Finally a decent win for Roger guys. Probably his best win since Halle. Not that it was smooth sailing. Roger won 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 after being a break down in the second set. At that point it looked like it was going to be another humiliating loss, but a combination of more aggressive returning and Haas’ lack of mental fortitude allowed Roger to sneak the victory. Yes it was not pretty, but a much needed win nonetheless. Had Roger lost this match he would have slipped back as far as to #7 in the rankings. He had to stop the rot, and at least now changing back to the old racquet for the time being makes a little more sense. As I mentioned the returns were slightly more aggressive compared to the first round. I noticed early on that he was going over a few more backhand returns. But not enough to make him avoid the breadstick and a loss of serve in the second set.
Things weren’t looking good for Roger at 1-6, 2-4. Haas was playing well. He was going after the win, which is why this is Roger’s best win in a while. Roger somehow broke back in the second set and had some break points to break again. On one break point he made another negative chip return into the net. He was still using that shot a lot, and screwed up his break point conversion rate of 3/12 again. At 6-5 and 30-15 on the Haas serve Roger had another chance to bring up 2 break points. For once he went over the backhand return and what happened? You guessed it, he won the point and brought up 2 set points. On the first one he chipped another return into the net. Fortunately Haas served to his forehand on the second point and he could make another positive return which allowed him to win the second set.
Strange serving from Haas on an important point but we will take it. The momentum had shifted and it was enough for Roger to win the match. Like I said Haas is not exactly known for his mental fortitude so there wasn’t much left for Roger to do, but all credit to him for fighting back in the second after staring down the barrel. It is not the best win of his career but considering his recent form, it was an important win. Things have been slipping pretty fast and slipping to #7 in the rankings would have been yet another new low. You would think this win would give him a confidence boost going into his next match with Nadal, but as we have seen of late that won’t necessarily be the case. He could easily be destroyed by Nadal again. I’d like to believe that won’t be the case however and that Roger can at least make the score respectable.
He will definitely have to serve well and use the faster conditions to his advantage. Nadal is currently on a high and I don’t hold out much hope of Roger actually winning. Especially since Roger’s confidence is at an all time low. Nadal has been in devastating form. The only faint glimmer of hope is that Dimitrov managed to win a set against him after being a set and a break down. Hopefully Roger can at least achieve the same feat. If he loses something like 7-5, 6-4 it won’t be too bad either. It’s ironic that Roger finally comes up against Nadal on a fast hard court when he is at an all time low. But then again they met in the final of Dubai in 2006 too and Nadal won. In the end this is just a terrible match up for Roger and the rivalry has been overrated. I watched the Dimitrov/Nadal match until Dimitrov was a break down in the second set and saw how Nadal was killing Dimitrov on his backhand side.
Of course I couldn’t help but think about what lies ahead for Roger. There is just nothing he can do. The one-handed backhand is just a huge liability against Nadal. I would love for Roger to get the win tomorrow and prove that the head-to-head would have been better if they faced more on faster courts, but it’s hard to see. In tennis anything is possible and you shouldn’t count Roger out, but if you look at the current form of the respective players it really is very hard to imagine. If Roger loses tomorrow it also means he will slip back to #6 in the rankings I think. Beating Nadal would keep him in the top 5 and would be a huge confidence booster. It would also go a long way towards healing some of the pain that Fedfans have felt of late. Nothing satisfies a Fedfan quite like a win over Roger’s nemesis. But I don’t want to say Roger can win this just for the sake of being positive, or because I am expected to do so.
You know I’m a realist and would rather tell you my honest thoughts than what you want to hear. Sorry but that is just me. If Roger wins I will be delighted but it would almost take a miracle. Making the quarter finals and making the scoreline respectable against a rampant Nadal would be a good result given his recent form. His confidence is just low. I watched the 2012 Cincinnati final highlights today and it was unreal to see the difference in Roger’s confidence level. He is simply another player at this point. He was even going over his backhand returns on a much more regular basis then, proving my point that the returning is also a confidence thing. He sure needs to be a lot more positive on his returning if he wants to stand any chance at all against Nadal. Chipping his backhand return against Nadal is suicide.
The longer the points go the worse for Roger. He has no business chipping the return back and starting a base line rally. He needs to go over every return if he actually wants to win this. Going over every return and missing every single one would be better than chipping and starting a base line rally with Nadal. Yes you heard that right. The only way Roger has a prayer of winning this is by playing first strike tennis and keeping the points as short as possible. You know Nadal is already gonna put immense pressure on his serve and to offset that he has to pressure the Nadal serve with aggressive returning. It is all about his mindset. He must be looking to make the aggressive return, get the weak reply from Nadal, and try to end the point from there. Any rally that goes longer than 5 shots is just about a lost cause.
It’s all about sending a message and making a statement. There is no point in hanging around for another beat down at the hand of his nemesis. He either risks it all and play with purpose or don’t bother showing up. I don’t feel like seeing that resigned/stubborn look like he showed in Rome again tomorrow. Roger doesn’t have anything to lose either. Nadal is expected to win so he may as well go out there and take some risks. But somehow I doubt he is going to do that. He has just failed to do that so many times against Nadal in the past, which is why I am hesitant to say that he can win this. Even though the head-to-head is 20-10 already I can see Roger playing as though he has something to protect. I hope he proves me wrong and and plays ultra aggressive tennis, even if it means he loses 6-0, 6-0.