Closer Than Ever: Strokes of Genius Documentary Tells How Federer, Nadal Came to Be
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
"Federer is an artist who knows how to fight whereas Nadal is a fighter who knows how to be an artist as well" - Pierre Paganini, Roger Federer's training since 1996
'Strokes of Genius' - the documentary on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's 2008 Wimbledon men's singles final gives its audience an insight into not only that match and how the players were on the court that time but only what made Federer and Nadal the players and people they are. The documentary's collection of old footages, anecdotes and interviews weaves through the emotions of that final and brings the audience closer to the two greats of the game like they have never been before.
The match was a landmark in the tennis history. Nadal won his first Wimbledon title when Federer was going for a sixth straight title in London. At that time, Nadal was the King of Clay while Federer was the emperor of grass and the Mallorca man came to Federer's empire and took the crown. Nadal had been knocking on the door was the past two years but it was in 2008, when he finally achieved him dream of winning the prestigious title.
There is an old footage in the documentary where Nadal is asked which tournament he would like to win the most and as he names Wimbledon, the camera switches to the start of the second set of the final, and it speaks to the momentousness of the occasion for the Spaniard.
The documentary shows the contrast between the two - the artistry and the perfection of Federer's game to Nadal's tenacity and will to win - something that makes their great rivalry. Along with the difference, what makes the two similar is their love and passion for the game and their families. Nadal and Federer are close friends today and they are very similar - they both would be in trouble on court if things around their loved ones aren't great off the court.
'Strokes of Genius' shows why Nadal loves his hometown Mallorca - in his own words, "I get to see my family and friends every day". Even during the tournaments, Nadal stays with his family and spends time cooking and Federer himself says, "If my wife and children are unhappy, my game is going to wobble."
The documentary starts with the 2008 Wimbledon beginning at the All England Club in London and progresses through the tournament and particularly the final. Through the lens of the final and the ups and downs in it, the documentary shows the emotions Federer and Nadal go through on the court along with their families and closed ones, who are watching them play.
The editing of the documentary is stunning. Through the course of the final, it brings into the play various anecdotes, old footages and even old matches of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Chris Avert and Martina Navratilova to give relevance to what was going on in the match.
"Federer's game is very much a dialogue with tennis' past, you see some of Borg's smoothness around the court, you see the explosive serve of Sampras, you see a bit of Laver, he took elements of the old style and on top of that, he superimposed a very top spin powerful baseline game," it is said in the documentary about the Swiss great.
The documentary shows what made Federer - his parents. Back he was very young, he was a brat on court, he would get angry, throw racquets and kick the balls. "Sometimes we were really ashamed and we took him to the side of the court and said 'Roger, I'm going with you anymore and sit like a fool and watch you perform like this'," his father Robert Federer shared.
Federer says that after turning pro, he was not comfortable being a brat on the court anymore. He would think that millions of people were watching him on TV, what the commentary was saying about him and "I decided not to do it anymore."
Nadal had gone right out of the blocks in the match and took the first set 6-4. But Federer hit back with a 3-0 lead in the second set and there, Nadal fought back to first level it up and then take the second set with the same scoreline.
"Rafael began to train as a kid every day, every single day of his life, he played as if he was playing a final. I always thought making it to the top would be hard, and that we would have to face many kinds of problems. That's why I always tried to foster in Rafael a tough personality, to be able to withstand such difficulties," Toni Nadal said, mirroring the spirit that we see of Nadal on the court.
"Every ball I play, it is with the intention to harass the opponent. I believe doubts are good because they keep you alert at all times, regardless of your opponent," Nadal said.
Federer was the 'unbeatable' before Nadal came around and balanced the scales in the world of tennis. They both have accepted time and again that the two have made each other better players and the documentary shows just how they got where they are and how they have managed to stay at the top for so long.