This blog covers all things RF. It is dedicated to my dearest friend and avid FedFan @EfieZac. May she RIP 💙

From one desert to another – concluding Dubai and onto Indian Wells


As we gear up for Indian Wells, I feel I should write a concluding post on Dubai, but for the past 2 days, I’ve had trouble coming up with exactly what I want to say. Roger Federer is the defending champion at Indian Wells and I’m not entirely sure what to expect. Since the Australian Open, we’ve seen a somewhat negative Roger. In Rotterdam, his movement was gone as was the hunger and intensity in his eyes. I wrote a piece after the early exit of Rotterdam alluding to the fact that he feels listless without his family and whole team with him. I firmly believe that to still be the case; but then how to explain Dubai where he was able to go back to his own bed after each match? I also think he had bad back issues in Rotterdam but I do feel the back was much better in Dubai and I thought he moved well there. Though some have said that his drop in first serves indicates his back problems are very much present. He definitely played better in Dubai than in Rotterdam and maybe that’s due to having his family closer, the back problems being less aggravating and the weather being warmer. But having 3 match points, Roger gave it away. And I was left saddened and confused as to why the wheels had come off when seemingly he was on fire the night before.

Granted, before the SFs he played Davydenko, a man he’s now defeated 19 times out of 21. Still, he did it with such precision and in such a merciless way that you had to have high hopes going into the SFs. I know I did. But as the Swiss choked and failed to take any of the 3 match points I got acutely reminded that not only was he not playing Davydenko, he was playing Berdych. Others might balk at the idea but I do believe Berdych is in his head somehow, which is interesting because I don’t think Novak or Andy is. In my opinion, so far it’s just been Rafa that’s managed to shake up his mental steeliness and I am not placing Berdych anywhere near that. But after this match I do have to say at least 15% of it was in FedEx’s head. Which is why I wanted this win even more; so he could get over this mental hurdle and put US Open 2012 behind him.

I’m also somewhat worried that he hasn’t won a title since last August in Cincy and he hasn’t made a final this year. I was fine with his Australian Open performance. Had he been able to put Jo away quicker, he could’ve had a better shot against Murray, but Jo played brilliantly. Rotterdam as we know was a disaster whereas Dubai wasn’t so much a disaster as it was painful. Out of Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells I had expected him to win Rotterdam at least, had some hopes for Dubai though I knew Nole would be the favorite and looking forward to Indian Wells, like I said above, I honestly have no idea though obviously would love for him to go all the way. It’s the first Masters of the year meaning the draw is packed with, well everyone, now that Rafa has also committed to it. So he will need to bring his A-game e.g. his match vs. Davydenko in Dubai, to plow through it all.

It is also somewhat disconcerting when you realize that he and Berdych are the only 2 in the top 10 who haven’t already won titles this year. #1 Novak won the Australian Open and Dubai, #3 Murray won Brisbane, #4 Ferrer won in Auckland and Buenos Aires, #5 Rafa won in Sao Paulo and now Acapulco (despite his 7 month break), #7 Delpo won in Rotterdam, #8 Tsonga won in Marseille, #9 Tipsarevic won in Chennai and #10 Gasquet in Doha and Montpellier. And Berdych at least made the finals of Marseille and Dubai. And I say this especially because Roger has talked about winning titles and going deep in each tournament rather than the rankings. I believe in that idea as well but that DOES mean he actually needs to go deep and at least win a few of the ones he is entering.

In many ways I felt since the end of last year, that there is a good chance we could be in for a 2011 kind of a year in 2013, given how burnt out he looked from the US Open exit and then Shanghai onwards in 2012. But as I was thinking of that I remembered how thrilled I was with his finish in 2011 and how that led into a brilliant beginning of 2012. I get the feeling that in Indian Wells he might get even more burnt, hurt and wounded. Just like at the US Open of 2011. Then he will go off for two months and retreat into his secret laboratory where, after a nice holiday (I am demanding he update us on his facebook page) he will meet with his A-team and chalk out a plan. Hopefully Annacone and Luthi will work on his serves, his returns and help him clean up his volleys. Equally important are his sessions with Paganini so that his body will be able to handle the rigorous stretch of the summer till Wimbledon. And then just like he did at Basel in 2011, he’ll emerge fresh and ready for Madrid in May. Sometimes you need to hit the bottom before you can rise back up and I think he’ll do that and bounce back, with his laser focus, unwavering talent and ruthless ambition all nicely bundled into a neat package of tennis peRFection.

