Hey guys, as I'm sure you are all aware Roger announced on Facebook, Twitter and on his website that he's added both Gstaad and Hamburg to his schedule after crashing out of Wimbledon in the second round.
I was quite surprised when I first heard it as both tournaments are on clay courts which is of course Roger's least favourite surface. I thought maybe Washington was the likely one because it's a good hard court warm up tournament ahead of Montreal but looks like Roger is wanting to stay on this side of the Atlantic for a few home comforts before heading out to Canada for the Roger's Cup.
However now I've thought about it I think it makes sense, surface is somewhat irrelevant here as both tournaments play pretty fast and Gstaad is played at high altitude which means it shares quite a few characteristics of a hardcourt so it's not too much of an issue. Hamburg is another event that's got some pace in the court so again it won't really make too much of a difference.
Surfaces aside the most important thing for Fed is matches, he needs them irrespective of the court type so he should be willing to play on anything really and that's why I actually like the fact he has added these tournaments, it signifies he is willing to work, find a way back into form and is motivated to do so.
Since the Australian Open he's played very little tennis, losing early in a number of tournaments including the Quarters at the French and then of course in his second match at Wimbledon. If anything you could say he's under tennised right now and his most recent memories of holding a racquet in front of a crowd aren't the sort that will fill him with confidence.
Most of his high profile matches this year have ended in losses and it's only really Halle where he stemmed the tide only to get shot down again when he ran into Stakhovsky who was in the zone for 4 sets; so I think getting matches and victories under his belt with the possibility of winning 2 titles is a very smart move.
Hamburg – July 15th
First on the calendar is Hamburg which starts on July 15th and it's the first time Roger has played the event since 2008 where he lost in the final against Nadal. However don't let that one mislead you, Roger has won the German Tennis Open Championships title 4 times and one of his few wins against Nadal on clay came here in 2007 so it's a tournament he definitely has fond memories of.
I like the fact he's playing here as it's one of those tournaments that has provided some important moments for him and milestones in his career, beating Nadal is one of course, but he also decided after he lost to Squillari in Hamburg in 2001 that he needed to control his temper, which has of course since worked hugely in his favour. I guess now is also a time in his career where change maybe a good thing, you feel he needs a spark or a moment where something just clicks and his mind is a lot clearer.
Hamburg is an ATP 500 event which means it's a good chance to get some all important ranking points on the board too as Roger is now at Number #5 in the world for the first time in 10 years so it'd be good if he can somehow get back into the top 4 for the US Open as the seeding will help with the draw.
The field is fairly strong with Haas, Simon, Seppi, Almagro, Paire and Janowicz all turning out for it so it's not like he can just stroll to the title. Whilst there's no huge dangers like Murray, Tsonga, Djokovic or Stakhovsky 😛 he will need to be on form to win which I think is a good thing.
Federer vs. Nadal Hamburg 2007 Highlights:
Gstaad – Roger's First Wild Card Tournament
After Hamburg finishes, it's onto Gstaad which starts on the 22nd of July and is in Roger's own backyard in Switzerland. It's another tournament he has fond memories of as they gave him is first wildcard into an ATP tournament way back in 1998 where he lost in first round to Lucas Arnold Ker which was long before I was a Federer fan.
He did however win the tourmanent in 2004 beating Igor Andreev in the final in 3 tights sets. This year the field is quite strong with Wawrinka, Tipsarevic, Paire, Youzhny and Bellucci all in the draw so again it will require a high level from Roger to take this title down just like Hamburg. No cakewalks here.
Gstaad is played high above sea level, over 1000 metres, so I think the conditions are going to be quite similar to Madrid which plays quick and is only 600 metres above sea level. This should of course aid Roger as he likes it when the balls fly through the air quickly and that gives him a chance to hit through the court.
So unless his opponent serves and volleys every point I think he has a good chance of winning the title and at the very least he should make the final which could be all Swiss if Wawrinka plays well which would be an interesting one for the crowd 😀
Good Decision or Bad Decision?
I think this is another smart decision, these aren't the sort of tournaments that are going to tire him out as they are small fields and only best of 3 sets so he has nothing to lose and quite a lot to gain.
I figure Roger's confidence is pretty low right now especially after Wimbeldon but cumulatively since Cincinnati 2012 he has been leaking confidence which when you think about it could be worse than one big blow like Wimbledon. I know Roger recognises this is a transition year but even he's not immune to the knocks to your confidence that defeats cause so I'm glad he has recognised the need to get some matches under his belt and try and build momentum ahead of the US Open.
I don't really mind they are on clay either, it's about matches right now not surface preparation so I think staying in Europe is a better decision, it's less air miles, probably better for the twins whose Birthday in on 23rd of July and I guess Roger feels more at home in both Hamburg and Gstaad than he would on the East Coast of America.
Washington hasn't been a tournament he's chosen to be in his schedule before either and in fact he's only played it once in 1999 losing to Bjorn Phau in straight sets, of course he was only a young boy at that time so you can't read into the loss too much but I figure he'd rather stick with tournaments that have yielded success in the past compared with ones that haven't.
Of course no matter what Roger does some of his clown fans jump to conclusions and I have seen a few comments that this is some kind of farewell tour. Yet again more ridiculous ideas from his part time supporters who only seem capable of singing his praises when he is winning matches.
I see this as the complete opposite, this is a bid by Roger to actually play himself back into contention, I guess right now he's wounded and is looking to find a way to pick himself back up and respond for the back end of the year. There's no way he's turning up at these events to please the fans or for appearance fees – confidence, rankings, momentum and self belief are all on the line here and I am happy he's giving himself a shot of taking advantage of what is on offer.
As for my expectations then they aren't sky high, I think he should be winning at least 1 of these titles though even though they aren't a given. I'm just looking for the right type of response after Wimbledon, if he runs into someone zoning the what can you do? But I do expect aggressive play and at least giving himself chances to win not playing timidly.
I feel like he didn't play badly against Stakhovsky but you have to say it was like 75% Stakhovsky playing a very tricky game and 25% Roger not playing well when he had to. I don't want to see more matches where the big points go begging so I'm hoping that changes starting July 15th, Allez!
What do you guys think? Happy with Roger's scheduling choices? What are your expectations? Could he step on court with a 95sq” racquet?