Chaos from Order: Rafael Nadal Changed Everything

EmmaAnalyst IDecember 20, 2009

Written in collaboration with fellow writer antiMatter .


Systematic Chaos 

In its most basic form, Chaos Theory can be described as a series of unpredictable events occurring as a result of calculable scientific laws. It is non-predictable determinism; a study of systems which are unstable at all points.

A double pendulum is a simple structure, but one which demonstrates clearly the state of chaos arising from an ordered set of rules. When released from small angles, the trajectory of the pendulum is as it would be if it were singular; however, increase the angle of release, and Chaos ensues .

Due to minuscule environmental differences, it is impossible to exactly replicate any pattern created by a double pendulum. If, however, all the factors involved in the laws that govern the motion of the double pendulum were known to the last degree of accuracy, then it would be a different story, for it would then be possible to predict the outcome of the deterministic laws.

Simply put, however, that is not the case; the scientists of the world do not yet have such capabilities. Whether or not they ever shall, and the ramifications of such an idea, is not a topic for this article.

The double pendulum is, of course, merely a way of illustrating a theory which is present in many aspects of life; things such as clouds and weather, the migration of birds, and the behaviour of boiling water are all described by the Chaos Theory.

So to sum up the main points about Chaos: seemingly random events can occur from feasibly understandable laws, minor changes can have major effects, and not all information can be known about every variable involved.

And as it is in nature, so it is in tennis.


History Begins

Roger Federer reigned over the tennis kingdom, sitting in the throne only recently vacated by the legendary Pete Sampras.

There was no defying the order of the day; his fellow players could but accept his dominance, and the watching world simply became accustomed to the man winning vastly diverse and numerous titles.

He bamboozled his opponents with his creative (and often unprecedented) shots, and entranced the world with the same.

Beyond the aficionados of the game, interest in the sport was in danger of stagnating—competition and rivalry are what keep fans fixated. Tennis was governed by a set of apparently unbreakable rules: that Roger Federer could not and would not be dominated, and that the final results of tournaments were all but set in stone from the moment he announced his participation.

Then something happened which would forever alter the status quo of the emerging era.

All guns blazing (both figuratively and literally), Rafael Nadal arrived on the media's radar with a bang. His straight-sets victory over Roger Federer at the Miami Masters in 2004 was one which marked the beginning of a historic legacy.

With bulging biceps, unruly hair, a counter-punching baseline game, various on-court ticks and habits, powerful groundstrokes, vigorous fist-pumps, and laborious grunts after each and every shot, the teenager could not have differed more from Roger Federer.

Where the World No. 1 was neat and ordered, the newcomer was wild and rugged; where the Swiss was balletic and artistic, the Spaniard would charge with the sole intent of destroying his opponent's game shot by shot.

Separately, they were capable of dominating their every challenger; together, they created one of the most captivating and dramatic rivalries in the history of the sport.

Following Nadal's unforeseen and unexpected first victory over his nemesis, the world was thrown into uproar. The unbeatable champion had been overcome by an unknown youngster; fans could but look on in shock.

In a little over an hour, Nadal managed to turn tennis as the world knew it into turbulent chaos.


The Legacy Continues 

As it stands today, Nadal remains Roger Federer's greatest challenge. Federer has yet to beat the clay-court expert at Roland Garros; Nadal has beaten the Swiss at both his beloved Australian Open and his cherished Wimbledon.

The Spaniard's victory over Federer at the 2009 Australian Open was possibly the most unexpected of all; having had less than 48 hours of rest after his five-hour epic with Fernando Verdasco, the media, commentators, and fans alike had all but written him off.

As has become customary when dealing with the then-unstoppable force, the win shocked the once-secure order into chaos—such an Order did not account for Rafael Nadal winning hard court Slams. That was Federer's turf, and there was no chance a mere clay-court player could defeat him there.
Whether or not Nadal can replicate any of his feats over the last 18 months remains to be seen—but one thing is for certain. Until the last point is played (and beyond), no man shall force him into submitting to an order he did not create.
The new year brings about a fresh start for Rafael Nadal, and he shall undoubtedly give his signature zealous performances—giving the best display he is capable of; putting his heart and soul into each and every match; and ultimately striving to overcome any stereotype or assumption of his capabilities on any given day.
He will do all he can to usurp the expectations of critics and fans alike, and do so the only way he knows how.
Turning order into chaos every which way he can.