Needless to say, that was not exactly Roger’s best level. But in the end I feel pretty good about this match. Roger needed to win today, and that is what he did. In the end winning is what really matters, and playing beautifully is a kind of bonus. Roger wasn’t really feeling it out there against Tsonga. In the first set it looked pretty decent, but Tsonga’s level also had something to do with it. Roger broke serve twice and it looked like it may be another straight set victory. In the second set the unforced errors piled up for Roger as he got broken in the third game after two uncharacteristic forehand errors. Federror was rearing his ugly head for the first time in a while. Tsonga broke once more and took the second set 6-2. In the third set it was basically average tennis from both players, until the tenth game when Tsonga played a loose game.
He missed and easy volley on the first point which should have been a winner, and on the second he served a double fault. On the third point he missed his first serve and Roger took advantage with a forehand winner. Then it was pretty much all over. Roger converted the second match point to get his campaign off to a winning start. So in the end it was a pretty average performance. The first set was above average as Roger made 74% first serves. The second set was below average when Federror showed up, and the final said was just average. Overall Roger made 66% first serves which is good, but he made more unforced errors than winners. It was not a great match because it was lost rather than won.
Tsonga gave Roger an opening in the third set and he took advantage. At least he did that much. It doesn’t always have to be spectacular. Some days you just have to wait for your opponent to falter to get the W. That is also the advantage of being in the winning habit. Even when you are struggling you find ways to win. The win over Tsonga in the Paris final may just have been what gave Roger the edge here. It didn’t really look like Tsonga believed he could win. Roger will now play against his nemesis Nadal, who beat Fish 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(3). It wasn’t anything spectacular either, but in the end Nadal’s mental fortitude was enough to get the W. Nadal did look rusty though as expected. The fact that Roger was not in JesusFed mode against Tsonga was not a bad thing. It is better he saves JesusFed for when he really needs it, for instance against Nadal.
I said Nadal is Roger’s nemesis, but that isn’t the case indoors. Indoors Roger is 3-0 against Nadal, while he is 8-17 overall. If only they played as much indoors as they did on clay, this rivalry would have been very different. Anyway this is one of those Fedal matches which Roger really needs to win. He has lost the last three, and if loses this one he becomes Nadal’s turkey(10+ differential in head-to-head). If that happens the ownage becomes really bad. Certainly 17-9 looks much better than 18-8. I never thought the ownage was as bad as the Nadal freaks like to believe, just because they met so many times on clay. Therefor it is important to me that Roger wins this match. It would just emphasize my point that this head-to-head is skewed because they played 14 out of their 25 meetings on Nadal’s favorite surface and Roger’s worst surface.
In terms of speed of surface, clay is at the one extreme of the spectrum and indoor would be at the other end of the spectrum. You could have said that grass is also the opposite of clay, but not the grass they play on these days. These days the grass has been slowed down, but the main difference is the height of the bounce, which is almost like clay. The opposite of clay would be a fast, low bouncing surface, and the Masters Cup comes more or less the closest to that these days. It also happens to be Roger’s favorite surface, and Nadal’s worst. So if Roger can keep winning indoors it becomes more and more obvious that the head-to-head is skewed because of clay. I don’t want to build this match up too much. This is after all just a round robin match. But I would love for Roger to win this. I love his chances too.
He needs to improve from the Tsonga match though. If he is going to win this event he has to do that anyway. Last year he played Nadal in the final when Nadal was riding a wave of confidence. This year Nadal has been beaten down by Djokovic and he comes off a long break as well, while Roger has been in great form of late. So really if there was ever a time he should beat Nadal it is on Tuesday. Fedal matches can be depressing for Fedfans, but this one I’m looking forward to.