Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Rome: V is for...Volandri?
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Rome: V is for...Volandri? 05/10/2007 - 12:45 PM

2007_05_10_volandri_blog_2 
I got to the match (you know what match) in the middle of the first game. Watching a few points from the third row, my first reaction was that Roger Federer seemed to be hitting the ball well, moving crisply, and snapping both strokes with heavy, penetrating topspin. I thought we might have a repeat of his outstanding performance in the last round, against Nicolas Almagro. Then I looked up and the score was 2-0…for Filippo Volandri.

My initial reaction indicates the type of performance that Volandri turned in right from the start. Before Federer crumbled (and he did crumble, slowly but utterly), the Italian was on fire. He simply could not miss a forehand when he got a look at it, and his shots all found the lines. Even when Federer was broken again for 0-3, I thought it was just a temporary situation. I made a prediction to the writers around me that Federer would win the set 6-3. (And you know I'm very, very rarely wrong.)

Federer broke back for 1-3. But two important things happened in his next service game. First, Volandri's level didn't drop at all, which meant he probably wasn’t going to go away anytime soon. And Federer started to feel the pressure of his shots, which sent his game off the rails. He sailed a few routine ground strokes long, then changed racquets. It didn’t help. He was broken again and never got back on track.

“I know him and I’ve played a tough match against him a few years ago [in their only previous encounter, Federer beat Volandri 6-2 in the third set in Rome in 2003],” Federer said in his presser. “I played juniors with him and I know how tough it can be in Rome, so I was expecting a tough match.”

So he respected Volandri’s game, but I don’t think he expected anything like this. The Italian was totally loose as he closed out the first set, almost skipping into his crosscourt forehand. It looked like was he was reading Federer’s crosscourt forehand, a shot that typically gives him a quick advantage in any point. Instead, Volandri was the one smoking the ball into the crosscourt corner. Federer was a step behind it all afternoon.

Volandri blew two set points at 5-1 but used a surprisingly strong serve and that dialed-in forehand to finish it 6-2. “Filippo played well,” Federer reminded us. “He made it hard for me. He played well against Gasquet [in the last round], so I knew it would be tough. Give the guy some credit.”

As the second set began, I thought the match was still an even bet. This was Federer vs. Volandri, after all, No. 1 vs. No. 53, and I thought it was less about No. 1’s bad play than it was No. 53’s tree session. That changed with Federer serving at 1-1, 0-30. He missed a backhand long, but even worse, it looked like he was guiding the ball rather than going after it. In other words, he had lost confidence in it. That seemed to be confirmed on break point, when Federer had an open look at a pass and drilled a backhand into the tape.

Federer missed two more backhands to go down 3-1, and Volandri continued to nail his forehand to both corners at will. If Federer left the ball anywhere near the middle of the court, Volandri immediately gained the advantage. It’s hard to remember any points in the second set where Federer dictated play (when was the last time that happened?). At 4-3, Volandri was still lights out. Even after missing a forehand wide for 0-15, he didn’t stop attacking. He hit drilled a forehand for 15-15 and a hit a spectacular crosscourt winner for 40-15.

It’s one of the oddities—and beauties—of tennis, though, that when a lower-ranked guy is trying to serve out a match against a top player at 5-4 in the second set, the match suddenly rides on this one game. If the guy who was behind breaks, he's not just even; he's the front-runner. If Federer had broken Volandri for the first time all set at 5-4, you would have had to like his chances.

Volandri came out looking pretty calm, all things considered, strutting and flicking his racquet around like it was all in the bag. But he overhit a forehand wide for 15-15, then pushed one into the net, his worst forehand all day, for 15-30. He used a wide kick serve to make it 30-30. At this point, you might have expected Federer to show some emotion or try a grinding, make-him-win-it style or throw caution to the wind—something. I know those aren’t the Federer methods, but this was a feeble ending from the world’s best. He lofted a backhand well long for 40-30; then, on match point, when Volandri had to be shaking all over, Federer flicked a routine forehand into the net.

The crowd had been supportive all day, without going overboard. (I particularly liked two guys near me who, whenever Volandri won an important point, did a sort of running start out of their seats and straight into the railing in front of them.) After the last point, the audience let it all out. Volandri fell to the court, then high-fived the front row. An Italian folk song came on and had everyone singing. It segued into some techno, which had everyone dancing. A nice moment.

What can we profitably say about Federer’s performance? I was surprised by the number of people I talked to who asked me, “How could that happen?” Some people thought it had to be an injury (Federer said he was fine); the press sought vainly for an explanation for such a “shocking” event. I thought Federer said it best. “That’s tennis.” Anybody who’s ever played and lost knows that there no other explanations necessary.

Federer was asked when the last time was that he “didn’t feel his shots like that.”

“Happens, you know, a lot,” Federer said, “but sometimes I get through because I’m the better player or I played right at the right time. Today I just couldn’t get the teeth into the match at all. It was over in no time, and I was always the wall against the back.”

A highly honest—if a little malapropy—answer. It's not something any top pro wants to admit, but like everyone else, they have to muddle through a lot of matches without their best. Today, as Federer said, he met a guy “who was confident and knew he had a chance.”

OK, fine, but what can Federer take away from this? First-serve percentage, of course. He made 44 percent of them, and won just 37 percent of points played on his second serve. It’s tough to beat anyone on clay doing that, let alone a guy who was hot and at home. Beyond that, I felt like Federer's body language was bad. I had thought that was something only Nadal did to him, but it can happen against anyone.

This is Federer’s first loss on clay to someone other than Nadal in more than two years. That’s hard to believe—he certainly looked vulnerable on the stuff today. One basic problem is that he's not a grinding player who can rely on hitting a ton of balls and working his way into a match. “That’s tennis,” as Fed says, and you can’t argue with that. Losses happen. At the same time, you’d like to think he wouldn’t just see a loss coming, but show some visible sign he’s trying to avoid it.

Down side for Federer fans: There’s another guy in the French Open draw who knows he can beat Federer.

Bright side: He’s always loved Hamburg, and now he can play it.


 
109
Comments
 
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Posted by Liz (for Federer) 05/10/2007 at 01:11 PM

This is one post I didn't want to be first on....

I'm not liking the Fed's chances for Roland Garros. He looked waaay too shaky today.

But I'm going to look on the positive side and say maybe he will surprise us in Paris. I was worried about him committing to 3 (count 'em) clay court events before Roland Garros. These losses aren't helping his confidence (or mine) but I sure hope he's learning something.

