Perhaps Ponce de Leon has joined the Swiss Maestro and shared the secret path to the Fountain of Youth. The fabled wellspring thought to reverse the aging process to the fearless few who sought it might explain the Roger Federer who stepped on Center Court today. Any hint of lingering injury is mere myth. Today’s Roger Federer was the unbeatable Roger Federer–almost as if he’d turned back the clock and reclaimed the form which lead him to 237 weeks at World #1. He had the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, the speed of a cheetah and the thoughtful strategy that only comes with experience. That was the Roger Federer in his 36th meeting with Nadal who took this Fourth Round match-up 6-2, 6-3 in just minutes more than an hour.
Federer was able to hit winners from both wings, painting the lines and keeping the Spaniard off his game. The precision and pace he employed astonished the crowd in more than a few points. It is fair to say that with the possible exception of fellow countryman and good friend Stan Wawrinka, even at 35 years old, Roger Federer possesses the best backhand in men’s tennis. Many a time, Rafael Nadal fired a forehand shot only to be met by a surgical strike, deployed from Federer’s backhand as a dominating weapon.
Federer Dominates Fourth Round, Defeats Nadal in Straight Sets
So, when you analyze the match, it’s not that Nadal didn’t play well, it’s that Federer played exceptional. Nadal turned in a higher first serve percentage than the victor, had no double faults, and played extended rallies. The Indian Wells courts are known for slower play off the gritty surface and the high temperatures creating higher bounces, both of which should have favored the Man from Majorca. Yet, his every move came was met with an even better counter-move. Nadal summed up his performance in the match: “I think was always that he returned well. But at the same time, it was obvious that I didn’t have the right answer for his returns, no? I needed to neutralize the points. I needed to neutralize his two first balls, and I didn’t.”
When asked about how Federer’s play impacted his mental game, Nadal summed it up well: “But it’s about tennis. It’s about the mental part in this case. No, I was there. I was fighting. I was trying to find solutions. I tried to serve quicker. I tried to serve changing more directions, and I was trying to return inside and in the back. Was not today. That’s all.”
Federer is already thinking about the rest of the tournament as he moved one step closer to the finals. While the Swiss enjoys the “Rafa Rivalry,” he won’t celebrate too much. “I mean, all the matches that we have played are unique in many ways for both of us, winning or losing. So I take it. Obviously can’t celebrate too long this time around. I have to get back to work in a couple of days.”
As for Nadal, he’s already thinking about Miami. And, we’re all waiting for another edition of the Fedal Rivalry.