Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Making sense of the last week for Federer fans

There are a lot of random thoughts rolling around in my brain related to Roger Federer and tennis in the last week, so I thought it was time to get some of it in writing and maybe make a little more sense of it all.

First of all, re: the Australian Open semis, I once again let myself get my hopes up for a win in a major against the dominating Novak Djokovic.  I tell myself over and over again not to do it, build myself up only to be crushed to the ground when he loses these matches that I so desperately want him to win.  His fans around the globe are hoping so badly for that elusive #18.  And really, I still do believe it will happen.  But let's face it - the Australian Open is the perfect scenario for Djokovic.  The court surface seems to suit him to a T, plus the fact that they play the semis and the final in the evening when conditions are slower just plays into his hands.  AO is to Novak as Wimbledon was to Roger in his prime.  For anyone to beat Djoker there when he's on a roll such as he is would be virtually impossible.  Sure it's discouraging, but best to face the facts and accept it for the time being.

That being said, that doesn't mean it's going to stay that way forever.  Let's look at reality as it's been in the last several generations.  Winning majors past the age of 30 is a difficult task.  Doesn't mean it can't happen obviously, but the rate of success seems to drop by quite a large margin.  I see some saying that Djokovic will catch and surpass Federer's tally of major titles and weeks at #1, plus claim the GOAT distinction.  Obviously that's a possibility.  However, Novak will be 29 in May, a number that has seemed to be a bit of a slowing down for many.  I realize that he started his run of majors a little later than, say, Federer and Nadal.  All I'm saying, though, is that although it seems like he will be in this form stretching on and on because we don't currently see someone to stop him, history shows this is not the case.  At some point he will have a slight drop in form and someone else will step up to the plate.  Maybe that's when Roger will get his chance for the draw to open up and win #18.  Time will tell.

Now to the latest news - Roger surprised everyone (not to mentioned freaked everyone out a bit) when he announced he had undergone a surprise arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee.  He said he had injured it the day after his semifinal, which is certainly rather puzzling.  My best guess is that he didn't really feel the injury until he woke up the next morning.  From what I have read related to this type of surgery, it's minimally invasive, pretty much an out-patient procedure, and relatively quick to heal.  He for sure will be missing two tournaments he had planned on playing, Rotterdam and Dubai.  My sincere hope is that he will be ready for Indian Wells, a tournament I have attended the past five year, volunteering both last year and this year.  It would be a huge disappointment if he weren't there.  I'm not going to worry too much about it at this point, but will try to think positively that he will be ready to play at that point in time.  No reason to borrow trouble (though sometimes easier said than done).

To end on a positive note, one big plus from the Australian Open is that the Federer boys were finally in public, along with their sisters, at the AO Kids Day.  It was so fun to see all four Federer kids together, hopefully something we will see much more of in the future.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Roger Federer begins his 2016 season with a final in Brisbane

Roger Federer started off the 2016 season as he has the last couple years in Brisbane Australia.  He and his fans were hoping for a repeat of his incredible victory a year ago where he celebrated his 1000th win in style with a victory in the final against Milos Raonic. The stage was certainly set when it turned out to be the exact same final as last year, after Federer beat Dominic Thiem and Raonic claimed the win against Tomic. Unfortunately health issues, as well as some excellent play by Raonic, crushed the hopes of an 89th title to begin the season.

Those who follow tennis closely knew there was potentially some cause for concern when rumors started to circulate that Federer had summoned a doctor earlier in the week, though it was unclear if it was for illness or injury.  He showed up to play his first match on Thursday, however, with an easy win, though he stated in press afterwards that he had been sick with a fever/flu that his four kids had earlier.  He managed to win his next two matches in spite of not feeling his best, though the quarterfinal against Dimitrov, in which he was pushed to three sets, was certainly a challenge I didn't know if he would come through.

After a fairly easy semifinal victory against youngster Dominic Thiem, I was hoping he would have enough left in the tank to get through one more match, especially with a few extra hours of rest before the final.  Unfortunately that wasn't to be.