I hope that *&^%$# exho in Mallorca didn't take a lot out of him...

dang it all

Posted by patrick 05/10/2007 at 01:11 PM

Home crowd powered Volandri to play his best tennis. Now, Fed go to Hamburg to make a statement.

Steve,
Is the clay in Hamburg close to what they will be playing on when RG starts?

Posted by Nils 05/10/2007 at 01:17 PM

Maybe (I hope not!) we are seeing the beginning of a longer slump in Federer's game. He's been on top so long it has to be almost boring for him to play everybody else except Nadal. There has to come a time when somebody like that either loses the focus or the desire to win. I think none of the above is happening consciously, but to have lost in three tournaments so quickly is not normal any more.
Maybe his biggest goal is to finally win Paris and just maybe that will motivate him to regain his focus.
Let's hope Fedex can get things straightened... unfortunately I doubt it.

Posted by Rosangel 05/10/2007 at 01:17 PM

Thanks, Steve! I just have to get home to see the recording of this match for myself. From some of the comments elsewhere I got the impression that Volandri was doing nothing special, but I guess that's because the focus was on Federer not playing anything like his best. His unforced error stats - 44 - were quite shocking of both wings. I wonder how many of those were actually unforced.

Posted by patrick 05/10/2007 at 01:20 PM

Home crowd powered Volandri to play his best tennis. Now, Fed go to Hamburg to make a statement.

Steve,
Is the clay in Hamburg close to what they will be playing on when RG starts?

Posted by Andrew 05/10/2007 at 01:22 PM

Steve: interesting to get the perspective from a guy who was there.

Thanks for the report (which I wish you hadn't had to write, but there you go). I tuned in to the streaming TV at 1-3 to see Federer get broken for the third time. As in the loss to Canas at IW, the explosiveness in his footwork (that was there for the Almagro win) seemed to be missing throughout.

From your report, it sounds like consistent pressure from Volandri had a lot to do with it. So hail Volandri!

Posted by Jenn 05/10/2007 at 01:28 PM

I can't imagine that playing a fun 3 sets of tennis exo style in Mallorca took anything out of Fed. He knows himself - no way he would have played that event if it was going to hurt his chances. Fed had a bad day. But I also don't think this hurts his chances at RG. If anything, it may make him more aware that he can take a loss at any time, and therefore more tenacious at RG. I don't see him winning at RG this year, but I think he will do well.

Posted by abc 05/10/2007 at 01:32 PM

Roger Federer played so badly that in the post-match press conference journalists presumed that something was wrong. However, the player himself could not put his finger on it.

Question: Were you feeling well? Were you okay? Was there a problem?

ROGER FEDERER: No fever. No injury either.


Question: Do you think that after this match can change something about your preparation for Roland Garros?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, more time to practice. Get back on the practice courts instead of the match courts.

Question: We understand it's difficult for you to accept this defeat in this moment, but for us it's more difficult for us to understand what happened to you. What was the problem, if there was a problem? If it was difficult for you to play for some reason, if you can help us to find out.

ROGER FEDERER: Not going to do it here. Why should I discuss it here with you five minutes after the match? I have to analyze it myself. I'm just here to answer a couple questions and go back to the practice courts. Not much you can say right now.

Question: Did you feel different feeling after the first match? You feel in a different way this morning, or not?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I played very good after the first match, so I was confident. Usually I always play better the first round no matter how well I played, because I'm used to the conditions and I've played a match and everything. But today was the opposite. I couldn't play my best unfortunately. Filippo played well. Let's not forget get that. He made a hard for me. Everybody's just talking about how I played, but he played very well. He didn't miss much. He played very well against Gasquet, so I knew it was going to be a tough match. Give the guy some credit.


---
Looks like the press really want him to find any excuse for the loss.

Posted by abc 05/10/2007 at 01:39 PM

for the tennis knowledgeables:

is it true that fed has been playing/practising fh/bh strokes with more topsping. if so, would that account for more ufes.

Posted by abc 05/10/2007 at 01:40 PM

sorry, should be 'topspin'.

Posted by Nick 05/10/2007 at 01:40 PM

Steve:

You did a great look at this match. One point you made stands out, when you said .."Federer began to feel the pressure of his shots." I think that's right on, and it's not the first time. I'm starting to wonder if he's had enough of the gut check type matches in the last 2 years - as most of his wins have been so much easier because of his enormous talent.

Tennis Channel replayed the Rome Final of last year, and looking at it again, Seabra is right: Federer choked that match away. His 2 match point forehands missed long by 3 feet & wide by 2 feet, and that after he was up a break in the 5th; and in the tiebreak, up a mini break twice. Up a set in Paris, and up 40-love in first game of set 2, then got run over. Canas in Miami 2007, same thing: up a break in the 5th then gave it back, then drives that horrific forehand into the net to give Canas 2 match points. And his failure to covert 3 break points against Nadal in Monte Carlo can be added here too.

I'm thinking those 2 losses to Canas this year have really rattled his confidence. This match today wasn't close - and its so unchararcteristic for a guy with the accomplishments of Federer to not figure out a way to win. Hard to see him winning the French Open from where he is today.

Posted by randomtester 05/10/2007 at 01:43 PM

My first post on tennis.com and it had to be about this. I wasn't able to watch Roger get beaten, but from what i read the match was an ugly one for us. It may just be me but does anyone else think maybe Roger's putting too much emphasis on the French Open? I know that it's a big deal for him, but he needs to start putting up some effort and end this title drought. Saving his health, stamina, and game for Paris is one thing, but these continuing losses aren't the kind of clay court tennis us Fed fans want to see from Roger. I wanna see Roger dominate the other guy on clay, and I wanna see it this year!

Posted by abc 05/10/2007 at 01:52 PM

randomtester
highly doubtful if roger can dominate on clay.

i'd be very pleasantly surprised if he does that.

Posted by whoopt there it is! 05/10/2007 at 01:59 PM

Vamos Volandri!!!!!

Way to knock the arrogant stuffing out of Roger.
I am enjoying Federer's downfall immensely. The bigger they are the harder they fall. :)

now vamos Rafael and take Rome!

Posted by Balazs 05/10/2007 at 02:00 PM

I hope it's not some outside factor that's causing this (injury, personal problems). If that, mystery solved, though it would be sad.

