Cheryl Murray

  • The French Open, Nadal's personal playground

    2012-06-12 16:21:35

    I’m not sure there is anything unique left to say about Rafael Nadal and his (literally) unparalleled success at the French Open. This is the seventh such title for Nadal, which means that we poor writers have been forced to try to come up with 7 different angles from which to write a “Rafa Nadal won Roland Garros” piece.

    The temptation to throw down another entry about his actual game is great. But the truth of the matter is that his clay court game is what it is. There was a time when the mere mention of the 3200 rpms that Nadal puts on the ball would send pundits into paroxysms of delight, complete with swooning and the obligatory John McEnroe comment about the size of Rafa’s “guns” and how big a stud he is.

    But at this point television commentators, who are clearly instructed to educate the uninitiated viewer on the fine points of Rafa’s game, can barely contain the yawn that accompanies the relaying of that bit of information, as they dutifully give it in every one of his matches in Paris.

    The simple fact of the matter is that the Nadal clay-court game hasn’t changed a great deal in 8 years. Now, before the Nadal fans jump all over me with both feet, let me qualify that. I know he developed a backhand slice out of nothing (though I’d contend that he did that for Wimbledon, not for Paris). And yes, he’s better now than he was in 2004 as, over the years, he has made a concerted (and highly successful) effort to play more aggressively on the dirt. But the essentials from 8 years ago are still the essentials now; it’s just that he’s honed his game with scalpel-like precision.

    So instead of talking about what he did with his racket and his feet out there on court, I’m going to examine what he did between his ears.

    I don’t mean this as any insult against Roger Federer, who is a fantastic clay court player in his own right, but there was a certain sense of inevitability in his finals with Rafa at the French Open. Those matches unfolded like a play, with the same stage, the same actors and the same script of the Nadal forehand high to the Federer backhand. Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoyed the show, but Macbeth always dies in the end, no matter how many times I see it.

    This time, we wondered. We wondered if Nadal could stop the bloodletting in Slam finals (he lost the last 3 to Nole). The Spaniard’s wins in Monte Carlo and more importantly Rome seemed to indicate that he wasn’t as much at Djokovic’s mercy as he’d been in 2011, but there were still seeds of doubt, even though he’d been utterly dominant all tournament long and Djokovic struggled.

    As it turned out, Nadal had the answers in the 2-day final. The weather conspired to make proceedings more difficult, but the Spaniard found his footing after dropping 8 consecutive games. And in the end, Djokovic would literally hand over the match with an utterly horrendous double fault on Championship point.

    Rafael Nadal is very likely to go down in history as the greatest clay court player that ever lived, and because of that, there is a temptation by pundits to dismiss his wins on the dirt as “expected”. In fact, I have already heard somebody say, “well it IS clay...” as though his clay court accomplishments are greatly diminished based on his own brilliance on the surface.

    In my opinion, this way of thinking is a massive mistake. Enjoy the fact that history is being made right in front of your eyes. Enjoy the fact that as a trio, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are unprecedented in terms of consistency and success. Even the Paris crowd had to take the “if you can’t beat him, join him” approach. Hats off, Rafa, Nole and Roger.

Tell a friend »


Letz wait for a bigger bull.

sabs , 6/12/12 5:21 PM

Thanks Cheryl for paying homage to the wonderful phenomenon that is Rafael Nadal. On this occasion, though, I think the 'hats off to Roger and Nole' should be for another thread and another time.

This is Rafa's time, not to be compromised by including anyone else.

nadline , 6/12/12 6:33 PM

There's no bigger bull. Rafa's shoes are too big for anyone else to fill. Of course Rafa will get older and may lose at RG to a younger guy, but his record at RG will be very hard to break.

Rafa was playing very well on clay this year, and even though Nole seemed to have a chance during the final, in set four, I do believe at that time that it's impossible for him to play that way for three solid sets to win in the end. Rafa was already fighting back to hold serve before they halt the match on Sunday. Nole had to take all the risk in order to get a set from Rafa, just imagine how much risk he had to take to win three sets.

luckystar , 6/12/12 7:00 PM

sabs, 6/12/12 5:21 PM

...or weaker competition.

agfmilos , 6/12/12 7:11 PM

sabs, there are some sweet grapes near where I live, you don't have to munch on sour grapes.

nadline , 6/12/12 8:01 PM

As always Luckystar puts things into perspective. Much has been made of the rain delays but as Nole pointed out himself he had perhaps benefited from the first one and maybe Nadal was helped by the second one. But as Lucky points out, it is hard to believe Djokovic could have taken three consecutive sets from Rafa.

From the moment we knew that it would be a Rafa-Nole final I was convinced Nole would be susceptible to nerves: he was too aware of the historical significance of the occasion and to put it simply he wanted the win too much - hence the double fault at the crucial moment.

For Rafa to have lost would have been devastating for him and I feared as others did that to rise above such a crushing defeat might prove to be a bridge too far.

ed251137 , 6/12/12 8:21 PM

I hit send before I completing my comment.

In the event he found the way to fell Djokovic on the RG clay - at least for the time being. We his fans can only hope that the boost to his self confidence will allow him to reach even greater heights this season.

ed251137 , 6/12/12 8:29 PM

Had Rafa lost on Monday, it would have caused irreparable damage to his confidence and his will to keep working hard. It would have dented his credential as the King of Clay and he would have gone down in history as the player Nole beat 4 times in a row to get the Golden slam.

I don't think he would have ever got over it, so I am so pleased that he won and he can now move on even of he loses to Nole the next time they meet, he has now crossed the dangerous bridge.

nadline , 6/12/12 8:34 PM

Nole wouldn't have had the golden slam -- he'd need a gold medal for that. :)

cherylmurray , 6/12/12 10:00 PM

I'm posting this link for all Rafa fans

ed251137 , 6/12/12 10:56 PM

I agree with nadline's post @ 6:33 pm. Wonderful words and brilliant as always, but this is really Rafa's time. He has earned it. Now he has done something that not even Fed has been able to do. So for once it would be nice to let this win stand on its own as the historic achievement that it truly is.

Nativenewyorker , 6/13/12 1:34 AM

I agree with nadline's comment @ 6:33 pm. This was a wonderful blog, brilliantly written as always. However this is Rafa's time. He has now done something that not even Fed has been able to accomplish. He is now in the same company as Pete Sampras in winning seven titles at a slam. This is a singular achievement.

