The Stage is Set, a Fedal Final it Will Be at the Masters Cup

Well what a fantastic day of tennis that was. First there was an epic battle between Nadal and Murray which Nadal finally won 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(6), and then there was an absolute master class from the GOAT as he wiped the floor with Djokovic 6-1, 6-4. You could not have hoped for a better day’s viewing. In the first match it was a battle between the two fastest players on tour, slugging it out from the base line in lengthy rallies. The second match was the opposite. If there was nothing in the first match, the second match was utter dominance by the greatest player the world has ever seen. It was a masterful display of offensive tennis the likes of which we haven’t seen from Roger in a long time. Utter devastation. But first things first. I predicted that Nadal would beat Murray, but never did I think it will be that close.

Especially not after Nadal won the first set. The first set was a close affair with Nadal winning the tie break with his usual clutch tennis. I thought Murray would get down on himself, but he caught fire midway through the second set and broke Nadal twice, which meant he started serving in the third. The momentum was fully with him, but quite expectedly he choked it away with some terrible tennis. Nadal had the break in the third, and at this point I really believed it was over. But shockingly, Murray broke back as Nadal was serving for the match. It went into the tie break where Murray lead 3-0 at one stage with two mini breaks. But I knew Nadal was far from done at this point. Nadal got one mini break and they changed sides at 4-2. I knew Murray needed another break for insurance, but could not manage it.

Nadal then proceeded to to get the other break back on one of Murray’s next two service points to bring it back on serve. At 6-6 Murray went for the forehand winner into the open court, but just missed. Nadal held serve and it was all over. At least this time Murray went down playing an attacking shot, instead of waiting for his opponent to falter. Therefor I can’t blame Murray here. And besides, I wanted Nadal to win. I wanted Roger to have the chance to beat Nadal in the final. This match reminded me a lot of the Nadal/Djokovic semi in Madrid ’09. It was very similar, and the fact that Nadal came out on top of both these matches is no coincidence. He is just that clutch. When it gets that close he always wins. I really expected him to close it out earlier, but a win is a win all the same.

Murray did his job by softening up Nadal and showing that he is vulnerable. As far as Roger’s match goes, there was always only one winner. The first set was JesusFed at his best. Djokovic did nothing wrong, because in this mode no touches Roger. It’s really breathtaking stuff. At the start of the second Roger played two disappointing games in the second and third game. He dropped serve in the second game, but had chances to break right back in the next game. He wasted at least four break points there and Djokovic took a 3-0 lead. I was mad that Roger did not at least break right back when he had the opportunity, and so was he. Or at least so it appeared to be, because after that he allowed Djokovic only one more game. He locked right back into JesusFed mode to even thing up at 3-3. He then wasted some more break points and allowed Djokovic to take a 4-3 lead.

But he finally took advantage of another break point in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead, after which he comfortably served out the match. There was some fantastic rallies in this match, especially in the second set. Djokovic put up a spirited fight, but Roger is simply unbeatable in this mode. He takes the ball so incredibly early and hits it so hard that no one can live with him. Towards the end he teed off with his forehand on the ad court when Djokovic was serving. His forehand was simply deadly. There was some wicked backhands down the line as well, not to mention volleys. If I can find any fault with his game, it was the break points that he wasted, but 4/11 still isn’t the worst that you’ll see. It was pretty much a perfect match as far as I’m concerned. It was exactly what was needed before a crucial final.

Roger is the overwhelming favorite to win tomorrow in my mind. I don’t give a rats ass about the head-to-head or what happened in the past. The people who think Nadal actually owns Roger are deluded. I have been over the reasons for this before, but 14-7 isn’t owning someone anyway. Owning is the 16-0 h2h that Lendl had against Gilbert, or 20-2 that Roger has against Roddick. That is what you call ownage. Roger has reminded Nadal many times that he doesn’t own him, and tomorrow he will do so again. I am 99% sure of that. Surprised? I bet you probably are, and you are feeling nervous about tomorrow’s match. Well I’m not. I believe this will play out very much exactly like Madrid ’09. Nadal won’t be 100% fresh tomorrow I think, but it doesn’t even matter. I think Roger will be too good anyway.

