There is Renewed Hope After Federer Releases Schedule and Adds Istanbul

Hey folks. Just to let you know the star of my blog Veronica is alive and kicking in case anyone was worried about her. She has just been very busy of late and is on one of her usual hiatuses as I suspected. I’m sure I speak for most when I say I have missed her and I hope she will be back again soon. Now on to my post. Last week Roger finally released his schedule which he usually does at the beginning of the year, but due to not taking an off season in December last year he waited until now to release it. It was also confirmed today that he will play in Istanbul on clay from the 27th of April. That means a total of five clay court events and a stretch where he will play three weeks in a row. I find that somewhat surprising, even though I had a feeling he would try to establish himself as a force on clay again this year. He clearly showed last year in the Davis Cup against Gasquet that if he plays at 4.0 level that he is still one of the best on clay.

Yesterday I actually asked the question on Twitter who is the greatest on clay between Roger and Djokovic which to me is a very good question. Of course for Fedfans the answer will be Roger but it is a little more complicated than that. Anyway I think the choice to play Istanbul has a lot to do with the fact that the grass court season is now a week longer than it used to be. It wouldn’t make sense to cram in two grass court events right before Wimbledon so Roger figured he could squeeze another event into his clay court schedule. And of course they probably offered Roger a very handsome appearance fee for coming to the first ATP event ever held in Turkey. Playing three weeks in a row on clay is a lot and it seems Roger is sticking to what he said about playing more as he gets older instead of less, since it is more difficult to come back after a break as you age. Roger has also left out Miami from his schedule again.

This ensured that he will not burn himself out during the first half of the season. Personally I would have liked Roger to play Rotterdam since it is one of the few indoor events still left, but he had no choice to take an extended break after all the tennis lately. And it was none other than Stan the Man who took the title home in Rotterdam after defeating Birdshit in the final. So it was nice to see Stan continuing his solid form since the World Tour Finals last year with a title, and of course Birdshit losing is a nice bonus. With his one dimensional ball bashing game and mental weakness Birdshit is actually doing quite well for himself losing in ATP 500 finals. He has no defensive game and it was only expected that he would choke again in the deciding set. With the title in Rotterdam Stan now has a title at all the levels of the ATP Tour aside from a World Tour Finals title. And of course he also has an Olympic gold medal and a Davis Cup title.

I think last year was just a big adjustment for Stan after he won a slam which created a lot of expectations and pressure. He may have dropped back to #7 in the rankings(climbed back past Birdshit from #8 after the Rotterdam title) but he will climb back up if he stays at his current level. He seems to have adjusted to the pressure finally and I can see him being much more consistent than last year. He certainly has the game to climb back up into the top five or even top four. Roger himself has a lot of points to defend this year but still has a big lead over Nadal in third place. And the one place where there are some points up for grabs for Roger is during the clay court season. He has to defend a final in Monte Carlo but from there on he can gain a lot of points. After Monte Carlo he only played Rome where he lost his first match and Roland Garros where he lost in the fourth round to Gulbis.

Dat smile doe

So he can easily gain points in Istanbul, Madrid, Rome, and Roland Garros. I’d like to see him back at least in the semis of the French this year, but who knows what his level will be like after the Australian Open loss. He can easily lose points in Dubai and Indian Wells, and at Miami he will lose points. Fortunately like I said he has a big lead in the rankings over Nadal so I don’t think his results in Dubai and Indian Wells actually matter that much. I think the clay court season will be crunch time. I’d like to see him reestablish himself as a force on clay after he neglected the clay the last couple of years. I think that also had to do with another tough loss in the French Open final to Nadal in 2011. He played probably his best clay court match ever against peak Djokovic in the semis and then screwed up in the final again against his nemesis. Going into that match he must have felt supremely confident and then to lose yet again must have been a big letdown.

But since Nadal has looked vulnerable of late Roger may be able to avoid him if he is in Djokovic’s half. This may finally be the year Djokovic topples Nadal in Paris, but then again we say that every year. I don’t think Roger would beat Djokovic but if he makes the final that would already be a great result after last year. I am looking way too far ahead now anyway. We will first have to see what Roger’s form is like during the clay court season. After what happened in Melbourne I was a little worried that Roger would have lost a lot of momentum, but as usual I think he has done a great job with the schedule. And the fact that he is so far ahead of Nadal in the rankings means there is no pressure in Dubai and Indian Wells, and he can use those events to play himself into form again before the clay court season. Dubai begins next week of course and as usual it attracted a strong field.

