Federer vs. Nadal XXI
by Ben Pronin | May 15th, 2010, 10:03 pm

Exactly one year has passed since Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal last played each other on the tennis court. The last time it took them this long to meet was between their first and second encounters. ADHEREL

Their second encounter, a long 5-setter in which Federer was two points from defeat and came back from a two-set deficit, was the beginning of an incredible journey the tennis world would soon embark on. It would be fun to speculate that this match will the start of another 20 amazing encounters between the two, but I have my doubts.

Last year, when the two met here, Nadal was on an incredible five match winning streak that included French Open, Wimbledon, and Australian Open titles over the Swiss maestro. There was literally no indication that Federer could snap that streak. Not on clay, not in Spain, not with the way Federer had been playing up till that point. But the alleged GOAT pulled of a 6-4 6-4 victory over the then-number one.

This year, things are fairly similar but also very different. Nadal hasn’t won a slam in over a year and just reclaimed his number two ranking. But he has been playing some of his best tennis and has only dropped two sets throughout the three Masters events on clay. Federer, on the other hand, played brilliant tennis to win the Australian Open, only dropping two sets, but has been losing left and right to anyone who isn’t scared to beat him.

The surface is quick and the altitude makes the ball fly and Nadal has managed to throw that into just about every presser that involves Madrid. But clay is still clay, and Nadal is still the clay king. And even though Federer won here last year, Nadal has to be the favorite tomorrow.

What intrigues me most about this match is that, for the first time ever in their rivalry, it will be a match up of French Open champions. There’s no way of knowing how much that’ll affect either players’ mentality (Federer’s more than Nadal’s), but it’s an interesting tidbit. Also, should Federer win this match, it’ll arguably be the most important win he’s ever gotten over Nadal. There will be no asterisks or excuses tomorrow, Nadal is healthy, rested, hungry, and playing well.

If Nadal wins, he’ll break the Masters record and also be the first player to ever win all three Masters on clay in one year. Plus, it’ll inch him closer to Federer’s number one ranking. And should he beat Federer, it’ll reaffirm the passing of the baton that started back in 2008.

All in all, the tennis world is just bursting out of their seats for this match (imagine if we waited until they met in a slam). I hope to see a good tight match, preferably three sets. Again, Nadal is the favorite, but it’s not secret who I’ll be rooting for: tennis!

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17 Comments for Federer vs. Nadal XXI

dangerouspaul Says:

incredible match up for tomorrow you just don’t know who is goin to win…the rest is pure optimism to disguise one’s insecurity how things may turn out 2morrow

dangerouspaul Says:

all of the predictions are just pure optimism to disguise one’s insecurity of how things may turn out 2morrow..
i get it

Andrew Miller Says:

No predictions from me! Enjoy it now, we may not get it at Roland Garros ;)

jane Says:

I think everyone wants to see a good competitive final, whether fans of Fed, Nadal, both or neither. That’s the main thing.

evie Says:

Everyone thought Rafa was healthy in Madrid last year. We didn’t find out until more than a month afterwards that he had knee issues. Same with Fed at AO when he had undisclosed mono.

No one knows what any player has going on. But if they are on court, they are ready to play and there are no asterisks attached to the W.

Regardless of who wins, it’s going to be a fun final. Can’t wait!

David Says:


I’m pretty sure that fans of Federer want him to win as convincingly as possible. In fact, I’m sure their favorite score would be 6-0, 6-0. I know as a Rafa fan I’m hoping for him to play the match of his life and win easily.

I think only those rare tennis fans who truly have no preference between the two really want a super competitive match.

jane Says:

That may be true David. I’d prefer to see a competitive final. The most exciting Fed vs. Rafa matches, imo, have gone the distance.

David Says:

As far as the tennis itself, one thing that stood out in Fed’s match against Ferrer was that he “got away” with hitting a lot of slice. I think one of the reasons Rafa has such a good h2h against Roger is that he doesn’t let him hang around in rallies with the slice. He punishes even a decent slice almost immediately, so that will be interesting to see tomorrow. Rafa also needs to serve better. He admitted his serve was not good against Almagro.

As far as keys for Fed, obviously serving as well as he did against Ferrer will be key. I think he’s got to hit his topspin backhand better than he did in the semis to win. And choose good times to use the dropshot and execute it well.

