Federer’s Remarkable 2017 Run

Federer’s resurrection since the beginning of 2017 has been nothing short of remarkable. After suffering three grand slam final losses to Djokovic since 2014, another semi-final loss at the Australian Open last year, and finally a Wimbledon semi-final to Raonic, he pulled out of the rest of 2016 with an injury.

At that point, I think most people thought he had missed his chance to win the elusive 18th slam. I for one did. I knew he would always be a threat as long as he played but the last thing I expected was for him to win the first slam he competed in after a six-month break.

Granted, the change is court speed in Melbourne played a key role in him winning the title but it was still a remarkable turn of events. It seemed too good to be true almost, especially with him defeating his nemesis from a break down in the fifth set.

You couldn’t make it up. But it happened and now Federer continued in the same remarkable fashion by winning the Indian Wells/Miami double. All of this at the age of 35, an age at which most tennis players are either heavily declined or retired.

What gives? Some have attributed his run to doping. Unfortunately, with the poor doping controls and the capitalist culture where corruption is rampant one can’t just dismiss these allegations off the bat if one is objective and honest.

It sure is tempting to believe that given such a remarkable and peRFect script. When Federer was losing to Djokovic and others in slams in the last few years Fedfans always used the excuse of his lack of stamina due to age.

What happened to that narrative after Federer won three five-set matches to win the Australian Open or to complete the Indian Wells/Miami double spanning three weeks which included two brutal three-set matches in Miami’s oppressive heat?

Certainly, a case for doping can be made in this situation and the behavior of Fedfans provide even more incentive for it. But since I am unbiased and objective(unlike them) I believe in innocent until proven guilty.

As far as I’m concerned if one is doping then it is very likely that all of them are doping in which case it evens out. I just don’t appreciate hypocrisy where Nadal or Djokovic is singled out but the possibility that Saint Federer is doping is entirely out of the question.

I used to accuse Nadal myself as a Federer fan when I still believed Federer represented good and Nadal evil, but I overcame my fanaticism. The world is not that black and white.  I think it’s immature to worship one player like a god and vilify the other like he is the devil.

  • Federer is a Rare Talent

The fact that Federer is a rare talent should be obvious. I say it to help explain why Federer could possibly achieve this remarkable transformation without doping. The truth is he’s been a different player since the beginning of 2014.

That is when he made changes to his equipment and coaching staff. Federer was immediately an improved player but it wasn’t until the second half of 2015 that he really peaked with his new racquet and attacking game style taught by Edberg.

He destroyed everyone in his path at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open in 2016 but kept running into Djokovic who disposed of him with relative ease. Then at Wimbledon last year where Djokovic lost early, Federer could not take advantage due to a lack of proper preparation after pulling out of the French Open and also due to some terrific tennis from Raonic.

Given the lack of preparation for Wimbledon, I thought he already did an amazing job by reaching the semis and coming close to winning the title. So I suppose it is not all that surprising that he could come back to win the Australian Open.

One could argue that his preparation was even worse after a six-month layoff but he did play the Hopman Cup and maybe the break was a good thing in that it rested his body and recharged his batteries. We have seen Nadal doing the same thing in 2013.

Many people, especially Fedfans, argued that Nadal was doping to explain his remarkable return in 2013 and the same people are now defending Federer from doping accusations. Be that as it may, maybe that long a break can really recharge players after being on tour for many years without a significant break.

I happen to think Djokovic may have benefited significantly from such a break by taking the year off after Wimbledon like Federer did. Hindsight is always 20/20 but judging from all the injuries and mental burnout he struggled with after that it was exactly what he needed.

For Federer, the break also provided the opportunity to work on some things like his backhand which helped him to defeat Nadal. Federer is such a unique talent that you can’t dismiss the possibility that he achieved all of this naturally either.

It’s the best start of a season he’s had since 11 years ago in 2006 which seems ridiculous but then there was also early losses of Djokovic in Melbourne and Indian Wells and his withdrawal from Miami.

Murray has also been a poor number one so far but I have my doubts as to whether he can ever defeat Federer in his current form. So other than Federer’s seemingly unlimited talent there are several other factors which could also help explain this seemingly unrealistic dominance like Nadal’s decline, Djokovic’s struggles, and the changed court speed in Melbourne.

