Hey all, bit of a surprise loss here as Roger crashed out at the hands of Kei Nishikori 3-6 7-5 6-4 under the flood lights at Crandon Park.
I thought after strolling past Gasquet we'd be seeing another straight sets victory but it wasn't to be. All comes down to a poor serving display from Fed coupled with solid baseline play from the Japanese Number 1 who came out the deserved winner.
Not a painful loss for the fans I don't think as Roger looked out of it towards the end and appeared to be fighting tiredness, frustration and some lapses in confidence from the second set onwards. Wasn't like Nishikori was ever going to be walkover but I thought he'd get it done on recent form. But anyway, if Fed was going to lose he may as well lose to my pre-tournament darkhorse 😀
Quick Match Recap
Roger started this one looking pretty sharp firing down two nice holds to lead 2-1. He could have broken in Nishikori in his opening service game having had 2 break points but failed to capitalise.
That didn't matter though as he broke through to lead 3-1 before holding for 4-1. Then somewhat out of the blue Nishikori managed to be the first player to break the Swiss this tournament. That was only a minor blip though as Fed hit straight back to break again before reeling off some specatuclar shots to close out the set 6-3.
With a set in the bag it looked like another quick shift for Roger as he broke early to lead 2-1. Nishikori wasn't planning on folding like Gasquet though and he broke straight back after some weak errors flew off the Wilson Wand.
Dropping serve for the second time didn't unsettle Federer though. He came up with a string of perfectly constructed points to move up another break at 4-3 and put the finishing line in sight.
Again he failed to consolidate the break and in the blink of an eye Nishikori had put himself up 6-5 and then broke Roger to level up the match. It was a poor set to lose from Roger's perspective as this is the ATP not the WTA. If you have 2 breaks in a set and you don't win it then questions have to be asked. Nishikori wasn't exactly setting the world alight but he just stuck to his task and took his chances when they came. That shouldn't really be enough against Roger.
Forcing a decider firmly put momentum on Nishikori's side and he began to serve much better. The first 9 games went with serve but Roger had to dig deep on several occasions to stay in touch. The lack of cheap points on serve and easy holds finally caught up with him at 4-5 when he slipped to 0-40. He fended off 2 of them with great plays but a second serve on the 3rd match point gave Nishikori a look in and he slapped a cross court backhand winner to seal the victory. Well deserved.
|R. Federer||K. Nishikori|
|1st Serve %||53%||66%|
|1st Serve Points Won||33/47 (70%)||46/71 (65%)|
|2nd Serve Points Won||20/41 (49%)||18/37 (49%)|
|Break Points Saved||7/12 (58%)||5/9 (56%)|
|Service Games Played||16||15|
|1st Return Points Won||25/71 (35%)||14/47 (30%)|
|2nd Return Points Won||19/37 (51%)||21/41 (51%)|
|Break Points Won||4/9 (44%)||5/12 (42%)|
|Return Games Played||15||16|
|Net Points Won||10/16 (63%)||5/10 (50%)|
|Total Service Points Won||53/88 (60%)||64/108 (59%)|
|Total Return Points Won||44/108 (41%)||35/88 (40%)|
|Total Points Won||97/196 (49%)||99/196 (51%)|
Thoughts on the Match
Losses are never ideal but just like the Djokovic defeat in Indian Wells I'm not too downbeat about this one. It was clearly a match he should have put to bed in the second set but for one reason or another he was unable to do that.
I'm just taking it on the chin because there's no way he was beating Djokovic and Nadal back to back here for the title. At worst he's getting a beatdown from either of them and at best he's spending 6 hours on court having to try win 30 shot rallies to stand a chance of winning.
Although Roger made a decent start winning the first set the numbers he recorded weren't that great. It was more about 2 or 3 bits of magic that won him it. After that he wasn't really able to summon those on the big points and that allowed Nishikori back into the match. He was still hitting some great shots but his level was up and down like a yo-yo.
He might have been able to get away with that against a more erratic opponent or on a faster court but Nishikori is such an efficient and solid player. He makes it extremely difficult for his opponents, little goes wrong with his technique and he plays the percentages. If you're off the boil he's going to capitalise.
After dropping the second set I thought Fed went pretty flat and struggled from there on. Being up a break twice and failing to win it would have been demoralising. Looked like he was tired too but I think that was probably more out of frustration than out and out fatigue. It's not easy to get a boost of adrenaline when you're missing first serves galore and wondering where you're next point is coming from. Clearly the match felt like a chore for Fed last night rather than a pleasure.
So reason for the loss? Not serving well, surface + conditions not helping him out and Nishikori being too solid. That all combined to throw him off his game and he never had a clear plan of what to do. Too much doubt in the mind hence the retreating on the returns and missing some routine shots.
Looked like a cold night in Miami too and his record in night matches over there has been pretty poor to say the least so it was really just one of those days. Not making excuses there that's just how it is.
Fair play to Nishikori too, he didn't show any signs of fatigue and he's just a solid player. Probably going to factor in the clay season as he's technically sound and moves great.
He also stuck to the plan of pounding Federer's backhand with his 2 hander. The court slowness meant getting him out of position or hitting a clean winner was virtually impossible. Roger did an ok job of mixing it up but he just never really strung it together, the forehand could fire one shot but falter the next and he never had comfortable service holds to ride out the bad patches.
Anyway, Miami is done, it's Davis Cup in about 2 weeks and then the long wait till Madrid. I think it's been a very good start to the year and there is plenty more to come 🙂 Let me know what you think of the loss in the comments.