Can Federer Reclaim the Number One Ranking?

http://www.theage.com.au/sport/tennis/federer-can-climb-the-mountain-again-newk-20111208-1olbq.html

”Djokovic is really going to struggle the first six months of next year – he’s really knocked himself out,”

”He’s just won so many matches, and it’s been pretty obvious, even at the US Open, he was struggling. I even thought he was struggling at Wimbledon against Bernard [Tomic], but he was able to pull himself together.

”He was very lucky to win the US Open, because Roger should never have lost that match from where he was. And now since the US Open, there’s injuries, a sore shoulder, a sore back, and when you watch him playing, he’s running on three cylinders, so I’d say that his body, it’s given in.

”It’s not a lot of time to suddenly suck it up and start the year again and defend everything that he won last year, so I think it will be a superhuman effort for him to repeat the six months that he had. It was an amazing run, and that is very hard to defend. It’s not going to surprise me if, by the end of July next year, Roger is very close to being No.1 again.”

‘With Rafa, it’s like the heavyweight champion of the world that’s never been knocked out, and suddenly, gets knocked out six times within the space of six months by Djokovic,”

”He doesn’t have the same self-belief any more. All of a sudden he’s having to face things, questions, that he’s never doubted. So it’s a question of can he get his head around this whole thing, and come back to where he was?”

Some interesting words by seven-time grand slam champ John Newcombe here that I just wanted to run by you. Newcombe thinks Roger can rise to number one in the world for a third time. I don’t know if that has ever been done before, but if anyone can it would be Roger. The first six months of last year certainly took a lot out of Djokovic. As Newcombe points out, the decline may have already started at Wimbledon. Also the loss in the French Open loss against Roger may have started the decline. Up until that point Djokovic was invincible. Djokovic got a shoulder injury in the final of Cincinnati, and he actually did well to win the US Open. I don’t necessarily agree with Newcombe that Roger should not have lost that semi to Djokovic. Sure he was two sets to love up and sure he had two match points, but that return from Djokovic was just too good and took the wind out of Roger’s sails.

You just gotta say too good in moments like that, and you have to admit as a Fedfan that Roger did not handle that loss well in the press afterwards. In the final Djokovic had problems with his shoulder again in the fourth set, yet he still breadsticked Nadal. But that was really the end of his impressive run. Even after taking a long time off his shoulder had not recovered, as he struggled with it in Basel, Paris, and London too. I think Djokovic should have skipped Basel and Paris, but I suppose that’s easy to say in hindsight. But now he has aggravated that shoulder injury. How will that affect his preparation for next year, and will his shoulder recover in time? That looks like something that could be long term. I wasn’t so sure at first, but I think Newcombe may have a point about Djokovic struggling in the first six months of 2012.

That first six months of this year was maybe the best six months by a player in the history of tennis, but then towards the end of the year Djokovic never really took enough time to recover. That may well affect his start to next year. He is just not like R0ger who plays an economical game that can be recovered from fast. The way he plays puts a lot of physical and mental strain on him. It is impossible that he will repeat the first six months of this year. The question is whether he will have a strong start again. If not then that could open the door for Roger to win a record fifth Australian Open. Now that would be the absolute best start in 2012 for our man, and open the door for him to take back that number one rank to finally pass Sampras’ record amount of weeks at number one. Those are big dreams though. We are yet to see how Roger’s strong finish this year affects his form going into 2012.

You would expect it will be good. Last year Roger started off by winning Doha but then ran into a rampant Djokovic in Melbourne. Was his form the best up until that point? I’m not convinced. He looked fragile against Simon and lost a set to Robredo of all people. Against Djokovic he didn’t play a bad match, but losing in straight sets is losing in straight sets. So for me Roger’s form towards the end of this year is not a clear indicator that he will me in top form come Melbourne. The Australian Open is very different conditions from indoors anyway. The hot weather plays a big part and the conditions is slower too. I think Djokovic will be Roger’s main opposition in Australia anyway. He remains tough to beat there. Next on the list is Nadal. The slower courts and hot conditions makes him a tough opponent in Australia as well.

