How Will Federer’s Australian Open Loss Affect the Rest of His Season?

I don’t know about you guys but I felt a kind of post Australian Open boredom/depression yesterday, so I decided to make this post today to help us all transition better into the coming weeks before the next relevant tournament. That is probably only Dubai which is still three weeks away although in between Nadal will play Rio and Buenos Aires, and it will be interesting to follow his progress there to see if he continues to build on his Australian Open form. Jiten asked me today how I thought Roger’s loss in Melbourne would affect the rest of his season so thanks to him for giving me an idea for a topic. I answered his question but will go into more detail here and say some other things. He also said he thought it is a blessing in disguise that Roger lost, but I felt that was just trying to put a positive spin on something that was not positive in my view. There is a place for being positive but there is also a place for facing reality.

Roger has always been known as a confident guy, even to the point of arrogance. And even though we were always making the argument that this arrogance is what allowed him to win 17 slams, the critics had a point. The problem with too much confidence is that it comes back to bite you in the ass if you are not careful. That is what happened with Roger against Nadal. I believe early on in their rivalry he underestimated Nadal and was trying to beat him at his own game on his own turf. Few people have probably followed Roger’s career closer than I did, so I know what I’m talking about. I was there at the beginning when he was a temperamental brat who smashed his racquets if things didn’t go his way on a given day. To his credit he cleaned up his act and became one of the greatest if not the greatest tennis player ever. But there is no doubt Nadal got a piece of him.

And that all began at the beginning of their rivalry due to Roger’s arrogance or over confidence. Call it what you like. He was trying to beat Nadal from the base line on clay which was never going to succeed. And losses on clay translated to other surfaces to the point that Nadal owned Roger in the head-to-head and became his worst nightmare on a tennis court. The first big blow came at Wimbledon in 2008 where Nadal defeated him in the Wimbledon final after failing to do so the previous two years. That had Roger on the back foot, but he was still standing. The knockout blow came at the beginning of 2009 where Nadal defeated Roger in the Australian Open final. That traumatized Roger as he once and for all realized that he is not invincible on a tennis court. Ever since then the beatings at the hands of Nadal got worse in Melbourne every time they met, and the head-to-head continued to get worse for Roger.

Last year was the worst where Nadal won in straight sets. I believe Nadal is deeply embedded in Roger’s sub-conscious to the point that Roger loses early in slams when there is a possibility of facing Nadal. We saw that three times at the US Open already. The first two was where Roger lost after having match points against Djokovic. I mean what are the odds that you lose to the same guy two years in a row after having match points? It is just too weird. Then in 2013 he gets trashed by Robredo in straight sets before he has to face Nadal in the next round. Finally this year he loses to Seppi who he owns 10-0 after a run of great form, including wining the Cincinnati, Shaghai, Basel, Davis Cup, and Brisbane titles. I mean he was set to win #18 in Australia. He didn’t even take a break in the off season. He didn’t want to lose any momentum going to Australia in an attempt to win that illusive #18. He had Edberg there and everything.

A tournament best left forgotten

He had a good start as he defeated Lu in the first round and and on fire Bolelli after losing the first set. He was all set as he was about to face someone he owned 10-0 and who should have been a mere formality. But then the day after Roger defeats Bolelli Nadal comes back from the dead against Smyczek, and the next day Roger puts in a very uncharacteristic performance against Seppi as he goes down in four sets. All of a sudden the clutch play of Federer 4.0 is nowhere to be seen. The mental fortitude that defined Federer 4.0 was gone. Where did it go? It had been there for the last 12 months. He was always a sure thing. You knew when the pressure was on he would come up with the goods. Like clockwork. We can make an exception for the clay court season because that is where Mirka went into labor and Roger was not very focused, and the Raonic match in Paris where Roger was tired after winning Shanghai and Basel.

Otherwise he was just extremely solid in the mental department. I believe that Nadal is by now so deep in Roger’s sub-conscious that when he defeated Smyczek it deeply affected Roger and he lost to someone he owns. And make no mistake about it the signs were there. After Roger lost to Seppi he said in his press conference that something didn’t feel right already before the match, as if something may go wrong. These are clear signs to me that Nadal is deeply embedded in his sub-conscious. Not everyone agrees with me but it doesn’t matter. Far as I’m concerned even the possibility of facing Nadal is now enough to throw Roger off. That is what emotional trauma does. It goes to your sub-conscious where you are not even aware what it does to you. I would know. I’ve been traumatized myself. So that is the problem with arrogance or over confidence. I think Roger is in a kind of denial and the only way he could solve the Nadal issue is if he sees a psychologist.

But I don’t think that is going to happen. I don’t think Roger will ever solve Nadal, and if Nadal continues to rise this year he will slump again. Luckily for him Nadal has not been a factor on grass lately which leaves a window of opportunity open for him at Wimbledon to win #18. A lot will also depend on what happens at the French Open. If Djokovic fails to stop Nadal again and Nadal wins #10 there then he becomes a serious threat at the US Open too. And if he is a threat there then Roger’s chances decreases. Also if Nadal wins the French who knows what he can do at Wimbledon. I think too many people are writing Nadal’s obituary again anyway. I have already said that the number I always had in mind for Nadal as far as slam titles go is 14. Why? Because he is very much like Sampras, although at the opposite side of the spectrum as far as game style goes.

They are just both extremely clutch, but like Sampras I always thought Nadal would burn out at some point. So I would love to be right and for Nadal to remain indefinitely on 14 slams, but if he taught me one thing over the years it is never to underestimate him. That is why I said earlier this year I have him winning two slams in 2015. He may not win any slams this year, but I think given how many times he proved me wrong in the past it justifies me making that prediction. I am just being careful. I don’t want to say he is done and then he goes and does what he did in 2013 and dominates the sport again. It could also happen that we have four different slams winners this year like we had in 2012. I would be just fine with that actually. Nadal can have the French Open this year if Roger gets to win a record eighth Wimbledon. And then Murray can have another US Open. After that Fedal can both be done winning slams for all I care.

Will be difficult to repeat…

Or both can fail to win a slam this year and they just remain on what they have now. I’d be fine with that too. But as long as Nadal gets another French I’d like Roger to get another Wimbledon. It is really hard to call what will happen next with Fedal which makes this an exciting year. I think this is probably their last year to win slams although maybe there is an outside chance in 2016 too. I think this is the time of Djokovic and Murray. They could end up winning all the slams this year. For instance Djokovic could win the French and US Open, and Murray Wimbledon. Or Djokovic the French and Wimbledon again, and Murray the US Open. Or someone like Nishikori can break through at slam level. Certainly a possibility as well. So in conclusion I think Roger’s early loss at Melbourne was a bad thing. I think he should have at least made the final to see if he could beat Djokovic and become the Australian Open king himself.

But he failed and now everything is in doubt again. We could easily have witnessed the end of Roger 4.0 in Melbourne, but hopefully not. He will need to be at 4.0 level if he wants to win Wimbledon. Nothing less will suffice. Maybe he can raise his game to that level one last time during the grass court season if Nadal is not a factor. But for that to happen I think Nadal will probably have to be toppled at the French by Djokovic. Only then can Roger be sure Nadal will not be a threat and Wimbledon and can he totally relax. So yes it is a shame that Nadal is so deep in Roger’s sub-conscious now that he exerts so much influence on Roger’s form, but luckily for Roger that may not matter anymore. If Djokovic finally topples Nadal at the French this year then I think he is done winning slams, in which case it doesn’t matter much to me whether Roger wins more slams or not.

The ball is in your court.

Posted in Uncategorized.

93 Comments

  1. Ru-an, I feel this is way too early to predict anything regarding how the rest of the season goes for Roger. A single loss cannot mean all the hard work and the results he has had over the past 6 months or so has come to an abrupt end. Even when we saw the end of Roger 3.0 in 2013, it was not just due to a single loss. It was a gradual decline in form which was also a serious impact due to the back problems which he had. The fact that he had never lost to an opponent before might not be of that much significance. Each time you play an opponent you have already played before, things might not be the same. Although it might be true that Roger’s part in losing the match was much more significant than Seppi’s part. Nadal’s influence on his sub-conscious mind might be the main reason for that. I wonder whether Roger and his team know how much impact Nadal has on him.
    I always felt there was something not quite right about Roger’s words about AO. He said at least 4-5 times last year that his main priorities for 2015 will be Wimbledon and US open. He also insisted much on having an off-season after AO. Due to these reasons I did not have much confidence about his chances at AO tbh.
    The most important part of Fed 4.0 was his improved mental strength, and when you say mental strength what matters is not just what happens during a match, but also how you respond after a disappointing loss such as this one. So depending on how he performs in the next few tournaments we can find out if 4.0 is still alive or not.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good post Nakul. It is very difficult to predict what is gonna happen next.

