Monday, July 7, 2014

Roger Federer successful in spite of loss

It always takes me a little time to process a big loss before I can write a post.  Everything ruminates around in my mind as I deal with the disappointment and finally come around to my final conclusions.  Even though I haven't fully gotten there yet, given the amount of hits on my blog, I figured it was time to give it a shot.  This isn't going to be much of a run-down of the match, more just my random feelings as they come to me, so it probably won't be my best journalistic display.

The above picture gives a great clue as to how so many Fed fans were feeling not only in the minutes following, but likely for hours and probably for days.  The fact is, he was so close!  To be honest, in the 4th set I got the resigned feeling I often get when it seems the result is inevitable.  Even after an amazing save of championship point at 2-5 in the 4th set, I really just felt like Djokovic was going to be able to serve it out.  The euphoria when Roger not only broke at 3-5 but again at 5-all was amazing.  At that point it was anyone's match.  That's why it was so disappointing first of all when Federer was unable to capitalize on his break point opportunity at 3-4, but also that he played such a mediocre game at  4-5 with a meek shot into the net to end it on championship point.

But the thing is Djokovic was going for broke, giving everything he had in every point.  After his failure to serve it out in the 4th set I thought that might mentally affect him, but after losing his last three grand slam finals, the determination that Novak had not to let that happen again was clear.  And when the opponent continues to get every shot back into play, that can be mentally exhausting after a while.

Even though the result was disappointing, especially after being so very close, I think this shows great hope for the future.  If anything Federer looked like the younger, fresher player.  There is absolutely no sign of the guy so many were writing off last year.  I was very pleased to hear commentator Darren Cahill say that in spite of thinking before the tournament that this may be Roger's last best chance to win a major, that after seeing the way he played this fortnight, that he thinks now he could definitely win another one.  Do you realize how amazing that is, at almost 33 years old, that he is still highly in contention for the majors?  Oh how much I would love it if he could somehow prove those who are still doubting him wrong by winning the U.S. Open after so many years.  While I'm not going to count on it, I can still hope!

Roger certainly had his moments of sadness, including right after he went off court and met up with Prince William and Kate, when he apparently was in a sad state and they tried to comfort him (how sweet is that!).  But overall he seems pleased that he was able to put up such a fight, especially that he was able to push it to five sets, and that he was able to play so well and be healthy for the entire two weeks.  He has a lovely family to escape with on vacation now before he starts putting in the hard yards in preparation for the U.S. hard court season.  Seeing his girls come out for the award ceremony in spite of the loss was beautiful, and they looked so happy to see their Daddy.  With baby boys Leo and Lenny waiting for him too, who turned two months old, he indeed has a blessed life.

One final note.  This tweet showed up from Mardy Fish, former tennis great who knew Roger well:  "Federer, most respected athlete of all time in any sport."  What more do we need to say?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Roger Federer takes his rightful place in the semis of Wimbledon

Roger Federer is back where he belongs - in the semifinals of Wimbledon.  Gone is all but a bad memory of last year's early round loss.  His good friend and co-patriot Stan Wawrinka gave him a strong test for the first two sets of the quarterfinal match, hitting emphatic winners to keep Roger off balance, and breaking Federer's serve for the first time in the tournament to take the first set.  The second set tiebreak was crucial; down two sets would have been awfully hard to come back from.  But Roger held strong, taking the tiebreak to even things up at a set a piece.  

From there Stan seemed to suffer from a bit of an upset stomach, plus the effects of playing his third match in three days, and Roger was able to secure a break in each of the next two sets.  He did have a bit of a hiccup trying to close out the match, having several deuces and even a break point, but he did eventually seal up match point.  I think it's actually good that he had a test in this match.  His last four matches have been stressless matches for him and his fans; but we all know a person can't win a grand slam title coasting through all seven matches, so might as well get him toughened up for it at this stage.

Now he will have a day to rest, after having to play two days in a row, before he faces his next opponent, Milos Raonic, who is into his first major semifinal.  Roger leads the head-to-head 4-0, but Milos has managed to take a set off of him three of those times.  Federer has only been broken one time in the tournament, Raonic twice.  Hopefully Roger will be able to get a read on his serve to give him the edge.

We now know that one of these four guys will be holding the trophy on Sunday - Federer, Djokovic, Raonic or Dimitrov.  The dream of an 8th Wimbledon title is within sight.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Federer floats through week 1 at Wimby

It's middle Sunday at Wimbledon, with the players and spectators enjoying a break from the harried pace.  Of course, there are differing opinions on whether this time honored tradition should be upheld even when rain delays wreaked havoc with the schedule and will throw off the Monday custom of all the Round of 16 being played in one day.  In fact, Roger Federer is one of the players who will be affected by this.  Although he successfully completed his third round match with a decisive win, as did his next opponent, they have decided to postpone his next match until Tuesday so his whole section will be in the same predicament - having to play matches on back-to-back days (in fact, a couple will have to play three days in a row).

