rogerfedererfan

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


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Roger Federer wins his 18th Grand Slam!!!

f_29012017_federer_299

“Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?”

Prologue –

Melbourne. Sunday. January 29th, 2017. 7:30pm local time/ 2:30pm my time/ 8:30am GMT/ 3:30am EST – 17th seed Roger Federer comes out on Rod Laver Arena followed by his biggest rival with the most lopsided H2H stat against him, 9th seed Rafa Nadal. This is the 9th time they are facing off in a Grand Slam final. The last time they met at a Major was right here in Melbourne 3 years ago in the SFs. Roger lost. The last time they met in the final of a Major was 5.5 years ago at the French Open. Roger lost that one too. Following that logic the pundits said… well you know what? F*** what they said. Here’s what actually happened.

Set 1
“So here I go it’s my shot.
Feet, fail me not
This may be the only opportunity that I got”

f_29012017_federer_262Between the two, Rafa is the one who starts stronger, holding comfortably. Roger takes the first few games to settle in but soon finds his groove. The set remains on serve till 3-all. Then in the 7th game Roger ups the aggression on Rafa’s serve. This game had a multitude of gems from Roger; forehands, backhands and volleys all leading to 2 breakpoints and before you could hold your breath, the Spaniard hit a backhand wide and was broken. A subsequent consolidation game to love made us feel more secure. Rafa held his next game but that was no problem for our champ who took the first set comfortably serving for it, sealing it with an ace. First set, Federer, 6-4. Here is a tiny highlights clip.

Set 2
“Back to the lab again, this whole rhapsody
He better go capture this moment and hope it don’t pass him”

Set 2 begins with a rejuvenated Rafa holding the first game. Then out of nowhere, Roger’s serves disappear. He starts his game with a double fault. Roger looks a bit lost. Where did all that momentum from Set 1 go? f_29012017_federer_265A forehand error gives Rafa a 0-30 score. Roger keeps fighting and comes back to 30-all but a Rafa winner earns him his first breakpoint. Roger saves it but then his backhand finds the net and Rafa has a second breakpoint. Rafa then goes back to the one technique that has always paid him dividends: attack the backhand. And like so many times before, it pays off. Roger goes down a break and even though he has two breakpoints on Rafa’s serve immediately, Roger cannot convert. The unraveling begins as Roger is broken a second time to go down 0-4 in the set. As Rafa is serving to go up 5-0*, Roger somehow finally finds his game again and manages to get a break back. He even consolidates that break with his first hold of the set to go up to 2-4* but Rafa is still flying high on confidence. It doesn’t matter that Roger holds again, he can’t touch Rafa’s service games any more this set. Rafa takes the set with a love hold, 6-3. Here are the highlights. One set all. My nausea sets in.

Set 3
“No more games, I’ma change what you call rage
Tear this mother***ing roof off like two dogs caged
I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed”

Roger kicks off Set 3 by serving first and it appears to be a Herculean task. Despite going up to 40-0, he soon gets caught up in errors and has to save multiple breakpoints. Nonetheless, Roger somehow holds and all that effort seems to give him the boost he desperately needs. f_29012017_federer_264He pounces on Rafa in the very next game and draws out a breakpoint and actually converts it for once! A quick hold to love consolidates that break and Roger has that fierce glint in his eye again now that he is up 3-0*. Rafa holds next but only barely. Little does Rafa know that will be the only game he will win this set. A love hold gives Roger the lead at 4-1* and then a game full of stupendous Federer backhands gives our champ the double break. The backhand has just gotten better and better throughout this tournament and despite the pounding it is having to withstand from Rafa’s forehands, for the most part it is holding up beautifully! Roger just has to hold once more to take the set but somehow the errors have started to come back along with the nerves. He even has to save 2 breakpoints but ultimately he manages to take the set 6-1. Here is a small highlights clip. Federer is up two sets to one, just one set away from victory.

Set 4
“He’s choking how, everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out, time’s up, over, blaow!
Snap back to reality. Oh, there goes gravity”

f_29012017_federer_266Set 4 starts off with both players holding but those errors that made cameos at the end of set 3 became promoted to regulars and Roger gets broken in his second service game to go down 1-2*. After that, Roger barely holds on, getting pushed in each service hold and only his serve actually helping him out. He can’t seem to push Rafa this set and the Spaniard ultimately serves out the set comfortably to 6-3. Here are the highlights for the set. Two sets all, we go into a 5th set and suddenly what seemed to be just a sprint away has turned into a marathon. To make matters more worrisome, Roger goes off court for a medical timeout. Meanwhile, I hold myself and gently rock back and forth trying to remind myself to breathe.

Set 5 – Part 1
“Too much for me to wanna stay in one spot,
Another day of monotony’s gotten me to the point, I’m like a snail
I’ve got to formulate a plot or I end up in jail or shot
Success is my only mother***ing option, failure’s not”

f_29012017_federer_268Back from the medical timeout Roger serves first to start set 5, but before I can regain my composure from the disaster of set 4, the Swiss is already broken. Perhaps anybody else would have given up next but Roger actually gets 3 breakpoints immediately on Rafa’s first service game of the set. Yet Rafa saves them all and goes up 2-0*. Roger holds the next game to get on the board but to make matters more complicated, Roger has the trainer out on court now during the changeover. Next game and Roger pushes Rafa to another breakpoint. But unbelievably Roger fails to convert that one too. Another massive hold for Rafa who goes up 3-1*. This is slipping through our fingers, or is it?

Set 5 – Part 2
“He’s so mad, but he won’t give up that easy, no
He won’t have it, he knows his whole back’s to these ropes
It don’t matter, he’s dope”

After the treatment to his right leg, Roger holds to 15 and looks more confident now. He is still down a break though, can he continue pushing for breakpoints? More importantly, can he actually convert one if he gets the chance? And thus starts the most important game in this entire match. It seems Roger has now decided to play with abandon and dictate the points himself rather than get pushed around by Rafa. f_29012017_federer_283That is the mental shift we were all waiting for Roger! If not now then when? You have nothing to lose at this point! Let him have it! Rafa serves but it is Roger who wins the opening point of an 18-shot rally with an insane backhand, 0-15. He wins the second point from a Rafa error, 0-30 and he yells out ‘Chum Jetze!’ But Rafa claws back to 30-all. Another Rafa error gives Roger a breakpoint. But Rafa saves it, of course; deuce. A delicious backhand winner from Roger and we have a breakpoint AGAIN! Will Rafa save this one too? Nope! A Rafa forehand error seals it this time! Finally we are at 3-all and back on serve!

If that isn’t momentum I don’t know what is. Roger bravely continues to remain aggressive and wastes no time; he holds to love with an ace. For the first time in this set he is up on the score; 4-3* with Rafa to serve. Roger gets 3 breakpoints immediately at 0-40. Any guesses what happens to them? Yep. Rafa saves them all to get to deuce. But Roger keeps pushing Rafa with laser focus, unperturbed, and earns a 4th breakpoint with a tantalizing forehand down the line at the end of a ridiculous 26-shot rally! Alas, Rafa saves that as well. But then a forehand error from Rafa gives Roger his 5th breakpoint. And this time Roger successfully forces an error out of Rafa and finally gets the break! Roger is up 5*-3 and about to serve for the Championship!

