Miami Rd 3: Roddick Upsets Federer 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4

Needless to say, not quite the result that I expected. I was obviously too assured about the outcome of this match. It just goes to show that in tennis nothing is ever certain. Not even with Roger having transformed as a player since the US Open last year and having a 21-2 record over Roddick, guaranteed the victory. In the end that is what makes tennis interesting. In a sense it is great to see Roddick get this result after being completely owned in his career by Roger and declining fast. It just goes to show that anything is possible. I am not a Roddick fan in the least but I am not that closed-minded and obsessed that I can’t be happy for him and admit that he played a tremendous match. As Fedfans we are a spoiled bunch.

We are one of the most immature fan bases out there because when things don’t go our way we throw our toys out of the pram. We are not used to not having things go our way. Or that is the way it used to be anyway. For me personally that has changed in the last few years. Prime Roger or what I would call Roger 1.0 hardly ever lost. Since 2008 we saw Roger 2.0 who was much more vulnerable. There were many tough losses and I kept throwing my toys out of the pram. But since the US Open last year we saw Roger 3.0, and I would like to believe Ru-an 3.0 as well. I am more mature as a fan, and I can take losses like these with a smile. I already said that the Indian Wells title confirmed to me that we are seeing a new Roger since the US Open, and I am not gonna change my tune just because of one loss to Roddick playing out of his mind.

I am very surprised when I see fans making a big deal of this loss, as if this loss spoils everything Roger has done since the US Open. God forbid he loses to a player who was playing the match of his life! I guess some Fedfans thinks Roger 3.0 is prime Roger and that he is not allowed to lose any matches. Well I have news for them. Roger 1.0 is never returning. That’s why I call him Roger 3.0 after all. Sure I wanted to see Roger defend at least his semi-final points, but upsets do happen. Or else it wouldn’t be tennis. This doesn’t all of a sudden mean that Roger can’t get back to number two or one in the rankings. People are awfully short-sighted. They have no sense of a bigger picture. Or maybe I just read Mens Tennis Forum too much.

But we all tend to do it. I have been guilty of it many times in the past and I’m not gonna fall for it anymore. In the bigger picture this loss is as much a blessing as a curse. Before Indian Wells and Miami started I was not very excited. I didn’t hold out much hope for Roger to improve upon his results from last year. I would have been content with him just defending his points. But then he criticized Nadal for time wasting and I was starting to feel a little more excited about his chances. He looked hungry and confident. My excitement wasn’t disappointed as Roger won India Wells and beat Nadal in the process.  In the end he made a 325 net gain on his points for last year’s North-American swing. He also bagged another Indian Wells title and beat his nemesis in the process.

I can’t ask for more. Rather I am happy for Roddick who badly needed this win and I am also happy for Roger who now gets a much deserved break after playing an awful lot of tennis of late. Roddick played an awfully good match last night, make no mistake about it. It was not like Roger played badly at all. Roddick just came out from the start like someone possessed. There were no breaks in the first set as they headed into the breaker. Roddick got the early mini break but Roger broke back. Roddick then got another break after hitting a winner off an overhead from Roger. It was just too good. Roddick had seized the initiative and the tie break with it. In the second set it was all JesusFed as Roger came storming back.

The momentum was back with Roger and he went up 40-0 on Roddick’s first service game in the third. This was the key game of the match. Roddick saved all three break points and then saved one or two more. Roddick’s serve was on fire throughout the match and although I don’t remember much of that game, Roddick probably saved quite a few break points with his serve. I think there was also one point where Roger missed a pretty makeable forehand which could have changed the outcome of the match. In a match like this the margins are very small and you can’t expect Roger to always come out the winner. When Roddick held serve the momentum shifted again and in the next game he broke Roger with a string of forehand winners.

