Roger was always going to beat Ferrer, having a 10-0 head-to-head against him going into this match. Ferrer’s best chance against Roger is probably on clay, where he has more chance to run down some balls. On the indoor courts Roger just have too many weapons for Ferrer. These indoor courts are actually quite slow though, and it doesn’t really make for attractive tennis. It really annoys me how everything is slow these days, even indoors. But at least the courts will speed up during the week, because they were freshly laid for the event. It was obvious that Roger had problems with his timing at the beginning. The ball gets a lot of bite on these courts, unlike Paris where it shot through. But even though Roger was struggling to time the ball, he still almost bageled Ferrer in the first set. He went up 4-0 and then dropped serve however.
The second set was more competitive as expected. Roger got the break in the fifth game and held on after that to win the match. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. When serving for the match at 5-4 Ferrer managed to produce three break points. Roger managed to hang on for the win though, but not before Ferrer missed his favorite forehand off a short ball from Roger. It wasn’t a convincing way for Roger to serve out the match. I can’t find the stats, but I know Roger also wasted several break points again. This was indeed a good draw for Roger. The match against Ferrer was just what he needed to find his rhythm and timing. I don’t think we can draw too many conclusions from this match, given that Roger was still finding his timing. Having said that, this kind of form won’t be good enough to beat Murray I feel.
Murray beat Soderling 6-2, 6-4 yesterday. The big difference in court speed between Paris and London was clear in this result. Soderling just could not hit through the court, while Murray was running everything down as usual. I can’t help but feel these courts are tailor made for Murray. The court speed will also help Nadal, although the low bounce may not. Soderling went into the net 28 times during the match, while Murray only did twice – a very telling stat. Soderling had no choice but to approach the net because he couldn’t finish the point from the back of the court. But Soderling is very limited at the net, so that tactic played right into the hands of Murray who was content to just run everything down. It’s very ugly tennis but a win is a win. Soderling in the other hand needs more variety in his game if he is to remain in the top four and have a chance at winning slams.
Roger will now play against Murray in a rematch of last year’s round robin match between the two. Roger won that one 6-1 in the third in what was probably his best performance of the event. I don’t think the slower courts necessarily counts against Roger. He always did very well in Hamburg which was very slow clay. The courts does help Murray however, who will undoubtedly run everything down again and try to annoy Roger as much as he can. I thought Roger played a really good match last year to dismantle the Scot. He approached the net and kept things attacking. He will have to do the same again if he is to be victorious once more. The fact that he has Annacone on his side now, who has turned him into a more attacking player, won’t hurt either. The key for Roger will be to serve well and play a very attacking game.
These courts doesn’t nearly give the same assistance to the serve that Paris did. Still, a high first serve percentage will be key, which will give Roger more chances to attack and come to the net. There is no doubt Roger will have to be on his game and almost play a perfect match if he wants to come out on top. He also needs a win over Murray pretty badly. He lost to Murray two consecutive times now, both of them in Masters Series finals. That is two MS titles Murray have cost Roger of late. I don’t think this match is as big as those because I think Roger will go on to beat Soderling and make the semi’s anyway, but it is a bigger event. Also, with the eye on the Australian Open next year, Roger doesn’t want to be giving Murray any ideas. I think it is important that he wins this to show Murray that he is still his master in the bigger events.
They may also meet in the final, which makes it even more important that he wins to gain a mental edge. And finally there is the 200 ranking points to consider for every round robin win. I’d say this match carries pretty heavy importance. If Roger it, he will almost be assured of qualifying for the semi’s. He would also have a chance of qualifying unbeaten. I think that is important if he is thinking about winning this event. He wants to be as confident as possible going into the next phase of the tournament. You may argue that it is better that he loses a match and get his one bad match out of the way, but I wouldn’t agree. Roger has not been supremely confident of late, event though he has been on a great run. The losses against Murray, Djokovic(2 MP’s), and Monfils(5 MP’s) is proof of that. Winning every match in the event may be the only way he is winning the title.
And I have already stated why I think it is so important that he wins this event. It will just be the best possible end to the year and be a big boost going into next year. For me it will do a lot towards ending the doubts around his mental problems of late, and set him up for another great season in 2011.