Tuesday 21 November 2017

Federer's focus on grass after sweeping past Nadal


Roger Federer Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Roger Federer Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Simon Briggs

In the latest headline-grabbing act of a majestic season, Roger Federer outplayed his old nemesis Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 to lift the Miami Open title, and then announced that he will be taking an eight-week break from the tour.

"Wimbledon has to be the biggest goal now," said Federer, who plans to play no clay-court events apart from the French Open at the end of May. His chances in Paris seem likely to be slim, even on this year's form, given his decision to skip the build-up events.

"All the grass is important to me," Federer added.

"The second part of the season is the big priority. It's more about relaxing right now, more about injury prevention.

"My knee was strange on the clay last year and my physio thought that was a good thing, not playing too much on the clay.

"I will have to stay in shape because I have the Match for Africa 3 on April 10 (an exhibition that is also supposed to feature Andy Murray, sore elbow allowing), so I can't fall apart completely.

"After that I am looking forward to going back to the gym. I will probably stay on hard courts for the next few weeks, then I will get on the clay two weeks before the French. Hopefully I will play the French and then for me that's when the season really starts."

Yesterday's victory means that Federer has claimed all three big hard-court titles of 2017, building on his previous triumphs at the Australian Open and in Indian Wells.

However, his scheduling demonstrates that further Grand Slam titles are more important to him than a return to the World No. 1 ranking.

The flip side is that he should be as fresh as a sea breeze when the grass-court season comes around.

The way Federer is playing, everyone will be desperate to avoid him in the Wimbledon draw.

Thirteen years after their first meeting, which was staged on this very court, Federer and Nadal came into this final in an unfamiliar position. We are used to seeing Nadal walk out with a little extra strut, thanks to his dominance in the past. This time, though, he has been fretting over a three-match losing streak.

The old certainties of his Fed-busting game plan - the topspin cross-court forehand, seeking out the weaknesses of Federer's one-armed backhand - have had to be abandoned.

The pattern arose only a couple of times yesterday, and it was like watching a movie played backwards, because the polarities were completely reversed. Federer's backhand was bullying Nadal's forehand, rather than the other way around.

Nadal's best chance lay in a dogfight, but Federer knew this as well and went after the quick kill.

Irish Independent

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