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Tennis Rivarly - a must read.

06-12-2006, 11:00 PM
Column: Roger & Rafa a Grand Rivalry
1:53 PM PDT, June 12, 2006

PARIS -- Longing for the days of McEnroe vs. Connors? How about McEnroe vs. Borg? Sampras vs. Agassi?

Men's tennis has been lacking a buzz-worthy duel in recent years, and No. 1-ranked Roger Federer vs. No. 2 Rafael Nadal has most of the makings of just such a matchup.

"There's a great rivalry going," said Federer's coach, Tony Roche. "That's great for tennis."

Well, not so fast.

Here's one apparent problem: One guy keeps winning (Nadal holds a 6-1 head-to-head edge after Sunday's French Open final).

Here's the real problem: They've played each other at one Grand Slam tournament so far, the French Open.

That's not to say that, over time, Roger and Rafa can't eventually turn their showdowns into something that matters in the mainstream. They present contrasting personalities and styles of play, and they've separated themselves from the pack.

But in the United States, particularly, tennis draws the most attention when it's played on the green lawns of the All England Club or before the celebrity-stocked crowds at Flushing Meadows. Wimbledon and the U.S. Open just mean more to most casual fans, and it's that latter group that needs to become interested for a rivalry to really register.

Those are the stages where it has to happen. And it has to happen in finals, with a major title at stake. That's what gets everyone excited.

No one says, "Hey, remember Andre Agassi's 1992 French Open quarterfinal victory over Pete Sampras?" People do talk about Agassi-Sampras in the 2001 U.S. Open quarterfinals, though, a four-tiebreaker thriller under the lights. And, of course, their meeting in the U.S. Open final the following year, when Sampras won his 14th Grand Slam championship in what turned out to be the last match of his career.

Those two played 34 times as pros, and the significance of their rivalry isn't diminished by the fact that Sampras held a 20-14 edge, including 4-1 in major finals. What's key is that they played four times for the Wimbledon or U.S. Open title.

Similarly, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg met four times with one of those trophies on the line. It helps, too, that they produced one of tennis' seminal moments: the 1980 Wimbledon final, with an 18-16 tiebreaker in the fourth set and an 8-6 fifth set.

Few might remember that Jimmy Connors won six of his first seven matches against McEnroe (Roger, take note: McEnroe wound up with a 21-14 advantage). What counts is that they met twice in the Wimbledon final.

Perhaps Nadal knows all of this.

He says he wants to improve on grass and figure out how to translate his game to the slick surface. And while he lost in the second round last year at Wimbledon, it's important to remember that in 2003, at age 17, he became the youngest player to reach the third round there since 16-year-old Boris Becker in 1984.

There's a stronger chance, it seems, that Nadal becomes a factor at the U.S. Open; two of his wins over Federer came on hard courts.

Not too long ago, it looked as though Federer and Andy Roddick might develop a rivalry to generate interest and higher TV ratings. They faced each other three straight years at Wimbledon, first in the semifinals, then in consecutive finals.

Federer won all of those contests, and it's instructive to remember what Roddick said after the two finals at the All England Club.

In 2004, after falling to 1-6 against the Swiss star, Roddick said: "I'm going to have to start winning some of them to call it a rivalry."

And in 2005, after his mark against Federer fell to 1-9, Roddick said: "I want another crack at him 'til my record is 1-31."

Federer isn't so quick to acknowledge that Nadal's got his number.

After dropping to 0-4 against the Spaniard in 2006 -- remember, Federer is 44-0 against everyone else -- the French Open runner-up gave the French Open champion credit for outplaying him. But Federer also explained that he thinks Nadal doesn't produce sublime tennis "where you have absolutely no chance. With me and maybe other players, like (Marat) Safin, Roddick, it's different. We can play a much higher level."

Nadal, Federer also said Sunday, is "tough to beat, but he's not impossible to beat. That's a big difference. Otherwise, we wouldn't have to play."

Here's hoping they do keep playing, on the biggest stages, for the biggest stakes.

* __

Howard Fendrich covers tennis for The Associated Press. Write to him at hfendrich(at)

06-12-2006, 11:08 PM
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
After losing 6 of 7, is Roger the true No.1?
By John Pages

He won three of the last four tennis majors. He snapped 27 straight Grand-Slam matches, a streak better than Pete Sampras’ or Jimmy Connors’. Last year, he captured 80-of-84 matches and this year, 44-of-48. Combined, that’s 124 wins out of 132 for a whopping 94 winning percentage.

