Why Federer Will Win the French

May 25, 2009 · Print This Article

A couple weeks ago in Madrid, Federer finally beat Nadal on clay, exacting some revenge from losing to him at Wimbledon. Since the draw was released, I have had this gnawing feeling, and it just dawned on me…Federer’s going to win the French. The deck is stacked against him, but I just have a feeling. In Madrid, he finally realized what many of us already knew: that Nadal is beatable isn’t as untouchable on clay as you might think.

Now, it won’t be easy, but the stars have aligned and stage is set for some history to be made:

1) Federer lucked into a relatively easy draw. His only true test until the finals, will be Djkovic in the semis (he plays Roddick in the quarters, but…come on, lol). Djokovic only has one win against Fed in a slam, at the 2008 Australian Semis. Maybe it is wishful thinking because I can’t stand Novak, but I can’t see Roger losing to the guy.  Nadal on the other hand has a tough draw– he gets to go through Hewitt, Ferrer and Verdasco just to get into the finals. If Madrid taught us nothing, it was that Rafa is vulnerable when he’s tired.

After losing in the finals to Nadal at the Australian Open earlier this year, no one blamed Federer for breaking down during the trophy presentations. I for one became a bigger fan of his for it. He has always been very reserved, but the vulnerability he displayed was refreshing and cleansing for him. I have nothing to base this on, but I truly believe it was therapy. He dealt with his Rafa demons, and left them on the court.

3) He has tasted Nadal’s blood on clay. Nadal has had Federer looking over his shoulder for a few years now, especially after beating him at Wimbledon, but his dominance on clay has much more to do with just his ability. Tennis is 75% mental, and Roger has gotten over a major hurdle on his way to his first slam title at Roland Garros.

There is one thing totally out of Roger’s control, and that is the weather. If we have a hot second week with no rain, then the speed of the games will pick up and Federer wont have to grind out points. BUT, if we get lots of rain, things will really slow down and Nadal can grind out 6 hour matches no problem. Hopefully the weather wont play a big role.

I know this sentiment isn’t shared by most, and if you are going to pick a winner, Nadal’s draw has all the favourites, but champions live for these moments. Don’t think for a second that leaving Federer out of the championship chatter has done nothing but fuel his fire. I can’t imagine a better picture then Roger Federer winning his 14th slam by beating Nadal at the French in an epic 5 setter, becoming the greatest of all time, no question.

He’s off to a good start, dispatching Alberto Martin rather easily (4/3/2).

Sam Holako is a Raptors blogger (Raps Fan) for RaptorsRepublic.com (an ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog). You can catch him on Twitter @rapsfan

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14 Responses to “Why Federer Will Win the French”

  1. Tony on May 25th, 2009 10:49 pm

    Holako obviously is entitled to his opinion, expert or otherwise (his comments smack of wishful thinking rather than hard nosed analysis). Still, he forgets that two years ago Federer beat Nadal at Hamburg but failed to do so when it mattered the most at Roland Garros. If I were Federer, I would be most circumspect about that victory in Madrid…

  2. Sam Holako on May 26th, 2009 9:55 am

    I am by no means an expert Tony, not even close, just a fan of the game. I agree the Madrid win should be taken for what it was. But Nadal is battling his own demons now: no one has ever won 5 French Opens in a row. Everybody will be gunning for him. I’m actually far more concerned for Djokovic then Nadal truth be told.

  3. Julian on May 26th, 2009 1:12 pm

    There’s a very significant emotional aspect to all this. As much as it could translate into lots of pressure for Roger, the prospect of winning his 14th slam against Nadal on clay…. wow!! it could also translate into an unbelievable source of inspiration and strength… to put it mildly. Never underestimate a champion such as him under these very unique circumstances.

    Furthermore, and another tremendous motivator, is that If Roger wins the French he could pretty much retire for good to his new villa near Lake Cuomo as far as I’m concerned… a $100 million worth. And If he still fancied playing, all he would have left to do is win one more slam to beat Pete’s record… and that would be IT. He would have nothing else to prove regardless of what happened to him for the rest of his tennis years. He would be (no doubt) considered the freaking KING of the universe basically!! Forget the king of clay… he’d be God.

    How’s that for motivation…. or would it translate into pressure…? uhmmm…. you make the call.

  4. Sam Holako on May 26th, 2009 5:17 pm

    The whole premise of my assumption here is based on the emotional/mental aspect. Federer has beaten Nadal a couple times on clay, but hasn’t put it together at RG. This past year has been a very difficult one for Fed, and I think he is ready.

