Prior to the second semi-final at the Australian Open 2014, everybody spoke what genius tennis Roger Federer had been playing. The Swiss had a new coach, a new racket and was back to the old approach towards the game – serve and volley. Everybody spoke about how he was the favourite to win the second semi-final against Nadal, who was struggling with a blister on his left palm.
When the match started, all eyes were on Nadal’s serve, which had lost its speed in quarter-final. But even though Federer looked confident in early part of the first set, Rafa didn’t look like a player who was playing with a nasty blister. The World No. 1 lived up to his ranking and won the first set in style after dominating in the tiebreaker.
Federer tried to attack Rafa’s serve every now and then in the first set, but the Spaniard made sure that the length of serves was difficult for the Swiss to return, as it had already lost fair amount of pace due to the blister.
After winning the first set, Rafa immediately called for his physio and received treatment on his blister. Going by the size of it, it was yet to be seen if Rafa could have played for five sets, if needed. But that wasn’t required as the World No. 1 comprehensively sealed the next two sets, to win another Grand Slam match against the Swiss.
When we think about tennis rivalry, Nadal-Federer is something which automatically comes to mind. But the term rivalry is probably used to compare two players, who have given neck-to-neck fight to each other.
But let’s have a reality check. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have played 33 matches till date, including the semi-final at Australian Open 2014. Now it might sound ridiculous, but Federer has just won 10 of those matches. At Grand Slams, the Swiss’ record is even worse as he has won just twice in 11 matches.
Federer – who had been brilliant against Andy Murray in the quarter-final, certainly looked under pressure against his old time foe Nadal. Not only his cross-court backhands found the net on most of the occasions, but he failed at hitting volleys as well. The same volleys which he dispatched for winners against Tsonga and Murray, kept falling in his side of the court.
If you measure greatness by the number of Grand Slams won, Nadal is just 4 Majors short of Federer’s 17 titles. Even though 8 of them have come at the Roland Garros, Nadal is just 26 and he is likely to play for the next four to five years if he remains fit. By that time, he would have not only surpassed Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Majors, but could also end up being the player with the maximum Grand Slams, much ahead of the Swiss legend.
It was Federer’s best chance to reach into another Grand Slam final after missing out on any of the four in 2013, something which took place only after 2002. We hope to see more of Federer vs Nadal matches. While Federer could still come at all guns blazing, he should not forget, Nadal too would then be playing without a blister.