Barcelona final preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Thiem

The world No. 1 is gone, but arguably the two most in-form clay-courters in the game will be squaring off in the final of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Sunday. It will be Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem for the title after Thiem took down top-ranked Andy Murray in the semis.

The ninth-ranked Austrian had previously been 0-2 lifetime against Murray, but he now owns wins at the expense of both Murray and Nadal. The head-to-head series with the latter stands at 2-1 in favor of Nadal and all three of their previous encounters have come on clay. A 2013 French Open meeting went Nadal’s way via a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 decision and they split a pair of 2016 showdowns; Thiem prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4) in the Buenos Aires semis before Nadal got the job done 7-5, 6-3 in Monte-Carlo.

Given the relative slumps of Murray and Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer’s current clay-court absence, and the way Nadal and Thiem are performing on clay, this is a potential preview of a Roland Garros semi or even final. Unsurprisingly, Nadal is perfect on the red stuff this season. The 14-time Grand Slam champion triumphed for a 10th time in Monte-Carlo last week and so far in Barcelona he has cruised to straight-set victories over Rogerio Dutra Silva, Kevin Anderson, Hyeon Chung, and Horacio Zeballos.

Thiem in 2017 has, for the most part, been somewhere in between his 2016 pre-Wimbledon and post-Wimbledon self. It is good enough to be No. 4 in the race to London even if he loses on Sunday and No. 3 if he wins. The 23-year-old is 23-9 for the season and 10-1 on clay, including a title in Rio de Janeiro and wins this week over Kyle Edmund, Dan Evans, Yuichi Sugita, and Murray.

“It’s not a surprise that Dominic is in the final,” Nadal commented. “He is one of the best in the world, and he loves clay. At the beginning of the tournament, he was already one of the main favorites to be in the final. He is a player with a lot of power. He imposes a lot on his shots, and if you let him be comfortable, it’s almost impossible to stop him.”

“To get two matches in a row against two of the best players ever is big for my game,” Thiem noted.

It is true that this is perfect French Open preparation for Thiem regardless of the outcome, and he is one of the few players who has the clay-court game that can beat Nadal even if Nadal plays well. But the No. 4 seed struggled to maintain his best level for more than a set against Murray–who faded in a rocky third set for both men–and doing so for at least two sets against Nadal is even tougher.

There are no secrets in this one: both players will look to dominate rallies with their forehands while pounding away at the other’s backhand. Thiem’s one-hander is more likely to break down first amidst the pressure of Nadal’s heavy topspin and lefty serve out wide.

Pick: Nadal in 3

186 Comments on Barcelona final preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Thiem

  1. At the FO, I think only a full flight Djokovic can stop him. Don’t think the maestro will have the legs to beat him at the French.

    • Agreed. Rafa playing better than in the last two years. He is moving well, but also employing varieties and shortened points. Lovely to see!

      Thiem as well is playing better than the last couple of years. He has improved and is becoming great clay court player. However, trying to outhit Nadal seems impossible on clay this year. I was impressed how well Rafa was able to counterattack all that Thiem threw at him…at the end Thiem missed a lot running out of ideas…

      Great play by Rafa! I hope he stays healthy and strong! The rest will follow!

      Vamos Champ!

    • A full flight Djoko may not stop him either, given that Rafa vs Djoko is 3-1 at the FO after 2011, adv Rafa. And, that one time Djoko beat him was in 2015 when Rafa was playing his worst tennis at the FO (worse than his 2009 imo). This year, Rafa is playing much better than his 2015; so I have doubt about Djoko beating him at the FO, full flight or not.

  2. Rafa has the determination and the form. If his body doesn’t let him down, nobody can stop him at RG.

      • That’s my axiom, not yours hawkeye.
        The Rafa gospel according to hawkeye:
        Rafa ‘s body has always ben fine, everything is in the mind. Between the ears. He loses or wins depending on his mental state, not the state of his knees or back or wrist or shoulder or ….

  3. Of all Rafa’s insane clay achievements, I think my personal favorite is 51-8 in clay finals… That is just ridiculous!!

  4. Well all Rafa fans would definitely be hoping for the 10th La Coupe des Mousquetaires for Rafa! He has set his heart on it and everything else has been a preparation for Roland Garros.

    • Nadal appears to be raising his level on clay to whatever is necessary to beat whatever opponent he is facing

      Thiem in the first set was the best he had faced on clay. As such, the first set against Thiem was the best Nadal has played.

  5. Congrats to Rafa on two straight 10 victory tournaments. He’s definitely playing better than he was a month ago, though I don’t myself see that he’s back to his best. It’s a bit hard to gauge his level because he hasn’t really been tested in the last two tournaments. Against Thiem, he was better in the first set in the big points, as usual. Dominic hit too many FH errors, but in any case didn’t look to me to have the goods to really challenge Nadal. He stands too far back, and I don’t think Nadal can be beat on clay with that approach. I thought the contrast with Goffin, who stands much closer and takes the ball on the rise, was striking. That was the match that could have really presented Nadal with a challenge, if Goffin hadn’t lost focus after the bad call.

    Still, Rafa has to be considered the favourite for RG at this point. His biggest challengers would seem to be Stan, Novak (if he gets it together), and Kygrios. I don’t see Murray playing himself in to form in time to really contend at RG. If Roger plays I like his chances, because I don’t think he’ll play unless he really thinks he has a chance to win it without getting injured or reducing his chances at Wimby. At this point I think he’s more likely to skip it.

    • I have said it before, but it bears repeating – Rafa dues not have to be at his best now! He needs to keep winning and play the opponents who make it through to meet him. It’s not on Rafa if Murray, Novak and Stan crashed out early at MC. Goffin let a bad. All get to him and lost his focus. That’s on him.

      Rafa is doing what he needs to do – win. Nishi had to withdraw with the wrist injury, Zverev lost to Chung and Goffin lost to Khachanov. Again not on Rafa. He did his part by getting to the final. Thiem was probably the one guy who might have had s shot at giving Rafa a real match. Murray certainly couldn’t do it in his present form. Thiem played very well in that first set, but Rafa played better. The way Rafa broke Thiem to win the first set was vintage Rafa. He was pressuring him with aggressive shots and he rattled Thiem and hit him to make errors. That was really the turning point in the match.

      Thiem was pressing in the second set, pulling the trigger too soon on hus shots and going for more. Rada was able to control the match from that point on. I thought it was interesting that the tennis channel commentators thought Thiem played better against Rafa than he did against Murray, only to lose in two sets, winning only 5 games. That’s because Rafa was that good. Thiem has the game on clay to do well at RG, especially if Murray and Novak continue to struggle.

      Rafa has two more tournaments to continue to fine tune his game. But the ultimate goal is to peak and play his best at RG.

    • So you are saying Goffin lost at Barcelona because of the bad call at Monte Carlo? I think Goffin would have been the heavy favorite for RG but for that. Fortunately the bad call has caused Goffin to lose his focus so lesser mortals like Rafa can have a chance of winning the RG title!

    • According to a report Federer plans to play Roland Garros and thinks he can “do something” there. He isn’t entered in Rome or Madrid at present.

      I don’t think Murray has forgotten how to play on clay. I think he’s still got an elbow problem and is not serving well. I think Djokovic really wants to enjoy his tennis and not concentrate full time so much on winning everything. We’ll see.

      Loved the way Rafa played today’s final. Smart and sharp. But health is always a question mark for him – and, it seems, the rest of the Big Guns now. Thiem is a good player and likes clay but he’s no Rafa. Tennis channel put up a comparison between Rafa’s accomplishments at 23 vs Theim’s, who is now at that age. Let’s just say there is no comparison.

      • Fed will play RG and the fawning organizers will give him the draw he wants and the best schedule. And they will cram all the toughies into Rafa’s quarter and half to increase the chances of Rafa not going to the final.

          • Calendar Grand Slam for Fed still in play not to mention a double career slam.

            Ive said for months that Fed is Rafa’s biggest challenge at RG this year.

            He will be there ?%. May even play Madrid.

            • I would think the organizers (at RG or any tournament) would be drooling at the prospect of a Fedal final. Isn’t that the supposed motivation behind putting Roger and Rafa on opposite sides of all those non-clay slam draws?

        • I’m confused. Don’t they pick the draw out of a box or something like randomly in front of people?

            • The odds of Isner mahut rematch were 1:142.5. If that proves the draw was rigged then what about the probability of 1 in 131072 for Nole and Fed to be in one half and Rafa and Muzz in the other in 12 consecutive non clay grand slams between 2008 and 2011. So they were definitely rigged.

          • BG no.

            Ricky must think that Nole being drawn into Feds half in non clay slams 13 times in a row was “random”..

            A 1 in 8192 chance of random occurrence.

            More likely rigged in my opinion.

            • I have not verified this but I read that Andy was not in top 4 in 5 of those 13 slams so you have to multiply 8192 by 32 i.e. the prob of Nole being in Fed’s half AND Andy being in Rafa’s half in 13 consecutive non clay slams is 1 in 262144. So Ricky has to concede that the draws were rigged.

            • Wow. Fantastic catch Mary.

              I just confirmed that is correct for five of those slams.

              Anyone who thinks those draws can’t be rigged are blind.

            • Why? Someone hated Nole? Wanted to keep Muzz away from Fed as long as possible? Until 2008 Rafa, despite his #2 ranking, had never been a real threat to reach a semi at a hard court slam. Nor was Andy for that matter.

            • So what’s your point Ramara? The stats given by hawks are from 2008 after which even according to you Rafa was a threat to reach the semis and in fact so were Nole and Muzz. You can find your own reasons as to why the draws were rigged: Fed found it easier to beat Nole than Muzz, somebody hated Muzz, somebody hated Nole, somebody loved Muzz……Take your pick. But what is being presented is the FACT ( not fiction) of 13 consecutive non clay slams in which Nole was in Fed’s half and Muzz in Rafa’s and the probability of this happening is so LOW that it is certain that the draws were rigged.

            • Mary gets it.

              Facts are facts.

              In my opinion, fed was much more comfortable playing Nole than Murray on non clay events and respective h2h records at the time supported that.

              However Nole was a much better clay player than Murray.

              Once Nole started beating Fed at slams a few times, this amazing streak came to a sudden end.

              But regardless. The beauty of math is it’s irrefutable honesty.

            • The irony is that those who ignore the “irrefutable honesty” of the math pat themselves on the back as rational!! And what’s even more of an irony is that these self styled rationalists dismissively decribe those who go by the honesty of math as conspiracy theorists!!!

            • I just think the math is not so obvious to them Mary for the same reason people voluntary pay taxes through lottery tickets.

            • I wasn’t making a point. I was asking for a theory about why Wimbledon, USO and AO should have collaborated to rig the draws to place Novak in Fed’s half and Andy in Rafa’s.

              Novak being easier for Fed to beat than Andy is nonsense. Novak was the better hc player until he won RG last year. If anything it favored Rafa. Novak was a far tougher match up for him on hc than Andy ever was.

            • In any alleged “fixing” of this sort, one must ask a comparative question. What is more unlikely, the low-probability event, or the alleged reason behind it? I have no particular view about this case. But the odds alone show nothing conclusive. That’s the reason I asked for the alleged motivation behind putting Nole and Roger in the same half of the draw. Ramara’s question about why the GS organizers would rig the draw in this way is a perfectly reasonable one.

              To make the point clearer, suppose that someone discovered that Federer and some low-ranked player (say, Zeballos) had been drawn in the same half for 40 consecutive tournaments, the odds of which were 1 in 50 gazillion. Unless one could come up with a minimally plausible reason for why this pairing should occur, the rational conclusion is that there was no fixing; it was just an extremely low-probability event.

            • Hardly nonsense if you’d paid attention to their earlier respective h2h results.

              Nonsense when you ignore the data.

            • Fair question joe smith.

              Answer: Because tennis is a business with vested interest.

              Simple really.

            • So if Joe Smith thinks 1 in 262144 event can happen randomly, you conclude rightly that Joe Smith is not interested in data, just his beliefs. Like Goffin would have won the match if he had led 4-2 in the first set! Kudos to Joe for being consistently irrational.

            • thinwhiteduke and joe smith are confusing independent trials with random sampling. I think you guys need to take a course on stats and probability before we can have an intelligent discussion with you.

            • if we take the espn stats into account then as per the Katerina article the probability of the draws which actually happened is 1 in billions i.e. they were definitely rigged unless like joe smith you believe that virtually impossible events can happen quite often!!!

            • re: Mary

              Just wondering, in what way am I confusing independent trials with random sampling? Fyi, I have taken a course on stats, I majored in finance, so I had to. I don’t for a second profess to be an expert on stats however (perhaps I need a refresher), but nor do I think I have some irrefutable proof of a conspiracy because I found an unlikely event outcome, and then arbitrarily multiplied it by another unlikely outcome to produce a ‘solution’ of ‘1 in 1 billion’.

            • Again, it’s not a matter of belief, just a matter of fact just as ignorance is bliss.

              You’re also mistaken that this trend was discovered “after the fact”.

              I, and many others such as Ricky, noticed it in 2010 when it had gone 8 times in a row for a a probability of 0.002 and it continued another five times (0.0001 likelihood) at which point it coincidentally ended after Nole beat Fed at three hard court slams in a row so conveniently.

              For each successive slam draw Ricky and many would note that it was no surprise as it continued to “randomly” continue.

          • I believe they do, yeah. That wouldn’t rule out people somehow being able to rig the draw, but it would make it less likely.

            Personally I’m not exactly convinced by the rigging claims re Djokovic and Federer. First of all, the data is selective and with a bias – the FO has been counted out so that the statistic ‘works’, and then justified with reference to the overall conclusion based on that statistic. Second, and probably most importantly, 14 is a very small sample size. Ideally with a claim like this you’d do hypothesis testing to see whether the outcome is not random, but with such a small sample, I’m not sure you even can (someone with a stats major would be useful here). For all the chat about this on internet forums over the years, I can’t see anyone who has actually done this in detail and posted their method and calculations for it. Also, as someone else mentioned, look far enough and it’s not hard to find low probability outcomes, they do actually happen, and are particularly easy to find if you cherry pick your sample.

            As an aside, it’s kinda funny to look at the conclusions from the (various) numbers that people somehow come up with. On a ‘Nadal site’ you have people suspicious that it was somehow all done to benefit Federer, yet on the Fed Fan Pages people are absolutely blowing up about how it has all been done so that Roger has to face a harder opponent in Djokovic on HC, with Rafa being less likely to have to play him. For all the objectivity that you get with statistics, you do still get the biases in the way that data is selected, probabilities are framed/taken out of context, and conclusions are made.

            • Bowie: I’m no statistician, but what you’ve said is what I would have thought. The sample size is far too small, and it’s too susceptible to cherry picking.

              Many years ago I read about a computer simulation of how random “coin flippings” (part of an attempt to analyze the effectiveness of very simple-minded gambling strategies). It turned out that even 25 “heads” or “tails” in a row -the odds of which really are 1 in many millions- was not that uncommon.

            • With all due and sincere respect, this is not near as complicated as you portray it to be.

              The exclusion of the French is based upon Murray’s relatively low proficiency on clay.

              Again, one needs only to look at their respective h2h records at the time in 2008.

              Hardly requires a phd. A reasonably sound and fundamental understanding of math and statistics is more than enough.