Set 5 – Part 3
“The soul’s escaping, through this hole that is gaping
This world is mine for the taking
Make me king, as we move toward a new world order”

Roger’s heart must be beating a zillion times a minute because I know mine is. I have been crying since Roger was broken in this set. The first tears were of despair, then when he broke Rafa to level the set they were tears of joy and now they are tears of fear + exhilaration. f_29012017_federer_284There must be a word for that combined feeling but if so I can’t remember it. All I know is that the world has come to a standstill. All around the globe, millions of us are defying time-zones to watch this drama. And none of us dare breathe while a 35 year-old father of 4 prepares to serve this out.

First point a Rafa winner, 0-15. Second point a Roger error, 0-30. BREATHE ROGER! An ace and it is 15-30. But a Rafa winner next and Nadal has two breakpoints. ARE YOU KIDDING ME UNIVERSE?! Roger’s 19th ace saves the first. An inside-out forehand save the second and it is deuce. Then lo and behold, an error from Rafa gives Roger his first Championship point. His first serve is called fault and then his second serve gets called out. But Roger then challenges successfully to get another first serve which is called out again. He challenges once more but this time to no avail. He does get his second serve in but a forehand error brings it back to deuce. By now I am grabbing my head with both my hands and making growling noises because I am too tense for actual words.

rogerfederer2017australianopenday14rip5ipnwkqhxRoger’s 20th ace gives him a second Championship point. This is it. Come on Roger! The Swiss gets his serve in but Rafa’s return is weak and Roger pounces on it to hit a forehand winner that clips the line. Or does it? It hasn’t been called out so Rafa challenges. It is ironic that Hawkeye will decide the outcome of this match given Roger’s feelings about that technology. Roger, his box, the Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne and the whole planet all wait for the replay and stare at the screen with bated breath. And it’s INNNNNNNNN! Game, Set, Match Federer! 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 and Roger Federer is the 2017 Australian Open Champion and winner of 18 Slams! Here is a clip of that cliffhanger match point!

Epilogue –

Here is a clip of the match highlights, a mini movie of the final and Roger’s speech at the trophy ceremony. The Australian Open youtube channel has a ton more fun clips and here’s a sample few: Roger’s presser, Roger’s post match interview, Roger reflecting about the match point and lastly an amazing 18 minute clip about ‘Federer v Nadal‘.

As Roger said during the ESPN interview, this win stands on its own, for many reasons:
For being his 18th Grand Slam win.
For making him wait 4.5 years after the last one.
For being his first tournament in his comeback after a 6-month layoff.
For being his 5th Australian Open making him the first man to win 5 or more titles at 3 different Grand Slams.
For being his first Slam tournament win in which he played three 5-setters.
mirkaFor winning the match by playing on his own terms.
For winning the mental battle against Rafa.
For increasing the gap in Slams between him and Rafa.
For winning a Slam Final against Rafa in 10 years.
For winning a Slam match against Rafa on hardcourts.
For beating 4 top 10 players in 5 matches.
For taking his ranking from 17 to 10.
For shutting up the naysayers.
For confounding the pundits.
For defying the laws of age and time and stats.
For showing the world he will always be a champion.
For being his first Slam win since his boys were born.
For giving back to his team for their hard work.
For giving back to his wife, for without her support he wouldn’t be here.
For giving back to those fans who never gave up on him.
For proving to himself, he always had what it takes.
For keeping faith that an opportunity would come.
For knowing if the opportunity came, he would take it
For never giving up.
For having belief.

No one deserves this more than you Roger! I am so very proud of you and honoured to be your fan. You continue to make me believe in magic and fairy tales! Congratulations on winning your 18th Grand Slam!

“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”

-All lyrics scattered throughout this post are from “Lose Yourself” by Eminem

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***Photos are either from the Australian Open Tennis Australia photos or they are Getty Images from Zimbio.com***

 

 

 

 

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Hello, it’s me.

f_200116_fed_bs_36-2

…I was wondering if after all these months you’d still like to read my posts.

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It’s been a while since I’ve written anything at all for this blog. My last post was back in October 2015 after the US Open. Since then, life got in the way. Work, personal commitments, illness and my best friend’s wedding all served to take away my attention from tennis. Not so much that I missed Roger’s matches because I didn’t. But I had no time to write at all. Actually, that’s probably not entirely true. I am sure if I had really wanted to, I would have found the time somehow. But while last year was a good year for Roger, he had 3 losses that hit me hard. And for reasons I still don’t fully understand, those losses made me lose my interest in writing.

It felt like so much extra work all of a sudden, to carve out time in the midst of everything else and write when I knew the pattern that would unfold. We would get a great tournament with Roger in fantastic form from only to get Novak in the final and lose the plot. It became predictable, almost routine. And sports aren’t fun if you already know the result. Well, it is if you are a fan of the player that’s winning everything, as we Federer fans know too well from the past. But we are no longer in that past and last year’s Wimbledon, the US Open and the World Tour Finals killed the fun for me in that order. I still enjoyed watching him play of course, I don’t think that will ever go away. But writing about the build-up as he went deeper into a tournament knowing what the final result might be felt like a chore and so, I stopped writing.

f_federer_220116_116Now that I look back, other than those 3 heartbreaks, Roger had a very good year. With the exception of the Australian Open, he performed well in the Grand Slams. He also did well at the ATP 250 and 500 tournaments. Winning 6 titles in a year is no joke, just ask Julien Benneteau. The only reason he ended the season ranked #3 is because he did surprisingly badly at the Masters level. Yes he won Cincinnati and he reached the finals in Rome and Indian Wells. But out of the other 6 Masters, he skipped 2 and had 2 R2 losses and 2 R3 losses. That’s a lot of points Roger lost out on and thus Andy took the #2 spot in the year-end rankings. Still, had he won just 1 of the 3 losses I mentioned earlier, the year would have been fantastic no matter what his ranking turned out to be. Obviously that didn’t happen and so we ended 2015 with Roger being the 3rd best player in the world.

I wasn’t sure what 2016 would bring but I had a feeling it would follow similar patterns to 2015. So far we’re only in the 2nd tournament of the year and although he didn’t win in Brisbane, he was ill that whole week so I think we still don’t know where exactly his game is at. He had two good matches at the Australian Open thus far but had a difficult time in his 3rd round match. His draw is very tough so he has already faced opponents who are better players than their current rankings suggest. The journey ahead is not going to get any better so we shall have to wait and see how it goes.

f_federer_220116_109In other words, it’s still too early to predict how this year will go. Yet regardless of the uncertainty, the New Year filled me with a renewed sense of hope that all beginnings tend to bring and made me want to write again. But since it had been so long, I wasn’t sure exactly how to start writing or what to write about. I had been mulling over this dilemma for the past few weeks until suddenly, it hit me 2 days ago: Roger’s 300th Grand Slam match win was coming up. ‘300’ has a special significance for me because I started this blog over 3 years ago with my first 5 line post about how Roger was 1 win away from ensuring 300 weeks as the World #1. It seemed only right that I start writing again as Roger reached another ‘300’ milestone. And so, as the umpire called ‘Game, Set, Match, Federer’ in his 3rd round match, I knew it was time for me to write… something, so here I am.

