Hey all, another telling defeat for Roger at the ends of his nemesis as he went down 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 to bow out of the Australian Open at the semi final stage. Successful tournament it may have been with impressive wins against Tsonga and Murray but today he fell short yet again and in truth never really got himself into the match to have a chance of victory.
I know a lot of fans had high expectations coming into this one after Nadal struggled against Dimitrov but the match was always going to be in Nadal's favour. Not only does he have the matchup advantage, he has a 22-10 H2H (8-2 in slams) advantage which has left Roger with a lot of mental baggage, baggage which has sadly drained Roger of self belief when he steps on court against this guy. As usual I'll do a quick recap of the match, which in all honesty was quite boring except for a couple of rip roaring passing shots from Nadal, and then I'll give my thoughts on it.
Quick Match Recap
The first set was close, but not close enough if you're a Federer fan as he just didn't really have many chances to get his nose in front. In terms of serving he was definitely playing well and didn't look like he was in any real difficulty but the problem was he didn't get into many return games.
From what I remember the only time he did manage to make 30 on the Nadal serve was when Rafa was already 40 love up and both guys made it to 6 all without facing a single break point. The tie break that ensued wasn't really of high quality from either man as they both traded multiple mini breaks before Nadal finally pulled away to take it 7-4.
The blow of losing the first set was always going to be a big one for Fed and he did well to save break point to level at 2 all in the second. However he couldn't stop Nadal getting his first break of serve to lead 4-2 and despite having a chance at 0-30 with Nadal serving at 5-3 the Spaniard came up with some big shots when he needed them to close it out.
The third was a foregone conclusion with Roger getting broken early, breaking back immediately to level at 2-2 only to get broken again and by then he looked tired, mentally drained and pretty much out of ideas. Sadly he couldn't even make Nadal serve for it as he was broken a second time at 5-3 with Nadal booking his spot in the final.
|Stats||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer|
|1st serves in||56/86 (65 %)||69/105 (66 %)|
|1st serve points won||41/56 (73 %)||45/69 (65 %)|
|2nd serve points won||22/30 (73 %)||18/36 (50 %)|
|Fastest serve||198 KMH||203 KMH|
|Average 1st serve speed||175 KMH||181 KMH|
|Average 2nd serve speed||143 KMH||152 KMH|
|Net points won||3/10 (30 %)||23/42 (55 %)|
|Break points won||4/14 (29 %)||1/2 (50 %)|
|Receiving points won||42/105 (40 %)||23/86 (27 %)|
|Total points won||105||86|
Roger's Match Encapsulated in 1 point
Thoughts on the Match
The reason this post is slightly delayed is because for the first time in a while I actually rewatched the whole match. I had planned to give Fed a ton of shit in this post and probably would have done had I written it earlier but now I'm only going to give him a little bit 😀
I think when you're watching live, have an emotional investment and are seeing Roger buckle at key moments it's probably a bit too easy to say he's doing everything wrong and he has no strategy but having watched it back I have changed my mind ever so slightly. I actually think he did do quite a lot of things right but as usual it was a case of not doing them at the right time or enough of the time combined with Nadal having all the answers.
In the replay you get to see a handful of points that do give you an idea of the sort of tactics Roger must employ to counter Nadal's strategy but on the other you see his body language, decision making and Nadal's explosiveness and think, can this guy ever beat Rafa in a big match again? Big question marks and it would have to be on quick hard court or grass that's for sure if it is even possible.
Evidently the match was lost when the first set went to Nadal; it was just a huge psychological and physical blow after Fed had managed to hold serve without too much trouble for most of the set. We all said beforehand just how important the set would be and we were right; it decided the outcome.
Up until losing the tie breaker Roger was actually playing quite well and did show signs of a gameplan. The problem was he was just what I would call ‘sticking around' and not the one trying to take the match down the path he needed it to go to ever stand a chance of winning.
We got moments where if you were in his corner you'd be thinking yes, keep doing that but as the set wore on things just sort of settled into the usual routine where Nadal was able to get into his comfort zone.
I don't know whether it was Roger getting frustrated with his inability to break down Nadal's defense but he just seemed to get that little bit inpatient and come in behind some less than ideal approach shots and got burned. The effect of those is two fold; he loses the point immediately but also loses confidence in other areas.
I should have really kept a running total but pretty much every point that Roger won by way of winner or forced error was as a result of breaking Nadal's pattern of play and his rhythm – serving out wide, using his slice etc. By that I mean he changed up his pace and got Nadal moving forwards and backwards rather than just side to side which he loves and will basically do all day everyday. I think whenever he had Nadal running forward to the net, he won the point; just didn't do it enough.
Whenever he got into the standard top spin backhand to forehand rally he lost the point. On chest high balls that shot is just no way good enough to trade blow for blow with Nadal's forehand. I mean check the video above, he rips a decent backhand that's ever so slightly short in the court and Nadal just fires a winner down the line. Brutal.
Statistics wise it's obvious that Nadal was the deserved winner as he was better in pretty much every area, I do question why he was able to win over 70% of points on his 2nd serve which is a very high number. Surprising Roger didn't try do something extra on those but he was probably too preoccupied with his own service games to really get into them or swing that freely.
Probably the worst thing to watch as a fan is the fact Nadal was ever really tested or under any pressure, Roger didn't have a single break point until the third set against a guy who's serve is probably one of the weaker areas of his game. That also made it pretty boring for the neutral who came wanting to see a competitive semi final and they didn't get that. Roger finds it virtually impossible to break Nadal's pattern of play and ultimately just plays into his hands, as soon as he hits a backhand into the middle of the court it is rally over unless Nadal makes a mistake. Those odds are not good if you're Federer.
Once the first set had been and gone it was clear Fed lost any sort of belief he might have had when he stepped on court and things got very predictable. I personally thought it all got very one paced. Not in the sense it was slow as he was of course looking to hit the ball hard and flat but all that happened was he'd hit 2 pretty good forehands and then try sneak in despite not really having Nadal out of position. It was almost like clockwork and there not enough patience from the Swiss.
There was also a moment where he complained about Nadal's grunting to the Umpire which I thought was ridiculous to be honest. It just showed Roger was not thinking straight, the grunting is nothing new so to call him out when down 2 sets halfheartedly to the umpire shows he was done mentally. What could he have hoped to achieve from that? Couldn't even think straight.
For Fed to make the final I thought to myself he had to do 4 things well: he had to serve well and hit the corners, he had to mix up his shots consistently using floated and knifed slices, he had to try and break Nadal's patterns with that variety so he wasn't just running side to side like Superman and he had to believe he could win. If you treat that as a checklist then he only did one of those things reasonably well and that was serving for the most part. Had he not been broken until half way through the second set the scoreline could have been far worse.
As for Nadal he was just too good on the night and came up with the goods yet again, he moves so well from side to side and his ability to stay in the point just makes it so much more difficult for Fed. Yet again he had the answers when it mattered and I'm pretty sure he will be winning Grand Slam Number 14 come Sunday.
Back to Fed and looking at the tournament as a whole then it's been a good one and hopefully sets up 2014 as being a good year. 2 huge wins against Tsonga and Murray, a lot of positives in his game considering 3 weeks ago he couldn't beat Hewitt in a final so overall I'm happy.
Finally I'd like to thank everyone who has commented here, joined in live chat, shared any posts, read my blog etc etc throughout the Australian Open. It's been a fun 2 weeks so thanks. Next stop Dubai 🙂