Federer Takes the Fall While Djokovic and Nadal Advance in Monte Carlo

  • Federer vs Monfils

So much for the promising start to the clay court season. Our resident oracle Veronica predicted it and so it was. Personally I thought Roger was just picking up where he left off in Indian Wells but I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was the Roger from the Australian Open, letting himself down when it mattered. He played a poor game to get broken to 15 at 4-4 in the first set. In the second set tie break he led 5-3 with a serve to come and then collapsed again to lose the next four points and the match 6-4, 7-6(5).

Low first serve percentage and too many unforced errors

On the fist point at 5-3 in the tie break he made a lame backhand unforced error. On the next point he made a lame forehand unforced error. Monfils then forced the error with a first serve. And back on his own serve facing match point he made another lame forehand unforced error. So really he has no one to blame but himself and it is unclear why 4.0 disappeared again. Maybe our oracle Veronica can shed some light on it for us. I guess since Nadal is back on his favorite clay it is now time for Roger to fall again.

  • Nadal vs Isner

They always alternate like that, and not surprisingly Nadal won the next match against Isner in three sets, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3. And Ironically it was Isner who was the one who collapsed in the tie break when he had set point at 6-5 on his own serve. You would usually bet on Isner to win that point with his big serve, but Nadal asked the question and Isner dumped a forehand into the net. And who knows if he had won the first set, given the final scoreline, he could well have won the match.

It seems to me like the balance is swinging again in Nadal’s favor in the seemingly never ending Fedal saga. But make no mistake about it, they are both losing ground. Even though Nadal won today he still looked very vulnerable. He is not a lock for the French Open as he was in previous years. I know it’s early days but he is not the force he used to be and many players are starting to smell blood. Can he win the French Open a tenth time? Of course! But it is not as set in stone as it used to be.

  • Elsewhere in the draw

Djokovic continued his bid for a second Monte Carlo title today with a 6-4, 6-0 drubbing of Haider-Maurer and now plays Cilic who defeated Tsonga in straight sets. Nadal now plays Ferrer in a quarter final repeat of last year after Ferrer needed three sets to get by Simon. That will be another tough test for Nadal. In the bottom half Berdych plays Raonic and Monfils plays Dimitrov who destroyed Stan 6-1, 6-2. I watched the first set of that and saw that Stan was tanking, so I went to meditate.

I don’t know what Stan’s problem was but that was a very strange match indeed. He wasn’t trying to win at all. It just looked like he was coming out for a casual hit and getting out of there as fast as he can. But at least Dimitrov is winning some matches again and the bottom half is now wide open. The top half is probably between Djokovic and Nadal but I wouldn’t write Ferrer off. He beat Nadal last year when Nadal was playing better so he definitely has a shot.

  • In conclusion

It was a tough day in the office for Roger and quite to the contrary of what I felt like yesterday, this was a discouraging performance from him. It was one of those performances we have gotten used to over the years where he doesn’t show up mentally. You will remember after Melbourne I feared that we may have seen the end of 4.0, but then 4.0 came right back in Dubai and Indian Wells with very encouraging performances. And after the Chardy match I thought he was still around.

But now he put in another Melbourne-like performance and I am wondering if 4.0 is disappearing again. Nadal was still not featuring strongly in North-America but now that it is clay season you expect that to happen. So that could have an effect on Roger too. I hope we will not see Nadal continuing to rise now while Roger goes back to being mentally absent in matches. Luckily Roger plays a packed clay court schedule and he will now probably play all of Istanbul, Madrid, and Rome.

No one beats Cilic 12 times in a row?!

 

As for Djokovic some people have asked the question as to whether he should play in Monte Carlo after doing the difficult Indian Wells/Miami double again, while others have called him burned out. And yet he is still bageling opponents and looking as good as ever. My view was that he should play Monte Carlo even though he may be slightly fatigued. Mentally he will still be fresh because he is winning. If he can just hold off Nadal in Monte Carlo then he can take a two week break and come back fresh for Madrid and Rome.

