Hey everyone, feels like I've been writing this for the last however many matches but this was yet again another sloppy performance from Roger as he edged past Thomaz Bellucci 6-3 6-7(6) 7-5 in Basel.
It wasn't until late last night that we knew Bellucci would be Roger's opponent after he beat Ge Soeda in 3 sets depsite being a set and a break down.
When I woke up to the news I was pretty happy because even though Roger played way below par against Becker, Bellucci is a total mug on indoor courts. I figured that a fast, low-ish bouncing court would favour Roger 100% and we wouldn't be seeing anything similar to their match in Indian Wells. Federror on the other hand had other ideas.
I didn't switch on the match until it was 2-0 in the first set, so I'm not really sure how Roger broke serve. He held easily to 3-0 and I thought things were panning out very comfortably. It didn't take long for me to realise that Roger wasn't even close to JesusFed mode though, no pop off the groundstrokes, not serving great and having to save a couple of break points as he served out the first set 6-3. It was all too similar to the match against Becker.
Second Set; Bellucci Wins the Tie Break
The best way to describe the second set if you're a Roger fan is awful. The scoreline makes it look close but you never felt like Roger was in control. He was serving second for starters and Bellucci wasn't having to work for his service holds. He just had to keep his cool and Rogers shanks took care of the rest.
Luckily Roger wasn't too troubled on serve either, a couple of 30 all's but some timely first serves and errors from Bellucci meant the set went into a breaker. I thought Roger would be able to edge the breaker and pressure Bellucci so he folded mentally but the Brazilian got into an early lead was was 6-2 up in no time. Roger saved 4 set points to get back to 6 all helped by a Bellucci choke forehand but a huge backhand shank handed Bellucci the set taking the breaker 8-6.
The third set could have gone either way, to his credit I thought Fed started playing a little better in this one, the crowd probably helped him through and he definitely served way better making 77% of his first serves compared to 53% and 56% in the first and second sets respectively.
Bellucci was serving pretty well too, especially the one out wide onto the backhand; that seemed to cause Roger a ton of problems. At 6-5 Roger finally strung some points together, I tweeted if he got to 15-30 he'd break to win and he did just that. From what I remember he hit a pretty sweet inside in forehand and Bellucci netted on the next point to concede the match.
Federer vs. Bellucci Match Stats
Is Roger Struggling?
That answer to that question has to be an unequivocal yes, I've noticed a lot of fans making excuses, saying his opponents are playing amazing, that Roger is just easing into the tournament but from what I have seen so far that's simply not the case.
Roger is majorly struggling with his game, it's off in all areas. The serve, forehand and especially the backhand look a complete wreck. Countless times today he looked to have zero confidence on the backhand, almost stabbing at the ball with no follow through and that always leads to unforced errors.
Bellucci is a terrible indoors player yet he was well into today's match and that shouldn't happen. It's easy to compare these matches to last year and say oh well he dropped a set to Nieminen but it's all about context. These matches are playing out very differently, the result is still a win but the manner of it is very different. In matches like today I feel like the match could slip away, against Nieminen last year and countless times this year when he's fallen behind, I didn't.
Based on what I've seen so far I don't think Roger is winning Basel this year, again fans are quick to point how weak the draw is, but 2 matches in I feel like if you put in a half decent shift then you have a big chance of beating Fed this week. Thing can change but JesusFed would have to make an appearance sooner rather than later for my opinion to change.
I blogged a couple of weeks ago about him being mentally tired after this year and it's crystal clear now, the Olympics and then Berdshit screwed him over. I think skipping Paris and then just going through the motions at the World Tour Finals is the best course of action. He can then play the exhos in Brazil and then rest up for Australia.
Back to right now and the most important thing is that his name is still in the hat for Basel, so perhaps he can find something and his game will click, just a shame Roddick isn't in the draw so he can give him a beat down to boost his confidence so I'm not holding my breath.
Next Up: Paire or Kubot
Despite the poor form I think Roger will get past either of these guys. Dropping a set isn't out of the question but surely his experience is going to be enough to get across the line. In terms of how the match will pan out, I don't a lot about either player to be honest. What I do know though is Kubot is a journeyman and Paire is a young Frenchman with a little bit of hype; French tennis players and hype are a recipe for disaster so I doubt either of those guys can pull off an upset.
After this the tournament gets interesting and I think Del Potro or Gasquet are the ones to watch. We shall see!