Class, grit and determination − It’s ‘Fedal’ once again3 min read
A combined 37 grand slams in total! The Master of Grass versus the King of Clay! Two of the greatest tennis players of our time, get ready to play each other for the 39th time. The semi-finals of the 2019 Roland-Garros will see another iconic ‘Fedal’ encounter, as third seed Roger Federer takes on defending champion Rafael Nadal on Friday.
As always, there is plenty to look forward to ahead of this highly anticipated and fierce encounter. Matches between these two modern day greats have never failed to captivate audiences, and this encounter promises to do the same. Both Federer and Nadal have been at the top of the mountain for quite a long period of time, both of them seeing ups and downs in recent times. Federer has 20 grand slams to his name, whereas Nadal has 17.
What makes these two players special, apart from their exquisite technique, is the respect they have for each other − both on and off the field. “There are no draws in tennis, but I would have been happy to share my trophy with Rafa tonight,” said a very elated and humble Federer after his triumph over Nadal in the 2017 Australian Open final. Nadal too shows Federer the same amount of respect and is often seen fizzling out the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) debate questions thrown at him.
Rafael Nadal relentlessly denied Federer a career grand slam in 2006, 2007 and 2008, beating the Swiss national in the French Open finals on all three occasions. Federer was on a roll in all the other grand slams but failed to solve the Nadal puzzle at the clay courts in France. Federer’s misery finally came to an end in 2009, when he beat Nadal and won the famous career grand slam.
Analysing their previous matches on clay, it is clear that Nadal’s loopy forehand troubles Federer. Nadal gets heavy top spin and good bounce, making Federer’s famous one-handed backhand highly vulnerable. Federer’s signature shot has proven to not be strong enough and often gets beaten by the high bounce.
Federer’s style is typically that of serve and volley, which leads him to rely on a very fast and wide serve, which is easy to dispatch after a loose return from the opponent. This tactic has worked very well for Federer on grass and hard courts, and Federer’s volley off the net is undeniably the best in the business. This strategy, however, does not work very well on clay, as the ball is slower and has a higher bounce, making net play almost nil.
Nadal is a baseline player with a heavy spinning backhand and forehand ideally suited for the clay court − a style that directly contrasts Federer’s gameplay. With a powerful left arm, Nadal’s unorthodox strokes that highly involve the wrists generate good topspin. His serve is fast and powerful.
Federer has shown subtle changes in his gameplay in recent times, with more baseline winners − playing far behind the baseline and maintaining a good racquet head. These improvements have allowed him to play more freely, allowing him to get winners from both backhand and forehand.
Federer has not competed at the French Open since 2015. “If I played on clay again it was to play with Rafa, and I already have that game,” said a confident Federer. Nadal leads their head-to-head tally by 23-15, Nadal also leads on clay courts with a tally of 13-2.
Featured Image Courtesy: Twitter − Fabien (@FabChevallier)
Edited by: Tarush Dhume