Oh yes, FedEx just delivered this spiffy new Nike tennis jacket I ordered a couple of days ago from Midwest Sports. I don’t think I need to point out to Nadal fans that Rafael Nadal wore this jacket to a couple of tournaments this year (and probably still rocks it at home since it’s such an awesome combination of color and fit). For everyone else, the clue that gives this away is Rafa’s super cool insignia at bottom left symbolizing his mascot and nickname, “el matador.”
Keeping away from the barber, &c.
It turns out that cutting my hair is really just like trimming a bush. (I mean the type associated with lattices and gardens and domestic sceneries - you know, what horticulture studies as its object, pervert.) There is very little actual fuss once you get past your initial fear of screwing up and being stuck with a less than copacetic haircut for an unbearable period of time. I am proud to say that I have overcome said fear. Witness the evidence:
This is the result simply of running a pair of scissors through my hair, snipping insouciantly at whatever hairs seemed to me to be somewhere it didn’t belong. And, mind you, this wasn’t a minor trim job. Before I executed this attempt at cutting my own hair, I had something of a decently sized Asian ‘fro going on. So I’m happy to say that having experienced this kind of success on a maiden attempt, I won’t ever make special visits to a salon anymore.
That process—deciding when your hair was too long, but not too long so that bringing yourself to enter a salon wasn’t like being pilloried in medieval England for having committed some petty crime, making sure you had a picture of a haircut on another person, probably a celebrity, that somewhat captured how you wanted your hair cut, though not without laboring to find a way to give expression, in unmistakable terms, all the myriad idiosyncrasies unique to your pate and hair type that prevented a mere transference of that haircut—was always way too involved and enervating, and whoever cut my hair never got me what I wanted anyway.
In other news, I received new tennis shoes, the Nike Courtballistec 4.3s, in the mail today. These fierce kicks were worn by Rafael Nadal at Monte-Carlo, Madrid, and Rome just a couple of weeks ago. Behold.
A nice complement, I must say, to these two other pairs of likewise outrageously sexy Nike tennis shoes that I already own, and whose treads I have worn almost to nothingness:
Trust your summer has been going well for you. I am sure you know by now that Nadal has won the French Open…again. I am glad he did. This Slavic guy, in my view, was never that good. He just got lucky in winning the other three big tournaments.
My dad just sent me this awesome email. Obviously, I disagree with my dad’s view that Djokovic got lucky winning the “other three big tournaments,” if the implication is that he won all those Slams last year just because Nadal was having a bad day those times they played, or Djokovic all of a sudden made shots he usually didn’t make (he did, and did so with frightening regularity throughout most of last season).
But still, (a) I hadn’t known my dad likes Nadal (he knows Nadal’s my favorite player, however), and (b) I love that my dad references Djokovic as “this Slavic guy.” I wonder if he was thinking about Djokovic and his family’s smug histrionics when he wrote this. I have very little taste for them myself.
It makes you wonder, though, that if aforesaid histrionics have Slavic influences, then shouldn’t we not fault Djokovic for not being charmingly collected like Federer or respectfully ebullient like Nadal in going through his usual celebratory motions? I myself have resisted disliking Djokovic for this reason, since he is otherwise a quite likable guy.
Oh, and one cool revelation from this email: by coming out as a Rafa supporter, this makes it my dad, myself, and my mom a perfect three out of three people in my family who have an interest in tennis who have independently become members of Rafa’s fanbase. How do I know this? My dad and my mom divorced in 1999, and my mom yesterday evening texted me saying that she hopes Nadal wins.
Wow—whence this convergence? Maybe it’s our sinistrality?
For the third time at the French Open, Rafael Nadal has thwarted a player’s attempt to hold all four Grand Slams simultaneously for the first time since Rod Laver accomplished the feat in a true calendar year in 1969. With today’s triumph, Nadal in addition became the winningest French Open titlist in the history of the tournament, breaking a tie he previously held with Bjorn Borg, who won six French Open championships. Nadal has now won eleven majors, having turned 26 only eight days ago.
