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Roger Agonistes 04/16/2009 - 4:02 PM

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By Pete Bodo

Howdy, everyone. . . just dropping by while you're enduring the rain delay to see what's going on. I was out all of yesterday, mostly trying to load up on sleep and rest and otherwise take a little better care of myself than I've been doing. When I came into the office this morning, I loaded tennistv.com on my office computer for the first time. We have a big television set in our conference room, with cable and Tennis Channel, and I generally prefer watching tennis in the company of others. But I was curious about this internet feed, and I thought it remarkably good. I've  been trying to keep an eye on the Roger Federer vs. Stan Wawrinka match as I type this; it isn't a divsion of attention I would recommend unless you have a perverse interest in driving yourself nuts.

Like everyone else, I was a little surprised by Federer's last-minute decision to enter Monte Carlo, especially after he'd been so roughed up in the hard court segment. I assumed he was going to circle the wagons, and take a little break to re-group. But as I watched the early portion of his match against his pal, Wawrinka, I had a different idea. Maybe Federer, after getting feedback from a host of people including Darren Cahill, decided that he really does need to make some changes. Perhaps he needs to play more aggressively, especially on red clay. Maybe the handwriting on the wall following these last few weeks says that whatever happens in Europe this spring, it will not be business as usual, and approaching it as if it were might be a drastic miscalculation.

For the past three years, Federer has been the clear world no. 2 on clay; the past few months suggest that he's unlikely to claim that title again this year. Quite simply, the consistency and free-flowing genius that once powered Federer on all surfaces simply isn't in evidence these days.

So maybe Federer decided that instead of clinging to hia traditional determination to "play my game" come hell, high water, or Nadal kickers to the backhand, he was going to try something new - attacking tennis. That is, he would use the next few weeks to condition himself to attack at every reasonable opportunity. This doesn't necessarily mean serving and volleying, but it does suggest playing flatter strokes, a higher degree of attentiveness, a willingness to hit approach rather than rally shots, and to follow them up with forays to the net. It also implies a willingness to follow a good serve (first or second) to the net now and then, either because of the quality of the serve, or just to make sure  the shot was well placed or simply to keep his opponent guessing. Most of all, though, it means Federer embracing  the kind of aggressive, focused approach that he generally eschews. Even on grass, he's never really seemed like a guy interested in ending points as efficiently and ruthlessly as possible.

Federer thus far has been a master of long-range aggression; why get into another guy's face by hanging your chin over the netcord and sticking a volley when you can just load up and let fly an inside-out forehand winner from back by the baseline?

But think about this. The only man ever to beat Bjorn Borg at Roland Garros (and he did it twice) was the skillful, attacking Italian player, Adriano Panatta. Federer is easily as skilled as Panatta, and he's just as versatile as were Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe -  both of whom were, like Panatta, Roland Garros finalists. But Panatta, Edberg, McEnroe - even former Roland Garros semifinalists, Pat Rafter and Boris Becker - not only used all their tools on clay, they tried to maximize them, especially when playing rivals who had superior groundstrokes and what might be called "typical" baseline- based clay-court games. So far, Federer has declined to use his full arsenal on clay. It isn't like he's fighting the same natural urge that led Edberg and McEnroe to attack; it's more like Federer has dipped into his bag of tricks as a matter of necessity, not conviction, or pride. Remember, this is the guy who told Pete Sampras that the reason he doesn't serve and volley more often at Wimbledon is because he hasn't had to.

This underscores the extent to which Federer's game is chameleon-like. He does what he needs; he doesn't have a specific vision of the game, or an urge to impose a template, or even his will, on a rival. This may be hurting him now that he's struggling with his consistency and confidence, because he doesn't have a clear trail to follow through the woods back into the sunshine. It occurred to me today that perhaps Roger has decided that he needs that clear trail, some solid vision of the game to embrace and use to pull himself out of his present hole. It would take an adjustment to do something like that, it would take time to make a change and embrace a new strategy. Hence, it makes sense to enter more than the two clay events to which Federer had been committed. This could be called the strategic equivalent of the old "play your way into shape" approach to fitness.

This would not be an ill-chosen moment, career-wise, for Federer to try something like that. It's not a bad time for him to experience an epiphany: Hey, I've got 13 majors and I'm just 27. I've got more money than God and a kid on the way. Why don't I just go out there and have some fun, hit the crap out of the ball, see if I can push these guys around and make something good happen for myself?

I sensed something of that in the way Federer played in the first set against Wawrinka. He seemed to want to force the action; driven back behind the baseline by a penetrating groundstroke, he seemed eager to scramble back, to get inside the court. And he showed a greater willingness than usual to move forward behind his best shots. As the match wore on, though, his error count increased and his play was, to use a word that just doesn't sound right, applied to Federer, sloppy.

If Federer is indeed committed to playing more aggressive tennis on clay, you could groan and protest that it isn't working. That's okay; it's early in the process, if we can call it that. The level of execution Federer showed today wouldn't have worked for Edberg, McEnroe, or Panatta, either.The greatest game plan in the world is useless if you can't execute it. But there's a lot to be said for working on your execution in order to be able to implement what may prove to be a winning game plan.

Whatever Federer had in mind, it was a calculated risk entering Monte Carlo. If he did it just because the appearance fee grew so big that he felt he couldn't afford to turn it down, he's got a nice built-in excuse (I went for the dough, but what do you expect? That kid's gonna need shoes some day!). But I'm guessing that Federer entered the tournament because he decided that doing something is better than doing nothing. And if there's anything to my theory that we're going to see Federer taking many more chances on clay this year, he'll be less worried about the scorelines and results than finding a comfort zone on the court.

That presents an interesting dilemma; is Federer better off trying to hit his way or trying to work his way through his problems? While losing matches has never been prescribed as a miracle cure for a slumping player, Federer is beyond the point where he needs to prove anything to anyone. And he doesn't just need to find his game - he needs to find a game - one that might produce a different result than the game that carried him to the Roland Garros final these past three years.

That, to me, is what this entire clay-court season is, or should be, about for Federer. I don't know what you would tell him, if you had the chance (but I'm sure you'll be happy to tell me, in the comments) but here's what I would say to Roger: Forget the ranking points, forget Andy Murray, forget the spectre of Nadal, forget surprising third-round losses to Stan Wawrinka. If you game is in ruins, as it appears to be, take advantage of the chaos to re-invent yourself. Pick up those pieces and try putting them together in a slightly different way. Give yourself time; you're going to lose some matches as you build the new, improved model, but keep building and never, ever lose the conviction that you can do this. After all, you're Roger Federer.

If Federer isn't thinking along these lines, he's in even deeper trouble than I thought. He's not going to be beating a lot of guys in the coming weeks based on what he's shown us in the preceding weeks. If he's not thinking any differently this spring than in years past, the next few weeks are going to be pure torture. This just isn't the right time and place to discover that you left your game back in Miami, or that you're not really that into playing long matches on clay. I suppose there's the chance that Federer's decision to enter Monte Carlo was driven by panic -  the fear that his rivals would gain too much ground if he didn't manage to somehow block them. But that's the worst-case scenario; It's hard to imagine that Federer was that desperate, or that he doesn't know that while there are a lot of bad reasons for choosing to play, there's only one good one: because you want to.

Much of this potential weight gets lifted off of Federer's shoulders if he decides that this is the right moment to roll the die, to try doing something a little different, perhaps even new. Others have taken comparably big risks  - who can forget Ivan Lendl choosing not to play in the French Open (when he would have been a favorite to win), simply because he thought that a few additional weeks of training on grass might enable him to win the one title that always eluded him, at Wimbledon?  Did that hurt Lendl's reputation in the long-term, or diminish his record? Not in the least. If anything, it made some people respect Lendl that much more - for trying, for daring to do something a little different.

Federer's is in a similar position. And what he's been thinking about this clay season may have a lot do do with what he's feeling about this clay season at the very moment you read these words: If he's got a plan - okay, indulge me, let's say he's decided to play much more aggressively on clay this year - he may be thinking that he pressed too hard, that he was too eager to force the action and tried to get to square E without stopping to touch squares B through D. Maybe he's taking stock of how often he hesitated, instead of moving forward with confidence and alacrity (how about that sliced backhand approach shot he put in the net, to go down love-30 in that critical 5-all game in the second set? For a player fully locked into attack mode, that was a gimme). Maybe he's thinking: I didn't really want to play here anyway, but now that I did I've got a pretty solid idea about the task I set myself, and a starting point for building a good attacking game.

And what's he thinking if he entered Monte Carlo in the hope that he'd somehow find a way to win? That by some strange and unforeseen act of will, luck, or magic he'd suddenly find himself transformed into the Mighty Fed of yore, as if the past six or eight or 10 months had been just some terrible mistake, or aberration of the natural order?  I'd rather not go there, and I think that tells us all we need to know about Federer's present state, and how imperative it is for him to alter the plan, for one purpose or another.


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Posted by gliciouss 04/16/2009 at 04:17 PM

i am surprised by his loss...but it lessens with every tournament...

Posted by Spacenoxx (El Stupido aka The Moron From Majorca) 04/16/2009 at 04:20 PM

I am surprised Pete doesnt get tired of writing about Roger :-) In that sense, he is so Rafa like :-)

Relentless!!

Posted by Spacenoxx (El Stupido aka The Moron From Majorca) 04/16/2009 at 04:20 PM

I am surprised Pete doesnt get tired of writing about Roger :-) In that sense, he is so Rafa like :-)

Relentless!!

Posted by Spacenoxx (El Stupido aka The Moron From Majorca) 04/16/2009 at 04:21 PM

Pete, you are good but why dont you write about something else for a change......how about the weather in Monte Carlo ??

Posted by imjimmy 04/16/2009 at 04:25 PM

Pete: Thanks so much for the post. What you say makes sense, but I'm a bit doubtful about the execution part. Sure Roger is Roger, but the way he's shanking balls (when he's in perfect position to hit them), makes it unlikely that he came come with all guns blazing and take the game to his opponent.
I was actually thinking more on the lines of using clay to rediscover his game: grind it out, play long rallies, feel the court and see what does not work or what breaks down under attack.

Posted by Master Ace 04/16/2009 at 04:28 PM

A positive that Roger got was that he got some match play on the red clay.

Posted by gauloises 04/16/2009 at 04:30 PM

"A little further lend thy guiding hand / To these dark steps,a little further on ... / Retiring from the popular noise, I seek / This unfrequented place to find some ease / Ease to the body some, none to the mind / From restless thoughts that, like a deadly swarm / Of hornets armed, no sooner found alone / But rush upon me thronging, and present / Times past, what once I was, and what am now."

Conclusion: John Milton thinks Roger needs a coach.

Posted by SoMoSaMo 04/16/2009 at 04:31 PM

Pete,

Would you consider Federer's play in the 2006 Rome final a good template for the kind of attacking tennis he may want to play on clay this year? If I remember correctly, in that match, Federer came to the net close to 100 times, with a fairly high degree of success. It is also the closest he's come to beating Nadal in a best-of-five match on clay.

Posted by Tommy BAlls 04/16/2009 at 04:32 PM

Yeah Pete, why cant you write about box car racing for a change? I personally liked the Fed article, but box car racing would be different. I bet Murray would be an excellent box car racer.

Posted by jjb (Go Smiley Fed!) 04/16/2009 at 04:33 PM

Hey Pete! interesting, as usual. thought I'd chime in before the thread goes to town and gives me a headache.. :) I didn't see todays match, thank you rainy skies:((( pfft, so i can only judge from yesterdays match. Fed did seem much more into an attacking flow, running around the backhand on the return, just trying t mix it up a bit.

As you said, execution wasn't all there all the time, but rome's not built in a day. trying to get out of a comfort zone is tough for any player, for one of Fed's level to do it and deal with the accompanying losses is enough to drive me to the tequilla bottle. (ok, so that's not too hard to do...!)

I'm on board with a certain 'to hail with history, rankings, etc' and him getting back to just enjoying playing again. That's got to be half the battle to be able to deflect the pressure and control the nerves.

ah well, we'll see....

Posted by jjb (Go Smiley Fed!) 04/16/2009 at 04:35 PM

*hugs gauloises - though a bottle of vino may be more appreciated*

Posted by gauloises 04/16/2009 at 04:38 PM

jb, your hugs are like wine to me.

BTW, what's with the extra 'j'? Are you turned up to 11 now?

Posted by Grant 04/16/2009 at 04:43 PM

Oh man, three posts in a row from the same person commenting on someone else's repetitiveness. That's so awesome.

Posted by strobi 04/16/2009 at 04:43 PM

I don't get it. Federer's "previous" game was good enough to beat everybody but Rafa, why change it and risk loosing to just anybody? Where is the improvement in that?
I believe the problem is deeper than the Rafa problem on clay, because his game wasn't great either in hard back in the U.S., was it? Is not only Rafa, is not only clay, is altogether. Is him depending too much on his serve, is him getting completely unfocused on the fifth set in Australia, or in the third set in IW or Miami. Double faulting, low percentage of first seves, and as in the Wawrinka match, bad returns on first serve. What happened?
I believe, some of it is a mental slum, and another could be poor training. The agressiveness that he showed today seemed more like eagerness to finish the point as soon as possible, as if he feared a long rally. And we know Wawrinka can do those, as seen in the Rafa match in Miami. If Roger wants to win titles in clay, he has to be agressive, but also to be willing to play long rallies if necesary. It's part of the game. He needs a plan B if his plan A fails. And i think he doesn't have one.

Posted by calbearo 04/16/2009 at 04:44 PM

I think Roger wanted to put the bad losses of the spring hardcourt season behind him ASAP, so he chose to come back to clay sooner than expected. I really doubt that he came back with some new strategy to execute on clay. If he really wants to do something like you suggest he really needs a coach to hold him to it. I think that if that is what he really wanted to do, he would hire a coach to help him through it. I saw his return to MC as something of a panic move on his part - hoping to catch the old form on a new surface, helping to explain away the woes on hardcourt. It is worse than you thought, his game is just starting to deteriorate and since he is flying solo, he doesn't have anybody to help guide him to a new phase in his career. For his sake, I hope he takes a few months off after his child is born, hire a coach and come back with a new approach. What I've seen of him in MC suggest to me that he wants to keep trying to do the same thing. That will keep him in the top 10, but I don't know that it will get him another Slam at this pace.

Posted by CherryNYC 04/16/2009 at 04:46 PM

Great stuff, gauloises.

Agree that Fed needs to just gou out there and say "the hail with it, I'm going to attack every freaking ball and let the points fall where they may."

I would be thrilled if he served and volleyed his way across Europe. why not?

Posted by TennisFan2 04/16/2009 at 04:49 PM

I'm not a big Fed fan but cut Pete some slack - he has to write about Fed. The man is so close to breaking Sampras' record and he takes nose dive after nose dive. Maybe he'll get it together and take Wimbledon (but he'll be facing pressure from a crowd that is now hyped up by all the ridiculous Murraymania) or he'll wait until the US Open when Rafa's knees tire out - who knows?

In the meantime the writers need to speculate about Fed's demise, lack of coaching, sport psychologist, baby, marriage, baby, etc...it's what Pete and the rest of the crew get paid to do.

Rafa is so boring for a writer. He is polite, never has a mean thing to say about another player, loved by all, grinds out every point as if it were his last...writing about Fed is so much more compelling.

That being said, Pete, throw us Rafa fans a bone now and then...please??!!

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever) 04/16/2009 at 04:49 PM

This is a wonderful post. Hats off. Of course, TMF needs to be written. Relentlessly. For a reason. It comes because Fed was in 14 of the 15 GS finals. 20 consecutive GS semis and going and 4 years of relentless bullying domination. The game hasn't seen anything like that before and a good sports journo (which Pete absolutely is) has to sit up, notice, appreciate and "wallow" in it. We all need heroes like that in sports. If Rafa continues this for another 3 years and stacks up 13 GS, sure...bring it on and we will read. But will it happen? On top of that, if Rafa doesn't take undue (unethical but kinda technically legal) medical breaks in between points, not challenge after playing the darn points, not take 30+ seconds to serve...there will be much more to LOVE about that dude. But that's not the case. Fed embodies not just out of the world skill&talent combo, but a certain grace and dignity that marks great men. Good men. Sure, Pete (who had seen generations of tennis pros) sees that and loves it as we all do. Rafa fans don't get this. This is like some of the dive-drama-queens in soccer (especially Spanish, Lat-Am guys) who have great skills but will never - deep inside your heart - be revered and loved. They stay a wee bit off of greatness because of that. I absolutely agree with Fed about the analysis. The ironic thing I see in the last 2 MC matches is that Fed's backhand is now the new-shiny-object as his forehand is getting temperamental. Who would've thought! Perhaps, Fed is tinkering and picking through his armor to find the right weapons. I love the way he attacked throughout and "at times succeeded". I am pretty sure we will see a new and improved Fed in Rome, Madrid and RG.

Posted by arbiter 04/16/2009 at 04:57 PM

No, Bodo...Stanislas lost a few pounds, and he is no BETTER PLAYER THEN FEDERER. That is what happened.

Posted by arbiter 04/16/2009 at 04:59 PM

I meant to say "now" not "no"...hehe. My mistake.

You stay on top too long - you burn. First, you burn mentally. Federer needs serious time off.

Posted by ... 04/16/2009 at 05:01 PM

I presumed Roger did some up-and-coming player out of a wildcard for Monte Carlo either because his (and the tournament's) sponsor ROLEX took umbrage at his absence or he realised he desperately needed to defend last year's points as Murray and Djokovic were fast closing in on his No.2 ranking.

There is no way he is ever going to get better on clay until he learns some tactical discipline (beginning with something as simple as following a coach's expert advice). Inspired masterly play now and then is not enough, especially when he's a step or two slower than 2007 when he played his best claycourt tennis...

Posted by NP 04/16/2009 at 05:04 PM

How dare any1 suggest Pete write about some1 other than TMF! What blasphemy!

Posted by Sher 04/16/2009 at 05:05 PM

Interesting article, Pete. I only have time to read half (gotta split) but I did want to say that looking at his match today he already looked more interested than during the entire Miami. Might be something to your theory.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!) 04/16/2009 at 05:08 PM

lol - typo amnesty for my own name! thanks gauloises :)

grant... if i had a hat on, i'd tip it to you...

uhm - triple F - i'm thinking that rafa's sort of already a great champion. and from all accounts, an all around good guy. (i've never met him, so only judging from what I've read.) We've got the luxury right now of seeing 2 great champions with compelling stories, and some other incredibly talented players just itching to make their marks and dance on both their graves.

don't think that pete writing about fed's troubles here is indication that he thinks rafa is any less 'worthy' of the ink, or any less an admirable champion or person, for that matter.

well, I don't want to speak for Pete, but i'm pretty certain i'm on the right track here...

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever) 04/16/2009 at 05:08 PM

Individual Sports (like Tennis) revolve around Characters and Personalities. TMF is one of the best Tennis has seen. And of course Rafa as well. That's why they needed to be written, follow-up and analyzed. How much ever one tries to be rational, one doesn't want to "believe" that TMF is done. 1, we want Roger-Rafa finals to go on forever. This rivalry has rejuvenated this sport like never before. 2, given what TMF achieved in such a short time, the sheer shock & awe of it...one wants more of that. Or at least reason out and validate with oneself when it fails. Disbelief and hope is a potent combination. And that's what I think Bodo - like most Fed fans - is going through. Of course, past is past, statistics are to be broken and new kids on the block steal the limelight. Why not! But then, a fight in the offing is a fight in the offing. And to look forward to that fight...that TMF will find *a* game and be back on the ring punching Boys out blue to separate them from Men is what one yearns for...

Posted by Or 04/16/2009 at 05:08 PM

It's a wonderful post to read if you're a Fed KAD like me.

But unless you know something we don't, Pete - I'm not sure I'm buying the theory.

I think this is more about his game deserting him for the moment, same way it was on the hard courts just a few weeks ago - than any brilliant new idea to play more aggressive. I do think he's trying to play himself into rythem, but I'm don't think he's trying anything new. Right now, the basics aren't working.

He might have tried to play aggressive, because I think he hates playing passive and is an aggressor at heart, and he gets excited about his game if he plays aggressive. And his best tennis is aggressive tennis. But a new tactics can't change the fact that his serve isn't there, and you can't play aggressive tennis without the serve.

Is he trying to be more aggressive on the serve? I can't imagine he'd tinker with his best weapon at this stage of his career, and I just can't see him pressing more, considering his recent back problems.

Gosh Pete, I'd love to say "This is it!" but I don't think so.


However, I was unbelieveably encouraged by his new outrageous gillette commercial. I didn't think he'd laugh at himself quite this way, it totally made me feel better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kczi7QV5-Q&

Posted by 70's tennis fan 04/16/2009 at 05:09 PM

Interesting and insightful article Pete.
Could only be bettered by the addition of a photo of the lovely Adriano!
Please!!!!!

Posted by NP 04/16/2009 at 05:12 PM

"1, we want Roger-Rafa finals to go on forever. This rivalry has rejuvenated this sport like never before. 2, given what TMF achieved in such a short time, the sheer shock & awe of it...one wants more of that."

Yes, we want everything TMF 24/7, all year! More, more, more!

Posted by Jenn 04/16/2009 at 05:14 PM

hi Pete. Hope you are feeling better.

Interesting theory. I would be more convinced it was true if he had employed the aid of a coach. Trying the kind of tinkering and long-term tactical changes you discuss here may be difficult to implement successfully, and in the short term before RG without some assistance. His success or lack thereof will be a dominant theme for the remainder of the season, no doubt.

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever) 04/16/2009 at 05:16 PM

NP brother. And there's nothing wrong with that. Cmon. You want it too, don't you!
(especially the Gillette commercial "Or" posted). Damnit, it actually cheered me up!

Posted by NP 04/16/2009 at 05:20 PM

I can't, 3F. Fed was wearing heels--heels!--in that ad, dammit!

Posted by Or 04/16/2009 at 05:24 PM

The commercial totally cheered me up, I like it when he can laugh on himself (the metrosexual image, at the very least).

Although I wonder what the next step is, a commercial for a company selling tissues?

Posted by Andrew 04/16/2009 at 05:25 PM

I liked this post a lot. Truly, the one thing that matters (for Federer) in the clay court season this year is winning RG. It's hard to imagine he'll be able to do it beyond 2011, so the window is closing. Nadal has continued to improve: the Federer of 2006-7 couldn't beat him at RG, and we know what happened in 2008.

So bringing something different might be in the plan. Of course, as Pete says, you have to execute. On that score, I'm less worried by the FH right now than I am the serve and return. The serve isn't clicking right now, and too many returns are going out or sitting up and begging to be hit.

But a change of mindset, and a willingness to lose while learning how to win - I don't mind that at all.

Posted by Sandra 04/16/2009 at 05:25 PM

Triple F: your Roger v. Rafa analysis doesn't work with me. I have never loved Federer. Whereas I loved Nadal the first time I saw him play. A

nd I don't get this fiction you and Tigress are trying to create regarding Nadal taking numerous and (sometimes fake) medical timeouts. Please tell me the total of medical timeouts taken by by Nadal and which ones you allege to be fake. I have watched and have DVD's of almost every single match Nadal has played since near the end of 2004, and unless they cut the medical timeouts out of the DVD's, your mythology does not hold water. Prove your statement.

Posted by GC20 04/16/2009 at 05:31 PM

Pete's thesis isn't a bad one. Tiger altered his game a few times in the past 10 years and endured slumps, frustration and criticism only to come back better and stronger each time. So maybe Roger has to get worse to get better. But to me, it seems like a physical problem. The back injury is really affecting his posture, serve and movement. Does anyone know if Roger is wearing some type of girdle for his back?

Posted by Sandra 04/16/2009 at 05:31 PM

Pete: I've gotta say I'm not really convinced by your theory, but I hope you're right nevertheless. I realize Federer is older and in the last phase of his career, but I am surprised at how quickly his downward slide has come. This is obviously not good for Federer and it's not good for tennis either. Tennis needs exciting rivalries and the Roger v. Rafa rivalry has sold lots of tickets and garnered lots of ratings and general sports interest for tennis. I know that Murray seems to be coming into his own and Djokovic seems to be regaining his 2007 and early 2008 form, but for me Murray and Djoko's matches just don't generate the same excitement (not yet, anyway), unless they're playing Rafa (and, up until recently, Roger). So let's hope your theory is correct and that all Roger has to fix is the execution of his new, more aggressive, gameplan. I know there's always a changing of the guard, but tennis still needs Roger Federer IMO.

Posted by F_express 04/16/2009 at 05:32 PM

Honestly, i never get tired of reading about Roger. It's just now, for the last few months, Roger has become such a puzzling thing. You may give thousands of explanations, many of them reveals a little true, but no one can really tells about Roger's state of mind and game. It's just a guess thing and try to reveal what's in his mind.
And yeah, all the legends had to go through stages like Roger is going through now. The latest example that comes to my mind (no, Pete Sampras is just too obvious, as Andre Agassi) is Steffi Graf. After her 97 campaign, the arrived of Hingis, the Williamses, Davenport and others, everybody wrote her off, but she did find a way to get through. I do expect the same thing for Roger.
I don´t know exactly how he will achieve this, but one thing i can tell you: is in his nature, and he will find a way to get on top again.
See you guys in Roland Garros(who cares about Rome and Madrid?)

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 04/16/2009 at 05:33 PM

Very insightful post Pedro, hope you're feeling better.

I also hope that TMF realises that knowing when to ask for help is a sign of strength, rather than weakness.

Posted by Cata 04/16/2009 at 05:34 PM

change of plan of the kind you describe would make sense if you think that he is (or should) accept that the era of his dominance, or even the era in which he is not being dominated, is over. if it is so, by all means, do experiment with new strategies.

but i think that would be accepting defeat prematurely. i am not a fan of federer (to put it mildly), but i think it's still too early for him to shift to a mere historical mode of setting records and abandon the idea of dominating the field (if not dominating it, then being right there with nadal on the very top).

so, unlike you, i don't think he needs to reinvent himself. he needs to play the way he used to play. i don't know whether he can do it, much else how to do it, and i concede that, even he succeeds, he still might not be as dominant as before. but it would surely lay better than he is playing right now. and he doesn't need to be a million times better - just 10-15% better. so, sticking to whatever he used to do would, in my opinion, be much better than developing a new plan or style of game.

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever) 04/16/2009 at 05:35 PM

Sandra...Rafa's last year's MC or Hamburg medical break for starters...and you can't deny the 30+ seconds service. Can you? C'mon. We all love tennis. And rivalry is good. I am talking about grace on and off the court. See in Miami, even the stoic (stoic'er then Fed) Wawrinka threw his arms up in disgust when Rafa's serve took longer and longer. Respect the game and players man. And against DP he challenged twice after the points are played. Justin G and TB in the commentary box were squeamish about it as well.

Posted by Pete 04/16/2009 at 05:35 PM

"But unless you know something we don't, Pete."

How on earth could that be possible, Or? ;-)

Posted by Max 04/16/2009 at 05:41 PM

I hate to say this, as others already have, but I have also become inured to Federer losses. They used to feel like a punch in this gut... now it's more like a mild thwack on the nose. But to take Peter's bait, I would say to Federer: First off, big fan. Second, look to the few that have had post-27 success. I'm sure there are many I can't think of, but Agassi seems to be the most apt example. Pack on some muscle. Get less cute, more brutal. Know that you can hit that last 5th set ball and that last 5th set stride with as much strength as the ones in the 1st set. Agassi’s beef stood out more in his day and with studs like Nadal and Murray and Verdasco, Federer’s new and improved physique would rather place him in that crowd, but I think it would give him more confidence in his ability to grind as well as shine.

Obviously there are likely some confidence issues for Federer at this point and with the precision of his strokes I suspect confidence is extremely important for him. While winning is probably the best medicine for this, I think a coach would be another helpful salve. And not a consultant-in-coaches-clothing, a real full-time, stiflingly-involved coach with a résumé that will dissolve any of Federer’s potential feelings of, “hey, who’s this guy to tell me what I need to change… who’s this guy to yell for one more sprint drill?!” I remember reading about how Annacone pep-talked Sampras into his final US Open win with mantras of, “remember… you're PETE SAMPRAS.” I know Federer takes pride in winning most of his 13 majors sans coach, but I think it’s time to shelve that mentality. I hope we’re not thinking of Federer as going for one last run at glory (I know I'm not), but I think an Annaconesque coach (maybe Annacone himself?) could do wonders.

Lastly, and this is probably something that would also be aided by the addition of a full-time coach, I think Federer needs to embrace losing as constructive experiences. I read the first glimmer of this in his post-Wawrinka-loss press conference today, and it made me as happy as a win would have… well, almost. Anyway, I think if Federer can embrace the grind more, the losses and the wins, I think he’ll be a happier Federer and consequently a more effective, more successful Federer. I think the press is a big part of this problem. It drives me crazy how the press projects these ridiculous standards on him where any and every loss is some grand emblem of his downfall. Golf writers don't even bat an eye when Woods finished 6th at the Masters and lambs his way through the last 18. Can you do something about your brethren in this regard, Peter? Thanks.

Posted by C.F. 04/16/2009 at 05:41 PM

Hi Pete. What I'd say is close to what you wrote, but nowhere near as articulate. I'd just go for:

"Dude, you're young, you're rich, you're a happy newlywed and a father to be. Above all, you know very well who you are, which really is something, considering that so many people your age are still trying to find what makes them tick. So why don't you just enjoy yourself for a while? Have a blast. You know you deserve it."

Posted by Or 04/16/2009 at 05:46 PM

I don't know, Pete - I had hoped you may have GOOD inside info on Roger for a change :)

I don't know, Like hearing from another journalist that another tennis pro told him, that his coach told him, that he overheard Mirka reminding Roger, that for every time he'll dare play passive in a match, he gets to sleep on the sofa/rub her feet/buy her another ring/change the future baby's nappy.

A fool's hope, I know :)

Posted by df 04/16/2009 at 05:49 PM

we're getting a little fed-up (:P) of your obsession with the non-goat.

Posted by The Fan Child 04/16/2009 at 05:49 PM

Only time will tell...

Posted by Moderator 04/16/2009 at 05:52 PM

Dani: please see the Site Rules about baiting/berating other posters.

Posted by xxmichoxx 04/16/2009 at 05:52 PM

One has to realize that Roger is not stupid, he's probably one of the smartest in the tour.

To think that he came to Monte Carlo because he wanted to play his same style and win it, is ridiculous. I completely agree with Pete in that Federer came to this tournament to test the waters. It's going to be interesting to see what he comes up with by RG

Posted by Andrew Miller 04/16/2009 at 06:01 PM

Brilliant Mr. Bodo. Here's hoping Federer's thinking this way. So many distractions - but if he really is thinking this way...I say it's excellent. Who remembers Monte Carlo anyway?

"Forget the ranking points, forget Andy Murray, forget the spectre of Nadal, forget surprising third-round losses to Stan Wawrinka. If you game is in ruins, as it appears to be, take advantage of the chaos to re-invent yourself. Pick up those pieces and try putting them together in a slightly different way. Give yourself time; you're going to lose some matches as you build the new, improved model, but keep building and never, ever lose the conviction that you can do this. After all, you're Roger Federer."

Posted by bobby 04/16/2009 at 06:02 PM

its not rocket science-federer has not prepared. he has not put the physical work in in the off season (due to injury) and he hasn't put the tennis work in either so he can't cope with long rallies. his mind knows that, deep down, so he wants a way out and goes on an all out attack. that is an impossible tactic so hes losing.

he can't just have a new style, his game is all about flow and using his repertoire of shots and his great movement to adapt to the different demands of many rallies. and that flowing style that takes the best of what the opponent has and then makes them look silly is based on supreme physical fitness, long practice sessions, and the confidence that comes with replicating the practice in matches and winning the matches.

federer is like a ferrari with a leak, he'll still look beautiful in some rallies and even some matches but its an illusion. he needs a break and then some gruelling work.

Posted by Vie 04/16/2009 at 06:03 PM

Roger's baseline game is no longer the dominant supreme one - big reason why he is struggling and needs some new approaches. This is also a big reason why he seems to overuse his forehand in a way like Gonzalez (pardon) sometimes, or even over-exert on his first serve a lot oftener than before.

As Nadal usually says about himself during interviews, he can lose always. I find that is true about Roger's baseline game. these days (proof today Wawrinka showed parity stroke for stroke) He is also struggling with his serve and self-control and even his own definition of his approach (my perception). He seems a bit weak and lost or adrift. I was thinking after his loss to Wawrinka, that he should get a wild card to the Barcelona tournament, if he can. He probably needs to play.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 04/16/2009 at 06:08 PM

I think Roger needs to go back to Cahill, pay him an awful lot of money to get himself out of his Adidas contract, and beg him to take him on, and be willing to do anything, including training for a few weeks in Las Vegas, to make it happen !

Posted by joanna 04/16/2009 at 06:13 PM

it could be that Federer is counting to much on his ability to BEAT his opponents and he's getting frustrated when he can't find his game, makes plenty of unforced errors etc
he seems to think that what happens on the court is all up to him, he either wins or loses, when he's not playing well, and other guys can't really hurt him when he plays his best, which i don't think is the case nowadays
maybe he could use some of that "defensive-roddick" attitude (try to make it as tough for the other guy as possible) and not try to BEAT his opponents no matter what

Posted by billi 04/16/2009 at 06:16 PM

tennis.com:

Wawrinka beat his Olympic doubles partner 6-4, 7-5 Thursday in the third round, in Federer’s first tournament since getting married to longtime girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec on Saturday.

Federer struggled throughout most of the match, facing 14 break points after getting just 10 days of practice on clay surfaces.

“Like I told him, the loss doesn’t hurt as much just because I know it’s against a good guy,” said Federer, who has lost the last three Monte Carlo finals to Rafael Nadal.

---

i mean, really?! :O

---

p.s.

when i lose to rafa

i feel i have to cry

that is only because

he's a bad, bad guy.

Posted by Andrew 04/16/2009 at 06:19 PM

OK. Guess the ol' scrolling finger's going to get a workout this afternoon.

Posted by TK99 04/16/2009 at 06:34 PM

I spoke to a highly ranked US Junior player and teaching pro who had an interesting insight.

He felt that Federer had lost half a step as most players eventually do...not that insightful right?

He second point was very interesting. He felt Federer needs to lose weight around his gut and that he is not in great shape. He pointed to the amount of training and focus Agassi had to commit to fitness in order to maintain his standard of play as he aged. Seems like Fed could benefit from some more focus there as well. Gives you a different but still beneficial confidence boost knowing you can outlast and outrun any opponent you face. Might have an impact on his loose groundies as well.

Posted by ladyjulia 04/16/2009 at 06:39 PM

"I came to see where I was. Now I know that I need to work at training to try to come back more strongly at Rome .

"I'm not too worried because I wasn't expecting much at this tournament. It's not a good result but I didn't expect to dominate everyone here. These two matches have given me information, rather than confidence."

RF at the press conference.

I guess Pete is on the right track...

All roads lead to Rome in 2 weeks. (aleast for tennis).

Posted by SilentP 04/16/2009 at 06:39 PM

I love how we all sit here trying to work out what's up with Fed, when he himself might not be sure. I'm confident he'll work his way out of this slump (after all form is temporary, class is permanent), but I'm not sure he's hit rock bottom yet. I fear that may come at one of, or maybe all, the slams this year. He just can't seem to play himself into any sort of form, no matter what he does, and each loss is a dent to the confidence, which he used to have in spades. He's said before the more you win, the more confident you get which helps you to win even more matches. Now the reverse is true.

It's great that his life off the court is going well, it's a shame it's all going a bit pear shaped on the court.

And, what is with the Gilette advert? The Nike adverts he did with Rhys Darby were brilliant. The Gilette advert is not, especially when the tag line is "Here's to confidence". Shame he's missing this on the court.

Posted by BMill 04/16/2009 at 06:39 PM

Interesting article for sure. I'd like to think something along those lines is going on in Federer's head. I thought it was a good sign when he took the wc for Monte Carlo, along the lines of what you mentioned: that doing something is better than doing nothing. Maybe his state of mind has cleared up a bit with the marriage and the start of the clay season.

There's a natural adjustment to any player's game inherent to switching surfaces, even if it's very subtle with a player like Roger. Maybe he's found himself more willing to let his game adjust at this point in the season after all the recent happenings. In any case, let's hope whatever he is or isn't doing still brings us some great tennis in the coming weeks.

Posted by birdie lane 04/16/2009 at 06:42 PM

Watched match. I didn't see what Pete did tho I wish I had. I saw a guy that would battle to 30-30 or duece on SW serve numerous times late in second and then dump second serves into net to just hand Stan the ad point. Can you see Nadal or any other top player dump 3 or 4 second serves into the net at duece at 4-3 or 5-4? He finally backed up for a second serve then netted basic FH on second shot. In first set, they showed a graphic saying he only got 48% of Stans serves in play??? For a guy that's chipping his BH????? Stan won like 93% of his first serve points.

TMF execution at key moments used to be his trademark and now the exact opposite is true.

