Friday, May 31, 2013

Federer into 4th round

After a bit of a sketchy start, Roger Federer soon found his form against Julien Benneteau, someone who has caused Federer problems in the past, winning in straight sets 6-3 6-4 7-5.  Apparently Benneteau was struggling with a bit of an injury - in fact, Roger said afterward in an interview with Pam Shriver that he (Julien) wasn't playing the way he normally does and he almost expected him to retire from the match.  In spite of that, it was still more of a challenge than his first two matches so far at Roland Garros, which were basically just cruise control.  This was his 899th win, so a win on Sunday would put him in an elite group of 900 wins or more.

Interestingly enough it has been Rafael Nadal who has struggled more in his first two matches, losing a set so far in each one.  It seems that some of the bigger hitting guys are getting the idea that if they just "go for it" against him they can trouble him a bit.  But holding that level on clay in a best of five match is a different story.  Apparently Rafa wasn't too happy that his match got pushed back to the next day after all the rain and he wasn't shy about letting the tournament organizers know that the reigning champion was a bit put out that his next round opponent got to finish his match the day before.

The third round match between Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov should be an interesting one.  Dimitrov was able to pull off a win against him just a couple weeks ago.  My sense is that Novak will be the mentally tougher of the two in this one, wanting so badly to have the chance at the career grand slam.  Will certainly be one of the more interesting ones.

Finally I can't let pass the opportunity to post a couple pictures of the adorable Federer twins.  The first one I just came across from a few weeks ago but they look so cute I had to share it.  The second one is from their brief stay watching Daddy play his match against Benneteau.  I love their white fur parkas in the cold Paris weather.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fed starts well in Paris

The media was building up Roger Federer's first round match to potentially be a challenge against futures star Carreno-Busta, a guy who has won titles in seven of the recent futures tournaments for players trying to build their ranking to be able to compete with the big guys in regular tour level events.  It soon became apparent that he wasn't yet up to the challenge of the greatest of all time.  It didn't take long for him to be down 0-5.  Though he did eventually break serve, the set still ended up at 6-2, as did the 2nd set, with the third at 6-3.  Roger played strong, always looking in complete control.  This will give him great confidence moving forward, with his next opponent being challenger Somdev Devvarman.

Basically almost no one is even putting Federer in the running as a favorite in this tournament, in spite of his very favorable draw and the fact that Djokovic and Nadal would meet in the semis, meaning he would only have to beat one of them.  My feeling is that he is always a contender for the title, regardless of the fact that he has only won in Roland Garros one time before.  As for me, I love the idea of him surprisingly hoisting the trophy two weeks from now.

A couple cute pictures of the Federer family from a trip to the zoo a couple weeks ago in Madrid:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Roger Federer and what the future holds

So far 2013 hasn't been a stellar year for Roger Federer.  In fact, for the first time since 2000 he hasn't won a title prior to the French Open.  Of course, as soon as he even loses early in a tournament the media begins to write about his decline and that retirement must be imminent, in spite of how many times he has come back after lulls in his results over the last five years.

However, because we must be realistic about the fact that he will be 32 in less than three months, even the most devoted fans start wondering if maybe this is the beginning of the end.  I was therefore encouraged to read an article on the Roland Garros website.  Here are some quotes from the man himself:

"I'm looking at the long term," he said, fully aware of the reactions he is provoking. "The short term is obviously important as far as confidence is concerned but I'm looking further ahead. People are talking, but if I win a major then all of a sudden, I'll be the best in the world again."

"I'm concentrating on my level of play, I'm happy with what I'm achieving and I've got into a good rhythm in training. I'm where I wanted to be. It's good to get some confidence on clay, I'm playing well and I'm healthy. I tried a few things out against Rafa (in the Rome final) like all-out attack, even if I didn't manage to do it quite right. I'll think I'm ready for a semi or a final at a major."

"I'm only just starting to play well, whereas the other guys might be getting mentally tired after months and months of competition. I'm not as tired as they are and that might be an advantage."

It's so easy to start to doubt when the big results we are used to haven't been there.  However, haven't people learned yet that this winner of 17 major titles with 35 straight quarterfinal appearances knows what he's doing?  Sure, maybe everything doesn't go perfect, but Roger Federer has been doing this for a long time.  He knew when he decided to take an extended break that it would probably affect his results for a while, but he's not a short-sighted type of guy.  He wants to keep playing his much loved tennis for several years to come and in order to do that he had to give up some things in the short term in order to gain long term results.  If he all of a sudden starts winning titles again like he did at the end of 2011 everyone will suddenly be back on the band wagon again.  So I guess this is just a reminder and encouragement that we can trust this man who has proved himself again and again.  While of course it can't last forever, I believe Mr. Federer has some great moments ahead with quite a few titles still to come, hopefully a couple of those being in grand slams!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Processing the Rome men's final

Well, I can't say I really have a lot of heart to write a blog post right now but it is the end of a big Masters 1000 so I will try to muster up the energy and find something to say.  The above picture shows the way the match went and the way it feels trying to process it.

Anyone who watched the final between Nadal and Federer know that it was a blow-out match, a 6-1 6-3 win for Nadal.  Whether Rafa really took it to Roger or Roger handed it to Rafa is up for debate - I would say more the latter.  To me it seems that Rafa is simply in Roger's head in a big way and as soon as things start to go a bit wrong he starts doubting himself and can't make his shots.  Of course, as he mentioned in his interview, the ball flies more in the daytime and bounces more, so given the fact that he had all evening matches, that certainly didn't help his cause.  But no excuses here - it was simply a very bad day at the office and almost nothing he was doing was working, creating over twice the amount of errors as winners.

If you haven't listened to his interview, here it is:

It was interesting the way he talked about Nadal's build-up of playing the 250s and 500s on clay, plus his usual series of Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, which has turned out the same as most years, with Nadal winning most of them.  He has played seven clay tournaments to Roger's two.  How can he compete with that?

While I am still very disappointed, not so much that he didn't win but that he didn't seem to have any answers whatsoever and pretty much gave it to him, it also makes sense that given the difference between the two in their preparation for this tournament, and given that Rafa is definitely in Roger's head, especially on clay, should we have expected a different outcome?  I had hoped, with his confident talk after his semifinal win, that maybe Roger would be coming into the final with a solid game plan that could somehow find a way this time, but it simply wasn't to be.  

The positives we can take out of it are that he made it to the final, going higher in this tournament than he did last year, and also that Nadal will now be seeded #4 for Roland Garros, meaning the soonest the two could meet would be the semis.  Maybe Roger can put this loss to good use as he heads to Paris and starts his preparations.  The draw comes out Friday with hopefully some good luck coming his way.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A dream final in Rome

So the dream final is set.  Rafael Nadal cruised through his semifinal, hardly troubled at all by Tomas Berdych.  Rafa has played better as he has gone through the week, having lost a set in each of his previous two matches, but today he hit his stride and started playing the type of tennis we are used to seeing from him on clay.  Amazingly he has now reached his 8th final in a row since his comeback after 7 months away from the game with injury.

On the other hand Roger Federer started out the week amazingly, losing only 6 games in his first two matches.  Though he is still yet to lose a set, in his semifinal against Benoit Paire he was severely tested.  Down a break in the 1st set he managed to break back thanks to some errors from Paire and it went to a tiebreak.  But, to be honest, each man played a pretty terrible tiebreak, both of them seemingly want to give it away in errors.  Federer somehow managed to walk away with the 1st set, however, and the second turned out to be a bit easier, getting an early break and somehow able to hold on.  There were many more errors than I was comfortable with, but in the end he was able to close it out with little problems.  So regardless of how he got there, Federer is now going to be playing his 111th career final, the 1,100th match in his career after passing the 8,000+ ace mark the night before.  Not too shabby for this "aged" 31-year-old.

I must admit I would have preferred to have a Djokovic-Federer final, as Federer would have a much better chance at the title than he now has, given his dismal record on clay against Nadal.  But that certainly doesn't mean that he doesn't have a chance.  I would imagine the motivation will be very high and it is just unwise to write off Roger Federer, no matter the odds against him.  So while I'm not expecting him to win it, I will certainly be hoping that somehow he might be able to make a dent in Rafa Nadal's incredible clay statistics and win his first trophy in Rome.
A quick side note into the women's side of things - Serena Williams has made it to the final losing only 10 games so far!  It would seem her intensity on clay after her 1st round loss at the French last year is fierce.  It will be interesting to see if Vika Azarenka has any chance of stemming the tide.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Quarterfinals in Rome

It was another good day for Roger Federer and his fans as he beat Gilles Simon 6-1 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.  Simon is one who has given him problems in the past and Roger knew he would need to be at the very top of his game to beat him.  Generally Simon is known as one who just keeps getting everything back, not necessarily hitting a lot of winners, but very consistent - ok, yes, a pusher.  This time Roger basically took it out of his hands, however, playing aggressively like he did in his first match and forcing Simon into many more errors than normal.  Though Federer had a few more errors himself than he did in his first match, that makes sense against a very consistent player and he still had more winners than errors.  

