Federer Loses to Murray, Djokovic Wins Shanghai

Hi guys. I finally have a day off again which means I can now sit down and make a proper post about what transpired in Shanghai. My last post was about the quarter final where Roger beat Cilic. In that post I said it was JesusFed in that match. Although I didn’t watch the whole match, the highlights looked good. I think the only thing that didn’t look good was the percentage of points Roger won on his first serve. Who knows whether it was JesusFed? It doesn’t matter, because against Murray it clearly was not. JesusFed does not serve three doubles in a row to drop serve. Neither does any Fed for that matter.

Roger dropped serve in the first game of the match. He broke back in the next game however. Then at 2-2 came the moment where he served three doubles in a row to drop serve to love. It was the first time I ever saw Roger serve three doubles in a row, and keep in mind I have followed his entire career. I think he said he has done that once before, but that was probably early on before he ascended to the top of the tennis world. It just showed me that something was off. Roger is clearly mentally tired after a long year. It all comes down to the Olympics, which is played every four years. It takes an extra toll.

Roger usually has enough energy left for a final push during his favorite indoor season, but he looks really tired at this point. The Olympics also cost him against Berdych at the US Open. The Olympics was an emotional event for Roger and drained him. Personally I would have preferred another US Open title over an Olympic gold but of course Roger did not know he would not win the Olympics. It was important for him and he still won a silver medal. He couldn’t just skip the Olympics anyway, even though he would have had a great chance at winning the US Open if he did. My personal preferences as a fan doesn’t matter much anyway.

But the fact remains that the Olympics took a mental toll on Roger which took a toll in New York and now in the indoor season. That loss to Berdych was kind of inexplicable. But I now finally realize it was just mental tiredness. If he was fresh he would not have let Berdych win that match. But like I said Roger couldn’t just have skipped the Olympics. To get back to the match with Murray in Shanghai, Murray held on to the break Roger gifted him to win the first set. At the start of the second set there was an unreal point when Roger faced break point on his serve in the first game. Roger ended up winning it and held serve.

Then at 2-2 Murray played a great game with some amazing returns and broke Roger again. Again Murray held on to the break to win the second set and the match. One thing that stood out from the highlights was Murray’s returning. Together with Djokovic he is now the best returner in the game. It is tough to always tell from the highlights, but it didn’t look like a bad match. Aside from the three straight double faults from Roger which was ugly. There was that one incredible point and there were many other quality points. So it’s not like Roger completely stunk up the place from what I can tell.

I also have to say that Murray looked like a different player after his US Open win. He just have a new confidence about him, which is to be expected after such a big breakthrough. So I don’t think Roger should be too disappointed with his performance in Shanghai. He played some good tennis but he was mentally tired and Murray was playing well. After Djokovic took care of Berdych 6-3, 6-4 in the other semi, it was onto another Djokoray final. Murray took the early initiative as he broke Djokovic at 5-5, after which Djokovic broke his racquet. Murray held serve to win the first set. The momentum was on his side and he used that fact to break ay 3-3 in the second set.

It looked like Murray would get another big mental win over Djokovic when he served for the match at 5-4 and went up 30-0, but Djokovic was about to perform another one of his great escapes. A point then ensued which would change the complexion of the match. It reminded me a lot of that point in the US Open semis last year where Djokovic hit that ridiculous return against Roger. In this case Djokovic found himself at the net and Murray lobbed him. Djokovic ran back and hit the tweener. He was back in the rally. Finally Djokovic hit a drop shot winner as the crowd went crazy, and the nonchalant way Djokovic celebrated also reminded me of that point in the US Open semis.

Murray then produced a match point on his serve but Djokovic saved it with a forehand winner. Djokovic broke back and the second set would go to the breaker. In the breaker Murray would once again serve for the match at 6-4 after getting the mini break. Once again Djokovic came up with some amazing clutch play as he hit an inside out winner that dropped right in the corner. Djokovic went on to save three more match points and won the tie break 13-11, after which Murray was the one that broke his racquet. Djokovic had saved the match from the brink and now had the momentum. He broke twice in the final set to win it 6-3.

This was a very impressive win and confirmed what a clutch player Djokovic is. Murray didn’t choke in this match. It was Djokovic who snatched the title from under his nose. So in the end it was a very exciting final and the Djokoray rivalry is very much alive. Djokovic has hit back hard after that disappointment in the US Open final and looks like the man to beat at the moment. By winning Beijing and Shanghai Djokovic also pretty much locked up the year end #1 ranking. I’m sure Roger won’t play Paris, but even if he does Djokovic will still end the year #1. Next week is of course Basel and Murray will be playing, but not Djokovic.