Nadal is still struggling with confidence and if Djokovic just skipped Monte Carlo he would have given Nadal almost a free pass to the title. Now Nadal has to deal with a much tougher draw and even if he gets by Ferrer Djokovic can try to stop him himself. So I definitely think Djokovic should have played Monte Carlo and I don’t think he is anywhere close to being burned out. Even if he loses in Monte Carlo it will be due to some physical fatigue and wouldn’t mean that he is burned out.

 

Highlights:

The  is in your court.

Posted in Masters 1000, Monte Carlo.

25 Comments

  1. I am hoping Ferrer takes out Nadal. And Dimitrov makes the final !!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I wouldn’t mind a Djokodal semi now that Fed ha departed. Djokovic beating Nadal is always fun.

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    Ajay Reply:

    That’s true :D But really hope Raonic or Dimitrov get their first Masters. They won’t have a bigger chance than this one !!

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    Jiten Reply:

    Looks like it is going to be a long wait! :-) :-)

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  2. There are quite a lot of similarities between this match and the one against Seppi at AO. In both the matches Roger had a chance to win the sets which he eventually lost. Especially those which involved TBs. I think even in the Seppi match, Roger lost some 2 TBs after being 5-3 up in each of them, never mind the extremely high UE count. After that match there were speculations that he tanked sub-consciously to avoid Nadal, who was in his half. But this time around there cannot be any such excuses, since both Nadal and Djokovic were in the other half. We can reasonably assume that this time it was more due to Roger having a bad day at the office. Anyway whenever Roger loses there are always many speculations as far as the reasons for the loss are concerned. Also the most scariest line for me which Ru-an sometimes uses is- “It’s Nadal’s time to rise, so Fed has to fall”. I don’t know why but I get damn scared whenever I read that line. I also feel that that’s not necessarily the case every time. For example in 2012 both of them had good form until Wimbledon.
    Of course Fed 4.0 didn’t show up in this match, but it’s the same case in most of the matches which he loses. But we gotta believe that Fed 4.0 can bounce back better from such losses better than the previous versions. I also don’t think that this loss would have affected Roger much in terms of confidence. I guess we have to accept the fact that he won’t win the MC title ever, and most probably Rome too. That’s not something that we need to expect from him at this point of his career either.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I didn’t mean to scare you Nakul. It’s just something I’ve noticed. I just read an article where Roger said he hasn’t adapted to the clay yet. So it may be just that. I just don’t understand what happens mentally. It is like there is some kind of switch that is triggered by something. Fed 4.0 invariable finds a way in difficult situations. And then there is this version where there just seems to be so many doubts. But it doesn’t mean he is now back to that version. 4.0 came back after the AO so I’m sure he can come back now. I hope for his sake he can do that.

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    Nakul Reply:

    Yeah Ru-an I get that your intention will never be to scare anybody. You always give out your honest and sensible opinions and I respect your views. Maybe it’s just me who gets upset about it. It’s in no way an implication that I’m blaming you for anything and I hope you understand that.
    Also even I had a feeling that maybe Fed wasn’t completely ready for clay. He kept insisting on the fact that he’ll go back to training in Switzerland after MC. Just like how he was always insisting on taking an off-season after AO. For some reason I feel as though it doesn’t sound positive when he says things like that. It’s like planning for future without completely concentrating on the present. What do you feel about this?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    He was ready for clay I think. He played just fine against Chardy. The loss to Monfils was mental as far as I’m concerned. You don’t go from 5-3 in the breaker to 5-7 by missing three easy shots because of the surface. His confidence was low for some reason other than the clay. The clay has nothing to do with it.

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    Nakul Reply:

    Yeah as it has been the case over the years, Roger has the tendency to just give up on matches which are not going his way and he’s not feeling comfortable. Fed 4.0 is much better compared to the other versions in that aspect though. That may be the reason why even if he has an off-day like this one he can hopefully bounce back without much of a problem.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Lets hope that is the case.

