2 breaks up and still loses crap.

fed seems to be the only one that can tangle with nadal on any significant level and that’s becasue he’s just a step above everyone else. novak may take a set tomorrow but that’s about it.

sensationalsafin Says:

I think about Nadal all the time when I watch Federer play. And it looks to me like Federer is actually practicing the strategy he is going to use against Nadal. Going up the line with the forehand instead of inside-out, immediately stepping in to hit the swinging volley and finish the point at net, drop shots.

What the hell does Nalbandian have to do with any of this? He’s 1-1 against Djokovic, btw, and the one that he won wasn’t even much of a drubbing, it was a close 2 sets. Nalbandian doesn’t deserve a slam. He just doesn’t.

jane Says:

Federer put in his two cents about the semi-final between Rafa and Novak (see quote below), and Roger seemed quite kind in his regard for Djoko too. Maybe it’s all show (i.e., for the press), but I’m taking it for sincere.

” Q. I just wanted to know if you think Djokovic can win against Nadal at this stage? And can you tell us more about the relationships you have with Novak Djokovic?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, to start with, I think he has a chance against Rafa. He played a very good match against him in Hamburg, and he is very fit. He also played well in Rome before that. He had a very good clay season, just like me, just like Rafa.

So I think we are the three players at the top of the moment. Maybe the weather is going to make a difference for one of them. I don’t know who is going to benefit from the weather, because probably the ball is not going to bounce as high as it does when the weather is fine.

But I think his game is very good to make it difficult for Rafa, yet Rafa is a favorite here, so it’s going to be an interesting match.

As for our relationship? Nice. We talk to each other. I’m happy he is here for the future of tennis. At the moment, we ‑‑ everything’s okay.”

grendel Says:

Cheers, andrea. You might be amused by this from Fed’s recent presser, relating to Almagro’s disintegration:”I would have thought he would have given him a better run for the money, you know. But I read some quotes before the match. You know, like he thought that Rafa is so good and so great, you know, that maybe he didn’t really believe in it. So if you don’t believe in it against Rafa, you’re not going to win, so…”

Amused, because isn’t that just what they always say Fed lacks, i.e. belief he can beat Nadal on clay? Er – including me. You can’t make a comment like that without implying that you do not suffer from the same disability. The question is: can we believe him? Can he believe himself? I don’t know, it’s all a mystery…

MMT Says:

Federer’s beaten Nadal 6 times (even once on clay), so there’s no reason to assume he doesn’t believe he can beat Nadal. Others can claim ESP, and that they know Fed’s thoughts, but that’s pure conjecture.

If Almagro is SAYING before his match with Nadal that he may not believe he can beat him, that’s completely different and perfectly appropriate for Federer to say what he said.

You cannot hold Federer accountable for what OTHERS are saying about whether HE believes he can win!

Shital Green Says:

Grendel, you had good observation here: “If he [Monfils] doesn’t tighten, he certainly has a chance against Federer.”
Let me add this: Monfils hits a lot of ball in the mid court. He cannot afford to do this against Fed. Plus, he not only has to be a lot more quicker in his returns but also hit harder. All these things he can do only if he can stay carefree.

I am not sure if Fed lacks the conviction necessary to beat Rafa. Fed believes he can. He is just short of couple of ounces in some areas to match Rafa on clay. But if he gets breaks like those in Hamburg, he has to be able to consolidate them, not let Rafa come back. Again, this is circular: To prevent Rafa from coming back, Fed must guard his mental state from being intimidated. But he is right in his argument that one should not enter the court utterly fetishizing the opponent or with the defeated mentality.

In the mental department, Djoko does pretty well by creating a screen to bury the Nadal-phobia-on-clay, but he just does not have the game to beat Nadal on clay yet, unless some factors help him make up 10-15% deficit in his game. But if he finds Nadal below the par for whatever reasons, he can beat him this Friday. Let me play a believer for a second: On some rare occasions, a player can find himself in a miraculously best form to produce an exceptional tennis. I hope Djoko finds that miraculous moment to shock the world. And that should please Fed fans, too, at least for a day. I think Fed deserves to win this one once so that he can strengthen his GOAT argument. I can be happy with the runner up, just once.

jane Says:

All’s quiet now on the Western Front…

Tejuz Says:

Well..Fed has already played and beaten Monfils comfortably both the times that they have met each other in the last coupld of months. Monfils is yet to take a set of Fed, so i dont see him taking 3 sets from Fed.. probably 1 or 2.

