Tennis Prose



Would you prefer if there was bad blood between Rafa and Roger?


By Scoop Malinowski

The rivalry of Federer vs Nadal is one of the greatest in tennis and perhaps sports history. These two titans have had dozens of epic duels on all surfaces in just about all of the biggest arenas of tennis.

Yet not once has there ever existed even a hint of any dislike, resentment, personal grudge or anger between the two. Their battles have always been the utmost displays of fine sportsmanship meshed with violent, beautiful tennis pitting a bloodthirsty bull against the greatest matador of all time.


But how much more interesting, more intriguing would this rivalry have been if the two detested each other? What if there was a healthy grudge and tension between these two ultimate champions?

Wouldn’t it have been so cool to see Federer try to lecture Nadal on the court about taking too much time or grunting too loud, pointing his finger inches from his face?

Wouldn’t it have been thrilling to hear Federer call Nadal a pusher with a bunt backhand?

But no, there has been no psychological drama at all between Roger and Rafa.

They will both try to meet each other again this week in London at the World Tour Finals, and Nadal once again spoke kindly about his friendly nemesis. “No I don’t need to beat Roger for good confidence,” Nadal said. “I’ve won enough to be confident. If I play him here it would be great to finish the year playing him again to give me another chance (to win the WTF for the first time).”

“We cannot forget that we played all the times (in 2017) on surfaces that he likes more than me. I just accept that and find different ways to approach the match and if that happens (in London), I’m healthy enough so I hope I have my chances.”

It all makes you wonder how different tennis would have been in the previous era if McEnroe, Connors and Lendl all adored each other like Fed and Rafa.

Borg and McEnroe was a superb rivalry based on clash of styles and deep mutual respect. We can only wonder when, of if, there ever will be another era where the top guns dislike each other to the point that it makes the matches additionally fascinating to watch.

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  • Busted · November 13, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Tennis pause here – The media is "inciting racial division and hatred?" GMAFB. Are you serious? Please turn off FOX News. You have a racist, homophobic POTUS who's given his supporters the license to be openly and blatanlty racist – but it's the media's fault for what? Reporting that instead of lying about it? You have cops using excessive force on people of color on a daily basis – and what, is that the media's fault, too? Baloney. The reality is America is, was and always will be a racist society. News flash – that existed before the Fiffh Estate started reporting it. It is the media's job to report news and if some people see it as "constantly inciting racial division" then I can only assume that you're white and not a person of color or an immigrant or a Muslim with a fucking target on your forehead every time you step foot out of your house. Silence makes the problem worse not the light of day. Some of us live in fear that we're next. That one wrong move or being in the wrong place at the wrong time means you're going to die. Meanwhile others, like yourself apparently, are busy blaming the media for reporting the truth. I seriously wonder sometimes about people who blame the media for reporting the truth without skewing it to some right wing agenda. Yet another by-product of "Trump's America" – the truth, reality and honesty are all "fake news." Rant over.

  • Busted · November 13, 2017 at 11:07 am

    scoop said:

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Busted, are you saying you would not like to see a fiery, rebellious, me against the world, COME ON screaming teenager like Hewitt bursting on the scene? You don't think a villain such as the young Hewitt would be fantastic for tennis? I would love for a young gun rebel like the young Hewitt to bust through the door and show little respect ON COURT for Fed Rafa and the elites. Just like how Hewitt did it. Tennis needs that kind of revolutionary force right now IMO.Click to expand…

    But…like Murray, underneath his on court antics – Hewitt wasn't a jerk who was disliked by his peers. That's a completely different thing to me. Look at Murray – he sometimes acts like a huge jerk on court, but by most accounts he's one of the nicest guys on the tour and everybody likes him. You can have fire on the court and not butt heads with your peers off the court.

    I think, as you're seeing with Kyrgios and Tomic, that being a divisive personalty on the court isn't bad for tennis – it's just a little of it goes a long way. There's too many other sports for tennis to compete with for fans, sponsorsmoney and attention to have a bunch of guys like Kyrgios in the sport – especially when they're NOT WINNING. If you win, as we all know, you can be the biggest jerk ever because you can flash the trophy and the check WHILE telling people to get bent. When you act like that and lose? Then you just look like a petulant, whiny, immature sore loser. That was the thing about Johnny Mac, right? He talked shite and acted like shite…but he backed it up by winning…and then talking more shite. I'm cool with that…just WIN something while you're flapping your gums. Otherwise – what's the saying? It's "all sound and fury signifying nothing."

