Sunday, June 10, 2007

No mas

I wouldn’t have minded all that much if Nadal had beaten Federer.

I wanted the man to win his Grand Slam. I wanted him to take his place in history. It wasn’t to be. Rafa made it three in a row.

Which would have been all right, except that Rafa didn’t win the match as much as Roger lost it. FORTY-FIVE unforced errors in the first three sets? Roger Federer? Get out of here!

He lost it in the mind. Some day we may know whether he was more rattled by history staring him in the face, or those biceps on the other side of the net. Whatever. The third set was a nightmare. All Roger had to do was keep the ball in play, keep it deep. What did he do? Put it in the net. Time and again.

Every time Roger did His Thing, built a point carefully, used his change-ups, it was Rafa who blinked. Every time Roger tried to finish off a point quickly, he blew it. What went wrong inside his mind?

Yes, I know that Nadal creates his own pressure, I know what it takes to go toe-to-toe with a guy who may be the greatest clay-courter ever. But this is not just any guy facing up to Nadal, this is Roger. A man who’s not supposed to have a weak link in his game. One weakness has, however, been visible since the semi-finals – when he’s stretched deep and wide on his backhand, Roger slices it into the net more often than not. He's just a fraction of a second too slow to the ball, hits it from that little bit too far away and it finishes too low and too short.

There was some great tennis in the last set. But it happened because Roger gave up on the baseline and tried to rattle Nadal by coming to the net. It didn’t work. It can’t work. Rafa has the weight of shot to prevent volley winners, and the legs to reach and overwhelm the defensive volleys. By the time Set 4 warmed up, everybody knew who had won. FedEx was not the 'best in the world', he wasn't even good enough. The Kid had him beat.

Vamos, Rafa!

A nice touch about the prize-giving. Right before that last forehand went long, I wondered ‘whatever happened to Guga?’ Lo and behold, there he was, looking a little like Mats Wilander on Ecstasy even though he was in a nice grey suit. (Mary Pierce looked a sight yesterday. Major fugly.)

Next month, of course, a Duke will hand over a prize. But even if he wins it, there will be a gap in Roger's showcase. This time, next year? He'll be 27 ...


Jabberwock said...

Dude, it's become commonplace for everyone to gape at how many "unforced errors" Nadal's opponents make. Two points to be noted: 1) Many of these errors really aren't unforced at all - as spectators, I don't think we can ever get a real sense of how much top-spin Rafa gives the ball, and how difficult it can be to return even seemingly innocuous shots. Rafa's opponents, Federer included, have repeatedly made this point at press conferences, but no one takes them too seriously.

2) Even when Rafa's shot is a weak one, setting the opponent up for a winner, everyone is aware of just how much extra they need to do to end a point against Nadal. Hence extra effort, which leads to unforced errors.

Summary: give Nadal his due. Saying that he didn't beat Federer in this match and that Federer lost it on his own is outright silly. Sure, Fed is probably the greatest of all time, but we shouldn't assume that he is the master of his own destiny in every single match.

spiderman! said...

It was a pretty pathetic final except for bits and pieces of the fourth set. I guess, its because we expected much more from two of the best in the world at the moment.

But wouldn't it have been great if both were to be in form ?

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Jai - read it, mon, READ it. I've already agreed with every point you make. Even so ...

Spiderman - not 'two of the best', sir. The two best. And Nadal was pretty much on his form, or close to it.


30in2005 said...

Man I hate these young athletic types making old fat women like me look and feel utterly old and unhealthy! As for Roger, we saw him play on the Wimbledon grass a few years ago and he was a bit god-like to watch - all muscle, force and grace. Yesterday Nadal's clay game was superlative, fluid and forcefull. Tennis is often so beautiful it makes me want to weep.

The Aunt said...

Federer did not play that well but I wanted him to win very badly, because Raphael Nadal is a sulky, petulant child who has never once smiled, well at least not when I've been watching, and also I strongly suspect he kicks pet dogs and cats when he thinks their lady owners aren't looking.

Federer at least can be counted on to give his wristband to adoring children and sign old ladies' handbags. That's fair play, that is.

On a similar note, give me Henman any day over Andy Murray. Go on, please give me Henman. I've got lots of things for him to do that he'd be MUCH better at.

Anonymous said...

FedEx did look tired even before the match began. So whether it was the mind, body, heart or soul, tough to say really. But does it make him any less likeable, adorable or droolworthy? It's a love-all game here, Dude, so who cares!

- Rogered.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

30 - 'All muscle'? Roger?!

Aunt M - if I give you Henman, will you give me Paula wossername, that Spanish doubles player?

Anon - FedEx is likeable, but 'droolworthy'? With those beetling brows? Wimmin!


30in2005 said...

Yes, ALL muscle. It's in the real-time, up-close-ish view (as close as Centre court allows). The TV smooths all those lines out.

A Cynic in Wonderland said...

did u see the semis against davydenko? made one weep. the game was won on who chucked the ball less at the net. sighhhhhhhhhhh..and while youre busy distributing players, if you come across edberg pass him to me please