Hey all, I'm back from a weekend in Rotterdam where as most of you know I didn't get to see Federer play after he clowned up against Benneteau in the Quarter Finals. A little disappointing that he couldn't make the Semi's but what can you do?
I didn't see any of the match live as I arrived quite late and only tuned into the scores at 30-30, 5-6 when he threw down a double fault at the worst possible moment to give Benneteau a match point which he took first time of asking. Sheer disbelief was the best way to describe it at the time, I mean how could he lose a match like that? Luckily Rotterdam had more to offer than just tennis so even without seeing Fed himself it was a really fun trip.
Now I'm back home I've had time to watch some extended highlights on YouTube so will give my thoughts on the match and Roger's performance or lack of.
The first thing that will probably effect my critique is that I now know that Roger apparently had back problems all week in Rotterdam and has been plagued with them since Melbourne. He hasn't mentioned it directly in his pressers (he never does) but it's supposedly come via his coach Paul Annacone and it'd also explain the fact he was wearing under shirts at the Australian Open. Rotterdam was fairly cold too so that never helps which could have made things worse for him.
With back troubles in mind I'll probably go a lot easier on him, if I'd written it just after the loss then he'd be getting a lot of stick as it looked like he wasn't even trying out there!
Federer vs. Benneteau Analysis
There's no real secrets to why this match was lost – Benneteau played consistently well and Roger had one of his worst serving days in a long time.
As he said himself after the match, he gave Benneteau too many 30 all opportunities on his serve and if you give a player that many chances the pressure keeps mounting and mounting to the point where a break of serve becomes inevitable.
Roger might have got away with serving like that against a lesser player but someone like Benneteau who actually has one of the most complete games on tour, that's not going to happen. Usually what lets Benneteau down is the mental fortitude side of things but in terms of ball striking he can play some really good stuff in all areas of the court and if you keep giving a guy like that chance after chance it's never going to end well.
Usually when Roger gets off to a bad start it can be a sign of things to come and that happened against Benneteau as he got broken in the first game. He did manage to break back but dropped serve two more times in the set to lose it 6-3.
Obviously with Roger 3.0 you know he's capable of turning any kind of match around no matter how badly he plays early doors but falling 4-1 behind in the second set left him a mammoth uphill task to try and turn the match around. Strangely enough he actually did flirt with the idea and hit back to level the second at 5-5. He then created 0-40 on the Benneteau serve to give himself a chance of serving out the set and putting the match back on level terms.
Unlike the Davydenko match last year where he took his chances this time around they went begging and Benneteau held and broke in the very next game to seal a 6-3 7-5 victory. The last game summed up the match to be quite honest, a double fault (he hit 4 total in the match) at 30-30 and then a makeable backhand pass down the line on match point that went wide.
In terms of the key match stats then you only have to look as far as 4 double faults, only making 56% of his first serves and losing his serve 5 times as to why he lost the match.
Any Positives to take?
If I hadn't seen the highlights then I'd have probably said no but there were still a few moments that were good from Roger's side of the net. Despite looking completely disinterested and lackadaisical throughout the whole match he still managed to fight back from 4-1 down and almost take the match into a third set which would have made it very interesting. It would have been somewhat lucky had it happened but he had the chances but just couldn't muster the break when he needed it.
In terms of the tournament as a whole then it's probably not one he can look back on and get much confidence from, he played just 3 matches and didn't really set the place alight. It's best to just draw a line under it and prepare for the next tournament.
Was the Back a Problem?
There's been a lot of talk about Roger having back problems that could have been the reason behind his poor serving performance and subsequent loss to Benneteau. It's not come from Federer himself so it's hard to confirm but in my mind it sounds quite likely.
The back apparently was mentioned by Annacone which I've seen been discussed on Twitter/Blogs/Forums; obviously just because a lot of people say something doesn't always mean it's true but there's also the fact Federer said he had hardly picked up a racket for two weeks until last Sunday.
I thought after playing well in the Australian Open he'd have been keen to kick on and at the very least keep his game ticking over on the practise courts yet by the sounds of it he's just been not really doing anything.
Roger 3.0 doesn't just take 2 weeks off unless he really needs it and that's either when he's mentally drained or struggling physically. There's no way he's mentally tired 4 weeks into the season so it does look likely he could be suffering with a back problem.
As for what the problem is I'm not too sure but I don't think it's really an injury so to speak like a muscle strain or disc as that could probably be fixed with plenty of rest or even an operation. It seems more like a recurring problem that flares up due to various conditions be it cold, moisture or even the way he's slept.
The bad news is it could hamper in more matches in the future but the good news is that I figure it will be manageable with the right treatment and scheduling. We really have no idea how long Federer's had back troubles the first real big issues were in 2008 but he may well have had slight back pain earlier and I doubt he's every played a full season without it effecting him at least once in recent years. True to his style though he never brings it up in matches or turns to it as an excuse so we're always in the dark really.
Anyway, I don't think there's any need to start overly worrying just yet or writing off 2013 for Roger. There's no way he's going to just wilt overnight so I'm sure when he next takes to the court he will be motivated to prove a point and try to add another title to the collection.
My Trip to Rotterdam
Now obviously I didn't see Roger play but I did watch two matches, first I saw Benneteau vs. Simon, gotta say it wasn't really spectacular, they aren't a good match up and the majority of the crowd had come hoping to see Federer so were pretty flat. That probably didn't help them play at a top level and Simon as usual with his fragile body had to see the trainer in the second set before he lost the match in straights.
The final however was more enjoyable and Del Potro can be quite entertaining to watch partly because he is a big hitter but mainly because of his dopey mannerisms on court. It was also fun to watch him stand and speak Spanish into the camera during the trophy presentation for about 5 minutes with the majority of the crowd not having any idea what he was talking about.
I thought Del Potro played well in the final though really, he lost his serve a few times but he just had that bit too much for Benneteau, who is now 0-8 in ATP finals. Awful record really and it's doubtful he can ever win one. As for Del Potro he looked in quite good form, I'd of course have loved to see how Roger played against him in the final as I think it could have been a very entertaining / tight match but we'll probably see them two slug it out later in the year I'd imagine.
As for Rotterdam itself I had a really good time, in terms of the city there's a lot of shops and restaurants as you'd expect. If you're really into architecture and buildings then it's probably not the best city for you as there's a lot of concrete (the city was flattened in WWII apart from a couple of areas) but in and amongst the high rise buildings there's a few older buildings / landmarks that are really cool, along with a lot of boats (still in use) and bridges that are fun to check out.
The Ahoy is also a great place to watch Tennis, I've always thought the o2 was a great arena but something about the Ahoy makes it more enjoyable. Maybe it's the overall design or something as simple as the black seats that contrast with the Green courts and sponsors logo but whatever it is, it's cool. I also like the fact they haven't crammed in as many seats as possible so it remains spacious. So if anyone is thinking of going next year then I'd definitely recommend it 🙂
Back to the land of Tennis and Roger is in action next week in Dubai where he's also the defending champion. I'm hoping he can perform better there than he did this week. Kyle from Lefty Advantage made a good point on Ru-ans blog that Dubai is a lot lot warmer than Rotterdam so his back is less likely to be a factor in those conditions. Sounds logical to me so hopefully that's the case and he can end the mini title drought he's on right now. Allez!