Thursday, April 17, 2014

Catching up on Roger's last few weeks

I'm afraid I have been rather neglectful of my blog the last few weeks, which definitely isn't due to a lack of interest or lack of attention to everything related to Roger Federer or tennis in general.  It actually has been an exciting few weeks for Federer fans.  First we got the added bonus of seeing him play three matches in Switzerland for the Davis Cup quarterfinals, including an exciting live 5th rubber for the first time in his career.  He came through, of course, in supreme fashion, taking the Swiss guys to the semifinals where they will play at home against Italy in September.  Ok, old news, I know, but I didn't personally write about it so I can't just let it go unmentioned.

Thinking it would then be about a month before we would see Roger again, I had prepared myself for it mentally when the surprising and happy news came that he was taking a wildcard into Monte Carlo.  I always have mixed feelings towards Monte Carlo.  On the one hand, how can anyone be immune to the absolutely gorgeous view of the Mediterranean from Center Court?  But aside from that, I'm not a big fan of the clay - probably, to be honest, because it seems to always be the same person winning the tournaments, which gets very boring to me, along with the fact that in some matches the rallies seem to go on forever on each point.  That being said, when it's Roger Federer playing on clay that completely changes the picture for me.  He is still able to play his beautiful tennis in spite of the dirty stuff, he is still able to shorten points and hit gorgeous winners, and he is still able to get through service games in less than a minute.

He has played two matches now, the first one being a breeze against Radek Stepanek, the second being a bit of a fight against Lukas Rosol.  But given the fact that his quarterfinal will be against the big hitting Tsonga, having to fight hard is good preparation.  Whatever happens in this tournament, though, whether he loses in the next round or goes on to win the whole thing, he has had a chance to find his feet on clay a bit.  

Because it seems likely he will be missing at least one of the next couple big clay events in Madrid or Rome due to the fact that his wife Mirka is going to be having his third child sometime in the near future.  He has been quite discreet as to exactly when this is going to be happening (and really, who ever knows for sure anyway), but anyone observing her over the last month can't help but notice it can't be too much longer.  The media is taking advantage of making it into a big story that he is willing to miss some tennis events (even the French Open, they say) to be there when the baby is born, though he has already said this is unlikely, telling me it will surely be in the next few weeks.  And they love to make it sound like it's so shocking that he would be willing to miss some tennis to make sure he's there.  Well, of course he plans to be there!  The birth of a child can never be replaced and I for one am very glad that he wouldn't consider missing such an event regardless of the timing.  So we wait to see when it will happen, how it will affect his tennis life, but mostly with excitement knowing the joy it will bring to he and his family.

In the meantime, we will enjoy watching him play his beautiful tennis at this beautiful site, with no stress since he wasn't even going to play it anyway, but just savoring it as long as it lasts.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Roger Federer close-up pictures at Indian Wells

I've been home for a couple weeks now from my absolutely wonderful trip to Indian Wells where I got to be there for the entirety of the tournament.  You can see a previous post on my experiences there, especially the close-up Federer moments ( my-awesome-indian-wells-roger-federer ). 

My friend I attended the tournament with had a chance to go through her pictures, being a much better photographer than I am, so I chose some of the best Roger pictures that she took.  Even though this blog isn't really the best for multiple pictures, this still seems like the best place to share them.  Enjoy!











Nice hair, Rog



Loved getting some looks at the girls

Thursday, March 27, 2014

In spite of Federer loss, many positives in 2014

Roger Federer lost to Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals of Miami in a rather puzzling match that looked 100% like it was going Federer's way.  Leading by a set, in which he looked quite convincing in spite of his low first serve percentage, and then two times a break up in the second, it seemed as if it was going to be wrapped up quite quickly.  But each time after securing the break he was immediately broken back.  As he said later, he just couldn't seem to find his rhythm on his serve, and that caused him to question himself in some of his other shots.  Kei began playing more aggressively, and in the end he was the better player.

But the biggest contributing factor, along with his serve being MIA, were the night conditions that have often been difficult for Roger to overcome in Miami.  Along with playing at night for the first time in the tournament, conditions were freezing for Florida, so given that all of Roger's matches had so far been played in 80+ degree temperatures, this was extremely different from what he was used to.  This isn't an excuse; it's just plain fact.

