Sunday, May 31, 2009

Comment Of The Week

Defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts at a news conference after losing to Robin Soderling of Sweden at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris May 31, 2009.
Reuters

He makes rare appearances in these parts, but whenever he shares his musings, this blog is a better place.

PeytonAllen said...

First off, can we put an end to NBC airing tennis? It’s absurd the match is on at 3 pm est when the entire world has known of the result since 12. And as I’m trying to watch the match now, the commercials after every game are so annoying.

I actually thought Robin would win before the match.

Okay, yeah right.

What a stunner. Came home from church and checked the ‘net. Couldn’t believe it.

You know I can’t imagine Soderling’s game was so much different than in Rome. Did he find the zone a bit more? Probably. What I’ve seen (I quit watching due to NBC) he just crushed everything. He’s of the ilk that give Nadal problems: Tall, flat hitting middle of the road players. Guys like Blake, etc, who just have nothing to lose but hit out on every shot.

I did think this was the year that Nadal would be taken to 5 sets, but I never thought he’d be the one that would fail to hold up his end of the bargain. We knew sooner or later he’d lose in Paris, and it was probably a pipe dream to think that’d happen in his late 20’s, or that he’d retire say at 27 or 28 without ever having lost. It was a remarkable run and it ends when he’s just 22 years-old.

I echo the sentiments that are wondering what’s wrong with the beast. In Miami he said, “sometimes you lose because of personal reasons,” and then Bodo picked up on it. Maybe this push from his handlers to make Rafa into a man robbed him of some of his boyish charms. Where was the fight today? Where was the energy? Rafa was flat. It happens. Federer in his great runs dodged some bullets, it’s one of the greatest feats of his dominance. But, Nadal was not himself.

I disagree about the Madrid theory that people ‘figured out’ how to play him. It took 5 years?

Bullshit.

He ran into a buzz saw today, but more importantly the well that was Nadal’s soul ran dry. For the first time in Paris, or in a big match, he had nothing inside to fall back on.

Technically speaking, it’s the same old bad habits. He wasn’t aggressive. He often just looped his return of serves back, etc. etc. This may actually be good for Nadal. He gets to gameplan the next stage of his career. His serve has to be better. He has to flatten out his shots more often. All these things he knows, but maybe today is the last time he’ll have to be reminded of them.

Who wins?

I’m not sold on Federer. I like Wilander’s comment that "all the players are having a beer now."

Nobody here has mentioned the one player that’s most likely to win now.

Gael Monfils.

A deep Roddick run would be crack, but most likely it’s Monfils/Murray.

And I agree with the comment that Wimbledon just became the ticket of the summer. What will Nadal look like the first time he steps on court post-Soderling bombshell? Interesting!

And to Nadal fans: he'll be back in Paris.




From: Earthquake

37 comments:

oddman said...

Yes, this is a great post, PeytonAllen. A stunner. I agree, I thought I'd see one or two hotly contested 5-setters, but not Rafa going out to Soderling. Not in the 4th round. Sigh.

I love your take on Rafa's technical problems and same old bad habits, and that this loss will remind him to get those habits out of his head forever from now on. If anyone can do it, Rafa can.

My own feeling is Rafa will look very serious and determined, come Wimbledon. A bad loss can be just as great a motivator as a great win, imho. Depends on how you look at them, and methinks Rafa doesn't dwell on his losses and get all down about them. Short term memory, that's the ticket.

Vamos, Rafa, on the grass in England!

Karen said...

As a Roger fan I have to say that I have to hope and pray that Roger will be able to do it this year. Just get it over with. It is funny that Peyton mentioned the whole turning Nadal into a man, because I was saying to myself recently that with the No.1 mantle comes so many responsibilities to the game: the photo shooots, the appearances, the meetings etc. All these things take away from your preparation of the game. You find that you now have an obligation that goes outside of playing tennis. As Peyton also said, the fact that Roger was able to do this for so long and not crack until last year does say something about Roger. Recently when Roger mentioned the pressure of being No.1, I, like many others sort of snorted at the comment, but it could be that there is something in wearing the mantle of No. 1. Ana's downfall and the downfall of the ladies as No.1 player in the world does not look so bizarre right about now.

oddman said...

Yes, Karen, it does say lots about Roger how he handled that pressure.

Tennisfan said...

Good read, thanks. One thing I admire about Rafa is his mental strength. Rafa will come back strong, no doubt about it.

Pamela said...

I was wondering if anyone remembered the Monfils/Federer match from last year? It was completely a winnable match and Fed has looked vulnerable in each match so far, except the 1st round.

