Madrid SF: Nadal def Federer 5-7, 6-1, 6-3

I couldn’t watch this match live so I had to take a look at the rerun first. But I was nevertheless excited at the result when I saw it. Of course it is highly disappointing every time Roger loses, especially to Nadal. But this was more than I expected so I am actually quite excited. The match didn’t start out very convincingly for Roger, with him dropping serve in the opening game. He hung in there however and got the break back in the eighth game. This was somewhat against the run of play, as it is very hard to break Nadal on clay. In the eleventh game Roger went down 0-40 on his serve however, and the set look all but lost. He fought back brilliantly though and held serve to take a 6-5 lead. In the next game he made an exquisite backhand flick pass at 30-30 to set up set point. He converted in style to take the opening set.

The match was on. It was expected that Nadal would mount a comeback and he proceeded to breadstick Roger in the second set. Despite the scoreline it was still a close set, but Nadal was back in control. Then in the third set Roger managed to produce a break point early on. He couldn’t convert, and in the next game, despite being up 40-15 on his serve, he dropped his serve. That was pretty much the end of it right there. Roger did manage to produce one more break point at 3-5, but hit a second serve from Nadal straight into the net. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by this result. Maybe because my expectations were so low. Roger played some brilliant tennis. He served pretty well and kept Nadal under pressure with attacking tennis. He also mixed it up well with drop shots and slices, and came to the net when necessary.

I feel like Roger could not have done any better at this point. I don’t care about the fact that he was 2/11 on break points either. This is Nadal we are talking about and it was on clay. To break Nadal twice on clay is already a lot. I am probably Roger’s toughest critic, but at times you have to give the guy some credit. To criticize him for anything in this match is way too harsh in my opinion. After losing 6-3, 6-2 to Nadal in Miami, this was a great effort to give Nadal a very tough match on his favorite clay. As a fan we should know when to criticize and when to applaud. This match made me excited because it showed me that Roger is not done and that he is competing strongly with the very best still. He could hardly beat Nadal on clay in his prime, so I cannot possibly expect more from him here. Nadal is just unbeatable on clay.

His relentless moonballing and retrieving skills is immensely difficult to overcome on clay. For Roger to have won a set was an incredible effort. Having said that, it does annoy me a lot that these two are still facing each other so much on clay. Roger is in Nadal’s half again in Rome, so they will probably face off there in the semi’s again. It’s just not fair. Of their 24 meetings, 13 have been on clay now. That is more than half. But in the end the head-to-head record with Nadal matters little. If Nadal was good enough in Roger’s prime to meet him more on faster surfaces the head-to-head would have looked very different. Because of the fact that they faced so many times on clay, Nadal got the upper hand and the mental edge in the rivalry. Fact is Roger plays a much more acceptable brand of tennis than Nadal’s relentless pushing.

It’s ugly and it is not how a man should play tennis. There is no guts involved. It is just about keeping the ball in play in a fashion which makes it impossible for the opponent to play attacking tennis, and then waiting for the error. Nadal can win a 100 slams for all I care. I would still hate his game and his on court demeanor. Roger is just infinitely better to watch in every possible way. He leaves it all out there and takes risks, where Nadal just wants to sit back in his comfort zone and wait for his opponent to falter. It’s the same old story. For me a moonballer can never be the GOAT, even if he wins the most slams. The way you play the game matters just as much as how many titles you win. Of course I’m not saying that Nadal will win more slams, but he will never be the GOAT in my eyes. I am pretty excited for Roger now.

I said I wanted him to do better in this clay season than last year, and that is what he showed me today. It was already a much better showing than the match against Nadal in Madrid last year. He really went for it this time and believed in himself. So all in all I’m feeling good. It’s a real shame that Roger is not in Djokovic’s half in Rome, but I guess he has no choice but to make the semi’s again and face Nadal. That will surely mean another beat down at the hands of Nadal, but at least he would have gone as far as he could and gained the ranking points. I’m not being negative believe me. I just can’t see that he will beat Nadal on sea level if he can’t do so on altitude. Roger can only control what he can control, and he doesn’t control the draw. He just has to make sure he gives himself the best chances and keep his confidence as high as possible.

