Well it was a somewhat disappointing end, but in the bigger picture this was a very positive week for Federer. Murray has no doubt been playing extremely well this week, and I’m sure Roger will barely feel this loss. He will still back himself in the best of five set format against Murray, having won both their two slam finals on hard courts in straight sets. It was an uncertain start from Federer today which I found a bit surprising after his last two matches. In his first service game he missed a sitter of a forehand which cost him the game. He did however come up with some genius at 4-5 to get the break back and make up for it. Yet he played an inexplicable game right after to drop serve once more. At 40-30 he had game point and then hit a shocking forehand slice out of nowhere which ended in the very bottom of the net. All the hard work for nothing.
So it was a pretty weird set. The second set was also weird in that it was interrupted by several rain delays. Roger looked frustrated and dropped serve to fall behind 2-3. Then came another rain break and when they finally came back, Roger came out looking much more positive and broke back. But yet again he would get broken to fall behind 5-6. He did his best to hang on, manufacturing a break point, but it was too late. Murray was just playing too well. The good thing about Murray was that he did not become tentative when the pressure was on, as he is capable of doing outside the slams. If he played that attacking in slams he will be very hard to stop, even for Roger. He didn’t give Roger a chance to impose his game on him this time, but he seems to get nervous in the slams. This is why I think Roger won’t mind this loss too much.
It seems Murray has found the perfect balance between attack and defense in the smaller events, but in the slams he tends to be overly defensive. We will just have to see what happens at the US Open. At this point I would put him and Roger as joint favorites, then Djokovic, and then Rafa/Berdych/Soderling. A lot of people made a big deal of Nadal, saying that he is the favorite to win the US Open after his great runs at the French and Wimbledon, but that was premature talk. He has never even made the final in New York and Murray outplayed him in the Toronto semi’s. The nice thing about this week is that Roger also gets his number two ranking back and gains points from last year when he lost in the quarter finals. But he must still make at least finals at both Cincinnati and the US Open to gain points from these three events.
The important thing is that he had a very positive week after disappointing clay- and grass court seasons. He beat two players who was playing very well indeed, and he is now back inside the top 2. Having said that, there is still some things he needs to clean up. I see this week as the hard work he needed to get done. It will definitely give him confidence. But I’d like to see him take more of his chances, and I’m specifically referring to his break point conversion rate. That is maybe the main difference between him now and when he was in his prime. He still creates opportunities to beat these guys easily, but then he fails to close out his opponents for some reason. I know this is a confidence issue though, and he should already be more confident after this week. For example he had break points in the second set against Berdych, but ended up losing his own serve and the set.
At least he should have forced the tie break there and tried to close the match out in two sets. Then against Djokovic he was a break up in the second and lost 5 of the next 6 games. Now like I said, this is fine if you are trying to get your confidence back, but it’s something he should try to improve on. His break point conversion rate has just been a bit shocking of late. Confidence in everything in tennis and closing out your opponents when they are at your mercy is just as important. Even if he ends up winning the matches, he spends more time on court than he needs to and looks more vulnerable to his opponents. At times this week he has still appeared very mentally fragile and I would like to see that improving in Cincinnati and the US Open. Speaking of Cincinnati, the draw has been out since yesterday and you can view it again HERE.
Roger is in the same half of the draw as Rafa, and if they both makes the semi’s it will be the first time since the French Open of 2005 that they meet before the finals. I like Roger’s draw. He doesn’t have anyone really tough before the semi’s, while Rafa has Berdych this time. A Fedal semi-final would be fun, but if you go by current trends, one of them won’t make it. Roger’s opponents until the final could be Blake/Istomin, Monfils/Kohlschreiber, Ferrer/Dolgopolov/Querry/Davydenko, Rafa/Berdych, Murray/Soderling/Nalbandian/Djokovic. It’s too early to look at semi’s, but I think Roger has a good chance of making it. I don’t know how tired he’ll be after this week, but he is obviously still a very fit guy. So I don’t think the physical part is much of a concern. He will have a full week to recover before the US Open kicks off.
I think he should ride this current wave of confidence and give it his all in Cincy. If possible he must clean up his game and improve his result from this week and win the event. That would really make him a favorite going into New York. Hopefully he will make at worst semi’s in Cincy and at best win the event. Regardless of the results, it’s just great to see Roger back on court and playing well. This new partnership with Annacone looks promising and I’m feeling positive about Roger’s tennis future once more. I hope you do too!