Roger Federer suffered a disappointing loss to Tomas Berdych 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 in a match where he had 3 match points in the 2nd set tiebreak. For the 17-time Slam champion, his record fell to 10-3 in the season and has now failed to reach the final of the two 500 tournaments he won last year.
The Swiss started out strong, taking the opening set with some good play and more importantly, good serving. It was the fifth consecutive set he had not been broken, going back to the first set in his first match of the week against Jaziri.
In the second the wheels started to fall off as he went down 5-2 before making the match even at 5-5. In the tiebreak, Fed went up a mini-break 2-0 before the Czech won the next four points. But Roger won the next three points, and after an ace, he set up match point on his own serve, which he couldn't convert. Berdych saved the next match point and then another one at 8-7 before ripping a forehand return for a winner on his own set point to take it to three. Federer served at 48% for the set, which was a big reason he lost it.
Failing to close out the match lingered into the third set as Berdych broke in the 5th game. Roger kept fighting and saved a match point at 3-5, but he could not make the final push that was needed, as Berdych held to love to win the match.
Berdych has now made the final in consecutive tournaments and is in good form right now. For Federer, however, it is a much different story. He hasn't been very sharp the last two tournaments since the Australian Open. It has been a 8-match stretch that has featured poor serving and an overall lack of confidence. He will have one more title to defend from last year, Indian Wells, before he will take an extended break, missing both the Miami and Monte Carlo Masters.
Well, it is certainly not the result I or any other Federer fan wanted, but it is what it is. At the end of the day, Roger was one point away from advancing to the final. I'm always disappointed when Fed loses but this one was just annoying and frustrating as it was a match that he could have and should have won. It is clear to me that Roger is lacking confidence, and very likely practice. I don't think it's anything with his body because he was defending quite well against Berdych.
The problem to me right now is his mind. He hasn't been thinking clearly on court the last two events and is not serving up to his usual standards (except for the match against Davydenko). I don't think he has been utilizing his backhand as well as he can be. And the worst of all has been his return. Time and time again he chips and slices his returns, especially on second serves. It is a play that just does not work any longer in 2013 with the heavier balls, the slower courts, and the aggressive mindset of players like Berdych, who will eat those tame returns up over and over, as was proven in this loss.
I'm not ready to write this season off yet just because of the last two losses which haven't been encouraging. Fed doesn't let tough losses like this linger long, though I hope it will be a wake up call for him, similar to the US Open loss to Djokovic in 2011 was. I feel like he just needs that one win that will boost his confidence. Perhaps he just needs more practice, and he'll get plenty of it after Indian Wells. It's frustrating to watch him the last two weeks not play as well as we know he can, but I have full faith that his game will turn around in time for the crucial stretch from Madrid to Wimbledon.
For now, it's onwards and upwards to next week in Indian Wells, the first 1000 of the season. He should give it his all there no matter what his form because he is the defending champion and needs a good result. It could be a really good event for him or a very bad one, but we shall see how it goes. A quarterfinal against Berdych or del Potro would be very interesting to see where his game and mind are at after this tough stretch since the US Open (he is 22-7 since then).
This is my tennis blog, Lefty Advantage. Tennis is my biggest passion in life and I started this site to discuss the great game. I mainly follow the career of Roger Federer, but I truly love watching all tennis, whether it be the final of a Grand Slam or a junior tournament on the other side of the world.
I have played tennis for 13 years. If you ever met me, I could talk your head off about all things tennis for hours on end if you would let me. Welcome, and enjoy the writing!