Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Somewhere fairly shingly
Re: New challengers at the top of men's tennis? not from this batch.
Well, give it some time - two years ago I vividly remember all the articles about how the New Balls would never live up to their potential, how they were completely failing to deliver at the Slams, and I just thought to myself: For heaven's sake, GIVE THEM TIME. And lo and behold, six months later Ferrero, Federer and Roddick had all won their debut Slams, at the events that they most wanted to win. Journalists were writing them off at the ages of 21/22, Nadal and Berdych are still teenagers and Aussie Pim has only just made his tour breakthrough.
I did find Wertheim's prediction that Nadal would finish this year in the Top 5 patently absurd - has he seen who's in the current Top 5? - but a few weeks ago I doubted whether he would finish anywhere near the Top 20 given his injury problems and reduced effectiveness on hardcourts, and lo and behold he wins two straight clay tournaments and is suddenly back in the Top 30. No doubt he needs better hardcourt results to ever be a top player, and that serve needs major improvement, but I think he has both the ground game and the belief to make it to the top.
Berdych is suffering from second-year syndrome at the moment, after his emergence in the summer of last year and a Top 50 ranking based on three good tournaments (an Olympic QF, a US Open 4th round and a debut title in Palermo). I've still barely seen him play, but it looks to me as though he has an accurate serve, heavy groundstrokes and strong returns, which undoubtedly would have been the key to beating Federer last year no matter how badly the latter was playing in that match.
Aussie Pim is no use on clay and seemingly never will be, if his performance in the DC against Mathieu is any indication, but there's a recent historical precedent for players who are hopeless on slower surfaces making it to the top. He shouldn't be judged entirely on that match with Agassi at the AO, yes he is a power player but he was suffering from an injury going into that match which is why he adopted that Gonzalez-like tactic of trying to slam every ball for an instant winner. I certainly hope he isn't the man who proves a consistent threat to Federer, just because his game is so one-dimensional, but two titles already this year suggests that he is going to produce something big at the events that count.
The Wit and Wisdom of the Tennis Journalist, Indian Wells 2004
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I remember this one time when I went on a vacation on the Maldives. That was in the year 2001, I think. I went to this spa. I went to walk around with my girlfriend. I walk in, and we want to book a spa. This guy goes, "AHH, I remember you. You beat Sampras. I saw you on TV." That was like, really, how can you remember me? This guy has probably never been off his island and still knows me. I was a little bit shocked. Then I went to play tennis with him because he was actually the tennis teacher. It was nice.
Q. Were you naked at the time in the spa?
ROGER FEDERER: No. It was at the front desk. I didn't walk in naked.