Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Roger Federer After Turning 30: Is There Another Slam Title in His Future? 4

Posted on February 08, 2012 by JA Allen

Roger Federer turned 30 years of age in 2011.

Turning thirty can be traumatic for any normal human being.

Some stepping over that threshold suffer overwhelming angst, knowing that Bob Dylan once swore you could not trust anybody over thirty. Seriously—at one point in the recent past, Dylan was akin to God in certain circles, causing some recently turned thirty-somethings to weep copiously over lost youth, sensing all was lost.

On the other hand, Dylan is now over 65—so surely he has learned to trust himself despite living well beyond those prophetic 30 years.

For a tennis pro today, however, reaching thirty presents a true turning point—not simply a psychological marker. The legs grow heavier and the foot, a step slower. Unerring instinct now takes a second longer to kick into gear.

For most tennis players having played for over a decade brings steady decline if not resignation, ending in retirement. Time seemingly has expired requiring shelving or recycling for the majority.

That was not always the case in men’s professional tennis.  There were some notable exceptions from bygone days when tennis players were not millionaires and fame was hard to come by.

Think of Bill Tilden who played professional tennis well into his forties. During the 1920s we can safely attest, however, that the competition taking the court against Big Bill was hardly the same caliber as today’s players. Still, Tilden helped Americanize the game, altering its path from strenuous past time to highly competitive sport.

The great and enigmatic Pauncho Gonzalez seemed unbeatable in his thirties, playing top-notch tennis well into his forties. Consider, too, that Rod Laver won his second grand slam while age 31 in 1969—at the beginning of the Open Era in men’s tennis.

Other men have been successful, winning slams  after age 30 like Roy Emerson who won the 1967 French Open title or like John Newcombe who won the 1975 Australian Open having turned 30 years of age in 1974.  Renowned Arthur Ashe won his 1975 Wimbledon title at age 32.

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A Reversal of Fortunes: Novak Djokovic Derailed Rafael Nadal 24

Posted on September 08, 2011 by JA Allen

Novak Djokovic captured his second grand slam title at the 2011 Australian Open

A year ago at the conclusion of the 2010 US Open, Rafael Nadal was king of the mountain, having just captured his first US Open trophy and a career grand slam.

He had 10,475 ATP ranking points, leading Roger Federer by 3,260 points, Novak Djokovic by 3, 810 and Andy Murray by 5,350 total points.

Life was good.

Things were definitely looking up for the world No. 1 who had just completed the best summer season of his life on the tennis court.

By the end of 2010 Nadal remained the top dog with 12,450 points leading world No. 2 Federer by 3,305 points, Djokovic by 6,205 points and No. 4 Murray by 6,690 points.

The two top-ranked players were separating themselves from the rest of the pack, and that included No. 3 Djokovic and No. 4 Murray. That meant the continuing Federer-Nadal iron grip at the top was going to be “the” tennis story of 2011.

Or was it?

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Novak Djokovic Seized the Wimbledon Crown and the No. 1 Ranking 6

Posted on July 03, 2011 by JA Allen

Novak Djokovic at press conference after winning 2011 Wimbledon Championship.

New World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated defending champion Rafael Nadal in the men’s final at the All England Club Sunday, claiming his first Wimbledon championship in two hours and 28 minutes.

The Serb served up 21 winners, including seven aces as opposed to 12 unforced errors. Nadal was not far behind with 21 winners, five aces and 15 unforced errors.

The break point conversion was the most critical stat, with Djokovic breaking Nadal in five of six opportunities, while Nadal converted only three of his six chances to break serve.

Prior to the men’s final at Wimbledon, Djokovic won his last four meetings with the former world No. 1, Nadal. The four tournaments were, in fact, consecutive Masters events at Rome, Madrid, Miami and Indian Wells—all in 2011.

The Serb was enjoying an outstanding year on the tennis courts.

In fact, Djokovic managed to win 43 in a row before Roger Federer defeated him during the French Open semifinals. Now the Serb has a 48-1 winning record to build upon during the American hard-court season starting later this month.

Even though Nadal led in their head-to-head 16-11, Djokovic had won seven of their last nine meetings––now eight of their last 10.

The only other time they had met in a major final, however, was the 2010 U.S. Open; Nadal won 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.

On Sunday, Djokovic responded positively to the fact of his imminent No. 1 ranking as he took his place on Centre Court. From the early going it appeared the Serb was going to anoint his ascension to the top of men’s tennis by winning his first Wimbledon Championship.

Nadal came out blazing, bouncing and ready to rumble. The No. 1 seed was serving brilliantly in the first set, getting more than 90 percent of his first serves in.