But yes.. its still a challenge for Fed, especially the retrieving and defensive skills of the Frenchman + the crowd backing.

Djoker vs Nadal is more closer.. but Nadal shud win in 4 sets.

grendel Says:

MMT -Fed obviously believes he can beat Nadal on hard court and grass. That is not the point. But does he believe he can beat him on clay? Really and truly? There is a saying by an English writer:”Never trust the artist, trust the tale”. Adapting that idea here, one would tend to be guided by Federer’s body language, when playing Nadal on clay, rather than by anything he says. Still, these are murky waters, no doubt.

MMT Says:

My view is that Federer’s problem against Nadal is tactical, not and technical, and not mental.

First, his serve is less potent on clay, so he has to earn more points the old fashioned way.

Second, his own return is generally meek, while Nadal’s serve is underrated on all surfaces; he doesn’t lose serve very often anywhere, including on clay. This puts more pressure on Fed’s serve, particularly when the end of the set is in sight.

Third, Fed plays 6-12 feet behind the baseline when playing Nadal because of the spin, pace and direction he hits with, particularly on clay. That distance makes approaching the net difficult because the approach must be perfect, putting more pressure on Fed to hit winners outright from the back court. That’s ludicrous against Nadal. Nadal’s ability to defend aggressively puts more pressure on any kill shot Fed attempts, prompting more errors.

Finally, and this is the key in my view, he under-utilizes his slice on clay, and his topspin backhand has very little offensive value, particulary when struck above the shoulders as it so often is against Naal. That puts even more pressure on his serve and forehand to earn points – all of his causing his errors to increase against Nadal.

I don’t want to leave the impression that this is all a question of errors on Fed’s part – if you saw Nadal’s match against Almagro, you saw how often Almagro flubbed easy kill shots when trying to put too fine a point on those strokes. Great defense forces errors, and Nadals is the master in this regard. Djokovic also defends well, but puts less on the return than Nadal on clay anyway.

Anyway, I would pick either one of them to defeat either Federer or Monfils in the final.

jane Says:


Thanks for that analysis (I know it was addressed to grendel but I found it very interesting).

We’ve talked here before about Fed’s return of serve against Nadal, I think after Hamburg. I rewatched that match and it seems to hold true that when Fed is more agressive on the return he has a much stronger chance of winning the point; if he just gets the ball in play then Nadal is immediately on top of it and is able to finish off the point quickly with Roger on defense.

About court positioning – in the Novak vs. Gulbis match, they both played closer to the baseline taking the ball on the rise, resulting in a faster, more exciting match. Unlike with Monfils vs. Ferrer, which seemed to be more about defense and the occasional explosion.

Fed needs to play a more attacking, less passive style of game if he meets Rafa.

andrea said elsewhere that Djoko had to play all out just to eek out a set at Hamburg, but he really did more than that. He could’ve won the first set, he won the second set decisively and I’d argue that he was even in the third set until the end (what did he fend off – 4 or 5 match points?). Djoko can hang with Rafa, but the key to him beating him at RG will be to do it in 3 sets – 4 at most. If it goes to 5 then Rafa wins. Obviously Rafa is the favorite hands down, and it’s entirely possibly Novak will be out in three. I am just trying to imagine an alternate scenerio.

I think Fed was correct, too, in that the weather could play a factor. If the ball stays flatter, like at Hamburg, then maybe someone could defeat Rafa here – seems to me the last few years have been dry and hot (maybe I am wrong, but that’s how I remember at least the past two).

Roger should get past Monfils although Gael is showing some determination here (nice to see from him).

Daniel Says:

I am kind of superstitious and I think Henin brougth an extra luck to Nadal (they both won 3 consecutuive years), so this year we will have a new French Open winner both male and female. Just a hunch, althougth I am a suspicious one to say it!:)

grendel Says:

As an armchair enthusiast, who knocks about a bit, I’ m hesitant to argue with someone who is clearly a player, in the same way that I wouldn’t give tips to a plumber on how to do his business. Nevertheless, some of the things you say seem questionable.

There is the puzzling fact in that in most of Federer’s games against Nadal on clay (I exclude Monte Carlo 2007), Federer has had periods of striking dominance – sometimes more than once in the same match. At some point, he loses concentration – at Monte Carlo this year one had the sense that he was overtaken by a premature feeling of exuberance, and Nadal at once homed in on his dropping of focus. Then all the old doubts seem to creep back in. He reverts to the fatal passive mode. This strikes me as a mental problem.