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    Nakul Reply:

    What do you feel Roger usually does about the Nadal situation? Does his team try to help him any way? I remember him saying before the AO 2014 SF that he discussed with Edberg about playing Nadal in particular. Is it like whatever he plans to do pre-match, once Nadal is on the other side of the net on the court, none of that matters and it goes back to the same mental block thing, resulting in Roger giving up and submission to Nadal?
    Thinking about all those SF loses to Djokovic at USO, in 2008 he played the first semi there, and in post-match interview on court, when asked whom he would like to play between Nadal and Murray, he choose Nadal. I also think it’s a very good thing that Murray beat Nadal that time. Or else Roger could have lost there, and considering that Nadal also won AO next year, he would have achieved a non-calender Grand slam by winning 4 consecutive slams. Moreover Roger would have gone slamless in 2008.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah if something is going on in your sub-conscious(or you can as well call it unconscious) that you are not aware of then you don’t control it. We all carry beliefs about the world in our sub-conscious which don’t necessarily serve us, due to our conditioning. These beliefs can’t be easily changed either, depending on how deeply seated they are. For instance someone who grew up in an abusive home may believe that the world is a dangerous and terrifying place, and only by consciously working on changing those beliefs can it gradually be changed. Or we are conditioned to believe that being rich and famous is what will make us happy and is what we should strive for. This is of course a lie. There are many rich and famous people who are miserable. Anyway my point is there is very likely a sub-conscious belief in Roger that he can’t beat Nadal and every time he has to face him he unconsciously avoids him or if they meet he doesn’t believe deep down that he can win. And as long as it is a sub-conscious thing it won’t change. Before you can change something you have to be aware of it right? I don’t think Roger is aware of it at all. I think he is in denial and as long as that is the case the same thing will keep happening. In fact it is just getting worse from the looks of things. Either someone has to make him aware of it or he has to see it himself. I think it is too late. I don’t think he will solve the Nadal situation.

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    Charlie Reply:

    I think the reason Roger has a problem with Rafa is also to do with their respective game styles. Roger is more of a varied player and has to think more about his options, and he doesn’t like to be restricted in what he can do. Rafa, on the other hand, is perfectly happy to execute the same strategy all match: serve to right-handers backhand, high topspin to the backhand, wait for short ball, finish point into the open court or wrong-foot back down the other side. Rinse and repeat. Whereas Roger prefers to have more options, Rafa takes away his ability to shotmake by just paralyzing his game, such that he is stuck hitting high topspin backhands for most of the match. The issues with that are fairly obvious:

    1. He has only two realistic options, defensive slice (which Rafa is so good at hitting for winners), or a 1 in a 10 topspin winner.
    2. Roger tends to get annoyed when he is forced to hit the same shot over and over again, and as he begins to miss a few backhands off those heavy topspins he loses confidence.

    My conclusion would be, that Roger must pick a strategy before the match and stick to it for the whole match. Choose to serve and volley, and do it for the ENTIRE match. And chip and charge on every second serve. Or blast everything like Del Potro, or constantly try to run around his backhand, anything really. I think this might restore his confidence against Rafa, knowing he has a very simple strategy to use, and will keep using, win or lose. He has to stick to his strategy though once he decides on it.

    I am not as much of an expert on tennis as you Ru-an, although I do play myself, I have never played to a particularly high standard, so it would be good to hear your thoughts on this idea. Of course it will probably never happen anyway, but its interesting to discuss what Roger should/could do differently against Nadal.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    You said it perfectly Charlie. I couldn’t agree more. Really I have nothing to add.

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  2. Hey Ru-an, just wanted to make a small comment. I don’t think Roger is too bothered by the early loss at AO. When his numerous streaks ended at Wimby, RG and USO, he knew it was just a matter of time that his streak at AO would end too. Ofcourse he is not too happy about it, but I don’t think it will do anything bad to his confidence (afterall, doesn’t he forget his losses asap?). In 2013 his streak at Wimby (and USO) ended, but he still had a great year after that in 2013 and 2014.
    Roger is smart to know that more losses will occur, he loves to play and to win.
    This was just a small unfortunate setback. Nothing more.
    What do you think?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well there are numerous factors to consider Katyani which I all got into in my post and won’t repeat here. But losing in the third round at Melbourne is not a good thing for Roger whichever way you look at it.

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  3. Hey Ru-an,

    Thanks for another brilliant article. You always cut right to the heart of matters, and you don’t ever shy away from difficult truths. That tells us more about your character than it does about your extensive tennis knowledge.

    As far as Roger’s future as a player is concerned, I don’t know what it is realistic to hope for, but I do want to say at some point what I tend to expect in coming months and years for him.

    There’s no doubt that Roger tried to beat Nadal at his own game for several years. In fact, he seemed to be afflicted with the idea that being the greatest meant that he could beat everyone else at their own game too. :-) Even recently I saw him trying to beat Berdych and Gulbis, for example, without using all the weapons at his disposal. Which is frustrating!

    But I had a lot of hope for last year and this year (and still do!), precisely because that stopped. He seemed to realize that playing his own game was his best weapon. And it worked very well! Roger seemed to have found the mental toughness of a Nadal, and it became almost impossible to finish him off. He won a dozen more matches than anyone else last year, etc.

    When he was behind, he handled the pressure so well that it actually put pressure on his opponents when they were trying to finish. You could see MonFils, Mayer and others stiffening up and failing when they needed to come through, just because Roger was so relentless.

    But hey – we all saw all this, of course. And everyone on your site was so eager to see Roger face Nadal with his newfound strength, improved strategy, etc., myself most definitely included.

    I agree that a sports psychologist might do wonders for Roger. But as to what future Federer-Nadal matches will show, I don’t know; I think we’ll need to wait and see. I think if Roger is not burned out physically, he could give Nadal a run for his money. I think Eric brought up a good point a few posts back about taking some of Nadal’s moon-balls while they are still in the air, and I’d like to add a few more thoughts about tactics on the eve of the next Fedal match…

    But regardless of all that, what I tend to think the next couple of years will bring are some very positive results!

    I think he’ll win as brilliantly as ever, but perhaps not as often. Like the greats, he’ll have deep runs at slams during periods when everything is clicking, where he can beat anyone, and everyone knows it. He may even win one. Maybe two! And I think his run will last a little longer than the other greats, mostly because Roger is greater than they were.

    He’s constantly trying new things these days, and I do so hope his new efforts will bring him a slam win. I think he should play in more ATP 250s to reduce the wear on his body, as I’ve said before. And there are probably some other adjustments he could make as well.

    But I think it may even be the case that Roger is a slam threat for another two or three years. I won’t be approaching every slam after this year by thinking, “This could be it!” but I’ll savor the times when he has deep runs and plays the beautiful tennis that no one else can.

    The sun may be setting on Roger’s career, but it’s not setting today! I think his career will have a long and beautiful finale, and it’s definitely not over yet. I’m very excited to see what’s ahead, and I hope everyone else is too.

    Best,
    Joe

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    You did good to put things in perspective Joe. Yes there may be more good results in the next two years, but everyone wants to see him win that one last slam. Whether he can do that remains a question. As for taking Nadal’s moonballs out of the air I think there is a misunderstanding here. They are not actual moonballs like they hit in the WTA. It is just what we call his shots because there is so much spin on them. There is just no way to take Nadal’s so-called moonballs out of the air. That would make as little sense as taking anyone else’s balls out of the air. Nadal may hit with a lot of spin on his fh but he still hits it very hard and not even for someone as talented as Roger would it make any sense to take them out of the air, unless they are an actual defensive push. Maybe that is what Eric meant. I think he has too much tennis knowledge to believe you should take Nadal’s actual ground strokes out of the air. That makes no sense at all.

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    Eric Reply:

    Hey guys. I was mostly questioning about a specific situation. I think Roger had been transitioning in to net faster than he ever had before and I was wondering if you thought he was now fast enough in the situation where Roger serves out wide in the ad court, pulling Rafa way off the court because he stands back so far — to wait a beat until he can read Rafa’s defensive return – and when Roger picks up that Rafa is going for his standard high push all the way cross court to Rogers backhand, – do uou think that Rogers transition is now fast enough to pick off that defensive return in the air for a high backhand volley down the empty line. I was asking because if that is possible, it will take away Rafa’s favorite defensive option and force him to go for tough offensive winners from a weak position. Thanks. E

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well what you are suggesting then is S&V, which he has been doing more of and which I hoped he could use against Nadal but he seems to be still scared of Nadal.

