Hey all, another Masters 1000 comes to a disappointing and premature end as Roger lost to Monfils 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 to bow out in the last 16 for the second tournament in row.
It's meant his World Tour Finals qualification hopes have taken another hit but perhaps more worryingly this was another telling loss at the hands of an opponent he's previously dominated.
Yet again he played well in fits and spurts but couldn't quite pull it together on the bigger points when he needed to. Monfils handed him several life lines during the match but ultimately he was the better player on the day and clearly deserved to win based both on what I saw and the match statistics below.
Quick Match Analysis
The match started with an inexplicable service game from Roger has he made 3 stupidly wild errors to get broken. It looked like he was going hit straight back but Monfils saved 2 break points with big first serves and consolidated to lead 2-0.
A Federer hold was then followed up by a Monfils love hold and that pattern continued as the Frenchman was able to fire down big first serves when he needed them en route to closing out the first set 6-4.
From Roger's perspective the big pain point was dropping his serve immediately, if he hadn't lost it so easily the set would most likely have gone into a tie break which puts things in his favour.
In the first game of the second set Federer found himself in more trouble having to save a break point before holding. He then had a break point on the Monfils serve but couldn't take advantage due to more big serving from his opponent.
At 3-3 Federer threw in a terrible service game with three successive errors to slip to love forty before another forehand error gave Monfils the all important break of serve. Not sure why he played such a rotten game, maybe due to the fact he took Monfils to deuce in his previous service game from 40-0 up but couldn't find the breakthrough either way it was painful to watch.
Promisingly Roger managed to hit straight back, playing some great points to setup his break point and sealing it with a sweet forehand and it looked like momentum was going to switch in his favour as he held to lead 5-4.
Monfils leveled up at 5-5 with a love hold and after no more real inroads on serve the set went into the tie break which was hit and miss from both guys.
Leading 3-2 Federer made a weak error after a substantial rally and Monfils reeled off 3 points in a row to lead 5-3. It looked like he would streak away as he had 2 serves but a complete choke of a forehand at 5-4 let Roger back into the breaker which he took when Monfils drifted long mid rally.
To be honest it was very lucky on Federer's part that he was allowed back in but you take what you can get and a little luck never goes amiss on a tennis court. At the time I thought it was the turning point as Roger looked like he'd started getting his act together but obviously we now know it wasn't to be.
With the scores tied at 1 set a piece it was anyone's game and it looked like it could go the way of the Swiss as he had 0-30 in Monfils's opening service game but couldn't take advantage.
A mammoth service game at 1-2 saw Roger drop serve despite fending off two break points and wasting his own game point. Monfils followed it up with a love hold to move 4-1 in front and that eventually became 4-2 after a crucial multiple deuce hold from Federer. Roger got himself two more break point in Monfils's next service game but again played timidly to slip 5-2 behind.
Those were probably the two biggest games of the match, he digs out a huge hold at 4-1 fending off 2 break points, then creates 2 break point chances of his own but fails to capitalise and lets Monfils hold and gives him virtual match points. Story of the season or what huh.
5-2 became 5-3 and there was always a chance Monfils might choke but he played a lights out service game to close it out to love and with it end Roger's chances of a Quarter Final showdown against Djokovic.
If a guy serves 5 double faults and you only break once then questions have to be asked….
Thoughts on the Match
Another tough loss at the hands of a player he would usually be defeating with little to no hassle. But how do you explain it? From my point of view it all boils down to confidence as his actual level of play isn't that bad. It's just when he really needs to play consistent he can't quite muster it.
As I alluded to in my last post, in situations like 15-40 on his own serve, or 0-30 on his opponents he can't string together 2 or 3 good points, you get 1 moment of inspiration but the very next point is wasteful or a bad bad error.
In previous years points like that game him confidence for the next one, now they seem to have zero or if anything a negative effect. Strange really. I thought winning vs. Seppi would have given him something too but it seems any momentum he has wears off quickly these days and heh starts each match at confidence level zero or worse no matter what happened in matches previous.
We can all pick out certain things, oh he didn't return great etc but overall I thought Roger played an ok match, he's certainly played worse and still won matches that's for sure. He did hustle extremely well off both wings I thought and the majority of errors came not when he was defending but either trying to force the issue or just in at a neutral point in the rally.
It was much like the Robredo game in a way as he had chances but just wasn't able to turn them into anything meaningful. All his genius type points came in the less important moments, you could make a highlight reel of them and it'd look like he played a great match but the scoreline sadly says otherwise.
As for Monfils well we know what he can do, he's a very talented player as he proved today blasting 37 winners to 26 unforced errors, beating Roger in all areas really and clearly the deserved winner. I was a little frustrated by his injury faking and time wasting tactics to slow down the game when Roger was finding some rhythm but ultimately that's up to the umpire to pick up on.
Roger has to be able to handle stuff like that and I'm not sure it really bothered him a whole lot anyway, it might have added to his already sky high levels of frustration at his own game but it certainly wasn't the reason he lost.
Hard to pick positives but he did move pretty well for most of the match, served at 71% and won 20 out of 31 points at the net so it wasn't like his game was falling to pieces, just he was choosing the wrong shot to play and making errors when it mattered most.
As to why the match played out the way it did I have no ideas really, he's become a bit of enigma these last 6-12 months, the model of consistency he set so high has almost flipped on it's head.
In terms of what he does next I'm not sure either, does he just ride out the remainder of the season as per his schedule, see what happens and then start planning for 2014? That's probably what he will do but I don't feel too confident for Basel, Paris or the o2 based on that.
Things rarely improve if you just wait and see so he might end up stuck in a rut until 2013 is finished with, it won't make pretty watching but there's not much we can do as fans other than cheer him on either live or sat in front of the TV.
I guess there's always the chance his game clicks suddenly and all is well again but it just feels unlikely now based on the last 10 months, I thought it was going to happen in Shanghai but unfortunately we got an action replay of the last however many tournaments.
Will Roger Qualify for London?
Roger's London chances are pretty much in the balance now but it's still in his own hands as to whether he makes it or not. He's gotten lucky with Gasquet losing in the first round and Raonic losing today too but Wawrinka is now right there.
It will all depend on how he performs in Basel and Paris as to whether or not qualifies. Right now it doesn't look like he's adding any more tournaments to the schedule which is a little surprising but maybe he's just written this year off in his mind now and what will be will be. In fact I think that's pretty likely, he's going to be diplomatic about things in the press but many of his comments have alluded to 2013 been a transition year for him and it seems it's not a priority now for him in the slightest.
I don't buy into his line about how important he thinks the World Tour Finals are either as I know from watching that it's not the biggest priority for a player and they know it's not a slam so I guess he's just seeing what happens and will go from there.