He was vulnerable in the Wimbledon final against Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic was on his heels in the US Open final and in recent weeks, he lost in consecutive events to David Nalbandian. When he started off the Tennis Masters Cup with a loss to Fernando Gonzalez, Roger Federer had to bounce back from two straight defeats for the first time in over four years time. Djokovic and Nadal were starting to become real challengers for the No. 1 position.
But Federer proved that despite his endless winning streaks, he doesn’t get shaken up by one or two losses, and he surely isn’t scared about the tougher competition he’s been getting over the past months. It’s true that Nadal hasn’t reached his best form after Wimbledon, but Federer steamrolled past the Spaniard in the semis, and he was never troubled by David Ferrer in Sunday’s final either. By defending his Tennis Masters Cup title in style to end the season, Federer sends a message to his rivals that he is still king of the courts, even though he wasn’t even close to playing to his best in more than a couple of events over the past year. In the end, all that matters are his three Grand Slam crowns, and another year-end championship title, which marks another outstanding season for the Swiss.
Against Ferrer, Federer was playing extremely dominant tennis in the first set. He was ripping his forehands and never offered his opponent the opportunity to get in a rhythm, by constantly mixing up his play and keeping the rallies short. Ferrer never got close to the form he had displayed throughout the event.
I was a little surprised however, that after Federer won the opening set, the No. 1 started to hold back some more on his forehand. This is why Ferrer got in to the match. Where Federer used his favorite wing to end rallies with one or two shots in the opening set, he was now taking some pace off, which for Ferrer meant he stayed in more rallies and got an extra split second to hit passing shots when Federer was moving forward. However, three horrendous misses at 3-4 cost him the break and consequently the second set. The Spaniard was up 30-15 on his own serve before he netted an easy backhand, missed a sitting backhand volley, and completely shanked a forehand to hand Federer the break. Federer served it out and ended the set winning the full 100% of points on his first serve.
With Federer up 6-2 6-3, the match was all but over. Federer broke serve at 2-1 in the third set with an outstanding running forehand passing shot, after Ferrer failed to put away a forehand volley. Federer ended the match with another break at 5-2, again passing Ferrer at net on his first match point.
I would say Federer played one of his best tournaments of the year in Shanghai, despite the unexpected loss to Gonzalez. Most of his matches were just plain solid, won without the utter brilliance that earned him so many fans during 2004 and 2005. But those days seem to be gone forever. The Roger Federer of 2007 has developed into a more conservative player, going for the smart play, instead of the out-of-this-world winners we remember so well from his early glory days. His footwork has deteriorated a little bit, which is why I don’t think he will ever triumph at Roland Garros. It’s also the reason why we’re seeing more ugly unforced errors from Federer nowadays.
Nevertheless, Federer will surely continue to be a dominate force on Tour over the next years. He will have to deal with increasing challenges from Nadal, Djokovic and probably Andy Murray for the No. 1 position, but for now though, the order has been restored.
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