Streaking Federer Eyes Three Card Monte
by Sean Randall | April 21st, 2008, 8:57 am
  • 33 Comments

Ok. Streaking may be too strong a term to use at the moment to describe Roger Federer. Lukewarm might be a better choice of words for Federer who five months into 2008 finally captured his first title of the season yesterday after Nikolay Davydenko retired in the second set at the Estoril (insert your favorite gambling joke here).

Despite the circumstances, Federer, will take the title, any title, even if his road to victory was arguably weaker then that of Houston champ Marcel Granollers-Pujol who earned the crown when James Blake couldn’t capitalize on a 3-0 third set lead. (James failing to close out a match? And here I thought those days were so behind him.)

His confidence now somewhat restored, though his clay game still untested (sorry, the highest ranked guy you actually won a match point on at Estoril was No. 68 Victor Hanescu), Federer now rolls into treacherous Monte Carlo looking to shake last year’s stunning loss to Filippo Volandri and regain some of his fleeting aura.

Fortunately for Fed, Volandri is no where near him this year in the draw. Then again, no one of any great clay skill is, at least for his first two matches. Lucky for Fed.

Rafael Nadal meanwhile should be rested and ready for another clay onslaught, and just as he did last year and the year before last and the year before that one, I fully expect the Spaniard to again get mean-and-nasty on the dirt this season and come away as the big winner. Nadal’s draw is tough, but he’s tougher. Forget his knee, ankle and capris, if the guy’s is putting up good numbers on the hard courts like he has already done this, how much better will he be on the clay?

The third card of the Monte Carlo clay club is Novak Djokovic, whose run for No. 1 begins in earnest this week. With a strong clay campaign and stumbles from Federer and Nadal, Djokovic could very well wind up as the No. 1 horse in less than two months from now. It’s a longshot, but Novak has a great draw in Monte Carlo, and with few points to defend from Rome and Hamburg he can make up a lot of ground on the Top 2.

The wildcard this week in Monte is again David Nalbandian. The Argy I think can make a strong semifinal run if he can avoid the early round pitfalls and set up a quarterfinal clash Friday with Federer, who – Davydenko’s retirement aside – has yet to win a full complete over a top ten player this year.

This clay season really should be something special. In the past it’s always been the Rafael Nadal show with Roger Federer trying to knock it off the air. This year, while it’s still the Nadal show, I don’t get the feeling that Federer’s going to be in the mix as much. Maybe Djokovic will be that guy. Maybe Nalbandian, Davydenko (who I think will ultimately finish as the No. 2 clay guy) or Ferrer will step up. Or maybe Rafa really will run the table again, meaning a likely and long-awaiting changing of the guard at the top spot after the French Open. How interesting would that be?


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33 Comments for Streaking Federer Eyes Three Card Monte

Agassifan Says:

Sean,

Volandri tripped Fed at Rome last year, not Monte Carlo…

Its April, so only about 4 months into 2008, not five…

Fed actually has a pretty rough draw at Monte Carlo, with Nalbandian, Djokovic, Gasquet in his half. Nadal is the one with the super easy draw.

It would be nice if you paid more attention to facts, before pronouncing judgments and forecasts….


Dave Says:

Let’s see how Federer recovers from sickness before we write him off. He’s obviously not been healthy and in top form. If he can get back to his form from November where he demolished the field at the masters, he will continue to contend for titles, even on clay.


Minoo Saboori Says:

Is it possible to get someone to write these reveiws whose maturity has gone past that breaking-voice age, please? Or is Sean just a bit too scared to leave the easy jokes and stabs in the trash, and write something pithy?

Thank you,
Minoo


jane Says:

Already some interesting wins/ upsets in Monte Carlo:

Murray defeats Lopez
Querrey beats Moya

Who’d've thunk it?

