Nadal Befuddles Indecisive Federer for 4th Straight French Open Title
by Richard Vach | June 8th, 2008, 11:30 am

The pre-match television coverage prior to the warm-up said it all in a hilarious camera cut. Rafael Nadal is shown sitting on his court-side bench, legs pumping up and down, sucking on one of those energy-goo packets and staring straight ahead in steely determination, contained energy waiting to explode onto the court. Cut to Federer, sitting on his bench, head drowsily looking around the stadium like he’s wondering where he just woke up at.
And then Federer took to the court and played like he’d been thrust into a situation he wasn’t prepared for.

Rather than unveiling an aggressive plan of timely net rushes, angles and drop shots to keep Nadal off guard, Federer displayed an indecisive, unforced error-laden, stubborn back-court game in losing to the now-four-time French Open champ 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.

Suffice to say, fans of the rivalry were expecting more from the Swiss, who had played Nadal close in their last few claycourt meetings, including his first win over his rival on dirt at Hamburg. During this year’s claycourt campaign Federer was additionally aided by one of the greatest claycourt minds in the game, coach Jose Higueras who he teamed with at the onset of the dirt season.

After being brutalized 6-1 in the opening set, Federer finally began adding some variety to his game in the second set, holding serve until 3-4, when he fought off a break point with some succinct net play, but was eventually broken and served out the second set at 6-3.

After a much-improved second set where Federer hit with authority and attacked the net successfully, he was still staring at an 0-2 set deficit.

In the third set Federer immediately put himself in a hole by dropping serve in the opening game after multiple unforced errors off his vaunted forehand. Nadal then leapt to a 3-0 lead before blitzing a demoralized Federer 6-0 in the third.

It was a major setback for the world No. 1, winning only four games in three sets.

“I was hoping to do better today but Rafa was too good,” Federer told the crowd in French following the match.

Nadal regaled the crowd with a sentence of French before combining some English and Spaniard to congratulate Federer on his event.

In the end the congratulations were all due to the Spaniard, who enters the grasscourt season full of confidence where Federer, Fed a bagel on the world stage, will do his best to rebound.

“I had obviously a strategy in mind, but I couldn’t do it because of Rafa’s play,” Federer said. “He’s so hard to stop once he’s on top of you. The moment I step off this court I will think of grass — I’m looking forward to the grass, that’s for sure.”

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44 Comments for Nadal Befuddles Indecisive Federer for 4th Straight French Open Title

Smith Says:

I had Rafa winning this match, but I never, never expected a beatdown of these proportions. Fed had chances in that 2nd set and the rest of the match would have been much more competitive if Fed had somehow won the 2nd….but Rafa just dug in and started kicking ass again.

Fed looked utterly defeated in that 3rd set…utter domination. I do find it funny that Djoker got more games off Nadal than the Mighty Fed did.

It will be interesting to see how Fed recovers from this beatdown. The last three years he at least got it to four sets, this time he got his worst whipping in years and got served his first bagel set since 1999 (Hewitt at Queens).

Rasmus Says:

How long has it been since Federer lost a set 6-0? That is not something that happens every day…

Disapointing match, Federer didn’t come near his normal form. 30 unforced errors, what’s that about?

Joe Samuel Starnes Says:

The way Nadal looked today, I think this is his year to win Wimbeldon and make a move on the No. 1 spot. But I don’t think he’ll continue to dominate into the hardcourt season.

Rasmus Says:

Thanks Smith, you answered my question. Who won the match, Hewitt-Fed at queens 99?

