Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Overkill? What Overkill?
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Overkill? What Overkill? 11/14/2010 - 4:22 PM

Rs-gm Sometimes less is more. Other times, it isn’t. Other times, overkill works out just fine. This weekend in Paris was one of those other times.

Last week over at I wrote about how I was relishing not having any WTA results to think about for the first time in 10 months. I said the ATP should try to follow suit by cutting its season a few weeks shorter when they meet about the topic in the coming days. As I wrote those words, the men’s tournament in Bercy was getting started, and it felt a little beside the point. Nothing of historical import was going to happen. Rafael Nadal had pulled out, and neither Novak Djokovic nor Andy Murray seemed especially broken up by their losses.

I also said that tournaments take on a life of their own as a week progesses, and by Saturday Bercy was brimming over with it. The fall season is clearly excessive, but if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t have seen the back-to-back, back-from-match-points-down, semifinal classics won by Robin Soderling and Gael Monfils.

Of course, if you go by that logic, you would say that there should be 10 tournaments every week of the year. What Bercy showed again was what makes the Masters Series successful as a whole—like the Slams, each of its eight events has a unique atmosphere (the two newest ones, Shanghai and Madrid, are in the process of creating theirs). Bercy has a cool main stadium, and a cool pre-match light show to go with it. But as the week went on and the crowds grew day by day, what it had more than anything was French fans. Americans routinely malign them as nasty and fickle, and it’s true, I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side. They had no trouble booing Roger Federer's lucky net cords in the semis or cheering Soderling's double-faults in the final. But like Philly sports fans—talk about nasty and fickle—the French also bring a unified emotional intensity to the tennis arena. You can see the difference most easily at the Canadian Open. A crowd at a quality night-session match in Montreal has a singular energy; a night match in Toronto is a mellow Midwestern affair by comparison.

What’s best about Bercy is that, unlike at Roland Garros, the French players respond well to that intensity. Monfils has reached the final two years in a row, and this time Michael Llodra was a few inches from joining him. Neither has done as well at big-time events anywhere else. But as close as Llodra was to the final, Monfils was just as close to giving the Paris faithful a double-dose of heartbreak on Saturday, when he had to save match points to beat Roger Federer for the first time in six tries.

Watching Monfils make his purposeful way around the court in the first set made me think of a story about Jimi Hendrix. At a certain point, concert promoter Bill Graham grew tired of watching the  guitarist showboat his way though sets. Hendrix played the guitar with his teeth, behind his back, upside down; he made a spectacle of his performances whenever possible. Graham challenged him at various times to cut out the nonsense and play it straight, to give his best. One night Hendrix took him up on it. He went out and played one of the deepest, most riveting set of musics Graham had ever seen. At certain moments, Monfils’ performance against Federer was like that. He didn’t play to the crowd, he didn’t throw his arms to the sky, he didn’t rap to himself—he left the demented-cheerleader act at home. And did you see what happened at the end of the first set? Instead of blowing the tiebreaker, the way he normally would against Federer with a tentative of ill-conceived play, he was the one who stayed solid, saved a set point, and let Federer self-destruct. Who thought they would ever see that? As Robbie Koenig said, "Well, well, well, what do we have here?"

Federer, probably assuming that Monfils would hand him the first set, came to life after that. In the second, he began to hit the ball with the same "conviction," as the commentators (correctly) like to say, that he’d been hitting it earlier in the week. Re-energized, he played a much better tiebreaker of his own and looked like he’d broken Monfils’ will when he went up 4-1 in third. Then it happened, again. For the fourth time this year, Federer lost after holding match point—an improbable five of them this time. The one I remember most clearly was an inside-out forehand into a wide-open court that clipped the tape. To lose five match points involves a certain amount of bad luck, but when something similar happens four times in one year, it also constitutes a trend that goes beyond luck. To me, the phenomenon is a reflection of the gradual change that has gone on in both Federer’s game and in the way his opponents view and compete against him. The latter is catching up with the former.

