Indian Wells QF: Nadal def Federer 6-4, 6-2

Hello folks. You are probably waiting to hear what I have to say about this match, and there is an awful lot to say. It is my off weekend so I will take my time too. In my last post I said I didn’t really know what to expect in this match. But in hindsight it was petty obvious what was going to happen here. I say that because when Nadal won his last clay event in such convincing fashion, I already had the thought that there was another shift of power happening in the Fedal saga. Nadal was on the rise, and Roger have been slumping. That is just the way it has always been with Fedal. When one falls the other rises. Last year at Indian Wells Roger won by the exact score that he lost here and not long after that Nadal took the fall at Wimbledon, while Roger won his 17th slam there. If you go back into their past you will find this scenario playing itself out time and time again.

With this win from Nadal his rise has sort of become official. He did well in the South-American clay events but had not yet proven himself in an event where all the top dogs were present. And Indian Wells was hard court as well. He had an impressive win over Gulbis who was on a 13-match winning streak. I knew this result spelled trouble. Nadal was looking like the old Nadal who always comes through in the tough matches. But now he was up against the defending champ and world #2. A win here would prove that he is well and truly back to his best. Personally I still held out some hope that Roger could win this. Obviously as a fan you are gonna believe in your player. But like I said in hindsight there could only really be one result here. With Nadal being on the rise and Roger falling, it was inevitable.

So in a sense that gives me peace because that explains a lot about what has been going on of late with Roger. I just could not figure out why he took such a dive after the Australian Open. He was in such great form there, playing like the Roger 3.0 we know. After Rotterdam I speculated about a back problem but I could not be sure. After Dubai I thought it was still a hangover from last year’s grueling season. Now I’m not saying these things doesn’t play a roll. They are all part of it. But the main thing is just the ebb and flow of the Fedal saga and the shifting of power. After all these years they are still right there at the top of the game and they affect each other deeply. Nadal’s hiatus from tennis since Wimbledon last year deeply affected Roger’s tennis. There is no denying it. When he lost in the second round it effectively opened the door for Roger to win the title.

It is just a big mental boost for Roger knowing that his nemesis is not in the draw anymore, and he took full advantage of that to win his 17th slam. It was like it was destined to be. At the US Open Roger lost to another player who I would rather call his bogey man than his nemesis. And then in Melbourne there was once again no Nadal and Roger played with a certain freedom and assurance. I think people underestimate the mental impact Nadal has on Roger. Nadal does not own Roger but it is pretty damn close. The only reason I say Nadal does not own him is because Roger has had some key wins over him, some of them which was petty damn routine as well. No doubt Nadal has the upper hand in the rivalry though, which now stands at 19-10. One more win for Nadal and Roger becomes his turkey, which is not exactly and honor.

So what I am getting at is that their fortunes keep fluctuating. I am not gonna go into the past now but for anyone who has followed tennis for some time this will be clear. Nadal is back with a bang now and don’t be surprised if he stays back for an extended period, while Roger doesn’t really shine during that period. That doesn’t mean Nadal will all of a sudden start winning slams again. Even though Fedal is still right at the top of the sport, they are not the dominant force they once were. There is a new dominance in town called Nolandy. So even though Nadal is back it doesn’t mean he will even win the French Open. He is definitely a very strong favorite to win a ridiculous 8th Roland Garros, but this may just be Djokovic’s year. In fact I think he is primed for it. After 2012 where he was under the pressure of expectation from 2011, he is now back to his devastating best.

He has not lost a match yet in 2013 and we could be looking at another long winning streak. I think he will be really targeting the French Open this year to try and complete the career slam. So I am quite looking forward to the clay court season for a change, where it will be interesting to see who gets the better of each other between Djokovic and Nadal. You better believe Nadal can’t wait to get back on his favorite European clay court swing, while Djokovic will be looking to turn around what happened last year as well. But let me get back to Fedal. Roger came out looking good and served some really nice aces. But at 3-3, after being up 40-15 on serve, he lost the plot and got broken. Really you should hold serve when you are 40-15 up, so those were ominous signs. Roger was a break point down at 3-5 again but fought back well to at least make Nadal serve for the set.

Nadal had no problem serving it out though. That was pretty much the end of that. Roger had come back from a set down against Nadal before(the Hamburg final comes to mind), but it was not gonna happen here. He was not mentally into this match. There were moments of attacking tennis where Roger took the initiative, but it was few and far between. Nadal broke to love in the first game of the second set just to make his dominance clear. He was doing his usual Superman-like defense which put Roger under loads of pressure. So just for fun he broke Roger in his next service game again to take a 3-0 lead, and it looked like there could be at least a bread stick in the making. But again Roger fought back admirably to break right back. He also held serve to remain in fighting distance and avoided the bakery products.

