Wow wow wee wa! Whenever we witness a Fedal match, it's usually something special, and tonight was no different. I'm still pretty giddy whilst writing this as it was the ultimate demolition job from Federer from start to finish. It was the first time the pair had met when neither of them were ranked number 1 in the world, and tonight it looked as though they were at polar opposites of the rankings.
Roger opened his first service game with a double fault, and my twitter timeline (follow me @peRFectTennisUK) were instantly rolling their eyes and wondering if Federror was in the building. He bounced back to hold comfortably, in fact both players held comfortably until 4-3 Federer in the first set. Federer's first serve was proving to be a total weapon early on, and Nadal made zero impression. On the flip side, Nadal was also serving a high % of first serves and finding the corners at will (a marked improvement from his win over Fish on Sunday).
At 4-3, Roger created 0-30 on the Nadal serve, from that point on, the match transcended into total poetry in motion. First up Fed hit the sweetest struck inside out forehand you will ever see. It was an absolute bullet, Nadal didn't even move. At 0-40 Nadal got a foothold into the rally, which usually favours his grinding moonball style, however, on these indoor courts it's a different story, after exchanging a string of entertaining shots Fed turned defence into attack in the blink of an eyelid, drew the unforced error from Nadal and sealed the break. He served it out with consummate ease to take it 6-3.
Set 2 – Bagel Beatdown
Seeing a bagel in any type of tennis tournament is quite rare, seeing a bagel between 2 top 10 players is even rarer, and seeing a bagel between Federer and Nadal – that's nigh on impossible right? Wrong. Roger dished out a bagel against Nadal for only the 3rd time in his career (Wimbledon 2006 and Hamburg 2007). The 2nd set was just class tennis from Federer, he hit another bullet forehand down the line to break Nadal in his opening service game and from there on it was just cruise control. Nadal was powerless, everything, and I mean everything worked for Roger tonight. The serve, the forehand, the backhand and the movement were all spot on.
“It was a great match for me basically from start to finish,” said Federer. “I was able to do what I was hoping to do: dominate from the baseline, play close to the baseline, serve well, take his time away.
Federer vs. Nadal Highlights
Federer vs. Nadal Match Stats
1st serve %
Winning % on 1st Serve
Winning % on 2nd Serve
Break Points Converted
23 of 27 = 85%
9 of 13 = 69%
4 of 6 = 66%
What was the difference tonight?
The difference tonight was purely and simply Federer, he played at his free flowing best. I've no doubt some people will say oh Nadal didn't play his best, he wasn't over the stomach bug he had, but that as we say here in the UK is bollocks. He actually didn't do anything wrong tonight, he was beaten by the better and more talented player who's game clicked. Roger played 1st strike tennis and executed an even better gameplan than he did in his victory over Nadal at last years season ending championship. Let's take a brief look into what won this match:
- The inside in forehand – when this shots on, Roger is tough to get past, you play a defensive shot, move to your left expecting the ball into the open court only for him to drill another forehand down the line, wrong footing you and putting you even more on the back foot.
- The backhand – the one weakness Nadal is able to exploit, but not tonight, Roger's backhand was totally solid, and he was able to step into the court, take the ball on the rise and create some great angles to setup points peRFectly.
- The first serve forehand combo – one of the longest established features of his game, it's capable of providing him with cheap points, and more importantly allows him to settle into a rhythm.
- Not giving an inch on the basline – Roger can't play his best tennis 6ft behind the baseline, tonight he was constantly moving forward, playing the majority of his shots within the lines of the court.
Is Annacone a factor in Roger's form of late?
Over at the Fan Child's Two Cents, Chris Oddo gave 10 quick thoughts on the Federer Nadal encounter, in his last point he asked: True or False? The “Annacone effect” is playing a large role in Roger's recent rejuvenation..
I personally think that Annacone has helped Federer out big time over the course of this year (especially since the Wimbledon loss to Tsonga), I don't believe that he's specifically taught Federer anything new or added something new to his game in terms of shots or technique. But rather, I think Annacone's biggest help has been to give Federer a new way of looking at things, a new way to tactically beat opponents. I don't even think you can notice a huge difference in the way Federer's playing, other than the fact he's playing ‘better'. The changes are subtle, but sometimes these are the ones that produce the greater and more positive effect. The biggest giveaway to me is that whenever the camera pans over to Annacone after an important point. He has a knowing look on his face, that just says, “that's what we've been working on, things are coming together nicely.”
Looking toward the week ahead…
With tonight's win, Roger has qualified for the semi finals. I'm there for the afternoon session on Saturday so I'm hoping/praying Fed is on at that time. Although in beating Nadal tonight he's given himself a great chance of winning, I'm still not getting carried away as nobody ever won a tournament in the Round Robin stages, there's still work to do, and the last thing we need is a complacent Federer. But you can't not be quietly confident can you?
The other big news is that Murray has withdrawn with an injury – good news as far as I'm concerned. Playing in front of a partisan London crowd is never easy so I fully understand his reasoning.
Roger plays Fish next (who's already out of the tournament) my prediction – routine.