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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey everybody

I have been lurking on this forum for some time now, as I like mens tennis and especially Roger Federer whose career fascinates me a lot. I enjoy reading your comments also.

It has often been remarked that Federer and Nadal play very differently and that's true, but reading their pressconference transscripts (have read most of Federers and many of Nadals)is also fascinating to see how very different they talk and approach matches.

I would like to know from you guys which strategy you personally think is the most beneficial for the individual tennisplayer.


The Federer approach:

He very often tends to put pressure on himself ahead of matches (even against favored opponents), likes to see himself as a favorite and almost never reveals/often downplays beforehand if he is semiinjured or tired. One example of that is before WTF Final against Djokovic 2012. In reality he had very tough matches before the final, was 31 years old and he had scheduling disadvantages going into the final, but still he was saying things like "it's the last match of the season, press out the last juice that's left in our body, it's only a three set match, so conditioning doesn't matter, I don't see tiredness being a factor, etc. This approach had the effect of commentators talking him up beforehand. When he didn't win, you could say the Federer approach had failed to give pundits a "talking point" during the match and afterwards.

The Nadal approach
Nadal often says very straightforward before matches if he is tired or struggling physically. This often has the effect of pundits talking his chances down. When he wins he looks "heroic" and if he loses commentators have what he said in the back of their mind. Example is also WTF (2010) before meeting Federer in final. He had tough match with Murray beforehand and in press was talking about how he was exhausted, would have almost no chances to win etc. This was certainly true as he lost but it also "tainted" the Federer win a bit. From Nadals side he made sure people knew he was not going to be up for it, so maybe it was a smart strategy as you could then say he only lost because of tiredness.

What do you think? Is Nadals approach more clever than Federer? Is Federers approach more "honorable" but stupid?

I have many more thoughts on the different approaches if anyone wants more elaboration.

Regards a tennis fan from Denmark.
 

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I don't think there is any apporach that is inherently better than the other. You have to find what works for you. Considering the results these two have achieved, I'd say they both found something that worked for them. I guess both would have done worse if they switched.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I agree - it works for them both. Sometimes I just wonder why Federer talks the way he does -he almost never says for example "look guys, im soon 33 years old, If I win against Nadal in the AO semifinal tomorrow it's a miracle, but will do my best".Instead he plays along with the hype and expresses confidence for a win. This then sets him up for criticism when he fails. Nadal would have been smarter in a similar situation, I feel.
 

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Nadal always an I mean always says he's not the favorite going in to a match even when it's obvious that he is.
 

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I think Federer likes being seen as favorite, it seems to boost his drive coming into the match or something (and is a nice touch to his ego to boot ;)). Nadal OTOH downplays his chances primarily to transfer the pressure elsewhere. It is not even theoratically possible he genuinely believes he's the underdog whenever he says he is. His various physical issues coming into the match or right afterwards I see as pure mindgames and lack of sportsmanship. It's a sort of lose-lose situation for his opponents. If they win, it's no biggie anyway since he was not up to his best and it's obviously even worse if they lose against a struggling opponent.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I think that stems from a fear of failure and I don't mean that in a negative sense. It's just how I perceive his mentality from such statements.

It's true he says stuff like "I'm not a favorite", but in a sense I don't think he really believes it deep down. After matches where he has lost he almost always says "when you play bad, you must lose" and mostly blames himself for the loss. That doesn't jibe with the almost obsessive fear of opponents he professes.
 

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It's true he says stuff like "I'm not a favorite", but in a sense I don't think he really believes it deep down. After matches where he has lost he almost always says "when you play bad, you must lose" and mostly blames himself for the loss. That doesn't jibe with the almost obsessive fear of opponents he professes.
I don't think he believes it deep down but I see it as a defence mechanism in case of defeat - this aspect of his personality seems more in tune with a fear of failure than a desire for success; I wouldn't say that is a negative trait and nor would it is necessarily a reflection of his personality as a whole.

I think Nadal prefers to be the underdog as it takes pressure off and he can adopt a siege mentality whilst lessening the significance of defeat. Could be a complete mis-diagnosis.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I think Federer likes being seen as favorite, it seems to boost his drive coming into the match or something (and is a nice touch to his ego to boot ;)). Nadal OTOH downplays his chances primarily to transfer the pressure elsewhere. It is not even theoratically possible he genuinely believes he's the underdog whenever he says he is. His various physical issues coming into the match or right afterwards I see as pure mindgames and lack of sportsmanship. It's a sort of lose-lose situation for his opponents. If they win, it's no biggie anyway since he was not up to his best and it's obviously even worse if they lose against a struggling opponent.
Very much agree -happy I'm not the only one noticing this. The press just seem quite bamboozled by it all, I feel. Seems like Nadal is better than Federer at controlling the narrative about his wins and losses. I even noticed that the Nadal loss to Andy Murray in AO Open 2010 now in history is seen as a loss "because" of injury when in reality Murray was outplaying a not hobbled Nadal, when Nadal a few games away from defeat suddenly retired. History has thus "tainted" Murrays win and that's a shame.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I don't think he believes it deep down but I see it as a defence mechanism in case of defeat - this aspect of his personality seems more in tune with a fear of failure than a desire for success; I wouldn't say that is a negative trait and nor would it is necessarily a reflection of his personality as a whole.

