Hey all, as you will all be aware Roger got his hard court swing underway with a straight sets victory over Philip Kohlschreiber under the bright lights of Cincinnati which was good to see.
It's the first time we've seen him in action since Gstaad due to his withdrawal from Montreal and after 3 tough losses in under a month it's good to see Fed back to winning ways however I left this match with mixed feelings as to actually how positive it actually was which I'll discuss below. But first the match at hand as Roger maintained his peRFect H2H record against the German with a 6-3, 7-6(7) victory.
Quick Match Analysis
I think everyone was slightly skeptical to how this match would start – would the game click? Was the back ok? Why was he using the old Pro staff racquet? Well it all turned out pretty well in the first set with Roger starting quite nicely on serve with 2 love holds to move into a 2-1 lead.
At 2-1 he created his first break point chances at 15-40 only to waste them both with a chip charge and then a forehand pass wide into the tramlines. He went onto waste 4 more with passive returning and allowed Kohlschreiber to hold.
As is often the case when Roger fails to take advantage of multiple break points he found himself in trouble in his own service game and only a crisp volley at 0-30 got him out of trouble.
The next game Kohlschreiber gifted Roger the break from 40-15 up serving a double fault at deuce and then making a weak unforced error from a mid court ball. Roger backed this up with a nice hold to lead 5-2 and then served it out to take the set 6-3.
All in all it was a reasonable set, there were some nice moments and crisp forehands, the returning was yet again average and really the lack of game plan from Kohlschreiber aided Roger's cause quite significantly.
The second set was the reverse as Roger's game went off the boil completely and he missed an easy overhead before serving a double fault to get broken at 2-3. However Kohlschreiber handed the break straight back with an exceptionally poor service game that ultimately cost him the set. Roger had more break point chances in the next service game but couldn't take them and the set went into a tie break.
The tie break was topsy turvy with both guys swapping mini breaks, Roger had to save set points at 5-6 and 6-7 before eventually sealing it 9-7 when he hit a nice forehand down the line on the run.
Shot of the Match
Thoughts on the Match
Like I said above this was a match of mixed feelings for me personally, I'm glad Roger looked like he is over any sort of back problems for now and could play freely, it was also pleasing that he got the much needed win but on the other hand I'm very disappointed he has reverted back to the old Pro Staff racquet after testing the new Prototype post Wimbledon.
It wasn't a bad match and the outcome is positive for sure but as usual Federer fans think 1 win makes everything hunky dory again and suddenly he is back to his best. I happen to think Kohlschreiber played a very poor match and even Roger way below his best was enough to get the job done.
Many of the matches we've seen Roger lose lately the opponent has come in with a clear gameplan whereas Kohlschreiber turned up to just hit a few balls before rolling over. He had no real plan of what needed to be done and lacked any sort of consistency or tactical play, the only points he won were courtesy of poor returning, chip charging or errors from the Federer racquet. So yes, it was good to see Roger winning, but I don't actually see this as a huge forward step.
The reason for that is the racquet and why Roger had suddenly reverted back to the Pro Staff. Now I was never really a huge advocate of the equipment change when it reared it's head again last year, mainly because Roger 3.0 had been around for 12 months and I didn't think it was necessary because he'd won 17 slams with it. However, the more it got talked about and with the change eventually coming after Wimbledon the more I liked it and the more it made sense.
I'm now at the point where I think switching back is the worst possible idea from Federer's perspective, it is almost like he has bottled it here and gone back to his security blanket that is the Pro Staff. I know many of you will say ah it's the right decision, who are you to tell Roger what he should do, it's too late to change as it's won him many matches but without risk there is no reward. There's no risk in playing with a 90sq” racquet that's accompanied him for over 1000 matches, it is like a crutch, sticking with what he knows and refusing to adapt to the modern game.
Stubbornness has aided Roger many times but this could be one step too far, he is clearly not listening to his coach, thinks he can still play his same style of tennis and can do well at the USO. I think with this move, he has cost himself a shot at the USO. Here's what he said post match:
I just felt like, you know what, I’m going to play with the old racquet through the US Open right now, and I’m going to do more racquet testing when I have, again, some more time after the US Open.
Yeah, I was playing for a month with the black one, but it’s a prototype. At the end, I just felt like, you know what, right now I feel like I need to simplify everything and just play with what I know best.
I have too many things on my plate right now. So I just said, I want to definitely do my racquet testing and play more with the prototype, but right now I just wanted it to be about forehands and backhands and nothing else.
I fail to see how the Pro Staff keeps things simple, all it does it keep things the same, there is no change, or adaption here, just plodding along – yes he can train harder, put more hours in but I think a new racquet here could have given him the edge when he needed it most. Using the prototype up until now has almost been rendered pointless as by the time he uses it again he will have forgotten everything about it anyway. If he has a good USO, he may not even test it again which is a big worry.
If we look at last nights match there still plenty frailties out there and only Kohlschreiber's lack of mental fortitude and tactical nouse allowed him to get it done in straights. 2 out of 11 on break points, weak returning and quite a lot of errors in the second set doesn't make good reading; against more consistent baseliners he could and will most likely come unstuck.
I also worry about his return game with this racquet more than ever, we've all been saying he needs to be more aggressive for what seems like forever, and after reading Ru-an's post about Roger's weak slice return and the need for more aggression I thought about it in much more depth and completely agree.
This could cost him matches, it clearly effects his break point conversion as he always plays it safe and allows his opponent to start from either a neutral or offensive position, we saw countless times last night where he chipped the return and then was on the defensive or forced into error. He even floated the ball long on a couple of occasions which is criminal.
The chip return also leads me to believe that Roger isn't taking heed of his coaches advice, if we look at other players who Annacone has coached over the years he has always made them more offensive on the return. Look at Sampras in the video below, he has nowhere near the level of technique that Roger possesses, you could even say his backhand has technical flaws, yet he went full blooded on the return. To him it didn't matter if he missed returns by being aggressive, he knew that if he connected with 4 good ones in a game then he gave himself a better chance of breaking.
Roger is at the opposite side of the spectrum, he will play safe, chip into play, just content to get the rally started, yet it's costing him points and even more so against the top guys. If you're facing Federer, and you keep holding serve even if you get taken to 30 then you will start to get confidence which then gives you more chance of breaking serve yourself, we see this with Berdych, Nadal and most other consistent baseliners.
Sampras Ripping Returns
Video removed 🙁
Annacone even made Henman into a more aggressive player both on the serve and the return, so that's clearly his preferred style of play, I find it unrealistic he'd suddenly be content with Roger chipping the return when none of his other pupils have. It probably boils down to the fact that Roger will be the most stubborn of the lot of them, he still thinks he can use his old school style to win matches, which he can, but against the big boys and an increasing number of players inside the top 20 he is falling short.
No doubt fans will think I'm being negative here, but it's quite the opposite, I'm just thinking about long term and what he must do to win important matches. Beating whipping boys like Kohlschreiber isn't going to win him tournaments, he has to deliver against the guys who are currently thriving. I don't want to watch tournaments where he can beat mid tier opposition comfortably but then come unstuck against the likes of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray and I think the bigger racquet could make a huge difference against them.
But, it looks like Roger's mind is set in stone and he will use the Pro Staff right up until after the USO before trialling a new racquet again. I had a lot of optimism for the US Open but that's not quite the case anymore. He didn't become useless with the Pro Staff overnight and he still may do well but I think the riskier move was to switch racquets but one where the reward could have been far greater.
What do you guys think?
Predictions vs. Haas
Next up for Roger is his good friend Tommy Haas who has made a very solid start to the tournament, schooling both Kevin Anderson and Marcel Granollers in straight sets to setup an exciting clash.
Haas is a very solid player and perhaps American hard courts are his best surface so he could be a danger here. He has a habit of rolling over when he plays Federer but he may threaten due to being more match sharp and taking advantage of Roger's lack of court time.
I still make Roger the favourite but this could easily go 3 sets. Haas doesn't mess about lately and is still clearly playing inspired stuff so I'll pick Roger to win 6-4 4-6 6-3.