11 Things I Think I Thought About Roger Federer And The First Quarter Of 2017
by Sean Randall | April 5th, 2017, 8:27 pm
  • 43 Comments

The Miami Open wrapped up what has been a remarkable and, to many, a shocking first quarter to 2017. Here are some thoughts.

1. The Return Of Roger Federer
Three months into 2017 and who would have believed ROGER FEDERER would be the top guy in tennis. I don’t even think the most die-hard Federer fans would have dreamed of the possibility that he would lead the ATP Race after Miami. But, leave it to Roger to not only stun everyone winning the Australian Open, but to then go on to sweep Indian Wells and Miami.

That’s only the second time in his career he’s swept all three, and he’s doing at age 35! Just think about that. 35!

It really begs the question, IS HE HUMAN?

Well, probably not. And I think at some point later in this season we’ll see him come back down to earth. But he truly looks as good as ever. Which leads to the question, “How is he doing it?” That answer deserves its own post tomorrow.

2. Rafael Nadal’s Resurgence

Just a notch below Federer’s wow-factor is Rafa’s return to prominence on hardcourts. Nadal showed some stuff at the Australian and again in Miami. And he made the Acapulco final losing to Querrey – Ok, bad loss there. But without Federer, maybe Nadal sweeps Australia, Indian Wells and Miami. He’s playing well enough to do it.

That said, there are still holes in his game – his serve just doesn’t have much pop, and his shots (and shorts) are still short.

But he’s doing well off the backhand, returning good and at least he’s in the hunt again at these big hardcourt events, and that should bode very well for the clay.

Oh yeah, and no injuries!! (Jinx!)

3. Where Are The “Bad Elbow” Boys?
Of course I’m speaking of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. These two ruled tennis the last couple of years and suddenly, just when they thought it would continue (we all did!), it was taken away from them. And in the worst case scenario for them, it was taken by Roger and Rafa.

Poor guys. Honestly, did anyone outside their fanbases actually miss them at Indian Wells and Miami? Or even the last weekend in Australia? They’ve almost become an afterthought.

4. Murray Now Under Pressure
With the clay and grass ahead, Murray is now going to face the ranking pressure of defending a ton of points – Monte Carlo SF, Madrid F, Rome title, French F, Queen’s title and Wimbledon title. So there’s not a lot of room for error if he wants to finish No. 1 again.

And now he’s got an elbow issue, also. And elbow injuries aren’t as bad as a knee or a back, but they can be problematic especially if you get to the surgery stage. From the sound of it, though, I think Murray might miss Monte Carlo but return for Madrid or Rome.

Still, even when healthy it wasn’t like he was tearing up the tour. So he’ll need to get back on track fast or do like Federer, only show for the French (maybe Rome) and focus on the grass.

5. Djokovic Is Broken
It’s looking more and more like that Doha title was a “Dead Cat Bounce”, meaning the win gave many false hope that he was back on the rebound. Well, since that victory over Murray he’s gone a paltry 6-4.

Sure, there are injuries, recently an elbow kept him out of Miami. And now Boris is after him. But at this point, a month from turning 30, maybe he needs to just take the clay season off and get things right in his head and at home, if that’s still an issue.

It just seems like he’s not fully committed to the game deep down right now. There’s no real fight, no urgency out there.

He’ll say the right things and we see moments on the court, but I don’t get the feeling tennis is fun for him. And if that’s the case, then why keep playing?

6. Roger’s Schedule
I once called Federer the GOAT of Scheduling. And it’s a label he deserves because I’m sure most players his age would be oh so tempted to chase the points on the clay, especially with the top ranking in the balance. Federer says he isn’t and that would be smart for him if stuck to it and didn’t.

He can always change his mind, but clay is his worst surface. So using those reserves for Halle, Wimbledon, Cincinnati and the US Open would be better spent rathen that risking his body on the clay where his chances just aren’t as great as they are on hard.

I hope he sticks to that.

7. No. 1 Ranking
It’s shocking to consider that Roger or Rafa have a very, very real shot at No. 1, especially with Murray and Djokovic out of sorts.