Ezorra Says:

Both players have a shot to win the title today. No favourite as both are the favourites to win it. It’s 50/50 and it’s not a shock if any of the player win the title. Nadal is the King of Clay but Federer won it last year. I said this before and I say it again, I have no idea nor prediction who will win Madrid.

That said, I believe Nadal will win FO this year. Vamos Rafa!

zola Says:

hi everyone

You forgot one minor detail;

Last year Rafa had played a 4-hour match with Djokovic the day before.The match took its toll on both Djoko and Rafa.

It is completely true that the high altitude in Madrid has no benefit in terms of preparation for RG. Madrid is Tiriac’s adventure in Trumpland. Rafa plays only because it is his home tournament and because it is obligatory. I hope he can win the match tomorrow and then quit participating in Madrid from next year.

Ezorra Says:

zola, miss you so much! I hope you’ll stay!

madmax Says:

Nice article Ben –

“And should he beat Federer, it’ll reaffirm the passing of the baton that started back in 2008”.

How so?

Both players have been either No.1 or No.2 and headed a duopoly at the top of tennis for years.

There are no asterisks in this match. Just two great champions of our era. If Rafa wins, he is already the king of clay, so the baton never left him on this type of court.

Talking of batons, look how the baton has changed between rafa, novak and andy. Andy no. 2 for the first time last year, then back to novak, now novak to rafa.

Roger has always been much more consistent at the top. And should the “baton” pass to Rafa today for this title, then i couldnt think of anyone more worthy to receive it.

But not so quick!

Federer is pumped Ben. That Adrenalin must be on fire.

If federer wins, he defends his title at madrid and this puts him in a very good position confidence wise, heading into RG.

C’moon Federer!

nadline Says:

Of course I hope Rafa wins, but I am not making any predictions.

Apart from regaining the No2 ranking, Rafa now has very few points to defend until late summer/ autumn which will make him more relaxed, but today, I’m sure he’ll want to complete the trio of the claycourt season this year.


jane Says:

Hi zola, nice to see you!!

Nathanael Says:

Rafa will do well no doubt but roger wont give him an easy ride. At the end who ever win we will stand for the champion. But am gunning fo Rafa. I wll do that anyday oon clay.

sheila Says:

just read the results that federer, once again, lost 2 nadal. i dont get it. federer has such a variety of shots and yet seems so intimidated by nadal. nothing against nadal, as he is an incredible player, but federer to me, has so much more variety. it seems federer never attacks nadals 2nd serve which is pretty weak and never seems to take advantage of break opportunities. federer said, going into final @ madrid, that if he loses it is no big deal. i don’t buy that. it is a big deal because, once again, critics of federer will say, he cant beat nadal so how can he be the greatest player. first of all, i personally dont think there is a goat player because there r so many great players. 2nd- federer has still won 16 slams nadal has 10 2go, which is possible, depending on his physical health. obviously im a federer fan, but have so much respect for nadal, but i can just c all the nadal fans criticizing federer once again 4 losing 2 nadal. i don’t get y federer is riding on so much confidence after winning ao. his play dipped so poorly after a great start 2 the season. you think @ this point, federer would be playing more freely because he has nothing more to prove. anyway, i hope roger can @ least hold on to the #1 ranking 2 surpass sampras. @ least that b4 nadal takes it back.

zola Says:

Ezorra, Jane,

Thanks a lot for the welcome. Nice to see you guys too.

Jane, sorry about Djoko’s breathing problems. I hope he gets 100% for RG. It is tough to struggle with health issues. But it is good that it can be healed by medication and not surgery.

Congratulations to all the Rafa fans. Rafa won the Madrid masters. It is historical achievement for him as he surpasses Agassi with 18 master titles and becomes the first player to win all clay masters in one season.

sorry about Federer’s loss. More than Fed’s play, it is the fact that Rafa moves very well on clay. See, he figured out the drop shots towards the end. I think Murray has talked about the fact that hey all slide on one foot but Rafa can slide on both. So he can put himself in position for most of the shots. It is also the matter of “match up”s . Fed’s game matches up really well with Rafas.

Nothing can take away 16 GS championships. This loss does not make Federer lesser of a champion. If I was a Fed fan, I would have been very happy to see him in the final of a master series after those shocking early round losses. I think he will peak towards RG and Wimbledon.

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