Tough loss. What is left to say? Another day, another disappointing loss. I always try to be positive about Roger but I don’t have many positive things left to say. I can’t predict exactly how this post will go but probably if you are looking for an uplifting post you came to the wrong place. I feel like the progress Roger has made in the last few months has come to a halt here. This is no doubt another match he should have won, but hesitation and mental fragility cost him once more. The first set which he lost 6-1 was probably the worst set I have ever seen him play. I mean mishits and wayward errors like you have never seen before. Just completely all over the place. Hewitt was playing well but it’s not like Roger put any pressure on him. Roger couldn’t even hold serve at 1-5 to make Hewitt serve for the 1st set.
This meant Hewitt had the advantage of serving first in the 2nd set. At least Roger started playing slightly better at this point, staying in more rallies and holding serve. Then at 2-2 he had break point even, but Hewitt came up with an incredible stretch volley which dropped over the net for a winner. He was in the zone. Then with Roger serving at 3-4 there came a key moment after Hewitt set up break point with a blistering running forehand pass. This was like match point. If Roger loses it he is surely done. But then he goes and plays a fantastic attacking point which he finishes at the net with an overhead. He ends up holding serve but goes down 0-40 on Hewitt’s next service game. Somehow he fights his way back to break point and breaks after Hewitt dumps a forehand into the net.
Roger then serves 3 aces in a row to go up 40-0, and on set point he hits a forehand winner to take the 2nd set 6-4. Amazing turnaround. From being a virtual match point down he evens it at a set all, and now he has the momentum. Then arrives the second key moment of the match. With Roger on a high after coming back from the dead he creates several break points on Hewitt’s opening service game. I don’t remember if it was 4 or 5. It was a lot anyway. This is where Roger keeps faltering. He can’t put the opponent away when he should. You can trace this all the way back to the 2009 Australian Open where he failed to put Nadal away in the 3rd set. I am wondering whether matches like those didn’t leave a permanent psychological scar on Roger. How many times since then have we seen Roger lose matches he should have won?
It’s the kind of thing that never happened before that all time low. But this thing where Roger fights back and then fails to take advantage of the momentum is something that started in 2013 especially. And now it is continuing. In Hewitt’s next service game Roger had another break point, but he fails to convert again. The uncertainty and hesitation is all over him. There is no self belief whatsoever. It is really quite sad to see from someone who used to put away opponents like clockwork. And of course failing to take your chances shows weakness, and the opponent notices. That is just what Hewitt does as he takes advantage of Roger’s inability to put him away by breaking in the next game. 3-1. At 2-4 Roger has another break point and there is another semi-key moment.
A long rally ensues and Roger finds himself at the net after a decent approach shot. Hewitt then pulls off another great lob which Roger can only reach with the top of his frame. Another opportunity slips away. In the mean time Hewitt’s lobs have been superb in this match. Hewitt holds serve and in the next game Roger holds serve to 15 too. Hewitt then serves out the match without any problem. In all honesty I am glad for Hewitt. He played a great match and at 32 this is huge for him. I mean this was almost the Hewitt of old. Just very solid and clutch. That said, Roger is obviously the more talented and accomplished player, and he should have taken one of the several break points he had at the beginning of the 3rd set. He ended up converting 1/10 break points, another shocking conversion ratio.
It was another good serving performance from him, making 64% of first serves, serving 13 aces, and 0 doubles faults. But like I said yesterday, serving well alone won’t be good enough to beat Hewitt. He wouldn’t self-destruct like Chardy did in the 3rd set. He is too accomplished and experienced for that. He is also one of the best returners in the game. So all he did was play solid and Roger was the one who self-destructed. The sad thing about Roger is that the game is still there. You see when he is playing well how he is the better player talent wise, but then mentally he just collapses. If he just kept playing at the start of the 3rd set the way he was playing at the end of the 2nd set he wins the match easily. But something happens in his mind. He hesitates. He doubts himself. And then he collapses. Just really sad to see.
I know game wise Roger still has a slam left in him. Several even. But mental wise I can’t see it. The mental side is by far the most important side of the game anyway, and if it is not there Roger won’t win another slam. How will he win a slam this year if he can’t win an ATP 250 event on fast hard court? It doesn’t make sense. I suppose he can go on a hot run out of nowhere and play great for 2 weeks, but he will crack again mentally when it gets tough. That’s why I put emphasis on his building up towards something over time. I don’t believe you just randomly win a slam. That seemed to be the case with Sampras when he won his last slam, but you can’t compare two players like that. Mentally they are very different anyway. Sampras was a killer like Nadal. In that sense he was quite different from Roger.
I kind of feel like Roger is back to square one again. I never got overly excited about what happened in the indoor season. It was the start of something good, but nothing more than that. It was something that had to be built upon, and winning an ATP 250 event on a fast surface was the next step as far as I was concerned. Roger doesn’t have unlimited time left. He is aging and this may be the last year he has a chance for slam glory. It gets harder every year. That is why I make a big deal of this even though it is just one match. He can’t really afford to put too many steps wrong at this point. He must stay on course. In other news the court speed in Melbourne will be unchanged. There were all kinds of rumors that the courts would be sped up but I have done this for long enough not to believe rumors.
So there will be no assistance for Roger there. If he repeats his semi-final performance of last year I’d be amazed. I think it’s more likely that he loses before the quarter final than making the semis. Sorry, I don’t want to sound negative but if he can’t beat the likes of Hewitt on fast hard, how will he beat players like him on slow hard? The problem is winning is important, no matter what people say. And it is important for Roger too. He said himself he can’t have another year like 2013. He may love playing, but you don’t win 17 slams without loving winning just as much. I don’t see how he will continue for much longer suffering losses like today. This year was supposed to be the year where things changed, but the last two matches says otherwise. But like I said it was a good final and inspiring to see Hewitt win this title.
Stay positive guys!