Lets be honest, whatever happens with Rafa is relevant to Roger. Especially when he gets trashed like he was by Cilic in the Beijing Semi’s. I didn’t see the match, but from the scoreline and from what I have heard it’s pretty obvious that Rafa had no chance. As a FedAddict I’m not gonna lie, it’s always a good sight to see Rafa being owned like this. But before we start celebrating, lets not forget about the fact that Rafa has once again come back from injury after a few weeks off. It’s kind of the same thing that happened at the US Open. I still think he would have lost to both Delpo and Cilic even if he was at his best it must be said. The thing with Rafa these days is that there is always an injury problem, so you can’t use that as an excuse anymore.
The big losses Rafa has suffered this year was against Soderling at the French Open, Delpo at the US Open and now against Cilic in Beijing, and in all of those losses injury played a roll. Even if it only meant he was coming back from injury. The other important factor is that Soderling, Delpo and Cilic are all similar players. They are all pretty tall with big serves, strong two handed backhands and punishing base line games. Is there a pattern developing here? There certainly is. These players all played a similar game by stepping into the court and used heavy strokes from both sides to obliterate Rafa. As predicted after the French Open, more players are now starting to figure out how to beat Rafa. It’s inevitable.
It’s definitely more than Rafa just being injured or not being match fit. You are now starting to see the difference between a one dimensional grinder and a Master. I am of course talking about RogiGOAT The reason why Roger has been able to win so many slams and stayed at the top of the game for such a long time, is because he is multi-dimensional and he doesn’t just rely on retrieving like a mad man until his opponent makes the error. As good as Rafa is, two flaws has now become clearly evident in his game. The first is that he is too one dimensional, allowing players who use the right tactics to trash him. The second is that his one dimensional game is too taxing on the body, and is leading to chronic injury.
This is something that I have predicted would happen for ages now, and is only really now starting to take effect. I don’t mean to sound like I’m writing Rafa off, because like I said he is still coming back from injury. But one can’t ignore the fact that this is another crushing loss, and that this is very likely to start happening more and more in the future. What message does it send to the rest of the tour when a guy like Cilic, who isn’t even in the top 10, crushes Rafa like this? Their thoughts will be along the lines of: “If Cilic and Delpo can school him like this, and Soderling can beat him in four sets on clay, then at least I can beat Rafa 7-5, 6-4”. It just gives the rest of the field a lift, and Rafa starts losing his air of invincibility.
Is this good or bad for Roger? At first glance surely it is a good thing that his main rival gets owned like this. But having thought about it for a while, I do think that Roger and Rafa’s destinies are somehow intertwined. The downfall of Rafa could mean the downfall of Roger. Notice I said could, because it is not a certainty. All in all you have to say that this loss from Rafa is a good thing for Roger. First off all there is the ranking points, with Rafa having an outside change of passing Roger in the rankings before the end of the year. It also means that if Rafa’s star is starting to fade, then Roger have less to worry about from Rafa in terms of competition. If guys like Soderling, Delpo and Cilic can beat Rafa early on in the slams, then Roger won’t have to worry about him as a final opponent.
There has been suggestions of Roger’s star also fading, but after the year he has had that is a very harsh call. Besides, he won more slams then Rafa and he got his number one ranking back. He didn’t get injured the way Rafa did either. Therefor if anyone’s star is fading it is definitely Rafa. Once again after this loss the question must be asked if Rafa should have played in Beijing. With all the injury problems he has had, is it really worth it to risk further injury for 180 ranking points? It just seems like things have gone from bad to worse for Rafa since that French Open loss. As far as I’m concerned I’m really in two minds about it. In a way Rafa is good for the game and his rivalry with Roger has made for probably the best era of tennis yet, and I’m worried that if Rafa fades away Roger will follow suit.
But for now I am not worried about that. For that Roger had too good a year. And it is not like there is a shortage of players in the wings who Roger could have new exciting rivalries with. Guys like Delpo, Murray, Djokovic, Cilic and Soderling are all tough competitors. Having said that, if Rafa fades away like I expect, I don’t think tennis will quite be the same again. Something else that I should mention here is Simon Reed’s article about Cilic winning a slam next year. Although I still think that is a stretch, let’s give credit where it’s due. After the win over Murray at the US Open and the follow up over Rafa, it seems like Cilic is progressing faster than I thought he would. I guess you can say he is now a dark horse to win a slam in 2010, but far from a certainty.
I’ve liked Cilic since I saw him play this year at Wimbledon and have said so before. He has a great mentality and he is similar to Delpo, kind of a gentle giant. I can definitely see him becoming one of my favorite players in the future. I think it’ great for tennis that guys like Cilic and Delpo have come along and lived up to their potential so far. They have attitudes towards the game that is good for tennis. It would be good for tennis if there are new guys challenging Roger, instead of Rafa being the only one to ever do it. Change is good. I honestly believe that Roger can still stay at the top of the game and win slams for a long time to come. Once again he made the right decision not to play in Asia and it will just pay off in the long run. Just excellent, intelligent scheduling.