So, just how much better is Roger Federer than everyone else? A few years ago that argument was moot, not so anymore. In fact, one could easily make the case that right now, right this very minute, Federer is barely a Top 5 performer season to date. That’s right. Barely Top 5.
Federer’s response is that his two semifinals – at Australian Open and Indian Wells – are results many guys in the pack only wish for.
True, but Federer’s not supposed to be part of the pack. Bottom line is, Federer is not, and may never be, the player that he was in 2005 when he lost just four matches the entire year.
This year, Fed’s already lost three times and he seems to be struggling at a time when the competition is nudging ever closer. And it appears to be only a matter of months, not years, before Federer will relinquish his grasp on the No. 1 ranking, and I do think it will happen sooner rather than later, maybe even by Wimbledon.
Yes, Federer’s set the bar ridiculously high, and yes, he’s created a monster that requires him not just to win titles, but win them easily.
And this season nothing has come easy. There have been no new pieces in the Federer trophy case. In three events Roger’s yet to reach a final but the Swiss has been fighting mono, and my personal opinion is despite what Federer says, he’s still not completely over it.
Nothing against Mardy Fish, but I still cannot believe a guy can serve 34% first serves and beat Federer 3 and 2 on a hardcourt without there being more to the story. So what’s the story? Could it be the mono or maybe some off-court distraction? Who knows, but we’re likely not going to find out for a while, or maybe until the Federer book is finally written. But whatever it is that might be troubling Roger, it might still be there. And my theory is the mono hasn’t quite left the guy.
Onto Miami, or is it Indian Wells all over again because the draw looks just about the same as it did in the desert. Next time the Miami tournament organizers should gave that bag or hat or whatever it is they use to draw the names out an extra shake. There are a few twists at least.
Federer’s quarter is much tougher than it was in the desert. I love the Gael Monfils-John Isner first rounder (I hope I can watch it!), in what is a rematch of their memorable Washington meeting in which the Gael gloriously gagged. Fed should get through either guy – I’ll take my man Monfils to not gag this time – earning himself a formidable third rounder against either Robin Soderling or Stanislas Wawrinka. Luckily for Fed, Stan is also Swiss, the “other Swiss” that is, so he’ll roll over, but Soderling when he’s playing well is very dangerous, and I think it will be the Swede who shows up in that spot. I’ll take Federer to prevail nevertheless, but that’ll be the last match he wins this year in Florida. Lleyton Hewitt gets him in the round four. That’s right, the forecast for Federer in Miami is hot, humid and Hewitt. C’mon? I didn’t think Fed would win Indian Wells, and I don’t think he wins in Miami either.
Also in the bottom section of the Federer draw, after facing difficult paths in Dubai and Indian Wells, the karma comes around this time in South Florida for Andy Roddick who gets a real easy road. The former Florida native’s toughest test could be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Sweet 16, but I don’t give the Frenchman much of a shot in that one if he makes it, at least not right now with a looming France-USA tie. Roddick should get through to meet Hewitt.
The second quarter is really wide open. I like Nikolay Davydenko to meet Andy Murray, with the winner to face either David Ferrer or Mardy Fish. I’ll lean slightly to a Murray-Ferrer quarterfinal showdown. Murray-Ancic and Safin-Youzhny could provide some early round fireworks in that section.
The third quarter, just like it was at Indian Wells, is all about Novak Djokovic, who really shouldn’t drop a set until the quarterfinals where I think he’ll run into Richard Gasquet. Or maybe not Gasquet. I could see a lot of players other than the Frenchman getting through. I’m interested to see how Sam Querrey and Kei Nishikori go. I think either one could make some noise.
And in the last quarter of the draw, I want to pick Carlos Moya, but I’ll stay with the safe bet and select Rafael Nadal to get through and face James Blake for the second straight week in a Tennis Masters quarterfinal. David Nalbandian or Marin Cilic could get out of there as well, but I’ll go with the American for now.
So here’s how I envision the quarterfinals: Hewitt v. Roddick, Murray v. Ferrer, Djokovic v. Gasquet and Blake v. Nadal (no South Americans? How can that be!). For the semifinals, I like Hewitt beating Ferrer and Djokovic beating Blake, with Djokovic defending his crown with his second straight Masters title and really turning up the heat on the Fed.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yeah, I know it will never actually work out that way, it rarely does. Maybe we’ll get that Dudi Sela and Marc Gicquel final we’ve all been dreaming of. The way things have been going this season anything is possible. More March Madness, please.
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