Abdu Dhabi Exho: Nadal def Federer 7-6, 7-6

Happy new year to all my readers! I hope you all had a good Christmas and feels rested and ready for the new year. Personally I’m not quite ready yet. I’m hoping for some more good times before I get fully back to my routine. You would have noticed I didn’t post much of late, because there wasn’t much tennis that interested me and I just wanted to get away from it all anyway. For one thing I don’t like exhos. The ones in Zurich and Madrid was for a good cause, but as far as tennis goes it didn’t deserve my attention. The exho in Abu Dhabi was slightly more meaningful since it was only one match and someone actually had to win it. Still, it is just an exho and hard to know whether it tells us anything at all. I tried to catch some of it on live stream, but of course my connection doesn’t allow me to catch much of it.

From what I saw though it was pretty disappointing from Roger if you assume that he was playing serious. But that is all it is; an assumption. In the first set tie break he led 3-0 with two serves to come, and then it seemed like the old Fedal dynamic was coming into play where Roger pretty much chokes it away. He lost both serves and from there on he was always going to go down. He kept missing regulation shots at important times, which was never gonna get the job done. On the flip side, he looked like he was disinterested and basically just trying a few things out there for practice. His on court demeanor was one of complete disinterest, bordering on disgust. It looked like he didn’t want to be out there. It is very hard to know what it means, which is why I dislike exhos. You don’t know how serious the players are.

They are just there for the money that gets thrown at them while they use it as a warm up event. I think R0ger may just be a little tired of playing against Nadal of late. It was the fourth time in a row they faced off, and even though three of it were exhos, I think he feels he won the one that counted and he doesn’t want to expand unnecessary energy trying to beat Nadal in an exho. In hindsight I have to say that this result means nothing. Or at least you can’t draw any certain conclusions from it. Roger clearly wasn’t into the match. If there is such a thing as a good loss then this was it. Giving Nadal a false sense of confidence can work out in his favor when they face again in Doha or the Australian Open. I would be very surprised if Roger is this disinterested when they meet in a meaningful event.

We have seen Roger collapsing mentally against Nadal before, so it’s not out of the question. But I’m not gonna draw that conclusion from a silly exho match. The bottom line is Roger won the last important meeting that they had and that counts for much more than a meaningless exho. Next up is Doha which starts this coming week. They will have a good chance of meeting again in the final. You can see the draw here. There isn’t really someone in that draw who should trouble either of them too much. If they meet in the final then it should tell us a bit more about the state of the rivalry. It will count towards the h2h which means it should be taken seriously. Roger can’t afford to let Nadal open the gap in the h2h any more and give him any mental edges before Oz. That is my opinion anyway.

It doesn’t mean it will determine who will win the AO, but at least I’d like to see a bit more interest from Roger than in Abu Dhabi. Surely if he beats Nadal in Doha it will give him a boost going into the AO. I think most people assume that if the two meets in the AO final again then Roger is the one with something to prove, given the history of the rivalry. Nadal leads the h2h in slam finals 5-2, with a crushing victory over Roger in the AO ’09 final. Therefor I feel like Roger should try to get any mental edge he can possibly get going into another Fedal slam final. A win against Nadal in Doha could just be the boost he needs to topple Nadal in a slam final again. But first they both have to make the final. At least Roger has already gotten off to a better start than he did in 2010 when he lost to Soderling in Abu Dhabi, this time beating him in the same round.

Lets hope it continues to get better!

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18 Comments

  1. When Federer wears his Rolex on court, he’s playing at 65-70%. It’s conceivable that there was a toss-up on who would win this exhibition event and Nadal called right. We don’t know yet. Despite the loss, it’s good for federer and Annacone to make the best of it and step it up in Melbourne. AO 011 will be awesome for tennis fans who will be looking to see if Federer can play spoiler like Nadal did to prevent Federer from winning the Slam on two occasions.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good point about the Rolex Bragi. Thats always a giveaway.

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  2. Every time I see Federer with his watch on, I take the performance with a ton of salt. The ‘win’ by Rafa meant nothing. I think Fed was probably just glad to have a hitting partner who could return the ball better than some junior, and glad to get the chance to try out some things he normally might not get to work on during a ‘real’ tournament. From the sounds of his interview postmatch, he didn’t seem too distressed.

