7-2 in slams. I think 9-3 in best of 5. But yeah. Fed's last victory in a best-of-5 match was Wimbledon 2007. That's 5 years ago. He's 30 now and he has NO chance.
From the Nadal-Berdych thread:
With his history of choking to Nadal? And serving under 60%? No way.
You've become MTF's genuine Nostradamus, Sophocles.
Bottom line, I think either Mr. Federer will take this in 3 or 4 sets, or Mr. Nadal will squeeze out a 5 set win.
Please read on if you can excuse my long post and have time and interest
I have usually pretty much agreed with Sophocles analyses, but I sometimes disagree with his conclusions (as he may with mine
) First, I think "choking" term can be very subjective. One person's choking can be another person's lapse in concentration, or the other player simply playing better when they were behind. But regardless, even if one accepts the "choking" term as representative of the times he lost when he was well ahead and victory looked almost certain, it obviously doesn't mean a person always does lose in those situations. Most simply tend to remember those situations where one lost more. We tend not to count nor recall the times he was leading and still won, or even leading, challenged, and still won. Recall that Mr. Federer still has an almost unbelievable record when he gets 2 sets ahead in 5 set matches. We recall last year's "failures" to Mr. Tsonga and Mr. Djokovic because they were recent and spectacular (Wimbledon and the US Open), but prior to that, how many of those "failures" were there out of how many chances?
Also, first server percentage is only one statistic.
I believe it to be risky to draw conclusions on a single statistic. It seems to me that recently, his streak has consisted of matches where he served very well and matches where he served ok, but nothing special. But he always seemed to have something that has carried him to a win. Maybe in some games where his service was not completely on (as in his last two matches at 58% and 57%, he has had a relatively high winners to unforced errors ratio, or has been able to raise other parts of his game and service when he needed them. In some matches where his groundstrokes were not as consistent, he has relied on his serve to carry the day on key points.
To sum up, I don't think anyone can deny that overall, he has been playing well to continue his streak since losing at the US Open.
At times during the streak he has played games, sets, and more infrequently, matches where he looked virtually unbeatable. At other times he simply played well enough to beat the opponent he was facing that day. And that is really all one needs to do.
Can Mr. Nadal beat Mr. Federer on Thursday? Certainly, and the reverse is also true. It boils down as to who will depend on who has the best form that day. How can we predict who will have it? There can be many factors. I try to look as as many as I can that I believe to be the most relevant.
First, I will evaluate things at the tournament level.
Australian Open Overall Historical Record.
This is arguably Mr. Nadal's worst major in terms of overall high results, where he has 1 win and has had 1 other semi-final appearance out of 7 total appearances (Thursday will make 2 SF of 8). Mr. Federer has won 4, 1 Final, 3 semifinals in his last 8 out of a total of 12 appearances (Thur. makes it 4 SF out of 13). I give the overall historical record to Mr. Federer by a good margin.
Australian Open Recent Historical Record
If we define the recent historical record as 1 year ago, Mr. Federer made it to the semi-finals, Mr. Nadal to the QF. A slight edge for Mr. Federer. If I included more than 1 year in recent, it favors Mr. Federer even more.
Then I look at current form in terms of match win/loss percentage since the previous major (granted, my definition, but I think it to be arguably the most relevant). Here, Mr. Federer has an advantage based on his 24 match streak since the US Open. Mr. Nadal has had good form since Davis Cup. One can say they have both had excellent form in 2012. I give Mr. Federer the edge for this factor.
Overall Head-to-Head - Head-to-Head/Surface - Recent Head-to-Head
As I've mentioned in other articles, Head-to-Head stats can be quite misleading. You can't beat someone who doesn't go deep enough in a tournament to meet you. In my book, if you beat the player that beat the other guy, it's as if you beat them. That said, this statistic still has some worth in judging psychological advantage, especially if there is a great disparity. There is a relatively large overall disparity in favor of Mr. Nadal, but I believe it to be more dependent on the court surface, in this case clay where there is a great disparity. On other surfaces, it is not so much. Hard court (outdoors) only appears to be significant, but this is due to Mr. Nadal failing to go deep into many hard court tournaments. Hard court indoors is clearly Mr. Federer's domain. So out of all this, I would grant that Mr. Federer is at a psychological disadvantage on clay. On other outdoor surfaces, no, I would say about even dependent on the court speed (slowest, higher bouncing courts favor Mr. Nadal). Indoors, Mr. Nadal is at a disadvantage. Most recently, Mr. Federer totally dominated Mr. Nadal in the WTF round robin match. I don't think he is going to be at a psychological disadvantage just because they are outdoors at the Australian Open. I think for both Mr. Federer and Mr. Nadal, psychological factors come into play depending on how each match goes. If Mr. Nadal can stay close and feel like he has a chance, I think he feels he has a good chance to wear Mr. Federer down in the end. I'm not sure if the reverse is also true. On the other hand, if Mr. Federer goes into his "very high level that only he can reach" as Mr. Nadal put it, especially in the early sets, I think Mr. Nadal will be demoralized and Mr. Federer will be extremely energized and can only lose if he suddenly loses concentration or interest.
