Five Reasons Why Federer Will Never Beat Nadal Again On Clay or Win the French Open
by TennisOne | June 15th, 2008
  • 60 Comments

Rarely does a battle between tennis superstars in their primes turn into a mismatch the likes of Rafael Nadal’s 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 demolition of archrival Roger Federer in the French Open final. Though many cognoscenti were primed to anoint the sensational Swiss shot-maker as the unofficial “greatest ever” if he had won Roland Garros and achieved a career Grand Slam, his quest for the elusive title now appears quixotic.


The premier rivalry of the decade has always proved oddly imbalanced with each champion ruling different fiefdoms. No. 2 Nadal leads 11-6 overall with a huge 9-1 edge on clay, while No. 1 Federer is ahead 5-2 on other surfaces. With 12 major titles, highlighted by five straight Wimbledon crowns, King Roger reigns on grass, hard courts, and indoor carpet. But Nadal is even more invincible on clay: winning 115 of his last 117 matches and going undefeated in four French Opens for a perfect 28-0 career record.

Indeed, before their lopsided final, an admiring Federer called Rafa’s performances in Paris “sublime.” What then is a suitable adjective for the 22-year-old Spaniard and a final where he pummeled 46 winners, committed only seven unforced errors, won many more points (92 to 52), and surrendered just four games? Nadal accurately rated it “almost perfect.”

I predict this “almost perfect” accolade will appear often with future stories about Nadal, both at the French Open and in clay victories elsewhere against Federer. Here are five reasons why.

Defense

“He’s the best defensive player in the world, and he plays every point like it’s a match point,” praised No. 3 Novak Djokovic after Nadal outplayed him 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 in the semifinals at Roland Garros. Built like a 100-meter sprinter with a muscular 6’1″, 188-pound physique, Nadal has terrific acceleration, speed, agility and a fierce determination to run down faraway shots that seem impossible to reach and return. The only flaw in his otherwise impregnable defense is positioning himself too far (as much as 10 feet) behind the baseline. However, in the Roland Garros semis and final, he stood much closer to the baseline, which helped him break Federer’s serve an astounding eight of 11 times. Conversely, in the last three French finals, tenacious Nadal allowed Federer to convert only five of 31 break point chances.

Offense

“He’s much better on defense, much better on offense,” noted Federer after the final. Much of the improvement comes from Nadal’s versatile backhand, which is hit flat and with topspin and slice. Its depth, power and accuracy (especially on passing shots) make it yet another reliable weapon in Nadal’s arsenal. Despite a Western forehand grip that hampered the volley of Bjorn Borg and Jim Courier, Nadal has the correct Continental grip and volleying technique, plus quick reflexes and good anticipation at net. But his explosive forehand that features vicious topspin is the key to his offense. The only relatively weak link is his serve, which averaged only 178 kmh against Djokovic and 173 kmh against Federer. Considering that he belted one serve 212 kmh against Djokovic, Nadal, who is hampered by an open and narrow stance and insufficient weight transfer, certainly has the eight and strength to serve more powerfully.

Strategy

In many individual sports, such as tennis and boxing, styles and strategies often make the difference between winning and losing. Before the final, seven-time Grand Slam winner Mats Wilander told The Telegraph (UK): “If Federer starts playing aggressively and does it every time there’s nothing in Nadal’s game that can hurt him.” Au contraire. The biggest reason Nadal dominates Federer on clay is the Spaniard’s powerful, wickedly spinning and high-bouncing crosscourt forehand that forces errors and weak returns from Federer’s vulnerable one-handed backhand. Nadal’s swerving lefty serve to the Federer backhand also puts him immediately on the defensive in the ad court, where the crucial ad-in and ad-out points are contested. Whether it’s dipping passing shots or angles that pull Federer out of position or deep groundstrokes that pin Federer behind the baseline, the matador from Mallorca has a high-percentage riposte. As Federer conceded, “It’s so hard to attack him.”

Motivation

Toni Nadal, Rafa’s uncle and longtime coach, preaches, “Stay hungry, stay humble.” And Nadal practices that family credo. “My motivation is to improve because my goal is to stay in the top position for the next few years,” says Nadal. He invariably praises The Mighty Fed as a great player and says and does nothing to antagonize him. Witness how Nadal skipped his usual post-final victory celebration of falling down and rolling on the clay and merely raised his hands and smiled. Nadal’s single-minded focus is also reflected in his extraordinary concentration and stamina, two assets of Borg whose record six French titles Nadal is chasing and will likely match or snatch. Indeed, on Rafa’s formidable consistency, Borg said, “He never plays any bad matches on clay, and all the players know it. That’s why he’s going to win this tournament many more times.”

Age Factor

During the Open Era, champions at Roland Garros rarely have been 27 or older, and Federer turns 27 on August 8. It may be premature to write a tennis obituary for a colossus who has gained an incredible 11 Grand Slam finals in the last 12 Slam events — failing only at the 2008 Australian when he was enervated by mononucleosis. But Federer’s speed and stamina will likely diminish just enough to hurt him in close, grueling matches. In contrast, just-turned-22 Nadal is in his prime and just-turned-21 Djokovic, the cocky and talented 2008 Australian champion and a semifinalist in five straight majors, is entering his prime. While Pete Sampras captured three of his record 14 Grand Slams titles after 27, he could win them with a booming serve and sharp volley. Federer is essentially an attacking baseliner who rushes net when possible. But that requires longer, tougher points. And winning them will inevitably prove tougher than ever.

