Wow! What a match. The 26th encounter between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal proved one of the most one-sided as the Swiss Maestro, also known as poetry in motion, absolutely annihilated his friend and nemesis Rafael Nadal.
6-3, 6-0 was the score with 28 winners for Federer and a mere four for Nadal in a match that was over in one hour (their quickest this far? It has to be).
It wasn’t as if Nadal was spraying balls all over the place as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did in the first set against Federer on Sunday. No, Nadal made a mere seven unforced errors to Federer’s eight, five of those eight coming in the early part of the first set.
While Nadal wasn’t great, Federer never allowed him a chance.
Most of their matches go by the familiar tune, where Nadal serves and hits 80 percent of the balls to Federer’s weaker backhand side. He tried to employ that tactic again today, but on the O2 indoor court, Rafa’s spinning balls don’t bounce as high.
Federer’s backhand refused to give in. Instead, Federer was forcing the action with his forehand and was attacking Nadal’s backhand to force the errors. That strategy paid dividends.
Even when Nadal caught Federer on his backhand, Federer wouldn’t cave. He either hit his way out of trouble with the backhand or at times ran around it to belt a forehand winner.
Federer redirected the ball into the open court and the corners, never giving Rafa a rally ball to force the action with. That was the key to the match.
What was amazing was how often Federer could hit the ball past one of the best defenders in the history of the sport on what Djokovic has described as a slow indoor hard court—28 winners in one hour is quite a high number.
Federer set the tone of the match early as he was belting big forehands past Nadal in his first service game.
No need and reason to get into a prolonged rally with the champion of rallies when you can hit the ball for a clear winner on your second or third shot.
At times, Federer’s first-serve percentage can let him down against Nadal.
Not so today. Though it dipped to 50 percent in the second set (70 percent overall), he was untouchable on serve, not allowing Rafa a single breakpoint throughout the match.
He won 86 percent and 67 percent of his first and second serve, whereas Nadal won just 33 percent on first and second.
Again, Rafa’s serve wasn’t at its best, but it wasn’t too much subpar either (he hit 73 percent of his first serves). Roger’s return was simply as impeccable as his game in general as he demonstrated when he hit a few clean return winners to go up 5-0 in the second.
For those who watched it, there was a certain sense of privilege in the air. Everybody knew they had just watched something special. The entire Arena got to their feet to give Roger a standing ovation for the magical performance.
This was Roger Federer in full flight and in the zone.
There are no guarantees in tennis, but if he plays on this level, Federer will lift the trophy come Sunday.
So far, he’s guaranteed a match in the semis, while Tsonga and Nadal will battle it out for the remaining semifinal spot come Thursday.
As for Rafa, he lives to fight another day and took the defeat stoically: “He has his limits, I have mine. Today my limit was there (pointing to the table), he’s limit wasn’t there”.