"He makes you feel uncomfortable, the way he defends the court and plays on clay. There is nobody who even plays remotely close to him," Roger Federer had given praise to Rafael Nadal on their semifinal match at Roland Garros.
The Spaniard and the Swiss were battling it out for the 39th time, but 24th on clay. There was a double fight they had on Court Philippe Chartrier court and it was each other and the blustering winds. "I think the first set was mostly about getting used to conditions, you know.
It was incredibly windy...that was basically the story of the first set..." Federer had explained at Roland Garros press conference. "You get to a point that you're just happy to make shots and not look ridiculous, it's that bad."
The second set Nadal was starting to show his invincibility, his sharpness for returns on the court and shot and strategy selections. "I had many chances today, but they were not big enough to win..." Federer sadly says to the media.
The physical stamina and mental toughness of Nadal came knocking on Federer's racket. The Spaniard had the answers to most of the rallies and strategies. He was intimidating and the Swiss could feel that this was going to be a one-sided battle when he went down the first set.
Federer had said it went through his mind who could he find to practice within being some connection to Rafa's style and fitness. But it was hardly anyone of the caliber. The most that can be done in the match from Federer's end was making a winning return or strategy that would give him points.
It was difficult and a never-ending battle when Rafa is playing 100% in his zone. "I think I played well...I surprised myself at how deep I got in this tournament and how well I was actually able to play throughout...and next year like any other tournament, we'll see what happens..."
Federer was explaining on what the future may hold. The third set Nadal was systematic, controlled and focused; knocking out shots and doing it comfortably. "I went on court with the determination to play my tennis and I can't make a lot of changes...my goal always is just to do what I do...well.
If I am able to make that happen...and normally I have my chances and have confidence about my game plan...then I have to play of the highest level," Nadal had said of his strategies and mindset in playing. He had proven in the semifinal that he was at the top of his focused game as he defeated and dismantled Federer in three straight sets.
The Swiss might have thought about other opponents on the ATP tour and how he could be of a competitive manner with them. But today, all he could do is return shots and admire the Spaniard who still remains "The King of Clay."