During the French fortnight, Wilander asserted, “What I understand because my career is over and what Federer doesn’t understand because his isn’t, is that the day he beats Nadal on clay is the day he will never lose to Rafael Nadal again.” That scenario wasn’t plausible then, and it’s impossible now. As John McEnroe remarked, “Federer now seems farther away than ever from winning this.” Mary Carillo posed and answered the real question: “What’s to stop Nadal from carrying all this confidence into Wimbledon in a couple weeks?” And can Federer, who barely staved off rampaging Nadal in the 2007 Big W final, stop him and Djokovic there?

Paul Fein writes for TennisOne, check out more of his work at TennisOne.com.


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60 Comments for Five Reasons Why Federer Will Never Beat Nadal Again On Clay or Win the French Open

Live Tennis Scores Says:

well said. unbelievably Nadal killed Federer. Fed played him better 1 year ago with that 6-1 blistering opening set.
What I haven’t heard about Federer the last ear is he has become ultra conservative. He is just getting the ball back in play not making those oooooh and aaaahh shots anymore. He is only defense. No more sick offensive shots which Pat McEnroe called during games. No more matching power big servers with power servers. He is just baseliner now. His seldom used net game isn’t what it was. If he loses at Wimbledon, his reign is over at No. 1 for sure. This is why he is so appreciative of what he has accomplished, having constantly saying he is living a dream. Thank you Roger for being such a good champion, a good un-arrogant winner and giving is opponents their due. He is still a good guy; but just will not win the French with Nadal playing; now with Djok playing well on hard courts; his US Open is in jeopardy too.


Amy Says:

Federer’s game on clay does not match up well with Nadal’s but, really, who’s does? It doesn’t look likely in the near future that Federer will be beating Nadal on clay but stranger things have happened. Ferrero beat him in Rome. Federer is definitely better than Ferrero. Any one is beatable on any given day. With Federer’s talent anything is possible. Now on to Wimbledon.

Wimbledon is a completely different matter. Federer’s beautiful smooth athletic game is perfect for grass. If Federer serves well he will win Wimbledon. If Federer doesn’t, Nadal will win. It’s that simple. Federer can serve and volley better than Nadal. Nadal must grind out everything. Grass is not the best surface for grinding out points. It rewards power and athletic ability. Both qualities Roger posesses.
It’s Federer’s tournament to win or lose. His play determines the out come. We know what we get with Nadal. If Federer plays like the Federer of old even the new and improved Nadal can’t beat Roger on Grass but we will see. It should be a very interesting fort night.


jane Says:

This is a pretty convincing case, that’s hard to disbelieve after Rafa’s win at Queens. I agree with the writer: Rafa is in his prime, and Novak is entering his – there is a year in age and a couple of years experience separating these two, but it’ll be fun to watch their rivalry grow over the next while. Is Roger’s prime over? Perhaps. Is it over on grass? It doesn’t look like it, judging by the results at Halle, but Wimbledon will really tell us where he’s at.


fed is afraid Says:

or anywhere else.


jane Says:

The Times noted of the Rafa vs. Novak final that:

“These two sets on grass at Queen’s Club lasted 27 minutes longer than had Nadal’s three against Roger Federer at Roland Garros in the final a week earlier.”


Pat Usher Says:

Jane…. So Wat if the rafa v Djo match lasted longer than the Roger v Rafa final at Roland Garros???? Everyone knows the final was a one sided performance! It’s no secret! The papers and journalists have made a good job of publisizing the issue! Quit rubing it in his face and his fan’s faces. Yeah, yeah, it happened! Moving on…..


JCF Says:

Very good, detailed, and technical analysis Paul. However, I think you’re a week late with this story…

The headline is a bit sensationalist, but the analysis is spot on.

I can accept that Federer won’t beat Nadal on clay again as long as nothing is impeding Nadal physically. But to say that he won’t win the French is a bold claim. It’s possible Nadal can injure himself to someone else, or pull out. Once Nadal is out of the equation, Federer is still the best player in the world on clay.

You can’t guarantee that Nadal will stay healthy and injury free every May. The game has high physical demands, especially on clay courts. He plays a lot of matches, and the more matches you play, the greater your chance of sustaining an injury. Players are getting injured more frequently now than in past eras due to bigger strokes (thanks to racquet technology).


jane Says:

Pat,

You’ll note I was quoting the Times and was merely adding it to the post, which is the writer’s opinion on why Roger will never beat Rafa on clay. No need to take the quote personally; it was not meant as such. If you read my earlier post, I make it clear that Roger still is the top player or in his prime on grass. We’ll see if Wimbledon bears that out.


jane Says:

JCF,

This is good loophole to point out: it’s the old adage “never say never”.

“But to say that he won’t win the French is a bold claim. It’s possible Nadal can injure himself to someone else, or pull out. Once Nadal is out of the equation, Federer is still the best player in the world on clay.”


Pat Usher Says:

Jane.. Sorry, i didnt mean for my post to be so “attacking”. It’s just i’ve heard the story of the French open final and Federer’s humiliation too many times, and frankly.. it’s getting old! It really wasnt aimed at u.