Tomas Berdych, at Key Biscayne, and Novak Djokovic, at the U.S. Open, both saved at least one match point before beating Federer. Each of them had raised their games above their normal level and been the better player for most of those matches. Each should have won, but each had trouble making themselves believe it, because of who their opponent was. Both of them blew their leads and found themselves facing match points. And that’s when both of them felt comfortable again; they had nothing to lose again. Berdych and Djokovic went big on those match points and connected. After that, they believed again. Monfils, who like Berdych had never beaten Federer before yesterday, won the first set, lost his way when he glimpsed the finish line at the end of the second set, and then, down 1-4, with nothing to lose, began to swing freely.

A player’s success isn’t just a result of his own form and confidence. It’s a result of that form mixed with the form of his opponent, as well as how his opponent perceives him. Berdych, Djokovic, Monfils, and the fourth player to save a match point against him this year, Marcos Baghdatis, have always been second (third, 10th) fiddles to Federer (Djokovic was the only one who had a win over Federer before 2010). As his results have become less Olympian, and as his game has gotten slightly more erratic, these players know at some level that they finally have a shot. So they go in, as Monfils did yesterday, more eager and determined than normal. But as they get close to winning, the second-fiddle complex kicks in. Whatever he may be playing like on this day, he’s still Roger Federer in their minds. Perceptions of invincibility die hard.

And beating the previously invincible can make for a hard letdown. That’s what happened to Monfils on Sunday against Soderling. The Frenchman couldn’t find his range, or the right balance between patience and aggression; he spent most of the afternoon erring on the side of too much patience. The other thing that happened to Monfils, it must be said, was Robin Soderling. He served brilliantly and hit his inside-out forehand even better. Despite going to a tiebreaker, the second set felt like a foregone conclusion. Soderling was in complete, easy control.

I asked before the tournament whether Soderling could be considered among the game’s elite. He’s not quite there yet, but this is a big step in that direction. He reached a Slam final this year, and lost to either Federer or Nadal at three of them. For the last two years, he’s come up with big upsets but hasn’t followed them up with big titles. Now he’s got one. I’ll never love to watch the guy play—even his inside-out forehand winners, dynamic shots in anyone else’s hands, look mechanical and routine. But I did gain some respect for Soderling this weekend for the classy way he handled his win over Llodra. It was a crushing loss for the Frenchman in front of the home folks, one that Soderling was plainly lucky to survive—he even flinched in surprise when Llodra’s forehand pass at match point caught the tape. Soderling’s celebrations have had a vicious quality at times in the past, and as he closed in on the victory Saturday, I hoped he wouldn’t overdo it and rub Llodra’s face in his defeat. He didn’t.

It was a breakthrough for Soderling, and also for Monfils. He has a win over Federer now, and he got it in part by acting and playing within himself. Should we hope for more? Maybe Bill Graham’s story can give us a clue. Later that night, Hendrix went out for another set. He smiled at Graham from the stage and happily proceeded to pull out all of the most ridiculous grandstanding moves he could come up with. He put the guitar behind his head, between his teeth, between his legs, behind his back. That’s what he loved to do, and the crowd loved it, too. I hope Monfils loves to win more. He’s a lot more entertaining when he plays it straight.


Posted by moe276 11/14/2010 at 04:26 PM


Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/14/2010 at 04:43 PM

I'd certainly say that becoming #4 in the world makes Soderling part of the "elite". I only saw parts of the semis, and missed the final completely, but I was pleased by the achievements of both Gael and Robin, even if my sentimental self hoped for an all-French final.

Bercy as an indoor Masters seems fine to me, but I still miss the days of Madison Square Garden hosting both YECs. Why did they move to Doha and London, again?

Posted by MZK 11/14/2010 at 05:05 PM

I was pulling for Monfils but figured all the tennis he's played not just since the USO but this week alone (late-in-the-third wins eked out against Verdasco and Federer, and another third set against Murray) would eventually catch up to him. The good news is that he has more than a fortnight to recover for the Davis Cup final now, and hopefully his newfound confidence and game will stick around for it (and set him up for next season as well).

