Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Federer v. Nadal ... and Nicky Kyrgios

So I was watching the Roger Federer/Rafa Nadal Miami Open final and was struck by two details:

1. Damned if Federer's new backhand doesn't look just like Ivan Ljubicic's old one.
2. Federer is the best sports story of 2017 so far.

Yeah, I know the NCAA final was just played. Nothing really new with Cheatin' North Carolina walking away with all the glory again. OK, I'd throw the UConn women's basketball team upset in there as a contender, but here's what the Federer story has right now that makes it unlike no other -- Nadal.


We're talking about two legends of the game who came up together and were both overtaken at the same time and are now meeting again in big-money finals, despite their lower seeding. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are the ones struggling with injury and the veterans are doing the heavy lifting, despite Roger's poor back.
Their matchups now don't seem to carry the same tension, because Federer is just thumping Nadal right now. With his new backhand, he's taken away the linchpin of Nadal's strategy against him, and although Nadal presented a much tougher challenge than he did in the Australian Open final, it wasn't enough. Well, Federer's changed a component of his game. Perhaps it's time Nadal did the same thing. What is that thing he needs to do? He's gotta stop playing from the first row of the spectator seats. Yes, he's fast and can do ridiculous things on defense, but now that he can't depend on Fed's backhand to attack, he needs to focus on taking time away from Federer by playing closer to the baseline. With the clay season coming up, yeah, he'll be fine so far back, but if he's really going to push to stay with Federer, he's going to need to lean in. Like, a lot.
Having said all of that, it's time to also give it up for Nick Kyrgios. He is just going to be the John McEnroe of our time. It's going to be hard to watch his antics sometimes and he's going to have to pay some fines, maybe even get suspended again. Kyrgios likes to say he'd rather be playing basketball, but one of two things his semifinal against Federer showed us is that's not altogether true. He cared about winning that particular match. And I get the vitriol against him, but the crowd, if nothing else, should have been able to appreciate the tennis they saw -- it might have been the best men's match of the year. Yes, it's April.


The Thinker said...

There is a reason why Federer has been able to retool his game at 35 which Nadal at 30 is finding so damn tough to do, this articles details it pretty well ....

Naf said...

Well, Federer didn't have too much to tinker -- the backhand was really it. Also, his game has always been so economical. I think we can all agree Nadal's is not! :)

Anonymous said...

Here's the problem with Nadal trying to take time away from Federer by getting closer to the baseline - Federer can half volley like a mofo. There were several times in both the AO and Miami finals when Nadal was hitting bombing shots from right on the baseline - and Federer stood on the baseline and picked them up off the half volley and hit them for winners. Maybe Nadal could come to the net more and try taking the net away but simply trying to rob Federer of time isn't going to make that much difference. He needs more options in his game and has for the last 3 years. He just refused to make them. Now that he knows he's not automatic against Federer anymore maybe he'll work on the rest of his game.

Naf said...

What kind of options do you mean? Other that hitting a flatter ball -- and hitting the return sooner, as I mentioned -- what's going to give him an edge over Federer? Nadal's pretty strong at net. I guess if he comes in closer on return and gets it to the one-handed backhand and rushes the net, that could help. The follow-through on a one-hander can take a bit longer to get through than two hands. I wouldn't come into the net on Federer on anything else but the backhand. I think it's an uphill battle for Nadal. I hate to say that, but the older you get, the less likely you are to dramatically change your game. Unless you're Federer. Curious about your other ideas for his game!