Hopefully I can keep writing as the year goes on. Maybe, despite the evidence thus far, 2016 will bring fun surprises and amazing and unexpected wins. And if not, then possibly I can ride on that wave of optimism and write anyway. There are however, 3 facts that we know will happen no matter what. 1. Roger will keep setting new records 2. Roger will still play the most watchable and entertaining tennis of all time and 3. Roger will remain an amazing, lovable and fun human being both on and off the court. Perhaps those 3 immutable truths alone will keep my blog alive 🙂

 

***Photos are from the Australian Open site***


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My rant… in stats

As we know by now, Roger Federer lost in the third round of the Australian Open. I don’t like to write about losses so I figured I would come back to the blog when I finally had something else to talk about. But then came the deluge of stats all over the media: of streaks getting broken, measurements of his failure and indicators of his fall from grace. So I decided I had enough of this nonsense and compiled my own list of stats and records that ‘measure’ Roger Federer, as of his latest matches in Australia in 2015. Here we go!

  • 2f_federer_08222012_005-2Roger holds the record for most Grand Slam titles (17), most Grand Slams finals (25), SFs (36) and QFs (43) and NONE of these records will get crossed in 2015. The closest active players are Nadal for total Grand Slam titles (14) and finals (20), while Djokovic is the first active player behind him for most SFs (25) and QFs (31).
  • Roger holds the record for many consecutive Grand Slam streaks as well. He won 3 Grand Slam titles in a row and shares that with Sampras, Nadal and Djokovic. But guess what? He is the only player who did this twice, in 2006 and 2007 😀
  • Roger holds the record for most consecutive Grand Slam finals by reaching 10 finals in a row from Wimbledon 2005 to US Open 2007. But guess what? He holds the 2nd place too with 8 consecutive finals reached from Roland Garros 2008 to Australian Open 2010 🙂
  • Roger holds the record for most consecutive Grand Slam SFs with 23. It started in Wimbledon 2004 and continued till the Australian Open 2010. The closest player behind him is Djokovic with 14.
  • Roger holds the record for most consecutive Grand Slam QFs with 36. This started in Wimbledon 2004 and stretched on till Roland Garros 2013. Djokovic is in 2nd place with 23 and this is an active streak. But in order to cross Roger’s record, Djokovic needs to reach the QFs of every Grand Slam from now till Wimbledon 2018.tumblr_mbra6vJakk1qhlf7eo5_r1_500
  • Roger shares the record for the most consecutive Grand Slam matches won with Djokovic. They both won 27 matches in a row but guess what? Roger did it twice, meaning he has two streaks of winning 27 Grand Slam matches in a row 😉
  • By participating in the 2015 Australian Open Roger has now played in 61 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments extending his own all-time record. Ferreira trails him in 2nd place with 56.
  • Roger has played in a total of 63 Grand Slam tournaments. He is tied at 2nd place with Hewitt and they both trail Santoro in 1st place with 70.
  • Roger has won 281 Grand Slam matches which extended his own all-time record even more. Connors is a distant 2nd with 233 Grand Slam match wins.
  • Roger has won a record 75 matches at the Australian Open. Nobody else has even won 60 matches at this tournament and in fact, Edberg is in 2nd place, with 56 match wins.
  • Roger has won a record 147 hardcourt Grand Slam matches. Agassi is in 2nd place with 127.
  • Roger won his 1,000th career match in the Brisbane final and has a total of 1,002 wins now. He is in 3rd place behind Lendl and Connors. BKEphlhCYAEjUbb
  • Roger has now played 1,230 matches in his career. He is in 3rd place behind Lendl and Connors. Ferrer is the next active player to have played the most matches, 905. Thus, Roger has more match WINS (1,002) than the total number of matches PLAYED by any active player.
  • Roger won his 83rd career title in Brisbane. He is in 3rd place behind Lendl and Connors.
  • Roger played his 125th career final in Brisbane. He is in 3rd place behind Lendl and Connors.
  • Roger won his 23rd ATP 250 title in Brisbane. He is in 2nd place behind Muster with 26.
  • Roger played his 31st ATP 250 final in Brisbane. He is in 3rd place behind Muster and Roddick who reached 32 finals each.
  • Roger set a new record in Brisbane for winning at least one title for 15 consecutive years from 2001 to 2015. The previous record was by Lendl for 14 consecutive years.1104111155551300957972593
  • Roger now has 62 outdoor titles. He is tied at 1st place with Nadal.
  • Roger has 57 hardcourt titles extending his own all-time record. No other player has ever won even 50 hardcourt titles; Connors is in 2nd place with 49.
  • Roger has won a career total of 750 outdoor matches. He is in 3rd place behind Connors and Vilas.
  • Roger has won a career total of 623 hardcourt matches extending his own all-time record. No one else has ever won 600 hardcourt matches. Agassi is in 2nd place with 598 hardcourt match wins.
  • Roger continues to hold the record for most matches won against top 10 opponents with 183 wins. Nadal and Djokovic are behind him in 2nd and 3rd place.
  • We all know Roger holds the record for most weeks ranked as #1, both total and consecutive. However, Roger also holds the records for most weeks ranked in the top 2. Roger has spent a total of 433 weeks ranked in the top 2 as of January 19th, 2015. Lendl is in 2nd place with 409 weeks. Furthermore, Roger spent a record 346 consecutive weeks ranked in the top 2 ahead of Connors in 2nd place with 300 consecutive weeks.

222There it is. A quick snapshot at the records the Maestro holds and will continue to improve on once he comes back on tour in a month’s time in Dubai. The crazy thing is, this list is only the tip of the ice-berg. So the next time people try to bring you down by quoting a stat of his recent ‘failures’, just throw back a few of the above in their faces and tell them, with all that winning, and setting records and being insanely great over a ridiculously long period of time, even super heroes can have an off day. Therefore, they can shove their faces into the nearest pillows available because their favorites could never dream of the heights we have reached and they will never know how glorious the view is from that far up into the stratosphere. Game, set and match, Federer and his fans.

 

 

***I used older photos from my collection to depict the many faces of Roger rather than the sad images that were being used in the media recently. Unfortunately I don’t know the sources of these photos, they have been collected by me over many years. If you know of the sources, do let me know and I will include them here.***


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Federer’s Australian Open R2 match – Parts 1 and 2

2-Roger+Federer+Australian+Open+Day+3+W2HoTqQEYKSxIt was a 2-part match. Part 1 was Set 1, with Roger Federer not finding much rhythm, having trouble adjusting to the conditions and generally feeling ‘off’. In the midst of this ‘off-ness’ he kept flexing the fingers of his right hand, inspecting it every few minutes with great scrutiny as if he had grown a 2nd pinkie. Across the net was Simone Bolelli, a player who had never taken a set off our champ but was determined to stop that trend. This combo did not bode well for the Swiss and he got broken which allowed the Italian to take the first set, 6-3.

At the changeover, Roger called the trainer out on-court. Nervous fans looked on hoping to figure out what had happened to his hand but as the camera came close, he stopped the cameraman short as he wanted privacy to discuss his issue with the trainer. When set 2 started, we were no closer to knowing what this mystery ailment was but at least Roger looked to be rearing to go and that was the beginning of Part 2 of this two-part match. For a while the set was tense, with both players holding strong till 3 all. Roger served very well to go up 4-3* but as Bolelli was about to serve for 4 all, the Maestro had his chance. He kept pushing and kept Bolelli scampering and eventually got the crucial break. Roger served out the set, 6-3 and it was one set all.