It's not just my heart (for playing in front of his home fans and the chance to pick up a big title here on his turf like Tsonga did the other year) which went with Monfils, but my sense of fair play as well. First, the class of opponents he defeated on the way, three Top 10 players in a row, deserves a title by itself, but Soderling proved one Top 5 opponent too many. But just like this is the only Masters final he's reached, twice now, and Roland Garros represented his only Slam semifinal to date, you kind of feel like Monfils needs to have a home crowd to impress and urge him on to achieve, and this might have been his best chance at a Masters title for some time. In contrast, Soderling has reached several Masters semis, including at Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back, as well as two Slam finals; that's why he's the new #4, and you get the feeling if not here, he would eventually pick up one Masters title or another anywhere, especially given his past success on clay as well as faster surfaces (he reached a Monte Carlo semi the other year if I recall).

Still, well done to Robin - and this sends a message to the rest of the Top 8 who will join him in London in a week's time. He was a semifinalist last year at the WTF, and he will be one of the most dangerous guys around this year (because let's face it, Berdych is still in a slump, Roddick still unconvincing, and Ferrer, despite being a past finalist, isn't quite at that level these days, though I'm pleased that he made it back).

Posted by random 11/14/2010 at 05:30 PM

again sorry for doing this but there was an article considering Soderling and the 'big five'on anothr website if you would like to check it out.. its a month old but its pretty good.

i personally like Soderling, i think his game is different/good. cause its unique.. if everyone had it i would hate tennis..

Posted by toronto fan 11/14/2010 at 05:43 PM

Steve, I think you forgot Berdych's win over Fed at the Olympics in 2004. He did lose 8 straight after that but it was Soderling, Monfils, Gulbis and Baghdatis that scored their first wins this year over Fed.

Posted by Peter 11/14/2010 at 05:46 PM

Steve, your posts are about a million times better than Bodo's, at last someone who understands the game; the only reason you get less comments is beacause 90% of the Amercian crowd does not get the game of Tennis...that simple
Keep it up!

Posted by crazycaro21 11/14/2010 at 06:45 PM

Awesome post, Steve. There's nothing to add to that. Federer did blow his chances by incomprehensible unforced at the most crucial moments. The match point you mentioned is just one of the examples. Another one was that routine drop shot he missed in the first breaker, when he was up one mini-break. Incomprehensible. This was shanking-fest from Federer. It reminds a little of the match he blew up against Tsonga in Montréal last year, when he was up 5-1 and ended up losing.

Couldn't help but smile at the comparison between Montréal and Paris. It's especially true when it's the match played by one of the Canadian boys... sometimes fortunately, sometimes unfortunately. But I still find it aweful to cheer a double fault or boo a lucky net cord hit. Can't help it.

Posted by Avec Double Cordage 11/14/2010 at 07:22 PM

Berdych had beaten Federer before 2010 as well, at least he did so once, at the olympic games in Athens in 2004

Posted by Pierric Bross 11/14/2010 at 07:39 PM

I would group Soderling with Berdych in the 'almosts' group. He's /almost/ an elite, almost a champion... almost.

Djokovic and Del Potro were were able to remove themselves from that group at practically the moment they entered it, and Murray is such a renowed player from his masters titles and H2H against fedal that he doesn't even need to win a slam to be revered by players on tour. All winning a slam would do for him is to shut up the British!

Players like Sod and Berdych still have that little bit extra they need to do to enter the elite group.

Posted by d 11/14/2010 at 08:16 PM

good one, Steve. nice comparison of Monfils to Hendrix - I remember that story about how Jimi played it straight for a set and then went back and picked his teeth with the guitar :) the next set just to rebel against Bill Graham. maybe Monfils will rebel against Roger Rasheed and start break-dancing on court next time, but it was nice to see him take it seriously for a change and boy, can he play when he's focused!

to me, there was something grim about Federer's demeanor during the semi-final. he looked angry in a diffuse, almost confused way. like he wasn't enjoying it. and I hate to say it, but he didn't deserve to win. if he had gotten one of those 5 match points, I'd have felt that Monfils had been robbed (when Sampras would win matches in which he hadn't played well, I remember someone saying he'd "number-oned" his opponent). As you point out, Federer's gotten just to the brink of that only to fall back quite a few times this year. sign of the times.

as far as Soderling's elite status, I saw someone recently (Andrew?) put Roddick in the pantheon, but exclude Robin. In terms of the last two years, I'd say the opposite, and their match this week (not to mention Soderling's consistently better results) strengthens the case.

