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The FeDal Final at RG 2011

Roland Garros 2011 saw Federer come into the tournament not as one of the favorites for the first time. It saw Federer come in as World No. 3, pretty much away from the limelight. This time, it was Djokovic who received all the attention and Nadal who was under the scanner for not having had a good enough season by his standards. And, this time, Federer was thrown questions about all the other players, when its usually the other way around. They said Federer can no longer defeat any of the top players. They said it is the end of the Federer-Nadal rivalry. They said Djokovic is the new guy in the mix, and he will now replace Federer in the greatest rivalry that tennis has seen. But, Federer went about his business quietly, not bothering about what anyone else was saying. And indeed, he reached the semifinals quite easily.

Djokovic, on the other hand, was constantly under media limelight. He was the "in form" guy and therefore, the tournament favorite. He was on a 42 match winning streak from the start of the season until his semifinal clash with Federer. He would also get the No.1 ranking if he reached the finals. They said it would be difficult for Federer to get past Djokovic. But, it was Federer who ended Djokovic's magnificent streak. They played fantastic tennis and people started to put this match on par with the Wimbledon 2008 finals. The match was indeed among the best in tennis. It had aggressive play by both the players, it had long rallies, it had some brilliant shots, it had some great shots made at unbelievable angles. But in the end, it was Federer who was the one still standing and who would move on to play the finals. This match was a fitting reply to all those critics who said Federer is done. He is definitely not yet done and what a way to show it!

And yet, somehow, in the finals, Federer managed to show up only as a poor shadow of what he was in his semifinal clash. And, that is the most frustrating feeling for a fan, especially when you know he can do so much better. His movement had gone away completely and he was actually freezing at times. No discredit to Nadal, but he didn't have to play great tennis at all to win the match. Federer was giving away leads and break points for free. And even though he maintained a calm demeanor throughout and showed all the intent, his game was just not there. One could see him trying really hard, but that mental block that he has against Nadal just does not seem to go away. How I wish there was a button in his brain that could delete the memories of all his previous matches against Nadal. Then I'm sure you'd see a different Federer, the one who would play his natural game and win the match. But, no such button exists in real life, and he has to somehow overcome this on his own. But the positive that came out was that on points when he really believed he could win, he did. If he can only maintain this for the entire duration of the match, nothing can stop him. It did not happen this year. But, he will be back. This rivalry is very much alive and whether anyone else believes it or not, Federer and Nadal both know it.

Hoping for a different result next year... 



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