He will certainly be looking to start the year off with a bang after the disappointments of 2011. The question is can he? I like the way Newcombe puts it. He equates Nadal to a heavyweight boxer who has never been knocked out and then gets knocked out six times in the space of six months. I wouldn’t necessarily say the first four were knock outs. More like knock downs. But the two major final losses were knock outs. The question is whether Nadal can recover from those knock outs. If anyone can it is probably him, but the knocks he has taken at the hands of Djokovic may have been the beginning of the end for him. You can only recover from so many knockdowns, and the heavier you are the harder you fall. Nadal is a heavyweight and therefor he fell hard. And lets not forget that Roger also cashed in at the Masters Cup when he manhandled Nadal.

Nadal may have gotten some confidence back by helping his country towards another Davis Cup title, but I was not all that impressed by him. He beat Monaco easily which was to be expected, but against Del Potro he was far from his best. He lost the first set 6-1 and if Del Potro was fitter and higher on confidence, I think he would have pulled off the win. I mean we are talking about a Del Potro who is far from his best yet and he loses 7-5 in the fourth to Nadal on his favorite surface, in front of his home crowd. Nadal has a lot of work to do in the off season. I saw today on Twitter that he is already training his ass off. I guess he doesn’t need much rest at all after yet another grueling season. Whether he is doing something illegal or not, he has to do something and do it fast. I think he can get his act together next year, but it also depends on Djokovic.

If Djokovic struggles it may just give him the window of opportunity to win some slams and get back to number one. But if he loses more to Djokovic in big finals I think it will be all over for him. There is a very interesting dynamic going on between the big three. If Djokovic struggles it opens the door for Nadal, which is not necessarily the best thing for Roger. According to Newcombe both Djokovic and Nadal will struggle, which will indeed open the door for Roger. I’m not so sure it will be that simple though. If Roger is going to win a slam it is highly unlikely that he will have to face neither Djokovic nor Nadal. He will probably have to go through at least one of them. But at least both of them could be vulnerable. Having manhandled Nadal in London and having competed very closely with Djokovic in slams this year, Roger will like his chances against both.

If either of them is slightly off then Roger can take advantage. If he does this at the Australian Open then I feel his chances will be good at taking back the number one ranking. It will just be a big boost, while Djokovic will have so many points to defend. So I think Roger will have a fair chance of reclaiming the number one spot, but a lot will depend on his result in Melbourne. I think he must make at least the final there. Semis or earlier rounds won’t do. What do you think? Can he do it? Let me know your thoughts.

 

Ps: I have started a forum of my blog now. You can find the link on the top bar or click here. We will see how it works out. I just started it and it needs a lot of work. I am aware that some of you may be content to just leave comments and don’t need any other discussion. But it may come in handy when I am not making any posts. I will also create a non-tennis section where we can just chat with each other about non-tennis stuff. So feel free to join, fill up your profiles, start topics, and mingle. If we are going to make it work people must participate. I have also added a picture of myself to the ‘about‘ section for those of you who don’t know what I look like yet.

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31 Comments

  1. Those were some very strong words by Newcombe, I am surprised that he was that bold in saying what he did. Fed can definitely get back to #1 by the end of the year if Novak and Rafa struggle. Both have many points to defend and it will be very hard especially for Novak to not lose the #1 ranking next year, perhaps even in the first 7 months at Wimbledon, because he has only one loss through that time. As for the start of 2011, Roger certainly wasn’t at his best vs Simon and Robredo but he did have his chances to take a set off Djokovic, being up 5-2. I think Novak was just too good on that day and Roger couldn’t do much. At the time, none of us knew that Nole would do the things he did, so we thought Roger played a bad match – but in reality I think it was very close. The Dubai final a few weeks later, Roger played badly there, n question, but not in Australia in my opinion.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I still don’t understand why Roger struggled at the AO this year. He had the perfect preparation inn winning Doha. His looked much better at the FO and USO. Maybe Roger has problems with medium speed or slow hard courts these days? Anyway he is gonna have to improve from last year if he is gonna have a chance at the title.

