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Old 08-14-2008, 04:02 PM   #72
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Default Federer in Denial that there's a Problem

I've followed women's tennis a lot in years gone by, and there's a resonance of Graf-Seles about the Nadal-Federer rivalry.

In 1990, up until losing to Seles in Berlin, Graf was on a 66-match winning streak, the second longest in history. She was then defeated once again by the unconventional Yugoslav, whose game was far less than aesthetic to the tennis purists, in Paris a month later. Not long afterwards, she not only relinquished her number one ranking to Seles, but all of a sudden she was more vulnerable to the likes of Sanchez-Vicario, Sabatini, Novotna and Navratilova.

My point? Like Nadal, Seles was not the text book tennis player, and Graf had been taught that those who played as Seles did would not make it. They would unravel, they had too many chinks in their armour, and she was superior. In her mind, she just kept on having a bad day; it was only a matter of time before the tables were reversed. And so she went on as if there wasn't a problem - and stayed number two in the world.

Hopefully a stabbing won't afford Federer the space to regain his confidence and once again win major championships. But like Graf, Federer is a get-on-with-it sort of guy. His glass is always half full.

Now that is usually a good philosophy, but balance is required in everything in order to achieve success. Roger's glass is swaying dangerously to one side, and he's lost some of that winning solution as a result. Federer needs to admit to himself that he has genuine problems against Nadal's game, and that some of those problems are caused by qualities Nadal possesses, which he does not.

Once Federer has done that, he can work to countervail Nadal's heavy topspun forehands and re-impose his own game. Like Graf in facing Seles, Federer is five years older, knows that in theory he has the ability to break down Nadal's game, and a touch of arrogance -- I should not be losing to this player -- dents his ability to see that there is a unique problem posed by Nadal.

When he has faced up to his challenge, and seen Nadal as his equal, he will not need to place himself under the stifling pressure of being, in his own mind, the better player who shouldn't be losing these matches.

And then he won't be losing to the likes of James Blake in major tournaments, good player though Blake is.
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