Nothing brings out the tennis freaks and fans like Roger Federer v. Rafael Nadal battles. And rightfully so.
Now 24 hours after Federer’s remarkable win over Rafa in Madrid, the tennis world remains abuzz with talk of the Resurrection of Roger, the end of Nadal and everything in between. Hyperbole aside, at least people are talking about tennis again.
A few things to put the result into perspective…
First, Fed’s win really doesn’t change much for me going into the French Open. Nadal is still the heavy, heavy favorite. If you are a Rafa fan, there’s no need to panic. Not right now.
Going into Sunday I had Novak Djokovic the #2 guy behind Rafa with Fed #3. Now Fed moves up right alongside Novak and depending on the draw may even overtake him as the second favorite. The two are pretty even at this point so you can easily make a case for Novak as the second pick. If the two were to play tomorrow I’d probably take Federer, but it’s close. (The draw I believe will be available Friday so we’ll know in which half Djokovic ends up in, the Nadal or Federer by the end of the week. My money is on the Nadal half!)
And if you want to make the case that the clay and playing conditions in Madrid are nothing like those in Paris, I’ll buy that. And the players seem to agree with that, especially Rafa who didn’t sound pleased with the event as a whole.
But regardless, what the win does do is give Federer hope. False hope? Maybe. But hope where arguably there was none against Nadal, especially on clay. Federer had dropped five straight to Rafa, many in absolute devastating fashion and one a complete destruction job in his last clay meeting with the Spaniard, that of course the 2008 French Open final.
So this victory will help Federer vanquish some of those demons and it will get his head straight and boost his confidence which has to be in orbit today. I say time and time again, tennis is such a mental sport and right now mentally Federer has to be feeling the best he’s felt since last September.
For Nadal, lots of chatter of how much that 4-hour, 2-minute saga on Saturday vs, Djokovic took out of him, and it’s hard to say. I’m sure it did drain him either physically, emotionally and/or mentally, but was it the real reason Federer won? I’m not ready to say that with any certainty. I think it’s fair to make that argument that he was tired, but for me I didn’t quite see it that way.
No doubt, we’ve all seen Rafa play better than what we saw from him yesterday when he looked sluggish, error-prone and listless. Honestly, he looked a lot like the Rafa I watched in Indian Wells and Miami. That is a guy who was making a lot of uncharacteristic errors. So was he tired then, too? I don’t know.
What I do know is that Federer came out with a gameplan and executed it to perfection. He knocked Rafa right in the teeth from the get go by playing aggressive on his forehands, flying around his backhand, going for returns and even mixing in some netplay with timely dropshots and volleys. And Federer’s tactics got Rafa on his heals right away and out of his comfort zone. There’s no denying, the strategy worked.
I talk a lot Federer needing a coach and had he hired one last week, all the credit would have gone straight to that guy. Just think of the heading, “New Coach Helps Federer Solve Rafa Riddle”, etc.
But credit again to Federer, he came up with the plan and he carried it out. Question becomes, can he do it again in about three weeks in a best-of-five on a slower, heavier clay surface and win again? It’s a longshot that remains to be seen. But at least now we have something to look forward to should the top two players
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