I’m afraid we can’t tell much from this match since it was windy and Monfils is an unpredictable opponent. Personally I would have preferred to see Roger play against Ferrer to make things a bit more clear. But the main problem was the wind. It didn’t allow for a clean match. I think overall Roger dealt well with the conditions though. The start was bad as Roger got broken early on. Monfils didn’t have the mental fortitude to keep up the pressure though. If he kept the break and won the first set it could have been a different story altogether. But he is not a very smart player. He just plays way too defensive for a player who has a huge forehand. It gave Roger the chance to get the break back and then break again to win the first set. There was a lot of breaks in this match. Roger broke in the second set and then got broken back, only to break again to win the set.
In the third set Roger got the break early on again, and again he was broken back. Then it came down to the tie break where Roger took a 6-1 lead, and was never gonna lose it from there. Roger was 5/16 on break point conversions, while Monfils was 3/4. This is not a good sign for Roger. In the last couple of matches it was encouraging to see Roger up his break point conversion rate, but today he faltered again in that department. This is probably the most telling stat of the match. You can blame the wind or whatever, but if Monfils could break 3 out of 4 times then Roger could have done something similar. So although a straight set win is good, he didn’t convince me that he can beat Djokovic in the next round. Monfils just isn’t smart enough to expose Roger’s backhand either. We know Djokovic will do that.
Roger needs to be supremely confident to have a chance against Djokovic. He needs to have total self belief. And I can’t say after this performance that he does. Fortunately I am happy that Roger made the semi-finals again, his 28th in grand slams. This is what I wanted after last year. To beat Djokovic was always gonna be a tough ask. I know you all want me to believe that Roger can end Djokovic’s streak, but I am just being realistic as well. If Roger does pull it off I will be happy. But the problem is it would make Nadal happy as well. Nadal has beaten Roger four times at the French Open, three of them in the final. I know you all want a fairytale story where Roger goes and beat Nadal in the final, but it is just highly unlikely. First of all Roger has to get by Djokovic, and then he probably runs into someone who owns him at the French.
If we are honest then Djokovic is really the one who deserves to face Nadal in the final. He is responsible for beating Nadal in four straight finals, mentally owning him in the process. Roger could never do that. In fact it is more other way around. Nadal owns Roger mentally. And Roger had his chances against Nadal, but he blew it. First Nadal got into his head on clay, then on grass, and finally on hard court too. I think Fedfans have to cut their losses and be grateful that there is now someone who is bringing Nadal down. It is better in the long run for Roger if Nadal is brought down anyway. There is no shame in allowing someone else to do what he could never do himself. Tennis is about match ups and Nadal was never a good match up for Roger. We know Djokovic can bring down Nadal because he has finally exposed him for the one-dimensional player that he is.
A major strength of Nadal is the fact that he is left handed, which has nothing to do with court intelligence. Left handers have an advantage simply because there are more right handers then left handers out there. The fact that he is left handed means that his cross court forehand goes to the right hander’s backhand. This is what his game is primarily based upon. And for the first time there is someone against whom this tactic is not effective, simply because Djokovic has a very good backhand. Now Nadal has nowhere else to go, because he is too one-dimensional. Do you want to watch another French Open final where Nadal pounds Roger’s backhand to death? I don’t. Therefor it doesn’t bother me that Djokovic is the favorite to make the final. If Roger can somehow pull off the win I will be happy for him.
At least we know that Djokovic will test his backhand too, and if he passes that test he will be in better shape to face Nadal in the final. But there isn’t really any need to look towards the final now. If Roger makes the final it will mean he deserves to be there and he will have a chance. But to be there he has to overcome a monster. So lets just leave it at that for now. Nadal isn’t sure to make the final either. He next faces Soderling. This is a match I’m very much looking forward to. Soderling looked good in his straight set win over Simon, while Nadal once again did not impress against Ljubicic. On the other hand Nadal is the proven commodity and remains a tough nut to crack in Paris. I will give Soderling about a 50/50 chance to upset Nadal here, given how fragile Nadal has been. Lets see what happens.