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!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Masters Cup Final - Federer wins 6th title

The only question heading into Sunday's final between Jo-Wilfied Tsonga and Roger Federer was, "could Tsonga defeat the great Federer?"  The answer to that question came in the form of a 63 67(6) 63 win by Roger Federer, giving him his 6th Masters Cup title in 10 years of Masters Cup play, and his 5th title won while going undefeated.  I don't know about the rest of you, but that is quite an achievement!  Roger won in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2010, and 2011 whilst not losing a match, and only losing one match to Fernando Gonzalez in his 2007 campaign.  I could not be more happy about Roger winning the title this week, and I know that it means the world to him to lift the trophy once more.  The Masters Cup is the unofficial 5th Slam and it really is the hardest tournament all year to win, so for Fed to have won it 6 times, and 5 of those he went undefeated, is absolutely outstanding no matter how you look at it.  Roger also ends the year on a 17-match winning streak, which is remarkable after the devastating US Open defeat.  It just shows the heart and passion that he has for the game and the mindset to keep moving forward.

The match started out at a frivolous pace, with both men holding the first few games.  Fed showed great patience throughout the first 8 games because Tsonga was plastering the fuzz off the ball on both his serve and his groundstrokes.  Roger weathered the Tstorm as Matt Zemek (@mzemek on Twitter) would say.  This was very crucial, as he turned up the fire at 4-3 and broke at love, and then held a tough game to close out the set.  In the second set, Roger had a chance to break at 1-1 but Tsonga held tough, but Roger broke at 3-2 and looked like he was on his way to winning.  But at 5-4, Tsonga played a sizzling game and broke back to even the set.  It went to a tiebreak, where Federer held a 5-2 lead at one time, but Tsonga scraped back and saved a championship point at 6-5.  He took the final three points to send the final to three.  In the third, it was very even, much like the first set, but Roger was playing much better and the fire was back in his eyes.  At 4-3, Roger broke after a few chances and all but sealed his win.  He held to love at 5-3 and clinched his wonderful 6th Masters Cup title.  The elation on Roger's face was heart-warming, and he was so thrilled to have come through in such a big moment.

I did notice that there was a difference between Federer serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set and at 5-3 in the third.  In the second set, there was a changeover before Roger served, and that 90-second delay did its job in letting Fed to overthink the game ahead.  In the third set, there was no changeover and Roger was able to hold without thinking.  I believe he plays his best when he is not overthinking things and just flowing.  That is not to say that he does not think when he is at his best, but more that his game really takes over when he goes off his instincts.  Another strategy that Roger nailed to peRFection in this match was making it hard for Tsonga to volley by putting the ball at his feet and forcing him to hit up.  This was especially important in the games where he broke Jo, and he did not allow the Frenchman to get any rhythm on the serve and volley.  Speaking of Jo, my hat goes off to him;  he played a great tournament and pushed Roger to the limit in the final, and showed tremendous heart and spirit.  I hope he has a great 2012 season.

Now, I want to talk about the amazing career of Roger Federer and how consistent he really has been over the past ten years.  To constantly be at your best at the end of the year is amazing, especially when he constantly plays over 75 matches in a season.  When others have slowed down towards the end of the year (ahem Djokovic, Nadal, Murray), Federer keeps going strong, and that is why he has six of these prestigious Masters Cup titles.  The sheer consistency this man has displayed, from 9 straight years in the top 3 to 10 straight Masters Cups to appearing in 30 straight Grand Slam quarterfinals, it is all out of this world.  Stats don't lie, and even though Mr Federer himself does not follow the numbers he puts up, people like me do, and we all can't believe it.  As far as I am concerned, Roger Federer is not only the greatest tennis player and ambassador to the game, but he is also the greatest athlete ever, and probably the most humble.  For all the amount of success he has had, he still doesn't believe that he is better than Sampras and Lendl and other greats of the past.  That is just old-fashioned humility, and that's Roger Federer in a nutshell.  He works harder than anyone else on and off the court, and for all he has done over the years, he is always looking for more.  I think that is the sign of a true champion, that great is never good enough.  Roger Federer certainly has that motto down to the letter.

Roger, you are such a great man and I am so proud to call you my hero.  Through the good times and the bad times, I will be there to the very end supporting you, and I hope you have a wonderful 2012 season.  You were on the cusp of winning a Slam in 2011 and if you can ride the momentum from the end of this year to the start of next year, you will be unstoppable.  Keep kicking ass Roger, and go get 'em in 2012.


WTF Semifinal Saturday - Federer and Tsonga win

On Semifinal Saturday, the ATP World Tour Finals final was set, and it will feature two men who will have played on three consecutive Sundays come final day.  Those two men are of course Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  Federer came through against David Ferrer 75 63 and Tsonga defeated Tomas Berdych 63 75 (huh, opposite scorelines).

In the first match of the day, Federer played Ferrer, with whom he had a perfect 11-0 record against.  The match started out very evenly, and both men held serve until 4-4.  The tennis being played was not very pretty, especially from Federer's end, as he was littering the court with unforced errors.  However, Ferrer could never capitalize and both men kept holding serve.  At 5-5, Roger had about 6 or 7 game points and after each one I thought it was more and more likely that Ferrer would break.  However, Fed kept getting let off the hook by the #2 ranked Spaniard, and he eventually held.  That ended up being very crucial, because Ferrer got broken in the next game to lose the tight first set 7 games to 5.  It was hardly pretty, but Fed got the job done in the end and that's what matters.  In the second set, Roger played much better tennis and broke in the first game to take an early stranglehold.  It was plainly evident that he was hitting the ball much crisper, and the unforced errors disappeared whilst a swift, attacking game of tennis reared it's beautiful head and he won the second set comfortably 6-3 after breaking in the final game at 5-3.  Overall, it was a very solid win for Roger.  He praised Ferrer after the match for his grit and spirit and he knows that things could have easily been different had it not been for a few shots here and there.

After the match on Twitter, there were many complaints that Roger played a poor match, but I don't believe that to be the case.  In the match itself, he was 15 of 17 at the net, and never faced a break point, which is remarkable against David Ferrer, one of the best returners in the game.  More so than that though, I think it took a while to find his rhythm and timing on Ferrer's groundstrokes, which were unlike any of his previous opponents.  Think about it:  Tsonga hits it hard and flat, Nadal hits in heavy with lots of topspin, and Fish hits it flat with not a lot of pace.  Ferrer hits the ball with lots of spin like a Nadal, but without the same kind of pace generated.  I believe it took Roger a while to get comfortable off the ground in taking Ferrer's strokes on, but once he found the range in the final game of the first set, he was playing very comfortably and cruised to victory.  This is just my own personal take on it of course, but I like to think that I know Roger's game inside and out, and having played tennis myself for a decade now, I can understand how difficult it can be to adjust to an opponent's playing style.

