Sunday, February 1, 2009

The ghost of Nadal

Alas. Federer has lost the Australian open and before this disappointment makes me lose my mind, I need to vent it out. During the presentation ceremony, when Roger federer spoke , he was crying and he simply said “ Its Killing me”. What else do I say , the emotion was simply overwhelming. When the person whom you idolize has been brought to his knees, you feel like you have lost a battle. I feel that and I am sure that many of you feel the same. What was most disappointing was seeing Roger being mentally drained out in the deciding set.


He looked crestfallen during most parts of the fifth set and when Rafa broke him in the fourth game of this set , it was evident that he was going for the kill. Incidentally, Roger lost this deciding game with four back to back unforced errors including a double fault. It was evident that Rafa had got into Federer’s psyche. If the match was physically daunting for Nadal after an epic 5 hour semi-final against Verdasco , it was mentally daunting for Roger. He needs to defeat the ghost of Nadal comfortably residing in his mind  before beating Nadal  the sportsman. It is clear that Nadal remains a roadblock in Federer’s road to greatness.


What differentiates the two in the the ability of Nadal to raise his game with every passing tournament. He started off 2007 as a player with a weak serve but as one would play incredible winners from the baseline. He has worked on his serve and has greatly improved it.   He has added the top spin to his game and his uncanny ability to chase the ball to its death makes him a great champion. He now goes to the French Open as the clear favourite.


Skeptics continue to say that Roger would not be as great a player as Sampras. One should remember that Sampras was never able to reach the Semi-Finals of the French Open ! I am not trying to belittle Sampras and can’t dream of doing that either. It's just that Statistics speak for themselves.


So , what can Roger look forward to during the rest of the year ? He has a 7 – 12 record against Nadal and has lost his Number 1 position to him. He must realize that he nothing to lose anymore. He must get Nadal out of his mind. He must also realize that champions don’t break so easily. ( I am referring to the crying ! ).  


So what do I predict for the year. Rafael Nadal will comfortably win the French Open.He might not even drop a set in the entire tournament.  Roger has his best chance in the Wimbledon grass. The Wimbledon this year will for the first time be played under closed courts. So the wind factor which tormented Roger during last year’s final will no longer harm him  As for the US open , if Roger continues to be intrigued by Rafa , then we will see Rafa win the US open as well making him the only player in modern era to win all four grand slams.  

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