Monte Carlo QF: Melzer too Good for Federer, 6-4, 6-4

This post was written by Ru-an on April 15, 2011
Posted Under: Uncategorized

Well this was unexpected. Melzer went off the court after the first game today to get treatment for his back, yet he outplayed Roger in every department of the game. Melzer looked anything but injured. He really played as good as he can play, which is pretty darn well. He was hitting the ball hard from the base line, making hardly any errors, and he’s touch was exquisite, both drop shots and drop volleys. Roger just didn’t have the answers, getting broken once in each set. It was another sad sight if you are a Fedfan. There are a couple of things which made Roger lose this match, aside from the fact that Melzer was playing a blinder. That is the fact that Melzer is left-handed and the fact that Roger was 0/7 on break points. We know by now what kind of damage the left-hander Nadal has inflicted on Roger.

Melzer did similar things to Roger with his cross court forehand to Roger’s backhand. It just keeps Roger under a certain mount of pressure having to play so many backhands. But mainly I felt that Roger’s lack of mental fortitude showed by his 0/7 break point conversions. That is pretty much just unacceptable. Break points converted does unfortunately show a lot about a player’s mental toughness, and that is a part of Roger’s game that has not been good as he is aging. In Roger’s prime it didn’t matter that his opponent was in the zone on a given day. His level was so high that he would still win. But these days he needs to grind out wins when his opponents are playing that well, and I don’t see him doing that. If he had taken those breaks points he had in the second set it would have put doubt in Melzer’s mind, and he couldn’t just hit as freely as he was.

It is about pressure, and Roger just can’t seem to put enough pressure on his opponents in a close match. This is of course not the first time we have seen this. It happens time and time again, and it is highly frustrating to watch for me. It is just unacceptable to convert 0/7 break points if you want to get back in a match. You have to put doubt in your opponents mind when they are playing that well. You have to somehow throw them off their game. I don’t care if the wind was blowing either. It is the same for both players. The fact that Roger can’t win ugly is without a doubt something that bothers me. In his prime he never had to learn to grind out matches because he was so good. But now that he is older and has to learn to do it, it seems that he is failing at it. You can always think of excuses, but sometimes you just have to look the facts in the face.

My problem is that with Roger it’s kind of hit or miss. There is no in between. There is no ability to hustle and steal a match that he should have lost. Some players make a living doing that. How many times have Nadal come back from the edge in a match? It is because he has that ability to hustle and hang in there no matter what. Now that Roger is older and more exposed, we can see his short comings as a player. He simply doesn’t have that ability to grind out a match, and it is highly disappointing from a fan’s perspective. When things are not going his way on a given day he just loses. It is what it is. It’s certainly not a walk in the park to be a Fedfan these days. All we can do now is wait for that tournament where everything clicks for Roger. Other than that it is going to be pretty average viewing compared to the past.

I’m sorry if this sounds like a negative post again, but sometimes I just feel the urge to say things the way I see them and vent my frustration.

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Reader Comments

It’s not that negative post, as you said, it is what it is. Watching the match, you could feel that those missed breakpoints really frustrated him. In the past usually all he needed to break his opponent is that one break to give him the needed confidence and he usually found a way to get that break. He couldn’t get it today, and Melzer played really good, hitting hard and accurate (the form that got him the FO2010 semis). Even the dropshots were perfect.
Watching Federer this year, if we put the mental/confidence issue aside, the main decline in his level of play is in his defense. He used to be so good at it and that gave him the opportunities (and the confidence) to use his magic on offense. Today, he’s a bit slower, he doesn’t reach the balls quick enough to turn them into winners or help him construct the next winner. He just throw the ball back weakly, giving his opponents another chance to pound him. The best example is his running forehand which used to be a frightening weapon, but not anymore.
Today Federer was outplayed. He didn’t give up like in the matches against Nadal and Djokovic, he just couldn’t do the job. Maybe he’ll get better with more matches. Maybe it’ll go like 2009. Maybe not…

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#1 
Written By TD on April 15th, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

You are right about the break-point conversions as a measure of mental toughness. I recall in one of Federer’s FO finals he was 1-17 against Nadal. He lost of course. 0-7 against Melzer doesn’t look very different but Melzer certainly isn’t Nadal. But it doesn’t matter who it is now; under pressure Roger seems unable to raise his game.

