Ok it has taken me a whole day to process everything but there is a lot to wade through so let’s dive right in.
#1. Roger Federer failed to defend his Basel Crown against del Potro… and also failed to break/tie a few records:
The match was tough to watch not just because you could tell how much Roger wanted it but also how frustrated he got when he missed some simple shots and even more so because of HOW CLOSE he was to actually winning the match. Roger only offered two break points in the entire match. He failed to save the first one which led to Delpo taking the first set 6-4. Throughout the second set, Roger found it tough to hold but managed each and every time and saved the only other break point. Del Potro however was at break point once in the 2nd set but Fed couldn’t convert. When Roger finally got the mini break on the 2nd set tie break and turned it around for a deciding 3rd set, I felt as if Roger would now win this. Soon in the third set Delpo gave him 4 more break point opportunities but he just couldn’t convert them. And so we headed to the 3rd set tie breaker where Delpo got a mini break. Before I had time to digest the possibility of Fed losing the tie break, Delpo won the match amidst stunned silence, 6-4, 6(5)-7, 7-6(3).
The Argentine played superb all throughout the match. Federer however fluctuated and had a few too many unforced errors compared to winners. Given his aggressive playing style his errors are usually higher than the defensive players but yesterday he just didn’t produce enough winners to compensate. I was also wrong when I said that if he served well his game will follow, for yesterday he served very well, best I have seen him serve compared to Shanghai and earlier in this tournament I thought. He got in 68% of his first serves, but he won points at 76% compared to Juan Martin’s 87%. At least he fought down to the wire for this one, something I felt was missing in Shanghai. I believe he had the boost of the home crowd to give him that extra energy, he didn’t just roll over and give up.
Both men were gracious at the trophy ceremony with Juan Martin saying
“This is a great win for me, a dream,…It’s an honour to be on the court with Roger, who is the greatest of all time. It’s great to share this moment with him.”
Delpo also mentioned how he is looking forward to their exhibition match in Argentina later this year. Federer had warm words for Delpo as well,
“You deserved it. You had a couple of tough losses against me this year and I’m really happy for you.”
The match lasted for 2 hours and 44 minutes. But at the end, the Swiss maestro lost the chance to equal McEnroe for a record tying 77 singles titles as he remains 4th on the list with 76. He is tied with McEnroe at 4th place for most match wins at 875 but has moved beyond him to 3rd position by reaching his 109th final. He is also tied with his childhood hero Stefan Edberg in 6th place at 1,071 matches played.
#2. Federer pulls out of Paris Bercy… and loses the #1 ranking from next week:
I haven’t seen Federer this agitated or animated in a match in quite a while. And his footwork at times was quite sluggish. I think the year has taken its toll on Federer, both physically and mentally. I feel that had he done well at the USO, even if that meant reaching the finals, his motivation would have been higher at this point in the year. He would have had the year end #1 ranking all sewn up by now but after the unexpected loss at the QFs he became deflated like a pricked balloon. I think since then mentally he has not wanted to compete and played only because he had to not because he wanted to. He HAD to play the Davis Cup, he HAD to play Shanghai, for the 300 weeks, for his sponsors, and then he HAD to play Basel, his hometown tournament where he was a ball boy once upon a time. Of course this is all conjecture on my part, I am just going by how I have interpreted his body language both on and off the court.
With regards to Paris Bercy I outlined in my earlier post about his tough draw there and why he should skip it. It is now pretty much a fact that he will lose the #1 ranking regardless of how he performs at Bercy. Given these factors I was hoping he would pull out of Paris and we received news from him after the Basel loss that indeed, he has pulled out of the Paris Masters (much to my relief!). The way he looks and sounds now, unless he finds something quick to kick his motivation into overdrive, I fear he might not even do that well in London. It should be noted however, that even though he will lose his #1 ranking on November 5th, as of today he still gets to enjoy one more week as #1, week number 302. And Fedfans will all hold onto that as they recover from the Basel loss.
#3. Looking towards the World Tour Finals in London:
Regarding Paris Bercy pullout, Federer said the following:
“I’m not going to Paris, it’s too much for me,…I’ve already told (tournament director) Guy Forget. I have some niggling stuff that I want to heal, I don’t want to take a chance for London.”
This comment confirms two of my thoughts, one that he IS sluggish and slow and therefore could use the Bercy week to heal and two, how much he cares for the World Tour Finals. I just hope that the motivation is strong enough to get him out of the rut he seems to be in. Even when not at his best, he can still win most matches as we have seen in the early rounds of USO, Shanghai and Basel. But his current level will not be enough against the other top 7 players in the world especially since every match feels like a final. However, I have faith in Roger and I believe that despite a tougher finish to the year so far, he DOES want to sign off on a high note and will refocus on London. Hopefully he will be able to turn it around for a perfect finish to an already fantastic year.
Overall, I do have a feeling that he will restart in 2013 with a fresh outlook. There is a ton of talk going on about the ATP crunching 3 events back to back, giving players no chance to rest up, especially for London. But they did it for a reason, to give the players an extra long holiday and I think this will benefit Roger greatly. He will be going to South America to play exhibitions with Tsonga in Colombia, Delpo in Argentina and the big Gillette Federer Tour in Brazil. In contrast to his homeland, it will be hot and sunny in that part of the world in December. He can tour with his family, enjoy the weather and rediscover his love for this sport. And once he finds that passion, he will realize that tennis loves him back even more and will be anxiously waiting for its king to come home.