Roger+Federer+Australian+Open+Day+3+A3OAyVn6H7axThe beginning of the third set was crucial for both players, either Roger was going to keep the momentum on his side or Simone would put a stop to that to start fresh. But Roger had begun to get in the groove by then and amped up his aggressive game from the first point. His relentlessness earned him a break point and a Bolelli forehand into the net, gave Roger the break. The Swiss quickly produced one of his one-minute holds to consolidate the break and put the pressure firmly back on Simone. Bolelli held but by then there was no stopping our Roger. He held again and then continued to impose his game on Bolelli’s own serve to go up a double break. A couple of aces consolidated the double break for Roger to go up 5-1* and even though Simone held the next game, Roger served out the set 6-2. 2 sets were now in the bag, we needed one more.

If Simone was going to mount a comeback, this was his last shot but Roger destroyed any hopes the Italian might have had by breaking him immediately and following that up with a blink-and-you-miss service hold to consolidate and go up 2-0*. Bolelli got on the board with the next game but then Roger took the next three games to get a double break and go up 5-1* leaving it to Simone to save himself with a service hold. The next game was full of unnecessary drama caused by multiple bad line-calls but ultimately Simone held, forcing Roger to serve for the match. Roger’s serves didn’t let him down and he took the final set 6-2 to win the match. Here are the match stats.msThat first set was not a good performance from our champ. He leaked errors, never found rhythm and had a hard time getting a read on Simone’s serves. I’m sure the strange finger issue, which might have been a bee sting (?) wasn’t the cause of losing that set but it definitely distracted him during it. Once he got the break in set 2, his tennis came back to life. He played more freely and as he began to pick up the pace. He grew more confident while Bolelli couldn’t sustain the high level he started with. What was good about the match was that Roger got better and better with each set in all departments; net play, returns and service games too. He was so superbly aggressive, it was a lot of fun to watch. Here is a link of the amazing dropshot he hit, a tiny highlights with match-point clip, a link to a clip of his presser and also the presser transcript. And a little preview video as well which you should watch 🙂

Roger+Federer+2015+Australian+Open+Day+4+q91d9ohHIlhxUp next for Round 3 is another Italian player, Andreas Seppi, who had a very good win against Jeremy Chardy and is coming into the match with confidence. Roger has a positive 10-0 H2H against Andreas and in those 10 matches he has dropped only one set so theoretically Roger should be able to win this. They haven’t played each other since 2013 Shanghai so it will probably take a bit of time for Roger to re-figure him out. It should be noted however, that the finger-pain mystery wasn’t really solved, at least not that we know of. Roger had a good practice session today with Severin Luthi and Stefan Edberg and his finger didn’t have any taping on it so I am going to hope that the strange pain was really a one-time issue. EDIT: I just noticed a tiny tape on the finger on another practice photo but I am still optimistic about it being a small insignificant problem. Roger’s match is the last one of the Day session at the Rod Laver Arena. Only hours to go! C’mon Roger!

 

***Photos are Getty Images from Zimbio.com and stats are from the Australian Open site***


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Roger kicks-off his 61st consecutive Grand Slam

Roger FedererRoger Federer started his 2015 Australian Open with a solid first round straight sets win. Looking back, he had a fitting opponent in Yen-Hsun Lu. The player from Chinese Taipei certainly gave a good account of himself and has nothing to be ashamed off. He showed resilience and his adaptability in taking advantage of the changing conditions. Lu remained focused and gave Roger a run for his money all the way till the end, despite being 2 sets to love down.

Each set was different in flavor. Set 1 was Roger taking a bit of time to get settled in. He wasted quite a few breakpoints in the first game alone. However he wasn’t threatened on his own service games at all. In fact Roger had his best serving stats in the first set, dropping only 2 points on the first serve and none on the second. He offered Lu no breakpoints, hit 5 aces and no double faults. He had a total of 6 breakpoints from Lu and finally converted one, which was enough for him to take the set 6-4 in 32 minutes.

By the second set, Roger had found his groove. It seemed like he was toying with Yen-Hsun who was doing his best to keep up. They had some good rallies with the Swiss usually winning the point. At 2 all, with Lu serving, Roger got his opportunity to break and … missed. But no worries, he eventually got the break. Before Yen-Hsun could blink, Roger held to love to consolidate the break and the pressure was back on Lu. Lu looked lost as he got broken again to give our hero the double break before serving for the set. But then suddenly, the Maestro lost his concentration or rhythm or maybe both. He served 2 double faults and unexpectedly Yen-Hsun had 2 breakpoint chances. Thankfully, Roger put the brakes on just in time; he saved the breakpoints and served out the set, 6-2 in 32 minutes.

f_190115_federer_22Judging by the difficulties Roger had in closing out the second set, I had a feeling the third set might be tough. Sure enough, not only did Roger’s level drop, Lu also upped his game. Roger mentioned in the presser later that the conditions had drastically changed from set 1 to set 3. As the temperature got lower, the pace slowed down which helped Lu who had also started to serve better by then. Meanwhile, errors had started to leak from the Maestro, even providing Yen-Hsun with 2 breakpoint chances. It was an intense set with neither player giving an inch as the match looked like it would progress to an eventual third set tie-break.

But wait! Roger was in no mood to extend this match any longer. Serving to go up to 3 all Roger had enough. A quick love hold and the pressure was on Lu to hold. Credit to Lu that he didn’t blink and ultimately held to stay on serve at 4-3*. Roger of course quickly held his own service game again, dropping just one point but then Lu held too, to go up 5-4*. However, the FedExpress was well and truly running by then and another love hold from the Swiss put the score at 5 all. It was now or never for Roger if he wanted to avoid the tie-break. And right on cue, with some creative points, Roger had 3 breakpoints. He needed only one and boom! Roger was up 6*-5, about to serve for the match. This time Roger had no issues serving it out. He dropped just one point in the final game and took the set 7-5 in 49 minutes. Here are the match stats.stsYen-Hsun and Roger engaged in quite a few rallies which will help Roger going forward I’m sure. Lu also made him rethink strategies and pushed him especially in the third set which is good prep for his subsequent matches. Sometimes a very lopsided win doesn’t give a player enough information about the actual level of their own game so this was a good match in that sense. Roger definitely has more awareness not only about where his game is at but also got a proper feel for the court and the conditions.

f_190115_federer_24Lu is a complete baseline grinder. He approached the net 6 times and won just 2 of those points. In contrast, Roger came to the net 43 times and won 30 of them. Roger’s aggressive net play was one of the keys to his success in the match, as was his great serving. Our champ also moved very well indeed and was super fast coming to the net. He seemed fit and fresh and looked like he could’ve gone for 2 more sets easily while Lu was totally done by the end. The Maestro hit a staggering 57 winners to Lu’s 20. But the area he struggled with was the unforced errors. He had 37 unforced errors and 24 of them came from his forehand alone. I’m sure that will be one area he will focus on during his practice tomorrow. Here is a link to the spectacular around-the-net-post shot he hit and the boss-mode dropshot as well. Here is the match point clip, here are the highlights. a clip of his on-court interview and also a link to the presser transcript.