The biggest news of the win was that Roger regained his #3 ranking from Murray and made his 100th ATP Tour final, which is something amazing in of itself.  To address the first point, better luck next time Murray.  That is what you get when you talk trash before the tournament when you know you are not anywhere close to 100 percent ready.  "I'm going to let my tennis do the talking," yeah right Andy.  To address the second point, CONGRATULATIONS ROGER!  I know he does not track every record and achievement he gets, but many of us do and to reach 100 finals is absolutely stunning, and with a win in the final here, he would have a 70-30 record, also quite stunning.

Looking ahead to the final, I believe if Roger plays his very best, which is quite likely, he will win in straight sets.  Tsonga is looking very confident right now and will surely be very motivated to win to avenge the last three losses to Roger, but I cannot see him winning if Roger is anywhere near his peak.  Speaking of motivation, with a win, Roger will win $1,630,000 in prize money for going undefeated, as opposed to the $770,000 he would otherwise receive without an imperfect record.  Surely, to have two straight undefeated World Tour Finals tournaments would underline his dominance indoors.  I doubt Roger needs any motivation from money however.  I can only imagine how much money he has in his bank account, what with the tennis earnings and the sponsorships with Nike, Mercedes, Wilson, Jura, Credit Suisse, Rolex, NetJets, Lindt, and Gillette.  It would still be a nice perk though.

I'm looking forward to a great final and I hope to see Roger lifting his 6th Masters Cup trophy high in the air come tomorrow.  GO ROGER!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

WTF Day 6 - Berdych eliminates Djokovic

On the final day of round robin play, Novak Djokovic needed a bit of luck to make the semifinals, and he didn't get it.  After losing to fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic 36 63 63, he needed David Ferrer to beat Tomas Berdych or else he was out.  Berdych defeated Ferrer 36 75 61, thus eliminating Djokovic from contention.  It was a very good performance from Berdych because he was down a break twice in the second set and did not give up.  That is the kind of mental fortitude that we all have been waiting to see from the Czech for quite some time, and it was nice to see him come through on a big stage.

The semifinals are now set, and the two matches are Federer vs Ferrer and Berdych vs Tsonga.  In the first match, Federer should come through against Ferrer, even if the latter has been playing some sizzling tennis in this tournament.  However, with Roger's all-round attacking game, there aren't many ways Ferrer can hurt the Swiss Maestro.  In the second semifinal, take your pick.  Both Tsonga and Berdych have confidence and the match could really go any way.  Chances are it will be a three set affair, and whoever makes the final will probably be gassed, and a hungry Roger Federer will be awaiting them on the other side of the net.

Now, onto Novak Djokovic and his struggles late in the season.  It's not really surprising, giving his physical playing style.  Novak finishes the year 70-7 with 10 titles, which is a far cry from Roger's 92-5 record with 12 titles in 2006, 81-4 in 2005 with 11 titles, and even 74-6 with 11 titles in 2004.  Novak has no doubt had an incredible year but the pace he was on after Wimbledon trailed off considerably.  At one time this year, Novak was 64-2.  Now he finishes the year 70-6, meaning his final stretch was 6-4.  That is quite a bad finish to a season for any player, let alone the #1 player in the world.  Again, offense, consistency and longevity proves to be more valuable than defense, streakiness, and retirements/withdrawals.  It surely cannot be said now that Djokovic's 2011 season has been better than Federer's 2006, or maybe even Federer's 2004 season.  The end of the year has really hurt Djokovic and his inability to win the Masters Cup will ruin what was a fantastic year for some.

Anyways, enjoy Semifinal Saturday, and go Roger!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

WTF Day 5 - Tsonga eliminates Nadal

In the final matches of Group B in the 2011 World Tour Finals, there was only one question to be asked:  Who would join Roger Federer as the 2nd semifinalist in the group?  Tsonga or Nadal?  We have the answer, and it is the Frenchman Jo-Willy Tsonga, who defeated Nadal 76(2) 46 63.  With the loss, Nadal falls to a 9-10 record at the Masters Cup, which is quite frankly very poor for a player of his standing on the ATP circuit.  Compare that with Federer's 37-7, and it looks VERY poor. 

The match started out very even with no player being able to break.  The first set went to a tiebreak where Tsonga jumped out to a 4-1 lead and never looked back, taking it 7 points to 2.  The second set was much the same story until 4-4 when Tsonga had a 15-30 opportunity to get the break.  Nadal held, and then Tsonga played a very bad service game and practically handed Nadal the set. He went for broke far too early in the rallies and double faulted THREE times in one game to seal the deal on that set.  In the third, Nadal was broken twice and went down 5-2.  Tsonga played a loose service game and gave one of the breaks back, but it needn't have mattered because Nadal gave the break right back at love, and thus the match.  So there you have it; Rafael Nadal has yet another poor showing at the Year-End Championships, and continues to show everybody that he is not that good of an indoor player. 

Tsonga won the match by playing very much the same way that Roger played two days earlier.  He served well, attacked Nadal off both wings and attacked Rafa's forehand with great consistency.  Tsonga will always be a player that will give Nadal a hard time on a fast court with his aggressive style of play, and it showed in this match.  Nadal hit 14 winners in over two and a half hours of play, a stat that is quite mind-numbing for a match of that length.  It just goes to show that Nadal does not attack very much and tries to win matches using a clay-court style even when it will never work.  People have said in the past that Federer can get stubborn at times, but what about Nadal?  He tried playing his usual style against Federer and failed.  He tried to use that same style against Tsonga, who had the same gameplan as Roger did, and failed.  What about Nadal being such an adaptable player to any situation?  Maybe, just maybe, we can just accept that Nadal is a one-dimensional player and stop overrating his abilities. 

In the earlier match of the day, which had very little riding on it, Roger Federer defeated Mardy Fish 61 36 63.  It was a relatively comfortable win at the end, and it was a good match for Roger to play before his semifinal match on Saturday.  Fish pushed him, and to his credit, played lights-out tennis in the second set, when he zoned in on every shot and read Federer's serves to perfection.  Because of that, he was able to win many cheap points by hitting his returns hard and deep and keeping Roger off balance.  He also served very well, and by this point we should all know that serving well is a key for EVERY player to have success. 

For Roger, the match was a stark contrast to the Nadal match.  Fish attacked the net consistently and went for his shots, whereas Rafa just put the ball back into play and Roger was able to dictate play.  I think it was good that Roger was tested right after his stunning match against Nadal, just to keep him in reality and on his toes.  I know he's too much of a professional to do it anyways, but he doesn't want to get relaxed and lose focus.  In the second set, however, that is definitely not what happened - he was just outplayed by Mardy and even pulling for Roger throughout the match, I could not help but be amazed at some of the shots Fish was hitting.  Fish went 0-3 in his first Masters Cup, but he could have easily gone 1-2 had things gone a little differently in his match with Nadal.  Overall, he should be proud of his performance while not being 100% healthy, and as he said in his presser after the match, he might never be back in the tournament again, so best to savor the moments while they last.  I really like Fish, and I hope he has a fantastic 2012.  If he can stay in the top 15 he will be doing very well.

