Well, that was over quick. I thought going in Rafael Nadal would beat Roger Federer in straight sets today in the Rome Tennis Masters final. I just didn’t think he’d do it that easily. After Federer’s service hold to open the match, it was all Nadal, all the time. The Spaniard absolutely rolled Roger winning 6-1, 6-3, an it wasn’t even that close.
Where to begin?
Federer came out in that first service game in attack mode, charging the net and going after Nadal. It worked! This court looked fast, the sun was out, things seemed promising for a memorable finish to our French Open lead-up.
And then Rafa got going.
We see Rafa moving Roger side to side. We see Federer trying to defend the heavy top to his backhand, often unsuccessfully. We see the Federer errors begin to pile up. We see Rafa hitting winners off the forehand. We see Roger hitting into the net or into the crowd. We see Rafa hitting his backhand now with confidence. We hear the crowd whistling. We see scoreline and like that it’s 6-1 Rafa. We see Roger get the racquet knocked out of his hand. We see Rafa biting another trophy in the springtime.
Does that about cover it?
All credit to Nadal. Coming off what he said was the best match of his comeback yesterday, he did even better today. The guy is the King of Clay and he’s peaking at just the right now.
Having won six titles in eight events, Rafa now enters the French Open with more titles on a season then he’s ever gone into Paris with. And as if he needed it, his confidence has to be sky high.
“If you told me four or five months ago that after eight tournaments I would have won six titles from eight finals, I would say ‘you are crazy’,” Nadal said. “To win three [ATP World Tour] Master 1000 and two [ATP World Tour] 500 tournaments is more than I ever dreamed.
“All I can say is ‘thank you for the support and to my team’. Thanks to them I have the chance to be here again and compete. I don’t want to think about Roland Garros yet. Let me enjoy this victory.”
As for Federer, at least he got to a final and put together some decent play. But today was a dismal performance, one of the worst I’ve ever seen from him, and a stark reminder that Father Time always wins. Rafa was playing well, but Roger was just missing easy shots time after time. And unfortunately at age 31, we are likely to see more of these kind of outings.
“It didn’t go how I hoped and I was missing too many easy forehands and crucial points,” Federer said. “He does an incredible job returning form the back of the court and it is hard because he covers the court so well. You need to serve accurately. When Rafa is at his best he creates opportunities in rallies and dictates. It was difficult to change.
“I am playing well and I am healthy, so I have everything to play for next week. This week was good to get an idea about what is working.”
Rafa’s title earns him the No. 4 seeding at the French Open, so guys like Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are breathing easier knowing they won’t have to face Nadal now until the semifinals. (For their sake I hope Novak and Murray didn’t see the match!)
The win also increases Rafa’s series lead over Federer to 20-10 and 13-2 on clay. And the two matches this year haven’t been pretty for Roger who’s won just 10 games in four sets.
And like I said, today wasn’t even as close as the score indicated. Nadal won nine straight to lead 6-1, 3-0. Then led 6-1, 5-1 before Federer broke to salvage some pride.
Rafa now has 56 career titles, 41 on clay. He also extends his all-time Masters titles lead to 24. And he’ll go into the French Open seeking an 8th title as once again the overwhelming favorite.
It’s a new year but really, little changes in May.
It was billed as Federer-Nadal XXX and for just about every Federer fan that match turned out to be XXX-Rated. But one of the great gifts Federer has is the uncanny ability to move on from tough losses. If you are a Federer fan give it your best effort to do that same.
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