Incredible how mental this game is.

Other thoughts on TMF

(1) Seems he used to control the court more with his heavy ball in rallys (with nary an UFE) then ZING, he'd hit something special. I.e. he had a few different FHs. Now it's like his rally ball doesnt control the court so he's now virtually slapping his groundies around the court with much less control/consistancy. Each FH is admittedly spectacular but not repeatable enough to get thru defenses with any degree of margin.

(2) He simply needs to be serving 65 to set up his holds more. At pct less than that, he's spending too much mental energy trying to hold. When he's battling thru his holds, he goes from hunter to hunted.

(3) Crazy thought...does he need glasses?? The shanks and late footwork could be from not getting the same jump on the ball of his opponenets strings?

Posted by pollypurebred 04/16/2009 at 06:45 PM

From a female perspective, I honestly don't get the feeling that Roger thinks he needs to work on anything. He's losing, but it's always because of something - back, mono, baby on the way, marriage. Until he accepts blame, nothing will change.

Working without a coach is fine when you have only one competitor who beats you on a regular basis. Now, there are two who do it on a regular basis, and several who do it every now and then, and probably several more who are capable of doing it every now and then.

His ego needs a reality check, he needs to swallow it and find himself a coach. Once he finds one, he needs to listen and do. He can no longer do it himself, or with the help of his wife. The sooner he admits that, the sooner he's likely to get back on track.

Posted by Corrie (not Carrie or Cory) 04/16/2009 at 06:49 PM

Most of the rest of Federer's generation are over the hill, except for Roddick who's a bit younger and hasn't had a back injury to stop him putting in a great effort to improve his play.

Roger, is, like the rest of them, on the downhill slope to retirement. You can't stop age and you can't stop other distractions like babies (at least, once they are with you). Very few other champions won GS after the age of 27 and very few have won them as fathers.

I know Sampras grabbed his last GS at an advanced age, but it was after a long downhill run of losses. And also, Fed now has very tough competition to contend with, in fact, it's probably a golden age of brilliance in men's tennis.

It probably doesn't matter what he does, it won't improve his chances against the young guys.

Posted by arnav 04/16/2009 at 06:52 PM

Has anyone considered that the man has more to think about than tennis? he is human (although that claim was disputable 2 years ago)...and he has a kid on the way! And, he got married the weekend before Monte Carlo. How many of you go to work right after a wedding? More importantly, how many of you could focus against the stiffest competition you could think of at your job right after your wedding? I think not, and I'm sure some of that affected him. Not an excuse for him losing, but is probably close to the truth. I'm happy he came to Monte Carlo...but cut him some slack and let the man enjoy and rip whatever ball wherever he wishes to. I see him back at the RG final.

Go Rog!

Posted by Andrea 04/16/2009 at 06:54 PM

during 08 i was on the seat of my pants during rog's match. he was coming off his peak it seemed and it was very nerve wracking to watch him go 5 sets in slams.

but now, with so many losses, and no more excuses, i'm getting over the inevitable losses.

what i think every tennis fan loves to ponder - whether a fed fan or not - is how someone who could be so dominating for so long is all of a sudden floundering....and yes, semi appearances at IW and Miami and a final at the AO isn't really floundering in the true scope of the tennis world...but we all know that for fed it is floundering.

he's older and a step slower now - even watching his shots; what used to be the heavy forehand put away, now comes back (with interest) to force fed to make another shot...and not just nadal....many players. combine that with a top group of talented youngsters (as he likes to call them) battling with him and winning more often than not AND a question mark on his competitive psyche (no title for the past 8 months)...voila....you've got roger federer mid way thru the '09 season.

the coach thing is bandied around like a cure-all for him but he just seems like the kind of guy that really feels if someone 1) can't provide a really big improvement to his game, 2) have awesome perspective 3) who he also respects, it would never work.

and i get the impression that #3 is probably the biggest hurdle for roger. maybe it's an ego thing? who knows. he's got to start winning again and that's the only cure.

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeee!) 04/16/2009 at 07:04 PM

