Fed ready to roll on the red clay?
by Guerry Smith | April 22nd, 2008, 5:28 pm

After his shaky start to 2008, Roger Federer was supposed to be in serious trouble as the scene shifted to clay.

His reign atop the game may still be in jeopardy. A five-match winning streak and his first title of the year at a small Portuguese tournament (Estoril) last week proved little else than that he felt he needed extra court time and a confidence boost before the big clay events.

But the people who expect a rash of bad results in the next month don’t appreciate how good Federer has been at finding ways to win on the red stuff. Take away the superhuman abilities of Rafael Nadal, whose game is suited better for a high-bouncing, slow surface than anyone in history, and Federer has been nearly as unbeatable on clay as hard courts in the last four years.

Six players have dispatched him on clay since he won his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2003. Aside from Nadal, only two have beaten him since he won his second Wimbledon in 2004 and truly separated himself from the rest of the field. One of them, Richard Gasquet, saved a match point with a passing shot from 10 feet behind the baseline in the 2005 Monte Carlo quarterfinals, a loss Federer avenged in the final of Hamburg a month later.

The other, Filippo Volandri, rolled over him in the Round of 16 at Rome last year when he was distracted by his deteriorating relationship with soon-to-be-fired coach Tony Roche. Even if you consider that rationalization rubbish, the loss was no worse than his early-round defeat to Dominik Hrbaty in the first round of Cincinnati in 2004. No one pegged that anomaly as a sign of his impending doom on hard courts.

Clearly, Federer is the third-best clay-court player of his era, trailing only Nadal and Gustavo Kuerten. Consider his accomplishments:

His first Masters Series title came on clay, when he crushed Marat Safin in the 2002 Hamburg final. He has won Hamburg three more times and owns a 17-match win streak there, including a 6-0 blitzing of an exhausted Nadal in the third set of the final last year.

He has reached the finals of Rome and Monte Carlo, the other two Masters Series clay tournaments, twice each, losing to Nadal on three of those occasions.

He has never lost on clay to Guillermo Coria (2-0 when Coria was still Coria), Nikolai Davydenko (3-0), David Ferrer (3-0), Safin (3-0), Carlos Moya (3-0), Fernando Gonzalez (4-0), Gaston Gaudio (2-0), Juan Carlos Ferrero (3-0) and Tommy Robredo (3-0). That’s an astounding 26-0 mark against the best clay-courters of the last six years not named Nadal.

Even David Nalbandian, who owned Federer early in his career and again late last year, has not beaten Federer on clay since Monte Carlo in 2002, although he appeared to be wiping Fed off the court at Roland Garros two years ago before succumbing to his 945th injury.

Federer’s never won Roland Garros, but he is a hundred times better on European clay that almost all the other greats who failed to complete a career Grand Slam at the French Open. John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras would have been lucky to take a set off him in Paris or Rome.

The next month should be very revealing. if Federer has a couple more Volandri moments, the observers who see real cracks in his game will be validated. If he returns to his anyone-but- Nadal victory march, his illness of the first few months no longer will be seen an a lame excuse.

Although Fed had mono at the beginning of the year, anyone hoping he will fall from No. 1 may soon be sick.

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89 Comments for Fed ready to roll on the red clay?

joe Says:


Good article. I’m glad you see sense in what is happening with Federer. I agree that the next few months are crucial for Fed. He has alot of points to defend and we will really see where his career is heading by the end of the claycourt season. I am confident that Federer isnt going to give up the number one ranking just yet. I actually think that he may surprise us and win either montecarlo or rome. I feel that if he wins one of these, perhaps beating nadal in the final, it would really put an end to people saying his dominance is over.

Daniel Says:

You took the words out of my mouth!

Looking beyond clay the only players who beat Fed in Grand Slams other than Nadal were Djokovic (the best talent in the last 2 years), Safin (the best talent before Fed), Kurten (the second best clay court player of the decade) and I would include Nalbandian in this field due to 2005 Masters Cup final which were a 5 set match.

Looking at this, even with his recents defeats that alert me of a potential dowhill, I couldn`t stop feeling relief. Nalbandian probably won`t make deep enougth in a slam to treatens Fed, Guga is retiring, Safin needs to win 3 or 4 matches in a row to feel like a champion again. So the only ones left are Djokovic and Nadal. As Nadal can`t make a final other then Wimbledon, we get Djokovic.

But, this year is the year when he needs to asure himself, defending important points and show the consistancy that Fed and Nadal did. So far he did great and by the end of this week we`ll know how much he desires the number 1 spot!

sensationalsafin Says:

Djokovic should do very well in Monte Carlo this week. Anything less than a semi would be a terrible result for him, imo.

Great article. Just great. An interesting point made that I haven’t seen yet and I gotta agree. Also very, very, very funny with the 945th Nalbandian injury tidbit.

I was very sure going into this year it’d be impossible for anyone to take 3 sets off Federer in a slam other than the French. Djokovic proved me wrong pretty quick. But then again, that’s Djokovic, the guy I, myself, peg to be the year end number 1 this year. But if he loses to someone who is actually below him at a slam, then that really is a problem. The only bad loss this year has come to Fish. Still don’t why or how that happened but Fish is a player who is below Federer. Roddick isn’t in the same league but he’s not below Federer. Murray is similar to Roddick only better. And Djokovic is right up there in the clouds with Federer, he just comes down every now and then.

Voicemale1 Says:

Djokovic is the one, in my view, that’s under the microscope during this clay season. He had decent but not spectacular results last year. If he wants to make ranking point gains on both Federer and Nadal, the clay season is his best chance. Beyond Hamburg, he’s got a bunch of his own ranking points to worry about keeping. And given some of the dismal performances he’s still capable of (Miami being the latest example), he should worry more about him than them.

Federer is the best there has ever been, period. With 220 straight weeks and #1 and counting, he’s got nothing left to prove regarding his ability. Any surface, any time, and just about any foe. To paraphrase Agassi: when Federer is done with his career, all of us will be done with the discussion of who the best player in history is. Federer is it.

Nadal has accomplished more than Djokovic at this stage. He’s won more tournaments on his worst surface hard court than Djokovic has won on his worst surface clay court. So if Djokovic wants to excel to the next level of his career, he needs to do very well during this clay season. Meaning he needs to win one or two of these Masters Series Clay events – not just make Quarters and Semi’s. It’s possible – he has a game that can accomplish it. In fact Navratilova picked him to win the French this year (talk about goin out on a limb!!). But if he makes no gains during the clay spin, then his possibility of reaching #1 this year is basically lost (not that the odds were that great of it happening this year anyway). Federer would have to go into a late season nosedive while Djokovic will have to simultaneously maintain all the points he has at stake. An unlikely scenario.

The irony is that the catbird seat in this triumverate could belong to Nadal, IF he can hang on to most or all of his points from the clay season and produce another decent run at Wimbledon. If he can, well, should Federer fail to step up on clay & Djokovic has 1 or 2 more results like Miami (as in, say, Canada, the US Open or Madrid), then Nadal might literally inherit the #1 ranking before the year is out.

Sit back kids – the season is just getting warmed up!!!

grendle Says:

“One of them, [.e.Federer's conqueror's]Richard Gasquet, saved a match point with a passing shot from 10 feet behind the baseline in the 2005 Monte Carlo Quarter finals”. And won with an astounding backhand down the line. And subsequently, looked better than Nadal and probably would have beaten him had he not run out of gas. I remember at the time Gasquet remarking that he didn’t feel he was as physically mature as Nadal – which was clearly true. But, alas, he has since gone backwards. People mock Gasquet for his weakness (they, of course, are strong) but he is unpredictable. He is capable of anything. His destruction of Roddick at Wimbledon, from the jaws of his own demolition, was no fluke, but pure Gasquet magic. I wonder if we’ll ever see it again.

jane Says:

He’s Guessquet – who knows if we’ll see it again. Probably. He’s still top ten after all.

He was also, for me anyhow, remarkable in the U.S. Open match against Hewitt. Even though he lost, he was tenacious, coming back from two sets down to take the next two with astonishing shots. Had he not cramped, well…

grendle Says:

Whew! Whew! and Whew again! This was a display of character, on the part of Federer, you won’t often see – from anyone. For Ramirez Hidalgo played magnificently right up to the tiebreak (where he did succomb),and there was no hint of a choke, not one. Federer earned his comeback. If anyone’s videoed the match, have a look at Federer’s expression at 15 all, when he’s love three down in the third. Hitherto, he’d been oozing gloom and a sort of irritated puzzlement. Now, suddenly he looks alive and ready to go. He still lost the next two games, but for my money there was a shift in emphasis, which laid the grounds for his comeback.

The forehand had gone, just gone. And then it was back – how do you explain it, except in terms of a great champion digging, digging really deep? D’you see how tired Federer looked at the end? It doesn’t come cheap, summoning up the adrenaline, particularly when you have been ill. All those medical experts who dismissed the glandular fever idea are looking pretty silly. It’s quite obvious that Federer, although he has hopefully entirely shaken the illness off, is not completely fit – not by the standards he sets himself.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Fed copes tomorrow. One would have thought he’d be jaded, but I say this not as an excuse – all players have to deal with this type of problem from time to time, and if they can’t, tough cookies – but simply that one surely shouldn’t expect Federer to go ahead and win now. But who knows.

Tejuz Says:

A good article Guerry.. Fed certainly is second-best after Nadal on Clay.. post-Kuerten era.

He did survive a tough match today.. but i am glad to see him fight this one and win after being 1-5 15-30 down in the last set. He hasnt been winning these kinds of matches the last couple of months.. especially the important points. This should give him more confidence.

But he still seem to have lose his patience inbetween points and try to pull the trigger very soon.

jane Says:

Yes, quite a rally by Federer. He’s got determination, no doubt about it.

But how does one explain the 55 unforced errors – would you connect that to lack of fitness, due to illness, or what?

I can see movement & fatigue being directly tied to the mono, of course, but why was Fed’s forehand gone, where’d it go? Has it been going/ gone for a while?

I’m curious to hear what Fed fans think.

jane Says:

If anyone wants to play tennis with Federer – as well as his or her, um, Dad – then enter this contest (see link below). You may just get the chance.

Grendle, perhaps you need to get one of your sons to enter for the both of you – especially that Rafa fan of yours! – then you could see your man up close and marvel?!


Joker Says:

“I can see movement & fatigue being directly tied to the mono, of course, but why was Fed’s forehand gone, where’d it go? Has it been going/ gone for a while? ”

For what it is worth, it might be a combination of both. Federer’s forhand has been losing its lethality since IW 07. On clay, last year it was miserable except for small patches like the 2nd half of the hamburg final or the 2nd set of FO. Even at wimbledon the fh was up and down. Having said that, this decline has been exaggerated by his lack of off-court work before the start of the season, which if you believe fed and his team is because of the mono.

He is definitely off his “best-movement” level but whether it is due to the mono or the beginning of the decline, only time will tell. It is just great to see a champion like federer deal fight his way, though. We will all get to see a side of federer that is terribly underrated – his fighting spirit. People talk of nadal, hewitt, a-rod or ferrer’s fighting spirit. In their case, their limited game (compared to complete players like federer/sampras/safin) ensures that their ability to fight gets due credit.

Unfortunately for players like sampras/federer that gets credit only when they slump like sampras in the last years of his career or federer in his present rut. The season only gets more and more exciting. If only ferrero/ferrer/davydenko can knock nadal off in the next few days! that will ensure the madness continues unabated!

andrea Says:

ugh. thankfully i didn’t watch that roger match or i would have a few grey hairs. how he managed to come back at 1-5 is truly a miracle.

apparently he was sweating buckets again which gives rise to all these mono issues yet again but he’d better be sweating if these types of performances start becoming the norm.

that being said, in estoril he seemed to breeze through one match and then have a fight the next one so maybe the reverse will happen here.

TSN won’t broadcast today’s matches so i won’t get a chance to see it but 55 unforced errors in three sets is criminal. when he won wimbledon in 2005 against roddick he had 13 errors in 3 sets. (that match goes down as one of my all time faves – he was literally untouchable).

but even if he makes it to the final, after seeing nadal’s score today, he’s going to have to play out of his mind to win this tournament.

jane Says:

andrea, I didn’t know you are in Canada as well; I was irked that TSN isn’t showing matches today. They did yesterday so why not today?!

You can always try channelsurfing.net – sometimes they show live eurosport feed there.

jane Says:

If anyone would like to play tennis with Roger then you should enter this contest: http://www.gillettechampions.com/index.aspx?locale=en_us

Of course you’ll have to enter with your, um, Dad.

Grendle, perhaps your son – you know, the Rafa fan – should enter the both of you?! That way you can see Fed in action up-close-and-personal and he can have a go at him Rafa style.

Of course, you’d have to win the contest first.

(BTW, I thought I posted this link / message already so if it shows up again, sorry for doubling up).

tennisontherocks Says:

“I can see movement & fatigue being directly tied to the mono, of course, but why was Fed’s forehand gone, where’d it go? Has it been going/ gone for a while? ”

If you watch slow motion clips, his footwork, core balance and focus is what makes his forehand so big. So if he looses step or two, its going to affect the forehand. But more damage can be done if one manages to rattle his concentration. Rafa does that well by getting one extra ball back or pressure his backhand and force him to run around to hit his forehand. Yes, I surely miss his earlier days of flawless display. But as he nears the Sampras’s mark, the pressure is mounting and I will be surprised if that does not affect his game.

Paul Says:

Federer’s shocking performance with Ramirez Hidalgo today shows the weakness of this argument.

Mirka looked like she was trying to disappear inside her wrap.

Roger, it’s not too late to go to law school!

I like tennis bullies not tennis sissies Says:

– But the people who expect a rash of bad results in the next month don’t appreciate how good Federer has been at finding ways to win on the red stuff. –

Federer does not find a way to win on clay his opponents always find a way to choke and lose like Hidalgo.

penise Says:

nice article, very good points

I was about to post that prob with Fed is motivation/burn out, but then he just came back from 5-1 in the third to bet Hildago so what do I know?

MMT Says:


“But how does one explain the 55 unforced errors – would you connect that to lack of fitness, due to illness, or what?”

Great question. I think the problem with is forehand is tactical. He’s going for too much too soon. Because his movement and backhand have diminished recently, he’s going for more on the forehand to end points more quickly, and as a result it’s all over the place. He’d be better off taking a little off the forehand and hitting good approach shots, rather than going for winners in the middle of rallies.

He’s got to completely re-engineer his tactical approach to be based on winning at the net to win on any surface, including clay. Otherwise, eventually he will play someone who will keep getting one more ball back and precipitating his unforced errors, whilst hitting winners of their own.

Maybe Higueras can help him with that.

sensationalsafin Says:

Can someone who doesn’t completely hate or completely love Federer please tell me what happened in this match. I mean 55 errors is a lot but it seems pretty normal for him recently (obviously not a good thing).

No matter what the reason, coming back from 1-5 is incredible. Even if his opponent choked, it was up to Federer to capitalize on that.

Skorocel Says:

Well, I saw today’s match between Fed and Hidalgo-Ramirez in its entirety, and I must say I have mixed feelings… On the one hand, it was indeed good to see Fed fight back from such a deficit, but on the other hand, Ramirez-Hidalgo isn’t any world-beater. And that’s a warning sign for Fed. If he can struggle with a player ranked “as high” as 137th, then how the hell is he going to (at least) trouble Djoker, or (god-forbid) Nadal?

Anyway, summed it up, Fed was once again partly cloudy, partly sunny today… In the 1st set, he didn’t give the Spaniard a chance, and it all looked only as a formality in the beginning of the 2nd. To this point, Fed wasn’t having any problems to return the Spaniard’s serve at all, and immediately in the very 1st game of the 2nd set (Ramirez-Hidalgo serving), he first led 30-0 and then later had 2 BPs. In the following game, he led 30-0 (on his serve), but the Spaniard broke him in the end… Then in the 3rd game, Fed once again had one BP on his opponent’s serve, but simply blew it away with a totally misfired FH (nothing new in these days with Fed)… The Spaniard still wasn’t playing anything extraordinary in these stages of the match (even when levelling the match to 1 set all), so I just thought it was just a temporary blip from the Swiss. But unfortunately, it wasn’t…

Fed opened the 3rd set on his serve, and immediately made 2 super-easy FH errors, which was more than enough for the Spaniard to break him. The guy suddenly smelled a chance, and began playing aggressively, at times hitting some world-class shots + adding some unreturnable serves. Fed, at this time, looked absolutely clueless, and I’ve thought that was it for the Swiss. But then at 2-5, the Spaniard simply got scarried of a possible career-best win, and the rest is history…

So summed it up, Fed indeed showed some fighting spirit today, but against a guy like Hidalgo-Ramirez, you may just wonder whether it was indeed Fed’s “suddenly” increased will to win or the Spaniard’s choking which won him the match… A guy ranked outside the top 100? You’re kidding, Roger! You completely owned him in the 1st set, and then you go (literally) on a walkabout around Mediterranean till 1-5 in the 3rd? Gremelmayr? That’s another guy of the Hidalgo-Ramirez’s “calibre”, and you just barely go past him… If it was a guy like Monfils (who you play tomorrow), that would be another story, but Hidalgo-Ramirez? You can’t be serious, Roger :)

Anyway, from what I read in your posts, grendle (or are you grendel?) pointed out about how tired Fed looked by the end of the match, but to be honest, I’ve already seen some matches in 2008 where he did look even more worn out – for instance that IW semi vs Fish. Today he seemed much fresher, though his movement and reactions were still somewhat slow, and he began sweating already in the middle of the 1st set (i.e. at the time when he was still cruising past the Spaniard). Tough to say what to expect from tomorrow, but my (always pesimistic) gut feeling tells me Fed’s gonna exit – if not tomorrow, then certainly on Friday vs Nalby…

I’ve also seen Nadal’s match vs Ancic (again, in its entirety), and must say that everything went exactly according to my expecations… The 1st set was over literally even before you had any chance to notice who the heck was playing on the court, and even though the Croat tried hard in the 2nd, one misfired FH smash 2-3, 30-15 (on his serve) was all the Spaniard needed to seal the set, and subsequently the victory…

Let’s be honest, is there anyone who can even threat Rafa this year on clay? I mean, HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU BEAT A PLAYER WHO YOU SIMPLY CAN’T HIT A WINNER AGAINST? That’s impossible! Many times, Ancic did absolutely nothing wrong in the rally, hitting some shots which 99 % of the players on the Tour would have had some serious problems with – yet the Spaniard had absolutely no problems to return the ball back, sometimes even hitting a winner of it. As Gaudio once said, this guy’s just a beast on this surface! He’s like that “Pong” which A-Rod faced in that hilarious ad – except that he can run down the dropshots as well (and goddamn well, I should add)…

sensationalsafin Says:

I’m far from being Nadal’s biggest fan but he is not dropping a match on clay this year. He’s just ridiculous. I’m surprised the score wasn’t 6-0 6-0 but I fully expected one 6-0 which he won. He’s just too damn tough. As for Federer, well, the problem is he’s sweating. The guy was called a robot for years simply because he never broke a sweat. If he’s sweating so much after a set… well, he’s obviously lost something.

