Hi folks. Today I watched the whole match of Roger with his new racquet and I was pretty impressed. Roger got a much needed confidence boosting win after grinding it out against Mayer 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-5. Mayer played really well from the start and tested Roger all the way. At 2-3 in the first set Mayer had a break point on Roger’s serve, but missed the return after getting the second serve from Roger which he was hoping for. He ended up paying for it as he lost the first set on the tie break. In the tie break itself there were several breaks from both sides and at 6-3 Roger wasted one set point with a very strange volley. He gathered himself well though and won the next set point after a typical long clay court rally from the base line, and ended it with a forehand winner down the line. Set 1 in the bag. In the 2nd set Roger came out with a vest on, something I haven’t see him do before.
That suggests that the back is still a problem and as I have remarked before, something that will not go away but which he has to manage. So putting on the vest was probably just a precautionary measure. At 1-0 Roger was up 40-15 on Mayer’s serve but failed to capitalize. Mayer himself then went up 40-15 on Roger’s serve in the next game and broke with a sweet forehand winner on the first point. In the next game Roger had two more break points and again failed to capitalize. Once again it cost him as Mayer broke again in the next game on his first break point to take a 4-1 lead. Both Mayer and Roger held serve and I thought Roger had given up on the 2nd set. But he broke back on his 3rd break attempt in the next game. It was too late though, as he squandered 2 more game points in the next game to drop the second set 6-3.
It was a set of wasted chances and showed clearly what is going on with Roger: a lack of match practice and confidence. That was why it was so important that Roger won this match. You can play smaller clay court events after the grass court season in an attempt to get extra matches and build confidence, but you still have to go out there and make it happen. It’s not gonna happen by itself. The 3rd set started off well for Roger as he broke in the 3rd game to take a 2-1 lead. He could not consolidate because he then went on to play a sloppy game. 2-2. The next game was just beautiful. At 30-15 Roger hit a sweet backhand down the line winner to set up 2 break points, and he took the first one with a gorgeous down the line backhand flick pass. This time Roger did consolidate, but at 4-3 he went down 0-40 on his serve.
Roger saved the first 2 break points but on the 3rd one missed a sitter of a forehand approach, the exact kind of shot a player who is low in confidence would miss. Both players held serve after that and at 5-5 Roger played a game which was reminiscent of Fed 3.0, because he came up with the goods when it mattered. At 0-30 on Mayer’s serve came the rally of the match probably. It was a long base line rally which Roger ended with a superb angled cross court winner and a loud ‘ALLEZ!’ Three break points. Mayer saved the first one but on the next point Roger stepped into a second serve from Mayer and ripped it cross court for another angled winner. Roger then held serve to love for a confidence boosting win. As I said, you can make all kinds of changes to you schedule and your equipment, but it is not gonna make you come up with the goods when it really matters.
For that you really have to want it and believe in yourself. For some reason that hunger went away in Roger since after the Australian Open this year. I can’t say for sure why. It can be a combination of factors. Maybe the loss to Murray hurt him. Maybe he was still burned out from 2012. Or maybe his back was giving him a lot of problems. I always feel like the game is still right there for Roger. It is a question of finding the will and belief to go out there and turn it into results. And again I can’t say for sure why that part has been lacking at times ever since the end of Roger’s prime. I don’t think anyone knows. Roger himself probably doesn’t know. It is probably just something that comes with playing for so many years at the top of the sport and aging. His motivation just hasn’t always been there.
I always felt with Roger that he loves the game so much that it wouldn’t make him quit though. Take Sampras for instance. He didn’t love the sport as much as Roger did in my opinion and in the end he got sick of it all. After he lost in the second round of Wimbedon in 2002 he said he would be back the next year, yet when he won the US Open he retired. That proved that winning was more important to him than the sport itself, and that is what causes burn out. If winning wasn’t everything to him he would have continued after winning the US Open, but he wanted to be remembered as a winner, and not as a lover of the sport. There was nothing left of him after that US Open. He was utterly spent. I don’t see Roger retiring if he wins the US Open this year for instance. It would’t be a bad way to go out. Lets face it.
Winning an 18th slam and a record 6th US Open would be a fantastic way to go out, but Roger has already stated on several occasions that he wants to play for many more years. Probably until the 2016 Olympics. Sometimes I wonder if that is going to happen, because how much will he enjoy the sport if he keeps losing? But you know in the end Roger still has the game, and he can probably hang around the top 5 for a long time still. He doesn’t have to win everything to keep competing. He can just play for the love of the game and have the odd great result. With everything he has achieved it wouldn’t matter that much either if his head-to-head records with his rivals worsen. Roger will want to play on tour for as long as he can because when it’s over it’s over, and he doesn’t have to win everything to still enjoy himself.
Tomorrow Roger plays against the surprise semi-finalist and 114th ranked Del Bonis who he has never played before and who beat Verdasco 6-7(5), 7-6(8), 6-4 today. Verdasco still can’t win the close ones. He is just mentally one of the worst pros I have ever seen. The big upset today was when 2nd seed Haas lost to Fognini 6-2, 6-4. Fognini is currently on a hot run after winning his first title in Stuttgart last week. Fognini is an interesting player and I was pleased with this result. He will play against Almagro in the other semi-finals, who defeated Monaco in 3 sets. Roger’s draw could not have worked out better. He really is quite lucky. The way it goes now he will beat Del Bonis and play Fognini in the final. I hope it works out that way anyway. After today I think Roger looks good for the title. I don’t wana jinx him though so lets see what happens tomorrow.