Indian Wells R4 preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Federer

The bottom quarter of the BNP Paribas Open draw has already witnessed a showdown between rising stars Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev. Additionally, Novak Djokovic is playing Juan Martin Del Potro on Tuesday.

But if you think those matchups are intriguing, wait until Wednesday.

Even though this Masters 1000 has not yet even reached the quarterfinals, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will renew their illustrious rivalry on Wednesday evening in Indian Wells. A spot in the last eight will be at stake when the two all-time greats square off for the 36th time in their careers and for the second time this season. Nadal leads the head-to-head series 23-12, but Federer–of course–most recently triumphed 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in an epic Australian Open final two months ago. If the 35-year-old Swiss prevails once again, their hard-court history against each other will be tied up at nine wins apiece.

Neither player had any real trouble setting up a battle that was eagerly anticipated when the hard-to-believe Indian Wells draw was released almost exactly one week ago. Federer did not break serve a single time against Steve Johnson on Tuesday, but he cruised through two tiebreakers en route to a 7-6(3), 7-6(4) victory. The 18-time Grand Slam champion preceded that result by destroying Stephane Robert 6-2, 6-1 in the second round. He is now 10-1 this season, with his only loss coming at the hands of Evgeny Donskoy in a 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(5) Dubai thriller during which Federer squandered three match points, a 5-2 advantage in the third set, and a 5-1 lead in the final tiebreaker.

Nadal booked his spot in the last 16 this fortnight thanks to straight-set defeats of fellow left-handers Guido Pella and Fernando Verdasco. Thus the world No. 6 is bouncing back nicely from a surprising Acapulco final setback against an on-fire Sam Querrey, who had previously upset David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, and Nick Kyrgios in succession.

“Everything,” Nadal said with a smile when asked what makes Federer’s game so special. “Yeah, he has the talent to do very difficult things that looks easy. He’s able to take the ball very early–serve and first shot. He [creates] a lot of winners with the two first shots, no? And then he’s able to take the ball always from inside (the court), and he’s very quick going to the net. If you play short ball, then you know that he [is going to] hit a winner, gonna play [either a] forehand or backhand, go to the net, and you are going to be in big trouble.

“His backhand in Melbourne was one of the best days that I played against him.”

It is true that Federer’s backhand has been outstanding of late, but he also had the benefit in Melbourne of facing Nadal on what amounted to be a relative ice rink compared to Australian Opens of previous years. Those same conditions will not be on display in the California desert, where the courts are slow and the balls bounce high.

Longer rallies will likely be the story on Wednesday, and many of those baseline exchanges will see Nadal successfully employ the strategy that has worked so well for him against Federer in the past: heavy topspin forehands to the backhand side.

Pick: Nadal in 2

151 Comments on Indian Wells R4 preview and prediction: Nadal vs. Federer

  1. Basically Fed sorted out his mental problems playing Rafa. With bigger racquet it tilts the balance. In the past Fed stepped into court with negative body language playing Rafa. Notice now he doesn’t have that anymore.

    Rafa on the other hand is like a boxer taking too many jabs on first round resulting him unable to focus, unable to impose all his fighting skills facing such adversity. It is not that he lost all his skill in one match. If he is to play another match against another player we might see a very different Rafa.

    • You should have looked into Rafa’s serve speed; he’s serving at best at 180 kph, not going to cut it facing big servers or those with great serve.

      You just have to look at how Fed could return Rafa’s serve to his BH and returned it DTL. Had that be Kyrgios serving that, Fed won’t be able to return with interest.

      To me the main issue is still Rafa’s serve, and also his nerve. He was able to serve well enough at the AO but when it mattered the most in the final, he wasn’t able to serve well and was broken a few times.

      Rafa said it himself, that he wasn’t able to deal with Fed’s returns, saying he’s unable to have the advantage in his first two shots to trouble Fed (something to that effect). Rafa was broken a few times in the match.

      Rafa has to sort out his serving issues, if not it will be tough for him to win matches against top players or big hitters, esp on the HCs.

  2. Federer was just on fire today; not much Nadal could do. This was true in sets 1 and 3 at AO as well. If Roger can keep that kind of level there really isn’t much Rafa can do at this point in his career. However, as many others have said, the big difference is his larger racquet, and the confidence that has come with a vastly improved BH and return of serve. Those of us who are Fed fans can only wonder how many slams he would have won had he switched racquets 10 years ago (and had a coach committed to aggressive play). There is no rational reason why 25 Fed couldn’t play at least as well as he is today. But those are just what ifs…all we can do now is enjoy the kind of quality tennis that we saw Roger produce today.

    • Nah, the younger Fed was better off with his smaller racket imo. He would lose some of his edge playing with a bigger racket then. Regardless of bigger or smaller racket, he would have the same problem vs Rafa on clay. The Rafa in his heydays was very hard to beat, even on the HCs, for Fed, except on indoor low bouncing HCs. Fed didn’t have problem with anyone else in his earlier days, whether he’s using bigger or smaller racket so not much difference imo.

      We can say what if all the time, what if Rafa has a bigger and better serve; what if he doesn’t have his injuries i.e. has a better planned reduced playing schedule etc.

    • Joe Smith ( AT 7:35 AM),

      If my memory serves me correctly, Fed started to use a larger racquet in the middle of 2013. So, it took him more than 3 years to get to used to it.

      Rafa made some adjustments to his racquet at the end of last year. I hope, he’ll get to used to it sooner than in 3 years. 🙂

      • No he toyed with a new raquet at two clay tournaments in Hamburg and and Gstaad after a bad loss at Wimbledon to shake things up but quickly reverted to his smaller frame for the rest of the year.

        He made the switch in the off season permanently using his new frame in 2014 where he made two slam semis and Wimby final finishing the year at No. 2. He made 4 of his first 5 Masters finals including a title in Cincy.

        So he adjusted pretty quick to the racquet but Joe says the big change was two things:

        “However, as many others have said, the big difference is his larger racquet, and the confidence that has come with a vastly improved BH and return of serve.”

        The confidence with the BH and ROS is something Ljubicic helped him get from that racquet to make him a player at almost 36 that rivals any prior version of Fed. The six month layoff was the catalyst that enabled him with Ljuby’s help to revolutionize his game (like Rafa did with his 2013 comeback).

        Fed and Rafa used that time off very wisely and effectively.

        • AT 7:42 PM,

          I replied to Joe Smith AT 7:35 AM says: “…can only wonder how many SLAMS he would have won had he switched racquets 10 years ago.”
          He did NOT win GS tournaments during 2014 – 2016, i.e. during 3 years after switching to a larger racket.

          • Yeah, he would have needed 2016 Ljuby (or equivalent) as coach AND 6 months lay off to retool).

            Good point Augusta.

            Still, that raquet would have helped him win even more ten years ago in my opinion. Better technology 10 years ahead of his opponent.

            • I add to My post AT 10:08 PM.

              And as far as single match losses like this, I refer the readers to Rafa’s wise words from a true Champion about these type of one-off losses such as Murray losing to Pospy for example:

              ´That´s the sport, no? Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. Yesterday probably Andy didn´t play his best match, and Vasek served very well. So then you arrive — you go to a tiebreak, and anything can happen. Yeah. Andy just came here winning in Dubai, so probably he will be playing very well in Miami. It´s true that in Indian Wells during his career he had some bad matches maybe, and so happens sometimes. Sometimes you don´t feel comfortable in one event, and it´s difficult to overcome that. Happened for me a lot of times for me in Cincinnati, and I was not able to find the rhythm, and finally I won once. But when you have bad feelings in one event, sometimes it´s difficult to overcome that.´

          • Exactly Augusta. I doubt with a bigger racket, he would be able to deal with Rafa’s topspin FH on clay back then! Fed was clearly heading for a gradual decline after 2007, and at FO2008 he was hammered by Rafa, I doubt Fed would do better with a bigger racket against a Rafa at his peak.

            Would a bigger racket help Fed in 2010? Unless we assumed he could beat Sod at FO, Berdych at Wimbledon and Djoko at USO after which he would have to face and beat Rafa. Or in 2009 when he would beat Rafa at AO and Delpo at USO.

            Bigger racket or not, he’s not going to beat an on fire Djoko on the slower surfaces in 2011. The slower surfaces favor Djoko.

          • Ha, Augusta, it made me laughed how one match win and now Fed suddenly became so unbeatable with a bigger racket 10 years ago! These people, they should watch the matches in the past, and be reminded how quick, powerful and formidable a young pre-prime, peak and still in his prime Rafa was during the past four to ten years.

            Not only Rafa, but Djoko too, when as teenagers they were already giving Fed and his peers back then all sorts of problems. Fed has the edge now at 35 because Rafa is no longer that formidable self he once was. I bet the Rafa of 2013 would still be beating this Fed, esp when Rafa was more aggressive, served much better than he did now.

            Rafa is no longer the same Rafa anymore, could only managed 180+ kph first serve and even poorer second serves; not going to cut it against the top guys. Djoko too isn’t the same Djoko of 2015/early 2016. His performances at Doha final and AO SF and Final last year were sufficient to beat this Fed, big racket notwithstanding!

            • “His performances at Doha final and AO SF and Final last year were sufficient to beat this Fed, big racket notwithstanding!”

              I think you are underestimating Federer too much. Fading Federer comprehensively beat absolute prime Djokovic at slow RG 2011, almost beat (should have beaten) US Open 2011, and Wimbledon 2012. So, current confident Federer with improved BH and ROS will absolute thrash Djokovic of Doha or whatever. In a nutshell, a Prime Djokovic has not absolutely created problems for Federer.
              With new confidence, Nadal will actually have better chances of beating Djokovic than this Federer.

            • Gotta side with Asif here for the most part in 2011. Fed owned Nole 2011 FO in four sets handing him his first loss of the year.

              Lost in three close sets at 2011 AO. Hard to say if this fed would have beaten him. Maybe maybe not but would have been closer.

              Dubai/IW probably not.

              2011 US Open SF that went to 7-5 in the 5th where Fed held match points? Very likely indeed.

              As far as how it would have helped him beat Rafa on clay????

              LOLOLOLOL, no one mentioned that but YOU!

              Strawman arguments are everywhere.

  3. So now Rafa is waiting to lose 6 times in a row to Fed to start overturning it? How much is it against Djoko now? 10 in a row?

    I know we all love him but frankly expecting too much out of him. If a person does rinse and repeat without evolving, no point expecting anything.

    Hell its 23-13 now..I am surprised that Rafa knew going by AO experience that Fed will come over his BH and gain advantage in first 2 shots..he should then serve more to his FH if Feds BH is now truly a strength..Its the BH that beat Rafa in AO final..

    No but he will do what he did 5 years back hoping for it to succeed. Fed has evolved Rafa, you may have not.. Its okay to lose but 6 2 6 3..seriously?

  4. Ha, based on doing the same thing and expecting different results, maybe hoping for easier draw??

    Like I said before, his main rivals all have improved or evolved – Djoko become better at the net; Murray hits a more aggressive FH; Fed improves his BH and net rushing.

    What have Rafa improved? Sorry, I cant think of any. He’s effectively playing the same way like ten years ago, despite not being able to cope with that style anymore.

    We dont even need to talk about ten years ago, maybe four years ago, in 2013, and that is already too much to ask for!

    • I mean trying to play like four years ago is already not possible, so why not do some changes based on current conditions (as in his own physical limitations, the current playing trend whatever).

        • Nine years.

          And 2013 was just as good as 2008(albeit different).

          You all dismiss that he’s coming off 2.5 years of injuries and severe anxiety.

          He’s made two hard court finals and just got beaten by a God mode fed.

          You’re all being too hard on him.

          He deserves better.

          • AT 7:48 PM,

            The thing Rafa called ‘anxiety’ (he felt during 2015) was the result of the injuries he suffered during 2014. His unlce/coach explained it several times.

            • AT 8:52 PM,
              U.Toni in his interview with COP, a radio network in Spain, in Dec.2015: “Getting injured in the AO 2014 final was a big blow. When he recovered [therapies helped him temporarily], the wrist issue happened [July 2014] and then appendicitis [Oct-Nov. 2014] when he was trying to come back. All this caused him a huge stress and lack of confidence in his body [in the 2015 season]. He was going on court [in 2015] without knowing/trusting what his body would do.”

  5. 2008 style more physical; 2013 less so and his 2017 self cant even cope with that 2013 style, so why not do something different.

    • Long time ago I told you Luckystar , given enough time Fed will start making inroads into Rafas game. As Rafa wears down physically and Fed retools his game. You didnt agree then. It is good that you stuck around long enough on these boards to see it

      • Mr or Ms, you have to stick around long enough to watch them on clay before jumping into conclusions!

        You talked as if all along Fed had no hope beating Rafa on non clay surfaces when they were 9-7 adv Rafa before this AO. So what was Fed doing while winning that 7 times off clay? Didn’t he have inroad into Rafa’s game back then??

        • No he didnt , he said it in in his interview at AO that he faced a pyschological barrier when facing Nadal. His strategy has been to stay fit while Nadal wears himself out. Today Fed achieved something by beating Rafa three times in a row which means the balance has fundamentally shifted. Plus this is beginning of the year not a worn out WTF Rafa , so these defeats are definitely telling!

          • Telling what? That Fed after a six months rest can beat a 30 yo Rafa? Maybe he should take more six months rest then!

            And shall I remind you that Rafa wasn’t fresh at the AO final after a long drawn out SF and with one fewer day rest? A 30 yo Rafa isn’t the same as a 22 yo Rafa!

            The 2015 Basel match – Rafa used to lose to Fed on indoor HC, so what’s the surprise? Moreover, Rafa in 2015 was in a slump.

            This IW loss wasn’t a surprise, Fed did beat Rafa at IW in 2012, also in straight sets. Rafa back then was better than he is now. The surprise was in the score, but Rafa did have such shocking losses, though rarely, at the hands of his main rivals – like Miami 2008 final vs Davy; 2016 Doha final vs Djoko; WTF 2011 RR vs Fed.

            • Lol , u are speaking as if these winnings are business as usual. None of these winnings are a surprise to you. Its only a surprise to the book keepers and other watchers of tennis. Up until Basel 2015. Federer lost to Nadal 5 consecutive times. That was an unmatched record for federer in their history of meetings. But now Federer has turned the clock against Rafa , producing a streak and record against Rafa.From now on given enough plays between them , Federer will continue to diminish the lopsided head to head.

            • Its telling that Federer is permanently and consistently better player against Rafa..Now!. Not the Fed of before who wins 1 in 3 matches between them to someone who will win 2 in 3 matches between them.

          • Why Lol? You as a Fed fan have not the confidence in Fed? When they played on non clay surfaces, the outcome of their matches could go either way, with Fed better on indoor courts and Rafa on outdoor courts, if not how could their non clay H2H be 10-9 ad Rafa (HC + grass) prior to this year?

            If you ask me, I would say Fed in his peak (2004-2007) > than Rafa on non clay surfaces (5-2 ad Fed); Rafa at his peak and prime (2008-2014) > than Fed (8-3 ad Rafa) on non clay surfaces; and Fed > than post peak Rafa (from 2015- )on non clay surfaces, currently stands at 3-0 ad Fed.

            • Yes this is the point I made years ago, that into the future Federer will start correcting his lopsided h2h, which you didnt agree. I am going to bet Federer will start defeating Rafa on clay as well, if Rafa sticks around for that long to have enough meetings.