Seriously, we all thought it was a 2-person No. 1 race, just not these two, right?

If Rafa has his typical clay season and takes the French, which right now you’d have put him as the favorite, then Roger wins Wimbledon or gets to the final there, then it’s over, one of them is finishing No. 1.

And if Rafa does come through on the clay and Roger sits out, what a crazy second half it will be with those two going at it for No. 1. And possibly sometime in August or after the US Open one of them actually returns to No. 1.

Then again, maybe Djokovic finds that flame and runs through the clay, and Murray gets his mojo back and wins another Wimbledon. Why then we’ll have all out war…

8. The Contenders

With Murray and Djokovic struggling, look who stepped up and seized the opportunity. And look who didn’t.

Where’s Milos Raonic – well, injured as usual.

Tomas Berdych? A bust.

Kei Nishikori? It’s starting to look like he’s never going to win Slam.

Grigor Dimitrov? Played great in Australia, since?

Stan Wawrinka? The Australian should have been his, but Roger’s just in his head too much.

9. Young Guns
Outside of Roger and Rafa and the decline of Andy and Novak, we are seeing some serious inroads from Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios. I think both are going to contend for No. 1 in the next few years and Kyrgios could be a Grand Slam champion as early as the US Open!

Zverev finally got a couple of big wins on a big stage beating John Isner and Stan Wawrinka at Miami and he played Kyrgios tough in defeat.

And when Kyrgios is dialed-in, he’s as good as they come.

10. Juan Martin Del Potro Is Dangerous Again

If there’s another feel good story on the tour this year is Juan Martin Del Potro. There was some concern after the Argentine took January off, but he’s looked good in the few tournaments he’s played and once he starts getting some better draws – he’s more than due – and if he can stay healthy at least for the Slams, I think he’ll finish Top 10.

So I am really looking forward to seeing him progress in the next couple of months.

11. The WTA Is A Hot Mess
How bad is the WTA right now? Maria Sharapova has to save them. That’s how bad. A doper!

Serena is done. Done as far as playing WTA events – she’ll still win Slams.

Angelique Kerber can’t win a match. Simona Halep can’t handle the pressure. Random Russians win Masters events. Johanna Konta won Miami. And it’s anyone’s guess who’ll rule on the clay – maybe Sharapova will!

Hell, right now the two Wimbledon favorites are Serena and Venus, and Venus will be 37!

The WTA really needs some young phenom to just takeover the game – sorry, it’s not Eugenie Bouchard.

Madison Keys? Injury prone.

Naomi Osaka? Can’t win a big match.

Just someone, because all these mid to late-20s women just aren’t that good and the Williams sisters really aren’t going to be around much more than…8 or 9 more years (kidding).


You Might Like:
Rafael Nadal: In 2005, I Thought In 2017 I’d Be Fishing On My Boat In Mallorca
Australian Open Men’s Draw Preview: Djokovic Opens With Verdasco, Federer Lands With Murray
Federer Increases ATP Race Lead, Can Nadal Catch Him Before The French?
Holy Guacamole, Querrey Wins 2nd Mexico Title of 2017
Australian Open Women’s Preview: Serena, Kerber Not Sharp

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43 Comments for 11 Things I Think I Thought About Roger Federer And The First Quarter Of 2017

thean_huat ong Says:

Hi Sean,
99% agree with you. Keep up the good work.
Cheers!


Humble Rafa Says:

I have received a lot of nice compliments from ladies on my short shorts. They like what they see. No complaints.

I am working on short shots. Uncle Toni says length matters when it comes to shots. As always, uncle Toni is smart and correct.


Gregoire Gentil Says:

To answer point #11: Cici Bellis and Kayla Day. Probably one more year to wait but there is more than promise. Cici already got a top-ten this year (Radwanska) and Kayla could have got her first one (Muguruza) at Indian Wells. They are only 17!


chrisford Says:

Sean writes (on Murray and Djokovic)

“Poor guys. Honestly, did anyone outside their fanbases actually miss them at Indian Wells and Miami? Or even the last weekend in Australia? They’ve almost become an afterthought..”

