Hi guys. I’m still hesitant to make a follow up post because I don’t want to hype up a possible US Open Fedal quarter final that may never happen. But like I said it doesn’t have to pertain to only such a possible meeting. It is also about the Fedal rivalry as a whole and it is an interesting subject. Even if such a match does not happen I still feel like it is something worth keeping ourselves busy over. Someone asked me after my last post whether I think Roger’s GOAT status is in jeopardy in this potential quarter final match up with Nadal. I think that is a question worth pondering. My short answer would be yes. I think we have reached a point in the Fedal rivalry where Nadal is threatening to put a serious dent in Roger’s GOAT claim. There is the bad match up and clay heavy head-to-head arguments, and they are valid arguments.
But there comes a time where those arguments don’t hold up anymore and they become mere excuses. And when does that time come? Who decides? It is more in nature of a feeling rather than a decision. I just have a feeling that if Nadal beats Roger at the US Open then it kinds of wraps up the head-to-head. Up to now Roger has had some key wins. He leads the head-to-head 4-0 indoors, he has beaten Nadal twice on clay, and he leads the head-to-head 2-1 at Wimbledon. After Nadal’s latest win over Roger in Cincy, Roger doesn’t lead the head-to-head off of clay anymore. Nadal is threatening to win the head-to-head off of clay even. As far as the other slams go Nadal leads 2-0 at the Australian Open and 5-0 at the French. The only slams they haven’t met at is the US Open and it becomes crucial that Roger should take the lead in this slam.
The Australian and French favors Nadal because they are slow surfaces. Roger should have the upper hand at Wimbledon and New York because it is faster and he is also a much better grass court and hard court player than Nadal. The 9 vs 2 hard court slams and 7 vs 2 grass court slams says enough, without having to mention the Masters Cup and many other factors. Roger is the best hard court player ever, and being down 3-0 in hard court slams to his mean rival will not look good. He needs to at least lead the head-to-head in one of the hard court slams. But it goes further than that. Nadal wants the GOAT title for himself and he is still in the running. He desperately needs to add balance to his resume however. Currently his slam resume is 1-8-2-1. I’d say he needs to add something like 2 more hard court slams, another Wimbledon, and then he can add 2 more French Opens.
That would put him on 17 slams, and unless Roger won another slam himself, that would probably be enough to make Nadal the GOAT given the head-to-head. Of course more weeks at #1 and at least one Masters Cup title won’t hurt Nadal either, but you would assume those things will come if he is going to win the slams I talked about. My point is that I think Nadal is a strong favorite to win the US Open this year and it is up to Roger himself to stop him. Or else Nadal will go ahead and take the GOAT title for himself. So to come back to my reader’s question, yes I think a potential Fedal quarter final could determine the GOAT. It first of all effectively eliminates Roger as the undisputed GOAT, if such a thing even exists. It’s just hard to make a claim to be undisputed GOAT when your main rival basically completely owns you.
Sharpening the tools with Haas
Secondly it puts Nadal on the road to an undisputed GOAT claim for himself. If he beats Roger he becomes the favorite for the US Open title and he could become #1 after the US Open already, if he wins the title and Djokovic loses in the semi-finals or earlier. You can see where I am going with this. Roger has to put an end to this himself or no one else will. He has to fight for the GOAT status like never before, because if there ever was a match that would have huge consequences for the GOAT argument, it would be the potential Fedal quarter final at the US Open this year. We say that almost every time they play in a slam, but this time I mean it. Or maybe one of them or both of them will lose before the quarter finals, like what happened at Wimbledon. But lets say they do meet, what would it take for Roger to beat Nadal?
Roger treads a thin line when playing against Nadal. The window of opportunity is extremely small and he has to play pretty much the perfect match. Every time he beat Nadal in the past everything kind of clicked and he was able to impose his game on Nadal. There is very little margin for error. Two posts ago Steve commented that Roger must win the first two sets to beat Nadal. I agree with this. If the match goes to 5 sets the probability of Nadal winning is just about 100%, and if Roger loses either one for the first 2 sets the probability of the match going to 5 sets is very good too. This is why he has to win the first 2 sets. Roger has beaten Nadal in 5 sets in a slam before, at Wimbledon 2007. I don’t see that happening again though. The 5-setter in the Miami final goes right out of the window because that was at the start of the rivalry, and at the 2007 Wimbledon pretty much the same thing.
Since then Nadal has given Roger the two toughest losses of his career at Wimbledon 2008 and the 2009 Australian Open. Those losses hurt Roger, and if they go to a 5th set in New York those losses will come back to haunt Roger. He needs to get it done in 4 sets. Of course 3 sets would be even better but that is just about impossible as well. If he is to win it must be something like the 2006 Wimbledon final where he won in 4 sets after dropping the 3rd set. Steve also said the surface doesn’t matter. There I strongly disagree. If it was the French or Australia I wouldn’t even bother giving Roger a chance. The surfaces are just too slow and too much in Nadal’s favor. If Roger is to beat Nadal again it would have to be at Wimbledon or the US Open. Lets face it. Beating Nadal is a massive challenge and Roger needs every little help he can get.
At least at the US Open Roger has no bad memories of losing to Nadal. Even though he lost to Nadal in Cincy, it was still a very close match and I feel like Roger now has a kind of blueprint to beat Nadal. The US Open is not as slow as the French or Australia where he can’t get the ball past Nadal no matter what. His serve and forehand can still do enough damage, and his net play can be used to his advantage as well. The return was key in Cincy, and as long as Roger returns aggressively on the backhand side, it will give him break chances. The main thing is mental however. It will come down to a few key points, and on those points Roger must play with clarity of thought and calm. As always he must impose his attacking game on Nadal and not allow Nadal to get into his head when he makes impossible defensive plays.
The other thing about the Cincy match which I just thought of is that if it was a 5 set match, Roger would have lost it as well. If he is in the same position at the US Open he can’t afford to lose the second set like he did at Cincy. He can’t afford that lapse of concentration. He must win the first two sets. Period. He must play the match on his terms. Once it is a set all it means we are in a battle of wills and then Nadal becomes the favorite. If however Roger wins the first two sets it means he is playing the match on his terms and he puts a certain amount of doubt in Nadal’s mind. He starts thinking maybe this is the time that Roger gets once back over me. We know Nadal never gives up though, and even if he wins the 3rd set Roger will still feel he is in with a good shot. Then he needs to put his foot down and seal the deal for an epic win.
You can now see what I say Roger threads a thin line against Nadal. But I do believe it is possible. Everything just needs to click on the day and Roger must want it badly. Some people have drawn the parallel and said Roger would need a 2011 French Open semi-final-like performance. I think that is an apt example because on that day you felt like Roger was treading a very thin line as well. If he stepped even half a foot out of line he would have lost, but he didn’t. It was peRFection. We haven’t seen that Roger all year and if ever JesusFed or Goderer needed to show up again, it would be in a US Open quarter final with Nadal. Anyway I’ve gone and previewed the Fedal match before it is even a reality so at least if it happens I won’t have to do it again. Not even sure I would be able to post by then so at least I got that out of the way.
Roger will play tomorrow on Ashe in the second evening match against Zemlja and I am very excited because I will get to see him play still. Let the games begin!