What Can We Expect from Federer in the 2013 Clay Court Season?

Hi guys it’s my off weekend again and Madrid is not far away now. Just a little more than a week now before we can finally see Roger in action again. I bet you guys have been waiting restlessly for his return. Many of you hardly seem interested in the game outside of Roger so you would have been even more restless than me. I thought Miami was watchable despite the absence of Fedal and then of course Djokovic beat Nadal at Monte Carlo which was a glorious moment. This week it’s Barcalona which I have no interest in whatsoever. Just a terrible event. So it has been a bit of a drought for tennis and Fedfans but that will be over soon once the business end of the clay court season gets under way. With Madrid a little more than a week away I thought I’d make a post looking at what we can expect from Roger in the clay court season.

One thing we can be sure of when Roger comes back is that he will be rested. He will also come back ranked #2 because Murray lost his ranking after losing to Wawrinka at Monte Carlo. So that is kind of a nice way of him to start his clay court campaign. At least he knows he won’t have to deal with Djokovic before the finals. On the other hand Nadal is still ranked 5th and can get in Roger half or even quarter of the draw. It will definitely not help Roger’s chances if that is to happen. I regretted hearing that Madrid won’t be played on blue clay again this year. I liked the look of the blue clay and of course Roger won the event last year on blue clay. But at least Madrid is played at a higher altitude and Roger always seems to have pretty good results there. The draw will be all important. If Nadal is seeded 5 which he must be then Roger will probably lose in the quarters if Nadal is in his quarter.

Nadal will most likely come off a title at Barcalona so he will have some confidence again after getting schooled by his master. Personally I am hoping he gets drawn in Djokovic’s quarter, or at least half. It would be nice to see him going out in the quarters of a clay event which is a very rare occurrence. Ideally you want Roger to have Murray or Ferrer in his half with Nadal on Djokovic’s side of the draw. Then Roger will have a good chance of making the final unless Murray 2.0 proves to be a handful in Madrid. He did not exactly shine in Monte Carlo but that doesn’t mean he cannot shine in Madrid. I’m sure he feels like he has a point to prove and he may yet be a serious force to be reckoned with on clay. Anyway I think it will be difficult for Roger to defend his title this year. If he avoids Nadal before the finals and overcomes Murray, Ferrer, or the likes of Berdych and Del Potro, a rampant Djokovic will likely be waiting in the final.

I think finals would be a good result for him. Even semis would be decent. Then it is Rome where he will have even less chance of a title. Another semi would probably be acceptable. The French Open is where things get interesting because you have the very real possibility of Nadal being in Djokovic’s half of the draw. Nadal can’t gain any points until then so it looks like he is a lock for being the 5th seed. The big question is however who will be the second seed. It looks like it will be Murray even though he played Barcelona last year and is not playing this year. He loses quarter final points there for a 500 event and slips further behind Roger in the rankings. But he did not play Madrid last year so he will gain points there for sure. He also lost in the round of 16 in Rome so he will probably gain points there too.

Roger on the other hand won Madrid and made semis in Madrid. So unless Roger defends Madrid and wins Rome he probably has no chance of remaining #2. And even then it will be hard. So probably he will be seeded 3rd in Paris. The best case scenario for him is of course if he is in neither Djokovic nor Nadal’s half of the draw. Then he has a chance of making the final and Djokovic and Nadal can tire each other out. But either way I think Roger’s chances of winning the French Open is probably behind him now. I’m just being realistic folks. I think this will be Djokovic’s year anyway. Madrid and Rome will tell us a lot but I think the fact that he beat Nadal in the Monte Carlo final is a precursor to his first French Open title and career slam. I think he deserves it anyway, even though the surfaces has become homogenic.

It is debatable whether he would have won Wimbledon on fast, low bouncing grass but he is a very versatile player and can adapt to all surfaces. I have already said before that I’m not particularly excited about the clay season for Roger. If he makes semis in all the events that would be a good effort. That won’t be easy though. And who knows he might even make a final. If he wins an event that would be a huge surprise in all honesty. I just want him to have a solid clay season and go into the grass court season with confidence. I can’t ask for more than that.

Roger’s outfit for Madrid:

What do you think? I like it a lot.

Djokovic Breaks Nadal Stronghold at Monte Carlo

Hello guys. I’ve been quiet but so has Roger. Roger won’t be back in two more weeks but I just had to make a post after Djokovic beat Nadal 6-2, 7-6(1) in the Monte Carlo final today. I could not watch due to work but Jonathan kept me updated as usual and I celebrated every time Djokovic won a set or broke serve. I just caught the highlights on Youtube as well. Coming in to Monte Carlo Djokovic was low on confidence after a disappointing Indian Wells/Miami double. In fact I thought playing Monte Carlo was a mistake, especially since there was an injury rumor. I was also not excited about the clay season and wanted nothing to do with Monte Carlo. Monte Carlo is Nadal’s home on tour and he has won there the last 8 years. I didn’t think it was a good idea for Djokovic to play because I thought he would probably lose to Nadal there, and give him a mental edge going into the clay season.

