Monday, August 18, 2014

Joy for Federer and fans as he lifts his 80th trophy

Wow, what a rollercoaster ride of a final.  But it ended in pure joy with Roger winning his 6th Cincinnati title and, more importantly, his 80th title overall.  

For a while it seemed it was maybe going to be a pretty straightforward match.  Federer took the first set 6-3 and then in the first game of the second set, which lasted over 10 minutes, he had multiple break point opportunities.  I think if he could have taken one of those he would have rolled to an easy victory.  He wasn't able to capitalize, however, and in the next game David Ferrer showed incredible tenacity, pushing himself to extremes to win some amazing points.  It all went downhill from there, and what was really going on is anyone's guess, because before we knew it the score was 5-0.  

My feeling is that there has been a mental block lately in finals for Roger.  Anyone who plays tennis themselves can understand this feeling; the body tightening up at critical times, over hitting or under hitting just trying to finish it up.  Although it's kind of hard to understand for someone with the accomplishments he has had, with the kind of year he experienced last year, it makes sense.  Having lost in five finals this year, many of which he should have won, this win was hugely important for his confidence moving forward.

He started playing a bit better at the end of the 2nd set, managing to get one game and starting to find his form again.  Yet I was still incredibly nervous in the third set, more than I was even in the Wimbledon final.  I just felt this win was so necessary for him to find that ability to close out wins for big titles again.  And he seemed to find that inner ability once again to get it done in style.  I have to say I did feel sorry for poor David Ferrer, who has now lost all 16 times he has played Roger.  And he tried so very hard, truly giving his all.  He looked incredibly sad at the trophy ceremony.  

On the other hand, though, Roger looked absolutely thrilled with his win, as his fans both in the stands and at home were going crazy with joy and relief.  Myla and Charlene came to join the team for the award ceremony and looked so cute every time they were on camera.  Roger was glad to be getting a bigger trophy to bring home for them.

Roger's joy continued as he went to the balcony to show off his coveted trophy to the huge crowd waiting for him.  He had fun playing peek-a-boo with them, which produced many loud roars.  Look at the extreme happiness on his face!

So he has great momentum now to take him into the U.S. Open.  Hopefully he can get some good rest this week, especially with not needing to practice as much with all of this helpful match play he has had the last two weeks.  And with Rafa Nadal announcing he won't be playing this year, Roger has an incredible opportunity to grab that elusive 18th major title.  Allez Roger!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Federer marches through the draw in Cincy

Roger is once again into the semifinals of a Masters 1000 tournament.  Wow, what a year this has been so far for our 33-year-old hero.  He has the most wins of anyone at this point for 2014 (including having more wins already than he had all of last year) as well as having the most top 10 wins.  He continues to have such a passion for the game, fighting through when he's down, finding ways to turn things around.  He has played a lot of three set matches lately when his levels drops a little but he is finding a way to win once again.

His match against Andy Murray certainly looked like it was going to go three sets when he got down not one but two breaks in the second set, making too many errors as Murray lifted his level.  But he didn't give up and when he got one break back he believed he still had a chance in the set.  Being that Murray is struggling a bit with his level, he let Roger back in and he not only got both breaks back, but broke again to win the match.  Even though he said he felt like he stole the second set, we'll take it!

He now plays an in form Milos Raonic in the semis, who he has a 5-0 head-to-head against.  They unfortunately have the late night match, which will probably start at 9 p.m. or after.  This is what happened to him in Toronto also, so if he makes the final he will have a quick turn-around after a late night, plus very different conditions of play in the daytime.  But even though he has admitted to being tired, he knows the end is in sight with a rest next week before the U.S. Open.  If he can pull off a win again, hopefully his experience last week in Toronto will help him be able to deal with the different day-night conditions, and knowing he will be able to have some rest will hopefully keep him pushing through.  If not, all the more rest for him before the last grand slam of the year.  Regardless of how the next match goes, he has done tremendously, to get this far in two huge tournaments against quality opponents.  It's so encouraging to see a healthy Roger for 2014!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

At least he got there!

