Rafa Alleges Federer is Ducking Him On Clay

By Scoop Malinowski

Asked in Monte Carlo about his rival Roger Federer’s decision not to contest a single clay-court event for the second straight season, Rafael Nadal, the “King of Clay” smiled with pride. “He says he will love to play against me again in best-of-five sets on clay. He said that a couple of days ago – and I thought he would play Roland Garros. Then a few days later he says he will not play in one event, so there’s a little bit of controversy with that.”

Those are fighting words sprinkled with some sugarcoating. If it was a professional boxer talking, there would be no diplomacy. The boxer would say, “He said he wants to fight me for my title but then he refuses to sign the contract, making excuses about purse splits and other terms. He knows I will knock him out and that’s the real reason why he won’t sign the contract.”

Overcoming Rafael Nadal on clay is the one puzzle Federer has not been able to solve. And it appears Federer has given up on trying to find the solution, by bypassing two straight years of red clay court tournaments.

As Rafa noted, Federer talked the talk about playing Rafa on clay, but when it came time to walk the walk, he didn’t.

Federer must know his limitations. For all the talk about improving and getting better and the new racquet, the fact that Federer won’t dare to face Nadal again on red clay is disappointing to the sport on many levels.

The logic behind the decision, that Fed’s top priority is winning Wimbledon and to grind it out on red clay could run the risk of an injury to jeopardize grass season does make some sense. But then why float the notion to the media and tennis fans about challenging Rafa on clay in a best or five?

Roger Federer is the greatest player in tennis history and he is certainly capable of figuring out how to beat Nadal on clay. The fact that he won’t try to do it is an undeniable blemish on the Federer legacy. Champions of sport, the ultimate champions are not supposed to show any fear or hesitation to face a challenge. But Roger is showing great reluctance to battle Rafa on red clay.

Rafael Nadal is not perfect and he has limitations too. We all know Nadal is not as potent or effective on hard courts and grass as he is on red clay but he still keeps trying his best anyway.

Both Fed and Nadal are great champions. If we measure and compare their achievements, Federer is the clear winner. But if you want to compare and measure each of their levels of courage and fearlessness, we know which one ranks higher.

Photo by Henk Abbink.



  • catherine · April 16, 2018 at 10:24 am

    Scoop – not sure I’d want to rank anyone on ‘courage and fearlessness’ unless you want to contain that to hitting a fuzzy ball around a tennis court. And even then….

    However – my view is that Federer is old, in tennis terms, is seeing life in a new perspective, and finds no joy in the prospect of being flattened on clay by Nadal. His priority is Wimbledon so let’s leave it at that. His legacy is secure.

    In the link I posted earlier from the DT I was interested in Simon Briggs’ comment- ‘ after one of the flattest months in the history of the ATP tour..’ – would anyone else agree with that ?
    Is it just a daily newspaper journalist’s jaded perspective ?

    I feel something similar about the WTA – but it’s possible that famliarity is at work here.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Catherine, But Fed teased Rafa with the comment that he’d like to play Rafa best of five on clay. Why say it and not do it? The best ducking the best is ruining boxing and I hate to see it creeping into tennis. I somewhat understand Fed’s decision to skip clay for two years in a row. But I also understand the logic in playing just one Masters 1000 and Roland Garros. Fed can always limit himself to just dubs in Laver Cup.

  • catherine · April 16, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Scoop – well Tyson Fury is back in the ring (supposedly) so we’ll see who ducks him 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2018 at 11:25 am

    yes Tyson Fury is returning to boxing after a long hiatus following his last fight, the title winning decision against Wladimir Klitschko in Nov 2015. I will tell you right now who is going to duck Fury for years and years – the American protected fraud Deontay Wilder who is currently pretending to want to fight Anthony Joshua but his team is faking it and will not sign any contract to face Joshua. Canelo Alvarez is now ducking Gennady Golovkin. Everybody is ducking Errol Spence, Artur Beterbiev. Gervonta Davis is ducking Vasyl Lomachenko.

  • Duke Carnoustie · April 16, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Yes Fed is ducking Rafa on clay. He can do that; the other players have to show up for these events. I agree with Scoop that Fed should play one Masters and RG. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to the French tennis fans not to play RG again.

    Fed is no angel like he is portrayed in the media. He is a great champion but he knows what he is doing. He doesn’t want to take a certain loss. I wouldn’t call it cowardly but it is what it is. Like I said, other players have to show up and Fed doesn’t.

