I was wrong. Period. Nadal was better on the day than Federer. Having said that, Roger had his chances. No one can dispute that fact. Federer started out the match looking pretty confident, holding serve to love. Nadal would soon make his move though as he broke in the third game, only to get broken back in the next game. Nadal would get the break again in the all important seventh game however, after several unforced errors from Federer. Roger was looking less than confident again. I think it could have been nerves. At 4-5 he would squander a total of four break back points. The first set was very disappointing from a strategic point of view for Roger. It was the old Federer before he realized he should change his tactics on clay against Nadal. There was no particular intention to move forward, hit the drop shot, or vary his play.
And things didn’t look any better in the second set, as Federer got broken in the opening game. But again he would break right back. At this point something started to change. Roger began playing the game that won him the title against Nadal last year. He was starting to use the drop shot with great success and was looking to be much more aggressive. This was all very encouraging, which made the loss of serve in the fifth game all the more disappointing. However, Roger would show great resilience as he broke Nadal back yet again. Entering the tie break, Roger got the mini-break early on. They changed sides with Roger leading 4-2. Things were looking up. But unfortunately from here on Roger would really throw it away. He missed a drop shot which up until that point he made with deadly accuracy.
He really threw it away here and lost four points consecutively. He managed to fend off one match point, getting things back on serve. But in a freak occurrence, Nadal hit a ball short that landed near the service line and took a wicked bounce. Roger obviously missed the ball completely, and Nadal finally got his victory over a top eight player. Ironic, isn’t it? That Nadal needed a freakish bounce to get his first win over a top eight player in a year. It was an unfortunate incident, but Roger should not have been in that position in the first place. He did so well to get into a position to win the second set, but then played some really sloppy tennis. So in the end he didn’t really deserve to win. Nadal on the other hand did what he was supposed to do. He beat Roger once again on his favorite surface.
Even though I said I think Roger would win the match, Nadal is really expected to win every time they meet on clay. It is just a fact. It is also the reason why their head-to-head record is 14-7 in favor of Nadal. Of the 21 meetings they have had, 12 have been on clay. More than half. This is because Nadal fails most of the time to make it far enough in the tournaments outside of clay to meet Federer on a regular basis. Federer also leads Nadal in the most important record, which is grand slam titles(16-6). Nadal will never pass Federer in grand slam titles. Rest assured. Even if he regains the form of 2008, which is highly unlikely, his knees will never carry him long enough to break Roger’s records. Every time Federer and Nadal plays a match, the consequences seem to be great. But these days it’s really not that great.
The overall picture has become more or less static. Since Federer has won the career slam and the most grand slams in history last year, he has effectively put his records out of the reach of Nadal. The Nadal fans will get all excited now, claiming once again that Nadal has already achieved much more than Federer has at his age. But as always their logic is flawed. Nadal peaked early and is already past his peak, and he only has 6 slams on the board. I do think he is the favorite to win the French Open now however. But even if Roger won today, Nadal would still have been the favorite. Roland Garros is slower conditions than Madrid, which makes Nadal impossible to beat there if he plays well. With this win Nadal now holds the record for the most Masters Series titles as well. Lets be glad for him, because he is never going to come close to Roger’s grand slam records.
As far as Roger’s quest to break Sampras’ record amount of weeks at number one goes, the scenario is now as follows:
If Nadal wins the French Open, which is expected, Roger needs to make the semi-final to hold on to the number one spot after the French. To get the record he needs to be number one for another week after Paris however. For that to happen he needs to make the final of Paris. If not then Nadal still has a chance to pass him in the week of Queens and Halle. Djokovic also has an outside chance of passing Roger, but i don’t think he is winning the French.
So in the end Roger needs to make the final in Paris. That is more than possible given his current form. As always, it seems Roger has a thing for the dramatic. He could have settled this number one thing a long time ago if he did better in Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, or Estoril. But at least this will make things interesting at the French. If Roger makes the final in Paris he will have the number one record, and then he can just go ahead and relax in the final. If he should meet Nadal again it wouldn’t matter all that much if he loses. He will have another important record under the belt, giving him the assurance he needs to possibly(more hope than anything) upset Nadal. But hey, we don’t know what the future holds. Just about anything can still happen. And lets not lose sight of what a great week this has been for Roger. Onwards and upwards!
“Considering where I was last week (when he lost to Albert Montanes in the Estoril semi-finals) this has been a major improvement for me,” said Federer. “The fact is I hardly ever play a lefty on clay and nobody as tough as Rafa. So it’s obviously not easy to make that transition and I thought I did it very well today.
“He came in with tons of confidence having done so well on clay this season, I knew it was going to be tough; but I really believed in my chance. I was maybe a couple points away here and there, but just got broken one too many times today. But I’m pretty happy with the way I played. I’ve played great this week so I definitely come out of this tournament with tons of confidence.”
May the Fedforce be with you.
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