Monday, January 28, 2008

TheTruth About The 2008 Australian Open



As many of you know, I often quote TheTruth, a tennis enthusiast who graces a few forums with her eloquent voice. She allows me to repeat her best stuff right here. Without further ado, here is TheTruth's review of this past forthnight:

This Australian Open was the most meaningful Grand Slam on the men's side in recent years. It should live in history for being the year the competition came back. After four years of listening to pundits describe one player as the only one to have game, and there was nothing others could do about it, one player stood up. No, not Rafa, he has always stood in the face of such foolishness and played his game. This time, a mouse entered the den of the lion and said, "I will not surrender without a fight." Thank you, Janko Tipsarevic, for bringing your attitude and willingness to fight on a Grand Slam stage. Thank you for not believing the hype and knowing that tennis is about competing, not about pretty shots. Hats off to you for knowing that all are human and no man is a god. Your presence was felt long after you left.

Thank you Jo-Willie for reminding us what a complete game really is. That serve-and- volley tennis comes in on its terms, and delivers points with deft volleys at the right time. You used everything in your arsenal to produce stellar results, and left us with our mouths gaping wide. This wasn't your time, but it may soon be, if you take advantage of your many gifts.

And Rafa, a young man, who despite your age, was the proud papa who ushered in the entire spirit of competition. Who never cried through your loss, knowing that getting pushed will only make you better, more complete, as has been your wish all along. Smiling, with relief that you no longer had to shoulder the burden of competition all by yourself any more.

Now folks, we have tennis. Not the insidious idolatry of the past, but warriors coming out competing for hardware, eager to have it on their own shelf. Unwilling to allow the voices of the commentators and other competitors to seduce them into giving up before the first ball is struck. This is the way the sport of tennis should be played. Not the sickening fawning of the recent past. Now we should be able to watch a tournament with butterflies in our stomachs, wondering who shall become the victor. Having all of the Grand Slams predicted beforehand was a blight on the sport, but now order has been restored.

And even Novak, of whom I am not a fan, but can say that I respect his game. Kudos to you for joining the short list of competitors who have enough respect for themselves and their game to believe you have a shot. Who together with Rafa, Tsonga, Canas, Nalbandian, Volandri, and Tipsarevic have vowed to come on court with everything you've got and give Roger a run for his money, rather than a waltz to an unheard of twenty Slams.

Yes, this Australian Open has been the best of them yet. It brought the game back to tennis enthusiasts worldwide!

Related Article: Savannah's Review

20 comments:

MMT said...

Between 1976 and 1980 Borg went 10-1 against Vilas. Between 1978 and 1981 he went 10 - 1 against Connors. Between 1979 and 1981 Borg went 6-2 against Lendl and from 1974 - 1981 he went 17-1 against Gerulaitis.

These numbers are similar to Fed's against his contemporaries, so why is that Fed's results are down to his opponents, but Borg's were because he was just great?

I'm all for great tennis, and great competition, but I'm totally against denigrating a great champion by suggesting his opponents just bagged it. It could also be that he just beat them, over and over again.

Just like Borg.

Craig Hickman said...

Statistics don't tell the whole story.

Did anyone say this about Borg's contemporaries?:

"What the [heck's] up with men's tennis? If I didn't know better, I'd think these guys all want to get Roger Federer in the sack. That buddy-buddy stuff has got to go. Don't they realize he's taking food off their table?"

—Prominent NBA trainer, as told to John Wertheim, SI.com

No, not quite. But there have been many, experts and laypeople alike, who've suggested Borg didn't have much competition at the height of his powers on grass and clay. I don't necessarily see it that way, but many do.

But what happened to the great Borg, in his prime, to men's tennis, when a certain someone named John McEnroe stepped up to the plate and finally beat him in the Wimbledon final, exacting revenge from the painful loss the year before?

We all see what we see. We may not all agree. But that's the fun of it, no?

I agree with the crux of what TheTruth writes here.

I read a match report on the AO site after one of Tsonga's wins, and one of the vendors said how Tsonga and his game would bring him back to tennis.

And whether I like him or not, like the way he and his family manipulate the media or not, like the way his mother spouts off at the mouth or not, there is a Bad Boy on the scene and he means business.

