Doha Rd 2: Relaxerer def Zemlja 6-2, 6-3

It was good to see Roger continue his good form today. After trashing Davydenko Roger started in similar fashion today. He was serving well and ripping the forehand. He broke twice to routine Zemlja in the first set. It was windy conditions though which is always an equalizer. Roger used his slice backhand to make things difficult for his opponent however. The slice is slow and the wind blows it around, which makes it a difficult shot to deal with. In the second set Roger seemed to go on a slight walkabout, but I would rather call it Relaxerer. I think he was so in control that he could afford to just relax out there and not really exert himself unnecessarily. He is good enough not to have to give 100% when he is in control of the match. He just hung in there until he got the chance to break Zemlja to 15 at 4-3 in the second set.

He then served out the match to love. So in the end you can say he wasn’t quite as focused in the second set which would be consistent with recent trends, but I prefer to take the positive outlook and say he just didn’t need to really exert himself. Why bagel and breadstick guys and put extra pressure on yourself? If you are Djokovic 2.0 in 2011 then you can do it, or Roger in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 for that matter. But Roger is now older and there is no need to try and be the top gun anymore. I think it has become clear that Roger is now the hunter and not the hunted anymore. And I think this role suits him just fine in the latter part of his career. He wants to just sneak in under the radar and win one or two more slams. No need to have the favorite tag anymore, because it puts extra pressure on him that he doesn’t need at this stage of his career.

I love the look of the new racquet. Something fresh, something different ;-)

Roger will now play against Seppi who he leads 7-0 in the head-to-head and have never lost a set against. I think it is safe to say he will make the semis. For me that is enough at this point. That will prove all the doubters wrong who made so much of a meaningless exho. For me he doesn’t have to prove anything. In fact I regret that I even made a post about the exho. Usually I don’t because it is so pointless. But I thought I’d give you something to talk about while we were waiting for the real tennis. Nadal also won easilt today against Gremelmayr. But of course it took him much longer than it took Roger to beat either Davydenko or Zemlja. That is just the difference between Swiss efficiency and Spanish grinding. Nadal will now play Youzhny. If he wins then he will probably play Monfils, while Roger will probably play Tsonga in the semis.

Looking at Roger’s form I would back him again to beat Tsonga and make the finals. I wouldn’t mind if he loses but then again a Fedal final is always fun. And I do feel that Roger would have a good chance of beating Nadal here. The courts look pretty fast and of course Roger just trashed Nadal in the Masters Cup which will help his case. Lets see what happens. There are still a few matches left to be played.

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40 Comments

  1. Had so much fun watching Roger play today, accept for the brief walkabout. Have seen him lose momentum in the past by doing that and it scares me. You nailed it by saying he’s no longer the hunted and this suits him. You can see it in his interviews that the old pressure is off. He can just go play his best and enjoy himself and surprise the heck out of folks like he did at the FO and end of last year.Alot of sports writers expect Roger to get another slam or two and so do i.I was tickled by the fact that the last two days of play Roger is in and out while others have had to go to 3 sets to win. He never ceases to amaze. Looking forward to tomorrows play.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    The Federer legend is growing ;-)

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    neil Reply:

    Good result but Zemlja who? Ranked where exactly?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Are you trying to be the new Marron? If so then you are doing a pretty good job.

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    neil Reply:

    I thought you encouraged the expression of views, even if they differ from your own.

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    marron Reply:

    Great comment, neil. What say you, Ru-an?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Since when did I owe you an explanation? You are a Nadal fan and should consider yourself lucky to be posting on this blog. You have annoyed a lot of my readers.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Sure I do, but I don’t like negativity on my blog. First you say the win against Davydenko means nothing and now you act as if Zemlja is a nobody. I like it when people disagree with me but if you are a Fedfan then why would you be so negative about his results? It is one thing to disagree with me but another to just be plain negative. Like I said, I don’t encourage that on my blog. I would have thought you’d be happy that he is playing so much better than in the exho…

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    neil Reply:

    You misquote me. I did not say “the win against Davydenko means nothing”: I do say a win against the out-of-form Russian “proves” very little. It is a match Roger would be expected to win and easily, and I would be reluctant to agree that it shows he has returned to playing his best. If he were he would have likely beaten either Djokovic or Nadal – or both – the previous week – because that is what Roger can do in peak form (and, no, I don’t agree a competitor like Roger would have simply laid down because the matches were exhos.) And if Zemlja is not “a nobody” then what is he? A top-ranked opponent? I don’t think so.

    Sure, it’s good Roger is doing well in the tournament but these wins so far are hardly a definitive test. Is that being “plain negative”, or is it being objective? I prefer to think I am retaining a bit of balance to how I see things. I respect Roger’s game but he hardly needs cheerleaders – or apologists, for that matter.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I did not quote you in the first place. I don’t see much of a difference anyway. I don’t remember, are you a Fedfan? If not then what you said is not necessarily negative, but since you are commenting on my blog i assumed you were a Fedfan and therefor found your comments of late negative. You have to be negative to think Roger’s form in an exho is a bad sign, or you just don’t know much about Roger or tennis. Also after making a big deal of the exho you then went on to downplay his match against Davydenko and Zemlja. That is definitely negative.

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    neil Reply:

    I don’t see that I am being “negative” about Roger; I describe things as I see them. It doesn’t happen to be the way that you see it. That doesn’t make either of us right – or wrong, for that matter. But I would hope we are each entitled to our own opinion. Of course, if you want me to agree with everything you think then I can’t oblige.

    You ask me if I am a Fedfan. Well, I don’t see that a love for the game and respect and admiration for its greatest player has to meet a list of approved criteria. I would have thought Roger was big enough to have his critics as well as his fans (some of whom – like myself – can be both.) But are you big enough – or is this blog merely a vehicle for the like-minded, to reinforce the views of its author, rather than a genuine exchange of independent opinion? That’s up to you, Ruan.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well that was what I was doing – I was giving my opinion.

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    Chris Reply:

    Perfect comment from Neil! Keep them coming.
    RF played effortless out there, effective, efficient, calm, in control, a perfect balance between not wasting time and not wasting energy. Against a player I never heard of ;-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Lol.

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    neil Reply:

    Ruan, this is a sincere question: what would you have said about the exho’s if Roger had thrashed both Djokovic and Nadal in succession? That it was “meaningless”? Personally, I would have been inclined to the view that his great form at the end of last year was continuing into this year (as commentators have said in respect of Djokovic’s wins.)

    I am pleased with Roger’s wins in Doha but take the view that these early rounds are small beer to a great champion: for him to win the title is what I would hope for and for a great showing in the AO later in the month.

    Also, to clarify things – I am a follower of tennis, and have been so for over forty years, I play the game but not exceptionally well, and I am a great admirer of RF, but not a blindly devoted fan of anybody.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Sincere answer: If he beat Djokovic and Nadal in the exho I would have felt it’s a bit of a shame, because I would like him to beat them when it matters. If he went all out in a stupid exho and lost to them in a slam he would have looked like a small timer. I’d rather he holds back in a stupid exho and not give anything away. That way he keeps them guessing. If he went all out then they would have sensed it, and if they beat him then it would have given them a mental edge.

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    neil Reply:

    I tend to think that the result of those matches had less to do with the fact that they were exhos but that Roger probably only hit about 5 tennis balls from the final at the WTF to playing in Abu Dhabi while Djokovic in particular went “gluten-free” once again, lifting his previously “fatigued” game a whole notch from the WTF and preceding indoor tournaments. Nadal’s formula for recovery appears a little more complicated: he has been injured through the end of last year (shoulder) and is currently injured, he tells us, but this will be temporarily cured by a heavier racket, hence he will play the AO, but then he says he will be injured after the AO and will need a break of some weeks to recover. Puzzled? So am I. But do not be surprised to see the Nadal of old back again for the beginnning of the clay-court season, as is usual.

    And Roger? I suspect he just needs to hit a few more balls.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Nah he hit enough. He just couldn’t care less about a pointless exho.

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    neil Reply:

    I think Roger is a better sportsman than that.

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  2. “the difference between Swiss efficiency and Spanish grinding”.

    Well-said.

    I’d like Federer to win the title. But if he doesn’t, it’s not a disaster for his AO chances.

    I can’t agree that Federer prefers to go under the radar. Federer likes being top dog and always has. He wouldn’t have accomplished so much otherwise.

    The greatest champions all thrive on the challenges and burdens of being at the top. Otherwise it would be very difficult for them to endure all the pressure of being the hunted, the out-sized expectations, the perpetual media scrum, the merciless dissection of every loss.

    Nadal is an exception, with his ostentatious displays of humility, pathological underdog complex, and constant litany of ever-changing injuries. He wants the trophies and fame but not the responsibilities and burdens that come with those things. He wants to sneak to greatness through the back door. But that’s not Federer’s way.

    Federer may have come to terms with the fact that the gap between himself and the competition has narrowed, but he still very much desires to be on top of the game.

    If he’s lost his taste for battle, it’s time for him to hang up his racket. And he has said as much, for when he’s asked if he thinks he can be #1 again, he always replies “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.” One can argue whether that’s a realistic expectation, but it’s clear that without that attitude, he would not be able to produce his best tennis and maintain sufficient motivation to persist in the face of adversity.

    To win you have to first believe you can win. Which is not to say that belief guarantees victory, but it’s certainly a prerequisite.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Federer has no choice but to go under the radar. However much it hurts to admit, he is not the top dog anymore. That is something you must come to terms with as a Fedfan because it is a fact. If he can rise to dominance again then it’s a different story, but can he? And for how long? If he somehow wins two slams he may be number one again for a brief stint, but it’s hard to see him be the top dog for any extended period of time again.

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    Wilfried Reply:

    I tend to agree more with Steve’s view. Federer does not and should not deliberately want to go under the radar, on the contrary. To win you have to first believe you can win, which is not to say that belief guarantees victory, but it’s certainly a prerequisite and makes the probability of winning bigger. You could refer here in my opinion to the Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, a form of self-fulfilling prophecy . The effect is named after Pygmalion, a Cypriot sculptor in a narrative by Ovid in Greek mythology, who fell in love with a female statue he had carved out of ivory. People will internalize their negative label, and those with positive labels succeed accordingly. Within sociology, the effect is often cited with regard to education and social class. Applied here to the situation of Roger, it wouldn’t be a good idea at all on a psychological level to consider himself all the time as the underdog. To me the gap between him and the competition has narrowed and has reversed at this moment, but for how long will it stay that way? Is this reverse of the situation at the top really and purely based on hard work and talent of his opponents? To me Federer is and remains by far the most talented of the whole field. If things have reversed, it is because he’s older now and because the others don’t respect the rules as he does. That’s my opinion for what it is worth.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Wilfried. I certainly don’t want Roger to view himself as the underdog in the sense that he now doesn’t believe in himself as much. But the reality on the ground is that he is not as dominant as he used to be. Numbers and results don’t lie. Therefor I personally prefer he is viewed as more of an underdog, because I think it will take some pressure off in and allow him to prove people wrong. We have seen how low his motivation can get these days time and time again, and i feel he gets motivated only really when people start to write him off.

    If you look at recent times he has been good at that. Since 2009 he has been proving the doubters wrong time and time again. How can that possibly be a bad thing? For one thing it is very satisfying as a fan. For me anyway. I am not so blindly devoted that I expect Roger to dominate tennis again like in the past. I think that is both unfair and unrealistic. I am just very much appreciating and enjoying this part of his career. It may be even more enjoyable than in his prime because that feeling of surprising people and proving them wrong is so satisfying.

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    steve Reply:

    Ru-an, I am well aware that Djokovic is #1 and he has thoroughly earned that position.

    But I’m saying that champion athletes like Federer are hard-wired to win. There’s some fundamental drive or need in their character that is satisfied only by dominating their particular field. They see the top spot as their natural place and they work constantly to get there. In their minds, they are always the best.

    I suspect the same is true of the kind of people who become presidents or CEOs.

    This desire is often metaphorically described as “hunger”. And it’s not entirely an exaggeration–literally they have to win to sustain themselves. They may not actually die if they don’t, but they’ll be very unhappy.

    Federer is perhaps a rarity among such people in that he has retained his perspective and his general good nature; people who are as driven and talented as he is often become unbalanced and arrogant. But he still has the same need to be at the top, even though he deals with that need very well.

    Every time Federer steps on court, he absolutely believes he is the best and expects to win. Even now.

    In any case, I don’t think playing the underdog would work for Federer.

    Do you think there is a single player on the tour who would relax when facing the all-time Grand Slam champion across the net, just because he seems vulnerable? No one would be fooled by that. Everyone knows how dangerous an opponent he is. His achievements speak for themselves.

    On the contrary, they’ll be encouraged by his show of weakness and work twice as hard to beat him. Beating Federer is a huge scalp for any player; for some, like Benneteau, it’s the greatest achievement of their careers. He’s the biggest fish out there.

    And beating Federer might mean a shot at a title, or gaining ranking points, or some other opportunity to advance one’s career. If nothing else, it would do wonders for one’s confidence.

    For all these reasons, they won’t go easy on him if he pretends to be weak–quite the opposite. When they smell blood, they’ll go in for the kill.

    Only Nadal can succeed in playing the role a helpless, wounded little boy and making himself out to be a victim every time he loses, despite his remarkable accomplishments. Even Federer has been guilty of falling for this ploy from time to time.

    Federer, however, cannot use the same stratagem. He has to be himself and shoulder the burdens that come with having won as much as he has.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I never said he should view himself as the underdog. There is a massive difference and I already explained that in my comment to Wilfried. He obviously has to believe he can beat Djokovic or Nadal or he certainly won’t. But if he is written off he is more likely to live up to that reputation you are talking of. We have seen this last year. It’s no secret. His motivation has been desperately lacking at times and he only seemed to get it back up when he was counted out. This is simply a fact that could be observed. If he really cares so much about his reputation then he should not have played those lackluster matches last year. You have to make peace with the fact that he is no the player he used to be at some point, and that he never again will be. Maybe then you will appreciate this underdog business a bit more. And when I say underdog I mean only in relation to Djokovic and Nadal, not the rest of the tour. There is a reason he is ranked below them now.