Especially since there was a rumor about an injury. In his first two rounds he lost the first set but prevailed in three. He was low on confidence but grinding it out and gaining confidence in the process. In the quarters he had a routine win over Nieminen who upset Del Potro, and in the semis he destroyed Fognini who upset both Berdych and Gasquet. When I saw Djokovic grinding through his first two rounds I had the thought that playing Monte Carlo may after all not have been the worst idea. If he could gradually get his confidence back and peak for the final he would be in with a good shot of beating Nadal. And that is exactly how it turned out. After Djokovic beat Fognini 6-2, 6-1 I knew he had a real good chance of beating Nadal.

Especially after Nadal wasn’t looking untouchable. The first thing that really started turning my disinterest in Monte Carlo around was the Dimitrov/Nadal quarter final. Nadal won 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, but only after Dimitrov started cramping at 4-4 on serve in the final set. I predicted early this season after he made the Brisbane final that this will be the year that Dimitrov will make his move. He disappointed at the Australian Open but in Indian Wells and Miami he gave both Djokovic and Murray scares by breaking in the first set, but then falling apart at the business end of it. But he was showing that he had the game to threaten these guys. The match against Nadal was very impressive to me. It was Nadal’s favorite surface and Dimitrov was hitting some brilliant shots even after he started cramping in the third.

His one-handed backhand also fared better than Roger’s does against Nadal on clay. I was just impressed with his overall performance and composure and I think this kid is going to be really good. It won’t be long now. Pushing Nadal that hard on clay shows he is close to something really good. He has immense potential and is a very exciting prospect for the future. I saw his presser and he seemed to have matured a lot too. His game reminds a lot of Roger and that is exciting for us Fedfans. It is someone for us to look out for in the future. Someone with an attractive, attacking, and artistic game. I thought I may start just a general tennis blog once Roger retires, but don’t be surprised if this becomes Ruans Dimitrov Blog. In the semis Nadal blew a 5-1 lead in the second set against Tsonga too, so he was not looking untouchable.

Going into the final Djokovic was in with a very real chance to break Nadal’s stronghold at Monte Carlo at long last. That chance became even more real as he broke Nadal in his first service game and racing into a 5-0 lead. I was excited and the bagel was on the cards. Djokovic had two set points on the Nadal serve too but blew it. Nadal avoided the bread stick as well by breaking Djokovic. It was disappointing, but in the next game Nadal double faulted on set point down. This revealed to me that Djokovic was still Nadal’s master. Nadal never double faults on set point down. He will at least make the other guy work for it. But the double fault told me that Djokovic still held the mental higher ground against Nadal, even after the three straight losses on clay to Nadal. Djokovic was not himself during the clay season last year as far as I’m concerned.

His grandfather’s death was weighing on his mind. Also I think the ‘slump’ in Indian Wells/Miami was not a bad thing. It was the quiet before the storm. After Djokovic stormed the first set Nadal predictably mounted a comeback and went a break up in the second set. Djokovic broke back but got broken again at 5-5. Nadal served for the set but got broken once more, to love! Djokovic then stormed the tie break as well, bread sticking Nadal 7-1. Needless to say I was very pleased with this result. Monte Carlo had died for me after Nadal won it so many times, but finally Djokovic blew new life into the event. It was great to see Nadal owned by his master again after he won the last three meetings on clay. I have no doubt Djokovic still owns Nadal and Nadal will have a hard time from here on to get a win over Djokovic.

Yes, even on clay. I won’t even be surprised if Djokovic never loses to Nadal again. I think he can beat him in the rest of this clay season’s meetings, and if he does that Nadal will have a really hard time beating him again. Djokovic can totally dominate the clay season from here on, and I think this will be his year at the French Open. I think this is the year that Nadal falls. Once Djokovic breaks his stronghold in Paris as well, the end will be near for him. Breaking the Nadal stronghold at Monte Carlo was a big blow. Roland Garros is the next logical step. I don’t think Roger will repeat his 2011 performance in Paris this year and I don’t think Djokovic’s grandfather will die again either. So nothing will come to Nadal’s rescue this time. I think this is the year that he falls. That is my prediction anyway. From here on the clay court season just gets better with Roger coming back in Madrid, and the Djokodal rivalry to keep me entertained.

Dimitrov’s progress will be interesting to follow too. I hope you are all doing well and thanks for the comments in the last few days. I’m glad you haven’t forgotten about me and my blog because I have not forgotten about you. Two more weeks!



Miami Roundup – Murray Last Man Standing

As promised I am back with a roundup of the Miami Masters. There was just too much to cover to include it in my last post. After Nadal won Indian Wells he withdrew from Miami and of course Roger was not playing. This meant no Fedal which was a big hit for the event. Personally I wasn’t very interested when I heard Nadal was withdrawing as well. When Roger is not playing then at least I have the Djokodal rivalry to look forward to. And with the arrival of Murray 2.0 another much expected match up is the one between him and Nadal. So with the withdrawal of Nadal there were no such prospects to look forward to, while the Djokoray rivalry is not exactly capturing my imagination or the imaginations of many other tennis fans. Add to that Del Potro losing in the first round to unknown Kamke, and there isn’t exactly much to be looking forward to.

