How Federer Outthought Nadal At The Masters

How Federer Outthought Nadal At The Masters

I enjoyed watching Federer – Nadal semifinals match at the Masters tournament in Shanghai last night.

There were a couple of situations where I noticed how Roger outthought Rafael.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Photo by Andrew Wong / Getty Images

The most evident was the situation at 4:4 at 15:30 on Federer’s serve.

Here’s what very likely went through the minds of both players:

Nadal: This is a very big point. If I win, it’s going to be 15:40 for me. So Roger probably won’t risk serving to my forehand, he’ll go for my backhand.

Federer: I know what Nadal is thinking. He expects me to go for a backhand side since this is a big point. I’ll go to the forehand.

Result: Federer serves to the forehand and Nadal misses the return since he was already leaning towards the backhand side.

Score: 30:30

Nadal: This is still a big point. Roger will surely go for my backhand since he can immediately attack my return with his forehand. If he serves to my forehand I can return cross-court to his backhand and I immediately stop him from attacking.

Federer: Nadal probably expects me to go for the backhand on this side since most of the times I do. And since this is a big point, he is almost sure that I’ll go for the backhand. I’ll serve to the forehand again.

Result: Federer serves to the forehand again and Nadal hits it in the net. Nadal was already half way to the backhand side when he was surprised with a serve to the forehand side.

Score: 40:30

Federer misses the first serve (going to the backhand this time!) and has to serve the second serve.

Nadal: Ok, anywhere he serves I’ll try and put a good deep return safely in the court and then I’ll wait for my opportunity. I don’t want to miss this return since I already wasted two points from 15:30 so I won’t take any risks.

Federer: Nadal wants to get back in the game and 40:30 is a very important point at 4:4. He’ll probably just return down the middle and try to win from the baseline.

So I don’t have to worry about risky returns right now, I’ll serve and volley.

Result: Federer serves and comes to the net, surprising Nadal yet again who returns a normal shot down the middle straight to Federer’s volley. Federer hits the volley into the open court and takes the lead with 5:4.

I can’t 100% guarantee that this went through the minds of the players but it was evident that Nadal did not expect the two serves to his forehand and Federer serve & volleying at 40:30 and second serve.

This is just one of the reasons why Federer is #1 in the world. He is not only a fantastic talent with great strokes, he is also very intelligent and knows how to outthink his opponents.

It seems to me that he is going to stay number one for a while. 😉

Related posts:

Roger Federer – Rafael Nadal ATP Finals 2010 Match Analysis
3 Shot Combinations That Helped Li Na Win Roland Garros 2011
Roger’s Revenge
Why Rafael Nadal Wins Key Points And Big Matches
Thoughts On Federer – Haas Wimbledon 2009 Semi-Final

