A Preview of Federer’s 2014 Season: Can He Win the Magical 18th Slam?

Hi folks. I started a post this past weekend but couldn’t find the enthusiasm to finish it. I can’t remember the last time that happened, if ever. But since I have talked to some of you on my last post I have a better understanding of what has been going on of late and feel inspired to do a new post. There has been less comments and participation in discussion from my readers of late. I couldn’t quite figure out why and my traffic was as good as ever. Actually it is still growing. The reason is pretty much as I suspected – the fact that Roger has been struggling. I guess it is normal to be less enthusiastic and active when that happens. I kept my posting up despite less comments from you guys, but after my last post and the lack of comments I started losing enthusiasm. It just looked like you have lost enthusiasm yourselves, and this blog functions as a whole after all.

I realize now that you guys have just lost some enthusiasm because of Roger’s results. I’m not mad at anyone for it but at the same time I don’t think Roger’s lack of results is a reason for losing hope anymore. I think he has shown during the indoor season that he still means business and that we have reason to believe that 2014 will be a much stronger year for Roger than 2013 was. I also find this struggle interesting. It is uncharted territory for Roger. Never has he reached such a low as in 2013 and I find it fascinating to see how he responds when faced with something totally new. I think if he stays motivated, which he is, there is no reason to believe that he can’t reach the opposite side of that all time low, which is of course an all time high. Lets say he manages to win another slam. Would’t that be an all time high after everything that transpired this year?

I think it will be. Of course there is no guarantee that it will happen, but there is no guarantee that it won’t happen either. I’m actually very excited about the 2014 season. The upside of having a poor season is that you don’t have many points to defend the next season. That is already a big positive for Roger in 2014, before he has even hit a ball. The other positives are that he will be well rested and this year he is not playing exhos in South-America either. He will take that momentum from the indoor season and start confidently in 2014. He will already start in Brisbane as the top seed and will have a good chance of winning the title, which would be the ideal way to begin the season. It will also be good preparation for the Australian Open where he has a semi to defend. It’s going to be tough as Roger won’t have a top 4 seeding.

Hopefully he doesn’t get drawn in Nadal’s quarter again. But getting drawn with Djokovic or Murray isn’t much better either, as a loss doesn’t help the head-to-head. On the slow hard courts of Melbourne these guys are just very difficult to beat. Ideally Roger wants to get drawn in Ferrer’s quarter. But getting to the quarters is no given these days and just getting that far would already be a decent result. Looking at the other slams you’d expect a similar result in Paris than this year, although you’d like to see him do better than losing in straight sets to Tsonga. At Wimbledon there will be the best chance for making points after this year’s loss in the 2nd round. At the US Open there will be another good opportunity for gaining points. In almost all the in between events there will be chances for Roger to gain points as well.

What I’d like to see is Roger returning to the top 4 by the end of the year. I think he belongs ahead of Ferrer and Del Potro in the rankings. He already beat Del Potro the last two times they met, and his head-to-head with Ferrer is a staggering 14-0. With the lack of points to defend next year I want to see him establish himself as one of the big 4 again, where he belongs. He may not be quite up there with Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray anymore, but I think he can sneak ahead of Del Potro and Ferrer. Del Potro is a very dangerous player himself and he may even win a slam in 2014. But then again Roger could too. At least I’d like to see Roger end ahead of Ferrer in the rankings in 2014 so that he is in the top 5 again. A slam title is of course the ultimate goal but it is less certain than in the past and I don’t want to create any expectations.

If it happens it happens. But before it can happen Roger will at least have to maintain a certain level of consistency. Definitely a better level of consistency than in 2013. This is why I felt the indoor season was so crucial. With 3 wins over a top 10 player during the indoor season, Roger has sent a little message that he can’t be taken lightly in 2014. It has lifted his confidence and I think he will capitalize on that in 2014. It will be a question of forgetting what happened in 2013 and not losing matches he should be winning. I believe he can do that and if he does he will give himself chances to take it a step further. He just needs one slam where he is playing well and there is a couple of big upsets. Then he must seize the opportunity and make it count. But it’s all about laying that foundation from where he can attack.

