Roger Federer vs Rafa Nadal
It is pretty stunning that this year, Federer walked on court, stared at his backhand and said, “It is time.”
The 18-time champ knew that the only way he was going to consistent knock down the other top players (Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic) is to go more forward, meaning that he had to leap upwards, instead of being way back behind the court.
For many, many years, the lefty Nadal would just continue to pound into his backhand with his heavy topspin. Federer really didn’t know what to do. Once in a while, he would jump up and crack it down the line and hit some winners.
But Nadal didn’t care; he was pretty sure that, eventually, he would watch Federer grow angry. Then, he would become comfortable and settle in for the win.
At the start of this year, Nadal had won 23 matches against Federer, who won only 11. Believe it or not, in 2017, Federer hadn’t won a major against Nadal since 2007, when the Swiss had taken down the Spaniard in five sets at Wimbledon.
Rafa was only 20 years old then. But very quickly, he knew exactly what to do.
After that, Federer couldn’t understand why Nadal wasn’t going to chip and charge, or push the ball in the center of the court, or challenge his forehand. He just pounded and pounded and pounded till Federer’s grew frustrated in his one-handed backhand slice.
Nadal beat him at 2008 Roland Garros (on clay), 2008 Wimbledon (on grass), 2009 Australian Open (on hard courts), 2011 RG, 2012 Aussie Open and the 2014 Aussie Open. Rafa had beaten Roger six times in the Slams.
Now, Federer is 35 years and Nadal is 30.
In the summer of 2016, Roger was pretty hurt and, after he lost early at Wimbly, he called it a year. He was tired and his body was breaking down.
Fortunately, Federer got better, his knees were better, and he missed playing tennis. Enter Ivan Ljubicic, the former player and now his coach, really helped Federer. They practiced and practiced. When Federer was prepared to play again, he was ready to go. His phenomenal serve, forehand, return, the net, variety, lobs … Almost everything, except for his backhand.
But it was right there. Finally, Federer went on court in the final of the 2017 Aussie, and he shocked Nadal 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3. Nadal was up 3-1 in the fifth set, and we could tell that Federer was much more powerful and directed.
Six weeks later at Indian Wells, Federer crushed Nadal 6-2 6-3.
Now, Federer is incredibly confident once again.
But hold on. In Miami this week, he won two fantastic contests, but they were very, very long. He beat Tomas Berdych 7-6(6) in the third, and in the semis, he ended Nick Kyrgios 7-6(5) in the third. We would think that Federer is a little bit tired, no?
Look, Federer did get a day off. But on Sunday, if he is forced to get into the third set — let’s say after two hours— then Rafa will win. Nadal isn’t tired at all, as he easily whipped Jack Sock and Fabio Fognini.
Without a doubt, Nadal has to improve over the next few years because he hasn’t won a Grand Slam since 2014. Rafa’s backhand can be weak, and he doesn’t come into the net enough.
Regardless, Nadal is pretty pissed off and he wants to win a big event right now. He will run and run and run, and best Federer in three fun sets.
Johanna Konta d Caroline Wozniacki to win title
A couple years ago, it was hard to see Konta, now 25 years old ,reach the top 10, much less win a big event. She did today, out-hitting Caro 6-4 6-3. She is so powerful, so aggressive … and she rarely backs off.
Now the Brit is ranked No. 7. Perhaps this year, she can win a major, if she continues to improve. But, at Wimbledon when the pressure is on? We will find out in the next few months is she’s prepared for that accomplishment.