Although I respect your expertise, forgive me if I am a little sceptical. Federer knows as much about tennis as anyone alive, and he is obviously surrounded by tennis experts. They must, together, have endlessly analysed the points of weakness, and it seems to me that it is highly implausible that anyone on this or any other website is going to identify flaws which they have not considered. I remember Sharapova – an arrogant woman, but someone who has a perfectly adequate tennis head – ironically thanking one of her questionners for the coaching lesson.

To take one instance where I am at one with you, Federer does indeed seem “meek” in his return of serve. But that must be illusory (I tell myself). He must have some strategy in mind when he chooses not, a la Djokovic in Hamburg, to blast it back. No idea what, mind (draw his opponent in, perhaps?) And I suspect you somewhat simplify the backhand issue – we tend to remember those desperate attempts to deal with the shoulder high ball, and forget about the imperious drives down the line, and I’ll bet that THEY tend to occur when he is in one of his dominating spells.

I agree with you absolutely, though, that “great defence causes errors”.

MMT Says:

I think it’s safe to say that where we differ is in the definition of “believing” you can win. That Nadal is definitely the foremost of the 4-5 players on tour that can beat him, is spot on. No question on that.

I would think that when you play someone who has beaten you more or almost as often as you’ve beaten them, you know you that, all things equal, you have to be “at your best” to win. I believe it is this pressure that causes Federer his lapses in concentration – particularly exemplified by the problems he’s had serving to either win or save the set this year.

But this is very different than not believing you can win – because obviously he can and has beaten Nadal, even on clay. But as you’ve noted, Fed’s problems seem to come at the most inopportune times – essentially he chokes.

Usually when a worse player is nowhere near winning against a better player he’ll reel off some unreal shots and plays because it’s almost like practice – everyone know what the result will be.

But let that worse player reach set point or better, and faced with the real prospect of winning, what happens? He chokes. The racquet head slows down, shots spray, or they land short in the court, and suddenly the better player looks like he’s raised his game, when IN FACT the worse player, faced with the real prospect of winning, has dropped his.

It’s perhaps ironic to think of the psychology of choke applying to Federer, but I feel that may explain some of the strange highs and lows in his matches against Nadal. I’m reticent to say he chokes because that can come across as a criticism of a great champion in Nadal, but plent of people have choked against Federer, so there’s no reason not admit that plenty of people choke against Nadal – including Federer.

The aura of invicibility is the fruit of repeated success against the same pool of players. Both Nadal and Federer have benefitted from it.

Glenn Says:


I recorded the Gulbis/Djokovic match so I’ll watch it again tonight and give you a transcript of what the commentators said.

Yes, I know Gulbis and Djokovic are good friends, which, to me, made Djokovic’s actions that much worse.

After they shook the ref’s hand, didn’t you notice that Djokovic was not as joyous as he normally is after winning a match? You could interpret it as him not wanting to rub it into his friend’s face, but that is EXACTLY what he did DURING the match in the third set towards the end. I think Djokovic’s not-too-joyous behavior AFTER the match was an indication of guilt for the way he treated his friend DURING the match.

Your statement on Gulbis’ partying days was an interesting comment. The commentators stated that his father is one of the richest men in Latvia!

BTW, I know my comments on character have become tiring to you. But I don’t think it is a matter of whether one perceives actions as a class act or not (which is indeed, as you say, subjective). It is a matter of how much importance a particular fan places on behavior in gauging the entertainment value of a certain sport. To me, bad and unsportsmanlike behavior from players really spoils the overall quality and enjoyment I have for a sport – especially tennis. To others (like yourself), it may not matter that much.

Anyway, if I do make comments about behavior, it is because that is important to me. If it is not that important to you or others, then simply ignore my comments. But I should have a right to express myself, don’t you think?

jane Says:

No worries Glenn; I don’t need to hear the transcript.

Let’s let bygones be bygones? I guess I got on a roll trying to defend Djoko but there’s really no need. Sometimes people just don’t see through the same eyes. My apologies for rudeness.

That’s okay with me.


jane Says:

I mean, it’s okay not seeing eye-to-eye, not my rudeness, for which my apology is sincere. I don’t like being at the receiving end of it so I certainly shouldn’t dish it out.

