If this is your first time here, please visit the "about" page. If you've been here before, thanks for stopping back in.

The comments are open, and your voice is welcome.

Roland Garish

Rafael Nadal French Open Fashion PantsThe French Open provided what it promised: the two best tennis players in the world skidding around on mushed-up brick. Some of you may have an aversion to watching tennis for whatever reason. Even more of you may be unwilling/unable to rouse yourself awake at 9am on a Sunday. Don’t sleep on tennis. It’s a great game to watch, especially hung over. Maybe it’s because they force the crowd to be quiet. Maybe it’s because of soothing, rhythmic grunting. Maybe it’s because the dulcet tones of Bud Collins are like Advil and a bloody mary without the stomach irritation. Either way, it’s a great game and this was a great match and a perfect way to kick off a long day of lying in bed and watching sports.

This match was a study in contrasts. As clichéd as that sounds, it’s hella apt. You have Roger Federer, the demure, beheadbanded, Swiss Morrissey vs. Rafael Nadal, the wild eyed, scruffy, Mallorcan man-child in Laura Petrie pants. Nadal, despite being ranked #2 in the world behind Federer, was the favorite in the match, having yet to lose in the French Open, ever. It’s been widely documented that Nadal is undefeated at Roland Garros, and the French Open is the only major tournament Federer has never won.

It looks like these facts were all too apparent to Roger.

He played scared at times. He made uncharacteristic unforced errors. He seemed to be battling Nadal as well as his own French Open demons. During one telling Nadal 2nd serve – which, according to conventional wisdom, is going to have a little less horseradish than the 1st serve – he backpedaled instead of charging in. One can only assume this was out of fear, fear of an opponent he knows owns that surface and that tournament. Though Roger cannot be blamed for his trepidation. Nadal must be an imposing force to anyone across the net from him at the French. Looking like Mowgli from the Jungle Book with a Wet Seal wardrobe, opponents have to admire the strength of his couture convictions to adhere to such tragically European fashion choices.

That and he navigates the clay surface with such quickness that it’s almost unfair. Clay is supposed to bog speedy players down and shorten the points. Yet whenever Federer attempted drop shots, Rafael was able to catch up with them with surprising ease. Nadal has a mysterious immunity to the trappings and limitations of the clay court. He once had a gaudy 81-match win streak on the red dirt, and can now take his place among French Open clay masters like Swedish heart-thrÖb BjÖrn Borg and Australia’s Ken Rosewall, who isn’t all that attractive.

Federer may very well be “the best player ever to play the game,” but until he can solve Nadal and the French, there will remain an asterisk next to his name.

9 comments to Roland Garish

  • neal s

    Just to add to the discussion, Greg Garber at ESPN wrote a nice wrapup that includes interesting/relevant quotes from both players.

    I figure that Roger has two or three more dominant years left, so with luck it’ll be him and Nadal in the French final from here to 2010. Much as I’d like to see it, I’m not sure I’d bet on Federer to win any of them.

  • Ryan

    I’d be a lot more down with men’s tennis if the dudes playing the game were less like the two currently dominant figures. Call it a concern with image. I think what bothers me is the fact that regardless of their particular styles, Nadal and Federer are still kind of inherently effete.

    Sampras, good as he was, always struck me as boring. Agassi, just seemed like a ponce until his latter days, and by then he wasn’t the one to watch in the big games.

    For all the bad-boy press that players like Agassi and Nadal get, they’re not really bad at all. Their rep stems more from their wardrobe than it does from their actual behavior.

    The only real bad boy tennis star of our lifetime has been McEnroe, and he still came off as more petulant than actually threatening.

    Perhaps I’ve slept on some players, but why are there no thug tennis stars? Why can’t we have a combo Muhammad Ali swaggering, shit-talking cat on the court to rock the tennis world to its very core? Perhaps the real issue for me is a lack of American (read: vaguely criminal) players in the big time.

    Let’s face it, you can be as technically perfect as the top of the world, but if you’re not an interesting personality, who cares? Nadal is a bad-ass as far as skill on clay —sure— but he’s ultimately a haircut and a pair of not-very-manly pants to the average American couch potato spectator.

    Somebody get Ron Mexico a tennis racket.

  • Heap A. Relish

    1) Why would you NOT want to see the two best players in the world?
    2) “Effete”? NADAL JUST TURNED 21!
    3) Who ever said Nadal was a bad ass? He lives with his parents!
    4) Why am I arguing with someone who obviously knows nothing about tennis?!

  • neal s

    And as a matter of fact both Nadal and Federer ARE interesting, both in personality and as players.

    “why are there no thug tennis stars”? Why would there need to be?

  • Mike L

    having a thug tennis star would be like having a thug golfer. theres no need for that. tennis like golf is sport of sprotsmanship. its very proper and thats why people freaked when aggasi came on the scene wearing black, or neon green and yellow, big hair,etc… it wasnt the norm then. you can get away with that in golf however(jesper parnevik). you dont see tiger walk by his opponent on the green after leaving one short and say something assanine like “your skirt get in the way sally” (like i do with my friends). i dont watch much tennis at all but i can say roddick has to be maybe the most exciting player. i mean he busts out 140+ mph serves.

  • Winthropemacadoo


  • dan the man

    I don’t agree that tennis needs a bad boy, but I would like to see an American tennis star in men’s tennis. Tennis is cool and while I find myself getting more and more into it, 1) I’m not getting up at 9am to watch anything on TV and that’s more of a fault of the sport of tennis than it is a fault of mine (same goes for Formula 1 racing), and 2) it’s downright hard to relate to anyone playing the sport professionally as far as I can tell. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect these guys or that I can’t appreciate good tennis, but it’s still missing something intangible – a guy that I really want to root for.

  • DavidFosterWallace-ish

    i think what makes a Nadal v. Federer match-up so exciting is that they are more fantastic tennis players than they are personalities.

    Ryan, there’s lots of reality tv on the air right now that will give you the “bad boy” conflict you’re looking for. Try Real World.

    Waching Federer has been described as a “religious experience” to those who have played/know tennis. (See DHF’s NYT piece from last year: Federer as Religious Experience) and Chris is right on the money — Federer seems totally psyched out by this “asterisk.”

  • that was a good read. thanx DFW-ish