Before I proceed with my post, let me just say I have really enjoyed reading your comments and taking part in the discussion. My blog wouldn’t be the same without it so thank you for taking part. I have also enjoyed watching this Australian Open a lot as well as writing about it. The remaining quarter finals were concluded today and as was pretty much expected, it will be the top four competing for a final spot again. These four guys are just so far ahead of the rest, and they must be the strongest top four in the history of the sport. I like to see them in the semis, but the Federer/Djokovic and Nadal/Murray match ups started to get a bit redundant. It is a fresh change to have a Fedal and Djokoray semi. I hope to see that happen more often in the future. Before I get to the semi-final previews, let me just go over the remaining quarter final matches that were concluded today.
The Murray/Nishikori match was very one-sided, with Murray winning 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. Not much to say here aside from the fact that Murray is looking dangerous. His draw has been a bit of a joke but he hasn’t been troubled in the least and must still be very fresh. Nishikori on the other hand must have been pretty spent after a bunch of tough matches. Will the fact that Murray has not been tested so far, come back to haunt him? I don’t think so. Murray has been looking relaxed since hooking up with Lendl. We may just see a different Murray in his semi against Djokovic. I don’t expect Murray to all of a sudden beat Djokovic after he got destroyed in last year’s final, but this could be a much closer match. I am going to predict that Djokovic will win this one in four. In the last quarter final Djokovic played against Ferrer which Djokovic won 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-1.
It was physically a grueling match even though it just lasted three sets. Ferrer is fit as a dog and never gives up, but in the end Djokovic’s quality was just too much. He played some clutch tennis at crucial stages which made the difference. Ferrer doesn’t have the weapons to hurt Djokovic either. To beat Djokovic just retrieving everything is not enough. You have to be able to hurt him on the offense as well. Roger is basically the only guy that can do this. Although Murray has better offense than Ferrer, I still don’t think it’s good enough to upset Djokovic. Neither his serve nor his forehand is good enough. He does however have a great backhand, he moves very well, and he has good volleys and variation. That’s why I can see him taking a set. But in the end I think Djokovic is just too solid overall. His backhand has always been amazing, but now his serve and forehand has become weapons as well.
Now let me get to the main dish, the much expected Fedal semi. Whenever these two meet in a slam it is a special occasion, and this will be no exception. This will be their 10th meeting in a slam, with Nadal leading the head-to-head 7-2. This is of course not a great record for Roger, but we also know that five of those meeting were on clay. Those five meetings don’t matter much to me as Nadal was expected to win them all. On grass Roger leads 2-1, which is a good record. The one I don’t like is the 1-0 record Nadal has on hard court over Roger. Roger is the best hard court player in history and that loss to Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open final is the one that really hurt. That is the one that has to be reversed here.If Roger beats Nadal he will have a positive head-to-head over Nadal in slams off clay. That is something I will be happy with.
But there is another interesting statistic. Nadal leads Roger 4-1 on outdoor hard, and the only match that Roger won he was down two sets and a break. There is no doubt that at first glance the stats doesn’t look very good for Roger, and that he is up against it here. But that would fail to take into account that Roger has had some telling wins in this rivalry as well. I know many Fedfans will basically assume that Roger is doomed here against his so-called nemesis. This is an attitude that I simply cannot accept. I read in some forums yesterday and I was disgusted at some of the Fedfan attitudes. I have to wonder why these people even call themselves Fedfans. If it is always a forgone conclusion that Roger will lose to Nadal, then why be his fan? I feel like that is a cowardly way to look at it and not worthy of a true Fedfan.
Personally I relish this challenge and I have a great feeling about it. Like I said, Roger has had some key wins in this rivalry, like for instance at the Masters Cup last year. If that win doesn’t give Fedfans hope then I don’t know what will. I mean it was utter destruction. I don’t care about the surface either. If you beat someone that badly it gives you confidence. I feel like Roger is overdue here, and the Masters Cup was a preview of what’s to come. This is Roger Federer the GOAT we are talking about here. It would be a sin to assume that he is going to lose. Especially given his recent form. I mean you couldn’t hope for better form going into this match. Not only did he crush Nadal 6-3, 6-0 at the Masters Cup, but he is on a 24-match winning streak and is playing some incredible tennis in his last three rounds.
