Roger Federer can’t be feeling too great about his chances of finally winning the French Open this year, not after his nemesis Rafael Nadal tuned him yesterday in the Monte Carlo final.
Federer lost the match 6-4, 6-4 in suffering his fifth straight lose to Nadal on clay, this being his worst beating. He’s also lost his last five sets to the Spaniard on clay, 14 of 19 overall.
“I think I’m absolutely in the mix with him on clay, which is how I wanted to feel. You know, it’s always disappointing to lose, but I feel like I didn’t play well and still it was close. That’s a good thing.” – Roger Federer
No, Roger, it isn’t a good thing. And despite what you say, you were never in the mix with him after blowing some early break chances in the first set. And hitting more forehands into the Mediterranean then in the court probably isn’t a good thing, either.
After yesterday’s loss it really doesn’t look like Roger’s going to beat Rafa on the red stuff anytime soon. Watching the match, whenever Rafael got in trouble he just hit crushed a forehand deep to the Fed one-hander, a strategy that usually got him back into the point. Roger still can’t do anything what that heavy topspin to his backhand. Sure, he can get the ball back and even get it deep with pace, but it doesn’t seem like he can hurt Rafa or hit a winner off it, which gives Rafa an out when he feels he needs to at least get back on even terms during the point.
Also, Fed’s insistent on trading groundies with Nadal (and other dirtballers like Canas) only helps the Spaniard’s cause. The more Fed keeps hitting medium-paced backhands back to Nadal the more Nadal gets into his rhythm, and baseliners love rhythm.
But Fed’s got a lot of pride, deservedly so, and he probably figures he can outslug Rafa from the baseline. On hardcourts and grass, he can. But on clay he can’t. He needs to mix it up more, like he did last year in the Rome final. Serve and volley, come into the net, do anything to get Rafa out of his comfort zone.
Andy Murray did just that at the Australian Open, and probably would have beaten Nadal had he been physically stronger. In that match it seemed like Murray never hit the same shot twice which gave Rafa little in the way of rhythm. Murray emptied out the play book hitting drop shots, slices, lobs, off speed shots, moon balls, etc. And it kept Rafa off-guard and guessing, and for a good time the strategy paid off.
But by sitting at the baseline and choosing to rally, Fed plays right into Nadal’s hands. And after yesterday, the way it’s probably going to shake down is if Fed’s going to win the French he’s going to need someone else to knockout Nadal because he’s not going to do it.
With the way Rafa’s playing right now it’s a pretty shortlist of guys with any chance of doing just that. Maybe Novak Djokovic, maybe Marat Safin is he catches fire, which happens once every couple of years, or maybe David Nalbandian or hell, Dr. Ivo. But it’s doubtful. So I guess I’ll be stuck with having to watch more of Rafael picking at his you know what, adjusting his water bottles on changeovers, wearing those Euro pants and taking like a half-hour between serves.
That said, I got nothing against Nadal, full credit to him, he’s definately back, but I am rooting for Fed to win the French. Maybe he still will, but after three straight Masters events without a title he’s got some work to do. And maybe it was just my internet connection or the fuzzy streaming, but was it me or did Fed have a bit of a belly going? Man, I hope not.
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