Nadal, Federer Falter Setting Up ‘Loser Bowl’ Saturday In Abu Dhabi
by Sean Randall | December 30th, 2011, 7:45 pm

Good thing it’s just practice this weekend in Abu Dhabi, otherwise there may be reason to panic for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal fans. Today, the two biggest stars in the tennis sky were each blown out by Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer, respectively.

In the first match of the cash-grab exo, Djokovic rolled over Federer 6-2, 6-1 in just 44 minutes.

“Definitely it was an incredible performance, I am happy with my form at this stage of my preparation,” Djokovic said.

And Roger all but agreed saying, “He played really well, did not do much wrong. He took the lead in both sets and that made it pretty difficult.”

Ferrer enjoyed a similar lopsided win 6-3, 6-2 over his ailing countryman.

So just for fun tomorrow Djokovic and Ferrer will face off in the finals while in the “loser bowl” it’s Federer and Nadal for third place.

About the most important thing to come out of today was that after a night to think about how he (mis)handled his bad shoulder, Nadal didn’t back track or change his tune on the topic.

The shoulder, Nadal told the AP, “felt OK, not perfect”.

“I knew before coming here that I was not ready to win a match against David Ferrer, not to win a match against Djokovic or Federer,” he added. “But I am ready to spend hours on court without risk of injury. That is the most important thing. I need this transition, hours of practice. If I am here, I will probably have a better feeling for Doha.”

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55 Comments for Nadal, Federer Falter Setting Up ‘Loser Bowl’ Saturday In Abu Dhabi

Kimmi Says:

“I knew before coming here that I was not ready to win a match against David Ferrer, not to win a match against Djokovic or Federer,” he added.

So, what happens if he wins against roger tomorrow?

Michael Says:

Nadal was just playing to lose against Ferrer. He chickened out about the prospect of playing Novak in the finals where with this form he would have been delivered a complete thrashing just as Novak did against Federer. That would be demoralizing prospect for Nadal at the beginning of the season and he wanted to avoid it all costs. Well, when Nadal loses there is always the injury card to play out and he has not disappointed once again.

chris ford Says:

Rafa does play mental games from time to time, like those eye-rolling “injury time outs” Uncle Toni has coached him to take to break a rivals momentum….but in general, Raphael Nadal is a true champion and no malingerer. When he loses on injury or illness – he is pretty honest.
I do agree that he probably thought it wasn’t a good idea to get thumped again by Nole right out of the blocks (like Fed did). The reason is Nole is in Rafa’s head, unlike Rogers, and everyone knows what Nole is gunning for – to beat Rafa like a rug all through clay season and finish by winning at Roland Garros.

skeezerweezer Says:

“I knew before coming here that I was not ready to win a match against David Ferrer, not to win a match against Djokovic or Federer,”- Rafael Nadal.

Then why play? Oh wait……$. Obviously not playing for your fans. And another wait…is tennis getting so numb that you just wanna see your fav play, but not have a chance to win? Well….Rafa thinks so. Glad this fan doesn’t layout the hard earned dollar to see THAT.

S Green (i am it) Says:

It may not be quite a full preview of what we will see in 2012 but Djoko played like he is up to the challenge.
Hello to my all long-time T-X friends!!!

Humble Rafa Says:

So, what happens if he wins against roger tomorrow?

Roger is my chump. I am so deep in his head, I can’t even begin to explain.

Nothing happens if I win tomorrow. Give a Spanslish statement like “even though I was injured, I can beat or came close to beating Roger. Prepare some more and prepare for the Aus Open with my doctors.”

Humble Rafa Says:


The thing about exos is every one paying to watch the match knows that the 2 players are not giving 100%. People want to see a competitive match, longer the better. People are paying to see the guys play, not at 100%.

Obviously, Rogers beating today was a thumping. Roger probably didn’t expect it. Roger wasn’t even chasing balls.

I, on the other hand work hard on the court ( i have no choice, that is my game). I didn’t want to give up $$ but what is the other option for the organizers. Bring in the Mr. Lady Forehand, Andy Murray.

Roger, Novak and your Humble Highness are the players the public will pay to watch. Word on the street is that Roger got paid most (something to do with GOAT), I got the next highest one, Novak got the lowest amount (and he played more).

Exos are exos…No one is being conned. People know what they are getting.

van orten Says:

fed is rusty as hell!!!!

van orten Says:

well fed playin really bad hahaha i mean really bad…

van orten Says:


carlo Says:

lol. Humble Rafa

Mr. Lady Forehand is warming up here:

Fedal isn’t too terrible. I was expecting worse from both.

Kimmi Says:

hmmm, federer making one error after another. the FH then the BH.

rafa serving for the match.

jamie Says:

Olderer should retire for his fans.

john Says:

mr jamie mind ur language,roger was just practicing with rafa,fans need roger…seems like u r a roger hater……

i think rafa should retire from tennis once and for all

Kimmi Says:

God, federer looks so bad in this exo. how is he going to turn things around? it is worrying :(

carlo Says:

Ferrer is no match for Djokovic when Djokovic is fit and playing to win.

Djokovic made the same amount of money (over 12 million) in 2011 that Ferrer made his entire career!

Vamos David!

Brando Says:

Good stuff for rafa. Another match practise, thankfully shoulder seems ok and a confidence boosting win. Hope rafa has roger in his half of the AO draw rather than Murray since I have a feeling Murray would a tougher challenge ATM.

Duro Says:

GOLD baby, GOLD!

In No1-vak we trust!

jamie Says:

Federer is done winning slams.

Djokovic era is here to stay.

dave Says:

After mucking around at the 2011 Mubadala Abu Dhabi exhibition… here is how Federer played in the 2011 Doha final against the defending champion on the same plexicushion court surface in the Abu Dhabi exhibition and Australian Open (the night matches at the AO were unseasonably cool). In the semifinal, the defending champion had crushed Nadal in straight sets, to increase his H2H win-loss against Nadal to 6-4.


Full match:

So wake up and smell the roses, for those who think these exos mean anything. Federer does not take exhibitions seriously, it’s only for stress-free practice, to interact with fans and big appearance fees. Every year Federer won the Australian Open (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010), he lost in the exhibition. The two years he won the pre-AO exhibition (AAMI Classic in Kooyong in 2005 and 2009), he lost the Australian Open.

I suspect Federer has a bigger role than just player in this Abu Dhabi exhibition championship. It is co-produced by Federer’s management company IMG, that’s why they have Roger and Rafa (also an IMG client) every year. Given that Dubai is Federer’s training base, it’s likely that Abu Dhabi is the site of this exhibition championship because Federer, behind the scenes, has had a say in planning this event. Federer probably gets a management fee for his input and lending his celebrity to attract sponsorship and fans. Roger is quite happy letting Djokovic, Nadal win these exo matches, so these big stars keep coming back to this event. He’s a good host.

carlo Says:

Djokovic looks perfectly frightening right now.

Kimberly Says:

Dave–I said on the other thread that Fed lost to Soderling for the first time in his career at this event in 2010 and crushed the australian open that year, playing some of the best tennis of his career. We know this. I was more surprised by Rafa who gives every match his all.

Also, on Nadal Djokovic, I believe an exhibition win or loss would have very little impact. He won an exho in Columbia against him last year before Miami and we saw how much impact that had. I refuse to buy that he chickened out and wouldn’t face Novak. Perhaps he sensed he would have to dig deeper than he wanted to to beat Ferrer and wasn’t willing to do so. That is my rationalization. I just have never thought Rafa was scared to face anyone. He showed up at the USO final, knowing who he was playing.

Duro Says:

Oh my….

What a performance by No1-vak.

Absolute brilliance.

