Federer, Nadal Resume Historic Rivalry in Australian Open Final
by Sean Randall | January 31st, 2009, 10:31 pm
  • 106 Comments

A year ago around this time, Roger Federer was hobnobbing with the well-to-do in Arizona for the NFL’s championship game, the Super Bowl. This year, Roger Federer is playing in tennis’s very own version of the Super Bowl as he bids for a fourth Australian Open title and a share of arguably this sport’s ultimate prize, Pete Sampras’s 14 career Grand Slam victories.

To tie Pete, though, Federer will have to navigate past his friend and nemesis Rafael Nadal in what is simply the best rivalry in tennis, and one of the best in all of sports.

After two week of intense, draining competition, what a great way to end the first Grand Slam of the 2009 season. Could anyone ask for more? Well, for me in an Eastern U.S. time zone a noon Melbourne start would be far more welcomed than a 7:30pm, which translates to 3:30am my time. But at least it’s a Sunday morning!

And if you did rise early for the Serena Williams demolition of Dinara Safina yesterday (I did not), I have a feeling that this latest Federer-Nadal chapter won’t leave you disappointed again despite the lofty standards of this clash.

Of course we remember their epic last meeting on the lawns of Wimbledon in July won by Rafa in what many consider to be the greatest match ever. And their battles, albeit somewhat lopsided ones, at the French Open, but now we finally get to see the two best tennis players in the world go at it in a Slam on what people say is a neutral surface, a hardcourt.

As for the outcome, I’m sticking with my original pick at the start of the tournament and taking Federer to win this one in four sets. There’s just too much at stake for the Swiss to lose here with equaling Sampras, regaining an edge over Nadal and narrowing the gap on No. 1. Fed’s never lost a hardcourt Slam final and he’s been in full flight since that two-set hiccup against Tomas Berdych.

Rafa’s been excellent as well, but I think just having reached the final the way he did may have quenched his thirst in Melbourne. Maybe some of the edge is gone. Then again maybe he’s ready to vanquish Federer once and for all and fully take over the circuit. He owns clay, he owns grass and now possibly hardcourt? Scary, but he’s that close to doing it.

Head-to-head Nadal leads 12-6 including the last four and it’s no surprise as the Spaniard’s game really matches up very favorably with the Roger on just about any surface. But we’ve heard from the ESPN commentators this week that the balls in Melbourne are not bouncing as high as in the past and that Rafa’s flattened out his forehand a little more. If true, those are both positives for Fed. The lower the bounce the better Fed’s backhand.

Federer has also been serving exceptionally well and if continues to hold with ease that will allow him to be that much more aggressive and more attacking on Rafa’s serve. And that’s how he’ll beat Rafa today. Going after him. Therefore I think Fed’s serve will be the key today.

If Federer’s serve falter he’s not going to win.

Leading up to the match a lot has been made about the tournament scheduling, but I don’t think it’s a big concern in this final. Critics argue both semifinals should have been played on the same day, and because they were not, Federer’s extra day off – he played Thursday night while Nadal Friday – benefits the Swiss.

Well, I don’t think it helps Federer’s recovery any because he absolutely breezed by Andy Roddick in his semifinal, so my guess is he would have been fully recovered within 24 hours anyway had he played Friday. Nadal played a marathon 5-hour, 14-minute grinding slugfest Friday so the day off Saturday will aid in his recovery, but he might still be a bit sluggish and low on fuel after the Verdasco match. That said, had Nadal played Thursday and Fed Friday, Nadal may have benefited from the extra day but I don’t think it’s any different for Roger.

Yes, the scheduling in Slams is screwy but as they say, it is what it is. And I seem to recall many years ago Stefan Edberg outlasting Michael Chang in a 5-hour plus affair in the US Open semifinals. The Swede then came back the very next day and beat Sampras for the title. Impressive, yes.

And if there’s one guy who can shake off the affects of physical match like the one he had against Verdasco, it’s Nadal.

Regardless of the outcome of the final it will be a historic match. We know what’s on the line for Roger but for Rafa if he can win this title he’ll have won Slams on three different surfaces and we’ll begin to hear the chatter again of a possible calendar Slam.

Guess we’ll find out in a few hours. The alarm clock is set…


Also Check Out:
Roger Federer’s Updated GOAT Resume
Roger Federer Hopes To Meet Rafael Nadal In The US Open Quarters
Fedal Wars: Today Is The 10 Year Anniversary Of The First Federer-Nadal Match [Video]
Milos Raonic Visits Historic City of Sintra [Video]
No Roddick, But Federer-Nadal Rivalry Looks to Resume at Monte Carlo

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106 Comments for Federer, Nadal Resume Historic Rivalry in Australian Open Final

Ra Says:

You have my sympathies from the Eastern U.S. time zone; I’d have set my alarm, but I’m too excited to sleep a wink between now and then.


Vince, The Shamwow Guy Says:

Nadal will “Wow” Federer very time.

Tired Nadal in straight sets. Federer will be GOAT in due time.


kim Says:

nadal will win, roger is afraid of him and can’t play well against him cause rafa is in his head. another victory for rafa, and fed’s past accomplishments start to look not so good,


Sandy Says:

That’s what everyone’s thinking.. Wait and watch FedEx win the CHAMPIONSHIP..!!


Ra Says:

It occurs to me that their may very well be some unaddressed psychological undercurrents concerning where the mindsets of Rafa and Roger are going into this based on the fact that both said it was too dark to see at the end of their last meeting. Did we watch Federer finally overcome his mental block against Nadal in the 3rd set? Does Federer believe in his heart that he was going to complete the comeback from two sets down if not for the fading light? Does Nadal have any doubts in his own mind about that?

Also, what about Nadal’s level of confidence on this surface? Is he truly ready to believe that he can best Federer here as well even having never made it to a hard-court GS final before?