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    Chris Reply:

    I agree, RF loves to be the #1, the hunted. But more important, he wants to win! If flying under the radar means that extra pressure is put on his opponent, and not on him, and that this extra pressure might negatively affect the opponent, therefore increasing RFs chances to win, then he’s fine with being considered the underdog! Not that RF himself would see himself as an underdog, though ;-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself Chris. He wants to win and will do whatever is necessary to achieve that aim, and if being the hunter helps him achieve that aim then there is no reason not to be the hunter. At this stage of his career he doesn’t need the favorite tag as it adds a lot of pressure. He can leave that to Djokovic who will have a lot of expectation this year, and to a lesser extent Nadal. Djokovic needs to slip up just once and Roger could have slam number 17 in the pocket. I see him more in the hunter role now where he can inflict some serious damage on the hunted and make life very difficult for them. But none of this is done in an unsporting way. Being the hunter is certainly not against the rules or gamesmanship, unless you are like Nadal who says he’s not the favorite all the time when he is clearly the favorite to win a match. That may not be considered gamesmanship, but it is dishonest and I don’t like it.

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  3. Does anyone know what racquet Federer is using now?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    http://www.perfect-tennis.co.uk/federer-racket-2012-six-one-90-blx/

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    Here is another reason why you are the GOAT blogger: you respond to comments!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Chris. I like the discussion part of it. I’m not like Simon Reed who makes ludicrous comments and then leave his readers in confusion. I feel that is rude. I like to interact with my readers and back up my comments. I am also open for other opinions. I learn a lot from my readers.

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    Chris Reply:

    Simon Who? The Murray fan? The guy who is paid for making stupid, provokative statements without much insight or depth? I stopped reading his blogs long time ago, although in terms of Satire I sometimes took a good laugh at his jokes. The problem is, he did not mean it to be a joke ;-) . In this information age you have to be very selective about what to read.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes that Simon. I read an article of him the other day and I actually had a really good laugh reading the reader’s comments. Every second person is insulting him and asking why Eurosport hasn’t fired him yet. And then there are of course those who knows absolutely nothing about tennis and agrees with his posts. Like you say, he doesn’t mean it as a joke, which makes it even funnier. Hilarious stuff really.

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    Jonathan Reply:

    Hey man,

    Just noticed a few hits from you! I’m liking the new racket too, I’d love to know if he does play with it though, or his is custom. Wonder how you could ever get your hands one? Unless he throws one in the crowd!

    [Reply]

    dave Reply:

    Thanks Ruan.

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  4. I am developing a theory about why Federer has a real chance at holding the 4 grand slam titles in a row during the next 2 years.
    First of all, during his career, Federer had this opportunity 6 times, which is truly amazing, but he felt each time : RG 04, RG 05, RG 06, RG 07, OA 09, US 09.
    In 4 out of those 6 opportunities, he made it to the final and played twice 5 sets (USO 09 and OA 09) and twice 4 sets (RG 06 and RG 07). I think the reason why he could not achieve this amazing objective is because he has created a monster by winning everything for so long like he said at the end of the 07 season. And the psychological aspect of being a monster is that you don’t like yourself after a while and opponents ends up hating you. So for me the reason why he did not achieve this ultimate goal in tennis so far even with 6 opportunities is to not become the super-monster.
    During the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Federer killed the monster by not only losing matches he should have never lost (US10, USO11, Wim11) but also by losing to the likes of Soderling, Berdytch, ending some monsters records (23 conscutive semi finals, 18/19 finals, never loosing a match with 2 sets to love lead…).
    Now that the monster is dead, the smart Federer is back and his nemessis is weak.
    Watch out for Federer, this season is going to be divine. He is the ultimate Tennis player and he deserve to acheive the ultimate tennis goal especially in the ultimate era of tennis.

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  5. I am a little worried about a possible Roger-Rafa final now. I watched both their matches and Fed looked a little mentally “off” against Seppi and his serving went away in the third set. On the other hand, Rafa looked awfully good against Youzhny. All that ridiculous talk about his ‘sore shoulder’ is such rubbish. I really think this is a good opportunity for Roger to get their H2H to 10-17 and a second straight win over Nadal would give Roger such a boost of confidence going into the AO!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I wouldn’t worry too much Candace. The Seppi match spells trouble for Tsonga. I predict a virtuoso JesusFed performance tomorrow.

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    lila Reply:

    Hey love your blog. About the match with tsonga hope your correct but I read a swiss interview were Fed mention that he is having trouble with his back after he hurt it yesterday. It probably also explains the lack of speed his serves had in the match against seppi.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks lila.

    [Reply]

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