RG Rd 2: Federer def Falla 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-4, but Monfils and Fognini Steals the Show

First things first. Today Federer played another impressive match when he disposed of in form lefty Alejandro Fella. I have never seen Falla play before and did not expect much, but I must say I was quite impressed with the kid. He made it tough for Roger, especially in the first set. Falla was taking the ball early and did especially well with the backhand return on the deuce side where he hit several cross court return winners. Roger on the other hand was making some unforced errors. This was due to good play from Falla though and to say that Federer played badly in the first set is to fail to acknowledge how well Falla was playing. Falla even got the break in the eleventh game and served for the set at 6-5. Roger then broke back easily and won the tie break without too many problems. He also got the break in the first game of the second set, after which play was delayed due to rain.

He seemed to get some good advice from his coach Severen Luthi during the break, because he came back to take the second set 6-2.

Well, the first rain delay I was trying to play more aggressive. He convince me that I should do it and try it and come to the net more often and take chances, which I started to do. That’s what worked second set.

There was another rain break, I think right at the start of the third set, and Federer got some more advice from Luthi.

Then the third set, as the conditions were getting so slow, he said, Use the dropshot more often, as well, which I did on a couple of key points. So those were good things he told me. Those little details make a crucial difference.

When play continued Roger got the break in the third game of the third set and held on to win the set 6-4. So some people was not impressed with Roger’s play in the first set, but I thought he did great in the end to win it, and he agrees.

I thought the first set was good, actually, from both sides.

Maybe you had a point about the hair there after all Rog

Federer now plays against an unknown German called Julian Reister. I have never seen him play and Roger has never played a match against him either. He will therefor be an unknown factor for the Roger, but nonetheless a pretty easy third round for him. Everything looks promising as far as the GOAT is concerned still.

As much I like to see Roger play, his match could not rival the match between Gail Monfils and Fabo Fognini for pure drama and controversy. This match had just about everything. I didn’t watch the whole match, but I did join it in time to see Monfils squander a double break at 4-1 in the fourth set and lose the set 6-4. Then at 4-4 in the fifth it started to get really dark, so the supervisor came on court. The players were asked whether they wanted to continue, which was the first mistake. Monfils said that he wanted to continue, and why not? The crowd was so into this match that if I was Monfils I would also have wanted to continue. But Fognini was hesitant. He ended up arguing with the officials for something like 15 minutes, and was then given a point penalty for holding up play. I didn’t see it, but Fognini had already gotten a warning for taking too long to serve earlier in the match.

So that meant that a second offense warranted a point penalty. I thought that was a shame, but Fognini held on anyway to make the score 5-4 in his favor. As you can imagine, at this point the crowd was heavily involved, going absolutely nuts when Monfils wins a point and being quiet whenever Fognini won a point. It was unfortunate that Fognini had to deal with a the dark and the crowd at the same time. So I was disappointed when he couldn’t take advantage of several match points at 5-4. He pretty much choked on those match points, but I guess it was fitting that the match should carry on tomorrow. This whole situation reminded me of times when I played in France and felt like the French was trying to give their player the unfair advantage. It happened to me when I was playing in France and I saw it happen on several other occasions to other players as well.

Now neither the tournament referee nor the umpire was French as far as I know, so I can’t say for sure that the French had anything to do with this, but the crowd sure played there little part in all of this. This is just something I never understood about the French as I have played most of my overseas tennis there. They always seem to give their players an unfair advantage, but in the end they just screw themselves over. I say this because the French players always do a lot better in their own country then any other country. France is like a tennis paradise. They have everything there. From junior tournaments, to money tournaments, to futures, to challengers, and ATP level events. So the players there have it really good. And as if that is not enough, when they play at home the officials do their best to make it easier for them and harder for their opponents.

I believe this is a huge reason why the French has produced so many top players, yet not one grand slam winner since Yannick Noah won the French Open in 1983. And again that happened in France itself. The French players just have it too easy. They are also known as soft and mentally weak. Enough of the French tennis system. I don’t think the players should have been asked whether they want to continue in the dark. It was a delicate situation and it would have been best of the officials just stepped in and made a decision. It was simply too dark anyway. But hey, it caused a lot of drama and controversy which is part of the reason we watch tennis. It certainly had me glued to the TV set.

This was how dark it really was(without the lighting enhancements)

Presser: Check out Roger’s presser. It was an interesting one and quite funny at times. At one point he is asked whether he checks if the cap he wears in the media room fits together with the rest of his outfit. So he says that he doesn’t care about that, but he puts on a hat when he is not satisfied with the way his hair looks. As if his hair ever looks bad?! He also gets asked about grunting, and says that he doesn’t understand why some players grunt for a few shots and are quiet on other shots. This is of course something Nadal does, and it is obvious he uses it to try and gain an advantage over his opponents. I think Roger feel he is talented enough not to have to use such methods to gain an advantage over an opponent, and I must say Nadal’s grunting can be quite annoying. It is kind of childish for me, and I would have thought that at pro level players don’t do silly things like that anymore. Anyway…that’s just me. At one point in the interview Roger can’t hear a journalist so he tells the guy it sounds like he’s sitting in a closet. LOL!


