Breaking Down the Federer v. Nadal French Open Final
by Sean Randall | June 7th, 2008, 8:43 pm
  • 66 Comments

For the third straight year we get the dream blockbuster final, the Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal match for clay supremacy, for history and much more. Federer has lost to Nadal the last three years, and if it weren’t for the Spaniard who knows how many French Opens the Swiss would have racked up. Instead, Federer is still stuck at zero titles at Roland Garros, and the way I see it he will remain at zero when the sun sets in Paris Sunday evening.

There’s been a lot of chatter of how this is Roger’s best chance at beating Nadal and finally squeezing out a French Open victory. I don’t buy that. Roger’s best chance(s) were in 2005 and 2006, when Rafa was still evolving into the hardened clay beast that he has now become. Facts are facts, Rafa’s getting better! Jose Higueras may be a great clay mind, but I’m not sure he gets Roger over the hump.

There’s also been talk of how Roger’s playing better clay tennis now than ever. If you want to make that case, fine, I won’t argue against it, but Roger has had about the easiest draw any French finalist has probably ever had (looking at ranking of opponent). And he did surrender sets to Albert Montanes, Fernando Gonzalez and nearly dropped two to Gael Monfils. So while he is playing well, I’m not completely convinced he’s playing the best he’s ever played at this stage.

Meanwhile, Rafa’s absolutely humiliated three decent claycourters in Jarkko Nieminen, Fernando Verdasco and Nicolas Almagro. And he then pounded Novak Djokovic for two-and-a-half sets before easing up on the Serb.

Then there’s the talk that Roger’s getting closer to beating Rafa. Sure, that may be true at Monte Carlo or at Hamburg, but close at those events doesn’t count at Roland Garros, where it’s best-of-five. Just ask Djokovic who went toe-to-toe with Rafa at Hamburg for three hours only to get squashed in their Roland Garros rematch on Friday.

And then of course there’s the argument that Rafa has to lose sometime. Well, does he? Do you really think now is the time? Sounds more like desperation, but stranger things have happened in sports. Just look at Big Brown, the horse who had the Triple Crown all but locked up fizzle in his bid for history today. Look at the Memphis Tigers and the New York Giants, both huge underdogs pulled shocking upsets to win titles this year. The lists goes on and on, so Federer should take heart.

Still, all this adds up to bad news for Roger in my mind, but let’s try and break the match down further.

Forehand: Advantage Nadal
Arguably the single greatest shot in clay court history is the Nadal forehand. If it isn’t the greatest shot already, it will be when all is said and done. Roger has a great forehand, too, and one that’s more versatile and better suited to faster surfaces, but on clay Nadal’s lefty hook is the knockout punch, which he can deliver even in heavy conditions from just about anywhere on the court.

Backhand: Advantage Nadal
Rafa’s backhand doesn’t have the fear factor of his forehand, but in my mind it’s the more consistent shot of the two. The guy rarely misses off that wing and when he does he starts snarling like an angry bull. Rafa’s also been using the slice more, which gives him a little more variety and change of pace. Plus, his pass from the backhand side is nearly money. For Fed, the backhand is the trouble No. 1 trouble spot, especially when responding to the Rafa forehand, which we’ve seen time and time again, and just a hunch, we’ll see even more of it tomorrow: Roger pinned deep in the ad corner fending off heavy topspin forehands. If Roger can keep that backhand response deep, maybe flatten it out or hit that drop shot every now and then, I think that will pay off for the Swiss. But if it breaks down early it could be curtains quick.

Serve: Advantage Federer
Rafa’s serve is definitely improving. He seems to be getting more pop on the first and on the big points he’s really coming up bigger with it. That said, Fed still has the better serve, especially when it comes to the second serve, which is Rafa’s big vulnerability on the clay. To win Roger will need to have a great serving day. For Rafa, it’s not as vital.

Return of serve: Duece
Both players do a great job of getting balls back, and that’s the key on clay. No need to overhit and go James Blake, instead concentrate on getting it back into play, preferably nice and deep. Federer does a good job of that and so does Rafa. Roger probably has a little more versatility and power, but Rafa’s more consistent. Tough to choose, so I’ll call it even, though I think Roger should really try to exploit the Rafa second serve more, but my guess is won’t go after it tomorrow.

Net Play: Advantage Federer
Roger’s arguably the best volleyer in the game right now, so easy edge to him here. Rafa’s no joke at the net, but he’s not at Roger’s level. Although against Rafa, Roger will really need pick his spots wisely when coming in. Unlike grass, on a slow clay court the margin for error is that much slimmer when approaching against someone of Nadal’s caliber who can pass from virtually anywhere thanks to his speed and power. I do think Roger will come in more than he did in his first two meetings with Rafa but it really has to be on his terms. And the point-blank misses we saw vs. Monfils need to go!

