Saturday, August 31, 2013

Interviews and Clinics with Roger

Anyone who has read my blog with any regularity knows that Roger Federer is by far my favorite tennis player.  I love everything about his game (well almost anyway - maybe not his break point conversion rate :) and am so impressed with his personal life in so many ways.  So here are a couple interviews that were outside the press room that I thought would be fun to post.

And here is a tennis clinic he did recently.  Oh how I would love to be part of something like this!  But I guess since almost all these people were Mercedes Benz owners that certainly wouldn't be able to happen!

Looking forward to watching Roger under the lights in his Round 3 match with hopefully a great report to follow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Two days at the Open

We are two days into the U.S. Open and even though the men's first round isn't quite complete, of course there have still been many stories to tell.  How about 17-year-old Victoria Duvall's surprising upset over former champion Sam Stosur.  Who would have ever predicted that one?  Or Nishikori, Almagro, Janowicz, Dimitrov, Monaco, Gulbis all out in the first round?  Would you have found anyone willing to bet even a dollar not only on Donald Young beating Klizan, but 6-1 6-0 6-1?  Where in the world did that come from?

There is always a lot of fun drama at slams, and some not so fun.  Thankfully there was no drama in Roger Federer's almost completely routine win against Zemlja.  Other than one shaky game Roger looked focused and determined.  It wasn't like he had a lot of competition, but with the summer that Roger has had it was so important to have a strong win in his first round.  Though I probably say this before every slam, I just feel this could be a really good couple weeks for him to go far.  I'm not saying he's going to win it (though I'm certainly not ruling it out) but I think he is feeling back to himself again after his injury and ready to prove to himself and the rest of the world that he is still "in it to win it."

I recorded and watched the interview Andy Roddick did with Federer before the ATP 40 year anniversary honoring the #1 players.  I wish it was on You Tube to post for those who don't have the ability to see it.  Andy did a great job, of course making it funny as Andy would, talking about Roger taking #1 away from him, etc.  But I loved that he brought up the 2009 Wimbledon final, telling about himself breaking down afterward in the locker room because of the tremendous disappointment, and how when Roger and his team came in there was no loud celebration for the win but instead subdued in deference to the sadness that Andy would be feeling.  Andy was touched by that and four years later is still feeling the appreciation.  He also talked afterward about how he feels Federer is definitely the greatest of all time at this point and defended his negative head-to-head against Nadal.  Though very different in personality, these two are both very classy guys and it was great to see them interacting again.

Two weeks from now, barring torrential rains in NYC, the Open will be behind us.  In the meantime many more stories yet to be written, with the biggest of all being who will be holding the trophies at the end.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Heating up for the U.S. Open

Why is it that draws always seem to turn out the same way - like with Federer and Nadal once again ending up in the same quarter?  It has happened for Indian Wells, Wimbledon, Cincinnati and now the U.S. Open.  Isn't it supposed to be a random draw?  And why is it that poor Ryan Harrison always ends up with the worst possible early rounds in majors?  At least he got someone different than Djokovic this time, though I don't think he would be any happier getting Nadal for a change (come on, Ryan - cause a huge upset!).  Sure would have loved to see Federer end up in Ferrer's quarter but no such luck.  The fact of the matter is, though, that when Roger is healthy and playing well, it really doesn't matter what his draw is.  The question is, will his back hold out and has he finally found the form he has been looking for this year.  His early rounds hopefully shouldn't be a problem and it would be quite surprising for him not to reach the quarterfinal.  We will see if anyone like Verdasco or Isner can cause Nadal any problems.

Though with Nadal's recent form he may seem like the heavy favorite,  I could see many of the top guys having a good chance.  For the ones who have previously won majors they know what it takes to get it done, so whether they have recently been winning a lot of matches or not doesn't necessarily make a difference.  Of course that would include Djokovic, Murray, Federer, Nadal, and even Del Potro.  The curiosity really starts to get to me as we come to the cusp of a grand slam starting and it's no different here.  Hopefully Fed will come in with good form that he can maintain to have an easy run to the second week.