              However, most either don’t care to or want to understand.

              I’ve always found numbers and math to be very interesting. It’s a big part of what I do for a living.

              Sample size is used when selecting a sufficient number of samples to represent a specific population within a specified accuracy and is not relevant to this conditional probability.

              This is just data. Facts.

              This by the way is not to help Federer. But simply to maximize business revenue.

              They’d be dumb not to control such an important variable that is completely within their control.

            • I don’t mean to make it out as really complicated, I’m just pointing a few problems with people reaching a conclusion about draws being rigged almost entirely on the basis of ’12 times in a row is highly unlikely’. You don’t need a PhD or anything, just a ‘sound and fundamental understanding of math and statistics’ – but that’s something that I’m not sure most people have, particularly when it comes to interpreting the significance of results.

              I understand that one can justify the exclusion of Murray at the French and that it can fit with a pre-existing theory. But it is still cherry picking, and I’m willing to bet that the more tournaments/events you look at, the more the apparent ‘Djoker/Fed’ draw effect disappears, that’s primarily why observing only 12 or 14 draws is relevant. Also, I believe it incidentally limits the application of hypothesis testing, which could be a very useful analysis to have in this sort of situation; it should indicate if there’s actually any statistical significance to the apparently unusual results.

              Now if, for instance, you examined the probability of getting ‘Heads’ in 12 coin flips in a row, it’d be incredibly low. But so would getting exactly (H being Heads, T being Tails) ‘H/T/H/T/H/T/H/T/H/T/H/T’ or the reverse of that, or any other particular combination. By itself, the 1/4096 (or 1/8000) result is unusual but it’s hardly the end of the matter. Numbers that appear on their face to be statistical anomalies (H/H/H….H/H , T/T/T…T/T) aren’t that hard to find when you look for patterns, those who play roulette may know the feeling when you’ve had five red numbers in a row, and you’d swear the next number just ‘had’ to be black, only for another red to come up.

              As for the Playthegame article, I read it earlier, I just didn’t think it did anything more than a cursory analysis. Does the author have any stats background? They seem to be a legal academic – a doctoral candidate with a Masters and undergrad law degree. Nothing against that of course, I’ve studied sports law myself, it’s just that their final conclusions don’t seem to logically follow. Not exactly a peer-reviewed academic article either. It’s got some grammatical and spelling errors (to be fair, English may be her 2nd language), no footnotes/in-text referencing, and, perhaps most strangely, the conclusions are bolded sentences… all in caps… with exclamation marks. ‘The probability of all these conditional events that I’ve arbitrarily selected happening is one in billions!’. Yes, but so what; the overall chance of any sizable number of conditional probabilities happening is also really remote, and yet some of them obviously happen in any given draw or series of draws.

            • Yes, any single combination is equally probable. It’s when combined with the motive that it becomes significant along with the extended pattern.

              The point being is that the author is both well educated and intelligent. As I said, no math phd required to recognize the significance.

              The rest is either ignorance, denial or both in my opinion.

              Again I repeat, why would a business not control such an important variable that is fully within their control.

              It’s already been proven that the early rounds of draws for the top two seeds have been historically rigged so this is not a stretch to understand.

              It’s more of a stretch to say that such an improbability along with the motives are pure coincidence (thought I understand the motives to believe such).


            • With all due respect, I don’t think we’re going to reach an agreement on this one. It’ll be interesting to see if anything ever comes of this anomaly, not that it would prove corruption either way of course.—

              The motive? But no specific motive for this has been given, all that’s been said is that it aligns with their business interests, which it may well, many potentially corrupt actions would, but by itself I think that’s very little in the way of evidence. Online tennis ‘analysts’ on various forums are saying all manner of things – it was to disadvantage/advantage Nadal/Djokovic/Federer (take your pick based on whoever your favourite player is and make something up to fit the numbers & confirm your suspicions). The PlayTheGame author is well educated, but apparently in an unrelated field. She cites a stats professor, which is promising, but then doesn’t even reference that or provide any context for it, just one tiny ‘you’re onto something’ comment and nothing else? And if she were onto something, why has nobody else in academia looked into this apparent anomaly (please don’t tell me it’s because the ATP or whoever went and shut them up)? There’s a heap of academic interest in corruption in professional sports these days – from academics, media and government – you’d expect all sorts of investigations & commentary if there were actually something to this beyond ‘well what a coincidence’.

              And yeah, events have been historically rigged, corruption has happened, performance-encaging drugs have no doubt been used etc., as has been the case with any number of sports. Conspiracies do happen, of course. But in the present case, there isn’t much evidence beyond a cherry-picked number. One can say ‘you don’t see it because you don’t want to see it’. My first response to that is, I’m trying to be objective, if I honestly thought it were there, I would acknowledge it. These things do happen, professional sports bodies cover stuff up, it has happened before. For all we know, they’re covering up doping scandals right now, it’s possible. My second response is – people also have biases in the other direction, and may see conspiracies or ulterior motives where there aren’t any. When it comes to believing in these things, people may need to feel the illusion of control, that they know ‘what’s REALLY going on’ – hence all those nice people convinced that their favorite athlete is ‘definitely’ being screwed over by the draw.

            • Not about agreement.

              Just facts.

              I suspect you are a Federer fan just by how you deny any significance.

              And that’s fine too. Just a hunch. ?

            • Also TWD, how you can rationalize this as insignificant along with the ESPN study showing near impossible likelihood of early round draws for top two seeds in both men’s and women’s slams for same three slams (I.e. All but French) is par for the course.

              Business revenue, as in ratings as the most familiar names go deeper for the casual and non casual fan. Again, really basic stuff.

              No one needs to be a phd in statistics to understand this. However, the espn analysis should have sufficient credentials to satisfy anyone with some small modicum of objectivity.

              Combining this with the 13 straight non clay draws is pretty damning.

              As for academia taking the ITF to task, you must be joking. It’s not their responsibility. That, to be honest, is laughable.

              Listen, tennis like any sport is entertainment business first.

              They are free to do what they wish within the law and there is no law against draw fixing.

              No one can deny that Murray presented a greater challenge to Federer on hard courts than Nole did prior to 2011.

              Just data and facts.

              Anything else from fan factions is just random noise.

            • But then again, no one wanted to believe Lance Armstrong was a cheat for so long either

              Sports fandom’s ability to allow us to suspend disbelief is virtually unbounded.

            • Duke: You make two important and related points. First, much more needs to be said about the motive in this case. Hawkeye is right that being good business is a motive, but as you point out, many corrupt actions could potentially have that effect. Presumably, most of these are ruled out (e.g. paying umpires to fix a match in Federer’s favour) because they would be too costly if someone found out. The integrity of the game has significant value in terms of the bottom line.

              What is the cost of fixing draws to the integrity of the game? Hawkeye points out that it’s not illegal, but illegality does not exhaust the relevant cost. As far as I can see, nothing has been said about this.

              So, to my mind, to make the case about match fixing persuasive (and, as I’ve said, I’m prepared to believe it; I have never even considered it before now, tbh), one would need to show that the likely gain (from a business perspective) from fixing relevant Nole/Fed draws outweighs the likely cost (to the game’s integrity) that would ensue if word were to get out. As far as I can see, no one has even begun to make this case (including the sources that Hawkeye cites), yet the statistical data means nothing without it.

            • Sorry, “match fixing” should be “draw fixing” in the last paragraph of my post at 5:57am.

            • Disagree on your last sentence.

              Just because one can’t identify another’s motive (wilhich is not the case here) does not make such an unlikely trend especially when it involves two top seeds in both men’s and women’s, meaningless.

              And yes there are other potential ways to game the system, but that’s irrelevant to this discussion because there is no data to support those claims.

