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Sliceman
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Last win for Rafa against a Top 8 opponent was Djokovic in the semi of Madrid... back in May. His best win since has been Tsonga. I think and hope he will be back to in best in 2010.
Toggle Commented Dec 4, 2009 on Bull Run at Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor
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I've been stirred from lurking to object to Isa's comment. No place for that here (I hope). I repeat what others have said: "Moderator please remove offensive comment from 5:35pm as it it still up."
Toggle Commented Nov 17, 2009 on Deep Breaths at Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor
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I don't think many people outside of the US would give Blake much chance of winning a masters yet alone a slam, nice man and entertaining player that he undoubtedly is. Of his 10 titles to date only one has been at the 500 level and all his titles are limited to hard courts. Blake's career has been hit (like many others) by Federer, who has beaten him in a masters cup final and two masters finals. The difference between Blake's potential gains in a Roger-less world and Andy Roddick’s alternative timeline as a multiple slam winner highlights, imo, that Blake has never been top tier – that is a contender for majors. I saw him play Murray at Queens this year and, despite flashes of brilliance (I was cheering for him because I like his style a lot), my lasting impression was he didn’t have the consistency of game to take on the Scot. A freak opening of a draw would be Blake’s chance of a masters (how many top 16 players could he beat in a row?), forget about a major. I love the quote from Andre Agassi in Andrew Miller’s post, although any comparison of Blake to Agassi is bizarre in my view. Agassi won 6 of his 8 slams (including the career slam) before 30 and as a great player had the strength to win two more Oz opens and contend at others majors too. Diminishing returns is the norm after 30, and Blake is descending from a much smaller hill. Of course Roger Federer will be a contender for a major at 30, James Blake is not because he never was more than a outside chance in his prime. As for the post 30 Wimbledon semi finalists Andrew mentions in an earlier post, I think the fact they achieved this on grass is significant as experience on this surface is important, as the grass season is so short in the modern tennis calendar.
Toggle Commented Oct 14, 2009 on Blake and the Shark at Peter Bodo's TennisWorld
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When I watched the Cincy semi between Fed and Murray, it seems clear that Roger had though long and hard about how to play Murray after the losses early in the year - perhaps Nadal's extended absence made him focus on the Scot more too. The world number 2 is a pretty big target for players and everyone knows how he plays now. Cillic's patience in resetting points shows this. Murray's not doing too much wrong but he's is relying on others for his fortune imo. He will likely stumble to a slam or two in this manner, particularly when Fed is further along his career arc, but he will be aiming at more than that I think. It will be hard for Andy to modify a style that has established him as a top player but I think some minor modification is likely over the close season. At his best he seems a counter attacker rather than a defender... I think men's tennis is better off with a tactical player of Murray's ilk in it. Let's not get the the hero to zero stick - leave that to our(I am a Brit) idiotic press. The British hyping of Murray does skew things - and not just expectations. Bettfair had odds of 13.1 (about 12-1) on Cillic before the start. I'm no gambler but I could not resist those!
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Anyone here backing Del Potro to win a slam before Murray? I'm starting to think so. I hope Rafa holds Murray off for number 2 for now... don't wanna see a Federer-Nadal semi!
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2009 on Back to School at Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor
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And I agree with Jewell on the conclusions feeling a little premature. The book's underlying theme of Federer being toppled by his challenger was directly undermined somewhat by the sight of the 2009 Fed sweeping Roland Garros before then regaining the Wimbledon crown and number one ranking. In another year who knows where we will be!
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I rather compulsively bought Strokes of Genius the moment it came out. While it is certainly a good read, I would say it serves as a digested compendium of the information generally available on both of the players and the Wimbledon 2008 final rather than offering a truly insider's perspective. My favourite parts were on Rafa's relationship with Toni Nadal and the description of the locker room. In my opinion comparison to the brilliant Levels of the Game is not favourable to Strokes of Genius - something I think even the Wertheim would acknowledge given his stated respect of McPhee's book. Still a very enjoyable read; I'd be surprised if many on these blogs can resist purchasing or borrowing the book at some point. I suspect we won't hear much on the match from Roger or Rafa for a few years yet.
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There is a lot of speculation and what ifs on this thread. I feel I know one thing for sure: Sampras would never have beaten Nadal on clay. Sampras only made one clay final at MS or GS level (he beat fellow grass grazer Becker at Rome in 1994). To add to the speculation by parachuting Sampras into Federer's career but restricting the clay court to one meeting, I think Sampras would have lost to Nadal in that one clay final, edged HC 4:2 and would have defeated Nadal two out of three on grass (Incredible grass player that Sampras was I have to pick Nadal for Wimbledon 2008 - the sheer momentum and force he built up around that time was awesome). This would give Pete an overall head to head of 6:4. Although the Nadal-Fed h2h looks worse in fact Fed should be credited with having made so many clay finals only to fall to Rafa (The King of Clay). Let's not kid ourselves - anyone in tennis history who played Nadal 11 times out of a total 20 on clay would be on the losing end of the h2h. When you look at Rafa's h2h against his other contemporaries on clay you realise Fed is doing something good to beat him twice in clay finals. Federer is miles ahead of Sampras in the Goat stakes and for my money surpassed him some time ago. If Nadal can match, exceed or come close to Fed's records then the h2h could tip it his way in my view. That is a long way off... as many have pointed out in the past couple of weeks Federer's consistency over the past 5 years is simply without precedent and we can't assume Rafa, amazing player that he is, will simply roll out three more years that match the success of his 2008 campaign. I simply hope Rafa comes back to play at his best level and plays Fed many more times before one retires.
