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, October 31, 2013

Federer Sails into Bercy Quarters

Roger Federer booked a spot in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Masters with a smooth 6-3, 6-4 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber. In a seemingly rare occurrence this season, the Swiss wasn't broken and served a high first serve percentage of 75% en route to breaking once in each set to get the job done in just over an hour.

Federer plays Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals, and this will be their second meeting in 6 days, as the Argentine edged Federer in the Basel final last week. The big man came back from a set down to defeat Grigor Dimitrov.

Elsewhere, Stan Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet clinched their spots in the World Tour Finals when Milos Raonic lost to Tomas Berdych 7-6(13), 6-4. The Swiss #2 advanced with a win over Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-2 and Richard Gasquet clinically beat Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 also and set a new high for wins in a season with 50. Nice season Richard!

Novak Djokovic lost the opening set against John Isner in a tiebreak but played an extraordinary two sets to win 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-2 and David Ferrer bounced Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-3.

As for Federer, he looks like he's gaining confidence with each match and from what he has said, he is completely healthy. From what you can see with your own eye, he looks very good physically - moving quicker than earlier in the year and serving better, which indicates that his back is giving him no problems.

The match against Del Potro should be interesting. Roger will certainly be up to play as he was in Basel and if he can play as well as he did in that match he will have every opportunity to win the match, providing that he stays sharp and doesn't give away a service game or two like he did last week. Having only one win over a top 10 player all year, it would be nice to see him win and it would be a great boost before London.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Federer Qualifies for London

Roger Federer secured his 12th consecutive appearance at the year-ending World Tour Finals, formerly Masters Cup, with a 6-4, 6-4 win over South African Kevin Anderson of the 2nd round of the BNP Paribas Masters.

Federer got a good start, breaking in the first game of the match, and then held serve the rest of the way to grab the first set. He started smoothly again in the second set, getting a double break and going up 5-1 before he ran into a little scare. Serving for the match at 5-2, he was broken by the big man on his 4th break point faced. On his second time serving out the match, he went down 15-40 but used his serve to bail him out of trouble and a few points later he won the match.

Overall, he was pretty solid except for the blip at the end of the match. Though to be fair to him, something clicked in Anderson's head after he went down 5-1 and he started playing much better. After playing poorly for much of the match, suddenly he was not missing and finding the range on his groundstrokes, and it looked like it took Fed by surprise.

Nevertheless, the South African could have been very dangerous and he showed at the end what kind of threat he could have posed had he been more solid throughout the whole match. Next up is Philipp Kolschreiber, who defeated Tommy Haas easily. Roger should win the match in straights but Kohli is a good player and can't be taken lightly.

And now, Roger has a spot in the World Tour Finals where he has 6 wins and two other finals in the last 10 years. Even though he only has one win over a top 10 player all season, coming in January, he has always played some of his best tennis at the event, especially in London, and he will surely be looking to finish the year on a strong note.

Onwards and upwards,


Monday, October 28, 2013

Finally, a good week for Federer

Maybe coming home was just what Roger Federer needed to try and find some good form.

Though the Swiss legend lost in the finals of the Swiss Indoors to Juan Martin del Potro in a tight, high quality 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4 loss, it was his best tournament in months and he displayed some wonderful tennis as well as a gritty determination that has been lacking this year.

Before the tournament began, Federer had only been in 5 semifinals this season (Australian Open, Dubai, Rome, Halle, and Hamburg), and only 2 finals (Rome and Halle). He had lost many matches against players he was favoured to beat, and any time he got a little momentum, it slipped away with a bad loss, usually in an early round. But not this week, not in Basel.

The week started with a fairly routine win over Adrian Mannarino. Then he found himself in some trouble against the dangerous Denis Istomin, down a set. This time, the great champion didn't let another winnable match fall through his fingers, and he played a solid two sets to win the match.

The danger was far from over though, as his quarterfinal opponent was Grigor Dimitrov, who was on a roll and had just won his first career title in Stockholm, against a top 5 player in David Ferrer. In a highly anticipated match between the old and the new, the old guy came out on top, using his experience and court craft to upend the youngster.

The semifinal wasn't any easier; in fact, it proved to be much tougher, against a rising star in Vasek Pospisil, an explosive fresh face who broke through in the summer. The match started out great for the Swiss, but he lost concentration at the worst time, serving for the match, and he lost the second set. In the third, he threw away a service game but fought right back, and fought hard the rest of the way until he eventually won the match. It was the kind of contest he had been losing all year - and it followed many of the same patterns: play great in patches and then out of nowhere, the wheels fall off leaving his fans, and surely even himself, confused and disappointed. But he won this match and gave himself the chance to win his home tournament once more.

As aforementioned, he went up against Del Potro, who has been very in-form recently and could be seen as the 2nd best player on tour since the US Open. Given that the Argentine was in form and Federer had been struggling all year, most expected that the big man would win comfortably.

