So you want another Roger Federer v. Rafael Nadal matchup? You got it. The two kings of tennis, Federer and Nadal meet again for the third straight time in a Wimbledon final. And in my mind this is the biggest match of their rivalry to date.
As I wrote in my Wimbledon preview, as Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been creeping ever closer to Federer, the Swiss’s tennis real estate has been shrinking. And with the US Open months away Fed needs to make a stand now before he potentially loses everything. This is it.
If Fed loses Sunday it will mark the changing of guard. Fed will still hold onto to No. 1 but it will be a matter of weeks before Rafa overtakes him and who knows when Roger gets back to the top.
I know many of you scoffed when I wrote a while back that when all is said and done maybe Nadal will ultimately go down as the greatest, not Federer. Sounds crazy but the outcome of this final will go along way to furthering that discussion or shelving it.
Last year remember Nadal proved his first Wimbledon runner-up effort was no fluke by not just returning to the final in 2007 but nearly taking it. Nadal had Federer on the ropes before the Swiss rose up to take it in the end.
Now in his third straight Wimbledon Nadal comes in with a real winning mindset, especially after his destruction of Federer at the French Open and his impressive grass play since.
I broke down the both Fed’s and Rafa’s strokes just ahead of the French Open final, so I won’t go through that again. I will say on grass that Roger gets the forehand checkmark I had given to Rafa on clay. Let’s go right to the matchup.
If you are pro Roger…
Roger’s numbers on grass are astounding. Federer’s won 65 straight matches on grass, 40 in a row at Wimbledon and he’s won all 28 sets this grass season. The guy hasn’t dropped a set all tournament and he’s been serving better than ever, even better than Mr. Sampras ever did. Fed’s only been broken twice while whacking 84 aces with only four double faults. 84-4! And Fed’s putting up these numbers against decent players like Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt, Mario Ancic and even Robin Soderling. Based on the stats alone the argument could be made that Fed’s run to the Wimbledon final this year has been his most impressive ever.
What Fed needs to do to win…
Serve big, serve big and serve big. That’s what Fed needs to do. For Fed to get a win on grass against Nadal it all starts with his serve. The easier he holds I think the more chances he’ll take, and likely convert, on Rafa’s serve. I think if he serves poorly Rafa could very easily run away with the match. Fed also needs to attack the Nadal second serve and cut out on the first serve slice return. Mix up the pace, use the drop shot and of course the Fed slice “chip-and-dip” to bring in Rafa in and set him up for the pass. Take away Rafa’s rhythm by staying aggressive from the baseline. No long rallies!
If you are pro Rafa…
Life is good. Rafa’s won 23 straight matches now and at Wimbledon he’s lost only one set during the event. While he’s not quite as dominating on serve as Federer, he’s right up there. Rafa’s only been broken four times with 40 aces to just nine double faults against some very worthy competition. Not bad for a guy some would call a claycourter. Most importantly, though, Rafa’s won three straight over Roger including that French Open destruction which gives him a nine game win-streak over the Swiss coming into a final he was within a hair of winning a year ago.
What Rafa needs to do to win…
Get the groundies rocking, get the feet moving and get on the Federer serve early. Mentally and physically Rafa’s right there with Roger if not ahead, but in order to beat Federer on grass you’re going to have to break his serve or at least be in Roger’s service games. That means getting the serve back and working your way into dominating the rallies. Rafa needs to turn the match into a clay match. Turn Centre Court into Chartier. He virtually did it a year ago and with all the grass chewed up it’s almost looks like clay. Nadal will also have to take care of his second serve, which is arguably the weakest part of his game. But if Fed’s not attacking it then all the better for Rafa.
Just as Rafa owns the clay I think Roger will continue to own the grass. On grass, the serve is the most important shot and way Roger’s serve has been going he gets the big edge. I know that the weight of history may not be on Fed’s side, the courts are playing slower, the momentum is with Rafa and Rafa’s been playing some of the best tennis he’s ever played, but Wimbledon is Roger’s home and as a champion and as one of the greats, I think he protects Centre Court again and gets revenge on Rafa for embarrassing him at the French. Call me absolutely crazy, but Federer in straight sets.
As for the women, congrats to Venus for her fifth Wimbledon title. There wasn’t much doubt until the match today with Serena, but I’m glad for her. And now she’s just one Slam behind little ‘sis.
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