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#2 
Written By neil on April 15th, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

Run-An: You don’t have to get caught up in being “positive” or “negative” about Roger’s performances–unless you think it’s your task to close your eyes to what you (and most of us) see. It’s not “negative” to be shocked at Roger’s lack of energy: the Cilic match was just painful to watch. It used to be, I thought, that Roger played only up to the level of his opponent’s ability: it was an example, I believed, of his brilliance, his conservation of energy. But, for quite some time, I’ve had to recognize that that’s not it at all. Roger didn’t beat Cilic; Roger just showed up enough to allow Cilic to beat himself. If that’s a “strategy” then we have to redefine that word. It’s Roger’s whole demeanor that’s so telling: no energy, no enthusiasm. I’ve even started thinking that his ability to simply let the last lost point go is no longer part of his genius, his being-in-the-moment. The more I read his body language, the more I think he’s just not present: he either doesn’t care or can’t do anything about his situation or he’s walked into another bad dream: whatever’s going on, his flatness, his lack of imagination, his lack of consistent, energetic exertion is the real story, the obvious story. It might be time, as one of Roger’s truest fans, to stop being “frustrated” and “disappointed” and to accept what Roger hasn’t yet (apparently) accepted–publicly at least–that tennis has moved on, that Roger had his imperishable moment, that his name will always be among the pantheon of the greatest tennis players, that his moment of defining tennis is over. That’s hard to write, but it’s always hard facing facts: I hope that before not too long, Roger will also face the same facts. The world won’t end because Roger retires; in fact, the world will do what it always does: it moves on. His fans can yell and scream and find “reasons” and turn away from what they’ve just seen: but isn’t it part of the respect and (yes) love we feel for this extraordinary man that we are honest about what our own eyes are seeing in any match where his opponent shows up to play?

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Ed Reply:

I just wanted to add a couple of points. I didn’t write about the Melzer match because you covered it well, and the Cilic match was so symptomatic of Roger’s recent play that I focused on that. The second thing is this business of being the GOAT. Through the last year or so, Roger’s fans (I’m one of the dedicated ones, I think) became more intensely obsessed by the side-show of whether Roger is the GOAT. That entire discussion, while typical of passionate sports fans (and others: who was the greatest President or general, etc) is, finally, empty. It has more to do with the need to hold on to something, to have something secure in an always-uncertain world than it has to do with reality. For people are the best for (and of) their time. And isn’t that extraordinary enough? To cling to the GOAT mantra is to stay frozen in time, to not see the skull beneath the skin, is not to see reality and is to be sad, frustrated, and upset when Roger plays the way he now plays. Roger’s play was (note was) so precious and enthralling because it redefined possibility. And now those possibilities are being changed, again, as they must be, by this next generation. Why can’t Roger’s fans be satisfied (in fact, be grateful) that while they were alive he was alive? If one clings to an illusion one is trapped by that illusion. No one can ever take away Roger’s achievements; they happened in real time. But the sadness and grief that is expressed over his current performance suggest stem from a self-wounding fantasy that misses the purity and evolutionary brutality of the highest levels of sport. Just to have triumphed so amazingly as Roger has done is more than enough cause for any reasonable person to just be grateful to have witnessed that triumph. If that’s not enough for someone, then he’s missed the real point.

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#3 
Written By Ed on April 15th, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

I am very sad about this loss :( I can’t even think of anything positive to say

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#4 
Written By Andrew on April 15th, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

I thought Melzer was the same age as Roger. I don’t believe what I saw today. Roger lost that game from the very get go. What I see plainly is that he does not have the desire to win as much as he used to. Rogers’ mental game is not consistently tough anymore. This is not age related, this is that he is jaded and doesn’t really have much to prove other that he can prove to his ego that he still can win some matches. If Roger doesn’t change his thinking and will to win, I don’t see him getting through any more slams. I am a little disappointed. I still hope for the best but now that I think about, Roger shouldn’t need hope, he needs blood-thirsty desire and the will to prevail like he used to. Roger’s body language was terrible today. I knew he was going to lose today. Unfortunate that he lost, maybe he can change this in time for Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.

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#5 
Written By dave on April 15th, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

Come on Fed Fans. Just regroup as our hero is heading home in order to regroup for the next challenge in Madrid starting from May the 2nd. Keep faith. This is just the beginning of the clay court season. Had he not played in Monte-Carlo, he would have less feel for the surface in the upcoming tournaments. At least he had a few matches under his belt. He can definitely make adjustments. I agree with Ru-an, Melzer played an absolute blinder. We should give this guy some credit as well. It is not that Fed played horribly; today, the guy on the other side was slightly better than Fed. Contrary to what others might feel, the injury helped Melzer as he had no way but to go all out. In my opinion, Fed was sloppy while returning serve in the ad-court when he was break point up on many occasions. Moreover, many of his shots didn’t miss the line by much. As somebody pointed out, his movement was pretty slow; I think he was too laid back against those drop-shots by Melzer.
Let’s be patient. I still believe the results will show up in the near future.

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MS Reply:

Jiten, when I saw your post it felt like someone had already posted my thoughts on my behalf saving me the trouble of typing!
I was just coming here watching some highlights and Federer’s return of serve is what I felt really cost him big time too. I even wished sometimes he would rip a two handed backhand on the return of serve rather than tamely put it back and let Melzer dictate the point :) Did you look at Melzer’s first serve percentage ? It was well below 50% and Federer still had 0/7 break point conversion. That tells the whole story. I think Federer is aware of this too and said in his presser that return of serve is something he plans to work on before Madrid.