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    Jiten Reply:

    Ru-an, Bull’s eye! Remember 2012 AO semi-final? I still remember quite a few number of points in that match vividly. Fed was mixing up his game pretty well with several forays to the net, quickly jumped into a 3-0 lead only to be broken back, but eventually managed to win the first set in a tie-breaker. If memory serves me right, he broke Nadal immediately in the very first game of the second set and again only to be broken back in the very next game. From there on, Fed completely lost his way, jettisoning his S&V tactics as Dull was continuously passing him at the net and went on to lose the second and the third sets. I think there was some Australia Day celebration in between leading to some temporary halt to the match which added more agony to Fed’s causes. In the fourth set, Fed again had a break, but an unreal lob from Dull offset him and eventually he lost the set 7-5 and hence the match. It is natural that all forays to the net are not going to be 100% successful. Now look at the Shanghai masters semi final against Djoker last year. In my opinion, Djoker’s level was not worse (if not better) than Nadal of AO 2012. Yet Fed stuck to his game plan and eventually defeated the no. 1 player in the world with umpteen forays to the net. The moral of the story: “Dull is always in Fed’s head” and I don’t think something drastic is going to happen turning the tide except probably if Dull is not able to regain his peak physical level. Every time these two are about to meet in a grand-slam, there has always been big hopes and hypes only to end up like a punctured tyre. It is interesting that Fed got entrapped in continuous denial and stubbornness because of his lack of respect towards Nadal’s game in the early part of their rivalry, which cost him dearly in their H2H figures. The continuous pounding by Nadal, particularly at the grand-slams has inflicted such trauma to Fed that he perhaps now gives more respect to Nadal than he actually deserves in the context of Fed’s legacy in tennis history. This over-respect has been snowballing into a huge mountain which seems impossible for Federer to cross now. The irony is that at present, he cannot go back to the no-respect-Nadal mode he had at the beginning. I am sure had Nadal been in Fed’s situation, Uncle Toni would have treated (probably he already has) it in a completely different way! He would engrave this over-respect in the shape of hatred in his nephew’s mind to ultimately solve Fed. Only time will tell whether there will still be a twist in the tale or Fedal rivalry is just a foregone conclusion!

    [Reply]

    eric Reply:

    Well, not exactly. I don’t want to bug you with this and I can just point it out when/if I see it. I was being a little more specific. I think that if Roger just straight serve and volley’s, Nadal will pass him a huge percent of the time. Nadal is just too accurate and able to hit those passers when he sees a target. My specific question was is there enough time, once Nadal has already committed to pushing his standard defensive high cross court forehand to Roger’s backhand, for Roger to see that choice — and then move quickly – and take 2 big steps and take the high backhand volley at the service line, sending it down the line to the open court. The specific is important because it would then be too late for Nadal to go for a passing shot. This is very granular and I hate to waste your time with it, but if it’s possible for Roger wait and move in that quickly, he would be disrupting a standard Nadal return with a relatively low risk offensive move. I’m just wondering if you think there’s enough time for that.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    No, I don’t think there is enough time for that Eric. So it wouldn’t work.

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  4. The chances for Nadal winning Wimbledon again are astronomically small, no matter if he should win in Paris for a record 10th time. His game has become too slow, he is no longer as agile or responsive as before, making him a non-threat on grass IMHO. Federer needs to watch Djokovic in Wimbledon. On clay Nadal will as always be the favourite, unless he gets injured and is out of the tournament, but I believe that for Roger to succeed he needs to beat Djokovic again, get some revenge for that Wimbledon 2014 robbery, and instill fear and respect into Djokovic, because Djokovic doesn’t respect half the players on tour as far as I am concerned, the way he once made fun of other players or made ridiculous statements devaluing his opponents at the presser even when he lost to them, he might be smarter now but I don’t think he fears Federer/Nadal, and while Federer once was arrogant in his own right, Djokovic was arrogant way before he ever got to the spot he now is in. Federer would thus need to instil some fear into him, break his will, because unlike Nadal, Djokovic is self destructive when you deny him his game, he gets angry and starts cursing in Serbian while making faces (which I realy despise just as much as seeing Murray behave like a baby when things don’t go his way on the court) Federer has the technique, experience, knowledge and tactical thinking to overcome most players but has he the stamina left? That is the real question, on a good day Federer can wipe his ass with Nadal on grass, and school Murray all day long, and Djokovic used to be a pushover as long as Federer could hang in the longer rallies. I would like to see Federer rest more and pick his tournaments wisely, preferably skipping most of the clay season and go all out on the grass courts where his chances are the best, but hell I would love to see him win in Paris too, and get that double career GrandSlam accolade.

    [Reply]

  5. Hey Fedal,

    Great comments! Since hope springs eternal, I’d like to add two more or less ‘long-shots’:

    If Djokovic or someone else takes Nadal out at FO, I think with a little luck Roger can still win that tournament.

    Also, I think Roger may have wanted from the end of last year to play Nadal at Wimbledon this year, and to start to settle a little bit of their score there, i.e. that AO wasn’t the best spot for him to face down his nemesis.

    I even think he might have a ‘relatively’ easy time beating Nadal there, despite the very real match-up issues, if he can keep a high first serve percentage and stick to a good game plan.

    Cheers,
    Joe

    [Reply]

  6. Where are you Veronica? We all miss you!!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Indeed Joe. I shot her an email after the AO. Still waiting to hear from her.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    My Post-Aussie Letdown has been greatly magnified by her absence…
    :-(

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah I don’t know what the deal is. She always goes on these hiatuses when she is busy but still I would have expected to at least hear from her during the AO. I sent her another email last night. Not much more I can do.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Made me think of Veronica

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    Joe Reply:

    Very nice!

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  7. Hi ruan, new to the blog although I read it from time to time. I think Fed doesn’t calculate his losses like you appear to think. He is not afraid to face Nadal or he would have lost early in four of the five FO that he met Nadal in. Yeah Nadal is in his head I agree and that has to do with the fact that Nadal is doping and Roger knows for sure about that and feels helpless against him. No amount of time spent with a shrink can help him against Nadal or Sharapova against Serena because they know it’s almost mission impossible. Don’t think Fed is done yet. He gained confidence through FedBerg and also a new larger headsize racquet. He needs to change his grip on the backhand and muscle the ball in like WAWA or Becker but it’s hard because he is much scrawniner than them and has twigs for forearms. Also he was tired even before the AO started and he mentioned it I think. Reaching all those milestones right before made him physically and emotionally tired and Seppi was on fire and even then it could have gone either way because it was a close match and he was leading the TB.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    The last FO they met in was back in 2011. Also Roger is expected to lose to Nadal on clay so there is not as much pressure to face him. Roger knows for sure Nadal is doping? Hmmm. First off no one knows for sure he is doping unless they have proof. Second Roger has always been extremely respectful of Nadal. Too respectful in my opinion in fact. To say that he knows for sure Nadal is doping is absurd in my opinion. We don’t even know for sure Roger hasn’t tried something himself, although personally I don’t believe that.

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  8. hi guys, just wanted to know what Fed 3.0 and Fed 4.0 meant? Clueless.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    It is just different versions of his peak when he rises. 3.0 refers to his peak in 2012. 4.0 refers to his peak in 2014.

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  9. ok no more doping accusations. Just read the rules. What are your thoughts on Nadal’s losses this year? He plays dead till the clay swing arrives then he goes on a tear (all save one year when Djoko was beating him left and right on clay and still managed to lose that controversial FO).

    What do you think of Fed’s poor Break Point conversion rates? And his inexplicable misfires from his backhand? And his inability to sustain a rally through boring percentage shots? Why is he impatient always? Lack of solid power and height has been his issue against Nadal at the FO. I still think Fed is a solid top five clay courter in the world but his best of five years are probably behind him except at Wimbledon where the points and matches are shorter. But chances of getting upset by someone who is suddenly hot and has a booming serve is also high for both Fed and Nadal.

    Where do you think Nadal gets his mental strength from? And why is there always a drama surrounding his losses and near losses?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Too many questions. Narrow it down to one and I will answer when I have time.

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  10. As a fed fan, I love the support that everyone is showing for fed. But Ru-an has written a very hard to swallow pill. Kinda don’t want to face it but Ru-an point on Fed’s chances entirely dependent on Nadull rise and fall is legit although extremely annoying. As a sports person myself, I too tried to beat my opponents at their own “game” or “style” – just to shut them up. I followed fed only in 2009 so missed his early career, but can envision fed doing a silly thing like trying to out grind Nadull from baseline. Afterall, he was God of tennis then. Only thing I disagree with Ru-an is his x2 GS prediction for Nadull. I think Nadull will get ZERO slams this year. Hopefully zero titles too. But second part extremely unlikely… However, so long as the first part comes true, his fall from grace will be drastic. And here is the best part.. When Nadull goes through 2 consecutive super terrible season (even after back from juicing and all), he may not come back at all… fed 5.0 will then truly evolve. Fed is as adaptable as they come. Just the curse of having a Nadull clinging to his subconscious throwing his rhythm off. Ps+Love the community here… Everyone gets to share their views and almost everyone “hates” Nadull.

    [Reply]

    eric Reply:

    Hey there. I wish you were right but I think Nadal is ready for another big run. After all the treatments and few matches leading into AO, he had an excellent tounament and is probably feeling very good about himself right about now. I had very low expectations for him at A O which is why I was just hoping he’d make it to the quartes wher Roger would have had the best chance of beating him in YEARS. That’s my biggest disappointment. He could have gotten it done and actually turned the tide in the FEDAL rivalry. But Roger messed up with his scheduling terribly AND let his fear of Nadal get the best of him so it was not to be. Now that opportunity to play a not match ready Nadal has passed and a more confidant And toughr Nadal will be waiting. Frankly I don’t think Roger will be able to beat him anywhere except maybe best of 3 indoor fast hard court. It will be up to Djoko to take Rafa down as far as I’m concerned. I Di think if Rafa goes seamless for 2 years he’ll hang up his rackets for good and maybe just maybe that can happen with some good draws and nagging injuries. Fed at GS’s is a very big question mark for me, but Wimbledon does give him his best shot. I certainly will be rooting for him.

