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Subprime? 03/21/2009 - 9:09 PM

Fed1By TennisWorld Contributing Editor Andrew Burton

Roger Federer walked into his press conference at Indian Wells this afternoon with the same expression I've seen on Bank CEOs' faces as they're hauled in front of Congress to explain why everything's just gone to pot.

Now, it's true that none of the CEOs have been sweating from literally walking in off a stadium tennis court, and none of them have been carrying two bags loaded with tennis gear.  Come to think of it, I haven't seen Federer, or any other player, literally come into the interview room still carrying their bags.  But Federer needed to face the press, and he clearly wanted to get it over and done with.  He was polite, but only just: at least he didn't blame the economy.

If Federer's stock was traded on the NYSE (ticker symbol: TMF), it would have registered a slight uptick just after the opening bell.  Federer had Murray at 0-40, 2-1, but he then missed on five backhands in a row.  One passing shot went just long, others looped away or finished tamely in the net. 

This established a pattern for the first set.  Murray doesn't give Federer a lot of pace: Federer seemed to have come in with a game plan based on giving Murray no pace either, and there were a set of BH-BH rallies with Federer hitting gentle slices and Murray loopy topspin or similarly soft slices back to the ad corner.  The rallies often ended with Federer making a soggy unforced error.  The crowd, like a group of nervous investors, tried to pick up Federer as early as 2-4, but to no avail - Murray broke a second time to take a 6-3 lead.

In a match between two "neutral" players, it was striking to see how hard the California crowd pleaded for Federer to make some kind of run.  Murray was playing outstanding defense, forcing Federer to hit great shots to win a point.  Federer held after a multi-deuce game to make the score 3-3, and the crowd murmured with relief.  In the next game, Federer finally converted a BP with a clean FH strike, and got a roar as he walked to his chair.  Federer had switched tactics, serving and volleying and trying to force Murray to pass.  At one point, Federer yelled "c'mon!" after Murray made an unforced groundstroke error into the net during the middle of a game, something I've not heard before.  When Federer served out the set, his stock was on the way back up.

The first three games of the third set were the best of the match - both players had found at least their A- game, and we finally had the kind of rallies we saw in Shanghai.  The turning point in the match was odd: at 0-15, Federer played a wrong-footing volley, and as he twisted at the baseline Murray fell awkwardly with an audible yelp.  He was slow to get up, gingerly testing his movement - he'd later refer to an old groin injury.  Federer checked to see that Murray was OK, then walked back to the baseline to serve.  My notes then read "loose F BH 15-30, loose F BH 15-40, F slice bottom of the net 3-1."  On the tennis market, a rush of "Sell" orders flooded in.  Federer didn't win another game: he fought off three MPs in the final game, but not the fourth: with a brief wave to the crowd he was off the court and straight into the interview room.

I asked him what had happened after Murray's tumble:

ROGER FEDERER: Um, way too many errors today. The first set, I tried to keep playing; I couldn't. I struggled with the rhythm today, so that was the same thing in the third set.

Later on, I asked why he thought Murray had been able to take four third sets in a row in best-of-three matches.  That's when the black humor came out:

ROGER FEDERER: Fitness. I'm old. He's young, you know. Makes a huge difference. No, I mean, those are best of three set matches. I think in the last few matches I always felt Andy came on strong, as the match went on, you know.

This time was different. I think I played well in the second. Forced the issue a bit more and then played a shocking third set. It was one of those matches where it was very up and down from both ends, and today the better player won.

Murray now has a 6-2 record over Federer, including the last four times they've played.  He came into his own press conference wanting to make a statement: Federer didn't lose that match, I won it:

ANDY MURRAY: Well, the one thing I tried to explain to a few people, like a year or so ago, is that, you know, people say, Oh you play very defensively.  You didn't hit the ball particularly hard all the time, or whatnot.  You lose a lot of matches by letting guys sort of dictate the points.

But you know, trying to explain that there's more than one way of dictating points.  It's not just going for big, booming serves all the time and huge forehands.  If you change the pace with the ball a lot, you know, and mix it up, you know, make your guy - I'm playing the match how I want it to go.

If I started trading big groundstrokes with someone like Federer, I think he likes that.  I haven't done it against him, and I don't do it against many people.  That's my game style.  Very rarely do I lose matches having let the other guy play his natural game.

As an objective partisan - a fan silently cheering for Federer, but (this week) a journalist trying to write about what I've seen, not what I wanted to see - Federer has seemed some way from finding his natural game against all five of his opponents this week.  I didn't put this in comments, so I'll have to rely on Steve Tignor to back me up, but over burgers at the Beer Hunter last night I admitted that for the first time I was giving Murray a 60% edge over Federer for their match.  I didn't see Federer play really well for any complete set this week - there were patches of good play and the occasional flourish, but no sustained run of form.  Federer said that, for him, was a decent tournament - "Not the greatest of all time, but it was all right."

Yesterday I wrote that Roger Federer doesn't let anyone forget that he's Roger Federer.  And I suspect one of the things that angers Roger Federer is that Roger Federer didn't used to consider semi final losses in a tournament a "decent" result.  At one stage in his career, between the defeat by Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005, and the loss to Djokovic in Melbourne at the Australian open in 2008, Federer won 34 straight tournament semi finals.  He was the ATP's "Mr Saturday."  Since Melbourne, he's 9-4 - not horrible, but three of those losses have come at Murray's hands.  At the moment, Murray seems to have established the terms on which their matches are played, and that would have seemed unthinkable in 2007.

Barack Obama was in California this week.  I understand he's got a full plate with other things, and anyway, basketball is more his game.  Roger Federer used to be one of those institutions that seemed Too Big To Fail, but right now UBS isn't the only Swiss firm with shaky foundations.  And if there's going to be a bail out, he's going to have to do it himself.

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Posted by sic (Roland Garros, Wimbledon and AO) 03/21/2009 at 09:15 PM

I posted this on the other thread, but it seems like it belongs here...

Andy Murray has been maturing rapidly over the past year or so and today that process seems to have reached its culmination. Say it loud and clear: Andy Murray is a mature player. When Roger was playing his best, after winning the second set and coming out strong the third, immature Andy would have fallen apart; but today even after falling and slightly injuring himself, Andy didn't give himself excuses to lose, he picked himself up and played some of his best tennis of the match. The McEnroesque bunny hop volley; the cricket shot volley on the Federer smash, were just some of the amazing shots (and serves) that he came up with to take control of the set and the match. My hat's off to him and I fully expect this version of Andy Murray to eventually start winning slams.

So Murray is now a mature player. Suprisingly I would not say the same thing for Roger Federer. At times in this match he played in a way that could only be described as immature, even petulant. Sure he sparkled at times, as he almost always does, but on the important points he (like in AO) played impatient, unecessarily risky shots. And when he went down the breaks he started playing like Djokovic - just going for winners, he never even bothered trying to construct points. Immature.

Rafa exposed Roger's backhand over the past few seasons, and today Murray really took advantage of what is Roger's hugest weakness. That backhand just doesn't get it done anymore. I expect him to hit about 80% backhands in every match he plays for what remains of his illustrious career.

Posted by cmac 03/21/2009 at 09:22 PM

I've always said that the beginning of Federer's decreasing confidence and fall from the No. 1 spot was his near loss to Tipsarevic at the 2008 Australian Open.

Posted by Raga 03/21/2009 at 09:24 PM

marvellous post, Andrew. I love your analogies. The Fed is however one institution I shall always believe in. I really wish he didn't have to do it alone.

Posted by Deuce 03/21/2009 at 09:26 PM

Ugh! I was truly hoping for a different outcome! Many thanks Andrew. As always, your analysis and insight into Fed's gave is much appreciated here. How much of a factor to you think the back injury is? Thanks!

Posted by gauloises 03/21/2009 at 09:27 PM

I really like those comments from Murray. I find his brand of tennis more thrilling to watch than a lot of players who have more obvious 'weapons' and use them point after point. For me, it goes to show that tactical intelligence - having a 'tennis brain' and using it - is just as much of a weapon as the shots that people generally designate that way. It's not for everybody, I get that, but I get so intrigued by the way he constructs points, games, matches - it's a slow burn and often the pay-off, when it comes, literally makes me gasp. Or squeal in embarrassing fashion.

Also, bonus points for use of the word "whatnot".

Another great post, Andrew. I've loved your writing this week.

Posted by RafaFan-San Juan 03/21/2009 at 09:30 PM

Bodo: You may continue to ignore Rafa, the indisputable best player in the world; it's your prerogative. You may also continue to look absolutely ridiculous in doing so; it's also your prerogative! Wake up and smell the coffee....

Posted by twist serve 03/21/2009 at 09:32 PM

If Murray beats Nadal again tomorrow, that will be some kind of statement, wouldn't it? That would mean he has a handle on Federer and Nadal hard courts. This is interesting. Does Murray have any confidence on clay?

Posted by Backhand blaster 03/21/2009 at 09:34 PM

Andrew, I liked the article. Interesting comparing Federer to a corporation on the stock market.
I think the guy played a pretty good tournament considering he is just coming back from an injury layoff. All of this doubting of Federer's greatness is just going to make the come back that much sweeter.

Posted by sic (Roland Garros, Wimbledon and AO) 03/21/2009 at 09:35 PM

Rafafan, this was a post by Andrew Burton, not Pete Bodo.

Twist Serve, Andy definitely has the type of game that would adapt well on clay, but to date he's never done much damage on that surface. He prefers hard courts.

Posted by Rosangel 03/21/2009 at 09:41 PM

I just love it when attacks on Pete end up being directed at Andrew, me, or someone else who contributes to the site:)

I think there have only been a couple of occasions upon which I've been accused of ignoring Nadal's achievements :-)

Posted by Andrew 03/21/2009 at 09:41 PM

Ummmm - RafaFan, it's Andrew, not Pete. Not sure if you think the big story today is Nadal beating Roddick, but YMMV.

On the back issue, absent any definitive evidence I'm not going to ascribe any defats or tight matches to it. The alarming thing for me this week were the abrupt fluctuations in form, particularly in the Verdasco and Murray matches. Slightly less alarming, but still a red flag, is a genuine absence of TMF (the man, not the stock symbol) throughout the tournament. Even last year, during the comeback from illness, there was a match with Mahut which was a thumping.

A Masters SF isn't a disaster, but it's not World No 1 form. Federer's groundstrokes for much of the match today didn't have their normal range. Murray, I think, thinks that was Murray's own doing - and maybe he's right. But it looked to me like Federer dismantled his own game and Murray stood by and offered the occasional help. The Madrid SF was a much clearer example of Murray figuring out the tactics he needed to win and applying them.

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 09:44 PM

Andrew - I have a minor question...but when Fed made the fitness crack, did the press corp laugh? politely? nervously? sympatheticly? at all?

sic - hee... if you're gonna drag you 'weak backhand' argument over here, I'm gonna respond over here too. Its a fine BH, not as good as his FH, but fine WHEN and IF he is serving well and the rest of his game is flowing. What Rafa does to Fed's BH is the exception, not the rule. Note that today his FH was almost as awful as his BH and each was almost as bad as his serve.

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 09:45 PM

Andrew - I saw that pattern of no pace slices too. And the first couple of times around it drew errors from Murray. I thought Fed would stay with it more, but he lacked the patience and confidence to do so.