Just some things I’m wondering at the moment…


Ra Says:

“there”, not “their”. This is what happens when they keep me up past my bedtime…


Vince, The Shamwow Guy Says:

This is what happens when they keep me up past my bedtime…

WOW

I appreciate people who recognize their grammer mistakes and attempt to correct them. You just made your English teacher proud.


张奔斗 Says:

It’s just a matter of time for Nadal to win a career Slam. I think every one knows that he can, and will, achieve that feat.


张奔斗 Says:

I appreciate people who recognize their grammer mistakes and attempt to correct them. You just made your English teacher proud.
************************
grammar, not grammer.


Von Says:

Well, since we’re correcting grammatical mistakes, shouldn’t the sentence read:

You have just made your English teacher proud of you.

I think ‘every one’ knows that he can, should be “everyone”.

Ah, the English language …


Ra Says:

Oh my… What has happened here? Clearly I have not yet begun to edit or proofread prior to submitting. Anyhow, glad you can appreciate it, Vince, The Shamwow Guy.

Hi Von. I don’t know if you got my hello several threads back; You seemed to be on hiatus at the time (I believe voodoo regarding Roddick may have been implicated).


Fatih Says:

Ah, can’t imagine Roger will lose this historic match.


Von Says:

Ra:

Hi, I didn’t see your hello. I was taking a sabbatical from posting — I seem to get into these moods lately of not wanting to post. Maybe, I’m suffering from too much “postitis”, an inflammatory condition of posting. Ha, ha.

Put on a pot of java and watch the clock. Only 40 more minutes until countown time. One, two, three, four, fiiivee, siiiixxx, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.


Ra Says:

Von,

I can understand where you’re coming from, and it’s nice to see you.

If I were to drink coffee, I’d be counting seconds instead of minutes. I’m sacrificing sleep, but I’m more like BZZZZZZZZZZZZ than zzzzzzzzzzzzz.


RG Says:

Sean says “Yes, the scheduling in Slams is screwy but as they say, it is what it is.”

That being said, I would like the scheduling to be as fair to the players as possible, especially bcoz the men’s matches are best of five in the slams. If both the semi-finals were scheduled on the same day, there would be “less” room for discussion about the fairness of scheduling.

Now as far as US Open goes – both the semi-finals are scheduled on the same day (Super Saturday), but this leaves a very short recovery time for the men’s finals. The matchup on paper may look good, but it is not fair to both the players and the fans, if the players are not playing at their best bcoz of this reduced recovery time.
Again – “Super Saturday” is not really SUPER for the fans anymore. Earlier, with one ticket, one could watch both the men’s semi-finals and the women’s final. But, now you have to buy a separate ticket for the day and night sessions.


Von Says:

Ra:

OK, this is it. Enjoy the match!!

____________
RG;

Hi, you’re up late and I think I know why. Enjoy the match!!!


Vince, The Shamwow Guy Says:

Thanks for the “Grammar”.

Go Rafa. Rafa in straight sets.


RG Says:

Hi Von: Sorry, your guy didn’t make it to the final. I left you a congratulatory note after Roddick’s victory against Novak!

Anyways – hope this match lives upto its hype.


Mary Says:

Dear Tennis Gods, Please let this be a fast match!


RG Says:

Federer is really aggressive today – both off his forhand and backhand.


RG Says:

I believe – the 1st set of the 2008 AO final also started with 2 breaks of serve.


Mary Says:

How does Fed prepare for such a wonderful opportunity? I would be taking bathroom breaks every chance I got.
Mirka looks beyond freaked.


Kroll Says:

Fed seems to be serving very poorly indeed huh?


RG Says:

Nadal is not looking as sharp today – lot more errors in his game today/tonite.


NachoF Says:

Yes, my worst fear is coming to life… Federer´s serve doesnt seem to be top notch today. :(


Kimmi Says:

Serve to my backhand, and I will know exactly its coming. nadal should consider to mix it up.


Kroll Says:

Good god! Already super, this game. Fed Breaks Rafa and Rafa breaks back with two impossible winners and a double fault by fed!


Kimmi Says:

Magnificents 2 points from nadal, federer double faults


Kroll Says:

First set to Rafa! Who would have thought…


NachoF Says:

I hate this.


Daniel Says:

If keeps serving like hei is this will go in 3.

Other than that they are both making sensational shots!


Daniel Says:

if Fed keeps…


NachoF Says:

That´s the thing…. Federer serving like crap and the set was pretty close… if Fed picks up his serve he will definitely win…. I dont see that happening though


RG Says:

are these 2 of the best shotmakers ever… or what?


Ra Says:

Fed serving at 38%? Ugh…


Kimmi Says:

Rafa moonballing give fed a lot of problems. Fed is loosing this one now


Daniel Says:

Guys this is relly desperating: Fed didn’t save a single break point. Nadal break on all 4 oportunities and Fed’s first serve is on 50% now! Nadal is in his head and he is so nervous he can’t even serve. I hope somewhere he find his serve back to revert the outcome of this match.


NachoF Says:

Get some first servers in man!!…. this is ridiculous!


Ra Says:

Holy cow, I think he just got a first serve in!


Daniel Says:

Finally, after missing 5 first serves Fed put one in and close the game to lead 4-3! Uhff


Ra Says:

The good news for Fed is that he’s somehow on serve this set at 32%.


Daniel Says:

Nadal is a true champion, his sole 2 aces where on break points!


Kimmi Says:

Why federer is not taking chances on these weak second serve from nadal….c’moooooooon


Kimmi Says:

Finally, now please serve….1st serve


NachoF Says:

I cant even believe he won that set… he REALLY needs to get some first serves in


Daniel Says:

Well, this are good news for Fed, even serving low he won the last 4 games. Nadal serve at 3-2 and didn’t won a game after, and we can sence that Fed has an edge on court right now!


shaky Says:

I’m really happy I napped to stay up for this.

Think if Nadal loses this he’s going to really kick himself for not putting Federer away in a set he was serving 30% firsts. That’s horrible.

(My super bowl partying is going to really suffer for this.)


Kimmi Says:

Nadal look spent


Kimmi Says:

love 40 and wested all breakpoints…aaaaaaaagh!


Daniel Says:

This is very dangerous, Fed had 0-40 in didn’t converted it. Now 4-5 in the third the pressure is on him!


Daniel Says:

Fed’s defense forehand on running is giving him a lot of points.


NachoF Says:

….ridiculous


Kimmi Says:

double fault finish the set…federer soooo tense


Daniel Says:

The history of Fed x Nadal is decide on the break points where Nadal serve on advantage side with that open serve to Fed’s backhand. They show a statistics and in the last 5 meetings between this two Fed’s something like 1-15 to 4-21 (AO 2009) on break points. Will see if him serving first things will be diferent.


shaky Says:

…I assume nobody is going to bed now.

I can’t understand this match. At some point Nadal is supposed to actually get tired and stay that way right? And at some point roger is supposed to start winning easy points on first serves right?

This is really amazing to watch.


Kimmi Says:

this is sooooo tense…5th set


Daniel Says:

Well, these two like 5 sets don’t they?!

Nadal seems a litle spent, that game 2-2 when he had lots of break points and Fed saved was really decisive for the set.

Will see, if Fed breaks first he takes it, if the set gets onger Nadal wil have the edge when it comes to 3-4, 4-5 and ….


shaky Says:

Ok I have to ask, what the !@#$ was Rafa eating there?? That looked pretty gross.


Daniel Says:

What’s with Fed, 30-0 and then he lost 6 points in a row?!


Daniel Says:

Fed completly lost focus and confidence in his backhand, very weird.


Kimmi Says:

Nadal is now winning federer on HC….federer, this was a big chance to get to 14 and he blew it.

C’moooooooooooooooooooon fed


osazone4real Says:

RAFAAAAAAAAAAAA


Couch Sneed Says:

Tampa pro Curt Calkins graduate of Glendale H.S. in California and a grad of Memorial in Madison Wisconsin, has funded costs for tennis court resurfacing.


Youyong Says:

wow!!! rafa pulled it off! i thought fed would be getting his 14th slam easily but so happy for nadal!

this will certainly silence the critics who say the nadal can never win a hard court slam.

but it would really be sweet for fed to win FO though to get both his 14th and career slam.


Daniel Says:

Seems like last year wasn’t Nadal’s peak!

Now he really puts himself in the greatness category. Only US Open for a Nadal Slam and he is just 21. Trully remarkable how he developed his tennis year after year.
Congrats to Nadal and all his fans!!

For Fed, well he has to wait untill July for the n. 14 or if some natura disaster takes Nadal out of RG! :)


Mary Says:

Yeah Fed blew his chances. What Rafa pulled off was complete and utter bs. Something’s wrong.I’m done with this “sport.”


Ryan Says:

Now Rafa might have a chance to win the Grand Slam.
He has proven to be the world no. 1 after all.


Ryan Says:

For federer to win a slam from now on, nadal must be taken out by someone else. If not nadal is winning it.Any slam out there.


shaky Says:

The number of backhand errors and double faults (and the horrible serving from basically start to finish)…

I wouldn’t have been surprised with Nadal beating him, that’s what Nadal does: he beats him, everywhere now. But for him to get nerves like that and (frankly) choke in the 5th? That’s amazing.

All due respect to Rafa who is clearly dominant now, but he didn’t win that 5th set: Roger lost that, he choked. And in a way that’s an even bigger win for Rafa: he didn’t even have to win to get the trophy, he’s got Fed in his pocket.

Big letdown 5th set, but still an amazing match.


shaky Says:

Just so the Roger fans don’t think I’m knocking him:

Fed is still gonna catch Sampras, he’s good enough to always get to finals in majors, he’s probably still that much better than the rest of the field (just not Nadal).

But Nadal can do that everywhere now. He’s probably even the favorite… everywhere. So unless Roger wants to hope Nadal gets taken out by some wannabe like Novak or Murray, he needs to get over this mental crap.

This does make for better storytelling if he wins the 14th at Wimbledon or Flushing.


Mary Says:

Not to be weird but it looks like people left the stadium. I know some are standing but it seems emptier.
Man, up Roger! He’s having a nervous breakdown. I feel bad for him, now I’m kinda embarassed(sp.)for him.


osazone4real Says:

even as a rafa fan this hurts seeing this great sportman cry


Mary Says:

Shaky: No, not once you have a breakdown in public! What the hell was he thinking of during the match?!
I feel bad for him, seriously, I stayed up b/c I wanted to see him take the record.
Now I’m supercranky b/c I think one is a cheat and the other chokes and then has to be handed a tissue b/c he is crying.

When is the Super Bowl start?


Mary Says:

Oh this is so not a rivalry.


shaky Says:

Are you kidding? It’s great that he had to collect himself! I love that he cares this much, that he wanted to win here and he knows all the legends came out to watch him, and knows he lost this one to some extent on his own.

When he had just choked, I lost respect for him since his calling card was he was cold-blooded, clutch, confident (see my comments above); but just now when he got choked up, it totally flipped me. I’m a fan now.

(Thank god he manned up and got back up there for a second try afterwards though.)


Mary Says:

I had to turn it off before the second try. Yeah, it’s great he cares, but good lord in heaven.
Good Morning, time to go to bed.


Mary Says:

I’ll end ofn a hopeful note for Fed: see the tennis gods want him to tie at the French Open and then win at Wimbledon.