    [Reply]

    Ben Chia Reply:

    Hi Eric, Deep inside, we all know how often Nadull proved his critics wrong. I’m probably going to be wrong again but hell, maybe I am right (for once, let me be right about Nadull’s decline!) this time?! Yeah, I really hoped that Fed gave Nadull a good fight at this year’s AO. Screw the H2H. Beating up Nadull regardless injured or not is best therapy for fed. Fed was on such a high and winning form leading to it! But it was not to be. Pity, sad. Even worse, Ru-an’s observation that fed is letting his subconscious screw with him is just terrible. Agree with you on fast indoor courts as Fed’s best chances to take down Nadull. But at the rate we are seeing, even indoors is going to be a long shot :-( Nevertheless, I am still going to root for fed until he retires.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I like your honesty Ben Chia. Sorry if I am ‘too honest’ sometimes. But if I believe something is true I see no point in saying otherwise. I know this attitude flies in the faces of some people and I do it at the risk of these people getting mad at me or deserting me, but I feel one should always be honest no matter what.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Roger was not trying to out grind Nadal from the base line. He was trying to dominate from the base line which is stupid against Nadal on clay. It’s hard enough to do on other surfaces. But back then Roger was so confident that he felt he could do anything. And it’s not like he did badly. He still pushed Nadoll to four sets every time they met at the FO from 2005-07. In 2006 in his best year he bread sticked Nadal in the opening set. Was he not so stubborn by trying to hit Nadoll off the court from the back he could be sitting on at least one more career slam now, and things could be very different in the head-to-head. But he was stubborn and arrogant and it cost him. But like I say it’s not gonna matter much if Roger ends with three more slam titles than Nadal. He is still gonna be greater than Nadal if that’s the case. If Nadal wins 2-3 more slams however and Roger none then it is a different story. As for the two GS prediction for Nadal this year I already said that is just being cautious. It could happen that he wins only one slam at the FO too. So I would say anything from 0-2, with 0 being optimistic and 2 being pessimistic.

    [Reply]

  11. i don’t hate Nadal. I dislike his style of play, his gamesmanship (calling for a trainer to break his opponents rhythm and momentum), laying blame on the phantom injuries that one has no idea how or when it happened other than what we get from the media that is feeding us with bs and insulting our tennis intelligence. I dislike that he is a pusher/scrambler that every club player fears, and that he is illegally coached by Uncle Toni. I hate his mind games calling himself an underdog in every one of those matches when he went on a tear coming back after the 8 mo layoff/silent ban. I dislike that his rabid fans don’t think any of his antics and behavior is the least bit fishy and the fact that the commentators eat out of his hands and proclaim him a GOAT even though Fed is still playing just to create sensationalism and drama.

    Federer is going through the same syndrome against Nadal that a club player with a decent game (our hero) undergoes against an extreme pusher who is extremely fit and has the stamina of a marathon runner. One fine day our hero marvels when he witnesses the pusher being straight setted by a big guy with a big game with flat shots who likes to end points quickly and at the net.

    We have seen Nadal blasted off the court by the likes of Soderling, Beedych, and a few no namer tall dudes like Rosol and Darcis. Then and there we should ask these annoying commentators whether they think Nadal is still the GOAT suffering Inexplicable losses to journeymen.

    [Reply]

    Ben Chia Reply:

    Hi Evian, thanks for pointing that out. My use of word “hate’ meant exactly the gamesmanship, phantom injuries, melodrama, illegal coaching, deliberate slow take-my-own-sweet-time approach, fishy superhuman recovery of form. I just didn’t have the time or the skill to express it like you did :-)

    [Reply]

  12. One thing to keep in mind this year is that Wimbledon will be held one week later than usual. That means those who go far in the French – presumably Nadal and Djokovic – will have an extra week’s preparation time. So more rest time after their exertions at Roland Garros and possibly an extra grass court tournament to get used to the surface before Wimbledon. In some recent years Nadal just hasn’t looked well prepared for grass especially at the start of the tournament. Obviously a lot can happen between now and then and Nadal is certainly not favourite at Wimbledon but I’d say this change in scheduling gives Nadal a better chance than he would otherwise have had this year.

    BTW I’ve been reading this blog for about a year and a half, maybe two years now, but have never commented. I appreciate the well reasoned and realistic outlook you provide rather than the blinkered fanboy stuff one sees elsewhere on the internet. Good job!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good point about the grass court season Andrew. That will indeed give Nadal more preparation time for Wimbledon if he wins the FO, which could possibly make him a factor again there. And thank you for your appreciation. I hate the weak sauce/Justin Bieber type fanboy stuff. My readers know they get it straight from me and that I don’t screw around. This is why you will find other fan blogs that have more readers than me. Most people just want to hear you kiss Federer’s ass like he can do no wrong, but that was never me. I am both his biggest fan and his worst critic. I don’t care about the amount of readers I have. It’s more important to me to be honest and to be able to live with myself. I am an analyst, not a fan boy.

    [Reply]

  13. Nadal is in Federer’s head. I totally agree with you. I thought I was the only one who thought Federer lost those two semi finals to Djovoic on purpose. Well, not on purpose, he would never consciously do that, it must be all sub-conscious, as you said.

    It is not really relevant now, but makes you wonder, what would have happened if he actually had sought help (i.e. sports psychiatry) around 2009/2010?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Well not everyone has the insight to pick up on these things AZ. Match points make it seem like the match could go either way, but when it happens two years in a row something is weird. And yes it is definitely sub-conscious. Roger is in denial. He probably doesn’t even know what’s going on, unless someone close to him made him aware. I think most of his fans are in denial too. This is the problem with arrogance and too much self-confidence. They say too much of anything is bad, whether it be good or bad. Tennis is so competitive that you have to almost lie to yourself about how good you are. I saw that in many tennis players. It’s almost like they live in a kind of denial. And although that can get you far it can also backfire, which is what happened to Roger. I never think lying to yourself is good, even if it helps you at the beginning. Because eventually it will catch up with you. Now Roger is in a mess it seems. He wants to grow and play at the top and is still very capable, but as soon as Nadal comes around it all falls apart. I mean the way I see it Roger 4.0 can easily win slams still. Even dominate. But we saw even the possibility of facing Nadal made Fed 4.0 crumble like he was nothing. This is in a sense devastating, and the only way for Roger 4.0 to continue on is if Nadal fades away fast. But I’m afraid we may have already seen the end of Fed 4.0. There is one other way and that is to deal with the issue by seeing a sports psychologist but I don’t see that happening.

    [Reply]

    eric Reply:

    Yeah, a therapist is not gonna happen because Fed won’t admit it out loud. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know it. He knows it alright. I bet he has nightmares about how embarrassing it is for the great Roger Federer to be passed over and over at the net. But what both of his idols (PS & SE) can teach him, if nothing else, is that there is no shame in getting passed. It’s just part of the process because getting to net over and over will break down the opponents confidence and game plan and get the win in the end.

    [Reply]

  14. What are Fed’s chance winning his #18 GS this year?
    I believe the chances is slim, Wimbledon is his only chance after missing a golden opportunity at US open last year(no nadal) and Novak out in SF.

    The best-of-5 sets on hard courts over 2 weeks will be too much for even Federer(34 yrs old then) hence he will not be able to compete at such high level in Melbourne, Paris or New York.

    He must win Wimbledon this year as this could be last chance , and Nadal is no longer a threat on grass. His greatest threat will be Novak & Murray as the younger players are still learning how to play well on grass.

    That’s as far as I can see on Fed’s career rest of the year.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Agree 100% Pistol. Wimbledon is where he needs to get it done. And this year.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    The problem now is he has blown several big opportunites since Wimbledon 2012:

    USO 2012: Lost to Berdych just after winning Cincy, the Olympic Silver and Wimbledon? Seriously, that one is really strange.
    AO 2013: Got Murray to 5 sets and didn’t take advantage of it to get the win? When Andy was nervous to get his first win over Roger in a GS?
    AO 2014: Was playing great tennis, then collapsed against Rafa and it wasn’t even close. Could have played and beaten Stan in the final.
    WB 2014: Admittedly he played a good match, but should really have made less errors at the start of the 5th when Novak was still recovering from losing the fourth, had a few 15-30 and 30-30 opportunities, and missed a smash at 15-15 at 4-4.
    USO 2014: Lethargic start, loses first two sets, looks like winning the third then loses it from a break up, would have played Nishikori in the final.
    AO 2015: Lost to Seppi who he was 10-0 against, plenty of chances in the match and lost them all, would have had a decent chance of pulling off Murray-Berdych-Djokovic in the last 3 rounds.

