Nadal on Fire Heading into Tennis Masters Rome
by Sean Randall | April 27th, 2009, 10:48 pm

Another week on the clay and another title for Rafael Nadal, what’s new? On Sunday Nadal thumped his countryman David Ferrer 6-2, 7-5 to win his fifth straight Barcelona title. ADHEREL

The victory was Nadal’s 35th career ATP title (he’s more than halfway to Pete Sampras!) and his 24th on his favorite dirt surface.

But that was Barcelona, and now for me comes the real pre-French test, Rome. It was last year when Nadal suffered his lone clay setback falling to Juan Carlo Ferrero. Nadal was plagued by blisters back then and one has to wonder, with all the tennis the Spaniard’s play of late just how healthy he really is.

That said, I think someone, somehow gets Nadal this week at the Foro Italico. Will it be Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, or even Andy Murray? Well, let’s go to the draw…

Nadal actually has a very dangerous draw, if the event was play on hardcourt! But of course it isn’t and I fully expect the top-seed and three-time Rome champ to ease into the quarterfinals, and that’s where I think he slips on the slippery Italian dirt. The second section of Nadal’s quarter is stocked with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v. Richard Gasquet, Nicolas Almagro v. Ernests Gulbis (remember him?) plus Igor Andreev and Fernando Verdasco. My pick to emerge is Verdasco and I think he’ll beat his countryman Nadal in the quarters.

The second quarter looks for all the World like we are headed for another Andy Murray-Nikolay Davydenko clash. Murray may have to deal with Marin Cilic in the 16s, but I like the Scot there. Davydenko has a tougher road with Fernando Gonzalez in the third round but the Russian owns Gonzo. And in that quarterfinal match I’m going to back Murray, but not very confidently.

The bottom half top quarter is going to be a war in the 16s with Juan Martin Del Potro v. Stan Wawrinka, and Novak Djokovic v. Tommy Robredo. In the end I think Novak gets through and beats Stan in a rematch of the 2008 finals.

The last quarter features the now-fallen Federer. Will this be the week the Swiss breaks his title drought? I doubt it. Luckily Federer was given a relatively easy early few rounds with Radek Stepanek in the third round before he gets the resurgent David Ferrer. Federer, though, has dominated Ferrer losing only one set in eight career meetings with the Spaniard, but I somehow think that changes this week leaving us with two Spaniards in the semifinal, neither of whom named Nadal. Can it be?

My semifinals are Verdasco v. Murray and Djokovic v. Ferrer which on paper (or on my screen) looks exceptionally odd. Almost too odd. And for my winner…Ah, to hell with it, I’m taking Nadal to beat Novak in the final. Rafa’s not losing on dirt. And he lost in Rome last year so he’s got some extra motivation. Don’t fight the tape is what the say on Wall Street and I’m applying that here. Don’t fight Rafa, especially on the clay. Is there a surer thing in tennis? Doubt it.

You Might Like:
Roger Federer Says He’s Not Sure If He’ll Play Rome
Nadal Wins Title, Djokovic Ranking Drop in Rome
Three Dead After Fire Breaks Out In Tampa Home Owned By James Blake; Blake Safe [Video]
Rafael Nadal: What Happens To Me In Rome Won’t Impact The French Open
Novak Djokovic Up To 6th In ATP Race Rankings And In Position For Run At No. 1

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137 Comments for Nadal on Fire Heading into Tennis Masters Rome

tennisfan Says:

I enjoyed your article and I actually think you are close on a few predictions, but my pick for the winner is nadal over djokovic in the final….I think nadal defeats murray in one semifinal…..and i think djokovic defeats ferrer in the other semifinal……My final prdiction is

Nadal def. Djokovic


I believe federer is just about through……the real rivalry over the next few years will be nadal and djokovic……..

Roger will end his career with 13 majors……
Rafa will end his career with 15 majors…….
Novak will end his career with 6 majors…….
Andy M. will end his career with 4 majors….

greatest of all time list by 2014

1. rafael nadal
2. pete sampras
3. rod laver
4. roger federer
5. Bjorn Borg

jane Says:

Wow tennisfan, at least you’re specific! :)

zola Says:

rain in Rome for the next three days! Holy!

andrea Says:

haven’t seen much of the clay court season yet – stuck i post production – but every year we all wonder if nadal can keep up the domination on clay and every year he keeps doing it.

it is tough to bet against him and maybe not in rome. my gut is that the french goes to someone else this year. and although roger still hopes for it, he better bring some mojo to rome for anyone (including himself) to believe he can do it.

blah Says:

Nadal losing the french this year? That’s like predicting someone else to win wimbledon during Fed’s 4 year peak. He won’t play himself out of matches so who can take him? Murray hasn’t shown that much on clay and can Djokovic really last four or five sets out there on clay without his level of play dropping? Who else is there? Monfils? I think he’s a year or two from really challenging if he can prevent the french man syndrome.

I think Nadal still has two or three french opens coming his way before he slows to a point where he can be outgrinded by opponents. By that time I see Murray or perhaps another claycourt specialist taking over french. I am more interested to see whether anyone can challenge him on grass once federer is completely out of the picture. Remember that for the past three years it was all fed and nadal in both the french open and wimbledon.

Nadal winning 15 slams? The most I can see is 12. Let us not forget Federer’s run and decline after that run is a rarity. In the past most players won their majors throughout a decade, winning one or two slams per year, with some other surprise players coming in and taking a few ever so often. I don’t see the Nadal Djokovic Murray exchanging of slams happening, and hopefully it doesn’t happen that way, how boring would that be.

Tj Says:

I also pick Verdasco to go to QF, but to beat Nadal there… I don’t know about that!
I still pick Nadal to win Rome, I just think he should skip Madrid or lose in early round, so he can prepare for RG
Also I really hope Fed can get to semi may be even Final.. Another classic Nadal – Federer final… Wow….!!

max Says:

u know guys i just dont understand how some people can even at the moment think that anyone can bear nadal on clay. i mean the guy has literally till now swept every major title on clay and hes been doing it for four years. well except for the rome title last year and that to due to a blister. so all this talk about nadal losing on clay is just rubbish at the moment. i dont say that he cant be beaten but i dont see it happening any time soon. i also think and agree that federer is not gonna go past 13. it will just prove to be his unlucky no.

smriti jain Says:

i wnt nadal 2 win da match wid roger as his career is abt 2 end………….i like nadal as da best player……2ndly i like roger……..3rd i like novak

smriti jain Says:

fight rafa….fight 2 win dis match……..give ur best as u r da dest

Dave B Says:

I love Nadal but I’m starting to feel like I did when Steffi Graf was around. Her winning all the time was a big bore. So despite my deep admiration to Nadal I’m rooting for Murray or Verdasco or SOMEONE ELSE.

jane Says:

Dave B – I know what you mean; I felt that way when Roger was winning everything in sight, and although I totally admire and enjoy watching Rafa I am beginning to tire of him winning so much. At least, however, he lost in Miami and we saw other players on the podium that final day! SOMEONE ELSE would be nice.

blah – I guess you could see it boring if a few of the guys were exchanging slams, but at least it would be A FEW! For the last 4-5 years or how many years???!!!, aside from Novak’s AO win last year, EVERY SLAM has gone to either Roger or Rafa – now that is boring! Personally I’d like to see some different winners at the slams now and then.

And it’s raining again — sigh. Roof for Rome?

Fedex Says:

Sampras ahead of laver and Roger? Ok! Sampras sucked so bad on clay, he got thrashed 1 and 0 by Santoro at one of the clay masters ( i think Monaco). I would, personally, put anyone who has credentials on multiple surfaces ahead of a guy who sucks on one of the surfaces. I still put Pete ahead of andre, but if players like rafa, borg, laver and Roger who take the surface out of the equation win even 10 or 11 slams, i would have them ahead of Pete on my list!

This GOAT/BOAT discussion is arbitrary. You get a great debater with excellent tennis knowledge and he can actually prove that some grass grazing animal is what a GOAT is and not humans like Sampras/Federer. but, hey, whatever floats our BOAT… or should I say GOAT? or should I say whatever gets your GOAT? :)

Fedex Says:

I would argue that domination for a while raises the bar and forces players to play at a much exalted level.

To have such exciting and mentally strong players as Novak, Murray, delpotro, tsonga and others, one could argue, that Roger and Rafa raised the bar so high that those who donot rise to it, will get eliminated. Those who rise, will assist brilliant athletes like Roger and Rafa push the limits of human abilities. To me that is a welcome thing.

Von Says:

Hi jane:

“SOMEONE ELSE would be nice.”

It’s the reason why the threads are so lopsided and hardly any interest in the tourneys is shown especially during the clay season. Look on the positive side, we get more work done.

Thanks for defending James, I couldn’t help but laugh at the judgments handed out , and I don’t understand what’s so bad about him losing to a qualifier — it happens all of the time to other players, so why is he being singled out is a mystery to me. I suppose the bashing of the Americans is irresistible to some.

Fedex Says:

I would prefer a Roger/Rafa annihilation of a mediocre player over watching 2 4.0 level players give me a great “exciting” match. Sport at the level Roger/Rafa perform rises above the gladiatorial instincts of win/loss and becomes more like a solo performance of an artist. Like a musician, a writer or a painter. Their game is SO HUGE, it does not matter what most ordinary mortals bring to the table. The joy of athletes allowing us to rise above the instincts driven by the R-complex of our brain is an experience in itself!

jane Says:

Fedex, When Roger and Rafa have met in finals it has often been very exciting, I’ll concede that. However, it’d just be nice to see other slam winners now that Roger’s dominance is subsiding somewhat and before Rafa rules the world. lol. I’d also concede that Roger and Rafa have raised the bar, and for that, tennis fans are thankful, myself included.

club pro Says:

I think tennisfan’s comments are off the wall……I predict nadal to beat murray in one semifinal and federer to beat djokovic in the other semifinal……My prediction for the final is as follows……

federer def. nadal


I have not heard Roger Federer talk like he has this week for a long time and I think he is on a mission…..Immediately after his loss in Monte Carlo he was on a plane to Rome where he met an Austrian coach with his pupil Stefan Koubek and had 4 hour practice sessions everyday for a week in a private location….He stated that he worked on fitness, movement, forheand, and serve which are the componnents he will have to have to win the French Open…..Roger also knows that his time is running out for Rolland Garros so he now has that since of urgency that he has not had before or in a long time…..I think we are going to see the Roger Federer of old very shortly and he is going to try and peak for the slams……As far as predicting the amount of slams by the time their careers end I think you are way off base again…….Here are my predictions, and keep in mind that I am a fan of tennis and not one player over the other………Also I will put my count at year 2012 which is when I believe Federer will retire…….

federer will have 17 slams

nadal will have 12 slams

djokovic will have 3 slams

murray will have 1 slam

……Now as far as your greatest of all time list goes I also disagree…..