Tournament Match toughness, vs. Match difficulty in winning
This is a key factor in a major and can be difficult to balance. One needs to play tough enough matches to harden one to a potentially tough match later, but does not want to play too many difficult matches, especially in succession. As this tournament has developed, I would say that initially, Mr. Federer had too easy a path due to a withdrawal and rather easy opponents. But this turned out ok, since he was still able to beat more difficult players afterwards (Karlovic, Del Potro). Mr. Nadal also had a lack of real match toughness, until Mr. Berdych (arguably Feliciano Lopez, but Karlovic was a more dangerous opponent in my opinion, despite a worse ranking). The advantage goes to Mr. Federer here, as his wins over Karlovic and Del Potro were tough opponents, but he still got through them with relative ease. Mr. Nadal did not have an easy time with Mr. Berdych. Still, Mr. Nadal has in the past shown almost superhuman recuperative powers, so perhaps this will be a wash.
Individual key statistics
It starts with the serve and return of serve
Mr. Federer clearly has a better serve than Mr. Nadal. However, he must take advantage of it, especially during key points. He doesn't have to have a tremendous 1st serve percentage, though obviously 65% or over would help ease his path. If his serve is able to get him out of trouble when he needs it (love -30, 15-40 down, break points), and occasionally give him easy games (love and 15), then that is all he needs even if the overall percentage is between 55% and 60%. I think he is in definite trouble if he is much lower than that (anywhere around 50% or lower).
Mr. Nadal on the other hand, must return well to have a good chance. His own serve is subject to attack, especially the 2nd serve, which is why he frequently lowers the speed of his first serve so he will get a high percentage of them in.
Strategy and length of rallies
Mr. Federer should keep a majority of rallies under 7 strokes or so by playing attacking tennis as much as possible. He needs to return Mr. Nadal's shots while he is as far into the court as possible, with good positioning, anticipation, hitting the ball on the rise, before it can topspin bounce above his shoulders. One advantage here is that even though the balls and court are generally playing slow, the heavier balls seem to be producing a lower bounce, which will help Mr. Federer. Mr. Nadal on the other hand, needs to use his speed and tenaciousness to lengthen the points as much as possible, in hopes of producing unforced errors from Mr. Federer, and try to push him back from the baseline as much as possible. Mr. Nadal was unable to do this in their most recent match at the WTF, because Mr. Federer was able to keep his attack constant with varied shots and angles, causing Mr. Nadal into hitting shorter and less effective returns.
I don't think factors like weather will play into it. They both prefer the heat. But Thursday it will be cooler than it has been, a comfortable 25 C. (77 F.). If they play at night, and it gets real cool (below 17 C), then Mr. Federer's back may be a concern. The heat may be a factor on Friday during the other half's SF as the heat index is supposed to be about 35 C. (95 F.). Sunday's Final forecast is 34 C.
Mr. Nadal's strength of mind is probably the best of any of the top players.
Mr. Federer's ability to go into his highest level unplayable mode is feared by every player.
Age- Physical & Mental Stamina - Health
Even though Mr. Federer is 30, he is clearly still competitive with the best. Don't let someone use the age factor, just because he is that age. He clearly is the one that is in the best physical shape at the end of a season, due to his style of play and scheduling prowess when compared to the other top players. He may have lost some of his mental toughness, probably due to his achievements, and other factors like other priorities like marriage and kids. But he seems to recently (since the US Open) been able to limit his walkabouts to shorter stretches and recovers his concentration in time. Even if he has lost half a step, his movement on the court is still exceptional. His inability to win majors and other tournaments at the rate he won them prior to 2010 can be attributed to some of the above other factors mentioned and other top players also raising their game. I believe he still has the ability to beat any top player and more than one in the same tournament.
Mr. Nadal's various Injuries - don't worry, he's ok. He may have lost a step (especially on hard surfaces where he cannot slide) due to his knees, but he still fights to get to every ball. His stamina is back to where it needs to be based on what I saw with Berdych. In a long match, I would tend to favor Mr. Nadal.
Mr. Federer is looking to win an Open era record 5th AO title and is hungry to win a major that has eluded him since the 2010 AO and is eager to potentially face Mr. Djokovic and avenge his US Open "2 match point up" defeat.
On the other hand, Mr. Nadal just said in his post-Berdych match interview that he is already happy with his SF result (he only made QF last year) and his increased points. I think he wanted to get at least this far without significant injury, in preparation for his clay season leading up to Roland Garros. Anything else he gets from now on will be gravy. He would probably prefer not to meet Mr. Djokovic till he works on his game post AO, and gets to the clay.
So I give Mr. Federer the edge in motivation, which is a fairly large intangible.