I was trying to be as positive about Federer’s Wimbledon campaign as possible, but in the end it was a carbon copy of what happened at the French Open this year. He lost to the same kind of player, in the same round, in the same fashion. I’m not going to criticize Federer as heavily as I did after he lost in Halle, because frankly this was always on the cards after that loss to Hewitt. It was kind of expected, so this loss didn’t bother me that much. I got over it pretty quickly. Also, I realized Federer had achieved basically what I wanted him to achieve, which is to win the career slam and beat Sampras’ 14 slams. What Federer has achieved by the end of 2009 was enough to satisfy me as a fan, yet I wanted more. After all, Federer was only 28 years old, and at the top of the sport. There was no reason not to ask for more.
Bonuses are always nice. And I got just that when Roger won the Australian Open. I even entertained such ideas as the calender slam. It seemed like the next logical step. Yet since the Australian Open Roger has been very disappointing. I mean lets face it. Not only has he lost before the semi’s of a slam for the first time, but he did so twice in succession. He also lost the number one ranking two weeks before passing Sampras’ record number of weeks at the top of the rankings. He will even slip to number 3 in the rankings come Monday. So even though Roger has given me so much as a fan and have achieved what I wanted him to, I can’t help but find all of this a little disappointing. I find myself caught between two worlds. In the one world I should be satisfied and not ask for anything more, but in the other world I should ask for more.
I honestly believe Roger is capable of winning 20 slams or even more. You never know what kind of freak is going to come along and challenge these records. No one thought Sampras’ records would be broken that easily, yet it happened in the very next era. Therefore while Roger still has the chance I feel like he should rack up as many slams as he can. If he could push it up to 20 he should do so by all means. But the way he is going now he is not doing it. He is on a slippery slope and he needs to get his act together fast if he is to pick up the last major of the year. It all now depends on what he takes away from these losses. This loss just confirms what I said in my post ‘Does Federer Have a Problem With Big Power Hitters?‘. Will he finally be less stubborn and realize that he can’t match these big power hitters from the back of the court?
It comes back to something I have mentioned before, but this time I want to add something. Roger has always been the untouchable one. He was always the one in control and other players had to play out of their comfort zones to even get a set against him. Now, for whatever reason, that is not the case anymore. It could be due this new generation of big power hitters, or it could just be that Roger is aging. So now you have a situation where Roger has to be the one playing outside his comfort zone, and he is not prepared to do it. He is so used to being untouchable for all those years, that adapting is too much to ask. You can infer that from the excuses he came up with after both the French Open and Wimbledon losses. Against Soderling it was the conditions, and against Berdych it was the injury.
Federer never mentioned injury problems before when he was losing. In fact he said before the match with Berdych that everything was perfectly fine.
Q. Any concerns about fitness at all? There was a photograph with some strapping on your thigh the other day. Is that just precaution?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it was after my first‑round match. MY thigh was hurting a little bit, which already was the case in Halle. In the finals it was hurting me as well.
But honestly now I have no more problems, no more strapping. I’m happy I recovered that.
The he gets asked about these injuries and the big falt hitters after the 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4 defeat to Berdych.
Q. Some of these big, flat hitters seem to be having an effect on you. Do you need to alter your game to adjust to that?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, if I’m healthy I can handle those guys, you know.
I’m not out to criticize the best player ever, but this does seem very suspect indeed. It’s the same kind of aloof attitude he showed after the French Open when he blamed the conditions. I’d much prefer he admitted he had something to do with these losses and not act like he is still untouchable. Everyone declines with age and new players will always come along that trouble you. It is no shame. But Roger seems to think it’s a shame, and therefor he does not make adjustments. Against Berdych he was once again very rigid. There was very little room for creativity and flexibility. The times he did use angles, slices, drop shots, etc, it paid off. But most of the time he was content to go toe to toe from the base line with someone who was simply outhitting him. I said this after Roger lost to Soderling, and I am saying it again.
This loss to Berdych only confirms what I thought before. Again, I do not believe Roger is too old or burned out. I just think he’s not thinking clearly at the moment. Blaming the injuries after the Berdych loss is testament to that again. And he needs to change something fast because things are getting away from him fast. He is struggling very much in the best of three set format and now it is beginning to happen in the slams as well. If this continues until the end of the year, what started as a very promising year, will turn out to be almost a disaster. Kind of like the year Nadal had last year. As always it seems like Federer and Nadal’s fortunes are reversed. Nadal could well turn out to have the year Roger had last year, while Roger could turn out to have the year Nadal had last year. For me Nadal is now the clear favorite to win Wimby.