Speed: Advantage Nadal
I give a slight edge here to Rafa, only because it’s on clay at Roland Garros which has the biggest court on the circuit, giving Rafa miles of running run to chase down just about anything you throw at him. In a dead 50-yard race it’s tough to pick who would win between the two, but on clay Rafa’s the better slider and the better retriever. He knows how to use the clay to make himself faster.

Headgame: Advantage Nadal
Mentally, there’s no one tougher in the game right now. On a head-to-head match-up, Nadal is an undefeated 3-0 vs. Federer at Roland Garros. I’m sure Roger wishes he could forget those losses but they are in there, in his head. And those blown leads in both Monte Carlo and Hamburg don’t help the situation any. Rafa knows that even if he’s down to Roger, even 5-1, 40-30, he still isn’t out. And he’s got the proof. Roger may think he’s confident. He may spin the numbers into supporting his cause, but with Nadal there’s no spin needed. He knows he’s the best. That simple.

X Factor: Advantage Federer
The X Factor tomorrow could be the new Federer drop shot. The best way to prevent the Rafa forehand to the Roger backhand drill is to not let it happen by getting Rafa off that baseline and bringing him to net, where he’s less dangerous. Roger’s been working on the drop all clay season, and we’ve saw him use it effectively against Monfils and against other opponents, though oddly absent when he played Rafa. Was he saving it? I don’t know, but in my mind to beat Rafa I think he’ll have break that out and disrupt Rafa’s rhythm.

Weather: Deuce
A lot is made of the damp, cool conditions that we’ve seen at Roland Garros this year. And while the wetter conditions may take away from Rafa’s explosive spin, it think it hurts Federer as well in that the Swiss may not be able to hit through to court as much as he likes against a guy like Nadal. Plus windy and wet doesn’t suit Federer at all against Nadal whose loopy shots have a much higher margin for error.

Intangibles: Advantage Nadal
Can you say 27-0 at Roland Garros? How about 40-0 in best-of-five set clay matches? And do I need to mention Rafa’s faced one set point this event, having won 39 of his last 40 sets at the French Open? Given that, how likely is it that he actually loses three on one day to any one person, especially in a final with Bjorn Borg watching close by?

Endgame: Nadal in straight sets
Believe it or not I do give Roger a chance tomorrow, albeit a very slim one. Roger needs to serve well, use the drop shot and absolutely cut down on the errors/shanks he had against Monfils and during other bad patches. He needs to come out strong, mix it up to avoid a baseline slugfest. If he can jump out ahead and plant some doubt in Rafa’s mind early maybe he can ride it out to a quick win.

Above all, Roger needs to play a near perfect match to give himself a chance. And that’s the difference when playing Rafa. On clay, even your best may not be good enough for Rafa, and Roger knows it. We know Rafa’s going to bring it 100%. He hasn’t trained the countless hours and destroyed all comers thus far only to lose at this stage, his stage. I can’t see it, and Roger really hasn’t shown me anything these two weeks to make me believe otherwise. Court Philippe Chatrier doesn’t belong to Roland Garros or to the French anymore. It now belongs to Rafa. It’s his house. And he’s going to do everything in his power to protect it. And protect it I think he will.

Edit: I should also add a big congrats to Ana Ivanovic who beat Dinara Safina 4 and 3 for her first Slam crown. Third time is indeed a charm for the Serb who was turned away the French last year and by Sharapova this year in Australia. She becomes the new No. 1 with a bang!


Also Check Out:
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Jennifer Capriati Hospitalized After Accidental OD
Roger Federer Ties Connors For Most Slam Wins, But He Also Wants To Break Jimmy’s 109 Titles Record
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66 Comments for Breaking Down the Federer v. Nadal French Open Final

Chris Says:

Good post Sean, I do believe as you do that Nadal has clear edges in most categories. I think we all know Rafa’s strategy is the same as always, Pin Federer into the backhand corner as Rafa hits extreme topspin forehands causing errors and shanks. I don’t think people really understand what a difficult shot that is to control. Hitting a ball over your shoulder and head consistently over a 5 set match is exhausting. That being said i do favor Nadal in this match although i am a Federer fan. Roger really deserves to win this title at least once in his career, just remember aggasi won it at 29. Go Federer!


Glenn Says:

If Federer plays against Nadal like he did against Monfils, he will lose.

I mean, it seems to me that Djokovic made fewer errors in his match against Nadal than Federer did against Monfils — and Djokovic STILL lost.

But you don’t get to be #1 for nothing. I think it will go 5 sets, but I would give the edge to Nadal.

