I had expected a QF run in Miami but was hoping for the SFs so he could keep his SFs (or higher) streak alive that had started in Basel last year. More importantly, reaching the SFs would have ensured a new ranking of #4 come Monday, March 31st 2014. Instead, that fate was left on whether Berdych would win Miami. But then Berdych withdrew from the tourney which means that after 38 weeks outside the Top 4, Roger is back in it 😀 Allez! I am not sure yet how long he will be there since after playing the Davis Cup QF this weekend, he will be off the tour for a month while the rest of the players start their clay season. Furthermore, we don’t know when his baby is due and naturally the new arrival will alter his schedule. However, it’s still very nice to know he’s back to the top 4 and even if he falls out of it, we know he has the ability to get back into it provided he stays healthy.
A quick word about the QF match with Kei. It wasn’t so much the loss but rather the nature of the loss that was jarring. After serving so brilliantly across 2 tournaments back to back, all of a sudden, Roger couldn’t find his serves at all. The backhand down the line that he was hitting so beautifully produced shank after shank and soon, it seemed to be a domino effect, with everything unraveling one by one. It should be mentioned here that this was Roger’s first night match at Miami and the temperature had dropped significantly to what he was used to in the tournament thus far. This is what he had to say in the presser.
“I just couldn’t find my rhythm on the serve today, which was surprising, especially after how well I’ve played and served, especially this week, but I think it didn’t take off the way it did during the daytime. You could expect that, but then plus the temperature drop had something to do with that. In the dark, for some reason, I just‑‑ you know, I haven’t played many matches this year, or maybe lately. Only one against Tommy Haas in Indian Wells and maybe the switch didn’t work that well for me. But still, you know, I had the set and a break, and then another break again, so it’s a bit frustrating. But the thing is I could never really get my service games going.”
There is more there where he spoke very frankly about his troubles including the strange lights of the night matches at Miami and the fact that he focused too much on the windy conditions, so do read it in full. Of course he gave credit to Kei for playing well and hanging tough and predicted he would be in the top 10 soon.
Clearly he was troubled by many factors that night; some of them were external which I was surprised to hear. Federer has always been able to play his game no matter what the conditions. But that night he seemed lost, frustrated and rushed. Roger is still not as confident as he used to be pre-2013 and when the elements and conditions are against him, they magnify the negativity. I also feel that despite playing 3 matches, none of them were helpful to him for getting into rhythm. Karlovic is unique with his serve based game, De Bakker didn’t test Roger in any way and surprisingly neither did Gasquet. He served very well in those matches and his serves were all he needed, no testing baseline rallies. So maybe he became reliant on that serve. When it stopped working in the QF, he panicked.
Regardless of his performance however, to say that the Roger of 2013 is now back would be unfair and incorrect. I still stand by my assessment of Roger that I made at the end of the Dubai tournament. This is not Federer of 2004-2007, but nor is this Federer of 2013. This is Roger Federer circa 2014. This Roger will sometimes lose matches he shouldn’t lose but will also win matches that he would not have won last year. He will not always win them convincingly but at the same time, I don’t expect him to lose to a 100+ ranking player either. 2014 Roger might be in similar situations of self-doubt in future tournaments but I feel more often than not, he will work his way out of it like he did in Dubai. The journey won’t be smooth and there might be painful bumps along the way. But I really want to stress the fact that this loss does not warrant hitting the panic button.
In fact, I think Roger has had a fantastic start to the season! If you don’t believe me, then step back from that match vs. Kei and take a look at the bigger picture. I’ll help you! Here’s my summary on where we are right now.
- Roger already has a title this year; last year we had to wait till Halle.
- He has already won 5 matches against the top 10 this year; in 2013 he won 4 matches against the top 10 in the whole year.
- Federer has never defeated four top 10 players by March in any previous year.
- He has already won 22 matches this year. In 2013 we had to wait till Roland Garros for him to reach this mark.
- Roger’s 22 match wins currently puts him at the top of the list for most match wins by a player so far in 2014.
- He has jumped up 4 spots in the rankings from #8 back into the top 4.
- He has reached 3 finals (with 1 win of course!), 1 SF and 1 QF in the 5 tournaments he’s played so far.
- Federer has defended or bettered his points from last year (except for Rotterdam which he skipped) plus added some more points with Brisbane and Miami to help with his Race to London.
