I know I said I would do an in depth analysis before but yesterday there was still too much excitement and I missed out on some things. Today I had some time to do some reading as well. So I’d like to do an in depth analysis today, yesterday was a bit more of a general analysis. First of all I found an interesting interview with Roger after the match. I translated it using Google translate so it’s a little confusing but it’s possible to understand:
Roger Federer, the first time since October, she won another tournament, the first time after five defeats, won again against Rafael Nadal. What does this mean?
Roger Federer: It is an important victory. But above all, a fine victory, because it pays, if you trained hard, trying dranzubleiben, to stay positive. Moreover, it is already the coronation, Nadal on clay to beat. Tournament victories are always beautiful, no matter against whom. But against him, it is even more beautiful. Because we have so many tough duels had. It is good against him as the winner from the place to go.
They were not even on the tournament favorites counted. Was it difficult to not too firmly into the mystery to come?
It was partly difficult always to answer these questions. Even if I have a stronger will and head than others. But it went so for months. First, the people of 20 Grand Slam titles, talked, then at once that I no longer will win. Now it probably sounds different again. It’s always something to me quickly.
Two things were at: Normally you can Nadal before the game on the net waiting. This time you let him wait. And instead of premium you have decided to return. Psychology? I just thought today wirs make a difference. The players let him do too much, let him determine his rhythm. From the date on which you leave the dressing room until the first ball change, are against him twenty minutes passed. Normally it should be five to ten minutes. Now I took me time to stop time and looked at how patient he is. And today I had little to lose, so I took it with humor. Perhaps it helped that I played liberated.
The most important part is the last paragraph where Roger gets asked about the fact that he made Rafa wait for him at the net, as opposed to always waiting for him at the net while he goes through his routine. This is something I didn’t actually pick up on, but it is crucial in terms of psychology. It has always amazed me how Rafa goes through his routine and made his opponents wait for him. His pre match routine is obviously very important to him, to the point of being obsessive about it. You can see the way he arranges his water bottles on the change over, everything has to be exact. So as an opponent that is something you can take advantage of. Everything that disrupts his normal routine will put doubt into his mind.
This is something Roger took advantage of for the first time. Rafa is used to be in control of the rhythm of the match and by making him wait at the net was a great way to start the match, sending a message of ‘Today we are playing the match on my terms’. For years now Rafa has been doing his little pre match routine which made him feel safe and in control. Imagine what kind of psychological effect it must have had on him when Roger was still waiting in the chair when he was finally done with his little routine. Psychology is a huge part of tennis and Roger was a master in that department on this occasion. I’m just annoyed that he didn’t do it before, but as he says in the interview he was more relaxed then before and he didn’t feel like he has much to lose.
So maybe that was the catalyst for change. Either way Roger played the perfect match, both mentally and tactically. Another thing he did was to elect to receive first, instead of doing the obvious thing which is to serve first. Once again it’s about showing your opponent something new, anything that puts doubt in their mind. Brad Gilbert was the all time master at this and no doubt he would have been impressed with Roger’s tactics. So getting doubt into Rafa’s mind had the match half way won for Roger, now it was just a case of employing the right tactics which Roger did to the tee. His serve was impeccable. The percentage of first serves wasn’t exceptional, but the placement and the moments he came up with a first serve was what mattered. The second serve ace on 5-4 and 40-40 in he second set was special.
Then I thought his forehand was working really well and he did the right thing which was playing his strength to Rafa’s weakness, which is the backhand. It’s not that Rafa’s backhand is weak, but it is weaker then his forehand. So what Roger did was he often ran around his backhand and hit the forehand up the line to Rafa’s backhand. It is a slightly riskier shot then the inside out forehand but he played it to perfection. The key is to give it enough height over the net which is what he did. He didn’t allow his backhand to get exposed too much by running around it and it helped shorten the points. There was a few cross court rallies to his backhand but he seemed to go for more on the backhand as well so that Rafa couldn’t get in a groove.
It is crucial for Roger to avoid the backhand to forehand rally where Rafa exploits his backhand with loopy topspin. Whenever he got into a rally like that he mostly lost the point with a backhand error. But it didn’t happen enough for Rafa to dominate as usual. Another thing he did to shorten points was to employ the drop shot, which once again he executed to perfection. Rafa often plays from way behind the base line which makes him vulnerable for the drop shot. But he is also very fast and the shot has to be played at the right time and it must be well executed. With his first Masters Series shield since August 2007 Roger has now drawn even with Rafa in Masters series titles again at 15-15, which would have been 14-16 if he lost.
The head-to-heads is now at 7-13, which would have been at 6-14 had he lost. This win over Rafa couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. Also had Rafa won Madrid he would have made a clean sweep of the clay court season and going into Roland Garros he would have been the undisputed king of the tennis world and clear favorite to win a fifth straight title in Paris. This win from Roger puts a whole new dynamic on the fight for world domination, the Rafa/Roger rivalry and the upcoming grand slam events at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. Already I am seeing some people suggesting Roger will complete the career grand slam by winning the French Open and then go on to win the double at Wimbeldon and possibly the US Open as well.
This is big dreaming for sure but after what has transpired in the Madrid final I’d say it’s safe to dream big again. We know what an unstoppable force Roger is when he goes into genius mode and right now anything is possible.