After each Federer loss it takes me a little while to process it.  While it was disappointing to have him lose a match that looked totally like it was going to be an easy victory, we have to look at the whole picture.  First of all, Roger has had a great year in comparison to the struggles of 2013.  He is healthy, moving great around the court again, playing with aggression, using his new racquet to come up with the incredible shots that never cease to amaze, and overall seems to be back to the Roger Federer we know and love.  

Miami hasn't been overall a successful tournament for him anyway, so if he has to lose I guess I would rather have him lose to Nishikori than to Djokovic two times in a row, or worse yet, Nadal in the final.  I think we can take some positives out of Miami, though:  He had some great matches showing off his GOAT skills and giving him more confidence as he moves forward, and he gained ranking points that should take him back to #4 in the world.

So now he gets to head back home to Switzerland and go hang out with his Davis Cup buddies, which is always fun for him, and hopefully to put the Swiss team into the semifinals

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Federer in scintillating form in Miami

I just finished watching Roger Federer put a beatdown on Richard Gasquet and I'm so excited that I have to write a post right now.  Roger was in absolutely incredible form with a 6-1 6-2 victory in a mere 49 minutes!  He took 5 out of his 6 break point chances, which is awesome in itself.  He has had only one break point against him in the whole tournament so far, and saved it easily today.  He made every part of tennis look oh so easy, and made it look oh so difficult for his opponent.

Much was made of Nadal winning 6-1 6-0 against Istomin in 59 minutes yesterday, but Istomin is ranked #57, Gasquet is ranked #9.  Another notch in the belt of Roger Federer in his top 10 wins so far this year, which include Tsonga, Murray, Berdych, Gasquet and Djokovic.  

I can't help but to keep coming back to the point that so many in the media put Federer's rough 2013 down to Father Time catching up with him, with some people saying he would soon be out of the top 10 and he should retire.  There are many who should be very embarrassed and really owe him an apology for not giving any credence to the back injury he was suffering and that it was for that reason he was struggling.  While it was hard to watch last year, it really makes these victories all the more beautiful.  

He is projected to be #4 in the rankings again after this week, assuming either that Roger wins in his quarterfinal against Kei Nishikori or that Tomas Berdych doesn't win the title.  At 32 years old, and with a growing family who travel everywhere with him, this isn't too shabby!  

I felt like I was beaming like a proud parent during and after that match.  So incredibly impressed with the comeback he has had in 2014.  Let's see how far he can go in Miami!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My awesome Indian Wells-Roger Federer experiences

I just returned from my fourth year in a row attending the amazing Indian Wells tennis tournament.  Each year has been special in its own way, but my 2014 experience was, well, can I just say incredible?  Or awesome?  Or amazing?

For one thing my friend and I decided a few months ago to splurge and purchase a package that gave us tickets to every session of the entire tournament.  In past years I only attended the 2nd & 3rd rounds, so this in itself was very exciting.  Of course, knowing I had tickets through the final gave me all the more of a burning desire to see Roger Federer reach the final.  And he did!!!!  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Oh, first let me warn you.  The pictures in this post were taken by me and I am not a good photographer; in fact, I am pretty bad.  It took me several days to even realize that the two devices I was using could focus in closer, so some look far away (I was, in fact, a lot closer than the first few pictures appear).  In a future post I will use pictures taken by my good friend who is an excellent photographer.  But this will have to do for now.


Let me start with some of the most special highlights for me (of course, realizing that highlights and Roger are synonymous in this case).  My first priority, other than Roger's matches, were watching his practices because that's where you can get really close.  That means, though, getting there about an hour early and sitting/standing in the blaring sun.  But hey, that's totally worth it.  The first day he was practicing on a back court, which was unusual.  I managed to worm my way into a front row view over the fence.  When he finally arrived he was accompanied by none other than Stefan Edberg, who was only at the tournament for a very limited time.  I was very excited to realize that they were going to hit together, and soon Stefan was about 20-30 feet away from me hitting back and forth with the great Federer (and getting quite sweaty I might add).  That was very cool, knowing I would probably never see something quite like that again.  I was very pleased when they switched sides after a while and Roger was just a little ways away from me.  I was just drinking it all in.  




The next practice session was one of the coolest tennis experiences I may ever have.  I read in the morning that Roger was going to be practicing on stadium court 8 rather than a practice court in the later afternoon, one of the small outer courts that basically have seats right on the court.  I knew that would be a good one, so I got there very early and got a seat in the second row.  Though he was 15 minutes late on top of that, it was well worth the wait.  He brought with him Edouard Roger-Vasselin, ranked #43, to hit with him.  After their warm-up I realized they were going to play a practice set.  He soon moved to the side I was sitting on and they were playing a full-out set.  Now this may not sound like a big deal, but the difference between just practicing and actually playing a set are extreme because in a practice set they are playing full-on tennis.  To see the great Roger Federer play his beautiful forehands and backhands at full strength, serve with full force, run and slide in defense, and see it all from basically on the court is breathtaking.  I really couldn't believe I was witnessing it.  Watching his actual matches are always amazing, but that it from quite a ways up in the stadium; this was a completely different experience that I will always feel privileged to have witnessed, one of my favorite experiences of my time at Indian Wells. 

I also got to be quite close to him when he did his Tennis Channel interview at their desk outside the stadium.  We just happened by and noticed him sitting there, so of course I quickly got as close as I could.  The interview was almost finished, and I couldn't hear what he was saying anyway, but soon he left the platform and started signing autographs.  I was a couple people back and couldn't get my hat in there to give to him, but I could see him very close.  In fact, my husband and also a member of my tennis club told me later that they saw me in the crowd on Tennis Channel.  I could tell I wasn't going to get his autograph, so my friend grabbed my hat, went a little farther down the line, shoved her way in and stuck it right under his nose.  She said she felt kind of rude, but I'm sure Roger is used to it; and he did sign my hat!  When she came back and proudly displayed it I was so excited!  It's now sitting on my desk at home where I work so I can see it all the time.  And it was very fun to get to see him so close-up in that setting.


One last practice story was a practice I wasn't even planning to go to, but when it came right down to it I just couldn't resist.  I saw he was going to be practicing in the new Stadium 2.  Since the place of his practice had been changed not a lot of people were there when I first got there.  I got a seat in the front row at the end of the court.  When he came in he came to my side of the court and I got this close shot (above).  He walked right underneath me to pick up a ball.  Too bad I couldn't stop him for a quick picture with me in the middle of his practice, which is a goal I haven't yet achieved.

This post is getting long and I haven't even talked about matches yet.  I figured out I watched nine singles matches and three doubles matches with Stan Wawrinka.  The doubles were really fun.  I realize that the first two weren't available on TV or stream, so getting to see it at all was special.  And we had good seats in Stadium 2 for both of the first two doubles matches.  It's very different watching him play doubles compared to singles because he is so much more relaxed, smiling a lot, talking to Stan, slapping hands after every point, and basically just enjoying himself.  There were some funny moments like when Stan beaned Roger in the back of the head.  Even though they lost in the semis I wasn't too sad about that since he would then be able to fully concentrate on the final, but I was so glad I had been able to have the added bonus of seeing him play several more times in a different type of environment from normal matches.  And I think it was also a positive experience for Stan, who was pretty down after his loss in singles.  He seemed to really enjoy himself.

As for singles, watching Roger play live is always an amazing experience.  For most of them I wasn't too stressed as he was playing very well, the best I have seen him play in a long time.  The only one I was really nervous about was the semifinal; since he had gotten so far I so badly wanted him in the final.  After the first six games, though, he was in cruise control and I knew my dream to see him play all the matches was going to come true.  The shot in this link from that match against The Dog was so exciting; the crowd was on their feet screaming and cheering, as was I:  http://www.atpworldtour.com/Media/Video-Landing/*/Tennis/Media/Videos/Uploaded/2014/3/15/Indian-Wells-2014-Saturday-Hot-Shot-Federer.aspx

The final was an incredible experience.  Of course I very much wanted Roger to win, but with the way that he played such amazing tennis, the atmosphere of the crowd, and knowing that he was back to the form that his fans have been longing for made the very close loss not too painful.  And the excitement of him breaking back as Djokovic was serving for the match was just awesome to experience live.  I was very proud of him for making it so far and playing so well in such an important tournament.

Oh, and before I close, during two of the singles matches I was able to spot his twins, Myla and Charlene, in box seats hidden away.  I could see them across the way with my binoculars, sitting with Mary Joe Fernandez and their nannies.  I would watch them between points during the bits of time they were there.  They are adorable little girls and seem very well behaved.  Another added bonus to my wonderful time.

The experiences I had during my week-and-a-half at beautiful Indian Wells are something I will treasure always.  The hard core Federer fans will know how much these close up encounters mean and how much they will be cherished.  For any who have not had an opportunity to see him live I highly encourage you to make it happen; you won't be disappointed. 


