I’m impressed. This win gives me new hope for Roger to win this event. I was saying in my previous post that if Roger was to had an ‘off’ day, then it was today. He was always going to qualify for the semis anyway, having needed only five games. The question was just whether he would qualify at the top of the group, and that was settled once Roger won the first set. Roger got the break early on in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. It looked like he would cruise to another easy victory. He lost concentration in the eighth game however and Soderling broke back. At this point I felt Roger was indeed having his ‘off’ day, because losing serve after being a break up is not something he usually does when he is on. That was why I am so impressed with this win. Roger lost the initiative at that point, but still did enough to win in straight sets.
I think this can count as an ‘off’ day, or at least and average day, which makes this victory quite impressive. In the tie break Roger went up 5-2. Soderling held serve to come back to 5-4, which gave Roger two serves for the set. Again Roger lost momentum when he dropped a service point. It was back on serve at 6-5, and Soderling took control of the point. He pulled Roger out wide with a backhand approach, but Roger managed to do an impressive flick cross court which Soderling seemed to misjudge, and it dropped in to give Roger the first set and the first qualifying position. It was anything but a convincing first set, but the impressive thing is that he won it anyway. The second set was more dominant with Roger getting the break in the eighth game when JesusFed showed up. This means he cruised through the group stage without dropping a set against three top eight players.
This is the best case scenario and what I hoped for. It means Roger goes into the semi-finals with a certain aura of invincibility. These kind of mental edges are always important in the big events. It often proves to be the difference at the end of they day. Looking at group A, the much anticipated match between Nadal and Djokovic turned out to be an anti-climax. It was competitive until 5-5 in the first set, at which point Djokovic started having problems with his contact lenses. You know, it’s fair enough when this happens as a freak accident, but Djokovic always seems to have some sort of a problem. At Wimbledon it was the grass allergy, he has an ongoing problem with asthma, and now this. It’s just too much. I mean you feel for the guy, but it’s also annoying that he always seems to have some sort of problem.
If you want to be the best you gotta deal with those things better. This mean that Nadal wasn’t really tested, winning 7-5, 6-2. Berdych on the other hand did something similar to Roddick when he beat him 7-5, 6-3. Roddick had two set point in the first set, but as was the case against Nadal, he lost the initiative at a crucial moment. In this type of event you won’t get past the group stages doing that. I’m not a Berdych fan, but it’s nice to see him play himself into some sort of form here. He is an exciting player when he is on form that can cause anyone big problems. The game needs it and it also means that we will at least see what Nadal is made of. I think Berdych has played himself nicely into form here and will in fact test Nadal. That doesn’t mean he will win, but he will at least play close to his full potential which will give us a better idea of what Nadal is made of.
It is understandable that Nadal was rusty in his first match after having taken off three weeks. That was obviously a crucial win. I only kept one eye on the Nadal/Djokovic match, but apparently Nadal was still not that impressive. I expect Nadal to get better with every match. He will be in good form against Berdych. It could still be an interesting match though. Like I said, if Berdych as at his best he can trouble the very best, like we saw at Wimby where he knocked out Roger. The thing with Nadal is that he is such a mental force, that he can beat players even of they are in the zone. Berdych has of course given Nadal problems in the past, but I think Nadal will probably still win this. It now all comes down to who will qualify in group A and it which positions. Group B is finalized, with Roger qualifying easily in first place and Murray second, having just beaten Ferrer in straight sets.
If Nadal beats Berdych he will qualify first in group A. Depending by which score he loses, he could still qualify second and face Roger in the semi’s, but I think it is more likely that he qualifies first. Ideally I’d like to see Berdych make it really competitive and take Nadal to three sets at least. That way Nadal will seem more vulnerable perhaps. There are many scenarios to consider. As far as the ranking situation goes it is probably best if Nadal qualifies second. That will give Roger a chance to knock him out in the semis before he gains to many ranking points. If he loses to Berdych he will also be more vulnerable to Roger. In fact, even if Nadal loses in three sets he could still qualify first. That depends if they are looking at who won the most sets or the sets differential, which I am not sure about.
Best case scenario is probably if Berdych beast Nadal in straight sets and Roger gets him in the semis while he is vulnerable. But the chances of that happening is minute in my opinion. Nadal can easily win this in straight sets and qualify with flying colors. This means he will face Murray in the semis. It will be interesting to see who qualifies with Nadal in that group. Probably Djokovic. If I had to make a call I would guess this will be a Fedal final. And judging by today’s performance, I will in fact make Roger the favorite. Yes, that’s right. I have a good feeling about Roger now, unlike I had before the event. When Roger first got Annacone on board I said we have to give it a while to see any big results. His confidence was really shot after Wimbledon. Since then he has steadily grown in confidence, in subtle ways that you may not even have noticed.
It is my opinion that he is now ready to make the next step big step. The Masters Cup is the ‘fifth slam’. It is right there behind the slams in terms of importance. At the US Open I felt it was too early for Roger too win a big event. In fact I was relieved he lost in the semis to Djokovic. I was sure if he made the final he would have been beaten by Nadal, which would have been another soul crushing loss. He was not ready for Nadal, and it the bigger picture I believe that was the best result. If he made the final and lost to Nadal he would not be where he currently is in terms of confidence. Yes, there is such a thing as a good loss. I think Roger has progressed so well now that he can indeed beat Nadal. I know I am getting a bit ahead of myself, but it would be huge if he beats Nadal here, either in the semis or the final.
I just think Roger really wants to beat Nadal badly at this point, and I believe he is ready to do so as well. He needs to. Nadal’s dominance has been ridiculous of late. If Roger wins the MC it will be huge, especially if he beats Nadal. It will be a mental blow and remind Nadal that he is not untouchable. Nadal have won the 2010 season fair and square, but with one slam, a MC, a MS, a 500, and a 250, all of a sudden Roger is not that far behind. And it would mean a lot going into the 2o11 season as well. It would prove to everyone and to Roger himself that he is still capable of playing his best tennis, and 2011 could be another great season. I definitely had my doubts of late, with Roger losing four matches after having match points. But now I have new hope, even though it is not quite justified yet.
Roger still needs to win two more big matches, and Nadal is still a huge danger. But at least now it seems there is a possibility he can do it.
Interview: Will post when available.