But even with that little bit of negative, everything else has been a whole lot of positive.  The King of Wimbledon Center Court has looked sublime in his first three matches.  While #1 and #2 seeds Djokovic and Nadal have both lost a set (or more) in the first week, Roger has not been challenged whatsoever, looking very much like the seven time champion so far.  And we are well aware that matches that look on paper to be simple (e.g., Stakovsky 2013), in reality the result can sometimes turn out quite different, so floating through the first week with no stress on his mind or body will be much appreciated.  

The second week obviously will become much tougher.  My hope is for another decisive win against another opponent who delivered a shock loss in '13 US Open, Tommy Robredo.  As that loss never would have happened had Roger been healthy, let's hope he can put the matter to rights in a quick three-setter so he will be ready for whoever his quarterfinal opponent may be, which is still quite up in the air since two of the third round matches have yet to be played.

I continue to have high hopes and good feelings about this tournament.  I know we need to take one match at a time, since anything can happen, but Roger is playing great tennis, serving incredibly well, keeping the errors very low (in fact, in his second round match his error count was only 5 for the whole match!).  If he can keep this up I believe he could be the one hold the trophy next Sunday.  One more week and we will know!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Checking in before Wimbledon

It has been way too long since I have done a post, thanks to some health issues I have been experiencing.  But tennis goes on and I thought I would check in before the great Wimbledon begins.  

Of course, our hopes that Federer would go deep at Roland Garros this year was cut short when he unexpectedly lost in the 4th round, but I'm not a clay fan anyway and was so very ready to move onto grass.  Roger had pressure on him at his beloved Halle, being the only title he had to defend from his depressing 2013 season, but he was up to the task, playing well to hold his up his 7th trophy there.

So here we go into Wimbledon, a tournament that was crazy last year with many unexpected losses, including the one that broke many hearts, Federer's second round loss to Stakhovsky.  But this is a new year with a healthy Roger, and he realizes as much as anyone that his chances for winning majors gets less as time goes by, so this is a perfect opportunity to grab that elusive #18.  In fact, not only would it be #18 for majors, but it would be Wimbledon #8 and title #80.  Given that his favorite number is 8, with his birthday being 8/8/81, it seems like the peRFect situation.  

The draw is out now and Roger appears to have a pretty decent one for a change, other than the potential difficulty against Julien Benneteau in round 2, who has beaten him a couple times.  I feel that Roger will be highly motivated for Wimbledon this year, though, and that he is going to do very well.  Hopefully I'm not setting myself up for disappointment.

I will keep this short and sweet, but just wanted to write something after so long and I will try to do much better during this exciting fortnight of tennis.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Federer wins with family in spite of Rome loss

It has been quite an exciting week for anyone who calls themselves a Roger Federer fan.  Of course, by now everyone is aware of the incredible fact that the Federers welcomed a second set of twins, rounding things out by adding two boys to go along with their adorable 4 1/2 year old identical girls.  I have been waiting to do any type of blog post until the uproar subsided at least a tiny bit and until I had a few more details to go along with the news.

I read a wonderful article in The Telegraph that gave some particulars related to little Leo and Lenny Federer, one of these being that they aren't yet sure whether the boys are identical like their sisters or fraternal, like their twin cousins, boy/girl twins of Roger's sister Diana.  They are having a DNA test done to determine this.  Apparently Roger's maternal grandmother was also a twin.  

Allegedly everything happened quite quickly on the evening of May 6th, a week before the official due date.  Roger had been waiting to decide if he was going to Madrid to participate in the tournament and it's a good thing he waited or he would have missed the arrival.  Everything went smoothly, both for the birth and in the week since.  Roger said he didn't remember how much they slept in the beginning, which he says is happening about 22-23 hours a day at this point.  That probably won't continue for long!

He talked about being excited to bring the whole brood along as he travels around the world.  Of course they realize the challenges, but they have already done it with one set, so what's one more, right?  They apparently intend to begin that in Paris at Roland Garros, beginning on May 25th.

His team, including his wife Mirka, decided it would be a good idea for him to play the event in Rome to make sure he kept his rhythm up, though it sounded like he would have been happy to stay at home with the family.  It turns out it will be a short trip, however.  He played Jeremy Chardy in his first match, easily winning the first set in the windy conditions.  The second set, though, Chardy played much more solid and Roger beginning making way too many errors.  The third set evened out a bit again.  Though he was initially down a break, he broke back to take it to a tiebreak.  With a match point on his racquet at 6-5, Chardy made an incredible save for a winner, then ended up taking it 8-6.  While Roger admitted later in his press conference to feeling some anger and frustration, he quickly was able to put that aside, knowing his beautiful family is home awaiting his return.