He has also said his could always amend his schedule as the year progresses, and I think that means he might add a tourney or two depending on how his body holds up post Wimbledon and his success by that point. If he hasn’t won titles by then I think he will/should enter a few ATP 250s or an additional ATP 500 even to get a title or two under his belt and get his confidence going. I think Rafa was quite intelligent in starting out at the ATP 250s and Roger should do the same if need be. He might start the year miserably (by his standards) but I have high hopes he can end it on a winning note.

At the end of the day I think these long breaks are not just about the body but about the mind too and by that I don’t mean just to enjoy time with his family. He also needs to feel fresh and motivated as far as tennis is concerned and be ready to sacrifice in order to get back on tour competing at the highest of levels. For that to happen, I think he needs to go away from tennis long enough to miss it. His life outside of tennis is quite appealing with his family, his foundation and the fact that were he to quit today he would still be hailed as probably the greatest of all time. But I feel that once he is away for a significant chunk of time he will start to miss the travel, the tour, the fans and the game. Deep inside, he’s a champion 17 times over and champions cannot lie low for long. They are wired differently from the rest of us mortals. They love the challenge, the pain, the frustrations and jubilation – they love the hunt and the adrenaline high from competing with the best and coming out even stronger.

I really do believe that as much as it will kill us, those two months could save him (and us) in every way imaginable. So while he’s off fine-tuning himself, what are we fans to do? Perhaps we can take a break from tennis and actually get proper sleep in our own time zones. Surprise our friends, family and co-workers by showing up to work/school/birthdays wide awake and not checking the scores on our phones or using tennis lingo in our daily lives. Example: My brother threw me an orange and it bounced off the top of the chair causing me to miss it and I immediately pointed out that it was a let – my family quietly turned to stare at me, I sighed and proceeded to peel my orange; no comment. Maybe smelling the roses and listening to the birds will be good for us? And if this doesn’t sound appealing to you, hey, youtube actually has a few full-length Federer matches now – I recently watched the Roland Garros 2011 SF and it was glorious! Either way, we can all meet up in Madrid, via a thousand TV screens and streams as the Maestro makes his entrance on the stage once more. We will all hold our breath simultaneously as the umpire’s microphone crackles “Ready? Play” – and then Roger will thrill us again as only he knows how – just you wait.

For now, I think he should head to Indian Wells not with thoughts of defending his title, but rather with the goal to just play lights-out tennis. He can afford to push his body hard because of the break coming right up so he should go out there with the intent to annihilate and leave it all out on the court; forget the rankings, forget the worried expressions and just play – and who knows, that might do the trick. And really Roger, wouldn’t it be just lovely to silence everyone, take the trophy and ride off into the sunset, full of confidence (and relief) with streamers glittering in your fabulous hair? Looking at the photos, I rest my case. Allez!IWStreamers


10 thoughts on “From one desert to another – concluding Dubai and onto Indian Wells

  1. I agree with everything you’ve written, when I watched some of his interviews from this year and he said the things he always says about how it’s important to still be motivated and hungry—even though he followed it up by saying “I don’t think that’s the problem for me”, I couldn’t help but feel like he was less fiery about it than usual. He didn’t sound convincing nor convinced. And I don’t know if that caused his mentality to go down a bit and that caused a lesser performance or that it’s the other way around and his results caused him to feel done in; probably a bit of both. Having hs entire team present and a court that plays a little slower could, like you said, not help his results just yet next week, but I hope it’ll make him feel better / more confident. I’ve heard others say they expect it to show during IW already though, and that after not having won any titles since Cincy and after a few tough losses this season he’ll give it all at IW and with everybody around he’s going to end hardcourt season on a high and take the trophy home, then during his time off he’ll be extra pumped. Either way, I think that whatever happens at IW, whether he goes out early or takes home the trophy, I think he’ll take it the right way and go into his time off with a lot of motivation to improve. Obviously he’d be gutted his new schedule isn’t working out the way he had hoped it would, but I think that unlike myself and unlike many others he won’t be thinking “I could just as well have stuck to my old schedule”. He knows what’s best for him, he says it’s long-term and I hope he can accept that things like this will happen along the way, but I’m sure he’s going to keep fighting 🙂


    • Thank you so much for reading and for your excellent comments which I totally agree with on all counts. I too picked up this feeling of slightly-less-enthusiasm in his interviews and kept putting it off as “well he keeps on having to answer the same questions over and over so I guess that’s why it could sound somewhat rehearsed.” But yes, perhaps he wasn’t convinced himself. I can totally see a resurgence on the horizon actually, if not in the summer then definitely in the post US Open season like in 2011. He’s too much of a fighter to go not go on.