Posted by Christopher 11/14/2010 at 08:54 PM

"if he had gotten one of those 5 match points, I'd have felt that Monfils had been robbed"

At the same time, Federer did win more points overall (unlike in the USO semi against Djokovic, when even this die-hard fan felt that that Djokovic would have truly been robbed if Federer had won).

Posted by BrooklynNY 11/14/2010 at 09:41 PM

Soderling is the real deal. I wouldn't even compare him to Berdych. Berdych has no mental game and can collapse at any second. Soderling seems like he's taken up the extended stay option in the top 5, with 2 consecutive Slam finals and now a Masters Shield to show his consistency at other events.
Berdych beat Federer like 5-6 years ago. He was supposed to have been contending for the past 5-6 years. Same with a lot of these other pretenders like Gasquet and Tsonga and the rest of the EMT crew. Berdych is a contender for an Upset, but not for a title. Soderling is showing more.

Posted by thebigapple 11/14/2010 at 09:46 PM

That Trophy. The French have a great sense of humor.

Posted by Tony 11/14/2010 at 09:58 PM

Monfils "has a win over Federer now, and he got it in part by acting and playing within himself."

Please, could we retire that expression ("playing within himself")??? It sounds so...cliche-ish...

Posted by wilson75 11/14/2010 at 10:16 PM

I think there's some over-reaction re. Federer's missed MPs. Maybe because he's older and some eager to pronounce him dead but I was reminded today that at his peak he had MPs in some crucial matches and lost. The ones that come to mind are '05 AO SF vs. Safin and '06 Rome F vs Nadal. Tennis is a sport in which luck plays a major role, we can't dispute the fact that Roger has had a lot of luck over the years, it just so happens that now he's on unlucky side now. BTW, I think this year's Bercy was the best in years.

Posted by !whatthedeuce? 11/14/2010 at 11:06 PM

Good one Steve...very insightful and thoughtful...interesting Hendrix analogy...only thing I differ on than you is that I enjoy watching Soderling quite a bit (more than most players)...I find him to be the most human of the elite...his talent isn't quite other-worldly and yet when he puts his assets together he can effectively compete with the best so (Swedes are also good at analysis , usually this is positive although occasionally it can be a detriment i.e. can't psych themselves beyond probable reality)it's interesting to see him attempt to put it all together and figure out how to keep his psyche and physical attributes together and put to best use.

Posted by JimF 11/14/2010 at 11:29 PM

Steve, you missed the real story -- that Caujolle (Paris' manager) used the fastest surface on the ATP tour in years, 20% faster then the U.S. Open, and the result was WONDERFUL TENNIS.

More variety, more creativity, more energy -- none of these 3 hour matches with tedious, metronome-like cross-court wars of attrition interspersed between full minutes of ball bouncing. Real, full court tennis.

Now, all we need is a 20 second clock so we spend more time watching tennis, less watching shorts' being adjusted.

P.S. Notice the shift in who made the quarters and beyond -- and who didn't show up. Coincidence? I think not.

Good article in NYT:

My two cents:

Posted by Great Tennis 11/14/2010 at 11:54 PM

WONDEFUL TENNIS???????? the only match that was worth to watch was Sod/Llodra. The rest of the matches was horrible and I don't want to remember how boring was the Fed/Monfils!!!! only the third set was something

Posted by JJB 11/15/2010 at 12:12 AM

Enough with the digs at Nadal for "not showing up" because the court was supposedly faster. First, I'm not sure the court was any faster than USO. Second, Nadal just won USO and has proven he is the best player in the world right now. On top of that, Monfils definitely plays his best on slow surfaces and arguably Soderling is the same. The argument about who went far in the tournament falls apart really fast.

Posted by Rajat Jain 11/15/2010 at 01:56 AM


"The ones that come to mind are '05 AO SF vs. Safin and '06 Rome F vs Nadal."

There is a BIG difference between losing to Safin (on HC) and Nadal (on clay!) after having match points, and losing to Berdych, and Monfils on hards/indoors, (not added Djokovic, 'coz he's a class player) and especially losing 5 of them.

