Hi friends. When I made this post at the end of 2013 it wasn’t exactly something I got overly excited about. How things have changed since then. Not only has 2014 been drastically different in terms of results for Roger but the future looks way brighter, even though Roger is now one year older. For the first time in two years I actually genuinely believe Roger has another slam title left in him, although of course one can never be certain. I just think his level in 2014 proved that he can win another slam. And it wasn’t until late 2014 that he proved that to me. When he lost in the Wimbledon final I was still not convinced. He made one of the strongest fight backs I have ever seen from him when he won that fourth set from 2-5 down, and came close to winning. But if anything that loss proved to me that he was so close but yet so far. Like many others I felt that it was his last realistic chance of winning a slam, even though I still had hope for the US Open.
When he lost in straight sets to Cilic there with the draw he had I felt like he will probably never win a slam again, but in his first tournament back in Shanghai he proved the opposite to me. If anything that match against Djokovic in the semis proved to me that he still had the level to win a slam. Other people may have thought he had a slam left in him all along, or more than one even. Yet other people believes he will never win a slam again. But for me the level he showed there in Shanghai made me a believer again. To beat Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 there after the way Djokovic had been dominating Asia was special. It showed that at his best he is still unbeatable, although Nadal remains a difficult opponent. And of course since Shanghai Roger also won Basel in a very satisfying manner as well as the Davis Cup. I hear his team also won the IPTL which doesn’t mean much but is worth a mention.
The Basel and Davis Cup wins were very important as well I thought. In Shanghai he proved his highest level was still unbeatable, but he didn’t reach his goal of five titles for the year yet. He still had to overcome Brennwald and some very tricky opponents in Basel. So it was very enjoyable when he won his sixth title there. I was satisfied with his 2014 season at that point, but there was a feeling that he had missed out on the big titles in 2014 when he had to withdraw from the final in London. So I actually thought winning the Davis Cup was important. If he had missed out on that too after London and the Wimbledon final there would have been a bit of an empty feeling at the end of it all. It wouldn’t have spoiled the season or anything, but it was a really nice ending and I’m sure it will really inspire Roger going forward. It also helped complete his resume some more and he may not have gotten another opportunity like that.
So the Davis Cup title capped off another successful season very nicely. Of course towards the end of 2013 Roger started playing a bit better and there was hope that 2014 could be better than the big low of 2013, so it was great to see it all worked out that way. Roger made some big changes at the beginning of 2014 and it was going to take time for those changes to have an effect. It seemed like it paid off immediately when he made the final of Brisbane and then the semis in Melbourne. Defeating Tsonga and Murray there was a sign of things to come. Of course he got destroyed by Nadal in the semis but at least his buddy Stan stopped Nadal from winning the double career slam in the final. And that was potentially a big twist in the GOAT debate. After Melbourne Roger’s promising form continued as he won Dubai defeating Djokovic along the way, and then also making the final of Indian Wells where he lost narrowly to Djokovic.
After Miami he was very solid in the Davis Cup match against Kazakhstan when Stan was struggling big time. The clay season had a promising start when he made the final of Monte Carlo but then suffered a tough loss to Stan. The rest of the clay season was quite poor after the birth of his twin boys. The grass court season was a new beginning and when Roger won Halle there was once again high hopes for Wimbledon. Roger looked in fantastic form in his run to the final of Wimbledon, losing only one set along the way against a rampant Stan. Even though the final was an epic match I think Roger was still missing an edge there. That was really the match that defined 2014 if we have to narrow it down to one match. By losing that match Roger lost out on his big chance to win a slam and it also caused him to miss out on ending the year ranked number one again.
So from one perspective you can say 2014 was a disappointment, but that would be a very narrow perspective. I have already made reference to all the changes Roger made at the beginning of 2014 with a new coach and a new racquet, and given how low he sunk in 2013 I think it was unfair to expect him to just go and win a slam in 2014. He came awfully close and did very well in the slams, but there was still something missing. For instance I think if he played Djokovic in the Wimbledon final now the result would be different. I think he needed more time to build up his confidence which peaked toward the end of the year. Even after injuring his back in London and not being able to prepare on clay for Davis Cup, he still played himself into form in the doubles and then came out to put in a masterful clay court performance against Gasquet to win it for the Swiss.
I didn’t even mention his sixth title in Cincinnati which was very satisfying as well after the three Masters final losses up to that point. To a certain extent you can argue that 2014 was a season of lost opportunities due to the losses in the Brisbane, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Wimbledon, and Toronto finals, as well as the withdrawal from the London final. But you could also argue that it has been the season of magnificent comebacks because he could easily have lost to Monfils at the US Open, Mayer at Shanghai, and Stan at London. I think one thing that stood out was Roger’s mental strength which was surely helped by hiring Edberg. He just seems mentally very calm which allows him to win matches and sets from almost impossible situations. This is something that bodes very well for 2015. And also his net game which have improved measurably in 2014.
Again a lot of that will have to do with Edberg and maybe with the racquet too. Roger’s overall game improved with the new racquet, but up until the North-American swing probably his forehand was still not quite at the level it was before. I think he has now fully adjusted to the new racquet and the very offensive mindset is something promising. You may recall that I have said in the past when Roger played against Nadal that he should play as attacking as is humanly possible. I think he has finally realized that the only way he stands a chance against these defensive base liners is if he takes matters into his own hands and use his skills at the net to the maximum. And it has been a revelation in 2014 to see how well he plays in the forecourt. I always knew he had very competent volleys but I wasn’t sure he would ever have the courage to play all out attacking tennis like he did toward the end of 2014.
I think everything really came together toward the end of this season with the new coach, equipment, mindset, etc. So in a sense 2014 was a an adjustment phase which turned out to be a very successful season at the same time. But in the end it is about the slams and I think things have come together to the extent that Roger has a very good chance of winning a slam next year. There was a bit of a scare with the back in London but what a relief it was to see it looks like just a one off situation and that he recovered so well for Davis Cup and the IPTL even. He has the match for Africa left now with Stan and I am sure he his getting quite a bit of rest too after having played so much in 2014. One of the things that stood out was his consistency and he had a 73-12 win-loss ratio which is the best since 2007 and the fifth best of his entire career to date. Very impressive at 33 years of age.
Well this post have gotten quite long and I could probably still go on for some time after such an amazing season, but I think I will make a preview post for the 2015 season again at some point. To summarize I think it has been another thrilling season as a Fedfan and judging from the end of 2014 2015 may be even more thrilling. Being a Fedfan just gets better and better. Of course Nadal will be back in 2015 trying everything in his power to stop Roger from dominating again and to chase him down in the GOAT debate, but I think Roger is ready for his assault. He is mentally better than he ever was, and his playing style has been finely tuned under Edberg. The big three will all be back in 2015 trying to stake a claim in the GOAT debate while the young guns will try to continue their ascent to the the top. And we can’t forget Stan. It promises to be another fantastic season as a Fedfan and a tennis fan!
The Sweet Escape: http://vimeo.com/113777351