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#6 
Written By Jiten on April 15th, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

Ru-an said:’…The fact that Roger can’t win ugly is without a doubt something that bothers me. In his prime he never had to learn to grind out matches because he was so good…’

I agree with you on this point, Ru-an. I don’t recall Roger having to really fight and grit too much in earlier years, because he was that good. And often, he’d have the match won before it even started, because of his aura and records. Not saying he never fought, just that he didn’t do a lot of it. Now, when he gets beind in a match, it bothers him. Alot. Read his postmatch interview where he mentions being behind.

‘…Now that Roger is older and more exposed, we can see his short comings as a player. He simply doesn’t have that ability to grind out a match, and it is highly disappointing from a fan’s perspective. When things are not going his way on a given day he just loses…’

Yes, he does appear to be unwilling to fight and scrap and claw. Must be hard to watch for his fans, no doubt.

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TGIF Reply:

I very much disagree w/ Ruan regarding Roger’s past. He did lots of grinding out matches in his prime, especially in best-of-three masters tournaments. I think because that era was so long ago, people have forgotton. But just for example, Roger won Montreal in ’06 w/ I believe losing a set in every match. Also Halle ’06. In Rome ’06 before the famous 5-setter against Rafa, he played back to back 3 hour matches in quarters and semis w/ Almagro and Davydenko.

To be it’s precisely his lesser ability to turn matches around which is one of the great differences between Roger now and Roger 5 years ago. I suspect it’s mostly down to less confidence, as well as fewer weapons given a lesser overall skill set.

I have no problem w/ criticism of Roger’s performance today, but pls don’t use it to demean the player he was.

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Ru-an Reply:

You misunderstood the post. I didnt demean the player Roger was. Quite the opposite.

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TGIF Reply:

I didn’t misunderstand altho’ maybe my last statement was phrased too harshly.

You didn’t demean his level of play because you were saying it was so high he could win without grinding.

I guess I felt like you did demean his (past) fighting / grinding abilities.

Maybe I have a lesser opinion of Roger’s past level than you (tho’ it was of course outstanding) but I do disagree about him never having to learn to grind. I was watching him all those years and many, many matches were a grind. He was not always in good form, and he losts sets and went down breaks plenty. But back then he was like Houdini, almost always able to get himself out of trouble.

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Ru-an Reply:

Well in 2009 we saw Roger pull off a lot of matches like that. In in his prime he has an unbeatable aura as well and he could fight better. These days that belief just doesnt seem to be there.

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#7 
Written By marron on April 15th, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

There’s rarely anything good to write about losses, so I’m not going to try. I will say that he lost early a couple years ago at MC to Wawrinka, also in straight sets, and ended up winning the French Open that year. So who knows.

For myself, it’s not enough to be content with what he’s accomplished so far. I’m one of those greedy fans who wants Federer to continue to top himself, rather than engaging in nostalgia. I make no apologies for this, because Federer himself is just as greedy.

I would happily see him win another 16 majors. Chances are that won’t happen. But if ever he steps on court thinking that he can’t win another 16 majors, it’ll be time for him to retire.

The Roger Federer of 2004-07 was the most dominant tennis player ever, and he made it look effortless on top of that, but that man is gone, never to return. I don’t see the point in spending so much time mourning for him.

Federer himself certainly doesn’t seem to spend much time looking back or lamenting the past. He’s much more interested in what he can do to win now and achieve an even higher level of tennis.

So much emotional energy is spent on declaring him dead and burying him after every loss, in insisting that we must be resigned to be satisfied with what he has done instead of instead of looking forward in anticipation to what he will do.

Why spend so much effort on all this? Just wait until he retires, then we can “bury” his career once and in the proper way instead of doing it haphazardly thousand times. There will be plenty of time to have the “funeral” after he retires, to reflect on what his career meant to us, and to engage in the sort of elegiac musings which seem to preoccupy so many fans and commentators when they talk about Federer.

But right now all this focus on the past may be getting in the way of appreciating what he has to offer now, which is of considerable value, even if it’s different from what came before. Probably he won’t be winning ten or twelve titles a year–but he already proved he can do that, many times. What’s the point in proving that yet again? There are other ways in which he can prove himself now.

Federer’s career has been all about redefining the very meaning of greatness in his sport. You cannot predict his performance, even now, on the basis of the standards which past players achieved. He’s the one setting the new standards by which all future players will be judged, and he will shatter the records by a considerable margin.

Conventional wisdom says that great players of the past couldn’t dominate in their later years; no player has ever regained the year-end #1 ranking twice; and very few have continued winning majors into their thirties.

But Federer’s made a career of shredding conventional wisdom and I believe he will do so again. He’ll have a second long stint at the top and continue to win the biggest titles, including majors. Once he is done, I believe the achievements of Sampras will stand in comparison to Federer’s as Becker’s or Edberg’s or Wilander’s achievements stand to Sampras’ today; and this is not in any way a slur on the great Pistol, who dominated the game and did so much to inspire the young Federer, merely a statement of how good Federer really is.

