What a life-changing, perhaps game-changing 45 days or so it has been for Roger Federer. Federer was shunned by prospective coach Darren Cahill; he withdrew from the U.S. Davis Cup tie; he announced that he and Mirka were expecting a baby this summer; he obliterated a racquet on court for the first time in many years; he looked hapless in a two final sets defeats to rivals Andy Murray at Indian Wells and Novak Djokovic in Miami; he failed to shake the umpire’s hand after the Miami loss; he teared-up in the post match Miami presser; he took a wildcard into Monte Carlo and if that’s not enough, he’s announced that he and Mirka were just married Saturday in Basel. Wow!
What’s this guy going to do for an encore, win the French Open? Well, let’s not get too crazy here.
First, congrats to Federer and to Mirka. Truly what a difference a month makes. Federer is now a husband and in just a few short months he’ll be a dad. What most pro tennis players go through in a decade if not a lifetime, Federer gets it done in about 45 days.
And as Federer seems to have found happiness off the court (I hope!), his on court game is still mired in misery. And that’s been really apparent in the final sets of matches when the Roger’s game has really fallen apart on at least three occasions this year (Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open and the two Masters losses), four if you include the Andy Roddick match.
For me, that indicates a confidence issue that hasn’t yet to be righted. And while he may have lost some power and quickness overall, we’ve seen patches of superior play from Federer throughout the season, so we know it’s there. But he just needs to find that consistently and be at that high level to compete with Nadal, Murray and Novak.
And when you are in a slump as the one Federer’s currently in, there can be two schools of thought. One is to just take time off, get your emotions in check, get the motivation and energy back and renew your love for the game especially after that devastating loss to Rafa in Australia. The second is to just keep playing through it in hope that the new wins will wash away the taste of those sour losses. Right or wrong, Federer has chosen the latter path.
I had also said in an earlier post and it’s worth repeating, that Roger might benefit from a spark of some kind to get him out of this funk. And that spark can come in many forms: A new coach, new racquet or a big match/tournament win – the Olympic Gold provided a launch pad to his US Open title run. The announcement of the baby didn’t seem to work, but maybe the racquet smash and his now marriage to Mirka will light the fire. We’ll see.
That said my feeling remains is that he really needs a coach.
Unfortunately for Federer, the timing of his marriage and “honeymoon” could have been better. While I admire that he will play Monte Carlo just days after getting tying the knot, I don’t particularly like his chances of walking away from the tournament a happier man a week from now. Not with Nadal, Murray and Novak all in the draw.
In fact, nine of the top 10 players are entered into Monte Carlo with the only absentee being Andy Roddick who himself is rumored to getting married in the coming weeks.
But after what we saw last from Federer on hardcourts – spraying groundstrokes all over the court – how will the 13-time Slam champ find the patience and consistency required for the clay?
For his sake, Federer received a wedding-gift of a draw. The second-seed’s cush path will likely take him through Andreas Seppi, Stan Wawrinka and Tommy Robredo, who I think will upend Gilles Simon. It won’t be easy, but I think he’ll manage.
The top seed and four-time champ, Rafael Nadal, was afforded no such luxury. Nadal, who’s been in a pseudo funk of his own, will deal with Igor Kunitsyn and Radek Stepanek before a heavyweight showdown against Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinals.
Of all of the storylines heading into to this clay season, seeing how Del Potro and Murray fare intrigues me the most. And I think both will hold up very, very well.
In the second quarter, Murray will meet Cilic in the third round before David Nalbandian clash in the quarters. I think I like Mr. Nalbandian in that match-up.
And to play Federer in the semifinals, I’m going with David Ferrer who upsets Fernando Verdasco then Djokovic.
My semifinals then are: Nadal v. Nalbandian and Ferrer v. Federer. In the final I’m picking Nadal beating Ferrer, and Rafa resuming his King of Clay status. However, I think this dirt season will be Rafa’s toughest since becoming the clay God that he is.
If he picks up right where he left off from his 2008 French Open run and destroys everyone in Monte Carlo this week, then all bets are off and he’ll run the table yet again. But I think this year Rafa’s in for a much bumpier ride than before. I know he won Indian Wells and reached the quarterfinals in Miami, but I just didn’t like the way he’s been hitting the ball the last month and I think some of that patchy play bleeds into the clay season. We’ll find out soon enough.
Happy Easter everyone.
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