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!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Indian Wells QF: Federer loses to Nadal

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.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Indian Wells R4: Federer Survives Wawrinka

Roger Federer made the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells with a 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-5 win that lasted just under two and a half hours in the afternoon shade.

The defending champion got off to the worst possible start, being broken at love. He recovered quickly though as he broke back and then broke again as he took the first set with relative ease. Once he got up the break in the second and served for the match, it looked like things were all but over, but Wawrinka had his say in the affairs. He broke to love and turned the momentum completely around and won the second set tiebreaks seven points to four. It was the first tiebreak he ever won against Fed.

In the third set Roger quickly got down 0-30 at 1-1 when he served and followed his shot to the net. The return by Stan was hammered at Fed's feet and he dumped the reply in the net. Federer asked chair umpire Fergus Murphy to challenge but the veteran ump would not oblige, saying Fed had hit one shot too many. Clearly put off, Fed lost the next point and got broken.

He bounced right back to break however even though Stan had a game point to consolidate his break. From there on he got that fire back and only faced serious trouble when he saved a break point at 4-4 with a forehand that landed square on the line. Wawrinka couldn't force the tiebreak however and that sealed the deal for the Maestro.

It definitely wasn't a match that anyone is going to be remembering years from now, but Fed got the job done, even if it was painful at times. He was broken while serving for the match which is never good but he lifted his game in the first and third sets when he needed to. He didn't seem to be moving as comfortably as he would have liked, but he wasn't showing severe signs of back pain.

But he will need to get that sorted out as soon as possible because he is facing Rafael Nadal in the quarters, who took out Ernests Gulbis 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. It should be an interesting match as it will be Rafa's biggest test since his return and it is unknown how Roger will play.  I never assume the next match will be bad because the previous one was, so I honestly don't know how it will go. I could see Nadal winning in straights, but I could also see Fed pulling out his magic with an inspired performance, as he did last year.

With all that out of the way, I want to talk a bit about the argument that Roger had with chair umpire Fergus Murphy about the challenging situation. I do think that Fergus made the right call - they are told to not allow a player to challenge when they have hit a shot after the call they want to review.

However, this was a unique situation and it could provoke some questions. If Roger had let the ball go by him, would he have been allowed to challenge his serve, or would he not be able to because a clean winner was hit? What Roger was trying to argue is that it was literally a split second between Stan's return and the time where he could have made the challenge. When Stan smacked the return, that was the time that the "out" call should have been called and you have to bet Fed was waiting for it.

Nevertheless, the argument seemed to lite a fire under his butt and he got his mind together after more or less falling apart at the end of the 2nd.

So Federer vs Nadal is next - their 29th meeting. I only have one request for Roger, and that is to wear the blue shirt and not the orange one! The latter is bad luck I tell you.....

Monday, March 11, 2013

Indian Wells R3: Federer beats Dodig

Roger Federer won his 890th match on the ATP World Tour with a rather simple 63 61 win over Croatia's Ivan Dodig on Monday afternoon.

The match was even at the start, and Dodig fashioned three break points before the Swiss fired off five consecutive points to hold. Both men would hold with relative ease until 3-4 when Dodig played a very loose service game and handed Roger two straight double faults to concede the break meekly. In the second set, Roger raised his level and that, along with Dodig not playing up to his first set standard, allowed Roger to get a double break lead and he would break another time to win the match in just over an hour.

There was a little concern at the end as in the final two games Roger's back appeared to be hurting. It was first noticed when he was serving at 4-1 when he wasn't arching his back on the serve and he wasn't moving for shots as he usually does. Thankfully he only had to play a game and a half with the apparent pain and he actually started teeing off on shots as he clearly didn't want to get into any long rallies.

Overall it was not a great match by Roger but he did what he needed to do and he's through. It was the kind of match that we have seen dozens of times in Roger's career - playing in 2nd gear, not needing to push himself any further against an opponent who he had beaten even before they walked onto court. I noticed that the divide of sun and shade on the court may have made things difficult for Fed at the beginning as he was quickly in double digits for unforced errors. From experience, when the ball is coming to you in sun and then goes to shade or vice versa, it can be hard to time things right.

Next up in the 4th round will be his friend Stan Wawrinka.

In the rest of the day's action, Rafael Nadal received a walkover by Leonardo Mayer. Ernests Gulbis won his 13th straight match against Andreas Seppi, Richard Gasquet took out Jerzy Janowicz, Tomas Berdych beat Florian Mayer, Kevin Anderson beat Jarkko Nieminen, and Gilles Simon beat Benoit Paire.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Indian Wells R2: Federer Masterclass

Roger Federer opened his title defense on Saturday afternoon in Indian Wells with a thoroughly amazing 6-2, 6-3 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan. The win, the 889th of his career, improved his record to 11-3 on the season.

Basically, Roger was incredible from start to finish. He broke in the opening game and got the double break a few games later to really open it up. He won the first set in 27 minutes. The second set was more of the same as he broke in the third game and again in the final game to wrap up a very impressive and convincing win over the big Uzbek.

Looking good sporting blue and orange.
The forehand was working tremendously well throughout the match, as well as I have seen him hit it in ages. He was really going after his shots on that side and his balls were cutting through the court quite well. After the first set, he was hitting the forehand 55% of the time cross court and 45% of the time down the line, which showed how he was spreading the court and working the bigger Istomin around the court. He also served spectacularly, getting his first serve in at a 72% clip and winning 96% of those first serve points (the loss of one point). He was 11/14 at net, hit 31 winners to 15 errors, and converted of 4/7 break point chances.

It was the best start Roger could ask for, and in his next match he won't be playing the man who beat him in Rotterdam, Julien Benneteau, as he was beaten in straights by Ivan Dodig, best known for beating Rafael Nadal in Montreal in 2011. So the revenge for that loss will have to wait until another day I'm afraid. The Fed should get by Dodig with ease if he plays half as well as he did against Istomin.

To wrap up the other action:

Rafa Nadal won his first official hardcourt match since Miami last year when he beat Ryan Harrison 76(3) 62. Kevin Anderson upset David Ferrer 36 64 63. Janko Tipsarevic was blasted off the court by the newly reformed Ernests Gulbis 62 60.  Similarly, Fernalndo Verdasco was embarrassed in a 61 60 loss to Jarko Nieminen. John Isner was upset by the always-resilient Lleyton Hewitt 67(6) 63 64. Tomas Berdych advanced easily, Richard Gasquet took out Bernard Tomic, Jerzy Janowicz beat David Nalbandian, and Gilles Simon saved three match points against Paoo Lorenzi to get through. Other seeds to fall were Mikhail Youzhny, Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Benneteau, as previously mentioned.

Until next time, Kyle.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Indian Wells: Federer gets tough draw

If Roger Federer wants to retain his Indian Wells title from a year ago, it will take a great load of great play as his work has been cut out for him with a formidable draw in the first Masters 1000 of the year.

If the seedings uphold, then Roger will have to go through Denis Istomin, Julien Benneteau, John Isner (or Stan Wawrinka), Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer (or Tomas Berdych), and then either Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic. And you thought his draw last year of Kudla, Raonic, Bellucci, del Potro, Nadal, and Isner was rough.

It is a hard draw but it could be exactly what Roger needs right now - that mental edge and sharpness to keep him at his best at all times - which he may need to do if he wants to make his first final of 2013. Historically, Fed seems to enjoy the challenge of having tough draws and I believe it helps him stay strong. For example, he had a hard path to the semis at the Australian Open and he played his first four matches very strongly knowing that he could be given some danger.

I do believe that Roger can make the final of the tournament but it is really all up to his level of play. Benneteau would be a big mental test after the loss in Rotterdam but the Maestro should get up for that should it happen. Isner or Wawrinka could be tricky 4th round opponents and we know both of them can push Roger. The big match is the one against Nadal, which I'm sure the ATP is hoping to see happen. Roger beat him last year in the semis and he'd probably have to play at or near the same level to win again. The semis would be easier against Ferrer than Berdych (obviously), but Fed would still be the favourite against the Czech and it would be an intriguing match even though I know many of you Fed fans out there don't want to see it.

One factor for Fed could be his #2 ranking. He could lose it to Murray if the Scot makes the final and Roger doesn't make the semis. If Andy wins the title, it's his automatically. It could be a little added motivation for Fed to see that he at least makes the semis which would force Andy to win it all - not an easy task when facing a red-hot Djokovic in the semis potentially. Speaking of which...

The man to beat in the tournament is clearly Djokovic and I can't see him not making the final. He is the big favourite to win the title but I hope Roger has something to say about that when the final weekend rolls around!

I'm hoping for a good week from the Maestro. It would be so nice to see him have a great tournament before his long break, and he should give it his all, knowing what's at stake.

Enjoy the tennis from California!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Dubai SF: Federer loses to Berdych

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.

My Thoughts:

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).