Two forehands. That’s all Roger Federer is thinking about right now, two forehands.
Federer had two championship points in the fifth set with Rafael Nadal serving 15-40, 5-6, Sunday in Rome but missed them both. Both were makeable, both were missable. Nadal took the blow, recovered, pushed a tiebreak and took the match from the World No. 1.
Talk about a dagger right through the heart of the mighty Fed.
Federer had done everything he could. Shook off early tournament rust, managed his ground attack impeccably and played about as well as anyone has played against the Spaniard at the net, but in the end the Swiss champ came up short for a fifth time in six tries against Nadal.
While Federer remains the best overall player in the game, Nadal is still the clear-cut man to beat on the clay. The 19-year-old’s forehand is flat-out ferocious and his will to win is second to none.
What’s truly amazing is that the Nadal is not anywhere near as talented as Federer. Nor does he have the extensive resources of the Swiss. While Federer can consult with legendary coach and former French Open champion Tony Roche, Nadal relies on the words and encouragement of a different Tony, Uncle Tony, who has somehow helped his nephew not just figure out the Fed game, but also how to get into his head.
Federer fans and Fed himself will likely and rightly point out that he had the two match points, was up 4-1 in the fifth, was effective at the net and that he is learning more and more about how to beat Nadal. Above all, that he is close. Real close.
But what about Nadal? Isn’t he learning, too? Doesn’t Rafa gain in someway from the win? Don’t you think that now Nadal will be further prepared for a full-on net-rushing Federer next time? Uncle Tony is probably sitting down right now plotting and surveying Rafa’s next move against the Swiss should they indeed meet in the French final (assuming a Hamburg final is an impossibility).
In sports, a loss is a loss is a loss, and as they say, close only counts in horseshoes. Just ask Guillermo Coria. And until Federer finally wins in this one-sided affair, and puts that forehand away, the horse I’m picking remains named Rafa. Vamos!
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