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2009 on Speak, Warrior at Peter Bodo's TennisWorld
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Many congratulations to Roddick (from a Brit), he played super tennis today. I was at court one for his battle with Hewitt and knew he would cause Murray more problems than certainly the UK press were making out. Murray's low first serve percentage was his main problem today. Roddick got to see Murray's 85mph second serve way too much. Watching Murray in the flesh during this tournament I realised how weak this is in comparison to his first serve bombs. He got his share of aces but paid a heavy price or poor accuracy. Without Nadal I don't think we're going to see anyone be able to stretch Fed this year. I think Fed would have taken Murray apart on the grass if he had made it, given their general form throughout the tournament. Good luck to Roddick - he most certainly will need it.
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Crosscourt101: I understand Federer can overtake Nadal if he wins. There's a detailed breakdown here: http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2009/06/Shark-Bites-Battle-For-No-1.aspx
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Murray has a chance and I think he is well equipped to deal with the media and the public over here. As a slightly sardonic Scot he is not quite taken to the heart of the typical Southern England tennis fan (who follows the game for just two weeks of the year). To win though, Andy needs Nadal to either miss with injury or crash out early. Federer, as we all know, makes the semi at least of every slam and I think defeating Roger then Rafa back to back (or vice versa according to the draw) will be beyond Murray (or anyone else). If he does beat two of the greatest ever players to win his home slam it would simply be a magnificent achievement. I'm predicting a Fed win... don't forget this is the crown he prizes above all others and he will want to exorcise some demons. I see Nadal as being in a bit of a dip not just because of the French and the knees but because his form throughout the clay season (and yes I know he was still winning tournaments) was down on last year. I hope he is able to come out guns blazing to defend the territory he overan last year. Remember how strongly the French was called for Rafa - maybe we should expect the unexpected. On a personal note I would love to see Tsonga have a good run and think he will.
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May the best man win... but Allez Roger!
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I know there are many people nervous (including Roger himself) about Federer chances of winning so here's his H2H records with the other remaining three. 5-0 Del Potro 12-1 Gonzalez 9-0 Soderling (Perhaps this is why nerves are to the fore - there really won't be a better chance in this life)
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Fed is: 4-0 Monfils 5-0 Del Potro 18-2 Roddick 12-0 Davydenko but... 2-6 Murray
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I didn't realise that Tsonga's record at RG was so lamentable. Still not a player anyone will be able to take lightly if he hits form. I must confess I like his game so maybe I'm being over hopeful. Has he ever played Wimbledon? His game should match up better there? Murray's patchy clay game is coupled with the fact his slam performance overall is still in embryo stage - US final and Wimbledon quarter being his best results. He did look reasonable against Nadal in Monte Carlo... (for a bit anyway!). His number three ranking is build on MS performance... in time he'll need more to hold off Djokovic or pester Fed.
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Will Monfils be in shape to be a factor? Could well be Federer's quarter final opponent ahead of Roddick if he is. Novak and Rafa have been unfortunate to get Tsonga and Davydenko in their respective quarters: both these players would surely be top eight barring injuries. Tsonga has no points to defend at RG and Wimbledon and is still 9th. Murray has a chance to play himself to form before engaging the big beasts. Simon is his top 8er... and his form is patchy at best.
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Will Monfils be in shape to be a factor? Could well be Federer's quarter final opponent ahead of Roddick if he is. Novak and Rafa have been unfortunate to get Tsonga and Davydenko in their respective quarters: both these players would surely be top eight barring injuries. Tsonga has no points to defend at RG and Wimbledon and is still 9th. Murray has a chance to play himself to form before engaging the big beasts. Simon is his top 8er... and his form is patchy at best.
Toggle Commented May 22, 2009 on Ballast for the Spirit at Peter Bodo's TennisWorld
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Mr Rick - I've watched Rafa a lot in all his clay tournaments this year and don't think he is playing at the level he achieved at RG last year. He's still the best clay courter by absolutely miles... that is implicit in my whole post. I don't see why you take offense with this - I just talking about his game in a relative way and trying to think about whether Rafa is extremely likely to win RG or just very likely. No insult here, honest. I said the this "clay season" not this season so get off your high horse about the hard court events. Everyone knows what Rafa has achieved on hard courts in 2009 (and yes it is amazing). ps please don't jump off the bleachers because of this reply ;)
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Slice-n-Dice - Very interesting... Imagine Fed emulating Sampras by winning a slam in his 30s.
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We need to view the Madrid result in the wider context... Nadal is still massively dominant on clay (and number one overall by thousands of points) and very strong favourite for RG, albeit slightly more vulnerable than before. Why? Because he's lost a match on clay (and Madrid is not a hard court!) to his biggest rival. 9-1 on clay has become 9-2... tired or not. Federer is still a brilliant player who has had some poor results (for him) in 2009 and can look at the future with more optimism after Madrid. Why? He's ended a barren run against Nadal(losing the preceding five) in Spain and broken a run of blowups in the Masters Series. He has earned a confidence boost as the season heats up with RG and Wimbledon coming fast. So it is a slight downturn on Nadal's performance chart and a decent upturn on Federer's. Maybe all this is very obvious but some posts here make it sound like one win changes everything or, alternatively, is utterly meaningless and should be ignored. I don't think Nadal has played very well this clay season (the fact he's won almost everything anyway is testament to his incredible ability). He can move up to a level which no one can match on this surface but he is not there at the moment, hence being pushed by Novak before succumbing to defeat in the final. I thought he looked sub-par against Verdasco, where he would have lost the second set but for Nando cracking badly. Rafa may need to get to his top level to win in Paris. What do other people think? Fed's chances at RG may only have increased by the order of, say, 10% to 15% but I think his Wimbledon hopes are much better now. Something that occurred to me is that Nadal's hugely physical playing style, slow between points and relatively defensive, will make it more difficult for him to keep fresh during this phase of his career where is is making the finals of a high percentage of tournaments he enters. Federer for years was in a similar position of going very deep in almost all tournaments and possibly benefited from a more attacking and faster style. Any thoughts on this? I realise Rafa has changed his game in the last couple of years - will he continue to do this?
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Madrid The Good - Djokovic and Federer lowering the chances of a 2008 style procession at Roland Garos. - Spain’s finest Rafael Nadal apologising for a bad bounce against Novak. What a host! The Bad - Surface. Tennis is best played on a flat, even court. - 5th Slam pretensions… please - Placement in the 2009 calendar… Rome should and will be the final pre-Roland Garos tournament. - Underwhelming trophies… unfortunately the focus seemed to be on winning a Lexus, which is sponsor-tastic but can’t we do better than a little plate for Roger and a colander/bowl for Rafa? Giant cheques and foam fake car keys? - Murray failing to find his clay feet… looks like a big three on clay for now and Djokovic’s half at RG will be the tougher one for Fed + Nadal . …and the Beautiful: - Roger and Rafa; still in love after all they’ve been through.
Toggle Commented May 18, 2009 on Madrid Finals Day Overflow 3 at TennisWorld Overflow
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The ranking dispute is interesting. Murray overtook Djokovic based on his consistent play for the past year, particularly in the past six months or so where only Nadal has exceeded him. It seems fair that he has moved up a slot although moving up on the back of a early exit at Rome, while Novak battled well against Rafa, is not an inspiring moment for the rankings system. It is ironic that Djokovic has slipped a place at a point where he is playing close to his best again (obviously much better than Murray on the Clay) and his ranking points are pretty high at the moment - it is just Murray has chased him down.The top three are close and Fed has two slam finals to defend in the next couple of months so Novak may benefit then. I think the year system keeps the rankings relatively responsive and reflect the positions of players at a given moment without giving in short term form. A two year system would also take away the prestige of the all important end of year number one slot - which is essentially the World Champion of that year.
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In his autobiography McEnroe talks of the favourable line decisions that he was able to gain either through his box office pull or intimidatory behaviour. (He actually concludes that getting away with such things eventually fueled his self destruction and helped prematurely curtail his slam winning) I was under the impression that such advantages were on the wane by the 90s and don't recall Sampras, Agassi or Federer ever trying to pressure line judges in the manner of a Connors. If there has been an advantage to big name players in the last 10 years at least it has not been explicitly earned by the tantrums of old.
Toggle Commented May 12, 2009 on Musing on Madrid at Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor
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Long time lurker, first time poster. Here's a link to the audio of Federer's interview. Sounds calm and collected, unlike when playing in a final set against one of the other big boys. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/8030695.stm No doubt that the regular final set blow ups are serious for Federer. But... it is only a few months since he played very well at the Australian Open (albeit not well enough to ultimately match Nadal). His record at majors (even in the past year with appearances in all the past four finals with one win) is incredible. The French Open will be the best barometer of where is is at. I back him to win either Wimbledon or the US Open. If he does then the Masters defeats will be irrelevant. I'm sure Rafa is expecting a challenge from Fed in London and New York later this year as he potentially guns for a grand slam! Thinking about it I find that I struggle to even imagine anyone but Rafa winning at RG and Madrid after watching the previous three clay tournaments (and the past four French Opens). But seismic shocks do happen in sport so losing in Madrid would maybe take some pressure off his mighty shoulders heading into RG. Who is capable of beating him is another matter. Nadal is such a competitor I suspect he will win Madrid even if he has to run himself into the ground to do it and will be going for his fifth French Open with minimal rest and the altitude difference to contend with. Could this perfect storm scenario give someone playing at their very best half a chance in a five-setter on clay? I think Rafa's ascension as the undisputed (in my humble opinion) greatest clay courter ever will be even more deserved if not.
Toggle Commented May 12, 2009 on Musing on Madrid at Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor
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