Djokovic Denies Federer 5th Indian Wells Title

Now you know why I was cautious not to be too optimistic in my last post. Djokovic was dropping sets all week while Roger was pretty much flawless, but when it came down to crunch time Djokovic came up with the goods. Djokovic is just extremely difficult to beat on these courts. It’s disappointing how Roger won the first set and looked like he was cruising to another victory, but you have to give credit to Djokovic as well. His defense is just incredible and like I said in my last post it is just very difficult to get the ball through him. In Dubai Roger could do it because of the faster courts, but in Indian Wells Roger could not find a way through Djokovic when it mattered most. Roger broke serve in the second game and played really well for the first set or so. But then at 3-4 in the second set Djokovic came up with one of those amazing defensive plays which allowed him to break.

He served out the second set and all of a sudden it was a set all after Djokovic was made to look pretty damn average by Roger. Then in the first game of the third set Roger was in trouble on his serve but did well to hold on. I thought this was a good sign, but he got broken in the next game after some more great defending from Djokovic. Then at 4-5 with Djokovic serving for the match Roger breaks back, which is testament to his new found mental strength. But there are two sides to that story, because from there on Roger was mentally poor. At 6-5 you would think that he will really try to test Djokovic but he allows Djokovic to hold serve to love, and in the tie break there is none of the clutchness we have seen from him of late as he loses it 7-3. So yes that was disappointing to me that he came up short mentally again at the end there.

But at the same time you gotta give him credit for breaking back when Djokovic served for the match. There were many clutch moments from him in the match and I still think he has mentally improved. It’s hard to criticize Roger after such a week. He just came up short right at the end but overall you have to say it was another great week for him. He is back in the top 5 and will surely be back in the top 4 after Miami where Ferrer has a final to defend and Roger did not play last year. I hope Roger can make at least semis in Miami or better. The courts there are even slower than in Indian Wells though and a lot will depend on his draw. 2014 has been terrific so far and I have a lot of optimism for it despite this loss. You can’t win everything, especially when the court speeds are not in your favor.

I wouldn’t have thought Roger would be in the situation he is in right now at the start of the year anyway. Aside from the loss to Hewitt in Brisbane it’s been pretty flawless. You just don’t expect him to win everything with the slowing down of the courts and quality base line grinders like Djokovic around. So I don’t think he could have done much better so far this year. I also want to congratulate Djokovic who showed once again that he can’t be kept down for long. This loss is positive for Fedfans in the sense that Djokovic has his confidence back and that is needed for him to stop Nadal on clay. Even though we want to believe otherwise it is just much more likely that Djokovic will stop Nadal on clay than Roger. Roger just recently lost to Nadal on hard court in straight sets after all.

If Djokovic lost here his confidence would have sunk even lower, and it would probably have been up to Roger to stop Nadal from winning another French Open. Now at least there is a fair chance he can be stopped. I am looking forward now to some more good tennis from Roger in Miami and for him to get back into the top 4 ahead of Ferrer where he belongs. Then the draws will also get a lot easier for him. Lets not forget that Roger is still building up towards something bigger and that this is not the end. His level is really good now and the important thing is the consistency, but he might have to wait for faster courts to have some serious success again. I think at Wimbledon we can expect him to be a huge factor again. If he wins an 8th Wimbledon it would be the ultimate anyway.

Onward and upward!

Highlights:

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19 Comments

  1. Another gem, Ru-an! Spot on once again! Like you, I hope Djoko steps up and takes FO! Enough bite marks on the Coupe de Mousquetaires already!!!!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Ronnie! If Djoker wins the AO I will be one happy chappy. Anyone else than Nadal for that matter.

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  2. Ruan makes several excellent points and I agree with most of them. However, I saw most of the match yesterday and I feel that his outlook for Fed’s game going forward is excessively optimistic.
    I just want to temper it with some cold reality.

    There have been some downward trends in Fed’s game that have been apparent for several years now and they are still relevant:

    1. His forehand can be broken down under pressure irrespective of court speed. The opponent just gets fewer chances to do it on fast, low-bouncing courts.
    Once Fed feels the pressure, the forehand starts spraying errors.

    2. More often than not, Fed just doesn’t have the power, concentration and margins anymore to hang with the top guns. Three big things gone together: Power, Concentration and Margins.

    3. He still relies too much on the opponent self detructing. Often he is caught without plan B if that doesn’t happen. We saw this again yesterday.

    4. Finally, as to mental strength, yes he is better this year but if we look carefully his ‘mental strength’ is reactive not proactive. Breaking an opponent serving for the match is easier than breaking him when he is serving to take the match into a tiebreak. Somehow the former also has an element of desperation in it and the opponent is under more pressure in the former.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Only little problem with your ‘assessment’ is that you take one match and draw all the conclusions from it, while forgetting all the other good matches his played since Melbourne and how clutch he was in those matches. I don’t see how he was ‘reactive’ in those matches and not ‘proactive’. In all the matches he won this year his forehand did not break down, he had more than enough power, concentration, and margins whatever that means, and he didn’t rely on the opponent self-destructing. He has been mentally great, save for the tie break in the final. Sorry but I have no idea how I was overly optimistic and you didn’t temper my optimism with anything. Fed is 32 and I’m afraid this is not a good time to be critical. He’s had a great year thus far.

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    Vily Reply:

    I have to agree with Ru-an. I also watched the match and have to say that Roger did very well. This match was decided by a few points in the tie-break, after all. Roger could very much be the winner. Djokovic did very well and in the long run, I think it was important for him to win this if he is to stop Nadal in Paris.

    If Roger won, Novak would have slumped even further and then Nadal would be winning Paris in a cake walk.

    The important thing is that the score was very right and respectable. Roger did not allow to be closed out and fought until the end. The only fault is that maybe at 6:5 in the third he might have been a bit more aggressive to force that second break but that’s ok. You win some, you lose done but his head can be held high, and deservedly so! He fought like a champ and like I said he could very much have been the winner. So it’s alright!!!

    Roger is on an upwards trajectory. 1 Win in Three Finals and a Semi in Australia! We can’t complain. That new racquet has brought power to Roger’s game and his backhand is more solid than for a long time. :-) )

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good post Vily. I think it’s a bit ridiculous to expect Roger to win every single match that he plays at 32, which this poster seems to expect. Had the final been played on faster courts Roger would have won, but this poster seem to expect Roger to win even on a surface that does not favor him, against a great player in his prime that was playing on a surface that suited his game. I thought I was being critical enough of Roger in my post. Yes he came up short in the breaker and didn’t play a very good game at 6-5, but criticizing him heavily after a week like this where he didn’t lose a set until the final I find ridiculous. It’s a massive improvement from last year. But some people just won’t be satisfied unless Roger does the impossible and win every single match he plays past his prime. They want things to be the way it was in his prime, and it’s never gonna happen. Even if he plays with the same consistency the competition have caught up and and the courts have slowed down. I think Roger is doing incredibly well at this point.

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    francesco Reply:

    Ruan, I agree that I may have overgeneralized from yesterday’s match.
    I am more than happy to be wrong. Also, I too think that losing this match may have been for the better for Fed. No, I don’t really expect or want Federer to play like he was in his prime. I am pretty sure Federer isn’t reading my posts so my intention is simply to be skeptical. Unlike you, I am a pessimistic fan of Federer. Unfortunatley, anything short of another slam win will be a disappointment to Fed and his fans in 2014. So I look at the potential obstacles to his winning another slam and I see far too many. Again, I’d love to be wrong.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Fair enough the kind of Fedfan you are is your business. But don’t expect not to be met with resistance here. Roger is himself a very positive guy and I am pretty positive myself. He did not win 17 slams by having a negative mindset and being self criticizing, and I don’t think he is gonna win another one by doing so either. Far as I’m concerned there is no reason at all at this point to believe that he can’t be a serious threat at Wimbledon, but that is too far away to worry about anyway.

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    Joe Reply:

    I know Roger was playing singles and doubles this tournament (probably to get ready for the upcoming best-of-fives, IMHO), and I don’t know if any of his opponents in singles were doing the same.

    I thought he looked a little tired yesterday, but I also thought that’s what he was going for; a conditioning experience that would stand him in good stead in coming months.

    So – a lot of folks say Roger’s mental strength could be improved, and they say that with good reason. But is it fair to say that his “Power, Concentration and Margins” are declining – along with mental fortitude – when he might simply have been dealing with the fatigue that comes with asking more of oneself than the other top singles players did?

    Respectfully,
    Joe

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Interesting point Joe. I didn’t think of that. He didn’t look quite himself in the 2nd and 3rd sets and maybe he was indeed starting to feel fatigued. It would be a shame if he lost a 5th IW title to play doubles but like you say it may put him in good stead for the upcoming months and as I said in my post Djokovic needs the confidence too to stop Nadal in the clay season.

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    Joe Reply:

    Thanks Ruan!

    I am certainly no expert like you and others who visit your site, but I do feel a sense of ‘layman’s encouragement’ that Roger made the final so close, even on a slow court, and even after playing doubles too, against such a strong player as Djokovic. I think Roger would rather win a major! And I hope Djokovic or someone else will stop Nadal at FO this year!

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  3. All things considered, a few months ago I would not have thought Roger would have done as well as he has this year. Novak made fewer errors in the TB and that’s what decided the match but it was very even overall.

    Still, last seven tournaments since Basel last year: final, win, semi, final, semi, semi, final. That’s the kind of consistency he needs if he wants to make a run at Wimbledon.

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    Vily Reply:

    Yep, I agree!

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  4. Hi Ruan, I am an avid reader of your blog and this is my first post. Yesterday’s match was riveting, so much that I decided not to watch the third set until tie-break.

    All said and done, the tie-breaker is a lottery. I think that Roger was mentally “cooked” by that juncture. Usually he plays clutch in TBs but yesterday, I had an inkling that it was not his day to be. I do not think we should read too much into yesterday’s outcome: both players played a top notch match. Roger would do well to keep the positives in mind, which is what I am sure his supporting team would tell him. Onwards to Miami.

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  5. Federer’s Projected Opponents of #Miami :

    1ST :B ye
    2nd: Karlovic,
    3rd: Verdasco,
    4th: Gasquet,
    QF: Ferrer,
    SF: Djokovic,
    F: Nadal.

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  6. This is some awesome analysis of yesterday’s match on the ATP World Tour’s Website:

    http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2014/03/12/Indian-Wells-Brain-Game-Federer-Djokovic.aspx

    I love it when the analysis actually focuses on how the match was won and lost. I.E, they are focusing on the tactics and on age and physical differences, etc. The amazing thing is that Roger was playing toe to toe with Djokovic in his prime, which is amazing. Roger at 32 pushing Novak pretty good. Roger played better than he played in 2011 at their meeting in the semis in IW.

    In any case, congrats to Novak. He won this one, and Roger will get him next time! To me, this rivalry is my favourite because it’s always right to the wire with these two. They have so much respect and admiration for each other which is wonderful to see.

    Anyway, onwards and upwards! Roger will have more chances to beat on his home boys! ;-) ) LOL

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  7. Hi Ruan, I’ve never posted on your blog before but I have read it probably since 2009-10 and I have found it a very interesting read. I think that the lack luster tiebreak had a lot to do with playing against the wind (and for that matter, the break at 5-4 might have had to do with this as well.) It’s really hard to put balls by a mover like Djokovic normally, and the wind hurt him further. By the changeover it’s already 5-1 an the tiebreak seems very out of reach. This was a really important follow up to Dubai however and he avoided a major letdown. He’s now in a good position to take important steps in Miami

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Nice to hear from you Darrell. Been a long time that you’ve read my blog! See my latest post about the Miami draw where I explain my take of what might have happened in the final.

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