Federer Defeats Nadal Again at Long Last in Basel

As I expected it turned out to be a close match but, of course, I gave Nadal the edge and Federer ended up winning 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in what was a good contest. So all credit to Federer for proving me wrong and getting another win over Nadal at long last and in doing so winning his seventh Basel title and sixth title of the year. It hasn’t at all been a bad year for him. He just came up short again when it mattered most.

With this confidence boosting victory, he will also be a big factor in the remainder of the indoor season in Paris and London. His draw is Paris is good so he should try to make the final there at least.

As far as the match goes the opening three games made you think that we will see the usual result from a Fedal encounter because Federer went to deuce on his serve while Nadal held serve easily. But Federer soon hit his stride and played some very nice tennis.

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As you would expect, he was the one who looked comfortable on the fast indoor courts while Nadal was on the defense most of the time. Federer broke serve in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and he broke Nadal again in the ninth game to win the opening set 6-3.

In the second set, he looked in control the whole time while Nadal was the one under pressure on serve. So it was against the run of play when Nadal broke serve in the eleventh game to take a 6-5 lead. He proceeded to hold serve and all of a sudden Fedfans were fearing the worst again.

At least Federer was serving first in the deciding set which was a slight advantage. He broke Nadal in the eighth game after a loose game from Nadal where he made two uncharacteristic unforced errors late in the game to take a 5-3 lead.

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Federer still had to hold serve to clinch the victory which was never going to be easy given he was up against his nemesis. On one match point, he served an ace which got called out but Layani overruled it to add some more to the drama. Then on the next point Nadal had a very good look at a passing shot but Federer guessed the correct side which was huge.

On the second match point, Nadal sent a return long to the great relief of Federer and his fans.

  • What Does It Mean?

Not much, really. It basically means that Nadal does not utterly own Federer which would have been the case if he defeated him in Basel as well. Federer has over the years gotten some key wins over Nadal so although I thought Nadal would win today, I shouldn’t be all that surprised.

A sixth consecutive loss to Nadal in his own country after having his best year since 2012 with the way Nadal has been playing this year would have meant the rivalry was truly dead and buried. Now at least the rivalry is on life support, as opposed to flatlining.

There never was much for Federer to gain in this match as far as the rivalry goes. It was in Basel on a court that suits his game to the T so if there is one match where he is still the favorite to beat Nadal it was there. The only thing Federer had to gain from this match was to prove that the ownage is not complete.

I’m kind of happy about it because that would have pretty much ended all Federer’s hopes of being the GOAT. Nadal would have owned him so utterly that no unbiased person would have called him the GOAT. At least now he is still in the conversation, but of course if Djokovic catches up with him he will be surpassed due to his head-to-head with Nadal.

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I am also glad about this result because it makes tennis more interesting. If Nadal won the rivalry would have been well and truly dead. Now at least there would still be a reason to watch any future meetings.

For Federer to make any kind of serious statement in the rivalry he would need to win a slam meeting. But even then the slam head-to-head would still be 9-3 in Nadal’s favor. I don’t see it happening anyway if he can hardly beat Nadal in Basel. It will now also be very interesting to see what happens if they meet in London.

It’s highly unlikely that they will meet in Paris as they are in opposing halves. In London, the courts are much slower than in Basel so probably Nadal becomes the favorite again there, but then again I said the same thing about Basel which is why it will be interesting.

In the end I am happy for Federer because seriously, losing even in Basel to Nadal? That would have been a bit rough for a player with his record. It would have been another terrible stain on his legacy after all the losses he already suffered to Nadal. It’s good to see him regain some pride at least if nothing else.

  • What Is Left of the Tennis Season

So we are into the final stretch of the tennis season with only Paris and the grand finale left in London(Davis Cup too but I couldn’t care less about it). The eight players who will be present in London have also been decided with Ferrer and Nishikori taking the remaining spots.

In the end, Nadal qualifies in the fifth spot which is almost surprising after the year he had. And he isn’t done. He could still be a factor in Paris and London. The Basel final loss was another very good result for him, especially after coming back in the second set and making it a very close match.

Let’s get real. He has never passed the quarterfinals in Basel and he came very close to winning it on the worst possible surface for his game. Even at his very best it is doubtful whether he could have done that so he is right there with his game.

Finally, Djokovic will be back this week and so will Murray. Djokovic will be fresh again after his exploits in Asia and history is now beckoning. It should be a very interesting last couple of tournaments. Djokovic has the opportunity to become the first man to win six Masters titles in a calendar year.

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Given the court speed, you wouldn’t bet against him doing it. The court speed does not particularly favor Federer and the run in Basel will likely take a physical toll on him. Three out of his five matches went the distance and the final could have been particularly taxing.

Even if Federer doesn’t win another title this year this title and the fact that he defeated his nemesis is a good end for him. Of course, losing early in Paris or suffering more losses to Djokovic and Nadal in London is not going to help his cause but if I was him or his fans I’d already be happy with his year.

