We’ve got two blockbuster matches coming up on the men’s side today. Rafael Nadal squares off against Andrey Rublev, while Roger Federer will face Juan Martin Del Potro in a rematch of their 2009 US Open final – a match Federer admits to having replayed several times in his mind.
For the seventh time, both Federer and Nadal are one match away from their first showdown in New York. For that to happen, they need to do certain things well in order to get the better of their powerful opponents. We’ll break them down below.
Aggressive Court Positioning
This is not new to Rafa. He, more than anyone, knows he needs to hold the baseline to have any chance of success in New York. If Rafael Nadal is feeling confident, as he should, he’ll hug the baseline and take his shots early and aggressively. If he yields ground to the hard hitting Rublev, he may be in for a long night.
Roger Federer recently said he’d take Rafa’s forehand as the best he’s seen. That’s a very strong statement considering Rafa and perhaps the rest of the tennis world feels the same about Roger’s forehand. Fact is, Rafa can impact the most wicked spin on the ball, from that wing. It’s big, fast, infused with revolutionary monstrosity and he can unleash it from just about every part of the court. Against Rublev, the down the line forehand is in play. The Russian loves to run around his backhand and gives up a lot of real estate to do so. Rafa should look to punish him for it. There’s also the reason he runs around his forehand a lot. His backhand is a playable shot, but not quite the weapon it will be in time. We all know what Rafa does to exploitable backhands.
Rafa’s serve is usually the difference between him winning the Open and losing it. If he serves aggressively against Rublev, this could quickly become a tennis clinic. for the sake of FEDAL38, let’s hope it is.
I can’t stress enough how important the serve is to Federer. Can he win without it clicking? Sure. He has in this tournament. But he seldom wins a tournament when his serve is not firing properly. There are top level players capable of picking him apart if his first delivery is not potent. Del Potro and his fabled forehand, is one such player. If Federer doesn’t want to spend the night fighting off a flurry of break points, he needs to serve well.
Relational Court Positioning
This match is most likely going to involve a flurry of quick fire rallies. It’ll also involve some huge shots from Del Potro. If Federer can consistently move the big man and react accordingly to the Argentine’s groundstroke missiles, he’ll dominate the match. He needs to take advantage of the baseline and the forecourt while placing his shots out of Del Potro’s reach. It’ll be no easy task, considering Del Potro’s wing span, but if anyone can hit the right shot based on his and his opponent’s court position, it is Federer. He’ll have to or else Del Potro will make him pay.
Let us hope, for Federer’s sake, that the low energy flat footed player we saw in the first two rounds is really put away for good. If that player shows up, it might not be pretty. Del Potro is a couple of classes above Tiafoe for now, and certainly above Youzhny. Federer needs to keep his intensity up and leverage the crowd. As much as they love Del Potro, New York is Federer’s home away from home and they do want to see him go against his arch nemesis here. He could use that, especially if Del Potro gets inspired like he did against Thiem.
One last thing folks… get the popcorn out and place your heart doctor on standby. You might need both.