Basel Rd 1: Federer def Starace 7-6(3), 6-4

I’m a bit late with the post, but I didn’t get to see this match. They don’t broadcast the first three days of Basel in my country, and as you know live streams don’t work for me. It went pretty much as expected though. From what I’ve heard Roger was rusty which is to be expected, but he got the job done in straight sets which is good. I see they have also changed the court surface in Basel which to me is a shame, especially since Roger said in his presser that the surface plays slightly slower for him. It just seems crazy to me that they are slowing everything down these days. They did it at the Australian Open, they did it at Wimbledon, they did it at the US Open, and one of these days there won’t be a single fast court left. Anyway moving on, Roger now plays Niemenin as I predicted and that should be another comfortable match for him.

His has a 11-0 record against Niemenin and 22-0 in sets. It doesn’t come much more one-sided than that. Niemenin has showed some decent form of late though so maybe he can make a match of this. You never know. Today Djokovic was in action and he looked very rusty in his 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 win over Malisse. Malisse is a very talented player but from what I’ve heard Djokovic did indeed look very rusty. He has of course had a very long season behind him and had the injury to deal with as well. Does this mean he may be vulnerable for the last three events of the season? Only time will tell. It will be interesting to see what happens anyway because he is coming very close now to equaling or even surpassing Roger’s amazing 2006 season. Roger had a 92-5 W/L record and won 12 titles, including 4 Masters Series titles and the Masters Cup.

Djokovic currently has a 65-3 W/L record with 10 titles, but with a record 5 Masters Series titles. If he is to equal or surpass Roger he has to win 2 more titles, including the Masters Cup. If he does that then it will be close. He will then have an equal amount of titles, including all the big ones, but he will have won more Masters Series title than Roger. On the other hand he can’t catch Roger in amount of wins for the season, although he can end up up with one less loss. That’s a tall order though, because it means he has to win Basel or Paris, and the Masters Cup without losing a match in the round robin. I think Roger may end up with the superior season due to the fact that he has a less taxing game style than Djokovic. Incredibly, Roger have never withdrawn from a match due to injury. Djokovic have done so many times already. I have lost count.

Roger with the Number 1 History-Award in Basel

Djokovic has to grind down opponents more than Roger ever had to, and it is starting to cost him at the tail end of one of the best tennis seasons in history. It has already cost him two matches in Cincinnati and Davis Cup, and he also looked strung out in Basel today. I don’t think that is enough reason to believe that he will struggle in the last three events. But even if he does win the Masters Cup and another event, then his taxing game style and injuries has already caused him to withdraw from Beijing and Shanghai, which is why he can’t catch up with Roger in matches won. If you look at how Roger performed at the tail end of his 2006 season, he won the last 5 events he played and two Davis Cup matches as well, incidentally against Serbia where he destroyed Djokovic 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. So he was clearly not very tired during the end of 2006.

This is why Roger is such an incredible tennis player, unlike we have ever seen. He dominated like no other before him and he did so with minimum effort. Djokovic dominated 2011 no doubt, but it clearly took something out of him. With Roger it all looked so effortless. In 2007 he picked right up where he left off and won his first two titles, making it a run of 7 straight titles. After Djokovic’s break he does have a chance of winning two more titles including the Masters Cup, in which case he will be right up there with Roger. If that happens the media will no doubt hype up Djokovic’s season as the best in the history of the sport, forgetting that Roger had a better record in slams, won more matches than Djokovic, and made it all look much more effortless. I on the other hand would have no problem congratulating Djokovic on his great season.

In fact I already do. It’s been tremendous. For me what will stand out in his season will be the return on match point against Roger in the US Open semis. That was really the point where Roger could have ended the best season debate, but Djokovic came up with a blistering winner. I mean you just have to praise that shot no matter how much you love Roger or hate Djokovic. I wouldn’t even mind if Djokovic wins the Masters Cup and one more event. It would make for interesting debates in years to come. And besides, Djokovic is never coming close to Roger’s consistency at the top. Roger has two similar seasons to 2006, if not three. Lets see what happens. These last three events of 2011 will be very interesting. Roger will be very hungry and Murray is looking in fine form too, so Djokovic has it all to do.

Ps. Vote for Roger! http://www.atpworldtour.com/Fans/Fan-Favorite/ATP-World-Tour-Award-Nominees-2011.aspx

Mirka Federer


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15 Comments

  1. Good reading and analysis as always Ruan. I did get to see the match but my streaming was poor so it was not the total pleasure of watching Roger as i had hoped for. He was rusty in the first set but started looking good in the second. As you said, Novak is prone tp injury just like Nadal. This is why i don’t think either of these players will ever surpass Roger in the total picture. Roger has been blessed with a gift so complete that i think he is untouchable as GOAT.

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  2. “Djokovic has to grind down opponents more than Roger ever had to…”

    Ah yes well said, this is the difference between the 2 and why Novak will have a hard time defending points next year.

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  3. I’d like to share with you part of an interview Roger made.
    Roger was asked by journalists in Basel whether being number one isn’t one of his goals anymore. His answer to this question was “it definitely remains a long-term goal, but in the short term it is not possible anymore to be number one. Being number 3 or number 4 doesn’t matter all that much. It’s like equal to him. Furthermore he commented that being number requires to win at least two grand slam during one season (unlike for women on the WTA-circuit).

    “Schaffen sie es nochmals auf den tennisthron? oder gehört das nicht mehr zu ihren zielen? langfristig ist das schon noch ein ziel. aber kurzfristig ist das nun nicht mehr möglich. das muss ich akzeptieren. ob ich dann die nummer 3 oder 4 bin, ist egal.”
    http://bazonline.ch/sport/tennis/Es-wird-mein-Koerper-sein-der-entscheidet/story/19838942

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  4. This year so far, Roger wasn’t able to beat Djokovic and Nadal back to back. And everybody is talking about Roger’s decline…
    But Roger’s words spoken to the journalist in Basel prove he remains aiming the number one spot in the long-term, despite knowing that it takes winning at least two grand slams during one season to regain this spot.
    Did Roger just say this kind of thing to please his home people?
    I don’t think so. Roger is a very honest and intelligent person and doesn’t want to fool nobody, not himself, not the journalist, not us.
    He genuinely believes his time will come to show us he’s not just another dreamer nourishing unachievable goals.
    Why could it be that Roger still believes he could regain the number one spot ?
    Because, as Ruan has indicated very well in his post, Nadal and Djokovic have to grind down their opponents more than Roger, to topple them. Even Murray has to do this to some extent. They don’t have the exquisite repertoire of shots as Roger does to bail themselves out of trouble, but have to do it by grinding down and pushing their bodies to the limit, and this most of the time.
    This kind of game style is short-term oriented; it can’t be extended year by year and provokes the physical cycles, that every player experiences, to be shortened. Roger knows this, he knows there will come still opportunities to topple them, because his opponents will at some point enter into a down cycle, while he might just be moving the opposite direction. This opposite movement might just be enough to pick up a slam or even more.

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  5. Thanks Ru-an for posting eventhough you didn’t watch the match. Much appreciate it. You really know how to take care of your readers, don’t you?! Ha! Over here, like your country, they only will show the matches from Friday onwards. Very disappointed. Hope Rog wins. Was taken a bit surprised with his very honest and direct response about getting the number 1 back. Looks like our hero is very serious and indeed going for the long haul.

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  6. I saw the match and Rogers serve and play were strong in the first set. Seems like that set was over in five minutes. Second set i don’t know where he went but his serve was gone in the beginning and had double faults a plenty.He finally pulled it together at end of that set. Maybe first set was so easy he didn’t think he needed to focus. Third set he was back and his serve was on again.It was a good match, so happy we won. He really can’t check out, it’s too dangerous.

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Thanks for the feedback to us, Susan, who are not able to watch. I am just going crazy not being able to watch him after 6 weeks. I miss him so much! Yeah, the checking out thing. That’s what really bothers me about Rog and which I think he should seriously look into. He does this so often nowadays and the annoying thing is that he NEVER learns. Many a match he has lost because of checking out and I noticed a trend about this – he will check out if match is too easy and/or when he has taken a set, he thinks it’s going to be a walk in the park in the next set and he relaxes and lose focus. Maybe he still lives in the past (2004-2007) where he could afford to check out and still won matches. You would have thought he should have learnt by now, especially since he is more vulnerable nowadays, to NEVER ever check out until he wins a match! ‘Tis both exhilarating and frustrating to be his fan. No other player can put me on a roller coaster of extreme joy and pain as he does. Anyway, Rog, you don’t get Basel, I will forgive you but PLEASE, don’t let Djoker take the WTF, PLEASE!! I CAN’T bear another King Kong war cry!!! If Djoker gets it, I will check out from this blog and mourn, yes, I will!!

