Coaching Report: Flawless Swiss should maintain perfect numbers game but sequence could be disrupted by never-say-die Spaniard
Holy cow! The All England Club had better order a fresh consignment of their liveried towels for tomorrow's dream men's final. All that sweat. Probably tears. The nerves alone will produce enough heat to keep the London summer burning. And that's just the crowd I'm talking about!
If you'd asked at the start of the tournament who everyone from TV executives to fans around the world would love to see in a potential epic, you wouldn't have needed to be a rock genius to guess Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal.
And after Federer strolled masterfully past Jonas Bjorkman in his semi-final yesterday, and Nadal was awesome in beating Marcos Baghdatis (by hitting superbly, running, jumping, chasing like a demon and beating the beans out of the ball), that's exactly what we've got. Hallelujah!
Two incredible players, one a god of his turf, playing out of his skin looking for a fourth title, the other the best clay-courter in the world who has made the transition to grass this fortnight in blistering, determined fashion.
If there was one man in the world Roger probably didn't want to see on the other side of that net tomorrow, it was Nadal, who beat him at the French Open final. And he knows more than anyone that if he loses to Nadal then people might just start asking: "Is this guy really the best ever?"
It's some cocktail, and immensely hard to call. I'm inclined always to give the very slightest edge to Federer. I do now, too, but not easily and mainly because of his record at Wimbledon. For me, right now, that's the biggest thing that separates them, with Federer's edge on versatility in pace and spin, with dinks, slices or approaches also a factor.
Yet Nadal is the real deal too, and his performances have shown he's almost up there. It's a tough, tough match to call, and it's going to take singular talent to mix up play at an extraordinary level to win it.
Federer can't go in believing he has a chance primarily from the baseline, because in that instance I'd take Nadal to win. The Spaniard is one tough cookie, so enduring, never says die, never gives up a ball, let alone a match.
Baghdatis is a good player, a fighter too, but the way in which Nadal ultimately dominated him shows he is just too goddam good for most. Too good for Federer on grass? I don't know, I really don't. It could be one of the most incredible matches we've seen in years. Let's hope so. Federer is so good that even his match stats are pleasing on the eye.
There was a symmetry in his numbers against Bjorkman, winning 6-2, 6-0, 6-2, serving nine aces (three in each set) and hitting 30 winners (divided 11-8-11). His break point conversion percentages through the match were 100-60-100. Bjorkman's were 0-0-0. The Swede was not able to earn, let alone convert, a single break point in the entire match. Nadal is a different, altogether more ferocious opponent. Bring it on.
Bjorkman hits a return winner on the first point for 0-15, and then Federer hits a backhand wide for 0-30. It's not panic time, nowhere on earth near with the advantage he already has. But still, it's a blip to overcome. First, there's pressure on Bjorkman, who pushes a forehand into the net for 15-30. Then ace, ace, ace. Tight in the corner. Straight down the middle (130mph). Tight to the corner. What a prospect we have ahead of us tomorrow.
Breathing: doctor knows the score
Today is the last day I'll be answering questions you have sent me along with your e-mail applications to win a one-month scholarship at my Florida academy. The prize is for one student (under-18s only), and includes tuition and board. Closing date midday today, winner announced on Monday. Just tell me: how can I help you, and why? Today's question comes from Sean Carey in response to yesterday's analysis of Henin v Clijsters. Sean says Justine's closed lips "illustrate she must be a nasal rather than a mouth breather - do you take a view at your academy on nasal versus mouth breathing for whatever reason and, if so, do you communicate this to your students?". For this question I consulted our leading academy doctor. While coaches note good breathing and its effects, we let the medics handle the detail. Nasal breathing leads to better oxygen transfer and is beneficial. But generally breathing style is spontaneous, and it is not easily taught, and never by me.
Today's Big Match Amélie Mauresmo v Justine Henin-Hardenne
This is the first time since 1998, when Jana Novotna beat Nathalie Tauziat, that the women's final has been contested by two players with a single-handed backhand, and how they each deploy it could be interesting. We'll have a lot of slices, drop-shots, drives, overspins and variety because of it. Look out also for Amélie's kick serve being targeted at Justine's backhand, and Amélie then attacking the defensive return. Until the last few matches, I would have picked Henin-Hardenne to win a Wimbledon final match-up against Amélie but now I think it's much closer. The Australian Open final, which Amélie won after Justine retired, has no bearing. Nothing could make Amélie want to win this - the title of all titles - any more than she always did. Mauresmo is looking so comfortable, this should be close. Both have excellent movement, perhaps with Henin-Hardenne having a slight edge, both are comfortable at the net, have good groundstrokes. Mauresmo hits those heavy rollers better but Justine has a better drive. It's very close. Nerve, as always, has the potential to be a factor. It could go either way.
Why Gilbert will benefit Murray
The possibility of Brad Gilbert becoming Andy Murray's new coach is back on the agenda, apparently moving closer. Various reports say the deal isn't yet done, but certainly from Brad's side - and this is strictly my own view, because I haven't spoken to Brad for a couple of days - is that the job offers the kind of opportunity that doesn't come round too often and would tempt most. If and when it happens, I believe it will be a positive move, not just for the obvious reason that Brad has experience and a track record of getting the best from fiery talent, as with Andy Roddick. As important, he is very much involved in the tour today: he knows everyone, knows styles, knows what's required in the current game. He's been there, done it, and is in the loop in so many ways. Another Brit who I hope can be helped by us on this side of the pond is Naomi Cavaday, who I met this Wimbledon and really liked the look of as a player. The kid's got a good attitude, and I hope she'll be coming out to the academy to do some work and see what happens from there.
Read my views on the game, year round, at www.nickbollettieri.comReuse content