Hi folks. With a possible Fedal quarter final match up coming up at the US Open, this rivalry which has been at the forefront of tennis for almost a decade, is on everyone’s mind once more. It is of course far from a certainty that they will meet at the US Open this year, but I have a feeling there is a pretty good chance. Whether they meet or not I wanted to make a post to take a look at where this rivalry is going, because I believe we have reached an important point in it. Even though I think the rivalry is slightly overrated, it has no doubt created a lot of interest in tennis and had a big impact on Roger’s tennis career. First of all I think it is important to realize that Nadal has ultimately been a good thing for Roger. He was the one guy that could force Roger out of his comfort zone when no one else could do it. It made Roger grow as a player because it challenged him.
Since the first time they met in Miami 2004 and Nadal won 6-3, 6-3, he has been Roger’s Achilles’ heel. Roger never really got to grips with Nadal, although he did score some key wins over his great rival. Given what a tough match up Nadal has been for Roger, that was really all that was needed. All players have opponents that they struggle with, and for Roger it happened to be his main rival. The main reason that Roger struggles with Nadal is the fact that Nadal is left-handed and the fact that Roger has a one-handed backhand. Those are not the only reasons however. Nadal has a certain love for the battle that Roger does not have. He thrives under pressure. You have the feeling that even if he was right-handed he would still be a headache for Roger, although to a lesser extent. He just fights for every point, never gives up, and overcomes all obstacles.
Nadal is relentless in that sense and has thus been able to push probably the greatest of all time out of his comfort zone. I mean Roger is in my opinion the most complete player in history, yet Nadal found a way to penetrate this complete game and expose the few weaknesses that there was, namely Roger’s one-handed backhand and his mental fortitude. For lesser pros those ‘weaknesses’ would be a strength, but compared to the rest of Roger’s game they were slight weaknesses which Nadal have exploited to the full. That in itself is a massive achievement. Now the question I want to get to is whether Roger, after all these years which included some brutal losses against Nadal, can still beat Nadal when it matters most. That would definitely be the question if they happen to meet at the US Open this year.
Roger is considered by many to be the GOAT, but many doubt this claim as well due to the way Nadal has dominated the rivalry. If Roger is gonna be the undisputed GOAT, then Nadal is gonna make him deserve it every inch of the way. I read a quote today where Roger says he found a great sense of peace because he doesn’t care what people say anymore. I believe him, but at the same time there has to be a certain amount of discontent inside him about the rivalry with Nadal. Or else it would mean he doesn’t care, and Roger is too competitive for that. And that discontent is necessary because it is part of what keeps him motivated and in the game. It’s not over. Roger didn’t all of a sudden reach a point where he is now totally at peace and just plays for fun. It doesn’t work that way. Even if that appears to be the case by what he says.
Nadal is still a threat to his records and to his legacy, and will continue to be for as long as he plays. You can be sure that Roger is not thinking that the result does not matter in a possible quarter final with Nadal. He may even say it doesn’t matter, but he would know better. If you lose 22/32 matches against your main rival and 9/11 in slams including a loss at every slam it does not look good if you have aspirations of being the GOAT, no matter what spin you put on it. Fedfans will argue that Roger is past prime and therefor a loss to Nadal in New York would not matter. I beg to differ. I bet you Roger wouldn’t think that way. I bet if he comes up against Nadal in New York he would believe he can win, and there would be no excuses on his mind. He can probably find an excuse for every loss he has had to Nadal, but champions don’t think that way.
Looking good at last night’s ATP Heritage Celebration for No.1’s
They know on a given day anyone can beat anyone, and if they show up on the court, then they have to accept whatever the result is. And if there is a doubt in Roger’s mind that he could beat Nadal when it really matters then he has a serious problem. There could be sub-conscious doubts due to all the brutal losses he has suffered to Nadal in the past, but that is not an excuse. A champion has to overcome those demons and find a way. In the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ Muhammad Ali was fighting against George Foreman who was a much stronger fighter and he could easily have felt overwhelmed and caved in, but he hung in there for eight rounds and absorbed the best Foreman could throw at him, until Foreman was utterly spent at which point Ali saw his chance and delivered the knockout blow. Champions find a way against all odds.
