French Open Rd 1: Federer Gets by Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3)

No big drama this time. Just an efficient performance from Roger. This is more or less the scoreline that I expected, given that Roland Garros is slower conditions than Madrid. The fact that it is best out of five sets also means less pressure in case you lose a set. The first set was always gonna be important and Roger got the break despite another bad performance on the break point conversions. The second set was a similar story, and in the third Lopez forced the tie-break. This time, Roger played a solid tie-break, unlike Madrid where he lost two tie-breaks. Overall there were some very nice shots from Roger and then some backhand shanks as well. The important thing was that he took care of his own service games which was probably the key to the match. Some Fedfans was nervous about this match, and in the end you’d have to say he did a good job.

It’s hard to know what to expect from Roger these days, but hopefully he could show more belief than he did in Monte Carlo and Rome. He needs to show a bit more belief like he did in Madrid. I’m hoping the fact that this is a grand slam will result in him doing just that. But the break point conversion rate does concern me. It is once again the mental fortitude, which is a side of Roger that has been very exposed in the latter part of his career.

For me he has to make semi’s here to show me that he hasn’t lost it completely in the mental department. Losing to Djokovic would be no shame, as Djokovic is simply playing better than everyone right now. But if Roger loses to someone like Ferrer I’m gonna be very disappointed. Roger next plays against a guy called Teixeira, who I have never seen.

Another straight set win is expected. Elsewhere Djokovic looked impressive as expected against De Bakker, delivering the baked goods once again in the form of a breadstick. The first upset of the first round was Berdych who lost to Robert in five sets. This makes Djokovic’s draw slightly easier. Del Potro beat Karlovic as well and is still on course for an interesting third round meeting with Djokovic. Today I don’t see an awful lost of interesting matches going on. I’ll be watching Nadal against Isner to see if Nadal shows any signs of vulnerability yet. Anything less than a convincing straight set victory would be surprising.

Interview: http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/multimedia/2011-05-23/01301d866548000000aa.html

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbAZWqEPI4U&feature=player_embedded

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26 Comments

  1. Well, it is interesting. Nadal already lost a set to Isner. We’ll see. It seems there’s been some cracks in the armor. Americans are particularly inept at the French so must be doubly disturbing to him, assuming he pulls it out.

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  2. Isner has enormous power, particularly off the serve. What could he do if he had consistency and accuracy off the ground, and court craft? He would certainly do better than take a set off Nadal. Maybe I speak too soon, but his apparent inability to do much off the Nadal serve (bar his fortunate break in the second set – and of course the tie-break), and his relative ineffectuality against Nadal from the back of the court will see the expected outcome. To take Nadal to 5 sets would be completely against the run of play; an upset would be – well, beyond all serious prediction. Still, Nadal is uncomfortable out there. There will be some in the draw who will take encouragement from that.

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  3. Well, the end is coming for Big John. It has been a brave display but even a serve like his was not going to be enough. Nadal is once again finding the lines and Isner can hardly win a point from the back of the court, which is where Nadal is pretty much keeping him.

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    Babel Reply:

    Nadal’s been returning better since the fourth set but Isner might be better served mixing it up a little – like he was doing in the second and third sets. Maybe it’s time to pull out those drop shots and come to the net a little more.

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  4. Well it’s ending pretty fast now but would like to see Isner give it one last push – entertain this MAGNIFICENT French crowd just a little more.

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    neil Reply:

    As the commentators noted, it was frustrating to see Isner not coming to the net more. He wasn’t going to win staying back but by coming forward he showed he had a chance. Ah, well.

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    Babel Reply:

    Yes his tactical gaffes reminded me a little of Roger. He also seems to lose it in five-setters against Nadal.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I was disappointed with the final game from Isner where he was tentative when he should have really been offensive. But overall you have to respect the guy for pushing Nadal like that. I saw what i wanted to see today, which is that Nadal is very vulnerable. He will not beat Djokovic, if he gets that far…

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    Babel Reply:

    The biggest reason why Isner was able to take it to a fifth set today was Nadal’s inability to hit good passing shots, which are usually the most impressive and consistent aspect of his game.