Same argument could be made about Roger, Masha, Rafa, and Serena – who outside their fan bases would actually miss them if they are not in winning??
So it is a cheap, disingenuous rhetorical question.
Andy and Novak will likely have more days in the sun But both are locks as Hall of Famers, really have nothing to prove.


lakie Says:

Roger is a superhuman! I think he heard all the Djok fans try to claim he wasn’t the GOAT. He has shown them he is the greatest in no uncertain terms!


skeezer Says:

“Same argument could be made about Roger, Masha, Rafa, and Serena – who outside their fan bases would actually miss them if they are not in winning??”
You mean RF? Like…well ….the whole planet. You checked any popularity poll? The guy has just won AO, IW and Miami @ 35, so yes, it dominates the tennis news. Why not?
The only argument there is is the one you trying to make all by yourself. This argument in itself is cheap, disingenuous and rhetorical.
RF is the news cause he is playing and winning. ND and AM are not. When they start playing, and winning, they’ll be back in the news. Till then, think about how we are in the strong era and Fed is a “whack a mole in it”.


Sean Randall Says:

Gregoire Gentil, I fear both Day and Bellis just aren’t going to amount to much. Good games, but not major weapon.

Chrisford, really? You Federer, Nadal and Serena, maybe even Sharapova transcend the game. Djokovic and Murray do not. That’s the difference.


Van Persie Says:

“Honestly, did anyone outside their fanbases actually miss them at Indian Wells and Miami? Or even the last weekend in Australia? They’ve almost become an afterthought.”

Well, with Djoko offering so many nightmares to the Federer fans after the last finals between Nole and Roger and with Murray on a roll in the second half of 2016, I am sure many felt relieved, seeing the both out of form.
To ask if, Djoko and Murray were missed, is not the correct question. Perhaps it should be more: Were many “tennis fans” happy with them out?


Van Persie Says:

Kudos to Roger and Rafa for being able to provide their fans a new chapter in their rivalry, I have to say.


steve-o Says:

And I think at some point later in this season we’ll see him come back down to earth.

If he overplayed, he’d burn out and crash. He’s 35, not 25.

But he appears to have learned from 2013 and from his long break last year. He’s going to take time off during the clay season to rest and refresh himself mentally and physically for RG (maybe even for Rome!) and then the grass-court season.

I think he can sustain this level of play throughout the season. He’ll have to skip a few more tournaments than in previous years–probably the Rogers Cup, maybe either Paris or Shanghai Masters–but he’ll be playing at this incredibly high level in the tournaments he does enter, and his focus and motivation will be very high as well. Extended grass season will help a bit because he can cram Stuttgart in there along with Halle and Wimbledon without taxing his body too much.

In 2006, he played a lot of tournaments but Nadal beat him in four finals (and Murray once before the final). In 2017, he’ll play fewer tournaments but he’s beating Nadal in the ones he does enter…so he could well win maybe eight or nine titles, playing like this.

Remember, the last time Federer won AO and IW/Miami in a single season was in 2006, his best year. So now that he’s done it again, I think he’ll have another amazing year. Not quite as amazing as 2006 in terms of the sheer number of titles, but maybe even more amazing in other ways yet to be revealed.


Willow Says:

Personally i hope to see Rafa, Andy, Novak all back and contesting for titles again, to make the rest of the season nice and competitive, Federers an amazing player and i dont dislike him, i just dont want everything to be about any one particular player ….


the_mind_reels Says:

While I agree that Federer is dominating the spotlight and headlines right now — and rightfully so — the question on Murray and Djokovic being missed at these tournaments isn’t the right one, at least for me. I think of course they are missed. When they’re playing well, focused, and hungry, these guys contribute to a narrative at the top of the men’s game that can be spellbinding.

That seems to be the issue, though. They aren’t playing well, focused, and hungry — they’re injured, and maybe at least in Djokovic’s case, dealing with off-court issues. So, had they shown up in places like Miami and IW, I doubt they would have had much of an impact at all and probably would have lost early. So, it seems like the sensible thing that they’re doing to rest and try to get sorted out for the spring. I think they’ll see tremendous support when they do return.


Nits Says:

I am waiting for Djokovic Davis Cup matches. To see where he is I think he will be back in winning ways. To stop a red hot Federer you need a hot djokovic.


Reabirth Says:

Djokovic and Murray are tennis stars, but Rafa and especially Roger, transcends their sport, that’s the main difference, because I can tell you that when I talk to random people here in Morocco, they do know who Roger Federer is, albeit they don’t watch tennis at all.


Van Persie Says:

^^ Have to admit that many , who do not watch tennis, have heard about Djoko due to Federer. Djokovic is for them the guy, who kept on beating Federer at slams lately. Honestly.
Hope to see them play this year again.


Van Persie Says:

also others have heard about Djoko, because he’s for them that “crazy tennis player, who does the impersonations”….I miss that.


skeezer Says:

^ sad that you say that is what he is known for, I think he is a really great tennis player.


Van Persie Says:

Skeezer,

Do not get me wrong. They also tell think Djoko is good…but I am talking about non tennis watchers!…who know only , that Federer is the very good Swiss tennis player, who acts very serious on court…Rafa is the good guy on clay but with the funny ritual before serve.

P.S. Like Martina Navratilova was the “not very pretty lesbian” who beat that gorgeous American in many finals.


Markus Says:

Good article, Sean.

If not for Federer, we would all probably be gushing about Rafa’s resurgence. Querry was his Donskoy, otherwise an excellent year so far.

Djokovic just hit a patch. He has been quite intense until he achieved his goal of a career slam. He can be excused for taking a breath, can’t he? Is there anybody here who seriously believes he cannot go on another great run? Federer and Nadal have had setbacks, too and look at them now. Djokovic, whether you like him or not, is at par with those two as far as abilities go.

About Murray, much as I like the guy, will never be as dominant as the first three. We may have already seen the best streak he will ever have. As somebody has pinpointed before, Andy is not as naturally aggressive to dominate consistently.


Madmax Says:

A bit unfair I think Sean about you calling sharapova a doper when last year you were more objective saying about the midnight rule…that she was not guiltyon December 31st but became so on January 1st _ anyway that argument is done and dusted, you just changed your viewpoint.

So pleased that both federer and Nadal are back in the mix in a big big way. And for the next chapter of their rivalry to continue.vamos rafa. Allez roger!


skeezer Says:

Very interesting take on Feds new BH, ya know, the best BH from Switzerland.
http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2017/04/backhanded-complement


Willow Says:

2017 Is quite similar to 2011, except that year was Nadal and Djokovic instead ….


Pamela Says:

Humble Rafa, the problem with those “short shorts” is when Rafa starts sweating (and he does that before the first ball is in play.. poor Rafa) the shorts hike up and at least for me (I am no longer a young woman in my 20s or 30s) I get to see more of Rafa than I want to…. it looked to me at Miami, that me and the rest of the world had way too much to see. I was very pleased when he changed clothes after he left the court… that beings said and yes, I am a Roger fan all the way… it is still great to see Rafa back playing well, healthy and happy…. and for Roger… sorry Humble Rafa… but I am over the moon to see roger playing so well. hopefully, we will have many more finals between these two to watch


lylenubbins Says:

Sticking by my prediction that Novak is done.


lakie Says:

Now that Djok is temporarily out of action, his hordes of fanatical fans are lying low. I certainly do not miss their insulting comments about other great players and their fans.


chrisford Says:

Sean Randall -

WTF is “transcending the sport?”. Masha and her 4 big trophies and her special juice and being Serena’s Doormatopova does….but Andy who won Gold, Winbledon twice for GBR and toss in bringing the Davis Cup back to his homeland with his #1 ranked brother…does not ‘transcend”??

Nadal is very similar to Djokovic – another defense player, world class athlete…an couple more big trophies than Novak has. Like Novak, he’s fun to watch, and very unique. Only difference is that he was a star before Djokovic and Team Nike created the “Greatest Rivalry of All Time, Fedal..

