Tight one. Not tight enough for Gulbis though. I caught the end of the second set and the third set on live stream. Apparently Roger started off convincingly because he won the first set in true GOAT fashion. But when I switched on the stream, I was surprised by how sloppy Roger was playing. He was up 40-15 when serving to stay in the second set, and then lost four points in a row to drop the second set. Then at the start of the third set he had Gulbis at 15-30 on his serve, and a forehand to the open court which you would expect him to make, but he missed. He also got a break to go up 4-2, but handed the break right back. It has to be said that Gulbis was playing pretty well though. Lets give credit where it’s due. Gulbis was serving big and hitting big ground strokes.
In the end the experience of the GOAT was too much for the young gun though. This match was closer then I though it would be. This is because of a combination of sloppy play from Roger and impressive shot making from Gulbis. The important thing is that Roger got the win. I said before that I want Roger to win this tournament and I will stick with that. He could have lost today, but the fact that he got through a close match I think will help him. He couldn’t show up against someone like Davydenko, who is currently up against Karlovic, in this form. Getting through this match would give him some confidence and help him to be sharper in his next match. As you can see, the match stats doesn’t look as good as his match against Rochus, but it’s decent enough.
I just find that he got sloppy in the second set, and I guess it’s harder for him to get motivated in these smaller tournaments, especially in the earlier rounds. I mean he starts out well, and then he seems to go into an experimental mode. This is not a bad thing. I like the fact that he experiments with different things against lesser opponents, in fact I think it is important. But it can cost him a match if he is not careful. Luckily it did not this time, and I’m sure he will be more focused in the next match. Rafa is also still on course for a final birth, after his opponent Steve Darcis withdrew today in the second set when Rafa was leading 6-2, 1-0. Again no real surprises there and I am convinced now that players get scared of Rafa. It just can’t be coincidence how many top guys withdraw against him, or lose early on when they are in his draw.
I know Rafa is quite an imposing figure, but there should be no reason to fear him. Roger showed that in Madrid last year and I want him to do the same again in Doha. Rafa has been looking decent so far, but really he has not won anything significant. An exhibition and an easy draw in Doha is no place to prove that you are back. He now plays against Viktor Troicki who won his match 7-6 in the third set today. That should be a better test for Rafa, but nothing like Davydenko would have been. As I’m writing this, Davydenko has beaten Karlovic 7-6, 7-6, so we will indeed have a rematch of the Masters Cup semi-final. This is an ideal opportunity for Roger to get revenge for that loss to Davydenko and get a good win in the process.
Davydenko won’t be the easiest of opponents, but Roger does after all have a 12-1 record over him. It’s just a question of reminding Davydenko of that fact. Then getting back to a possible final between Roger and Rafa, I would really like Roger to crush any hopes that Rafa may entertain of being back in top form. Rafa is stating in the media that he is playing really well, but should he lose in the final to Roger, it would be a big blow to his ‘confidence’. People would say he had an easy draw and as soon as he came up against a decent player he came up short. And aside from that it would improve Roger’s head-to-head with Rafa to 13-8. It would also be an important psychological win for Roger going into the Australian Open.
But look at me, I’m getting ahead of myself again. A Fedal final would be a lot of fun, but we are not there yet. Laters.