The much anticipated semifinal bout between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the Sony Ericsson Open failed to live up to expectation. In a one sided contest, Nadal destroyed Federer 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the final.
Nadal drew first blood in the first set. With Federer’s forehand up the line going wide, the Spaniard had double break point. Then, when Federer pushed a backhand into the net, Nadal had the break for 2-1.
Nadal consolidated easily for 3-1. Later, with Federer serving at 3-5, a litany of errors resulted in Nadal breaking for the second time to seal the opening set.
In the second set, with Nadal netting a backhand, Federer had his first break point of the night. However, with a net court winner off an overhead, Nadal was at deuce. Nadal went on to capture the game.
Subsequently, with a backhand down the line pass for a winner, Nadal had break point. He capitalized when Federer’s forehand found the net. With a prompt game, Nadal moved ahead 3-0.
The remainder of the set, Federer was just trying to tread water. The Swiss’ only window came at 1-3 and 0-30, but Nadal quickly shut it.
With Federer serving to prolong the match, miscues after miscues gave Nadal his first match point. As a result of Federer misfiring, Nadal booked his place into the final.
Federer committed 31 unforced errors while hitting 18 winners. Federer said in analyzing the match “I think it’s always a bit of an adjustment coming out and playing Rafa, any lefty, but him in particular. . . I warmed up with a lefty, Bob Bryan, and tried to get acclimatized as [much as] I could against him. It’s just hard”.
Federer went on “in the first couple games I got a break down, the conditions weren’t really favoring me. [It’s] slow [and] just makes it so hard to hit through him on a surface like this. Maybe you try to over hit a bit. Then, I started to make the wrong decisions on big points. . .and it’s not easy to come back. He played tough and he played well when he had to and I didn’t do that tonight. So it’s disappointing for me”.
Federer was asked why he thought this surface did not favor him “particularly against players like Rafa who like to have a bit more time, it gives them the opportunity to return from way back,. . .it’s definitely helpful. You can’t shoot through the court too much. . . . I’ve played really well on this surface in the past. Tonight, unfortunately, it wasn’t [my] night”.
On the topic of winning majors after the age of 29 something accomplished by a handful of players, Federer was a tad perturbed by the question citing “ I think I’ve done quite well over the last ten years. I feel like I’ve done a lot more than some other players. . . We’re not going to predict how many I’m going to get or not. I’m enjoying myself right now, and playing well. . . that’s what I care about right now”.
Nadal felt it was important to keep the pressure on Federer throughout the match “if he had the break the first game of the second set, you never know he gains confidence and starts to play better. . . That’s not what happened. I was lucky with the net. So in general, I think I played a very good match, very solid; first set especially I think I played very, very well. Second set I think he played worse, made more mistakes than usual”.
Looking ahead to the final Nadal said “[Djokovic] is winning very easily all [his] matches. . . He’s playing fantastic. I congratulate him on what he’s done the first three months of the season. It’s fantastic”.
However, Nadal stated “we’ll see what [happens]. I felt I had a chance last week in Indian Wells. I lost a little bit of focus and rhythm in the second set. The intensity in the legs and in the shots [were less], so, I started to play a little bit more defensive. Against a player like Novak, it is impossible to win the match playing like that. On Sunday I have to play very well, aggressive throughout the match if I want to have any chance”.
Sunday’s final will be a rematch of the BNP Paribas Open final. For the second week in a row, Novak Djokovic and Nadal will battle for a Masters Series 1000 title.
Nadal will be in search of his first title at the Sony Ericsson Open after being halted twice before while Djokovic the 2007 champion will be looking for his second.
Moreover, Djokovic will be attempting the double play, Indian Wells and Miami, something last accomplished by Federer in 2006.