Reflections on the Indoor Season

I want to look back now on what has been another terrific month in the career of Roger Federer, and more specifically his record 6th Masters Cup title and the interview after that epic win. One post after the final was not really enough to cover everything. It was also late for me and my concentration wasn’t quite at it’s best. The last month has been a bit of a resurgence for Roger. In 2010 a similar thing happened when the North American hard court season started. That was after Roger had a very disappointing summer and decided to get some outside help in the form of Paul Annacone. It paid off immediately as he won Cincinnati, Stockholm, Basel, and the Masters Cup towards the end of the year. A lot was expected for 2011 after the way he finished 2o10. Overall 2011 turned out to be a more consistent year than 2010, but of course it lacked a slam title.

This can to a large extent be ascribed to the emergence of Djokovic 2.0. Roger did not lose to Djokovic in the natural surface slams, but he did so in both the hard court slams. That is a potential of two slam titles he missed out on because of Djok0vic 2.0. You could say that he lost to Djokovic at the 2011 US Open in a similar fashion than he did at the 2010 US Open, so what is the difference? Well I think both Roger and Djokovic played better in the 2011 US Open semi than they did in 2010. Roger actually played very well in this year’s US Open. It was all JesusFed after he beat Cilic, and only a freakish return from Djokovic denied him a final spot. In a sense I was happy he lost that match, since if he beat Djokovic he could have lost to Nadal in the final which would have meant complete ownage in the head-to-head. I even made a post after that match suggestion the possibility of divine intervention from the tennis gods.

That return from Djokovic was so good and so unexpected that it did have a feel of divine intervention about it. And look how it all worked out. Nadal was denied another slam by Djokovic and Roger took advantage of a beaten down Nadal at the Masters Cup, getting a much needed convincing win over his so called nemesis. I’m not saying Roger would have lost to Nadal had he made the US Open final, but there was a good possibility, and it would have been a huge blow to him. Roger already said in his presser after his Masters Cup triumph that the French Open final loss to Nadal was his biggest disappointment of the year, and not the loss to Djokovic in the US Open semis. Imagine what it could have done to him if he lost to Nadal in the US Open final! Losing to Nadal in the French Open final is one thing, but being beaten by Nadal in the one slam left where he hasn’t lost to Nadal would have been near disaster.

I know there is a lot of speculation involved here, but if that had happened Roger may not have been able to bounce back as well as he did in the indoor season. Nadal would also have been more confident and I doubt that epic 6-3, 6-0 win over Nadal would ever have materialized. I have already stated how valuable that win was not only for me as a fan, but also for Roger in his rivalry with Nadal. It can’t be overstated. In fact it may be more valuable to me than his 6th Masters Cup title. Winning a record 6th Masters Cup is of course an amazing achievement, but beating another all time great in that fashion after all the misery that Nadal has inflicted upon him and his fans is immense. Maybe it’s just me, but that win gave me more satisfaction than winning a 6th Masters Cup. It was just the ultimate satisfaction.

I don’t know if it gets better than that. To come back to my original point, I think one of the biggest reasons Roger missed out on a slam this year was Djokovic 2.0. It was just something that could not be predicted and took everyone by surprise. Why would things be any different next year you ask? This question also relates to the fact that Roger won the Masters Cup last year, causing everyone to be excited about 2011. Why should this time be any different? This is a question that is on the minds of many Fedfans. First of all Djokovic will have a lot of pressure next year to replicate what he did this year. He has so many titles and points to defend that it is almost certain that he won’t do the same thing he did this year. He will be the hunted. That is one reason Roger may have a better shot at a slam in 2012.

Another reason may be that Roger have sorted out some mental problems during his post US Open break. This has come to the fore in his presser after Sunday’s final, which I thought was a good one.

Q. You talked about the fact that this time you managed to win a close match, maybe a few times this season it hasn’t gone your way. What made the difference today? Is it a mental thing?
ROGER FEDERER: I think it’s a mental thing, yes. Not only. Sometimes it’s also the player playing better than you. Jo played better than me at Wimbledon. Maybe not much, but enough just to come through. Same as Rafa at the French Open in the finals, Novak in the semis of the US Open. It’s fine to respect that. But I feel when it happens maybe that often, I do have to question myself that maybe I did something wrong.
I think I’m mentally good right now. That was also one of the reasons why I did take some time off, to actually think it through, you know, get into the right mental mindset because we do I don’t want to say underestimate or overestimate the mental part of the game, but there is a lot of time that goes by out on tour, during a match, you’re just trying to stay positive, but you can’t always be positive out there. You know, it’s just too difficult. That’s where maybe the doubts were just a bit too strong during certain important moments.
I think I didn’t have those doubts now for the remainder of the season, which is what I wanted to get out of my system during this six weeks’ break, and I was able to do that.