Will the great Raja respond like the great Borg and run away or will he rise to the challenge and continue to chase history?

Stay tuned.

tangerine said...

TheTruth speaks the truth. Watching Tsonga-Djokovic, I felt like I was watching tennis anew. It wasn't a classic but for once we didn't know who would win. To use the one word everybody else has been using, it was "refreshing." Did you see how crazy that crowd was? They were eating it up. I think tennis needs more Fed- and Rafa-free finals, it would be good for the sport.

MMT said...

I like Djokovic (can't stand his parents) and I love Tsonga, but...

“Thank you for not believing the hype and knowing that tennis is about competing, not about pretty shots.”

You get no points for looking good. The ball goes in, or it doesn't. The opponent can return shots, or he can't. That Fed's game is aesthetic to some has no bearing on its effectiveness.

“Thank you Jo-Willie for reminding us what a complete game really is.”

That Tsonga's game is complete has no bearing on the completeness of Fed's game. The two can co-exist.

“And Rafa,… you no longer had to shoulder the burden of competition all by yourself any more.”

Rafa carries the burden of only his own game - the same for Fed and everyone else. If his matches are harder it's because he's less dominant.

“...seduce them into giving up before the first ball is struck.”

If Fed was perceived to be invincibile, it's not because of what people say, but from how he plays and his results.

My point is that we can celebrate Djokovic's victory, and Tsonga's acension without discrediting Fed.

Craig Hickman said...

mmt said: "My point is that we can celebrate Djokovic's victory, and Tsonga's acension without discrediting Fed."

TheTruth doesn't discredit Fed. If she does, I don't see it at all. If anything, she discredits his competition and expresses her perceptions about the mindset of his competitors.

“Thank you for not believing the hype and knowing that tennis is about competing, not about pretty shots.”

If a player capitulates in a match (against anyone, really) because a few of those pretty shots go in, that player is not a valiant competitor, if one could call him a competitor at all.

"If Fed was perceived to be invincible, it's not because of what people say, but from how he plays and his results."

These situations are not mutually exclusive.

It remains my perception that if James Blake, despite some improvements in the face of Raja, had deeply believed he was worthy of beating The Name, Djokovic wouldn't have had the opportunity to show that he did.

"The ball goes in, or it doesn't. The opponent can return shots, or he can't."

If it were that simple, I wouldn't be a tennis enthusiast. Human frailty and resilience have as much to do with whether a player can hit shots that go in and/or return the ones that do as does talent or skill. Not to mention luck.

Why is it that Federer is "uncharacteristically" erratic against some players but always manages to summon perfect tennis against others?

How Federer plays and the results he's achieved have not occurred only because of what happens on his side of the court. That's why tennis has always been more compelling to me than, say, golf where you can only blame yourself (or the elements) if you don't perform the way you want to.

TheTruth has made her feelings about Federer known. Right on this blog among other places. But this Oz Open summary has everything to do with the rest of the field (and those who commentate on the sport) and little, if anything, to do with the current world No. 1.

Karen said...

mmt said: "My point is that we can celebrate Djokovic's victory, and Tsonga's acension without discrediting Fed."

TheTruth doesn't discredit Fed. If she does, I don't see it at all. If anything, she discredits his competition and expresses her perceptions about the mindset of his competitors.

Yeah right and pigs are flying right about now.

I will not be offering any comments for a little while as I am not sure I like what I am hearing right now.

I will see you guys round about the French Open.

edma1022 said...

i think mmt's comments are insightful, Craig. you just don't see it, that's all. because your perception is clouded. (we are after all speaking "about" Raja).

believe it or not, i know a multitude of folks, both from the Fed/Rafa camp and outside, who didn't tune in on the finals, not becoz it was showing at 3am but becoz of the folks playing (esp. Nole). we can all hear about them soon anyway. they're young and their careers are right before them.

"refreshing" and "good for the sport" are the buzzwords of mediamen, critics, and sports armchair experts. but we all know who we are keeping tabs on. we do play this game once in a while.

