Hi folks. There were three reasons why I thought this was a key match:
- Roger had lost his last three matches with Del Potro which cost him two Basel titles. He needed to set the record straight.
- Roger needs to gauge his game against the best right now, namely Djokovic.
- Roger has to keep the momentum from Basel going into the rest of the indoor season. A loss to Del Potro today would have halted his progress.
I have emphasized the importance of the indoor season enough after Roger’s confidence was at an all time low this year. It can make a huge difference to his year and to his form in 2014 if he ends this year on a high. This match against Del Potro is about half way through his indoor season and with the win he confirms that he is back. Making the semis at Paris is a better result than making the finals in Basel not only because he gets more ranking points out of it, but also because he beat Del Potro this time. Thus we can be sure he is still growing in confidence and gaining momentum. I said I would like to see him make semis here and he delivered. Anything from here on is a bonus for me. Building confidence after the low that Roger reached is a gradual process, and I don’t expect him to beat Djokovic now. Not saying he can’t, but I’m not putting any pressure on him to do so.
But let me get back to the match against Del Potro quickly. I felt Roger had a great chance of winning this but I’m very careful to put expectations on Roger these days. Roger had a break chance in the opening game but missed a forehand when he was in control of the point. Other than that Roger came out looking awfully sharp and set up another break point at 2-1 after a beautifully constructed point which he finished with a pleasing volley. He then broke after hitting a short chip return which resulted in Del Potro making an unforced error. I don’t like the chip returns unless they are either very deep or very short. It was an effective play because it was short enough and stayed nice and low which especially for a tall guy like Del Potro can be tough to control. At 3-1 Roger held serve with two consecutive drop shot winners, the last one of which was particularly pleasing.
Things continued going with serve and Roger won the 1st set 6-3. It was the sharpest I had seen him since the Australian Open. He made 77% first serves and had a winner to unforced error ratio of 17-4 after the 1st set. He then had a break point in the first game of the 2nd set but started looking hesitant and failed to convert. Things went according to serve until 4-5 with Roger serving to stay in the set. Immediately he looked hesitant again and made a string of unforced errors to drop serve. It was a clear case of cracking under pressure but I was expecting Del Potro to take a set at least anyway, and I was still optimistic about Roger’s chances. At 2-2 Roger broke Del Potro to love after some beautiful base line play. The celebrations from Fedfans were short lived though as Del Potro broke right back in the next game to level at 3-3.
Convinced? Not quite convinced?
Again there was hesitation from Roger. Fortunately he broke again right away to take a 4-3 lead, and this time he had no problem consolidating to lead 5-3. For good measure he broke Del Potro again instead of having to serve it out. So in the end he ran away with the 3rd set after the lapse in the 2nd set. The match stats were as good as you will see them from Roger. The serve has really clicked of late which of course is a key shot for Roger when he is playing well. The net play has been very good too. In the end confidence solves everything. But of course it doesn’t hurt that Roger is playing indoors right now. It’s a lot harder for him to play like this outdoors, but it’s a start. Next up is Djokovic then and I was gonna say I look at this match as something fun. If Roger wins it then great, but that is not the first thing I am trying to get out of this match.
It’s the first time this year they face off after Djokovic dismissed Stan 6-1, 6-4 today. He is obviously on a rich run of form and will be very tough to beat. With the way Roger is currently playing and improving with every match you certainly wouldn’t put it beyond him to be victorious, but it is important for him to see where he stands with Djokovic right now too. If he loses he will take a lot from it and if they face off at London again he will know what to expect. He can lose to him tomorrow and still beat him in London, like he did with Del Potro in Basel and Paris. He may not be quite confident enough yet to beat Djokovic, and the slightest hesitation or lapse will cost him the match. But you better believe if he loses and faces Djokovic again in London he would be in with a great shot of winning. And London is where it matters most.