Skorocel Says:

To sensationalsafin:

Strangely, even when Fed hit those 55 UEs, I must say that I’ve seen him play even worse – even in some matches which he indeed won… For example that match against Seppi, which accidentally occured in the very same first round of the MC tournament (but last year, of course). There, Fed maybe won in 2 breakers, but hit something like 40+ UEs – and that’s pretty much for a 2-setter, don’t you think?

Well, I wouldn’t exactly say that Fed’s comeback in today’s match happened ENTIRELY because of his opponent’s choking… Fed certainly upped his level of play from 1-5 on (especially playing some aggressive FHs – just how he’s once used to), but still, the more the Spaniard was near the victory, you could see the tension rising on his face… And indeed, as the match was nearing to its end, he started missing some shots which he certainly wouldn’t have missed in the beginning of that 3rd set (where in my opinion he played his best tennis), and (when facing one of those breakpoints) he even gifted Fed one of those breaks with a double-fault… So I guess it was somehow a combination of both, but it’s not like Fed’s completely turned the match thanks to his “suddenly” increased initiative.

sensationalsafin Says:

That’s pretty much how comebacks work, though. The one player chokes and the other capitalizes on that. Of course Federer had to play better to win.

Federer has played loads of shit matches in his day. Only difference is now he’s losing a lot of those matches. I’ve always said Federer either plays amazingly great or amazingly bad. His game requires everything to be perfect so when he’s playing perfect he’s unstoppable. But as soon as something is off everything is shit. I really, really, really wanna see Federer step on the gas pedal and go into 5th gear again. It was so great last year when he lost to Nalbandian twice then to Gonzalez and then went on to crush everyone after that playing maybe his best tennis every (2 straight matches with 80+ % first serve). And that’s just great tennis to see. Watching Federer play like shit sucks because he plays so bad it’s not fun or exciting.

Skorocel Says:

To sensationalsafin:

I agree with you on Nadal. Clay is a totally different story… Just look at Youzhny, Djoker, or Berdych – those guys had beaten him regularly on hard-courts, but on clay, they simply didn’t have a chance… On clay, he can stay on that baseline and trade with you literally all-day long, and you’re just not gonna hit a winner against him – simple as that. That’s where he’s at his best – to trade, trade, and trade, and in the end, you’ll either miss, or, even when you’ll hit a very decent shot (especially crosscourt to his FH) he’ll just return the ball to your backhand, which will usually level the powers in the rally – and you can thus once again start it from the scratch… Perhaps the lone thing which I somehow like on his game are those impossible-to-return shots, from which he’ll often pass you (just like he did to Ancic today) – but that’s largely because of his immense physical condition, which helps him to get to those balls just in time…

Von Says:


“..and (when facing one of those breakpoints) he even gifted Fed one of those breaks with a double-fault…”

At that point of the match you could see Ramirez-Hidalgo was nervous. Had he not doublefaulted he could have probably won the match. After that break of serve at 5-4, the guy seemed to just resign himself to the fact that he couldn’t do any more. It seemed Hidalgo had worn himself out physically and mentally. The commentators also remarked that he’s got nothing left. Thus, Fed was able to get the set to a tiebreak, which he won. But, I don’t think anyone can say that Fed won based solely on his fighting spirt, but also some gifts from Hidalgo coupled with resignation, physical/mental breakdown, and a lack of belief. Fed won in a tie-break, sudden death. I don’t think that’s saying too much, that’s what a No. 1 player does well – win tiebreaks.

It seems that this will be the norm for Fed going forth. Some good matches vs. some really shoddy ones, wherein he just barely eeks out a win. How the story unfolds will be a mystery. I hope you liked reading mysteries. :)

Jonny Lendils Says:

Mr Smith, you named the name…..NALBANDIAN….an interesting article and pretty fair throughout but my guess and it is only a guess is that you know a fit David Nalbandian would beat a fit Federer – again – on clay and I think he will along with Nadal. I expect David N will beat Nadal this year on clay and though whipping him is admittedly a long shot I doubt there is anyone Rafael would want to meet less on the other side of the net than Nalbandian after the kicking he has recieved in both their previous meetings. Can this be underestimated? I really doubt it.

Skorocel Says:

To sensationalsafin:

Strangely, but I don’t think Fed’s played that amazingly in that last year’s TMC in Shanghai… Surely, he was serving like a god against A-Rod in RR and then against Nadal in the semis, but still, I’ve seen him play better than that in 2007 (USO, for example)… Even that AO 2007 (where he’s not lost a set) wasn’t his best ever GS in my opinion… In this case, I would probably go for the USO 2004 – where he firstly beat Agassi in a very windy conditions, then his nemesis Henman in the semis, and then Hewitt in the finals (who had to swallow two bagels)…

Von Says:


“On clay, he can stay on that baseline and trade with you literally all-day long, and you’re just not gonna hit a winner against him – simple as that.”

That’s what I stated in a previous postsz. Please stop reading my mind. :) Yes, he’ll work that return point to the death. His opponent can either do one of two things, just give up, or if they are smart and want to save their energy, go down the line, with a hit or mis shot, and move on to the next point. Unfortunately, the players just get sucked into his rhythm and I suppose, their stubborness and pride puszhes them to continue to trade return after return. Nadal thrives on this type of play, and as you stated, he doesn’t get tired. To beat him, they have to use Nalby’s style of play, and play within themselves, don’t get sucked into his web, if not, you’re just another victim. It’s not even that he plays good quality tennis by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that he has perfected his style of play, and now that he has this unbeatable aura around him, well, it’s always going to be lights out.

Von Says:


“..but I don’t think Fed’s played that amazingly in that last year’s TMC in Shanghai… Surely, he was serving like a god against A-Rod in RR and then against Nadal in the semis..”

Deja vu again, reading my mind. :) I’ve wanted to respond to that statement by some who’ve said that Fed was great at the ’07 TMC. Fact is, he was beaten by Gonzalez, who played like he was in chariots of fire.

The match with Davy was an absolutely sloppy one. Additionally, considering that Davy’s arm at that time was not healthy, that’s the time Davy could only roll the ball around, Fed seemed at times, as though his legs were made of cement. It was a very sloppy match, but Davy was unable to play any type of match. He lost all of his matches, except for the match v. Gonzalez.

A-Rod could not do much — It wasz questionable whether he would be at the TMC because of his injuries. He pulled out of Bercy — he was playing with a frozen back and a leg problem, but it was sort of kep quiet. I remember Ferrer asking A-Rod how his back was feeling, and Andy just tried to make light of it, by saying it was fine. To sum it up, Fed was not smoking, he played against 2 more or less hurt players. Anyone watching the Davy match, could not in conscience say Fed was playing great.

Dan Martin Says:

It is funny because Roger is clearly off to this point int 2008, but his 2008 results include an 80% winning percentage and one title. This is clearly off of where he has been from 2004-2007 at least! So Federer has set a very very high standard for himself, but if he beats Monfils tomorrow it will be 7 straight wins and few will recall the 2nd round tussle. I think the clay court season is a marathon vs. a sprint and Roger wants to be playing at a certain level by the start of Roland Garros. Clearly, he is not yet himself, but he has also competed better than some have described. He is 4th in 2008 ranking points and only clearly trails Djokovic by a large margin in that category.

Von Says:

Dan Martin:

“.. but if he beats Monfils tomorrow it will be 7 straight wins and few will recall the 2nd round tussle.”

This is just my point. When he mixes in good results with the bad, the bad performance is selectively forgotten, and then we have the consensus of opinion that he was terrific. It’s misleading and makes me shake my head and wonder whether the bad performance was a dream. Who would have thought that a qualifier could present such a problem for a No. 1 player — it’s supposed to be a 1-2 done deal. Fed struggled to win that match. I think the sweating was nerves. Mirka and his coach looked like they were watching a suspense thriller.

andrea Says:

Re: masters last year.

surprised to hear some of the comments.

in the shanghai final federer was playing on fire. some of his gets against ferrer were of the mind boggling variety.

i didn’t see the davydenko match so i can’t comment but his match against andy was the usual routine win so tough to call. as for nadal, well, roger’s serving was out of this world, but even when a ball got put into play there wasn’t near the ferociousness that i’ve seen in nadal.

the match today in monte carlo is bizarre. i agree that regular struggles against lower ranked players does not bode well for any final berths. what is up? some one like roger’s form can’t dip that precipitously from one year to the next….

thanks jane. i am in canada (but that’s not my fault). i’ll check out that site….

jane Says:

Of course three of Roger’s wins in the last 3 tournaments were walkovers / retirements, too, including the title match at Estoril. Every player gets walkovers, but 3 tournaments successively is unusual. This could’ve hurt Roger, for lack of match play, or helped him. Depends on perspective, I guess.

I wonder, though, if this retiring/injury level is going to become the norm now, with players’ grueling ATP schedules? How many retirements or injuries have there been so far this week? Haas, Grosjean, Youzhny, Monaco – anyone else? Plus Berdych and Tsonga are out with injuries. And I am sure there are more I am missing. It’s a shame.

