Basel SF: Federer def Wawrinka 7-6(5), 6-2, Djokovic Falls to Nishikori

Well this was the first match of Roger I got to watch this week and it was another solid performance. He got the break early on to go up 3-1. Then when serving for the first set at 5-4 Wawrinka played a great point at 15-15 after Roger was in control of the point. Wawrinka showed some good defense and ended up hitting a backhand down the line winner. He also won the next two points to break right back. Things were all squared again. It would come down to the tie break. In the tie break Roger would once again lose his lead. He was ahead 5-1 at one point after which he lost both his serves. But he broke again to take a 6-4 lead, and then served it out at 6-5. After that it was pretty much a done deal. Roger broke in the first game of the second set and again at 3-1. Roger now leads 10-1 in the head-to-head, one win away from another turkey.

It was a good performance from Roger with some glimpses of JesusFed. But the big news was that Djokovic lost only his fourth match of the year against Nishikori, and the second one in which he wasn’t injured. Who would have thought it would be Nishikori? But he really deserved it as he played some very gutsy tennis. Djokovic was just two points away from the final at 6-2, 5-4, and 30-0 on the Nishikori serve, but Nishikori played a very gutsy point then which changed the momentum of the match. Nishikori went on to win the second set in a tie break and then bageled Djokovic in the third. Yes, bageled. It was really a fantastic display from Nishikori and surely the biggest win of his career. I was of course wrong about Djokovic making the final, but it really looked like he would when he was just two points away.

I don’t think this loss can just go down to the fact that Djokovic was injured. Djokovic was in a winning position and Nishikori just took the initiative away from him. So Djokovic may not have been at his best this week, but all credit to Nishikori. A Djokerer final would have been nice, but I’m not complaining. Roger needs a title pretty badly and the Djokovic loss increases his chances. This will probably be the biggest match of Nishikori’s career and it will be hard against the GOAT in front of his home crowd. Moreover, beating Djokovic and Roger in consecutive matches will be a tall order. So Roger does go into the final as the clear favorite. He needs to take advantage and get his second title of the year. That would mean an incredible fifth title in Basel and it will be a great boost to his 2011 season and his chances going into Paris and London.

I just knew Roger was going to be very psyched up for the indoor season and it can add a lot of shine to his 2011 season if he can pick up one or two titles, not to mention give him a nice confidence boost going to Australia next year. Of course last year the indoor season turned out to be a fantastic stretch for Roger and sadly this year he is not playing as many tournaments. But nonetheless it could go a long way towards saving his 2011 season, especially if he wins the Masters Cup again. I would like to see Roger now win Basel and then really put in everything to win Paris as well. I don’t know if he puts less emphasis on Paris, but I don’t think he can afford to that this year if that is the case. He has to try to end the year with three straight titles so that he can end with four titles, the same as 2008.

I mean indoors is the one surface where he is still the best, and especially with Djokovic and Nadal struggling he needs to take advantage. Other big news is that Djokovic withdrew from Paris, which gives Roger an even bigger chance there. Nadal also withdrew. So I feel like Roger should really try to pick up his first title in Paris. He is rested and in form. The surface is also fast and suits him. The withdrawal of Djokovic from Paris also means that he can’t catch up with Roger in title count in 2006. It also means that he will have less wins at the end of the season, much less than Roger had in 2006. The effects of Djokovic’s physically demanding game style is really starting to tell at the end of the season. He withdrew in the final of Cincy, withdrew in Davis Cup, lost in the semis of Basel, and now withdrew from Paris.

What is next? Withdrawal from the Masters Cup as well? For Djokovic to be part of the debate for the greatest season in tennis history he now needs to win the Masters Cup. If he fails there is no debate. Simple. If he does win it then Roger still have many more match wins and more titles. Djokovic then only has the record five Masters Series titles which is better than Roger. For the rest Roger is pretty much ahead in everything. If Djokovic wins all his matches at the Masters Cup he will still have one loss less than Roger had, but his winning percentage will be worse than Roger’s no matter what. It is a tall order for Djokovic now. He is looking very jaded and he has to win the Masters Cup, preferably without losing a match in round robin. Or else there simply can’t be a debate. I really think Roger is now the man to beat for the rest of the season.

He has to get the job done tomorrow first, but I think he will. Then he will be hard to stop in Paris and London. Djokovic and Nadal is having problems, and Murray’s momentum has been broken by going to Basel. Tomorrow will be the first meeting between Roger and Nishikori. Make us proud champ!

Ps. It’s not confirmed that Djokovic won’t play Paris yet. Either way it looks doubtful that he can win the title and will probably pick up another loss if he plays.

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14 Comments

  1. It’s certainly interesting how Roger often comes through towards the end of the season (which is why he has won his share of WTF finals, including last year in very convincing fashion) while his chief rivals fall way, often through injury. Nadal in particular has consistently failed to make his mark at the end of the season. All his fruit it seems has to be picked from the beginning of the clay-court season through to Wimbledon – last year’s USO was something of an aberration. On the other hand, Roger’s form has either tended to be consistently high throughout the year (as in his peak years) or rather erratic, as it has been in the last couple of years; a somewhat more natural outcome, I feel.