If he reaches Fed again and plays to his abilities, without contact issues (remember that?) he can take Federer, especially with crowd on his side.

I'm over my Rafa sadness already. Sooner than I thought. I was reminded of what I said in Miami, from my own observations. He's been "out of it" since then. He didn't want to play and you could sense it. He didn't want to go to Madrid. And I recall the article, not sure if I linked it here or not, where he said he felt lonely at the top. He said after he won the Australian Open, things changed a bit. I don't know if it was Fed's reaction that took something out of him, or he was missing the "chase." He's the one being hunted now.

I don't know, but good luck to whomever ends up in the finals. I kind of only wanted Federer to win if he took out Rafa.

vince said...

Guys, I was hoping to explore a bit more peyton's comments:

"But, Nadal was not himself."

"Nadal’s soul ran dry"

Does anyone have any insight as to why the raging bull is off his game at the moment?

Burned out?
Personal problems?

I refuse to accept that Soderling was simply the better player on the day and there's nothing more to it.

bryan said...

Nadal has played too much tennis this year and his knee problems are at least partially to blame for his loss. He seems a little tired, he ran into an opponent who neither feared him nor backed down. Several of Federer's losses to Nadal over the past couple of years have been due to Roger's inability to convert break points and take advantage of the moment. Soderling just kept the foot on the gas and hit Rafa off the court.

Tennisfan said...

Pamela said...

I don't know if it was Fed's reaction that took something out of him.

xxxx

Huh.......??? I am not a Rafa fan, but I think too highly of him to even insinuate such.

Pamela said...

Tennisfan: If I can find the article where he expressed loneliness at the top after he defeated Roger at the AO this year, I'll link it here.

What I mean is, classy or not - it had to be weird and distracting having to console your nemesis on YOUR very first hard court slam win. It was his time to shine after doing what so many pundits said he would not. Instead of that being his moment and his moment alone, he had to stand there listening to an adoring crowd aww over Federer and then console him.

I'm sure he's a sweet and genuine person at heart and did what came naturally to him by comforting Federer. I'm not saying that's why he lost today, but I'm saying he's been "off" even when he's won. It's his demeanor and joy on court. It's been missing since Indian Wells, and even then - it wasn't fully there. Just my opinion.

Karen said...

Pamela, you do have a point about it being lonely at the top. People expect so much from you. He has to be coming out in defence of players, fans, himself, his friends etc. Amidst all of that you have to continuously play at high level every freaking tournament. You have so many points to defend every single month - it does get a bit too much. I think since Roger got married and announced the arrival of a baby, I think this is the first time I have seen him comfortable etc. He has not been playing very well this tournament but he has stepped it up when it mattered. He has not panicked, but has gone about his business in the right way. Nadal on the other hand has had to be dealing with the Spanish players getting out of bed early in the mornings for dope tests, the fact that his friend Gasquet perhaps called him up and asked him to defend him, plus the fact that the press are all over him for looking like a popsicle, plus he can no longer wear piratas and sleeveless shirts, because after all he is the No. 1 player in the world and he has an obligation to Nike. Ladies and gentlemen I think we are all seeing what professional sports is all about. Not taking anything away from Soderling, but Nadal needs to go back to just being a tennis player. Leave the politics etc to everyone else.

Craig Hickman said...

I wrote to a dear friend and Rafa fan earlier today:

"He won Melbourne. That was HUGE. People (not you, of course) tend to forget that Rafa has emotions. A big win is probably more emotional than a big loss, especially for someone like him."

I'll add here:

Especially when most of the world said he'd never win a hard court Slam.

He hasn't been the same since.

Pamela said...

The article needs to be translated, I'm sure you can use Google for that:

http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/vip/rafael-nadal-si-vous-etiez_751133.html

Here is the excerpt that I found intriguing at the time, months ago:

Q : If you were... a person you hope to meet?

A : Roger Federer. When I was young, I always had this dream : I was at the bottom of a huge mountain and I was looking at the top. When I beat Roger Federer in January, in Melbourne, in the final of the Australian Open, I felt an animal excitement. But afterwards, I felt an emptiness and a loneliness indescribable. As if I had no more aim/no more purpose. To me, Federer is still the number 1 in the world. I want to meet him again on court. I know he can beat me.

Helen W said...

Wow, Pamela and Craig: I had never thought of that, but you are right -- he's never been the same since. Thank you Pamela for posting the link to that story.

