Basel final preview and pick: Nadal vs. Federer XXXIV

Fed 2It will be the the 34th meeting between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal when two friendly rivals battle for the Basel title on Sunday. They have not faced each other at a tournament this small since Dubai in 2006.

On the day after Halloween, fans at the Swiss Indoors Basel will be getting an extra-special treat. After all, it is not every day that the tennis world witnesses Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal square off at a 500-point event.

In fact, the last time Federer and Nadal faced each other at a tournament of this level was way back in 2006 in the Dubai title match. That remains their only previous encounter to date outside of a Grand Slam, Masters 1000, or year-end championship.

Heading into Sunday’s showdown, the overall head-to-head series stands at 23-10 in favor of Nadal. The Spaniard has won five in a row dating back to the start of the 2013 season. Federer’s last victory over his nemesis came in 2012 Indian Wells semifinals via a 6-3, 6-4 decision. Even on hard courts, Nadal is 9-6 lifetime against the Swiss and he has won their last four such meetings. Federer does, however, have one edge in their past history: he is 4-1 at Nadal’s expense on indoor hard courts.

The 34-year-old not only has the benefit of playing indoors for this one, but also at home in the friendly confines of Switzerland. Federer is an awesome 60-9 lifetime at this tournament, has won it six times, and has now reached the title match in 10 consecutive appearances. The 17-time major champion has advanced so far this week by taking out Mikhail Kukushkin, Philipp Kohlschreiber, David Goffin, and Jack Sock–surrendering sets to Kohlschreiber and Goffin along the way.

Nadal has gone the distance three times already and came close to doing the same–if not losing altogether–in his semifinal versus Richard Gasquet. The third seed, who had previously outlasted Lukas Rosol, Grigor Dimitrov, and Marin Cilic, recovered from a break down in the first set and survived an extremely close second to beat Gasquet 6-4, 7-6(7).
Nadal 3 Miami prac
“It’s been a very special week for me,” said Nadal, who added that he felt good after a brief knee-injury scare at 3-1 in the opening set on Saturday.

Nearing the end of what has been a disappointing year by his standards, Nadal is suddenly picking up the pace during what is traditionally by far his worst stretch of any season. The former world No. 1 reached the Beijing final and the Shanghai semis prior to this impressive Basel performance. Since blowing a two-set lead against Fabio Fognini at the U.S. Open, Nadal boasts a 12-2 record.

“It’s definitely a bit of a dream final,” Federer assured. “It’s never quite happened (in Basel). That it’s me against Rafa towards the back end of our careers is nice for the tournament, great for the Swiss fans–who’ve never seen this matchup on Swiss grounds.”

“I have played against Roger hundreds of times around the world,” Nadal commented. “I never played at his home (Switzerland), and tomorrow is a chance.”

It’s also a great opportunity for Federer, but at this point it his hard to like his chances in this particular matchup under any circumstances. This summer, of course, is when an on-fire Federer would have been a heavy favorite over Nadal. Fast forward a few months and Federer’s form–and perhaps motivation–has dipped considerably. He is no longer playing the kind of tennis that can blow his opponent of the court in two quick sets. Nadal, who would have an obvious mental edge in any long three-setter, should be able to capitalize.

Pick: Nadal in 3

27 Comments on Basel final preview and pick: Nadal vs. Federer XXXIV

    • Exactly. Rafa seemed determined to target Fed’s BH all day, overdoing it imo, when at times going DTL into the open court could win him the point.

      A prime time Rafa would make all the right shot selection. The current Rafa lacks clarity of thoughts. Also, his CC FH (including the I/O FH) couldnt create the angles he used to create, lacking depth, pace and power snd so they’re returnable. Even his smashes these days are less effective and he has to hit a few consecutively to win a point. Maybe he’s still concern about his back and so isnt willing to exert too much pressure on it.

      • I’ve been pondering about that too. I feel he has lost faith in his body and this is affecting his lucidity. He cant help but be worrying about what seems to be a relapse in his knee. And almost certainly it is his back which sometimes holds him back from going all out with his serve. This was in my mind when I floated the idea he maybe should consider going back to the practice court rather than risk anymore injuries after what has been an intensive spell on indoor courts.

  1. How many total points did Fed win compared to Rafa?

    I hope this does not become a precedent for Fed vs Rafa, Hope Rafa learns from this. It is very important for Rafa to play his 3 principal rivals to know what he should work on.

    Rafa as per my reading of comments did not try much different apart from attacking Feds BH. Rafa won 60 baseline points to Feds 40..huge difference. Somehow needs to serve better and stop hitting a bit short to prevent Fed coming to the net.

