Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Book Review: Steve Waugh - Out Of My Comfort Zone - II

Previously: Book Review Part 1
What was Waugh's approach to batting? How did he get to his 'zone'? What was the secret behind those splendid revivals from 40/3? What about Ambrose? Waugh talks so much about the mental aspect in his book that it is difficult not to take away his learning to aspects other than cricket. Reading Waugh's book somehow gives you a feeling that you have befriended him for a week or two and it is sad to let that narrative voice go away once the book is done. One of the main characteristics of Steve Waugh as a batsman has been dour, un-stylish, and survive-consolidate-kill kind of batting. But it is his warrior like characteristics that made him famous. One of my favorite sports writer,Nirmal Shekar - whose keys strokes result in words that explode with power, ooze style, and pumps up the adrenalin - had this to say about Steve Waugh in a column that appeared on April, 1 2000. I printed the article and stuck this article on my room wall. I would read it every once in a while. This would pump me up every time I needed motivation;

"to equate Steve Waugh's success in times of grave crises to miracles would be an insult to an extraordinary sportsman simply because it would take away from the very essence of what he is a champion - an eternal warrior with a granite will. If nothing else, perhaps above all else, Steve Waugh is a fighter, a fighter to the point where his very identity as a sportsman is dependent on that virtue. He fights, therefore he is. Steve Waugh is one of the most brilliant representatives of a breed of sportsmen whose chief virtue and greatest claim to fame is their ability to fight."

How many times has Steve Waugh produced an innings such as his unbeaten 151 at Wellington after coming in when the team was four down for 275 or something? Surely, not many. When there is no need to fight, there is no need for a Steve Waugh. Lesser men can take over.
Makes your spine tingle and gives you goosebumps doesn't it? It had such an impact on me that I still read it once every two months or so. The biggest take away about Waugh from this book is summarized by Sekhar very simply "This is because, in sport, mental set is as crucial a factor as talent. This is why many talented players and teams do not win often enough.". A fact, Waugh repeatedly stresses in his book. Sekhar concludes by saying - ``People outside sport may see only the game, just as those outside of war only see the horror. Yet, in that horror a man may be better than he will ever be the rest of his life. And in that game a man may find what life is really about,'' wrote Dr.George Sheenan, a U.S. cardiologist. In modern cricket, no man might have found out as much about what life is all about as Mr. Steve Waugh.

Not How, How many?

This is the title of the Chapter where Waugh discusses his approach to batting. Apt Indeed. On the subject of Hayden and Slater competing for the slot of Taylor's opening partner, Waugh reveals his thoughts on the game "Cricket, like few other team sports, has a highly individual component, yet still relies totally on team commitment. This is one reason why it evokes fervent passion and such a variety of comment from observers, because often these two factors can clash and become blurred, depending on what spin is placed on a moment or segment of play." And then he talks about the way he built, what he calls his defining innings in the 93 Ashes test - "Up until that point I hadn't appreciated the satisfaction that comes with being technically sound in defense. It takes enormous self-control to defend a half-volley or let a long-hop go through to the keeper when the normal thought process is to look for a boundary. Doing this successfully was for me a new experience and meant my mind was the now the strongest facet of my game. If I could harness the power of my mind to block out an entire session and suppress my natural instincts to save a game, then anything was possible in the future. I'd completed a task I'd been unsure I could perform, as because of that I would never again doubt myself."

"Getting runs ugly is an art that all but the geniuses of the game need to master, so that they can attain consistency. Not only is it a learnt trait, it is one that so many players find hard to come to terms with." " It's a fine line between compromising your natural game and making the most of your abilities. Allan Border, David Boon and Mark Taylor were fine examples of 'not how, but how many' in order to maximize their potential. From 1993 I believed that it was a key element of my repertoire, because the odds were that it wouldn't be every day that you would walk out and feel on top of your game." - This to me signalled a gulping down of ego which many other players find it hard to do. An acknowledgement that the game had to be fine tuned to the circumstances. Another thing Waugh constantly talks about is tranquility. He uses the word so often that it made me curious. He talks about the serene feeling, he sometimes gets, when he arrives at the pitch. It appears that Waugh took that to be a sign of being ready to completely 'tune in'. He makes all these small little preparations to get there. His arrival at the crease was something ingenious. At the fall of the wicket, as the next batsman in, he would immediately run towards the wicket. This not only warmed him up but he entered the ground, the pitch, took guard and got ready, while the opposition players were celebrating the fall of the previous wicket. People who have experienced this, even if its at a colony level tennis-ball cricket, would know the feeling of walking in when the fielders are in position, bowler at the top of the mark - and then getting ready, taking guard while every body is watching you. A simple but effective idea.

