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Old 01-09-2009, 06:39 AM   #20
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 5,508

Originally Posted by 380pistol View Post
Maybe it's me, but that's I pass that I don't only think Pete should make, but expect him to.
I think that the problem when anyone watches his favorite player is exactly this expectation. I'm not putting you down: anyone with a favorite player is just going to look at a failed shot and remember (esp. if they've seen a lot of him) times when he made similar shots. Then you ask, Why didn't he make that? Someone else can tell you: he didn't make it because he didn't make it. He's human. No big deal. Maybe it comes down to a different philosophy but I think sometimes you make shots and other times you don't (because you're human; and the other guy has to make some shots, too). Tennis is still won on errors and no one has ever eliminated unforced errors in one of his matches. The definition of an unforced error is a shot that, in your judgment, such a player "should" make. But 10 or 20 or 30 times in match, even Sampras and Borg and Laver unavoidably make them. And very rarely do they falter on key points; but key points over a career add up to hundreds, and no human is going to play all of those points with exactly the same skill; unavoidably some are going to be less well played than others. Maybe there will even be a choke; Rod Laver said in the 70s that he chokes, always has, and always will; everyone does; though in this case we're not even talking about that.

This situation is a lot more simple. You noted yourself how Roger saw no break points in the last two sets until the final game. Of course those break points did not come up then as mere coincidence. They came up because it was match game, and one player went for his opportunity and the other faltered a little. Countless matches are won that way. On another day (if they'd had a rematch, for example), maybe Sampras is more likely to get out of that game. Every situation is different.

4-all in the fifth set in Hanover: I figured you were comparing to great shots in his career but I didn't think you'd bring up that one. He was set up for that one, had more time, and Becker had done nothing unusual. And I said before, the story of that break point at 4-all in this match, when I watched it, was Federer's half-volley; it surprised me a little that he came up with it; and it came back fast enough so that Sampras had no time. Sampras did nothing wrong; he was still boring in as he should; he was just left with little time (and was possibly surprised given how strong his return had been). On another day, another shot, he passes Federer. Big deal. That's how I expect it to go when two players of comparable skill meet more than once.

But I do want to make clear, as much as it delicious to talk about the mechanics of the tennis, ultimately there's no "identical" shot from the past -- not even one that was physically identical. There's the whole mental aspect that you're not bringing in; the full context. And the context never repeats itself. He only played with 4 Wimbledons on the line, against Federer in a fifth set, once in his career. The best comparison, I think, is the loss to Krajicek; but even that match was very different.

He won the contest with Becker; he lost this one with Federer. Somehow your list of Pete's errors, and comparison with the past, seem to suggest that Pete should win all of his great matches; or express a regret that he didn't win all of them. But that is certainly too much to expect of any tennis player.

Especially when one GOAT comes up against another. One of them has to lose.

And even in those fantasy matches where we like to pair up players at their peaks, I think if these matches could actually happen you just might see moments in which the critical break occurred on an error rather than a winner; and the simplest thing in the world would be to search the past and find a physically similar shot that the player had made on another day, but misses on this day. Tennis is still won on errors, and even GOAT's at their peak are not going to be superhuman on every key point.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a Federer now, more than when he was #1, which is when I saw this match. I was not a Sampras fan when he was #1 but he's won me over a lot by watching and re-watching so many of his past matches on video.
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