Federer Puts the Pressure on Nadal

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-21/top-stories/29567999_1_roger-federer-novak-djokovic-rafael-nadal

“It is going to be interesting to see how Rafa deals with the situation mentally. When all is said and done he has lost his last four straight Masters 1000 events to Djokovic,”

“That must have some effect on him. Maybe he lost in Rome because of what happened in the three previous finals?

“I am not going to worry about him, but there is no doubt that he is facing an important point in his career. Mentally it can’t be that easy for him.

“For myself I don’t think it is the same as regards Djokovic.

“Even if I have lost my last three games against him I don’t think he was dominating me.

“In Rafa against Novak that could count – worth keeping an eye on it.”

I thought this was good stuff from Roger. It seems like he is playing the old mind games with Nadal. This is something he has done throughout his career. He likes to say things in the media which puts the pressure on his opponent, and here he is just letting Nadal know that the pressure is on. I think it’s smart. Nadal is at an important point in his career. He is at a point where he has the opportunity to equal Borg with six French Open titles, which in most people’s minds would make him the clay court GOAT. Outside of Roland Garrros he has a better resume than Borg on clay, so if he equals him in clay court slams won he would be the clay GOAT. But at the same time there is this Serbian who is making things difficult for the Spaniard. You just can’t deny four straight losses to the guy in finals, two of them on clay.

Djokovic’s incredible run of form comes right on time to make this clay court season the most interesting in ages. And in particular Roland Garros. It was always a foregone conclusion that Nadal would win in Paris. The fact that he lost to Soderling in 2009 was totally unexpected. But this time there is a legitimate challenger. In fact Djokovic is the favorite as far as I’m concerned. Yes, Nadal has won in Paris five out of six years. He is the proven commodity. Yet I can’t help but feel like he has gotten into the mind of Nadal. The fact that he beat Nadal in four straight finals, two on clay, of which Nadal couldn’t win a set, just puts Djokovic in the perfect position to topple Nadal in Paris. There is a certain amount of mental ownage involved that just can’t be denied. I don’t care if it’s best of five sets and that Nadal supposedly owns the French Open.

Djokovic knows he can beat Nadal. And it seems Roger knows it too. Yet there is a long way to go towards the final. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if Nadal is upset before the final. Given Djokovic’s draw, I guess it’s not impossible that he could get upset before the final as well. So why exactly is Roger saying all this? I doubt he is extremely motivated to play Nadal in another French Open final, given their history there. It seems he is saying all this in case Djokovic and Nadal should meet in the finals. In that case it would mean he doesn’t want Nadal to win the French Open. Nadal is his rival after all, and he doesn’t want him to break his records. I think Roger is in a relaxed mode, since he has already won the title and achieved everything. Now he is pretty much just looking to put the pressure on Nadal and make it harder for him to add to his resume.

Lets face it, Roger is not a favorite to win this. It is between Djokovic and Nadal. I think Roger would obviously prefer that Djokovic won, should those two meet in the final. Roger is right, this is an important time in Nadal’s career. If Djokovic beats him in Paris it will make Roger’s dominance in his prime look even better. It will also be a serious blow to Nadal’s career. The ownage of Djokovic over him will be complete, having beaten him in the place which he has owned for years. It reminds of when Nadal beat Roger in the Wimbledon final, a kind of changing of the guard. Roger was never quite the same after that loss, and the same will be true for Nadal. It would mark the beginning of the end for Nadal, and Roger’s slam record will be all but safe. I don’t care how much Fedfans dislike Djokovic. If he beats Nadal in Paris he would have done Roger a huge favor.

He is already doing me a huge favor by making this the first watchable clay court season in ages. If he beats Nadal in the final it will a be a big moral victory and sweet revenge for Fedfans and Roger alike. Nadal will taste the bitterness of what he did to Roger at Wimbeldon 2008 and the Oz Open 2009. What more can we ask for?

Roger Federer


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14 Comments

  1. Ruan, I really don’t think Roger can play ‘mind games’ with Nadal these days, as he is no longer an apparent threat to Nadal – which he was in their previous clay-court encounters, when Nadal was often, quite frankly, fortunate to win (barring, of course, his drubbing of Roger in the ’08 FO final.) Roger would often give away matches from a winning position (which now we see him do quite frequently with his much lesser rivals.) In those days, it really appeared that the mind game was Roger against himself.