I haven’t ever seen Roddick play better. He was deep in the zone. With the way he was serving there was no way back for Roger after that break. This was just a totally different Roddick. He was crushing the ball instead of pushing it. It was just Roddick’s day. He has always loved the Miami conditions anyway, while it is far from Roger’s favorite conditions. Both players have won the title twice, and had Roger not won after being two sets and a break down to Nadal, he would have a poorly one title. Roddick also leads the head-to-head with Roger in Miami 2-1 now, which pretty much sums it up. Outside of Miami the head-to-head is 20-1 in Roger’s favor. Roger will now just have to wait before he makes Roddick the first open era ostrich. He just needs two wins and no losses which is easily doable.

But anyway I was glad for Roddick that he got this win. He is too good a player to lose to Roger all the time. In my last post I said I wasn’t convinced about Roger’s chances to win this title and my gut feeling proved to be accurate. Not only did he not win the title but he didn’t pass the third round. If he did make the semis he would have almost certainly lost to Djokovic. I prefer he loses to Roddick who he owns anyway than losing to Djokovic who has beaten him four out of the last five times. I look at this loss as a blessing in disguise. It’s like losing your car keys today instead of your car tomorrow. Now that Roger lost early in Miami he may just take a wild card in Monte Carlo. He must decide weather he wants to take a six week break before the clay and grass court season and risk losing some of his recent momentum, or take less of a break but risk tiring during the clay and grass season.

The clay and grass court seasons includes Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros, Halle, Wimbledon, and then the Olympic Games  three weeks later. The fact that the Olympic Games is this year may just cause Roger to skip Monte Carlo. Otherwise I am sure he would have played it. It is not enjoyable for us Fedfans when Roger is out of action for six weeks but in the end Roger has to do what is best for his health and longevity. It has been a great start to the year and whatever Roger decides to do I am not complaining.



Miami Rd 2: Federer def Harrison 6-2, 7-6(3), to Make Roddick His Ostrich in Next Round

Here we go again Fedfans. The start of another exciting adventure. Roger looked totally untouchable until 6-2 and 5-3 where he served for this match. It felt like Roger was back in his prime. His footwork was amazing and his defense was incredible at times. Harrison is a promising youngster with a bright future, but Roger was basically toying with him out there. In a sense it was boring, because it was total one way traffic. It may have gotten boring for Roger too, because he dropped serve. If you are as good as Roger it must be a struggle sometimes not to get too relaxed and lose your concentration. At break point Roger hit the ball close to the base line and someone in the crowd called it out. Roger stopped and it meant that he lost the point.

I thought that was a bit strange, given that it didn’t sound like a call from a lines person at all. Maybe Roger just lost his concentration a bit there, or maybe he really did think it was a call from the lines person. Either way Harrison had gotten a bit lucky, but he also did show some good fight to hang in there and get to break point. Many players would have just thrown the towel in at that point. Harrison then got lucky on two more occasions. One where a forehand from him tipped the net and fell over for a winner and one where  the lines person called a backhand from Roger out which was clearly in.  He was in a good position to win the point and I think it ended up costing him. Both points were important anyway and allowed Harrison to hang in there.

It looked like Harrison’s tenacity was paying off and that his luck was changing as we headed into a tie break. Personally I didn’t mind that it had become a bit closer, although as usual the Fedfans on my twitter timeline were blowing up. Roger then proceeded to get the break at 3-2 in the tie break with an excellent defensive lob. He also broke Harrison again at 6-3 to seal the deal. As expected from Roger 3.0(this will be how I refer to Roger post US Open from now on), he steadied the ship and didn’t let things get away from him. So I was happy with this performance. I think if the courts were faster it may have been easier for Roger to serve the match out at 5-3 as well. The slowness of these courts just allows players to hustle and hang in there for a little longer in the points.

It is now obvious that Brad Gilbert was talking nonsense when he said the courts will be faster this year. The outside courts may be faster but the courts that matter are still slow as hell. For this reason I am not a huge fan of the Miami event. I don’t know if the court surface is slower than Indian Wells, but the humidity slows down things even more. We know however that slow courts are not necessarily a problem for Roger. He did play some of his very best tennis at Roland Garros last year, although the balls that were used there was quite fast. I wonder if Miami is not the slowest conditions on tour. If that is the case it’s not necessarily the best thing for Roger. Like I said, I am not so sure Harrison would have been able to get back into the second set if the courts were faster.