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  3. Personally, I detest exhibition matches: they are about as real as the Harlem Globetrotters. The score should mean something yet it’s quite apparent that the first two matches between Federer and Nadal were predetermined. The third? Well, it’s ‘so what’. Australia will be the proof of whether Roger has really got his game back on track or the win over Nadal at the WTF was only a false dawn. In the meantime, choking two tie-breakers against Nadal hardly goes down as ‘entertainment’ in my books.
    Ruan, by the way, there were no ‘freaks of nature’ in the pre-steroid era: there were only great athletes. So if anyone is doing what you find hard to believe then I would advise a healthy dose of scepticism. All of today’s athletes are exceptionally talented, highly trained and with all the advantages that modern science can legitimately give them. The difference between them (as athletes) should be a virtual photo-finish. If it isn’t then be prepared for another explanation.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Agree about exhos. Total rubbish.

    As for the doping it must be said that it is incredible that Nadal can keep up with a god like Federer. When it comes to god given talent he is nowhere near close to him. I wouldnt be surprised if Nadal is indeed doping. Having said that, doping or no doping, Nadal seems to be better in the mental department. He is just incredibly clutch, while Roger has had his chokes. And yes i am skeptical because the ATP doesnt leave me any choice.

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  4. Until Nadal came along Federer was the best tie-break player I had seen, and some of his predecessors were damn good, like Sampras, and Borg before him (and ‘Johny Mac’ in the greatest tie-break of them all, the 20-18 tie-break in the 4th set of the 1980 Wimbledon final). Tie-breaks often defined champions. I recall Sampras playing Krajicek in the ’97 Australian Open. In the 4th set tie-break Krajicek shot away to a seemingly impossible lead, even for Sampras: Krajicek was the then reigning Wimbledon champion and one of the biggest servers in the game. At 6-0 he sent a huge first serve into Sampras’s forehand. It came back as a clean winner down the line. Krajicek didn’t win another point, and at 8-6 the tie-break – and the match – was over.
    Roger at his peak has often been able to conjure up the same extraordinary ability to create and execute the vital shot needed to win the critical tie-breaks. In the clutch, his game would go to another level that his opponent just couldn’t match. It was frequently a demonstration of outrageous talent, inspiration and mental focus. Tie-breaks, if they reveal anything about a player, are a measure of mental toughness. That is why Nadal is so good. He rarely wins the important tie-breaks on moments of flair or exceptional shot-making. He simply refuses to miss and so imposes the intolerable burden on his opponent to hit the winner – again and again. As painful as it can be to watch, the Federer of today seems reduced to the same level as everyone else when he faces Nadal in a tie-breaker: he misses – again and again. Watching him in a tie-breaker now I am as nervous as a kitten.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    True Neil. It did concern me the way Roger just went away in that 1st set breaker. Even though its just an exho, why allow Nadal to repeat what he did in the past? That will only reinforce to him that he still has the mental edge in the clutch moments. If you take the WTF, the deciding set was not close at all. So there was no need for clutch play. Roger blitzed Nadal. My worry is that when it gets close, which it will in Doha or the AO, that Roger will fold again.

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  5. Happy New Year, Ru-an. Here’s to hoping for a wonderful 2011 season for Federer.

    If he’s earned anything by winning 16 majors, it’s the indulgence and understanding of his fans, so I’m planning to just be patient and enjoy what he brings us.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Steve. Well i am hoping he doesnt lose in another AO final to Nadal. That would suck for his legacy and give Nadal the ‘Nadal slam’, something he could never achieve because NAdal stopped him on something like 3 occasions. It would also go a long way towards settling the GOAT debate, even though Nadal would still be 6 slams short.

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  6. Hi Ru-an! Am wishing you a Happy New Year, 2011, may your blog be a continued success with all the lively conversations going on. Wishing and hoping for a good year ahead for Roger and his team. Agree with your last statement….Nadal is mentally very strong, Roger needs to step up his killer instinct to surpass him and WIN.
    I shall always be his loyal fan with best of wishes, he still is the BEST.
    Cordially,
    Dolores

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Dolores, all of the best to you in the year as well. Always nice to know you are still around.

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  7. “I think Paul integrated extremely well into the team, and makes it fun to come up with new ways trying to beat an opponent, and maybe showed me also some ways that I didn’t know about how you could beat the opponent, or show me some weaknesses of opponents that maybe are not so visible but that he’s seen. Those I’m able to exploit now a bit more maybe.” Roger Federer.

    Sounds promising, don’t you think?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    We will see how promising it sounds when he faces Nadal in a grand slam final and crunch time arrives.

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  8. Happy New Year Ru-an.

