It is with considerable anger and frustration that I say enough is enough. Give this young man the credit he is due. Applaud his accomplishments instead of mourning all of the things he’s taken from Federer. Credit his prodigious tennis skill, his superb athleticism, his unrivaled mental toughness and his kindness. Marvel at his consistency and admit that his number one ranking is NOT in name only. I can assure you that to do so is not a slight against the beloved Roger Federer. And come to the realization that perhaps there was never kryptonite at all, but TWO Supermen instead of one.
A man who catches flowers, comforts his principal rival – admittedly, easier in victory – and confesses to crying himself at match point in the Verdasco epic. Can this sensitive soul be the same Nadal whose iron will enabled him to defeat Federer?
Whereas most players prefer the straight-sets stroll to victory, Nadal admits that he likes a dogfight. “Maybe … I like more fight for a win, to win, than win.”
So that explains why he drives us all batty with those close matches. Heh.
“To me, Roger just did not have a plan,” Toni told The Times. “He did not want to rally and kept trying to finish the point too quickly and he made so many mistakes. Rafael was too strong in the head for him.”
“I have won three of the great titles, my second Roland Garros was so special because I won with an injury, Wimbledon is my dream because I wanted a grand slam on something other than clay and I had been to the finals twice, so that was the one. That gave me so much self-motivation.”
It has been many years now, but it still comes as something of a surprise to see the contrast between Nadal, the sweaty, vamos-barking archcompetitor, and Nadal, the measured and unmenacing citizen.
And for me, that’s part of what makes him so interesting – the stark contrast between his on-court and off-court behavior.
“I think the matches with Fernando and Roger were above all mental matches,” said Toni Nadal, his uncle and longtime coach. “Rafa had physical problems before the final but he managed to be motivated and never lost his concentration, even after losing the fourth set. That’s why he won.”
Federer was completely mental in that 5th set, that’s for sure.
Oz: The A-List
Who knows what the future will bring, but Nadal climbed one step higher in my mind on Sunday. He’s no longer tennis’ greatest overachiever. He’s no longer the kryptonite to Federer’s superman. He’s no longer just ranked No. 1. He’s the best.
This one was filled with stunning shots and points, but it was also filled with errors and exhaustion, and it was ultimately defined by failure. Most of all, it lacked the grandeur, and the dramatic third act, of their 2008 Wimbledon final. This was a sweaty, earth-bound edition. Rather than winding upward toward the conclusion, it unraveled.
I tend to agree. While I enjoyed the match tremendously, it just didn’t have the same feel to it that Wimbledon did. It was far more uneven.
Yesterday, Nadal issued Federer with his ultimate reality-check: Are you going to cowboy up, or just lay there and bleed to death?
“I love the competition, not only in tennis, but I love the competition in all aspects of life,” Nadal said. “When I compete I love to be there and fight always. Maybe I like more to fight for a win than to win.”
When I first saw Nadal play a few years ago, he was a kid with stringy black hair, a sneer on his lips, always dressed in a muscle shirt, and hitting the absolute stuffing out of the ball. “This guy’s a thug!” I thought, a tennis-playing Terminator — but of course nothing could be further from the truth. As I quickly learned, Nadal may very well be the nicest, sweetest, most generous tennis machine on the planet. He’s almost too nice. It’s hard to convince people that this is one of the great sport rivalries of all time when they spend more time hugging each other than trash talking.
You have no idea how much it cracks me up that the match was mentioned on motherjones.com.
Whereas it has seemed Rafa was physically living on the edge during the third set, the real truth was that Federer was emotionally on the brink throughout.
And that was clearly announced in the first game.
Roger Federer can pick the place, the time, the circumstance. He can take Rafael Nadal to the North Pole, dress him in a thin tuxedo, and allow him one serve. It doesn’t matter. Federer will still lose. In his mind, right now, he simply doesn’t believe he can beat the Spaniard.
Nadal’s appeal is the greater for the substance that underpins it. He shares with Federer a champion’s grace. Authenticity is re-inforced by genuine modesty. He took the trophy out of the hands of Laver, the player his uncle Tony keeps reminding him is the greatest of them all because of the two calendar grand slams he won.