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    Susan Reply:

    Hi Veronica Lee, i don’t know where you live, i’m in Vermont, USa. I pay for live streaming on tennistv.com many matches are blocked but i get quite a few. I’m sorry you can’t see Roger, i understand the hunger of missing him. Surely there must be a site to see the Basel Event. Know what you mean about his checking out. Second set i was thinking WTF Roger, i got all worried and upset. Like Ruan says and i know it’s true, we must enjoy whats left of his playing while we can. Also, in his prime it wasn’t will he win but we watched as he nearly always won. These days are hard for us fans but remember all he has given us. Don’t ever leave the blog, we need each other.

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    Jiten Reply:

    Don’t ever think of leaving this blog Veronica. We need you and more so Roger needs your support. Well, like Susan, I have also subscribed to the tennistv.com to watch Roger live here in India (though they are showing the matches live on TV from Thursday onwards); I vowed not to miss a single match Roger plays till he retires as I didn’t follow him that religiously during his dominant years (which I am ruing now.). In the match against Nieminen, in the third game of the second set (after losing the first game on his serve), he committed three double faults in a row to go down 0-40 (I have never seen him doing this before)and eventually lose the game. Though he broke back once and had break-point while Jarkko was serving at 5-4 he could not capitalize. In the third set, he just steamrolled. Overall, I think a ratio of 28 winners against 22 unforced errors (including four double faults in the second set) for Fed in that match is pretty good. One thing I noticed was that he seemed to be annoyed about something in the third set during points; it was mentioned by the commentators as well. As Ru-an pointed out the speed of the court was clearly slower than the last year. I also agree with Veronica that he is losing many of his recent matches because of “checking out”, particularly after winning the first set and serving first in the second. I have seen him losing the very first game on his serve in the second set on quite a few occasions this year itself. In order to regain Basel, he must brush aside the rusts which I am sure he will.
    GO ROGER GO!

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  7. Federer is the only player who can win a point with four or five shots.

    The others all have to run so much more and play so many long rallies just to win a point.

    Let’s review the state of his younger rivals’ performance:

    Djokovic has been having a phenomenal year, but he’s still had to retire twice with injury. His game is very strenuous. One can only imagine what kind of shape his body will be in after a couple more years.

    Nadal burned out in 2009 after his AO triumph and didn’t win a title for nearly a year. He came back stronger in 2010, and was poised to continue his run of dominance in 2011, but Djokovic surged past him in under a year and he’s unceremoniously been dumped from the top spot. He’s never managed to dominate throughout the season in nearly every tournament, as Federer and Djokovic have both done. His team will probably find a way to make him still stronger and faster, but I think that will have serious side effects on his health and mentality.

    Del Potro beat Federer in a major final, but he damaged his wrist and sacrificed a year of his career to do so and he’s still not back to where he was in late 2009.

    To sum up: their games are very demanding physically. And the highly physical nature of their games makes it easier for the competition to catch up with them; if their opponents close the gap even slightly in stamina and strength, they lose their edge significantly (especially in Nadal’s case, since his game depends so much on physical superiority).

    Despite being over 30, Federer still remains fitter and more injury-free than his colleagues in their twenties. He may have to skip a tournament here and there, but he’s rarely out for prolonged periods of time. His game is much more efficient and less taxing physically.

    Federer was #1 for 237 consecutive weeks–that’s over four and a half straight years at the top. It’s a feat of consistency his younger rivals are unlikely to equal, let alone surpass.

    He’s unique in that he can make up for the margin of power and speed he’s lost to age with a greater variety of shots and tactics: denying his opponents the chance to run him around on his own serve, penetrating their defenses more quickly, and mixing the pace to disrupt their rhythm until he can create a chance to attack.

    So there is a very good chance he can return to the top. One thing’s for sure, he’s working constantly to get there.

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  8. Ru-an, have you seen the news, Nadal has again withdrawn from BNP Paribas in Paris next week? Looks like he wants the WTF in London very badly. With the top three not in 100% physical shape, this may be a great opportunity for Fed to regain some of lost grounds and take the momentum into 2012.

