May 02, 2007

Federer and Nadal to go toe-to-toe: in an exhibition match on a $1.63 million dollar custom half grass/half clay court. Federer hasn't lost on grass in four years, a 48-match run that includes four straight titles at Wimbledon. Nadal has won a record 72 straight clay-court matches, including two consecutive titles at Roland Garros in Paris.

posted by Ufez Jones to tennis at 10:18 AM - 26 comments

Reminds me of that Michael Johnson / Donovan Bailey 150m race some years ago: Find some kind of hybrid playing field, split the advantages for each and see what's up.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:00 AM on May 02

I don't get it. Won't the clay make the ball slow down? Wouldn't you expect Nadal to have more trouble getting to balls on the clay than Federer will on the grass, especially since the ball after hitting the clay probably will be moving slow? This sounds weird to me. I guess if you have $1.53 million dollars to spend, why not?

posted by bperk at 11:24 AM on May 02

A novelty that will prove no more than having Billie Jean King play Bobby Riggs.

posted by 1959Giants at 11:34 AM on May 02

Fantastic! I think this is so awesome. Pit both guys on courts they claim they play better on and see who comes out on top. This is what sports is all about.

posted by BornIcon at 11:34 AM on May 02

I think it's a pretty neat concept, and I also think it's a good publicity stunt for professional tennis. If it gets a few non-fans blinking at the court and wondering what the hell's going on, it'll pay off in the long run in additional eyes for the big tourneys.

posted by wfrazerjr at 11:45 AM on May 02

I don't get it. Won't the clay make the ball slow down? Wouldn't you expect Nadal to have more trouble getting to balls on the clay than Federer will on the grass, especially since the ball after hitting the clay probably will be moving slow? Well, that's what they're trying to find out, isn't it? They already know that Nadal can outplay Federer on clay, and that Federer can outplay Nadal on grass. What they don't know is what will happen in this situation, which has some aspects of simultaneously giving both players their best surface or their worst surface. Consider this: Nadal serving from clay side. Both players are playing groundstrokes off the surface that they most prefer, but at the same time their opponents are also playing off their preferred surface. Or vice versa: you're playing groundstrokes off your least favorite surface, but so's your opponent. And then there's the service game...wow, this could get complicated.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:51 PM on May 02

So do they swap ends, or not? If so, do the crowd wait for them to change shoes and string tensions while they're at it? Is Federer's advantage based on hitting from or hitting to grass? Is Nadal's based on hitting to or from clay? Looking at the date, it's probably over by now. Who won? So many questions. So much reluctance to use a search engine.

posted by JJ at 01:05 PM on May 02

Nadal won.

posted by goddam at 01:30 PM on May 02

Proves nothing. Now they need a court half-grass, half-clay and half in Spain, half in Switzerland. Maybe they could set it up near the Swiss Consulate?

posted by yerfatma at 01:35 PM on May 02

Weird. It almost doesn't matter who's playing: this experiment seems like sheer gimmickry at best, deeply flawed at worst. It doesn't really matter if clay or grass is the player's favorite or least favorite surface, this configuration favors the player on the clay side on every point. The overwhelming majority of balls hit from the player on the grass side to the clay side, would be sit up for that player, and he could smack winner after winner into the grass all day long. Similarly, on serves, the player serving into the grass would have an enormous advantage. Of course they are changing courts after every odd game, but the player hitting into the grass (serving or not) would have the advantage. It would be interesting to watch, as it might actually be harder to hold your own serve when serving to clay as it would be to break in this situation.

posted by psmealey at 01:43 PM on May 02

It would actually be more interesting to see the half clay, half grass configuration vertically rather than horizontally. At least this way each player could maneuver for the advantage on every point.

posted by psmealey at 01:46 PM on May 02

Changing their shoes every changeover? The original grass "fell victim to a plague of worms? Weird all the way 'round. Maybe for the next round they'll divide it down the middle, i.e. ad court clay, deuce court grass, or vice-versa. Which, since Nadal is a lefty, would be very interesting, indeed. (Of course, that arrangement sounds like an ankle injury waiting to happen ;-)

posted by Uncle Toby at 01:50 PM on May 02

It would actually be more interesting to see the half clay, half grass configuration vertically rather than horizontally. At least this way each player could maneuver for the advantage on every point. Yes, but consider the service box -- you'd still always be serving to the other surface, just as with the current setup.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:00 PM on May 02

Yes, but consider the service box -- you'd still always be serving to the other surface, just as with the current setup. True, but it least it would vary on every successive point. On deuce games serving to grass the server has the advantage, and on ad games to the clay, the receiver has the advantage (or, is at least at less of a disadvantage).

posted by psmealey at 03:34 PM on May 02

How about two separate matches, 5 sets each. In a variation on yerfatma, one match in Spain (clay) and one in Switzerland (grass). Most number of sets wins. Like European football, in the event of a tie, away sets/games count double.

posted by owlhouse at 06:32 PM on May 02

Yes this match may not have been perfect but I still think it was a pretty cool idea. It is certainly different and probably would have been fun to watch. I was just shocked to see how each Federer and Nadal had dominated on grass and clay respectively.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 06:54 PM on May 02

In spite of the results of this match, I think Federer has a better chance of winning the French Open (albeit a slight chance) than Nadal has of winning Wimbledon.

posted by 1959Giants at 09:06 PM on May 02

Interesting conjecture, Giants...not sure how you'd ever determine whether it was true or not, though. I don't see Nadal winning on grass, but I am waiting to see him make a breakthrough on some of the composite surfaces.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:10 PM on May 02

It would actually be more interesting to see the half clay, half grass configuration vertically rather than horizontally. It would be really funny watching someone slide on the clay, then hit the grass and go head-over-heels. Especially someone as incredibly graceful as Federer or Nadal.

posted by SummersEve at 08:14 AM on May 03

I think they should play in a cage, with steel chairs. It was a fun idea and good to see that both players were up for giving it a try, but all of my money would have been on Nadal.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 08:20 AM on May 03

How about a three set match -- first set on clay, next on grass, next on hard court? With a pool of sharks starting at the edge of each baseline.

posted by holden at 11:33 AM on May 03

I'd like to have them play a match on grass, rest a day, and then play a match on clay. Highest total games wins. Wait a minute, they did that last year at the French Open and Wimbledon. Both went 4 sets and Federer won the overall by 42 - 36. I'll take Federer in Holden's tri-set proposal also. He's not #1 in the world by such a large margin by accident.

posted by 1959Giants at 11:52 AM on May 03

Not, mind you, that these three-set multi-surface matches establish anything except who won the three-set multi-surface match...

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:59 AM on May 03

Related story: this woman says she patented the idea in 2004 and IMG expressed no interest. Now she's suing them.

posted by cybermac at 12:07 AM on May 04

Good for her. IMG needs to be sued.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:04 AM on May 04

This Renata Marcinkowska lady has one hell of a lawsuit on her hands. In the article, it says that she 'claims' to have patented this idea but if she "received a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in November 2004", there is no 'claim', it's documented fact.

posted by BornIcon at 07:16 AM on May 04

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