Written early February, 2017. This is my analysis of part of the French Open 2007 Final between Federer and Nadal. I am a big Federer fan and therefore I have always been interested in figuring out Federer’s “Nadal complex.” It always was such a frustrating thing. I’m very glad that he at least figured it out for one Grand Slam final match. (As well as for the following two matches in Indian Wells and Miami, which were very big matches too, especially Miami, but as we all know, the Majors are in a whole different category). I only focused on a few parts of the match. It would have been pages and pages long had I completed the match looking as closely at it as I did. You can of course look up the match on youtube to match it up with what I am saying, if you are at all interested. I did so the other day – more than a year after writing this piece – and found that I rather disagreed with myself, which is always a little perturbing. I don’t like the idea that I could change so much over the course of a fairly brief span of time.
3-1 third set, deuce: Federer hitting his forehand HARD. Nadal kept hitting his shots – forehands and backhands – to his forehand, paradoxically. Didn’t seem like he was pressured to hit them there; just seemed that he was inexplicably. He seemmed to have plenty of time to choose to hit to Federer’s backhandd, but he didn’t. Kept going to Fed’s FH. The point was lost by Fed when he hit an attempted tricky shot, and it went into the net. After this, Nadal was walking away to get the towel and/or balls to serve with and was dragging the toes of his shoes as he used to do fairly often. It struck me as a nervous habit. So it would be interesting to see if he only does this when he is feeling less confident. The take-away? Federer should know that Nadal’s mind is not a steel fortress! He can get inside of it, too. Just has to HIT the ball hard. Be aggressive. … K, now I need to see when Nadal does actually do that toe dragging. It was very kid-like. I remember I used to do it just because it was kinda fun, and it felt “neat” for lack of a better word.
Nadal won the game on pure luck. federer seemed pissed but held it in. probably lost a lot of will in that game, maybe especially in that moment of luck for Nadal. not the same w/ AO ’17 where he held his nerve and his will/belief.
– at 1-0 30-40 in the 4th set, Federer makes a definite push in this point to get it to deuce – i believe because he got it in his mind to make that the game in which he would make his move. So, he does some tremendous defending, and wins the point by rushing to get a very short ball and hitting it down the line for a winner. I was very impressed. While he was sprinting for the one shot, I was thinking “Oh god! this is going to be another disappointing attempt that goes off the frame of his racquet, or goes feebly into the net.” But it went in, and then he eventually won the point – it was very rare that he would win it. Probably if they replayed that point 10 times he would win it once, maybe twice. And this was to get it to deuce. It’s a very big point in the match! When he won it, though, his reaction was confusing. He didn’t seem to care too much; almost seemed like he expected it! I was expecting a solid fist pump at least, or a “come on!” (“allez!” I mean, since it’s in Paris. Hehe). But he just ambled back to the baseline almost laissez faire (hmm, maybe the French attitude influenced him while he played there). … ok, that’s all. Just wanted to record that because it was a good point for understanding Federer’s Nadal complex. (I think he would have thrown out a “come on!” (or “allez!”) at that point had he been playing someone else. (Oh, and another key aspect of that point was Nadal’s attitude and reaction to it: looking back in annoyance, almost, at Federer. I think he already had the sense that Federer was a bit timid playing him, and he welcomed the chance to take the dominant stance). The very next point is interesting, too! VERY unusual point. Nadal goes *hard* with his forehand to Federer’s forehand about 4 shots in a row. That is unprecedented! (Federer hung in there and won that point too, irritating Nadal even further, no doubt. I think in the AO ’17 Final, this sort of thing took place, too; except it lasted the entire match, not just in spans. And Nadal couldn’t handle it in the long run; really started to show in thte 5th. Federer IS the better player; he just needs to stay mentally strong, to put it broadly). I think this is thte point in the match where some players, like Djokovic is the perfect example, absolutely relishes the opportunity to stick it to Nadal. This is when he is vulnerable – when his moxy is vulnerable, with the crowd cheering against him and everything … but I think Federer has that mindset of not wanting to piss Nadal off. And I do think it’s a selfish sort of consideration: like Federer doesn’t want to “awaken the dragon” so to speak. But there is a fine line there. He shouldn’t feel subdued, himself, for such a reason! That is totally oppressive. He deserved to feel big in moments like that. And that would have gotten him through most of these Nadal matchups, I feel (you have to remember – this is at the French Open! In Nadal’s almost-prime. So he surely could have drawn on such attitude adjustment on other surfaces. I think he could have won one or two more French Opens (so glad I can say “more” there) and probably would have won the ’08 Wimbledon and the ’09, maybe the ’12 AND ’14 Australian Open matches. :L That would put him about even with Nadal head-to-head, and he would have had about 20-23 majors. Ah well. 18 is still tremendous! And he still could win one or two more. … Good old Federer. … OMG! (I have come back to this note again, haha) – Nadal is WAY more timid in this break point! It’s crazy how apparent it is. Almost makes you wonder if he was faking his moxy all the other times. You can hear in his grunt when he hits the ball a HUGE difference in intonation, and