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!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Federer Falls to Brands in Gstaad


That is the word you use right now if you are a fan of Roger Federer. Last Saturday, the great Swiss lost a double tiebreaker to Argentine Frederico Delbonis, and now, in his home country of Switzerland, in the city of Gstaad, Federer suffered another surprising defeat to Daniel Brands of Germany.

Things started off decently enough with Federer holding cleanly but he gave up the break in the 5th game. Brands took care of his service games and saved a few break points along the way (one of which he dumped a second serve return into the net), but he won the first set just as he did in Hamburg last week. As if losing the first set was bad enough, the Fed got broken in the first game of the second and faced an ever-growing mountain. He had his chances to break back at various times in the set but every time he did Brands had the answer, either with a big serve or a big forehand winner. End result, a 6-3, 6-4 defeat, and he has lost 3 of his last 7 matches.

It is a hard time right now if you are a fan of Roger, as of course I am. Trying to find answers to these losses and this general poor play is difficult, as it must be for Fed himself. What is happening that he has such little confidence? The recent racquet change has little to do with it, because he has no self-belief that he can beat the guy on the other side of the net right now - and it doesn't matter whether he's playing with a 90, 98, or 120, he will still not play well if he doesn't have a healthy, energized mind.

Perhaps the loss to Murray way back at the Australian Open hurt him more than I anticipated. Couple that with losses to Benneteau, Berdych, Nishikori, Tsonga, Stakhovsky, Delbonis, and now Brands, it is easy to see why someone like Roger would be struggling going through such a rough year so far. He is slower, has less power, and is less capable of stringing together great matches like he once was at the height of his powers (or even last year when his confidence was sky-high). All I know is that he must right this ship in Montreal and Cincinnati or else he won't even make the quarterfinals at the US Open, no matter what the draw looks like.

I know decline happens, but it is difficult to go through this last month as a fan of his. He is trying his hardest to fight it off but sometimes you just cannot delay the inevitable. However, I have no doubt that he can still play good tennis, but he needs to build it by winning some matches and that starts in Montreal, which I will be attending for a day (hopefully Fed is still in it when I go around 3rd round/quarterfinal day).


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Federer falls to Delbonis in Hamburg

Roger Federer fell short in his bid to win a 5th title in Hamburg, losing to 114th ranked Argentinian Frederico Delbonis76(7), 76(4).

Things started out great for the 4-time champion as he broke in the third game, but could not consolidate that break. The two went back and forth the rest of the set and it ended in the eventual tiebreak. Federer had a 4-2 lead at the changeover but squandered a set point and then Delbonis converted his.

In the second Roger faced a lot of pressure on his serve but dealt with it well as he usually does. He saved three break points in his opening service game and then a few more at 3-3. At 3-4, he had a break point chance but the Argentinian put away a nice forehand winner and won the game. In the tiebreaker, he struck together some good points and got the biggest win of his career when Roger dumped a tame forehand into the net.

It's a disappointing loss as they always are, but I am trying to look on the positive side of things. Fed got 4 matches under his belt with the new racquet, fought well in two matches against Brands and Mayer, and got some added matches. The title would have been sweet, but it's not doom and gloom that he didn't win it. At the end of the day, he had a set point in the first set and a break in the second to serve for the match, so perhaps if a few points had gone his way he would be in the final challenging for the trophy.

Overall, I am happy with the way he played with the new racquet. He generated more power off the ground, especially his backhand, and his defense was a bit better as he was able to get better quality shots on the run. Some of the shanks and mishits were still there, but as I said previously, those are a result of not being in position to hit the intended shot, not the size of the racquet.

It is interesting to note that he played the match vs Delbonis with his back taped, so I hope that's not a big problem (though I feel it will never go away). Not that it was an excuse for his play - this was one of those matches he would have found a way to win last year when his confidence and momentum was greater.

Well, onwards and upwards to Gstaad, in Switzerland, where Roger will look to pick up title #78 and #2 of the season.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Federer overcomes Mayer test in Hamburg

Roger Federer advanced to the semifinals in Hamburg with a 76(4), 3-6, 7-5 victory over German Florian Mayer in a competitive, high quality match in which Federer was pushed to his limits by a man playing very good tennis.

The first set was about as even as it could be as both Federer and Mayer held their serves all the way through and it was decided by a tiebreak, which the Swiss Maestro took seven points to four. In the second set Roger had chances to break in the first game but was stilted, and the tricky German started gaining confidence and played some great ball to go up 5-1. Roger broke back but was unable to hold his serve at 3-5 to stay in it.

In the third, Roger went up a break twice, but Mayer kept fighting and earned each of the breaks back. Fed raised his level at the end of the match and broke in the tenth game and served it out comfortably.

It is worth noting that in the second set Federer was wearing a sweater over his shirt. Whether it was due to the cool weather or it was just a precaution for a stiff back, we don't know. Of course it was the set Roger went down 5-1 in so some are speculating his back was hurting him, but I personally didn't see it - Mayer just played better in that set.

Overall though, this was certainly the most comfortable Federer has looked with his new racquet thus far - yes, only three matches, but still. He was getting more pop off his backhands and even more zing to the backhand slices. He seemed more assured and authoritative from the ground, which was vital to his success because he wasn't serving up to his usual standards.

Some quotes from RF:

“It was extremely difficult,” said Federer. “I started really well. I thought we were both hitting the ball well in the first set and not giving each other that many chances. It went down to the wire. I’m happy I played a good tie-break. I should have been up early with a break in the second set; he got me there. It was a bit of a rollercoaster till the very end of the match. Just had to tough it out.”

“The conditions were cold and heavy, the clay was heavy. So, it was different than we had expected at the beginning of the day when we thought we would play at 5:15pm. I have to say that I really enjoyed the match. It was a tough match and Florian fought hard.”

Next up is Frederico Delbonis, who surprisingly took out Wimbledon quarterfinalist Fernando Verdasco in three sets after saving a match point in the second set. He is a big left-hander with a big serve and a big forehand, so Roger will have to be wary of that and use his variety to move the big man around.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Federer into Hamburg Quarterfinals

Roger Federer advanced into the quarterfinals in the bet-at-home Open in Hamburg, Germany on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Czech Jan Hajek. Up next is the German Florian Mayer, who has a funky and stylish game but may not have enough to hurt the Swiss Maestro.

Federer never really found his range until halfway through the first set. He gained a break early but gave it right back, and then wasted 4 set points at 4-5 until he finally converted on the 5th. In the second he finally got the break in the 5th game. At 2-5, Hajek saved 5 match points but the next game Roger served the match out in style, flicking an ace to win the 907th match of his career.

It was hardly a great match from Roger but he got over the finish line with little trouble and that is all you can ask for in the early rounds of any tournament. Hajek played pretty decently and handled himself well in the big points.

Of course, the big news this week is Federer's change of racquet from a 90 square inch frame to a 98 square inch frame. It is the biggest switch of Roger's career - in 2002 he changed from an 85 to a 90, which he used for 11 years before this week.

The eight extra square inches on the racquet allows Roger to hit with a little more power and gives him a little more margin for error on the many fine-tuned shots he likes to play. Some say that the racquet will eliminate shanks from his game, and that won't be the case at all. Shanks and mishits are a byproduct of bad timing which is caused by not being in the exact position to hit the intended shot. Think of it this way - he rarely ever mishit the ball in his prime years when he had elite movement and could get in position to every ball - usually hitting very aggressively and with high risk. Nowadays he is a step slower and doesn't get in position as easily as he used to.

Without a doubt, this week in Hamburg and next week in Gstaad will be tournaments where he tests out the new frame to get all the kinks out. He is still figuring out how to balance the added power with the same control. In the long term, when he gets fully used to it, I believe it will pay great dividends to use a modern racquet, especially when he plays the top guys and needs to handle their power (Berdych, Tsonga, del Potro) or needs to be able to hit through their defenses a little better (Djokovic, Nadal, Murray).

From my observation in the Hajek match, many of the mishits were caused by hitting a little early - swinging through the prime point of contact before the ball actually arrives. I assume the 98 is lighter than the 90 was because the head is bigger. If that is the case, then part of the adjustment process will be to get used to swinging a lighter frame and getting the timing right with his backswing and hitting point.

It's great to see Federer back in action and it's nice to see that he has a willingness to make such a drastic change at this point in his career like changing racquets (especially when its an 8-square inch difference). The loss to Stakhovsky could have been a blessing in disguise if this new frame helps him out against the fellow top players and helps him hide his weaknesses and strengthen his strengths.