#1 Rafael Nadal vs. #2 Roger Federer
This match will be their 4th clash in 2017 and 38th professional match. Federer won the first 3 meetings in 2017 taking 7 of 9 sets. Nadal is riding high taking the US Open and Beijing titles prior to his run to the Shanghai final. His earlier losses to Federer in 2017 were part of a long title drought for the Spaniard. Rafa tends to play much better when he is rolling through multiple events. So who wins?
Federer Must Serve Well and Stay Inside of the Court When Possible
Ivan Ljubicic seems to have been the Rafa whisperer helping Roger Federer alter the typical patterns of their points. For most of their rivalry, if Roger and Rafa settled into a typical rally, Rafa had an edge. That did not mean he won every point, but Rafa had the comfort of knowing if this keeps happening I will win more than I lose. Roger has shifted the math a bit to focus on shorter points won or lost by his own serve, groundstrokes, or approaches. That has given Roger more confidence in his approach to these matches.
Rafa Must Break Roger Down
If Nadal can extend some points, one of Roger’s ground strokes might go haywire and errors will pile up. Also, if Roger can’t be confident enough to play aggressive tennis, old patterns between the two should re-emerge. If Nadal can get Federer to second guess some of his shots, Rafa’s pounding baseline game with heavy power and spin should dictate play and push Roger backwards.
Split the Difference?
Since Wimbledon, Roger Federer has not looked quite as sharp was he did in the first 7 months of 2017. I don’t think Roger will be easy to push behind the baseline. I think Ljubicic’s words and Roger’s earlier positive results against Rafa will prevent Roger from reverting. I am just not sure that Federer is executing at the level he did in Melbourne, Indian Wells, and Miami. So my guess is Nadal wins with Federer sticking to his new plan.
My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer 7-5, 6-4