Just in terms of statistics, I would like Nadal to break Borg’s record (is it Borg who has won 4 straight FO’s?), just because Nadal deserves it – his fighting spirit tempered by sportsmanship and humility make tennis SO enjoyable to watch. (BTW, how old was Borg when he won his four straight?)

I would like Roger to hold the record of the most slams ever, just because he deserves it as well. His game really is a wonder to behold. He can win all the other Grand Slam surfaces, but Nadal deserves to be the best clay court player EVER.


Srini Murty Says:

Borg won his first French Open title in 1974 when he was 18. Subsequently, of course, he won it a few more times ’75, ’78, ’79, ’80, ’81.


MMT Says:

I’ve never seen a more dominant player on clay than Nadal – granted I never saw Borg at the French, but Nadal’s never gone to 5 at RG, and he’s getting better, while Federer is struggling against really weak players like Montanes and Monfils. Rafa in 3 sets – Fed doesn’t get to 5 games in any of the sets.


Ra Says:

MMT,

I’m thinking Federer takes one of the sets 6-3 and at least one goes to tiebreak.

Federer prevails in 5. 6-3, 7-6, 2-6, 5-7, 6-4


Dan Martin Says:

I think Nadal is the favorite and is likely to win, but for the first time in their 4 meetings in Paris Nadal is clearly without a doubt the heavy favorite the media, dedicated fan and casual fan’s mind. In 2005, Federer and Nadal had never played on clay. In 2006 and 2007, Federer had won the Australian Open so the single year Grand Slam issue was out there. Also, in 06 the last match on clay before Paris was a 5 set match that Federer could have won. In 07, the last match headed into Paris was Federer beating Nadal on clay 2-6, 6-2, 6-0. Anyway, I don’t want to spin losses into a favorable thing for Federer, but he is the clear underdog tomorrow and that takes some pressure off so does not having the single year Grand Slam to worry about heading into a match vs. Nadal on clay. Also, Federer has yet to play his best match in this tournament. Like I said Nadal is the favorite but the circumstances are a bit different than 05, 06 or 07.


FoT Says:

Yes Nadal is the favorite (in spite of what he wants to say in his interview! lol)… But I hope somehow the underdog can come through tomorrow. Who would have thought at 38-1 horse would win today! Big Brown (according to all the experts) had this race locked up…no need for the other horses to race…it was a foregonen conclusion. But they still had to hold the race – just for formality sakes. And look what happened.

So yes – Nadal is the favorite, Nadal should win this match handidly according to how he has been playing vs the way Roger has played; Nadal should win the match based on their H2H on clay where Roger only won one match and according to the ‘experts’ – only because Nadal was ‘tired’ in that match. So yes… I agree…Nadal is the clear cut favorite.

But they have to play the match – just as a formality… and… who knows! Stranger things have happened.

Go Roger!!!!!


Dan Martin Says:

Yeah all of that other stuff is out the window in one sense – it is one match and Federer does not have to be the better clay court player overall he just has to be better for one match. Not easy to do but it is possible.


JCF Says:

“And then of course there’s the argument that Rafa has to lose sometime. Well, does he? Do you really think now is the time? Sounds more like desperation, but stranger things have happened in sports. Just look at Big Brown, the horse who had the Triple Crown all but locked up fizzle in his bid for history today. Look at the Memphis Tigers and the New York Giants, both huge underdogs pulled shocking upsets to win titles this year. The lists goes on and on, so Federer should take heart.”

That was my sentiment too.. he can’t win every time. But upon closer introspection, this is like saying, a coin can’t land heads again after 6 times in a row.. it has to be tails at some point. But the odds (50/50) don’t change regardless of history.

If the Hamburg win in 07 for Federer was due to Rafa’s tiredness (we’ll never know for sure until Rafa admits it), then Fed hasn’t learnt much at all about how to beat Rafa. So it would be safe to assume he’s still not ready to win. But Fed is a guy you can never count out. And Rafa will be well rested, since he hasn’t been pushed yet.

“X Factor: Advantage Federer
The X Factor tomorrow could be the new Federer drop shot. The best way to prevent the Rafa forehand to the Roger backhand drill is to not let it happen by getting Rafa off that baseline and bringing him to net, where he’s less dangerous. Roger’s been working on the drop all clay season, and we’ve saw him use it effectively against Monfils and against other opponents, though oddly absent when he played Rafa. Was he saving it? I don’t know, but in my mind to beat Rafa I think he’ll have break that out and disrupt Rafa’s rhythm.”

If he has to rely on this shot often then he is toast. It is a low percentage shot, even for the best. And even if he executes it well, if he uses it too much, Rafa will crack onto it. The drop shot comes with an element of surprise. You are meant to catch them off guard with it. If he over uses it, Rafa will be expecting it, and it will lose its purpose. If you don’t surprise them with it, they will get to the net with plenty of time, and it’s over. You really can only use it sparingly. If he’s using it defensively to get Rafa away from the baseline, then I’d say the match is lost.


