Well Roger’s match rained out on Monday night and he had to come back yesterday during the day to play his match. Today play is suspended again and it has to be said that these rain delays are pretty annoying. The US Open is at last going to get a roof but it will only be finished in 2015. So we are looking at more rain delays and frustration. The US being a country where bigger means better, they made Arthur Ashe stadium so big that building a roof is difficult and will cost a fortune, which is why it is taking to long for them to find a solution. Anyway it was a decent enough performance from Roger. Zemlja looked like nothing special as he handed the first break to Roger at 3-4 after a shocker of a smash at 15-30. Roger took full advantage by breaking with a sweet cross court winning forehand.
It was a pretty shocking performance from Zemlja overall, but maybe that had to do with the fact that he had mono and is still recovering from it. I hope so anyway because it really wasn’t very impressive from his side. He’s a kind of all or nothing player. He hits the ball pretty big and it either comes off or it doesn’t, and he makes some pretty bad mistakes. Zemlja continued his average play as Roger broke him two more times to win the second set 6-2. In the 3rd set Roger broke again at 3-3 after another shocking volley miss from Zemlja. At this point Roger had one of his mental lapses because Zemlja broke right back. At least Roger woke up again at 5-5 to break again with another nice cross court forehand winner, after which he served it out. There are quite a few things we can take from this match, even though it was just a first round.
First of all it was a good serving performance. Roger made 60% first serves and served 12 aces. Second it was a good volleying performance winning 20/21 points at the net. It was nice to see Roger serve-and-volleying quite a bit as well. The net game is obviously important when he faces Nadal, so he has to stay on top of it. The other thing I keep noticing is how much Roger has slimmed down. This is obviously good for his movement on the court because he is lighter on his feet. It is important since he has lost a step of late, and that costs him. There are two ways to go. You can either slim down like Roger has and get to more balls against the power hitters, or you can bulk up and go toe to toe with them. I heard Roger slimmed down for the sake of his back, but bulking up would also help his back because the supporting muscles would be stronger.
The suggestion I made was that Roger bulked up to be able to compete with the power players better, but the most important thing is making changes, which he is doing. Bulking up would also cost him endurance, while slimming down would improve it. I just thought because Roger is not exactly a grinder that extra endurance wouldn’t do him much good, as opposed to getting stronger and not getting overpowered as often. But like I said the main thing is making changes, and if he was planning on bulking up then slimming down first would have been the wisest path anyway. Talking of making changes, Roger hit the practice court after his match. That is not something you usually see from him so it is pleasing. When things are not going well for you for an extended period you make changes, and Roger have been making plenty of those.
Loved the new attire
He is trying a new racquet, noticeably changed his physique, playing events he doesn’t normally play, practicing after his match, even cutting his hair short. It all shows he cares and wants to change things. At some point it must pay off. He is reinventing himself which is great to see. As far as practicing after the match goes, he probably realizes that he has a pretty easy draw until the quarter finals, and making it that far doesn’t mean he would be able to beat Nadal. Nishikori has already lost in the first round by the way. Roger needs something extra to beat Nadal. Lapses like the one against Zemlja where he failed to consolidate the break won’t do. That’s like the lapse he had against Nadal in the second set at Cincy. He can’t afford those. The difference between Roger in his prime and Roger now is just that. Those mental lapses.
He has them way too often these days. He struggles to close out matches and win them as easily as he should. His focus just drifts. In his prime Roger would almost definitely have beaten Nadal at the US Open, and he needs to get close to that level again if he stands a chance in a possible quarter final with Nadal. Hopefully that is what he is working on when he hits the practice court after a match. It just shows that little bit of extra hunger. Going that extra mile. I like it, because if he plays Nadal he definitely needs to go the extra mile. It’s all about wanting it really badly and being totally committed an focused out there. No mental walkabouts and no looking back. Just focused on the job 100%. Because you know that will be the case with Nadal. Nadal won his first round 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 against Harrison and is looking in ominous form.
He is clearly the favorite to win the event and Roger needs to do everything in his power to stop him. Like I said before, Roger doesn’t want to stop if he gets to the quarters. It wouldn’t do anything to to get the naysayers off his back. He wants to beat Nadal and go all the way. Only then will people realize that he is back again. Beating Nadal would mean an awful lot for his confidence and future and it is totally worth doing everything in his power to achieve that end. But there are still three matches to win. He next faces Berlocq who is a pretty decent base liner. They have played once this year in Rome and Roger won that pretty comfortably. Berlocq is actually a clay courter so he shouldn’t be much of a problem for Roger at the US Open. It will be another good test for Roger’s serve, volleys, returns, and just general ability to be aggressive.
The returns is something I forgot to mention and Roger looked to be pretty aggressive which helped him to create 11 break points and convert 5 of them. We know this is a key part of his game especially when facing Nadal so it is something I will keep an eye on, but it is looking good. So overall I would say I am pretty pleased and it is just a first round after all. I didn’t like that Roger lost serve in the 3rd set but I will forgive him since it was first round and Roger put in the extra effort to hit the practice court after the match. Below I also posted the interview Roger had with Roddick. I find the answer to the question about being seeded #7 especially interesting. He says he is not focusing on what people say but just on himself, and that he is feeling more confident now. Confidence and focus. Those two things will get you far…
Interview with Roddick: