For Federer One Match Could Change Everything
by Sean Randall | July 8th, 2006, 8:51 am

Rafael NadalSo a few weeks ago I wrote in my last blog why Rafael Nadal could win Wimbledon before Roger Federer will win the French Open – and wow, was I hammered for it! Well, I’m back from my 10-day vacation and it’s time for an update, like it not.

If you are Roger Federer you can’t be feeling that good. At the start of the event you didn’t even list Rafa among the contenders, and now in your backyard, your house, who do you face in the final? Rafa.

While Fed on grass has the huge edge just in playing style and experience, you have to guess that Roger’s not going to sleep as well tonight than if he were to meeting Andy Roddick or Lleyton Hewitt Sunday.

Heck, Rafa is arguably playing better at Wimbledon then he did at the French and more domininating. He has held serve an incredible 80 straight times in winning 15 straight sets. Add that the grass at the baseline has given way to dirt (or clay if you wish) and with the air dry and ball bouncing higher up than ever at Wimbledon Rafa has to be feeling good about his play.

Honestly, I didn’t really think that Rafa would make the final this year – I thought Hewitt would get him – but when you look at Nadal’s draw match-by-match you can see why he’s in the final. He’s physically stronger, faster and more mentally tough than just about anybody else in the game, and fortunately, in my mind, for him he avoided playing big servers like Andy Roddick, Ivo Karlovic and Dmitry Tursunov on the turf. You saw how close Robert Kendrick came to beating Nadal, and the only reason for that was the American had a monster serve, which I think is a problem for Nadal to handle.

But now he’s reached the final and up against the King of Grass, Federer. Can he actually win it Sunday? I would say no but he has a better shot than I think most would give him. Of course there’s that 6-1 mental edge head-to-head for Rafa, But Nadal’s biggest problem on grass against Roger is that his lefty forehand to Fed’s backhand will not kick up quite as much as it does on clay or hardcourt. This will allow fed to hit more backhands in his “strike zone.”

And even though Nadal’s been holding serve pretty easily Fed’s been the break king all this week. If he’s breaking Mario Ancic four times you know he’s going to break Nadal, even though Rafa has superior groundstrokes.

The problem for Fed has been his lack of netplay (Rafa’s come in more than Fed 146-122). If he continues to stay back he will be rallying more from the baseline so Rafa should feel more comfortable than facing someone like Kendrick who’s rushing the net and given zero rhythm. Of course Fed could (and should?) change tactic and serve/volley on everything, and I think that’s what he’ll have to do.

On of the other keys will be Fed’s nerves. This is a match he simply cannot lose. He can lose to Rafa at Dubai, Monte, Rome and the French, but not here, not in his “house.” Just if think if Rafa wins, we could be talking Rafa Slam come January at the Australian Open (and i’m a Fed guy, that’s right!). Yikes!

Remember, in this match Rafa’s got nothing to lose – no one expected him to get this far.

Bottom line is I hope you now can all see that I wasn’t all that crazy in suggesting that Rafa would win Wimbledon before Roger the French. In fact it could very well happen as early as Sunday. Remember, this isn’t the same grass court game that was played 15 years ago with Becker, Edberg, Sampras, McEnroe, Stich ruled at SW19. The men’s tour is slowly turning like the women’s, where surface no longer matters. And Rafa’s just taking advantage of it!


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19 Comments for For Federer One Match Could Change Everything

joe Says:

wow tennis-x on the mark. i thought you were crazy too when i read that other blog. no way. if rafa wins it will shake the world. good call but it ends now for the muscle head.

Kathy - Operation Doubles Says:

I agree with your bottom line. Your prediction has all but come too true too soon, eh?

Seemed like a long shot, but here we are.

That psychological edge is huge. So, actually, if I were a betting woman, I’d bet on Raphael tommorrow. Really.

Jason Says:

I don’t see Federer changing his gameplan at this point. Rafa has dominated his side of the draw, past the second round, but Fed has been one with the grass at this tournament. Plus, I think the blazer gives him a mental edge.

By the way, it really bites that they have slowed down Wimbledon.

Lucy Says:

If anyone is crazy enough to bet against Roger winning tonight, I say good luck to them. Sure Nadal has beaten Roger before but 4 out of those 7 matches were on clay and 1 on hardcourt, Roger was sick and injured so you could say the H2H is a bit biased…. ALLEZ ROGER!!!

Legolas Says:

Well you really made us eat Humble pie Sean.. But I still feel Rafa has no chance in the finals against Roger.. Vamos Rafa! Go Roger!!

Maria Says:

I think in this crazy world,we all need some stability. And if Roger loses the Wimbledon crown tonight… it just might be the apocalypse.

Jason Says:

Nice article – but when comparing stats you have to make sure that they are ‘like for like’. You state that Nadal has come in more than Federer, but Nadal has played more games and sets and has spent a lot more time on court than Federer, so you have chosen to bend the facts to suit your story, which is a shame. The fact is that Federer has come in more than Nadal when you look at that stat in relation to the total number of games and sets played, which gives you a better indication of the truth.

rjnick Says:

Actually a better indication of the truth is that by 76% to 73% Rafa’s been more successful at the net.

And 2 sets into the final, Rafa is 73% to Roger’s 53%, and they’re about even (11 for Rafa, 15 for Roger) on approaches.

JDC Says:

I don’t see Fed’s win-loss ratio getting any better against Nadal. Nadal is just going to improve on all surfaces more than Fed is going to improve.

So, Fed’s reign now depends on the other tour players. If they don’t knock Nadal out of tourneys in the earlier rounds, Fed isn’t going to have multiple Slam trophies in a calendar year anymore.

manohar naagar Says:

definately federee wil won this match . he will win by 6-0,7-6,6-7,6-3.

Suzie Says:

I have some serious questions, Mr.Randall. What are you in Aren’t you a member of Considering you finishes your article with Vamos! all the time, I suspect that you are. Then, is it allowable if one player’s supporter makes his blog in this website, which is supposed to be fair and objective?

Anyways, yes, when you have 2 qualifiers, 1 wildcard and 1 senior citizen in your draw, you can “hold serve an incredible 80 straight times in winning 15 straight sets” and. Do you know a striking fact that Nadal hadn’t met any player in the Top 100 ATP RACE ranking before the quaterfinal? Then Niemann and Baghdatis, both of them are their first QF and SF, respectively. What if Nadal was given a Federer’s draw? Well, maybe he could manage to reach 3rd or 4th round, but QF against Ancic? No way. As you admitted, he has been awfully lucky this year. Don’t expect the same kind of luck in coming years.

One thing I agreed about in your article is that “one of the other keys will be Fed’s nerves”. Judging by Fed’s performance today, he was definitely nervous and tight. No question. Why wouldn’t he? It was ‘the biggest match’ of the year for him and Nadal’s H-H record against him is inarguable after all. Nonetheless he managed to lose just one set by losing a tie-break. If not for his nerves, the score would have been 0-2-1 something like that, whether you like or not.

And you know what? Today, Federer was staying back at most of the time in the match, with no change of tactic and lack of netplay. Still he won, “even though Rafa has superior groundstrokes”.

Jake Fegan Says:

Here are the men that Fed has beaten to earn each of his eight slams:

2003 Wimbledon: Mark Philippoussis
2004 Australian: Marat Safin
2004 Wimbledon: Andy Roddick
2004 US Open: Lleyton Hewitt
2005 Wimbledon: Andy Roddick
2005 US Open: Andre Agassi
2006 Australian: Marcos Baghdatis
2006 Wimbledon: Rafael Nadal

The only Slam final Fed has ever lost is the 2006 French to Nadal.

I watched all of these matches on television and I thought Agassi came the closest to being competitive taking a set and forcing a tiebreaker before Fed slammed the door shut.

Andy Roddick has no chance of beating (a healthy) Roger Federer in a Grand Slam Final. Ever.

If Marat Safin can keep his head on straight for a good year to eighteen months, he can compete with Fed on hard court, as an be demonstrated by his epci 5 set win in the semis of the 2005 Australian.

I think the sun is setting on Hewitt’s chances to win another slam, even though he is only 6 months older than Federer. It just seems he has peaked to me.

That leaves us with Nadal, who on an alien surface like grass competed with Federer better in the Wimbledon final than Roddick could ever hope to. Nadal is a better shot maker, is starting to serve better, moves as well as anyone in the history of the game and is relentless on every point. Rafa tightened up when he served for the second set and really missed a chance to make Fed sweat.

I could care less about the “health” of American tennis. I like compelling, interesting, well-rounded players, like Federer and Nadal. Seeing them in the US Open final would be great for tennis.