During an innings he talks about a mini switch-off and switch-on, between every ball. Even in amateur tennis I felt that your skill level that takes you to 5-2 is remarkably different from the skill-level that ticks you ever so slightly from 5-2 to 6-2. He says "Ninety times out of hundred a batsman loses his wicket when he has been dwelling on the past, looking to the future or muddling the present". He adds "Clear and simple thought is the every essence of successful batsmanship". And Waugh is right. He mentions switching off at the end of the ball, virtually not think about cricket and switch back on the next ball at delivery stride. He jacks up his concentration levels tremendously when the ball is about to be delivered. He does this by saying a key word like "now" during every delivery he faces. This acts as a as sort of a trigger that sends him into full concentration mode. He talks about a process or routine being extremely important the day before the game and during the game. Over time he developed a list of things to do (20 minutes on nets, soup, shave, medicine, etc) that would make him feel prepared. It mental but then that's what counts. As he often says "I learned yet again that the game is more between the ears than..". On the importance of routines he says "Athletes often mention 'tapering', which, if done effectively, means peaking physically and mentally at the right time. Tricking the mind by conditioning it is all part of the knowledge that comes with experience. Watching the senior players prepare can be an invaluable tool for younger players to draw upon."

On Ambrose

Waugh confesses that Walsh never troubled him. But his battle with Ambrose - to me - defined Waugh as a batsman. This is one of cricket's fiercest rivalries that is probably hardest to surpass. Waugh describes my favorite bowler of all time;

"To me, Curtly Ambrose was the supreme fast bowleing machine. He moved with the ease and grace of a champion athlete across the ground, was beautifully balanced and coordinated, and could blast you out with pace if needed or revert to strategic assault. As well, he owned a trait every one wants but few possess: the gift of being able to shift into that extra gear when needed. His calling card when he thought he had you plumb LBW was a double clap of the hands that was as reliable as the umpire's finger going up. He detested singles going off his bowling believing the prey had escaped his clutches. The icing on the cake for Amby was his imposing physical presence - legs like stilts, arms that never seemed to end and pouting lips that looked like they'd been stung by a swarm of bees. When he stood a couple of feet away giving me his Clint Eastwood glare, I had the feeling he could take me down at any stage, but still wasn't quite sure which of his weapons he would employ to do the job" - This is an excellent summing up of the kind of bowler Ambrose was.

Steve Waugh's stand off with Ambrose at Queens Park Oval is cricketing folk lore. The confrontation has been interestingly described. This narration, to me, describes Steve Waugh as a person as a cricketer the best; "Ambrose, who cut me in half with one delivery and then forced me to jab at the next ball as it moved away from the outside edge. With each play and miss, he would pull up in front of me and glare; it was as if he thought I was purposely taunting his efforts. For me, a volcano of emotions was brewing: frustration at my inability to get on top of the situation, anger at the booing that had greeted my arrival at the crease, irritation after a restless night's sleep and now Amby's bloody stare. A steepling bouncer that flew harmless over the top of my head was almost a relief, because it didn't pose a danger, so when I saw Ambrose staring intently from close quarters I snapped back at him ' what the fuck are you looking at?' It was what I was thinking, but saying it took even me by surprise. It was pure instinct, as my survival mechanism took over;" "Ambrose was clearly stunned, most likely because no one had ever been stupid enough to employ such an aggressive measure against him. Furthermore respect is very important in the Caribbean ...in this culture profanities are rarely heard. Ambrose countered my bar-talk bluff by saying ' Don't cuss me man'. Common sense should have told me to leave it at that. But I needed to have the last say, to get all the anger out, clear my thoughts and start afresh. Unfortunately I... another piece of personal abuse 'why don't you go and get fucked?'. Curtly's eyes were spinning and the situation had rapidly escalated to the point of total ugliness. Thankfully Richie Richardson stepped in, and grabbed his great bowler by the wrist with both hands." "We needed to show the Windies it was our turn to dictate proceedings and that were weren't afraid to get in their faces and get our hands dirty." "I was totally unsure what to do if he lunged at me, because I'm certain he would have made short work of me even though I had a bat in my hands. I kept saying to myself, 'Don't move, don't move. Look tough, stay focused. He'll have to go away." " However, as he ran in to deliver the next ball I braced myself for an exocet missile at the throat. He put in the big ones, striding out to full pace before letting go an absolute scorcher of a bouncer that reared alarmingly of a shortish length and crushed my top hand against the handle, directly in front of my grill. Such was the venom in the execution that I was a foot off the ground at the time of impact. Again Amby was there menacingly staring me down, but this time my lips were sealed."

Whats more interesting is his assessment of that confrontation's mental impact on him "For many players, getting involved in a confrontation is a death sentence... as it consumes their thoughts. I didn't mind the clash with Amby because I knew I could forget about it after using the altercation as a motivation to do well.I never minded being the villain because it set me up against the rest - a scenario that turned me on." While the same concept worked for Ambrose as he finished 5/45 from 16 overs, Australia lost the game. However, Waugh describes his unbeaten 63 (team total 128) as "one of my finest test knocks." He also mentions Lara as a person looking for a cause, a reason to feel like a victim - a scenario that turned him on. Waugh knew it and carefully never gave Lara a reason. "Often he would initiate a conversation by being assertive and confrontational, to give himself a cause. I sometimes did the same thing. Out of the blue as he stood regally awaiting his next delivery, he slammed me for not walking during our first innings. I ...countered by saying 'At least I am consistent. I just don't walk when it suits me'. After a massive appeal by us for a caught-behind was denied by the umpire, I'd remind him "Told you so, you only walk when it suits you'. It seemed an alien took control of his being. The next 10 seconds went like this, with Lara screaming 'shut up' as Waugh shot back ' Told you!'; 'shut up!' 'told you' 'Shut up!' 'told you'. He then walked my way stood two inches from me, quivering as he said, 'C'mon, lets go, lets get it on right now!' "

Here is the clip of the above-mentioned Ambrose-Waugh confrontation;



To Be Continued...

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great book, awesome post !! SRW was my biggest hero during my schooling days when I used to play cricket for my district and his exploits against the Windies was cricketing folklore at school(I think I still have those two Sportstar centrespreads tucked away in some corner of my Trichy house)

I loved your post on John Wright's autobio also and am planning to buy the book next. Ever read that critically acclaimed Brearley's book? Would you really recommend it as a good read?

Keep penning mate !

- J

I said...

tendulkar has never hit a six off Ambrose, theriyumo

GasquetFan said...

looks like Steve Waugh bought into the hype by cricket analysts about his fighting qualities. This fighting quality is a joke that lesser talented players have to have to avoid embarrassment. Sports Journalists all around the world seem cheesy and stupid. Looks like they are fed with a barrage of hollywood movies.

I don't hate Steve Waugh, but I don't think a fighting quality is something special. Players play ball on its merit. Any player who claims to think beyond that is either foolish or lying.

Hawkeye said...

GF,

/* Players play ball on its merit. */

which players?

Nilu said...

I tend to agree with Gasquet Fan.

Nirmal Shekar was an idiot who thought erudite superlatives made sports journalism.

GasquetFan said...

Any player worth his hype plays the ball on merit, successfully or unsuccessfully. And by merit, I mean by his standards and not the 'objective' standards of the men in the stands with a mike.

And I love Tendulkar, despite his perceived big match failures. As much as I love Gasquet.

I can draw parallels of this stupid journalism in tennis when it comes to the questions they ask Safin and Gasquet in interviews. I guess the press sets scales of achievement for individual players and badgers them with stupid questions if they go over or under it. Unfortunately, even some who fulfill their set scales of achievement also get their fair share of questions because the journalists who set the scale in the first place are eager to find out how exactly right they were.

I am blabbering now. But my point is this 'fighting quality' doesn't say anything about his game. It seems like an easy escape route to analysing the real thing in his game. And I don't know what it is because I am not a journalist. Ask me about Gasquet, I can write pages on why I like him. But, of course, you must be patient with my thought flow that goes for a toss when there is too much on my mind.

GasquetFan said...

And I am so happy that Nilu agreed with me. It means that I do have a chance to play tennis with him when I come to Madras.

Karthik Sriram said...

I hate this thing which SW has said - feel like a victim and etc stuff... that kinda pseduo-motivation never works for/with me.

Hawkeye said...

/* successfully or unsuccessfully. */

there must be some factors which contribute to there being two such states. raw cricketing Talent is obviously one of those factors. your claim seems to indicate that it is the only factor.

nilu,

nirmal sekhar

GasquetFan said...

my claim is that talent comes with hardwork and atleast dedication much beyond mortals playing any game can conceive. But we don't care about the hardwork, only the result that is there to see. In my case, the shots and not the runs scored.

To go back to a player's thinking process in a 'pressure situation' is only crying for attention. It's alright when cricket writers do that because they are trying to use their limited or no playing experience to make sense of what they see in the match. But when the player believes that bullshit, I find it funny. Or may be Steve Waugh is just trying to make money out of the legend.