I think Roger will be very pumped up for his home event, even though he is mentally drained. He knows he will lose the #1 ranking and he will want to prove a point. He will also want to win at least one title in his favorite indoor season, and Basel will provide the best opportunity. Finally he has some unfinished business with Murray, and it’s important that Roger ends the year on a high. If he meets Murray in the final it won’t be easy though. Like I said, Murray did not choke the Shanghai title away and he will still be very confident after his US Open win. Ideally Roger must win Basel and London to end the year.

But it won’t be easy at all, given that he is mentally tired and Djokovic and Murray is playing so well. Roger really needs to win Basel. That will give him some confidence that he can win the Masters Cup for a seventh time. You can be mentally tired but winning will always give you a boost. Roger must give it one final push now. He lost pretty easily to Murray in Shanghai, but he is tougher to beat at his home event and it is indoors as well. So I feel he must win Basel if he wants to have any chance at winning the Masters Cup and end the year on a high. Anything less would be a somewhat disappointing end to a phenomenal year.

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29 Comments

  1. As bad as Fed looked against Andy, the latter was playing some really great tennis in that match. As for Roger, he will certainly want to win Basel and WTF. And from interviews, it sounds like he has plans on playing Paris too and doing everything in his power to keep the #1 (which, at this point, isn’t much).

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  2. Why is Roger so tired, but not Murray? They have played pretty much the same number of tournaments this year.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Because Murray is younger and because he comes off the high of winning the USO.

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    TD Reply:

    If I may add, Murray is still hungry because he still has so much to achieve – #1 ranking, 1st WTF, 2nd slam, more money, and so on. What does Federer has to achieve? Another title in Basel? Another WTF?
    I won’t be surprised if Federer doesn’t play that great in the upcoming events. He should rest and find new motivation for AO2013. It was a great year anyway.

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    veronica Reply:

    Rich,

    Because : (tick the correct answer)

    1) Fed does not have the special energy-boosting juice Murray is having
    2) Fed’s doctor is out of touch – does not have the super-fast acting cough and flu pills that Murray’s doctor has
    2) Fed eats gluten (he just loves pasta)
    3) Fed is not friendly with Spanish Authorities
    4) All of the above
    5) None of the above – Fed is just old
    Is that closer to the answer you are searching for, Rich?! Lol! (sorry, just couldn’t resist!)

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    Jiten Reply:

    Hi Sunshine,

    James Blake has just informed that he wants to tick (1) as the correct answer. HE was talking about “$1.9 million for the winner of the U.S. Open” as well. Here is a link to that:

    http://www.tennis.com/news/2012/10/blake-there-are-dopers-tennis/39827/#.UIGnf2fRiSo

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    Veronica Reply:

    Lol, lol, lol!! James Blake, You cannot be serious!! I was just suggestin’, you know ………..gosh! I bet This article made Rich’s day!! Lol, lol. Thanks for the link, Jiten. Magnifique!!

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    Chris Reply:

    I can see a similar story like the unmaking of Lance Armstrong happening with some of the current physical freaks of the ATP tour, but it will take a few years before it comes to the surface. Some use even the same Spanish doctors that juiced the cyclists before.

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  3. Murray hasn’t played nearly as many matches as Roger.

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    rich Reply:

    Federer and Murray have played pretty much the same range of tournaments over the year. Sure, Roger is older – but I wouldn’t have picked him to be out of gas at this stage of the year. If Murray was buoyed up by his USO win (I suggest his Olympics win before that) then Roger should have been similarly boosted by ending his slam drought at Wimbledon.

    I am not sure if Roger’s year is over yet. But I would agree that Murray doesn’t seem to succumb to fatigue these days like he used to.

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    Kyle Reply:

    Murray has played 66 matches this year, where Fed has played 73.

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    rich Reply:

    6 more matches? Sorry, Kyle, but that shouldn’t make any real difference to the best players in the world, that includes the world No.1. These guys are incredibly fit. Roger is 31 – not 41. Let’s get to the WTF in December before we start talking about fatigue as a significant factor. Injury is another matter, but that doesn’t apply here.

