French Open 2011: Men’s Final Preview

Very interesting analysis of tomorrow’s French Open final between Federer and Nadal. Here’s a snippet.

Note: The question I always ask myself is – what has Murray done to transform his game over the same period, while two contenders for GOAT improve theirs? (And that’s not even counting Djokovic’s recent spurt).

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French Open 2011: Men’s Final Preview
The Sports Campus
04/06/11

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have clashed on 24 occasions since 2004. They’ve met in the slams on 8 occasions including 7 times in finals. The two are familiar with what to expect from the other. We’ve become used to what to expect from their clashes, yet we remain hooked on to this rivalry. While this is partly due to the excitement of the rivalry, the clash of styles and personality, for the tennis enthusiast what is also fascinating is the way that the pair’s games have evolved and how this has influenced their matchup. Initially Rafa’s one weapon against Federer was the high bouncing cross court forehand into Federer’s backhand that worked so well on clay. Federer struggled to deal with this but was able to neutralise this on the quicker courts. Rafa responded by working on the inside out forehand and the down the line which increased the potency of the standard cross court by making it less predictable as the attacking option. Federer on the other hand just as a result of the constant pounding has improved that high backhand so much that against almost anyone else the backhand has become almost a weapon. We saw that against Djokovic in the semifinal as well when the down the line backhand was a potent point opener for Roger. Nadal’s improvement though wasn’t restricted to the forehand – the Spaniard has worked on the serve and the backhand and now is among the best in the world at holding serve. Federer on the other hand has worked on countering that Nadal forehand and at the World Tour Finals last year put on his best display of dominance against the Nadal forehand juggernaut. What new wrinkle the final will bring will be fascinating to watch

Federer’s been working on an attacking approach to the game for a while now as he is firmly in the third phase of his career. Nadal too following his knee troubles in 2009, has worked on a game style that isn’t quite as physically demanding. On Sunday, expect Nadal toregress to his old style, just a touch, to impose his physical style on Federer as he uses the forehand into Roger’s backhand to create the short ball to put away. His US open serve may have disappeared but he still is an intelligent server knowing where to place the ball to set up the point in his favour. Roger will have to hope that he serves as well as he did against Djokovic. He has developed an excellent slider on the deuce side to counter Nadal’s natural wide one on the ad, and will need to use that to set up his own service points. The forehand has been struck well so far this tourney and he’s been running around his backhand giving a menacing air to his game. However against the lefty, that movement will have to be even more precise to counter the natural curve that will be imparted to the ball.

Perhaps though the line at the start of the article is what will define this match. Federer’s backhands ability to stand up to the Nadal forehand barrage will remain the match breaker. Roger’s been hitting the down the line backhand with authority all year, and that shot will be telling in breaking the pattern that Rafa will so love to get the match into.

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