Federer Gets Another Crack at Nalbandian Today in Paris
by Sean Randall | November 1st, 2007, 1:46 pm

First, I have to give full credit to Roger Federer for playing in Paris when he really doesn’t need to be there. Federer has already wrapped up the year-end number one ranking, and he is playing his third tournament in as many weeks, a scheduling rarity for Fed. ADHEREL

Yesterday, Ivo Karlovic gave Fed all he could handle and more, but the Swiss proved too resilient breaking the improving Dr. Ivo three times. The win sets up today’s tasty meeting with David Nalbandian in a rematch of the Argy’s win over Fed two weeks ago in a stunning Madrid final. Already this year Fed has lost to an Argentine in consecutive meetings, that being Guillermo Canas. Fed will not want to have that happen again.

But this match is tricky. As was the case in Madrid, Nalbandian will have nothing to lose. The court also appears to be slower, which should help David who looked pretty good in two wins over Nicholas Almagro and Carlos Moya. Plus, the fact Fed’s played his last two matches against Ivo isn’t going to prepare him much for playing a guy like Nalbandian.

Fed also has to be weary of over extending himself physically. He’s played a lot of tennis in the last two-plus weeks and again, Paris offers him little in the way true motivation, though I don’t think Fed has ever won a title in the City of Lights, has he?

All that said, regardless of the situation I don’t think Fed wants to lose to a guy that’s already beaten him seven times including in their last meeting. So I will take Roger to get revenge and get through.

As for the rest of Paris, nice to see Novak Djokovic show up. Or whatever it was he did. I understand he was recovering from oral surgery on his wisdom teeth, but if you’re not at all hundred percent but rather 30% as Novak suggested why bother even playing.

Said Novak: “This was my last tournament before Shanghai, but I couldn’t give my 100 percent, not even 30 percent of my possibilities … He deserved to win. I’m still on medications.”

Novak, you say you were not even at 30% but Fabrice deserved to win? Obviously you are on meds. Enjoy ‘em, Novak. Santoro was also ailing with a bad knee.

Defending champ Nikolay Davydenko is again under fire for lack of effort. A week after getting fined in St. Pete for poor effort, Davydenko was booed off court this morning for his play in a 62, 62 loss to Marcos Baghdatis. Denko finished with 36 errors and 10 doubles.

”Serve like me,” chair ump Cedric Mourier reportedly advised Davydenko during the match. ”If you serve like me, you put it in the box. That’s it.”

Not to all players: It’s never a good sign when the chair ump is giving you serving advice. (Side note, isn’t on-court coaching illegal?)

Meanwhile, Rafael is showing up, and the Spaniard looks good thus far in wins over Volandri and today Wawrinka. I think the court and conditions suit him, too. But let’s see just how hard he pushes himself in the latter stages of this event with his ever-fragile body so my gut tells me he won’t reach the final.

The year-end race for that last spot remains rather interesting. I still like Richard Gasquet to get that last spot. Gasquet earlier sent home James Blake, who’ll drop from a 2006 year-end rank of No. 4 last year to outside the Top 10 after today.

I think Gasquet beats Murray Friday and then does in Federer/Ferrer/Nalbandian on Saturday. The two Tommy’s, Haas and Robredo, are still in the mix and ahead – I think – of Gasquet, but Haas will have to get past Youzhny – a shaky prop – and then Nadal, while I don’t think Robredo will be able to beat Baghdatis, so my pick remains Mr. Gasquet.

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50 Comments for Federer Gets Another Crack at Nalbandian Today in Paris

Stevie Says:

Nalbandian Go, Go, Go!

jane Says:

I think Roger will win this one. I also think Rafa looks great so far.

Still, I think the most exciting match here is Murray V. Gasquet. It’s a tough call: for the year, Murray has two more return points than Gasquet; Gasquet has two more service points; both have 53 points YTD. Pretty darn equally matched, these two, although Gasquet won their only previous meeting on hard in Canada in ’06.

Both have an obviously significant desire to make it to Shanghai, as well, Murray having said this is his year end goal, and Gasquet having home expectations to take this title (or go deeper in the tourney at the least) and ride the success all the way to China.

Any predictions on the match? I know Sean picks Gasquet, but I am inclined, if ever so slightly, to pick Murray – except for the fact of the recent car-crash, which, you never know, may have done something to his back? Anyhow, I hope it’s a battle, with all of the finesse of which I think these two are capable.

Side topic: any thoughts on the ATP “feel it” campaign? Anyone in Paris to see the stuff?

Sean Randall Says:

“Nalbandian Go, Go, Go!” as Steve wrote is correct. Federer loses his fourth straight set to David. Again, going in just bout everything was against Fed – fatigue, court surface, the match up, etc – except the revenge factor, and that’s why I though Fed would win.

