If it wasn’t for a second set lapse, you could make the case that Roger Federer thoroughly whipped Rafael Nadal. But the final score of 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in favor of Federer isn’t the main story. What matters is the end result and that was a convincing win for Federer over his nemesis Nadal in the title match of the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Federer clearly built off his aggressive play from his win yesterday over Novak Djokvoic. The Swiss came out in the first set in an attacking mindset and it showed as Federer was cracking his serve and smacking forehands and backhands like we haven’t seen from him in years against Rafa.
As I commented during the match, Federer made Nadal look ordinary during the first set ambush.
Rafa, though, wasn’t ready to concede.
Nadal would promptly bounce back in the second and grab a break advantage as Federer seemingly took his foot off the gas. Points started going longer, Nadal began finding the range and Federer’s flighty first set form was suddenly grounded.
As the second set closed the momentum and advantage was decidedly Nadal’s.
But in the third Federer went back to the gameplan he began with: attack, attack and attack some more. It wasn’t vintage in the final set but effective. Federer made sublime use of his cross-court angle backhand and was virtually untouched on his first serve – he won 37 of 40 first serve points for the match.
Federer broke a fading Nadal not once but twice in a runaway third set.
Break chances had always been a bugaboo (to steal P-Mac’s word) for Federer in the past against Rafa. Today, Federer was a perfect 3-for-3 on break points.
Nadal still leads the rivalry 14-8 but Federer has the 5-4 edge on hardcourts now and leads 3-0 indoors.
For Federer, collecting his fifth year-end title, 66th overall, is the perfect finish to the season. And his wins this week over rivals Andy Murray, Djokovic and now Nadal will set him up nicely for another Australian Open run. And it will give him some much-needed confidence the next time he meets Nadal. Under new coach Paul Annacone, Federer ends the season winning 21 of his last 23 matches and he had multiple matchpoints in both losses (Djokovic – US Open, Monfils – Paris).
For Nadal and his fans, no need to panic. A year ago Rafa left with a big fat goose egg both in match wins and in set wins. This time around he beats four very tough indoor foes and took a set off Federer. And today’s performance came on the heels of a 3-plus hour affair with Murray yesterday. Nadal might not cop to it, but I do think fatigue played a role.
The surface and conditions favored Federer but Nadal still was able to make a strong impression. It seems that each passing year Nadal is getting stronger on his weakest surface, and I wonder how long before he begins to dominate under the roof?
Still, what a way to finish the 2010 tournament season. Can’t wait for 2011!
ROGER FEDERER QUOTES:
“I always believed in a plan from start to finish. Like at the first match I came out and played against [David] Ferrer, I think I always stayed true to how I wanted to play. It was the same thing today. Even though I lost the second set, I’m really happy the way I stayed positive throughout the match today. I thought it was clearly a very high level. I don’t know if I could have played any better, so I’m really pleased.
“It was interesting the way he played. But I stayed offensive. I knew in the long run that could be vital, which it was at the end, so I’m very happy.”
“I always knew it was going to be an interesting match [today]. I think we obviously have a huge amount of respect for each other. I admire his game. Today was another great match, I thought, with some fantastic rallies. I know it doesn’t take anything away from his great season, because it was magnificent.”
RAFAEL NADAL QUOTES:
“He played unbelievable. He was unplayable I think in this first set. I just can congratulate him for his victory and another great tournament for him. He played unbelievable during all the week without losing a set, being in the final. So his level was very high. I tried my best this afternoon, but he was better than me.”
“I feel I lost the match because I played against a very good Roger Federer on one of his favourite surfaces. When he’s playing like this, [it] is very difficult to stop him.”
“I think [it] was a very emotional season. I am very happy for everything and just [want to] say thank you very much [to] all the people that supported me when I had the difficult moments [and] when I was winning.”
“When I start the season, everything starts. I don’t think [about] if I have to defend 100,000 points or if I have to defend 1,000 points. In Australia or in Doha when I start the season, I [will] have zero points.
“[My] first goal is qualification for London next year, and after we will see. I [am] going to work to be ready and competitive to try to be in the top positions and to compete to keep winning titles.
“The goal is the same: try to play well; try to compete against everybody and try to be in the final rounds.”
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