Jeu, set, match Djokovic 6-4 7-5 6-3.
This one was such a weird match from start to finish and certainly not the blockbuster we all expected. The crowd never got into it, the intensity was low and the quality from both sides of the net was poor.
Barring a couple of lengthy rallies that were great to watch, the match was error strewn from both players especially so from the Federer racket.
Roger started the match well, taking huge cuts on his forehand side and playing very aggressively. His agressive nature worked as he drew first blood to break and lead 3-2. As every Fed fan screamed consolidate at the TV screen they were soon to be disappointed as Djokovic broke straight back.
After the promising start Roger went missing and crucially lost serve at 4-5 to hand Novak the first set. The weird thing was how the match started quite well but gradually worsened. One minute you had Roger running round his backhand to attack Nole's second serve and the next he was playing timidly, making way too many errors and not getting enough first serves in play. The fact Roger managed to hit a forehand that bounced well before the net just shows how his game went from good to bad in the blink of an eye.
The second set was the weirdest I've seen all tournament and akin to the kind of tennis we seen week in week out in the WTA. Roger started it in the best possible fashion, breaking Djokovic in his opening service game despite being 40-0 down. A quick hold was soon followed by another break and at 3-0 it looked like Roger would be levelling things up or at least so we thought. I mean when do you ever see a double break get overturned in the men's game?? Very rarely!
At 3-0 Roger played a very lazy service game, Nole came out swinging and it paid off. Fed wasn't serving terribly but on slow courts Djokovic is able to return aggressively and eventually draw an error from the Federer racket. Even at 3-2 your thinking Fed can still take the set, but surprise surprise he lost serve again.
The worst thing about losing 2 breaks was that Djokovic wasn't really having to play well, all he had to do was absorb a couple of aggressive forehands, defend well and he'd end up winning the point. It was just too easy.
Probably the lowest moment of the match for me was when Roger broke for the third time to lead 5-4 and serve for the set only to get broken for the third time. Dropping serve 3 times in one set is ridiculous but it soon got worse as he was broken again as Djokovic took the set 7-5.
I think by the third set most Fed fans were already resigned to defeat, sure it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that Roger could come back but considering the way he was playing it was nigh on impossible. One break turned out to be enough to get the job done for Djokovic in Set 3 as he progressed to his first French Open final a 6-4 7-5 6-3 winner.
I was struggling, you know, to sort of keep the ball in play, you know, probably long enough, even though I wasn’t hitting the ball poorly. It’s been a tough week for me last couple. Maybe in these conditions today didn’t help me, help the cause, let’s put it that way. I did have enough chances, so it’s no excuse there. I tried, and it just didn’t work out today.
What went wrong for Federer?
Like I said above this match is stupidly difficult to assess, it was poor from both players so it's difficult to attribute the loss to anything specific. If Roger plays crap and Djokovic doesn't play much better then just due to the nature of Novak's game he will always come out on the winning side. He can defend so well and just plays high percentage tennis, which when Roger is misfiring is more than enough to get the job done.
I guess you could say this watch was pretty similar to the encounter in Rome in the sense that Djokovic didn't have to play out of his skin to win, he didn't have to hit a crazy winner when 2 match points down, he just had to get the ball back in play and the match was handed to him on a plate.
Was the weather a factor? Maybe slightly but it's the same for both players, I think it's just a case of Djokovic being too solid on the day and Roger failing to put together any of his skills to make any kind of impression.
Huge Loss or Expected?
Whilst I was optimistic Roger could win yesterday, I have to say overall the loss was expected. If we look at how he's played over the last two weeks it's been nowhere near the level we expect. Whilst I don't think the first week at a slam determines how a player does in the semi's in the slightest it's always nice to see some sort of progression on a per match basis and despite the final 3 sets against Del Potro, Roger has been generally struggling with his serve and putting points together.
Obviously losing any match will hurt but from Roger's actions both on court and in his press conference he didn't come across down beat in the slightest. It's as almost like he knew he wasn't playing well enough to win here and perhaps the fact he knew Nadal was waiting in the final (an almost impossible task on clay) subconsciously played on his mind.
Bring on the Grass Courts!
Wimbledon is now only two week away and I do hope that Roger can put in a solid performance there. I'd really like to see him win it but with every slam that goes by it's getting harder and harder. I just hope he is 100% fit for it and gives it is all, if he does that then I won't be disappointed.
The Olympics is still two months away, Wimbledon is two weeks away so there is still time, but semi-finals is a very good result for any tennis player. I've got to change things for grass anyway and I'm looking forward to that. It's been a difficult clay court season, I wasn't in the best shape physically and maybe I did feel that coming down the stretch.
Roger is scheduled to play Halle next week and is drawn to potentially meet Milos Raonic in the third round. For the first time Nadal is playing the event, Nadull usually plays Queens Club but due to UK taxes been too high he's decided to switch to the German event.
I guess it depends on the French Open final whether he plays or not, if it's a 6 hour slug fest then he may withdraw. If he did play though then you'd expect him and Roger to meet in the final. I'll go on record and say that if Roger loses to Nadull at Halle then he won't win Wimbledon, it'd be the worst preparation imaginable and would make Nadal even more dangerous at the All England Club.
I won't get too far ahead of things though as there's still some tennis at the French to be played, I think if Nadal wins the French and plays Halle then he will probably win it. As annoying as that will be to some Fed fans I think it's the truth. On the flip, if he loses the French and plays Halle then he might be vulnerable, allowing Roger to capitalise and go into Wimbledon the more confident of the two.
Anyway, we shall see!