Nadal Defeats Raonic to Strengthen Case for Second Australian Open Title

Everyone still enjoying the tennis?! I sure am. It’s not the tournament I hoped for with the early exit of Djokovic but it is a fresh change nonetheless with the return of Federer and Nadal to grand slam semi-finals.

Federer got there on Tuesday when he defeated Zverev 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 in a masterclass performance while Nadal got there today after defeating third seed Raonic 6-4, 7-6(7), 6-4. I wouldn’t call it a masterclass from Nadal because Raonic should have won the second set before choking with a double fault on set point in the second-set tiebreak.

But it was a very good performance nonetheless.

  • Federer Continues to Impress Against Zverev

Federer was impeccable against Zverev from the get-go and despite strong attempts from Zverev in the second set to turn things around, Federer kept shutting the door time after time.

I don’t think Zverev’s level dropped at all after upsetting Murray. The quality of opposition was just that much better. It was really up to Murray to stand up to Federer and Nadal when Djokovic lost but he failed miserably.

I thought Zverev put up a brave fight and his game even grew on me more during the match. But Federer came to the court with a very specific gameplan and executed it to perfection. He made things very difficult for Zverev with his low returns and his passes were lethal.

Zverev pushed the envelope in the second set but Federer’s serving, returning, and passing proved to be irresistible. It was sheer brilliance from Federer against a very capable opponent who had a great run.

I must say I am impressed by the way Federer has returned after a six months layoff. The early exit of Djokovic and Murray didn’t hurt but he took full advantage with a very good win over Nishikori and a masterclass over Zverev.

In the other top half quarterfinal, Wawrinka defeated Tsonga 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-3. I didn’t watch but Stan is obviously playing well and when that is the case he becomes awfully hard to stop.

  • Nadal Ends Raonic Hopes

The quarterfinal between Nadal and Raonic was always going to be a key encounter in the draw. Before they played, the bookies had Federer as the favorite for the title. After Nadal won, he jumped from the third favorite to the first favorite.

That is because everyone knows about the one-sidedness of the Fedal rivalry by now. If Raonic had won Federer would have been the favorite for the title, but no one really expects him to beat Nadal and Nadal now has the easier semi-final opponent.

As for the match, Nadal showed some vulnerability in the second set but Raonic failed to take advantage with that double fault at 6-5 in the tiebreak. A visible choke and Nadal was not going to let him off the hook after that.

Nadal will play Dimitrov who defeated Goffin 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. It is only Dimitrov’s second grand slam semi-final after making the semis of Wimbledon in 2014. But he has been playing better ever since the end of last year and we will see if he can keep it up.

  • Semi-Finals Preview

If Raonic had defeated Nadal I would have thought that Federer is the overwhelming favorite to defeat Wawrinka. Now I am not so certain anymore. The straight-set beatdown of Raonic will give Nadal a lot of confidence and it is very likely he will make the final now.

Dimitrov can’t be underestimated but he has a one-handed backhand that isn’t as solid as Stan’s which Nadal can exploit. Nadal will run Dimitrov ragged drawing him far out of the court and making him hit many balls until he misses.

It’s a similar matchup to when Nadal plays Federer. It is just very difficult for the one-hander to hold their own from the baseline against Nadal unless it is Stan whose backhand is pretty much flawless.

And going into the semi-final with Stan tomorrow, Federer will know in the back of his mind that Nadal is very likely to be waiting in the final if he wins. I’m not saying it will consciously affect Federer but given his history with Nadal at the Australian Open, in particular, it could play on his sub-conscious.

I definitely think he would have felt more relaxed going into the semis knowing that he would get either Raonic or Dimitrov in the final. So whereas I thought Federer was the favorite against Stan before I now give Stan a decent chance.

I think things are now more even psychologically. Stan already has a kind of inferiority complex toward Federer and the crowd will overwhelmingly favor Federer. But he doesn’t fear Nadal the way Federer does having beaten him in the 2014 Australian Open when he won his first slam.

I’m sure Federer wants to make another slam final but does he want to be straight-setted by Nadal in a blowout? After the heart-breaking 2009 final they played again in the semi-finals in 2012 and 2014 where Nadal won in four sets and straight sets respectively.

It’s progressively getting worse for him. The trend just doesn’t look very good for him at all. I’m not saying he can’t beat Nadal and that he won’t beat Wawrinka, but you have to wonder what he is thinking.

Stan would have a great shot at beating Nadal which would keep Federer’s slam record safe. If Nadal wins the Australian Open it means he gets the double career slam and becomes a serious threat to Federer’s GOAT status.

And then you have the French Open coming up. I hope Stan wins because I feel like Nadal getting the double career slam before Djokovic and Federer is a bit of a disaster. Nadal is the most one-dimensional player of the three so it seems illogical to me.

He should at least play someone in the final who can properly test him. That said, we are not there yet and Nadal is not in the final yet. Stan and Federer play tomorrow on courts that have been sped up this year which will favor Federer.

Federer will try to do what he did in the 2015 US Open semi-final when he rushed Stan constantly taking all his time away. He was very effective on that occasion winning in straight sets.

Since then, Stan has won the US Open himself and I think the conditions in Melbourne still suits him a bit better. It won’t be easy for him with the pro-Federer crowd and Federer attacking him relentlessly but he needs to keep a calm head while using his powerful serve and groundstrokes to peg Federer back and keep him from dominating.

It is going to be an interesting match anyway. Can’t wait!!

  • Highlights

Wo will win SF #1?

  • Federer in 4 (53%, 21 Votes)
  • Federer in 3 (18%, 7 Votes)
  • Wawrinka in 4 (13%, 5 Votes)
  • Wawrinka in 5 (13%, 5 Votes)
  • Wawrinka in 3 (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Federer in 5 (3%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 40

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Who will win SF #2?

  • Nadal in 4 (37%, 28 Votes)
  • Nadal in 3 (29%, 22 Votes)
  • Dimitrov in 5 (18%, 14 Votes)
  • Dimitrov in 4 (12%, 9 Votes)
  • Nadal in 5 (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Dimitrov in 3 (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 76

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Posted in Australian Open, Grand Slams.

14 Comments

  1. Maybe it’s the same, or maybe it’s slightly different, but I remember that when Federer lost the US Open semi to Djoker in 2010, he admitted after that he was trying to conserve energy a little for the final, because it was scheduled the next day, and a brutal brawl with Djoker would leave him diminished in his obviously brutal match with Nadal, had he won. I think it might deflate Federer a little, thinking that he may face Rafa in the final, but maybe he’s at the stage where he cares a little less about that and just wants to play the final, he’ll hope it’s under the roof, and he’ll attack like a loon.

    Most likely, if he faces Rafa in the final, then this wouldn’t be enough.

    But anyway, for the reasons you give above, I’d have Stan as favourite tomorrow, maybe to win in 4. Federer is 35, after all, and reflexes, spurts to the net, all the physicality involved in trying to keep rallies short, catch up on a man. They should have long caught up with him already. And Stan is a player of different calibre to anyone Federer has faced so far. The usual caveats: Stan has a lousy record on hards against Roger, and also, Mirka might have pointed out an unusual flaw in Stan’s mental make-up when she called him a crybaby.

    I dunno about Rafa and Grigor, but Grigor hasn’t beaten anyone of quality, and Rafa is growing more immense as he’s progresses. Wobbled in the second set today, but he held it together. His returns, groundies, all were brilliant, and he was troubled in maybe 2 out of his 16 service games. But Grigor is unknown at this level – he may catch fire and finally perform to his potential. Or not. Most likely, Rafa will be too strong, too determined and have too much stagecraft for him to handle…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Interesting that you have Stan as the favorite in 4. He can sure do with another slam win over Federer. At least he has done so before at the FO, even though Federer was not playing very well. Good point about Dimitrov being unknown at this level. Nadal’s experience at this level is another huge advantage for him. But yeah, you never know.

    [Reply]

    Kieran Reply:

    Anything can happen in these matches, but Federer has a huge amount of miles on the body clock, and that should tell in match against a younger man. But really, I think it’s not impossible that Stan goes AWOL and lets the occasion get to him. Like you, I’m sure, I don’t like the way the media are overlooking Stan, because he’s actually playing quite well, and he’s the US Open champ, which is significant.

    Likewise with Grigor, Rafa still isn’t wobble-free yet, but he’s looking ominously tough. But Grigor might shock him. He’d have more a game to trouble him than Raonic, to my eyes, but it depends on if he can play it…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Federer looked physically solid against Nishikori but if it becomes a long match vs Stan it could affect him. I’ve been sick of the Federer hype for a while now and like you say it’s disrespectful to Stan. After his match vs Tsonga Stan said he knows the crowd will heavily favor Federer but that he hopes he will have a few supporters. The crowd was silent.

    It is these kinds of things that put me off from being a Federer fan. I am 100% with Stan tomorrow. I like him as a person, I like his game, and it would be a better final between him and Nadal.

    As for Dimitrov, he is a talented player but Nadal can target his backhand. I think he will find that hard to overcome.

    [Reply]

  2. “I hope Stan wins because I feel like Nadal getting the double career slam before Djokovic and Federer is a bit of a disaster. Nadal is the most one-dimensional player of the three so it seems illogical to me.”

    Indeed, that’s what I said in a previous post ;-)

    “I’m not saying he can’t beat Nadal and that he won’t beat Wawrinka, but you have to wonder what he is thinking.”

    No one in this world believes that Federer can beat Nadal in a significant match, not even Federer himself. The last time Federer beat Nadal in a Slam was in 2007 and that was when I was a 15-year-old boy. An entire decade has passed without a win for Federer against Nadal in a Slam. Fed always says: “yeah I can beat him,” I don’t see that when they play each other. Actions speak louder than words.

    Funny thing is, the media with their “dream final.” LOL, no we don’t want the most predictable match EVER to be played in a Slam final. I hope Dimitrov can pull a match a la Tsonga 2008 (if Federer progresses to the final).

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Haha I’d rather see a Fedal final than a Federov final. The last thing you wanna see in a slam final is Federer playing against a fan. Fortunately, that seems rather unlikely.

    The media know they get their page hits by hyping Federer and Nadal. As for me, I am a real tennis fan so I call it like it is.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    Long time no post from me. But to be honest I agree with you Ruan. I still consider myself a Federer fan, but Fedal matches always go one of three ways:

    Federer grabs hold of the match from the start and never lets go of it ever, never gets broken, no sign of a Nadal comeback ever, which is extraordinarily rare.

    Federer starts well, but Nadal gradually reels him in and then beats him.

    Federer has a mental breakdown when playing Nadal and just chokes horribly and gets destroyed.

    The first is the only thing that could possibly give Federer a chance. Even then it relies on Federer playing one of his best matches ever, after potentially a hard match vs Stan. Given how well Federer has played this Australian Open I’ll be generous and say that if we have a Fedal final it won’t be a blowout. I’ll go with Nadal in 4 if that happens. As for the semis I’ll go Nadal in 4 and Stan in 5. Obviously as a Federer fan the best thing would be for him to wipe the floor with Stan and then find some way to get past Nadal, but that’s living in dream land at this stage. The last time Roger seriously challenged Nadal in a slam was the 2012 AO semi. If I were Federer, I would think that the best chance against Nadal would be just to be as persistent as possible. Rally only when necessary, serve big and take every opportunity to approach into Nadal’s backhand and then go back behind him on the volley, because if you give Rafa space to run on the forehand you’ll lose. Can’t see it working though, after a set or two Rafa will put Roger back into his box if we have that final.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi, Carlie. The last time Federer beat Nadal in a slam was in 2007. For Fedfans, the dream scenario is Federer beating Nadal in the final but I guarantee you most of them hope for Nadal to lose to Dimitrov. They aren’t even thinking about the possibility of Federer defeating Nadal.

    They are just praying Dimitrov miraculously takes Nadal out so Federer can play his biggest fan in the final. But I don’t think they should count out Stan. Stan keeps improving and breaking new ground. He doesn’t want to keep playing second fiddle to Federer and he’s carving out his own legacy in the sport now.

    Federer’s best shot is probably to try and defeat Stan as easily as possible and hope Nadal at least looks vulnerable against Dimitrov or even loses. A Fedal final would obviously heavily favor Nadal.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    Yeah if I was forced to pick the result in a Fedal final I’d go with Rafa in 4. Obviously I would like to see Federer win, but its fairly unlikely. Fortunately today’s 5 setter was only 3 hours, so no reason he won’t be ok for the final with two days’ rest. I have always believed that even though Nadal has the match-up advantage, there were at least four matches that Federer could have won at the major tournaments, and even winning two of them would give the rivalry a completely different complexion even though it would still be 21-13. They are 2008 WB, 2009 AO, 2011 FO and 2012 AO. In all of those Federer had a serious chance of actually winning. If we do get a Fedal final the best I am hoping for is that Roger doesn’t choke. If Rafa is just better and wins, that’s fine. But if Roger chokes it away after having had chances I’ll be pissed off. He has said that he’s playing with a “nothing to lose” attitude, so let’s see if he can maintain that in the final. If by some fluke Dimitrov wins, then Federer should win barring two consecutive fluke wins, which I don’t think is likely. Nonetheless he deserves to be in another final and even as a Federer fan I’m shocked at how well he has been able to play, when I saw the draw I assumed he would lose 3rd Round to Berdych. Anyway we’ll just have to see tomorrow and on Sunday.

    [Reply]

  3. I haven’t been here for a while Ru-an I hope all is well. You know it’s probably foolish considering how infrequently my boy Roger beats Nadal but I’m gonna say he can win this time around! Nadal hits his ball shorter on average nowadays and Roger gets in trouble against Nadal by opening up with a good formula and then either getting or pressing, which kind of go hand in hand. I think he knows he doesn’t have to press, he can force errors as well as hit winners against Nadals complex strokes. I feel like he won’t freak out just because it so late in the game. But I’m an optimist, maybe too optimistic. Just great for me personally to have seen him perform this well. Maybe enough to stave off retirement. That’s all I can ask nowadays.

    P.S If Dimitrov somehow won, I’d be torn. I’d kind of want him to win his first slam and be able to play without pressure for a couple of years, would be good to see.

    [Reply]

    Eren Reply:

    If you want Fed to win, you should hope for Dimitrov winning against Nadal. Even a Nadal with a broken left hand would beat Federer.

    If it’s going to be Fedal final (I hope it won’t be that), then best case scenario for Federer is to lose in four sets.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Well given that things have gotten progressively worse for Federer vs Nadal at the AO with the last meeting being a straight-set win for Nadal a four-set victory for Nadal sounds like it would be the best-case scenario. But I am not one to look ahead. Nadal still has to beat Dimitrov who actually has been playing very well. I looked at the highlights and it seems I have underestimated how well he has been playing.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I don’t know Darrell Federer looked very shaky vs Stan. Nadal would have eaten him alive. But let’s see what happens between Nadal and Dimitrov first.

    [Reply]

    balthazar Reply:

    Disagree, Ru-an, Fed did not look “very shaky” in the 5th set vs. Stan. It was Wawrinka who blinked at the end. Like you, I’m very impressed with Fed’s run in this tournament after such a long lay-off. I think the 6 months of rest has rejuvenated him. Thus, I also disagree with your assessment that Fed has little chance against Nadal due to the lopsided head-to-head. He won his last match against Nadal (Swiss indoors, I think), and seems to have hit a reset and refresh button deep in his mind thanks to his time away from the game. And, perhaps most importantly, he will have one more day of rest than Nadal (if the Spaniard even makes it to the final). On top of all this, you should also consider the fact that these Australian courts are playing much faster than in previous years, which favors Federer. So, when you add all this up, I think Fed has about a 45% chance to defeat Nadal should this final materialize (I’ll give Nadal a 5% edge due to the head-to head, mental component)…. Hope all is well with you, Ru-an. And keep up the good work on your blog.

    [Reply]

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