The Unbeatable Rafa

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by TheNatural, Jun 11, 2011.

  1. TheNatural

    TheNatural Legend

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    great article, havnt seen it posted

    The Unbeatable Rafa by Joe Posnanski, 6 June 2011

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    There was a single point during Sunday’s Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer match that actually made me shudder. I don’t often shudder during sporting events. To be honest about it, I don’t often shudder, period. I am lucky enough to live a pretty shudder-free life.

    But there was something about this point — well, I was rooting for Federer to win (like always). This has nothing at all to do with the personalities. I like Rafael Nadal very much. I like the way he kind of blushes and protests whenever people ask him if he’s the greatest tennis player ever. I like the quiet way he knows how much he intimidates. I like that he’s a huge fan of other sports. I like the time he puts into charity. And, if you like tennis at all, you cannot help but be overwhelmed by the way he plays. He is like a blend of some of the giants of the game — a little bit of Connors, a little bit of Borg, a little bit of Agassi, a little bit of Laver. He plays with passion but he also plays with control. He is a fighter, but he’s also an artist. He hits ridiculous shots all the time. It is impossible, I think, to watch him play and not feel awed.

    Still, I root for Federer every time. That’s from the gut. I don’t know that I can explain it, but I guess it might be this: The way my life turned out, the most perfect athletic representation of my ambition is Roger Federer. That is to say … I probably played tennis at a higher level than I played any other sport. It was a pathetically low level, but we can only work with what we have. Tennis was the last sport I gave up on as a dream. I realized young that I wasn’t going to be tall enough to play basketball, and I wasn’t going to be strong or fast enough to play football. I clung to my baseball dream until my early teens, when it became clear that my incessant fear of getting plunked (and my Tony Pena Jr.-like average) did not bode well for my major league future.

    Into high school, though, I believed that I had a chance to play professional tennis. I banged tennis balls against the brick wall of the local supermarket for hour upon hour. My highest ideal was Roger Federer. Of course, I did not know who Roger Federer was then — heck, he was 3 or 4 years old at the time. But what I daydreamed about was playing with his sort of artistry, his sort of grace, his sort of touch. What I daydreamed about was combining the baseline power of Ivan Lendl with the brilliant touch of John McEnroe. It seemed a silly thing, an impossible combination. Then, when my ideal had long faded, Federer came along. And watching him … well, you know how the right song can trigger a precise feeling, can almost physically take you back to a certain time and place?* Watching Federer has long taken me back to that parking lot, and that supermarket wall, and those unrealistic childhood dreams that I held on to for longer than seemed practical.

    *One of those songs for me is John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Ain’t Even Done With The Night.” I don’t even think I like that song. But when I hear it, I’m 14 years old again and walking with friends under a bright sun.

    So I was rooting for Federer, as usual, and there was this point during Sunday’s French Open Final … it was pretty clear by then that Nadal would win. There had been some hope for Federer in the first set, when he broke serve and had a few chances to win the thing. But the truth is that when they are both right, Federer cannot beat Nadal. It has been talked about time and again: Federer is the greatest player of all time. And he’s not the greatest player of his own time. This was the 25th time they faced each other, and Nadal has won 17 of those matches. It was this way from the start — Nadal beat Federer the first time they played in 2004, and then after losing a five-setter to Federer in Miami (he actually led two sets to love), Nadal won the next five.

    It should be said that there was a brief time, from Wimbledon 2006 through 2007, when Federer won five out of seven matches against Nadal. He even beat Nadal on clay during that stretch — he’s only beaten Nadal on clay twice through the years. But excepting that stretch and the odd upset or two in Madrid or London, the best Federer can hope to do against Nadal is extend him. Federer’s game is scissors. Nadal’s game is stone.

    Once Nadal came back and won that first set, the result was determined. All Federer could realistically do was keep the match going and hope for Nadal to break, which is no hope at all. Nadal does not break. Federer played some inspired tennis, I thought. He broke Nadal’s serve in the second set to force a tiebreaker. He won the third set. It was wonderful to watch, and it showed — like Federer’s upset of Novak Djokovic showed — that Federer still has some fight and brilliance left in him. But even while he was doing it, he seemed only to be postponing Nadal’s trophy ceremony. And he was.