    Am watching the latest XO now and I can’t believe how well Roger is striking the ball from both ‘wings’! Backhand crosscourt looks deadly.
    As for the result I agree that it means nothing. I share ur concerns about whether Roger can beat Nadal if it gets to 4-4 in a 5th set. I also agree that Nadal must be the most clutch player in history. He just doesn’t fold under the pressure- which is actually weird considering that he has all those weird nervous tics so u’d think he’d be fragile mentally.
    Roger clearly didn’t care about the match and used a minimal amount of effort- Nadal went all guns firing and concnetrated hard throughout. Rafa must try to win every game he plays- he even gives 100 percent in all the 250 tournaments- which Roger hasn’t done for years….. Which is why Nadal gets injured so often! He just can’t ease back.
    So I’m pretty happy with how Roger played in this tourny and I’m also not too bothered how Roger does in Doha- he might want to go out early to get more rest before aussie open.
    Anyways- let’s see what 2011 brings for us Fed fans- such a blessing to be alive during this golden era of tennis :-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Andrew. Its been nice having you here. You bring a freshness and positivity to this blog. Im glad you think his shots were looking good, even though he faltered in the tie breaks. He has the Rolex on so i guess we just cant take it seriously.

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  9. Ru-an, The Rolex is a dead give-away (but so was Nadal wearing his watch). But if you watched the match, you can see Nadal was dead serious and last thing he wants to do is to lose to Federer (although he gave 2 big smiles on 2 occasions during the match). He is in his prime and he is out to prove he is equal or better than Federer. Hence we can’t compare him and Roger’s passion/fighting spirit/clutch/motivation/will to win, etc. Although Roger dislikes losing to lesser players so many times last year and to Nadal numerous times, I think when it comes to the crunch, he would try his best to win and if he doesn’t, he would feel extremely disappointed but then he gets over it because he has said so many times himself already that he is about the long term, the big picture. It’s this “security” that he has in him which is frustrating to fans who wants him to win at all costs. Yet, it is this security which defines him and makes him stand out from the other players. He is such a killer, yet such a gentleman and yet so at peace if he loses – this defines Roger Federer. From the match, I can also see he is playing quite relaxed and with such a relaxed attitude, he brought Nadal (who was putting in his 101% as usual) to tie-breakers! I would say Roger, with his new awareness brought on by Paul Anncone, is better than Nadal and can beat him everytime. Why he doesn’t is he is not used to playing clutch, not used to be tested all the time, again and again and again. He is used to effortless playing. When he is tested, he sort of gives up/chokes after a few tries. What Paul maybe need to grind into his head is to embrace grinding matches out, clutching every point, being merciless, every point matters, forget what he has achieved, as if he never won a slam. If he goes into a match thinking like this, NO ONE can touch him. But the sad thing is, I don’t think he wants to. He wants to enjoy his last tennis years and when he feels it takes too much from him physically and mentally to win, subconsciously or consciously, he gives up. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win because I believe why he wants to continue playing is not only because he enjoys tennis but he enjoys winning as well. But I feel, nowadays, he tries his best but he picks and chooses what he wants to win. If he does win, he is very happy and it adds to his history. But if he doesn’t win, it doesn’t make his history worse and I don’t think he would be too heart-broken if Nadal equals or replaces him as goat; and he goes on to the next match, challenging himself, enjoying himself and just proving to himself. Sometimes, I think he is just too bloody secure, that’s the trouble! Lol! But again he wouldn’t be Federer if he’s any different. Meanwhile, I also sense he has a real liking for Nadal. He genuinely likes the guy, even like a little fond of him too! And he doesn’t seem to mind being beaten by Nadal. Nadal, on the other hand, is so different and just loves beating Roger. Anyway, as his fans, as Steve says, we just hope for more wins than losses in every match he goes into, enjoy him while he is still playing, support him always and allow him to call his own shots. He’s always called his own shots, been his own boss. Who are we fans to boss him around now?! Lol! Happy New Year and keep up the good work, Ru-an!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good point Veronica. Lets face it, Roger have set up records that Nadal will never chase down. But im not gonna say it wont bother me slightly if Nadal does happen to chase down his slam record. I mean to have it chased down so soon after he set it up wont look good, and slams are the most important criteria for determining GOATness. Also, Nadal has the h2h against Roger that counts in his favor. At the moment its still fine, but if he keeps beating Roger in slam finals its wont be pretty. Nadal still has a lot of work left to do anyway so no need to stress about tomorrow.

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  10. Happy New Year Ruan! Exhos – I hate it sometimes and occassionally I love it. Hate it coz sometimes we over analyse Federer’s performance at exho. Love it as not too many tennis fans can afford to watch tennis ‘live’. Exho is the closest some fans get to watch top players. We will just have to bear more exhos with Nadal absolutely wanting to win every single match. Doesn’t he gets tired to push himself so hard?

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