Essential Tennis Instruction – FREE Video Lessons on How to Improve Your Serve

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 18th, 2007 at 2:40 am and is filed under Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “How Federer Outthought Nadal At The Masters”
Billy Says:
November 20th, 2007 at 8:51 am
Thats amazing that you got to see the Federer -Nadal match live! I was glued to the television watching it. About you post on the match, I do agree that the 4-4 game was a big game and gave Federer the momentum and as you saw, he didnt lose many points for the next 5 games.
First of all, the weaker side on Nadal on the RETURN is the forehand. His grip is too extreme and actually Federer and every pro in the world serves mostly to that side of Nadal. The reason Nadal leaned to his backhand though at 15-30 was bc yes it was a big point and the higher percentage serve is up the middle. Up the middle is over the hgher part of the net and of course at 4-4 15-30 you need to get that first serve in. So, Nadal decided to sit on the middle serve and give Federer more the outwide serve which is going over the highest part of the net. Federer executes the serve and Nadal mises the return, the forehand and weaker side on the return.
30-30 point I knew Federer was going up the midle to Nadal’s forehand bc again its the more dificult side for Nadal to retun. I think Nadal made a mistake and maybe thought he read that Federer was going wide. Federer’s toss is the same for both wide and up the middle but you do pick up things from you opponent and Nadal must have made a mistake and thought he saw Federer was going wide. He should have known that Federer was going up the midle becase thats the smart serve agains him. misses the return like you said and nw its 40-30.
Now at 40-30 he misses first serve which like you said went up the middle to Nadal’s backhand. The reason now is bc Federer wanted to go with the higher percentage serve over the lowest part of the net. Now 2nd serve was a great decision to serve and volley bc like you said Nadal had missed the last 2 returns, no way he wil want to risk on missing 3 returns and giving Federer 3 free points…This was an amazing recognition from Federer and this is what I think players need to realize. This 40-30 2nd serve and volley and taking the situation on what has happened the last 2 points is a big lesson for juniors. A lot of times the mstake is they dont realize what the opponent is feeling and thinking on the other side. If Nadal would have hit a great return on that point then Federer would just say too good bc that would have been the tougher shot to win the point then for Nadal to just make return and go back to rally where he is so great at. This is what went through the mnd of Federer in that situation and it did take Nadal by surprise at 40-30.
The lesson here is Nadal wasnt wrong about 15-30 to give Federer wide serve, he was being smart o giving Federer that serve. Federer just came up with the god serve. I dont know why Nadal thought wide on 30-30 bc like I said its the weaker return side of Nadal and also Federer always serves up the middle on big points majority of the time exspecialy on deuce side. The reason no one can stop that is bc Federer is soo great on setting up his 2nd ball with his serve..eve if you know the serve is going middle, still th return will come back through the middle or to the inside out position for Federer to hit his best shot, the FH from the inside out position. So, Federer iss til in the best position even of the return comes back. thats anther lesson for players to understand..learn how Federer and the top pros set the points up to ht shots they like the most.
Definelty that game really gave the edge to Federer and Nadal felt the pressure trying to hold serve to stay in the set after having a mini opportunity to break Federer’s serve and possibly serve for the 1st set in the Masters in Shanghai.
This is my opinion and in no way is to say you are wrong about your observation. I just wath these players play everyday and I get the opportunity to see Federer play a lot through the year. He is a great champion and I think there are soo many things to learn from him. He is the smartest player and will be the best of all time. Its an honor of mine to be able to witness this in my lifetime and be able to see him compete and practice in person regularly.


Tomaz Says:
November 21st, 2007 at 10:42 pm
Hey Billy,

That’s a great insight into the mental game that went between Rafa and Federer!

And yes, I want to see Federer play live too. Next year for sure!


Jerry Says:
November 26th, 2007 at 1:33 am
Nadal will have his day.


Guy Says:
February 16th, 2009 at 4:43 pm
He crushed Rafa, I loved it, I remeber this time when Roger wasn’t poisonned by hum hum.
Now old and tired for the game, he still has more winner than rafa and loose match, how insane is tennis I ask you guys!


sean Says:
December 4th, 2009 at 10:44 am
I am a huge fed fan and finally got to see him play at london atp world tour finals. Even though he lost it is one of the greatest experience, I would recommend any fan to go see the god in person before he retires.


Krishnanjan Says:
June 6th, 2010 at 10:11 pm
Both Federer and Nadal are great. In the 2009 french open Federer bt Soderling in the final and this year Nadal bt Soderling. This is just great.


Nishant Says:
June 14th, 2010 at 2:52 pm
Hi Tomaz,

Your analyses are all quite good and the way you present the thoughts that might probably have been going on in the players’ minds are also good to read, but surely it’s not that easy to get into their heads, is it? I mean it’s not for nothing that commentator keep talking about getting into Roger Federer’s head and about Nadal’s spirit and all? I am a Fed fan I feel bad every time he loses, specially to Nadal. But if it were as easy to get into his opponent’s head as you have mentioned in your post, Fed wouldn’t lose any against Nadal at all.