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Australian Open: Nadal Continues Dominance Over Federer
While Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have helped take the game of tennis to new heights over the last decade, there is little doubt who the better player is when these two great rivals square-off. With his come from behind 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 victory, Nadal now owns an 8-2 mark against Federer in Grand Slam play.
Edmonton - January 26, 2012 - While Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have helped take the game of tennis to new heights over the last decade, there is little doubt who the better player is when these two great rivals square-off. With his come from behind 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 victory, Nadal now owns an 8-2 mark against Federer in Grand Slam play and will be appearing in his fourth consecutive slam final on Sunday evening in Melbourne. No matter who Rafa ends up playing in the finals, be it current number one Novak Djokovic or fourth seed Andy Murray, either man will have their hands full trying to keep the Spaniard from winning his twelfth career Grand Slam title.
In what was easily the most anticipated match of the tournament, it was the third seeded Swiss who would come firing out of the gate. While Rafa worked to find his game in the opening set, it was Federer who played nearly flawless to start things off and jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. Nadal managed to win only four points in the opening three games but would right the ship and later break back to force a first set tiebreaker. Roger would jump out to an early 4-1 lead in the tiebreak and held on to win it 7-5 and take the opening set.
Set number two would start poorly for Nadal, as he was broken in the opening game. That should have been a huge momentum swing in favour of the former four-time Australian Open champ but Federer gave the break right back...at love. While Rafa gained confidence from the quick break back, Roger was starting to commit more errors, especially on the forehand side. Nadal would break Federer again to go up 4-2 and then one more time, again at love, to take the set 6-2. In what seems to have become the norm in many Rafa vs Roger battles, it is Federer who looks to be on cruise control early on and then in a blink of an eye, the match is even. The third set would be crucial for both players but more so for the thirty year old Swiss. You could see the doubt starting to creep into Federer's game that consistently appears when playing his counterpart.
At this point, Rafa was clearly looking the more confident player but it would be Federer who would get the crucial first break of serve to jump in front 4-3. He took advantage of a poor service game from Nadal and on his fourth break chance of the game, Nadal sent a forehand long to simply hand Federer the lead. Unfortunately for Roger, Rafa would, once again, break right back in an almost carbon copy of the opening two games of set number two. Both managed to hold serve their next two service games and force another tiebreaker. However this time around, it was Nadal who would jump out to a 6-1 lead, courtesy of four unforced errors in the breaker. Roger managed to hold of four of the set points but would then return Nadal's serve into the net, giving Rafa the set. The tell-tale stat of the set: Unforced Errors - Nadal -11, Federer - 25
As the match moved along it was clear that Federer's preference to go up the line with his forehand was not working but for some curious reason, he continued doing it and Nadal kept ripping winners past him. Roger has always been the player that takes his time in finding his opponents weakness and adjusting his game to expose them but against Rafa, that is clearly not the case. He routinely goes for big shots at the wrong time and basically hands Nadal free points. The Spaniard's game and ability to return almost any ball has obviously effected Federer's mindset and has led to far too many poor decisions, from the sixteen time Grand Slam champion. Be it an unwillingness to try something different, a lack of belief that he can get it done at crunch time against Nadal or a combination of the two, the fact remains that he has to make some sort of adjustment if he wants to turn things around against Nadal.
The fourth set was much of the same as both men managed to hold serve but Federer had a golden opportunity to go up a break at 4-3 and his forehand let him down one more time. That was followed by two winners from Nadal and just like that, they were even at four. The very next game, Rafa would earn a break point after a wonderful forehand pass but unlike his opponent, he would earn the break when Federer sent a backhand wide. With Rafa serving for the match, Federer earned himself another break point. That point featured a net court and a defensive lob from Nadal that somehow landed in and Roger inexplicably sent wide on a overhead baseline attempt, that should have been nothing more then a routine forehand going back. Another curious decsion of going for much more then was necessary and two points later, Nadal was victorious when another Federer forehand went long.
While it was not the classic Roger vs Rafa match I was hoping for, it was still a great spectacle to watch. Whenever these two legends take the court against one another at Grand Slam, you can count on two things..great theatre and a victory for Rafael Nadal.
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