Well what did you expect? That he was going to lose? That was a crazy good week from Roger in Dubai, and to top it all off his baby version Dimitrov picked up his first ATP 500 title in Acapulco after winning the ATP 250 in Stockholm last year. When I woke up this morning I didn’t know the results yet, and when I heard them I thought I’d woken up in tennis heaven. OK I did expect both of them to win, but how great is it to see this kind of tennis triumphing on the ATP?! I am becoming more of a Dimitrov fan all the time too. And the same goes for Roger, if that is even possible. Both Roger and Dimitrov impressed me big time this week. You wouldn’t even think that’s possible any more with Roger, given how much he has already done in the game. But like I said in my last post he doesn’t stop.
He breaks new ground and keeps scaling new heights. Just a huge privilege for me to be his fan and to have a blog about him. With this win he truly inspires me, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The adjustment to my new environment in the East has been anything but easy, although interesting. On top of that I got food poisoning a week ago and it took me all week to recover. I’ve just been on an emotional low which is why I say this revival from Roger could not have come at a better time for me. And I never expected it. I just hoped he would make semis and give a decent showing against Djokovic. But what a sensational win it was against Djokovic. That was probably better than anything I saw in 2012 from Roger, and I think he may have found a new level here. Why do I say that?
Tennis is and always will be a mental game first of all, and I have never seen Roger as mentally tough as I saw him this week. It was like nothing was going to stop him. Almost that kind of mental strength you see from Nadal. Just the utter refusal to lose. Someone said they think it is because of Edberg. That may play a roll but to me the main thing is what he went through in 2013. Suffering makes you strong, if you don’t allow it to break you. I think 2013 was a real test of his character with the back problem. With so many critics and even his own fans calling for retirement he refused to listen to them. He was completely self-determined. He was not gonna let anyone dictate to him what he should do when deep down he still knew he had the game left in him. Fighting back from the lowest point in his career to here has made him stronger mentally.
I know from my own life experience. There is no other way to become strong and to build character than through facing immense challenges and persevering. No one likes to suffer, but if you can push through it somehow the result is always worth it. You grow as a person and you become stronger. Fed 4.0 may just be a different animal from anything we have seen before. It’s early days though. This is probably just the beginning. I just think that if you could ever criticize Roger it would be in the mental department. Not that there were much room for criticism there but since his prime there definitely appeared some mental shortcomings, which was first of all exposed by Nadal. I think if he becomes invincible in that area, like what seemed to be the case in Dubai, he will be completely invincible.
The funny thing is I have always said I believe that the game is still there and that it was a matter of confidence. If there is one statement I ever take pride in making then it is that one, because it appears to be so true. All of a sudden no fault can be found with his game, right? Yet he did not become a different Roger Federer overnight. He did not change his strokes or anything of that nature. Yet all of a sudden the criticism about his footwork, his backhand, his tactics, you name it, is gone. Did he make any big changes to any of those things? No. He simply slowly built up his confidence since Cincy last year to the point where everything clicked again this week. It all really comes down to confidence and winning at this level. You do all the right things when you are confident, and you shut the mouths of all the critics when you win.
The new racquet and coach are just adjustments. Federer is winning again, and all of a sudden his foot speed is great, his backhand is almost a weapon, he is using the right tactics, and he is doing all the right things. I couldn’t watch the match against Berdych because my stream was too poor but I caught the highlights and from what I hear he was not at his best. Like that matters. Any win against Berdych is a great win for Roger because Berdych is a difficult opponent for him. He won, and that is all that matters anyway. No one was expecting him to play another match like he did against Djokovic. But what a brilliant way to cap off an extraordinary week by beating Berdych who has been a very tricky opponent for him historically. And again the mental strength he showed in doing so is what stands out.
Tennis Jesus performing one of his miracles
There were two key moments in the match. The first was at 2-3 in the second set where Roger was a break down after having lost the first set. They don’t show it on the highlights but I was told he broke right back there. That was obviously crucial. Again he showed refusal to lie down even though things were not going his way. He fought back from the brink to turn the set and the match around. The second big moment was at 4-2 in the third set where Roger was down 15-40 on his serve. Berdych was threatening to break back and had he done so the momentum would have changed again. So it was clutch from Roger to hold onto his serve there and make sure Berdych didn’t find a way back into the match. Even though I didn’t watch the match it strikes me as another very good mental victory for Roger.
He was not at his best but his strength of will pulled him through. Defeat was not an option. This is the warrior-like attitude I have referred to in the past. As talented as Roger Federer is, if he has that mindset there will be no stopping him. Even at age 32. As I said it is early days and the future can’t be predicted by me. But if the motivation and will power remains the way it is now there can be very good things ahead. Interestingly every year he won Dubai he also won Wimbledon that year. Judging from his form this week I can easily see him winning Wimbledon again. But I won’t be looking too far ahead. Next is Indian Wells which has been a happy hunting ground for Roger and he can certainly win the title there as well in his current form. I’m not so sure Nadal will be much of a factor there this year.
Nor everywhere else probably. I think the loss to Wawrinka scarred him, and he was lucky not to lose to Andujar in Rio. I definitely don’t think Nadal will have as good a year as he had last year anyway. If he doesn’t slump really badly as he has in the past after a tough loss, then Roger will be ready for him anyway. As long as Roger has the refusal-to-lose attitude he had in Dubai I don’t see him losing to Nadal. He is invincible with that mindset, even against Nadal. The hard times Roger went through last year may just serve him well in the future against his big rival and finally allow him to get some much needed wins over him again. We will just have to see how things play out but I have a lot of hope now, I’m inspired, and I’m excited. I can write an awful lot more but I’m gonna cut it here and let you guys fill in the rest.
Who wouldn’t be charmed by such a smile?
We did it, we are back on top!!