Nadal won't be easy to take out on grass

Roger Federer will have to beat Rafael Nadal for the first time this season if he wants to win his fourth straight Wimbledon title.

Updated: July 11, 2006, 12:48 AM ET
By Matt Wilansky and Keith Hawkins | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- For the first time in the Open era, the French Open finalists will meet in the final at the All England Club in the same year. (You have to go back to 1952 -- the year Jaroslav Drobny and Frank Sedgman met in these respective slam finals -- to find the last time this double happened.)

Roger Federer had a field day in his semifinal match, dropping just four games to Jonas Bjorkman. His run to the final has come with little exertion -- somewhat surprising considering the difficulty of his draw. Through six matches, the world's No.1 player has failed to drop a set. He is the first player to accomplish this feat since Bjorn Borg and Ilie Nastase, both of whom did it in 1976. Borg then went on to win the final in straight sets -- the only player in the Open era to win the Wimbledon championship without conceding a single set.

Roger Federer
Daniel Berehulak/Getty ImagesIn 2006, Roger Federer is 55-0 against everyone not named Rafael Nadal.

"I took this tournament extremely serious from the beginning on," Federer said Saturday. "I had no choice with the draw and everything. So I'm very pleased that I came through so convincingly.

"You know, never really reached a finals of any Grand Slam as easy as this Wimbledon, so I hope I can finish it off in style."

At the 2005 French Open, Nadal defeated Federer in semifinals. That was the last time the Swiss failed to reach a Grand Slam final. His streak of five consecutive major finals is the longest in the Open era. The all-time record is held by Jack Crawford, who reached seven consecutive Grand Slam finals between 1933 and 1934.

But his struggles against Nadal have been well-documented. Nadal has defeated the Swiss four times this season, each time in a final.

Since 2004, Federer is 209-8 vs. everyone not named Nadal -- including 26-1 in finals. (His lone loss in a final came against David Nalbandian at the Masters Cup in 2005.) However, against the Spaniard, Federer is 1-6 overall.

As for Nadal, he reaches his first Wimbledon final after dropping No. 18 Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets. He is the first reigning French Open champion to reach the Wimbledon final since Andre Agassi in 1999.

Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal
career matchups
Tournament Surface Winner
2006 Wimbledon final Grass court Federer, 6-0, 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3
2006 French Open final Clay court Nadal 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4)
2006 Rome Masters final Clay court Nadal 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5)
2006 Masters Series-Monte Carlo final Clay court Nadal 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(5)
2006 Dubai Tennis Championships final Hard court Nadal 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
2005 French Open semifinal Clay court Nadal 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
2005 NASDAQ-100 final Hard court Federer 2-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-1
2004 Miami AMS third round Hard court Nadal 6-3, 6-3
Without question, the King of Clay is now a player who must be taken seriously on grass. After fighting back from two sets down against Robert Kendrick in the second round, Nadal has not lost a set. One can also look at the improvements in his service game; in the four matches since facing Kendrick in the second round, Nadal has not been broken. Marcos Baghdatis failed on nine opportunities to break him in the semis. Nadal is also willing to attack the net -- 38 times against the Cypriot and winning 31 of those points.

Nadal is bidding to become the first Spaniard to win the title here since Manolo Santana in 1966. If he wins, Nadal would become just fifth active player to have won at least one title on hard, clay and grass courts.

Last month, Nadal extend his record clay-court win streak to 60 matches with a win over Federer in the final at Roland Garros. Now Federer hopes it's his turn. He brings his Open-era record 47-match grass-court win streak into Sunday's final. And he knows -- despite their history -- that grass is where he has the best opportunity to beat his rival.

"I need to focus on me playing on grass, my style of play, playing aggressive," Federer said.

While there is no questioning Federer's superior grass-court tactics, a quicker Nadal has been able to take away his opponents ability to generate offense.

Said Andre Agassi after his second-round loss to Nadal, "Grass is a shot-making court. And if he's [Nadal] making guys feel like they can't hit winners out there on grass, that speaks to his presence out there."

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