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“I got him when it mattered”.

Posted by tennisplanet on October 27, 2010

Sampras vs Agassi:


8-3 Sampras.




4-2 Sampras.

Overall H2H:

20-14 Sampras.

What’s going on with Federer and Nadal?

20 Responses to ““I got him when it mattered”.”

  1. mircea said

    Exactly. For all his greatness, talent, preening, whining, sportsmanship, fair play, and excuses, Federer has lost to Nadal when it really mattered: 5 Major Finals. Winning one of those, just one of those would have tilted the discussion in his favor, forever and permanently. Forget the tears, Nadal’s kind gestures and compliments and what you have is someone owning the supposedly greatest player (of his generation, of all time) not just overall, but when it really and only mattered: when legends are made. Winning just one FO open final against Nadal? That would have legitimized that other debate. A while back, I stated that Federer had been offered many opportunities that he never capitalized on. It’s unlikely there will ever be many more of these: playing Nadal when it matters. And even if Federer wins 2 or more Major Finals, he must be omitted from a certain discussion: winning when it mattered against the player who mattered the most in his career. Not to take anything away from the FO 2009, but Rafa was not there. The only way for Federer to salvage his reputation against Nadal would be to beat the Spaniard on the latter’s favorite surface. Not much time left…

  2. wuiches said

    The fact that both were fast court specialists and almost the same age made possible for them to meet each other so many times.

    As for Nadal and Federer a 5 years gap between them is too much, they don’t belong to same generation, almost. The age factor gave Roger the chance to meet Nadal so many times on clay. When Roger reached his first RG final he was the same age than Nadal when the spanirad won his first USO final(and Nadal won AO at 22). Now that Nadal has become a better player on hard courts Roger seems that his best days are already gone.

    For them the H2H will never be an even comparison.

  3. Leon said

    Mircea, “When it mattered” is only a phrase. Some other things matter more, that is.

    I never understood why the h2h is paid with so much attention in tennis. This sport is organized in cumulative fashion: many tournaments (as much as four(!) majors a year), 4-7 matches long, one-year-long ranking system, so on. Have you ever heard about someone awarded with titles or points for a better h2h?! There exist some bad match-ups between the players with just an opposite overall position in the tour. The h2h is interesting for prediction/betting lovers, for some pre-match (psycho)analysis, etc, and no more – at least, not for the comparison and evaluation of relative strength between given two players (which is a risky and thankless task itself) where it is one of the LAST items, I think.

    But people want to see a rivalry. OK, “rivalry”, according with e.g. E.Britannica, is a competition between peers for something. What is this “something” in tennis? Whatever you want but h2h, see above. Imagine an extreme case: players X and Y both played the same 30 tourneys. X won 15 of them. Y won none. But in 10 tourneys, somewhere in the middle of the draw, Y always stopped X . So he has a 10-0 h2h against X, having no title. He deserves to be called e.g. “a killer of champions”, but nobody would even seriously consider this pair as “rivals”.
    Well, if the need to compare Federer and Nadal at such angle is so desperate, much more conclusive (although not perfect, too – but any other way would be even worse and overladen with numerous excuses) is to calculate their titles and points in ALL tourneys they played BOTH, i.e. where their careers overlap. To me, it is their real H2H (in Caps).

    It has taken some time from me, not enormous, though – about an hour or so. Of course, I knew the final result in advance, the question was purely quantitative. It turned out that Federer (with his 13 GSs and 2 WTFs) is far ahead Nadal (9 GSs) in majors (what of course was obvious without calculations), and the Masters and other tourneys they played together do not shift the situation at all: expressed in points, Federer is more then 15000 above Nadal. It is equal to 7GS+1M, provided that Nadal wins them all and Federer loses in the first round. Needless to say, it is even less probable for Nadal than equalling those 14-7 for Federer. Historically, in view of this tremendous gap, I am afraid, this specific H2H battle is ALREADY LOST by Nadal, and I even don’t see a rivalry issue here.

    With this, by no means I want to belittle Nadal, he is an outstanding player, much to be proud of, he probably has good chances to surpass main Federer’s achievements. But to constantly bash Federer with that h2h, from rafanatics (what is excusable) to “respectable” pundits, is a nasty taste, imho.

