Well I think it’s about time again we take stock of where Roger is in his tennis career and what lies ahead for him. It’s been a tough old year where Roger seemed to reach new lows with almost every event he played. Yet he is currently in the top 5 in the world. Not too bad for a player who has been reaching new lows, is it? He has quite a few points to defend until year end though, in Shanghai where he made semis last year, Basel where he made the final, and London where he made the final as well. The main objective should be to make the Masters Cup and he is currently 7th in the race, with the two recent US Open semi-finalists Stan and Gasquet hot on his heels. Gasquet and Stan starts their indoor season this week in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur respectively and Stan only has to make the final to pass Roger in the race already this week, while Gasquet will close in further on him.
With the lack of tennis Roger played this year I thought it might be wise to add at least one event to his schedule but preferably two. I would have liked him to play Beijing or Tokyo since he is playing Shanghai anyway, but it doesn’t look like he will. If he now adds Paris to his schedule he will play three weeks in a row, but he probably won’t go deep in all of them so that might work. Or he can add Stockholm again which is right after Shanghai, in which case he is playing three weeks in a row again, but then he will have the week before London off. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t add one of those two events to his schedule given how well Stan and Gasquet is playing and how close they are to him in the race rankings. He seems pretty laid back about it all, but he surely does not want to miss out on the Masters Cup.
That would be yet another new low. The fact that he is #5 in the rankings after recent events is something positive, and I’d like to see him end the year in the top 5 as well. I wana see him end the year strongly because the indoor season has always been good to him and so that he can gain some momentum and confidence going into 2014. The US Open loss to Robredo can be viewed as another new low too. With his draw and his form in Cincinnati Roger was expected to get back into the quarter finals of a slam at least after his streak was broken at Wimbledon, but he got destroyed by Robredo of all people in straight sets. At least at Wimbledon Roger lost in four sets and was very close to taking it to a 5th set. He was at least playing the big points a little better because against Robredo he was utterly useless on the big points.
Yet I don’t necessarily view that loss as such a big negative. Other than the big points he was still playing well and he ended up avoiding Nadal, saving himself the humiliation of getting beaten in the only slam they haven’t played at yet. The one positive other than the fact that Roger is still in the top 5 in the world is that Roger said from the start that 2013 was going to be a transitional year. Therefor we can’t take the results in 2014 too seriously. There was always going to be a slump after the peak of 2012. Roger is not in his prime anymore where he will dominate year in and year out. It is now a case of peaks and valleys. I would be more concerned about what happens in 2014. At some point I said I will start worrying when Roger can’t make the quarter final stages of slams anymore. That has happened twice this year now, but I will only really start worrying if it keeps happening in 2014.
I think if Roger makes the Masters Cup and finishes the year in the top 5 you would still have to say it was a pretty good year for a so-called transitional year. That is why I want to see him really continue the upwards curve that started in Cincy and continued in the first three rounds of the US Open. The loss to Robredo was a setback but like I said not necessarily that bad given the situation, and it will take some time for him to get his consistency back as well. He has had a lot of setbacks of late and lacks matches, so it will take time to build up that confidence again. Confidence is really what it all comes down to and is the big question mark for me at this point. The match against Robredo was another painful reminder of how much Roger’s confidence have deteriorated over the last few years and what aging does to a player’s confidence.
Look at Lleyton Hewitt for instance. He is 32 years old now like Roger and has fallen all the way to #57 in the rankings. I love how he still keeps going purely for the love of the competition. It’s an inspiration. But I can’t help noticing how much his mental fortitude has deteriorated since his prime. He used to be known for his mental strength in his prime. When he was in the lead the match was over. He didn’t let up and just kept playing better and better. Now look at what happened at the US Open. In the 4th round against Youzhny he had this great opportunity to make a slam quarter final, especially after he went up two sets to one. But then he just flat out choked. He was a break up in the 4th and 5th sets if I remember correctly but lost in 5 sets. I mean it was just tragic to see how far he had fallen mentally from his prime.
I couldn’t help but feel the same about Roger watching him lose to Robredo, and I found myself wondering whether he can ever get up again and come anywhere near his prime level. The whole US Open was just another big disappointment in a series of disappointments as a fan of Roger. First Roger loses really badly to Robredo, then Nadal utterly destroys Robredo, and finally Nadal wins the title. For a Fedfan it can’t get much worse. As always Roger and Nadal’s fortunes were at opposite sides of the spectrum, and this time the gap seemed bigger than ever. Yet all hope is not lost, because Nadal going on to win the US Open may ironically be the one thing that inspires Roger to get back to his best. Roger is a proud champion and Nadal winning the US Open will not have gone by unnoticed. He knows Nadal is now a bigger threat to his legacy than ever.
If there is one thing that could inspire Roger in 2014 it is Nadal winning the US Open. This is why I say Nadal has been a good thing for Roger, because he has constantly pushed him. Roger could never rest in his comfort zone with Nadal around, and now he is forcing Roger to come out of his comfort zone again. Roger knows Nadal is now a very real threat to his slam record and if he wants to hold Nadal off he desperately needs to win another slam. Roger’s fall this year has been a dramatic one but ironically I think his nemesis have just breathed new life into him and saved him from drowning completely. I don’t think Roger is ready to just sit by and watch Nadal chase down his slam record. He may not be able to stop him, but he is not gonna give it up without a fight. Our biggest failures and disappointments often become our biggest success stories, depending on how we handle it.
It is interesting how things work because I have often drawn a parallel between myself and Roger. I have recently also been at a kind of low point with lots of uncertainty, but these are often the points in life where positive change can happen and something really good can come out of it. I think Roger has kind of reached a turning point and that he is back on his way up. You have to reach the very bottom before you can reach the very top and that is what I think is happening here. I have a feeling 2014 can be another very good year for Roger and I want to see him keep growing in confidence during the indoor season. For the first time since the US Open I am feeling good about Roger and life again. Onward and upward!
Ps. I have started another tennis blog called The Tennis Analyst! I have always had a pretty broad interest in men’s tennis and my new blog will cover tennis news which doesn’t really fall under a Federer fan blog. This way I can focus more on Roger in this blog and keep things separate. I also want to continue blogging about tennis after Roger retires so why not start experimenting with something now? Check it out and leave me a comment!