The Greatest Matchup in History
- Federer 17 grand slams
- Nadal 14 grand slams
- Nadal 2 Gold medals (1 doubles)
- Federer 302 weeks at world #1
- Nadal 141 weeks at world #1
- Federer has a Career Grand Slam (winning all the opens at least once)
- Nadal has a Career Golden Grand Slam (winning all the opens and a Gold medal at least once)
- 8 Grand Slam Final Matchups. Nadal 6-2 wins
We have never seen a match-up like this in the history of sport. I really don’t care about the opinion of any other person on this topic. If you are a sports fan, then this is something that dreams are made of. In 20 years’ time when I look back on the best moments in sport, there are a few things that I will remember. Shane Warne’s 800th test wicket, Steven Bradbury’s Gold Medal, Michael Phelps 23 Gold, and Roger v Federer IX.
These two giants of men’s tennis have battled hard through illness and injury to earn the right to stand and contest one of sport’s greatest honours in a matchup that will FOREVER go down as one of the supreme tennis bouts of all time. Federer hasn’t won a Grand Slam since 2011, Rafa since 2014. Gone are the days when these two dominated the arena, back when the titles would not be fought amongst the whole field, but between these two heavy weights. Between 2004 – 2010 there was a total of 28 Grand Slams; of these 28 just 4 of the titles were not won by either Federer or Rafa. Of these 24 titles shared between the Spaniard Bull and the Swiss Maestro 15 would go the way of Federer. Such was his stranglehold on the game. But Rafa hardly outdone was unplayable on the clay.
Between 2005 -2014 Nadal dominated the clay of France to take home 9/10 titles… with the only blip on his radar coming from his number one rival… you guessed it Roger Federer when he finally won his first and only French Open in 2009.
Federer’s dominance did not lay in one particular open however. Although seemingly lost at times on the clay, very rarely would we not see Federer in the semis of this track. Federer won his first Grand Slam Open title in Wimbledon of 2003, he then went on to win on the Grass a total of 5 years in a row, with Rafa’s victory in 2008 preventing him from going 7 years in a row. Federer also owned the US Open trophy for 5 years in a row between 2004 and 2008. His 17th and last Open to date coming in 2012 when he stood atop his favourite hunting ground of Wimbledon.
Out of the 4 Opens it is the Australian Open which has been the most inconsistent for the pair. With Marat Safin and Novak Djokovic preventing a white-wash of the Rafa-Federer title sheets over the years. Since 2004 Federer has won the Aussie Open 4 times, with back to back victories in 2006 and 2007. Nadal however has seen his least success on the hard court with just a single victory in 2009.
So of course based on that last stat of victories you would be convinced that surely Federer would have the upper hand leading into the Open Slam on Sunday evening… but you would be wrong. There is another stat that cannot be ignored, possibly one more telling of how the match might go. This would be the specific head-to-head stat of the Open Slam Final wins.
…You see, Federer and Nadal have faced off in the Grand Slam Final a total of 8 times over the years. Out of these 8 bouts, 6 of the victories have got the way of the Spaniard, with just 2 victories to the Fed-Express.
It has been 5 years since these two faced off in a Grand Slam. Half a decade. Nobody expected either of these two to even make the semi-finals with the draw they were given. Seeded 9 (Nadal) and 17 (Federer). Defeating 5 top 10 seeds throughout the tournament. Federer paying $30 for the victory, Nadal a little more.
So here we have the greatest of all match-ups. Possibly the GREATEST of all sporting contests and some would argue one of the most anticipated events the sporting world has ever seen.
How each other are likely to play. Federer has a strong aggressive game with no weakness across the board. His forehand is in particular devastating, and he hits the ball with great accuracy; but above all speed. Federer will go for the assertive approach, and tends to end points pretty quickly. Of note is his under-rated serve and volley; which he has used in this tournament with devastating results. He is a noted server and does tend to win a high percent of his first serve points, which although is a usual commodity in the modern game, is particularly impressive when he also tends to hit a high percent of first serves also.
Rafa is particularly strong in his ability to stay in points and move the opposing player around the court. He can turn defence into attack with strong running shots, but can also play a more subdue game and force the racket on the other side of the net to make the mistake first. He gets more RPM on his shots than any other player, and as such can make the tennis ball do things akin to the arsenal of Shane Warne. His top spin means the ball is always slightly above the ultimate striking zone, so players must hit down on the ball to avoid it sailing over the MCG in the background; or (as most opponents are forced to do) stand further back in the court.
Rafa will not drop shot Federer, as he will not want him to come to the net. Instead he will try to move him around the baseline in an attempt to tire him out. He will want points to go for as long as possible… particularly targeting Federers knee (which forced Federer into taking an injury time-out in his semi to Wawrinka. He will also aim for Federers back-hand which although is not a weakness for Federer, is certainly not as strong as his forehand.
Federer will back his serve-volly and really fight hard during Nadals weakest area… the Spaniards serve. Although not as poor as it once was, the Rafa serve is nowhere near as deadly as other opponents Federer has faced in the tournament. I anticipate Federer to be super aggressive on the Nadal serve. And I expect Federer to back his shots, end them quickly, and force Nadal into having to make some spectacular plays to stay in rallies. If he does need to stay in rallies he will aim for the Nadal backhand, which does not get as much RPM on the ball as his deadly forehand.
As Federer is my favourite sportsperson of all time, I am a little biased when I give my opinion on how I expect the match to go. I believe Federer will win in 5 epic sets.