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Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Rafael Nadal Leads The Way 3

Posted on July 09, 2010 by Ronger Fengerer

With victories in the French Open and Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal has solidified his place at the top of the tennis power rankings.

The Championships at Wimbledon have come and gone, just like that. It has been a historic tournament, especially with the Queen’s visit (on June 24) and the longest match in tennis history (John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut, first-round, June 22-24).

In the end, though, it was all about Rafael Nadal, who claimed his second Wimbledon crown and his eighth major title. In doing so, he became the first man since Bjorn Borg to achieve the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double more than once.

Before the tour shifts to the second hard-court season of the year, most top players will take a summer vacation. The list below reflects the players’ form to some degree, although how well they will be able to keep it up after a multi-week break remains to be seen.

The Top 10

1. Rafael Nadal (Last Power Ranking: 1; ATP Ranking: 1)

Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [Winner], London [Quarterfinalist], Roland Garros [Winner], and Madrid [Winner]

Power Ranking Points: 2,536

Nadal has dominated the men’s tour since April, when the clay-court season began in Monte-Carlo. He won all but one (London) tournament that he entered, including two majors and three Masters. He accumulated 7,045 ranking points in three months—more than the total of second ranked player, Novak Djokovic. On the way, he surpassed Roger Federer as the new world’s No. 1 and Andre Agassi with the most number of Masters shields. Read the rest of this entry →

Splendor on the Wimbledon Grass: Has Rafael Nadal Surpassed Roger Federer Forever? 3

Posted on June 22, 2010 by JA Allen

Wimbledon 2010: Changing of the Guard even as Federer Lands the Top Seed…

Roger Federer seeded No. 1 at Wimbledon 2010. Rafael Nadal is seeded No. 2 despite being the No. 1 ranked player.

Throughout the wide vista of sporting events, there exists nothing quite as resplendent as Wimbledon draped in quiet dignity as it opens its gates for the fortnight.  The serenity of the grounds contrasts mightily with the sheer aggressive athleticism of its participants. Even grunting and groaning seem out of place on the hallowed green lawns.

The Wimbledon Championships sponsored by the All England Club, have been held since 1877.  It remains the only slam left that offers players a carpet of grass––a step back into the game’s storied past.

Roger Federer serves as Wimbledon’s standard bearer with his all-court game and his delicate movement across the grass.

With its new retractable roof, Wimbledon can now host night matches.

As part of its rich tradition, the organizers have given the number one seed to Roger Federer who has played on Centre Court during the finals for the past seven consecutive years.  The number one ranked player in the world, Rafael Nadal, was demoted to the number two seed this year at Wimbledon.  For those of you who think Nadal will not use this as motivation, you do not know the Majorcan very well.

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Rafael Nadal Back On Top Of Men’s Tennis Power Rankings 1

Posted on June 09, 2010 by Ronger Fengerer

Rafael Nadal is back on top following his fifth French Open title.

“Rafa Nadal best ever on clay…period,” Andy Roddick twittered after the Spaniard completed the unprecedented “Clay Slam” on Sunday, June 6th. I guess most of us would agree. Though we all knew that Rafael Nadal is really good on clay, what he accomplished in this year’s clay-court season was just mind-boggling. The “King of Clay” is once again the King of our power rankings. I doubt anyone needs any convincing to accept that.

Just a small reminder: the grass-court season has already begun. Due to the switch of playing surfaces, the current power rankings might not be a great indicator of form for the next few weeks, especially for those true clay-courters.

The Top 10

1. Rafael Nadal (Last Power Ranking: 1; ATP Ranking: 1)

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [Winner]; Madrid [Winner]; Rome [Winner]; Monte Carlo [Winner]

Power Ranking Points: 2542

2542, that’s a Power Rankings record! Just look at Nadal’s Last Four Tournaments!

Before Madrid Masters began, Nadal was ranked No. 3 in the world, trailing Roger Federer by almost 4000 points. After Madrid, he rose to No. 2, and now he is again No. 1 in the world! I wonder if that is also a record, the fastest from No. 3 to No. 1.

Though some have claimed that this year’s Nadal was not as dominate as in 2008, I have to disagree. In fact I believe Nadal has taken another decisive step towards tennis immortality.

In 2008, Nadal was doing what could be described as “all-out defense/attack,” playing every point as hard as he could. In 2010, he has become smarter and is doing what could be described as “controlled aggression,” playing every point as hard as he needs to. And this can only be achieved if he can play at a higher level than his opponents and he is fully confident in his own game.

With literally “zero” pressure going into Wimbledon, there is a big chance that Nadal could repeat what he was able to accomplish in 2008. And should he pull that off, look for another round of GOAT debate to begin.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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