              Look to the ESPN study alone proves the willingness of the tour to game the system for quite frankly obvious benefit.

              So what if it was uncovered like the ESPN trend was. No one really cared about that either. It’s all easily rationalized as insignificant or the top players earn the right or they’d win anyways. It’s part of entertainment industry.

              So if it got out about rigged draws like it did in the mid 90s at the USO, it would all blow over and be largely forgotten about. Little risk.

            • Apologies for the long post –

              Facts are facts (even for some Federer fans, believe it or not) but whether these stats conclusively demonstrate draw fixing is a matter of opinion. The PlayTheGame article is barely worth the paper it’s typed on, and the stats aren’t nearly as alarming as they may appear at face value. Apparently between 2001 and 2011 at Wimbledon Serena & Venus were on different sides of the draw 7 times out of 8 when they weren’t the 1 and 2 seeds, which is a low probability outcome. Now, if one has some esoteric theory about that being fixed, he/she can, for instance, find some other high ranked player who (against the odds) always appeared on one side, multiply the low-odds together, and come up with some suspicious looking number & accompanying theory about what was done. Would it too be indicative of match-fixing, or would it more likely be just another statistical anomaly? On that sort of probabilistic evidence alone, I consider both explanations possible, but the latter more likely.

              I never said anything about the ESPN study, it concerns suspicious US Open draws and has some interesting results which merit further investigation & comment, but it doesn’t weigh-in on this Federer/Djokovic peculiarity. They looked at the US over 10 years, it’s now been 15, I wonder if anyone’s re-examined things to see if anything’s changed.

              The general results b/w top four players at the tournaments pre-2008 don’t indicate much either way, the samples are tiny and H2H trends can quickly reverse anyway (see e.g., Hewitt/Federer). On average I’m not sure this type of messing with the draw would’ve changed much at all, maybe it’d slightly increase the odds of Fedal, but that’s before you even consider the huge potential financial & reputational costs of a scandal like that getting out. Probably not worth it. The ITF’s free to do what they wish (well, they might end up in court over expensive breaches of contract), but there would be enormous costs for very little gain. Everyone knows that draw fixing, if covered up, could be consistent with business interests, but so what? So could hundreds of other things which breach internal or external regulations, that’s not evidence of whether they do or don’t actually occur.

              And I don’t expect academia to ‘take the ITF’ to task, I simply expect that they (along with media and government) would research and comment on these sorts of irregularities if there were anything to them, because it’s what they inevitably do. The activities and regulations of professional sporting bodies are of sizable academic interest, there would be thousands of academic articles alone on corruption in international sports.

            • Yeah, I agree with that argument Joe – a cost-benefit analysis may show that the whole endeavour just wouldn’t be worth it, even if they were fairly adept at rigging the draw and covering it up (which they presumably would be).

            • No apology necessary because I’m not reading all that. Just scanned quickly.

              Your Williams scenario has a 5% (7 in 128) probability. Not even close.

              If you disagree with the ESPN study as reasonable evidence to suggest high probability of draw fixing, we’re done here.

              If you agree, then it proves willingness and motive. At which point, it’s not even a leap to recognize the infinitesimal probability as equally damning.

              Again, stick to denial. It’s a much happier place.

            • Yes the Williams thing individually is much less suspicious, but it’s just one example, and you can multiply it by some other far-out probability to fit a theory (ala the PlayTheGame ‘Analysis’).

              On the ESPN US Open thing, I’ve made the above comment, all I’ll add is that in addition to the possibilities of ‘draw-fixing’ and ‘random chance’, errors happen too.

              I don’t deny that fixing could’ve happened, I just don’t think there’s enough evidence to suggest it did. Corruption does occur in Tennis – who knows what gets covered up to protect/enhance the revenue – it’s just that I don’t see it here.

              Hope that’s brief enough, and yeah I guess we’re done.

            • Definitely done. Should have been done long ago as your arguments were puerile and easily refuted.

              The Williams example was a joke. As was saying there are many suspicions (just not with near the same evidence).

              Nobody should be surprised with draw fixing. Tennis is rife with examples of collusion, conflicts of interest, giving top players benefits such as preferred scheduling, draw fixing in the nineties, silent bans so this is all just par for the course.

              But you said it right off the bat that neither party would convince the other which is why I seldom bother unless I think the other is somewhat open minded which is seldom the case on Tennis forums.

            • So puerile and refutable that you never bothered to address (or read) them, good to know. The Williams example is a joke, yes, it’s a joke about how if you look for some unlikely probabilistic event after the fact and are happy to be selective, you’ll find it sooner rather than later. And yes, hopefully for the last time, nobody is surprised by corruption, I never denied that one.

            • Finding a 5% event isn’t meaningless as it’s a perfect example of your lack of useful examples.

              You probably buy lottery tickets with the reasoning that someone has to win and the odds in practise are more likely than probability suggests.

            • I didn’t search for any examples, I have no need to since I don’t believe that they necessarily indicate draw-fixing. The Williams stat is just an occurrence some random tennis-follower noted, the point I was making was that through cherry picking & selection bias, one can ‘discover’ unlikely probabilities that have eventuated.

              Never bought a lottery ticket, the costs outweigh the unlikely potential benefits, that’s how the business model works. It also strikes me as an especially dull form of gambling, but each to their own.

            • Wasn’t after the fact at all. Your assumption.

              Many here noticed this trend in 2010 when it had already gone eight times in a row, a less than 0.005 liklihood. Ricky would comment on his draw analysis that Nole was in Feds half again no surprise. Continued another five times until Nole started beating Fed three times in a row on hard courts and the trend mysterious ended.

            • Okay, I accept that, the trend continued for some slams after it was noticed in 2010.

            • The data shows that the draws were rigged to favor Fed. Whether it was done for business reasons or the organizers were bribed by Fed’s sponsors, we do not know. We see how the organizers give fed the best courts, the best scheduling. They speed up surfaces and use tennis balls to suit Fed. Instead of doing away with the silly 20 sec rule introduced to keep a certain player in check, at Fed’s insistence it is now being implemented rigorously. Fed has never since 2003 ever played back to back matches at a slam except once at USO but it was as per the schedule ( sf and final played on sat and Sun at that time). But the rest of the big 4 have had to do this several times.
              To summarize, the organizers bend over backwards, bending rules, rigging draws, blatantly favoring Fed in court allotment, scheduling, surfaces, balls, implementing a silly 20 sec rule to favor Fed…

            • Had a few minutes to read your post in its long entirety. I didn’t miss much.

              Just a bunch of coulds, woulds and unrealistic conclusions and expectations about what might be.

              Just a load of noisy rationalizations with no data to support it substituting quantity of words in place of substantive brevity.

              As I’d originally assumed.

    • Taking nothing away from Rafa for the last two tournament wins. I’m the last person to do that, and absolutely, he beat the players in front of him. That’s all that matters. But in terms of gauging his form, it makes things a bit more difficult. It’s safe to say that he’ll face tougher competition at RG.

      Mary, I wasn’t suggesting anything about Goffin at Barcelona. Just saying that had he kept his concentration at MC, that could have been a big test for Rafa -based on how Goffin was playing up until that point. As it was, Goffin’s level dropped massively, and of course Nadal upped his game as well. But had Goffin kept his level, I think it would have been a very tight match.

      • The universe is full of ifs and buts. The thing is, Goffin does not have the mind of a champion if a bad call early in a match can make him lose his focus. Champions think of the next point even if the bad call is on match point. In fact that’s what success in any field requires, not to waste time on what cannot be changed and instead focus on the present to do what’s needed to succeed.

        • Maybe so. It doesn’t alter the fact that Nadal would have received much more of a test had Goffin had a bit more of the mind of a champion.

