Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Pseudo-Science Surrounding Rafa’s Slump

Nole’s been unflappable, but pretending Rafa’s slump hasn’t been a contributing factor in at least some of those losses would be just as disingenuous as not giving Nole his due.

Since this weekend there’s been a concerted effort to analyse, rationalise and, in some cases, explain away that slump.

Whilst most of this theorising contains an element of truth, I can’t say I completely agree with any of them. Much of it is simply a heady mixture of pseudo-science and wishful thinking.

Given the scale of Rafa’s domination and his iconic status in the game, this “need for answers” is, of course, completely understandable.

In certain cases, however, this overarching impulse to ‘explain’ has proved so consumptive that it’s lead people to see things that really aren’t there.

1) However poorly Rafa is right now, he’s either won or reached the final of every event he’s entered since the Aussie Open – going out in all four Masters finals to none other than “Nole the Unsinkable”. Immediate observation: Some slump.

2) Even so, a slump is a slump: let us please call it what it is, and not go turning it into some illusory call for him to change his game. Yes really.

3) More to the point, I really can’t see the need for ANY rationalisations – not in any case, the more Freudian ones.

However much we might like to romanticise it, the truth is that no one really knows what starts, perpetuates and ultimately ends a slump: it’s not wholly analytical or technical in nature, but then neither is it as mystical as some appear intent on presenting it.

Whilst no one would deny that the manner of Murray’s departure in the Aussie Open final was what led to his slump – the worst since he entered the top ten – did any one of us see him emerging from it on what is unanimously thought of as his “worst surface”?

Not only that, but to come within one set of bagging two of the biggest scalps this season: Rafa on clay (Monte Carlo) and Nole the Unsinkable (Rome)? (Also both on his “worst surface”)

If Murrays too good not to emerge from a slump, the odds of Rafa failing must be considered non-existent.

The trouble with all the analysis surrounding Rafa is that its being carried out within the false economy of Nole’s streak – which WILL come to an end, just as certainly as Rafa’s slump will.

Should it happen as soon as next week, its entirely conceivable that Rafa goes on to win Slam number 10. Not to take anything away from him (how could I?), but it’s also entirely conceivable that Nole goes out in R16 to one….Jurgen Melzer.

Streaks often end in the most unspectacular way imaginable and without due deference to anyone’s narrative.

Then where will the pseudo-science and mystical charms be?

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