|Nadal and Federer.|
With the Australian Open on and men’s tennis at one of the undoubted peaks of the modern era with the Nadal / Federer rivalry, it’s got me thinking about my own epic tennis rivalries and what if I’d kept all my stats. I’d interviewed the great songwriter Jimmy Webb (MacArthur Park, All I Know, Witchita Lineman) once who told me that Art Garfunkel had kept records of every game of tennis the two of them had played going back to the 70s. One of the most angelic singers of his time, Garfunkel is a self-confessed eccentric and mathematics nut, but how cool would it be to see one-on-one tennis stats with a great mate of yours over a 35 year time-span? By the way, Garfunkel peaked tennis-wise in the 70s and it was Webb’s time in the 80s – I can’t quite recall the 90s or 2000s.
Cricket was and is my number one sport (with tennis second) and up until the age of 19 or 20 I kept all my stats from when I first started playing as a nine year old. I only stopped keeping them when my batting form deserted me for a couple of years and rumours started to circulate that I was including practice games in my official records when it suited. When form returned and I figured out that it was OK that I was actually a somewhat better bowler than batter, I regretted ever letting my stats-keeping slide.
Back to the tennis, in my head the battles I have are very Nadal / Federer-esque, though in reality they rarely involve backhand winners or first serve percentages above 50, but thanks to similarly sporty and competitive mates, they are evenly fought and tend to include more than the occasional, “that was almost like real tennis!” call.
I have always speculated with my great rivals what the all time stats would be. Players like Justin “Downtown” Brown, Justin “JJ” Johnson, Jon “Oden-Routhan” Routhan, Michael “Alejandro” Gillon, Chris “Macca Yeah Yeah” MacDonald, Darren “Don’t Call Me Darris” Harris and Wade “Wade-o” Cameron have all played me countless times, some over the course of many years. They know all about the 40 kilometre an hour second serve, the backhand which exclusively slices, the over-use of backspin, the alarming rate at which net-balls fall in my favour, the erect nipples and the out-of-nowhere whippy forehand which occasionally lands in that makes it all worth it.
“Downtown,” who I have played more than anyone else, dominated matches in the early stages of our rivalry to such an extent that he promised to buy me a dozen Tiger beers if I ever beat him. The win (and beers) eventually came but in those first years of what is now a seven or eight year old tussle, I reckon he won about 75% of the time. In the middle years things slowly evened and in the last year or two I may have gained an advantage, albeit a very slight one. But what would the overall stats show?
A rough guess puts the total matches between “Downtown” and myself at over 200 with my second most frequent rival “JJ” at over 150. I always felt the exciting “JJ” had a slight edge over me (though our rivalry remained consistent) and I’d give him a 55% winning percentage. “Oden-Routhan” stood as one of the great all-round sportsmen of our time, eventually representing New Zealand at indoor cricket and it is possible he may have also had the better stats than me.
|The Club Med courts where I do battle with “Wade-o.”|
“Alejandro” enjoyed playing me at rock-star-like venues on tops of skyscrapers where Russian girls who savoured the site of shirtless tennis players were known to live. A fantastic sportsman, particularly in cricket, “Alejandro” will forgive me if I guess my winning ratio at 53%. Through “Alejandro” I met the extremely competitive “Macca Yeah Yeah” who I had the wood on during the first half of the rivalry in the Vancouver summer of 2010, but totally lost ground to as the leaves fell and 25 degree blue-sky highs gave way to drizzly 12s. During this period the chirpy Irish fellow “Don’t Call Me Darris” played me approximately 30 times and always gave me a good run for my money. It would seem cruel and unnecessary to point out that I won all but one of those encounters because “Don’t Call Me Darris” is such an unfailingly lovely guy….
Which leaves me with the elegant “Wade-o” who also lives on Lindeman Island here in the Whitsundays in Australia. After discovering that we were both evenly matched, we agreed from the get-go to record all our matches. The foresight! So far we have both won three matches each with one tie. We have also kept records of games won with the more tanned and more youthful “Wade-o” leading 66-62, giving him the number one ranking on the island by a whisker. Potentially less interesting than the Garfunkel / Webb stats, but something to keep the alleged fans going.
And as for actual fans of actual tennis stars and their stats, Nadal leads Federer 14 matches to eight and if there’s a match-up soon in Melbourne, I’m picking it to be 15-8. If like me that’s not quite trainspottery enough, Nadal has won 43 sets to Federer’s 31, though the games are much more even, remarkably so, with Nadal ahead just 383 to 361. It says something about Nadal that against the man who many regard as the greatest player ever, he has a superior record and the statistical proof to show that despite the closeness of their battles, when it really matters, it is he who most often prevails.