Would it look bad if I said something nice about Nadal now? Yeah. That's what I thought too. Hee.
Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal on...clay(!) yesterday. I'm still a little shocked by it. It's not that I haven't known for years that he had the game to beat the King of Clay, it's just that I, like most of Roger's fans, had come to believe he had lost the mental game against Nadal so thoroughly that it would take a monumental effort and everything in his arsenal to be working almost perfectly for it to happen.
That's what happened yesterday in the Madrid final. Roger's forehand and backhand were rock solid - the forehand looking the best I've seen all year as far as pace and accuracy went, and the backhand - his weakness against the lefty Nadal - did not crumble. In fact, I think I noticed some new (much needed) tactics there. He also very effectively employed the tactic of pulling Nadal out wide on his forehand side (where he has greater reach), and then driving the next ball down his backhand side. Not easy, but Roger made it look so yesterday. It's pretty clear that Roger has been thinking about this opportunity. And he capitalized on it. With calm and focus. Yeah, that demeanor has been sorely missed.
And his serve! He had it again. Not just the first, but the second serve - even scoring an ace on the second serve on one point. A lot of analysts and commentators have lazily tried to say that Roger had to up his game - that his rivals had caught up to his talent. I do think that his rivals have gotten a whole lot better (they're much younger than him in tennis years, after all), but I never believed that what we were watching this last year or so was Roger in full flight. The serve was key, and it wasn't there like it had been. Not so yesterday, and boy, was it beautiful. Up the "T", out wide, and just generally with more pace and bite. Lethal.
So what does this win mean? With his serve back, and his weapons firing, not to mention this mental boost to his confidence, Roger is looking ready to go toe to toe again with Nadal. Great news! I'm not sure what it means for Roland Garros, and the winning of the only Slam title Roger is missing, but I'm now feeling so much better about his chances.
Way to go, Roger!