Basel Draw

Djokovic(1) – Malisse
Youzhny – QF
Troicki(8) – Baghdatis
Berdych(4) – Nishikori
Seppi – Muller
Melzer – Young
Fish(5) – QF

Roddick(7) – Haas
Giraldo – Stepanek
Bellucci – Nieminen
Federer(3) – Starace
Tipsarevic(6) – F. Mayer
Llodra – Ljubicic
Dodig – Wawrinka
Murray(2) – Haase

The big news is that Murray is playing Basel instead of Valencia which he had on his schedule. I have no idea why he chose to change his schedule. Maybe he felt after his recent success that he was tired of beating Nadal and that he wanted to test his form against the big boys Djokovic and Roger. He is now number three in the rankings and I guess he felt that makes him the favorite to make the final. I’m sure he was hoping Roger would not be in his half of the draw, but that is the way it worked out. So if he wants to take the title home he has to probably get through Roger and Djokovic. I’m not so sure it was the best decision. If he played Valencia he would have had a better chance to secure 500 points and beat Nadal for a second straight time. Roger is a tough nut to crack in his home event and Djokovic may be an even tougher opponent.

But of course this makes it harder for Roger too. He will be coming back from a long break and will have to face a very in form player in the semis. I don’t like the fact that Murray is playing Basel. He seems to make annoying decisions. But on the positive side, this will be a good chance for Roger on home soil to show that losing the number three ranking to Murray was meaningless. I don’t think this is the smartest decision by Murray to be honest. He took the number three ranking fair and square but now it’s as if he wants to rub it in Roger’s face by beating him in his home town. This plan may just backfire, in which case he will end up looking bad and not worthy of being number three. It could break all the momentum he has gained during the Asian swing, going into Paris and the all important Masters Cup.

If I was him I’d stick to my schedule and just go with the flow. No need to try and emphasize his point. I really hope Roger beats him in the semis now. Roger’s draw looks pretty good until the semis. Starace should be a nice first match after his long break to get him back into the swing of things. Then it’s Belucci or Niemenin. I think it will probably be Niemenin who just made the final of Stockholm. That should be another nice match for Roger to sharpen himself. Then it looks like Roger could face his old pigeon Roddick. So it looks like a pretty easy road until the semis and three matches should be enough to get him ready for Murray. We know Murray is on a very good run, but Roger just loves the Basel courts and it very much favors his game. So I like his chances should he come up against Murray.

If he wins he will most likely face Djokovic whose draw is by far the easiest of the top three seeds. His toughest opponent before the final will be Fish or Berdych, and I don’t see any of those beating him. It will be interesting to see how he is playing after a long lay off and some injuries anyway. So we could have a repeat of the last two year’s final. Two year’s ago Roger lost to Djokovic, but last year he was on that amazing streak as he turned that result around. I hope Roger can produce something similar as last year during the indoor season. I’m sure he is looking to make the best of these last three indoor events and at least pick up one more title for the year. I think indoors is his best surface at this point of his career. The ball doesn’t bounce too high for his backhand and the conditions is such that he can play his attacking game very effectively.

I’m sure you are itching to see Roger back in action. Lets just enjoy seeing him back on the courts and not worry too much about results. These days those are just  bonus!

Roger Federer

Your Expectations for Federer in 2012

The year of 2011 is not over yet but Roger only has Basel, Paris, and the Masters Cup left. I expect him to do well in these events. Roger played very well at the US Open and the indoor season has always been good to him, especially Basel(4 titles + 3 finals) and the Masters Cup(5 titles + 1 final). I think Djokovic will play Basel even though he withdrew from Beijing and Shanghai. So I think we can look at least at another final for Roger in his home event. In Paris Roger have never been past the semis which is a bit strange. This year he is taking a long enough break and I think he could do well there, as in make the final or better. At the Masters Cup he will be looking to defend his title which he won in epic fashion last year. Hopefully he can end the year on another high by winning a record sixth Masters Cup.

Roger has a lot of points to defend in the events that he has left and he is not playing Shanghai or Stockholm this year, which means he will lose the points he gained in those events last year. This means Murray has already passes him in the rankings and will probably end the year ranked ahead of Roger. Roger could end the year ranked number four, which is not where we are used to see him. I don’t think he would mind that much however. As far as his slam draws goes it will make no difference. The draws will probably stay fixed in which case he will keep facing Djokovic in the semis. He didn’t need to go to the east just to stay ahead of Murray in the rankings, when that could have cost him injury. And besides, we all know Roger is still better than Murray.  But let me get back to the topic of this post, which is your expectations for Roger in 2012.

Roger had another consistent year in the slams this year, although he went without a slam title for the first time in nine years. He has also won only one title so far this year in Doha. I think he can win at least one more title this year, but the last time he won only one title was in 2001. So we are looking at a slamless year for the first time since 2002, a year end ranking outside of the top two for the first time since 2003, and possibly the lowest title count since 2001. It does look like Roger’s decline is becoming more rapid at age 30. But really it is nothing to be sad about. Roger has had arguably the peRFect career and I think he wants to keep playing for as long as possible. There is still big things left for Roger to achieve in the game. The order of big events to win in tennis in descending order are as follows: Grand Slam > Masters Cup > Olympic Gold > Masters Series > Davis Cup > 500 > 250.

Actually it is hard to know where to put Davis Cup since it is a team event, but I put it in between a Masters Series and ATP 500 event. I still believe Roger has a shot at the highest level. It will be tough from here on, but if he has a tournament like he did at the French Open or US Open this year, he could win another slam. The trouble is getting by Djokovic or Nadal. Roger matches up well against Djokovic and on a good day can still beat him. Nadal is a more difficult proposition because of the match up issue. But if he meets Nadal in a slam semi there will be less pressure and then maybe he could get a win. Maybe if Murray overtakes Roger in the rankings now he will finally be in Nadal’s half of the draw. It would make it look even more like a fix job if Roger still ends up in Djokovic’s half of the draw, so maybe the ATP will finally be too embarrassed to let it happen again.

Next in line is the Masters Cup. Roger have already won five of those and one more would put him alone on six titles. That would be another vey nice record to hold for Roger at this prestigious event. He could do it this year already. Indoors may be his best surface at present and he will probably have his best chance there to beat Nadal and Djokovic. Third on the list is the Olympic gold in singles. This is another title that Roger would love to add to his illustrious resume. In 2012 the Olympic singles event is being played at Wimbledon, which makes it really special for Roger. For me personally the Olympic gold is not that big a deal, especially since Roger already has an Olympic gold in doubles. A gold remains a gold in Olympics, and the title doesn’t have much historical significance. But it certainly won’t hurt the resume. Then we have Masters Series events.

Roger have won 17 of these, second only to Nadal who is on 19 and collects most of these things on clay. I don’t think Roger will catch Nadal, but that doesn’t matter. If there were one or two Masters Series events on grass I’m sure Roger would have held the record. Having said that, it remains a big event and Roger could still pick up a few before the end of his career. As far as Davis Cup goes we know Roger have never been extremely motivated for Davis Cup. It is a fresh change from the individual competition though and does carry some importance. It would be nice if Roger could help his country to win a Davis Cup, but it will be tough with teams like Spain and Serbia around. As far as 500 and 250 events go Roger can still win some of those too. Every title adds to the total after all, and it will help to keep his ranking up.

So as far as the big titles go I would say that is the slams, the Masters Cup, and the Olympic gold, and Roger still has chances to win all of these. These will be the titles that will really drive him in the years to come. He really has achieved it all, but winning another slam could be a nice way to go out, and it would make his record just a little harder to chase down. The question is whether he will retire like Sampras on a high after he won his last slam, or will that give him the incentive to keep playing? Remember Sampras actually struggled a lot for 2-3 years before he won his last major. Roger is not struggling that much yet. He is still making deep runs in the slams. And Roger has a better mentality than Sampras. He plays for the love of the game which means poor results will not necessarily affect him that much.

So I can see him playing for a few years still. But let me take a quick look at the slams next year. Where will Roger have his best chances to pick up a 17th slam? And you better believe that he can still do it. If Sampras went through a two year slam drought then Roger can certainly do it too. Next year at the Australian Open Roger will be two years without a slam, and he may just pick up number 17 there. It is however hard to say which surfaces favor Roger these days. On one side he is slower than he was in his prime, which means slower surfaces gives him more time to get to the ball. But at the same time his serve and volleys are probably the only improved part of his game these days, which are favored by the faster surfaces. Last year at the Oz Open the slower hard court clearly did not help his case against Djokovic.

He could not get enough free points with his serve and forehand. Djokovic strangled him from the back of the court, proving just too solid for him. But to prove how difficult it is to predict which surfaces favor him more, he beat Djokovic at the French Open on an even slower surface. I think Roger still has his chances in Melbourne, if he can avoid Djokovic. The Oz Open is probably Djokovic’s favorite slam now. I think it will be hard to avoid Djokovic so I don’t think the Oz Open is his best shot at a slam next year. As far as the French Open goes, it is where Nadal is still at his most dangerous. Even if he is struggling he is still a huge favorite there. And there is no possibility of Djokovic taking him out before the final. I don’t think Roger is beating Nadal in Paris and it will be hard for him to repeat this year’s performance against Djokovic.

I think next year we will probably see a Nadal/Djokovic final in Paris. So again I don’t  see the French Open as Roger’s best chance at a slam. I still believe R0ger’s best chances for a slam title will come at the faster surfaces of Wimbledon and the US Open. This year Roger should not have lost to Tsonga at Wimbledon. I think he let himself down in that match after leading by two sets to love. I think Roger can beat Djokovic on grass on a good day, but the problem remains that he could face Nadal in the final then. Therefor I hope he is in Nadal’s half of the draw. I just think Roger is very much at home on grass and he is due for a good performance there. At the US Open, as we have seen this year, Roger remains a big threat. Djokovic will remain a tough nut to crack, but Roger has better chances to beat him in New York than in Melbourne I feel.

Let me know what you expect of Roger in 2012.

Which is Roger's best chance for a big title in 2012?

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Roger Federer

Murray Hype Gains Momentum for Another Epic Choke at the Australian Open

First of all, let me just say that this title has nothing whatsoever to do with sour grapes since Murray overtook Roger in the rankings today. It’s the first time in a very long time that Roger is outside the top three, but at the same time it matters very little. We know that Roger has been declining for a while now, and he won’t remain at the top of the rankings forever. That doesn’t mean he can’t go up the rankings again, but eventually he will slide down the rankings. The point is it makes no difference if you are three or four in the rankings because you will still either get number one or two in the semis of slams. It may even work out good for Roger so that he will get to play Nadal in the semis of slams for a change. That way there will be less pressure against Nadal than facing him in the final, and for once we can see different match ups in the slam semis.

A Djokovic/Murray and Fedal semis would be like a breathe of fresh air after the ATP have insisted it be the other way around for ages now. Then you also have the possibility of a Roger/Djokovic final which have been a much more competitive match up than the Djokovic/Nadal one. But I am not holding my breath. The ATP seems intent on having Roger and Nadal on different sides of the draw. Rather than getting to number three in the rankings, I would congratulate Murray in winning three tournaments in a row on the Asian swing. He has already been to number two in the rankings, but I don’t think he has won three events in a row. However, Murray has won many tournaments below slam and Masters Cup level, and of the top three he only beat Nadal once in those three events. Moreover, Murray always does well in the Asian swing.

Why? Because the top three is usually spent at the end of the year after taking the spoils from Murray in the slams. Roger and Djokovic was not even playing the Asian swing, while Nadal was not exactly on fire. Today Murray beat Ferrer 7-5, 6-4 in the final of Shanghai to claim his eighth Masters Series title. Shanghai had one of the weakest Masters Series fields I’ve seen in a while, especially when Nadal lost early on. Murray did beat Nadal in Tokyo, but Mayer beat Nadal even easier in Shanghai. So Nadal was clearly struggling. But at least I have to remain consistent in my posts. Just forget about the title of this post for a second. If it is possible that Nadal is starting to decline, then I suppose it must be possible that Murray’s level is improving. Murray is currently 24 and still has won no slams. He turns 25 next year and it is time for him to start making his move if he ever wants to win a slam.

But remember I did not just write Nadal off. Lets say for instance he has a similar year next year as he had this year, then he will destroy Murray in the slams again. For Murray to beat him in slams, Nadal’s level will have to drop. And of course that is not impossible. Murray could beat Nadal in slams next year if his level is in fact improving and Nadal’s level is declining. Personally I would be just fine with that. Murray has after all beaten Nadal in slams before. But even if that does happen, Murray still has Djokovic standing squarely in his way to win his first slam. And then of course Roger, who he has never beaten in a slam. But the main thing I want to get to in this post is that we have seen how Murray chokes in the past. We have seen him being hyped up to win a slam and then folding under the pressure.

He was the favorite of the bookies before the 2009 Australian Open, and he folded against Verdasco in the fourth round. At the US Open of 2009 he was once again one of the big favorites, but was unceremoniously dumped out of in the fourth round by Cilic. Those people who did not learn their lesson called him the favorite for the US Open again in 2010, and this time he was disposed of by Wawrinka in the third round. Murray did at least make three slam finals so far, but on each occasion he lost in straight sets. His best performance was in the 2010 Oz Open final where he lost in a close three setter to Roger. In the other two finals he got slaughtered. Memo to the ‘experts’ who called Murray the favorite for a slam in the past: No player who has never won a slam before is the favorite to win any slam.

A player can show all the signs of being able to win a slam, but when the moment of truth arrives they could choke. Like Murray has. Murray completely folded in the US Open 2008 and Oz Open 2011 finals. He never showed up. At the 2010 Oz Open final Roger was in JesusFed mode, but Murray could have at least won the third set where he had chances. It’s not a good sign for Murray that he actually did worse in this year’s Oz Open final than he did in his previous slam final. There doesn’t seem to be any progress in the big moments for him. Now we have once again a situation where he seems to be doing good things in tennis. He just won three tournaments in a row and is on a nice winning streak. Even though Roger and Djokovic was absent, and Nadal was not exactly at his best, it still took some doing.

However, I simply cannot be convinced that this all of s sudden means that Murray will win a slam next year, just as I cannot be convinced that Nadal will not win any slams next year. Both scenario’s are possible, but both are pretty unlikely as well. You just don’t write off a proven champion like Nadal, just as you just don’t hype up a proven failure at slam level like Murray. It is bad enough to call a player a favorite to win a slam that has never won a slam before, but to call someone a favorite who has choked time and time again at slam level is criminal. That is not to say that Murray can not win a slam. In fact, with some luck I believe he can win a slam. But for me it is not in his hands. He will need something to go his way. He would need Nadal to keep declining and Roger would need to lose early on.

And Djokovic would have to be upset as well, which is the most unlikely. And then there are others like Del Potro and Tsonga who can easily upset Murray. There are also youngsters like Tomic and Dolgopolov who is coming up fast. It certainly doesn’t get any easier for Murray as the years go by. The people who are once again hyping Murray up to win a slam next year are forgetting that the pressure is increasing on Murray to win a slam, not decreasing. Next year is the year that many now feel Murray will break through. This puts even more pressure on him. He knows if he does not break through then there will be even more pressure. Each year he fails to deliver the pressure of becoming just another failed potential slam winner becomes more and more. And the pressure on Murray is even more severe since he is British and everyone is expecting him to end the British slam drought.

Taking everything into account, the possibility that Murray will win a slam next year is smaller than him not winning one. Murray is now on a good run and it will be interesting to see what he will do for the rest of the year when Roger and Djokovic is back. Murray next plays Valencia, where he could get another win, but then it is Paris and the Masters Cup where he will come up against the big guns. He may even get another friendly draw in Paris, but at the Masters Cup there is no avoiding the big players. That will be his first big test before the Oz Open next year. If Murray can win the Masters Cup it could give him the confidence to win a slam. It is next in line in level of prestige after the slams. At least winning the Masters Cup would put him on par with guys like Nabandian and Davydenko.

It’s going to be hard though. If Roger can recapture his form of last year he will be unstoppable in his quest for a record sixth Masters Cup title. Djokovic will also be fresh after his rest and will desperately want to win the Masters Cup so that he can improve on Roger’s 2006 season. Djokovic has won 3 slams, won a record 5 Masters Series titles, and lost only 4 times so far this year. If he wins the Masters Cup he will be very close to beating Roger’s amazing 2006 season. It depends how Djokovic does in Basel and Paris as well, but you feel he does need to win the Masters Cup to at least be on par with Roger. I think Roger is very hungry and will do whatever he can to stop Djokovic in Basel and London. Probably you will see Murray struggling once again to win the Masters Cup, which will prove he can’t talk along with the big boys.

Let me just talk about the ‘big three’ for a second as well. As far as I’m concerned there never was a ‘big four’. There was the ‘big three’, Murray, and then the rest. The simple fact that Murray is now number three in the rankings doesn’t mean a single thing. How could it when he was already number two in the rankings? Murray needs to win at least one slam to be mentioned in the same breath as the big three. Rankings actually mean very little. Murray has won five titles this year now, while Roger has won only one. However Roger has still remained in contact with the top two in the slams, while Murray got repeatedly owned by them in the slams. If Roger wins Basel and the Masters Cup his year is still better than Murray’s. It’s not so much about how much you win, but what you win and who you beat.

Roger was the only one who legitimately beat Djokovic so far this year, and it was in a slam. He should have beaten him at the US Open again was it not for a freakish return from Djokovic when match point down. And then he lost closely to Nadal in the French Open final. Of the top two, Murray only beat Nadal once and it was in the final of an ATP 500 event when Nadal would not have cared as much as in a slam. In the slams Murray got destroyed once by Djokovic, and three times by Nadal, with the possible exception of Wimbledon. And now Murray is having some success on the Asian swing with the top three absent. I just don’t buy the fact that he is now all of a sudden better than Roger. Roger is older and he cares less about keeping his ranking now. If he really cared he would have played the Asian swing.

For Roger it is now about winning another slam, the Maters Cup, or the Olympic gold in singles, and he is still a legitimate threat to do so. He has already been number one and the rankings means little to him. Murray on the other hand still has to prove himself. He can be number one as far as I care, but if he fails to win a slam he will be just another Marcelo Rios. In other words a choker. After Murray’s recent success he is already being hyped up to win the Oz Open next year. People are not even waiting to see what happens towards the end of the year when Roger and Djokovic is back. Not that I’m complaining. I love the Murray hype. I actually hope he fares well towards the end of the year so that the hype for next year increases even more. The more hype, the more pressure on Murray, and the less chances of him winning a slam.

Even if Murray fails to win the Master Cup, which I think will be the case, I think come next year he will once again be hyped up before the Oz Open. The believers are now starting to believe that Murray is shifting into another gear, and that next year will be his year. The hype around Murray may reach epic proportions come Australia next year, in which case the pressure on his will reach epic proportions, in which case we could be in for yet another epic choke. It may sound sadistic, but I really enjoy it when that happens. And besides, it is one less player for Roger to worry about. There are many reasons to look forward to next year. You have the mouth watering prospect that Djokovic could continue his owning of Nadal, you have the possibility that Murray could keep choking hilariously in slams, and you have the possibility that Roger could bag another slam or an Olympic gold.

If you ask me those are three things that could make 2012 an intensely interesting year in tennis. And that is only the beginning…

Roger Federer