He might be 0-6 against Djokovic but one thing is for sure, Rafael Nadal always had a big psychological advantage against Roger Federer. And today was no different. Nadal won a tough 4 setter against Federer to extend his H2H 18-9. I have been a Federer fan for last 6 years. And to see him on the down roll after playing such vintage tennis throughout the tournament was heartbreaking. More than Nadal’s performance, he should be disappointed as he himself is to be blamed for the defeat today!
5 reasons leading to Federer’s downfall:
1) Obstinate Federer: Time and again we saw Federer hit the short return towards Nadal's forehand. Result - Either it was in the net or Nadal came out with a Forehand passing shot winner. Even though there were times when it was obvious that Federer needs to hit the shots on Nadal’s backhand, he still repeated the same mistake! It was clear by the fourth set that he will hit the approaching shot always on Nadal’s forehand and lose the point. Even the tennis analysts were puzzled by his stubborn approach.
2) Unforced Errors: I had said in my preview how crucial this can be and it turned out to be the match changer.63 Unforced Errors from Federer in the match vs. 34 of Nadal. The number in itself is a good enough explaination for his defeat.
3) No answer for Nadal’s Forehand: He simply didn’t have the answer to high loopy top spin forehands of Nadal. Nadal had one game plan and he executed it to perfection with constantly hitting his forehand to Federer’s backhand. Federer also supported him by hitting it back to his forehand. Although at the start of the set, it was a complete different scenario with Federer coming out and exposing Rafa’s backhand just like Djokovic did last year. But it was for a brief period of time only.
4) Lack of Confidence: It’s a well known fact that Rafa is in Roger’s head and it was clear on crucial points. Whenever Federer was a break up, Rafa broke him back immediately. Inspite of being ahead in the second and third set, he couldn’t capitalize against Nadal. It was all a mental game between both of them.
5) Lack of Variety: The drop shots which had worked so perfectly against Tomic and Del Potro were gone. He did try unsuccessfully in the first set once or twice but then they got extinct till the fourth set.
Although I must say that Nadal came out with a specific game plan (attack Federer’s backhand) and stuck to it no matter what. The tenacity that he showed in following his game plan was really commendable. Roger had a blistering start to the match but as Nadal has always done, he wetted out the storm and hung on. Just like Djokovic showed us last year against Nadal, today Nadal showed it to us against Federer that if you can stick to your game plan, even if there are roadblocks at the start (he lost the first set), you will win. Hats off to Nadal.
Federer will have to do some real thinking if he is to defeat Nadal again in a Grand Slam. Till he sorts it out mentally and gets the belief back in himself that he can defeat Nadal, it will be difficult for him to improve his 2-8 GS record against Nadal. He needs to stick to the game plan and Nadal’s backhand: something which Djokovic has mastery upon.
Is this the end of Roger Federer’s era? Certainly not. He is the youngest 30 in the history of tennis and still in my heart, I believe that the great champion that he is, he will be able to motivate himself and dig deep to make a strong comeback just like Agassi did in 1999.