🙁 Well not the US Open we all hoped for as Berdych silenced the Arthur Ashe crowd beating Roger in 4 sets to setup a semi final clash with Andy Murray.
It was disappointing to say the least, with Roger 23-0 in US Open night session matches I thought he'd be beating Berdych comfortably. Berdych was always going to be dangerous but I never foresaw the final result and having stayed up till 4.30am to watch the entire match I went to sleep wondering what had just happened and annoyed my US Open viewing had come to a premature end.
I'm a little late with this post and that's down to two things; I thought I'd wait a little bit and see how I felt and I've found it pretty tough to get motivated to write this post which is naturally the case after a tough loss. Anyway here goes…
For those who didn't see a quick summary of the match would be Fed broke in the opening game, got broken back later in the set, missed a regulation volley on the first point of the breaker and then capitulated to lose it 7-1.
Berdych then broke Fed in his opening service game of the second set after he sprayed an easy forehand wide. He took that 6-4. The third set and match looked to be Berdych's when he broke immediately again only for Roger to find a way back from 3-2 down to take the set 6-3.
By this point the momentum had changed but Berdych managed to keep his head and ride it out before breaking at 4-3 and serving out the match to love. Nightmare.
What went wrong for Roger?
It's difficult to really pin point exactly what cost Roger the match and after I've let the dust settle for the last 2 days I think it probably boils down to two things; Berdych's consistent level of play, Roger's movement (or lack of) and getting himself in too big a hole to get out of. (I'll talk about Fish later)
Roger can only control one of those things which is his movement so I'll look at that first. Against Berdych he never quite looked like he was in position early enough to play his shots properly. A couple of points stick in my mind where Roger didn't get the footwork right and ended up spraying the ball miles wide. When you don't get your feet planted it takes a ton of pace of your groundstrokes and they practically just loop in, which of course Berdych can capitalise on.
Once you're on the back foot in a rally against the Czech it's hard to get back into it without pulling off an amazing shot and no matter what Roger tried he couldn't really find anything that worked.
I think the main reason for most of his errors boils down to movement too, if you're getting caught in the wrong positions you're having to rush shots or play off balance which inevitably means shanks, mis hits and difficulty keeping the ball in court. I mean you only gotta look at how many times Roger missed his strings completely to know his game was off.
If Roger had won the first set then I think the match would have been very different but getting off to the bad start and then dropping the second just meant he had too much to do. He never really got going despite the 4 game streak in the third. It was like he couldn't find that other gear, I've felt similar before, you turn up to play whatever sport it maybe cricket, tennis, football and you feel like you have a ton of energy but then as soon as you start you feel like you're not really moving that well, almost labored despite feeling fine physically. I guess that's what happened to Roger on court, he tried his best but he just couldn't come up with the shots or consistency to find a route back in. When he won the fourth I thought that would get his adrenaline going and he'd be able to start dominating Berdych but for whatever reason it just didn't happen.
As much as I hate Berdych's smugness I have to say he played pretty well and was consistent throughout the 4 sets. He plays like a robot so once he get's going he's hard to stop. Robots thrive off patterns too and most of the points/rallies/sets followed a distinct pattern which plays into his hands. Any rallies of length were usually won by Berdych and it was only when Roger started mixing it up, to confuse the robot, with dropshots and slice was when he found success. In hindsight it's a pity he didn't try more of that as I think he won practically every point that where Berdych had to move forward rather than side to side.
Biggest Areas of Disappointment
Probably the worst thing about the match was the fact Fed managed to win the third set, totally switch the momentum and then lose the 4th + the match in almost no time at all. I thought when he won the 3rd there was a very good chance that he'd be able to turn the match around but it just didn't happen. It gave the fans and himself false hope and that's never fun to watch. Even when he was two break points down in he 4th and he came up with a GOAT volley to save the first, Berdych just hit a massive cross court forehand that he had no chance of getting to. Sad times.
The second disappointment was that I don't think Berdych played as well as he did in Madrid yet this time he was on the winning side of the net. I guess that just sums up tennis and how matches can be decided by just a couple of points but I genuinely thought Berdych was going to have to play unbelievable to win, unfortunately he just had to play well, keep above a certain level and that was enough to get the job done. I guess the positive for him is he didn't let them 3rd set loss bother him too much considering he's choked many times before. Perhaps now he'll beat Murray but then he will definitely choke the final.
Was Fish's Withdrawl a Factor?
I know a lot of people blame Fish for the loss but I don't that's really the case. Obviously it didn't help but I don't think neither us nor Roger can use that as sole blame. Having a big break isn't ideal but there's nothing you can do about it. The same thing happened to Djokovic at the French Open in 2011 and nobody cited that as the reason for his loss so I think it's kinda the same here. The worst thing was that perhaps Rogers first 3 matches weren't anywhere near difficult so he couldn't draw much from them in terms of where he was at. There wasn't a Benneteau type match and the 4th round is usually a tricky but not stupidly difficult match and Fish was going to be just that. Perhaps if he'd played it then things might have been different that that's a huge if so we'll never know.
What does Roger think?
After watching Feds presser its clear he is majorly pissed off at the way he played too. He had a great chance of winning the whole thing but he screwed up, didn't execute and got in too big a hole to find a way out of. Often it's just the fans who are downbeat about a performance but here it's obvious Roger is too and you can understand why.
I think he genuinely believed he was going to win the US Open this year and to have it end in the quarter final against a player he should beat is legitimate reason to be annoyed.
I'm disappointed. I really expect myself to play better tonight, especially at night I have had such a great record,” said Federer. “I felt good. Such an amazing summer I had. I really thought I was going to come out and play a solid match. I didn't do that tonight. Obviously there is a bit of a letdown now.
I should come in here with tons of energy and ready to go,” he said. “Who knows, if you get that day, that match in with Fish, come through with more confidence, maybe the first three matches didn't quite give me that. Who knows? I don't put that down as a negative, really. I just didn't come up with the goods tonight. It was unfortunate.
I'm not going to say I'm at peace with this match just yet as I feel it was a real let down and could have been so much better. However I'm not going to ignore the fact it's been a great year so far so it's impossible to be too downbeat.
I think the only conclusion we can draw is that Roger played a poor match and couldn't find a way to win. Perhaps it was bound to happen at some point but it's just a shame it happened in a Grand slam that he had a very good chance to win. I actually think he'd have beaten both Murray and Djokovic had he got through this but it just wasn't to be.
Perhaps the one good thing is that Roger is annoyed too and he even said he would go back to the drawing board in his presser which clearly means he's motivated to try and push on from here and still achieve which is a positive sign. Of course as each slam passes by they progressively become harder to win but there's probably a few more chapters in his career to write so who knows what can happen.
Anyway, it's Shanghai next and then the indoor season, here's hoping from a positive response now from Roger and hopefully he can end the year as the number #1 ranked player. It's going to be tough from here but not impossible so we shall see.