1. Roger Federer
2. Pete Sampras
3. Rod Laver
4. Rafael Nadal
5. Bjorn Borg

jane Says:

Hey Von! Welcome back. I just feel so badly for Blake; he’s going through a slump and it’s clear to anyone watching that he has been for a while. So I hate to see him picked on. You’re right; they all lose surprising matches once in a while. To me, Blake’s always had loads of talent and great shots, but he’s up and down in focus and confidence. Anyhow, I have meetings at work this morning so I have to go. But do keep popping in – many people have missed you (I think TD wrote something to you on the Blake thread last night).

I like tennis bullies Says:

Another classic Nadal – Federer final… Wow….!!
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

another classic 6-4 6-0 beatdown resulting in more federer tears wow!

Colin Says:

Blah, you’re wrong in saying predicting the defeat of Nadal soon is comparable to saying the same about Fed during his prime. Nadal’s game is far more demanding physically, so the chance of a breakdown is greater. This is Nadal’s last season at full throttle – that’s MY forecast!

RZ Says:

I think we’re headed for another Nadal – Ferrer final…

wjr Says:

to very different styles, it for me is ,so very close,but ill take fed,s style all day every every thing about nadal,except his azz picking……..

wjr Says:

fed 15 slams……nadal 14slams

MMT Says:

Fedex: Sampras did lose once to Santoro in Monte Carlo 6-1, 6-1 in 1998, but he was a good clay court player – not as good as the other surfaces, but he did win 3 titles on clay in his career, one in Rome, which used to be a half step below the French Open in prestige (albeit many years ago).

I also find it interesting that you’ve indicated the GOAT argument is arbitrary, yet, both Tennisfan and Club Pro’s lists mirror (proposed) grand slam titles, so I think subconsciously most would agree that slams are the best measures of who is the greatest of all time.

You could argue that slam totals don’t take into account the different surfaces, but I would also point out that it would be very difficult for any player to amass enough slams on any single surface to begin to approach the slam totals of the current top five – Nadal would have to win another 8 French Opens do (for a total of 12) to compare to approach the pantheon on the strength of just one surface.

My point is that the slam distribution by surface takes into account the arguments against anyone on player piling up slams on one surface. Take a look at the distribution for double digit slam winners:

Sampras 7 and 7 on hard and grass,
Federer 8 and 5 on hard and grass,
Emerson 10 and 2 on grass and clay,
Borg 6 and 5 on clay and grass,
Laver 9 and 2 on grass and clay,
Tildeon 10 on grass

I would argue that both Laver and Emerson maxed out on grass court slams, and as a result, restricted their ability to stretch the totals beyond 11 and 12 respectively. In fact, of all the double digit slam winners, only Big Bill Tilden, won all his slams on the same surface (grass). It is worth noting that in his most dominant years, from 1920 – 1925, the French “Open” was not even an international tournament – it was restricted to French tennis players only. Even so, he reached the French final in 1927 (aged 34) and 1930 (aged 37).

That said, he just barely hit double digits with 10 slams, last 2 slams coming when he was 36 and 37 years old, so piling up slams on anyone surface doesn’t get you into the pantheon of the pantheon of all-time greats – i.e. “teen” slam totals.

In fact there are only 4 players in the history of the sport who have won slams on 3 surfaces – Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors (all 3 at the US Open), Mats Wilander and Rafael Nadal. Unfortunately for Nadal (although he is, in my opinion, likely to be the historical anomaly) none of those players hit double digit slams.

So, I think at the end of the day, piling up slams on anyone surface would likely result in a game ill-suited to win sufficiently on other surfaces, which would ultimately preclude any such player from breaking the all time record. That is, of course, excluding other variations from one slam to another including night matches, weather patterns, or collective training cycles (i.e. piling up slams in Australia, for example, when most players have not yet found their game).

As a result, who ever breaks the all time record, has to have a game that is good enough to win slams on more than one surface, and as such, deflates the argument against them as the GOAT that their game was geared towards just “one” surface, or that one particular surface bedeviled them – that was true of everyone in the top 20 slam winners that had hard court slams to contend with, (the 3 surface champions notwithstanding, or which there are only 4, and 1 of them – Wilander – won more than 1 slam on all 3 surfaces, who is scarcely discussed in the GOAT debate).

On the other hand, it seems winning on multiple surfaces doesn’t necessarily equate to being a better player, just more versatile. At the end of the day, when everyone in the world is trying to win the same tournaments, a player who won on more surfaces (like Wilander going 3-2-2 on clay, grass and hard) was perhaps more versatile, but not better than say Sampras who won 7 and 7 on hard and grass, but no titles on clay.

You can argue that hard courts and grass courts are more similar than clay, and I would agree, but they are different enough that it is rare for a player to have similar slam results at all the slams with the same surfaces. Something else is at play, and it is that something else that, in my opinion, separates the greatest champions, who win more slams, from everyone else.

So – for me the slam totals is best argument for the GOAT – and with the exception of Pancho Gonzales, I would have to say my GOAT is still Pete Sampars.

Von Says:

Colin: “This is Nadal’s last season at full throttle – that’s MY forecast!”

I mentioned after the ’08 USO, and a couple of times this year that Nadal has reached his zenith/peak and he’s on his descent. Last year was his best year and I think it is extremely unlikely that he’ll repeat it and/or remain at that level.

It’s obvious from the tournaments he’s played thus far for ’09 that his level of play is tapering off. He’s making a lot more UEs and he somehow appears slower — a prescription for a decline. I agree that the physicality of his type of play is very demanding on the body ala Hewitt, and once there’s a dip in physicality then it’s downhill henceforth.

Duro Says:

7:6, 6:0. See you in the finals!

jane Says:

Duro – hope you’re right!

Poor Safin – again he gets passed when he has the match in his grasp. :(

Von, I agree that Rafa hasn’t looked as formidable as last year, ever since winning the AO. At Miami, he lost in the quarters and was pushed hard even before that by Wawrinka, at IW, Nalbandian had him on the ropes, and even had the match on his racquet (!) serving at 5-4, and even on clay at MC, Rafa seemed “almost” beatable. I am not sure how it bodes for going forward, but as I said earlier, I think Rafa will remain number 1 this year, and then it will likely shift.

It’s tough to know with Rafa though as people have speculated before on these boards that he’d fade as so far he hasn’t, as least not entirely. Wonder what else Uncle Tony has up his sleeve!? :)

Von Says:


Did you watch Djoko’s match v. Montanes. Wow, Montanes played some stupid drop shots but he really pushed Djoko and had him breathing hard, but after Montanes lost the tie-break he seemed to just give up. Some of these lower ranked players are really depressing to watch because they give up so easily.

It’s amazing how similar the Rome and MC draws are.

Safin broke my heart again today. Gosh, he again could have won the match in 2 sets, but did a repeat of his Monfils fiasco. This was the third time he’s done this, and it seems like he just runs out of steam somewhere in the middle of the second set, and then the third is just a give away. I’m baffled and sad.

Acey Says:

A lot this whole year, people have been underestimating Rafa. The whole tendintis thing. And whatever. Well, look. He’s been in every final in every tournament he’s played this year, minus Miami , but he always has bad luck @ Miami. Doha was a win (doubles!) and Quatar or whatever exibition don’t count. Damn right@

Voicemale1 Says:


With regard to Nadal, it might help looking at his current clay season from the other side. In both Monte Carlo & Barcelona, his First Serve was at less the 60% for each of the tournaments, which is substantially below his customary 65-70%. This means in his 9 matches in both events he had to hit a 2nd Serve Ball over 40% of the time. Even giving away that kind of a handicap to his opponents, he still won both tournaments surrendering but 1 set in 9 matches. And he even recorded two 6-0 sets (vs. Lapentti in Monte Carlo and vs. Rochus in Barcelona), something he didn’t do last year. If he can record Love Sets with his serve underperforming, I disagree that this is any kind of decline for Nadal. If anything, this shows how he’s learned to pace himself optimally. After all, why would he go pedal to the medal right now if he can with these same tournaments throttled down at 3/4 effort? This approach was commonplace to Sampras, Lendl, Agassi, etc., all of whom could win matches at less that 100%. One thing I noticed in Monte Carlo was the tape is gone from the knees, which he wore all through the clay season last year, clearly an indication he’s felling pretty well. I suspect the very best of Nadal’s clay court game is yet to come, and I say that’s very much be design.

Regarding his match to Nalbandian at IW, again, that match showed another shift in the Nadal game. He was down Match Point 5 times, and on four of those Nadal hit a stone cold winner. Meaning, he didn’t wait for Nalbandian to lose the point on an error, he took the point with a winner. A year or two ago, Nadal would have just played it safe at those moments waiting & hoping for the error. Now he just takes control at those moments and lives or dies by the aggresive shots he hits. That’s what the #1 Aura of Confidence looks like. Nadal said afterward that in the first two sets he was far too respecting of the Nalbandian back hand. Once he stopped doing that, he rolled in the third set, recording another 6-0 Set.

Nadal has a real shot at winning three Majors this year. And the recipe for success in a season is much like that of a Major: you can’t win a Major in the first week, but you can lose it there. After winning Wimbledon last year and the Australian this year, Nadal now knows he can win the very biggest events off of clay. As a result, he’s probably setting his goals higher. I think what we’re seeing from him now is his comfort and ability on clay is so superior to everybody else, he’s learned to win there without the exertion he used to spend. That will only help him later.

Kimmi Says:

Yes, too bad for Safin. I was cheering for him. Is this the 3rd match that he is losing it while he has a chance to serve for it ?? Aaaaaarg !

What does Safin needs to do ? He still has the game, it shows but looks very nervous when he get the chance to close. And I am afraid if this keeps happening it will crush all his belief. Is this his final year on the tour ?

