Yesterday I made a post right after I watched the two semi-finals and previewed the Fedal final of today. But almost right after I made it my post started bothering me. I guess I got swept away again by my own emotions because I virtually gave Nadal no chance to win. So I just want to set the record straight here. I still think Roger can win this in straight sets, but I don’t want to make it seem like it’s a foregone conclusion. We know the problems that Nadal have given Roger in the past. It is not an easy match up for him and Nadal has had the best year of his life in 2010. Personally I just feel like in the context of the Fedal rivalry this is now Roger’s time. Many things points to it. Roger have beaten Nadal seven times, so it’s far from a far gone conclusion that Nadal wins whenever they step on the court.
Roger has had some big wins of his own over Nadal, including two wins at the Masters Cup in 2006 and 2007. On both those occasions Roger was pretty much in the zone, beating Nadal in straight sets on both occasions. But a couple of things is different on this occasion. Nadal is a better hard court player than he was back then, and the courts are also slower then they were in Shanghai. Also, Roger is not in his prime anymore. Having said that, Roger is playing very close to that level right now. He also has Annacone in his camp now and may have a better idea of what tactics to use this time around. Nadal has now already won three slams this year. If he wins the Masters Cup it would just underscore his dominance. I’m not sure Roger is ready to allow it. I think he desperately wants this title to show that Nadal can’t just dominate at will.
Nadal has won this year fair and square and deserves to be number one. But I think it is very important that Roger wins this title to make Nadal’s dominance less complete. A slam and a Masters Cup, as well as other titles, would still make this a very good year for Roger. It would remind Nadal that he can’t dominate when Roger is on form. I mean lets face it, Roger was not at his normal level during the clay and grass court seasons. He only started gaining form again after Wimbledon. Even at the US Open he was still some way off his best level. This means Nadal has won all these slams while Roger was in a slump, just as Roger won he French and Wimbledon when Nadal was in a slump last year. Roger has a chance to prove today that Nadal would have found it much harder to win the last three slams had he been himself.
It will also be a huge mental boost going into next year, and it may just trigger another slump from Nadal. Roger and Nadal’s dominance goes in cycles. Nadal has now had his most impressive phase of dominance yet. There is talk that he can win the Australian Open and win four slams in a row, something Roger could never do. There is even talk that he can win the calender slam next year. It my opinion the latter is just a bit silly. You think Roger is just gonna stand by and watch Nadal smash his records? Think again. I find it hard to believe Nadal’s dominance will continue for much longer. I think he is getting near the end of his cycle now. If Roger wins today it may well be the start of s new period of dominance for him and a downswing for Nadal. I think today is crucial for Roger especially with the eye on Australia next year.
Roger must make it clear that he is not going to allow Nadal to achieve something he could not by winning four slams in a row. Roger’s form on the other hand is verging on his very best. If he wins today it will confirm that he is back to his very best, and he will be the overwhelming favorite to win in Australia again next year. But let me come back to the reason I made this post. In the past I have often been very positive about Roger’s chances. In fact a bit too positive. I became fanatic. I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s never good to be that attached to the outcome of anything, because if it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to you set yourself up for disappointment. I have learned my lesson. No result in tennis is ever sure. To believe otherwise is madness. So I just want to make it clear that I am not certain of the outcome by any means.
Nadal has an incredible defense and Roger must find as way to pierce it. But as good as Nadal’s defense is, so good is Roger’s offense. And I still believe the best offense is better than the best defense any day. I also respect offense more because the offensive player takes initiative, while the defensive player just waits and hope the offensive player falters. In the Madrid final of 2009 Roger showed why offense is better than defense. On clay and in Nadal’s backyard he literally hit Nadal off the court with a master class of attacking tennis. He was absolutely brutal on anything short and never let Nadal settle into a rhythm. This is what he needs to do again today and he is well capable of doing so. He is well capable of blitzing Nadal in straight sets. I have no doubt about it. Here is what he needs to do:
- Take care of his own service games by serving a high first serve percentage and be brutal on any short returns from Nadal.
- Make a lot of returns and be as offensive as possible, putting Nadal under pressure immediately. Taking care of his own serve well will already put Nadal pressure on his won serve.
- Take the ball on the rise and not allow Nadal to hit his moonballs to his backhand and thereby exposing that wing. Also run around the backhand side to protect his backhand and crush the forehand to keep Nadal under pressure.
- Use the slice selectively to keep Nadal from settling into a rhythm.
- Approach the net to keep Nadal of balance as well. Basically keep Nadal guessing all the time.
Basically Madrid ’09 is the perfect example, aside from the drop shots and the fact that it was on clay. Because this is hard court he won’t use that many drop shots, and the hard court will make it easier to play attacking tennis. But he doesn’t need to think too much about tactics. I think if he goes out there and just play his natural game it will be enough to get the job done. If he plays similar to the Djokovic match I think Nadal will have a hard time. I also think it is important that Roger makes sure that this isn’t close. When it gets close it will play into Nadal’s strength, which is mental toughness. As long as it is a relatively straight forward win Nadal’s clutch tennis won’t come into play. But if it goes to tie breaks and third sets it will get harder for Roger. The Madrid ’09 final is again a good example here. He blitzed Nadal, never allowing him to come up with clutch tennis.
In fact he came up with clutch tennis himself when he served a second serve ace on break point down in the second. He may have to do something similar today. It will come down to one or two crucial points probably. The main thing is that I don’t want to get attached to a result here again, because if Roger does end up losing, it will be too disappointing. After all, the fact that we don’t know the outcome is what makes it interesting. I just want to sit back and enjoy what promises to be another spectacular match in this epic rivalry without any attachments and expectations. Good luck to Roger and all Fedfans!