Jon Wertheim’s Mailbag Abides
Jon Wertheim commented on an observation I made about the possible benefits of Rafael Nadal playing slowly in his weekly mailbag. Here are Jon’s thoughts:
I think Nadal’s slow play does benefit him in one key area. Nadal’s ability to concentrate is a comparative advantage against anyone not named Deep Blue. By lengthening the match, I believe Nadal’s mental focus stays close to 100 percent whereas his opponent can begin to lose some strategic and/or tactical clarity. As you pointed out regarding the Australian Open semifinal matches, a few points can make the difference. I would add that a few bad decisions by the opposition can lead to those very points going Rafa’s way.
— Dan Martin, Park Hills, Ky.
• That’s interesting. And, of course, it’s easy to see how an opponent’s concentration could waver. It’s not simply the extra time. It’s the fact that those extra 10 or 15 seconds are different from conventional rhythms. You can liken this to all sorts of situations. If all of your essay tests in school are an hour, but one teacher gives a 75-minute test, you can see how this could throw off a student. If your match.com date pauses an extra few seconds before answering your questions (“How bad is your commute?” “Do you watch ‘Mad Men?'” “How did people meet before the interweb?”) your whole rap gets thrown off, I suspect.
Krishan of Houston also raised the point that whereas Federer is quick and decisive, Nadal uses this time to recuperate physically and also gather himself mentally for the next point: “If you take that away from him [i.e. “enforce the rules”] he loses a considerable part of his game,” Krishan writes.
Again, a shot clock eliminates this complaint — and a knock on the sport’s top two players — and I don’t really see a downside. It’s another fan-friendly innovation (inasmuch as a device used by other sports for the last half-century innovates.) It’s not prohibitively expensive. And if there were inconsistencies with respect when the chair began the countdown, so what? The players would adjust accordingly.
Milos Raonic Wins a Couple of Big Clay Court Matches
Milos Raonic defeated Nicolas Almagro in straight sets. That was a nice win on clay. Today, Raonic who has a top five serve faced a man with a top five return in Andy Murray. On clay, I would expect this to tilt toward Murray. However, Raonic beat Murray in straight sets as well. If Milos can play a bit like Isner does on clay by serving bombs but then also using the extra split second the surface affords to take cracks at returns and groundstrokes, he can be a tough out in 2012. By 2013 or 2014, who knows. I like Nadal to win Barcelona, and I think Raonic would be an interesting final opponent for Rafa.
- Part 5 of my GOAT series focusing on Rafa should be up soon
- Andy Murray is in an odd phase of his new coaching arrangement with Ivan Lendl. How Murray handles this turbulence will be important. Can he keep an eye on long term improvement or will losses dent his confidence?
- I watched some junior tennis players this week and have to say that serve and volley is not just an endangered species on the pro tour. Everyone I saw more or less played the same heavy baseline game.