  • Joe Blow · November 13, 2017 at 11:20 am


    Yes they were brands. But on off weeks they were traveling the world playing exo’s against each other. One nighters in different towns or countries, but then if you lived in NY, you might run into them eating dinner together on the Upper East Side without a Security detail,or read about them at Studio 54.

    Nowadays, they are so big they’d close off the rest, or be in a private room away from media. Different time, nobody had a cell camera, paparazzi were much nicer.
    Borg and Connors owned Vitas, but he was great friends with both of them, couldn’t seem that happening today. Vitas would get killed in forums for hanging with guys that owned him.

    They all hated Lendl, he seemed to grate on everybody, even Wilander, a legendary nice guy, after Lendl destroyed him love and love in an exo, where Wilander had to use crappy sticks, cause his got lost. Sampras did get along with Lendl, probably until he beat him at the 90 Open.

    Agassi was a phony, so he was probably disliked by most.

    Nike was also responsible for a lot of pub. AA and Sampras were both big Nike guys. Vitas was the first Nike guy, until MAC took the top spot. Fed and Nadal both Nike, don’t know if that has anything to do with them being friendly

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Early Hewitt ruffled a lot of players feathers with his intensity and yelling, players like most of the Spaniards, Corretja, Moya, Costa, Ferrero, the Argentines, Chela, Coria, Nalbandian, and other players – Michael Russell, and I'm fairly sure there were others. Later on in his career Hewitt became a very popular well liked veteran. After Hewitt lost his powers and dominance his edges became softer also and he was less confrontational and less abrasive. But early on Hewitt was very controversial and not well liked.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 13, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Right Scoop, average people in the States are nice but you also have the largest military in the history of the world and the least stringent gun laws in the developed world so it follows that people there are fairly bloodthirsty. Nothing wrong with that that necessarily, just the way Americans are so we have to accept it. That’s why football players getting brain damage isn’t a major issue.

    I digress to the match yesterday. Jack played well but couldn’t get over the line. Hopefully he can win the next two and set up a semifinal showdown with Rafa.

  • Hartt · November 13, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Scoop, I don’t think Raonic has lost his belief. He has to be incredibly frustrated with one injury after the other. And yes, I think those injuries are legit. If he could have a few months without injury, would expect to see him back in the top 10, and with a shot at winning a Masters or even a Slam.

  • catherine · November 13, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Joe –
    I’ve rather lost track of this argument so I can only say that the names you are talking about weren’t actually that accessible, at least as back as far as my memory goes, which is a fair way. You certainly couldn’t get an interview with the top guys, or women, after the mid 70s, not unless you were really well connected.

    And today – do players really care about what’s on the internet, forums etc ? I doubt it. Their real world is their colleagues, their families and boyfriends/girlfriends, the tournaments they play, the sponsors who support them. You’d have to be a pretty immature player to spend your time trawling the internet for mentions of yourself, and caring about it.

    Maybe the WTA has a rule that every player is on Twitter, I’ve no idea, but some players hardly use public Twitter at all. Not surprising, seeing some of the comments they get.
    The effect of the internet can be vastly overrated.

  • Hartt · November 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Scoop, this comment was a ways back now, but am just catching up. Was interested in what you said about Peliwo playing well against Fritz and one other player, with big shots. I continue to be fascinated by the players who still play, year after year, in the Futures and Challengers. Either they love tennis so much that they hang in there despite all the drawbacks, or they don’t have an alternative to tennis.

    I use Peliwo as my example because I am more familiar with his career, he was a big deal in Canada as a junior and had his big year the same season as Bouchard won junior Wimby (in both singles and doubles). However disappointing Genie’s career has been in the last couple years, she was way more successful than Filip.

    So why did Peliwo stick it out as a pro? His career earnings are about $183,000, having turned pro in late 2012. So he may be breaking even if he has had any sponsorship support. This Knoxville Challenger win earned him $10,800 and he had to play 8 rounds (3 rounds in qualies). I hope that he does finally have some success as a pro, to make it worthwhile.

    As you said, he is a small guy, actually 5’10” and about 158 lbs. That has to be a problem against the bigger guys on the pro tour. And Peliwo seems to want to play like a “big boy” , despite his small size.

    Anyway, there are so many stories in tennis, and they aren’t all about the top players. I will continue to follow Peliwo’s career. Am very curious to see if there is a change in his fortunes.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Hartt; I was surprised the pop Peliwo puts on the ball, he was dictating and overpowering Tommy Paul and Fritz and that's quite an accomplishment because those two Americans are heavy hitters. Peliwo impressed me very much, to win this title in Knoxville over a strong field proves Peliwo has something special.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 13, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Goffin really is a joy to watch, so elegant. I mentioned before I think that he will win a Slam and this match is showing why.