    And there was this point — I’m sure, looking back it would blend in with a dozen other points — when Federer was blasting away against Nadal. He must have hit four or five shots that would have been winners against almost anybody else. And every one of them came blasting right back at him.

    And that’s when I shuddered. There is something about intimidation in sports that is hard to define. There is, of course, blatant intimidation — a pitcher throwing fastballs high and tight, Dick Butkus talking about knocking somebody’s head off, Patrick Ewing purposely goaltending the first two or three shots of a national championship game. Nadal does some of that with the muscle shirts he wears* and the way he carries himself.

    *”If I had Rafael Nadal’s arms, I’d wear those shirts all the time. I’d wear those shirts to funerals.”
    — Michael Schur on this week’s emergency replacement Poscast. More on this later this afternoon.

    But there’s a whole other kind of intimidation — a much scarier kind to me — that comes from someone or something being inescapable. The thing that made the original Terminator such an intimidating movie character, I think, is that he would not stop. He could not stop. He was programmed to kill, and this goal took up 100% of his circuitry. He wanted to kill Sarah Connor more than she wanted to stay alive. That feeling of no escape is suffocating in ways that sheer force and will and power is not. Andy Roddick hits perhaps the hardest serve in the history of tennis. But somehow that doesn’t feel as intimidating to me as a player who runs everything down and never stops and returns the ball harder than you hit it in the first place.

    For that moment, during that point, while watching Nadal return shot after shot against Federer — this bloodless pummeling of Federer’s body — I imagined myself in Federer’s place on the other side of the court from Nadal. I imagined hitting the best shots available in my imagination. I was hitting lines. I was moving him side to side. I angled a brilliant forehand to hit to the deuce court. Then, upon the inevitable return, I hit the perfect backhand off the line on the ad court. He reached that too. Back and forth. I hit the ball so hard it turned into fire. He returned it. I overhead slammed the ball so the bounce went to the 23rd row. He ran into the crowd and hit it back. Even in my imagination, even with only my own mind to hold me back, I could not figure out a way to put Rafael Nadal away.

    I think, when he’s done playing, Nadal will be universally accepted as the best who ever lived. He will need to win at least seven more Grand Slam titles, because that’s how many he needs (right now) to pass Federer on the list, and we do base our greatness on numbers*. But I suspect that he will retire with the Grand Slam record. He’s 25 years old. He is all but invincible in Paris. He has won the last two Wimbledons in which he has played. He has won 10 Grand Slam events. At 25, Federer had won eight.

    *I keep having discussions with people about Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus — if Tiger falls a major or two short of Jack’s 18, could you still make the argument that he is the greatest player in the history of golf? Of course you CAN make the argument, and make it pretty convincingly. You could argue that Woods had a more dominant peak. You could argue that Woods played in an era when the quality of the fields went much deeper. You could argue that Woods succeeded under an intense scrutiny that Nicklaus did not face.

    But I still think that if Woods doesn’t catch Nicklaus in the majors race, then Jack is the best ever. I think this because Woods set the terms very early in his life. He set them when he was just a kid and he had a poster of Nicklaus on his wall and a chart showing all the major championships he had won. For Tiger Woods to achieve the goal of undisputed greatest ever, I think he has to win 19 majors.

    ....continues
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2011
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  2. TheNatural

    TheNatural Legend

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    ...continued

    If Nadal passes Federer on the list, I don’t think there’s a legitimate argument to be made for anyone else as greatest ever. Nadal has won Grand Slams in the Australian heat, on the Paris clay, on the Wimbledon grass and in front of the New York crowd. He has won an Olympic gold medal. He has carried his team to Davis Cup victory. He has dominated the man who was widely viewed as the best who ever lived. He has won 83% of his matches, imposed his will against any and every style. It seemed that Novak Djokovic, who was on that incredible unbeaten streak, was ready to topple Nadal at the French Open, take over the No. 1 spot in the world, become the most dominant player in the world. And he might still do that. But players have had great streaks before — I’m not making the comparison, but I do remember that a player named Jose Luis Clerc once won 27 straight matches and four tournaments in A SINGLE MONTH.