    The issue is, after wasting all these chances, how many more will he get? I’ll give Roger until the end of 2017 as a slam contender (which is extremely optimistic). That’s 11 more slams. In the last 11 slams he made 5 semis or better. I’ll be generous and say he makes 7 of the next 11, which is again on the optimistic side. Out of those 7 semis, I’ll give him a 60% win loss record, which goes to 4.2, which I’ll round up to 5. Making 5 out of the next 11 finals, I’ll assume he wins 40% against Novak and 20% against Rafa. Say he plays Rafa once and Novak four times, he would lose to Rafa and win maybe one or two against Novak. And this is about the most optimistic set of calculations you could really make at this point. More realistic is probably zero with a small possibility of 1 slam before the end of his career.

    PS: Sorry for the long post, that’s two now in about half an hour! I’ll have to take a break now.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah the problem is that he has been really consistent in the slams in 2014, but then he doesn’t convert it into a slam title. Instead he loses in the 3rd round to someone he owns 10-0. I was hoping he could win the AO after his form towards the end of last season, because that’s when he began to peak after the changes he made. I mean it was perfect. He won 5 titles before the AO including the DC. He should have been primed for #18, but then inexplicably loses to Seppi. Oh wait.

    [Reply]

  15. Hi Ru-an,

    Totally agreed with your assessment on nadal’s psychological impact on Fed. Similarly on Serena on Sharapova.

    In my mind, Fed has always been the GOAT regardless what happen to the rest of his career. However, looking at his GS (2-9) and h2h record against Nadal, having never beaten him in any GS outside Wimbledon just pissed his fans off. This record will never reverse as he ages, with AO 14 the last time they played in a GS means they will miss playing each other even more. It would be either Fed lose in the early rounds more often or nadal got injured or both lose early. It will be boring for the fans to keep having Novak and Murray in SF or finals. They have similar games and just doesn’t quite meet the rivalry contest like Nadal vs Federer.

    If only Fed had the killer instinct like nadal then the results would be very different.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Cool Pistol17. I also think Fed is the GOAT if we have to use that word, but there is no doubt Nadal got a piece of him. But what does it really matter? Was there ever a perfect scenario, and wouldn’t that be kind of boring? I can easily accept the situation if Fed ends up with 3 more slams than Nadal. That would be great actually. He’d still be recognized as the GOAT by most.

    [Reply]

  16. I agree with you Ruan. Call it intuition or something but I could not feel Roger Crossing past Seppi the day before the match . Something did not feel right.Generally I try to put negative comments so that once it fails there is still reason to feel happy that roger proved it wrong. But this AO, It did not feel like he was going to cross the hurdle.

    [Reply]

  17. Hey Ru-an. Oke. Please read. The first time I read this article, I made a small comment above.
    Just now I read the article again and I still do not agree with everything you say.
    I honestly think you (and some others here) are giving Roger wayyyyy too less credit.

    First of all, I won’t even go to the fact that Rafa is in Roger’s head, because that is so true. It is too true. You are right there. No discussion. Period.
    But… really?? Roger is now so scared of Rafa that he doesn’t even want to play him, even if there is not even the possibility that they will make it both?? I mean, yes, USO 2013 was a tank. Roger tanked the match against Robredo, because at THAT TIME Rafa was wayyyy more than invincible. So, in my opinion, he did that good. USO is the only place Rafa hasn’t beaten Roger, so I didn’t mind him tanking that in 2013. And the fact that he couldn’t make matchpoints against Novak 2 years in a row at USO, because he “didn’t want to win and play Rafa next”?? That was just dumb luck of Novak or bad play of Roger. How about those players who save 8 to 10 to even 13 matchpoints?? Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you cannot make matchpoint. Look at Mayer against Roger or Stan against Roger or how many other examples??

    “Roger 2013” tanked a match to avoid Rafa. Period.
    But what about 2014?? Do you know HOW STRONG and INVINCIBLE Roger was?? Even unbeatable Novak had trouble beating him. Rafa and Roger could have met in more than 7 to 10 tours. Rafa didn’t make it. Do you honestly think that is the reason Roger came so far in all these tours??
    If you are right, at AO 2012 Roger lost badly to Rafa (again). Then why did he not “tank” IW 2012?? Why did he play Rafa then and even beat him??

    Like I said in my comment above, I don’t think Roger was too bothered by the loss at AO 2015. He wasn’t happy with it…. but it wasn’t a “tankjob” because Rafa beat Smychek. If anything, that match should have proven to Roger, if a number xxx can do THIS to Rafa, I am surely going to beat him !!!

    There is no discussion that Rafa is in Roger’s head and will not go away. But if you are saying that Roger tankes UNCONSCIENCELY matches to avoid Rafa, then Roger would have retired in 2013 or even before that. Because he knows…. it seems like Rafa’s body will break any moment….. Roger knows Rafa is NOT going anywhere.

    Ru-an, I hope you don’t misunderstand me, I do see your point of view and to an extent, I do agree with it. But is goes WAYYYY TOO FAR to say that Roger is so conscience of Rafa that he is beginning to lose matches he normally should have won with his eyes closed, just because he MIGHT meet Rafa.
    If this was “Roger 2013” I would not even be writing this comment, because you would be right.
    But “Roger 2014 aka 5.0” who was beating top players left and right, who was the nightmare of the current world number one, who defeated his juniors (almost 3 generations) with bagels and I don’t know what else….. sorry Ru-an, THAT ROGER was not and is not scared of Rafa.
    Stan said he was mentally tired when he had to play Novak, because he had not have an off season. Can you imagine how mentally and physically tired Roger must have been?? (Just look at the Fast4 match against Hewitt, Roger was sooo tired, he somehow sqeezed the win).
    Roger lost to Robredo, because he wanted to lose to him, but NOT to Seppi. He fought his heart out against Seppi.
    Roger just:
    a) made stupid mistakes
    b) was too tired
    c) did not have his day
    d) ran into an extremely focused and concentrated and in the zone Seppi.
    That’s it. Nothing more. Just like against Cilic and Stakhovsky, he ran into a focused and concentrated player who had the match of his life and played in the zone and who’s every strike became gold. (Same as Rafa did when he ran into Rosol, Darcis and Kyrgios). Sometimes it is just soooo simple, you want to win…. you think you can win…. but the opponent is on THAT day just playing wayyy too good.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    And sorry Ru-an, it is not that I like to disagree with you. But you tell us always the truth, so I just wanted to tell it like I see it… my truth.
    But I will make you a deal.
    If Rafa is rising and that means Roger will fall, if that happens, then you will be right and then I will owe you an apology and will comment it too.
    But I honestly believe that (eventhough Rafa is unfortunately still in Roger’s head), it doesn’t mean that Roger will “lose” matches to avoid Rafa or that he will ONLY shine when someone else takes Rafa out.
    The guy DID win 17 GS for God sake, even when Rafa was not in his head and even when Rafa was IN his head. Lets give Roger some more credit and more of our trust and believe in him.
    Even if your worst personal demon is in front of you all the time, that does not mean you stop living and do the thing you want to do the most (winning matches).
    Because right now as I am commenting this, Roger is already and still practising…..

    [Reply]

  18. I do not think fed ‘ tanked’ the match at AO for not playing nadal, anyway it’s still long wait to go before he had a chance to play Him. I think he was fatigue at the same time the subconscious of playing in such a tough draw and having to play Nadal in SF must have had crossed his mind.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    Lol you shouldn’t capitalise Him for Nadal. Unless you think he is God…

    :-)

    [Reply]

  19. Fed had a very touch draw at AO i think it got to his mind. He had to beat Murray-nadal-Novak which is very tough for anyone to achieve let alone at this stage of his career.

    He needed early round straight set wins to preserve energy but players are getting better. It’s unlikely he can beat Novak or Nadal over 5 sets at GS(except Wimbledon) but he still has an edge over Murray in the mental department. Rod raver did mentioned after 30s even a top player has moments of doubts and ups and downs are not uncommon going into a tournament. I think Noval, nadal, Murray would retire by the time they pass 30 or 31.

    [Reply]

  20. The biggest (non-psychological) match-up problem for Roger when playing Nadal is the way Nadal pounds Roger’s backhand until his deltoid muscle is so exhausted that he begins to misfire even on his forehands and serves. So in a way, by breaking down Roger’s backhand, Nadal deconstructs Roger’s entire game.

    So I wanted to make a post to consider the topic of how Roger can make the most of the match-up issue with Nadal, and I hope that the experts here will want to add to these thoughts. I’m a tennis neophyte and I won’t mind being corrected. In this post I’ll consider tennis strategy and tactics, and not so much the mental aspect of matches between the two.

    So here are some amateur thoughts that I hope can serve as a starting point.