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Title #78 for the incomparable Roger Federer


The "incomparable Roger Federer," as he was so aptly called in the trophy ceremony in Dubai, came back to win in three sets over Tomas Berdych in the final to capture his 78th career title, his first since June 2013.  After a truly remarkable win in the semifinal over Novak Djokovic, also in three sets, for a while it looked like that may have taken all of Federer's mental edge and top level play that had been so captivating just the day before.

Although he took advantage in the first set of a poor service game by Berdych to go up a break, that was not to last even one game, as Berdych immediately broke back and reeled off the next five games, eventually taking the first set 6-3.  Roger's first serve percentage was poor and he was throwing in shanks and puzzling mishits that had been missing for the most part during the majority of 2014.  The second set didn't start much better as he went down a break and it looked for all the world like it was going to be a quick win for Tomas.  From somewhere deep within, though, he summoned the energy and desire to keep fighting and managed to break back.  He took the second set by breaking serve at 5-4.  But it was anyone's guess as to what the next set would bring.

Federer managed to get an early break in the third set, but it was far from an easy road to victory.  There were some very tense service games complete with break point opportunities that Berdych was unable to capitalize on.  When Roger was unable to take advantage of a couple championship points on Berdych''s 2-5 service game I was a bit concerned if he would be able to serve it out being that it had been a long title drought for him.  He eventually got it done, though, arms raised in victory for him and millions around the world, along with a few tears on my part.



This title was a big deal for Roger's progress on the comeback trail.  It can play with a person's mind to be on the brink but not able to take the last step, so the combination of beating Djokovic this week and then coming back in the final in spite of the mental drain the semi had taken, and frankly not playing his best tennis in the final match, to get the win anyway will be a great confidence builder for him.  So far this year he has had as many top 10 wins already as he had in the whole of 2013.  Just this stat in itself proves to the many who have said he is in decline, and even that he should retire, that it was injury not decline that lead to his lack of results last year.  He still has much left in him that he wants to show the world.  I think he has many titles left to claim, hopefully one or two of them being majors still.
 
I will be heading to Indian Wells on Thursday for the fourth time but this time it will be for the duration of the tournament rather than just through the third round.  Oh how I would love to see Roger holding that trophy!  I will try to do as many updates as I can.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Federer survives test to reach quarterfinals

Roger Federer was surprisingly tested by 35-year-old Radek Stepanek in his 2nd round win in Dubai, being taken to a 3rd set after a loss of the 2nd set tiebreak.  But as the picture suggests, he finally put his head down and eventually claimed victory.  It really was kind of a strange match.  On the one hand there was some brilliance really from both players, but there was also some ugliness mixed in with many breaks of serve, double faults, and just unforced errors that left us shaking our heads.  To his credit Stepanek played a strong match, showing how badly he wanted it with some diving shots around the court.  It's easy sometimes to look at a player like Stepanek and think it will be an easy win for Roger with their head-to-head and the fact he hasn't even won a set off of Federer since 2008.  We forget, though, that he is a seasoned player who knows what he's doing on the court, has had some great success in Davis Cup to give him confidence, and he can trouble the top players even if he doesn't necessarily pull off the win.

In an interview following the match Roger revealed that he usually struggles in early rounds in Dubai due to the quick courts and getting used to the conditions.  This made me feel a bit better, since I really was a bit puzzled by some of what was going on.  He also said the following after the match:

“I started to understand what I was doing wrong,” said Federer. “Which made me maybe play a little bit tentatively from the baseline, what made me not make enough shots [and] why I wasn't playing as aggressively as I wanted to. I couldn't find the right balance between offense and defense.
“It was almost a bit too late for everything, but I kind of hung around and I took the positives out of the match. Radek did a good job of putting the pressure on me and mixing it up. From that standpoint, it was a really difficult match. I'm very pleased to come through.”

Maybe having to struggle in this win will be what he needs to fully adjust to the conditions and be ready for bigger matches ahead.  His next opponent is Lukas Rosol, who he has never played before.  Rosol has the potential to take out the big guys, such as with his shock win against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon a couple years ago, but overall he has struggled since then, so if Roger stays committed to playing his game he should come out of that match to likely face Novak Djokovic, who is looking like a force to be reckoned with so far this tournament.  But one match at a time.  For now we will be happy with the victory that looked a little questionable for a while.