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Interesting analysis probably one more to my liking:)

No "just" about it
by Steve Tignor

Let the Happy Rivalry begin. After facing each other 14 times, standing alone together on the tennis mountaintop for three years, and fending off—for the moment—an upstart partycrasher, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal deserve to enjoy a little friendly competition along the Mediterranean. But you kind of miss the edge, don’t you? The days of “one-dimensional game,” accusations of illegal coaching, and Toni vs. Tony? Now it’s Federer and Djokovic who get to have the nasty fun. For all the stellar points in their semifinal, wasn't the best part when Federer told Djokovic’s family to “keep quiet” after a bad line call?

We didn’t get any of that on Sunday. Instead we saw two seasoned champions restored to their customary places in a Masters final. They smiled together during the pre-match photo at the net, and again at the handshake. In between, they made up for the lack of hate by giving us one of their more intriguing, varied, even experimental contests. Then it ended the way it always does.

In the first game, it seemed that Nadal might succumb to rivalry fatigue. I saw a little of the same look on his face that I'd seen on Federer's in the Australian Open semifinals, the one that says, “Do I really have to do this again?” Nadal dumped two easy forehands in the net on the first two points and was broken. As they changed sides, I wondered if Federer’s mediocre start to the season and escape from the jaws of defeat early in the week would leave him feeling like he had nothing to lose in this final—and consequently allow him to win.

I didn't think it for long. In what became the defining pattern of the match, Federer was broken back after two backhand errors and a wild forehand. But after that temporary freak out, he righted himself and began to play some of the most intelligent tennis I’ve seen from him against Nadal. A slice backhand down the line forced the Spaniard to hit up severely on his backhand and drew a shank. A rally where Federer changed the direction of the ball with each shot, rather than trying to match crosscourts with Nadal, earned him a point. And he used the drop shot more effectively than he had before in this rivalry. At 3-3, Federer broke and swung the momentum in his favor after winning two points with elegant backhand-drop, forehand-volley combinations. For a moment, he had Rafa on a string.

Then Federer did something uncharacteristic: He failed to capitalize on his momentum. The weight of his losses to Nadal on clay seemed to fall on him again, as he made two unforced errors to be broken. On Nadal’s serve at 4-4, Federer tried to vary his attack again, this time by approaching the net. He lost two points up there, and the game.

At 5-5, Federer hit two aces to go up 40-0. Then he ventured, again unsuccessfully, to the net. While Nadal didn’t hit outright passing-shot winners, he did enough to spoil Federer’s forays. Three times over the next two games, Federer moved forward only to lose the point. The Tennis Channel’s announcers continued to encourage Federer in these attempts: “It wasn’t a bad play”; or “It’s the right idea.” Meanwhile, Federer lost six of his last seven points at the net, a period in which he squandered a break and was broken to lose the set 7-5. At what stage does coming to the net become the “wrong idea”? Ever?

To his credit, Federer went back to the experimenting table in the second set. He broke Nadal in the opening game by flipping two approaches at sharp angles and following them forward. He consolidated the break with confidence this time, though he was a little lucky to hit reflex a volley that died before Nadal could get to it at 40-30. From there, Federer did something a little more in character: He opened up his game, took over the rallies, and again looked poised to run away from Nadal at 4-0.

But the weight—the dirt?—of history returned once more. Down two breaks at 0-4, Nadal didn’t throw away points, try to end them quickly, or betray any frustration whatsoever. He hit a strong first serve to go up 15-0, and at 30-15 played perhaps his finest, most patient rally of the match. He moved Federer side to side until he had him outside of the doubles line on his forehand side. When Nadal finished the point with an easy crosscourt forehand winner, Federer let out a “whoo-hoo!” He didn’t know that Nadal’s comeback would begin with that shot.

Half an hour later Nadal had won the set 7-5, the match, and his fourth straight title in Monte Carlo. How, exactly, did the No. 1 player and a vaunted front-runner fail to close out it out? It begins with his opponent. Nadal stopped missing. More important, he found his sweet spot against Federer, sending his heavy forehand drives deep, high, a couple feet from the sideline, and straight into Federer’s backhand. Once he had tilted the rally in this direction, the only way Federer could get out of it was to move over far enough to hit a forehand. But his forehand works best when he’s moving into it and taking it on the rise; he’s not used to hitting it off his back foot, and he’s not as accurate with it.

Once that pattern was established, Federer began to miss forehands from all over the court. Serving at 4-3, he missed three of them, then sent a backhand wide to lose his serve, his advantage, and any hope he had of making this match different from (almost) all the others against Nadal on clay. The Spaniard had won 15 of 18 points and gone 21 points without an unforced error.

That’s virtually impossible to beat on clay, no matter what tactics you try. Unlike in his other losses to Nadal, this time Federer wasn't content to stick with his basic baseline game. He used the drop judiciously, came to the net bravely, and carved out angles with his approaches creatively. In the end, the old dynamic—Nadal’s big forehand pushing Federer backward and into errors—reasserted itself. That’s because none of the strategies mentioned above can be sustained, or even employed, long enough to win a clay-court match, particularly a three-out-of-five-setter. Over the last three years, this blog and Pete’s Tennis World have been filled with commenters' tactical advice for Federer on how to beat Nadal on dirt and win the French Open. No subject has been beaten to death, revived, and then beaten to death again quite like this one. But the answer may be this: Hope Nadal misses more. Or loses to someone else.

That brings us to the winner. Nadal is rarely the topic of discussion when he plays Federer, particularly on clay. There’s a sense that he “just” has to play his game to win. Which, by extension, means that he “just” has to put the ball back in the court and wait for Federer to miss. There was some truth to that at last year’s French Open, when Federer sprayed routine shots wide, long, and into the net all afternoon. But it’s usually more complicated, and it was again yesterday. If Nadal just has to put the ball in play against Federer, why has no one else, other than flukey Filippo Volandri, beaten him on clay in the past two years?

Because Nadal does more than that. Rather than coach Federer for today, let’s try to coach someone to do what Nadal does against Federer. It would go something like this: “First, make very, very few errors. While you’re doing that, hit the heaviest-kicking topspin forehand in the world. And put it a foot or so from the sideline and into Federer’s backhand every time—except for the surprise attacks you make down the line. Those should be clean winners to keep him honest. When he comes to the net, make your passes dip at his feet, and when he leaves any approach hanging, drill a winner past him. Your serve? 81 percent first balls in should do. Many of them on the line and all of them into his backhand. When you’re down two breaks, don't let it bother you in any way. And keep doing it, again, and again, and again.”

You get my point. What Nadal does against Federer is always a one-of-a-kind performance. No ifs, ands, buts—or justs—about it.
 

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Interesting stuff, it seems like there is nothing Federer can do against Nadal on this kind of clay (I still belive he can beat him in rome and hamburg).

Bring on Nalbandian to handle high balls on his backhand as easy as eating donuts.
 

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Its incredible, look at the amount of times Roger says "you know" in his first two questions in the after match interview

Q. How do you view that match, looking back on it?
ROGER FEDERER: Uhm, I thought it was, you know, a tough match obviously.
But, no, I thought I played okay. You know, disappointing second set, I guess, you know, after playing, you know, the right way against him and then, you know, letting him back into the match. You know, it was disappointing. Maybe I didn't play my best for sure.
But it's tough against him, you know, under the circumstances, you know. And he deserves to win in the end, you know, I think because he's a helluva clay court player.

Q. So what do you take away? Obviously you're not happy but maybe you're not so disappointed either.
ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, it takes a lot to be disappointed for me, you know. I mean, honestly I'm coming back strong. I'm happy the way things, where they are now, whereas still maybe a few weeks ago, still a little bit of doubt maybe, you know.
But honestly for me it's a very positive week of coming back from the brink, you know, in the first round, and now playing -- you know, beating great players, you know, on the way to the finals.
I'm pushing Rafa today, having the feeling I can beat him, you know, if I play the right way. And I think that's the feeling I didn't have after, you know, Monaco last year.
So this year changed, you know. And that's a good thing. Just, you know, playing again, being healthy, moving well. It's just a good feeling to have again.



cut this out Roger, you're starting to sound demented :eek:
 

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Thanks for the article, well written.
 

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Cool article. Thanks for sharing. :)
 

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Brilliant article, the kind of sense we'll sadly never hear on MTF. The fact of the matter is, Federer has been the best against all opposition on all surfaces for four years EXCEPT one circumstance, Nadal on clay, where Nadal is just.... better. It's been a difficult thing I think for Federer to come to terms with as it's just so out of the ordinary and it's no surprise really the that he for so long stuck to stubborn losing tactics because it's always been enough. At least now he's changing it up, but if Nadal continues to never have a bad day against Federer on clay (Hamburg aside), he's never going to be beaten, simple as that. Likewise, Nadal probably has to hope for Federer to either be non-present, or having a poor day at Wimbledon to ever win it.
 

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The real GOAT wouldn't have a 1-7 record against anyone on clay, much less an overall 6-9. In fact Fed has a 1-3 record vs Andy Murray as well. A total disgrace of a tennis player. 12 fraudulent slams!
 

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Tignor writes the best when he writes match reports. I thought that was a good summary of the match. It was an interesting match from a tactical point of view but the quality was not good. I also thought it was amusing to see Federer lose the majority of his points at the net to shut up those commentators and experts that keep urging him to do so, although obviously he should do it when the time is right.
 

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Its incredible, look at the amount of times Roger says "you know" in his first two questions in the after match interview

Q. How do you view that match, looking back on it?
ROGER FEDERER: Uhm, I thought it was, you know, a tough match obviously.
But, no, I thought I played okay. You know, disappointing second set, I guess, you know, after playing, you know, the right way against him and then, you know, letting him back into the match. You know, it was disappointing. Maybe I didn't play my best for sure.
But it's tough against him, you know, under the circumstances, you know. And he deserves to win in the end, you know, I think because he's a helluva clay court player.