With Nilu gone, I am looking for a good site to troll. Can you suggest me some site?

Anonymous said...

Steve is a frigging cheat. Please see the video below of him claiming a catch that was not a catch at all.. and he sledges Brian of all people..

Brian Lara ALWAYS walks when he knows he has hit the ball....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YS56RbaojWc

The effect of sledging Lara can be seen here... LOL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc1SRpo1NMU

Steve was always a selfish cricketer who attained greater heights because of his selfishness... But neverthless one of the toughest guys i have ever seen play the game....

Hawkeye said...

gasquet fan,

whom do you have to hear it from, for you to believe that the mental aspect is important? if you discount commentators, player (and god :-) ) - who else can say it?

/* my claim is that talent comes with hardwork and atleast dedication */

quite a few people are able to put the hard work and dedication to develop practice, ability and talent. It is a necessary condition but is it sufficient? If I define 'mental aspect' as the ability to shut out distraction and execute talent whenever required - would you agree that 'mental aspect' is important?

I agree with waugh and nirmal shekhar that mental ability is what finally counts and can more than compensate for some lack of talent. I do not think it is an approximation or wild guess of a journalist, who due to lack of practical knowledge, touts 'mental ability' just because thats the only thing he understands.

I think you must've listened to the commentary during french open mens finals. I agreed with that commentator. Fedrer wasn't hitting rhythm and was struggling. He didn't have the mental discipline to put it all together - that day. Fedrer is probably so talented that he may not be required to rely on 'mental ability' to perform at high levels. so that aspect is not a well honed skill for him (but it is for people who are less talented). But if he is put in to situations where that skill is acutely tested, does sometimes (not always) fail.

Hawkeye said...

nilu,

nirmal sekhar might even be the P.G.Wodehouse of indian sports writing - but - what does that have to do with gasquet fan being correct?

GasquetFan said...

Mental aspect is important, but is overrated. And who is the commentator who said that Federer was mentally not in the 'zone' that day. He must have been a Fed fan who finds it hard to accept that Nadal is better than Federer on slower courts?

This talk of mental toughness reminds me of Thomas Muster's interview when he told the interview that he didn't think that he was a fighter and that was the opinion of press. And numerous interviews of Safin where he ridicules questions about his lack of mental toughness.

And both of these men were no sloths. They may have lacked motivation, but not mental toughness. I find total disassociation from reality to focus on the job for more attractive than to feel good, on hindsight, about some fighting quality that I displayed.

Hawkeye said...

gasquet fan,

i think we're just having a definition problem.

Deepa said...

Getting runs ugly - can someone tell this to the sachin-critique? BTW, whats with the no. of visitors counter on the right nav?

Anonymous said...

Bharath,

You becoming popular in caribbeancricket.com.. this is as ite for Windies cricket lovers... ur article abt ambi vs steve is enjoyed by everyone...

here is the thread...

http://caribbeancricket.com/topic/863581

and i'm the one with the lara and chanderpaul avatar...

Ganesh

Hawkeye said...

deepa,

u mean 2 counters? i am testing site meter. i started both of them at same count and let them go and its giving me funny results.

ganesh,

:-) i was surprised when the number of hits suddenly increased.

Nilu said...

http://www.hindu.com/2007/07/07/stories/2007070761632300.htm

Two things,
1. It is Nirmal Shekar.
2. He wrote this --
"Maybe the earth is flat, after all. Maybe the sun rises in the West. Maybe Eminem makes better music than did Mozart.

Now, hold on, before you reach out for the phone to suggest to our Readers’ Editor that this writer be locked up in a padded cell in the nearest mental asylum, consider the following.

The sun was actually sighted at Wimbledon on Friday. And if you think that is some sort of joke, then what about this?. It did not rain in London, SW 19. And, finally, this. Blimey, HRH Roger Federer lost a set on the centre court!"


I rest my case. Krish can write better.

GasquetFan said...

Thanks for the cue Nilu. Speaking of Wimbledon, Gasquet did a Federer* on Roddick. He is a fourth round wonder no more. Anyone who asks me why a nobody like Gasquet has a fan, watch this match and relive Federer's murder of Roddick at the AO this year. The score doesn't suggest it, but the passing shots do. And the way the murder happened is exactly the same.

*Federer - Blocking Roddick's first serve nervously and passing him with disdain, especially off the backhand.

Nilu said...

I watched the match yesterday and I agree. Gasquet is a star. His backhand is better than Fed's forehand -- today he lost to Federer. But that's OK. I am sure he will win at least one Grand Slam in the next 12 months.

