Tignor’s Rome preview

Once again, Steve Tignor takes a stab at predicting while throwing in a lot of Rafa-love for good measure.

The Rafa-love part:

But that’s the thing about Nadal. Within his seemingly regimented—“one-dimensional”—game, he rarely fails to come up with something unexpected, something you haven’t quite seen even after watching him hundreds of times. Against Ferrer it was Nadal’s down-the-line forehand that looked new to me. He routinely cut off the angle on his opponent’s crosscourt backhand near the service line and, without stopping to set up in any conventional sense, drilled his forehand into the corner for an easy winner. I associate this “running through the ball” style of transition attack with Roger Federer, not with Nadal, but the Spaniard had the confidence yesterday to throw all grind-it-out caution to the wind.

That said, there’s one other notable aspect about Nadal that continues to stick out this clay season: Even while he’s doing something unprecedented, and even while he can appear for long periods to be utterly invincible, he remains human on the court. That is, he remains subject to anxieties, dry spells, inexplicable shanks, and even the occasional tactical blunder. After winning the first set over Ferrer pretty much at will, Nadal’s level dropped in the second, and more than a few shots flew wildly off his frame. John McEnroe once said of Federer at his peak that he screwed up just enough to let you know he was human, before rising to the occasion and becoming infallible again. This combination made Federer even more impressive than if he’d been perfect all the way through. If anything, I’ve always felt this was even truer of Nadal: He lets you know that winning is work, and that one missed shot here or there—Ferrer nearly reached set point on Nadal’s serve in the second—is all it would take for him to end up on the losing side of any given day. As with Federer once upon a time, this only makes the fact that Nadal doesn’t lose those key points that much more impressive.

Given Rafa’s usually stern match-face, I’m not sure the casual viewer would notice his human vulnerabilities. But, let’s face it, the casual viewer would not be tuning into the Tennis Channel to watch a tape delay of the Barcelona final here in the US. I don’t know what kind of coverage the event had in the rest of the world, but here it was awful.

I agree with the idea that Rafa makes his accomplishments seem like “that much more” because he wears his human vulnerabilities just under his new sleeves. They may not be right out in the open for the casual viewer to see when he’s on court, but they are there for those who follow the game ardently to sneak a peek at whenever they want.

For the prediction part:

Semifinals: Nadal d. Davydenko; Djokovic d. Ferrer

Final: Nadal d. Djokovic

(Thanks for the heads up, johanne)

4 Responses

  1. johanne says:

    You can tell Tignor has a lot of respect for Rafa and his game. He even seems a little in awe of him at times. I like it :)

    Also enjoyed the “death, taxes, and Nadal on clay” bit. HA.

  2. kalliopeia says:

    I agree completely with what Tignor says. Rafa always seems to be working so hard, even if he isn’t. To me, that makes me root for him. He’s almost like the Rocky Balboa of the tennis world (only Rafa’s english is better). As awesome as he is on clay, you still sort of get that feeling of “WHEW!” because he always seems on the edge. I never saw that of Federer, whatever McEnroe says. And because of that he never managed to engage me when I watched him.

    • tiemyshoe says:

      Yuppers. Tigor just gets it. I like watching athletes who look like they’re playing a difficult sport and going to their physical limits, not performing a piccolo* recital in front of their adoring masses. Those “Shhh, Genius at Work” signs people hold up for Federer … bleccch, VOM. Why not go work as a museum security guard if that’s how ya feel?

      Speaking of English, for some reason I only recently heard Ferru speak English (in a vid where he’s playing with lion cubs in South Africa – awwww!), and I gotta say, his English sucks muuuuch worse than Rafa’s. The accent is crazy! Still cute though.

      *I dunno. Random.

  3. faecoleman says:

    I always love reading Steve Tignors articles on Rafa, he admires him so much, and I agree I too never felt that unexpected feeling with Federer, up and til now of course, he always made matches seem light work, with Rafa you almost always get a thrilling display as he bring s so much excitement and passion to the court, he’s soo expressive about his winning points, thats what draws his fans to him like a magnet, what makes him unique and special, after all when you look back at some of his matches, this year e.g with Verdasco @ A/O and Nalbandian @ indian /wells does any other player go through so much drama? No not really, he keeps the game alive and what the fans want to see, a true legend in the making!