Sunday, July 06, 2008

Now that my heart rate is slowing a bit ...

Pardon my flair for the dramatic, but this is what makes tennis great.
This is why you don't change a thing. Two great players -- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal -- shouldn't have a coach on the sideline to tell them what to do. They should have to figure it out themselves, practically on the spot (except for tiebreaks. And I hate to mention this now, but Fed, if you had a coach now, he might have come in handy at that particular point in time).
This is why you don't play a fifth-set tiebreak. A tiebreak to end it all has its own allure and tensions, but really, what's better than watching two champions go back and forth until one of them legitimately defeats the other?
Without those factors, you don't stay glued to your seat watching history unfold, watching the boundaries of a rivalry expand before your eyes. Never mind being glued to a seat. I was on my feet for the entire fifth set. Anyone else?
I guess it takes situations like this to show the mettle of a player, and Nadal showed his, big time. After losing two tiebreakers after having a two-set lead, you just expect someone to just mentally fold it up. Maybe the rain delays helped a little, but how do you get past being up 5-2, and later holding two match points in the fourth-set tiebreak, only to let them slip away?
And then there's Federer, who, let's face it, could have won this match had he played it a bit differently. Meaning? Meaning that he could have serve-and-volleyed more. Meaning that he should be used to having his backhand attacked by Nadal by now, and it should be more than a defensive shot. Meaning that he played it safe with his forehand far too often. He was at his best when he was crushing those midcourt balls into the corners. Can't blame him, but the man clearly got tight with his forehand at the end by practically guiding them into the court, and it's how he lost match point.
Despite all that, Federer had the mental fortitude to come back from mini-devastations during the match, like allowing a 4-2 lead (!) in the second set dissolve. He missed out on a lot of break point opportunities (1-13), but you have to respect that a lot of that had to do with the quality of his opponent.
Of course, the other obvious implication of Nadal's win at Wimbledon means their rivalry has ended all predictability based on the surface. Now, when these two meet, anywhere, anything can happen, and I'm sorry, NBC, but that's what qualifies as Must See TV.
Sure hate to sound greedy after that epic, but I'd like more helpings of matches like those, please.


Mashimaro said...

Hi Naf,

Do you really think having a coach would have helped Federer tactic wise? I am not sure what else Roger could do except running around with his forehand when Nadal was relentlessly shooting gigantic top spin forehands to Roger's backhand. I think Rafa will always have advantage on Roger because of their match-up and the "Rafa complex"?

What a great, great match for sure. I just wish that Roger'd won. Oh well on to the hard court.

Naf said...

I do, Mashimaro. I'm not saying someone's going to retool his backhand stroke. Think of it this way: Right now, Nadal's got a coach who is giving him strategic advice on how to beat Federer. Part of this coach's job is to watch hours and hours of video, looking for holes in Fed's game. Now, every player watches him because he's at the top of the mountain, and all of these coaches are strategizing against Federer. Right now, Federer has no one (as far as I know) whose only job is to find weaknesses in the games of his top rivals. There's no way he can do that by himself. Take those rain delays. Fed's trying to calm himself down, analyze his performance and come up with a fully-formed attack plan -- all by himself. Nadal walks in, and his uncle Toni's like, "Look, you need to hit short to his backhand side, etc." I think that makes a difference. I can't imagine how another perspective could hurt him now.
So, I feel like I wrote another blog entry just now. Hopefully, you stayed with me through all of that, Mashimaro! :)

Mashimaro said...

Thank you, Naf. Your comment makes a lot of sense, especially for this particular match with rain delays. I guess one point here and one point there could have turned the table around in favour of Fed and a coach's advice could have done that.

I am a fan of your blog, always. Love your varieties; love your objective points of view.

yogahz said...

..heart slowing down, deep breathing... OK.

I was yelling and pacing and I was watching the match on DVR - it was over - speeches made and I was still rooting on Fed hoping I could force the outcome (which I didn't know, that would be just odd).

RE: the coach - during the match a commentator said that one of Roger's proudest moments was a previous Wimbledon final where he came back from a rain delay and had figured out - by himself, how to win. For Roger I think the individual aspect of the sport is too closely tied to his appreciation of a win or disappointment in a loss. If he had a coach it wouldn't be all "his" win. Or, unfortunately now, "his" loss. It's only him. No one to rail against or thank.

That was a great match though. I wanted Nadal to win a Wimbledon, just not this year.

Naf said...

Thanks, Mashimaro! I tell ya, I told myself early in the fifth set that no one should have to lose this match. Maybe Fed will reconsider needing a coach.
Hey, yogahz! I have to admit, I really was pushing for Nadal, just because it was about time for him to win another Slam (besides the French) and he's shown such improvement on grass. During Wimbledon, all the other clay-court specialists were sipping mojitos on some beach. Glad to see his effort rewarded. I'm sure Fed'll be back.

van said...

Hey Naf, you're right about Nadal: I can't recall seeing a traditional clay-courter so motivated to step out of his comfort zone. Congrats to him.

But hey, what happened with your tournament results getting posted? Inquiring minds want to know what happened!

Naf said...

Busted, Van! OK, it's coming tomorrow. I had to take a blogging day off after that final! Actually, I guess I took two off. Tune in Wednesday! I swear!!

van said...

No prob, I've been behind on the blogging myself! (Even though your tournament was weeks ago... : )

Naf said...

ZINGER! It wasn't "weeks", just like two weeks. There's a difference. I'm sure of it. Maybe.