          • So since he did not have, he would not have provided a challenge when Rafa raised his level.

      • It won’t be a very tight whole match; Goffin simply couldn’t sustain that level. The match would end more like the final – one tight set plus one not so tight set. Or if Goffin won the first set, Rafa would win the next two not so competitive sets. Goffin simply doesn’t have it to stay with Rafa for that long.

        • Unlike the exact same bad call that went against Rafa vs Fed in the 05 Miami final that would have given Rafa triple break point which if converted would have given Rafa a chance to serve for the title and a straight set win.

          A lot depends on circumstance.

    • Fed has his chances on clay vs Rafa? Fat hope, not when Rafa is playing this well! Rafa now has so many tricks in his bag, no longer the grinding style Rafa of his younger days.

      Goffin won’t have any chances either; he may be good for a set, punching above his own weight, but won’t have much left for the rest of the match. Read what Goffin said after his match with Rafa, that Goffin was playing at 100% right up till that controversial point; and asked why he couldn’t take his chances when during that same point he still had chances at deuce to win that point; Goffin said it’s impossible for him to play at > 100% to win that point.

      Goffin already was playing at 100% in that first set, but Rafa wasn’t; Rafa was able to raise his level further when he needed to esp in the second set to win in straight but Goffin couldn’t raise his any further.

      Imo, Rafa is playing better tennis now than his 2011 or 2013 on clay. It’s just that in 2013 Rafa was getting more and more confident after winning first at SA clay swing, followed by IW and by the main European clay court swing, Rafa was ready and confident to win. His 2011 on the contrary, was filled with doubts, doubts that whether he could beat Djoko in masters final having lost two straight finals (IW/Miami) to Djoko.

      Rafa should be regaining his confidence now after these two titles; with Djoko and Murray not at their best, Rafa would be ready to capitalize. I feel Rafa is playing better tennis now, with so many tricks in his bag, no longer needs to grind to win; no wonder Fed was expecting Rafa to storm through the clay season, for Fed got it first hand, on how Rafa was playing, or capable of playing, after facing Rafa thrice on the HCs.

      • luckystar (AT 12:26 AM),

        Goffin said at his post-match press conference that he was already playing at 110%.

    • MA,

      Thanks for that link. Two opinions about Rafa as the favorite to win RG. I don’t like to think even that far ahead, although it’s hard not to do it. But I am trying to stay focused on Madrid and Rome. I want to see how Rafa does against tougher competition. Of course, we don’t know if Murray and Novak will get it together to go deep in those tournaments. That remains to be seen.

      The second guy’s opinion was that it’s too early. He seems to think that Murray and Novak are going to be in better form when RG rolls around because top athletes peak for the slams. But the slump that Novak is in is not something where you just wake up one day and everything is fine. He’s been in this slump for a while now and when a player loses his edge and his competitive will, it’s not like he can just flip a switch and things are okay. Murray may well get better with his elbow with more time. But he hasn’t done anything yet this year and I don’t think clay is where he’s going to suddenly catch fire.

      Stan is another one who hasn’t done anything yet. I would expect him to start playing better now. The young guys are there ready to take any opportunities that may present themselves – Kyrgios, Zverev, Goffin, Thiem.

      I think Rafa is on track right now and looking good. I am not going to get carried away at this point in time. One tournament at a time.

      Thanks for another good read!

      • Nny!I agree with everything u said…like u i’m not thinking much about FO too…sure we can read any article especially regarding rafa..and it’s okay to read,whether it’s a pro or cons but we’re a very experienced Rafa fans who knows that is wise to reserve our hope until he’s standing there on Philippe Chatrier holding the Coupe Des Mousquetaires…

        Honestly,i just hope he will withdraw from Rome to save his energy for FO..and to avoid an injury..also i’m very afraid he’s on the verge of burn out..he’s already playing too much tennis so far Nny…he’s almost 31 and not 20’s anymore…

        • MA,

          I want to know why you think Rafa should pull out of Rome. You really think he is overplaying? Your comment about burnout concerns me. I think Rafa needs matches and to continue winning. He is getting better with every clay tournament. This is his time.

          I guess you are worried about Rafa get no injured.

        • MA,

          I want to know why you think Rafa should pull out of Rome. You really think he is overplaying? Your comment about burnout concerns me. I think Rafa needs matches and to continue winning. He is getting better with every clay tournament. This is his time.

          I guess you are worried about Rafa getting injured.

          • Nny…you’re right,i am very worried about a couple of things regarding Rafa…and why i think he should skip Rome[even though i very much doubt that he will do it]..

            1]He might be tired in the 2nd week in Paris…Nny,he came back from long lay off in january and have a very promising start of the year until now…there’s so much tennis under his belt already…After he won FO in 2014,he went to
            his team and whispered to Uncle Toni that he had nothing left in his body,he’s so drained and so tired..and that day,he and Novak only played a 4 sets match,not 5…and of course the heat and humidity played a big part on why Rafa felt unusually tired that day…and his 2014 season also not great that year,compared to his 2017…Even though his physical is excellent atm but i’m still wary about it..with his hot form,he could go deep in both tourneys, Madrid and Rome,with only little time to rest before the FO..

            I am very worried that he will jeopardize his chances at FO if he stick by his original plan by playing in Rome…he will get tired more than usual because he’s not 28 1/2 years old anymore..he will be 31 come FO..if he got so tired,so drained when he’s 2 1/2 years younger,then can u imagine how he’s going to feel when he play in the final after 2 gruelling weeks at the age of 31?maybe under the hot and humid condition again this year?

            I read a lot of opinion by people who suggested that he will be very wise if he skip Rome….U know,reserves his stamina and energy for the bigger fish in front…and honestly i think he’s already enough match play under his belt to relax and rest a little bit without playing Rome…he will play Madrid because it’s his home turf..but Rome is a right choice to skip it…Of coz,this is just my honest opinion Nny…It’s okay if u don’t agree with me…Okay Boss??Hehe…

            • MA,

              I don’t think it’s about not agreeing with you. Your opinion has value. That’s why I wanted to hear your thoughts.

              I remember that 2014 RG match with Novak. Rafa started cramping in the fourth set. I remember seeing him bend over at one point. Both he and Novak were struggling in the match with the conditions.

              I am not sure what to think. The one thing we don’t want is for Rafa to get injured. I just hope he stays healthy and makes the right decision for himself.

              I don’t remember what happened last year. How far did he get in Rome? Rafa will have a week off before Madrid and then after Rome another week off.

              The other thing to consider is that Rafa has not played a full year if tennis due to injuries recently. There is time off after Wimby before the North America hard court season.

              I just don’t know what to think. The clay season is where Rafa gets his wins DVD his points. It’s his time. We will always worry about Rafa staying healthy and being injury free, especially as he gets older.

            • Hey Nny…I am sorry if you’re a little bit offended by my last paragraph up there..i’m just teasing u..i know u just want to hear my thoughts and thank u so much for that Nny..i value your’s just as much…

              Rafa will play Rome…he’s a creature of habit…i just hope,he still has something in his back pocket at the end of the 2nd week in FO…and please,please,please God to give him a healthy and fit body this time….This is his best chance..u know with Novak still in a funk and Andy still building his form..and Rog,even though he will be there at RG but with not enough matches on clay before FO,i don’t think he’s gonna give Rafa a,like u said Nny it’s Rafa’s to shine….

            • Mira, whether Rafa should skip Rome or not depends on how he fares at Madrid. If he wins Madrid and not spending too much energy in doing so, or if he loses there, then I think he will continue playing (at Rome). However, if Rafa spends a lot of energy in winning Madrid, then he may want to conserve his energy for RG by skipping Rome.

