Another loss for Roger at the hands of Djokovic as he went down in 3 sets in his first Round Robin match at the World Tour Finals in London. Like Paris it was a similar story with Roger looking strong early, hanging tough but ultimately falling short in the third set where once again Djokovic proved too good.
I have to say it was a disappointment after showing positive signs in Paris that this match just didn't go to plan and it ended rather meekly with another 6-2 deciding set loss with 2 breaks of serve. Can't quite put my finger on it but losses like this are never good and the erratic play is costing him dearly this year.
Aside from the result I thought the match was poor as both guys made a lot of errors and it was one of those showdowns that never really caught fire; ultimately it was won and lost by mistakes rather than brilliance which made it pretty boring. Let's take a look…
Quick Match Recap
Both players started this one in fairly decent form with no real major chances for either player, however at 4-4 Roger got a break point and missed his forehand by a matter of millimetres and the chance went begging. Big asterisk next to that one I think.
As we've seen countless times this year that missed chance had negative implications on his own service game as Roger allowed Djokovic to bring up two break points, he saved one but folded cheaply on the next to hand over the set on a plate. It was a very hesitant game and just shows that despite looking solid for most of the set a few erratic points these days and he's toast.
Roger was in trouble again at 15-40 in his opening service game of the 2nd set but dug himself out of a hole and then managed to break Djokovic for the first time at 2-2 with some nice shotmaking. Of course he handed the break straight back double faulting on break point to let Novak right back into it.
Strangely Roger broke again immediately to give himself an advantage and after consolidating to lead 5-3 he brought up a set point at 5-4 but again couldn't hang onto his serve when he needed to and got broken.
2 breaks and he still couldn't close it out is mega annoying so I wasn't too excited for the tie break however it was pretty vintage Federer in the breaker as he served well, won a lengthy rally and closed it out 7-2 to the level at 1 set all.
Just like in Paris the question was whether he could muster up a good final set performance (Roger hasn't beaten a member of the top 4 in a deciding set since 2010) and the answer sadly was no as he got broken to love in the opening game. He had a break point chance to hit straight back but couldn't take it and the rest is history as Djokovic cruised away in the end breaking again to take it 6-2.
|Stats||N. Djokovic||R. Federer|
|1st Serve %||56%||54%|
|1st Serve Points Won||40/57 (70%)||37/56 (66%)|
|2nd Serve Points Won||23/44 (52%)||23/47 (49%)|
|Break Points Saved||3/5 (60%)||6/11 (55%)|
|Service Games Played||15||15|
|1st Return Points Won||19/56 (34%)||17/57 (30%)|
|2nd Return Points Won||24/47 (51%)||21/44 (48%)|
|Break Points Won||5/11 (45%)||2/5 (40%)|
|Return Games Played||15||15|
|Total Service Points Won||63/101 (62%)||60/103 (58%)|
|Total Return Points Won||43/103 (42%)||38/101 (38%)|
|Total Points Won||106/204 (52%)||98/204 (48%)|
Thoughts on the Match
I've treated Roger's last few losses as positives and a rebuilding process but I think this one was a bit of a blow to his confidence. It was just far too fragile and erratic to be considered good in my opinion, too many errors, some good play in patches (see shot of match) but overall he just let Djokovic do his thing and not really have to push himself that hard.
Yes Novak did a lot of running and defended well but it was too easy for him to keep the ball in play and wait for a backhand or forehand to sail into the tramlines. I don't think he ever really felt too much pressure as he must have known Roger's serve was a break waiting to happen for him that it almost became at will.
When you've never beaten Djokovic after losing the first set it's kinda obvious you can't throw in a disaster game at 4-5 to drop it in a flash. Yes he was unlucky to not break at 4-4 with a great forehand that went just wide but you gotta keep focused there; too often of late he's ruing these missed opportunities and it's costing him. It's all well and good saying in interviews point for point and it's on my racquet but talk is cheap so I wanna see Fed play with a bit more conviction and not let feeling hard done by effect his play.
The biggest disappointment other than the level of play was how slow the court is, I'm not sure what the ATP have done with this one but it really is sluggish. I've seen 4 matches now and none of them are what I'd call indoor tennis. Roger just couldn't hit through the court and even though he did hit some bullet forehands they made little impression; on an old indoor court of all these would have been clean winners or at the very least put him in a very strong position.
In the O2 this year most of the rallies are just neutralising plays, Roger could hit 4,5 or 6 massive forehands to send Djoker scurrying, but suddenly find himself back in a neutral position and having to start all over again due to how easily Djokovic covered the court. It was the same with Stan vs. Nadal today, Stan hit some crazy forehands but Dull just defended and moonballed his way back into it. I can accept that on some courts but indoors?
Even the back hand down the line was a neutral shot for Roger last night which made it pretty ineffective, he was able to hit plenty that were good enough to be clean winners but they just don't go through the court, of course then he has to play one more shot, and then another and we all know the outcome.
It makes it very difficult to really take up an offensive position as you can be on top for 4 shots and then suddenly back to rallying. Which of course draws errors hence the high count in Roger's column.
I think ultimately Roger needs a bigger racquet in his arsenal to do more damage on these type of courts, he's got to find that balance with out and out aggression and consistency. Something kinda has to give and I think it's the 90sq” frame otherwise we may see a similar story in Australia.
As for Djokovic then he just played smart tennis, he was pretty lacklustre himself for most of it but just hung in there, he's probably the best lateral mover in the game right now and he manages to get a lot of weight on the ball even at full stretch so fair play to him, once again the deserved winner.
Predictions vs. Gasquet
Next up for Roger is Richard Gasquet who also lost his first round robin match to Juan Martin Del Potro so this is must win for both guys. Gasquet has actually had a pretty immense year by his standards but it just looks unlikely he will ever get over his mental frailties to win big matches.
If Roger had beaten Djokovic I'd have been thinking this one is a routine but it's probably not going to be simple and could go three sets. The good news for Roger is he has a lot in his favour – big positive H2H and he's mentally far better. I mean Roger has been pretty bad this year on big points but he's still nowhere near the level of Gasquet 😛
I think if Roger can force the issue then he'll come out on top, Gasquet will hit some flashy winners off both wings but I think Roger can almost prevent him from playing his game. The slowness of court won't help of course but Gasquet can't defend that well so Roger should still be able to open up the court and have enough room for a put away ball.