Write Off Roger Federer At Your Own Peril; Tonight’s Djokovic-Del Potro Pick
Is this now the end for Roger Federer? Last night Federer was bashed, beaten and bruised by the burly Tomas Berdych who rudely dismissed the 5-time US Open champion 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
The scoreline read four sets but it never really even felt that close and the Czech kept the Swiss from a first title in New York since 2008.
While Federer was spraying forehands and missing serves, Berdych kept pounding groundstrokes and blasting his own serves. The weight of Berdych’s ball really penetrated the court leaving Federer overpowered at times.
“I just didn’t come up with the goods tonight. It was unfortunate,” Federer said.
“He probably created more than I did, and that’s why he ended up winning tonight. The power is not really the issue here. I don’t think that was a problem for me. The problem was elsewhere.”
The defeat was Federer’s first since turning 31 (he won Cincinnati) and the earliest loss he’s suffered at the US Open or the other hardcourt Slam, the Australian Open, since all the way back in 2003. So is there more to come? Probably, but it’s not the end.
First, let’s give Federer his due. After 52 straight Slams he’s bound to have an off day that’s what happened last night. An off day. Afterward, Federer seemed genuinely ticked off at how he played.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I really expect myself to play better tonight. Especially at night I have had such a great record. I don’t know. I felt good. Such an amazing summer I had. I really thought I was going to come out and play a solid match. I didn’t do that tonight. Obviously there is a bit of a letdown now.
“Obviously I wish I could have played better,” he added. “So many moments I thought, Man, it’s just not happening for me. It was just a very disappointing match for me.”
The problem for Federer is time, and time waits for no man, not even Federer. Roger will be 32 a year from now and as I’ve said before in the Slams he’ll need help to win them. At Wimbledon, Nadal got bounced early and the roof closed in the final, both events that aided Roger to the title.
This week he had a great, perhaps too great, of an early draw, then maybe lost some of that momentum when Mardy Fish withdrew leaving him under match prepared for a guy like Berdych. Yet the stars seemed aligned again but it didn’t happen. Berdych did.
Let’s remember, though, Berdych is a guy that when he gets hot can take the racquet out of your hand. He’s done it before to Federer and he’s beaten Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in big matches. He still has his “choke” moments (see the Winston Salem final against Isner), but every now and then this bird finds a nut and he gets it right. So for Federer, losing to Bedych should not be like losing to a Lukas Rosol or a lesser player. There’s no need for all out panic.
And another positive is the fact the indoor season is just around the corner and that’s been Federer’s private playground in recent years. And after this loss I’m sure he’ll be motivated to return to form and contend for the top ranking.
So this will be a tough weekend/month for Federer fans but it’s been worse and Roger’s rebounded. And no player ever has had the ability to shrug off tough losses like Federer.
I admit I’ve written him off before, but I’ve learned my lesson. Nine titles since turning 30 suggests he’s still a force. One loss to a hot player won’t change that.
As for tonight…
Novak Djokovic v. Juan Martin Del Potro
The last two former US Open champions left in the draw meet for the final spot in the semifinals tonight. Djokovic leads 5-2 and apart from a poor performance at the Olympics this summer, Djokovic has had his way with the big Argentine and I fully expect that to continue in their quarterfinal.
Del Potro look pretty good yesterday amid tough, emotional conditions against the retiring Andy Roddick. You have to tip your hat to to way Delpo played, but that said, Djokovic is a completely different animal than Roddick.
Djokovic’s loves the hardcourts and he loves the US Open. So I expect a much better performance out of him tonight than the one he gave on the grass at the Olympics.
However, Del Potro is hitting a high note of late and he’s pulled out big wins on Ashe before, so he won’t be intimidated by the stakes or the moment. And in that Cincinnati match it seemed like the wrist was a factor whereas this week Delpo’s been healthy.
But Djokovic just matches up too well with Delpo. He can handle Delpo’s power with his defense off both sides, and once you get the big guy moving like Novak will, that’s when you can really hurt him. And that’s what I think will happen.
The pick: Djokovic in three
ESPN2 has continuing coverage all day – right now Ferrer is taking down Djokovic’s countryman Tipsarevic.
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