After the US Open Roger was off again to Australia for Switzerland’s world group play off match against the Aussies. Australia had a pretty strong team with Tomic and Hewitt who are both very good grass court players, so they chose to play on grass. Roger is probably the greatest grass court player ever, but Wawrinka on the other hand is vulnerable on the surface. It showed as Wawrinka lost the first singles match on Friday against Tomic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. It was up to Roger to square things up against Hewitt in the second singles, and he did so as he got revenge for last year’s loss in the final of Halle to Hewitt. It was hardly all straight forward though as Roger lost the first set, but he ended up winning 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-3. That second set was the key. If Roger lost it he might well have ended up losing, given his relatively poor five set record.
The score was tied at 1-1 going into the doubles on Saturday. It would be an important match as Stan was not the favorite against Hewitt on Sunday. The Olympic champions Roger and Stan started off well enough as they won the first set 6-2, but it then got away from them as they dropped the next three sets 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(5) to fall behind 2-1 as a team. Switzerland was up against it. The tough thing was that Stan was not playing very well. He lost his singles match and was the weak link in the doubles. This is why David Cup is not a top priority for Roger, because his fate is not all in his own hands. A lot was expected of him. He simply could not afford to lose a singles match after not having much rest after his US Open campaign and travelling across several time zones. He had a tough match ahead against Tomic but he delivered once more, winning 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.
He seemed to be getting better as he was getting used to the grass. It was now all up to Stan. He must have felt a lot of pressure, knowing that Switzerland’s fate was now in his hands. Grass is his worst surface and his opponent was a former Wimbledon champ in Hewitt. Personally I did not have much hope that he could pull it off. Especially when he went down two sets to one. He even went a break down in the fourth. But that is when Stan really stepped it up. He broke back and then broke again to level things at two matches all and two sets all. It would all come down to one final set. Stan then got the break, but it was starting to get dark and Patrick Rafter, Australia’s team captain, was urging the umpire to stop play. They played two more games and play was called off at 5-3 in the fifth to Stan. They would have to come back the next day.
They came back this morning and Stan the man completed a heroic win as he broke Hewitt immediately to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-3. I was impressed with the heart that Stan showed. If he had lost then he would have seriously let the team down. At two sets to one and a break down, things were looking very dire for the Swiss.I really didn’t think Hewitt would let this one slip. But all credit must go to Stan for his fighting abilities. Stan has always played second fiddle to Roger and if he had lost then he would have been the black sheep once more. People would have been inclined to blame him for being the reason that Roger is not playing much Davis Cup. I think this must be one of the biggest wins of Stan’s career, even though it was just to get into the world group. He proved a point and I am happy for him.
I don’t know how much Davis Cup Roger will play in the future. As far as I’m concerned it counts very little for GOAT status simply because it is a team event. I would rather he wins another Masters Cup and become the first player to win six Masters Cups. I am not sure how it works but I think one of the reasons Roger played this tie was to be able to qualify for the Olympics. Olympic gold in singles is a little more important than Davis Cup because you are still on your own. Personally I don’t care that much about it as it carries little historic significance and a gold medal remains a gold medal, which Roger already won in doubles with Stan. But it seems it matters to Roger and he has already targeted it. I assume it has a lot to do with the fact that it will be played at Wimbledon, which will carry extra significance for Roger.
Roger’s next tournament is in Shanghai which starts on the the 10th of October. I am sure he will take a vacation now after another tough US hard court season and then get back to work. He has a lot of points to defend until year end and will need to be sharp. Either way it looks like there is a good probability that Murray will overtake him in the rankings. Roger hasn’t been lower than number three in the rankings since middle 2003, but it wouldn’t matter much if it happens. It makes no difference whether you are three or four in the rankings for your draws. Maybe Roger will be on Nadal’s side of the draw more often if that happens. I’m getting a bit tired of not knowing who to root for when Roger faces Djokovic in the semis. If Roger meets Nadal in the semis I can support him 100%, and if he wins then we will have a classic final with Roger and Djokovic.
But don’t keep your hopes up too high. With Roger being in Djokovic’s half something like 15 out of the last 16 times it seems unlikely that will change. I probably won’t blog much from now until Shanghai. If there is anything you want me to blog about in the mean time then let me know.