Nadal then reeled off the next 3 games to progress to the semis where he will meet Berdych. I think in the end Roger did well not to get humiliated, but he was thoroughly beaten nonetheless. Now I already know what has been on your mind the last few minutes as you have been reading though this post. Why did Ru-an not mention Roger’s injury?! Surely he is not overlooking that all important point?! And you are right; I am not overlooking it. I am fully aware that Roger was not feeling comfortable out there and that his injury affected his play. It was clear for everyone to see. But since he decided to play I have to treat this match as if he was 100%. To make excuses would be unfair to his opponent, no matter how much I may dislike his opponent. That is not my style anyway. If Roger did not feel physically ready he should not have played.

But he did it for the fans I hear you say. Fair enough point as well and that is admirable. But like I said I must report on this match as though Roger was fully fit. What else am I supposed to do? Say Roger was injured, that he did an admirable thing just to show up for the fans, and just keep worshiping him like he is God? I’m sorry, that is not my style either. I’d rather give credit to Nadal who played a terrific match and look if there were any areas where Roger could have improved. I am just not that biased as a fan where I just write the match off as though it counted for nothing because Roger was injured. That would be completely unfair to Nadal and I refuse to do it. And yes, there were areas where Roger could have improved. If you took a close look at the match you would have noticed that there were moments where Roger took the initiative and dominated the points.

So my question is; if he can do it on one or two points then why can’t he do it on other points too? Now notice his whole mental demeanor throughout the match and you will start seeing what I’m getting at. Without a doubt the injury affected his movement. I am not discounting that. But I felt he could have shown more positive body language and self-belief. Even after winning some points with beautiful attacking tennis he hung his head. What’s up with that? I think if you decide to play a match you should at least try and act like you are into it. Instead of fist pumping or an”Allez!” he hung his head after winning an important point. Everyone noticed the injury but did anyone notice the body language? I just felt that he could have at least acted like he is more into the match, and that would have helped in turn to forget about the injury.

Now I am also fully aware that I won’t be the most popular writer after saying these things, but that has never been my priority. My priority has always been to be objective and honest. I could easily have made a post saying yes Roger was injured and a hero for even playing, thereby saying what everyone wants to hear and being popular for it. But then I would have lied to myself and I just have  more integrity than that. If you say this match is all down to injury you are lying to yourself because we have seen plenty times where Roger was physically fine, and lost having the same negative demeanor against Nadal.  In the end I was not disappointed by this result, just a little disappointed with Roger’s demeanor. I know this is just the ebb and flow of the Fedal rivalry and this was bound to happen. I also know that Roger is still mentally good.

He is just not exceptional in that department like Nadal or Djokovic is. As far as talent goes I would give Roger 10/10, for physicality 9/10, and for mentality 8/10. And that is still good enough to be the GOAT. So I have nothing to complain about, but I am not gonna act like he is a perfect God who can never put a foot wrong either. That is just not me. I have said this many times and I will say this again; I am Roger’s biggest fan but also his toughest critic. Honesty is one of the reasons I like Roger and it is exactly because I am honest myself. Roger now goes on a two month break which should do him some good. I hope he comes back refreshed and makes a big impact. But I can see the clay court season being dominated by Djokovic and Nadal, with Roger and Murray playing second fiddle. The grass court season should be more interesting from a Roger point of view.

I am also not that disappointed that Roger lost because it looks like we will have another Djokodal final and I never get tired of that rivalry. It is even more interesting than the Fedal rivalry for me. In the Fedal rivalry Roger tends to lose and since the rise of Djokovic 2.0 he tends to be the winner in the Djokodal rivalry. I just love it when he beats Nadal, and since he is back close to 2011 form I can see him give Nadal some more good spankings in the coming months. This makes me excited for what lies ahead. I know some Fedfans are not excited by this, but fortunately I am not just a Fedfan but also a fan of tennis in general and I do enjoy watching other rivalries and matches too. Roger will still be around anyway, and he will rise again. He always does…

Highlights:

Presser: http://www.bnpparibasopen.com/News/Tennis/2013/Interview-Transcripts/Roger-Federer-Quarterfinals.aspx

Posted in Uncategorized.

47 Comments

  1. This match doesn’t count to me because of Rogers’ back. He had back problems at AO and in Rotterdam it was really acting up. I watched this match online with a chat room full of Roger and Rafa fans. The Rafa fans who rarely give an inch to Roger were feeling bad for him and could clearly see he was uncomfortable with pain. I read but can’t verify that Roger would have retired in the beginning of the second set but did not out of respect for Rafa.

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  2. I think that Roger will get over this loss rather quickly. He wii still be number 2 for at least couple if more weeks if that even matters anymore.

    In any case, I think that he needs a break, he needs to practice and also he needs to rethink his whole schedule and possibly his coaching.

    I think that he has become a little bit too predictable and he needs to add something to his game if he is to win again.

    In my opinion, Roger needs to spice up his serve, become a little bit more versatile and improve his lateral movement.

    It might be too much to ask but I think that Roger is up to the task and he’ll ne back.