Posted by Rajat Jain 11/15/2010 at 01:57 AM

@wilson75: oh, and add Baghdatis too in the class of Monfils and Berdych.

Posted by prashant sharma 11/15/2010 at 02:43 AM

It is hard to see the decline of Roger Federer. It is painful. But he has won one slam and one masters title in 2010. Certainly not the old federer that we adored...Anyway, this just proves that ultimately age catches up with you no matter how fit or prepared you are! I think it will be all downhill for Roger from here a much greater speed now..
But I do hope (as i am sure many Federer fans do), that there is still one more wimbledon title in Roger...Here's to the glorious career of the King of Tennis!

Posted by jodiecate 11/15/2010 at 06:05 AM

I don't think it's over for Roger yet. Having kids is a big "distraction" from career. Your priorities are scrambled. It's a new juggling skill you've got to develop. I think his precision will return once he gets the hang of the new balancing trick. Don't lose faith, wait and see!!

Posted by wilson75 11/15/2010 at 06:12 AM

Rajit Jain: This is not the 1970s or 1980s where there was marked difference in skill and class in players after the top ten. All those players are top class players who with the exception of Monfils have reached a slam final.

Posted by Ruth 11/15/2010 at 06:40 AM

It could be that it's just because it's close in time, but the Paris semi-finals day represents one of the best (top 3?) tennis watching days of the year for me. The play may not always have been at the highest possible level (when is it ever?), but the intensity, the competitive, and the entertainment levels were always very high.

"I can't believe some moron would really waste his time creating this blog."
And yet you, using various phony aliases, keep dragging the link into as many threads as you can. Stop wasting YOUR time!

Posted by genetica 11/15/2010 at 07:44 AM

Soderling's new world number 4, replacing Murray. Congrats, LE SOD!

Posted by genetica 11/15/2010 at 07:48 AM

Wilson 75
Berdych reached a semifinal only after defeating Federer at Key Biscayne. And Baghdatis , if i remember right, reached only one GS semifinal after that.
And Monfils just isnt good enough and you know it. However both Safin and Nadal are multiple Grand Slam winners.

Posted by FED FRED 11/15/2010 at 08:07 AM

It was a great tournament.

Roger just can;t play at the level he was at his peak 2-3 years ago,

Player know that they can come back against Roger and there are
peaks and valley's in his game with a forehand that goes off from time to time.

Even...Roger's great serve is not automatic and look at Paris.
Roger has five match points and could not covert a one...and four of them were second serves
fron Monfils...

Roger is slipping.

Posted by FED FRED 11/15/2010 at 08:11 AM

That trophy is a piece of Trash.

Now I am glad FED lost.

Sod is looking for a place to dump that piece of garbage.
I think there is a video on YouTube of Sad putting the trophy in the trash
as he left the stadium.

Posted by wilson75 11/15/2010 at 08:59 AM

genetica: Monfils' performance in Paris demonstrated that he is capable of reaching a slam final.

Anyway, nobody was expecting Roger to pass the second round at Paris so for him to reach the SF is a good result with or without the 5 MPs.

Posted by d 11/15/2010 at 09:22 AM

Christopher, not only did Fed win more points overall, he also won more points in the 3rd set. but as much as I like to see him win tight matches, I didn't feel at the end that he'd ever earned it. particularly when he was up 4-1 in the third and had the wind at this back, only to let Monfils gather himself and regain the momentum going into the finish line. and after all, maybe he couldn't "number-one" his opponent away because he's number two now, kind of to Steve's point.

I still wouldn't say that this shows he's washed up. he has improved noticeably the second half of the year (31-4 record versus 29-9 first half), and even on an off day against an inspired and talented opponent, he was a very tough out. on a decent day, he's still scary good. and he still looks pretty fresh with 73 matches in him this season.

Posted by cortomaltes 11/15/2010 at 09:44 AM

wilson75: "nobody was expecting Roger to pass the second round at Paris so for him to reach the SF is a good result with or without the 5 MPs."

Are you serious? It sounds to me like you are just trying to make those missed 5MPs look better.