    But with Nadal well off his peak and Djokovic in doubt for Paris you are right that the field is opening up nicely for Roger – if he can consoidate here at Basel.

    By the way, Djokovic is claiming it was injury that saw him fade against Nishikori. I have to incline to that accept that because Djokovic this year has conceded so few matches, and I would be very surprised if he either tanked the Nishikori match or couldn’t win a game against a player outside the top twenty in the 3rd set if he had nothing bothering him. It was a strange display, even though Nishikori played well but not brilliantly.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well yeah he wasn’t 100%. That’s why Roger will probably end up with the better season in 2006, because he has a more forgiving game style.

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  2. Djoko obviously wasn´t 100% but in my opinion he didn´t want to lose the final match against Roger, at least he finished the match. I can´t tell what Nishi is capable, but Stan played even better than Nishi and lost so that´s in fed´s favor.
    Congratulations for Roger he´s so kind and honest, he correctly gave the point to Stan.What a gentleman, I loved his facial expression when the chair umpire gave him the point.

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    What kindness? What did Roger give Wawrinka? The stupid channel stopped the match as it was over the allocated live broadcast time and I am left here …. hanging. Don’t even know the results and had to check it on my computer. Anyway, boo! Djoker is out. Yipee! Roger should be kissing the trophy tomorrow unless he decides to check out on the Japanese Sushi-kori. Kei is a very steady and aggressive player. Roger better not think he can check out on the sushi. It would have been more meaningful to win against the Djoker but at this point in time, Roger could use some luck as his draws have all been very difficult this year and not much luck going his way the whole year. Common Roger! Basel and WTF all the way! Steve, Mdirul, good comments. Ru-an good post. Loved your previous two posts at well – provided some really nice poultry moments – of turkeys and ostrichs! Love your writing. Been meaning to comment on last few posts but too busy but I agree with most everything everyone says on the previous posts. Some really really good comments and so well put. I couldn’t have said them better. And I must thank Steve, the eternal optimist. Keep the flame burning for us all; sometimes it is hard to keep even a flicker especially when His Royal Highness goes on “check out” vacations. Also, Neil, I like your cold factual realistic comments – no beating about the bush and say it as it is. Did you all read the comments from Roger that he is not complaining about the long season and that having too many tournaments is better than too few?!! And that he said Murray doesn’t know what he wants complaining about long season yet asking for wild card to Basel?! Ouch! What a stinger, Rog! Pity, please!! With Djoker injured, we see some things that we talked about on this blog starting to come true, maybe – that the punishing styles of Nadal, Djokovich and Murray will not sustain them and that Roger can still be right up there challenging them for a long time to come – Roger may even outlast them. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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    FeddyBear Reply:

    Fed’s fair play:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0jOxQjU9zw

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Thanks zillion, FeddyBear. From what I gather, actually it is Wawrinka’s point as Fed hit the ball out but the umpire made a mistake in awarding the point to Fed. So Fed pointed out that it should be Wawrinka’s point. Is that what it was all about? I’m just surprised why Wawrinka didn’t point out the mistake of the scoreboard. But Fed was so sweet and such a gentleman, fair play and all.

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  3. Continuing along the lines of what Neil’s said, physical players like Djokovic and Nadal appear to be brittle. Once they run out of gas, something seems to snap and their performance drops sharply. They become physically unable to respond on court because they depend so heavily on the ability to track down every ball.

    It happened to Nadal at USO this year (the first time that’s happened to him in a major tournament in at least five years) and the same thing happened to Djokovic against Nishikori.

    Federer’s game isn’t as physical, he doesn’t have such precipitous drops. He can (and sometimes does) mentally check out, but is very rarely unable to continue physically.

    The only times I’ve seen him in physical distress are the ’09 USO final, when he appeared to be fatigued from trying to match Del Potro’s heavy groundstrokes, and the ’08 YEC against Murray when his back was visibly hurting. In both cases the match took an equal or greater toll on his opponent than it did him.

    Turning to the case of Nadal, his team is rationing his strength ever more carefully as he gets older.

    They no longer bother targeting the pre-AO tournaments, Queens (which he’s won) or the summer hard-court Masters (even though he’s won Rogers Cup twice) or the post-USO hard-court run.

    Aside from the Grand Slams/YEC, Nadal is in peak form only during clay season plus IW/Miami–those slow, high-bouncing hard courts offer him the best chance to win Masters titles off of clay. They’re also earlier in the season, hence he’s less fatigued than in summer and fall.

    As he gets still older, they may stop bothering with IW/Miami too. He hasn’t won a hard-court Masters title in over two and a half years, despite making 3 finals. They may decide it’s no longer worth putting the additional strain on his body if he can’t win those titles.

    Obviously Djokovic decided to go for broke this season and grab as many trophies as he could, staying “gluten-free” the whole year round; in the light of today’s events, that’s clearly not sustainable long-term.

