Can you bet against it?
This was Federer’s best shot to win a title on clay against Nadal – even the most chronic ‘doubting Thomases’ will agree on that.
I mean he had all the time after early exits at both Indian Wells and Miami. He never had that time (since dominating the tour), because he won both titles in 2006 and 2005. Won Miami in 2004, which ends right before Monte Carlo.
So after three years, he gets more than enough space, to formulate a winning strategy with his coach, work on his conditioning, familiarize himself with the slow surface and more importantly work specifically to counter Nadal’s game.
Apart from the time, he had the extra motivation to vindicate the two losses on his favorite surface, by winning a title on clay. When a competitor loses like that, he is sure to be pumped up to rebound to silence any rumors. That is enough ammunition to turn it up and put in your best preparation, making sure you are able to cover all bases.
So, coming in, in his mind he had put in his best preparation ever, to win the title.
And then something else happened. He ran into a pack of claycourt specialists like Ferrer and Ferrero. He handled them reasonably well, plugging the alibi that he did not have enough quality matches on clay against quality claycourt specialists to finally make the big move. So, that was another unexpected but useful step in his preparation to face and bring down Nadal.
These three angles came perfectly together to provide Federer the best preparation he has ever had in his career, for the elusive title on clay against Nadal. Its not that he has never won on clay. He has 5 titles on clay, including three at Hamburg. Its just this guy named Nadal!!!
With all that happening the same year to boost his preparation, he stepped on that court in the finals against Nadal with ‘theeee best’ foot forward.
And even then you fall short – so miserably that you lose in straight sets, after not having dropped a set enroute? So much so that you seemed to lose heart in the final set?
If all that could not get Federer over the hump, what else can one say.
It seems like the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It took the wind out of his sails, so evident in the final set. Nadal raising his game to a new level, didn’t help.
If that has actually happened, Federer is better off salvaging whatever he can from the wreck, and moving on without creating a ripple effect that could spill over and play havoc and damage his psyche, if it has not already.