Roger Federer will have to wait another year to claim a French Open title, and the way it looks it he will probably have to wait a lot longer than that. Yesterday, Rafael Nadal beat up on Federer again for the second consecutive year in the Roland Garros finale. Nadal’s comfortable 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win was his third straight over Fed at the French Open, and the Spaniard remained perfect, 21-0, on the red dirt. Astonishing.
I know many people – myself included – pinned their hopes on Federer after what happened at Hamburg, but at the end of the day that win didn’t matter in Paris. Nadal is simply better than Federer on the French clay. It’s that crystal clear.
Federer played well early in the match, really taking it to Nadal, but the Swiss came up short, real short, on the big points. You can’t expect to win to many matches when drop a goose egg on break points in the first set going 0-for-10. Fed eventually broke through to win the second set, but just when it looked like the tide could turn Nadal got the early break in the third and the match from there was really never in doubt.
Give Nadal a lot of credit, he played better in this title run than he did in his first two. He’s improving despite his competition gaining a better understanding of just how to play him. And the kid has three French titles at the age of 21. Amazing.
Unfortunately for Fed, he simply doesn’t match up well with the Rafa at Roland Garros, where the clay is slicker and faster than Hamburg, and the match is best of five.
I was actually surprised that Roger even got a set yesterday. I really thought going in that the way Rafa was playing and the way Fed struggled with Davydenko that Nadal would have little trouble with Fed in the final. That didn’t really happen, so I do give Fed good marks for his effort.
But Nadal is an animal on the clay. In the semifinals Novak Djokovic threw everything at Rafa but nothing stuck. And that was the same for the rest of the field. Del Potro had a good chance for the first set in the first round, and Hewitt could have stolen a set, but Nadal is just too mentally tough, too physically strong on the clay surface right now. No is really close to him when he’s on.
That said, bottom line for Fed to win the French is he’s going to need someone else to knock out Nadal, because he’s not going to do it. Keep in mind a year from now Fed will be older, and you could argue he’ll be further from his peak than he is now. While on the other hand you could easily argue Rafa will only be a better player.
So where does Roger go from here? It’s tough to say. This whole season for Federer essentially centered around the French Open and his quest for the career Slam. After his losses to Canas, he could always look ahead to Roland Garros. He sacked Roche. He won Hamburg, finally beating Rafa on clay. Things looked bright. But now he’s back at square one again and staring up at Rafa in the 2007 point standings.
Fed’s already pulled out of Halle, his scheduled grass tune up, so you have to figure he’s feeling pretty down. Obviously he’s still the man to beat at Wimbledon and still the pick to finish No. 1, but if ever he’s vulnerable it’s this year.
And just like Ivan Lendl never winning Wimbledon, Bjorn Borg never winning the US Open, could part of Federer’s lasting legacy be having never won the French? “I did the same thing to Roddick in Wimbledon,” Federer said Sunday. “That’s just how it goes. Sometimes you collide and that’s what happens.”
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