Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Newsreel: Fed "Disses" Claycourters, Kniesl is Back

1. In translation of a Spanish interview, Federer apparently disses clay court tennis, sparking another Fedal war. The offending paragraph is below.

A: Why hasn’t clay been as easy for me as the other surfaces? Why haven’t I been as dominant? It’s because on the other surfaces I can play my game without thinking. Everything happens naturally: I can go from defense to attack when and how I want. On clay you don't need a volley or a serve. You just need legs, an incredible forehand and backhand, and to run after every ball. I'm not trying to take anything from Rafa: he has been successful in other surfaces as well. But on clay you can get away, you can be competitive even with a very incomplete game. I'm not saying it's so simple, but it's too easy. I’ve had to learn to control my aggression. I love to end points quickly, with a couple of shots. On clay, you can do it 50% of the time, but if you take too many risks you're gifting the other 50%. I learned to play from way behind the baseline and to use angles. It was a lesson in geometry. On clay you can play well and lose. What you have to do is to play smart.

The main thing that offended Fed haters was his apparent claim that clay courters have an incomplete game. But reading the complete sentence, he's not saying that. He's saying that you don't need to be top-notch in all the strokes to be competitive on clay. It's been received wisdom in tennis that a net game is less necessary on clay. Serving heat on clay doesn't help as much. The mantra that consistency wins is accentuated on clay.

But let's suppose he is claiming clay courters are incomplete players. Hmm, let's think about it.

  1. Fed is an all-court player CHECK

  2. An all-court player is comfortable playing on all areas of the court and moving horizontally & vertically CHECK

  3. Fed's version of all court play means he likes to take the ball early and rush the net CHECK

  4. Clay courters tend to stand further behind the baseline to wait for the heavy balls to die rather than shank it by standing closer to the baseline CHECK

  5. Therefore for Fed to adapt to clay, he has to play further behind the baseline which is not his preferred style of play CHECK

  6. Therefore since clay courters stand further behind the baseline, it's harder for them to transition to net which explains why the drop shot is such a great weapon but it also explains why they're not the best volleyers CHECK

As one might say, this is too logical for anyone to accept. So, Fed, don't ever change. Your haters will still hate you no matter what you do.

(BTW, when I hack the ball, I hate standing more than three feet behind the baseline. So in my limited way, I know how Fed feels.)

2. One of my favorite players as a kid was Ivan Lendl. I just loved how he would peg McEnroe at the net. Yeah, Americans loved to hate him. But the man had some adorable idiosyncrasies: the liberal use of sawdust in an era before overgrips, picking his eyebrows to stall for time, the precisely customized racquets, a flock of German shepherds at his home, an exact duplicate of the US Open hardcourt made by the same crew at his home, etc. The man had serious OCD!

At any rate, the racquet manufacturer he used to endorse is back in business: Kniesl.

3. In WTA news, unpredictability continues to be predictable. The marquee names continue to drop like flies: Kuzzy, Masha, Caro, LenaD, Vika, Baby Hippo, Allez Bitch, Pens and Agi. Hrrmph! At least the Williams sistas, Nails and Sam are still in it (for now).


  1. *But reading the complete sentence, he's not saying that. He's saying that you don't need to be top-notch in all the strokes to be competitive on clay.*

    If he didn't mean it as a dig, all he had to do was leave out "I'm not trying to take anything from Rafa". The "it's too easy" is worth some reconsideration as well.

    "I don't mean to be rude-" then don't be.

  2. Then fairly soon after this, Fed pays pretty high tribute to Rafa.

    "Look, no matter what people say, I never thought my problem was clay. My problem was Rafa. The guy is unbelievable. There are some people who don’t want to believe it, but that’s the truth, unfortunately for a whole great generation of clay courters. So for me, it was as if fate was calling me. Being able to handle the pressure, being able to believe I could win each year, even though Rafa would then come and crush my dreams, was the key, my greatest strength."

    Rafa is simply that good. To beat him, Rog knew he had to prepare to play the way he didn't want to play.

    Not sure where the "I don't mean to be rude" comment comes from, but the intent of this post is to get folks to stop being such emotional dogmatists about their preferred player. Rog & Rafa know what it takes to win at a top level. They're more mellow about their rivalry than their own fanboys/fangirls for a good reason: they have to take a more 'disinterested' look at what it takes to win.

    BTW, Uncle Toni & Rafa have always looked up to Rog's all court game (see Wertheim's Strokes of Genius). They've certainly borrowed things from Rog's bag of tricks over the years (e.g. the slice BH, a flatter FH, a better transition game, etc.). I've also seen Fed has taken things from Rafa's bag of tricks (the reverse FH to a BH, more drop shots, etc.).

  3. *Not sure where the "I don't mean to be rude" comment comes from,*

    LOL it comes from my annoyance at sentences starting with "I don't mean to-" or "I'm not trying to-" and variations. Most popular being "I don't mean to be rude, but-". These are usually code for "I'm going to say something somewhat offensive and/or dick-ish, and I need a get out of jail free card, so I'll precede it by saying I don't MEAN any offense, no sir. THAT SHOULD DO THE TRICK!'

    Fail-y behavior. :/

    But this is a gigantic digression. Point is, I still think that whole part of the interview reads (blatantly, even) like "It's not me, I'm perfect, it's the surface that sucks by favoring lesser players". It's clear he knows that *that* is what he's implying when he follows it with the "not trying to take anything from".

    But that's enough of taking a Roger interview seriously for me. I prefer not to do that. I'm happier that way. :D

  4. Hang out with philosophers or computer programmers (who tend to be blunt like children) for awhile, and you'll develop a thicker skin. :D