    Rafa played Novak on his fav surface Beijing and lost 62 62. Rafa played Fed on his fav surface and lost 6 3 5 7 6 3. Hope he is taking notes.

    • He hit short balls because he was standing way back behind the baseline. Against the big servers and big hitters I can understand because their powerful shots could push you further back and its hard to counter their power. I was expecting Rafa to move forward when playing against Gasquet but he still didnt make any changes. Agsinst Fed, no changes too and so Fed could approach the net very often.

      Rafa has the varieties but he often doesnt make full use of them, preferring to play his usual way from well behind the baseline. I sometimes wonder does Toni ever talk to Rafa about this or he simply leave it to Rafa to figure it out; or Rafa is too stubborn and would not listen; or he simply couldnt do it.

      • luckystar, your criticism of Rafa’s style has not changed in years. I could be reading this from 5 years ago , yet Rafa has been very successful for much of the time. Of course he’s had his bad times but that can’t all be due to him staying too far back. If only it were that simple.

      • Save for one FO some time ago, it’s been “bad times” for the last two years.

        Rafa’s court positioning is the symptom, not the underlying problem.

        His opposition hasn’t figured out his game. He’s just not executing the way he used to and it’s not physical, it’s mental.

  2. No nadine, on clay he’s still fine but not on the quicker courts. The past five years? Well Rafa was still successful on clay but not so much on grass and the HCs. He won USO2013 in that period of time because he was playing aggressive tennis.

      • You said he was still fine on clay but he is anything but.

        He was great in 2013 but his level dropped off in 2014 and it was already showing in his clay results failing to win a lead up clay tournament before winning the French.

        The back problem in 2014 was really the start of his confidence problems.

      • Nah, Rafa won Madrid and reached the final at Rome in 2014 before winning the FO. He had 3870 points during the European clay season, not his best (his best being 5100 points out of 5500 available) but good enough to put him at no.1 on clay that year; moreover, he won the FO that year beating Ferrer, Murray and Novak consecutively.

  3. as I already said, Rafa is reached his peak and his game deteriorates…his lost confidence and anxiety on key points goes with it…he must implement new things, more varieties in order to be able to meet current challenges…he can no longer afford to stand way behind the baseline hitting short…he no longer has the same energy and the same speed as he used to hence his wrong court positioning…he needs to volley more and to make his points shorter…but it is much easier than done…Rafa’s style of play isn’t easy to adjust…

    However, I see changes and thus improvements in Rafa’s game…yesterday’s match was a clear indication of it…Rafa is progressing…but Fed in the meantime has also progressed and ALTERED his game…his BH improved and his S&V game is mostly strong and working…when his serve is on he is difficult to beat on fast indoor courts…and it is even more difficult for this version of Rafa…

    But I see positive things in Rafa’s game…I am optimistic! Keep improving Rafa!


    • Yep, Rafa needs to play with varieties, and plays more inside the court. Rafa had bern saying that for the past five years i think, had a bit of success doing that in 2013 NAHC season but had not done so since.

  4. I think Nadal spends far too much time on court against lower ranked players early in these tournaments and it catches up with him by the end.Really his serving is very bad right now and lower ranked players can make him work too hard to hold serve.

    • How many players can claim to beat the following in quick straight sets, the ones who have taken Rafa to 3 sets in the last 2 tournaments?:

      Rafa beat the following in straight sets:

      Your statement needs qualification. It’s not as simple as you make it sound.

      • Novak and Andy can defeat everyone except Dr. Ivo in quick straight sets. Fed can definitely defeat Rosol and Dimi easliy at least that’s what the statistics says. Cilic and Tsonga depends on a good day yes and on average day in 3 sets. Dr. Ivo is out of all equations he is equally competitive against Top1 to Top100

  5. Nadal’s two set matches are far too long.I believe Gasquet kept him running out there for over two hours.Federer beats lower ranked opponents in majors in that time.Nadal needs a serving coach to take all that tension out of his arm motion.It’s strange,his overhead is so natural,maybe he could adapt that motion to his serve.

  6. alpha25 says:
    November 2, 2015 at 4:17 pm
    “Novak and Andy can defeat everyone except Dr. Ivo in quick straight sets. ”

    Dr Ivo leads Novak 3:1 in their h2h and Rafa leads Dr Ivo 5:1


    • Against Dr Ivo h2h will be totally misleading as many lower ranked player has better h2h against him compared to some top players. I wonder what if Dr Ivo would have been a decent baseliner then he would always have been one of grand slam contender and he would have won at least one slam.

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