But more important than all these stats is my gut feeling. I can’t explain it, but I just have a very good feeling about this match. For one thing I am very excited. You know, I can start naming all the reasons why Roger will once again lose to Nadal, but what’s the point? I would rather name all the reasons why he can win this. Let me first get back to Roger’s match against Del Potro. I already said the game at 5-3 in the second set was key. I think in the last few years Roger has all too often allowed opponents back into the match after having them in trouble. After losing to Djokovic for a second consecutive year in the US Open semis after being two match points up, it was time for introspection. I mean seriously, that is so unlikely to happen that you have to wonder if the tennis gods are trying to tell you something.
Apparently Roger listened to the tennis gods because he took time off thereafter to ask some questions. Ever since then he has not lost a match. I think that may have something to so with the fact that he took a good look at himself. A good example is the Del Potro match. I think in the past he would have lost serve at 5-3 and allowed Del Potro back in the match. You can say the fact that he even got nervous at that point is a sign of mental weakness, but I don’t look at it that way. I see it as the ‘new’ Roger. In that final he lost to Nadal in 2009 he let Nadal back into the match in the third set, and it cost him dearly. Ever since then he kept doing the same thing. I think things have come full circle for Roger now and it is time to put that demon to bed. If he succeeds in doing so we may just see a whole new era of Federer domination.
I know that sounds very optimistic, but I have never believed that Roger’s game has deserted him. Having watched him since the US Open last year I feel his game is as good as ever. The only problem before that was in the mental department. I believe that loss in the 2009 Australian Open final scarred Roger mentally and he wasn’t the same afterwards. The game is no doubt still there, and if he can exorcise that mental demon against Nadal tomorrow, he may just get back to his dominant best. As far as the tactics go we have discussed this many a time. The serve will be key as always. Roger has been serving very well since the indoor season and I expect the same tomorrow. Then on the return he has to take some chances and really try to hurt Nadal. The biggest challenge against Nadal is his retrieving and counter punching abilities.
We saw that against Berdych again. Berdych is one of the biggest hitters on tour, if not the biggest, and yet he found it extremely hard to penetrate the Nadal defense. I mean it is just unreal the balls he gets to and the accuracy with which he returns them. And this is slowish hard courts which makes it even harder to hit a winner against him. This is a reality that can’t be escaped, but if Roger stays patient and doesn’t lose his nerve, his offense is good enough to finish the point. In the past it is just that extra ball which Nadal returns that really gave Roger a headache. If you look at the 2009 final Roger did have chances to put Nadal away in the third set, but he became tentative. There is no doubt in my mind he would have won that match had he not doubted himself. So all he needs to do this time is to push home the advantage.
It’s easier said than done, but since I believe we are seeing a new Roger since the US Open, I believe he will get the job done here. I’m not going to go into anymore tactics here, because as we saw in the 2009 final, Roger does have the game to beat Nadal on this surface. It is more a mental game than anything else. Roger will no doubt get opportunities to take the initiative in this match and then he has to pounce. There will be no place for timidity this time. He will simply have to go out there and take the initiative with both hands. If we know one thing it is that Nadal won’t lose this match, so Roger needs to go out there and win it. I am feeling very positive. I think JesusFed will show up and do what he should have done three years ago.
Roger in 3
Ps: I have created a thread in the forum where you can chat during the Fedal match. I feel there is a need for it because some of you often come to leave comments during or right after matches. You can find the thread here.
Update: I just saw this tweet on twitter by @RF_link and I thought I’d share it with you:
Rod Laver:”I feel in my gut, I feel that Roger will be in the final “
I saw this after I made my post and it kind of surprised me, because I said pretty much the exact same thing in my post.
Laver/Federer interview: Good stuff http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=7501282&categoryid=2491545