Posted by cortomaltes 11/15/2010 at 09:49 AM

JimF: Either you are complete delusional, or you must have had a very rough April-August. Or both.

Posted by cortomaltes 11/15/2010 at 10:05 AM

Steve, very nice piece. I too think that there has been a noticeable change of attitude from Soderling. If that is, like it seems, a sign of maturity, then we definitely have another strong contender for the Slams in 2011. Let alone London 2010, which is played on his favorite surface.
His game will never be pretty, though.

Posted by BrooklynNY 11/15/2010 at 10:19 AM

Uh...when people introduce you as the Greatest of all time while you're an active player.

Anything less than a W is a failure. Still.

Posted by Dogtennis 11/15/2010 at 10:40 AM

I kindof feel about Soderling the way I used to feel about Ivan Lendl back in the day. Lendl's game wasn't real pretty to watch, and he didn't have the most attractive personality, but there was no choice but to respect him. Soderling seems much the same way.

Posted by dam yankee 11/15/2010 at 11:29 AM

anyone thinking feds done is crazy, period. id rather watch fed , novak, tsonga,llondro,even. then watch some pick his azz , grunt like a girl,which is a from of cheating,ask my dad, call for trainers when losing,sweat like a pig,take a hour every serve, yell at ball kid for moving water bottle, the stuff in there is very dangerous....congrats sod, and gail........

Posted by wilson75 11/15/2010 at 11:41 AM

cortomaltes: To me it's not a big deal. This is a tournament where Roger has the worst record and he reached the SF for the first time. He had a good tournament. When he starts to lose every tournament first round, we can have conversation.

Posted by FedererFTW 11/15/2010 at 11:48 AM

You so called 'tennis experts' here on and over on espn sure love to hate Federer, eh? You want him to lose as often as possible just so it will be that much easier for an American to win a slam. You seem to forget that Federer won the Australian Open and could easily have double the success much of the year. You also ruled him out in 2008 and 2009. What has he done in those two years? Oh only 7 GS finals and 3 GS wins. Not bad for a washed up has been, eh Tignor?

Posted by cortomaltes 11/15/2010 at 12:03 PM

wilson75: not a big deal to me either. I do think he is great, I do notthink he is done, I do think he's got a legitimate change at winning a couple more Slams. And I do NOT need to justify his losses.

However, you started this conversation by saying that nobody was expecting Roger to pass the second round at Paris. This is not true, period, and by saying that you are just trying to justify his loss to Monfils. He clearly said he wanted to do well in this tournament.

Were you really not expecting him to pass the second round? If that is true, you are probably not expecting him to do well in London either, because it is played on the same surface and the contenders will only be better...

Posted by roadrunnerz 11/15/2010 at 12:04 PM

Great article, Steve.

Agree that Fed's opponents don't grant him the same aura he had a few years ago. Totally normal as he gets older. It will even happen with Rafa on clay a few years down the road. But I wouldn't write him off until the day he decides to hang up his racket.

Disagree that Francophone fans imbue a match with a more singular energy. Maybe it depends on who's playing, but I've seen sold out night matches in both Montreal and Toronto, and the atmosphere in Toronto is way more electric.

Posted by awwo 11/15/2010 at 12:10 PM

"Now, all we need is a 20 second clock so we spend more time watching tennis, less watching shorts' being adjusted."


Posted by Perceptron 11/15/2010 at 12:46 PM

I was really surprised to see Monfils play such good tennis without the usual showboating, but his semifinal win had as much to do with his superlative tennis as it had to with Federer's mental funk. I have noticed of late that Federer finds ways to lose a match when it is in the bag (although on this occasion it was more tightly fought). When he netted an easy volley in the second set, the writing was on the wall. We have seen this movie before. He needs the services of a shrink more than he needs the services of Annacone.

Posted by wilson75 11/15/2010 at 12:51 PM

cortomaltes: As a Federer fan, I always hope that he can win the tournament but his poor track record at Paris precludes any desire for me to see him win it. Honestly, having played so much tennis over the last 3 weeks, I was surprised he made it so far. He has said that with Paris coming back to back with Basel, it has always been a difficult tournament for him to win. So him losing Paris to Monfils is not a reason for the hue and cry that I'm hearing from his fans and non-fans. As for London, except for 2008, Roger has always performed well at the YEC and I don't expect this year to be any different. This tournament as well as Basel have been the focus for Roger, post USO and I suspect like in Basel he will be hungry for the title.

