It doesn’t take much for Fedfans to get their expectations up, does it? People were already talking about a meeting with Nadal on my last post, while neither player were even in the semis yet. I can understand when they think Nadal would make the final, but not Roger. He has not passed the semis in Miami since 2006. That is a long time. And what is more is that he has lost twice to Roddick in Miami since then, someone he owned 21-3. That alone is enough to tell you that Miami is probably Roger’s worst tournament. The air is humid and the conditions are slow. Even in in 2007 when Roger was in his prime he lost to Canas in Miami, so losing to to Nishikori should be no surprise when Roger is well past his prime. Roger played well enough to begin with, winning the first set 6-3. The early signs that he was not quite at his best were there though.
Roger’s first serve percentage was 38%, which is almost shockingly low compared to his recent first serve percentage. Still he played well and I thought this would be a straight set win. But Nishikori was playing well too and began working his way into the match. This match reminded of the 2013 Roger where he starts of well, lets his opponent back in, and then loses control of the match. You can just feel how things are slipping away. There is an inevitability about it. That said, Roger did fight valiantly in the third set when he was down 15-30 on his serve at 3-4. He hit a backhand down the line winner which was probably right on the line, hit an ace, and then hit a winning forehand to hold serve. That was quite clutch and I thought he still had a chance after that, but then he dropped serve when serving to stay in the match.
But the key was really the second set. Roger was a break up twice, at 2-1 and 4-3, but on neither occasion did he consolidate. As if once was not enough doing it a second time is murder. So it wasn’t much of surprise when Roger got broken when serving to stay in the set at 5-6. Roger was the better player in the first set and probably in the second set too, but failed to go in for the kill. But even in the first set his first serve percentage was poor which showed early signs of a drop in form. In the end I think it just comes down to tiredness and the conditions in Miami. Roger was not even sure if he would play Miami, which is already a sign that he was feeling the strain. Also Miami just hasn’t been very kind to Roger, and the slightest drop in form against a player who is on his game on the day will cost him the match. It really should be no surprise that Roger lost here. So in the end for me the loss comes down to a slight drop in form from Roger due to tiredness coupled with Nishikori who played very well.
No it has nothing to do with having to play Djokovic or Nadal. He wasn’t even sure to face Nadal in the final and I’m sure he wanted another shot at Djokovic after Indian Wells. And should he have faced Nadal in the final he would have been up for that challenge as well. I am pleased overall with Roger’s performance in North-America. He actually won more matches than he did in 2012 and then there were the doubles in Indian Wells as well. Yes he did not pick up a title but I think his form was satisfactory. He said at the beginning of the season that he would only be back to top from again in April anyway. I think he is very close now but that physically he was not quite there yet in North-America. I sensed tiredness both in the Indian Wells final and against Nishikori. But having played all these matches would have already helped with that. Remember he did not play much in 2013 and it takes a while to get used to that week in and week out grind of tournament play again.
I think 2014 has gone very well so far. Better than we expected. I am actually delighted with Roger’s form and excited about the Davis Cup and clay court season. I think his form is right there and after a bit of a break he will be physically ready too. I was also very disappointed today to learn that Nishikori withdrew from his semi-final with Djokovic. I was looking forward to his match with Djokovic and he was physically just fine against Roger. When did he get injured? When getting out of bed? Anyway that means Djokovic is into the final and will play the winner of Nadal and Berdych who plays soon. A slightly vulnerable looking Nadal needed three sets to defeat Raonic while Berdych looked very good in his straight set win over Dolgopolov. I would love for Berdych to upset Nadal, even though he passes Roger in the rankings if he wins the event.
I actually think he has a chance to beat Nadal all be it a very small one, but that he won’t be able to beat Djokovic if he does so. I hope Nishikori’s withdrawal does not affect Djokovic negatively, because he must be on his game to beat Nadal if Nadal beats Berdych. I don’t want Nadal to win all the Masters and I don’t want him to find form again all of a sudden. I’d like to believe that Djokovic will have the better of him this season. And just as I am wrapping up my post I learn that Berdych has withdrawn as well. Quite incredible, but I guess from Berdych at least you’d expect that kind of thing. Probably tired of getting owned by Nadal and threw in the towel. So no tennis for me today and I will probably miss the final too as I’m going away this weekend. Oh well, at least Roger is now officially back to #4.
Gotta look on the bright side!