Today was a big day at Roland Garros, with Djokovic being upset and Roger making sure that everyone knew he is still the second best clay courter on the planet. I found it curious that people were so easily saying that Djokovic is the second best clay courter since this season. If you can remember I made a prediction that Roger will beat Djokovic in straight sets in the semi-finals, yet he got beat 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 by Philip Kohlschreiber. So in the end I was also wrong. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Djokovic would lose in the third round. But at least I didn’t give Djokovic nearly the amount of credit that the so called experts did. I mean you don’t suddenly become the second best clay courter in the world before you have even proven yourself in the clay court grand slam.
You know I get so tired of these people who claim to know something about the game. When are they going to learn that form is temporary and class is permanent? When are they going to learn that grand slams are what matter and that Roger has made nineteen consecutive grand slam semi-finals or better? Since when are Masters Series events more important then grand slams? I just love how Roger keeps shutting the mouths of these critics. And today was no exception. Today he was playing against a talented and dangerous opponent in Mathieu who had the added advantage of the home crowd behind him. I thought Roger looked like a different player when he came out today and even though he lost the first set I was confident he would get the job done.
Mathieu is a good shot maker and have given some of the best players trouble when he is on. So I wasn’t surprised much by the way he played in the first set today. I knew it would be hard for him to sustain that level and besides Roger looked solid. I would even go as far as to say he looked impressive. I was very pleased with his variation. He is now employing the drop shot to great effect, serving well and even approaching the net whenever he can. Another thing that he added today was the slice backhand which he often hits short and makes it very hard for his opponent. His forehand looked lethal at times and his backhand was solid enough, even though he had his usual amount of mishits. That is to be expected on clay though.
The key for him is to hit as few backhands as possible which I think he is doing well with his variation now. It’s truly an awesome sight when Roger is on his game. He just stands anchored on the baseline and rips ground strokes even if it is on the half volley. He is one of the few players today who still plays an attacking game and don’t give in to this modern day pushy tennis. But you obviously need exceptional ability to do that in the slow conditions of modern tennis. Roger’s first serve percentage was 59% which is good. First serve percentage doesn’t say everything though. We know it is more important that you make a first serve when it really matters, which Roger did well again today. That is one of his trademarks and a very important part of his game, coming up with a big first delivery when he needs it most.
The winners to unforced errors was 59/29 which is exceptional again, but keep in mind those winners include also service winners. On net approaches he was 13/19, which shows that he didn’t approach the net as often as I thought but still he is mixing it up nicely. I like the way Roger is very aggressive from the base line and then suddenly throws in the drop shot which takes his opponent by surprise. This kind of use of extremes bodes well for his future in the tournament. It’s days like today that I’m really proud and happy to be a fan of Roger. Just the way he dealt with the crowd and reacted under pressure was exemplary. After he won the third set he went up a break in the fourth set as well and looked to be in complete control.
But he seemed to get a little too relaxed and Mathieu broke back. Roger knew with the crowd getting more and more involved he needed to break again to avoid a tie break, which is exactly what he did. Even serving for the match at 5-4 there was still a lot of pressure, it reminded me a bit of the Madrid final with Roger serving for the championship at 5-4 and the crowd was doing there best to make it difficult for him. But yet again he came up with the goods. Nerves of steel. Had he lost serve and gone into a tie break Mathieu would have been the heavy favorite, and if they went into a fifth set with the crowd out of control anything could have happened. Roger understands the dynamics of a tennis match and he has the guts to to what he has to.
We didn’t see much of this mental toughness from Roger of late, which is just more proof that he comes to play in the slams. Another thing which I was very impressed with today was Roger’s speed around the court. All this talk of Roger losing a step and getting old blah blah blah. Will these people ever learn? I guess not, I guess they like being wrong! Next for Roger is Tommy Haas, who had a four set win over another Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. Roger leads Haas 8-2 in head-to-head meetings but they have never met on clay. This time I really expect Roger to get the job done in straight sets. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t. If he beats Haas he plays the winner of another Frenchman Gael Monfils and Andy Roddick.
If I’m not mistaken this will be Roddick’s first fourth round appearence at Roland Garros and deservedly so. I used to have an intense dislike for Roddick but I have a new found respect for him and you could even say I like him. He really put in the hard work over the off season and it is paying off for him in all kinds of ways. He was an easy winner today over Marc Gicquel 6-1,6-4,6-4. Monfils beat Jurgen Melzer in four sets with the help of the French crowd. It might be too tough an ask for Roddick to beat Monfils, but I hope for his sake that he can be victorious. Elsewhere in the draw Juan Martin Del Potro beat Igor Andreev in straight sets and Tommy Robredo beat Maximo Gonzalez in four sets. With Djokovic losing in the third round the third quarter of the draw is suddenly very open.
Del Potro now plays Jo-Wilfred Tsonga who upset Juan Monaco also with the help of the French crowd. That should be an interesting match with Del Potro the slight favorite in my opinion. Robredo is playing against the slayer of Djokovic, so it will be interesting to see how far Kohlschreiber can go now. After Rafa had luck with Ferrer losing yesterday I’m happy to see Roger having some luck of his own with Djokovic losing. By the way Rafa was recently asked who he thought was the best on clay between Roger and Djokovic, to which he answered Djokovic! You would have thought he’d learn to have a little more respect for his rival then that, but hopefully he can keep underestimating Roger.
It will be interesting to see now if Rafa can keep up his level of play and whether he will start feeling some pressure. I don’t expect him to be tested much by Soderling but I hope Verdasco can come through Davydenko and really play the match of his life against Rafa like he did in Australia. I must say I’m happy with Roger’s performance today and the intention he showed to mix things up. Actually this whole tournament has been a positive so far and he seems like a different player from previous years…
Presser: In the presser Roger mentions the windy conditions which was hard to notice for me with the quality of the match. I like the part where he says Djokovic losing doesn’t make any difference to him. Lol!
Ps. I am aware of the top bar that is absent. I am just trying to make the site better and I have no knowledge of coding etc, so please be patient.