This blog covers all things RF. It is dedicated to my dearest friend and avid FedFan @EfieZac. May she RIP 💙


12 Comments love tennis stats. Stats and numbers give the sport a foundation, a baseline and a scale of measurement. “The ball was out by 2mm”, “his fastest serve was 220km/hr” or “he won in straight sets”. But then once in a while, even a stats junkie like me recognizes that there are some matches you can’t measure because the sum is greater than the parts. There are variables like passion, drive, sweat and heart that cannot be quantified. If all you know about the Cincy QF match is Rafa Nadal defeated Roger Federer, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 then I feel for you because you truly missed out. I also feel bad for those who could only follow scores online. Because in each game of each set, when the scores went from 0 to 15 to 30 you just saw the numbers change. Those of us who watched the match on our screens, we didn’t see numbers, we saw moments of magic and beauty with every shot.

As the sun set in a splash of fiery orange across the purple sky, the stage seemed set for an extra special encounter. Only hours before, the world # 1 and 2, Novak and Andy, bowed out simultaneously at the QFs of a Masters tournament that is on their best surface. But looking back one could claim it was almost destiny because what unfurled on the court seemed to turn back time. It took us back to when Roger and Rafa ruled the world and Novak and Andy losing at the QF stages didn’t necessarily cause shock waves. The tennis gods seemed to clean the slate and give us this match circa 2005-2008, that was vacuum sealed to stand the test of time.

They came into the match having a polar opposite year and so far this has been Rafa’s year by a mile. No one can touch him, none of the top 8 except for the Monte Carlo win by Novak. Andy has been lucky that he hasn’t had to face Rafa but he’s the only top 8 player who has been spared (so far). Meanwhile, Roger is having a bad year by his standards. As of this coming Monday he will fall from 5 to 7 in the rankings. He has been having back problems that have interfered with trying to make any progress or get proper match practice and his confidence has taken a hit in the process.

So when they made it to the QFs, this time more than ever before, the odds were clearly in Rafa’s favor. Yes this was a hard court tournament but Rafa is as of now, unbeaten on hard courts this year and Roger has been having problems no matter what the surface. Suffice it to say most expected a straight sets win for the Spaniard. As long as Roger put in a good fight I knew I would be happy. came out to thunderous applause; Roger won the toss and chose to receive. Rafa held comfortably but it took Roger 4 deuces before he was able to hold at 1 all. He then had 1 break point opportunity in Rafa’s next service game but some good serving and Rafa’s forehand helped Rafa hold serve. After that, both players began to find their groove. Roger served beautifully and had a love hold to go up 2 all. After that all of Roger’s 4 service games had a loss of just one point each. They both used similar tactics of trying to find each others’ backhands because let’s face it, their forehands are lethal. Rafa has been using his extreme spin lasso whip forehand effectively the whole year but Roger was the player to watch this entire set. The infamous Federer forehand had come to the party and it was glorious. That forehand found the tiniest of corners to nestle in and the slightest of margins to touch.

The set continued firmly on serve with no more break points being offered till Rafa’s 6 service game. Roger kept pushing especially with the forehand creating acute angles all over the court and hammering Rafa’s backhand. The rally that lead to converting the break point was fantastic tennis and you can see just how early Roger was taking the ball. But the set point rally on Roger’s serve was stratospheric, culminating in this ridiculous cross court backhand winner from the Maestro. It made the hot shot of the day.

In the second set they stayed on serve and continued to produce amazing tennis at a very high level. Both Roger and Rafa had 2 love service holds. Rafa had 2 break point opportunities on Roger’s second service game but the Swiss saved them both with tremendous defense. It stayed on serve till Roger was serving to go up 5 all and for the first time in the match Roger had a lapse in concentration. He was at game point twice but Rafa got it back to deuce. Rafa then had a break point which Roger saved with a forehand winner but then Roger provided a second break point. The Spaniard hit a forehand winner down the line and in that instant the momentum shifted. Rafa took the set 6-4 and Roger looked dejected.

Roger was still in the mental cloud in his first service game and before you could blink Rafa had 3 breakpoints. Roger saved 2 but Rafa took the third with a backhand down the line. Roger finally got on the board at 1-3 but then had to fight off 2 more breakpoints with some fine serving before he could go up to 2-4. Finally it was time for Rafa to serve for the set at 5*-3. It seemed simple enough when he quickly went up to 40-0. But facing 3 match points brought out the very best in our champ and he saved ALL of them getting to deuce to with a beautiful forehand that just kissed the line. Rafa went up a match point again but Roger brought it back to deuce forcing a backhand error from Rafa. An unfortunate net cord from Roger gave Rafa his 5th match point and this time he took it with a controversial winning forehand down the line. Controversial because apparently it was out and had Roger challenged the score would have gone back to deuce and then who knows what might have happened. But Roger didn’t challenge and thus ended a glorious match that belonged to Roger for the first half and Rafa for the second and in the end, a few key points, some inches here and there and a net cord made the difference. Here are the match stats.MatchStatsBy the end of it, everyone was blown away. Not only did everyone realize how close the match had been, but more than that, it was thrilling how high the quality was throughout those 2 hours and 13 minutes. This was a Fedal match for the ages. No one expected this kind of fight from Roger but he proved everybody wrong and for the first time in a long time I heard even the commentators say something complimentary about Roger.

Roger was understandably down in the presser but it wasn’t due to sadness or helplessness. It was frustration at being so tantalizingly close and I think that’s the kind of ‘down’ I am fine with. That means he’s right there, he knows it was within reach and knows his overall strategy and tactics were working. Instead of quoting his presser I am linking it here along with the presser video clip because you should definitely read it in its entirety.

I think he can head to the US Open with a lot of positives. All three Cincy matches were important and each was a building block for the next. Kohlschreiber allowed him to get back into match practice, Haas tested his nerve and resolve to get back up from being down a set and a break and he needed both those matches to build up to unleashing his entirely weaponry on Nadal. I will go as far as to say I think this is the best match Roger has played this year. Yes I know it’s a loss but this match had vintage Federer who matched his skills against Rafa at his ferocious best. He made Rafa run, scowl and sweat and almost pulled it off. He came into the tournament after a miserable summer. Yet with one match he redeemed himself, shut up the critics and haters and and sent out a warning to everyone that it is dangerous to count out the 17 time Grand Slam champion. He may be down, but he’s by no means out.

I hope this is a turning point for Roger. If he can continue this momentum who knows what can happen. If you don’t believe my opinion, check out Rafa’s post match interview. In a way, he was in the best position to gauge Roger’s performance from across the net and as far as he is concerned, if Roger continues to play this way this rankings drop will revert back very soon.

Good luck in New York Maestro! That crazy, wonderful city has always shown you some love. Maybe Arthur Ashe Stadium will be graced again with you holding a 6th US Open. I can always dream right? And believe the impossible is possible? I know I can because you taught me that :D. Allez!


12 thoughts on “Redemption

  1. As always, your write up is right on the mark! I made a vow never to watch so called “Fedal” and can count on one hand the ones I have seen in real time. But this one was going to be different for me. I had spent a few days in Cincy and the magic of seeing Roger up close, getting an autograph, and generally being caught up in the magic that is Federer fandom, I felt the least I could do was watch my TV. My expectations were so low, I didn’t even have that stomach sinking feeling I get when Roger plays. I missed the positives from the commentators because I can’t stand how Roger is covered by them in this stage of his career so my TV was on mute. What I watched in almost complete silence, was Roger moving like a dream (my measure for where his game is), balls I was used to seeing this year, going into the net or going long were hitting their mark and I was cheered. I am hopeful for the US Open but I also understand that rebuilding takes time. A much younger Nadal took 7 months, in private, to restore himself to this level. Roger has done all of this in such a public way, endured the slings and arrows of the tennis pundits and continues to chart new ground in this stage of his career.


    • Deborah thank you for reading and your absolutely spot-on comments! It’s great that you watched the match because he was just divine! In my opinion the only times Roger took his foot of the gas was getting broken in the 2nd and it took him a while to get it back in the 3rd. Had that break not happened so early in the 3rd who knows how this could have gone. When he fought off those match points I was teary because I was so so proud of him! I was fistpumping like mad! And you’re so right about his recovery being so public. Like you I too watched without comm, or rather watched a stream in a foreign language. But the next day they showed a repeat of the match on tv and I actually had the volume up and to my surprise, for the first time in a looooooong time, they were actually oohing on his points! I think this was a match that was appreciated by everyone and I hope he can take the positives out of it and use it in the US Open. I won’t hold him to win or anything like that. As long as he takes care of his back and starts to feel confident I’ll be happy because that will mean sooner or later, the wins will come on their own. He showed with this match that when he is in the zone there is still no one like him and I for one can’t wait to see him rebuild his way back!


  2. Beautifully written. Thank you.


  3. Meant to add, I love what you said about NY showing Roger love. I’ll always remember USO 2008. after a mono weakened spring and summer and the loss of the #1 ranking, where Roger walked on court to the strains of “Still the One!”.


    • Oh I don’t remember that! But what an awesome entrance! While he’s at home amidst the gorgeous Swiss mountains, I think he also embraces noisy, gritty New York (one of my most favorite cities ever!) And I think he has the right kind of swagger for NYC don’t you? 🙂 No wonder they love him! That crowd is a tough one to tame but they recognize the King that’s for sure!


  4. Totally agree with every word of your posts and comments.Roger gives us hope for the near future developments. The impossible can become a reality. The main thing to solve the problem back.Many thanks for the post.

    18.08.2013, 17:10, “rogerfedererfan” : > rogerfedererfan posted: ” I love tennis stats. Stats and numbers give the sport a foundation, a baseline and a scale of measurement. “The ball was out by 2mm”, “his fastest serve was 220km/hr” or “he won in straight sets”. But then once in a while, even a stats junkie like me re” > >


    • Thanks for reading and commenting! I really do hope we’ve come to an important turning point. I don’t care about the rankings right now, I just want him to get his game and his confidence back. Hope he is done with back issues for the year 😦 Fingers crossed for the USO!


  5. Hi, your words made me very emotional, especially the first part! I totally agree with that numbers are not everything.. No one could write Rog off saying ‘I told you’ if they ever saw how magnificent he was and how he kept fighting. It hurted not because he lost but because I saw how badly he wanted to win:( running for every balls, saving all those match points.. however, after crying a bit, I felt more excitement after this loss than any other recent victories Roger had (Sorry Rog!) I believe this is a really good sign for him and we fedfans. Whatever result he’s gonna make in USO, this match told us never stop believing in Roger! thank you for posting I loved it 🙂


    • Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m totally with you, I felt sad initially but then it was a ‘good’ sad. It was sadness at how close he was rather than despair over whether he can find his form back. I get the feeling he is turning a corner, we’ll have to be patient and see. I agree with you about the excitement. I think this was the match match he played this year especially because of how he handled the added mental baggage of facing Rafa, that too in superb form. And your last line about the USO performance is exactly how I feel! I am hoping for him to continue in the right direction, go as deep as he can without injuring his back and if he has to lose at some point, he goes down fighting. We’ll be there no matter what! Allez!


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