    Nadal has still won four of the last six Grand Slam titles — losing only in Australia, which is the least comfortable place for his game. If I had to guess, I would guess that Nadal will be the best in the world for a while longer. If I had to guess, he will win more than 17 Grand Slams. If I had to guess …

    But this isn’t about guessing or the best in the world or the best ever or any of that. This is about the shudder. I always used to say that John Elway is probably not the greatest quarterback ever, but he’s the one who scared me most in the fourth quarter. Gary Sheffield probably wasn’t the best hitter in the game at any point, but he’s the one who would spark nightmares for me if I were a pitcher who had to get him out. Michael Jordan IS the greatest player ever (see the Point After in this coming week’s SI for more details) AND he is the scariest basketball player ever, because you know he would do anything to win.

    In this way, Rafael has already won. Whether he becomes the greatest tennis player ever or not is beside the point for me now. He is the one player I could not beat even in my dreams.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2011
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  3. MichaelNadal

    MichaelNadal Talk Tennis Guru

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    I wonder which point he was talking about.
     
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  4. jackson vile

    jackson vile Legend

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    I thought Roger was going to win this to be honest. Especially with how the first set was unfolding at first. But then Rafa worked yet another one of his miracles and before you knew it he had won the first set. That is when I knew it was all over.

    I am a bit disappointed that Roger gave up in the last set. However, IMO this is one of the most well fought and tactically so matches that Roger has ever played against Nadal at the FO. It did work, and Nadal looked as though he would be the one to give up.

    It is scary to think that Roger making such great improvements still was not enough to beat a subpar Nadal. It made we wish for a Novak Nadal final instead.

    Wim. could be where Federer really turns the tables this time, Nadal has only beaten him once there and Roger could perform a miracle himself. Heck, maybe he won't even need that.
     
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  5. Nadalfan89

    Nadalfan89 Hall of Fame

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    That article gave me chills. "The one player I could not beat even in my dreams".
     
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  6. TTMR

    TTMR Hall of Fame

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    Excellent article, if a tad egocentric. The reality is that the only way Nadal doesn't surpass Federer's GS total is career-ending or career-debilitating injury. It is something few want to admit given people's aesthetic preferences for Federer's game and Nadal's less marketable personality. Nadal doesn't have far to go and still has time on his side. The only man that has a chance to consistently be a roadblock is Djokovic unless a legitimate young star finally emerges.
     
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  7. TheTruth

    TheTruth G.O.A.T.

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    Great article!
     
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  8. JustBob

    JustBob Hall of Fame

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    "He's only 25, he already has 10 slams, hence he will surely beat Federer's GS record."

    Using past performance as a predictor of future results. I hope that guy doesn't play the stock market.
     
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  9. pound cat

    pound cat G.O.A.T.

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    I don't know that that point would make me shudder, but I know it would make me say someting along the lines of yikes, j.......c........ or some such expression of surpise and amazement.

    Great piece of writing, and many thinks for posting it. The next time Federer plays Nadal there may very well be another one of those breathtaking points.
     
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  10. tennis_pro

    tennis_pro G.O.A.T.

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    Yup, Nadal needs another 6 Slams, that's as many as Edberg or Becker accumulated IN THEIR CAREERS. To beat Federer's 16 he needs 7 more which is as many McEnroe won IN HIS WHOLE CAREER.

    It's still too far away.
     
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  11. Cup8489

    Cup8489 Legend

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    Well, didnt you know? Some people can predict the future. I've heard people say they were dead certain rafa is going to break Fed's record. I'm not sure how they're certain, but they are.

    Great article, though. And I agree.. Normally I'm not really impressed by Rafa, but his retrieving in that match was just... undescribable. Plain and simple.

    It was an awesome display from both guys.. I'm actually bummed it didn't go 5 sets.. just because I wanted to see more.
     
