Thursday, July 10, 2008

Emperor of Clay vs Emperor of Grass - Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer

I was not a great fan of tennis till the french open started. For unknown reasons, I didn't like to watch the nation's favorite game, even thought the much awaited IPL was starting up. Tennis had caught my attention. I loved the way Federer played and to say the least, he and Nadal were the only players I knew in the open, in addition to few others(say 2 or 3). I wanted to know why Federer struggled so much in clay and Nadal wasn't so much comfortable in grass (i.e. till he won the wimbledon). I was slightly trained in cricket and I know a little bit about body movements, shot power, points of maximum injury threat in our body etc. Even a normal sportsman who had observed their enthralling rivalry would find the reasons for each of their success in their respective empires.

Rafael Nadal:-

The boy wonder of tennis is really a great player and has excellent physical strength to play the game over long period of times. He maintains very good concentration on the game rather than thinking about his opponent, which I believe is giving him the recent edge over his broken opponents. The boy has a profound skidding action specially suited for clay where one can easily skid around and reach the ball without using much of his energy. But when it comes to grass, the skid is not useful on a much more rugged surface. So he has got to move here and there against a opponent like Federer, who is good at getting into good positions. He also has an excellent, if not wonderful backhand and top-spin shots. Those are pretty tought to get away on any surface whether grass or clay. His movement is quick even without the skid. He runs here and there and reaches balls that others would rather give up. Coming to his physical strengths, He has well-built muscles to help in long rallies. Those on the forehand and along the wrist area are very much necessary for shot accuracy and strength. Those who watch cricket might know this. It's in a way similar to the Helicopter shots that Dhoni plays. Even they require a lot of wrist power. I like one thing about him and that is his ability to adjust to grass so quickly. His legs are also well-built. For a boy who comes from the clay courts of Barcelona, It is a really great achievement. But his attitude towards the game can be little like what the Australians have in cricket. You cannot complain about it. But it somewhat hurts your opponents. He always keeps his back to his opponents, when he is getting the ball or for that matter using his towel and that too after his opponents have lost a point. He is a way cheeky. He intimidates you without you understanding that he is and by the time you have nearly lost and fallen, you lose your thought of winning the match and a thought of nearly giving up comes up in your mind. Otherwise, He is a sweet boy off the court and also does a little bit of charity from what I have heard of him. Would like to see a player who can challenge him in his empire.

Roger Federer:-

Federer, I would say is a touch artist. His movement across the court looks majestic and awful (when he is allowed to). His strengths are his Forehand passes and the second most toughest serve in tennis, only next to Roddick. Unlike Nadal's liking towards the Topspin and the powerful forehand , backhand shots, Federer relies heavily on the drop shots and the volleys. His forehand could generate much power even than Nadal's when hit with the accuracy.If you guys observe him, you might notice he has a skipping action. He skips between shots instead of moving on a flat like what Nadal does. That accounts for his major wins in grass and also his major losses in clay. His backhand was once a formidable shot to handle in the game. But I believe he has lost a bit of muscle in the body that doesn't let him play wide back hand passes that well. Those who know him well and follow him around, would notice the changes he has gone through from being a slightly chubby person to a skinny one. He has lost much of his strength and in a way he is losing his patience and joy of playing the game. When Nadal loses a set or a point, he moves with much of confidence, that could shake the opponent into believeing that the boy is capable of running over you, and so you start playing shots with lot of care. When Federer loses a point, he shakes his head like everything is over and moves to his place so slowly and with such a heavy look, that even his opponents get encouraged by it. Federer loses mentally and that reflects in his game. If Federer stops giving away his emotions and starts playing game with a lot of joy, even if he wins or loses, he could run over Nadal on any surface. His shot accuracy is way over Nadal's on his day. He just needs to get a little bit of aggression and joy into his game. If he does it, He will reign supreme again. Well when it comes to physical strengths, Federer could be compared to be on the scale at 10 to a 100 of Nadal. Federer has lost lot of his physical strength. He is looking a lot puny. I believe he is suffering from a wrist and back injury, which is further bringing his morale down. If he gets back into shape and form, It could mean the odds in the battle could again swing his way. He does a lot of charity and has even helped the tsunami victims and had come here to Chennai. His attitude off the court, could be the one he might need to inject back into his game.

Whatever mentioned here are my sole opinion and might not necessarily reflect others. I still like Federer to Nadal. I'm expecting a better fight atleast in the olympics. There is saying in the chinese.
"If you know yourself and enemy, you need not fear the results of a thousand battles. If you know yourself and not your enemy, for every battle won, there will be a loss. If you know neither, you'll lose always. "

Nadal has learned it well. Federer might only be half complete with regards to this statement.

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