A Fedal Final Preview

Since the scheduling at the US Open is rather strange and there won’t be a day off between the semi-finals and finals, and a Fedal final seems quite likely now, I thought I’d do a hypothetical preview now on a day where there isn’t any tennis that I’m interested in. Yesterday Youzhny beat Wawrinka in five sets to make his second semi-final at the US Open, while Rafa beat Verdasco in straight sets. I must admit I was pretty disgusted by Verdasco’s performance. He started off well by going up a break in the first set and looked very comfortable out there. Then for no reason he dropped serve and then dropped serve again to gift the first set to Rafa. After that it was all over. I just don’t understand why these Spaniards time and time again roll over for Rafa. Verdasco is now 0-11 against Rafa, and with his abundant talent you would have expected that he would have won at least one match.

Nadal has now had one of the easiest draws in grand slam history. At least he won’t face another Spaniard in the next round. Youzhny is actually a very talented player, all be it slightly mentally unstable. Depending on what kind of mood he is in, he could potentially be a threat to Rafa. Remember Rafa has never been past the semi-final stage here, but neither has Youzhny. I don’t know if Youzhny can win by I certainly think he will actually try to win unlike Lopez and Verdasco. The schedule is out and Roger will play the second semi-final not before 14h45. The final will be the next day at 16h00, so that gives Rafa a slight advantage. But given how little time Roger has spent on court so far and given how fit he is, that is really an insignificant advantage. Maybe if Roger and Djokovic goes to a fifth set tie break then it could have some bearing, but I don’t think that is happening anyway.

I think it will probably be similar to previous years where Roger won pretty comfortably. I just like how Roger is playing at the moment. His serve is difficult to break and everything else is looking pretty good as well. Now lets suppose both Roger and Rafa wins. This isn’t a foregone conclusion, but I think it is the most likely scenario. This is the only reason I am making this post. A Fedal final here at the US Open would have huge significance. There is just no getting around it. It could well be the most important match they have ever played and there will be more on the line than ever before. This rivalry is maybe the biggest rivalry ever in tennis. Just as you think it is over, you find the climax may yet be ahead. The rivalry has escalated over the years to a point where it has become somewhat controversial.

Source

The Federer detractors always bring up the head-to-head situation in the GOAT debate, while the Federer fans maintain that the head-to-head is skewed for many reasons, including the fact that 12 of their 21 meetings have been on clay. They argue that Rafa never was good enough on the faster surfaces to meet Roger on a regular basis, which would have made the head-to-head much more equal. Another reasons they offer is the match up issue, because Rafa is left-handed and his spinning forehand cross court goes above shoulder height to Roger’s one-handed backhand. And finally they also say that the rivalry was very even when Roger was still in his prime. In fact Roger was leading the head-to-head on both hard court and grass in his prime. These are all very good reason and I agree with them all.

Therefor it would only be fair of me to give a lot of significance to a US Open final that would involve Roger and Rafa. Admittedly Roger is not in his prime anymore while Rafa is, but judging by how Roger have performed in the last month I would have to say he is pretty close to his best. He showed at the Australian Open this year that he can still play very close to his prime level if not at it, and I believe he is doing the same again here. He had the best results of all players at Toronto and Cincy, and so far in the Open he has looked untouchable. He even beat Soderling in straight sets who he lost to at the French Open. Then of course this is the US Open which is probably Roger’s best surface as far as slams are concerned. He has been untouchable on these courts for the last seven years, bar last year’s slip up in the final where a lapse in concentration in the second set cost him the title.

This is well and truly Roger’s turf. Rafa on the other hand has never been past the semi-final stages here. It is definitely his worst surface as far as grand slams are concerned. The biggest obstacle for Rafa at the US Open is not necessarily the surface speed, but the type of ball they use and the height of the bounce. Unlike all the other grand slam surfaces, the ball comes through much lower at the US Open. Finally, this also makes up for the match up issue. This is the one surface where Rafa’s spinning forehands can’t prove to be such a problem for Roger, because it won’t come above shoulder height on his backhand. It will come through at a comfortable height and thus cause him to be less on the defense and make less unforced errors. These days even Wimbledon has a high bouncing surface, which is why the match up issue is also a problem for Roger there.

