Friday will mark the latest instalment of one of the most renowned rivalries in the history of men’s tennis.
At the French Open Roger Federer will take on Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. It will be the 39th meeting between the two, who first played each other at the 2004 Miami Open. Making it the third-most matchups between two players in the Open Era on the ATP Tour. Overall, Nadal leads their head-to-head 23-15. However, the Spaniard has lost to his Swiss rival the past five times they have faced each other.
A more detailed analysis of the head-to-head favours Nadal at Roland Garros. He has triumphed in nine out of their 12 meetings in grand slam tournaments. Including the three previous times they have clashed in the semi-finals. More specifically, at the French Open, the world No.2 has triumphed in all five of their previous meetings. However, the only time he was able to do so in straight sets was during the 2008 final when he dropped only four games.
On the clay Nadal is even more dominant. He has defeated the Swiss Maestro in 13 out of their previous 15 meetings on the surface. Federer’s only triumph was at the 2007 Hamburg Open and 2009 Madrid Open. However, Federer did take a long break from playing clay-court events that lasted a total of 1090 days (May 2016 to May 2019).
Despite his opponent’s dominance on the clay, Federer knows what it takes to down Nadal on the main stage. Doing so three times in a grand slam. Only Novak Djokovic has defeated Nadal more times in a major with six victories. On the other hand, Nadal has scored more wins over Federer in a major than any other player with nine victories alongside Djokovic.
Looking at their grand slam record overall, 20-time champion Federer has won 89 more main draw matches than his rival with 347 against 258. Although too much can’t be read into this statistic. 37-year-old Federer is four years older and made his debut in the majors at the 1999 French Open. Compared to Nadal, who started at the 2003 Wimbledon Championships. Overall, this year’s French Open is Federer’s 76th grand slam main draw and Nadal’s 56th.
Route to the semi-finals
Both players have dropped one set on route to the last four. Nadal did so against David Goffin in the third round and Federer dropped a set in his quarter-final clash with Stan Wawrinka. Nadal has spent only 14 extra minutes on the court compared to his rival at 10 hours and 59 minutes. Dropping only 33 games compared to 61 for his opponent.
R1 d. Lorenzo Sonego 62 64 64
R2 d. (LL) Oscar Otte 64 63 64
R3 d. Casper Ruud 63 61 76(8)
R4 d. Leonardo Mayer 62 63 63
QF d. No. 24 Stan Wawrinka 76(4) 46 76(5) 64
Average ranking of opponent – 75*
R1 d. (Q) Yannick Hanfmann 62 61 63
R2 d. (Q) Yannick Maden 61 62 64
R3 d. No. 27 David Goffin 61 63 46 63
R4 d. Juan Ignacio Londero 62 63 63
QF d. No. 7 Kei Nishikori 61 61 63
Average ranking of opponent – 84*
*based on the ATP rankings for the week commencing 3rd June 2019
What have they said about each other?
Federer will go into the match as the underdog given who he is taking on. Nevertheless, he is optimistic about coming out on top. Federer hasn’t won the French Open title since 2009 and it is the only major event he hasn’t won multiple times.
“Like against any player, there is always a chance. Otherwise nobody will be in the stadium to watch because everybody already knows the result in advance.” He said.
“Every match needs to be played before it’s decided. And that’s exactly what everybody believes when facing Rafa. They know it’s going to be tough. But you just never know. He might have a problem. He might be sick. You might be playing great or for some reason he’s struggling. Maybe there’s incredible wind, rain, 10 rain delays. You just don’t know.”
Meanwhile, Nadal has outlined the approach he intends to take. Vowing to be aggressive in order to dictate the rallies against his rival.
“There is no two matches the same. All the matches are different, because we always try things.” Nadal explained during his press conference on Wednesday.
“I really expect that he gonna plays aggressively, changing rhythms, going to the net. That’s my feeling, that he gonna try to play that way, because he’s playing well and he has the tennis to make that happen.’
“I have to be solid. I have to hit the ball enough strong to don’t allow him to do the things from good positions. I need to let him play from difficult positions, so from there he gonna have less chances to go to the net or to play his aggressive game.”
What the experts think
Three time grand slam champion Mats Wilander believes tactics will be important for Federer is the upcoming clash. The Swede believes it is essential to take the ‘rhythm’ away from Nadal if he wants to progress to the final.
“What is the right way or the wrong way, only Roger Federer knows. He said a couple of days ago that he speaks to his coaches and he likes to go with his “feel” – it’ll be so important when he decides correctly when to serve and volley for example, if he gets that right then he has a chance.” Said Wilander.
“With Rafa Nadal on the other side with his forehand he can hit good returns all the way from back there on a second serve, serve and volley from Roger. While I am excited about it, I hope Roger has an aggressive frame of mind and thinks that he is going to take every ounce of rhythm away from Rafa.”
Tennis legend Rod Laver believes drop shots will be key for Federer. Speaking to Eurosport on Thursday, Laver said the he will put himself in a good position due to the ‘element of surprise’ in his shot-making.
