Or did he win it because he had that tough draw, for both Federer and Djokovic were playing in the park until they met the king of clay.
Nadal may have scrambled to deny any opening to the two usurpers, but it appears things are getting tighter for him too, with Djokovic’s presence. Nevertheless, this was a must win for Nadal to have a good shot at winning his fourth Roland Garros in June. Not only did he boost his confidence with this win, he snapped the surge in conviction Djokovic was gaining since January. Had Djokovic defeated Nadal and fallen to Federer in the finals, Nadal would have been nowhere close to the state of mind he is in now.
Despite all that, he should be feeling a tug from Djokovic, like he has never felt in the entire time he has been battling Federer on the red surface. If the scenario was reversed, meaning Nadal facing Federer in the semis and Djokovic in the finals, Nadal may have succumbed to the grind of the last match.
The only and the ONLY reason he won a three hour match against Federer coming off another three hour battle with Djokovic, given his miserable record in similar circumstances in the past, was because he now practically owns Federer, mentally, like Federer once owned Roddick.
There can be ABSOLUTELY no other explanation to the string of matches that Federer has NOW lost to Nadal irrespective of the surface. The only reason Federer has won on hard and grass is because that mental domination loses it’s sting due to his overall record and his obvious superior game. With even that game clearly in decline with this seventh loss of the season with just one insignificant title so far, it will be interesting to see how the two match up on surfaces not called red.
Nadal can and should take these two wins and turn them into fuel for his rocket to go after the number one rank one more time. Having reached the finals at Wimbledon for the last two years, and with Federer not even close to his form, he may still have a realistic shot at reaching the pinnacle, although momentarily, before Djokovic whitewashes everything, including Nadal’s own backyard.
When and where is that window? Till the end of this season. After that he will be fighting to remain among the top five, unless this spurt and confidence of defeating the world’s No. 1 and 3 back to back in three hour battles, morphs him into a beast on other surfaces too AND his knees don’t restart the dance like the last two years.
If you have nothing else to do with your miserable life and are stuck in a basement, you cannot ask for a better time. The battle is on, with new twists and turns emerging every freaking day. Although it’s still not enough to wake me up before 12 or delay my magazine ‘cardio’, the hospital rectum recovery department hasn’t seen me for a while. And I don’t like the TV channel switching at match point just because I farted. It’s frustrating to know where your TV remote is, but you still cannot use it, well, when you want to, that is. What a classy site this is!!!!!!!!
But I digress. Federer has to be at his wits end and at the peak of his frustration right about now. How else can you react after being ahead in two sets at two straight finals against Nadal only to flounder and lose that advantage just before the big occasion. Have you ever played at a playground where you were so much better than the rest of the players that you knew there’s nothing they can do to outmaneuver you? No you haven’t. Wrong question. Well Nadal is right there when he plays Federer. Next time don’t be surprised if there’s a bagel popping out.
Nadal has to have a giant sized confidence against Federer to be pulling out these kind of wins, all the more, under these circumstances. If there was room for bloating any further, this win should have accomplished that. With the age disparity between the two now moving in opposite direction, it is only going to get worse for Federer.
Maybe if Ferrer and Kiefer would have remained alive long enough to battle Federer instead of Verdasco and Seppi, it could have provided the cushion for Federer against this sudden shock in the finals. Although Djokovic was successful in dampening the effect to a great extent, it goes to show how far away Federer was from beating Nadal, despite Nadal without his most potent weapon, his energy. So much so that Nadal appeared fresher of the two in the third set. How’s that even possible when not only was Nadal ahead on the time on court stat by three freaking hours, but had a three hour battle just a day before, compared to about an hour for Federer.
According to Federer’s numbers, Nadal actually had played three extra matches by the time they squared up. Federer had 41 unforced errors, a stat that has now become a regular staple in his match against Nadal. He clearly appears to pull the trigger early to shorten the rallies, resulting in gifts to a raging bull. That’s the last thing he needs.
I think the Roland Garros window may have closed for Federer forever, right here. I mean this was the third straight clay court event, where Federer had a clear shot of winning the title, one of them purely because Nadal was already out. Other two, he led in the first two sets in both finals. And we have not even talked about Roland Garros yet.
Unless he pulls out what Sampras did at his last US Open, by proving everybody wrong and winning the title, this record leading up to the big one is not encouraging by any standards. Jose’s band aid theories cannot rectify such deep seated wound, crippling Federer from missing an ocean.
Now it’s between Nadal and Djokovic. No one other than Djokovic can now take down Nadal at Roland Garros. Period. Everybody including Nadal knows that. But Djokovic may, in doing so, help Federer win on June 8th if:
-Djokovic falls in Nadal’s half of the draw again.
-Either wins the semifinal or tires Nadal beyond the limits he did here.
-If Djokovic wins but is extended by Nadal in the semifinal, Federer has a better shot at defeating a tired Djokovic than a tired Nadal, due to the absence of that huge mental advantage Nadal enjoys over Federer. With eighty percent of Djokovic’s retirements coming on clay due to what that stuff does to his breathing apparatus, there is some history there providing the much needed edge to Federer.
Conversely, if Djokovic falls with Federer, Federer is toast.
However, despite all that and how it came about, in the last four clay tournaments, Federer has won one title and has reached two finals losing to Nadal both times. That’s a far cry from where he was before the clay season started. He had not reached a single final till then. So there are still some positives for Federer amongst all the rubble. With reinforcement arriving in the form of Jose, he should be looking to bounce back and not give in.
After all, if he wins Roland Garrros, everything that has happened this year will be washed away with one stroke. He will be crowned the GOAT and he could start fresh from then on at his home in Wimbledon.
Can we still hope for the illusive spark and title?