And that foundation is a burning desire and a refusal to surrender, exactly like we saw against Del Potro in London. As long as he maintains that attitude and his body allows him he is almost guaranteed to win another slam. That was the attitude he showed in 2012 and it resulted in #17. I think Roger’s back should do better in 2014 as well. He didn’t play as much as he did in 2012 and he had to deal a lot with his back. He should be in a better situation now to avoid it crippling him again. The match against Del Potro is the main reason my faith in Roger is restored. If I didn’t see the intense desire and hunger he showed in that match I would not have had much hope for 2014. But he showed me he still wants it bad and therefor I see no reason not to be optimistic about 2014. I hope you guys feel the same and will feel a bit more optimistic after this post.

 

Here is a little something to help raise your enthusiasm for the coming season as well :-)

Federer’s Testing 2013 Season in Review

Howdy friends. The tennis season is over aside from the Davis Cup final which is being played right now, but as far as Roger goes it is over anyway. Roger’s schedule for 2014 is not out yet but we know he will play in Brisbane which starts on December 30. He will also be playing a charity match with Tsonga in Melbourne just before the Australian Open. As we all know 2013 has not been the greatest of years for Roger, even though it started out well and didn’t end too badly. Roger said at the beginning of the season that 2013 would be a transitional year, where things will slow down for him a bit after that amazing 2012 season where he won his 17th major and reclaimed the #1 ranking at age 30 to pass Sampras’ record amount of weeks in the top spot. It was a monumental year in which Roger also captured his 7th Wimbledon title to equal Sampras.

Of course we hoped that form would last into 2013 but back injury aside, I think it was always gonna be a tough ask to keep it up. Djokovic had already taken the #1 ranking back from Roger during the end of 2012, but little did we expect that 4 more players would pass Roger in the rankings during 2013. Given the kind of year Roger had you’re almost surprised he didn’t slip further down the rankings, but no doubt his semi-revival during the indoor season helped in that regard. The year started out well enough with Roger making semis in Australia and playing some brilliant tennis in the process. You may remember that I was quite excited back then, and that I felt Roger could not have done any better given the slowish conditions and the fact that it suits the likes of Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal much better than it does him.

The surface is really tailor made for their incredible defensive base line games. This has been evident for some time now, because Roger has won in Melbourne only once out of the last 6 years. He has lost to Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray respectively in the last 3 years. Their defensive base line games and two-handed backhands proved to be too much to cope with even for someone with the attacking capabilities of Roger. As if these guys’ defensive games aren’t good enough, the courts provide no assistance for Roger to hit through their rock solid defenses. He is forced to engage in longer base line rallies than he likes which causes his backhand to break down. Given all this I’m surprised he was even able to take Murray to 5 sets. He only did it with a psyche job however, because he was otherwise losing the 4th set.

I think anyone who thinks Roger can still win the Australian Open is a little delusional. In 2014 the final is likely to be contested between Djokovic and Nadal again. Probably Murray would not quite be back to top form yet. I don’t see how Roger could beat either Nadal or Djokovic in Melbourne anyway. It will be hard enough for him to beat the likes of Del Potro, Berdych, and Tsonga. And then there is the young crowd like Raonic, Janowicz, and Nishikori coming through as well. It certainly isn’t getting any easier. That’s why I said quarters would be a good result. But back to this side of 2014. The falloff from Roger’s form in Melbourne was dramatic and drastic. It was like he became a different player overnight. First the loss to Benneteau in Rotterdam, then Berdych in Dubai, and then Nadal in Indian Wells.

