Well what a special performance that was from the Maestro to dismantle a potentially very dangerous opponent. Benneteau had already beaten Roger twice out of seven matches before this match and came very close to beating Roger at Wimbledon in 2012. And Benneteau came out pretty much in the zone against Roger in the first set on this occasion. He hit some amazing shots including one Federeresque slice/drop shot winner with loads of side spin. He put a lot of pressure on Roger and it looked like this could be another long and difficult night for the GOAT. But there was a key point with Roger serving at 4-4 and 15-30. Benneteau had him in desperate trouble out wide. Roger could only just make the return and Benneteau could basically go where he wanted. He went back to Rogers forehand and Roger pulled off a brilliant passing shot down the line.
Benneteau was well in control of that point and had he won it it would have been two break points and he could well have won the opening set, making this an entirely different ball game. But Roger made a big save and the first set would be decided by a tie break. The first seven points of the tie break went against serve if I remember correctly. Roger was the first one to hold serve at 4-3 with an unreturnable serve and at 6-4 he took the initiative with a backhand cross court winner to win the all important first set. Roger hit some amazing backhands throughout the match and no doubt that is a shot that has improved. After Roger won that first set the resolve of Benneteau was broken and Roger went on to bagel him in the second set. Although Roger played some amazing tennis in that second set it was once again his mental fortitude in the first set that impressed me the most.
First the way he hustled at 4-4 and 15-30 to avoid getting broken and then seizing the opportunity at 6-4 in the tie break with an attacking backhand to finish the deal. That is what set up the easy second set because by then Benneteau was a spent force. Roger may not have won a slam this year but he may have done something equally impressive which is to prove the critics wrong who says he lacks in the mental department. And that includes me. Roger really proved to me this year that he is mentally extremely good and that there is a reason that he won 17 slams. But I also think he has improved mentally with age because he had to compensate somehow for not having the same untouchable aura he had in his prime. Roger will now face Djokovic for the 36th time in the most exciting rivalry in tennis today. This after Djokovic was back to his best by routining Ferrer 6-4, 6-2.
So actually Roger and Djokovic lost an equal amount of games and are both playing their best. This will no doubt be the real final because the other semi-final will be contested between Simon and Lopez. Simon upset Berdych who he now has 6-3 head-to-head against. And what is more he fed Berdych another delicious bagel. Delicious for me anyway as I can’t stand the guy. As for Lopez and Simon the head-to-head favors Lopez 2-1 and I hope he wins since he has a much more attacking and exciting game than Simon. To get back to Djokerer it’s a tough one to call. I think Djokovic is probably the slight favorite but I wouldn’t be surprised if Roger pulled off the win. One thing that I couldn’t help noticing yesterday against Ferrer is Djokovic’s overhead. It really is exceptionally bad for anyone in the top 100, not to mention for the world #1.
Against Ferrer he had break point at 3-1 for the double break but he missed another sitter of a smash. So really the score should have been 6-2, 6-2 but instead of it at 5-4 Djokovic barely held on to win the first set and was lucky that it did not go to 5-5. It also struck me that Djokovic’s overhead cost him the 2013 French Open title when he ran into the net after an overhead, and consequently the US Open that same year because he was shattered mentally after that loss to Nadal. And yesterday I found out it cost him the Olympic gold against Nadal in 2008 too. So his overhead cost him two slams at least, the Olympic gold, and the golden career slam. And who benefited? You guessed it. It just bothers be that a great player and a world #1 can have such a poor overhead which is one of the easier shots in tennis. He would have been in the GOAT debate by now could he hit a proper overhead, and who knows where Nadal would have been.
Not on 14 slams that’s for sure. I don’t know if Djokovic’s overhead will play any part in his match against Roger but I do know that Roger will be at his very best against Djokovic, and even that may not be good enough to win. At least he was the last player to beat Djokovic in Shanghai in 2010. I remember that quite well but that was still Djokovic 1.0. I think the kind of mistake Djokovic made against Ferrer with the overhead is the type of mistake Roger can and should take advantage of if he wants to win. Other than that he will just have to play almost perfect attacking tennis while mixing up the pace of his shots with slices to stop Djokovic from getting rhythm. Whatever happens I am just glad Roger comes away with his 360 points and made semis so that he can skip Paris if that is what he feels his body needs. This match is a freebie the way I see it but of course a win would be epic!