22 Responses

  1. Aysha
    Aysha December 8, 2012 at 11:45 am |

    Great article! Really interesting seeing where Murray, Djokovic and Del Potro were in those draws and how they fared!

    Something that ties in well is a Nadal blog for the ATP from that same Roland Garros – http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2006/blogs/rafaelnadal.aspx – pretty funny as he talks about practicing with Delpo and says: “For those of you who don’t know him, he is a very tall Argentinean player that plays really good. I think he is over 1m 90. You will hear that name in the future. He left today to Buenos Aires so I am changing tomorrow to another partner to hit with.” Good prediction. 😉

    1. Amy
      Amy December 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm |

      That’s a great find, Aysha. That whole blog is a fun read.

    2. Juan José
      Juan José December 10, 2012 at 3:31 am |

      That’s awesome, Aysha! The biggest surprise for me: Nadal didn’t pencil Del Po in for a spot in the top 10!

      1. Aysha
        Aysha December 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm |

        I also love how he has to let the blog readers know who Djokovic is! “But I will be ready to play tomorrow and I know it will be a difficult match against Djokovic. Unless you follow tennis you may not have heard a lot about him but he is a very dangerous player with a big game and he will have nothing to lose. He’s only 19, so it’s a rare time that I will be playing someone younger than me.” Who knew just how much tennis fans would get to know Novak?!

        Though Nadal did predict he’d get to top 10 in his post-match interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5NVKpGmjAE – at 2 min mark). That interview in itself is interesting to see how unguarded Nadal is compared to now as he basically says Novak touching his back etc. but then not having obvious problems in his game put him off/messed with his concentration. He’d think twice before saying that now….

        Plus other subplots I’d forgotten about 2006 – like him mentioning that Ljubicic messaged him to say he only wanted Roger to win as he was closer to him and not to take it the wrong way – that stemmed from Ljubicic’s post-SF comments that the “whole locker room” wanted Roger to win the final. That was a big story at the time too. Can’t believe it’s been 6 years!

        Wish the ATP still had the players do these blogs – lots of interesting tit bits from players over the years… Nadal’s was basically an exact play by play of his day but still funny!

        1. Amy
          Amy December 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm |

          Agreed, I loved those ATP blogs. There was a great 2006 blog by Federer in Tokyo. It was quite entertaining. http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2006/blogs/rogerfederer.aspx

  2. Jewell
    Jewell December 8, 2012 at 1:31 pm |

    I can’t believe you mentioned Greg Rusedski and ignored Tim Henman!

    Watched the 2006 final fairly recently. I didn’t get to see much of the tournament – was in France, but with no TV, an exquisite form of torture. Wasn’t a classic, was it? I much prefer their 2007 final. I remember hearing some of the talking heads saying that Federer would definitely be GOAT if he won it. Forget who commentated – probably J-Mac, LOL.

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 10, 2012 at 3:34 am |

      Sorry, Jewell! I actually thought about mentioning Henman…but forgot. It’s funny how it makes perfect sense for me that Henman would be in this draw, even though he’s only one year older than Rusedski.

      And no, the final wasn’t a classic, despite what Andrew says. And you’re right about the talk about Federer clinching GOAT-hood had he won that French Open: even if it was J-Mac, I remember feeling the same, even if that was a little hyperbolic (understatement).

      I do think if someone ends up holding all four Slams at some point, that’s guaranteed immortality. Biggest challenge in the sport, I think.

  3. Celtic Charm « Querido Rafa
    Celtic Charm « Querido Rafa December 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

    […] ahead and let all the letters out) about the 2006 French Open, which, as it turns out, Rafa won , here. The Mario Ancic-Paul Capdeville shoving match is pretty special. The middle-schooler inside of […]

  4. Andrew Burton
    Andrew Burton December 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm |

    To me, the 2006 French Open is a watershed tournament. The “new balls” generation of ATP players gave way to the Big 2, then eventually the Big 4, three of whom played significant roles that year in Paris, as Juan José and Lindsay describe above. It’s interesting to remember how we thought about the players at the time, not how we’ve come to think about them since then.

    As Juan José writes, Federer went into the tournament with a chance to make history by completing a “Roger slam” – but by the time the final arrived many smart commentators saw him as the underdog. See, for example, Christopher Clarey before the tournament: http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/FRENCH-OPEN-Federer-might-have-a-rivalry-on-his-2496047.php

    It’s funny to see Clarey discuss a “potential” rivalry between the two men – and even more ironic (in the light of the last six years) to see Federer smartly observe that it wasn’t a real rivalry yet, because he (Federer) wasn’t actually winning enough matches when he and Nadal met! Back in 2006, the conventional wisdom was that Nadal (through some feat of magical navigation) had found his way into Federer’s head, which was surely the only explanation for the clear advantage (4-1) the young Spaniard had established over the candidate GOAT in their H2H.