If he plays like he did against Djokovic I can’t see how Nadal has any chance here. I believe Roger will prove once again tomorrow why he is in fact the GOAT. At his best he will be too good, even for his so-called nemesis. He will go out there and play like he did in that Madrid final, putting Nadal under immense pressure with attacking tennis. The stage is set. Murray has done his job by tiring Nadal. It is now up to Roger to go finish him off. You may protest that the same thing happened in Australia last year, only for Roger to go choke it away in the final. This is however a different situation. Nadal has dominated this year, just like he did up until Madrid in ’09. If you can remember, at some point before Madrid Roger said that he can still rattle Nadal. Well he said something similar after the US Open this year.

I don’t know exactly when it was, but he said something along the lines of thinking it’s about time to beat Nadal again. I think it is happening again tomorrow. This may well be another pivotal point in the Fedal rivalry. If Roger wins tomorrow, which I believe will happen, you may see something similar happen what happened after the ’09 Madrid final. Roger went on to dominate while Nadal slumped. This is just the ebb and flow of the Fedal rivalry. It is bound to happen. Nadal has been dominating for a while now, and it is likely that Roger once again take over the domination tomorrow. These two guys are just so evenly matched that neither one of them can keep dominating indefinitely. At some point the tide must turn. I believe tomorrow will be such a moment. This was what should have happened at the US Open, but it wasn’t Roger’s time yet.

He was not ready for Nadal and would undoubtedly have lost had he made the final. But this time he is ready, as evidenced by the way in which he destroyed Djokovic. If Roger was in this form in the US open final, he would have destroyed Nadal too. But Roger needed more time to build his confidence back up, and he is now supremely confident. Nadal is in trouble here. There is no doubt about it. I predict Roger will win this is straight sets, and remind the tennis world that his time at the top is far from over. If he does win the title, it will mean that he equals the record amount of five Masters Cup titles set by Lendl and Sampras. It will also mean that Nadal still has a big fat zero MC titles. I think Nadal wants this title badly, but for once I think he is going to be denied. He may win it in the future, but I seriously doubt it is happening tomorrow.

And Roger has to make sure that Nadal can’t just take whatever he rests his eyes on. If Nadal does not win this title this year it will frustrate him. Knowing that his main rival, who is supposedly way past his prime, has just won the fifth slam for the fifth time, while he has done so zero times, will hurt him. It is all about adding to his legacy and making it harder and harder for Nadal to ever catch him as the GOAT. Make no mistake about it. Tomorrow there is a lot on the line. But I think Roger has this one figured out. All he needs to to is put Nadal under constant, immense pressure like he did in Madrid ’09, and he has got this in the bag. In fact this will be even easier because it is on hard court and not in Nadal’s backyard. OK, I think I have hyped up Roger’s chances enough to jinx him, so if he does lose you are welcome to blame me.

Just kidding! I don’t think Roger is losing this thing. But if the result was certain there would be no need to play the match. Nothing is ever certain in tennis, but you have my prediction. Now let the final showdown begin…

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=federer+vs+djokovic+london+2010&aq=f

Roger Federer


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12 Comments

  1. Roger played well on 1st set but lost a bit focus on the 2nd. He did come back to correct it. I think key trow is not only his 1st serve but his execution on during key moments. I think is not about how well he plays trow, how hungry is Roger to set the record straight. He is not going any more changes to Nadal and rightful he should not.

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  2. The question for Roger is whether he can find a way through Nadal’s ridiculous defense; so far no one has been able to do that, either at this tournament or at the last 3 slams this year. It is a tall ask, even for a Federer currently playing near his best level of ’06 and ’07. Despite his more than 3 hours on court Nadal will not be tired; his capacity to cover the court in the final will be undiminished. For Roger it may come down to a bare handful of clutch points; he will have to make them.

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    Mia Reply:

    Note though that Nadal has not played anyone who takes the ball that early, which messes up Nadal’s rhythm. Of the elite players, only Fed and Davydenko take the ball real early – unfortunate that outside of the two, no else is so inclined in the top 20 or 30.

