easy win. keep it that way Rafa!
Last night in New York, a former U.S. Open tennis champion dismantled an opponent 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of this year’s event. It was yet another display of the player’s unparalleled dominance, and as the victor celebrated, TV commentator and retired tennis legend John McEnroe remarked, “What we’re seeing here, this guy is the Leonardo da Vinci—the Albert Einstein—of tennis.”
The Leonardo da Vinci of tennis. If you haven’t followed the U.S. Open, you’d be forgiven for thinking McEnroe was talking about Roger Federer. One of the most graceful, visually dazzling athletes in contemporary history, he’s the obvious choice for comparisons to the famous “Mona Lisa” painter. In 2008, The Times columnist Simon Barnes even wrote that “It is becoming increasingly apparent that Roger Federer was Leonardo da Vinci in a previous life,” in an article titled “Federer the genius, an artist with a racket for a brush.” In fact, when tennis writers invoke the name of any intellectual hero, it’s often in the context of describing Federer. Over the years, he’s been compared to dancers (“McEnroe compared the Swiss to the former Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov…”), musical geniuses (Federer’s style of play compared to the rest of the ATP players’ in 2006 was “like trying to whistle Mozart during a Metallica concert,” according to David Foster Wallace), holy figures (“Roger Federer’s aura of infallibility…” “…a sly dig at Federer’s saintly image…”), and literary icons celebrated for their poise and elegance (like The Great Gatsby’s Jay Gatsby).
But last night, McEnroe was talking about the other, more rugged half of the sport’s most famous modern rivalry: Rafael Nadal. Nadal had just beaten Tommy Robredo, the Spaniard who had dismissed Federer in straight sets the round before.
Unlike Federer, Nadal has more frequently conjured up images of sweaty, fast-and-loose iconoclasm and brute force among sports journalists. In the years since his inaugural French Open victory in 2005, and most noticeably in the first few years after, he drew comparisons to pirates, cavemen, bulldogs, bulls, bulls, more bulls, bulls in china shops, bulls in Federer’s china shop, and, um, “Apaches.”
Read more. [Image: AP/Charles Krupa]