          • I don’t agree that’s for sure, that Fed is going to beat Rafa on clay. I’m going further to say that Rafa will beat Fed on the HCs too going forward, if Fed sticks around long enough!

            You’re too optimistic about Fed and think too lowly of Rafa! Perhaps wishful thinking on your part! Rafa may not win big titles on the HCs again but sure he still can beat his rivals on them!

            • Kyrgios will be on the defensive in any rallies against. Djokovic just let him bloop moonball backhands back and forth all day. Federer will eat those for breakfast.

              And lunch. And dinner.

      • And shall I remind you that back in 2010 at WTF, Fed’s BH was also on fire thus he beat the better version of Rafa back then in three sets.

  6. You all are way too hard on Rafa (except Augusta008 and nadline if she was posting today).

    Here are Rafa’s thoughts, with a champion’s mindset…

    “I think it was always that he returned well. But at the same time, it was obvious that I didn’t have the right answer for his returns,” Nadal said. “I needed to neutralise the points. I needed to neutralise his two first balls, and I didn’t … I was not good enough tonight to make that happen and he deserved the victory, for sure.”

    Nadal was only able to muster one break point opportunity in the match and it came after he dropped his opening service game. He was not able to break the 36 year old’s serve throughout.

    “I need to hit longer and I need to hit higher to create problems [for him],” Nadal said. “I was not able to do that, and then he [had the] advantage.

    “The worst thing in that match for me was from the beginning I was at a disadvantage – broken the first game of the match, and then broken in the second game of the second set. So that’s so difficult to play against Roger this way.”

    The 30 year old was determined not to dwell on the fourth-round defeat for long. “When you feel that you are playing bad or you are in a bad moment, maybe it stays a little bit longer in your mind,” he said. “It is not my case.

    “I started the season great, playing great tennis, winning a lot of matches. Today I didn’t play my best, but I am really confident I’m going to play well in Miami [next] week.”

  7. @Lucky Star
    “His performances at Doha final and AO SF and Final last year were sufficient to beat this Fed, big racket notwithstanding!”

    I think you are underestimating Federer too much. Fading Federer comprehensively beat absolute prime Djokovic at slow RG 2011, almost beat (should have beaten) US Open 2011, and Wimbledon 2012. So, current confident Federer with improved BH and ROS will absolute thrash Djokovic of Doha or whatever. In a nutshell, a Prime Djokovic has not absolutely created problems for Federer.
    With new confidence, Nadal will actually have better chances of beating Djokovic than this Federer.

    • How was Fed fading in 2011 when he was 29 going to 30? Why Fed was fading at 29/30 whilst Djoko and Rafa aren’t at 29/30 and are still considered to be in their prime?

      Why do you pick FO2011 but forget about AO, Dubai, IW 2011? Or USO 2011? Are you saying Fed had no hope to even beat Djoko once at that time?

      You also forget Fed was already using his bigger racket at AO 2016 but watch how Djoko beat him handily there. Djoko also beat Fed at Wimbledon and USO 2015 when Fed was using his bigger racket! Fed also lost early to Seppi at AO2015 when using his bigger racket!

      The quicker AO court this year helped Fed’s game; Fed has a good record at IW all along. The court may be slow and high bouncing there but the dry desert air and lighter ball there travels quicker than normal slow courts, which may explain why Fed has better results there than at Miami which is more humid.

  8. The tragedy with Nadal is that Fed has ridiculously improved his BH…now a weapon… if nadal cant go to the backhand against fed he has nowhere else to go.

    • Go to the FH! Rafa beat Fed at the AO in 2009 with the help of Rafa’s lethal CC BH to Fed’s FH, not just Rafa’s FH vs Fed’s BH.

      People talked as if Fed only has/had a BH when at those times his FH was still formidable. I mean why would Fed not use his FH and instead allowed Rafa to attack his BH? Clearly, Rafa’s BH at that time (2009) was lethal enough to counter Fed’s FH and so Fed had got no way to escape from either wing, so to speak.

      Fed said that Rafa had two FHs back during those earlier encounters, when Rafa’s BH was good enough to at least withstand Fed’s FH before targeting Fed’s BH for the attack.

      Rafa is obviously less powerful and not as quick as before, so what he should do is playing from inside the court, in order to compensate for the loss of depth in his shots; uses his BH more ( which he is doing now and his BH is steadily improving). He has to continue to work and improve on his serve, on both speed, placement and precision esp when under pressure.

      The most important thing is to play with a more aggressive mindset, take control instead of waiting for things to happen. My take.

      • Yeah, Rafa’s better than 2014-2016 but he’s not back to the power and consistency on all his shots including consistent depth, FHDTL.

        He needs that to beat Fed when Fed is playing well.

        I believe that would still be the difference that would give the advantage back to Rafa. My take.

        • This has been an interesting exchange. My initial point was that Fed would have won a lot more had he switched much earlier to a larger racquet. I also agree with Hawk that Lubby as a coach has made a difference. no doubt the 6 months off has helped as well. But no one could deny that the larger racquet has made a huge difference the last three years. IMO, Fed should have won the 2015 Wimby and USO finals against Nole, but in any event he stared making deep runs into GS finals. That was also peak Novak, of course (2015-2016 run), and his 2016 AO victory over Roger was (in the first two sets) maybe the best tennis I have ever seen. My point is that Fed has been the second best tennis player at the big events for the last three years, and only Djokovic (6 years younger and at his absolute best) could beat him. The big change, however, was between 2013 and 14, when he switched to the bigger racquet. My original observation was that had he switched to that size (obviously not technology) racquet in 2007, and committed to the aggressive style he is playing now, he would have won a ton more GS’s, and yes, he would have beaten Nadal at RG in his prime. If you go back and watch the first three games of 2011 RG final, he played that way. But he hit a stupid drop shot (always a stupid shot against Rafa imo), and lost confidence. But there is no objective reason why the style of play he employed two days ago couldn’t have worked on clay 10 years ago. I think people overrate the effect of surface and speed of court when you can hit the ball effectively on the rise. Unfortunately we’ll never know, because while Roger might be (on balance) playing as well as he ever has, Nadal is certainly not and won’t be again, I’m afraid.

          • I’m with you completely except almost all the parts about Rafa. The part about he’s currently not at his best i agree with.

            Many wrote Fed off in 2013.

            Write living legends off at your peril.

            • Maybe, but age catches up with us all, and there is even more reason to think that is true of Nadal than the average player, given his style of play. In my opinion, his best chance is to stand closer and, especially, to look to come into net more, where he has a terrific but very underused volley.

          • I don’t disagree with you that there is a good chance that Fed could have possibly won more slams post-2007 had he switched racquets earlier, but I’m not willing to say he definitely would have beaten Rafa at RG… There was always a chance that he COULD have beaten Rafa at RG, but I believe it would still be very difficult. Rafa on clay, especially at Roland Garros, was easily the most dominant, nearly-unbeatable player on a given single surface ever. It’s just hard for me to imagine Fed, or anyone for that matter, being able to beat him there at his peak. (Obvious exception streaking terminator Soderling…)

            • Wawrinka in 2015 could have beaten prime Nadal. And he played even better in his QF victory over Federer than he did in the final against Novak. True, each individual one of these are “could’s” not “would’s”, but I think over a period of several years, Fed would have beaten Nadal at RG had he employed the larger racquet and approach. Again, it is simply not possible that Federer is a better athlete at nearly 36 than he was at 25. Btw, an interesting question: they mentioned the court “index” at IW was 25 or so, which counted as very slow. I wonder how RG compares, or if it is even possible to give clay an index.

            • How many more slams could Fed win with a bigger racket post 2007? AO, Wimbledon 2008? AO, USO 2009? Wimbledon, USO 2010? All slams in 2011, or 2012??

