Federer Stumbles Over Final Hurdle in Basel, But…

…all is well in Federer Land again. Disappointed by yesterday’s loss? Don’t be. There really is no reason to be and if you are not feeling good about Roger’s week by now, you may want to consider what has been going on for most of 2013. It has been a terrific week and I dare say the great Fed is back. Sure this is indoor tennis and Roger was playing at home. But like I said in my last post he has to start winning somewhere to get his confidence back. This is also why I put so much emphasis on the indoor season when others were ready for him to call it a season and begin anew in 2014. That would almost have been the same as retiring. If he can’t even get it together in the indoor season, then how were people expecting him to do outside of it next year? With the way things are going now he is building a nice platform to launch 2014 off of.

Today Roger came really close to winning Basel, and of course it was disappointing having come so close. But everything is not about titles and one must take this loss in context. First of all Roger won 4 matches in Basel, something he hasn’t done since Halle. He then lost to Del Potro playing a great match I thought. Del Potro made the first move when he broke Roger in the 8th game to take a 5-3 lead and was going to serve for the 1st set. But like Roger did against Pospisil in the 3rd set he broke right back to love. There would be a tie break to decide the 1st set. Del Potro served first and held for 1-0, after which he got a lucky net cord which just dropped over the net and got him the first break. From there on it was tough for Roger to come back. He held on to serve until 3-4 after which Del Potro broke him two more times and held serve to win the 1st set.

It was a bit disappointing losing the 1st set like that, because I felt things may have turned out differently had Del Potro not gotten the early advantage with the lucky net cord. However Roger did not look back as he broke Del Potro in the 2nd game of the 2nd set after ripping a forehand cross court winner. Again I was impressed with Roger’s ability to stay in the moment and not regret the past as he hit right back with a break. Roger then even broke a second time at 5-2 to win the 2nd set 6-2. It was exactly what was needed after the disappointment of the 1st set, but unfortunately Roger then dropped serve in the 1st game of the 3rd set and Del Potro consolidated this time for 2-0. From here on Roger could not get the break back and struggled not to get broken again. At 2-4 and deuce he had to hit a genius volley to save him from going a break point down.

I was just happy in the end that Roger lost the 3rd set 6-4 and not further, even though of course I was hoping he could break back. The score was very respectable and I thought Roger played his best match of the week for sure. There was a lot of determination and fight and I think we have started seeing a new side of Roger this week. The grinding/winning ugly side that I have been talking about. The ability to scrap and will his way to victory. I think this is probably the fruit of some humiliating losses he suffered of late. I think there was always the sense that Roger felt he was above having to grind it out and winning ugly, because he was so dominant and talented. But I think some of the humiliating losses of late has humbled him and made him realize that he can’t afford to look pretty anymore and win at the same time.

Federer the warrior is replacing Federer the ballerina. Everything happens for a reason and Roger was not gonna let go of his ‘arrogance’ that easily. He first had to suffer for a long time. Now he realizes he is just like the other players who have to get down and and dirty and work extremely hard for their wins. He is not in his prime anymore where he can just blast players off the court with his serve and forehand. He has to grind more and accept that things are not always gonna go his way in matches. Also these days he is the one getting bossed around by big serves and ground strokes, not the other way around. Del Potro overpowered Roger again with his serve and ground strokes. I still think Roger can work on his upper body strength to help him deal with that, as well as switch to a more powerful racquet.

But it is good to see that mentally he has adjusted well. Of course this is still indoors and on the slower outdoor courts Roger will need more muscle and a more powerful racquet even more. But I do feel that ability to grind and win ugly will be very important for the remainder of his career, because he simply won’t have things his way the way he used to. Against every opponent he faced the match was basically on his racquet. These days that is not the case anymore and he has to play smarter and grind harder to win matches. Personally I found it a bit boring when Roger was just blowing everyone off the court. I started this blog at the end of 2008 after all, just after Roger had that big slump with mono. I like it better when there is a bit of a battle and some drama. Also I didn’t care much for the ‘arrogant/stubborn’ side of Roger.

