Monday, August 03, 2015

Wk.30- Half a Dozen a Year

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Is Nadal in the greatest of all time discussion is a question we here on Backspin try to answer and so does everybody else. There's no question Federer is the greatest. First you have to take every player who failed to win the Grand Slam out of the equation. Then you have four names. Then you can work from there. By looking at the numbers and by looking at careers, Laver probably places third. Federer is certainly first.

I think the rub is this. Nadal wins about a half-dozen titles a year on average. He has won 67 titles and that is impressive. Muster won 44 titles from 55 finals and a slam. He was world number one. He was a fantastic player. Of that there can be no doubt. 45 of those finals were on clay and we won 40. 40 of 44 titles on clay. Percentage-wise that is somewhere around 95 per cent. He never even reached one grass court final.

And Nadal is a little like that. That's the big 'asterisk' on the career of Nadal. Well, he was only a clay court specialist and a bit more. But that's not strictly true. 70 per cent of his titles have been won on clay. 47 out of the 67 and that is still second all time to Vilas. The Argentine had 49. The worry for Nadal on this front is that he seems to be getting less and less relevant off the clay. Furthermore, as impressive as his 739-150 is, and it really is, Nadal won 344 matches on the clay and that is about 40 per cent. I think the main problem for him is that he was so dominant on one surface and just very good on the rest. But as he has deteriorated he has just become an also-ran on all those surfaces off the clay.

But then Federer had periods of dominance everywhere but on clay. It evens out. But Federer has made at least five finals at every slam. Nadal is not even close to that. Federer has been relevant for far longer everywhere. He is still world number two and Nadal is not getting back in the top five possibly ever again. Nadal is certainly the second best player ever, but if a player comes along who wins every slam a few times and makes a lot of finals are they better than Nadal?

It's nice to have a solid answer the tennis world agrees on with regards to the GOAT discussion, but at the same time should Nadal add to his slam tally he may make the question a little less straight-forward. With Djokovic now likely permanently overtaking him in the weeks on the top and looking back in hindsight, was Nadal's career really the equal of Federer's? If Federer wins Gold at the Olympics next year then definitely not. But then Nadal has never won any Tour Finals, either. And so the argument goes round and round in endless circles.

Every few weeks we look at this and the same circles. But it's nice to revisit it every now and then. Maybe one day we can conclude. Maybe one day we can even conclude Nadal is the greatest. For now Nadal is probably second, but even then Nadal doesn't come close to some of the ridiculous number Laver made.

So we had a 500 tournament again this week. Isn't the ATP just so exciting?

QUESTION: Do you know where Nadal took his first title? He did it while never losing a set.

Well, some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Fognini moves five to 27. Cuevas goes up to 30. Bellucci up eight to 31. Querrey holds 32 by 31 ranking points over Coric. Querrey will be a dangerous 32nd seed at the Open.

Top 10 - Raonic drops two but he, Cilic and Nadal are all between 3400-3500. They're 700 clear of 11 and nearly 1000 behind seventh.

Top 8 - Little change. Ferrer at seven is far ahead of eight but behind six. Berdych at six can't challenge for top four.

Top 4 - Little change. Kei could challenge for top four. But Wawrinka has fewer points to defend. Djokovic is way ahead of Federer but Fed is easily holding off the Scot, in at three.

S: John Isner d. Marcos Baghdatis 6-3/6-3
D: Bryan/Bryan d. Fleming/Muller

S: Dominic Thiem d. David Goffin 7-5/6-2
D: Bury/Istomin d. Marach/Qureshi

S: Rafael Nadal d. Fabio Fognini
D: J.Murray/Peers d. Cabal/Farah

...I should have put Nadal, here you're saying to yourself. I personally like the guy on a double digit win streak on the ATP. I like the guy who is 54 ranking points from the top 20. I like the guy who could be a 16th seed in New York, having been a 32nd seed in Wimbledon only about six weeks previously. I like the guy who can hit shots off his backhand that make Wawrinka and Gasquet clap. I like the guy who can retrieve balls and play shots that make Monfils twist and shout. I like the guy who is Austria's second coming. I like the guy who is the future. We've done Nadal. And it would be good if we could get to a point where we can say Thiem's been done. We've talked about him. But today we're going to talk about this new guy. Isn't he great? Of course, by then I will have been with BACKSPIN so long I'll just be part of the furniture. Where do we start? Seeded fourth last week and third this. He is seeded first in an event in his home country that he made the final of last year. He is rising like a phoenix. Beating Delbonis in straight sets is a great win. Then beating seventh seed Busta on this surface 6-2 in the third shows a lot of gumption. But then to come out and beat Lopez 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-3 on this surface is just fantastic. Lopez had found some form. And Thiem even recovered after knowing he should have won the second set. And beating Goffin 7-5, 6-2 is an absurd result. One keeps expecting Thiem to falter. One would understand if he did. But he doesn't. And kudos to him. This guy has everything you could want in a player. No, seriously. If you haven't checked this guy out already do it now. I like the confidence. He knows he's young but it doesn't matter. He knows that he can hit that inside out backhand into the far corner perfectly. That serve and volley he can hit, too. He backs himself. And I think he does it in a way Dimitrov doesn't but needs to.
...The second greatest clay-courter ever [Evert still has that title and she will always have it] won another dirty event this past week. No, it wasn't corrupt dirty. It wasn't run by America's police force, after all. And Nadal's not black. Ahem. No, this event was a dirty 500 event because it had clay. It had no white socks allowed. Nadal dropped a set to Verdasco. The first set of the tournament. Put that aside and then you see the dominance. Some nerves on his part were a certainty. But as soon as he found top form that was it. He beat Verdasco in the next two sets 1 and 1. Then he beat Vesely 6-4, 7-6[2] but that scoreline is more due to Vesely's brilliance and talent. A 6-3, 6-2 win over the fifth seeded Cuevas was up next. Fourth seeded Seppi fell next and he managed just three games. The final at least was closer. Eighth seed Fognini gave it everything but it didn't matter in the end. No, Robredo didn't get there. Perhaps that's for the best. Have you ever seen a one-handed backhand against this guy on this surface. It's like Jaws versus that hippy chick. I won't spoil the result for you but...

It has now gotten to the point where Nadal has had every kind of word written about him. So why not check him out here. His English has gotten better, no?

...Is Baghdatis making a run a big surprise? No, not really. He can do it. It is still almost more of a surprise when he crashes and burns. It is taking a bit of getting used to that he is on the comeback trail. Seeded top in the qualifying, Kudla beat 15 year old Trent Bryde 6-1, 6-1. He dismissed Matosevic 7-5, 6-2 next. He barely got by Harrison, who is probably a more talented player, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6[5]. Then he beat Sock in a mystifying match. Sock should have beaten him but Sock has been enigmatic lately. He played a very strong match in beating Sela 7-5, 6-0. That's the kind of scoreline one would expect. It took Isner three sets and everything he could handle to finally get Kudla. A great run from qualifying and the 22 year old born in Kiev rises to 79. It is a highest ever ranking for him.
...Jaume is 18. He has lost a French Open boys singles final and won it in the doubles. He won this year.