So much I hope to see him win few matches. Can he do another wimbledon 08 ?

sensationalsafin Says:

I agree with Voicemale1. People just don’t like seeing Nadal at number 1 and have never wanted actually see him pass Federer. His decline has always been talked about. And now, I think for Jane and Von, it’s happening subconsciously that you are seeing that his game is going down and this and that. Quite frankly, he’s still having an already much better start to this year than any year before. He is number 1 and he’s a very dominant number 1. I’m far from being a Nadal fan or supporter, but that’s just the way things are. He’s number 1 and he’s going to stay that way for a while. Federer had plenty of off days during his peak but it was still levels above the rest. Same with Nadal now. He ain’t going nowhere guys, sorry (wish he was).

jane Says:

sensationalsafin – Maybe some people don’t like seeing Nadal at number 1, but frankly I rooted for him to take over that spot for two years leading up to it; I LOVED that he stepped up and challenged Roger when few other players could/ would beat him.

BTW there is nothing “subconscious” about what I am seeing; Voicemale1’s comments on Rafa’s serve bear this out, plus there have been online articles about Rafa’s game and how it’s looking so I am not the *only* wondering, nor is Von, nor is Colin.

Here’s an article I just read the other day:

zola Says:

true that Rafa had the best start of his career this year. I too, don’t think he will go away soon ( hope not).

who played well in MonteCarlo? It was the first clay MS of the season , a few days after Miami. Everyone was just adjusting. Rafa, not playing his best, still won the tournament ( with 8 of top 10 playing).

He seemed to lose concentration in a few matches, but he righted the ship when it mattered. Everey year is different, but so far, I think he not doing too bad. The good thing was that he took the knee straps off in MC. He has lost weight and he is changing his game a bit. I am hoping he can stay around for a long time.

jane Says:


I have a few questions/responses for you as I know you follow Rafa closely so I’d really respect/appreciate your reply:

You note that Rafa’s serve has been slightly off its usual standard; any thoughts on why that might be?

Also, I have read elsewhere that perhaps Rafa’s slightly lowered standard may because of adjustments he has made in his game to be better on all surfaces, i.e., that they’ve may’ve affected his clay game in particular; do you buy that?

Rafa does tend to save his best for last, so to speak, when it comes to clay events, so I agree that he may show us that at Roland Garros.

About his match with Nalbandian at IW, you remarked “A year or two ago, Nadal would have just played it safe at those moments waiting & hoping for the error. ”

However, I would beg to differ, at least about last year; think of his IW match with Tsonga last year for instance; Rafa went for it in that match too – stepping into the court and blasting winners, for an amazing comeback. Perhaps he was to “awed” by Nalby’s backhand, and as you say he went for winners on the match points against his serve, but it was also down to, at least a partial choke by Nalby when *he* was serving for it at 5-4 and he not only double faulted in that game but made at least one unforced error. Credit to Rafa for hanging in and then running away with the match against a deflated opponent; after Rafa won the tiebreak, you just knew he had Nalbandian.

You may very well be right with your conservation theory too, but I don’t think Von and I were too off the mark in noting at least a slight decline in Rafa’s play, something that Sean (of all people!) predicted for Rafa’s clay season this year, that it’d be “bumpier”.

zola Says:


very nice analysis of Rafa’s game. Ferrer played him last year and this year in Barcelona final and he said that Rafa’s game is even more aggressive this year. All I am hoping for him is to stay healthy. no injuries and no blisters and I know he can have great results…

jane Says:


I thought Davydenko played very well at Monte Carlo, as did both Djoko and Murray, at least to my eyes, but we’re all rather subjective sometimes in this regard. Who else… Ljubicic played surprisingly well also, continuing his good matches from the two hardcourt masters, which was nice to see from an older chap. :)

fed is afraid Says:

ha ha ha-federer will have 17 slams?? on what planet?? he will never win another one.

jane Says:

Oh and Wawrinka has been playing well since at least Miami if not during the USA/Swiss DC tie so he also played well at Monte Carlo.

I am not saying Rafa didn’t play well, I am saying he looked *almost* beatable at times; that’s all. We’ll see what happens going forward.

Voicemale1 has put forth a theory, at least, so that’s something to discuss or think about.

Kimmi Says:

I think Rafa is making a little too many unforced errors on clay than he used too. I remember in previous years the errors were very few. The reason could be because he has changed his game to suit the hardcourts and that could be hurting his clay game.

But if you think about it, Rafa was also challenged by Djokovic and Fed last year before the RG (there was 3 sets for both) where he demolish everybody. I think we should see how he fairs up in Roland Garros, for some reason I feel the RG courts suits Rafa game more that any other clay courts he has played.

Kevin Says:


A good post…lot of food for thought. Thanks.

I’ve been wondering if we have problems with using Grand Slam titles as the ONE defining stat for GOAT determination. With question, it is an important statistic. Agruably the most important single stat. But is it the “be all, end all” factor?

First, as you noted, the French Open or “Championships”, were at one time a French only affair which barred all foreigners…so, unlike Rick and Ilsa in the movie Casablanca, we’ll need more than Paris.

Looking back at greats like Bill Tilden, in his day most tournaments were on grass as it was the all dominant surface. In the “old” days if you weren’t good on grass, you weren’t winning matches. Grass was tennis. And the “hard court” technology we know today was in its infancy. Hard courts truly started out as pure cement as the sport slowing evolved into a game that the “common people” could also play in public parks.

Today all surfaces are hardly equal. Only some 7% of ATP tournaments are on lawn as, since the war, they been ripped up and hard courted down. Grass is a maintenance nightmare. Indeed, save for the traditional and marketing of Wimbledon, lawn tennis may have gone the way of the history books. There’s more than a couple pros who don’t like it and fine preparing for it’s one major event an bit of an irritant.

Clay has survived relatively well. It’s still roughly a third of ATP calendar. Given the small percentage of grass events, it kinda begs the question of how important is it to modern tennis?

Today’s modern Master 1000 Series has nine tournaments — mandatory for all today’s top players — 3 are on clay, the rest on a widely differing surface called “hard courts.” None are on grass.

Could one not make a case to minimize grass titles in the ‘modern’ game? Again, given the prestige of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, one will probably not get far on this road. For those to whom tennis is a causal ‘sports read’, Wimbledon is its all defining event. For many, it is tennis. But, logically speaking, if only tiny percentage of tournaments are played on its original 19th century surface, how important is it in as as a stat to determine such things as great players?

It’s only relatively recently, that the four GS events have crystallized into it’s 2 hard court, clay and grass. Save the fact that in 2009, Aussie Open was played on a new surface albeit a new “hard court” surface. And they too are not all equal.

But there’s probably an even bigger problem in using Slam Titles as the “be all, end all” GOAT deciding factor: the “Open Era” factor.

Consider greats like Rod Laver who spanned both the amateur and pro eras? He won the calendar Grand Slam in 1962. The next year, smelling the money, he turned pro and continued winning on this “parallel” tennis circuit where he won five pro US championships alone.

With the dawn of the “open” era, professional players were allowed back to compete in Grand Slam events. When an older Laver came back in 1969 he again won a second calendar Grand Slam.

No one else has done this.

But from 1963 through 1968—six long years—he was barred from 24 Grand Slams. So Rod ended up with only “11” Grand Slam titles…short of Pete’s 14 or Roger’s 13. How many Grand Slam titles would Laver had if he was allowed to compete in these amateur tournaments? A Rod Laver in his prime?

A hypothetical question to be sure, but in 1967 alone, Laver won 19 titles, including the Wimbledon Pro, the U.S. Pro Championships, the Wembley Pro Championship, and the French Pro Championship, which gave him a clean sweep of the most important professional titles.

Moreover, he was considered World Number One from 1964 through the rest of the entire decade (matching the Beatles at the top!).

But if the Grand Slam stat skews Laver on the downside, it may have skewed Roy Emerson’s to the upside.

Emerson’s won 12 Grand Slams — he’s third on the all time list! Yet 10 of his trophies were hoisted from 1963 through 1967, when he didn’t have to compete with Laver and other pros. Take a look at the Laver/Emerson H2H stat. Is Roy Emerson as great as Borg, McEnroe or Connors? Or even a Becker or an Edberg? These greats can’t match Roy’s Grand Slam total?

They played in an era of tougher competition.

All this brings up an important question: can one “single” statistic provide the GOAT answer? No matter how important that single stat is.

Statistics in isolation can be skewed.

First, if you’re sick or injured during the time of any of these “four” GS tournaments are held…well, there goes a bit of your chance at tennis immortality.

Plus we have the Open Era factor.

Plus some modern players — the Williams sister come quickly to mind — plan and practice only for these four tournaments skipping over a substantial part of the ‘rest of the season.’

Perhaps it may be important to also include in some other key criteria.

Like total weeks at World Number One. Clearly, to be considered the GOAT, playing consistently well against your competition for a substantial period of time is a factor. Younger readers may have never heard of Poncho Gonzales. Again, because he was a pro, he’s only won two slams. Yet he was number one for an unequalled eight years in the 1950s and early 1960s. He too would have had a lot more Grand Slams if his pro championships were factored in.

And how about the total number of titles? Laver’s got a whooping 196 titles (40 listed by the ATP). Or Jimmy Connors with 147 titles. Even Lendl’s got 144 tournaments!

Federer’s 57 or Sampras’s 64 titles pale a bit by comparison.

Both these stats give us an idea of a player’s performance at a number of different tournaments in diverse locales against a wide range of players. Again, over the longevity of their career. Isn’t performance over a player’s entire career what we are trying to determine when we look at who may be the greatest of all time?

Another important stat, which broadens the field to how well these guys played against the entire universe of tennis pros—is to look at is their win/loss percentage career singles record. Nadal at (344–78: 81.5%) and Roger at (626–151: 80.6%) are relatively close.

You get an idea of how great both Nadal and Federer are when you throw in past greats like Borg 603–127 (82.6%); Conners 1241–277 (81.8%); Lendl 1,071- 239 (81.8%); McEnroe 875–198 (81.5%); Rod Laver (392–99: 79.8%) or Sampras (762–222: 77.4%).

But the way, I agree with my source (, that, at least for this statistic, you need a minimum of 700 matches. Nadal, at 22, hasn’t been around long enough to really compare him in the Hall of GOATs. (Though he should be included in any conversation of the greatest clay court players ever.)

And for those who argue for the overriding importance of Grand Slams, perhaps we should also look at stats within these four tournaments. Like the win/loss Grand Slam stat. Borg look impressive here at 141-16 (89.8%) with Roger second at 168-26 (86.6%) and Pistol Pete fifth at 203-38 (84.2%).

