What We Learned: 2011 French Open
Well, for around the first 40 minutes Federer looked to provide us with the match that we all thought he could. He was serving great and hitting freely, up a break at 5-2 and even had a set point on Nadal's serve. But, after holding to get to 5-3, it was like Nadal flipped a switch and came near his 2008 level, breaking Federer twice and closing out the set. From there, Nadal kept up his strong play and Federer obliged by missing a lot of serves and hitting a huge amount of errors, especially off the backhand wing. Only big serving from Federer at opportune times kept the second set within reach. Roger looked rejuvenated after a short rain delay in the second set and actually broke Rafa to force a tiebreak but Nadal came through. Federer managed to pick up his level in the second half of the third set and win it but Rafa broke early in the fourth and rode that to his tenth Grand Slam title.
What We Learned:
1. Rafa Still for Real: We were all worried about movement and motivation issues for Rafa earlier in this tournament. And while he did not fly through the opening rounds with his usual ease, Nadal still won-which in the end of the day is all that really matters. And, when push came to shove in the later rounds (and against Isner in the first), Rafa stepped up his game to where it needed to be and tied Bjorn Borg with his sixth French Open title. We may see similar early-round slumps from Rafa in the future, but now we know that as long as he keeps winning, he always has it in him to go the distance.
2. Never Count Roger Out: Federer was flying completely under the radar entering this tournament but that didn't stop him from doing what he always does. He won, without much trouble, against a pretty tough draw that held some potential potholes. He still couldn't beat Rafa, but that should never detract from his incredible tournament and career. He played some of the best tennis we've seen from him in a long time and his 23rd Grand Slam final should be lauded, no matter how it ended.
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