Hi there. As I told you I would be working until today and I was too tired to make a post yesterday. Roger played against Brands in the first round and won 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Dropping a set was expected I guess after losing in the second round of Wimbledon and playing with a new racquet. It is the same thing we have been seeing for some time now; Roger struggling with confidence. Aside from the Australian Open, Roger has been struggling with confidence all year. Yet I still believe he is on the brink of something good. Today Roger played against Hajek who upset Gulbis. It seems Roger has some pretty good luck with draws these days. He won’t be facing a seed in the next round either, with Mayer coming through in his section of the draw. And on top of that the recent Wimbledon semi-finalist Janowicz retired against Verdasco today.
So things are working out pretty well for Roger. Today Roger won 6-3, 6-4 against a player I haven’t seen before. It was nice to see Roger not dropping a set this time, which would suggest that he is feeling more comfortable. I watched the highlights and for the first time I could really get an idea of what he plays like with the new racquet. First of all it is not the Blade 98 like I thought. It is a racquet Wilson has developed specifically for Roger’s needs. Pretty cool huh? Roger spoke about the new racquet in a video I will post below, and he is being pretty secretive about it. All we basically know is that it’s a black Wilson with a 98 sq in head and a 16 x 19 string pattern. We don’t need to know much more than that anyway. I just love the fact that it is something Wilson have worked on specifically for Roger. It’s like a secret weapon.
Of course it will take some time for Roger to adapt to it because there is such a big difference in head size from his previous racquet. But I love that he is willing to experiment as much as he is. I read somewhere that Sampras experimented with different racquets after he lost in the second round of Wimbledon in 2002, and after having no success with it he switched back to his old racquet and won the US Open. I’m not sure if that is true. As far as I know Sampras was very stubborn and particular about his equipment, and I think one of you said that he regretted not changing racquets. Whatever the case may be, Roger is like a new and better version of Sampras. That is the way I always saw it, even before he came close to surpassing Sampras. He was always a more complete and talented player. Compared to him Sampras was one-dimensional.
Roger is therefore also more adaptable, and I think he is overall just smarter. He manages his career better and he loves the sport more. That is why I think the second round loss at Wimbledon won’t affect him as much as it did Sampras. Sampras retired soon after that happened, whereas I can see Roger playing for several more years. Roger has now entered that phase of his career where he has maybe one slam left in him, but he recently reached a new low and it is once again time for a big change. It is time to reinvent himself again. This time he is looking at his equipment to give him the boost he needs. Right now the general feeling is that Roger is declining pretty fast and that he is becoming irrelevant. In the eyes of the critics anyway. Just today I saw a thread on a forum called ‘Is Federer just another veteran now?’
Should we call it the Black Mamba?
That is not a bad thing though. It still amazes me how people write Roger off, after all the times he has made them eat their words. But I suppose I have done the same thing to Nadal. This is just another opportunity for Roger to prove the critics wrong. But he needs to become relevant again and I think changing racquets have been just the right thing. It makes people take notice and get them talking again. Not that people stopped talking about Roger. For as long as he plays he will be under the spotlight, but he just needs a little boost right now which I think the racquet change is giving it to him. I also think playing the clay events was very smart. The rallies are longer and it gives him more time to adapt to the change. Clay is also the best surface to play on when you lack confidence. There is a lot of footwork involved and it is kind of like doing drills.
And the one thing that Roger is lacking right now is confidence. He has said that in a presser already. So definitely playing on clay again was a deliberate move to help his confidence and adapting to the new racquet. In hindsight it was a great move. As always Roger’s decisions are spot on. Having watched the highlights today it was clear to me that the new racquet will help Roger’s baseline play. It will give him more power and consistency on his ground strokes. With Annacone Roger has worked a lot on becoming a better offensive and net player, but I guess he figured if you can’t beat them it’s best to join them. In this era of tennis power and consistency from the baseline are crucial assets to have. Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal all have great power and consistency from the baseline. Roger was starting to struggle in that area.
Not only against the top 4 but against the likes of Berdych, Tsonga, and Del Potro as well. So this decision is making more and more sense the more I think about it. The things that hurt Roger was the shanks on his backhand and a lack of power, and those are the exact issues which a bigger racquet head will address. Roger may pay for it in less feel, especially on the volleys, but it will be marginal and well worth the trade off. So I am very excited about all of it. Roger plays Mayer next like I said and he leads the head-to-head 4-0, having never dropped a set to Mayer. So another opponent for Roger that shouldn’t be too hard to deal with and against whom he can get used to his racquet some more and build confidence. Making a big change like this is a risk that is not guaranteed to pay off but it’s a necessary one and if anyone can make it work for him it is Roger.
I’m looking forward to watch the match tomorrow!