Indian Wells QF: Federer Destroys Del Potro 6-3, 6-2, Nadal Scrapes by Nalbandian

Well that was pretty much JesusFed right there. The first game didn’t look like JesusFed at all though. He looked rusty after the day off and there were several deuces in the first game on his serve. Then came a moment which seemed to change everything. Roger hit a slice serve clearly wide on the deuce court which the linesman missed. Del Potro challenged but hawkeye did’t work. Lyani, a highly overrated chair umpire in my opinion, missed the call and awarded the point to Roger. This really bothered Del Potro as he lost the game and then dropped serve. You have to feel sorry for him because he was done in and it broke his concentration. After that it was all Roger. I was actually feeling a bit uneasy about this match since it is not easy to keep beating a good player like Del Potro.

But Roger made it look easy. I think the key for him against Del Potro is his variety. He uses angles, slices, drop shots, and takes the ball early. In other words he never shows Del Potro the same thing which doesn’t allow him to settle into a rhythm from the back and pound those big ground strokes. He also out served Del Potro by 13 aces to 0. His returning, which is an underrated part of his game, impressed me. Roger showed no signs of the illness he had earlier. It seems the day off was just what the doctor ordered and he has lifted his game. The other quarter final between Nadal and Nalbandian was much more competitive and dramatic. Nalbandian won the first set 6-4. He kept giving Nadal trouble in the second set with his immense talent.

But at 5-5 he started crumbling mentally while Nadal was extremely clutch as usual. Nalbandian had an easy volley which he should have put away but allowed Nadal a look, and of course Nadal didn’t need a second invitation to pass Nalbandian. He also hit a drop shot into the net on a crucial point, and on break point he served a double. Nice choking. Nadal held serve and broke early in the third. It looked like Nadal would run away with the set but Nalbandian kept it competitive, only to choke again at 4-5 and 40-15 on the Nadal serve. A rally ensued and I suddenly got the feeling that Nalbandian is gonna screw up the next shot badly. The feeling was unmistakable and Nalbandian proceeded to hit another silly drop shot into the net. More choking.

But at the same time you have to give Nadal credit for the way he makes his opponents choke. They know he is not going to make it easy and you simply have to go out there and win the match, because he is definitely not going to lose it. This match reminded of their 2009 match in Indian Wells where Nalbandian also won the first set and had Nadal at his mercy in the second set. He could not take advantage of the five match points he had though. It is simply a case of desire winning over talent. Nadal just wants it more. Nadal wants to win more than anything, and of course that plays a big role in the Fedal rivalry as well. Nadal just seems to want it a bit more than Roger. This is once again what Roger will be up against in their 28th meeting later today, if the weather permits it(which it doesn’t look like it will).

Despite the fact that Roger looked in great form while Nadal seemed to be struggling, it doesn’t really mean anything. We have seen many times Roger being in great from before stepping on court with Nadal, only to turn into another player against his nemesis. For instance their last two meetings in at the French Open and Australian Open. Luckily Roger was able to find his form again soon after losing to Nadal in Melbourne this year. Now we are back to that inevitable Fedal meeting. It can’t be avoided as long as Roger is in this kind of form, because he will keep making latter rounds of tournaments and inevitably run into Nadal. Having said that, I have pretty much accepted that Nadal is Roger’s nemesis and that there isn’t much he can do to beat Nadal.

Of course he can beat Nadal indoors and have the odd win over him, but I don’t see Roger changing his personality just to be able to beat Nadal on a consistent basis. Roger is who he is and Nadal is who he is, and neither will change. It’s no use for me to keep acting like this time Roger will win for some reason. I would rather expect him to lose and then be happily surprised if he wins. Indian Wells id slow hard court after all and Roger have never beaten Nadal on slow hard. You can argue he beat Nadal in Miami once, but the court were probably faster back then and Roger barely won that match after being two sets and a break down. I don’t mean to say that Roger cannot beat Nadal today. He has after all beaten Nadal on slow surfaces before.

But if you look at past results then Nadal must be the overwhelming favorite to win this match. He has even beaten Roger on fast hard courts before(Dubai). And again, I don’t think Nadal is guaranteed to win. Roger is playing very well and he will know how much a win against Nadal will do for him. It will increase his chances to win a slam this year even more. Maybe the fact that it is best out three sets will give him a better chance. He must start well and win the first set. Then he knows he needs only one more set to close the deal. There is nothing wrong with hoping. But expecting him to win is something different altogether. At least Roger has defended his points from last year and is still playing great tennis.