Del Potro won the match, but it sure was anything but comfortable. He took the first set in a tiebreak after a pair of lucky bounces - one when his shot hit the net and bounced over and the other one a few points later when Federer's shot hit the net and didn't. Roger didn't let losing the first set deter him, however, and he played one of his best sets of tennis all year, taking it 6-2. In the first game of the set he lost serve in a game he practically have away with a few double faults, and though Federer had a couple of break chances the next game, he was denied and Delpo played a great set the rest of the way to grab the title.

When all is said and done, it was a great week for Roger and he can take plenty of positives from it. He won two 3-set matches and he looked like the real Roger Federer against a top player in the prime of his career, and someone who has given him plenty of trouble the last few years. In the match, Fed was hitting cleaner and with more confidence - there were far fewer shanks and mishits than usual this season - and he was serving much better, especially from the deuce side where he had his serve up the T dialed in, and hit many aces with it. He kept up with Del Potro's big and consistent hitting, and he even defended quite well, showing that he was healthy. He also looked very energized and focused, which proves that he really wanted to win the title. Of course he didn't, but there really is nothing to feel bad about when looking back at this past week.

Up next is Paris where Fed needs one win to qualify for the World Tour Finals, and that win will need to come against Kevin Anderson or Mikhail Youzhny, the latter of whom took out David Ferrer in the Valencia final on Sunday. If Roger carries over the same form he showed in the final against Delpo, he should beat either of them, but of course nothing is a given. Even though it looks like Roger might be getting some of his form and confidence back, he has to be focused on keeping it.

If nothing else, doing well in Paris and the World Tour Finals will act as positive reinforcement heading into the offseason where he will be doing everything he can to prepare for what hopes to be a much better 2014 season.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Federer fights into Basel final

Roger Federer made things more difficult for himself than they had to be, but in the end he prevailed 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5 against Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the semifinals of his home tournament in Basel. He will be chasing his 6th title at the event when he goes up against Juan Martin del Potro.

As was a trademark of Federer's in his glory days, the Swiss started fast and got an early break, which then led to a 5-3 lead when he got another one to close out the set. So far, so good. He carried that momentum into the second set and he broke in the 8th game to serve for the match, but that's when the wheels started to fall off. He was broken and basically let the Canadian right back in the match. The set went to a tiebreak and Pospisil played a solid one while Roger did not. One set apiece when Fed and the whole Swiss crowd must have felt the match should have been over.

In the fourth game of the deciding set, things were going smoothly for Roger, taking a 40-0 lead on his serve. And then he played a catastrophic 5 points to lose serve, and you began to feel that maybe it just wasn't his day.

But then he broke back to love.

A few games later, at 3-4, Roger needed to save a break point and did so, and then he turned up the pressure at 5-5 on the Canadian's serve and he eventually managed to break after a long game. He served out the match in tense fashion, but his final serve wasn't returned, and he won the match to get himself into only his 3rd final of this almost-complete season.

It was one of those great "ugly" wins that Roger has had over the years, and watching it live was very tense to watch as a fan. The first half of the match was pretty smooth and Fed was playing good tennis, and then he really had to fight in the 3rd set to pull through. It seemed like he wasn't just battling Pospisil out there on court, but his own mind as well. He looked unsure of what shot to hit on many occasions and time after time he hit 2nd serve returns right in the centre of the court for Pospisil to hit into a corner. No doubt he's still low on confidence and trying to get himself on the right track, and this week is a big step in the right direction with a few hard-fought victories that he won without playing his best.

So the final is a rematch of last year's, Federer vs del Potro. Every time these two have met Roger has been the favourite but not this time - the Argentine has been on quite a roll since losing early at the US Open, winning the title in Tokyo and making the final of the Shanghai Masters, beating Nadal in the semis and losing in three to Djokovic.

If I was a betting man, my money would go on the big guy, but I know enough that you can never count Roger out. It's a different match and a different day, and he could come out flying and confident, or he could come out flat and tired. Whatever happens, I consider this to be a very successful week for Fed, and there is no shame in losing to Delpo who is basically in the prime of his career.

Hopefully it will be a good match,


Friday, October 25, 2013

Federer beats Dimitrov, into semis

Roger Federer scored a big win over 22 year-old Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 7-6(2) that launched him into the semifinals of a tournament for only the 6th time this season.

Roger started off in shaky fashion, going down 0-40 on his first service game but he fought to hold serve and not go down the early break that has been so regular this year. He couldn't get into the first three Dimitrov service games but after a love hold in the 5th game, the Swiss tightened the screws, getting the break at 3-3 and then the double break to close out the set.

