Nadal barely edged out Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9) in a match which saw Nadal trailing for the most part. Djokovic was unable to cash in on at least two match points and was finally beaten by Nadal after four hours of constant slugging.
Roger Federer vanquished Juan Martin Del Potro in quick fashion: 6-3, 6-4.
Factors of the Match
1) Roger Federer's first serve
If his first service can exceed 65 percent, he will have a fighting chance against Nadal. If he dips below 60 percent, he will be in danger of being broken. Nadal is very agressive on Roger's second serve.
2) Rafael Nadal's knees
We have seen this before at the Australian Open, where we were led to believe that Rafa's condition was highly speculative. Nadal required his knee to be taped during his match with Djokovic and he still managed to eke out a victory.
3) Roger Federer's mental tactics
Does Federer have a game plan? He is at a slight disadvantage because in this tournament, no one has forced Federer to change his tactics midway through the match.
Federer's shot selection will also be an important factor here. If he is unsure, he will be smoked.
4) Nadal's Fatigue
Rafa has played and dominated the last three clay tournaments. His match against Djokovic started off quite sloppy and unfocused. Nadal's mental toughness might more than compensate for this.
5) Going to three sets
This will most likely benefit Nadal, as Federer has repeatedly shown that his performance dips and his game falls apart. If Federer is calculating to win this match, he needs to dominate and win the first two sets.
His tendency is to take an early lead which eventually gets evaporated by Nadal. Again this goes back to his first-serve and shot placement.
I believe Roger will take the first set. Nadal will still be rusty getting into the match. If Roger moves quickly and decisively, the first set is his.
However, the match will be decided by the second set. Obviously if Roger takes the second, the match is over. However, if Rafa takes the second set, it will be game over for Roger.
If Rafa takes the first set, even if Roger takes the second, it will still be Rafa who comes out on top. Rafa is favoured here and he should take it from Roger.
To conclude, this is an excellent opportunity for Roger Federer. Aside the fact that he is the underdog, he is in a position to learn much from this match in his preparation for the French Open.
He can learn from the Djokovic semi-final as well as this final to look at what worked against Rafael Nadal and incorporate it into his game.
Of course, last year he lost in the Monte Carlo and Hamburg finals to Nadal and still went on to lose in the French Open finals (albeit very badly).