Which is Betterer for Federer: A Nadal or Soderling Victory?

The men’s semi-finals of Roland Garros 2010 was concluded today, and as far as I’m concerned we now have the best possible final other than another Fedal final. Today’s semi-final matches turned out pretty much as expected, with the Soderling/Berdych match going to a fifth set, and Nadal taking care of Melzer in straight sets. Soderling won 6-3 3-6 5-7 6-3 6-3, while Nadal won 6-2 6-3 7-6 (6). Soderling trailed by 2-1 in sets at one point, and I thought he did really well to grind the win out. He has obviously matured a lot as a player over the last year or so. Berdych was not an easy opponent for him as he plays the same type of game as Soderling. Soderling could not overpower him the way he did Roger for instance. So in the end he just had to hang tough and grind out the win. Nadal on the other hand had little problems with Melzer in the first two sets, and lead by a break in the third.

Melzer then fought back as Nadal lost concentration, but Nadal got his act together as you would expect from him in the tie break. The final match up is my second choice for a Roland Garros final, because I enjoy the Soderling/Nadal rivalry. Where Nadal has gotten into Roger’s head in the past, he can’t do the same with Soderling. Soderling does not fear Nadal in any way. You can be sure if he goes down on Sunday he will go down swinging. Either way he is not going to hold anything back. This is the attitude you have to have against Nadal on clay, and maybe a Fedal would have been just another beat down in favor of Nadal anyway. I don’t know if Roger has learned his lesson against Nadal, and I don’t know if he ever will. But I want to focus on Sunday’s final now and forget about Roger for a second.

Throughout the clay season Nadal has not had to deal with Del Potro, Davydenko, or an in form Djokovic, and having won all the Masters Series events does not convince me whether he is back quite yet. He is obviously very close, but I think if he loses to Soderling, the doubts will remain. He is now obviously in the perfect position to avenge his loss of last year to Soderling, and if he does that he will have achieved what he wanted to achieve this clay court season, which is to resurrect his career. But that also brings it’s own pressure. If he falters over the final hurdle all kinds of questions will arise again. It will also be doubtful whether he could ever be considered the clay GOAT. Borg won six French Opens while Nadal is still standing on four. So Nadal needs very much to win both for his current career and his legacy once he quits tennis.

What about Roger? Does the outcome of this match have any baring on the GOAT? Well of course it does! Or not. Personally I find myself in a position I have never been before as a Fedfanatic. If Nadal wins, Roger loses his number one ranking. Being one week short of Sampras’ all time record, this is not a good outcome. Seems pretty obvious then that from Roger’s perspective it’s better that Soderling wins, right? Actually, it’s not so obvious. I have always said that I feel Roger and Rafa’s destinies are intertwined. Roger and Rafa has ruled the grand slams for the better part of a decade now. So although they are rivals, in a sense they are very much like a team. They are also good friends. If Soderling wins on Sunday, it would mean he broke Roger’s semi-final streak AND probably Nadal’s future as a tennis player.

Already a big power hitter dethroned Roger at the US Open, and it wouldn’t be good for the Fedal dominance if Nadal is dethroned now by a similar player as well. Incidentally these kind of big power hitters have caused both Roger and Rafa the most difficulty in the last year or so. They definitely pose the biggest threat to the Fedal duopoly. So in a way Roger needs very much for Nadal to win on Sunday. He needs his partner to take revenge for him as it were, and for the first time ever I find myself very much rooting for Nadal. I never thought this would happen, because I almost always want him to lose, but this time I feel very much like I am in his corner. I feel a certain loyalty to him which is taking me by surprise. Roger won the Australian Open this year, and if Nadal wins on Sunday, the Fedal duopoly would be firmly in control once more. Otherwise, look out.

Of course Nadal would be number one and Roger number two again, which leaves us in a kind of a catch-22 situation. With Wimbledon coming up as well, which Nadal missed last year, he would have every opportunity to open the gap between him and Roger in the rankings even more. And with the confidence of a fourth French Open crown it could be very difficult indeed for Roger to take back the number one spot for a second time. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m completely conflicted as to whom I want to win on Sunday. It’s not just a question of not caring either way who wins. It’s quite the opposite, because I want both players to win for different reasons. I’ve never been in this spot when it comes to a tennis match, and I can’t say that I like it too much either. Maybe I’ll just forget about any consequences and enjoy the tennis and rivalry itself. How about you?

May the Fedforce be with you.