Skorocel Says:

To Von:

I’m very sorry, but I really can’t remember reading any of your posts where you stated these things which I did today :) But anyway, as for Nadal’s game, well, you pretty much know everything… As you’ve already said, the guy simply thrives on this type of play… A play, which is not a tennis, but a war of attrition. Sorry Nadal fans, but that’s how I see it…

As for Nalby vs Nadal on clay, well, it would be certainly an interesting match – last but not least because of that Argentine’s amazing doublehanded BH, which (as I’ve already mentioned cca 10 threads ago) would literally neutralize that Nadal’s “lefty-FH-to-opponent’s-BH-advantage”, which the Spaniard so often utilizes against his right-handed opponents… The other player which I would like to see face Nadal on clay is Davydenko – he too has a very solid, sort of slick doublehanded BH, which he can strike somewhat similar to Nalby (i.e. often immediately after the bounce & using a very quick wrist). Last year in Rome, the guy really stretched Nadal to limits, so it would be interesting to see if these 2 could meet once more on the dirt.

As for the Fed vs Davy TMC 2007 match, I’m sorry but I can’t quite remember this one… Getting older, ya know :) Anyway, all I remember is that Fed must’ve won that one (in order to keep his chances of advancing to the semis), which he indeed did… As for the Gonzo match, the Chilean really played one helluva good tennis (especially in that final set, where he hit some shots which were so amazing that even he had to shake his head in disbelief :) ), but Fed didn’t play bad either in that one…

I’ve just checked some highlights from that Fed’s match vs Gil in Estoril, and I have to say that he also tried a lot of topspin on his BH. He played many of those shots way above his shoulder, so who knows? Maybe too much time practicing vs “Nadal-like” sparring partners? :) But definitely, it did look somewhat different than normal. Also, that BH slice – cca 2-3 years back, he used to play it so low, but this time, he (for some uknown reason) holds his arm quite high (around his shoulder level) when playing this shot… Don’t know what are his intentions to do so, but I really feel as if he’s trying to sort of alter some of his strokes – presumably for the one big goal (i.e. the FO and a possible final with Nadal)… Or maybe it’s that guy named Higueras to responsible for such change? I don’t know, but what I certainly noticed is that both his FH and BH are somewhat different than it used to be…

Anyway, today’s match vs Hidalgo-Ramirez (and actually the whole week in Estoril) may have at least one positive for the Swiss – and this being the fact that he’s often had to grind it out in order to win – and that’s exactly what clay is about, isn’t it? It may sound a bit weird, but after watching today’s match, it seems to me as if Fed’s somehow enjoying to play these types matches (as grendel indeed pointed out, when he mentioned that spark in Fed’s eyes)… Some people said that clay could actually be a good surface to come out of crisis, simply because the player has enough time to get to the ball and sort of “practice” his timing for each shot… I’m maybe off with this one, but who knows? Anyway, time will tell… Can’t wait for tomorrow! First up it’s Ferrero vs Nadal, then Fed vs Monfils, and then Djoker vs Murray… Pretty nice line-up, don’t you think?

sensationalsafin Says:

Maybe Federer purposely dug himself into a hole.

Skorocel Says:

To andrea:

Don’t get me wrong, Fed indeed played good in that TMC 2007 (and you can bet that you’re hearing this from a BIG Fed fan!), but it certainly wasn’t something outstanding. Nadal was in there till 4-4 in the 1st, and he could’ve even broken the Swiss had Fed not served so well (I guess you must remember that one game where he trailed 0-30 and then fired 4 consecutive aces)… The final vs Ferrer was maybe a very solid performance, but you know, the Spaniard’s one-dimensional game is simply tailor-made for the Swiss. Back then, everyone was talking how good Ferrer was playing, how he dismantled Roddick or Nadal, etc. etc., but I was 100 % sure he wouldn’t pose a problem for the Swiss in the finals – and indeed, he didn’t… His game simply suits the Swiss well – simple as that… The Spaniard is maybe a grinder, but nowhere near Nadal (or even Canas), who can trouble Fed… People call A-Rod’s game one-dimensional, but if there’s someone who’s one-dimensional, then it’s Ferrer in my opinion. He just returns that ball back so stubborn, that you often have a feeeling as if he’s just happy to get it back (i.e. not thinking twice where to place it)… Each grinder loves it – that rhythm, which he can feel throughout the rallies. Canas does that at well – except he can grind out even more balls than the Spaniard.

Sean Randall Says:

Valid points, but as i just posted on my other thread, things are not looking so good for Fed right now. He really needs a few quality wins to prove his worth. Getting bailed out down 5-1 is not going to send shivers down anyones spine. He needs to crush a few players starting with Monfils and then Nalbandian (good luck!).

That said, I am really starting to think Rafa may very well end the year No. 1. I think he’ll dominate on the clay again, have a good go at Wimbledon and make a surprise run at the US Open.

As for Fed, he matches up well with my man Monfils on clay, but Nalbandian will be a tall task.

sensationalsafin Says:

If Federer can beat Nalbandian then I think he will be back in action. It would definetly be the best f*cking win he could get. Nalbandian beat him both times last year on carpet. Federer has been playing like crap against EVERYONE. If Federer can beat Nalbandian on clay, then he’ll be knocking out everything on this unwritten list of things he must do we have come up for him (I’ll write what I can think of): beat a quality opponent, beat a top 10 player, beat a great player, beat a great player on clay, beat someone who has troubled him time and time again, etc.

Nadal won’t be number 1. Just because he played great against Ancic doesn’t mean he’ll be number 1. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will tear up this clay court season. But that’s what he’s done the last 3 years and he still isn’t number 1. It’ll be Djokovic.

Ok Federer didn’t play the best he’s EVER played at the 2007 TMC, but he played at a great level that he hadn’t been reaching for a while all of last year. And I agree he didn’t play THAT great at the AO either, he was playing a solid Federer game that was too good for everyone else. 2004, 2005, and 2006 are easily the best he’s ever played. He played some incredible matches that no one could really do anything against. But I’ve gone through his matches in those years several times and he was pushed by plenty of random players at plenty of random events. And these matches are overlooked for a reason, by the time he won the title he was playing too great. So great that it didn’t matter how bad he played in the early rounds because he still came out on top in the very, very end. Just because you’re not a big Federer fan, Von, doesn’t mean you have to undermine his success and abilities. The guy’s amazing, there’s just no denying it.

Von Says:


“Getting older, ya know Anyway, all I remember is that Fed must’ve won that one (in order to keep his chances of advancing to the semis),”

Yes, you must be getting older pal, or old, period, because that memory of yours is not one to take lightly. I have to really think when I’m replying to your emails (that’s why I’m tardy at times, but you know this already) and posts. Trust me, Fed was very sloppy in his match v. Davy and was lucky Davy had that problem with his arm. Fed has more lives than a cat, and that’s putting it mildly. :)

“People call A-Rod’s game one-dimensional, but if there’s someone who’s one-dimensional, then it’s Ferrer in my opinion.”

A-Rod’s game has many more dimensions than Ferrer’s or Nadal’s. My apologies to their fans But that’s how I see their games. For me, not enjoyable tennis viewing at all. But, different strokes for different folks, isn’t it? I get a head swing watching Ferrer run around like a bull in a China tea shop. I’m afraid he’ll break something, such as a body part. I also just tire watching Nadal grind. It leaves me exhausted. Canas’ game is a lot more pleasing to the eye, and has a few more dimensions.

Sean: Fed matches up well with Monfils, the same as with A-Rod — that blocking back of the huge serve and neutralizing it. But, when Monfils starts jumping around and on song, he could give anyone some headaches, and Fed being in the fragile situation in which he finds himself, well, who knows what can happen. We’ll see tomorrow.

Now, Nalbandian is a whole different can of worms, but it all depends on which guy shows up. Well, here’s to some great matches or mediocre ones. Only time will tell …. and the winner is …. :)

jane Says:

I don’t think it’s undermining Fed’s success or achievements to point out that he’s had bad patches all along (as you just stated yourself sensationalsafin). If I read Von’s comments correctly, I thought she was just stating that those performances have been forgotten but perhaps that there were signs all along that Fed can play phenomenally well one match and more shakily the next. But that what’s been latched onto by the media & fans, perhaps, are the Ws. That he’s had so many wins for so long over so many players doesn’t preclude the reality that he’s had to struggle for some of them along the way, even at his best, when he was dominant. I think that’s all Von was saying. And if you think about it, that puts how he’s playing now into a clearer perspective. He’s human.

The remarkable things about Federer, to me, and probably to many others, are that he’s almost always found a way to win even when he’s struggled, in part aided by his heretofore aura, imho, which in turn buoyed his self-confidence, which helped with this next thing, that he’s been more consistent for a longer period of time than most other players, ever, and finally, that he’s rarely been sick or injured.

sensationalsafin Says:

But that’s the thing, Federer had so many wins that when he struggled and won it was even more impressive. I Just read a great article on tennis.com and it said with the way he playedntoday, there’s no reason to think he won’t be in the semis come this weekend. (sorry for any typos, I’m on my iPod)

Voicemale Says:

For those that have questions about Federer, and his profuse sweating, a doctor posted some real insights on another blog about how mononucleosis knocks you out, in process. I pasted it below, and it makes you wonder how long it will take him to fully recover as long as he continues to play.

