First of all my sympathies to Fedfans and second congrats to the Djoker and his fans. With his 4th Rome title, the Djoker surpasses Roger in Masters titles won and it looks very likely that he will surpass Nadal too to get the record. He has now also won every big tournament(Masters and up) that he played since losing to Roger in Shanghai last year.
There wasn’t much in his match until Roger set up a break point at 4-4 and deuce with a forehand drive down the line which forced the Djoker into error. The point that followed was definitely a key point. The Djoker played a rock solid point where he hit with great depth and finally forced Roger into error with an attacking inside out forehand. If Roger had won that point it is very likely he would have won the set, but the Djoker was just very clutch. In the next game, the Djoker played a very good return game to get the break and the set.
Roger went down 0-30 I think but reeled the Djoker in with some great net play to 30-30. At deuce, there was another key point as the Djoker came up with a US Open 2011-like return winner cross court to set up set point. He then made another very deep return off a first serve from Roger and kept great depth until dropping one short which Roger netted.
After winning the first set, the Djoker was immediately the big favorite to win it. The Djoker held his serve in the opening game of the second set after which he set up a break point in the second game. Roger saved it with a tremendous backhand winner up the line, but the Djoker ended up breaking anyway. And then when he consolidated for 3-0 you figured the match was pretty much a done deal. The Djoker had a break point in the next game as well for the double break, but at least Roger avoided a possible bakery product.
Roger also did his part by making the Djoker serve out the match at 5-3 but this time there would be no miraculous comeback as Roger hit a routine forehand well wide to lose the match.
In the end, it was a routine scoreline and it wasn’t a classic in any sense of the word, but it was still a high-quality match as you can see from the match stats. When both players hit more winners than unforced errors it is a sign of high-quality tennis. Both players had great serving days as well. The Djoker’s serve has improved recently and when he serves at 70% first serves on top of a rock solid baseline game then he becomes almost impossible to beat. The Djoker’s returns and passing shots is another big factor.
As you can see Roger didn’t win a big percentage of net points because of this. His second serve was also under loads of pressure. On a slower court like this it was always going to be an uphill struggle for Roger. The courts were playing faster than usual this week and today was probably the hottest day of the week, but it still wasn’t enough. The Djoker is just too solid and impenetrable from the baseline. You had the feeling if Roger won that break point and won the first set, the Djoker would have won in three sets anyway.
As far as Roger goes I think Fedfans should feel very good about his week. At the beginning of the week, we were just hoping he could make semis, but he surpassed that and made the final. Of course Fedfans always want more and yes it would have been nice if he won, especially after losing last year to Stan in the Monte Carlo final as well. This was another chance that got away to win one of the two elusive Masters he has never won. That said, I think it is great that he is making the Rome final at this stage of his career.
Maybe not necessarily making the Rome final, because he did that in 2013 when he was playing poorly too, but the level of his play on clay. It is nice to see after that Davis Cup match against Gasquet last year that he is indeed so far resurrecting his clay tennis. The performances from Berdych and Stan were strange, but Roger still played very well. And this was exactly the kind of result he would have looked for after the early loss to Kyrgios in Madrid. So from my point of view this was another superb week for Roger.
I can only speak for myself. I know many Fedfans get very disappointed after a loss like this and tend to look at the negatives. The way I see it Roger did as well as he could and lost to the better player in the final. Simple as that. He will go to the French Open with loads of confidence with a great shot of making semis. I don’t know what more you can ask as a Fedfan at this point.
As for the Djoker, he continues his utter dominance of the ATP Tour after looking vulnerable earlier in the week. You gotta respect the way he came up with his best tennis when it mattered the most in the semis and final. Today he was impeccable. I think it is fair for me to say he is the French Open favorite again, even after I made the wrong prediction last year. Nadal is always a danger and Roger actually said after the match that Nadal is still the favorite. I don’t know if there was any emotion involved in that comment, but he will say that until Nadal loses again at the French Open anyway, so I’m not sure how much to read into it.
Personally I hope the Djoker wins the French Open. I certainly don’t want Nadal to win it again and I think the Djoker deserves the title by now, having come the closest of anyone to beating Nadal at the French aside from Nadal’s loss to Soderling of course. Nadal’s loss to Stan in Rome, on the other hand, can’t bode very well for his French Open hopes. If he is to win the French Open this year it will be the first time he does it without winning a Masters on clay during the clay season.
He looks more vulnerable than ever. He is already number seven in the rankings and if he fails to defend the French he will lose at least 800 points, but probably more. As the 7th seed, he will play the Djoker, Roger, Murray, or Berdych in the quarters. He could fall as early as that if not earlier, and it will be very interesting to see in whose quarter he lands. If he lands in the Djoker’s or Murray’s quarter I can easily see him losing. Roger and Berdych are another matter with their histories against Nadal but they could beat him too.
But you are never gonna write Nadal off at the French. Not when he is the 5-time defending champion. All I know is that this is it for him. His obituary has been written a thousand times of late, but the final nail won’t be in the coffin until he loses in Paris. If that happens he will probably remain on 14 slam titles indefinitely, which is the number I had in mind for him all along. So yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens but I am not gonna get my hopes up too high until it actually happens.