      The thing that sucks about having a good year like 2012 is that you have to defend it all the next year. But then conversely, next year he will have a much easier time picking up points in Rotterdam (should he play there) or Dubai or IW, provided he doesn’t do well this year. It’s all cyclical I think. I really do hope he goes all out at IW, I feel that he should, he’s got nothing to lose and perhaps people underestimating him after Rotterdam and Dubai will take the pressure off and he will be able to play freely and enjoy himself.

      And I agree with you as well that he will not be second-guessing his decision to cut-back on his schedule. He knows his body and what he needs to do very well and after 15 years on tour, we probably shouldn’t be questioning his methods at this point. It would give a sense of order in the world though were he to win at IW. Then we could all go off for a break with an extra wide smile on our faces. But even if he doesn’t win, I know that he’s just about to turn the corner so I will (try!) to be patient and have faith in our champ. He’ll arise again for sure and like you said, he’ll keep fighting!

      Thanks again for commenting! Do visit the blog again once in a while!


  2. I agree with what both of you say for just about everyting actually. Not sure though if he is a bit flat if it comes to motivation, lacks a bit of it…. Really not sure.

    Rotterdam clearly, at least for me, was a back problem and generally being very tired from that, the PR work and maybe even a bug. Added that his family wasn’t there… Bad matches and an early loss…

    Dubai was so much better in many ways. His presser is actually quite clear about what happened in the match against Berdy. He acknowledges the fact that it happened to him in other matches against Berdy and he realises that. For me that means, it’s in his head. Add the missed matchpoints and confidence that flows away because of it and you have the match…
    Overall, he was not at all bad in Dubai. He was concerned about the 1st set against Jaziri (as he said at some point), but after that, he got better and better and against Davy his first serves were up at 76%.
    But back to the Berdy match: he also says at his presser that it didn’t go wrong in the 3rd set, it already went wrong in the 2nd… He is quite specific about that. So it’s all in his confidence.

    But I am really not sure if he is not motivated enough. I know he always says the standard things after his ‘motivated and hunger speech’. But I think he wants to go in to win. It’s as simple as that. I only think that given the fact this is a year after such a succesfull year (we had times like this before) and it is a transitation year where he needs to find out if this whole new idea works for him in all areas, his mind is more preoccupied with that maybe… Is this the right decision, will it work? Why am I mentally more unstable at times (he has been upset on court twice already this year and I find that uncharacteristic…)? Etc etc… He needs time. I actually think he needs at least a few more months. I have lowered my expectations for IW and even for the rest until Halle. I am sure, just like the both of you that he’ll fight tnd play his best in the circumstances. We can only wait and see what that is going to be and how that is going to turn out… Of course I hope for a few titles, or at least one, to give his confidence a boost… Cause that will def help 🙂 But it might not happen until the 2nd half of the year…

    We all worry, question it, have theories. That’s what we do. But the only who knows is Rog. He’ll take this back to his team, keep on talking about it with them, I’m sure and there is also Mirka, who knows him better than anyone and I think that that’s going to help as well… 🙂 If only he had a real sense of all the love out there for him… 🙂 I’ve said it before, he’d win everything there is to win if that love out there would lift him to the highest levels…


    • Hi Natasja! Thanks for reading and commenting! I agree with the Berdych-on-his-mind theory obviously and also agree that Dubai was a much better experience than Rotterdam. His motivation and focus is something that is sorely needed but not sure how one can ‘work’ on it though… I mean he has a ton of reasons to just stop now, but at the same time he has a ton of opportunities to keep breaking and setting new records. I hope he will find a way to focus on the latter again soon. He is a bit mentally off these days in terms of keeping his negative emotions in check – we saw glimpses in AO against Murray and then at Rotterdam and in Dubai against Berdych. We even saw this in Shanghai and Basel last year. I though it was so unusual last year but now almost every tourney has him showing his frustrations. I know that works for most but Federer is one of those steel-faced give-nothing-away players so when he has an outburst, it becomes magnified in everyone’s head (including mine).

