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Most Federer vs Nadal matches are discussed by mentioning the glorious ball-striking, the failing of Federer on break points, Nadal’s stern determination and amazing defence and their ability to constantly play well for a long period of time in a match, without having any considerable down-time.

Todays match had a few interesting aspects to analyze, here are some of my thoughts ->

-> Federer’s backhand, defensive or attacking, slice or topspin, was brilliant in this match, he constantly hit winners by ripping it cross-court to Nadal’s forehand, the reason he could do this was due to Nadal’s forehand shots that are loaded with topspin; this means Federer can be more aggressive due to the ball flying very high to his backhand, Nadal’s moonball-esque forehand didn’t work today, it was a shame the Spaniard didn’t hit more to Federer’s forehand, which is something Monfils did so well in his victory over Federer at the Paris Masters. Nadal cannot utilise just one tactic against Federer, being versatile is the key to constantly beating him.

-> Federer’s won 92% of points in the first set when his first serve was in and he won the first set comfortably, without really breaking any sweat. It is absolutely vital for Federer, who is past his peak now, when facing aggressive (Djokovic, Berdych, Soderling), counter-punching (Murray, Nadal) or just plain defensive (Simon, Monfils) baseliners, for his first serve to be around 70%; this essentially allows him to take off all the pressure off his service games by not having any lengthy rallies and put the pressure on the opponent. Federer doesn’t need to work on his forehand or backhand, he needs to ensure his first serve is consistently high.

-> Usually when Federer slices to Nadal’s forehand, Nadal takes control of the point, however, due to the ball staying low on this court after it bounces, Nadal couldn’t be too aggressive with the return otherwise he wouldn’t have a good chance of producing an error, thus when Nadal was aggressive to Federer’s backhand, Federer had no problem slicing extremely low to Nadal’s forehand to neutralize the rallies.

– > Nadal should work more on his slice to develop some variety, it was a compliment to the Spaniard for not using his slice shot often today, it’s an average shot and Nadal often drops it short, in a match of this magnitude, at least Nadal went for his strengths today, despite being clearly tired, he managed to steal a set off Federer and at least pushed to a third set, showing his superb determination once again.

-> Nadal was clearly out-played today, but the Spaniard shouldn’t have to worry; he beat Soderling, Berdych and Djokovic in each of his major finals this year; Federer was absent in all 3. Nadal doesn’t need to work “extremely” on his hard-court game, for there are many opponents (Del Potro, Soderling, Murray, Djokovic) who will most likely take Federer out before he meets Nadal in a Major final, should they do so. Nadal needs to just keep extending his dominance over players like Soderling and Berdych, a.k.a the “aggressive baseliners”, as these are the ones that he will keep meeting in the QF’s, SF’s and F’s of majors, not complete players like Federer.

-> Nadal needs to be more aggressive with his forehand DTL against Federer, the more aggressive you are with any DTL shot and the more power (topspin or flat, regardless), the more chance you will have of winning the point; Nadal was too content with playing cross-court tennis today at the early and end of the match and heavily suffered for it. Controlled aggression was very apparent in the second set as his inside-out forehand exploded, but only for a short while.

-> Federer’s wide slice serve was 100% successful today when he served it as his first serve, I believe. He has used this tactic against Soderling, Ferrer, Murray and Djokovic too, this week, and it has been just as dominant. More on the slice serve in the future, it was a brilliant tactic to use and Federer consistently won cheap points with it today.

-> Federer defeated the world number 1, 3, 4 and 5 in this tournament. He’s number two, but the “aura of invincibility” hasn’t really disappeared; he crushed Soderling, Murray and Djokovic completely, had a little tumble against Nadal, before comfortably beating him in the third. It’s a comforting end to a dramatic, if slightly melodramatic year; Federer started the best player and after a long season, Federer ends the best player.

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