Friday, September 11, 2009

The U.S. Open

September in NYC means the last grand slam tennis tournament is on like donkey kong. I am a huge tennis fan, especially with the men's side at an all-time high. Roger Federer is still going strong despite looking very very very vulnerable at the beginning of the year. In fact here's a post I wrote in February regarding the Australian Open when Nadal had all but locked-up the men's field with his incredible run of grand slam tennis (he won French, Wimbeldon, Oly gold, and Australia -- he was hurt during the U.S. Open, which Roger won).

Part of me is writing this post to intentionally betray the little bit of pride I'm taking in what amounted to a gem of tennis discourse between The Science of Sports blog and a few of its readers. Ross, one of the esteemed authors of that great blog, and I were discussing the state of the men's game. I was writing out of a pain that was turning into some sort of fratricide because my brother the Fed Express was coming off the rails. Like a beaten, weak man I was crawling into the new champion's camp (Nadal) although I think I qualified my affection some so as not to turn my blog into some kind of homo eroticism. Bottomline: Nadal had thoroughly dominated Federer in 2008. It was sad to watch.

But where I differed with Ross at Science of Sports was on his forecast for future of the men's game. First of all, he made a statement along the lines of Roddick is championship material (if only Roger wasn't playing in this era). I totally disagree. Other than this year's Wimbledon final (in which Roddick played fantastic tennis physically and mentally), Roddick is a swinger, not a head-of-the-household kind of player. His career has been riddled with soft tennis, big serve and all.

But Ross also said that Gilles Simon, Andy Murray, Novak Djokavic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are ready to step in for the beleaguered Federer. I totally disagreed.

2009? Federer won French and Wimbledon and is playing in the semi finals this weekend. Nadal is in the quarters now with play postponed (rain). My argument back in February was that Federer would still win majors unless Nadal beat him, and it looked like Nadal had his number. Even though time will continue to march on and Federer will eventually relinquish his crown, I will relish in my own forecast: Nadal and Federer are the champions of this era. The rest of the field are merely pretenders and until one of them can step-up and win CONSISTENTLY at the grand slam level, don't bring that shit in here:)

One has to comment on Federer's spring and summer wins with regards to Nadal. It appears that Nadal was injured during the French. Going into Rolland Garros, he had never lost there. He was beaten easily by a Swede, Soderling. Roger handled Soderling easily in the final. Nadal didn't play Wimbledon because of injury; Roger won that. So. Has Roger faced his fear and conquered it? Not necessarily although even Roger said in his post-French interview that the absence of Nadal wasn't enough to invalidate his win since a win is a win AND Roger had beaten Nadal in Madrid just prior to Rolland Garros, on clay. It was a big win, indeed, but a healthy Nadal might have complicated Roger's quest some.

However, the bigger issue here is Nadal's logevity. I myself said Nadal is the greatest of his generation (an example of the aforementioned fratricide) and may win more majors than Roger, who was poised to pass Sampras on the all-time list. Nadal was 22 when he won the Austrailian. But, then he was injured for the next two majors and in fact has had injury problems during his short career. Why? Because he KILLS IT everytime he's on the court. Nadal is Chris McCormack of Ironman, Federer is Mark Allen. Although one might have more genuine athletic talent (Macca), Allen's intelligence and training methodology perhaps resulted in more big-time success. Granted, different eras, but you get the picture.

Roger is like a ballet dancer on the court, fluid, graceful, supremely athletic and almost effortless. Nadal is like a bulldog, a very very healthy bulldog from the island of Mallorca!

In conclusion, tennis is still owned by Roger and Rafa. Roger has surpassed Pete Sampras as the all-time grand slam champion. This feat alone might be enough to give him the nerves to face and conquer a now healthy Nadal. Perhaps we see this on Sunday in NYC.

Don't miss it!

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