    It’ll be interesting to see if he dials it back next year and begins showing Nadal-like cycles of subpar results in best-of-three, alternating with invincibility in the Grand Slams.

    His game is more efficient than Nadal’s and his fluctuations in performance should be less noticeable than the comically obvious disparity between normal Nadal and Super Nadal; nevertheless, the same pattern should be discernible.

    Only Federer has the luxury of playing to win in every tournament he enters; the others have to husband their strength and decide whether they’re in it to win it or whether a few practice matches is enough.

    Nadal’s game and mentality are so mechanical that his confidence is little affected by losses (save on clay); victory is often more costly to him than defeat. I’m convinced his torrid performance in the beginning of ’09, winning AO and IW and sweeping the clay season up to Madrid, contributed to his loss at RG and the resulting slump.

    His team is clearly determined to avoid a repeat of that mistake. Last year, away from clay, he was not a force at any non-Grand Slam tournament (except Tokyo, where the draw was kind, and the YEC, which his team is clearly targeting). Yet in the Grand Slams he was dominant.

    Djokovic usually does well during the post USO fall hard-court season; in ’09 he won three titles during that period; he made the Basel final three years running from ’08 to ’10, and last year if Federer hadn’t stopped him in Basel and Shanghai he would have had a great run then, too.

    This year fatigue from his amazing exploits prevented him from being a serious factor after USO, when normally he’d thrive. It seems even a gluten free diet has its limitations.

    Even at thirty, Federer remains unaffected by these problems. He’s physically capable of playing at a high level throughout the whole season, especially on the indoor courts where he can shorten the rallies even more and employ first-strike tactics to save energy.

    It’s a good time for him to make a push and establish a solid base for next year.

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  4. I agree with Ruan and Steve and others. I would like to express my annoyance at the comments by media persons that an injured Djokovic was beaten by Nishikori and Djokovic himself is trying to imply that only an injured Djokovic can lose. This is an equivalent kind of excuse as the one by Nadal fans that only injured Nadal loses matches. As a layman I understand that any player has both a good day and a bad day. Otherwise why cannot I as a Federer fan say that Federer loses only because he has some or other kind of problems?

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  5. thanks for a great post.

    i agree that Fed needs to win 2-3 titles to save this season and gain momentum for the next. i don’t think the match today is a gimmie… Fed has to be focused to win the match, if he plays poorly Nishikori can definitely surprise him…

    couple of interasting facts: if Fed wins today it will be a recored-breaking 5 titles in Basel, and not the first tournament he wins for 5 times: winby, uso, halle, masters cup…. amazing feature.
    also by the end of the season if everything goes well Fed’s wins count will be 800+ matches… right now he has 796 !! of course it is by far the best among active players… if i am not mistaken, the active players that are next on the list are Roddick with 588, Hewitt with 551 and Nadal with 538…. !!!

    really hope Fed wins today and in Paris, it will be nice if he can pick up a Masters in which he never won. also the surface in Paris is the fastest on tour (if they havent changed it this year) which should compliment Fed’s game.

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  6. Yep, I forgot Paris. Yes, Roger, all the way – from Basel, to Paris, to London, on the Fed Express! It would be just great if he could gain momentum going into next season by saving the season and ending it on a high. Fed with 796 matches! He has to be the greatest of all time to be able to play so many matches and still look so young, fresh and handsome! I can just imagine how Nadal, Nole and Murray would look by the time they got to 796 – Nadal would be bald, Nole would be on breath/life supporting machine, Murray would lose all his teeth. Btw, Roger has never won Paris despite it being a very fast surface. Like some kind of jinx going on with this title. Ru-an, why do you think he never won?

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  7. Like your post a lot, Ruan, and most of the comments here, especially Steve’s interesting thoughts.
    I’d like to add one thought to it though.
    Federer’ accomplishments are amazing if we compare them with his competition. They are the result of extraordinary talent, athletic ability and practical wisdom in the way he has been preparing and scheduling matches in the course of his career. His extraordinary technical talent and superiority over his competition helped him to shorten the rallies and minimize the amount of long rallies, his practical wisdom helped him – without needing to reflect on it – to refuse to track down every single ball during his matches, in order to save energy and avoid fatigue and injuries, and still win most of his matches. And his athletic ability allowed him to dominate most of the competition and compete to some extent with the physical outlier by excellence, Rafael Nadal.
    As for Nadal, we can’t count him out yet, I believe, it’s too soon to do this. He remains to me Roger’s most dangerous and fierce opponent and may never be underestimated. He’s clearly preparing himself very well for the Masters Cup and will be a difficult hurdle to pass for Roger, even if Roger would manage to bag one or two titles on his road to London .
    That’s just my opinion for what it’s worth.

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    Manu Reply:

    I, too am slightly worried about Nadal- his career has never made logical sense and can’t be judged on his form, and we all know he’s gunning for the WTF. But I think this indoor season is Roger’s to lose.

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