And he beat Garcia-Lopez after his compatriot retired just three games in. He is mainly a doubles player, though. Well, those are the signs in any case. He has won two ITF doubles titles and he has had a few good junior results, too. He lost to Bolelli 6-1, 6-7[5], 6-4. But then the Italian defaulted and handed Seppi a bye to the semi-finals. And that is a pity. The Spaniard must wait for his second ATP 500 win. He is the hero Spain needs right now.
...After the French I just thought he would kick on. Everybody did. Everybody said this is it. Here he goes. He is going to have the summer that Thiem has had. But he hasn't. Qualifier Kudla had just survived a titanic tussle with Harrison previously. And he lost 7-6[6], 6-3. There's no fight there. There's no tough attitude there. If Sock had fought back and taken the second it would have been fine. As it was, it was totally unacceptable. He should have gone to play on the clay and he knows it.
...Newly British, Bedene is now making inroads on the tour flying under a different, and worse, flag. I mean aesthetically worse, of course. It's rare for countries to choose flags based on looks, but the Argentine flag is nice. And the American one is iconic. Anyway, Bedene first dismissed Traver 6-4, 6-1 before ousting Agut in two breakers 7-2 and 9-7. It's a good win for the young British star.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Thiem has played and beaten Muster on the tour. I like the invisible baton.

2 - Serena withdrew from Stanford. I like that the rest of the WTA have a chance but I hope Serena is okay.
3 - The clay rivalry Fognini and Nadal have had this year has been pretty good. Nadal takes a match back here.
4 - Kyle Edmund has been putting on a run in the challengers fueled by a decent Wimbledon.
5 - Fed is skipping Montreal to go for the Open. It's a good decision but it could give Murray a chance at number two. The Scot does have a huge amount of points to defend after the US however.

1. Hamburg Final - Nadal d. Fognini 7-5, 7-5
...Rafa's back. Nadal showed us his best by dropping just one set in the whole tournament. Fognini didn’t play badly; Nadal was just too good this time.
2. Hamburg 2nd Rd – Paire d. Robredo 6-2, 3-6, 7-5
..Paire is just finding something here. It could be nothing, but it could be the start of something. Bennyman was a late bloomer. Could the same apply to Paire? He beat the evergreen Robredo on clay, no less.
3. Gstaad SF – Thiem d. Lopez 6-3, 6-7[5], 6-3
...Lot's of good semi-finals and not so many good finals. In fact there were few good matches in the quarterfinal stage and beyond. Thiem blew a 6-3, 3-1 lead but won anyway. In other sadder news, Lopez is now married. That is the most beautiful couple I have ever seen!
4. Atlanta SF – Isner d. Kudla 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
...Isner nearly blew it and he has blown it so many times. He has messed it up before but that doesn't usually happen in the borders of the United States. And this time he recovered well from a setback. He has won three in a row here in Atlanta. [Isner was born in Greensboro, just a few states over and played for at the University of Georgia.]

*Washington Citi Open*
Murray [1] d. [4] Gasquet
Anderson [5] d. [2] Nishikori
Murray [1] d. [5] Anderson

...Murray and Gasquet return. I feel obligated to pick them to do well. There's no doubt this event is top heavy in terms of the draw. Isner, Tomic and Dimitrov all lie in the top half. All are seeded and all are dangerous. At some points of this year all of them have found form. Gasquet has made a slam semi-final and there's no saying he didn't deserve it. Same for Murray. The top is stronger than the 250 we have this week, but this is the reality of 250's. Anderson will beat the slightly injured Japanese man but the bottom half is a hot mess.

*Genrali Kitzbuhel Open*
Thiem [1] d. [3] Fognini
Seppi [2] d. [4] Klizan
Thiem [1] d. [2] Seppi

...Thiem is just too good right now. His first event as a top seed comes with him on top form. A three-peat is a rare feat on the Tour but this young star could and should do it.

Dellacqua has yet to commit anywhere. And so, in lieu of that particular Aussie, let's talk about Rottnest island. Formerly known as Rats Nest [but in Dutch] island, it is home to the Quokka. This creature is so friendly it walks up to predators like the Dingo. It smiles all the time and is endangered. People forget Australia has adorable animals, too. They don't really have much in the middle. It's either adorable or pretty or it's going to kill you. Probably painfully. The safe thing to do is just avoid on principle.

We miss you Casey!

ANSWER: Nadal won in Sopot in 2004. It was called the Orange Warsaw open back then. It is now defunct.

Thanks all and don't forget to visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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