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French Open men's final instant analysis

6/9/2008 - Tennis

Editor's Note: For the third consecutive year, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had a rendezvous in the French Open final. Nadal, the unyielding clay-court maven, had never lost a match at Roland Garros in his career. The Spaniard also entered the match with a markedly one-sided record versus his opponent on clay.

Though Federer's play has been patchy this year, dethroning Nadal would have launched him into rare company as one of just six players to secure the career Grand Slam.

If you missed a beat of this historic final, Ravi Ubha provided a blow-by-blow account of how it all went down.

Third Set
Multiple French Open champion Mats Wilander, commentating on the match for the Eurosport network, says, "You gotta get more emotion than this,'' referring to Federer and urging him to throw in a few "Come ons'' here and there.

No sign of it.

Federer looks listless and gets broken yet again after saving two break points. 1-0 Nadal.

Make that 2-0. Nadal draws more oohs and aahs from the French fans when he claims the game with a heavy forehand in the corner. Federer is facing his worst defeat in a heck of a long time.

Any sign of a Nadal letdown, as in the semis? No. He's hustling, as you would expect, just as he normally does. He almost pulls off a miraculous forehand pass when the ball is behind him. No matter. He paints the line on the next point.

Now 3-0. Federer broken again -- and now broken mentally. Another Nadal pass is low to the feet, leaving Federer without a chance.

It's hard to argue with what Federer was trying to do today. He's clearly more aggressive, but he simply hasn't executed. And for all the talk of Federer and what he needed to do to beat Nadal, don't forget that the Mallorcan has improved, too. The backhand is better, and he possesses a potent slice.

Nadal continues to coast on his serve and is up 4-0. Now's a good time to remind you that the shortest French Open men's final, in terms of games, came in 1977, when Guillermo Vilas lost a paltry three against Brian Gottfried.

It's now 5-0, and if we have a bagel, this is the second-most-lopsided French final. How will Federer reply at Wimbledon, where he once bageled Nadal?

It's over. Federer hits a forehand long. Nadal's celebrations are muted -- perhaps it was too easy -- and he simply raises his arms in the air. Forty-one, count 'em, games lost by Nadal during the two weeks.

He finishes with a remarkable 46 winners and seven unforced errors today -- Federer-like numbers at Wimbledon. The four-peat is done, and Nadal extends his record at the French to a stunning 28-0. This has gotta hurt Federer.

Rafael Nadal wins the match and championship 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.

Federer suffered his worst loss in a Grand Slam, and it was his most-lopsided defeat since a 6-2, 6-1 thrashing by David Nalbandian at the Monte Carlo Masters in 2002. Of course, that was only a best-of-three affair. He put up minimal resistance in the final set, winning 11 points.

He also became the second man to lose three French Open finals in the Open era. (Vilas is the other.) Not the kind of numbers we're used to when talking about Federer.

"To lose a final is never easy, but I'll try again next year," Federer said during his podium speech.

Nadal accepted his fourth French Open trophy from Borg and tried to console Federer by saying he was a great champion with a great attitude.

Nadal could be the greatest champion, though, in French Open history, and you can bet he'll be oozing with confidence as he tries to wrestle the Wimbledon crown away from Federer in two weeks.

Second Set
This is getting downright ugly for Federer, who's looking down -- that doesn't happen very often. Nadal holds at love, then breaks at 15 to take a 2-0 lead.

Federer's decision-making is becoming increasingly poor. At 15-all, he gets a chance to come in on his forehand wing. But he seems caught in two minds, whether to hit a drop shot or drive the forehand. In the end, it's a push right into Nadal's wheelhouse, and a backhand cross-court pass is the result. A forehand sails wide for the break.

Federer needs the third game, and he gets it, though it should be said Nadal let him off the hook. At 15-30, the lefty works Federer, who's doing sprints, along the baseline, but chooses not to go for the killer blow. A majestic looping backhand angled cross-court gets the job done. A rare Nadal forehand into the net then gives Federer a bit of hope.

Could the tide be turning, as they say? Another Nadal break might have shattered Federer, but instead he replies impressively facing a break point. Federer lures Nadal in with a wicked backhand slice. Nadal digs it up and elects to go cross-court, and Federer unleashes a backhand pass down the line. At game point, he brings Nadal in with a great drop shot, getting his reward when Nadal pops up the reply for an easy put away.

Fans are now chanting Federer's name. 2-2.

A big game now for Nadal, and he gets fortunate in what could be a crucial moment. At 15-30, Federer crunches a forehand and comes in. Nadal curls a forehand pass, Federer is in position, and his drop volley hits the top of the net. Back on serve.

The quality of play has gone up considerably, at least in Federer's case. He attacks the Nadal backhand and rushes the net twice in the sixth game, both times with success, coming up with finesse drop volleys. And both times the speedy Nadal can't get a racket to it. 3-3.

It's the first time Federer hasn't faced a break point.

It's a set and a half in, by the way, and Nadal hasn't played a single drop shot.