As far as the head-to-head goes I don’t care much about this whole turkey business. There isn’t much difference between having a ten match lead in head-to-head to a guy then having a nine match lead or an eleven match lead for that matter. It matters more when the record is 12-2 or something like that. Roger isn’t completely owned in the head-to-head. He has won his fair share of matches. As long as he wins the odd match I am ok with it. Something I haven’t mentioned is the time Nadal took between points against Nalbandian. In the last game where Nalbandian was threatening to break back Nadal took and average of 40 seconds between points. That is blatant breaking of the rules and it’s a shame that the umpire did nothing.

Apparently the umpire warned him earlier in the match, but of course when it really mattered he did nothing. Now here is a way for Roger to beat Nadal: When things get tight, which I expect it will, he must complain to the umpire that Nadal takes too long between points. He must do something to get into Nadal’s head. This is what I talked about in my post about Roger criticizing Nadal too. He must do something different here. He would be fully within his rights to complain to the umpire if Nadal breaks the rules. It is time he uses his own star status and starts calling the shots. He must do whatever it takes to unnerve Nadal, and like I said there are many ways because Nadal is so obsessive-compulsive.

Roger may not like to use gamesmanship, but if the other player breaks the rules it is not gamesmanship if he complains to the umpire. Mental warfare is part of sport anyway. It is time for Roger to put his foot down in this rivalry. He has to let Nadal know that he can’t just do as he pleases. Go back and read my post about Roger criticizing Nadal. It is all there. I want to believe that Roger will do something different here to get into Nadal’s head and get the crucial win today. The time for change is at hand…

Ps. I will create a thread in the forum again for those of you who want to comment during the match. That’s if you can stomach it haha.

Highlights: 

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32 Comments

  1. Ru-an,

    I am with you on this! Roger should complain if Nadal starts to take time between points. I think the fact that there was no day off may actually help Roger just a tiny bit. I like your thinking though. Let’s hope for the best, prepare for the worst and whatever happens happens. I also think 2/3 is a much easier than 3/5 format to beat Nadal right now!

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  2. Ruan:

    Nice to see you back in action. I am actually very happy with the last two Fed’s matches as he came back from being down. Last couple of years we were used to see him have the lead and then lose. So it is a refreshing change. This lends me to believe Roger is mentally tougher compared with last 2 years.

    He has came back from behind now on four occasions this year (Davydenko, Potro (2ndSet Tie Break in Dubai), Raonic and Belluci). This is great. Also, Roger’s ground game looks lot more solid, his movements way better than 2010 and the new thing that I see his improved DEFENCE (like that unbelievable lob against Belluci which reminds of what Nadal did to Roger in AO at game point in 3rd set.

    Anyway, Roger’s ground game, movements and improved defence is now really serious enough to challenge Rafa.

    However, the key is going to be 1st Serv % and I am surprised no one seems to be talking about it. Nadal’s % is way higher than Roger’s. This could very well be be the key in Indian Wells SF. Let us look at ATP stats of Indian Wells so far between Roger and Nadal:

    Nadal Federe
    1st Serv %
    R64 75% 61%
    R32 64% 58%
    R16 63% 58%
    QF 68% 56%
    Average 67.5 58.25

    As we can see, Nadal’s 1st Serv % is way superior. Roger’s is good but only good enough against the likes of Potro/Tsonga etc. But this is not going to cut it especially given Nadal’s %. In AO SF, Nadal served at an incredible 77% 1st Serve. In fact right from AO this year, Roger’s 1st % has been consistently under 60%. This is a real concern against Novak & Rafa.

    If Fed serves at 60% or less he is not going to get free points and that will increase the pressure to play more aggressively and given the slower court, I believe he is guaranteed to lose no matter how great his defence, ground game, etc. Now, that will be a shame since Roger is capable of having higher 1st Serv %.

    But if we averages 65% or higher I believe he will definitely win the match. Let us see what happens.

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  3. How did you guys feel about this controversial call in the first game? At the handshake, Delpo was mentioning it to RF, who then said:”I know, you were right, sorry about that one.” When Delpo was fuming about the crash of the hawk-eye system, he not only discussed with the umpire but also looked straight at Federer and said: “you know it was out!” In that moment I wanted Federer to say what he said afterwards during the handshake, and I wanted him to agree to replay the point. That’s my understanding of fairplay. But he didn’t, and I felt bad about this throughout the whole match.

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    TD Reply:

    Chris, I would have felt the same had the miss call been on Federer’s side of the court. But it was on the other side and far from him. Though he thought it was out, he couldnt be sure and that’s why he didn’t say anything.

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  4. In term of tennis there is nothing worse than Nadal. With his unfair on-court behavior. His ticks and tricks to slow down the game he makes his opponents play badly. Together with his grinding game style it really hurts watching, especially if he takes Roger’s beautiful game down. I don’t think that I will watch the game. I cannot stomach it :-) any more.

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  5. I just checked out Rogers schedule for the year and it turns out he’s skipping Monte Carlo. Why would he do that? Also, isn’t it mandatory to play all the 1000 series events?

