How Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer (again)

Patrick Mouratoglou
Busted Racquet

How did Rafael Nadal defeat Roger Federer for the eighth time in 10 Grand Slam matches? Busted Racquet expert analyst, Patrick Mouratoglou, breaks down the semifinal.

Starting like a boxer

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Roger took the first lead at 3-0, then 4-1, a tremendous start! He made me think of Mike Tyson. As soon as the fight starts, he's coming out swinging and going for the knock out. Federer takes the ball early, attacks all the time and takes his chances. Rafa is stunned and plays short because he's under huge pressure. The Swiss gets off to a firing start.

How tough it is to keep an outstanding level of play

Unfortunately for him, Rafa adapts. The intensity he's putting out there, the rhythm imposed, the length of the rallies, all these things demand perfection from Roger. And making the perfection lasts in those conditions is close to the impossible. So it's often the same scenario against the Spaniard. He's setting the bar so high that every inch of slowing intensity is punished. He wins the first-set tiebreak, but it starts affecting him immediately in the second set. As for Rafa, he's understanding pretty quickly that the Swiss can't keep it up. Being smart, he slows down the game, playing higher on the Swiss backhand and then speeding up at first opportunity.

Three keys

Mind: The Spaniard is able to be decisive on the most important points.

Fitness: The Spaniard knows he's in better shape nd enjoys getting the points longer and longer to make his opponent run.

First serve percentage: Rafa was remarkable in terms of first set percentage. He went as high as 77 percent. This prevented Roger from attacking the second serves, so points went longer more often and Rafa often started them with a lead.

Can Federer beat Nadal in a big match?

The issue for Roger Federer is Rafael Nadal. He's the only player to shut the door on Federer again and again when it was time to win Grand Slams. Federer has to solve this issue. His futire is tied to it. He will end his career with 16 or 17 Grand Slam titles if nothing changes. But if he can beat his No. 1 rival, it's not crazy to think that, with the level this great champion is able to play, he could reach 20. It's an amazing challenge. He has to go against the Majorcan gameplan, which is to play high and deep on his backhand in order to force him to play shorter, to move backward and so Nadal can use his forehand.

Working with topspin on the backhand and taking the ball early is a crucial side to improve. All year long, Roger is facing opponents kicking on his backhand on second serve. Each return is so the chance to work on the technical point that needs to get steadier. So I really have a tough time to understand why he's still chopping on his backhand all year long on second serves. Roger improved a lot on this point but it remains fragile and not enough.

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