Monday, June 06, 2011

Nadal d Federer: Defense beats Offense

I may as well chime in with my comments on the final from Roland Garros yesterday.  Federer definitely played a very good match.  He was hitting his shots the first seven games.  My feeling at the time was that it would be tough for him to sustain that level throughout the match.  That's been everyone's problem in beating Nadal over five sets in Paris.  Soderling did it once.  On that surface over three out of five sets, Rafa's defense is simply too good for anyone's offense.

I thought that Federer did a couple of things tactically that I think helped him beyond just great shot-making.  I liked when he stepped up and drove second-serve returns against Rafa.  Rafa is a great defender who is in his worst defending court position immediately following his second serve.  Rather than defending from 10 feet behind the baseline, Rafa has to defend that shot from very close to the baseline.  That's not easy to do.

I also liked Roger's use of the slice backhand and drop shots as the match wore on.  I thought those drop shots kept Rafa unsure of how deep to play in rally and defending situations.  Roger hit several outright drop shot winners and that threat kept Rafa up a bit closer than he would have liked, allowing Roger to hurt him with backhand drives on occasion.

Roger also took a few more balls out of the air with his forehand.  That's a risky play for sure, but you have to take risks to beat Rafa on clay.  That's why people rarely beat him on clay.  Rafa forces players to play lower margin of safety shots to beat him.

Perhaps I'm a man with a theory looking for confirmation, but I found confirmation of my general theory that at most levels on most surfaces, defense beats offense in tennis.  Roger Federer is the greatest offensive player in tennis history.  His serve and forehand are two of the best weapons in the history of the game, if not the best weapons.  Yet they are not good enough to beat the greatest defender in the history of the game on the clay of Roland Garros.

ADDENDUM:  One more thing.  I was very impressed by Federer's forehand in the first seven games.  It seemed to me, without going back and looking at the tape, that virtually every time Nadal played a ball to Federer's forehand, he lost the point.  Maybe not right away.  But Federer was in utter control once he was able to hit a forehand.  That's tough to sustain, obviously, but I was struck by just how fabulous a weapon Federer's forehand can be when he's in full flight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I said it 7 years ago..if roger can change his game, and include more droppers, and get crazy good with them, then he can beat rafa...but maybe the drop shot is a dumb shot eh?