World number two Roger Federer believes his form is improving all the time and that he still has what it takes to rattle number one Rafael Nadal and steal the Spaniard’s French Open crown.
The Swiss 13-times Grand Slam winner has yet to win a title this year and has lost in semi-finals twice to Novak Djokovic and twice to Andy Murray as well as falling to Nadal in the Australian Open final.
“I’m happy how I am playing now and it’s getting better every week,” Federer told a news conference ahead of the Madrid Open clay event.
“It’s been rather a tough start to the season considering I haven’t won a tournament yet but I think I am very close to turning it all around,” he added.
“I have struggled a little bit against my main rivals. I was always very close to beating them. So I just hope I can turn the corner and win those matches.
“I feel the game’s right there and that’s why I’m aiming high this week.”
Federer, 27, said it would not necessarily be a bad thing if he went into the French Open later this month, the only Grand Slam to elude him, not having played Nadal on the Spaniard’s favoured clay this season.
Nadal has beaten his predecessor as number one nine times out of 10 on the surface stretching back to the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2005, his only defeat coming in the final of the Hamburg Masters in 2007.
“I think he’s playing the tennis of his life right now,” said Federer.
“But still I’m a great believer I can rattle him. I was so close at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
“Every match has to be played and I know that I have the game to beat him, even if he has beaten me on clay so many times and he knows how to beat me.”
Federer is currently without a regular coach and said he is not considering hiring one anytime soon despite his lack of success this year.
“At the moment I am very content with the situation. Things are calm in my team and I’m doing the right things and practising extremely hard to get my game back,” he said.
“Of course the main goal for me is the French Open and Wimbledon, trying to regain the Wimbledon crown and trying to win the French Open for the first time.
“But I’m an open person and I’m always looking for ways to improve my game. So if that’s talking to somebody else or somebody else giving me advice that’s not a problem but at the moment it’s not happening.”
I always think I know Roger pretty well, but the truth is I don’t! It never ceases to amaze me how confident Roger is, even after some of the most devastating losses an athlete can suffer he still backs himself to beat any player on any surface. But then again I guess we can never know exactly what he felt during those bad losses. Maybe his tears wasn’t from devastation but simply from sadness. Maybe he just likes to express his emotions. Judging from this article Roger sounds as confident as always, as if the losses didn’t effect him much. I think Roger is probably just like any other top athlete who deeply believes in his own abilities. To reach the levels he did in tennis you must believe almost blindly in your own abilities.
But the problem with that kind of mind set is that it can catch up with you. If you think you are invincible you will inevitably be in for disappointment because no one is invincible, not even the mighty Fed. No athlete stays at the top forever no matter how dominant they are. I think this is what has been so hard for Roger of late. When you are as dominant as he was the inevitable fall form grace is so much harder. It seems his emotional state is a hybrid of confidence and denial. Confidence because he really believes he can still dominate the way he used to and denial because that is simply not possible anymore. But then again that is what pro tennis is about, believing blindly. So in that sense he is not different then any other professional player.
Critics will say Roger is delusional. But his belief in his own abilities has brought him 13 grand slam titles and the most dominant era in tennis history. So even though he’s a wounded champion it’s probably not the best idea to question his abilities. Can he beat Rafa at Roland Garros? That would take a monumental effort. He certainly would have to change something, because if last year’s final was anything to go by things are progressively getting worse for him. The first time they met in the French Open final it was a very close four setter which went to 7-6 in the fourth set, the second time was an easier four set win for Rafa and last year of course was a beat down. And it was predictable since Roger never changed his game plan much when playing Rafa on clay.
So if he thinks he can beat Rafa at the French doing the exact same things as the years before he is certainly in denial. He must play very attacking tennis to have any chance at all. But first Roger must show at Madrid what he is capable of. Judging by his form so far this clay court season and looking at Rafa’s form the same disaster will strike as last year should they meet at the French. I think for him to have a legitimate chance at Roland Garros he must win Madrid, or at the very least put up a very good showing against Rafa should they meet in the final. I haven’t been convinced by his form of late. Losing twice to Djokovic in two of his last three outings is anything but ideal. It’s encouraging to see right at the end that he is saying he is an open person and would welcome input from someone else.
As always I am hoping he can find a coach, because that could really give his game the edge that it’s been missing of late.