              Don’t discount Djoko and Rafa at their peak! Fed clearly wasn’t playing as well in 2008, compared to his 2007, I doubt a bigger racket would help! At Wimbledon 2008, Rafa was at his peak and if not for the rain delay, might have finished off Fed in straight sets! Even if Fed were to rush the net, Rafa simply had the speed to get to the ball and hit his passing shots. Rafa was simply at his physical best during AO 2009 and his BH was simply lethal that caused Fed all sorts of problems even at his FH corner. TBH, Fed wasn’t playing fantastic tennis in 2009 to win his two slams and to reach another two finals; it’s just that Rafa was injured and both Djoko and Murray had not reached their peak yet, and Delpo was just slowly but steadily getting better at the slams. Perheps Fed should win that USO final and made it four in a row non calendar grand slam.

              In 2010, after winning the AO, Fed clearly wasn’t playing his best tennis, did poorly at IW/Miami because of illness I think. He even lost at the QF stage to Sod at FO and Berdych at Wimbledon. Djoko was lucky winning that SF perhaps, but I wonder what difference a bigger racket would make for Fed in that match.

              Djoko was at his physical peak in 2011, and except for a slip up at the FO, he was almost unbeatable at AO and Wimbledon. Fed was leading by two sets to nil at the USO SF but let it slipped away; he was serving and hitting very aggressively in the first two sets but couldn’t sustain that for the next three sets. Djoko was again escaping barely with that ‘lucky’ shot but would Fed do better with a bigger racket? Again it’s not the racket imo, but Fed himself couldn’t sustain his aggressive serving and hitting.

              Imo, the surfaces at the slams getting slower won’t help Fed’s game even if he has a bigger racket, or does his net rushing, not forgetting Rafa and Djoko are the best in hitting their passing shots, and both of them were/are in their prime.

          • You have to take into consideration that Rafa after 2014 injuries, was in a slump, when from 2011 to mid 2014, he was still the top two player (no.1 in late 2013 to mid 2014).

            Fed only had Djoko to contend with during 2014-2015, not forgetting Murray was coming back from his back surgery and it took him more than a year to get back to his normal level.

            Fed was beaten by Gulbis at FO 2014 and by Cilic at USO that year. Fed also lost early at AO2015 to Seppi, and to Stan at FO in the QF. Fed wasn’t that all conquering with his bigger racket back then.

            I would say the six months break did help him to retool his game and allowed his body to rest; without which, I doubt he could play as well as he has now.

  9. Also writing off Rafa after being up a break in the 5th set in Australia is also waaaay premature.

    He’s really not that far off IMO.

    • Again, maybe, but at this level small difference in form make a big difference in result. And it would be hard to deny that Rafa has lost at least half a step off his prime, which is not coming back. The main effect is that his footwork was always key to being able to set up his forehand, which is his main (maybe only) weapon. Without it he just doesn’t have many ways to hurt Roger. I admit that Nadal is a lot better than he was a year ago, so maybe his form will continue to improve. I just don’t see it unless he can change his game in some fairly fundamental way, mainly by coming to net more.

        • Interesting that the player Jack Sock most identifies with (in terms of similar play) is Nadal. Obviously the top-heavy forehand. But Sock is steadily improving. If he can hit his serve and groundies consistently he’s got a chance. He’s a lot faster than he looks and he’s got a nice net game (lots of doubles success). Still, I’d love to see a Fed-Wawrinka final, especially since Stan is so money in finals. Until that loss last year to Zverev in Russia, the guy had won like 11 straight finals. If he brings his A game it would be a great match. Of course they both have to get there first.

      • Wawrinka in 2015 FO could have beaten peak Rafa at RG? Are you sure? You forget that Rafa at his peak is a nightmare for SHBH players on clay! And you forget how quick Rafa was on clay during his peak! There’s a reason why he is so dominant on clay, i.e. no one could match his speed and movement on clay! I’m not sure too that Stan could beat a peak Fed on clay. Stan is not even close to Rafa’s level on clay at any time!

        As for Fed, even during his peak on clay and with a bigger racket, he’s not going to beat peak Rafa, coming to the net at his own peril. The court was slow and high bouncing, giving Rafa all the time in the world to hit his passing shots!

        As if Fed wasn’t aggressive during his peak! Watch his matches during 2006 against a young Rafa, Fed wasn’t losing the baseline rallies except on clay; their YEC match in Shanghai was almost a classic in my book and see how good Fed was from the baseline but with occasional ventures to the net. If Fed were to do net rushing then with a bigger racket, he would most likely be passed by Rafa’s passing shots most of the time. Rafa has/had no issue against S&V players, he could deal with them judging by him being able to beat many of them.

        It’s over reaction I would say about Fed beating Rafa now with his bigger racket. The playing conditions must suit Fed before anything could happen. Fed had to fight tooth and nail against Kei and Stan at the AO, he wasn’t all conquering. He narrowly beat a Rafa who had one less day rest after a grueling SF.

        As for this IW win, the IW surface does suit Fed. It’s not about the slow high bouncing court only, it’s the dry desert air that makes the ball flies very quickly in the air. Fed’s results at Miami, another very slow court, weren’t as great.

      • Watch the Nadal vs Raonic match at the AO QF; watch also his match vs Dimi. If Rafa hadn’t improved from his 2016 form, he won’t be beating both of them.

        Rafa should play more like the first set of both matches, i.e. more aggressive and moving forward more. He couldn’t continue with that aggression partly due to TV warning he received in set two in both matches, disturbing his rhythm as he had to speed up, making him felt rushed, I feel.

    • It’s confusing to me- Rafa fanatics often say that Rafa was playing injured against Soderling in 2009, but when I watch that match, I can’t for the life of me see an injured person playing in that match… If he was injured, it clearly wasn’t affecting his movement at all. But if he was injured, I could never be convinced that he could have won that day in any condition- he got completely bullied. The fact that Rafa got a set that day is one of a million testaments to his incredible will.

      • Nah, he was not himself. Watch their 2010 encounter; the same Sod had beaten Fed in the QF, and see how Rafa moved during the final compared to his 2009 match. We’re not even comparing the 2009 Rafa to his 2008 self at RG!

        Sod as always hit as hard as possible; Sod was the same Sod in 2010 and their Wimbledon QF match went four sets with Rafa winning that one.

        Sod no doubt was on fire at RG 2009 having come through a few five setters, credit where credit was due. He would have beaten anyone including Fed in the earlier rounds (given that Fed was playing quite poorly in the earlier rounds). It’s in his first slam final that he freezed, making it easy for Fed to win it in straight.

      • Nah, he hit with zero depth. Even fed would have beaten him on that day.

        He sat out Wimbledon and played poorly the rest of the year.

        He was injured no question.

            • Crazy… Can’t believe he could still move like that, and take a set off of a guy playing that well, with a BUM KNEE!

              Anyway, I don’t know if this is what the original discussion was about, but I don’t give a damn how well Federer is playing lately- there’s no way I would bet on him to beat Rafa on clay this season… Fed could win Aussie Open, Indian Wells, AND Miami and I still wouldn’t expect him to beat Rafa on clay. I’m not saying it definitely won’t happen because it obviously could, but I personally think that these peeps who are saying Fed “will” beat Rafa on clay this season are going a liiiiitle overboard with the perceived Fed-invincibility. I think the chances of them meeting on clay this season are relatively low given that Fed might not even play on any dirt outside of Roland Garros… My take!

            • I think he’ll play one or two clay lead ups before deciding.

              He’d love to win the calendar slam at 36 and reaching 20.

              Don’t put it past him. With the right draws and OOPs.

    • You’re absolutely right, Hawks. If Fed hadn’t become the terminator for the last 5 games, Rafael Nadal would be standing as the 2017 Australian Open champ today, and the entire narrative of current Rafa would be completely different. It’s incredible how just a few games, hell, just a few POINTS can be the difference between a tennis player being widely praised and being the loser. Even if it sounds cliche, I really agree with Fed that in cases like that final it really sucks that someone has to lose…. Sports!

  10. Rome 2006 final – Fed was at his most aggressive on clay, and guess what, he moved to the net as often as possible. He had some successes, the match went five sets, Fed had match point but failed to convert and then lost the match. It’s not like Fed didn’t try to be aggressive against Rafa on clay, it’s just that he knew from his experiences with Rafa, that he’s not going to beat Rafa there at the net on clay.

    FO 2011 final – even if Fed were to win the first set, I’m not sure that would make a difference in him winning or losing the match. Rafa and Djoko on clay, they are different. Djoko played to Fed’s pace in the SF, Rafa didn’t in the final. The final was slow and more grinding, playing into Rafa’s hands, not Fed’s. On clay it’s Rafa controlling the pace of the match.

  11. Fed may very well win at IW but I doubt he will win Miami. He’s 35, can’t play back to back events and expects to win them all. Kyrgios has made it easy for Fed, beating Djoko and then withdraws from the QF.

    Fed is going to hammer Sock, who has to go three sets to beat Jaziri and then Kei.

  12. Well, Sock got killed in the first set again Fed, but did pretty well in the second. He’s got a seriously good serve and forehand when they’re working, and I thought if he had pulled that 2nd set off he would have been very tough to beat in the 3rd. He’ll definitely be top 10 by the end of the year, maybe top 5. In the final, I think it’s going to come down to the serve. Roger has to serve better than he did in the 2nd set against Sock, because if Stan’s serve is on he’s almost impossible to break. Plus, the dude has been the most clutch player in the biggest tournaments against the best players for the last 3 years. Forget the record; he’s easily capable of beating Federer on a hard court. The bookies may have Fed at nearly a 2/1 favourite (Wawrinka is listed at 133/67…wtf!), but I’d put the odds closer to even for this one, with Roger as a very slight favourite.

    • Remember though that Stanislas has only one Masters title and none on HC.

      0-14 vs #GOAT on hard court.
      3-19 vs #GOAT overall.

      Plus #GOAT is seriously peaking.

      Stan is the Cal Naughton Jr of tennis when it comes to playing #GOAT on hard court LOL.


  13. Lucky: I went back and watched a bit of Rome 2006 and RG 2011 finals. A couple observations comparing both players then to now. First, Rafa is obviously at least a half step slower now. He seems (to me) to have less pop on his FH, which is his main weapon. Other than that, and his serve (which I’ll come back to), his game is pretty similar. When I watch Federer, on the other hand, two big things stand out. First, with the old racquet, he just didn’t drive his BH the way he did the other day. He used to come over it more, with more topspin and much less chance of hitting it through the court. The other thing is his court positioning. In Rome and at RG, his default position was a good meter behind the baseline, moving forward only for a short ball or when he was in control of the point. I suspect if we see them play on clay this year, we’ll see Roger standing at or inside the baseline, like he did in Melbourne and Indian Wells this year. Being able to do that -which he mostly wasn’t with the old racquet- makes a massive difference to how much time the other player has, much more of a difference than the speed of the court or the humidity in the air, or even the type of ball. If one can do it successfully, one can simply hit winners past the opponent, even Rafael Nadal of 2006. Now, Djokovic of 2015-16 was one of the best players ever. He was every bit as good a returner/retriever as prime Nadal. He did not play at all badly at RG in 2015. But Wawrinka simply blasted it past him. And that wasn’t from the baseline: Stan stood about where Roger stood in 2006. Now Federer doesn’t have Stan’s raw power from the baseline, especially not on the BH. But it’s getting close, and when the shot is hit from at or inside the baseline the effect is just as devastating if not more so. The point is, one doesn’t have to rush the net to play attacking tennis. That’s what Wawrinka has shown in 3 GS finals since 2014, and it’s what Roger is now learning -to go with an already incredible net game. So, that’s why I say that Wawrinka 2015 RG would have beaten even prime Nadal on clay. And it’s why I’d say that IF Fed can play the kind of game on clay that he played the other day against Rafa, that game would beat prime Nadal as well, even on clay. One more thing. A few years ago, Nadal re-tooled his serve. It seems to have gone away lately, but 4 years ago (say) his serve was a lot better than it was 10 years ago. Personally, I don’t count 2013 Nadal as his best: I think that was in 2010. But my point is that Fed’s improved service return of 2017 would have eaten prime Nadal’s serve of 2006-2010 alive, and that improved return is mostly down to the larger racquet.

    • Joe, I’m absolutely POSITIVE that Lucky will come around to your way of thinking now.

      (What’s the emoji for tongue-in-cheek, does anyone know?)

      (Aside: Rafa should have beaten #GOAT in the 2007 Wimby final but he let the moment get to him.)

      • I disagree with you there, Hawks… Rafa certainly could have beaten Fed at Wimbledon 2007, but I definitely wouldn’t say he “should have”. I think Fed was still just better than Rafa on grass at that time (albeit not by much!). I don’t disagree with you that Rafa got a bit tight in the fifth set when he had break point, but I wouldn’t go as far to say Rafa should have won it… Maybe if it were like 7-5 in the fifth and Rafa had choked on break point at 5-5 to go up 6-5 to serve for the match. But 6-2 in the fifth? I just don’t think Rafa was ready to beat Fed at Wimbledon yet. I guess anyone can always argue that the losing player “should” have won it. But unless a player absolutely chokes hard on match point, I always feel like the person who wins should have won it… So I assume that you would argue that Fed should have won Rome 2006 final when he had match point? I personally think Rafa was just too good on clay for Fed to get passed him that day. Same with Fed at Wimbledon 2007. I respect your opinion, though.


      • Hawk: Yeah, I don’t expect any response given how strong the argument is. Copy the tongue-in-cheek emoji. Btw, I actually agree that Rafa should have won in 2007. Ditto for Roddick in 2009; I think Roger got a bit lucky in both those Wimby finals. But I think Fed would have won Wimby 2008 without the rain delays. Bsck to Rafa, I still can’t understand how someone who won two Wimby titles hasn’t managed to make it past the 4th round the past five years. I think grass is where his creaky knees hurt him the most.

        • Yup. Creaky knees.

          Rafa should have won Aussie 2012 but again the moment got to him up a break in the fifth unable to put away a simple volley.

          All great players have those tough losses.

          Nole against Fed 2011 FO, against Stan at 2015 FO and against Stan at USO and against Stan at AO.

          #GOAT against Nole at 2010 USO with two match points.

    • Joe, you forget one thing, Rafa was standing way behind the baseline but his shots were still penetrating, during his heydays. So, even if Fed came forward and blasted his BH or FH, Rafa would still have time to react and return Fed’s shots; the same goes with returning Stan’s. You have forgotten how quick and how powerful Rafa was during his heydays. Even when his knees were hurt during 2009, it took Sod four sets of unrelenting hitting, to beat Rafa, and it certainly wasn’t a beat down!

      Was Stan’s 2015 FO hitting any bigger than Sod’s in 2009? I certainly don’t think so! Furthermore, Stan had to return Rafa’s topspin FH to his SHBH at his shoulder level practically all the time, he won’t be able to handle it the whole match. Stan, after his Madrid final vs Rafa in 2013, said after the match that he had problem handling Rafa’s topspin FH to his BH.

      Fed could come forward and hit his BH with the bigger racket but it won’t make much difference to Rafa, when Rafa could hit his FHDTL passing shots from way behind the baseline, during his heydays. My take.

      • It’s called confirmatory bias Lucky.

        All fans exhibit it to one degree or another especially when talking about hypotheticals.

    • Another mistake that you made, Joe, was to compare Djoko to Rafa on clay. Djoko doesn’t have a topspin lefty FH to trouble Stan, but a DHBH which Djoko hit rather flatly and so Stan has no issue handling a flatter shot to his SHBH.

      Now, compare Djoko vs Rafa on clay to Fed vs Rafa on clay. Djoko hits a DHBH with depth (and he was hitting that standing on or near the baseline!)and it did trouble Rafa at times but still, at RG esp, and also during 2012 clay season, Rafa could handle that shot and sometimes hit his own FHDTL to neturalize that and with interest (watch their FO2014 final). So, during Rafa’s heydays on clay, even if Fed were to hit with his bigger racket and hitting through his shots, Rafa would still be able to deal with that just like the way he dealt with Djoko’s DHBH CC penetrating shots.

      • I always felt Novak should have beaten Rafa at RG at least as early as 2012 (he didn’t get the chance in 2011 of course). What he lacked back then, which he developed in the last few years, was the ability (and confidence) to come to net when he has control of the point. I felt, watching him in 2012-14, that he would have won those matches had he been able to come to net -not often, but at the right times, the way Nadal always has been able to (I think this is less true of 2014; but I seem to remember reports that Nole was hurt for that match). Anyway, despite the difference in topspin and (obviously) handed-ness, Nadal and Djokovic have very similar games. Through 2010, Rafa was obviously the better player. But since 2011 Djokovic has been better, apart from the latter half of 2013. The point is, I don’t think post-2011 Rafa was able to solve Novak’s penetrating shots; he was just a little better (at RG) at getting back enough of those shots that Novak would eventually make an error. Had he been willing to come to net, I think he would have ended quite a few of those points earlier and beaten Nadal at RG in 2012.

        • Again that’s only your speculation, Joe. Had Rafa had a better serve, he would be almost unbeatable! The fact is Djoko didn’t have the skills at the net then, and don’t forget how atrocious Djoko’s smashes were at that time hitting them to the net often! At FO2012 and also 2013, Rafa was the more aggressive of the two, I highly doubt Djoko coming to the net would’ve made any difference, as Rafa was still hitting his shots deep and penetrating. I suggest you watch his FO2013 SF and see how well Rafa hit his shots, both FH and BH. Coming to the net won’t solve the problem for Djoko, as Rafa had no issue with players coming to the net, beating most of these net rushing players throughout his career. The only way to beat Rafa on clay at the FO is to play like Sod, i.e. relentless hard hitting without missing, easier said than done, of course it’s possible if Rafa plays subpar tennis.

          You said post 2011 but clearly Rafa was better than Djoko from clay season 2012 right up to USO2013, having beaten Djoko at MC, Rome and RG on clay in 2012, RG, Montreal and USO in 2013, and so it’s not all about Djoko back then. In fact Rafa was leading the race in early 2014 right up to FO 2014; it’s just that Rafa suffered his right wrist injury during training for the USO and so had to skip the whole USO series and so lost in the race. 2015 was all about Djoko, no question.

          • In fact, other than 2011, Djoko wasn’t all conquering from 2012-2014, Rafa was no.1 for 45 weeks and Fed for 16 weeks during 2012-2014.

          • I agree that if Rafa had a (much) better serve then he would be almost unbeatable during his prime. But I assume he thought so too, but simply wasn’t able to make his serve much better. I’ve actually never understood why his serve isn’t better/more effective than it is. In contrast, Novak showed (the last few years) that he was capable of improving his net game (with Becker’s help and encouragement, I’m sure); and Roger has showed lately how he can improve many facets of his game. I’m just not sure Nadal has ever had it in him to hit a much better serve; otherwise I think he would have done it.

    • Fed’s 2017 returns not any better than Djoko’s ROS! Rafa at USO2010 was still able to beat Djoko! Ditto for USO2013. Don’t be deceived by Fed’s returns of Rafa’s weak serve at AO and IW this year! Rafa was serving consistently below 120mph this season so far and his second serve, we better not talk about that!

      Rafa’s USO big serve was almost unreturnable, nobody broke his serve until the final. I doubt this Fed of 2017 was able to beat Rafa there at USO2010. Fed needed five sets to beat the Rafa of 2017, he won’t have a chance against the Rafa of 2010.

      I do agree that the Rafa of 2010 was better than the Rafa of 2013. I watched Rafa at Tokyo Open in 2010, and marveled at how well he served, moved and hit the ball, I almost forget how good Rafa could be on the fast HC (Tokyo is a fast HC).

      Rafa’a game developed on different surfaces at different stages of his career. He developed his game on clay at the early stages of his career, and by his early 20s, after his game on clay was well established, he started to conquer the grass surface. His HC game took him a bit longer to develop and I do feel it’s in 2010 that he started to reach his peak on the HCs.

      • I take it we can agree that the serve is the most important shot in tennis. Lately, Nadal’s serve stinks, but it has never been great for a top 10 player. As I said, I realize that it did get a lot better in 2013, though I didn’t realize he had been that dominant at USO. Again (see previous comment), Djokovic got a lot better in 2011, including his ROS. I agree, that Fed’s ROS is not as good as Novak at his best; I don’t think anyone’s is. But my original (speculative) point was about current Fed being able to beat even prime Rafa on clay. If prime Rafa is 2010 and before, his serve wasn’t as good then as it was in 2013. And, of course, clay is the surface which slows the serve down the most. And, further, Roger’s ROS has gotten a lot better, along with his BH and his serve. In short, Roger has a better serve, BH and ROS today than he did 10 years ago. I chalk those up mainly to the larger racquet. Give a 10 year younger Fed (who, I’m just assuming, was a superior athlete to the 2017 version) the weapons he has today, and I think he consistently beats Nadal (or anyone)on any surface.

        • Nah, not going to happen. Also, you’re wrong that Rafa’s serve was better in 2013 than 2010! It’s in 2010 that he had his almost unbreakable serve at the USO!

          2007 Fed not going to beat Rafa on clay even he had his bigger racket, I’d already touched on that earlier on. That 2007 Fed had already beaten Rafa on grass and indoor HC, so I don’t know what you’re arguing here!

          You just want to argue your case that Fed would beat a prime Rafa on clay with a bigger racket, but that’s not going to happen as I’d explained earlier, so no point arguing any further. Fed wad not going to beat Rafa on clay at the FO during Rafa’s peak, as Rafa was simply quicker and more powerful than Fed, at least on clay. How much a bigger racket could help Fed at FO2008?

          • Further, a young Rafa was an even better athlete than Fed at that time imo, if not he won’t be able to get back so many balls at Fed!

            Watch Fedal at Miami 2004/2005; FO2005, Dubai 2006, TMC 2006. Watch how quick a young Rafa was at that time.

        • Joe, to your point about Rafa not being able to make his serve better, I would say that 1) it’s a mistake by Toni for not concentrating on developing a good to great serve for Rafa from young; 2) his serve did get better from 2010 onwards, though after serving big at USO and Tokyo Open in 2010 (in the 130+mph range)had led to shoulder issues that year. His serve in 2013 was still great in the 120+ mph range regularly; however it’s his back injury during AO final in 2014 that I feel had changed everything about his serve. It was since then that his serve went downhill.

  14. Joe, than Nadal and Joker would have also adjusted their games to Fed’s….like Fed changed a few things, in order to neutralize his rival’s weapons.

  15. SABR worked in Cincy against Joker in 2015 but we know what happened at the USO. Fed was in God mood in 2015 but we had an even better Novak. I wanna see Rafa made a few changes in his game. Can he and does he still want to do that? Of course, it’s not easy.

  16. Rafa did make adjustments to his game after coming back from injury in early 2013, which was why he was so successful that year. Rafa had been making adjustments to his game throughout his career, if not he won’t be able to win Wimbledon and the HC slams, its only lately that he’s being plagued with injuries after injuries that stalled his game and affected his confidence.

    He was playing very well again last year at the clay season but a left wrist injury had halted everything for him and he had to start from ground zero all over again. I like the way he played at Abu Dhabi start of this year (or end of last year) vs Raonic and Goffin, and the way he played against Raonic at the AO. He should continue to play like that, i.e. more aggressive and stepping inside the court whenever possible.

    I like how Rafa using a big racket and looser string could still play some nice touch shots with deft touches, goes to show how well Rafa can control his wrist and his racket to do the job. He has finesse in his game, but it’s always hidden behind his muscular being and his powerful shots, and it’s a shame he rarely comes to the net to showcase more of his finesse there.

    I must say it again, its regrettable that Rafa was not trained from young to acquire a great serve; he could well be an instinctive and attacking player, given that he’s way more aggressive a player when he first started out in his career. Toni attest to that, that Rafa was offensive minded when young. Toni instead had turned Rafa into a tactical player, more a counterpuncher, formulating game plans to counter attack, rather than allowing Rafa’s naturally more aggressive nature to manifest itself by being an instinctive attacking player, to my regret.

  17. Kevin, I missed this from #GOAT after AO regarding his plans for clay and scheduling in general:

    “I don’t see that, because now we have an extra week on the grass, so I don’t see myself skipping the French,” he said. “My goal needs to be to stay healthy, so when I do go on court that, really, it’s a highlight.

    “I know you can’t make 25 tournaments a highlight, but you can make 15 a highlight, and really be well prepared for those and enjoy it in the process.”

    • Yeah, I never thought he would skip Roland Garros. I’m just curious as to what he will play, if anything, leading up to it. Personally, my guess is that he will play 1 clay Masters before RG. I believe it will be either Madrid or Rome. Part of me thinks Madrid because he’s won it before and therefore has a better chance of winning it/going deep and gaining the most points, which will be important if he decides that getting back to #1 is important to him. Also, if he only plays Madrid, that would give him a solid 3 weeks or however long before the French to be really well-rested. On the flip side, he may want to play Rome instead of Madrid because the conditions there are much more close to those at RG compared to Madrid. But like I said before, if he plays Rome he will then only have a week to rest up, and we’ve seen how much better he seems to play when he has at least multiple weeks of rest leading into a major. I would say he would play Monte Carlo, but then he would risk actually being too rusty going into RG. Whatever he decides, he says he will be making that decision after Miami, so we shall see…

      What do you think he will play?

    • Another thing I’d like your opinion on, Hawks-

      If Djokovic and Murray are both out of Miami, I honestly think that Rafa has a VERY good shot at winning Miami! I am, personally, not high on Fed at Miami… Although the ball may not bounce quite as high as in IW, Miami has very slow, heavy, and humid conditions. I think it’s no coincidence that Fed hasn’t even made the Final there since 2006. I think that fact, compounded by the fact that he just went deep the week before, gives him a good chance of not doing as well there. But Rafa, on the flip side, seems very determined after losing early at IW, and will be relatively well-rested and ready to rock. I also think that, despite the fact that he has never actually lifted that trophy, he has come sooo close so many times! He’s made the final 4 times (being just points away from victory two of those times), and surely would have beat Berdych in the final in 2010 had Roddick not played one of his greatest late-career matches. The slow, heavy conditions in Miami actually favor Rafa in a lot of ways, and I just have the feeling that he truly has a really good chance there this year with Djokovic and Murray out and with Fed being more tired. I’m no my saying he’s a lock for the title by any means, but I think he really does have a great chance! I think that you Rafans should actually be pretty psyched about it. It can be really deceiving that he hasn’t actually won it yet, but there’s no question that he’s always played very well in Miami because the conditions suit him fairly well.

      I actually can’t think of any player who’s been more unlucky with one tournament than Rafa with Miami… Maybe Roddick at Wimbledon? Or Fed with Rome? But those two guys only really had 1 year each where they had the match on their racquet, or had a golden opportunity going into the match, only to lose it. Rafa was ridiculously close in 2005 and 2011, and he had golden opportunities to win the tournament (in my opinion) in 2008 and 2010, but he ended up just happening to play poorly and/or came up against a streaking underdog.

      So all you Rafans on here- Hawks, Augusta, VR, Ratcliff, Luckystar, Mira Andi, Sanju, and all the others I can’t think of at this moment- I think you should all feel good about Rafa’s chances in Miami! 🙂

      • Kevin, yeah I hope Rafa can make use of this opportunity to finally win one Miami title. I doubt he can win many as the humid conditions there doesn’t suit him. I hope Rafa really plays well here and not let this chance slips away.

        • I thought humidity was good for Rafa because the balls goes through the air slower in humid air, since there is
          More resistance on the ball?

          • Wrong. Rafa likes lively balls, not heavy balls. Humidity in the air causes the ball to become heavier and less bouncy, hence not ideal for topspin.

            People have mistaken and thought Rafa likes slow courts and heavy balls, not true. He likes medium to quick surfaces (not very quick or very slow) with good bounces, ideal for hitting his topspin, that may explain why he does better at IW compared to Miami.

            • That makes sense. But wouldn’t the clay courts at Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, Rome, Barcelona, etc. be considered slow? Or at least slower than medium? I always thought that the slower the court and the higher the bounce, the better for Rafa?

            • Clay courts are different; it’s the higher bounce that matters which clay courts can provide. Clay courts are slow, so it’s not the speed that matters but the bounce!

              Slow HCs not good for the players, grinding on HCs more damaging to the knees, when on clay at least one can glide on it. Imagine playing clay court tennis on slow HCs but one has to grind all the way and can’t glide on the HCs, how damaging to the knees in particular! On clay at least one can glide on it so even when it’s slow, the grinding isn’t that bad on the knees.

              Rafa can play on quick HCs, in fact it’s better for him as he tends to be more aggressive on quicker courts, as he knows defense is not the way to play on quicker courts. IOWs, he tends not to grind so much on quicker courts, however it’s still the bounce that matters more, which may explain why he’s not that great on low bouncing indoor HC surfaces.

  18. Just watching Fed-Stan; what a match so far! Roger on fire first set, but Stan hangs right with him till the end. Now Stan has 0-40 on Roger in 1st game. Dude does not back down in finals. Breaks him! It’s going to take Roger’s absolute best to beat this version of Stan.

  19. No surprise here. I love that Wawrinka is such a bad-ass when playing the top guys. I don’t think Roger wants to get in a slug-fest with him; he’s going to have to for winners (like the forehand down the line he just hit). Damn this is amazing tennis.

  20. Stan’s level has dropped, unfortunately, and Roger breaks back. He’s been smart not to let Wawrinka get into too much a rhythm. Would love to see Stan pick it back up and take it to a 3rd set.

  21. Great win for Fed. Also nice example toward the end there of how hitting the ball on the rise takes time away from the opponent. Stan was blasting shots there at the end, but Roger was taking then on the short-hop and making Stan hit another before he had time to properly set up. Not sure if Fed will play Miami, but it would be hard not to make him the favourite at this point. He won all his IW matches in straights and benefitted from a walk-over, so I don’t think fatigue will be an issue. Still, this is a guy who is four months shy of 36. Mind-boggling tennis for any age.

  22. Frankly, I don’t think Murray being out of Miami increases Rafa’s chances of winning it at all; Djokovic, maybe, simply because he is in Rafa’s head atm but Djokovic is not in a good place anyway right now. There are other players who could cause Rafa problems such as those who play him like they’ve got nothing to lose and make life difficult for him by trying to hit winners with every shot. That puts a lot of pressure on Rafa and he sometimes folds under the pressure.

    However, I hope you are right, Kevin, that it’s his time to win it. Considering his first win over Federer was in Miami at the age of 17, over 5 sets, it’s a bit sad that he’s never won the title.

    • Djoko confirmed out of Miami. I agree with you, that there are many others, in particular, the hard hitters who could give Rafa plenty of problems at Miami. I just hope Rafa can win it this time, hopefully with all the big hitters out of his way. Just once and then Rafa can forget going there again. It seems that the humidity there is getting unbearable for Rafa, as he gets older, so I hope he wins it now and skips that tournament in future.

    • Wasn’t over five sets because it wasn’t the final but still you’re right it is surprising he’s never won still

      • Nah, in 2005 it’s the final -BO5 -Rafa was up two sets but then lost the next three, due more to fatigue imo. He should have won in three when the third gone to a TB, too bad he’s too inexperienced and lost that TB.

    • Nah, Fed is no.6; he’ll be seeded 4 for Miami as the top two players will be absent. How do you get Fed at no.4?? Both Kei and Raonic are above him.

    • Unless you are removing the points from last year’s Miami; not accurate ranking then as Kei and Raonic may do better than Fed at Miami; Rafa too!

    • Unquestionably Nadal was too slow. The question is whether it was injury or age. I don’t see how anyone can watch him today compared to 10 years ago and not see that he is at least a half step slower probably more. It affects his entire game. Whereas Federer, overall, with the bigger racquet, may be playing at a higher level than he was 10 years ago. That’s the difference.

      • Yeah but he wasn’t that slow in Australia where he was up a break in the 5th vs Fast-Fast Feddy.

        Hard to believe that he would have aged so much in six weeks, no?

  23. I watched highlights of Fed-Wawrinka, Fed-Rafa AO, Fed-Rafa IW. Have taken some points down and will share later in the evening when I have time.

    Rafa is definitely in a position to reverse his losing trend against Federer very soon.

    • Sorry VR, did you say very soon (that Rafa is going to reverse this losing trend against Fed)? Based on what? Rafa turned defensive once he saw Fed across the net.

      In fact, Rafa had almost always played counterpunching tennis against Fed. I can’t recall a single match between them where Rafa was the aggressor! It’s difficult to win against a very aggressive attacking player by playing defensive tennis. From what I saw in their IW match, Rafa for most of the match looked lost out there, didn’t know where to serve, where to hit, totally passive and hoping for Fed to make errors. I doubt Rafa would suddenly become so good that he could deal with Fed’s aggression (except maybe on clay).

  24. But honestly, how darn good is Roger Federer? I never wrote him off and thought he could still win a slam at Wimbledon or on HC if the draw really opens up but what he is doing now, I had not imagined. His hunger for the game, his desire to improve and the level of skills he brings to this game are just extraterrestrial. Really impressed with his physical conditioning as well at this age.

    While I am really can’t wait for Rafa to stop him, I have nothing but absolute respect for Fed’s achievements this year. Take a bow, Mr.Federer. I don’t have to be your fan to be an admirer. Funnily, my favourite player is arguably your biggest admirer!!

    • VR, you may want to take into consideration the fact that Fed had six months to rest, recuperate from his injury, and then worked on his fitness and his game! To me, minus that six months, Fed would be playing something like his 2016.

      In fact it’s something similar to Rafa in 2013 after coming back from injuries. Rafa had a more serious injury then, but once he was back, he started reaching finals and winning lots of them. Rafa came back playing aggressive tennis (and I can’t stand some people who thought Rafa was faking injury just to have that six months break to work on his game; do these people think the same about Fed now?).

      I would say both Fed and Rafa still have the desire to do better to win at the slams. I do think both don’t want to end their career being considered as second or third best behind Djoko. Djoko looked all conquering from 2015 right up to the FO2016 and people were already predicting that he would overtake Fed’s tally at the slams. I have a feeling Fedal won’t take that lying down without putting up a fight.

      We already know Fed with all his varieties, and he plays first strike tennis, so it really doesn’t surprise me that Fed is doing well at the moment after a long rest; it also happens that both Djoko and Murray are not playing well at the moment and are now injured (I think they killed each other last year for the YE no. 1 ranking). It’s really like 2009 all over again, I feel, when Rafa got injured, Djoko having his fitness issue and Murray was not ready yet to pose serious challenges and so Fed took advantage of the situation.

      It’s up to Rafa now to take advantage of the situation too and why not starting at Miami? After all he can play well enough to reach two HC finals so far, so why not take it one step further and win it?

      • It’s funny you say that, luckystar- I was just thinking this morning that this season for Fed is very similar to Rafa in 2013, in terms of being able to win big tournaments so quickly after being away! I think it’s such a testament to the greatness of those two guys that they can be out of the game for an extended period of time and then just come back and almost immediately win big tournaments.

    • I don’t think we’ve seen a male player play at this level in their mid-thirties before… Agassi, my personal all-time favorite player, was incredible in his thirties and even got to #1 at age 33. But what Fed is doing is a step above wht Agassi did, without a doubt! Although their game styles may not favor age as much as Roger’s, I really do hope that Novak, Rafa, and Andy are able to to play at really high levels into their mid-thirties as well.

      • Yeah Agassi reached no.1 at age 33. Fed no doubt was playing at a high level now but don’t forget he had a six month rest and training before coming back and he was fresh at the AO. The court there helped his cause. I doubt he would win it if the court was as slow as before.

        He was also having a long rest after AO before winning at IW, with the loss at Dubai just a blip, perhaps he wasn’t expecting a Donskoy who played like he had nothing to lose and going for his shots without missing. I doubt Fed would win at Miami given the short turnaround. Also, Fed dodged a bullet when Kygrios withdrawn from IW; not saying Kygrios would win but at least he would make Fed work and expend more energy.

        Fed looked tired to me at the final, perhaps it’s the heat, but imagine he was a bit slower, maybe both Sock and Stan would then at least won a set.

        Rafa in 2013 had Djoko, Murray and Delpo to contend with (though Djoko wasn’t playing as well in 2013 compared to 2011/2012 but still made the slam finals at Wimbledon and USO). Fed now has practically no one, except a Rafa who is also coming back from injury, standing in his way. Stan isn’t great on fast HCs and at IW ( making one final at IW after how many attempts?) and so Fed despite at 35 and no doubt playing at a high level, is still able to beat Stan the Man on HCs ( 14-0 on HCs prior to this year).

        I doubt Fed can have it his way on clay, for its on clay that both Rafa and Stan excel. Thiem and Kei too can play well on clay; it’s on the quicker courts that Fed could impose his game on others, slow clay takes away his edge. Djoko and Murray may have something to say too on clay, assuming they have recovered from whatever ailing them.

      • I don’t know about Djoko or Murray, it all boils down to their desire, whether Djoko still has it in him to want to catch Fed or Rafa and re-exert his authority over them. Murray to me is a mystery; he may be contented just be able to reach no.1 in his career or winning some slams, knowing he won’t be as great as the three ATGs.

        As for Rafa, it seems he has the intention to carry on for the next few years, that means right into his early to mid thirties. I guess it all depends on how his body copes, and whether he can still win some more major or important titles, and also whether he can still improve ( he always says that he goes to practice to improve, if he can’t improve he won’t even want to practice).

    • Ditto VR.

      At this level at almost 36???????

      He’s gotta be on some sort of leading edge special anti-aging regime. How did he hold up over two consecutive five setters over Wawrinka (who’s a beast in Australia) and then Rafa?

      People refuse to believe he’s as good as he’s ever been but this version of Federer would beat any previous version of Federer hands down. Same as 2015 Fed as well.

      Full marks to him and if you can’t appreciate his tennis especially at his age? Then you are not a tennis fan. Period.

    • Yeah VR, we do have to respect Fed for his game and his desire. But honestly, Fed is no where near the Fed at his peak; in terms of skills clearly he’s better now but Fed at his peak was incredibly quick, powerful and precise.

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