So if you are a mountaineer and you have climbed the peak you have been dreaming of for years, how do you find a new peak to inspire you?

PeytonAllen said...

I don't think Fed's run over a 3-4 year period of dominance will ever be topped. To just always rise to the mental challenge in any big match (unless against Nadal) was amazing.

And Borg before Fed. 4 straight FO's, 5 straight Wimbledon's. Amazing. What if he won at the Open? What if he went to Australia?

Fed's downtime was the Final of the French. Otherwise, he was on point. It'll be a while before we see it again.

Nadal had a great HC season. Once he hit clay the pressures of being the clay King seem to have worn him down.

We've said in half-jest, now that Fed has been dethroned, he'll win the French this year. And for Rafa, do you trade a French loss, for an Open this summer?

Still don't buy Fed though. He's been flirting with a non-semi final loss for a year or so, but he hasn't gone down.

Monfils in QF's will be a throwdown, and if it's Murray in the Final I think Andy wins.

I hated to see Rafa lose, but let's admit this next week is up in the air, and for a change isn't it nice.

Helen W said...

No Peyton, it's not nice :(

Craig Hickman said...

Yes, Peyton. Yes.

Tennisfan said...

Pamela,

Rafa is the greatest fighter, a great champion, and I even put him ahead of Roger in mental strength department.

What Karen said in her comment makes a lot of sense. Since he won the AO, he won GS on all surfaces, and expectation gets a lot higher on him than before. Of course, No. 1 is a lonely place Pamela. #1 and #2 are totally different. He could use to say "Roger is the best, no?" Now, HE IS THE BEST. He will feel pressure to win EVERY MATCH.

I doubt he would ever let Roger's tear bother him. He has had enough experience in winning tight matches just on pure will. IF he actually let Roger's incident interfere his life long ambition, then he was not as great as I believe he was.

Pamela said...

Tennisfan, you're putting too much weight in my comment about having to console Federer. I don't think it was his dream to have to do that, but I maintain that he's been slightly off kilter since then. Pressure is pressure, it comes in various forms. Hopefully he'll get some rest and is restored for the grass court season. He IS a great fighter who needs a lighter schedule, IMO.

Graf_sampras said...

actually ROGER was VERY prescient, in his hopeful remark:

"One can only HOPE that rafa comes in on a day slightly below his best..and then grab that chance..i believe if i play the right way - i have that chance"


this was that day. it would probably not have made a difference, rgoer, roddick, monfils, murray


-- THAT was the "less than best" rafael that roger was talking about last week.

anyone with two eyes can see that.

Graf_sampras said...

And Borg before Fed. 4 straight FO's, 5 straight Wimbledon's. Amazing. What if he won at the Open? What if he went to Australia?


=============

the answer to YOUR "what if" on borg is - from borg HIMSELF;

"I had to remain FRESH for the FO/Wimbledon season....i could not JEOPARDIZE my chances there...."

he also added :"skipping AO was MY way of PROTESTING the schedule wchih was TOO TAXING".


that's about as clear an admission, knowing what HE had to do to "stay fresh" and sharp in order to maintain what he did DURING THE FO/WIMBLEDON season upon which his stature rests , and upon which EVEN QUESTIONS like "what if" -- suggestive that he"might have won the AO TOO"...

that fairly - to any intelligent analysis - puts all speculation that "borg would have won more GS including AO"

WHILE adding IT to his known record in FO/Wimbledon Doubles crowns, etc.

i have NO doubt, borg would NEVER have achieved it had he played AO in those same years he achieved his best reputation in the MidSeason.

Borg - let us put it more simply -- great as that unique achievement was -

WAS a "mid-season" player....

where by the time the FO came around -- HE was peaking just right - while OTHERS were ALREADY exhausted from the opening hardcourt season...and so he would reach his climax at wimbledon (remember that borg and swedes actually also trained ON GRASS in those times, borg himself reminds people -- "i was a grasscourter in sweden too, u know") ...thus: the famous "doubles crown".

if he had to play the FULL schedules , year after year, as mcenroe, lendl, sampras, becker, federer, nadal have done


everyone can kiss that "doubles crown" as it stands goodbye,

not to mention even IMAGINING borg winning the AO in ADDITION TO those doubles crowns.

borg went to the AO earlier in his career - LOST in the quarters and never again went there .....clearly - he decided, and calculated -- his best chances for a successful career was

in that exact MIDSEASON of FO/wimbledon...

while the going was good. ...so to say.

it's not considered NICE to talk about that, we'd rather leave the "legend" as it is prefered to be rememberd "won wimbledon and FO 3 consecutive years together...altogether 6 FO's 5 Consecutive Wimbledon" --

but there is a deeper background to that.