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    rich Reply:

    Sorry – 7 matches!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Actually 7 matches is quite a lot Rich. Having said that, tiredness is mental as well. Murray is currently on a mental high and he will have more energy. Roger has been struggling a bit since the USO and will have less energy. If he can win Basel it will give him a boost and he could well win the WTF then. He should not play Paris however in order to avoid injury.

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    rich Reply:

    I, too, would like to see him play Basel and put up a good show at the WTF. I don’t want to see his year fizzle out.

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    veronica Reply:

    Yeah, worse scenario is Fed’s year fizzling out. I think most of us would agree that Fed should forget Paris (and therefore the year end no. 1)and concentrate on Basel and end with a bang at WTF. Then take the Dec exhos lightly and prepare well for AO. I feel its high time Fed makes a bigger impact at AO – have not been impressive there last few years. Also FO, he has a great opportunity next year.

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    Kyle Reply:

    I didn’t mean to say that Fed has played 7 more matches than Andy and that’s why Roger is tired and Andy isn’t. But that Fed has played 73 matches this year is very key. He has put a lot of energy into winning another Slam and getting back the #1 and he has won 6 titles this year, which is the most he’s won since 2007. He is clearly feeling the effects now of a long and draining season and that is completely expected, especially at his age.

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    rich Reply:

    Kyle, now you are making me feel really old!

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  4. This is precisely why I’m very skeptic about Roger playing those exhos at the end of the year. Remember what happened in 2007 when he decided to play 3 exhibition matches against Sampras in Asia? He started 2008 clearly tired and then Mono happened.

    Anyway, Roger knows best. Here’s to a cheerful end to the 2012 season !

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah I already made this point.

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  5. I doubt the exhibition matches will be that hard on him. He’ll still have time to recover after them and they are only exhibition matches – he won’t go all out in them of course.

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  6. Ru-an, Like!! Clear, simple, orderly – love the way you write. I don’t know what to make of Roger atm. He is clearly mentally tired and even physically, he’s not that fresh. The Olympics took a toll on him as you said. But I really think it is the USO that did it for him (although it was cumulative and started from Olympics). He was so great in Cincy (where I didn’t expect him to win) and was on a real high coming into USO. (I believe if he had won USO he could even be unstoppable come AO next year). I’ve always been very interested in Fed’s psyche. Anyway, I’ve wanted to share this; don’t know what you guys think but my theory why he lost USO is I think he overdid it in USO – over committed with media/press/duties as ATP president, over confident, over excited. I know he has been dealing with heavy media/press all his life and it should be effortless for him. But we must remember he is older now and he had an extremely exciting and emotional summer; even more than when he won the French (plus he was 3 years younger then). What he achieved was beyond believable. He may have “over celebrated”, after he got Wimby, no. 1 and Olympic silver. By the time he got to USO, he didn’t have much left; but he still went on “celebrating” – people were congratulating him and reminding him what he had achieved and he was basking in the victories. When I saw all these busy and “distracting” happenings for him in USO, I was concerned and hoped things would tone down a bit because they can take a toll on you, especially as Fed is a very emotional person. Fed himself always says he does not waste emotional energy by over celebrating every win but reserves it for a final win. Similarly, after celebrating Wimby and Olympics, maybe he forgot his own golden rule of keeping some reserve : Wimby is over. Let’s concentrate on USO and put all our energy in USO and not the “side effects” of Wimby. He was a bit taken aback by Berdych and when he tried to summon a fight, he just couldn’t, he didn’t have much left. Then Davis Cup had to happen, what can Fed do but do his part to put Switzerland back into World group? Then the 300 week came calling. Running on dangerously low energy, he traveled to Asia and pulled off the early rounds before Murray sapped the last ounce out of him. Fed couldn’t have the long break that his mind and body so desperately need at this time of the year; and especially so for this year. Now, his no. 1 is hanging by a thread. Is he going to launch another desperate attack by playing Basel, Paris, WTF? He said so, as Kyle commented. At the same time, he also said he has already achieved what he wanted to achieve and year end no. 1 is just gravy; yet he said he is playing all 3 tournaments! He didn’t even mention he is tired or what -just said its gonna take a great stretch and he will give it his all! Am I missing something? Is Fed not really that tired afterall and reserving his very best for the last 3 tournaments?! I know Fed doesn’t like to give anything to the competition and maybe sending a message to Djoko that he’s not going to hand it to him on a silver platter without a fight. Anyway, I’m puzzled but I am waiting in breathless, excited anticipation.

