Rafa posted this picture of himself on his Facebook as he works hard to get ready for the Olympics. This is the message he left ...
"Stretching after the practice, more and more eager to arrive to London!"
We know you are, honey.
There's been talk tonight on Twitter over a pod-cast, that clown Bodo has got into the conversation, and its all rumours that Rafa's current condition is serious. The thing is, we can all drive ourselves mad with rumour and counter-rumour. Rafa has downplayed his chances at the Olympics, but would Rafa ever do anything else? He'll show up, he'll do his best, and that's all we can ask of him as his fans.
But as his fans, of course we worry, and of course we speculate ... its hard not to. We want him back, and we want him back well and raring to go. But other than defending a final appearance at the US Open, Rafa has precious little of note to defend for the rest of the season, so if he needs the time off after the Olympics for whatever could be bothering him ... why not take it?
I mean ... lets consider Rafa's season so far. Finals are the things that count, aren't they? Putting yourself in the position to win is what the game is all about, isn't it? So lets just concentrate the stats on those.
So far in this 2012 season, Rafa has made the final of two Slams and won one. He's won 2 Masters, and one 500 series. That's pretty damn good. And what of his nearest rivals?
Well, Djokovic has made the final of two Slams and won one. He's won 1 Masters and been in the final of two others. Again, a good showing.
And what of Feds?? Well, he's only made one Slam final, and as we can scarcely have missed of late, he won it. He's won two Masters. He's won Dubai which is a 500 series, but because he added the indoor 500 at Rotterdam which he won, and he won the 250 warm up at Qatar, he's "won" more than Rafa this season. Is a win in 1 x 500 series and 1 x 250 series better than a Slam final appearance? Probably not when you consider the field and context of those minor tournaments, but regardless ... its points, and somehow its helped bring Federer back to No. 1 again. And as for Rafa ... down to No. 3. It doesn't seem possible.
How is greatness judged?? Well, the popular theory seems to be by the number of Slam victories and being in finals to at least challenge for them. So the rankings this week led me to look into this a bit further, because I could not believe that a man who won his first Slam in 2.5 years and has only been in one other Slam final in all that time could make it back to No. 1.
So here's the facts, all statistics are since Federer's last Slam victory in Australia in 2010 and reflect final appearances only.
Rafa - 8 finals; 5 victories, 3 runner-up
Djokovic - 5 finals; 4 victories, 1 runner-up
Federer - 2 finals; 1 victory, 1 runner-up
Rafa - 10 finals; 6 victories; 4 runner-up
Djokovic - 9 finals; 6 victories, 3 runner-up
Federer - 7 finals; 4 victories; 3 runner-up
Rafa - 3 finals; 3 victories, 0 runner-up
Djokovic - 3 finals, 2 victories' 1 runner-up
Federer - 5 finals; 4 victories, 1 runner-up
Sorry ... couldn't be bothered tracking these results.
Rafa - 1 final; 0 victories, 1 runner-up
Djokovic - No results
Federer - 2 finals; 2 victories
Interesting reading, and the man who wins his first Slam in over 2.5 years is the No. 1 in the world, whilst the one who in the same period won 5 and made another 3 finals, is No. 3.
What seems to have helped Federer in all of this was the boost in 2010 of winning the WTF and defending it, in spite being the clear 3rd behind Rafa and Djokovic who had their best years in 2010 and 2011 respectively. And also by doing a Wozniaki in winning a couple more little tournies than those two this year.
Because winning only gets you so far in the rankings game, doesn't it? It gets your foot in the door and buys you some breathing space for quite a few months; its the defending of them that really counts ... and that is hard, very hard. Who can and has persistently defended all those titles and all those finals in the past 5 years? Rafa didn't do it in 2011 and Djokovic has only had moderate success so far in 2012. Don't quote Feds cos since his real challenge from Rafa after 2007, he couldn't defend Wimbledon, he couldn't defend the USO in 2009, and he couldn't defend his FO/Wimbledon in 2010 either.
I'm totally bemused by the ranking system now because the current No. 1 was clearly not the best player in 2010, not the best player in 2011 and does one less Slam final appearance and yet a win in Quatar and Rotterdam make him better than Rafa?? The cumulative points system that Federer does not want to change, seemingly says yes. And to be fair, Rafa's idea of a 2 year protected ranking system didn't seem to carry far with the other players either. But what its aim was, was for less pressure to be borne in the year following success, to have to defend for your all your might, and you were given a "year off" as such as defending those points was held in abeyance for a year.
Complicated, I know. But I do find it ironic that playing any sort of game that could even mildly be suggested as being "defensive" is slandered from the hilltops, but it is actually the art of defending titles that ensures your No. 1 ranking. Should things change? Should a player at least be rewarded somehow for defending a title rather than just not losing any ranking points because he's won? Is it fair? Is it fair to have slogged your guts out for one year and won the ultimate challenge which is a Slam and to then repeat it the next year be rewarded with nothing?? And even though I'm loathe to say this, considering the kind of year that Djokovic had in 2011 and the fact that he's defended one Slam, been in the final of another, won 1 Masters and been in the final of 2 others at least have warranted a stint at No. 1 longer than a year??
So whilst I've bored you with stats and inane ramblings on the subject, back to my point of Rafa - as always - what we're really here for and what we want to discuss. Cos the thing is, he's No. 3 now and does that really matter for the rest of the season? Isn't his health and beyond 2012 what matters now? Cos Feds won't succeed in the defence trail. He'll falter, just like the players who have clearly been better than him in the past 2.5 years did. So maybe Rafa's best chance is when he doesn't have to defend in 2013. And maybe 12 months from now it will be he at the top of the pile. But I still think that defence with no reward in the rankings stinks.