Federer Changes Tactics Against Nadal and Notches Rare Victory on Clay

Thomas VazquezCorrespondent IMay 17, 2009

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 17:  Mens and womens champions Dinara Safina of Russia and Roger Federer of Switzerland pose for photographs during the prize giving ceremony during the Madrid Open tennis tournament at the Caja Magica on May 17, 2009 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

In what has amounted to a brief travel back in time to the days when Roger Federer had a punchers chance against Rafael Nadal, Federer notched his first victory against the Spaniard in over a year and a half.

Make no mistake, this was not Federer regaining his form, this was something else.

Federer from the get-go was intent on not allowing Nadal to dictate points by hitting his bludgeoning forehand to the Federer backhand. The strategy proved solid, as Nadal often times was pushed off the court and forced into very uncharacteristic unforced errors.

In what has to be a confidence boosting victory for the World No. 2, Federer’s forehand was on fire.

Nadal was just incapable of providing an answer to the Federer forehand.

With the French Open looming, Nadal seems to have his work cut out for him.

A weak second serve, and uncharacteristic unforced errors from Nadal, coupled with a sluggish appearance that had Nadal struggling to keep the ball on the court allowed Federer to make quick work of Nadal.

Nadal seemed to handle the loss well. As well he should, a few things seem to favor that this was a fluke loss.

First, the court was playing extremely fast when on clay, Nadal, changes his game plan to a defense first, offense second approach.

With the court playing much like a hard court, Nadal’s tactics are much harder to employ and with the French Open right around the corner, it was doubtful Nadal would change his mindset to win a tournament; that in the scheme of things is not as important as the French Open.

Nadal also seemed sluggish and tired. His battle with Novak Djokovic the day before lasting four hours probably did not help his cause.

Third, Nadal was most likely feeling the pressure. Had he won this tournament, he would have won four of his last six tournaments.

To win the French and Wimbledon, would mean that he would have had to accomplish one of the most amazing streaks in tennis. The pressure would have been monumental, and Nadal most likely will relish the fact that he is beatable on clay.

Federer should not walk away feeling as if this victory was a fluke as his strategy was solid. Serving wide to the Nadal backhand and then using his massive forehand down the line allowed him to keep Nadal off balance.

He was also able to keep his level of play high, even when the points got tight, something that has seemed to be missing the last few tournaments.

Federer has to like his form heading into the French, as does Nadal, however, I believe Uncle Toni has a lot in store for Nadal this week to whip him in to shape for the French.