If you’d told me after the Australian Open that Roger Federer would be THE in-form player in March, I’d have scoffed. Not because he’s incapable, obviously. His 16 Grand Slam titles make an air-tight case for his capabilities. But the truth of the matter is that he hadn’t really been performing. He had Novak Djokovic at the US Open. Had him on the ropes, had match points on his own serve. And he lost.
I started to wonder if we’d ever see The Maestro again. Because it wasn’t his tennis that let him down in that US Open semifinal...I think it might have been his nerve. And that is NOT the Roger Federer I’d come to know.
He was fairly docile in his loss to Nadal at the Australian Open. It wasn’t a bad match, except that he played the old Rafa-Roger script out to the letter. Scene one – Come out spanking the ball, secure a break of serve. Scene two – Mid-way through the first set, begin to revert to a less aggressive, albeit more comfortable brand of Federer tennis. Scene three – Allow Nadal to chip away at the backhand with his heavy topspin. Scene four – lose. And unfortunately, that isn’t really even over-simplifying.
Roger was great in Dubai, but Murray WASN’T great, so it was hard to judge his actual form. But in Indian Wells, we got to see what The Mighty Federer was made of. He was obviously unwell at the start of the tournament, but he fought through it. Clearly not playing his best, but out-lasting his opponents anyway.
And then the big one. Nadal. It’s hard to call the No. 3 beating the No. 2 an upset, but that’s what it was. Sure, the tennis gods were on Roger’s side this time. The conditions were utterly miserable with gale-force winds and spots of rain wreaking havoc. Nadal was visibly irritated by Mother Nature, the wind making dents in his usually rock-solid forehand.
Federer, conversely, was completely at his ease. His flat strokes hit through the wind better than Nadal’s did and his game-plan, which often falls apart against the Spaniard, was executed magnificently. In the end, the straight-set victory was well-earned by Federer.
I don’t know what it all means. The Maestro has been coming up short when it really counts (i.e. the Majors)...and even though I have long stipulated that tennis is about more than 4 tournaments a year, in the minds of many, tennis IS the Slams. If he can’t pull it together and beat the top guys at the big ones, all of this success will be forgotten except by television commentators who will mention it as an after-thought.
It seems to me, though, that Roger’s found his mojo again. Will we see him lift the Roland Garros trophy? Could be, but that’s a tough ask. I think it more likely that a 17th title would come at Wimbledon or the US Open.
Federer is, of course, a media darling. He and Rafa (no offense meant to Nole) are the faces of our sport. For the entire last year, Federer has gone into majors declared as one of the favorites...but he had simply lost the ability to hang with Nadal and Djokovic. This time around, it won’t be lip service.
Sat 06/07 06:31
Tennistalk says farewell
Thu 06/06 04:05
Novak Djokovic's unsung hero
Tue 21/05 15:52
Another Federer and Nadal match disappoints
Fri 17/05 18:03
Bill Tilden and the effects of moral bankruptcy on a legacy
Tue 19/03 21:01
Professor Federer teaches us a thing or two
Mon 18/03 15:43
Nadal makes the cleverest comeback in tennis history
Fri 01/02 22:00
Nadal's return at Vina del Mar
Thu 15/11 16:54
Federer and company make no room at the top for youth
Tue 11/09 20:24
Murray joins the ranks of Grand Slam elite
Fri 17/08 19:45
There is something about Roger Federer
Mon 13/08 23:05
Tennistalk is in Cincinnati again
Tue 12/06 16:21
The French Open, Nadal's personal playground
Wed 09/05 14:58
Novak Djokovic takes up skating at the Madrid ice rink
Thu 29/03 14:30
Nadal and Spain give French TV a punch in the mouth
|1. Djokovic||12 500 pts|
|2. Murray||8 750 pts|
|3. Federer||8 670 pts|
|4. Ferrer||6 970 pts|
|5. Nadal||6 385 pts|
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