JCF Says:

Tennis-x readers don’t agree with the analysis though… The poll right now is:

Will Roger Federer ever win the French Open
-> Yes
[tally] 90%
-> No
[tally] 8%
-> Not Sure
[tally] 1%
-> Who Cares
[tally] 1%
votes: 1462

90% of readers who answered the poll think Federer will win it. Before the FO, a similarly overwhelming majority thought he would win it this year. And I think there was a poll asking “Who is NOT winning the French Open this year?” And over 90% answered Nadal. It’s possible they misread the question though, which speaks of their intelligence.

The readership here is either very pro-Federer, or just not very intelligent. I’m guessing the former, with bits of the latter. Maybe the fanboys from rogerfederer.com (I myself used to be one) migrated here to enjoy x-bot’s caustic wit (the main reason I come here really – and I still don’t know his identity… hey Sean, are you the one doing the Funk/Trunk thing?).


Samprazzz Says:

It’s not unlikely that Nadal will encounter an injury that will hamper him. Federer has a very good chance of winning the French, because the only one who beats him there is Nadal. Mind you, Djokovic is also a threat to him on clay. Not sure who would win between him and Fed on clay. This year, I think Fed was affected by the mono. He’s just too classy to say it. I’ve had mono before, and it knocks you on your ass for months. Look what it did to Ancic.


Sean Randall Says:

JCF, nah, I don’t do the funk/trunk. I filled in once or twice a long time ago, but obviously I wasn’t good enough to be asked to do it again. Ha.

As for the polls, I don’t pay much attention to them. I presume it’s just fans clicking over and over for their guy, buy as you say maybe this is a pro-Federer site. Depends on how you look at it I guess.

Regarding the article, age will be a big factor for Roger ahead. Guys like Sampras and even Agassi relied on power whereas Roger really needs his feet and timing to be at his best. And those two areas of his game are not going to be getting any better from here. But that said, I still think Roger can beat Rafa on clay and I think he’ll get another win someday. Might not come at the French Open, but someday, somewhere.


Sean Randall Says:

And injuries will be the ultimate factor in just how great a player Rafa becomes. If he can stay relatively fresh and injury-free for the next 6-8 years, watch out.


jane Says:

Pat – no worries; I should’ve added an addendum to the quote to clarify. I guess that final was just such a shocker for so many people/fans.


Federer is betterer Says:

“No. 2 Nadal leads 11-6 overall with a huge 9-1 edge on clay, while No. 1 Federer is ahead 5-2 on other surfaces”

I wouldn’t conclude that Nadal is better than Federer in their rivalry: the reason why Nadal has so many victories against Federer on clay is that Federer managed to reach the finals so many times too…which is not the case on other surfaces. The fact Nadal didn’t manage to reach many finals on hard courts or grass prevented him from having a bigger losing record against Roger…hence a losing records overall.
So these stats tell me that Federer is a much better clay court player than Nadal is on grass/hard courts. So I wouldn’t judge the rivalry solely on their head-to-head record.


alex Says:

“This year, I think Fed was affected by the mono. He’s just too classy to say it.”

Really?


Marc Says:

Raf is a good chance at Wimbledon, but he can’t seem to take it onto hard courts and nab the Aussie or US. Fed & Sampras are/were all-court players, and great on hard courts. Raf is considered the greatest clay-court player ever now. Funny thing is, as he’s arrived in Fed’s era, he’s stopped Fed’s [probably justified] claim to being the greatest of the Open era. Fed would surely have one a French or 2 without Raf around, the number of finals he’s made. Great to be watching with these 2 around at the same time; it’s like being able to see Borg play Laver or Sampras


Spirit Says:

NO MAN on Earth can beat Nadal on clay if he keeps the level he had at this year’s French Open. But if and when his level drops:

1) when he is “less hungry” for winning titles than he is now… not likely to happen in near future, but if/when he has 7 consecutive RG titles, I can’t imagine him having the same fire in his eyes;

OR

2) injuries get him – the kind of game he plays is very exhausting, many predict he won’t be able to last more than a couple of years more. I hope this will prove false.

He does seem invincible, just like Federer did in 2005-06-07 (on all the surfaces but clay) but once he drops to 90% (or even 95%), he’ll be surprised how many guys can beat him on a given day.


Ryan Says:

We can never predict the future.Who thought djokovic could manhandle federer in the AO semi? But anything is possible.I’m not saying federer is going to beat nadal.But nadal could pull out like someone pointed out and then federer could win.Even experts cant predict wats gonna happen.Wilander said fed is ready to beat nadal and then wat happened.He might never beat nadal on clay again but he could win the french.


alex Says:

hey!!

i am from Slovenia so i apologize for any grammar mistakes.
i must say, that i am a big nadal fan, however i still think, that federer is the best player in the world.
you are all talking about the chanses of nadal an federer to win Wimbledon and Roland garros, but i think that this is really unfair to all the other players. yes, it is true that this is the most likely scenario, but you have to realise, that winning Wimbledon, French open or any other grand slam is a very hard thing to do even for masters such as rafa and fedy. i dont think, that people´s opinion matter. all the people can be 100% sure, that federer will win the Wimbledon, but that is not the fact, anything can happen, he can lose in the first round, and so can nadal. i think it is meaningless guessing who will win. i think that we should all stop guessing and enjoy the tennis.
and another thing…..where does it sey, that Nadal is the one to get hurt? it can also happen to Federer or Nole. one awkward step and there goes one year of tennis. believe me!!!


