Madrid Semi Finals: Nadal scrapes through, Federer schools Del Potro

I think it’s safe to say now that Madrid is indeed the most interesting clay court event of the season thus far. Today we saw a sensational match between Rafa and Djokovic, probably only topped by the Australian Open semi between Rafa and Verdasco. Rafa once again showed why he is arguably the strongest player in the history of the game in the mental department, winning 3-6, 7-6, 7-6. He just thrives under pressure and comes up with his best tennis when the stakes are at it’s highest. Even if you are not a fan of Rafa it’s hard not to be inspired by his play. Most players play worse under pressure, it takes a unique individual to play better when the pressure is on. Djokovic also deserves a lot of credit for the way he hung in there, he really didn’t do too much wrong.

There is not many people who can push Rafa on clay and Djokovic certainly did that today. Roger on the other hand beat Del Potro in a fairly one sided match, 6-3, 6-4. Only in the first game of the match did Roger face two break points, and again later in the first set. Other then that he never looked in much trouble. As I hoped he got his first serve percentage up from his last match, which was at 67%. It makes all the difference when he serves like this and it showed. It allows him to take control of the rallies early on which makes him very hard to break. Roger also displayed some sublime touch on the drop shots today, which was nice to see. It has to be said though that Del Potro seems to be a pretty good match up for Roger, so I wouldn’t go as far as to say the old Roger is back or anything like that.

If he wins tomorrow I think it would be safe to say that. So after all Roger is going to face Rafa before the French Open. It will be interesting to see how he matches up against Rafa on clay these days and the altitude in Madrid will work in his favor. He has a good chance now to go play some all out attacking tennis and the match against Del Potro would have helped with that as well. But of course we know Rafa is an all together different story then Del Potro. Rafa is after all the one that instigated Roger’s apparent demise, so getting a win back over him tomorrow would be consolation I’m sure. Maybe Rafa will just be a little tired after his match against Djokovic and from all the tennis he has played of late as well.

If Roger wants to beat Rafa on clay tomorrow will surely be one of his best chances to date. But if it is to happen Roger must try something different and he definitely has to take advantage of the conditions to play attacking tennis. If his serve percentage drops below 60% again and he is content to rally from the base line Rafa will expose his backhand one more time, he will emphasize his dominance over R0ger of late and the rivalry will continue to go south. But not only that he will virtually end any chances he has of beating Rafa at the French Open. If he cannot do it at conditions that suits him he will surely not be able to do it at conditions less favorable for his style of play. I never had much hope that Roger would win the French Open this year.

But if he beats Rafa tomorrow he will at least give himself a chance, however small that chance may be. It will give him his first Masters Series title since August 2007, which is hard to believe in itself. A Masters Series title and a win over the world number one would surely give his confidence a huge boost going into the French Open. Therefor he has everything to play for and should see this as an opportunity for change. He has everything in his favor. Rafa has been looking less then his best this whole week and Roger can take advantage of that with attacking play. Making a high percentage of first serves and attacking Rafa’s second serve will be key. This will already help to avoid his backhand being exploited, and going to the net when the opportunity presents itself will also help.

Roger sure needs something to turn his luck around but he needs to play his part. Will he? Either way it’s great to see Roger in his first final since Australia!

No predictions from me today, I’ll just let you decide this time.

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7 Comments

  1. Ru-an, I would like to send you a comment tomorrow, saying: He did it! I shall wish, hope and pray. Thank you for your analysis, always enjoy reading your thougths on Roger’s performance.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Dolores, I appreciate it :D

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  2. Hey Ruan! Good post! (Sorry I haven’t commented in awhile; I’ve been super busy).

    Well, here comes another Fed-Nadal final. It feels like forever since they’ve last played each other. My thoughts? As much as I’d like to say it, I don’t think Federer will win tomorrow (oh how depressing is that thought). For Federer to have real confidence for his chances heading into Roland Garros next week, he would have to beat Nadal like he did back in the Hamburg final in ’07. However, based on the way Federer is playing, and the sheer mental tenacity of Nadal, it is not going to go that way unfortunately.

    Federer really has a couple of things going against him tomorrow. First, home crowd advantage for Nadal. Did you hear the crowd today in Nadal’s semifinal match against Djokovic?? They were chanting his name on every point; it was easy to see that it was wearing Djokovic down (mentally that is). Also, Nadal’s mental tenacity. My God, I do not care what Federer says, Nadal has won this match tomorrow based on this fact alone. Federer can try to deceive himself and the tennis world, but the fact is, Nadal owns such a mental edge over Federer that he could probably play at a quarter of his level and still win.

    That being said, there are still a couple of factors that are going to help Federer going into this final tomorrow. One, his serve. Honest to God, I have not seen Federer serve this well, this consistently, for an entire tournament since the US Open. He has had 39 aces over four matches; 33 more than Nadal. If he can keep this up, as well as a high first serve percentage, he will have a much better opportunity to win points quickly and aggressively.

    Also, I am liking his forehand more and more. :-P He has cut out the unforced errors on that wing dramatically, aside from the occasionally shanking, which has helped him a lot throughout this tournament. Keeping down the unforced errors tomorrow will be vital.

    One thing though which will help Federer a lot is the conditions of the court. The altitude in particular suits Federer’s game much more than Nadal’s; it really allows for aggressive play and serving.

    The one thing Federer cannot do tomorrow is be complacent. It would be easy to say that Federer has this match wrapped up in a bow for him, if you will, because of Nadal’s gruelling four hour match today. If Federer thinks this, he’s an idiot.

    Really, let’s look back. I remember this scenario playing out quite similarily back in the Australian Open. Nadal had a five hour epic against Verdasco; everyone thought Nadal would not recover for the final and then he goes and totally beats Fed’s ass. (To be blatantly honest :-P ). And that was on a HARD court.

    Now, let’s translate that onto clay. Even if Nadal is injured and/or tired, Federer must be at the peak of his game if he wants a chance in hell to win this match. I have to say, I am not optimistic about it. But here’s to hoping that Federer will prove me wrong!

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  3. Ru-an thanks for your comments but I like to be faithful he did it in Hamburgo 2007 and he could do it again, I´m sure.

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  4. Nadal’s game is getting softer. Everyone can see that. Whether the reason are the changes he mades in order to become all-rounder or just paying taxes for his over exhausting style I cant say. During this clay court season there were 4 tough matches ! 2 against Djokovic, 1 against Murray and 1 against Verdasko . At the same time Roger is going up – not only his game but mostly his attitude. Yes I know still Nadal is in better position: he just has the habit to beat Roger. Don’t laugh – you saw how Roger has beaten Del Potro – better service peercentage and good habit. The main purpose here should be to prevent himself from another humiliating loss and to see where his game is. An eventual win could be good bonus!

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  5. Hi Jennifer, nice to see you back and hearing your thoughts :D I thought you gave up on Rog! I must agree with what you are saying. I think Roger has done well to find his form on clay after a poor start to the season but im afraid i cant see him beat Rafa. If he can take a set off Rafa that would be great. Dont get me wrong id love for him to prove me wrong but i dont see it.

    Ines, the reason i am not very optimistic is because of what has transpired since he beat Rafa at Hamburg, being schooled in the French Open last year, losing at Wimbledon, losing at the Australian and being crushed mentally.

    Rusev, yes i agree Rafa’s game has not been as good during Madrid, but he has hardly been struggling for form of late. He has had his most dominant clay court season to date, and most dominant start to the year yet. This doent bode well for Roger but he has the conditions on his side and he needs to take advantage of it.

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