Hey guys. There isn’t a long time before the final now which is played during the day, but I wanted to say a bit more about yesterday’s match against Djokovic. It was too good not to. Roger came right out of the starting blocks looking like he was ready to get the job done. He just looked to be in a very offensive mood and to be taking the initiative. He was going after his forehand and taking control of the net. There was no half measures. This was Roger in full confidence God mode, truly a sight to behold. Roger got the first break in the fifth game with a terrific slice approach which Djokovic netted. He still had to consolidate however or the break would mean nothing. He found himself break point down which he crucially saved with an inside out forehand winner. 4-2. Now things were getting interesting. Djokovic held serve and at 4-3 Goderer delivered the a near peRFect game on serve where he hit three aces and one serve where the edge of Djokovic’s racquet only just clipped the ball.
At 5-4 with Roger serving for the first set the game went to 30-30 but Roger came up with one beautifully constructed point where he finished with the volley winner, and then he finished it off in style with an ace down the T. It looked like we could be in for something special, but knowing Djokovic’s ability to steal matches from Roger that he should have lost(e.g. two US Open semis where Roger had match points) there wasn’t a moment where you could relax and think this match was over. Djokovic is like Nadal in that sense. They are incredibly difficult to put away. And on this occasion it took Roger being at his absolute peak to put Djokovic away. I mean we are talking about a Djokovic here who was on a 28-match winning streak in Asia. He is truly the King of Asia. But Roger is the King of Tennis. So in the first game of the second set the King of Tennis came up with some more terrific offensive tennis to set up two break points.
He then got the break on the second break point with another scorching forehand winner. He was now it the best possible position after winning the first set and getting the early break in the second set. He also consolidated without any problems. Then at 3-1 came a pretty big game where Roger had four break points for the insurance break. On one of those break points Roger hit a deep approach to the Djokovic backhand which he flicked for a cross court angled pass, and afterwards he took a long hard stare at Roger as if to say “Are you going to back off NOW???”. It was terrific entertainment. After Roger failed to get the insurance break he then went down 0-30 on his own serve. Here was an opportunity for Djokovic to get back in the match, but Roger was rock solid on the next two points. First he out rallied Djokovic form the base line forcing him into an error, and then he hit a masterful short slice with side spin that found Djokovic wanting.
The serve has been especially good in Shanghai
Both players held serve and at 5-3 there was another important game where Roger went all the way to 40-0 up, only for Djokovic to pull it back to deuce after a terrible attempt at a drop volley from Roger at 40-30. It was a tense game that went to several deuces but again Roger was rock solid as he held serve with the unreturnable serve. In the next game Roger then went up 30-0 on the Djokovic serve and set up a match point at 40-30 after a gorgeous backhand down the line which forced the error from Djokovic. I was hoping he could take it to avoid the drama of having to serve for the match, but Djokovic came up with a gutsy serve-and-volley play to save it. Roger then set up another match point after following the return to the net, but this time Djokovic saved it with an ace. So it was all down to Roger serving for the match at 5-4.
Could he hold Djokovic off for one more game? It was getting slightly nervy but I had a good feeling about it. Roger went down 15-30 and now things were getting tense again, but as was the case in the entire match he took matters into his own hands and ripped the forehand winner. Next he hit his seventh ace to set up match point. And fittingly he would win match point with another gorgeous old school volley point. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful match where peRFection was on display. It needed to be peRFect from Roger to beat this Djokovic. Anything less would not have gotten the job done. I think we witnessed something truly special from the GOAT who is 33 and played like he was in his peak. And I mean that when I said it. Djokovic said himself Roger played as well as ever after the match. It is quite astonishing and refreshing to see Roger play that well at his age.
It makes you believe anything is possible and that he is still improving since he had that slump in 2013. Back then I said to rise very high you have to sink very low, without knowing what exactly that entailed. I think we have seen Roger already rising very high this year, but of course he didn’t quite reach the heights of a slam title. I honestly believe now that is still possible after seeing the way Roger plays against Djokovic, and that he is still improving. For the first time since playing with the new racquet I really saw him going after his forehand and ripping it for winners. It was just the whole mindset against Djokovic that impressed me. There was no holding back. Just 100% believe in his own ability. The lack of confidence was the main theme of his 2013 slump and I believe for the first time we are now seeing him return to full confidence. He was playing well in the Wimbledon final but I don’t think he was quite back to full confidence yet.
The GOAT ladies and gentlemen
So I am hoping and I believe that Roger could scale new heights towards the end of this season and at the beginning of 2015. If Roger wins today against Simon he will be only 990 points behind Djokovic in the race and within range of being the year end #1 for a record 6th time, especially given that Djokovic’s baby is about to be born and he will take some time off. It would be very special if Roger can achieve that but for now it is all about the Shanghai final. They asked Roger about it after the match too and it was good to see that he was not thinking about the year end #1, and that he was fully focused on winning the final. That is really what it comes down to now because if he loses to Simon a lot of the good work he did to beat Djokovic would have been made undone. Beating Djokovic is not an every day occurrence and Roger must make sure he capitalizes by winning his second Masters of the year.
He is also 1-3 in Master finals this year which he will want to improve on. Simon has historically given Roger his fair share of problems. There is no doubt about it. But I think there is a fair chance that he could crush Simon today too. The times that Simon gave Roger trouble he was probably just slightly off his best or didn’t play with enough urgency. Simon is the kind of player who can lull you into sleep with his boring pushing game. But I think if Roger plays anything close to what he played against Djokovic he will make short work of Simon. I know tennis is a match up game but it is obvious that Simon isn’t anywhere near Roger in terms of quality. We will see how it goes but I have full faith that Roger can and will win his second Masters of the year. The match will be on his racquet and if he plays offensive tennis the way he did against Djokovic there is no hope for Simon.
Go get him GOAT!