Daily Bagel: Is it time to start the GOAT discussion with Rafael Nadal?
The Daily Bagel is your dose of the interesting reporting, writing and quipping from around the Internet.
• Video: Andy Roddick interviewed Serena Williams before the U.S. Open for Fox Sports 1.
• Is it time to start the G.O.A.T. discussion with Rafael Nadal? Here's Bryan Armen Graham, writing for The Atlantic:
[Nadal has] evolved into nothing less than an all-court phenomenon. This season, he’s 22-0 on hard courts, traditionally his weakest surface. He’s just the second man to win multiple titles on three different surfaces. His lifetime winning percentage, currently an absurd 83.7 percent, is better than anyone in the sport today. Incredibly, he entered the U.S. Open with a winning record against each of the other 127 players in the field.
There will always be a passionate argument for Roger Federer—a man whose game has been described as porn for aesthetes—as tennis's greatest, certainly as long as the Swiss maestro remains atop the all-time Grand Slam leaderboard with 17 trophies. Yet consider that Nadal has beaten Federer in 21 of their 31 meetings—and eight of their 10 matches at Grand Slams. Or that Nadal has won Olympic gold in singles and Federer hasn’t. Or that Nadal has won four more Davis Cups than Federer’s zero. Many have wondered aloud how a player can be regarded as the best of all time if he's not conclusively the best of his time.
• Be sure to watch PBS' American Masters profile of Billie Jean King. Some great old footage in there.
• Think Progress has a Q&A with King.
• Tom Tebbutt is in Serbia for Tennis Canada this week, and he says Novak Djokovic might actually play on Friday in the Davis Cup semifinals.
• Professional tennis through the eyes of a photographer. They see everything. Great read.
• From The Classical: The problem with American men's tennis is antiquated strategy.
If we are to examine beyond the perceived imperfections of James Blake (a player with perhaps the most wonderfully imperfect game of all) and Sam Querrey and John Isner and [insert up-and-coming American here], then we should first determine what unites them. The only clear through-line is a strategy destined to fail in the modern game.
In short: the American men’s tennis players of today are engrossed by the concept of power. They hit forehands very hard and far into the court and hope their opponent will eventually miss. They serve big and at times – when the serve and opponent are right – it serves them well. They stay behind the baseline and slug things out nearly as well as anyone. They rarely hit drop shots; they rarely invent or dream. They face grim reality and they swing back with force. It’s an ethos.
But the modern game is not one for blunt force on its own, not one for one-dimensionality. John Isner, for all his positive traits – his goofy smile, his wonderfully angled serve, his daunting frame, his improving forehand – can be beaten by an opponent that simply dares to ask him to swing once more, again and again. A clever second-tier player will let Isner win his service games, bide his time carefully, and then attack the big Georgian’s backhand until he finally accepts defeat with hulking grace and confusion. The improved technology of racquets encourages a game like Isner’s – one set on power and sheer physical dominance. But it’s one of the game’s great ironies that elite play allows for such a game but does not reward those who exemplify its merits exclusively.