Against another opponent – like a Karlovic – a loss like that wouldn’t be a great concern. But Nalbandian is a different player, and one that can pose a threat to Fed in Slam play. That’s why I thought it was important for Fed to win this match and keep Nalby from gaining extra confidence against the Fed.

I guess we have to add Nalbandian to the growing list of players who can give Fed trouble – Nadal, Djokovic, Safin and Canas. A year ago it was just Nadal and maybe Safin. Nalbandian, like a Hewitt, use to be on that list.

jane Says:

Oops – may have jinxed Fed. My predictions are notoriously wrong.

Being facitious of course: Nalbandian won fair and square. He’s a great player when he’s on: too bad he blew his match point against Ferrer at the USO, as who knows what would have happened there if he hadn’t.

But, in addition to Sean’s list of “troublers,” I wonder why Roger’s on/off nemises seem to be from the Spanish-speaking contingent: Rafa, Lopez (although he’s not beaten Roger, he gives him trouble at times: must be the lefty serve?), Canas (perhaps fluky wins those, and Roger has shown him who’s boss recently), and Nalbandian. Admittedly Lopez and Canas aren’t too much trouble, but they’ve pushed and/or beaten Roger more than once this year, so worth including in the “spanish-speaking” list, IMO. Just a weird linguistic consistency in those. Maybe the all have something in common in terms of their playing styles or fortitude?

Anyhow… I am sure Murray will lose to Gasquet now. Hope not.

dodobird Says:

Lol! Federer is Nalbandian’s BYTCH. Sean boy’s gonna go cry himself to sleep now.

sensationalsafin Says:

i dont get it. i missed the match but how did federer lose this one? idk if canas REALLY belongs on the list. but nalbandian, nadal, and djokovic are definetly gonna give federer problems holding onto his number 1 spot next year. this is why ive been saying federer has been slipping. its the way he plays against these 3 that bothers me. when he used to be owned by players like hewitt a lot of time he would just go out and get hammered. that seems to be the case now. when he loses, he plays like the truly inferior player. but this is roger federer, hes inferior to no one. why even include maybe safin on the list? cmon. cmon. another reason i wish safin couldve lived up to his potential. i think federer and safin wouldve had a great rivalry cuz imo when they play they tend to bring out the best in each other. brilliance just oozes from both sides. against nadal federer shanks half his shots. against nalbandian federer runs from side to side like a bitch. and against djokovic he does a mixture of both.

Daniel Howard Says:

Seems like perhaps Martina Hingis hit the “Crack” pipe

fanfan Says:

If the ATP is fining people for phoning it in, i’d be worried if I was Tennis X. You guys been phoning in for a while now. How often do guys update now? every 3-4 days? every week? when you have nothing better to do?

johnnhoj Says:

Federer put his foot on the gas for a brief moment near the end but then took it off. It’s those matches that can be so damn frustrating to watch. Nalbandian has come back in a major way! Original nemesis, indeed. They’re 8-8 now, if I’m not mistaken. David, stay away from the profiteroles.

johnnhoj Says:

It’s always the two-handers that give Federer trouble (except Roddick), whether it’s two-handed forehand or backhand, or both. With the exception of an early Hewitt, they’re usually Argentines or Spaniards, as Jane mentioned. I’m reluctant to include Safin because of lack of consistency – his only significant push against Fed being the ’05 AO semis (’02 Moscow ain’t much). One-handers are few and far between as of late (Murray & Co.).

johnnhoj Says:

Wait, isn’t Murray a two-hander as well? I’m forgetting. Yes, two-handed backhand. Toss him in, why not.

johnnhoj Says:

…although it’s hard to include Murray as a threat considering Fed’s seemigly uninspired performance at ’06 Cincy.

zola Says:

so it ws not Karlovic, it was Nalbandian….Vamos!

Yesterday Fed said he did not want to play Nalby in early rounds, becaue he would shank the ball and won’t play good. well, it was good enough to beat him! congratulations to Nalby and his supporters.

but to be fair to Fed, I knew he would not reach the final, just because he has been playing non-stop for the third week. Even an immortal like Fed needs some rest!

It was a great match, phenomenal play from both. I appreciete Fed fighting to the last minute.But Nalby was simply better.

so Canas and Nalby , two argentines, beat Fed. 2 a piece. oe at the begining of the season, one at the end!

张爱罗 Says:

Can’t believe how excited some people can get when someone happens to steal a match from The Mighty Fed…

Remember how Canas fared the third time he ran into the Fed?

