How do you measure a loss? I don’t mean in terms of the score, but rather, do you take the circumstances into consideration? You can also look at it relatively, i.e. last year vs. this year; or by points defended vs. lost. Maybe you go by the player’s comments afterwards to determine whether it affected them more than some other losses. That brings me to this: Roger Federer lost in the fourth round at Roland Garros in a 5 setter. How do you measure that?
Well, if you look at ONLY the past 4 slams, i.e. Wimbledon and US Open 2013 and Australian Open and Roland Garros 2014, then his results are as follows: Round 2, Round 4, SF, Round 4. That makes it seem that the Australian Open was the anomaly and he’s generally a Round 4 level player. Alternatively you can look at his Roland Garros performance from 2013 and 2014; last year he reached the QFs, this year he couldn’t. Does that mean his level is lower this year? But if you compare 2013 to 2014 in terms of annual performance, he has already out-performed from 2013 in terms of number of matches won and the number of tournaments he has gone deep in. In 2014, he has played 8 tournaments (plus 2 Davis Cup rounds), won 31 matches, lost 7, reached 1 QF, 1 SF, 4 finals and won 1 title.
Yet if we look at his 2014 performance in two quarters, then from January to March, he reached 1 QF, 1 SF, 3 finals and won a title. His first quarter performance was stellar and it was what propelled him back into the top 4 after being ranked 8 at the start of the Australian Open. From April till present, he reached 1 final, 1 Round 2 and 1 Round 4. Though perhaps what should be noted there is that his twin sons were born soon after he reached that final in Monte Carlo. Since then, he has played 2 tournaments not reaching the QFs in either. Does that mean this is the new normal post-babies? Wouldn’t it be natural for things to change anyway now that his family has gotten bigger? Or is it unfair to assume any of that since there have been only 2 tournaments?
What about the fight he showed in the matches of 2014 vs. 2013? His Round 4 loss at the 2013 US Open to Robredo was in straight sets. He committed a ton of errors and made Robredo seem a better player than he was. Roger’s Round 4 loss at Roland Garros this year went to 5 sets with him winning a crucial 4th set to push it to a decider. Even in the 5th, he got broken just once but that was enough against a rejuvenated and inspired Gulbis. In 2013, his confidence was shaky; he looked unhappy on court and sometimes seemed defeated from the beginning. That has not been the case in 2014 as he has won matches that he was on the verge of losing.
Or at least, that’s how it was in the beginning of the year. But from the Indian Wells finals onward, in all 5 losses he was in the lead in the beginning; against Djokovic in Indian Wells, Nishikori in Miami, Wawrinka in Monte Carlo, Chardy in Rome and even Gulbis in Roland Garros. In fact, in Paris he almost got a 2-sets to love lead but he gifted it away. In the first quarter of 2014 he was winning matches he could have lost but recently he has been losing matches he could have won. Maybe his confidence isn’t there yet to maintain a lead once he has it? Although it should be noted that the Indian Wells and Monte Carlo losses were in the finals, so he went very deep in those tournaments before losing.
But then again, maybe it’s the surface that’s causing this dip. Clay has not been easy for him this year with the two earliest losses of 2014 coming on this surface. Only Monte Carlo was the exception. After his last match at Roland Garros he said he’s done with clay and has mentally switched to grass already. It’s understandable why. Statistically he has fared the worst on clay while grass is his best surface. The Maestro has never been one to get bogged down on defeats and a part of his success has been his mental ability to put his losses behind him and move forward.
I would say it is even easier to do that now, given his growing family who are waiting for him as soon as he leaves the courts. Who cares about a loss when you have those beautiful faces of your four children to come home to? He had mentioned at the end of last year that he would like to win 4 or 5 titles in 2014. But would it be strange at all if his priorities have shifted slightly since the birth of his sons?
One of our champ’s many talents has been achieving balance in his life. He always has the big picture in mind which helps him prioritize his impeccable schedule. Though not official, it is being said that he will no longer participate in the upcoming ATP Players Council election coming up at Wimbledon. He has been the President for 6 long and successful years but as the demands on his time have considerably increased in his personal life, perhaps he felt it is time to let that responsibility go. And who knows, maybe in addition to cutting out ATP Players Council duties he is also choosing which tournaments to focus on more than others, i.e. Wimbledon more than Roland Garros? That might help him manage his time, split his attention better, and prevent mental burnout, both in tennis and in his personal life. Just a thought 🙂
Or…… there is yet another way to see it.
- It really has been only 1 month, the month of May, since his form has significantly dropped.
- 1 bad month in an 11 month tour shouldn’t be cause for too much scrutiny – plenty of tennis still left to play.
- Ebbs and flows are a natural part of the sport (except from 2004 to 2007 when our Maestro was invincible).
Maybe the grass courts can bring back that ruthlessness he was known for. This short season is very important for Roger and while his performance here won’t make or break the whole year, it is significant enough to affect the year going forward. Not just in terms of match wins but also with regards to his levels of confidence, self-belief and motivation. Plus, last year’s pain could be this year’s gain as he has only 45 points to defend at Wimbledon. A good run there would help him keeping his top 4 ranking.
I feel that while panic is not deserved at this juncture, for my part some minor adjustment is probably necessary in terms of expectations I had at the beginning of the year. He is definitely at a far better place now compared to last year but his progress has slowed a tiny bit in the past few weeks. I think it would probably be best to reserve any judgment and see what happens in the coming months. For now it’s still too soon to predict how the year will shape up.
An interesting season awaits us. Hopefully it will end with Roger holding a trophy (or two) in his arms. Just like Roger, I have mentally switched to grass already so come on Halle! Please bring tennis back into my life!
***Photos from http://www.zimbio.com except for the last one which is by AFP. The quote on the AFP photo is from this article on the Roland Garros site. I created the photo with the quote on it myself.***
***Please note, these ramblings are just my thoughts. I obviously have no secret link to the Federer camp to know what he is thinking or the reasons behind his actions. Nor do I claim to be an expert who can suggest on what he should and should not do. I just needed a space to think about the loss out loud, hence this post.***