    We’ve all seen how effective Nadal’s passing shots are, especially from his forehand side. But if Roger can take the ball deep to Nadal’s backhand, hopefully making Nadal run slightly backward as well as to his right, then Nadal, because his two-hand shot doesn’t allow as much flexibility (i.e. doesn’t allow his body to turn as much, or for his arms to extend as far), will be constrained most of the time to return the ball more or less down the line. He won’t have time or space to spin around and hit a hard return across the court if the ball is hit deep to his backhand, especially if he has to move slightly backward in order to return the ball.

    That seems like an fundamental aspect of the match-up to me. If Nadal takes advantage of Roger’s one-handed backhand, then Roger must take advantage of the limitations of Nadal’s ‘two-hander.’ And I want to follow up with few thoughts about it:

    One of the things that Nadal does when playing Roger (I’ve seen others, e.g. Murray at 2012 Wimbledon) is stand far behind the line so as not to be aced, to have more time to get to serves out wide, etc. Can Roger take a little depth of some of his strikes to Nadal’s forehand when he does this (not necessarily his serves), and get him to take a step or two toward the net? This needs to be done carefully, of course, since I’m not sure anyone punishes a short ball better than Nadal. And I wouldn’t suggest hitting short balls on a regular basis to Nadal’s backhand! But if Roger bring Nadal in just enough on Nadal’s forehand side, then a strong deep shot to Nadal’s backhand will have him moving backward, tending to constrain Nadal to return ‘more or less’ down the line.

    If Roger can be ready in that situation, then most of the time I hope he would be able to send a return across the court for a winner. Of course, he can’t be too close to the net because he needs to be ready for Nadal to go cross-court himself. But if Nadal is running even partially backward, I think Roger is quick enough to read Nadal’s intention and react appropriately, b/c even if Nadal does go cross-court he won’t have as much on the ball, and he’ll be hitting to Roger’s forehand if he does that.

    Of course, Nadal may counter by not approaching the net as much on his forehand side. But I think Roger should use more drop-shots against Nadal anyway, even though a short ball is obviously a two-edged sword.

    When Nadal approaches the net himself, he’ll usually hit to Roger’s backhand – obviously – but I wonder if Roger can lob returns over Nadal’s head in that case – to the right and left sides of the court, as well as directly behind Nadal. Sounds easy, I know! :-) But as difficult as it may be to do that, I just don’t think Nadal likes going backwards, and I’m not sure he plays as effectively when he has to do that.

    I think Roger should hit to Nadal’s feet a lot too, and make him bend over. Not just slices, but also power shots that Nadal has to react to quickly. He should work Nadal’s knees and back the same way Nadal works Roger’s backhand! And if Nadal has to run forward and backward as well as left and right, his knees may not hold up, and he won’t be able to get as easily into a rhythm against Roger. And I think that’s another fundamental piece of the match-up. I think Nadal likes his rhythm (Mr. Obvious here) and gets that easily against Roger b/c of his powerful strokes to Roger’s backhand. Nadal is not getting any younger, and his ability to run down difficult shots is not what it once was.

    Roger’s failure to use all his unparalleled variety on the tennis court has cost him before. Losses to Berdych in particular, when he tries to match Berdych’s power, are particularly frustrating for me. But I think that using as much variety as possible against Nadal is more critical than against any other player, because Nadal is better able to limit Roger’s dimensionality than anyone else. In fact, Roger doesn’t even enjoy the kind of tennis Nadal has made him play! I can imagine hearing him mutter to himself, “This isn’t even tennis!” in his earlier matches against Nadal.

    And that’s when Nadal is in Roger’s head. But if Roger can keep Nadal guessing, bending over, running in every direction, then he might unbalance Nadal instead. It’s not as easy b/c of Nadal’s focus and mental strength, but I would rather not get into that now b/c I’d be tempted to insult Nadal, which is not my purpose…

    I think Roger should vary the speed on his balls as well, to some extent even on his serves (where varying placement is obviously critical too), to throw Nadal’s timing off if possible. I’ve been so frustrated in the past, watching Roger lose two tough points to Nadal when he’s serving, then try for aces when he’s down 0-30 and end up playing too many points against Nadal on his second serve. Whatever comes of it, and however difficult the points, Roger must maintain a high first serve percentage against Nadal (obvious again – obviously). And he has to keep Nadal from getting into an easy rhythm against him.

    Maybe he should have different plays in mind at different times of the match. Once Nadal starts to expect something, it’s time to change. For example, if Roger is down 15-30, then they’re on the ad side and Nadal will expect a serve out wide most of the time, so going down the T just enough to keep him guessing seems like a good plan. But once Nadal starts to lean inward, even a little, it’s time to change again. If Nadal starts to creep a little closer to the return line, then body serves become more viable. Roger’s serve is excellent, but he doesn’t need aces all the time. I think Roger tries to hit power shots against Nadal almost every time (and not just when serving). That’s obviously not easy to do, and it may not be wise either.

    The best time to approach the net is usually when he has Nadal out wide. But there aren’t many times when it’s just great to approach the net against Nadal, so Roger has to approach carefully, expect that Nadal will hit winners in some cases – and not back down.

    Since Roger’s arm is exhausted near the end of a match with Nadal, he has to be more careful painting the corners since his precision will probably suffer. I think he should stretch more and breathe more mindfully during change-overs, and massage and loosen his deltoid muscle.

    Nadal, more than any player in history, has to have everything ‘just-so’, so if Roger can surprise him frequently, then I hope the battle will swing in his favor. Roger obviously can’t kick Nadal’s water bottles at every change-over, but there’s a lot he can do. :-) I hope Roger’s unparalleled variety could go a long way against Nadal if could keep Nadal off-balance and always guessing, even if I haven’t done a good job of analysis here.

    So please let me know your thoughts. I’m sure there’s a lot more to this topic.

    [Reply]

    Jiten Reply:

    I hope Uncle Toni is not reading your staff. :-) :-) The problem with other players (except probably Djoker) is that they cannot continuously impose the same success formula throughout a five set match. They simply don’t possess the boring robotic concentration of Nadal who can repeat the sameness for umpteen number of times irrespective of the state of a match. The problem with Federer is that he has too many shots (options) for the same situation under his armoury, while Dull will go only for a particular shot in the same situation. That is why you never see the creative genius of Federer near the net in Nadal, who never dare to approach the net unless he has the chance to make an easy putaway volley.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Don’t take offense but that is a cop out Jiten. Saying Roger does not possess the same robotic concentration is a mistake I think. Here is why:

    Instead of getting bored he should relish in the challenge of having enough patience to defeat Nadal. Saying he has too many options is another excuse. That should be a blessing not a curse in his quest to defeat Nadal. Surely if he had enough patience he can put these many gifts to work to defeat Nadal. How can Nadal with his limited options possibly own him in the h2h when he has unlimited options? There can only be one reason: Nadal is mentally stronger. If I was Roger I would look at Nadal as the most exquisite challenge that was ever offered to me, one that I have full confidence I can overcome as long as I don’t become arrogant and over confident. I realize it’s easier said than done, but I get tired of all the excuses of why Roger can’t defeat Nadal. A kind of justification/denial, as if Roger is not good enough to defeat Nadal. I don’t believe in that.

    [Reply]

    Jiten Reply:

    Thanks Ru-an. I agree. May be I haven’t been able to put my thoughts in the right way. I believe Fed’s stubbornness and arrogance prevents him from being more patient. Probably his thought is on this line ” I have so much in my armoury. I don’t need to run toe to toe with Nadal to construct a long point. I can finish it much early.” Or, “why should I try to win a point with the same shot while I possess so much variety?” I still remember one particular point from Wtf 2013 where Fed was patient enough not to get frustrated when Dull was feeding him on his backhand side repeatedly, and when the opportunity arrived, he clinched a down the line inside in forehand winner to Dull’s dismay. In most of matches at Majors, at the initial stages, Fed will win many points at the net. But once Dull starts passing him, he gets destructed and begins making some inexplicable approaches. He should know that Dull’s strategy is very simple: “Roger will break down eventually, I have to just wait for that moment” and Fed seems to always oblige it by falling in that trap. I strongly believe that if Fed had been able to at least delay being broken down during the peak of their rivalry, after a few matches, he could have started getting the upper hand and they won’t have such a lopsided h2h. And Ru-an, it is a pleasure going through your expert commentary and I can assure you that I will never ever feel offended by your reaction to my opinion. Long live your blog!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Very well stated Jiten and thanks. You guys are the best.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Ok I finally had time to read your essay Joe. First of all like I said I think Roger will never exorcise the Nadal demon. He may even never defeat him again. So I am not gonna waste too much time trying to figure out what he has to do. Besides I have done that many times in the past. Sometimes Roger was able to pull it off, but when it really mattered he usually failed. What I always said is that he should dictate play and impose his game on Nadal. Not the other way around. And to do that 1) it helps when the courts are fast and 2) he must approach the net more and be very aggressive. He doesn’t control the court speed but he does control how aggressive he is and I thought Roger 4.0 pretty much had it down cold in that area. I felt he was ready to face Nadal, but it seems the psychological damage is far worse than I thought which means that is the first thing which has to be fixed before any tactics are considered. And I don’t see him going to a sports psychologist or something. He is too ‘proud’ for that. His arrogance and stubbornness has cost him against Nadal to the point that it is probably too late to fix now. I think he is now dependent on whatever Nadal does. As long as Nadal is a factor then he can’t be. He is at Nadal’s mercy. Luckily for him Nadal could be close to his end, in which case it is too late for Nadal to catch up. But Nadal could just as easily surprise us all yet again and win several more slams, in which case Roger’s ‘GOAThood’ will be under serious threat. Don’t get mad at me for saying this. It is just the way I see it and no one has to agree.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    Hey Ru-an,

    Thanks for your analysis. And I hope you wouldn’t think that I’d be angry about your observations! You are always very factual and I respect that a great deal.

