The Psychological Effect of Nadal
My friend Ben, who once wrote an article explaining why he disliked Federer, has a theory about the Swiss. He thinks he's a bully.
When, early in his career, he was easily the best player in the world, he happily trampled over all comers. But against those who have stood up to him--first Nadal, then, to a lesser extent, Djokovic and Murray--his record has been less impressive. Ben says Federer is happy to dole it out, but can't take it. He's a good winner but a poor loser.
Like all bullies, he's a coward who lacks true grit, true courage, who preens and flexes and gangs up on the weaklings and then runs off crying when the big boys show up. Ben says Federer is happy to dole it out, but can't take it. He's a good winner but a poor loser.
Ben additionally says that great champions "find a way," and that, against Nadal, Federer has failed to do this. And here, I'll admit, he has a point.
Over the years, what has perplexed me most when Federer plays Nadal is how rarely the Swiss has appeared capable of truly battling. Something about playing Nadal seems to reduce Federer, make him indecisive and tactically brittle.