“I think he’ll get to the net, he’ll do a lot of drop shots because Rafa will be way back deep, and he may actually do a lot of short serves. I think the element of surprise will put Roger in a great position because he’s learnt his drop shot now, he’s even doing it on his second serve – I think it’ll be a good match.” Said Laver.
“When Roger gets to the net and volleys the ball he often doesn’t go into the open court as that allows them to run, and it’s the second ball if they get it back where he’ll go for the winners. Roger’s not necessarily trying to make the guy run, but it’s putting him off.”
Finally, former Nadal coach uncle Toni says the Spaniard must find a way to prevent Federer from attacking him during the upcoming match.
“Rafael must prevent Federer from attacking him all the time,” Toni told Spanish media earlier this week.
“Federer, with the age he is, I understand, will try to force a quick game in which there is not much exchange of punches.
“If Rafael agrees to the contrary, although I recognise that it is not easy to find weaknesses to one of the best players in history.”
The match will get underway at 12:50 local time on court Philippe Chatrier.
Roger Federer Survives Tsonga Test To Reach Halle Quarter-Finals
Roger Federer reached the quarter-finals in Halle after a tough three set win over Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.
Roger Federer edged out Jo-Wilfred Tsonga 7-6(5) 4-6 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals in Halle as he searches for a 10th title.
The nine-time champion didn’t have it all his own way against the dangerous Frenchman as he edge to victory to reach the last eight.
A crucial break in the eleventh game sealed the win for Federer as he had his first test on a grass court in 2019 as he bids for a 10th title.
Tomorrow, Federer will face Roberto Bautista Agut in the last eight.
Today would test Federer’s grass-court ability as he was up against a player that had beaten him on grass before and was capable of outpowering him.
There were signs of that early on in the match as Tsonga used his first serve to dominate play and cause trouble for the nine-time champion.
It wasn’t only on serve that the Frenchman looked comfortable as he even created two break points on the Federer serve early on.
However some short and sharp points for the 37 year-old sealed a crucial hold of serve as he looked to build on his first round win over Millman.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) June 20, 2019
After saving set point with a big serve down the middle, Tsonga felt confident in his game as a first set tiebreak loomed between the pair.
Despite leading by the early mini-break, Tsonga had become too predictable with his serving patterns and Federer used his experience to take advantage.
A mini-break of his own and another big serve sealed the deal for Federer as he took the tiebreak 7-5 in 50 minutes.
The consensus was that the opening set was crucial in Tsonga’s chances of getting a much-needed win and that’s what it turned out to be as he had lost the momentum.
Another serve out wide became too regular for Federer on return as he smashed home a forehand winner for the break in the first game.
However it was too late to rule out Tsonga just yet, remember he did overturn a two set deficit against Federer eight years ago at Wimbledon.
These memories are still in Tsonga’s memory today and after pressurising Federer, he finally earned his reward as the Swiss couldn’t handle a powerful forehand as he conceded the break advantage.
There was a new-found aggression about Tsonga towards the end of the second set as the momentum was now with him.
Some stunning forehands had Federer on the ropes and a break in the last game secured the set as this match would be heading to a deciding set.
The momentum was firmly with the Frenchman as he created a few break points to put the nine-time champion under pressure.
For Federer now, he had to raise his level as Tsonga was now dominating the majority of the rallies with his powerful forehand.
Despite the opportunities though, the world number 77 couldn’t convert and would eventually be punished as the top seed pounced in the big moment.
Just when he needed it…@rogerfederer came up with THIS! 🙌
— ATP Tour (@ATP_Tour) June 20, 2019
Some smart returning saw a break in 11th game and a hold to 30 sealed the win as he reaches the quarter-finals in what was a big test.
Next up for Federer in his bid to win a 10th title is Roberto Bautista Agut tomorrow.
On-Court Coaching: A Terrible Idea Or The Next Logical Step In Men’s Tennis?
Whilst the WTA Tour has relished the on-court coaching rule for the past 11 years, opinion among the men’s tennis elite reflect a completely different scenario.
LONDON: Five games into his opening match Fernando Verdasco looked lost on the court at The Queen’s Club. Down a double break and only able to take two points off his opponents serve, he glared towards the camp in the crowd. They could not say anything without getting Verdasco a penalty. Something his female counterparts don’t fear.
On-court coaching has been allowed on the WTA Tour since 2008. A process where the coaches of players are allowed to interact with them during changeovers to issue advice and so forth. The bosses of the WTA at the time said it was done to add entertainment value and give insight to fans watching. 11 years on from that decision, other tournaments have started their own experiments.
The US Open, which was the first major to introduce equal prize money back in 1973, has outlined their plans. Involving allowing coaches to shout to players from the sidelines in between points. A move that was undoubtedly triggered by last year’s women’s final where Serena Williams was penalized for receiving coaching. Something her guru Patrick Martogolou, who is a supporter of on-court coaching, initially admitted to before she later denied took place. It was assumed that organizers wanted to implement this change in 2019, but it appears that this will not happen now.
