Rafa and Verdasco played in a match for the ages on Friday; too bad it wasn't the final of the Australian Open. Nadal's opponent in the final, Federer, had an easy outing in the semis - he beat Roddick in straight sets - and to the casual observer, Federer wasn't even the least bit exhausted after the match.
To be competitive in tonight/today's final, Nadal is going to have to do more than recover both physically and mentally after the ordeal in the semis. For those with the slightest insight into the game and reasonably powers of observation, it was obvious that there are glaring faults in Nadal's approach on hard courts. Here is my list of things he needs to alter if he is to make short work of opponents that have had success on hard courts in the past:
- Selectively flatten out his shots (backhands and forehands) instead of hitting all of them with so much top spin. The 95 winners Verdasco hit against Nadal are testament to the effectiveness of a flattened shot on hard courts - the ball doesn't sit up and the added speed is an aggressive posture.
- Return serve from closer to the baseline
- Hit a deeper service return (corollary of the previous "point")
I am looking forward to a great contest today; a Nadal-Federer match-up has always lived up to expectations on every surface other than the Red Clay of Roland Garros. Let's see how the latest bout in their storied rivalry plays out...