Roger says it’s all about the French. Rafa says three Masters in a row is unf’ingbelievable. Yet, somehow, I don’t think they want to punch each other (via FortyDeuce – who actually agrees with Rog! – via the NYTimes):
“Rafa’s and my clay court seasons are decided at the French Open, and not before.”
“It’s unfortunately — or fortunately — like that. If we win all the tournaments like Rafa now and then go out in the first round of the French, everything will be questioned.”
“Well, that’s a respectable opinion that I don’t share.”
“And not because I have won the three (Masters) leading up to it, which some might think, but because I think it is unfair to think the whole clay season is decided by one tournament.”
Hmmm. Okay. Well, obviously, the Majors are the ones everyone remembers. When Roger talks about the French “deciding” the clay court season, he’s talking about the media, the general public, the history books and maybe even the locker room. But Rafa’s clay court Masters sweep is one of those pure, tennis nerd accomplishments that will stand forever. (Insert baseball, basketball or football nerd achievement that I’m too ignorant to know about.) If tennis was the kind of thing you argued about at your local bar, you’d tuck Rafa’s 2010 season away in your memory bank for future debate. Also, Rafa is obviously a clay court aficionado, and winning Monte Carlo et. al. really means something to him. And heck, it’s not like he’s a dark horse at the French this year. One accomplishment is not mutually exclusive of the other.
But I’m wondering – what does everyone think about the whole “Roger only cares about Majors” sentiment. I get it, but at the same time I can’t quite get my mind around how that works. Though I think both World #1s, Roger and Serena, have proven that a great player can “turn it on” for the big moments, I fail to see how they can actually sit back in the middle of a match and think “eh, let Ernie/J.J. have this one. . .I’m savin’ it for the Majors, baby.”
Jounalist Peter Bodo dives into the nitty gritty of what can only be called mid/late period Federer vs. Nadal rivalry at ESPN.com. Here’s a tidbit, including his opinion on the “sub-majors”:
Agassi and his great career rival, Pete Sampras, know a thing or two about the deadlock — or is it gridlock? — into which Federer and Nadal have fallen. Agassi will tell you that those superb stats in Masters events seem like diddly-squat compared to the record Sampras amassed in the more important Grand Slam events. Sampas won 14 majors, to eight for Agassi, entitling him to look at a tournament like Madrid or Cincinnati or Miami and scoff, “Oh, do I really have to win those little ones, too?”
Nadal’s record of 18 Masters title is most notable for the speed with which the Mallorcan Master of red dirt attained it — he’s not even 24 yet, for gosh sakes. Given his proficiency on clay, and the fact that three of the Masters are presently contested on that surface, it’s conceivable that he’ll end up with well over 25 Masters titles. It’s a marvelous record of consistency at sub-majors, but the operative compound word is “sub-major.”
Federer can go the Sampras route, line up those 16 Grand Slam singles trophies, grin and say, “I won a bunch of the small ones, too.” But unlike Sampras, he can also point to an accomplishment that gave Agassi a measure of satisfaction in his rivalry with Sampras: Like Agassi, Federer has a career Grand Slam. Neither Sampras nor Nadal (to this point) have managed that. Federer and Agassi are two of just six men who achieved that feat.
Interesting how Federer is both Sampras and Agassi in this case, huh? Food for thought – click here for more from Bodo.
But come on, Rafa is going to win the US Open at some point, right?
If you want to relish Rafa’s amazing Masters achievement, click here for the ATP tribute page. (thanks for the heads up, Michelle!)