It was clear that something was wrong, although at that time I could not figure it out. Later it came out that Roger’s back problem had flared up again, and I suppose with all the effort that went into the Australian Open that wasn’t all too surprising. Probably all the tennis in 2012 also caught up with his back. This back problem stayed with him throughout the year until Cincinnati where I think it started to improve. The clay season was disappointing with losses to Nishikori in Madrid and Tsonga at the French. And even though he made the final in Rome he was destroyed by Nadal and looked disinterested in that match. With Roger it’s tricky to know what’s going on because he keeps things to himself. He doesn’t like using excuses like someone else we know. It was only until after Gstaad where Roger reached the lowest point where we really found out what has been going on.

THOSE shoes 

As a Fedfan you are often left in the dark about these things, but I prefer that to being a fan of someone who is constantly whining like a baby about his injuries, yet despite it wins 10/13 events that includes two slams and getting back to #1 in the world after a 7 month break. After the clay court season it was the grass court season and as always new hope came with it. Roger won his first and only title of the year in Halle. It looked like he was back on the winning path and I had a lot of hope for Wimbledon. I didn’t think he would win it, but I thought he could make at least semis or better. Being drawn in the same quarter as Nadal was a setback, but then Nadal was inexplicably straight setted by an injured Darcis in the 1st round. Roger’s draw had opened up but he couldn’t capitalize, losing in 4 sets to a rampant Stakhovsky in the 2nd round.

It marked the end of Roger’s incredible 36 straight quarter finals at slams streak. It was another bitter disappointment, but things had not yet reached its lowest point. There was more to come. Of course a 2nd round loss at Wimbledon was highly disappointing, but I figured the streak had to end at some point. Stakhovsky was after all playing out of his mind, while Roger just lacked a certain competitive edge. With the lack of tennis Roger played it wasn’t all that big a surprise when Roger decided to add some events to his schedule. It was however surprising that it was clay events in Hamburg and Gstaad. At this point Roger also decided to try out a new racquet, just after I had made a post suggesting he should do so. Great minds think alike they say. It didn’t turn out to be a very successful experiment though, but not because of the racquet.

Roger’s back became a problem again as he lost to Del Bonis in the semis of Hamburg and Brands in his first match at Gstaad. Now things were at the lowest point possible. I mean Stakhovsky, Del Bonis, Brands? What the hell is this! Things could only go one way from here, and that was upwards. Roger’s next tournament was in Cincy after he decided to skip Montreal and let his back rest. In Cincy he finally started showing signs of life again when he beat Kohschreiber and Haas, and then lost in a close 3-setter to Nadal after winning the 1st set. It was a drastic improvement from what transpired in Gstaad. Things were finally starting to look up again. Unfortunately Roger then drew Nadal again in the quarters of the US Open. And this time there would be no early exit from Nadal. Nadal was already waiting in the quarter finals when Roger stepped on the court for his 4th round match with Robredo.

Up until that point Roger had looked to be in superb form, routining his first three opponents in straight sets. So it was very strange to say the least when he ended up getting routined himself by Robredo of all people. Overnight his confidence had vanished into thin air. On every important point he choked like the biggest choker in the history of the sport. I mean he wasn’t even playing badly. It was just that whenever an important point came up he couldn’t make the most regulation of shots. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so tragic. There is no doubt that the upcoming meeting with Nadal was weighing heavily on his mind. Even the knowledge that he has to play Nadal is now enough to psyche him out completely. That is the extent of the damage Nadal have inflicted on the Federer psyche over the years. Another loss to Nadal at the only slam they haven’t played at yet was too much for Roger to bare.

It was a subconscious tank. Nothing more and nothing less. It was another disappointing and confidence sapping loss, but better than getting destroyed by Nadal in the last remaining slam. On to Shanghai and Roger suffered another disappointing loss in the 3rd round to Monfils. To me it was disappointing because Roger looked in good spirits in the doubles with local hero Zhang and did good to beat Seppi in straight sets in his first match. Monfils is also a notorious mental case despite his unreal talent. In the final set it looked like he was trying to throw away another match but Roger failed to capitalize, which frustrated me. But Monfils did serve awfully well, serving an unreturnable serve just about every time Roger had a break chance. It was like clockwork. Also Monfils went on to play a very decent match against Djokovic in the next round, which made me feel slightly better about Roger’s loss.

