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.