Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have faced off for a record seven Grand Slam titles, and the duo will be set to add another tally to that list as the rivals will meet once again for the French Open Final.
Nadal has dominated the tournament in recent years, winning five of the last six French Open titles (including three over Federer), and has looked unbeatable at times in 2011. Federer, who currently ranks third in the world, has looked virtually unstoppable at Roland Garros, including an incredible win over Novak Djokovic on Friday. It appeared Djokovic may be the only player able to defeat Nadal, as the Serbian has beat the defending French Open champion four times already in 2011. With Djokovic out, does Nadal, who owns a 16-8 career edge over Federer, automatically have the upper hand in the final? Or does Federer beating Djokovic vicariously give him the ability to defeat Nadal?
Nadal will certainly be the consensus favorite entering the final. After all, the number one player in the world probably should be. Nadal made quick work of Andy Murray in the semi-finals in three, straight sets and will be looking to make quick work of Federer as well. In their last 10 meetings (dating back to 2008), Nadal has beaten Federer eight times, including twice in 2011. Nadal only lost one set in those two meetings, and that loss was in a tiebreaker.
Nadal has always served as a thorn in Federer’s side. During Federer’s dominant run from 2004-2007, the tennis play went 315-24. Still, he only managed a 6-8 record against Nadal, the only player to manage a plus .500 record against Federer. Nadal has also not lost a Grand Slam final match to Federer since Wimbledon in 2007, a run of four Grand Slam championships.
Yet, Federer should not be counted out. He has generally played Nadal tough, especially in championship matches. He overcame an early deficit and endured two overtimes in his 2008 Wimbledon final loss. He also had a 2-1 lead in the 2009 Australian Open before ultimately losing. Federer even managed to keep up with Nadal in their last two clay showdowns, winning one match and forcing another to overtime.
Federer can still be competitive, too. He has won each of the four Grand Slams in the past three year, proving that age has not been a concern. He can still flash the quickness and powerful shot that once made him the most dominant player in the world. While Nadal may be favored in agility and age, Federer should be favored in maturity and a desire to win.
The deciding factor of the French Open Final may be the surface of Roland Garros. While Federer excels at grass and hardcourts, Nadal owns an 11-2 head-to-head record on clay. Of course, Djokovic had won 17 consecutive clay matches prior to his loss to Federer, but Nadal’s domination on clay courts cannot be denied. Federer will have to hope that he can again withstand an inferior clay-court opponent.
While Federer still may be regarded as one of the top tennis players, he’s matching up with the top clay-player, which should produce some interesting results. There may not be an “easy pick” for this French Open, but based on the history between the opponents, one thing is certainly guaranteed… that the match will be entertaining.
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