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  12. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    Nadal likes and respects Federer. He'll throw the GOAT a bone (or perhaps some grass) and stop just short of 16 so Federer can continue thinking he's the best :)
     
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  13. Sentinel

    Sentinel Talk Tennis Guru

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    Nice article.
    When not blasting back exactly. Some came high over the net, and some were even lobbed back to the baseline, starting the point all over again. Just nitpicking, sorry.

    Also regarding the "greatest of all time but not the greatest of his time", should the author not note that Rafa is facing the same situation against Noel. Rafa is the greatest clay courter ever, but not even the greatest of this time. Ironic. Lucky to escape Noel once, but how many times can he escape, time will tell.
     
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  14. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    LOL. Nadal has never lost to Djokovic in a major yet, has 10 majors to Djokovic's 2, and leads the head-to-head by 16-11. Djokovic has done more damage to Federer than Nadal, as he's beaten Federer 3 times in majors, twice on the way to his Australian Open victories.
     
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  15. Spider

    Spider Hall of Fame

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    Not really. In the biggest stage Nadal has owned Djokovic. Nadal continues to own Federer in the biggest stage as usual. So it is again not comparible.
     
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  16. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    In how many majors has Nadal beaten Djokovic?

    5-0 in favor of Nadal :)

    3 at RG
    1 at Wimbledon
    1 at the USO

    He nearly has a Djoker slam!
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2011
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  17. Magnus

    Magnus Legend

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    By miracles you mean another MTO in the first set (like we've seen a thousand times from Rafa)?

    Yes, its Fed's fault he couldn't keep his concentration there, but I will never respect Nadal for his antics. Shame he has to resort to these since he's such a great player.
     
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  18. Magnus

    Magnus Legend

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    Nadal never beat THIS Djokovic in a slam. This is like meta-Djokovic. It took a brilliant Fed display, and four sets of tennis bliss to put the guy away. Also, in 2011 Djokovic is 4-0 against Nadal and 3-1 against Roger.

    As for the article, I stopped reading when author reached Sarah Connor lol. Nadal fans will never admit that this article is a joke.
     
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  19. MichaelNadal

    MichaelNadal Talk Tennis Guru

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    Oh PLEASE. Did you watch the 2010 USO final? Novak was on fire and Rafa was simply better. There is nothing that impresses me about Novak MORE this year than in that final except he has brought that level to each and every match this year. He has literally played lights out tennis in each tournament. But you can't watch these highlights and say Novak wasn't on fire.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxRDaJOBipM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKiEq8IrKJs&NR=1
     
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  20. 8PAQ

    8PAQ Banned

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    Nadal lost 7 times this year already. Would have been 8 if the GOAT didn't stop the King in the semi. Doesn't sound unbeatable to me.
     
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  21. BULLZ1LLA

    BULLZ1LLA Banned

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    (four of the last five Grand Slam titles - the article should say)
     
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  22. cc0509

    cc0509 G.O.A.T.

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    You were the one who was posting on here after Rome and during the FO before the Djokovic/Federer SF that THIS Djokovic can't defeat Nadal and that NOBODY could beat this Djokovic weren't you?

    You have to admit that if Federer did not knock out Djokovic, it is very possible that Djokovic would have defeated Nadal at the FO even though in the past Djokovic was not able to defeat Nadal in slams. None of us know for sure what would have happened, but it certainly looked like Djokovic would have been dangerous for Nadal, more so than it ever had looked in the past, especially since Nadal seemed mentally vulnerable at the time.
     
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  23. MichaelNadal

    MichaelNadal Talk Tennis Guru

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    I completely agree with that. He had a real shot for sure. But that has a lot more to do with Nadal's form this year than Djokovic's change in form since last year. The same Djokovic that lost to Nadal at the USO last year may have beaten him at the French, because RAFA's level of play declined up until that final where he played much better.
     
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  24. cc0509

    cc0509 G.O.A.T.

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    I agree with you that Rafa's form was definitely inferior to where it was at the USO and there is no question Rafa saves his best form for when it counts at the slams and against the best players, but, I am not so sure he would have pulled it off this year if Djokovic was on the other side of the net and not Federer (only because of the Djokovic/Nadal match up more recently and the lack of confidence Nadal looked like he was having against Djokovic.) Guess we will see where everything is at moving forward.
     
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  25. MichaelNadal

    MichaelNadal Talk Tennis Guru

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    It's a very uncertain time in tennis, that's for sure. Wimbledon is going to be INTERESTING.
     
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  26. BULLZ1LLA

    BULLZ1LLA Banned

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    (It's not that uncertain. Rafa has won 4 of the last 5 slams, and the only slam he lost was the slam he tore a muscle in)
     
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  27. Roger No.1

    Roger No.1 Rookie

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    I think so too. Federer won his 10th GS at 2007 AO, so it took him over 4 years to win another 6. Nadal is 25 and most likely won't be able to win 2-3 majors each year. And many assume Federer will not win another Slam. Then Nadal hasn't been playing as good this year, he will have Djokovic, Murray, Federer challenge him on most surfaces, even on clay
     
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  28. cc0509

    cc0509 G.O.A.T.

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    Don't be so sure. The only thing certain in life is death and taxes. This is just tennis and things change.
     
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  29. BULLZ1LLA

    BULLZ1LLA Banned

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    (Rafa's game has moved away from clay, you can see he's more comfortable on the faster surfaces, tying Roddick's US Open record, not dropping a set at the Australian Open until the fateful Ferrer match, making both the Indian Wells and Miami Finals in the same year for the first time, Wimbledon is his for the taking)
     
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  30. Sharpshooter

    Sharpshooter Banned

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    You mean it took him 3 years to win another 6.

    But anyway, Nadal doesn't have to win 2-3 each year. If he gets 2 career grand slams I'd rate his slam total over Fed's.
     
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  31. Sharpshooter

    Sharpshooter Banned

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    You forgot the rising petrol prices
     
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  32. Sid_Vicious

    Sid_Vicious G.O.A.T.

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    Sharpshooter,Are you from the UK? Just wondering.
     
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  33. Sharpshooter

    Sharpshooter Banned

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    Nope, from Australia
     
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  34. Sid_Vicious

    Sid_Vicious G.O.A.T.

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    Cool, man! It is time to ditch Rafa and cheer for Tomic. :)
     
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  35. Sharpshooter

    Sharpshooter Banned

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    I do cheer for Tomic, but I can hardly talk about him here since the forums are dominated by Fed and Rafa talk.

    Was impressive at the AO this year he has a bright future.
     
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  36. ninman

    ninman Hall of Fame

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    Nadal loses more times in one year than Federer did in 3 and suddenly he's "unbeatable". Federer also made 10 straight finals, winning 8, Nadal has done nothing even close to that.
     
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  37. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    I love how stats like these get so conveniently packaged.

    He's also won 4 of the last 9.... It doesn't paint quite the same picture when you write it like that though.
     
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  38. ninman

    ninman Hall of Fame

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    Yeah, not to mention that Federer went on a streak where he made 18 GS finals from 19 slams entered. That sounds a lot better to be honest.
     
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  39. MichaelNadal

    MichaelNadal Talk Tennis Guru

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    Dude, we know. Man it would be nice to have a different discussion for once than who's better. There's only one poster in here hyping Rafa up, let him.
     
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  40. Speranza

    Speranza Hall of Fame

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    Holmes: The title of this thread is "The Unbeatable Rafa". Before I even read it, I did a word search for Novak in the body of text...

    It mentioned his impressive unbeaten run. It did not mention that Novak HAD beaten the unbeatable Rafa 4 TIMES in successive finals (regardless that they were NOT slams) this year alone. :?

    A good article, but tarnished by its omissions. The title alone doesn't sit well for me. It applies to Federer, but not to all.
     
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  41. TennisFan3

    TennisFan3 Legend

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    The thing is Novak is STILL playing at his UsO 2010 level. If anything, his serve is better and he is even more aggressive with his forehand. Also he's more solid mentally compared to before.