            • Lucky….Yeah,i’m thinking exactly like u..but the other day i read that rafa still wants to play Rome and stated that Madrid and Rome are very important events for him…I guess we should wait and see at the end of next week to know what decision Rafa will make…

              Oh btw Lucky,have u already read an article that i gave to Nny down there?…If not please read it Lucky…It’s a very touching and awesome article about Rafa…

  6. Lucky, you think very highly of your player; I think a bit too highly. To imply that Federer has little hope of beating Nadal on clay, given the recent record, is I’m sure much more than Rafa himself believes. In any case, I definitely don’t agree that Nadal is playing better than in 2011 or 2013.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Goffin was playing at or near 100% before that bad call in MC. But remember, he was winning the match. I never said he *would* have won had he kept near that level; I said it would have been very tight, and that Rafa would have been tested in a way that he hasn’t been so far this clay court season. I don’t see how anyone could deny that; to think Rafa would have run away with it even with Goffin at or near 100% is pretty fanatical.

    • Nah not fanatical; Goffin was winning that game, not the match! What are you talking about? That Chung guy was also leading Rafa in the first set, but Rafa still could manage to turn things around.

      Rafa has time and again being able to solve problems out there vs all kinds of players – Kyle, Diego, Goffin, Chung and then Thiem. All of them seemed to have the upper hand (Kyle had that in set two at least and he’s the only one to win a set), but each time Rafa could problem solve his way to a win. I even think Kyle was playing better than Goffin, in that set two and three.

      Rafa is playing better tennis now in that he has added in more varieties to his game and shortening points. His BH and serve are getting better but his FH needs more improvement to get back his consistency. Rafa’s net game and his volleying has improved a lot (better than his 2013!). The difference between now and 2013 is that in 2013 he’s more confident, and perhaps having more consistency; but Rafa right now can think out of the box and comes out with some shots that we don’t expect him to hit or make.

      • And I had said it before, that Rafa had reservation at Miami, but come the clay season, he would go all out to win. I certainly didn’t see Rafa playing with so much varieties on the HCs before this clay season.

        • So you honestly think that Rafa didn’t try his hardest to win in Miami? After two recent losses to Federer? That’s quite convenient, don’t you think?

        • Yeah you’re right. Rafa only trys his best on clay. He only goes like 50% on hard courts and grass courts.

          • Joe Smith, don’t put words into my mouth. I simply said Goffin was punching above his weight, and he couldn’t sustain his level at 100% for the whole match, so Rafa would still win in the end. I never said Rafa would run away with a win (or easy win if that’s what you meant).

      • With a correct call, Goffin leads the first set 4-2. That’s as much of the match as had been played to that point. So he was leading the match. Again, I didn’t claim that Goffin would have won; I just said it likely would have been a very tight match had he been able to keep his level high. It amazes me that there is so much resistance to that claim.

        I agree that Rafa is volleying exceptionally well. I think he should do more of it.

        • You said he was winning that match, that’s not true, winning that game or that set maybe.

        • Joe Smith (AT 2:44 AM),

          If Goffin had led 4 -2 after ‘that game’, Rafa would have won the 1st set 6 – 4.

        • Joe, your post of 12.35am, second paragraph:
          ‘..,,But remember, he was winning the match.’

          That’s what you posted hence my response. Leading a set 4-2 doesn’t guarantee winning the match; at best you can say he’s leading the match, or about to win the set.

    • MA,

      I could never offended by anything you say! You have no meanness in you. You have s good heart and spirit.

      I understand why you want Rafa to skip Rome. It’s the worry all Rafa fans carry around inside them. It’s only natural. Rafa is not getting any younger.

      I hope that rafa will be okay for RG. I don’t ever feel completely free of worrying for him.

      Your concerns are well grounded. Rafa u resting this week and hopefully will feel good and be ready for Madrid.

      I think the one good thing about Barcelona was that Rafa had pretty easy matches that did not take a toll on his body.

        • MA,

          Sorry if I embarrassed you. But I just say what I think. You are always kind and respectful to people here.

          Thanks for that link! I love reading Uncle Toni’s thoughts!

          • Hey Nny…Hehe,that’s okay..don’t be sorry please Nny…U know,to be able to chat with u here is one of the happiest moment for me…i always looking forward to interact with u,u know exchanging ideas about Rafa and tennis in general…Thank u for being my precious friend here Nny!!Woohoo!!

            Oh,bout Uncle a way i feel a little bit sad he’ll be gone next year,i respect him very much and what he’s already done to Rafa,…To be able to see his face in the box and to know that Rafa always seeks his guidance for everything especially in crucial moment is very comforting…I will miss his presence in the future…

            • Key quote:

              Dr. Andrew Swift, past chairman of the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistics in Sports and an assistant mathematics professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said the analysis and its methodology were sound.

              “Any way you want to look at these, there is significant evidence here that these did not come from a random draw,” he said.

            • And this one…

              “Top players boycotted the U.S. Open draw in 1996, forcing the USTA to remake the draw after allegations it could have been rigged to favor certain American players. The players were upset the then-16 seeded players were chosen after the first part of the draw. The association ended up redoing the draw with the seeds in place.”


    • Joe, when did I say Rafa would run away with the match? Goffin himself admitted that he couldn’t sustain his 100% play, who are you to say that he could continue with it for two sets even if he had won the first??

      Even if Goffin had won the first set, Rafa would raise his level in the second and Goffin in all likelihood won’t be able to handle that. Rafa would win in three sets, and that’s the most likely outcome if Goffin won the first.

      I think you have problems interpreting what others said, please don’t jump into conclusions like this when you’re not even sure what others are saying.

  7. Fed has beaten Rafa four times in a row. A switch to clay would of course help Rafa out, but to say Fed doesn’t have a chance of beating Rafa when they play on clay is hilarious.

    • Sure, Fed has a chance. After all he’s beaten Rafa twice on clay, once in Hamburg (2007) and once in Madrid (2009). Of course he’s never beaten Rafa at RG or even taken him to 5 sets. But there’s a first time for everything, or so I’m told. A bit premature to worry about it though imo.

    • Not hilarious, when Fed has to play BO5 vs Rafa on clay! I see nothing hilarious about Fed having no chance vs Rafa at the FO.

          • One thing I would never say about Lucky is that she is fanatical. She hasno problem calling out Rafa if he’s not playing well or not being aggressive or not taking advantage of break chances. She speaks her mind. But she will point out what Rafa is doing well and give him credit when it’s due.

            I think Lucky calls it as she sees it. Therefore, if she thinks Fed has no chance to beat Rafa at RG, then that’s what she honestly believes. Fed hasn’t beaten Rafa yet at RG. The one RG title he did win was when Rafa lost to Sod in 2009.

            I wouldn’t be talking up Fed’s chances at RG at this point in time. I don’t like to speak in absolutes, but I am not concerned with Fed possibly beating Rafa at RG right now.

            One tournament at a time!

            • NNY: here’s the original claim I made: “to think Rafa would have run away with it even with Goffin at or near 100% is pretty fanatical.” (So it wasn’t about Federer at all). The claim was about the thought (not Lucky the person), and I stand by it.

              Goffin has been one of the best players in the world lately (or was at the time of MC). He had just beaten Djokovic. And (but for the bad call) he would have been leading a Nadal who was by no means playing badly, even if not his best. I’ll say it again: I never claimed that Rafa would have lost. But I think the match would have been much closer than it was, had Goffin been able to keep near his 100% level. Now, maybe you and others think (as Goffin said himself) that he couldn’t keep that level because it’s not possible. Reasonable enough. But I interpret Lucky as saying something much stronger: that even if (against all odds) Goffin was able to play near his very best, it wouldn’t matter because Nadal would sweep him away regardless. I think anyone who believes that is being fanatical, irrational.

