Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Channel Slam, episode III

Vijay Amritraj interviews Deepika Padukone for Star Sports, just before the Wimbledon semi-finals.

Vijay: What are your feelings about the Nadal-Schuettler match?
Deepika: Obviously Nadal is the favourite, but it’s great to see this new guy doing well despite being unseeded.

Note: “new guy” is 32-year-old tour veteran Rainer Schuettler, a one-time world number 5 and Australian Open finalist, experiencing one of those late-career purple patches.

Anyway. Exactly two years ago, in a post just before the 2006 Wimbledon final, I mentioned this bit of trivia: when Federer and Nadal contested both the French Open and Wimbledon finals in the same year, it marked the first time the same two players had managed the feat since 1952. Well, what do you know: Roger and Rafa enjoy each other’s company so much that they are doing the “Channel Slam” together for the third straight year now! That really is an incredible statistic, and fans of both players should stop the bickering – at least temporarily – to appreciate how lucky they are that these two champions are around at the same time: their great rivalry fuelled by the fact that each of them has something that the other badly wants (the French Open for Federer, Wimby and the number 1 spot for Nadal), and at the same time marked by an old-world courtliness and mutual respect that is scarcely believable for anyone who remembers the Borg-McEnroe (or even Sampras-Agassi) days.

I’d love to see Rafa win on Sunday, but one has to be pragmatic about these things. Roger – by far the greatest grass-courter around – is still at least a 60 per cent favourite for the title, and I suspect Rafa has overworked himself this season, having played (and won) many more matches than anyone else on the ATP tour; those knees still look dodgy too. Either way, I hope it isn’t a blowout, since matches billed in advance as “classics” so often turn out to be anti-climactic.

[Earlier post on the undying love of Roger and Rafa here]


  1. one-handed backhand11:10 AM, July 05, 2008

    These two have managed to cultivate the most disarmingy charming rivalary that i know of in any modern day competitive sport. They respect each other, talk a lot with each other and fight as hell to win point, forget match on the tennis court. Nadal's muted celebration at the FO spoke a lot about the way they see each other.

    Coming to the Sunday at SW19 Jai it looks like Fed to me. But tell u what, Rafa has played some of the most unbelievable tennis from the basline at Wimby that i have seen.
    It looks like a super sunday and I want Fed in three with a lot of BH winners.

  2. " appreciate how lucky they are that these two champions are around at the same time"
    Hear, hear! My sentiments exactly, Jai.

    Heh, I was chortling away over la Padukone's comment about "the new guy" too. Why didn't they interview Sir David Frost instead, dash it?!

  3. Statutory disclaimer: I am NOT a Deepika Padukone fan.

    But don't you think you are being a bit harsh on her? Not everyone being interviewed by Amritraj has to be a TennisWorld blogger!

    And yes, I am thrilled, too, that Roger and Rafa are at it again...Hope Channel Slam 3 turns out to be better than the French Open guillotine affair...

  4. one-handed backhand: I'd be okay with Federer in 3 as long as it's something like 7-6, 7-5, 7-5. Not a blowout.

    Aditya: was I really being "too harsh" on little Deepika? Strange, I don't recall writing anything negative about her - it was merely a transcript of a Q&A. Besides, if I were to decide to be harsh on anyone, it would be equally on 1) Star Sports, for goggle-eyedly seeking out the nearest good-looking celeb for an interview when they could be conducting a match analysis instead, 2) Amritraj for asking inane questions, 3) the viewers whose interest in such filler interviews probably motivates the channel in the first place, 4) the human race in general. (Original Sin and all that.)

    Yes, even as a Rafa fan it wasn't much fun watching the French final this year. I'm really hoping he isn't on the receiving end of a similar thrashing here. Roger will be seriously charged up, not just because of what Rafa did to him at the French but also because of the idiotic way in which the media has been on his case all year.

  5. Methinks Roger will prevail here, just as deep down, I believe both will end their careers lacking the one Slam the other has.

    For Roger to pay back Rafa in the same coin as Roland Garros, he would need to play at a sublime level I last saw when McEnroe decimated Connors in the '84 final.

    I'm anyway gonna be switching between Wimby and Silverstone ! :)

  6. Rafa is the heavy favorite. Come on Roger!!

  7. I predicted Fed in 4, two days back.That can't happen now.
    I still think Fed has the tools to win on grass easily against Nadal,but his mental edge has gone after the French Open.He isn't going for enough winners and isn't consistent enough.

  8. So Rafa it was and boy oh boy, it was a final worthy of their class in true Borg-Mac style.

    Fed has been lacking that killer edge all this year, and this is probably the 'tipping point' for a change of guard.

  9. Jai, you seemed to have disappeared after the first rain break on the TW blog. After the match was over, could not sleep until 4 this morning. It took me that much time to get my emotions and thoughts under control. And i was not despondent too, i am now one up on my dad for seeing two classic finals back to back. He only had one Borg vs McEnroe.

    Peter Bodo is already calling this the best of the Open Era. It is not that the match went five sets and into tie-breaks etc. It was the sheer nature of shot making which boggled the mind.

  10. Vamshi: yes, I didnt have Net access at night, which is just as well in a way - it was nerve-wracking enough watching the match without also having to keep up with 2000-plus comments by frazzled fans of both players. Anyway, I hope you at least agree now that I wasnt just being a paranoid Rafa fan when I got nervous about the first rain break! Once it went into the fifth set (with Rafa under the enormous disadvantage of serving second in the set), I seriously, seriously never thought he would pull it off. The stars seemed to have aligned perfectly for Roger. That break at 7-7 came out of nowhere as far as I was concerned.

    I couldnt sleep till around 4 myself - and even then I got up at 7 just so I could get online as fast as possible and catch up with TW and other news reports!

  11. This one lived upto its expectations and then some! I bit my fingers right through yesterday night. But at office today, looks like I'm the only one who's happy that Rafa won....everyone else seems disappointed that Fed lost!


  12. Whew whaaat a match!!! I stayed up practically all night, and I'm still all overwhelmed and I barely know what I'm writing here :-O Brilliant, brilliant, BRILLIANT! :)

  13. The match ultimately was all that an anti-climax isn't and more... (Would have) Disagree(d) with your assessment of Nadal's fitness (had I read your blogpost previously)... I think he's the fittest player on the tour and yesterday's match was testimony to that.

    But interesting times ahead, hopefully beyond the Channel-rivalry, and I agree... a Feder-less grand slam calendar would seem ominous...

    To Wimbledon Classics, good writing and the prospect of a fantastic Flushing Meadows season! :)