…all is well in Federer Land again. Disappointed by yesterday’s loss? Don’t be. There really is no reason to be and if you are not feeling good about Roger’s week by now, you may want to consider what has been going on for most of 2013. It has been a terrific week and I dare say the great Fed is back. Sure this is indoor tennis and Roger was playing at home. But like I said in my last post he has to start winning somewhere to get his confidence back. This is also why I put so much emphasis on the indoor season when others were ready for him to call it a season and begin anew in 2014. That would almost have been the same as retiring. If he can’t even get it together in the indoor season, then how were people expecting him to do outside of it next year? With the way things are going now he is building a nice platform to launch 2014 off of.
Today Roger came really close to winning Basel, and of course it was disappointing having come so close. But everything is not about titles and one must take this loss in context. First of all Roger won 4 matches in Basel, something he hasn’t done since Halle. He then lost to Del Potro playing a great match I thought. Del Potro made the first move when he broke Roger in the 8th game to take a 5-3 lead and was going to serve for the 1st set. But like Roger did against Pospisil in the 3rd set he broke right back to love. There would be a tie break to decide the 1st set. Del Potro served first and held for 1-0, after which he got a lucky net cord which just dropped over the net and got him the first break. From there on it was tough for Roger to come back. He held on to serve until 3-4 after which Del Potro broke him two more times and held serve to win the 1st set.
It was a bit disappointing losing the 1st set like that, because I felt things may have turned out differently had Del Potro not gotten the early advantage with the lucky net cord. However Roger did not look back as he broke Del Potro in the 2nd game of the 2nd set after ripping a forehand cross court winner. Again I was impressed with Roger’s ability to stay in the moment and not regret the past as he hit right back with a break. Roger then even broke a second time at 5-2 to win the 2nd set 6-2. It was exactly what was needed after the disappointment of the 1st set, but unfortunately Roger then dropped serve in the 1st game of the 3rd set and Del Potro consolidated this time for 2-0. From here on Roger could not get the break back and struggled not to get broken again. At 2-4 and deuce he had to hit a genius volley to save him from going a break point down.
I was just happy in the end that Roger lost the 3rd set 6-4 and not further, even though of course I was hoping he could break back. The score was very respectable and I thought Roger played his best match of the week for sure. There was a lot of determination and fight and I think we have started seeing a new side of Roger this week. The grinding/winning ugly side that I have been talking about. The ability to scrap and will his way to victory. I think this is probably the fruit of some humiliating losses he suffered of late. I think there was always the sense that Roger felt he was above having to grind it out and winning ugly, because he was so dominant and talented. But I think some of the humiliating losses of late has humbled him and made him realize that he can’t afford to look pretty anymore and win at the same time.
Federer the warrior is replacing Federer the ballerina. Everything happens for a reason and Roger was not gonna let go of his ‘arrogance’ that easily. He first had to suffer for a long time. Now he realizes he is just like the other players who have to get down and and dirty and work extremely hard for their wins. He is not in his prime anymore where he can just blast players off the court with his serve and forehand. He has to grind more and accept that things are not always gonna go his way in matches. Also these days he is the one getting bossed around by big serves and ground strokes, not the other way around. Del Potro overpowered Roger again with his serve and ground strokes. I still think Roger can work on his upper body strength to help him deal with that, as well as switch to a more powerful racquet.
But it is good to see that mentally he has adjusted well. Of course this is still indoors and on the slower outdoor courts Roger will need more muscle and a more powerful racquet even more. But I do feel that ability to grind and win ugly will be very important for the remainder of his career, because he simply won’t have things his way the way he used to. Against every opponent he faced the match was basically on his racquet. These days that is not the case anymore and he has to play smarter and grind harder to win matches. Personally I found it a bit boring when Roger was just blowing everyone off the court. I started this blog at the end of 2008 after all, just after Roger had that big slump with mono. I like it better when there is a bit of a battle and some drama. Also I didn’t care much for the ‘arrogant/stubborn’ side of Roger.
I liked what I saw this week. He was more willing to get down and dirty and seemed more humble as well. So I am looking forward to the next phase of his career as much as any. It’s definitely going to be a big challenge to be the underdog more often. I thought he was the underdog against Del Potro but he came close to winning. If Del Potro didn’t get that lucky net cord in the 1st set breaker, who knows what could have happened. Roger could have won the first set and the match. But I don’t think Roger is back to full confidence yet. You don’t recover all your confidence in a week after such a long struggle. I saw what I wanted to see though. He only just lost to a player who is right at the top of the game with Djokovic on current form. So as far as indoor tennis goes Roger is right there with them. And like I said I think he can still improve. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes deep in Paris and London as well.
As for the qualification for London I know whatever I’m going to say will be wrong, but I’ll say it anyway. For Roger not to qualify for London he would (1)have to lose his first match. Then (2)Raonic must win Paris, (3)Gasquet must make semis or Tsonga must make the final(they are drawn to meet in the 3rd round), and (4)Wawrinka must make semis. All 4 those conditions must be fulfilled for Roger not to qualify for London, which you can think for yourself has an extremely slim chance of happening. So I’m not thinking about London going into Paris, and I’m pretty sure Roger won’t be either. It’s about continuing his current trend of winning matches and building more confidence. He will play the winner of Youzhny and Anderson in Paris and Youzhny just won the other ATP 500 event in Valencia beating Ferrer 6-3, 7-5 in the final.
So it is potentially a tough first match for Roger but one that he can obviously win. Roger is probably feeling slightly tired right now, but he will have a couple of days rest now and will play on Wednesday in Paris I think. It’s tough for him to be playing three weeks in a row if he goes to London but I’d still like to see him make a deep run in Paris. Roger played very little this season compared to 2012 for instance and he must still feel pretty good physically and mentally. Therefor I’d like to see him put everything into this indoor stretch and get as much confidence from it as possible. It would be great if he can make at least semis in Paris but he does have a pretty damn tough draw. First probably Youzhny, then probably Haas who comes off a tournament win in Vienna as well, and then again Del Potro, all of them just to make semis.
But maybe this is an opportunity to get revenge over Del Potro as he lost their last three encounters which cost him two more Basel titles. But even if he loses in the quarters of Paris that will give him an extra day to recover for London. But that is still far away. I am just gonna stick to taking it one match at a time. If Roger plays Youzhny in the 2nd round that will be tough enough. As for the prize giving ceremony Del Potro was humble in victory as usual and Roger got an overwhelming standing ovation which I posted below. It was a nice gesture and clearly the crowd appreciated his effort this week. Roger must have wondered whether they think he is retiring soon, which of course he doesn’t intend to do. Who knows. Maybe they just realized after a tough year for Roger that he won’t be around forever.
Or maybe they were just trying to boost him after such a rough year and after announcing his return in Basel. This performance will once again remind people who write Roger off so easily that he is not done yet. Even my patience was tested after Roger lost to Monfils in Shanghai, but I always knew indoor tennis is the one place where things can still change. So I was gonna wait until after the indoor season before I really came to a conclusion. I said I would like to see Roger qualify for London and then qualify there for the semis. The first part is all but fulfilled already, and I think there is a good chance of the second part being fulfilled come next week. But I like what I have seen so far anyway and I am just gonna remain in the moment. I hope to see a more relaxed and confident Roger in Paris that makes another deep run!
I couldn’t find any full match highlights on Youtube but there are these highlights on the ATP Tour site –