Stan v Rafa

I’m going to try and shorten my posts, and quadruple my production!

5062862-3x2-940x627I meant to write this after I watched the replay of this a day after it played live.  Paris QF.  Brilliant stuff.  Stan is like a super hero. Stan is a monster.

Stan the man the ball
One-handed backhand
Leaves fall in a park

I watched a bit of this match.  The best part is Stan bullying Rafa.  Watch it happen, just like AO 2014.
Nice to see Magnus sitting front row, knowing.

Favorite part: Stan gets frustrated with Rafa moon-ball, so he, after gesturing and grunting eloquently, trades moon-balls with him.  Before finding a spot to flatten one out.  Loved the body language, the ability to outlast Nadal.

He sells the SHBH/OHBH pretty well.

Go Stanimal.

In the end, Stan needs to estanblish himself in Group Nastase.

14 thoughts on “Stan v Rafa

  1. Trigg


    What one can’t clearly see in those highlights is that Rafa’s forehand in average is much slower and shorter than it used to be. Marion Bartoli spoke about it, but everybody feigned not to notice the implications. Just watch his CC FH played with maximum topspin: it lands two metres behind the net.

    Otherwise, he plays quite well, IMHO at the top of his game. But one should also write about the following: his net game, although quite decent, is far from “the best ever”, something John McEnroe uttered recently. He also makes errors with his overhead — now that he has to smash more than one time in four matches. He’s good, and against a nervous Stan, he could have won this match in two, but missed a few crucial shots. Self-belief has to be innate.

    Of course, I think his argumentation for a WTF on clay is BS. We could ask Roland Garros to be played on hard courts for a change, too. Anyway, it’s not only a question about a change in the tradition, the nature of the Masters. It’s also a reaction to Rafa’s proposals so far: they are all meant just to protect him and his interests, and only him and only his interests. His sense of self-promotion is acute, to avoid other words. He wants more rest between two seasons, just to play more exhos and earn more money — he played almost all the tournaments that could pay him his million under the table. He routinely skip mandatory tournaments when it suits him (even when he doesn’t have to right to skip them, when Novak and Roger remain in the bounds of the ATP rules) — declaring to be injured for Miami, e.g., and then playing week in, week out during the clay season. That boy has invented gamesmanship in tennis.


    1. Well said. I thought about a future post today: “How it Ends.” We could be talking about the season, one’s career, one’s life.

      We won’t get that heavy, concentrating more on how one ends one’s career. Pete did it in style. Look at Roger. Magnificent. Rafa’s “proposal” is low class, transparent. It might not end too well for him.

      His moonballs (I think blackspy or Utsav or you called them that) are just obnoxious. Rafa’s game is such a bore. He just retrieves. Without the net game, you allude to, he’s pure rebound boy. It’s so inferior.

      Nice to have you back.


  2. Trigg

    I never left. Read the posts, just didn’t have time to comment. Then, sometimes I find English very difficult, it cripples my thought.

    BTW, to refer to one of your previous post, Pete was competent at the net, but he wasn’t even close to JMac, or even Edberg, just to mention a few players who played with similar graphite racquets, who were great in this part of the game. On the other side, you underestimated a bit his baseline game — although in his later days he rushed to the net at the first occasion, and especially his return — he had a solid return.

    Go here:

    His biggest problem was that he refused to adapt. His game was centred on his serve, and on Wimbledon, where you couldn’t play from the baseline anyway. It was just too easy, and he too often settled for the easy way: to slice instead of hit the BH, focus on the serve instead of develop, etc. He was just too conservative with his tennis. He “kept the things simple”, as he said to Novak. Too simple.

    But when he started facing more spin, more control on the return, he was helpless. He even admitted his refusal to change as a big error in a recent interview, especially since he had all the weapons to adapt to new synthetic strings: a great forehand, a good backhand, a complete game. With new strings, a bigger racquet, he could have remained relevant until 2004, probably.

    Although he won 14 slams, Pete played the second part of his career in a period void of great champions, and he was a far cry from Borg, JMac, Connors, Lendl (although Lend wasn’t a clutch player, something Pete certainly was).

    But he was a handsome man, and I liked his demeanour very much.


    1. You’re saying Pete was a far cry from Borg, JMac, Conners, Lendl. . .? Or his competition was a far cry? That needs clarification.

      I watched a lot of tennis through the years, so I rely on the eye-test more than anything though numbers can reinforce perceptions, arguments, etc. Pete’s net game was more than competent. He was more effective at net than Mac in their USO final when Pete was a 19. He out classed Mac big time, at the net as well.

      You have to consider the serve as that’s a pretty big part of Serve & Volley, and Pete’s first AND second were notches above those other guys, which makes the volley that much more effective. Right?

      You clarify what I said in my post about him and his game. He could not really hit with Andre. His BH was a huge liability.
      But he was a champ. Watch that USO SF 1990. He manhandled JMac.


  3. Trigg

    About Rafa. Here, we also have to admit that the axis of the game, with the introduction of insane spin by Guga and his use of luxilon strings, has shifted for an axis leading from the baseline to the net (a forward axis), first to vertical axis, then to the lateral axis.

    What does it mean? That moonballing has become a legitimate part of the game, something Rafa uses, but Murray too (he beat Fed a few years ago in Shanghai by moonballing the whole match. I didn’t realized it until the USO semi in 2008, when I compared the speed of play in the Fedole and Rafandy matches), and a lot of other players, especially on clay, but also on hard. A ball with a lot of spin doesn’t lose a lot of speed after the rebound, so you can opt for a higher trajectory to hit a bit harder; then, the height of the rebound depends mostly of the angle the ball has when falling, and a higher ball rebounds higher. Spin allows you to moonball, and Rafa does it a lot.

    Then, lately, there has been a development of lateral spin, especially by Novak on the forehand, and Federer on the backhand, although Novak uses lateral spin on the backhand more and more — it was one of the keys of his victory against Andy in the final of Paris. It allows to play with more angle. If you watch Novak carefully, you will notice how well he mixes the spin: let’s say that he will often hit a higher, deeper ball with a lot of topspin, meant to rebound very high and push his opponent, that switch to lateral spin and opens the angle.

    Rafa here is a one trick pony, and, on this, you’re quite right — he’s mainly a reactive player, a ball pusher. His only strategy is to wait for a shorter ball, to run around his backhand, and to play an inside-in or an inside-out forehand. It’s efficient, though, unless you play somebody who doesn’t hesitate to pressurize your forehand, and denies you angles when you become reticent to open the court by running around your backhand. Now, when his shots do not fly at 130 kmh but at 110 kmh — the way they always should, he’s left without real weapons. The way Stan used his bh slice shows that Rafa cannot generate by himself the pace he needs to make winners the way the did. Since his team is crap and Tony is a second rate coach, he doesn’t know how to flatten shots any more, the way he did in 2010, e.g. The changes in his technique are random, without real input by his coach, something he discovers — or not — during his training, by himself.

    So, now, instead of flattening shots, improving his peculiar BH, the only things he does is to run, defend, chip (he doesn’t even slice), and wait for short balls the way he did before, but there are fewer short balls and he has more and more difficulties to beat top players.

    And about his serve, a link:

    You’ll find others, and a youtube clip. Borras helped him improve his serve, but Rafa and Toni refused to acknowledge it. Since everything Borras did is common knowledge, one has to ask why a “great coach” as Toni never tried to fix Rafa’s serve (I worked on my son’s serve this summer and in less than two hours he was able to serve decently)…


    1. I watched that video a few weeks ago. Another coach was narrating, talking about how Borras had to convince Toni as much as Rafa. Pretty awkward situation. The way I characterized Rafa’s career in one of my H2H posts (Rafa is really a clay-only guy. They established mastery at RG and then made big projects out of breaking through at the other majors. The break-throughs happened in successive years: 08 (grass), 09 (AO) and 10 (USO). 2013 remains one of the most bizarre years. How he developed such mastery of the HC is a mystery. I don’t trust him.

      Indeed, he is just digger.


  4. blackspy

    Nice post Matt, as usual. Writing poems besides blogging? 😉

    “shorten my posts, and quadruple my production”: Hey, that’s cheating! Only joking Matt; make them as long/short as you wish on condition you keep the quality intact. I personally appreciate that you can see the bigger picture in tennis, not necessarily commenting every day/match a certain group of players play. In my view you’re offering an insight to men’s tennis (and an opportunity for us to express our views in a reasonably civilized level, of course!), not match reports. You can see that from the depth (and length sometimes) of the commentary. Then again, if you feel the need to express your views before important matches, I understand that too.

    On the tennis front, experience tells us that only a Swiss guy on fire seems capable to stop Djokovic and I don’t see it at the moment. Since the semifinalists from the Fedovic group are pretty much obvious (after Berdych pretty much lost his grip against Federer), whom do you see coming through in the other one? I’ll go for Stan-Nadal, since the last Murray disappointment in Paris [where a dark page in history was recently written 😦 ]…


    1. Nadal should not advance: Murray and Wawrinka should advance. But Murray’s distraction and Stan’s inconsistency open-up the chance for Nadal. If Stan is not on form, this entire WTF will suffer imho. He is probably the only one who can beat Novak unless Roger has another classic up his sleeve.

      If Stan can beat Nadal today, good news for the draw. But Nadal is like la cucaracha – have to stomp him out.


  5. Trigg


    That was one of the strangest thing I noticed about Rafa — he made changes, than reverted to his usual technique. When you compare his serve in 2010 and now, you can see that he reverted to his old motion (almost); he hit his FH much flatter in 2010 than he does now, etc. There is no real development — just random changes, that work or don’t work.