    Six years on (and with the benefit of considerable hindsight) we see Nadal as one of the undisputed greats of the Open Era and likely the greatest player ever on clay. Then, he was seen by many as something of a one trick pony – an amazingly strong and vigorous young athlete, capable of hitting with immense amounts of spin and grinding his way to victory from the baseline – but in a matchup with Federer, all the flair and finesse would be on the other side of the net. The conventional wisdom was wrong then, as it often is. Even back in 2006, Nadal was the best bouncing ball net rally player in the ATP (rallies coming off an attempted drop shot).

    Juan José writes that the final wasn’t a good match, which isn’t my recollection at all. It wasn’t a great match, but it was a scrap: I’d rate it higher than the Djokovic-Nadal RG 2012 final (when Djokovic was in a similar position to Federer in being able to hold all four titles at once, also after sustaining losses on clay in Monte Carlo and Rome). Federer, as he usually has done in finals against Nadal, fought hard but came up just short (see, for example, the 30:30 5-4 point at about 2:44 here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrXlFL4Oyu8). The overall points went 121/109 to Nadal, just shy of my 53% threshold for a clean kill.

    Juan José also compares Federer’s effort at RG unfavorably to the Rome final contested about a month earlier, which, to my mind, is like saying “yes, good painting, but it isn’t Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” or “sure, but it wasn’t Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.” I genuinely don’t think Federer’s played better on clay at any time in his career, before or since, than he did on that day: he actually held two match points at 15-40, 5-6 (sent a rally FH just long on the first), then led 5-3 in the final set TB (gave the MB back on a netted transition FH, attempting to wrongfoot Nadal after a slice serve). I think the level of tennis played that day in Rome was higher than the more celebrated Wimbledon F 2008, although it wasn’t as historically significant – mind you, all Federer fans ask themselves how the history of the rivalry might have changed had that 30-40 DTL FH gone in in Rome….

    Really nice job pulling the seeding list. 6 years on, only four players on the list are genuine slam contenders – the two finalists, plus Berdych and Ferrer. Go back six more years, to the 2000 French Open (won by Kuerten), and you can see the generational change. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_French_Open_–_Men%27s_Singles

    By 2006, only Safin, Hewitt and (possibly) Ferrero were still slam contenders – and they’d won a combined 5 slams in the meantime (they would win no more). The two finalists at Roland Garros 2006 have won a combined 20 of the 27 slams (including that match) since that date, possibly with some more to come. Some watershed.

    Thanks for this, Juan José and Lindsay!

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 10, 2012 at 3:49 am |

      Glad you enjoyed that, Andrew. I actually agree with all of your points (and thanks for the correction on the Rome match points – I had completely forgotten about the second one) EXCEPT the one about the final.

      To me, the only part of that final that was a “scrap” was the third set, and that was after Federer took advantage of a nervy moment of Nadal to break back at 5-4 and stay alive. At that point, it was too little, too late. Kind of like an NBA player hitting a 3 when down 6 with 10 seconds left. Also…how can a match be called a “scrap” when half the sets are breadsticks? And not particularly competitive breadsticks at that.

      The other point you’re missing is that even though the level of execution in Rome was higher for Federer than on Chatrier, Federer didn’t play both matches in the same way. In Rome, he was extremely aggressive, and used some of the strategy that Djokovic put to good use in 2011: focus on Nadal’s backhand, and wait for the short ball to finish down the line with the forehand.

      I get it that part of Federer’s success is due to playing more or less the same way against everybody, in his fluid instinctive improvisational style. But that day in Rome he seemed to have a gameplan, and was inches away from recording a famous victory.

      Fast forward to Chatrier, and that impetus was gone after going up a set and a break. Maybe he felt that the finish line was within reach, and the moment seized him. But after Nadal got on track in that second set, the final was one way traffic, and Federer did not seem intent on forcing his way into the match like he did in Rome.

  5. Master Ace
    Master Ace December 8, 2012 at 9:15 pm |

    In that final, Federer led by a set and 1-0 serving at 40-15 when the chair called a serve good and Nadal “questioned” the call. Federer told the chair to replay the point and it was downhill from there. Nadal and Mathieu was the famous banana gate match that lasted about 4 to 5 hrs.

    Also, during that same year at Rome, Federer had 2 tough matches before the final outlasting Almagro and either Ljubicic or Nalbandian before the famous final which I believe let Nadal keep the upper hand in their rivaltry forever.

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 10, 2012 at 3:51 am |

      Thanks for that, Master Ace! I think Federer played Nalbandián in the Rome SFs before the epic final with Nadal.

