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A Nadal verses Federer Grand Slam match never disappoints
The phrase face-off has a completely different meaning when Roger Federer takes on Rafael Nadal in any of the Grand Slams. The semi-final of the Australian Open 2012 had everything - powerful tennis, mental gymnastics, and edge-of-the-seat entertainment.

WHEN THE master Swiss tennis craftsman Federer lost to the Spaniard Nadal, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4, one felt elated for Rafa, and at same time saddened for the loss that Federer had to face at the hands of the one man who has stood like a rock while facing Federer and his exquisite brand of tennis.

Though Federer got off to a flying start and easily won the first set, he knew what was in store for him. Nadal is a master of the five-setter, the way the former German tennis player Boris Becker was – Becker was at his most destructive when he was marshalling a come-from-behind victory. The 6 feet 4 inches tall Becker was built like a highway truck and could play five sets and more when he wanted to. Rafa, three inches shorter than Becker, makes up in terms of sheer grit, and has said that he prefers the five-set format as it helps him plan his onslaught. Nadal’s relatively less spectacular record in indoor tournaments, in which generally three sets are played, speaks for itself.

So Rafa didn’t break into a sweat when he strode to his chair after losing the first set – he was in familiar territory – unlike Federer who had swatted his opponents away while reaching the semi-finals, not losing a single set, let alone being challenged to come from behind in a match.

The contest actually started from the second set as Rafa came roaring back – grinding Federer into making unforced errors. From that point on, while the Swiss was his usual clinical self, Rafa’s unrelenting play from the baseline brought doubt into Federer’s strokes when he tried to corner Nadal. What does a player do and how does he react when he his natural game is to attack very ball, yet his subconscious mind tells him that it’s Rafa and he will not give up – ever. The best of minds can develop cracks under such high quality of tennis.

Federer may have committed an uncharacteristic 63 unforced errors, as reported by The Guardian, but almost all the games in the match were fought with a fight to finish attitude, and it is due to this quality in their encounters that one is never short changed when both play in a Grand Slam – their unrelenting brand of tennis.

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