This turned out to be a much tougher match than I thought it’d be. JesuFed picked up where he left off against Lacko and won the first two sets with no trouble whatsoever. It was another sublime display. But in the third set things started changing. It seems Roger got almost bored of beating on Simon. To play the same game for three full sets can’t be easy. It is much easier to lose concentration for a while, and if the other guy is playing well he is likely to take advantage of it. Simon went up two breaks in the third with some inspiring play and Roger’s level was just dropping slightly. Roger got one break back but I still expected Simon to win the set, which he did. I thought Roger would get it back together in the fourth set and I fell asleep. When I woke up I was pretty stunned to see Simon had taken the fourth set as well, but at least Roger broke at that point in the fifth set.
He was clearly not having it all his own way though. Simon was always going to be a tough draw in the second round, given that he had won Sydney the week before. Unlike Nadal, this was a very tough draw. Deserved slam champs earn their way to the title. Simon is the type of player who makes his opponent earn the win. He just hangs in there and forces the opponent to falter eventually. He is also a very tricky opponent in that he chances the pace a lot. He is mostly a counter punch type, but he also has the ability to flatten out his shots. This makes him an awkward and unpredictable opponent. The fact that he could get even JesusFed to falter says a lot of his abilities. I just feel it is a bit of a shame that Roger did not pull himself together and win the fourth set. I didn’t see it, so it is hard for me to draw any conclusions.
But it seems he just lost some concentration and made a few more errors while Simon stepped up his game. And as usual, I don’t think it is as big a deal as people make it. Someone like Roger can have these lapses because he has so many ways to win points, that sometimes he can forget to follow the most basic and simple way. The first two sets was basic enough, but it seems he complicated things for himself in the third and fourth while Simon the opportunist capitalized. We can’t forget what a good player Simon is. He is currently ranked 34th but was probably playing top 10 level. I mean it is a really tough match for a second round in a slam. It was a bit like the Hewitt/Nalbandian match. It was always going to be a tight affair. The important thing is that Roger found a way, which in itself is a positive thing.
The momentum was with Simon after the fourth set and Roger had to find a way to turn things around. I liked the way he broke in the fifth set and apparently he did as well with a loud ‘COME ON!’. After that it was just a matter of staying steady, although he missed 4 match points at 5-2 on Simon’s serve.. At least this time he won after having match points and not the other way around. Anyway I get annoyed when people criticize Roger after a match like this. Once again he won a 5 set match which we have seen him do quite often in slams. He doesn’t lose them much, which says a lot about his mental toughness in slams. It was a tricky match and he got the desired result. That is all that matters. Sure I would have liked to see JesusFed hang around for the full match, but it is not easy to play like that throughout a tournament.
There will be tough matches and the important thing is to get through them, like last year against Davydenko. I don’t think this match makes him any less of a favorite for the tournament. If anything it makes him more of a favorite. The draw only get easier for him from here on. At least until the semi’s. Next he plays Malisse, which he should be ok with. Then he will face Robredo or Stakhovsky who is easy as well. And in the quarters he could play Roddick, Wawrinka, or Monfils, who he has good records against. So for at least the next three matches he should have a pretty good time of it and be able to get back any lost confidence. This was Roger’s one big test of the tournament and he got through it with flying colors. Onwards and upwards.
On court interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN-QFdKu1Gw&feature=player_embedded#!