I liked what I saw this week. He was more willing to get down and dirty and seemed more humble as well. So I am looking forward to the next phase of his career as much as any. It’s definitely going to be a big challenge to be the underdog more often. I thought he was the underdog against Del Potro but he came close to winning. If Del Potro didn’t get that lucky net cord in the 1st set breaker, who knows what could have happened. Roger could have won the first set and the match. But I don’t think Roger is back to full confidence yet. You don’t recover all your confidence in a week after such a long struggle. I saw what I wanted to see though. He only just lost to a player who is right at the top of the game with Djokovic on current form. So as far as indoor tennis goes Roger is right there with them. And like I said I think he can still improve. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes deep in Paris and London as well.

As for the qualification for London I know whatever I’m going to say will be wrong, but I’ll say it anyway. For Roger not to qualify for London he would (1)have to lose his first match. Then (2)Raonic must win Paris, (3)Gasquet must make semis or Tsonga must make the final(they are drawn to meet in the 3rd round), and (4)Wawrinka must make semis. All 4 those conditions must be fulfilled for Roger not to qualify for London, which you can think for yourself has an extremely slim chance of happening. So I’m not thinking about London going into Paris, and I’m pretty sure Roger won’t be either. It’s about continuing his current trend of winning matches and building more confidence. He will play the winner of Youzhny and Anderson in Paris and Youzhny just won the other ATP 500 event in Valencia beating Ferrer 6-3, 7-5 in the final.

So it is potentially a tough first match for Roger but one that he can obviously win. Roger is probably feeling slightly tired right now, but he will have a couple of days rest now and will play on Wednesday in Paris I think. It’s tough for him to be playing three weeks in a row if he goes to London but I’d still like to see him make a deep run in Paris. Roger played very little this season compared to 2012 for instance and he must still feel pretty good physically and mentally. Therefor I’d like to see him put everything into this indoor stretch and get as much confidence from it as possible. It would be great if he can make at least semis in Paris but he does have a pretty damn tough draw. First probably Youzhny, then probably Haas who comes off a tournament win in Vienna as well, and then again Del Potro, all of them just to make semis.

But maybe this is an opportunity to get revenge over Del Potro as he lost their last three encounters which cost him two more Basel titles. But even if he loses in the quarters of Paris that will give him an extra day to recover for London. But that is still far away. I am just gonna stick to taking it one match at a time. If Roger plays Youzhny in the 2nd round that will be tough enough. As for the prize giving ceremony Del Potro was humble in victory as usual and Roger got an overwhelming standing ovation which I posted below. It was a nice gesture and clearly the crowd appreciated his effort this week. Roger must have wondered whether they think he is retiring soon, which of course he doesn’t intend to do. Who knows. Maybe they just realized after a tough year for Roger that he won’t be around forever.

Or maybe they were just trying to boost him after such a rough year and after announcing his return in Basel. This performance will once again remind people who write Roger off so easily that he is not done yet. Even my patience was tested after Roger lost to Monfils in Shanghai, but I always knew indoor tennis is the one place where things can still change. So I was gonna wait until after the indoor season before I really came to a conclusion. I said I would like to see Roger qualify for London and then qualify there for the semis. The first part is all but fulfilled already, and I think there is a good chance of the second part being fulfilled come next week. But I like what I have seen so far anyway and I am just gonna remain in the moment. I hope to see a more relaxed and confident Roger in Paris that makes another deep run!

Highlights:

I couldn’t find any full match highlights on Youtube but there are these highlights on the ATP Tour site –

http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2013/10/43/Basel-Sunday-Final-del-Potro-Federer.aspx

Posted in Uncategorized.

28 Comments

  1. This was such an insightful post Ru-an. I cannot help but think that Roger is reinvigorated by the challenge of this stage of his incredible career. It is so much harder for him now, but as he digs deep and claws against in their prime opponents, he shows AGAIN and in a new way, just how special he is. And like you, though it is so painful at times, I am loving watching him figure it out!!!!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Eric I appreciate that. I don’t think there is a better or worse part of a career. It just depends on how you look at it. The win over Pospisil for instance gave me a lot of satisfaction, even though it was ugly and not the greatest quality. Just seeing Roger growing and adapting is fun. It’s like you say, he now has the opportunity to show a part of himself that has been missing in the past. He is growing as a player and as a person. The fans and the tennis world have been tough on him of late but by now he has probably learned not to pay it any mind. When no one believes in you you have to believe in yourself and that is what he did.