It soon became obvious in the final that Roger wasn't finding his rhythm against an in form Milos Raonic.  Though there were certainly the usual moments of brilliance for Federer, there were also many easy errors into the net.  It's not often these days that Roger shows his frustration, but in this case there was a loud yell at one point in the match, and then a drop of his racquet onto the court with his hands on his hips as if he couldn't believe what was happening.  Unfortunately he was never able to find the way to gain the upper hand and the match was soon over with Raonic the victor at 6-4 6-4.

Federer gave a gracious speech in the award ceremony, but in his press conference later he revealed (more so than he normally does) that he was certainly affected by the sickness that had plagued him earlier in the week, and that he still was suffering effects from.  He said he has a lingering cough and sore throat, plus his legs had felt heavy all week, even after spending a day-and-a-half in bed Tuesday and half of Wednesday.  Never one to make excuses, he praised Raonic's game.  Still, though, it was obvious to me that he wasn't feeling himself, especially with the lack of aggressive play that has become so much part of his style in recent days.  He says he will rest up in the next couple days and hopefully be coming into Melbourne back to his healthy form with renewed vigor and energy, not to mention motivation to improve on last year's surprise early loss in the first major of the year.

 I also have to say, for any who have followed my blog over the years, that I have been taking a bit of a hiatus since August, but hope to get back into writing more frequently again as we begin an exciting new season.  Can't wait for the upcoming Happy Slam, and also I am counting the days until I leave to volunteer for 2 1/2 weeks at Indians Wells again in Player/VIP Transportation.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dream week for Federer in Cincy

Why do I call this a dream week?  After all, it was Roger Federer's 7th time to win the title in Cincinnati; it's not like it was anything too new to him.  But how often does a player not only not lose a set on their road to the trophy, but more importantly not even have his serve broken one time?  And not just that, he only faced break point three times in the tournament, and not one time in the final against the world #1.  That is simply unheard of!

Anyone who watched any of Roger's matches during the week couldn't help but have heard about and observed his ultra-aggressive tactics.  His new return strategy started out as a joke in practice - moving up to within just a couple feet of the service box and taking the serve incredibly early, stunning his opponent.  He even used this on big server Kevin Anderson, much to the shock of everyone watching.  Some of the shots he produced during the week were just outrageous.  To continue to add to his game at 34 years old after all that he has accomplished in his career is so impressive and can be added to his extensive list of what he is so admired for.

The quick conditions in Cincy are so well suited for his game.  I kept thinking through the week as I watched Federer shine and Djokovic struggle how things would be different if so many of the court surfaces hadn't been made ridiculously slow.  There were still quite a lot of long rallies during the tournament, so the argument that there are no long rallies with quick courts doesn't ring true.  There was a lot of very exciting tennis!  I will hold myself back from going on a long rant about this, but I'll at least say that I wish it was more even as far as slow and fast surfaces.  I mean, this year Federer beat Djokovic on the quick surfaces, Djokovic beat Federer on the slow surfaces.  Different strengths for different players.  Enough said.

I heard it said many times after the final that this was the first time Roger had ever beaten the the #1 and #2 player in the world in a tournament.  To me that sounds bad because it sounds like he wasn't capable of doing that.  What many were ignoring, however, was the fact that the majority of the time he has been ranked #1 or #2, so it would have been impossible simply because of that.  Again, enough said.

I loved seeing the Federer girls at the tournament, seeming a little more tuned in than previously.  When Roger went to greet his family after his win, I couldn't stop smiling for many minutes afterwards.  Even though I know everyone has already probably seen it, I still have to put the sweet video in.


And finally, I leave at the end of the week for my first experience at the US Open!  I will be there the first week.  It will be a very different experience than my time at Indian Wells this year, where I was able to sit right down at the front because I was volunteering; here I will be up in the nosebleed section.  But being at a grand slam for the first time will be quite an experience and I'm very excited!  Hopefully will still get some good Roger time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Perspective on Roger Federer's Wimbledon

Most of those who read my blog are, I'm sure, crazy Federer addicts like I am.  That means that you are probably, like me, still working through the disappointment that Roger wasn't the one kissing the trophy on Sunday afternoon.  To be honest, for me his whole year was building up to Wimbledon.  I knew how much he wanted to win it, so that made me want it all the more for him.  The whole time in Halle as he marched closer to his 8th title there, my thoughts were on the Wimbledon trophy.  The whole two weeks at SW19 as he played brilliant tennis, getting broken only once in his first six matches, losing his one set in a tiebreak, I was dreaming of him lifting that beautiful prize he has held seven previous times.  And when he played a masterful class A match against Andy Murray to beat him in straight sets, really not even giving him a chance, I thought this surely must be the year.

The problem is, though, that when expectations are set so high that there is only one option that is acceptable - being the 1 person of 128 left standing at the end - that leaves room for a lot of disappointment if it doesn't go according to plan.  And it did until he ran into a very impressive world #1 Novak Djokovic.  I know a lot of Fed fans are still smarting at this loss and may not want to think about Djokovic, but we have to give credit where credit is due - he really did play an amazing tennis match.  Every time Roger had chances Novak came up with a clutch serve or a brilliant get.  Thankfully Roger was able to take the second set in a wildly intense tiebreak that gave me heart attacks over and over, but he just wasn't able to keep it up, for sure in part due to what was happening on the other side of the net.

Roger sounded quite positive in both his trophy ceremony speech, in which I thought there might be some emotion shown, and in his press conference.  Though of course disappointed, his disappointment wasn't at the level I would have expected and he sounded like he still has much passion to continue playing and pushing forward.  

I know for me, though, I allowed myself to have only one acceptable result for this tournament, for him to win it, something I hadn't been letting myself do as much the last couple years.  I'm going to try with everything I have to not be at that point anymore - where I fully expect him to win a tournament.  Do I still expect him to win titles?  Of course!  But to expect him to win a major at the age of basically 34, I'm just not going to do it anymore.  I hope desperately that at some point in the next couple years he absolutely delights and thrills his fans, and surprises the skeptics, by winning at least one more.  But if he never does, I will love every moment that he continues to play, appreciating that he is still playing beautiful tennis at this stage of his career and not only that - he is #2 in the world.  We would have killed for that in 2013.  

So to sum it up, yes I'm still bitterly disappointed and sad.  But at the same time I realize I set myself up for it.  He got to the final of Wimbledon and I'm going to appreciate that fact and try not to dwell on any negatives.  Hopefully he's having a wonderful vacation time with his family and we will look forward to seeing him on the hard courts of North America after the rest that he deserves.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Summing up Roger's clay season

It's been too long since I've written a blog post, between busyness at work where I'm doing a ton of typing, plus getting up early every morning to watch tennis. So I'm going to do a casual post and at least give a few of my thoughts on Federer's French Open.

First of all, I know many Federer fans are very disappointed that he didn't go further, given his good draw and the form he seemed to be in.  Obviously I was disappointed too, but it wasn't one of those losses where I spent a lot of time feeling bummed out long term.  I realized quickly this season that to have big expectations on clay would just be setting myself up for discouragement, and as it turned out he had very mixed results when you look at the two month period.  He had both early round losses, yet also won a title and got to a final, so I knew it could go either way in Roland Garros.  Monfils was the match I was particularly concerned about and I wasn't really thinking much farther than that.  When he got through that with a bit of difficulty but successfully I certainly thought he had a good chance, but his good buddy Stan has the ability to play some amazing tennis and that is certainly what he did.  And frankly, Roger just didn't seem to have it that day.

While we know that Roger has had some good success on clay throughout his career, reaching the final of RG multiple times and of course his historic 2009 completion of the career grand slam, not to mention quite a few other clay titles, we still also know that clay isn't his best surface.  Add to that the fact that the points are grueling and his body is getting older, I really felt that although winning the title would be amazing, most likely it was a long shot.  I did think he might get to the semifinals or even the final, but overall he at least did better than last year.

Of course I wish he had played amazing against Wawrinka and gotten to at least the semifinal if not further.  But am I losing any sleep or feeling depressed all day about it?  Not by any means.  In my mind he is still playing great tennis at 33, is still #2 in the world and is doing himself and his fans proud.  I will say, though, that my hopes and dreams for the grass season are much different.  He has stated strongly that his goal is to win Wimbledon, so anything less for him or his fans is going to be a great disappointment.  I know I will have to steel myself for that eventuality, but until then I'm going to dream of him kissing the trophy once again.

And even though this may not seem like it relates, for those who are still feeling sad about this loss, I just watched the Brisbane final from this year where Roger won his 1,000th match.  What an amazing feat.  Take the time to watch this award ceremony and it will make you feel much better, I guarantee:


And as I close, I have to share this sweet picture of Myla and Charlene that was taken at one of matches - so cute.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Federer claims 85th title in Istanbul

It was a topsy turvy week for Federer in Istanbul, but at the end of it all he was holding up a beautiful trophy to inaugurate this brand new tournament.  And who better to always have on record as the first title holder than the GOAT, the Maestro, his majesty Roger Federer?

The final started out strong for Roger, playing aggressively and cutting down on the errors that seemed to plague him through the week.  He closed out the first set easily at 6-2.  But from experience both watching and playing, I was well aware that a 6-2 first set doesn't necessarily mean anything.  And sure enough, the 2nd set was a much tighter affair.  In spite of a break which should have ended it in much easier fashion, this was given back, and other break point opportunities not taken (in part definitely due to some great play by Pablo Cuevas).  It inevitably went to a tiebreak and wow, what an experience that was.  Both players had some definite moments of choking, and really, I'm surprised it didn't end up in a 3rd set.  Roger had several wasted match points, but Pablo decided to return the favor by wasting his set points.  Ultimately some better play ensued and Roger was able to close it out finally at 13-11, after blood pressure rising and heart attacks from many Fed fans.

This was the first clay court win for Federer since Madrid 2012, but as that was blue clay it was surprisingly his first red clay title since 2009.  Now he will head to Madrid, I'm sure with more confidence, and hopefully a couple days rest before starting a difficult journey with a tough draw.  But that's a different story for a different day.  For now we will celebrate the happy feelings of his hard fought 85th trophy. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Federer's week so far in Istanbul

Roger Federer is into the final of the inaugural Istanbul Open.  It definitely hasn't been without a fight though!  In fact, the above picture I think portrays some of the emotions his fans have felt this week - the "what in the world is going on."  Before each of the last two matches I was feeling quite comfortable beforehand thinking he would get through fairly easily, against Gimeno-Traver and Schwartzman, both ranked quite a bit lower.  However, both matches went three sets, and in the semi against Schwartzman Roger lost the first set 6-2.  Schwartzman was definitely playing well, but at the same time the errors coming off of Roger's racquet were simply too many, and his frustration was evident at times, with even a code violation coming after hitting a ball out of the stadium.

It feels like he can't quite seem to get the feel on clay so far this year.  His early exit in Monte Carlo was a surprise after having made it to the final last year, but he said he just never felt comfortable.  Watching him this week it kind of feels the same way.  I'm trying to lower my expectations of what to expect for this clay season, with at least Madrid and the French Open coming up (still not sure of Rome).  To be honest I have never enjoyed clay.  The long grueling points, the difficulty in hitting winners because of the slow conditions and, yes, the fact that one unnamed player has been winning for the last decade.  I'm sure the long matches get more difficult on the body as Federer gets older, but he continues to soldier on, adding in this new tournament this year for the opportunity to play in and visit places he hasn't been to before, which is admirable.

And despite the difficult matches, he has a chance to win another title when he faces Pablo Cuevas, who surprisingly beat Dimitrov in straight sets.  Whether he wins or not, he has given himself a lot of clay practice this week, he had an enjoyable time as a sight see-er, and he has added some impressive stats once again.  One of these is that with his 200th win on clay he became only the 2nd player to have 300 hard court wins, 200 clay court wins and 100 grass court wins (along with Jimmy Connors).  He has also moved into third place with the most aces.  So regardless of whether he is kissing a trophy or holding a plate, it has overall been a successful (though slightly frustrating for those watching) week in Istanbul.  And Roger seems happy is and having fun, so that's what counts!