US Open Rd 2: Federer Dismisses Berlocq 6-3, 6-2, 6-1

Pretty sharp performance from Roger today, and he got better as the match progressed. In the first set Roger got the break at 2-1 with a nice attacking forehand return up the line. That proved to be enough to win the first set. I think it was at the start of the second set where Roger broke serve but then failed to consolidate. That was the only small slip up in the match. But he broke again right afterwards so he can be forgiven. His ability to stay focused is something I am keeping an eye on because that is more than anything the thing that has cost him in the latter part of his career. His focus just seems to drift at times. It is just something that comes with age I think, because it is tough to be as hungry and focused as when he was young. But at least you want to see periods where he is focused and hungry, like he was almost the whole of 2012. I don’t think you can ask for more. This year Roger has struggled with his focus and hunger and it was just expected after 2012.

But at some point you want to see things turn around again. And I think we may just have reached that turning point in Cincinnati. That was really the best I have seen Roger play in a long time and it has given him a boost as well. To get back to the match Roger broke a 3rd time in the second set at 3-1, and it was enough for a 6-2 set. Roger also hit another sweet tweener in the second set, although he didn’t win the point. It is amazing the consistency and ease he hits that shot with. At 5-2 Roger played a pretty good game after Berlocq had break point. He hit a genius drop shot at deuce and on set point he came up with a very sharp reflex volley to win the point. By the third set he had Berlocq by the balls. His confidence was increasing while Berlocq started to fade. Roger broke in the 1st and 3rd games and took a 4-0 lead. The bakery product was on the cards. Roger then broke Berlocq once more in the final game to wrap things up and serve the bread stick.

I liked how Roger won the 1st set by 1 break, the 2nd set by 2 breaks, and the 3rd set by 3 breaks. It showed that his confidence increased as the match progressed. And that is exactly what the doctor ordered. Roger had a great tournament in Cincy but he is still short on matches and wins. Right now it’s all about getting that few more matches and wins before a potential meeting with Nadal. I have already written about that match and said that Roger could possibly have won that match, if he had a few more matches behind him. But I am very hesitant to conclude that a few more wins would improve his chances should he meet Nadal. First of all the conditions are slower at the US Open and it is best of 5 sets. But there are still a couple of matches to go so lets deal with that later. I just like that Roger seems focused and hungry.


I don’t think he hit the practice court again after yesterday’s match but it was nice to see him do it after his first round anyway, and small things like that can make a big difference. Going that extra mile. The serve and volley stats weren’t as good as the first round with Roger making 52% first serves and winning 28/40 points at the net, but still it was a very efficient performance. It was nice to see him approach the net so often and he even served-and-volleyed on a few second serves. He was using a good balance between mixing things up from the base line and whacking his forehand as well. That is how you want to see Roger play. Using both his power and finesse to dominate opponents. The returning is still aggressive too and consequently his break point conversion ratio of 7/13 was good once again.

Roger next plays against Mannarino who upset Querrey in 4 sets. In the interview in the ESPN studio Roger said he would rather play Mannarino than Querrey, and that is understandable given Mannarino has nothing to hurt Roger with and Querrey is American as well. Roger has played Mannarino twice before and on both occasions it was an easy straight set win. Roger’s draw is once again working out really well as Tomic has lost to Evans too. Mannarino will be nothing but another practice session for Roger and neither Evans nor Robredo can threaten Roger. Things really have worked out pretty well for Roger in New York to make a big impact. Of course there is still the obstacle of Nadal, but it doesn’t help to keep looking at him as this unbeatable monster. Roger’s mindset is hopefully that he has the best possible preparation for that match and that Nadal is just another opponent.

Roger is after all the one with the far superior record on hard courts and the US Open, and he can’t allow Nadal to get in his head before the match has even started. Roger was asked about Nadal in his presser and he said: “one match against Rafa is not going to, you know, make my season or going to make me super confident or not.” Having said that he should view this as just another match, I think if Roger beats Nadal it would go a long way towards salvaging a very average season by his own very high standards, especially since he is almost a lock for the final if he does so. A US Open final would be the highlight of his season especially after beating Nadal, no matter what happens for the rest of the season. It does look like Roger is viewing this as just another match then, so that’s good. Anyway that match is not a reality yet.



