mindset

FEDERER-NADAL: HOW OFTEN CAN THEY PRODUCE CLASSIC MATCHES?

By Ritesh Gupta

Over the past week or so, reigning Wimbledon champion Roger Federer and 2008 winner Rafael Nadal have been queried about their chances of winning the 2010 edition.

The beauty of all the projections for any major title not only lies in choosing the winner, but also in whether we would get see another epic Federer-Nadal battle.

How often can these two meet and that too for the big summit clashes?

The possibility of these two going all the way may not be as strong now especially considering the indifferent form displayed by Federer of late.

Federer might have survived an early exit at the Wimbledon tennis championship with his five-set win over Colombian Alejandro Falla, but he needs to show some of the vintage stuff sooner than later to amend some of the dented impressions. It’s not that Federer can’t have an off-colour day or a  slow start in any major championship, but no one is used to seeing the Swiss champ being challenged in the first round of a Grand Slam in such a fashion.

To some extent, the onus lies on Federer to show the same ruthlessness.

Still, for those, who follow the sport and perhaps the most intriguing tennis rivalry seen ever, digging deeper and deeper or anticipating who would win the battle everytime they face each other is quite fascinating.

On top of it, after achieving so much, the two have reached a stage where everytime a Grand Slam is about to begin, there is talk of new records and comparisons inevitably lead to talk of unparalleled success in this sport.

In all, there have been 21 matches between the two. Nadal has won 14 times.

But what about these two players themselves?

There are two facets which clearly stand out in equal proportion in these two players i. e. self-belief and respect for each other.

The fact that there has hardly been any other pro other than these two to emerge as a strong contender for a title of Wimbledon’s stature, too, reflects the mindset of Nadal and Federer to a large extent. But still, if we look around the way the likes of Maradona and Pele have reportedly indulged in verbal volleys during the ongoing FIFA World Cup, it is quite amazing to see the way Nadal and Federer conduct themselves and never get perturbed by the incidents around them.

In case of Federer, the recent unexpected loss to Australian Lleyton Hewitt in Halle, has hardly dented his pride. Just days before this loss,  Federer saw his streak of a record 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals come to an end at Roland Garros.

For one, who would be trying to win his seventh Wimbledon title – a record currently shared by William Renshaw (1881-86, ’89) and Pete Sampras (1993-95, ’97-2000), Federer’s demeanour oozes simplicity. He categorically says his game is made for grass and even though he hasn’t performed the way he was expected to after winning the Australian Open this year, Federer says he is ready to defend his Wimbledon title again. He has also talked about his love for lifting the Wimbledon trophy and leaving a record which would be tough to beat.

Federer says he is happy to see Nadal competing again after missing out on the last year’s edition. And for himself, Federer still feels its important to win the first round and try to make all the expectations simple for “yourself”.

On the other hand, the only man who has managed to beat Federer in the past seven years at the All England Club, Nadal, too, never stops giving away any credit to the Swiss prodigy.

Nadal may have put the onus on Federer by labelling him as favourite, but at the same time, he says he is ready too.

The Spaniard pointed out that before the commencement of the clay court season, questions were being raised whether he would be able to reach the pinnacle again. After a troublesome 2009, Nadal’s hunger has only got stronger and stronger.

Even if Nadal fails to win the title at the All England Club this year, he will leave London at the top of the rankings.

For Federer, one comment from Sampras comes to mind.

“The reason I play tennis is to play in these big tournaments,” Sampras had said after his loss to Federer in the fourth round of the same championship in 2001.

Federer, too, lives for tournaments of such stature. Let’s see whether Federer can go all way this time around!

PRAISE TO ANA IVANOVIC: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Serbian Turnaround – Over the course of the last year or so, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic have experienced varying degrees of a downward spiral in their careers, but signs seem to indicate that they are well on their way to turning things around.  Earlier this spring, Jankovic snagged the Indian Wells title, and she showed great mental toughness to defeat both Williams sisters back-to-back in Rome.  With a few more big wins under her belt, she may just find the consistency that took her to the top of the game in 2008.  My bigger praise, however, has to go to Ana Ivanovic.  While she lost early in Madrid to countrywoman Jankovic, she did put together a great run in Rome that included wins over Azarenka, Dementieva, and Petrova.  She’s gotten herself a new coach, she’s lost some weight, and most importantly, her mindset couldn’t be better.  Ivanovic acknowledges that she’s faced her worst fear in experiencing her playing slump and is ready to begin the climb back up the rankings.  Kudos to both, and I hope that they’ll once again strongly factor into the top of the women’s game.

Chaos Reigns – Roland Garros is just over a week away, and with the decimation of the seeds in Madrid, the women’s field couldn’t look more open. After winning Stuttgart, many (myself included) thought that perhaps Justine Henin was worthy to wear one of the heavy favorite tags, but her upset by Aravane Rezai, which included a bagel in the third, might suggest otherwise.  Serena Williams has looked decent for a player who hasn’t competed since the Australian Open, but with her failure to twice serve out the match against Jelena Jankovic in Rome and a listless performance against an inspired Nadia Petrova in Madrid, she hasn’t exactly looked solid.  Throw in that names like Wozniaki, Sharapova, Safina, Dementieva, Kutznetsova, and last week’s Rome champion Martinez Sanchez have all made an early exit in Madrid, and the time may be ripe for a dark horse to step up and take her first Slam victory at the second major of the year.  And yes, I realize that the seeds that have fallen in Madrid haven’t exactly had the greatest past couple of months, but that only sets the stage further for a surprise victor or finalist in Paris.  But then again, the champions are champions because they can turn it on when it counts.  One thing is for sure…it should be an interesting two weeks at the French Open.

Turning Back the Clock – First there was the return of Kim Clijsters that was then followed by the comeback of Justine Henin. Now there’s another news item that harks back to days gone by. With her three-set victory over Francesca Schiavone this week in Madrid, Venus Williams has guaranteed that she will be the No. 2 player in the world when the new rankings come out on Monday. Younger sister Serena currently holds the No. 1 ranking, and the occasion will mark the first time since May 2003 that the sisters have held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots.  While the Williams sisters aren’t dominating the game as they once did when they previously held the world’s top rankings, their longevity and ability to come up big on the sport’s grandest stages, which has led to their return to the top, deserve tremendous applause.

Zero Pressure – That’s what American Andy Roddick should be feeling as he goes into Roland Garros. Roddick opted to skip Monte Carlo and Rome and do his Paris preparation in the Spanish capital. A stomach virus has since forced him to alter his plans, however, as the virus resulted in his withdrawal from the Madrid Masters before even playing a single match. Not that Roddick has probably ever held great expectations on the red dirt, given that it is his worst surface, but this year in particular he should really be swinging freely. Who knows? Perhaps possibly mental lower expectations will ultimately lead Roddick to his best finish in Paris.

Off into the Sunset? – A lot of tennis fans, myself included, are wondering when Spaniard Carlos Moya will decide to hang up his racquet.  The 33-year-old Moya has rarely played in recent months, and his showing against Benjamin Becker this week was dismal. One wonders if he is able to play Roland Garros, which is currently his plan, if that won’t be the last we see of him.  Having won a major, reaching the No. 1 world ranking, and even winning the Davis Cup, Moya has nothing left to prove. And with Moya and his girlfriend Carolina Cerezuela expecting their first child later this year, he may find it the perfect time to call it a career.