I know this isn’t the result you wanted but don’t say I didn’t warn you. I thought Roger played well all week and that he would give a better account of himself than in Dubai, and that is what he did. I thought he came out looking to take the ball early and impose his game on Djokovic. That is after all how he beat Djokovic in the past. That is how he did it in Shanghai, Basel, and the Masters Cup, but those three wins have now been erased by Djokovic’s last three wins over Roger. Since the Davis Cup last year Djokovic has been the in form player on tour and hasn’t lost a match since then. We may as well call him JesusNole now. He is just basically untouchable in this form. I thought Roger did very well to win a set. I mean he played good tennis. Djokovic won the first set with two breaks and Roger repeated that feat when he did the same in the second set.
There was everything to play for but somehow I felt it is still a very tall order. The turning point came in the fifth game of the third set when Roger had just broken Djokovic back. All of a sudden there was new hope. Roger went up 40-15 in a game where he had to consolidate, but after that had a mini collapse and lost serve. The commentator said he finds this an inexplicable collapse from Roger but I knew it was pressure. Even though he was in a good position you have to look at the context of the match. Holding serve would only have put him on an even keel and Djokovic was pressuring him all match long. He just couldn’t keep up the high of the second set. Djokovic could keep his high level for two sets while Roger could only do it for one set. That was the difference. So even though there was a turning point I felt this result was never in doubt.
The main difference is in Djokovic’s incredible defense and solidity from the backhand side. Roger’s one hander just doesn’t have the same consistency and it puts him under pressure. Djokovic’s defensive abilities on the backhand side is also amazing. You think you have control of the point but he makes a great return which puts him right back in the point. All of this creates pressure. He is just very solid in his strokes and his movement. Roger tried his best to punch holes in Djokovic’s defense but it was just too solid. He managed to do it for a while in the second set, but like I said he couldn’t keep up that high level. You could argue Roger would have won the match had he held serve at 2-2 in the third, but he still would have had to keep up a very high level to win the match. It’s all history now anyway.
Djokovic is now number two in the rankings. In the other semi-final Nadal beat Del Potro 6-4, 6-4 after being down a break early in the first set. Del Potro has been struggling with his first serve all week and his overall game seems to me like a shadow of his best. He is not quite back yet but he is getting close. Nadal and Djokovic will now play for the first time since Djokovic has gone on his hot run. I think Djokovic has a good chance to win this. I’d be surprised if Nadal fares much better than Roger did against this Djokovic. We gotta look at the positives and that is that Roger played much better than he did in Dubai. The sad thing is that at a good level he can’t defeat Djokovic, but I still believe that slower conditions suits Djokovic. We will have to see but maybe Djokovic won’t stay in this kind of form forever either.
The three defeats in a row to Djokovic doesn’t look good but at least there is now some kind of hope that Roger may beat him again in the future. Roger won his doubles match with Stan yesterday and I wrongly said that it was the final. The final will be today however against Dolgopolov and Malisse. At least Roger will get the opportunity to win the doubles title and end the event on a high. Overall I feel pretty pleased with Roger’s form during this event. Djokovic is on a hot run and this is just the way these things go. We can’t expect Roger to win every tournament he plays anymore, especially not against the level of Djokovic. Lets hope this is the beginning of something really good. Who knows, he could just carry this form into Miami and do one or two better than he did in Indian Wells. Onwards and upwards.