There’s a Big 4, not a Big 2 Sean. That is so 2009 of you….


Markus Says:

I’m with you, lakie @6:30pm


Markus Says:

My problem with the Big 4 is that Mr. 4 is so far behind. I thought he was finally catching up and then 2017 happened.


Leo Says:

@skeezer, great link from economist


Leo Says:

Madison Keys – injury prone, but I think most of her injuries are in her head!

So far she is sooooo overrated. No really impressive wins to speak off. One GS semi. I watched her play Serena at the US Open a couple of years ago, and the girl – coming in after some convincing wins – completely lost control of her game.

Why are we holding our breath? I say look elsewhere.


Humble Rafa Says:

Very interesting take on Feds new BH, ya know, the best BH from Switzerland.

After 27 years of training, that backhand is still weak and only the 2nd best in Switzerland. Even Lady Hingis has a better backhand (she can hit 4 in a row, high standard in Switzerland.


skeezer Says:

“WTF is “transcending the sport?””
Federer is/has, Sean isn’t the only journalist who has said so.
Mr. Weak Era argument fails again.
Sure, AM has transended the sport, for England/Scotland. Sure Novak has transended the sport, for Serbia. But RF, and Rafa, have transended the sport Globally.
Give it up already, your theories(if that is what you call them) have no bite.
—-
@Sean
You really have to respond to this guy?


skeezer Says:

HR,
Am surprised you keep placing yourself in denial after 4 straight lashing from Feds BH.
Maybe its time to replay those matches and find a way to hit your FH a little better, cause you ain’t gonna do that routine anymore to Feds BH.


Leo Says:

@skeezer – dont give him oxygen. let him/her die away with the silly observations


chrisford Says:

Markus –

“My problem with the Big 4 is that Mr. 4 is so far behind. I thought he was finally catching up and then 2017 happened.”

Even the most talented have to go through development and progression to make it to the top. Federer slowly climbed the ladder, for a period of time being “owned” by players like Leyton Hewitt. Then it all came together.
The career arc of Rafa, Novak and Andy was one of explosive rise to the Top 5 as teens. Then lots of work to get to #1, #2. It was tough for Rafa to win big off clay because Federer and some good grass and hardcourt players besides him stood in Rafa’s way. Then Novak set an ATP record for the most time as #3 because he had to build his game and himself to where he could go eyeball t eyeball with Rafa and prevail against Fed when Roger had match points on him.
Andy is sometimes forgotten, but his rise to the top was as fast and remarkable as Novak and Rafas. It’s just he didn’t have Slam trophies to show for his being #4 for years. He had 3 legends in the way of his own rise.
And before he won his 1st Slam or Gold medal – it was the other 3 guys, notably Djokovic, who claimed Andy was as talented as he or the other two guys were and there was a Big 4 and Andy was in it. Roger talked about Andy as “too talented not to be a great very soon”.
Andy Murray finally made #1. Well deserved. Not his fault that he faced the most competitive field any aspirant to #1 faced in the Open Era.


lakie Says:

Djok could rise when Fed declined.


Tennis Lover Says:

Djoker’s failure has been a blessing to the tennis. Long may Reign King Federer. Surely tennis is not place for the devil. Djoker demon hence will perish into oblivion. Angel Federer will rise into his throne and will reign with elegance, sanctity, benignity and purity until God decides his time has to come to an end.


lakie Says:

I think if Tennis Lover keeps making his “religious” posts, I might get converted into a Djok fan. TL’s posts are so demented. Is he a new poster or a regular?


FedExpress Says:

http://www.tennis-x.com/xblog/2016-03-13/22197.php

laughing my ass off. Noles father is clown.


Giles Says:

Tennis Lover is very much a part of the RF cult!


Leo Says:

@Giles – that’s cruel! That post you are referring to is certified crazy talk… ;-)


lakie Says:

Giles, thanks. I thought the Fed fans were better than the Djok fans. Just as cultist!Sad…

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