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Craig Hickman said...

karen, it would be uncharacteristic of you to not offer an opinion. But if we don't see you till Roland Garros, then we'll have to accept that.

Be well.

Savannah said...

BTW the woman sitting next to Didier Tsonga is not Mme Tsonga. She was sitting to the right of that woman.

Kim said...

I just like watching good tennis. Either Raja, Vamos or Nole.

Speaking of the latter, his parents do indeed come across as annoying hockey parents.

This said, I went to see him practice in Montreal last summer and he was truly a nice and patient guy with the fans.

Remeber that was the 3-2-1 sequence and he was finally tasting stardom for the first time.

Question: in the AO final, was his dad put to the side (possibly for being too loud or coaching) in the first set or was I dreaming?

Craig Hickman said...

ed, everyone in this batch has made insightful points even if I don't agree with all of them.

I think your vision is also clouded because, well, we're talking "about" Raja.

It works both ways.

All you're really saying is that you agree with mmt and you disagree with me.

It be's like that sometimes.

PeytonAllen said...

I think Fed fans are taking this a bit harshly.

Look, when two men win all the slams for what three years running, the sport cries out for a change. What the Nadal/Fed run says is, "Only one man can stop Fed."

I enjoy Tiger Woods a lot more when he's sinking improbable putts on the 16th hole of Augusta, than when he's leading by 10 strokes heading into the final round of play.

You can't fault Fed for being great or seeing the three rivals he came in with all digress as time went on. Safin is a head case, Roddick thinks he's a junior clay courter, and Hewitt aside from getting burned out got left behind the times (i.e. more power)

The only player stopping Fed from making a mockery of the sport is a Clay Court Wizard who hits the courts every day at practice and tries to learn how to play better on HCs.

Fed's fault? No. But you can't turn your eyes away from the truth either.

Fed HAS shown an ability to shrink when challenged by someone who has talent and knows they can win.

I think the Fed era has been hurt as well by a lack of classic matches. In some FO's against Nadal HE hasn't risen to the occasion. Only last year in London did we get our first great Major final in the Fed era.

He's going to go on to win 16-17 majors. He'd have to be shut out this year then suffer an injury to stop that from happening.

I just think we're in a new chapter of his career. Instead of 3 majors a year and 4 losses, you're going to see him truly battle his rivals for (a) slam.

How will his nerves hold up as he gets closer to another major? The another bit knock on Fed outside of being that you can get into his head, is he's been nervy at times. The man cried last year after kicking Bags ass. Actually I think Bags cried too... but point is, I think he might choke away a title or two in the future.

oddman said...

Great post, peytonallen. I'd also agree some Fed fans are really taking this loss badly. I'm also of a mind to think we've become used to the status quo - the two guys at the top - and now others look to challenge, esp. Novak, and we who are resistant to that change get negative about that. As a Rafa fan, it's not that worrisome to me (yet) as I don't see too much in a challenger for Rafa on clay, and he always struggles on a hardcourt, so I don't go into matches with a positive feeling he'll win most of them. (and here I'm assuming Fedfans believe Fed will at least make it through early rounds no problem) A different mindset, perhaps.
And I certainly don't think Fed is 'done', but do think he may struggle more. He does get nervous and hesitant when challenged, with belief. Interesting times ahead.

Tennisfan said...

TheTruth About The 2008 Australian Open
""This Australian Open was the most meaningful Grand Slam on the men's side in recent years. It should live in history for being the year the competition came back.
…….
Who together with Rafa, Tsonga, Canas, Nalbandian, Volandri, and Tipsarevic have vowed to come on court with everything you've got and give Roger a run for his money, rather than a waltz to an unheard of twenty Slams.""

If the author tried to lead us to believe her/his post is about "AO brought out the competition in men tennis", certainly she/he failed. The ending paragraph clearly suggests competition exists ONLY among victors who had favorable results against Federer and every player should be able to do such. In my opinion which has no relation to AO 08.

Who is Volandri? Did he not lose in the first round? And Canas, he did not compete in AO08. I also do not see how Volandri and Canas brought the competition up a level in any way.

Competition does exist, may be not as much as some would like to see. But it is there, with or without Federer in the match….