And, as you duly noted, since professional tennis is played on three distinct services, winning Grand Slams on all three is pretty indicative of some greatness. At least in my book. Sampras and the Fed have never won on clay. Nadal—after Connors, Wilander and Agassi—are the only men to win in “open” Grand Slam titles on all three different surfaces. And even that has complicating asterisks. Connor’s clay victory at the US Open was on the faster “American” clay; not the slow red clay of Europe.

So if we’re trying to determine the greatest ever — arguably, an impossible task anyway — we need get away from simplistic sound bite analysis and look a bit deeper at the game.

And that may be good for tennis.

And perhaps it’ll help us get away from the modern phenomena of “part time” players like the William sisters who avoid many lesser titles to “specialize” on the Grand Slams…hoping to stay fresh and injury free.

I prefer a game where we get to watch Roger and Rafa going at it all year long.

That’s good enough for me.

And if we’re watching, that too is good for tennis.

zola Says:


Very informative and insightful post.You showed very nicely that indeed it may not be possible to use one single factor to determine who is the best of all times.

There are too many parameters; Different times, different surfaces, requirements, equipments, perhaps different field. That’s why I can’t understand GOAT arguments. Reading your post, I think that is maybe because we all look at it in a very simplistic way. Perhaps one day some tennis experts can put together all these factors and come up with a good formula. But until that day, I don’t think I can think of GOAT as a real discussion.

zola Says:

good to see another Rafa fan here. keep posting.
Yes, this has been one of the best starts of the year for Rafa. He has had one GS and 2 MS titles ( plus Barcelona). can’t ask for more! As I said before, I wish for him to stay healthy and I know he will give his best.

zola Says:

You are right that Rafa made more unforced errors on clay this year. I think this might be due to him playing more aggressively this year.

jane Says:

zola, I know you said that Ferrer said that Rafa is playing more aggressively this year, and I missed Barcelona so can’t comment on that, but after having just re-watched the Hamburg semis and finals from last year, after watching Monte Carlo this year, I didn’t notice him playing more aggressively. How would you say he’s playing more aggressively? What do you see him doing differently? Just curious.

Voicemale1 Says:


In regard to why the Nadal serve percentage has been lower, my short answer is, I don’t know. Moreover, I don’t think it matters much at this point since he’s still winning, in fact winning easier than last year. A good friend of mine who posts here pointed out one thing that could explain it. There’s no “down time” for these guys once the season starts. There’s no time to work on specific elements of your game simply because the next tournament is always a week or two away. Tennis players have no lengthy “off season” to truly develop their games at a pace that only a block of time can give them. They have little choice then but to make the necessary adjustments or add the missing elements except during actual matches.

On clay, a serve with a lot of weight on the ball gets you much better results than a Roddick-type serve that’s flat and has only pace & heat. But adding weight to your serve takes a lot more effort, practice & skill. That might explain what he’s trying to do with it.

The IW Tsonga match you mention isn’t in the same vein as the Nalbandian match this year for the obvious reason: Tsonga never held a match point, and in many instances at it was Tsonga who erred to give Nadal the break at 3-5. Nadal in that match did his First Class Defense and was keeping the ball in play, doing his Not-To-Miss hitting. That’s a far cry from this year, when he went for it on his shots against Nalbandian at the most critical moments. So I guess it is I who begs to differ with you :). Nadal did mount a rally then, but that was more due to the mounting Tsonga errors (and a few of them were forced errors) than his own winners. And if Nalbandian Doubled on his serve at 5-4, it was only because of the fact Nadal had gone for broke and it paid off on his previous four MP’s. Nalbandian knew when he missed the first serve that if he didn’t make the second one something special, Nadal was gonna kill his chance to end it by destroying that second ball. Nalbandian was feeling the effect of the Nadal aggressiveness, especially when Nadal began to attack the very backhand he’d been avoiding up to that point. Against Tsonga, Nadal played “Not to Miss” tennis. Against Nalbandian he played “I’m not gonna lose” tennis.

And again, I disagree with yours, Von’s and Sean’s assessment that his clay season is “bumpier” this year. First, we’re only half way through it. To this point, he’s lost fewer games to this point than last year. In 08 he lost early in Rome with the blister on his foot, and then, unable to train, he showed up in Hamburg of 08 (which I consider to be his greatest title run, to date) and came through two brutal matches with Djokovic & Federer. Despite all that, he STILL rolled through the 08 French Open more decisively than he ever had before. Far from being “bumpier”, he’s actually doing better now that he was at this time last year.

jane Says:

I wonder if Kimmi is right that there is something ideal about the clay at RG in particular for Rafa, or if he’s just hit his peak on clay by then? In other words, rather than surface it may be him playing himself into form.

zola Says:

I haven’t watched last year’s clay matches. I have Hamburg final and hopefully can watch it in a couple of days when I have more time. That was Ferrer’s assesment. A guy who “played” Rafa last year and this year.

What I think he is doing more this year, is that he comes to the net more often and tries to finish the points. He goes for more winners. Again, this is just my non-expert opinion, but I think someone like Ferrer who has played him has a better assessment.

zola Says:

I read that the bounce on RG clay is much higher than Hamburg/Rome/MC. Also the area around the court is larger than usual. That gives Rafa more room to play. ( I think it was one of Tignor’s articles)

jane Says:


Thanks for your response.

Maybe it’s a different hardcourt match I remember from last year, maybe against Blake at Miami or Tsonga perhaps? I can’t remember the match/opponent, but I do remember seeing Nadal play more aggressive hard court tennis at one of those Masters events, but then I remember how in the final against Davydenko at Miami, Nadal reverted to playing too far behind the baseline as he used to do sometimes on hard.

I agree Nalbandian’s nerve failed him, and it may’ve been from the higher gear he was feeling across the net in Nadal, but he should’ve pulled it together at that point. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Perhaps by “bumpier”, people mean only the serve not being what it has been, or the increased UEs, rather than the games won/lost to this point. In any case, he is still winning the events.

You’d mentioned a few weeks back that you don’t think Rafa will play Madrid, &/or that few players will actually play 4 events before RG – do you still think that Rafa won’t play Madrid?

jane Says:

zola, I remember that about the size of RG courts as well, so that makes sense given Rafa’s ability to reach more balls. Also the high bounce would explain a lot too. I wonder how rain affects clay? I mean I know it’s covered but the humidity must make it play slightly different.

Mark Nicholas Says:

Roger Federer has started to lose his powerful serve because of his back injury. Without the serve he will never be able to win another grand slam.

Giner Says:

Nice bait n switch there Sean. And I thought you were being adventurous.

Colin Says:

Sensationsafin – you say that Nadal has had an exceptionally good start to the year, but has he? As I keep banging on about, he has already suffered with an injury when, (typically but perhaps unwisely) he insisted on playing that last set against Murray despite being virtually one-legged. We’re used to seeing him showing signs of wear, but in the past it’s happened late on, after Wimbledon.
As for the technical question, I like the point some are making that his adapting his game for othere surfaces may have introduced little uncertainties. I just hope the same thing doesn’t happen to Murray as a result of his adapting for clay. One of the things he obviously aims for on clay is more topspin, but in Rafa’s case that’s obtained in large part by sheer strength, and anthough Murray has muscled up impressively, nobody’s built like Nadal – not even Serena!

Ricky Says:

I am so sick of the Nadal/Federer final! Because we know it ages ago, who’s the better player? Lets goto the next chapter, with Nadal playing players like Murray or Djoker in the finals of the slams! Sorry Jane! I actually don’t get sick of Nadal winning everything. But I felt that way when Roger was winning everything. Because there weren’t anyone there to challenge Roger, when he had won all those slams! And so sick all the commentators! They were all out there to kiss his butt!

jane Says:

Speaking of Murray, he’s sure started strongly against Monaco, a good clay court player; this is a very good sign for Murray!

Cilic and Soderling have also started very well today. The Gasquet vs. Tsonga match may be the most exciting one today.

jane Says:

Murray’s serving very well today which is helping him take the initiative.

zola Says:

Fe: Rafa’s play in Barcelona, this is from Stephen Tignor’s blog:

“Within his seemingly regimentedone-dimensionalgame, he rarely fails to come up with something unexpected, something you havent quite seen even after watching him hundreds of times. Against Ferrer it was Nadals down-the-line forehand that looked new to me. He routinely cut off the angle on his opponents crosscourt backhand near the service line and, without stopping to set up in any conventional sense, drilled his forehand into the corner for an easy winner. I associate this running through the ball style of transition attack with Roger Federer, not with Nadal, but the Spaniard had the confidence yesterday to throw all grind-it-out caution to the wind.”

zola Says:

Gasquet won Tsonga in starights sets! unbelievable. Great win for Gasquet, I hope it helps his confidence.

Ferrer and Davydenko in trouble!

Fedex Says:


I think slam totals being the mark trivializes a complex/arbitrary argument like the GOAT debate. The thing with the GOAT debate is that there are just so many factors to take into account and there are so many people who debate that it is hard to take one mark as the indicator. I could explain a few points

1st and foremost are we all on the same word when we say greatest? Is greatest the most effective just tennis results wise or the influence their playing style or even their off-court conduct and personality has had on tennis as a game. I would argue that the sampras-ivanisevic rock-throwing snooze fests drove hordes of tennis fans away from the sport. While players like becker or edberg and definitely Borg and to some extent Federer and Nadal have given tennis a huge jump globally. Also people like Agassi and Ashe have achieved so much as persons that they trivialised tennis achievements and put the whole thing in perspective. The number of people in other walks of life that Agassi has inspired by turning around into a monk from a rich-spoilt brat is quite significant. I guess you want to keep it simple by just saying Greatest means winning tennis tournaments alone, but some Wins are bigger than other wins – a point beautifully illustrated by tennis itself, where a player can win many more points than the opponent and still lose the match!

I can go on and on like this breaking down each of the factor and I have done that to a lot of people who keep asking me this question and finally GOAT is nothing but a subjective call and how subjective it can be depends on how good your oratory skills and tennis knowledge is (and how bad the listener’s tennis knowledge is and how willing they are to accept your judgement).

I was only half-joking when I said that a great debater or orator with excellent tennis knowledge can convince a lot of people that there actually was a GOAT in Greek mythology which played tennis with GODS and that Federer/Sampras being a goat means they are compared to that legendary goat. (Okay, I am completely kidding/exaggerating now, but I hope you dont get offended, and actually get my point) The thing is, I have beaten this GOAT topic to death since late 90s when Sampras was being touted as one and I totally bought into the american media-propelled argument. After 10-15yrs of building on my tennis knowledge through voracious reading and a maniacal obsession with tennis viewing – so much so that my own career has been on hold since 15yrs, I feel like I have hacked the GOAT to death an unknown number of times by beating it to death as soon as it woke up after its last death and finally I think I devoured it and came to the conclusion that I can make any number of arguments but people will not change their GOAT stance till they themselves are ready to do so.

I know a bunch of my friends who thought Borg/Laver were the GOATs even after Sampras ended his career, but I was such a die-hard Sampras fan, I held my stance which was totally endorsed by the extremely loud and powerful American media voice. Then Roger Federer happened and with the internet making print media obsolete, my tennis knowledge grew at an astonishing rate and I feel that the GOAT argument will only be settled when Jesus makes a 2nd coming and wins all tennis tournaments every year for 10yrs(sometimes playing in 2-3 continents in the same week :) The closest (relatively speaking that is) we got to that was Roger’s insane domination and there was and still is quite a substantial voice saying his competition was weak! I am sure the atheists will not let even Jesus be GOAT. And I am sure you are aware the atheists are growing in number by the day.

Apologies to MMT in particular and any other readers who think I have totally lost it :) [ and you wouldn’t be wrong, because this comes from a corner of my brain, where I put the GOAT to permanent sleep – blame MMT for waking it up :) Well, I guess I just made the GOAT argument even more arbitrary/complex – depending on how you look at it.

For what it is worth this is my GOAT order:

Federer, Laver, Borg, Sampras, Lendl.

Nadal is on track to jump to over Fed as the no.1 (especially given their H2H, which I still argue is bloated only because Federer was good enough on clay to regularly go deep, while Nadal is managing to do so on hard/grass only after a substantial dip in Federer’s play. I know Rafa is still young and all that, but this match-up is one I really wish I could’ve seen with both of them playing their absolute best on all 3 or 4 surfaces. I am sure if they played 10 matches each on hard, grass clay and carpet to the best of their abilities, I am sure the H2H will be quite close to 20-20. I know it is very hypothetical, but that is what the GOAT argument is!)

Apologies for interrupting the Rome discussion, but I will be busy for another week, due to other commitments, so this is my last-super-long post for some time.

MMT, if you still want to continue this conversation, we can do so at a leisurely pace as I am quite positive neither you nor I will budge from our GOAT stance :)

jane Says:

zola, thanks for the link; I didn’t see Barcelona, as you know. I was also surprised that Gasquet beat Tsonga in straight sets, but that is a nice win for Richard.

Also shocking is Monaco’s comeback after a pretty dismal first set; He’s serving for the match as I write. Interesting as I just read an article in which Corretla calls for more “realistic” expectations when it comes to Murray on clay. Here’s the link:

jane Says:

Too bad for Murray – sorry margot & better luck next time!

Also too bad to Novak, as I think, unless he wins this whole tournament, Murray will still take #3 from him, which Novak has held for 91 consecutive weeks. Oh well – Murray’s played well so far this year. And in any case, I expect Novak may be able to get it back; we’ll see.

Milos Says:

Murray lost :) no number 3. after Rome :)

As If You Knew... Says:

Unfortunate but truly impressed with Murray’s brilliant performance this morning. MC semi was no fluke, or was it? May need a little more time, but he knows how to play on dirt. First round exit don’t mean a thing. It was against a player who makes his bread and butter out of dirt. Nothing to be ashamed of.

Duro Says:

Blah, blah, blah… Everything to be ashamed of!!! Strange, but I kind of felt it…

Sean Randall Says:

Another head-scratcher from Murray. From what I saw he just tries to mix things up to much on clay. I think he just stays in an aggressive mode his results would improve. Perhaps he’ll learn someday.

Federer up a break, but really was not looking very sharp. Early however at 3-1.

jane Says:

Federer should be Karlovic since Dr. Ivo’s big weapon is muted somewhat on clay.

Milos, as mentioned, I believe Murray will take number 3 no matter what, unless Novak defends the title, as otherwise Novak will lose points; how many points he’ll lose, though, will impact whether or how quickly Novak can get back number 3, which he’ll want to do before RG, or otherwise he may be seeded 4 which means he’d more likely to be on Rafa’s side of the draw, and no one wants that at RG. :)

jane Says:

“be” s/b “beat”

vared Says:

Despite Murray falling on his face today, Djokovic stays at number 3?

blah Says:

Not to be too negative but Gasquet never had a problem beating his own countrymen, I think he also beat Tsonga and Simon earlier this year. Clay is also not Tsonga’s preferred surface so not that big of a confidence boost for Gasquet imo.

I don’t think it matters whether Murray or Djokovic gets number 3/4. What would be much more interesting to me is if one gets to the number two position before Roland Garros. That way Nadal would have to face both of them (assuming that they get into semis) to win the french. At this point I would say they both pose bigger threats to Nadal than Federer so the positioning for number two would be huge in my opinion, as that’s the only way I can see even a slight possibility of Nadal being upset in RG this year.

vared Says:

“He is calm and he is doing well. But he cannot be stressed.” Corretja LOL

Murray is a HC specialist. Period.

As If You Knew... Says:

I got pretty much everything wrong so far, except MAYBE the 3rd quarter. Alas, the “resurgent Ferrer” and recuperated Davydenko also crumble. Am I myopic or comic clairvoyant expecting supernatural intervention?

jane Says:

Federer is coming to the net now, in that last game anyhow. His serve still looks at little shaky so far in this match but his movement seems fine.

blah Says:

Bleh- never mind. That second part was wacky.

What getting number two would do though- it would mean that either Murray or Djokovic would get a clear path from Nadal until the finals, and it might force Federer to face Nadal in the semis. Not to mention that the top two seeds have had a history of getting easier draws so it could be huge in that way.

Duro Says:

Jane, add 250 points from Belgrade and he will regain it back in a week.

jane Says:

vared, no Novak will lose number 3 unless he wins the title, since he won here last year; seems weird but it’s true. He may get some extra points in Serbia, but he will lose Hamburg points from last year, which he could make up at Madrid, and he has semis to defend at RG. Maybe at Wimbledon, depending on how he does, he can make a gain on Murray – depending on how Murray does. It’s really between the two of them right now, and probably will change hands for the rest of the season, depending on their results.

MMT Says:

Kevin: Very interesting arguments – I’ll try to be brief.

I measure greatness based on conquering what I’ll call “collective coveting”, winning the titles that everyone wants to win. Because the slams (for the most part) are the titles everyone (has always) wanted, I put (almost all) my eggs in the slam basket :-)

Great qualification of the lack of Tilden’s clay slams – but basically the collective coveting of the French Championships didn’t start until it became an international championships so it’s as if the French pre-1925 wasn’t really a slam.

I wouldn’t discount modern grass titles because collective coveting of Wimbledon persists more than any other title, even as the surface becomes more rare.

I believe professionals gained an “unequal” (“unfair” is too strong) in the open era because they played a very high level of competition for 300 days a year. Imagine playing the 5 best players in your tennis club for a month and then playing everyone else the next month – you’d clean up in the latter. Conclusion: I wouldn’t infer more titles for a player who played professionally. I simply take them for what they are and there is a strong argument that if you combine his professional results with his amateur and open results, Laver is the GOAT. I wouldn’t necessarily argue against it.

Also if we discount Emerson’s amateur titles (not disregard, but simply discount) then we must do the same for Laver’s. Please note that Emerson beat Laver in two slam finals before Laver turned professional, and he did beat the best amateurs for the 6 years before the open era, so I wouldn’t discount his titles too much, but I agree they are skewed.

In my view there are only 2 players really hurt by the professional era – Gonzales and Laver. Gonzales because his best years were as ALL as a professional and Laver because of the mix, which is why I make an exception for Gonzales, but feel Laver’s slam totals + his professional career are about right.

I FULLY admit personal bias in favor of Gonzales, because by this argument, his entire professional experience made him the player he was and as such I shouldn’t infer potential slam success for him had they been allowed to play professionally. I just loved mythology of his game and his success too much to leave him out of it.

The winning percentage arguments are very good as well – after all, beating everyone consistently does bode well for status as a goat, but I would argue that speaks to cosistency more than greatness. Connors and Lendl’s winning percentages are good examples. They were great, but not in the pantheon of the greats, yet their winning percentages were better than EVERYBODY’S top 5.

Fair enough the two are not mutually exclusive, but they are different, and if you had a choice between a higher slam total or a higher winning percentage, most would choose slams.

This takes me back to the collective coveting argument. It’s ethereal and hard to measure, but I’m a traditionalist, and for me it’s the best measure.

Great discussion, BTW.

jane Says:

I agree blah – what matters more than 3 or 4 is number 2. You make good points as to the reasons why this is so: draws, seeding placement, Nadal! etc.

vared Says:

So much for Murray getting to number 3 “in style.” LOL

Duro Says:

And if Nadal skips the Madrid, new points on his account! Murray lost a big big chance to make a difference here. Wimbledon is going to be Nole’s breakthrough (more than 1000 points), USO Murray has to defend a finals… I see a very promissing end of the year, third at least, number 2 very reachable!

MMT Says:


Not to leave you out of the discussion, but I think my response to Kevin covers most of how I would have responded to you. I think it’s a fun argument, and (obviously) never tire of it, but I also know I’m in the (severe) minority on that, so I’ll spare the board more discussion on it.

Except for this…:-)

I do make a distinction between the GOAT argument and my favorite player which is entirely subjective. So perhaps I should say my favorite player of all time is Pancho Gonzales, although I believe the GOAT is Sampras. This doesn’t mean that I think Sampras would beat Gonzales in an alternate universe of their primes. That toos is a fun discussion. For me, more problematic for THIS argument is the changes in equipment. Non-wood racquets have thrown that discussion out the window, in my view.

So – I am moved to (slightly) change my opinion – Sampras is still the GOAT, but now WITHOUT exception; but my “tennis” heart will always belong to Pancho Gonzales.

jane Says:

Federer played more confidently today, it seems to me, but I do think a better returner could hurt him if he continues serving as he did today, which isn’t awful but not his best by any means. Karlovic still needs to round out his game, but he’s not one dimensional.

jane Says:

Duro – most importantly Novak has to do the best he can here, so he doesn’t lose a load of points, and Robredo will not be an easy out on clay. There is a bit of bad blood between these two also, if you recall, from the USO last year.

Milos Says:

I hope Novak will defend title in Rome :)
Is there some random number generator :) error in draw mechanism that makes number 4 more likely to
end up in Rafa’s side of the draw?

zola Says:

interesting comments from Corretja.
true, that expectations can get into players. I read Eurosports UK very often and it is alll about Murray. Before this year it was all criticism and now it is all expectations. very tough.

