Tag Archives: Rafael Nadal

WIMBLEDON: That Wasn’t an End for Roger Federer. It was the Start of his Agassi Phase

 

We are too fast to bring in the next generation, and now, in the case of Roger Federer, too quick to kick out the old.

So many people have characterized Federer’s five-set loss to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final Sunday as his last, best chance. I have something to say about that:

No. Way. Where most people saw the end for Federer, I saw a beginning. Federer is now moving into what I’ll call the Agassi Phase of his career. The Agassi Phase is a time when someone finds another gear, another avenue, another strategy and another wind beyond the time when age says it’s possible. Andre Agassi did it, re-inventing himself and reaching the U.S. Open final when he was 35, when his back was such a mess and his legs so beaten down that it looked like he was tripping over the paint on the baseline while trying to run down a forehand. Agassi crowded the baseline and cut off all angles so he wouldn’t have to run much.

A prediction: Federer, who is 32, will now be among the handful of top favorites again at the majors for another two years, and an outside favorite for another year after that. Last year, he never had a shot.

Welcome back to the top of the mountain, new old Roger. Or, old new Roger. Whichever.

Federer’s re-invention didn’t involve duct-taping broken parts back together, the way Agassi had to do it. Federer can still run just fine, though not as fast as he used to. In the fifth set Sunday, Federer was in better physical condition than Djokovic, who’s 27. Federer’s body is also in better shape than the 20-something bodies of Rafael Nadal (sore back, lost a step), and Andy Murray (back surgery).

It’s about making changes and adjusting to realities. As of 10 months ago, I didn’t think Federer had it in him. Oh, he had the skills, but I thought he was too stubborn to

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AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Stan Wawrinka Breaks Through the Big 4, Beats Rafael Nadal. His Victory in the Process of Getting There

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Stan Wawrinka wins the Australian Open Sunday

The message of Stan Wawrinka and his incredible win at the Australian Open Sunday over Rafael Nadal, a few days after his incredible win over Novak Djokovic, has been twisted a little. Simplified. Confused.

The quote Wawrinka had tattooed on his arm, is not akin to “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’’ It’s bigger than that. Wawrinka’s tattoo, from Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, says this:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’’

That is not about continuing to try until you have success. It is about redefining success, finding it in the nobility of simply trying and trying no matter how many times you fail. It’s not about trying until you succeed, but rather about finding success in the effort.

It tennis terms, it was a way of keeping sanity in a world of Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. It is such a great example of a blue-collar mentality and a look into what it’s like to be a top tennis player dealing with the sport’s historically incredible Big Four.

“Before today, I always (was) saying that except Roger, Rafa, Novak, you always lose, especially every week,’’ Wawrinka said Sunday after beating Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to break up the Big Four’s stranglehold on major championships and win his first major. “So it’s not easy because tennis life, when you lose, it’s tough to get through and to take a positive from a loss, from failing from a tournament.

“That’s how I see, in general, my career.’’

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Wawrinka’s tattoo where he can always see it while playing

The Big Four had won 34 of the previous 35 majors, going back to 2005. The string was broken only by Juan Martin del Potro’s 2009 U.S. Open win. But at the time, del Potro seemed a likely candidate to join the top group. If not for wrist injuries, maybe he would have. But he’s healthy now, and still can’t quite get back.

Wawrinka didn’t seem like the guy to break through. He was destined to be the guy Djokovic beat in a classic five sets at last year’s Australian Open, and then again at the U.S. Open.

He was The Other Guy in the picture of greatness. He was good enough to get into that picture, though, which maybe made it more frustrating. He found comfort in the Beckett quote, which he thought about for years, but didn’t have tattooed on his arm until last year.

Wawrinka said Sunday that he never believed he could win a major until after he had actually done it.

The success was in the courage it took him to keep getting up and fighting after crushing and inevitable losses to the greats. The Australian Open? That was just a bonus.

Wawrinka was 0-14 against Djokovic, 0-12 against Nadal. He’d never even taken a set off Nadal. Being from Switzerland, Wawrinka also spent his career in the shadow of his friend, Roger Federer.

Now, Wawrinka moves to No. 3 in the rankings, ahead of Murray and Federer.

But the beauty of Wawrinka’s story is in the process, the failing that led to this. We love to celebrate the blue collar guy in sports, connecting him to ourselves, and to a belief that it’s possible to break through the ceiling.

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AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Reality check for Federer. Crushed by Nadal, but Oz was Great Start to Reinventing Self

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Reality is reality and facts are facts. But the reality and facts of Rafael Nadal’s easy win over Roger Federer Friday in the Australian Open semifinal are based solely on what you expected.

What I mean is this: If people expected Federer to beat Nadal, then they really haven’t been paying attention lately. He was never going to win this match. Cold reality is that Nadal is far better now than Federer.

But the fact is this: These past two weeks have been a massive success for the reality of Roger Federer.

Jack Nicklaus used to say that he never wanted to be a ceremonial golfer, that he was there to win. Without changes, Federer was going to be just for show by the end of this year. He might not have been in the top 20.

Instead, at 32, he has already not only taken the first steps, but also placed himself back in position to win majors again.

Please read the rest of the column here

 


WIMBLEDON: A Year Like no Other. Wimby Defined by @DreddyTennis

 

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REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

LONDON

He played way out on Court 14 Friday, with the Centre Court stadium still in view, hovering. With only three rows of stands, people were packed around the brick walls just six paces off the side of the court. People were on their toes, or kid on dad’s shoulders. Some people stood and strained from the seats from the next court over, others climbed the walls until security told them to move. Then more climbed anyway.

Dustin Brown became a cult figure at Wimbledon this week. Tall, black, Jamaican/German with sleeveless shirt, stretched skinny muscles, long dreads down his back and a jacket promoting his Twitter handle on the back: @DreddyTennis.

“I mean, why not?’’ he said. “If no one else is putting the patch on you, why not market your own product?’’

He gained 15,000 Twitter followers this week. Usually, in the minors, he said, he gains three. Not 3,000.

Three.

Maybe for the first time, this was the week of the little guy, the no-name, the underdog at Wimbledon. Well, that’s not exactly right. It was their week on the Wimbledon grounds, the outer courts. That’s where they were heroes, with the people who had the cheaper, outer-court tickets.

This isn’t just a tribute to some journeymen having the week of their lives. It’s more of a cultural thing for this place and this tournament. Be honest: With Wimbledon’s history, you would not expect a black Jamaican with long dreads to actually become the cult figure.

Please read the rest of the column here


WIMBLEDON: Nadal has a Buster Douglas Moment. . .Again. Legacy in Question

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REPORTING FROM THE ALL ENGLAND CLUB IN WIMBLEDON

LONDON

The greatest player of all time can’t be losing a match like this. Not in his prime. Not at Wimbledon. And certainly not twice in a row there.

Just when the conversation was turning, when people — including me — were starting to wonder if maybe Rafael Nadal might be the best player ever, and not Roger Federer, Nadal did something that Federer never does:

He lost to a journeyman Monday in the first round of Wimbledon. Nadal lost to Steve Darcis, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4. That’s right, the Steve Darcis, ranked No. 135 and with a losing career tour record.

“Two weeks ago, I was in a fantastic situation, wining a fantastic tournament (French Open),’’ Nadal said. “Two weeks later, I lost here in the first round. That’s the positive and the negative thing about this sport.’’

The question is why this happened to Nadal, against a guy who had less of a shot at beating him than Buster Douglas had of knocking out Mike Tyson. And what does this mean to his legacy? And how much limping is he going to do in the future?

Please read the rest of the column here at FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: 10 Predictions Come with Money Back Guarantee

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams

FOXSports.com national columnist Greg Couch digs into 10 questions that get to the heart of the French Open, which starts Sunday at Roland Garros in France. 

Q. It’s Nadal, Djokovic and … ummm … can anyone else on the men’s side win this thing?

A. Only Federer. And even he doesn’t have much of a shot, especially with his back and knee problems. The thing is, with Nadal out so long last year and into this year with worn-out knees, his ranking has dropped. Also, he and Djokovic are on the same side of the draw and may have to play each other before the final. It is the perfect storm of a draw for Federer. That’s sort of the equivalent of the SEC Championship Game — with the two best teams — deciding who gets to play in the BCS title game. Then, the rest of the country, basically the minor leagues, gets to fill the other spot. Federer is able to beat Djokovic on the right day, and Nadal’s knees might blow up at any time.

Please read the rest of the column here at FoxSports.com


WIMBLEDON: Rafael Nadal Loses in Biggest Upset in Tennis History

 

(Published June 29, 2012) We are prone to overstatement. Everything is bigger than the biggest, better than the best, faster than the fastest. It sells. But it also blurs reality, and confuses things when the oh-my-God stuff really does happen.

On Thursday, it really did happen. Rafael Nadal lost in the second round of Wimbledon. Who did he lose to? That’s what someone asked me a few minutes after it was over, a few minutes after I had watched every single point of that match for hours.

The answer: Um, uh. Can’t remember. Some guy with the same number of letters in his name as Nadal.

Some guy turned out to be Lukas Rosol, a 26-year-old from the Czech Republic who had never done anything before. He has lost more matches in his career than he has won.

And he beat Nadal 6-7 (11-9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

It was the biggest upset in the history of tennis.

That is not hyperbole.

Please read the rest of my column here at FoxSports.com


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