will federer finish first?

Posted on June 8, 2007

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That’s the question on everyone’s mind, as the showdown everyone’s been waiting for is set for Sunday — world number 1 Roger Federer will meet world number 2 Rafael Nadal in the final of the French Open.

Both are hoping to make history. Federer is attempting to be win the only Grand Slam title to elude him and collect his fourth consecutive Grand Slam prize. Federer has swept 10 titles at Wimbledon, the US and the Australian Opens. If Federer manages to snatch the crown from Nadal on Sunday, he will be the sixth man with a career Grand Slam, and the first man in about 40 years to win four Grand Slams in a row.

Nadal, meanwhile, is going for a third consecutive French Open title, the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1978-81.

Nadal’s mark seems easier to hit. He is undoubtedly number one on the slippery clay court and has made it to the final without dropping a single set during the entire tournament .

Federer has stepped up his game on clay but watching Friday’s semi-final against Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko {7-5, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7)} there are concerns that Federer let too many points slip. Had it been a stronger player than Davydenko on the other side of the net, that person would have capitalized on the moments that Federer didn’t seem to be concentrating or intent on winning, and brought the match to a five-setter and even win. Davydenko could have won the three sets but was probably plagued by too much self-doubt and awe in Federer’s presence, even if it was a lesser Federer than the one his adoring public has come to know and expect.

Although the other semi-final match between Nadal and Serbian Novak Djokovic was also rather lacklustre, Nadal won more convincingly, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2.

If Federer played the same way against Nadal as he did during the semi-final, he would have a tough time making his mark on the history books. Nadal is a much wilier player and more likely to convert errors or lapse in concentration by Federer to his own advantage.

And what Djokovic had to say about Nadal holds true for every opponent, even the great Federer. “If you win on clay against him, you’ve got to do more, you’ve got to push him more, push him over the limits,” Djokovic said of Nadal. “You’ve got to play really great tennis, and it has got to be your day.”

Federer and Nadal have faced off 11 previous times. Nadal has the better record, bettering Federer seven times, with a five-one record on clay. Federer, however, has won three of their last four outings. Notably, Federer finally beat Nadal on clay just before the French Open, in Hamburg, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, and broke Nadal’s incredible 81-game winning streak.

Nadal said then he was tired after a series of tournaments. But he certainly doesn’t look anywhere near tired at Roland Garros.

Ok, I’ll admit I’m biased. I want Federer to win. He’s so likable, graceful and absolutely joyful to watch. But it’s not going to be an easy Sunday for Federer. Well, then again, greatness and immortality are never easy but if anyone should have a shot at those, it would be Federer.

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