Just to let you know Roger is currently training in Italy with Austrian Stefan Koubek to prepare for the upcoming Rome Master’s Series event. Koubek is a left hander with a double handed backhand so it’s pretty obvious Roger had a specific training plan when choosing Koubek as a training partner. He made it clear after his loss in Monte Carlo that he wanted to hit the practice courts hard and I’m sure by now he is better adapted to clay. I’m hoping for a really good performance from Roger at Rome, but as we know by now it’s hard to predict Roger’s results these days. I do expect him to do better then in Monte Carlo at least. On Go To Tennis Blog there is a piece about Roger’s previous part time coach Jose Higueras talking about Roger’s problems of late.
Check it out, it’s quite interesting. Notably he says he would have stayed with Roger if he was offered more time with him, but he only got offered 10-12 weeks a year. He didn’t feel that was enough to make any real changes to Roger’s game so he decided to join the USTA instead of coaching Roger. This doesn’t bode well for R0ger because Higueras might have made the change that Roger needed in his game. And having read the article it seems that Higueras knew what changes Roger needed to make. I wasn’t surprised to hear him say that coaching Roger is a unique experience because he feels the game so well, but more importantly that Roger could benefit from a coach to open his eyes at certain moments.
In my mind that is exactly what he needs. So it’s disappointing to hear he didn’t make use of Higueras better. Higueras also talks of the time when he was with Roger when he won the US Open last year. He says that he played two great matches in the semi final and final because he was moving well and playing attacking tennis by approaching the net well. Of late Roger’s movement have appeared sluggish and he has not been playing attacking enough, but all of this has a lot to do with confidence. When you feel confident you move better and feel more inclined to attack. Roger’s loss at the Australian Open and other losses to Murray would of course not have done his confidence any favors. Confidence is huge in tennis and right now that is something that Roger is desperately lacking.
Therefor I am glad to hear he is really eager to work hard on the practice court because that is one way to get confidence back. The best way to get it back of course is to go and win matches, which is something hard work and preparation should help him with. Lets hope he can get some good results in Rome and Madrid to get some confidence back in time for the French Open. I really wouldn’t want to see him break his streak of 19 consecutive grand slam semi finals or better. That record is one thing that is still helping his confidence. Preferably I would actually like to see him make the semi-finals and lose, because another devastating loss to Rafa in the final would not be good for his confidence going into Wimbledon.
I strongly believe that crushing defeat Roger suffered at the hands of his nemesis last year was what set up the loss to him at Wimbledon as well. And the way Roger is playing right now it’s hard to believe he can hold his own against Rafa should he get to the Roland Garros final again. But all this is hypothetical anyway. The most important thing Higueras said in my opinion was the part about always improving as a tennis player. Here we can see the stark contrast between Roger and Rafa. Rafa has been constantly improving over the last few years. It’s really admirable how he has improved his serve and net play. These things have clearly made a big difference to his game and he has the results to back that up. He has now won his first grand slam on hard court and he keeps doing well at important hard court events.
In stark contrast Roger has relied on the same game that he has always used to dominate the tennis world. As devastating a game as it was in the end it got figured out to such a degree that he has lost confidence in that once dominating style of play. This just goes to show how important consistent improvement is in tennis. This is a prime example because few would have believed Roger’s game could ever be figured out, including himself. There didn’t seem to be any cracks, perhaps he was the most complete player in history. Nonetheless his backhand have been exploited by the likes of Rafa and Murray and it’s time to make the necessary changes. If he could have done it last year at the US Open then surely he can do it again.
Maybe a few good wins is all he needs to get his confidence back up again. But of course a coach wouldn’t hurt.