This post follows yet another defeat of Rafa at the hands of a top 10 player, when he lost to Roddick in the Miami semi-finals today, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6. Since Madrid last year Rafa has been 1-11 against top 10 opponents. Although Roger has a record of 10-6 against top 10 opponents over the same period of time, he only just have a winning record against top 10 opponents since the US Open last year, 5-4. And so far this year outside of the grand slams Roger has hardly been impressive. I think it is fair to ask questions about Federer and Nadal’s dominance. If we take it all the way back to Madrid last year, you have to say that the fates of Federer and Nadal since then does have some striking differences. Federer won three grand slams since then, while Nadal has won zero. In fact Federer has lost only one match in the last four grand slams, in a very close five set match.
Also he has reclaimed the number one spot, and has held onto it ever since. As far as Roger goes, he actually had remarkably good results since Madrid last year in the grand slams. Outside of the grand slams it has not been as good, but the grand slams are after all what matters the most. I think it is becoming kinda clear now that Roger won’t be doing as well in the events outside of the grand slams as he used to. He just doesn’t do well in the three set format anymore. And it is not because he doesn’t care. In his interviews after his losses to Bagdhatis and Berdych recently he found it hard to give them credit, which to me shows that those losses hurt and that he does care a lot still. The people who always says that Federer does not care about the smaller events has always been dreaming as far as I was concerned anyway.
I just think that he has run into players who was playing very well on the day, and the three set format does not give him enough time to dig himself out of a hole. And again I can’t agree with people who says he hasn’t been playing well. Against Bagdhatis and Berdych it was both high quality matches, with a couple of points here and there that made a difference. In the end I think it is fair to say that Federer has lost a certain edge, but he still has an edge in the slams. And I am fine with that. Sure it would be nice to see him dominate in the smaller events, but it is also nice to see some new faces doing well sometimes. As far as Rafa goes the situation looks a bit more bleak. He looks a shadow of his former self both in the slams and outside of it. The only positive thing for him is that he has maybe been a little more consistent in the smaller events than Roger.
But once he came up against the top 10 players, his results have been very poor at best. It seems there are two Nadals these days. The one who consistently beat players outside of the top 10, and the one that consistently loses against top 10 players. Not a great place to be in. Nadal’s one saving grace is that the clay court season is coming up, where I do expect him to do well. I bet he can’t wait to get back on his favorite dirt. Surely there he will have a better strike rate against top 10 players. If he does really well in the clay season it may just lift him out of the funk he is in right now. I’m sure that is his pattern of thinking right now as well. He just seems stuck, and if he doesn’t come out of his stuckness during the clay court season, he may never do so. I also get the feeling that if he does not actually win the French Open, that we will have seen the best of Nadal.
Personally I think we have already seen the best of Nadal, but I will give show him some courtesy for the great champion he has been. Despite their head-to-head record, Roger has always been in another class than Rafa, and it is showing once more. I think both Roger and Rafa is over their best, yet there is only a very small difference between Federer’s best and less than best. Nadal on the other hand, as I have always suggested, will simply burn out. This means that his best mode and less than best mode are two very different things. What does this post come down to? You guessed it. No one comes close to the GOAT.
Ps. I forgot to give credit to Roddick, who played a fantastic match today, and got a much needed career boost because of it. I’m not crazy about the guy, but I sure like his persistence and heart. After his loss to Roger at Wimbledon last year it would have been easy to lie down, but rather than see it as a massive failure he saw it as a success. And rightly so. He has never been that close to beating Roger in a grand slam. We can all learn something from Roddick in that regard.