Posted by prashant sharma 11/15/2010 at 12:56 PM

@ perceptron
i agree with u 100%. Federer doesnt need anacone. You cant teach anything to the master. What federer needs is self belief that he can still win. anyway,i had trouble in digesting his losses to murray at toronto & shanghai. but this was just too much! shanking the ball all over, then trying drop shots...i hope 2011 is a better year...but doesnt seem like it. it seems that its just age catching up with roger.

Posted by lightforce 11/15/2010 at 12:57 PM

Some fans can not stop spewing hate on Rafa. I guess winning 3 consecutive GS on 3 different surfaces in the same year ( a feat never been done before) does that to the jealous fans. I just love it !!

Posted by lightforce 11/15/2010 at 01:02 PM

Anyway, nice post Steve. You always make good articles I must say. I guess Soderling is the new Davydenko ?

I feel bad for Monfils though. Losing for the 2nd time in the finals at his home country. Hope he improves and makes the big leap next year.

Posted by cortomaltes 11/15/2010 at 01:05 PM

wilson75: you are right for the most part, only this time he specifically said he wanted to do well on this tournament. to me, a semifinal in a MS 1000 is a good result. now, how he lost that match (and a few more this year) is a different story. what we saw on saturday is not a rarity anymore, and i think tignor is right when he says it might be indicative of a trend.

Posted by wilson75 11/15/2010 at 01:22 PM

cortomaltes: Getting his best result in Paris i.e. reaching the SF, to my mind, is him doing well. As for missing MPs being a trend, I'm not going down that road. Don't get me wrong, I think Steve writes some very good articles but what the media has to say about any player, I view with a cynical eye. These are the same people who said at different stages last year that both Rafa and Roger were finished. Not to mention, that Davydenko was a favourite for a slam and that Roddick was going to a contender in slams this year.

Posted by @work 11/15/2010 at 02:10 PM

I must say that while not a fan of the Paris Masters, I really enjoyed someo of the matches this year.
Soderling winning his first Masters, Llodra and Monfils leaving their heart on the court and thoroughly entertaining the expectators made for some fantastic moments.
It seems that we can never discuss anything in tennis without mentioning the 2 Rs (Roger and Rafa) so I will follow suit and say that as happy as I am for Soderling now, I find it hard to see a Slam winner in 2011 not named Nadal or Federer. I hope I'm wrong :)

Posted by Corrie 11/15/2010 at 04:36 PM

It's interesting that as players get older they seem to lose their nerve more easily. Instead of basking in the confidence of all their previous wins, choking becomes more, not less, prevalent. We've seen it from Roger at crucial points this year, and no doubt will see more of it, as he loses the feeling of invincibilty he used to have - and knows that other plyers know this.

Meantime, Robin does seem to be gradually lifting himself into the elite. Give a lot of credit to his coach Magnus Norman and his own maturing. Robin's had a lot of unfair things said about him - apart from his impressive game, he gives great speeches, has nice dimples and a good looking fiancee.

Posted by FoT 11/15/2010 at 04:40 PM

It must be nice for people to say Roger is 'slipping', 'done', 'dropping', 'won't win anything again', etc. AND to still be the #2 player IN THE WORLD? Wow... If I didn't know tennis, reading these comments about Roger, I would think he was out of the top 100 players in the world! lol! He is STILL the 2nd best tennis player in the entire world folks! He STILL won a slam this year folks! His w/l record is not that bad! If you folks think Roger is bad and need to retire, and he's the #2 player in the world - what do you guys REALLY think about #3-1000th ranked player? lol!

Posted by VaLynn 11/15/2010 at 05:30 PM

I didn't read each post, but one person said that Federer looked angry on Saturday. I've noticed that he often seems grouchy when Fergus Murphy is the chair umpire. Is there a pattern here?

Posted by Abraxas 11/15/2010 at 06:57 PM

Nice piece Steve.