Well actually only Djokovic is a real threat to Roger 4.0, but since Roger lost early in Melbourne I don’t know what to expect. I’d think at least Murray and Birdshit can be a threat to him now as well. Hopefully he makes at least semis though. Then in Indian Wells Roger has a final to defend but as long as he makes semis there I’d be OK with that too. And then I’d like to see him excel again in the clay court season. In conclusion I have to say that I feel a lot more optimistic about the season ahead for Roger after having seen his schedule. As for this week Nadal will be in action for the first time since Melbourne in Rio where he will defend his title. I think he will do just that and probably win Buenos Aires too. It will be interesting to see what happens in Rio anyway. Well this has turned out to be quite a long post. Hopefully it will create a discussion that will keep us busy until the Dubai draw comes out, after which I will be back with another post.

 

The ball is in your court.

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54 Comments

  1. Good post Ruan! It would have been nice if Roger had managed to play all the 3 grass court tournaments, I am not sure how they are scheduled though. But for sure Roger will continue to play at his best. I wish he takes the French open and makes 2 Career grand slams before Rafa gets an AO!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Arjun. Actually I miscalculated a bit there about the grass court schedule so it’s good you bring it up. Roger could probably have played two grass court events but then he would risk playing four straight weeks if he goes deep in Paris or he would have to play the week before Wimbledon which I don;t think he wants to do.

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  2. Hey Ru-An,
    nice post! Although Roger is still one of the best on clay, his schedule surprises me a bit because he said that his focus this year clearly lies on Wimbledon and the US Open. But maybe he tries to gain enough points on clay to stay number 2 at all slams this year and can rest more prior to the US Open than last year.
    I’m looking forward to Dubai and hope he can win another title, but as you say he has no pressure there.

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  3. Hi Ru-an, hope you are doing well. Good to hear Veronica is alive and kicking, too.

    Regarding Federer’s choice to play more on clay, I think it’s a smart one. Last year he was dealing with the birth of the twins which really disrupted his clay-court season. I just had the feeling that he was on the verge of a breakthrough, despite his struggles, and if he had won that one match in Rome (and he was one point away) his game would have come together beautifully for Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and the entire season would have been different. As it was he didn’t really gain full confidence in his game until Shanghai.

    This year he’s making time to fine-tune his clay game before RG, as well as taking the opportunity to build a fan base in Turkey. Clay is after all softer than HC, even if the points are longer, and if he’s serving well and moving well, he should be able to implement his attacking game plan and shorten the points.

    Federer has 10 clay-court titles, that’s a fair number but I’m sure he’d like to add a couple more big ones before he ends his career. Of course there is also the Nadal challenge, which surely spurs him on. On clay there is no greater feat than beating Nadal, and no greater than beating him at RG. With his new game plan and racket, I’m sure Federer is eager to see what he can do now on clay.

    I’ve always believed that either Federer will beat Nadal at RG, and end the Spaniard’s bid to break his Slam record once and for all, or Nadal will retire without having lost there a second time, in which case he will almost surely break the Slam record.

    For my part, I wouldn’t put any money on Djokovic stopping Nadal at RG. Djokovic hasn’t beaten Nadal in a major for over three years and even then he was pushed to the absolute limit on his favorite surface. I don’t think he has it in him to beat Nadal in Paris, certainly not on Nadal’s favorite surface where his defense and heavy topspin are most effective. He’s had his shot three times now and it’s slipped through his fingers each time. Mentally it’s just too much for him to slug it out mindlessly with Nadal for six hours, his concentration will slip at some point and then it’s all over. In 2011-12 he was young and hungry so he could maintain his focus over six hours of mindless slugging, but now it’s just a little bit harder.

    With this schedule, Federer can have a long block of play on clay and grass, and then probably he’ll skip Rogers Cup to have an extra rest period after Wimbledon (which has been delayed thanks to the new ATP schedule) and go straight to Cincinnati, then play through the summer/fall hard-court season.

    In Dubai, I’d expect him to make the final (he’s only fallen short of the final twice since 2003, in ’08 when he had mono and in ’13 when his form was off). After an early loss in Melbourne (the first time he’d failed to make the QFs of a tournament since RG last year) I don’t expect him to have another early loss. The field is tough, though, so defending the title might prove difficult. A fifth Indian Wells title would be nice but that’s a long way off, of course.

    Hopefully he’s well-rested and raring to hit the courts again. C’mon Roger!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Steve.

    ‘I’ve always believed that either Federer will beat Nadal at RG, and end the Spaniard’s bid to break his Slam record once and for all, or Nadal will retire without having lost there a second time, in which case he will almost surely break the Slam record.

    For my part, I wouldn’t put any money on Djokovic stopping Nadal at RG. Djokovic hasn’t beaten Nadal in a major for over three years and even then he was pushed to the absolute limit on his favorite surface. I don’t think he has it in him to beat Nadal in Paris, certainly not on Nadal’s favorite surface where his defense and heavy topspin are most effective. He’s had his shot three times now and it’s slipped through his fingers each time. Mentally it’s just too much for him to slug it out mindlessly with Nadal for six hours, his concentration will slip at some point and then it’s all over. In 2011-12 he was young and hungry so he could maintain his focus over six hours of mindless slugging, but now it’s just a little bit harder.’

