The day after Roger Federer obliterated Rafael Nadal 63 60, two equally compelling matches were played.
In the night match, David Ferrer shocked Novak Djokovic by beating him 63 61, in almost the same kind of fashion that Federer beat Nadal. I was quite shocked to learn of the result (I did not see the match), but I understand that Ferrer was at his best and Djokovic clearly was not. In the beginning, the match was fairly even, starting out to a 3-3 scoreline. Ferrer then broke however and won 9 of the next 10 games to win 63 61. With the win, Ferrer has now clinched a semifinal spot and I am very happy for him. He is a stand-up guy with a tremendous spirit and a great game. He stays up on the baseline and hits through the court very well for a player of his stature. Anyways, I can only imagine that Djokovic's body has completely shut down after a long and grueling season filled with long, physically demanding matches.
It is the price you pay when you play such a grinding style. It has happened this year to Nadal, Murray, and now the Djokovic. It looks very strange when three players aged 24, 25, and 24 (Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray) are all exhausted at the end of the year and are all struggling with injuries, yet the ever-consistent 30-year old is chugging along playing his best tennis of the year. Personally, I believe the only way the current top three can prevent fatigue and injury is to play a more offensive and quick-strike style of game. The long, taxing rallies may be manageable over the span of a week or two, but over the course of many months, it all starts to catch up to them. Roger plays a smooth game, and keeps the points short. It is undeniable that one of the reasons he has been at the top for so long is because he plays that beautiful style that is so easy on his body. Scheduling properly also helps as well. For instance, Nadal played in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, and Roland Garros during the clay court season. That is a lot of tennis and it has hampered the second half of many of his seasons in the past. Look at Federer, on the other hand: he skipped playing in Shanghai to rest, knowing that he needed it, and he came back after the long break rejuvenated and ready to play his best. As he once said, even tennis players need a break from the game every now and then, and I personally think the top three overwork themselves and it hurts them in the long run. If I could give all three of them any advice at all, it would be to schedule more efficiently like Roger, and to try to keep the points shorter. They are not getting any younger after all.
Djokovic has had an absolutely fantastic season and nobody can argue that. But what was the toll that the year took on his body? He has had many tiring matches this year: Australian Open 2011 vs Federer and Murray, Indian Wells against Federer and Nadal, Miami against Nadal, Rome against Murray and Nadal, Madrid against Nadal, French Open against Federer, Wimbledon against Baghdatis, Tsonga, and Nadal, Cincinnati against Murray, and the US Open against Federer and Nadal (the latter of which is perhaps the most physical match ever). Those were all extremely tough matches on the body, and even though he shined through them, it has now cost the end of his season, and could very well hinder his training over the offseason.
In the other match of the day, Tomas Berdych improved to 1-1 with a three-set victory over Janko Tipsarevic 36 63 76(6). It was a very close match and Tipsy had a chance to win the match but Berdych saved the match point. I am a little gutted for Janko as he has become one of my favourite players, but a good win for Berdych nevertheless. The 3rd Group A Round Robin matches on Friday just got a little more interesting after the day's events. With Berdych's three-set win and Djokovic's two-set loss, both are 1-1, but Berdych has the edge in sets, 3-3 to 2-3. Basically, the semifinal spots will be determined like this:
If both Berdych and Djokovic win in straight sets on Friday, Berdych goes through.
If Djokovic wins in two, and Berdych wins in three, Djokovic goes through.
If Djokovic wins in three and Berdych wins in two, Djokovic goes through.
If they both win in three, Berdych goes through.
Needless to say, Djokovic, who plays in the first match of the day, will be under a lot of pressure to win in two because he will not want to take the risk of Berdych beating Ferrer in straights. I only hope that Tipsarevic hands Djokovic the victory as a favour. Tipsarevic is not Viktor Troicki however, so I don't think that will happen.
Onto Thursday's matches: Roger Federer should handle Mardy Fish relatively easily if he is in even feeling half as good as he felt against Nadal. I expect a scoreline in the vicinity of 63 64, and I know Roger won't be taking Fish lightly. The last time they met, Roger won 6-4 in the third set, so he knows Fish is a dangerous player, especially on a fast indoor surface. Fish will be a harder opponent on a fast court than Nadal could ever be (feels great to say that, doesn't it?). In the night match, Nadal plays Tsonga and I can really see this going either way. Nadal could be rattled by the onslaught he received by Roger and that could shake any confidence that he had on the fast indoor surface. If Jo can play a consistent match and up the intensity at certain points with his serve and forehand, I believe he can win. Getting the crowd involved early with some spectacular shotmaking would also help him a lot. Overall, it should be a great day tomorrow and an even better day on Friday.
Until next time,