That’s mighty impressive don’t you think? Especially when you reflect back to his low points last year, with some disastrous losses and the recurring back issue. As such, I firmly believe that this one loss in Miami does not undo any of the fantastic progress he’s made so far. Miami hasn’t been a good hunting ground for him anyway since his last win there in 2006. In the end, he gathered some valuable extra points and is now in Switzerland for the Davis Cup QFs. This year, after a long time he played in the first leg of the Davis Cup right after the Australian Open and he thoroughly enjoyed himself as Switzerland reached the QFs. A win for Team Swiss this coming weekend will be a lovely way for him to head into his month-long hiatus from the tour with some positivity.
A few more closing thoughts, the first one being about his racquet. We know Roger has been playing with a new, bigger racquet this year. So far, it’s been working very well, especially with his serves and the backhand. But as of now it’s still a demo racquet. It’s all black with no paint-job on it meaning he is not done testing it. When asked about it in Indian Wells he said he was going to talk to Wilson and make some final adjustments but it will be ready soon. I suspect he wanted to see how it would play on the slow humid conditions of Miami and while it seemed fine for day matches, maybe he has some ideas on potential changes for night conditions. For sure he will be making final tweaks in his month off and Miami probably gave him more information in this regard.
Another happy take-away is the partnership between Federer and Edberg, or Fedberg 😉 Fedberg has been going very smoothly so far. It was initially a 10 week association but as those weeks drew to a close, fans were thrilled to hear the news that Roger and Stefan have agreed to make it a one-year partnership. So we get to see Fedberg for this whole year!
Before I sign off, here is a sample of the Maestro’s Hot Shots from the ATP tour that more than illustrate what a great start to the year it has been for our champ. The Australian Open site doesn’t really do Hot Shots so I included the on-court interviews plus more ball kid awesomeness, the Night with RF and Friends and Kids Day clips 😉
Brisbane: Doubles smash
Australian Open: A Night with RF and Friends (I included the full video link because if you haven’t seen it you REALLLY should), Kids’ Day clip 1, Kids’ Day clip 2, Ball kid catch, R1 interview, R2 interview (forward to 1:53:13), R3 interview, R4 interview, QF interview, lob vs. Murray
- Roger broke the record for playing the most consecutive Grand Slams with the 2014 Australian Open. The new record is now 57 consecutive Grand Slams.
- By playing in the Australian Open Roger is tied with Hewitt at 3rd place for total number of Grand Slams played. They have both played 59 Grand Slams. If they both play the three remaining Grand Slams of this year they will be tied for 2nd place with 62 Grand Slams, overtaking Agassi’s 61.
- He reached a record 11th consecutive SF at the Australian Open.
- By reaching the Australian Open SF, he extended his own record of Grand Slam SFs to 34.
- By reaching the Australian Open QF, he has tied Connors with a record 41 Grand Slam QFs.
- Roger has now won 265 Grand Slam matches extending the record he already holds.
- Roger has now won 73 matches at the Australian Open, the only player in history to win over 70 matches at this Grand Slam.
- He is also the only active player to win over 70 matches at any Grand Slam.
- Roger extended his record of most Grand Slam hardcourt match wins – he has won 140 hardcourt Grand Slam matches. This is more than any player in history, on any particular surface.
- By winning in Dubai, Roger has 78 singles titles, one more than McEnroe. He is now #3 on the all-time list behind Lendl and Connors.
- Federer is now tied with Lendl with 14 consecutive years of winning a title.
- He has now won a record 6 titles in Dubai. He also has 6 titles in Basel, Halle and the ATP World Tour Finals – and of course 7 titles at Wimbledon 😀
- He surpassed Agassi’s record of outdoor matches won and is 4th on the list with 709 match wins, behind Lendl, Connors and Vilas.
- He added to his record number of hardcourt titles with Dubai. He now has 53 of them. Roger is the only player to win 50 titles on a particular surface.
- Federer has appeared in 116 career finals, 3rd behind Connors and Lendl.
- Federer has appeared in 158 career SFs, tied at 3rd with McEnroe, behind Connors and Lendl.
- He is 4th on list of career matches played with 1,164 as of Miami. This is the highest number of matches played by any active player – Haas is at #2 with 867 matches played.
- Roger is 3rd on list of most career match wins with 945 wins as of Miami. This is the highest number of matches won by any active player – Nadal is at #2 with 679 matches won.
Phew! That’s some list isn’t it? And that’s after I left out some! 😀 By the time you are done processing all that greatness, hopefully Roger’s month-long break will be nearly done and we will be back for the second quarter, ready for the clay season. Till then, good luck with the Davis Cup QFs Roger and enjoy your month off! 😀
***Dubai photo from http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk. Photos of Roger as “Runner-up in Indian Wells”, “The Davis Cup in Serbia”, and all the Australian fun photos from the Brisbane and Melbourne collage are from http://www.zimbio.com/ ***