Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Remembering Rafa

So nothing's certain yet, but Rafa Nadal still hopes to be fit for Wimbledon. 'Hoping' is a different thing from being 'hopeful', but you have to give the boy credit for trying.
I feel really sorry for Rafa. It can't be an easy lot being #1 when you have a universal champion like Roger Federer playing in your era. Sure, Rafa has got his time in the sunlight after playing second fiddle for years, but look at how quickly the tide turned this week when he got knocked out of the French Open. All the focus was suddenly on Federer. It wasn't that Nadal was forgotten, it was more a sort of, 'wow, is this a real victory if Federer doesn't have to beat the monkey on his back who happens to be called Nadal?' sort of thing.
Let's say Federer had been the one knocked out in the fourth round (heaven forbid) and Nadal had been the one to win the tournament. Do you think Federer would have been practically required to come out and make a statement? I don't think so. But with the positions switched, if Nadal didn't say something, it would have looked like sour grapes or bad grace or something. And with this knee condition that might still take him out of Wimbledon, I think people have been, to some degree, scoffing and thinking Rafa used it as a reason to excuse his match against Soderling. Rafa himself had a much more sane attitude - 'it's just a tennis match, nobody died', he said (I might have paraphrased that a bit, but the intent is there).
Roger Federer can't help being Roger Federer, and nor would anyone want him to change - not one iota, not one jot. He's the greatest champion our sport has ever had, the greatest player of all time, and a wonderful man. But you have to feel for Rafa. Federer has set the bar so high it's nearly impossible to live up to. And with this supernova of a champion shining so bright in the midst of the tour, it's easy to forget that Nadal is himself a champion and a great sportsman. I don't think he's really managed to capture the public imagination like Federer has - his game is not as beautiful, he is not so classical a personality, nor is he a polyglot - but we forget that Rafa's achievements are not small either. Sometimes we almost forget about him except in context of his rivalry with Federer. And while Federer is indisputably the greatest tennis player of all time and the ultimate statesman - we all know how much I am on the Roger Federer bandwagon! - we do need to remember that Rafa has achieved a hell of a lot as well. Federer is unbelievably special - but that doesn't make Rafa's achievements any less.
Get well soon, Rafa.
Today's Results
Gerry Weber Open (Halle)
Novak Djokovic def. Simone Bolelli, 7-5 6-2
Philipp Petzschner def. Fernando Verdasco, 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Fabrice Santoro, 7-5 6-2
Jurgen Melzer def. Arnaud Clement, 1-6 6-3 6-2
Mischa Zverev def. Joseph Sirianni, 6-2 6-4
Olivier Rochus def. Fernando Vicente, 6-0 6-0
Philipp Kohlschreiber def. Bjorn Phau, 6-4 6-2
Nicolas Kiefer def. Viktor Troicki, 6-2 6-1
Andreas Beck def. Christophe Rochus, 6-3 6-1
AEGON Championships (Queen's Club)
Andy Roddick def. Kristof Vliegen, 6-1 6-4
James Blake def. Ivan Ljubicic, 6-2 7-6 (7-4)
Mardy Fish def. Michael Llodra, 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-3
Gael Monfils def. Andrey Golubev, 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5)
Feliciano Lopez def. Denis Istomin, 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 7-6 (7-5)
Sam Querrey def. Kevin Anderson, 7-5 6-3
Ivo Karlovic def. Teimuraz Gabashvili, 6-3 7-6 (13-11)
Alberto Martin def. Ernests Gulbis, 7-6 (11-9) 6-4
Juan Carlos Ferrero def. Sebastien Grosjean, 6-2 2-1 retired
Steve Darcis def. Paul Capdeville, 3-6 6-3 6-4
Julien Benneteau def. Daniel Koellerer, 6-3 6-4
AEGON Classic (Birmingham)
Petra Cetkovska def. Stephanie Foretz, 7-6 (7-5) 6-3
Julia Goerges def. Anastasia Rodionova, 6-4 6-2
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova def. Ayumi Morita, 7-5 3-6 6-3
Melinda Czink def. Arantxa Parra Santonja, 6-4 6-3
Anne Keothavong def. Sofia Arvidsson, 6-2 6-2
Sania Mirza def. Tatiana Poutchek, 6-1 6-2
Stefanie Voegele def. Carly Gullickson, 3-6 6-4 7-5
Mariya Koryttseva def. Yulia Fedossova, 4-6 6-4 6-2

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