http://www.menstennisforums.com/showthread.php?t=193353&page=17

The part of his answer that I bolded is the most important part for me. Roger has been known in the past to be stubborn and not questioning himself enough. He tended to not take responsibility for his losses, and instead saying his opponent was just better. If you are Roger Federer that is hardly ever the case. One of the extremely few exceptions I can think of was the match against Safin at the 2005 Australian Open. Safin is immensely talented and on that day I think it would have been OK for Roger to just admit that his opponent was better. But 99% of the time that is not the case. Take for instance the three matches that are mentioned here. The match against Djokovic at the US Open may be an exception because that return just came out of nowhere and it messed with Roger’s mind a bit.

You could say the same for the French Open and Wimbledon losses too I suppose. You can say that Nadal is just too good on clay, and that Tsonga just played incredible tennis from the third set onward. But at some point you gotta ask yourself whether you also played a role in those losses. It seems like that is what Roger did in his break. It is easy to say Roger has made changes when he is winning however. A lot of you have made comments in the last few days saying that Roger is more willing to grind out there nd win ugly when the going gets tough. I wasn’t so sure however. It is easy to say these things during the indoor season when the conditions favor Roger and everything is going smoothly. I find it hard to make these kind of judgments just because he is winning and playing on his favorite surface.

The real test will come when the conditions are less favorable and he starts losing again. Having said that, it is encouraging to read in his presser that he was thinking things over and doing some introspection. So if he did indeed sort out those mental issues, this may be another reason he can win a slam next year. We will just have to see. Just because he had a spectacular end to the year does not guarantee success at slam level next year. He did the same last year and he couldn’t win a slam. Unfortunately there is no indoor slam. On the natural surfaces there is the problem of uneven bounce, meaning Roger can’t take the ball as early and hit it as cleanly as indoors. At the hard court slams you have the weather conditions to deal with as well as the slow courts. Indoor courts are an unrealistic indicator of Roger’s form in a lot of ways.

Also, lets not forget that Djokovic was not exactly on top form during the indoor season. But all in all I’m gonna say that I am positive about Roger’s chances for winning a 17th slam next year. Aside from the Australian Open title in early 2010, the last two years have been a bit of a dry spell for Roger. He lost before the semi-finals of a slam on three occasions, twice at Wimbledon of all places. But the good thing is that Roger is looking to make changes. In 2010 he got Annacone on board. It paid off but then Djokovic 2.0 showed up. This time he decided to take some time off to look at the mental part of his game. These are all good signs and I think it is almost bound to pay off. It is only when you become stagnant that there is a serious problem. So with Djokovic having a lot of pressure next year and Roger having made some mental adjustments, I’d like to believe Roger’s chances of winning a slam next year is looking good.

Q. I know it rather bucks the argument that people are playing too much tennis at the moment. Do you think to make the Masters final extra special, it should return to being the best of five sets?
ROGER FEDERER: The finals?

Q. Of this tournament.
ROGER FEDERER: I think so. I think so. I mean, if it’s a match like this, it’s fine. I think it’s still enough tennis for the people. I think it’s exciting. We had the whole scenario today in today’s match.
But if I would have served it out, it would have been over in a hurry. I think I almost felt the spectators weren’t quite ready for it to end quite yet, although many would have been happy for me, they would have loved to see more tennis.
I remember sitting in a room in Shanghai where players were asked, Would you like it to be five sets or three sets, the year end final? Kind of went in a circle.
Everyone said best of three sets. I was the only guy that said, I think we should have best of five sets. Okay, let’s make it best of three sets. I don’t care.
I do care actually. I think it makes for a great year end. Sure, you can see why maybe it’s healthier to play best of three sets. Maybe the year end could be a best of five set match. I do believe that, yeah.

I must say I totally agree with Roger here. It is a bit of a shame that they took away the five set finals in Masters Series events, but in a sense that is understandable. But the Masters Cup is just below the slams and deserves a five set final. After the tournament the year is done anyway and the problem of recovery time is not there. If you look at Sunday’s final, it could have been a very one-sided, straight forward match if Roger closed it out when he was serving at 5-4 in the second set. I was actually happy when Tsonga broke at that point, as I’m sure many of the spectators were. This is one of the big finals of the year and people pay a lot for their tickets, and for it to be over after two straight forward sets is a waste in my mind. Luckily Tsonga raised his game and it turned out to be a fantastic final to end the year.

