Saturday, July 08, 2006

Perceptions

Still on tennis:
"All this hatred of Nadal reminds me of Agassi when he first came to play at Wimbledon," [says] Richard Rouse. "He was brash, flash and wore daft clothes and everybody wanted him to lose. When Nadal's hair falls out and he doesn't seem so enviably young and exuberant, we'll all be big fans." The man's got a point.
More on the great Rafa debate: "I've been musing over Senor Garcia's question" says Nick Westacott, "and I've decided that while I find Nadal a perfectly amiable bloke, I just can't trust a man in three-quarter-length trousers."
Enjoyed this game-by-game commentary on the Nadal-Baghdatis match from the Guardian website. It's smartly written, very tongue-in-cheek but it's also insightful about how we form perceptions about sportspersons - often after watching them in just a couple of games. Oh, Baghdatis seems so friendly, likeable, puppy-doggish. This Nadal chap is so clinical, cocky, there's something just not-very-nice about him. Of such vague impressions (many of which, needless to say, have nothing to do with what the player might really be like) are our sporting loyalties formed – and except in a few rare cases, these loyalties change constantly depending on the situation, the context, even our frame of mind at any given time. One might find a player intensely annoying because he keeps winning all his matches without giving any opponent a chance; but then, when he unexpectedly loses a really important tie, one suddenly feels sorry for him. (I briefly felt this way about Federer when he missed the chance to complete his "Roger Slam" at the French Open last month.) It's a fascinating process because it says much more about us, the spectators, than it does about the players we are constantly watching and judging.

(And what about blogging, where some people carefully analyse every little thing you say, sometimes extrapolate it into something else, and then use it to decide what sort of a person you are. But we won't get into that now.)

Also, see this entertaining piece which likens Nadal to Marlon Brando and Federer to Fred Astaire, and also throws in some bizarre quotes by Mats Wilander:
"Rafael has the one thing that Roger doesn't: balls," Wilander told Sports Illustrated in Paris. "I don't even think Rafael has two; I think he has three."

Wilander backed off a bit for L'Equipe: "[Federer] might have them, but against Nadal they shrink to a very small size."
Trivia: this is the first year since 1952 that the French Open and Wimbledon men's finals are being contested by the same two players. It's never happened before in the Open era. That gives you some idea of how difficult it is to do well on both surfaces.

7 comments:

  1. funny you should mention the guardian website. i read the minute by minute account of the france portugal semi-final because i was too sleepy to stay up, and didn't want to see the endless replays of two shots worth of the match on the news. it was fun! casablanca had an honourable mention in the first few lines.

    :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nadal is more like Michael Chang than Agassi. Agassi was an enigma - a star persona apart from his fighting skills.

    I think it has been much more easier to take to Nadal for most fans because he is not out of the world apart from where tennis is concerned.

    This question and answers to it always fascinate me. It is interesting that the reasons people back a sportsperson have little to do with the results. The results can one of the factors on which people extrapolate but just one of the many factors.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, of course your are right, I don't even watch these matches and am not remotely interested in tennis (or football) just catch a glimpse of a smiling man, then the fist shaking one, and say, goodness, give me the smiler ..... absurd of course.
    Yes, some of the Guardian journalists are wonderfully witty, the film critic too by the way.
    Haven't had time to decide what sort of person you are from this blog (very firmly biased in your favour because of the Alice quote) ... you could post two photos, one smiling, one shaking your fist ......

    ReplyDelete
  4. The point about sporting loyalties is so true. Even in football worldcup all favourite teams kept on loosing and we never failed to find a favourite for the next encounter and one for the overall worldcup

    And these loyalties are so short lived. I remember how in the England Portugal match after the rooney incident suddenly england increased its suppoter base. Even during the Final after Zidane was red carded for head butting few recently converted french suppoters suddenly switched sides and, managed to enjoy the Italian victory

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ashish Raghavan8:15 PM, July 10, 2006

    Trivia: this is the first year since 1952 that the French Open and Wimbledon men's finals are being contested by the same two players. It's never happened before in the Open era. That gives you some idea of how difficult it is to do well on both surfaces.

    Well, it doesn't give me much of an idea. For you to get the same pair of finalists in Wimbledon as in the French Open that year, you need them (i) to be so seeded that they don't meet any earlier, (ii) to be fully fit after what must have been an exhausting French-Open run (they reached the finals …), and (iii) to be the top two players in the world by far.

    How in the world does the finalists in the two competitions being different point at a great difference in the surfaces? It looks like a very weak argument.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Deborah: I'll probably seem friendlier in the one where I'm shaking my fist :)

    Ashish: sure, the two players need to be seeded such that they don't meet any earlier. But seedings don't ensure you a place in the final. Each of them has to win six matches in a row in each tournament to actually make it to the final - and that's happened very rarely in this case.

    There have been previous occasions when two (or maybe three) players have been far ahead of the others overall. But this particular combination hasn't happened in over 50 years. Doesn't seem like coincidence to me.

    Other statistics are equally telling. The last time the same player won both tournaments in the same year was Borg way back in 1980.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well probably also a commentry on how playing conditions have changed. Nowadays tennis racquets have strings which make hitting topspin childsplay. They also weigh a lot less than some yrs back. The balls used in Wimbledon have more fur and weigh more. This was done 5-6 yrs back when serve & volley guys were dominating too much.

    End result : the service boxes were largely green on the day of the final while the baseline was chewed up. We've had 5 sucessive baseliners winning(Hewitt & then Federer's 4 wins). So every chance that Nadal would emulate Borg soon by winning French & Wimbledon back to back.

    ReplyDelete