Saturday, January 24, 2015

Roger Federer's 2015 so far

I am way behind on posts for all that's been going on with Roger in the last couple months, mostly due to craziness in my own life, along with the multitudes of articles already being written about him.  But as it's a good way to air my own thoughts, it's time to get something down on paper.

I had a lot of high hopes going into Melbourne.  After his tremendously successful season in 2014, ending officially with the incredible victory in Davis Cup, he started his year in amazing fashion with his 1000th win, which just happened to coincide with his 83rd title in Brisbane.  It was a very happy moment for Roger and his fans, producing a great emotional high heading into the first grand slam of 2015.

His second round match in Melbourne ended up being more difficult than anticipated, losing the first set to Bolleli, who was playing some insane tennis and giving Roger almost no chances.  But as expected, Bolleli couldn't hold that level and it was cruise mode for the rest of the match.  When I heard that Chardy had lost his match to Seppi I was breathing easy, feeling the 3rd round was going to be a routine match, as Seppi has never had success at all against Roger.  Roger came out looking a little flat in the match, though, and just couldn't seem to find his "A" game.  The nine double faults, too many break point opportunities that he didn't take advantage of, and missing shots he would normally make showed that he just couldn't find his usual flow.  Losing the 2nd set in a tiebreak he should have won, letting a shot go that landed in that he could have put away, was incredibly disheartening.  When he won the 3rd set, though, I thought he had it figured out and would go on to a five set victory, but he still just wasn't finding that breakthrough.  The 4th set tiebreak again he should have won - up a minibreak, then losing it on a basic error.  But then on match point to have him let a shot go again that he could have gotten was just crazy (and discouraging).  

As I processed the disappointment I had to come to the conclusion that this win just wasn't meant to be.  He actually won more points in the match than Seppi did (probably from all the break point opportunities he didn't take), which is always a little strange, and the fact that he let two shots go that landed in that would have made a huge difference in the match was just too weird.  As sad as I still feel that he lost so early in a tournament I thought he had a good chance to win, and another opportunity for #18 missed, I have to go with this feeling that this is the way it was supposed to happen.

See, here's the thing.  He only had 8 days off during the off season.  His season was extended by Davis Cup, in which he was dealing with an injury, which had to be exhausting, then he did the whole travel thing to India and more matches (though I know he loved doing it and had so much fun), then hard practice in Dubai followed by his charity match in Switzerland with Stan, then quickly back to training hard after a few days off for Christmas.  He also threw in another tiring charity match against Hewitt right after his difficult title match against Raonic in Brisbane.  It can't help but catch up with him, regardless of his age.  He also has a very busy life between his lovely family who he spends a lot of time with, plus his many commitments with all his sponsor companies.  So whether he or anyone else would agree or not, I think he overextended a bit and it was just a bit too much to expect him to play seven difficult matches with a hard draw.

To be honest, I would rather have him lose early than end up losing to Nadal in the semis.  Even though Rafa has looked vulnerable so far, he tends to gain confidence as a tournament goes along, so to me it would be a nightmare to have another loss in the semis to him.  Better to have a longer rest time, which he so desperately needs, and come back fresh for Dubai before heading over for Indian Wells.  As long as he can stay healthy there is still so much to look forward to, so much to be encouraged about.  But for right now recuperating and taking care of his body is of utmost importance.  So while I'm still very disappointed in the loss, I'm trying to look at the positives and I will still be enjoying the tennis in Australia while thinking of the Federer family enjoying a wonderful vacation together, preparing to come back strong in another month.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The emotional week of Federer fans

And they've done it!  The elusive Davis Cup trophy is finally theirs after a masterclass performance by Roger Federer over substitute French player Richard Gasquet.  But allow me to regress for a just a moment.

Oh, the emotions of the last week as a Federer fan.  Last Sunday was one of deep disappointment as Roger had to withdraw from the final of the World Tour Finals after injuring his back against buddy Stan Wawrinka.  Then there was the little tiff between the two that should have stayed like that, just between the two.  Instead, thanks to many stupid media people, it became "huge" news.  Then there was the wondering whether Roger would even be able to play Davis Cup at all, as doctors worked on his back and he rested.  There was cautious optimism as he took to the practice court mid week, and again on Friday after a brilliant performance by Stan Wawrinka over Jo Wilfred Tsonga, but then disappointment again as Roger lost in straight sets to Gael Monfils.  Though Roger definitely improved as the match went on, it was obvious that once he got over the tentativeness from the back scare, that he just really hadn't practiced much on clay.  Then Saturday came with the news that Roger and Stan would be taking the doubles court.  Wow, was that a great decision to have them play, as well as the earlier decision to seek the help of the Bryan Brothers' coach David Macpherson to increase their doubles strategy.  Usually the doubles point is huge in winning Davis Cup ties, and it certainly was here.