If it's just tennis, then it is an interesting dilemma to understand what's going on with Federer. Players, even great ones, play badly occasionally, even in stretches, that'd be OK. What's troubling is the mental aspect, the apparent lack of will to fight or change things up that used to be Federer's best assets. That I don't understand.

Let's hope he figures it out soon. It'd be nice to see an exciting RG and not have Roger crash out in the second round.

Posted by Eddy 05/10/2007 at 02:03 PM

My main men Fed and A-Rod out of the tournament already?! Geez, some tournament this is shaping up to be. Well I'll be looking at the Italian who took my guy down. I remember him saying he was well prepared for this tournament, so I want to see what he can do.
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised it was Chela who took Roddick down though...Chela has been coming into his own this year. I remember seeing him on the Tennis Channel last year and I thought, well he's a nice (literally) player that I could get used seeing winning! I hope he has a good tournament.
Just wanted to say this; I'll read the post later when I have more time.

Posted by abc 05/10/2007 at 02:10 PM

Balazs, agree with you.

Where is the passion, the 'come-ons'. They have been awol since ao 2007. is it a case of goat nominations/talk getting to his head that he has to behave perfectly on court too?

Posted by Syd 05/10/2007 at 02:20 PM

Fed's apathy is an enigma, but it seems mental, rather than physical. I don't think he's 'saving it for the French', though I hope he storms through, I think he needs to go back to a shrink to find out what the heck is going on. And maybe dump Tony. To paraphrase Fed, 'it's not easy getting up every day as the number one player' and maybe the pressure's just too much. But the obvious lack of fight is frustrating for FedFans. I'm afraid to go to his website.

Posted by tami 05/10/2007 at 02:26 PM

Fed's body language was so bad since he got broken the second time in the first set. Does he think it is not worth fighting in a 3-set match? He certainly seems to think his back is against the wall if he is down one set? Where is the will to fight?

I remember him saying in an interview to the swiss tv channel in 2002/2003 where he was asked when he was going to become No.1. His reply was the he may never ever become No.1!!!! i guess, he is contented having achieved what he has over the past 3 years.

sad. that's my rant of the day.

Posted by randomtester 05/10/2007 at 02:30 PM

Other Fed fans might find this blasphemous but I don't think Roger's main focus this year should be on the French Open. In my opinion Roger should be more into finding a clay court game that lets him dominate the way he does on grass and hard courts. He's an adaptive player, but I don't see him bringing out his versatility to craft a clay style the way he has a subtly different style for grass and hardcourts (maybe clay requires a drastic change?). I don't really see the big deal in the way most people say that he has to win Paris THIS YEAR. Federer's not going to retire anytime soon. Plus, Grand Slams come more easily if you can dominate the surface, that should be his goal, not an all-or-nothing assault on the 2007 French Open.

Posted by Andrew 05/10/2007 at 02:31 PM

Nick: Federer came through a number of close matches in 2006 that I can think of off the top of my head. Rochus at Halle (saved 4 MPs); Srichiphan (Basel SF), Nalbandian (Rome SF), Suzuki (Tokyo) - final set tie-breaks. Almagro, Rome QF, final set 7-5.

Of course, he also lost 5 matches - four to Nadal (3 on clay) and one to Murray. This year, he's lost 4 so far: one on clay to Nadal, two hard to Canas (one final set tiebreak, one straight sets), and today's loss to Volandri.

No question, his overall level today was the poorest this year. But I don't think you can make the case that Federer has cruised and doesn't no how to respond to pressure.

Posted by la boheme 05/10/2007 at 02:35 PM

This is just a crazy longshot, but maybe he does feel some pressure to win the FO this year. Mirka will be in her thirties soon and the clock is ticking. Of course, I would expect Mirka to be supportive in Roger's run for the French, unconscious longings are hard to hide.

Posted by Zola 05/10/2007 at 02:37 PM

Eddy,
I am sorry that Fed lost. I was shocked. But Roddick, I expected. He didn't have much practice on clay anywat and Chela is a great player on clay. Fed came early and prepared for a week. I don't think he is resting his body for RG. and I agree that most of Fed's losses are mental. He is so used to dominating everyone, that maybe one break from a wildcarder really rattles his confidence.

He is such a great player that it is really really difficult to see his face like that and his head dowm, exiting the court. If it was a final with Rafa, I would be happy, but not in a third round. I hope whatever it is, Fed get over it quickly.

Posted by bingo 05/10/2007 at 02:38 PM

I couldn't see that Fed Volandri match
Man that would have been something.

at that level I gues such slight things could knock
someone off their game

I wonder if Fed takes a break sometimes by losing a match here
and there.
What says youz?

Posted by tami 05/10/2007 at 02:39 PM

Andrew, you are right. But, of late, he seems to give up if he loses the 1st set (in a best of 3). i could not see anywhere that he tried different stuff to throw volandri off his game.

Posted by Nancy J 05/10/2007 at 02:43 PM

Dang. I was hoping R-Fed would stop Nadal's clay court streak this year! Guess it ain't gonna happen now...

Posted by Nick 05/10/2007 at 02:48 PM

Andrew:

True. He did get through some tough matches. Maybe it's just that he'll have a real tough time duplicating his last year. And no one should expect him to. I think he's just gonna have these kinds of losses more often as he gets older. Every top player goes through it. Still, I think he'd rather have had a few more matches here in preparation for Paris than he got.

Posted by ACS 05/10/2007 at 03:09 PM

Federer lost today. It’s not a big deal. From my review of the match, Federer wasn’t feeling it but, at the same time, Volandri was playing aggressively consistent tennis. Not Nadal-like, but you get the picture.

I don’t think this loss will have any impact on Federer’s mindset at Roland Garros. There, the matches are best of five sets and if this match today was best of five, how many would think Volandri would still pull it out after the second set? Not a lot, I would venture.

Bottom line is, you win matches, you get confidence. Nadal didn’t seem to have a high level of confidence prior to Indian Wells, but he won matches there and re-discovered it. He didn’t even have to beat Federer to do it.

Likewise, Federer just needs to go out and play well in Hamburg and get some confidence back and re-establish some of his fear factor over the field. Even if Nadal chooses not to play Hamburg, if Federer wins there, he can pick up a lot of momentum should he win. Then, should Federer still be hanging around on the last weekend of the French, no one will care what happened today. Again, not a big deal.

Posted by abc 05/10/2007 at 03:10 PM

Its the RED SHIRT. LOSE IT FED!!:-))

Posted by ken 05/10/2007 at 03:11 PM

"He made 44 percent of them, and won just 37 percent of points played on his second serve."

