First, yesterday’s Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Andrey Rublev Adelaide SF was almost blogged as a “must watch,” but I didn’t quite have the faith in FAA to rise to the occasion. We’ve all liked his athleticism and the fact that maybe this is a little era in Canadian tennis that might push guys like Shapo and Felix to reach even greater heights. Speaking of eras, how about the Russian revolution that’s underway; Medvedev has gotten most of the attention, Khachanov too, to an extent, but Rublev, after a nice display of tennis in 2017, going MIA in 2018, for the most part, has returned, showing some of that promise in 2019 and starting-off this season on fire, looking to win his second consecutive tournament this season.
Felix showed-up last night and they gave us a nice round of BL tennis. This video is just of the first set. The scoreline went to Rublev 76(5) 67(7) 64. We want Felix to polish his game and bring this kind of form. He was very disappointing in the ATP Cup, Shapo making-up for his compatriot’s underachievement.
We need depth, my friends. The tournament draws on this tour need depth.
The incredible lack of depth on tour for years has, as we know, given way to a complete and devastating oligarchy consisting of the Big 3. Their tennis skill and confidence have been oppressive for the mere mortals of this era, going back about twenty years, to the start of Federera. This analysis will come to fruition in HRFRT, which I am developing chapter by chapter as we speak.
Not sure if you saw the exchange I had with a Nadal fan yesterday. As tough as some of my words/thoughts may have seemed or came across, I really do appreciate Tony’s thoughts on the sport and on Nadal, et al.
But this exchange really clarified the perspective of fans, regardless of their player. There’s some sort of gap between myth and reality, often (and, yes, I know that sounds pretty harsh).
Our exchange began with me saying that Nadal’s desire and will to win is more impressive than his tennis skill. This gets even more complicated in my HRFRT as I highlight the fact (or theory) that Nadal was practically built to beat Federer. Built? By whom? Uncle Toni, of course. Nadal has natural capacity and certain physical features to support this theory, but the timing and manifestation of style are too coincidental.
The point of my initial argument is that his impressive will to survive and thrive comes from a mental fortitude that has rarely been matched during his era, his run. This is acknowledged sport-wide, by most tennis historians, commentators, etc. We can interject here and say that Novak has defined his greatness partly by asserting his own iron will, which Nadal has had trouble competing against. I might also add that Djokovic’s tennis skill and style have had a lot to do with this advantage, but mentally Novak has certainly risen to the formidable task of facing and defeating Nadal. Not too many have been able to do this, at least consistently.
Per the aforementioned reader’s suggestion, I went ahead and explained how Nadal’s tennis style and skill are, we might say, more pedestrian compared to other, more gifted tennis players. However, and this is a big “however,” his willingness to throw himself, his body and soul, at these matches, some of which have been all-time slug-fests, has been remarkable, glorious, the stuff of greatness, for sure. I reach the same conclusion as the most ardent Nadal fan or supporter; I just have a different route getting there.
I can relate to Nadal personally; ironically, I, a critic of the Spaniard, approach sport in the same manner. Effort and determination always helped characterize my own style and approach. This is quite interesting as my teenage son continues to excel at soccer (my main sport growing-up) about which he can be characterized as more finesse, more skill than physical dominance. I’m just trying to encourage him to knock some of the boys around a bit, establish more of that physical presence one clearly needs in soccer to succeed at the higher levels. But skill-wise, my son has a touch of brilliance (and sure I might have a bias). 🙂
But the bias really came out in this exchange on my blog.
What Tony ended-up clarifying for us all is the idea that Nadal’s physical presence gives him an advantage. I actually didn’t include this explicity in my claim/argument, focusing more on skill/style and mental strength.
But of course this physical strength of Nadal’s has been a huge benefit to his tennis: see Best of Five, see Clay Court tennis, see the annals of Nadal footage, history and legacy.
He has routinely over-powered other players, unlike anyone we have ever seen. No question. How a Nadal fan doesn’t see this, doesn’t realize that, indeed, this is a huge factor in this player’s success is a smidge mind-boggling.
This is why fanaticism, in the end, doesn’t really work in a more intellectual pursuit or context. One has to be able to see certain patterns, contradictions, nuances, some subtle, some not so subtle.
Lastly, arguing that Nadal could change his style in a different historical context is a very awkward argument to make, highlighting, again, the flaws of fanaticism and probably strengthening the opposing view. The all-court Nadal, of quicker, lower bounce and grass court success, whose serve-and-volley prowess could catapult him into the heights of the sport under different circumstances is both wildly hypothetical and riddled with too much imagination and fantasy.
At least that’s how I see such an alternate universe.
In any case, I do like the conversation and, again, sorry if the words or thoughts come across as rough or at all rude or insensitive. After all, this is sports debate, folks!
Thoughts on MLB’s cheating scandal? The NFL playoffs? The NBA?
Let’s do this!