Amazing! (I’m sure fellow topnotcher Tiger Woods is nowhere near that mark.) His ATP ranking points? It stands at 7,035, one of the highest any player has reached. Ever. Only 24-years-old, he’s labeled as “the player with no weaknesses,” “the most talented man ever to wield a racket” and “the best ever.”

He, of course, is Roger Federer.

Yet the question remains: After losing the French Open final, after being left puzzled and head-scratching in defeat to Rafael Nadal, after losing six of their seven matches (including all four this year), is Roger Federer still deserving of the world No.1 ranking?

My answer: No, not on clay. What is it about clay?

In tennis, there exist three surfaces: grass, hard court and clay. Two weeks from today, your eyes will once more be glued to the TV set watching Wimbledon. That’s grass. It’s green, slippery, fast. Very fast. Remember Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic and Sampras? Remember their serves? Bullet serves and pinpoint volleys win on grass.

Hard court? Most events year round are on this surface, including the Australian and US Opens. It’s fast, yet not as fast as grass. Call it the not-so-fast, not-so-slow neutral court.

Clay? Call it slow. Very slow. When you hit a shot, the ball doesn’t skid like grass or jump like a hard court. It slows…down. That’s why a 100-meter sprinter like Nadal can run after a shot (that would have been a winner elsewhere) and retrieve it. To win on clay, you have to be a wall. And Rafa is a very muscular wall. Consider the unforced errors: Nadal had 28, while Federer had 51, almost double the mistakes. Topspin, endurance, mental strength and a pair of cheetah’s legs win on clay, and that spells five letters: Nadal.

Back to the question: Is Roger No.1?

Nadal, when asked about it, answered, “I can’t say I’m better than him. Since I was born, I’ve never seen a more complete player. He’s the best.”

Bilib ko. Talk about humility. This is what I like about the 20-year-old from Mallorca, Spain. Though he fist-pumps like Lleyton Hewitt, he doesn’t shout “C’mon!” and stare at you with dagger eyes. After a magical shot, Nadal pumps his left arm, skips on one leg, and shouts “Vamos!” while keeping it all to himself. He’s not hambog.

That’s why I rooted for Nadal. Many of my friends did not.

Jourdan Polotan, my fellow Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) member and an avid badminton player, sent me several text messages which read: “Roger has a lot of class. He’s good yet respectful… Rafa would be a souped-up drag racer, while Roger an exotic sports car…The only thing I don’t like about Rafa are his pants and the “ku-ot lubot” part of his routine…Roger has to hit the weights room. Or else the Kryptonite will always work against him.”

Gerry Malixi, a fellow Lasallite, said, “Normally, I like the guy playing against Federer but this time, since he’s lost three straight, I’ll root for him…What a game! Federer will hit back on grass at the end of the month.”

Macky Michael, probably the best golfer-and-tennis-player in Cebu, said, “Cheering for Roger. Going for his fourth major in a row…I hope he attacks the net, if not he will get killed. Nadal will win in four sets, I think.” Macky, as always, was correct.

Fabby Borromeo was the lone exception. “I’m for Nadal,” he said. “He is very strong mentally and physically. I love his never-say-die attitude. After Pete (Sampras) and Andre (Agassi), we now have Rafa and Roger.” Well said, Fab.

Consider this: The world’s No.1 and No.2 players won all the Grand Slam and Masters Series events this 2006. As tennis fans, what more can we ask? Perhaps, a Wimbledon final?

Will I bet on Roger? As I’d answer on a walkie-talkie – “Roger on that!”


06-14-2006, 07:16 AM
thanks angiel :wavey: , i don't think roger vs nadal is the real tennis rivarly at the moment, coz as we know, nadal used to beat roger on clay, but roger will beat nadal badly on grass, they have to make it more even to say it a rivlary :p

06-14-2006, 11:19 PM
thanks angiel :wavey: , i don't think roger vs nadal is the real tennis rivarly at the moment, coz as we know, nadal used to beat roger on clay, but roger will beat nadal badly on grass, they have to make it more even to say it a rivlary :p

Yes, I guess we will have to wait for part 8 of Roger & Nadal, coming up. :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: