Federer and Nadal: The Grand Slam Record And Head-To-Head Stats Don’t Matter - UBITENNIS
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Federer and Nadal: The Grand Slam Record And Head-To-Head Stats Don’t Matter

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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (zimbio.com)

In one of the most exciting rivalries in sports history, the numbers can sometimes be deceiving. The ATP ranking system decides which player is No. 1 without considering the outcome of the matches between the two rivals, but at least it is based on objective standards.   

 

Despite being ranked No. 1 in the world, in 2017 Rafael Nadal has lost all four encounters against his legendary rival Roger Federer, including the final at the Shanghai Masters on Sunday. Federer has also captured the last six sets played against the Spaniard. In terms of head-to-head between the two, Federer is on a five-match winning streak – his longest in the rivalry against Rafa. If Federer and Nadal clashed again in Basel, Paris-Bercy and London on fast indoor courts that will favor the Swiss during the upcoming weeks, Roger would have a very good opportunity to end the year with an astonishing 7-0 record against his former nemesis. In 2017 the tables have incredibly turned: In the past when Federer was No. 1 in the world, the Swiss had a very poor record against Nadal. Now their rivalry finds itself in the exact opposite situation, with Federer dominating the head-to-head and each player capturing six titles (including two majors).

Despite four losses against Roger, Rafa should end the year as the world No. 1. Federer is trailing by 1,960 points at the moment, which leads us to believe that computers know nothing about tennis and numbers should be interpreted with expertise. At the same time, the ranking system is based on a methodology that doesn’t leave any room for subjectivity.

In the history of the Federer-Nadal rivalry, we had years during which the head-to-head stats perfectly reflected the verdict provided by the ATP ranking system. In 2008 Rafa Nadal won all four matches against Federer and finished the year as the world No. 1.

On the other hand, in 1977 Guillermo Vilas won two Slams and countless tournaments, but Jimmy Connors undeservedly remained the world No. 1.

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Regarding the fascinating conversation about the Greatest of All Time, do the head-to-head stats really count? Should they be a key factor in determining who the better player is? The answer should theoretically be affirmative in case the two rivals were close in age. We often forget that Roger and Rafa are not the same age, even if they have been battling each other for 13 years. It is unusual how Federer wasn’t able to capitalize on the age difference at the beginning of their rivalry, when Roger was a more experienced and established champion and Rafa was a teenager. As matter of fact, the exact opposite occurred, with Rafa dominating the preliminary stages of their rivalry.

At the twilight of their respective careers, many would think that the younger player should have an advantage, instead this year we saw 36-year-old Federer dominating 31-year-old Nadal.

While age doesn’t seem to be a factor, game styles and playing surfaces certainly are. In the past Federer and Nadal often faced each other on clay, which certainly favored the Spaniard. Considering that Roger will probably not play on clay anymore, Rafa will not have the opportunity to improve his record against the Swiss on that surface. Federer is certainly better than Nadal on indoor courts and medium-fast hardcourts.  Since Nadal should overall continue playing on hardcourts, Federer will have the opportunity to improve his record against the Spaniard. At the end of the day, the head-to-head stats are not completely reliable as they depend on how often the two legends played each other on each surface. If they clashed on clay more often, Rafa would have the advantage. If they played on indoor hardcourts, Roger would have the edge.

As for the number of Grand Slam titles captured by the two champions, Federer has 19, while Nadal has 16. Are these numbers relevant? Not necessarily. Only one Slam event is on clay, while two are contested on hardcourts and one on grass, which gives Federer the edge in three out of four majors. In 2017 Federer could skip the entire clay court season including Roland Garros without compromising his year, while Nadal can’t certainly afford to skip three Grand Slams.

The ATP ranking equally values all tournaments and surfaces, so the frontrunner certainly deserves to be at the top. Nadal could lose 7 times to Federer in one year, but if Rafa plays more than Roger and collects more points, the Spaniard deserves to be No. 1 player.

The No. 1 player in the world doesn’t necessarily have to be the best in the world. The absolute best is someone who dominates on every surface. Despite 14 Slam titles including 7 Wimbledons, Pete Sampras never went further than the semifinals at the French Open and can’t be considered the absolute best, unlike Rod Laver who captured the Calendar-Year Grand Slam in 1962 and 1969. Truth be told, in the 1960s three of the four Grand Slams were contested on grass, while Roland Garros was played on clay.

In closing the Greatest of All Time doesn’t really exist. Besides the numbers provided by Grand Slam records and head-to-head stats, there are too many intangibles that prevent us from truly determining who the best player was.  It is a very subjective opinion, as anyone can say that a certain player was the best during a specific Era depending on their personal judgement.

 

(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com )

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Forgive Us, Roger, We Took One More Piece Of You

(Abstract) We’ve written a letter to Roger Federer, who’s been forced to take a break, and who’ll be forced to come back.

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Roger Federer, you’ve given yourself away long ago. This is hardly news, it’s what happens to many, if not to every public figure. This is what’s happened to you more than to others, and it usually goes down this way.

 

Generally, you begin by giving away your liberties, your privacy – and in so doing you lose your first piece of yourself. You can’t hide anymore, nor can you pretend that it’s not happening. You can’t fall in love nor mourn privately, nor can you do it in the company of just your loved ones. There is a whole army of aspiring VIPs who flood social media with their entire being. For you Instagram comes as a package deal, even though you can’t switch on a laptop. You could wear a wig in public, like Boris Becker did a few years back, but they’ll track you down anyway. Your intimacy is gone – you were born in silence, but ended up on Love Island.

After that, you give away your image. You suddenly give it up and let the world dissect it in a kaleidoscope of shiny shafts. Wholly fragmented, it appears where you’d have least expected to. Your face is everywhere, your name is everywhere. You give away your image to endorse a pair of sneakers, and a graphite racquet. You give it away for a Swiss bank, and live with the criticism, and for an Italian brand of pasta. You grow to be inextricably tied to these things: you were born free and your image is theirs. You didn’t have to, the mortgage was fine. It’s just that there’s never existed someone who didn’t do it.

On the other hand, you also give yourself away for millions of kids in tennis clubs at every latitude, kids who who try to imitate your serve motion, or try to hit a forehand in the hope that their hair may fall on their forehead like it does for you. They never succeed, God forbid, but if they manage to come up with something that remotely resembles your style, they just cry out a single “Roger!”, and feel some elctricity down their spine for the very first time. Your image is with them when they play, when they trail off in school, when the door to their room and don’t need a video game or a poster hanging on the wall to own it. All they need is the space to conjure you. We could almost say that they take away your soul, if only a kid knew how to do it.

Then other things were given away, things that you didn’t expect, and that perhaps we took without your consent. We took our tears – in Paris, in London. In Australia, we had tears for both elation and despair, in the years 2006 and 2009, respectively. No-one was able to bottle them and brew a talent elixir. They fell on Rod Laver’s blazer, on Rafa’s tracksuit. They mingled with the rain and the clay at Porte d’Auteuil, while in London they wetted the grass at your seat’s feet. How many among us have wept in front of millions of people? How many would be okay with it?

Finally, we took a few worthless items, mere mementos. We picked your brains on stuff you wouldn’t have wanted to discuss: politics, the environment, psychoanalysis. We picked your brains on Freud, and on things you don’t know, so you learned to reply walking on the thin line between what we wanted and what you didn’t. Someone even stole a fragment of your voice, undetected yet harmless, after having asked you a question in a press conference. He recorded it as it was, glued to his own inquiring tone. He listened back just once, to check if he’d actually recorded it, and then treasured it in a box.

When we got tired of immaterial things, those we can’t touch, we became morbid, and we began to demand pieces of your body. We took your bout of mononucleosis in 2008, so short-lived and yet so fierce. At regular intervals, we got some small pieces of your back. Since 2008, your body has been on a lease, as we were reminded during the serendipitous run at the 2012 Championships, when you were forced to wear a top under your Nike outfit.

We wanted you on court no matter what. We’ve showered you in obsequious praise for being the only one who’s never retired during a match, talking you into wearing yourself out for us. We exploited you a month ago too, for four hours straight against Sandgren, while your groin strained and ached, and for two more hours against Nole, well aware that you couldn’t win. Now we’ve taken one of your knees. We were quite content with the other one, which we took four years ago, feeding on its cartilage while tenderly recalling our generosity. That time, you told us an incredible story of nemeses and comebacks, gifting us with the most re-watched fifth set in tennis history.

Now you’ve given us the other knee. We’re still unsure as to which altar it was immolated on: perhaps on that of too many exhibition matches, the Cape Town altar, where it was crunched by 52,000 South Africans, cannibalistic like in Livingstone’s short stories. Maybe the altar is that of one more crazed run for another Wimbledon title, or better for one more crazed run to flee from Nadal and Djokovic, who’ve been chasing you down, their breath on their prey’s neck who can’t do anything if not run with no more caution. We’ve taken your knee because we need to live through the wait for your comeback. We hold it at ransom: do you want it back? Surprise us, because the game has been the same for ten years and we need some romance. This is why we’re booking a place for one more comeback. The 2020 Championships just like Australia back in ’17. That day, there will be no room for any pain in your arm, or your heart. C’mon Roger, entertain us, even if you’re sad.

There’s no complex explanation for such sadism. For this crave to have on court a man who, at 38, has every right but no wish whatsoever to give up – it’s just a crave, and love. Because we want you. We’re like husbands who abuse their wives and say they they do it out of love. If that’s the way it is, then it isn’t love, nor admiration. We’re getting confused too. When we get exhalted for a volley and we, too, cry out your name, all we’re doing is actually crying out our own. We’ve taken your whole being, you and your victories, piece after piece. You’re necessary to us who know nothing of winning what we want.

This is why I’d like to give something back to you in return, even if just in small part. I’d like to give back to you some time to make a choice, because we ended up taking that too. I’m not saying it panned out badly for you, not in the slightest. But your years have also been chomped by newspapers that would sell a lot less without you, they have been belittled by octogenarian ladies who beg you to hold on, unimpressed by your age- you’ve become a finger food for them. Enzo Ferrari used to say that a racer loses one full second on the track for every child he begets. Of course we’re talking about a second per lap, the comparison doesn’t really hold. And yet, even I know that out of the races that second dilates beyond every reasonable time and beyond every reasonable engagement – and I would only drop a second. You have four children, and still it looks like you don’t get a right to drop your four seconds.   

Thus, I’m now offering them to you, and the same do all those who wish for your knee to be okay in no time, but we do it without demanding the impossible to become possible at all costs, once again. We offer them to you the only way we know how to. Count them down with us, exhaling at every number. One. Two. Three. And four. In four seconds you can say everything that is remotely important: I’m leaving, you’re a father, I’ll wait for you, I’m coming back. And if you wish, you can say goodbye as well.

Note: This article was originally published in Italian on ubitennis.com by Agostino Nigro and translated into english by Tommaso Villa.

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Mr. Djokovic Isn’t Ready To Turn Over The Slams To Youth

Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier journalist James Beck reflects of the latest achievement of the world No.1.

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2020 Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic (image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The amazing Mr. Djokovic isn’t ready to turn over the Grand Slams to youth just yet. Not at just 32 years old.

 

Look at Roger Federer. He’s six years older and still capable of beating anyone on any surface on any given day.

And Rafa Nadal certainly isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Not at 33 years old, and just a tiebreaker or two from maybe replacing Dominic Thiem in Sunday night’s Australian Open men’s singles final.

There you have it, the Three Legends — Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. It’s highly unlikely they’re finished for the year at the Grand Slam level.

NOVAK SPECTACULAR DOWN THE STRETCH

For the last two sets of the Australian Open final, Novak Djokovic was just as spectacular as he was in 2008 when he won his first of eight Australian Open singles titles.

Djokovic brushed aside the talented Thiem when it appeared the new crop of stars was ready to take over from the Legends. That was the last two sets in a riveting 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 Djokovic win over the 26-year-old Thiem.

Unless Nadal gets hot the way he did last year when he won a pair of Grand Slam titles to give the Spaniard five of what now is 13 consecutive Grand Slam titles by the Three Legends, Djokovic could make the all-time Grand Slam title race really tight by the time he returns to Melbourne in a year from now.

FEDERER AND NADAL OBVIOUSLY FELT PRESSURE

Federer obviously was feeling the pressure in a semifinal loss to Djokovic a few days ago, even though Nadal’s chase of Federer’s record total of 20 Grand Slam titles was put on hold until at least the French Open by a loss to Thiem in the quarterfinals. Nadal also didn’t seem to be his self in the long match against Thiem in which he lost three tiebreakers.

But now Djokovic is only two shy of Nadal’s total of 19 Grand Slams, and three less than Federer.

Of course, passing or matching another legend’s all-time mark isn’t easy. Just ask Serena Williams about  her chase of Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam titles. Yes, Serena failed again at the Australian Open. We didn’t hear much from Serena after her third-round loss Down Under.

But Serena will keep trying, and maybe one of these remaining three opportunities of 2020 will be Serena’s day.

DJOKOVIC WASN’T HIMSELF IN THE MIDDLE SETS

Djokovic just wasn’t himself in the second and third sets, especially late in the second set when a double fault and two time violations, all in succession, took their toll on Novak and probably cost him the second set when he was serving at 4-4. Not only did he lose those three points and the game to fall behind 5-4, he lost seven straight points and six consecutive games.

That took care of the second set and most of the third set.

Suddenly, Novak was in a hole he had never before been in and survived at the Grand Slam final level.  He was down two sets to one.

A LEGENDARY CAREER STILL GOING STRONG

Djokovic added a footnote to his still unfinished, but already legendary career by playing two of the greatest sets of his life to end Thiem’s immediate quest for a first Grand Slam title.

Thiem isn’t to be overlooked, however. He is amazingly talented. For awhile, Djokovic had no answer for Thiem’s powerful forehands and one-handed backhands, and super serve, not to mention his outstanding court coverage.

Outside of the Three Legends, Thiem appears to be in a class by himself. If he can last long enough, he almost certainly will become a legend himself one of these days.

James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at 

http://www.postandcourier.com/search/?l=25&sd=desc&s=start_time&f=html&t=article%2Cvideo%2Cyoutube%2Ccollection&app=editorial&q=james+beck&nsa=eedition

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Bigger Is Not Always Better When It Comes To The Davis Cup

The new Davis Cup format was unveiled at a week-long Madrid showcase. Read about how “first impressions are almost always the most lasting.”

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MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 24: Spanish team celebrating the victory with the trophy after the final match between Spain and Canada of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 24, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos / Kosmos Tennis)

Now that the “bigger must surely be better” version of the Davis Cup has concluded, it’s time to take a look at how the event itself has evolved over time. Initially, it was a clubby/chummy affair between the US and the British Isles, as Great Britain was known long before there was even a thought of Brexit. True, there had been international, country versus country tennis gatherings, such as England versus Ireland or England versus France, but that was in the 1890s. The “official” team competition wasn’t birthed until 1900 when the US and BI faced-off at Longwood Cricket Club in Boston, Massachusetts. 

 

The visitors, who were supposed to be the creme de la crème of tennis because they came from Great Britain, were throttled by their upstart hosts, 3-0. One of the competitors on the winning side was a Harvard student whose name was Dwight Davis. Five years after the launch, Australasia (with players from both Australia and New Zealand), Austria, Belgium and France took part in what was called the International Lawn Tennis Challenge. Perhaps to downplay the seeming pompousness of the title, the competition quickly became known as the Davis Cup, a salute to the perpetual trophy donor.

In the beginning, the event was played as a Challenge Cup. The set-up allowed the winner from the previous year to sit on the sideline while the other countries battled for a spot in the final. The “wait and watch” was great for the title holder but the format proved to be an ultra-marathon for all the other participants. In 1972 a change was finally made, and play became a somewhat more sensible win and advance tournament.

Since then, the international competition grew so large that it became unwieldy and modifications needed to be made. None of the alterations has even come close to matching the Madrid extravaganza that was created by Gerard Pique and his Kosmos team, supported by Hiroshi Mikitani’s Rakuten financing and sanctified by the International Tennis Federation.

MADRID, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 16: Gerard Pique speaks at the Official Dinner of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Galeria de Cristal Palacio de Cibeles on November 16, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos / Kosmos Tennis)

Before going further, it must be stressed that the “old Davis Cup way” was no longer working. But, bulldozing history to put up a new event demands an overwhelming amount of thought and even more insight.  Thus far, it appears that a “too much, too soon” approach has been built on a foundation that isn’t exactly sand, but something nearly as tenuous. The set-up has a number of fissures. It is as if, Pique and his collogues were trying to create a Tennis World Cup. Perhaps the group borrowed pages from the wandering methodology that has plagued the Fédération Internationale de Football Association Qatar World Cup preparation.

It must be mentioned that the novel undertaking was bold and there are hopes for it to get better. Still, with all the pre-tournament hype and sensational fanfare, there needs to be an assessment of what actually took place in Year One, in order for the event to improve. Particularly, in view of the fact that “first impressions are almost always the most lasting.”

A few of the issues that lead the “Could Have Done Better” list include:

  • Match scheduling (the US  versus Italy finished at 4:00 a.m., just in time for an early breakfast. (Nearly every match contested was almost nine hours in length.);
  • Plodding ticket sales;
  • Improvements in communication, so there is more clarity for the fans, players and media. Keeping the information flow accurate and continuous so that speculation doesn’t enter the tournament arena.

With the old Davis Cup there often were gripping, edge of your seat, emotional contests in the “five matches, five-set” play. Home and away ties truly added crowd fervor to a tasty recipe of competition.

It’s hardly surprising that whenever Spain played on the Manuel Santana Center Court, with a capacity of 12,422, the crowd was raucous. The Arantxa Sánchez Vicario No. 2 Court, with room for 2,923 spectators, rocked, but only on occasion. From time to time, Court No. 3 was loud too, but that was due more to having a mere 1,772 seats in an enclosed space than a collection of rabid fans.

MADRID, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 17: General view of Caja Magica during a training session of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 17, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Diego Souto / Kosmos Tennis)

Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt admitted that the atmosphere lacked feeling because of the neutral setting. French doubles standout Nicolas Mahut brought up how much his country’s fans ordinarily helped their team, but few were in attendance. Support groups of faithful French fans stayed away to show their unhappiness with the decision to scrap the old Davis Cup format.

In his New York Times, November 19th article, Christopher Clarey quoted Ion Tiriac.  “The Brasov Bulldozer”, who owns the ATP Masters event held in Madrid, candidly said, “It is a joke and a disgrace. They have ruined the jewel of tennis.”

Reducing a tie to three matches (two singles and just one doubles) made the matches Tweet-like. Instead of slashing the number of characters that could be used, the new look limited the essence of the product being proffered – The players and their teams. The confusion became more profound on the rules front when it came to “play or don’t play” the doubles, the tie-break and translating the results system. It seemed only those with a mathematics degree could make sense of the situation. Additionally, with18 countries participating, many ended up feeling they were meandering members of a “lost tennis tribe”…or they came to the conclusion that they needed a serious calculation class.

Another issue, (and this may be the most bewildering particularly to journalists who have a stake in promoting the game worldwide), was the accrediting process. Anxious to have the tournament touted, the tennis media from here, there and everywhere was encouraged to apply for accreditation. Yet, a number of accomplished writers were denied credentials while, at least, two publications that no longer exist were granted event access.

A soccer pitch is sizeable (75 yards wide and 120 yards long but it can vary). In comparison, a tennis court is a tiny 26 yards long and 13 yards wide (including the doubles alleys). The point – There were many comments about the need for trekking skills to traverse the architecturally pleasing Caja Mágica three court complex. Perhaps hosting such a colossal spectacle at a new location, combined with  “never been there or done that” brought about those first experience jitters.

MADRID, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 24: Crowds of peoples during of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 24, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Pedro Salado / Kosmos Tennis)

Looking at the big picture, the most staggering aspect of the “new” Davis Cup was the 25-year agreement with $3 billion dollars at stake. How do tennis fans put these “Monopoly-money” like figurers into any meaningful perspective?

The quarter-century commitment and pledged funding are difficult to comprehend . The years and financial “unreal” combination brings to mind 1999, when the staggering ISL (International Sport and Leisure) Worldwide-ATP marketing, broadcasting and licensing agreement for “elite” tournaments was made. It was a ten-year arrangement for $1.2 billion. Unfortunately, ISL, which also had close ties with FIFA, collapsed in May 2001. Oops.

Canada’s performance was stellar in reaching the final against Spain. Because of the “magic” that had been part of its success, “The Great White North” was looking to join Australasia, Croatia, Serbia, South Africa, Sweden and US each of whom won the Davis Cup in its debut.

Having won the tie five times since 2000, the home country was a prohibitive favorite to earn number six. That Spain closed out the inaugural Pique/Kosmos/Rakuten/ITF Davis Cup, 2-0, wasn’t surprising. As a result, the Canadian first-timers joined Japan in 1921, Mexico in 1962, Chile in 1976, Slovakia in 2005 and Belgium in 2017 as debut finalists and history’s runners-up.

With 24 more years to go, the new Davis Cup has real potential. Still, the tennis world is trusting that the future offers more than a quote from Bob Dylan, the 2016 Literature Nobel Prize winner who many have regarded as the world’s poet laurate. In 1964, he said, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

From afar, the 2019 Davis Cup appeared to be a week-long exhibition. Through no fault of its own, Spain benefitted, but was that fair to the others?  It actually seems like something was lost in the transition translation.

 

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