Federer came out of the gate firing a storm of forehands, backhands, volleys, and aces. Nadal looked bewildered on the other side of the tennis court. Yeah, I thought for sure this was going to be the year that Federer would beat his nemesis on clay…until that one moment in the first set, with set points no less, that Federer got really cute on a backhand drop shot, that landed a half inch out. From there, Federer, his fans, and the world felt really deflated and it was apparent with the barrage of errors that piled up for Roger.
In the second set it was pretty much the same story, error after error, Nadal finding his range and pushing Federer out of his comfort zone. Federer could not find his serve in the second set, it was really a marvel to see the polar opposite I saw in the first set; 80% first serves in, all the way to 53% in the second. Thankfully there was a 9 minute rain delay just as Nadal was serving for the set 6-5, 40-15. Upon their return to the court, the tennis greats did not have a chance to warm up so they picked it up where they left off. Federer ended up breaking Nadal’s serve and taking it to a tie break, which he did lose.
In the third set, Federer did find a second wind and took it all the way. The fourth was more of the same Rafa we’re used to seeing, big spinning forehands, powerful backhands, and of course the leaping fist pump with the patented “Vamos!”.
With a misfired forehand from Federer Rafael Nadal was crowned the 2011 French Open Champion. With this win, Nadal ties Björn Borg’s record 6 French Open titles. Truly an amazing accomplishment.
On a personal note, watching the final left me feeling a little uneasy; I didn’t feel that Federer and Nadal played their best tennis. That might be so because they have played each other so often in the finals that the luster has faded. The rivalry that Roger and Rafael have had in their tennis careers felt overshadowed by the hype Djokovic was getting coming into the French Open. In any event, it was nice to see Federer making it to a Major Final, and watch his moments of tennis perfection that us tennis fans have come to love, admire, and emulate.