      And that Rome match is the one fork in the road for the Federer-Nadal rivalry. What if Federer makes that forehand and beats Nadal on clay in a five-setter? Only inches swung quite a bit of tennis history.

  6. marieJ
    marieJ December 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

    thanks for bringing back the memory on this french open JJ and lindsay !! damn i feel old 2006 seems like another tennis life !

    since i remember attending plenty of the matches including the djoko-gonzo, i can say i saw something special about djoko that i posted right away on bodo’s blog at the time ! the post interview after playing rafa was a classic of his : i’m so good i can beat him or anyone, but not yet… except he passed on the end of the sentence ! lol

    robredo ancic was murderous, since both guys were cramping or sick and the croat came flat on the next round 🙁
    benneteau ljubo was some how hilarious at the moment ivan discovered that julien was missing every single overhead ! that was almost embarrassing for the poor french !

    mathieu and hewitt matches were great, the french saved an incredible amount of break points… and played the most crazy stuff he did in a long time… i felt he was never the same after, realizing that playing the match of his life wasn’t enough to beat someone as special as rafa on clay, heartbreaking, no ?

    and you know what ? i might i’ve watche a bit of the malisse massu in the 1st round, i have taken pictures of massu somewhere 🙂 and it was a rollercoaster, a good one !
    i was there for the semis, and nalbandian was almost perfect in that 1st set… until federer tracked back a shot he hit in squash mode and made an awsome winner… it changed the curse of the match and fe won a match he could have easily lost if nalbandian could have played… so frustrating !

    then the final andrew said it better but such good memories… when you love rafa 😉

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 10, 2012 at 4:06 am |

      Thanks for all of this, old friend! I do remember you were at that French Open when we were both posting at TW. Amazing to be a witness to all that history!

      I forgot about the Robredo-Ancic match! And you’re very right about the effect that the loss had on Mathieu. The same thing happened to Djokovic for a while after the Madrid 2009 SF. It has to be heartbreaking for a professional athlete, already a super-competitive being, that their best is just not good enough.

      I also forgot that squash winner by Federer against Nalbandián! It really was a shame that the Argie injured himself. That match could’ve been quite the epic, with the way he was playing.

  7. marieJ
    marieJ December 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm |

    i mean the course of the match ! oups !

  8. Ophelia
    Ophelia December 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm |

    As someone who only got into tennis in the past year or so and has to rely on secondhand accounts about what it was like in these good old days, it’s great to get an insight into what the tennis landscape used to look like. It definitely puts things in perspective when Federer and Nadal are the only “top guys” that remain from that time.

    AHAHAHA at Djokovic’s post-match comments. They really do sound an awful lot like Tomic’s, which make me almost inclined to give the Tank Engine the benefit of the doubt because he’s young and still has time to mature. Then I remember that even after that retirement debacle, Djokovic made it into the top 20 by the end of that year and won the Most Improved Player award for two consecutive years, something that Tomic is light years away from.

    One question: Judging from this post and several others, you guys have no love lost for Jarkko Nieminen. Is it because he always seems to suffer from some sort of injury during tournaments? Or because he has a dorky-sounding name? I admittedly know nothing about this guy, except that he’s still active on tour.

    1. Juan José
      Juan José December 12, 2012 at 12:04 am |

      Thanks for this, Ophelia! About Nieminen, it’s not about the injuries (I hadn’t even noticed that). Just watch him play at some point. Then you’ll understand. Most boring player in the universe.

  9. Matt Zemek
    Matt Zemek December 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm |

    The biggest thing about the 2006 French Open is that………….

    …………. it was the last major in which Juan Jose Vallejo was a fan of Roger Federer. 😉

    Then came the ice cream You Know What a few weeks later at SW19, and the rest is (the) history (no?).

    Seriously, the thing about the Federer-Nadal final that people need to appreciate was not necessarily the possibility of Federer winning a calendar grand slam or holding all four major titles at once; it was the notion that if Federer won that match, he would have arrived at a place of unfathomable historical leverage and centrality in his sport before his 25th birthday.

    It’s worth noting that Nadal conquered the world and won his grand slam at 24 years and 3 months of age. Federer was going for the career grand slam, but also a four-straight-major streak and the possibility of a calendar slam at 24 and almost 10 months. I distinctly remember an increasingly hyperbolic and on-his-way-to-being-a-blabbermouth (and-no-longer-a-good-analyst) John McEnroe saying at the opening of the NBC broadcast that if Federer won the 2006 French final, he would become the greatest player of all time… before turning 25.