On the final Round Robin Group Friday, the final semifinal spot will be decided.  I explained in my last post what the scenarios were so I won't go over them again, but I will say that I hope Berdych gets through.  That may not happen however.  Tipsarevic just might let Novak win in straights, which would mean that Berdych would have to win in straights.  On the other hand though, if I was Ferrer, I would want Berdych in the semifinals over Djokovic, even if he wouldn't be meeting either of them anyways until the final.  However, should Ferrer get to his second Masters Cup final, he just might want Berdych there (on the off chance that he makes it past Federer or Tsonga IF he makes the semifinals) facing him instead of Djokovic.  Yes, Ferrer has a lopsided win over Novak already but should Nole make the final, he would certainly give a much better effort.  Anyways, I'm sure I'm just trying to stir the pot a little, and I know that both Tipsarevic and Ferrer will give their very best efforts to play, no matter what consequences their results might have on the semifinals.

For all you Fedfans, enjoy Nadal's loss, and to everybody, enjoy what should be a fantastic day of tennis on Friday.  Here's hoping to two spectacular matches that bring both intensity and drama!



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WTF Day 4 - Ferrer Shocks Djokovic

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,


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WTF Day 3 - Federer destroys Nadal 63 60

I do not know how to put into words my feelings after witnessing Roger Federer defeat Rafael Nadal 63 60 in an hour.  It was a masterclass performance of the highest order by Roger.  In the first set, the match started out fairly even until Roger broke at 3-2, and then took the set 6-3.  It was never really close from there.  In the second set, Mr Federer played at his very peak level and dominated Nadal in almost every way, and won the set and the match with the utmost ease.  It was wonderful to see, and I was in a state of nirvana afterwards while rejoicing the victory.

To watch him deliver a match like that was utterly incredible and to do so against his arch-rival, Rafa Nadal, was extra special.  Even hours after the match is over, I am still trying to comprehend what happened.  How can one man make tennis of that magnificence look so easy?  Roger wasn't playing Olivier Rochus, he was playing Rafael Nadal, a man that had an 18-7 head-to-head record against him, and has caused Roger the greatest sorrow in his tennis career, the losses in the Wimbledon 2008 and Australian Open 2009 finals.  For Roger to so soundly dismiss Nadal like he did was absolutely peRFect.  Roger is now 4-0 indoors vs Rafa, and now it is known that there is one surface that Roger Federer will always have the advantage over Nadal.  I could not be more thrilled with the result of the match, and I was in awe at the level of tennis the Maestro was producing.  Midway through the second set, I was crying tears of joy, it was that beautiful to me.  It was the way Roger so easily controlled the play from the back of the court.  It was the way he attacked with such grace and ease of mind - there was no hesitation, and he had the utmost confidence in every shot he decided to play.  The numbers were outstanding:  28 winners, 8 unforced errors, 7 aces, and 4 out of 6 break points converted (the two missed were at 4-0 in the second set though).  It was tennis of the highest quality.

Dare I say it, but it may have been the greatest match Roger Federer has EVER played.  I assure you all, I am not saying that because this match is fresh in my mind and the moment is so special at this time.  No, I actually think that was the best tennis Roger has ever played.  He was hitting the ball off the ground with pop and vigor, he was aggressive on every single point, and perhaps most importantly of all, he played HIS game, and overwhelmed Nadal by his constant attacking and his unmatched precision.  He attacked Nadal's backhand with ease and hit his cross-court backhand even better than he did last year in the final, which is something I never thought I would ever say.  His return was flawless, putting Nadal under pressure right away on almost every point, and taking his chances when they were given to him.  It was almost a statement match in a way;  Roger attacked Rafa's backhand like Rafa has attacked his for so many years on clay.  It was as if the great one was saying, "this is MY territory, and I am going to show you how it's done on a fast indoor surface."  Nadal, to his credit, didn't play a bad match by any means.  He is just so far outclassed by Fed on that fast surface that is a total mismatch.  Nadal can't viciously attack Fed's backhand because the ball stays low and the enormous amount of topspin does not have any effect.  He can't win many baseline points because by the time he tries to drag out a long point by playing great defense, Roger already has hit a shot that proves to be too much.  These playing conditions are absolutely perfect for Roger's game against Nadal, and it certainly showed in this match. 

I also want to address those who say that Rafa wasn't at his best physically or that he was tired and that is why he was beaten so thoroughly.  There was nothing wrong with Nadal, he was just overwhelmed by the aggression that Roger displayed.  As for the argument that he does not care about this tournament and is focusing on the Davis Cup, I will say this:  Rafael Nadal has never won this event, and it is one of the only big titles that he has not won.  Rafa has said many times that it is one of his major goals to win the tournament, so I'm sure he is giving it his all this time around.  Nadal obviously does care about the Davis Cup a great deal as well, but is it so important to him that he cannot give it his best a week before in London to try to win a trophy he has never lifted before?  It is not as if Spain has a weak Davis Cup unit without him.  David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco are all great players and the country is capable of winning even without Nadal playing at his best.

A few stats I want to pump out about Roger:

-  Roger won 10 of the last 11 games of the match.  This is key for me, because unlike his match against Tsonga, he steamrolled the first set after getting the break at 3-2, but in the second set he kept his foot on the petal and did not have any lapse in concentration whatsoever.  In fact, the second set was by far and away better than the first, and the first set was already elite.

-  Roger is now 35-2 in the past two years (2010 and 2011) of post-USO tennis.  It highlights his dominance indoors, and reinforces the FACT, not theory, the FACT, that Roger would dominate the tour if more tournaments were played indoors, or at least if more tournaments had quick hardcourts such as the ones in Doha or Dubai.

In the earlier match of the day Jo-Willy Tsonga defeated Mardy Fish 76(4) 61.  I did not see the match, but I'm sure that the first set was very close and the second set was a combination of Tsonga's good play and Fish's bad play.  No matter what happened, Tsonga's performance paled in comparison to Roger's, and I don't even have to watch the match to be dead sure of that.  On Wednesday, the second round robin matches of group A will be played, and Djokovic will play Ferrer, while Tomas Berdych will take on replacement Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia, who is replacing Andy Murray, who withdrew from the event due to a groin injury.  This is a great opportunity for Janko and he was very humble and respectful in understanding how fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) he is to be competing in the World Tour Finals.  Tipsarevic gained my utmost respect and I wish him the very best.  He is a stand-up competitor and I admire his ability.

As far as the actual matches are concerned, I suspect Djokovic will handle Ferrer relatively easily, but the other match may not be so simple.  Tipsarevic has a 4-1 record against Berdych and most recently beat him at the US Open when Tomas was forced to retire.  This is a great opportunity for Janko to get a win and then go on to have a chance to play fellow countryman Djokovic in a match that could decide his fate in making the semifinals.  If Djokovic beats Ferrer, Tipsarevic beats Berdych, and Berdych beats Ferrer, Janko could very well be looking at a semifinal spot, and that would be a huge accomplishment.

Well, it was a great day for tennis and we got to witness the very best of Roger Federer.  I can honestly say that was the best I have ever seen Roger play, and I hope he can continue his momentum and beat Fish on Thursday and go on to win the title on Sunday, which would be his record-breaking 6th Masters Cup title.  Until next time, enjoy Roger's win, Fedfans!