So now we have eliminated all the reasons why Roger should have problems beating Rafa. But there is one I have left out, and that is the mental issue. The old demons from the past is never easy to shake. All the close losses Roger has had to Rafa and all the reasons Rafa has an advantage over him has left a mental scar. This is the only possible reason Federer fans could be fearful of a Fedal final, because I have eliminated the other issues already. So far Rafa has beaten Roger in every slam final, starting with the French Open, then Wimbledon, and finally the Australian Open. He has kept improving his game like a man on a mission and he has even added a bigger serve to his arsenal to improve his chances in New York. So if history is anything to go by, then Rafa will once again break Roger’s heart and take down the only refuge he still has in terms of grand slams.

Make no mistake about it, if this match is to happen it will be huge. If Rafa should beat Roger then all the excuses Federer fans have used over the years for the negative head-to-head will basically come apart. Rafa’s domination of Roger will then be basically undeniable, and it won’t help his GOAT status one bit. It will be hard to deny the detractors should this happen. However, should Roger win, he will shut the detractors up once and for all. He will have struck a decisive blow to the critics who always bring up the head-to-head issue. Clearly, a Fedal final would be a huge opportunity for Roger. So huge that it has me all excited, even though such a final is not a done deal yet. We Fedfanatics all know how annoying it is that the critics keep bringing up this head-to-head with Nadal issue, and we would like it to end once and for all.

If Roger beats Rafa in the final, all the counter arguments we’ve brought up over the years would turn out to be true, and no one could ever deny it again. It would prove that the head-to-head has been skewed due to the fact that Rafa didn’t make the US Open final more often, and it would once again put Roger ahead in head-to-head meetings both on grass and hard court. The critics have no argument in this case because no one can expect Roger to be the GOAT on all surfaces. Also, Roger would have 17 slams in the bag, while Rafa would still b on 8. It would make it practically impossible for Rafa to ever threaten Roger as a GOAT contender, whereas if he wins he will be within 7 slams of Roger and he will have the head-to-head argument in his favor as well. Rafa would then have a realistic chance of becoming the GOAT.

I don’t know if this rivalry will ever end as long as these two guys play, but this could well be the pivotal moment if it is to happen. Roger has a chance to exorcise all the demons from the past right here, in conditions which couldn’t favor him any better, and thereby strike a decisive blow which would once and for all make him the GOAT. I hope he makes use of it.

Or… Roger and/or Rafa will lose before the final and I would have wasted 2 hours of my life ;-)

Roger Federer


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34 Comments

  1. Good post.

    Two things strike me. Firstly for the goatness debate it would be much better for Roger to lose in the semis, than it would be for him to lose in the final to Rafa.

    Which is daft of course. Nobody (wrongly) thinks less of rafa for not making the semi of the US till now (probably) but the defeats for fed in the final of RG count against him in the head-to-head.

    Secondly, if rafa wins he will have beaten fed in every slam final – with Feds only victories being at wimby when rafa was really just starting on grass.

    I agree with what you say about this being a mental battle for Fed. It will be the tennis match of the year without question, and has the potential to be an absolute classic.

    I can hardly wait, but equally I don’t know if I will be able to watch.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes im both excited and nervous for such a final.

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    Fedfan Reply:

    Ah yes, the backwards arguments again.

    Since Rafa is playing first Roger is in a great position! If Rafa wins his match then all Roger has to do is TANK against Djokovic! That will preserve his GOATness forever!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    :lol:

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  2. Roger losing would prove one thing and only one thing: Rafael Nadal is a terrible matchup for Roger Federer and has been since they first started playing. Remember Nadal nearly won all 3 of their first hardcourt meetings when Roger was in his PRIME and Nadal was a teenager!

    So with one US Open win over Roger, Nadal would still have:

    4 fewer US Open titles and 6 fewer US Open finals
    4 fewer Wimbledon titles and 3 fewer Wimbledon finals
    3 fewer Australian Open titles and 4 fewer Australian Open finals

    In fact a win over Federer would prove that Nadal needed a pathetic draw just to make it to the final!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well i explained why i think the match up shouldnt be a problem for Roger here. If anything then it should be the mental issue which began because of the match up issue. But like i said this is a great opportunity for him to overcome that. As far as your stats go, remember Nadal will have chances to improve that in the future, especially if he wins the USO vs Roger. It will make him feel invincible.

