Tennis on Clay 
Will Federer Ever Solve the Nadal Problem? 
Once again, Roger Federer came against that (crushed) brick wall that is Rafael Nadal in the 2007 French Open final. There was hope; Roger had just beaten Rafa on clay in the Hamburg Masters Series, so why not Roland Garros? There are a many theories, most of them don't read good for the Swiss Champion. Nadal is riding the wave of success; Even his infamous pirate pants style is being copied in ladies tennis clothing (not many men doing the same). 
 "Up until I was 12, I really only played on clay"       Roger Federer
No one can say Roger isn't use to the surface. This is not Nadal's edge. So what gives Nadal his apparent advantage on clay? One reason might be that Nadal plays differently against Federer, stepping up his game a notch. But that can't be the only explanation; What about The Masters Series in Hamburg, 2007? 
 "The dimensions are so strange"      Roger speaking about the Center Court at The French Open
Not all clay surfaces suit a player's game equally. Watch for Federer to have the advantage on a slower clay surface, such as Hamburg has. Also he likes the court a bit damp and heavy. It was reported that at Roland Garros 2007 Roger had requested the court watered (request denied). He knows what an advantage the the high bounce on a very dry court can give his opponents. If it had rained that Sunday afternoon in Paris, Roger may have walked away with that elusive French Open title. 
 "He kind of wears you out or wears you down"     Roger Federer commenting on Nadal's game 
How does Rafa do it? One reason might be that their games 'match up'. All players, even the worlds No. 1 & 2, have their strengths and weaknesses. When a player's strengths and patterns of play attack their opponent's weaknesses, their games 'match up'. What's happened many times before is that Nadal will send a strong, fast ball cross court, it then bouncing about shoulder height to Federer. Being a difficult shot to reach, Roger will only be able to get it center court, leaving Rafael to pick the next shot. Not only can he use his powerful forehand, but he can also choose to hit it backhand, or even drop shot. 
Then there's the fitness question. Federer really needs to not let Nadal take charge and run him around for long points. Roger was pretty clearly fatigued after one such rally in the French final. It's very important to keep points short for Fedex, he can't afford to let Rafa dictate. 
 "So I think he needs to keep his game, because with this specific game, he's just unbeatable."   Federer on Nadal after Roland Garros 
Well, that could be the answer; Federer clearly needs to change his game. He seemed to realize this when he hired Tony Roche as his coach, but since Tony couldn't come up with the answer (at least not one Roger liked), so Fed is trying his own way, without a coach. Other great players have ditched their play and re-worked it (look at Andy Roddick), and to beat Nadal, Federer is going to have to do the same. This might be the only option. Roger's fitness is good, but he is older than Rafa, and so it's not going to get easier. Federer probably would improve with a few more games against left-handers. Trouble with this idea is who out there is good enough to reproduce Nadal's game? A hard nut to crack. 
"I am very happy, but very sad for Roger. He is a friend, and I know he is a great champion, whether he wins or loses." 
Rafael Nadal after winning his 3rd consecutive championship title at Roland Garros 

Cheri Britton is the editor of, reviewing and showcasing the latest styles in tennis dresses, tennis skirts, women's tennis shoes and bags. Her site also has links to her blog, where she discusses what the WTA Stars are wearing, and how they're faring in the tournaments. She also watches far more tennis than is good for her. 



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