Just a quick post to close out Toronto before Roger start his first match in Cincy.  There are two ways to look at his recent loss in the final to an inspired Jo Wilfred Tsonga.  It's easy to dwell on the negatives - that he has only won two of the seven finals that he has been in this year, that he didn't even create any break point opportunities against Jo, that he made too many errors.  And of course these things are true.  But more important than all of this is that he made it to the final in the first place.  He struggled in a couple of the matches, against Cilic and Ferrer, and as someone so aptly put it on twitter, last year he would have lost one of those matches.  

Let's quickly list the extreme positives:

  • He fought through tough matches when he maybe wasn't playing his best against good opponents and got the wins
  • He made it to the final when guys like Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka lost early
  • He is 33 years old, has four kids, and is still ranked #3 in the world 
  • He has made it to seven final this year, including a grand slam
  • He is healthy again, playing sooooo much better than last year
  • He is enjoying tennis and life on the tour at an age when several of the guys his age have already hung up their raquets
I think that gives you the idea that there is so much to be happy about in spite of the disappointing loss.  I firmly believe much of that had to do with the extremely unfair scheduling with Roger only playing evening matches until the final.  Conditions are much quicker in the daytime and even though he usually does well with quick conditions, if he hasn't been playing in them at all it simply is too hard to adjust without practice.  Also, he had several late nights, which is hard to recover from.  In spite of those issues, however, it really was a very close match in terms of score; a couple points different in the second set tiebreak and he may have turned it around.  

But on to Cincy now.  We will see how he recovers from his busy week last week.  Hopefully he can put up a good showing here, but if not, all the more time to rest and then practice up for U.S. Open, where I think he has a very good chance.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Roger's Toronto experience thus far

It's been quite a week so far for Roger Federer in Toronto.  It started out with a fun ball hockey game on the tennis court with some of the NHL guys.  Roger looked like he was genuinely enjoying himself in almost a little boy-like way, so thrilled when he finally scored a goal.

His first tennis match was against Peter Polansky from Canada, who said he had practiced with him numerous times, which was always quite laid back, but in a match situation he said Roger "right off the bat, the first ball he's trying to kill ya."  Being that Roger has been his idol and that he said it would make his career to be able to play him, I'm sure he meant it in the nicest way possible.

His second match against Cilic was tricky.  He managed to win the first set, however, and as the second set went on Cilic seemed to have moments of nerves where he would make multiple error, such as in the 4-5 game where Federer had six match points.  On several of these Cilic came up with some great shots or serves and saved them.  But there were also a few that Roger totally should have had, such as an easy closing volley that he put into the net.  Unfortunately these misses allowed Cilic to not only close out the game, but eventually the set.  As we know, however, Roger was able to get it done in the third.  

I was hoping, after that experience, that his match against David Ferrer would be a different story - that he would have it firmly set in his mind that he didn't want another situation like that to happen.  After taking the first set with some beautiful play and then getting up a break in the second, however, it's like his attention started to wander and he began making multiple errors (21 by the time the set was over) and he not only lost the break, but got broken again and lost the set.  At this point I really had no idea what was going to happen.  It wasn't like Ferrer was suddenly in control of the match; Roger was, whether playing well or badly.  Finally in the third, though, his concentration seemed to zone in again and he was able to tidy up the errors and create the winning shots that had given him the first set.  And, thankfully, he was able to close it out on his first match point.

Not only was the win important to get him to the semifinals, especially given the fact that Djokovic, Wawrinka, Murray and Berdych all went out early, giving him a great opportunity for the title, but especially because it was a special day for him - his 33rd birthday.  A cake was brought out on court, a special Lindt production which made me crave chocolate cake for the next hour.  He looked like he was enjoying it himself and was able to close out the day eating cake and being celebrated by his fans who love him.

He gets Feliciano Lopez as his semifinal opponent, who he has a 10-0 record against.  Hopefully history will repeat itself in this category, and hopefully with an easier win than his last two, as he has to be getting tired after these last two matches.  A trophy in Toronto would be a great way to close out his birthday week.

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!