He was misty-eyed after a loss to Nadal at Wimbledon 2008. He cried openly after the 2009 AO loss, but strangely, there was no tear after a series of defeats by the Spaniard at the French Open. Nadal, by contrast, admitted he was crying in private after both Wimbledon losses to Federer.
Did Federer by any chance cry in private after those FO losses? If he did, he was doing a marvelous jobs of hiding it from the press, but knowing Federer, that was almost impossible to do. Did Nadal hate losing more than Federer? I doubt that. So one possible explanation is:
When Federer lost the first two RG matches to Nadal (one in semi and one in final) he was on top of the world. he still felt that Nadal's game was "one-dimensional", and he would eventually figure it out. But by the third and fourth defeat, he might have resigned to the fact that beating the Spaniard in Paris might just be beyond his capability.
This showed clearly in the 2008 FO final. No matter how well Nadal played, or even if we allowed for the possibility Federer might still suffer the lingering effect of mono, Federer essentially gave up. He tried for three games in the second set, and you could tell by his body language that he did try, but no more than those three games.
Afterward, federer said the Paris loss was nothing, onward to Wimbledon.
Nadal, by contrast, believes he could beat Federer anywhere, and despite what he might say in the press that federer is the best or Federer is the favourite, he would privately suffer more than Federer if he were to lose to Federer anywhere, even grass.
If this is true, it spells trouble for Federer on any surface should he meet Nadal. We all know the cliche' the one who wants it more wins. And it's not a stretch to suggest that the young Nadal wants it more than the older, more accomplished Federer.
But perhaps, to reward his persistence, his banging his head against a brick wall until it bleeds, the Gods were not ready to do Federer in. Just when he was hitting the lowest confidence level in his career, he got a dose of confidence boost by winning Madrid 2009 (albeit against a tired Nadal), then went on to navigate the most treacherous path of all his previous FO runs to a 2009 FO title again courtesy of an early Nadal exit. No wonder that both he and Agassi thought it was fate.
So onward to 2010 clay season and beyond, Nadal is back in all of his former glory, and the Gods said: "Federer, you are on your own from now on. Aim for his knees".
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