When he’s finished the conventional wisdom will be that a really great player can dominate the game well into his thirties; and hopefully, that will inspire some future champion yet to be born to keep pushing the frontier even further.

When he feels he can no longer be at the top, he’ll call it a career, make his final bow, and move on with his life. And it’ll be time for us to move on then, too.

But until then, there will be plenty of imperishable moments to be experienced, and plenty of the luminous, transcendent tennis that only Roger Federer can create.

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Ru-an Reply:

Well im not as optimistic as you Steve. Id rather go with the standpoint that he has already achieved everything i wanted him to. He made it clear that he is better than the previous greatest Sampras by winning 2 more slams and the career grand slam. That is really enough for me as a fan. I cant ask for anything more. From here on everything else is just a bonus. He may or may not win more majors, but if he does it wont be many. I also find it hard seeing him regaining the number one spot. But all this is all right. The only reason i wana really see him win more slams is to make it impossible for Nadal to catch up with him, but it may already be enough.

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steve Reply:

As I said I’m greedy, but he’s done enough so that I won’t be too devastated if he doesn’t accomplish too much more. As you say, it’s gravy.

But I want to him to win more majors because I want to see if he can surpass his own limits. He raised the bar so high. It would be the ultimate mark of greatness if he could surpass the standard he himself set and raise the bar again. Very few individuals in any field are capable of outdoing themselves like, even the great ones, but I think Federer can do it.

He doesn’t have to win lots of titles to regain the #1. In 2009 he ended the year at #1, but won only four titles (two Grand Slams and two Masters). He just needs to do well enough in the tournaments he doesn’t win.

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Ru-an Reply:

I used to be like that too, but after yesterday i just realized that my expectations are probably a bit high. I have been expecting a lot as a fan, and it makes me very negative as a fan. I thought about it objectively and realized he achieved everything i wanted him to. If Nadal passes him now then so be it. You can only reach your full potential, and after that you cant feel bad if someone does better than you. Having said that, i dont want it to be done quite yet either. I want him to win a couple more slams just to make it harder for Nadal. But like i said, if that does not happen id still be happy. I just wana be a happy Fedfan.

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David Reply:

I know the old mantra “records are made to be broken” but it’s just not true. Some records truly are out of reach and I think Fed’s Slam record is one of them, obviously even more so if he wins one or 2 more Slams. It will be impossible for Nadal to get to 16 Slams because he’s just not good enough anywhere outside of clay. I’m not concerned about him in the slightest. There will eventually be some new amazing fast court player, but to break Roger’s records that guy would have to have the same peak-period dominance and that’s hard to see happening. Three years with 3 Slams in a year? That’s completely insane so there’s probably a 1 in a million chance we’ll see that again in our lifetimes.

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Ru-an Reply:

Nadal is good enough on grass. He can easily win Wimbledon the next three years, and the FO the next four years. He can also do damage at the hard court slams, especially the AO which is slow. Remember he is only 24. I certainly wouldnt put it beyond him to break Rogers record. He could also potentially do better than Roger into old age because we wont see him go away in matches like the Melzer one for instance.

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David Reply:

I just can’t see that. I grant you he’ll be a force to be reckoned with this year, although I still think Roger will win Wimbledon and probably Djoker the U.S. Open.

Beyond that, there’s Del Potro coming up and he will almost surely be winning multiple majors. I don’t see Nadal having any answer to that guy except maybe on clay.

I sort of see Nadal maxing out at 11 or 12 majors and I won’t be surprised if he never wins anything else outside of clay. Fed’ll end up with 17 or 18.

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Ru-an Reply:

Well i might be overestimating Ndal simply cos he has proved me wrong so much in the past. I thought he would have been burned out by now but he is still going strong. I hope youre right.

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manu Reply:

here’s a meaninful poem for Federer and his fans:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

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JudyB Reply:

I had to memorize that in elementary school, I think. Good point.

Just for the record, it’s called If… , by Rudyard Kipling (I like to give credit where credit is due).

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Mia Reply:

You put it so well. Every loss still hurts, though not as much as they used to. But at the back of my mind, there remains that hope — maybe delusion, if you will — that another shot at glory awaits.
I signed up for this as a fan — the lows come with the territory. But Fed has given me so much and I’ll be around to see him through.

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manu Reply:

Seeing Fed play yesterday, I saw some glimpses of great forehands, backhands and volleys. What I did not see, and it pains me, is his attitude and will to win. Yesterday, the chap I saw losing to Melzer was not Federer- not the Federer I know. Not the Federer that fought like anything in Rome 06, not the Roger who hung on to win Wimbledon 09. Not the Roger who gave Rafa such a fight in the final of Oz 09. Not the Roger who changed his tactics and squeaked past Delpo. Not the Roger who performed his Houdini acts against Haas and Falla. I suspect, that he was in no mood to play, let alone win.

