Sorry for the delay in my post but I had to watch the rerun before I made the post. You just had the feeling Roger would win this one didn’t you? Or at least I did. Many things pointed towards it. Since Wimbledon Roger has been slowly and steadily building his confidence back up which took a dive after a visit to Ethiopia, having just won the Australian Open. His results have been so steady that he was bound to break through and do something special. But this result was never certain. He still had to go out there and win it. It was crucial that he got this win right at the end of the season, and therefor there was a lot of pressure going into this match. Had he not won it, I would personally have called this season a bit of a disappointment. Sure he started off fantastically by winning a slam, but the clay and grass court season was a big disappointment.
And even though he got his act together after Wimbledon, he still lost before the finals of the US Open for the first time in six years. And he did so after having match points. The loss against Monfils in Paris after having match points was yet another big disappointment for me. It was the fourth time this year that he lost after having match points. To be honest I was a bit worried. Had Roger Federer lost his mojo for good? Nothing less than a title at the MC would convince me otherwise, and he had to do so by beating Nadal in the final. I have been building this up for months now. I said I would believe Roger’s mojo is back if he can beat Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal in one event, and that is exactly what he did. He couldn’t have done it in more convincing fashion either, crushing both Murray and Djokovic, and handing Nadal the bread stick in the final yesterday.
That’s right, the GOAT is back in no uncertain terms. He beat Murray 6-4, 6-2, Djokovic 6-1, 6-4, and Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. It doesn’t get any better than that. And that is leaving out the Soderling and Ferrer wins. The final yesterday was high quality stuff as expected. For Nadal to have taken a set off Roger while he is in this mode says something about his level of play too. Roger’s serve was terrific in the first set, and he held his service games with ease. On the return he started off nervous, which was to be expected in a match of this magnitude. Soon he found his range though. His backhand was simply devastating. The point of the match came at 3-2 when there was a long rally with some incredible ball striking. After pushing Nadal around on the baseline, Nadal came up with a backhand of his own which put him in control of the rally again, only for Roger to hit a clean winner off the backhand side.
In the next point there was yet another extended rally which Nadal ended with a huge forehand of his own. Nadal held serve, and in the next game Roger went down 0-30 on his serve. It was his first big test, and he passed it with flying colors, winning the next four points in convincing style. That was the decisive moment of the first set, because in the next game Roger broke serve. He came back from a 40-15 deficit in that game and broke Nadal with a stunning backhand cross court angle which was probably the shot of the match for me. Even the fastest player in the world could not reach it after it dropped inside the service box. Advantage Federer. At 5-3 Roger then served out the first set to love. It was the perfect first set. It was only expected then that his level would drop slightly in the second set and that Nadal would push hard to get back into the match.
I kept telling Roger to just keep it solid and not lose serve. His first serve percentage was dropping though, and you could almost sense the inevitable as Nadal broke in the fourth game to take a 4-1 lead. I was hoping Roger could somehow get the break back, but Nadal wanted none of it. He served out the set at 5-3 to make it one set all. This was probably the most nervous time of the match, knowing that it was a one set playoff for the title. I sensed that Roger would lift his level again however. Nadal was always going to come back in the match, and it was just a question of Roger raising his level again, while it was almost certain that Nadal would not be able to keep his level of the second set. Roger is just impossible to hang with in that form. The fact that Nadal was able to delay the inevitable by taking a set is an achievement in itself.
In the third set Roger’s first serve percentage picked up again which put the pressure right back on Nadal. When Roger is serving like he did in the first and third sets it’s virtually impossible for Nadal to hang with him. After Nadal evened things up at 1-1 in the third, Roger cruised through the next five games to send Nadal packing. The slice serve out wide on the deuce court was especially effective. This is the obvious serve to use against the left hander. It goes to his backhand side and opens up the whole court. Add to that the backhand cross court angle which Roger hit so superbly well, and you have the tools to tame Nadal. Those were really the two shots that stood out for me. Basically Roger did exactly what I said he should. He served well and kept the points short with attacking tennis. He hit several forehand and backhand winners from the base line.
He approached the net when in control of a point to make sure Nadal doesn’t have a prayer of getting back in the point. But he also approached the net behind some good approaches and volleyed skillfully. He kept it attacking on the return as well. None of the unnecessary negative chip returns which allowed Nadal to dominate the rally. Of course the indoor conditions didn’t hurt, but this is the game plan that Roger must bring to slower surfaces as well. This was obviously a massive a win for Roger. I can’t praise Roger enough for the week he had. You will remember I was quite negative before the event, but as I watched Roger throughout the week I became impressed to the point that I had virtually no doubt he would beat Nadal. This was like an early birthday present for me and an early Christmas present for the rest of you Fedfanatics.
We couldn’t possibly have asked for a better end to the year. If there was ever any doubt about Roger’s age slowing him down, this win basically shatters those doubts. I have persisted with my believe that Roger’s age is is over hyped for a while now, and even though I have had my own doubts at times, my believe has paid off. It was a question of confidence all along as I protested. It should be clear now that the slump in mid season was a kind of blessing in disguise. It forced Roger to look at his stubbornness and it resulted in him adding Annacone to his camp. Who knows exactly how much difference Annacone has made to Roger’s game so far. But it is not just the tennis, but also the mental difference of making a change and a new beginning. Roger is not someone who likes to make too many changes.
