Raging Bull: Rafael Nadal

Mitch DeppCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2008

Fear. The tennis professional's greatest ally. What once belonged to a magnificent Roger Federer is now the sole property of rampaging Rafael Nadal.

One cannot help but notice the eyes, the body language of players who go up against such players as Federer and Nadal. It can be described in one simple word: Fear.

With the exceptions of temperamental genius Marat Safin or brash pretender Djokovic, the aura of invincibility surrounding Federer and Nadal can drive even the most seasoned of veterans and the most promising up-and-comers out of their skins trying to stave off impending annihilation.

This aura, though once bright and magnificent around Federer, has seemed to fade a bit. So far, 2008 has been a tough year for the Swiss world No. 1, with no real results yet this year.

To make things worse, No. 2 Nadal is nipping at his heels, just a few hundred ATP points behind him! This could be an important stage in Federer's career, though.

Some of the greats like Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi had their career ups and downs. They've all been to the top and they've all been down, way down.

But part of what defines their greatness is how they loved their sport so dearly that they stayed in there, plugging away, eventually reaching new heights even at later stages of their careers.

For Nadal, since 2007 or 2006 even, you could see and feel that this guy is going all the way. He just keeps getting better and better. Without a doubt, 2008 is his year.

Five straight titles so far, two of them Grand Slams. Could Cincinnati be next? Is Flushing Meadows, New York his?

It could be a record of sorts. Three major titles on three different surfaces: Clay, Grass and Hard for a player once dismissed as only a typical European clay-courter.

It was an aura of invincibility for Federer, his being such a graceful, finesse kind of player. Not really overpowering but just too damn good, better than anybody on the planet, dresses well too.

But therein lies a kind of softness or fragility which seems was there since the early years. That seems to manifest itself during such rare occasions as when he goes up against overly ambitious pretenders like Nadal or Djokovic.

A minute crack in his armor that could eventually be his undoing. But of course you cannot count him out. We'll just have to wait and see. Does Federer have it in himself to say to Nadal: no, not just yet...?

As for Nadal, it is more of an electricity that accompanies him in every outing on the court. Every point, every stroke, every fist in the air after every magnificent winner. He just drives opponents into the ground.

This soft spoken Spaniard has intensity written over every inch of his body.  He wants it and he wants it bad. The point, the game, the set, the match, the tournament. The respect of the tennis world. The No. 1 spot!

Think "Running of the Bulls, Encierro" in San Fermin, Pamplona. Although people getting in the way of Nadal are not there to show off their youthful bravado as in Pamplona. People better shape up if they want to keep up or stay ahead of this raging bull.

You've all seen what happens to those too weak or too slow at Pamplona, it usually isn't nice—not very nice at all.