Two weeks ago when the second Grand Slam of the year French Open started, the only word on everyone's lips was can Djokovic again beat Nadal on his favourite surface clay and that too at Roland Garros, but after two weeks of matches worth of thrills and spills, the two men standing at the end are familiar faces about whom we have admired over the years. Yes, I am thinking about Rafa and Roger, who are yet again going to meet in a Grand Slam final.
The big question before any match between Roger and Rafa is of course, who will win the contest. If I see the stats, it is crystal clear that there can be only one winner and that is Rafa as he has won 16 out of 24 encounters against Roger which includes 11 victories on clay. Rafa has also defeated Roger on all 4 occasions they have met at Roland Garros and has an 5-2 advantage in Grand Slam finals. The records are very much staked against Fed, but it doesn't count for anything when both great champions meet in the final as who will win the match isn't decided by past records, but on the basis of who plays better on the day.
If I think about the upcoming match between the two greats, I am sure already about a billion previews have been written by experts as well as fans. Added to those billion previews here is one more preview by me lol.
One one side, Federer must be feeling very confident as he played great tennis especially in the first two sets to send the pre-tournament favourite Djokovic packing out of the tournament. When Federer starts to hit winners from his slightly weaker backhand wing and serves at over 200 Kph you know that he is in great form. Here is a player, who is definitely a different man to the one who lost at both Miami and Madrid to Rafa. Fed though, himself knows he may have to play a different game against Rafa. Unlike Djokovic, Rafa isn't the one who would look to play with all out aggression, but more often than not he has succeeded in hurting Fed's backhand with heavy top-spin from his forehand. So, Rafa will definitely look to grind down Fed on clay with his top-spin before he goes for his big forehand winner. It is very important for Fed to get his serve right today, especially on the deuce court as Rafa stands way back on the baseline. If Fed gets his serve right, he can keep the points short and not allow Rafa to dictate points from the baseline with his heavy top-spin.
Secondly, Fed would also look to come to net which in turn will force Rafa to hit more passing shots, but it is easier said than done, as Rafa has definitely improved his backhand and can hit winners with his cross-court back-hand.
On the other side, Rafa would look to do what he has done before on clay against Fed and that is to hurt Fed's backhand with his heavy top-spin. Rafa hasn't served anywhere near as well as he did at the US open yet, he has mixed up his serve well with clever changes of pace in the tournament. It definitely helped him against Murray to save few break points. One of the major worries for Rafa though in this tournament is, a few big hitters have been able to find a bit of weakness when they have got Rafa on the run as unlike before, Rafa hasn't been able to hit those unbelievable winners from his forehand wing when he is on the run, instead the opposite player is making use of the short ball from Rafa's forehand wing to hit the winner. Rafa has shown signs of improvement in his game against Soderling and Murray, but he still isn't playing at his best on clay. When he plays at his best, he is just invincible on clay.
It is very tough to predict a winner in this match as both are great champions and this time around, Fed looks a lot more confident than he did say three years ago when Rafa completely walloped him at the famous court Philippe Chatrier. I would still give a slight edge to Rafa as I expect him to again make holes in Fed's backhand with his heavy top-spin and likely win the French open.
Whatever maybe the result, it is always great to watch these two champions battle it out in Grand Slam finals as on one side, there is the king of orthodoxy Fed, who plays with finesse and is a connoisseur's delight. On the other side there is Rafa, who is the king of unorthodoxy, but in his own way he too is a delight to watch as he covers the court beautifully, gets so much top-spin on his shots and when in form, can hit breathtaking winners on the run. Yes, there are so called purists who hate Rafa's play, but I don't have anytime for people with blinkers on.
Finally, I would again hope that my favourite player Rafa wins yet another French open, but just like most Rafa fans, I won't mind the great champion Fed winning another Grand Slam either!