Posted by Ria 03/21/2009 at 09:46 PM

I can't help but think that Andy's problems on clay so far are largely mental - you would think his game was made for it with his ability to drop the ball where he wants and manufacture points yet he's really failed to get any good results. Injury has obviously been a bit of a factor, but when he's been fit he's just not looked overly confident on the surface. Working with Coretja again should improve him on it though.

I'm a Murray fan, but even so it's very difficult for me to watch the way Fed just mentally rolled over and died at points in the match. I mean no offence Rog - you are only a 13 time Slam champion and a contender as GOAT so suck it up instead of looking like you've given up. His demeanour in certain matches he's been losing the past year and a bit has been really disappointing for me as a tennis fan.

Posted by Master Ace 03/21/2009 at 09:47 PM

Does it seem like Roger is predictable in his play now but Rafael and Andy M are the only ones to execute it on a consistent basis. Too bad for Roger that Darren Cahill had other business arrangements but he needs another "ear" as Rafael is 13-6 and Andy M is 6-2.

Posted by sic (Roland Garros, Wimbledon and AO) 03/21/2009 at 09:48 PM

Well, the backhand is an issue, but the big news today was the way Roger reacted when he had troubles, and especially when he fell behind. Just blasting away for winners, with no thought given to point construction As I said above, it was almost petulant. Mirka left the court when he started playing that way, perhaps she knew that it was all over? Andy and Rafa's games seem to get under Roger's skin...

Posted by Joe 03/21/2009 at 09:48 PM

Twist Serve, I don't think Murray is going to beat Nadal tomorrow. He beat him in the US OPEN because Rafa was exhausted, and then the last match they played, Rotterdam, Rafa had an injured knee. I think tomorrow we are going to see a different match

Posted by Syd 03/21/2009 at 09:49 PM


Thanks for your reporting this week, it was a welcome addition to this blog. Really, some terrific stuff.

As for Roger; for the most part, he played a brilliant second set. Didn't see the first. The third simply defied belief—he just went away after the Murray fall. A breadstick for Roger Federer. To state the obvious, he needs to do some serious regrouping...but with Mirka pregnant (and showing too btw) that's going to be next to impossible I'd aver.

I'm convinced that what we saw today, and what we've been seeing this year, is in Roger's head, and not in his ability, or strength, or fitness. I don't think it's his back hand, which at times was working very well. I think primarily its his serve that's off and that's it's all psychological. The way he shut down after the Murray fall was stunning, even the commentators were saying it was one of the strangest things they'd ever seen

(boss has departed from my premises now - but he made me miss the Nadal match damn him.)

Posted by sic (Roland Garros, Wimbledon and AO) 03/21/2009 at 09:51 PM

It was one of the strangest things they'd ever seen, since they saw basically the same thing (magnified by 10) in the 5th set of the AO.

Posted by Syd 03/21/2009 at 09:55 PM

sic @ 9:51. Word.

But I suppose the fall seemed to signify something. As if it jiggled something out of place in Federer and not in Murray (the one who fell).

Posted by Russ 03/21/2009 at 09:59 PM

Andrew: I knew Fed was done when Murray returned the overhead at 2-1. I notice that TMF only really gets "up" in matches when he's hit a spectacular shot. But when someone *else* does it to him, he seems to take it as an affront, looks even more constipated, then unravels (e.g. those two AYFKM shots Rafa hit at AO to either turn away two of 49 break points, or break Fed-- memory foggy-- when Fed was in a relatively comfortable position).

Dude needs to get over himself and remember how to fight. Coach. Now.

Posted by parkp67 03/21/2009 at 09:59 PM

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 @ 9:44 PM

Andrew - I have a minor question...but when Fed made the fitness crack, did the press corp laugh? politely? nervously? sympatheticly? at all?

From Andrew:
Later on, I asked why he thought Murray had been able to take four third sets in a row in best-of-three matches. That's when the black humor came out:

Is "Black Humor" sarcastic and funny? I initially thought that Federer was being reflexive and thoughtful in his answer...but Several posters corrected me and said he was being sarcastic and funny...

I would like to know a piggyback to CL's qiestion...not only how the press corps responded, but what was Feds true demeanor when he made the comment....

Would anyone give me a good explanation of Black Humor? I honestly don't know...Thanks.

Posted by mlc 03/21/2009 at 10:05 PM

That seems to be the question doesn't it: What happened to Fed's game after Murray's tumble?

Interesting how he avoided the question with his pat reply. Murray didn't play particularly better after the fall; he continued with his same solid game plan.

Federer took his foot off the accelerator. As if he's lost the taste for blood. The errors increased and his offense went away. And at match point there wasn't enough strength to pull out.

The third set seriously ruined my day. Had to go hit some balls to regroup my own game...

Posted by Pspace 03/21/2009 at 10:05 PM

Andrew, thanks for this one. I recall the earlier quote that Muzz mentioned. I think it was after Dubai last year (or maybe just after) in response to criticism from Fed. All I can say is that it's a very different (and nice) attitude to the game. Perhaps there some thing in this for all of us to learn as players of the game. I'm eager to hit the tennis courts.

Posted by Pspace 03/21/2009 at 10:07 PM

parkp67, Here you go:

The purpose of black comedy is to make light of serious and often taboo subject matter, and some comedians use it as a tool for exploring important issues, thus provoking discomfort and serious thought, as well as amusement, in their audience.

Posted by Papo 03/21/2009 at 10:08 PM

Roddick consoles himself by taking home the doubles title with partner Mardy Fish. Even though Rafa is through to the final, there's a chance he won't take the title.

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 10:09 PM

park - "black humor" is when someone tried to make a joke out of a very bad situation. An extreme example would be if someone's house burned down and they said, "well at least I won't have to worry about the mortgage." Okay, that's a bad example because it isn't funny, but that is the idea. Does that help?

And really, Fed was being sarcastic and flippant when he responded to that question. Physical fitness barely enters the question is a 3 set final. Mental fitness? Well, that MAY be a different story.

Posted by lollipop 03/21/2009 at 10:11 PM

"Mental fitness? well that MAY be a different story"

True that. Getting distracted by Murray falling over is prolly the best evidence of lack of focus in Fed nowadays.

Posted by twist serve 03/21/2009 at 10:11 PM

As these defeats to Nadal and Murray pile up, will Federer finally decide to make it easier for someone to become his coach? It's telling, somehow, how his losses to Nadal and to Murray follow patterns. It just screams that the guy needs a real coach.

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 10:12 PM

So that remains my question: Assuming Rafa is playing less than his best and Murray is playing an equal amount of less than HIS best, who is favored?

Posted by lollipop 03/21/2009 at 10:13 PM

has anyone ever thought about the fact that a new coach for nole might help his dejected self esteem?

And yes I agree i think Rog needs a coach ASAP.

Posted by Andrew 03/21/2009 at 10:14 PM

CL: no, the press room didn't laugh. We could see when he qualified the comment that it was black humor, but there was a follow up by another journalist:

Q. You brought up that you were old. Do you feel the age factor?


Q. Does the heat have an effect on you?

ROGER FEDERER: No it doesn't. I usually practice in much hotter conditions than this. It was cool.

That was the end of the English part of the press conference. Bud Collins, who is always courteous, said "thank you" and a few other journos said "thank you as well." As I was leaving, I heard the first Swiss German question, and Federer's response included a word that rhymes with riser, which would be against the TW profanity site rule.

Posted by parkp67 03/21/2009 at 10:16 PM

Pspace and CL..Thank you both very, I didn't get the true sense of Federer's words at all..the first time I read them...I'm more a person who can tell when I see the person speaking..unfortunately...but I understand now!! :-)

Posted by Papo 03/21/2009 at 10:17 PM

CL, even though I'm awfully partisan, if Mandy and Rafa both play like they did today I'd have to give Mandy the edge : (

Hope Rafa finds his range and takes Mandy's second serve early like he did in the second set of the Rotterdam final.

It's down to form of the day and maybe environmental factors like the wind.

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 10:19 PM

park - I understand totally. Sometimes...though not often, there are videos of a player's press conference. And then you can get a sense of their tone of voice and general demeanor.

Posted by smiley 03/21/2009 at 10:21 PM

profanity? -_-
poor rog. took a big hit.
roger's anger seems a bit different from Nole's. nole is like "kicking himself" and depressed. and roger is just angry, in general.

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 10:22 PM

Andrew - good lord... I just thought...does this make Fed a 'toxic asset?'

Pspace...I think I agree...Mandy's guile on a HC may take the tide at is flood. (Oh wait...we are in a desert aren't we? That won't do.) But then there is Rafa's almost always indomitable will. Tough call.

Posted by Bill 03/21/2009 at 10:26 PM

Good article, Andrew. It's nice that you're loyal to the player you root for, but you're being pretty honest here.

I'll be much more blunt. That was an absolutely dreadful collapse by Roger after Murray's slip. The worst I've ever seen him play. Even worse than his Aussie choke job.

Rog is really weak mentally now. I'm not saying it to be mean, just the cold, hard facts. No longer is it just Rafa in his head, now Murray. And those 2 are the best this year so far. Tough times ahead for Fed.

PREDICTION: If Fed doesn't "figure it out" then he'll retire by the end of next year. There's no way he's going to stick around as long as he's said in the past if he keeps choking like this. Coaching, counseling, time away. Whatever it takes he's going to have to do it.

Perhaps this is a little much, but I don't think so.

Posted by skip1515 03/21/2009 at 10:30 PM

"I suspect one of the things that angers Roger Federer is that Roger Federer didn't used to consider semi final losses in a tournament a "decent" result."

This is way presumptuous, but it appears that Federer is *upset* about these losses, but not angered.

The former is an emotional state that suggests passivity and resignation, the latter a response that elicits a call to action.

Regardless, it's a pleasure reading your reports, Andrew. Thanks.

Posted by Pspace 03/21/2009 at 10:34 PM

CL, yeah. That match is impossible to call. Hopefully, it lives up to its billing. I'd give a teeny tiny edge to Muzz given the recent H2H, regardless of Rafa's physical state, it would've done wonders for Muzz's confidence.

The use of variety is one of the hardest things for me to understand. Given that I usually play on a fast hardcourt, first strike is usually rewarded. So, when I get an attackable ball on fh (or really even just a neutral one), I like to take a risk. Recently, I've been playing against a guy who's better than me. I can easily outhit him from the baseline, and if he engages me in rallies with pace I'll kill him. However, he constantly changes the pace of the ball -- flatball, topspin, slice etc. If I'm not feeling it (and I mean really feeling it), I make two or three UFEs in a row, then feel like crap and dump a few games. Exactly like what happened in this match.

Now, I do try to beat him at his own game, using slice and moonballs of my own. But, just the fact that I don't feel good about winning points that way plays right into his hands. After like a 10-15 shot rally, with a bunch of net-rushing gambits, even if I win, I feel that was a really random point. It could have so easily gone the other way. Then the next ten points go that way. Tough game.

Posted by Elevennis Anytwo? 03/21/2009 at 10:36 PM

Thanks, Andrew. Your theme was well chosen.

Watching the match, I felt that Murray was doing to Federer what Federer usually does to others: varying pace and spin, running down everything in sight and hitting occasional winners into tactically created openings. That 0-40 game in the first was really indicative of the kinds of problems Murray gives Federer.

I found it interesting that when Murray got frustrated in the second set and started hitting harder, Fed played better. Fed's backhand is much better at redirecting pace than at generating it. Hence the problems with Rafa's slower, higher shots into Fed's backhand. Murray mimics that tactic as well.

Posted by Andrew 03/21/2009 at 10:38 PM

skip1515: Federer was a bit bemused after his loss to Fish last year at IW. He was very upset after his loss to Simon in Toronto, at times almost distraught - it was a match he knew he ought to have won.

Today, he appeared angry with himself - at least to me. I could have that wrong, but that's how I interpreted his demeanor and responses. If I had to guess, I think he'd have been telling himself "I'm better than that."

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 03/21/2009 at 10:41 PM

- It's ridiculous to blame Murray's tumble lol
- Federrer lost because he doesn't probably train and he doesn't have a coach
- Also Murray learned from Rafa how to attack his bad 1H BH:
You can't just put the ball to Fed's BH

You have to be a bit more clever than that and Nadal and Murray are the cleverst palyers out there right now, in a different league tactically to everyone else.

Gasquet, Gonzalez, Del Potro, Blake and these other ATP nincompoops target the backhand too, but they target it with stupid flat hard fast balls that don't ask Federer to think about his shots.

Nadal and Murray take the pace off, put the spin on and ask Federer to make his own pace on the backhand. His technique is awful and he cannot do it.

he needs a coach AND a shrink!

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 03/21/2009 at 10:41 PM

The final will be difficult for Rafa, although I hope he wins!

Posted by Christopher 03/21/2009 at 10:42 PM

Andrew-- Just wanted to drag myself out of my funk to let you know how much I've enjoyed your posts from IW. Insightful with a light touch. Well done.

Back to wallowing...

Posted by parkp67 03/21/2009 at 10:42 PM

I KNOW this wouldn't accomplish anything...but away from the photogs and us sweet fans...I wish Roger would take a few rackets and just go Gonzo on them

Just let it all out...then get on to Miami and get back to winning :-) heck...if I had a few racquets (and could afford to replace them), I'd break a few for him myself!

Night everyone!! :-)

Posted by Economist 03/21/2009 at 10:43 PM

I quite like Murray's game, he's a bit like the old Federer, constructing points with different tactics. He's more interesting to watch than say Nadal, who you know what's going to happen but still very difficult to beat.
Who do u think will win the title?
I'm going for Nadal to win, but you never know..

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 10:45 PM

Pspace - Are you sure you are not Fed?? LOL! I could almost see him reacting the same way. I think Fed enjoys the chess match/variety aspect of tennis to a certain extent but he wants to WIN the point/the game/the match oh HIS terms. Like you. Rafa and Muzzah don't much care what the terms are as long as they win.

From what I have read, from Andrew and others, I think Fed is well and truly pissed, at himself among others. What, if anything, he will DO with that energy remains to be seen.

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 10:48 PM

Marian - what on EARTH makes you think that Fed doesn't train? He trains rigorously in Dubai both on court and off. He brings players over to hit with him ...younger players..and they comment they cannot keep up with him in the heat.

I've said my piece on the BH issue and will say not more, but your assertion regarding his training is both ill informed and baseless.

Posted by Corrie 03/21/2009 at 10:52 PM

Surely a sports psychologist is what Fed needs - maybe Djokovic does too. I recall that when Fed was 17 he had one to get over similar problems then. In fact, my theory is that his basic nature is just reasserting itself from his early years because once again he is under great pressure to perform. The impatience, lack of consistency, lack of confidence, emotional meltdowns are all coming back. The wheel turns full circle, as it often does.

Posted by † Hallelujah 03/21/2009 at 10:56 PM

Fed played like dirt in that final set. Murray may credit himself for playing better, but he didn't do anything exceptional except. He didn't even have to counter punch exceptionally well as the errors came from Fed pretty early in most points.

Posted by Pspace 03/21/2009 at 10:56 PM

CL, hehe, the only thing in common between Fed and me on a tennis court is that I use his equipment. But, that's a hail of a lot more than most people, so there!

To dwell a bit on Rafa and Muzz: Every time I seem them play, it strikes me how they make tennis look like squash. In squash, it's really hard to hit a winner, because the court is small, and the ball is slow. So, you sort of need to work the position, and attack of a really weak ball. These two guys are able to use their speed and anticipation to make the tennis court look like a squash court. Just fantastic.

Anyways, it's late. And, I got tennis tomorrow. Can't wait to try some new stuff. 'nite all.

Posted by skip1515 03/21/2009 at 10:57 PM

Andrew: That's good to hear. Not because I need Federer to win to make me happy, but because the tennis landscape will be better if he plays better.

My quizzical take on his responses – garnered completely from afar, I admit – is that he's *always* believed he was "better than that", and he was generally right. The Wimbledon final seemed to shake that belief some (though he roared in defiance, unlike today), as did the Australian (uhhh, minimal twitch on the defiance meter's needle come the 5th set). Yet we've seen little evidence that it's shaken him enough to bring forth a change in the way he conducts his matches, and I don't mean he should be McEnroe'ing. His intensity comes forth in bursts, with no foot on the sustain pedal. It's enough to put away the Verdasco's of the world, and not enough to convince the Murray's to pack it in.

As I say, I hope you are right. We shall see. The proof will now be found in the pudding.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 03/21/2009 at 11:00 PM

CL yeah yeah sell that to others

It's obviously that he doesn't train; he even admitted as to not learning new shots and lack of training last year (due to illness). He isn't still sick, isn't he?

I don't care what you stated on the BH, we also have eyes to see (also listen to commentators such as Lindsey Davenport). Besides playing a 1 H BH like he does and training for it, I have a keen eye for details, accuracy etc Do you do that as well?

One more reason for me saying that he doesn't enough is the fact that there is no coach to push him, only yes men in his camp.
Case in point.

Posted by Backhand blaster 03/21/2009 at 11:02 PM

parkp67...HJ is that you? Sorry Fed is not playing well...
If I could go back to the stock analogy again...I would say TMF is a buy right now. His price is as low as it's going to get. He is the second best clay player in the world and grass is his best surface. At worst he ties Sampras' record this year.

Posted by † Hallelujah 03/21/2009 at 11:02 PM

great point about how Fed's losses follow patterns. He needs to suck it up and get a good coach (Mirka will not do), anything short of that is hubris.

Posted by † Hallelujah 03/21/2009 at 11:03 PM

hubris |ˈ(h)yoōbris|
excessive pride or self-confidence.
• (in Greek tragedy) excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.

Posted by NDMS 03/21/2009 at 11:05 PM

Very substantive and timely post, Andrew.

In the Doha SF, Federer was very visibly pissed off when he got Murray at 0-40 early in the 2nd set (Fed won the 1st set via a tight TB) and wasn't able to convert a BP. That was the turning point for Murray to take the 2nd and 3rd sets easily at 6-2 6-2.

At this match, when Murray quickly went down 0-40 in his 2nd service game of the 1st set, my immediate thought was twofold: a) Here we go again, Murray flirting with disaster and b) Federer will not win this set if he doesn't break at this point.

Posted by NP 03/21/2009 at 11:06 PM

Thx for the link, parkp67. Made me laugh.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 03/21/2009 at 11:07 PM

Hallelujah Amen

Posted by Andrew 03/21/2009 at 11:09 PM

Marian...wtg Rafa: I think something that Wolfgang Pauli said sadly about a scientific theory needs to be said about your 11:00pm - "Not only it's not right, it's not even wrong."

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 03/21/2009 at 11:15 PM

Andrew: Are you in denial?
Fedex himself said on more then one occasion that he doesn't work on new shots, just tries to keep making the ones that he does well...

Does that sound like good training for you?

Also isn't the lack of a coach an impediment for good training?

Listen also to what other players say: How Roger hits for a bit etc, as opposed to Rafa.

And what are you own eyes telling you? Are his shots getting better? You blame it on the age or what?

Fine with me if you want to be in a denial state.

Have a good evening, I'm out of here!

Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 11:16 PM

Marian - I don't have to sell nothing to nobody, but I resent it when you misrepresent the fact of how Fed trains. How much do you KNOW about it? Are you there checking his schedule? Ticking the boxes. He works hard with physios and on court practice in the heat of Dubai. Everyone who has ever ACTUALLY BEEN to Dubai to train with him has commented on his work ethic. And in any case, good grief, whatever else was going on today had NOTHING - zip- to do with physical fitness, except possibly an aching back. The only reason it came up is because Fed made a joke about it. The way he chooses to practice/use coaching is a whole other issue and he may have to decide to change that. But up until pretty recently what he has been doing has worked well for him. You know, those 13 GS, which is several more than anyone else currently playing has...whatever their training methods.


Posted by CL 03/21/2009 at 11:18 PM

Andrew - bless you... and LOL as well because at first I read it as Wolfgang Puck, and I thought that was an interesting remark for a chef. has been wonderful having an inside man at TW. thanks again.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 03/21/2009 at 11:18 PM

CL: Read 11:15, including what other players said about how Roger trains vs Rafa.

Basta, capisci? Good grief, you know, maybe I should agree with you, yeah he trains his hardest and that's the best he can do lol But I like Roger, so I'd rather see him come back in shape.

Posted by Corrie 03/21/2009 at 11:24 PM

On the training issue, which I'm sure is irrelevant to why he lost, Fed seems to have very relaxed training sessions at the tournaments, which may give misleading impressions, and do his real heavy work in the training blocks in Dubai. He said last year his illness prevented him doing all of them so he was playing catch up all year. However, maybe he should be more Rafa like when training at the tournaments, but somehow, it just doesn't sound like him. But like Marian, I was disturbed when I heard him say he doesn't work on his weaknesses, only his strenghts. That just sounds absurd.

Posted by roadrunnerz 03/21/2009 at 11:27 PM

Today's loss was hard for a Fed fan, but I wanted to say I always love your articles, Andrew. Maybe better than anyone, you're able to analyse Fed without overanalysing. By letting Fed's own words and actions speak for themselves.

He's in a confidence slump for sure, but I take some reassurance knowing that he's come back from way worse ones.

Posted by DMS 03/21/2009 at 11:28 PM

This is Fed's slide downward, yes, I am afraid it is this, slowly but surely, we do all get old.

NDMS: you are not moi but kudos nontheless, perhaps a distant first cousin.

Wherever you are Schwab, a nice photo the other week- nice to finally see our resident Master Ace in person.

Tari: bon jour madame, glad to see you enjoyed the le desert.

Before typademonium I will scoot.

Posted by Russ (WTG RAFA GOLDEN NUMERO UNO!!! Calendar Year GS-- AO, FO, W, USO!!!!!) 03/21/2009 at 11:33 PM

Okay... just seeing how that looks. It will help my retinas adapt to what awaits me as 2009 progresses.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/21/2009 at 11:37 PM

Andrew: thanks for all the great articles and updates this past week. It must have been such a rush to be able to sit in a room and ask these players questions. Congratulations.

Someone else said this earlier and i'm paraphrasing, but federer was at the top for so long and so invincible that i think he's mightily conflicted about how to deal with these new up and comers. To see him tank or choke or whatever you want to call it, in the AO 5th set and again today is just shocking to me. Contrast that with the way Rafa digs in and never gives up. Was Fed that way when he was on the way up in his career as opposed to being an established champion? Something is definitely going on in this guy's head. Maybe the younger guys are just hungrier plain and simple. Maybe he'll fall so in love with his baby that he'll decide to retire, but i can't see him doing that until he gets #14 and 15. Oh he is an interesting one, isn't he?

And did you see the translation felizjuliandad provided on the earlier CC thread around 9am, of the interview with Nadal? His attitude about his place in the game and how he looks at his ranking is so unique. I'd be interested in your take on it.

Posted by Tony 03/21/2009 at 11:40 PM

Federer has become a Safin, a most successful multi-slam wonder kind of Safin. He expects everybody to play his game, instead of adjusting his game when he needs to do it and in a consistent way. Safin spent the rest of his post US Open victory days trying to recapture that form which brought him his first grand slam (he would win only one more). Federer was hugely more successful in doing so; he was perfection personified. But, at this point in his career, he must begin to play more strategically and more tactically, crafting his tennis according to who is on the other side of the net. He has not done this, at least not consistently enough. He insists on playing as if he were still Mr. Perfection in tennis. Alas, when that perfect game is not in place, he then loses. In some ways, Federer has no plan B. It is all plan A against everybody. Plan A is Perfection. Federer will have to learn how to win without his perfect game...

Posted by vetmama (in midst of IW hangover) 03/21/2009 at 11:43 PM

"I think Fed is well and truly pissed, at himself among others. What, if anything, he will DO with that energy remains to be seen."

CL, this is the key.
I think he has a habit of using "selective amnesia" to avoid seriously thinking about tough things, like "why am I folding up like a lawn chair?"

People always say it took Peter Carter's death to really give him a kick in the ass, get his act together mentally, and realize his potential.

I sincerely hope there is some turning point on the horizon this time too, because I think the situation is similar.

Posted by deeps 03/21/2009 at 11:44 PM

Just a note about the weaknesses not strengths comment - Uncle Toni had a more palatable version of that comment when talking about Rafa's game. I don't remember the exact quote but the gist was Rafa cannot try and emulate Federer and incorporate all the shots in his game and become a complete player - he can only work on what he does and try to make it as effective as possible. And that is what I took Fed's comment to mean - he can't try and work on a two-handed backhand to counter Rafa's spin or other non-mental "weaknesses" of his game. It was just phrased badly compared to Uncle Toni's comments.

Posted by Russ (WTG RAFA GOLDEN NUMERO UNO!!! Calendar Year GS-- AO, FO, W, USO!!!!!) 03/21/2009 at 11:53 PM

vetmama: Okay. So who should we kill next?

[To the person that didn't understand "black humour"... this is an example]

Posted by vetmama (in midst of IW hangover) 03/21/2009 at 11:54 PM

Good point, deeps.

Posted by deeps 03/22/2009 at 12:02 AM


He was better while rising once he got his act together - he seemed to approach the game the same way Rafa approaches it now - a tough loss meant an additional puzzle to solve on his way to the top. First it was trying to solve the Hewitt problem - he and Hewitt had some tight matches during the transition and I think it was a 5-setter that finally turned the tide in favor of Federer. Or the way he treated Berdych after that Olympics loss - has he lost a match to the Bird since?

The worrisome fact isn't that one loose game - its how he crumbles after that loose game - he just rolls over after that in the set and when it becomes the final set he gets no more time to regroup. Personally, I think Fed expects to find a magic bullet to solve the Rafa problem or the Murray problem during the match. Like the way once he turned the Berdych match at AO or the Andreev match at the US Open there was no doubt about who was going to win. OTH, Muzz and Nadal refuse to roll over and try to come up with B and C plans to counter the "solution". He seems to need the next set to regroup and that is deadly in the final set where rafa and muzz are the most focussed ready to pounce on the opponent's weakness. I don't think its a tactical problem at least not on hard courts.

Posted by beth 03/22/2009 at 12:04 AM

If Federer is well and truly pissed , as Andrew has suggested , may I just say I find this to be a good sign.
Being angry is a better emotional state that the depression / funk that Nole seems to be in .
At least with anger - he is fighting against this downturn, rather than just surrendering. He may never be the same player he was in those fabulous years when he was winning every tournament he entered , but there is no reason this talented man cannot win - and win often - again.
Keep fighting , Fed

and that is from a totally diehard Rafa fan - ok

and thanks , Andrew
have enjoyed reading your posts this week

Posted by Sher 03/22/2009 at 12:07 AM

deeps, vetmama, Russ and Andrew, really liked all your comments on the subject. At least we saw the same match, more or less.

Posted by Account Deleted 03/22/2009 at 12:17 AM

Going into this IW SF match,the now famous emotional Fed has to answer the question: which is more painful, a 4 in row loss to Andy or a 7 in a row to Rafa? Fed made the right decision! Had Rafa lost to nalbandian in the quarters, that question would never be a question,no.

Posted by vetmama (in midst of IW hangover) 03/22/2009 at 12:17 AM

I've missed you around here, dude.:)
Don't stay away so much.
(I know you have other fish to fry these days, but don't forget us!)

Sher - you and are are usually pretty much on the same page.:)

Posted by Minka 03/22/2009 at 12:22 AM

Hi Backhand blaster. No, that wasn't me but thanks for the condolescense(?). :p Nice stock analysis there, btw. I already bought a whole bunch of TMF shares at IPO(when he beat Sampras at 01 Wimbledon) so I think I'll just hold. It sure is a tough time for Fed fans. Hope you've been doing well, T. :)

Posted by Syd 03/22/2009 at 12:23 AM

"OTH, Muzz and Nadal refuse to roll over and try to come up with B and C plans to counter the "solution".

Murray was not exactly playing a sparking game today; very, ordinary for he most part; all kinds of yips on his serve; in the second, he was completely outplayed. No, I think Roger's loss today was more to do with whatever ails him, than with Murray finding a "solution."

Posted by NP 03/22/2009 at 12:23 AM

Bailoutmadness, you mean 5 in a row to Rafa.

Posted by vetmama (in midst of IW hangover) 03/22/2009 at 12:23 AM

deeps @ 12:02 AM

Couldn't have said it better.

Do you see him being able to change his mind-set, or is he like a rock band that's been around too long and has used up all their allotted inspiration?

Posted by Russ (WTG RAFA GOLDEN NUMERO UNO!!! Calendar Year GS-- AO, FO, W, USO!!!!!) 03/22/2009 at 12:24 AM

VM: Thanks. I won't forget you. Promise. Just trying to stay as focused on work as I can until my priorities change significantly this summer. Life's a bit tough and busy right now, but I took the time to watch 2 tennis matches over the past 3 months. Wish I'd put my head in a blender instead. Alright... off to bed.

Posted by Russ (WTG RAFA GOLDEN NUMERO UNO!!! Calendar Year GS-- AO, FO, W, USO!!!!!) 03/22/2009 at 12:26 AM

VM: Watch your keyboard... I'm a huge Maiden fan.

Posted by vetmama (in midst of IW hangover) 03/22/2009 at 12:27 AM

Syd, was that incredibly depressing, or what?

Posted by Syd 03/22/2009 at 12:28 AM

Vetmama: it was like a repetitive bad dream. I could not believe my eyes; neither could the commentators.

Posted by vetmama (in midst of IW hangover) 03/22/2009 at 12:30 AM

I was thinking:
" this the Australian Open?"
" this the French Open?"
Etc. Etc.


Posted by vetmama (in midst of IW hangover) 03/22/2009 at 12:30 AM

Is Maiden still around?;)

Posted by NP 03/22/2009 at 12:33 AM

The phantasmagoria will evanesce. TMF will rise like a phoenix.

Posted by Syd 03/22/2009 at 12:40 AM


Solution is probably not the right word as much as they refuse to go away. They are still competing, still trying to fight, still making him fight for his games. It wasn't just the final set in AO - the first set Fed had a 4-2 lead and with any other opponent Fed could just run away - instead Rafa comes up with 2 spectacular shots and Fed wins only 1 out of the next 6 games. Or the first set today, Muzz fights off 3 break point chances and that was the end of Fed in that set. He seems to need to get to the next set to regroup. The pressure to keep on fighting instead of being able to let loose seems to get to Fed and that means he is unable to shrug off the loose points which happens to every player. Its not like Fed didn't have loose games even during the TMF years.

Posted by deeps 03/22/2009 at 12:41 AM

I am sorry Syd at 12:40 is me - I typed your name in the name box by mistake - blah

Posted by Master Ace 03/22/2009 at 12:44 AM

"Wherever you are Schwab, a nice photo the other week- nice to finally see our resident Master Ace in person."

Thanks. Had a blast 2 weeks ago.

Posted by deeps 03/22/2009 at 12:47 AM


Ask me in 3 years :)

The one positive is that unlike last year, Fed is not losing to the lesser players like he did last year. He is pulling out pretty decent TMF-like wins against the Verdascos and the Karlovics. Only Muzz and Rafa seem to be in his head this year (I would add Simon except Simon's recent headcasiness makes me doubt he will be able to compete the next time they meet).

And if it is just a belief problem - all it requires is one bad match by either Muzz or Rafa to turn the momentum around and for Fed to start believing that he just needs to be himself and the rest will follow - not as easily but it will. We are discounting their part of the equation here - just one match where Rafa brain cramps like he did against Roddick in the second set today or muzz against Verdasco at AO (yes he was sick but that didn't make a diff to Verdasco).

Posted by bailoutmadness 03/22/2009 at 12:47 AM

NP: Yeah, 5 in a row to rafa, TY. and 4th round not quarters nalby match. sorry.

Posted by NP 03/22/2009 at 12:49 AM

No sweat, bailoutmadness.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 03/22/2009 at 12:56 AM

I see there's lots of post-Fed match depression going on here, so I'm not alone in feeling bummed. It's not so much the loss but how he lost, collapsing in the final set again. Jason Goodall kept saying he capitulated. Ouch. In his prime, Fed was such a great front runner. Once he got a break, he was off and running. Not so much anymore. Is he lacking focus or motivation? I just don't know, but I dearly hope my BFed can regain his confidence.

On brighter notes ... I've really enjoyed all your reports this week, Andrew.


Has anyone ever told you that you look like Courteney Cox? That was my first thought when I saw your photo on the DC thread. :)

Posted by Rosangel 03/22/2009 at 01:04 AM

*I think Roger's loss today was more to do with whatever ails him, than with Murray finding a "solution.*

Then why is he not losing to the likes of Del Potro? Presumably because Murray's game is trickier to counter. Like Rafa, he puts the ball in places where Federer doesn't like it, varies his pace, gets more balls back, moves better than most of the players out there, and generally brings out the need for Federer to strategise against him rather than play the game on his own terms.

One area where Murray shows vulnerability is his second serve, and at least a few times Federer was able to exploit this today.

I'm not suggesting that Federer isn't troubled by issues relating to his own game, including his serve, but Murray is and often has been a master at exploiting the weaknesses in Federer's game, or moving him around while denying him opportunities to finish the point, and in spite of some holes in his own game today, he was able to do the same enough of the time for it to hurt. I already explained on the other thread what I think he does when targeting Federer's backhand - much of it to do with court positioning.

I don't suppose it exactly hurts that Murray by now has developed a comfort factor regarding playing Federer.

What happened after Murray fell during the third set was just bizarre, but it's not as if he'd ceased being a threat before that happened.

Posted by susan 03/22/2009 at 01:11 AM

regarding the anger. he wasn't moping, but was pissed off. after he made a good shot in the second set, he yelled 'come on'. i thought, wow, he's angry. in the US Open he showed a lot of emotion also, but it had more of a positive edge. (or am i misinterpreting?). I remember the Andreev match where he pumped his fists, yelled and then looked over at this box and smiled, when the match was still intense. He wasn't looking over at anyone during this match...
btw, great articles and questions, Andrew.

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