Monday, November 21, 2011

WTF Day 2 Recap

After the tough three-set wins for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal yesterday, there were two more marquee singles matches on Day 2, as Group A played their first matches.  David Ferrer took on Andy Murray in the first match, and in a somewhat surprising result, Ferrer defeated Murray 64 75.  Ferrer went 0-3 in round robin play at last year's event, so already this is a much better start for him.  Murray had won the previous four meetings between the two players, and only dropping one set in the process.  I did not see the match, but I have read that Andy had a groin injury and he will decide on Tuesday whether or not he will continue playing.  If that is the case, I personally hope Andy stays in the tournament because like him or not, he is a great player and he is the home-country player.  Moreover, it would help Andy's image if he sticks through an injury and gave it his all in a fiery attempt to win the Masters Cup.  If he does decide to withdraw however, Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic will be in line to replace him, and he would be in a 0-1 hole needing to win against Berdych and Djokovic to have a shot at making the semifinals.  We will all have to wait and see until Tuesday when Murray makes his decision.

In the second singles match of the day, Novak Djokovic tangled with Tomas Berdych.  In the end, it was another three-setter (making three of the four singles matches 3-set matches), and Djokovic prevailed 36 63 76(3).  It was a very close match all around with one break deciding both the first and second sets.  In the third, Berdych got a break to go u 4-3, but gave it right back.  It went to a tiebreak, where Djokovic got out to a 5-1 lead and finished it out 7 points to 3.

So after the first round robin matches, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic did not look their best, but picked up tight three-set wins.  Andy Murray did not have the same fate and lost and now his tournament is in jeopardy.  Tough luck for Andy, but that is sometimes the way the cookie crumbles.  Day 3 features the US Open rematch of Fish vs Tsonga, and the most anticipated Federer vs Nadal encounter.  Both should be cracking matches.  Fish and Tsonga both need wins being at 0-1, so they should be extra motivated, and Federer/Nadal matches are always a treat, even if many Fedfans don't enjoy them.  On Wednesday, Ferrer will play Djokovic and Berdych will play either Murray or Tipsarevic, depending on what Murray decides to do.

Until next time...GO FEDDY!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

WTF Day 1 Recap

The 2011 World Tour Finals got underway on Sunday with an opening match featuring a rematch of the Paris final from exactly one week earlier - Roger Federer vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  Fed won the match 62 26 64, and it was very weird from start to finish.

In the first set, Roger got out to a quick 4-1 lead and won the set 6-2.  The set passed by in 21 minutes and neither the two players nor the fans were ever afforded the chance to sink their teeth into the match.  Tsonga could barely get the ball into play and even though Roger won the set 6-2 he never really played that well either.  He didn't have to because Jo was missing everything.

In the second set, Roger had a severe lapse in concentration and quickly got down a break after some questionable misses, and as Tsonga had given the first set to Federer, Fed gave the second set straight back to Tsonga in quite appalling form.  You can try to analyze what happened to Roger in that second set all you want, but I'll give my opinion on what happened:  Roger won the first set with alarming ease, and at the start of the second he wasn't even playing at 60% effort.  So when Jo started getting the ball into play, serving big, and giving Roger a match, Fed was caught off guard and struggled with his rhythm.

In the third set, both men started playing better collectively, and it looked as if the match was going to go to a 3rd set tiebreak.  Fed was serving better and hitting his groundstrokes with more pop, and Tsonga was blasting his serve (much like he did at Wimbledon) and never really giving Roger a chance to get into the rallies.  Then, at 4-5, when it looked as if the match was certainly heading to a tiebreak, Tsonga missed an easy volley.  Right there, he gave Fed an opening.  Then Jo double faulted.  0-30.  Then Roger won the next point.  Three match points.  Jo saved the first MP, but lost the second and Roger wound up winning the match in very sudden fashion.  Seriously, as bad as Roger's mental lapse was in the 2nd set, I think Tsonga's lapse at 4-5 in the 3rd was even worse.  He lost his concentration at the worst possible time and it cost him the match.  On the other hand, Roger picked up his game at precisely the right moment, winning a few easy service games in a row before closing out the match with the break.

Overall, it was a very weird match, but Roger won, so that is what matters.

In the second singles match of the day, Rafael Nadal defeated Mardy Fish 62 36 76(3) in just under three hours.  Fish, like Tsonga, started slow and lost the first set without much of a fight.  Also like Tsonga, Fish picked up his game in the second and won it 6-3, sending the match to a decisive third set.

In that third set, it was a roller coaster to say the least.  Rafa got out to a 2-0 lead, and then abruptly left the court to go to the bathroom.  It was a very weird situation because the umpire Mohamed Lahyani figured it would be better for Rafa to go before his own serve instead of before Fish's.  But the thing is, before Fish's serve would have been a changeover, which would surely have been much more convenient for Rafa to leave the court.  Anyways, when play finally resumed, Rafa lost the momentum he had gained just minutes before and Fish racked up three straight games.  Then Rafa broke back.  Then, at 4-4 15-0 on Nadal's serve, he hit a winner that was called good.  The ball was actually out, but Fish didn't challenge, and in the end, a double fault at 40-30 for Rafa would have been a break for Mardy had he challenged.  The match eventually went to a tiebreak after Fish saved 2 match points at 4-5.  In that tiebreak, Mardy got down early when he could not find a way to return Nadal's serves, and he lost it 7-3 in the tiebreak.

Overall, Fish did much better than anyone expected him to with his injury problems, but a loss is still a loss.  I believe Fish should have won and would have won had he challenged the Nadal winner at 4-4 15-0, and I'm sure if he ever sees that the ball was out, he would be furious with himself.  Nevertheless, great effort from Mardy.

Now on Tuesday, we get to see Federer vs Nadal and Fish vs Tsonga, both which should be compelling matches.  Before that however, we get Djokovic vs Berdych and Murray vs Ferrer tomorrow, both of which should also be great matchups.  Djokovic and Murray should win in the end, though it wouldn't surprise me if both went three sets.

Until next time....

OH YES....the umpires REALLY have to be more strict with Nadal for the time he takes in between points.  He takes upwards of 30 seconds in between points, and even in between 1st and 2nd serves he bounces the ball 8-12 times.  Rafa slows the play down to a painful speed, and it makes the matches very long and boring.  Something MUST be done.  The Federer/Tsonga match was played in 88 minutes for having only played 26 games, and Nadal/Fish went 177 minutes and they played 29 games and one tiebreak.  It's getting quite ridiculous.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

2011 World Tour Finals Preview

Well, here we are, on the eve of the year-end World Tour Finals tournament, featuring the top 8 players and teams in singles in a week of spectacular tennis, where only one can be crowned the year-end champion.  Without further ado, I preview the 2011 edition of the World Tour Finals, where 8 men, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, and Mardy Fish, all look to end their year with a win in one of the ATP's most prestigious events.

The groups are as follows:

Group A

Novak Djokovic
Andy Murray
David Ferrer
Tomas Berdych

 Group B

Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Mardy Fish

Previews of all the 8 players heading into London:

World #1, Novak Djokovic

Djokovic enters the World Tour Finals with some pretty big question marks.  Since his amazing victory over Rafa Nadal in the US Open final a few months ago, Novak has been riddled with injuries that haven't allowed him to be at his best in the indoor season.  The injury problems started in Cincinnati in the final against Andy Murray, where he retired due to a shoulder injury.  After the US Open in the Davis Cup in a match against Juan Martin del Potro, Nole retired once again due to that same shoulder injury.  He did not play in Shanghai.  In the Swiss Indoors in Basel, he made it to the semis until he lost to Kei Nishikori in a close-three set match.  A week later in Bercy, he withdrew before a quarterfinal match against Jo-Willy Tsonga, most likely to preserve his body for the World Tour Finals, where he won in 2008 (defeating Davydenko).  Djokovic says that he is healthy heading into London this week, but only time will tell if his shoulder will start acting up again.  If it does not, Nole has as good a chance as anyone to win.  He will certainly be motivated to cap off his remarkable 2011 season with a bang by winning in London, and I think he will at least make the semifinals, if he can stay healthy.  Wins against Berdych and Ferrer should be automatic, but he does have a loss to Murray already this year and that should be a very intriguing match.

World #2, Rafael Nadal

Rafa Nadal has never won the year-ending Masters Cup event, but that could be an advantage for the Spaniard.  He will have plenty of motivation to win the one title that has always eluded his grasp.  In previous years, Nadal has either been tired or injured (he missed the event in 2005 and 2008), but this year, Rafa has had an elongated break, and should be physically fresh as he looks to win his first World Tour Finals title.  In the 2011 indoor season, Nadal did alright for his standards, losing in the Tokyo final to Andy Murray, and losing in the 3rd round of the Shanghai Masters to Florian Mayer.  It is well known that Nadal struggles during the indoor season, but it is also known that he has the heart of a warrior, and I believe he will be a contender in London.  He should defeat Fish and Tsonga if he is on his game, but I think he'll fall to Roger in the Round Robin marquee match of the tournament.

World #3, Andy Murray

Andy Murray has had a brilliant indoor season in 2011, winning titles in Bangkok, Tokyo, and Shanghai.  In the three consecutive tournament wins, Andy looked very good and was looking to be the certain favourite heading into London.  However, he decided to play in Basel instead of Valencia for some unknown reason and withdrew before his first match.  In Bercy, he lost a 3-setter to Tomas Berdych, and he lost the momentum he gained in the Asian swing.  As has been the case with Murray for the past few years, he plays very well for brief stretches and then struggles in the big events.  For me, this World Tour Finals event will be very critical for him in proving that he can play his best in the big moments, which he has yet to do in his career.  He has always been quite mentally fragile, and the pressure will be jacked up by the British media, especially after his great Asian swing.  I expect that Murray will make it to the semifinals, but with Andy, you never really know, especially in London.  Of all the top four, I think he is the player most primed to be upset this week, especially against Berdych, whom he has already lost to in Bercy.

World #4, Roger Federer

The 5-time Masters Cup Champion Roger Federer heads into the World Tour Finals as the defending champion and undoubtedly the hottest player on tour, with impressive performances in Basel and Bercy en route to titles in consecutive weeks.  Roger has picked up his game in the indoor season, as he did in 2010, and heads into London in sublime form, looking to win his 6th title at the year-ending event.  I believe there is no question that Fed is the best indoor player on the tour right now, and I think he will be the hardest player to beat throughout the week, even against his longtime rival Nadal, whom he is set to meet in the round robin for the first time ever.  Roger is 3-0 indoors against Nadal, but the match will be very difficult because Nadal will be very motivated.  Having said that, Roger is is the defending champion, he knows what is at stake, and he has loads of confidence, so I think he will prevail in three sets like he did last year.  Also like he did last year, I think Roger will sweep the field again and go 5-0 en route to his sixth Masters Cup title.

World #5, David Ferrer

Ferrer had a decent indoor season, making the semis in Tokyo and the final in Shanghai (both losses to Andy Murray), and a semi and quarter appearance in Valencia and Bercy respectively.  This is David's second consecutive WTF appearance, and his third overall.  In 2010, he lost all three Round Robin matches, but in 2007 he defeated Djokovic, Nadal, Gasquet, and Roddick en route to a final against Roger Federer, where he lost decisively.  No doubt that Ferrer will want a repeat of 2007 and not 2010, but that will prove difficult with both Djokovic and Murray in his group.  David is a great fighter though and I expect he will be very competitive in every match in the group stages and he might even pull out a win against Berdych.

World #6, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Jo has had a good indoor season, picking up two titles in Metz and Vienna, both 250 events.  His best result after those two wins came when he made the finals in Bercy, losing to Roger Federer.  This will be Tsonga's second WTF appearance, the other being in 2008.  I think Jo will be very dangerous in this tournament and should give Federer and Nadal headaches in their round robin meetings.  I suspect he will beat Fish and he could pull off an upset of Nadal IF he is at his best.  Against Roger, Jo already has one loss this indoor season to him, and now has lost 5 straight sets against him dating back to the US Open.  As always with Jo, it should be a fun ride, but I don't think he'll make it past the group stages.

World #7, Tomas Berdych

Berdych's indoor season was pretty good, winning in Beijing and making the semis in Bercy.  I honestly don't know how he is #7 in the world, but he is and now he is at the WTF for the second straight year.  Tomas is a flat ballstriker and has the perfect game to do well on a fast surface, so even though he is the lowest seed in Group A, he should be a threat in every match.  He already has a win over Murray from Bercy, and he has given Djokovic trouble in the past as well.  In the end though, I doubt he will make the semis.

World #8, Mardy Fish

First off, let me say how happy I am for Fish that he has finally made it to the big dance.  At 29 years of age, that is quite an accomplishment.  Unfortunately for Mardy, he has a very tough group and in all likelihood he will lose to Roger, Rafa, and Jo and go 0-3.  You never know though.  With Mardy's big serve and aggressive strategy, he could upset Jo and even give Rafa and Roger a tough time.  Having said that, I highly doubt Mardy will beat Roger and Rafa (though I hope he beats Rafa), and at best I see him going 1-2.


Round Robin:

Group A:

Djokovic defeats Berdych
Djokovic defeats Ferrer
Djokovic defeats Murray
Murray defeats Ferrer
Murray defeats Berdych
Berdych defeats Ferrer

Djokovic:  3-0 (advances)
Murray:  2-1 (advances)
Berdych:  1-2
Ferrer:  0-3

Group B:

Federer defeats Tsonga
Federer defeats Fish
Federer defeats Nadal
Nadal defeats Fish
Nadal defeats Tsonga
Tsonga defeats Fish

Federer:  3-0 (advances)
Nadal:  2-1 (advances)
Tsonga:  1-2
Fish:  0-3


Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray
Novak Djokovic defeats Rafael Nadal


Roger Federer defeats Novak Djokovic to win 6th Masters Cup title

*note*  in 2006 and 2007, Roger and Rafa, as the #1 and #2 players in the world, met in the semis, and the same thing will happen again I believe should Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, and Federer all make the semifinals.

I hope to see a fantastic tournament featuring the best players in the world playing their best tennis!  I can't wait for the tennis to get underway, and may the best man win (Roger, obviously, haha).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Paris Final - RF wins first Bercy Title!

A bit late, but better late that never.

On Sunday, Roger won his 69th career title and his very first Paris Bercy Masters title by defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 61 76(3).  I could see how much it meant to Roger to finally win this title, and I'm so happy for him that he was able to do it.  I felt like it was a must-win match for Roger, and he must have felt the same way because he started out on fire by winning the first set 6-1.  In the second set, Jo raised the level of his game and breezed through his service games, and it was Roger that had to dig deep to get through a few of his service games.  At the end of the set, Roger turned it on just when he needed to and won 16 of the final 23 points to take the match 7-3 in the tiebreak, a tiebreak in which he got out to a 6-1 lead.  Tsonga would have made the match really competitive had he been better in the first set, but I could see that it took him a while to find his legs after the tiring match vs Isner the day before.  The problem with that is, Roger starts so fast that you can't afford to take the first 4 games off or else he will take the match over.

Perhaps what amazed me more than anything in this match was the fact that the French crowd was cheering more for Roger than they were for Tsonga.  Now, Fed is always the most popular player wherever he goes, but I think that in Paris they love him more than any other, and treat him like one of their own.  I know the atmosphere in Paris two years ago when Roger won the French Open was outstanding, and this was kind of similar.  It really is something else when you think how many fans Roger has.  I think he has to be the most popular of this generation, especially because tennis is a worldwide game and wherever Roger goes he gets the biggest cheers and the most adoring fans.  Personally, I'm proud to be a Fedfan and be one of the millions that support him no matter what.  There is something about Fed in that our admiration of him brings us closer together and creates a bond.

With the Paris win, Federer has now won 12 straight matches and has all the momentum in the world heading into London, where he will need to be sharp as he has 1500 points to defend.  I won't talk about London just yet, as I'll preview it at a later time, but I will say that Roger is clearly the favourite heading into the World Tour Finals with his recent play.  Djokovic has been injured since September, Nadal is not a great indoor player (though he will be ready to play his best), and Murray must contend with the great expectations his country and finally come through in a big tournament.

Anyway, I am so happy Roger won in Bercy and I'm even more thrilled that he looks in great form heading into London.  It should be a superb event and I will preview the match-ups very soon.  Cheers!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Paris SF - RF makes First Paris Final

Roger Federer must forgive me - I missed his absolute beatdown of Tomas Berdych in the Paris Masters semifinals.  Roger won the match 64 63 in fine fashion, completely destroying Tomas in superb Federer form.  For Roger, getting to the final in Bercy means that he has now made the final in EVERY Masters 1000 event - Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati, Shanghai, and Paris.  Congrats Roger!  It is quite outstanding that Roger keeps breaking records and is still able to play elite tennis at this stage in his career.  His consistency is unmatched in the game of tennis, and in all honesty, many of his records will be very difficult to break.

As for the match itself, I literally only saw the final two points.  I could not believe it when I woke up to find that I had missed the entire match.  Believe me, I was devastated, but I was also very relieved to find out that Roger had manhandled Berdych the way he did.  I was confident that Roger was going to win anyways, but Berdych has always given him trouble throughout his career and with the patch he was on post-USO, anything could have happened.  Roger showed his very best tennis however and never gave Berdych a chance to get into the match.  I so very much look forward to watching the match tomorrow in full high definition so I can witness the glory first hand.  It should be beautiful.

When Roger is showing that kind of form, he is still the best player in the world and undoubtedly the most talented, even at 30 years old.  Roger is so dangerous right now because he has something to prove, not only to himself, but to the doubters who think he will never have success again.  He absolutely loves holding back the younger, stronger foes and showing him why he is the all-time Grand Slam singles champion.  He is also gaining momentum for the start of 2012 by playing lethal tennis at the end of the year, just as he did last year when he won Stockholm, Basel, and the World Tour Finals.  Likewise this year, he could finish the year with wins in Basel, Paris, and the World Tour Finals, especially if he continues playing the lethal tennis that he has played recently.

In the other semifinal, Jo-Willy Tsonga defeated John Isner after saving three match points at 5-6.  Tsonga won the match in the end, but Isner can't be too disappointed with the result.  He had a great tournament and turned in his first ever Masters semifinal.  I like Isner a lot, but it is sometimes frustrating to watch him.  He has such an amazing serve and wins so many service games so easily that he takes his big weapon for granted.  Though he has improved wonderfully in all other aspects of his game, he is still a very inconsistent player from the ground, at the net, and on returns.  He also cannot move for many balls while he is in a rally because his height causes him to be relatively immobile.  Of course with his size he won't get to as many balls as the regular-sized players on tour, but sometimes he just gives up free points, and that hurts him.  Having said all this, I wish Isner much success in 2012 and hope that he can finally push through to a great run at one of the Slams.  He is a good kid that I believe just needs to find his way, and maybe adapt a better work ethic to the other parts of his game.

So the final is set:  Federer vs Tsonga.  The crowd was very crazy and loud in Tsonga's win over Isner, but I highly doubt it will be like that for the final.  The French crowd has so much respect for Roger, and he will get his fair share of admiration from the audience.  Roger is the fresher of the two, but Jo will have all the adrenaline flowing and he will try to engage the crowd as quickly as possible.  Roger must start fast and not give Jo or his fans any hope of winning the match, exactly like he did against Berdych (though Berdych had few fans in that match). The bottom line is, it will be fantastic match with two fantastic indoor players in Federer and Tsonga.  I expect a close match, but I think Fed will prevail 64 36 64 in the end.

PS - quick indoor courts rule.  I love the clean hitting, the ripping winners, the stunning reflexive defense, the accurate, fast serving, and the fact that playing conditions remain the same no matter what.  The thing I hate in tennis the most is the changing weather that can affect your game.  Just recently I lost a match that I should have won just because the wind screwed up my game.  But anyways, back to talking about indoors....I wish there were more indoor tournaments, or AT LEAST, more tournaments played on faster courts.  Fast-court tennis is exciting, fast, skillful, and it really brings out the best in the most talented players.  Gruelling baseline tennis is boring.

Double PS - if Roger had played in the 90s he would have had more than 16 Slams, because every surface barring clay was fast as lightning.  Imagine having a year's schedule of fast courts in 2012?  Roger would undoubtedly be the best player and all the counterpunching baseliners would be at a total loss.

But enough of that talk, there is a final tomorrow.  GO ROGER!

Paris QF - RF wins 800th Career Match!

On Friday, in the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters, Roger Federer defeated Juan Monaco 63 75 to reach the Paris semifinals, but more importantly, he won his 800th career match!  Before I say anything else, I want to underline how big an achievement this is.  For one, he is only the SEVENTH player in the Open Era to win 800 matches, and Roger stands with some great company in there.  Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Guillermo Vilas, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Stefan Edberg stand in front of him.  Edberg has 806 match wins, so Roger could very well pass him by the end of 2011.  Looking further ahead, Roger could even go onto pass Vilas' mark of 923 to become third all-time in match wins.  It all depends on how long Roger plays really, but if he has the motivation and the will to keep playing for another three years, he could certainly rack up 124 more wins and pass Vilas.  Of course, Fed has more important goals right now, like the World Tour Finals, the four Slams next year, and winning an Olympic gold, but keep this in the back of your head, will ya Roger?

As for the quarterfinal match itself, Roger was very average.  He got down a break early, but broke back and won 5 straight games from 3-1 down to take the first set 6-3.  The second set was closer and Monaco fought valiantly, but Roger got the break in the eleventh game to go up 6-5 and then consolidated it to take it 7-5.  Overall, it was most certainly not a great match by any means, but a win is a win.  Fed wasn't sharp at all from the baseline (although some of those half-volley pickups I couldn't even dream of hitting), but the Maestro's serve and net play helped him win the match.  At this point in Roger's career, he has played so many matches that it is completely understandable for him to be off his game on some of them.  He also knows better than anyone else on tour how to schedule himself appropriately so that he reaches his peak performance at the right time, namely at the final weekend of tournaments.  With how many routine victories Roger has had since 2004 when he started dominating the tour, a win is a win for him no matter how he gets it done.

Since Basel, Roger's serve has been outstanding, winning him many free points and helping him hold easily.  And especially against Monaco, Roger came to the net on countless occasions and consistently won the points up there.  Fed has always been great at the net, especially in his early days, but ever since Annacone joined him, he has made the effort to attack a lot more and take the points on his own initiative.  This is very good as Roger ages, where he will not want to get caught in long baseline rallies which will wear him out.

OK, onto the other days action....

Novak Djokovic withdrew from his QF match against Tsonga, which is in my opinion a selfish move on his part.  Novak basically told all of us that he only came to Paris to pick up a paycheck, and that shows a complete lack of respect not only to his opponent, Tsonga, but also to the fans, who paid good money to see the number one player in the world work at his craft.  So he had a shoulder injury, big deal.  If it was that bad in the first place, he shouldn't have played in the tournament.  In typical Djokovic fashion, he proved that he is an entire staircase beyond Roger and even Rafa in the respect and class department.  As much as I hate Rafa sometimes, he didn't play in Paris because he knew that he wouldn't be able to give it his all.  Very respectable.  Novak, on the other hand, came for the money and got out quick like a coward.  Perhaps more to the point, how will Djokovic's shoulder affect his play in the World Tour Finals?  Logic dictates that he will have more problems with it in the first few matches there, and it could cost him the chance to defend his semifinal points from last year should things get really bad.  All in all, Djokovic only hurt himself by risking more injury in Paris.  He didn't need to play this tournament.

John Isner defeated David Ferrer 63 36 63 and made his first Masters semifinal, so for that I say congratulations.  He plays Tsonga in the semis, who received a walkover from Nole's withdrawal.  Tsonga will be fresher, but I have seen first hand what having a walkover can do to a player's game.  Their rhythm gets out of sync and they cannot handle the ball the same way.  It will be interesting to see how the match goes.  I expect a competitive contest either way.

On the other side of the draw, Tomas Berdych defeated Andy Murray in three sets in a three hour plus long match.  Good win for Berdych I say, but Murray was primed to lose if you ask me.  Not only is he preparing viciously to break through in London, he has already had loads of success post-USO and didn't need any more match prep.  Berdych is in good form I guess, but I still don't know how he is #6 in the world.  The China Open win certainly had a lot to do with it, but what the heck has he done the rest of the year?

On semifinal Saturday we have two exciting matches:  Tsonga vs Isner, and Federer vs Berdych.  Personally, I want to see a Federer/Isner final, but I fully well understand that with the circumstances, we could see a Berdych/Tsonga final, which is quite frankly more likely, unfortunately.  Berdych always ups his game against Roger, and Fed will need to be sharp as a razor.  Isner should give Jo a test but Tsonga has the home crowd behind him and should feed off of that towards the win.

Go Roger!  Teach Big Berd a lesson and make your first Paris final!  You know Rog, it would really help your confidence, AND, you would gain points too in the rankings!  So try to win, okay Feddy?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Paris Rd. 3 - RF defeats Gasquet 62 64

Roger picked up another routine victory in the 3rd round of the Paris Masters as he soundly defeated Richard Gasquet 62 64.  It was very much like the match these two had last year in Paris, where Roger also won easily in straight sets.  It is nice to see Roger feeling confident in his game.  I still don't think there is a player as good as Roger when he is in full flow like he has been since Basel.  His variety is unmatched and his knowledge, experience, and guile just give him an added edge that he uses to his advantage in this late stage in his career.

Roger next plays Juan Monaco in the quarterfinals, whom if you remember, Roger obliterated at the US Open a few months ago.  It should be a straightforward match for Federer, and he should book a semifinal spot for the second straight year in a row in Paris after never having made the semis previously here.  Good progress, really.  Monaco is certainly a better opponent than Mardy Fish, who would be uber dangerous on this court against Roger, and it would probably be similar to the Cincinnati final from last year.

In other action yesterday, Andy Murray got through Andy Roddick with exceptional ease, though that is probably more that Roddick is far past his prime than anything else.  As a fan of Roddick, I always enjoy watching him play, especially now in the twilight of his career.  On the other side, Djokovic barely got through countryman Viktor Troicki once again.  There is definitely something about Djokovic in that Troicki never wants to put his foot down and beat him.  He had the glorious chance to last year at the US Open and failed, and it was similar here.  I guess the dynamic is similar to the one that Wawrinka has with Federer, but even in that case, Stan has a win over Roger from Monte Carlo 2009.

As I'm writing this on Friday morning, Novak Djokovic pulled out of Paris, meaning that Tsonga gets through to the semis without lifting his racket.  Jo now plays either Isner or Ferrer in the semifinals.  On the other side, Andy Murray lost to Tomas Berdych in a close three-setter.  I will speak more about Djokovic and Murray in my next post summing up the quarterfinal action, though.

Anyways, Roger looks for his 800th career match win against Monaco, and I hope he can get it done.  It would be quite the massive achievement!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Paris Rd. 2 - RF defeats Mannarino 62 63

Roger started off his week in Paris by soundly defeating lefty Adrian Mannarino 62 63 in under an hour.  It was a routine performance from the Fedster, but I always say that a win over a left-handed player is a good win for Roger, as they can more easily access Roger's backhand. The win was also good preparation for Richard Gasquet in the 3rd round, who already holds a victory over Roger in 2011, from Rome earlier this year.  I believe Roger will win in straight sets as he did last year against Gasquet, but it will not be easy, as Richard will be motivated to play well at home.

The popular topic in Paris this week is the changing of the courts.  They have slowed them down from last year, in which they were imperiously fast.  Changing to a slower court obviously helps the counterpunchers such as Murray, Djokovic, and Monfils, but Roger has said that he likes the way the courts are playing because they help him get more cut on his slice, which is a great advantage for him.  All in all, it seems as if Roger is really motivated to win here in Paris, and fully understands how important a strong finish to 2011 could be in starting off 2012 with a bang.  A win in Paris would do wonders to his confidence heading into London, with it being the one title that has always eluded him.

Djokovic and Murray got through easily, and Novak received his $1.8 million bonus for appearing.  However, Nole must be extremely careful because the last thing he wants is more problems with his shoulder that could damage his chances of winning his 2nd Masters Cup/World Tour Finals/whatever you want to call it these days.  Murray looked fine and just verified my suspicions that he withdrew from Basel because he didn't feel like playing after having a busy Asian swing.

Looking forward to the rest of the week, and hopefully seeing Federer lift the trophy on Sunday!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Basel F - Federer wins 68th Career Title

Roger Federer is now a 5-time champion in his home tournament of Basel after defeating surprise finalist Kei Nishikori 61 63 in the final.  Roger is also a 5-time champion at Wimbledon, Halle, the World Tour Finals, and the US Open.  With the win, Roger won his second title of the year and added to his illustrious career.

From the start, the match was never really close.  Roger won it very easily with some superb serving and ball-striking, and Nishikori was a little overwhelmed by playing the Fedmeister, who plays unlike anybody he had ever faced before.  Roger took the ball early and robbed Nishikori of time that he would receive playing against a counterpuncher like Simon or Nadal.  Nishikori was never in the match, but he did shows glimpses of why he has had such a good run since the US Open.  He attacks well off both wings, and his forehand is a huge weapon.  Look for him to have a breakout 2012 season as he is a rising young star.

What struck me most about the win for Roger was how much it meant to him.  During his victory speech he fought back tears, and showed oncemore his undying passion for the game of tennis.  Even with this being his 68th career title, he still cares about success and he still cares to hold the high standards that he has set for himself by becoming the all-time Grand Slam singles champion.  This is what I love about Roger.  He still has the will to compete and the will to win, and above all else he still loves to play more than anybody else on tour.  While some view their careers in tennis as a chore, Roger thinks of it as a vacation.  He loves the fans, he loves the atmosphere, he loves being on court, and he relishes his position as the ambassador of tennis.  If everybody on tour loved tennis as much as Roger, the ATP would be a much better place in my opinion.

Looking ahead, Roger has some momentum heading into Paris and the World Tour Finals.  He has a semi appearance in Paris to defend and of course the win in the World Tour Finals, so he should be extra motivated to play his very best in the final few weeks of the season.  A successful end to this year could set him up very well for a 17th Grand Slam title in Australia next January, which will undoubtedly be his biggest priority over the offseason.  But for now, it's all about Paris and the WTF, and I believe Roger could be looked at as the favourite to win both titles, even though he has never won in Paris before.

Anyways, I'm so happy that Roger won in Basel, and it was clear how much it meant to him, which made it extra special to watch.  Here's hoping to great success for the rest of 2011 and the start of 2012!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Basel SF Recap

The final is set in Basel, and it is a little surprising to see who is in it.  On the one side there is of course Basel's favourite son, the great one himself, Roger Federer, but on the other side there is Japanese player Kei Nishikori, who upset Novak Djokovic 26 76(4) 60.

Federer handled countryman Stan Wawrinka rather easily in straight sets and moved into his first final since the French Open in June.  With these two friends squaring off, it will always be a strategic match, as both men know each other so well.  For instance, Roger quite enjoys forcing Stan to hit his BH short in the court and attacking his FH.  The result of the all-Swiss semi was rather predictable, but the Djokovic/Nishikori match was not.  At 6-2 4-5 0-30, it looked as if Novak would take the match in straights and move onto the final, but Nishikori would have none of it.  He fought back to force a tiebreak, won it, and then took the third set 6-0 for what was, in the end, a very comfortable third set to win.  Novak had issues with his shoulders and probably was not at 100%, but full credit to Nishikori for battling through and improving on his breakthrough year with a final in Basel.

The incredible physical toll that Djokovic's game has taken on his body this year has finally caught up with him it seems.  He won so many physical matches during his magnificent run that it was nearly impossible for him to keep healthy forever.  Like we have seen from Nadal for many years, Djokovic is struggling late in the season after wearing himself out during the busiest months of the year.  On the other hand, Roger looks fresh and invigorated as he looks to win his first title since January.  There is no question that Roger paces himself throughout the year perhaps better than any other player in history - it is why he has won 5 Masters Cup titles and this year is looking to win his sixth.  Unlike his younger counterparts Murray, Djokovic, and Nadal, Federer understands that you cannot go 100% throughout the entire year or you will not have enough gas left in the tank at the end.  Apparently Djokovic hasn't learned from Nadal's previous mistakes and now finds himself in a precarious position of trying to go into the World Tour Finals as healthy as possible.

As for the final, Roger should handle Nishikori in straights.  The guy beat Djokovic which is something in of itself, but Fed should prove to be too strong in front of his hometown fans.  As previously mentioned, the Maestro has not won a title since the opening tournament of the year, and he will certainly be hungry to win once again in Basel.  A win would be his fifth Basel title, and would most definitely give him credence to being called the greatest player in the Basel tournament's history.

Final prediction:  63 63 Federer.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Basel SF Preview

Just a quick update:

Federer got through Andy Roddick 63 62 in one of his most comfortable wins against Andy (and of course there have been many of them).  I didn't see the match but I read that Andy was not having a good serving day and against Roger, that puts any chances Andy has to bed right away.  Hell, even when Andy is serving well, he has trouble against Fed's brick wall returning style.  Anyways, it seems as if Roger's three-set victory over Nieminen was exactly what he needed - I have always said that a good tough match to get through is the best thing for a tennis player's mind as it gives them added confidence going into the next match that they can pull through should they face a tough situation.  With Roger, we have seen this time and time again.  Against Cilic in the 3rd round of the US Open, vs Davydenko in the Australian Open 2010 Quarterfinals, against Haas and Del Potro at the French 2009, against Andreev in the 4th round at the US Open 2008, against Tipsarevic in Australia 2008...the list really goes on and on.  Roger just feeds off tough matches and it helps him better prepare himself for the tougher rounds in the final weekends.

On that same side, Stan Wawrinka got through easily against Florian Mayer with a 62 62 score.  He looks to be in great form but facing Roger is always a challenge.  Nevertheless, I expect a close match, and both Roger and Stan will want to put on the best show for the Swiss fans.

On the other side, Djokovic got through Baghdatis in a tough three-set encounter.  He plays Nishikori in the semis so that should be an easier match for sure, leading him to the finals against a likely opponent in Roger.  I believe Roger will have a good chance of beating Djokovic as Novak hasn't looked very sharp this week at all, and Roger only seems to be getting better with each passing match.  It would definitely be a huge confidence boost if Roger could get a win over Djokovic for the second time this year - a feat nobody else has accomplished may I remind - and it would certainly give Roger momentum heading into Paris and the World Tour finals.

Looking forward to a great weekend in Basel, cheers!