Q. I think the World Tour Finals equals a Grand Slam as a major title event. Now you have 16 Grand Slam titles and six World Tour Final titles. How much satisfaction do you have holding both records?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, of course I’m extremely happy and extremely proud. I still don’t feel like I’m better than Pete Sampras, or Lendl for that matter. I still believe they are one of the all time greats to play the game. I’m just happy to be compared to them.
I’m actually happy that they are mentioned while I’m doing this because they have done amazing things in our sport. Sometimes legends do get forgotten rather quickly, which is unfortunate.
So for me to hear we are talking about Pete, Ivan, other players, I think is great for the sport and great for them. I mean, that I hold both records, sure, I’m very happy about it, I’m proud, because I know the effort that has gone into it. It’s longevity, it’s something you can’t just do over a short period of time.
I used to be famous for not being consistent. I think this one proves to me that I was able, and proves to maybe many people, that if I can be, then many other people can be successful for a long period of time, as well, because I thought that was a very difficult thing to achieve.

This was another interesting question, although I don’t agree that a Masters Cup equals a slam title. I’d say it’s more like 1 slam = 2 Masters Cup titles. If that is the case then Roger is now effectively on 19 slams, almost double the amount Nadal has. The Masters Cup is very prestigious and having won six of them is one of the biggest achievements of Roger’s career. There is after all no indoor slam and it is very fitting to call the Masters Cup the fifth slam. It is also a bit surprising there that Roger says he still doesn’t think he is better than Sampras or Lendl. That just shows what respect he has for the past legends, and it is also his humble side coming out. I think it is pretty obvious that he is much better than either of those players.

Q. With so many titles and records in the bag, how do you assess your hunger and desire? Has it dipped at all? Is it stronger than ever?
ROGER FEDERER: It’s normal really. I don’t go through phases where I feel like I want to play 10 more years and then only six more months. I always look ahead one and a half to two years, and that’s still the same right now. Then as time goes by, you know, you see how the body is.
I love this game more than anybody, so I’m not all of a sudden going to wake up in the morning and say I don’t like it anymore.
It’s a lot of sacrifice. It’s a lot of effort I have to put in every day. I know that. But I do enjoy that because what I get in return is moments like I got today, with my team, with my family. It’s priceless really. So for this reason I’m very excited for next year.
I am happy that the season is over because it has been long, it has been grueling. But, yeah, I’m very happy and upbeat about what’s to come.

I wanted to end with this because this pretty much sums up Roger. He loves the game more than anybody. That is the key to his success and his longevity. No worries Fedfans, this ride is far from over…

 

For you who missed it, I also want to share this video. It just goes to show what a classy and humble guy Roger is, and what a great ambassador he is for the sport. He makes time for everyone and he even introduces himself as if he is just another regular guy. This is really the best part for me about being a Fedfan, knowing that I support a guy who is a real person. There will never be another Roger Federer.

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29 Comments

  1. More good analysis Ruan. Agree the biggest obstacle for Roger was his stubborness. I think once he was able to accept responsibility Anacone could really do his job. “When the student is ready the teacher will appear” I understand how hard this must have been for Roger, for years, without a coach, everything Roger did worked. I loved the tape, after Roger had won, of Rogers Mom and Anacone hugging. I believe Roger and his team have a PLAN and everyone is working toward this goal. I’m glad the match went three sets, i certainly wanted more. I am always grateful for every minute Roger is on court.

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  2. Great analysis Ru-an. Agree with everything you pointed out. As always, you have a good flow and order in your writing which makes great effortless reading and gives much satisfaction. I think most of us agree that AO2012 will be very telling just exactly where Roger is in his game and especially in his mentality; I’m looking forward to a Roger who is RELENTLESS in everything he does not allowing the competition to even get a sniff; but if they should get a sniff, that Roger would be able to absorb the pressure and RELENTLESSLY find a way to win. No checking out, no going to sleep, Sir Roger, no, you don’t!! His pressers are jewels; there’s a refreshing openness and they have been more insightful since he came back from his break. It is so gratifying and inspiring to watch such a non-pretentious, happy, relaxed, regular man in Roger. I just love the video clip you attached. Man, isn’t he just SO normal and friendly and nice and lovable?! I just love the way Roger walks; he has such a relaxed, sexy, classy swagger, don’t you think?!

