Paris SF: Gael Monfils Saves 5 Match Points to Defeat Roger Federer 7-6(7), 6-7(1), 7-6(4)

I’m sorry for the late post again, but I needed some time to process this loss.  This was obviously another very disappointing loss, given that it was the fourth time this year that Roger had match points and lost. And this time he had no less than five of them. And although all those match points were on the Monfils serve, it was all on second serves. I find that pretty disturbing. Since Wimbledon Roger’s results have really picked up, which is a very positive thing. But even since then he has lost two matches where he had match points. First it was Djokovic in the US Open where he was a point away from winning the match on two occasions, and now Monfils. This is something that probably never happened to Roger in the past. Personally I can’t remember one such occasion, and now it has already happened four times this year alone.

It is not a sign of confidence, whichever way you look at it. After looking flat from the start, Roger fights back from being a set down to being 4-1 up in the third, only to lose serve again and waste five match points at 6-5. But this was an all too familiar scene. That is what really bothers me. When Monfils was serving at 5-6 to stay in the match, somehow I just knew this was going to a tie break. I just knew Roger would not close out the match there after what I have seen in the past. I even knew it when he gave back the break in the third. It was all over when that happened. The situation was all too familiar. It concerns me because these kind of matches is a true test of a players mental toughness. It’s easy to win when everything is going your way and you are playing well. But the true test is when you are having a bad day.

Then the best still find a way to win. And it seemed for all the world that Roger would do just that after fighting back in the second set and going up a break in the third. Right there the match should have been over. But there is something hesitant in Roger these days which deeply concerns me. It’s like the killer instinct is gone, and I don’t know what the reason is for it. One of my theories is that the heart breaking defeats that Roger suffered at the hands of Nadal has made him mentally fragile. But if that was the case, then how did he manage to win three slams since then?  This all basically started after he won the Australian Open this year after that loss to Baghdatis in Indian Wells. I thought his recent run of form would give him enough confidence to come through a match like the one against Monfils.

Apparently not. This loss will hurt his confidence badly. It’s as if all the hard work of late have been undone again. If you can’t trust yourself to come through the tough ones, you really can’t trust yourself at all. This whole recent run of Roger started when he grinded out that win against Berdych in Toronto. And what happened to Berdych after that match? His results have been dismal to say the least. The importance of winning these kind of matches can’t be overstated. The loss against Djokovic at the US Open didn’t seem to have too bad an effect on Roger at least. He had good results after that. But personally I felt that was almost a positive loss, given what was at stake if he lost to Nadal in the final. I really had high hopes for Roger in Paris and the Masters Cup. The fact that Roger lost in the semi’s of Paris may be a bigger deal than you think.

What concerns me is the effect it will have on his confidence going into the MC. Just as grinding out a tough win can put Roger on the path of success(Berdych Toronto), so can a loss like this put you on the path of failure(Berdych Miami). I really hope this loss to Monfils doesn’t have the same effect. If Roger had won the match against Monfils, he would probably have won the final as well and be the overwhelming favorite going into the MC. But now Nadal is a bigger favorite. He had a chance to send Nadal a serious message before London, which could have made the difference between him getting an all important victory over the world number one or not. But now he isn’t the clear favorite anymore and it’s really anybody’s title. Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, and Soderling all come into the picture now.

It will be tough to win it now on the back of this loss to Monfils. I wanted Roger to  make the finals in Paris at least. That way there would have been a 1000+ points swing at the top of the rankings, and a loss to Soderling could have been excused due to tiredness. But losing to Monfils of all people after having five match points is certainly not the boost he was looking for going into the all important MC. I’m trying to find the positives here but it’s not easy. The positive is Roger’s general from of late. He did win three titles and beat Djokovic three times since Wimbledon, while losing to him once in a major. He also beat Soderling twice. But again, I can’t help but regret the fact that Roger did not become the first player to reach all the Masters Series finals. By making the finals of Paris, he would also have become the first player to reach five consecutive MS finals.