    At Fed’s level, I don’t know how much pressure really affects him, although it can’t be counted out.

  5. Holly on May 26th, 2009 7:38 pm

    If Rafa stays healthy there’s no way Fed will win. Rafa plays with his heart and soul and he wants this win. He’s on HIS surface in RG…Rafa for #5

  6. Harsh on May 27th, 2009 3:45 am

    Hey… I certainly pray that your intuitions come true… amen…

  7. Zach on May 27th, 2009 6:29 pm

    Holly, you think Federer does not want this win as much?

  8. Julian on May 31st, 2009 1:03 pm

    Uhmm who wuda thunk it… King of Clay dethroned. You think Fed is gonna blow this chance now? As much as I’m sure he would want to win against Rafa… will nailing RG mean any less for Roger?

    Let’s see how Roger handles this once in a lifetime pressure cooker… jeeez… ;-)

    Will Roger still be GOAT material even if he didn’t face Rafa in the final? Well.. he’ll have to win first…

  9. Sam Holako on May 31st, 2009 6:09 pm

    I don’t think so Julian. The win is valid and wont mean any less. These are breaks. People win and lose on any given day in tennis (remember Yzaga beating Sampras at US?) Was Agassi’s career slam any less amazing because he beat Andre Medvedev? I don’t think so.

  10. Julian on June 1st, 2009 10:33 am

    Good point Sam… the final score defines careers (and history) and not who the matches were won against.

    However, the thought I was flirting with on my previous post was that (if Rodge wins RG) there will be those who will argue that not having beaten his worst adversary (who beat him the last 3 finals at RG) puts in question the worthiness of his achievement/ or “GOATNESS”. I’d love to know how Roger himself feels about it…

    But on the other hand Rafa lost against Soderling! didn’t he? And he wasn’t supposed to lose to anybody but Roger… Does that make the loss less relevant? I think it’s the French who have the saying that in the end it’s always the final score which settles all arguments… ;-)

    (Roger just came back from 2 sets down to win in 5 against Haas…)

  11. Sam Holako on June 1st, 2009 11:02 am

    Seems like you answered your own questions ;) The Soderling loss for Rafa is really bad for him. BUT Soderling played amazing, he was hitting big and flat to Rafa’s forehand, and Rafa couldn’t deal. People can’t help who they play, all they can do is beat whoever they play. The French got it right “…the final score which settles all arguments…”

    You make a valid point about the GOATNESS. I think this is worth a discussion, but let me ask you a question first:

    If Roddick wins the French, will there be an asterisks beside his name because he didn’t beat Nadal? If Nadal beat Djokovic (instead of Roger) at Wimbledon, would that win be any less of an achievement?

  12. Julian on June 3rd, 2009 9:53 am

    “If Roddick wins the French, will there be an asterisks beside his name because he didn’t beat Nadal?”

    No. Nadal wasn’t good enough to be in the final this time. His amazing clay record stands (unless broken) but he’s only as good as his last match.

    “If Nadal beat Djokovic (instead of Roger) at Wimbledon, would that win be any less of an achievement?”

    No. Roger wasn’t good enough to be in the final that time. His amazing grass record stands (unless broken) but he’s only as good as his last match.

    Conclusion: I think what gets mixed up and can be confusing in this type of discussion is failing to make a distinction between a player’s outstanding record and the consequent assumption that because of it, that’s the player others should “go through” and/or beat in order to earn a worthy win. Which is obviously wrong. The player with an outstanding record is hot until he loses to -anybody-… and no.. his/her loss or win isn’t more meritorious -necessarily- if it was against his/her “nemesis”.

    (Hey, this has helped me further clarify some of this stuff for myself… ;-) )

    P.D (Funny… while we’re having this exchange check out the heated discussion that the moderator “closed” @ tennis.com about the same thing… :-) : http://www.tennis.com/messageboard/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=14185&start=1

  13. Sam Holako on June 3rd, 2009 10:20 am

    I think you are bang on Julian. All a player can do is beat the next opponent and hope to string together 6 or 7 wins in a row to win a slam or masters cup.

    FYI – that discussion at Tennis.com got uh…really heated, lol. Glad it is civil over here.

  14. Julian on June 3rd, 2009 11:52 am

    Your questions certainly helped pave the way !

    Btw… so far it looks like your “gnawing feeling” was bang on too… Roger up 2 sets against Monfils… I’m one for Rodge matching Pete’s 14 (having won all slams) Would he be “GOAT” too? uhmmm…. we haven’t tackled that one yet ;-)

    But in all honesty, who gets any closer than that…? one more slam wouldn’t hurt cementing it though..

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