Ryan Says:

Like I’ve always said djokovic will have a better chance than federer to beat nadal if anyone can beat nadal at rolland garros.Today’s match proved it.Fed is in some serious trouble this year and he will struggle to beat pete sampras record.We all called djokovic arrogant when he said it but he was right.Fed’s game has come down to moments of brilliance.I’m a big fed fan but everyone has to come down one day.Fed has become more like safin now.The consistency has gone out of the window.He’ll always be a threat from now on and not the favourite except maybe in wimbledon even then he cannot b considered the favourite after the close call last year.So this year he could stumble there as well.Anyway congrats to nadal.He deserved it and probably might break this and win up to 7 or 8 french opens who knows.One advice for Federer could be to please stop the yap”This is my chance…..this is my year….i’m the one taking the risks….i got more chances of winning blah blah…” Maybe if he stops talking and starts walking like nadal does from now on, this year could be good for him.Otherwise he will get beaten on grass and hard as well by people like djokovic and nadal.

rjnick Says:

According to the ATP site, it was Byron Black that bageled him at Queen’s in 1999 — and Black won. In fact, it’s the only match Fed ever played at Queen’s Club. He’s played Halle ever since.

mouse Says:

I hope the media will continue to celebrate Nadal’s tremenous history making achievement today instead of crying over Federer’s loss like they usually do. Federer will win Wimbledon for a sixth time so there will be plenty of time for the biased media to worship their king Roger.

But right now it is time to appreciate and worship the greatest claycourt player in history since Borg: Rafael Nadal. Congratulations to Nadal on an excellent tournament and a brilliant final.

fed is afraid Says:

a pitiful performance from the so called GOAT. he is a joke, a disgrace.

Rasmus Says:

Hello rjnick

Thanks for those facts, good bit of trivia.

Matthew Says:

Actually, Federer didn’t play Hewitt at Queens in 1999, and Leyton’s never gotten a bagel from Fed. I think that Federer’s last 0-6 set was when he drew Pat Rafter in the first round of the French Open in 1999.

For reference:

Matthew Says:

Oops, I see now that he was bageled at Queens as well, but Roger’s site isn’t displaying the score correctly, so I didn’t find it there. In 1999, he lost sets 0-6 in two consecutive matches, and then he didn’t lose another one like for nine years!

fed is afraid Says:

is roger going to refund the money of the people that has to sit and watch that choke job? even rafa didn’t look like he enjoyed it, roger blows.

Byron Villegas Says:

Nadal will surely have a lot of confidence going to the grass court season. I’m now rooting for him to win Wimbledon.

Franz Says:

im not surprised at all, check out the interactive draw at if you wanna see, federer had an easy draw annd struggled to win many of those matches along the way. in the other hand, nadal didn’t drop a set and djockovic was his hardest match in all tournament(including today’s).

Shital Green Says:

I partially agree with you because I am not sure about Djoko beating Nadal any time soon on clay, but you are right about Djoko being able to keep the match more competitive than Fed did today.

Let’s looks at the tournaments before Wimbledon this week, starting today. Nadal makes a smarter choice of the Artois (Queen’s Club) like Djoko, Roddick, Murray, Gulbis, Nalby, Gasquet, Ivo, Gonzu, and Mathieu. I am looking forward to see how Murray matches Gulbis. If Murray wins, he will meet Roddick in the quarter. And Roddick and Nadal could be playing in the semi. If Djoko gets to the final here, we will get to watch some kind of prelude to Wimbledon.

On the other hand, Fed decides to play at a less exciting place: Gerry Weber (Halle). Blake, Berdych, Baghdatis, Stepanek, Youzhny, and Ljubicic will join him there.

The most laughable are Davydenko and Robredo, who will be playing this week at Orange Warsaw (Poland), a clay court.

Tennis Fan Says:

Fed is afraid: The only thing that is a disgrace … is your posts on this website.

Get a life!

jane Says:

Yes, Rafa’s confidence will be bourgeoning after that performance – haven’t seen a GS final that lopsided since I can remember. And while Roger was clearly not executing a game plan, it was really because Rafa wouldn’t let him.

