Higher Risk Strategy Proves High Reward for Federer
May 19, 2009 · Print This Article
For the first time since 2007, and only the second time ever, Fed finally earned a clay-court victory over the Spanish juggernaut that has run over him (and his confidence) for some time. Fed took the title of the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open with a 6-4 6-4 win over the world’s top ranked player, Rafael Nadal. Whether this occurrence was an anomaly, or the foreshadowing of things to come, remains to be seen. What is for sure, however, is that Fed made some seemingly minor adjustments that had major implications.
Rafa’s high topspin forehand to Fed’s backhand has obviously been the bain of Fed’s existence recently. In Madrid, Fed mitigated the devastating effects of this matchup nightmare by tactfully hammering his forehand down the line to Nadal’s backhand. Rather than focusing on nailing a winner, Fed put the ball in the corner and set up the next shot with Nadal scrambling to get back into position. Not only did this keep the looping ball away from Fed’s backhand, but it also cost Nadal some positioning strength.
On the topic of positioning, Fed was also able to disrupt Rafa’s through the use of timely drop shots. We will not know for sure if this strategy worked because Nadal was fatigued from the previous day’s match (4+ hour win over Djokovic), but perhaps this is the way Fed will need to exploit Rafa if he hopes to win in Paris.
Fed also seemed more aggressive in returning Rafa’s serve, which has received some attention in the past months. Nadal has hinted that his second serve could use some work, an indication that maybe his confidence is not as bullet proof as it has been since his run at the #1 ranking and into this year. If Fed is to have any chance of winning at the French this year, he will need, amongst other things, something to rattle Rafa’s confidence. While the Madrid title is peanuts compared to any major, Rafa may finally be feeling the pressures of being expected to win every time he hits the court. Perhaps this will allow Fed to relax and execute his game-plan better.
While it is far too premature to project the results of this one match on to the rest of the season, the end of Nadal’s 33 match winning streak on clay gives Federer’s legion of fans the slightest glimpse of hope heading into Roland Garros.