    I find this part of your comment very hard to comprehend. You think Roger will beat Nadal at the FO rather than Djokovic, even though Djokovic has come much closer than Roger in doing so, have beaten Nadal twice as many times as Roger on clay, and has a much better h2h record vs Nadal overall? He hasn’t beaten Nadal in a major for over 3 years? How about over 7 years? You think Djokovic can’t beat NAdal on his favorite surface but somehow Roger can with his one-handed bh? Mentally it’s too much for Djokovic to slug it out with Nadal but not for Roger, even though he is 6 years younger? Wow. I don’t think Djokovic will beat NAdal at the FO either but his chances are far better than Roger’s who have lost in four finals and one SF to Nadal, including getting pummeled in the 2008 final. I mean what you are saying sounds great and it will always get you many thumbs up, but it is just not realistic or logical.

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  4. Has anyone heard about the massive fuss being made about Federer holding up an India jersey on his Facebook page before the India vs Pakistan match? I know nothing about cricket and have never even visited India or Pakistan but I do not see what the issue is.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah it’s a pretty big deal Charlie. Just read about it. I myself am not a massive cricket fan but I do follow it, and I felt betrayed myself that Roger held up an Indian shirt when he has ties to South Africa. So I guess I can understand that he lost many hard core fans from Pakistan, since India and Pakistan are bitter rivals on and off the field. But if anyone should be pissed off it’s probably me since Roger’s mom is from South Africa. He can support who he wants of course, but I do feel betrayed nonetheless. You can read about it here http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/02/roger-federer-india-pakistan-cricket-world-cup-jersey

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    Jiten Reply:

    Well, I think it is a mere publicity stunt orchestrated by the Star Sports network. As you can see the Indian jersey bears the Star Sports logo as they are the sponsors of the Indian Cricket Team. All the time we complain about Uncle Toni for all of Dull’s handiwork. Probably it is the other Tony in Fed’s managerial team who is responsible for this. I feel sorry for you Ru-an that he is not holding up the SA jersey. After all, everything is driven by money nowadays. :-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Oh, I thought it had to do with the IPTL league? That would have been more acceptable.

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    Charlie Reply:

    Now I can see why some people are pretty annoyed, but I can’t understand fully as I don’t follow any other sports outside of tennis. I mostly explain it away as something he was encouraged/forced to do by his sponsors.

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  5. I can’t help but to see Roger playing in Istanbul as him fully embracing his “elder statesman of the ATP tour” role. Roger is building his brand into a new country where he has never played, helping the ATP establish its presence in Turkey. On the other hand, if he were obsessed with ranking points (which he has no need to be at this stage of his career), he would have no doubt chosen Miami over Istanbul. Even the ATP 500 in Barcelona would make more sense than Istanbul, though that has always been Rafa’s stomping ground.

    I will say that Sampras never really did go through a phase of being “elder statesman,” and this is one aspect in which I think Federer has really exceeded Sampras.

    Perhaps Roger wants to play in Monte Carlo partly because he’s never won it (unlike Miami), and partly because tournaments in Europe are easier for his family. Also, I think that traveling to a new tournament really fires Roger up, which I think is great. Any confidence and mental boost he gets from Istanbul will be great for his efforts at the bigger tournaments as well.

    Another thought is that Edberg seems to have the philosophy that Roger needs plenty of match play to be mentally tough at the ends of sets and the final rounds of big tournaments. I think Edberg is right about that. And playing four out of five weeks on clay would certainly give Roger lots of matches and plenty of opportunities to fine-tune his groundstrokes, which I think will help his chances at RG and Wimbledon.

    Now I’m looking forward to seeing the draw at Dubai.

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  6. Good comments to follow your good blog, Ru-an.
    Exciting times in Tennis are ahead, especially for Roger.
    Am happy to hear that Veronica is okay, she soon will add her charm to your blog. Hi Veronica, I am still here!
    Kindly,
    Dolores

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  7. Nice to know that you have an optimistic feeling, Ru-an. The scheduling shouldn’t come as a surprise since there is a possibility that Roger has the No. 1 ranking in his mind. He had told that his schedule after AO will depend on whether he has a chance at getting to No. 1 or not. Despite having had a poor AO, there is a realistic chance at this point considering that Djokovic has 3 MS titles and FO finals to defend in the next few months. Roger is defending less than half of the points which Djokovic is. So Djokovic cannot gain much in that period whereas Roger can gain a lot. I’m sure Djokovic will try his best to cling on to the top spot though. Interesting times ahead!

