© Ella Ling

Rafael Nadal beats Roger Federer

Five things about Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer


Federer, the smiling ‘Village Idiot’ who looks as though he’s playing for a ‘lollipop’. Really, Mats?

Here are some of the lyrics to Van Morrison’s ‘Village Idiot':

Village idiot, he’s complicated
Village idiot, simple mind
Village idiot, he does know something
But he’s just not saying
Don’t you know he’s onto something
You can see it, you can see it in his eyes
Sometimes he looks so happy
As he goes strolling by

Australians sometimes talk about athletes needing “a bit more dog in him”. Mats Wilander, in his commentary for Eurosport, went further than that, likening Federer, walking around the Rod Laver Arena “with a smile on his face”, to Morrison’s Village Idiot. It was not the first time that Wilander has been disparaging about Federer’s mental approach – a few years ago, he suggested that the Swiss “lacked balls” – but these were probably his most scathing comments. Earlier in the match, Wilander told viewers that Federer’s intensity has dropped to the extent that it looked as though “this means a lollipop” to him.

It was Wilander’s opinion that Federer would have sent a stronger message to Nadal if the cries of ‘C’mon’ had been in Swiss German, rather than English (as then it would be “coming from deeper within”), and if some of the fist-pumps had been directed at the Spaniard. Wilander is never anything less than interesting in a commentary booth. He goes too far with his analogies, especially the Village Idiot, but maybe there is something in what he says about Federer’s mind? True, anyone standing on the other side of the net from Nadal is going to occasionally look like a mental pygmy. But the cool approach, the fact that Federer went from being a teenage hot-head to a grown-up, mature emotional flat-liner, maybe that’s now hurting someone who has won 16 slams. Or maybe not. Did Federer lose because he was not mentally stronger enough or because Nadal played an exceptional match?

Is is time to start sticking pins in the balloon of opinion floating above Rod Laver Arena and every other stadium these two play in, that Federer is the greatest player of all time?
Federer has not beaten Nadal at the slams for five years, his last victory coming in the 2007 Wimbledon final. His only other victory against Nadal at the slams was also on the grass of the All England Club, in the 2006 final. If you were being harsh, you could say that both of those wins came before Rafa truly became Rafa. This result will only encourage those who consider that Nadal, not Federer, is the biggest talent to have ever swung a tennis racket. Nadal has now won eight of their 10 matches at the slams. If Nadal wins on Sunday he will have 11 majors, which would put him level with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver, and he would be five short of Federer. There is an easy counter-argument you can make to the claims of Nadal’s greatness: he has struggled against Novak Djokovic, losing all six of their matches last year (in an on-court interview with Jim Courier, Nadal was saying that the best approach for Andy Murray in Friday’s semi-final against Djokovic was to play aggressively, but he laughed and brought up his bad run against the Serbian in 2011 – what does Rafa know about playing the world number one?) The best thing that could happen to Nadal would be for Andy Murray to win the second semi-final.

The curse of Australia Day is no more.
Nadal would be forgiven if he had developed a phobia for people smeared in green and gold zinc cream, singing Waltzing Matilda. On Australia Day in 2010, Nadal could not complete his quarter-final against Murray because of injury. On Australia Day last year, his body again failed him as the Melbourne sky filled with the yellows, reds, blues and greens of the fireworks display across the city because of an injury in his last-eight match against David Ferrer. The weekend before this tournament began, Nadal was in tears after he felt pain his knee, while sitting in a chair in his hotel, as he thought he had no chance of contending. This year, he would enjoy his Australia Day.

Federer’s forehand was a problem.
Too often, Federer did not put away short balls.

It’s too early to say definitively that Federer will never win another slam.
Yes, it’s getting harder with every passing slam, but it should not be shocking to you if Federer won this summer’s Wimbledon or US Open title.

  • Oliver Bett

    For the last few years of Rafa’s dominance over Fed people have been arguing over whether Fed really is the greatest of all time. Doesn’t it come down to this?

     The key to what makes people regard players as great is how many slams they have won.

    And for the most part people accept that tennis is evolutionary that is the standard is constantly improving. Federer himself says he is a better player now than when he despatched Hewitt in the US Open final 6-0 7-6 6-0 Therefore the current number one has to be the best player ever to have lived. 

    The distinction between best and greatest is clear. Novak is the best player on the planet as he is currently dominating and playing the best tennis ever played (if you accept that tennis is evolutionary).

    In order to determine who is the greatest you have to strip away all the emotional connections you have to the great players and look at it in the cold light of day. He who has won the most slams is the greatest, what other objective yardstick can there be?