There are A LOT of players who can step up on the grass besides Roger & Rafa – off the top of my head, there Djoko, Murray, Roddick, Gulbis, all the Frenchies – Tsonga, Gasquet, maybe Monfils and Mathieu, and then Nalbandian, who is great on the grass, when he wants to be. Tipsy also plays well there, not that he’d win it. And Hewitt and Baggy too, if they can both regroup, injury / mentally wise. If Ferrer’s injury is better he took a set from Roger last year. Safin…. Youzhny… etc….

The point is this — there are a MANY many threats and dark horses on the grass. The way to the final for the top guys will be much more treacherous. It should be an exciting tournament.

cy Says:

Just too many unforced errors from Fed. He could have been a little more patient and trade ground strokes more with him. At least that would have given him more of a chance to narrow the score although he may not win the match. But the way he played, he is killing himself and not making Nadal earn the points. I think it’s the frustration and stress of playing the one guy whom he could not beat on clay that paves his downfall tonight

Von Says:


“The most laughable are Davydenko and Robredo, who will be playing this week at Orange Warsaw (Poland), a clay court.”

Davydenko does not care where or how he plays — he just NEEDS to play to subsidize his check book. He probably sees the $ sign in his sleep. :)

I see Roddick has his work cut out for him defending his title at Stella Artois this year. Send them over to Halle and give Fed the competition. The field there is much weaker. Last year Fed didn’t play at Halle — he was upset at losing the FO. I wonder if he’ll pull out this year also.

kevin Says:

I cant believe it federer used nothing that he did in the whole tournament, i thought he had learned he needs to practically serve and volley to win, i am just so stunned, and one my Birthday he loses.

sensationalsafin Says:

No he does not need to serve and volley. At all. Everytime he came in behind a serve he got passed. It’s more than getting to net, it’s the way he’s gotta do it that matters. And it’s tough against Nadal so it’s no wonder he struggles. A very pitiful performance from Federer but what the hell can you do against Nadal?

Federer pulled out of Halle last year with a groin injury. He’s pretty fit right now and he doesn’t look nearly as upset as he did last year. I mean last year he was just mortified but this year it’s not like he even had a chance. He NEEDS to play Halle. He needs to get back on the grass, win some matches, win another title, etc. The grass is the one place he hasn’t lost in 6 years now and he’s gotta feel comfortable about that. If he loses on the grass then I will give up on him.

Shital Green Says:

Ref: “If he loses on the grass then I will give up on him.”
I agree. That will close out Fed’s all chances, including remaining among the top 3. Until then, he will be around, even if not as a dominant player.

jane Says:

Gotta say, Roger’s right about this one – “a little fairy” LOL!!

“Q. Imagine it’s 2009 and this little fairy comes to you and says, You’re going to win one tournament, but you have to choose: Wimbledon or Roland Garros. Which one?

ROGER FEDERER: I don’t want to answer these stupid questions anymore. They’re too stupid.”

ckr Says:

This was the most lopsided GS final after 2004 US Open, where Fed bagled Hewit twice.

Congrats to Rafa on winning FO emphatically. However, grass will be a totally different ball game. His short returns and loopy second serves will be killed by worthy opponents. Last year he played very well in the finals, but he was very lucky to reach finals (Youzhny’s injury in earlier rounds and Djokovic’s injury in semis).
It will be interesting Wimby this time around.
I don’t see Fed winning Wimby, with his confidence going downhill and others in the circuit–for the first time in many years think they have a chance to beat Federer.

Tennisdad Says:

Federer has a right elbow injury.

fed is afraid Says:

rafa is unstoppable, he will win wimbledon.roger will not win one slam this year, it is over for him. at least he has 12, be glad for them.

Shital Green Says:

Very timely. Thank you for saving Fed from his loss and misery: “Federer has a right elbow injury.”
Now, you deserve the title, TennisGod.

Sean or Vach,
Write another piece with this title like you did on Mono.