Today Murray lost his service game to love after getting upset for a foot fault call. In IW he was upset for a paper flying into the court. In MC something else. Seems still when he is puzzled on the court, he loses concentration. Well, better to happen here than a GS. Maybe something for him to work on.

MMT Says:

Despite the loss, I still think Murray is on the way up. His ranking will go up before it comes down, I’m sure. #1 is a big ask though, the way Nadal is playing.

Regarding the bad blood between Djokovic and Robredo, I think it is misplaced, to be fair to Djokovic. If Robredo doesn’t like the injury time-out rules, he should lobby with his fellow professionals to have them changed.

That said, I can’t wait to see the personal dynamic of this match!

jane Says:

zola – yes the press in Britain have every reason to be excited about Murray, but it can no doubt add pressure. And I agree that one of Murray’s areas for improvement is keeping focus; he’s already improved drastically in this regard but he could continue to work on playing within himself.

MMT – I am curious too, to see how these two will play one another and whether there’ll be any leftovers from that match last year.

jane Says:

Fed’s section of the draw is opening up nicely for him; Ferrer is out, and if Simon falls also, that leaves only Stepanek as a threat before the semis, and Step’s level has dropped somewhat since earlier in the year. And with Murray and Davydenko out, it’d be difficult seeing anyone stopping Rafa.

jane Says:

On other thing about Murray: he may do better in Madrid as I’ve read that the altitude makes the ball play faster there, which means Murray’s style may be more conducive to those courts.

zola Says:

Ah…didn’t realize that Gasquet and Tsonga were playing their ‘yesterday”s match. The winner ( Gasquet) has to play Gulbis maybe in an hour!

MMT Says:

Seems a bit of a strange pairing – #10 vs. #23. Gasquet is now 5-2 lifetime against Tsonga, and has won their only match-up on clay.

jane Says:

Wow Stepanek won his *second* match of the day 6-2, 6-1 against Lopez. And I see Gasquet is already up on Gulbis.

sensationalsafin Says:

I hate this tournament

Ra Says:

I’m wounded and can’t really type right now, but I just wanted to say I appreciate the great GOAT discussion.

Topsy turvy tennis today, huh?

mem Says:

I’m curious! Did some of you guys ever say that you were bored when Federer was winning wimbledon after wimbledon after wimbledon, the USOpen time and time again, Australian Open, time and time again or were you in that group who thought that it was phenomenal that he was becoming such a symbol of greatness! Now, that Nadal is winning, it becomes boring and sickening! Why is that? Did anybody get sick of tennis when Federer was ruling? If so, I didn’t hear about it. So, would somebody be so kind as to explain what makes it different now that Nadal is on a winning streak. They both worked for it! Some of these comments are just plain “phony.”

jane Says:

Hi mem, I for one mentioned above that it got a little tiring for me, as a fan, when Fed was winning all the time, especially because he was winning almost everything! Or so it seemed. At least Nadal could always control the clay season. And now Nadal is winning all the time, almost everything.

No one, I don’t think anyhow, has said that the players didn’t both work for it. So I don’t see it as a personal attack of any kind. It’s merely the subject opinions of some tennis fans. Some people would like to see a little variety in the winners of the events, so that there is unpredictability.

I don’t know if you watch NHL, but if so, who’d’ve thunk that Chicago and Washington would get into the 2nd playoff rounds for the first time in over a decade?!

Change and challengers are exciting in sport from my perspective and any comments I made were honest, and not meant to be interpreted as phony. Sorry if you see if that way.

mem Says:

Jane, Your definition of personal attack just doesn’t fit the comments I made. I asked a question and since you can only speak for yourself, did you or did you not say the same about Federer during his domination. Judging from your comments, you impress me as pretentious because your comments don’t add up. On one hand, you say you rooted for Nadal to secure the top position, and on the other hand you would love to see him challenge. If you have been watching tennis, then you would know that he is consistently challenged. More often than not, his draw is tougher than any one of the top four! So, what are you saying exactly?

jane Says:

mem, yes I did say the same thing about Fed during his domination and at times I wasn’t nice about it while championing Rafa’s cause. But I’ve sinced re-thought that.

To clarify, what I am saying is this (forgive repetition of what I already wrote for the sake of clarity): I rooted for Nadal to take over the number 1 position because I admired the way he stepped up and challenged Roger when no one else really could on a consistent basis. I am not saying I don’t still admire him for his efforts.

However, I like to see a variety of players winning, and would particularly like to see a few different *slam winners* now and again. As I said above already, Roger and Rafa have won ALL of the slams but one for almost 5 years now (Safin at AO 05 is another exception)! That’s a long time for only two players to dominate all of the slams, or so it seems to me.

Especially when I have an innate tendency to root for the underdog…

Anyhow, you may see me as whatever you’d like, but I am being honest, and no slight is meant to you or other fans of the dominators. :) Again I am repeating but as I conceded to Fedex above, all tennis fans should be thankful for players who come along and raise the bar once and a while. so tennis standards also rise up.

To me, it’s exciting that now there may be a few more players who can really challenge for some of the slam titles in the next while – or at least I hope so.

Kimmi Says:

Jane: “how many points he [novak] ’ll lose, though, will impact whether or how quickly Novak can get back number 3, which he’ll want to do before RG, or otherwise he may be seeded 4 which means he’d more likely to be on Rafa’s side of the draw, and no one wants that at RG. :)

No 2 or 3 are drawn on a random draw so Murray or Djokovic (does not matter what position they are) could be drawn to play either Nadal or Federer in the semis at the French.

It was just a luck of the draw Novak was on federer side often this year, it could go either way so i would not count on that.

Sad for Murray, this was a good opportunity to solidify his ranking at least thru to the french, Novak is playing Belgrade so depending on how he does there, looks like # 3 will switch between them.

I think number 2 or 3 does not matter on the seeding, its number 2 thats is important, one is guarantee to meet Rafa in the final only.

Without taking the credit out from Juan Monaco, Murray has always struggled in the early rounds, and this time Monaco got him. He has been too passive and don’t know why he plays like that sometimes because he knows to play aggressive. He has to learn to start strong as it shows, sometimes he can meet a tricky opponent.

jane Says:


For some reason I though #1 usually got #4 and #2 usually got #3 but I don’t know why I though that, but you’re right that it doesn’t really matter.

What I realized after blah posted is that what really matters is #2!

You’re right about the early rounds for Murray; he does tend to have some trouble in the early going, as was evident in Miami, but he still won that! He’ll get it sorted out I suspect.

Giner Says:

Sean, put your Dunce cap back on. Murray, Ferrer and Davydenko are all out in the opening round.

Duro Says:

Murray playing aggressive… ha ha ha.

Kimmi Says:

Duro, you might not like Murray, I think maybe because of the challenge he is posing to Novak ? who can blame you. Novak should not relax now because Murray is breathing on his throat. As we have seen Murray is a very talented player with a little bit more expirience he has potential to challenge for number 1.

Giner Says:


“Nadal is on track to jump to over Fed as the no.1 (especially given their H2H, which I still argue is bloated only because Federer was good enough on clay to regularly go deep, while Nadal is managing to do so on hard/grass only after a substantial dip in Federer’s play. I know Rafa is still young and all that, but this match-up is one I really wish I could’ve seen with both of them playing their absolute best on all 3 or 4 surfaces. I am sure if they played 10 matches each on hard, grass clay and carpet to the best of their abilities, I am sure the H2H will be quite close to 20-20. I know it is very hypothetical, but that is what the GOAT argument is!)”

I don’t think this would be the case. Okay, I grant that the H2H being lopsided in Nadal’s favour is due to a lot of matches being played on clay, where Nadal leads 9-1. However, to equalise the H2H when they play on a balanced number of surfaces, Fed would need to dominate Nadal on non-clay surfaces, and this just isn’t the case. They are 3-3 on hard courts, and 2-1 (Fed’s favour) on grass. That’s 5-4 to Federer on non-clay surfaces. You would expect something like a 9-1 or at least 6-1 or 7-1 ratio on non-clay surfaces wouldn’t you?

I don’t believe Federer is struggling physically. He looks fit and able to go the distance. He’s been losing big matches lately because he’s losing a mental battle. I believe that if he’d beaten Nadal at Wimbledon 08, we’d be seeing a different Federer right now. One with much more confidence and authority. He would have beaten that tired Nadal in Australia and showed the tennis world who’s boss.

What actually happened was that Wimbledon final devastated him. It was a crushing blow, in spite of the fact that he did the same to Nadal a year earlier and beat him the year before that. That crushing defeat contributed to yet another crushing defeat to the same guy a few slams later, and could lead into a vicious cycle, especially if his US Open streak gets broken this year. Nadal (and Murray) has planted some seeds of doubt into his mind when playing big matches that go the distance even when at times it looks like the match was there for Fed’s taking. It’s not easy to recover from setbacks like this. They can scar you for life.

Giner Says:

Colin Says:

“Sensationsafin – you say that Nadal has had an exceptionally good start to the year, but has he? As I keep banging on about, he has already suffered with an injury when, (typically but perhaps unwisely) he insisted on playing that last set against Murray despite being virtually one-legged. We’re used to seeing him showing signs of wear, but in the past it’s happened late on, after Wimbledon.”

That wasn’t a serious injury, as he recovered from it very quickly. He said so himself. Things like this are normal. They happen to everyone.

About whether he had an exceptionally good start to the year or not.. Here is the 2009 race (best players ranked in 2009 points alone):

The list speaks for itself. That injury will not have any long term effect on him. You can still expect the season to take its toll on him later on, but he’ll be ok.

zola Says:

Federer dominated for 4 years because no one was better than him and Rafa is dominating right now because no one is better than him at the moment.

I think the other side of domination is “excellence” and appreciation of the fact that these players have reached this point in their careeres as a result of lots of hard work. Many hours on and off the court. They have tried to improve every aspect of their games and as Fedex says “raised the bar”. and this can only be appreciated.

I have a question. How do you suggest for this dominance to go away? By Rafa or Federer losing or dropping their levels or by Djoko, Murray and other players playing at a higher level? and how do you think each of these ways would be possible?

Giner Says:


“However, I like to see a variety of players winning, and would particularly like to see a few different *slam winners* now and again. As I said above already, Roger and Rafa have won ALL of the slams but one for almost 5 years now (Safin at AO 05 is another exception)! That’s a long time for only two players to dominate all of the slams, or so it seems to me.”