When I woke up on Sunday and found that Gasquet was replacing Tsonga in the singles match against Federer I know the Swiss guys likely had it in the bag.  Roger had found his game again on the doubles court Saturday, with his back obviously recovered and with enough clay practice to again feel comfortable.  I wouldn't say that Gasquet played a bad match; he was simply over-classed by an in-the-zone Fed who wasn't playing for himself, but for his brothers and for his country.  In fact, Federer never even faced a break point in his 6-4 6-2 6-2 win.  As he eased a final drop shot over the net on match point, he fell to his knees, then full out on his stomach as emotions took over.  The hugs from Captain Severin Luthi and then all the other members of the team were priceless to watch as I wiped my own tears.

 To say this is a well deserved win for both Federer and Wawrinka is a huge understatement.  So many of the teams who have won this trophy multiple times have come as a result of a great depth of players to rely on when some members want to take a break.  Not so with the Swiss - it really has been up to these two, which makes the win even more meaningful.  They both devoted themselves this year to making Davis Cup a priority and thankfully it paid off.  It would have been a terrible shame if the back injury that occurred when the two of them played each other the week before had prevented this great victory.  The fact that there was a little tension between the two really only shows the depth of their friendship; just as husbands and wives have little arguments and then quickly move forward, so did these two, who now get to share a wonderful celebration together on behalf of their team and their country.  Congratulations Swiss guys, and I will always feel that I have some Swiss blood in me because of you.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A few thoughts on Paris and beyond

Even though Federer lost in the quarterfinals of Paris today, it didn't take too long for the initial disappointment to dissipate.  Sure, the thought of him winning a third trophy in a row sounded appealing, and giving himself a great chance to end the year at #1.  But think about it - a lot of fans weren't necessarily even expecting him to play Paris at all after winning back-to-back trophies in Shanghai and Basel.  He had already expressed that the World Tour Finals in London and Davis Cup were his priorities.  If he would have made it all the way to the final he would have put two more days worth of matches into his already tired body.  I say it's time for a rest and to get ready for the last two big events of the year.

He didn't play a bad match at all in his loss to Raonic.  I will say, though, that Raonic played quite amazing.  He knew what was on the line for him - a chance to participate in the esteemed World Tour Finals - and he played like someone with a lot to lose.  Yes, I was getting frustrated with the way Federer wasn't having much of a chance on Raonic's service games because of that incredible serve, especially after having faced this already against Karlovic just the week before in Basel.  But Milos stepped up in more ways than just his serve, painting the lines many times on his forehand, and he deserved the win.  And I don't feel that Roger really minded losing that much anyway - his mind is already moving ahead to getting some rest and hopefully playing amazing in London.

Also, I never really felt that Roger adjusted fully to this ultra slow court in Paris.  Even though he got a couple wins, it seemed like it was a little more of a struggle than normal maybe.  I'm hoping the court in London will be a bit quicker for the style that suits his game so well.  He has already expressed he is hoping to win in London.  It will be a hard task, as always, but with the season he has had, why not?


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Federer lifts first trophy in Shanghai

Roger Federer continues to amaze.  At 33 years old he just won his second Masters 1000 title in a row, adding a trophy he has never won before, and beating world #1 Novak Djokovic in the process  With his 4th title of the year in 9 finals, with the most wins of anyone on the tour this season, those calling for his retirement have been shut down as he proves himself over and over again.

It was a hard fought battle in the final.  Unlike the match against Djokovic in the semifinal in which everything seemed to be working, a practically perfect match played by Roger in Novak's eyes, the match against Simon for the trophy was one of grit and determination, fighting through when things weren't going his way.  Starting the match by getting broken was certainly less than ideal, and then seeming to find no way to get into Simon's service games made for a frustrating first set, really just getting a bit lucky that Simon got tight trying to serve for the set.  Somehow, somehow, though, he managed to find a way to hang in there and take the tiebreak.  I really thought getting the first set under his belt was going to give him confidence to be able to close out the match in easier fashion, especially with Simon needing a medical timeout before the 2nd set started.  Although Roger had his chances to break, though, he just couldn't find a way to get it done.  And much credit to Simon who kept hanging in there.  Thankfully Roger was able to save break points and close it out in a second tiebreak.

Really this match didn't seem like the final to me - the semifinal against Djokovic was the match he totally shined in, playing the kind of tennis his fans absolutely love, with brilliant winners and not many errors.  He has been showing once again what a healthy Roger Federer can do, in spite of the criticism from the media, and supposed fans even, as he fought through injury last year.  I just can't say enough how impressive it is that someone who was supposedly finished, according to many, who was just too old to be relevant anymore in today's game, and who was going to ruin his legacy, at 33 (and with four kids, no less) has ignored all that, has continued to work hard, push through, and has already won four titles this year, again, with the most wins of anyone on tour.  I am just so impressed, in awe really, at what this man can do.  He now has a week off before one of his special tournaments, Basel, then we'll see what he decides to do about Paris before the World Tour Finals and Davis Cup.  There's even a potential he could end the year as World #1, though he would have to have an incredible finish to do so.  With the way he's been performing, though, I'm certainly not going to put it past him!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Federer into 11th semifinal of 2014 in Shanghai

In spite of being all stuffed up with a cold this week as well as beginning his conquest in Shanghai with a very late night, Roger Federer is through to his 11th semifinal of the year, to play world #1 Novak Djokovic.  