Polo Says:

Roger should forget about getting his 14th major and being called the greatest of all time. How can he be the GOAT when there is somebody better than he is during his time? He should change his focus towards beating Nadal and stop worrying about records. Roger needs a coach to play Nadal better. If he can beat Nadal in a couple of majors, the accolades should follow. But the way things are, Nadal is well on his way on being the GOAT. He is the best in all surfaces at this time.


Ryan Says:

I still think nadal is beatable.I’m sure murray and djok can do it bur Fed cant do it anymore.I’m sure of that.Its a bad match up 4 fed.


Tejuz Says:

Well.. that was a big CHOKE from fed for sure.. he just gave the match away in 5 set and thats the reason i guess why he cried after the match… just the reason that he got nervous and choked big time here. Had he lost the 5 set in a close one like wimbledon.. he might be as sad, but i dont think he would have cried.

Anyway… Nadal deserves this title… playing around 10 hours and 10 sets in 3 days… and coming up truimphant. Hez sure gonna be one of the greatest of all time…. alongside Fed ofcourse.


Tejuz Says:

well.. Rivalry is quite one-sided for sure.. but their matches are toughly fought. Out of 7 GS finals that they have contested, 3 were 5 setters and 3 others were 4 setters. Anyway.. Fed is giving himself chances always by reaching to the finals more often… so am sure he’ll win at RG or Wimby.


Ryan Says:

This rivalry from now on is moving in the direction of the Roddick Federer rivalry……and the main reason for this is that….lets be honest… Fed plays like a pussy during break points. He doesnt serve well.He is so scared of Nadal. That is the only reason I find for him losing these matches.
And he keeps sweating like crazy.
I dont think its because nadal plays better tennis than federer.But he fights better than any tennis player in history and is more of a man on the court.


Ryan Says:

I think fed needs to take some advice from nole or tsonga on how to stick his chest up when playing nadal.


sam Says:

I dont get it……. what was he crying for. As if this is his last chance to win slam, he is going to get more chances , he is going to win Wimbledon or US Open .It was very sad to see a great player like him breaking down. Anyway Congratulation to Rafa , he played like a champion.


topspin Says:

hey Sean and everyone in the Fed ex bandwagon, so how does it feel? :D

VAMOS RAFA!!!


Ryan Says:

I dont think fed will win another french or wimbledon or the US open for that matter as long as nadal is in the tournament. He is clearly the no.2 player right now. Thats pretty much guaranteed from now on.So its no wonder fed cried….he knows he is being eclipsed by nadal.


Ryan Says:

To topspin : It feels great. Fed is the richest player and he made more money by being the finalist.
It really does feel great.BTW nadal is not gonna last forever.We’ll see how he plays when he is 27.


Daniel Says:

Even with this win, let’s face it, if Fed had serve “normal satndard” he woud have won it in 4, most! For Nadal to win on grass and hard it took him 5 sets.

So, for now on, they will be co-favorites in Wimbledon and hard, RG I don’t know how anyone wil beat Nadal with the shots he made this weak on hard, imagine on cay?!…

And the fact is anyone that wants to win a slam has to beat Fed. Since 2004, Safin did it once, Djoko did it once and Nadal in all his 6 Slams (1 semi and 3 final in RG 05-08, Wimbledon 08 and AO 09). The sole exception was RG 2004 when Fed ost to Kuerten (the former RG owner).

So, Fed will cry a little more for a few days and then he will regroup and create more Slam chances, hoping Nadal won’t be on the horizont!


Skorocel Says:

shaky said:

“All due respect to Rafa who is clearly dominant now, but he didn’t win that 5th set: Roger lost that, he choked.”

I don’t think so. At that point, the match was already over for the Swiss… The guy had 6 (!) BPs towards the end of the 3rd set, yet failed to win a single one – and that was THE deciding moment of the match (at least from the Swiss’s point of view clearly)… Up until that moment, the match was pretty even, but that MEGACHOKING which Fed produced on those 6 BPs basically sealed the win for the Spaniard, and from then on it was only a question whether it’ll be in 4 or 5 sets…

To be honest, even if I’m a BIG Fed fan, I have to admit it’d be cruel for Nadal to not win this one, simply because if one’s afraid of winning (which in this case is Fed, like it or not), then he/she just DOESN’T deserve to win… The fact is, Roger had more than a decent chance to turn the screw by winning that 3rd set, but he once again (for literally zillionth time) failed… Forget about that bad serving, forget about those poor volleys, forget about everything… At least 2 or 3 of those BPs were makable, yet he once again choked! He choked already in the 1st (where he led 4-2 and 30-15 on his serve), and also in the 4th (where he led 2-0 and 30-0 on his serve, and where almost everyone, maybe including Nadal, who at that point was clearly beginning to show signs of tiredness, would expect he’d steamroll), and indeed, he choked in that 5th set (where from that missed FH at 2-3, 30-0 onwards, he just wasn’t the same player), but still, it was those damn 6 BPs towards the end of the 3rd which really hurt him…

For me (as a Fed fan) it’s a bit hard to admit this, but after this match, we can safely say, that:

1. Unless he doesn’t manage to turn that negative H2H (at least marginally) around, Fed’s NOT the greatest player of his era, period! As we all know, Nadal owns him on clay, beat him on (supposedly slow) lawns at SW19, and now also on hard (after beating Verdasco in a 5 hour fivesetter, no less). In other words, no excuses anymore for Fed!

2. If he can’t be the best player of his era, then how the hell can he be considered the GOAT? No way, Roger! Huh, if Nadal somehow wins the USO (which wouldn’t be surprising at all), then some may say he’s greater than Fed – and rightfully so!


sam Says:

Q. Did it hurt more because it could have been the 14th for you and you have to wait for another time?

ROGER FEDERER: Not really. I mean, honestly, no. I mean, it’s more like, you know, in the first moment you’re disappointed, you’re shocked, you’re sad, you know, then all of a sudden it overwhelms you. The problem is you can’t go in the locker room and just take it easy and take a cold shower. You can’t. You know, you’re stuck out there. It’s the worst feeling, you know.

So, I don’t know, it’s rough.

Q. You mentioned you had problems with the first serve. You had only 52% of first serves in. You also had 19 breakpoints. That was happening on Nadal’s serve. So what was the problem then? Only him serving well or you having some problems returning or what?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I wish I was a lefty, too, playing him breakpoints on the ad side, not on the deuce side. Sure, a great advantage for him. It’s not the first time (smiling).

Q. Do you believe you still can beat him?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, for sure. I didn’t spend four and a half hours out there believing it [sic].


jane Says:

Congrats to Rafa and all his fans! Wow, he deserved this! I didn’t think he would pull it off, but he’s proven that he really is the present and true world’s best. No question about it. Not only that, but now he’s won on every surface and has more slams than either Federer or Sampras had at this age.

Sad for Fed, clearly, but it’s not the end.


shaky Says:

You really think he cried because he knows he’s being “eclipsed”? No way, he’s already acknowledged Rafa is playing the best in the world at this time.

I think he cried because he had a Novotna moment: handed the match over and didn’t even give himself a chance to win.

(Obvious difference is Novotna was actually beating Graf, whereas Roger had just clawed his way back into this one. But it was a similarly striking choke job.)

And this against the only guy that has shown is going to win every tight match with him.

If there’s room on that Fed bandwagon, count me in. Unless he Novotna’s again (two times would be a habit).


jane Says:

People were right who said it would come down to Federer’s serve, but his forehand let him down at key moments as well.

I’ve always felt Rafa’s best chance at a hardcourt slam is this event, as opposed to the USO but you know, the guy will probably win that too, if not this year, next year. He is so determined.


Giner Says:

Well, what can I say.

I expected tears of relief from Nadal, but nothing. In the end, Federer looked disconsolate, unresponsive to praise, and didn’t clap his hands. He also looked incensed when the presenter called him the “number 2 player in the world.” When he gave his speech, this was some real emotion. He thanked the crowd and that was all he could manage before choking on tears. The entire crowd tried to cheer him up except Mirka who looked just as disconsolate, only covering her mouth with her hand (she too not seen applauding anything). Rafa was a gentleman and a good sport, embraced Fed and let him speak again. Fed’s second attempt was terse, but that’s all you could ask of him.

I’ve learnt something about Federer today. He’s never made a big deal about the majors other than Wimbledon and outwardly didn’t care that much about losing outside of Wimbledon, but his emotions today belied his cool act. This title really did mean a lot more to him than he let on, perhaps the significance being No. 14. That was likely on his mind today.

I doubt I will get through all my thoughts in one post, but the match itself was memorable.. it’s the first 5 set final in Melbourne in 20 years, but it’s not a classic like the Verdasco-Nadal match or the Wimbledon finals from the last two years.

This match wasn’t really that great. My heart always believed Nadal could win this, but I don’t think with my heart. Nadal really had no business winning that. He only won because Fed played some uncharacteristic loose service games. Fed lost his nerve early in the fifth, and also in the third set tie break. He threw in double faults at points when ‘Staff’ would call him a choker. He is no choker, but he didn’t play his best this night and neither did Nadal. By the way, this was the first time I’ve seen Federer step out onto court first instead of second, in a very very long time. It felt most unusual.

All throughout the match Nadal looked tired. He was slow, especially in the first set. That was a slow set without much power, and he didn’t run down as many balls as he normally does. And I swear he didn’t move that quick either. But Federer looked pretty flat himself in that set. He was complicit to Nadal’s slow game, as if they made a tacit agreement to go easy on each other.

The second set was a roller coaster with one key break where Nadal failed to capitalise on 5 break points, while getting broken himself. There were a few breaks and Fed in my opinion lost his nerve each time he was broken in this match. He hit lots of errors at bad times.

The third set tie break is where Fed really cracked. I was totally expecting Fed to win tiebreaks because his record against Rafa in tiebreaks is lopsided. But he double faulted on set point.

Fourth set, Nadal tried hard early but failed then capitulated the rest of the set to conserve energy for the fifth. He made sure to hold one last service game to force Fed to serve it out and thus let himself serve first in the fifth set for a big advantage. When he wins the toss and elects to receive, I think it’s because he expects the player who serves first to alternate between sets and in the decider he wants to increase his chances of serving first.

Early in the fifth was when Fed in my opinion really lost his nerve. He should not have been broken in that game, and I’m surprised by the lack of fight he put up for the rest of the set. Nadal was very tired, yet he wasn’t challenged on serve in the fifth set. Every other set he had to hold off lots of break points and never had a love service game until the fifth. Federer should have won this. He didn’t try hard enough in the fifth set because I know he could do better than that and he was looking more likely to win than Nadal who was at a significant handicap already.

Nadal should have just cramped and winged it and lost and he wouldn’t have had much reason to be disappointed given his condition, but to my surprise he kept it together. He did not cramp or need an injury time out. Jim Courier was constantly amazed by the energy he still had to be able to play back to back five setters like that. We were all expecting this to be over as soon as he lost the second set, and definitely after losing the fourth set. He got through the fifth by sheer willpower alone. Fed was first to crack and this no one expected. Nadal was lucky he could close it out on Fed’s serve at 2-5 instead of serving it out. If he had to serve out the match, my bet is he would have got broken and things would have turned upside down.

All credit to Nadal for an incredible display of physical fitness and pacing himself to endure the marathon, and his mental resolve.

Now that he’s the title holder at three majors simultaneously, and the first two own majors on three unique surfaces since Agassi, it’s pretty hard for pundits like Sean Randall or Jon Wertheim to write him off again (neither of them expected him to even make a semi final). He owns as many hard court slams now as Djokovic and Murray combined, who are both for now relegated to ‘pretender’ status. This is Roger and Rafa’s show.