While some people may try to read things into this loss, there is nothing to be made of it.  For him to even be playing a week after having a second set of twins is pretty incredible.  To expect him to play with full concentration so soon after a momentous occasion is ridiculous.  Chardy played well when he needed to and took advantage of the circumstances.  Federer will be back for Roland Garros ready to play, hopefully with a good draw, and happy with the state of the amazing life that he has.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Summing up Federer's week in Monte Carlo

I am going to attempt to write a blog post about the Monte Carlo final and what to make of it, but even as I begin to type this I'm not sure what I am going to say.  I (and most other Fed fans) went into this final so excited about the opportunity Roger had to add this elusive trophy to his massive trophy case.  Finally Nadal wasn't in his path and he was playing someone who had never won a Masters 1000 title before.  Surely it was his time.  

While I told myself it was a win-win situation no matter the result with Stan Wawrinka being his good friend, someone who is finding himself and an amazing brand of tennis later in his career, and who is a sweetheart in his own right, as the match went from Roger being in the winning position to Stan finding his confidence and aggression to turn it around (final score 4-6 7-6(5) 6-2 Wawrinka), I realized again how badly I wanted this title for Roger.  As happy as I am for Stan and all that he has now accomplished this year (winning his first grand slam, his first Masters 1000, and pulling off an impressive 6-0 record against top 10 players this year) it's hard to see Federer reach another final and end up faltering from a winning position once again.

But when you really add things up you have to see the positives.  First of all, none of us even thought Roger would be playing Monte Carlo at all.  So I went into the week thinking it would be good for him to just get some clay matches under his belt and gain a few points in case he has to miss any tournaments when his baby is born.  Also, he was down and out against Tsonga in the quarterfinal, coming within two points of losing the match.  He was fortunate just to be in the semifinal against Djokovic and beforehand I really didn't see him coming through that one.  And though he certainly earned the win in the first set against Novak, if he had been totally healthy who knows what would have happened the rest of the match.  So with all that in mind, the fact that he was in the final at all when I really didn't expect that at the start of the week was an amazing result.  Did I want him to win it?  You bet I did!  But is it a disastrous result?  By no means.  If someone would have told us the end of last summer that he would make four finals in the first four months of 2014 we would have been ecstatic!

So with all that, as I process the way the match played out, regardless of the fact that he certainly could have won the title if he had just played a little better second set tiebreak, even though there is disappointment involved it was still a very good week, considering he wasn't even going to be playing in the first place.  And he is happy for his good buddy Stan.  He won't be moping around because he lost even though he had his chances.  He will be heading home to rest, which it sounds like he really needs, to be with his lovely family again and await, hopefully soon, the birth of his third child.  So let's take the good from the week and be happy for Roger for all that is so positive in his life right now.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Two Swiss buddies will battle for Monte Carlo trophy

Who would have believed at the beginning of the week that we would be having an all Swiss final in Monte Carlo?  Especially with the presence of Rafael Nadal, who has won it eight times, and Novak Djokovic, the defending champion.  But Nadal seems to be struggling with some confidence issues since his loss in the Australian Open final to Wawrinka, Djokovic has been having an issue with his wrist, and the Swiss guys have completely taken advantage, more than proving their worthiness to claim the title.

Federer and Djokovic played a tough first set in the semi, with no signs of any wrist injury from Novak in spite of the heavy taping.  They each played some beautiful points, and each had chances for breaks that they weren't able to take.  It looked like it could likely go to a tiebreak when out of the blue from 40-0 up Roger was able to claim his first break of the match, then served it out for a 7-5 set.  That took the wind out of Novak's sails and suddenly the wrist issue reared its ugly head in the second set.  Sometimes playing against an injured opponent can be tricky, but Roger was able to stay calm and play his game, winning it at 6-2.  The wrist was obviously a big factor in the second set, but not so in the first, definitely making this a victory without an asterisk next to it.

Stan was able to earn his way to the final by beating David Ferrer in the semi, who seemed a little jaded after his win against Rafa Nadal the day before.  But Stan showed the great tennis he has been playing this year and really took it to him, playing with aggression and authority.

So this sets the stage for the first all Swiss final since 2000.  In spite of the 14 matches Federer and Wawrinka have played (13 in Fed's favor), none have been in a final.  In fact, in spite of the fact that Stan won the Australian Open for his first grand slam title, he has never won a Masters 1000.  It will be a very interesting final indeed.  In many matches they have played against each other it was easy to see that Stan struggles with the high respect factor he has for Roger and just isn't able to play his game.  So how will this play out in an important final now that Stan has proved himself as a champion in Australia, beating both Djokovic and Nadal to claim the title, along with the fact that he is now ranked higher than his good buddy Roger?  This will make for very interesting dynamics indeed.  Not to mention the great relationship these two have, reportedly even having dinner together the night before the final.  How often does that happen?

I would love to see Roger add this title that he hasn't been able to win in the past to his incredible resume, and I will be cheering for him with everything I have.  But if he isn't able to come through with the win, what an exciting time it will be for Stan Wawrinka to claim his first Masters 1000, and for the Swiss in general to have two of their guys in the final of such a prestigious event.  And I know Roger would be thrilled for his great friend Stan if he ended up being the one to hold the trophy in the end.  But as a Federer fan to the very core of my being, 100% of me will be saying "Go Roger!"