Joker Says:

Is this the same guy who posted nadal can never be no.1? 6 months back roger dusted nadal and roddick in 1hr in consecutive matches at the masters cup. 6months before that we were made to believe roger would lose his no.1 ranking (when he lost to volandri) by authors reasoning like you.

3 months back Djokovic dusted nadal 2 and 3 at IW and some wise blogger ( may be you?) predicted nadal would never be no.1 and now federer will never beat nadal on clay? The obvious thing is Hamburg where nadal has had a tougher time of it than Federer did in both the finals. Even if you think Hamburg is just a hard-court painted red, it is no stretch to see Nadal not playing at the level he played this year and Federer playing his best. In such a scenario, very possible Federer wins.

Federer’s hard-court and grass-court streak and all-year dominance were much scarier than nadal’s clay-court dominance (given that things happen much quicker on a hard-court or grass, it is much tougher to stop a player on a hot streak on those 2 courts – nadal will agree with that!) Now that 2 of those 3 have ended, it is not hard to imagine Nadal being brought down to earth on clay – with federer having a few more of his peak years, hard to imagine he wont have at the least a share of those spoils!


alex Says:

me????????

no this is my firs post ever on a tennis related topic.


jane Says:

alex,

Joker is referring to the writer of the blog article (Five Reasons Why…) that we’re all responding to – not you.


jane Says:

And by the way, welcome.


alex Says:

now that makes a total idiot out of me doesnt it :) :)


NachoF Says:

To put it simply, saying that Federer will never ever beat Nadal on clay or win the French is a ridiculous claim….. also, if those five “reasons” were accurate then Federer wouldnt be able to beat Nadal ever again on any surface.


ifNOTforNADAL Says:

No one seems to talking about this.

Australian Open has been slowed down considerably with the new flexicushion surface, more so this year, to make sure players with bg serves don’t have outright advantage. So that players who slog it out have a chance.

Wimbledon has been slowed down a lot for the same reasons. Its not the same surface as it was 5 years ago. If the surface was same as it was 5 years ago, Nadal might have never reached the finals twice in a row.

Then, How come French open surface is so slow and favors one player so heavily. There is virtually no competition for Nadal and he wins as if its a walk in the park.

Why don’t they make the surface a little faster, so that the ball doesn’t stay in the air forever to hit it and make it a level playing field. Why isn’t anyone bringing up this point. Isn’t that only fair to other players just like what they did at Wimbledon and Australian.


Glenn Says:

ifNOTforNADAL:

The courts have been slowed down NOT because it gives other players a chance to win, but because there will be more play time. In other words, the powers-that-be in Tennis have decided that more points should be won during exchanges, and not merely on a serve.

A slow clay surface already serves this purpose, so there is no need to change it. That one player has dominated it is no reason to change it. The player who can win it truly deserves it.


Dave Says:

What a bunch of nonsense. People seem to make careers of trying to read a lot into one result. Yes, it was a bad defeat. Are we to believe that Nadal is that much better than he was only a few weeks before, when Federer pushed him in hamburg or Monte Carlo (both times blowing substantial leads). Nadal was blown out at the AO by Tsonga. Fed blew Nadal away at the end of the year Masters. These are just isolated results. Nadal has an edge over Federer on clay, no doubt. Some of it is certainly mental. Some of it relates to style of play. Most of Federer’s weapons are neutralized on clay. As far as physical decline, the way they play, Nadal will decline faster then Fed despite the age difference. His knees wont get any better. Wilander is right. Fed did not show up to the FO final. Even Nadal said that Fed was not at his best. Maybe we should take his word for it.


Glenn Says:

Dave,

Nadal’s serve has definitely improved. And given that grass is not as tough on Nadal’s weakness (his knees), he has a real chance to win Wimbledon this year. With Djokovic’s help, he might even edge out Federer as #1 by the end of the year.

Of course, I hope Federer wins Wimbledon – I like to see records broken.


Dave Says:

Glenn,
Anything is possible. I was surprised that Nadal beat Djoko at Queen’s, but not surprised that he beat Roddick. Andy is coming off a shoulder injury with no matches in over a month. There are many players who can take out Nadal on grass. Djoko, Soderling, Roddick, Blake, and a few others. Not to disparage him, but he was a little lucky last year to get into the final. And Fed was not playing well last year. Most people don’t even mention that he had an adductor injury ( a serious impediment to movement) that forced him out of Halle. he went into Wimby with no warm-up, and wound up having a week off in the middle of the tourny. Some have suggested that it gave him an advantage. It was just the opposite. It made him rusty. Also, the roof was completely off last year, and it was very windy. Wind hampers Fed’s game a lot more than Nadal, because Nadal hits shots with a lot more margin. Fed’s shot’s require more precise timing.
As far as the French, nobody can predict what will happen there. Nadal has to be the favorite anytime they play on clay, but as i said above, Fed was obviously off his game at the final. Remember that not long ago, Fed was considered unbeatable on every surface but clay. Things can change quickly in the world of tennis, so saying that Fed will NEVER beat Nadal on clay, or making any other sweeping statement like that is foolish.


FOT Says:

Good comments by most. I’m with the crowd who thinks one should never say “never”. Who would have thought Agassi would have won the French when he did? Who would have thought Bartolli would have won against Henin last year? Heck, who thought Big Brown was going to lose to that 38-1 long shot of a horse! lol

Unusual things happen in sports more often than we think. The writers are just guessing just like us fans. If they knew the answers to what’s going to happen in the future – heck, they wouldn’t be writing – they would be rich! lol!