For once, I think Rafa should be allowed to have his moment in the sun and not be compared to Fed or anyone else. This accomplishment stands on its own.

Nativenewyorker , 6/13/12 1:37 AM

I bet all my money in the bank that sabs will not live to see the day that Rafa's record at RG will be broken.

phoenix , 6/13/12 6:17 AM

It really is very strange how some commentators and so-called analysts like to pretend Rafa only really plays well on clay. This a man that has won all 4 grandslams. And yet we're STILL hearing comments like "let's see if he can beat Nole on grass/hard-courts etc". Are people kidding me? Of course he CAN. The more appropriate question, is will he? I have no doubts that he will. I have always maintained that of all the top players in tennis, Rafa is the one that is continually questioned. Doesn't matter what he achieves, or wins, the naysayers are always in the corner, doubting, asking, questioning. It's actually quite sad. Some of us could see at the AO Final that Rafa was close to figuring out Nole. And before the weather changed in this final, he had the match firmly in his control. A loss would have been devastating, even for Rafa. But a win, I think, seals his burgeoning confidence that he can play this guy and beat him at the highest level. Rafa has beaten Nole three straight times now. No one is talking about that though, because it's Rafa doing the beating, not the other way round. But I have to keep reminding myself, Rafa doesn't need the media's adulation, he doesn't need their confidence. It would be nice, considering what a great champion he is, but it's not necessary. This win has tipped the scales once again and now it's Rafa with the momentum in this great rivalry. Back when Roger won the AO in 2010, I said to a few friends then, he wouldn't win another grandslam. So far, I've been right. I have my suspicions about how the Rafaole rivalvry will evolve but I won't count my chickens before they hatch. I just can't wait to see how it unfolds during the rest of the year.

storyteller , 6/13/12 8:57 AM

I don't know what is going on with this site. I tried to post my initial comment and it didn't come up. So I wrote it again a little differently. Now both of them are here.

It's really strange with what is going on trying to sign in and not being able to and then trying to post comments and having them now show up initially.

Well, I just made my point twice!


It would be nice if Rafa got his due from some commentators and pseudo-analysts, but the ones who really know, the former great tennis champions, have praised his accomplishments.

Borg gave Rafa the highest compliment one can give - that he is the greatest clay court player ever. That is saying something from the man who had that title all these years. JMac has been so enamored of Rafa and what he has done.

People who truly understand the sport of tennis, know that Rafa is a complete player. They also should realize that once again, Rafa has managed to come back strong and show that he is not be discounted. He has turned things around in his rivalry with Nole. But the slam win is by far the most important.

So many do forget what a superb grass court player Rafa is. He has managed to adapt fairly quickly to grass. He was challenging Fed back in 2006. It would take him his third time to beat him in 2008. This was in a time when no one was beating Fed.

Whether Rafa gets his due from some, really won't matter when all is said and done. Even now, he has sealed his place in the pantheon of the greatest to ever play this sport.

Nativenewyorker , 6/13/12 9:49 AM

Throughout RG very few commies were talking about the chance of Rafa winning a record breaking 7 titles at RG to pass Borg, it was all about the Nole slam. It annoyed me no end, but in future I will be able to just gloss over the bias against Rafa in some parts of the media because I know that Rafa always lets his racquet do the talking.

I honestly believe that Rafa is now much better at playing Nole than he was before 2011. Even before Nole's dominance of Rafa in 2011 I was always apprehensive every time they were due to meet because, to me, it was always 50/50 as to the outcome. Rafa has worked on his tactics against Nole since last year, so now I think it's more 60/40 to Rafa, maybe even 70/30 but I will reserve that judgement until after a few more meetings.

Rafa is now 19-14 h2h against Nole, if he wins their next meeting, he will get to the landmark of 20 wins against Nole.

nadline , 6/13/12 10:17 AM

Nadline, what makes you think Nole isn't going to work on his tactics also? I know Andy is working on his.

deuce , 6/13/12 12:08 PM

Nadline @8.34pm - agree with you totally. I too was very worried about the long term repercussions if Rafa had lost this one. Thank God he didn't and maybe that is why I was so emotional about this win.

schatz , 6/13/12 12:52 PM

Nadline @8.34pm - agree with you totally. I too was very worried about the long term repercussions if Rafa had lost this one. Thank God he didn't and maybe that is why I was so emotional about this win.

schatz , 6/13/12 12:53 PM

I think Fed fans are sabotaging this site. The trouble started during the RG finals. ;-)

phoenix , 6/13/12 2:01 PM

deuce, Nole will definitely work on his tactics but the difference is that Rafa has proved that his tactics work, we'll have to see what develops from here.

Basically, I think Rafa is the best player at the moment, irrespective of the ranking. He is mallealbe to change more than any other player. Roger has been trying to change to beat Rafa for 7 years and he still hasn't really found the answer. Murray also tries to change, but eventually goes back to his style when he doesn't see the results. It could possibly be because Rafa accepts that he does not have all the answers and is prepared to listen to the man who's taught him all he knows about tennis so he trusts U.Toni implicitly because he has proved himself.

Murray is trying to allow Llendl to mould him into a different player, but if he doesn't see the results soon, he'll go back to what comes to him naturally.

nadline , 6/13/12 2:03 PM

nadline - in the US, the commentators all assumed that Rafa was going to win because he was so impressive throughout the tournament. After Nadal trounced Ferrer, Ted Robinson said, "how is it possible for one guy to be so good ALL the time?"

I think they would have been surprised if Djokovic had won.

cherylmurray , 6/13/12 2:30 PM

That's so good to know, Cheryl. I have to admit that after the match was called off on Sunday some of the British commentators did say they still thought Rafa would win.

nadline , 6/13/12 2:50 PM

Ed, thanks for the link. I could watch it all day. What a player!

nadline , 6/13/12 3:00 PM

Here is an interesting take on the significance of the RG final as to who won or lost:

nadline , 6/13/12 3:53 PM

Cheryl is right about the US commentators. They were talking up Rafa winning his seventh title and breaking Borg's record all the time. They didn't seem to think that Nole had much of a chance given how Rafa was playing throughout the tournament.

