The Rafa Rules

I was getting ready to post Steve Tignor’s new article when I got a message from kefuoe about it and how wonderful it was. So, I asked her if she’d care to write about since I often get tired of hearing myself type. Here are her thoughts on The Rafa Rules. Thanks, kefuoe!

(Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

I was looking for a small piece of tennis information today and thought it might be found on the forums of (I was curious about why Sampras doesn’t have more Master’s Series shields). It can be a bit of a slog to go through those forums given the sheer volume of commentors, but also because of the amount of, let’s say, passion, that the commentors bring to the site. Anyway, I left the site with my question unanswered and a renewed vow not to visit there anymore. I was most aggravated by Ed McGrogan’s analysis of why discussing Nadal’s fifth Roland Garros victory is premature. Aside from the fact that I don’t know of anyone who is saying that a victory is a given, I felt that there were some basic logic flaws (e.g., comparing Federer’s difficulties in defending a 5th consecutive slam to Nadal’s with the players having two very different years and at two very different points in their careers). The slightly less than humorous part of it is that Nadal was meant to be “Grogan’s Hero” this week!

Anyway, when Steve Tignor sent out a tweet announcing his new “Concrete Elbow” post entitled, “The Rafa Rules” I headed back to the site. What a fantastic piece! Tignor writes very specifically about Rafa’s game, and what even casual players like me can take away from it. What struck me the most however, was a sentence early in the piece that is revisited later:

After getting to know Nadal a little better, most of us have come to realize that his exhortations are just that: self-directed, self-generated energy boosts, reminders to himself to keep his desire to win, rather than his anxiety about losing, uppermost in his mind.

Later, he writes,

Nadal approaches each match as if winning it is a new goal line to cross, rather than something to be afraid of losing.

These two sentences felt like a revelation to me. That’s what just hasn’t rung true in all this talk about streaks and pressure and even GOAT status. It all harkens back to creating a fear of losing, of stopping the streak, of not making history, and that has never seemed like Nadal’s approach. He has held on to a desire to win (and the joy in winning), and has rejected a fear of losing. Tignor’s pieces on Nadal have all be great, but I particularly enjoyed the new insights in this one.

9 Responses

  1. sG says:

    I just came over to see if Nadal News had picked up on Tignor’s piece. It is a stellar piece of work, very insightful and practical. He has a great way of bringing the mechanics of the game down to a graspable level.

    I’m with you on Grogan’s ATP hero piece being a bit gloom and doom. While I do at times read too many “but of course [Rafa] will win RG!” comments (mostly on, I didn’t think the ATP hero section was the place for deflating a fan expectations. I *thought* it was where a player(s) was celebrated for his, her or their accomplishments over the last tournament cycle. If he wanted to add a notation about overreaching expectations, okay, but everything except the first paragraph seemed to be about how he’ll probably start losing like Fed now. Steve’s piece more than made up for the sour taste Ed’s left in my mouth.

  2. somarem says:

    thanks for the highlights. what browser do you use for I find it hard to read the articles there as it always freezes my browser.

  3. naaz says:

    i checked out the site and found a new post by Peter Bodo ‘Pebble in the Shoe’ giving his perspective on Rafa & Rogers rivalry. Check it out –

  4. patzin says:

    I’ve read both articles – thanks for the links. Both are heady articles, very insightful. I like these two guys. Food for thought as usual.

  5. strobi says:

    I liked the Tignor piece better, because with Bodo is always “how to beat Rafa” at the end. All the speculation about Rafa dropping out of Madrid and how Federer could use it as his major comeback, etc, is getting kind of boring. To me it seems as if Bodo didn’t watch the last three tournaments at all, he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that Rafa won three tounaments in three weeks and that he beat no. 3 and 4 on the way (players who are actually no.2 and 3 this season). Why people still argue on how can Federer win RG is beyond me, since he hasn’t made a final since Australia. Is much more likely that Rafa could meet Djokovic in the final (if the draw allows it) than Federer could make it past all the hurdles he could have. Let’s not forget that this year it was not Rafa the one to stop Federer from winning on clay, it was Wawrinka and Djokovic.

    • johanne says:

      I totally agree. Bodo gets under my skin because of all that you’ve said. He can’t talk about tennis without talking about Federer and how Rafa has “f*cked everything up for him” or some other b.s. like that. Sorry. It pisses me off!

      • Nada H. T says:

        I agree with you Johanne .

        Bodo’s words are like poison covered with sugar

        he can not ignore Rafa’s success but at the same time he turns it

        into a negative thing that affected Roger.

  6. eric says:

    FYI, Ed Grogan is a self-confessed Federer fan.

    His predictions of Rafa succumbing to pressure of defending his multiple RG titles are wishful thinking.

    Moreover, these are talking points taken over from Federer himself. See his latest in-depth BBC interview, where he speculates Rafa might feel the pressure now (a Freudian projection if ever there was one – he actually reveals HE succumbed to that pressure).

    • dutchgirl says:

      I think Federer is getting a bit pathetic about all the reasons he brings on for losing. It always seems to be someone else’s fault.