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.

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!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Checking in before Wimbledon

It has been way too long since I have done a post, thanks to some health issues I have been experiencing.  But tennis goes on and I thought I would check in before the great Wimbledon begins.  

Of course, our hopes that Federer would go deep at Roland Garros this year was cut short when he unexpectedly lost in the 4th round, but I'm not a clay fan anyway and was so very ready to move onto grass.  Roger had pressure on him at his beloved Halle, being the only title he had to defend from his depressing 2013 season, but he was up to the task, playing well to hold his up his 7th trophy there.

So here we go into Wimbledon, a tournament that was crazy last year with many unexpected losses, including the one that broke many hearts, Federer's second round loss to Stakhovsky.  But this is a new year with a healthy Roger, and he realizes as much as anyone that his chances for winning majors gets less as time goes by, so this is a perfect opportunity to grab that elusive #18.  In fact, not only would it be #18 for majors, but it would be Wimbledon #8 and title #80.  Given that his favorite number is 8, with his birthday being 8/8/81, it seems like the peRFect situation.  

The draw is out now and Roger appears to have a pretty decent one for a change, other than the potential difficulty against Julien Benneteau in round 2, who has beaten him a couple times.  I feel that Roger will be highly motivated for Wimbledon this year, though, and that he is going to do very well.  Hopefully I'm not setting myself up for disappointment.

I will keep this short and sweet, but just wanted to write something after so long and I will try to do much better during this exciting fortnight of tennis.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Federer wins with family in spite of Rome loss

It has been quite an exciting week for anyone who calls themselves a Roger Federer fan.  Of course, by now everyone is aware of the incredible fact that the Federers welcomed a second set of twins, rounding things out by adding two boys to go along with their adorable 4 1/2 year old identical girls.  I have been waiting to do any type of blog post until the uproar subsided at least a tiny bit and until I had a few more details to go along with the news.

I read a wonderful article in The Telegraph that gave some particulars related to little Leo and Lenny Federer, one of these being that they aren't yet sure whether the boys are identical like their sisters or fraternal, like their twin cousins, boy/girl twins of Roger's sister Diana.  They are having a DNA test done to determine this.  Apparently Roger's maternal grandmother was also a twin.  

Allegedly everything happened quite quickly on the evening of May 6th, a week before the official due date.  Roger had been waiting to decide if he was going to Madrid to participate in the tournament and it's a good thing he waited or he would have missed the arrival.  Everything went smoothly, both for the birth and in the week since.  Roger said he didn't remember how much they slept in the beginning, which he says is happening about 22-23 hours a day at this point.  That probably won't continue for long!

He talked about being excited to bring the whole brood along as he travels around the world.  Of course they realize the challenges, but they have already done it with one set, so what's one more, right?  They apparently intend to begin that in Paris at Roland Garros, beginning on May 25th.

His team, including his wife Mirka, decided it would be a good idea for him to play the event in Rome to make sure he kept his rhythm up, though it sounded like he would have been happy to stay at home with the family.  It turns out it will be a short trip, however.  He played Jeremy Chardy in his first match, easily winning the first set in the windy conditions.  The second set, though, Chardy played much more solid and Roger beginning making way too many errors.  The third set evened out a bit again.  Though he was initially down a break, he broke back to take it to a tiebreak.  With a match point on his racquet at 6-5, Chardy made an incredible save for a winner, then ended up taking it 8-6.  While Roger admitted later in his press conference to feeling some anger and frustration, he quickly was able to put that aside, knowing his beautiful family is home awaiting his return.

While some people may try to read things into this loss, there is nothing to be made of it.  For him to even be playing a week after having a second set of twins is pretty incredible.  To expect him to play with full concentration so soon after a momentous occasion is ridiculous.  Chardy played well when he needed to and took advantage of the circumstances.  Federer will be back for Roland Garros ready to play, hopefully with a good draw, and happy with the state of the amazing life that he has.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Summing up Federer's week in Monte Carlo

I am going to attempt to write a blog post about the Monte Carlo final and what to make of it, but even as I begin to type this I'm not sure what I am going to say.  I (and most other Fed fans) went into this final so excited about the opportunity Roger had to add this elusive trophy to his massive trophy case.  Finally Nadal wasn't in his path and he was playing someone who had never won a Masters 1000 title before.  Surely it was his time.  

While I told myself it was a win-win situation no matter the result with Stan Wawrinka being his good friend, someone who is finding himself and an amazing brand of tennis later in his career, and who is a sweetheart in his own right, as the match went from Roger being in the winning position to Stan finding his confidence and aggression to turn it around (final score 4-6 7-6(5) 6-2 Wawrinka), I realized again how badly I wanted this title for Roger.  As happy as I am for Stan and all that he has now accomplished this year (winning his first grand slam, his first Masters 1000, and pulling off an impressive 6-0 record against top 10 players this year) it's hard to see Federer reach another final and end up faltering from a winning position once again.

But when you really add things up you have to see the positives.  First of all, none of us even thought Roger would be playing Monte Carlo at all.  So I went into the week thinking it would be good for him to just get some clay matches under his belt and gain a few points in case he has to miss any tournaments when his baby is born.  Also, he was down and out against Tsonga in the quarterfinal, coming within two points of losing the match.  He was fortunate just to be in the semifinal against Djokovic and beforehand I really didn't see him coming through that one.  And though he certainly earned the win in the first set against Novak, if he had been totally healthy who knows what would have happened the rest of the match.  So with all that in mind, the fact that he was in the final at all when I really didn't expect that at the start of the week was an amazing result.  Did I want him to win it?  You bet I did!  But is it a disastrous result?  By no means.  If someone would have told us the end of last summer that he would make four finals in the first four months of 2014 we would have been ecstatic!

So with all that, as I process the way the match played out, regardless of the fact that he certainly could have won the title if he had just played a little better second set tiebreak, even though there is disappointment involved it was still a very good week, considering he wasn't even going to be playing in the first place.  And he is happy for his good buddy Stan.  He won't be moping around because he lost even though he had his chances.  He will be heading home to rest, which it sounds like he really needs, to be with his lovely family again and await, hopefully soon, the birth of his third child.  So let's take the good from the week and be happy for Roger for all that is so positive in his life right now.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Two Swiss buddies will battle for Monte Carlo trophy

Who would have believed at the beginning of the week that we would be having an all Swiss final in Monte Carlo?  Especially with the presence of Rafael Nadal, who has won it eight times, and Novak Djokovic, the defending champion.  But Nadal seems to be struggling with some confidence issues since his loss in the Australian Open final to Wawrinka, Djokovic has been having an issue with his wrist, and the Swiss guys have completely taken advantage, more than proving their worthiness to claim the title.

Federer and Djokovic played a tough first set in the semi, with no signs of any wrist injury from Novak in spite of the heavy taping.  They each played some beautiful points, and each had chances for breaks that they weren't able to take.  It looked like it could likely go to a tiebreak when out of the blue from 40-0 up Roger was able to claim his first break of the match, then served it out for a 7-5 set.  That took the wind out of Novak's sails and suddenly the wrist issue reared its ugly head in the second set.  Sometimes playing against an injured opponent can be tricky, but Roger was able to stay calm and play his game, winning it at 6-2.  The wrist was obviously a big factor in the second set, but not so in the first, definitely making this a victory without an asterisk next to it.

Stan was able to earn his way to the final by beating David Ferrer in the semi, who seemed a little jaded after his win against Rafa Nadal the day before.  But Stan showed the great tennis he has been playing this year and really took it to him, playing with aggression and authority.

So this sets the stage for the first all Swiss final since 2000.  In spite of the 14 matches Federer and Wawrinka have played (13 in Fed's favor), none have been in a final.  In fact, in spite of the fact that Stan won the Australian Open for his first grand slam title, he has never won a Masters 1000.  It will be a very interesting final indeed.  In many matches they have played against each other it was easy to see that Stan struggles with the high respect factor he has for Roger and just isn't able to play his game.  So how will this play out in an important final now that Stan has proved himself as a champion in Australia, beating both Djokovic and Nadal to claim the title, along with the fact that he is now ranked higher than his good buddy Roger?  This will make for very interesting dynamics indeed.  Not to mention the great relationship these two have, reportedly even having dinner together the night before the final.  How often does that happen?

I would love to see Roger add this title that he hasn't been able to win in the past to his incredible resume, and I will be cheering for him with everything I have.  But if he isn't able to come through with the win, what an exciting time it will be for Stan Wawrinka to claim his first Masters 1000, and for the Swiss in general to have two of their guys in the final of such a prestigious event.  And I know Roger would be thrilled for his great friend Stan if he ended up being the one to hold the trophy in the end.  But as a Federer fan to the very core of my being, 100% of me will be saying "Go Roger!"

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:*/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.