Well as all my tennis people probably know, I’ve been Nadal-ed up for quite some time. Whether I was actually rooting for Nadal, or simply against Federer is hard to say, but in very small tennis circles I called Nadal sweeping the final majors last year and was expecting a Nadal Slam this week in Australia. For those of you that don’t know, the Australian Open (a big tennis tournament) is being played as we speak. Or, maybe not, because it’s the middle of the night there, but the winners will be decided this weekend. Nadal lost in the quarterfinals, ending his quest for 4 straight major wins, and now the door is open for Roger Federer to return to his winning ways. If someone aside from these two wins tennis tournaments…I’m not aware of who they are.
This isn’t necessarily a tennis post, though. I don’t want to make that kind of history. It’s more of a general reflection. More than a year ago here I made a post comparing Roger Federer to Tiger Woods. I was asking who was more dominant. It is hard to compare across sports, but those two guys were the most reliable bets going. Unquestioned number ones, perhaps each the best ever to play their sport. Fast forward and both have been derailed to varying degrees for much different reasons. We all know what happened to Tiger. He hasn’t won in over a year. Federer remains near the top of his game, he was just nudged slightly to the side by a streaking Rafa Nadal. In terms of dominance, they’ve both lost quite a bit of footing. This week, I am predicting it will partially come back.
The Federer prediction is not really going out on a limb. He’s already in the semi-finals. In fact, maybe the only reason I am mentioning it is so I can put a little jinx on him for tonight. I’ve had a pretty powerful hex going lately (note Syracuse). In actuality though, I expect him to win the remaining two matches and defend his Australian Open title. It’ll shift consciousness back to the Federer vs. Nadal in the present instead of wondering whether Nadal has a chance to outshine Roger in terms of overall legacy. For Tiger, the prediction takes a little more heart. Even when he was on top of the world he lost more than he won. And now, he’s just another guy on tour (in some ways).
Tiger’s week started with a dose of reality. Thanks to his unusually low finish on the money list, Tiger did not get his usual preferential tee-time in the Pro-Am. Tiger has gotten the early time he liked so consistently that I wonder if he even knew how the slots were assigned. He complained about his time. He complained about playing the North Course instead of the South (he would get changed to the South). If you are wondering why I am detailing Tiger acting like a spoiled brat, it’s because I guarantee you that Tiger feels disrespected. And also, imagine the ego it must take to ask to switch your Pro-Am time and course? For Tiger’s golf game, ego is a good thing.
Torrey Pines as I mentioned last week is Tiger’s personal playground. He’s made a habit out of winning there. It has become the traditional first stop of his year and he usually starts fast. Some guys knock the rust off with the first few events, Tiger always came out of the gate expecting to win right away. I think that is the mindset he’ll have this week. A year removed from the controversy that softened his game, he should be entering this season as close to the Old Tiger, mentality wise, as anything we’ve seen since Fall of ’09. Against a slightly less than world-class field, I’m flashing back to the old days and installing Tiger as the prohibitive favorite.
By the end of the weekend, I think we’ll be hearing about Tiger and Augusta, or Tiger how long it will take him to get back to #1. What starts tomorrow with a tee time alongside Rocco Mediate and Anthony Kim I think will end on Sunday with Tiger raising the trophy. Roger should have one too, and then the old friends can text each other, or film a new Gillette commercial. It’ll be just like old times.