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  3. Excellent post Ru-an. I’ve had butterflies in my stomach since the beginning of Roger’s QF match against Soderling. On the other side, I look at it as a fantastic opportunity to shut these so called “experts” – you know who they are – who think and believe Roger is not capable of beating Rafa in a GS again. It would make my day/week/year when (notice I didn’t say if!) Roger beats Rafa this Sunday.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Same here zbrain, it would mean a lot.

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  4. Hmmm– I was reluctant to post because I don’t want to assume anything at this point. BUT should we have this final, I have to say the end result is unknown. What I do know is that both men will be nervous, not just about facing each, but about facing up to the promise of the occasion. For me, the deciding factor will be the length of the matches they play in the semis (assuming they win–unlike ruan, i do think that matters—last year, federer was visibly exhausted at the end of the 5th set against del potro, something he would never admit, but i was at the final, and you could see it in his movement) and the weather conditions on sunday. windy, rainy conditions create disarray and these two guys have shown great skill but the conditions will make a different.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Rafa had to play the second semi in Australia last year the day before the final while Roger had a day off. It was a marathon, yet he still won the final in 5 sets the next day. I dont wana hear any more excuses. Excuses beforehand is a sign of weakness and doubt. Maybe his fans can afford that but he cant.

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    Jiten Reply:

    Cannot agree more. If one has to win a title, he has to defeat all the seven opponents on the other side of the net in order to win a grand slam. And it’s a new day; there is no guarantee that what happened on other days will apply to today as well.

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    k Reply:

    Actually in A.O. 2009 Nadal’s match finished on 3 A.M. on Saturday and he played final on Sunday. So, on paper, the had a day off but Roger had 1 more day to rest as he played his semi final on Thursday.

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  5. The problem with the pressure of a Fedal final is that, looking back, we know Federer hasn’t dealt with it well enough. Especially in AO 2009, which he really wanted, he couldn’t break through Nadal’s defiance and gave up in the end. I hope Federer will find a solution, maybe Annacone has one…

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  6. Really what a disappointed post.At least you have to
    admit all the pressure is on Roger´s shoulders.He will
    have to prove that he can beat Nadal in a G.S.final.
    I have faith, confidence and love for Roger, he will do it again.
    How about thinking a win in the S.F.and a terrific win in the final?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Why do you think its a disappointed post?

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  7. Ru-an–point well taken. Positive thinking and may the best man win. I think (like Federer), we fans have to be as relaxed as possible. That’s when he will play his best tennis, and we will have less stress-attacks!

    What do you make of Fernando Verdasco saying that Federer is the favourite? This seems to be the Spanish sports way–Nadal claiming he is an underdog (even at the French!).

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Verdasco actually has been good with predictions, so i hope he is right again. I dont think its playing the underdog. Believe me when i say im not relaxed about this either, but i am also excited.

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    ines Reply:

    Because we fans have to be positive.I don´t even like to speak about Nadal, but if he wins, we will be avalanched by all the “Now is the Greatest player of all times”prematurity that happened after Nadal beat Roger at Wimby.Forget that Roger still have 7 more slams and some of the most awesome records in tennis that Nadal isn´t even close to.The thought of it really makes me sad for Roger and that´s why I hope he wins.
    I get sick reading all your doubts, no fear!,we fans have to believe in Roger.It´s to soon to sweep Roger´s legacy under the rug, but that´s just what the media will do.Roger knows this and he will do his best.This is a different time.If you only look at the dark side of things you will never see the light.No worries he will get to the finals and give us the dream match we all want.GO ROGER!!!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Sick of reading my doubts? Thats funny.

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  8. Why are we bringing back the GOAT debate again? Fed is playing really great post-Wimby. After five matches in the US open, his form, in my opinion is even better than AO2010 at the same juncture. Let’s just try to enjoy his beautiful game till it lasts; his current form suggests that it going to last at least for a little while (at least for two more matches!). Why worry about who is the GOAT? Who knows, may be after 15-20 years, there will be somebody with more GS titles than Fed. Just hit the iron when it is hot; enjoy the beauty of FEDEX TENNIS till it is available to us. We are extremely fortunate to be watching tennis in an era while this genius, a rare species in Tennis is playing. There never was and never will be a player as graceful as Fed. No one can take that away from Roger!!