  • catherine · November 13, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Yes – very good play but I wonder can he keep it up ?

  • Hartt · November 13, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Scoop, am glad to hear that Peliwo’s play at the Knoxville tourney impressed you. As I said before, I realise that not all successful juniors make it on the pro tour, but wondered why Filip’s results were particularly poor. He is small, but several other small guys find success. He’s had injuries, but most players have to deal with that. Now that his ranking is high enough for Challengers I will try to watch him play more often. He won 6 Futures titles this year, so maybe he has learned how to win.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    I've never considered the possibility that Goffin could win a major but after a win like this he now rates that utmost respect. He had Nadal on the ropes badly on clay earlier this year in Monte Carlo or Rome and that very bad line call ruined the match for Goffin. That was another clue that showed that Goffin may have that little extra special ingredient inside his engine. He is like many other secondary players, on the cusp and could shock the world in 2018.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Hartt; He was outhitting and dictating on both Fritz and Paul in the games I saw. We've seen several of these top juniors struggle for years to make inroads in the ATP – Berankis, Young, Harrison, Fucsovics, Gimeno Traver, Fabbiano, etc. Now it's important that Peliwo follow it up with another run in Champaign IL – to show Knoxville was not a random fluke week. Players will be on guard for him this week.

  • Hartt · November 13, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    In an interview following his win in Knoxville, Peliwo gave one reason for his recent success. He started working with coach Frederic Niemeyer this summer. Niemeyer has worked with Tennis Canada as a coach for players such as Felix Auger-Aliassime and was a personal coach for Raonic and Pospisil earlier in their careers. Peliwo said they have been working on better shot selection, the right patterns, and “to actually have some sort of game plan.” These seem pretty basic, but it seems to have helped him. Filip also said he was trying to keep more of an even keel during a match.

    Asked about celebrating his win, he said he has another tournament (Champaign) so no celebration until after his season is over, except for a nice meal and a nice dessert. He faces Eubanks in the first round, so that will be a tough opponent.

  • catherine · November 14, 2017 at 2:14 am

    I’ve had a feeling Nadal’s heart hasn’t been in this tournament. Maybe wrong – Goffin deserved the win.

  • catherine · November 14, 2017 at 2:16 am

    Rafa withdrew – knee. He shouldn’t have played.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 14, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    No reason at all for Rafa to kill himself to win the WTF, Australia is the next target. At this stage of his career 31 yr old Nadal needs to pick his spots. At least he played one match, probably against his own will. I know exactly how it feels to be stuck in a match you really don't want to be playing in when trying to conserve your best for future matches. Now we get to see Carreno Busta sub in.

  • Hartt · November 14, 2017 at 7:35 am

    I am glad PCB will get to play. Have mixed feelings about Rafa trying to play this tourney, but think, in the end, he should not have attempted it if his knee was that bad, and let PCB have his chance to play the entire event.

  • catherine · November 14, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Nadal has withdrawn 6 times from the WTF – out of I think 13 entries – so it’s clearly a tournament too far for him at the end of the season.

  • EquineAnn · November 14, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Exactly. Everyone should try their best in whatever they do or decide to do but we shouldn't strain ourselves. Straining ourselves just exacerbates situations & makes things worse in the long run.

  • Ricardo · November 14, 2017 at 8:14 am

    It was insult alright, go and tell an obese person that he is fat….and say its truth and not insult. Now there wasn't heat of battle that justifies that, and what has accomplishment got to do with it? at that time, Rafter was Sampras's close equal as a rival though not in historical status. He played well enough to match Sampras, as well as Agassi, week in and week out and not just flash in a pan.

    If Fed was saying Murray isn't even 1/6 of him in slams (3 vs 19), sure as hell every reasonable person would call it an insult as it is. You say he modelled himself along Laver and Rosewell, now those veterans didn't talk like that at all at the height of their powers. Sampras was my fav in the 90s just behind Becker, but you got to call spade a spade.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 14, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    You don't know what Laver said, he might have expressed flashes of arrogance. If you were around Laver for his whole career and heard everything he said then you can refute this, if not, you can't 🙂 The best in the world always show traces of their arrogance. It's only human. Pete expressed the perfect reply when some people started anointing Rafter with too much credit too early. He put Rafter right in his place with one sentence. Very sharp, well timed, direct strike by Pete. If you were offended by it, it's your misfortune.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 14, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    EquineAnn; It's about the long term big picture for Rafa. London WTF is a low priority for him. He's got No. 1 wrapped up for 2017. He did tennis a giant favor by even showing up and playing three tough sets when he had nothing to gain. Class act as always. Looking forward to seeing Rafa rip it up in 2018 already.

  • Ricardo · November 14, 2017 at 10:04 am

    I would refute this, as I have never heard Laver say such mean spirited things….unless you can prove it, but you can't. What Sampras said was down right ugly, it was an insult no matter how its spun. It's not about arrogance, you may like it but it's not about that either. He mouthed off with insult unnecessarily, against a classy player. Its not about me being offended by it either, it's not about what i feel if you get it.

  • DarthFed · November 14, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I liked both Sampras and Rafter and remember that feud pretty well. It was actually Rafter who was talking trash first:

  • Hartt · November 14, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Radek Stepanek has officially retired (press conference today). “It’s over. I don’t want to risk my health.” Apparently he is concerned about injuring his back again and requiring further surgery.

  • EquineAnn · November 14, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Definitely. It's important for everybody to see the big picture instead of little gains & put everything into perspective & prioritise. I'd love to see more British wins but realistically Rafa or Nadal will win.

  • Hartt · November 14, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Jack Sock pulled off the win over Cilic in the third set TB. Whatever the reason, GF or other, Sock is playing very well these days.

  • Chazz · November 14, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    First win for American man at ATP Finals since Roddick in 2007. He was down a break at 3-0 in the final set. Gutsy win.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 14, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Another huge moment for Sock. Sets up a huge match vs. Sascha for the semis.

    Anyone who has seen the video of Sock and Micaela can now see that she is the inspiration for this success. Sock is the kind of guy who wants to impress, especially in front of his new love. Hopefully they are still together in Melbourne.

  • catherine · November 14, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Hartt – is Stepanek retiring into domestic bliss ? Perhaps he’s decided to settle down.

    My bet is he’ll turn up coaching soonish – maybe one of those currently coachless Czech babes 🙂

  • catherine · November 14, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Lots of publicity out now for Jelena Dokic’s book and interview with her in Guardian Sport.
    Haven’t read the book yet but from what I gather it seems to raise a lot of questions.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 14, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Darth Fed; Good find. Yes it's unfair to put all the blame on Pete for the feud. It was a very good rivalry there for a while. Good to see that they put the feud behind them and became friendly. I have a photo of them chatting together at Madison Square Garden five years ago. Rafter said for Facing Sampras that he felt it was very ugly tennis, himself vs Pete. He thought he had a more interesting rivalry/clash of styles with Agassi.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 14, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    This is another excellent come back win by Sock, like the win in Paris from far behind in the third set. Sock was not known for his big comeback wins before the past month, further evidence he is taking his game and his mindset to a new higher level.

  • Hartt · November 14, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Catherine, I hope those Czech women players are smart enough to steer clear of Stepanek. Some time ago he did swear off dating Czech tennis players. Don’t know if that extends to coaching! 🙂

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 14, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    I remember Sampras lost a tough match in Cincinnati in the finals to Rafter and seemed to say he was unlucky about a tough line call. Rafter took exception.

    Here’s Pete about the call before their U.S. Open meeting that year.

    Q. He was in talking to us earlier. He said the ball was definitely in.
    PETE SAMPRAS: He did, did he?
    Q. Yes.
    PETE SAMPRAS: He’s smoking something that isn’t legal. No.

    I don’t think Pete generally gave anyone credit but to me it was just his confidence in himself. Here is what he said after he lost to Rafter in New York in ’98.

    Q. Are there times like this when No. 12 and 13 look even further away than ever?
    PETE SAMPRAS: That’s a ridiculous question.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 14, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Clearly Rafter and Pete had a good battle going. You have to be sure they had some locker room encounters too. After the heat of battle to be slapped with ridiculous questions only adds fuel to the fire.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 15, 2017 at 1:16 am

    I really think Federer is underrated in many years. He will win this tourney and it will be epic. We are witnessing an absolutely stunning athlete. Also his calmness is a major reason why, it creates headlines when he loses his cool just a touch.

    Another underrated aspect is how aware he is of how his opponents he is playing or not even. I remember years ago before he faced Leonardo Mayer for the first time he mentioned how excited he was to do so. Another instance is when he broke down Tsitsipas’ game – who he has yet to play. Roger is a major student of the game.

  • catherine · November 15, 2017 at 2:13 am

    Federer underrated ? You’re joking of course.

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