It deeply saddens me, but it is as if Roger lacks the edge these days. It is as if he keeps falling over the final hurdle. If he had taken advantage of one of the five match points in his match against Monfils, then everything would have been perfect, regardless of what happened in the final. All Monfils did was get everything back with his ridiculous speed and made Roger play that one extra ball, very much like Murray does. On one match point it looked like Roger hit a winner, but Monfils made an amazing get. Still, the court was wide open. All Roger had to do was stroke the ball into the open court, but he hit the ball into the tape. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Roger got several lucky net tips which won him the point outright. Despite all of that he could not close out the deal. It is very disappointing to say the least.

Because of this Roger is not my favorite to win the Masters Cup. Even though he is currently the most in form player, I don’t know if he has the mentality to win this event anymore. The onus in now on him to prove me wrong. If he does win the MC, I will be pleasantly surprised, but I’m not setting myself up for failure again. My current stance is that he can’t do it. I know this may sound very harsh and negative to you, but frankly I had enough of having my day spoiled by another inexplicable loss. For once I’m going to set my expectations low. That way I can only win. Prove me wrong, Roger.

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=federer+vs+monfils+paris&aq=f

Interview: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=454801410985

Roger Federer


Posted in Uncategorized and tagged , .

38 Comments

  1. “Very harsh and negative”

    Really? This is as subtle a take one could take after Fed’s SF show. I completely agree with you. And more.

    My theory is lack_of_confidence or not, Federer doesn’t have the sufficient “humility” (could be wrong, but can’t think of a better word) anymore to work for a point/match when his opponents try harder against him. It’s like he has that “How dare he does it to me? I’m Roger Freaking Federer.” attitude which makes him play an ego-driven (euphemism) tennis at times, to his own disadvantage.

    Two instances from his 2 recent losses:

    Murray played 2 splendid dropshots earlier in that Shanghai Final which completely outfoxed Fed. So what’s Fed’s reaction? He tries that “I will beat you at your own game” nonsense at Murray on a crucial break point to get back on serve in the first set, while he had the open court and time to play a forceful FH. That Drop shot was a colossal failure. Fed looked deflated and almost insulted after that moment (like ‘maybe I should not have done it’ kind of face). It was the turning point in that match imo and Murray never looked back.

    Again in Paris SF, Monf played 2 great drop shots earlier and at 5-all in the first set tiebreaker, Fed played a very casual drop shot, trying to put Gael in his place in a what was supposed to be a minor yet an informal battle of drop shots. Again, it was a failure. I’m disappointed that he lost a golden opportunity to win the Paris Masters.

    Four or five years ago, this might not have mattered much. But at this stage of his career, Federer has to get rid of this attitude for him to succeed in matches like these. Remember how he buckled down, focused and tried very hard for every point in RG’09 without going for unnecessarily ego-driven tennis? Okay, going for a career slam is a big deal and probably not an appropriate comparison here. But, Fed-Berd match in Toronto is a good example. Fed was again playing a “How dare you beat me twice?” brand of tennis there, but he was still willing to work hard for the points/victory, especially in the later stages of the 3rd set without trying to simply dimissive about his opponent. That’s the Fed I’d like to see at this stage!

    I hope Fed gives a strong performance in MC!

    On a different note, I think you tend to underestimate all of Fed’s opponents a tad too much until Fed actually loses a match. :-P

    Otherwise this is a great Fed fan blog.

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    Jiten Reply:

    Cannot agree more on the drop-shot issue. I am no Paul Annacone; but if I were so, I would have advised Fed not to try drop shots when he is breakpoint down or has a breakpoint and during tie-breaks. It is costing Rog too many matches. I am sure, had he not tried that one in the first set tie-break against Monfils, it would have been a straight sets win for Fed.

    Having said that, I am still very happy with his form post-Wimby. A win loss statistics of 33-4 is very good even by Roger’s standard. I disagree with Ru-an that Fed is not a favorite for London. Let’s be positive.

    COME ON FED. YOU CAN DO IT.

