Hey everyone, sadly my pre tournament prediction came true as Roger lost rather easily to Nadal 6-4 6-2 in their Indian Wells Quarter Final showdown to bow out of yet another event rather tamely.
After seeing the way Federer played against Wawrinka earlier in the week I didn't have too many expectations for this encounter so it wasn't too disappointing a loss. Of course there's always that feeling in the back of your mind that Roger might just produce something special despite the odds being against him but sadly it wasn't to be.
First Set – Too Many 0-30 Service Games
The first set was always going to be key in this one (Roger has only beaten Nadal twice when he lost the first set, in Hamburg, on clay of all surfaces back in 2007 and in Miami back in 2005, thanks to Rakhesh for the correction.) and it was Nadal who made the better start.
Roger was serving ok and had a few confidence boosting holds from 0-30 early but he kept putting himself under more and more pressure and that eventually told as Nadal took his chance at 3-3 to break. He held comfortably and then had another break point to take the set at 5-3 but Roger hung on and at least made him serve him out which he ultimately did with little fuss to take the set 6-4.
I thought Nadal played a pretty smart set really, whilst he didn't do anything special he was just ruthlessly consistent which is pretty much what you expect with him. I suppose the one area of surprise was that he didn't dominate with the forehand as usual and it was actually the backhand that caused the most problems for Roger. I figure that's mainly due to Rafa drilling it cross court and Fed struggling to defend off that wing. He didn't use the squash shot forehand once all match which was strange to see.
Second Set – Federer Wains
The second was pretty much a write off and it appeared that Roger had taken the same attitude as most of his fans and decided to write this match off.
He was broken to love in the very first game and that gave him little to no route back into the match, Nadal then got another break to lead 3-0 which was a virtual match point. I was hoping Fed at least prevented a breadstick which he did as he got 1 break back before holding to pull back the deficit to 2-3.
That 2 game streak was short lived though as Nadal broke again to lead 5-2 and he served it out with total ease to move into the semi finals where he will meet Tomasz Berdych.
Thoughts on the Match
There's not a whole lot to say really other than it was disappointing. Nothing came good for Roger at all, he was beaten in this one early and looked kinda dejected for most of the match. All that stats were against him with unforced errors way outnumbering the winners and his service stats were pretty poor too. Mojoless on court really and he never wins matches with that kinda demeanor and body language.
No doubt a few of you are reading this thinking why hasn't he mentioned the back injury yet?? Well I'll talk about that now…
It's pretty obvious Roger played this match well short of being 100% fit, he was pretty slow round the court and couldn't defend anything off the forehand side. I lost count of the amount of times he just let the ball go by or made no effort to track it down. Clearly he didn't want to take too many chances out there and even stepping on court was probably a big enough risk in itself. Now obviously this all boils down to the back issue which flared up against Dodig and was also apparent vs Wawrinka, who knows specifically what the back problem actually is but it does hamper his game quite severely.
Even if the pain isn't acute it still seems to be lingering in his mind and he can't really trust his own body to do what he wants it to do. When that happens you are forced to play within yourself and almost lose belief in every part of your game. It's physical but also psychological. Bad news because if Roger wants to take it to Nadal he needs to be at his physical and mental best; if one of those is missing (and they kinda go hand in hand) then he has no chance.
Roger on his back:
Same as against Stan. I mean, I could play. I'm happy to be out there and able to compete, you know.
But it's obviously a small issue. That doesn't work against guys like Rafa, obviously.
I've seen a few fans say he should have withdrawn prior to the match to help the H2H record and he shouldn't have stepped on court if he can't play to his best but I disagree with that. I think he did right stepping on court and at least giving it a go as we all know anything can happen. Judging by his body language he knew that he was going to lose but still came on court to at least give it a go and not disappoint any of the fans who had paid for a ticket but rather than a classic they got Kneedal vs. Backerer in straight sets.
Would Roger have won had he been at full fitness? Tough to say, he'd have put up more of a fight I'm sure and been able to play more aggressively but Nadal was in decent form by the looks of things so the result could have stayed the same.
Obviously Nadal wasn't really tested much either but he looked pretty clutch as usual and moved well around the court. His forehand still isn't firing but the backhand looks like it's striking the ball nicely so he'd have been a handful regardless.
Roger's 2 Month Break
Roger's schedule means he's now skipping Miami and will next be in action at the Madrid Masters 1000 tournament where he's again the defending champion. Not got a great record at defending titles this season though!
It will be interesting to see how he comes back after this break. I hope he can shake off the back injury and start to play good tennis again as it's sucked watching him so far this season since the Australian Open.
It is a long time so it should do him some good, he will be able to get plenty treatment, no doubt speak to some specialists and also practise quite hard back in Switzerland. I do really hope it is just the back that's messing him up at the minute and not anything else like lack of motivation or desire. I guess we will find out the next match he plays where he is 100% fit whether he can get back to the kinda level he was at last year.
I have a few post ideas to fire out over the coming weeks so stay tuned, some will of course be Federer related but others will take a more general look at the game.