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  7. So will this be Roger’s tour?
    Shanghai–>Swiz–>Paris (?) –> London –> Swiz –> Latin America –> Swiz –> Qatar –> Australia

    I just hope Roger will get enough time for rest and training…

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  8. Nice one Ruan.
    For me the story of the week is the improvement in Andy Murray’s game when compared to last year and how much aggressive he has become in his game. When he unleashes on his FH and hits a flat shot, it is incredible and very difficult to defend against. Roger got repeatedly overpowered. He did not play particularly bad but Murray was just too good. His returning was absolutely out of the world. The first set score was very misleading. It was far more one sided than a 6-4 score. Roger at one point was winning 15% of his second serves and you can easily say that the double faults were a consequence.

    Even in the final against Djokovic, Murray ran out of steam in the final set, but he kept blasting his FHs and made it very close. From what I have seen, Djokovic and Murray have taken the hardcourt game to the next level. I think it will be very difficult for Fedal to win hard court slams, especially if they have to beat Djokoray back to back in SF/F.

    Ironically Federer’s best chance of winning another French open may come at French open, if Djokovic faces Nadal and beats him in the SF. I firmly believe that Federer and Nadal will be ranked 3/4 in the world somewhere in the next season and will find it difficult to get to the top 2 and even if they do it may not be for long periods of time… Not to forget, the Berdych’s and Delpos of the world will have their say and cause some upsets…

    I think next year you will begin to see the fall of Fedal…

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  9. Thanks for your blog, Ruan. I agree with your point of view.

    I’d like to add just one little comment to it.
    You say Murray didn’t choke in this match, and Novak Djokovic snatched the title away from under his nose. Is true, Murray didn’t exactly choke.
    But imho he didn’t always play the right way or the way he should have done.
    Consider for instance the point you mentioned in your blog, the one where Murray was up 5-4 and 30-0 in the second set, only two points away from gaining the victory over Djkokovic. In the next point, a long rally was played in which Murray pulled Djokovic to the net at a certain moment in the rally. Djokovic , moving quickly towards the net, returned the shot deep to Murray’s backhand, hereby forcing Murray to play a defensive lob, which compelled in turn Djokovic to run back to the baseline as fast as he could. At that particular moment in the rally, Murray imho should not have stayed where he found himself in the court, close to the baseline, but should have come in the court and try to finish the point at the net (or with an overhead in case Djokovic would have played a defensive lob himself). Instead of doing this, Murray remained in a defensive position near the baseline. Djokovic, apparently more confident and bold by nature, made him pay for this by playing a perfect dropshot in the next exchange. If Murray on the contrary would have had the guts to be more adventurous at that particular moment of the match, he might perhaps have won that point and been up 40-0 with 3 consecutive match points.
    So my point is, when it comes to crunch time, Murray still doesn’t seem to have a natural reflex to go for it when it really counts, which he should imo if he wants to become no 1.

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    Veronica Reply:

    Agree totally Wilfred, great observations. While Murray has improved tremendously in many aspects of his game, he is still relatively weak at crunch moments and doesnt have natural reflexes or instincts to go for the kill. Djoko has grown leaps and bounds in this area. He is master clutch player at the moment. Seems so long ago that he simply pushes the ball back and prefers defensive strokes. He’s even trying to work on his net game. That’s maybe the last frontier for him to work on. If he improves at the net, how can anyone beat such a perfect player? That’s why I’m always nervous when Djoko plays Fed; whereas for Murray there is still a “weakness” that you can still “rely” on – but for how long? He seems extremely motivated and I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see him break out of his natural defensive mode next year. Ugh! Just dreading Djokoray future.

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  10. As to the preference of USO title over Olympics medal I would go for Olympics since it is an event that takes place every four years and that for as great a player as Federer it is tantamount to have at least a Single’s medal from three Olympics that he has played so far. USO takes place every year and he has a handful of them.

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  11. Murray said Fed slowed down his first serve a bit, that’s why he could return better. Why did Fed slow down? The triple double fault happened quite early in the match, at 2-2, I think. At that stage Murray was still not that dominant yet and for Fed to be that rattled at that stage especially as he already managed to break back, was unusual. I would still think that overall Murray looked specially impressive because of a tired desperate Fed. Having said that, i do agree with you that djoko and Murray look to have taken hard court game to another level.

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