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  2. When Roger is missing his FH it´s a bad sign, from the very beginning I knew my day might be bad. The match crushed me.But a match point on your opponent´s serve is very different from a match point on your serve.
    I have never seen Monfools so focused, with a sleevess shirt, those muscles…hummm and a shadow against Sod.
    Roger´s words always make me feel better.Anyway I´ll get over it and Roger too.At least you are not talking about retire…the guy is ending the year as N# 2-1 for
    eight consecutives years, give a guy a break!
    Roger is human and 60-13 with a Slam, a Master win and two others titles for me this has been a pretty good year.Don´t complain, find yourselves a better player who
    is never tired, never has brain cramps during matches, never gets broken, never losses MPS,more consistent than
    Roger and be happy!!!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Too many brain cramps and losses MPs these days.

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  3. Ruan,

    I too was totally devastated by this loss. But maybe with his confidence level build up, could it be one step forward two steps back until his confidence level is absolute? Just a thought.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good comment Gemma. I hope that is the case.

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  4. It’s not the end of the world. Sometimes a loss is just a bad day and nothing more. It doesn’t always mean his game is crumbling.

    Federer made seven straight non-Slam finals before this, winning three of them. He played Stockholm, Shanghai, and Basel in quick succession and went to at least the finals of each. You have to expect him to have a small lapse sometime.

    And remember he never made the semis in Paris before, not even in his salad days. This is his career-best result at this tournament.

    You know people always play extra-well against Federer because they want to say they beat the greatest player of all time. A victory over him is the highlight of most players’ careers.

    Someone like Canas would be completely forgotten if he hadn’t beaten Federer twice. So Monfils produced his best stuff, especially since he was in front of his home crowd.

    I can’t really be too disappointed in Federer. He’s given us so much already. Onward and upward.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good post Steve. Sometimes i guess i am hard on him, but only cos i want the best for him. I want him to win 2 more slams. Thats all im asking. Then it will be very hard for Nadal to catch him. If he does you just have to say too good. But i dont want Roger to start fading a way this soon. He has fitness and an economic game style on his side. He must make these last few years count where Nadal wont be able to contend at slams anymore. My worry is that he will drop quickly out of the top 5 in 2011 if he does not win the close ones. Players will get so confident against him, knowing that he cant win the close ones. And then his days at the slams will be numbered as well. You are right. The Paris loss isnt the worse thing ever. He would have been tired after so much tennis of late. I am just concerned about the fact that he cant win those close ones.

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  5. “This is something that probably never happened to Roger in the past. Personally I can’t remember one such occasion, and now it has already happened four times this year alone.”

    Losing after not taking matchpoints of his own did happen to Federer before, but never 4 times a year like this year. He lost to Safin at the semifinals of 2005 AO after 1 matchpoint, to Gasquet at the quarterfinals of 2005 MC after 3 matchpoints and to Nadal at the final of 2006 Rome after 2 matchpoints.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks for the info robert, i wasnt sure of that. The one MP against someone like Safin at his peak was obviously not such a big deal. The 3 MPs vs Gasquet was not that good, although Gasquet was a different player back then. And vs Nadal on clay you can forgive him. But when it happens vs the likes of Baghdatis, Berdych, Monfils, and Djokovic in one year, you know there is a problem. Still, at least we know now it has happened before, so its not something entirely new.

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    Jiten Reply:

    “On one match point it looked like Roger hit a winner, but Monfils made an amazing get.”

    Ru-an, in my opinion that GET won Monfils the match. On another day, that would have been a winner not only for Fed but for any other player against anybody. I guess, we are too critical about Fed’s inability to convert the break points. Didn’t he try? I guess, he tried more than hundred percent. But those kind of GETs happens once in a bluemoon. And remember, Monfils had to play out of his skins to eke out that win; give him also some credit rather than criticizing Fed.

    Also, I have noticed that Fed is getting irritated during matches quite often; perhaps this also has to do with shanking those forehands.

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  6. I wonder why we all get so depressed after a loss? I don’t really understand it.
    I think Roger will do great things when he retires from tennis. Maybe the UN? He has a lot of respect for his sportsmanship and that could carry over to a humanitarian role somewhere in the world. Could it be that tennis is just the catalist for greater things to come.

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  7. I agree with Steve and want to add something more. From the very beginning Federer was showing signs of tiredness or tentativeness or whatever you want to call it. May be you have forgotten how long it took for him to win the very first game. May it not be so much of play for him in the last few weeks? After all he is 29 and his physique does not allow him to play as well as when he was 24. During the tiebreak in the first set his drop shot failed him and at that very moment I thought that it was not going Federer’s way that day.And from the very beginning Monfils played very well. It was his day and he took advantage of the opportunity. Of course I am sad for his loss but at the same time I would like to give credit to Monfils for the excellent play. Of course if he had played as bad as in the final the next day it would be all Federer, but that was not to be. I was so delighted to hear Soderling congratulate Monfils for defeating Federer because he thought that defeating Federer was such a big achievement. What a complement!I am hopeful that Federer will win WTF and add one more milestone.

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  8. I didn’t think Federer was tired. Besides, he said he was fit and feeling healthy the whole tournament. Fresh, wasn’t that the word he used?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Roger was definitely looking very flat out there.

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  9. Great post Ruan and excellent points made by everyone else. Nothing to add except to share the concern that Roger was unable to close out. The positives were the Semi final showing was his best effort in Paris. Monfils played out of his planet. He couldn’t have played any better, although when he was playing less than better, Roger should have closed the door on him. I believe he will be a prime contender for London, but yes, there will be Murray, Nadal and now Soderling too. I was happy for Soderling who won his first masters and he has always thought the world of Roger. It was definitely a tribute he paid to Monfils at the final, congratulating him on his victory. Onward to London.

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  10. Tiredness may be physical or mental. I think after playing continuously for a few wekks Federer may have been tired mentally. May be something else. Cannot say, but my point is he was not at his best that day.

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  11. Ruan, I understand your gloom. I don’t think I have ever seen a player of Federer’s class lose so many matches from a winning position – and against opponents he once owned or at least had the measure of.

    A mentally tough player rescues matches that he appears to be losing. That was Federer between 2004-7. So, what are we to make of a player who often loses from a winning position – which is the Federer we see today, in 2010? Sure, the matches are tight in these match-point situations, but we know that it is Federer who is more likely to crack than his opponent. ‘Crack’ is too kind a word – collapse is more accurate; he loses with shanks, wild mis-hits and appalling shot selection.

    I cannot remember Sampras giving away big matches that he appeared to have control of – the guy was a tremendous battler. To me, the ability to tough it out is what Federer doesn’t seem to have in his game; of course he tries hard but his nerve increasingly fails him in the clutch – he has reverted to the weakness of his youth.

    Why? I can only think that he no longer has the supreme self-confidence, based on his astonishing talent, that enabled him to believe he could beat anyone if he needed to (which Pete also had), and that is possibly attributable to the field closing the gap on his skills, and (as you suspect)the crucial losses to Nadal at key times in his career. I still remember the match points lost with ballooning forehands in the Rome final in 2006; in a terrible kind of way it was a harbinger of the painful losses to come – chiefly against relentless grinders but especially Nadal. The Federer ‘achilles heel’ was then momentarily exposed but now it is almost Quasimodo-like in its proportions; if Roger has to battle for the win he is more likely to lose than not.

    I am sorry but I cannot see him doing ‘a Sampras’ and claiming another slam in his autumnal years. The difference between them is all in the mind. The Australian Open final of 2010 seems a long way away.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good post Neil. I think Sampras was definitely mentally better. Roger has never been a natural ‘killer’. He relied mostly on his talent to dominate. Nadal has showed since the start that this side of Roger can be exposed. And now it is become more and more exposed like a gaping wound. But lets not forget that he has already won two more slams than Sampras. You cant count a guy like this out from winning more slams, although i now believe that is possible.

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    steve Reply:

    Federer is very different from Sampras.

    Sampras was a machine, like Nadal. He was mentally impervious. He would just grind it out and continue executing relentlessly until the result was decided one way or the other.

    There’s always the sense that Federer’s game is very delicate; it requires perfect balance and constant tiny adjustments to succeed. If he’s off by just a little bit, it doesn’t work.

    It’s the price of such a beautiful artistic game. The greatest thrill of dancing comes from the peril the dancer places himself in–he might fall at any minute. That’s why it’s so breathtaking: it’s both exquisitely beautiful and ephemerally fragile.

    People are far too pessimistic regarding Federer’s chances. His game is still a work in progress; it may be many months before he is confident enough with playing more aggressively to come through crunch situations.

    I can only think that he no longer has the supreme self-confidence, based on his astonishing talent, that enabled him to believe he could beat anyone if he needed to

    People should have more faith in a great champion, especially one who has mastered such a beautiful, versatile, and inventive game.

    Pure talent got him into the top ten, but it took far more than talent to win majors. It isn’t like he just stepped on court and waved a magic wand and started winning.

    The tremendous self-confidence was not something that dropped into his lap; he had to work long and hard before he was confident enough in his game to start winning. And he is continuing to work hard to adapt his game, to get confident enough to win big titles again.

    His greatest trait is his fundamental optimism, something that his fans don’t always share. He will always believe in his own ability and he will always work hard to maximize that ability.

    When he is done, the achievements of Sampras will seem more in the league of where Becker’s or Wilander’s are today. That’s not a knock on Sampras at all; just a statement of what Federer is capable of.

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    ines Reply:

    Great analysis Steve,always loving your comments.

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    steve Reply:

    Thanks, Ines!

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  12. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/518367-oh-my-roger-the-unfair-public-perception-of-roger-federer

    PLs read the above article Ruan. Tim makes an excellent point! Lets enjoy every single time RF takes the court without being focused on the result.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good article.

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    steve Reply:

    The author is a notorious Federer-hater (and rabid Nadal fanatic), who wrote a lot of nasty and bitter articles about Federer.

    I’m guessing the site mods told him to tone it down, because he’s been on better behavior for a while.

    But he’s a panderer who blows with the wind. When Federer wins again I’m sure he’ll start spewing his usual venom. He can’t help it.

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  13. I think that even with admittedly very convincing article by Tim Ruffin and nice posts by many bloggers, Ruan is back to square one convinced that Federer has become mentally extremely weak to be able to win another slam and that is the end of the world. I,for one, disagree. Why not give credit to the winners for a good performance in a given situation? And reportedly he could not convert three match points against Gasquet in the past. What if in the second round Gasquet had defeated Federer? He played not that bad in my opinion.Jiten’s assessment is very convincing.Thanks to him.Before the semifinal with Monfils Ruan was so sure of Federer’s win in semifinal and the final and what not. Ruan put too much expectation. I thought that he will be terribly disappointed should somehow Federer lose and that is exactly what transpired.And Federer is not getting due appreciation for what he accomplished at 29 after Wimbledon 2010.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well if he continued to play the way he was up till the semis he would have won the event easily. I didnt know he was going to have a flat day. But that is expected these days i guess. The point is he cant fight through his flat days at this point. He fights back but then loses anyway. All the hard work for nothing.