Why do so many forget how many matches Federer has won over the last 3 years while playing this poorly? He got a lot of help from mentally fragile opponents on those days, its nice to see someone finally not let him get away with that kind of play.

Posted by abc 05/10/2007 at 03:18 PM

agreed acs. for me, today it was his seeming lack of confidence to change up things and try to get into a rhythm. it is of course easier said than done.

Posted by roland garros 05/10/2007 at 03:26 PM

patrick, play suspended for the day due to darkness. jelena won in three when peng retired. looks like the jelena - justine rematch is on the cards (i.e. if justine wins her first one tomorrow).

as for lucie, i find this hard to believe but i think she and safina were playing in the rain while play on the two main showcourts was suspended. this is preposterous and i'm wondering how the supervisors could have allowed this.

also, it could be a classic case of "the rain changes everything". like when henman lost to ivanisevic at wimbledon in 2001. i feel bad for lucie. i'm still waiting for her to win her first tourney (i don't think she's won any yet but i'm not sure).

Posted by tami 05/10/2007 at 03:28 PM

After monte carlo, everyone said that a good showing in rome would boost fed's confidence. well, now its hamburg. Fed's confidence would at its lowest going into the fo this year coupled with pressure he has put on himself to win it.

Posted by roland garros 05/10/2007 at 03:36 PM

patrick, not all bad news for me today. azarenka (another of my favourite players) won in prague today by taking out dechy in two. i think she has the potential to win the tourney.

Posted by Ralph 05/10/2007 at 03:46 PM

I wonder many things. Is Federer trialling some new strokes or game plans, and is he using these tournaments to test them? Maybe he is playing some very devious reverse psychology where he loses these tournaments to get everybody thinking he will play poor in RG, and then he comes out and brings his A game and wins by springing it on his opponents who will be expecting far less. A kind of ambush. This does sound unlikely, though. Also, it could simply be the case that they were genuine losses, but each individual and for their own reason, and so reading too much into them, as a united string of losses owing to the one reason, is perhaps incorrect. Maybe he just lost a few matches for a few separate and valid reasons, which do not mean it is part of a larger form slump, it could just be a string of contingent bad luck.

Posted by abc 05/10/2007 at 03:46 PM

if fed fails to make the finals at fo, how will that affect his ranking points now that he is 0/4 in ms tournaments.

Posted by tami 05/10/2007 at 03:49 PM

there was no bad luck today. He just failed to show up. i wonder why.

Posted by richie 05/10/2007 at 04:19 PM

Steve - Nice job, Steve, even though the result is making Federer fans unhappy. It may not be in the cards for him to win the French. It will be interesting to see how this affects his play on grass and for the rest of the season. Certainly he looks vulnerable and, at times in the past, he seemed to win because his opponents did not think they could beat him. We shall see.

Posted by Zola 05/10/2007 at 04:50 PM

abc,

Fed had some points for reaching the final ( I think it is 700). If you go to atp page (atptennis.com) and press on fed's name and on his page on "ranking point breakdown" you'll see his point from each tournament.

So if he gets to the final, he will keep the 700. If not, depending on the exit tound, he will get some point, which will be less than 700. ( so he will lose points). If he wins, he will get 1000 points and will add 300 to previous year's points from RG.

With today's exit he loses 225 points.

For any other player, these points can mean a lot. but remember federer has 7290 points, so he can afford to lose some here and there.

Posted by David 05/10/2007 at 05:16 PM

How long has it been since Fed lost in 4 straight Master's Series Events???

Nadal has a chance to win 3 of 4 so far this year. Tough one tomorrow against Djoko though...

Posted by David 05/10/2007 at 05:18 PM

abc and zola:

not to mention that Federer is defending no points in Hamburg, should he play it...

Posted by Zola 05/10/2007 at 05:24 PM

David,
you are right. whatever he gets from Hamburg will be a bonus.

plus he lost 275 pts today, ( 350-75). I made a mistake earlier.

Posted by abc 05/10/2007 at 05:29 PM

zola, tks for the info.

hamburg seems more important today than yesterday:) hoping fed gets out of whatever he has been in, in time for fo. i want to see an exciting final with fed in it.

Posted by Sophia 05/10/2007 at 05:44 PM

Loving your posts from Rome, Steve. I'm very jealous that you were probably at that fantastic Nadal-Youzhny match and looking forward to reading your thoughts about the game. Were some of those shots actually possible??

Posted by Andrea 05/10/2007 at 05:46 PM

We, along with the other players, have been saying that Federer cannot keep up his domination forever. Rafa, Djoko, Murray, and everyone have expressed their admiration for Fed, but they always followed it up with 'he can't play like this forever'. I am beginning to think that this is the year Fed will start slipping. Great guy, but young guns and anybody else who plays fearlessly are starting to pressure him.
Having said that, I'm still in shock. I really thought Fed had a better chance of reaching the final than Rafa. Rafa's got tricky players in his draw. And even if both made it to the final, I thought Fed had a decent chance of winning. Guess Volandri had other things in mind.
Do you guys think Fed's chances at RG have suffered a minor setback?

Posted by Suresh 05/10/2007 at 05:56 PM

No one has mentioned this so far, so I will .... lol

Federer lost because he is still in the process of information gathering. Also, this gives him more time to play Hamburg. Nadal will probably win Rome and withdraw from Hamburg.

So, Federer might gain some points..and who knows win Hamburg.

He will start 'processing' information only at the FO, not before that :)

Posted by tami 05/10/2007 at 05:58 PM

andrea,

if fed loses confidence in his game after this match, it certainly is a step back for the fo. i am thinking he must be having a serious thought about today's weird match after the good one he played against almagro.

Posted by Andrea 05/10/2007 at 06:01 PM

I'm Italian, i've seen the match and i couldn't believe to see Roger playing so bad.
Filippo has played a fantastic tennis, but everybody knows that if Federer had played his tennis Volandri never could win over the number one in the world.
Federer couldn't play, i've seen only 2 points scored by the Roger that i'm used to see, i hope that next 27 of May he'll play his best tennis, otherwise Roland Garros will be another Nadal trophy

Posted by Andrea 05/10/2007 at 06:10 PM

Suresh-
Oh god, please don't bring up the 'information' thing again...
WHAT INFORMATION???!!!
I've said this before and I'll say it again, what info is he gathering/processing now that he hasn't in the past two years?
However, I do understand your idea about Fed winning Hamburg. We'll see...