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David Reply:

Almost all the matches you mentioned were at Slams. Let’s not forget matches like the 2007 Italian Open when Roger looked completely disinterested in losing to Filippo Volandri of all people! Or when he lost to Fish at 08 IW and showed no interest whatsoever. We all know it’s all about the Slams and has been since the spring of 2007. I have no doubt in my mind that Roger will be holding up more Slam trophies – probably the next time at this year’s Wimbledon to tie Sampras.

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MS Reply:

Steve, I eagerly search for your post in the comment section always :) I am one of those ‘delusional’ fans who still believes that Federer is going to have another run at the very top winning multiple majors again. And still hoping for an epic at Roland Garros where Federer will beat Nadal for the title , effectively Wimbledon 2008 in reverse.
It is very difficult to keep the faith after some defeats but like you said if you keep the bigger picture in mind that he won’t and doesn’t necessarily have to win 12 tournaments a year, it helps put things in perspective. He just won 2 masters and 2 majors in 2009 but what a glorious year that was !
I hang on to hope that he will defy conventional wisdom about players doing well into their thirties. Like he did when he redefined the possibilities in tennis during his prime!

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#8 
Written By steve on April 15th, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

There’s one thing I’m very sure of. When it comes to the GOAT, everyone knows, it’s Daveydenko. Love throwing that out to Nadal goons. I’m OK with Fed’s loss today, but perhaps the fire is gone, or needs to be rekindled. Remember I said he has to play like his life depends on it. Well then,,,come on Rog. G

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Jiten Reply:

“He has to play like his life depends on it”: partially agree. Not in every match, but situations like yesterday’s match, a definite YES. I have a feeling, for Roger to play like his life depending on it hurts his ego. May be at that very moment the motivation slips a bit and thoughts like “I have achieved so much, its it worth grinding?” begins to get into his head and distract him a bit. On the other hand, the way Nadal plays, every match is like “the life hanging on it” and the opponents get the message right from outset of the match itself; it definitely has some effect on the person of the other side of the net. Melzer did exactly that; despite being injured, he went all out. I guess Federer misread his body language after the first game itself when Melzer took the injury time (and may have thought that it is going to be easy sailing after that). I believe why Federer cannot have this kind of a mindset is (unfortunately) a product of his genius and extreme talent which allows (rather allowed) him to win more often than not. Ironically that is why his game is so beautiful to watch.

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Ru-an Reply:

Good post Jiten. This is pretty much what i was getting at in my post.

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marron Reply:

Whooo hoo, I’m a Nadal goon? What the heck is that? Is that like a fan? :)

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#9 
Written By Gary on April 16th, 2011 @ 1:29 am

I can’t help but feel that quite a few commenters here are trying to create a Federer who doesn’t exist; a Federer on to whom they are projecting their own dreams – and sometimes ‘fantasies’ wouldn’t be too strong a word.
To talk of what Federer ‘now needs to do’ is to fail to see that he is not a young evolving talent but a player of years of experience; if he doesn’t know now what to do then he never will. The way he used to be able to play worked supremely well. Now it doesn’t work so well – because he is getting older. That simple point seems hard for some commenters to accept; Roger ain’t immortal – he isn’t going to go on forever.
The point has been validly made that in his prime Roger was so good he rarely had to battle, to descend into the bear-pit, to extract his wins. But now he no longer wins easily as he once did, we see also that it is simply not in his nature to grind and shed his own blood on the tennis court. To wish it were otherwise is to fail to see him as he is.
The edge has gone off Roger’s game. He is not going to change character so that he can now win like a Hewitt or a Connors. McEnroe once said that ‘no player has everything’. Well, as difficult as it may be for some of his fans to accept, this has to be true for Roger as well. What we are now seeing is that the fall from the peak can be precipitously fast. It is we, and to some extent Roger too, I think, who are failing to see how suddenly things can change in sports.

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marron Reply:

Thoughtful post. Excellent.

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Ru-an Reply:

I dont think its wrong to ask Roger to grind out some more wins. He has done it before when he was in trouble, for example last year against Berdych in Toronto. You just had the feeling he wanted to win that match at all costs. Why couldn’t he do the same against Melzer?

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#10 
Written By neil on April 16th, 2011 @ 4:06 am

Marron, it would be unkind for anyone here to describe you as “a Nadal goon”. (Did they?) You are clearly a devoted Nadal fan. But to be an ardent Nadal fan requires that you have to overlook a few things. Chief amongst these are the quite disturbing indications that Nadal’s success is founded on an extraordinary degree of physicality that is probably only achievable through drugs.
I know you don’t want to think that, but I have observed sports for quite a few decades now and I have chosen to become better informed about the issue of doping in sports. Regrettably, I have come to the conclusion that tennis, like most pro sports, has a drugs problem – and to put it as simply as I can, if Nadal ain’t doping then nobody is.

