It has been a while since my last post. Sometimes I don’t know how anxious you guys are to read posts in the off season. But after a few of my readers asked for a post I felt like I couldn’t let you down. Still enjoying Roger’s Masters Cup performance? I am! It really was amazing how he swept aside the numbers 7, 5, 4, 3, and 1 in the world, and dropping only one set in the process. It doesn’t come much more dominant than that. This was the Roger of old. We saw this Roger earlier in the year at the Australian Open as well. Other than that we saw only glimpses of him during the year. This was of course due to the fact that he got lung infection after a trip to Ethiopia for his foundation. Since then it was all an uphill struggle to get back to the Australian Open form. At times we fans wondered if Roger would ever regain that form again.
It was tough times for Fedfanatics. It reminded me of the beginning of the 2009 season. That was some depressing times as a Fedfanatic, and after the Australian Open this year it was a similar situation. Seeing Roger lose to all kinds of players who he hardly ever loses to, and seeing his grand slam semi-final streak broken, were some pretty big lows. But thankfully when Roger hit the hard courts of North America, things started turning around. Roger has always been very much at home on hard courts. He has already won 9 slams on it after all. And this year he won his 5th Masters Cup on it as well. It was quite an epic hard court stint since Toronto. Lets face it. Even though he lost before the final of the US Open for the first time in 6 years, he still compiled an impressive 35-4 win/loss record, won 4 titles, and completely dominated proceedings at the MC.
It was epic to watch how he overcame his confidence crises. He got a new coach on board and with every event he played he gained a little confidence. I kept building it up in my blog that the MC was going to be the climax where Roger will have a chance to turn his season around. Yet when Paris came around and he lost to Monfils, squandering 5 match points in the process, I didn’t hold out much hope that it was going to happen. But like a perfectly timed plot, Roger murdered the opposition at the MC to end yet another terrific year in style. By winning the MC he ensured that 2010 topped the 2008 season. In 2008 Roger did better in the slams, winning one, making two finals, and one semi-final. But he only won 4 titles, including the US Open(2000), Basel(500), Halle(250), and Estoril(250).
This year he won the Australian Open(2000), Masters Cup(1500), Toronto(1000), Basel(500), and Stockholm(250). Surely 2010 was a better year, even though Roger fared worse in the slams, winning one, making a semi-final, and two quarter finals. Sure the slams carry a lot of weight, but in 2008 Roger didn’t even pass the group stage of the MC. Take your pick, but I’m gonna go for 2010 as the better season. Now, to come back to the actual topic of this post, the Australian Open of 2011. I can’t help but feel like this event will carry significant importance. Tennis is all about Federer and Nadal, and this will be the case in Oz again next year. Nadal has won the last 3 slams, a significant feat. At age 24 he is beginning to enter the GOAT discussion already. Anyone who says he is already the GOAT is of course mentally impaired, but there is now a chance that he could become it.
If he wins in Australia he will have done something Roger have never done, which is to win four slams in a row. The Rafa slam if you will. That could be a significant turning point in the GOAT debate, because even though Nadal would still be at least 6 slams short of Roger’s mark, he will probably go on to win 5 slams in a row since the French Open is basically a lock for him. And again at Wimbledon he will have a great chance to make it 6 in a row. The most slams that Roger has won in a row is 3, which means Nadal could double that mark then. And of course if he goes that far, he will have a chance to win the calender slam. I know this is looking far forward, but it is not out of the question and therefor worth looking at. It will of course be extremely hard for Nadal to win the calender slam.
It will be hard enough for him to win the Australian Open. Having said that, he is the favorite according to the bookies at this point. He will be hard to stop. The only guys who I feel has got a chance to stop him is Roger and possibly Murray. Murray has beaten Nadal twice at hard court slams before, but he is so inconsistent at slams that it is a pretty small possibility. He has to end up in Nadal’s half of the draw as well. If Djokovic ends in Nadal’s half of the draw I don’t give him much of a chance, first of all because he never seems to beat Nadal at slams, and second because of the heat Down Under. Unless Nadal gets upset or an injury, it will probably come down to Roger to stop him again. It may well be another Fedal final, and this time Roger will have a chance to avenge that 2009 loss. The other thing that may come into play is the fact that Nadal is now the favorite.
He doesn’t usually like being the favorite. He likes to be the underdog and come from under the radar to win the thing, accept at Roland Garros of course. You’d have to say he handled the pressure at the US Open pretty well this year though. He may be getting used to being the favorite. The thing with Nadal is that he can adapt to pretty much anything. He is always evolving, so to put any kind if limit on him is unwise. I have learned that the best way to deal with him is to assume that he can do just about anything. That way you’ll be less disappointed when he wins. Also, Nadal probably likes to prove people wrong, so if you say he cannot do something you just make him more determined. So yes, I think he can win D0wn Under next year. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t win it either.
It has been a very long time since someone has won 4 slams in a row. It is not easy to achieve these kind of things. There is a reason they have been achieved on so few occasions. Call it a mental barrier. Roger had two chances to win 6 slams in a row at a specific slam(US Open and Wimbledon), but on both occasions came up just short. I don’t know if it has ever been done, but certainly not in the open era. The same thing happened with Nadal at the French Open. Bjorn Borg also won 4 titles in a row there, and when Nadal attempted to better that with a 5th consecutive title in 2009, he faltered. Incidentally it was also Borg who set the record of 5consecutive slams by winning Wimbledon 5 times in a row, and Roger faltered to improve on this when he lost in the 2008 final to Nadal in a very close match.
These records are there for a reason. They are very tough to improve upon. The only man who won 4 slams in a row in the open era as far as I know was Rod Laver, when he won the calender slam. But he did it in the second year(1969) of the open era, which means the competition wasn’t nearly as stiff as today, and three of the slams was played on grass still. Winning 4 slams in a row is just a different animal today. If Nadal does it it would be an amazing achievement to be sure. But he would have to go where no man in a recent era has gone before. This, coupled with the fact that he doesn’t necessarily like being the favorite, may work against him. He certainly isn’t a lock for the the title by any means. He could possibly be upset in an earlier round, or Murray could take him out again.
And then there is of course the Federer factor. If Roger didn’t put in the performance he did at the MC, I wouldn’t have had much hope for him. But that performance surely had to give him a huge amount of confidence. The fact that he can dispose of the top 5 players in the world in that fashion must make him at least joint favorite to defend his title in Oz next year. What the bookies say isn’t all important. Didn’t the bookies make Murray the favorite two years ago when he lost to Verdasco? Also it is good if Nadal is the favorite because he doesn’t feel comfortable with that title. If it is another Fedal final then you can be sure Nadal will be the favorite of just about everyone again, given that he apparently ‘owns’ Roger after the Wimbledon 2008 and Oz 2009 finals. But Roger showed in the MC finals that Nadal doesn’t own him at all.
That is just media trash talk. OK so it was indoors and it wasn’t a slam, but it was the ideal way to send Nadal a message going into Oz next year. Roger have after all won that event 4 times and is the defending champ. The 2009 final was a big disappointment, but we know that Roger’s back was not 100% back then, which may have been the reason why he served such a low first serve percentage. That basically cost him the match. People who says there can be only one outcome in a Fedal final are doing so at their own peril. Believe me, Roger will want to set the record straight after what happened in 2009. He will be very determined to get a much needed slam win over Nadal as well. As long as Nadal does not win in Australia I will be pretty happy. That way his chances to win 4 consecutive slams and the calender slam will be spoiled.
But the chances are pretty good that Roger will have to stop him from doing so anyway, in which case he will have his 17th slam in the bag. That would go a long way towards settling the GOAT discussion as well. Nadal would still be 8 slams short of Roger and the h2h between them would now be positive in Roger’s favor both in slams and outside of it(off of clay). OK I think I have said enough for now. Let me know what you think. The floor is yours.