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  3. Ruan, you’re making me nervous. You are too sure, but I hear ya brother. Lets hope he keeps the high intensity, cause he sure has it this week. Neil, as far as ridiculous defense goes, look at what Djoker and Murray are capable of, and what Fed did to them this week. I believe if Fed comes out Guns a blazin, then Ruans prediction will be right, spot on. G

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  4. A master class.More than any other player he makes the game absurdly simple.With his agressive and varied game his opponents can´t play his best tennis.They are not allowed to hit the shots they would most like to hit.
    Fed is afraid?, be afraid of Fed.
    Plus Roger won YEC all times he won AO meant to be. So
    Go Roger!!!

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  5. All valid points, Ru-an. There was also an element of eerie calm in Roger’s utter annihilation of Djokovic today. Clearly, he was in the zone. Contrast that to Nadal’s edginess in his match with Murray. Yes, after watching both matches, I am fully confident that tomorrow will be Federer’s day.

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  6. I could not watch Federer’s match due to midnight schedule in this part of the world and due to mental exhaustion from watching Murray-Nadal match which I badly wanted the Scot to win.From what has been mentioned before I think that Federer may be able to win the 5th title of champion of Masters but at the same time even if for some or other reasons he fails to do so why think that that is the end of the world. As is pointed out earlier, Federer did have lapses in the second set and who can guarantee that that does not happen again. Let us hope for the best.Whatever Federer is doing at 29 is just exemplary. I wish him to lift the fifth WTF title on Sunday.Let the final title of 2010 be the beginning of fresh domination by Federer to get back to No 1 in 2011 and to break some other records

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  7. In Madrid last year, Djokovic ran for four hours against Nadal and came away the loser even after holding three match points.

    Federer then played Nadal for an hour and a half, doing far less running, and he won.

    That’s the difference between a great player and a genius. The great player encounters insuperable obstacles along the path, and, despite using everything in his considerable arsenal, can’t get past them. The genius simply takes a different path altogether, bypassing all the obstacles.

    Those impressed by Nadal’s (admittedly impressive) performance against Murray are surely wondering how anyone could even conceive of beating him.

    But Federer’s plan of attack will be utterly different from Murray’s. He will do something that no one ever thought of doing, but that seems completely obvious in retrospect. Something very simple and elegant. That’s genius, that’s magic.

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    mel Reply:

    This has got to be one of the most delusional posts regarding a Federer victory. The sole difference between Roger and Rafa at the Madrid final was not some subjective difference between “genius” and a “great player” but the the objective fact that Rafa was run ragged in the semifinals by djokovic. Federer was fresh and so ran roughshod over Rafa in the final. “The genius simply takes a different path altogether, bypassing all the obstacles.” Umm…what exactly does this murky statement mean? The genius bypasses all obstacles?- by this do you mean that roger has rendered all opponents superfluous because he can somehow gravitate above them by his aura. So now he can just put himself in the final by dint of being a “genius.” I dont think so- Federer has to face the same obstacles as the other players and like many of them have come up dauntingly short many times primarily against Nadal and many others particularly this year. Roger on numerous occasions has ended up being the “great player” who could not get past nadal or other players no matter what he did- the numerous French Open finals, 2009 AO final, Wimby 2008 and even US Open 2009 to Del Potro. And seemingly this year his considerable arsenal has let him down against players of low calibre- Montanes, Hewitt, Gulbis and the list goes on. And it is really delightful that the premise on which you base your post can easily be reversed to throw an unflattering light on Federer himself. You claim that Federer was victorious through his sheer genius of play in Madrid- if this was the case why was this genius not transferred to his other duels with Rafa which have for the most part favored the Spaniard.Incidentally enough, Federer for the most part of the year has run ragged and held match points in many matches but “despite using everything in his considerable arsenal, [couldnt] get past them” Coincidentally, this “genius” seems to have been short lived- it surfaced on Madrid clay and disappeared there as well. Please do not get carried away with your fanaticism- if the genius of federer could have “bypassed all the obstacles” so easily, then the rankling losses at the majors and the other masters tournaments this year would have been nonexistent. The man is human like everyone else and fallible just as everyone else is- as much of a shock as this might be to you.