In the second, one bad service game that featured a couple double faults cost Roger his serve. Skip ahead to later in the set, down 3-5, Fed saved a few set points and then broke back when Dimitrov missed an overhead. At 5-5, the Bulgarian went down 0-30 but to his credit fought back and forced a tiebreak. The most successful tiebreak player ever gained a quick mini-break and went up 5-2 before serving the match out.

It wasn't a classic performance by any means, but it was a win Federer needed. He fought hard, and apart from the one gaffe in the 2nd set, played a mentally solid match. Midway through the first set he started to find his range on his groundstrokes and showed glimpses of the real Roger, the one who plays freely without fighting his mind. Dimitrov did choke a little bit at the end of the 2nd set, but you know Fed took that gladly and it helped him cross the finish line.

Next up is Vasek Pospisil in the semis and the winner of that will very likely play del Potro in the final, who takes on Roger-Vasselin in the semis, the guy who took out Wawrinka. If all goes well, we will see a rematch of last year's final. But first things first, and that's Pospisil, who is no slouch and has the ability to hurt the Fed.

Onwards and upwards,


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Federer vs Dimitrov in Dream Match-Up

On Friday, the tennis world will finally see a match that has been anticipated for a long time - Roger Federer vs Grigor Dimitrov.

The Bulgarian rising star has basically modeled his game around Federer, and a match between the Swiss Maestro and the one that is called "BabyFed" will finally take place in the quarterfinals of the Swiss Open in Basel.

Dimitrov has been on a roll lately, as he won his first career title last week in Stockholm, beating David Ferrer in the final. The 22 year-old could finally be living up to his potential and it should be a fun encounter between two very talented shotmakers. With one on the rise and one on the decline, you know the young Dimitrov will want to get that win over the legend who inspired his game.

Federer's first two matches weren't great, beating Adrian Mannarino in straight sets and taking out Denis Istomin in three. In both those matches he showed hiccups that have plagued him all year, getting broken at inopportune times and losing sets because of it. The good news is that he played two very good sets against Istomin and after saving multiple some break points early in the 3rd set, he went on to play some scintillating tennis.

There is no doubt that Federer's confidence has been low - we have known that for months now. The only way to get confidence back is to win. Gaining good form is a process and doesn't just happen in one match out of the blue, and carrying momentum from one match to another helps to keep the positivity flowing. This year, that hasn't happened. Roger's longest winning streak has been 5 matches and he has played in only five semifinals all season. Every time he gets some momentum going, it gets stopped with an unfortunate or uncharacteristic loss.

He has admitted that he made some mistakes with his scheduling, like choosing to play on in Indian Wells instead of withdrawing, and playing Hamburg and Gstaad after his heartbreaking Wimbledon defeat to Sergiy Stakhovsky.

Knowing Federer, he will be very motivated to win this match as he always enjoys playing the young guys (see all his matches with Raonic and Tomic). Dimitrov is playing well now, but if Roger plays the way we know he can, he should win. He has to guard against those lapses in concentration where he plays a bad service game, because on the flip side, Dimitrov will be extremely motivated to win (though everyone wants to get a win over Roger to tell their grandkids). 

Hope for a great match, and this...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Federer Returns Home to Basel

Roger Federer will return to his home country looking to boost his chances to make the World Tour Finals in a few weeks at the O2 Arena in London. Looking to win his second title of the year, coming back to a tournament he so dearly loves and has had great success at, with 5 titles and 2 finals since 2006.

He will start his road to the title against Adrian Mannarino, who he took out in straight sets in the 3rd round of the US Open. In the second round he will face Denis Istomin or Horacio Zeballos, and in the quarters, he could have a much anticipated match with Grigor Dimitrov, who won his maiden title in Stockholm against David Ferrer in a big upset. Should he get by all those matches, which as we know this year is no guarantee, he'll likely play Tomas Berdych in the semis and Juan Martin del Potro in the final.

Given what has happened this year, all you can do as a fan now is take it one match at a time, as hard as that is. However, this tournament is very important for Roger not only to make the World Tour Finals, but also to see what his form is like against the top 10, where he could play Berdych, who is a tough opponent for him. Even if he was to make the semis and lose to Berdych, I think it's crucial that he finds out how his game holds up right now in a big match against a player that is expected to beat him right now. He raised his level against Nadal in Cincinnati and he'd need to have a similar performance against the Czech to make the final.

But first things first, one match at a time. Right now Mannarino is the entire focus and then we go from there.

Hoping for a good tournament for Roger and a happy ending. Home sweet home!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Federer Suffers Tough Loss

Once again, Roger Federer had an up and down performance and was plagued by many of the issues that have hurt him all year, and he was defeated by Gael Monfils in the 3rd round in Shanghai 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3.

The match started as bad as it could for Fed as he was broken after hitting a few loose errors. That is all the Frenchman would need to win the first set as he served big and held out to gain the one set advantage. Apart from the first game it wasn't a terrible set from Roger but he couldn't find a way to break back.

In the second set he went down a break at 3-3 with a woeful game but broke back immediately, showing some fighting spirit. The set went to a tiebreak and Monfils went up 5-3, but on the 9th point Roger somehow blocked back a 214 km/h serve and Monfils missed a forehand long and then the next point was won when Gael sent a forehand pass long. Two points later and the set was Roger's and that looked to be a big turning point.

But it wasn't.

In the first game of the 3rd set he was up 0-30 on return but could not manage to get the break. A few games later and he played yet another poor game which really cost him. The rest of the set he fought valiantly and saved a few break points at 1-4 and had break points of his own at 4-2 but failed to capitalize. Monfils served out the match strongly.

The match pretty much summed up how the season has gone for Federer. It's not that he can't still play great tennis - he still displays his amazing talent and exquisite shotmaking on a regular basis (though less than he used to) but in the important moments of the match he makes mistakes that cost him sets, and ultimately, matches.

In this particular match, he wasn't terrible. I have caught a lot of flack for saying that, but he really wasn't. He was hitting cleanly, producing great winners, and overall it was a decent quality match. Monfils was serving big and going for it on 2nd serves and these days, he's the kind of opponent that can gives Roger headaches, pushing him around the court and using his serve as a major weapon to hold easily and put more pressure on Fed's service games.

It's really hard to understand what is going wrong with Roger from a mental standpoint, but it's clear that his confidence is shot and he doesn't believe in himself like he once did - his poor play in the big points reflects that. Though he did show some clutch play to win the 2nd set, he wasn't clutch otherwise, making bad decisions on approach shots and getting frustrated with his errors.

I've heard people say he doesn't care anymore but I don't see how that is the case. That he was evidently frustrated with his errors shows that he does care a lot about winning and losing still. In a season where nothing has gone right, he came into this week optimistic and looking to help secure a spot at the World Tour Finals. He looked determined and wanted to win badly, but the pieces aren't falling into place right now. He looked absolutely furious when he missed vital shots in the match, and that to me only shows that his passion is there and how badly he wants to make the Year-end Championships, where of course he has won 6 times and made the final two other times.

As someone who has played tennis for a long time, I know what he is going through to an extent. There are times when you can try hard and put all the work in but your mind and body fail you in the critical moments. If I was Roger, I'd look at this loss as one where he played good tennis for stretches but just failed in the important moments and that was the difference. That's the way it was against Robredo at the US Open, and in many other losses this season. Again, it's not that can't play good tennis any longer, but that he is mentally and perhaps physically burned out and can't automatically raise his game like he once could in his prime.

It's been a season to forget and this loss followed the pattern of many others this season, but as long as Roger is playing and as long as he loves playing the sport at a professional level, I will always believe in him. There is nobody I'd rather watch, even now, because of the brilliance he displays, even if the occasions in which he does so are fewer and fewer than ever before.

Keep fighting Rog.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Federer wins in Shanghai Return

Playing in his first match since losing to Tommy Robredo in the 4th round of the US Open over a month ago, Roger Federer was victorious with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Andreas Seppi of Italy in the 2nd round of the Shanghai Masters.

Seppi, ranked 23rd in the world, was going to be a solid opponent for Roger returning after a long absence, and he was. Trying to shake the rust off and find his timing, the Swiss was broken in the 5th game but responded well, breaking right back. Seppi threatened to break the next few Federer service games but Roger held tough in classic Roger fashion. He played a good return game to get the break to win the 1st set, a crucial set for him to win knowing that he was having to work hard.

In the second set Roger began to raise his level and produced some very good tennis.  He broke early to get out to a 3-0 lead and started to find his timing and confidence as the match progressed. At 5-3 when he was serving it out, he went down 0-30 but hit a wicked 2nd serve ace that barely clipped the line and then fired an ace out wide. Two big serves and two big points, as he went on to hold and win the match.

After such a long time off, nobody was expecting a vintage Federer performance, and it wasn't. He struggled at times on the serve and off the ground, but he fought well and worked on the kinks throughout the match. The good news is that he hit some good serves on important points and his net game was working brilliantly. His fitness looked very good as well and in the 2nd set he played one magnificent point where he was running side to side but defended with the grace of a younger, faster man.

Next up is Gael Monfils, who took out Vasek Pospisil (who took out Richard Gasquet). Fed hasn't played the Frenchman since the quarterfinals of Roland Garros in 2011. Roger should win but Gael is a good player and has beaten Fed in this part of the year before, in Paris in 2010.

On a final note, I see that Roger is becoming more comfortable on Twitter as of late, answering many questions with the hashtag #askRF. We know that Roger has a good sense of humour, but it really shines through in writing.