The scheduling has also been good to Federer. In Melbourne, he had a much needed two-day break before the final and in Miami, he had another much needed day off before the final. Things sure seem to be going his way of late.

And I am happy for the non-fanatical Federer fans who had to wait a long time for Federer to win his 18th slam and probably stopped believing it would ever happen after Federer got injured again last year.

I also think it is good for tennis. I don’t like the fanaticism that goes with it but that is hardly Federer’s fault. My problem has never really been with him anyway. It’s just the cult-like following that gets on my nerves.

Djokovic is my favorite player but I don’t hate Federer or anything and I still enjoy his tennis. I also don’t have a problem giving credit and I am not biased in this regard. But the Kyrgios incident genuinely bothered me and it doesn’t make me biased to call it out.

I know Federer fanatics would love to believe I am biased and it is all just sour grapes because that would mean they don’t have to face up to their fanaticism, but they won’t get off that easily. Besides, expressing my displeasure with the Kyrgios incident doesn’t change the outcome.

Federer won the 2017 Miami title and that’s the way it will stay.

  • What Can We Expect for the Near Future?

Federer has said his body needs a break and that he won’t play any clay court events in the lead-up to the French Open. His focus is on Wimbledon and the second half of the year which makes sense given his age but he must be tempted to go for a second French Open title now that he seems to have Nadal under control.

So I’m not convinced he won’t take a wild card in Rome and make a serious run at Roland Garros. If Djokovic gets the double career slam it’s gonna be another big achievement that sets him apart from Federer.

But Federer knows he can’t push himself too hard or he could risk another injury so it is probably the wise thing to save himself after all the success he’s had of late. In his current form, he is practically a lock for the Wimbledon title and he doesn’t want to risk that.

With Federer looking to take it easy during the clay court season this is Djokovic’s chance to get back in the game, but unlike Federer he doesn’t seem to understand how to schedule. After making the mistake to play Acapulco he is at it again by playing Davis Cup this coming weekend.

The elbow injury after Indian Wells signaled that he still hasn’t recovered from a very demanding run from 2015-16 after all this time but he doesn’t seem to get the message. With a critical clay and grass court season coming up it seems like insanity not to get all the rest he possibly can.

But at least Davis Cup is a maximum of three matches per player so hopefully, it won’t cost him big time later on.

If Djokovic wins the French Open the grass court season becomes interesting. Or else Federer pretty much collects his Wimbledon title. If he fails at the French he could go slamless this year which would allow Federer to clean up and settle the GOAT debate with ease.

Nadal will also make a serious run at his 10th French Open after his recent form while Murray will look to reassert himself too. Stan is also a big threat on clay. I’m very much looking forward to the clay court season.

The Masters events will tell us a lot about what is to come at the French Open!

Federer Wins Third Miami Title Over Nadal

In this situation, I usually like to congratulate the winner regardless of who it was but after the unsavory incident that occurred yesterday in the semis between Federer and Kyrgios I find that hard to do.

Yes, Federer is playing very well right now but that is nothing new. He’s been playing very well since 2015.  The only difference is the slump of Djokovic. But it is hard to give credit when you feel like Federer should not have been in the final, to begin with.

In my last post, I said I wanted Federer to win the title but after I saw that incident at 5-4 in the final set tiebreak again I had a change of mind. After my blog went online again yesterday I had a lot of catching up to do and it was late.

I didn’t have time to digest everything that happened. But that incident in the third set tiebreak, the crowd’s behavior in general, and Mirka’s behavior on top of that left a bad taste in my mouth. After Kyrgios lost the first set in a heartbreaking fashion he did incredibly well to win the second set on a tiebreak and get into the position to close the door on Federer at 5-4 in the final set tiebreak.

We can’t say with 100% certainty that Kyrgios would have won the match but that is beside the point anyway. Even though I believe the momentum had changed and Kyrgios would have won the match, it was criminal for the crowd to get involved there.

Some people are saying it’s Kyrgios’ own fault and that he wasn’t mentally strong enough. How can they possibly say that when Kyrgios had recovered from that first set tiebreak all the way to getting into a winning position?

That took incredible mental strength. He was incredibly clutch in the second set tiebreak. He had changed the momentum, all be it in a subtle way that some may not have picked up, and was up breaks twice in the final set tiebreak.

There was a subtle but definite momentum shift. But then someone called out when Kyrgios hit a ball close to the baseline which would distract anyone. Kyrgios completely mishit the next shot and instantly turned around to confront the spectator who made the ludicrous call.

I’m sorry but that is unacceptable and disgraceful behavior that Kyrgios didn’t deserve after how well he fought in the match. People who read my blog know I’m not the biggest Kyrgios fan but to say he deserved it because of who he is is absurd.

Even if one doesn’t like someone one has to respect the mental strength and fight Kyrgios showed against a rampant crowd and at least have the courtesy not to shout out a line call at the most crucial point in the match. Simply unacceptable. End of story.

  • The Federer Cult Went Too Far This Time

I want to give credit where it’s due but I can’t turn a blind eye to an obvious injustice and to ongoing hooligan behavior from the Federer cult. It started getting ridiculous in the US Open final last year and now it continued in Miami.

It’s becoming absurd now to the point that it is affecting the outcome of matches. It is going too far. It went too far in the US Open final last year already but like I said before Djokovic was so good that he didn’t allow it to get close enough for the crowd to affect the outcome of the match.

That doesn’t mean that it was OK and it is certainly not OK now. Then there was the despicable behavior from Mirka as well who whistled at Kyrgios simply because he was changing his racquet, something players do all the time.

The incident in London where she got involved against Stan was even worse. It has gotten ugly and the Federer cult is out of control. I used to be a Federer fan myself and this used to be a Federer blog.

But I couldn’t associate with what had become an out-of-control cult anymore. That is not what a tennis fan is about to me. One can have favorites but one must still respect other players and not act like your player is entitled to winning everything in sight.

Someone like Kyrgios has behaved poorly in the past but he is 21 years old and an unbelievably gifted player who is is also very sensitive. The treatment he received against Federer is neither good for him nor for the future of tennis.

It’s OK to be tough on him when he acts like an obnoxious brat but when he has been consistent as he has been lately and made an effort to get his act together he deserves a chance I think. He is a fragile but rare talent that needs to be nurtured for the health of the future of tennis.

Treating him with disrespect and disdain will only make him more rebellious and careless.

  • About the Final and the Fedal Rivalry

I fell asleep after the first set of this one-sided final and woke up to see Federer had won 6-3, 6-4. I saw that Nadal was still a shadow of his former self, hitting short, and lacking confidence in general.

Even during his Australian Open run where he had good wins over Zverev, Raonic, and Dimitrov, I felt like there was still a certain vulnerability about Nadal. It also became clear in the final where he was a break up in the fifth set against a player who he owned for all intents and purposes, only to lose the match.

Since when does Nadal lose from that situation? I’m pretty sure it has never happened. Since then he lost to Querrey in the Acapulco final, didn’t beat anyone particularly noteworthy in Indian Wells and Miami, and suffered two more heavy losses against someone he previously owned.

I don’t even know why people said he was back. The Australian Open run was good but he still lost in the final and one good run doesn’t mean you are back. It takes a little more than that. I don’t think there is any doubt that Nadal has declined a lot.

His results since 2014 clearly indicate it. He still won the French Open in 2014 and Madrid, but in 2015 his best result was an ATP 500 title and in 2016 he won only two titles including one Masters in Monte Carlo. That is the fewest titles he won in a season since 2004.

Nadal has lost a step and his strokes lack sting, while Federer is arguably a better player than ever. Not to take anything away from Federer. It is not his fault Nadal played the most taxing game style in the history of tennis.

It was bound to catch up with Nadal, while Federer has always had an economic game style and managed his schedule well. But I guess it is still surprising that Federer at 35 has outlasted Nadal at 30 because that is exactly what happened.

With perhaps a slight adjustment to his backhand(which had already been much-improved since he started playing with a bigger head size), Federer has now defeated a Nadal four consecutive times where he previously had no answers.

