Sunday, June 5, 2011


Federer 2-6 Nadal Federer fails to put away an overhead and Nadal passes with a stupendous backhand. Four set points.
Federer 2-5 Nadal Second serve, and again Federer hits a forehand into the net.
Federer 2-4 Nadal Federer dominates the rally to pull one back on Nadal's serve.
Federer 1-4 Nadal Nadal misses to give Federer a point at last. Nadal to serve next.
Federer 0-4 Nadal Federer serves; another forehand into the net. Ouch.
Federer 0-3 Nadal Federer hits long.
Federer 0-2 Nadal Huge forehand.
Federer 0-1 Nadal Federer serves and finds the net with a forehand: his 36th unforced error.
Federer* 5-7, 6-6 Nadal Nadal misses with a forehand, miles out of play. He's been shaky since the resumption. But Federer provides an error of his own, a forehand into the tramlines, to even up at 15. Nadal's at 40-15 two short points later, and takes the game when Federer runs around a forehand only to fire wide. There'll be a tie-break.
Federer 5-7, 6-5 *Nadal Terrific swearing from Nadal after he missed that forehand. And now Federer's playing beautifully. He's at 40-0 in no time, taking the last with an impossibly elegant backhand overhead. He takes the game to love, the pressure's back on Nadal. Meanwhile the stands are only just filling up - everybody reckoned on a lengthy delay and went off for a sneaky comfort break, only to miss two brililiant games.
Federer* 5-7, 5-5 Nadal Federer mishits his opening backhand return and that's set point. A long rally, with Nadal recovering Federer's forehands and eventually finding the net. Deuce. Nadal hits long: break point for Federer. Nerveless hitting from the baseline from Federer with his back to the wall. Second serve - and Nadal shanks his forehand! Ugly shot: the very outside edge of the frame. Federer breaks!
16.20 It's stopped raining already - before the covers came on. Nadal and Federer are back on. They'll recommence at deuce, with Nadal two points away from taking a two-set lead which would all-but end this contest. It's surely now or never from Federer.
Federer 5-7, 4-5 *Nadal 30-30 after two misses from Federer and two great winners: a perfectly controlled backhand winner and a dropshot. But Federer's backhand is looking shaky, he shanks one and hits one wayward into the tramlines. Nadal has just missed a forehand when the first drops of rain begin to darken the clay, umbrellas opening up like huge dark flowers around Court Philippe Chatrier. It's apparently just a passing shower, but for now it's coming down heavily. Play suspended.
Federer 5-7, 4-5 *Nadal Nadal is looking to quickly stamp out any suggestion that we have a match. He gets to 0-30 in short order, bullying Federer's second serve. 15-30 after a forehand crosscourt winner for Federer. He tries the same shot again on the next point but this time he mistimes slightly and it falls into the tramlines. Two break pointsimmediately for Nadal. One service winner from Federer. Right on the line. Inside out forehand approach shot from Federer, volleyed winner when Nadal doesn't find the gap with his passing shot. Deuce. Break point #3 when Federer finds the tap - the very top of the tape - with a clutch volley. And this time Federer lets it slip: yet again he plays the inside out forehand crosscourt to open up the court: but he finds the tramlines with his backhand pass. What a response from Nadal, who will serve for a two-set lead.
Federer* 5-7, 4-4 Nadal Federer thinks he's got to 0-30 when a backhand return is called wide. Nadal points to the mark almost apologetically: the umpire agrees, definitely out. But Federer chases down a Nadal forehand and matches it with a crosscourt winner: 15-30. Federer doesn't do quite enough with his return on Nadal's second serve, and the Mallorcan dominated the rally from the middle of the court. Forehand after bruising forehand, and eventually Federer hits one out. But that's phenomenal point to get to break point. Three times he hits an inch-perfect backhand crosscourt: Nadal returns one and two with interest, but with the third Federer succeeds in opening up the court for the backhand down the line, and makes it. Superb from both players. Nadal sees off the break point, but Federer gets another break pointwhen he punishes Nadal's second serve. Deuce again when Federer misses. Massive game. Break point #3 when Federer tries again with those backhand crosscourts. Second serve: huge, huge opportunity for Federer. He doesn't get much on his forehand - but Nadal's shanked his backhand into the net! Federer breaks for the first time in an hour and a half and we have a match!
Federer 5-7, 3-4 *Nadal A hold to love for Federer. Most welcome for him, and for the Federer fans on Court Phillippe Chatrier (that's all of them, by the sound of it), who are hoping against hope that he can get back into this match.
Federer* 5-7, 2-4 Nadal Nadal races to 40 on his serve but Federer pegs him back to 40-30, seizing on a backhand mishit with a feather-like dropshot. Quickly into net to dispatch a short one from Nadal and that's deuce. Nadal's gone off the boil minutely and this is a chance for Federer. But he leaves Nadal's forehand on the next point and it falls in! Taken in by the amount of dip. Nadal closes the game out in short order. "It's horrible to watch Federer getting beaten," complainsLarry Harper. "He's not cut out for it." I think winning suits most people better than losing to be honest, Brits excepted.
Federer 5-7, 2-3 *Nadal Federer's love-30 down before you can blink, but grabs a welcome ace to cling on. Then the ugliest of shanked forehands: two break points for Nadal. Another ace, and that's one down. And a third ace: deuce. But that's the only shot Federer can rely on at the moment. Nadal's putting too much pressure on him with the sheer bludgeoning ferocity of his groundstrokes. Another backhand finds the net: break point #3. Federer rushes the net and Nadal fires long. After a couple of deuces Federer finds a backhand winner to take the game to keep in touch, just about, in the second set.
Federer* 5-7, 1-3 Nadal Federer comes to net and dispatches a volley to win a point quickly. He knows he's got to keep them short to have any chance. Nadal grabs the next couple, then Federer's return brings a desperate looping recovery from his opponent which he dismisses with a forehand volley from midcourt. But Federer hits a backhand into the net when he had the chance of deuce, and that's game Nadal.
Federer 5-7, 1-2 *Nadal Federer hits a backhand down the line into the tramlines. He's looking lost now. It's 15-30 when a brilliant Federer forehand, against all logic, comes back at him even faster. It's just incredible how quickly this game changed: one minute Federer was firing on all cylinders, now he's struggling to hold serve. He manages it though, eventually getting his first set under way with an ace. Seven games in a row Nadal had won before that.
Federer* 5-7, 0-2 Nadal Nadal takes his service game to love in a few seconds. It's all working for him now and Federer's next service game is a huge one.
Federer 5-7, 0-1 *Nadal The last time Federer beat Nadal from a set down was in Hamburg four years ago. A long time, but in mitigation at least that was on clay. A set and a break, though, and that's lookingreally bad for Federer. And what do you know, that's the situation. Federer's three break points down when he dumps an overhead into the net. Saves one. He tries a dropshot which Nadal chases down; Federer knocks the ball into empty court but it's easy for Nadal to reach left and plant the ball past Federer and leave him flat-footed. We're just a set and a game into a five-set match but it's very hard to see a way back for the 2009 champion.
Federer* 5-7 Nadal Federer gets a look at Nadal's second serve, but hits his forehand long. You get the feeling Nadal's in his head now: a few games of watching him chase down impossible shots and even Federer tries to do too much. But he cannily targets Nadal's backhand with slices on the next point and gets the error he was looking for. And that's a simply majestic inside-out forehand from Federer: 15-30. This set deserves a tie-break, but Nadal doesn't let it have one. Federer hits a forehand long, then a backhand into the tramlines, and 20 minutes after looking at a set point of his own he's defending one. And Nadal doesn't need prompting: a ripped forehand way beyond Federer's backhand to seal the first set.
Wow. It's hard to say where exactly that went wrong for Federer. He didn't start playing badly, but Nadal started hitting more and more winners, and points got harder and harder to wni. Perhaps some of the spark went out of Federer's game as he started second-guessing himself a little, and now he's behind for the first time in the tournament.
Federer 5-6 *Nadal Two brilliant forehands, both hit down the line, both on the run, from Nadal: 0-30, and he's close to nicking the set now. Big serve from Fed. And another. Break point when Nadal gets more rpms on a backhand than Federer could cope with. As the rallies go on you can almost hear the plink, plink of Federer's nerve's snapping one by one. Federer saves. Federer entices Nadal to net with a dropshot but Nadal's too quick and his half-volley is too good and Federer's on the defensive immediately. Nadal lobs him and then dispatches Federer's last-ditch through-the-legs recovery with a snarl. Another break pointfor the defending champion: and this time Nadal takes the break! Four games in a row for Nadal, and now he'll serve for the set. Brutal.
Federer* 5-5 Nadal Now, can Federer recover, or is he still thinking of that set point on Nadal's serve a few moments ago? A winner off a Nadal second serve puts him in the lead. Nadal evens up, Federer takes the next with a forehand behind Nadal as he moves back to the centre of the court. 15-30. 30-30 when Federer hits a backhand just long. Nadal takes the next two points and the game.
Federer 5-4 *Nadal Nadal evens up! What a start to the game: Federer comes to net behind a second serve - to Nadal's forehand - and stoops to make a remarkable half-volley which lands at Nadal's feet. Then a volleyed winner. So far Federer has displayed none of the hesitancy which has sometimes cost him against Nadal. SHe's taking risks, and fortune has smiled on him. Federer keeps targeting the Nadal backhand, and eventually Nadal makes the mistake. 30-15. Nadal hits some ridiculous forehands on the next and Federer in the end tries to curve a topspin forehand around the net, that's how far out of position he was. Next point is massive... and Federer finds the net! Break point. And he's made it! Nadal chases down a forehand down the line, then Federer's backhand crosscourt doesn't quite find in the corner. Nadal fetches that too and sends it down the line. Federer's volley finds the net, and he's lost his lead!
Federer* 5-3 Nadal Nadal gets to 30 quickly, then misses hugely with a second serve to give Federer a foothold in the game. Federer's on the attack in the next point, planting an incredible backhand low and heavy to Nadal's forehand, but Nadal's recovery is just inhumanly good and Federer misses a few shots later. At 40-15 Federer again has a look at the second serve and steps up to bash a backhand into the corner. And that's an incredible point to make it deuce! Nadal produces another incredible get to retrieve Federer's approach shot, which hit the line. Federer can't find a winner with his volley but hits the line with his next blistering backhand. An error from Nadal gives Federer set point. And has he taken it?! His backhand dropshot foxes Nadal, but the umpire decides (rightly, by the looks of the replay) it's fallen just wide. Nadal wins the next, and produces a backhand pass to seal the game with Federer coming to net perhaps ill-advisedly behind an indifferent backhand. Massive hold for Nadal; now the pressure's on Federer. Let's see how that serve holds up.
Federer 5-2 *Nadal Federer's been breezing through his service games, but this one is a little more difficult. He mistimes a backhand down the line at 15-15 to give Nadal a hint of a chance. But Federer produces an ace to ease the tension, as he has done so well throughout the rounds at Roland Garros. He closes out the game quickly after that.
Bad news: Nadal's trainer is out and has a look at his left ankle. The lucky bloke has the task of peeling back Nadal's socks, already putrid after a few minutes on court, to reveal the damaged foot. That looks bad to me, practically corpse-like, but the commentators insist that's just what tennis players' feet look like. The trainer tightens a bandage and buzzes off without doing anything drastic. But if Nadal's in pain that might explain his less-than-perfect start.
Federer* 4-2 Nadal What a superb return that is: at 15-0 Federer runs around the serve out wide and sending a crosscourt winner right into the corner with his forehand. Nadal stumbles as he tries to get his racquet down but can't get that back. After Nadal races to 40-15 Federer takes advantage of a second serve and places it out of Nadal's reach with the sweetest of backhand returns. But Nadal absolutely flogs a forehand winner beyond Federer to seal the game.
Federer 4-1 *Nadal Federer edges closer to the first set, but Nadal is beginning to look more like Nadal. He hits some fierce groundshots at 0-15, only for Federer to hit a forehand winner into the corner. At 30-15 Nadal forces an error from Federer, who can't control a forehand rearing up around head-height. Federer closes out the game to 30, but Nadal will be relieved to be causing him some problems. The next couple of games could be crucial; this set is far from over.
Federer* 3-1 Nadal Weirdly error-strewn play so far from Nadal, but he gets on the scoreboard. Another forehand into the net, the kind of shot you expect him to terminate with extreme prejudice, hits the tape. At 15-30 Federer stands up to the baseline and slices a backhand short - Nadal chases it down but blasts his backhand crosscourt into the tramlines. Federer hits a screamer of a topspin forehand down the line on the next point which dive-bombs the corner of the court. The umpire over-rules his underling, who called it in, and Nadal takes the next point to win the game.
Federer 3-0 *Nadal Three big service winners: 40-0. Nadal makes a backhand pass when Federer comes to net on the next point, but an impeccable serve-volley closes out the game in short order. What a superb start for Federer, who is being cheered hugely after every point.
Federer* 2-0 Nadal Federer takes the first point on Nadal's serve, storming into net behind a deep, fizzing forehand. He's rewarded with his ambition when his shanked drive volley lands fortuitously on the line. Nadal then misses: 0-30, then Nadal gets a point when Federer mis-hits a forehand, patting it into the net. Nadal hits long after being forced back on the backhand side by a fierce return, and that's two break points for Federer. Nervy shot from the Spaniard there. He saves the first; on the second Federer has the chance of a winner with a forehand down the line. Nadal's not getting there but it falls just long. Break point #3when Federer puts pressure on the Nadal backhand and eventually forces the error, Nadal finding the tape. Both men hitting the ball incredibly hard, with Nadal's backhands in particular swerving hugely in mid-air with topspin. Federer hits long with a forehand: deuce again. But Nadal can't get safe, and he lashes a forehand crosscourt well out of play to give Federer yet another chance. This time Federer gets thebreak. He didn't find the winner, he didn't have to: Nadal stuck a forehand into the net from mid-court. A surprising miss, and Nadal's early errors have given the Swiss an early lead.