THAT moment 

Either way things had reached a point where something had to change. It was one bad loss after the other which seemed to be a never ending road to nowhere. I had a feeling Roger needed to revive his game in the indoor season or this would continue indefinitely and 2014 would be lost too. It was just a hunch I had. At this point he wasn’t even sure of qualifying for the Masters Cup, something that haven’t happened in more than 10 years. I felt he had to at least find a certain amount of confidence to give me hope that he could still have another good year in 2014, and his favorite indoor season was ideal for doing just that. It was now or never. He had to qualify for London and he had to make semis there at least. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Things went well enough in Basel where he lost to Del Potro in the final.

It was the same result as 2012 and given the rest of 2013 it was a good result. Roger had not yet technically qualified for London though. He still had to win his 1st match in Paris against Anderson, which he did. He then beat Kohlschreiber and would play Del Potro again in the quarters. It was time for revenge, which Roger got. It was only his second win over a top 10 player for the year, which tells you a lot about the kind of year he had. Things were looking considerably brighter though. I felt in a sense that Roger was back, but I still wanted him to qualify for the Masters Cup semis. In the Paris semis he would face Djokovic which would give him a good chance to gauge his form against the best. He started well while an intimidated-looking Djokovic dropped the 1st set. Djokovic soon got his act together then while Roger began looking flat, conceding the next two sets.

Onto London where Roger would play Djokovic in a second consecutive match, one that he lost again in 3 sets. I felt given how ridiculously slow the indoor courts in London had become, Roger did better against Djokovic than in Paris. He also did well to straight set Gasquet in his next match even though the level of tennis was nothing to write home about. It was all down to the match with Del Potro to decide who would qualify for the semis. This was the big test as far as I was concerned. OK maybe not the end of the world if he lost it, but still a very important match to win I felt. Roger was under the gun right from the outset, getting broken twice in the 1st set. But he kept clawing his way back like he was playing for his life. Even being a break down in the 2nd and 3rd sets was not gonna let this one get away from him.

He finally broke Del Potro at the late stage of 5-5 in the 3rd set and held serve for an epic win. It was as courageous(and dramatic) a match as I’ve ever seen him play. He showed the kind of determination and passion that had been missing for most of 2013. Thus I found it to be a very satisfying win. Roger had proven to me that he still wanted it as much as ever and that he could produce under pressure. It didn’t really matter to me how he got it done. It was more about an attitude than anything. After all the tough losses in 2013 where Roger often didn’t look very motivated I had started to doubt his attitude. Was his heart really still in it, or was he going through the motions? Well the match with Del Potro answered that question for me. I don’t doubt Roger anymore. I believe 2014 will be another successful year…

 

Yes, there were highlights:

Djokovic Routines Nadal 6-3, 6-4 on Very Slow Indoor Court

NOW I’m satisfied. Roger did his part but I wasn’t gonna rest until Nadal gets denied yet another Masters Cup title. It is clear that Nadal is a terrible indoor player for someone who people claim are in the GOAT debate. How can you be in the GOAT debate if you haven’t even won one Masters Cup? On Roger’s worst surface he has made 5 slam finals and won 1 slam. Behind Nadal he was by far the second best clay courter of his generation. Nadal made a mere two Masters Cup finals and got soundly beaten in both. He definitely isn’t the second best indoor player of his generation. Not even close. How can this guy possibly be in the GOAT debate with Federer? Not to mention Federer has won the same event a record 6 times. Nadal fans have this idea that the same can be said for Roger because he doesn’t have Olympic gold in singles.