I do remember Ted Robinson making the comment Cheryl included. He was running out of superlatives to describe Rafa's play.

It was very gratifying to hear these people give Rafa the respect he deserves at this event.

Nativenewyorker , 6/13/12 10:08 PM

I agree with @phoenix, it's all Fedfans fault. They can't stand to see us Rafans happy and have resorted to sabotaging the TT...................

rafaisthebest , 6/14/12 3:40 AM

Oh well, since I have been allowed in might as well have my say before the gremlins get to work again!

1. Congratulations to ALL Rafans, our boy done good!
2. Thanks to all the Rafans for conveying my exact sentiments about the significance of Rafa's RG win. Even though I could not log in, I could read your comments and it was so gratifying.
3. Just arrived in Washington DC hoping to be home in time for Wimby so I can cheer on our boy during "normal" TV schedules!

On to Wimby!!!

rafaisthebest , 6/14/12 3:46 AM

ooh. RITB, Washington is a GREAT city. One of my very favorites. Hope you enjoy it!

cherylmurray , 6/14/12 2:04 PM

"Murray is trying to allow Llendl to mould him into a different player, but if he doesn't see the results soon, he'll go back to what comes to him naturally.."

Doubt it, & there probably won't be results for a while. Its not about changing tactics for Murray. Almost uniquely, Murray is capable of changing tactics constantly & playing in multiple styles.
Its about improving his overall game by improving what is weak. Nadal doesn't change much he is what he is and so his tactics are usually slight adjustments to his existing game. Its all so solid and will not fundamentally change.
Its all about the forehand now for Murray and unlike Rafa he will have to improve it or he can forget about being a slam contender.
There's no going back.
As for Novak I personally think he will be a HUGE threat at Roland Garros next year.
There shall be no need to change too much of anything.

Twinge , 6/15/12 5:26 PM

Twinge, where exactly did I mention Lendl changing Murray's tactics? Whatever Llendl is supposed to do it's got to show results soon, that's all I'm saying. As you and I are not party to the contract we can only guess how Llendl is supposed to help Murray.

I'm not being funny, but on what grounds do you think Nole will be a HUGE threat at RG next year when he had so much trouble getting to the final. He admits himself that he nearly went out in the 4th rnd and Qtr final.

nadline , 6/15/12 5:44 PM

Twinge you might as well say Seppi will be a huge threat at RG next year that's as good as saying Nole will be a hughe threat.

nadline , 6/15/12 5:53 PM

IMO, Nole is the one who has nothing much to improve but Rafa is the one who has many things which he can improve. His backhand, his serve and his ROS all can be or still need improvement. I'm not talking about new levels that Rafa has not reached before, but rather levels he has attained in the past and now it's just getting back to those levels. His backhand for example, can be improved to his AO2009 level, his serve to USO2010 level, and his ROS back to his levels in the past; if all these are still possible. If Rafa gets all these weapons firing well at the same time, he'll be almost unbeatable, and I'm sure Nole can't beat this Rafa even on grass, don't talk about clay!

However, no one knows one year from now how things may change. Both can become better or become worse, so let's KIV that first, and look forward to grass this year.

luckystar , 6/15/12 6:00 PM

lucky, how come you say Nole has nothing to improve on but say Nole can't beat this Rafa. Which Rafa are you talking about the future new improved one or today's Rafa?

nadline , 6/15/12 6:08 PM

^^^Similarly Novak can be overhauled to his 2011 level. Now THAT would be an improvement.
You can't tell me this is not possible when you go on about how Nadal can get to his blah blah level. But yes lets see how things chug along.
And yes Nadal is a shoo in for Wimbledon this year.

"Twinge you might as well say Seppi will be a huge threat at RG next year that's as good as saying Nole will be a hughe threat..."

lol, such hubris. When Novak plays his best its probably best not to write him off.
Novak was mostly poor in that RG final, & yes had his problems getting there, but took out federer in 3 so wasn't too shabby. He was, after all, playing for history in someone else's home and clearly felt he didn't belong. Next year will probably be different.
Hopefully for all of us non Nadal fans we'll have a bit of a competition for a change.

Twinge , 6/15/12 6:16 PM

Twinge, at least let Rafa enjoy his record win before engaging in pipe dreams about what will happen next year. After 7 wins, Rafans have a right to think that he is nigh unbeatable on clay. After all, he is the only player to have won three different titles at least 7 times, all on clay.

Rafa is the all time greatest player on clay according to The ATP Uncovered, Federer is 11th and Nole is 13th.

nadline , 6/15/12 6:22 PM

So, now Nole gets described as a "perfect player" who has nothing much to improve but who lost last three encounters to "imperfect Rafa"?! I am sorry, but that does not make any sense to me...

natashao , 6/15/12 6:22 PM

" Whatever Llendl is supposed to do it's got to show results soon, that's all I'm saying..."

Soon? Why & to suit whom?
For the stubborn Andy Murray, `soon` shall not be in a few more months, its probably going to be sometime in 2013!
If youre used to not being very aggressive on youre forehand its going to take time & a sh**load of UE's before the improvements come.

Twinge , 6/15/12 6:23 PM

What the f**ks the matter with TT Today?
its clearly on its period or something i can't get a post in edge ways.

Twinge , 6/15/12 6:29 PM

What the f**ks the matter with TT Today?
its clearly on its period or something i can't get a post in edge ways.

Twinge , 6/15/12 6:30 PM

Ooooopps double posting. But honestly it was all TT's doing

Twinge , 6/15/12 6:32 PM

So what if Nole gets back to his 2011 level?? He wasn't that impressive at the FO last year, losing to an old Fed in four sets. Also on grass, he was losing sets to Baggy, Tsonga and even Tomic. A Rafa of 2012 level will beat the Nole of 2011 on clay, I'm very sure about that. Nole had his narrow escapes against Bellucci and Murray last year, at Rome and Madrid. To me, it's his winning momentum and confidence that pushed him over the finishing lines many times last year. Let's see how they do on grass this year, non guarantee that Nole would beat Rafa again on grass.

luckystar , 6/15/12 6:36 PM

Even if Nole gets to his 2011 level, he still won't beat this Rafa of 2012, on clay. Nole had his narrow escapes last year on clay, at Madrid against Belluci and Rome against Murray. He also lost to an old Fed at RG. I was not impressed with Nole at RG last year. Let's see how they perform on grass this year; Nole's Wimbledon last year wasn't that smooth going either, losing sets to Baggy, Tsonga and even Tomic.

IMO, I haven't seen a 'perfect' Rafa yet, as he seems unable to have all his weapons firing well at the same time. Yet, the imperfect Rafa is still good enough to beat most players and wins some slams.

luckystar , 6/15/12 6:51 PM

So, now Nole gets described as a "perfect player" who has nothing much to improve but who lost last three encounters to "imperfect Rafa"?! I am sorry, but that does not make any sense to me...
natashao , 6/15/12 6:22 PM

Me too!

nadline , 6/15/12 6:52 PM

" A Rafa of 2012 level will beat the Nole of 2011 on clay, I'm very sure about that..."


"He wasn't that impressive at the FO last year, losing to an old Fed in four sets"

So by beating him easily this year he might have been actually up from last year then? lol i think not.

"Nole had his narrow escapes against Bellucci and Murray last year, at Rome and Madrid.."

Yes and where he beat Nadal in both finals.

"Also on grass, he was losing sets to Baggy, Tsonga and even Tomic.."
And Nadal was in trouble against petzchner in 10` when he was taken to 5.
Bottom line he still won the tournament as did Novak the following year.

"To me, it's his winning momentum and confidence that pushed him over the finishing lines many times last year"

You could say the exact same thing about any tennis player including Nadal!
Apparently to some here its only Rafa who loses when lacking confidence but i think you will find that confidence is key to any sports person. And a confident Novak shall be like a confident Nadal, a handful.
Anyway i said rafa is the favourite for this years Wimbledon & stand by that.
At least it shall be something of a change from last year.

Twinge , 6/15/12 6:52 PM

Dont fret Twinge. We are all victims at the moment. There have been problems for several days which makes coherent dialogue nigh on impossible. Some suspect sabotage following Nadals RG exploits.

ed251137 , 6/15/12 6:56 PM

^^^So you're arguing for the sake of arguing! Rafa still has confidence issues against Nole this year yet he beats Nole three times on clay. Rafa is clearly playing better this year on clay, compared to last year. Just watch all his match results on clay this year and last and we'll see the differences. Whether you wish to acknowledge that or not that's your choice, I stand by my own opinions. I say it again, the Rafa os 2012 is BETTER than Nole of 2011 on clay. He beats everyone in straight sets this year on red clay except that rain interrupted FO final. Nole had to struggle in some matches on clay last year and he beats a not so confident Rafa who's not playing his best tennis on clay last year. Clearly struggling against Lorenzi, Isner, Andujar on clay last year wasn't typical of Rafa on clay, as we have seen all these years and also this

luckystar , 6/15/12 7:06 PM

How are U!
I heard you were in a car crash around XMAS!
This truly sucks but what matters is you are okay now of which we are all overjoyed.
Best lay off the ferraris for the time being luv, those bucolic french roads are awfully narrow :-)

Twinge , 6/15/12 7:10 PM

luckystar, it's this statement that is a bit baffling:

IMO, Nole is the one who has nothing much to improve but Rafa is the one who has many things which he can improve.
luckystar , 6/15/12 6:00 PM

nadline , 6/15/12 7:15 PM

Fine, Fine he's playing better. This much is obvious. Its really not a point worth labouring over.
Rafa still has confidence issues yet beat Novak?
Ahem, a bit of perspective is required on this, but I wont go into MC or Rome again.
We are not going to agree on the extenuating circumstances as for you they are all on Rafa's side only.
Novak is playing worse which is as much the issue as Nadal playing better & has not found his normal groove since February.
But it will return at some point & then we will see how it plays out.

Twinge , 6/15/12 7:27 PM

Fed is even older now! I'm not impressed with Rafa's 2010 Wimbledon win either, but considering what he had been through in 2009, I was very happy for him back then. I'm more impressed with Rafa's 2008 Wimbledon, considering who he beat in the final.

Confidence is an issue for any player, so I'm not wrong to say Nole was confident because of his winning momentum. What's different with Rafa this year is that he has the winning momentum against others but not against Nole, especially after that AO final. Even after two wins, at MC and Rome, Rafa wasn't very confident playing against Nole in the FO final, losing serves easily after he was 3-0 up in the first set and Nole wasn't doing anything spectacular to break Rafa's serves in the first set. It's more his fighting spirit that allowed Rafa to hang in there in the fourth set before the match was halted and postponed to the next day. Rafa mentioned that he had a difficult night that Sunday and wasn't ready to play on Monday until three minutes before the match. I don't think that's signs of confidence!

Of course when Rafa and Nole are confident, they're hard to beat, so it boils down to who's better on what; Rafa on clay and grass, Nole on hard courts, that's my take.

luckystar , 6/15/12 7:29 PM

What's so baffling Nadine? To me Nole is almost perfect now and there's really nothing much he can improve on besides improving his net game. Maybe he can still hit his forehand and backhand better, serves bigger serves, returns better, I really don't know but I think the room for improvement is not that 'big' there for him. He may have almost reached his ceiling that's what I mean.

For Rafa, it's about getting back to his previous good levels, for the various parts of his game. There's certain parts of his game that have deteriorated, his backhand, his ROS for examples. He can't seem to have all his weapons working well at the same time, that's all I'm saying. Maybe Rafa have already reached his ceiling in the various parts of his game, I don't know, but I've yet to see him playing with all parts of his game working well and at their best at the same time. I've seen that from Fed during his TMF days, and I've seen that from Nole in 2011. The closest I've seen from Rafa was during USO 2010 but then he wasn't really that great at the net and his break point conversion wasn't great back then, commentators said that his ROS wasn't that good because he was trying to return serves standing nearer to the baseline but he wasn't comfortable doing that.

luckystar , 6/15/12 7:46 PM

Nadal fans that whine & use the excuse about how poor Rafa has lost due to confidence issues bother me.
Its is plain to see that very few players have confidence against playing Rafa anywhere never mind clay & so he has benefitted more than most from the confidence game. Maybe even more than federer. Unless you want to start discrediting his wins against an underconfident rest of the field for the sake of balance, it would be nice if you & others were to tone that one down a teensy bit.
After all, nice fans are humble fans ;-)

Twinge , 6/15/12 7:48 PM

"To me Nole is almost perfect now and there's really nothing much he can improve on besides improving his net game.."

That's quite a lot!
And it wont be easy either.
Novak also needs to be able to increase the pace and variety of his shots before I could ever say his game was approaching "perfect". Although no one's truly is.
Perfection is death after all.
I think what you mean is that Novak has exhausted his potential for improvement whereas Nadal has infinite horizons to aim for.
A notion i'm not buying personally, particulary with 11 slams & 700 tour matches already notched on his belt.
Both players are past their true peaks at this stage, most particularly Rafa.
But i am sure there are many good things in store yet for both.

Twinge , 6/15/12 8:01 PM

If Nole is already perfect then he is on a hiding to nothing because he's not rolling over everyone. I think maybe Twinge is right that Nole has exhausted his potential to improve he can only aspire to do what he does better. Nole's game hasn't changed much he just had more belief last year bred from winning, the belief is not so much there this year.

nadline , 6/15/12 8:14 PM

cherylmurray, 6/14/12 2:04 PM

Am ENJOYING DC, Cheryl! Well, after I got over the grouchy taxi driver who tried to stiff me. It was a metered taxi, official and all and the guy tells me the tip is not included int eh fare!!! I said to him, not my fault tips are not included in the fare........the bloody cheek! First all he was grouchy and did not deserve so much as a thank you, second of all it is complete bad manners to ASK for a tip in my books......

Anyway, the beauty of DC more thsn made up for this particularly ill-mannered native. It's a green city, trees everywhere!!! Nice, and people run.......everywhere! Bellissimo!!!!!!

Rafa got his feet wet on grass and he's back in Marjoca............perfect.

Twinge, you can hope all you want that Rafa's "past his peak" ain't true! Prepare to be disappointed, together with all the other naysayers...............

Slam #12 coming Wimby2012!!!!!!!

rafaisthebest , 6/15/12 8:53 PM

I think twinge has a tendency of going off topic. I'm talking about Rafa and his confidence, not the confidence of others. And I'm not here discusssing the benefits of being confident. I'm talking about a Rafa that's confident and a Rafa that's not. Nobody, including twinge, can say that Rafa was confident last year and it has nothing to do with Rafa fans being humble or not. This year, Rafa has worked to improve on his game, improved the various aspects of his game, eg hitting his backhand better, hitting his DTL forehand better etc and with that comes his cofidence (in his game). He has better results this year when we compare his scorelines, sets lost, ranking points etc.

I did not say that there's no limits to Rafa's improvements, please read carefully. I did say that certain parts of Rafa's game have deteriorated and he may try to improve now to reach the same levels he attained in the past. I also mentioned that he may have reached his ceiling also in certain parts of his game.

Nole is not playing better this year compared to last year, and so he's losing more this year. Whatever happens to Rafa may also happen to Nole, ie certain parts of his game may have gone backwards. It's up to him now to work hard and get back to his previous best level, if he has already reached his full potential. He may become even better than his 2011, if he can still improve various aspects of his game, but first let him get back to his 2011 level.

luckystar , 6/15/12 8:57 PM

No way is Nole perfect. No player is perfect. The whole point is to keep striving to be the best you can be. If you stop trying, then that's when the backsliding starts because others will continue to improve.

At this point in time, Rafa is playing far better than in 2011. Whether it's the confidence that helps him or whatever, the quality of his tennis is far superior. The other night I decided to watch the 2011 final between Rafa and Fed. It was obvious to me that Rafa this year was so much better in all aspects of his game. Fed was also playing better last year. That's why he beat Nole and stopped his winning streak.

I don't know that Nole has exhausted his potential for improvement. He had a year in 2011 that we don't see often. So far he has not been able to replicate that quality of tennis. As for Rafa, I don't know if he is past his peak, as Twinge said. Maybe that's wishful thinking on his part. What I do know is that many were saying that Rafa was finished after last year, would never beat Nole again, never win a slam again. It's dangerous to write off a great champion.

Rafa has come back strong this year. He had his chances to win the AO and now has beaten Nole to win RG. If this is a guy who is past his peak, then I will take it! The garbage and trash talk I had to read on this site from Rafa haters and rabid Fed fans, was unfortunate and has proven to be completely and totally wrong! Thank goodness!

I am looking forward to Wimbledon! Bring it on!

Nativenewyorker , 6/15/12 10:37 PM

Sorry all, this is off topic.
Hi to you too Twinge: Am now back on an my feet after the better part of five months in hospital. Fear my days of Boy Racer cars have come to an abrupt halt. Currently looking at Noddy cars e.g. Peugot 106 or the Fiat 500

ed251137 , 6/15/12 10:49 PM

Fedfans are not going to like this...................Rafa just surpassed Fed's "like" number on Facebook today................

I mean, they have always used this as proof that Fed is more popular than Rafa..........

rafaisthebest , 6/15/12 11:35 PM

sorry to hear that, ed
I hopw you are all back to normal and if not that you will be soon

chlorostoma , 6/17/12 7:34 PM

sorry to hear that. 5 months!
I hope you are all back to normal, and if not that you will be soon

chlorostoma , 6/17/12 7:36 PM

"Twinge, you can hope all you want that Rafa's "past his peak" ain't true! Prepare to be disappointed, together with all the other naysayers..............."

Rafa is past his peak.
But it doesn't mean he is not going to win more slams
Novak is also off the boil that much is clear to see.
He's played considerably fewer matches than Rafa however so he could come right back and win another 3 slams, which to me is the barometer of either one of these players peaking.
And if Nadal is playing far better than last year we shall see how it plays out over the next 6months. For the record he hasn't won a non clay tournament for quite some time however.
But if he wins both Wimbledon and the USO, then yes I'll have to review my statement somewhat.
But honestly when you have played over 700 matches already and win your first slam when you are 19 its only natural to be past your peak at some point.
I mean peak rather than "prime" of course.
Both are still in their prime, although Rafa.....less so.

Twinge , 6/18/12 4:59 PM

One thing i noticed about Novak playing Rafa was his avoidance of the surprise FH injection of pace into Rafa's forehand. Its the only time i've seen him use pace, although Andy will try this on a harcourt quite often against Rafa. Both from the FH & the BH. This was something he used last year and hasn't been able to do it again. Confidence from both players is the issue probably as you would have to have a serious pair of balls to execute such a tactic against Rafa & Rafa has been much more assertive in using his FH so far this year.
Trying to break down Rafa's BH alone has proven to be insufficient.
Unless he's feeling it, I don't think he will be able to beat Rafa quite simply, although I'll still give him the edge on the hardcourts regardless going on.

Twinge , 6/18/12 5:14 PM

Rafa is playing better now that he did in 2008 and 2010. Dream on, Twinge.

nadline , 6/18/12 5:20 PM

"Fear my days of Boy Racer cars have come to an abrupt halt. Currently looking at Noddy cars e.g. Peugot 106 or the Fiat 500..."

Oh well Ed :-(
Still its for the best, all things considered.

Twinge , 6/18/12 5:26 PM

Past his peak? Really?

Rafa has appeared in the last five slam finals winning two French Opens in the process. Nole 2.0 has been the only player to beat him in that stretch.

So I think it has more to do with Nole's amazing run (when pretty much nobody else won anything) as opposed to Rafa being "past his peak".

And then "if he wins BOTH Wimbledon AND the USO, then yes I'll have to REVIEW my statement SOMEWHAT."

Pretty telling qualifiers there.

Such objectivity! LOL

Conspirator , 6/18/12 5:27 PM

"Rafa is playing better now that he did in 2008 and 2010. Dream on, Twinge..."

Dreaming of rafa is your job my sweet.

Twinge , 6/18/12 5:27 PM

"And then "if he wins BOTH Wimbledon AND the USO, then yes I'll have to REVIEW my statement SOMEWHAT.
Pretty telling qualifiers there.."

Telling what?
God youre all so paranoid here.
No, but youre right, I'll take that one back he most definitely WON'T be past his peak
if he pulls that one off.


Twinge , 6/18/12 5:32 PM

@twinge, unlike you, I have no statement to review. You can obfuscate all you want....peak, prime whatever..the truth is RAFA's BEST IS STILL TO COME!!!!

You can put Rafa down all you want (if that's what you need to do to feel better about yourself) long he continues racking up the gongs we don't care!!


rafaisthebest , 6/18/12 5:41 PM

I'm not putting Rafa down, but i might start on everyone here if you're going to get hysterical.
To me its pathetic that you can't come on here & have an objective conversation.
I'm NOT a fan of Rafa or Novak and don't see why i have to kiss anybody's ass here either.
Its outrageous that I'm expected to say how wonderful Rafa is all the time or I am somehow betraying everyone.
I'm not.
FFS grow up.

Twinge , 6/18/12 5:55 PM

Your statement I quoted wasn't very objective which was my point, that's all.

What players make five finals in a row (winning two) that are not at their peak?

hawkeye , 6/18/12 6:01 PM

^^^ huh???

Conspirator , 6/18/12 6:09 PM

No Twinge, you are not supposed to come here and say Rafa is wonderful NOR are you supposed to make statements that fly in the face of reality and contrary to the evidence. On what grounds do you think that Rafa has past his peak?

Saying things like that just makes you look like you are spoiling for a fight.

nadline , 6/18/12 6:12 PM

^^^ Exactly nadline.

agfmilos , 6/18/12 6:16 PM

I've watched Rafa vs Roddick Queens 2008 SF match again and noticed how good Rafa was on fast grass. He's at his best in terms of speed and power, he was so quick back then, my goodness. To me, he was at the height of his speed and power back then; had it not for his knee injury, he might be able to extend that to 2009, 2010 when he's only 23-24. His injury has cut short his physical peak, however what we've seen from him now is a more skilful, more all round player, and I do think he has not reached his peak yet in terms of his skills and his shot making. He may be able to add some more varieties in his shot making, or simply improves on his existing ones. The fact that he's able to reach five consecutive slam finals and winning two of them amongst such tough competition says alot about his abilities now. Since the beginning of 2010 till now, he has reached eight slam finals out of ten, and has won five of them, and there's no sign of him stopping at that. So, in my opinion, Rafa's best is yet to come.

luckystar , 6/18/12 6:53 PM

I've already explained Nadline & ilk, that the player's said `peak` is their highest level of achievement so far.
Namely 3 slams in a year,
I would have thought that was obvious.
Also the fact that Rafa is no longer a young upstart but rather one of the most senior players on the tour.
What i say might fly in the face of your reality but then that is to be expected.
And honestly stop being so sensitive, jeez, i did say that i thought Rafa was going to win wimbledon, did i not?
Perhaps you think he'll be around forever and maybe this is why i have offended you.
Or maybe i should just say that Rafa is going to win everything UNLESS he is injured or upset, better?
But offending you is neither here nor there to me anyway.
So if you dont like it too bad.
Although i shall refrain from this whole `peak` malarky as it has clearly struck a nerve here & the level of responses I've received in bringing it up has disappointed.
For the record, I'm not interested in fighting this but if i was to `spoil for a fight`, you would know it immediately, & it would be different.

Twinge , 6/18/12 7:08 PM

Rafa is not past his peak, he is in his peak, and is peaking as we speak.
M Kay?

Twinge , 6/18/12 7:40 PM

Now I'm ilk. Love it! Ha ha.

Conspirator , 6/18/12 7:48 PM

Twingey, good to see u back but methinks u face a Sisyphean task here...;)

deuce , 6/18/12 7:56 PM

"I've already explained Nadline & ilk, that the player's said `peak` is their highest level of achievement so far. Namely 3 slams in a year," - Twinge, 6/18/12 7:08 PM

Where? When did you already explain this? Sorry if I missed this explanation. How careless of me.

Conspirator , 6/18/12 8:13 PM

Ah, found it, nevermind. I think of peaking in tennis differently. I think Novak played better than Rafa in 2011 but I don't necessarily believe that Rafa was better in 2010 than he is today.

M kay?