Alfonso Cuesta Says:

Hi! In Banesto we´d like to congratulate Nadal for is victory today but we know that Rafa is going to appreciate more a collective congratulation from his fans rather than one from his sponsors

So we´ve created a web site:
where any body can writte down a couple of lines and upload a picture that will be published in a book that will be given to Rafa very soon.

matilda Says:

Tennisdad Says:
Federer has a right elbow injury

No, Fed has mono.

Daniel Says:

I didn’t see the match (working sunday – the oil business is killing me), but I am thankful for that!

Seems to me Fed was a “little” desperate in his game plan, lacking patience, which was strange since the last two meetings he kept pretty close to Nadal playing more safe and waiting the right time to attack. Once the net plan failure Fed was derailed.

But, at least he wasn’t as disappointed as last year. He will now focus o grass, and there he will regain his strength.

All credits to Nadal, who is already the best clay court player ever and has raised the leval in a way that he can only surpass himself if he start making 15-20 aces a match!:)

Daniel Says:

People, you need to remember that in the last 4 years Fed has only lost in Slams to the eventual champion. This year, where he is in a suppose slump, he lost AO in the semis to Djoko (mono) and RG in the final to Nadal (who will only be stoped on clay when a new young guy appears).

And how can some say he is not favorite in Wimbledon?! He will only be treaten there in semis (maybe) or in the final (if Nadal can sustain this leval against players that usually trouble him.

So, let’s keep mouse advice, even though clay season is ended this is still Nadal’s moment, he work for it!

I have clay in my piratas Says:

Tennisdad and mathilda – 2rg balls caressed by nadal’s own butt-picking fingers to you two.

Let us move on to more greener pastures – or as nadal fans are familiar – knee aching, ankle injury, fatigue inducing season. We will talk about Rafa being unstoppable in april 2009. till then, get ready to be the punching boys for Fed, Djokovic and Roddick fans.

Skorocel Says:

jane / sensationalsafin said:

“And while Roger was clearly not executing a game plan, it was really because Rafa wouldnt let him.”

“A very pitiful performance from Federer but what the hell can you do against Nadal?”

Couldn’t agree with you more… Surely, he could’ve used that dropshot a bit more & gone to the net a bit more too, but what would be the result? 2-3 more games – at best. Nadal was simply unstoppable today…

Anyway, despite the today’s mauling, I just can’t understand how someone like Wilander and all those other “experts” even dare to criticize him for not having any “balls” (and all this bullsh.t) when playing Nadal on clay?! Go pick up that racquet and we’ll see how well will you fare, Mr. Wilander… This is not someone like Muster (who won the vast majority of his clay-court tourneys in the sites like Casablanca or Palermo), or Kuerten (who, despite winning the RG 3 times, didn’t came even close to dominate the surface the way Nadal does)… This is Rafael Nadal, Mr. Wilander! A guy who (despite the fact that today’s tennis is as physically demanding as ever) won no less than 81 consecutive matches on clay (!), 4 times the RG, 3 times in Rome, 4 times in MC, once in Hamburg, and also dozens of other clay-court titles… That’s as good as you can EVER be on clay – and it’s still counting!


Those of you who saw the match will surely concur that there were dozens of times when Fed did absolutely NOTHING WRONG in the rally – yet his opponent had absolutely no problems to win it (preferably by a winner)… That’s just plain sick! If you can’t hit a winner against your opponent, then how on earth you’re going to beat him?! So far, there wasn’t even one single player who could do that if I remember :)

I mean, you hit a perfect dropshot – he’ll run it down and hit a winner of it… You hit an even better groundie – he’ll either return it back 10 cm before the baseline (preferably to your backand, so you can virtually start the whole rally from scratch) or simply hit another winner of it… You hit an excellent serve – he’ll once again return it 10 cm before the baseline (so all your eventual advantage which you could’ve had in the rally will simply turn to nothing)… You hit a perfect return of his serve which lands under his legs literally within a milisecond – he’ll still have no problems at all to fire back EVEN BETTER shot at you… You hit an excellent approaching shot to come to the net – still, he’ll most probably pass you left and right… And so on, so on… Really, there’s NO shame to lose to such a guy – even the way Fed did today… Huh, even that net cord was constantly betraying him, whereas Nadals shots (even if it was a total mishit) all landed in Surely, Roger could’ve at least avoided that humiliating bagel in the final set, but still, it wouldn’t make a difference, as he would still lose the match after all – and that’s the ONLY thing that counts for these top players…