    [Reply]

  2. Saw Roger in action live in Basel. There was fire in his eyes. Not disappointed at all. Looking at the loss in context – something for him to build on as he seems hungry for a win again!

    [Reply]

  3. Rosem that is very cool. Only about 9000 seats there, what a great venue to see him play. My wife is Swiss and watched a bit with me. She said he was really hard on himself, big time cursing in Swiss German when he missed shots. Was the crowd reacting to that?

    [Reply]

  4. I never saw Roger as arrogant. He always appeared humble to me. I sure hope he can win more than the first match. It was enjoyable for a change to see him play so well.

    [Reply]

  5. Ruan,
    I’ve some suggestions on a few things Roger need to do to get back to his winning ways.
    1) Win service games easily. This is to prevent expending unnecessary energy (ala Pete Sampras)
    2) In return games, try not to rally beyond 5 strokes. Again to conserve energy. I know this is ugly tennis but he has no choice as he’s now 32 going 33 unless he can turn back the clock to 26. Meaning Roger has to up his game in the tiebreaker.
    3) During Roger’s peak, I see he is very cool under pressure even the decision goes against him. But now he seem to get angry or frustated easily as you can in his actions or his reactions thereafter. I know as you get older you tend to be more cranky. I hope he do some meditation or yoga to calm his mind. I think that what Novak is doing. Roger need to go back to being Roger of 04-07 in this aspect. The reason he lost the 09 US Open because he started arguing with the umpire on calls. This is not Roger we all have known. I believe there other instances as well. Same with this year Aus open with Andy.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Not bad suggestions Mike. I agree especially with #2. Long rallies doesn’t work for him. He gets overpowered anyway. I think he must become stronger and be able to hit harder and finish the point earlier. That will also help him to serve harder and win more free points. As for the last point you are right he musn’t let these things distract him so easily. I like to see some fire but not in the sense of getting distracted. He definitely had to be more Zen in that aspect.

    [Reply]

  6. Nice article as always. One thing that got me worried about Roger is his loss of focus out of nowhere during a match. In the past when matches were easier, he can afford to do that. But currently when it’s mostly down to a few points here and there, he just can’t afford to lose his service games so casually, e.g. the 3rd set vs Del Potro or Posposil.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Right Ernest. I was very disappointed the way he dropped serve in the 3rd set as well. I’d like to think it is to do with confidence and match fitness. Remember he hasn’t played much this year. He still lacks matches. I am not gonna be critical about what happened against Del Potro. But unfortunately it has been a trend for him to let opponents off the hook cheaply. I think once he goes on a good run of form that will happen less. For that not to happen you have to play a lot and be in the winning habit. I can see him doing better in that department when he starts winning more in 2014 again.

    [Reply]

  7. Federer the warrior is back.
    Very true statement, Ruan, and I ’m very happy to see Roger fighting till the very end of the match.
    Even if he lost, I can live with it, because I didn’t really expect him to win this one yet. And a loss to Juan Martin Del Potro does hurt less than one to other top players as Juan Martin is my second favorite player. The humble giant humbling my favorite player can only bring the goods; Roger will have a chance for revenge in Paris, but for that to happen he first needs to win his 1R and 2R matches out there.
    So let’s come on with Paris.
    Don’t look back, Roger. Go for it!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Agreed Wilfried. Losing at Basel is tough but it makes it a lot easier when it is to Del Potro, who is my second favorite as well. It’s annoying that he lost the last three matches with him though, so if they meet in Paris I hope he can turn it around.

    [Reply]

  8. I know is out of this topic but still related to Federers career and missed achievements due to drugs abuse of competitors like….you know wh o:-) ))

    Check out the article below proving scientifically what a PRP injections with rich plasma one specific Spanish player overused troughout his career can provide :-)

    ” The Systemic Effects of Platelet-Rich Plasma Injection:
    http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/41/1/186

    Some comments from readers of the popular THASP blog:

    “team_kickassOctober 26, 2013 at 7:46 AM
    NIce find.

    From how PRP functions, whether used intramuscular or used as transfusion, this was to be expected and explains its vast attraction in sports nicely.