Honest-to-God reflections from Roger (Federer): an ode
Here’s some of Roger Federer’s ever voluble reflections following a big match against a big opponent, win or loss. In this case, he had just suffered a semifinals loss to world number one, Novak Djokovic, who will now face world number two Rafael Nadal.
I’m sure it’s going to be a good match. I have no idea what the conditions are going to be, if it’s going to be rainy or slow or fast. I mean, it’s never going to be fast here because this year the balls are very slow. (1) Yeah, my pick is not a surprising one. I obviously pick Rafa. I think he’s the overwhelming favorite.
…They’re going to play well, I can tell you, pressure or no pressure. They’re used to it. (2) Novak has more pressure because he’s never won here, I think. I was in the same situation twice for the four [Grand Slams] in a row. But Rafa has won six times here. Of course it would be great to win for a seventh time. (3) But Novak has never won the tournament, so who knows? Maybe luck will be on his side again. Well, Novak therefore will have more pressure, I think, which is quite normal, even though everybody thinks that Rafa is going to win. (4) I think Novak has more pressure on him. To be in this situation you have to win three Grand Slams in a row again, which is more difficult [than winning the same major seven times].
Interesting takeaways from this typical brutally honest Roger peroration, which I’ve cross-referenced with the relevant parts:
- Federer really likes Nadal to win the French Open, so much so that he obviously picks Nadal.
- Federer thinks Djokovic will be under immense pressure to win the French Open from personal experience. He knows it because he’s never won the French Open, and Federer had never won the French Open when he went for it in 2005 and 2006 against Rafael Nadal, both of which he lost.
- Federer suggests that he thinks Fortune has been in bed with Djokovic one too many times.
- Federer thinks that Djokovic’s crack at history, i.e., at winning the “Djoker Slam,” in other words, a non-calendar year Grand Slam cycle (which also in recent times has been variously known as the “Roger Slam” [2005 Wimbledon - 2006 Australian Open and 2006 Wimbledon - 2007 Australian Open] and the “Rafa Slam” [2010 French Open - 2011 Australian Open]), adds even more pressure to Djokovic’s attempt to win the French Open for the first time; winning the same major seven times is less difficult than winning four majors in a row, because if Novak fails this time, he will need to win three straight majors again.
I have some thoughts about all of these points.
In regards to (1), I think Federer’s right in thinking that his opinion that Rafa will win his fourth consecutive final matchup in a grand slam against Djokovic, having lost the previous three, is “unsurprising.” Rafa made David Ferrer, an arguably more experienced claycourt player than Djokovic despite not having himself advanced past the French Open semifinals, look silly out on the Parisian clay today, thrashing him 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. He has been broken just once in all of his service games in this year’s French Open thus far, and that occurred way back in the first round. Djokovic was broken by Federer, it seemed, almost every opportunity Federer got in the second round. Might these be signs of another Monte-Carlo beatdown for Djokovic? Things certainly seem to be looking up for Nadal’s own chance at history—becoming the only man to win the French Open seven times—even if he doesn’t raze Djokovic to the ground come Sunday.
In regards to (2)? Agreed. Though Federer’s argument is weak if it is making the point that Djokovic won't win because of it. Nadal was under immense pressure to break through at the Australian Open in 2009, and many thought he probably wouldn't ever win it. Until he did. (And against the Swiss maestro himself, no less!) The same was said in his 2010 US Open final against Novak. Until he beat Djokovic. And, obviously, however inevitable it seems, anything still can happen on Sunday. (Though let's remember that this is not women's tennis as it is today, where history seems to never provide good argumentative evidence.)
(3) Man, oh man. How great is it that Roger can just tell it straight, which he often does, without fearing that he’ll receive a tongue lashing for speaking his mind unlike Nadal, who many often insult as a “whiner” or openly criticize as a belligerent when he does the same? Last year, Federer controversially mouthed off that Djokovic’s memorable comeback victory against him at the US Open semis, in which Federer had held a two sets to none lead and double matchpoint on his own serve in the fifth set before being thwarted by some curveball hail mary stroke off the racquet of the perpetual stun-you-when-you’re obviously winning-and-I-am-obviously-hopeless comeback kid Djokovic, was unearned dividends. More seasoned (and, somewhat superciliously, he suggested, classy) players like himself would have dialed down their aggression in those do-or-die points, being on the brink of defeat, and let Roger euthanize them without drama.