But I need to see a few more matches from Roger before I really draw a conclusion. For now I am not going to expect too much of Roger here. What I mean by that is that I still fully expect him to make semis. But from there on I lower my expectations slightly. I had the same kind of expectations for Indian Wells and I was pleasantly surprised. But like I said I may change my mind after seeing a few more of Roger’s matches. I just don’t want to have any unnecessary expectations. The next match for Roger is against Roddick, and that should already tell us a lot more. In his current form Roger should normally destroy Roddick. If there is any more hiccups then my expectations will stay slightly lowered. Roger currently leads the head-to-head an astounding 21-2.

He needs one more win to give Roddick ostrich status, and you feel it is inevitable. Personally I don’t know of any other ostriches in tennis. This may even be the first in history. Interestingly one of Roddick’s wins over Roger came in Miami, and another one in Miami was a close three setter. Again that for me just shows that Roger is not very comfortable in the Miami conditions and that it is very slow. Roddick himself had a good 6-3, 6-2 win over Muller. He has been struggling of late but that win will give him some confidence, and I believe he likes the Miami conditions quite a bit. So Feddick 24.0 promises to be quite interesting, and not just because ostrich status is on the line. I would like to see Roger win this something like 6-3, 6-4.

Anything worse than that and I still won’t be totally convinced about his chances to win this event.




What Does Federer’s Success Mean at this Stage of his Career?

Q. You talked about credit earlier. Why is it people have such short memories? Everything you have done, is it more just that you’re kind of at the mercy of your own résumé, or do you also think, too, that people just simply have short term memory when it comes to what you do?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I think it’s more the age that people always talk about right now. So I think that’s most that stands out to me. Some don’t understand how you can play tennis at 30 years old, which is shocking to me, because normally that’s still when you’re young enough to play some of your best tennis.

One of my favorite commenters on my blog requested that I make a post about Roger’s latest success and what it means in terms of his career, so I decided to oblige. The above quote comes from Roger’s presser after he won Indian Wells. I thought it was a great one. Go ahead and read the whole interview if you haven’t already. I found this reply from Roger interesting. I have said quite a few times before that I don’t think Roger’s age is that big a deal. Throughout the last two years when Roger has been struggling people always tended to blame his age. But I always maintained that the game is still there and that it was more a question of motivation. I couldn’t put my finger on why Roger was not having more consistently good results.

I thought that his priorities might have changed, that his family had become important, and that he was less focused on tennis. But somehow that explanation didn’t quite satisfy me either. I knew he was a special player that cared more about tennis than probably anything. Or I thought that all the big losses to Nadal just wore him out mentally, that he was starting to burn out. And finally I even bought into the age thing. Yet when Roger played a match like he did against Djokovic at Roland Garros or at the US Open, I couldn’t help but feel like his inconsistency is something that could be overcome. Mostly I felt it was a lack of motivation, because we saw so many matches where Roger was in the lead and then let it slip away.

And to me that was something that could be overcome. It was a question of hunger, and there is no doubt it has been missing over the last two years. But ever since the US Open last year we saw that change. I was still hesitant to say that Roger was back after his very successful indoor season, because he just feels very comfortable there, and the real test would come for me at the start of the new year. When Roger lost to Nadal in Melbourne I thought my worst fears have been realized, that we would see a repeat of 2011 where he also had a stellar indoor season in 2012 and then continued to be relatively average in the new year. But in Rotterdam Roger fought back bravely to win the title, and that gave him the momentum to win Dubai too.

And the Indian Wells title really just confirms to me that we are seeing a new Roger since the US Open last year. After he took that break post US Open he has just been a different player. He has that motivation and hunger back that I thought was lacking since he won the 2010 Australian Open. I mean he was playing like someone who believed that age was all important. He says in the interview that he played well at Wimbledon last year, but to me there was still something missing in that loss to Tsonga, which he only got back after the US Open. He is playing like someone who believes again, who believes in the saying that age is just a number. Personally I completely agree with what Roger says above. People make way too big a deal of age in tennis.

