Well what a match that was as Roger put in a great performance to just fall short as Nadal defeated him 5-7 6-4 6-3 to extend his unbeaten run on hard courts even further and put himself in the driving seat ahead of the US Open.
I personally didn't give Roger much hope based on his own form and how solid Nadal has been looking since Wimbledon but he definitely surprised me with his level and had he been that little bit sharper on a couple of points the result could have been a lot different. Of course though Nadal was relentless as ever, he never gives an inch and plays hard right to the final point which is what won him this match as he kept slowly building pressure and eventually took his chances when they were presented to him.
Even though the match has a big L in the column for Roger I still think it's a step in the right direction considering where he was just a couple of months ago and this hopefully holds him in good stead for the US Open. Losses are never great and I'm sure he's annoyed that he again let Nadal get the better of him but he has to at least see some good signs in how he performed especially on the serve for most of the match.
Quick Match Analysis
The first set was always going to be key from Roger's point of view as I'm not sure he has it in him to come from behind to beat Nadal so it was imperative he got off to a good start if he was to have any chance.
Fortunately Roger did start well, pulling out a great hold to level at 1-1 despite being at deuce 3 times. He then created his first break point on the Nadal serve but Nadal saved it with a nice first serve.
Both guys began to settle into a rhythm on serve as neither player really got much on the return, I think Roger held to love or 15 for 3 games in a row and Nadal was able to hold just as easily.
At 5-5 it got interesting however as at 30-30 Fed hit a huge forehand winner to setup break point which he took advantage of immediately hitting a cross court forehand. The pressure was now on him to hold and he came up with a brilliant service game, hitting a great volley, 2 big forehands and a ripping backhand to take it 7-5. Allez!
I always felt like Roger had to get this done in straights if he was to win so getting the first set was a real achievement, if he was able to maintain a level throughout the second then he just might have been able to take it. It looked he would for much of it as he played a great game to save two break points and level at 2-2 but at 5-4 behind he gave the Spaniard his chance and he broke to level things up.
It was a disappointing game really as Roger had 2 game points to level at 5-5 but blazed a forehand into the tramlines and despite saving the first set point couldn't do so on the second. I guess it just shows how relentless Nadal is and how dialled in you need to be yourself to keep him at bay. A couple of loose-ish points cost Roger where he wasn't quite as focused as he could be and the scoreboard became all square.
Winning the second set definitely swung things in Nadal's favour as he was improving more and more as the match went on whereas Roger was seemingly slipping backwards. The Spaniard broke in Roger's first service game which was the worst possible start. Roger had that almost resigned look on his face after getting broken which was a little disappointing but the main thing for me was he kept in touch and didn't just roll over.
The pleasing thing was he actually did and made 2 really ballsy service holds despite getting into deep trouble, of course he had little to lose but it was nice to see him save break points and keep a little bit of pressure on Nadal.
At 5-3 Nadal moved to 40-0 and 3 match points in no time but then Roger went gung ho off both wings to make deuce. Roger then saved another match point with a huge inside in forehand and then on Nadal's 5th match point he failed to challenge a ball that would have been out which brought a disappointing end to the match.
I'm not saying Roger would have won the match had he decided to challenge but this was criminal from him here. A lot of fans said he did it out of respect and Nadal did something similar in 2010 at the World Tour Finals but that is ludicrous. You must take advantage of the available technology when it is on a serious point.
I remember a match involving Roger's fellow countryman Stan Wawrinka once where he asked the Umpire whether he should challenge on a seriously important point, the Umpire said no and Stan took his word for it. Stan of course have won the challenge and he went onto lose the match. Terrible. This from Roger wasn't quite as bad but he still should have challenged. The match, although the scoreline looks quite comfortable in the end for Nadal, was actually a very close and played on extremely fine margins so things like that can easily make a difference.
Points of the Match
My Thoughts on the Match
Overall I see the match as a positive because Roger played much better than I expected and certainly showed signs of life out there. I wanted the Fedal matchup to happen because I wanted to see what the difference between the two men was, Roger has been slumping all year, people are saying he's done and of course barring Wimbledon Nadal has had a great season so they couldn't be at more opposite ends of the scale for 2013 so far.
I wanted to see if the gulf had widened and the good news is it doesn't look like it has. If anything Roger was pretty close to winning, just a couple of points and lack of mental sharpness cost him. That's always been the case vs. Nadal however so it might be too late in the day for him to ever change that but there were certainly some pleasing signs and had he not donated the break in the 2nd set it could have easily been a different result.
The main takeaways for Roger were that his serve and forehand were able to dictate a lot of the points, that's the shot combination that has brought him success 5 times at the US Open so he must feel like he is on the right path to at least improving on his performance at Wimbledon :P.
The other pleasing aspect was he definitely aimed to be more and more aggressive in all areas especially on the return, he was a little defensive at times but the drilled backhand return made Nadal have to think out there, it sent him a message on several occasions just yet again his intensity and relentlessness pulled him through. And we're still yet to see Roger play Nadal with newer equipment, that one could be interesting 🙂
I guess this match just showcases the differences between Fedal and how tiny margins can be in tennis. I'm certainly not pleased that Roger came out with another loss vs his rival (21-10 now H2H) but he put in a good performance and is a much improved player from the one we saw at Wimbledon, Hamburg and then Gstaad.
Hopefully he can maintain this forward momentum, not let the loss hurt too much and keep progressing for a good run in New York and then for the indoor stretch. Roger did look rather annoyed at the net as though he felt like he should / could have won so that should serve as motivation for him.
Slightly off topic but I also heard prior to the match Roger has lost 6lbs (around 2.7KG) to take pressure off his back. Interesting and I'd imagine he can get in even better shape for when the USO open starts which makes me feel a little more upbeat about his chances.
What did you guys think of the match? Let me know in the comments.