(Rick Rock guest-blogging....)
That's what they called Rafa's uncle - not Toni, the one who played professional futbol. And everyone rolls freely with the "beast" talk about Rafa. Especially in contrast to the Appollonian splendor of Roger. The light, slim, Swiss Federer, with the regal one-hand backhand (it just says, "get thee hence!"), the upright bearing, etc., vs. the dark, swarthy, muscle-bound, hunched over Moorish pirate, with a two-hander like he's swinging a scimitar as he curls over the bullwark.. Arr!!! Even yesterday, Mary Carillo was talking about Rafa's beastliness.
Seriously, enough, people. It's almost racist, and at any rate, wrong. If anything, Rafa is MORE human than the sometimes icy Roger, and his game is to my mind MORE artistic. Art is about creation and originality. You could call Roger's game a perfection of classical tennis, but I would not call it creative or original. Rafa on the other hand has invented an entirely different game - no one plays like he does. No one hits the way he does, no one commits to the level of defense, no one wins from the positions he does - he turns the game of slowly gaining advantage in a point on it's head. In particular, his game is entirely different from the other physical giants in the game. His enormous strength is all diverted into action on the ball - he struggles to even keep depth beyond the service line, as ooposed to other big hitters who try to hit past their opponents. He's huge but no one is quicker, in contrast to most big players who try to get advantage early and dictate. His game is completely inside out, completely original. If Roger is a classicist, an excellent imitator of the Old Masters, Rafa is Picasso, always inventing, inverting the game, discovering new dimensions. His game looks physical but it is actualy the product of totally original thinking.
Further,Rafa is pure soul - seemingly a simple guy, emotional and intense (though always under control and well mannered) - very human. The emphasis on effort, struggle, in his game feels very human. Somehow he manages to look like the underdog on the court, even while he is crushing people. Roger on the other hand - I wouldn't call him a beast by any means, but inhuman? A little... don't get me wrong, he is a great person, an "ambassador" for the game as they say. But his persona slides into the icy, the fake celebrity realm of unreality, where Roger and Tiger rub elbows with Anna Wintour and whoever. The world where Shaquille O'neal refers to Britney as his "goood friend" (this was before she flipped out, when she was still on top....) You find yourself wondering what's realy going on with the guy. A little inhuman, dare I say, a little plastic, unreal?
All right I got a little carried away - but enough with the Rafa the Beast talk. He is a great player,with an unbelievably original game, truly one of the greats already at 22.
Signing off - Rick Rock