Hawkeye said...

nilu,

segar is like rajini, caters to fans and fans only get it.


/*His backhand is better than Fed's forehand */

ithu konjam over. i agree that gasquet is a potential. he somehow reminds me of kafelnikov. i dunno why?

gasquet,

for some reason I kept thinking of you while watching the game.

Venkat said...

i didn't notice the stats, but didn't Gasquet have more winners in today's match against Federer. Fed has to be on top of his service game to win this one. He served up close to 20 aces and was impregnable.

don't want to get too excited about Gasquet yet, but it would have been good to see what would have happened if he had got a days break coming from yesterdays amazing 5 setter.

Gasquet Fan : you were 'bang on' all the time...

Hawkeye said...

gasquet fan,

/* He must have been a Fed fan who finds it hard to accept that Nadal is better than Federer on slower courts? */

fed had a 1st serve percentage in 30s. there is no connection between that and slow courts. all mental

GasquetFan said...

Hawkeye,

Gasquet's backhand is better than Fed's forehand because it is much more consistent even on his worst playing day. Both are freaks of nature though to create eye catching angles with small changes in grip. Fed's forehand is much more effective simply because its a forehand.

Yeah, Gasquet will win atleast one Grand Slam in his career. Just an improved second serve and some confidence should do it for him. It has nothing to do with his backhand or forehand. I am sure they hold up well most of the times when his serve does.

GasquetFan said...

(fed had a 1st serve percentage in 30s.)

Is it? Where did you get that statistic? He may have that statistic in the final set. As far as I can remember he played absolutely great in the first two sets. Just to stretch the argument further, because it seems to be universally accepted that Federer is the 'greatest ever'.

For godsake Federer is a natural clay court player in the mould of Kuerten. The reason he succeeds in slower hard courts is that. Ofcourse he is motivated beyond belief to win all those matches. I want to watch him in San Jose hard courts or carpet matches. I am sure he will lose to Roddick because he cannot return that hell of a serve. By the way Carpets are phased out of ATP tour now because servers had a huge advantage.

Now to the reason why Federer is not the greatest ever. Nadal is simply technically better equipped as a tennis player to beat him in bouncier courts. Not just slower ones. Speed of the court and bounce are not as inversely proportionate as we believe. Like Dubai tournament and to some extent even Australian Open where the courts are faster and bouncier. Federer's widespread acceptance as the greatest ever has more to do with his artistry and ofcourse results than any cold analysis of his game.

GasquetFan said...

And when I say he cannot return Roddick's serve, I don't mean that nobody can. Murray can. Hewitt can. Federer is not the greatest ever. Well nobody is the greatest ever. Atleast in tennis.

I love Federer too. But I hope he doesn't make too much about his 5th straight title in wimbledon. If a guy with a top spin forehand can reach wimbledon final, what does it say about grass courts? I would like to see how Federer would have done in wimbledon in the 90s. There is a reason why Sampras won in wimbledon. That serve and a decent ground game.

GasquetFan said...

And it is for the same artistry that Gasquet was also hailed as more talented than Federer. Two years ago. Ofcourse Gasquet doesn't have the ambition of Federer. Honestly, he seems more interested in wines and friends than tennis.

And he will be ranked 7th in the world when rankings release on Monday. So talent does take one far. Even without too much of a mental game. Gasquet is a mental midget. You should know that he lost recently to a nobody who calls himself Aisam Qureshi on a grass court. It is simple. Different things work for different people. Inzamam Ul Haq was more special than any mentally strong and statistically successful fighter in the Australian team.

Anonymous said...

hi you have nice blog.Me blogger of http://www.iim-mba.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Hawkeye,
I have been an avid reader of your blog, but have never contributed to the comments section, until now. As a ardent fan of the game of tennis in general, and federer in particular, I wish to respond to some of gasquetfans's comments. (Hawkeye, pls excuse the lengthy rant..).How a thread on SRW's book got hijacked into a tennis thread is beyond me.

Gasquetfan:
You do make some good points, but overall, your analysis and opinions are riddled with contradictions and holes/flaws .

/*
Mental aspect is important, but is overrated. And who is the commentator who said that Federer was mentally not in the 'zone' that day. He must have been a Fed fan who finds it hard to accept that Nadal is better than Federer on slower courts?
*/

Mental aspect is not over-rated. It is what separates the men from the boys. The commentator in question is John McEnroe - so i would think twice before questioning his credibility!! Nadal is in federer's head, and there is no question about that. Fed had 2 matchpoints in his match against nadal at Rome 2006 - he could not pull it off, because he choked mentally. Hell, for that matter, Nadal obviously outplayed fed at wimby 07, yet could not pull it off - why? because he choked. he missed a couple of his bread & butter shots during his breakpt opportunities in the 5th set. and you conveniently attribute the lack of success of the likes of immensely talented players like gasquet/safin's to their lack of "motivation". they wouldn't be playing if they were not motivated. they obviously do not have the mental discpiline that is required to win on the big stages.

/*
Fed's forehand is much more effective simply because its a forehand
*/

I honestly don't understand what this means. You are the one who compares apples and oranges, claiming one to be the better than the other, yet arriving at a conclusion that contradicts your initial claim.

On one hand you claim gasquet's bh is better than fed's fh. On what count is it better ? style, effectiveness, ferocity, consistency, you name it.. You yourself admit that Fed's FH is a more effective shot, implying it gets the job done better than gasquet's BH. So how is it better? if you claim that gasquet's BH is more consistent than fed's FH then G should be winning more than he does currently– Fed’s FH is his bread winner - his favorite, and most lethal shot. He has won countless matches on account of his FH brilliance, and believe me, he is probably the most consistent player in the history of tennis, and so is his FH. There is simply no comparison b/n Fed's FH and Gasq's BH. i do agree that gasquet does have the most lethal BH in the men's tour.

Regarding the poor first serve %, you only need to look at the matches post-dubai 2007. In every match he lost (twice to Canas, and once to Volandri), his first serve % was in the low 40s. In the matches he won, his FH & court speed bailed him out. And if i remember correctly, his serve % in the 3rd set of the FO final was something like 27%. Fed was in a mini-Serving slump until the SF of wimby, whether you like it or not. He found his serving form only in the SF against Gasquet.

/*
For godsake Federer is a natural clay court player in the mould of Kuerten. The reason he succeeds in slower hard courts is that.
*/

Then why isn't kuerten holding 11 GS titles now, instead of just 3 FO? Oh yes, i forgot - Fed is "motivated" beyond belief. That is plain BS. How many clay-courters have succeeded in hard courts, slow or hard? Or how many "natural" clay courters performed well at wimby? the ans is NONE!

You seem have some overly simplistic and absurd beliefs as to why Fed is successful. You make it sound as if his talent and tennis skills have nothing to do with his success. You may have different opinions on who is the greatest ever, but don't EVER attribute his hard court success to natural clay court ability!! He is what he is because of his supreme tennis ability, something that has never been witnessed in history before. What is your explanation for why he won the US open 3 yrs in a row - it is the fastest of hard courts, bar the indoor/carpet ones. Definitely faster than AO, and comparable to San Jose.

/*
Like Dubai tournament and to some extent even Australian Open where the courts are faster and bouncier
*/

And please double check your facts before you post them: AO is supposed to be one of the slowest and bounciest of hard courts. Nadal gets the better of federer because he matches well to fed's game.

Contrary to what you believe, fed is technically better equipped than nadal for all surfaces. You are probably only the very few in this planet who would like to believe otherwise. If nadal was better equipped than fed on slow hard courts, then why did he lose to gonzales at the AO? Was gonzo better "equipped" than Fed? We all know what happened to gonzales in the finals. Nadal lost to youzhny at the "slow" dubai hard courts (2007), but youzhny got hammered by fed in the finals.

/*
Federer's widespread acceptance as the greatest ever has more to do with his artistry and ofcourse results than any cold analysis of his game.
*/

He plays the best (read most artistic) tennis ever, and he is winning tournaments in a manner and a rate that has never been witnessed before. So if these are not sufficient conditions to be crowned the "best" ever, then what is? It has been established that he has no weaknesses (almost) in his game (you belong to a very miniscule minority that thinks otherwise, but hey, its your opinion). His game has been analyzed (both hot and cold) to death by tennis experts, and the conclusion is the same - he is probably the most technically gifted player ever.

/**
Well nobody is the greatest ever. Atleast in tennis.
**/

How lame. You seem to be convinced that Fed is not the greatest ever, but you cannot point to anyone who is better than him. You simply say there is simply no greatest ever in tennis. As the saying goes, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it should be a duck. If the majority claims that fed is the G.O.A.T, then the minority should either field another candidate who is better or simply shut up!!

/*
I am sure he will lose to Roddick because he cannot return that hell of a serve
*/

This one really cracked me up. He is 13-1 against roddick. Before posting nonsense, may be you should watch all the wimbledons where he trashed roddick black and blue. And yes, wimbledon rewards big servers more than other tournaments/surfaces do. Wimbledon has slowed down, but not slow enough to render big serves ineffective. You can dig up stats which show that more aces are served at wimby than other grandslams/tournaments. Or may be you should watch how fed "lost" to roddick's "hell of a serve" at USO 06. Or how about Shanghai 06, the fastest hard court? Even roddick would disagree with you..