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  1. I am just curious on these 2 scenarios if Le Sod wins – what will be his ranking be and will he falls in Roger’s half in SW19. Should I be worried again, perhaps. If Nadal wins – what are the chances of Roger taking back No 1 ranking again. He has a quite a lot of points to defend this summer.


  2. The courts are becoming slower and slower and the game in evolving to really big guys who can hit the ball really hard. Smaller players put the style in tennis, the courts need to be a bit faster. I know the US open court is very fast and Del Potro won there, but the evolution to big player tennis is evident throughout the tour. Fed also didn’t have the greatest match at US Open 09, he really should have won that one.


  3. Ru-an,
    Excellent post. Couldn’t agree with you more. Rog and Rafa destinies are intertwined. Although they crush each other’s dream, they also hold each other’s dream and I’m too used to and loved the duopoly too much to ever let it go. I’m not ready to see other players break into this extremely exclusive club; especially power players much as I also like Soderling and Delpotro. Rog and Rafa are a team. This rivalry/team spirit that Rog and Rafa has is unique in all of sports history, there never was one and never ever will be one again. Modern world is love or hate. Love can’t exist together with hate. Yet Rog and Rafa “hate” each other (when they are competing) and yet “love” each other as you can genuinely see and feel the bromance they have for each other (eg Rog stroking Rafa’s cheek when he lost to him at Wimby and Rafa having that apologetic look on his face when he beats Rog, and all the easy and friendly chats they have with each other. No signs of tension between them at all which is so unusual between intense rivals which they are) I want this “team” to continue as long as possible. Maybe all Rog and Rafa fans should now unite and love and cheer for both Rog and Rafa and not not have any more Rog/Rafa wars and NOT allow any other player into this duopoly that we love and treasure and enjoy so much. On the other hand, as you say, it would be difficult for Rog to get back to no. 1 if he loses. I’m exactly feeling like you do. You express it so well Ruan. As usual all your articles are very well analysed and objective. I really do not need to go to any expert tennis column to get the best analysis. Sorry I have not been commenting as been away and very busy. But know for sure that I am always reading your blog, keep it up and know that you make many a Rog fan very very happy indeed. Bless you.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Veronica, been wondering about you. So glad you left a comment. Always enjoyed your comments very much. So im very happy to hear you are still around and reading my blog! Bless you too! ;-)


  4. As all Fedfans you are a bit disappointed, I understand what you say, but my love for Roger is incredible, and if Robin wins Roger will break the record, he preserves his N1, and a confidence knock on Nadal, lovely way to begin the grass court season.
    Thanks Robin and Nadal who missed Wimby, Roger won RG.and Wimby 09.Of corse was a nice rivalry but if Roger can´t beat Nadal the future will be dark…
    At least he will break the record, so I will forgive Robin for the QF.if he beats Nadal tomorrow.(And I really think he deserves the trophy,Nadal´s draw has been a pure comedy,the joke of the year,Hypocresy in tennis world,in 4 tournaments he hasn´t played a top ten player other than Roger in Madrid.So GO ROBIN!!!


  5. It’s out of Roger’s hands right now.

    But in 2008 and 2009, one major a year went to someone not named Federer or Nadal. If that happens this year, it’s not like it’s totally unprecedented.

    Also if Soderling wins it, I think he may have a sophomore slump like happened to Djokovic and Del Potro. The motivation to prove yourself wanes a little bit, and the pressure to perform increases.

    It’s not easy to be like Federer and stay motivated and focused after winning so many big titles. I don’t think even Nadal is as good at that part of the game as Federer.


  6. I’m not conflicted, I want Soderling to win because after Roger he’s my favourite player and has been the best player in the tournament in my opinion, even though he has dropped 4 sets, his ability to grind out matches, his movement, his serve and groundstrokes have been amazing, he looks better than he did last year and he had the balls to beat Federer in a slam, something which Davydenko lacked even though he had two wins over him. Judging by Robin’s reaction after beating Berdych, he really wants to win, I fear for his future if he doesn’t win especially if he gets a beat down, he can still lose it mentally sometimes and he many have a massive let down after beating Federer but not walking away with the winners’ trophy and Nadal has also never lost to the same player on clay twice in a row- I think it’s time for that record to go too. However I do think that Nadal needs to win a slam to wake up Fed but with the amount of points that Federer and Nadal have to defend this year I can see Nadal being number 1 still this time next year and Federer will be 30 next year, time is running out so that will surely motivate him and make him more aware of the importance of the small events however if Robin wins he’ll move to number 4 in the world and Murray will be back where he belongs at number 5 and there needs to be some positives from Del Potro’s and Davydenko’s abscence.


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