It was another amazing match between two athletes who have brought out the best in each other and played some unbelievable matches over the last 5 years. It is not for no reason that Nadal is considered to be the best on clay. His record is 40-1. (Won 40, lost 1). If ever there was anything that was going to stop this unrelenting Mallorca man, it was Federer. The last time these two met at the French Open final was in 2008, when Nadal won 6-1,6-3,6-0, one of the most lopsided games in the history of French open finals. Several had written Federer off. But the Swiss king came back to life. He hired Paul Annacone as his coach, tweaked his game a little and indeed, came back to win the French Open the next year, in 2009. If ever there was anything missing from the Federer resume, it was to beat Nadal on clay at a Slam.
So, Nadal started slowly and Federer broke the Spaniard in his first service game and raced to a 3-0 lead. He was well and truly in control of the first set and got a set point at 5-2. His audacious drop shot missed the line by inches and Nadal fought back to 5-3, still a break down. Federer then seemed to hit one of the troughs and lost his confidence completely as Nadal took the first set 7-5, winning 5 consecutive games. 1st set Nadal, but what a confidence-breaker for Federer, having had a set point.
Nadal continued his strong momentum. Most players would have mentally been disintegrated against the inspired world number 1. But, Federer continued to fight and just managed to stay in the set. There were some unbelievable exchanges. Shots that would have been "sliced" or "floated" in by others were turned into offensive shots by these two. Federer, with his amazing athleticism and smoothness. Nadal, with his whippy, loopy top-spin into the Federer backhand. Despite Federer's fightback, Nadal got to set point serving at 5-4. He lost the set point and to add to the drama, the skies opened up and there was a 9-minute delay. Nadal had said before the game that he would not want it to rain and have the conditions dry for that would favor his top-spin game better. The players came back with Nadal serving at 5-4, 40-40. Inevitably his first serve was a top-spun serve high into the Federer back-hand and he earned himself another set point. Tribute to Federer, he fought back, broke back and the 2nd set went to a tie-break. Fortunes continued to swing. After the path the first set took, where Federer lost a set point, you could not help but get a feeling that this would go Federer's way (with Nadal having dropped set points). But, that indeed, was not the case. Nadal took the tie-breaker. Potentially, another huge blow to the Federer psyche.
Only one-time has Nadal lost a game having won the first two sets. That was way back in 2005 in Miami. The opponent? Surpise surprise - ROGER FEDERER. But that was when Nadal was a 17-yr old and Fed was on top pf the world. A totally different cup of tea now!
Nadal again raced to a 4-2 lead in the 3rd and just when you thought "that was it", Federer played some unbelievable drop shots and made some volleys out-of-this world. He made more unforced errors but came up with more winners and took the 3rd set 7-5.
Nadal was consistent. After the first 2 games of the match, he played the whole match at an (80/100) level. Federer, on the other hand, played some points at (50/100) and some at a godly level, more like 150/100. Nadal would run-down every ball. It was upto Federer to come up with the drops, the volleys, the approaches, the slice and all the variations.
Nadal came out in the 4th set and was under the pump and 0-40 on his serve. From there on, he managed to rise and what a rise. He came back to win the game and took the 4th set 6-1 and won the match 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1.
An unbelievable match. Some rallies and exchanges were out of this world. The final score may be a bit flattering for Nadal for he knew he was in a dog-fight for the best part of 3 hrs and 50 minutes.
The Federer-Nadal rivalry may be reaching its twilight. But if the history is anything to go by, we are in for another final between these two. For every time they have made it to the French open final, they have also made it to the Wimbledon finals!