Conspirator , 6/18/12 8:19 PM

Playing your best tennis at your highest level is not necessarily the same as achieving the best results in terms of tournament wins. Fed has played some of the best tennis in his career over the last two years but has no slam wins to show for it. (e.g. 2011 FO, 2011 USO and 2012 AO). Other factors affect tournament results beyond level of play.

agfmilos , 6/18/12 9:44 PM

This "ilk" is glad to see your swift review of your opinion regarding Rafa's peakness, twingey.................well considered as Rafa's days of racking up 3 Slams in a season are not over, in fact watch him do just that this season and garnish that feat with an Olympic gold medal!

He's simply the best, our Rafa.............better than all the rest!!!!!!

rafaisthebest , 6/18/12 9:59 PM

Why do all Fed fans painstakingly try to point out that Rafas last non clay title was in Sep 2010?

Oh yeah, when was Fed's last non HC title discounting that stupid blue clay crap which anyways Novak and Rafa defaulted and excused themselves from? I think Feds last non HC title was July 2009 right?Thats 3 full years nearly, but thats conveniently forgotten

This continous effort of trying to play down achievements on clay and hype achievements on HC is just getting too tiring. Why do ppl forget he has 4 slams outside clay and 5 more GS finals outside clay too, a clay court king only wont achieve such results.

It just is that majority of tourneys are played on HC, just imagine where Rafa would have been had more been played on clay

God I so hope Rafa really rakes in some enviable records to just shut the mouths of some delusional Fed worshippers once and for all . He would surely have had 70 plus ATP titles by now already instead of current 50.

sanju , 6/18/12 10:21 PM

There are some DELUSIONAL RAFA HATERS who seem to discount Rafa clay titles as if it were his birthright to win them. Out of his 11 GS tiles 7 are from clay...and your point is???

Why not the other way round? Out of Fed's 16 Grand Slam titles only 1 is clay????
Out of Djokovic's 5 GS titles 4 are on hard courts...
SO why do we keep hearing that Rafa wins majority of his titles on clay. Every player has a preferred surface where he wins majority of his titles

atul1985 , 6/19/12 12:25 PM

I am tired of Rafa constantly having to prove himself to people. No matter what he achieves it is never enough or ever will be. Some people will always find a reason to downgrade his achievements. Making out that clay is somehow an easier arena to win in is really laughable when you see how well someone has to play to win on that surface. You need much more than a big serve and a couple of shots to get the point won here. I choose to ignore these people and their opinions because their ideas are fixed and no amount of verbal exchange will change that.

However, this much I do know is that Rafa lets his raquet do the talking and no-one can doubt his wonderful fighting qualities, unless they are blind of course which some choose to be. That's fine by me but I do not appreciate people bad mouthing Rafa or trying to imply that his achievements are still in doubt and he needs to get another this or that.

Rafa has worked hard for everything he has achieved and anyone who belittles that is really not being fair IMO. Some people have achieved a lot less and seem to get a lot more praise - it is a strange world sometimes.

If you are not a Rafa fan that is absolutely fine by me but I just ask that you do not disrespect him or what he has achieved.

schatz , 6/19/12 1:49 PM

atul1985 , 6/19/12 12:25 PM

I totally agree with you. people should stop bad mouthing just because they don't favour a player. The truth is even if rafa were to win more majors on other surfaces (which am sure he will), the bad mouthing will not stop. Its either they would say he had an easier draw or conditions favoured him or a whole load of crap. I have leearnt to always ignore such unrealistic comments over tyme.
Any objective minded tennis fan would definitely rank rafa as one of the greatest as he has proven himself.
He is joint 3rd with Emerson on the list of major wins and sits alone in the master series achievement. He needs not prove himself any further.
For the information of any doubter who cares to know. Of all the surfaces Clay happens to be the most difficult surface for any player to play on.
For rafa to be able to win 7GS on clay says a lot about the talent of this player.
Even the great sampras who is right behind federer in GS never won a GS on clay. So what are wa talking about.
Lets call a spade a spade, Rafa is one of the greatest players to ever play the game and still has some more GS in him as well as Masters crown.
For crying out loud, the man has 2wimby, 1US open < what more does he need to prove.
He has played 5 wimbledon finals...... I can go on and on.
Respect the guy and allow him the accolade he deserves

puto , 6/20/12 4:05 PM

Rafa will carry Spains flag at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

nadline , 6/20/12 5:26 PM

And all htis talk about Rafa not having a non-clay tournament in a many grass tournaments has Fed won recently? 3 years, and that is supposed to be his best surface? At least Rafa does not disappoint when it comes to his favourite surface..................

It's official, Rafa will be Spain's flag-bearer at the Olympics...............well deserved!!!!

Congratulations Rafa.................Vamos!!!! adal-carry-spanish-flag-olympics-130908139.html

rafaisthebest , 6/20/12 5:28 PM

snap!! other brain, @nadline........

rafaisthebest , 6/20/12 5:29 PM

So that's 4 tennis players carrying their countries' flags - Rafa, Nole, Sharapova and Federer.

I would have been very disappointed it Rafa wasn't going to do it considering the Spaniards always say he is the greatest sportsman they've ever had.

nadline , 6/20/12 5:31 PM

Rafa will never get the credit he deserves from some Fed fans and haters. For my part, I remember when Borg was racking up all those RG titles and dominated in a way that no one before him ever had, no one ever tried to demean his prowess on clay. He was revered and respected for being able to totally dominate RG. No one ever brought up this nonsense about being one-dimensional, only a clay court specialist. Of course, Borg also started racking up Wimbledon titles and dominated on the grass. But he never won the USO. We will never know how much more he could have won because he walked away from the sport when he was only 25 years old.

Those who try to minimize Rafa's achievements on clay, are only revealing their ignorance of this sport.

Nativenewyorker , 6/20/12 8:31 PM

While we wait for Wimby to rumble, we might as well make fun of our heroes!!

rafaisthebest , 6/20/12 8:54 PM

Wow - Rafa will be over the moon. I can guarantee that this will mean so very much to him and he deserves the honour of carrying the flag for his country. He always seems to find that little bit extra when he is representing his country.

NNY - yes, I was thinking along similar lines. I have never heard anyone belittle Borg's achievements on clay and even Rod Laver's as he won a lot of his titles on grass and clay I think. It is purely personal with Rafa and that is very mean spirited IMO. The commies, especially the ones who have achieved very little in the sport are some of the worst offenders. One thing I did notice at the FO with the panel on Eurosport - Virginia Wade, a firm Fed fan, was so nice about Rafa and that made such a lovely change.