GOLD, baby! GOLD we want!

Thanks, champ.

Wog boy Says:

David and Novak, thank you for very competitive match, you earned your money. Good on you.
Happy New Year to all, we finished with it , it is your turn now.

van orten Says:

what i dont understand is how can anyone want fed to retire???? only because ur a nadal fan or new djoker fan …we should be happy they are around!!! that is what matters…how can u be a fed hater…it is ok to be for ur favorite player .
i would be the last to disguise my favoritism and little dislike for nadal for example but i dont want nadal nor djoker to retire only to have an open road for fed!!!
2012 gonna be amazing with the top 3 battling out again !!!!

jamie Says:


Federer lost in the exhibition(against Nadal too) and at the AO in 2011.

That is more relevant.

We are not in 2006 anymore.

jamie Says:

Federer lost to Nadal in the exho and then lost to Djokovic at the AO in 2011.

Again he loses to Nadal in the exho and if history repeats itself, Federer will lose to Djokovic at the AO in 2012. SF or final.

madmax Says:

yeah yeah Jamie. Thanks for the predictions.

Federer will win plenty in 2012.

You heard it here first.

jamie Says:

Looks like Federer has mono again.

He had that same huge boil on the face in early 2008, mono is back.

Humble Rafa Says:

Federer is done winning slams.

No need to state the obvious. Except for the Fed-in-the-Head folks, everyone accepts it as a fact.

jamie Says:


Federer will win plenty of mickey mouse titles but no slams in 2012.

You heard it here first.

dave Says:

jamie: “dave: Federer lost in the exhibition(against Nadal too) and at the AO in 2011. That is more relevant.”

My seer Nostradamus told me to tell you to listen more carefully to Dave.

Dave said on this site multiple times that when Federer wins the exhibition he has lost the AO (2005, 2009)… and that when he has won the AO he lost the exhibition (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010). Federer started playing these exhibitions only since 2004. He did not play in 2008 (withdrew due to illness) and lost in last year’s final. Thus Federer won the AO in four of the five years he lost in the exhibition. Last year he lost, but in the final. As I said, Federer is probably a silent investor/partner or paid adviser/consultant to this Abu Dhabi exhibition… I don’t expect him to try to win this event at the expense of luring the top players back.

dave Says:


Actually Rafa does not always give exhibitions his all — see this clip of Nadal’s first exo against Fed in Korea after 2006 WTF, with Rafa and Roger having a good time.

That was probably the start of their friendship as well. After playing so many exos against Fed, Rafa has learned from Roger to see things more strategically and not kill himself in exos (his 2011 Columbia exo came at the wrong time in his losing streak to Novak). It’s not chickening out to avoid Novak in an exo (it’s not official competition), it’s just smart and strategic.

Unfortunately Novak — who has not had the benefit of playing exos against Roger — was trying so hard to make a point that he is still the force in 2012. It defeats the purpose of an exo for Federer and Nadal. And it’s possible that Ferrer switched off as well, on the advice of Rafa and Rog. If that leaves Djokovic over confident heading into the AO, even better.

Btw, Federer did not lose “to Soderling for the first time in his career at this event in 2010” since exhibitions are not counted as official career results. If you want to count exhibition matches, might as well count practice matches as well. Fed has lost to dozens of many players in practice that he usually beats in official matches.

jane Says:

Congrats to Nole. Nice way to close out one year and begin another. Again I missed all the matches. I guess Rafa was in better form today according to his own comments. That’s cheering for his fans.

Nice to see ya S.Green.

Happy New Year all Tennis-Xers!!

jane Says:

Dave “Unfortunately Novak — who has not had the benefit of playing exos against Roger — was trying so hard to make a point that he is still the force in 2012. It defeats the purpose of an exo for Federer and Nadal. And it’s possible that Ferrer switched off as well, on the advice of Rafa and Rog. If that leaves Djokovic over confident heading into the AO, even better.”

