Friday, May 8, 2009

Will The Rival Continue?

As many of you know, tennis is my favorite sport to watch on TV. Thankfully, our satellite company throws the Tennis Channel in as part of the standard package. Last year Nadal took over the #1 ranking in the world from the seemingly unstoppable, Roger Federer. Ever since Nadal secured the #1 ranking he has been virtually unbeatable. Federer had something of a meltdown at the Australian open when he lost to Nadal in the championship match. It seemed as if Federer finally realized that Nadal was not just going to be a force to be reckoned with on clay--he realized that Nadal had upped his game and was going to push him to the breaking point on every surface. Federer has not seemed to be the same since--he has lost his edge.

Although Nadal is by far my favorite player, it has been disappointing to see Federer pose so little threat to Nadal. One of the things that made the match up between Nadal and Federer so fun to watch was how neither of them seemed that they were able to win--it was always neck-and-neck, down to the very last point. It seems that once Federer lost the Austrailian open he lost something of his pizazz.

However, there are many naysayers out there who think that Federer, speaking in tennis terms, has died, never to return to the top again. Although there has been an apparent difference in Federer's confidence over the last few months I would have to completely disagree with those who think that Federer's reign as a champion is over. I have even read some sports columnists who suggest that although Federer, as a 26-year-old, is only 1 major shy of tying Pete Sampras' all-time record of 14 majors, he will never match Sampras' feat. I tell Kristal about 10 times a day (I am sure that she really doesn't care--I just need someone to vent to, and unfortunately I am the only one on the face of the planet who actually, like a goober, avidly follows tennis) that the only reason that Federer would not surpass Sampras' all-time record is if he has become mentally defeated. Federer still moves and jives like he did when he was virtually unstoppable. Nothing has changed in his ability, and I really don't think that Nadal has improved so much that he has out done Federer. If Federer could get over this hump of depression I think that we can expect to see the Nadal vs. Federer hype continue.

The French Open starts at the end of this month (May). I am waiting with bated breath to see how things will turn out. Nadal is on course to break Bjorn Borg's record by winning 5 consecutive championships on clay in Paris. What makes this even more exciting (at least for a geek like myself) is that Federer has never won the championship at the French Open, making this the only Grand Slam that he has not won. To be honest, I will be stoked no matter the outcome of the final at the French Open so long as Nadal and Federer are in the finals. The worst thing, in my opinion at least, is if Novak Djokavic were to win. Whatever the result of the French Open, I just want to see Federer at the top of his game battling back and forth to reclaim his #1 ranking.

The Federer/Nadal rival must continue. I am an optimist who thinks that Federer is merely in a slump. All athletes go through slumps. I am not sure why sports analysts react to slumps the way they do. Every athlete goes through slumps, and it should surprise no one that Federer needs time to get used to being contested by someone as athletic and determined as Nadal.

My predictions: I expect the rival between Nadal and Federer to continue, and I expect Federer to surpass Sampras' record by at least one or two majors. I also expect to see Nadal, if he can remain injury free, come close to Sampras' record as well.

As for other top ranked tennis players: I find Novak Djokavic to be a bit prideful. He doesn't possess the humility, grace, and 'love for the game' that Nadal and Federer seem to have. It seems that Djokavic likes to win to prove himself to those who doubt him while Nadal and Federer like to win because they love the game of tennis. On another note, I am definitely excited about Andy Murray. Murray is not always the most animated tennis player, but he certainly is going to pose a large challenge to Nadal, Federer, and Djokavic. My hope is that Murray dethrones Djokavic from the #3 ranking. In regard to Andy Roddick: although I was thinking at the beginning of the season last year that Andy Roddick had become a 'has been,' he has really stepped up his game. I am looking forward to seeing him play this year, and especially at the U.S. Open.

I hope my tennis commentary has enlightened your day (ha).