I have finally figured out the real reason for the slide, slump, decline, skid, slippage, whatever.
You see, all of us, irrespective of what our field is, have certain strengths and certain weaknesses. This is not going anywhere.
Lets try this. Imagine a circle. You know that round thing. Now draw a diameter. Don’t even ask me what a diameter is. OK, just this time. Click here.
You see that center point. That’s where we start, with our strengths or we are strongest at the center. As the diameter stretches to both sides towards the circumference, our strengths begin to weaken and we are at our weakest at the point, where the diameter meets the circumference.
Each player irrespective of the sport, follows that chart. Of course, every player has his own individual game, which is spread across that diameter in accordance with player specific strengths and weaknesses.
For instance, Roddick’s serve would be around the center and volleying could be more towards the circumference. Federer’s forehand would be in the center and physical strength closer to the circumference.
Are you still awake? Are you freaking getting this? Sit up. Smile. Good.
You see, each player has only so much working area. He may shuffle what is laid on the line based on court conditions, opponent etc. Like Roddick may test his volleying more in a certain match and may push the serve down the line towards the circumference.
The balance is maintained by keeping within the circle. Of course, one can expand the working area by working on and incorporating new facets to his game, but it is a tedious process and you cannot wing it.
Anytime you go past the circumference, the balance is breached and the whole game suffers. For instance, if Sampras starts to stay back, without putting in enough time to practice and perfect it, not only will he fail but the rest of his game will be violated.
That’s not his game. He likes coming to the net. That’s at the center of his circle. If he tries to wing it or improvise, by staying back for longer rallies, he is essentially stepping out of his circle. That throws everything else he has on that diameter off balance, resulting in ineffective and inadequate play.
It the player persists with it, the shift in physical dynamics on the diameter will soon start affecting the not so physical intangibles opening the door for frustration, desperation and anxiety.
That road is only going down from here with doubt, tentative play, erosion of confidence and self belief, not so far behind. Once it is set in motion, the ball gathers momentum fast, along with a lot of entangled moss.
You see where it is going, don’t you?
There are some match ups which cannot be resolved with what a certain player has on that diameter.
Remember, Roddick losing to Federer twice at Wimbledon finals. This a classic example of what I am trying to demonstrate. Wouldn’t you agree that this is a match up made in hell for Roddick? H2H 1-13 is evidence. And that lone win was in a tie-break of a deciding set, 200 years ago.
Don’t get ahead of me, here, freaks. What did Roddick do after those losses? He tried to retool his arsenal to gain advantage on this match up. In the process, he stepped outside the circle.
What happened? He started losing to every Tom, Dick and Harry and finally admitted ‘ I concentrated so hard on Federer, that I forgot everyone else’.
Stop the snoring, already and stand up for fresh air.
Two elements have pushed Federer out of that circle. One is the French Open and second is Nadal.
FO: With pressure mounting to break that barrier to be considered a GOAT, he has now realised that he does not have eternity to get there. It’s like the same feeling you freaks get when you get old. You never thought of that. Setbacks in the last couple of months have also made him aware of being a mortal.
When you start winning the way he has and for so long, it gets into your head, no matter how much anyone denies it. It takes a few knocks to bring you back to earth. He is pretty close.
All that drove him to improvise on the red clay, without paying his dues in respect to time and energy. Result of that imbalance in the game, a consequent of stepping out of that circle, is amply evident in the last three months.
Nadal: You cannot deny that, this is as close to being a match up made in hell, as it is for Roddick with Federer.
He tried everything he had on his diameter, irrespective of the surface, but it seems, in retrospect, that the wins Federer had over Nadal, were more because of Nadal’s inability to capitalize, than because of Federer’s brilliance and adjustments.
On clay, the scenario becomes even more stark, which forces Federer to move out of his circle. Sometimes he has had success. But at the expense of greater damage – which is losses to lessor talented players.
It is an exact replica of what Roddick went through. That partly explains the absence of straight set victories of previous years, even on clay, in his rounds leading to the finals.
And sometimes, like with Volandri and even Monaco, it becomes outright embarrassing, like Roddick’s opening round loss to Muller at the 2005 US Open.
Federer needs to realize he only has a certain set of tools and he can stretch them only so far. Any over step, and it brings the rest of his game down, like a pack of cards, revealing his belly to minor obstacles on the way up.
Borg faced similar scenario against McEnroe. It was a bad match up. It is not necessarily the lefty angle.
James Blake has a 3-0 H2H against Nadal and he is right hander. That’s strictly a match up issue. His diameter contains a perfect combination of an antidote to Nadal’s array of shots.
Federer cannot adopt that combination without damaging what he already has on his diameter. If he tries, it will effectively prevent him from reaching the finals, like it does for Blake.
This year Federer appears to have decided to step over the line and cross the circle to win the FO and to beat Nadal. The comparison of results, from previous years to this year, on clay, are a clear testimony to that. If you missed those, click here.
In the light of above, it is safe to predict that Federer will not be able to reach the finals at Roland Garros. This is not like the Monte Carlo or Hamburg. This is a Grand Slam.
The difference is exactly what you can sense from a regular season game and a playoff game of the NBA. Everyone steps it up a couple of notches at the Grand Slams. That’s why they are so difficult to win.
Federer may have prepared well for Nadal, but in the process may have jumbled the road that leads to him.
If you don’t freaking believe it, you will see the proof soon.
Remember most of my predictions have come true. Last one at Hamburg about Nadal electing to compete at Hamburg. Click here for more on that.