The 2009 season is underway and Roger has played his first tournament in Doha, Qatar. It was a solid enough start for Roger but he would be disappointed to have lost to Andy Murray in the semi-finals I’m sure. As usual Roger came through the early rounds without much trouble, winning all three his matches in straight sets. He went into the semi’s with a 2-4 career record against Murray so I’m sure he would have liked to prove a point. The first set was a tight affair with Roger taking it in the tiebreak 8-6 and playing really well. Then he would get a break chance with Murray serving at 0-40 early in the second set. Roger couldn’t capitalize and after this Murray would run away with the match 6-2, 6-2. This is unlike Roger, i can’t remember the last time he lost to sets in a row 6-2, 6-2 on hard court.
I didn’t watch the match myself but apparently Murray took injury timeouts and wasn’t even seriously injured which made Roger mad. This is something that a lot of people in tennis is complaining about and the ATP might have to look at seriously. Players are allowed to take injury timeouts for anything these days. In the old days if you had a problem you either played with it or you retired. In my opinion it is not a bad thing, but it should be controlled better. Too many players are taking timeouts these days for no reason and that must put off their opponent because it breaks the rhythm of the match. I’m sure there is players these days that use it just as a tactic to psych their opponents.
Whatever the case may be Murray deserves credit for the way he beat Roger in those final two sets. Murray must have become a real headache for Roger by now. Having said that I don’t think Roger will be overly disappointed. He has still won the most important matches against Murray, the one last year in the US Open final and another smaller tournament in the final. The matches he lost has all been in smaller tournaments and before the final. So even though Murray will be a definite annoyance for Roger by now I don’t think there is reason for big concern yet. As long as Roger keeps beating him on the big occasions it’s all fine by me. And one such big occasion might just be in the upcoming Australian Open.
Roger and Murray must be the two favorites to win down under at this point and there is a good chance they could meet in the final. If this happens Murray will have the chance to prove if he can really deal with the big occasion after failing miserably in the US Open last year. With Djokovic losing in the first round of his first outing of 2009 and Nadal losing in the quarter finals of Doha against Gael Monfils, Murray sure looks like the one to beat at the start of the season. And the fact that he has proved to be such a difficult match up for Roger does not help. However Roger will from now on be focusing on the grand slams. He has entered the latter part of his career and it should be all about the slams and breaking Pete’s record. This is pretty obvious by the way Roger has cut his schedule this year as well.
He realizes as he gets older that he needs to conserve energy for the slams and that in the end that is what it’s all about. When it’s all said and done his career will be defined by the amount of grand slam titles he has won. So I don’t think their is need for any alarm yet. Roger is smart and knows what he wants. Of course he would have liked to beat Murray but on the day Murray was the better player. In the grand slams it’s a best out of five set match anyway, which already makes it a different story. Already i hear people saying that this is just a continuation of the ‘decline’ of 2008 from Federer and that he should start thinking of retiring blah blah blah. Lets look at the facts then. Last year Roger had the most amount of wins in grand slam tournaments together with Nadal. But not only that he also won the last grand slam tournament that was played.
Since when should a player start thinking of retirement if he has won the last grand slam and has the best record in slams for the previous year?! Of course i realize that there is people who just don’t like Roger and would give anything to see him not break Sampras’ slam record. These people will scream retirement after every match Roger loses from now until the day he retires. So if you are a Federer fan, get used to it! It must be said though that Murray is looking good and has the potential to do really well at the first grand slam of the year. I’m hoping Roger and Murray ends up in different sides of the draw but that is only guaranteed for the number one and two seeds. So at least Roger knows he won’t have to deal with arch rival Nadal before the final. If Roger draws Djokcovic in the semi-final’s that should give him a better chance to make the final and also a chance to maybe avenge his 2008 loss to Djokovic in the semi’s.
So mainly the point of this post is to say that Roger will from now on be focusing mostly on the slams. He will want to make sure he is in decent form before the slams and that he peaks when he plays them. Making the semi-finals of Doha and losing to probably the most in from player on tour is not the end of the world by any means. His form is good enough to take on another solid title run at the Australian Open in little more then a week. This is when his form will really matter and I for one will stand by my tennis idol and support him all the way. There is a lot more riding on this title then immediately meets the eye. If Roger can win down under he will shut the critics up for a long time to come and he would already be tied with Pete’s record. The main thing for him would be to ignore all the talk of decline that is going on and believe in himself one more time. I still believe with all my heart that Roger is very hungry and haven’t lost much motivation at all and more importantly that he can win the title. Go Roger!!!