    As a result, today’s match was a rare occasion when an opponent was actually able to rush Nadal by coming to the net.

    Agree with what Steve says in his post about Nadal becoming VERY hard to beat in later rounds. Despite this struggle, it still isn’t smart money to bet against him in a Grand Slam final, regardless of who his opponent is.

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  5. Well, he certainly roughed him up quite a bit. 4 hours for a 1st round match is probably not what Nadal wanted. I do not think he will make the final.

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    Babel Reply:

    Not so fast. Do not forget that he can recover from 5 hour matches in less than 16 hours.

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  6. Good start for Fed though a bit nervous after what nearly happen in Madrid. Let’s hope he flies under the radar and just focus match by match.

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  7. The important thing is that Federer’s through. The wasted break points are a concern, but he’s well capable of ironing that out against tougher opponents; in London his BP conversion was atrocious against Djokovic in the semi, but was 100% in the final.

    In Madrid he served for the first set only for Lopez to break back and force a tiebreaker, which gave Lopez confidence and totally changed the tone of the match. This time he held on and was never broken; perhaps Lopez wasn’t playing as well as he did then, and I think Federer is serving slightly better at the moment.

    The highlights show some pretty good backhands from Federer, although I understand he had a fair number of shanks as well. That is again something that can be improved.

    As Dippy says, one match at a time, and I’m happy he made it past Lopez without too much trouble. Just concentrate on the next opponent.

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  8. Frankly I doubt this match against Isner augurs much. As usual, Nadal starts out looking vulnerable, but his speed, power and stamina will magically increase as he progresses through the draw, until he becomes a beast.

    Just like in Rome when he had a “fever” and almost lost to a total unknown in his first match, and then went on a tear, crushing Lopez, Cilic and Gasquet before being dispatched by Djokovic. Or in Wimbledon when he played two five-setters against Hasse and Petzschner with “knee tendinitis”, only for those injured knees to somehow heal to the point where he became Superman and annihilated Soderling, Murray, and Berdych for the loss of a set.

    Usually he doesn’t get players as dangerous as Isner in the first round. That’s why we don’t customarily see results like this. But I don’t think it has much bearing on the later rounds, for reasons we’ve discussed extensively on this blog.

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    jim Reply:

    I don’t think Nadal usually does start out looking vulnerable. His MO is overwhelming force and giving off an aura of invulnerability. Has he ever gone five sets in the 1st round of the FO?
    To be fair he has the hardest time with tall players like Isner, but still.

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    TD Reply:

    Agree, and apart from this being the 1st round Nadal also doesn’t like big servers. Nadal needs his rhythm and his long rallies but he doesn’t get it against the likes for Karlovic/Isner.
    Anyway, it doesn’t say much about the rest of the tournament.

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  9. BTW, I only got to watch a few games in the last set of Nadal-Isner. Did anyone notice that the camera was going again and again to Toni Nadal and catching him shouting stuff towards Nadal (not only the usual ‘Vamos!’)?

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  10. Jim, incredibly Nadal has never before played a fifth set at RG! But we have seen this pattern of performance from him at other Grand Slams (mostly Wimbledon) of early round shakiness followed by fantastic leaps in power and speed until he is nearly unbeatable. I think it will continue here.

    I expect him to make the finals pretty handily. However, will be able to win it? That is not so sure–whoever the other finalist may end up being.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    If the finalist is Djokovic he loses. Anyone else, he wins. Simples.

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  11. Isner is already breathing hard on the fifth set and panting but the way I look at Nadal on TV I reckon he can go on a marathon match and will never ever get tired! and I dunno if I just scrutinized his body much but he looked sooo buffed! Such a stamina and power!

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  12. In the last few years (i don’t know the exact streak), no top seed has won the men’s trophy at the French open. That does auger well for the top seed though!

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    Babel Reply:

    You’re right! I think this goes back to Kuerten in 2001 because Ferrero was definitely not the top seed in ’03 and became no. 1 after he won it. Let us hope it holds true this time.

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