Von Says:

Sean Randall:

Great analysis – one of your finest!!

“I do think Roger will come in more than he did in his first two meetings with Rafa but it really has to be on his terms. And the point-blank misses we saw vs. Monfils need to go!”

It will indeed have to be on his terms — we saw him do that in Hamburg and Monte Carlo, and what happened? Rafa made unbelievable passes drilling his shots down the line or overhead lobs leaving Fed straddling the center of the net in amazement and horrified disbelief. Rafa’s shots and body language seemed to admonish Fed: “Don’t do that again, or else I’ll even further humuliate you.”

I’ve mentioned before that Rafa at times, plays by pure instinct on the clay. Almost as if he’s visualized the court in his mind’s eye and now has a photographic memory chip embedded in his brain — his instinct kicks in and he rarely misses; his returns are phenomenal. Rafa does not need to depend on a great serve; his instinct does it all for him.

The forecasted weather conditions for tomorrow is supposed to be warm, that being the case, Rafa has a decided advantage over Fed with his top-spin shots kicking up high to Fed’s backhand, which is Rafa’s modus operandi when playing Fed.


JCF Says:

“But they have to play the match – just as a formality”

When you put it that way, the entire Roland Garros tournament itself is a formality, as long as Nadal shows up.

You have to wonder what caused such a dramatic improvement in Nadal’s clay game from 04 going into 05.


Voicemale1 Says:

Sean has the basics right. Federer’s huge problem is simple: Nadal’s playing better now on clay than he ever has. Federer had his best chance in their 2006 Final. Nadal would be a nervous wreck trying to defend, and their Rome match that year was a barn-burner going into the French. Federer was in total control up 6-1, serving at 0-1 40-Love up in the 2nd. From that moment on Nadal took control of the match and never looked back. In the 2007 Final, Federer was gifted with 17 Break Point Chances on Nadal’s serve – and only managed to convert only 1. If you cant’ beat a guy in a match like that, how do you hope to do it when he’s playing better and you’re playing worse? And not only worse on clay, you’re having a worse year overall from the last four? And on top of all that, fresh in the head are the last 2 times Federer played Nadal on clay – and the Dirty Little Dynamic Federer succumbs to almost every time he plays Nadal on clay reared up in full force: tragic choking, only this time losing huge leads in both matches.

Nadal’s just at a new level on clay these days. The stats from the beat down he put on Djokovic are an amazing read. Djokovic didn’t play badly at all: he had a net ratio of +30 Winners / Errors – a stunning stat for a clay court where you’re usually happy if your winners can just negate your errors; he won a healthy 59% of 2nd serve Points; and also won 68% of his points from the net. That’s Grand Slam caliber stuff, and it’s hard to believe Djokovic could play better on clay. And with all that, he didn’t even win a set. Which is a reverential testament to what Nadal has become on clay today.

Nadal had a net ratio of +50 Winners/Errors; won 70% of points on his 2nd Serve. Those two stats are just plain sick. Nadal even had a better net point win percentage of 74% – and here’s the real surprise: Nadal was the one who clocked the Fastest Serve of the match, 212 KMH to Djokovic’s best of 208 KMH. Federer has faced but 1 Seed and yet dropped 3 Sets; Nadal has faced 4 Seeds and dropped no sets. Rafa’s hitting the ball much bigger & deeper than ever; serving AND returning better than ever. He’s not just sitting in the back court waiting for or drawing errors from opponents like he has in the last 3 years. Nadal is taking the ball much earlier, even off the Forehand side now. He’s offensively “taking” these matches instead of waiting for them to come to him.

If you told Federer before this tournament “Look, you’re gonna play Nadal at The French and you’ll have +30 Winners, win 59% of 2nd Serve Points, and win 68% of your Net Points”, he’d say “Then just engrave my name on the trophy now because I can’t lose with those stats”. Then tell him “By the way, with those stats you’ll have, you won’t even win a set”. He’d then bet you a sizeable chunk of his $40 Million in earnings you’d be wrong, believing there’d be no way Nadal could outplay him with stats like that. THAT’S the size of Federer’s task. Now, if anyone COULD find a way around that, then only a legend like Federer could. But even if Nadal’s level drops 50% from the Djokovic match, Federer would STILL need to improve from what’s he’s shown in his matches thus far. I’m with Sean – the match is on Nadal’s Racquet, not Federer’s.


Fed-Rafa Says:

Voicemail1:

There is no way Djokovic had 30+ net winners and Nadal 50+. I hope you are not basing your numbers on those stupid FO website statistics. They are total horse crap.