Now I wish Nalbandian could make it to the Masters’ Cup in Shanghai–that would give Roger a chance to set matters straight.

sensationalsafin Says:

i think at the end federer is still better than all of his greatest threats. with the exception of nadal, federer has dismantled everyone on the list atleast once. he dropped just 3 games to canas in their latest meeting. when federer first beat nalbandian he also only dropped 3 games. and last year in madrid, during the time in which (imo) federer was at the very height of his peak, he crushed nalbandian 0 and 4. against djokovic he’s had very convincing wins, although it’s easy to argue that wasn’t the same djokovic. even against nadal federer has torn him to bits in several sets, not so much overall matches though. federer’s definetly not been playing his best lately plus he’s gotta be exhausted at this point. nalbandian pretty much had a whole week to rest and go into paris ready for battle. his mental edge definetly strengthens when he’s won 2 straight set matches against good opponents while federer struggled against karlovic, an opponent against which it’s hard to find much rhythm. someone said it before and i disagreed but maybe after shanghai federer needs to take a relaxing vacation and come back next year in top gear to show all his so called rivals who the king is.

grendel Says:

Don’t agree at all with the comparisons being made of Cannas and Nalbandian, vis-a-vis Federer. Nor is it of the slightest relevance that Fed has in the past dismantled Nalbandian. Nalbandian, like Safin, is a two or even three headed creature.

The facts are clear: when Nalbandian is on song, Federer finds him very difficult, if not impossible, to deal with. This has been the case for a number of years now, and cannot just be ascribed to Federer being tired (although I think that was a factor last night – his serve was poor, for example). Consider the Roland Garros last year in the semi – Nalbandian was clearly the stronger player until forced to retire. It is fascinating to imagine what might have happened if he hadn’t been. Most likely Nalbandian would have made it to the final, and he certainly would have had a better chance against Nadal than Fed.

Yesterday, for the second time in a couple of weeks, Nalbandian didn’t just beat Federer but clearly outplayed him. I kept looking for the real Fed to turn up, it was frustrating to see him reduced in this way. But you had to admit, it was the craft of Nalbandian which was responsible. Federer fought like hell, what a gutsy player he is – he is not given sufficient credit for this – and he very nearly got back. But – candidly – justice was done, and Nalbandian won in two.

What we we need to see now is Nalbandian holding his form when it matters, and not running off to dream land (although to be fair to him, he has had more than his fair share of injuries). Federer against Nalbandian in a grand slam – the real Nalbandian, not the one dreaming of fishing, motor racing or whatever, and one also who is fit.

Not only would that be something to savour, but it might settle one or two things. Who is the more talented: Federer or Nalbandian? Owing to Federer’s strength of mind, and Nalbandian’s inconsistency, we don’t really know the answer to this one. 2008 may settle a number of things to do with Fed’s reputation. Without any doubt, it is going to be his absolute crunch year.

sensationalsafin Says:

wow. this has become a question of talent now? really? which one’s more talented? nalbandian or federer? r u really comparing 12 slams to none in terms of talent? really, thats all that needs to be said here. this is even worse than comparing safin’s talent to federer’s. atleast safin has produced some inspiring grand slam results. nalbandian has made 1 final and a few semis and ur telling me he might be more talented than federer? he’s outplayed him in 2 matches and he’s more talented. is nadal really more talented than federer? what about djokovic? canas? murray? theres a reason federer is believed by many to be the most talented player ever. it most certainly will be a crunch year next year. and federer will need to bring back his A game on a consistent basis in order to hold onto his number 1 ranking. but to question his talent, thats just outrageous. ive been pretty critical of federer’s poor play pretty much all year, but i wouldnt even dream of questioning his talent. he’s invented shots, perfected shots, his 41 match win streak came during the height of his peak where no one was all that close to touching him, except for roddick strangely enough. nalbandian might have the game to beat federer, just like nadal does and hewitt once did, but when federer’s playing like TMF, like the 12 time slam champion that he is, like the most dominant player to ever play a sport, he is the best. the very best. theres no getting around that. considering the amount of players who beat him this year, i think that proves to many doubters that federer’s dominance isnt the result of a weak era. his peak was just too much for everyone to handle and now hes becoming more beatable. but if nalbandian and federer play next year, regardless of surface, during which both players are playing very well, nalbandian making all his semis and federer winning all the tournys, federer will win, theres no doubt in my mind.

Skorocel Says:

Agree with sensationalsafin… Comparing Nalbandian’s talent to that of Federer is almost laughable! Don’t get me wrong – The Argentine is without any doubt one of the most gifted players in today’s tennis (if not the 2nd most gifted player), but better than Roger? Come on!

sensationalsafin Says:

exactly. im not trying to take away nalbandian’s talents by any means. his game is so fluid and technique is near flawless that i even enjoy watching him play, even when hes pummeling federer atleast hes doing it with style. but yeah, u just cant compare their talent level.

Sean Randall Says:

Sensationalsafin, I keep Canas on that list because in a best-of-five, non-grass match I think he can give Federer a lot of problems. Two wins over Rog at IW and Miami are no fluke. On a fast court I don’t think Canas is much of a threat to Roger.

And yes, I would also agree these recent losses to Nalbandian offers more proof that we’ve seen the best of Fed. Maybe next year Roger runs the table, wins all four Majors and dominates like he did a few years ago, but recent results suggest otherwise.

In fact, if Rafael wins out, wins Paris and Shanghai it could be a dead heat entering the Australian Open for the No. 1 Ranking. (Note: I haven’t done all the calculations, just a quick eyeball speculation).

Back to Nalbandian, sure the guy’s given Fed trouble, but Fed had won four straight over David and eight of their last nine meetings until these last two matches. Fed had David all but in his back pocket, had his foot on David’s throat until that second set in Madrid when whatever happened, happened, and now Nalbandian’s another guy Fed needs to be wary of at Slams. That is, at least for the time being.

Too bad for David, though, his recent run comes at a tough time in the calendar. The guy gets hot just as the season ends. After Paris he’ll have a couple months to sit around on the couch, maybe get fatter and perhaps forget just how good he can be or was. Or maybe he’ll train and get focused back into tennis. It’s anyone’s guess as to what he’ll do. So we’ll see just how interested he is in returning to the top at the Australian Open.

As for the talent level, David’s among the Top 5 and a great ball striker, but he’s not at Fed’s level, or even a guy like Gasquet in my mind.

grendel Says:

First of all, Nalbandian has outplayed Federer in a great deal more than two matches. And what is particularly notable about Nalbandian’s record against Federer is that his successes are spread over a number of years. Federer has ALWAYS found Nalbandian (when he is on his A game) an extremely difficult proposition. And he always will. It was interesting watching Ferrer against Nalbandian today. Ferrer was constantly aggressive in his defensive play, and troubled Nalbandian much more than did Federer – who was oddly passive in defence.

This business of “talent”. I knew that would raise some hackles, but that is based upon a misunderstanding. As a Fed fan, I am mightily pleased he has won 12 GS, and I hope he goes on to beat Sampras. But this kind of extraordinary consistency is not just about talent, but about a burning will to win. Underneath that apparently placid exterior there lurks a truly ruthless competitor. These are the great ones, the ones who achieve. (Usually, they are rather obnoxious, and it is surprising that two such ferocious beasts as Federer and Nadal appear to be so mild and agreeable off court). A player can have all the talent in the world, but if he lacks that animal like competitive instinct, his success will be at best sporadic. I don’t see Gasquet winning many grand slams despite his extraordinary gifts – certainly superior to those of Nadal, for instance (let us be uncontroversial for a minute).

Everybody knows that Fed, at his best, is a unique player. It is rare that such an iron will should be matched to such gifts. And of course he has a genius for utterly startling improvisation denied to a great player like Nalbandian. Nevertheless, when you watch the two play together, (and it is truly amazing the way Federer brings out the very best in Nalbandian, something psychologically interesting is going on here), and I have watched them many times, I’m not just talking about the last two weeks, you would be hard put to say that Federer is the more talented player.

It is an odd thing, which puzzles me, at any rate. I don’t think it is easy to come to definite conclusion.

grendel Says:

It is simply clumsy to say that Fed had “David all but in his back pocket, had his foot on David’s throat until that second set in Madrid when whatever happened, happened”(Sean). To begin with, despite the score line, Nalbandian was very much in that first set, and he built upon it. It didn’t just come out of nowhere. And then there was RG semi final- nalbandian was on top, before injury intervened. Then again, there are at least 3 Nalbandians; it was always likely that the best Nalbandian would sooner or later emerge against federer, and so it has turned out.

Jonny Morts Says:

Given Nalbandian crushed Nadal 2 weeks ago and will beat Ferrer for a semi berth here in Paris, I would say there is a very very serious chance he has returned to the elite group he was in 18 months ago. 22 months ago at the Oz Open he ran into Mr Baghdatis having the tournament of his life,(any one of you who saw that tournament – wow!- so many guys playing at the top of their game in the second week, so many really tight matches – Kiefer, Haas – I digress -) in the semi final and was edged in an epic. I firmly believe he would have had a very very good chance with his then recent Masters triumph of beating Fed had they met in the final. Conjecture of course but Baggy was a phenomenom that week who eventually ran out of gas. My point is had such an anomaly not occurred and had Nalbandian not been injured in the French open semi against Federer it is realistic to assume he could have beaten Nadal to take that Slam as well (as my theoretical Oz Open win) and in doing so had the number one ranking last Summer. I think he will be a double Slam winner in 2008 and when you’ve made your cash backing that remember who saw it in his crystal ball! PS. It isn’t the US. That’s a Scot. And Fed? Yep. Wins one. Two finals for Nadal. Two losses. Fed tussles throughout the year with Bandy for number one on basis he wins more masters titles.

jane Says:

I’d put the Scot in contention for a slam, but Nalbandian for two? Hmmm…I think Djoker has to be considered a contender, in there with Murray, Rafa, Roger and Nalbandian. And there are certainly others…

Anyhow, the Scot, sadly, will be resting now, though he fought the Frenchman well. And Gonzo (who had the worst year for awhile there!) is going to China.

So who gets the final remaining spot: Baggy or Gasquet?

Well, providing Gasquet gets knocked out by the clearly-on-form Nalbandian, it’ll be, surprise, Baggy! I didn’t expect him to be in contention for some reason, but the way the cards are playing out, it looks like a distinct possibility.

sensationalsafin Says:

wow. those are some serious claims. 2 slams for nalbandian? in one year? no way. no f*cking way in hell. he’s good and all, but nalbandian is no champion and i doubt he ever will be. as soon as federer outplays nalbandian in a future encounter to show him whos boss, nalbandian will again fade away into the 20s and 30s. and theres no questioning that federer’s dominance is the in addition to his unbelievable desire to be the greatest. something interesting psychologically is definetly going down, and its crazy to see, but theres no way nalbandian is more talented. just because nalbandian is able to trouble him over so many years does not mean hes suddenly more talented. theyr 8-8 in H2H right? so that says theyre tied. so how do we break this tie before they play each other again? lets look at their results against all other players. federer wins pretty easily. and i mean all others, not just against nadal which i no someone will come out and say how nalbandian crushed nadal while federer loses to him more often than not.

grendel Says:

As a matter of fact, I never said Nalbandian is more talented than Federer, nor do I personally think he is (for what it’s worth). I did point to a strange puzzle, even a kind of anomaly. But Fed winning more against other players settles nothing in this regard. It will just tell us what we already know about the staying powers of the 2 players.

Meanwhile, Fed against Nalbandian in a grand slam final next year – wow, a prospect to curl you up in delight. My heart would be with Fed. But my head? Let’s just say I’d be one palpitating bag of nerves….

Trouble is, Nalbandian will probably be on walkabout for next 6 months…

naresh Says:

hey this paris masters is really getting very interesting. fed’s out of the way.. nadal was very convincing beating youzhny and david clearly lifted his game in the last set against ferrer. yeah ofcourse there’s baghdatis & gasquet in the picture too..but talented as these guys r, it’ll take another season b4 these guys can be rightup there with the bestest of the best ! for me it clearly looks like a nalbandian- nadal final, and paris has definitely been the most interesting masters series tournament this year. me says, nalbandian in 2 sets !

Mike Says:

After Nalbandian beat Federer in the ’05 Masters Cup final, I really thought that ’06 would be his year to win a slam (at last!). Instead, he lost that close Rome SF as well as 3 other matches to Fed, as well as staying in the Top 10. If it weren’t for more injuries, I wonder how this year would have been for him. Part of me thinks that he’ll feel inspired for ’08 (regardless of what happens today/tomorrow in Paris), while part of me feels that ’08 will be someone else’s hot year to surge in Australia, only to (again) lose to Federer in the final. I’d love to see Nalbandian win a slam instead of being considered one of the best to never win a slam (let alone making only one final) – as great as his ’05 Masters Cup title is, I’d hate it if that were his top title.

Still, that ’05 final was amazing, not only did it muck up Federer’s year-end stats, but Nalbandian just steam-rolled in the 3rd/4th sets after losing the first two tie-breaks. Come to think of it, it’s very reminiscent of Agassi-Blake (although that match’s third set was closer), in terms of a 5-set match comeback that had the 5th set going well for both players until the very end.

BTW is there anywhere online with interviews of Nalbandian/Federer after their two recent matches? I’d love to read what those guys have said recently…

Sean Randall Says:

Grendel, “clumsy”, nah. Again, Fed had won 8 of his last 9 against Nalbandian, the only loss being the TMC collapse. The “Nalby Threat” was all but eradicated, at least off clay. That’s not the case anymore.

I ask you when the Slam draws were released this past year were you, as a Fed supportor, concerned if Nalbandian had showed up in his section? I know I wasn’t. Even at the French.

As for Nalbandian winning Slams, I’d like to believe it, but I don’t even see him reaching a final. I guess I just don’t buy he can sustain this new level of play for a long period of time.

As I said before, having the season end just as he gets hot could be a momentum killer. We’ll see.

Naresh, if Baghdatis beats Nadal, which he could, I think Gasquet will then beat Nalbandian. If Nadal wins Gasquet secures that final Shanghai spot, thus reducing Gasquet’s motivation in beating Nalbandian. But as I wrote, my gut tells me Rafa won’t reach the final so I’ll take Richard to beat Marcos in the final!

SG Says:

does anyone know if the court speed and bounce were similar in Madrid and at this BNP tournament?

Tom Says:

Vamos!!! Nadal defies the odds placed against him by Sean Randall and beats Baghdatis in a close 3 setter. With the 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win he’ll play the winner of D.Nalbandian and R.Gasquet in the final.

sensationalsafin Says:

as much as i wanted baghdatis to win WOW what a match. one of their best encounters so far, magnificent tennis from both sides. and i gotta admit nadal thoroughly deserved this win cuz baghdatis pushed as hard as he could and nadal produced. if nalbandian beats gasquet itll definetly be an interesting final between nadal and nalbandian. nadal is a revenge freak similar to federer, but this is a new case considering nalbandian smashed nadal in madrid. should be interesting. i agree with sean about the nalbandian threat. especially considering nalbandian lost early in all his tournaments, even if he hadnt i felt that federer wouldve taken him out if they were to meet. nalbandian’s resurgence is interesting because he is beating federer like he’s someone he’s supposed to beat. and where the hell are the interviews???? i wanna know what federer said!!

jane Says:

I agree with you sensationalsafin; what a match. nadal and baggy really fought it out until the last point. And Rafa deserved to win as he was just that bit better when it mattered.

I think nalbandian is simply not afraid of federer: he goes on the court knowing he can beat him. You hit the nail on the head when you say “he is beating federer like he is someone he is supposed to beat”. PRECISELY!

To me it’s partly a mental thing: rafa has always played federer believing he can beat him, and so he does beat him sometimes because of it. in montreal djokovic had the attitude that federer wins too many and it’s time for someone else to win, and guess what, he did. At the USO final, he didn’t believe as much and imo you could tell in the pre-match interviews; what happened? Djok choked.

This is not to undermine the brilliance of federer or the talent of the opponents I’ve mentioned, nor to overlook the conditions, circumstances or level of play of each particular match, but…

Players have to believe against Federer, and if they don’t, well, to quote Tony Soprano: “forget about it”.

grendel Says:

You just don’t listen, Sean. You made a mistake in an earlier blog when you said Fed ran away with the first set. He didn’t. It is quite often the case that a 6 – 1, or a 6 -2 set can be closely contested, and it was so on this occasion. Nalbandian – contrary to what you said – was very much in the game, and it was no surprise at all that he came back so strongly. This mistake you repeated here. Again, you do not do justice to the fact, pointed out not just by me, that Nalbandian was on top against Fed at RG semi-final before having to quit through injury. (The phrase, “at least off clay” is peculiar; clay is as significant as any other surface). And yet again, you do not address the fact that Nalbandian is notoriously inconsistent insofar as this impacts on his h2h with Fed. So it is indeed – to put it kindly – deeply clumsy to state that Fed had Nalbie in his pocket. It was ALWAYS absolutely obvious that when Nalbandian brought his A game to the court he’d be, to say the least, one helluva handful for Federer. What we can rationally say is this: the fate of the Federer/ Nalbandian encounters has lain in the hands of Nalbandian rather than Federer. If Nalbandian is off, Fed will beat him. But if Nalbandian is on, he is entitled to be considered slight favourite – and I said as much BEFORE the Paris match. The other stuff you say about Nalbandian – about his being unlikely to sustain his new level of play – is pointless, because it is (unfortunately) probably true. We all know that and say that. Even so, he will from time to time wax hot, and should he encounter Federer on one of those occasions, Federer will have to be absolutely at the top of his game to win, and even then he’s not a cert.

SG – all the commentators I have heard say Paris is EXTREMELY slow this year.

sensationalsafin Says:

grendel, what about the TMC final? wasnt federer injured and playing some of his worst tennis? after that i always said that it took a hot nalbandian to barely beat a cold federer. the last 2 matches refute that statement. and i completely agree with u that nalbandian was in the madrid match the whole time, even in the first set. the difference was that federer played better on the big points. then the opposite happened in the next 2 sets. nalbandian said both times that when he plays federer he has nothing to lose, could that be the main factor in the last 2 matches? we’ve talked about talent, psychology, and whatever else we could think of, but what about motivation? and not just from nalbandian to show the whole world he’s still an elite player, but from federer. the whole year he has shown very little motivation in all his matches outside of the slams. he produced poor results in the early half of the year becuz his mind was already in paris. against djokovic in montreal from the minute the match started i felt like federer wasnt really into it and it was as close as it was becuz djokovic had butterflies in his stomach. he really does seem to be taking sampras’s route at this point. the only problem is djokovic, nadal, and now maybe nalbandian are all very capable at winning all the tournaments federer spaces out at which means federer will still have to do more than just win the grand slams. with all the speculation, and as much doubt as i have about federer, i still think he’s more than capable of defending his grand slam points, meaning he’ll win 3 and make it to the final of the french if not win that too. and im not gonna lie i think its pretty ridiculous that federer had to win basel to secure his number 1 ranking. he won 3 grand slams and made the final of the other and thats not enough? almost as f*cked up as davenport being number 1 without a single slam to her name. i still havent seen their paris match but some ppl said that federer stepped it up a few times during the match then went down to give it to nalbandian. we said how federer’s pure desire to win is a huge reason he’s been so great and maybe thats gone down a bit this year. he’s won so many titles, broken so many records, and yet he knows that ppl still doubt him becuz he hasnt won the french. plus there r the olympics too. so maybe its nalbandian’s motivation that’s been beating federer’s motivation in these matches. just a thought, feel free to disagree.

Sean Randall Says:

I missed the match (both matches for that matter), but sounds like Marcos really took it Rafa. It’s good to see as I think Marcos matches up well with Nadal. And credit to Rafa, has the guy ever lost a match in Paris?? So I’ll lean slightly in his favor to beat David tomorrow. I didn’t think Rafa would get to the final, but now that’s he’s there (when was the last time someone other than Fed beat Rafa in a final) and with a possible shot at No. 1 after the Australian Open, I think he’ll win.

Grendel, for me it’s a numbers game. Without nitpicking, set-by-set, game-by-game, I saw Fed having won 8 of his last 9 against Nalbandian entering that Madrid final. Winning 8 of 9 in a span over a guy is bordering on “he’s my bitch” territory.

And, yes, I do remember that French SF. Nalbandian was steamrolling Fed before getting injured (an ab injury I think it was) and retiring. Had Nalbandian been 100% healthy throughout the match he certainly had an excellent shot to win, and I thought at the time he was on track to do just that. Of course David’s been known to have problems closing out big matches so who knows.

As for a 6-1 set scoreline, sure it can be misleading as far as the level play and maybe competitiveness, but at the end of the day it was a 6-1 set. If it that set was really that much closer then the score would have been much closer.

That said, what should I have written since you say he didn’t run away with it? Fed struggled to win that set 6-1? Fed nearly lost that opening set but somehow managed to scrape out a 6-1 win? Nalbandian was the better player of the two, but lost the opener 6-1?

In fact Grendel, find me a description of that first set in the media that does it proper justice in your mind. If I made such a mistake in calling it a “run away” I’m sure it won’t take you long to find one.

Now if you want to make the case that David played really well, showed some good signs in that first set, and based on his play you could tell he was primed for a second set resurgence, that’s fine. I’ll listen. But I’m really not going to over analyze every 6-1 set Fed wins or Nalbandian loses.

And if Fed’s on and Nalbandian’s on, Fed wins.

Tom Says:

This guy’s got a point, Nadal’s only lost 5 finals, all to Federer except when Hrbaty beat him in the 2004 Auckland final.
I’d like to see Nadal win, but no one can stop Nalbandian.

sensationalsafin Says:

nalbandian didnt start losing when he retired. that doesnt even make sense. federer turned that match around after he hit that one sick shot and nalbandian got scared. federer then broke back, took the second set. so it was 1-1 in sets. and nalbandian was still playing. then it was 5-2 federer in the third set when nalbandian finally retired. obviously he was having problems, but considering how much pros play no one is ever truly 100%. so federer was about to be up 2 sets to 1 and going on a lot of momentum when nalbandian retired. how does that mean nalbandian was the better player? someone please explain this to me without saying nalbandian suddenly got hurt and started losing.

grendel Says:

“And if Fed’s on and Nalbandian’s on, Fed wins. ” (Sean). That’s just it, I’m not sure. Say Fed played lights out as against Roddick in AO semi – surely that’s too much for Nalbandian? Trouble is, the analogy doesn’t really work. Roddick simply doesn’t begin to have the game to unsettle an “on” Federer (otherwise, he can be dangerous). Roddick’s somewhat naive power game plays right into the hands of a flowing Federer. In Paris, I kept looking aghast at Fed’s stroke play, either disturbingly passive or reckless. There has been some debate as to whether he was really on in that tournament, but he seemed to me to be playing pretty well, even if not at his best, especially of course against Cannas. But all this just disappeared against Nalbandian. The only just conclusion a rational observer could draw was that Nalbandian did not allow Federer to play well.

