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Old 06-22-2006, 11:20 PM   #10
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Default Re: Sorry players' interviews. Death of Tennis Mourning Thread.

1 of the few articles that didn't call Nadal a one-surface wonder.
1000s of players aren't inspired by Nadal, the 1 player with the
strength to win another Slam?

Andy can barely open his eyes. You won't be seeing Ljubicic and Hewitt with 2006 Slam trophies.

Has Nadal Conquered Federer?

By Scoop Malinowski
TennisWeek
06/21/2006

What is Roger Federer feeling now? Has he been wounded psychologically? Could all these defeats at the hands of the mighty Rafael Nadal be inflicting some kind of permanent damage? The Spaniard has won six out of seven from Federer and actually it could have very easily been a perfect seven had he not blown a two sets and a break lead in the Key Biscayne final last year.

Odd things happen sometimes when the great champion loses his confidence. Bjorn Borg lost the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals to John McEnroe in 1981 and his psyche suffered so much by those those failures that he suddenly left the game at age 26. Lennox Lewis was losing a viciously violent fight to Vitali Klitschko in 2003, but luckily won when the referee controversially stopped it after round six because of Klitschko's cuts. Lewis, who had earlier stated a goal of three more fights, never fought again, turning down offers of $20 million for a rematch. It was evident Lewis was unsure if he was the best anymore.

In individual sports, when the great champion questions himself in his own mind ?Am I still the best? ? it is the beginning of the end. All of the contenders sense the vulnerability and begin to plot their moves. We have witnessed the demises of many champion boxers and tennis players, such as Marvin Hagler, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones, Martina Hingis, Serena Williams and Mike Tyson, to name a few.

Nadal seems supremely confident he will dethrone Federer, and the process apparently is underway before our eyes.

"He is the best player in the world. The most complete player I have seen in my life," Nadal says. "But he can't keep playing like this forever.""

It's debatable right now if Federer is actually even the best player in the world ?he's not even the best player on the court when he stares across the net at the clay-court conquistador who has had his number so often it's the tennis equivalent of speed dial.

When he enters into a tournament now, the people are buzzing about Nadal. Roger may have the ranking points, but Nadal clearly is his superior. Just as it took one man, Buster Douglas, to overthrow Tyson as the king, maybe Nadal is the man who will befall Federer. As unbelievable as it sounds, Nadal may ruin the spectacular reign of Federer.

I believe Nadal may have destroyed the career of Guillermo Coria. We know Coria was devastated by that weird loss to Gaston Gaudio in the 2004 French Open final. It is suspected Coria's possible use of injury gamesmanship during that match backfired and may have cost him the Grand Slam victory. But last year, Coria was still a major force on clay, until he lost that five-hour, fifth set tiebreak marathon to Nadal in Rome, ultimately enduring a heart-breaking 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6) defeat.

Coria has never been the same since that moment and his career has tumbled into crisis. Perhaps Coria has come to believe in his own mind he will never be able to overcome Nadal, and that he foolishly squandered his one and only chance to win Roland Garros. And thus, without the fuel of hope to inspire him, he is a lost man on the court. A man without hope is a man...

You have to wonder at this point if Federer possesses the confidence, passion and the strength to defy this rampaging Spanish bull. We know Nadal has hopes. We know Nadal believes and is now aiming to show he can win on the grass at Wimbledon and that he can attain number one. And if the young phenomenon truly believes he can achieve those accomplishments, Mr. Federer may soon have plenty more problems to deal with. It's all been so marvelously clever the way Nadal has treated the subject of Federer. With nothing but gracious respect the 20-year-old only speaks kind words of his adversary.

"Everyone knows I like Roger," he says. From Nadal, there is never any criticism, truculence or even a hint of any malice towards Roger. Federer, on the other hand, has shown glimpses of irritation at Nadal. This year he accused Nadal's coach, uncle Toni Nadal, of illegally coaching from his box. He called Nadal's game "one-dimensional" before this year's defeat at Monte Carlo.

Last year at the French Open, Federer seemed slightly annoyed when reporters told him that Nadal said there was "no favorite" to win Roland Garros. "That's an interesting way to put pressure on people," said Federer. "It's clever. He's not stupid. I think there are a number of favorites here, and he knows well who they are."

In the aftermath of Nadal's victory over Federer in the French Open final, the Swiss stylist issued a subtle slight at Nadal by calling him "a grinder" immediately after the match.

Let's be blunt now, Nadal has pushed Federer around for 14 months and so far the Swiss gentleman has had no answers, no effective counterattacks. The ruthless bullying on the court just continues on. It's an intriguing clash of wills between the two strongest tennis players on earth today, a compelling drama with many chapters to read in the future. What ideas will Federer devise on how to halt this domination at the hands of Nadal? What can Roger do to circumvent his failings in the psychological warfare department? Is Nadal much smarter than his young age would suggest? Is he actually more intelligent than Federer is on court, using that higher tennis IQ to be able to outplay him five consecutive matches? Has Federer been intimidated by the intensity and fury of his powerful rival?

The greatness of Roger Federer has been tested, it has been questioned. The answers must come soon. Another possibility in this fascinating battle is that there is ample hope for Federer. Assuming, of course, that Nadal has not broken his spirit, Roger may actually become stronger from these defeats. Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis was unexpectedly knocked out twice in his career. Imagine being knocked out with one punch in front of the world. Imagine the difficulty of trying to regain confidence to absorb a punch. Then you have to recover your status while discouraging all the eager attackers. In an awesome display of courage and perseverance, Lewis actually came back a better, smarter and more complete fighter and is now regarded as one of the best in history.

The same agony was suffered by Federer's personal friend, the 1996 Olympic gold medallist Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine (the two met last year at an award show in Europe and became friends, Klitschko told me). Klitschko was the heir apparent to Lewis, until he was devastatingly knocked out twice by Corrie Sanders in 2003 and Lamon Brewster in 2004. But Klitschko maintained that, despite the horror of those humiliating losses, he never lost confidence in himself. He figured out why he lost, fixed the errors and resumed his lifelong ambition. And Klitschko has succeeded to this point, by impressively defeating the hardest knockout puncher in the world last September, Samuel Peter of Nigeria, and Chris Byrd this past April to win the IBF Heavyweight title. Klitschko, age 30, considers his failures in the ring to be valuable learning experiences and actually believes he needed them to make him a complete fighter.

"I needed to experience losing to become a champion," said Klitschko. "I never lost my confidence. I am complete fighter right now. Experience ?you cannot buy in the shop. You have to gain it with your own skin and your own body with your own mind and through the time. Experience which people are making and they have to learn from those experiences. And they have to get better."

Klitschko, written off by most of the experts as lacking resilience and a strong jaw just a few years ago, proved his heart and mind were much stronger than anyone imagined. And he now appears poised to dominate the heavyweight division for several years.

No one knows how Federer will come back from his setbacks, maybe not even Roger Federer himself.

The decision is his to make. Or is it Rafael Nadal's.
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