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I was a bit surprised that Federer said that it helped him play the ball rather than the opponent during the fifth set of the AO Final. It's long been speculated that Federer has a mental block against Nadal, especially in tight situations so playing the ball might be a good plan psychologically since it makes you forget the fact that you've lost so much to that opponent in question. However, doesn't that neglect the concept of having a particular strategy depending on the opponent?

I am sure a lot of players actually do take note of the opponent and the way they play. Nadal for example is keen on hitting heavy topspin balls to Federer's backhand and he tends to do that a lot more than with, say, Djokovic, who has a solid two-handed backhand. It's obvious that Nadal do plays the opponent when it comes to play Federer at least.

But for Federer it seems that his best play comes when he doesn't have a strategy regarding his opponent. He just plays the ball :scratch:

What's better: playing the opponent or the ball?

Discuss.
 

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You can't choose. You play both. Your opponent's game affect the way the ball comes to you.

Why Federer said so, is that he's historically more affected by the presence of Nadal when they play each other. This is mental, only in Federer's mind. Therefore, what changed at the AO Final was also mental. He was still playing the opponent, but not the unbeatable opponent he imagined.
 

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Shit match up - play the ball.

BOAT match up - play the player.
 
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