            • It’s the same old same old from Fed fans/non Rafa fans. When Nadal won, it’s because his opponent didn’t play well or was disadvantaged by the umpire’s decision, when Nadal lost, it’s his opponent who played well despite Nadal playing very well. All this belittling of Nadal’s performance is very tiring, tennis warehouse is the place for yous.

      • So you’re saying that if Fed played Rafa on clay right now, you would have no doubt that Rafa would win. For one thing, Roger has never played Rafa on clay using the racket he now uses that has the bigger head, which has dramatically helped him with his backhand against Rafa, which he now can take much earlier and time well. No reason he can’t do the same on clay, even if it will be a little tougher to do so. Also, Roger is the more confident one when those guys play each other now after destroying Rafa at Indian wells and beating him in straights at Miami without even playing his best. Four match win streak doesn’t lie. I get that Rafa is a beast on clay, but keep in mind he hasn’t had to face Novak, Andy, Roger, or Stan in the latter stages of these last two events. Thiem is the best guy he has beaten on clay this season, and his last three opponents in Monte Carlo were fucking Schwartzman, Mr Meltdown Goffin, and Ramos-freaking-Vinolas.

      • So you’re saying that if Fed played Rafa on clay right now, you would have no doubt that Rafa would win. For one thing, Roger has never played Rafa on clay using the racket he now uses that has the bigger head, which has dramatically helped him with his backhand against Rafa, which he now can take much earlier and time well. No reason he can’t do the same on clay, even if it will be a little tougher to do so. Also, Roger is the more confident one when those guys play each other now after destroying Rafa at Indian wells and beating him in straights at Miami without even playing his best. Four match win streak doesn’t lie. I get that Rafa is a beast on clay, but keep in mind he hasn’t had to face Novak, Andy, Roger, or Stan in the latter stages of these last two events. Thiem is the best guy he has beaten on clay this season, and his last three opponents in Monte Carlo were Diego freaking Schwartzman, Mr Meltdown Goffin, and Ramos-freaking-Vinolas.

        • Did not mean to post that twice sorry. I didn’t think it posted the first time cuz I cussed which I apologize for doing. Just trying to make a point. I mean he got SCHWARTZMAN lol

        • Yes I’ve no doubt that Rafa would beat Fed on clay esp after Rafa’s two titles on clay now. If they play at the very start of the clay season i.e. at MC then maybe Rafa would be a bit unsure of himself but not now.

          We’ll see when they meet on clay, don’t have to argue now. Fed may be beaten by someone else on clay before they meet, after all Fed was beaten by Chardy, Gulbis, Monfils, Kygrios on clay during 2014/2015 playing with his bigger racket.

    • Benny, don’t put words into my mouth, I didn’t say Rafa was playing at 50% on HCs. However, he wasn’t going all out to win when he’s not going to risk any injury when the clay season was round the corner.

      I mean, did you see him playing with so much varieties on the HCs, the way he was playing on clay now? Did he just pick up his volleying skills, net approaching ability, etc and etc only now when on clay? If anything, he looked hesitant on the HCs, preferring to stay behind the baseline most of the times.

      • Was just joking around about the 50% thing. I just doubt Rafa didn’t try his hardest because I thought he always tries his hardest.

        • Benny, Rafa is not stupid!! He knows how to prioritize, don’t think he’s stupid enough to ruin his clay season by getting injured before that. He knows his chances on clay this year given the top two guys failings so far. If Fed is smart enough to concentrate on HCs and skips clay, why do you think Rafa can’t concentrate his efforts on clay?

          Fed supporters always think the world of Fed but when it comes to Rafa, they question everything about him – from his intentions, his capabilities, his intelligence, whatever.

          • Fed fans think Goffin would have won the match from 4-2 in the first set. But Rafa was a break up in the final set at AO but their idol won. How do they explain what happened at AO if they are so convinced Goffin would have won the match?

          • Lucky I don’t question Rafa’s intelligence or capabilities at all. I love Rafa and his fight and passion and I just don’t think he put less effort into the hard court season than he has this clay court season. He doesn’t seem like the kind of player to do that at all. Far from it. I may be a fed fan but don’t think I am dissing Rafa here. I’m simply saying Fed would have a chance at beating Rafa on clay because of the win streak he has right now and the confidence he has at the moment.

            • Benny, I’m not saying Rafa won’t put in effort to win on the HCs. If he didn’t, he won’t be reaching three HC finals this season so far. The thing is, when it came to crucial moments, he was hesitant, but on clay I didn’t see his hesitance. Do you think he couldn’t approach the net, hit some nice volleys on the HCs the way he could on clay?

              As I mentioned before, on clay Rafa could glide into the points, something he did so well on clay over anyone else; on the HCs if he glides he might damage his ankles ( he didn’t have Djoko’s flexibility, or the help from an expert that Djoko had, for giving Djoko a very good insole for his shoes to protect Djoko’s ankles when gliding on the HCs). So, I feel Rafa won’t chase after every point the way he could on clay, that may explain his hesitance on the HCs.

            • He is more confident on clay and is better on it that’s why he uses more variety and is comfortable in doing so. Not because he wants to win more when he is on clay.

            • You didn’t get it Benny. Whether it’s on clay or Hcs, Rafa could do the same , i.e. approaching the net or volleying. It’s not like he hadn’t done that before on the HCs. It’s a matter of how he moves on the different surfaces, how fast he could get to the ball; he won’t want to injure himself (on the HCs before the clay season). Come the USO, I think he would not hold back (like he’s not holding back at the AO when it’s a slam). We shall see….

            • Benny, I think Ricky’s site must contain malware.

              After making a post a few minutes ago, my credentials changed to yours with your username and email.

              I believe this happened to nny a few days ago as she noticed she was suddenly posting as luckystar which would mean her email address was revealed.

        • Benny is correct. Rafa always tries his best.

          Fed didn’t vs Donskoy obviously as it was just a 250.

  8. Whether Fed can, will, has a chance, no point speculating till it comes to pass.

    I feel Fed has better chance of beating Rafa now than he ever had given his 4 match streak and finally its all about confidence and mental.

    I remember in 2011 after Fed beat a red hot Novak in RG semi, post the final with Rafa, he admitted that despite he having played so well to beat Novak, he was not confident against Rafa to win. I think then it was all mental, now Fed does not have that mental baggage, so whoever plays better will win. I will never count Fed out given that he won three 5 setters at AO this year which no one ever expected him to.

    RG always gives Fed favourable draws. If Rafa is seeded 5, expect him to face Djokovic in qtrs..It happened in 2015, he was drawn in same half as Djoko in 2013 and 2016 too. The same will happen. Djoko/Stan/Rafa in same half and Fed/Murray in the other.

    • I think in all likelihood Rafa will be seeded fourth at RG. I expect him to meet Fed in QF, Djoko in SF and Stan in the final.

      • By then I think Djoko will be good enough to reach the SF to meet Rafa. Djoko not playing too badly at MC, he almost beat Goffin don’t forget that. Djoko should be playing better at Madrid and Rome; Im hoping that Rafa meet Djoko at both places in the SF, and beat Djoko both times to reach the final, so that he’ll be ready to meet whoever at the FO.

  9. Mr.Smith
    Don’t know how long you’ve been watching tennis for, nor when you started posting here BUT criticising Luckystar’s opinions displays your lack of judgement. She is one of, if not the most, knowledgeable and fair minded posters on this site and you could learn a lot from her analysis. Passing off your comments as ‘just joking’ is a cop out.

  10. Its a big relief Rafa defended his 1500 points from MC and Barcelona…if he hadn’t he would be for sure seeded 5…he has now I think less than 1000 pts left to defend all season and that could be covered by winning just 1 other Masters 🙂

    lot left to gain now on for both Rafa and Fed.