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    steve Reply:

    I’m so sick of people using exhaustion as an excuse for Nadal’s losses. Apparently only Rafael Nadal gets tired–if other players bring up tiredness they are bad sports, but it’s OK for Nadal to do it. It is also apparently impossible for him to be outplayed–he can only lose because of injury or exhaustion. Against Soderling it was a knee injury, against Del Potro it was his tummy, against Murray a new knee injury totally unrelated to his previous knee injuries…the litany is endless.

    You wish to discuss “objective facts.” OK, let’s do that.

    Did you know Nadal had a walkover against Melzer in Madrid last year? He played one fewer match than Federer coming into the final. That’s the fact that’s conveniently omitted by everyone who claims his exertions against Djokovic tired him out.

    Remember too that Nadal played a 5-hour semi at AO 2009 against Verdasco followed by a grueling four-hour marathon against Federer to win the title. A four-hour match should have been nothing to him in Madrid. Surely if he can beat Federer in a Grand Slam on a surface supposedly less suited to his game after such exertions, he could easily have beaten Federer in a best-of-three-set match on his favorite surface, where his movement is smoothest and most natural.

    Either Nadal is an iron man who can run his opponents for days without tiring, or he’s a fragile little wilting flower that has to be handled with the most delicate care. Obviously he can’t be both. You can’t say he’s the former when he wins and the latter when he loses. You have to pick one.

    The man is human like everyone else and fallible

    That’s exactly my point. You think when I say “genius” it’s a question of waving a magic wand that can automatically work every time.

    But part of genius is that it can’t be produced at will. You can’t bottle lightning.

    Every match is different. Sometimes Federer comes up with a masterpiece. Other times he can’t, and has to scrap more. That he is fully capable of scrapping it out is one of the aspects of his game that is highly underrated. Without it he would never have won even one major, let alone 16.

    Artists by nature are somewhat unpredictable. And Federer is an artist, paradoxically working in a field where success is based on predictable consistency, playing the percentages.

    Most athletes seek to eliminate chance as much as possible, to the point where they rely on superstition and ritual to reproduce exactly the conditions they believe are necessary for their peak performance; Nadal of course being the exemplar of this in tennis.

    Federer’s the opposite: despite his careful preparations, he has no superstitions, and he likes to improvise on-court, even when he has a game plan. He has confidence that he can come up with the right moves at the right times without having to plan every detail in advance.

    When he does produce a work of genius, you just have to sit back and enjoy it. They’re precious precisely because they cannot be mechanically reproduced, and they don’t happen all the time.

    That match in Madrid was a piece of genius; the match against Del Potro in AO last year, another piece of genius.

    Then again, instead of enjoying it, you could just try to say it was because the opponent’s supposed “tiredness.” I don’t know if that brings you any satisfaction, but that’s your business, isn’t it?

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    mel Reply:

    My problem with your post was not Federer’s “genius,” it’s pretty much accepted unconditionally that the man can do much more with a tennis racket than the average professional, but the reference to the Madrid match as an example of his genius and the fact that you defined a genius as someone who simply “bypasses all obstacles.” Can you please clarify this statement. You did not really address this in the post. How can a genius “bypass” all obstacles- doesnt this automatically render the genius superfluous because one cant see it at work. For genius to be recognized as such, it has to be pitted against inferior or superior forces and be able to emerge victorious which Federer has done on numerous occasions. The reference to him “bypassing” obstacles detracts away from the intensity and the competition on the tour. So the fact that Djokovic put up a valiant effort and threw the kitchen sink at Nadal in Madrid somehow demotes him while Federer who by luck of the draw did not have to face two of the greatest claycourters in the game is somehow a “genius,” seems a questionable if not delusional premise to me. An why exactly is the Madrid final considered a genius perfomance by Federer? By all accounts, the match was a fairly straightforward affair with the scoreline 6-4 6-4. It was by no means a beatdown nor was it an eyeopening performance by Federer whereby he introduced a new shot/strategy in his arsenal that could finally gain him the advantage over Nadal on clay thereafter. Was it a genius match according to you simply because Federer was finally able to notch a win over Nadal after the numerous lopsided beatdowns at the French Open? This seems like hyperbole to me- Federer did not execute anything especially praiseworthy there- he should be capable of beating Nadal because he is such a good claycourter himself as evidenced by his appearances at FO finals. The factor of Nadal’s tiredness is not an excuse in this context- but it certainly is a factor in the victory, just as Fed’s losses this year at majors can be viewed in the context of his general slump after the AO. And just because Nadal was able to pull out a superhuman achievement by beating Fed in 5 sets at the AO after the marathon with Verdasco, it does not necessarily mean he can replicate the performance at will. Physical conditioning as well as genius is prone to fluctuation. It is not enough to just complacently allow Federer the benefit of losing matches because “genius” cant be called forth at will while denying that Nadal’s physical capabilities are prone to changes as well. He is neither the ultimate “iron man” not the “delicate flower,”- the human body unfortunately is not willing to be constrained so into assumed categories. And finally to your snide comments on Nadal’s habits on court- what exactly does his rituals have to do with his on court performance? You say that he seeks to eliminate chance and rely on “superstition and ritual to reproduce exactly the conditions they believe are necessary for their peak performance.” The one major flaw in this statement is that just because he reproduces the same conditions, it does not automatically guarantee successful results. Any fool, including Nadal himself will tell you this. His forces of habit are something that he must compulsively perform but they have no bearing on his performance. The link that you make with his habits and his play is fundamentally weak- one does not translate to the other. And so by you insinuating that Nadal harbors no creativity and cannot easily adapt to moving circumstances, you betray your own lack of knowledge about the game and both Federer and Nadal. You claim Federer is an improvisational master but I would argue that it is indeed the opposite, at least more recently. The very fact that Nadal is able to achieve the career slam at 24 proves that he has morphed from a clay specialist to an all court player within the span of a very short time. He was said to never be able to trespass on Wimbledon- Federer’s demesne for so long. But he was not only able to win Wimbledon, but he won it by beating arguably the greatest grass courter in 2008. Then the hard courts were deemed impossible for him, but he tinkered with the serve and was able to bag the US Open. If you cannot see the profound creativity and ability of Nadal to constantly better himself and put himself above the rest of the field by self improvement, then I dont know what to say to you. Federer on the other hand you claim can come up with the right moves without “without having to plan every detail in advance.” Please do enlighten me on the player who is capable of planning all the details of an upcoming match to an inch. This must be a new development, neither I nor the rest of the world must have caught on to. Its laughable how you try to minimize the achievements of players. None can fully map out a plan that accounts for all the vagaries within a match. As for Federer, more recently of late, I would argue that he is too stubborn and set in his ways to have improvised in important matches. The AO 2009 final- he insisted on trading brutal rallies with Nadal and didnt change his tactics the whole match even when his backhand was cruelly broken down and in the 5th set he mentally faded away and lost it 6-2. The same scenario played out in the US Open final 2009 with Del Potro with the same scoreline in the 5th set. And this year after successive losses to Berdych and Soderling, both power hitters, at majors and masters events, Federer tellingly said when questioned of his losses that he did not see a pattern because he was previously able to “dominate” power hitters like them. While this fact is unconditionally true, it does betray an unwillingness to face the realities of the situation and the tendency to use the past as a successful barometer for the future. This attitude is most likely as a result of Federer’s ego; its understandable and to Federer’s credit, he has brought on a new coach with a view to improve against the type of big hitters that beat him in Grand Slams this year. And finally, I dont take satisfaction from claiming tiredness was a factor in the match- it undeniably was, but it does not really detract from the victory as federer as I mentioned before should be able to beat Nadal, especially in best of three set format. And if we really need to get juvenile, one can trot out the excuses that Federer has made regarding his own losses too- mononucleosis, back/leg injury, shoddy scheduling, blah, blah, blah. At the end of the day, its much easier to be a good sport when you’ve won than when you’ve lost (Isn’t it coincidental that the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award is almost always awarded to the No 1 player in the world?). Sportsman ofter make their excuses (Federer and Nadal are no exception), and the excuses they make can only be taken at their face value.

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  8. For me spectacular tennis means Federer. Federer should win this final on hard court. He is 5 years older than Rafa but this is not going to be mentioned in future if he continues to lose against him over and over again. Given that he keeps his well known first serves on top I will be happy at the end of the day.

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