On a side note, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, the one Frenchman who I think it’s actually pretty strong mentally, criticized his own tennis federation for not granting his wish to play his first match on Monday. They did the same to Gasquet, who went on top lose against Murray due to tiredness.

“I had asked not to play on a Sunday, absolutely, because I had practised in such a way that I thought I wanted to play on a Monday or Tuesday, to be totally fit. What really bothered me is that if you look at Murray, if he decides on a day or hour at Wimbledon, nobody’s going to impose anything on him. For Federer in his country it’s the same. In the US, I suppose it’s the same thing for the best American players. I think that Lleyton probably plays in the sun during the Australian Open because he loves the sun and other opponents don’t like the sun. Today we’re in France. I’m French. I’m French No. 1. I would have thought it was legitimate for me to be listened to, that I would be given a choice. They should listen to me when I wanted to play or start.”


May the Fedforce be with you.

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Update: Another very enjoyable Federer interview

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  1. Ru-an, in reply to your previous post… well, obviously I’m less optimistic than most here (especially you, LOL). But I’m not pessimistic either. I’m just telling what I see and what I think as the problem.

    Back into the subconscious issue, this is indeed a complicated matter. Even the person having the issue may not know the issue himself. In the case of Roger, we know he’s a genius that always solves almost every problem an opponent may pose him. You name it: Murray, Djokovic, Roddick, Hewitt, Agassi… he dismantled them all clinically – he always finds a solution to those players. If he wants he can always send them home in straight sets. In the case of Roddick & Hewitt, it could be argued because they are one-dimensional and the such, but not so w/ Murray & Djokovic & Andre.

    But when posed w/ the Nadal problem, he keeps repeating the same mistake over and over: playing it safe, then eventually forced by Nadal to play a ridiculous (very low percentage) shot, then he missed or ended up in a disadvantageous position, then obviously Nadal just goes w/ his own deadly shot. When others talk about this problem to him, he always got irritated & responded not very favorably – sounds like he’s desperate. So, do we see the problem here? Is it fear?

    I know many of us here have hyped about the clay win over Nadal in Madrid 2009. But let’s get a bit more to the ground. Maybe on the technical side, he already found that solution. But on the mental side, that is another question. In Madrid 2010 we saw again the old Federer who was always owned by Nadal on clay: first set is wrong game plan, second set is not playing big points well & surrendering leads easily. Aren’t these problems familiar to us in his previous 13 losses to Nadal?

    By these evidences, is it reasonable to think that he has gotten rid off the Nadal problem completely – especially on the mental aspect? I don’t think so. But then again, (maybe, just maybe) he doesn’t have to completely solve the problem to win over Nadal. Nadal may have his own problems and I haven’t even begin to discuss this. As you have mentioned, this RG is Nadal’s biggest stake ever.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Well its good to have you here to challenge me. I tend to be over optimistic even to the point of denial(like Roger perhaps lol).

    OK im glad you explained this in more detail. I pretty much agree with what you said. In the interview i posted in my last post he is asked about Nadal and he kind of downplays the rivalry again. So it could indeed be an issue for him still. I thought when he came out of his slump and defeated Nadal in Madrid last year that he maybe got over this whole thing, but he must beat Nadal in the RG final to be completely over it i think. Having said that, i dont know if the loss in MAdrid this year was that big a deal. Roger did not play a lot of tennis before that match like he did last year on clay, and he was still finding form. I didnt like the way he was playing in the opening set, but that could be just because they havnt played for a long time and he was a bit nervous. I have said before though that if he doesnt show me something different this time around when he plays Nadal in the FO final i’d be very disappointed as a fan. I am overly optimistic at times, but not irrational. Ive given Roger my fair share of criticism over the years.


  2. My analysis is this: Nadal’s a passive-aggressive player. He puts on this helpless little boy act, to disarm his opponents. But then he grunts, fist-pumps, “VAMOOOOOOS”es, etc. to show his aggression. The incongruity disarms and unnerves his opponents, Federer especially.

    So every time Federer gets ready to go for a winner, Nadal’s “Don’t hurt me, it’s just poor little Rafa, don’t hurt me” schtick gets to him. And Federer lets him off the hook, and eventually loses the rally or makes a mistake or give Nadal a chance to counterpunch. When playing Nadal, it always seems to surprise Federer that the ball comes back.

    And Federer, irritatingly, bought into this for a long time. He didn’t take Nadal seriously enough, and fell for the little boy act–not understanding that that little boy act hides a great ambition. It’s somewhat understandable, given that he was #1 at the time–no point in changing a winning game plan. But still it took a long time before he even tried to make serious changes.

    Soderling didn’t fall for Nadal’s tricks. When he had a chance to finish the point against Nadal he didn’t hesitate. He just blasted away. And he won.