      I hope he has a great summer beginning in Madrid. Even if he doesn’t defend his title there I hope he makes multiple runs to the finals and at least defeats one of the other 3 once or twice. That will help with his confidence. Like I said in my post, if he doesn’t have a successful summer run he still has a chance to pick up titles in the post USO season (like he did in 2011). So I’m not panicking. It’ll just be a tough process to weather through. But the man has given so much to us already for so many years, he clearly knows what works for him and however he figures out his longevity plan, we’ll just have to trust him on it.

      Loved your last line! It’s just peRFect!


  3. I love reading your posts about Roger’s matches and this was no exception. I’m not sure how to feel about these latest losses. On the one hand, I can’t get over how magical 2012 was and how what we are seeing now is the payment for all that. However, I know sports is about what have you done for me lately and for the past few months, Roger has fallen short. It is so hard to read all the Roger bashing that occurs (not here) whenever Roger loses. I guess it’s the flip side to all that love he gets when he wins. I guess I’m going to hang on to Roger’s description of 2013 as a transition year and hope he is able to do what he can to stay competitive for titles. Not that I have much choice. Roger is tennis for me. I lost my heart (my friends and family would include my mind as well) to his beautiful game in 2006 and as long as he picks up a racquet, I’ll be hoping for the best!

    Keep up the great writing!


    • Hi Deborah! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I can so identify with your ambivalence about his recent losses. I keep going through the same mixed emotions, though finally putting it down in this post has helped me feel a bit lighter; at least when it comes to Roger I’ve realized writing is my catharsis. And I hear you about the extreme Roger bashing and I’m learning to stay away from them as much as I can because really it doesn’t help Roger or me. I think it is a transition year for sure and who knows, if his 2013 isn’t stellar he might make another run for it in 2014 like he did in 2012, you never know what goes on in that genius mind of his. He is striving for longevity in this sport and however he achieves that I’m behind him (no matter how painful or how much I lament in the interim). Actually I was just thinking yesterday about how amazing Haas’ 2012 was and the guy is now 34! So plenty of great things in store for our GOAT, I truly believe that. We just might have to wait and be patient.

      About you losing your heart (and mind) to Roger’s beautiful tennis, I do have a confession to make. I was a die-hard Sampras fan and then out came this kid and took away Pete’s Wimbledon, I was so furious! And soon after Pete retired Hewitt was the next big hot shot and I did not like his baseline heavy game so while missing Pete and unhappy with this new generation I temporarily gave up on tennis. As such I missed the beginnings of the GOAT! But soon, news of his infamy spread far and wide and then I saw him finally floating across the court on my TV and realized I had been missing a whole new style of how tennis could be played. In the midst of the transition from serve & volley to baseline grinding, here was someone who could do both and then some. So not only did I fall in love with Roger, I rediscovered my love for tennis through him, he brought me back to it and for that I’ll always be grateful. I was late, but better late than never right? 😉

      Thanks again for reading and commenting! Hope you’ll visit again!


  4. Hey! I’ve been reading your posts since Rotterdam,as far as I can remember,and I’ve loved each one of them.We’ve even tweeted each other,remember? Anyway, I couldnt figure out what went wrong that Roger lost in the Semis at Dubai.It was very disappointing after that brilliant performance at the quarterfinal against Davydenko.But now Ive decided to forget about that Semifinal and Im really looking forward to the IW.I hope he plays really well and entertains us with his brilliant performance. Cant wait! Allez Roger! 🙂


    • Hi! Thank you for reading and commenting and I most definitely remember tweeting 🙂 I think forgetting the Dubai SF is the best way to deal with it and moving forward right now. Especially since he’s already at Indian Wells! I too am hoping for some tennis genius from the maestro and no matter how far he goes into the tournament, I hope he fights till the end! Allez!


  5. Hi everyone! It has been long but here I am finally, I totally agree with the comments I’m reading, he had a tough lost to Berdy basically because for his psychological strenght, we all know he is upset with his late results as we all are but I think Roger it’s a person that when nobody expects it, he can totally blow you away coming back with all his amazing tennis.
    He is in the middle of a transition and he needs to build himself back up, gain back that fighting spirit that gives it all on court besides I’m possitive that Roger will be champion sooner or later and that during all the process we will all be at his side cheering and wishing him the best as always. He is always N°1 in our hearts 😉


    • Hi! Thank you for visiting again and for your comments! And I agree with your comments of never counting Roger out, I wouldn’t even be surprised if he won IW again. It is a tough year but I do predict he’ll end the year much better than he started it. And of course we’ll be with him every step of the way! 🙂 The IW draw is only 5 hours away so fingers crossed that (for once) we get a good one! Glad you read the post, do come by again!


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