Nadal will now face Djokovic in the final, which was pretty much expected. Djokovic didn’t impress me much however, having been taken to three sets by both Ferrer and Belluci. It is possible that Roger is still the second best clay courter on tour, which is why I would have loved to see him in Djokovic’s half in Rome. But we will get a good idea after we see how Djokovic fares against Nadal tomorrow. The important thing is that Roger is back on track with this very competent performance. I am looking forward to the rest of the clay court season, but especially to the grass court season, knowing that Roger will most probably take more confidence from the clay court season than last year. Wimbledon is beckoning once more.

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36 Comments

  1. I also was hoping that Fed would land in Djokovic’s half for Rome. On the bright side, though, is that Nadal’s first match will likely be against Belluci! I think he can give Rafa a fair bit of trouble, being lefty, huge forehand, decent backhand, big serve. As for Fed, his road to the semi’s is pretty good I think: manageable yet tough, which is what he needs to be battle-tested. Berdych in the quarters will be interesting – we all know how tough he’s played Rog the last few times they’ve met (rather tougher than Soderling even).

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  2. I loved watching Roger play today, footwork was great and he had the desire back in him and you could feel it. Did not expect him to win so when he took that first set it was thrilling. Dont feel bad about this loss because he showed up today and made some beautiful shots. He is the greatest player to watch, sheer beauty.

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  3. A great post Ru-an. Can’t really add much else. It’s easy to be a Fed fan when he wins. Today I was proud to be a fan despite his loss. RF Forever!!

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  4. Good post, Ru-an. He put up a fantastic fight and we as his fans should be proud of him. He was obviously working hard to hone his all court game and produced many amazing shots, some of which we had not seen before.

    It’s fascinating to watch these new developments in his game in embryonic form, as he tests them out in a match situation. I am sure that he will continue to work out the kinks and perfect these tactics.

    As others have observed, on those occasions where he beats Nadal, his break point conversion tends to be high: in his last two victories over Nadal, he’s been perfect. This is a function of his mental strength and his will to win.

    He can bluff his way past a lot of lesser players even if he’s a little distracted mentally, but never against Nadal. His heart has to be pure, his game at its peak, and his confidence absolute in order to win. That’s why Nadal poses the ultimate test for him.

    I wouldn’t write off the clay season just yet. There are still two tournaments left. He made the semis this time, and won his first victory over a top 10 player this year, against Soderling. He made this match against Nadal much closer than last time. These are only positive trends.

    I don’t think Federer is content with merely having a decent clay season and making a couple finals; he wants to win Roland Garros and is playing and training with the intent to do so.

    Instead of fretting about Sampras’ records and the career slam, he can dedicate himself purely to the challenges of raising his game and figuring out how to beat his younger rivals.

    His tennis is growing richer and more complex. He showed us new things today, new shots and new ways of constructing points, that he didn’t have when he was at his peak.

    Michaelangelo in his last years produced many unfinished statues, which he never completed. But they say that these incomplete works are worth studying, because even a great artist’s half-formed ideas are still interesting.

    By the same token, Federer didn’t win, but even this loss still made for compelling tennis.

    Every artist must go through many unsuccessful drafts before he can create a masterpiece. I think we’re in for some Federer masterpieces, though. Sooner rather than later.

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  5. Agree with your post. Tremendous performance by Roger. A couple of points different and he could have won the 3rd set. Madrid seems like his favorite clay court setting, perhaps because of the altitude.
    The other thing to keep in mind is how incredible Roger’s performance is in light of Nadal’s obvious doping. I mean no one has hit more home runs then Barry Bonds. PEDs give you an advantage, even in tennis and especially now that all the surfaces are so slow (with maybe the exception of the US open) and it’s tragic that the GOAT’s era is marred by them. I feel like people starting really using them, in fact, because of Roger. He was just so far beyond any of these clowns, it’s the only way. It gives them the stamina to just retrieve and retrieve and retrieve like the energizer bunny. It also gives them power. Nadal returns shots from impossible angles with such power, it’s ludicrous and unbelievable.

    Still I feel really good about this match and I think it must have been confidence inspiring for Fed. I think he’s got a decent shot at either the US open or Wimbledon. Djokovic is coming back to earth, though he and Nadal will probably cycle back up for Wimbledon and the Open.

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    marron Reply:

    Jim said: ‘…and it’s tragic that the GOAT’s era is marred by them…’ by what? It’s tragic that the goat’s era is marred by PED’s? Why isn’t the goat complaining, if it’s so evident that his era is marred?