    No, the only ‘mind game’ is when – or if – Nadal faces Djokovic in the final, when the Spaniard knows that he no longer has the tools to beat the Serb: Djokovic would have to beat himself. I don’t think anything Roger has to say about that makes any difference to Nadal; he already knows the score.

    Unfortunately, Roger is sounding more like a tennis commentator than a competitor. He speaks as though he is somewhat outside the competition – which he is, unless he can consistently find the kind of tennis he used to be able to play and which he showed us in glimpses in his Madrid encounter with Nadal. I prefer it when Roger lets his racquet do the talking. These days, his comments to the media sound too much like pr ‘spin’. There is only one statement in sport that means anything and that is the result – who wins and who loses.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    It doesnt matter if he talks from outside the competition. His opinion still carries a lot of weight and will be noted. He also has his records to look after, so it makes sense from that point of view.

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    marron Reply:

    Perhaps Federer is simply speaking from his own experience of ‘dealing with the situation mentally’, since he has suffered defeats in the past vs Nadal. I don’t know about ‘mind games’, however, it probably is possible. We all know he’s done this kind of thing before, no?

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  2. A routine win for Roger over Lopez in 3 straight sets. He played pretty well generally, although not a great break-point conversion rate – as usual. The one-handed backhand occasionally looked fragile under attack from the leftie’s forehand. Lopez hit a lot of lines – cancelled out by quite a few shanks in the wind, and some wild errors. However, he did manage to hang about in the 3rd set. Roger, to his credit, played a solid final set tie-break this time out, with only one point being a loose effort, when he was 5-1 up.
    Elsewhere, Djokovic won very easily and looks to be taking up where he left off at Rome.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I dont think there is a need to make posts anymore. Ill just leave the floor for you guys to sum up the match from now on. You do it so well ;-)

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    Neil Reply:

    I agree, Neil, though I’d add that Roger looked a lot more…comfortable during this performance. Body language, ease of swing–yes, the usual shanks–but, more than that, a focused three sets of tennis. We can’t look for “old” Roger; we can only, now, study the Roger that appears. Not really one (again, for me) uh-oh, Roger-has-disappeared moment, hardly any off-balance plays: rather, a steadier, solider presence and…ease. A good win.

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  3. Nice win, Roger. On a different note this struck me as amusing:
    “Unfortunately I can’t talk about it too much. it’s private,” Djokovic said when asked about his new eating regime which has helped to rid him of summer bugs he used to pick up.
    I am sure it is private, Novak. Who knew a diet could be top secret?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    He said that? Lol!

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    Babel Reply:

    I found out that Djokovic upgraded his racquet just before the Davis Cup Final. Anyone who’s played tennis knows how big a difference that can make. But it fails to explain Novak’s sudden increase in stamina.

    I’m not refuting any theories here. Just a counter-argument.

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  4. I don’t think is mind game from Roger, he is just calling it as how he sees it. His first match is just ok, did not push himself too hard. Not as intense as Madrid, probably Lopez help him in that area too by not really getting to the match. BP is atrocious as usual but he gets the job done. A few shanks on the BH and FH is solid for now. He lacks confidence in executing his BH.

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  5. Well, Djokovic did dominate him in Dubai and Melbourne. Roger never looked like winning either match.

    I was very impressed with his serving. That for me is the key, especially against someone like Djokovic who returns very well. If he somehow manages to pass say, the first four rounds without getting broken often or at all, it’ll go a long way in boosting his confidence for the real tests (should he get that far).

    And as other have rightly pointed out, the windy conditions made his backhand even more vulnerable than usual.

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  6. I totally agree with you. I hope Djokovic wins so it will make Roger even better when he was in his prime and make people realize how difficult it is to remain at the top for 4 years, and without too many injuries.

    Roger is a truly remarkable athlete & person.

    Like John McEnroe said, he glides on court with effortless grace and makes the game look so easy.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Irene, nice to see a South African(?) on my blog ;-)

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