    A slightly different note – I’d like to think that Roger wants to face Nadal again, but that he wants to do it on his own terms, i.e. on a court that favors him, and when he feels physically strong and ready for the challenge. But I could certainly be mistaken about that!

    Thanks,
    Joe

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good to know Joe and yes I try to keep it factual. I am kind of cold and calculated in that sense. As for Roger if that is his thinking then it means he has already given up. If he wants to solve Nadal he shouldn’t be thinking about surfaces and conditions. He should just go head first and fearlessly into any situation if he wants to be the best.

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    Nakul Reply:

    Ru-an, I agree that Nadal might start winning slams again and break Roger’s record. But this time that genuinely depends on Djokovic. I know that Djokovic has let us down in this regard many times before(most importany one being FO last year), but it looks like he is mentally more stronger than ever right now. I strongly feel that if Djokovic wins FO this year by beating Nadal, Nadal is done both winning slams and also beating Djokovic in the future. Another fact which has to be considered is that Djokovic is still in his prime and is probably going to have this from for atleast 2 more seasons, whereas Nadal is almost being done being in his prime form. Also in case he fails to defend is FO title, do you think he might consider retirement soon after that? Because as far as I know, I don’t think he can handle that kind of a loss strongly enough.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I think Djokovic has already done more than we can ask. I was hoping that he can do more but that was because I didn’t believe enough in Roger. If Djokovic did not beat Nadal in 3 straight slams from 2011-2012 then Nadal would be on 17 slams equaled with Roger, two career slams, the non-calender GS, and more weeks at #1. He would have been the undisputed GOAT. So I think Djokovic has done his part to help Roger out. Yes in 2013 I hoped that Djokovic could win the FO after being up a break in the fifth set and then screwing up that overhead, but you win some and you lose some. Nadal also had a similar opportunity in the 2012 AO final where he missed a sitter pass at a break up in the fifth set. So I think Djokovic has done his part and I am not expecting more from him. Roger has to protect his own legacy if he wants to be the GOAT from here on, either by stopping Nadal himself or by winning another slam.

    [Reply]

    Nakul Reply:

    The best case scenario will be if Djokovic wins FO and Roger wins Wimbledon this year. Then it’s safe to say that Nadal is never going to break Roger’s record. But I guess that’s thinking way too ahead of ourselves. It’s better to patiently wait and take things how they come.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Well that is actually a good point because if Djokovic does that then Roger will probably relax a lot and that will help him to win Wimby. So you could be right that a lot still depends on Djokovic. I have always thought that for Nadal to be finally put to bed then Djokerer is gonna have to work as a team. Neither can do it alone.

    [Reply]

    Nakul Reply:

    Maybe we can look at it this way- Roger let Djokovic win Wimbledon 2014 which gave Djokovic his mojo back. He now has to use it to finally win FO, and in-turn let Roger win Wimbledon. Sounds like a fair team work.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Right!

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    Strictly speaking Djokovic has done his part and yes Roger should win one or more slams to protect his legacy. I mean he is playing well enough to do it so there’s no excuses really. However, we also have to consider that Nadal was not the only reason Roger doesn’t have more slams. Djokovic has cost Roger a few slams, Berdych and Starkovski at Wimby, Cilic, there could be others as well. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not just Djokovic that has a part to play. Wawrinka cost Nadal a slam, Soderling as well. And I’m talking about slams that nadal genuinely could have won. So I am not counting the times nadal lost at wimby. But anyway, Murray should start beating nadal as well and hopefully others will follow suit. When someone is in decline this is what happens. So while Roger should also take care of business himself, we must also hope for some favors along the way too.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Something else I will add here also is the reason I said Roger must approach the net more. You have probably figured it our for yourself but it is to to take Nadal’s ability to break down his bh out of the equation. And yes he will get passed but like someone else said(I forgot who) he will just have to accept that is part of the deal and if he persists in going to the net it may just pay off. If it does not then at least he has tried it. Something you also mentioned is that Nadal stand so far back on his serve which makes him get to more returns. This makes Roger go for more on his serve which causes his first serve percentage to drop way down. This is clearly the wrong approach. Instead of going for more he should go for less. That will cancel out the effect of rushing and missing first serves. Paradoxically he also has to be very patient against Nadal. When Nadal makes and impossible defensive play he should have already expected that to happen. What usually happens is that he is surprised by it, and then he either totally screws up the next shot or go for even more. This is also the wrong approach. He should only try to make Nadal another shot like that, like having him on a string and enjoy playing with him. Think what it would do to NAdal if he has to make an impossible shot time after time, not only once. Even he would get exhausted. Or he will go for an impossible shot himself and miss. So yes Roger must be very aggressive but he must also be patient and not get spooked when Nadal makes impossible defensive plays.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    Good pts – and sorry for the long essay…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Don’t be sorry, but expect to wait longer for me to answer it.

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    A very good point. I actually face the same problem with a guy I play tennis with. I always get surprised that he keeps getting the ball back time and time again, even when I least expect it. SO over time I have learned to expect that and instead make him play the extra shot or shots. Or I could simply play a great approach shot and finish it off at the net. Roger has been getting better at his approach shots so i expect him to fully utilize this part of his game. Another thing I would do if I were Roger is avoid those cross court Dull forehand to Fed backhand rallies and instead go for the back hand down the line from the off or at least the first chance I get either with a slice or a topspin shot. This is what dhokovic keeps doing anyway. As soon as he can he goes down the line with his backhand and that doesn’t even need to be an outright winner. Just something to change the dynamic of the rally. Of course Nadal is expecting roger to go down the line at any point, that is what all experienced tennis professionals do…they expect a change up. The thing is though, what is Nadal gonna do if fed goes down the line to his backhand? Probably hit a weak moonball either to roger’s backhand or most probaboly his forehand. That’s the strategy I would go for. Another thing I would practice is taking the ball on the rise. Especially on clay Roger just lets the ball get up too high on to his backhand before hitting it. With enough practice he can change this just like djokovic does.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    The reason why he doesn’t take the bh on the rise on clay is inconsistent bounce. As for going down the line on his bh I think we can safely say by now that staying at the base line is a useless strategy vs Nadal. Nadal runs around his bh anyway and it’s very difficult to get it to his bh. Roger’s bh just doesn’t measure up vs Nadal which is why he has to take it out of play by approaching the net. It’s like Charlie said earlier. If he is on the base line he may as well swing away and take wild risks. It is better than staying in a base line rally with Nadal and trying to win the point – it aint happening. The bottom line is to play high risk tennis. It won’t always pay off but he has no choice. Either try to end the point asap from the base line or go to the net. But at the same time he must have patience and expect Nadal to make one more ball. Then just make him run one more time and get a kind of twisted satisfaction out of it. But I guess that is just not Roger. He is too nice a guy which is why Nadal has always ‘liked’ him. He never really posed a threat to Nadal so there is no reason to hate him. Now look at Djokovic. He likes to give Nadal the run around and he gets satisfaction from it. He is in Nadal’s face which you should be if you want to beat him. And there were clearly moments where you could notice that Nadal was unhappy with Djokovic, because Djokovic posed a serious threat to him. Roger just don’t have that mentality. It may have won him many fans but it costs him big time vs Nadal. I don’t care about popularity so if I was Roger I’d be all in Nadal’s face. Why show him respect when he clearly has no intention of showing you respect? Fake MTO’s, grunting, fist pumping, all kinds of gamesmanship to unnerve and disrespect Fed.

    [Reply]

  21. Hi Ruan and hi guys, long term reader here but this is my second comment. Somehow the first comment got missed :-) .
    I somehow feel Fed may be stuck up in 17. Astrologically, 8 is his lucky number and 17 already equals to 8 (1+7). Lets see.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I think that is the most likely scenario Dhanapal. I think we have probably seen the end of Fed 4.0 at the AO, in which case he is not winning any more slams.

    [Reply]

    Brian Liew Reply:

    Fed is definitely done with winning AO and FO. In fact, he should consider skipping the clay season all together., or make 15 his last year competing for FO. This makes him fresher to start the Wimbledon campaign. last year he lost in 4rd FO and he made it final at Wimbledon.

    As I said,15 is his last year to have a chance winning a slam, it has to be at London. I think he is also done with USO,though there is still a fighting chance (slim).