“I see the Federer-mono question has resurfaced. I think understanding how mono works sheds a lot of light on Fed’s situation. Mono is such a difficult disease to recover from since it hides out and infects a person’s own immune system–namely, the B-cell lymphocytes which are responsible for a large part a person’s immune defense system. When the virus infects them, they can no longer work. So, no only are you sick, the virus has coopted the system which is responsible for making you better. Because the virus ‘hides’ so well within the system, it often takes the body a long time to start producing virus-specific antibodies to contain it. Therefore, the body must employ CTL cells as it’s primary defense. CTLs are basically assassins–they will approach any B-cell they think the virus is hiding in, and destroy it.

So basically, you have a virus attacking your immune system, and then your own body attacking your immune system. This is why mono is so draining. It is also why it can sometimes take so long to recover, as you need to rebuild the body’s entire foundation of defense.

According to Fed, he began producing mono antibodies a while ago, meaning he is over the main part of mono, and in the recovery stage. But producing antibodies is not a measure of his immune strength. Basically, he has a 1/2 strength immune system that is having to do all the work. While you might not get ‘sick’ while recovering from mono, this compromised system now has the job of defending your body from all incidental illnesses. This is what is responsible for a lot of the fatigue and lethargy–your body having to work double-or triple time just to keep you healthy.

I’m not Fed’s doctor (obviously) so I have no idea what’s going on with him. He could be completely fine, for all I know. BUT this is the traditional course of mono–and the reasons behind it–in case anyone is interested.”

Von Says:


“Just because you’re not a big Federer fan, Von, doesn’t mean you have to undermine his success and abilities. The guy’s amazing, there’s just no denying it.”

I know you hate long posts, so brace yourself. You can consider this a compliment, or a showing of respect for you, but I’ve been accused of brushing people aside, when I don’t want to deal with them, and I plead mea culpa on this, so for whatever it’s worth, and in which way you interpret it to mean, there’s respect emanating from this bellocse poster for you, in replying to your post. It’s amazing when I think of it, that I’ve only been posting on this site — Tennis.X, for 6 months, but it seems from the battle scars, more like a lifetime. Anyway, you’ll observe from my posts hereinafter, that I’m a very fair-minded person and I do acknowledge the good and bad in each player, when the occasion arises. Please understand that I DON’T dislike Fed as a person (I don’t know him personally), I just respond to what I see and read.

I acknowledge that Fed is good, so good, that I sometimes feel, if I were a guy, I could punch him out for the manner in which he dismantles A-Rod. :) Believe me, I hurt for A-Rod, (even though I don’t know him personally) but just as a human being, and one who has a background in psychology, I can actually feel his hurt — it’s a very tortuous, painful problem, and a mental phobia, that this kid has endured.

Fed has had a great run for approx. 4+ years, but what makes me angry is the FACT that his abilities and greatness is so gneralized. It’s almost that yes, he’s good, so there aren’t any faults and/or flaws — he’s perfect in every way. That’s just not so. He has holes in his game and now that he’s not well or whatever, it’s being exposed more. Would you want me to say that he’s playing fantastic at this time? Sorry, I can’t do that. I’m giving an objective viewpoint. It would be wise to say, yes he did struggle in the finals of Wimby and the USO, but he did come out on top. He got the Ws. That’s what great champions do, they find a way to win. (Sampras, who i love, was not great at all times, but he found a way to win. he was absolutely crummy at times.) But, overall, I wouldn’t say that Fed was completely 100% excellent, and that’s what I’m speaking of when I say that the bad matches and/or performance, are selectively eliminated, when the summation is arrived at by his fans.

In the first 2 RR matches at the TMC 2007, he didn’t play very bad, but certainly not exceptional for Fed. The Roddick match, well Roddick had a bad back, but either way, Fed would have won, considering how well his game matches up with Andy’s. The Nadal and Ferrer matches, Fed’s serve was the biggest factor. It was sizzling, hence his overwhelming victories. Now, would you say overall that he was fantastic throughout the whole tournament. An astounding NO. Summary — he was about 75 percent great. 2 matches mediocre, 2 matches great. Let’s say 75 percent, and that’s a better grade than his opponents achieved. Yes, he’s still got it, but it’s now coming in the “shades of glory” category. Hopefully, he will emerge from whatever it is that’s the cause of his present problem, but only time will tell…

That’s my unbiased objective views and summary of what I see and feel. I hope you don’t want me to summarize A-Rod’s present performance. Here goes in a nutshell, just to show you I am fair-minded. A-Rod’s bad return game, which I have criticized for so long, is better, he now has a backhand and his forehand is beginning to emerge. Thank God. For 2+ years, he stunk. See, I can be objective, even for the one I love. PAX!! :) DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY. All’s well that ends well, whenever that will be. :)

Von Says:

“It is also why it can sometimes take so long to recover, as you need to rebuild the body’s entire foundation of defense.”

That doctor had posted on the thread on Fed’s mono, if he’s the same one. I think his name was David. I remembered his name as my husband’s names is David. Yes, mono is bad and can compromise the immune system. As I’ve stated before — my daughter had it and could not go to school or play recreational soccer for approcx. 6 months, due to splenic rupture, no energy, et al. That being the case as to the seriousness of mono, why is Fed compromising his health, and continuing to play. In the end, he’ll do more damage than good and will be existing in this mediocre state for a much longer time than if he’d stayed home and rested. Nothing in this world is more precious than one’s health, certainly not the glory — the feeling of which disappears after a few days.

Sean Randall Says:

SensationalSafin, if Fed whitewashes Nalbandian then beats or stays close with Djoko and/or Nadal then I do think Fed will have a big clay season, but right now I don’t see those things happening.

True, if Monfils gets hot he can beat Fed. The guy is lightning fast, can get to a lot of balls but can he keep them in play? Against Fed, the key to beating him – or at least one of the keys – is to outrally him, especially on clay. I’m not sure Monfils has that in him.

Von Says:


“That he’s had so many wins for so long over so many players doesn’t preclude the reality that he’s had to struggle for some of them along the way, even at his best, when he was dominant. I think that’s all Von was saying.”

Thanks pal, you’ve articulated my meaning in a shorter, more concise post. Hence, read the humdinger I just reeled off. Sensationalsafin might be swearing at me — thank God i cn’t read his thoughts. :) Please stop reading my mind, it’s so scary. Both you and Skorocel are the two who seem to read me like a book. :)

Franz Says:

umm can ppl stop calling clay the red stuff… gets annoying annd anyone realize that the difference in points between djokovic and nadal is less than nadal to federer?(970 to 730 to be exact)tho im all for nadal.. tho nadal will be boosted with upcoming wins, battle for number 2 is closing up because both are targeting for federer.. next year should be interesting

sensationalsafin Says:

I read your whole post despite its length :P and I gotta admit that it was very good. I’ll address Roddick first since you made it short. He’s not the greatest returner by far but he’s had some really good matches here and there (hitting a winner off of a Federer serve is very impressive, imo). Roddick’s main flaws lie in his inability to recognize a poor approach shot and his net play is technically flawed.

Onto Federer. I can’t agree with you. The only flaw I’ve ever seen in his game is his second serve can be attack easily. Nalbandian and Djokovic do it very well. But there are others. His backhand is great. His forehand is the greatest ever. His first serve is ferocious. His volleys are near perfect. His footwork is superb. And his ability to think on the court is unsurpassed. All these things are perfect when he’s playing his best. Obviously they come and go most of the time, especially nowadays. But as a tennis player, he’s as perfect as it gets. This is why he’s my favorite player. If his game wasn’t so good, I’d hate him too for winning all the time. But I love watching him play so much that I don’t care if he wins it all because he deserves to win it all.

That’s why I hate Nadal for beating him so much because Nadal’s game is so flawed and ugly to watch. I like beautiful and elegant styles. Not all-over-the-place styles. Grinders really grind my gears. Safin, Nalbandian, Djokovic, Gasquet, Berdych, Davydenko, and Federer all have beautiful solid all around games. I hate Nalbandian but his game is almost as perfect as Federer’s. There really aren’t any holes in Federer’s game. If he’s playing well it’s impossible to break him down.

As Agassi once said, there’s just no place to go with him. Bring him to net, that’s just stupid. Hit to his backhand, if he’s playing his best it’s a futile strategy. Obviously you don’t wanna go to his forehand. His return game is very, very good so his opponent has to feel pressure on his own serve. Attacking Federer’s serve is hard because it’s hard to read and he places the ball so well. He’s the perfect tennis player.

That’s why he dominated the way he did. That’s why everyone else right now is playing so much better because they realized they can’t compete unless they have near-complete games.

Djokovic hired people to work on his volley’s specifically. Murray’s got his team of experts. Nadal’s game has become very well rounded in the last few years and I know it’s because of Federer’s influence. Roddick was able to beat just about everyone else until he came up to Federer who exposed all his holes. Roddick has become a much more complete player in the last few years. His volleys are better, his backhand is better, hell even his serve is harder to read now. It’s all thanks to Federer’s awesomeness that other players are doing amazing things, too.

jane Says:

sensationalsafin, I dare say, you’re gushing! ;-)

But fair enough; he’s you’re guy. And there’s no doubting he’s raised the bar, and all credit to Roger for that.

One thing, however – “Obviously you don’t wanna go to his forehand.” And yet, this is precisely one of the strategies Djokovic used to beat him at Oz. He started attacking that forehand, which, while great, does have a tendency to “go off” – at least in the last 6 months, since last spring/summer.