Federer 1-0 *Nadal Federer takes his first service game to 15. Good serving, with only one of those points lasted more than two shots, a longish rally on the second point which ended when Nadal hit a forehand backhand long. Nadal's standing way behind the baseline and Federer came to net confidently to find the line with a volley on game point. Good start for the Swiss.
14.14 Federer, in Swiss red and white, will serve first.
14.04 They're out on court. Nadal bounces around feverishly for a while then takes his customary posture, setting his towel just so across his thighs, arranging his water bottles with the labels all aligned. Federer, as usual, looks about as fussed as a businessman gathering his belongings before getting off a train.
14.02 BBC have paired their pre-game hype reel with this sweet little dittyby Carla Bruni. Well worth a listen, though not a song particularly suited to building an impression of warring egos and tidal rushes of testosterone.
14.00 No sign of the players yet, but it's dry in Paris and there's even a little bit of sun. Play should be under way before too long. How long it will take... that's another question.
13.56 A couple of predictions: "Nadal in four," says Sarah Williamson. "Federer's been in phenomenal form but Nadal has a hold over him in the Grand Slams. That run of defeats will be difficult to shake off." Paul Lewis is even more down on the Swiss great: "This will be his last final," he predicts confidently, predicting a straight-sets win for Nadal and no doubt stroking his crystal ball.
13.50 If Federer's to win he needs to end points quickly and pick up lots of cheap points on his serve. His form against Djokovic is encouraging in that regard: he served 18 aces in that match. He can't have served better on clay than he has during this tournament. The switch to faster Babolat balls from the usual Dunlops has helped him out. Ironically, Nadal is the face of Babolat.
Another number from Federer's semi-final is less encouraging: he broke Djokovic's serve just twice in 18 attempts. He will need to take his chances this afternoon, and that kind of hit-rate probably won't cut it against Nadal.
13.40 While we're waiting for the players to emerge, why not relive thegreatest 4 hours and 48 minutes of tennis's greatest rivalry? That match was memorably broken up by the weather, as today's game promises to be.
13.20 Afternoon. After all that, it's these two again. Roger Federer, 16 months without a major final, showed Novak Djokovic exactly how much a long unbeaten streak counts for when it comes to the crunch, and Rafael Nadal recovered from some shaky form at the beginning of the tournament and looked his old remorseless self against Andy Murray.
Federer has never beaten Nadal at Roland Garros, losing three finals to the Mallorcan. The worst moment came in 2008, when he apologised to the crowd after winning just four games. If he manages to beat his old foe today it will be the first time he's beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam since winning Wimbledon in 2007.
The skies are overcast and brooding over Paris, and interruptions are predicted for the afternoon and evening. Play's scheduled to start at 2.
On the prospect of equalling Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open title: "For me, seriously, I don't think about that. I have a lot of respect for the great Bjorn but I am focused on trying to play well. For me, it's much more important to win Roland Garros than equal Bjorn."
Could gloomy conditions play a role? "I don't have the power to control the weather. So if it rains, I'm going to think it's an advantage for me; if the sun shines, I'm going to think it's an advantage for me. I have to think positive all the time because I cannot control that."
His form through the tournament: "If you compare now to one week ago, it is completely different. Seriously, being in the final of Roland Garros you can't have problems, you cannot have doubts. I had to forget about the anxiety or the fears I had something like two weeks ago, and now I have gained more confidence."
His opponent: "After the victory [against Djokovic] he must feel very confident. I had a lot of fun watching that match. There's nothing new against Roger, I know what's going to happen. I know he's going to play aggressive, for sure. I have to try to play long, to play consistent all the time, and try to be aggressive when I have the chance."
Back to his best? "Honestly, I feel very well. I think I move very well, I'm never stressed. If there is a ball that you miss, it's just because the other one played it very well, and not because I made a mistake or I played bad tennis on the return, or on my serve. That's why I'm very happy at the moment with my game. Is it my best? I don't know."
On his "decline" - did he ever worry he had had played his last final? "No, not really. I was very close in the US Open [semi-finals] and then I'm playing a final here against Rafa. Last year maybe I had a hard time here and in Wimbledon, but sometimes it's hard to play the perfect match. So that's why you have to accept it and continue to work... I have not disappeared anywhere."
On the rivalry: "We had a lot of fantastic matches. Final of Miami, 2005, final of Rome, 2006 [over five sets], for sure the 2007 final of Wimbledon, 2008 final of Wimbledon, Australia... a lot of important matches, a lot of emotions. That makes this match very special."