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  6. Monte Carlo is optional masters event you can skip one event as the points of all masters aren’t counted together best 8 are counted

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    Pratik Reply:

    It is not best 8. All 8(except MC) are counted. MC points *can* be counted in the other tournaments section(in the 500 section till last year)

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  7. I agree with you completely. Roger really needs to try and get Nadal flustered up by bringing up the time violations during the match.

    For some reason, i seem to remember Roger doing this a couple of times 3-4 years ago, but am not too sure. Any one else remember the same?

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  8. Congrats all…clutch performance by roger…
    Djoker also got served by isner…
    looking forward to your say about it ruan…
    fedner finale…who would have thought!!!!

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  9. How sweet was that? Masterclass from Federer. As always, Nadal does not know when he is beaten, doesn’t know how to quit, but this time the Master gives him the rest! Much nicer even when you don’t expect it!

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  10. Who’s the man? Roger Federer,what a great performance and I couldn’t be happier with how aggressive he was and staying focused even when he had a hiccup at a 5 – 2 lead in the second set. One more opponent to face and I hope Roger gives Isner a proper revenge beating for the Davis Cup loss. Here’s to the GOAT and Non-turkey. Congratulations Federer.

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  11. I had said in the comments section of the previous thread that Roger may just do it against Nadal this time for his very special fan in the audience. Steve, hope you will savor watching this victory live for a long long time ! Congrats to all !

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  12. I just got back from Indian Wells. Got to see Fed play Raonic. The atmosphere was very tense. A lot of Raonic fans in the crowd. He’s one cool guy. Could be top ten soon.
    In the matches I saw Roger play I could tell he wasn’t well. We waited twice to watch him practice and he was a no show both times. Hard to believe Roger can play that well, be sick and with no practice.
    I saw a lot of other great matches. We were at the stadium 12 hours a day. Tsonga smiles and laughs a lot. Murray swears a lot.
    The whole tournament was incredible.
    Now that Fed beat Nadal, everyone can stop with the no balls comment..right? (I hate that term)

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    Susan Reply:

    I am so thrilled for you Sue, what a great time. To see roger play in person must be a dream come true. All the great matches and players you saw,wonderful!

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    Sue Reply:

    Thanks Susan. It is amazing to watch Roger in person. He has an aura about him.
    Great Steve, you also made it to Indian Wells.

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  13. Congrats Roger and all Fed fans! What display of powerful yet graceful Tennis! Super, Super, Super…! I had said that Fed will win provided he got around 65% 1st serves and sure enough he made 64%! His defence was great too! Could not be happier!

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  14. After reading another depressive comment posted by the main blogger I concluded that RF actually defeated two guys tonight.The score of the second match was:

    Roger Federer – Ruan 6-0 6-0

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    Chris Reply:

    No need to get depressed about facing the truth that Federer is being the underdog against Nadal. And no reason to get cocky about it Federer manages to win anyway. Federer won even more impressively against Nadal in the year ending Masters last season, only to get destroyed again by his Nemesis when it counted for Grand Slam glory. I’d keep the ball low here, even this tournament is not over yet, there is yet another hurdle before our man can lift the title, which I expect him to do, but it’s not a given yet.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    If you find my posts so depressing why do you read it? I’m sure there are many blogs our there praising Roger 24/7 where you will feel right at home. Why hang around and punish yourself?

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  15. It was an amazing privilege to be able to see Federer play Nadal live and an even greater privilege to witness one of his ten hard-won victories over the Spaniard.

    Thanks to everyone who sent their best wishes and of course to Ru-an who provides this wonderful blog for us to talk about it.

    There was a rain delay of close to three hours, during which we shivered in the cold, but it was worth it.

    He showed absolutely surgical tennis (in cold, wind, and wet) and stuck to his game plan, exploited Nadal’s backhand, and kept the faith.

    You don’t realize how fast Federer is when he’s in perfect form. Television cannot possibly do it justice. If you blink, he’s already set up the play and finished it.

    Live, too, you get a clearer sense of how difficult it is for Federer to penetrate the nearly unbreachable Nadal defense. He has to make so many precision strikes, and keep changing the angle and pace of the ball to get the opening he wants.

    He moves so smoothly that he hardly ever looks rushed at all, although he’s covering a lot of court. Even on the defense he seems to be well-positioned to get a play on the ball.

    The crowd was great, lots of fans of both players yelling and cheering (I contributed my share on Federer’s behalf). I was nervous the whole time, hoping he would be able to sustain this level of play for the whole match. To my great joy, he was.

    On match point there was a drizzle of rain which stopped play, and you can imagine the tension in the air, but after play resumed he sealed it with an ace and the stadium erupted.