If he wins Wimby, he will have achieved almost exactly what Roger did last year at this point, while it is quite possible that Roger will continue to perform the way Nadal did last year after the Oz Open. I have serious doubts whether Roger can win the US Open. The way he blamed the injury after the Berdych loss shows me he is still not looking to take responsibility and change things. This will only serve to compound his misery. Things need to continue to go bad for him I think before he will look to himself for the solution. Maybe by the end of the year after he drops out of the top 4 and does not win another tournament he will think about some introspection. I say it again; he can beat these flat hitters, but he needs to become more creative and take more chances. The performance against Berdych was anything but that.
He kept hitting harder and harder from the base line and Berdych said ‘ Thank you’. A player like Berdych thrives on pace and the harder you hit it to them the harder he will hit it back. Roger needed to be creative. He should have hit more short slices, angles, drop shots, and he should have come in more. Instead of playing a game where lateral movement dominated, he had to play a game where linear movement dominated. The power hitter’s comfort zone is at the back of the court, while they don’t like moving forwards and backwards. They also don’t like moving out too wide, because while they move well for big guys, they are vulnerable out wide. Therefore the short angle is effective. If I was Federer’s coach I would say all these things to him, but first of all I would want to smack him silly for being so stubborn.
The main thing is not to slug it out from the base line with these guys, which is what Roger thinks he can do. He needs to do whatever it takes to break up the rhythm of these guys. They must get no rhythm whatsoever from the back court, and I have already named several ways this can be done. He can also serve and volley more, which is another way to keep the points short and break up these player’s rhythm from the base line. It is not an easy task, but if anyone has the tools to do it is Federer. Another thing about the match that was shocking was how bad Roger was at defending break points. This showed me that he is still extremely low in confidence, especially when facing this kind of player. We have now reached the end of another era, with Roger losing before the final of Wimbledon for the first time in eight years.
I don’t have much expectations for Roger until the end of the year. I hope he gets it back together in time for the US Open, but I’m not putting my house on it. I think we may see him struggle until the end of the year like Nadal did last year, and then maybe that will be enough to humble him. It is not too late. I think he can still win slams, but he must really make some changes. Maybe he won’t win another slam, in which case I will still be satisfied, but not as satisfied as I could have been. Lets hope he can begin a new era like he did after the Oz Open ’09 loss in the not too distant future. I’d really like him to push that slam tally up to 20. We have seen how quickly things change. Roger have been here before and came back, just like Nadal has been down in the dumps and are making a successful comeback now.
Roger is smart and good enough to find the solution. Lets hope he does not take long to do so.
Lets end on a positive note here.
Q. Will this make you hungrier to make you come back and show you can lift this title again?
ROGER FEDERER: Sure. God, I can’t wait for Paris and Wimbledon to come around next year again, that’s for sure. So, uhm, because they’ve been frustrating tournaments for me, even though it wasn’t too bad.
Quarters is a decent result. Obviously people think quarters is shocking, but people would die to play in quarterfinal stages of Grand Slam play. It’s not something I’m used to doing, losing in quarterfinals, because it’s not something I’ve done in the last six years.
So I am winning my matches. Today was a different story than Paris. I mean, I think in Paris conditions were tough. Robin played fantastic. Today was different. You know, I was struggling with my own game and with my physique.
Yeah, I’m looking forward to a rest, and then attack again in North America.
Q. Do you feel you can get back to a position of domination in tennis?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I do think that. That’s why I’m here.
At least we can see that Roger is looking forward to next year and that he is not thinking of giving up his position of domination in tennis just yet. It’s not been an easy time for him but I believe he will bounce back. Maybe even sooner than I think…
Ps. Always remember these are my thoughts, and although I consider them to be an educated opinion, I by no means claim that they are absolute fact. I’m sure you don’t read only my blog, and if you do, then I urge you to gain info from several sources. This is what I do as well. Sometimes after I made a post I think I’ve been way too harsh, but then I make the post anyway because I don’t feel like doing a post over which took me like 2 hours to do. Make up your own mind.
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