It’s called bulletin board material. A particularly mouthy, and sometimes not too bright, player will call out the other team before an important game. The quote is posted on the bulletin board in the opponent’s locker room to make sure everyone is appropriately offended and the mouthy player’s teammates remind him to keep his mouth shut next time.

This time the player’s name was Roger Federer. After his semifinal win over Fernando Gonzalez in Monte Carlo, this is what he said about playing Nadal in the final: “He’s quite one-dimensional with his game. …After Dubai, I thought I actually saw the way I should play against him.”

Confidence or wishful thinking? Let’s see.

It’s not looking good at the beginning. Federer hit a double fault on break point in his first service game. He looked out of sorts. Balls were either out of the court or right where Nadal wanted them. Federer went down 0-3 with a drop shot that went wide. Then he had Nadal down 0-30 in the fourth game and hit an approach right at Nadal who, of course, passed him. Serving at 0-4, he hit an approach shot that landed right in Nadal’s wheelhouse.

This is not so good for me or tennis. I spend the hard court season thinking of new ways to extol Federer and the clay court season lauding Nadal. Where is everyone else?

It wasn’t the net play that let him down in the first set though, he got to the net fifteen times and won eleven points there, it was his baseline play. Federer managed to hold his serve in that fourth game but he had fourteen unforced errors by that point, the vast majority on his backhand side. And he would have preferred to get to the net more than fifteen times but Nadal kept him too far behind the baseline with his topspin loopers.

Nadal’s combination of anticipation and defense is unparalleled in the game. In the second game of the second set, Federer tried to pass Nadal down the line after drawing him to the net with a drop shot. The ball ticked the net and Nadal flicked it back. Federer took the ball out of the air with his backhand but Nadal picked it off at the net and put it away. Anticipation.

At 3-3 in the second set, Federer hit an inside out forehand that landed just inside the baseline. Nadal went into a full squat to get the ball back down the line and put it out of reach. Federer’s winner became Nadal’s winner. It gave Nadal a break point and he went up 4-3. Defense.

This is not so good for me or tennis. I spend the hard court season thinking of new ways to extol Federer and the clay court season lauding Nadal. Where is everyone else?

Nadal served for the second set at 5-4 and got a bit of nerves. Still, it took Federer four break points and a Nadal drop shot into the net before they were back on serve. In the tiebreaker, Federer had everything working. He got his first serve in and was able to move Nadal out of court and get to the net. The match was even at one set all.

In the third set, Nadal was the aggressor and he continued to hammer Federer’s backand. Up 4-3, Nadal got his second break point in the game on a Federer backhand mishit then served out the set to go up two sets to one.

Federer was sailing along at 40-0 in the first game of the fourth set then hit three errors and lost the game. In the next game he mishit yet another ball and yelled something that sounded very much like “idiot.” If that wasn’t bad enough, he argued a line call that gave Nadal a break point to go up 3-0. Federer seldom argues line calls. Nadal was now up two breaks and it looked pretty bad.

Then Federer stopped making so many errors and you could see that he might have figured out how to play Nadal. He got both breaks back and made it to the tiebreaker. Federer went up 4-2 with superb net play and a Nadal-like topspin angled shot then he missed an approach opportunity and put a ball in the net. Nadal took the opportunity to be aggressive himself and finally put the match away with a forehand winner down the line.

Nadal had his fourth victory in five matches with Federer, 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(5).

Federer did not have a good day today. “I was not serving well enough or just playing well enough from the baseline. I thought I gave him a little too much, ” he said after the match. That’s about right. The second set was the only time all day his first serve percentage got above 60 percent. And when was the last time he converted only four of eighteen break points?

Still, we have to ask: has Federer found a way to play Nadal? Federer was able to get to the net and win most of his points there – the cornerstone of his strategy against Nadal – yet Nadal said after the match, “I was beating him easier today than in Paris (the French Open).”

If Federer gets to the net as he did today and has a better game from the baseline, then we can answer that question.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 174 user reviews.