Having said that, it’s not necessarily a good thing having 4 players dominating every important event either. Sometimes it’s good to have some variation. In Miami Tommy Haas was the big surprise. Haas, who will be turning 35 very soon, has been nothing short of a revelation of late. And by beating the favorite in Miami, Djokovic, he confirmed that fact. And it wasn’t even close. Haas won 6-2, 6-4. Haas has not been a revelation just because of the age at which he has been having so much success, but because of the way he plays. At Miami which has become very slow hard courts, he used attacking tennis and variation to outplay the likes of Djokovic. Unbelievable. Haas already had a routine 6-3, 6-2 win over youngster Dolgopolov in the 3rd round. It was nice to see someone from Roger’s generation still teaching the young guns how to play tennis.

After Haas beat Djokovic he was up against Simon who he routined 6-3, 6-1 as well. This was becoming an unbelievable run. Could he go all the way? In the semis he would face another 30-year old revelation David Ferrer. But let me get to the bottom half of the draw before I continue. There the players who were featuring was Berdych, Murray, Cilic, and Gasquet. Cilic upset Tsonga and many people gave him a chance against Murray, but I gave him very little. Murray expectedly won 6-4, 6-3. In the other semi-final Gasquet and Berdych would face off, and Gasquet was leading the head-to-head 4-3. After the loss of Djokovic a lot of people thought this was a big chance for Berdych to win something big for a change, but I don’t know how they thought he was going to get past Murray anyway, let alone Gasquet.

Given the head-to-head and Berdych’s mental fragility, I definitely gave Gasquet a chance to beat Berdych. Gasquet won easily, 6-3, 6-3. And of course afterwards Berdych came up with excuses of the season being too long, even though we are only three months into the season and no one but himself is responsible for his schedule. So the semis was decided. Could Gasquet pull off the upset over Murray? Could Haas make his first Masters Series final since Rome in 2002? Personally I had picked Murray as a big favorite to win Miami, and when Djokovic lost he became the favorite for me. I wasn’t paying much attention to talk that he wasn’t in the best of form. I knew he would come to the party when it mattered. And that is what he did against Gasquet. Even though Gasquet came out with all guns blazing winning the first set 7-3 on a tie break, Murray came back and comfortably won the next two sets 6-1, 6-2.

Murray is now a heavy weight and even a talented player like Gasquet doesn’t have the tools to dismantle the Scot. The other semi-final was another three-setter with the younger of the two veterans coming out on top. Ferrer proved to be too fit and consistent for Haas. After Haas won the opening set Ferrer proceeded to grind him down in the following two sets. It was disappointing that the incredible Haas run had come to an end, but not very unexpected. Haas had already played his part to make Miami interesting in Fedal’s absence anyway. The title would be contested between Murray and Ferrer, and the #2 ranking was up for grabs for Murray if he could beat the machine that Ferrer is. I expected him to do it, but the scoreline was closer than I expected. Murray won 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(1). From what I hear it wasn’t the best of quality finals.

Murray couldn’t care less. He racks up another Masters Series title and passes Roger in the rankings. Murray has probably been the second best player in the world since the US Open last year, and it was just a question of time before he was going to pass Roger in the rankings. Roger did beat him at the Masters Cup however, so when they met in the Australian Open semi-finals there was much on the line. By winning this epic match I think Murray proved without a shadow of a doubt that he was now the second best player in the world behind Djokovic. It was only gonna be a question of time before the rankings would reflect it. I think it will be very difficult for Roger to get back into the top 2 now. And with Nadal only having to defend the Wimbledon 2nd round after the clay court season he will be in danger of slipping to #4 in the rankings.

As long as he remains in the top 4 it doesn’t matter much to me anyway. As far as I’m concerned the top 4 is still in a league of their own, although if Del Potro becomes more consistent he can be a threat. In fact Del Potro could well be a huge threat in the coming clay court season and rest of the year. Even though he lost in the first round in Miami I think his performance in Indian Wells will give him a lot of belief. So no doubt there will be many challenges ahead for Roger when he returns to the tour in Madrid. In the end the Indian Wells/Miami double has revealed the return of Nadal as a major force and the confirmation of Murray as a major force. Coincidentally the Murray/Nadal rivalry is probably the rivalry I’m looking forward to the most in the coming months. Not on clay where Nadal will no doubt be the favorite, but after that.

Murray has now announced himself as a heavyweight and we have entered the Djokoray era. So I look forward to not only Djokovic being a big obstacle to Nadal, but also Murray. Not to mention Del Potro. And then of course it will be interesting to see how Roger comes back after his two month break. Much to look forward to!