Sure he lost the two big ones but he is 34 after all. The limelight now belongs to Djokovic and if he wins Paris and London he will clock the best tennis season in history. The rest of the big four will do their best to stop him which will make the next three weeks a fun time in tennis.

  • Highlights

The is in your court.

Posted in ATP 500, Basel.

30 Comments

  1. Agree with your assessment. For me, this match showed that Federer is psychologically fine to take on Nadal, just his problem in this match up is his backhand. Nadal strategy was to pound the backhand with top spin, which did not work as intended for 2 reasons: 1) Low bouncing surface, 2) Federer’s much improved backhand that can hurt you (he looked from backhand side more like Wawrinka). Federer also served very well and was mentally strong. Overall, this is great news for tennis as nothing remains static and players continue pushing each other. Federer will be encouraged to continue playing and I look forward seeing more encounters between Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. It is great fun.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey, George, I’m sorry you lost money on this match again. I certainly think there is an argument for Federer not being psychologically strong enough to take on Nadal. The match-up does not help, but he has definitely flat out choked many times against Nadal.

    The match-up can’t always be used as an excuse. Federer has been more prone to choke against other players as well like Djokovic for instance. So yeah, I don’t think he is mentally up there with Djokodal which is why Nadal owns him and why Djokovic is starting to do the same.

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    George Reply:

    I like to put some money to have more fun when I watch the game. I thought that Federer was mentally just fine yesterday. Regarding “choking” against Djokovic/Nadal, I think that it is more about strategy of these two to pound Federer’s backhand in crunch times. I think that Fed’s backhand is his biggest problem when he play Nadal and Djokovic. This probably affects his confidence as he is aware of his Achilles heel.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Call it what you like. Mental or technical weakness. It comes to the same. It’s a weakness. It’s not like Nadal doesn’t have weaknesses in his game. Why didn’t Federer expose them? Nadal owns him and that it is all there is to it.

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    George Reply:

    It is a relative weakness; weakness for that level. I think that the only player without a weakness that can be exploited at the highest level is Djokovic. Even with Nadal, you know that he can’t do the same thing on backhand and forehand (while Djokovic can). Nevertheless, I was impressed by both players yesterday. By Federer for trying to beat Nadal and by Nadal for playing under conditions unfavourable for his game and still hoping to win.

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  2. Let’s not kid ourselves. There is not a big four in tennis anymore. There is a big one. Then three others. Then the rest of the pack.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well said, Eric. Fedal is still playing at a high level, but Djokovic is now simply better. Murray was never quite there with the big three. Djokovic winning the USO was the big one. There is no stopping him now.

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    Ben Chia Reply:

    Nice short write up Ru-an. Fed really needed this one. Psychologically, Fed still had a mountain to over come despite all the new changes, adaptations to his game. The h2h don’t lie, Nadull is in his head all the time. So to pull this off was big. I’m still very much a fed fan but even for me, I thought Nadull had him by the balls after winning the second set. The GOAT debate would certainly have been over. Kudos to our champ for fighting through.

    You know I respect Nole’s game a lot, but I wanna see “old” fed lift WTF one more time while he still can. Paris should be Nole’s given how much is on the line. Nadull just need to lose 1 more match to complete #Rafa-Zero-Zero prediction for the year. Hope it comes quickly. No, I don’t like to see Nadull play better and stronger. Let him lose in first round for all I care :-)

    @Eric, yeah man. Its speaks volumes that Nole is so far ahead of the pack. The GOAT debate can be revisited if he brings over 70% of his 2015 form to next year. God forbid, if he actually wins Paris and WTF. HIs confidence will sky rocket and his nemesis (honestly only 3) will feel the pressure. His bid for GOAT will be super legit. After a season like 2015, what’s left to prove? Calendar slam anyone?

    Cheers! Great Tournament coverage ru-an. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    You’re welcome BC. Glad you enjoyed it. It was fun. Far as Paris goes there is more on the line for Djokovic in London. He already has won more Masters this year than Federer did in 2006. If he wins the WTF that would probably give him the best tennis season in history. So I think that is where he will bring his best game. His draw in Paris looks pretty good too though with tired Federer in the other half. Maybe Stan can trouble him if he gets by Nadal. Otherwise, it’s hard to see him being stopped.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    Ben Chia, I am amazed that Fed is still playing at this level at 34. That, to me is part of the ultimate GOAT debate as well. And this debate should not happen until all of these guys retire. I finally got to watch the match this morning and thought that both guys played high quality tennis and both guys suffered from nerves at crunch time. At 4-3 in the 3rd if felt like neither of them could avoid the panicked errors. And that is the biggest difference between where they are and where Djoko is. I mean, Roger is number 2 in the world and has a pretty easy time beating just about everyone on the planet. At 34 that’s insane. But in the biggest moments of the biggest matches, his confidence falters while Novak digs in and raises his level even higher. I think George mentioned above that he’s still a Fed Fad and so am I. I read somewhere that he was set on his schedule for 2016 and thinking about 2017 which makes me very happy.