Posted by KP 05/10/2007 at 06:10 PM

some intersting trivia on this loss:

1)it is already fed's 4th loss of the year, last year he lost 5 matches total.

2)he has lost to a qualifier, lucky loser, & wildcard this year.

3)he lost in straight sets for the 3rd time this year. From the '04 French until Cincinnati last year he didn't lose a match in straight sets

Posted by Andrea 05/10/2007 at 06:15 PM

KP-
I too had compared Fed's results this year to previous years. Last year Fed had 5 loses total. It's barely May and he already has 4.
Everyone, including other players, have admired Fed's talents, but we've all said, 'he can't play like this forever'. I think this is the year that will start to happen.
I bet Fed can't wait for the grass. I wouldn't want to be him right now.

Posted by Eddy 05/10/2007 at 06:18 PM

Seems like every post in Rome is better than the last Steve. Love the analysis. Thanks for being fair to Fed while you criticized him.

Thanks Zola. Sometimes I can almost understand why you like Nadal and want him to win so much. I hope Fed's losses don't hamper him at the French. I realized earlier at the AO that he was too excited at the prospect of winning the FO, and I thought it was a mistake for him to look forward too much to one tournament, especially when it was so far away. He's much too excited with winning the Grand slam to me that makes me think he sacrificed some things for the FO (I have a sooner-or-later attitude about it). I can't understand why he would lose now, but I have to accept his answer: "Give the guy his credit". I hope he won't be dissapointed at the FO after all that...but he will be more likely to be dissapointed than not. I'll be for him though.
I don't know what Roddick's preparations were like, so I can't really say anything. All I can say is that I kind of have to shut down on Roddick during the clay because I already know he won't play well, partly because he doesn't want to. I just look for Wimbledom and afterwards. Kind of dissapointing as a fan.
Not to make you depressed. Cheers.

Posted by Eddy 05/10/2007 at 06:23 PM

Wow KP, those stats scare me. He was bound to lose sooner or later. Who would've though I worry more for Fed than Rafa?
Maybe this whole information gathering doesn't mean the same thing to us as it means to him. Anyway I'm not concerned about that. He'll either win or lose.
Yay, I have a tournament of my own to play today. Hoping for quarterfinal finish. Wish me luck!

Posted by Sophia 05/10/2007 at 06:24 PM

Suresh - I hate to tell you this, but apparently Rafa has been in touch with the tournament director of Hamburg via e-mail and he has confirmed that he will definitely be taking part. (source - an article I read posted on the VB site. Sorry, don't have the link)

Posted by jc 05/10/2007 at 06:27 PM

Federer may have come down to earth
but today Nadal was extraterrestral.
It is frightening how much he has
improved on clay since last year.

Posted by superdave 05/10/2007 at 06:27 PM

Good post Steve. I agree with your thoughts on Federer all the way down to your bet with others writers when he was down 0-3. I was thinking that Federer was probably annoyed with the situation and was ready to make Volandri pay with 6 straight games. Obviously that didn't happen.

What did happen was Federer had a bad day. If you play tennis you have experienced it. Almost every individual sport has times like these when your in a valley not a plateau or peak.

Most of the time great athletes are plateauing. Right before another increase in their game they valley. Usually this means that their brains are breaking down the game even further than before, increasing their understanding of the game. This does mean down time and inconsistency in their game unfortunately.
After the valley comes a good peak in performance followed by another plateau. With pros the time in the valley is much shorter, the time in between valleys much longer, than for the rest of us.

Roger is figuring out how to be the best on clay. Hopefully by the French Open. He might not though. I am predicting a even scarier Federer when he is out of this valley.

In the mean time check out Nadal!!!... He is in peak preformance and crazy good in this tournament. I see a Nadal vs. Djokovic Final in the future.

Be patient Federer fans, he is about to take it to the next level ;}

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 05/10/2007 at 06:31 PM

Steve's posts are so good its almost like being there. Of course, I'd still rather be there :)

Anyway, there are never any guarantees in this sport. Not even for Roger Federer. It does not surprise me that Volandri was playing well, in many matches I've seen, including, for example the AO match vs. Djokovic, Federer's opponents were playing out of their heads. I'd have to watch the matches again to figure out how he managed to win, because I've never seen anything quite like it.

Realistically, I think Steve's reports on Federer's practice sessions may be illustrative. Playing 100 matches a season and winning 94 of them may have gotten him into the habit of not actually "practicing" (after all, he was getting so much match play did he really need to practice?) but merely warming up.

Well, that doesn't work forever (see, e.g., McEnroe, John, any time past 1984).

One of these days we'll have seen the last of Roger's very best game. I'm just not ready yet.

Posted by anna 05/10/2007 at 06:34 PM

Thanks Superdave for your comments,I agree with you.Not sure if he'll get to the next level by Hamburg,but think he will by RG,and definiyely be back in form by Wimbledon.

Posted by superdave 05/10/2007 at 06:37 PM

Opps, I looked at the draw more closely and I guess that Nadal vs.
Djokovic Final. After cleaning the crystal ball it says
" Volandri vs. Nadal " for the final. We shall see if how court advantage is all that its cracked up to be.

Posted by KP 05/10/2007 at 06:38 PM

another stat:

from June '05(Halle) until March '07(Dubai) Federer made the final in all but one event(24 out of 25 events played in that span)

Since Dubai, he has made only one final out of 4 events played.

Posted by superdave 05/10/2007 at 06:57 PM

Beware of Nadal's CLAY COURT KUNG FU. He is playing great every match this tourney. He hasn't lost a set this year on clay.... too bad he dresses up like the male cheerleader from high school. Yikes!

Posted by Matias 05/10/2007 at 07:29 PM

superdave: I think male cheerleaders wear sweaters, long white pants, and white shoes...

I have to agree with the comment above about expecting Federer to do well here...this clay surface seems like it would be the most favorable for Federer (of the major clay events) and the least favorable to Rafa...

But I suppose Federer got some good "information" on Volandri...just a lot of good "information." He'll be ready next time;-)

Posted by doowaadaddynz 05/10/2007 at 07:36 PM

Is the Fed just sand bagging and saving himself for the big effort at Roland Garros. If he is, it is a high risk strategy to say the least.

Frankly, I haven't seen anything so far to give any confidence about his chances for the FO.

I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but it appears to me that the bubble of invincibility has been well and truly broken.