/*
If a guy with a top spin forehand can reach wimbledon final, what does it say about grass courts?
*/

Another case of not getting your facts straight - you better start doing that or will look stupid. Ever heard of Bjorn Borg? he was one of the very first exponents of topspin- FH, BH you name it.

/*
I would like to see how Federer would have done in wimbledon in the 90s. There is a reason why Sampras won in wimbledon. That serve and a decent ground game.
*/

Don't even get me started on Fed. Vs. Sampras. Sampras can only dream of being as good as federer. Period! Pete had a superior serve, but thats about it. Sampras could not bully federer with his serves, like he did to his opponents. Federer is one the best returners of the serve, alongside Agassi and Hewitt. In fact, Fed gave sampras a taste of his own medicine way back in 2001, if you know what i mean!! So yeah, Fed would have been as dominant in the 90s as he is now, if not better. Go ask agassi, he'll tell you that Fed, and not Sampras, was the best ever he faced (he did say this after the US0 05 finals).

/*
And it is for the same artistry that Gasquet was also hailed as more talented than Federer. Two years ago. Ofcourse Gasquet doesn't have the ambition of Federer.
*/

I would really like to know who "hailed" gasquet as more talented than federer. I only remember gasquet being hailed as having as much talent as federer, but never more. And, if gasquet does not have the ambition of federer, then he has no business playing tennis. He better start looking at other professions. Do you honestly believe that a tennis player will simply be satisfied by reaching the QF of some tournament, and never hope to win it someday? C'mon, you must be kidding..

- Pradeep

GasquetFan said...

Why the comments section became a piece of tennis rants was because I am here. Hawkeye can obviously delete all this bullshit if he wants to and I go elsewhere. There is nothing for you to worry about.

/*And, if gasquet does not have the ambition of federer, then he has no business playing tennis.*/ Let's suppose that I am a very good software programmer. Would you say that unless I own atleast a million dollar corporation, I have no business being a programmer? Gasquet is free to choose his own ambitions. Or do you want everyone to chase Sampras's record GS titles.

Don't you think Borg's top spin wouldn't even compare to Nadal's simply because of the current racquet technology (and Nadal's muscles)?

When I say Federer is a natural claycourter, I was not being derogatory. I am suggesting his movement and all court game should have come from growing up on clay courts just like Kuerten.

/*He is what he is because of his supreme tennis ability, something that has never been witnessed in history before.*/
That's your opinion. So I assume you must be atleast 50 years old to look back and compare all those people who played tennis earlier to Federer. Or are you among those second handers who believe all the shit former players say?

/* You make it sound as if his talent and tennis skills have nothing to do with his success.*/ Yes, I do believe that he has overachieved. But I like to watch him play anyway.

/*Contrary to what you believe, fed is technically better equipped than nadal for all surfaces. You are probably only the very few in this planet who would like to believe otherwise.*/
What made you think that I like Nadal? I like Federer more than you can imagine. I just don't feel comfortable with one player being labeled the 'greatest ever'. What's technically better equipped? Are you suggesting that his 8 losses against Nadal was because he was mentally weak and not because Nadal was the better player.

/*He plays the best (read most artistic) tennis ever, and he is winning tournaments in a manner and a rate that has never been witnessed before.*/
I am not sure how artistic Bjorn Borg was, but he should have won at a rate higher than Federer, considering he didn't play the Australian Open. Agreed, Federer plays beautiful tennis. But I support Gasquet because Federer is like that saturated stock that you can't get much out of. In my case, the thrill of watching him play.

/*How lame. You seem to be convinced that Fed is not the greatest ever, but you cannot point to anyone who is better than him.*/
What is so lame about that? I just believe that Fed was the one who made the most use of current conditions in tennis, namely the lack of variety of players and slowing of courts. I think its lame to argue that Federer would have done as well in different circumstances.

/* If the majority claims that fed is the G.O.A.T, then the minority should either field another candidate who is better or simply shut up!!*/
Every generation throws up a champion. How does that warrant comparing players across generations? I am sick of this GOAT thing anyway.

/*He is 13-1 against roddick. Before posting nonsense, may be you should watch all the wimbledons where he trashed roddick black and blue*/
He didn't exactly trash him in 2004 final. Anyway Fed is not the greatest returner of Roddick's serve. Hewitt was. Murray is. Fed simply gets the ball in play. My argument is that Roddick would have won atleast some more encounters if they played on faster surfaces. Not wimbledon. May be Queens. By the way I hate Roddick too.