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marron Reply:

No one said specifically that I’m a Nadal goon, whatever that is. Curious to know what defines this.

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Ru-an Reply:

I think what he meant by Nadal goon is someone who worships Nadal and turns a blind eye to anything negative about him. Like they would for instance believe Nadal is greater than Federer cos of the h2h. Dont worry youre not a goon. I wouldnt allow goons on this blog ;)

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#11 
Written By neil on April 16th, 2011 @ 4:26 am

Marron, thanks for your response above. I would say the term “goon” doesn’t really matter here. Maybe you could tell us why you really like Nadal’s game (I am assuming that it is his game that you like, ahem), and then you might tell me why you are not apparently bothered by the increasing speculation about “how he does it”.

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marron Reply:

Since this is a Federer blog, I don’t think it’s appropriate or interesting to tell why I like Rafa’s game. Suffice to say I’m not a giggly teenager enamored of his butt or hair or so on… :)

I finally got to see replays of the Melzer-Fed match, must say what I saw, through perhaps more objective eyes than some here, is Melzer played pretty damned awesome the whole match. He couldn’t miss, and with that fact, plus the ridick wind, it turned into a crapshoot – whoever had the luck, won. Recall the USO 04 quarter with Agassi? Hurricane winds? Agassi said later that one side of the court was much easier to play with that hurricane than the other. Fed happened to break Agassi on that side, and went on to win.

Melzer played fantastic… but can he do it all the time? Nope.

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Jiten Reply:

“Melzer played fantastic… but can he do it all the time? Nope.” Right on the money! He lost 3-5, 2-6 even after being a break up in the first set and in perfect playing conditions. Poor Fed!

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Jiten Reply:

Oops! It should have been 3-6, 2-6.

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#12 
Written By neil on April 16th, 2011 @ 5:58 am

keep in mind that federer is playing better and more consistently than Sampras was at the same age. Its not impossible for an older player to turn back the clock for one or two tournaments. Gustavo Kuerten did it at the 2004 french open, beating federer. Sampras did it at the USO 2002. It takes a little bit of luck, say one of the top players gets upset and even an older experienced player can turn back the clock. Heck, federer did it at the WTF last year, he’s only a few months older now.

I think Federer will win a couple of majors over the next few years. He can still play at a high level, although less consistently than he used to. But he can still play at the level as the wtf showed. It would be nice to see him end his carrear by winning a major ala Sampras

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#13 
Written By Mike on April 16th, 2011 @ 7:14 am

Mike, that’s why it’s so hard to watch Federer now. Every now and then he plays tennis like how we have come to expect; he plays a great tournament like the WTF last year, so that we think the “real” Roger has returned, and then he disappears you might say and becomes cannon-fodder to the top guys while losing close ones to journeymen pros. In the meantime, his fans are thrown into misery and doubt. Hell, it would be like following Murray! (The debate is the same also for Murray by the way – can he win a big one?)

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#14 
Written By neil on April 16th, 2011 @ 8:48 am

yeah the federer-nadal miami match was disappointing and sad to watch, he was making one unforced error after the other. I was expecting something competitive. I think it has largely to do with motivation. But he can still motivate himself for wimbledon, us open and the olympics. Sampras was playing much much worse back in 02, but then he managed to win us open. Federer does not have the motivation to win too many tournaments, mostly the big ones.

I dont believe someone can decline so much in just a few months. Its not like he recently had some major injury. He just doesnt look that interested, but he will still be interested in the majors.

As for Murray, he doesnt have it in him, atleast mentally. And as long as the british media keep putting pressure on him, it will be tough but i have a feeling he might sneak one major in the next couple of years.

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#15 
Written By Mike on April 16th, 2011 @ 9:54 am

I don’t think we can argue that because one great player did it then it then it’s possible for another; every player is an individual, and every era its own. If I see a critical difference between Sampras and Federer – and it applied throughout their careers – it is that Sampras was a battler, in the way the Roger isn’t. Who can forget, who saw it, the 5th set tie-break against Alex Corretja in the USO q-final? Sampras won on guts and willpower, when his body had all but given up. Oh, and yes – that incredible serve still stayed by his side when virtually all else had gone. That is not the way Roger wins – or perhaps can win.

I think you may be right to perceive the essential problem with Roger may be mental. But that may be as integral to his makeup as his eye colour, and just as incapable of change.

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#16 
Written By neil on April 16th, 2011 @ 11:15 am

(By the way the USO q-final was in 1996.)

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#17 
Written By neil on April 16th, 2011 @ 11:17 am

If mental fortitude is considered Sampras is not as good as Nadal but at his age Federer is better than Sampras at the same age and with more majors, more master titles and the career slam which Sampras was never near. Federer has been seen as vulnerable but he still playing great after such a long spell of domination even when possibly the greatest clay court player Nadal was around

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Ru-an Reply:

Sampras was very clutch though, more in Nadals league than Rogers.