They simply refuse to lie down. I feel like it’s almost destiny for Fedal to meet at this year’s US Open. Roger played really well in Cincy and his draw looks generous until the quarters. I think his chances to make the quarters are very good. Nadal on the other hand has been unbeatable on hard court the entire year, and he has just as good a chance to make the last 8. I also feel like such a match would be critical in the Fedal saga. I have already said this, but I think Roger desperately needs a win against his nemesis and I believe he can do it too. You know, it’s not like Roger trails the head-to-head 21-0. I have already said he had some key wins over Nadal. And if he does beat Nadal in a possible US Open quarter final, it would be another key victory. Nadal has now won their last 3 meetings. He has also won the last 5 slam meetings and is starting to run away with the head-to-head.
There is now only one slam left where Nadal hasn’t beaten Roger in, and beating Roger in New York would kind of put the nail in the coffin as far as the rivalry goes. However, should Roger beat Nadal in New York it would go a long way towards reminding everyone that Nadal does not ‘own’ Roger like so many Nadal fans believe. We can then go back to blaming the head-to-head on bad match up, the fact that they played so many times on clay, etc. But I do feel it’s time for Roger to put his foot down in the rivalry like he has done on several occasions in the past. I don’t mean to put pressure on Roger or to have a black or white kind of outlook. If anything this is a positive post, because I’d like to believe Roger can beat Nadal at the US Open, and I realize how much it would mean to him. On the surface it looks like Roger won’t put as much emphasis on this potential meeting.
He never appears to look at things in a black or white way. But I have seen how serious he looked during practice sessions, and I think he realizes that a meeting with Nadal would have much at stake. I also think he can feel that he has reached a potential turning point. It has been a tough year and more than ever people have started writing him off. With his form in Cincy and his draw at the US Open he senses that the tide is turning. I think he is very determined to reach the quarter final, but he doesn’t want to stop there. Yes making quarter finals would be a a decent result, but considering his promising form in Cincy and his disappointing form since Melbourne, it would almost be a disappointment if he loses in the quarters. Just making the quarter final wouldn’t do much in convincing people that Roger is back either.
Roger’s year has been so disappointing as far as the media is concerned, that only a famous win over his nemesis would convince them otherwise. If he beats Nadal it would give him a massive confidence boost and a final spot would be almost guaranteed. Then there is just one match between him and a record 6th US Open crown. It’s not too late to dream. I believe the game is still there. It is a question of putting it all together on a given day and believing. Thinking that Roger will make the quarters of the US Open, never mind beating Nadal, seems almost absurd given how inconsistent he’s been of late. And in a sense it is. Of course there is still the back issue and you never know when it can flare up again. I guess I’m just excited for a change and have a good feeling after Cincy. I hardly expected him to make quarters there, and yet he did more than that by almost defeating Nadal.
I am sensing a certain urgency in Roger. From the pictures I saw of him practicing there is a seriousness about him. Just look at the current picture I have on my top bar. Roger usually looks very relaxed in practice and smiles quite often. Of all the photos I saw he hardly smiled once and he had a stern look on his face. I think he badly wants to prove something in New York. He says he doesn’t care what people think anymore, but why so serious? Even if he won’t admit it must be an awesome feeling proving the critics wrong, something he has done time and time again ever since 2009 when people first started writing him off. That has been my favorite thing about following past prime Roger as a fan, and I guarantee you Roger gets satisfaction from it too. Roger can be a tough guy to read, but every champion enjoys winning.
He can’t still be in the game ‘just for fun’. That is not how the mind of a champion operates. He still wants to win. He still wants to feel the exhilaration of coming out on top and holding a grand slam trophy. He is not playing to make slam quarters or semis or even finals. He is playing to win. In fact I heard him say that just today. So it should be clear what his intentions are. I was going to write about what it would take to beat Nadal at the US Open, but as usual I have so much to say that this post has already become too long. And besides, there is still a long way to go before a Fedal quarter final. I am therefor hesitant to talk about such a match at all, but my question still remains whether Roger still has what it takes to beat Nadal when it really matters. And I think the US Open would provide an opportunity for him to do so, which is why unlike most Fedfans I would like to see them face off.
I will see whether I feel like making a follow up post tomorrow, where I talk about what it would take to beat Nadal if they do happen to meet, and answer the question I put in the subject in a little more detail.
Let me know your thoughts.
Presser: Interesting that Roger says his back bothers him less these days and that it doesn’t affect his focus and concentration during matches anymore. So that should put to bed a lot of the concerns about his back and make fans quit always using it as an excuse when Roger doesn’t perform well.