    Scoop, Harry threatened to fight Kokkinakis in Cincy several years back – you can find it on YouTube. Even if you ask him, he would tell you he regrets that one. I don’t hold it against him, just saying he did it.

    It’s still not as heinous as the falsified racism claims by DY that will haunt his career.

    Sandgren really is a special player and one of the greatest stories in sports.

  • Duke Carnoustie · April 16, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Some major developments at the casino today.

    Djoker wins in 56 minutes and plays Coric next. Kei knocks off Berdych while JD loses again to Ramos.

    Tsitsipas with a huge win over Shapo.

    Tomorrow’s big one is Kohli vs. Sandgren meeting for the first time.

  • Chazz · April 16, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Donaldson is getting some heat for what he did to the chair umpire. I am shocked he did this, it’s totally out of character for him and he’s one of the last players I would expect it from.


  • Joe Blow · April 16, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    After 18 years on tour, making the other players a fortune of money, and the Tour a ton of money, he doesn’t get to pick and choose his schedule? You do?

    Owe the French fans? Played a lot of matches at RG. Never ducked it until he was 34

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Duke, Fed has a wonderful image but he has to be cutthroat at times, as my friend Philip H Anselmo once so memorably said, “To be the best in the world at anything, you have to get blood on your hands.” Rafa is a wolf in sheep’s clothing too. Djokovic used to be a wolf but he’s a sheep right now although he did look like he might be a wolf again in today’s 60 61 win vs Lajovic. Challenging an opponent to a fight has happened many times, Scott Davis and Peter McNamara challenged John McEnroe, John Newcombe threatened McEnroe, Taylor vs Bob Hewitt, Lleyton Hewitt and Coria almost came to blows as did Connors and McEnroe. Roddick and Djokovic in the US Open locker room. Courier and Chang’s brother in US OPen locker room. I’m sure there are other examples. Sandgren is proving he’s a very special player and it was nice to see Houston supporting him so much.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Tsitsipas looked incredible. What a great player he will be.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Never saw Donaldson lose it like that, it was rage on the McEnroe level. Good to see Donaldson has that kind of burning desire and strong personality on court. I was impressed by Donaldson’s outburst. he wants it, he really wants it.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 16, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Crazy thing with Donaldson blow up is it happened at 4-3, 40-0 Ramos in the second set, so it wasn’t like an important point. JD was right, Hawkeye showed the serve was out, but to lose it like that in a kind of crazed fashion, was a bit of a surprise for the Rhode Islander.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    No I believe it was 3-2 and that phony ace made it 4-2. “Crazed” fashion? What would you categorize McEnroe’s arguing fashion? Donaldson was very animated and extremely upset, but I’d call it “crazed” only if he launched a strike at the umpire.

  • Duke Carnoustie · April 16, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Scoop the difference is those players are all great and earned the right to act that way. Harrison was anointed as a future great and hasn’t come close. He also has developed a lot of enemies on tour and the guys relish in beating him. Not saying his approach is wrong but it hasn’t helped him win matches. Johnny Mac or these other guys, yes. I do agree that he is an intelligent guy off the court, perhaps one of the most on tour.

    Fed has earned the right to do what he wants. Doesn’t mean it can’t be interpreted in the most obvious fashion. He doesn’t want to play Rafa on clay, and it’s fine. We all know how that match would turn out anyway.

  • Duke Carnoustie · April 16, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    Just to be clear, I would respect Harry more had he actually fought Kokk rather than talk about it and not do anything. Those are the guys I can’t stand. If you wanna fight, do it, you know what I am saying? Don’t chicken out. I am sure the other players know he is all talk too when it comes to this.

    Great outburst by JD. I support him 100 percent. He was obviously right on such a critical point.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 16, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    I only saw the JD outburst once, but he went further than Johnny Mac ever did as far as physically cheating up the ump. You can’t do that as a player. He’s going to get a big fine. The ump came out of his chair to check the mark and JD definitely like to get into his chest space. That was an aggressive move and let’s face it, Ramos was clearly rolling in that match when it happened.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 16, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    It was one set and 3-2 Vilonas Ramos, pretty close. JD blew several openings. Rare to see a player flare up like that but it happens.

  • Duke Carnoustie · April 16, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    Right Scoop, it happens but great to see the fire by JD. I didn’t know he had it in him and he is striving for greatness. The Americans continue to push each other.

    Hitting Gabas would have been too much and glad it didn’t happen since he was the guy Shapo drilled with the ball.

  • catherine · April 17, 2018 at 3:01 am

  • catherine · April 17, 2018 at 3:02 am

    Well, that seems to settle that.



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