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    jim Reply:

    How would he do that? Don’t be naive. That would have zero credibility as you know. It’s not for him to weed out doping, it’s for the authorities, duh.

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    marron Reply:

    ‘That would have zero credibility as you know.’

    Perhaps more credibility than yourself, no?

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  6. Its one of the best match Rog played for a while. In fact this whole week you can see he was in a more positive mindset. The match was really close despite the scoreline. Great stuff from Roger and I hope he will be in Djoker half at RG.

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  7. @Ruan, This is a great website, you have some pretty cool people on here who are pretty supportive of Federer, including yourself. I have to say I nearly fell off my chair when Federer won the first set. Federer played differently today, should I say like a true champion. Today the statistics don’t mean anything. I knew Nadal wasn’t going to take Roger seriously and it cost him the first set. Then Nadal came back with his MOONBALLING and keeping the ball in play at almost impossible angles. Kept attacking his back hand, waitng for Roger to commit errors which he did but also produced some amazing shots with power and razor-sharp accuracy.One thing I have to add too is that his serve was below par today, if he would have served like he did against Lopez in combination to the way he played outside of his serve Federer would have won today hands down. I am proud to say that I am a fedfan despite the fact that he lost today. We all know that Rafael Nadal won the match but Roger Federer stole the show.

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    manu Reply:

    to ed—i didn’t see the beautiful aggressive game of Nadal’s yesterday?? Maybe you had read the novel A beautiful dream??

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    Ed Reply:

    Manu–Ah, the pleasures of sarcasm, hey, Manu? Well, I’ve never said that Rafa’s game is “beautiful,” though I have said other things. In the first set, Nadal didn’t play well–and, in the last two games of it, Roger’s explosive play (finally!) showed that, as Neil says, Rafa is beatable: if, however, Roger is ready and willing to do it. And the second set? I had hoped that, wound up by his stunning surge of energy and focus, he’d sweep into the second set to consolidate what he’d just done, and, for many reasons, stick it to Rafa so that he’d win in two sets. What a victory that would have been! But…where did he go? 6-1. In the 3rd set, there was only a flash, here and there, of the Roger of the end of the first set, with Roger being stubbornly testy about a line-call, about which he was wrong. 6-3. Some troubling things: Roger’s (what to call it?) surrender of the second set seen in the collapse of his serve in the face of an energized, focused Nadal and his (again, what to call it?) refusal (?), inability (?) to summon up and use his anger to enhance his game, which was evident in the end of the first set. I found myself yelling at the TV, “Play angry, Roger!” But he couldn’t maintain that intensity: he had the moves; he had the shots; he had shots that had real snap, but…he couldn’t capitalize on his own amazing triumph. What a pity he could not maintain his ferocious will to win, to ride the momentum his play had generated: alas, the match ended with a whimper not a bang. He should be encouraged, as others have said, by what he did: this may, in fact, be the step he needed–proving to himself that he can come from behind Rafa and beat him. Who knows? For a brief, ferocious moment, Roger reappeared: it was all working. But in the face of Nadal’s furious reply, he wilted–and then, at the very end, poised to break and repeat what he’d done at the end of the first set, he couldn’t. The drama continues…

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  8. I agree with many comments, however, I want to add one thing. Nobody is talking of how Federer lost the match due mainly to the reason of him losing temper at the line call. At that very moment I thought that he was going to lose because he lost US open 2009 after a similar circumstance although then I donot know whether he was right but this time he didnot seem right, at least to me, because the hawkeye showed that the ball was in.It is a pity that whenever such things happen Federer cannot turn such incidence into strength as Nadal can.That is understandable because Federer is soft in heart not like the beastly Nadal.

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    marron Reply:

    Yes, I’m sure that’s the reason. Fed is too soft in the heart, and Nadal is simply an unfeeling beast.

    ;-)

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  9. federer deserves alot of credit for trying hard and it was a pretty competitive match. I think federer will only get better from here

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  10. Great post Ruan. We’re finally getting to the point where we don’t care if our man is the GOAT or not. We just like him and like following him.

    A lot of positives here obviously. I have to thank Roger for some very happy moments yesterday. After he won the first set, I was pumping my fist like Nadal (ironic since I can’t stand the guy).