You can think and say what you like about Novak; I just think differently about him.

Skorocel Says:

MMT said:

“But let that worse player reach set point or better, and faced with the real prospect of winning, what happens? He chokes. The racquet head slows down, shots spray, or they land short in the court, and suddenly the better player looks like he’s raised his game, when IN FACT the worse player, faced with the real prospect of winning, has dropped his.”


It seems to me as if you think that Nadal was able to dig out from all those holes just because of Fed’s (or any other player’s, for that matter) level of game suddenly “dropped”, isn’t it? The truth, however, is (and we’ve witnessed it on several occassions), that Nadal is at his most dangerous EXACTLY in these situations (i.e. when he’s trailing)… Not to say he isn’t a great frontrunner (not at all!), but he always seems to up his game once he’s in (even a slight) danger – and that’s what I admire on him… I’ve never liked his game (simply because I find it purely destructive – not creative), but to say Nadal was able to turn all those matches vs Fed (and other players) around mainly because they choked is somewhat disregardful to what the Spaniard can produce on the court (I mean especially on clay)…

Skorocel Says:

To Glenn:

What exactly did Djoker to Gulbis in their match? I saw only the 3rd set, but didn’t notice anything unusual…

Glenn Says:


Gulbis had just broken back to tie 5-5, and the crowd was elated. Then on his serve, Gulbis made the first point, and the crowd went wild again.

At that point, Djokovic raised his arms and started clapping obsequiously, and giving a “sarcastic thumbs up to the crowd” (the words of the commentator). There were two commentators, and they both agreed that Djokovic was being sarcastic, because he had a scowl on his face when he was doing it. Then they commented that Djokovic was upset because the crowd was getting behind Gulbis, that Gulbis deserved the praise, having just made three ABSOLUTELY amazing shots to break back and make it 5-5, that he should likewise appreciate the effort of Gulbis, and that he should not treat the French fans that way.

It was on the heels of that incident that I noticed – as I mentioned to Jane earlier – that the crowd clapped more loudly when Gulbis left the stadium, than when Djokovic gave his salutary victory wave. Despite what Jane says, I have never seen (or rather heard) such a crowd reaction. Normally, the crowd claps either more loudly, or merely just as much, for the winner than for the loser. Of course, admittedly, I have only been a tennis fan for a little over a year, and I’m sure Jane has watched more tennis matches than I have.

Glenn Says:


Thank you for the apology. I apologize too if I was a little tough on you. Your graciousness humbles me.

BTW, I was reading another thread, and I came upon your comment where you started talking about the women’s final. I immediately stopped and closed the window – I hadn’t watched the match yet and I didn’t want to get tempted with a spoiler! :)

Skorocel Says:

To Glenn:

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I just can’t see anything bad on Djoker’s actions… Indeed, I can thoroughly understand them! In my opinion, he was just upset, since those French idiots (I’m very sorry, but that’s the only way I can describe them) once again became prejudicial – simple as that… It’s okay to root for an underdog, but the crowd in Paris always takes that to another level (on a level of prejudices, that is)… Just on a side note, have you ever seen that 1999 final between Graf and Hingis? They literally mauled the Swiss just for being insecure (in case you don’t know, after one of her returns which was ruled out, she crossed the net and argued with the umpire & line judge, which literally enraged the French crowd), and NEVER forgot to remind her about it in her future appearances in Paris…

The same for Djoker… What the hell did he do in that match vs Gulbis?! Absolutely nothing, but the French crowd were cheering for the Latvian as if Djoker was their arch enemy or something… But well, just try to argue with the umpire even about one single bad line call or throw your racquet – and they’ll literally CRUCIFY you!

Also that Nadal’s match vs Grosjean in 2005 – though I’m not a fan of the Spaniard at all, I believe the crowd acted really unfair towards him – just because the umpire ruled one questionable line call in his favor… Of course, that “banana choking match” vs Mathieu in 2006 was something different, but here, the guy did absolutely nothing wrong – yet they were booing literally every single point which he won after that questionable line call…

Trust me, I’ve NEVER seen a worse tennis crowd than that in Paris, NEVER! Even if they’ll be rooting loudly for Fed (my favourite) to finally win his 1st RG title, I’ll still consider them as the most ill-behaved tennis crowd out there – like it or not… They’ll simply pick up their favourite and root for him fanatically – regardless of how fairly the opponent is behaving in that match…

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