Well, not anymore, and at what a moment. Staring at break point with the crowd chanting, "Roger, Roger,'' Nadal again dictates the rally. He's hesitant to go for his favorite shot, the forehand down the line, eventually throwing in the drop. Federer gets there, then tries to send a backhand cross-court. Instead it goes into the net.

Nadal holds for 4-3. He knows it's important and lets out a scream.

Sure enough, Nadal breaks on his fourth chance of the ensuing game to lead 5-3. Federer loses back-to-back serve-and-volley points from 15-30 but saves three break points. On the first two, Nadal sends a weak second-serve return back that Federer punishes with a forehand.

On the fourth, Federer comes in on a forehand that wasn't put away. Nadal digs up a backhand pass for 5-3.

The confidence is back for Nadal. Toying with Federer at 15-0, he again gets him moving and seals the point with a forehand that leaves the crowd gasping for 30-0.

Nadal brushes aside a time-violation warning at 30-15 and wins the next point -- again, we saw that against Djokovic -- and takes a two-set advantage when a Federer backhand goes long. 6-3.

The second-serve stats? According to the official tournament Web site, Nadal was even better, clubbing 19 winners coupled with two unforced errors. Federer was better, too, with numbers of 15 and 12, respectively. However, Federer only won 52 percent of points on his first serve.

Just a reminder that Nadal hasn't even gone to a fifth set at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal wins the second set and leads Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3.

First Set
And we're off. Federer wins the toss and, as usual, decides to serve first.

He sends a first serve down the middle and claims the point when a Nadal backhand later sails long. Two forehand errors follow from Federer, though one comes as he tries to rush the net -- a good sign.

Nadal, as he did against Djokovic, manufactures a break point in the opening game that is saved when Federer approaches the net and forces an errant backhand.

He isn't so fortunate on a second break point, as a cross-court forehand sails long. The crowd is enthralled -- a hush surrounds the stadium.

The second game is more worrying for Federer fans. At 30-40, he pins Nadal into the backhand corner with a ferocious forehand. Instead of moving forward, he hesitates, then steps back. The inevitable reply follows, and Federer slices a backhand long. A second break point goes amiss when a Nadal serve out wide -- a weapon against Djokovic -- prompts Federer to send a backhand astray. Nadal holds for 2-0.

We see the first serve-and-volley from Federer in the third game. Unfortunately for him, after a first volley, Nadal rifles a backhand that catches the outside of the line. Facing an open court, Federer sends a routine forehand into the net. Two break points down at 15-40, Federer sends down his first ace, delivers another good serve and another ace to eventually escape. He's on the board.

To no one's surprise, the crowd -- now more vocal -- appears to be on the Swiss's side.

A love game for Nadal, who's clearly staying away from the Federer forehand on serves. 3-1, and the pressure is back on Federer.

Uh oh. The set is getting out of hand. Another break for Nadal -- at love -- and it's 4-1. It's still early, but Federer, it appears, is now hesitant to come in. In the first point, he gets a short forehand, then elects to stay back. Out of position, a cross-court Nadal backhand leaves Federer with little chance. He does decide to make an onrush at 0-40 and is punished by two backhands. The first forces a pop-up volley that Nadal comfortably puts away.

Federer probably needs a little luck to beat Nadal on clay, and it doesn't happen. He misses just wide on a forehand, a let court sends another shot wide, and yet another let court allows Nadal to club a forehand. 5-1.

The set's done. Federer is aggressive and comes in on the first point of the seventh game, only to get punished by a stunning backhand lob. Perhaps a bit of desperation follows at 15-30 -- a drop shot sails meekly into the net. A volley long on a serve-and-volley clinches the opener.

The good news for Federer? It lasted only 32 minutes.

The bad news: Nadal's confident. Hitting 15 winners and three unforced errors will help. Federer hits 12 unforced errors.

Rafael Nadal wins the first set, 6-1.

Prematch
Roger Federer was talking tough, sort of, after his unconvincing semifinal win over French showman Gael Monfils on Friday, saying he felt he had the right tactics, game and fitness to finally upend Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros and become just the sixth man to claim all four majors.

"I believe very strongly that this is my year,'' uttered Federer, a four-set loser to Nadal in the previous two finals.

Was he trying to convince himself?

Nadal, meanwhile, wasn't giving anything away when he addressed the media Saturday. The tenacious Spaniard, 8-1 against Federer on dirt, is chasing history, too, seeking to join iconic Swede Bjorn Borg as the only man to win four straight French Open titles. The still dapper Borg, who will watch in the stands, and Nadal are the only men to win three in a row, in fact.

Those tactics Federer talked about seem to involve playing more aggressively and finishing off points quickly, whether at the net or not. Against Monfils, the silky Swiss made more than 60 net approaches and took almost 80 percent of the points. He'll have to serve well, as he did against Monfils. Federer needs no reminding that Monfils is no Nadal, however.

Nadal has yet to drop a set -- Borg was the last man to win all his matches in straight sets at the French, in 1980 -- and appeared almost invincible in his demolition job against the confident Novak Djokovic in the semis. Nadal simply didn't allow Djokovic to play aggressively for two and a half sets and crushed the Serb in a third-set tiebreak when a match finally broke out.

Let's hope this one can match last year's Wimbledon final.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.