Another interesting stat, the entire 8 of Federer’s hard court grand slam finals victims (Hewitt, Safin, Agassi, Roddick, Baghdatis, Gonzalez, Djokovic, Murray) managed to take a total of 2 sets from the great man. Nadal single handedly took 3 from them, which is more than all 8 combined.

In doing so, he’s silenced some more critics. He used to be a one surface wonder according to them, with no chance of winning Wimbledon, then won some hard court titles but it’s still not grass. He won Wimbledon, and then the grass was then noticed to be slower than it used to be and his new kryptonite became hard courts. Hard courts are his weakest surface say the critics, a notion that I’ve always found ludicrous. This Australian Open plexicushion was most certainly a neutral surface. Its speed was in between RG clay and Wimbledon grass. The old rebound ace would have suited his game even more, which was almost as slow as clay and high bouncing too. The funny thing is his critics can’t continue to say that Wimbledon is slower than hard courts now without admitting that he can play on surfaces faster than grass.

A lot of credit has to go to Nadal for improving his serve coming into this season and also learning to flatten his forehand. It paid dividends. Sean can say what he wants about Nadal playing Abu Dhabi when he should have rested, but Nadal believed he was underdone on matches in spite of playing there.

I believe Nadal can win a US open title in his career, even against Federer. He won’t have the Olympics to worry about this year (he played both singles and doubles there) so the two Masters series titles will be positioned more far apart after Wimbledon, giving him a chance to make a good run in the second half of the season which he hasn’t always done in the past. He needs to plan his calendar with more thought, skip the small events like Valencia and think about the bigger picture, which is the slams.

Nadal has had a lock on Roland Garros for the last four years and it’s hard to see this not continuing for another year. So if we assume Federer reclaims his Wimbledon title and wins a 6th US Open, the battle for year end No.1 will lie with the Masters 1000 titles. By the way, does anyone know what surface the ATP WTF (World Tour Finals?) will be played on?

I wasn’t adventurous enough to say who I thought the year end no.1 would be and would wait to see the result here before taking a stab. Privately I thought it would be 1-Nadal, 2-Federer, 3-Murray, and 4-Djokovic. The result only reinforced my selections.

I wanted to see Federer win his 14th, because I still love the guy, and was fully expecting it. He would have thanked Verdasco for pushing his nemesis to the brink. But that’s not how it turned out. Nadal has 6 GS titles, and in all six of them he had to get past Federer, something those 8 people I mentioned above couldn’t do even though some were widely regarded as being superior players on hard court or grass than Nadal. Nadal enjoys playing Federer, but Federer doesn’t enjoy playing Nadal, despite his love of the rivalry they share.

I don’t think Fed will suffer any permanent scars from this loss. He knows he almost certainly will eclipse and surpass Sampras if not this year then in the next. I wish him well and I hope to see more finals between these two, US Open in particular.

As for Nadal, enjoy the moment. He’s tied Edberg and Becker for 6 slams. I think he will win his 7th at RG and tie Wilander. People can’t say it was all on clay either, because unlike Edberg, Becker, McEnroe and Wilander, he did it on three surfaces. All the other guys who own three different slams are missing either Wimbledon or a French Open title. No one is missing a US Open. I believe the US Open is very winnable for Nadal if he plans it well.

Congratulations and Vamos Rafa! (I sent mail to his daily mailbag but he didn’t answer it, so I hope he reads this instead.) Bad luck Roger, but better luck next time.


Skorocel Says:

Correction:

Make that “1-2, 30-0 onwards” :)


freddy Says:

to Ryan:

Yes, we all are looking forward to see what Rafa can do when he is 27. But the point is, at 22 he has won at three surfaces now, while Federer hasn’t done that.


Giner Says:

“Well, I don’t think it helps Federer’s recovery any because he absolutely breezed by Andy Roddick in his semifinal, so my guess is he would have been fully recovered within 24 hours anyway had he played Friday. Nadal played a marathon 5-hour, 14-minute grinding slugfest Friday so the day off Saturday will aid in his recovery, but he might still be a bit sluggish and low on fuel after the Verdasco match. That said, had Nadal played Thursday and Fed Friday, Nadal may have benefited from the extra day but I don’t think it’s any different for Roger.

Yes, the scheduling in Slams is screwy but as they say, it is what it is. And I seem to recall many years ago Stefan Edberg outlasting Michael Chang in a 5-hour plus affair in the US Open semifinals. The Swede then came back the very next day and beat Sampras for the title. Impressive, yes.”

I’ll say this much: If this was the US Open and Nadal played for 5 hours 14 minutes on a Saturday, he had better pray for torrential rain on Sunday because he’d be dead for the final. The US Open needs to seriously look at their scheduling. I believe they spend 3 days for round 1. Screw that.

One way you could consider doing things is have women play on every odd day and men every even day. That would ensure everyone gets equal rest, but it might disappoint people who want to see both, and the men’s matches being longer may not all get through in a day during early rounds.

“I think he cried because he had a Novotna moment: handed the match over and didn’t even give himself a chance to win.”

I think you can compound this with the fact that Fed (circa 2004 onward) has never choked against any player BUT Nadal. Every other guy he plays big matches against, he mentally overpowers them, but Nadal it’s not working on. No one plays big matches better than Fed, so this shouldn’t be happening, and it’s getting into his head.

I’m still pretty stunned by this ‘upset’. Fed is now only 5-4 against Rafa on non-clay surfaces, with 3-3 on hard and 2-1 on grass. You can’t even say that without clay Fed would have as lopsided a record against Nadal as Nadal does on clay against Fed, because clearly he doesn’t.