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    George Reply:

    Federer is not my favourite player due to some issues unrelated to his tennis skills. However, from a pure tennis prospective, I believe that Federer has massively improved (backhand and net anticipation) and plays better than ever. This is not so surprising (see also Karlovic, Lopez, Wawrinka) and we will watch more battles involving him, Nadal and Djokovic.

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  3. Haha Fed Fan not Fed Fad…. classic typo.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    =)) Brilliant!

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    Knew you would love that one – haha. Freudian typo – hahahaha

    [Reply]

    Jiten Reply:

    What about Fed Fade for all the nay sayers who desperately wants him to FADE? ~x( Again, great analysis Ru-an. You still have a soft corner for your old love, don’t you? :-S ( I hope that corner does not harden much :-P ) There were some brilliant shot-making in the final and the net play by Fed was exemplary, particularly in those clutch situations. This really proves that he should have never abandoned that strategy in his earlier encounters against Dull where he would apply it in experimental basis and then, once Dull starts passing him, completely jettison it. Even in this match, on couple of occasions, he was hesitating and did not come to the net at the opportune time and paid the price for the delay.

    Wow, tennis is getting more interesting with the old man still very much in the pack. :-bd

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks, Jiten. I enjoyed the way Roger played. But these are fast indoor courts so I don’t know if the volleying would have worked so well on other surfaces.

    [Reply]

    Jiten Reply:

    I completely agree that the net approach may not work on other surfaces. But tactically, this match was much different from the past matches between them. In an analysis (which in my opinion is much better than Craig O’Shannessy’s brain game in the ATP site) at another blog, I found a very interesting piece of information (observation). Out of 61 backhand returns on Dull’s serve, Fed used the slice return only twice. If one goes by the patterns of their previous matches, Dull should have been expecting a lot of sliced returns falling pretty short on the other side of the net which he could pounce on very easily. As such, his was a real surprise for him, which shows that for this particular match, Fed and Co. definitely had a game plan . Hopefully his team can work out some strategy for the slower surfaces as well. As someone has pointed out here, Fed’s problem against Dull is not necessarily mental, it is more tactical in nature.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I beg to differ. I think the fact that he let Nadal off the hook in the past by choking is what complicated the rivalry for him. You can have the best tactics in the world but if you are not clutch enough when it matters they won’t do you much good. It’s too late to be worrying about tactics now. He blew it too many times in the past. Nadal owns him.

    About the comment thing, I don’t know what to tell you. There is a box in my comment settings where I can put someone’s details if I want someone’s comment to be held for moderation and your details are NOT there. So I have no idea why your comment is held in moderation. The only thing I can suggest is trying to use a different email or IP address.

    [Reply]

    Jiten Reply:

    It may be so because I use different IPs as I use all the three different devices at my disposal to make comments at different times.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes, I guess that is the reason. You may want to try using one email with one IP address.

    [Reply]

    Jiten Reply:

    I use the same email for all three IPs. Do you suggest I use different email ids for different IPs?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Definitely.

    [Reply]

  4. I’m very happy about this victory, and it was about time too after an eternity since he last beat Nadal. Though we (Fed Fads :)) ) shouldn’t get too carried away. It’s just one match, and in these conditions he has always been able to beat Nadal. It changes nothing as far as the rivalry and lopsided H2H stats are concerned. Ru-an is absolutely right, Nadal still owns him. It would take a few slam victories (preferably outside Wimbledon) against Nadal to really change anything as far as their rivalry is concerned from a historical perspective, and I think that train has sailed.

    But not to be a downer. A win over his dominator is always good for confidence. Might give him that extra belief he needs if they were to meet in Melbourne in a couple of months. I’m certainly a lot more optimistic ahead of that possibility now than I was a few days ago.

    I’ll be following Paris and WTF with great interest. All the discussion over the years, about how much Nadal’s ownership of Federer affects his GOAT status may soon become irrelevant if Djokovic cleans up all the big events and continues to dominate next year in the same way.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi BE. Yes, this win for Federer does make things more interesting for Paris and the WTF. It’s more interesting for me too when Fedfans are involved and believes in their player. In that sense, this was an important victory for Federer. This will help him believe that he is still good enough to win big titles and to keep going. I want to see many more meetings between him, Djokovic, and Nadal.

    [Reply]

  5. WTF round robins don’t count towards H2H numbers do they?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Sure they do.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    Wow, I guess it does. I’m surprised that hasn’t helped Roger with the H2H count over the years but I guess they are never in the same group. Could be different this year and possibly give Roger a couple more wins. Interesting.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    So. A couple hard court wins would put Roger on top in the Fedal non clay H2H. Djoko should easily be past 14 GS’s by 2017. Rafa likely stays at 14. Combine that and Rafa goes from GOAT contender to clay court specialist rarely mentioned except at FO time. Very nice thought indeed.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    They have played many times at the WTF. Five times I think with Federer leading 4-1.

    [Reply]

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