With this win, Roger has set/reached a few records:

  • This was Roger’s 1,001st match win in 1,228 career matches.
  • Roger has now appeared in 61 consecutive Grand Slams as of this 2015 Australian Open. This is an all-time record.
  • Roger has also appeared in 63 Grand Slams. He is tied at 2nd place with Lleyton Hewitt; they are both behind Fabrice Santoro’s 70.
  • This was Roger’s 74th Australian Open match win which is also an extension of the all-time record held by him. The next player on the list is none other than our champ’s own coach and fellow legend Stefan Edberg, with 56 wins.
  • This was Roger’s 280th Grand Slam match win which is an all-time record by a mile. Connors is in 2nd place with 232 Grand Slam match wins. The closest active player is Nadal with 188 with Novak a close 3rd with 180 match wins.

 Up next is the Italian player Simone Bolelli. Roger has a positive 3-0 H2H against him but Bolelli is no pushover and is currently ranked #48 in the world. Though they have played only 3 times, the most recent was at the Davis Cup SF last year which Roger won in three straight but tight sets. Simone certainly has the ability to push Roger plus he’s had a fantastic year, coming back from being ranked #367 in April 2014 to zipping through the ranks to where he is now. But I feel the Yen-Hsun Lu match has allowed Roger to get used to the conditions and get some rhythm so hopefully the Maestro can come away with a win. Roger’s match will be the last match of the day session at the Rod Laver Arena. Till then, enjoy the clips and the non-Roger tennis day ahead 🙂

 

***Photos and stats taken from the Australian Open site***


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Looking back on 2014 thus far

uae_tennis_dubai_championships_xah02Hello everyone. It’s been that time of the year. The Roger Federer off-season – Fall Edition. He probably spent the time relaxing on an undisclosed, pristine, private beach in the Maldives. I did not. Not even on a dirty, public beach. But I have been leading my life sans tennis which has been surprisingly lovely because finally, I have been able to go to sleep at a decent time. The US Swing really took a toll on me with the conflicting time-zones so I was absolutely burnt out and fell quite ill right after the US Open. I did manage to watch Roger’s Davis Cup matches but other than that, I have been mostly tennis free.

However I can never go too long without some tennis and Federer and so I started to think about what to write my next post on. That led me down the memory lane of what we’ve been through already this year. So, I decided to make a random list of my version of the highs and lows of 2014. This list is based on my own preferences, my views and how I felt about each match or tournament and not on any scientific analysis. Still, I thought it would be cool to jot them all down before Roger comes back on tour in Shanghai. So here they are:

My take on Roger’s 2014 thus far:-

  • The Grand Slam I enjoyed the most: Australian Open. It was the first slam, Roger played very well and we got fun Jim Courier interviews. More importantly it gave a sense of hope for the new year and better days to come.Roger+Federer+Roger+Federer+Charity+Match+Q_gbxCrats_l
  • The ATP tournament I enjoyed the most: Dubai. This is absolutely based on my gut reaction and nothing else. Every match he played was tough and in most of them he had to come back from behind but the reason I loved it so much is the contrast it presented against 2013. In 2013 he lost matches he could have won. In Dubai, he won matches he could have lost. As far as I was concerned, this was a big turning point and I was finally able to leave the fear of 2013 behind.
  • The Grand Slam I enjoyed the least: Roland Garros, and not just for the usual reasons. I got the feeling Roger didn’t enjoy this year’s French Open either. He never looked comfortable plus it was the first time he traveled with both sets of twins, there was a lot going on behind the scenes I’m sure.
  • The ATP tournament I enjoyed the least: Monte Carlo, for many reasons. Not only was he reallllly close to winning a title he had never won, he had put us through some hellish matches in the tournament too. I am still not over Monte Carlo and I don’t ever want to revisit it. By the way, Rome doesn’t count in my head; he was there for all of 2 minutes.
  • The most important title: Cincinnati. Dubai was important because it got him on the board, meaning at least we could breathe easy knowing he has a title this year. Halle was not only a great preparation for Wimbledon, it was also the first time in 2 years he was able to defend a title. But in my mind, Cincinnati was the most important title this year. He really needed a Masters title, he hadn’t won one since Cincinnati 2 years ago. Plus he had already been in the finals of 3 Masters Tournaments this year where he had taken the runner-up trophy. He was overdue and thankfully it came right in the nick of time, a week after the bad loss at the Toronto final.Roger+Federer+Rogers+Cup+Toronto+1xqOeGnGttdx
  • The best 5 set match: Toss-up between the Wimbledon Final vs. Djokovic or the Australian Open R4 match vs. Tsonga. By best here I mean the best quality of tennis. The Wimbledon Final is here mainly because of that amazing 4th set. But in the Australian Open match vs. Tsonga, Roger was at his genius best.
  • The best 3 set match: Dubai SF followed Indian Wells Final in 2nd place. It’s no surprise I chose two Federer vs. Djokovic matches. They have really pushed each other this year and the entire Dubai SF match was a highlights reel of spectacular shots. Indian Wells final was good till the gut-wrenching tie-break in the 3rd set *sigh*.
  • The most hard-fought match: US Open QF vs. Monfils. This was an easy choice. Roger saved 2 match points for the first time in a Grand Slam to come back from 2 sets down to win this intense 5 setter. People who say Roger has no fight in him needs to have this match shoved into their faces every time they utter such nonsense.Roger Federer
  • The most confusing What-The-F match: US Open SF vs. Cilic. I know he was spent after the QF but to lose in straight sets that quickly to Cilic… I… well… hmph. By the way, out of Roger’s 10 losses this year, only 2 were in straight sets, this SF match and the Toronto final.
  • The most annoying loss: Monte Carlo final vs. Wawrinka. He was up a set; he could have finished it off in the tie-break of the 2nd set, but no. That was the best chance of winning Monte Carlo. Plus you know he won’t go there again so it’s not like he will get another shot at winning this elusive title. Gah!
  • The win that should have been a loss: Monte Carlo SF vs. Tsonga – Only 2/19 break points converted; enough said.
  • The loss that should have been a win: I was going to put the Monte Carlo Final in this one but that one annoyed me for weeks and deserved it’s own category. So 2nd place moves into 1st and it was the Miami QF vs. Nishikori. Argh, I really do think he should have won this one, especially since he was playing well in Miami before that match. Kei pulling out with injury for the SFs the next day just added salt to the wound *sigh*BxfrXmSCAAAr8EO.jpg large
  • The most heartbreaking moment: Wimbledon Final. It was such a perfect run to his 9th final at Wimbledon; even more so considering the disaster of 2013. The moment seemed just right, till it wasn’t. This was the only loss of the year that didn’t make me angry, annoyed, or irritated in the slightest. It was just incredibly sad, still is. Every time I think of that 4th set I still get very emotional. He wanted this so so so so badly and he almost had it, almost.
  • The most endearing moment: Reaching the Davis Cup Final. Not only was Roger beyond thrilled, but Severin Luthi and Stan Wawrinka lifted him up on the shoulders and ran around the arena in respect. As they put him down Roger quickly wiped a few tears away. Aww ❤
  • The funniest moment: Halle SF vs. Nishikori when the Maestro didn’t realize he had won the match. He was all pumped up after winning match point but then promptly returned to the baseline awaiting the next point when finally, the cheers and laughs from the crowd and a bewildered Kei on the other side of the net gave him a clue as to what had happened 😀
  • The best outfit including the shoes: US Open Night aka Darth Federer followed by Australian Open Night kit.