    • Sanju, what is the significance of “he has now I think less than 1000 pts left to defend all season and that could be covered by winning just 1 other Masters.”?

            • Defending points impacts your seeding…agreed. But what is the significance of the statement that he has less than 1000 points to defend all season?

            • To me it means that his current 52-week point total skews heavily towards his year to date results and therefore on its own indicates the potential for rapid improvement in the coming weeks and months relative to players with a more even distribution over the last year.

            • But what is the significance? If a player had not played the entire previous season, the statement you made would hold for him also.

            • That’s why I referenced comparison to players with a more uniform distribution like a Cilic or a CryBaby for example.

            • ok, I can make a statement like this is the year 2017 or Washington is the capital of USA. But why is the statement being made?

            • perhaps the significance is that it shows us he has almost already done (in terms of collecting points)what he did the entire 2016. It would surely give the player peace of mind as well as they know it is a matter of time before he climbs up the rankings and gets better seedings.

              I guess that’s how Sanju was viewing it?

              We all know defending points is key but points are points 🙂

  11. Sure Fed will play at RG, there is no reason not to! Fed will have favorable draw but he is not only threatened by the big four, he can be beaten by lesser ranked clay court specialists. Nothing is given!

    Let’s just say that I would love to ser Rafa facing Fed at RG! That’s just how confident I am that no matter how well Fed is currently playing he really has slim chance of beating Rafa on dirt! For me, the only threat for Rafa on RG clay is Nick in earlier rounds and Nole in the later stage…the rest of the field Rafa will beat handily in the best of 5 match…

    I hope Rafa remains healthy and injury free! If that’s the case RG title is his to take, the others will just be mere spectators…

    Vamos Rafa!

    • The explanation all Fed fans give for Fed’s 4 consecutive wins against Rafa is that Fed has a bigger racquet and he has improved his backhand. The real explanation though is that Rafa did not have his reliable lethal forehand and he isn’t as fast as he used to be. Though the drop in speed is miniscule, it can have a huge impact on results of elite players. On clay, Rafa’s game is more effective and the surface being slower, it gives him more time. Also Fed’s serve will not be as big a weapon on clay. It is clear that team Nadal aren’t worried about Fed on clay. They are worried about Nole.

      • My issue is that Rafa is a player who has always found solutions when it comes to challenges with his rivals. Just because Fed has a bigger racket does not mean that he can now vest Rafa at will. It’s not like Rafa is standing still and not tweaking his game and working to make adjustments. His serving has improved quite a bit recently. He’s hitting his backhand very well right now. Rafa is working on his forehand to get it to be consistently better.

        Rafa will have the answers to counter Fed, especially in clay. I well remember reading bloggers online saying that Rafa would never beat Novak again after his seventh loss in a row at the 2012 AO. My reply was – never say never! They were wrong, of course. But if I had a dollar for every time they said that there were no weaknesses in Nivak’s game, that Rafa could not turn things around, that there was no way he could beat Novak again, I would be a rich person.

        The idea that Rafa’s dominance over Fed is now history and Fed has Rafa’s number, is the same kind of nonsense that I heard with Novak. Rafa will find the answers and I would not bet against him should he meet Fed at RG.

    • vr,

      The voice of reason. Not that Sanju’s connect needs to be explained, but I think you said it well.

  12. Personally I doubt very much Fed will play RG. He could go deep agreed, although there is plenty of YoungGen claycourt talent to challenge him – never mind that he has never beaten Rafa there. Why would he knock himself to pieces with the grass court swing just ahead where he can excell and even add to his collection of Slam silverware

    • I think Fed will be randomly drawn into Rafa’s quarter.

      That would be a virtual final and if Fed loses he still has almost four weeks before his first wimby match.

      If he wins…

    • I agree with you, Edwina. I’ve always been under the opinion that he would be best off skipping RG. Maybe if he were, say, 32 as opposed to pushing 36, I may have a different opinion. But given that he said himself that he felt like clay aggravated his knee last season, I would think he would skip it. But apparently that’s not his plan!

      There are two reasons why I think playing RG could actually be a good idea for him. One is that it could potentially help with his seeding at Wimbledon (unless Rafa sweeping clay season would make it mathemically impossible to stay ranked #4?). The other reason would be because making a deep run there could significantly help his chances of getting to #1 this season. Since he’s already won one of the majors and two masters, and is defending zero points at Roland Garros, Canada, Cinci, AND US Open, he has a legitimate chance at getting back to #1 this season. In my opinion, however, I think he will need to make a good run at Roland Garros in order to get to #1… Ending the season at number one is a different story! That is really dependent on so many different factors right now. At this very moment, since we have yet to see Andy and Novak up their levels, I would have to say that it is a toss-up between Rafa and Federer ENDING the season #1. As it pertains to Federer, though, it is my opinion that he must play Roland Garros if he realistically wants to get to #1 this season. That being said, Fed himself says that getting back to #1 is not important to him, and that trying to win Wimbledon and/or US Open is his main priority, so who knows what’s he will do.

      • Kevin. I think Federer is keeping his options open until the last possible moment (no doubt encouraged by RG who for commercial reasons would love the prospect of another Fedal encounter). If I was to put money on the outcome my take is the odds are against him playing RG.

      • It’s only the Fed fans who are talking about Fed getting to no.1; Fed himself isn’t obsessed with getting to no.1!

        Playing on clay may jeopardize Fed’s chances at Wimbledon should he get his knee injured again, whether it’s during the clay season or during transition from clay to grass, given the short timeframe to adjust from one surface to the other.

      • Fed doesn’t need the clay points for seeding purposes at Wimbledon. He won’t be winning much on clay anyway. He just needs to see how Stan and Rafa do on clay; chances are Fed would at least be seeded in the top four for Wimbledon; so he will most likely avoid Murray and Djoko until the SF. On grass I doubt he’s worried about Stan or even Rafa.

        Fed may be more worried about Cilic, Kyrgios or A Zverev in the earlier rounds at Wimbledon.

  13. As far as I recall Rafs has only ever lost once on clay to Fed. That was in Madrid ’07 when he had a badly blistered foot after a gruelling match against Davydenko the week before.. They showed a close up during the MTO; which made you wonder how he ever got a shoe on let alone plsy s match. The same thong happened to Murray in an AO final against Djokovic.

    #Occupational Hazard

    • Madrid didn’t go to clay until ’09, and Rafa did lose to Fed in the final that year after a grueling semi with Djokovic. Rafa also lost to Fed in Hamburg on clay on ’07. I think the only other close match on clay with Federer was ’06 Rome.

    • Ed, the blistered foot was in Rome 2008 when he lost to Fererro in the 2nd round I guess. The epic semi with Davy was Rome 2007 but the rolled over Gonzalez in the final the next day. #BeastMode

  14. My bad Ramara. Had forgotten Madrid was previously on indoor hard court. It comes from watching too many Rafa matches – the memory starts to play tricks. Should check the facts before making categorical statements.
    Surprised Augustus didn’t pick me up on: usually she is quick off the mark when I’m factually incorrect 🙁

  15. It doesn’t invalidate my point that the likelihood of Federer outplaying Rafa at RG this year is unlikely.

    • MA,

      That first article actually brought tears to my eyes. I thought it was beautiful! So well written! Just poetic!

      This is someone who really gets what Rafa has achieved! It’s so enjoyable to read such a tribute!

      Thanks so much! I have s big smile on my face!

      Oh and I am okay now and doing really well!

  16. Nny!!Hahaha…i knew it!!I know you’re going to love that article as soon as i read it!!…In fact,while i read it,my mind already zoooomed to u… Agree Nny!!That article was most beautiful and awesome article i’ve ever read about Rafa in my whole life Nny!

    Oh yeah!This is what i thought about your amazing recovery Nny!!


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