Open Letter to Rafael Nadal Fans:
Rafael is a classy guy that has not been making excuses for himself. Yet, even though he is "leading by example," it hasn't stopped his fans from doing just that.
You've been telling us in the aftermath of Rafa's loss in Madrid that the tournament is nothing like Paris because of the altitude that makes it play like a hard court (and potentially favors hard court players).
You've told us that Rafa was tired and softened up by Djokovic the day before. I've even heard that Rafa might have intentionally let this one go because it allows him to go into Roland Garros without the added pressure of maintaining his 32 match win streak (we all know he's superstitious).
I'm going to address these in the order I mentioned them.
As for the fact that the altitude makes it play like a hard court, may I remind you that Rafa won the Australian Open and he won Indian Wells. Rafa has won more hard court finals this year than anyone.
So what that it played like a clay/hard court hybrid? Rafa is the best on clay ever and he's been the best on hard court this year. That wasn't an advantage for Fed (or any other opponent for that matter). The advantage was still with Rafa based on this year's results.
As for Rafa being tired, that's nonsense too. I am a Fed fan and I can tell you that I bought into the theory that Rafa would be softened up after his long match...with Verdasco at the Australian Open.
Yes, Rafa had a day of rest in between the Australian Open semifinals and finals but Roger had two days. Rafa also played the late match the day of his semifinal and Roger played an afternoon match for his semifinal.
So Roger had what would appear to be a significant advantage at the Australian Open and it didn't matter. It was Roger who faded in the fifth set and Nadal who got stronger.
Rafa is the fittest guy on tour and he's 22 years old. Besides, Roger correctly pointed out that Rafa's semifinal match with Djokovic would have been completed in much less time had he been playing someone else as there is a lot of standing around when playing Djokovic.
He takes more time between serves than anyone on the tour. That four hour match was not as taxing as it sounds. It could have been played in just under three hours if not for the standing between points.
Then there are those that believe Rafa was tired of the pressure of keeping up "the streak" and wanted to dump that burden before Roland Garros. His fans cite the fact that he didn't seem upset at all to have lost the match as evidence of this. I say that's bunk.
Rafael Nadal is one of the fiercest competitors I know and, if he's as superstitious as they say that he is, I can just as easily see him thinking that if he doesn't compete to his ability that somehow the tennis gods will punish him and he'll suffer down the road (or maybe even in Paris). I just can't see this being the case.
In short, Federer took this match.
He used to have one of the best serves in the game and has had trouble since he injured his back last year and can't stretch like he used to. As a result, his first serve percentage had been down in the 50's and that is why he was losing matches. He has gotten it back up into the 60's.
He has developed a killer drop shot. He has gotten his forehand working for him again (and when it is working, it is the best in tennis), and he went to the net much more often. He made the changes he needed to win and you guys don't want to give credit where it is due. Instead, you want to make excuses.
The bottom line is that Roger converted his break chances and Djokovic didn't. But they are both catching up to Rafa on clay.
Rafa didn't make excuses and I'm sure he doesn't want his fans to either.