An injured Roger Federer was defeated by his greatest rival Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of Indian Wells on Thursday night.
It was unknown how Roger's back would hold up without a day's rest and we got our answer a short time into the match. Things started out promising as he held his serve three times to open the match, but after that, it all went downhill. He was broken in the seventh game and Nadal, who was already cruising on his serve, held easily at 5-4 to take the set.
Things got worse in the second when Fed was broken in the opening game and then again on his next service game to pretty much go from down to out. However, he scratched his way back to 3-2 with some good play and had a chance to make it even, but it was not to be. He would be broken again and the Spaniard served it out to seal the deal.
It was a match that I can't really be too disappointed with, given the struggles Roger was clearly having with his back. He looked good in the first games of the match, but his movement suffered as the match wore on - in many instances he wouldn't make the effort to get to a ball on his forehand side, the side that the back injury hurt him the most to move to.
Now, having said all that, the back injury wasn't the reason he lost, it's just the reason why he couldn't play as well as he would have liked. Nadal played some great tennis and was hitting his backhand very well, as well as I've seen him hit it in a long time. Granted, Rafa was probably made to look better because Fed couldn't move properly and struggled to create any sort of offense, but the King of Clay still played very well.
I thought Roger played well enough in the first set to beat many other players, and I think he played better in that set than he did the entire match vs Stan. It's a shame that the tournament had to end this way for the Maestro, as the back injury he suffered at the end of the Dodig match really sunk all chances he had of winning the tournament, let alone getting by an in-form Rafa Nadal. It sucks, because he played a splendid match vs Istomin and then looked great vs Dodig before the back issues reared up.
Even though he lost, which is disappointing no matter what the circumstances, I think it was very admirable that Fed didn't withdraw before the match or retire mid-match as many other players would have done. He respects the sport too much for that and he's not that type of guy - he would rather take a loss not at 100% than give his opponent a free pass.
Now, it's all about getting back healthy and resting up for the spring season, with Roland Garros and Wimbledon to come. I have no doubt he will come back stronger and he'll probably put in a lot of training to get his fitness level back up to where he thinks it should be at. It's important to remember that this is a transition year as Roger himself said, and in no way is it a catastrophic situation that he's struggled a bit since the Australian Open (part of it due to his back I would expect). He's a few months shy of 32, and he will suffer more losses than usual week in and week out. However, he can and will still be a contender for the Slams and he has shown before that he doesn't need to be in great form to play wonderfully at a major (French Open 2011 comes to mind).
Not sure how much I'll be blogging here until Madrid starts, but I'll still be writing frequently for SportPulse during Miami and Monte Carlo.
Keep your chins up, Fed fans. I'll miss seeing Fed play for the next two months but knowing that he will be getting fresh and healthy is comforting. A break is what he needs right now after the last three tournaments and I can't wait for the rest of the season.
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!