Unfortunately, Djokovic has made this tennis equivalent of striking the lottery part of his reliable go-to bag of tricks to help bail him out of frequent disaster. Indeed, it’s pretty much helped him ascend to his current perch atop the ATP tour. So, with this pattern of ballsy play becoming something of a norm for Novak, is “going for broke,” as this type of play is often called in sports, fairly denigrated as “luck” for Djokovic, such that any come from behind win that he engineers on its back must be considered a fluke? Well, a little, yeah. But, as mentioned, Novak has been so good at going for broke in do or die moments that “going for broke” almost seems like a misnomer for him when he does win, or postpone defeat, on the basis of mustering up such shots. So even if Djokovic beats Nadal in Sunday’s final by going for broke by playing unexpected shots in key moments, I won’t consider it luck all the way.
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Federer is right in observing the rather annoying truth that Djokovic does seem to have come out the luckier in the vast majority of the many toss-up matches that he’s played in 2011 and this year, without which he probably would still be stuck with one dusty Grand Slam trophy from his then lone major victory, the 2008 Australian Open.
With respect to (4), I would disagree with Roger had he been speaking of a different Grand Slam, opponent, or era. But given that his own attempts in 2006 and 2007 at his version of what Djokovic is seeking to achieve now were foiled by the same guy, namely, Rafael Nadal, that the latter will need to overcome this Sunday in the last possible match, namely, the French Open final, I will happily concede this point to Roger.
I imagine all that hard work has to pay off this time, right? Nadal just doesn’t seem like the kind of guy, what with his superior athleticism (he won a point against Ferrer yesterday in an exciting rally after falling on his bum on an approach shot!) and incredible ball-retrieving skills to lose in four straight Grand Slam majors, and all of them to the same opponent about whom, as Giles Simon recently rather presciently remarked, and I paraphrase, it seemed illogical for Nadal to lose to eight straight times, since Djokovic wasn’t really that much better than Rafa. This was before the Monte-Carlo final, and we all remember how badly Rafa beat Djokovic to a pulp there.
Indeed, it seems to me that all those defeats Nadal suffered at the hands of Djokovic until he reversed the tide at Monte-Carlo are now as irrelevant as the five match win streak Nadal once had going on against Novak. We’re talking about two very different players now. Djokovic has looked very beatable this year. We saw the huge strides Rafa made even at his last defeat to Novak in the Australian Open final, in which he almost came back to win in five sets and six plus hours after Djokovic had a chance to simply hold serve to win the match in four sets. And, as if to prove that moment wasn’t simply an aberration, Nadal proceeded to beat Djokovic in convincing fashion in Monaco and in Italy, of which his victory in the latter was all the more impressive because he had served at a rather pedestrian (for him) 50~% rate, and Djokovic was evidently fighting to win there (unlike in Monte-Carlo, in which he admittedly seemed resigned to defeat after the first set).
Revisiting Simon’s comment today, it seems pretty safe to say that it probably needs a little revision. Now, many tennis pundits will probably think the statement “Rafa’s not that much better than Novak,” all things considered, more apt than the converse, pending how the rest of the season on the other surfaces pans out. This is because the path that Nadal’s taken since Rome at the French Open makes him the odds-on favorite to win it all Sunday. Nadal’s total of 35 games lost through six matches at a Grand Slam event is an achievement topped only by Bjorn Borg in the 1980 French Open, which he went on to win. He’s also held serve 71 times out of 72 service games, and saved 18 out of 19 break points, all inauspicious statistics for Djokovic, who’s probably already lost serve one too many times in just one match in this French Open campaign.
So thanks, Roger, for providing us fans of Rafa with these unvarnished meditations and the authority of the all-time winningest Grand Slams leader with which to give them weight. I hope that Rafa proves you right come Sunday!
His (i.e., Juan Monaco’s) average games won of 1.4 per set against Nadal on clay courts is in grave danger of going down.