Personally I never rated the Olympic gold as an important achievement in tennis, but even if it was then lets look at who has won it and who has won the Masters Cup. The Olympic singles gold was won by Massu and Rosset. If you look at past Masters Cup champions it has almost always been all time greats. The worst players to have won it has probably been Corretja, Nalbandian, and Davydenko. These were great players in their own right. Certainly much more accomplished than Massu and Rosset. Also the Olympics come around only every 4 years. I just don’t rate it and to me it doesn’t matter in the least that Roger didn’t win it. Same for Davis Cup. Those are more like nice extras to have but in the bigger picture they are irrelevant. Anyway enough of the whole GOAT debate thing. I’m sure Nadal will catch up with Roger’s slam count, but there is clearly still a hole in his resume if he can’t win at least one Masters Cup.

As far as the #1 ranking goes Nadal secured it when he beat Wawrinka in his second group match and gets his third year end #1. Pretty good effort but it’s ironic that right at the moment he took the #1 ranking from Djokovic, he not only defeated him easily in Beijing but he dominated the tour since then like a true #1 should. He won Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, and London and is now on a 22-match winning streak. That’s damn impressive. Nadal on the other hand hasn’t added a title post US Open. Since the US Open he has been routined twice by Djokovic, once by Del Potro, and once by Ferrer even. Even though he is #1 he certainly isn’t having the results of a #1, and he only just secured the year end #1. With all the points he has to defend post Australian Open next year you’d expect Djokovic to pass him again somewhere in the clay season.

As far as the final goes my stream was shaky again but Djokovic got the early break, took a 3-0 lead, and then almost broke again. Nadal did his usual thing where he comes back from the brink as he held serve and then broke Djokovic to square things up again.It’s around this time that my stream broke up but when I looked again I was pleased to see that Djokovic broke again and took the 1st set 6-3. Afterwards I saw the point with which Djokovic broke a second time and what a point it was. The beauty of it was that Djokovic made an unbelievable defensive lob, the kind Nadal usually makes. It’s just gorgeous when Nadal is given his own medicine so that he knows what it feels like when someone pushes the best you throw at them back relentlessly. Nadal must have thought he had the point won with the volley, but the ball came back over his head and he ended up losing the point.

That is the kind of play he uses against other players like Roger to destroy them mentally. So it’s satisfying to see it being done to him. In the 2nd set Djokovic continued his dominance. Despite even indoor courts having been slowed down to the point that you can’t call what they played in the final indoor tennis, Nadal was still dominated by the more aggressive player. The brand of tennis he plays indoors is laughable. Go watch the 1996 Masters Cup final between Sampras and Becker and you will see what indoor tennis is, or maybe I will post it below. Nadal doesn’t deserve to win the Masters Cup the way he plays. It’s just too much pushing, defending, and moonballing. He has no plan B either. If moonballing to the opponent’s backhand doesn’t work he runs out of ideas. Djokovic’s backhand is one of the best ever which immediately makes things hard for Nadal.

Of course Djokovic also has one of the best returns of serve which means Nadal can’t take as much advantage of the fact that he has the left-handed serve. Just like Nadal is the anti-Federer Djokovic is the anti-Nadal. It’s a shame he lost that French Open semi because he was in control and it probably cost him the US Open too. But at least he has now routined Nadal in their last two matches which I think is very important for the rivalry. Nadal was threatening to start dominating the rivalry again and the indoor season couldn’t have come at a better time. Now the Australian Open becomes very interesting indeed. Nadal seems to have figured out how to beat Djokovic on outdoor hard courts but of course the Australian Open is Djokovic’s best slam. Nadal already came very close to beating Djokovic there in 2012.