Looks like Rafa will have to face Ancic in his first match – that’s a tough one.


andrea Says:

this report is inevitable and anticipated. with roger playing estoril when the only other top 10 guy is nikolay, winning the tournament (nikolay’s retirement aside) would be “well, the didn’t have to beat any top 10 players”.

so predictable.

it’s a shame that davydenko had to retire – he’s shown some spunk recently. he is a good clay court player. with some of the focus off of roger this year to win everything hopefully davydenko won’t be faced with the same media ridiculousness last year at the french:

here is what happened: nikolay came off the court in the first round after a very clean and solid win, he’s sweating bullets and the first thing the interviewer asks him is ‘do you think it’s going to be a nadal and federer final’? poor guy.


jane Says:

that’s horrible andrea; davydenko is a solid clay-courter, who’s pushed both rafa and roger in the past. he should not be treated so dismissively. no player should, actually.


rogers twin sister Says:

Minoo Saboori: Sean ith alwayths “pithy,” and I’m fairly sure he hasn’t a clue as to what that word means. Rarely is he correct in his reportage and/or predictions, so this bodes well for Federer IMHO.


Dr. Death Says:

Clay – God’s surface. Let’s enjoy it.

Stop picking on Sean. In our sport, generally we only need to count to 4. It gets tough after that and we keep repeating ourselves.


jane Says:

I like Sean’s writing; he’s funny. It’s also hilarious that his picks are always -almost notoriously- wrong (except for Davis Cup, right Sean?) but he puts em out there nonetheless.

And hey Sean – your man Monfils harnessed that jazz of his today; maybe he’ll win a title on dirt! But don’t predict anything. Just in case. ;-)


Dr. Death Says:

It appears a number of the big names are playing doubles also – Nadal, Djokovic currently on court.

Great for the audience and for doubles.


grendle Says:

Nice to hear from you again, Agassifan.


penise Says:

see what higueras does for the Fed, maybe some better dirt tactics

I would love to see Fed grab the FO this year


Von Says:

Probably I don’t have my thinking cap on, and my eyes are not focusing, but what’s pitiful about this article? Absolutely nothing. Except for the Fed fans who probably feel that Sean is not lauding enough praise on Federer. Reporters are supposed to write what they feel and see, I’d say go for it Sean, and thank you for this thread, despite your silence to my post querrying whether there will be a Monte Carlo thread. I still enjoy reading your articles, and in this one you covered a few bases, which is fine with me.


Sean Randall Says:

AgassiFan, thanks for the correction. Fed lost to Nadal in the Monte Carlo final, then lost to Volandri in Rome. My mistake!

But, AgassiFan, i will maintain Fed has the easier draw than Rafa, who has Ancic to play Ferrero to play Ferrer, while Fed has Simon/Hidalgo to play Monfils to play Nalbandian.

Dave, regarding his health, as I’ve said before, we’ll never really know what’s going on with Rog until the “book” comes out long after he’s retired.

Minoo Saboori, I have no idea what you are implying. Care to elaborate?

Rogers Twin, you are correct. Pithy? Isn’t that a misspelling for “pity”?

Jane, Monfils won in straights over a Spaniard Verdasco, so that’s a great sign. I think he has a chance over Grosjean or Dr. Ivo. Then if Fed’s doing his “shank” thing I think Monfils could do it.

Von, thanks for the support. See i really do reply sometimes. Just been too busy since the morning to even post anything until now. Heck, I just saw the results for the first time a few minutes ago.

Carlos Moya should officially retire after losing to the only U.S. player in the draw, Sam Querrey. Any Spaniard who’s a former No. 1 and a French winner that loses to an American on red clay in Europe should immediately retire from the game.


jane Says:

Here are the results the present top 8 ranked players (minus Blake and Roddick) have to defend in MC:

Nalby: round of 32
Davydenko: round of 32
Djokovic: round of 16
Ferrer: quarters
Gasquet: quarters
Berdych: semis
Federer: finals
Nadal: winner


jane Says:

Berdych is out with an injury, so he’s not a factor, sorry.


angel Says:

Sean why you always have to underrate Federer’s achievements and his level of play, if you really think he is so lucky why has he been number 1 for 220 consecutives weeks? please I would love to see your honest answer about that and besides you definitively don’t have any idea of the effects of mononucleussis and for how long it affects you.


