It’s that time of the year – every writer/blogger wants to put a cap on the year and let you know what they thought of it. It’s even worse this year because we are also closing out a decade. I already posted a few of these as separate posts, but realizing just how dang many of them there will be, I give up and will post a few here and you guys can post more you come across in the comments. Sound like a plan?
Killing Him – by Steve Tignor
Tignor’s article on the 09 AO final is wonderful as usual. He gets Rafa’s game and does so without taking away from the game of his opponent.
—The revelation, though, is Nadal. Is this the same guy who finished the season in such tame and dispirited fashion? Here he’s up on the baseline, pushing Federer off the center hash mark, outfoxing and out-varying him with drop shots, on-the-run reflex winners, and short-angle volleys, and playing with that famous determined kick in his walk and snarl on his lip. He’s also changing directions with both strokes much more often than I recall. The biggest difference, though, is that Nadal’s backhand is a weapon. I haven’t seen that full-swing, up on his toes, sharp crosscourt two-hander in months. I seem to remember he tried it when he had a break point in the final game of the Madrid final against Federer and missed it wide. (I remember it because I’ve never felt the air go out of a building the way it did when the ball landed in the alley.) Did he make that shot again in 2009?
Sadly, I’m not sure if he did.
—These were also the days when Nadal was routinely outplaying and outhitting Federer when it mattered most. Look at the point he constructs on set point at 6-5 in the first set. Nothing defensive about that. Even better, look at the rally he constructs on what would prove to be the most important point of the match, at 5-3 in the third-set tiebreaker. For most of these five sets, he stood at the center of the court and hit his forehand forcefully but safely crosscourt, to a spot just behind the service line and well within the sidelines. The fact that he can tilt the rallies this way and dictate them without much risk has always been the fundamental reason he owns a 13-7 record against Federer. But at 5-3, when he knew that a winning point would put him in position to take a two-set-to-one lead, but that a losing point would still leave him ahead 5-4, he moved his forehand target all the way to the sideline. Nadal hit that spot, made a rare dash to the net, and angled away a backhand volley. The set was his, and the lead was too much for Federer to overcome. For anyone who still thinks Nadal is “one-dimensional,” realize that he’s one-dimensional by choice. When he senses the right moment to do more, the resources are there and the surprise factor is built-in.
…when he’s feeling confident. He can’t seem to trust those other dimensions when not. Let’s hope they come back with a vengeance in 2010.
Top 10 Records & Achievements Of The Decade – ATP Staff
3. Rafael Nadal’s four consecutive Roland Garros titles is a stunning feat. The Spaniard won on debut in 2005 and won 31 consecutive matches before big-hitting Swede Robin Soderling upset him in a fourth-set tie-break in the fourth round this year.
5. Rafael Nadal became the first man since Bjorn Borg 28 years before him to claim the elusive Roland Garros-Wimbledon double in 2008. (Federer repeated the feat in 2009). In a banner year Nadal also won Olympic gold that season.
8. Rafael Nadal’s imposing clay-court streak during the decade was breathtaking. Nadal, who owns a 181-16 career win-loss record on clay, won more than 11 matches for each one he lost on the surface. He amassed an 81-match winning streak between 2005-07. His record in best-of-five-set matches on clay is 49-1 and he has won 24 of 26 finals on the surface.
10. Rafael Nadal‘s record at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments is astonishing. Before turning 23 in June, Nadal had won 15 of the ATP World Tour’s premier tournaments between 2005-09. He trails Federer by just one and all-time leader Agassi by two titles. (Agassi won his record 17th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title as a 34 year old.)
And in the Honorable Mentions section:
Rafael Nadal reaching 400 match wins faster than any other active player is worthy of note. Nadal reached his 400th win from 491 matches, topping Federer and Hewitt, who both needed 520 matches to register their 400th wins.
Sizzling Stats Of The Decade – by the ATP Staff
Most Match Wins In A Season
92, Roger Federer, 2006
82, Rafael Nadal, 2008
81, Roger Federer, 2005
80, Lleyton Hewitt, 2001
79, Rafael Nadal, 2005
Most Titles In A Season
12, Roger Federer, 2006
11, Roger Federer, 2005
11, Rafael Nadal, 2005
11, Roger Federer, 2004
8, Rafael Nadal, 2008
After looking at those lists, I have one question – did anyone other than Rafa and Fed win anything in 2005?