Sunday, February 01, 2009

Random Aussie Ramblings, Vol. IX: Post Script, part 2

So, I'm trying to explain to my husband why I had to watch the Roger Federer v. Rafa Nadal final live, at 3:30 a.m. -- instead of getting up and watching the 9 a.m. replay on ESPN. I stumbled through a lot of reasons, which boiled down to the same thing, which was "It's just not the same," until I realized what it really was. Fed v. Nadal is like crack cocaine to a tennis buff. You just have to have it, and you don't know why. That explanation, by the way, didn't go over all that well, either.
Regardless, while watching this match unfold, I found myself asking: Is Nadal rope-a-doping? Not in a disrespectful way, but really, in that third set, did he not look like he was foundering, down break points in his last two service games? And then, did he not suddenly rediscover his legs after that massage (trainer bonus, puh-leeze) and dominated that tiebreaker? You don't think of Nadal usually the same way you think about Serena Williams, but there is that refusal to lose that they seem to have in common. Even after Nadal blinked and lost the fourth set, he charged back in the fifth and didn't flinch at all after that. If there was any question before about Nadal's ranking, there shouldn't be anymore. Not until he gets beaten in a Grand Slam final again.
Which brings me to Roger Federer, who has been beaten in a few major finals lately. I want to say glowing things about the way Fed dug in in the second and fourth sets to get it to a fifth set, about how he flattened out his backhand at times and approached the net at others. All I can think about are bad double faults and very bad errors. If Fed ever wants to see the No. 1 ranking again or a Grand Slam champions trophy again, he really needs to address the fact that his backbone comes oozing out of his racquet every time he plays Nadal. If I can see someone tensing up from thousands of miles away on television, then he's freakin' tense. You could literally see Fed checking his swing -- on both wings -- as the match got tighter. I hate to say this, but it appears we're watching the process of Federer getting owned. He hasn't beaten Nadal since late '07, fer cryin' out loud. And his goes schizo against the world No. 1. Now he's attacking the net. Now he's running around his backhand. Now he's hitting drop shots. Nadal doesn't alter his strategy at all. He slugs away at the backhand and it might take a while, but it works. Federer seems to try something for about 15 minutes, and then abandon it at the first error.
Anyway, it was tough watching Federer post-match. And it was nice to see that someone raised Nadal right. He handled watching his opponent weeping in front of him like a real man -- and this is why I'm grateful that tennis is not football. Can you imagine Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens resisting the urge to talk about how great they just played? Sheesh.
All told, AO'09 delivered in drama. We've got the apparent deterioration of the women's draw, only to come up with a familiar winner and the men's draw coming down to the best possible match up and delivering the quarterly fix we tennis junkies need. Some props to for the Williams sisters, the Bryan brothers and Mahesh Bhupati and Sania Mirza (now a doubles specialist??) for winning the -- as follows: womens doubles, mens doubles, and mixed dubs. Um ... woo!


2Hander said...

Hey Naf,

I think this time, his biggest let down was the serve. I mean, a Slam final...against Nadal!! He must have done well to get the match to 5 sets. His groundstrokes were better this time than at the Wimby final just gone methinks.

And yes, there is the choking factor!! Maybe a trainer should have come on court to do the Heimlich Manoeuvre!! Heck, maybe even Mirka can! I'm sure seeing her tense and worried face on the jumbo screen helps no-one.

Respect to Rafa as he is maturing on and off the court at a phenomenal rate...!!

van said...

Hey Naf, what's up? I've been so caught up in job-searching and sporadically posting to my blog, I haven't seen yours in a few days. Sorry about that, but the new look is awesome!

Anyway, you and 2Hander made great points about Fed there. He might not tie the record this year, but I think he's going to still break it eventually. He might pull a Pete and win the 15th after he turns 30 and is out of the top 10.

Naf said...

Hi, 2Hander! I don't know what's wrong with Fed when he plays Nadal -- but he does become a different player. I've never seen him crumble like that.
Hey, Van! Thanks! I do think Fed'll make his 14, and I don't necessarily think it'll take that long ... as long as Fed's out of the draw.

2Hander said...

Well, if you exclude the drubbing at Roland Garros - cos he did go down in a steaming heap rather emphatically there!!

And people, we should be talking about Fed making the 15 marks, not 14. :P

Naf said...

I admire your optimism, 2Hander. Especially after Sunday -- and the French. :)

Jodi said...

I think 2hander is right about the Fed serve - has he ever had a good serving day against Nadal? I can't remember one. And maybe that's linked to confidence. It all flows from the serve - so maybe if he can get that right, some stuff can happen. He still managed to take the guy to five serving at 52%, and he had his chances in the first and third sets as well. He's got all the tools to win... time for a looong session on the sport psychologist's couch, methinks - or at least a long stern talk with himself!

(Loving the new layout sick, by the way, Naf!)

Naf said...

Thanks, Jodi!
Yeah, the serving was pretty horrific. And he's always got his chances against Nadal. As far as their games, they're not that far apart, but Fed is just getting owned. It's in his head at this point.