US Open Rd 1: Federer def Zemlja 6-3, 6-2, 7-5

Well Roger’s match rained out on Monday night and he had to come back yesterday during the day to play his match. Today play is suspended again and it has to be said that these rain delays are pretty annoying. The US Open is at last going to get a roof but it will only be finished in 2015. So we are looking at more rain delays and frustration. The US being a country where bigger means better, they made Arthur Ashe stadium so big that building a roof is difficult and will cost a fortune, which is why it is taking to long for them to find a solution. Anyway it was a decent enough performance from Roger. Zemlja looked like nothing special as he handed the first break to Roger at 3-4 after a shocker of a smash at 15-30. Roger took full advantage by breaking with a sweet cross court winning forehand.

It was a pretty shocking performance from Zemlja overall, but maybe that had to do with the fact that he had mono and is still recovering from it. I hope so anyway because it really wasn’t very impressive from his side. He’s a kind of all or nothing player. He hits the ball pretty big and it either comes off or it doesn’t, and he makes some pretty bad mistakes. Zemlja continued his average play as Roger broke him two more times to win the second set 6-2. In the 3rd set Roger broke again at 3-3 after another shocking volley miss from Zemlja. At this point Roger had one of his mental lapses because Zemlja broke right back. At least Roger woke up again at 5-5 to break again with another nice cross court forehand winner, after which he served it out. There are quite a few things we can take from this match, even though it was just a first round.

First of all it was a good serving performance. Roger made 60% first serves and served 12 aces. Second it was a good volleying performance winning 20/21 points at the net. It was nice to see Roger serve-and-volleying quite a bit as well. The net game is obviously important when he faces Nadal, so he has to stay on top of it. The other thing I keep noticing is how much Roger has slimmed down. This is obviously good for his movement on the court because he is lighter on his feet. It is important since he has lost a step of late, and that costs him. There are two ways to go. You can either slim down like Roger has and get to more balls against the power hitters, or you can bulk up and go toe to toe with them. I heard Roger slimmed down for the sake of his back, but bulking up would also help his back because the supporting muscles would be stronger.

The suggestion I made was that Roger bulked up to be able to compete with the power players better, but the most important thing is making changes, which he is doing. Bulking up would also cost him endurance, while slimming down would improve it. I just thought because Roger is not exactly a grinder that extra endurance wouldn’t do him much good, as opposed to getting stronger and not getting overpowered as often. But like I said the main thing is making changes, and if he was planning on bulking up then slimming down first would have been the wisest path anyway. Talking of making changes, Roger hit the practice court after his match. That is not something you usually see from him so it is pleasing. When things are not going well for you for an extended period you make changes, and Roger have been making plenty of those.

Loved the new attire

He is trying a new racquet, noticeably changed his physique, playing events he doesn’t normally play, practicing after his match, even cutting his hair short. It all shows he cares and wants to change things. At some point it must pay off. He is reinventing himself which is great to see. As far as practicing after the match goes, he probably realizes that he has a pretty easy draw until the quarter finals, and making it that far doesn’t mean he would be able to beat Nadal. Nishikori has already lost in the first round by the way. Roger needs something extra to beat Nadal. Lapses like the one against Zemlja where he failed to consolidate the break won’t do. That’s like the lapse he had against Nadal in the second set at Cincy. He can’t afford those. The difference between Roger in his prime and Roger now is just that. Those mental lapses.

He has them way too often these days. He struggles to close out matches and win them as easily as he should. His focus just drifts. In his prime Roger would almost definitely have beaten Nadal at the US Open, and he needs to get close to that level again if he stands a chance in a possible quarter final with Nadal. Hopefully that is what he is working on when he hits the practice court after a match. It just shows that little bit of extra hunger. Going that extra mile. I like it, because if he plays Nadal he definitely needs to go the extra mile. It’s all about wanting it really badly and being totally committed an focused out there. No mental walkabouts and no looking back. Just focused on the job 100%. Because you know that will be the case with Nadal. Nadal won his first round 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 against Harrison and is looking in ominous form.