Now hearing @usopen will NOT be legalizing midmatch coaching in the main draw. At least not this year….
— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) June 17, 2019
Should these changes occur, it will move men’s tennis closer to the prospect of on-court coaching. Something that raises one crucial question – do the players want it on the ATP Tour?
“I personally don’t feel that there is a need for it. Obviously, the WTA does it, but I feel there is no need because I’m used to not having it on the court.” Kyle Edmund said at the Fever-Tree Championships on Sunday.
Critics of the technique argue that it takes away the player’s ability to think for themselves. Making them mentally weaker. In the Open Era, there has never been a grand slam main draw where the competitors could seek help from anybody else during matches. However, what about a compromise similar to the one proposed by the US Open?
“With the debate concerning having coaching off the court in terms of speaking, as other sports do, I’d say I’m more interested in that aspect.” Edmund indicates.
Nick Kyrgios could potentially be the kind of person who would benefit from a change in the rules. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, he admits that he struggles mentally during the big tournaments. So potentially having somebody to speak to him during matches could help.
However, the Australian doesn’t have a mentor and is a fierce critic of on-court coaching. Arguing that it could create an uneven playing ground if it was implemented in men’s tennis.
“I don’t agree with it at all. I think on-court coaching shouldn’t be a part of the sport.” He stated.
“I don’t think — like, it’s supposed to be one on one. You’re supposed to figure out things yourself when you’re out there on the court.”
“For guys who don’t have a coach, like myself or guys who can’t afford a coach, it’s not really a level playing field when you have a guy that’s literally talking to their players on the court. It makes no sense.”
Kyrgios’ view is one that has been backed by one of the biggest names in men’s tennis – Roger Federer. In the German city of Halle, the Swiss Maestro was questioned about on-court coaching.
“I don‘t support on-court coaching, I think that I have the best team in the world, and so I don‘t think it‘s fair that I could profit from that and another guy, who has maybe no coach can‘t benefit at all.” Federer explained.
2019 prize money rankings (as of 17/6/2019)
1. Rafael Nadal $6.28M
20. Jan Lennard-Struff $910, 090
50. Filip Krajinovic $521, 146
100. Marcelo Melo $306, 269
200. Elias Ymer $83, 342
A logical step forward?
Daniil Medvedev was straight to the point when asked his own opinion of the subject. Saying such a change will have zero benefits for him. Although he believes changing the rules is only logical. During numerous matches coaches in the crowd has been caught making gestures towards their players. Something that is hard to police for the umpires.
“I am for it. Not because it will benefit me because I don’t think it will. Even if I asked my coach to come onto the court one time per match.” Medvedev told Ubitennis.
“But when we see a lot of sports it is allowed. During matches, they can say anything and when you are working with your coach almost 365 days a year and he can’t say anything, it’s a bit strange.’
“It won’t change a lot (for me), but I think it should be legalized.”
There is also the role of technology in the debate. Application software company SAP works alongside the WTA. Under the rules, they are able to provide coaches with real-time data so they can feedback to players during matches. Something some argue enhances the quality of matches.
“The WTA introduced the on-court coaching rule in 2008. That gave SAP the opportunity to bring real-time data to players and coaches as they need it,” SAP’s Global Sponsorships Technology Lead Jenni Lewis told intel.co.uk.
“And they need it as the match is happening, so the coach can go out during on-court coaching and share that information.”
Tennis is a sport that has developed a reputation of priding itself on its history and rightfully so. However, the downside is trying to maintain a balance between traditionalists and those driving for change. Illustrated by past debates concerning the use of tiebreakers in the final set of grand slam matches, the unique rules set out at the next Gen Finals and the fallout over the Davis Cup revamp.
Given these sticking points, would the ATP really want to bother with on-court coaching?
Only time will tell.
Matteo Berrettini: “The top 10 and a Grand Slam semifinal are my goals”
Last week’s Stuttgart champion Matteo Berrettini beat sixth seed Nikoloz Basilashviil 6-4 6-4 after 70 minutes to set up an all-Italian second round match at the Moventi Open in Halle.
Before this week’s week match Basilashvili led over Berrettini 2-1 in his previous head-to-head matches, but the Italian player beat his Georgian rival in the first round in Winston Salem last year.
Berrettini saved both break points he faced to stay unbroken in the sixth consecutive match on grass this season. Last week the 23-year-old Italian player won the Stuttgart tournament without dropping his serve in the whole tournament.
In his opening round match in Halle Berrettini produced another solid performance breaking serve in the fifth game of the first set and in the ninth game of the second set.
“I take a match at a time. It is strange to be ranked world number 22 but I would lie if I said that the top 10 and a Grand Slam semifinal are not my goals. I am surprised that I adjusted so well to different conditions. It’s always difficult to play another tournament after winning a title the previous week. In Stuttgart I beat unbelievable guys. I never lost my serve, but all the matches were so close. I am really happy for what I did on the court because it was mentally really difficult to stay there and I am really proud of myself”, said Berrettini.
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