Hi guys. I hope you are all doing just fine. As for Roger he will probably be doing a little better after his first win in three matches. I have mixed feelings about this match. It was a big improvement from Gstaad and it’s good to hear that Roger’s back is feeling better. There are two things that bothered me however: Roger going back to his old racquet and his ongoing negative returning. After the match Roger said that he has a lot on his plate right now and that he just wanted to simplify things, and that he will resume testing the new racquet after the US Open. Hmmm. My first reaction when I saw Roger playing with his old racquet was that it was a mistake. He made the big decision to change after Wimbledon but now he is back tracking? That is kind of what it sounds like to me. He is saying he wants to keep things simple for now, but doesn’t he really mean he wants to stay in his comfort zone?
I can understand that Hamburg and Gstaad didn’t go the way he wanted to and that his back didn’t play long, but is he really keeping it simple or is he complicating things? Now he will have to switch to a new racquet again after the US Open. This switching back and forth actually seems more complicated to me, not less. The other important thing to look at was Roger’s returns. Since my second last post was about Roger’s returns, I paid special attention to that part of his game. As much as I could with the unstable stream I had anyway. And I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t see him go over a backhand return once. Not once. It was all chipping. And it wasn’t pretty. Supposedly a ‘safe’ shot, he missed several. He even chipped a second serve return when he was up 30-15 on the Kohlschreiber serve, and it sailed long.
He tried the chip-and-charge as well but was unsuccessful, even though Kohlschreiber is not one of the better base liners. I saw on the deuce side that he chips the ball just about on the service line. Not even short or deep. Just right there in the hitting zone for Kohlschreiber. Against Kohlschreiber he still gets away with it, but it remains a nothing shot. It just gets the rally started and gives him no advantage at all. And that was on the German’s second serve. I think he broke once when a backhand chip return fell short and Kohschreiber missed it into the net. But overall Roger’s break point conversion rate was abysmal again at 2/11. There were many unforced errors as well, and I feel Roger was lucky to get it done in straight sets. He had the mini break in the tie break but surrendered it, and finally won the last point with a good shot.
I say lucky because Kohlschreiber didn’t show any real belief out there. It was like he expected to lose and couldn’t take advantage of Roger’s average play at times. Roger often slumps during the 2nd set these days and it was very close to going to 3 sets again. And once it goes to 3 sets anything can happen. So I do feel like Roger was lucky to win like he did. Yes he played a lot better and I am happy for him, but where is this all going? It seems to me like after the shock at Wimbledon he realized the need for change, but is now slipping back into his comfort zone. Yes the situation on the European clay didn’t help, but I’m not so sure it is good to ‘simplify’ things now. If he is slipping back into his comfort zone it is bad news. That road is going nowhere. It is clear that his return of serve has not changed one iota.
He is content to chip the ball back, and maybe it will get him past someone he owns like Kohlschreiber. But he probably faces Haas next and Haas already won’t be as merciful on his returns. From what I hear he Haas eats chip returns for breakfast. I have already explained at length two posts ago why the chip return doesn’t work anymore for Roger, and I’m not going to do it again here. I know Annacone must have noticed this problem, but in the end Roger still calls the shots. He is a stubborn guy and he will make the final decision. Even on one of the fastest courts on tour the chip-and-charge was a useless shot against an average base liner. I’m just not sure Roger really wants to change. I get the feeling that he still stubbornly clings to his old patterns and believe it is good enough, when clearly the field is catching up with him at a staggering pace.
Someone said today that if Roger doesn’t make semis he drops to #6 in the rankings. Given that Haas and Nadal is up next, the possibility of that happening is pretty good. I say to hell with the results and the rankings and start making changes that will pay off in the long run. And by long run I don’t mean a year or something. The changes can bare fruit pretty quickly, but he needs to commit to it and not be so resistant to change. I can tell you being more aggressive on the return will start to bare fruit immediately, because his break point conversion rate can’t get any worse. But Roger feels like he wants to keep things simple for now and it is his career after all. No one is gonna tell him what to do. If he is gonna make some much needed changes the decision will have to come from himself. No one tells Roger Federer what to do…