    Any marginal edge is seeked out by athletes desperately – each possible parameter tweaked gives you an edge, as in the case of PRP treatments. Using it has lovely, highly desired side-effects, no wonder it is so immensely popular and obviously some less moral sports physicians, who would like to help their clients and see them win (or like their money) will do anything to portay PRP as an innocent cure only for physcial ailments, a perfectly legal drug to treat injuries…

    Arvind KOctober 27, 2013 at 5:19 AM
    well, the final conclusion was “We present evidence that PRP contains and may trigger systemic increases in substances currently banned in competitive athletes”

    LopiOctober 27, 2013 at 12:22 PM
    so all a player needs to do is come up with a chronic injury, say a knee injury, and gets his PRP approved and the rest is history. Literally. As in the filling up of the trophy cabinet kind of history. What a great system.”

    Below – a quick search on google with key words “Nadal” plus “Platelet Rich Plasma Injection”

    https://www.google.nl/?gws_rd=cr&ei=R7dvUs2GBYOXtAap74CoCA#q=nadal+Platelet-Rich+Plasma+Injection

    As for Federer – Basel is no proof of his current form and abilities – player usualy shy away from this tourney since its home town and many do not desire to beat him there cause missing the WTF will be bad for the sport and they just prefer to loose and keep the swiss audience happy :-) See how all other player did their best (like there was an omerta) that they have to help him get in to the WTF. tennis is such a suspicious sport.Look at Cilic as well…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I don’t agree with your last paragraph. If that was true Del Potro would have lost the final too. Not everything is a conspiracy.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    So this means Nadal is doping legally. Go figure.

    [Reply]

  9. Hey Ru-an, again what a great great article. Loved everything about it. From the first sentence to the last.
    How about that standing ovation !!!
    How would you react if you got such an ovation from the crowd?? Me, I would not know where to look !!!

    What do you think Ru-an, will Novak and Rafa play as long as they can to gain a lot of points or will they “try to” lose early to have a little bit more time for WTF???
    I think Novak thinks he needs every point possible to come closer to retain world number one.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Katyani. Yeah there is no question both of them will play to win every match from here on. There is a chance Djokovic can end the year #1 so he will try, while Nadal will try to deny him. I think the scenario is that if Djokovic wins all his matches from here on including DC then Nadal needs SF in Paris and win 2 RR matches in London to remain #1. So you would certainly expect Nadal to get it.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Ru-an, I hope Novak becomes number one to end this year. No matter what a good year Rafa has had, in my opinion he does not deserve to end the year as number one. My reasons are obvious, but I am not going to say them here again. It has been said enough.
    Somehow, I do have this feeling, the past couple of months the tennisworld was kind of afraid (would Roger make the WTF or not), but I really think Roger will make it all the way to the final of the WTF, even win it.
    But… no pressure, just taking it one match at the time. Anderson can be quite dangerous…

    [Reply]

  10. Hey Ru-an, tough day to be you…
    On one hand there is Anderson from your own country and on the other hand there is the Goat…..
    Hmm… admiration and loyalty for Roger or the love for South Africa???

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I’m not really the patriotic type Katyani. I know Kevin. He’s a nice guy but like all South African tennis players he is poor mentally. I like him as a person but not as a tennis player.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey I did not know you know Kevin…
    But I do understand. Till the beginning of last year I did not even know the players from Holland. Now I do and I root for them (when they are not playing Roger of course).

    [Reply]

  11. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to watch his last couple of matches in Basel, your blog has been invaluable for getting a sense of how it all went down.

    Given where Federer was six weeks ago, this is a vast improvement. He’s once again beating the guys he should be beating. A sixth title in his hometown would’ve been the icing on the cake, but losing to Del Potro in three tight sets isn’t a bad result at all.

    Perhaps one reason people appreciate Federer so much because he still gives 100% even in smaller tournaments, like Agassi in his later career.

    People sense Federer struggling mightily and giving his utmost effort on the court (and off the court, too), despite everything he’s achieved. The process of solving tennis problems, of finding new and better ways to compensate for the aging process and overcome opponents, still engages him, just as it did when he was younger (perhaps even more so now that he no longer has the pressure to win all the time), and this is the drama that draws people to follow him. If it were only a question of adding one more trophy to his cabinet, I don’t think people would find his journey nearly as compelling.

