What’s going on? Tennis world has been rocked twice in just two weeks.
After the first loss at Pacific Open, Federer was asked “if there is anything different you have noticed, when you enter the locker room, after this loss”. He said, “the players try to look away when I enter”.
What is the response in the locker room now? How does one explain these loses?
Lets look at the players, who have defeated him, from January 2006 to-date. They are Nadal, Murray and Canas. Nadal did it 4 times – 3 times on clay and once on hard surface, Murray once on hard surface and Canas twice on hard surface.
‘Nadal’ wins can be explained to few things that have bothered Federer, namely his heavy top spin to Federer’s backhand, his retrieving ability and his expertise on clay surfaces. Nadal had established himself as a force, by this time, having won 11 titles in 2005 and had a winning record against the World’s No. 1. So it wasn’t a huge surprise, it was considered a budding rivalry. Something most thought, Federer will be able to solve in the near future, and turn back the winning record, like he had done with Leyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian. It was just a matter of time.
Murray, at the time, seemed just lucky to get a win, catching Federer on back to back events, without any breaks, with some matches played on consecutive days. So, understandably he was tired. Most thought, Federer should have taken himself out of the Cincinnati tournament (Toronto event concluded on 14th August and the Cincinnati tournament started the same day). Murray then, was just about finding his rhythm, and was himself surprised, and was wondering, if this was all because Federer was tired, or was there anything he did, that may be partially contributed to the victory.
And now we have Canas. This was a 69th ranked player in the world, was coming off a 15-month doping suspension, still trying to find his rhythm on the tour. To top it all, he is 29 years old, a virtual senior citizen in today’s tennis world. It is difficult to find an obvious expanation. This is obviously the most startling loss for Federer, since he ascended the throne, about 31/2 years ago.
Is it the 15-month suspension that is to blame? Suspension seems to be the ultimate motivator these days. Remember Kobe Bryant, who went on a wild streak of 4 straight games of 50 or more points, breaking records, set by none other than, Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor. For those who have not heard of Bryant, he is arguably the best basketball player on the planet, right now. Kobe was coming off a suspension himself, and his coach Phil Jackson conceded that the suspension probably motivated him.
Is that what’s going on here, with Canas? If that’s the case, somebody, please suspend Roddick, so he can get that ‘one slam’ monkey off his back, or how about Nadal, so we can finally HAVE the rivalry!!! Or do we have to suspend Federer, to get him back to his old ways? It seems certainly to have some hand in the resurgence of Canas.
Here is Canas’s ATP ranking surge:
-Sept, 2006 – 514.
-Oct, 2006 – 214.
-Dec, 2006 – 143.
-Jan, 2007 – 106.
-Feb, 2007 – 60.
-Mar 19 – 55.
If you analyse these three players who have defeated Federer, is there a pattern? It looks like, the following trend seems to stand out:
-All three are great defensive players and have uncanny ability to retrieve balls from unbelievable angles and spots on the court. They personafy ‘the never give up attitude’, irrespective of what the scoreboard says. Apparently, that is what is frustrating for Federer. He tends to gets pressured and starts committing unforced errors, when trying even harder, to get even more acute angels, to get past these ball retrievers.
Is the old adage ‘defense is the best offense’ at work here? Dirty work does pay off – huge in Canas’s case!!! Is the rest of the field taking notice, or more importantly, do they have the ability and the willingness to do the dirty work, on a consistent basis, to make the quantum jump?