Still, with a player as great as Federer, the jury must be out. That is why one hopes and prays that Nalbandian’s resurgence is not just a temporary affair – maybe his apparently excellent new coach will have a say in this. In this event, and hopefully in a grand slam, an “on” Fed will meet an “on” Nalbandian. That should answer a lot of questions.

Sensational Safin – you may be right about the RG match. My memory, which may be faulty, is that Nalbandian looked the stronger player that day, and that it was indeed injury that did him. And talking of injury – was Fed so injured in TMC? He beat Nalbandian in round robin, and double bagelled Gaudio – no sign of injury there. You mean it just came on in the final? It wasn’t obvious. What was obvious is that Nalbandian was playing much better than in round robin and, as so often, had Federer looking really, really puzzled – including in the first two sets which he somehow won. Of course, Fed wasn’t at his best, but I don’t think it is right to say he was ” playing some of his worst tennis”.

grendel Says:

“I’m not sure I played a player as good as he is,” Gasquet said. “Even when I played (Roger) Federer six times I never felt that way.”

That’s Gasquet on Nalbandian, following his recent demolition. It’s some tribute, for those who doubt Nalbandian’s credentials to be up among the very, very best.

Skorocel Says:

As for that 1st set of the Madrid final, well – Nalby was CERTAINLY in it! If I remember it correctly, at 3-1 (Fed serving), Fed faced a BP, hit an ace, but Nalby immediately asked for a challenge – which for some unknown reason wasn’t available, and thus the point belonged to Fed (he won that game in the end, of course). My question is: How on earth can such thing happen in 21st century? Ridiculous! Not only it takes an eternity to appear on the TV screen, but I just can’t understand why on earth they don’t show it at least for the TV spectators (in case no one from the players asks for it)?!

P.S. I agree with Sean. “On” Fed vs “On” Nalby = Fed wins

Joanne Says:

Am I the only person who felt that Roger was playing very poorly?His shot selection and strategy seemed odd.On and off he seems to have lost some confidence this year.Or perhaps feels a lot of pressure due to his status beginning to weigh him down.I was shocked to see him play like that.I hope its a temporary blip before, like people on this board,the media starts saying strange things like Nalbandian is more talented than Federer.

FloridaMan Says:

I think Nalbandian is an awesome player. But the reason he hasn’t won a slam is because his game is too fatiguing to last a full 2 weeks, and he is not nearly as physically strong to combat that kind of exhausting game. If he did convert those match points against Roddick at the 2003 US Open semi, then he, not Roddick, would have won that tournament. But again, I just think he has too exhausting of a game that he ends up being more tired as he gets to the business end of a Slam.

FloridaMan Says:

I want to correct what I said above. I mean Nalbandian is not nearly as strong as NADAL to be able to go through 2 full weeks of a Slam with a game that expends so much energy.

naresh Says:

hey sean, i told ya, gasqeut and marcos r dam good players, and they will be right up there sooner or later, but not right now. its a nadal nalbandian final, and if we have to go by what gasquet said in his post match interview-

“I’m not sure I played a player as good as he(Nalbandian) is,” Gasquet said. “Even when I played (Roger) Federer six times I never felt that way.”

nalby’s taking this one in straight sets !

naresh Says:

hey joan i agree with u that rogers not playing at his A level. he made a lot more unforced errors in paris, although i do believe that he was “blown off” court in madrid , by david. i’m really starting to think that Roger, more than anything else is trying to keep himself injury free and not pushing himself like the rest r doing, which is why we’re not seeing his A game anyomre. and to give credit to him, he’s still winning more than anyone else, but the down side is that when guys like nalbandian and djokovic and nadal are playing their A game, the he gets beat ! i really think roger should be hitting the gym a little more and gaining some muscle..the madrid match with david was a real eye opener..when they showed the top angle view of the match, rogers ground strokes looked like it was coming off in “slow motion” !! at this rate he’ll never win at roland garros !

grendel Says:

sorry – just for record, in 8.26 post, meant Madrid, not Paris.

Tom Says:

Omg, Nalbandian is too good, 6-4, 6-0, it hurts!
Wins the last 9 games in a row against Nadal from 3-4 in the first set. He should so be going to Shanghai, he’s in 9th spot now in the race, so hopefully davydenko or roddick might pull out and let nalbandian in.

ross Says:

Nalbandian just stem rolled Nadal 6-4 6-0.

Just like Fed has peaked (though his peak was so high, that it will take another year for him to climb down) – Nadal has also peaked, having never reached No. 1. Nadal will not be undefeated on clay in 2008 (he lost one in 2007 to Fed, this year he’ll lose more).

Ellen Mooring Says:

It will be a good day when Federer is no longer in the top spot. He, unlike other boys who may be doing wrong, has made it evident and brazenly so for all the whole world to see. Jesus will bring him down.

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