    Nadal OTOH has declined so badly from the UsO '10 level - it's not even funny. The serve is pretty obvious, but among other things look at how aggressive he was with his backhand and how often he hit his off-forehand (DTL and I/O). Basically the UsO Nadal was a totally different player - self assure, mentally strong, very aggressive etc.

    The way Nadal is playing these days, Djokovic doesn't have to play out of his skin to beat him. Had Djoker reached the RG final, he would've taken care of Rafa in routine fashion IMO. At least the Rafa that turned up against Fed.
    I'm hoping that Nadal plays with less pressure, now that he's won the F.O. But yeah, his F.O level won't cut it on SW19. I think he needs a BIG loss to shake him up and come out of his shell. If you play bad and keep on winning, that sometimes even more dangerous than the reverse..
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2011
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  42. MichaelNadal

    MichaelNadal Talk Tennis Guru

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    That's basically what I'm trying to say. I agree completely.
     
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  43. Sentinel

    Sentinel Talk Tennis Guru

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    unbeatable rafa injured at AO, and tired since the beginning of season.

    unbeatable rafa only beaten by undestroyable Noel (after AO, before Queens).
     
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  44. illuminati

    illuminati Rookie

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    nadal is now the clay GOAT

    nadal is now the 4th overall GOAT after federer, laver and sampras.
     
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  45. Legend of Borg

    Legend of Borg Legend

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    You know the drill, Holmes.

    Rafa does not care about Mickey Mouse events like IW, Miami or clay masters.

    In fact, if Rafa had the proper interest and motivation he could find a cure for AIDS and cancer in a month!

    Talk about being a GOAT.
     
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  46. Speranza

    Speranza Hall of Fame

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    Holmes: What is this you proclaim L of B?? He doesn't care about smaller Masters events??? I apologize then. Perhaps those that like to shout from the rooftops that he has the most Masters records, might want to consider their vocal chords next time :)

    Thank the Powers That Be for the more balanced Ralph fans in this forum. I feel for them often as they're often engulfed by their not so level headed brethren.
     
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  47. zagor

    zagor Talk Tennis Guru

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    Highlights are highlights,any match between 2 top players can look great if we just show the best points played by both players.Overall Novak's form in 2010 USO was a far cry from the form he displayed at AO this year.At USO he almost to Troicki at the start,struggled greatly with nervous and error prone Fed etc. compared to AO where he just blitzed the field(including Fed)losing one set,sure you could argue AO surface suits his game more but even taking that fact into consideration the level is hardly comparable.

    This year Novak's serve had much better placement than 2010 overall(not just USO),his FH has more pace and depth(probably still not at 2008 level but much better than last yea still),his movement and defense have been by far the best in his career,his ROS as well etc etc.

    As great of a player Nadal is,the tennis world doesn't revolve around him,sure Nadal's level dropped since USO but Novak raised his level considerably from 2010.

    If Novak were playing at his 2010 USO level this year the winning streak would be nonexistant.
     
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  48. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    agreed, Novak is playing by some distance better this year ( especially the AO) than at the USO last year
     
    #48
  49. BULLZ1LLA

    BULLZ1LLA Banned

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    (You got fooled by his serve. He obviously made a conscious decision to moderate the service speed during RG. Already at Queens he served 128mph a few times and regularly around 120mph. Last year at Wimbledon he served 116mph on average. If anything he's probably added more speed since last year's Wimbledon. Although the slice serve was the key at 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon, and that's not a serve he uses at RG. So you can't read anything into his serve based on RG. His grass serving is faster and includes slice. He looked better at Queens this year than last year. Tsonga was on fire serving 25 aces, yet Rafa won the 1st set and was 4-4 in 2nd set before tiredness set in - wisely avoiding another 2 matches)
     
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  50. TheTruth

    TheTruth G.O.A.T.

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    During the FO they did a segment with Uncle Toni. It must have been on the Tennis Channel, because Toni sat down with Gimelstob. The plan was to use the slow serve throughout the French and not the bigger one.
     
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