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Good post as always, Ru-an. Pretty strong opinions from Newcombe. I notice ex Aussie players and Aussie commentators are quite pro Federer and Newcombe is no exception; always admired Fed, always thinks Fed is superior no matter the competition, always positive about Fed eventhough these last 2 years Fed has been losing so much. Therefore I am very happy to be living in Australia coz it’s pro Fed country! Anyway, like you Ru-an, I don’t understand why Fed struggled so much in AO this year. He won WTF, won Doha, momentum was with him, confidence high. I think it is a combination of maybe 40 percent Djoko stepping it up and 60 percent, I put it down to the slow hard courts. Last summer was unusually cool and we had lots of rain. Djoko had always struggled with the Australian heat but last summer was a breeze for him. And Roger really struggled hitting through the ball. He got frustrated and didn’t seem to know what to do. But this time there’s something in Roger which is different from what I’d seen in him for a long time. The hunger, motivation and desire is stronger and more “real.” He has been humbled (finally!) with too many losses and what we’ve seen in the last 3 tournaments was that he seems now more prepared to “work hard” (play dirty, realise he needs some changes which he has been stubborn about), he is “thinking” again on the court, finding a way to win instead of being stubborn and sometimes just “waiting/hoping” for players to cave in to him. He comes into matches with more of a game plan (before he often goes into matches without much of a plan coz he is so confident with his game he thinks he can win whatever the players throw at him) he is more patient, less irritable, more focused, especially on big points. In other words, I see a new Roger Federer. I hope what I see is real and substantial and not something that is fragile and will fade away when the going gets tough. Like you mentioned often before, if he plays his best and lose, it’s completely ok (like AO 2005 SF with Safin where he gave it all and lost – it is one of the best matches I ever saw him play) but if he gives away matches like what he had been doing 2010 and 2011, it is very hard/sad to accept. I have good feelings for Fed going into AO2012 and he has to win this. If he really wins it, I dare predict that he would go on a tear and there is no stopping him from a 2nn slam. But if he loses AO2012, the chances of the rest of the slams and even Olympics gold, I think, would be questionable. Therefore AO2012 is the ONE that we must all be praying and hoping very hard for Fed to win. And now the bad news. We are having another cool and short summer. Spring was cold, almost like winter sometimes. We are officially in summer now and it’s not even hot. There has been a lot of rain. Normally we don’t get rains in spring/summer; but for last summer and this summer we get rains almost every week. I hope by January the rains are finished and the sun better start a heat wave or Djoko would be laughing all the way to his 5th grand slam trophy!

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    sorry, I meant “win ugly”, NOT “play dirty” and “5th slam trophy”, NOT “5th grand slam trophy”. Just saw your pic, Ru-an! (wink! you’re not bad looking, not bad at all! LOL! Wink! And you look like what you sound like) Hey Ines! Ru-an asked a question of you in the last post that you haven’t answered yet!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    LOL! Thanks ;-) How about you? Are you married? Lol. I want to see what all of you look like too. I should make a thread in the forum where you all can post your pics. But I doubt you will!

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    ines Reply:

    Thanks Vero I haven´read the question, are you the first Vero the lovely one who once told me :”you have to be here because you are unique”?
    Loving your question Ruan, I´m only 22
    I have to finish my career, if you wait me then I´ll be ready for the war. Yes I
    know, I know, you need my pic…

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Veronica said that? She must have realized this is a blog for unique Fedfans :D Lol I created a thread in the forum where you can post your pic if you want. I see you have joined us :-)

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Yeah, I’m that Veronica. The way you write just off your heart is unique which I find very cute and sometimes amusing. You know what? I think you would be good for Ru-an! Lol! I imagine you to be a fiery spanish girl, impulsive, passionate, sensitive and a little shy with medium wavy hair?! Lol! Right or wrong?

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    ines Reply:

    You are so funny. Can honestly say I´ve never deluded myself into that notion.
    I think my comments are unique because they expose my English deficiencies, as for the rest your quite rigth (long hair). Honestly I believe Ru-an deserves a better life! Just not a very
    gracious girl…