    If it doesn’t work out as he wants, then it might be time to hang the racquet. But hopefully, he’ll be back!

    I terms if Nadal and Djokovic, I am excited because Djokovic is like the Federer of old, dominating the game and all and now we have Nadal on the comeback – becoming better and better every day.

    DelPotro is actually pretty good as well and I was impressed with his form. I dare to think that if he didn’t lose so early in Australia he would have beaten Murray there also. Murray is back to his “Wimp” status and that’s that.

    So we’ll see. The semis are on and we’ll see where everyone’s at currently!

    Let’s try to enjoy the tennis as much as we can and hope that our champ will come back. I predicted that there will be a let down after Australia for Roger and it played out exactly as I predicted.

    We’ll see what happens in Madrid. I still am not quite sure about if they are still keeping the blue clay and if Nadal and Djokovic will keep their promise and not show up! ;-) )

    Allez!

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  3. Ruan,

    I alwayys read your blog but never comment because i´m a spanish speaking person and don’t speak english that fluid. But THIS!!!!

    You are no different than the rest of the press or haters. You said in a lot of words what you could do with on phrase. “Roger is weak mentally, and enter in the court already lost.” and Nadal owns him.

    And for that you say tha is because you are honest and your analysis is based in what you saw, but basically you are talking about his behavior, his body language. To be objective, you have to analyse every aspect, every factor that play in the outcome and, first you are ignoring the very fact that the guy was injured, and that it was very clear to me, who am nottennis expert, that the guy was not moving, no zip in his strokes, always very short. The serve was bellow par, his movement was not existence.

    Do you really think that Roger does not love playing??? because this is not the first post I read from you latelly…You are talking to much of his lack of interest….in other words, his lack of profesionalism?

    I just read in the comments of your post about Wawrinka what your readers think, and they saw a very different game. I was very touched by Veronica’s post and I just could no avoid to copy it in RF.COM.

    I’m really confused about your posts of late

    Apologize for my english and my criticism, I know is your blog ad can write whatever you like….just disapointed

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  4. Haven’t been around here for a while (blog/forum overload I guess).

    Just wanted to say that Roger’s always been a good “company man” — ATP corporate citizen. He always considers the business interests of the ATP and tournaments. On a day on which both WTA quarterfinals were not played because TWO women gave walkovers, I don’t think Roger could have withdrawn. It would’ve been disaster for the tournament.

    So I am not going to take anything from this match regarding the Fedal rivalry. It counts on the tally, and yes Nadal played very well, but it doesn’t “mean” anything. Just my 2 cents. ;-)

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  5. I honestly think that Fed wasn’t that into the match because he knew it was going to be a long hard road after the first set and he would be risking further his back. Before he was broken in the first he looked good and played strategically well, and then he panicked a bit in that seventh game. But after that first set, he did look more resigned and I can’t blame him really. Even if he did somehow miraculously win the 2nd set (which he nearly made even after going down 3-0) and somehow won the third, then he would have to face Berdych in the semis with a bad back, and that would not end well.
    I choose to look at his form before the end of the Dodig match, and he was playing great then. It’s unfortunate that the back became a problem, but it is what it is. Now he will get a much needed extended break and who knows, he may play a tournament before Madrid if he’s up for it (would still have a month break if he were to play Estoril, for instance).

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    Vasco Reply:

    Yeah Kyle I’m with you…
    Roger in Estoril again would be great!! Then I’d get to see him one more time! The last one was traumatic (lost to Montanes… who?!)
    best,
    Vasco

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  6. This is my first comment, but I’m a longtime reader of your blog and really appreciate your work.

    Federers back injury really affected his game and I can’t understand why you don’t consider it this time because some weeks ago after his Rotterdam loss against Benneteau you made nothing but the excuses that he had back problems.

    I may quote you: “But there is no doubt in my mind now that his injury caused him to lose. When you are injured you can’t give 100%, and that would perfectly explain why Roger looked like he was lacking his usual passion. That injury is always in the back of your mind because you don’t want to make it worse. That would also explain Roger’s body language. He looked kind of nonchalant, like he was almost in exho mode. Come to think of it, my last post wasn’t really of base. Like Roger, my approach has always been to criticize myself first and then look for excuses. It may seem like I am being too harsh on myself or on Roger, but that is just the way I do things. Now that I know about the back problem it is obvious to me the fault is not with Roger, I am going to say it. I have total faith in Roger 3.0 and I know he is not going to put in a performance like this if there wasn’t a serious problem.”

    I hope Roger can recover the next 2 month and will then follow up on his 2012 performance.

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  7. Good post, I really respect you’re not that biased for a player despite centering your blog in just one. I really wish you could focus more in the game and less in hates or loves for certain players, and I really respect that you don’t put your favorite player in a pedestal. That’s the mark of a true lover of this sport. Again good post.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Daniel.

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    Toni Reply:

    Hi Ruan, i am a long time reader of your blog who stopped writing a year ago just because i got tired of these biased flattering comments of all FED fans under ur article. YOU MUST BE PROUD that u are not like that and can focus his game and body language to find the reasons for success and don`t look for excuses. An unbiased fan could also confirm that with or without injury previous 2 losses to Berdych and Beneatau were all due to FED`s mindset. Let`s stop with the flattering excess flattering once for all and stopped being FEDs personal physicians. Let`s from now on strive to judge his self belief, choking, weather he improves the small things in his game that matter when plays Nadal or a lesser player he recently lost to but not focus on irrelevant for the outcome of the game things like – “whata a gentelman he was when signed all those autigraphs, how he played trough the pain, how humble he is in his joy all things related more to marketing strategy to attract sponsors than to win on the court”.LET`S FOCUS ON THE TENNIS NOT ON HUMAN/BRAND CHARACTERISTICS AND EXCUSES.
    Until FED retires a bloggers like you and Johnatan`s “Pefect Federer Blog” can tremendously contribute towards helping FED leave the sport with a head up if you keep posting such GREAT, UNBIASED articles! THANK YOU for choosing the painful truth vs blinded worshiping!!!

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    veronica Reply:

    Hi Toni! You would be an outstanding commentator for this blog. What a purist. Why don’t you stay? Just may keep some of the flatterers/worshippers here more “grounded”?!! (although I thought the true flatterers/worshippers have left this blog long ago – I must be wrong)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes Toni I hate the excess flattering myself. It reeks of blind worship and falseness. I would rather have a few honest blog followers who can look the truth in the eye than a legion of blind, biased followers like they have there at RF.com. Thank YOU for the comment and I hope you stick around this time.

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    Toni Reply:

    Thanx man. i ahve some proposals for an article for all the unbiased fans. i will post them as soon as i have the time to collect some info.
    PROUD OF U TO RISK UR NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS IN THE NAME OF TRUTH

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  8. Interesting point about how one rises the other is not in form. Yes well Nadal just made the final as did Delpotro over Djokovic in a fantastic semi-final. The rivalry of Fedal does not produce that many quality matches any more so I’m not that concerned about both when they meet as there are other rivalries that are starting to rise up.

    Delpotro now has begun his rise once again, and has it taken a while or what? He was amazing against Murray and Novak and who would’ve guessed that him and Nadal would be making the final, truly incredible how tennis is surprising and that’s what makes the sport so great. The outcome is NEVER guaranteed.

    It’s unfortunate what happened to Roger with his back but as he gets older it’s only expected that the niggles he has comes up more than usual and that’s why I think the schedule he’s made this year will benefit him in the long run. I do not see him playing a tournament before Madrid as some have suggested as Roger is going on some yacht trip for a couple of weeks with his family and then will need to hit the practice courts big time. Roger hasn’t really practiced and set himself goals yet for this transition year and that’s why I’m not going to expect much until Wimbledon and beyond as the clay season as you said is going to be war time between Nadal and Djokovic however if Federer can get a good draw in the French (lol unlikely I know) and has that form he did in 2011, who knows that happens? Really I won’t count him out but Djokovic really has his eye set on the career slam.

    It’s safe to say he’s not in his 2011 form as he just just to Delpo and has looked up and down this year so there’s hope for Roger. However, it will still be hard for Fed to beat the other big three and Berdych, Tsonga and Delpo who have really started to turn it on against Roger lately.

    It’s important to note that Roger and Berdych are the ONLY players in the top 10 not to have won a title yet this year. This means next year that Roger will have an opportunity to gain a tonne of points in the first half of the season. Djokovic and Nadal will also IMO be burnt out towards the end of the season and this is where Roger comes in. I think he has a really really good chance at the US Open this year for some strange reason and I call all Federer fans to support him no matter what happens this year.

    Your post is good Ruan because yes you have to treat it like a normal match despite Backerer showing back. Nadal admitted that Roger wasn’t his usual self and it was obvious as the match went by what was going to happen. Roger is a good man for stepping out on the court, I think he had some hope that Nadal was off his game and if he won the first set he had a chance but it wasn’t enough against a guy like Nadal and if he had won, he would’ve had a day off against Berdych and the back could’ve gone away. Roger’s back problem is a ongoing issue not an injury, you can do all the treatment in the world and it is still uncontrollable, it is what it is. Rafa was the better player and Roger couldn’t handle it.

    The bottom line is Rafael Nadal is back. And he could be back better then ever. He could win his first non-clay title since the 2010 US open and that would do INCREDIBLE things for his confidence. A Nadal full of confidence is dangerous and I think this is going to be a great season for him. Let’s see if the Swiss Maestro has anything to say about that. I’m sure he does, and he will be ready come Madrid. It’s going to be tough but it’s Roger. He always has the last word.

    Sorry for this being so long but just had many thoughts on Roger’s season so far, excellent HONEST post Ruan. It’s easier to make excuses for a loss sometimes but the cold hard truth really gives perspective.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Fedfan I really appreciate your post and no it’s not too long.

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  9. That’s the worst I have ever seen Roger play in a big match. A complete drubbing. A slew of errors and a backhand that looked completely ineffectual against the predictable routine of Nadal moon-balls. I wondered how Roger had ever been able to beat Nadal.

    As for Nadal, it defies belief. He is off the tour for 8 months with a knee injury and a recent viral illness, comes back to make his first final, win the next two, administer a thrashing to the current world no.2, and is lined up for a third straight tournament win and on his least favoured surface. Watching him play Roger, running every ball down and booming topspin forehands over Roger’s head from behind his own baseline, it made me wonder which player was the one who was supposed to be injured. The cynic in me says it is merely further proof, if any was needed, that human growth hormone beats testing every time.

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    Fedfan Reply:

    This is very disrespectful to Nadal and his achievements. You have no evidence for your claims whatsoever and just cannot accept defeat. It was unfortunate that Federer couldn’t make it an equal contest but sport is cruel sometimes and that’s the way it is. Rafa had to miss the Olympics and two grand slams, and now the time he’s missed and hard work he’s put it I’m sure has paid off.

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    rich Reply:

    Ok, stay in dreamland if you prefer. But you might get a little better informed about doping before you splutter with righteous indignation about Nadal’s so-called achievements. The founder of WADA, along with other informed voices, says tennis has a clear doping problem. He isn’t talking about the also-rans and nonentities, as he made those comments when comparing the unbelievable physical feats of today’s top players with the best of yesteryear – like Borg, McEnroe, and even Lendl. He said they are made to look like “little old men” compared to today’s guys. Modern training can’t explain it, as players in the past used to put in as many hours as the body could cope with. The experts also say that testing can’t catch doping – the cheats are way ahead of the game. Obviously no one today is above suspicion. But some are more suspicious than others. If the Spaniard isn’t one of them then you are watching the game in your sleep.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well Nadal is mentally very good you can’t deny that, regardless if he is doping or not. Dope isn’t enough to make him come back as fast as he did. It takes a little more than that…

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    rich Reply:

    I don’t think anyone suggests that’s all it takes. But if you are good – in any department – it will certainly make you better – much better, including mentally stronger when you know you can get to every ball. Frankly, if Nadal isn’t doping then nobody in tennis is. If he is clean then he shows doping would give you no advantage. After what Lance Armstrong has shown about doping and cycling, is it really possible to believe that?

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    Fedfan Reply:

    I didn’t say doping wasn’t happening in tennis I said you shouldn’t make accusations when you don’t have proof about NADAL. And I agree with Nadal, he wouldn’t have taken so long if he was doping (sure you might say silent ban) but Rafa is one of the guys I trust along with Roger, Murray and even Djokovic.

    And if Nadal is doping well karma will come as the truth always comes out which I hope is never ever the case and that he is doing the right thing because he is one of the most admired athletes and is an ambassador of tennis.

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    Fedfan Reply:

    Agree with Ruan*

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    rich Reply:

    They used to say the same things about Lance.

    But you are missing my point. Superhuman physical performances – in any sport and not just tennis – point to doping. That’s what the experts say (like the founder of WADA.) Combine that with the fact that the same experts say testing isn’t catching (and currently can’t catch) the cheats, then the logic suggests athletes are likely doping just to keep up with or get ahead of the competition, and almost always getting away with it – unless they are stupid.

    If there is widespread doping in tennis – and the former head of WADA says there is – then Nadal will not be the only likely suspect. Regrettably, I would think most top players – make that pro sportsmen – today are. We know enough to see the dopers are winning the race against detection.

    That means Roger, too, cannot be above suspicion. But if he is doping then he is doing a lousy job of it. There isn’t much that is superhuman about his game these days, and certainly none of it is physical (and probably never was.) But Nadal – well, we see injuries notwithstanding, he simply goes from strength to strength – literally. It is naive to ignore that and to an informed eye speaks volumes. No one in the history of the game has recovered from a long lay-off for such serious injury to show such spectacular results. It tends to go with his inhuman stamina and incredible strength. Natural? I don’t think so.

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    marron Reply:

    I don’t get why you think Nadal’s performance at IW defies belief, rich. Roger’s own words:

    Q. Kind of related to that, when you came in here, there was a lot of talk about him being tentative, or were you surprised just how well he was moving out there?
    ROGER FEDERER: ‘No, I mean, he’s not going to come back if he’s not well. He’s not going to come back half broken. I expected him to tear through the clay. I expected him to be tough here, which he shows to be.’
    http://www.asapsports.com/show_interview.php?id=87473

    Exactly, he’s not going to come back if he’s not well. So, he’s back. And he’s well. I see some lack in the movement here and there, but a big improvement since Brazil. I trust Fed’s opinion. You’re talking up his ‘big wins’ and ‘made the final’ in those small clay tourneys, but consider who he played against too. Had Nadal *just* returned to the tour at IW, he’d have been out sooner. He’s improved much in this last month. But you’re entitled to your opinion.
    Respectfully submitted,

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    rich Reply:

    Marron, I don’t believe that Nadal’s performance at IW defies belief. I agree that his performance at IW was fairly typical for him – which is what Federer also seems to be saying. But that’s the issue. I think it defies belief that Nadal’s general style of game, dependent as it is on superhuman strength and stamina (if you compare him with the top athletes of the past), is natural and not unaided by doping of some sort. After years of following the sport, I would say that tennis can’t be played the way he does unless you have superhuman strength and stamina, or we would have seen it sooner. Experience has shown us, in various sports, that that kind of strength and stamina only comes with doping. We also know that, because anti-doping is especially weak in tennis, Nadal – or any other top player – could dope if they wanted to and get away with it – easily. Ask yourself, would players be prepared to do that to win? For how many million dollars in prize-money and the status of being champion? You betcha. I would say most of the top players now consider doping of some sort to be “the level playing ground” and not cheating at all. Roger may well be an eccentric exception in that regard, if he isn’t doping.

    The second thing I do think is quite incredible – which is what I said earlier – is that a chronically and seriously injured player can come off a sustained period of no play to immediately be back at the top of the game, as though nothing had happened. I don’t think Nadal was ever really injured. But he does have his excuses ready.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes Marron. Nadal played very well and that is all there is to it. He was the better player.

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    rich Reply:

    True, he was the better player. But you don’t think there is any chance that he is a doper? And none of the other top players could be doping?

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    steve Reply:

    rich, I wouldn’t call Indian Wells his “least favored surface.” Nadal has now made the semifinals at IW for the 8th straight year. He has already won the title twice, and it is the only hard-court tournament where he has made the final four times.

    IW is in fact Nadal’s best hard-court event, whatever BS he spouts about being the underdog there. The slow, high-bouncing court is ideal for him.

    I bet you he will be skipping Cincinnati and Shanghai and Paris and probably Montreal this year, but he will never skip IW no matter how “injured” he is. Grand Slams aside, it is one of his best chances to win more hard-court titles.

    Uncle Toni wants as much ammo as he can get to show that Nadal isn’t just a clay-court specialist, and the hard court on tour that plays most like a clay court is best-suited for this purpose.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    Steve, by “least-favoured” I was ranking hard court after clay and grass, the three main surfaces the tour is played on. (I exclude indoor carpet, which is probably a variety of hard court.) Nadal himself makes no secret of his dislike for hard court, because of its propensity to cause him injury. You are simply stating that Indian Wells is his most-favoured tournament (in terms of success) amongst those played on his least-favoured surface. Fair enough – but that is not really the point, or the one that I was obviously making – which is that he far prefers clay and grass and is generally more successful on those surfaces. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from playing clay court tennis, whatever the surface he plays on, and we saw exactly that at Indian Wells – as he typically played from about twenty feet behind the baseline. Incredible in the day and age of power hitting that someone can win on all surfaces with such a defensive formula, covering so much extra court while generating ferocious power. But that goes to the question of how can he – or anyone – do that. Back to my main argument.

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  10. Ru-an, really good and objective writing. But common! Ru-an! If there is any time Roger needed a break from criticism and over analyses, THIS is the match! There were so many crap matches Roger played that just make my skin crawl and so many inexcusable matches against Nadal in the past that warrant criticism; but please, not this one. Of course he played crap but this is forgiveable – I give him absolution for all his “sins” committed in this match; Haha!! Have you all gone nuts, those of you who expect Roger to perform well in this match??! To go on court is already torture for Roger. He went because he is a true professional and his only “weapons” were : hope to get an upper hand early, not having to play for long, and hope Nadal drops off. None of those things happened although he tried. So you expect Roger to still keep on fighting and crawling and being mentally tough with his questionable back?!! It’s very hard for a 100% fit Roger to beat Nadal, what do you all expect from an injured Roger?!!! Yeah, maybe Roger could have fought better and stretched it to a 3rd set. What do you think would have happened if he did?! He would have jeopardised his health even more and he would still have lost! You think Nadal would be “merciful” if Roger stretched him to a 3rd! You all know Nadal better than that! I can guarantee Nadal would steamroll Roger with a bagel in the 3rd coz Roger would have nothing but a broken back left for the machine to devour! Roger did well to avoid the bakery goods. My only hope for Roger going into this match was that his back miraculously holds up. And if there was evidence that his back was not bothering him and that he still played crappy, then I would be his first critic. I dislike the cliche, “if you can go on court you are fit to play”. It is not always as straightforward as that; especially with Roger; and you should know that about Roger by now!, (although I also hate it when players become drama queens and uses lame injury excuses if they under perform) I was really pissed with the Berdych match (and a dozen others) and that was the match we should all be pissing about and shouldn’t get over to keep Roger honest!! This one?! Meh! Let it go, as Katarina said above, this match doesn’t “mean” anything. My hope now is that this flare up would finish up healing by the time he finishes his yacht holiday so that he can start practising HARD asap and come back with a bang. For me, I really think he needs to take a hard look on himself urgently as he has only 1 or 2 years left to stay truly competitive with the top guys. After 2014, it would be hard. The game has moved on; too physical for Roger’s game style. Can Roger improve and progress in his game? Nadal and Djoko keeps improving; there seems to be no end to their improvement. Roger needs to look at his ROS seriously. He needs to be stronger, hits deeper. He looks frail when playing the top/big hitting players sometimes. Also, I agree with Vily, his game is getting too predictable. And most of all, as some of you have suggested, I really think he should get a sports psychologist. The 7 month hiatus did Nadal a lot of good. He looks so happy and is enjoying playing tennis again. This long break would be good for Roger too; get away from it all; then come back fresh and passionate for tennis again like how he did last year when Roger 3.0 was born. I don’t know how Roger and his team would go about handling the rest of the year. I hope and wait in optimistic anticipation.

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  11. Can we please stop with the Nadal moonball rubbish? Have any of you actually ever played tennis? Believe me, when a player can hit with a ton of spin, the ball that kicks into you is not a moonball. It is very difficult shot to deal with. Moonballs are what crap club players hit and even I can deal with them.

    Federer loses, because Nadal is a bad matchup, and because he has failed to find an answer to Nadals kicking topspin shots into his backhand. I don’t know why federer didn’t abandon that single handed backhand years ago. He has the ability to learn the double handed shot and a double handed backhanded backhand would instantly take away Nadal’s big advantage over Federer.

    [Reply]

    rich Reply:

    Like Berdych’s two-handed backhand? Oh, he lost, too.

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    Bartelbe Reply:

    Oh so you have found a player with a double handed backhand who can’t beat Nadal, and you think that makes me wrong?

    Federer is a better player than Berdych, so your point is meaningless

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    Fedfan Reply:

    Federer has trouble with Nadal because he was too stubborn during when they first played and because Nadal ended up winning the most important matches, he got into Roger’s head and even though Federer is a better player by a MILE, whenever he gets into a winning position he doubts himself and mentally crumbles against Nadal just like at the Australian Open last year. That match was on Roger’s racquet and he threw away so many opportunities because he couldn’t stick to his aggressive gameplan and was forced to play the passive forehand to backhand tennis that Nadal eventually bullies him into.

    It used to be about the lefty spin, how Rafa’s power couldn’t be defended of the backhand side but all that is nonsense. Roger has the game to beat Rafa, we’ve all seen with the one-handed backhand. I doubt it changes much in that matchup. Federer was too arrogant back then and wanted to play Nadal at his own game, and it cost him big time because Nadal is still in his head since they first met in 2004 when Rafa was just a teenager.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Another great post Fedfan. Objective and honest. Love it. It pretty much sums up what I was getting at. The same thing happened so many times against Nadal. This is definitely not the first time and you have to a blind worshiper not to admit it. He had that same demeanor he has had so many times before against Nadal. The AO SF last year was a prime example. So many chances but not putting him away. Sorry but this blog is not for blind worshiping.

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    Fedfan Reply:

    Exactly. Roger is too stubborn when it comes to Nadal and it’s cost him big time. That Australian Open semi final was also factored by the fireworks but still Roger had so many chances and reverted to passive play, it just gets you nowhere against someone of that defence and clutchness. Federer is the only one to blame when he loses to Nadal because he is mentally weak against him, and I’m afraid it looks like the same thing is happening to Berdych.

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    Fedfan Reply:

    Also this is why I love Djokovic/Nadal matches because Novak does what Federer can’t do and you can see how intimidated Rafa is when loses to him. Novak doesn’t respect Rafa on the court, he’s not afraid of him, it’s a war out there. Had Roger applied the same mentality (too late for that) who knows how many slams he would’ve won?

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    bartelbe Reply:

    Djokovic is steadier than Federer, which allows him to stay in the rallies with Nadal. Djokovic also has unreal defence.

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    Fedfan Reply:

    Yeah he’s definitely mentally steadier than Roger, no doubt about it. Roger’s defence is underrated big time. He’s not going to beat Nadal by playing defence, must be aggressive. Watch the Indian Wells 2012 semi-final and you’ll see what I mean. THAT is how Roger should approach every Nadal match. Clock is ticking for him to get another slam win over him, will it happen? Hoping so.