    There can be two answers to that riddle: the first one is that his team, especially his coach, is incompetent; the second, that Rafa is a moron. Rafa once said that “he had to rediscover the way to move on clay” at the beginning of every clay season. I am really confused by such a statement. The Borras affair, for me, is a sign that his team is second rate, and that Rafa works on his own, with a kind of help even I could give him. It’s very different from the continuous and subtle improvements one can notice in Fed’s and Novak’s respective games.

    What helped him in his career was spin — while surfaces have remained different, spin translated well on a lot of them (go here for articles about surfaces speed and spin effects), and the fact that he was lefty. We saw that he had a lot of problems to beat a player like Verdasco when Hotsauce played at his best. In the second part of the last decade, there was a progressive shift in tennis, and players searched for new ways of playing — shot by shot, pattern by pattern. In that period, Rafa managed to win the other slams, especially since Federer was in a conservative period of his career, and Djokovic was at his lowest level after the racquet switch, the shoulder injury, the unsuccessful serve motion change. After that, he just started to lose ground, unable to adapt, facing harsher opposition.

    But it took time — Rafa was still at the height of his powers in 2011, and he exerted a mental dominance over the top ten, and it’s not a coincidence he was eliminated at Wimbledon by players ranked 100+. He finally started to lose ground at the end of 2012, something masked by his 2013 season.

    About Rafa’s 2013 season: we have to put it in the right time-frame. First, Rafa played the tournaments he wanted, ducking his opponents, and building momentum. He played one tournament on hard courts before the summer, in IW, where he had a “very good” draw. I don’t have to mention that he was the guest of Larry Ellison there, staying at his home. Then, the whole season was decided by ONE game, when he broke back Novak in the fifth set, when Novak touched the net at deuce. It was a terrible shock for Novak, he looked lost for the rest of the season, until Beijing, when he lost his no 1 ranking.

    Another thing mustn’t be forgotten: 2013 was the year when the ITF/ATP introduced the blood passport. It could be a coincidence, but Rafa was in free fall since then. He lost several pounds, and his shots lack the pace they used to have since then. Now that he can’t overpower and outrun his opponents, he has to rely more on technique, net forays, a sane vision of the game. He has a lot of qualities, but he’s far from Djokovic, Federer and probably Murray. An improved Ferrer.

    Anyway, we’ll see this week where he stands now.


    1. I like your assessment of Rafa’s camp: incompetent or moronic.
      2013 is a scar on the game. Getting his second W and USO is an abomination.
      Roger was basically injured in 2013 too. Nadal has been quite fortunate.
      That FO SF with Novak was unbelievable. I aged 5 years that day. Travesty.

      His game is so limited. What you explain I have been trying to clarify as well. What does he have to fall back on? No fundamentals. All moonball. And his request for WTF to play on clay is the cherry on top for me. He’s exposed. Hopefully we see more free fall from him.

      Good point about those top 100 players being the ones who have beaten him. His career has been so orchestrated. Think about how he came into the sport. Roger was King. Nadal camp built a game just for Roger. But Nadal has been pretty good vs. the top guys. Clay enhanced and just a working-class desperation.

      That’s fine, but we just have to admit that the tennis is working class. Low rent, in some cases impoverished.


  6. Trigg

    “Low rent, in some cases impoverished.”

    It’s about to change, in fact it’s changing right now, and the two top boys are the one that lead the dance. The rest will need another few years to figure it out, although some are making the right efforts. You can’t win if you don’t have a good transition game any more. You have to be competent at the net. You have to diversify your patterns of play, and to be more and more versatile. To step on the baseline is now a necessity, etc.

    I am not sure yet how it will unfold, but changes are shaping now, although we don’t see the full picture yet.

    The anti-doping fight will be crucial, too.


    1. Yeah, I’m specifically talking about Rafa’s game. But indeed the game is changing, as we speak. As a Novak helps define this next stage, era, we have to remember how Roger has played a role. In a way, his game was ahead of its time. The all-court style of attacking tennis will always be kind of timeless. Novak is becoming more of an all-court player, but by building his game from a defensive standpoint, he’s become almost impenetrable. If you’re teaching your child how to play tennis, you model after Novak.

      Looking forward to keeping an eye on the Challenger court as some young Americans ready to make the move to ATP along with the Thiems, Coric, Zvevrev’s of the world. Game is requiring athleticism more and more. I don’t think the Nishikori types have that kind of game of which we speak (power/all-court).

      Nadal/Stan coming-up shortly.


    1. Hi Nambi. Indeed, a terrible showing. We can’t jump to conclusions given the events that have transpired in Europe; who knows what was on his mind.

      But Nadal is coming out of that group for sure. Just shitty tennis all the way around.


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