JCF Says:

“I wouldn’t conclude that Nadal is better than Federer in their rivalry: the reason why Nadal has so many victories against Federer on clay is that Federer managed to reach the finals so many times too…which is not the case on other surfaces. The fact Nadal didn’t manage to reach many finals on hard courts or grass prevented him from having a bigger losing record against Roger…hence a losing records overall.
So these stats tell me that Federer is a much better clay court player than Nadal is on grass/hard courts. So I wouldn’t judge the rivalry solely on their head-to-head record.”

That is a good observation, however it’s not one I agree with entirely. The grass season is not long enough for Nadal to get many chances at him… in fact, the only tournament he can meet Federer in is Wimbledon since they don’t play the same warmups. I would argue Nadal plays better on grass than on hardcourt.

Now your point about Nadal not making enough finals on hard courts to lose to Federer. This point is true — he doesn’t make enough finals. However, I dispute your claim that Federer would be pasting Nadal on hardcourts if he had more chances to play him. If they played each other more, it would be close to about 50:50 on hardcourt. Nadal’s weakness isn’t Federer, it’s the guys he has to get through before he can play Federer. Everyone has certain types of players they are weak against, and certain types they are strong against. Federer happens to have problems with Nadal’s lefty spin to his backhand. Nadal has weaknesses to guys like Blake who hit really hard, and big servers (other than Karlovic which is a lottery — every time he plays, they should just begin with tie breaks rather than the first 12 games).

If Nadal and Federer could play each other any time on hard/grass court, Federer would not have a one sided record on Nadal. However, Nadal is not as good against other players on hard than Fed is.

So I semi agree, semi disagree with you. It still is true that he is not as good on hard as Fed is, and that Fed is a better clay player than Nadal is a hard court player. But I don’t accept that as an explanation for why Nadal leads 11-6. Because if they played more often on other surfaces, Nadal would still have an advantage. It’s not like he is deficient on hardcourts. The thing with Nadal is, he is just good at playing Federer. He has a way of annoying Federer that other players don’t have.

So to sum up: if Nadal was a better hardcourt player, Federer would not be 50:50 with him.


JCF Says:

“1) when he is “less hungry” for winning titles than he is now… not likely to happen in near future, but if/when he has 7 consecutive RG titles, I can’t imagine him having the same fire in his eyes;”

This is true, but when he has 7 consecutive RG titles, will it be too late for Federer? I get a feeling Rafa will still give everything to win more and more, simply because more is better. You could make the same case for Federer and Wimbledon. Federer is never going to “lose the fire” at wimby.

“2) injuries get him – the kind of game he plays is very exhausting, many predict he won’t be able to last more than a couple of years more. I hope this will prove false.”

Very valid point. He is going to have to evaluate what tournaments he enters and rest appropriately. If Hamburg loses its AMS status, he might stop going there, which is a good thing. And he should probably stop playing Barcelona. The only reason he plays there is because it’s at home. Federer used to play Gstaad each year for the same reason, even though it was inconveniently scheduled (a week after wimbledon). After he won it, he stopped bothering, and Nadal should probably do the same. I still think Fed would play Gstaad if it was on at a more convenient week.


JCF Says:

Joker:

“Is this the same guy who posted nadal can never be no.1? 6 months back roger dusted nadal and roddick in 1hr in consecutive matches at the masters cup. 6months before that we were made to believe roger would lose his no.1 ranking (when he lost to volandri) by authors reasoning like you.

3 months back Djokovic dusted nadal 2 and 3 at IW and some wise blogger ( may be you?) predicted nadal would never be no.1 and now federer will never beat nadal on clay? The obvious thing is Hamburg where nadal has had a tougher time of it than Federer did in both the finals. Even if you think Hamburg is just a hard-court painted red, it is no stretch to see Nadal not playing at the level he played this year and Federer playing his best. In such a scenario, very possible Federer wins.

Federer’s hard-court and grass-court streak and all-year dominance were much scarier than nadal’s clay-court dominance (given that things happen much quicker on a hard-court or grass, it is much tougher to stop a player on a hot streak on those 2 courts – nadal will agree with that!) Now that 2 of those 3 have ended, it is not hard to imagine Nadal being brought down to earth on clay – with federer having a few more of his peak years, hard to imagine he wont have at the least a share of those spoils!”

Irrelevant. This article is talking about clay. Whatever happened in those hard court matches has no bearing.

If we follow your reasoning, David Nalbandian beat Nadal and Federer twice at the end of last year in consecutive AMS tournaments, and also Djokovic at the first of the two. Watch out for this guy!

And this article is not surmising that Nadal will be #1 some day. It’s only talking about Federer not beating him on clay. So if this was the same author who wrote off Nadal as never being #1, 3 months ago when Djokovic beat him, he has not yet been falsified. Just because Nadal will continue to win the French doesn’t mean he will be #1, and the author never assumed such a thing in this article.


JCF Says:

Dave:

“Anything is possible. I was surprised that Nadal beat Djoko at Queen’s, but not surprised that he beat Roddick. Andy is coming off a shoulder injury with no matches in over a month. There are many players who can take out Nadal on grass. Djoko, Soderling, Roddick, Blake, and a few others. Not to disparage him, but he was a little lucky last year to get into the final.”