Someone here mentioned that Fed should’ve been more patient & tried to trade more groundstrokes with Nadal today, but WHAT WOULD BE THE RESULT? The same, if not even worse… Actually, he was trading them quite often (at least in my opinion), but (as we all know) trading groundstrokes with Nadal on clay uquals a suicide… If you can’t beat him from the baseline on a hard/grasscourt, then how the hell on clay?!

Anyway, as for Rafa, well, as I’ve already said, give this guy 2-3 more years, and he’ll go down to the history books as the best clay-courter of all times, period! He’s already (without question) the 2nd best in my opinion, and as the things look now, he’ll most probably add (at least) another 2-3 titles in Paris in the future (provided he stays injury free, of course), which should definitely make him the best clay-court player in the history of the game… This past fortinght, he simply dominated the Paris event like no one before, losing only 41 games in 7 matches & dropping exactly 0 sets… Need we say more? Congrats to Rafa and all his fans! Besser gehts nicht…

FloridaMan Says:

Great match for Rafa. He has a strong chance to win Wimbledon this year and do better on hard courts, because he is able to hit with a lot of power from stretched angles even better than he already used to.

Joker Says:

I have clay in my piratas – LOL! even on hardcourts and grass and indoors too? Imagine things in shanghai, which is said to be one of the most polluted cities ;)

I cant imagine how hungrily Fed and Djokovic will be waiting for a re-match with nadal on grass/hardcourt – surfaces that benefit the more offensive minded player.

JCF Says:

I’ve said this many times before, and I will say it one last time. I think it is Karma. Fed was once asked whether he RG was a goal for him, and he said no. It’s not a goal. His only two goals are maintaining #1, and winning Wimbledon every year. So far he has succeeded in both. When he was asked again, he stressed that Wimbledon was a far more important event for him than the French ever will be (he’s said this multiple times). The two just don’t compare. And that if he had 10 Wimbledons and 0 French Opens, he’d rather his last major be his 11th wimbledon than his 1st French.

Well, I hope Federer makes the finals of the French Open every year until he retires… but no further. I hope he loses all these finals, preferably to Rafa.

Karma hurts doesn’t it?

Realistically, his only chance is if Rafa gets sick or injured. I’m amazed Rafa has managed to avoid it so far.

JCF Says:

“Congrats to Rafa on winning FO emphatically. However, grass will be a totally different ball game. His short returns and loopy second serves will be killed by worthy opponents. Last year he played very well in the finals, but he was very lucky to reach finals (Youzhny’s injury in earlier rounds and Djokovic’s injury in semis).”

Djoko wasn’t injured — He got tired. That wasn’t the first time he retired due to fatigue, and not the first time against Rafa either. Jim Courier calling the match against Tsonga at the AO thought he might retire there also.

jane Says:

JCF – They did say Novak had infected blisters on his foot for that Wimbledon semi-final, much like Rafa had in Rome. Novak had played to extremely long matches against Hewitt then Baggy two days in a row and was having some trouble with his shoes (lots of slipping if you recall) so I believe that he has blisters. He won the first set, but it was obvious from the get-go that he couldn’t move.

jane Says:

to s/b two

Smith Says:

I thought Hewitt had bageled him at Queens – thanks for the correction. At least I had the tournament right lol.

Still, nearly ten years without being bageled is quite an accomplishment.

I do think Fed is demoralized heading into Wimbledon – he’s still my pick to win but I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost there as well.

After all his talk about how much closer he was to beating Nadal this year and before the match Fed said there was nothing Nadal could do to surprise him, Fed put forth little fight in that third set. However, what can you do when Nadal plays like this?

Joker Says:


If Fed makes 11FO finals and wins 1 of those 11 and loses the remaining 10 to Rafa…. what does it prove? nothing.Like Roddick said 15-1 or 15-2, it is still a shitty record. If Fed wins 11 wimbledons and loses 11 FO finals to Rafa, everyone will declare Fed the goat…. there is only so much karma can hurt!

Giner Says:

“If Fed makes 11FO finals and wins 1 of those 11 and loses the remaining 10 to Rafa…. what does it prove? nothing.Like Roddick said 15-1 or 15-2, it is still a shitty record. If Fed wins 11 wimbledons and loses 11 FO finals to Rafa, everyone will declare Fed the goat…. there is only so much karma can hurt!”

I never denied that Fed will end up as the GOAT. But If Fed wins 11 wimbledons and loses 11 FO finals, those FO losses are going to hurt. And it would be poetic for a guy who said that FO doesn’t hold a candle to WB. Both a slams, and with that kind of attitude, you don’t deserve to win it, and if you were to lose 11 finals without winning one, that would be classical karma. It would be as though he’s being teased… the cup is dangling before him, always within reach, yet time and again he will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

That still won’t change the fact that he will be GOAT. However, if he doesn’t win the French, then that should be his price to pay for not respecting the tournament, and lacking the desire to be the greatest he can be. Personally, I’d rather have 13 slams with one FO in them, than 15 slams with none.

If I had 10 Wimbledons and no FO’s, I would trade 5 of them for one FO win. Winning all four makes you a complete player. It means you can win on all surfaces — something Pete could not do. No one can say that Pete had an all-round all-court game. He was excellent on faster surfaces but couldn’t adapt his game to the clay. Federer is better than that, and he will win at least 15 slams, but 15 slams with an FO is better than 15 slams without an FO.

Still, I don’t write him off that soon. He has at least 4-5 years left in him. I was a huge Fed fan, and I wanted him to win the GRAND SLAM, or at least a French Open in his career. After he made those disrespectful comments I changed my mind. I hope he makes the final every year and loses.

Joker Says:


Are you JCF?

“Personally, I’d rather have 13 slams with one FO in them, than 15 slams with none.”

The comparison is not between 15s with no FO and 13s with 1 FO. How about 8s with 1 FO and 24s with no FO, but 11 FO finals? I think I am clear with who the goat is in that case, especially if those 11 FO finals were lost to a guy who has 11FO and no other slams (ok, maybe 4wimbledon finals) and never ever lost a match at FO.

I dont think it is true that Roger does not respect FO. If he did, why would he bother playing in tournaments like estoril or put up the effort he did on clay inspite of getting beaten to numbness by nadal? If he wants an 11th wimbledon when he still has 10 wimbledon and no FO, it might only mean he covets wimbledon more. Wimbledon as a tournament is a league above the rest. It is the Superbowl/world cup of tennis. Not even FO can compare with wimbledon in that respect. Infact FO might not be the 2nd most important grandslam either. That would be the USopen which was the most paying GS till the dollar started plunging miserably.

Look at the past champions. You will see Wimbledon champs/finalists have star-power that is way ahead of FO. You can bet your last dollar that most casual fans of tennis will remember players who do well at wimbledon as opposed to those who do well at FO or any other slam. In tennis, Wimbledon is just one of kind. It is the World Cup of tennis.

Jonno Says:

Nadal has yet to meet Nalbandian on clay who has hammered him in previous meetings and I believe would have won at Roland Garros in 2006 when he was up against Fed in the semi were it not for injury. Again this year injury stops him. He is the `someone else` – the only player to thrash Nadal – in both their encounters at big meets. Do I not have a strong point people?

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