Sunday 28th November 2010, sees the finale of the 2010 tennis season, as World Number One, Rafael Nadal takes on Number Two, Roger Federer, for the ATP World Tour Finals 2010 crown.
The best two tennis players will meet to do battle one last time in a season which has seen Federer’s mantle as the King of World tennis pass to the younger of the two, 24 year old Rafa Nadal.
Nadal took the Number One crown this season with victories in three Grand Slams, despite Roger Federer getting off to the greatest of starts by winning Australian Open 2010 in a straightforward three set win over Britain’s Andy Murray.
Nadal retired from the Australian Open in the Quarter Final against Murray, prompting fears that 2010 could be another injury hit season.
Those fears, however, would prove to be without foundation, as Nadal went on to Slam success at the French Open on his beloved clay; grass success at Wimbledon; and then winning on perhaps his least favoured surface, the hard courts of the US Open.
Nadal has changed his game since his prodigious early seasons, too. His backhand, for so long a weakness, is now a serious weapon; he is finishing his points more quickly than he used to as his game a couple of seasons ago appeared to be – and probably was – unsustainable due to the strain it was placing on his body. What remains is an incredibly solid first serve, and a blistering forehand driven by piston-like biceps that blasts all but the most resilient of opposition counter-punchers into the ground very, very quickly.
Federer has long played a very beautiful, easy style of tennis. He moves serenely, almost gracefully around court, flicking his racket one handed on both forehand and backhand sides and seems, at times, to have his opponent mesmerised and working entirely to his plan. When he needs to, Federer can hit unbelievable, precise, powerful winners across court and up lines. He is able to read, and return, all but the most unplayable of serves.
Federer also has a solid serve, first and second, and his game has nothing that could even be approaching a weakness. He is a complete player. He also does not seem to suffer from nerves, something he and Nadal have in common: both players seem galvanised by pressure.
Tonight’s final will be an excellent encounter, which should go the distance: neither man seems capable of rolling over; neither accepts defeat easily.
The winner? Federer has had by far the more impressive tournament of the two – he has not dropped a set, nor looked like dropping one, thus far – but Nadal has not been beaten. Dropping a set and being beaten are two very different things. The difference tonight, as was clear before this tournament began, may come down to playing surface: Federer is better on this indoor hard court than Nadal, though the margin isn’t anything like it used to be, as Nadal has proved time and again this season, not least in claiming the US Open.
Federer should come out the victor, but don’t count on Nadal allowing him anything like the dominance he has enjoyed so far this week at the O2 Arena.