It started out with a rather perilous match against Leonardo Mayer, who was playing some sublime tennis.  Roger had five match points against him and would have been out on the first one if a lucky net cord had gone the other way.  But he managed to save all of them, some in a very topsy-turvy tiebreak that would challenge any Fed fan's nerves.  Since then his form has gotten progressively better.  In his 3rd round match against Batista Agut he was certainly tested, but came through in straight sets.  

His quarterfinal match against old foe Benneteau, who has given Roger and his fans some headaches in the past, proved to be a treat with some spectacular points on both sides.  Until the last couple points in the tiebreak in the first set it was impossible to tell who was going to come out on top, with Benneteau giving all that he had as he usually does against Roger.  That seemed to be all he had left, however, as the second set went very quickly with Roger serving up a bagel to close things out.

Roger has once again had to play all late evening matches in Shanghai.  Thankfully, however, his semifinal against Djokovic will also be at this same time, as I'm sure conditions are fairly different in the daytime.  I won't even venture a prediction on how this match will go, but either way Roger has continued to play amazingly this year and fully deserves the place he will go to at the beginning of next week, back to #2 in the world.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Final thoughts on Federer's US Open

After Federer's incredible comeback from two sets down to beat Gael Monfils in a thriller in the quarterfinals, it was a shock and a huge letdown when he lost in straight set to an inspired Marin Cilic.  It felt that a trip to the final was pretty much guaranteed with how well he was playing throughout the tournament, and to be honest, I mistakenly wasn't really thinking of Cilic being much of a threat.  How wrong I was.

There may have been an element of tiredness involved in the loss after playing a five-setter less than two days earlier, on top of all the other tennis Roger has been playing the last few weeks, getting to the final of one Master's 1000 and winning another.  But I think the biggest reason for it was that Cilic simply played out-of-his-mind amazing tennis.  I didn't feel like Roger played bad.  Sure, there was some untimely errors, but he came out of the match with more winners than errors.  Maybe if he had been at full energy he could have found a way to combat the incredible tennis Cilic was playing, but I'm not sure of that.  As Cilic said himself, it was the best tennis of his career.

The biggest disappointment comes, of course, because I so desperately want that 18th major title, which seemed very much within reach.  Sometimes I think, though, if I could just let that longing go for at least one more major, that I could enjoy the rest of his career a lot more without that pressure of feeling like he just has to win, that he's running out of time, that his record might be passed, etc.  The fact that he is still ranked in the top 3, winning titles, getting to the semis and finals of slams, and playing still amazing tennis at 33 years old isn't to be taken for granted, as we have seen.  I already get over losses easier than I used to, and I plan to work on not having such high expectations, letting the great victories be joyous but not presumed they will happen.

And even though I'm still really disappointed that Roger isn't in the final with a chance to win it, I still think it's kind of exciting to have some guys in there who no one would have ever expected.  Sure it's been great to have the big 4 so dominant, but at some point change has to come and I want to continue to enjoy tennis when other guys are winning.  So let's continue to savor the GOAT Federer for as long as he chooses to grace us with his presence on the tennis court, but also continuing to enjoy the great game of tennis itself, realizing there are many talented players out there we can appreciate.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Roger Federer awes us once again

Though I'm way behind on posts, I just have to do a quick one to say what a treat the last week has been for Federer fans.  We have seen four matches so far and in each one Roger has looked simply amazing.  It's like going back several years in time to watch him tear around the court, using his full arsenal of shots, and really looking more like a 23-year-old rather than the 33-year-old father of four.  

Last year it seemed almost too much to hope that he could be back to this level again.  Yes, we knew he was being hindered by a back injury, and I was getting incredibly frustrated by those writing him off when his body just wasn't letting him play his game.  But I don't know if I truly believed he could be back to the level he currently is at given his natural aging process.

Now, I realize there is still a long way to go to win this tournament.  He has some difficult matches coming up.  But with the way he is currently playing it's not unreasonable to believe he could be the one holding the trophy come Monday.  

There is so much that is amazing about Roger Federer - the incredible records he hold; his graceful and beautiful game; the way he gives of his time to his fans, the media, his foundation, in such an unselfish way; being able to continue to travel the world and stay in the top 5 with two sets of twins(!); and now the way he is proving so many who thought he had nothing left completely wrong, regardless of the final results of the U.S. Open.  I continue to be amazed over and over again.

I'm not going to bother to go through the matches he has played so far; I'm too far behind in that as it is and there are hundreds of articles already.  I just wanted to express a little more awe in what The Maestro continues to accomplish.  And I continue to have great hope for what the next week will bring.