10 June, 2007

My Hero Fell Today

OK, it's just my tennis hero, so it had no effect whatsoever on my day. In fact, I had the best day I've had in a month. Smiled almost all day long about almost everything. It's a good thing, and a little rare of late.

My take on the match is suspect. I absolutely watched with my heart as opposed to my head, and I am a putzer when it comes to the technical side of tennis. Nonetheless, why keep my mouth shut?

Point 1:
James Blake's precision power game beats Nadal's high percentage defensive game. It's classic rock, paper, scissors. Federer is rock that scissors cannot harm, Nadal is paper that smothers rock, and Blake is scissors that slices paper.

We've all watched Federer try to beat Blake at his own game, and he can't do it. When Federer and Blake both come out ripping laser forehands, Blake goes up two breaks fast. It's only when Federer settles back down into his own game, gives up on the laser tag, and starts confusing Blake that he comes roaring back. Federer can play "scissors," and can hit laser forehands, but not as well as he can play his own game. Federer is no Blake.

What Federer found in Hamburg was that he could beat Nadal by being Blake: flatten everything, go for broke and focus vertically instead of on angles. Hit deep, move in, control the baseline and the pace. What he found in Paris was that he's not good enough at that game to get 'er done against a dialed-in Nadal. But then we already knew that, because he can't even beat Blake at that game.

Federer's unforced error count was caused by trying to do something amazing. He was trying to play Blake's game in a GS final. It was not natural for him, but he did a convincing job.

Point 2:
[Has everyone read Dune? If not skip this massively obscure sub-analogy to the already obscure metaphor. ;-)
Do you remember Paul's knife fight with the young Fremen? He kept getting into a winning position, then not finishing the duel because he slowed down at the moment of the kill. It was because Paul was trained to fight against a shield that could only be penetrated by a slow blade. Even so, Federer....]

Federer achieved 10 break points in the first set, and failed to capitalize on any of them. I agree that this is not because Nadal hit 10 perfect winners (though he probably hit 6 or more!)

With break point on his racket, Federer repeatedly switched back to playing "rock" again. He earned the break opportunities by playing "scissors", but at the critical moment he reverted back to his natural style, "bide, baffle and bait." But Nadal cannot be baited. Federer's game is to lure his opponent into hitting something crushable. Nadal will not be lured into that mistake.

It's not that Federer played badly on 17 break points; it's that he played "Federer" when he needed to keep playing "Blake."

Conclusion:
Federer played FANTASTICALLY for a man playing completely outside his comfort zone. He was trying to do something no one else has done for 89 consecutive matches - beat Nadal on clay. To do so, he stretched his game convincingly, but not yet forcingly.

Federer is the best human to ever play this game, but he's still only human, and that man on the other side keeps on proving it to everyone.

Extension:
Nadal is also playing outside himself. I'm not really sure whether Nadal is also trying to add "scissors" to his game, or trying to add "rock." I think he'll have more success with scissors, because it's closer to his natural style. And scissors works on grass and hard. But, I don't think they will work against "rock."

Nadal's impressive growth makes the next 4 months really, really scary.

I could not be happier!

(How was that on the obscure metaphor scale?)

2 comments:

Milly said...

glad you got a smile! :-}

Kansas Bob said...

A few uninformed thoughts about:

"Federer is the best human to ever play this game"

I'd love to see him go head-to-head with Sampras in his prime.

Not sure if he could beat Borg.

What about Rod Laver?

Martina could beat him in arm wrestling.

Nadal is only 21 ... lets see what happens in London and New York :)