Federer Bows Out to Gulbis at French Open

Well so much for Roger winning the French Open which the ‘optimistic’ ones were hoping for. There is optimism and then there is idealism. The latter is not realistic. I hope everyone understands now why I was reluctant to overestimate Roger’s chances of winning the title. He couldn’t even make the quarterfinals, his worst result at the French Open since 2004! I think you can grasp now why I kept saying that since 2011 Roger didn’t care much about clay anymore. That year was his last big shot at the French Open title. He was in God mode in the semis against Djokovic and if ever he was gonna beat Nadal at the French it was gonna be in the 2011 final. He also had the experience of previous losses to Nadal behind him, and at the start it even looked like 2011 would finally be the year. But it wasn’t to be.

It was the same old story of missed chances and wasted opportunities against Nadal. Since 2011 Roger has also played only two warm-up events to the French Open instead of his usual three. And if you are still not convinced that Roger have given up the ghost of a second French Open title, then this quote from Roger posted by Girish should convince you:

“Mentally I have already switched to the grass, to be quite honest,” said Federer. “For me, it’s like, ‘the clay-court season was fun, but we are moving on.’ Clay doesn’t need me anymore, I got flushed out here.”

I have to mention that I cannot confirm the above quote is real, since I couldn’t find an interview transcript on the French Open website or anywhere else on the Internet, but I trust Girish would not make something like that up. Anyway, to get back to Roger’s match against Gulbis it was very far from a blowout, with Gulbis winning 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. It all came down to one point at 7-6, 5-3 and 40-15 with Roger serving for the second set. Roger closed in on the net, Gulbis threw up a defensive lob, and Roger hit the easiest of overheads straight back to Gulbis who put away the pass down the line. All Roger had to do was to hit the overhead down the line and the match was all but won. But he had to give Gulbis a second bite of the cherry and it cost him the match.

After that exchange, Roger could not recover. It was clear that he lost focus when that happened, just as he lost focus when Djokovic hit that return in the 2011 US Open semis, and just as he lost focus many a time against Nadal when Nadal made an unheard of play. This match also reminded me a lot of the 2009 US Open final where Roger was a set and a break up and cruising to a sixth title, only to lose 6-2 in the fifth to Del Potro. We have seen him lose in the fifth set many a time in big matches. Roger also have a pretty poor record when it goes the distance compared to other great players. He just isn’t as clutch as some other greats and he just doesn’t fight as hard. He tends to get stuck in the past when something out of the unexpected happens, instead of staying focused in the moment.

He loses the plot while someone like Nadal stays completely in the moment. He never regrets and never looks back. His focus is supremely in the now, and he gives 110% no matter what the situation. He never throws in the towel. Ever. You can’t say the same for Roger. He looks back and he doesn’t fight to the bitter end. After Roger lost that pivotal point there was no reason he could not still win the set, but he lost focus and played a poor tiebreak. To put it bluntly; he choked. And it wasn’t the first time. Since there was a momentum shift Gulbis then ran away with the third set. Roger fought back in the fourth set at least and took a 5-2 lead, but then again allowed Gulbis to get into his head when Gulbis took an MTO. When Gulbis came back he broke Roger and held serve for 4-5.

I’d be pissed off too Roger…with myself

Roger just managed to hold onto his serve to win the fourth set, but like someone intelligently remarked on my last post there was another momentum shift. Gulbis had managed to get under Roger’s skin again and he broke right away in the fifth set. It was enough to see Gulbis through to the victory. Just another epic mental collapse from Roger after being well in control of the match. I mean Roger came out playing really well after everyone had written off his chances when he beat Tursunov. He was proving the pessimists wrong, and I was loving it. But then he goes and totally collapses. You may have followed the conversation me and Eric had on my last couple of posts. Eric thought that Roger was poor against Tursunov and that it didn’t bode well for his chances against Gulbis.

In a sense, he was right because Roger lost to Gulbis. But what I want people to realize is that Roger was in almost complete control of the match at 7-6, 5-3, and 40-15. He was actually playing very well up until that point, something I predicted might happen in my last post. But then he just inexplicably lost the plot again. Fist of all, he should have gone down the line with the overhead, but even after he went the wrong way and lost that point he was still in complete control. He still had a set point on his serve! And even after he lost that point too he was still at deuce on his serve! I can go on and on because even after he got broken back it wasn’t over. But instead of focusing on the next point Roger was still regretting what happened at 40-15. This is the crucial point I want people to see.

You have to stay absolutely in the moment in tennis or you are finished. This is where Nadal is again the ultimate example. And I don’t care how much Fedfans don’t like hearing it or don’t want to admit it. It is just a fact. For all his faults, there is a reason why Nadal is as good as he is and why he owns Roger in the head-to-head. If you deny that fact you deny Roger’s greatness at the same time since Nadal owns Roger. Simple as that. So even though there were some signs in the first three round that this might happen, I thought the way Roger player in the first three rounds had nothing to do with Roger’s loss against Gulbis, but it had everything to do with Roger’s poor decision making and inability to stay in the moment. Had Roger put away that overhead down the line he would have had the first two sets in the bag, and knowing Gulbis he would have probably thrown in the towel and Roger would be in the quarter-finals after a straight sets win.