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Lol Ines you are too funny.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I appreciate that you think I deserve a better life. Sometimes I feel like I deserve only the worst. Anyway you should come chat to me in the forum if you want.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good comment Veronica. Wasn’t aware you live in Oz. Nice country. Well I live in South Africa and we have a similar climate to you, and the lack of summer here is the same. It is not as hot and it is starting later. January and February is always hot here though. I like your optimism. I think Roger may have made some mental adjustments during his post USO break. But we will only be sure about that once he shows up in Oz. That will be the real test cos it’s very different conditions from indoors. As you say cooler weather may help him. But like you I’d like to believe he has made some kind of turning point. I’d actually be surprised if the same Roger shows up in Oz as this year. He was really lacking belief. If he is going to win slams he must go in confident like at the FO and USO this year. It was clear inn Oz this year that he was not in slam winning form, and it was not surprising that he lost in straights to Djokovic.
    The other issue is the court speed. Roger really struggled to hit through the court against Djokovic this year. Lets look at their USO meeting. Roger was one point away from winning the match on two occasions. What was the difference between the AO and USO meetings. Roger was more convincing from the start at the USO, but was it just a confidence thing? I think court speed played a role too. How much of a role it played is harder to say. Was he struggling at the AO from the start because of the court speed. I think it may well be the case. He struggled against guys like Simon and Robredo who is guys that don’t give pace and defend well. He was struggling to end the point and hit through the court. Think about it. Why did his form all of a sudden dip after coming off the WTF win and Doha win? I don’t think it was a dip in form. I think it was the conditions. So I actually think the AO is one of the harder slams for him to win these days. I think he either likes it really slow like the FO, or really fast, like the USO. If he is going to win the AO then Djokovic and to a lesser extent Nadal is going to have to be slightly off. That is my feeling anyway.

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Yah, I definitely think the biggest factor is the slower hard courts in AO. I believe and I don’t think it is far from the truth that Roger struggles big time on slow hard courts. He is good with fast and indoor courts. But I don’t agree that he is good on really slow courts like FO. As I mentioned in earlier comments, he did exceptionally well this year at FO is mostly because of the faster balls. If they go back to slower balls I believe Djoko is actually better than Fed on clay courts.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hmm good point. The faster balls did help him a lot. But I’m still not convinced the conditions were faster than the AO. That I won’t be able to say.

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    I agree that Fed struggles big time on slow hard courts and that he is most comfortable on indoors and hard courts. However I don’t agree that he is good in very slow courts like FO. Like I commented previously, the only reason Fed did well in FO this year was because of the faster balls (Fed admitted himself he liked the faster balls whereas Nadal didn’t like them). If they go back to slower balls, I believe Djoko is a better clay court player than Fed. Anyway, AO courts have become so slow (and made worse by cooler weather) that it is actually the least favoured slam for Fed to win and if I have to choose one, I wouldn’t choose AO, I would choose USO. But because of Fed’s situation as it is right now, it is imperative he wins AO; and if he wins it, I firmly believe his confidence would be over the roof and it will propel him to another slam even. Otherwise it is hard to rebuild the great momentum and confidence that he has going for him at the moment. As someone commented in an earlier post, he has to strike while the iron is hot. Although he always says he wants to keep on playing, he must not have the sense that he will get another chance and then another chance just because he keeps on playing. His clock is ticking and when certain things are in order, he MUST strike; mercilessly and relentlessly; cool and efficient; like how he did it before. I really hope he realises the “urgency” of his situation and does it.

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    steve Reply:

    Wow, you’re lucky! Have you gotten a chance to see Roger play live at the AO?

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Yup. Also saw him in the “Hit for Haiti” – the best exhibition/fund raising tennis event ever. Hope you saw it on youtube. I was really surprised at how lanky and tall Roger looks in real life. You gotta see him play live if you haven’t. You’ll appreciate his genius even more. I would go as far as to say that EVERY fan of tennis and especially Roger’s fans MUST see him play live at least once in their lives. Don’t delay any longer because we don’t know when the fairy tale will finally end. Forget about insufficient funds, lack of time, etc. GO SEE THE MAN. PERIOD. There will NEVER EVER be another Roger Federer. The Aussies are all “oohs ahhs”! over him. Every stroke he makes, even simple ones are met with “oohs and aahs”!!

