June 1, 2009

Rafa's Rolland Roll Ends ..

June 01, 2009 Posted by Vijay No comments
Watching the match between Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling yesterday was indeed a privilege for me. For here was a man, who was undefeated since his first ever attempt at Rolland Garros in 2005, pitted against a rival who has struggled to find his footprint on a ferociously competitive men's tennis circuit. Rafa, as Rafael Nadal is fondly called, was defeated by a more resolute and clinical Soderling 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 in the Fourth Round at the French Open yesterday.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind, that if ever Rafa plays a five setter against any player, there can only be one winner. Rafa. Nerves of steel and hours of concentration which are as yet arguably unknown to men's tennis. That's what Rafa owns. Or atleast till yesterday's big upset. Soderling had to make sure he wraps up the match in straight sets or four to have any chance of overcoming the relentless Rafa. Soderling did just that.

Roger Federer would be as pleased as he would be surprised at this early exit from the Spanish Armada. Rafa has been the biggest nemesis to Federer's aura of invincibility, having a stupendous 13-7 win loss record against the Swiss maestro till date. Credit to Federer to have an astounding 19 consecutive grand slam semi final appearances or better. Rafa though has been always there to spoil Federer's quest for ultimate greatness when he won the Australian Open earlier this year, denying the Swiss from equalling Sampras' all time record of 14 Grand Slam titles.

Federer has been the closest to rival Rafa on clay and has been in the Finals at Rolland Garros for the last 3 years. Federer had a torrid final last year when he won only 4 games against Rafa. This year, there won't be a Nadal in the final. Going by the recent match ups, this is probably Federer's best chance at the French Open. The funny part though is, even if Federer wins the French Open now, it will be a hollow victory for him. Being the champion that he is, Federer would definitely want to beat Rafa in a French Open final to lift the elusive trophy. On the flip side, Rafa has tended to be all over Federer in all their recent Slam Final meetings.

In last year's US Open final, Federer was at his clinical best. He dismissed Murray's chances and won a lopsided final , after Murray had upstaged Nadal in the semi finals. I am sure if Nadal had faced up to Federer in that final, things would have been totally different. That is the effect Rafa has had on Federer, more mentally than the skills. All said and done, Federer has been the second best player at the French Open and does deserve his fair chance at Rolland Garros. Even if that be without his nemesis around.