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  3. I don’t feel it was quite as bad or as unexpected as the AO loss to Seppi. My impression was that Fed, being older and slower at 33/34, was being rushed around the court by the more acrobatic Monfils. He was not in control of points that often and his balance kept shifting. When he did find his forehand and backhand he hit them well, but again the BH DTL placement was not as precise as it could have been – too many deep, but central balls.
    The one similarity with the Seppi match was the passivity with some of the decision-making, but then again this is clay we’re talking about.

    Here’s a great statistic to put things into perspective for us:
    From 2004-2009, Roger went 100-7 (93.5% win record) on clay against opponents other than Nadal. Even if we put Nadal in this, it becomes 102-15 (87.2%), which is still phenomenal.
    Since Roland Garros 2013, he has gone 16-8 (66.7%) on clay. None of those losses were to Nadal.

    That shows a remarkable decline on the surface

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    Ru-an Reply:

    The similarity with the Seppi match was that Roger was ridden with self-doubt. When the tie break came the exact same thing happened. He doubted himself and collapsed like a cheap tent. There was nothing difficult about the three shots he missed from 5-3 up in the breaker. They were all sitters and he made a mess of them. That really surprises me given he just came off a Dubai title and an IW final. Yes it was a different surface but he should have made all those shots with ease. He looked out of sorts the whole match actually, shanking every second backhand. I just find it hard to believe that is from the surface, but what do I know?

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    Krish Reply:

    So either Fed 4.0 turns up and goes deep, or this odd, self-doubting Fed turns up. If that’s the pattern, he’ll either be making/winning finals or losing early throughout the rest of the season
    The stats in my post are very puzzling then – I’m sure his movement on the surface has to be playing some role, that seems to be the only way to account for such a steep decline. You can sense his frustration as well now – he knows it’s not all going to plan

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah he has declined on clay but I think he also lost some interest after 2011. I think he is interested again but now he is finding the adjustment difficult. Maybe it is just that but then you can ask what happened in Melbourne. Just tiredness? I don’t know. Then you can always find an excuse for a mental lapse. My point stands that 4.0 finds a way to win these matches. The tiredness of surface excuses seems like nonsense to me. There is something else going on.

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  4. Hey guys, I am getting pretty tired and annoyed of this green…smurf/clown. Ronnie, you say my Berdy wears awful shirts, did you look at that green clown?? What was that?? How… did he approve that? Who made it?? That clothing company should be getting in the middle of a town square and we all should throw tomatoes at them. Yak. And then he wins too?? Really God?? But oke, I guess he played well. So did Roger, but it just wasn’t meant to be. No worries Goat, season is still long. Nothing can make me not proud of the Goat, not even a loss to that green clown :-) Still proud of you Roger. No matter what. Would have loved it if you had won. Unfortunately you made some bad choices at key moments. I do hope that Roger doesn’t lose a lot of points??

    Ps:
    Stan the Man had to play Dimi.
    Roger had to play the clown.
    Jo Willy had to play Cilic.
    Ferrer had to play Simon.
    Berdych and Raonic had strong opponents as well.
    Even Rafa had to play Isner.
    And Novak had to play who?? Haider Maurer?? Who?? Easy draw much??

    Also ps: Monfils is becoming a problem for Roger or what?? He beats him in Paris or Shanghai, Davis Cup, almost beats him at the USO and now here?? This is seriously someone who plays great, but also like an entertainer, but when he plays Roger, he suddenly remembers how great he is and can be?? I hate when they figure that out while playing Roger.
    Well… have to be honest too, kudos to Monfils for playing a great match, but more importantly… for not making a big deal about defeating Roger.
    And what did you do Seve?? Weren’t you watching Monfils play the match before and didn’t you take notes??

    Anyway, come on Berdy or Ferrer…. rooting for you now :-)

    [Reply]

    elizabeth Reply:

    Hi Katyani, I think we analize Roger’s losses to death. I think Roger knew that a fired up Monfis would be on the other side of the net because the day before Monfis had played and won a fantastic match against Dolgopolov I guess the best match seen so far at this tournament! When Roger lost his service after having broken Mon well that was just enough to fire up Gael again. After that I don’t think Roger settled into the match. During the match with MON/DOG when Monfis played dead and then hit a winner reminded me when Roger took Murray to task at the AO telling him that he had stopped playing. I think I’m with you Berdych or Ferrer x

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  5. Simply put, it was not Fed’s day. I am disappointed in the end, but not devastated. Let’s give Monfils credit for playing an aggressive, mostly error-free match. His ball striking today was better than Fed’s. I didn’t think Fed was that poor though, but against Monfils today, he needed to be that much better. If they face off again in the future, Fed will have to treat this matchup with more care and attention. Monfils gets up to play Fed tough, no doubt about it.