Von Says:

Sean: I’m positive that you know the meaning of ‘pithy’ – one from the Shakespearean times, but here’s the meaning — ‘concise, and/or full of substance’, as opposed to ‘pitiable’, — meaning mixed with scorn or desrving of pity. I’d say you’ve paid a backhanded, even though not intended compliment, without the writer’s knowledge. :) Well, comeuppance has raised its ugly head, but in your case, a beautiful one. As the old Southern guy stated: “I calls them as I sees them.” GO FOR IT!! But, you’re going to have to give me some help in dodging the bullets from the pitiableness that will ensue. Deja vu, been there done that, so what’s new.

“Carlos Moya should officially retire after losing to the only U.S. player in the draw, Sam Querrey. Any Spaniard who’s a former No. 1 and a French winner that loses to an American on red clay in Europe should immediately retire from the game.”

I’m happy for Sam, who’s our lone representative in MC. Don’t knock the Americans, we’re getting there. ‘Slow and steady won the race’, said the tortoise to the hare. And, again, ‘Rome was not built in a day’. Maybe in our dotage, an American will win the FO. :)

Poor Berdych. He’s one of the few who consistently plays in Davis Cup. His injury happened in his Davis Cup match v. Davydenko, he turned his ankle/foot. I hope that this does not discourage him from playing in Davis Cup in the future.


Sean Randall Says:

angel, take a moment to read a few of my earlier posts on Federer. in the last month I go into his mono ad nauseum. So much “nauseum” that i’m sick of it but unfortunately who knows when Fed will be in the clear of mono.

Fact is, as I wrote a few hours ago whatever the trouble has been with Fed – and I do believe it to be either health or off-court related or both – we are not going to find out for a very long time.


sensationalsafin Says:

Sean is clearly a huge Federer fan. Since I’ve been reading this blog, he always has been. It’s not his fault Federer forgot how to play.


jane Says:

i don’t know if Fed “forgot how to play” sensationalsafin, or probably you’re just being facetious, like Sean often is.

Since 2007 Fed’s game has gone awry here-and-there. Even last year he hit errant backhands and shanked forehands. It’s not new. His match against Djoko in Montreal was very similar to their match up at the AO. And presumably he wasn’t sick in Montreal last summer.

I am not saying Fed was never sick, however, because if he & his doctors said he was, then he was. But what I am saying is that, imho, he’s been on a *micro* decline since post-AO last year.

That decline may continue – but I’m not suggesting he’ll suddenly disappear (how could he? He’s still number 1 in the world!!) but he may just continue to lose a little more often. Or, with his new coach’s assistance, he may figure how to better his game, how to cut down on the UEs, and how to focus, focus, focus. Heck, he may win the French Open this year.

We’ll just have to wait and see.


jane Says:

So a third round Murray vs. Djokovic match up? Should be competitive. I enjoy watching both players. Maybe this’ll be the time Murray beats Novak? Novak’s always won easily on hard courts, but this is clay and Murray has a “clay” coach, so you never know.


sensationalsafin Says:

I still think Djokovic will win. This is one of those matches Murray can win but probably doesn’t BELIEVE he can win.

Maybe Federer will become better. I still think he’s gonna win the big titles this year. Not all of them but a few no doubt. But the losses will increase. The decline will continue. No one stays perfect. If he picks it up and steps his game to dominate some more, maybe not in the same way, but still dominate, then he really might be something above a human.


Agassifan Says:

People forget the past too quickly…..

During 1993-98, Sampras’s peak year, he lost an average of 14-15 matches each year – his best year was 12 losses, I think 1995. He never won more than 2 slams in any one year. After 1997, he never won more than one slam in any year. In fact, he just won wimbledon in 98, 99, 00, then somehow squeaked out the US in 02.

