Friday, July 11, 2008

How Rafa recovered from the beat-down he put on Federer

You know I had to eventually go there. Yes, I have been avoiding it. Certain topics are just too painful. The blasted match itself was painful to watch. Not that I expected a different outcome – the result was a foregone conclusion – but did they have to drag in out into twilight?

A friend of mine has a theory that Federer eventually threw in the towel because he just got tired of the squinting and guessing where the heck the ball might be. I disagree. I think he put up a valiant fight but in the end Rafa just beat him to hell down. Like we all knew he would.

OK, deep inside I hoped that Rafa’s left knee would not hold up. After all, the picture of it looking red and angry was not a pretty sight. But John McEnroe once famously said that the fifth set is not about tennis. It’s about mental fortitude, regardless of the state of your busted knee. Rafael Nadal, at 22, showed us that he is mentally far stronger than Roger Federer. And that is why he was able to put a beat-down on him.

Now let me be clear on something. I accept that you may not have the same definition of a beat-down as I do. And in truth I am very inconsistent when it comes to defining a beat-down. For instance, a beat-down may be determined by the score. In which case a beat-down was put on Federer by Rafa at Roland Garros when Federer succeeded in winning an embarrassing total of four games.

But I believe that a beat-down also occurred at Wimbledon. Or maybe it was just a cut ass, I’m not sure. Because you see, this was grass. And Federer is supposed to be the King of Grass.

Heck, even Sampras with his hypocritical self had predicted that Federer would erase his record. From the moment Sampras said that I knew that Federer was in trouble. Pete Sampras seems like he has access to some powerful obeah. When he praises you, think of it as goat-mouth, a kind of blight, a curse wrapped up in filaments of sweet candy. So when he opened his mouth, days before the final, to portend that Federer was king and would someday erase his record, I knew that Federer did not have a chance in hell of doing so.

You don’t believe me? Check back on the fates of the people who have dared to beat Pete Sampras. Guga ended up with a broken hip. Patrick Rafter ended up with a sweating problem so severe that not even botox could fix it. Richard Kracijek ended up with two busted knees, although in truth I didn’t really feel sorry for him because he also dissed women’s tennis and hell hath no fury like a bunch of dissed women. And Federer failed not only to defend his crown but also to win the finals on his favorite surface.

It immediately became clear. Not only is Rafa the best tennis player on clay. He is the best tennis player in the world. Never mind the 545 points separating him from Federer and relegating him to the #2 spot in the rankings. That is chicken feed. Rafa can and should erase that in no time.

More and more Federer is starting to remind me of Hingis. That is not a good thing.

Remember when Hingis was the Number 1 player in the world? At the time I defended her tooth and nail, pointing out that it was not her fault that the Power Babes were beating her left and right and still could not claim the number 1 spot. I said that it was not her fault that the system rewarded consistency and frequency of play over winning.

The ATP responded to this embarrassing fiasco by creating two ranking systems. There is the player’s overall rank. And there is his rank thus far this year. In the overall ranking, Federer remains king, but Nadal is nipping at his heels. In the rankings thus far this year, Nadal leads by a mile. And Djokovic is within striking distance of Federer.

Federer has not been having a good year. I honestly don't know what the solution is to his dilemma. I'm not even sure if a new coach will make a difference at this point. Seriously, I am starting to give up hope.

I have no idea how Federer is recovering from the beat-down he received from Rafa. But in the meantime, Rafa can clearly afford to take some time off to spend with his honey at the beach.

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