So there you have it; a quick look back at Roger’s 2014 till now. He still has Shanghai, Basel, Paris Bercy, the World Tour Finals and the Davis Cup Final coming up on his schedule so plenty of tennis to look forward to these two months. Maybe my list of highlights will change when I look back again after the year is complete. Meanwhile, if the rumors are to be believed then Roger is due to land in Shanghai on Saturday 🙂 Less than a day to go before we kick off the last leg of 2014! I have a good feeling about the ending of the year; I think there’s still a bit more magic left! 😀

 

***Photos are Getty Images as far as I know. If I am wrong, please let me know.***


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Thoughts on Federer’s stellar first quarter of 2014

© 2013 Regi VargheseRoger Federer lost his Miami QFs to Kei Nishikori in a somewhat surprising and unexpected manner. And just like that, we were done with the first quarter of 2014.

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. 

Roger+Federer+BNP+Paribas+Open+Day+14+PhTw9P0JjeRxClearly 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.

Roger+Federer+Serbia+v+Switzerland+giqG9vOuc0axThat’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

Dubai: vs. Becker, vs. Rosol, vs. Djokovic, vs. Berdych

Indian Wells: Doubles, vs. Anderson, vs. Dolgopolov, vs. Djokovic

Miami: vs. Karlovic, vs. De Bakker, vs. Nishikori

ausI will end the post by listing some of the staggering records Roger has broken and/or set in just the past 3 months. It’s a lot so brace yourself!

  • 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/ ***


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Ramblings of a Federer Fangirl

Roger+Federer+Roger+Federer+Charity+Match+WauXbf2InDQlWhen Roger Federer lost his Australian Open SF match my first thought was “I hope he’s ok.” And then my train of thought went as follows: “Well, he has his entire team with him, Seve, Stefan, Stephane and Tony and thank goodness for Mirka that amazing woman, and oh! He’ll get to hug the twins once he goes back to the hotel… aww, that’ll be really sweet”. My primary concern was whether he was fine, mentally and physically. Once I thought of the support system he has, I felt better, knowing he will be taken care of by people who love him. But what about his tennis? This shank, or that missed break point? I didn’t think about those, not for a while. A full day later it hit me why: I had been worried about Roger Federer the person, not Roger Federer the tennis player.

Of course tennis is a part of it, a large part. But for me Roger is like a close friend. Except, Roger Federer and I have never met in our lives and we never will. Yet, not only do I care for him as a friend, I feel like I know his family too. I know them well-enough to know that Stefan Edberg, the newest team member seemed to fit in like a glove. Every player’s box has their own flavor and Edberg appeared as if he’d been a part of that box forever. I know that his daughters Charlene and Myla like swimming and dancing more than tennis and that they helped decorate the Christmas tree. I know he and Mirka are expecting their third child this year. And I know he high-fived her when Stan won vs. Novak in the QF.

I know all this without being a paparazzo or a stalker and that’s because Roger let us know himself. Most of the information I wrote above came directly from Roger through social media or interviews and press conferences. He lets us into his life, which includes his family, team, players, fans and a host of responsibilities. I realized then, that my utter lack of objectivity about him and my transition from a tennis fan to a shameless Federer fangirl is completely and utterly all his fault.

Bdsz4r_IAAEdZFsI was a Sampras fan before I discovered Federer but my experience as a Sampras fan was very different. I loved Sampras’ two first serves (yes, his 2nd serve was like a 1st serve, it was that good), I loved his basketball jump smash and how he had laser focus and determination. When he won, I ooh’d over his winners and when he lost I rued the shots he netted. But never did I think about whether he had someone waiting for him at the hotel to hug. Now granted, the media was not as invasive back then and social media didn’t exist but Pete never had that friend vibe that Roger exudes. In fact I can’t remember any player of the pre-Federer eras who did. Tennis was a job and they were professional tennis players. Then along came Federer who made tennis a lifestyle. Sampras loved Tennis. Federer loves the World of Tennis.

Roger met his wife on tour, celebrated record shattering victories on tour, experienced tormented moments on tour, embraced rivalries on tour and advocated for the tour. Getting married while on tour? Not a problem. Wait the wife is pregnant? Um, don’t you know he married a Queen? Almost 9 months pregnant with twins, this woman sat through a 5 setter Wimbledon Championship match as her husband broke Pete’s record of Grand Slams. But traveling with not one but two babies? What about sleep before a match? Pfft, please. The Grand Slam prize money for lower ranked players should be increased? Yeah, he’s on that already, as the President of the ATP Players Council. The victims of the Haiti earthquake need help? Simple, arrange a fundraiser a day before a Grand Slam and get other top players and rivals/friends to help. Kids Day? Hello! He’s the National Kids Day Ambassador at the Australian Open.

Roger+Federer+2014+Australian+Open+Day+10+iO7AhcSeQkblSee what I mean? He lives and breathes the tour. What’s more, through it all, he has remained himself, complete with his dad jokes and dorky giggles that distract you from the fact that he is a tennis god… well until he hits one of those shots that stun you into reverent silence. But back to the topic at hand, really, when I think about it, I had no chance of escaping his charm.

As such, when he loses a match I sympathize as if my best friend just lost an amazing job opportunity after going through several interview rounds only to stumble at the end. When he gets injured I react the same way as when a family member is ill, I fret incessantly. When he makes a joke I laugh like how I laugh at my mother’s silly jokes. When he wins a title, I cheer and cry from pride and joy the same way I did when my brother graduated from college, beaming so much that my face hurt.

Roger Federer has robbed me of my ability to enjoy tennis purely as a sport. Because now I bring excess emotional baggage to each of his matches that he does not deserve. But then again as we have established above, this is his fault anyway, so maybe indirectly, he does. I have to say I don’t enjoy his matches live the way I do with players I don’t care about. I am nervous and tense and I constantly talk to him via my screen saying words like “cmon!” and asking questions like “Are you f***ing kidding me with these break points Rogi? Do you realize I have already torn off two clumps of hair from my head and it’s only the first set?” There are also phrases I sputter which tail off into unintelligible gibberish in the end like “OMG Roger that dropshot was just askdjkihkhekhweufkhhl!”

Roger+Federer+Roger+Federer+Charity+Match+V6yXB35cn0VlNope, I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘pleasant’ experience; ‘manic’ is probably a better word for it. I always have to watch his matches again (only his wins, not losses) post result, to fully appreciate his tennis, free from the roller-coaster ride of watching it live. Yet, given the choice, I would never skip a match. I repeat these experiences over and over again, complete with cringing and whooping. I know it makes no logical sense. But that’s how he has impacted me; he took away all logic. It is that illogical heart that believes this year is a new beginning. It is that same heart that gets sad (temporarily) whenever he loses any match no matter how hard he fought. He makes me feel with my heart rather than think with my head. I am irrational, unreasonable and emotional about Roger. I swear it’s not my fault. I wasn’t like this before. He made me this way.