I hope Rafa will flourish on the grass and look forward to seeing him enjoying his tennis.

Vamos our Rafa & God bless.

schatz , 6/20/12 9:15 PM

Just found this article ticking off those who say Rafa is in decline: fael-nadal-beat-novak-djokovic-espn-magazine

nadline , 6/20/12 9:24 PM

Great article nadline. Just echoing what has been said here. Any true tennis fan would have enough objectivity to realize Rafa played extremely high level in 2011. It took another great player to have one of the best (if not THE best) years of all times to beat him. Pretty bad when having the 2nd best year means he is supposedly on decline. As said in the article, only those with a biased agenda such as media trying to create simple story lines or blind fanbots would outwardly conclude anything so ridiculous.

Vamos Rafa!!!

Conspirator , 6/20/12 10:39 PM

REQUIRED READING FOR ALL FEDFANS!!! ers-get-your-kicks-edition.html

This is the paragraph in question:

"Before Madrid this year, Federer hadn?t won a tournament on a surface other than a hard court since Wimbledon in 2009. Does this make him a ?hard-court specialist?? No. Should we look at him as one-dimensional because of that? No again. The consensus seems to be that hard courts are mainstream, because they offer a "fairer" overall test of a player?s skills, while clay is a specialty surface. I don?t see it that way. I think of tennis simply as having different surfaces, different Grand Slams, and different tests. None of them are fairer or less fair, or more important or less important, than any other. No one that I?ve heard has ever downgraded Sampras?s 14 majors because half of them came on grass at Wimbledon.

Now, if Nadal had won all of his 11 majors at Roland Garros, you could call him a clay specialist. But he?s won the career Grand Slam, including two Wimbledons, as well as an Olympic gold on DecoTurf. All of that said, it's clear that Federer has accomplished more at the majors so far, backing up his six Wimbledons with five U.S. Opens and four Australians. But just because Federer has done all of that doesn?t make Nadal one-dimensional."

Will this put the whole demeaning of Rafa's achievements to rest? have to be intelligent to get what Tiggy's saying...............

rafaisthebest , 6/20/12 10:41 PM

Or at least objective.

Conspirator , 6/20/12 10:47 PM

Fedfans will read it, but they will not mark, learn and inwardly digest it because they don't like the truth.

nadline , 6/20/12 11:06 PM

Ahem, let me understand this.............Tiriac is happy to "exclude" the clay GOAT, Spanish Olympic standard bearer from his Masters 1000 "clay" event??

I know who's got a gimpy foot.............from shooting at it so!!!!

rafaisthebest , 6/21/12 12:17 AM html

COE president Alejandro Blanco praised the decision.

"They didn't only consider sporting achievements, but also the current standing of the individuals, and their relevance at a national and international level," Blanco said."It had to be Rafa Nadal."

rafaisthebest , 6/21/12 4:05 AM

I hope you lot are still not whining about me being (apparently) controversial.
There's no need to read so much into everything my sweets.
Look at what the Federer fans have turned you into!
For the record, I too think Rafa is one of the greatest ever, ever, EVER.
Of course i do, you'd have to be crazy not to.
I'm just....well, you know, a little bit fatigued by`Fedal`,
Thats all.
Oh & many of their entitled, overly sensitive, and arrogant fans to boot.
(although quite a few are really cool).
I also wish Rafa & his nicer fans a great Wimbledon & I'm sure it will be one of his best too ;-)

Twinge , 6/22/12 2:16 PM

Thanks twinge. Hope it will be a great Wimby.

schatz , 6/22/12 6:45 PM

Don't worry twingey, we do not take your "criticisms" of Rafa contraire!

All Rafans on this site are nice, no need to play favourites...............

rafaisthebest , 6/23/12 11:14 AM

@cherylmurray Very nice article. Regarding the comments here about how much comms talked about Nole's possible win, I think that might relate back to the very 'ennui' with Rafa's dominance you reference. I will say, on the second day of play, JMac seemed very sure that Rafa was going to win from almost the first game played. By the time they were tied at 3 games each, it was apparent that he had no doubt who would win. Loved his tone at championship point. "Well, here we are." No surprise.
Like others, I have my own idea how "Rafole" will play out over time. I did not see Novak's amazing turnaround after USO10. On the other hand, I never lost my conviction that Rafa would answer it, although it took longer than I would have hoped. To borrow someone else's verbiage, "It will be interesting to see how Novak handles going from predator to prey." While clearly Roger enjoyed it, I don't think Rafa or Novak do.

majorbaeb , 6/24/12 6:07 AM

I don't think Roger "enjoyed" it at all. I think he's really miffed at not being No1. Didn't he make some comment about being introduced as "former No1" at some tournament?
Now I'm pressing "send" button...fingers crossed....

deuce , 6/24/12 9:47 AM

Wheeeee! All glimps ironed out for Wimbles? Hope so :)

deuce , 6/24/12 10:00 AM

majorbaeb - great post and indeed an interesting situation. I never really like it when Rafa is the prey - it would not bother me if he never gets to No 1 again. Fed likes to be there but I am not sure about how important it is for Rafa. It has been great that he has been No 1 in the past but for the future I don't really mind him being say in the top 3 as long as he is fit and healthy and most of all enjoying his tennis.

schatz , 6/24/12 1:34 PM

This is why I am oh so optimistic about Rafa's chances going forward. Rafa loves a challenge this is why being #1 is a deflating for him because he has nothing to work for as it were. He respects Novak and his abilities and this is the challenge for him now, whether he is #1 or not.

Novak's best is going to challenge Rafa's best, this is why I believe Novak's ascendency is the worst thing that could have happened for Fedfans because it has forced Rafa to improve his game..............

rafaisthebest , 6/24/12 2:33 PM

I agree with you ritb.

schatz , 6/24/12 8:56 PM

Nadal said he took anti-inflammatories en route to his record seventh title at Roland Garros in May. He also took pain-killing injections at Wimbledon, he said.

"His training has gone well, physically and mentally he is in good shape," Toni Nadal said. "We can't put a fixed date down yet for his return. But all signs are positive that he will return sooner than later."

Conspirator , 10/19/12 7:04 PM


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