The worry for me as a Fed fan is that the bleeding might just carry over to other surfaces.

Posted by tami 05/10/2007 at 08:03 PM

superdave,

what you say (about valley) is true for the clay matches. What about the hc matches in IW and miami? looks like he is in a slump. normal for every player.

Posted by dean c 05/10/2007 at 08:19 PM

seems to me that the past few months Fed has had lots of press about him and Tiger, him and Pete, him and some King or other such royalty; and he's been getting all these prestigious awards. Could it be that's he's emeshed in the hype, and has taken his eye off the ball?
Maybe it's in his head that he is too regal for mere tennis; and this is now affecting his game.

Posted by ncot 05/10/2007 at 08:42 PM

"I hate to tell you this, but apparently Rafa has been in touch with the tournament director of Hamburg via e-mail and he has confirmed that he will definitely be taking part."

uh-oh. bad news for fed.

rafa, rest already!!! if you run out of gas in roland garros, it's no one's fault but your own.:)

Posted by Raza 05/10/2007 at 08:42 PM

First, I must confess --- I am a big Federer fan. I also liked Djoko's game even before he started winning. And, although I hate to see Federer lose to Nadal, I am actually becoming a Nadal fan.

I think, for whatever reason, Federer is in a slump. This is not like Nadal's mini slump where he was reaching quaterfinals and seemed competitive on other-than-clay surfaces. But Federer is in a real slump. The way the two champions are playing currently, Federer can lose Wimbledon this year, even before reaching the final --- because I do not think it is related to the surface. It is mental. He is making far too many errors to win. Even when he won Dubai, he did not really dominate it.

Also Federer could be GOAT even without winning FO. BUT he has to be able to beat Nadal convincingly and reapeatedly, on atleast all other surfaces, to do that. I mean to be GOAT, one has to be able to dominate contemporaries. Think Sampras (big fan of Sampras too), where he did probably have a winning record against all his major contemporaries.

And

Posted by Raza 05/10/2007 at 08:44 PM

And Nadal-Djoko match will be as competitive as Nadal-Youhzny today. Nadal in 2. He has looked really solid since IW.

Posted by steve 05/10/2007 at 08:53 PM

as rafael nadal said tonight: "if volandri play very very good on clay, it's a very dangerous place."

maybe there are a few clay-court specialists left after all

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 05/10/2007 at 08:56 PM

I should add that the Fed/Nadal rivalry is really unprecedented. There has not been anyone as dominant on clay since Borg, and Borg beat a variety of other players on clay, it was not as if the second best player on clay for a couple of years lost to Borg in the finals a number of times.

The Federer era of lights-out best on grass and all hard surfaces, and second best on clay has sort of screwed up the rivalry statistically.

Plus, they have both been numbers one and two for so long that they no longer meet until the final.

This really has no precedent in the Open era. Never has the guy who holds the career record for most weeks at number one had another guy with the career record for most weeks at number two.

Basically if you're going to look for the Fed Nadal head to head for some insight ten years down the line I think it will be a dissapointment, not in terms of who comes out ahead, but of what it might show.

Its a big year for both players. Federer only has so much time left to win a FO, and, for that matter, given how he plays, Nadal has a year or two left to break through and win a non-FO slam.

Younger players, like Djokovic have games that can challenge, plus, and almost more importantly, the rest of the tour sooner or later feels they have nothing to lose when they play Nadal or Federer, and THAT SHOWS up too, as in Federer's match today.

Posted by Andrea 05/10/2007 at 08:59 PM

Just a thought...wonder if things are alright for Fed at home, with Mirka and all. Nah, probably just a bad day. Again. For the fourth time this year.

Posted by legnaleugim 05/10/2007 at 09:00 PM

If Mats Wilander was correct in his last year comments of RF performance at RG it was shown today! Either is true RF is injured since last saturday or RF got the fast hit tennis sindrome that affects players like Sampras or slow tennis players like Courier & Lendl ? Sorry,no RG for RF in 2007! Imagine this floaters at RG -Canas,Nalbandian,Volandri,et al! not to mention RAFA!

Posted by Andrea 05/10/2007 at 09:06 PM

Dunlop Maxply-
Why do you five Rafa only a couple years to win a non-FO slam? He's the same age as Djoko, Murray, Gasquet, and all the up and coming newcomers. I'd like to know your reasoning behind that.
But, you were true about Fed, he's only got this year and maybe the next to win RG.

Posted by Andrea 05/10/2007 at 09:10 PM

Sorry, that should read 'give' not 'five'.

Posted by 05/10/2007 at 09:11 PM

what a point.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI4iMBS-Jo4

Posted by kombo 05/10/2007 at 11:04 PM

That point is gross from Nadal. It pretty much illustrates Nadal's play against the better players - he stays in the point with his defence and speed, then wins on a one-shot pass/winner. Thoughout that entire point, I'd say Youzhny had an advantage, until the last shot...

Boo Roger, I hope he shows some wilanders to go with all his talent and mental serenity, that's tennis. The vultures (other players) are out and probably liking their chances right about now.

Posted by Carrie 05/10/2007 at 11:07 PM

kombo- Sorry can't agree that the shot is "gross." It shows that he is a fighter.

Posted by Zola 05/10/2007 at 11:18 PM

Eddy,
I don't know what's going on with Fed and really don't like to see him lose like that. It was just painful. I don't buy the "tanking" strategy. Probably he is trying different things on clay and they didn't work. Hard to think a man so dominant can have a "bad day in the office". but i guess we will never know.

One thing is that he might be fresher for FO and Nadal will probably wear himself out playing singles anod double and triplet is each and every tournament. I don't know why uncle Tony let him do that!

I hope you win your matches. I feel I am watching more tennis than playing it. Should do something about it!

Kombo
you have some harsh words here. That point was spectecular. Against anyone else, that was a winner...that point showed Nadal's spirit, his speed, his quick thinking and shoe selection and his excellent execution.

and why are the other players "vultures"? Should they leave the tournament now that No 1 is out? was it their fault?

Posted by Zola 05/10/2007 at 11:19 PM

I meant shot selection not shoe selection!

Posted by Carrie 05/10/2007 at 11:32 PM

I think one big thing about Feds is that even though he very well be the most innately talented player to ever play the game (of course it is hard to rank talent through the ages- but he is special) he is still a human. All athleltes- even those very special ones- go through dips. It is just that we have not really seen that from Roger since 2004 (which shows who impressive he has been these past few years). I think he is just going through a little dip- but will come back and still show us some of that wonderful tennis of his and win a good number of tournament in 2007.

Posted by Zola 05/10/2007 at 11:34 PM

carrie,
so true,...grass and har courts are made for him and he will find his game after French Open.

Posted by Chris 05/10/2007 at 11:46 PM

you have to exhibit "fight" to win on clay especially when all is going wrong, your opponent is taking it to you, and you are down in the match. i understand this is not Federer's natural court demeanor. i understand he has been very successful playing it cool. i believe he will never win a tough match on clay until he learns to fight. what is fight? it's not fist pumping and yelling and screaming. it's selling out on every point and taking nothing for granted. everyone talks about what great movement Federer has on the court. what a great natural athlete he is. well then why is he not running down balls left and right? he needs to learn to fight on clay. Rafa and the rest of the clay court boyz are improving every year. Federer is fooling himself if he thinks he's figuring them out and can win it on skill. he will win Roland Garros when he's ready to fight for it and snatch it from Rafa. at this point it's not about getting to the event early and practice. it's about the fight in the man. and btw, i am a huge Roger Federer fan.

Posted by Eddy 05/11/2007 at 12:38 AM

doowaadaddynz, that is exactly what I was thinking! I hope the bleeding doesn't transfer to other surfaces too.

Steve, looks like there are still some Italian clay court specialists after all. And there's Nadal covering that for Spain.

OMG anonymous...that was beautiful! That sure beats Fed and Hewitt's 42 shot rally at IW three years ago or so. I had no idea that point existed! I watched that three times; the last time just to make sure Nadal's last shot was really in...it's hard to tell if you look at it. The desire of both Youzhny and Nadal on that point was amazing.

Chris, if you don't think Roger is fighting out there, you need to watch him more. His style of play doesn't say he's fighting, but that's what he does so well day in and out...usually. I don't usually see Fed running left and right...because he usually doesn't have to. He can create winners or play good defense...and he has that good footwork you mentioned, as well as anticipation.

Thanks Zola, I got to the semis losing 2-4 (we didn't have time to play a whole set) so I'm happy enough (I won 7-5 in the quarters, where we did play a whole set). As for Fed, he had a bad day and judging from Steve's analysis, Volandri had a good one. Yes, he's won many matches on bad days which makes me think he is in a slight dip, as Carrie pointed out earlier. Funny how us Fed fans are worried about whether Fed is in a slump while you are worried about Rafa tiring himself out. I don't know who said Fed tanked, but I wouldn't buy that either.
I think by vultures, kombo meant that the other players are looking eager to steal a win from Fed or Rafa when they are looking vulnerable (as Fed is right now, with the slight slump).

Posted by Chris 05/11/2007 at 02:12 AM

Eddy, i watch and tape just about every Federer match that airs. i respect what you say but i think you are missing the point of my comment. i am talking about Fed on clay. we know about the creation of winners, defense, footwork, and anticipation that make his game so great especially on grass. i agree with you there 110%. does he suddenly forget all this when he sets foot on clay? of course not. Rafa doesn't have a 73 match clay win streak because he has more skill then Roger. clay is for the grinder, Rafa is the ultimate grinder because of the fight inside him. add that to his strength and skill and you see why he dominates clay.

I think Roger is a very intense player and has a strong desire to win never more clear then his match against Rafa in Shanghai. Rewatch that match and you can see the eye of the tiger from the get go. However, there is a difference between wanting to win and fighting to win especially on clay. Rewatch this past Aussie Open Final when they interview Roach at the start and he even talks about getting Fed out on the clay early to "toughen him up". Unfortunately for Roger he now has a confidence issue heading towards Roland Garros.

Posted by abbey 05/11/2007 at 02:53 AM

no travelogue this time, steve? ;)

Posted by chloe02 05/11/2007 at 04:00 AM

Maybe I was the only tennis-nerd on the planet not totally surprised that Volandri won - first time I saw Fed live was at the Roland Garros pre-tournament charity day couple of years ago and saw Fed get beaten by none other than the same Italian. Obviously didn't take it seriously at the time but maybe Volandri just had that bit of extra confidence and belief.

Posted by Emma 05/11/2007 at 06:52 AM

I'm a huge Rafa fan but I thought Federer handled his loss to Volandri amazingly well. He gave full credit to volandri and also said it was just that he played pretty bad. I think he deserves applause for that. Strange as this may sound, I still think the Frencg Open finals would be Federer vs Nadal with Nadal coming through in straight sets.

Posted by HJL 05/11/2007 at 07:00 AM

"as rafael nadal said tonight: "if volandri play very very good on clay, it's a very dangerous place."

Indeed, Steve. Remember Nadal's Davis Cup match against Volandri last year? Boy, Nadal had to work for that victory. Volandri took him to 4 sets and it was a tough battle from start to finish.

Posted by skip1515 05/11/2007 at 07:07 AM

Nothing happened in this match that was supposed to. Such as:

1. Volandri didn't collapse. Ever. Oh, maybe he missed a ball or two that he shouldn't have, but he never lost two in a row like that.

And serving for the match, when even the lousiest television commentator who specializes in chess knows it's tough to be calm, Volandri was cool and collected.

2. Federer never went on a tear. Ever. Oh, maybe he won a service game convincingly with short points, but other than that he didn't construct a string of strong points during the whole match. Ever.

3. Federer didn't win any of the few points available that might have helped inspire an "Oh, here it comes" response in Volandri.

In three years of virtually never losing because, even when he was playing badly, he made the shots he needed to. Federer came up way short, all on his own, in the Do No Harm To Yourself department.

We should probably be amazed at his level of success in these situations, rather than be surprised at his losing.

Taking nothing away from Volandri, it looked to me like Federer was having a hard time caring.

Is this a match that would have turned out differently if it had been best of 5?

And if so, is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

Posted by Ned 05/11/2007 at 07:18 AM

I really like Federer. I think he's having a hard time caring because he's been spending, in my opinion, way too much time doing fashion shoots and glossy interviews. I think he's started to believe his own hype.

But I think what he said after the Volandri match was right on -- he needs to get back on the practice courts and remind himself of what it took to get him where he is today. He seems to have realized his results this spring are a wake-up call. I can only imagine what's it's like to be world #1... it is probably mentally difficult -- with the tennis star-system shining on him and the total domination he's had for so long -- to stay hungry.

