Federer said, Rafa’s and my claycourt seasons are decided at the French Open, and not before. It’s unfortunately – or fortunately – like that. If we win all the tournaments like Rafa now and then go out in the first round of the French, everything will be questioned. It’s just how it is, so we’ll see what happens in three weeks.”
Nadal said, “Well, that’s a respectable opinion that I don’t share. And not because I have won the three [Masters] leading up to it, which some might think, but because I think it is unfair to think the whole clay season is decided by one tournament.”
So both players are protecting their own “ground” to say. Federer, as we know, is focused on capturing Grand Slam titles and he’s saying four Majors are the tournaments that matter. (Of course Federer did lose match!) For Nadal, the spring clay season is his season and he says even the Madrid title is important, and I believe him.
And you can make the case for either argument here.
Ten years from now few will remember many of Rafa’s non-Slam titles but they will remember his Majors.
That said, having positive results in the lead-up tournaments often do provide a springboard for achieving greater results at the Slams. Just ask Federer who said his Madrid title last year gave him that spark to go on and win the French and Wimbledon titles. Fed acknowledges as much.
So it’s a little hypocritical of him to now suggest these titles don’t mean that much. In the big, historic picture they probably do not, but in the here and now and for confidence proposes they remain relevant.
Nadal’s win also moved him ahead of Andre Agassi for most career Tennis Masters titles at 18. I’m sure Roger wouldn’t mind having that record in his possession, but he doesn’t and based on his attitude he probably never will.
As for the match, the only surprise was seeing how poorly both Rafa and Roger played. They did raise their level toward the end of the affair but early on it was some of the most sloppy tennis I’ve ever seen the two play in their rivalry.
Federer’s been off his game all spring and Nadal hasn’t looked all that comfortable in quick conditions in Madrid so maybe I should have seen an error-filled match coming.
To his credit, Federer did have a real shot at winning the match but again couldn’t covert the big points.
Anyway, even though he doesn’t think so, the title for Nadal reaffirmed that he’s the overwhelming man to beat. Sorry Rafa, you are. He ready, he’s rested and he’s healthy. And I wouldn’t read into his sub-standard play too much due to the altitude and surface (he still won!).
Nadal has now won 14 of 21 meetings against Federer and 10 of 12 on clay.
For Roger it was a big, confidence enriching week. No shame in losing to Nadal, but by reaching the final with convincing wins over Stan Wawrinka, Ernests Gulbis and David Ferrer, Federer puts himself right back among the contenders at the French Open and it virtually renders (in his mind at least) those shock losses in Estoril and Rome as almost throwaways. I think it’s safe to say that he’s got his locker room swagger back, and just in time. Although one of these days he’s going to get beat early at a Slam. It’s coming.
Federer’s loss yesterday also puts the No. 1 ranking on the line at the French Open. Nadal and Djokovic will have the chance to disrupt Roger’s reign at No. 1 and block his attempt to pass Pete Sampras in total weeks at No. 1 next month.
The French Open draw will be out Friday I believe. The seedings are done and fortunately for the Top 8 players with all the withdrawals – Del Potro, Haas, Davydenko, Stepanek(?) – No. 27 Ernests Gulbis will move up into the Top 24 seeds. That means he’ll avoid a Top 8 seed in the third round. I think. Let’s hope there are no more withdrawals.
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