But it’s over now. Like I said there is no point in regretting and living in the past. I was hoping Roger could at least improve upon his 2013 performance or at the very least defend his quarter final points, but it wasn’t to be. It’s not the end of the world. I never thought Roger had a serious shot at the title anyway, and he came into the French Open lacking matches. At least he got four more matches and now moves on to the grass season where he may have his last realistic shot at a slam title. Everything that I suspected have been confirmed at the French Open, which was that Roger wasn’t a serious threat for the title and that he doesn’t care as much about clay as he used to. Thus I am not too disappointed. Roger still kept his slam participation streak alive and he became the first man to win at least 60 matches at every slam when he beat Schwartzman.

At this stage of his career Roger is achieving impressive records even when he does poorly by his own high standards. So in the end there are positives coming out of the French Open and I am excited about the grass court season. Another positive to come out of the French Open is that Roger will most probably be a top 4 seed for Wimbledon. I think the only scenario in which that does not happen is if Ferrer or Berdych makes the final in Paris, which is very unlikely. And even then Roger can pass them again in the warm up events on grass. So all looks good for another serious run at an eighth Wimbledon title after the disappointment of last year. From his presser it is also clear that it is all about the grass court season, so I wouldn’t worry much about what happened in Paris.

Onward and upwards!

Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssy2poR4qGU

Posted in French Open, Grand Slams.

78 Comments

  1. A few thoughts:

    The Good
    Roger had a tough draw, had to play a lot of heavy hitters, has played himself into pretty good shape in terms of conditioning, has extra time to prepare for grass season, and lost by only a very narrow margin.

    The Bad
    At this point in Roger’s career – he had to get older eventually – it’s possible for others to use the ‘Nadal’ recipe to give Roger difficulties – at least on clay – MTO Alert!

    Gulbis, I’ve read, kept playing to Roger’s backhand, as Nadal has always done.

    But I think Roger got a little ego in his head after Gulbis’ disrespectful words, and it seemed that he’d decided to play right back to Gulbis’ backhand. He seemed to forget that he is the great one whose versatility is unmatched, and that the best way for him to beat ANYONE is to keep them off balance with his incredible variety. ‘I’ll show him that my backhand is better than his,’ I can imagine hearing Roger say to himself.

    Oh well! This sort of thing tends to happen to Roger when he plays against Berdych too, i.e. Roger tries to serve as fast as Berdych (he doesn’t have to – and besides – “must keep opponent off-balance with unmatched variety!”) and gets behind on his service games, which causes other difficulties.

    But in this match that strategy really sucks for a couple of reasons. First of all, Roger lost some of his mental equilibrium in this match, not only because he was losing, but also because deep inside he knew his strategy was wrong! It must surely have caused him some cognitive dissonance.

    Second, he lost some confidence not only in his backhand but also in himself because of his fourth round exit. I mean to say that since he led with ego, his ego probably took a slight bruising. But I know he’ll be ok. Our champ is really a very sensitive guy. And he’ll be back!

    One more thing – IMHO it would have been very possible (‘easy’ might be a misleading word) for Roger to win this match by playing his own game!

    The ugly

    To be bounced out of RG by the disrepectful and immature Gulbis must be particularly vexing… I surely hope Roger will get a chance to straighten that out soon.

    [Reply]

    Bharata Reply:

    That’s a good point – he does want to win in a certain way against certain opponents. Why not start throwing junk at Guilbis, slices, drop shots, forehand slices, etc. ? Instead he tried to hit with him for power, which is not going to work with his backhand. Federer gave SO many points away with his backhand into the net on neutral rallies. Too many points slipped away.

    Nonetheless I agree with Ruan’s analysis, he should have won this in 3 or 4 had he refocussed in the 5-3 game. All he had to do was hit a good serve at 40-30. Or at the deuce that followed. It was exactly the same situation as the Djokvoic SF at the US open 2011 (although that was even more bitter).

    I enjoy very much such a frank and honest analysis of the match and what was going on in Roger’s head.

    I am pretty sure Federer will do better than a 2nd round at Wimbledon this year. I think he will come in focussed.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    Hi Bharata,

    I also agree with everything Ruan said.

    Roger should have won this match, even with a backhand-centric strategy. He was certainly in complete control of the match.

    And as great as Roger is, he has a lot of matches to shake his head at, saying “That was another one that got away.”

    But I’ll bet all the great ones have the same problem. I wonder what it’s like!
    :-)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes a lot of matches got away from him since his prime Joe. But then again he won many he could have lost too.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    Yes!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Bharata it’s great to see someone appreciate my straight forward and no-nonsense writing! I am only concerned about truth and honesty.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Very insightful comment Joe and I love the way you wrote it under the headings of the classic movie! You’d make a great blogger. Roger is arrogant like that while Nadal is always adjusting and ready to make changes. Roger can learn from Nadal in more than one thing that’s for sure.

    [Reply]

  2. Excellent post Ru-an. Insightful and straight talk as usual. I’m still excited for the grass and will still be one of the crazy ones rooting for Roger to win it. I know, but I can’t help myself :-)

    This one sentence here is the crux of what we disagreed on.