He is naturally stubborn, but this was a necessary change and it is really paying off. And it’s paying off sooner than I thought. When Roger hired Annacone I was more looking towards next year to see any real results, but the results came immediately. Still, there was something missing. Roger had not convinced me as recent as the loss to Monfils. But what happened at the MC changed all that. Roger is now well and truly back. Not that he was ever gone, but he proved a lot with this title. It is obvious that he can still play at his very best level and dominate tennis. It was simply crucial that he won this title against Nadal after Nadal won three slams this year. By this win he reminded Nadal that he is right there with him. It is so important going into Australia next year as well. Nadal must not be allowed to win Australia next year.
If he does so he will have won four slams in a row, something Roger could never do. It will also mean that he will probably win five slams in a row, given that the French open is basically a lock for him. He can also win Wimbledon, which then gives him six slams in a row. And if he does that he will have a chance at the calender slam. And if he manages to achieve that feat, he would be very close to being the GOAT already. This is looking very far ahead of course, but I’m trying to tell you how important it is that Nadal is not allowed to win in Australia. The MC was just a preview of things to come really. Australia is where it’s at. If Roger and Nadal meets in the final there it will be absolutely massive, and it is very likely to happen. By winning such an encounter Roger could virtually settle the GOAT debate.
There would be an immense amount at stake. If Roger defends his title he would have a good chance of reclaiming the number one spot in the rankings during the clay and grass court season and finally break Sampras’ record weeks at number one. At the moment he is still 0-1 against Nadal in hard court slams which is just plain wrong. I would like nothing more than for Roger to settle the score after losing to Nadal in that 2009 final. It is slower conditions than the MC indoors, but Roger should never have lost that 2009 final in the first place. The idea is that this time around he puts Nadal away when he has the chance. He didn’t do it in 2009 and he must have learned from that. I’m sure Annacone would point that out to him. But aside from the reasons that I mentioned, the most important reason for him to win Australian is to stop Nadal from winning four slams in a row.
Let me get back to yesterday’s match for a second. This win makes the h2h off of clay 6-4 in Roger’s favor now. It also affirms that the h2h is massively overrated. Lets assume for a second that the twelve meetings on clay between the two was instead on indoor hard. Indoor hard is arguably Roger’s best surface, while clay is Nadal’s best. If that was the case the h2h would have been pretty much the direct inverse of what it is now, if not more in Roger’s favor. Roger is now 3-0 against Nadal on indoor. It is just virtually impossible for Nadal to beat Roger indoors when he is playing anywhere close to his best, just as it is virtually impossible for Roger to beat Nadal on clay when he is anywhere near his beat. But first of all there isn’t that many indoor events, and second Nadal doesn’t make it far enough in those events to face Roger.
If anything, the h2h proves that Roger is a better player on his worst surface(clay) than Nadal is on his worst surface(indoor). Time and time again Roger makes it to clay court finals only to lose to Nadal, but where is Nadal in the indoor finals? Another problem is that conditions on the ATP tour is slow in general. The grass court season is short compared to the clay court season, and by far the most hard court events are outdoors. On top of that, the grass and indoor surfaces have been slowed down. Everything is in favor of Nadal. If you can’t see my logic about the h2h then I doubt you have logic at all. Lets say Roger have played against Nadal many times on indoor hard from the start, instead of clay. Or not even indoor hard. Lets just say fast hard. He would have beaten Nadal repeatedly just like Nadal have beaten Roger repeatedly on clay.
This would have no doubt resulted in Roger ‘owning’ Nadal, just like Nadal currently ‘owns’ Roger in the h2h. It is simply what happens when you play a guy repeatedly on their best surface. It has absolutely nothing to do with the other guy being better. It’s like Sampras and Agassi playing more than half of their matches on clay, which Agassi would have undoubtedly won 90% of, and then saying Agassi is the better player or that he ‘owns’ Sampras. It just makes no sense. Sampras was not good enough on clay to meet Agassi there enough. Even if Agassi made every clay final he would hardly ever have faced Sampras. I think you get my point. The critics latch onto the h2h between Roger and Nadal because it is really the only thing they can find to damage Roger’s legacy. But anyone with a sober mind can see just how flawed their argument really is.
That is enough of the h2h. Like I said, this was a big win for Roger, but the real test will come in Australia next year. Enjoy this win, but don’t think the score is settled once and for all. Only when Roger defends his title in Oz next year will I really relax. At the very least Nadal must not win the title. But it’s hard to see anyone other than Roger stopping Nadal there anyway, so it is likely that Roger will have to do so himself in the final. Just a final word to any of the Nadal fans that claims Nadal was tired in the third set. You are talking about a guy here who has taken off three weeks from the tour before the MC, while Roger has played five events in the last seven weeks. Not to mention that Nadal is supposedly the fittest player on tour, that he is 24 years old, and that Roger himself is 29 years old.
The tiredness argument has obviously no validity at all. The Nadal fans will find an excuse no matter what anyway. Some fans are so deluded that hey actually believe Nadal have never lost a match when fully fit and rested. Even if Nadal was slightly tired from his match against Murray, there was no way he was going to beat Jesusfed anyway. This title gives Roger his fifth MC title of course, tying him with the record set my Lendl and Sampras. It also means Nadal still has zero MC titles, emphasizing his shortcomings on fast courts. Clearly Roger is much more capable on his worst surface(clay) than Nadal is on his(indoor), having won several important clay court titles including a grand slam. Nadal has won all of one indoor title in Madrid. OK I better finish up with this post. I just want to say congrats to Roger and all of his fans who have actually stuck with him through all the tough losses.
This win makes all of those losses worth while. And there certainly have been some tough losses this year. The future looks bright now. There is no telling how long Roger can still stay at the top of the game after this. He is clearly far from done. How good is it to be Federer fan?
Ps. I didn’t even get to the match stats. There is just too much to cover in one post here. Let me just say that the most impressive stat was the 3/3 break points won. It really made all the difference in the end.