Federer’s Backhand Stuns Nadal To Set Up Kyrgios Showdown
Anyone who thought that Federer’s victory over Nadal in the Australian Open final represented little more than a glorious explosion of energy after a six-month lay-off – probably never to be repeated – had better think again.
The Federer energy levels are still sky-high. If anything, the eighteen-time Grand Slam winner was even more emphatic at Indian Wells than he had been in Melbourne, as he put a temporary halt to Nadal’s own promising resurgence.
Gone was the tactic of running round onto the forehand, hoping for a booming winner, but leaving almost the entire court exposed to Nadal’s own forehand if his gamble didn’t go to plan.
That kind of over-reliance on his forehand by Roger had contributed over the years to Rafa’s extraordinary 23-12 head-to-head lead going into this one. But this new, reinvented Federer doesn’t lack confidence on either side for a single moment.
Instead the Swiss master showed total faith in his backhand – and with good reason. Six backhand winners pinged off his racquet in the first set, two more in the second, and the balance of shot selection just enhanced his customary elegance.
Federer purred: ‘I did very well today, I’m so pleased I’m able to step into the court and play super-aggressive. Coming over the backhand has been part of that.
‘It’s a nice feeling to win three in a row against Rafa, I can tell you that.’
Nadal acknowledged: ‘In Australia it was a very close match, I had good chances to win. Today, not. Today he played better than me. I didn’t play my best match, and he played well. When you’re not playing your match, it is impossible to win.’
But who could have played their match against Federer’s near-perfection? We’ll see if the increasingly impressive Nick Kyrgios can do better behind his snappy serve and give Federer a run for his money in their quarter-final.
It promises to be an awesome match, after Kyrgios beat Novak Djokovic for the second time this month to end the Serb’s nineteen-match unbeaten run in the Californian desert.
The 21-year-old never faced a break point against one of the finest returners the game has ever seen. And if that doesn’t give Federer food for thought, the start of the Australian’s match against Djokovic will.
Kyrgios broke immediately, proving that if you don’t start strong against him, you may never get the chance to recover. It was the only break of the match because Kyrgios held firm to march on 6-4, 7-6 (7-3).
So the world is now waiting to see if hot-shot Kyrgios can show the consistency of physical and mental strength that could make him the best player on the planet one day.
The opening games between the highly aggressive Federer and Kyrgios should produce some memorable fireworks.