Unbelievable match. That’s the first thing I want to get out of the way. I thoroughly enjoyed this match despite another strange collapse from Roger after 40-15 and 2-3 in the third set on his own serve. Whether it was strange is debatable though. As far as I’m concerned it is just the type of player Roger is. It is not in his nature to grind matches out like Djokovic and Nadal. It doesn’t mean he is mentally weak either. In fact he is extremely clutch. It is just that it is not in his nature to endlessly grind out a match. He already achieved the impossible by coming from a break down in the second set to win it in the tie break. That is the first thing that must be acknowledged. It was very much like the fourth set in the Wimbledon final last year.
Roger showed immense heart and determination to win the second set. Make no mistake about it. Then in the third set he gets broken again in the opening game. And again he shows great fight and determination to break back. This time surely he won’t let Djokovic get away from him again. He also consolidates the break on his serve. Then at 2-3 he leads 40-15 and receives a short return from Djokovic. Clearly the best shot was down the line as he approaches the net as Djokovic was still in the deuce court, but for some reason he goes cross court and hits an inexplicable unforced error. Djokovic takes the invitation as he works himself back into the game and on break point Roger serves a double fault.
The collapse is complete and Djokovic doesn’t lose another game from there. Just like that, after all the hard work of the second set and breaking back in the third set Roger blows any chance of winning the match. Now, I have already said that this is just the nature of Roger. It is not even close to the first time we’ve seen this kind of collapse from Roger after bravely fighting his way back into the match. The first and most telling time it happened was against Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open final. There he fought his way back after trailing two sets to one to force a deciding set, only to collapse 6-2. The same thing happened at the US Open that year against Del Potro where Roger collapsed 6-2 in the fifth set.
It also happened against Murray at the Australian Open in 2013 when Roger bravely fought his way into a fifth set by winning the fourth set on a tie break. Again he collapsed 6-2 in the fifth. Against Djokovic the score was also 6-2 in the third yesterday. You can say something similar happened in the Wimbledon final last year too, even though the fifth set score was 6-4. Roger made the unreal comeback in the fourth set and then missed a crucial overhead to help Djokovic break in the fifth set and get the win. There are probably more examples but I think I have made my point. And my point is that Roger is not a natural grinder. He can only go against his nature for so long. Grinding out fifth sets is more in the nature of Djokovic, Nadal, and to a lesser extent Murray.
Roger just doesn’t have the relentless staying power that Djokovic and Nadal has. Whenever it goes to a deciding set against them they are usually the favorite. Especially on slower courts and over five sets. Indian Wells was on slower courts which turned things in Djokovic’s favor. In fact it looked like he would straight set Roger in no time until Roger finally found some inspiration at 3-4 and 15-30 on Djokovic’s serve when he played the most unbelievable defensive point I have ever seen from him. He broke back and suddenly after looking completely out of the match until then it was game on. They headed into a tie break where Roger was a break down twice after screwing up on drive volleys.
The turning point in the tie break came when Roger was trailing 3-5 and serving. An unbelievable rally ensued which Roger finally won after Djokovic dumped a backhand into the net. This point seemed to completely unnerve Djokovic as he double faulted on both his serves to trail 5-6 and virtually handing the tie break to Roger in the process. Simply unreal stuff. And that after Djokovic had already made two double faults during the set which were flat out chokes. So he double faulted no less than four times at crucial junctures, purely due to pressure. He was so unnerved by Roger’s unreal fighting ability that he could hardly take in fluids after the second set. His hand was shaking violently as he lifted the plastic bottle to his mouth.
Again that reminded a lot of the Wimbledon final when Djokovic was clearly being pushed to the limits going by his body language. It was just unbelievable drama and some of the highest quality tennis I have ever seen. And it was great entertainment. In the third set I really thought Roger was going to take it after breaking back in the third game and holding serve. At 2-3 and 40-15 he was looking like the fresher of the two. Right there I was backing him to pull off the most unlikely of wins against Djokovic on a slowish hard court. And then of course the complete collapse. It was disappointing no doubt but you just gotta accept that from Roger. Again, it is does not mean he is mentally weak. It just means he is not quite up there mentally with the likes of Nadal, Djokovic, Sampras, etc.
So you can say it is a slight flaw but he makes up for it in talent anyway. Once again the Djokerer rivalry did not disappoint and provided us with another gripping final. In the end Djokovic’s base line consistency and defense, along with the court surface proved to be one too many for Roger to overcome, but did he put up a fight. In the end the emotional toll of coming back from a break down in the second set and winning it on a tie break turned out to be too much to maintain his level in the third set. It caused the collapse after 2-3 and 40-15. But all credit to Djokovic for staying solid even after choking heavily in the second set. He is now equal with Roger for most Indian Wells titles on four.
Yes it’s s shame Roger is not in the lead at five titles now but if you are realistic the court surface favor Djokovic and he will probably get the record on his own too. Djokovic will go down in history as the best slow hard court player of all time while Roger will still be the greatest hard court player overall. So it’s no big deal. Djokovic is pretty much unbeatable on this kind of surface and Roger did amazingly well just to force a third set. Well the clay court season is next and Roger will take a lot of positives from Indian Wells I’m sure. He did as well as he could. At the end of the day it is all about Wimbledon after all and I still very much like Roger’s chances there this year. Looking forward to the clay court season though!
Let me know what you think.
Djokovic shaking: http://i.imgur.com/hPDGWXx.gif