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.