There’s two ways to solve this:

1. Tell the other players to step up to the plate.
2. For Nadal and Federer to start sucking a bit.

Or a combination of the two. The nature of the rant leans toward a desire for (2) unfortunately.

My stance is: May the best man win. If someone else is going to claim some slams, they have to deserve it.

Nadal should win Rome. Some key players that had a chance of pulling off an upset have been eliminated. The odds have increased in his favour.

He still has decent competition on the hard courts post-Wimbledon, and so does Federer, so you may still get your wish.

jane Says:

zola, I expect it to go away by other players winning! To me, for that to happen, there will have to be a combination of factors: the drop of level in one player may result in a rise in another player. I don’t think it’s as simple as only one or the other. It’s both. We’ve seen a slight decline in Federer from 2007, and especially 2008 to now; at the same time, Rafa has improved his game for other surfaces and secured his clay dominance. Now it will be a combination of others rising up and increasing there levels and I think both Murray and Djokovic desire to do this, and perhaps in a year or so, Rafa’s level will decline, but it’s hard to say if that will happen.

Some think it will because his style of play is so physical; I’ve heard both Samprass and McEnroe suggest this. But others think that because Rafa is so young and willing to adjust, he will dominate for longer. All we can do is wait and see.

jane Says:

Giner I basically posted what you said in my response to zola and we posted at the exact same time. I think it’s a combination generally. The players who want to challenge for slams have to step up and maybe hope for some luck of the draw and maybe they have to hope for a drop off from the top two.

My wish is only to see a different slam winner once in a while; I don’t think it’s a rant and I don’t wish to see Rafa or Roger disappear. I think the top four, and indeed the top ten, right now hold a lot of promise and present a lot of variety.

Duro Says:

Kimmi, Kimmi… You sound so inexperienced. Obviously it’s your new tennis love (something is new here, or your love to Andy, or your sudden love to tennis, because of Andy). But, lets stick to your statement. Andy Murray is a defender! Remember that. He doesn’t play aggressively. What with? He is smart, strong, in-form player, but it’s just not his style and he hasn’t the weapon to do so. No respect from me for the defenders! Earn your points and be respected! Novak has many challenging opponents but this is not the reason to like or not someone. Nadal and Fed are much bigger challenging opponents (for the game itself) but I like them both, one for being exceptional, as a competitor, contender, fighter, machine-like player, and the other one because he’s the only one that knows more about tennis than Novak. Andy sure doesn’t.

jane Says:

BTW, I agree that the best chance for a different slam winner are on the hardcourts. I cannot see anyone winning the French but Rafa and based on last year’s results Rafa and Roger are still the top contenders for winning on grass. I am inclined to pick Rafa there again based on his run there last year, but we’ll see.

Kimmi Says:

Duro, I like your rant. Did not want to sound “inexpirienced” oooops!! I am not a tennis specialist but I know talent when I see one, and I can tell you Murray has what it takes. He took a while to get there but he is starting to. I believe if Murray reach his peak, he could so easily be another one dominating the tennis wolrd (maybe not on clay). Murray can play both defence and offence, you name it. He is a great tacticians, patient and has the best sense of the court, so many times we have seen him knowing exactly where his opponent will play the ball….anyway let me not bore you with that.

All that said, I think this is interesting time for tennis, we have the top 4 that are consistent and challenging each other regulary on major tournaments. This is only good for tennis fans.

Murray loss today was unfortunate but I hope he bounce back and continue the challenge thru the ranking.

Duro, I am enjoying this because it looks like me and you will probably get to each other’s throats when our favorite player play each other…and I am ready for the challenge. :)

zola Says:

**Now it will be a combination of others rising up and increasing there levels and I think both Murray and Djokovic desire to do this, and perhaps in a year or so, Rafa’s level will decline, but it’s hard to say if that will happen. ***

Yes, it will be a combination of several factors, and perhaps the most important one will be that others have to step up their game ( as Murray and Djoko are doing) and it is only good for tennis. So, how can dominance be boring if it motivates other players to improve and play better?

I think we see another scenario in WTA. It is a mixture of many talents but none dominating. I find that more boring than the men’s game.

zola Says:

***Duro, I am enjoying this because it looks like me and you will probably get to each other’s throats when our favorite player play each other…and I am ready for the challenge. :)***

that’s the fun part of tennis I guess! when the players start watching the fans. lol!

but seriously this is a very lucky time for tennis. with so many talents, all of them hungry and hardworking! it is golden!

Kimmi Says:

“that’s the fun part of tennis I guess! when the players start watching the fans. lol!”

LOL, and hope i don’t turn into a “fungirl”…but yes definetly fun times for tennis.

jane Says:

zola, dominance can be boring if it lasts a long time, imo, because the same people win all the time; things become predictable. As one writer put it when discussing Roger’s dominance at Wimbledon a year or two ago, ‘you may take a different path, but you always end up at the same destination’.

When the shifts happen and things open up to new possibilities that is when it gets exciting again imo; I am not yet tired of Rafa’s dominance because it hasn’t been like 3 years on nearly all of the surfaces like Fed’s was – and Fed won nearly every tournament for a while there! At least now, Rafa won IW, but Murray won Miami, so it’s still a bit of a mix of winners, except on clay, where I think things have become pretty predictable, at least in terms of the end result.

And no, I don’t think the ATP is at all like the WTA because there is way more depth in the ATP and the top players are better and are all more consistent, so I don’t see the comparison.

Von Says:


“And now, I think for Jane and Von, it’s happening subconsciously that you are seeing that his game is going down and this and that. Quite frankly, he’s still having an already much better start to this year than any year before. He is number 1 and he’s a very dominant number 1. I’m far from being a Nadal fan or supporter, but that’s just the way things are. He’s number 1 and he’s going to stay that way for a while.”

I’d like to clarify a few things ref: your above comments.

There isn’t a subconconcious desire as the root cause for what I perceive to be a falling off in Nadal’s performance. It’s also not in any way associated with wishful thinking or a desire in my heart for him to be less dominant. To fully understand what I write with respect to any player’s performance, is to have an understanding of my mindset, wherein I am able to analyze a situation and base that analysis principally on objectivity trather than subjectivity. In essence, I don’t let my personal thoughts with respect to any one person get in the way of my analysis and/or judgment, and this translates to compartmentalizing my thoughts/feelings/likes/dislikes, etc., and not allowing those emotions to cloud my judgment.

Ergo, in view of of what I’ve disclosed in the foregoing, please know that I’m not subconsciously wishing in any way for Nadal’s performance to decline. On the contrary, I don’t wish for any player’s performance to decline or for them to lose their ranking. That kind of thinking would not in any way be profitable for me, because tennis is just a sport, and enjoyment of the sport is the satisfaction I seek.

I have mentioned that Nadal’s peak year was ’08, and I honestly believe that. Additionally, based on my observations of how he has been playing post the AO, it’s blatant to me that there is a definite falling off in his performance, e.g, his movement is slower, his opponents’ ability to break his serve more often than in the past, and his rising numbers of UEs.

Perhaps, as some have mentioned, this could all be attributable to Nadal’s change in his MO whereby he is declining in some areas of his game, while simultaneously improving in others. Perhaps, it’s a transitional period for him, which will ultimately come together, producing better results for him, and rendering him to become a much more formidable opponent than we can even comprehend or expect him to metamorphose into in the very near future. If this situation were to become a reality, then I can only say that there will be even tougher times ahead for his opponents to defeat him and he’ll be the ultimate dominant force that tennis has ever witnessed.

It doesn’t matter to me who’s number 1, 2, 3, etc., what’s important to me is to see fair competition and the player I support to be ranked somewhere in the top 8, which will more or less assure him of at least making it to the QFs in the GS and MS tourneys. Had the draws not been based on ranking, it would not matter to me one iota where my favourite players are ranked, unfortunately, the ranking does matter in the current system, hence it’s important for my faves to either go up higher or remain status quo in their rankings. Maybe, you won’t believe me when I say that I’m someone who would like to see several players winning titles than for one or two players winning all of the time.

steve Says:

Like Duro, I prefer the attacking players (Federer, Tsonga, Djokovic) to the great defenders (Nadal, Murray, Monfils). (I make an exception for Gilles Simon, because he’s scrappy and always looks annoyed when he’s on court, puffing out his cheeks and staring).

I just can’t get into Nadal’s style of play. He’s a force of nature. Watching him is a bit like watching a boulder rolling downhill with someone caught in its path. Most people pull for the guy trying to get out of the way, but a few will root for the boulder to crush the guy. Those few are the Nadal fans.

It’s impressive, but in the way a hurricane or a tornado is impressive. Not something that inspires sympathy or interest on my part, anymore than I could sympathize with, or be interested in, the boulder.

There are many things to respect about him: his sportsmanship, tenacity, and tireless drive to improve. And tennis would be far duller without him around. But it’s just not for me.


‘Now, that Nadal is winning, it becomes boring and sickening! Why is that? Did anybody get sick of tennis when Federer was ruling? If so, I didn’t hear about it. So, would somebody be so kind as to explain what makes it different now that Nadal is on a winning streak. They both worked for it! Some of these comments are just plain “phony.”’

To address your point: I think some Nadal fans make the error of assuming that Federer’s popularity was solely due to his winning everything, and that’s why they’re puzzled at his continuing popularity now that he’s no longer winning everything. Because by that logic, Rafa’s the one who’s winning everything now, ergo everyone’s loyalty should be transferred to him.

But it just doesn’t work that way. For the true fans of Federer, it was never just about the winning. It was about the fact that he played beautifully and artistically, and he radiated joy in the game when he was doing it. Winning was a by-product of that.

No matter how many Grand Slams Nadal wins, he won’t move the hearts of those who crave that kind of beauty. It’s a bit like the old saw that money can’t buy love.

After all, if winning is the only point, then you might as well just set up a wall on one side of the court. The wall will never lose to anyone, but I don’t think anyone would root for the wall.

So, perhaps this is why some people find Nadal’s victories “boring” and “sickening.” Because he’s winning–but in such a way as to deprive the win of all its pleasure and meaning (at least in the eyes of those who want that kind of beauty in their tennis).

Like I said, there are some in this world who want to root for a buzzsaw to cut through a stick of wood, or a tornado to mow down a house–and Nadal is the man for them.