    There was just so much historical weight on Fed’s shoulders that day. I know Rafa peed his piratas in the first set, but I still view 2007 as the much greater missed opportunity for Fed to beat Rafa at the French.

    Juan Jose and Andrew, you might know this more precisely than I do, but there was a point — I believe break point for Federer at 1-1, 30-40 in the third set (it might have been 2-1 Nadal… again, I need help here…) — when a Nadal groundstroke hit off the paint on the back of the service box, and Federer didn’t make clean contact with what was a makeable reply. That miss seemed to take an even match and turn it irrevocably in Nadal’s direction.

    A final thought about the 2006 French, and not one that’s idly or casually tossed in, either: The most resonant long-term development to emerge from this tournament other than anything related to Fedal is that this was the major that fully and finally broke the will of David Nalbandian.

    He had a commanding lead on Baghdatis in the 2006 Australian Open semis and gacked it away. He was in position to play Jacket in the Aussie final, creating what would have been a rematch of the epic 2005 Masters Cup final in Shanghai. He had not yet lost his mojo against Federer, even though he did lose the 2005 US Open quarters to Fed in a horrible performance. The 1-2 punch of faltering in Melbourne and then seeing his body give out in Paris felled Nalbandian for the rest of his career. He never made another major semi after the 2006 French. I know that off the top of my head.

    UNEXPECTED ADDENDUM: I looked at Wikipedia and found that Fatbandian didn’t even make another major QUARTERFINAL after the 2006 French. Moreover, he made the fourth round at only TWO other majors (!!!!!!) after the 2006 French. It knocked him out as a major-tournament force with overwhelming impact. It was the Marquez-Pacquiao of French Opens for Nalbandian.

    Thank you for this! Such ridiculously fun and enjoyable tennis content in a one-stop-shopping blog collective! Keep it up!

    1. Master Ace
      Master Ace December 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm |

      Forgot that about Nalbandian not making another serious Slam run after the 2006 French despite his fall campaign of 2007(??) where he won Madrid and Paris defeating Federer and Nadal at both events. Also, did he win over Djokovic at one of those events? Then, going to the AO, he was named as one of the contenders to win the title but he lost in 3rd round to Robredo(??)

      1. Juan José
        Juan José December 11, 2012 at 11:35 pm |

        Robredo would’ve been worse, but it was actually Ferrero. In straight sets. Nalbandián was allegedly injured. That was the end of my Nalbandián fandom – he was one of my favorite players until then. Ugh.

    2. Juan José
      Juan José December 12, 2012 at 12:00 am |

      Matt, that was great. But I’ll correct you in a couple of things!

      – The 2006 US Open was my last major as a Federer fan. Even though I was annoyed at his French Open performance, I was rooting for Federer in the Wimbledon final that year, and also at the US Open. But I noticed things changed when Federer trashed Djokovic at the AO the following year. I was rooting for González in the final, and I got quite the kick out of the Cañas IW-Miami double. The tide had turned.

      Actually that’s my only correction!

      I’ll also let Andrew find that point in the third set – I don’t remember it at all, sadly. Neither does AmyLu, which is surprising. But I found it on YouTube!

      So Nadal is serving at 1-2 in the third set, and goes down 0-40 after a horrible volley that Federer tracks down for a winner. Link to this exact moment is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeaUmA8vaHs&feature=player_detailpage#t=5326s

      It’s quite interesting that Federer had a look at 3 second serves, and yet the only became aggressive in the 30-40 point, with the big forehand that Nadal barely got back in play with a slice FH of his own, and then Federer missed it as the ball seems to have skidded off the tape.

      I saw that last point more than once (you can see for yourself, naturally), but even as the commies talk about how the ball skidded off the line…it doesn’t make sense. That happens on hard with the slick paint, but claycourts have actual tape. The ball on the tape doesn’t really skid – it kind of has a weird bounce. If it skidded, it was because of Nadal’s slice, which Federer misjudged.

      It’s interesting how everybody in the commentary booth says that the match has “just started”. Quite a scrap, starting in the 3rd set!

      About Nalbandián, I hadn’t realized at all that his Grand Slam record took a major dip after that. The 2006 AO was the Slam Nalbandián should have won, and inexplicably lost before he even made the final. Maybe the injury at the French convinced him that it just wasn’t meant to be. Tennis players love to be fatalistic like that, and it’s not like Nalbandián was DYING to win a GS. What’s amazing is that Nalbandián was 24 in 2006 – that’s normally when male tennis players enter their prime. Which I guess he did the year after during the indoor season. It was brief, to say the least.

      Thanks again, Matt! And thanks for reading!

  10. Nadal News » Blog Archive » RafaLint: December 12th

    […] Draw Back: Revisiting the Men’s 2006 French Open – via The Changeover […]

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