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  3. Great post, his interview transcript is very informative especially on his state of mind moving forward. We are well aware that he is not as clutch as Nadal but its good to hear that he is trying to hang tough there. I hope he continue to condition his mental ie winning ugly. His passion for tennis is his fuel to drive him further to improve himself. Can’t wait for 2012, 6 weeks seems so long

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  4. I agree about best of 5 set finals being better. They were always more exciting and better for the game. Remember 2005 Miami and 2006 Rome? Those were really amazing finals that will most likely never happen again. The Rome match was the French Open final that we never got to see. Unfortunately, the tour is dominated by grinding tennis now and players who want to shorten the schedule. They’ve turned the tour into best of 3 set women’s tennis.

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  5. Ruan, thanks for a fantastic post.
    as for Fed’s chances in slams next season: i firmly believe that fed can beat anyone on any surface, even Nadal on clay, even though that is obviously the most difficult task. nowadays he needs a bit more luck than in previous years, meaning that if he gets involved in a 4-5 sets matches b4 semis i think it deminishes his chances to go all the way. furthermore, we already know that he is bound to have at least one “bad day” in a big tournament, so we can just hope that this bad day will come against a weak opponent.
    also i am not worried about Djoko so much, he is a great player but i have no doubt that Fed can beat him when he is focused. Fed’s thoughest opponent has always been and still is Rafa.
    i would love for fed to take AO !!! if he will, it would be the 3rd major that Fed has won 5 times ! also it became my favorite major over the years. maybe coz first time i saw Fed play (on tv) and was totally enchanted was in AO (on green courts…)
    i cant wait for 2012 to start. time flies when you’re a tennis fan.

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  6. Yes I agree. The AO used to be my favorite major before 2008. The AO just has not been the same atmosphere ever since 2007 after they changed the court. Rebound ace was a fast, terrific surface which produced a lot of amazing matches. I’m not only saying that because it favors Federer. The tennis from everyone in general was much more fun to watch back then. Matches often went 5 sets there and were very thrilling on that court. The 2005 Safin SF for me is the greatest match I’ve ever seen.

    Federer’s greatest performance in a major was also in 2007 at the Australian Open where he did not lose a set and basically destroyed all competition. He beat Djokovic and Roddick like it was nothing, who at the time were the 2 most dangerous hard court players to have in your draw. Roddick’s serve on those courts was incredibly difficult to return and Federer was hitting winners off of it.

    There is one thing that Federer often does not get credit for – I always felt that Federer in his prime had the greatest read of serve I’ve ever seen and he was able to do much more on the return of serve than he does now. He used to get everything back. And I mean everything. It was almost impossible to hit an ace against Federer even on the fastest court in the world in his younger days. Now we don’t see that special spring in his step as much as we used to, even on the slow hard courts of today. It’s definitely part of the reason that Federer is in decline. Federer has to rely on his serve to hold up much more which is harder to do now on slower courts. Where as in those days if Federer got broken early we would see him break right back and then break again to still win sets 6-4 or 7-5.

    Compared to those days, the AO from 2008 and on has felt more and more like watching the French Open because we just do not see big servers go as far there and fast-paced matches are a thing of the past.

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    FeddyBear Reply:

    i was just discussing the courts issue with someone who claims that the speed is the same as always on all courts but wimby. i believe he is as blind as he is ignurant.
    the AO is still a great tourny for me for some other reasons: it is in the beginning of the season so the excitement is great; more often than not there are some surprises in it; where i am from most of the matches are played at 2am-11am so it is kinda cool to catch fed play late at night or first thing in the morning; the atmosphere there looks amazing thanks to the aussie fan.
    also fed has already made the final and won on the blue courts and i have no doubt he can do it again. nevertheless i do wish they would go back to the fast surface both in AO and Wimby.

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    booya719 Reply:

    It’s simply absurd to say that all courts are the same speed as they always were. They are getting slower all the time to that point that a lot of hard courts now play like clay. The indoor courts are still fast according to most players, although Federer said that last year “Paris (Bercy) was lightning.” This year he noticed it was a bit slower than last year but still fast in general. Courts everywhere this year have been reported as slower than last year including at the US Open.
    The US Open series courts are generally the 2nd fastest courts next to the indoor season. The Australian Open and Wimbledon are roughly the same speed, however the grass plays more like clay because of the bad bounces and rainy weather in London. Another factor for speed is whether it’s dry or not. Wetness and moisture can have an effect on court speed no matter what surface it is. Dry = quicker, wet = slower. The rain really helped Nadal in 2008 because moisture slows down the court tremendously and made it difficult for Federer to win free points off the serve in that match. Where as in 2009 it was dry and sunny which favored both men. It was a serving clinic and Federer was able to outserve Roddick.

    The hard courts at Indian Wells and Miami are very slow – probably the slowest of all hard courts. The slowest of all is of course clay. Wet clay is what doomed Federer in the 2010 French Open QF, although he still had chances to win the 3rd set in that match. Dry, fast conditions have always favored Federer for his entire career. The first finals he started reaching were all indoor and usually on carpet.

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Booya, agreed totally about Fed’s return of serve. I became a fan after 2008 so I’m not really in a very informed or experienced fan position to comment on Fed’s strengths and weaknesses but I have watched a lot of his past matches, read plenty of articles about him, followed his pressers, saw him play live, etc, so I figure I’m in a fairly good position to comment about him. Anyways, what I noticed, like you, was that no one, I mean, NO ONE could ace Fed in his hey days. The man reads serves like he reads a crystal ball. He could return anything. In fact it was one of the aspect of Fed’s game that amazed me and stood out for me about him. I was actually a very casual fan back in 2004, a bit in 2005 and 2007 and I remember thinking to myself at that time, that this guy was amazing in his returns. I don’t know what happened in latter years of his career. It’s like he doesn’t read the serves as well, he seemed “not too keen/concerned” on reading them well, he has gotten less aggressive on the returns (there was a time he got so “lazy” just blocking back returns – those were exasperating times for me!). If missing a half step is what Fed has lost, (he has definitely lost his “spring”. He plays a little stiffer and less free nowadays which is expected as one ages) I believe the excellent return of serves is another loss. I think Fed must have good stats in returns in his glory days. Nowadays, he is among the lowest of the top ranked players. But I really like how he returned Tsonga’s bombs in the WTF final. And I really like what I saw in his last 3 tournaments. He is more thoughtful, engaged, focused, interested and seem to apply himself more doggedly using all his experience, maturity and talent to get to the finished line. Yeah, also agree that AO2005 SF with Safin is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s the best competitive match also; both players playing at their best level at the same time. Yah, the AO courts are very slow. Last year was a pathetic nightmare watching Fed laboriously trying to hit through Djoko. It’s a very tall order expecting Fed to win AO but I feel he can if he applied himself as well as he did these last 3 tournaments. Oh please Roger, please just win it, strike while your iron is still hot!! We will all be praying for you and keeping our fingers crossed from now until you hoist the trophy a 5th time!! I’m gonna be confident this time and I’m gonna be very calm, very zen. Allez Roger!

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    booya719 Reply:

    I think he can still read the serves as good as he ever has, just that his reactions to them are not the same and not as fast as they were 7 years ago. It’s harder for him to execute and react now that he’s older, so I use the word “spring” to describe what he used to have on his returns of serve. When he was young his body would naturally react to serves seemingly while the ball was still being tossed, and he was moving and already in position to be able to execute whatever he wanted to do to take control of the point. Now, we see him block more because it’s the next best way for him to get points in play. But then right away he is behind in points against guys like Nadal and Djokovic. Federer then has to come up with some incredible defense and groundstrokes to win points which makes it tough.

    There really is no replacement for youth. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Anyone who says Federer is still as good as he was in 2005, and that the other guys are just getting better and have caught up to him, has never seen Federer play before the past 3 or 4 years. Federer was way better in his glory days and there’s no question about it for me.

    As for the AO, I don’t think the surface is the biggest problem against Djokovic. Because in my opinion, their styles of play are similar. They both have an equal balance of offense and defense, and the surface doesn’t effect their match-up to the extreme extent that surface effects the Nadal/Federer match-up.

    Results aside and technically speaking – Djokovic has a slight advantage over Federer at the AO, FO, and WIM. Federer has a slight advantage at the US Open. Slower surfaces should favor Djokovic due to his better mobility and speed to track down balls, and faster surfaces should favor Federer due to his better shot making to help him hit more winners. These advantages really didn’t matter as Federer won on clay where he should have lost, and lost on hard at the US Open where he should have won. Federer and Djokovic matches are always decided by who has the lucky breaks on that particular day and who can come up with a few better shots on the key points.