It seems the rivalry has now gone to the other extreme. Nadal doesn’t have any answers. Federer just picks off his impotent groundstrokes and declined movement at will. Nadal had no say in the last two meetings.

  • Djokovic Makes Strange Decision to Play Davis Cup

I was puzzled to hear that Djokovic would play Davis Cup this coming weekend for Serbia on hard court just a week before Monte Carlo. How often has he struggled with the elbow injury after winning the personal slam?

Had he taken six months off after Wimbledon like Federer he’d probably the one dominating now. I’m still OK with that part, though. What bothers me is that he doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes.

He should not have come back in Acapulco but was over anxious to play and as a result, he missed one of his best events in Miami and allowed Federer to continue his dominance. Now he seems to be making the same mistake.

I wasn’t even sure if he should play Monte Carlo. Isn’t his body telling him something? And to make matters worse the Davis Cup will be on hard court. Shouldn’t he be playing on clay before Monte Carlo?

But what do I know? I’m not him or his doctor. I just know he can’t afford another single slip up if he wants to stop Federer from dominating the entire season. I am pretty sure Nadal or Murray is not gonna stop Federer.

Does Djokovic want Federer to win the calendar slam? Nadal has declined so much I’m not even sure he can beat Federer on clay anymore. The way things are going Federer will be a serious contender for the French Open.

And that is where Djokovic needs to make a stand while he still can. If he waits until the grass court season he won’t be confident enough to stop Federer from winning Wimbledon…

  • Highlights

Federer and Nadal to Face Off in Second Miami Final

First of all, apologies for my blog going offline. If you were frustrated just know that no one was probably more frustrated than me given that I contacted my host weeks in advance of my domain expiring, trying to avoid the situation of my blog going offline.

So I am disappointed with my host Hostgator but in this situation, I will always keep making updates on Facebook. My new domain name ultimatetennisblog.com is not working yet but my host told me it should go live soon in which case my old domain name will become a redirect.

  • A Look Back at the Past Week

Since my blog was offline and I couldn’t make any posts I will take a quick look at what transpired in the last week or so. With both Djokovic and Murray absent from Miami this was yet another chance for Federer and Nadal to continue their 2017 resurrections.

And unlike Indian Wells, they were at opposite sides of the draw. The top two seeds were Wawrinka and Nishikori, though. There was also Raonic who withdrew after winning one match. As for Wawrinka and Nishikori, they lost to Zverev and Fognini respectively.

Zverev then ran into Kyrgios like he did in Indian Wells but this time he put up a much better fight as Kyrgios edged it 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3 in a brilliant match between the two most promising young stars on the ATP tour.

The tiebreak was something special and this should develop into a very good rivalry in the coming years. Zverev is only still 19 while Kyrgios is a little more experienced at 21. But Zverev is improving fast and I am excited about this player.

There was another match worth mentioning in the top half between Federer and Berdych. Berdych for once played really well against Federer and actually had two match points at 6-4 in the third set tiebreak.

To Federer’s credit, he stayed clutch while Berdych ended the match with a double fault. Even when he is in the zone he manages to choke. That probably sounds harsh but it happens time after time for Berdych against the best players. Nonetheless, it was another high quality and dramatic match.

The bottom half was less exciting with Fognini making a strong run and upsetting Nishikori 6-4, 6-2 and thereby making his second Masters semi-final where he would face his old foe, Nadal.

  • The Semi-Finals

There had already been some great matches this week like the ones between Zverev and Isner and the other two I mentioned and the semis didn’t disappoint. The first semi-final was pretty one-sided with Nadal defeating Fognini 6-1, 7-5.

The second semi-final was anything but one-sided with Federer edging it 7-6(9), 6-7(9), 7-6(5) in what was surely the match of the year so far. As far as best of three-set matches go anyway.

The Federer vs Kyrgios matchup was always going to be a tough one to call if both players kept up their good form. Both players had brutal quarterfinal matches and played brilliantly to come through them.

Their first meeting was as close as it gets with Kyrgios winning 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12). Incredibly, this meeting went to three tiebreaks too. Fortunately for Federer, this isn’t the worst matchup for him.

Federer has always been good at handling big servers. He is great at using the pace of the big serve by blocking it back and he can also make some unbelievable returns on the stretch. I recall a particular slice backhand return off a massive serve down the tee from Kyrgios on the deuce side.

It was in a tiebreak on a big point but I can’t remember which tiebreak and I can’t find it on the highlights. Maybe one of you can remember and remind me. Either way, he does a much better job than Djokovic at handling Kyrgios’ serve.

Funny how that works because no one would ever claim that Federer is a better returner of serve than Djokovic and it once again shows how much of a match up game tennis is. That doesn’t mean that Kyrgios was an easy opponent for Federer by any means.

This was two players with unlimited talent going at it for 12 rounds in a heavyweight bout for the ages. After Kyrgios came back to win the second set and went up 3-1 and 5-4 in the third set tiebreak with two serves to come I thought he would get the job done but unfortunately, the rampant pro-Federer crowd then got involved but more about that later.

For now, I just want to give Federer credit for some more amazing clutch tennis and for how well he has played so far this year. It’s a bit hard for me to believe actually but one must give credit where it’s due.

I say it for the millionth time: Federer is playing as well as ever, if not better than ever.

  • About the Poor Behavior from Mirka and the Crowd in Miami

I don’t really like bringing this up after such an incredible match but I think it is fair to say something about the crowd and Mirka here. It was clear from the outset that this was another heavy pro-Federer crowd because they were quickly on Kyrgios’ case and behaving poorly in general.

It almost backfired against Federer because with Kyrgios serving at 6-7 in the first set tiebreak the crowd called a ball out from Kyrgios which landed on the baseline after which Federer completely mishit the ball. Federer ended up winning the set anyway.

Then there was the incident with Kyrgios serving at 5-4 in the third set tiebreak where Kyrgios hit a ball close to the baseline and again the crowd called it out. It distracted Kyrgios after which he made an unforced error and also lost the next two points to lose the match.

I’m not a Kyrgios fan but I really sympathized with him at this point and I actually gained respect for him during this match because he did incredibly well to come back after losing the opening set and getting into a winning position. I found it most unfortunate that the crowd got involved yet again.

If it was just one match I would have said Kyrgios probably deserves it because he is no doubt obnoxious but this was clearly not the first time. We have seen this many times with rampant pro-Federer crowds, not in the least of which was in the US Open final last year.

On that occasion, Djokovic didn’t allow Federer to make it close enough for the crowd to come into play but it was unnecessary hooligan behavior nonetheless. This is one of the things that put me off from being a Federer fan.

This cult-like extremist following that acts like they are entitled to everything. I don’t think it has any place in tennis and I think it is bad for the sport. Mirka’s behavior is another thing that bothered me.

The cameras caught her whistling with the rest of the rampant crowd at Kyrgios at one point during the match after he changed his racquet. Again, it is not a one-time thing. There was the incident at the O2 Arena where she also got involved in the match calling Federer’s Davis Cup teammate and friend Stan a crybaby.

That is something I have zero tolerance for and I think Mirka has zero class. It makes me wonder about the ‘classy Federer’ talk as well given that Mirka is his wife. Can’t he put a leash on her or something?

It just gives a bad impression like she feels entitled to everything as if anyone who dares to try and defeat Federer is not worthy of respect. That is the same cult-like mentality the Federer crowds and many of his fans have and which I hate seeing in tennis.

Hooligans belong in football. Tennis is supposed to be a civilized sport.

  • The Final

This post is already very long so I won’t say much here. Federer played the second semis and it was a brutal match but since he had a day of rest I think he is the favorite. The conditions do favor Nadal however and if he wants to finally prove that he is back he must win tomorrow.

If Nadal does win Miami he will collect one of the two Masters titles he has never won the other one being Paris. That would equal him with Djokovic in that regard who only misses Cincinnati from his Masters trophy cabinet.

So personally I am rooting for Federer. I think he deserves it more after having a far tougher draw than Nadal and he seems to have the better of Nadal at this point.

It is hard to believe Federer is even in the position to do the Indian Wells/Miami double at 35 after he already won the Australian Open but that is a topic for another time and I’ve already said some things on Facebook about that.

Looking forward to an interesting final!

Who will win?

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  • Highlights