That Mr. Hyde impostor that we have seen most of the year in Roger Federer’s shoes appears to have finally departed. Is it because Roger has finally overcome some of his physical problems with his back? Did he simply need more practice and play without pain to raise his level? Is it because he has returned from a mental vacation? Has he found new motivation despite his countless accomplishments? Did he need to dismiss Paul Annacone to find himself? To play indoors again in Basel to find his game? One doesn’t know for sure, but one hopes that Mr. Hyde is gone for a good while.
The Juan Martin Del Potro-Roger Federer match today in the Paris-Bercy quarterfinal was played at a very good level throughout, a little higher level than last week’s Basel final, mostly because Federer played better tactically and executed well.
Del Potro did well to hang in the first set as well as he did. I don’t think any player in the game would have stayed with Federer at that level he showed in the first set. I think some of the best would have been served a bakery item.
Del Potro upped his level a bit in the second and Federer’s level dropped a bit due to mostly tactical mistakes (not hitting enough slice and not moving Del Potro around enough horizontally and vertically as he had done in the first set), so it became a very even set. It probably should have gone to a tiebreak, but Federer’s level dipped a bit in his last service game and Del Potro continued to play well and snatched his opportunity to break Federer’s serve and win the second set with a flourish.
The third set started with momentum on Del Potro’s side but he couldn’t cash in. Federer stayed with him, then broke rather determinedly going back to his first set tactics, but then Del Potro put in a great effort to break back. Then Federer broke Del Potro rather easily with a dip in level by Del Potro. I think with that, Federer had his mental second wind, held serve, and Del Potro couldn’t recover his level and basically gave way in the final game.
[#2] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. [#5] Roger Federer (SUI)
Let’s see what level Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic bring to their next match. Djokovic looked in excellent form from the start vs. Stan Wawrinka, and then played well enough to finish it in two sets. Federer had a chance to take his match with Juan Martin Del Potro in two sets, faltered a bit at the end of the second to lose it, but finished well to take it in three. Will that blip cost him against Djokovic?
Federer is playing well enough to beat Djokovic if he can stay at the level he had against Del Potro. Djokovic doesn’t hit as brilliantly hard as Del Potro, but is more consistent. So Federer mustn’t slip up against Djokovic as Djokovic will take any chance and run with it to the bank.
Federer needs to use his good Djokovic tactics and execution to beat him. Give Novak little rhythm, keeping points fairly short like he has done in many of his wins. But he must choose good moments to create and execute his winning plays, not haphazardly rush his shots. Djokovic, on the other hand, has to try to impose his game, and lure Federer into that metronome rallying game. Federer will need a bit more patience against Djokovic, as Djokovic will get more balls into play with his ultimate retrieving game, but I don’t think Federer wants to get into long rallies and should go for the winner at the first good opportunity.
The problem for Federer is that when Nole is on, he plays excellent defense, generally doesn’t send back too many short balls, and pins one at or behind the baseline. Federer will need to vary his game, lure Djokovic to the net with some short slice to the mid-backhand side, but not necessarily wide.
Against Djokovic, I believe one is better off hitting in the middle third of the court, width wise, and more right at him with depth a majority of the time, varied with slices inside the service line, and force him to use good footwork to get at the proper distance from the ball. He often gets discombobulated balance wise more often when the balls are hit at him, whereas he may be the best player in the world when he is able to stretch far left or right for balls with his near elastic reach, as he seems either to slap them on the side lines at will, or defensively get the ball on or near the baseline almost every time. Djokovic is not as good when he has to move vertically up and down the court – short slice and high mid-court lobs a bit behind him make him uncomfortable.
Keys: Variety and Explosiveness from Federer. Consistency and Physicality from Djokovic.
I’m pretty sure Novak Djokovic’s form his good enough to execute his plan if he gets the chance.
The question mark for many is Roger Federer. Is he close enough to the form that led him to convincing wins over Novak Djokovic at Cincinnati and Wimbledon in 2012, and Roland Garros in 2011? Or will he be prone to what I call his “Mr. Hyde Performances” of 2013 and some of his other losses to Djokovic in the past two to three years?
The one who can assert his game over the other should win.
Good luck to both players.