Federer learned from French Open

Roger Federer used the grass to his advantage to win his fourth straight Wimbledon final. Luke Jensen explains how the Swiss learned from his loss at the French Open to beat Rafael Nadal for the first time this season.

Updated: July 10, 2006, 11:30 AM ET
By Luke Jensen | Special to ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- The one aspect of the Wimbledon final I was going to pay close attention to was how Roger Federer would handle Rafael Nadal's forehand. The forehand to Federer's backhand was going to be the key matchup.

Federer failed -- especially at the French Open -- to counter Nadal's heavy topspin forehand that he would hit to the Swiss' backhand in four previous meetings. Nadal hit everything to Federer's backhand at Roland Garros, so you knew that was coming in the final.

I wanted to see what tactics Federer was going to use on his best surface, grass, where the ball skids and stays low. He came out on fire, serving a lot into Nadal's body and forcing the Spaniard to get out of the way instead of allowing him to use his speed and run to the ball.

Federer avoided Nadal's backhand by going down the line early in rallies to Nadal's backhand -- either with topspin or a slice. That forced Nadal to hit backhands to Federer's forehand.

With the wind and choppy bounces, there was more going against Nadal; but in the meat of the match, between the second and third sets, he pretty much outplayed Roger. He was up 5-4 and serving for the second set. If he closes that out and wins the third, Nadal is the one up two sets to one. That was a turning point in the match when Roger broke his serve and won the second set in a tiebreak.

Going into this fortnight, I honestly thought Andre Agassi was going to beat Nadal. I couldn't believe someone who plays eight feet from the baseline and had so little experience on grass was going to be able to pick it up like Nadal did. He has a great ability to close in on the ball from where he stands and his serve was noticeably bigger at Wimbledon. He's only going to get better and that's bad news for the rest of the field.

Going forward to the U.S. Open, I would love to see a Federer-Nadal final. American Andy Roddick is off the pace. His compatriot James Blake is a top-10 player, but for him to win Slams, he is going to have to be as mentally tough as Federer and Nadal.

The rivalry you have in Federer and Nadal has the potential to rival that of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe in terms of their contrasting styles.

And it's only going to get better.

Former ATP Tour pro Luke Jensen is providing ESPN.com with analysis during Wimbledon. Jensen, a two-time All-American at USC, captured the 1993 French Open doubles crown with his brother Murphy.