2007 French Open final — why did Federer lose to Nadal again?

11 06 2007

So what happened to Roger Federer during the 2007 French Open final?  He did not play very well.  Only about 2 or 3 games were at his normal standard (which is ridiculously high, but it is his standard).  He also made a lot of unforced errors, way more than normal.  I thought this year he would break through and win it, but he played poorly.  I think the reason why is a lot bigger than most people realize.

There’s the pressure of it being a Grand Slam final, but that hasn’t fazed him before, as he was 10-1 in them before this one.  It was against Rafael Nadal on clay, which makes it tough, but he beat Rafa in the last tournament on clay, in Hamburg.  It would’ve completed the career Grand Slam, and been a big step towards the calendar Grand Slam, which was a large part of it, I imagine.  But I suspect there was something even more that was weighing on him : many reporters and analysts have been saying if he wins the French Open that he would be the greatest of all time (or GOAT, as some call it, but I don’t think that term is appropriate for it).

Try to imagine the pressure he felt.  I know, he’s a champion, and if he’s going to be considered the best ever, he has to handle the pressure.  He has in the past.  He’s broken all sorts of records, and even thoroughly beat Nadal on clay recently, ending his 81-match winning streak.  But I think this particular match might’ve been bigger in scope and impact than any previous match for anyone else.  I’m no expert on tennis history, so someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I know of no other player who ever had a match this big.  Federer knows and respects the history of tennis, so there’s no doubt he knew how big this was.  If he wins, he not only gets the career Grand Slam, but he will be considered the greatest of all time.  And he has to play on his least favorite surface (even though he’s the second-best in the world on it), and he has to play his chief nemesis, the person who has beaten him more than anyone else.  It was huge.  And I suspect all this together made it tough on him mentally and emotionally to play his “normal”, relaxed tennis.

There’s also no way of knowing (unless he admits it) whether his forehand was just “off” that day or not.  Those of you who have played competitive tennis can probably relate.  Some days you can hit your shots well, and some days it just isn’t working.  On those “off” days, it wrecks havoc on your game, from both a strategic and physical standpoint.  I like to the study the psychological / mental / emotional aspects of the game, which I think helps my game.  But when part of my game just isn’t working, it can be a hindrance.  I suspect this applies also to Federer.  He made some poor strategic choices during the match, and I figure it’s from his frustration of how badly he was playing.

I feel bad for Federer.  (Yes, I’m a fan of him.)  I can’t pretend to imagine how disappointed and frustrated he feels.  Hopefully this setback will motivate him to keep improving and will make him even more hungry to keep winning.

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3 responses

11 06 2007
Patty Mac

Yeah, I must say that since federer lost this match to nadal that he is NOT the greatest thing that has graced tennis courts. Let’s be honest….the best play the best no matter what the surface or situation.

Yep. Federer is all hype.

I know cause I am Patty Mac.

13 06 2007
Thomas Wayne

Page2 at ESPN.com wondered what Federer was dreaming about that night, and someone thought it might be a nightmarish world of claymation ruled by muscular Mallorcans.

BTW, there’s no need to listen to Patty Mac — he likes to talk a lot (about all sports, apparently), saying more than he knows.

9 06 2008
Beppo’s Blog » Blog Archive » my thoughts on the 2008 French Open men’s final

[…] Last year I thought his loss in the French Open final was due to the weight of history on his shoulders, that he felt the pressure of needing to win.  Last year he won a set and had so many break point opportunities that he was pretty close to winning it, despite not playing his best.  But this year he played really bad.  Again, I’m not saying this was the only reason he lost, because Nadal was playing great, but I watched it, and Federer was hitting unforced errors on shots that weren’t hard.  He wasn’t even serving well. […]

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