As I come to the conclusion of this post, I realize it didn’t have any specific purpose. I guess I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings about him because I’ve been missing him. I know he doesn’t know who I am and I know I don’t matter at all. This is as one-sided as it gets. But despite that reality, I miss him anyway, the way I miss my friends and family when they travel or move away. But it’s worth it though, because every time he comes back on tour I get the same joy as when I go to pick up loved ones at the airport who have been gone for a long time. As proof of this, just as I was putting the finishing touches to this post my twitter timeline exploded with the breaking news that Roger has decided to play the Davis Cup in Serbia! It’s almost spooky actually, but maybe missing him so much caused a ripple effect! 😀 I can’t wait to see him happy and cracking jokes and making me giggle again…. Oh and also his beautiful tennis… that too 😉 Good luck for the Davis Cup tie Roger! Hopp Suisse!


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Federer is in the SFs at the Australian Open!

f2_federer_day10_94Guess who’s in his 11th consecutive Australian Open SF! Yes it is he, the slayer of tennis balls, the one with a full head of gorgeous locks and the beacon of angelic light on court (because “he’s so shiny” – thank you forever for that statement Jo) – Roger Federer!!!! This will also be his record-setting 34th Grand Slam SF. Meanwhile, he has now won his 73rd Australian Open match, his 265th Grand Slam match, and his 931st career match out of 1,147 matches played.

Federer won his QF clash with Andy Murray in 4 sets (yes I know it should’ve been in 3, we’ll get to that!). It took him exactly 200 minutes to post the 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(8-6), 6-3 score line. Set 1 started with a comprehensive hold to 15 as the Maestro began to push Andy immediately. He had the Scot 0-30 down in his first service game but Andy managed to extract errors out of Roger and hold. Another hold to 15 and Roger was back to putting the pressure on Andy. With the power of his almighty forehand he hit 3 straight winners, a forehand down the line, a forehand volley and a forehand cross court. 15-40 down Andy sent his own forehand long giving the Swiss the quick break to go up 3*-1. After that both players stayed on serve, Federer with ease and Murray having to fight. It all came down to Roger having to serve for it which he did, to love, in 31 minutes.

f2_federer_d10_28Set 2 and Andy started to get pumped up. His groundstrokes started to get back some of the depth that had been missing in the first set and his level began to pick up but Roger was simply too good. In Andy’s third service game, Roger pushed the score to 30 all with a backhand winner and then Andy netted a forehand to give the Swiss a break point. After a quick rally, Andy’s forehand went wide and Roger was up a break 3*-2. While Roger was serving to consolidate, Andy produced some brilliant play of his own including a gorgeous lob to push Roger to two deuces. But the Maestro’s fantastic serving helped him out and he held at 4-2*. After that, it was tennis at a very high standard as both players played tactically, with extreme angles, powerful groundstrokes and some delicious net play especially from Roger. Both pushed each other but neither faced break points and that is how it remained till Federer served out the second set in 48 minutes.

Set 3 and Roger immediately had 3 break points on Andy’s serve but failed to convert. He had another one on Andy’s second service game but failed to convert that too. However, what he kept doing well throughout was holding his own serve. He had one love hold, 2 holds to 15 and only one hold to 30 by the time they were at 4 all. Then, on Andy’s 5th service game Roger took it up a notch and put the pressure on Andy which resulted in the Swiss having 2 break points. He only needed one and Andy was broken. The score was 5*-4 with Federer to serve for the match. And that’s when it happened. Maybe he got nervous about closing it out, or maybe he made the mistake of looking beyond the QFs before actually winning it. Whatever the reason, Roger inexplicably got tight. He offered 2 break points, saved one, but couldn’t save the other and for the first (and only) time in the match, Roger was broken.

At 5 all Andy found a new gear. He quickly held and then made Roger serve to try and take it to a tie-break. Roger regrouped (alas temporarily) and held to love. 6-all and we were in a tie-break. Roger got a mini-break to go up 3*-2 and then consolidated to go up 5-2*. Andy held his next two serves, and the tie-break was 4-5* with Federer to serve. A high-kick serve took it to 6*-4 and Roger had match point. Then, yet again, the demons returned, Roger got nervous and sailed a forehand long, and the mini-break was gone at 6-5*. A rejuvenated Murray held his next two serves and was at set point on Roger’s serve. A listless Roger hit a backhand long and unbelievably the set was Andy’s, 7-6(8-6) in 63 minutes. #facepalm + #headdesk

Onto Set 4, and it looked like Roger had regrouped for the most part when he held to 30. Then came Andy’s first service game and now looking back, it might actually be the longest game of the tournament – it lasted for almost 20 minutes. f2_federer_d10_31In it, Roger had 3 break points right away. He converted none. He ultimately had 3 more but in vain. Meanwhile Andy had Advantage 7 times but Roger kept pulling him back until finally on the 7th game point, Andy held and it was 1-all. The take-away from that game for me what that at least Roger was really pushing Andy while Andy was playing to survive. I hoped that attacking mentality would remain with Roger and sure enough he made an emphatic statement right away after losing that game with a minute love hold of his own to go up 2-1*.  As if to make a rebuttal, Andy then held to love as well. But by now I sensed Roger had calmed down and he was out of that mental funk he had gone to while he was serving for the match in Set 3. He seemed focused, intense and in no mood to prolong this misery.

Serving to go up to 3-all Murray was pushed to deuce 3 times and even offered Roger a break point before he eventually held. Meanwhile, Roger continued to hold with much more ease again while never easing up on pressuring Andy. This showed in Andy’s 4th service game when 3 forehand errors from the Scot gave Roger 3 break points. He saved the first 2 with fantastic serves but finally, FINALLY, Roger broke him on the third and now had to serve for the match, AGAIN. Reminiscent of the last time, Roger was quickly down 0-30. But thankfully he refocused and smashed a forehand winner and two great serves to gift himself a match point once more. This time there was no more drama as he ended the story with an ace. Game, Set, Match, Federer. With this win, Federer narrowed the H2H gap with Murray to negative 1 only; they are at 10-11 now in favor of Andy. Here are the match stats.QFAORoger did better than Andy in almost every department. His service games were miles better with higher percentages in 1st serves in, and points won off both the 1st and 2nd serves. He was obviously better in his net game too. Not only did he come to the net more, 66 times to Andy’s 27, he won 74% of those points too. His break point conversion is obviously ridiculous, he missed 4 in Set 3 and 9 in Set 4 but it is what it is and I now look at it to mean that he’s at least creating chances and keeping the pressure on. One stat that stood out to me was his return stats. We expect those stats from Andy who is one of the best returners of the game today but Roger did very well indeed. I think it’s a combination of his improved movement plus the new racquet that’s giving his returns extra zip. At least based on this tournament we can say the racquet has helped his backhands quite a bit and added some power into his forehand too.

screencapAs for that brief and untimely mental collapse in Set 3, I think it’s still down to Roger not being fully there yet in terms of his confidence, though obviously he is at a much better place than last year. I also felt that in a pressure situation he backed off the aggression. He was a bit too passive and simply chipped back some shots instead of trying to hit winners. Interestingly I think for that period in the match, Roger became more passive and Andy more aggressive. Neither is a natural state for either player and while Roger was able to get out of his mental cloud and go back to his game plan, Andy stuck with his newly found aggression and went for too many shots in the end in Set 4.

