It was nice to see in the polls of my last post that most of you wanted Djokovic to win the French Open, even though most of you didn’t think he will. I tend to agree with that. I don’t think Roger’s grand slam record is under any threat from Djokovic, and therefor it is ok if he completes the non-calender slam. If Nadal wins the French and wins Wimbledon afterwards, Roger’s slam record is once again under threat from him. In my last post I wrote about the chances of Nadal and Djokovic at the French Open this year. I said a few things about Roger’s chances but I will now dedicate a post to it. This is after all a Federer blog! I think the winner will be either Nadal or Djokovic but you can’t count Roger out, especially after how he has been playing this year.
I actually expect a lot from him in the clay court season. Even though he lost to Roddick in Miami he is riding a wave of confidence. That loss will do little if anything to affect his confidence. After opting not to play in Monte Carlo he will be rested and ready to make a big impact. He will start off on the blue clay of Madrid where the altitude suits him. I think everyone pretty much expects him to make semis at least, as is the case with all tournaments. Then it is a question of getting past either Djokovic or Nadal. Since Madrid was played on clay Roger has won the title once, made the final once, and made the semis once. On each occasion he played his last match against Nadal. So even though he lost to Nadal twice, he has shown that he can beat him in Madrid.
Who would ever forget that final where he clinically disposed of Nadal to start his resurrection in 2009? But of course he did everything right to the T on that day. To beat Nadal on clay is a gargantuan task and takes nothing less than perfection. So Roger will once again have his work cut out for him if he faces Nadal in Madrid. The reason he beat Nadal in 2009 there is because he played as attacking as possible. He used the faster conditions there to his advantage and didn’t give Nadal much breathing room, but at the same time he used variation. He was using drop shots and slices, and serve-and-volleyed selectively. This is what he has to do to beat Nadal on clay. But it’s much easier said than done. He has to be full of confidence and execute to the T.
Now, we know he has been full of confidence of late. I think he can beat Nadal in Madrid again. He beat him in Indian Wells on a surface that isn’t that much faster. It may even be similar speeds since Indian Wells in not at altitude. He must play a similar game plan than he did in Indian Wells to beat Nadal. Maybe with a little more variation since it is clay. But that match in Indian Wells will give him confidence when he comes up against Nadal again. I think I would prefer that Roger is in Nadal’s half of the draw again. If he beats Nadal then we probably have a nice Djokerer final. If he loses then Nadal comes up against Djokovic again on a surface which will give Djokovic a good chance. If Roger is in Djokovic’s half he will probably have a better chance of making the final though.
Roger played Djokovic only once on clay last year in that epic French Open semi. This year Roger is playing better and Djokovic is playing slightly worse so, Roger will like his chances. I think in the end Roger has a fair chance to make the final in Madrid. Winning it would be just awesome. In Rome Roger has a chance to make up some points where he lost in the round of sixteen last year. Again you would expect him to make at least semis. Then whatever else he wins will basically be a bonus. Then we get to the big one. The French Open has been Roger’s least successful slam over the years, but only because he lost to the clay GOAT in four finals. Last year he had a great tournament where he didn’t drop a set until the semis.
If he can play like that again you can’t really ask for more. Of course he still lost to Nadal, but he beat Djokovic and made another slam final. It looks like Nadal will play four clay events before Paris and there is no sign of his knee problems, so the chances of Roger becoming number two in the rankings before the French is virtually zero. Therefor I hope he is in Nadal’s half of the draw. If he loses then we have that much anticipated Djokodal final and if he wins he has a great chance to win his second French Open. To beat Nadal at the French Open is the ultimate challenge in tennis for Roger. It is what every Fedfan dreams of because it is the one thing Roger has never done. Can he do it this year? It would take a small miracle but if we have learned anything from tennis it is that you just never know.
If he does beat Nadal in Paris it may be the crowning achievement of his career. It is that difficult to do. So no matter how many times he lost to Nadal in Paris, he must keep believing that he can beat him there and try new things. He must be more aggressive than he has been in the past when he was trying to beat Nadal from the base line at his own game. I think he is over that stubbornness now and is willing to experiment a bit more. Maybe the fact that he is now a more mature player is just what is needed to get a win over Nadal in Paris. The main thing is to keep believing and play as if it is the first time they square off there. Then he must not get tight like he did in the past when an opportunity presents itself to take the match away from Nadal.
Well I am gonna stop here for now. I’ll let you guys discuss this subject some more. You are good at it after all.