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  9. When Roger was revealing recently that he still wants to regain the number one spot in the long-term, he emphasized that it will be his body that decides about whether or not he will succeed to do so. Roger has indeed to remain sufficiently healthy to be able to execute the game he wants to and will need to play.
    Although it remains a hell of a task for any player to pull Roger out of his comfort zone and beat him, more and more players achieve to do so lately and figured out how to do it.
    Nadal was maybe not the first to find a way to counter Roger’s attacking game and penetrate his defence effectively, but he is definitely the first to have done it on a more regular basis. He was doing this basically by relentlessly retrieving Roger’s offensive shots fired to the baseline or to the sidelines of the court and forcing Roger into finally making an unforced error. He did it also by constantly turning around his backhand as soon as possible, a tactic Roger perfected himself, and by looping deep topspin shots to Roger’s backhand to open up the court and finish Roger off merciless as soon as he returned the shorter ball half court. Finally, whenever Roger was coming into the half court zone or approaching the net, he did it by hitting carved topspin passing shots out of Federer’s reach, that tended to curl back into the court, or by ripping the ball over the net and down to Roger’s shoelaces from whence an accurate volley is virtually impossible. These three tactics combined put Roger in a very uncomfortable position and constitute a solid strategy to beat Roger. Judging by their latest encounters, Roger is still in the process of figuring out how to counter these Nadal’s tactics and impose him again his own game style, without having to destroy his own body.
    Another player who used to beat Roger regularly earlier on, be it not in the grand slams, is Andy Murray. His game is pyramid-shaped with a solid basis of mainly retrieving and counterpunching qualities (based on his tremendous foot speed), and a light superstructure of insidious slices and drop shots to outsmart his opponents. Murray’s game is more complicated and less predictable than Nadal’s as a result of which it also poses a threat to Roger’s attacking game. But Murray’s qualities can’t always offset his relatively weak second serve and forehand, and coincide for the time being with a complicated restless mind, things which Roger has exploited repeatedly in their latter encounters.
    Then there is the reborn Novak Djokovic with his good balance between defence and offence. His game has more of a Chinese temple with in his centre a Buddhist stature with multiple arms and legs to stretch out to every ball that comes its way and pounce it back with great accuracy. Novak’s game apparently doesn’t seem to have many flaws; he can easily turn defence into offence, and reach the extreme corners of the court with ease. His game relies however heavily on physical “fitness” and less on “finesse”, which is a very different thing. Although Novak’s attitude reminds us somehow of the jungle, he probably won’t turn into the real “bête noir” of our beloved Roger.
    Finally there is still the powerhitters who are (cap)able to destabilize Roger’s game when there on fire: the Marat Safins, Del Potro’s, Söderlings and Berdychs. Roger does not always find a way anymore to prevail, to hang in there and pull trough difficult periods of a match with these guys. He has to try however to keep dictating his own game instead of being dictated and force his opponent to play worse. But this is easier said than done.
    The bottomline to all this: Roger has to stay very healthy and keep evolving to be able to beat the field of opponents he’s facing nowadays.

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  10. i don’t understand the obsession in comparing Nole’s season to Fed’s. and if he wins one match more than Fed on 06 or loses one less, so what…? i always felt Fed supriority comes from the WAY he plays and not from the titles count.

    about this season – for me it was a great disappointment. losing too many matches where he had the lead, too many lapses, to many slips… there are only 3 tournaments left this year and Fed only has 1 lousy title… very disappointing.

    about the no. 1 spot – i doubt Fed can claw his way back there and i don’t think that should be his goal anymore. the ranking is an outcome of the achievements and so Fed should focus on winning titles again, espacially majors, and the ranking will improve subsaquently.

    what does Fed need to do to make the most out of these last few seasons of his career? these are my thoughts:

    1 – work on the mental side: mental weakness cost Fed too many matches in the last few seasons and he allows opponents to get into his head. i hope he is humble enough to seek some professional help.

    2 – improve physical shape: Fed is getting tired early in matches and more often than not it’s costing him dearly.

    3 – make more time for himself, for practice, rest and family by narrowing down the list of sponsers and the commitmants that come with these contracts.

    4 – be more aggressive on court and come up to the net to finish points quickly.

    5 – always keep in mind: he doesnt have to prove anything to anyone anymore.

    hope Fed will finish the year on a high note and storm into 2012.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    What obsession? It’s fun to compare, that’s all.

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