Not pretty but a win is a win. I got pretty excited in my last post after Roger’s first two matches, but I was still cautious. Roger’s form improved in the indoor season but it was nothing spectacular. If he was ever going to get back to top from it would take more time. The start in Brisbane was good but the match against Chardy is a reminder that Roger was still losing in straight sets to the likes of Robredo just a few months ago. But you can’t really find fault with a win. Roger started well enough as he broke Chardy’s opening service game. He held serve until he won the 1st set 6-3. Everything was going smoothly and it looked like it would be another routine straight set win. Then at 2-2 in the 2nd set Roger had Chardy at 15-30 on his serve after a deft cross court angle winner with Chardy at the net.
It was a small opening. I think Roger then hesitated and missed a regulation forehand. He was in a position to get the break again but this time he hesitated. This was a constant theme in Roger game last year, the mental lapse in the 2nd set after winning the 1st set. It cost him because they went to the tie break which Chardy won 7-3 after another regulation forehand miss from Roger. Shades of 2013. Then in the 3rd set Chardy just threw it away at 3-4 with a string of errors and a double fault on break point. Roger went ahead and served out the match to love at 5-3 with a 20th ace on match point. As is often the case the serve saved him. Aside from the high number of aces Roger made 59% of his first serves and served 3 doubles. So the serve was definitely a positive that could be taken out of the match.
The serve has been good all week and the new racquet may well assist him a little in that regard. His ground strokes has also looked slightly more powerful. The other positives is that Roger converted 2/3 break points and never dropped serve, facing only 1 break point. So in the end it was a match that reminded of the 2013 Roger but like I said more time will be needed for Roger to get back to his best. I was excited after he destroyed Matosevic but not so much that I’m shattered or anything. I’ve known for a while that the indoor season was just the start of something. It didn’t mean he is now going to dominate 2014. But it is once again progress. Every win is a step closer to his best, even if it is an ugly win. I do however think it is crucial that he wins the title tomorrow. He will revive his old rivalry with Hewitt who had an impressive 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over Nishikori.
It’s inspiring to see Hewitt continuing to do what he loves and still having good results. Him and Roger is the same age and find inspiration from each other. That said they both badly want to win the title and will have no mercy on each other. What I would like to see tomorrow from Roger is another polished performance like in his first two matches. But more importantly he must win the title. If it’s another scrappy win it won’t be ideal but if he starts the year with a title that would be just great. He ended last year well but failed to win a title during the indoor season. So for his confidence winning a title is the next step, even if it is just an ATP 250 event. He just needs to get that winning feeling back. Then he can go to Melbourne with maximum confidence as well. Hewitt will obviously not just roll over.
He is playing at home and he fights for every point. If Roger plays like he did against Matosevic he can for sure win in straight sets. Hopefully today was just an ‘off’ match and Roger would have gained some more confidence by coming through it. Today was overall not the best day for Roger because he lost his doubles too. No problem. As long as he win the singles title it’s all good. I definitely don’t wana see another Halle 2010 final. That would halt the progress Roger has made of late. It’s about steady improvement. We all wana see a new Roger who destroys everyone in his path but it doesn’t work like that. If he is ever gonna taste grand slam glory again he is going to have to get a lot more confident. I don’t even know if it’s possible. A lot of people seem so assured that he will win more slams, let alone just one more.
Personally I am not that convinced. But I don’t need to be because I live in the moment. As long as Roger’s confidence steadily improves I think he can win another slam. The game is still there. But it is clear he is not confident enough yet to win a slam, and only time will tell whether he can build up to that level again. I’m only concerned with the present and right now Roger needs to win a title badly. He only won one title last year in Halle and he needs to see some reward for all the recent progress. Never mind the match against Chardy. If he wins the title it will be all forgotten. Then he can go to Melbourne and if the courts are faster as they say then he can still make an impact. Nadal won the title today in Doha after beating an on fire Monfils 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 in the final, and that after he apparently said he has ‘no chance’ to win the Australian Open…