"Playing four hours was not a problem for today. Roger was much better than me and deserved to win."
"It didn't help that I had to play four hours yesterday," said Nadal.
"But even if I hadn't I don't know if I would have been able to stop Roger."
Well I said it yesterday and though Nadal, true to character, would be the last person in the world to concede it -- especially where Roger is concerned -- it does seem he was affected by the Herculean efforts of Saturday's semi.
Not as exhaustingly as I'd imagined though. Nothing so obvious. He just did the 'little stuff' less efficiently than we normally associate with him, looked a little slower running down balls, less intense in his service returns, and a tad less scary overall. You might say a kind of subconscious indecision of whether to give it his all, which squares well with what he had to say about the surface and the altitude coming in to the event.
I've heard a lot of comparisons to his phenomenal recovery after the equally Herculean semi at this years Aussie Open against Verdasco. But the bottom line I think is he had a day to recover there - no such luxury here. In fact, having to play everyday has even led some to suggest that Masters events may be a greater physical test. I don't agree. It isn't everyday after all that you have to go out and play what turns out to be the greatest (and lengthiest) three setter in living memory. They're mostly all like the Federer-Del-Potro semi. Most pros have more demanding practice sessions than that.
“I served well, mixed it up well, took all the right decisions today. In the end it looked comfortable for me out there so it’s a good win for me and very satisfying.”
Not much to add except to say that this was the best all round performance I've seen from Federer since the US Open last year, and despite the four hours Nadal had to put in, he still had to win this thing.
Special mention must be made of the serving which was exquisite. I've generally thought of his serve as the best indicator of how likely he is to come through in matches against Nadal. Not that they were the best stats I've ever seen from him, but he did make particularly good use of the wide kicker - which I feel is quite an underated part of his game.
Now. The six billion dollar question: How much does it actually mean?
It doesn't have any particular bearing on his abilty to come through against Nadal at RG which in Federer's own words is 'a different animal' (and I don't think he even factored the Nadal-on-clay effect into his definition).
I don't even think this is any great indication of how close he might or might not be to 'his best' (whatever that may be these days). What I do know is it would have been a complete disaster to go into RG having spent yet another photoshoot watching Rafa bite on to a trophy at your expense.
I should also mention the obvious: that confidence at any level is impossible without some small measure of momentum. This win should make him feel more confident about being a member of the top four once again. And I think that places him in good stead against the likes of Djoko and Murray going into RG. I also think that Tennis will be better for his return. As great as Murray's rise, Djoko's return to form and Nadal's continued dominance has been, the actual tennis has been strangely lopsided for what seems like a mini-era now. Roger's return injects some much needed attention to classical form into the new age fever we've had of late.
Speaking of Murray, wouldn't you have loved to see Federer take him on instead of Juan in the semis. For what it's worth, I think he would have got through (Roger that is). Murray's clearly not in the top four bracket when it comes to clay even though he may have made it to #3 in the world this week. A win may even have gone some way to defusing the 'Murray problem' he has, which much like the 'Nadal problem' (on clay and most anywhere else), may continue to plague him on any surface. Very much 'the match that got away'.
(Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)