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#18 
Written By mridul1 on April 16th, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

O wasn’t Melzer doping ? Nadal dopes, Djokovic possibly dopes and Melzer must also have a doping problem ! How can Federer lose to Melzer ? He had never lost to him ! The only possible explanation is that Melzer also dopes. They dope, they are all dopers . Nobody can beat Federer without doping.

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#19 
Written By Ronald Tamson on April 16th, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

Sampras used to produce aces down match point, set point (sometimes on the 2nd serve). He used to go to the net on big points (something Roger doesn’t do anymore) If that isn’t mental fortitude, I don’t know what is. He had guts. Federer seems to have lost his.

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Ru-an Reply:

Yeah i doubt Roger can win any more slams if he doesnt have that mental fortitude. Sampras won his last slam cos he had that.

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Babel Reply:

True. The key to Roger’s success from here on will lie in his serving. If you’ve noticed, Roger hasn’t lost too many matches in recent times when he’s served well.

History shows us that most players who won Grand Slams in their 30s served strong. When you’re not at your physical peak, that’s what you have to do. It’s one of the things that age doesn’t affect to a very great extent.

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Ru-an Reply:

Agreed, the serve will be key.

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#20 
Written By Babel on April 16th, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

“.. wasn’t Melzer doping?”
.
Can you rule that out? Or are you one of those guys who thinks tennis today is still hunky-dory and no one dopes?

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#21 
Written By neil on April 17th, 2011 @ 4:19 am

1) Can someone please explain this to me? The first set of the match, Melzer wasn’t really able to do much. He went in and came back out firing on all guns. That just seems very very fishy to me.

2) After that lacklustre performance, we can put it down to this – Roger just doesnt want it anymore. I dont think he even cares, and it just puts me off how after every single loss he talks about how he played great. Delusional, indeed.

This isn’t the Roger Federer we all used to know. Not the Roger who, in the past, has come back from dangerous situations against Haas, Robredo, Tipsarevic, Falla. Not the Roger who came back after facing match point against Roddick.
I just hope he realises sooner rather than later that he has to make some serious amends. The issue is his mental strength and his desire to win. He still has years of tennis left in him, and it’s a tragedy to watch this happen. Lets hope its over soon and we have our Roger back once again before he retires. Keep the faith.

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manu Reply:

exactly….he should fire luthi i guess

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Babel Reply:

Or hire a mental conditioning coach…
It’s just a question of being able to produce your best tennis on big points. Firing Luthi will serve no purpose.

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BA Reply:

Yeah, Luthi/Annacone can only do so much. Only Roger can help himself now.
It’s not like Rafa has some bigshot coach – all he has is his uncle. It HAS to come from within.

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Babel Reply:

Exactly. Federer himself didn’t have a coach for a long time and that was arguably his peak.

Annacone has probably told him to shorten points. Such a strategy works best when he is efficient and effective off both wings, ergo, when plays on relatively lower-bouncing courts like at the WTF because they make his backhand more effective.

If you noticed, at the AO 2011 (where the courts had more bounce), he often reverted to his old strategy of slicing it back on the return. He got killed in long rallies by Djokovic because he just wasn’t consistent enough from the baseline. He also wasn’t fast enough.

He also wasn’t serving nearly as well as he was at the WTF. I’ve got no explanation for that.

So obviously they (he and his team) need to come up with a plan B for the slower and bouncier courts as well.

A little hunger and intent wouldn’t hurt either.

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Ru-an Reply:

Good post Babel. A little hunger and willingness to tough it out certainly won’t hurt.

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#22 
Written By BA on April 17th, 2011 @ 4:32 am

I’m with Steve. I think you should all write your RF obits and move on to supporting another player if you are unhappy at Camp Fed. Honestly I don’t know what you’re all on about. You’d think it’s the 1st time he didn’t convert some BPs. As someone said, he was 1 for 17 at French Open 2007… a way more important tournament than this one… while he was in his prime. So, just shows it’s not related to age or lack of motivation or anything. It just happens sometimes. FFS move on, like every other fan of every other player does after a loss, instead of doing a post-mortem each time.

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#23 
Written By Katarina_YYZ on April 17th, 2011 @ 5:42 am

Katarina, you don’t have to be a cheerleader to be a Federer fan.
(By the way, I was the one who said Federer was 1 for 17 on breakpoints against Nadal at the French a few years ago.)

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#24 
Written By neil on April 17th, 2011 @ 6:23 am

The saddest thing is that Fed’s mental weakness is proving to be the great divider between him and Nadal and why GOAT status is firmly in Nadal’s favor now, as much as I despise to say it. Fed just simply doesn’t care any more. Very sad. After the Melzer match, I’m done. Too damn sad to watch Fed these days.