For the record, I am rooting for Fed to set the all time record for slams. I never did care for Pete Sampras.

Jason Alfrey Says:

I feel that as long Federer stays healthy at Wimbledon there’s no way that Nadal can beat him on grass and visa versa for Nadal at the French. The two very different surfaces just suit their games so well. It would probably take an injury or the stomache flu for one of them to drop. However, hard courts are kinda the even playing ground. It will certainly be interesting to see how they both will do at the U.S. Open. I’m hoping someone steps up to Rog and Rafa to hopefully prove me wrong that the men’s field is over-saturated with average players with the same game.

Jake Fegan Says:


Good point, about a bunch of average players with the same game.

I wonder if Baghdatis has what its takes to be in the top five?

On another note, do you think serve and volleying (a la Edberg and Sampras) is dead? I do not think Sampras or Edberg at their peak would have beaten Federer at Wimbledon or the US Open for that matter.

What does the group think?

Fed is the best ever. I hope he wins 14 slams, including at least one French so that he can eclipse Sampras, who I think is overrated.

My favorite player from the 80′s, early 90′s was Stefan Edberg. He came a Michael Chang upset sy of a career slam when he lost the French final. Can you believe that a serve and volley specialist almost took the French? What was the furthest that Sampras ever got in the French, the Paris airport?

kansri Says:

your column is very idiot , i think it’s like you, the owner of this column.and you all guys who think nadal is better than federer.
as everyone know, nadal’s draw this year is very cosy compare to federer. it’s like the wimby director need nadal to be champ cos he thought federer couldn’t pass the tough draw he gave him. but u can see that federer pass them easily. so it showed that federer is the real champ. he needed noone to help.please you are moron!!! think before writing any ideas. i guess the one who need nadal to be champ but it never happens maybe you lost money on your bet so you hate federer.
we’ll wait and see when your favotite nadal is wimby champ!

Jason Alfrey Says:


The game continues to slow down with heavier balls and slower courts. As long as you have that type of progression continuing to happen, yes, the serve and volley will not exist.

As for Roger being the best ever, I’m not quite there yet. He’s good like I mentioned above, but who does he have to play. Hewitt on his way out, Roddick who?, Marat can’t stay healthy, Philippoussis needs to get in better shape because he’s been gone for a little bit. Nadal is the only one.

Pete on the otherhand had to play Rafter, Agassi, Courier, Chang, Hewitt, Safin, and Guga in their prime. All of them them Grand Slam winners. A lot more players to mention, but look at those players he dominated. Krajicek had a 6-4 winning record on Pete, I wouldn’t call that miserable. As of right now Roger would be happy with that. Then in 96 Pete got to the semis of the French. Pete did this with a game that now, nobody has a chance of doing. I’ll wait a little longer to call Roger the greatest ever.

Bjornino Says:

Dear Jason Lafrey,

Thank you for your remarks about Federer and Sampras. Federer has just been lucky with his timing: if he had played during the era of Sampras, he wouldn’t have been anyway near 8 Grand Slams. Sampras is the greatest ever. (although I always was a bigger fan of Agassi)


Bjornino Says:

Sorry.. Jason Alfrey it is.. My mistake. :-)


Raj Says:

First about Nadal. Not that much game, too much muscle. Too much running, hence too many injuries at such a young age. You think he will win ANYTHING after a few years when the body starts to rust? Look at his record after wimbledon on the hard courts – Lost to players outside top 50. Never beat a serious hardcourter.

And FYI – Connors was 6-1 on both Mcenroe and Borg in the early part of their careers. And where did the “rivalry” end? Heavily in borg and mcenroes favor, once they figured out how to play him. Nadal was 6-1 on federer, now 6-2. Wait till they have played each other 25 times. It will be 15-10 for Federer.

As for Sampras, he only faced Agassi at his prime, and he (agassi) too goofed off for a few years in between. By the time sampras came, lendl, wilander, becker, edberg were all past their prime. The other guys (guga etc) were not really in that league. And of course, Sampras was a miserable failure on clay (just one french SF out of 13 tries) – Federer already has a final appearance, and three masters titles on clay. Federer today is clearly the second best player on clay, sampras was never even a top 10 player on clay. Sampras got lucky.

So all you Fed haters – suck it up and face the facts. Its time you stopped deluding yourself. Nobody EVER has won 8 majors in three years, in ANY sport (tiger woods included).

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