Posted by ChrisL 05/11/2007 at 07:34 AM

I watched the Volandri match and was struck by how poor Fed's body language was-even worse than the MC final. They have been playing short interviews with players and other tennis notables on TTC as part of their RG coverage promo, and Fed's xcomments on his ability to play on clay sound convincing, but his play so far this season has not been. I think the two Canas losses on hardcourts took a real mental toll,which hasn't been helped by the pressure he has put on himself to win the FO. I also think he should ditch the red shirt despite what Nike wants-to me it has come to represent bad things to come.

Posted by rogerlee 05/11/2007 at 08:22 AM

i am a huge federer fan but let's face it - 4 tournaments in a row. His level has dropped. Let's hope it bounce back

Posted by amyo 05/11/2007 at 08:53 AM

I think that Roger Federer is just a bit mentally burnt out. Physically, he is still fine. May be he is not aware of the fact that he is burnt out. Time for a rest, mentally, RF!

Posted by Rob 05/11/2007 at 09:13 AM

Have always loved Fed's game. And he's a great guy. But this slump warms him to me. Yes, it's nice to see him dominate with such beautiful tennis, but it's better to sympathize just a little, see him as human, and watch as he figures out how to straighten out the mental side of his game.

I think the biggest impact of his last few losses is the boost it will give competitors who have acted like losers before stepping foot on the court with him (Nadal and Canas excluded).

Posted by amyo 05/11/2007 at 10:18 AM

RF is right. Give some credit to Volandri. Currently, Volandri is leading Berdych 5-2. May be Volandri will turn out to be the guy who will stop Nadal in Rome, who knows.

Posted by Kenneth 05/11/2007 at 10:34 AM

So can we officially call this string of losses a nice little slump for world #1? If this were any other player on tour (like Nadal), four consecutive losses garnered before the finals of the tourny's lost would spell, all together now, Lack of Confidence. But for world #1, it's always '...well he wasn't at his best today...' or some other inane excuse that almost always nullifies the opponent's hand in giving Federer a loss. Let me put it out there if no one else will; Federer was second-best to Nadal on clay, and now even that's questionable. Is second best on hardcourts the next phase? Will Federer end up relying on Wimbledon to pad his account?

Posted by amyo 05/11/2007 at 10:49 AM

Taking all surfaces into account, RF is the best. He is second best to nobody (Nadal and Canas included). May be RF is going to be the best, ever, in tennis history.

Posted by Suresh 05/11/2007 at 11:05 AM

Have to give credit to the guys who have defeated Federer in the recent past, notwithstanding the fact that Federer was having an off day. Federer's opponent playing well also partly contributed to his loss and that must be recognized.

People often forget that during Federer's dominant run, he had his share of close matches that could have gone either way. Also, his dominant period of three years is the best in open era at both the majors and other tournaments as well and it was bound to end sooner than later.

Law of averages was bound to catch up with him - the longer a player has an unbeaten streak, the greater the odds that he will lose the next match.

Relatively speaking it would appear that Federer is in a slump, but he already has won the AO this year, and there are three majors still to played. In atleast one of them he is an overwhelming favorite.

Posted by Jean 05/11/2007 at 11:13 AM

The Canas Effect

(This article is written by a francophone, so please don’t mind the possible mistakes.)

Time will tell, in the assessment of Roger Federer’s career, if 2007 was indeed the year of his decline. Although, one would agree that, at 25 years old, a tennis player’s best years are usually behind him. Only the few Andre Agassi’s of this world could accomplish more afterwards. So I guess this sort of statement is somewhat of a cliché.

Beyond the age factor, Tennis historians will probably have to evaluate the effect two losses in a row, on hard courts, against a good-a-bit-above-average player like Guillermo Canas would have had on Federer’s mental. Looking back on those two losses, it’s hard not to think that somehow Roger Federer, aside from his poor quality of playing, wasn’t lucky, especially in the second match.

In Indian Wells, Canas was in the role of the Wild Card. Federer played his first match against him in the second-round (he had a bye). He was caught off guard, played badly and ended losing. No fuss. But had he met Canas further down the tournament, it’s fair to think he would have been more prepared and also more cautious.

The second time around, in Miami, he met Canas in the 4th round (or is it third?). Canas loss had somewhat got into his mind. He was a little bit tight in the first set and ended up losing it in a tiebreak. Federer finally regrouped in the second. And after an early break in the third, most of us observers thought: he will roll over the set. No, he faltered and eventually lost in another tiebreak. Second losses in two hardcourt tournament he had previously mastered two years in a row and back to back. That really hurt Federer in my mind. But not enough to plant a seed of doubt in Federer’s mind. He knew he should have beaten Canas in Miami. The problem was, the US hardcourt season was over. And now was starting the Clay court season, Federer’s least preferred surface. A surface where a loss was considered normal on Federer’s part. But unfortunately, his losses ratio was already full thanks to Canas and with a possible match-up with Nadal on clay, a third loss was not an idea far-fetched. All these circumstances are intertwined and generate for many observers the sense that Federer might be on the downfall. Of course, his counter-performance against “the Italian” in Rome added up to that.

The rest of Federer’s history is still in the making. The next 2 years are going to be very important for him and his shot as “the best ever in the History”. The guy probably feels the pressure. It’s hard to imagine him winning Rolland Garros this year with everything that has happened so far. We all know Federer is aiming at it. He’s worked harder this year than any other year to get ready for it. Is that part of the problem? Is Federer deconstructing the Federer we knew to become a French Champion ? Those answers are yet to come. But, like I said before, I will never bet against him. And I like his chances as an underdog. Maybe this is what he has learned from Willy Canas – how to be an underdog. He’s learned the Canas effect.


Posted by Suresh 05/11/2007 at 11:44 AM

BigFanofGoodTennis, Sampras had a losing record against Krajicek 4-6 and Stich 4-5 - these are the two big names that come to my mind.

Federer's losing head to head record against Nadal will stand out more only because Nadal happens to be the numbertwo player in the world. If a top player has a losing record against a lower ranked player, it could be attributed to either an aberration, the loss coming in a smaller tournament or perhaps when the top ranked player's career was on the rise or waning.

To be considered GOAT, it is justified that one should have a winning record - in Federer's case against Nadal as each is playing the other in his prime.

On closer analysis however if the head to head were broken down by surface, and if and only if Federer has the better of Nadal on grass and hard courts, but not on clay at the end of their career, then it cannot be said that Nadal had the edge on Federer. The result might be lopside if they end playing more on clay.

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