Why was he lucky? And he was lucky again the previous year? And if he makes the final again this year he will be lucky? And he was lucky at Queen’s too? What does he have to do to NOT be lucky?

If anything, I thought he was UNlucky. The rain wreaked havoc last year at Wimby, and he had to play a lot of matches back to back. Players complained about this a lot (Nadal especially). Fed on the other hand was lucky he always got his match in before the rain and was always well rested.

“And Fed was not playing well last year. Most people don’t even mention that he had an adductor injury ( a serious impediment to movement) that forced him out of Halle. he went into Wimby with no warm-up, and wound up having a week off in the middle of the tourny. Some have suggested that it gave him an advantage. It was just the opposite. It made him rusty. Also, the roof was completely off last year, and it was very windy. Wind hampers Fed’s game a lot more than Nadal, because Nadal hits shots with a lot more margin. Fed’s shot’s require more precise timing.”

Whoa, wait a sec… Are we talking about the same tournament here? Since when did Wimbledon have a roof? Why do you think the rain screws up the schedule every year and the court has to be covered?

As for the wind, how a player handles the elements is part of the game. Nature (and the game) doesn’t bend its rules to suit one person. Stuff happens. If you can’t adapt to it, there is no one else to blame.

I remember a USO SF where Fed played Agassi and it was anyone’s match. It wasn’t even tennis. Both players were just trying to get the ball into the center of the court, and they traded a set, which was enough for Fed to come through in 5 (he was up 2 sets to 1 from the previous night). Fed stood a real chance of losing that match, because Agassi was handling the massive wind a lot better. He admitted that he was VERY lucky to be up 2-1 going in. Hewitt and Haas were up next, and Hewitt pasted him. Haas had nothing but problems with the wind, but Hewitt was handling it beautifully. Make all the excuses you want, but there is no one else to blame if you can’t adapt to the elements. Both players have to do so.


Joker Says:

“Whoa, wait a sec… Are we talking about the same tournament here? Since when did Wimbledon have a roof? Why do you think the rain screws up the schedule every year and the court has to be covered? ”

Wimbledon center court has a roof not completely but it has some roof unlike arthur ashe which is TOTALLY open. Last year they got rid of that as part of the renovation and the impact of wind was much greater than it generally is. This year it should be back to normal and from next year there will be a retractable roof.

“I remember a USO SF where Fed played Agassi and it was anyone’s match.”

That was US open 2004 QF not semi-final. In the semi-final fed beat henman and hewitt beat joachim johannason


Joker Says:

“If anything, I thought he was UNlucky. The rain wreaked havoc last year at Wimby, and he had to play a lot of matches back to back. Players complained about this a lot (Nadal especially). Fed on the other hand was lucky he always got his match in before the rain and was always well rested. ”

Sorry, but Nadal has himself to blame there – Fed wrapped his win over Safin in the 3rd set tie-break just before the rains came down. Nadal on the other hand choked a 2 set to love lead to soderling and barely pulled it out 7-5 in the 5th. If he finished it in 3, he would have had no reason to complain.

Rain wrecking the schedule meant Youzhny’s back giving up on after he totally dominated rafa and was up 2 sets to love. Djokovic had to play brutally long matches against keifer, hewitt and baghdatis all good grass court players 3days in a row before the semis. Rafa was much well rested than Novak in the semi-final where Novak won the 1st set despite blisters.

Fed played 7 sets on the thursday friday and saturday before championship sunday

Nadal played 10 sets with 4 of those sets against injured players. He beat youzhny 1 and 2 in the last 2 sets. Youzhny was hardly moving in those 2 sets.


Franz Says:

going back up a few comments: Make the french faster? thats the stupidest thing ive heard since making Wimbledon slower! the greatness of a grand slam means you can play tennis on all surfaces. against all forms of tennis. game points SHOULD be won on one serve if the returner cant move fast enough, thats how it was played for years.grass for the quick, clay for the strong and hard court for pure tennis.. personally, since there is such a relatively subtle difference,i dont know what the australian is for besides adding to the calendar(which im all for btw) but difference is the genius of tennis surfaces.


ATP NO Says:

Nadal plays tennis like a football player, and I really thought the wheels would fall off like during careers of many other reigners on clay who grind incessantly. I was really surprised to see him in this kind of form after four years. I keep telling myself something’s got to break, but he’s built like a comic book superhero. All credit to him. An amazing feat.

Personally, I don’t enjoy watching his matches. The counter-punching thing is boring, and the variety is not rarely there. Backhand down the line. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Get the weak reply.

I feel like I’ve been eating meat and potatoes at the French for the last four years.

Personally I prefer wine.


jinyongfan Says:

JCF, I found myself agreeing with your comments posted here. As usual, today your rebutal is clear and loud. I am sick and tired of some always attribute Rafa’s 2 finals at Wimbly to LUCK. I think it is Djoko that seems to mention this four letter word a lot after he lost. (Hamburg SF if I am not mistaken.). Among others, this quote just me laugh so loud:
Whoa, wait a sec… Are we talking about the same tournament here? Since when did Wimbledon have a roof?
Isn’t it still true that who ever plays better win 99% at given day?


Giner Says:

Gstaad was a fast clay court by the way. Federer was asked in an interview how he managed to pull off such a transition from Wimbledon to a clay event the week after, and he explained that Gstaad was quite fast for a clay court.

Queen’s isn’t a slow grass court though.


Giner Says:

Joker:

“That was US open 2004 QF not semi-final. In the semi-final fed beat henman and hewitt beat joachim johannason”

Thanks for the correction. I was rooting for Fed that year, and I was worried he might lose to Agassi and then Henman (since Henman had a good record against him).

“Sorry, but Nadal has himself to blame there – Fed wrapped his win over Safin in the 3rd set tie-break just before the rains came down. Nadal on the other hand choked a 2 set to love lead to soderling and barely pulled it out 7-5 in the 5th. If he finished it in 3, he would have had no reason to complain.”

Yes, true, but that was only one match. It rained on other days too, and many players wanted play to continue on the middle Sunday so that the second week wouldn’t be as crammed, but the organisers said no, and Federer was the only one defending it (he wasn’t affected of course).

“Rain wrecking the schedule meant Youzhny’s back giving up on after he totally dominated rafa and was up 2 sets to love.”

I will grant this one to you, though now I am curious to know how he hurt his back… did this happen the next day when it resumed, or some time off the court?

The elements can bring good luck and it can bring bad luck.


Ruhlen Says:

I agree with Franz. Blending the four slams into essentially the same slam with the similar court speed is very stupid.


Giner Says:

That above message (from Giner) was from JCF. We share a computer. He forgot to change the name.

By the way, I’m JCF’s roommate. We both like Nadal, and we both like Federer as well (the F in JCF stands for Federer believe it or not). He’s just a bit more critical of Federer than I am. Whenever Fed plays Nadal we are usually rooting for a different guy. He wanted Fed and Nadal to trade Wimbledon for RG. Nadal wasn’t cooperating though. I wanted Fed to win the grand slam, but eh…


NachoF Says:

JCF:

“Irrelevant. This article is talking about clay. Whatever happened in those hard court matches has no bearing.”

The title of the article might say that… but the arguments dont…He basically just says that Federer will never beat Nadal on clay cause Nadal is a better tennis player…. if the reason that Federer will never beat Nadal on clay are that Nadal has BETTER defense, offense, strategy, more motivation and is younger, then you can just say Federer will never ever beat Nadal again… which Im sure we can all agree its a little bit much of a prediction…


Junaid Says:

I was not expecting that Nadal can win Artois championship after about one week of clay final. It is usually very difficult to win consecutive tournament on clay and grass especially for spanish player. But Nadal proved himself a good player on grass as well.

In wimbeldon, still Federer and Djokovic can beat Nadal. Because Federer and Djokovic still have better game like agressive forehand and backhand and most importantly serve on grass. Djokovic lose on Queen’s club due to lack of good serve and mentally weeker than Nadal. Nadal is too much mentally strong than Djokovic and also it can be impact of last two defeats of djokovic on clay courts against Nadal.

Definitely Federer is still stronger than Nadal on grass. If Federer control on unforced errors and give best serve then i think no body can beat him on Grass. It’s a time for Roger to show his dominance on grass as Nadal showed on Clay.

As you all know, Nadal had close game in final of last year wimbeldon and this time he is more better player of grass, so Roger need to give 100% game to beat Nadal. Otherwise we will have new champion on grass after 5 years.

Lastly we should remember comments of Borg on Nadal “IF Nadal survives first two match of wimbeldon, he will win Wimbeldon”


Glenn Says:

ATP NO,

Why do you say that Nadal plays like a football player? Nadal is more muscular than your average tennis player. Muscular people have a different gait than less muscular people. Perhaps that is why you and others criticize Rafa’s tennis STYLE.

Whatever the case may be, Nadal gets the job done. That can’t be denied.


ATP NO Says:

Hey Glenn,

I likened Nadal to playing like a football player because of his reliance on raw strength to get the job done. His endurance, quickness, and brute force used to punish balls other can only manage to push demonstrate the physical strength of a running back. I also likened his game to a football player because of the meat and potatoes play book he executes on like religion. The artistry and improvisation is not really there. I see his game more animal, instinctive, responsive, football-like. I’m in awe of him. Not knocking him.

I like to watch him play about as much as I like to watch football (which is about never)…


D Roy Says:

“Dave Says:
……There are many players who can take out Nadal on grass. Djoko, Soderling, Roddick, Blake, and a few others. Not to disparage him, but he was a little lucky last year to get into the final. And Fed was not playing well last year. Most people don’t even mention that he had an adductor injury ( a serious impediment to movement) that forced him out of Halle. he went into Wimby with no warm-up, and wound up having a week off in the middle of the tourny. Some have suggested that it gave him an advantage. It was just the opposite. It made him rusty. Also, the roof was completely off last year, and it was very windy. Wind hampers Fed’s game a lot more than Nadal, because Nadal hits shots with a lot more margin. Fed’s shot’s require more precise timing………..”

After reading the above post, one is simply left with no option but to sigh in wonder and amazement, at the extent & level, the camp of
Fed-Fans can often descend, in order to denigrate Nadal’s achievements and uphold Federer’s performance.


Andrew Miller Says:

Agree about the 5 % drop in play.

That’s all it takes – that from Nadal or an injury from Nadal, and with that Federer has a clear road to the title in Paris. Yes, perhaps that’s a lot to imagine happenning, even in the short term. But in a world where the #1 women’s player retires in her prime, anything can happen.