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  7. Great post.
    If Federer does manage to win a slam next year, he has a great chance to reclaim the number one ranking and reach the (till now)elusive 286. He has 3000 points post USO, whereas both Nadal and Novak have less than 600(590 and 380,i believe). The gap (post USO) was not so huge last year.

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  8. “The real test will come when the conditions are less favorable and he starts losing again”. I absolutely agree with your point of view, Ruan. I was very delighted with Federer winning again back to back titles and with the manner in which he did it. Indeed when Roger manages to notch things up a gear, his game is awesome to watch and particularly his demolition of an albeit out of sorts Nadal was simply brilliant. But I’m not sure this display of our master at the Masters Cup will be enough to win another slam.
    As you’ve emphasized repeatedly in your previous posts, most of the courts have been slowed down quite a bit. I am aware that it sounds a bit paradoxical, but I’m afraid that Roger’s brilliance and absolute dominance in the past may have contributed to the slowing down of the surface of tennis courts by tournament managers. For those latter the slowing down of the courts was kind of like taking an insurance policy against a predetermined outcome of the finals of their tournament, a warrant for more suspense, as slowing down the courts was one of the means to reduce the impact of Roger’s lethal service and forehand and his crushing the opposition all the time. I didn’t have the privilege to watch Roger during his prime years unfortunately.
    Whatever other factors may have been involved in this process, the conversion into slower courts coincides apparently with the evolution of the tennis game to a very physical game. One might say that winning a slam has turned as a result of it into a “ survival of the fittest” type of contest. Therefore I’m wondering of the ageing Federer will be able to overcome the defensive strategies of the likes of Nadal and Djokovic, when they’re again fit and injury free. Will Roger indeed be able, with all his mesmerizing talent, to transpose his beautiful and efficient indoor court game to the game needed outdoors on slower hard and natural courts, the game needed to beat his junior and more ferocious contenders? One thing seems obvious to me: Roger’s physical and mental resilience will be severely tested by the younger generation who is at the same time admiring him and aspiring to beat him.

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Wilfried, excellent observations and comments. I was supposed to be confident and calm for Fed’s AO2012 chances. Now your comments make me shaky! LOL!

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  9. SLOW COURTS QUESTIOM:
    as i said i had a discussion today with someone so i went out to check the data about the courts, and apparently it is indeed a misconception to think that the conditions were slowed down everywhere.
    the ITF clasifies court speed as follows : 1 – slow, 2 – medium slow, 3 – medium, 4 – medium fast 5 – fast.
    as for data about different surfaces on different tournaments from what i could gather:
    AO – Plexicushion Prestige replaced the Rebound Ace, but both rated 4.
    IW – Plexipave, rated 2
    Miami – Laykold, rated 2
    Clay – rated 1
    Wimby – couldnt find info
    Rogers Cup – last year was Decoturf, rated 5, couldnt find info about this year
    Cinci – Decoturf, rated 5
    USO – Decotur, 5
    Shanghai – DecoColor, rated 5
    Bercy – couldnt find
    WTF (London): Greenset Grand Prix,rated 3.

    so IW and Miami are indeed very slow, but the rest is not that slow, eventhough we must keep in mind that the conditions outdoor might change the speed a little bit. if anyone has more info it would be great if you can share it.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks FeddyBear, but i find it hard to believe some of these stats. The AO have definitely been slowed down. Are you saying it used to be a 5? I doubt it. The USO have also been slowed down. Did it used to be a 6? Also I feel like Cincy is faster than the Rogers Cup. Conditions have definitely been slowed down. Only thing that’s been sped up is RG. They want everything to be the same. If you watched tennis in the 90’s you would know this is the case.

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    FeddyBear Reply:

    Ruan, i took the info form ITF official site:
    http://www.itftennis.com/technical/equipment/courts/courtlist.asp
    it seems that in AO the speed stayed the same (4) and also in USO (5)
    i agree with you about cinci vs RC, i couldnt find the data about this year’s RC…

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hmm that is indeed surprising. But you didn’t say if IW and Miami were slowed down? Also I know for a fact that Wimbledon’s grass and base have been changed. It is definitely slower and higher bouncing.

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    booya719 Reply:

    I don’t find this surprising. It’s pretty much what I already knew about the courts. I don’t think Australia is as fast as they say though. Rebound ace was way faster than plexicushion and I don’t care what they are rated as. It’s absurd to call them the same speed.

    These statistics are not the be-all end-all for court speed. What the players say and what we see when we watch the matches can tell you the speed more than this point system.

    It’s not a misconception to think speeds are getting slower because they have. Indian Wells and Miami used to be faster. They have been getting slower each year, just from what I see by my eyes. When you watch those tournaments they feel like watching clay because the bounces are so high and the shots kick up slower and higher.

    A reason for this is probably because they put a ton more sand now under the surface because it’s cheap. Slow hard courts are cheaper to make and maintain than fast hard courts. The price of concrete is really high nowadays compared to what it was. Sand and other cheap porous materials they use in hard courts now, all absorb moisture and can make it absorb a lot of the energy off of shots. The courts are like a sponge. And when it’s wet and humid in a hot place like Miami the court can be so slow you may as well be playing tennis on the beach. It’s slow – and they play like clay just from the eye.
    I also remember the Rogers Cup final Federer vs Murray when it was raining, that court was really slow too. I agree with Ruan that the Rogers Cup courts are slower than the rest of the US Open series courts.

    It was raining for most of this year’s US Open so it makes perfect sense for it to have been slower than it normally was as well. The US Open series is still fast – we’re not saying it’s slow, just that it has played slower than normal due to rain and moisture. Then you have the indoor season which is always the fastest and free from the elements.
    The rest of the season is slow from the start for the year in Australia up until Wimbledon. That’s 3 slams and 5 masters series – the bulk of the year is slow. The Rogers Cup may be slower too or at least it looks that way to me especially on wet years so really there is only 1 slam and 3 masters series which are played on a fast court.

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  10. Nice write-up, Ruan. The mental aspect of sports, and of life in general, has always fascinated me. Freud and Jung opened up great vistas for humanity with their meticulous explorations of consciousness, and more importantly, their mapping of the vast ocean of the unconscious mind, which underlies and controls all our actions, all our hopes, dreams, doubts, successes and failures. It’s nothing short of foolish for athletes to ignore this all-powerful realm. Take hypnosis, for instance. Before a match with his nemesis, Nadal, Roger could let himself be induced into a deep trance state by a qualified hypnotherapist, during which visual and verbal suggestions would be imprinted upon his unconscious mind through numerous repititions. These suggestions would intricately describe the desired arcs of absolute success on the tennis court, down to the tiniest kinetic detail, if need be. Roger would awaken from such a session with a hyper-keen alertness melded with a profound calm. Numerous studies have shown that hypnosis (and self-hypnosis) have statistically significant positive effects, especially within the first 24 hrs. after a session. The power of suggestion can sharply focus the mind and allow it to work in perfect harmony with the body. A superb athlete like Roger, with his tremendous skill set, would benefit greatly from such therapy, helping him conquer the demons and doubts which sometimes plague him on the court.

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    Agree, Balthazar, totally. hypno/psycho therapy is even more powerful than drugs and much more healthier and wholesome and effective. But can you imagine our traditional, conventional, proud, prim and proper Roger Federer putting himself through these sessions!! He would even feel insulted, I think, if anyone should have the audacity to suggest this to him!! Haha!

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  11. Wonderful post, Ru-an.

    My view has been that he has been working hard to raise his game all this year, and only now does it seem to be coming together.

    Trying to change his game must have affected his confidence. It’s hard to have faith in something new and untried, and only natural to doubt.

    It seems that only when he’s totally sure in his tactics and shot selection, that he has an absolutely solid foundation, then he can fight and scrap. Otherwise, he can get confused.

    I ascribe many of his struggles during this season to this uncertainty. Of course, the rise of Djokovic 2.0 is a big factor too.

    We’ve seen a new Roger Federer this year: Federer the explorer of previously uncharted realms of tennis. During his years of dominance, we saw only a finished product: perfect, Platonic tennis, which admitted of no modification because it was, after all, perfect. It seemed unchanging and eternal and he would continue playing the same way forever.

    Now we are seeing more changes in his game for the first time. They say you can’t improve on perfection, but Roger Federer has managed the impossible. Somehow he has made his already perfect game even more perfect.

    His tennis has become more efficient. He’s cutting the fat from his game (not that there was ever very much to begin with).

    It’s becoming sparer and leaner, paring away what is superfluous and unnecessary to reveal the essence beneath. He’s shortening the points when he can instead of playing long rallies and trusting that he’ll be able to hit a winner.

    His movement and footwork are smoother and more fluid than ever. He’s serving more intelligently, and using his vast variety of shot to control the pace of the rallies with ever greater precision, constructing the points with more subtlety and patience.