they’re probably about 2/3 or 1/2 the volume! Such is the effect of nerves. (And something else. Could really get deep into the psychology, here). ** This is perhaps the most key observation and revelation of Nadal’s psychological make-up** … ok. now, the way the point went: most people would be quick to say that Federer played the point too passively, or even timidly – but i think that they would be influenced by their own belief/assumption that Federer is effected by the “Nadal complex,” basically. However, Federer played the point very solidly! It was a break point against a championship contender – of course he is going to play it a bit safely. I only see one or two instances where he didn’t go as aggressivley as he could or should have. Other than that, he played it well. (And by the way, “cadence” is the word I was looking for. The cadence in Nadal’s grunts when he hit the ball was starkly different than at other points in the match). When Nadal DID get the upper hand in the point – the AD – he started grunting as loudly and domineeringly as at any point. Would be interesting to compare the cadence with the average point in the match. and the game ends with Federer showing far more frustration and anger than usual. Clearly this was a turning point type of game. … OK. One more observation: In the following game, Federer’s demeanor has clearly changed a lot. He is grunting when he hits the ball for the first time – really, for one of the very few, if not the ONLY time I have ever witnessed (wow, have I just uncovered perhaps THE key point in their career match-up?) But it doesn’t work out for Federer at all. I think it distracts him, gets him off his game – he overhits a forehand and it goes wide to lose the point. Now let’s see if he goes back to being quiet. That kind of contained quiet really is his style. So no one can rightly say that he should have been more demonstrative (grunting), at least.
couple days later i am watching the ’05 French Open match, and realized that it would be fruitful to study it because, in this match you can see how Federer did not have his “Nadal complex” yet. So it would be really good to compare and contrast it with the ’07 (and maybe the ’06) match. I do see already that he had a hard time at net – he was there, and attempted to make what was normally a routine forhand volley and, with Nadal’s ripping topspin, it hit off the racquet and sailed long. Federer looked pretty irritated too. Then it showed that Federer was 4/11 at net, which is very abnormal. So perhaps realizing how heavy his shots are thru the volley is what caused him to begin to see that he is abnormally challenging to play against. (That, plus the high-bouncing ball to his backhand, of course).
@ 3-1, second set, 30-0, Federer was grunting when he hit the ball, regularly. Nadal, interestingly, stopped grunitng while Federer was. (I am always focusing on the grunting because of the psychological element of it – because I DO think that it is a showing off of dominance – like an animal, really – when Nadal does it). I tihnk that it is a big part of what Federer hates about playing Nadal – he doesn’t *want* to be that kind of player, that kind of guy; whereas Nadal relishes it. That is absolutely his style and he would love to drag any player, but especially one such as Federer*(good place for a footnote to explain what “one such as Federer” means), into the world of that playing style (good point for a — and then listing off the characterristics of such a “world”; I do love that metaphor of it being like a world. Ha). Like a gladiator arena. Federer showed in this point that he is capable of playing that way – at least in short spurts. (I really don’t think he could hold up; and it’s interesting when you consider why not: has to do with upbringing, probably; and perhaps genes, though I am certainly one that sides with nurture, not nature — interestingly I did not consider the physicality of it; I do *not* think Federer could holp up physically for even three sets, let alone five; and his knowing that surely affected him in the moment psychologically. Not that I disagree with my past-self in choosing to focus only on the psychological aspect according to Federer on that day – he really *doesn’t* enjoy playing in that mood (spirit) and style). … two points later really shows what I’m talking about (and honestly? shows that I am on the right track). Nadal won the point in between the two that i am talking about, and is now grunting full-bore, while Federer has backed off the grunting – except for *one* slice backhand, in which he grunts louder than ever. But it is a sort of desperate sound – irritated, unhappy, determined. Nadal can play that style his entire career! (And did). Federer has a hard time playing it for one game! He won this point I am now talking about, but walked away to the returning spot in dejection – he does *not* want to get sucked into that style of play! Nadal could probably very much sense this and it causes him to squeeze all the more like a boa constrictor. And that’s all he had to do all career (*against Federer I meant). Hence the suffocating sense Federer seemed to have, and all of his fans had – me included, so i can vouch for it. Perhaps that’s why Federer was always trying to “kill him with kindness” (at least that’s what i felt; although, I see here in the pic before this match – the one together at the net – that Federer has this same attitude of “happy to play with my buddy Rafa!” So it is genuine, I believe; which is interesting in and of itself, considering Rafa is not the typical sort of friend for Federer. Maybe he had a “soft spot in his heart for ‘the kid'” – lol, IDK! I am grasping). I say that this is perhaps why Federer always wanted to be like buddies because it would possibly take just enough of that vicious, kill-mode mentality out of Nadal’s on-court attitude? IDK, though; I also believe Federer is a good sport, and welcomes the competition in its truest sense.