Since Agassi won it at 29 (showing it can be done and that, for someone who strikes the ball cleanly, a french open is within grasp), and who knows what will happen in the tennis world (given that few predicted Federer’s “disastrous for him” 2008) I have to give Federer a chance to take Roland Garros – he has several opportunities left, and we must admit that he definitely played a poor final – Nadal said so himself.

His shots and champion’s mentality will remain formidable, and it’s not as though he faced much challenge in his last three runs to the final in Paris (or the run to the semis). This year’s run to the final for Federer was slightly worse than years’ past, but he did not face the threat of five sets and as he gains confidence (IF that happens), he could again find himself with more legitimate chances to win it.

(he lost 3 sets [one to Montanes, one to Gonzalez; one to Monfils] before the final and no match went to 5 sets; in 2007, he lost 1 set before the final [to Robredo] and no match went to 5 sets before the final; in 2006 he lost 1 set before the final [to Massu] and no match went to 5 sets before the final; in 2005 he lost no sets before the semifinal, where he lost to Rafael Nadal).


Chip N Charge Says:

Never say never. Anyone who plays competitive tennis knows how many variables there are in a tournament. It can happen


Shak Says:

Roger is the greatest Champion for ever. He had lots of chances to win Nadal on Clay but was not lucky. Roger’s fans, be sure that he will end this year 1ST in ATP ranking tooooo.

P.S. I agree that Nadal is the best number 2 and Novak is the best Number 3.

Meet you on Wimbledon


Giner Says:

“Since Agassi won it at 29 (showing it can be done and that, for someone who strikes the ball cleanly, a french open is within grasp), and who knows what will happen in the tennis world (given that few predicted Federer’s “disastrous for him” 2008) I have to give Federer a chance to take Roland Garros – he has several opportunities left, and we must admit that he definitely played a poor final – Nadal said so himself.”

Yes, but who did Agassi beat to win it? Certainly not a Nadal. It was Andrei Medvedev who led 6-1 6-2 before a rain interruption saved Agassi, allowing him to regroup, consult with coach, and come back.

To lose the first two sets to a guy like Medvedev will not do in this day. If Federer at 29 gets a guy like Medvedev in a final, perhaps he will win. I’m not putting money on it though.


Skorocel Says:

To Giner:

Even if his advance to the FO 1999 final was a bit surprising, Medvedev (as a 3 times Hamburg winner) certainly wasn’t a pushover on clay… Yes, Agassi got lucky with that rain (which, btw, came out also in his semi vs Hrbaty), but I guess he got even luckier when he didn’t have to face the ultimate favourite – i.e. Guga. But then again, he beat Moya (the defending champ) back then, so it’s not like he didn’t deserve the title…


Von Says:

ATP NO:

“I also likened his game to a football player because of the meat and potatoes play book he executes on like religion. The artistry and improvisation is not really there. I see his game more animal, instinctive, responsive, football-like. I’m in awe of him. Not knocking him.”

I totally agree with you concerning Nadal’s style of play. He doesn’t play beautiful tennis by any stretch of the imagination, but he gets the job done along with fantastic results, if I might add. He’s proven time and again, how meaningless artistry is, and can be nullified in lieu of raw power and true grit. The question of how long this raw power/true grit style of play can last, is one to ponder. If, and when, he begins to lose speed, which he will –it’s inevitable, Lleyton Hewitt is a prime example, then along with the diminishing speed and power, the wins will also diminish. His, is too much of a physical game, but only time will tell…..


Colin Says:

I’m puzzled at the frequent references in the media to Nadal’s “weak” serve. I can’t remember the stats, but didn’t he manage a respectable number of aces in the FO final? Speed isn’t everything. Karlovic is the most feared server, but he isn’t the fastest.


Keith Cattley Says:

I must disagree with this article, which praises Nadal, a formidable player and competitor, but forgets that Federer is the nº1, not him, and has been and remained like that for the past 5 years, with all the great tennis and effort that Nadal has shown.

Here is why Paul Fein is wrong:

1) Nadal is a warrior, no doubt about it, but his game is based on his capacity to move and “fly” in the court. This way he “hurts” his body more than anyone in the circuit. I predict he will probably have many phisical problems which will prevent him from staying where he is now.

2) Federer matured phisically and mentally at the age of 21/22. This is when he started to win and play in high levels. Nadal matured earlier (he entered the circuit at age 16 and was winning at 18. So early maturing means early aging as well. He is not as young as his age suggests.

3) Clay court is responsible for one third of the tournaments roughly. So this means Roger will probably remain as number one for a while, despite all the excitement about Rafa’s level of play.


Kona Says:

It is clear that Nadal after beating Federer at the French convincingly and then beating him at the Wimbledon Final yesterday proves he is an overall better player than Roger (at the prime age of 22) when facing each other head to head. All of the people on this board that praise Federer should come to realize how great Nadal really is and what he has accomplished already at the same age 22′ish that Federer started his run of wins at Wimbledon. I believe father time will make it harder for Federer to ever win another Wimbledon as long as Nadal stays healthy and plays at such a high level (he is improving his game each year). Knee problems are a big issue for Nadal and it would be smart for him not to play in hard court matches as much. Even with kneee problems, I’ve never seen a tennis player run as well as Nadal did at the Wimbledon Finals yesterday. Only time will tell, however I see Nadal being crowned greatest tennis player ever if he continues his dominance and wins the French open next year along with Wimbledon again.. That would place him on the top of the list in my opinion…

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