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  14. A couple of things: First, Monfils was playing in Paris, and the crowd was (to put it mildly) wildly supportive–think about the crowd’s support of Llorda the day before. That’s not a small thing to an athlete. Second, Monfils was absolutely in-the-zone in terms of his serving; all of us know about his athleticism–perhaps only Rafa is (perhaps surpasses, in terms of consistency) his league so far as that goes. I agree with Ruan that Roger’s struggle in the first game gave us a window into the shape he was in and what was to come. Recall his three prior matches, the (amazing these days, but not this past week) reliability (!) and razor-sharpness of Roger’s serve. Roger’s state of mind was also evident in his testiness to Fergus Murphy–very unusual for Roger, though his unhappiness with his game, with himself, is, as others have noted, beginning to surface. Just one other point: I think that most would agree that what we saw was Roger’s B game, from first to last, and look how close (5 match points!) he came to winning. And this was with his B game. Is his A game, now, basically, not to be seen any more, on a consistent basis? And if that’s so, and if, as another poster has observed, players always play beyond themselves when Roger is on the other side of the net, those who love Roger as a player better adjust their expectations–seriously–as they watch a profound moment in a champion’s career: his inevitable slide to the sidelines. How Roger will act; how he’ll play; how he’ll grow through the process (as Andre absolutely grew in stature as a player and a human being) is now, and will become more and more, the drama on center court we’ll all be witnessing. His doing it with grace may be the only Slam he’ll win from now on.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah i guess i cannot face the possibility of him sliding. Id like him to have at least two more good years in which he wins at least two more slams. Anything less than that and id be disappointed i guess.

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    marron Reply:

    Agassi won the FO at age 29, and the 03 AO at age 32. Pete Sampras won the USO at age 31. I can’t see Roger never winning a slam again.

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  15. Ruan,
    I’m into this game just as much if not more than the folks posting here. Little bummed he lost, and didn’t even expect it to happen. In other words, I was out enjoying the day, and was sure I was going to see a Soderling-Federer final, but the guy was in 3 finals in a row. He’s looking alot better to me, and my theory is that, he is so good, that with the kids and all, he probably took a little too much time away from the practice, and just a little slip is too much. I can remember that first match at Wimbledon, and I was shocked, but it all makes sense now. He relizes what needs to be done, and it’ll happen, but he will never win, like he used to. I think he’ll have his share of ups and downs for the rest of his career. What a tough thing to do when you have a family. I’m looking forward to many more wins with Federer. Go Rog. G

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  16. I see that being a fan can make you blind to what you don’t want to see. Roger is not the player he was 3 years ago. Nor is he like any other great player of the past – there is no pattern that he can follow except his own. Clearly, the rest of the field has closed in on him. Details aside, we can pretty much see what lies ahead. At one time or another in their careers, it is the fate of all champions.

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  17. Nice article on how Federer’s adjustments are paying off

    http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/columns/story?columnist=garber_greg&id=5812222

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    marron Reply:

    Nice article, thank you, jiten.

    Again, Ru-an, Federer says, *clearly*, that he is mentally fresh and feeling fit physically as well. Why do you make these excuses for him? Sometimes he loses a match. It happens. Monfils was playing simply great. They all can do that now and again… it’s the consistency that separates the two top guys from the rest, imho.
    I agree, your comment about setting your expectations lower is a good one – easier on your psyche. Cheers.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Of course Monfils played out of his skin. The point is Roger fought hard after being very flat, and made it all the way back to being a break up in the third and having MPs. And it is hardly the first time something like this has happened.

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  18. To complete that stats on matches lost after wasted MPs:
    Federer also lost to Henman in the semifinals of 2000 Vienna after 2 MPs; to Rafter in the quarterfinals of 2001 Halle after 1 MP; to Haas in the R4 of 2002 AO after 1 MP; to A. Costa in the quarterfinals of 2003 Miami after 3 MPs.

    Add to this previously quoted cases of Safin (2005), Gasquet (2005) and Nadal (2006), as well as this year’s 4 cases of Baghdatis, Berdych, Djokovic and Monfils.

    To recap: this happened in 11 matches over 11 years. Problem is, the trend is very much sharply negative this year. It used to happen either once a year or not at all, but this year it happened 4 times.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yup, its not a good trend no matter how positively we look at it.

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  19. Not sure i am taking this the wrong, typically back 2 back weeks on playing does takes a lot out of a player especially after winning a tourney one the first week. They tend to get a bit flat come 2nd week, I think its body screamining for longer rest. Its unfortunate that Roger lost to Monfils but overall results at Bercy is one of the best for past few years now.

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