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

Federer crashes out of Roland Garros

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https://www.facebook.com/JoWilfriedTsongaFanClubAs we all know by now Roger Federer crashed out of the French Open in a comprehensive straight sets loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The scoreline was dismal, the match quality from Roger, even more so. What made the loss even harder to bear was it started off well. Roger was actually up a break and 40-15 to go up to 5-3 in the 1st set. He got broken from there and it all went downhill after that. He was off in every department, his returns were weak, he missed three (yes, you read that right) overhead smashes; no aces, 3 double faults. His movement seemed sluggish, his energy levels were low and he was irritated and frustrated, which I guess is understandable considering how poorly he played.

Jo for his part is no journeyman player. He has oodles of talent and a big aggressive game. What has been lacking from him in the past was consistency. Jo, like most French players, has a ton of flair but can waver in performance day in day out. Under his new coach he seems to have reined that in a bit and credit must be given to him for never lifting his foot off the pedal. He pushed Roger from the start and never let up. It wasn’t brilliant the entire time, but it was more than enough to do the job, especially considering his opponent was misfiring in all departments.

A loss might have been predicted by some but I doubt very few would have predicted such a wash-out. Federer was playing well this French Open. He sailed through the first few rounds. Granted they were low ranked opponents but it’s never easy to play unknown players. He then took care of Benneteau and I thought he played a very good match against Simon because for a while there, he had lost his way when he stumbled in the red dirt. He got a ton of match practice with that win and I thought he would have confidence coming in. Obviously I was wrong and am now left to ponder two questions: what happened? And where will it go from here?

Let’s take the first one, and here’s my totally non-expert ‘theory’ in what happened. I get the feeling that lately Roger panics a little too quickly on court; if not panic, then at the very least, he loses faith in himself when the match deviates ever so slightly from the script. Then, either he doesn’t change his tactics quickly enough, or he just steps up the aggression and overhits everything. This is something new that wasn’t there last year. It’s almost like he over-thinks or gets too worried to see the game clearly. I didn’t see this problem at the Australian Open. At Rotterdam, he was completely out of sorts and it was the only time I questioned his motivation, (meaning I got the feeling he didn’t really feel like being there, in the Rotterdam tourney in particular, NOT that he no longer wanted to play tennis). But those match points in Dubai, that Madrid match against Nishikori and this French Open match are where I think he just ran out of options in his head because he couldn’t regroup and think straight. I don’t count Indian Wells here because he was definitely injured and I don’t count Rome here because he played a great tournament and that final loss was actually the one time this year where I saw him try new things to take out his old nemesis. But back to the three matches I mentioned, I do think he is having problems adapting his game plan quickly and calmly and then executing it.

I know the word out there is he is old(er) and hence slower in his movement and I guess slower to react and anticipate as well. I don’t buy into that idea completely. Not yet. At the end of the day, he’s still a supreme athlete and even if he is slower than before, that’s still faster than 99% of the guys out there. Nor do I believe the ‘lack of motivation’ argument. He has said time and time again he is motivated and in the sky sports interview when asked how he will know when to retire he said he plans to be around for a while and doesn’t think about it too much. For an insanely competitive person who is still ranked as one of the top players of the world and has the opportunity to add more to his trophy cabinet, I see no reason why he wouldn’t be motivated. Honestly, just because he’s won more grand slams than anybody else doesn’t mean he should stop, otherwise he could’ve retired post 2009 when he broke Pete’s record of 14. Nor do I think it’s a back issue. We’ve seen him play with a back issue at Indian Wells and the 3 matches I mentioned did not resemble those Indian Wells matches he played with a bad back, at least in my opinion.

So no, it’s not because he’s old, has back issues or not motivated. My take on it is he is worried that he’s not doing well. He is putting that pressure on himself. Obviously he knows he hasn’t defended any of his titles this year. He took a long break off the tour and while he had his reasons it becomes difficult to justify them when he’s not performing. But this lack of performance is causing him to worry further which is causing him to doubt himself on court when faced with difficult situations. This doubt is leading to bad losses and therefore, more worries; it’s a vicious cycle. Well that’s my wild conjecture anyway. Obviously I am not in his head or a member of his inner circle so yes, before anybody jumps out at me in protest, I do agree that I’m purely speculating. Regardless, if I follow that theory it leads me to the next question, where can he go from here?

I think what he sorely needs is a title, any title. He needs to play well throughout an entire tournament and actually win the whole thing. I feel once he gets his confidence back he will relax and play his natural game more and trust his instincts. http://www.glanzundgloria.sf.tv/Nachrichten/Archiv/2012/06/12/Schweiz/Erste-Strasse-fuer-Roger-Federer-Deutschland-der-Schweiz-vorausAnd Halle would be just the place to take care of business. For starters, its grass, lush, pretty, soothing, green grass, the Maestro’s favorite surface. Also, he’s had plenty of success at Halle before.It would be a great way to head towards Wimbledon with a successful grass tourney already in hand to give him the self-belief he needs.