    I would add that the one aspect I will agree with everyone is when he was up 5-3 in the 2nd set tiebreaker. With 2 serves, he should not be losing 4 straight points (not to mention the way he lost them). That was the most discouraging part about today’s loss. Got to find a way to win at least one of those points, and then, who knows what could happen? However, I was proud of the fight Fed showed in the 2nd set when he faced multiple break points on his serve. His first serve percentage betrayed him a bit today, as most of his service games were long, tough ones.

    The bottom line for me is that I am optimistic he can find his form moving forward, despite this setback. I sense he thinks it too from the comments I read he made following the match.

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  6. These days Fed either shows up mentally or he does not and from what I saw, the last set, today he did not. I don’t buy the surface as an issue, he’s a fantastic clay player and has been playing on it for almost two weeks before this match. He just did not show up. Gotta tell you Ru-an, it really bugs me too when you say your line about Nadal is rising so Roger must be fading. I hate it. And not because you’re wrong. Because you may be right! I thought NAdal looked very good out there against Isner. Not top form yet for sure, but man his forehand was singing on those passing shots down the line. Never stops amazing me how much margin for error he creates with both the topspin and the way he bends it into the court from outside of the doubles line. And I know a couple of people gave me a hard time in the last post for saying that Djoker was a beautiful player and consummate professional. I honestly don’t understand how that’s even debatable. This guy is just so good and right now so much better than anyone else on tour. His work ethic and focus, fitness, ability to keep improving, is astounding. He’s quietly having the second best start of year of his career and it will take a reborn Nadal on Clay to stop him from an epic run likely including several GS’s. As far as beauty, well that’s just taste and in the eye of the beholder I suppose, but hes one of the only guys out there I genuinely enjoy watching an entire match of. No he’s not Roger, but no one is, or has ever been.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good comment Eric. I can totally understand that people hate it when I say Nadal is rising and Roger is falling. In fact I expect it. But my blog has never been here to help people come to terms with Roger’s losses. It’s just about the facts the way I see it. When I say Roger could be falling and Nadal rising I am just using a historical fact to come to that conclusion. But I also don’t think Roger is just going to return to being mentally absent in matches now. He still badly wants to win Wimbledon and is trying to build towards that. Also Nadal could still struggle in the clay season like he did last year. So I don’t think Fedfans should worry too much.
    As for Djokovic spot on. I know he’s not like Roger but he also has things that I enjoy that Roger does not have, like not collapsing mentally over long matches. He also has that in-your-face killer instinct that Roger lacks at times. I enjoyed the victories he had over Nadal in 2011 especially and immensely. He didn’t falter at the important moments like Roger. He matched Nadal in his mental toughness and grit and surpassed him. He celebrated in Nadal’s face which was particularly enjoyable and didn’t show him respect the way Roger does. Other than that his professionalism and ability to keep improving like you say it great too. His movement, bh, and returns in particular are astounding. The control he has out wide on his bh is unreal, and the same goes for his returns. Fedfans think Roger has a monopoly on what it is to be a great tennis player, but it is not true. Djokovic is mentally better, a better athlete, has a better bh, and better returns. Of that there can be no doubt. And frankly I couldn’t care less if Fedfans don’t like me saying that. This is not a fan blog and never has been.

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    Habuladabula Reply:

    Not a fan blog? Never was? please..

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    Ru-an Reply:

    You don’t seem to know the definiton of a fan blog, so I will give you a free lesson in my genirosity. A fan blog is based on one particular player first of all, and on that player alone. My previous blog did not fall into this category as I often made posts when Federer was not involved in a tournament anymore. Second with a true fan blog no one is allowed to criticize the one being worshiped and no one is allowed to like or even compliment any of his big rivals. My blog didn’t fall into this category either because I often criticized Federer harshly and gave credit to his biggest rivals. Even to Nadal who I dislike. I’ve also liked Djokovic for some time now and it was never a secret.
    Surely my previous blog did not fall under the typical fan blog category. But if it helps you sleep better at night by all means see it that way.

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  7. Everyone rushes to hit the panic button after every loss, but it’s a bit early for that. He took a long time off after IW, and transitioning between surfaces gets tougher as he gets older. It’s disheartening that he lost in such a fashion, but it’s not the end of the world to lose early in his first clay tournament of the year. One can’t draw conclusions about Federer’s game just from one match.

    Monfils has gotten lucky twice now to get an underdone Federer. He had the luck of drawing a slumping Federer in Shanghai to get his last win before that…lately the guy definitely knows when to play Federer. We can take heart from the fact that after he lost to Monfils last time, he played amazing clay-court tennis to help secure the Davis Cup title for France. Hopefully he can do the same this year.

    Nadal won’t have any trouble with Ferrer this time. Last year was the first time in over a decade that Ferrer had beaten Nadal on clay, lightning won’t strike twice. Of course he had a tough time against Isner, he always does because of the big serve, but he just grinds the guy down. Like he always does.

    How is it that so many people think Nadal’s not the overwhelming favorite at a tournament he’s won eight times in a row? It doesn’t matter how badly he was playing on HC (and at IW, he was one point away from beating his first top 10 player since last year at RG), he’s a different player altogether on the clay. If he wins this title, he’ll be mighty tough to stop for the next month and a half, and possibly beyond.

    Djokovic hasn’t played this much tennis at the beginning of the season since 2011. He’s made finals at all but one of the tournaments he’s played. And in 2011 he skipped MC to rest. I don’t see how he can sustain an even more torrid pace now that he’s four years older and married with a kid. He’ll burn out sometime during this clay season and lose momentum and Nadal will gain, just in time for Paris. Of course Djokovic will eventually recover and right the ship, but it may take a couple months, and that’s an eternity at this point in the season, with RG and Wimbledon in quick succession. In 2013, his post-RG slump lasted long enough for Nadal to beat him in Montreal and in USO–two quite costly losses. It sure didn’t help him at Wimbledon, either. It wasn’t a huge dip–he just lost maybe 2% of his edge, which is enough to make the difference in these big matches.

    As long as Federer peaks for Paris and grass season, I’m OK with this loss. He can’t win every match these days. Important thing is that he keeps fighting and stays positive. I believe he can raise his game to a higher level than last year, and that he can have fantastic results on clay this year.

    Next stop Istanbul! C’mon Roger!

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  8. Good analysis of the matches…I feel that Federer lost simply because he was getting no cheap points on the serve. I mean most of his service games in the 2nd set (which I watched) all went to deuce. If that was Dubai or IW he would be winning more serve+FH points and hitting more winners. Monfils was erratic at times…he missed an easy overhead when he did some stupid jump smash thing, and I really thought Federer would capatilize. But then Monfils would fire down some big serves. IN a way Monfisl is a great talent, he’s a great defensive player with a huge serve whenever he wants…

    I think that Fed’s chances on clay are going to fade from now on, simply because he can’t win cheap points anymore and as someone said above , he looked ‘rushed’ out there…he had 2 weeks to prepare on clay, so you know he was taking it seriously…

    Oh well, let’s see what Ferrer can do.

    [Reply]

    FeDaL Reply:

    ….and Ferrer got creamed in the third set by Nadal. Tommorow is the clash of the titasns as far as I am concerned if Nadal wins, he proves he has a firm ground on clay this season, if he loses, then he can always take the good from the bad and keep improving.

    As for Federer on clay I think that ship has sailed long ago in 2011.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    That wasn’t a creaming. Nadal fought long and hard to win the third set. If you want to see a creaming go take a look at the first set of the Djoker vs Cilic.

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