Half a set has determined the GOAT

A Wimbledon ballboy once told Jeff Borowiak to get to net, sound advice which helped Borowiak turn a loss into a win at Wimbledon.

Tennis intelligence of the highest form can come from any source. A friend at the local courts I play at made a smart point this week that not one expert tennis pundit, yours truly included, has been able to see. The greatest of all time debate has been determined by a half a set.

The 2017 Australian Open final fifth set had Nadal up 3-1 on Federer and then it was 3-3 before Federer rolled to the 6-3 triumph. Federer now stands with 20 major titles and Nadal’s recent Roland Garros win tallies his total to 18. So, as Pete Lavalle points out, if Nadal closes out Federer in that AO final, their Grand Slam total is locked at 19 apiece.

Federer is four and a half years older than Nadal, with only two more majors. That is a fragile advantage. But considering the wear and tear on Nadal’s legs, you never know when the engine is going to explode.

It’s a marvel that a combined 2,162 ATP match wins (1,211 for RF) and 183 singles titles (101 for RF), that the greatest of all time difference maker is that single half set in Melbourne two years ago.

It’s fascinating evidence of the minute closeness of this rivalry which commenced in 2004 at the Miami Open R32 when the 17 year old Nadal upset ATP world no. 1 Federer 63 63.

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  • ol'timer bucky · June 17, 2019 at 10:48 am

    scoop. how about that…..oversimplified but true.

    fed is goat on paper at the moment but nadal should overtake it soon. actually, fed as goat even now is debatable as nadal owns fed in h2h..

    what are your thoughts ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 11:17 am

    ol’timer bucky, I believe Rafa is the better, smarter, tougher player than Roger. He proved it in their first match and the last in Paris and the head to head affirms it. He’s going to surpass Federer’s 20. But I also believe Djokovic is better than Nadal, head to head proves it and he too will pass Fed and Rafa for total grand slams. I believe Federer raised the level of tennis after Sampras, then Nadal raised it to a new height with his style and mental toughness and Djokovic has taken tennis to a whole new level, he’s solved the Rafa puzzle and is a little bit better. I believe Felix and Tsitsipas are the two who can actually take tennis to a new height post Djokovic Nadal. I know it sounds crazy but in the early 2000s it sounded crazy to think Federer could be greater than Pete Sampras.

  • ol'timer bucky · June 17, 2019 at 11:38 am

    oh boy….fed is not gona be a happy camper when he eventually hangs it up. 2 guys on his heels and will prlly surpass the records and too quickly too.

    what a tough time to be contending for a ATP GS but on the flip side – how about the WTA ?….quite the side show LOL

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    I think part of Federer’s motivation is to keep playing to stop Rafa and Djokovic from eclipsing his illustrious career, which each of them are on the verge of doing. Or in the process of doing. Federer won’t be forgotten, like Sampras has been in a sense, but he also does not want to be in the shadows of Rafa and Djokovic.

  • catherine · June 17, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    If you cream off the top 3 men players the WTA wouldn’t seem such a ‘side-show’. That sounds like a YTube comment.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    I do like women’s tennis but have to say it’s riding the coattails of the ATP. Yes sometimes the womens finals and certain matches do upstage the mens matches but overall if you ask 100 people who enter the gate of a grand slam if they prefer mens or women’s tennis, I think the vast majority will say mens. Though I do know a few men who do prefer watching womens tennis. Until womens tennis has a rivalry like Seles vs Graf, it will be in the shadow of the mens game.

  • ol'timer bucky · June 17, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    fed would hate to see djoko go by him…what’s the word nowadays – do they still despise one another ?

  • catherine · June 17, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Scoop – as you know I’m often quite critical of many aspects of the women’s game, and the WTA, but I don’t LOL about it. Sound a bit sneery. And I don’t like ‘riding the coattails’ much either because it seems to imply the players aren’t trying which isn’t (always) the case.

    There’ve been a few good rivalries over the years but for some reason or other so many good players now don’t deliver consistently and the promising ones keep slipping down the greasy pole.

    So no stability at the top and no opportunity for worthwhile competition to develop. Don’t know the answer to that.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Catherine, the womens game has never been “The Main Event” other than a few isolated special matches like Serena vs Osaka, Hings vs Graf, Graf vs Seles, but we all hope it can upstage the men more often because we all want to see more special dramatic tennis. But the fact is the wta is riding coattails which is okay. If Maria could have competed better with Serena I might be saying differently.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    i think they like each other in public but that’s probably just for show. i have not checked but i don’t think they respond to each other on twitter or IG and I don’t think they ever train together 🙂

  • ol'timer bucky · June 17, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    yea, prlly right scoop…..that dubs in laver cup was a charade.

    not sure if they love to hate each other but just cannot genuinely like each other – no matter what 🙂

  • catherine · June 17, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    Scoop – not saying it was ever the Main Event but it’s strange to watch a sport where so many people consider the standard better 20 + years ago. My main criticism is today’s play is it’s so sluggish and unimaginative and some of the women are definitely overweight – their footwork is terrible. You’d never believe they were playing on grass now – is it really so slow ?

    I know it’s not particularly fair to use Steffi as a comparison but a quick look at some of her matches is instructive – it’s a different game. That shouldn’t be so bearing in mind tech advances etc. Depressing scenario.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    Vekic vs Garcia yesterday’s final was hard to watch. Two identical players with no apparent strategy other then to outfit or outlast the other in monotonous baseline rallies. Unwatchable for more than five minutes. Every point was the same.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    Feel Rafa and fed is the same, pleasant on the surface but no contact, no friendship, no social media interaction.

  • catherine · June 17, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Yes, thankfully I only watched highlights so I didn’t have to see much. Too many matches are like that. I watched a couple from Mallorca – just the same. I’ve already forgotten who was playing. Re Garcia – I’ve seen better from her but a couple of years ago. Svitolina lost another tedious contest in B’ham.

    Is it worth paying coaches the large amounts of money they command to get this stuff ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    That final was the WTAs worst nightmare. All baseline monotony, no net attacks. Id rather watch just one set of that then force them both to serve and volley first and second serve in the second set 🙂

  • Hartt · June 17, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    With the WTA hopefully some of the younger players who have variety, like Barty and Andreescu, can liven things up.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    The WTA is in trouble if every match becomes a Garcia vs Vekic baseline marathon. Maybe along with OCC the WTA can force players to go to net, as in you can’t win the match unless you hit five volley winners at net 🙂

  • catherine · June 17, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    The best thing would be if people vote with their feet and make a mass rush to the exit after 5 mins of a Garcia/Vekic lookalike contest. Empty stands no TV and no money for rubbish WTA advertising campaigns and dress-up photo ops for the players 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    Or the whole stadium falls asleep. I’d rather watch practices of lower ranked players. Hopefully Hsieh Andreescu and Barty will continue to revolutionize the wta and spread their styles so they take over the sport and make baseline bashing outdated soon.

  • Harold · June 17, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    You actually think Fed or Nadal would say something about each other on Social Media? Lunatics would be going over every emoji, assigning some nefarious meaning behind it. Look at a forum on TW. The Fedcult vs the Nadalcult is crazy stuff..

    Womens tennis has become a joke. Why they need coaches was a good question earlier in the thread. They look drills, not a match. Its like the old starting point, 3 and over. You cant hit a winner until the third shot, WTA its the 8 th shot, after a boring backhand drill.
    They need psychiatrists, and psychologists. Rare they serve out a match, 90% are a lock to be broken. Crying on changeovers is not a good look. The whole father thing is getting a little creepy too. Where are the Mothers? Looking after the kids that cant play tennis?

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    LOL Harold, tell it like it is Hairload and stop holding back 🙂 Well it looked like Fed and Djokovic were good friends at Laver Cup, why not keep up the act on social media? Was Spielberg consulting acting lessons at Laver Cup?

  • Dan Markowitz · June 17, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    Is there a more unlikable or just hard to like player as Zverev? I can’t really remember one. Maybe Fognini? Well, Kyrgios I guess, but Nick can be fun too. Tarango possibly. I was watching Sasha play today against Haase, talk about some boring rallies, one late in the match actually went 44 shots on grass! Haase just kept on hitting mostly one-handed slices which Paul Annacone commented was foolish because he didn’t direct one to Zverev’s forehand.

    And there’s Sasha still skinny as a beanpole with a Mr. T’s gold starter kit around his neck and top it off, probably the most unlikable player of all time, Ivan “Dracula” Lendl in his box. If anyone should hire the publicist who used to travel around with Raonic it would be Zverev.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 17, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    Zverev is actually very nice and his gesture to run over and put headband on girl head who was hit in head by his shot was one of nicest kindest gestures I ever saw by a player.

  • Jeff · June 17, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    Zverev is one of the most hated players in the Reddit community. I think it is his Russian cockiness that drives the Redditors nuts. We don’t like Tsitsipas apparently either but I respect him and think he will be a great champion.

    I don’t think women’s tennis is that bad but it’s really always been about watching the cuties. When Sharapova and Ivanovic were there along with Hantuchova, it was a pleasure. Bouchard is quite a babe too but she doesn’t advance far. I do like Svitolina and her muscular sex appeal.

  • catherine · June 18, 2019 at 1:51 am

    Oh dear no Jeff – it’s not about the cuties. It’s about the great players people are moaning they don’t see any more. Maybe it’s always been about the cuties for men but they don’t last long.(The cuties I mean.)