Also Djokovic served at under 50% 1st serve in 1st and 2nd sets, so your claim the Djokovic played as well as he could doesnt make sense. However I agree that Nadal played more aggressive than usual on friday.

Having said that, no way fed beats rafa tomorrow. The best he can do is win a set. There is no shame in that. He is dealing with the greatest clay courter of all-time. Fed is already the GOAT at this point in tennis. He has put some of the scariest numbers in a sport that has to be 1 of the most competitive if not the most. Apart from nadal, no player in tennis history would have prevented Fed from winning 4 FO. (You can make a case for borg and lendl but not anyone else) That is a tremendous resume on clay given his performance on other surfaces. He holds the longest streak on hard-court as well as grass.

Another important thing is Fed’s plan to play till he is 35, which is not at all beyond him, given that his playing style is perhaps the smoothest – biomechecanically speaking. There is no doubt he will put up some WTA-esque numbers if he does have a non-seles like ending to his career. (Not at all a given considering some of the psychos you see post on this blog and that roam this earth in general)


Ra Says:

Voicemail1,

” Djokovic didn’t play badly at all… and it’s hard to believe Djokovic could play better on clay.”

I feel like I may have watched the wrong match.


jinyongfan Says:

Thank you, Sean for a terrific piece of analysis. In about 6 hours, I hope to see a good match with both players at 100% and no rain delay. May the best man win! I think history is in the making.


Kevin Says:

Will : Advantage Nadal

Nadal plays every point will strong will to win.

Though I am big fan of Roger, I think his only chance comes from the blisters of Nadal. If Nadal is in good form, no one can beat him on clay at the time being.


Doug Watterson Says:

Let’s look at two areas here… attitude and personality. In many ways Nadal (altho such the talent) is very egotystical (has a lot of ego). Federer yes, can get angry but is as calm as daylight. Federer has a lot better personality as he is always smiling, polite, munificent, happy and extremely modest. Nadal, being young does not hold those attributes yet. If God had to decide a winner, it would be the Swiss-legend purely on person


Ginger Says:

I’m torn… Nadal so he can rack up the 4, or Federer because he’s just such a lovely bloke. I’ll probably be going for the underdog, but I’d be very surprised to see him win. I think Nadal’s just too good at the moment. The only way for Federer to win at the moment is if Nadal had a truly dreadful day.


Byron Villegas Says:

Is it also possible that a player as good as Nadal will suddenly have an off-night, or Roger will get lot a lot of lucky points/breaks? Strange things can happen! I want Roger to win this one but if I have to put my money, it will be on Rafa.


grendel Says:

Can’t you just see the haters rubbing their hands with relish at the likely result today? Pitiful, really. Still, whatever twangs your bow, I suppose.


Wade Says:

I see no one taking Nadal down at Roland Garros for a long time. The way he moves and his instincts on court are just to great. And for the comments of Nadal havin an off day in the final come on, he will be at his sublime best. This is his stage, he is the raging bull from spain, the best clay courter of all time, & the future world number one. Theres no way he’ll have an off day at the stage he’ll most be prepared for. As for Roger best of luck you’ll need it.


Srini Murty Says:

One of Federer’s problems is that he tries to play it safe with Nadal. He realizes that if he tries to go for too much (like going for the lines or angles) he’ll miss. However, I do believe Federer needs to play the angles – short angled shots to draw Nadal wide – and then attack the net. The usual best play against a lefty with a double-handed backhand would be to go for a short angle shot to the lefty’s forehand, attack the net and finish off with a volley to the double-hander. However, with Nadal-Federer, it will have to be done with Federer’s weak side – his backhand – against Nadal’s strongest shot – his forehand. Maybe Federer needs to really knife that sliced backhand deep since he seems more secure with that shot than when he comes over the ball. As I see it, the one major change this year for Nadal is that he starts a lot hotter. In most of his matches against Federer, in particular, Nadal has started off slowly and ended up either way behind in the first set or even losing it. This year, as he did against the Djoker, he’s probably going to start guns blazing, a trademark that usually belongs to Federer. In each of his recent matches against Nadal he’s started off really aggressive and hot and has either led in the first set or even won it. He then tends to lose the edge or simply gets worn down. Also, I’ve noticed another thing. When Federer has an opportunity to blaze away with a well-set body position for his down-the-line forehand, he neither goes for a deep shot nor does he go for the lines. What ends up happening is that he’s stuck in the right side of the court having let Nadal a somewhat more open backhand side to attack. From there, it’s only a matter of time before he’s out of the point.


Tennis Fan Says:

Sean Randall: You article purports to be an in depth analysis of the superiority of Nadal’s forehand, backhand etc. over Federer’s. I understand you have to write an article for the blog so people like me can argue back and forth with one another about tennis (and philosophy?) … but do you really have a better understanding of the game than I … or many others that post to this site?

Nadal’s forehand and backhand are not better than Federer’s … only different. His game works on clay … a surface where the placement of shot is not as important as the heaviness and consistency of shot. On faster surfaces where placement becomes important Nadal can be taken out by a far lesser player. That’s why he is ranked #2 in the world and not #1. Nadals game is suited perfectly for clay and that’s why Federer has his work cut out for him if he is to ever win the French.
I also disagree with your take that Djokovic has the best chance to beat Nadal on clay. The only player that will beat Nadal on clay is one that has a better heavier shot that Nadal (and there is no one out there right now) … or someone with an arsenal of weapons who can implement them all by employing great strategy. Federer is the only player that could deliver such a combination. Will he do it today? I like many others here doubt it because Federer hasn’t looked like he is at the top of his game since suffering from mono earlier in the year. It can take months to recover stamina after suffering from that ailment. But Federer is the best, most all around player I have ever seen play the game, and I have been watching tennis for a long, long time. He is as excited about this match as I have ever seen him about a match … and so if desire is a factor he might be able to pull off the upset of the century … and that is probably what will be required today.


Sean Randall Says:

Well, the first set has concluded and the good news for Federer fans is…the set is mercifully over. The better news is that Roger will likely win more one game in the next set!

Roger started out hitting the ball crisply, but Nadal’s just better.


Shital Green Says:

Let me copy and paste from the wrong thread.
At 8:32 am:
Good morning, guys !
Looking at the 1st 2 games, I have to admit Fed is playing better than he played in 2007, though he got broken in the opening game. Nadal holds on to his serve after saving 2 break points. Long rally and beautiful tennis from both sides.
Let’s hope Fed can up his level a little bit to keep it that way.
At 8:37
Fed ups his level, which depends pretty much on his serve. He has to continue serving the way he saved double break points with 2 aces and managed to hold on. Now he is on the board. Some good signs from him.
At 8:43
Nadal breaks again, this time at love, with 8 straight points. It is 4-1 now. Nadal is in total control of the match. Fed has to hit some drop shots to keep the match competitive. Otherwise, it won’t be a good final.
At 8:50
The 1st set did not take long. Nadal demolished Fed to win the set at 6-1. It looked like worse than Djoko-Nadal 2nd set. Fed’s expression changes from hopeful to resigned.
At 8:53
Nadal takes break early in the 2nd set.


Shital Green Says:

Finally, Fed too breaks back and on the way to level at 2-2 in the 2nd set if he consolidates this with his serve.


Shital Green Says:

Down from a break point, Fed holds his serve. It is 2-2. Here in the 5th game of the 2nd set, he is playing better. Let’s hope he continues to keep it this way and give us a good tennis.


TD (Tam) Says:

It’s really annoying how the French crowd so hates Nadal and always cheers for his opponents! they don’t know anything about clay tennis.


Shital Green Says:

In the 6th game of the 2nd set, Fed’s 1st two serves were up to the mark. He came 4 times to the net and won 3 of them to hold on to his serve. It is 3-3 now in the 2nd. Over all he has 50% at the net (11 out of 22 as opposed to Nadal’s 1 out of 3). Fed has to come to the net more often because that is what is working for him.


Shital Green Says:

TD,
I agree with you that the crowd has been partisan for Fed.


Shital Green Says:

Now in the 7th game of the 2nd set, Nadal is finding a bit tough to hold on to his serve. Fed gets another break opportunity. Fed is matching Nadal from the baseline. A lot of high bouncing balls from both sides. Very long rally. That difficult and timely drop shot saves Nadal. It is deuce 2. Fed makes uforced errors, throws the ball twice in the net, and Nadal holds to take 4-3 lead.


TD (Tam) Says:

Rafa breaks in the second set! This is tremendous playing we are seeing from the clay genius.

Why doesn’t Rafa do his usual vamos fistpumping anymore? Usually when he breaks like that he jumps into a screaming vamos dance but he didn’t do that.


Shital Green Says:

The 8th game is looking pretty competitive. Twice Fed comes to the net, but Nadal with those passing shots makes Fed look confused. Nadal gets 2nd break chance here. The 3rd time Fed comes to the net, he forces Nadal to throw long. It is deuce, but Fed throws another in the net to give Nadal another break chance.Fed comes to the net 4th time in this game, and this time it works for him. But again, Fed makes another forehand error to throw the ball in the net. When Fed comes once to the net 5th time, Nadal hits another powerful passing shot to earn a break. It is 5-3. Nadal is serving.
Nadal gets a time violation. Anyway, it looks like it is going to be 6-3 in the 2nd set. Yes, it is 6-3.


Shital Green Says:

Is the 3rd set going to be any better? I don’t know. Nadal breaks Fed in the opening game of the 3rd set. So far this Final is heading in the direction to be over pretty soon and tasteless.


TD (Tam) Says:

Another break in the third!

I have never seen Rafa on fire like this before. He’s playing as otherworldly just as Federer did at the Australian Open last year. It is amazing.


Shital Green Says:

Nadal breaks Fed 2nd time in the 3rd set. The final is not worth live-blogging, so I stop here. I will come back later to compare this match with Djoko-Nadal semi.


PJ Says:

I’m a huge Fed fan, but this is just a phenomenal performance by Nadal. He’s up 5-0 in the third, and I’m not really seeing a comeback (although, come on, it would be the greatest comeback ever). All congrats in the world to Nadal. I’m annoyed Fed has made so many errors, but I don’t think it would’ve made much of a difference. Rafael is certainly the best clay courter ever. I wanted this to be Fed’s year, but Nadal is just too amazing. Congrats to him! More than a well-deserved win. Words cannot describe how great he has played today.


Shital Green Says:

I could not stop writing this. It is 5-0 in the 3rd set. Looks like Fed will be most miserably humiliated if he is bageled here, which is very likely. Now I project Nadal to be the winner of the Roland Garros without dropping a SINGLE set. This will match Bjorn Borg’s record in most aspects and exceed in the number of games ever allowed to the opponent in the Final.


Shital Green Says:

Nadal bagels Fed and wins French Open for the 4th time magnificently. Congratulation to him !

What dismal performance by Fed ! Should he still be called No. 1 after this?

This match was worse than Djoko-Nadal semi, by all measures and by all accounts.


jane Says:

That was really sad for Roger – I felt like in the second set he could maybe find a groove. But he utterly was derailed after that break: it didn’t seem to be a mental thing because he couldn’t execute any kind of plan. Mind you that’s what Rafa does! I’m sure he’ll bounce back on the grass.

One thing I thought is that Novak clearly didn’t play too badly if Rafa can do what he did today to Roger, who has won 12 Grand Slams! Let’s not forget that.

But today belongs to Rafa.

Rafa’s the King of Clay for years to come, unless some upstart comes along. Congrats Rafa!!!!

4 and counting….


jane Says:

sorry – meant it DID seem to be mental / confidence / focus


Von Says:

Shital Green:
Shital Green:

I did as you asked and read the September ’07 thread. I laughed so much until my head hurt. You really got fired up there. I’ll keep that thread in my favorites and remember to read it each time I’m desperate for some laughs. :) You’re a pistol!

TD:

Be careful what you say, some are beginning to rumble, even though we are all entitled to our opinions. :) One salient point that the critics forget when crucifying other players.


jane Says:

A lovely speech from Roger and Rafa trying out some French too!! For one sentence, that is. ;-)

Ah well, on to the grass…


NachoF Says:

I think we can all be sure now that after Wimbledon we will have a new No. 1…..


zero Says:

Unstoppable RAFA! Bagel in Final is unbelievable! Vamos!!!


Shital Green Says:

Thank you, Von, for taking your time out to have some laugh that you crave for. And I am delighted and elated to be graced with complement by Her Highness, “You’re a pistol.” It feels good.


Von Says:

After Fed played his first match I mentioned that if he wanted to win the trophy he needed to play better. However, my remark was quicky disputed by the retort that he’s in for the long haul not a short sprint.

I mentioned previously that Fed would become confused practising too many shots. It looked that way to me today. He was befuddled according to John McEnroe.

Something I read which I hesitated to mention previously, a statement made by one of the great clay court champions, can’t remember who, however, he stated that Higueras is making Fed play on clay exactly the way he shouldn’t. Apparently, the critic felt Higueras was more of a detriment to Fed. Who knows what really will work.


Von Says:

Shital Green:

“Thank you, Von, for taking your time out to have some laugh that you crave for. And I am delighted and elated to be graced with complement by Her Highness, “You’re a pistol.” It feels good.”

You’re welcome. I didn’t know you were such a pistolero; I’m learning everyday. You know the saying goes, ‘when you’ve got it, flaunt it’. Go right ahead — I’m just two steps behind you; waiting to prop you up in case you waver. :)


jane Says:

Yes, I agree Von, Fed did look confused. But that’s Rafa too, not only Fed’s shots / coach. The reason I say that is because Djoko looked like that in his second set against Rafa.

Bjorg just said the way to beat, or even play, Rafa is to play patiently. I think that’s what Djoko realized – can’t produce the same kind of winners on clay but especially against Rafa.


Von Says:

jane:

“Bjorg just said the way to beat, or even play, Rafa is to play patiently.”

Borg also said to play aggressively. Patiently and aggressively — sounds confusing to me, but he’s the champion so he knows what he’s saying.


Shital Green Says:

I agree with one commentator: Even Rafa feels miserable to have defeated Fed such miserably.

A quick stat, this final was 1 hr. 1 min. shorter than Djoko-Rafa semi.

Djoko won 12 games against Rafa, as opposed to Fed’s meagre 4.

Djoko had 28 unforced errors and 58 winners against Rafa’s 16 and 66.
Fed had 35 unforced errors and 31 winners against Rafa’s 7 and 46.


jane Says:

I don’t think Roger will win Wimbledon this year – maybe but it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion like it’s been in the past (except maybe in last year’s final). There are so many potential threats, unlike on clay.

And if Rafa can play on grass like he did on clay? He will be the new number 1 clearly.


jane Says:

Von,

You’re right about Borg – he’s a little windy. :-)

And after I wrote that I was thinking, how does one play patiently when Rafa hits winners all over the place. Not easy to construct a point when that’s what one is up against.

All credit to Rafa~!


Tennis Fan Says:

Congratulations to Nadal … great personality too! Federer as always a class act. I have never seen Nadal play that well … and Federer did not play at the level we have seen him play. It was a little surprising to see Federer feel pressure in this match. I thought the pressure would be off because everyone expected Nadal to win. The point in the second set that would have given Federer a break up in the set, could have made a difference in momentum. But Federer was hitting the tape all day … and Nadal was knocking in the easy winners. Sometimes you have to get the breaks … but it was not to happen today. We will see if Federer can regain his form for Wimbledon. Now if only Nadal could learn how to volley …


jane Says:

Shital, I am also thinking that in hindsight we can take a lot from the Djoko vs. Rafa match. Novak challenged Rafa in the first and last set, almost winning the 3rd. But Roger really did not challenge Rafa, except for maybe during a couple games in the second set.

The final was a rout.


jane Says:

Tennis Fan,

I think Roger will bounce back on the grass; he always plays well there. But I can’t see him winning Wimbledon now. There are just too many players who could potentially challenge him now on that surface and I don’t think he’s at the level he once was when he dominated.


Von Says:

After messing up big time on Friday’s SFs, NBC is now making a last minute desperate effort to redeem itself by providing some superfluous coverage on Wimby. I hope by some miracle they get ditched from any upcoming events.


Von Says:

jane:

“And after I wrote that I was thinking, how does one play patiently when Rafa hits winners all over the place. Not easy to construct a point when that’s what one is up against.”

Absolutely — he takes time away from his opponents. The ball comes back to them so quickly that they have to react in a split second. He’s just brutal to play against. Another point worth mentioning, his backhand has become so much better and stronger. Considering that he’s got a few more years to reach his peak, this is very scary for the other players. WOW.


Von Says:

jane and Shital:

FYI: There’s a new thread on “Nadal Befuddles Indecisive Fed”. Isn’t that what I said, he was befuddled? :)


Shital Green Says:

Von
Vach liked/stole your line. He must acknowledge the source and give you proper credit, to avoid plagiarism.


Skorocel Says:

Shital Green said:

“What dismal performance by Fed ! Should he still be called No. 1 after this?”

Well, as long as Nadal doesn’t win the SW19 (preferably by beating Fed in the final), he’s still the No. 1 player… Mind you, today, even if Nadal had faced two Federers, he would still come out as the winner – such was he untouchable today…


Shital Green Says:

Skorocel,
Even though I have my grievances against the Ranking Points rolling from the previous year, I was not questioning Fed’s ranking. I was questioning his performance, which should have been clear from the preceding sentence. What I was trying to say was no reigning Number 1 player has ever lost this miserably in the Grand Slam Final in the recent history, as far as I can recall.

Another way to look at is Fed has never occupied No. 1 position in the Race Points this year, and I don’t think he will for he rest of THIS year. Maybe, how he played justifies on this basis. He might come back stronger next year. Who knows?


Von Says:

Shital:

I’ll let it go this time, but the next time I write anything, I’ll be using a stamp to show its authenticity. :)


Shital Green Says:

Von,
You made me laugh on this one. You got me !


TD (Tam) Says:

Von- “After messing up big time on Friday’s SFs, NBC is now making a last minute desperate effort to redeem itself by providing some superfluous coverage on Wimby. I hope by some miracle they get ditched from any upcoming event.”

AMEN! If they dont care about tennis then just be done with it and give it to ESPN or TTC. Their half assed taped coverage of the semis was a crime.


Von Says:

TD:

“AMEN! If they dont care about tennis then just be done with it and give it to ESPN or TTC. Their half assed taped coverage of the semis was a crime.”

I’m being facetious here, but I could not resist an attempt at humor. Tell me which half of their ass did they cover — left, right, top, bottom. You’re funny. LOL. :)

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