French Open Final 2011: Final thoughts on Nadal v Federer

So, in the end there are again the same two men in the final. The aesthetically most pleasing player versus the mentally and physically toughest.

Nadal has dominated the French Open (losing only once ever to Robin Soderling), but tomorrow Federer seems to be clearly the sentimental favorite after his heroics in the semi-final. To win tomorrow would be a near-miracle, but it's sure going to be entertaining tennis. I find it bothersome that commentators always about this shot or that, eg, if Nadal's bouncing forehand is going to make a difference. In actuality, it's mostly mental.

Nadal is much tougher mentally than Federer, and perhaps more than any man in the sport today. Nadal has intense focus, is tough to break, is getting to be a better server and his shot selection is impeccable. Federer might have somewhat of a chance on a faster court like the US Open or Australia, but on the red clay Nadal reigns supreme. I have intense respect for his game and his iron-will.

Federer has nothing to more to prove. Is it necessary that he defeat Nadal on the French clay once? Those writing his obituary sound like the fools they always were. He is still just as good if not better. He beat the most in-form man in tennis in a classic display where he out-served, out-played and out-thought Novak Djokovic. True he did not convert all those break-point opportunities and to win tomorrow, or put up some fight he will have to change that. Nadal seems impossible to break (Murray had a few looks, but couldn't make anything out of it). We all want to see somewhat of a contest. For that Federer should serve razor-sharp as he did against Djokovic, and not extend points. He can cover court, but nothing like Nadal, so he needs to hold serve and break Nadal once in a while. If he does go for his shots, taking chances Nadal might be seeing something different tomorrow.

Prediction: Federer needs to win the first two sets to have some chance of winning. If he does win he will do it four sets. Most likely Nadal will take the first set after which will be somewhat close in the second and then he will finish it in 3 sets.

Regardless, who wins tomorrow in Paris, it has been a joy to watch these finals between the two men (I missed the first two French finals). If one had to design two players with contrasting styles they couldn't have come up with something better than we have on hand here. I wish could've been there to watch it live. Looks like there might be one more such final between the finest I've seen.

It may be disputed if Mr. Federer and Mr. Nadal were the best tennis players of all time and if their rivalry was tennis's finest moment, but it beyond dispute that they were the most gracious tennis champions. Most gracious to each other, to the crowd and to the fine sport itself.

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