Federer Nadal: An Incredible Rivalry!

The rivalry of Federer Nadal has dominated men’s Tennis since 2005! The two have continued to challenge each other more and more, which has resulted in some unbelievable tennis battles!

Check out this cool video about their rivalry!

The Early Stages (2004-2007)

During the years 2004-2007 Roger Federer was the most dominant tennis player, probably in the history of the game. He won 11 out of 16 possible majors in those years!

Their first encounter was in the third round of Miami in 2004. Federer was already ranked number 1 in the world and Nadal surprisingly beat Federer in this first match!

Even though Federer was extremely dominant during the next few years, it was already clear that Federer had difficulty playing against Rafael Nadal.

The Federer Nadal rivalry was beginning to intensify and Nadal was the only player to hold a winning record against Federer during this time frame! Nadal was also the player that stopped Federer from winning the French Open.

Recent years (2008-2011)

Nadal kept getting stronger and stronger and he also started winning a lot more matches and tournaments on surfaces other than clay. The Federer Nadal rivalry became somewhat one-sided at this point, with Nadal winning a majority of the matches, and especially with Nadal winning against Federer at Wimbledon for the first time in 2008!

Overall head-to-head

Nadal and Federer have played each other 27 times on the ATP Tour.

Nadal holds a winning record of 18-9 in this rivalry!

One interesting thing to note though is that 14 of these 27 matches were played on clay, Nadal’s favourite surface. Rafael Nadal won 12 out of those 14. On all other surfaces Federer still has a winning record of 7-6 against Nadal!

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Grand Slam Finals Matches

The two have played 8 Grand Slam Finals matches against each other. These were all very special matches with the whole world looking closely to see who would come out on top in this incredible rivalry!

Nadal has won six out of eight Grand Slam Finals matches!

Here are the results of those Federer Nadal matches:

2006 French Open: Nadal wins 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4)

2006 Wimbledon: Federer wins 6-0, 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3

2007 French Open: Nadal wins 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4

2007 Wimbledon: Federer wins 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-2

2008 French Open: Nadal wins 6-1, 6-3, 6-0

2008 Wimbledon: Nadal wins 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7

2009 Australian Open: Nadal wins 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2

2011 French Open: Nadal wins 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1

Nadal also won their only meeting in a Grand Slam semi-final at the 2012 Australian Open with a score of 6:7 6:2 7:6 6:4

Battle of court surfaces

For years Nadal was dominating on clay and Federer on grass. As a result the two played a historic match in 2007 on a court that was half clay and half grass. The idea was something new and generally well received by tennis fans. Nadal ended up winning the match 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(12-10)

The king of clay against the king of grass!


Photo by hahatango on Flickr

Game Match-Up

Let’s have a close look at how these two match up and what the deciding factors in their rivalry are!

Technical Match-Up

In the technical match-up Roger Federer
is clearly ahead of Rafael Nadal!

Federer has probably the most complete technical game of any player in the history of the game. The only stroke where Nadal might have an edge is the backhand side. Here Federer struggles at times, especially against Nadal’s heavy topspin.

Federer’s serve is much stronger though and his forehand is a better technical shot as well in my opinion. Additionally, Federer has great technique on his slice backhand and volleys! Overall Roger Federer is the better player from a technical standpoint!

Physical Match-Up

This is a very close call. Both of these guys are extremely fit and phenomenal athetes. Nadal is of course known to chase down all kinds of balls that other players cannot get to. The tennis world has probably never seen a better defensive player.

Federer on the other hand moves very effortless around the court and has incredible balance. He seems to float over the court and his movement is very efficient. It seems like Nadal needs to work a lot harder with the way he moves and plays compared to Federer.

Overall, I would rate these two as equally strong on the physical side!

Tactical Match-Up

Here I see Nadal slightly stronger. Both of these players build their game around their strong forehands. Their strategies match their strengths, which is not surprising for such great champions.

Nadal’s tactics have improved over the years and I see him with a slight edge over Roger Federer on the tactical side!

Nadal realized that he needs to come closer to the baseline and play more aggressive. He also started hitting his backhands a lot more aggressive instead of just waiting to hit his forehand!

Federer on the other hand has not evolved as much in my opinion. He also needs to play his backhand more aggressively, which he does not do often enough. Instead he hopes to get to hit his forehand as much as possible and he keeps losing to Nadal in the same fashion. Therefore, I see a slight edge for Nadal on the tactical side of things.

Mental Match-Up

Here Nadal wins by a huge margin. Rafael Nadal is the
mentally toughest player I have ever seen!

This guy is a true warrior out there and will play every single point 100% no matter what the score is and what tournament he is playing!

Roger Federer on the other hand is not as strong mentally as some people might believe. Of course, Federer had incredible confidence especially during the early years when he dominated the game. At this time his game was simply much better than everyone else’s game!

Confidence does not equal mental toughness though. Whenever things aren’t going all that well against Nadal you can see Federer’s body language getting somewhat negative and you get the feeling that he does not really believe in himself anymore.

I believe that Rafael Nadal has a huge edge over
Roger Federer on the mental side of the game!

So who is the greatest of all time ?

This is a question that is being discussed a lot recently. Nadal has certainly gained some ground on Federer in recent years, but nevertheless Federer has to be considered the greatest of all time without a doubt in my opinion!

Federer holds the record with 16 Grand Slam singles titles and at this point Rafael Nadal has won 10 Grand Slam singles titles. Nadal still has a long way to go if he wants to get close to Roger’s record!

Check out some legends talking about
the Federer Nadal rivalry!

Federer Nadal – What does Federer need to do ?

This is another question that tennis fans, players, and coaches discuss a lot.

I believe that the key for Federer to beat Nadal is to step in and hit his backhand more aggressive on a consistent basis!

This of course is not easy, especially since a lot of Nadal’s forehand shots land a bit shorter making it tough for Federer to take the ball on the rise. Nevertheless, it is possible and Federer has done it successfully before!

For some reason Federer always seems to revert to his old strategy of simply hitting the backhand back and waiting to take over with his forehand. This tactic works against most players but not against Nadal!

Nadal is of course a tough match-up for Federer with his heavy topspin forehand into Federer’s one-handed backhand. It is no secret that the high backhand is extremely tough for any one-hander!

At this point the problem for Roger is only partly tactical though. Having lost that many important matches against Nadal has resulted in a big mental problem for Roger. Most of the time when their matches get to the really important stages, Roger starts making unforced errors that he usually doesn’t make. His first serve percentage goes down and he starts missing forehands that he would usually never miss!

I think the only way out of this situation for Federer is to start working with a really good mental coach!

Nadal is in his head and both Roger and Rafa know it. So anytime things get really close Roger gets tight and Rafa plays his best Tennis! Roger has suffered too many important losses to solve this problem with a purely tactical approach in my opinion!

Federer Nadal – What does Nadal need to do ?

Nadal has been dominating the Federer Nadal rivalry and generally does not need to change much!

He needs to continue to find ways to work his forehand against Federer’s backhand early on during points. In order to do that he needs to have a smart serving strategy as well as hit good service returns!

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