I didn’t get to watch this match online since I live in South Africa, and that’s probably not such a bad thing. Clearly this was nothing more than a practice outing for Roger, playing with his Rolex watch and experimenting with serve-and-volley and drop shots. This is the first time Soderling has beaten Roger in 13 meetings, yet it won’t count towards their head-to-head record because it’s not an ATP Tour match. Poor Soderling must be wondering by now what he must do to improve his head-to-head with Roger, but this will at least be some consolation for the Swede. He now faces Rafa in the final, who beat David Ferrer 7-6, 6-3 after Ferrer had set points in the first set. I suppose that is to be expected. Rafa’s compatriots seem to choke heavily when they play against him.
This now means that Rafa will play against Soderling, which should be interesting to watch. Soderling has won their last two matches, and I’m interested to see what kind of form Rafa is in. Rafa desperately needs confidence, and unlike Roger, he will give it his all against Soderling. It looks like Roger played seriously in the first set, but from the second set tie break onwards it seems he was in practice mode. I know this because when Roger starts serve-and-volleying for a whole game, he is working on something. For me this is a very positive sign. At the same time last year Roger was playing defensive tennis, and even though he played well at the Australian Open, his negative mindset cost him in the final. This is all about a mindset.
When Roger is confident in his game, he experiments with going to the net and attacks more. When he plays too defensive he can still beat most guys, but against his main rivals he can run into trouble. Therefor I don’t mind this loss in the least. The fact that Roger’s mind seems to be in the right place is all that matters. As long as he is willing to play positive tennis he won’t lose to anyone, including Rafa at his best. Last year Roger’s mind was not in the right place, and it cost him the Australian Open. Period. He was negative and when he had chances to put Rafa away, he was timid. It was terrible really. But since Madrid last year Roger has fixed his mind and his results have fallen into place. If Roger wants to win the grand slam this year, this attitude is going to be crucial.
No room for any more of that timidity that cost him Wimbledon 2008 and the Australian Open last year. You know, it comes back to this issue he has had with Rafa over the years. It’s nothing more than negativity that Roger has allowed to creep into his mind. Forget bad match up or any other excuse. If Roger’s mind is in the right place, which it is these days, he should never lose to Rafa. Definitely not outside of clay anyway. But as you saw he made short work of Rafa even on clay, when he used the right game plan against him in Madrid. So from here on I do expect Roger to beat Rafa whenever they meet, with the only possible exception being on clay. I think someone like Del Potro is a bigger worry for Roger right now, because Del Potro actually have big weapons which can overpower Roger.
If by now you still think this loss from Roger was significant, then I will refer you back to the Kooyong final a couple of years ago, where Roger was serve-and-volleying against Roddick in the final and lost, yet when they met in the Australian Open semi’s, he allowed Roddick only 6 games. So this is very normal for Roger. There simply isn’t as much motivation for him to compete hard in these matches as there are for mere mortals. I expect him to take the tournament in Doha next week a little more seriously, although I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t win it. Oh and by the way, it looks like Roger is playing with a new racquet which is nice to see. Still Wilson of course, but it seems he is playing with the newest model now. Or maybe it’s just a paint job, who knows.
It’s nice to see a change though, and for me that symbolizes that Roger is a new player in 2010 as well. No more timidity, just full out positive mindset that may just finally bag him the grand slam. Can’t wait to see what this year holds for Roger!