The blog has been silent for a while. Reason being perhaps that I think the air kind goes out of the tennis season when the final slam of the year is played. As a long time Federer fan it might also be that the two losses to Djokovic in slam finals stung too much and prompted a break from tennis. This also happened on the court for me when a knee inflammation appeared as from nowhere and sidelined me for weeks.
But talking about Federer losing in finals and knee problems is an easy transition to the long awaited episode of Fedal that took place in Basel yesterday. What a treat for the audience to be able to see a part of this remarkable rivalry in tennis history.
Playing indoors on home turf spoke for Federer, the head to head score (5-0 in recent matches) was in favour of Nadal. Then we also had the recent form of the players. Federer has had a good year, two slam finals, six titles, ranked number 2-3 in the world consistently, while Nadal has had his toughest year to date. No slam final, “only” three titles, lots of disappointing and unexpected losses.
But something was different with Nadal in Basel. Despite losing a set in almost every match and being on the ropes a few times (Rosol served for the match for example), he fought hard and the longer the tournament went, the better his forehand whip worked. And against Federer in the final we saw the same tenacity, the same banana spin forehand, the same “impossible” passing shots that had worked so well against the Swiss maestro in the past. If it hadn’t been for Federer’s serve that worked brilliantly, I’m sure he would have lost.
The loss of 3-6 7-5 3-6 might look disappointing for Nadal, but is really a huge step in the right direction. For quite a few moments during the ATP 500 tournament in Basel, he seemed to be back to his old self. The confidence glowed, the knees didn’t seem to hassle him, the forehands landed on the line instead of a few inches outside.
For Federer the win was another highlight in a good year. He didn’t go all the way in 2015, but he showed that at 34 he can still compete for the biggest titles and beat anyone at pretty much anytime (except for Djokovic in slam finals maybe). Beating Nadal at home must surely have been some pretty sweet icing on a tasty cake.
It was a match that brought back memories of previous battles, but also reminded that tennis doesn’t have to be drama (Kyrgios, missing handshakes, etc) to be selling but can also be sportsmanship on the highest level. It was a refreshing to see how these legends spoke about each other during the ceremony. They both seemed to be relishing competing against each other again in final.
Hopefully we can get more of these experiences in 2016. It sure makes tennis a sport like no other.