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    sioux Reply:

    Hi Veronica! I lived in Melbourne for 3.5 year and was lucky to watch the Roger-Lleyton match at AO2010 & the Rally for Relief. I totally regret not going to the Hit for Haiti!
    Although Roger getting back to #1 is very possible, I just don’t quite like the clause “if Nadal & Djokovic struggles”… it sounds as if Roger can only win when his main obstacles are not in form…like what most of the Nadalfan & Novakfan claims… but if that’s how it is meant to be, then, I hope Roger would win with very impressive winners instead of claiming points from his opponents racket. I know, I know, I’m asking too much… I just hate the Fedbashings even when he does win.

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    Wilfried Reply:

    It’s clear and comprehensible that Australians in general are fond of Federer and pro Federer as tennis wise speaking Roger Federer is almost like their adopted son. Roger’s first coach, with whom he had been working together day by day in a very close interconnection, was Peter Carter, a contemporary of Pat Cash, John Fitzgerald and Wally Masur, formed in the cult of the champions of Carters’s native country: Lew Head, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver, Tony Roche or John Newcombe. It’s not a coincidence either that Roger’s original way of playing was very much “ the Australian way”, based on ‘exemplary technique” and forward, attacking game, as all the above mentioned players were schooled in this playing style. Carter, who witnessed Roger’s victory over Sampras in Wimbledon, died unfortunately in a Safari excursion in South Africa in august 2002, a great loss and shock for Roger, and for Australia as well. It‘s this same philosophy of “the Australian way” that moved Roger later on in his career to appeal once more to work together with two other Australian coaches, Tony Roche and Cahill, the latter not materially available to be coaching Roger. Facing different kind of opponents and being confronted with having to on surfaces that had been slowed down substantially, Roger changed his original style gradually and adopted an attacking game played more from in the baseline zone. In the same time Roger perfected his technique to such an extent that his racket has become so to speak part of his body, and his movement is not only aerodynamic what the lower part of his body is concerned, but also in the way his arm and hand handles the racket. But the base, the fundamentals of all this are to me clearly the ‘Australian way’ of playing tennis.

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Wow! Wilfried! Been working at your “professor” desk again, eh?! Thanks for a most informative and interesting post. I read about Roger’s Australian connections before but wasn’t too clear about the whole connection. Now I can understand better why Aussies love him. I really hope he wins this year because we so much want him to win here. Looking forward to some SERIOUS Roger STALKING come January, hehehe!!!

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  2. Of course Djoko´s shoulder and overoll form has much to do with what happens in 2012.But I really believe that Roger believes he can do it. His mental aptitude and confidence is high. He is fit and healthy and that incredible desire to win…
    I think he has proved that age really does not mean a hoot when it comes to playing tennis. It´s the desire the crucial factor, and Roger is a force of
    nature and ready for more.
    Roger all the way!!!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I also have a good feeling about it Ines. But it would definitely help if Djokovic and Nadal is still hung over from 2011 and struggles a bit early on. Both Djokovic and Nadal are tough opponents for Roger on the medium paced AO courts.

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  3. I think that this year is different from last year when Federer did not have to do much in mental department in London since everything went easy for him. This year he has been far ahead in that aspect since we know how he went on to beat Tsonga after failing to close out in the second set. That should give him extra confidence in AO 2012. Of course, by the very admission of Federer himself he didnot play bad at AO 2011, super confident Djokovic made all the difference. I am pretty sure Djokovic is not going to repeat that this time around.Number one for Federer in 2012 does not look that unrealistic. Refusal by Federer to accept that he is past 30 and unlikely to get back to number one gives me hope that he should be able to meet his target of surpassing the 286 benchmark set by Sampras,among others.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes mridul the match against Tsonga was a good sign but I still think indoor courts compliments his mental toughness in a sense because he is so comfortable there. The real test will come when the conditions is less favorable for him. Will he then fight in the same way? And even if he does, will it be enough? Did anything really change? Will he have better results next year overall? Those are the pressing questions right now. Anyway I also like his attitude. He needs to believe that things will be different next year. A lot of it is in the mind, but he will need Djokovic and Nadal to struggle a bit.

