I do not know how to put into words my feelings after witnessing Roger Federer defeat Rafael Nadal 63 60 in an hour. It was a masterclass performance of the highest order by Roger. In the first set, the match started out fairly even until Roger broke at 3-2, and then took the set 6-3. It was never really close from there. In the second set, Mr Federer played at his very peak level and dominated Nadal in almost every way, and won the set and the match with the utmost ease. It was wonderful to see, and I was in a state of nirvana afterwards while rejoicing the victory.
To watch him deliver a match like that was utterly incredible and to do so against his arch-rival, Rafa Nadal, was extra special. Even hours after the match is over, I am still trying to comprehend what happened. How can one man make tennis of that magnificence look so easy? Roger wasn't playing Olivier Rochus, he was playing Rafael Nadal, a man that had an 18-7 head-to-head record against him, and has caused Roger the greatest sorrow in his tennis career, the losses in the Wimbledon 2008 and Australian Open 2009 finals. For Roger to so soundly dismiss Nadal like he did was absolutely peRFect. Roger is now 4-0 indoors vs Rafa, and now it is known that there is one surface that Roger Federer will always have the advantage over Nadal. I could not be more thrilled with the result of the match, and I was in awe at the level of tennis the Maestro was producing. Midway through the second set, I was crying tears of joy, it was that beautiful to me. It was the way Roger so easily controlled the play from the back of the court. It was the way he attacked with such grace and ease of mind - there was no hesitation, and he had the utmost confidence in every shot he decided to play. The numbers were outstanding: 28 winners, 8 unforced errors, 7 aces, and 4 out of 6 break points converted (the two missed were at 4-0 in the second set though). It was tennis of the highest quality.
Dare I say it, but it may have been the greatest match Roger Federer has EVER played. I assure you all, I am not saying that because this match is fresh in my mind and the moment is so special at this time. No, I actually think that was the best tennis Roger has ever played. He was hitting the ball off the ground with pop and vigor, he was aggressive on every single point, and perhaps most importantly of all, he played HIS game, and overwhelmed Nadal by his constant attacking and his unmatched precision. He attacked Nadal's backhand with ease and hit his cross-court backhand even better than he did last year in the final, which is something I never thought I would ever say. His return was flawless, putting Nadal under pressure right away on almost every point, and taking his chances when they were given to him. It was almost a statement match in a way; Roger attacked Rafa's backhand like Rafa has attacked his for so many years on clay. It was as if the great one was saying, "this is MY territory, and I am going to show you how it's done on a fast indoor surface." Nadal, to his credit, didn't play a bad match by any means. He is just so far outclassed by Fed on that fast surface that is a total mismatch. Nadal can't viciously attack Fed's backhand because the ball stays low and the enormous amount of topspin does not have any effect. He can't win many baseline points because by the time he tries to drag out a long point by playing great defense, Roger already has hit a shot that proves to be too much. These playing conditions are absolutely perfect for Roger's game against Nadal, and it certainly showed in this match.
I also want to address those who say that Rafa wasn't at his best physically or that he was tired and that is why he was beaten so thoroughly. There was nothing wrong with Nadal, he was just overwhelmed by the aggression that Roger displayed. As for the argument that he does not care about this tournament and is focusing on the Davis Cup, I will say this: Rafael Nadal has never won this event, and it is one of the only big titles that he has not won. Rafa has said many times that it is one of his major goals to win the tournament, so I'm sure he is giving it his all this time around. Nadal obviously does care about the Davis Cup a great deal as well, but is it so important to him that he cannot give it his best a week before in London to try to win a trophy he has never lifted before? It is not as if Spain has a weak Davis Cup unit without him. David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco are all great players and the country is capable of winning even without Nadal playing at his best.
A few stats I want to pump out about Roger:
- Roger won 10 of the last 11 games of the match. This is key for me, because unlike his match against Tsonga, he steamrolled the first set after getting the break at 3-2, but in the second set he kept his foot on the petal and did not have any lapse in concentration whatsoever. In fact, the second set was by far and away better than the first, and the first set was already elite.
- Roger is now 35-2 in the past two years (2010 and 2011) of post-USO tennis. It highlights his dominance indoors, and reinforces the FACT, not theory, the FACT, that Roger would dominate the tour if more tournaments were played indoors, or at least if more tournaments had quick hardcourts such as the ones in Doha or Dubai.
In the earlier match of the day Jo-Willy Tsonga defeated Mardy Fish 76(4) 61. I did not see the match, but I'm sure that the first set was very close and the second set was a combination of Tsonga's good play and Fish's bad play. No matter what happened, Tsonga's performance paled in comparison to Roger's, and I don't even have to watch the match to be dead sure of that. On Wednesday, the second round robin matches of group A will be played, and Djokovic will play Ferrer, while Tomas Berdych will take on replacement Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia, who is replacing Andy Murray, who withdrew from the event due to a groin injury. This is a great opportunity for Janko and he was very humble and respectful in understanding how fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) he is to be competing in the World Tour Finals. Tipsarevic gained my utmost respect and I wish him the very best. He is a stand-up competitor and I admire his ability.
As far as the actual matches are concerned, I suspect Djokovic will handle Ferrer relatively easily, but the other match may not be so simple. Tipsarevic has a 4-1 record against Berdych and most recently beat him at the US Open when Tomas was forced to retire. This is a great opportunity for Janko to get a win and then go on to have a chance to play fellow countryman Djokovic in a match that could decide his fate in making the semifinals. If Djokovic beats Ferrer, Tipsarevic beats Berdych, and Berdych beats Ferrer, Janko could very well be looking at a semifinal spot, and that would be a huge accomplishment.
Well, it was a great day for tennis and we got to witness the very best of Roger Federer. I can honestly say that was the best I have ever seen Roger play, and I hope he can continue his momentum and beat Fish on Thursday and go on to win the title on Sunday, which would be his record-breaking 6th Masters Cup title. Until next time, enjoy Roger's win, Fedfans!