    More and more his victories against the best players hinge on his ability to focus his efforts on a few key aspects of the match. The rest, being inessential, he lets go.

    For instance, Tsonga overpowered Federer for large stretches of the London final: bombing aces, hammering forehands, rushing to the net. In the first set he scored 13 points on Federer’s serve. But despite his tremendous efforts, he failed to even get a break point.

    On the other hand, Federer only scored 5 points on Tsonga’s serve in the first set. But four of those points came when he broke Tsonga to love, and in that game Federer pounced, returning aggressively and attacking vigorously, and hustling when he needed to.

    The rest of the time, he was content to take care of his serve, attack Tsonga’s second serve to keep him honest, and conserve his energy for the key moments.

    Matches like this, where he wins by doing the absolute minimum necessary and applying his efforts at precisely the right instants, will become more common as he battles younger, more powerful opponents.

    If Roger Federer showed us the pinnacle of maximalist tennis: completely overwhelming the opponent with a stream of clean winners, using absolutely every shot in the book to construct points in the most intricately beautiful fashion imaginable, he’s also proving himself a master of minimalism: expending only the resources needed to achieve his goal, using the simplest and most elementary shots in novel ways.

    We should be thankful to all his opponents–including Nadal–for it’s they who drive Federer to create such diverse masterpieces. They have different styles and all of them require Federer to do different things to beat them.

    He’s forced to innovate and raise his game, and in the process, give us new and beautiful tennis.

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    Jiten Reply:

    As usual, very insightful comments Steve. As you have been pointing out over the last few months, Federer’s new game has been evolving gradually and it seems that it has finally taken the shape that Annacone initially aspired for in the beginning in order to better his much younger opponents. Of late, I am observing Fed applying more varieties in his backhand slice; I am sure he is going to add more shots to his already huge repertoire and leave us bewildered in astonishment in the process. I find it intriguing when you say that “They have different styles and all of them require Federer to do different things to beat them.” In the same vein, the same applies to the younger generation as well. Fed has such wide varieties of shots that others are always forced to do different things to beat him. For example, in order to counter Fed, Tsonga tried to become ultra aggressive. While on a couple of occasions it worked, most of the times it backfired.
    HOPING FOR FED GENIUS AT ITS BEST IN 2012!

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    Veronica Lee Reply:

    As always, Steve, well said and very insightful. You have such a way with words, sometimes it leaves me stunned reading what you write. I agree about the minimalism tennis which I’ve noticed in our new Fed and was amplified in the final against Tsonga. I also tend to agree with you why he seems confused and lost sometimes is because changing his game is very new to him and he is not confident. Like Jiten said, as Fed finds different ways to beat his younger opponents, in the same vein they are always forced to do different things to beat Fed. What I see here is that it’s like a double-edged sword : as Fed beats them through different ways, his opponents also “wins” through Fed “teaching” and challenging them to a higher level in order for them to beat him. It’s a win-win situation! Again, I look at Tsonga. He’s got a hybrid single-handed back hand now and seems to learn a lot from playing Fed. Fed’s genius has created machines like Nadal and Djoko who are “trained” by Fed how to beat him. I suppose Fed being the most talented and imaginative and having the biggest arsenal would always be the initiator,innovator and therefore forever be hunted by all and the standard for all. As I mentioned in my previous comments, if only Fed had not remained comfortable after he perfected his game and not remain stubborn when his opponents seriously challenged his perfect game, his transition to an even more perfect game would have been smoother without interruptions to slam wins every year. Ah, what price one pays for stubbornness! About his movement and fludity, while I agree he still has great fluid movement, I really miss his spring. That springiness makes his game even more beautiful. But I suppose having a spring is synonymous with youthfulness and Fed is not youthful anymore. Anyway, I believe we are going to witness perfection being brought to a different level come 2012! Bring it on!

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  12. Hey Ru-an.Nice write up.
    A slight deviation from this.Whats this I hear about next years Madrid Masters surface being changed from the normal Reddish Clay to a Bluish one??

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  13. December 2, 2011
    Hello Ruan,
    Wishing you a very Happy Birthday, good health to you, many happy returns of the day, along with Ruans Federer Blog, my favorite tennis blog.
    Kindly,
    Dolores

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Dolores, you are one of my long time readers. Thanks for all the great support!

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  14. happy b’day ruan.
    This my first comment but i have been following u’r blog since last april. I visit u’r blog daily and enjoy reading u’r ideas and comments.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks for commenting smit and thanks for the birthday wishes!

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