Another interesting stat by the way: In grand slam play, whenever Nadal has won the first set, he has only lost the match once. He has 78 wins when he takes the first set. Not too shabby eh?


jane Says:

Poor Fed – he obviously feels a lot of pressure. Giner, I agree; it was really nice the way Nadal “stood by” Roger in that moment.


ilovetennisverymuch Says:

Vamos Rafa. I am so happy you won. It is worth waking up at 4 am to catch your match from East Coast. I can’t wait to watch RG.


Von Says:

(1) “Congrats to Rafa and all his fans! Wow, he deserved this! I didn’t think he would pull it off, but he’s proven that he really is the present and true world’s best. No question about it. Not only that, but now he’s won on every surface and has more slams than either Federer or Sampras had at this age.”

(2) “Yes, we all are looking forward to see what Rafa can do when he is 27. But the point is, at 22 he has won at three surfaces now, while Federer hasn’t done that.”

Here we go — those stats again! I’m not one for stats and dislike them because I feel: (1) they do not show the whole picture; (2) the athletes and media become obsessed with them with respect to comparisons; and, (3) the athletes’ obsession with the stats is psyschologically disastrous for them.

True, most players, Federer included have not accomplished what Nadal has at the age of 22, but let’s not lose sight of the FACT that Nadal has been on the tour for 9 years, from the age of 14. At that age, most of the other players were still in school pursuing an education, which has helped them to present themselves more intelligently to the public.

Back to the accomplishments — To reiterate, Nadal has been on tour for close to 9 years, he became a pro in 2001, while Fed became a pro in 1998. Thus, we can rightly assume that in tennis years, both players, Nadal and Fed have been playing on the tour for 8 and 11 years respectively.

I’d say Federer has achieved more in the grand scheme of things. He has won 13 Grand Slams and 54 titles as opposed to Nadal’s 6 Grand Slams and 32 titles. Furthermore Fed has held the No. 1 ranking for 237 weeks consecutively. Three (3) tennis years separate these two, which equates to 7 GS titles and 25 titles overall.

Hence, going by the stats, unless Nadal can win every GS title for the next 3 years, and 25 titles overall, and remain No. 1 for 237 weeks, it would be fair to say that Federer is definitely the better player. I personally can’t see Nadal bettering Fed’s record in the next three years because I feel he’s already peaked and he’ll definitely lose speed which is his main weapon, and when that goes, he’ll be another Hewitt, however, only time will tell.

I think it’s a bit premature to say Nadal’s the present and true world’s best, when we have another player holding a better record presently. Nadal winning the AO is not enouigh to make him the world’s best player. If, for thed sake of argument, another player wins the FO, are we then goling to dub him “the present and true world’s best”? If yes, then we’d be saying that each time there’s a new GS winner. I think

NB: I’m neither a Fed nor Nadal fan, hence whatever I’ve written is purely due to my ob servations and comparisons of the stats, and nothing else.


jane Says:

Von,

Perhaps premature. Admittedly, I wrote than in the excitement of the win.

By “present” I meant that as of the end of the AO, Nadal is playing seemingly his best tennis right now; moreover, he’s secured his number one status – so he’s the “true” number one, in the sense that it will take a lot to knock him off that post!!

Because in 08 Fed reached the finals of the next two slams, and won the other one, winning one of these events in 09 will not be enough to recapture number 1 status. Had Fed won the AO, then Nadal’s top ranking would’ve been more precarious. As it stands with this win, he has a far better lead.

He’s also able to win on all surfaces, and in slams at that, which is quite an accomplishment imo! No other player currently playing the game has been able to do that. The last player to do so I believe was Agassi and it took him many years.

As to who is the better overall player between Fed and Rafa, not speaking “present” moment? I cannot make that call. Of course Federer has won more. And many say he has more natural talent as well, which seems true, given that Rafa has been trained by his uncle, switches arms, etc. So it may well follow that Fed is the better overall player. For the most part, I will leave that discussion to people who have more tennis-skill acumen that I do. But regardless of years on the tour, Nadal still may be able to accomplish a lot providing he stays injury-free. Whether or not he’ll ever accomplish what Roger has already remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, Nadal can beat the previous, most-dominant player, possibly ever (?) in slams and on all surfaces, not to mention that he won Olympic gold. So he deserves to be at the top.

Like the rankings, however, that can and will change.

Things happen! Illnesses. Injuries. Upstarts. Nemeses. etc.

Nadal could run into any of these challenges just like Fed did. Maybe there’s a “Nadal” waiting for Nadal right around the corner in the juniors, and just waiting to turn pro.

I don’t go in for GOAT talk, as you know.


jane Says:

The text-wrap on this post by Sean is not working. Can anyone at Tennis-X fix it? At least it’s not working at my end, and all of the other articles seem fine.


Giner Says:

“I think it’s a bit premature to say Nadal’s the present and true world’s best, when we have another player holding a better record presently. Nadal winning the AO is not enouigh to make him the world’s best player. If, for thed sake of argument, another player wins the FO, are we then goling to dub him “the present and true world’s best”? If yes, then we’d be saying that each time there’s a new GS winner. I think”

That’s not how things work. Current ‘best’ means over the past 52 weeks, not best ever. I believe the term they use for that is “greatest”. If the next person wins the French and becomes ranked #1 doing so, then they are the present ‘best’ player. That does not mean they are the most accomplished player.

A more accomplished player (such as Federer) can face some dry years and win nothing for instance. You can’t then still say they are the best player of the moment, because in the past 52 weeks they won nothing.

What Nadal did was cement his position as the world’s best player of the moment (not most accomplished). If you are only considering the entire career and not a 52 week period, then it wouldn’t be fair to younger players, and it would actually favour the retired players who haven’t even picked up a racquet.

Andre Agassi is clearly a ‘better’ player than Nadal by your definition, but he hasn’t played in the past 52 weeks.