Fed has been doing WAY better in his peak year. Even 2007, supposedly Fed’s down year – he lost only 9 matches, and won 3 slams. Better than Sampras’s best year ever.

And no, the competition isn’t any less today. Its in fact higher than in the 90s.

Point is – people hold Fed to a much higher standard, just because of his ridiculously high achievements. Even Laver never won 3 slams a year thrice. Nobody ever has. Fed has.

Of course, 2006 was Fed’s peak year. He will only go downhill now. Nobody can fight time. However, he is still performing better than the best ever did. He still has many slams in him, even on the way down, more than what Sampras did on his way down.

So lets apply Sampras like standards on Fed – wouldn’t you say that’s high enough? Because Fed’s peak standard are something that nobody can measure upto, not even he himself anymore.


Dr. Death Says:

The Sampras Standard is a good enough one!

We seem to forget sometimes that we are dealing with elite athletes who are superb at challenge and response. Federer raised the challenge to a new height and the others have had more than enough exposure to react to his game.

I think we have at least three more years of seeing Fed win a good many tournaments. But over the next three years, we will see the new dominator emerge. And that person is…….?


grendle Says:

looking forward to seeing Safin against Ferrer tomorrow morning. Just a month or so ago, and you’d turn your head away and hope the score wasn’t too shaming. Now, there’s every reason to hope! Another Safin comeback? And I really did think that he was at the dead end of beyond! Ferrer’s got to be favourite, but if Safin pulls it off – well, how about a Fed / Safin final – there’s something to warm the juices….


jane Says:

A Safin vs. someone, anyone (!) quarter, semi, or heck, even final would be great. After he gave his post-loss interview at the AO, I thought, this guy still really, really wants to be on the winning end, so I’ve never counted him out completely. He has nothing to prove, he’s admired by many, has beaten the best, has a couple slams, etc. but he’s still here, week in, week out.

And then that nice win against Berdych at Davis Cup, and now a nice 1st round win here… Well, it’s possible he can keep it going. Non offense to Ferrer, whom I like, but I’ll be rooting for Marat.


Zola Says:

hi there,
just a short comment:
Sean, you rock and I like your writing. You also take the time to read the comments and respond, which is great.

Now, I have to plead:

please, please, don’t pick Rafa for anything. Go with Federer and Djoko all you want, but not Rafa! please!


sensationalsafin Says:

Considering how crazy this year has been, I think the whole tennis world, no, the whole world would be shocked with a Safin/Federer final in Monte Carlo. But god f*cking damn would I be stoked! Flat out stoked!! My 2 favorite players… making comebacks… argh now I’m gonna be so disappointed when it doesn’t happen.


grendle Says:

Well, the dream of Safin is rudely shattered. The trouble seems to be twofold – lack of confidence and consistency. But these two demons reinforce each other – can’t have one without the other. So how to break the deadlock?


jane Says:

Yeah, but Ferrer on clay is no easy task, even for Safin. A win would’ve been mighty good for the confidence though. I think if Safin could put together a few successive wins over top 10 or 20 players he may start to believe again. I dunno though – tough deadlock to break.

I had thought that Ancic might give Rafa a little bit of trouble.

But forget about it. The King is back home.


Agassifan Says:

nadal has to play 4 weeks in a row – if he has to defend all his points before the french, he must play 20 matches in less than 28 days, all on clay. I think he will run out of steam by Hamburg, and Fed will win there again, because he loves the courts there and he would be more rested and in touch by then.

The French is anyone’s guess….


Sean Randall Says:

Sorry Zola, but I am really starting to think Rafael is not just going to have another outstanding clay season, but finish the year No. 1!

I know Federer is winning, but who is he winning against? No one of any quality and that’s going to catch up up to him. My colleague Guerry makes some good points, but times have changed for Fed. The aura is on its way out, and the king may be right behind it!

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