Why Federer can’t beat Nadal, but Djokovic can

I post this as Nadal and Djokovic take each other on in the French Open semi of 2013!

Some stats:

Nadal has now beaten Federer more times than he has any other player
Tennis X
May 19th, 2013

With his emphatic win today at the Rome Italian Open final, Rafael Nadal improved his head-to-head record over rival Roger Federer to 20-10 and 13-2 on the clay courts. The 20 wins over the Swiss are also the most victories Rafa has over any player in his career – it’s also the most Roger has lost to any one player.

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Some opinions:

Why has Nadal’s game always troubled Federer, but not Djokovic?
Yahoo answers

Djokovic has learned how to take his two-handed backhand down the line with a lot of pace. Remember, Rafa’s game is based around his heavy topspin forehand to the opponent’s backhand. He will then wait for the opponent to give him a weak shot and then crush an inside-out forehand

Before 2011, Djokovic would have trouble against Rafa for two reasons:

1. Djokovic’s forehand was not penetrating enough to prevent Rafa from stepping into his backhand. Now, with added pace and precision, Rafa is forced to go to the slice with his backhand, has he did a number of times in the final. Rafa’s slice isn’t nearly as good as Federer’s, because it sits up more. So Djokovic gets a fairly easy ball.

2. Djokovic’s backhand was a great crosscourt shot, but he didn’t have the down-the-line shot under his belt yet. Now that he has that shot, he can take Rafa’s loopy forehand and crush it down the line to Nadal’s backhand.

Essentially, these new components of Djokovic’s game have allowed him to find Nadal’s backhand, which is 10 times harder to find than any other player’s backhand. Federer continues to have problems with this because he can’t generate enough pace with his one-hander down the line to prevent Rafa from hitting an inside-out forehand. If you have a one-hander (like I do), you know how difficult it is to take a high ball down the line consistently. It is much easier to hit crosscourt, which plays right into Rafa’s forehand.

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