Pretty sharp performance from Roger today, and he got better as the match progressed. In the first set Roger got the break at 2-1 with a nice attacking forehand return up the line. That proved to be enough to win the first set. I think it was at the start of the second set where Roger broke serve but then failed to consolidate. That was the only small slip up in the match. But he broke again right afterwards so he can be forgiven. His ability to stay focused is something I am keeping an eye on because that is more than anything the thing that has cost him in the latter part of his career. His focus just seems to drift at times. It is just something that comes with age I think, because it is tough to be as hungry and focused as when he was young. But at least you want to see periods where he is focused and hungry, like he was almost the whole of 2012. I don’t think you can ask for more. This year Roger has struggled with his focus and hunger and it was just expected after 2012.
But at some point you want to see things turn around again. And I think we may just have reached that turning point in Cincinnati. That was really the best I have seen Roger play in a long time and it has given him a boost as well. To get back to the match Roger broke a 3rd time in the second set at 3-1, and it was enough for a 6-2 set. Roger also hit another sweet tweener in the second set, although he didn’t win the point. It is amazing the consistency and ease he hits that shot with. At 5-2 Roger played a pretty good game after Berlocq had break point. He hit a genius drop shot at deuce and on set point he came up with a very sharp reflex volley to win the point. By the third set he had Berlocq by the balls. His confidence was increasing while Berlocq started to fade. Roger broke in the 1st and 3rd games and took a 4-0 lead. The bakery product was on the cards. Roger then broke Berlocq once more in the final game to wrap things up and serve the bread stick.
I liked how Roger won the 1st set by 1 break, the 2nd set by 2 breaks, and the 3rd set by 3 breaks. It showed that his confidence increased as the match progressed. And that is exactly what the doctor ordered. Roger had a great tournament in Cincy but he is still short on matches and wins. Right now it’s all about getting that few more matches and wins before a potential meeting with Nadal. I have already written about that match and said that Roger could possibly have won that match, if he had a few more matches behind him. But I am very hesitant to conclude that a few more wins would improve his chances should he meet Nadal. First of all the conditions are slower at the US Open and it is best of 5 sets. But there are still a couple of matches to go so lets deal with that later. I just like that Roger seems focused and hungry.
I don’t think he hit the practice court again after yesterday’s match but it was nice to see him do it after his first round anyway, and small things like that can make a big difference. Going that extra mile. The serve and volley stats weren’t as good as the first round with Roger making 52% first serves and winning 28/40 points at the net, but still it was a very efficient performance. It was nice to see him approach the net so often and he even served-and-volleyed on a few second serves. He was using a good balance between mixing things up from the base line and whacking his forehand as well. That is how you want to see Roger play. Using both his power and finesse to dominate opponents. The returning is still aggressive too and consequently his break point conversion ratio of 7/13 was good once again.
Roger next plays against Mannarino who upset Querrey in 4 sets. In the interview in the ESPN studio Roger said he would rather play Mannarino than Querrey, and that is understandable given Mannarino has nothing to hurt Roger with and Querrey is American as well. Roger has played Mannarino twice before and on both occasions it was an easy straight set win. Roger’s draw is once again working out really well as Tomic has lost to Evans too. Mannarino will be nothing but another practice session for Roger and neither Evans nor Robredo can threaten Roger. Things really have worked out pretty well for Roger in New York to make a big impact. Of course there is still the obstacle of Nadal, but it doesn’t help to keep looking at him as this unbeatable monster. Roger’s mindset is hopefully that he has the best possible preparation for that match and that Nadal is just another opponent.
Roger is after all the one with the far superior record on hard courts and the US Open, and he can’t allow Nadal to get in his head before the match has even started. Roger was asked about Nadal in his presser and he said: “one match against Rafa is not going to, you know, make my season or going to make me super confident or not.” Having said that he should view this as just another match, I think if Roger beats Nadal it would go a long way towards salvaging a very average season by his own very high standards, especially since he is almost a lock for the final if he does so. A US Open final would be the highlight of his season especially after beating Nadal, no matter what happens for the rest of the season. It does look like Roger is viewing this as just another match then, so that’s good. Anyway that match is not a reality yet.