Graf_sampras said...

besides -- for what's IT'S worth -- Although MCEnroe ackowledge's his rival's and friends' greatness...I believe McEnroe to have been CORRECT in his assessment of their 1980 FIRST final wimbledon meeting which mcenroe LOST...

" i basically CHOKED. i didn't believe i could do it...".

and of course he corrected it the next year.

by THAT year 1980 -- borg KNEW HIS time as ruler of wimbledon was UP...even at that young age.

and THAT"s why HE Retired:

"I couldn't really tolerate being less than number one".

and he KNEW he wasn't going to hold on to it for long with mcenroe around.

it was best to leave with a record of the 11 majors, and double crowns rather than be "undressed" even more in subsequent meetings as the field deepened among the top.

Graf_sampras said...

Rafael is beautiful -- even in defeat. there is something of the philosophical about him. and nothing about the trivial.


that's not easy to say of any Men's Tennis Player.

Helen W said...

Tennisfan, if I understand you correctly, you think that Rafa is suffering from the pressure of being No 1. I'm more inclined to think that his problem is slightly different, and what he articulated in the quote in Pamela's post: He had a very definite goal -- to become No 1; now that he has attained his goal, he is finding it hard to find another goal that can motivate him in the same way. He was focused on being the hunter, but now he has nothing to hunt, so he feels lost.

Graf_sampras said...

Helen W said...

Tennisfan, if I understand you correctly, you think that Rafa is suffering from the pressure of being No 1. I'm more inclined to think that his problem is slightly different, and what he articulated in the quote in Pamela's post: He had a very definite goal -- to become No 1; now that he has attained his goal, he is finding it hard to find another goal that can motivate him in the same way. He was focused on being the hunter, but now he has nothing to hunt, so he feels lost.

Sun May 31, 10:17:00 PM

===========

this might be true.


in terms of proving he can DEFEND and be DOMINANT...in a historic way -- he has proven himself.

what's there else to do? break Borg's and his tie in CONSECUTIVE FOs, just for the heck of it?

nadal doesn't seem to be that kind of EGO. and it seems that to him the MOMENT is what counts....

and he simply lost a certain intensity that could come from a partial burnout after such a LONG climb since 2004 !!!

my god! we have to remember to give him the space.
this kid has singlhandedly overhauled the great roger federer in roger's dominance period


which is the equivalent of what the REST of the tour couldn't or wouldn't DO --

WHILE making that merely a part of rafael's over-all achievement AGAINST the tour to create his own records?

the young man deserves a bit of a letdown - even a day of being "off-guard".

Roger never had to contend with anyone "better than him" to create his Dominance.


Rafael had to EARN it AGAINST the best and beat him "again and again and again" to become who he is today.

THAT"s the real accomplishment which a single day of being decidedly off - rafael TOO has earned.

no matter what - this guy is truly extraordinary in every way.

from his tennis to his character.

HE IS - i repeat -- the JEWEL in the Crown of men's Tennis.

Tennisfan said...

Perhaps Helen_W. There could be many reasons we tennis fans don't know about too, personal life, or simply not feeling well, etc.. But I do think his shots are a little different than before. Less spins? Adjusting his games for hard courts?

Rafa will find a new goal that motivates him. He is still young and always looks forward to improve. May be by Wimbledon?

Graf_sampras said...

by the way -- did you know that Borg's Clothing line and store started with one of the most notable slogans ;;;


encouraging Swedes in the ads this way:

"FUCK for the FUTURE"?

that would NEVER be allowed in oh-s0-moral USA. you can bet on it.

roflmao


hehehe....

Graf_sampras said...

Tennisfan said...

Perhaps Helen_W. There could be many reasons we tennis fans don't know about too, personal life, or simply not feeling well, etc.. But I do think his shots are a little different than before. Less spins? Adjusting his games for hard courts?

Rafa will find a new goal that motivates him. He is still young and always looks forward to improve. May be by Wimbledon?

Sun May 31, 10:39:00 PM

=========

Tennisfan - as a fedfan yourself...you are so PLEASING to read.

you harbor no "gloating" as some fedfans would - upon nadal's fall.

i respect that greatly.

of course i remain the SamprasfanRogerDissingTroll

hehehe.

Helen W said...

G_S, I totally agree with your 10:37:00 PM post. Great stuff!

Graf_sampras said...

bryan said...