    “So even though there were some signs…, I thought the way Roger played in the first three rounds had nothing to do with Roger’s loss against Gulbis, but it had everything to do with Roger’s poor decision making and inability to stay in the moment.”

    What made me fearful from Tursunov match was exactly poor decision making and not staying in the moment – he just managed to still get the win because Turs isn’t as good as Gulbis and got injured. If you remember 5-4 in the first set of Turs you will see why Roger lost to Gulbis. Roger was receiving to win the set. He got 2 second serves which he sliced both of them into the net. Then he sprayed an easy forehand, then Turs had a strong first serve – to win the game at love. I can’t go back to look but that’s how I remember it. Roger’s choice of slicing both of those second serves cc was just unexplainable terrible. Even worse that he put them in the net. He disappeared that game instead of stepping on Turs’ neck. Then in the 2nd set he was up 4-1 in the TB. 2 or 3 bad plays from him let Turs have an opportunity to hang in and eventually hit that great winner. So It wasn’t Roger’s general play that bothered me, he played pretty well, it was several instances at key moments like those that made me fear that against a better play – bursting with confidence like Gulbis – Roger would be in trouble. But I will not bother everyone about this anymore, I promise. Onwards and upwards is right. With more work comes a better game, with a better game comes a better head. Roger is and will always be the king. Long live the king!!!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Eric and good comment.

    [Reply]

  3. the interview and the quote are correct:

    http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2014/05/22/Roland-Garros-Sunday2-Federer-reaction.aspx

    “Mentally I have already switched to the grass, to be quite honest,” said Federer. “For me, it’s like, ‘the clay-court season was fun, but we are moving on.’ Clay doesn’t need me anymore, I got flushed out here.

    “Clearly first the focus is on Halle, try to defend my title there. It’s nice going back to a place where I have to defend something. Hasn’t been like this for a while, so that’s something I’m looking forward to. I think when I’m healthy, like I have been now for the last six to nine months, I think I can also decide the outcome of the matches more than I could last year. I’m very excited about my chances for Wimbledon now this time.”

    “Things are going to change with the grass season,” added Federer. “It’s going to be different. I have to shorten the back-swing.

    I hope his words will be backed for a deep run at Wimby.

    Allez Roger !

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Cheers Rahan! Great to see Roger is excited about his chances at Wimby!

    [Reply]

  4. Super cool!

    [Reply]

    rahan Reply:

    Roger will be joined by Nadal and Raonic in Halle

    It seems that the 4 seed ranking for the All England Club is not guaranteed.

    Am I missing something ?

    If Berdych will win vs. Gulbis then he will have in the last week before Wimbledon

    4680 + 360=5040 points,

    that is he will be the new no 4 instead Roger in the week before Wimby.

    Check the data from

    http://live-tennis.eu/forecast_atp_ranking

    Djokovic 11490 11490 11490 11490 10290

    Nadal 10860 10860 10860 10860 10850

    Stan 5480 5480 5375 5375 5365

    Roger 4945 4845 4845 4845 4800

    Berdych 4680 4680 4680 4680 4320

    Murray 4480 4320 4320 4320 2320

    Ferrer 4190 4190 4190 4190 3830

    I hope that the seedings system will take into account the history for grass.

    [Reply]

    lr99 Reply:

    but berdych defends some points on Queens, right?

    [Reply]

    lr99 Reply:

    and the seedings system is like this:
    · Take ESP points at 17 June 2013
    · Add 100% points earned for all grass court tournaments in the past 12 months
    · Add 75% points earned for the best grass court tournament in the 12 months before that.

    So, with that in count Roger should be 4th seed, even though Berdych’s last year SF is a threat

    [Reply]

    lr99 Reply:

    the points are of 2014, that is the 2013 version

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes I think Roger will be top 4 at Wimbledon lr99.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    You could be right Rahan I am not entirely sure about the ranking situation and I simply don’t have time to figure it out. I hope we can solve this equation soon.

    [Reply]

    rahan Reply:

    Gulbis solved the problem : the situation is now as follows and it seems that Roger could be nr 4 seed at Wimby (Berdych will be no 5)

    I am still not 100% sure because they will take into accont grass results and Murray has a big advantage.

    Nevertheless, the 5 Weeks Forecast ATP Rankings is :

    Djoko 11850 11850 11850 11850 10650

    Nadal 10860 10860 10860 10860 10850

    Stan 5480 5480 5375 5375 5365

    Roger 4945 4845 4845 4845 4800

    Berdych 4680 4680 4680 4680 4320

    Murray 4480 4320 4320 4320 2320

    Ferrer 4190 4190 4190 4190 3830

    [Reply]

    rahan Reply:

    What I really dream is that Murray or Ferrer will be nr 4 AFTER RG -if you know what I mean- :-)

    [Reply]

    lr99 Reply:

    I think that Roger will be n4 because of Stan’s results. He hasn’t made nothing, just two first rounds, and I don’t know in the 250 that are before Wimby, but they don’t give many points

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I don’t think Stan will be top 4. Probably the big 4 again with Murray either 3 or 4.

    [Reply]

  5. Good analysis, Ruan. Intellectually, I agree with many of your points; but emotionally, I’m puzzled and saddened by how you and many others on this site constantly wring their hands over Roger’s faults—his mental lapses, his lack of will power, his tendency to be haunted by a missed opportunity, his stubborn ego … you name it … on and on, till kingdom come. People, people, people! Give the man a break! He is almost 33 yrs. old! That is positively ancient in tennis terms, especially when one considers that in this sport, decisions and reaction times are measured not in leisurely seconds, but in a ruthless micro-second. Aging is not kind to the brain in such circumstances. And then when one ponders the gradual decline of the body’s musculature and stamina, one can’t help but conclude that most of Roger’s woes are due to the cruel vagaries of Father Time. So ease up, Fedfanciers. Be happy with what this great champion has accomplished. And if the Maestro wants to keep playing till he’s forty, out of sheer love of the game, let him, and applaud him! Even if his ranking gradually falls to 100! He has earned the right to follow the beat of his own drummer. And always, always, remember Robert Frost’s beautiful poem about these autumnal issues:
    Nature’s first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf’s a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day.
    Nothing gold can stay.
    I would only add that in Roger’s case there may well be one last defiance of Nature’s cruel coarse: a magnificent final burst of bloom on the hollowed courts of Wimbledon.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good comment Balthazar. I don’t think I am overly critical of Roger. I give him and have given him huge amounts of praise over the years. But you are right that one should not be too critical at this stage for his career. That’s why steer clear of unrealistic expectations and try to influence my readers to do the same, because unrealistic expectations create disappointment and criticism. I am simply being brutally honest when I say Roger could and should have won this match. Age have nothing to do with putting an easy overhead away or winning the next point.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Balthazar, if there is anyone on this site who comes close to beeing a “blind Roger follower” than that is me, I come pretty close to it. BUT I AM NOT :-) I see ALMOST no fault in Roger whatever he does. But…..there comes a time when you have to be kind of “real”. He played great…..lost… but should have won. Roger is not mentally weak. I don’t accept that. At all. You don’t win 17 GS by beeing weak. But… there is something there. I hate if when people talk about “choke”, but at 40-15… eventhough he made that wrong point, he still could have won that set. But like Ru-an says, he stays in it. And that is what I don’t understand why someone as great as Roger can do that. Why couldn’t he just forget that point and concentrate on the other?? He can do that, but not for a long period I guess. He moved quickly on from losing the 3rd set, because he was serving for the 4th. Then why let a questionable MTO get inside his head??
    That is what I don’t understand about Roger. He can get passed a lost point or a lost set, but if someone plays an unpassible shot back, why can’t he forget that in a minute and try to win the match???

    Can a mental coach help? Can Stefan help him? Because Balthazar, he is playing AMAZINGLY tennis (for his age with more than 1200 matches), only not on those big, important points….
    And this also hurts his fans and me, we want only the best for him and for him to basically win it all…

    [Reply]

    balthazar Reply:

    Hi Katyani, I’ve always appreciated your unswerving support of Roger, even when he plays “poorly.” But is he really playing poorly, considering his age? How many men in the modern era have won a Major in their thirties? Certainly not Borg, Mac the Mouth, or Sampras. That only leaves Connors (?), Agassi, and of course, Roger in 2012. Perhaps I’m forgetting one or two others in the lower echelons of Champions Row. Anyway, the point is, it’s extremely difficult to do. So it would be an amazing, crowning achievement if The Maestro could win another Major in his thirties. But the odds are stacked against him, and grow poorer with each passing season.
    Regarding Roger’s mental struggles, I believe they’re also due to aging. Think about it. Roger realizes he is now far from his prime. Deep down he knows his stamina will probably not hold up in a fifth set. Consequently, every botched point, every misstep in the first two sets becomes greatly magnified in his mind. This puts tremendous pressure on him to perform almost perfectly in the first half of a match. And not even a great champion like him can consistently meet such internal expectations. The end result can be shocking at times, especially when compared to the smooth, powerful, and well-oiled machine he was in his prime. Perhaps a good sports psychologist could help with these issues, a therapist well-versed in the art of hypnosis. He could repeatedly plant positive deep-trance suggestions in Roger’s mind the day before a match, convincing this great Champion’s unconscious that he is young and powerful again. Hopefully, the body would follow and mimic the images of past glories, at least for the few crucial days of a tournament. It would not surprise me if Roger has already tried this. If so, he should keep at it for the remainder of his career, for he needs to forge every alliance he can at this point. And then perhaps, just perhaps, he can slay all his unconscious demons for one last glorious, two-week run at Wimbledon or the US Open.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    Ferrer is playing the best tennis of his life.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    I regret having said this. Ferrer deserves to be banned from praise. I don’t think I can ever remember hearing a top ten player saying that he just gave up like that. Really pathetic behavior.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Balthazar, thank you for your reply. It is difficult you know. I want so much the best for Roger because he deserves it so much. Beeing written off for years, even when he was on top in 2012, people said only because the others were not doing well, etc. Like he never gets the deserved praise for what he is and got. That is why I keep telling, just wait till the other top 3 become Roger’s age. Will they even be playing? Will they win a GS? Will they get back to number 1? Will they be even in the top 20? Seriously, Roger will be appreciated when he will be retired. Because then people will see how difficult it was for him to reach all he did at his age with having played so many matches (with a family).
    And I say this jokingly, but Roger will be the “male Date-Krumm”, playing till he is 45, not in the top, but because he loves the game and his fans.
    Have you seen how much crowd support Roger got against Gulbis? Rafa doesn’t get that in Paris, neither do Nole or Andy. Roger loves the game too much. And eventhough he lost, I do believe he hasn’t given up on RG. Yes, it may not be his priority, but he was practising at RG days before the rest of the players were in Paris. And my God, 2 days after his twins were born he was already practising on clay !!! He may not prioritise it next year, but Roger hasn’t given up on RG. I don’t believe that. I think he is angry at himself, because he knew he could win the match.
    And Balthazar, Eurosport played the rerun of his matches against Tursunov and Gulbis. If you watch it with a clear mind…. he didn’t play bad AT ALL. He fought and fought, only those big and important points he let go…

    Seriously, I truely believe Roger will win more GS and important titles. Won’t be easy at all. Ofcourse the draw has to be kind and maybe some upsets has to happen, but Roger is playing WAY TOO GOOD not to win important titles.
    I am disappointed FOR Roger, but not IN Roger. Not even Roger can make that happen :-) I still believe in him, no matter what. He still IS Roger Federer :-) My hero :-)

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    Wonderful comment, Balthazar! We should be grateful that he’s still playing. Nearly all great champions would have quit by the age of 33, but Federer is soldiering on, determined to get what he can out of the remainder of his career. This is his greatest challenge yet and every title he wins now is worth three or four titles from his earlier years.

    [Reply]

  6. Love your blog Ru-an. I can’t believe how depressed I was after Roger’s match yesterday. I don’t why his losses affect me that way but they do. He had so many chances to win this one. But then again I kind of knew he probably wouldn’t win against Gulbis. But today is a new day and my one wish for Roger is to do well at Wimbledon. I so want him to win it but it may be asking too much. I wish he could win at least more slam and then retire. I never tire of watching him play. Win or lose he will always be the GOAT to me.

    [Reply]

    rahan Reply:

    Chris, I can repeat every word you wrote.

    And of course, thanks to Ruan for the last post and this blog (in general)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    You are welcome Rahan. Thanks for always posting interesting stats as well!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Chris. Don’t worry these kind of losses are tough to take. I’m sure many other Fedfans felt depressed after it. You are right that another slam is no guarantee and it is something that I have been saying for a while. But lets be optimistic and say he can win one more, maybe even two!

    [Reply]

  7. Hey Balthazar,

    I always liked Frost and that poem in particular, although I don’t think Roger is quite in the sere and yellow just yet.

    I think most of us know that Roger’s days are numbered, but I (won’t speak for others but) also think he should have beaten Gulbis, for reasons I and others including Ruan mentioned above.

    But I even think Roger might have more than one inspired tournament left in him! He was doing great until his most recent break, and I think he’ll be a force to be reckoned with by any player for the rest of this year, and maybe for the following year.

    But you and Ruan are indisputably right about expectations leading to disappointment, no question. And I think the wisest minds in history would agree.

    Still, I think that to some extent it’s precisely Nature’s course, and the limited number of chances Roger’s going to have to climb that mountain again, that makes us sad when Roger lets go of one that he should have won!!!

    Best,
    Joe

    [Reply]

    balthazar Reply:

    Well said, Joe. I too felt sad about this squandered opportunity. But my point is this will happen more and more frequently for the remainder of Roger’s career. We all just need to accept that.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Another good comment Joe. Cheers.

    [Reply]

  8. Ruan, you are being too nice to Roger in this post as I was half expecting that you would be very harsh on him considering he has literal control of the match during 2nd set. Its almost similar to USO2009 match against Delpo. Honestly sometimes Roger takes it too light when leading at 40-15, 5-3. He needs to take lessons from Nadal, not taking any position likely until the last point is played. My lowered expectation was for him to at least reach qtrs.Oh well, life goes on. On to grass at Halle.

    [Reply]

  9. Great article Ru-an and true. But once an optimist always an optimist :-) I will keep my predictions and expectations low, but deep down I know there is many many more greatness in Roger. My hope is first that he finally wins DC. Will not mean a lot to many of you, but to always have that hanging over his head… enough is enough. DC win Roger. Go for that atleast :-)
    My hope Ru-an is that with all the talk about him going to give his best for the grass season, that he does well there. Imagine Roger putting all his hopes on the grass season and if there is again an early exit, what will it do to him and his confidence??
    But I am having faith in Roger and with that…. still wonder why in all these years no one has been able to make a ATP 500 or 1000 tour on grass possible…

    [Reply]

    Girish Reply:

    Queen’s Club and Halle Promoted to ATP 500 Events and will be effective from 2015.

    http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2014/02/7/ATP-World-Tour-2015-Calendar.aspx

    [Reply]

  10. Update everyone: Gulbis defeats Berdych in straights! Will face Novak in the semis(Novak beat Raonic in straights).

    [Reply]

    eric Reply:

    This should make everyone feel a bit better. Confidence is an incredible thing. Gulbis is on fire with it from having his best year even and Roger is shaky. That alone makes it very tough timing for the matchup. Roger did as well as he could at that moment. I am POSITIVE he still has much better than that to come. Keep the faith.

    [Reply]

    eric Reply:

    sorry I meant best year ever

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    Hopefully djokovic has too much game for Gulbis.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    The Djoker’s got too much game for everyone right now. If he’s healthy, I don’t see him losing.

    [Reply]

  11. Hi Ruan,

    I heard Virginia Wade say in commentary that she felt Roger didn’t really want to win this match.
    I agree.
    He seemed out of sorts as well and quite cranky right from the start of the match.
    It can’t be easy for him to have four children with him.
    Sleep must be affected.
    Look at Maria Sharapova’s will to win even after everything she has achieved.
    Pity Roger doesn’t have that determination.

    [Reply]

  12. Rafa now has 3 tough matches ahead of him. He is GOING DOWN!!!!

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Eric, I don’t see Rafa going through Ferrer, Murray and Nole. He is getting into his rythme, but Ferrer is not the same guy he beat last year. He is not letting Rafa win, even in 5 sets. And Ferrer and Andy can keep up with Rafa in 5 sets.
    And to be honest, now that Andy has come so far, he is not letting this one go. I don’t see Rafa winning RG, if he does…kudos to him.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    Rafa is GOING DOWN!!! He is not making it through all 3, no freaking way!

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    What will we do if he manages to go to those 3??? :-)

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    Clap. If he does win all 3 he deserves the trophy. Would be nice if Murray could complete his match today and Nadal still has to come back tomorrow for more war w Ferrer.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    But really. Either Nadal is lying about his back or the combination of these 3 guys will break him. I just don’t think he will make it through. Ferrer is playing the best tennis of his life and would die on the court to win a grand slam. Murray is much more recovered than people give him credit, and Djoko right now is playing the best tennis that’s ever been played. That combination is taking Rafa down!!!!

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Don’t you just “love” Rafa?? Finally no more kneeproblems. Then has unfortunately backproblems and still… goes through one of today’s best claycourt specialists like it is almost nothing… Injured much :-)

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  13. Ru-an, I categorically disagree that he has no desire to try to win on clay anymore. The quote’s ambiguous–“clay doesn’t need me anymore” could mean that since he’s out of the last clay tournament of the year, the clay season has nothing to do with him now. All he’s saying is that since he’s lost, he’s moved on mentally from clay season. He has the gift of short-term memory that great competitors have; when he loses, he quickly puts it behind him and attacks the next challenge with total dedication.

    To me it’s quite simple: last year he came into clay season without his usual training block because of the injury he took in IW. This year he had kids and had to skip Madrid, which is traditionally an important part of his buildup. Clearly he didn’t have good preparation in either case. The older he gets, the more important preparation becomes.

    In 2013, his problem was bad luck (and also his stubbornness in continuing to play at IW despite being so severely hampered, as he noted later). In 2014, it was his choice to have more kids that disrupted his preparations–a price I’m sure he’s quite happy to pay.

    He could have made the cold-blooded decision to prioritize his career at all costs, and ditched Mirka and his kids for Madrid. There are more than a few athletes who would have done that: elite athletes tend to be ruthless and obsessed with victory over all things, even family and friends. But that’s not how Federer is. He chose his family over a shot at a second French Open title. He and Mirka wanted to have more kids, they couldn’t wait much longer given her age, so they went for it and were blessed with twins again. The price was only a shot at a trophy–one which he already has.

    In neither case do I see a lack of motivation to win on clay. The day he lacks motivation on any surface, he’s going to hang up his racket. But I think his motivation will never wane–he will retire only when his body is no longer capable of playing at the highest level.

    If he had a lack of mental fortitude he would never have won one major, let alone seventeen. Nor would he still be playing today. He’s too much of a gentleman to say so, but he can’t enjoy losing to the likes of Stakhovsky, Robredo, and Gulbis in early rounds of majors. Nonetheless, he persists and endures because he loves the game and is willing to accept defeats if it means he can win one more big title.

    He has proven himself far too many times for me to start doubting him.

    Mental toughness is largely a function of preparation and fitness. If you don’t have either, then of course you’re going to be unsure of yourself. Weird chokes will happen because you won’t know what shots to hit at the crucial moments and you won’t be confident in your ability to make them.

    His footwork was poor this year; he didn’t glide on clay as he did in 2011. Without footwork he can’t implement his game plan and generate offense off the ground, so he tried to compensate by prolonging the rallies until he could get a clear shot. It worked for three rounds, but not quite for a fourth. Maybe if he had had even one more clay-court match, he would have survived Gulbis and his game would have come together enough to give him a shot at the title. But it’s all academic now.

    It’ll be interesting to see how fatherhood and marriage affect Djokovic. It will be hard for him to maintain the same kind of motivation that Federer has. He’s a great champion, but Federer is the champion of champions, one in billions. His love of the game is pure and untainted even after achieving so much. There can’t have been many among even the greatest champions who had that kind of love for tennis.

    Parenthood and marriage divide one’s focus and to be at the top of an individual sport you have to have total focus. Because of his love for the game and because he’s such a well-balanced person, Federer can maintain that focus, but it costs him a great deal–and even then, he sometimes falls short, as we just saw. How much will it cost Djokovic?

    Everyone tries to emulate Federer, whether intentionally or not—first it’s Nadal who’s chasing his records, and now Djokovic is trying to balance having a family with being at the top of the game. But it’s not that easy, it really isn’t, even though everyone insists that Nadal or Djokovic or someone is going to come along and surpass him any day now. It takes a unique combination of talent and heart and commitment to do what he has done, and if you lack even one part of that combination, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to do so. Even Roger Federer must make immense sacrifices to achieve what he’s done; how much more so other men.

    Anyhow, it’s on to grass, where he can play more first-strike tennis and his serve and slice are most effective. First to try to defend Halle, then to go for Wimbledon #8 and overturn the result from last year. C’mon Roger!

    [Reply]

    balthazar Reply:

    Great comments, Steve. I’ve always enjoyed your insights over the years. Your belief in Roger is commendable, though tinged at times with airy hopes.
    I’ve just responded to Katyani on my post regarding Roger’s aging and mental struggles. I’d be interested in your feedback on these issues.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Interesting that you said Roger’s footwork is not what it used to be Steve, when just a couple of comments ago you said his footwork is better than ever on clay. Anyway I don’t have much time to respond now. Maybe I will later.

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    Well Ru-an, if he’s unprepared it will certainly be harder for him to be able to move properly. His tennis isn’t magic, even though it looks magical at its best.

    It takes lots of practice and matches for him to get ready to move on clay. He didn’t have that this year (or last year). In 2012 he had to adapt to the blue clay and that threw him off. Just because he won Madrid doesn’t mean he didn’t have problems trying to adjust to the novel patterns of movement required by the unique surface.

    But I would say he moves better on clay than in 2004-07. At his best, he is smoother and more efficient, even if he’s a fraction slower, and he slides more fluidly.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Just seemed strange to me that you changed your tune so fast. You were also saying it is possible for Roger to win the FO and beat Nadal. How did it happen that he had his worst result in 10 years, even though last year he was in a worse position than this year coming into the French? So you are saying he is equally motivated to win the FO than he is to win Wimbledon? Also your conclusions about Roger’s mental fortitude is doubtful. Many players have won slams who lacked mental fortitude like Safin, Ivanisevic, and Stan. Surely if they could win slams Roger could too if he lacked mental fortitude.

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    Eric Reply:

    I think Roger is one of the greatest front runners that’s ever played the game. For ten years he was exploding into the lead and destroying most of his competitors. The loses to Rafa exposed a mental weakness that either wasn’t there before or didn’t matter because when he’s dominant it doesn’t impact him. Now that there’s a full generation of strong younger players, Roger doesn’t get to dominate as much, so the weakness is revealed more often. Everyone’s got weaknesses. That and dealing w the high bouncing backhands are his.

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    Ru-an, I changed nothing, and if I had changed my tune, I would hardly be the first on this blog to do so. We all get carried away when he wins and crushed when he loses. All I said was that people should give him a chance and not write him off. Also that he shouldn’t tank if he faced Djokovic.

    You were also saying it is possible for Roger to win the FO and beat Nadal.

    It was possible. He was one point away from a two-sets-to-love lead against Gulbis. If he makes that shot, he’s into the quarters, then maybe he finds his game and he straight-sets Berdych (who seemed to be off-form) and plays a God-mode match against Djokovic and then Nadal. Wawrinka showed it was possible to take out both Nadal and Djokovic in the same Grand Slam. It’s been done before, so Federer could do it again. And how many times have we seen him struggle in the early rounds and then find his game in the second week—he did exactly that when he won Wimbledon in 2012, against Benneteau and Malisse. Then he played godlike tennis all the way from the quarters to the title.

    Is it your position that it is impossible for Federer to win RG again?

    How did it happen that he had his worst result in 10 years, even though last year he was in a worse position than this year coming into the French?

    I gave my explanation, Ru-an–because he just had two more kids, which is a huge, life-changing event even if you already have kids. New parents are often zombies at work. I think that people sometimes can’t believe that Federer could be affected by such things, but he’s human—of course he is. He had to disrupt his whole clay buildup and change his schedule to deal with the birth, worrying if Mirka’s going to be OK, if the kids will be born healthy, etc. Having twins can complicate a pregnancy and although Mirka’s already had twins before, there’s always a risk.

    It’s very draining emotionally. Then the aftermath, spending time with the newborns, making sure they are healthy, making sure Mirka’s recovering well, making sure the girls understand what happened and get to know their new brothers, etc. He skipped his planned buildup at Madrid and entered Rome at the very last minute. Of course he struggled to focus mentally.

    Undoubtedly Wimbledon has a special place in his heart and it’s where he plays his most beautiful and magisterial tennis, but that doesn’t mean he dislikes RG or doesn’t want to win it. It’s a Grand Slam for crying out loud. He isn’t Sampras who failed to make a final at RG and then threw in the towel on clay after the mid 90s. Federer made four straight finals and lost only to the player who has won more RG titles than any man living or dead.

    He likes clay, and he’s not a slouch there. If Nadal hadn’t been in the picture he would have dominated the clay season in 2005–07 as completely as he did everything else. I don’t think he plays Grand Slams just for kicks; he plays because he believes he can win.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Are you suggesting I change my tune often Steve?

    No one ever wrote Roger’s chances off. Where do you get that from?

    Is it your position that it is impossible for Federer to win RG again?

    Nothing is impossible but the chances are 1/100.

    You were also saying it is possible for Roger to win the FO and beat Nadal.

    I said no such thing. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

    It’s a Grand Slam for crying out loud.

    And Federer is not in his prime anymore where he can win them at will. He is 32, and the window for winning slams is closing fast. The FO has historically been the most difficult slam for him to win. He’s won it only once, far less than any other slam. What makes you so certain he can still win it?

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    Ru-an, I wasn’t reflecting on you in particular when I said I was hardly the first to change my tune on this blog. But I’m certainly not going to name names and embarrass people.

    I said no such thing. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

    I think there’s been some confusion here. This:

    You were also saying it is possible for Roger to win the FO and beat Nadal.

    is part of your comment of June 4 at 9:56 AM. As far as I understand, I don’t you think you were giving your own opinion here; rather you were ascribing an opinion to me. I didn’t put any words in your mouth.

    What makes you so certain he can still win it?

    Because I believe in my favorite player, Ru-an.

    It seems to me this line of discussion is going in circles. Perhaps it’s best if we agree to disagree on this one.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I apologize that was indeed a mistake from me. But again I don’t see how he could have beaten Nadal if he happened to beat Gulbis, which is irrelevant anyway since he did not. But you are right we are going in circles. I believe in my player as much as anyone but I don’t have unrealistic expectations. But to your credit when Roger fails to reach your expectations you don’t get critical and negative. You remain an optimistic fan which is fine with me.

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    Apology accepted, Ru-an. It’s certainly perfectly reasonable to conclude, as you have, that Federer has written off clay and his chances of winning again in Paris are low. I just wanted to present an alternative viewpoint. I hope I stayed true to the rules–and more importantly, the spirit–of this blog in so doing.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I’m not saying he has written off clay Steve. Just that it’s not his top priority anymore. Anyway thanks for being so respectful.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Steve, great comment :-) I often have wondered what would happen if Ciska is pregnant? How will that effect Rafa? I think people underestimate how Roger and Mirka both are combining family with tennis. I think Nole and Jelena are also mature enough to combine it the way Roger and Mirka have. But honestly….. I think Rafa and Andy would have problems combining new family with tennis…

    [Reply]

  14. Please try to look at Roger’s early exit as an opportunity. Not for him but for you. We are all die hard RF fans. But now that he is out, we can freely enjoy the last rounds of the French Open without sweating what RF will do. There are some AWESOME matches coming up. I and freaking excited about Globis / Djokovich like crazy. Setting my alarm for it!! Did you know they have a long history, even training together as kids? Globis said: “At 13 and 14, he was really dedicated…I used to practice and then that’s it. I would go to my room, I eat Nutella, I play PlayStation. He went to stretch and to go for a run. This was the attitude. He had the talent and the hard work. I had just the talent.” This is going to be a great match. Ferrer Nadal is going to be a great match. Murray Nadal is going to be a great match. And Djokovich whipping Nadal’s butt in the final is going to be GLORIOUS!!!!!! So let’s all enjoy some fantastic grand slam tennis and we can get back to sweating our champion of champion’s when he’s practiced, ready, and back on his preferred turf!! Roger will do better at Wimby.

    [Reply]

  15. Hey guys, can anyone help me? When I visit this blog from home on my laptop (even through Google), my comments don’t show up. If I submit again, I get the message that I already made that comment, but still it doesn’t show. When I visit this blog at work and comment, it does show. What am I doing wrong? This is only happening since a week…

    [Reply]

  16. I didn’t check the argument, but the title is to good not to mention it.

    “Happy Birthday Nadal!
    You’re Probably Too Old to Pass Federer ”

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/happy-birthday-nadal-youre-probably-too-old-to-pass-federer/

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    What I most like about this article is the possibility of RF sticking around in the top 10 for another 5 years like Jimmy Connors did. It will be painful to watch him not win the tournaments but wonderful to still be able to watch him play and enjoy the tennis life while he can. The other great thing in this article is if Fed can win one of the two remaining slams this year and Rafa doesn’t win the French, Rafas odds of catching Fed plummet.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Rahan, nice article. Thank you for posting. I can honestly see Roger playing tennis for more than 5 or 10 years. Not all the time in the top 10 or top 20 anymore ofcourse. But I don’t see him “wanting to retire on top so his aura of his legacy” is intact. Roger sees how his friend Tommy Haas at age 35/36 is still winning big matches defeating younger and faster players without even beeing in the top 10 (and ofcourse Tommy is also losing matches). But to me there is just one important telling: Roger loves the game too much to ever quit it if he doesn’t have to. The guy was already practising after his twin sons were born 2 days before !!! No way Roger is hanging up soon. He will be sticking around for a lot longer. He may have a “ego-problem” that he wants to leave on a high, but for Roger playing tennis is more important than winning it all and all the time.

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    Excellent article. It just emphasizes even more why Nadal must not win RG this year.

    [Reply]

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