I don’t interpret it quite this way. Nole is playing no other pre-AO events. He typically does not play any “points” events prior to the first slam. He has played KooYong and Hopman in the past, and now here. Therefore, the way I interpret Nole’s approach to this event is that he wanted to put in some good work on court so he could get a good feeling for where his game (and maybe shoulder?) is at. He has stated that this event is “preparation.” And he himself said that in the Monfils match he was “trying out some things.” He has played in his fair share of exos, versus Rafa and Roddick for example, so I am sure he knows what they are about. He is no fool. He has played Fed 24 times and Rafa 29 times so he will know when he is facing their “best” effort and game. I suspect he is savvy enough to know what the exo means in terms of going into the AO and that he won’t go into it “overconfident” based on the results of three exo matches, but hopefuly just “confident” enough.

Skorocel Says:

dave: Did Roger beat Nadal or Djoker in Doha 2011? No. He beat Davy, who, to Roger’s liking, took out Nadal in the semis. Yes, he lost to Davy the year before, so his win in 2011 certainly had some merit, but still, he didn’t have to beat neither Nadal nor the Djoker to win the title. Two guys who have inflicted 27 losses upon the Swiss, and whom he was 2/7 against in 2011, btw. Now he’s lost to both of these guys in Abu Dhabi. Yes, it’s only an exho, but nevertheless, it was not pretty, especially when you look at the score, and also, when you consider how “well” he fared against these 2 in 2011 (and generally).

Jeffrey Says:

Dave, you’re inside knowledge of exo’s and what rafa and roger are thinking is profound. Also, the plan that rafa, roger and david concocted to have Djokovic leave over confident simply brilliant! This way Djokovic will take the $250,000 that they gifted him with and crash at the AO in the 2nd round. Thinking that he’s number one in the world, 4000 points ahead of the 2nd place, who beat the number two 6 times and the 3 four times in 2011 won’t safe him at the AO! I can’t wait to see the look on his face!! Thanks again for you amazing comment!!

Jeffrey Says:

Excuse my spelling and grammar errors in the above comment

Brando Says:

I agree with skorocel to a degree. Even pre exhibition toni nadal even said in the press that he believes roger will struggle with rafa and nole this year. And his record against those 2, like skorocel said, in 2011 was poor for someone of rogers standing. That said, he can still win AO.

courbon Says:

Spot on Wog Boy!
Congrast to Nole and Ferrer!

courbon Says:

Agreeing with Van Orten!If you are real tennis fan then you should be happy to have Fed with Nadal and Nole….and then Del Porto and Murray?Its gonna be a great year!!!!Kets enjoy it;Happy New Yeat to everybody on tennis x….

carlo Says:

Federer did look bad the 1st set but came to life and hit some great shots 2nd set. Nadal looked happy, played well, didn’t serve great but it was overall enough – nice, friendly session.

Still, Nadal, given his performance would have been as blown out by Djokovic as Federer was. Then tongues would be wagging about that! ha! Nadal dodged a bullet.

Skorocel Says:

dave: “Unfortunately Novak — who has not had the benefit of playing exos against Roger — was trying so hard to make a point that he is still the force in 2012.”

Why he would do that? Both Nadal and Federer (not to mention the rest) know VERY WELL that he’s right up there with them in these days, if not better. I would say that 1-10 in 2011 speaks for itself, LOL :-)

I am really surprised how quickly can one write off a guy who, in these past 12 months, had one of the best seasons ever in the game of tennis… It sounds to me like, yeah, he’s had his fair share of success, but now he’ll start to slide. Isn’t that the truth, dave? Anyway, keep on believing (and dreaming) in your wishful thinkings, because come the AO, you’ll probably be in for a rude awakening…

sheila Says:

federer loses & its because hes just not as good a player as djokovic or nadal. nadal loses its because hes never 100%. federer has gotten absolutely no credit for year end win. most write ups i read stated djokovic exhausted & nadal injured. i just read an article where nadal claims the media always says hes injury prone where nadal disclaimed this. uno, i dont no what the hell is going on, but i am tired of nadal always getting recognition from the media when he loses its because hes injured, its never because he was outplayed, whereas federer, its because hes always outplayed. i so hope 2012 has murray, tsonga, delpo & if not federer, someone else winning majors. nadal & djokovic r the golden boys w/media until they start losing then they will be in the same boat as federer now is w/media.

jamie Says:

Sheila wrote:

“i so hope 2012 has murray, tsonga, delpo & if not federer winning majors.”


Sheila is going to be disappointed in 2012 if she expects this. LOL.

Not on this planet where Djokovic is the best player by far. He will win at least 2 slams in 2012.

grendel Says:

chrisJ – good link. Considering Ferrer is a man in form, Djokovic looked pretty devastating. Who cares whether it’s an exho or not?

It goes like this: because it’s an exho, not too much, if any, importance will be attached to the title. That is as it should be. But this must not be confused with the fact that tennis was played between two stars of the game. And one of them gave a walloping to the other. That counts somewhat – we know, now, that Djokovic is in decent nic, and quite frankly we didn’t know that before. So this is significant NEWS.

A Djokovic who is in good nic now, very good nic in fact, is automatic favourite for the AO. Simple as that. That’s not the same as saying he is going to win. We don’t know actually who is going to win, do we?

jane Says:

shiela, I think that is the first time I have ever heard that Nole is some sort of golden boy in the media. :) But I am not sure if that is true. From what I have read, most pundits and writers have been saying that Nole will falter this year, and some have predicted a return to number one, or at least a slam victory, for Federer. Why, jst this morning I read something doubting Nole’s durability for the new season. So I don’t know if Nole or even Rafa are golden boys in the media. It depends on the day probably. The media is swaying in the wind of flying tennis balls.

steve-o Says:

Expected result. Federer’s game is much more complex and high-risk than Djokovic/Nadal’s. If he is not making the right decisions and putting the ball exactly in the right spot, he can look pretty ragged. Especially against players like Djokovic/Nadal who are so consistent.

Chances are that the rust from the long layoff affects him more than it would either Djokovic or Nadal. Once he gets more matches under his belt he should be playing better.

We see that Nadal’s “injury” was more of the customary BS. He was crushing the ball today. I expect him to have yet more “injury” issues at Doha, only to make a miraculous recovery for AO.

The top three will all be in good form at AO.

grendel Says:

That’s a very valid point, steve-o. Nevertheless, at this point in time, Djokovic is the best player in the world – so if he is on, he is likely to win imo.

Michael Says:

It was an awful sight to see the Grand slam champions playing against each other vying for the third place in an exhibition tournament. Yet, a Federer-Nadal contest always extracts much interest and enthusiasm from the Global Tennis world. Federer looked completely out of sorts in his first match against Djokovic and things were no different when he played Nadal. He just couldn’t produce his ‘A’ game and made far too many unforced errors. The one weakeness I can see in Federer’s game is his return of serve which is pretty ordinary when compared to the likes of Novak who is at menacing best. Again, Federer lost to Nadal in straight sets and although it is just an exhibition, I think a win is a win whatever one might say.

margot Says:

I checked that photo of Fed and, at the very least, that boil is an indication of being run down, which would explain poor play/lethargy etc. Haven’t Rafa and Andy picked up viruses at this time of the year previously too? Hope it doesn’t indicate a return of mono.

alison hodge Says:

margot dont know about andy,but rafa had a virus at doha this time last year.
jane i agree i dont think its personal,roger,rafa,nole have all had there share of flack from the media,its pretty typical of what they are about,build someone up,only to knock them down,they seem notorious for it.

Dory Says:

DjokerNole is back and I am elated about it!!!!!!

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