Here is the link to the presser which I highly recommend; there is a ton of information in there. Here is a small clip of the presser. Here are the highlights and here is match point. Lastly here is the hilarious on-court interview with Jim Courier where he addressed the break point issue too! 😉

So that was the QF and now onto the SF and it is with none other than old friend and rival, Rafa Nadal. This will be their 33rd meeting and it will have the feel of a final till you’ll realize half way through the match that it’s not 😦 Blame the evil draw for that one. With Rafa, it’s got more to do with Roger’s mental block than anything else. But I believe there are some encouraging signs that can give us hope. First, no one (well almost no one) is expecting him to win this, he’s the underdog and that suits him just fine to go for broke. Second, he has a renewed sense of confidence in his game post the Tsonga and now the Murray match. He survived two tough matches and played only 7 sets whereas last year he had played 10 with these two. He is feeling strong both physically and mentally. Third, his new racquet is definitely giving him some power, especially on the backhand which has always been Rafa’s target area. Fourth, apparently he had already spoken about playing Rafa with Edberg when they initially met up in Dubai. Here are his comments from the presser.

“I’m looking forward to speaking to Stefan, because when we spoke together, you know, when he came to Dubai and we spoke about the game, we clearly spoke about playing Rafa, as well. He thought he had some good ideas, so I’m looking forward to what he has to say. Clearly with Severin, he knows him inside out. I’m looking forward to hear what the boys have to say. We’ll prepare. I hope I can get a win. We’ll see.”

Basically what I think is this: the stats (and bookies) are saying Rafa will win but, I think tennis players know much more than any of us how little that matters on match day. Barring injuries, it all comes down to the mental state; how the players are feeling building-up to the match and where their head-space is when they wake up and when they step on court. All I will hope for is that Roger will give it his all and maybe even pull out a few new tricks. Perhaps he can turn back the years to remind us yet again how their rivalry gained such a mythical status in the first place. Back when an unstoppable force met an immovable object and together they created history.  

*Photos from ausopen.com except for the screencap of Stefan and Mirka*


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Federer reaches his 11th consecutive Australian Open QF!

3f_federer_d8_75Roger Federer is through to his 11th consecutive Australian Open QF! Going against most pundit predictions of the day, the Swiss overcame an in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in only 1 hour and 52 minutes.

Roger was extremely aggressive right from the start and except for a few minutes in the third set he never let up. After a confident hold to start the first set he got a break point on Jo’s first service game and wonder of all wonders, he took it right away as a short rally ended with Jo finding the net. While serving to consolidate, even though he was pushed to deuce he never looked uncomfortable and held the game with two successive beautiful drop-shots. He was 3*-0 up and it was already clear what his game plan would be: be aggressive, come to the net often, volley from all angles and throw in a few drop-shots when Jo is hovering beyond the baseline.

Jo held his next service game to get on the board but for the rest of the set, though there were no more breaks of serve, Jo had to fight much more to keep holding on. The pace of the match was entirely dictated by the Fed. He hit winners all over the place and continued to extract errors from the Frenchman. Meanwhile Roger had 2 successive love holds (without any aces too!) and held to 15 while serving for the set. 6-3 in 29 minutes with 11 winners and only 7 unforced errors.

f_federer_d8_82Set 2 was probably the best tennis both the players produced in the match. Jo definitely raised his level but as his luck would have it, so did Roger. The one area where Roger hadn’t done spectacularly in Set 1 was his first serve % which was a mere 50%. He picked that up to 70% in Set 2 and won a staggering 95% of those points. He also won a crazy 75% of second serve points and 13 out of 14 net points. Compared to his 7 unforced errors from the first set, he committed only 5 and as for winners, in this set alone he hit 21 of them. Altogether this meant that even though they were on serve till the very end of the set, Jo was pushed to 30 in 4 games in a row before he could hold each time. In comparison, Roger had 3 games where he held to 15 and 3 where he had love holds. In Jo’s 6th service game he finally offered Roger a break point but then saved it with an ace. Another error and another break point and this time Jo netted the shot. Having to serve for the set, Roger produced one of his 3 love holds and the Swiss was up 2 sets to love, 6-3, 7-5.

In the beginning of Set 3, Jo was still positive and had a quick hold to start as did Roger. And then, out of nowhere, a winner from Roger and two errors from Jo brought up three break points in his next service game. Roger kept the pressure on and Jo netted the final shot giving the Swiss the early break in the set to go up 2*-1. Both players held serve for the next three games. Then as Jo served at 2*-4, two Federer winners and an error from Jo himself gave the Maestro 3 break point opportunities again. Nonetheless, some stunning winners and great serves helped Jo to keep holding and keep the difference to just 1 break at 3-4*.

Roger looked a bit thrown off and not quite focused and that showed immediately in his own service game to go up 5-3* when he offered Jo the only break point the Frenchman got in the match. Thankfully for Roger, Jo’s return landed wide. With some difficulty, Roger finally held with the help of an ace. Jo was still fired up and held to love to go up 4-5* to show his conviction but it was too little too late. Serving for the match, Roger soon had 3 match points. But then, perhaps the possibility of reaching a Grand Slam QF once again might have made him a bit nervous because Roger double-faulted for the first and only time that night. That was the solitary blip though. Considering how much he had come to the net this match, it was only fitting he ended the match with a forehand volley. Game, set, match Federer, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Here are the match stats.R4AOHere are some fun links for you too: Roger’s presser transcript and video, Jo’s presser transcript (so you know what he said about Roger taking away his time), Roger’s on-court interview with Jim and the spectacular ballboy catch (yes it’s a new one!).

To be honest I am finding it really hard to find any fault with Roger’s game at all in this match. I would say perhaps it would be nicer if he got more first serves in but he did win 88% of the ones that went in and his second serve held up nicely. He did lose focus in the third set but only for a few minutes and I think what’s important is how quickly he righted that ship which goes to show that his confidence has grown much more since last year. Basically he played as close to perfect as possible. Everything worked, and his backhands and volleys in particular were divine. On top of that, he was super efficient. Both Roger and Jo play quickly anyway but Roger totally controlled the speed of the match. The result was not only Jo not having any time to think, but also that he is fresher for his next round meeting with Andy than he was after last year’s 5-setter with Jo.

2f_federer_d8_74That brings me to tomorrow’s match. Same pairing as last year’s SF except a round earlier. I had decided in the beginning of the year to not make any predictions but honestly, I couldn’t make one for this match even if I tried. Obviously it is not realistic to expect this vintage Federer for every match from now on, especially since Andy is a very different opponent from Jo and has great defensive skills. Plus, Roger is still on his way back into form post last year. As he said so himself, he probably won’t be fully match ready before March or April. On the other hand I’m not entirely sure of Andy’s form either. He has sailed through his first 3 rounds but his kind draw ensured that his opponents were not strong enough to really test him. It could really go either way.

So instead I’ll end with this: I was and still am very proud of how the Maestro won his R4 match. It was the best he’s played in almost a year I think. And even if his form fails him in the QF, we know he still has it, and he’s moving along in the right direction. Oh and remember how he keeps setting records with each match? Well, by reaching the QFs he has now tied with Jimmy Connors for most Grand Slams QFs reached. They have each reached 41 QFs! That’s more than 10 years worth of Slams! Legendary indeed! 😀 Good luck Roger! We’ll all be cheering for you!

*Photos from the ausopen site*