You’re gonna have to bare with me in this post because my stream was very unstable in the 1st set, and I couldn’t find any highlights for this match. At first I thought this loss was no big deal and that Djokovic was simply too good. But after going over the match again I remembered that Roger had a break point I think at 4-4 in the 1st set, at which point he missed a very makeable forehand. Then in the next game he got broken himself to drop the 1st set. In hindsight that was the most important moment in the match. Roger should have broken at 4-4 and won the 1st set 6-4. But he failed to do so and the trend was set for the match. In the 2nd set he fought back admirably and broke serve at 2-2, but dropped serve again right away. He then broke again to love. And yet again at 5-4 when serving for the 2nd set he got broken.
He then had a lot of pressure when serving the stay in the match at 5-6, and did well to hold comfortably. When dropping serve at 5-4 I thought he had blown it, but he showed great mental strength to forget about it and win the 2nd set 7-2 in the breaker. After Roger showed a lot of guts to win the 2nd set, Djokovic came out in the 3rd set and broke Roger in the opening game like it was nothing. He was in complete control in the 3rd set and looked like he was almost toying with Roger. He broke a 2nd time at 3-1 as he breezed through the final set 6-2, same as he did in Paris. I said Djokovic may be tired after the Paris final and he did indeed look tired in the 3rd set, but instead of it costing him it made him play relaxed and better. I can’t find the stats on this either but there were way too many unforced errors from Roger.
The same can be said for the match between Nadal and Ferrer and I think it has to do with adapting to the new surface, because I think Djokovic also made a lot of errors. But the point is Roger made them when it mattered, like on break point in the 1st set. He also got involved in too many long base line rallies with Djokovic, which inevitably favored the Serb. Roger’s one-handed backhand becomes a liability in the extended base line rallies and he needed to mix it up more. Of course the conditions didn’t help because it was slower than Paris and the ball bounces higher. Roger said in his presser that the speed is the same as previous years, but it looks like the bounce is higher which would favor Nadal. Is the ATP really trying to help Nadal finally win this title? It looks like the bounce has become higher since the last two matches Roger beat Nadal in London, and Nadal’s group draw could not have been friendlier.
Showing off his calluses
In the end the conditions favored Djokovic more than in Paris, and given that the score was the same in the final set this match is probably an improvement on the Paris match for Roger. But the fact he is lost and he was thoroughly outplayed in the end. Had he made that forehand in the 1st set on break point things could have been very different. If he broke and held serve to win the 1st set he would have been in the driver seat. I know he won the 1st set in Paris too, but I can’t see how he would have faded towards the end so much this time. In Paris I just think he was flat in the 3rd set. In London he got outplayed. By losing the 1st set he was under pressure from there on. For him to beat Djokovic he must win the 1st set. Jonathan mentioned a stat last night that Roger had not won a deciding set against a top 4 player in 3 years.
He just isn’t very clutch, so that when it comes to a decider against Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray he just about always loses the match. There is no doubt Roger’s mental fortitude or lack thereof have been exposed in the last few years. And probably the longer he plays the more it will be exposed. I said he has the opportunity now to add that missing piece of the puzzle to his greatness, and although it sounds great, I find it hard to see him fulfill it. I just think he is kind of set in his ways. It is up to him though. If he wants to keep playing he either becomes more of a fighter and adds to his legacy, or his lack of mental fortitude when the pressure is on keeps getting exposed and his legacy gets tarnished. By now everyone already knows that Roger is not some untouchable god like many once thought he was in his prime.
He has lost too many close, important matches since then for people to still think that. Probably if he retired after last year things would have been different, but this year has looked pretty bad. Anyway I am getting side-tracked. Roger decided to keep playing and I am fine with that. I still enjoy seeing him out there and I believe he still has some good tennis in him left. I certainly don’t think this loss to Djokovic is the end of the road or anything. But like I said things do become more complicated now. The good news is that Roger won the 2nd set, which could become important for semis qualification. He needs to win his remaining two group matches anyway. He faces Gasquet next which I think is good because he will have a good chance of winning, and it will be nice to go into the all important match with Del Potro on the back of a win.
Roger still finding it hard to hide his love for Novak
I think Djokovic will win all his matches in group B while Gasquet will lose everything. He has already lost to Del Potro after winning the first set. The score was 6(4)-7, 6-3, 7-5 and Del Potro didn’t look in particularly good form. He is probably starting to tire after a good run post US Open. I’m pretty sure Djokovic will defeat him and Roger will defeat Gasquet. So the second qualifier will probably be decided between the winner of Roger and Delpo. I still like Roger’s chances of qualifying. The Djokovic match definitely wasn’t all doom and gloom. I think if he won the 1st set he could have won the match. It was probably a lot closer than it looked in the end. Also Roger’s mental strength in the 2nd set was impressive. So at this point at least he definitely looks like the second best player in group B to me. And who knows what could happen if he qualifies for the semis.
It’s too early to look past the group stage but I haven’t completely given up on his chances to win the title. Yes Djokovic beat him comfortably in the end but like I said if he took the break point in the opening set and won the set, the outcome could have been different. Djokovic was a tough player to get in his first match. Ideally you want to start with a win but Roger just have to make sure he wins his next match now. I believe he is still improving. Never mind the loss to Djokovic. At least he can’t play Djokovic again before the final. If he qualifies it looks like he will probably play Nadal, who won his second match against Stan in straight sets today. In his first match he destroyed Ferrer 6-3, 6-2 in another low quality match. Looks like all the players are struggling to adapt to the courts and that the tennis will improve from here on.
Stan was trying to win his first set against Nadal today but in the first set tie break Nadal came up with another devastating defensive play, just as it looked like Stan will take his first set. In the 2nd set tie break Stan missed a forehand winner by the smallest of margins just as he was taking control again. So another devastating loss for Stan to Nadal and no sets for him in 12 meetings. Stan played well, but like 99.99% of the tour he lacks the mental fortitude to beat Nadal. Stan also won his first match against Berdych and I hope he qualifies for the semis. Nadal looks good here and I don’t know if Roger can beat him again should they meet in the semis, but I have hope. His record against him is 4-0 at the Masters Cup but it just looks like the bounce is higher these days which wouldn’t make it easy for Roger.
Roger plays the day session tomorrow.