    P.S. Even before the Federer’s 13th Sampras nearly proclaimed him the best ever (I never trusted those his words, and nobody forced him to say that). Not to my surprize, soon after Federer really DID surpass him, including the RG title, he “all of a sudden recollected” this h2h against Nadal to note that Federer, with such a spot, cannot be considered as goat. Pathetic, I think, but he is Sampras after all. The same goes for some other champions and pundits. They still feel themselves actors on this stage. But we, spectators, have a chance to be a bit more cool-headed. Thank God, Federer has a rather stable psyche…

    • Jenny said

      Well said, Leon. Agreed on all counts. H2H’s are just numbers as far as I’m concerned, I don’t compare because there are bad match-ups for one, or good for the other. I go by career titles and watching great tennis on all surfaces, even from the talented underachievers and ‘headcases’.

      • Leon said

        Thanks, Jenny. I always felt we have very similar views.

      • Jenny said

        Talking ‘headcases’, I’m afraid there were two very gifted ones in France today.

      • M said

        I read your and Grendel’s play-by-play, Jenny — very sorry I missed that Nalby-Simon match, it sounded like some very intriguing tennis.

      • Jenny said

        I honestly don’t know what to think about that match, M. I did rather enjoy the suspense of the 2nd and 3rd sets. Set one was a Nalby exo of brilliance, period. It was certainly swings of the pendulum and a rollercoaster battle, both were trying to get into each other’s head which is typical of these two 😈 Both were getting frustrated with the poor umpire [Cedric Mourier probably wondered what he’d done to deserve it!] and with themselves, they both acted like divas at times. Some wonderful tennis from both and equally dreadful stuff far beneath their status and talents. I’d love to see these two play again.

      • Jenny said

        Al Montanes is rocking away on a hardcourt, he’s just beaten Kolya in 3. This guy used to be a traditional Spanish dirtballer, and is now a vet, as tough as they come and a lovely single b/h! He’s beaten Llodra in his house and now Kolya, he’s even beaten Fed on clay in Estoril. Well done Albert, great stuff 🙂 My mother used to say, ‘It’s the quiet ones you need to watch’ I’m looking forward to Isner/Monfils next.

    • Barbara said

      Thank you, Leon. Very interesting post.

  4. Kris said

    Isn’t Roger gave bagel to Nadal in clay “Hamburg”
    Anyone can remember?

    • Jenny said

      Yes he did, 2007 Hamburg Final – W 2-6, 6-2, 6-0. However, many will argue that Rafa was tired and suffering with his knees, it may well have been the case, but a win is a win, I’m sure Rafa felt the same, he certainly didn’t offer any excuses for his loss.

    • Anonymous said


      But people always remember Nadal gave Roger a bagel plus a breadstick in RG final

  5. mircea said

    Ever hear of bad faith? I am not a Nadal fan, but a Federer fan except when he starts whining and puts down his opponents, so your Nadalite Rafanatic designation is off mark like the rest of your analysis. Fed in his prime couldn’t win the FO when a Grand Slam was in his grasp, not just once, but twice. Because it was H2H with Nadal makes it irrelevant and not matter. Sure. According to you, winning the Swedish Open against Mayer is about as important as wining the Grand Slam, absolutely. You’re aiming to break Borg’s record of 6 at Wimbledon, that doesn’t matter. It’s the H2H thing involving Nadal. Winning six Wimbledons in a row is about the same as winning Toronto or Indian Wells two years in a row. We are talking tennis history, not footnotes. And as it has been pointed out, Federer is a student of the history of the game and is well aware of what matters. That is his fanatics (or is that fans?) are too blind to see that when it mattered to those who had a sense of tennis history (including Federer and Nadal) the mighty Fed failed. P. S. Leon: I never mentioned H2H. If you bother reading my post, H2H is never stated nor implied. I was responding to the post “I got him when it mattered.” But as the man said regarding what is important in life: “Mind over matter. If you don’t mind then it doesn’t matter.” I think Federer minds having squandered numerous golden opportunities against Nadal. Ask him and he’ll tell you: It did matter. That Nadal was the only one to stop Federer: coincidence plus some.

  6. grendel said

    neat detective work, Leo.
    caveat: the thing about extreme cases is that they are extreme.
    about h2h:all kinds of qualifications can, should be and have been made. No need to rehearse yet again. Even so, each h2h undeniably tells a story, even if sometimes it’s only to say there is no story. It’s not just about flag waving.

    Agassi once remarked on the peculiarity of the best player in the world being dominated by the #2. A whole story in itself, as he put it. That was several years ago.

    No easy conclusions, true. Either way. Perceptions, now. They count for something?

    And now, it’s time to go and tend to my garden.

    • Jenny said

      Talking gardening, we’ve taken two full days to deal with a very large out of control pyracantha hedge. It was team work, good tools [including a chain saw] and ruthless brute strength! I look as if I’ve been attacked by a dozen feral cats and those thorns sting! Sorry blackbirds, [they love nesting in thick pyracantha] but enough is enough!

  7. Leon said

    Mircea, I feel you have taken my post as too personal. Assure you, it had in fact no relation to you. I wrote about my old thoughts on the quite worn-out theme, raised by TP in his characteristic manner (his post refers, as you can easily see, to precisely h2h and that “mattered” stuff). Just in the last moment before pressing the submit button, I added the first line, starting with your name simply because you was the first in the thread who eagerly agreed to (infinitely?) discuss that “most mattered” issue in the well-known way. It was my big mistake (I’d better refer to TP directly or to nobody at all), and I apologize for that. And nowhere in the post I used any designation with respect to you personally, God forbid.

    P.S. As for my analysis: proceeding from many points of your reply (Stockholm vs GS??! etc), you seemingly did not completely understand its essence. Perhaps, it is my fault, too, but I tried to do my best in substantiating my viewpoint with obvious rules and figures, so I have no wish of further debates on the trite topic.

  8. Gerard said

    Great to see nothing has changed. I haven’t visited this site for 18 or so months, purely due to the tired and boring few who spend their time ‘slaying the person’ who dares to disagree. Facts people are what they are, and no champion of any sport in any era can be considered or adjudged by their peers and contemporaries as a true and legitimate champion of their sport unless they pass the facts and stats test, period. In any sport, true fans love to see the best 2 players/teams play off in the final. We were graced in our sport of tennis and still are, that the best 2 players, well actually the 4 best players in the world, invariably and with few exceptions (not forgetting our spoilers; Sodetling, Del Potro and Berdich) have reached the Grand Slam finals denying any of of the great 4 a place in the final or in Del Pitro’s case take a title from this elite 4. That says something about our witnessing of possibly the greatest and intensest rivalry, since McEnroe, Borg, Connors, Vilas and the newbie at the time Lendl. Laver, Hoad, Newcombe, Gonzales, Rosewell and their contemporaries can’t be ignored in their rivalries as well.
    So, to try and argue and make small talk to the point of dismissing H2H’s is short-sighted at best and disrespectful to tennis history and the players and fans. We want the best player’s fighting for the most prestigious of tournaments, the only ones where they; have a full draw, they have to endure and play the best of 5 set matches from the opening round, there are no first round byes handed out, the seedings and rankings reflect their standings as to the legitimate pecking order from their results and points accumulated in all tournaments played and includes the points held over from theirs results in the same tournaments played from year-to-year. So a career head to head is the most legitimate of all determinants for players and fans to determine the greatness of a player. These head to head rivalries also tells the truth, that they mastered their side of the draw, playing on the same surface, under the same conditions, with the same technology that is available, with the same history that precedes them to challenge and try to better and not one defeated finalist in a Grand Slam had ever rolled over meekly to hand the title to their opponent. So please no more insults to the game of tennis. Notwithstanding where Djokovic will end up overall, but removing him from the contest of greatest if all time for the moment, but his credentials against Nadal and Federer will certainly be a factor in the back end of his career without a doubt when we discuss his place in the all time greats. Nadal’s one-sided h2h dominance of Federer, even with 5 years age difference in Federer’s favour and experience, Federer, regardless of the surface has had to get to the final and inevitably the opponent he couldn’t defeat in the most prestigious of tournaments and let’s remind ourselves he has not beaten Nadal in a major since 2007 is his nemesis, Raffa. Like it or hate it, this dent in his curiculum vitae is a major one, when all other criteria was met and surpassed with high distinction for his inclusion in the rarefied heights of tennis’ all time great debate, and Federer deserves consideration without a doubt, but inconclusivity is and forever will be attached rightly to his inclusion on the point THAT DOES MATTER more than anything else his very poor h2h results against Nadal. Facts are facts, only myopic visionaries and biased Fed fans could attempt an argument to differ. So try all you like. Facts cannot be altered due to fanaticism thankfully. Case rests.

    • Leon said

      Is this site still alive?! May 2013, lol!
      Gerard, I’m afraid practically nobody has read your composition. I am here purely occasionally, But I have an advice for you:
      At there is a nice poster, KELLY GOMEZ. Comments every article there. Something tells me you can have exciting exchange of thoughts! Not with me, unfortunately.

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