But for the others, there are many different players out there to support–and Federer is one of the most prominent among them.

zola Says:

You did not get my point. I am not comparring ATP with WTA. I am saying WTA is your example. no one dominates. How does it look like? Isn’t it more boring than ATP where there are dominat players? Wasn’t WTA more exciting when Henin or Graf or Hingis were playing?

Again I have to go back to my question. When dominance goes on for a long time, is that somebody’s fault? Should Federer not have played at his highest level? Why is it boring and not exciting to witness someone doing his best and excelling all the time?

I tell you why, because it is a very subjective matter. I bet you will not be bored if Djoko becomes the dominant player. I am not bored by Rafa’s dominance and I bet Fedex or grendel could watch Federer dominate for another ten years.

zola Says:

oops, the rest of my post…

…and it is all good, because that’s what makes tennis more exciting. So here is to all the players and their fans.

zola Says:

***Like I said, there are some in this world who want to root for a buzzsaw to cut through a stick of wood, or a tornado to mow down a house–and Nadal is the man for them.

But for the others, there are many different players out there to support–and Federer is one of the most prominent among them.


Seems you have an image of something brutal about Nadal and associate all his fans with that image! That is of course your choice, but I am aftraid that image prevents you from watching the extraordinary tennis that Rafa plays.

No one expects all the Fed fans become Rafa fans and I don’t know where you got that impression. Rafa and Federer have different personalities and different styles of play and that’s why they attract different groups of people. And the way I have seen they all have remained loyal to their player , win or lose.

To elevate Federer, you don’t need to sink Rafa. federer is a great enough player that he doesn’t need that.

jane Says:

I did get your point zola; you didn’t get mine. The WTA is *your* example of non-dominance, not mine! My example would be this: a deep, talented and consistent field, in which there are at least a few players who can compete for the big titles and have a shot at winning one (Masters Series and Slams), which is NOT the WTA as most of the players right now in that tour are inconsistent and many of them have “issues” (how to put that nicely). i hope it turns around soon, like when Sharapova, and Henin and Serena or Venus could all compete for slam titles consistently there for a few years.

Moreover, I never said I dislike dominance period, I only said it becomes boring when it lasts *a long time* which to me is two years or more of one player winning all the slams, or most of them.

steve Says:


I’m not sinking anyone. It’s perfectly legit for people to root for those things, and to find interest and meaning in them.

It is a remarkable natural phenomenon: there is a man, who through sheer force of will, can run down every ball and play every point with one hundred percent. It is something to marvel at, just as one marvels at the destructive power of a tornado. But there’s something inhuman in it (the style of play, not the man himself), at least for me.

Nadal is a great player, one of the greatest of all time. But that doesn’t mean I like it.

“No one expects all the Fed fans become Rafa fans and I don’t know where you got that impression.”

Well, the poster I was responding to did. Or seemed to think so. He/she was wondering why people found Nadal’s dominance “boring” and “sickening”, which they didn’t do with Federer, and I was trying to explain why that might be so.

jane Says:

Sorry zola, you’re wrong about this “I bet you will not be bored if Djoko becomes the dominant player.” I have already said to Giner that if Djokovic were to dominate for a couple of years I’d be totally happy for him but I’d hope others came along and started challenging and winning. That’s the way I am; I like change.

I have watched tennis for over 30 years. I like to see the game and players evolve. I don’t become vehemently attached to one player. I always have favorites and they change too. That keeps it fresh and exciting for me.

Von Says:


“I’m not sinking anyone. It’s perfectly legit for people to root for those things, and to find interest and meaning in them.”

I absolutely agree with you. This is similar to the old addage: “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. This would be a rather boring world if we were all to like the same things and find pleasure in so doing. This is where variety is definitely the spice of life and it’s the reason we have the power to choose.

Kimmi Says:

I think biased fans enjoy tennis more when their favorite keeps winning. I agree with Zola’s point regarding this. But I also believe the neutral fans would prefer changes at the top, sharing of trophies, movement of ranking etc. We also have those fans who swing with the flow, who is winning more at the moment…so i will like him.

Saying all this, even if I am biased to my favorite players, I also admire the talent and hard work that translate into dominance. Incase of Federer I like, enjoy and mesmerised when watching him play at the full flow. I thought he is beautiful to watch and the way he was making this game look so easy would just make me wake up in the middle of the night to watch him for hours.

In Nadal’s case I admire his tenacity, his never say die attitude that a lot of players now are trying to imulate. Which is good to see, and this helps other players to raise their level to reach that bar.

So its all good, thats why I am wishing for that mix at the top, sharing of slams, the unpredictability …..and I can now really see how Federer dominance would have made some biased non Federer fans to wish somebody else to just take over..quicky !

So saying all that, I think its all subjective.

jane Says:

Kimmi says “So its all good, thats why I am wishing for that mix at the top, sharing of slams, the unpredictability …..”

Exactly! This is precisely my point. :)

jane Says:

Off topic to the dominance thing, sort of, I noticed that Rafa’s serve percentage was better today and more up to his usual standard. i think he finished the match with 67 or 68% serves in, which is on par with what Voicemale1 pointed out is Rafa’s standard.

vared Says:

Murray waits for the opponent to make a mistake. He’s a pusher.

Giner Says:

Sometimes that’s a good tactic vared. It depends on the type of player you’re playing against, the surface, conditions, etc.

If the opponent likes to pull the trigger a lot, and is misfiring on a particular day, it pays to keep inviting them to go for it.

As a pro, your #1 goal is to win, and you will do whatever it takes to increase your chance of winning. There are no points for style or beauty. A win, ugly or beautiful, is a win. Any player would prefer an ugly win over a beautiful loss. If you’re just playing to “have fun” or your first priority is to put on a good show, you should probably remain a recreational player.

If playing beautifully gives you a better chance of winning than playing smartly, then you’re a rare player, and more power to you.

sensationalsafin Says:

I could watch Federer dominate for another 10 years. Anyways. I don’t think Nadal’s declining. Unlike Fed, even though he’s losing focus and becoming disinterested, he’s still winning matches and tournaments. Fed, on the other hand… well. But Nadal is still strong and still dominating. He holds 3 of the 4 slams right now. I don’t understand how one can say he’s “declining”. Like, really? Nadal just won his 6th slam. This is like if someone said Federer was on the decline after winning the 05 US Open. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t. So I’m pretty sure Nadal is still legit right now.

zola Says:

you must be a writer or doing something very creative. You describe Rafa’s force, as if you feel it inside and it is really interesting, even poetic.

I can see that you admire him for his will and I hope that one day you can see that it is not all “will”. There is some talent involved as well. But perhaps his determination is so extraordinary that shadows his real talent.

I don’t think that poster ( mem?) meant that all federer fans are now Rafa fans. She was asking why his dominance was not boring to those who seem bored with Rafa’s dominance.

zola Says:

**your example***
I was presenting WTA to you as an example of a field with no dominant player!

**I’d hope others came along and started challenging and winning.**
I guess that’s what we are all saying.
But that statement puts the task on “other ” players. “They” have to challenge and win and no one is stopping them from doing it. The “dominant” player is doing his job in a perfect manner and it only becomes interesting when the others step up and do the same.

OK, so we agree now on two years of dominance? I would love to see Rafa dominate for another year and half.

I could watch Rafa dominate for 10 years too. I don’t know if Rafa is declining or not, but I don’t see 4 titles in 5 months as a decline either!
but who knows? This is tennis. You see players out with injury all the time. So I just want to sit back and enjoy these days while they last.

some good points about neutral fans and fans who swing with flow. Everyone wants something different and that spices up the discussions….

Great matches tomorrow.
folks, watch and have fun. I don’t think I can even follow the scoreboard! maybe Friday!

Kevin Says:


Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder.

To understand the phenomenon — the beauty — of Nadal, is to know extreme topspin.

Nadal’s topspin has been laser measured at 3,200 rpm. Compare that with previous 1990’s topspin wizard Agassi: his “gut string” spin was clocked at some 1,900 rpm. Or Federer, whose forehand is considered among the game’s best, generates 2,700.

That huge topspin means an extra high bounce — at a ball that opponents have to often return a shoulder level — instead of slightly below the waist — will they have less control and less power. That can often set up a winner in Nadal’s next shot.

Extreme topspin also allows Rafa to hit a hard ball higher across the net and have it drop like a stone before it sails beyond the base line. Or having it curve inward and inbounds when he hits it from extreme angles.

A lot of this has do to do with the latest string technology that was unavailable in Andre’s or Pistol Pete’s day. You can read about that here:

Nadal is also a competent net player, using well-struck approach shots, drop shots, and volleys. Nadal’s touch and skill at net and his ability to finish points from that position on the court are one of the most underestimated aspects of his game.

In the past couple of years — and this has what has been one of his keys of transcending beyond clay courts — Rafa has developed his serve into a solid weapon. It’s not Roddick fast, but Nadal is able to deliver a high percentage of first serves, struck with pace and placed strategically.

Rafa’s forehand is what tennis pundits call “counter-punching — a style that absorbs an opponent’s attacking play with aggressive returns.

Remember Nadal is naturally right-handed. But early on, Uncle Toni decided his protégé should play with his left hand to impart unusual southpaw spin. But Uncle Toni failed to correct the extreme grip Rafa uses and the unusual way he swings his racquet.

To this day, instead of using the forward momentum of his body to generate pace on his forehand — as all the training manuals recommend — Nadal falls backward from the net on his forehand, whipping his racquet behind his head instead of across his body. This results in looping shots that keep an opponent heaving balls back. often on the run, from which only an error provides release.

As Brad Gilbert noted, rallying with Nadal “is an education in pain.”

As a tennis aficionado, I believe we are witnesses to tennis at a hitherto unseen level.

That’s beauty no?

Swedish great Stefan Edberg has declared Nadal “unbeatable” by today’s professionals, and Pete Sampras told reporters on Dec. 2, 2008 that it may be Nadal, not Federer, who breaks his career-defining record of 14 major championships.

At just 22, he’s already tied with Rog for the most Master 1000 Series titles at 14 apiece — only 3 behind all time leader Agassi at 17 trophies.

And the Rome Masters — a clay gig — started yesterday.

zola Says:

Loved your comments. You articulated it so beautifully. Indeed we are in a golden era of tennis with Roger and Rafa both present and with so many talents following them.

Skorocel Says:


6 winners per a 2 set match – that’s beauty, no?

Skorocel Says:

Zola said:

“But perhaps his determination is so extraordinary that shadows his real talent.”


I would rather say: “Determination is his real talent!”

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