1) Kohlschreiber vs. Roddick at AO 08, for one. It is one of the best matches from AO 08.

2) Hewitt Vs Federer Cincinnati 07
3) Roddick Vs Federer US opens 07. Hewitt and Roddick fell short in result; it did not mean they did not try. Their effort should not be discounted. Competition exists within matches; it is a winning acore against Federer.

I am an avid Fed fan and couldn’t speak for other Fed Fans; I sure was stress-free watching the AO final and forgot about Federer not being in it. It is fascinating to me that here we are a GS final without Federer for the first time in 3 years. Some should be very delighted to see that and why in the world we are still talking about Federer… Anyway, my opinion only..

justfriendly said...

I just cannot understand the under appreciation for the Fed from Mr Hickman and "TheTruth". Maybe it's because I am so in awwh of the Swiss Master that I am somewhat blinded. He makes the game so effortless and beautiful to watch but isn't that what appeals to so many? You often insinuate that he intimidates his opponents into bowing to him but I far as I know he does not insist that they agree to this prior to a match. They do because of his game, isn't that the sign of a champion? Shouldn't he be feared? I love when he wins and I winch when he loses but I move on. I can only hope that he hoists the French Open trophy one day so that he can be known for the all court champion that he is. I will forever be a Fed fan no matter what.

Long live the KING.

Tennisfan said...

Correction!! Sorry!

2) Hewitt Vs Federer Cincinnati 07
3) Roddick Vs Federer US opens 07. Hewitt and Roddick fell short in result; it did not mean they did not try. Their effort should not be discounted. Competition exists within matches; "" IT IS NOT A WINNING SCORE AGAINST FEDERER.""

MMT said...

TheTruth clearly implies Fed's results have been down to his opponents lack of heart/belief. By saying Djokovic has won because he didn't "believe the hype" the others lost because they did.

Maybe they just lost because Fed was better.

And if the others didn't believe they could win, it's due (in large part)to Fed's performance. And it's fascinating that nobody puts Nadal's results on clay down to lack of belief - even though he has been as dominant on that surface as Fed has been everywhere else.

Why the double standard?

No matter what Vilas, Gerulaitis and Connors say, their results against Borg were terrible. But we don't denigrate Borg's results, not because they were better than Fed's (they were worse), but because his opponents won OTHER SLAMS.

That tells me Borg wasn't as dominant as Fed vis a vis his contemporaries.

There are only 4 slams a year, so if Fed's contemporaries haven't won it's not because of hype, or hyperbole. One is welcome to believe that, but it's based on pure conjecture and an obvious dislike/fatigue of Federer.

And unless you can see into a man's heart, I don't know how you can know if they really believed they could win. Unless you have a crystal ball, how do you know if it would even matter?

We assume Connors, Vilas, Lendl and Gerulaitis believed they could win against Borg, but he just beat them - we don't know that. Maybe they felt the same sense of helplessness as do Fed's contemporaries.

Borg's crew can lament the paucity of competition for Federer, but how do they explain their own terrible results against Borg? He just beat them. So why don't we say the same for Fed, instead of suggesting he's getting an assist from commentators, writers, draws, the year he was born, and whatever else is used to discount Fed's results.

Who's to say they wouldn't have similar results against Fed?

These are all questions with no answers, but to assume the inferiority of Fed's contemporaries just because he and Nadal have shut them out inherently discredits Fed (and Nadal - you can't have one without the other) for that matter, because THEY HIT THE SHOTS, and everything else is pure conjecture.

So, I say again, let's congratulate Nole and Tsonga, but let's not denigrate Fed because he's been MORE dominant than Borg (or anyone else) was.

I just feel it's wrong, but apparently I'm in the minority! :-)

Craig Hickman said...

mmt, I just don't agree that criticizing the mental fortitude of players in the face of Raja or Rafa or Djoke for that matter denigrates anybody except those being criticized.

When someone who knows sport and competition can ask in all serioiusness whether or not Fed's opponents want to bed him, then clearly something is amiss.

rabbit said...

I just feel it's wrong, but apparently I'm in the minority! :-)

MMT, you are not alone, but I'm too tired of arguing at the moment :)