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Gary Reply:

Mark, I hear your frustration, but I am pretty sure you’ll be back when, FED WINS ANOTHER SLAM DAMNIT!!!! LOL. G

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#25 
Written By Mark on April 17th, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

@Ruan
nadal barely won the 2nd and 3rd rounds last year In wimbeldon that too with cheating (Coaching from Sweet Uncle Toni).
He turns 25 this
june
Also Ruan he isn’t going to get joke draws every year at wimbeldon

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Jiten Reply:

Not Sweet uncle Toni, it is his surrogate mother Toni (LOL). He got coaching in Miami this year as well and got caught by the TV commentator.

In my opinion Nadal was not looking unbeatable in MC; on the contrary, he looked very much beatable. With some luck, an injury free Murray would have definitely settled the issue in MC itself. I may be wrong, but I think I heard Murray uttering the word “fake (injury)” while the chair umpire (correctly) denied him injury time (as it is allowed only during changeover) after he was heading for his chair after two games in the third set. Murray must have been upset by the history of fake injury times by the person on the other side of the net while he had a genuine cause for that and felt cheated too. I read somewhere that the match was delayed so that Murray could get a cortisone shot, making his elbow numb for most of the match.

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Katarina_YYZ Reply:

LOL, Murray call Nadal a faker?? In your dreams. He luuuvves Rafa. He once said “I love the way the guy plays tennis. He can take as long as he wants to between points.” No chance.

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Jiten Reply:

I never wrote that Murray called Rafa a faker in that particular semi final. Instead it was like Murray quizzing the umpire “Do you think my injury is fake”? He may love Rafa the way Fed loves and also says openly in public. But deep down their hearts they know very well what tactics the guys on the other side of the net is adopting. I hope you are aware of the famous “Be quite” episode involving Fed and Nole’s parents in 2008 edition of Monte Carlo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4fB5Tp-FGU

Saying something about somebody is completely different from what they really feel. And I am not dreaming! Fed praises Nole in public as well.

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Ru-an Reply:

The Murray/Nadal relationship is drastically different from the Federer/Djokovic one though. Its no secret that there is not much love lost between Roger and Djokovic while Murray basically worships Nadal. I just think Murray asked the umpire whether his injury is fake without any reference to Nadal. I personally doubt Murrays injury made any difference. He did as well as he could as far as im concerned. But yeah, Nadal does look like he can be beaten. But probably only by Djokovic.

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#26 
Written By IROCK on April 18th, 2011 @ 1:41 am

Nadals draw at wimbledon was hardly a joke, having to face two top 10 players, and a top 15 player. Anyway its possiblet that he gets upset at wimbledon this year but its highly unlikely at the french

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Babel Reply:

All right. What about his draw at the USO 2010. I mean, that was the funniest joke since the “Gay Fish Joke” on South Park. :D

Having said that, you take what you get.

We used the same argument at the FO 2009 with Nadal’s fans (although Federer had a very tough draw then).

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#27 
Written By Mike on April 18th, 2011 @ 9:07 am

Federer deserves full credit for the 2009 french open win- some immature people make excuses and everything, but you beat whoever is infront of you. Besides Del Potro and Soderling in a row is not an easy draw. Those two were playing very well.

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Babel Reply:

Yeah that’s what I’m saying, Mike. The same standards apply to Nadal as well.

Which is why we should not try to belittle his achievements and give them their due respect.

I’m a Federer fan. I think if we continue to allege that some or the other player is doping, there remains nothing to differentiate us from the legions of Nadal fans who make excuses for his losses. We should rise above such things.

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#28 
Written By Mike on April 18th, 2011 @ 10:49 am

Babel, I don’t agree with what you say about the doping question. There is a real issue here and it won’t go away by our suggesting that it is unsporting to raise it. I happen to be amongst those who consider it more unsporting to use it, and the argument that doping exists – even amongst top players – is not made idly, without foundation, or to try to excuse our hero’s losses. Ignorance may be bliss – you may find it preferable not to know about it – but it is still ignorance, nonetheless.

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#29 
Written By neil on April 18th, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

Neil, agreed. I’m totally with you when you say that the ATP needs to clamp down on dopers. We DO need a tighter system.

I have to admit that the thought struck me when I saw Nadal as 17-year old with rippling muscles. But the evidence until now is mostly circumstantial.

Who was the last high-profile doper who was caught? Probably Puerta in 2005. Now we know that Agassi was on meth once. All these players fooled the system.

Your post has made me reconsider my stand. But I still maintain that accusing every player (Melzer, Djokovic, etc) here – on a Federer blog – of being dopers doesn’t present a very favorable picture of Federer fans to the other posters and readers.

However you are right in saying that not talking about it won’t make the problem go away. So maybe I was wrong.

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Ru-an Reply:

Well its not like me, the author, encourages doping accusations. Im just open for it since we cant deny that it is there.

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gary Reply:

I’m sure alot of folks believe that there was no hgh in baseball. Thats all I’m saying. The only sport I know where they definately don’t use steriods is professional wrestling. G

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#30 
Written By Babel on April 18th, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

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