"These two matches have given me information, rather than confidence."
~~~~~

So Fed's back to the losing-as-"gathering information" phase? Isn't this what he said a few years ago in the midst of his claycourt season losses to Nadal?

Posted by Mark Petry 04/16/2009 at 07:13 PM

Nice article.............However, could it quite possibly be he entered the tournament to simply get some matches and practice under his belt before Roland Garros......It seems like it took an extremely long piece to simply say that!

Posted by TripleF(FedFanForever) 04/16/2009 at 07:20 PM

The master has spoken: Basically what Pete alluded to. Hats off Pete -

"My forehand was hurting me in the beginning," "I was making a few too many errors. That kind of gave him the advantage. It was unfortunate, but I thought Stan played well.

"I came to see where I was. Now I know that I need to work at training to try to come back more strongly at Rome.

"I'm not too worried because I wasn't expecting much at this tournament. It's not a good result but I didn't expect to dominate everyone here. These two matches have given me information, rather than confidence."

Posted by strobi 04/16/2009 at 07:28 PM

I think arnav is right, too many things at once. Getting sick, losing the number one, plus marriage and child. The first two were out of his control, but the later not. He should have timed it better. Many players chose the off-season to get married, and plan their kids to be born in times when they are not playing Grand Slams. But Federer got married two days before a tournament he entered in the last minute and his kid is born in summer, which is full of major tournaments. Bad timing. And don't tell me one does not have control over these things, because you do, Fed and Mirka are not teenagers.
The problem i see here with the Montecarlo defeat, is probably not so much the loss itself, but the points. You may argue that Federer doesn't mind much about the points, but if he continues to lose too much during this adjustment period (he defends a lot on clay), Djokovic or Murray may catch up and being seeded as no.3 is not so great. He could end up playing Rafa in semis and that would diminish his chances of reaching as many finals as he used to.

Posted by gliciouss 04/16/2009 at 07:37 PM

i guess it doesn't really matter if you are seeded one or two...but it does matter if you are seeded 2 or 3...when djokovic (of which i am not a fan but i can see it definitely happening) or murray passes in the rankings we could start seeing federer vs nadal matches in the semis...when was the last time that ever happened???

Posted by gliciouss 04/16/2009 at 07:39 PM

federer did have to defend some points for MC right??? wasn't he finalist last year...i think he was unsure about conflicting wedding and personal plans with tennis and so didn't know what his schedule was until the last minute...nothing else really...

Posted by Daniel 04/16/2009 at 07:47 PM

It kills me because Roger can implement the attacking style of play, he just CHOOSES not to! There are a few points against Wawrinka that were brilliant. He needs to embrace this change. Pete had to do it in his later years, and now it seems Roger will have to do it as well.

Posted by strobi 04/16/2009 at 07:50 PM

Again, if the problem was conflicting schedules and not enough preparation, he should have scheduled his marriage for an earlier date, say February. Mirka was pregnant already and Federer was off due to injury that didn't prevent him from going to parties in Dubai, so a wedding was ok. If Federer didn't see this coming, then he does need a coach fast!

Posted by Ryan 04/16/2009 at 07:58 PM

Man, has the sport (or this entire freaking planet) become more "what have you done for me lately" than ever? Roger is 27 and, as someone posted, "on the downhill slope to retirement"? Because, you know, many players have proven, as recently as 2005, that it's impossible, to, oh, make a Grand Slam final at age 35.

Posted by lois 04/16/2009 at 08:16 PM

Love You ROGER,checked out your commerical-funny,funny,funny.
Congrads on your Wedding and Sorry about your lost but you will be back(I believe that in my heart). Rafa,you got a raw deal today also but I believe you can pull this off. It seems like the schedule has you playing 2 times but you would be doing the same if you played singles and doubles as you usually do. You are the
BEST CLAY COURTER I guess now you can show it to all the non-believers. Praying and Loving you RAFA,NOW GO DO YOUR THING.
Stay Well and Safe Everyone-Please.

Posted by Nils 04/16/2009 at 08:19 PM

Hi Peter,

Keep on writing about Federer. He is probably the greatest of all time and therefore simply deserves the attention you give him. Besides that your analisys is very interesting and well written...

Posted by just horsen 04/16/2009 at 08:22 PM

In my opinion Fed didn't look terrible today he ummm.....just looked kinda like a normal top 50 tennis pro, which for Fedex is pretty bad I guess.

Strobi: I believe Fed and Mirka should have held off on the baby till after they were married anyway, but I actually think that having the baby might help Fed more than hurt him. It'll give him something else to focus on besides how terrible he's doing on the tennis court. Fed's often talked about how much tennis means to him but there are more important things in life then tennis and sometimes I don't think Fed always gets that. Having a baby will definately make him realize that and it will in my opinion help his game because there will be something more important in his life and his whole life won't be tied up in how well he does on court.

Posted by Syd 04/16/2009 at 08:29 PM

uum, agree with Arbiter;

The guy is burned out--he's in no position to be thinking of new strategies and seriously doubt that he is. He's in a downward spiral right now. He needs a long, long rest to refresh himself in every way. I've come to think that at least 85% of this - the shanking, the not finding the court, the awol serving, is mental.

Posted by John 04/16/2009 at 08:32 PM

Bodo, your insight is incredible. Everytime I am entertaining certain trains of thought, you happen to post an article along the very same lines and either it makes me happy because I am not alone in thinking such things or because you always give the impression that there is always faith in the truth.

Posted by jabeau 04/16/2009 at 08:40 PM

Getting married and having babies is something that people - many of whom DO worry whether they can afford shoes - do all the time around the world. How is that explaining Federer's woes on court? He's been living with Mirka for many years now and his marriage was a brief civil ceremony I understand.
Anyhow, although not a fan, I hope he can rebound as his rivalry with Rafael Nadal is the most exciting in tennis.

TripleF - I think you're a bit harsh here:
"On top of that, if Rafa doesn't take undue (unethical but kinda technically legal) medical breaks in between points, not challenge after playing the darn points, not take 30+ seconds to serve...there will be much more to LOVE about that dude."

Posted by TennisFanxTwo 04/16/2009 at 08:41 PM

I agree with an early post by strobi - I don't think Fed's play was a product of trying to be more aggressive, I think he seemed to be trying to end points too soon and on shots that he knows, of all people, will not win a point on clay. Love Roger and Roger's game, but his impatience in any given point during any given match, starting at the AO, is going to have him dropping in rankings throughout the year, as well as losing titles and slams. Someone said Sampras changed his game later in his career, I didn't see it that way at all.

I watched Sampras begin his career, come up through the rankings, and end his career as a champion using the same game he always had. The difference made was from applying his game more thoughtfully later in his career. He got smarter, and it showed when it mattered. Roger is probably the most talented, and one of the smartest, players of all time. He needs to be smarter than the Roger I saw today. Stan played a great match, and put Roger under a lot of pressure when he needed to, but it was Roger's match to win or lose. He was impatient, he poorly timed a lot of forehands, his first serve is absolutely gone, and his return looked tardy during all but a few return games. The silver-lining today was his backhand, it looked soooo much better than in recent months, he's obviously worked on THAT atleast.

Posted by CL 04/16/2009 at 08:53 PM

"If your game is in ruins....take advantage of the situation and re-invent yourself."

Pete- I see you are a subscriber to the 'if live gives you lemons, make lemonade," school of thought. I do hope Fed is too.

Nadal fans -take heart. Someday your guy will self destruct over the course of several matches and you too can enjoy many posts and reports of same. Let's face it, the building that ISN'T burning down is less interesting that the one that is. In the meantime, enjoy the run while it lasts.

Posted by CL 04/16/2009 at 09:01 PM

er, 'life' not 'live.' Long day in the sap mines.

Posted by Ivo 04/16/2009 at 09:03 PM

I will reiterate what many of you said and also politely disagree on the analysis of what Fed was doing in Monte Carlo with Peter.

First off, can really a sane Federer be thinking that an attacking game would safe him on clay? I can see him thinking that an attacking game would really work on grass (and again on hard courts). I mean, if he's decided to change his strategy the way Peter has described it, it's not for the sake of Roland Garros but he must be really thinking about Wimbledon already. It's on that surface where coming to the net will be most effective and where Nadal and Murray would have the biggest trouble producing passing shots. But on clay? I've never heard anyone say that you're preparing yourself to win in Paris by becoming a net attacker. For wining RG Fed needs to get back his fundamentals...his serve and forehand in the first place and his mental stamina to play rallies.

This does not mean that being more aggressive wouldn't help him being a more effective player overall. In this regard I would agree with Peter - if he decides to come to the net in the future more often, it might help his game. So now the question is whether Federer has decided to make a change to his overall game plan starting already in Monte Carlo? Something like my long term vision (and not necessarily RG) is to change my game and I need to start doing this right now. I could see that something like that is going through Federer's head. But I can't really see that he'd decide to experiment with such an approach on the big stage - for Monte Carlo isn't just a 3rd tier tournament and Federer is not Becker. At the end of the day, Federer wants to win any match and he's got too much respect for the historic records he's trying to chase down(which certainly is stifling to his performance these days). I could see how Federer attempts this net attacking game in his practice and how hard he's working on this change there (if Peter is right) but the way he's behaved over the years and the way he cares about himself, I just don't see Federer entering Monte Carlo with the idea: what the hell, let me try to have some practice matches with a new strategy.

