After watching the beating that Nadal gave Federer at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, it got me thinking about what does Federer need to do to beat Nadal on clay?

Historically, we all know that Rafael Nadal is king when it comes to red clay (he seems to be afraid of the blue clay from 2012), and Roger hasn’t found a way to break down the buggy whipping Spaniard.

The two have met 15 times on clay with Roger Federer only being able to find victory twice (2009 Madrid and 2007 Hamburg). Most of the wins from Nadal came with ease by hitting exclusively to the Federer backhand – high looping with lots and lots of topspin. Yet, it seems that Roger has not learned anything in all those meetings as he continues to get his Swiss Francs handed to him time and time again.

Should Federer change his game plan against Nadal?

Over the years of watching two great players meet in the later rounds of tournaments, I have picked up on a Federer pattern against Nadal. For some reason, probably only known to him and Paul Annacone, Roger tends to hit to Nadal instead of making him run side to side, to create errors. There are times when Federer does actually move Nadal side to side and the outcome is generally in the favor of the Swiss.

Another part of the Federer game that could use a little bit of change against Nadal is including some dropshots in the mix. If you watch Nadal on service return, you’ll notice he camps out way behind the baseline, especially when returning serve. I believe it would be an effective tactic against the Spaniard, he would have to scramble from about 10 miles from behind the baseline and get to the net. You see where I’m going with this? Federer could get some easy free points this way…even if it is kind of a cheesy way to earn points, but it’s not like Roger is winning many points engaging in baseline rallies right now.

I’m a little shocked the one thing that Annacone hasn’t seemed to have worked on with Roger is the high ball to the backhand. Why hasn’t he been feeding thousands of balls to the backhand since day one? It just seems like the obvious thing to do as a coach…work on the weakness.

Federer didn’t play all that bad, no?

In the grand scheme of things, Roger didn’t play all that bad during the tournament. He was challenged by some, and he came out on top. I would have to say this is the best I’ve seen him play in some time. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to beat the supposed “injured” Nadal.

Roger Federer’s performance this week should be encouraging for him heading into the 2013 French Open. He should focus the next 5 or 6 days on hitting high backhands, since that is the biggest hole in his game on clay.

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Filed under: 2013 Tennis Season

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