    Yes, if he cheated and doped he could play just like he did in 2004-07 and wipe the floor with his opponents, but what would be the point? Unchanging perfection would get tiresome. It would prove nothing that he hasn’t already proven a hundred times before.

    In some ways, he suffers from setting the bar as high as he did. He’s won everything it’s possible to win and was so dominant for so long that at this point, really the only way he can keep people interested is to show them something truly new. Like all the very greatest magicians, he refuses to perform the same trick twice, so high are his standards.

    And since he played perfect tennis in his heyday, in order to come up with something new, he has to improve on perfection. That’s no mean feat, but I think he’s up to the challenge.

    It’s unlikely that Federer can hustle more, in the way you suggest. He is losing footspeed and you can’t expect him to be faster than he was. He needs to use more of his shots, more complex combinations of shots, smarter and more varied tactics, in order to win. Before he had aesthetic objections against certain shots or tactics. But now it’s anything-goes. Instead of sonnets, free verse. Or, to use another analogy, he’s like a master chef who’s so experienced that he can, when presented with any combination of ingredients, improvise a gourmet meal on the spot, without having to plan out the whole menu in detail.

    I must object to your characterization of ballerinas. You imply that all a ballerina has to do is just waltz onto stage, work their magic and then waltz off to bask in applause and glory. Ballerinas sweat blood and labor endlessly to make their art look natural. All the stumbling, tripping, and cursing is done in practice, behind closed doors. When it’s showtime, all you see is the finished product and not all the effort that went into it. And that’s how Federer does it.

    Plenty of people can make a hard thing look hard, but it takes a real artist to make a hard thing look easy.

    It is sometimes fun to see Federer scrap and hustle when he can’t play a masterclass, but he’s been doing that for years now. Even in 2005/2006 he had a few tough five-setters (Safin at AO, Nadal at Miami, Nalbandian at Shanghai, Haas at AO, Nadal at Rome) where he put his all into the match despite not being able to overwhelm his opponent with perfect tennis. It’s not a new development.

    Anyhow, I’m glad he sealed his spot in London. He showed a lot of good variety against Anderson (and some clutch serving to finish the match) and now that the pressure to qualify for the WTF is off, he can concentrate on playing a good tournament in Paris. C’mon Roger!

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Steve, great comment. And you are right. As much as I love Roger, if he would win and win everything there is for years, I have to admit, even I would get bored after a while and would probably only watch from the semis of tours or GS.
    But this is great to follow. Yes, he does give us sometimes little heartattacks, but this is the best time to be a diehard fan of Roger.
    The Goat is struggling, but then it is more pleasing to see him overcome that.
    The other players know that Roger is not dominant anymore and that they can even beat him, but there is still no one who underestimates him… Go Roger…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    No problem Steve. As far as hustling goes I didn’t necessarily imply tracking every ball down like Nadal. I meant in the sense of winning ugly exactly like he did against Pospisil. It’s about winning despite things not going well for you. Getting the job done even is it’s not pretty. As for ballerinas that’s just another way of putting words together. I knew some people would take offense but it sounded like a good opposite of warrior so I used it. It is just to emphasize the change from his prime where everything was flowing with ease and the wins came like clockwork. Now winning is proving much more tricky and he has to become more of a warrior type and win even if he doesn’t look like a graceful ballerina. More so than ever.

    [Reply]

    steve Reply:

    Thanks for clarifying, Ru-an. One of my points was simply that he has been in plenty of tough, close street fights before where he’s had to try to win ugly. He’s always been willing to get down and dirty when it’s necessary, even in his salad days. Otherwise he wouldn’t have won as much as he did.

    He is and always has been a warrior, if by that you mean someone who never gives up, who always keeps getting up and dusting himself off and returning to the fight every time he’s beaten down and written off. He never lets anything get him down for very long, and he’s always looking ahead eagerly to the next challenge.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Agreed that he is a warrior in terms of never taking long breaks from the game like Nadal does. I meant more in terms of in a match where he sometimes goes on mental walkabouts, which is something you would never see from Nadal. He comes up short under pressure quite often too.

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *