Reflections on the Indoor Season

I want to look back now on what has been another terrific month in the career of Roger Federer, and more specifically his record 6th Masters Cup title and the interview after that epic win. One post after the final was not really enough to cover everything. It was also late for me and my concentration wasn’t quite at it’s best. The last month has been a bit of a resurgence for Roger. In 2010 a similar thing happened when the North American hard court season started. That was after Roger had a very disappointing summer and decided to get some outside help in the form of Paul Annacone. It paid off immediately as he won Cincinnati, Stockholm, Basel, and the Masters Cup towards the end of the year. A lot was expected for 2011 after the way he finished 2o10. Overall 2011 turned out to be a more consistent year than 2010, but of course it lacked a slam title.

This can to a large extent be ascribed to the emergence of Djokovic 2.0. Roger did not lose to Djokovic in the natural surface slams, but he did so in both the hard court slams. That is a potential of two slam titles he missed out on because of Djok0vic 2.0. You could say that he lost to Djokovic at the 2011 US Open in a similar fashion than he did at the 2010 US Open, so what is the difference? Well I think both Roger and Djokovic played better in the 2011 US Open semi than they did in 2010. Roger actually played very well in this year’s US Open. It was all JesusFed after he beat Cilic, and only a freakish return from Djokovic denied him a final spot. In a sense I was happy he lost that match, since if he beat Djokovic he could have lost to Nadal in the final which would have meant complete ownage in the head-to-head. I even made a post after that match suggestion the possibility of divine intervention from the tennis gods.

That return from Djokovic was so good and so unexpected that it did have a feel of divine intervention about it. And look how it all worked out. Nadal was denied another slam by Djokovic and Roger took advantage of a beaten down Nadal at the Masters Cup, getting a much needed convincing win over his so called nemesis. I’m not saying Roger would have lost to Nadal had he made the US Open final, but there was a good possibility, and it would have been a huge blow to him. Roger already said in his presser after his Masters Cup triumph that the French Open final loss to Nadal was his biggest disappointment of the year, and not the loss to Djokovic in the US Open semis. Imagine what it could have done to him if he lost to Nadal in the US Open final! Losing to Nadal in the French Open final is one thing, but being beaten by Nadal in the one slam left where he hasn’t lost to Nadal would have been near disaster.

I know there is a lot of speculation involved here, but if that had happened Roger may not have been able to bounce back as well as he did in the indoor season. Nadal would also have been more confident and I doubt that epic 6-3, 6-0 win over Nadal would ever have materialized. I have already stated how valuable that win was not only for me as a fan, but also for Roger in his rivalry with Nadal. It can’t be overstated. In fact it may be more valuable to me than his 6th Masters Cup title. Winning a record 6th Masters Cup is of course an amazing achievement, but beating another all time great in that fashion after all the misery that Nadal has inflicted upon him and his fans is immense. Maybe it’s just me, but that win gave me more satisfaction than winning a 6th Masters Cup. It was just the ultimate satisfaction.

I don’t know if it gets better than that. To come back to my original point, I think one of the biggest reasons Roger missed out on a slam this year was Djokovic 2.0. It was just something that could not be predicted and took everyone by surprise. Why would things be any different next year you ask? This question also relates to the fact that Roger won the Masters Cup last year, causing everyone to be excited about 2011. Why should this time be any different? This is a question that is on the minds of many Fedfans. First of all Djokovic will have a lot of pressure next year to replicate what he did this year. He has so many titles and points to defend that it is almost certain that he won’t do the same thing he did this year. He will be the hunted. That is one reason Roger may have a better shot at a slam in 2012.

Another reason may be that Roger have sorted out some mental problems during his post US Open break. This has come to the fore in his presser after Sunday’s final, which I thought was a good one.

Q. You talked about the fact that this time you managed to win a close match, maybe a few times this season it hasn’t gone your way. What made the difference today? Is it a mental thing?
ROGER FEDERER: I think it’s a mental thing, yes. Not only. Sometimes it’s also the player playing better than you. Jo played better than me at Wimbledon. Maybe not much, but enough just to come through. Same as Rafa at the French Open in the finals, Novak in the semis of the US Open. It’s fine to respect that. But I feel when it happens maybe that often, I do have to question myself that maybe I did something wrong.
I think I’m mentally good right now. That was also one of the reasons why I did take some time off, to actually think it through, you know, get into the right mental mindset because we do I don’t want to say underestimate or overestimate the mental part of the game, but there is a lot of time that goes by out on tour, during a match, you’re just trying to stay positive, but you can’t always be positive out there. You know, it’s just too difficult. That’s where maybe the doubts were just a bit too strong during certain important moments.
I think I didn’t have those doubts now for the remainder of the season, which is what I wanted to get out of my system during this six weeks’ break, and I was able to do that.

http://www.menstennisforums.com/showthread.php?t=193353&page=17

The part of his answer that I bolded is the most important part for me. Roger has been known in the past to be stubborn and not questioning himself enough. He tended to not take responsibility for his losses, and instead saying his opponent was just better. If you are Roger Federer that is hardly ever the case. One of the extremely few exceptions I can think of was the match against Safin at the 2005 Australian Open. Safin is immensely talented and on that day I think it would have been OK for Roger to just admit that his opponent was better. But 99% of the time that is not the case. Take for instance the three matches that are mentioned here. The match against Djokovic at the US Open may be an exception because that return just came out of nowhere and it messed with Roger’s mind a bit.

You could say the same for the French Open and Wimbledon losses too I suppose. You can say that Nadal is just too good on clay, and that Tsonga just played incredible tennis from the third set onward. But at some point you gotta ask yourself whether you also played a role in those losses. It seems like that is what Roger did in his break. It is easy to say Roger has made changes when he is winning however. A lot of you have made comments in the last few days saying that Roger is more willing to grind out there nd win ugly when the going gets tough. I wasn’t so sure however. It is easy to say these things during the indoor season when the conditions favor Roger and everything is going smoothly. I find it hard to make these kind of judgments just because he is winning and playing on his favorite surface.

The real test will come when the conditions are less favorable and he starts losing again. Having said that, it is encouraging to read in his presser that he was thinking things over and doing some introspection. So if he did indeed sort out those mental issues, this may be another reason he can win a slam next year. We will just have to see. Just because he had a spectacular end to the year does not guarantee success at slam level next year. He did the same last year and he couldn’t win a slam. Unfortunately there is no indoor slam. On the natural surfaces there is the problem of uneven bounce, meaning Roger can’t take the ball as early and hit it as cleanly as indoors. At the hard court slams you have the weather conditions to deal with as well as the slow courts. Indoor courts are an unrealistic indicator of Roger’s form in a lot of ways.

Also, lets not forget that Djokovic was not exactly on top form during the indoor season. But all in all I’m gonna say that I am positive about Roger’s chances for winning a 17th slam next year. Aside from the Australian Open title in early 2010, the last two years have been a bit of a dry spell for Roger. He lost before the semi-finals of a slam on three occasions, twice at Wimbledon of all places. But the good thing is that Roger is looking to make changes. In 2010 he got Annacone on board. It paid off but then Djokovic 2.0 showed up. This time he decided to take some time off to look at the mental part of his game. These are all good signs and I think it is almost bound to pay off. It is only when you become stagnant that there is a serious problem. So with Djokovic having a lot of pressure next year and Roger having made some mental adjustments, I’d like to believe Roger’s chances of winning a slam next year is looking good.

Q. I know it rather bucks the argument that people are playing too much tennis at the moment. Do you think to make the Masters final extra special, it should return to being the best of five sets?
ROGER FEDERER: The finals?

Q. Of this tournament.
ROGER FEDERER: I think so. I think so. I mean, if it’s a match like this, it’s fine. I think it’s still enough tennis for the people. I think it’s exciting. We had the whole scenario today in today’s match.
But if I would have served it out, it would have been over in a hurry. I think I almost felt the spectators weren’t quite ready for it to end quite yet, although many would have been happy for me, they would have loved to see more tennis.
I remember sitting in a room in Shanghai where players were asked, Would you like it to be five sets or three sets, the year end final? Kind of went in a circle.
Everyone said best of three sets. I was the only guy that said, I think we should have best of five sets. Okay, let’s make it best of three sets. I don’t care.
I do care actually. I think it makes for a great year end. Sure, you can see why maybe it’s healthier to play best of three sets. Maybe the year end could be a best of five set match. I do believe that, yeah.

I must say I totally agree with Roger here. It is a bit of a shame that they took away the five set finals in Masters Series events, but in a sense that is understandable. But the Masters Cup is just below the slams and deserves a five set final. After the tournament the year is done anyway and the problem of recovery time is not there. If you look at Sunday’s final, it could have been a very one-sided, straight forward match if Roger closed it out when he was serving at 5-4 in the second set. I was actually happy when Tsonga broke at that point, as I’m sure many of the spectators were. This is one of the big finals of the year and people pay a lot for their tickets, and for it to be over after two straight forward sets is a waste in my mind. Luckily Tsonga raised his game and it turned out to be a fantastic final to end the year.

Q. I think the World Tour Finals equals a Grand Slam as a major title event. Now you have 16 Grand Slam titles and six World Tour Final titles. How much satisfaction do you have holding both records?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, of course I’m extremely happy and extremely proud. I still don’t feel like I’m better than Pete Sampras, or Lendl for that matter. I still believe they are one of the all time greats to play the game. I’m just happy to be compared to them.
I’m actually happy that they are mentioned while I’m doing this because they have done amazing things in our sport. Sometimes legends do get forgotten rather quickly, which is unfortunate.
So for me to hear we are talking about Pete, Ivan, other players, I think is great for the sport and great for them. I mean, that I hold both records, sure, I’m very happy about it, I’m proud, because I know the effort that has gone into it. It’s longevity, it’s something you can’t just do over a short period of time.
I used to be famous for not being consistent. I think this one proves to me that I was able, and proves to maybe many people, that if I can be, then many other people can be successful for a long period of time, as well, because I thought that was a very difficult thing to achieve.

This was another interesting question, although I don’t agree that a Masters Cup equals a slam title. I’d say it’s more like 1 slam = 2 Masters Cup titles. If that is the case then Roger is now effectively on 19 slams, almost double the amount Nadal has. The Masters Cup is very prestigious and having won six of them is one of the biggest achievements of Roger’s career. There is after all no indoor slam and it is very fitting to call the Masters Cup the fifth slam. It is also a bit surprising there that Roger says he still doesn’t think he is better than Sampras or Lendl. That just shows what respect he has for the past legends, and it is also his humble side coming out. I think it is pretty obvious that he is much better than either of those players.

Q. With so many titles and records in the bag, how do you assess your hunger and desire? Has it dipped at all? Is it stronger than ever?
ROGER FEDERER: It’s normal really. I don’t go through phases where I feel like I want to play 10 more years and then only six more months. I always look ahead one and a half to two years, and that’s still the same right now. Then as time goes by, you know, you see how the body is.
I love this game more than anybody, so I’m not all of a sudden going to wake up in the morning and say I don’t like it anymore.
It’s a lot of sacrifice. It’s a lot of effort I have to put in every day. I know that. But I do enjoy that because what I get in return is moments like I got today, with my team, with my family. It’s priceless really. So for this reason I’m very excited for next year.
I am happy that the season is over because it has been long, it has been grueling. But, yeah, I’m very happy and upbeat about what’s to come.

I wanted to end with this because this pretty much sums up Roger. He loves the game more than anybody. That is the key to his success and his longevity. No worries Fedfans, this ride is far from over…

 

For you who missed it, I also want to share this video. It just goes to show what a classy and humble guy Roger is, and what a great ambassador he is for the sport. He makes time for everyone and he even introduces himself as if he is just another regular guy. This is really the best part for me about being a Fedfan, knowing that I support a guy who is a real person. There will never be another Roger Federer.

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Masters Cup F: Federer def Tsonga 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 to Win Record 6th Masters Cup!

We did it Fedfans! We hung in there and it paid off! Congrats to you all who stayed loyal to Roger through some tough times this year and kept believing. This is for you. It has been tough because we could see how Roger is declining. After seeing him dominate the tennis world for so long it is a bitter pill to swallow when you saw how ‘human’ he had become. Mostly it has become a mental thing. There are just too many matches where Roger is in control and then lets it slip. There are abundant examples of this. The French Open final, the quarter finals of Wimbledon, and the US Open semis just to name a few. These kind of losses really hurt. Some Fedfans can’t take it and give up being fans. Others come back when things get better, but they can’t call themselves serious fans. You appreciate results like today all the more when you have been there for the disappointments.

What you put in is directly proportionate to what you get out as a fan. To the ones of us who stuck with Roger through the tough times, the last month has meant a lot. Thank God for an indoor season! Without it we would be lost. Indoor courts is the only surface left where Roger still resembles his prime self. It is the time when we get to experience the glory days once more. It also makes us optimistic about the future. What a month it’s been! At the US Open our dreams were crushed once more as Roger lost to Djokovic for the second consecutive year after having match points. For the first time in nine years Roger had not won a slam. The reality was hitting home: Roger was in steep decline. Yet what a difference a couple of months can make in tennis. In four weeks Roger have won three tournaments, including a record 6th Masterc Cup.

From winning only won title the entire year, he ended the year with four titles, including a big one. And even though he did not win a slam, the way he performed in the last month gives one a lot of hope that next year he may do so. That is maybe the most positive thing that came out of the last few weeks for me. We have seen Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray all struggle towards the end of the year. With Djokovic’s lack of form and injuries, the way Roger destroyed Nadal in London, and Murray’s usual ‘choking’, Roger’s chances at winning a slam next year suddenly looks as good as any of them. I haven’t even gotten to the match yet. I predicted that Roger would have one last push in him left, but I still had some doubts. Excuse me if I don’t remember how he got there, but Roger found himself up 30-0 on Tsonga’s serve when he was serving at 3-4 in the first set.

After a nervy start, for the first time you could sense a window of opportunity for Roger. On the following point Tsonga hit an excellent low volley which had Roger running far to his right. He did an excellent job of getting to the ball and making Tsonga hit an extra volley. Tsonga seemed surprised and he hit a high volley which allowed Roger to hit the passing shot. Although Tsonga should have done a better job with the volley, it was excellent defense from Roger. On the following point Tsonga dumped a lowish volley into the net. I forgot what happened on the first two points of that game, but I’m gonna say Roger deserves the credit for this break since he made a great defensive play when he was 30-0 up. That has a lot to do with experience as well. He knew there was a small opening and he made Tsonga play that one extra shot under pressure.

Serving out the first set was not exactly a formality, as the game went to deuce twice. The first set was kinda nervy, but winning it put Roger in a great position. In the second set Roger got the break again with a sweet return winner to take a 3-2 lead. At 5-4 he was gonna serve for the match. It looked to be a done deal. Tsonga brought the match alive though as he played an excellent return game. He had Roger at 0-40 and broke on the third break point with a smash. In a way I was glad because 6-3, 6-4 was gonna be a boring, straight forward victory. Judging from twitter I was the only Fedfan in the world who felt like this however. As usual my timeline was exploding with angry tweets from Fedfans. I didn’t mind because Tsonga played a great game to break. It was not like Federror had showed up again. And besides, I knew Roger could still get this done in straight sets.

We headed into the tie break. There were breaks back and forth and at 5-4 Roger had two serves for the title. Tsonga broke back to make it 5-5, but at 6-5 Roger had a match point. Tsonga held both his serves though and broke Roger’s next serve with a blistering return to tie the match at a set all. Now I became a little more nervous, but Roger was still the favorite in my book. Tsonga played some phenomenal tennis as we all know he can, but to keep that level up would be a different story. Of course there was a chance that Roger could lose, but at least I knew that Roger had raised his level and was playing well. I couldn’t really ask for more. I was also glad to see a match of high quality that was competitive. I got the feeling the other Fedfans on twitter were just stressing out that Roger would lose, instead of enjoying a high quality match.

I didn’t find any reason to believe that Roger was going to lose. He had to stamp his authority back on the match however, and holding to love in the opening game was a good start. At 3-3 things were still very tight, and again I felt that Roger needed a solid service game. He responded with another love hold. In Tsonga’s following service game he saved two break points before being broken. This time there would be no heroics from Tsonga as I think Roger held serve to love again. It was the end of an excellent final and it was a great way to end the year. Aside from winning a record 6th Masters Cup, Roger also won his 70th title in his 100th final, making it a nice round 70% strike rate in finals. This is also now clearly the highlight of his 2011 season. The win over Djokovic in the French Open was epic, but the win over Nadal and the title in London couldn’t be a better way to cap off the year.

Personally I got a bigger kick out of Roger utterly destroying Nadal, but if Roger lost today it would have been almost a disaster. Roger and Tsonga have played each other eight times in 2011. The one that really hurt was the Wimbledon match. Roger got revenge for that at the US Open, but if he had lost today the head-to-head would have belonged to Tsonga this year. That means Tsonga would have been a real threat to Roger in the future. With this win he keeps Tsonga at a distance. But he also sends his main rivals, which is really just Nadal and Djokovic, a serious message. The fact that Djokovic was not at his best of late doesn’t really matter much. It will be very difficult for him to repeat what he did last year. That alone will give Roger better chances of winning a slam. And as far as Nadal goes, the win over him in London bodes well for Roger.

So I think Roger has a great chance of winning a slam next year. He will now go into next year with a lot of confidence which makes him a big favorite for the Australian Open. I still think Djokovic is hard to beat there now, depending on his form. So for me Wimbledon may be his best chance of winning a slam next year. It is also the slam I would like him to win the most. Lets not forget to savor yet another incredible record for Roger however in winning a 6th Masters Cup. It is second only to the slams in terms of prestige, and very difficult to win as there are no easy matches. What a way this has been to cap off another year in tennis and I am now very excited for next year. It has been a tough old year in some ways but we triumphed in the end Fedfans. He who laughs last, laughs best!

Highlights:

Award ceremony:

Presserhttp://www.menstennisforums.com/showthread.php?t=193353&page=17

Roger Federer

Masters Cup SF: Federer def Ferrer 7-5, 6-3, to Meet Tsonga in 100th Final

To say that Roger was not at his best today is a bit of an understatement. Yet he still won in straight sets against a competent opponent. In doing so he first of all took back the number three spot from Murray in the rankings, after Murray overtook him during the Asian swing. As always he justifies his words in the press when he said that Murray only did well in Asia because him and Djokovic was absent, consequently making anyone who calls him arrogant look like a hater. The bottom line is that Roger is right most of the time. That is all that matters. As soon as the big boys were back Murray folded like a cheap tent. Taking back the number three spot from Murray was like taking candy from a baby. Murray just isn’t a member of the big three, and therefor haven’t been able to stay in the top three for an extended period of time.

There never was a big four in my book, and there never will be. By winning today Roger also made his 100th final. That is a lot of finals. If he wins tomorrow he will have his 70th title in the bag, and a record 6 Masters Cup titles. That is a strike rate of 70% in finals. I don’t know the strike rates of previous all time greats in finals, but that is a very good strike rate nonetheless. Most of those final losses has been to the clay GOAT on clay anyway, which makes it even more impressive. Like I said, Roger struggled a bit today. I thought he would raise his level from the Fish match, but that wasn’t the case. He had to really work for this win. He just wasn’t timing it out there quite as well, and therefor had to rely on his will. At 4-5 and serving he went down 0-15 on his serve. On the following point he approached the net after which Ferrer hit an awkward return to his feet.

If he went down 0-30 on his serve he would have been in trouble of dropping the first set, but came up with a gutsy drop volley winner. It was a difficult service game where the score went to deuce several times, and it turned out to be the pivotal game of the match. Ferrer had his chances but he twice dumped regulation shots into the net. I guess when you have lost 11 straight times to someone you kind of lose belief. Roger eventually held serve and broke in the next game. After holding serve to win the first set he also broke in the opening game of the second set. The second set was a bit more comfortable as Roger broke Ferrer again when he was serving at 3-5 to stay in the match. Looking at the match stats Roger made 63% first serves which is good, but his winner to unforced error ratio was 24/29, while his break point conversion ratio was 3/8.

The stats pretty much sums it up. It was a struggle, but the served once again saved Roger. In the other semi Tsonga beat Berdych 6-3, 7-5. I think it’s pretty obvious that Tsonga has been the better player this year and deserved to be in the final. This means that Roger will play Tsonga for a third consecutive Sunday. I wonder when was the last time that happened. There seems to be quite a few Fedfans who are nervous about this final. It is understandable as Roger’s form has not been what I expected in this tournament. I have struggled with this fact because I expected Roger to be in JesusFed mode throughout this event like he was last year. He had the best possible preparation after all. But I think I found my answer from someone on twitter. The person told me that Roger has been ‘relaxed’ since he beat Nadal.

I think the win over Nadal was such an emotional high that Roger have not quite come down from it yet. Lets face it, that was a massive win. It has been a long time coming and had all Fedfans across the world in ecstasy. Roger did not show much emotion when he won the final point, but that was just out of respect for Nadal. Believe me that was a big weight of his shoulders. He badly needed a convincing win over Nadal. So for me that match is the explanation for Roger’s lack of JesusFed form throughout this event. Even the match against Tsonga may have lacked a certain intensity because Roger knew Nadal was in his group. After today I was a bit disappointed with Roger’s form, and I was tempted to fall into the trap of negativity that some Fedfans fell into. There are some Fedfans who think Roger will lose tomorrow.

At first I was also tempted to believe that we are being reminded of the fact that Roger is just not in his prime anymore, and that these kind of matches are inevitable, even when he is going through a good phase. But I am not going to submit to that kind of negativity. I still want to believe that Roger’s recent form bodes well for next year and that he can win a slam. Therefor I am choosing to believe that his lack of form has been because of the emotional high of the Nadal match, and that he will bring his best again in the final. As long as he wins this event his form throughout it doesn’t matter to me, since he already destroyed his main rival in the process. If he goes on to win the title tomorrow in would cap off the peRFect week as far as I’m concerned. Sure he beat Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic last year. But the way he beat Nadal this year is almost better than all those wins put together.

It was just a very special feeling. I think if Roger was on an emotional high after manhandling his so-called nemesis, then it is about time that he comes down tomorrow. Yes, Tsonga is dangerous. I just believe that Roger will raise his level tomorrow. His level would have to be better than any of his matches in this tournament so far aside from the Nadal match, or else he will lose. The way he played against Tsonga in the first match will not get the job done. Tsonga will be more confident now and he will not gift Roger the break at 4-5 in the third set again. But this is Roger Federer we are talking about. I believe he has one more very good match in him left for this season. Lets face it, it is a big match too. This latest run of form from Roger has all come down to this match. It has been an impressive run, but if he loses tomorrow it will leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

We have reached the crescendo of Roger’s indoor run, and to fail here would be a big anti-climax. Not only does Roger have a chance of breaking another impressive record here if he wins a sixth Masters Cup, but it is also about the future. The fact that he destroyed Nadal gives one a lot of hope for the future, but if he loses tomorrow it will spoil things somewhat. If Roger wins tomorrow he will reinforce the fact that he is still very much at the top of the men’s game and that he will be a big threat at slams next year. It would also be the best possible way to prepare for the Australian Open next year. OK I think I have built this up enough. Let me just say that Roger have shown he can beat Tsonga with relative ease in the Paris final. And there he wasn’t even playing as well as he was in the semis against Berdych. So as far as I’m concerned Tsonga has zero chance if JesusFed shows up.

This is it Fedfans. One last push!

Highlights:

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