Where it went wrong for Roger Federer
PARIS -- In a sometimes frantic final that stretched to 44 games, the first game of the fourth set may well have been the deal breaker for Roger Federer.
With Federer ebbing and flowing -- good and bad -- for games at a time, he had just found his best rhythm of the match. Rafael Nadal, up two sets and 4-2, had fallen off the torrid pace he had been keeping, and Federer rallied to win five of six games, breaking Nadal twice.
Don't miss a moment of the latest tennis coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
"You're not thinking of winning the match, but you're thinking of coming back and turning around the match," Federer said. "All of a sudden, at 0-0 in the fourth set you think, 'OK we have a match again.'"
If you've watched Nadal's matches, you know he often loses the first point of his service games; it's almost as if he's trying to dig a hole for himself as a way of extracting total concentration. With the match very much in play, though, Nadal contrived to lose the first three points. A sweet stab volley by Federer and a tentative forehand into the net left Rafa staring at love-40.
A break by Federer here? Considering the emotion he was feeling and the momentum Federer was building, it might have changed the match.
"He has to go a long way to beat you again, and momentum is on my side," Federer said. "All of a sudden, we know what can happen in tennis. All of a sudden it almost looked like he was going to miss the beginning of the fourth set and I could maybe run away with that."
But Rafa, glaring all the time, won the next two points and the third, too, with a smoking 120-mph serve down the middle. Three break points saved -- Nadal saved 10-of -5 for the match. A big serve led to game point.
Nadal sent a huge forehand to Federer's increasingly unreliable backhand, which led to a frustrated and futile mishit.
"[If there was a] fifth set," Federer said, wistfully. "I would have felt very, very strong like I did back in Miami when I beat him from being down two sets to love. So I knew I had it in me. It was unfortunate I couldn't make it more competitive in the fourth set."
Five straight points. A gritty hold. And Nadal went on to win five of the next six games.
That's why he's a six-time champion at Roland Garros and the reason he'll likely add to that total.
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
MORE TENNIS HEADLINES
- Nadal (wrist) pulls out of two Open tuneups
- Lisicki sets WTA record with 131 mph serve
- Baghdatis gets Open spot after Haas bows out
- Serena feeling fine after virus at Wimbledon
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
French Open 2011
Serena and Venus Williams
Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic
Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic
Courtcast: Scores & chat
Slam Central »
Follow us on Twitter »