    This is a fantastic and long-overdue victory (first time he’s beaten Nadal on outdoor hard court in six years!) and it augurs well for the season.

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    Chris Reply:

    Thanks for sharing the experience. We only know the pleasure of watching the slow motion replay, but not the pleasure of realtime speed, must be impressive! Congrats for your own timing, that was the right time and the right place to be.

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    Jiten Reply:

    Steve, Steve, Steve, You were Fed’s lucky charm out there in stadium 1. So nice to see Fed giving Nadal the same medicine from his own bottle, that is feeding Rafa’s backhand from his forehand side and forcing mistakes repeatedly. Everybody including the commentators predicted that the windy conditions will favor Nadal; but our hero proved the opposite. In the interview afterwards, Fed said “I’ve had doubts in the past vs. Rafa”. I hope from now on, he would be able to reverse the tide.

    Steve, could you be there in the court watching Fed live in the finals as well? You know why!

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  16. That’s awesome that you guys got to see Roger play. I’ve only seen him once – actually at the US Open 2009 Final which he actually lost – but still amazing performance. Roger is the greatest!!!

    I’m so happy for him! I always felt that this tournament is the tourning point. If Roger wins tomorrow he will have 19 Masters 1000. He’ll have a great chance of getting to number 2 in the world. In fact his job is to try to win tomorrow. Imagine, then in Miami all he needs to do is just get to SF and that’s it. Anything above that is bonus. Then totally, and smartly he’ll have a 5 week break. During that Djokovich and Nadal will fight it out – actually again I hope that Djokovic beats Nadal in Monte Carlo, and by Madrid Roger should be number 2. He’ll be fresh and full of confidence with little points to defend prior to Roland Garros.

    And if he is at number 2 at Roland Garros and with a magical draw, we could see Djokovich and Nadal in the semis and Fed and Murray in the other (if we are lucky) and then Roger will have great chance of getting back to number 1 with Wimby coming up.

    The strategy is clear and that is why I said it from the get go. Roger had to win here because in a a slam it’s near impossible to beat Nadal but if he beat him here and wins tournaments, then he can get ranking points to get a chance to upset Djokovic and actually even skip Nadal in the GS.

    A lot of ifs. But one step at a time. Isner tomorrow. If he serves lights out like today, it will be difficult. I hope the nerves of the occasion get to him. First set is crucial I think.

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  17. Spring is near, and with the lengthening of the days, it seems we receive more sunlight every day, and nature and creation may slowly but surely come to growth and flowering again. And we feel relieved because we finally may break out of that tightness emanating from the long, cold and somber winter months, and may breathe freely again.

    For Roger a new spring seems to have arrived as well. After a winter of more than 5 years without a single victory outdoors on hard court over his principal rival, Rafael Nadal, Roger found again this gorgeous taste of victory and returned in the full sunlight, playing tomorrow the finals of Indian Wells in the palm desert of California (assuming the sun will shine….).

    It is easy to discount Roger’s victory over Nadal as the result of Nadal having an off-day or Roger having luck on his side, or of the weather circunstances. I’m more willing to recognize Roger’s victory as being the result of hard work and talent, and renewed belief in himself. Roger’s play has been lifted gradually in this uphill ‘crescendo’ movement that we’ve been noticing for some time now, in a possible unstoppable march from exile to freedom, from darkness to light, from the desert to a new beginning and future. Old soldiers never die, they just fade away, were the words of a West Point song. Roger is not ready for either. He’s just fighting his way back to the top spot.

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    Jiten Reply:

    Wilfried, could not have been better explained. Your writing resembles Federer’s footwork, that is “poetry in motion”.

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    Wilfried Reply:

    Thanks for the kind words, Jiten. I’m just very, very exited about this victory, and then the words and ideas flow more easily.

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  18. Ru-an, I am copying another poster’s query in another forum:

    “Aren’t toilet breaks required to be taken at the end of a set? Nadal’s opportunistic toilet break during the second set 5-4 changeover seemed a desperate attempt to disrupt Federer’s rhythm. Nadal took longer than the 90 second changeover. This is the latest in Nadal’s long list of dubious interruptions (e.g., medical timeouts) at critical points in matches.”

    What’s your view on this?

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  19. And how about that 5:4 30:30 point. Huge!!!! In that point Roger showed “balls of steel” He was actually in a defensive position and Nadal through everything at him. And still Roger hanged tough and won the point. And, then at 40:30 when it was supposed to be all over, Nadal wanted to stop again – to put even more pressure. But Federer learned his lesson. Especially after what happened with Djokovic at the US Open! I just loved that emphatic ACE! It was like a dagger in the heart of the beast. There was NOTHING Nadal could do at that point and it was all over!!!! I loved how Roger won this match – with guile and with style!!!!

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