MMT has a theory on that above, which you may (or may not) want to read.

jane Says:


Two things:

1. “why is Fed compromising his health, and continuing to play.”

Between the lines is something I read earlier today; Federer states explicitly why he’s continuing to play:
Earlier this week, Federer said that he was the victim of his own success but that it was too early to write him off.

“Some people don’t understand how extraordinary the last four years have been,” Federer, who has been the world No 1 since 2004, told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I can’t be finished in February when I had won the Masters Cup in November. Now I’m well.

“I had glandular fever at the start of the year but I wanted to play anyway because I have lots of goals and they are all important. Winning my first Roland Garros, my sixth Wimbledon title, the Olympics and beating Pete Sampras’s record of 14 grand slams.”

2. “Please stop reading my mind, it’s so scary. ”

No worries – I’m not reading your mind, honest! Your prose is clear enough that to interpret it is not a difficult task. Keep on trucking. :-)

sensationalsafin Says:

I think MMT is right which is a shame on Federer’s part. He’s gotta go back to playing out the points.

Von Says:


Do you mean you actually read that epitaph and did not swear at me, even once? :) Thank God for small mercies. :) I’m sorry, but you guys have to understand that I’m hopeless at short posts. However, I can promise you this that I’ll make you laugh one way or the other.

“It’s all thanks to Federer’s awesomeness that other players are doing amazing things, too.”

Roddick has mentioned this several times, that he was forced to reassess his once untouchable game, because of Fed who has pushed him to the point, that the only way to beat him was to punch him out. Talk about a shiner, well, that carbuncle on Fed’s face, would pale in comparison to A-Rod’s ‘knock the lights out’ punch.

Yes, Federer’s game is beautiful, and more times than not, a quintessential champion, and I do admire his style, but I’m still going to disagree, that it’s only when everything is in sync, that he’s going to be perfect. He’s akin to a computer, change the program and he’s ?+*/. As the saying goes, “I’m not always right, but I’m seldom wrong”. Parallel, Fed’s tennis is not always perfect, but seldom imperfect, and those are the times for which you’ve got to watch out. No one human being is perfect, only God, or that’s what I believe — but Fed’s near perfect as they come. Does that satisfy you? If not, too bad, there ain’t gonna be more. Sweet dreams. :)

sensationalsafin Says:

I don’t get it. Are you saying Federer usually plays well as opposed to poorly?

Tejuz Says:

Well.. the key is winning matches and getting the confidence back. Now that he is on a 6 match win streak on clay.. it should only add to his confidence.

And if he is a optimist .. the fact that he is still in this tournament after being 1-5 down, means that he is destined to go further and achieve more… Its all about confidence and belief.

Von Says:


You mentioned Fed’s FH, I forgot about that, but I did state in a previous post, I believe on Sunday to Skorocel, that Fed’s once so great forehand is going to be his downfall. Additionally, his backhand has been becoming unglued — he now has problems emanating from both wings. He had 55 UEs in that Hidalgo match. That’s a lot.

On another unrelated topic, if you remember Roddick’s outburst at the Ump in the AO, where he felt the Ump was wrong, well that same Ump, gave Llodra a warning which caused Llodra to become unglued, and certainly contributed to losing his match. The Ump felt Llodra pulled the ball out of his pocket and dropped it in an angry manner. Llodra was furious, and he reported it. According to the commentators, the Ump was over-zealous and apparently the warning was rendered null and void. Poor Llodra lost the match, the same as Andy did. So much fort those ‘innocent/dxefenceless’ umps. They’re becoming worse and worse.

Another topic, why is it that the ATP refuses to use hawkeye on clay? Poor Safin blew another gasket because of what he believed to be a wrong call on a ball by Ferrer. The Ump came down and showed Safin a different mark claiming that the mark was Safin’s prevous mark. Now, how could that be Safin’s ball mark, when the mark was close to the line on Safin’s side of the court? What did Safin do, turn his back to Ferrer and hit the ball close to the line on his side of the court? No way. A most lame, limp, feeble, futile, explanation from the ump. My guy became further unglued. What are we do to about that big lug nut — a wicked, cute, boyish, loveable, lug nut/teddy bear, nonetheless.

Von Says:


“I don’t get it. Are you saying Federer usually plays well as opposed to poorly?”

Yes, generally he plays well/very good, but lately he’s been playing rather poorly consistently. I’ve just figured out your problem about seeing my point. You’re still fixated on Fed’s previous/past shot making skills and his game on the whole. You’re not seeing his present day match play. If you can disassociate your past thinking and begin looking at the present Fed, then you’ll understand more fully what I’m saying. But, this is difficult, we sometimes only see what we want to see and therein lies the problem. The Fed of yesteryear is gone — there’s a new Fed at the present time — a struggling Fed, but one who is, and can still, be dangerous.

Dan Martin Says:

Von do you recall how shaky Roger looked in 2007 at Hamburg before the 2nd set of the final? Winning 90% of his matches from 04-06 and well over 85% of his matches last year has left Roger looking weak when he wins in less than stellar fashion? I am not saying he is in top form, but the buzzards are not circling either. Close and ugly wins are not uncommon for even top players. What Roger did from 04-07 was an aberration even for a #1 player.

Von Says:

Dan Martin:

“Von do you recall how shaky Roger looked in 2007 at Hamburg before the 2nd set of the final?”

Yes, I do remember, and I thought that Nadal, even though playing poorly, would eek out another win, but the ‘maestro’ came back wielding his baton, and of course the rest is history. By no means are the buzzards circling yet. Albeit unusual for Fed, this type of ebb and flow is/was very prevalent among champions. However, I’m just saying that his fans and the tennis world need to do a revamping of their thinking and lower their standards, a wee bit, because that previous Fed is sort of in stasis, and a new Fed has replaced him. How long will his stasis period last? Your guess is as good, or better than mine.

grendle Says:

It’s kind of obvious Federer is not the player he was. Hardly worth labouring the matter, I shouldn’t have thought. The only question is – can he come back?

I repeat the point that Frew Macmillan made – that it’s almost as if each person has a finite store of concentration and Federer may have used most of his up. Of course this is contentious , and the issue is not black and white. Even so, I think it bears thinking about. You can see Fed’s concentration is poor at the moment. Like Skorocel, I was struck – any spectator must have been really – by how carelessly he declined to break Ramirez Hidalgo right at the beginning of the second set. He wasn’t taking his opponent seriously (as his rather ungracious remarks after the match confirms), and he paid the price. In the past, he always, like a good fighter, took the elementary precaution of respecting the opposition. This is one of the things that made him a champion.

You can bet he started to respect the Spaniard as the set wore on – but he almost left it too late. The feat of concentration he summoned to turn the tide was prodigious, and has been dismissed rather airily on this site. It bodes well in one way. But one can’t help feeling that there are strict limits to this kind of thing, and that at some level Federer understands this. He has to husband his mental resources. b.t.w., the scathing references to Ramirez Hidalgo’s #137 status are unwarranted. He is almost exclusively a claycourt player, and certainly among the top 50, and perhaps better. He probably played the best match of his life, and as I attempted to point out the other day (sorry if that sounds conceited) such players can cause upsets, and that is because on their day they can be right up there with the best. They don’t have a high ranking because they can’t keep it up.

I don’t think it’s any secret that throughout his career or – to make the point even stronger – at the height of his success, Federer had many close shaves. It is human nature to remember the champagne wins. But time and again, it looked like he might lose at some stage in a match, and to do Federer justice, he has always acknowledged this. It is the media which has created the “monster”. Maybe some extreme fans, but they are the minority which always attaches itself to any super celebrity – and unfortunately, “super celebrity” is what Federer is. Unfortunately, because it is this bizarre status which generates so much futile controversy.

So far as to what constitutes vintage Fed, it is amusing to see the disagreement on the thread. After all, this is subjective to a degree – we are not neutral observers. I don’t agree with Skyrocel, for example, about that Agassi match in the windy conditions at US Open. Agassi said afterwards that he thought he was largely in control of the match and he seemed kind of bemused as to how he could have lost. I agreed at the time , though I was pleased of course. I think Federer was helped by the constant interruptions, and whilst he showed a lot of guts – a hugely underrated facet of his play – he was a bit lucky to emerge as the winner. As for Henman, I think he had recently sorted him – there was never any doubt in my mind that he would win this one in a canter (Henman was lucky to be there, actually, as Kiefer, who was beginning to get his measure, had to retire).

Our perceptions are not only subjective in the ordinary way, but also according to time. Thus my earlier post on this matter was rather gushing. I posted instantly after the match, which was a thriller, make no mistake – one gets very little sense of that on this thread. I don’t mean the tennis was good, I mean it was very exciting. I suspect more and more Fed matches are going to be exciting. We are seeing a lion struggling to come to terms with declining powers. If people can put away their prejudices – both pro and anti – they should appreciate that herein lies the potential for great drama. Sometimes as farce, but sometimes as something almost unbearably poignant.

With apologies to Sensational Safin – and anyone else; but there is the scroll button.

Kash Says:

“I don’t think it’s any secret that throughout his career or – to make the point even stronger – at the height of his success, Federer had many close shaves.”