    But you could really see that he had Nadal rattled yesterday, taking into account his exaggerated fist pumps after most points in the third set and the visible anguish on his face (it was NOT because of Ballesteros and let no one say otherwise).

    I am sanguine about Federer again. Who knew a loss could be so sweet? I’d like to quote Anais Nin here to describe my state of mind right now:

    “A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked.”

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  11. Roger played better than we’ve seen him play in a long long time. So aggressive, so confident, and he seemed to actually care. I thought he would go the distance. But still, no disappointment. As you said, he played much much better than expected. If he keeps this up, he has his chances at the French. Rafa will be tired, and hopefully will have had some serious matches by then. There is a glimmer of hope.
    And about the final today, I hope they both lose :@

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  12. When the match began and Roger was promptly broken with some wild errors – and then looked like he might be broken again – I feared the worst: that we were going to see a humiliation; a match worse even than his defeat in Miami. Then he began to pull his game together and with his taking the first set I began to imagine what had previously seemed inconceivable: that he might roll back time and inflict a long overdue defeat on a rampant Nadal on his best surface.
    It wasn’t surprising that Nadal came back in the second set, as more errors duly leaped back into Roger’s game. But the 3rd set remained a possibility; especially – as Ruan noted – after the break point he earned on Nadal’s first service game, and then the comfortable lead of 40-15 on his own next service game. But then it evaporated. There was a flicker with his last break point, as Nadal served for the match, but Roger blew that spark out all by himself.
    Roger played some fantastic tennis out there: in many ways he showed that he is still a far superior player technically – hitting many more winners than Nadal and with his all-court variety demonstrating greater skill than Nadal’s almost robotic defensive game – but the “better” player still lost.
    Roger didn’t serve as well as he could have; he sometimes chose the wrong shot under pressure – or didn’t execute when he needed to – and simply didn’t play the big points – the break points – like a truly great player should.
    Positively? Well, he showed that he is capable of completely outplaying Nadal still – even on the Spaniard’s favorite surface – Nadal really looked beatable out there – and that there is still some great tennis to be played by the champion of 16 Grand Slams. But Roger plays to win; he could have won that match – and he knows it. He also knows that there are no prizes for coming second.
    Nadal is a bad match-up for Roger but, even so, there were few shanks (I counted one, maybe two) off Roger’s racquet (many more from Nadal – that then landed in court) and his backhand generally held up well. But since Rome in 2006, Roger has often failed to put Nadal away when he could have; somehow the best of his game temporarily deserts him in the clutch against an opponent whose will to win, at such moments, seems stronger than his own.
    There is only one thing I would wish to see in Roger’s game now and that is for him to break the terrible mental spell that the Spaniard seems to have cast over his game for the last 5 years.

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  13. Roger was carrying an injury through this entire match! He admitted it afterwards: http://bit.ly/iWhnB1
    I don’t know if that link will work as it’s from twitter but it might. Hopefully he won’t be injured for Rome/ Roland Garros!

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    marron Reply:

    Perhaps the long match with Feliciano, all those serves, then the three-setter this time around too. Doesn’t sound serious.

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  14. Great post Ru-an.Couldnt agree more with you as even i was expecting him to be in JOKERS half for Rome.But one thing I want to know is that will Roger be able to regain the no2 spot before Wibledon??Ither than that, all other readers have pretty much covered everything.Its good to see Roger perform like this and give a tough fight and scare to Nadal on Clay.RF forever.

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  15. Djokovic has taken the first set against Nadal in the final and is still holding in the second. It is a strange spectacle: Djokovic is pounding balls left and right while Nadal scurries around the back of the court, often so far back he could have booked seats in the stands, flinging his trademark moonballs into court with a mere flick of that strangely muscled arm. Such is now the best tennis in the world. Djokovic is the better player out there but one wonders how long he can keep feeding the Spanish ball machine without his own somewhat less impressive arm succumbing to the sheer effort of it all – as so many others have found before him.

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  16. And Djokovic wins…in straight sets.
    He was lights out pretty much the entire match and played a quite superb final game. It is, however, as Neil pointed out earlier, quite depressing to see the direction that tennis is taking. There was a rally in the second set that lasted as long as 35 shots and didn’t have single risk taken, with either player waiting for the other to make a mistake. 35 friggin’ shots! Novak was obviously the more aggressive of the two and that was why he got to take the spoils.

