Federer fears Nadal?

As I watched the semifinal match last weekend between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic an eerie thought kept creeping into my head. I could not escape the notion that Federer would have breezed through his semifinal match against Djokovic, were it not for the fact that Rafael Nadal was awaiting him in the final.

For over a year I have noticed something different in Federer when faced with the prospect of playing Nadal. I suspect that Federer no longer believes he can beat Nadal and since you cannot outperform your belief in yourself, a negative outcome would be inevitable for him.

Prior to his semifinal match with Djokovic, Federer had not lost a single set in the tournament. Yet in this match he repeatedly let leads slip away and had 28 more unforced errors than Djokovic. At two separate times Federer was a point away from winning the match but failed to do so. It seemed as though he was just going through the motions and not intent on winning the match, like I am used to seeing. I even found his post match quote disturbing “It wasn’t a final, so I’m not as disappointed if it would have been a final.” So you would rather lose in the semi’s?

Nadal has beaten Federer six out of the last seven times they have met dating back to 2008 and unless Federer gets Nadal out of his head I would not expect him to beat him again.

I don’t mean to take anything away from Djokovic who played loose and with great determination throughout the match. I also thought his post match quote was instructive: “To be honest, I was just closing my eyes and hitting forehands as fast as I can on match point. If it goes in, it goes in. If it goes out, just another loss to Federer in the U.S. Open,” Djokovic said.

That is an attitude that allows you to play loose and put yourself in position to win.

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