“I asked before the tournament whether Soderling could be considered among the game’s elite.”

Bodo goes beyond stating that Soderling is part of the elite. He thinks that implying that Soderling has won because he didn’t have to face any of the top 4 is an insult to Soderling… “the quiet, 26-year old who’s become a paragon of consistency and a reliable contender at significant tournaments.”

Fine rhetoric, but until proven otherwise, I still think that Soderling is the by-product of journalism’s apparent need to create the next big thing. The numbers prove that he is not close to being consistent and he still is not part of the game’s elite. In fact, for all the hoopla, Soderling’s record against the real game’s elite remains dismal: 2-5 against Nadal, 1-14 Federer, 1-5 Djokovic and 2-2 Murray. That is 6-26!

The only consistent thing about Soderling is his play indoors where he has 103 career wins and 38 losses for a decent 73% career match winning percentage. Compare that with 165 wins and 121 losses for a very mediocre 57% record outdoors.

Soderling has played 15 Majors, 51 Master 1000 and 28 Tour 500 for a total of 94 mid-to-high level tournaments. He has won only twice: Rotterdam, where Youzhny retired, and now Bercy. Both are indoors, and neither time did he face a top 4 player.

He has now won 5 indoors titles and only 1 outdoors one: the small 250 Båstad in Sweden, where none of the top 4 ever play. What a surprise!

Make no mistake about it; Sodeling won Bercy because he didn’t have to face Nadal, Federer, Djokovic or Murray, AND because it was indoors.

Once Soderling consistently defeats the true elite players, once he wins at least a Major plus several outdoors Master 1000, he can then be considered part of the game’s elite. In the mean time he will remain a very good indoors player and a threat to beat the elite players 1 out of every 6 tries. Nothing else.

Posted by DaveN 11/15/2010 at 07:47 PM

I'm tired of the old familiar talk that Roger's getting old, he has lost his edge, shanking too many balls, his forehand is terribly inconsistent. All these writers don't know what they are talking about. Every player that plays him has to play in top form or they will most certainly lose. Roger Federer has risen the bar on tennis and everybody knows it. I want to see one of these top ten players trash talk him and I guarantee he will embarrass them ridiculously.

Posted by fedfan 11/16/2010 at 07:23 AM

Nice post. I have to say I enjoy some of the indoor tournaments, especially those on fast courts, like Bercy. That combination seems to allow many of the players to come up with some of their most spectacular stuff, including my guy, who played better than I've seen him play in a while, notwithstanding his semifinal loss to Monfils. The quicker court seemed to allow him to play more instinctively, and not mull his many options for so long that he loses his way. I was also glad to see Soderling win, although I would have been pleased to see Monfils finally live up to expectations as well.

Posted by lena 11/16/2010 at 12:50 PM

There is no question that Roger has realized some benefits from working with Annacone, just look at the 2nd half results. Of course one could say it is not possible to teach the aging master anything, but that would not be true. And in any case, the second set of very experienced eyes, along with the Annacone demeanor, are clear benefits for Roger.

Posted by Account Deleted 11/16/2010 at 11:18 PM

Federer's just goin' through a lean patch. Did it not happen to Nadal, Murray or Djokovic? Or for that matter unto Agassi & Sampras? Everyone's had their share.... its a game of ups & downs and i'm quite sure Federer will come up strong against his critics in London...

Posted by Fudgecastle 11/17/2010 at 01:39 AM

His shirt should read


Posted by prashant sharma 11/17/2010 at 10:07 AM

results matter when they are tournament wins! roger has lost semis at us open, 2 masters finals,1 masters semis. The problem seems to be taking the final step. his game has too many peaks and troughs during a SINGLE match now. just unacceptable in todays tennis.
he is my favourite player and is definitely the GOAT. There is no doubt about that. But, he is going to struggle if he plays with such a high level of inconsistency. we, his fans, want him to win the tournament. period. second best is as good as not played if you are roger federer. no? 2011 will be an acid test for roger and his fans like me. i have a feeling that 2011 wimbledon has roger federer written allover it! wishful thinking? time will tell...

Posted by Word 11/17/2010 at 06:26 PM

The Movie!

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