>>>>> I want to quickly add that the last sentence also throws light on why gillette got Fed to be their brand ambassador ;)

Seriously though, I must say this is one of my favorite threads where everyone has stayed within the line and made some great points about Fed’s present game. My 2pennies would say that Fed’s lack of insane training ( which should be in the same category as the much publicized agassi-reyes training) is the main reason for the inconsistent-Fed. I expect this to continue till Fed gets the much needed half-year break after wimbledon. In the past fed used that break to switch himself off after a sapping 3 months of clay and grass tennis. This year he may want to utilize that to get himself to be 120% fit like he was when he beat down the top-10 players other than nadal like they were elderly players playing at their country club.

Fed seems to be a perfectionist, like all champions and from my experience such people are not comfortable with 95%. They just need to have that safety cushion of 20% (to suggest a number) to be comfortable in their own head. That might be what Fed has to deal with right now. As Sean keeps saying we have to wait for the end of fed’s career to see what exactly is the issue.

Speaking of Sean, I cant thank you enough for predicting Fed’s demise in MC and Rafa’s year ending no.1. I hope Zola is strong enough to take this brutal news. On a serious note, I do agree with Sean that nalby will get the Fed in the quarters, if they meet. The year end no.1 though is Djokovic or Federer. Rafa will have a brief stint sometime, hopefully, but the more brutally he demolishes players on clay, the more hungry they will be to get him in fall.

Curbside Puppet Says:

hey! you know what, i don’t care if roger loses the number ranking this year as long as he wins both wimbledon and please, the roland garros. i think it is time that he can lose the number one ranking to rafael nadal. he has been on fedex’s heels the past 4 years, i think he should get the top spot this year. as for nole, i used to like him but he seems more and more arrogant to me. he has been dismal since winning the australian and indian wells by the way.

Lausanne Says:

Excellent post grendel, thank you !

The image of the old lion struggling with his declining powers made me tremble…

Von Says:

Could someone please shed some light on a burning question that I have been mulling over in my mind fcr several hours, i.e., is it really necessary for a poster to pick out passing references made by another, and use those comments to belittle the writer? What one poster may find as an unnecessary detail, made by another, some may find as pertinent and illuminating. However, the sarcastic and judgmental references could and/or should be eliminated. No one is writing an editorial whereby all of the ‘Ts’ and ‘Is’ should be crossed and dotted. Thank you.

Skorocel Says:

To sensationalsafin:

If Fed does have some weaknesses in his game, then it’s certainly his play at the net. Don’t get me wrong, the guy certainly can produce some extraordinary volleys (especially those BH overhead semi-volleys-semi-smashes are superb!), BUT he can also miss an absolutely trivial volley. It’s a pitty, since he certainly has the potential to be as good at the net as from the baseline…

Anyway, I still vividly remember that one moment in the FO 2006 final, where after having that brilliant 1st set, Fed was trailing 0-1 in the 2nd and led 40-0 on his serve only to net a super-easy FH volley, which (had it came over the net) would be impossible to run down – even for Nadal. In one of the following rallies, Fed also “donated” one questionable point to his Spanish rival by scratching the mark (or something like that) – and that was all Nadal needed to turn that match around… Tough to say what would have happened had that Fed’s volley came over the net, but you know, those are the situations where Nadal is at his most dangerous (i.e. when he’s trailing)… If you can gift him even one single point – that’s all he needs to get back into the match…

Fed is maybe a better all-round player than Sampras, but the American clearly had the edge over him in the serve and (mainly) volley department – I have no problems to admit that… Fed’s serve is very good (personally, I still consider it as the best among the active players), but Pete’s was even better. It had everything – speed, placement, and (most importantly) it was almost impossible to read… Whereas the vast majority of the other players used to have sort of an awkward service motion, Sampras’s serve was so fluid as if you could just see (literally) a flower sprouting… Just see this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsUMOeNi6BU

Not to say Fed’s serve doesn’t have these attributes, but Sampras was simply a serving-machine… Even though at times, he tended to produce a couple of double-faults here and there (which Fed does only rarely), it was understandable, since Pete’s game was almost entirely based on the S & V technique (at least in his last years on the tour), so therefore he had no choice but to risk both his 1st and 2nd serves in order to be successful at the net…

As for Fed’s 2nd serve, it’s also among the best among the current players (if not the best), so I can’t say it’s exactly one of his liabilities (or something similar)… It’s true that Nalby can return it very well, but (and I’m sure you must have noticed it) the Argentine usually tends to do so only on the opponent’s 2nd serve. Many times, I’ve seen him hitting a sub-par, sort of “lazy” FH-slice return – even though his opponent hit only a mediocre 1st serve in that particular rally… I’m maybe off on this one, but that’s how I see the things… Contrary to Nalby, Djoker can certainly return Fed’s 1st serves better – that’s at least my opinion. This is actually one of the reasons why he won those 2 matches over Fed thus far… In both Montreal 2007 and AO 2008, he was getting back lots of very good 1st serves from the Swiss – and this is something, which Fed simply isn’t used to.

To jane:

As you may have noticed, Fed’s forehand is OFF already since Dubai 2007… If Djoker (even in his present shape) had run into Fed cca 2-3 years ago and attacked his forehand, he would have received ONE HELLUVA BEATING – you can bet on it! I don’t like to exaggerate when it comes to Fed’s qualities, but his forehand from circa 2005-2006 is a stroke which would destroy EVERYONE (except Nadal on clay, of course)…

jane Says:


Thanks for your reply. Actually, I hadn’t noticed it that far back; I began to notice it shortly thereafter, in those matches at IW & Miami last year. I was just curious why it “went” or why it goes “off” seemingly more often than it had. And MMT’s comment about impatience seems to make some sense. But your man won today right?!


What Grendle says is similar to what Simon Barnes said in the Times Online about 2 months ago, and it rung true then as well. It is both more exciting and unpredictable with Federer right now now (for me at least); he had a nice win today though.

Here’s the link to Barnes’ article in case anyone wishes to read it:


jane Says:


Thanks for your reply. Actually, I hadn’t noticed it that far back; I began to notice it shortly thereafter, in those matches at IW & Miami last year. I was just curious why it “went” or why it goes “off” seemingly more often than it had. And MMT’s comment about impatience seems to make some sense. But your man won today right?!


jane Says:

Looks like Nalbandian and Djokovic are ready to roll on the red clay.

Von Says:

Oh WOW, did Murray have a meltdown. It was a boring, one-sided match. Most of the matches today were very routine.

jane Says:

What Grendle says is very similar to what Simon Barnes said in the Times Online about 2 months ago, and it rung true then as well. It is more dramatic and unpredictable with Federer right now now (for me at least); he had a nice win today though.

You can search Barnes’ article under the title “Roger Federer’s sudden fallibility is fascinating to witness”.

I think it’s a good read, and probably especially encouraging for Federer fans.

(p.s. if this post shows up again, sorry again, but it wouldn’t load the first time when I supplied a link to the article – not sure why)


jane Says:

Apologies for all the posts, must’ve drunk too much coffee this a.m.

What a great set of quarter finals (so far) though:

Fed v. Nalby
Andreev v. Davy
Ferrer v. Nadal
Djok v. Gasquet or maybe even Querrey if he can come back from a set down (wouldn’t that be something!? An American in the quarters of a Eurpoean clay tourney! Good luck to Sam)

jane Says:


How about that Sam?!! Congrats to him for yet another big upset on the clay. Right now P-mac might want to think about his D.Cup line up for Spain on clay…

Not so great for Guessquet though.

jane Says:

Am feeling very embarrassed about the double posts. I am not sure why they wouldn’t load before (do they need to be vetted when there is a link included?) but they’re loaded now and I feel like a total dork.

Sorry again folks. Hope it’s not too tedious to scroll on through.

SG Says:

I don’t know if I really buy into the “Fed is the best claycourt player of his generation other than Kuerten or Nadal”. This is a man who grew up playing on clay. His game and his strokes were honed on this very surface (…unlike the other players like McEnroe, Sampras, Connors, et al). And he is touted as having the best ground game in the history of the sport. When you have the best ground game in the history of the sport and you are also supposed to be the best all court game in the sport, you should be able to find one day, just one, where you can raise your game and take out Nadal at RG. Just one day. On the surface he grew up playing on.

It’s not really right to crap on the Yanks for not producing a bunch of great claycourters. You’ll be hard pressed to find a red claycourt in the US. Fed doesn’t have that excuse. Even Stefan Edberg got to the final at RG. Name a truly great European baseliner of the last 30 or 40 years that has not won at RG. I can’t think of one. Fed doesn’t have, nor does he need any excuses for his RG record. The fact that there is a near void of truly great grass courters to test him at Wimbledon balances out when he gets to the clay where there is a great champion (Nadal) that truly forces him to earn it.

Suffice it to say, I think that this all overblown. If Federer wins RG, it will be because he doesn’t run into Nadal. And expecting him to win RG when he is far from what he was in 05 or 06 is more than a little unreasonable. But, if he does win it, I’ll give the guy his props and call him the GOAT.

SG Says:

Could Rafa be called one of the best grasscourt players generation ’cause of his two Wimbledon final losses to Federer? I doubt it. Doesn’t sound feasible when you think of it this way does it?

sensationalsafin Says:

Yeah Federer misses more volleys than he should. And I never said Federer’s serve was better than Sampras’s. Whereas Federer’s forehand is the greatest, Sampras has the greatest serve ever. Simple as that.

Looks like Federer is exiting tomorrow. Nalbandian… wow! Djokovic beat Murray just as easily as I thought. Nadal was untroubled. But holy shit how did Querrey beat Gasquet?? Who says Americans suck on clay?

jane Says:

I read somewhere else -I only followed Sam’s scores- that Gasquet may’ve underestimated his opponent, much like Federer did with Hidalgo yesterday.

