Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal Stumble Before Australian Open 2011 Finals?

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Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal Stumble Before Australian Open 2011 Finals?
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Who will be laughing and who will be crying?

A Grand Slam final without Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal? Without both? 

Imagine that or imagine imagination dead. "That's waiting for Godot," you instantly resist, but it could be happening.

Nadal looked spectacular last night, so did Federer the day before. Nadal did not have to sweat much. Literally, he perspired less. After butchering Marin Cilic in straight sets, he said he "felt perfect physically," not without a caveat. 

The sweat may not be the result of bodily ailment.

"I played against Andy Murray here in 2007, I think. I played very long match in fourth round, Round of 16. I wasn't able to play in quarterfinals against González. It happened in 2009 against Verdasco, and I was ready to play a long final, no?"

A five-setter with David Ferrer in the quarterfinal could be similar or less tiring than the one with Fernando Verdasco, having little bearing over his potential semifinal match against Andy Murray, given the Scot gets there.    

Sometimes, his sweating may have something to do with anxiety, some form of mind-body disharmony or Cartesian ghost.

Nadal says, "When I play better, I play with a little bit more calm and with less anxiety. For that reason, I am anxiety less."

But I think the effect is more like a feedback loop, the cause becoming effect and the effect cause in turn. In other words, anxiety leads to a bad play and bad play triggers anxiety in cycle. But where does the anxiety originate from?

If I have to guess, it could be the pressure of achieving four Slams in a row, which he has been strenuously trying to deflect from hovering over his head, at least after Doha. He knows this could very well be the one-time opportunity.

When motivation morphs into anxiety, the outcome is often not a happy one. 

Under the pressure, Nadal is very likely to go out to the dangerous foe in Murray, the only other player who has beaten Nadal twice at the Grand Slam level besides Federer and Lleyton Hewitt.

In Federer's case, it is the Swiss vs. Peter Lundgren. The Swede not only currently coaches Stanislas Wawrinka, he also knows enough how to strategize against his former pupil's holes.

"He (Lundgren) already was the coach of Roger, of Safin, so he knows how to be in the top and he knows how to help win some Grand Slams. So for sure that's helping me a lot," boasts Wawarinka.

When asked what could stop Federer-Nadal final, Federer sounded honest in his assessment, which included Wawrinka's name (Stan):

"I think Andy (Murray) and Novak (Djokovic) are playing extremely well, and that's why I'm not really looking very far ahead here. Rafa, myself ... (we're) playing well ... Stan, same thing; (Tomas) Berdych hasn't dropped a whole lot of sets or games."

I think in some sense this match is between Annacone-Federer vs. Lundgren-Federer but with certain ego and emotions attached. In another sense, it could play out as a rivalry between teacher and his former pupil, evoking Hegel's Lordship-Bondage dialectic.

Even if Federer escapes this battle, possibly he will not have left enough mental gas mileage to wage another successful war against either Berdych or Djokovic, both of whom beat the Swiss in their last Grand Slam encounters and are playing at the top of their game.             

Imagination has one more time to prove it is the harbinger of reality, so I ask Djokovic, Murray and the remainder to imagine a Grand Slam final without Nadal and Federer. Hopefully with no more waiting for Godot, my suffering ends and you too will be spared of another Lucky's tirade.       

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