Federer and Nadal have been providing a Tennis clinic for their opponents in this year's Wimbledon. According to ESPN, Federer lost a mere five games in his annihilation of Matteo Berrettini while BBC Reports, Nadal gave away only six games to his Portuguese opponent, João Sousa on Monday. Based on their current form and how easy they have been gliding through their respective draws, they will most probably face off in the semifinals. In this article, I would like to delve deeper into what has really happened in their rivalry and how Federer has been able to turn it around so amazingly the way he has. Basically, I would like to stress what has been the most important elements for him and if they would be as useful on the grass.

The players’ points of views

From Nadal's standpoint, the strategy to employ is really a no-brainer. Using the lefty forehand to bounce the balls over the one-handed backhand of Federer and working out angles to keep him off balance. Avoiding the forehand at all costs and tiring out the one-hander, waiting for the short balls to finish off the points.

In the past few years, as a compensation for his body's wear and tear, he has become much more aggressive on a tennis court and even takes the ball on the rise just as good as Federer in many occasions. Although the popular idea believes so, it's not only his retrieving skills that have led to that many victories against Federer but more so his great understanding of the court geometry and spins and angles. Yes, he is an excellent defender, but there are many good defenders on the tour that have never won a single set against Federer.

Defending comes handy for him for sure, but it is not the whole story.

Federer, however, has a lot more to think about compared to his nemesis every time he approaches this match-up. His game is not well suited against Nadal's style and therefore, he is the one that needs to adjust his plan and try to find a way to get through the Spaniard. The main improvement he has made is changing his backhand to a flatter and more offensive shot. He is not using it just as a means of keeping the rally going as it was in his earlier days.

He needs the offensive backhand to break down the well-known pattern of cross-court forehands to his backhand corner and get Nadal on the move. Along with that, he has worked extremely well on his timing and is taking the ball on the rise inside the baseline. These two factors have proven to be the main difference in the last few matches they have played and the reason he has been able to beat Nadal five times in a row for the first time. Federer has shown in the past two years that he has finally solved the Rafael Nadal riddle on the hard courts. But is he going to be able to employ the same tactics on other surfaces is the question which remains to be answered.

The surfaces and weather conditions

On clay, the bounces are more erratic and are higher on average compared to the fast-paced hard courts and this will always cause a problem for anyone who is going to take the ball on the rise and play offensive styles of tennis as they will be prone to more errors. Moreover, as the pace of the court gets lower, the returners will have more time and would stand as far back as they can that aggressive game style would not be as fruitful. All of these factors helped Nadal to break Federer’s winning streak in French Open this year.

All in all, although Federer has improved a lot, Nadal remains the slight favorite on clay simply because clay does not reward forceful play as much as other surfaces.

On grass, the attacking style is much more rewarding and by using a combination of power and variation you can take time away from your opponents. Yet, the bounces will not be as clean as they are on the hard courts and this can serve as a hindrance for the game plan which seems to be working so well on hard courts. In spite of this, from what we have seen recently, Federer would still have the edge if they face off on the grass courts of Wimbledon.

Also worth mentioning is the effect of the natural elements. The warmer conditions can help Nadal get the balls higher off the court, especially on clay, and give him a slight edge; while more humid damp weather would benefit Federer as he will have a better contact point on his shots. Windy conditions will affect them both in a similar manner and won't have a real effect on the outcome. Finally, if their match is played indoors, it would extremely favor Federer as he is the one trying to play clean aggressive tennis and will not need to battle the elements anymore. This is where he has had his best winning ratio against Nadal.

We should all have our fingers crossed to see them win their respective quarterfinals and witness their rivalry introduce a new chapter.

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