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Todd Martin's Final Preview: The Rule Of Threes

London, England

Nadal© Getty Images

MartinTwo-time Grand Slam finalist Todd Martin, who this week broke down each and every singles match at the year's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, identifies the three critical factors in Sunday's final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Eleven months have passed and the two best players in the world get to duel for the last title of 2010. What better way for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals to conclude? Scary to think that this will only be the second meeting for these two in 2010 and only the fourth in the past two years. It couldn't happen at a better time as the stage and surface lend themselves to creating another epic. 
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Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer

1. Lead The Charge:
In his semifinal against Djokovic, Federer played some spectacular and very aggressive tennis. After all these years he knows that his best chance to take Nadal out is to take the fight to him. A few ways for him to do this: serve and volley occasionally, especially wide in the deuce court to Nadal's backhand return; play his backhand down the line as a surprise attack; and look to finish points at the net as he has been doing more lately.

2. Attack The Second: Historically, Nadal's second serve has been able to find to the Federer backhand, which results in Nadal hitting sequences of cross court forehands that pin Federer to his backhand corner, point after point. Federer will need to take some risks returning the second serve: be aggressive with the backhand return AND run around to hit big forehand returns. The lower bouncing court will make all of this more feasible for Federer but the will to take the initiative when returning second serves will be the deciding factor on Nadal's service games.

3. Avoid The Metronome: Nadal on clay (and now on grass and outdoor hard) is so hard-charging that he always seems to be attacking. The surface in London is not helping his shots as much as the outdoor surfaces typically do. Nadal will have to avoid the speed limit like the plague. His options are either a leisurely Sunday drive or speed like he stole something. Too many shots at the same speed will allow Federer a good rhythm and freedom to take the educated risks that he has thrived on throughout his career.

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