    I also believe nadal will not win another AO, and 16 is his last opportunity. At least he is stucked with 1 AO ismiliarily to Fed with 1 FO. His chance of winning 3 more slams will be challenging as his body failed him time to time. However, we can never guess it right, let’s wait and see.

    [Reply]

  22. Fed 18, Djoko 15, Nadal 14 = Eric Happy boy
    If Nadal stays tied with Sampras at 14 and Djoko can pass him, Nadal won’t even be brought up in the GOAT conversation anymore. Bliss!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Well I guess NAdal will always be brought up in the GOAT debate since he was already called the GOAT by clowns like Drugassi and Drugenroe, but who cares about them right?

    [Reply]

    eric Reply:

    He would become that great fighter that was around in the Federer Djokovic era – haha. When I’m old, that’s what I want to hear people say.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    They can say he was the clay GOAT, which he is. They can even say he was a clay courter that did very well to adapt to other surfaces. But I never thought he should be called the GOAT. I think Fed should end on 17 or 18 slams and Nadal on 14 or 15. Fed was always a GOAT for me, while Nadal was too one-dimensional to be a GOAT. How can a GOAT be someone who was so dependent on one surface, never even defended a title off of clay, and never won a WTF?

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    I just think Roger peaked at the wrong god damn time last year. At his age these peaks only last for a few months. He needs one of these temporary peaks to hit during the summer months, when FO, WB and USO are played in succession, and go on a real tear. Dare I say it, but if that happened, Roger could win FO (if Rafa loses) WB (regardless of Rafa) and USO (regardless of Rafa). He would be no worse than third favourite at all three, probably second favourite at Wimby. But something just doesn’t feel quite right at the moment. I just don’t have a good feeling about this year in general. I just feel that Roger missed a few opportunities last year, and it’s almost more painful than when he lost early all the time in 2013. It’s like how I can enjoy watching Hewitt, because there are no expectations. Just like in 2013/ early 2014 there were no expectations of Roger. Ideally, Roger would stop spending as much time with the media, not appearing in magazines, etc and focus entirely on tennis. But that’s just me being a selfish fan.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yep, he peaked at the end of the year and that’s why I wanted him to win the AO. But unfortunately for him Nadoll was on his way back by then and it seemed to affect him. I don’t know what to make of the year ahead. I definitely don’t think it will be as consistent as 2014. I think we have now seen the end of Fed 4.0 with the early AO loss. But he may be able to have a good run at Wimby and possibly win it. Maybe 2014 was his year of consistency but no slam and 2015 will be the year with less consistency but a slam title. If that happens I don’t care if he is not consistent in 2015.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    Yeah, that’s the sad truth, when you are that great, people put pressure on you that you must win majors, that lesser titles are meaningless, as is consistency. I mean its sad that if you asked someone to choose between Ferrer or Cilic’s career, they might pick Cilic. Just because he had a good two weeks. I don’t think it’s representative of how great a player really is. This is probably a minority view, but in my mind Rafa would have to get to about 19-20 slams to overtake Roger in the GOAT debate simply because Roger has so many YEC titles, weeks at no.1 and consistency records. But sadly a lot of people don’t see it that way, they just see the major count. I mean look at Lendl. Same number of slams as Mcenroe, but no educated observer would try and argue that Mcenroe was as good or greater.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    That’s true Charlie. I feel sometimes too much emphasis are put on the slams. It may be the most important measure of greatness but clearly should not be the only one. Clearly a balanced resume is very important too. That’s why I say Fed has always been the GOAT for me even if Nadal passes him in slam count. Unless Nadal can win another AO, spend more weeks at #1, and win at least something like 2 WTF’s. And I don’t think those are happening. He is simply too dependent on clay. Federer is basically the GOAT on 2 different surfaces, while dull is the GOAT on one. Fed is also a great clay courter which is his worst surface, while dull sucks on indoor which is his worst surface. There are just an infinity of reasons aside from the slam count why Fed is GOAT and not dull. 4-1-7-5-6 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 1-9-2-2-0.

    [Reply]

    Jiten Reply:

    You mean to say Drugal being called the GOAT by Drugassi and Drugenroe? :-) :-)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Haha pretty much. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

    [Reply]

    Jiten Reply:

    DRUGOAT! :-) :-)

    [Reply]

  23. I wonder what kind of performance at Dubai would allow the tennis experts on this site to have a good feeling about Roger’s prospects this year. Would he need to defend his title?

    [Reply]

    eric Reply:

    If Roger can beat any one of the big four I will still feel very good about his prospects for the year and hope for winning Wimbledon. Murray good, Djoko very good, Rafa excellent. Even though I think Rafa is currently the weakest of the three, the psychological boost to Roger for beating him would be immense.

    [Reply]

  24. Wow Ru-an and guys, wow. I read this post again and all your comments and all I can wish for is one thing: “Hope that Roger or the Great Uncle Toni don’t read it too”. Man, there is calling something like you see it and then there is making a wayyy to big deal out of something.
    Could you guys do me a favour and in about 2 weeks read again what you all wrote?? “Roger is at Rafa’s mercy”??? You ALL make it seem like Roger is at every tour where they both play down on his knees in the lockerroom just praying until someone takes Rafa out for him and he can win….
    AO was just one thing for Roger: “a mentally and physically tired Roger got beaten by a in the zone Seppi”. That’s all. Nothing more. A 5 or 10 years younger Roger would have found a way to win, but this tired Roger didn’t. Like the Great and very knowledgeable Rod Laver says, sometimes you just cannot seem to find a way when you get older.
    Didn’t the whole 2014 teach you guys anything?? Roger is a bit scared of PLAYING Rafa because there is a 90% chance that he will lose, but Roger is NOT SCARED OF Rafa. If that was the case, he would not have met him 4 times in 2013.
    But… you guys can say whatever you want about Roger and I will do the same. Lets see who gets is right. I know Roger is not afraid of Rafa and he certainly doesn’t tank matches because he might or might not meet him….
    If I am wrong and Roger does do that, then I will apologise and will even say to Roger “if you are tanking matches to avoid Rafa, it might be time to quit”.
    BUT….. I will show respect to this great man, simply because he has earned it and earned my respect.
    This line has been said over and over, but it is so true, “lets just wait what the others will do when they reach his age”.
    Ps: Ru-an, what does the loss to Seppi at AO mean for Roger for the rest of his season?? Then…… what does the loss to Berdych at AO mean to Rafa for the rest of the season?? You guys are so quickly to “burn” Roger when he loses to someone he “owns” (I hate that word). What does it mean for Rafa that he lost to Berdych, someone he beat 17 times in a row??

    [Reply]

    eric Reply:

    Hi Katyani! I certainly don’t believe that Roger has EVER TANKED a match, and I am sure that Ru-an feels the same way. I haven’t been keeping up with this particular thread because it’s just speculation and this season can go so many different ways, that it’s impossible to guess, but I would be surprised to find out that any of the regulars here would suggest Roger TANKED. Tanked means purposely lost, and that is not our guy. However I do absolutely believe that Roger has taken and unbearable ego beating from Rafa and that subconsciously he dreads the thought of playing him and that pain and dread leads him to lose matches that he ordinarily would never lose. I think Rafa’s loss to Berdych means nothing at all because Rafa barely had any match play going into the AO after a long time off and I think considering that, he had a fantastic tournament. I think we don’t yet know what Roger’s loss means and won’t know where his game and his head is until he has to face the other big four in the business end of a tournament. I’m definitely not ready to say 4.0 has ended because of one match, but I’m on alert in a very big way. This is going to be a fascinating season indeed!!!

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Eric, thanks for your reply. And I am sorry if my words are harsh. But the comments you guys write…. some are way too harsh. They really make it sound like in the future Roger will always “tank” matches even if it is not even known if they will meet. And I don’t think that is the case. NOT after 2014. Ru-an didn’t give Roger the name “5.0” for nothing. Roger was so strong, so strong… poor little child Novak had to ask Becker to come to IPTL so he could play Roger. Believe me, Boris was there for a reason :-)
    And Eric, no arguement from me what so ever that Rafa is in Roger’s head. That is just the cold hard truth. I just hope Roger somehow manages to deal with him (would have helped A LOT if Rafa was on the other side of the net in 2014 when Roger was unplayable !!!). And sorry to say, but part of me also hopes that someone gets inside Rafa’s head like he is in Roger’s head, so he can know how THAT feels !!!
    Oh and Eric, I know Roger doesn’t tank matches, but…. USO 2013 was very strange……

    Ps: Doesn’t it seem like it has been forever since Roger has played :-) Luckily Dubai is coming closer :-)

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Oh and Eric, last thing. I do believe that the loss to Berdych was not nothing for Rafa. The Great Uncle Toni was not happy with Rafa. Not happy at all.

    And by God, even if it kills us…. Rafa’s decline has to start sometime right?? I really think this year. Even he has to face it once. He cannot keep running away from it or “buying/injecting” it :-)

    [Reply]

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