Sunday’s final between Rafa and Roger was the only thing keeping me out of 26C weather in Toronto. It was an awesome display of tennis from both champions; one looking to make history by winning his sixth champion and the other looking to prove that there is a trivalry in men’s tennis and that he is still relevant amidst all of the hype about Novak Djokovic. I was hoping that Roger would have enough in the tank to beat Rafa today, but it wasn’t meant to be in what will go down as the most competitive match between these two on the slow red clay. Roger must regroup for next week’s grass tuneup as he prepares to win his 7th Wimbledon trophy and if he wants to become Wimbledon champion again. Here are five key observations about Roger which will either help or hinder his chances to extend his legacy and get to 20 Grand Slam titles.
- Roger is fit enough to handle the grind for another two years. He has remained relatively injury free and healthy with the exception of a tiny bout of mono. I didn’t think Andy Roddick was his type. Should either Novak or Rafa falter, expect Roger to check off a slam or two en route to 20.
- He is only as good as his second serve. Winning 39% percent of the points will not cut it against someone like Nadal whom he most likely will have to beat to get to 20, let alone Wimbledon in a few weeks. His serving was phenomenal heading into the final; however he must find a way to backup some of his serve games or get the job done with the first.
- The pressure of ending his career on high is getting to him. Had Roger made that drop shot up 5-2 in the first, he would have put even more pressure onto Nadal to try to level the match. Instead, Roger choked and allowed Rafael to find his game and his belief in that first set. We saw this same type of meltdown at the 2009 US Open against Del Potro. Roger must accept that he most likely will have to beat Rafa in every slam if he wants to win.
- Winning still matters to Federer. I love the finger he gave after the Nole beatdown. He still wants to be out there. He has the rest of his life to watch his kids grow up, but he will only have 5 years max I predict to play competitive tennis and factor in the slams.
- The backhand and the return of serve must hold up deep into a tough tournament. The execution of both became progressively worse as the match went on. The 2009 Australian Open final was a great example of how Nadal destroyed that backhand stroke of Federer’s as he sent that high kicking ball up that wing. That same tactic worked here.
Having struggled with my own motivation to win on the court as of late, I have deep respect for Roger Federer and what he has accomplished. Despite the win record against Nadal he is for me the greatest player to have played the game. I do not believe he is finished yet, and you should not either. I do believe the Renaissance will again hoist another trophy before his career ends. Only he can control whether or not he makes it to twenty and beyond.