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  4. Somehow I am afraid of Federer making #1 again. I feel that once he achieves that one, and takes this last big record off from Pete Sampras, there will be nothing else left to achieve which would be worth all the work he is constantly doing to stay at this level. There must be a point where he reconsiders his life, where he realizes that life is not only about Tennis, that he has a family, kids, other things to explore, etc. This #1 record which is still with Pete Sampras, I believe it’s key to him still wanting to achieve more, he wants this one badly. He could not care less if he is on the 2, 3 or 4 spot, he want back to #1 to get that record. But what if he actually does in 2012? Would this not be a killer for his motivation to keep fighting for more?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I don’t think so Chris. I think he loves the sport and that records is only a secondary thing for him. Sure that is a nice record but it’s not the only reason he is still motivated. I think the main thing that motivates him as always is more grand slam glory. I don’t think it’s necessarily about how many he wins either, but about the kick he gets when he does win one. In my opinion motivation will never be a problem for him. He will have enough time for family and other things when he is done with tennis. I see him playing for as long as he possibly can.

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  5. He’s not been that far from the #1 ranking. Had maybe 10 or 12 points gone his way in crucial matches this year, he would have won a couple majors this year.

    This year he may have been taken by surprise at Djokovic’s sudden improvement from the “gluten free diet.” Djokovic’s defensive skills at AO were on another level compared to last fall.

    He spent much of the year making adjustments to his game. It seems to be coming together; he showed some real mental toughness against Tsonga, which he wouldn’t be able to do unless he were fully confident in his game.

    He has a good shot at winning a couple majors this year, which will almost surely guarantee his return to the top.

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  6. Hey Ru-an.Nice post as always. I too am very excited for AO 2012 as I think this is his best chance to win his 17th and 5th Ao title.I dont think he has been in this form off late and i think the year end fall of Nadal and Nole will actually help him to perform better to win AO. I think if he wins that,he will be tough to beat the entire year and can may be go on a killing spree like 2009 FO and Wimby.
    This AO will tell us what his form is like and I would like him to win this not because it will help his climb back to No1 but also his confidence will be sky high and his motivation for the London Olympics will be rather great for him to win ths Gold there.

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  7. When we look at the bigger picture, we all know very well that Roger was absolutely dominating the field of tennis competitors in a way it has never been dominated before, for more than 4 years at least. He was the uncontested frontrunner, the captain of the ATP tour, and at his side, he only tolerated two lieutenants that could join him once and a while in the lodge, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic… Unfortunately the human nature is a bit weak and at times prone to pretention. Instead of being inspired by the noble art of their captain, the two lieutenants started acting like pirates, one after the other, and took over the command of the ATP-ship, as real usurpators. But pirate captains, be in the Caribbean” waters or elsewhere in the world, don’t have the needed experience, the feeling, the “karios” to wait and look for the right moment to enter their ship safe in the harbour. They don’t have the so much needed vigilance to keep their ship in good shape and keep it away of the clips. And that’s exactly what’s happening with our two lieutenants Nadal and Djokovic. They both decided to take over the ship without the approval of the legitimate captain, Roger Federer. And, as you may expect of any pirate act, they are wrecking the whole thing, not only their own bodies but maybe the entire ATP-ship as well.
    ‘Noblesse oblige’ though. Roger, the noble dethroned captain, has a mission to complete. For the sake of tennis, he will have to regain his number one spot and show the whole field how tennis should be played. He has to show them the ‘balises”, the beacons that should guide this noble game. Roger sure has the feeling, the “karios” to know when he has to enter the ship in the harbor, when he has to challenge his usurpators. Maybe we may not read too much into Roger’s recent victories yet as it is premature to conclude. But we sure have to keep looking at the bigger picture: Roger’s moral duty to show the tennis world the straightforward way, the holy road if you want, the ‘via sacra’. For this sake Roger ‘s got to retake the top spot, not to retake it for ever of course, but just to show the tennis world what the game is all about…in its more elevated sense.

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  8. Gosh, Wilfried! Are you some nutty professor or poet or what?! That was one hell of a Beethoven piece! How do you guys acquire such rich vocabulary and make writing sound like music to my ears?! Boy! your girlfriend/wife must feel like being serenaded 24/7 if your speech is half of what your writing is! Lol!

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    Wilfried Reply:

    My wife has east-asian roots and has emigrated to Belgium… I’m still trying to learn a bit her native tongue, but it is not easy. We both love music and enrich each other with our different cultural background. She can sing better than me. I’m not a professor by the way.

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