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  8. Hey Ru-an, great great article… except that “thing” about Berdy. My my, will I get to see the day that Berdy has more than one fan here?? :-)

    About Istanbul, I don’t think Roger is doing it as much for the appearence fee. Tour directors are always throwing money at him to play a tour. He doesn’t do that every year all the time. It could be about promoting tennis in Istanbul, but to be honest, I don’t think that is the case for Roger NOW. He is not “on the way out”. He still has a small chance to be world nr 1. (Me, I just hope he ENDS this year as nr 1).

    For me, it might be quite simply, maybe he wants to continue matchplay instead of just practising.
    Or maybe, he is thinking he might give it one more (last BIG) chance to win RG, now that Rafa is not 100%.

    Or… he might think it is somewhat good for Wimby. Remember, he was practising for WTF and in the meanwhile he was still practising on clay?? Maybe he liked that “feeling”….

    Anyways, the things you described are also the things I agree with. You see…. great article :-)

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    Albert Reply:

    Katyani, I like your comment: Or… he might think it is somewhat good for Wimby. Remember, he was practising for WTF and in the meanwhile he was still practising on clay?? Maybe he liked that “feeling”….

    I personally have only played on hard courts, but some of the American commentators have been saying that playing on clay forces you to develop and fine-tune your game more than any other surface. Maybe Roger feels like it helps his game and makes playing on grass feel so much easier in comparison when he gets to Halle/Wimbledon.

    By the way, Halle has been promoted to an ATP500 event this year, which is exciting. I’ve always felt like Halle is to Roger what Barcelona is to Nadal, and I think promoting Halle to a 500 makes sense and shows that grass is still a relevant surface in tennis.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Albert, thanks for your great comment. Agree with it all !!!
    You know, it might also be that Roger is having a bit of backproblems (not that big, but still), and that that is the reason why he wants to play so much on clay before Wimby??? I don’t know, I hope that it is not the case, but Roger never is open about his backproblems… who knows.
    And yes, it is about time that Halle became a 500 event :-)

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  9. Hey guys, one last thing. You know that I honestly think that Rafa won’t win RG, but that Roger will win it or someone else. I still believe that and hope that that will be true (about Rafa not winning it and Roger winning it).

    BUT… DON’T BE MAD AT ME FOR WRITING THIS, BECAUSE UNFORTUNATELY I ALSO MEAN THIS ONE:
    As much as I would HATE it if Rafa wins RG, I still prefer HIM winning it than Novak.
    I don’t want Rafa to win a single slam at all, but I don’t want Novak to win a single slam more.
    Novak really hurt and disappointed me. Rafa is abnoxcious, but with him…. what you see is what you get. How dishonest it may be.
    Novak ROBBED Roger of Wimby, now he roped-a-doped Andy from winning AO and how does the usually honest God (of Tennis) reward him for this cowardness?? With 2 more slams, a lot of undeserved winnersmoney, a very undeserved world number 1 spot and to top it off…. a nomination for Laurus Award !!! Are you kidding me God, should you really reward him this much?? I tell you, if he wins that award…..

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Settle down Katyani. No one robbed anyone of anything. These matches are played fair and square and there was no robbing going on. Djokovic won because he was better. Roger had to make the fight back of his life just to take it to a deciding set, and it was his own fault that he missed an easy overhead that could have helped him to break serve in the fifth set. He didn’t do any robbing in the AO final either and was again the better player. That is really all there is to it. Also he is not a coward and he fully deserves to be #1. I’d like to see you win 8 slams. And what will you do if he wins the Laureus Award?

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    Katyani Reply:

    “And what will you do if he wins the Laureus Award?” Be angry.

    Sorry Ru-an, we have to agree to disagree. Novak was the better player at Wimby, but he played gamesmenship with that 5th set mto and that cost Roger the title. Novak was also the better player at AO 2015, but his gamesmenship the whole match through did cost Andy the match.
    You see Ru-an, you CAN be the better player, but that does not mean that you did not play gamesmenship to make sure you are the winner instead of the other one.
    Roger is not perfect by far, but I have not seen him play gamesmenships to win. And if he did play them, then he does not deserve to win. I hate gamesmenship, no matter who plays it.
    And yes Ru-an, to me that person is a coward.
    I will never win 8 slams, but if someone wins it honestly, I take my hat off for them. Otherwise, to me you don’t deserve a win.
    Real life doesn’t work like that, why should sport??

    1st example: after 32 years Holland was in the final against Spain at the WC 2010. But we played soooo many gamesmenships, we not only did not win, but we did not deserve to win.
    2nd tennis example: Andy Murray is one of the most boring people there is. Still, he doesn’t act a certain way to get more sponsorships or fans. He is what he is and stays true to that. Same goes for Rafa actually. And Roger. They don’t pretend to be something else to get popular.

    So… agreeing to disagreeing :-)

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    Katyani Reply:

    Oh and Ru-an, just 2 more short examples to show you that I am fair:

    3rd example: I didn’t see the moment, but I read that out of frustration Roger yelled and fistpumped a point where Seppi doublefaulted. Even if I get his frustration and even if I was very sad that Roger lost, for me, right at that moment, Seppi deserved the win. Because he didn’t do that, and because he was the one who showed respect to Roger. Roger didn’t show the same respect and deservedly lost.

    4rd example: Novak lost the QF at the AO 2014 in the 5th set to Stan. He S&V the last 2 points. To me, Novak deserved to win that match against Stan, because he took risks at a very important moment.

    That is the person I am. I have no knowlegde of tennis, but I like to see players win who play fair, with respect and take risks. Even if that person is not my hero. Even if he is the opponent of my hero. Roger deserved the win against Novak at SF Dubai 2014 and Novak deserved the win at the Final of IW 2014.
    You see…. I am kind of fair :-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Don’t be so naive real life is even more crooked than sport. As for Djokovic’s gamesmanship in the 5th set Roger did the same thing against Davydenko at the 2010 AO. You make it sound like Roger is a pathetic weakling who cave in every time an opponent does something to distract him. If he was that pathetic he wouldn’t even have made it into the top 100 in the world, never mind win 17 slams. How do you even know the gamesmanship at Wimby affected Roger? He didn’t get broken at the beginning of the fifth set, did he?

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    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Ru-an,

    *** If Roger did the same thing to Davydenko at AO 2010, then he did not deserve to win. I did write that in my comment. And even if he did that in 2010… we are now literally 5 years further. Did Roger do it again? I don’t think so. Did Novak play gamesmenship in 5 years?? Hell, he almost plays it every slam…

    *** Roger is not weak. But I hate the fact that players, who don’t know how to quite beat him, are using mto’s to distract him. If Novak could get distracted by touching the net with his body, then yes, Roger can also get distracted by his opponents using mto’s at what seemed like almost every slam match.

    *** the mto lasted from the start to the end 8 minutes and 3 seconds. Who is to say that if that had not happen, that Novak would have broken Roger sooner and would have won the match sooner?? BUT who is to say that in that same time Roger would not have broken Novak and would have served for the match?? Novak had plenty times to break Roger, but Roger had also plenty times to break Novak.

    *** And last, it is actually very simple: Ru-an, you like Roger, you like Novak and you absolutely HATE Berdych.
    Me, I love Roger, I love Berdych and I absolutely dislike Novak.
    To each their own. Everyone can have their favourites. So can we both.
    Almost no one here likes Berdych and the Williams sisters, while I am their greatest fan. So….. lets agree to disagree on the topic Novak :-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    So you are saying Roger did not deserve to win the 2010 AO? Wow. Djokovic doesn’t take MTO’s all the time. And he is free to look tired during a match if it suits him. You are not always gonna feel equally energetic during a match anyway, and if he wants to show it then there is nothing wrong with that. If other players allow that to distract them it is their own mental weakness. If it bothers Roger so much that players take MTO’s, then why does he not do it himself? He said himself that these things are not against the rules and if you want to use it to your advantage there is nothing wrong with it. So I don’t think you have much of an argument there. You are right that Djokovic’s MTO may have halted Roger’s momentum in the 5th set, but as he said it is within the rules and he doesn’t seem like he has a problem with it himself. And if he does then like I said he can always do it himself to even the playing field. As for your last point you are right, I HATE Berdych and Serena. They are my two least favorite tennis players. And you are free to like and dislike whoever you want. But don’t expect to get any love for Birdshit and Silliams here.

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    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Ru-an, trust me, that ship has sailed a long time ago :-) I know I am the only one who will like Berdych and Serena till the end and I am oke with that :-) We all have our favourites. But then don’t expect me to agree with the way you all are hoping up Novak like he is some kind of perfect God. I didn’t like him from the first time I saw him. But I did try to like him, because we as Roger fans do “owe” him something. But trust me, he has taken from Roger too. But that is oke. Roger has also taken from him. And even if I really did try to like him… I don’t like him. To me, he is a “Roger wannebe”. Or a “Rafa wannebe”. Wants to “take Roger’s place over on and off the court”. And here is the simple and honest truth: Novak doesn’t need to. He is good the way he is. For me, he tries too hard. Tries too hard to be liked the way Roger and Rafa are liked. Which is why I again say that that is why I like (a bit of) Andy and Rafa. They don’t portray themselves as something that they are not.

    And Ru-an… that is why I like Roger so much. Yes, he can play dirty tricks, but he doesn’t do it (in my opinion). I believe him when he says he wants to leave the sport better behind than it was when he entered it…
    Also, I do blame Roger for not seeing through Novak at the mto, but that doesn’t mean that Novak is off the hook. You are a tennisplayer because you want to win matches, but you also have an obligation to play it honestly and fair, even if that means losing it. Whether you are Novak or Roger or Andy or Rafa or a beginner or a journeyman.

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    Katyani Reply:

    And even if I don’t like Novak, I absolutely LOVE to see him play. Oh man, the way he gets his body in some positions to defend and the way he defends and oh my God, some of the points he makes…. I literally have something like : “God, literally, how can anyone on this planet beat him??” I don’t like the matches between Novak and Andy, because they play the same. But Novak vs Roger or Rafa or Stan or Delpo… mindblowing !!!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    ‘But then don’t expect me to agree with the way you all are hoping up Novak like he is some kind of perfect God’

    I think you meant hyping, and no one here thinks Novak is a perfect God. I for one am well aware of his flaws as a player and a human being. He will never be a Roger but he is till great to watch and at least he has beaten Nadal three times in slams and has a much better h2h record with him. He is good to watch and a funny guy as well. He is also very good. That’s much more than you can say for Birdshit who has no personality, is terrible to watch with his one-dimensional ball bashing and mentally weak game, and he is just not very good(aside from when he plays Roger then he is all of a sudden a great player). And Fedfans don’t owe Djokovic anything. He has done his fair share of losing to Nadal in slams where he is 3-9 vs Nadal. Only one more win than Roger and the same amount of losses.

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    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Ru-an, yeah my English is…. I am trying :-)
    And that is what I meant too, Novak doesn’t need all this to be liked more. I don’t know if you have watched it, but there is a vid on YT where Novak mimics Rafa and Sharapova. It is like almost 3 minutes, but oh my God… worthy of an Oscar :-) Novak is sooo good when he mimics those 2. I have watched it like over and over and I cannot get enough of it. More people mimic Rafa, but Novak did the one thing no one does: Before Rafa serves he always bites his lips and Novak did that too. It was hilarious. And before Maria serves she looks into the court so seriously, like she has to go to the bathroom. Novak NAILED that look. Novak annoys me a lot, but that vid is like gold. Hope someone links it. It is one of Novak’s best.

    And yes, you are right about one thing. Till the day Roger does the r-word, I will hate it when players who normally lose to the other top 3, somehow suddenly remember when they are playing Roger that they are very great players themselves and end up playing the match of their life or in the zone :-)

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  10. Hey Ru-an,

    There is certainly renewed hope for Federer fans this year! I have a strong feeling that Roger is trying to make the most of every moment on the court this year. And I think that means we’re all in for some incredible tennis too. :-) There’s also renewed hope that we’ll hear from one of everyone’s favorites soon, Veronica!! :-)

    Who is better on clay, Federer or Djokovic? Both are great clay court players, no doubt. I think Federer leads 4-3 on clay, but only if you count Roger’s withdrawal last year at Barclays; however, I most definitely DON’T count that one. :-)

    Roger beat Djokovic at Monte Carlo last year, at Barclays in 2012, and at RG in 2011, which was obviously a tremendous victory and a career milestone for Roger. Djokovic beat Roger at RG in 2012, and also at Rome that year. Results of older matches are less significant IMHO. To be honest, I have to admit that I’m just not knowledgeable enough to think Djokovic is better, ha! He is younger though, and he’s at his professional peak now, so the two are very close on clay and everywhere else.

    And I think there’s a very good chance that one of them will take out Nadal at RG this year! Despite Roger’s match-up issues with Nadal, which are certainly magnified on clay, I think there’s a better chance that one of the top two will win RG this year than that Nadal will. Djokovic, as many will recall, was ill during the last RG final and almost pulled a win out anyway. I think Nadal will fade against him if they play this year. Djokovic won’t be holding anything back this year, and if can stay healthy I like his chances even better now b/c Nadal is not (quite) as strong in 2015. But he’s still strong! As far as Finals scenarios are concerned, I don’t know what to hope for, but I think the best odds for Roger come when Djokovic and Nadal meet in the semis (obviously) and wear each other out.

    While we were discussing your last article, I was tempted to ask if you thought Roger’s 5 consecutive semis at RG qualified him as one of the top clay players in history. I do; I think he’s one of the top 5 or so clay courters maybe… but in this case as in many others, I’d respect your opinion above my own.

    However – can Roger do it at RG this year? We’ll have to wait and see, as a wise man once said. To tell the truth, I have my heart set more on Wimbledon, but at the same time I have to say that there is nothing that I’d love to see more on a tennis court than a Federer finals victory at RG against Nadal. I think Roger would savor that as possibly his sweetest victory ever. Even when he’s long retired, I think recalling such a win would give Roger extreme pleasure. His odds are obviously better if Djokovic takes Nadal out in the semis, but I don’t want to say Roger can’t win this tournament, whatever the draw throws at him.