    Why not two women’s tours ? One full of cuties, talent not required, and one for the rest of us who want to be impressed and entertained. I watched some of Svitolina’s match. Dullsville. Off to the cutie circuit.

    Harold – you’re completely right about coaching and the fathers – there are some mothers around but they aren’t so visible. And the ‘teams’ !! Some of them are vast. The player is this tiny little person in the middle.

    Angie said something last year about coaches (and she should know) – that it doesn’t matter if your coach is good or poor – it’s down to your own motivation. No excuses. I’m pretty ignorant about the technical side of coaching but I’ve seen some videos where the girls seem to get in a zone and you feel they can go on hitting up and down the court, same shots, sunrise to sunset, and the coach is just standing there. I’d like that job 🙂

  • Dan Markowitz · June 18, 2019 at 3:10 am

    In my opinion, there’s always going to be a part of women’s tennis that’s enhanced by attractive women. I was watching some of the doubles match today from England where Venus was playing with Harriet Dart, an English player, and I have to admit if it wasn’t Venus playing and Dart wasn’t very fetching (as was one of her opponents, Nadia Kichenok from the Ukraine), I probably wouldn’t have watched much or any of this match.

    But women’s tennis more than men’s–and men’s tennis has been hurt as well–has been negatively affected by the nature of how juniors are developed today. I see it McEnroe’s where my son trains and also at the USTA Junior Development group where he also goes in Flushing Meadows. The baseline game predominates as does the two-handed backhand. There is little room for the individualist, the Billie Jean King, the Navratilova, the Schiavone. Players can move well side to side, but they don’t move well coming into the net. For the most part, juniors are not taught how to hit approach shots or set-up volleys. They swing at volleys as often as they punch them. Look at a player like Dustin Brown, who’s very entertaining. He rarely swings at a volley.

    So the athleticism of women’s tennis is marginalized.

  • Harold · June 18, 2019 at 5:54 am

    About thne Mothers, has anyone ever Woz, or Sharaopova’s mothers in the 10 plus years theyve been on tour? Had I been a pro player, I imagine it might have been hard to get my mom to the matches, shed probably be reading, or knitting in the players box.

  • Hartt · June 18, 2019 at 6:35 am

    Regarding mothers as coaches, some male players have their mothers as coaches. Denis Istomin’s mother has always been his coach, and Denis Shapovalov’s mother coached him when he was a kid and now is one of his two coaches.

    Shapo’s situation is especially interesting in light of Dan’s comments about junior players. Denis had an aggressive style and a one-handed backhand even as a kid. His mother encouraged him to follow his natural instincts and to come to the net, even though that wasn’t successful when he was young. She told him he would get bigger and stronger and it would pay off in the long run.

  • Hartt · June 18, 2019 at 6:44 am

    Why all the dislike of Alexander Zverev? Yes, he can be cocky, especially in press conferences, but that is not a crime. And he has good qualities. As Scoop said, he gave the young girl his headband, he adopted a dog from a shelter, and he was very supportive of Mischa, especially during his brother’s tough period.

    I will save my dislike of a tennis player for a homophobe like Stakhovsky.

  • catherine · June 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

    Hartt – Denis’ experience is one of the reasons so many young players, especially girls and those coached in programs, aren’t encouraged to develop an individual style and get off the baseline. Attacking players take longer to mature – eg BJK didn’t win any junior titles as far as I can recall – and there is plenty of pressure these days to produce results at an early age.

    Am I being cynical if I suggest girls are taught the baseline style because they can become commercially attractive when they are sometimes barely teenagers ?
    No one wants to wait for a young player to grow fully and become stronger. Denis’ mother was right.

    Dan is also right when he says the athleticism of women players is marginalized. For some the word ‘athlete’ is itself a misnomer.

    The swing volley is for players who can’t volley. The classic volley is now virtually gone, at least from the women’s game. Shame – it’s a beautiful stroke.

  • catherine · June 18, 2019 at 7:32 am

    I’m also a bit puzzled by the animosity towards Zverev – at the Hopman Cup he got trashed for supposedly hogging the mic at the presentation but Angie obviously didn’t want to speak (he asked her) and he gave her a consoling pat on the back as they walked off – he probably knew how disappointed she was. He seems a nice, sensitive young man – sometimes a flop on the court but who isn’t ?

  • Hartt · June 18, 2019 at 7:41 am

    As someone who is a big fan of that rare thing, serve and volley, I love watching a player with a good volley. Even among the men there are just a few with a classic volley, and I agree with Dan that Brown has an excellent one.

  • Hartt · June 18, 2019 at 7:46 am

    With Dan’s comments about how junior players are taught to play the same type of baseline game, I thought this from Tignor (tennis.com) was interesting:

    “The playing styles of the Canadian pros are equally heterogenous. From Auger-Aliassime’s textbook precision, to Andreescu’s thoughtful versatility, to Raonic’s serve-based attack, to Shapovalov’s daredevil shotmaking, there’s nothing cookie-cutter or one-dimensional about tennis in Canada. Yet at the same time, there’s nothing unorthodox, either; all of the country’s players are well-schooled in technique.”

    There has been a lot of discussion about why Canadian tennis players are so successful right now. This is part of the reason – however it happened, the players were able to develop their own style of play.

  • Hartt · June 18, 2019 at 7:50 am

    To clarify, when Tignor wrote “equally heterogeneous,” he was referring to the backgrounds of the players.

    “If there’s one thing that unites this diverse group, it’s their status as the children of immigrants. To Downey [head of Tennis Canada], this is also what helps them thrive in a global sport, and what makes them truly representative of their country.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 18, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Never seen momma Sharapova but Mrs Woz is often there supporting Caro. I see Yuri Sharapov in Longboat Key where he lives, he no longer goes to watch Maria live, has not for years.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 18, 2019 at 8:33 am

    The rare formula is the male player with the father as coach. Are there any examples besides Stefanos and Apostolos? I can’t think of any. Petr and Sebi Korda are trying to make it work but it’s been slow progress so far.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 18, 2019 at 8:35 am

    The dislike for Zverev is disturbing and frustrating, I met him and interviewed him one on one in private and he is good person, very nice, normal. That gesture with the girl was touching and heartfelt and the best gesture I ever saw a player do for a kid. Even better than when Djokovic invited the ballboy to share a water under the umbrella during the rain delay.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 18, 2019 at 8:38 am

    With all the pressure and expectation on Zveren and his own personal goals and ambitions, for how he’s handling the struggles, he deserves more respect. The Big Three are trying to kill his career, ruthlessly viciously mercilessly. I hope Zverev makes it and gets that first major soon.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 18, 2019 at 8:39 am

    USTA has to triple Borfiga salary and relocate him to Orlando. Then clone him into ten clones for future decades. USA’s only hope for world tennis domination.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 18, 2019 at 8:40 am

    Canada also has many talented juniors rising fast too, particularly an Ecuadorian Filipina named Leylah Annie Fernandez.

  • Hartt · June 18, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Fernandez is fun to watch, a terrific competitor. This is another example of a father coaching his daughter. He is also coaching her younger sister.

  • Hartt · June 18, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Scoop, Borfiga will never leave Tennis Canada! For one thing, he is French and is living in a city where French is the predominant language.

    The USTA will simply have to find an American equivalent. 🙂

  • catherine · June 18, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Fernandez might be too small. She’s supposed to be 5′ and if she has stopped growing I would think she’ll have a hard time getting through to the top ranks.

  • Hartt · June 18, 2019 at 9:55 am

    I think Fernandez is more like 5’5″. I’ve seen her at the net with other players and she is not noticeably shorter than her opponents. She does have a slight build, however, and I think that could be a problem at the pro level. She is scheduled to play 3 Challenger-level tourneys in Canada over the summer, and likely the Rogers Cup, so it will be interesting to see how she fares.

  • Harold · June 18, 2019 at 9:55 am

    My point was to Fathers that Coach daughters. Sharapova, Woz, Kenin.. you never see the Mother. I know there have been Mom coaches.

    Pierce, and Lujic, and the girl from Oz whose father was banned, were the only mothers that were there. Think they were afraid for their daughters, because their hubbys were tyrants

  • catherine · June 18, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Harold – Scoop says Mrs Woz is often there at Caro’s matches. So maybe she’s the exception.

  • Harold · June 18, 2019 at 10:40 am

    I’ll take Scoops word, but I’ve seen tons of Woz’s matches, couldn’t pick the Mother out of a police lineup. The father, and now David Lee are there. Never saw the Mom

  • Hartt · June 18, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Catherine, Tom Tebbutt reported on the Tennis Canada site that Bianca has withdrawn from Eastbourne, so it is unlikely that she will play Wimbledon. This is such a shame – it means she is missing two Slams this year.

    I hope she will be OK for the summer hard court season. I’d like to get a ticket for her Rogers Cup match, but now don’t know what to do.

  • Jeff · June 18, 2019 at 11:04 am

    I think the Reddit community hates Zverev since they see him as a threat to Fed or Nadal. Their fans generally hate every other player who “dares” to challenge their favorites.

    Then everybody thinks he is a sore loser and also cocky about how good he is. I am not saying I agree but that is the Reddit perspective. Keep in mind it’s a community that roots for Medvedev over Tsitsipas so I don’t know what to tell you.

    The women’s sports debate is also going on in soccer. The U.S. does not have the cuties that Sweden does, for example, and Germany has some beautiful players. This is why women’s basketball is not more popular – watching women in their cute tennis skirts and outfits is far more appealing.

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