    On a lighter note, I saw so many moonballs being played, I was afraid that they’d actually start mooning. I know, bad wordplay. But I couldn’t resist. I’m sorry.

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    Babel Reply:

    Oh, and Ruan, congratulations! Your prediction came true; Nadal did get beaten this clay season. Too bad it wasn’t our guy that did the the deed.
    But I’m sure that he’ll get around to it somehow. For now, cheers!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Babel :D Im going to make a post about the final a little later tonight.

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  17. Well, Djokovic continues his domination of Nadal, extending now to his maiden victory over the Spaniard on clay – and in straight sets, no less.
    He was the better player today and his baseline aggression, combined with a phenomenal back-hand, proved too much even for the defence of Nadal.
    Djokovic is a transformed player this year; tireless, stronger, harder hitting, and as we hear so often now, very “confident”. However he has achieved it we finally now see an answer to Nadal’s defensive game, even on clay; the Spaniard has no real answer to a player who can physically stay with him, pound him out the back of the court, and achieve the coup de grace with a devastating backhand either down the line or cross-court. The tennis is not pretty to watch, and I would have much preferred to see an “all-court” Federer triumph, but it may be what is necessary now to beat a player who has single-handedly raised the physical stakes of the game to an absurd level.

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    Babel Reply:

    I agree. At this rate he has a good chance of catching up on their head-to-head. His backhand reminds me of Marat Safin’s.

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  18. Looks like someone is in Nadals head now. While all this is going on, based on what I saw Federer do this last week, he can only improve. He just needs that break on clay or grass, and we’ll have our champ back again. Not forever, but at least a final hurrah. I’m only looking for 4 more majors. LOL. We won’t be laughing when he does though. G

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  19. Yeah Baby, Nadal got beaten. Very important for the number 1 race. Nadal must not be the GOAT. Any week off the number 1 spot is important. If Fed cannot do it then somebody else should step in.

    Djokovic played unbelievably well. Nadal was not injured or tired. Djokovic shoots were simply to penetrating to get any offense going with the forehand.

    Djokovic had to hit 5-6 winners in each exchange to get the point. His backhand and returns were out of this world considering Nadal’s spinn and defense skills.

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  20. Hi Ru-an, another great post, your enthusiasm is catching am feeling pretty good about Roger’s play, although I saw very little of his match with Nadal. Was a bit upset when I saw Roger arguing with the umpire, he carried on and on about it, proved to be wrong (the ball was IN), did not like that from Roger. A big mistake on his part. What is your thought on this issue?
    Believe me, I am not a Djoko fan at all, it is not like my nature to have “Schadenfreude” but I did today when Nadal lost. So many good opinions and comments from your friends on your blog, Ru-an.
    Kindly,
    Dolores

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Dolores. Yes it wasnt Rogers best moment but at least it shows he still cares. Not sure what really happened there. I think there was two marks close to each other.

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  21. Great site Ruan! I’m thoroughly enjoying your posts.

    Yesterday’s semifinal proved to me that Roger isn’t in any sort of fast decline (as you and many others suggest). In fast conditions he’s still the man to beat (his play in the WTF was by far the best tennis displayed in all of 2010). IW and Miami is getting completely ridicolous and Roger actually had a far greater chance of beating Rafa in high altitude Madrid than in Miami. Unfortunatley the slowing down of courts and balls plays right into the hands of the more physical players and Roger’s days of complete dominance are for sure over.

    Hopefully Roger’s confidence will not be to damaged before Wimbledon which is where his season really starts.

    Roger can not compete with Rafa and Djoko in the physical and mental departments, but maybe, just maybe god-given talent is still enough at Wimby and the US Open.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Tahnks Rotneski, agree with your comment.

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  22. Honestly I did not straight set loss from Nadal. Nonetheless Djoker is on fire. Nadal has always play the underdog well, No1 ranking doesn’t go well with him. I am just curious how Djoker will react now he is under the limelight and labeled as HOT fave to win FO.

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  23. Hello Ru-an,
    Wonderful to read all the positive comments about Roger and his great tennis, even though he lost he plays fantastic tennis.And still amazes fans I can still see you raising a trophy Roger soon keep enjoying the game and best wishes to you.

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