Players should never, never underestimate their opponents – not these days for certain, when anything seems possible.

Skorocel Says:

To SG:

Just because Fed grew up on clay doesn’t mean it’d be his best surface… Look at Nalby – contrary to the conventional wisdom, the guy hasn’t achieved his biggest successes on clay, but on a hard-court… Yes, Fed should’ve taken out Nadal at RG at least once from 3 tries, but you know what? Try to take that Fed’s racquet and let’s face the Spaniard! We’ll see how well will you fare…

In case you don’t know, the guy’s won no less than 81 consecutive matches on clay (an all-time best on ANY surface), 3 times the RG + Rome + MC combo (i.e. the 3 most important clay-court tournaments) in a row, and is well on his way to become the GREATEST clay-court player of all times. What a shame to lose to such poor guy, isn’t it?

Fed being the 3rd greatest clay-court player of his era after Nadal and Kuerten is maybe an exaggerated statement, but then, who would you choose to be that 3rd guy? Moya? Coria? Gaudio? Ferrero? All of them would certainly have a shot, but the fact is – Fed hasn’t lost even one single match on clay to these 4 guys. Except Nadal, he has a very positive H2H with perhaps every single player called a “clay-court specialist”, so you really can’t blame him for not trying…

Finally, who says American can’t play on clay? Courier, Chang, Agassi – they all won in Paris, didn’t they? Huh, even Sampras got into the semis there, won Rome and the DC finals in Moscow… Claiming the US players don’t have an appropriate training background to hone their clay-court game is a lame excuse itself. Yes, it’s true that these guys were raised on hard-courts, but do you really think there isn’t any red clay-court in the US? You must be kidding! If the USTA really wanted to see their players doing well on the red dirt, they would certainly have built them at least one decent training facility – if not now, then certainly in the past, when Sampras or Agassi were around, don’t you think? Or is the USTA about to bankrupt?

The problem with the US players being unable to produce some decent results on the European clay tournaments certainly isn’t in the lack of training facilities. It’s mainly because they somehow aren’t willing to come in the Europe, which is really a shame in my opinion, since they would have absolutely nothing to lose on the red dirt… On the contrary – they would only gain!

Skorocel Says:

Correction: The 4th para, 1st line should read “Americans” instead of “American”, of course.

Von Says:


Von, How about that Sam?!! Congrats to him for yet another big upset on the clay. Right now P-mac might want to think about his D.Cup line up for Spain on clay…”

I’m proud of Sam. First, for being brave enough to take his chances on clay and the lone American in the pack. Can be very lonely for the young one. That Vegas title has given him some confidence. I’d say P-Mac should take a good look at Sam and try him out a few times on dead rubbers in Davis Cup. I’d like to see a strong No. 2 on the Davis Cup team other than Blake, who is a bunch of nerves, and seems to think he is on display instead of being there to win.

Ravi Says:

I happen to understand how debilitating mono can be. Fatigue can make you feel pretty low, physically and mentally. I do commend Roger for fighting tooth and nail to overcome his illness in front of the whole world. So give him a break.

Von Says:


“It’s mainly because they somehow aren’t willing to come in the Europe, which is really a shame in my opinion, since they would have absolutely nothing to lose on the red dirt…”

You’re correct in part about the Americans not willing to play in Europe. If you were to listen to Patrick McEnroe’s Davis Cup’s final speech, you’d have heard him state that the US team suffered quite a lot of unpleasantness when they travelled to the European countries, and he mentioned that the heckling and unbridled hostility emanting from the Europeans, was at times depressing and difficult to deal with.

The Americans players really don’t have much support from the USTA. The USTA only cares about Davis Cup wins, but how much support they contribute to those wins is another story. This is one reason why we have such limited TV coverage in the US. The USTA should have a loud voice with the ATP to promote tennis in the US. But, we all know that they don’t do didly about that sad state of affairs.

There aren’t many clay courts on which the Davis Cup team and/or the Americn players can practice for their upcoming tie with Spain on clay, or the MS series. Unless Houston would allow them to use their facilities. But then, they have to donate several weeks of their time out of their busy schedule to do travel to Houston. For instance, if the Americans were to attend the clay court mS series and RG, they’d be gone for close to 7+ weeks, then Wimby and the grass court tourneys, is just another 2 weeks away. Sum total in time away is approx. 2+ months. That’s a lot for any player to be away from their homeland, especially considering the uglyness the Americans have to endure in foreign lands. The clay courters were complaining about the amount of time they spent in the US for IW and Miami, could you imagine if the roles were reversed, how much more they (clay courters) would complain if they had to endure the tough schedule the Americans face? It’s not like we have unlimited clay courts sprinkled throughout the US similarly like the Euoropeans. For the Americans, it is either a hit or miss when they play on the clay courts, but they’ve had some success on clay in Davis Cup, and I would like to see them participate in the Clay MS tourneys.

jane Says:

This is an interesting statement from an online article:

“Murray, who lost 6-0, 6-4 to Djokovic, the Australian Open champion, came off marginally better than Tommy Robredo, who took a single game from Nalbandian, matched Janko Tipsarevic’s four against Ferrer, one fewer than Juan Carlos Ferrero sneaked against Nadal, and paled in comparison with Gaël Monfils, who Federer allowed a full seven games.”

Even though Federer had a solid, straight sets win against Monfils, his was the least authoritative win in the bunch the article mentioned (Russian & Querrey wins were less so, but weren’t mentioned in the article). Still, it’s a step in the right direction for Federer and will help his confidence against Nalby, perhaps.

Von Says:


“I read somewhere else -I only followed Sam’s scores- that Gasquet may’ve underestimated his opponent, much like Federer did with Hidalgo yesterday.”

Gasquet’s problems are two-fold. One, he’s not a very physically fit and/or mentally strong athlete, and two, he has too much talent, which can be a parallel to a genius. But, in his case he does not know how to sift through any situation and come up wirh a simple solution. Geniuses never, or rarely, ever see a simple solution to anything. They have to mix in and apply too many extraneous factors, and as a result, complicate a situation. He needs a sports psychiatrist to help him focus and unravel the mental confusion, which will help with his physical problems. In a nutshell, he needs to apply simplicity to his game.
On another topic, a poster wrote about Fed’s mono and giving him a break. The solution to his problem is a simple one, so simple that even an idiot can understand — just get off the tennis courts, forget about the goals and rest until the crisis passes. How much more understanding can the tennis world apply to his problem? However, he keeps on stating he’s fine, so why should he be given a break? This is a case of stubbornness v. logic, and is becoming extremely nauseating. Makes me admire Ancic more for his simple, logical solution. He stayed home, faded into obscurity, and concentrated on his body’s healing, which is a slow process, but, nonetheless an assured one. I just wonder though, if Federer could handle fading into obscurity for the time it takes to heal?

Von Says:

“Even though Federer had a solid, straight sets win against Monfils, his was the least authoritative win..”

If Monfils were anywhere near me, I would have slapped him today. He had so many break chances and he just let them go by. Phobia galore, plus he just seemed so resigned — no umpf whatsoever. He could have easily won that match — I suppose he just didn’t care to try. Fed was not returning Monfils’ serve as easily as he did in the past.

jane Says:

Yeah Von, I did think Monfils looked flat in that match [I won't talk about his hair ;-)]

As for Fed setting aside his goals either now, or earlier when he was still sick, in order to recoup healthwise, it’s not likely (nor is it likely that he’d seek a law degree like Ancic did). It’s true the stakes are higher for Federer, so it’d be more difficult for him to leave and take time off. I suppose he’s got good doctors advising him.

What’s strange is that he has said several times he’s well and yet the mono angle still lingers. I guess the disease does too. Maybe he just wants to believe he’s well or to will himself into being well? If anyone’s got the will, he probably does!

Von Says:


“Yeah Von, I did think Monfils looked flat in that match [I won’t talk about his hair.”

When I originally saw Monfils play on Monday, I had to look twice at the hair. With his shirt and the head gear, he looked like one of the Egyptians from the days of yon. I was laughing so hard, but today, he just was impossible. I kept telling him, get the break, get the break, which he did, but lost it. As if he could hear me.

“What’s strange is that he has said several times he’s well and yet the mono angle still lingers.”

I need to leave this subject alone, I’m getting in too deep and they are about to slaughter me. But, it’s so difficult — something in me just cries out for the truth to this madness, or a resolution. My boss once told me that he’s going to get a picket sign for me to lobny in front of the White House for every cause that I find unjustified. At a petite 5’5″, they won’t even see me, and I probably need a caddy to carry the sign. :) LOL

guerry smith Says:

Fed beating Nalbandian today illustrates exactly the point of my commentary.

On form and recent head-to-head history, Nalby was the clear favorite, but Federer is a lot tougher to beat on clay than most tennis fans realize. Nalby actually matches up better with him on faster surfaces because Fed can hit winners on anything. The slow clay courts make it harder for Nalby to hit winners on Fed than it is for Fed to hit winners on Nalby.

Another Nadal, Federer Meeting Ahead in Rome? Says:

[...] in Rome. While I slogged Fed early on the clay, I’m slowing coming around to him on this surface. As Guerry rightly pointed out, in the last four years only Rafa, Filippo Volandri and Richard Gasquet have beaten the Swiss. No [...]

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