He is clearly the favorite to win the event and Roger needs to do everything in his power to stop him. Like I said before, Roger doesn’t want to stop if he gets to the quarters. It wouldn’t do anything to to get the naysayers off his back. He wants to beat Nadal and go all the way. Only then will people realize that he is back again. Beating Nadal would mean an awful lot for his confidence and future and it is totally worth doing everything in his power to achieve that end. But there are still three matches to win. He next faces Berlocq who is a pretty decent base liner. They have played once this year in Rome and Roger won that pretty comfortably. Berlocq is actually a clay courter so he shouldn’t be much of a problem for Roger at the US Open. It will be another good test for Roger’s serve, volleys, returns, and just general ability to be aggressive.

The returns is something I forgot to mention and Roger looked to be pretty aggressive which helped him to create 11 break points and convert 5 of them. We know this is a key part of his game especially when facing Nadal so it is something I will keep an eye on, but it is looking good. So overall I would say I am pretty pleased and it is just a first round after all. I didn’t like that Roger lost serve in the 3rd set but I will forgive him since it was first round and Roger put in the extra effort to hit the practice court after the match. Below I also posted the interview Roger had with Roddick. I find the answer to the question about being seeded #7 especially interesting. He says he is not focusing on what people say but just on himself, and that he is feeling more confident now. Confidence and focus. Those two things will get you far…



Interview with Roddick:

Federer Treads a Thin Line When Playing Against Nadal

Hi guys. I’m still hesitant to make a follow up post because I don’t want to hype up a possible US Open Fedal quarter final that may never happen. But like I said it doesn’t have to pertain to only such a possible meeting. It is also about the Fedal rivalry as a whole and it is an interesting subject. Even if such a match does not happen I still feel like it is something worth keeping ourselves busy over. Someone asked me after my last post whether I think Roger’s GOAT status is in jeopardy in this potential quarter final match up with Nadal. I think that is a question worth pondering. My short answer would be yes. I think we have reached a point in the Fedal rivalry where Nadal is threatening to put a serious dent in Roger’s GOAT claim. There is the bad match up and clay heavy head-to-head arguments, and they are valid arguments.

But there comes a time where those arguments don’t hold up anymore and they become mere excuses. And when does that time come? Who decides? It is more in nature of a feeling rather than a decision. I just have a feeling that if Nadal beats Roger at the US Open then it kinds of wraps up the head-to-head. Up to now Roger has had some key wins. He leads the head-to-head 4-0 indoors, he has beaten Nadal twice on clay, and he leads the head-to-head 2-1 at Wimbledon. After Nadal’s latest win over Roger in Cincy, Roger doesn’t lead the head-to-head off of clay anymore. Nadal is threatening to win the head-to-head off of clay even. As far as the other slams go Nadal leads 2-0 at the Australian Open and 5-0 at the French. The only slams they haven’t met at is the US Open and it becomes crucial that Roger should take the lead in this slam.

The Australian and French favors Nadal because they are slow surfaces. Roger should have the upper hand at Wimbledon and New York because it is faster and he is also a much better grass court and hard court player than Nadal. The 9 vs 2 hard court slams and 7 vs 2 grass court slams says enough, without having to mention the Masters Cup and many other factors. Roger is the best hard court player ever, and being down 3-0 in hard court slams to his mean rival will not look good. He needs to at least lead the head-to-head in one of the hard court slams. But it goes further than that. Nadal wants the GOAT title for himself and he is still in the running. He desperately needs to add balance to his resume however. Currently his slam resume is 1-8-2-1. I’d say he needs to add something like 2 more hard court slams, another Wimbledon, and then he can add 2 more French Opens.

That would put him on 17 slams, and unless Roger won another slam himself, that would probably be enough to make Nadal the GOAT given the head-to-head. Of course more weeks at #1 and at least one Masters Cup title won’t hurt Nadal either, but you would assume those things will come if he is going to win the slams I talked about. My point is that I think Nadal is a strong favorite to win the US Open this year and it is up to Roger himself to stop him. Or else Nadal will go ahead and take the GOAT title for himself. So to come back to my reader’s question, yes I think a potential Fedal quarter final could determine the GOAT. It first of all effectively eliminates Roger as the undisputed GOAT, if such a thing even exists. It’s just hard to make a claim to be undisputed GOAT when your main rival basically completely owns you.