And after beating Djokovic at the French and US Open he is definitely in with a shot of beating Djokovic in Melbourne. That we don’t want. That would put Nadal equal with Sampras on 14 slams and another hard court slam in the bag. So I think what transpired in the Djokodal rivalry since the US Open has been kinda crucial. Nadal got the important wins in the rivalry this year but Djokovic has utterly dominated the indoor season and got that two convincing wins over Nadal. If it wasn’t for that I would have made Nadal the favorite to win in Melbourne, but now things are more like 50/50 again. I’m not sure Nadal will win the Australian Open next year. He will also slump again at some point if the past is anything to go by, while Roger will rise. This looks like it has already started happening in the indoor season.

I think Roger will continue to rise in 2014 while Nadal may continue to fall, since his form in the indoor season was already less impressive than in the rest of 2013. The Australian Open does suit Nadal’s game pretty well though, while it doesn’t suit Roger’s game so well these days. So maybe Nadal can still start the year off well in Australia, but I can definitely see him slump again at some point. Maybe another injury and break from the game after a tough loss. As for Roger I’m not gonna put any pressure on him to do really well in Melbourne. Last year it was his best slam but this time he won’t have a top 4 ranking and he is not in that kind of form anymore. Not yet anyway. You never know, but I’m not gonna set my expectations high. If he can make quarters I’d be satisfied. That would be a good result. Anything more would be a bonus.

I’m just being realistic. The courts are damn slow there these days and just doesn’t give Roger much assistance. One thing I would like to see is that he works his ass off in the off season as far as fitness goes. He is not playing any exhos this time(thank God) and in Australia fitness is huge. It’s hot and the slow courts make for grueling base line rallies. I don’t want to see him come through a tough 5-setter again and have nothing left for his next match. I really think fitness is gonna be key if he is going to continue playing at a high level and maybe win another slam. That is something he can control and which is especially important now that he is older. I’m not talking about working hard. I’m talking about working unbelievably hard. More than anything his fitness will determine how the rest of his career goes.

Well I think that’s about enough for now. I was satisfied when Roger made the semis, but now that Nadal has lost as well I am happy. It may sound cruel but consider how all the courts have been slowed down these days, even indoors. Personally I can’t stand the conspiracy theorists, but things have gone so far that even I have started to believe that something weird is going on. It’s like they honestly want Nadal to win everything and become the next GOAT. I guess they feel like that would cause the most interest in tennis and make them the most money. So they adjust all the courts and conditions in a way that suits him. First he gets a cakewalk draw in London and they have made the courts in London even slower and higher bouncing. It just happens so many times that you feel it can’t be just a coincidence anymore.

And of course all of this make it that much harder for Roger. It seems unfair to such a great servant of the game that they are making conditions in a way that is suiting him less and less when he already has age counting against him. There is no doubt that if they sped things up again it would add several years to Roger’s career at the top of the game. But the way it is going they will probably play the Masters Cup on indoor clay next year. Just to make sure Nadal gets his title and can be declared GOAT. At least there is Djokovic who can still act as the protector of Roger’s legacy as he builds his own legacy. Roger’s attitude towards Nadal and Djokovic has always struck me as strange. I think he should reverse that and be friends with Djokovic for protecting his legacy and disrespect Nadal to kick his ass in the future.

Why does he respect Nadal so much? Didn’t Nadal take a bathroom break when he was about to serve for the match in Indian Wells? Isn’t Nadal the one who uses gamesmanship all the time while Djokovic is just being his cocky self? Yes Djokovic can be very annoying but at least he is just being himself. He is not false like Nadal who acts humble but in the mean time every word and action betrays that act. As if the ATP hasn’t conformed to his every need he had the nerve to say that it’s unfair that the Masters Cup is played on hard court. We have heard several similar statements from the so-called humble Spaniard over the years. It is just baffling how self-centered and full of himself this guy is. And if there is one thing I can’t stand in this world it is being false. I despise nothing more. These attitudes of Roger towards Nadal and Djokovic is something I will never understand.

Highlights:

The point that destroyed Nadal: 

Real indoor tennis(don’t miss match point):