It's too bad that Maria Sharapova won't be able to participate, with her shoulder once again causing her problems.  Certainly Serena is the favorite going in.  It seems like in the women's game there always tend to be upsets all across the board, though, so I don't even bother to try to decide what I think is going to happen.  I would enjoy seeing a a new women's champion this time around, though.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Positive progress for Roger Federer

I don't think anyone knew quite what to expect in the quarterfinal match between Federer and Nadal.  If you look back over the last couple years there have been two hard courts wins by Fed at the World Tour Finals (complete with a bagel) and Indian Wells, but the most recent matches have been pretty much blow-outs by Nadal (one of those thanks to a back injury that Roger was struggling with).  Obviously Roger's form hasn't been great in the last few months, so what should people expect when playing someone who has been in scintillating form?  Personally I was getting annoyed before the match, however, reading that almost no one was giving Federer any chance at all to win.  

Though he didn't win the match in the end, the great Roger Federer proved to everyone that he is far from done.  The tennis he showed, especially in the first set, was the Roger of old.  He came out looking confident, aggressive, showing every shot in the book, and with that steely glint in his eye that showed that he wanted this one.  And he really was so close to the win. It's amazing how a couple points at the wrong time can completely change a match, which is what happened at 4-5 in the second set when Roger had a bit of a hiccup.  He really needed to win it in straight sets, as I think he got a bit discouraged after losing that set and let down a bit.

I am disappointed he couldn't pull it off, but I think he really did find a way to "Get his swoosh on" once again.  He is now looking ahead to the US Open with excitement, knowing he has a good chance to go far if he can continue to play as he did in this match.  As for Rafa, he is once again into another final, likely another title, unless big John Isner can continue his great form he has been in and win his first Masters 1000 title. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What in the world was that?

Today Roger Federer came back from the brink to beat Tommy Haas 1-6 7-5 6-3.  After playing an awful first set (at least in my opinion, not his so much since he said he didn't think he was playing terrible) and then going down a quick break in the second I found myself feeling first of all very confused as to what the heck was going on, but also resigned to another early loss.  The errors coming off his racquet were, simply speaking, just weird.  He didn't seem fully "there" and as Darren Cahill said, he was making strange shot selection.  To be honest if Tommy hadn't basically gifted the break back to him in the 2nd set I think the match would have been over before Roger could have even figured out what he needed to change.  But everyone has the ability to get nervous and all of a sudden with a few errors by Haas he was back in the match.  I think that gave him some confidence and he suddenly started playing like the real Roger Federer.

I purposely didn't choose a victory picture to put on this post, but more a "figuring it out" one because that's really what he had to do in this match.  He was interviewed by ESPN after the match and I was both puzzled and slightly amused that he said that he had a blast out there.  Wow, was he playing a different match than what I was watching?  It certainly didn't feel that way to me sitting on my couch watching, wondering and shaking my head.  But the thing with tennis is that until the very last point you can always come back in a match, and maybe the enjoyment of being able to do that will propel him forward.

As I am writing this the Nadal-Dimitrov match is getting ready to start.  From what I have seen so far from Rafael Nadal lately it's hard to believe that Federer would be able to beat him at the level he is at right now.  However, I would certainly not say it's impossible and my hope is that he will be able to take confidence from this comeback and somehow get a win in what will likely prove to be a very difficult quarterfinal.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Roger back to winning ways

Roger Federer had a good start to his Cincinnati title defense with a 6-3 7-6 win over Kohlschreiber.  Considering his recent struggles I thought it was a good first match.  Though he had difficulty once again with taking break points, as so often happens, he wasn't making all the puzzling errors that have been happening in so many matches this year (in the last couple tournaments due to an ailing back).

He was using his old 90" racquet again after using the larger 98" prototype for several weeks.  Though some are disappointed with that decision, I think it's a wise one at this point.  Due to the back injury he wasn't able to fully get comfortable with the new one.  To go first into a tournament where he is defending champion with 1,000 points to defend and then into the all-important U.S. Open if he isn't feeling confident in it could prove to be disastrous.  He already needs to gain confidence after not having as much success as he is used to, so he needs to go with what is comfortable and wait until a better time to hone in on the bigger sized racquet head post-U.S. Open.

His next match on Thursday will be either against good buddy Tommy Haas, who Roger has said he would like to play again, or against Marcel Granollers.  This will be a good test for him to see where his game is at given that he may have a huge challenge coming up the next round if he and Rafa Nadal both get there.  A win against Rafa would be a tremendous confidence builder, while another loss, especially on a hard court, would be difficult to take.  I'm hoping for some big wins this week to bring him back to the level we know he is still capable of.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wondering what the week in Cincy holds

After missing most of last week's tournaments in Montreal and Toronto because of vacation, I am back home and eager to watch Cincinnati this week.  I did catch the tail end of the last week's tournaments and was disappointed that the finals for each were so one-sided.  Of course, not being a Rafael Nadal fan myself I was disappointed by the result, but I won't get into that since I know there are many Rafa fans out there, so time to quickly move on.

This tournament in Cincinnati is a big one for Roger Federer and his fans.  It's difficult to know what to expect, though I have high hopes that his back will cooperate and that this will be the time he finds his form again on one of his favorite hard courts.  Interestingly enough, Mirka has been joining him on court in his practices the last two days.  Also of note is that yesterday he was using the new racquet, today his old one. 

These two pictures were from yesterday with the new racquet and they seemed to be having a serious discussion.  

This one is from today and look at the racquet - obviously his old one again.  They also look quite a bit happier in this picture.  It will be quite interesting to see what he comes on court with for his first match.  It would also have been interesting to have been able to watch both practices and see if there was a difference in the way he played with each.  

He will be playing Phillipp Kohlschreiber in his 2nd round match, a tricky customer.  This is such an important match for him to establish himself with a solid win and show that he is ready to compete solidly without the confusing losses to low ranked players.  I really feel like he can have a great week here in Cincy, maybe quelling the media's negativity and putting himself in the running for the U.S. Open.  It's been four whole years since he was in the final there, five since he's won it.  How about showing he is still at the top by winning it this year?! 

I am also curious to see how Andy Murray plays this week after losing early in Montreal.  He must be feeling a bit of pressure being the defending champion at the U.S. Open for the first time.  I'm sure he would love to have a good run to give himself confidence after a disappointing week last week.  Novak Djokovic was rather up and down in Montreal, and he has the chance to make history if he were to win this week in Cincy, becoming the first man to have won each of the Masters 1000 tournaments.  A lot on the line for many as things heat up heading into the last grand slam of the year.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Roger Federer out of Montreal - what does it mean?

After days of speculation Roger Federer has finally confirmed the fact that he will not be playing in Montreal for the Roger's Cup Masters 1000 event.  Given the issues he has had with his back the last few weeks, and his resulting level of play, this seems to be a good decision for him.

Of course, it brings up a multitude of questions, such as how bad is the back injury?  Even if it is healed, how prepared will he be to defend his championship points the following week in Cincinnati?  Do we need to be prepared for an even bigger drop in ranking in the next few months as he tries to find his form again?  What will he decide to do about the new racquet?

The one thing we don't need to be questioning, but that keeps being brought up every time there is a blip on the radar with another loss or something not going according to plan, is whether he is going to keep playing long term.  I just don't get it why the media and others keep wanting to put him out to pasture just because he's having a few hard times when he has said repeatedly, pretty much every time he does a press conference, that he plans to play for years to come.  This is a man who holds so many records in tennis it's hard to even keep track of them.  If he wants to continue to play for the love of the game and to continue to try to win tournaments even when it doesn't come quite so easy anymore, then he darn well has the right to do that!  And if he loses to some guys outside the top 100 while he's experimenting with new equipment and while his body isn't 100%, that doesn't mean he's finished and will never be able to play top level tennis again.

Ok, my blood pressure is rising as I write all this.  It just ticks me off that people jump to conclusions just because of a bad spell.  Roger Federer is a true champion and true champions eventually find a way.  So we give him time, we give him some space to figure it out, and we wait for some of those great moments that will surely come again, even if it's not happening as quickly as we would like.

Speaking of being a true champion, I'm sure most have read this delightful story of the teenager who, after facing difficult times fighting cancer, was treated to some special times meeting Roger, who treated her like a princess.  If you haven't read it, though, you need to, so here is the link:  Beatriz meets Roger Federer