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    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Joe, great comment. I am not so sure about Novak winning RG. I cannot explain it better than saying that he wants it too bad and that way will never win it. He has to try to “see” it as another slam he wants to win. THEN he will win it. But each year he puts all his hopes on RG and doesn’t win it.
    In 2011 Roger stopped him. In 2012 it was the rain. In 2013 it was the SF where Rafa stopped him (net incident) and in 2014 it was him becoming ill.
    Seems like “Destiny” is stopping him from winning it. He puts all his eggs in the RG-basket. He really should try and see it as a normal slam.

    To be honest… I think Roger is doing the same thing with Wimby… he puts way too much pressure on himself for that slam….

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    Hey Katanyi,

    These are good points, just as most of your non-Berdych points are. :-) (j/k btw)

    All I could say about Nadal’s chances of NOT winning RG this year are:

    1) He’ll probably have to go through Roger and Djoker.

    2) He really doesn’t look so good to me. He’s not as muscular, the muscle tone he has is softer, and he let a lot more balls go without chasing them when playing Pablo yesterday. Something may actually be wrong in terms of his health.

    3) There is someone who’s very smart, who visited this site and predicted several times that Roger would win another RG trophy before it was all over – oh hey, that was you, wasn’t it? :-)

    I can’t tell you how much I would love to say you were right from the beginning about that!

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    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Joe, I don’t need to be right. But if The Mighty God wants to grand me 3 wishes, tennis related, you know besides peace on earth and all the other more important things, than I would wish for:
    1) Roger winning RG
    2) Roger winning Olympic Gold
    3) Roger winning 25 slams :-)

    And if somehow, even if he looks not that good, Rafa does win RG for the 10th time, I will hate it, but still will take my hat off for him.

    And yes Joe, before Roger does the r-word, he will win RG atleast once :-)

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    Katyani Reply:

    Oh and sweet Joe, about the thing you wrote under your number 3 about me… please don’t take me or my comments too seriously… I write the way I see tennis, still no knowledge of it, just feelings and thoughts about it :-)
    I am nowhere near the way you all write about tennis with all the terms :-)

    And finally… Fognini took the 10th matchpoint. Finally. I do feel bad for Delbonis… Rafa is next.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    Hey Katanyi!

    Please don’t worry about me taking things too seriously! And predictions are something I take less seriously than most other things. After all, even the very best experts can be wrong in their predictions! :-) And I am no expert.

    I just have a ‘feeling’ that Roger will be victorious at a slam again. I don’t know if it will be Wimbledon (you’re right; maybe too much pressure!), RG, or another. It could be none at all; after all, it’s just a feeling! And if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be fine with that. And I’ll be grateful to have seen the most beautiful tennis of my life during the many years of Roger’s long and glorious career.

    But like you, I think I would be more pleased by a win at RG than anywhere else, though another Wimbledon would be close. A win at RG might even be (almost) better than two more majors at different tournaments (i.e. double career grand slam for example), if Nadal weren’t threatening Roger’s slam total. I don’t think Nadal will catch Roger btw, even if Roger is done winning slams. But he might!

    I do think Roger is one of the best clay court players in history, and I dream of the day when he just plays freely against Nadal. And I would so love for that to happen at RG, but I’d be so glad for it to happen at any major.

    Others have noted that Roger ‘chokes’ against Nadal and I wouldn’t argue the point! But I would point out that he doesn’t always choke; sometimes, he really takes it to Nadal. He’s even gone ‘Bakerer’ on him before, and I’d love to see him do it again.

    I just think this is the year it should happen, although if Nadal is aging faster than Roger, as I suspect he is, we could still be in for a treat in 2016!

    Best,
    Joe

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Nadoll is a set down and 6-5 up in the 2nd set vs Cuevas. Maybe here is an upset in the making. But probably Cuevas has to win this set.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    I missed the match! Which is very frustrating. But I’ll definitely be watching Nadal against Fognini.

    Did Nadal play well in this match, or did Cuevas just run out of gas in the third?

    And did anyone notice the time interval between points? :-)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I don’t know my internet is too poor in Thailand to watch tennis.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    Hey, is Australia a location that is still a possibility for you?

    I lived there for three years so I know it’s a very beautiful country. And I’ll bet you’ve heard how they love tennis there!

    And it’s been a while since I lived there, but it was very clean back then, certainly cleaner than most of the USA I grew up in. I’m sure things have changed since I was there, but I’m also sure it’s still a clean, beautiful place where your skills would be in high demand!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I don’t know Joe right now I’m in a huge mess with my visa in Thailand which I have to sort out first. This whole thing has been a nightmare.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    That sounds tough all right.

    Very best wishes to you Ru-an, during the year of the GOAT! I know you’re a fighter, and I have a strong feeling that things will work out well for you.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Joe I appreciate it.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    I’ve wondered more than once what his career would be like, Ru-an, if Roger had a little bit more of the fighting spirit we all see in you.

    Don’t give up! But I know that saying ‘don’t give up’ to you is like saying telling a chameleon to blend in…

    Ok, I probably could have done somewhat better on that metaphor! :-) But I hope you know what I mean.

    And I also want to say that I think we’re going to see a refreshed and recrudescent Roger this year! :-) I hope he will inspire you, and I think your fortunes and his are somewhat synchronous…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks again. I’m in a difficult situation now but often your biggest setbacks turn out to be your greatest triumphs. I got screwed over big time by the system this time but it is just another reminder not to depend on the system for anything. I just have to ride this one out and stay in the moment. There is a lot of uncertainty but it doesn’t help to fret about the future which is uncertain. Sometimes you just have to put your trust in a higher power that everything will work out ok or even for the better.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    I wonder how I can ‘like’ your comment and it still comes up as zero?

    No matter, you are writing championship words, and I hope they’ll prove true for Roger as well as for you!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I see there is a 1 now. Thanks :-) The future is uncertain. All that is certain is this moment, so that is what I am concerned with :-)

    [Reply]

  11. Hey everyone,

    Nadal is certainly looking very vulnerable at Rio today, in his match with the young Carreno Busta, where they are on serve in the first set after a couple of breaks. It’s quite a pleasure to watch and I’d recommend the match to anyone who has the time.

    [Reply]

    Katyani Reply:

    Hey Joe, I watched the whole match and yes, it was a great match. Pablo Carreno Busta played great and had great points. But to be honest, Rafa also played great. Yes, he was not Rafa-clay-invincible, but he stayed with Pablo, waited his time and then struck. I liked the match very much.

    But… have to be honest too, both players (Rafa and Pablo) should have had atleast 20 time violations each. Oh my God, they took sooooo much time in between points. Cannot believe the umpire didn’t warn them or took points off. After 35 minutes it was 3-3 in the first set alone !!!
    2 sets in like 2 hours???

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Pretty routine win for Nadal in the end as expected. He may not be at his best but you won’t expect that at this point.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    Very true!

    Nadal looked like a shadow of his former self; in fact, I thought he looked old out there. And as Katanyi said, he was not hurrying any more than usual!

    I thought young Pablo looked very promising btw, and appreciated everything I saw from him. He might even be joining Kyrgios and Raonic at the top one day, and I’ll look forward to his future matches.

    But we surely have to expect that Nadal is going to continue to improve as he gets more matches under his belt…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah it’s early days. He will still be low on confidence. But if he wins Rio and BA he will have regained a lot of his lost confidence. Then onto IW and Slowami and then back to the clay. When RG comes around he will be the favorite as always.

    [Reply]

  12. I love to see Nadal losing, but you have to admit he is very hard to beat. No matter how ragged he may look he just cannot be counted out! Novak is in exactly the same position that Roger was in for a few years at R.G., getting to the final was the easy bit but getting past Nadal is another story. My feeling is that if Rafa loses at R.G it will be like when Soderling (much missed) took him out, surely it must be on the cards to be somebody’s day!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes if Nadal is gonna lose at the FO it will probably be to someone else than Djokovic Elizabeth. Djokovic missed his big chance in 2013.

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    Yeah, same with Roger, he missed his real chance in 2007 when he missed god knows how many break points, was it something like 1 from 17 or something? If he takes even 1/3 of those (so 6 or 7 BPs) he wins that match for sure. And I have also come to accept this, that Roger chokes against Nadal. People who don’t see it are being pretty delusional at this point. A match-up issue doesn’t cause you to play great, then blow a 4-1 lead in the second set, or 5 break points in the third set, or two match points on your forehand.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah it’s the old denial thing. Roger is probably in denial about it himself. A great player like him may find it hard to admit that he chokes.

    [Reply]

    Bharata Reply:

    That’s s a good point. I was in a tennis-starved mood again recently and was watching the 2008 wimbledon finals,and I had forgotten Federer was up 4-1 in the 2nd before losing it..up 5-2 in the 1st set of RG 2011 finals too…I didn’t believe in ‘choking’ but when you lay it out like that the case is pretty clear…regardless he played great in that match to come back. But yes there is that lack of killer instinct when it comes to Nadal. Ru-an has spoken of the need for Federer to take a pleasure in forcing Nadal to run around more back and forth instead of going for (and then missing) perfect winners.

    And stop approaching to the forehand (!)

    [Reply]

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