    About about his mental blockade against Rafa, obviously Paul is there for some reasons; not just to make him adjust to new tennis tactics that are purely physical. I am sure by now they have discussed enough of tackling Rafa (if at all he makes to the finals, I am still hoping Mikhail stops him right at the semis). Of course, we have to take one match at a time.

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  9. I almost whole-heartedly agree with Jiten. I want to further add that it is no use putting ghee on fire before tha match. If people think that the loss to Rafa in USO finals should erase all what Roger has given to tennis fans all around the world, then I am sorry I am not with them. Let us not forget that Nadal is also a very good player and even a person of less ability can win with be it Federer or Nadal on a good day, does that diminish the greatness of Federer or even Nadal? 23 consecutive GS semifinals, 5 consecutive GS wins at two different surfaces for Federer,81 consecutive clay court match wins and adjustment for different surfaces to beat the GOAT for Nadal are achievements of these players that cannot be overlooked.

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  10. When Agassi won the Career Slam, did anyone say he then had to go beat Pete Sampras at Wimbledon AND the US Open for those accomplishments to mean something? Nope, they absolutely did not.

    So why does Roger with a Career Slam AND the most Grand Slams (twice as many as Agassi) have to beat Nadal in another Grand Slam final?

    This mindset means that Nadal isn’t going for the Career Slam, he’s going for the Career Federer! And Federer only has one leg of the Career Nadal! This is garbage.

    McEnroe beat Borg at Wimbledon and the US Open. Borg beat McEnroe only at Wimbledon. Did that make McEnroe the superior player? Nope!

    Roger winning the French Open AND passing Sampras was supposed to shut people up. That meant Roger accomplished everything. Now all of a sudden people are acting as though these accomplishments should be taken away if Roger can’t beat Nadal.

    (so he better lose to Djokovic on purpose today if Youzhny doesn’t beat Nadal again!)

    P.S. Injured/skinny Nadal of 2009 would make the final with the draw he had this year!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    That is all well and good. But you seem to say that this match would have no significance at all. That is simply not true. It is loaded with significance and holds a huge opportunity for Roger. To deny the significance of this match is to deny him that opportunity.

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    Fedfan Reply:

    Of course I’d love to see Fed beat Rafa in a Slam final and break the Open era record for most US Opens. Trust me. I would scream the roof off the house!

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    Fedfan Reply:

    P.S. Wouldn’t it be funny if it winds up being a Youzhny/Djoker final?! Sort of like AO 08 when instead of Fed/Nadal we got Djoker/Tsonga!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    No it wouldnt. Would be huge anti-climax.

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  11. To Ruan who says whether the win for Federer will not have any significance, it will definitely have,but the loss will not be so terrible as to deny Federer the place in history that he has deservedly earned with so many years of excellent and consistent play.Why should he be put on so much pressure for one final so as not to let him play freely? Only letting him do that will enable him to produce a better result

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  12. Fed is really testing the waters here. Djokovic is playing with confidence and Fed appears to be spraying the balls all over. Not sure what’s going on–the conditions are perfect for tennis. He seems distracted/tense/ and not hitting the ball freely.
    score 1 set apiece with Fed losing 1-6 in the second.
    Whew. Hope this ends well!!

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  13. Now that Fed lost–can you explain what happened? Everything that he had been doing well earlier appeared to disappear. Unforced errors, and most importantly, that elusive breakpoint conversion when he had match points. Can he recover from this loss or are we seeing the reign of Federer at Slams be routinely challenged? I think Fed will bounce back but his bad play today was inexplicable.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I can explain it. He was scared of Nadal.

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    TD Reply:

    Totally agree. He didn’t really want to reach the final or at least he wanted an excuse.

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  14. Too much pressure on Roger today.The match has really been about Roger going out and in of his game.Perhaps it´s better.This may be it´s the best scenario,it´s so sad.How will he make the final playing like this.You were right, we have wasted time, and Djoko was underestimated.Is Nadal yet in Roger´s head?

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  15. Can I just say how unfair it is that Roger can have the Career Slam AND more Slams than anyone and still be forced to feel this bit of INSANE pressure to beat one player? It’s not fair.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Tennis isnt fair.

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