Nadal has played too much tennis this year and his knee problems are at least partially to blame for his loss. He seems a little tired, he ran into an opponent who neither feared him nor backed down. Several of Federer's losses to Nadal over the past couple of years have been due to Roger's inability to convert break points and take advantage of the moment. Soderling just kept the foot on the gas and hit Rafa off the court.

Sun May 31, 09:12:00 PM

==========


EXCELLENT points, bryan.

i think we can all agree on those things.


nonetheless -- Soderling brought the goods - rafa didn't. so rafa goes home. PERIOD.
roflmao!

it's time for the others to battle it out for themselves and see who wants it most and brings the game best to take it.

and whoever wins - that player is the FRENCH OPEN CHAMPION of 2009. And deserves his glorious day as much as Rafa deserved his glorious YEARS.

oddman said...

Yes, Graf. Your 10:37 is spot on. Another shot of relief for my aching heart. It's healing, guys, it's healing... faster than I thought.

oddman said...

bryan, I don't know about that argument with the knees and so on. Rafa refutes that himself in his presser, saying he's done it the same way for 4 years, and it worked for him. Shrug.

Maybe this cloud has the silver lining that he won't be as beat up come late August in New York? See, a girl can dream, no?

ndn5898 said...

These comments have made me think of the sisters and the constant criticisms they have rec'd because they wanted a fuller life. Coming from Compton, wearing beads in their heads until they were damn near 20 years old (which is definitly not the cultural norm), their parents divorce and their sister's murder. Let alone injuries and not feeling welcome. I applaude their continued efforts because clearly it is not easy being hunted.

They had their time in the wilderness and came back for a second act. They have made mistakes, but so has everyone.

Rafa will be ok and so will Raja.

Graf_sampras said...

Helen W said...

G_S, I totally agree with your 10:37:00 PM post. Great stuff!

Sun May 31, 10:46:00 PM

=========

Thanks HelenW..and you too Oddman.

as you've surele noticed -- i am mainly putting in my own arrangement matters that you each and others have already pointed out so well.

it just seems to make it clear that most of us generally see things as they unfolded - not only today and this week, but even over the months and years....

and that it makes even THIS "earthshaking" loss on his dominant surface -- seen in proper context.

it is NOT just about "nadal -- oh the great nadal was taken down ON CLAY"....

as one would say "oh the great ROGER was taken down on grass".

no -- it is about MORE than just that:

it is about exactly what you and others have pointed out - SINCE NADAL BEGAN HIS INTRUSION into what was SUPPOSED to be an ENTIRELY roger federer "era" ....proclaimed in advance since even before 2004 -

and which was ALSO the year nadal emerged as a real factor, albeit doing his "growing up" and :"learning" in the public eye , shunted forward BECAUSE THE OTHERS were INCAPABLE and UNWILLING, as I have always pointed out, and i emphasize -- to THEIR shame and the detriment of THEIR own careers -

THIS is in fact the very first time that we see nadal - as a DOMINANT player - experience something that NO ONE SO YOUNG has ANY BUSINESS experiencing as a matter of course

which should be something only players that have been around and DOMINATING or VERY contentious for top prizes for YEARS are more acceptable to suffer this kind of "FALL" from VERY HIGH peaks!


let us not forget that Nadal is only 22 -- and ALREADY has experienced the greatness FEW MEN in their MIDTWENTIES experienced!

let alone to have an "earthshaking" fall on a given day .

and THEN to top it off - the wisdom that OUGHT to come from someone MUCH OLDER and speaking from the standpoint of TEACHING OTHERS ....with which he speaks of "learning and improving" REMINDS US


of how YOUNG he is for such an already historically accomplished player and champion.


the guy is simply incredible...i have to say.

Long-time sampras fan as I am --

I MUST say -- i LIKE nadal EVEN MORE than pete! and that's saying a LOT!!and for ME to say that about ANY player other than pete....

THAT"S earthshattering for ME!!

roflmao!

Mad Professah said...

I hope today's loss causes people to reassess how amazing what Roger Federer has been doing since 2005.

Helen W said...

G_S: Did I hear you correctly? Did you just say that you like Rafa even more than Pete????

Say it again, Graffy, say it again :) Should we now call you Graf_Nadal?

anonymous said...

Monfils? I don't think so. Brain triumphs over brawn and is precisely why Murray or Federer will win.

pompelmo said...

Mad Professah said...

I hope today's loss causes people to reassess how amazing what Roger Federer has been doing since 2005.

----

A very good point. Almost only losing to Nadal.