He continues to seem very motivated and determined, which he will need in his next match against hard-hitter Jerzy Janowicz, who has taken out two top 10 players this week.  These two have never faced each other before and I'm sure each of them will be out to prove themselves in this match-up.  They seem to have Fed on night shift right now, playing again in the second night match of the day, which can sometimes work against him with the cooler slower conditions.  Maybe this will actually help him a bit against Janowicz, though, slowing down his power.  I am hopeful that if can get through this one he will have a straight shot to the final (and do I dare hope his first title of the year?). 

There was almost a huge upset in the match between Nadal and Gulbis.  Gulbis came out simply on fire and Nadal looked a little nervous.  The amazing part of this match to me was that Gulbis hit about five times the amount of winners to what Nadal hit, had a positive winners to errors ratio, yet somehow he still lost the match.  Nadal has a way of squeaking through these matches and often goes on to win the title.  What's scary is that Gulbis may not be seeded in the French Open.  I feel sorry for anyone who gets him in their early rounds if he is playing as  he was today.

Our eight remaining quarterfinalists are Djokovic-Berdych, Nadal-Ferrer, strangely Paire-Granollers and Janowicz-Federer.  Can anyone keep the trophy out of Nadal's hands this weekend?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Maestro is back, new look and all

What an incredible display of tennis from the Maestro, Roger Federer, in his first match back after his unexpected early round loss in Madrid.  I knew he was highly motivated by his press conference after losing last week and I could see it in the look in his eye on court today, especially in his first return game.  In his match against Nishikori last week one of the things I was very disappointed with was that in the 1st and 3rd sets he made no impact in the return games.  Today was a different story.  Every point he looked extremely focused and intent on winning it.  He played aggressively and seemed to be the one usually controlling the rallies.  His stats for the match are amazing - 35 winners and just 8 unforced errors.  This had to have felt as good as it looked!

But, of course, the biggest question is, what role did his short new haircut play in his performance?!  It might take a little getting used to, but if this is what it does to his level of play, I will take it!

Obviously the matches will only get harder from here, but hopefully he got the feel of playing his brand of tennis again and will be able to go on and prove himself this week to the doubters that always come out every time he has a lull.

On another topic, I have to share this quote that I read from Tommy Haas's father:
“I’ve never seen a tennis player – and I’ve met many athletes and champions from all professions throughout Tommy’s entire career – as a person and a complete athlete, Roger is so friendly, so cordial, so open with people. With zero arrogance. The hair on my arm is almost standing up right now. What I’m saying, in essence, it’s almost unbelievable that this type of person exists. He’s such a pure, class act. In other words, he’s humble. Yet he does not need to be.”  Peter Haas (Tommy Haas’s father) about Roger
Just another reason his fans love him!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Disappointment and perspective on Federer's loss in Madrid

I woke up early once again to watch tennis this morning, not having any indication that it wasn't going to include a Federer win.  In fact, even when he lost the first set I fully expected him to turn it around.  I mean, of course he would show some rust after two months off, since he really didn't in his first match.  The second set was brilliant Federer tennis with the shots his fans have learned to love over the years, and it totally looked like he had found his game.  So what in the world happened in the final set?

He started with break points on Nishikori's game and I was hoping it was going to take a similar route to the second set, which he won 6-1.  However, he was unable to capitalize on break points and, as so often happens in those situations, once those chances are gone they may not return.  His error rate picked up tremendously and pretty soon he was missing all the important points.  It was very disappointing for all those hoping he may finally defend a title this year when he meekly went out in the 3rd set 6-2, losing once again this year to a player ranked outside the top 10.

So where do we stand now in 2013?  He has now played four tournaments that he won last year where he has lost before the final.  Is it time to panic?  I  have found that I take losses a little easier than I did a couple years ago.  I used to be devastated for even a couple days sometimes.  However, I try to keep a few things in mind these days when he loses:  1)  He is 31 years old and we can't expect him to keep winning all the time like he used to.  2)  He has accomplished soooo much already in his career and everything else that he adds is icing on the cake at this point.  3)  I think from now on he will have times like in the last six months which leave us all confused when he experiences mysterious losses, but I think he will also have those moments of glory where he all of a sudden becomes the GOAT, showing us everything he still has in his arsenal, and wins tournaments against the top guys just when we had resigned ourselves to the fact that it isn't going to happen anymore.  And I think one or two of those glory moments will be another major or two to add to his resume.

At the end of the day I am still very disappointed that he is out in the third round.  But I'm not going over the edge and saying he should hang it all up because he lost early after having a two month break.  I had already told myself this was going to be a lean year with him deciding to take more extended breaks and practice times, and to bide my time.  I would love to hear some comments on what others on feeling on this topic.

Here is his press conference after the match, looking subdued and clearly disappointed:

On a positive note, we did get to see some adorable shots of his girls watching their daddy.  Here's one more to add to my previous post:

So for those who consider themselves Federer fans, let's not despair.  Roger has a lot more in him and I think there are good things ahead in the next year.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fedrer back in action, along with his daughters

The tennis world is back on course again with Roger Federer finally back on the courts, and with a 6-3 6-3 win over Radek Stepanek.  Considering he hasn't played in almost two months, the rustiness I expected to be there was very limited.  His winners to unforced errors ratio was good, his second serve points won was strong, and overall he looked like he has been practicing hard during his time away.  Really the only problem he had was serving out the match, in which he wasted quite a few match points and ended up getting broken.  But he quickly broke right back in the next game to win the match.  

Here is a video of his interview after the match with Sky Sport in which he talks about the match and his plan for the rest of the year:

And the part for me that was almost exciting as seeing Roger play again and playing so well was seeing his girls finally in his box for a full match.  Though obviously not too interested in watching Daddy play, Myla and Charlene were very well behaved through the entire event, looking at books through much of it.  I hope this is just the beginning of seeing them frequently watching their dad work.  Here are some cute pictures of the adorable Federer twins.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Big wins for some special guys

What a great way to start an exciting next couple months of tennis - seeing two much deserving men win build-up clay tournaments just as one of the big ones, Madrid, is getting started.

Last year at this time Tommy Haas was ranked over 100 points below his current ranking.  Creeping into his mid 30s, who would have blamed anyone at that point in wondering if it was worth the effort to try to climb his way back to the top of the game.  What an amazing run Tommy has put together this year.  Previously with 13 titles, in the year 2013 he has now reached #13 in the rankings.  But hopefully he's not too attached to that #13 (which is even in his twitter name, @TommyHaas13) because he now has 14 titles after a tremendous week in Munich, beating fellow German Philip Kohlschreiber.  Now 35, he continues to amaze.  I don't think anyone in their right mind has any right to ask any tennis player in their 30s when they plan to retire!

And what about Stan Wawrinka?  After some incredible play already this year, taking Novak Djokovic to the brink in Australia, he finally has his hands on a trophy again, after not having won one since 2011.  This will be confidence boosting for the often overlooked Swiss player, beating #4 ranked David Ferrer who is a great clay court player.  Maybe this will be enough to help him get some of those really big wins that often seem to elude him.

The first round has already begun in Madrid with some of the big name women already being knocked out (Caroline Wozniacki and Li Na).  What does the rest of the week hold, and more importantly, who will be holding the trophies come Sunday?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Welcome back Roger!

A short post to welcome Roger Federer back to the tour after what seemed like a very long break.  And guess what - he didn't get the worst of the dreaded draws in Madrid that I was completely expecting (maybe they are saving that for Roland Garros).  By that I mean that I figured, with the luck he usually gets on draws, that he would be the one that would end up having Rafa Nadal in his quarter, just like in Indian Wells.  Not what he needs after being away almost two months.  Instead it went the way it should have gone - with Rafa in Ferrer's quarter

Granted, Nadal is still in Federer half, meaning they would play each other in the semifinals if they each are able to win their matches to that point.  The good thing for Fed fans is that Roger has beaten Rafa here before, in the final no less, thanks to the altitude which makes the court a bit quicker, to Roger's advantage.  We will all be holding our breath to see how he comes out in his first round match, against either Tomic or Stepanek.  Can hardly wait!  Let the real tennis begin!!