The Rafael Redemption: Nadal wins 2010 French Open!

June 7, 2010 in Tennis

I’m ecstatic for Rafael Nadal, who just captured his 5th French Open title by downing Robin Soderling, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.  It was sweet revenge for Rafa, who defeated his one and only conqueror on Paris clay and is now a staggering 38-1 at Roland Garros.  He also reclaimed his number 1 ranking while preventing Federer from equaling Pete Sampras’ all-time record of 286 weeks at that spot.

Last year when Nadal shockingly bowed out of the French Open last year, paving the way for Roger Federer to win his first ever Grand Slam on clay, people were ready to write off the then 23-year-old as “past his prime”.  They said he was too one-dimensional, his style too prone to injury, and that he had already peaked.  But he proved them wrong once again, as he did by winning Wimbledon in 2008 and the Australian Open in 2009.  Now Nadal has 7 Grand Slam titles (5 French, 1 Wimbledon, 1 Australian) and 2 runner-ups (both Wimbledon).

While it is still waaaay to early to put Nadal in the GOAT discussions with Roger Federer (who has 16 Grand Slam titles and 6 runner-ups, plus that ridiculous 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-final appearances), is it conceivable that one day Rafa might overtake Roger?  Let’s have a look at the numbers.

Federer is turning 29 in August whereas Nadal just turned 24 a few days ago.  At the age of 24, Federer had just won his 6th Grand Slam title (at the US), having won each of his first 6 Grand Slam finals.  Before he turned 25, Federer captured his 7th, the 2006 Australian Open, came runner-up in the 2006 French, and won his 8th Grand Slam at the 2006 Wimbledon.  Barring injury, Nadal would be the heavy favourite to win the French for the next 5 years, and by the time Federer hits 30, Nadal should also be the favourite for Wimbledon.  He could conceivably also win one or two more Australian Opens, and even though he has never done very well at the US, let’s say he breaks through and wins one there.

If we assume Federer doesn’t win another Grand Slam in his career and Nadal doesn’t miss any more time due to injury (both pretty unlikely), it’s within the realms of possibility that Rafa could end up with say something like 10 French Open titles, 4 Wimbledons, 2 Australian Opens and 1 US Open (that’s 17 for you math geniuses).  Even if he doesn’t quite get there, and ends up with say 13 or 14 Grand Slams (still a long long way to go), with his current 14-7 record against Federer, including 6-2 in Grand Slams (and 5-2 in Grand Slam finals), that makes the debate whole a lot more interesting.  Federer’s all-court game, consistency on all surfaces, effortless style and grace will always make him the front-runner in GOAT discussions, but can someone be the greatest of all time despite having one guy getting the better of him the majority of the time?  Right now the answer is yes because Federer is so far ahead of Nadal, but what if one day that gap becomes only a couple of Grand Slams?

I’m already looking forward to this year’s Wimbledon.  Will Federer get another one or will Nadal consolidate his Paris victory?  Or will someone else (like poor Andy Murray) finally come through?  Can’t wait.

Federer crushes Murray in 2010 Aussie Final; why don’t I like it?

February 1, 2010 in Tennis

Andy Murray's face says it all: kissing the trophy like that was a total dick move on Federer's part

It was just another day at the office for Swiss maestro Roger Federer, who annihilated a game Andy Murray at the 2010 Australian Open Final in three sets, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11).  With the victory, Federer extended his Grand Slams record to 16, which is unprecedented in the history of men’s tennis.

Is there any doubt now that Federer, with two more Grand Slam titles than his nearest rival (Pete Sampras with 14) with many more competitive years left in his career, and having completed the career Grand Slam last year by capturing the elusive Roland Garros title, is the greatest of all time?  The one and only argument against him is his record against Rafael Nadal (ie if Federer isn’t even the best player of his era, then how can he be the greatest of all time?).  I don’t buy that for more than half a second.  If you still don’t believe it then you should check out this article (written before Federer won the 2010 Aussie).  Unless a guy comes along and starts smashing 230km serves with his dick, I’m always going to argue that the Fed Express is the GOAT.

But enough suction on Roger Federer for now.  I feel gutted for Andy Murray.  I don’t even like the guy that much, and I was hoping he would win.  It took me a while before I realised what that meant: I don’t like Federer anymore.

This is beyond strange.  For years I have supported Roger Federer and cheered him on in every tournament.  It was great watching his effortless play as he waltzed on towards history.  Even when he went up against players I liked more (like Michael Chang…just kidding), there was a part of me that still felt good when Federer won.

When Nadal came onto the scene and beat the crap out of Federer, I felt sorry for him and wanted him to win more than ever.  When Djokovic and Murray started beating him too, the same feeling rushed over me.  And that sobbing exhibition after losing the 2009 Aussie Open broke everyone’s heart (including mine and except Nadal’s).

However, somewhere between winning that 2009 French Open title to tie Sampras’ 14 slams and breaking the record at the 2009 Wimbledon, Federer started to lose his charm.  To me, anyway.  The hair flick after every point that used to be cool suddenly turned dicky.  His pre-match and post-match comments, which I used to classify as ‘confident but honest, proud but humble’, suddenly became ‘smug, arrogant and annoying’.

Almost overnight, I wanted other guys to beat him.  Murray, Djokovic, Roddick.  Either of the Williams sisters.  Anyone that may play against him, really.  And when Del Potro finally did it in the 2009 US Open Final against all odds, it was the first time I didn’t feel bad for Federer.  And yesterday, when Federer disposed of Murray in convincing fashion, it actually irritated me.

What could this possibly mean?  Has Federer become too dominant, too successful for his own good?  Is this bad for men’s tennis?  Does he need a Tiger Woods-style incident to bring him back to Earth?  (And let’s face it, there’s a pretty decent chance of that happening)

Please explain.

 
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