After watching Roger Federer’s impressive start to the French Open final, I thought that it might finally be his moment. Could the greatest player of all time be on his way to defeating Rafael Nadal for the first time at Roland Garros?
With a 5-2 lead in the first set and appearing to be in complete control, Federer suddenly started to lose his rhythm. The unforced errors began to mount. Nadal won five straight games to take the first set.
I put this momentum swing down to a change in tactics from the Spaniard – instead of constantly flighting balls to the Federer backhand, he started to attack his forehand, forcing the Swiss great to hit his shots at full stretch.
Rather than allow Federer to continue dictating proceedings, the current world number one increased his intensity and fought back.
In the midst of his comeback, the issue of time wasting was, somewhat predictably, raised once again. Fox Sports commentator Wally Masur noted that Nadal had managed to slow the pace of the match down by taking plenty of time between points.
Federer, he said, likes to play a fast game, which was part of the reason for his success against Novak Djokovic in the semi-final. Whilst this has long been a criticism aimed at Nadal, the assertion that such a factor influenced his resurgence does not make complete sense.
Djokovic, like Nadal, is also criticised for the amount of time he takes to serve. With the first set of the semi-final delicately poised at 5-5, the Serb was given a warning for time wasting, before complaining to the chair umpire.
Federer appeared relatively unaffected by the controversy, winning the set and eventually the match. He did so in fine style, playing carefree, attacking tennis throughout. So, claims that Nadal’s tardiness directly impacted upon Federer’s game are irresponsible. It detracts focus from the achievement of the Spaniard and his refusal to accept defeat.
Having said that, whether or not you believe that time wasting had an impact on the final, it is clear that the issue needs to be dealt with more severely. Apart from the controversy that it causes, it is a constant frustration for tennis fans that want to see a fast and action-packed match.
A more strict enforcement of the twenty-second time limit, an actual rule within the game, would allow for a greater spectacle by discouraging players to add unnecessary delays.
It would also allow people to concentrate solely on the effort and skill of the players, rather than questioning the legality of their victories.