I think Nadal prefers to be the underdog as it takes pressure off and he can adopt a siege mentality whilst lessening the significance of defeat. Could be a complete mis-diagnosis.
NO, I think you're abolutely right and it's a useful defense mechanism - it works for Rafa. Wonder if Federer could use some of that tactic, because I think the press would go less hard after him after losses if he did -they would gain some perspective and lower their expectations.
 

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There characters are very different.

Federer = Longest weeks at #1. Always sees himself as the favorite. I think even when he's ranked 8th, he'll rarely admit he's an underdog.
Nadal = Longest weeks at #2. Likes to be the underdog. He likes the mentality of I'll do my best because I have nothing to lose.


Both Federer and Nadal would like to be #1, but for Rafa he was never able to hold on to it for more than 1 year.
 

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Very much agree -happy I'm not the only one noticing this. The press just seem quite bamboozled by it all, I feel. Seems like Nadal is better than Federer at controlling the narrative about his wins and losses. I even noticed that the Nadal loss to Andy Murray in AO Open 2010 now in history is seen as a loss "because" of injury when in reality Murray was outplaying a not hobbled Nadal, when Nadal a few games away from defeat suddenly retired. History has thus "tainted" Murrays win and that's a shame.
Depends on what you mean by "better at controlling the press". Obviously, they'll be much more after Federer when he loses unexpectedly. I remember they used to annoy him with questions about retirement in 2008 because, aside from Wimby final, he lost to Karlovic and some other of his pigeons. As much as he was pissed at the audacity of such suggestions, I'd think it also motivated him to push forward. So I guess the strategy, if you can call it that, still works for him.

As for Nadal, I really wish some of the journalists would grill him a bit about his ailments when he loses. If I were a journo, I would personally insist on clarifying whether he thinks that was really of an extent to be important, whether he thinks that his opponent might have some niggles too, etc. The press themselves can't be sheep being played, not if they do their job well :shrug:
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Yes I remember well the audacity of journos in 2008 asking about about retirement. "Please don't kill me with this" was Federers answer. But I mean asking someone at just turned 27 about retirement because of a couple of losses really was insane - probably it was jarring for journos to see him at only number two. Maybe you're right that Federer used it as motivation.

As for Nadal and injury questions - I really feel they are just not probing enough and Rafa doesn't give straightforward answers as to the specific injury. Federer seems to "selfdiagnose" a lot better whereas Rafa asks them to speak to his physio or doctors. I also think the big secret, as Federer once said, is that in reality 90% of tennisplayers play with some sort of injury or at least niggle. I don't think journalists are quite aware of that and they don't seem to be able to detect injuries unless the player makes many grimasses in a match. I remember Federer schooling some journalists at Wimbledon one year when they wanted to write Hewitt off after he lost to Soderling. Federer had picked up from watching that Hewitt was injured and had changed his game to try to survive. Because Hewitt had not said anything in press about his injury, the journalists simply couldn't tell!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
An intelligent thread on mtf :eek::eek:

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Thank you :) The psychology around the way tennisplayers speak is fascinating. Federer and Nadal as usual complete opposites. Seems like Djokovic is a mixture of Federer and Nadal. Like Federer, often he will also talk confidently/back himself up before matches, after matches he is a bit more gracious than Nadal in defeat but also sometimes takes a bit away from the victor (Wimbledon semi 2012). It's not much worse than others though.
 

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Nadal not admitting he is the favorite no matter whom he plays bothers me but I can get over it even it is strange (really the only one opponent where he can say that is Djokovic, he is huge or slight favorite against anybody else). What really bothers me is the injury agenda. It works for Nadal very well as we can see, all his yards and even fans actually believe he can not lose when healthy. It is always injury or mental issues (divorce of his parents).
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Nadal not admitting he is the favorite no matter whom he plays bothers me but I can get over it even it is strange (really the only one opponent where he can say that is Djokovic, he is huge or slight favorite against anybody else). What really bothers me is the injury agenda. It works for Nadal very well as we can see, all his yards and even fans actually believe he can not lose when healthy. It is always injury or mental issues (divorce of his parents).
Yep. I can also get over the "not favorite" tag - also think he is not as bad in that regard as he used to be.

It bothers me as well with the injury talk. For example Wimbledon 2009 - I believe he could have competed, but for various reasons didn't think he could win. He then prefers to not compete instead of taking an unfortunate early loss. I found it so sad that Federer was constantly asked about Nadals absence even on the day of his final. It tainted a little bit his win.
Same, but smaller example, he chose to withdraw from Miami semifinal against Andy Murray in 2012. Talked vaguely about his knee, but it seemed even more unconvincing than usual and his knees proved fine the next 5 tournaments. Really think he didn't want to fight a wellplaying Murray just before the claycourt season.
 

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Federer -> arrogant, can't tolerate someone being "better" than him in any aspect, unless it's too obvious.
Nadal -> low key, dislike any extra pressure, that's all I can say
 

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Federer thrives on confidence; so he talks up his chances.

Nadal thrives on overcoming obstacles; so he talks down his chances.

If you think about it, these approaches fit their playing styles perfectly. Federer tries to barrage his opponent with attacking serves, forehands, slices, etc. right from the off -- and to make these shots consistently he needs to feel confident. When he doesn't feel confident is when he (most often) loses the match.

Nadal, on the other hand, plays a more controlled game. He counterpunches until an opening arises where he can finish the point. Many times he can look to be out of a point, only to get a miraculous touch on the ball and turn the rally around. He is most vulnerable when he can't work his way into a match like this, i.e. when the opponent is finishing the points too quickly.
 
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