Many players like Ferrer, Melzer, and Lopez are having some of their best results in their late twenties/early thirties. Thirty is still very young. Sure tennis is a very demanding sport, but unless you run like a headless chicken around the base line all day(guess who) there should be no problem playing some of your best tennis at age 30. Roger has played a lot of tennis in his career, but at the same time he scheduled very wisely and plays without putting a lot of stress on his body. He moves gracefully and plays attacking tennis, which means he keeps the points relatively short. So there is no reason Roger cannot play at a high level into his mid thirties as long as the hunger is there. He has already talked about playing at the Olympics in 2016.

Roger at the Miami player’s party

 Roger has now won 73 titles and a 100 titles is not out of the question if he plays into his late thirties. And since he loves the sport so much I don’t think hunger will ever be a problem for him. Maybe the last two years he was just a little burned out and he needed to find his confidence again. Who knows. The important thing is that he found it again and it makes things really exciting for us Fedfans. The ones who stayed loyal through many tame losses are now being rewarded. Something has clicked and there is now much to look forward to in 2012 and beyond. A slam is definitely not out of the question and neither is the number one ranking. That is something else I wanted to discuss in this post; the number one ranking. Roger was asked about it in the presser and he called it a ‘long, long term goal’.

It is good that  he looks at it this way because there is no need to put any pressure on himself in the press. But it may not be too far off. The number two ranking is within striking range. Roger is currently about 800 points behind Nadal. In Miami Nadal has 600 points from a final to defend while Roger has 360 points to defend from a semi. If Roger wins the tournament and Nadal loses before the final Roger will already be number two. But lets say for now that it won’t happen. Roger is not in the entry list of Monte Carlo as you can see here, but he can always take a wild card. Roger lost in the quarter finals there last year and will only have 160 points to defend, while Nadal will have 1000 points to defend for winning the title. If Roger plays he can easily make semis and gain 200 points.

Djokovic is also playing and even if he loses to Nadal or Djokovic in the semis, Djokovic can still beat Nadal in the final. That would make Nadal lose 400 points, which is a total gain of 600 point by Roger on Nadal. I think it is definitely worth it for Roger to take a wild card at Monte Carlo. As far as I know he will still get seeded if he does so. People will argue that he needs a break, but he will have two weeks off after Miami and another two weeks after Monte Carlo before Madrid starts. On top of that Monte Carlo is only about 300 miles from Basel where Roger lives, which is a one hour flight. Then Monte Carlo is on clay, which is easy on the body. I really think he can afford to play it and should if he wants to make an assault on the number one and two rankings.

If by Madrid Roger is number two, it means Nadal and Djokovic could be in the same half, which is a big difference. These two will not only spoil each other’s ranking points, but they could also tire each other out before a possible final with Roger. In Madrid Roger has a semi to defend and in Rome he has a round of 16 to defend, so once again there is a great opportunity to gain points. It looks like Roger might well be number two by the time Roland Garros swings around. Then you would obviously hope that Nadal and Djokovic is in the same half. Djokovic could defeat Nadal in the semis and then Roger would be in with a good shot at another French Open title. Once Roger wins a slam he will also be within striking distance of the number one spot. But lets see what happens in Miami first.

It may determine whether Roger takes a wild card at Monte Carlo or not.I am hoping for at least a semi-final from Roger in Miami. His draw is pretty easy and he should be pretty fresh come the semis. In his current for he would definitely not be content with easily making semis and then bowing out. He will certainly believe in his chances against Djokovic or whoever is in front of him, and want to make at least the final. If he does lose in the semis he may want to think about playing Monte Carlo. We will see. I am not sure how the seeding works if Roger takes a wild card at Monte Carlo anyway. If he is not seeded he will not get a bye which means he would have to play an extra match, and then he takes the risk of being close to Djokovic or Nadal in the draw. Roger plays tomorrow in Miami against Harrison. Roger leads the head-to-head 1-0.

Bring on Miami! *excited*