/*Sampras can only dream of being as good as federer. Period!*/
How can you be so sure of that? From what I have seen Kuerten plays like Federer and Sampras beat him quite convincingly in his prime. And I don't have to go and ask Agassi. Different people say different things. I don't have to believe all that shit. Sampras may not have the precise baseline game that Federer possesses but Federer only just beat him in 2001. And Federer was not a nobody in 2001 as many think. He was around for 3 years and was already talked about as the next big thing. He only proved it to some by beating Sampras.

/*I would really like to know who "hailed" gasquet as more talented than federer*/
The commentator in the match between Gasquet and Safin at Lyon last year did. And I don't agree with him.

/*r how many "natural" clay courters performed well at wimby? the ans is NONE*/
You know its atleast one. BORG.

So which of the facts did I get wrong? About AO being faster and bouncier? AO is definitely faster than RG and bouncier than USO. I was just trying to say that it has both these qualities which were believed to be traditionally inversely proportional.

/*You seem have some overly simplistic and absurd beliefs as to why Fed is successful.*/
Yeah I do. But your's is more simplistic but not absurd because majority agree with you. But Federer is not equipped to beat Nadal on clay. And I hope it stays that way. Now don't hound me for contradicting myself about Fed's clay court abilities. Nadal is simply superhuman on clay.

Anonymous said...

Gasquetfan,
It is very clear that we both have very strong opinions on this issue - your's primarily based on your perception, and mine based partly on my perception, and partly influenced by the opinions of former greats. So we can clearly agree to disagree here. btw, your s/w programmer analogy is not a good one because you don't "compete" to win in the s/w industry. A sport is quite different from a job, and your success is not based on winning on a daily basis. So ambition plays a much bigger role in a sport than the s/w industry. and i don't mean that player's ambition should translate to chasing Pete's GS score - i'm sure every one wants to win at least 1 GS in their lifetimes. So yeah, ambition is very important and citing lack of ambition for lack of success would mean that he is not cut out for tennis. Gasquet is immensely talented, and its only a matter of time before he figures out a way to win when he is down for him to succeed (yeah, right now he is mentally limited). I think his win over roddick is a good step in that direction.

Your argument that one should not compare across generations works both ways: then you should not be complaining that Fed overachieves because of lack of variety (compared to when? compared to the past? then there is your double standard..). He has performed the best in the set of conditions given to him, much better than his predecessors did in the conditions that prevailed in their time. So do not diminish his achievements by comparing the "conditions" from the past, when you are not willing to buy the GOAT argument.

Fed probably plays in the mould of kuerten, but he plays much better. So implying that Fed would lose to sampras because sampras beat kuerten is flawed logic. btw, Pete Vs. Kuerten is 2-1 h2h (all on hard courts). The only evidence we have on Pete Vs. Fed favors fed.

You're right. I'm one of those second-handers who buys the shit that former greats spit out. If you're not 50 yrs old, then what is your basis for claiming that fed does not possess abilities never seen before? There was never this much hype surrounding sampras.

And yes, you are right. Nadal is BETTER than fed on clay. Fed is technically even with Nadal on clay (by technically even, i mean Fed is better at the game of slice, dice, volley, serve, etc - but nadal's beast of a FH kills Fed's BH, and that makes the diff). Winning a tennis match involves much more than just technical ability. Nadal scores over Fed in the mental dept, especially on clay. So he wins, and thats IMO. On other surfaces, Fed is better than Nadal.

And yes, I do believe (influenced by shit from mcenroe, agassi, henman, bruguera, kramer, laver...) that Fed is a better version of sampras, one with apparently no weaknesses. In fact, I wouldn't hesistate to take it one step further and claim that fed has the strengths of Sampras and Agassi put togther, and that is one deadly combination.

-Pradeep

vigneshwaran shanmugam said...

wah...great post

any interesting info about sachin by steve waugh?

Anonymous said...

Gasquet,

Do you actually have a point to make ... other that crapping all over the place and confusing everyone?

I just have a feeling that you are trying to sound like Nilu ...with logic and reverse logic and recursive logic and everything ... but dont have a fkn point to make.

-Prabhu

GasquetFan said...

Prabhu,

I don't have any point to make. I am just bored and have too much money and time on hand to spew shit around in the blogsphere. Don't compare me with Nilu. He writes very well and argues brilliantly even when I don't agree with him. I am just learning to think and write. If you have a blog let me know.