So much in doubt. At the end of two weeks in Paris' slow camp, Rafael Nadal, who was provisional in the tournament, held in his hands another conquest of Roland Garros. It was the number 12 title on the French opening, in 15 attempts, a return unmatched in men's grand slam singles.
The second best is the man Nadal's hyphen with: Roger Federer, with eight titles in the fast grass of Wimbledon, out of 20 trials. As the lease on the trip ends and the short grass turn begins, the focus shifts to Federer and whether he can add to his return in what has become his backyard. What the French is open to Nadal, Wimbledon is to Federer.
As with many things Nadal and Federer, a comparison is tempting. When both men enter the rear end (Nadal) or the tail end (Federer) of star careers, it is illustrative to delve deeper into these two runs of action and comparators of their respective domains.
What Nadal has achieved in French open clay is higher than what Federer has on grass. Titles are a measure. Even beyond that, the figures show that Nadal has been more crushing in victory and resilient in adverse weather conditions.
Nadal was prescribed for the French opening. He arrived there as a 19-year-old in 2005 and won. In the semi-finals he beat top-ranked Federer in four sets, in what would be the first of their six meetings in Paris. Nadal has only lost three times effectively, twice in the French opening: to Robin Soderling (2009, 16 round), Novak Djokovic (2015, quarter finals) and Marcel Granollers (2016, third round, which Nadal lost due to injury without play a point).
Nadal, who is about four years younger than Federer, has played 96 games in the French Open, against 108 played by Federer at Wimbledon. Nadal has won 79% of these matches in equal sets, against 69% for Federer
Nadal has also on average won with a wider margin. A measurement of the victory margin is the "net game difference", or the difference between games won and games lost. Then, a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 winner gives a net game differential of +6. Seven games (what it takes to win a grand slam) with an identical scoreline gives a net game difference of +42.
In 13 of the 15 years, Nadal has exceeded 42, including five times over just 70. In comparison, Federer made it in 10 out of 20 years. Part of the difference between the two is that Nadal immediately started winning titles at the French Open. Federer did it at Wimbledon from his fifth year onwards.
Another aspect of this as well as in most quantitative targets while making such comparisons is the difference in surfaces. Grass is a faster surface than clay. The server is more of a factor and allows players to win games relatively easily while serving. As a result, on clay, the waiter is less of a factor, and Nadal, with his heavy shot-making from the backcourt, blunts that edge further.
Both men, especially Federer, have been examples of longevity. Nadal also flourished younger, which is why Nadal's war grave at Roland Garros shows an equally large distribution between players younger to him and older to him. Federer's battle chart, in both victories and losses, is weighed against players younger than him.
Nine of Federer's losses have been for players younger than him. Of the two losses Nadal has had in Paris, one has been to a player younger than him and one to a player older than him
How do the two go into pressure situations? While Nadal has an average of more points in a match than Federer (9 to 7), he has played a third of the number of tie breakers played by Federer. It is partly because grass is a faster surface, although both have won three quarters of their tie breakers
Where Nadal cranks it up is the fourth and fifth set. In these two sets, Nadal wins against Federer with a higher game margin and loses with a lower margin of play
In head-to-head matches in their respective thighs, Nadal has stretched Federer more than the other way around. There are 2-1 to Federer at Wimbledon and 6-0 to Nadal at the French Open. Nadal lost Federer in the finals in 2006 and 2007 before beating him in 2008, in what has been Federer's longest match in Wimbledon in 12 minutes less than 5 hours.
For comparison, Federer has never beat Nadal in Paris in six attempts. After their first meeting in 2005, the three consecutive finals disputed between 2006 and 2008, when Federer managed all two sets. In this French open he lost Nadal in the semi-finals. Now on to Wimbledon and the prospect a new chapter in these two rich and lasting stories.
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. (tagsToTranslate) Rafael Nadal (t) Roger Federer (t) Nadal vs Federer (t) French Open (s) Wimbledon