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Is this the proverbial ‘beginning of an end’?

Posted by tennisplanet on April 22, 2007


Many of you might feel differently saying ‘it’s too early to say’, but if we impartially review the facts, stats and the various intangibles that are staring in our face, we might be able to come to a reasonable conclusion or should I say ‘compromise’. Does that word sum up the match or what?

Federer has lost three of his nine matches, two of them on his favorite surface. And we are still in April. Federer lost just 5 matches the whole of last year, 4 the year before that, and 5 in 2004.

Its not that Canas was so hot that he destroyed everyone and won two titles. Far from it. In fact, Canas lost the very next match to Carlos Moya at Indian Wells, and even at Miami, where he reached the finals, it’s not that he was untouchable by the rest of the field. Logically, he should have been – after beating the World’s top player twice in couple of weeks.

Does that suggest that the gap is narrowing? Nothing else to conclude, unless there is enough activity as evidence to prove otherwise.

We dismissed those two losses as just an aberration. In fact, we went a step further and billed it as a blessing in disguise, since it gave Federer more time to prepare for the crucial claycourt season. This is the outcome after all that preparation against a known opponent, predictable strategy and familiar surface.

Nadal has a very set ‘modus operandi’ against Federer, specially on clay. He NEVER deviates. Fans sitting in their living rooms, are able to predict where the next Nadal’s service will land, more than half the time. His whole game plan against Federer is an open secret.

One would hope that when you prepare for this inevitable clash in the finals, that should figure in somewhere. More importantly, that there is a strong display on the court, to counter the predictable plan of your opponent. The onus is not on Nadal to change, when he is getting such great results, while staying in his comfort zone.

Like I mentioned in another post, Federer is carrying a double-edged sword. If he doesn’t deliver despite the extra days he had, to do nothing but just prepare for clay and Nadal, those two losses will have a cumulative effect, with deadly consequences.

We all know, its not all about your physical talent and skill in any endeavour. There are many intangibles that come into play to complete the cycle of success. Sometimes what is going on between the ears is more important that what you can navigate physically.

Maria Sharapova is the most latest example of it, with her inability to get in her first serve. If you follow baseball, you know what happened to Alex Rodriguez last season. There is more than enough evidence to substantiate the power of the intangible angle to your production, irrespective of the field. At times, it is more complicated to remedy than the technique of your forehand.

How else can you explain half of your errors coming from forehand – your ‘go-to’ shot. Out of 38 errors Federer committed in the match, 19 were from the forehand!!! Go figure.

Federer has now had Tony Roche for two full season, since the beginning of 2005. He has a ‘handshake’ deal with Roche with no contract. Roche is paid by the week. Roche has won Roland Garros ONCE. Guess why he is there – oh, you guessed it? Yeah, to help Federer win the French Open.

Do you think this is the right arrangement to get results? Guy has no contract!!! Do you think that might effect someone’s motivation to produce results? Why else would you have such an arrangement? Is it money? Can you think of any better reason?

Do you think it is good idea to consider someone’s track record as a coach, before hiring? Well, Ivan Lendl hired Roche as a full-time coach. Lendl’s dream was to win Wimbledon and he thought Roche’s expertise on volleying might help. How many Wimbledons did Lendl end up winning – a whopping ZERO.

Well, he was hired again by Patrick Rafter. Patrick came out strong – winning whopping TWO majors.

Maybe, its time to correct, either the mechanics of the existing arrangement to have some accountability or just look for another direction. Is that reasonable enough?

From what I seem to gather after reading and talking to many tennis fans, the effort and desire was missing. That is a huge crack on anyone, leave alone someone attempting to be the best ever. So many people mentioned that after watching the final, that it is not even funny.

That indicates a complete erosion of the belief system, imperative to achieving results at this level. If the will to fight and move up against the stream is deserted, irrespective of what numbers are posted on the score board, the end cannot be far behind. History is proof of numerous battles in every arena, when the underdog refused to give up and valiantly fought to his last drop, despite all odds and the victory impossible – and won.

Federer is an underdog when playing Nadal on clay. It is upto him to ‘bring it’ and let Nadal know that he has to win it, nothing will come easy. That he will never cave in, no matter how good Nadal plays. Unless Nadal is made to feel that, he will just continue to stick to his plan against Federer – known to even a ball boy on the court.

Don’t check the Wimbledon winner yet? Federer still has time to correct. TIME, yes. There’s not a whole lot of it when you are 26.

We hope Federer makes visible changes on the court for the next showing. Just effort and hunger can eclipse many shortcomings.

Will the rest of the claycourt season, see a more motivated and determined Federer? Or is it all downhill from here?

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