However, even if, for whatever reason he can’t turn it around by Wimbledon, I believe there is still hope as there will be plenty of tennis to be played in the 2nd half of the year. I keep getting the feeling this year will be similar to 2011. In 2011, he had won Doha but after that, he won nothing else till Basel – that was a 9 month drought. Yet he came through at the end. I am pretty confident that despite how the year started, it will end on a much higher note. The next title is around the corner. We need to believe in our champion but most of all, he needs to believe in himself. Trust your instincts and your natural game Roger, the wins will come. In the meantime Roger-Federer-Allee awaits its King 😀

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4 thoughts on “Federer crashes out of Roland Garros

  1. I always enjoy your take on things, win or lose. I can appreciate your thoughts about Roger needing to win something to get his confidence going again. In the years I’ve been following Roger, he has always remained pretty confident, even when things went south. I remember he said after that rough period in 2011 that morphed into the magic of 2012, that he never got down on himself when he wasn’t getting the results. The exception to that has been when his fitness has been in question and I don’t mean some injury but rather a belief on his part that his body will do what he wants it to do. That certainly doesn’t seem the case right now and none of us know the reaso, Yes , some of it is age related and number of matches played but not to the extent we’ve seen this clay season. Hopefully, he can make the necessary adjustments to find success on his beloved grass.

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    • Thank you for reading and for your comments! I agree with you that he always remains pretty confident and positive and said as much regarding 2011. In fact I think he’s still positive and confident overall, just during the matches something suddenly gets muddled. Almost like forgetting your lines in the middle of the play. Perhaps it’s the concentration that fluctuates or maybe the serve suddenly lets him down and then it tangles up very quickly. I don’t know exactly what caused it the first time, but maybe now when it happens again he remembers those previous times and gets more flustered and over-thinks, causing more errors and so on. I’m with you on the lack of faith sometimes that his body might not always do what he wants it to and like you, I too don’t think it’s just age and the number of matches; there’s something else there for sure. At the end of the day I actually hope I’m wrong and there is a much easier fixable problem that he facing now.

      But he’s on his beloved grass now and he looks happy from the pictures we’ve seen so far which is great. Once again, I REALLY wish grass was a longer season. It barely constitutes a season when it’s only 4 weeks of the year *sigh*. But he’s the best there is on this surface so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks again for your take! Much appreciated as always! 🙂

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  2. What a good blog, as usual. Covers all aspects. Loved it! Thank you for taking the time to writing that! I agree with most of what you say. I wonder though if it is about not being able to adapt the game plan, executing plan B as usual and then getting stuck in that… Or that he loses faith when the script is changing during the match… Maybe it is. And maybe we mean the same in the end, but I think it actually starts before that. I think it starts when he starts missing things (which can happen to the best, a dip in the match) and thén he questions himself as in ‘how did that happen, how could I’ve missed that’…. And maybe even think back or get back into previous mindsets that gave him the bad matches he had this yr and then he’s in a circle that he can’t get himself out of… First I thought it was a new thing but I think it probably has happened before but we tend to forget about these things when a succesful period followed after that. So it’s debatable whether or not this is new. For me, the jury is still out there on that one. What I hópe is that he can get back that feeling that he got after Madrid, while practicing for Rome. The change in mindset was incredible I thought and I hope he remembers how that felt, that specific moment he felt “it” again. Cause that’s all he needs to get back into his zone. I really believe that.

    So all in all it is definitely mental. I know I’ve had a moment where I questioned that again, after reading some things that made sense too, but I thought I should stick to my first gut feeling and that’s it’s in his head. You can also tell from the way he talks during pressers, the things he’s saying. He keeps mentioning that nothing seemed to work out, that he tried stuff and it didn’t work, etc. etc. I can totally see what makes you think it’s about the game plan adaptation that doesn’t seem to work and he questions himself during that process, but as said, it might happen before even I think… But as you also said, it’s all speculation. We can’t look into his head. I think he’s very happy we can’t btw 😉 And we have to wait and see how he will perform in Halle. His fav surface so I’m optimistic but I will only be able to say something sensible again after his 1st match. The draw today. Hope it’s not too bad. Oh and I fully agree with your ‘rest of the year’ comment, just in case he wouldn’t be able to turn it around earlier… Onwards and upwards I hope we go. We’ll see. I think good things definitely will happen. It’s all a matter of when. One match at the time, one tourney at the time. Halle first! He looked happy, relaxed and smiley, so that’s a good sign 🙂

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    • Thank you for your lovely comments Natasja! I Agree with you, that it starts before that. Like you said, I think it starts at the first sign, he remembers his previous match when that happened and then that loss gets stuck in his head. And you’re right, I got that sense of him being lost in figuring out tactics from his pressers, like when he said he tried but he couldn’t figure it out against Jo. That seemed strange to me, because usually he knows exactly what specific thing he should’ve done but this was just a general “I failed in everything”. I have always thought of him as a great tactician who has specific plans for each player and each match. So that comment threw me off a bit. Anyway, as I said before, it’s all speculation and maybe if he were to ever read this he would just laugh it off (and I would die and go to heaven in happiness because he read my blog, but that’s a different story).

      I hope Halle will be good for him. He looks fresh and happy there 🙂 I think what grass is to him is what clay is to Rafa, it’s encoded in their DNA, almost like the surface speaks to them and welcomes them in. OK I’m totally going off target now so I’ll stop 🙂 And yes, I believe there’s plenty of tennis to play even after Wimbledon. Plus let’s not forget, he missed 2 masters last year, Toronto and Bercy. If he plays both as planned (though it will be tough given that there is no break before WTF and he’s put Basel back on schedule) he will pick up some valuable points and perhaps, even more valuable titles 🙂 We shall see! For now like you said, one match at a time, one tournament at a time starting with Halle! Thanks again for reading and writing! You make this process interactive for me which is so much more fun than writing with no feedback! 😀

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