“Hence, going by the stats, unless Nadal can win every GS title for the next 3 years, and 25 titles overall, and remain No. 1 for 237 weeks, it would be fair to say that Federer is definitely the better player.”

I really don’t understand where these figures come from. If he won every GS for the next 3 years, he’d be adding 12 to his 6 which brings it to 18. Why does he need 18 of them to be better than Federer who has 13?

And small titles are insignificant. No one measures greatness by them.

“True, most players, Federer included have not accomplished what Nadal has at the age of 22, but let’s not lose sight of the FACT that Nadal has been on the tour for 9 years, from the age of 14. At that age, most of the other players were still in school pursuing an education, which has helped them to present themselves more intelligently to the public. ”

All players are on the tour at 14. They just play juniors instead of turning pro. Those who play on the pro tour (challengers, futures, satellites) don’t normally win any matches until they’re about 16+ (think Donald Young). Their careers don’t take off until around the same time people who turn pro at 16 do. No one wins titles at 14 or 15 even if they were top junior. If Fed went pro at 14 instead of 16, he would not start to win his slams 2 years earlier. Mentally and physically, he wasn’t ready yet. He admits it himself.

“I’d say Federer has achieved more in the grand scheme of things. He has won 13 Grand Slams and 54 titles as opposed to Nadal’s 6 Grand Slams and 32 titles.”

Of course in the ‘grand scheme’ of things he does. But rankings never reflect grand schemes. They reflect a rolling 52 week period and yes they can change every week if things are close.

“I think it’s a bit premature to say Nadal’s the present and true world’s best, when we have another player holding a better record presently.”

The word you should use instead of ‘best’ is accomplished. A guy who has 20 slams could go for 3 years with a 0-60 record and would still be considered the ‘present and true best’ if we were to use your definitions.

“Nadal winning the AO is not enouigh to make him the world’s best player. If, for thed sake of argument, another player wins the FO, are we then goling to dub him “the present and true world’s best”? If yes, then we’d be saying that each time there’s a new GS winner. I think”

If they overtake Nadal in the Entry Rankings, then yes they will be the best, but only until someone else leaps over them too. If they don’t overtake him, then the French Open itself was not enough to outweigh everything else Nadal won during the period.

As it is, he has 3 slam wins, a semi final, a gold medal, and 3 Masters 1000. That’s more than Federer has in the same period, so right now he has been in better form, and the better player over this period.


jane Says:

Giner,

Thanks for saying that so clearly. I like the way you distinguish between “best…of the moment” and “most accomplished,” as there is a difference (your quote is reiterated below).

I said “present and true number 1″ in my post-match comment, and really, I stand by it. Maybe it was hasty, in the flush of victory. However, Nadal is the “present” number 1, and I think he’s also the “true” top player, in the sense that in the past 52 weeks he’s proven that he **deserves** to be there. It’s not a fluke or anything, and it’s not a difference of one title. Rather, it’s years of being at number 2, and slowly bettering Federer where it counts – at the slams – that has earned Rafa that spot.

———————————————-
“What Nadal did was cement his position as the world’s best player of the moment (not most accomplished). If you are only considering the entire career and not a 52 week period, then it wouldn’t be fair to younger players, and it would actually favour the retired players who haven’t even picked up a racquet.”


Giner Says:

I believe it was a miscalculation on Von’s part. She said he’d need to win every GS for the next 3 years to be better than Federer. Rod Laver has only won the calendar Grand Slam twice (1969 was when it was last done), Pete and Roger have never won it at all. If Nadal were to win The Grand Slam 3 times in a row, he would become the undisputed Greatest of all Time.

I believe Von tried to calculate a figure of titles needed to be won so that the present Nadal would catapult over the present Federer without respect to age and time on tour. She probably meant every GS for two years, not three, but that still has implications she hadn’t considered, such as the fact that he would have won every slam on every surface, including the French which Federer does not have, and the fact that only Rod Laver has ever won the Grand Slam in Open Era. This in itself would have huge weighting in the consideration.

Total number of titles is a non-factor in the discussion. Pete had 64 titles, Connors had over 100. McEnroe and Lendl also beat him handily there and these guys played doubles too. Where they fall short is the number of Grand Slam titles.

Years spent at #1 is also in the end secondary to what actually happened during those years. It doesn’t factor in how close or far the players opponents were to the top spot. Maybe you had a lack of quality players and held the ranking easily, or maybe you were cutting it close every week. Rod Laver did not have rankings until he was close to retiring, so that discussion is moot.

It comes down to this: Roger Federer has been the best player of this generation and distinguishes himself the most among all active players today. But at the moment he’s second best.


Von Says:

“I believe it was a miscalculation on Von’s part. She said he’d need to win every GS for the next 3 years to be better than Federer. Rod Laver has only won the calendar Grand Slam twice (1969 was when it was last done), Pete and Roger have never won it at all. If Nadal were to win The Grand Slam 3 times in a row, he would become the undisputed Greatest of all Time.”

Sorry, it wasn’t a miscalculation, but a typo, which I do make a lot of at times. I don’t proof read. To clarify, I meant every GS forthe next two years (this year inclkusive) year 2009 and 2010. Which will amount to 7 more GS titles. Add that to his present six (6) and we arrive at 13 (thirteen) GS equal to Fed.

There’s also the problem of the 237 weeks at No. 1 consecutively stat, which I doubt Nadal will ever achieve, but considering I don’t have a crystal ball, he could just prove me wrong.

Top story: Federer, Nadal And Djokovic Have Finished Ranked In The Top 3 Six Times! [Chart]
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ATP - Dec 15 WTA - Dec 15
1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Roger Federer2 Maria Sharapova
3 Rafael Nadal3 Simona Halep
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6 Andy Murray6 Agnieszka Radwanska
7 Tomas Berdych7 Eugenie Bouchard
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