Having been a tennis fan most of my life, I have been happy enough to simply watch the big matches through the years and have a few light-hearted conversations about this match or that player with friends or family. We keep things sensible, i.e., defensible, since saying something too hyperbolic or absurd pretty much kills the conversation.
More recently, I’ve discovered some steamy piles of bullshit on the interwebs that have been a humorous education in how totally delusional and sad some of these aspiring perspectives are of our sport. I mean really, the GOAT debate alone is ridiculous: hey, you don’t know, don’t have the wherewithal to make such a definitive claim.
I guess if you have to know, start by asking some of the greats who have played because they’re most likely the best sources for such a subjective assessment. Why not just analyze the sport, sure put things in an historical perspective, but hold-off on sharing your tennis wet dream with everyone. To shut these people up in the first place, I would venture to say that it’s not very important to the players (again, who knows?). Sure they are trying to dominate their sport and can make such comparisons like anyone else, but I doubt they spend all hours of the night writing some piece of crap post about how maybe Federer is hurting his legacy by continuing to play. Pretty laughable, agenda double-dipped bullshit.
One of the things I really like to do is challenge the status quo.
Like I said, and you know of what I speak, the top of the sport debate is something some of these fanblogs love to touch themselves to (it really is a kind of canoodling, lifting one player while deriding another, making a play on one while breaking-up with the other, etc. etc.).The Nadal v Federer rivalry is really not even debatable according to the tennis status quo. Not only are little fanblogs hysterical daily about this H2H, but even the mainstream media has pretty much thrown in the towel. The 23-10 is too difficult to discuss, it’s too much dominance from Nedal, etc. One of the great verbs thrown around by the really astute perpetrators of this cultural ideology is own. Nadal owns Federer.
If you’re a sensible tennis fan, not a Federer fan, a sensible tennis fan, you have to acknowledge the difficulty Federer has had with Nadal, but you know there is more to that story. If you watch tennis, you know. Don’t let that big set of fake boobs fool you.
I had a little bit of this discussion in my comments recently. I think it had to do with the claim that Federer can not be considered GOAT because of his H2H with Nadal. That’s a very popular argument that knuckleheads want to make. And remember (I don’t want you to get too excited): I am not arguing Federer is GOAT; I am simply pointing-out how the tennis status quo might have its head up its ass or its bias has it by the ass).
Are any of you familiar with the New England Patriots? What do you know about them? Well, you probably know they won the Super Bowl last year and that gives the Brady/Belichick regime four Super Bowl titles. Brady has entered the realm of Joe Montana, equaled Bradshaw in number of rings, etc. Ask a New York Giants’ fan about this Brady/Belichick legacy. They will tell you that in 2008 and 2012 they beat those same Patriots in the Super Bowl. In effect, they own the Patriots. They are 2-0 against them in the one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
I will get more into the Federer/Nadal rivalry shortly, but this analogy, alone, can help make my point. NFL teams don’t play as much as tennis players. The games, especially the playoff games and the actual Super Bowl, carry a ton of weight in that sport. The fact that, more or less, the same Giants’ team (same QB, same coach) beat the same Patriots’ team in two Super Bowls weighs probably quite a bit in the Giants’ “camp,” amongst the franchise’s employees and that team’s fans. What does common sense say about this rivalry? In the last 10+ years, the Patriots are 4-2 in Super Bowls and the Giants are 2-0. The Patriots, despite this terrible H2H, are the more dominant franchise. This H2H, in the end, does not shit the Patriots’ bed. The fact that the Giants upset them in ’08 when New England was undefeated at the time, 18-0, had huge historical implications. But the Patriots’ dynasty is still in tact. The rivalry has more interest as sports trivia, really.
There are many other examples of this kind of dynamic where a dominant player/team has a terrible H2H with an inferior player or team. It’s a match-up problem. Someone has someone’s number. Happens more often than people realize, I guess. A commenter pointed-out Chelsea and Barcelona have a similar H2H issue. All I know is this is often the case in sports. And the big take-away (the reality) is people don’t generally strip the more dominant entity of its “career” accomplishments because of this particular H2H with an inferior talent.
In both examples, the Patriots and Barca are much more accomplished clubs, but have shown to have difficulty vs this particular opponent.
For me, the eye test is more telling in Federer/Nadal than are the numbers that I want to discuss. A lot of people point to all of the clay evidence in that H2H, Nadal routinely beating him in those finals, which is about as convincing as saying Norway is a more dominant Winter Olympic country than the US because of the results of cross country skiing.
I would say look to that 2009 Australian Open. That was a terrible result for Federer. Mainly because Nadal had to survive a 5+ hour SF v Verdasco. Roger had a much easier time in his SF. . . and he still lost to Nadal, on that surface. I think people have those individual match visuals burned into their hippocampus. Tough to rid the memory of them, Federer’s body language in some of those matches vs. the Spaniard. Combine these Federer low-lights with those numbers and you have a segment of the sport (fans) running off to deposit that check. But remember (and I will go into this later), that was the Spaniard’s only AO. He got one. Good on him. Well done.
For this particular post, I’m pretty much taking a look at three points of analysis that might add a little perspective to this tennis hysteria, might complicate this apparent standard that has some loud mouths claiming that Nadal owns Federer and therefore Federer has lost any stake in a GOAT debate. Lol.
- Federer is a more complete player, and is more fundamentally sound, simply plays a higher quality tennis more consistently. . .and this is not even a question. The one arguing Nadal’s actual tennis is on par with Federer’s might not be very familiar with the game. No need for me to really go into this. The fact that Roger excelled on all surfaces, yes ALL surfaces, further clarifies this comparison. In addition, he is playing world class tennis at 34 years of age, presenting even the current #1 player in the world with legitimate challenges while showing a pretty consistent form to destroy the rest of the field. This kind of longevity and consistency is not easy if you have only a big serve, or you’re just a glorified defensive specialist with a deadly backhand. Roger’s got the entire game and I don’t even have to bring up the aesthetics. Oops. Tennis is for the fans. People will be watching video of Roger’s game in hundreds of years still marveling at the grace and athleticism. Imagine if he he’d never been brought back to earth by a Nadal or Del Potro or Djokovic. At least there’s a discussion now. Be thankful and just shut-up and watch the tennis. But on tennis alone, the way the feet move, the wrist snaps and the ball comes off the racquet, Nadal does not compare to Roger. Nadal’s tennis fundamentals are bizarre. He bullies the game, but ironically has historically set-up eight feet behind the base-line and survived, somehow wearing players out. Such a physical style. He wears his style in his face, the scowl that clarifies how brutal this is going to be for the other player. The game quality argument hurts Nadal, obviously. Tennis royalty acknowledge this for the most part. And Nadal is sinking fast at 29, succumbing to age (?), physical deterioration (?). What does he turn to? He better chase down those forehands. In the end, he’s best on one particular surface.
- Nadal has a massive reliance on one particular surface. This is very damaging, in my humble opinion. He’s a clay court specialist. That’s pretty much it. We should give him credit for evolving his game in various ways to succeed on other surfaces, but don’t get carried away. I’ve read of the post-match devastation after Wimbledon ’07. Toni said Rafa cried for hours, was destroyed by that loss to Roger. It went five sets, so anyone watching knew Rafa was closing in on that surface. He is clay first. Then he worked his way through the draw at Wimby (clearly with a kind of sole focus beyond the clay). He got it done in ’08. Then he moved to hard court school and was able to graduate for a win in ’09 at the Aussie Open (first HC major) and then grab a USO in ’10. Again, the point is he is a clay first guy. The camp literally took careful steps towards mastering a winning game on the other surfaces, step by step, one major at a time. The resume is terribly imbalanced, meaning only that he is primarily a clay court guy. Roger has dominated on all surfaces. Nadal was MIA on non-clay surfaces though he later made some specific runs at the other three majors and was able to get five more between those other three. Well done. But certainly not in command of the ATP like other greats. Like I said, his incredible ability to focus – obsess (ala his documented OCD) enabled him to overcome the odds and succeed at the other three majors to some extent. Kind of a bucket list approach to the career GS. Roger dominated all of the surfaces between ’04 and ’07 but a great (the GOAT) clay court player was holding court at Roland Garros. Unfortunately for Roger, this one-trick pony is simply the greatest that surface has ever seen. But 1-9-2-2 is simply not world beating. It’s clay reliance.
- The H2H is flawed. This is the biggest whiff of them all. To be continued. . .