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    veronica Reply:

    Totally agree, Fedfan. The weakest aspect of Roger Federer is he allows players he struggles with get into his head. So Nadal is now a permanent fixture and Berdych looks semi-permanent. Where’s the hope for Roger now to stay competitive with the top 4 or rather top 8 for that matter?! Where can he “escape” in any draw? He used to be only susceptible to the top 4
    and now we can’t even trust him with top 8. Does Roger want to hang in there and continue the slide, damaging his aura and his legacy even more? Do we fans hope to see Roger play as long as he can; simply enjoying his game, irregardless of the results; lowering our expectations accordingly as the years pass? Or would it be too painful to watch an aging champion still playing great shots but slowly fading away?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Fair enough points Veronica. Yes he had had some more problems with Berdych of late, but he is currently in a slump and served for the match in the TB. We have seen that before, yet he came back. No need to believe he will struggle with all of the top 8 all of a sudden. He is still very much part of the big 4. He just needs a break.

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    bartelbe Reply:

    The problem with the one handed backhand is it takes a great deal of strength and effort to deal with the high kicking ball. There is a reason that most of the top male players have double handed shots. It is simply more effective in the modern game.

    Federer can beat Nadal, on the faster surfaces that allow his attacking to tennis to put the ball past Nadal. Indoors in London was a good example of that.

    Most tennis nowadays is played on slow/medium paced surfaces that blunt Federer’s attacking game enough that Nadal can get to his shots.

    Now that isn’t Nadal’s fault, he didn’t pick the surfaces. You can only win on what the tournements have you play on.

    [Reply]

    Fedfan Reply:

    Agree that the surface has contributed to the matchup especially with high bouncing balls to the backhand. Would be interesting to see a Federer/Nadal match at the US Open, a fast hard court (or is it?, been slowed down a lot over the years).

    Despite the two handed being more powerful, I’m so happy Roger plays with one, it makes him the unique player that he is. And he won 17 slams with it so it’s not that bad…

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  12. It’s over. Wasn’t pretty, but Federer tried his best even though he wasn’t on his best game. Now he can go and take a well-earned vacation, rehab his back, and then train for clay season.

    In life, sometimes you have to show up and take your lumps. You can’t always be on the winning side, even if you’re Roger Federer. It would have been very easy to duck Nadal and let Wawrinka beat him, but that would have been the act of a coward and a shirker. Federer showed up, he did what he had to do, and now he can move on with a clear conscience.

    As Veronica said in her wonderful post on your last blog, to be a great champion entails a great burden of responsibility. To be the champion of champions imposes an even greater responsibility. Because he is the best of the best, he can’t just say to hell with it whenever he doesn’t feel like doing his job. He went out there knowing he was almost surely going to lose but he lived up to his responsibilities and played his match.

    He’s not a “hero” for showing up against Nadal, just an honest man. “Heroes” are a dime a dozen, honest people much rarer. He could have lied to himself and talked himself into thinking he was injured enough to quit the tournament. No one else would have been in a position to tell whether he was lying. But he thought he was well enough to play, so he did his job, what he was paid to do, and played his match.

    Remember that Federer is 31 years old, which is old in tennis years. If he’s physically off and cannot hit his spots and execute his game plan, he cannot beat younger, physically superior opponents. They run faster and hit harder. If he tries to make it a contest of brute force, he’ll lose. That’s just how it is these days.

    The only way he can win is to play his kind of tennis, based on precise serving, point construction, variation, and attacking. If he can’t do that then the other guy will have a shot to beat him. This is the price he pays for continuing to play at his age.

    And it’s partly his fault, too, because of his dominance he forced other players to raise their standard too. Now the game is so professional that all the top players are always on their best game during the Grand Slams and Masters. No match is casual anymore.

    The days when you had surprise Grand Slam finalists like Gonzalez or Baghdatis who came out of nowhere are over. Now it’s almost always the top four who end up in major finals, with the other top-ten occasionally making an appearance (and even then, the last time that happened was in Wimbledon ’10). Even at the 500 and 250 levels, top-ten players like Ferrer and Tsonga are winning a large percentage of the titles.

    So by the time Federer makes it to the quarters of a Grand Slam or Masters, he is usually facing elite opponents who are fully prepared, such is the consistency of the game today. If he’s off his game, as he is now, the results won’t be pretty.

    Federer is keeping things in perspective. He lost a tennis match; that’s all. Now that he has lost, he can accept that he lost and move on. The most important thing is his health, which I’m sure he’s tending to at the moment, and making sure he can spend some time with his family and relax.

    In the end we all lose to Father Time so what’s the shame in losing, anyhow?

    [Reply]

    Dolores Reply:

    Steve, your comment is well stated, I like what you are saying. Also, Susan’s comment that follows.
    Dolores

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  13. Agree. Maybe Roger is done but i can’t make that judgement when he’s been playing in pain. If his career is coming to an end the last thing i am going to do is trash him. Instead i will relish every time he is on court. Roger has given me more joy then all the players wrapped up together for the last fifty years. At fist i could not believe my eyes at what he was doing on court and feel the same way today. I hope he can play as long as he wants and without pain. If he can’t i wish Roger the very best in everything always. I have nothing but gratitude for him.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Who said he’s done? Lol. Roger is far from done. Ridiculous how people make these statements.

    [Reply]

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