Wimbledon was a Changing of the Guard for Fedal?

I don’t know about you but I have always felt that Roger and Nadal’s destinies were intertwined. I remember at the Australian Open this year Roger was asked by journalists about him and Nadal’s dominance. Nadal had lost in the quarters and Roger in the semis. And it was Djokovic on that occasion who beat Roger in straight sets. It was a convincing loss at an event that he dominated for several years. Nadal on the other hand had won the last three majors, and it was a little unfair to talk about him being on the decline. On that occasion Roger answered that people are always looking to write him and Nadal off, and that they should give it 6 months to come to any real conclusions. Well we are 6 months down the line and both Roger and Nadal have suffered decisive losses at Wimbledon. Did we finally see a changing of the guard?

I think we might well have. Last year Roger lost in the quarters to Berdych at Wimbledon which was a big upset. There were talks of changing of the guard then, but it was a little early given that it was the first time Roger had not made the final in 8 years. It looked like Roger would set the record straight this year after coming off an inspired performance at the French Open. He was many people’s favorite to win the title. So the fact that he lost to Tsonga in the quarters was a big setback. You never want to admit to a changing of the guard as a fan, but you have to be honest too. I think it was a changing of the guard. It’s going to be hard for Roger to win Wimbledon from here on, or any slam for that matter. As far as Nadal goes, he was pretty lucky to escape Djokovic in the French Open final.

If Djokovic had beaten him there it would have been a very telling loss. But in the Wimbledon final it was once again Djokovic who overcame Nadal. I don’t think Nadal’s loss in the final was as telling as Roger’s loss to Tsonga, but it does signal another kind of changing of the guard to me. Nadal was in 5 straight Wimbledon finals, counting out 2009 when he didn’t play. He had won two straight finals until this year and looked like he could dominate Wimbledon for some time. Nadal is now completely owned by Djokovic after losing 5 straight finals to him, which in itself signals some kind of changing of the guard. Given that Nadal is closer to his prime still, one would expect that he can win more major titles than Roger still. I think there are similarities between Roger’s 2009 Oz Open loss to Nadal, and Nadal’s loss to Djokovic in this year’s Wimbledon.

The ownage of Nadal over Roger became official in that match. It was a chaging of the guard as well. After that loss Roger went out to win 3 more slams, but Nadal wasn’t a factor in those slams. The question is how many slams Nadal can now add after being displaced by Djokovic as the dominant player. Some people are still uncertain as to whether Djokovic can keep up his recent level. Personally I feel like Djokovic had transformed as a player and there is no reason he should go back to Djokovic 1.0. He is now number one and is starting to win slams on a regular basis. He is also a more complete player than Nadal and less injury prone. Therefor he will challenge at every slam which means it will be hard for Nadal to avoid him. It will be interesting now to see if Nadal’s confidence will be really dented by all these losses to Djokovic, in which case other players could take advantage.

Once a player loses that air of invincibility the other players take notice and gets more belief themselves. On the other hand Nadal has hardly lost this year to anyone other than Djokovic. He has still been very consistent. I just think it will be hard for him to keep up his consistency with his Wimbledon loss to Djokovic. We saw how he struggled in the first round of Rome and Roland Garros after the final losses to Djokovic. The fact that he now lost in a slam final to Djokovic may have a deeper impact on his confidence. I am very much looking forward to the North American hard court season for that reason. I would’t be surprised if other players than Djokovic starts to beat Nadal on a more regular basis. Del Potro specifically will be a serious threat to Nadal on hard court. And of course you can’t count Roger and Murray out.

Having said that, I never count Nadal out. For that he has proved me wrong too many times in the past. I won’t rest in peace about Roger’s slam record until the day Nadal retires. I won’t even count him out for defending the US Open this year. But if I look at it optimistically, then I would say Nadal has 2-3 more slams left in him. He could win two more French Opens and perhaps a Wimbledon. I think hard court slams will be tough going for him from now on, with Djokovic, Del Potro, and Murray around. So in the end I would say we saw a changing of the guard at Wimbledon for Fedal, where Roger will perhaps win one more slam, and Nadal will only pick up a few slams if he avoids Djokovic. What do you think?

How many more slams will Nadal win?

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24 Comments

  1. Djokovic is definitely better now than last year, when he was eating wheat. Nice to see him at the top of the game. I like the Serb, quite a bit.

    Nice post, Ru-an. I can’t say as I agree with you, YET, about Nadal’s ‘reign being over’, since I think we need to see a few more encounters between these two before we decide. One didn’t believe (or think) immediately after the AO 09 that… ‘The ownage of Nadal over Roger became official in that match. It was a chaging of the guard as well. ‘ … as you wrote in your post. I think it took some time and further matches to get you to think that way. But it’s all food for thought. As an optimistic Nadal fan, I can only hope Rafa does look for ways to up/change his game so he can beat Nole. I don’t quite think things are over yet. Nor are they over for Roger, who was able to easily defeat this new Djokovic at RG. Remember Agassi was winning slams at the age of 33.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thats cos Agassis peak was towards the end of his career. And Agassis last slam came at 32.

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    Aravind Madhavan Reply:

    Federer kept himself in contention even after crushing defeats against Nadal by repeatedly turning up at slam finals and SFs. It won’t be a given that Nadal will do that. I think the field will pick up. I still think Delpo can do some serious damage if he is 100% fit. Murray will continue to push Nadal on hardcourts, he is a much better hardcourt player than he is a grass player. In his peak, Nadal reached only two slam finals on hardcourts(one of them helped by an easy draw). I don’t think it is a given that he will continue to reach finals on the two hardcourt slams.

    When Nadal falls from the summit, I doubt if the fall will be as gradual and delayed as it has been with Federer. He relies so much on his physicality and confidence. If and when he loses a bit of both, he will find the going much tougher than Roger..

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    TGIF Reply:

    Interesting comparison between wimby final and AO 2009; I think you have a point considering Djoko beat Nadal on a surface he wasn’t supposed to be that great on, grass.

    In the case of the Fedal rivalry, the AO ’09 match isn’t what stopped Roger from winning more slams; he and Nadal didn’t play again at a slam until this year’s FO, where Nadal has always won anyway. They didn’t even play much outside slams either; 3 matches in Madrid, IW this year and WTF. Nothing hugely significant.

    To me the crucial match that signaled Roger’s future problems in slams was the loss to Del Potro at USO ’09. It was his first slam final loss to someone other than Nadal. It showed he could be outhit and unnerved by other players. It was followed by GS losses to Soderling, Berdych, Djokovic and Tsonga.

    If Nadal can continue to consistantly beat players other than Djoko, he should still win plenty; I can’t believe Djoko will never lose early again and they are on opposite sides of the draw. If Nadal’s confidence has been dented and he starts losing more often to other players, that’s another story.

    We’ll see; interesting times :-)

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  2. Ruan–Call it poetic justice or the nature of the sport or the nature of time–or all three– but in Novak, Rafa has met his Rafa; he is now experiencing the shock of the real that he administered to Roger, a wake-up call about reality, a bursting of the bubble inside of. But Rafa has met his bete noir earlier than Roger met his, so, unless injury intervenes, I think that he will be standing at the end of many important tournaments to come–while Roger will have to be very lucky to wind up in that position: not that he won’t, but that it will take luck and the state of Roger’s commitment to victory. Neil said a while back, and I was struck by its truth, that Roger does not have the taste for the gore of the battle–and at this late point in his career (with all the honors one could ever wish for oneself, with a family, with an enormous fortune, with the good will of just about every fan of the sport, with his name secure in the pantheon) and with the crushing weight of his own–now dated (tempus fugit, with a vengeance!) fame, which might just feel like a merciless irony to him, how many more times will be put himself in the spot light to be beaten?
    Roger said a very interesting thing just before he played Nalbandian. I’m closely paraphrasing here, “He and I are of the same generation; Rafa and Novak are the new generation.” That is the only time I can recall when the rest of us were given an insight into the way Roger really looks at things.
    Time makes fools of us all; the extraordinary brilliance of Roger’s career has made him the cynosure of modern tennis: when, I wonder, will he tire of that and dare to imagine himself not playing?

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  3. I agree with most of what you have said. However, I doubt that Nadal may have even 2-3 slams in him still, as you think. Why? Because I figure that with his style of play he’s probably only got about 2 more peak years. His best bet, as usual, has got to be the French, yet I think if he were to meet Djokovic (or even a fit Del Potro, say) there he is likely to lose. He won’t beat Djokovic on any other surface. So it kind of depends on Djokovic not being injured or upset before he meets Nadal. Nothing is assured in sports, but with Djokovic now firmly in his path Nadal will be lucky to add to his grand slam tally. Of course, you say you have been wrong about Nadal before – after all, he came back from the dead in 2010, against all expert prediction. Who knows what Dr Mikel Sanchez will come up with in his PRP treatment for Nadal’s ‘knees’, that might yet enable the Spaniard to once again regain the edge over his rivals? Can he boost further an already boosted player?

    And Roger? Sadly, I feel that the AO in 2010 was probably his last ascent to the summit. Roger seems to have lost something of his ‘mojo’, and I don’t know how is going to get it back – short of a wheat-free diet.

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    neil Reply:

    whoops – ‘I don’t know how he is going to get it back ..’

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well if Nadal is doping then i suppose there are always stronger products on the market, but at what cost to his body? Anyway i dont think steroids will help him overcome this mental hurdle.

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  4. If he wins, I just hope some of you can eat some gluten free crap, and just realize, you can’t win them all. He just beat the best player on the planet 1 month ago, and the match against Tsonga, might have even been him not wanting to meet Nadal again and lose. Who knows. Give him a chance, cause he has a few more years left in him. GO FED!!!! G

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    neil Reply:

    Gary, we have all got a few more years left in us – we hope! I’m thinking I need to go ‘gluten-free’ ..

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  5. I think historic H2H records do not have meaning beyond a point. In a tennis players H2H against another there is often a deciding match beyond which one player wins the majority of the matches and has mental edge going to their matches. Let me illustrate

    1. In the Federer Nadal rivalry, this match was the Australian open 09. This effectively sealed the end of “equal” rivalry. In this match Nadal overcame Federer on his weakest surface and signalled a transfer of baton.

    2. The Del Potro Federer match of US open 09. Federer was 6-0 against Del Potro going into the match. Del Potro won it and became a sensation. In the next match in WTF, Delpo was not at his best, but Federer just could not win that match despite trying his best. Again a change of guard in the rivalry.

    The Nadal win against Djokovic in the US open 10 was one such match. It signalled a total domination of the spaniard over the serb, by beating him on the serb’s favorite surface(which incidentally was Nadal’s weakest surface). I thought Djoker might take a big confidence hit like Murray has done after tough losses in slam finals.

    This is where you have to give it to the Serb, to be able to shake off that tough loss and start this year in the manner he did. Djokovic has actually reversed a rivalry of sorts by beating Nadal initially in the masters and by beating the spaniard on his second favorite surface(anybody here bets that Nadal would have certainly won against Djokovic had the latter reached the French open final, I am not sure. I think Nadal got a lucky break there and had he lost there, which is a possibility seeing how tight he was at Wimbledon, the damage would have been much more severe)

    To summarize, this Wimbledon win for Djokovic is huge and cannot be written as an aberration, even though history will say so. Next time he faces Nadal in a slam final, he will play expecting to win and not hoping to not lose. It is a huge psychological shift in both players.
    I am not saying that Nadal will not win matches against Djokovic or even important ones. But in mind this is a decisive shift. Djoker will always keep believing in his future matches and Nadal’s best chance to add more wins is if he does not face Djoker in his draw.

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  6. nadal might equal sampras but i doubt if he wud surpass 14 Grand Slams in his career…nadal himself probably knows tht his career resume relies heavily on clay, so i guess he may want to pull it together to win another aussie n US open n thus being the only man wid multiple titles in all slams in the Open Era (coz i doubt if federer could win another French)… n if this happens, he cud well stake his claim as the GOAT having dominated one slam (clay) n winning all slams atleast twice in his career…. anything could happen from now on.

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  7. When Federer won the RG semis there were plenty of Federer fans that would have wanted Djokovic to go to the final and try to spoil the 6th crown for Nadal. I thought how short-sighted that was. Now think of one scenario that suppose Djokovic continued through RG semis to face Nadal and won with the clay court king. We now know that he won Wimbledon and then the Fed fans would have been panicking by the unprecedented success of Djokovic and fearing that he might accomplish in the first attempt what Federer was not able to in three attempts ,that is win a calendar slam. The win by Federer has assured that that is not going to happen at least this year. Furthermore, whether consciously or not Federer did the right thing by losing to Tsonga rather than to Djokovic or Nadal at Wimbledon 2011

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  8. Interesting stuff Mrdul1 so true “if” Djoko “would have” hypothetically beaten my boy Ralph in the French final and had the first 3 legs of the Grand Slam even I would be going nuts. ( I so don’t hate Novak)

    Shouts of Somebody STOP that Serbian would be heard around the world (not really) Fed and Nadal fans would actually unite I even think if the hypothetical 4th major final (US-Open) were a rematch of Nadal-Djokovic even Ru-an would be reluctantly pulling huge time for Nadal he would want all that championship winners spin to just get up higher and higher on Djokovic backhand lol who knows.

    Is this the changing of the guard for Fedal? I think so its on to Djokodal match ups so far I’m not loving them (results) but Miami was a 3 set classic.

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  9. Very likely a changing of the guard for Fedal. Can see Federer winning 17 majors and Nadal 13 majors, though. As for Djokovic, he ought to win around 6 or 7 majors when all is said and done.

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  10. Well styx I think you are short changing all 3 players on how many majors they might win in their careers.
    Especially Djokovic you think he will only win 6-7 majors he already has 3 and he’s a young 24 DJ is getting double digits for sure.

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  11. I’d just like to say to the Ruan Federer blog…….We all appreciate you, and think the world of your analysis of the greatest T player of all time. We all know the truth btw. GO FED. G

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Gary. What is the truth?

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    Gary Reply:

    Sorry Ruan, I just meant the truth of Federer being the GOAT. That’s all. G

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  12. Hi Ruan,

    Is there anything like intertwined destinies? To me, there isn’t really; we just share some parts of the road with other people…
    I think we don’t have to look too far for an explanation because to me there is no metaphysical explanation for what we’re contemplating in roger’s and Nadal’ performance in GS’s; a psychological and a gametechnical explanation will do it…

    Roger and Nadal are sharing part of there journey because they are both playing professional tennis, and are both great champions, be it in a different way.

    However there is a time of coming and leaving for everyone, for every champion as well. And once a champion starts losing on a more regular basis more than he used to, he doesn’t inspire fear anymore in his opponents like he did before and loses his air of invincibility. The best players take notice of this and are now coming into a match like they can win the match.

    This is what happened to Roger this last 18 months a few times, and happened in the QF of WImbledon once again, on Center Court, in the match between Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga being in a very good form and in full confidence, serving great, throwing bombs with his forehand and playing very well at the net as well. We can’t say Federer was playing that bad, on the contrary, to me his game was there, but his mental strength and fighting spirit wasn’t up for the huge combat he was in and he looked a bit too resigned on the decisive points.

    Nadal seems to be arriving at a new point in his career, in his tennis journey. He has lost now already 5 times this year in major finals, and is losing because of it that air of invincibility that was his; in the time coming he will probably be tested profoundly not only by Novak Djokovic, but by other players as well. He has to to find tactical solutions to face the challenge of Novak…

    For a more technical analysis, I invite you to read some articles of Patrick Mouratoglou, a tennis coach in Paris (coach of Dimitri).

    You can read his analysis and articles on his blog:
    http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/tennis/patrick-mouratoglou/

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  13. I think Djokovic’s win over Nadal was great for Federer. Not only did it help preserve Federer’s legacy (his 16 grand slams), but it also altered that aura of invincibility that Nadal had. I think Federer will now feel more confident going into a match against Nadal because he was the one who was able to beat Djokovic. We know that Djokovic will never surpass Fed’s grand slam amount, however, he can help stop Nadal’s, which is great for us Fed fans.

    I don’t think Federer is scared of Djokovic. Nadal always had a mental edge over Federer and now I think that’s changed. Nadal IS beatable and Federer is surely capable of doing so, especially on Nadal’s worst surface.

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