So why did he enter then? I think that the issue of points, as someone has pointed out, is actually important for Federer (the prize money has nothing to do with this in my opinion now....he's one of the biggest commercial icons...a few grand here and there doesn't make any difference for that man anymore..where he makes really big bucks is sponsorships and commercials). Points matter for Federer...they do. I see him being okay now with no. 2 to Nadal. He's got respect for that man and no one else...really. But being no. 3 or no. 4....that is still an idea that Federer can't reconcile with. People say he has nothing to prove...and in some sense he does not..but I get the sense from him, despite his own proclamations, that no. 2 is still important to him.

But the real reason for coming to Monte Carlo is actually, believe it or no, his ambition. This ambition doesn't probably show on the court these days for frustrations take usually over (but frusturations can be just another beautiful proxy for a bigger emotion: the drive to win). Federer looses matches, he seems to throw matches away..on the court. But I am sure that once in the locker he's ready to get out there and replay....believing that that match which he just lost he was supposed to have won (as any match that he enters). It's a typical trait of those who can't loose, those who hate loosing and those who have become accustomed to winning, all the time. I am sure that Rafael Nadal is similar in this way. I think Federer came to Monte Carlo because he wanted to win badly...no it wasn't a clear thought-out plan, it was a rash decision. "What if I break the bad-luck now...maybe Monte Carlo..I just change my routine...I'll do it differently". No, for me Federer didn't go to Monte Carlo to try things out but to heal his ego and his will to win.

Is this a good sign? I doubt it. As I said in my previous post I think he's now falliable to other players outside of the big four and today was just one of the examples to come. To me Federer behaves like someone who actually really tries deep down there but can't execute and he doesn't necessarily understand why. And I don't think that those who are observing him know "why" either.We see the clear symptoms a disease but does anyone really see a clear cure? A trainer? An attacking game?
A change in attitude? A few months of rest? More practice? Gee, there are many theories out there but none sounds really totally convincing.
Once again, Federer is a great story. As Andrea pointed out: how can someone who so utterly dominated the whole tennis world end up in this strange slump? Yeah, that's the perennial nature of cycles..in economics, politics or tennis. And thus far, no one has been really able to explain why it happens...to everybody, and at all times.

Posted by svelterogue 04/16/2009 at 09:15 PM

way to go, stan the man! now more attention on the deserving players remaining in the draw.

vamos rafael the king!

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 04/16/2009 at 09:18 PM

It didn't look to me like Roger had any clear game plan. He did try to play more aggressively on the return of serve, but, let's face it - most times, his execution was just horrible. He netted more returns than he put into play. I'm not sure that Roger entered Monte Carlo with the intention of trying out any retooling of his game. I think it was a rash decision based upon the fact that he hadn't won anything yet this season, and knew that his number two ranking was in danger. He entered in hopes of getting enough points to keep Djokovic from getting it sooner rather than later. Right now, he doesn't have the answers, and, it certainly didn't look to me like he had any real strategy that he was trying to implement.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 04/16/2009 at 09:18 PM

Pete Many thanks for your insight and thoughts with the present state of Federer's game or lack there of would be a better word to currently describe it.

To me Roger is the best shot maker I have seen.To watch his game struggle as I have over say the last 12 months or so I have come to say some conclusions of my own.May be right or wrong as a long time observer of the game and a player of high level ok that was when Adam was a boy and so on.

To me it is pain staking obvious Rogers decline in his game say the serve,footowrk,movement,f/hand is due to the back injury last year with that game against Murray which in hindsight he should have retired.To his credit he did not.I say he is paying big time now for it in more ways than one.

You just dont lose your shotmaking ability like that because you lose confidence hey? to me that does not compute.

Recently watching Roger on the h.courts in IW and Miami it was apparent that there was more behind his play than meets the eye so to speak.

Watching his game against Stan yesterday his movement on the f/hand wing was just non exsistant at times.His serve struggled to make a difference,footwork?

I think Roger has made his back injury worse by playing and not giving it the time to heal or get the proper treatment.

Back injuries can come back at any time to haunt you.

I honestly feel he needs to take a rest from the game.

I know he has the incentive to break Pete Sampras record apart from not winning RG he has done it all.

Its sad to see Roger playing in this way.If he is too stuborn and wants to keep playing or to play himself into tournaments well its not happening at present.In fact he is getting worse.

Even cutting back on his schedule and preparing himself for the Grand Slam events I am afraid will not help his cause.

Roger needs to carefully think about his playing future.

I hope he makes the correct choice and rests that back of his.

Posted by Lucius the Luscious 04/16/2009 at 09:20 PM

"Oh man, three posts in a row from the same person commenting on someone else's repetitiveness. That's so awesome."

OMG Grant, that was the epitomy of sarcastic humor. I'm impressed and laughing my "you know what" off!

LL

Posted by Lucius the Luscious 04/16/2009 at 09:24 PM

"...there will be much more to LOVE about that dude."

If you can't find something to love about Rafa after the grace and dignity he afforded an honestly emotional Federer at the AO trophy presentation this year, I'm not sure you ever will.

LL

Posted by MonaLisa 04/16/2009 at 09:28 PM

Arnav......listen to your question....

Has anyone considered that the man (Federer) has more to think about than tennis?

Then read what you said next.......

And, he got married the weekend before Monte Carlo. How many of you go to work right after a wedding?

Go figure?!!!!

Posted by RafaFan-San Juan 04/16/2009 at 09:30 PM

Bodo: Roger may need a tennis coach, but man, you need a writing coach!! You seem to either have a misguided sense of entitlement, or the worst case of "hard-headedness" ever! Get a grip!

Posted by CL 04/16/2009 at 09:32 PM

From the other thread -sorry its so long.

It is amazing the things that run through your head while watching maple sap boil.

To be sung to the tune of "Officer Krupke" from West Side Story- music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by, and deepest apologies to), Stephen Sondheim.

----
Dear Mirka Vavrinec
what are we to do?
This boy of yours is losing and
its making us blue.

Mirka Vavrinec he's done it again,
This boy needs a coach, not a
Mont Blanc pen.
It ain't just a question of misunderstood,
Deep down inside him he was good!

He was good, he was good, he was gol' durn good,
Like the best of him he was so good!

The trouble is he's losing,
The trouble is he's lost,
Mirka, Mirka
What's it gonna cost?

The trouble is walkabouts
The trouble is he blinks,
The trouble is we're frazzlin'
The trouble is he stinks!

But was good, he was good, he was gol durn good,
Like the best of him he was so good!


The trouble is he's lazy,
The trouble is he's fat
The trouble is he's crazy,
He really is a brat.

But was good, he was good, he was gol dun good,
Like the best of him he was so good!


The trouble is his serve,
The trouble is his back,
The trouble is his forehand,
He really is a hack.

But was good, he was good, he was gol dun good,
Like the best of him, he was so good!


The trouble is his kid
The trouble is his pride
The trouble is his id,
He really needs to hide


But He IS so good, yes, he IS so good,
Like the best of him can be so good!

Mirka Vavrinec what are we to do,
This boy of your is losing and its
makin' us blue.

Mirka Vavrinec
We're down on our knees
Can you find TMF and return him, just PLEASE?

Mirka Vavrinec
What are we to do?
Mirka Vavrinec -
Lucky YOU!


Posted by Syd 04/16/2009 at 09:33 PM

Ivo,

Well, you make some pretty good points.

Posted by Syd 04/16/2009 at 09:36 PM

CL: LOL. Please, take a bow.

Posted by lurkspur 04/16/2009 at 09:37 PM

Those who are still ranting about Nadal's 30 secs serve, simply dont get it. The man is in his zone, doing his routine, dictating play blocking out all internal and external elements. And dont even start on Fed being more gracious than Nadal =P

Posted by Joe 04/16/2009 at 09:41 PM

The trouble is Federer has lost 610 points, so probably he is going to loose his 2th place soon

Posted by Lucius the Luscious 04/16/2009 at 09:43 PM

CL - that is genius! very well written. Ok, i may be a little biased because WSS is my favorite movie of ALL TIME. I guess it's my GMOAT!

LL

Posted by crazyone 04/16/2009 at 09:47 PM

aussiemarg: I've noticed for some time now that Roger has had trouble moving to his FH side, I think it even precedes the back injury, since I think I first remember seeing it in early 2008.

I think the back injury has affected his serve for sure, but at this point, if he doesn't want to take off time to recuperate it, he needs to try to shore up the other parts of his game in order to overcome that. And I don't see that happening, at all.

Posted by Joe 04/16/2009 at 09:57 PM

One year ego the excuse was "mono", now "the back", tomorrow "who knows". Federer is not playing good, he is not the best any more, he has a lot of competition and has lost his confidence
To be numbre 1, 2 or 3 they need great game, great shots, legs, strong mentality and confidence.

Posted by CL 04/16/2009 at 10:01 PM

Joe - lol...but accurate, but it doesn't scan.

Syd and LL - thank you very much.

Hey at this point I wouldn't seriously care if Fed's ranking fell... if he doesn't get his game together soon it will anyway, so why not take the time away from the game, a la Andre, and re-tool in peace and quiet instead of in the glare of expectation. His and everyone else's.

Posted by CL 04/16/2009 at 10:03 PM

And anyway, whatever happens, to quote another B-way tune, "They can't take that away from me..." Thank heavens for DVDs!

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