    Nadal isn’t used to that, he’s used to inducing errors and getting under his opponents’ skin with his antics. He NEEDS to always have the upper hand psychologically, make them hesitate on crucial points, etc. In his postmatch interview after losing at RG he spent much of the time complaining that he didn’t play his best tennis, he made it easy on Soderling, and almost said the loss was more his own fault than Soderling’s.


    “I played very short, you know. I play very short. I didn’t play great. I didn’t play with calm at no one time during all the match.

    That makes him easy to play at this level during all the match, no? So was my fault, and more than ‑‑ well, sure, he did well. He did very well, but I didn’t ‑‑ yeah, I think I didn’t play my best tennis. And I didn’t play not my best tennis, no? I didn’t play my tennis, and for that reason I lose. That’s it.”

    “Well, I never was calm; that’s the truth. Instead of losing my calm, the match started off very badly for me. I mean, the second set, I should have won it 6‑4. Then there was wind, and that wasn’t good.”

    Q. Were you surprised by the level of his game?

    RAFAEL NADAL: “No, not at all. I’ve seen him playing quite a few times, and that was not a surprise. It was my game level that was a surprise to me today.”

    Translation: “Soderling saw through all of my psychological tactics, took it to me, and I had no answer.”

    It’s frustrating that Roger doesn’t seem to grasp Nadal’s mind games and the fact that he doesn’t like being attacked. Perhaps he does, because in 2009 Madrid he made Nadal wait at the net and elected to receive instead of serve, turning the tables on Nadal. And he won that match.

    I’m inclined to believe that the result of their latest match was a result of poor form. After all, he hadn’t played Nadal in a year, and he was at around 90%. Just a week before that he lost to Montanes, so his game clearly was not at its peak.

    Federer will have to play a very clean, tactical match to beat Nadal. He will have to move Nadal all around the court, use the drop shot, serve well, come to net a lot, attack Nadal’s backhand, and take every chance he gets to hit a forehand. The problem is purely one of execution.

    But if he plays like that, it should be over in straight sets, or at most, four.


    jason Reply:

    Well, I don’t view Nadal as that child begging for mercy. 81 straight wins on clay is hardly the result of that kind of attitude. I view him more like a machine.

    The unfortunate thing is the strengths of the machine is playing into Roger’s weakest part of the game, i.e. backhand. It’s by no means weak, it’s a world-class one-handed backhand. But the huge lefty topspin is exactly what poses problems for one-handed BH players in general. Add to that is the seemingly mysterious reasons why Roger kept playing as a program that is guaranteed to lose when playing the Nadal machine, especially on clay – with the exception of 1-2 matches.

    For the technical problems, as I mentioned perhaps he has found a solution. It’s the latter problem that’s still persistent. I think it’s got to be something subconscious. Until he proves that convincingly… doing over and over at different matches, I’m still not convinced he has the Nadal monkey off his back, on clay especially.


    Ru-an Reply:

    I think what Steve meant is that Nadal act like a child begging for mercy, but underneath is the machine you talk about. Its like a kind of gamesmanship . He is always very different on court than he is off it. He likes to play the underdog and when he stepped on court he intimidates his opponent with fist pumps and vamoses. In other words he likes to play mind games. Roger on the other hand is the same on and off court. He just plays the game and doesnt care for mind games. to him its kinda silly and immature. Yet, if he is to beat Nadal he cant act like he is above that kind of thing. He has to find a way to cope with it and neutralize it. He did so in Madrid last year when he made Nadal wait at the net etc, and it clearly had an effect on Nadal. So i do think that aspect is very important against Nadal for Roger. He obviously realized something in Madrid last year which is why i thought he overcame the Nadal demon, and this time around he was just not on top form yet. I definitely think he can upset Nadal at the FO, and for me that would be enough to have the Nadal monkey off his back.


    steve Reply:

    You said it very well, Ru-an.

    Soderling can play the villain and counter Nadal’s mind games by openly mocking him. Roger can’t, because he’s a gentleman and that’s not his way.

    How does a noble and honorable warrior deal with a devious, underhanded sneak attack? He can’t get down in the mud with his opponent. But he can’t ignore it. It’s a dilemma.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Good analysis Steve, i have said the same thing about the encounter in Madrid in my reply to Jason. I think Roger has already stepped it up from then so far in the FO and by the final he will surely be on top form. Maybe the loss in Madrid will make Nadal relax just a bit and Roger can really bring it on in the FO final and surprise him now. But he must play the peRFect match like you said. Im not to sure he can get it done in 3 sets though. That may be pushing it a bit. I like to read you guys analysis, you should do it more often ;-)


  3. Wow, my comment is going to be much less than the previous commenters! hah I was just really pleased with the interview you included at the end, Ru-an. It’s always fun to see how realistic and funny Roger is. I loved his comment at the end when he was asked about changing diapers. He made this quip: “Change 16 diapers a day, you know?” (in reference to the number of grand slams he’s won) haha Loved it!


    Ru-an Reply:

    Any comments are welcome, specially yours ;-)


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