Q. So what do you take away? Obviously you're not happy but maybe you're not so disappointed either.
ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, it takes a lot to be disappointed for me, you know. I mean, honestly I'm coming back strong. I'm happy the way things, where they are now, whereas still maybe a few weeks ago, still a little bit of doubt maybe, you know.
But honestly for me it's a very positive week of coming back from the brink, you know, in the first round, and now playing -- you know, beating great players, you know, on the way to the finals.
I'm pushing Rafa today, having the feeling I can beat him, you know, if I play the right way. And I think that's the feeling I didn't have after, you know, Monaco last year.
So this year changed, you know. And that's a good thing. Just, you know, playing again, being healthy, moving well. It's just a good feeling to have again.



cut this out Roger, you're starting to sound demented :eek:
If you think Roger You Know Federer is record holder in repeating words on presser, look at Allen Practice Iverson:haha:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=eGDBR2L5kzI
 

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Bah this Federer isn't good enough. Capriati would come with at least 3x more "you know"s and even throw in some "it's like" before.
 

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Agree with the article except for one comment. I didn't see this at all on Nadal's face "...I saw a little of the same look on his face that I'd seen on Federer's in the Australian Open semifinals, the one that says, “Do I really have to do this again?”

Nadal was nervous to start, yes. But definitely didn't lack will and hunger to go through the match
 

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Quite a good article. The difficulty is to rush Nadal on clay. It is almost impossible. Federer must work his angles like he did in the begining of the 2nd set, use more drop shots (like he did with success this time), avoid at all cost the backhand-Nadal's FH diagonal during rallies, keep an attacking mind. This over 3, 4 or 5 sets is a very demanding game. He's got the plan, now the execution is still a question mark. Quite amazing to see how Nadal is far above everyone else on clay compared to other surfaces...
 

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Quite a good article. The difficulty is to rush Nadal on clay. It is almost impossible. Federer must work his angles like he did in the begining of the 2nd set, use more drop shots (like he did with success this time), avoid at all cost the backhand-Nadal's FH diagonal during rallies, keep an attacking mind. This over 3, 4 or 5 sets is a very demanding game. He's got the plan, now the execution is still a question mark. Quite amazing to see how Nadal is far above everyone else on clay compared to other surfaces...
I actually have a feeling that Federer is not comfortable working with angles vs. Nadal on clay. Think about it, if you make a great angle, but he still catches it - which he often does - then HE has an opportunity to give you back an angle even more wicked. You just don't know if he's going super-angled crosscourt or rather DTL *around* the net, that's an amazing range of angles, you can't possibly cover both ends.

I always sorta wonder why Fed's angles don't kinda show up vs. Nadal on clay but perhaps there's a reason for it.
 

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I actually have a feeling that Federer is not comfortable working with angles vs. Nadal on clay. Think about it, if you make a great angle, but he still catches it - which he often does - then HE has an opportunity to give you back an angle even more wicked. You just don't know if he's going super-angled crosscourt or rather DTL *around* the net, that's an amazing range of angles, you can't possibly cover both ends.

I always sorta wonder why Fed's angles don't kinda show up vs. Nadal on clay but perhaps there's a reason for it.
Yeah I guess you expose yourself to a lot of troubles in the angle department if you don't prepare it right (wicked spin coming back). Now if he manages to take the ball early, after a good first serve for example, he might place Nadal in an uncomfortable position to hit the angle.

I noticed Nadal takes less extreme hitting positions than in the past, especially on passing shots, he's a bit more conservative to avoid further injuries. Fed can definitely exploit that to his advantage.
 

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it's a nice article. what it does underline is how slim the margin of error Fed has against Rafa. he is trying to change things up against Rafa and if it works and he holds after those breaks then he's winning the first set and Roger is an excellent front runner. have to remember too that the Higueras influence will only increase as he works with Roger and I hope it will improve Roger. FWIW Roger played some very nice FH dropshots against Rafa which I've never seen him do before. he will need to vary his game if he's going to beat Rafa on clay. trying to duke it out from the baseline won't cut it. here's hoping!
 

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Hey All,

I like this article by Steve Tignor also. Wow! I couldn't have said it better myself. My goodness, to me he was spot on - and for the most part.

I had forgotten to mention in my previous post about this match how Roger's missteps and forays to the net in that first set let him down towards the end of it. He did seem to approach a lot at the wrong time. It was almost as if he decided to keep trying things when leading there at 40-0 instead of trying to go for an ACE or something like that and get the game over with. Sometimes - keeping it simple is the way to go indeed. And or sticking to what one knows for the most part - and then adding new things at the right times.

To me, the article reminds me and reinterates why I feel Roger blew it. But.............it/tennis is just a game. I'm sure he has learned from it already.

I think his coach helped him a lot since they hooked up. He probably was cringing at some of Roger's forays to the net there for a minute.

Btw, in watching the two Andres play the final in 99 @ the French, I didn't see Andre Agassi slide one time. LOL! it goes to prove one can win it w/o sliding.
 
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