Sharpening the tools with Haas

Secondly it puts Nadal on the road to an undisputed GOAT claim for himself. If he beats Roger he becomes the favorite for the US Open title and he could become #1 after the US Open already, if he wins the title and Djokovic loses in the semi-finals or earlier. You can see where I am going with this. Roger has to put an end to this himself or no one else will. He has to fight for the GOAT status like never before, because if there ever was a match that would have huge consequences for the GOAT argument, it would be the potential Fedal quarter final at the US Open this year. We say that almost every time they play in a slam, but this time I mean it. Or maybe one of them or both of them will lose before the quarter finals, like what happened at Wimbledon. But lets say they do meet, what would it take for Roger to beat Nadal?

Roger treads a thin line when playing against Nadal. The window of opportunity is extremely small and he has to play pretty much the perfect match. Every time he beat Nadal in the past everything kind of clicked and he was able to impose his game on Nadal. There is very little margin for error. Two posts ago Steve commented that Roger must win the first two sets to beat Nadal. I agree with this. If the match goes to 5 sets the probability of Nadal winning is just about 100%, and if Roger loses either one for the first 2 sets the probability of the match going to 5 sets is very good too. This is why he has to win the first 2 sets. Roger has beaten Nadal in 5 sets in a slam before, at Wimbledon 2007. I don’t see that happening again though. The 5-setter in the Miami final goes right out of the window because that was at the start of the rivalry, and at the 2007 Wimbledon pretty much the same thing.

Since then Nadal has given Roger the two toughest losses of his career at Wimbledon 2008 and the 2009 Australian Open. Those losses hurt Roger, and if they go to a 5th set in New York those losses will come back to haunt Roger. He needs to get it done in 4 sets. Of course 3 sets would be even better but that is just about impossible as well. If he is to win it must be something like the 2006 Wimbledon final where he won in 4 sets after dropping the 3rd set. Steve also said the surface doesn’t matter. There I strongly disagree. If it was the French or Australia I wouldn’t even bother giving Roger a chance. The surfaces are just too slow and too much in Nadal’s favor. If Roger is to beat Nadal again it would have to be at Wimbledon or the US Open. Lets face it. Beating Nadal is a massive challenge and Roger needs every little help he can get.

At least at the US Open Roger has no bad memories of losing to Nadal. Even though he lost to Nadal in Cincy, it was still a very close match and I feel like Roger now has a kind of blueprint to beat Nadal. The US Open is not as slow as the French or Australia where he can’t get the ball past Nadal no matter what. His serve and forehand can still do enough damage, and his net play can be used to his advantage as well. The return was key in Cincy, and as long as Roger returns aggressively on the backhand side, it will give him break chances. The main thing is mental however. It will come down to a few key points, and on those points Roger must play with clarity of thought and calm. As always he must impose his attacking game on Nadal and not allow Nadal to get into his head when he makes impossible defensive plays.


The other thing about the Cincy match which I just thought of is that if it was a 5 set match, Roger would have lost it as well. If he is in the same position at the US Open he can’t afford to lose the second set like he did at Cincy. He can’t afford that lapse of concentration. He must win the first two sets. Period. He must play the match on his terms. Once it is a set all it means we are in a battle of wills and then Nadal becomes the favorite. If however Roger wins the first two sets it means he is playing the match on his terms and he puts a certain amount of doubt in Nadal’s mind. He starts thinking maybe this is the time that Roger gets once back over me. We know Nadal never gives up though, and even if he wins the 3rd set Roger will still feel he is in with a good shot. Then he needs to put his foot down and seal the deal for an epic win.

You can now see what I say Roger threads a thin line against Nadal. But I do believe it is possible. Everything just needs to click on the day and Roger must want it badly. Some people have drawn the parallel and said Roger would need a 2011 French Open semi-final-like performance. I think that is an apt example because on that day you felt like Roger was treading a very thin line as well. If he stepped even half a foot out of line he would have lost, but he didn’t. It was peRFection. We haven’t seen that Roger all year and if ever JesusFed or Goderer needed to show up again, it would be in a US Open quarter final with Nadal. Anyway I’ve gone and previewed the Fedal match before it is even a reality so at least if it happens I won’t have to do it again. Not even sure I would be able to post by then so at least I got that out of the way.

Roger will play tomorrow on Ashe in the second evening match against Zemlja and I am very excited because I will get to see him play still. Let the games begin!