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, February 28, 2014

Federer Rolls Back The Years

Wow. Just wow. That is all I can say.

Where did that come from?

Is that man 32 and a half years old?

That man has played over 1100 matches (at age 32!) after playing 15 full seasons on tour. This will be his 16th. That was his 1154th match. To put that in perspective, Andre Agassi played for 20 years and played 1144 matches.

Where does that hunger come from? You know, the one that tells you that you've accomplished everything but still want more? One might think that Federer has a reset button in his brain, and that he takes on every new challenge with the mind of a man ten years his junior. Federer may be almost 33, but he has a youthfulness of spirit far younger than most of his fellow players on the ATP World Tour.

Stunning. Spectacular. Mind-blowing. Age-defying. However you want to describe it, that word will probably work for that win from the Swiss Maestro. It's unbelievable how he continues to put together these masterclass performances time and time again, and just when we all think his car is running out of gas. But the tank is full right now.

I mean, did you see how great he was moving? Did you see that ridiculous forehand pass to get the second break in the third set? He wasn't doing that last year - because he couldn't do that. I think Roger showed the world today what he can do when he has a healthy body and a strong mind, even for a guy that by the end of this season may have 1200 professional matches under his belt (and not to mention thousands of hours practicing and training over as I said, 16 years on tour).

I named this article "Federer Rolls Back The Years" for a reason - because of what I saw in his match against Djokovic. Time and time again in the last two sets, Novak had break points, and Roger erased them with big serves which were unreturned - and against the best returner in the game no less. The new racquet certainly helped with that, but the biggest factor in being able to hit those great serves at pressure moments was confidence. Roger certainly has it right now. He is playing with a hunger and a desire to win at all cost that we saw two years ago (and we know what happened that year).

The way he served in the clutch was reminiscent of the way he served in his peak years of 2004-2007. Heck, so was the way he moved, the way he hit the ball, the way he played aggressively all the time, even the way he defended (remember that line from Mary Carillo at the French Open in 2011 vs Djokovic? "That's Grandpa?"  That's Grandpa, baby!)

I admit, I didn't watch the match live as I was at work. However, I followed the third set online and saw that he went up 3-1. I had matters to attend to, and when I came back, I saw he had won 6-2. I was actually astounded. Many of you know that I am one of the more faithful Fed fans you'll ever come across, but even I never expected the kind of performance he would give us. He won after losing the first set, something he had never done against Djokovic. He won 10 of the final 13 games of the match, and he delivered an entire commercial block of amazing shots that would make your jaw hit the floor if you happened to be close enough to it.

I have long gone past the point of trying to understand how this man does it. He has two beautiful children, with a third on the way. He has accomplished everything he dreamed of. There is really nothing left to play for and nobody would blame him if he had hung up his racquet on the wall after his 2013 campaign. But he plays because he loves it. He loves the whole lifestyle that comes with being a pro tennis player - even after having done it half his life. I'm sure he even loves the responsibility of being such a revered athlete and the weight of the stardom he possesses. There's just Something About Roger.....

I have had people tell me that I'm crazy for being such a diehard supporter of Fed in the wake of all his "decline." They said he would never win another major. He did. They said he would never get back to #1. He did. They said his game was old-school and out-dated. Well, that may be true in today's baseline-dominated sport. But he's Roger freakin' Federer, and his tennis will never go out of style.

If there is one thing I have learned about sports, it is that you never, ever count out the great ones. Ev. Er. 2013 was a low point in Roger's career, perhaps the lowest. But like the proverbial phoenix, he rises from the ashes soaring up and up, and when he commits himself to something, it is very hard to stop him. We saw that in 2012. I think we are seeing it now. Great players will always be great, especially in the face of great adversity. We have heard that for years about Nadal, and it is true. But Roger doesn't get the credit he deserves for having such a champion's mindset. He is a fighter; always has been, always will be. He just does it in a different way.

Personally, I think all of last year's disappointment made this victory so much sweeter. There have been many who have fallen after bad seasons like that, but not Roger. After the painful defeat at Wimbledon in 2008, he won the gold medal in the Olympic games for doubles and then won the US Open. After the Australian Open defeat that left him in tears to Nadal in 2009, plus a string of bad losses that spring, he rose and won the Roland Garros/Wimbledon double. After the so-close-yet-so-far defeat at the hands of Djokovic at the US Open in 2011, he went on to have one of the best 12-month stretches of his illustrious career. Now, after the nightmare that was 2013, there is 2014. A year to rise, to reclaim, and to bring renewed faith to those who lost it.

Berdych awaits in the final and he has been playing some amazing tennis lately. But, so is Roger. Being the champion he is, I expect nothing less than a championship performance to bring home a 6th Dubai crown - which, forgive me - would be a truly crowning achievement in his trophy collection.

Long Live The King.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Federer Survives in Dubai

After a smooth and efficient first round win over Benjamin Becker in Dubai, Roger Federer was made to work a little harder, beating veteran Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3 in a thriller.

Things couldn't start much worse for Roger as he was broken in the opening service game of the match. Fortunately for him it all went uphill after that, as he broke right back and broke two more times to win the opener 6-2. He only hit one error after the first game, so he really tightened things up.

The opening game of the 2nd set went badly though and Stepanek broke. He would hold that break lead until 5-4, when Fed broke back and the set went to a breaker. Roger played a few loose points and Radek closed it out on his own serve.

In the third, Roger was broken in his first service game of a set for the third time in the match (I wonder if that has ever happened before?). Stepanek was serving for a 3-0 lead and had 4 separate game points, but Fed hung tough and fought hard to finally earn the break back with a sweet backhand return winner. Momentum was with him after that and he roared to a 5-2 lead, where he was serving for the match.  On his first match point he hit an ace but it was called out, and lost the point. He would get broken, giving the Czech some hope, but Roger put the match to bed a few points later.

Overall it was a good match by both men. Roger was great in the first set and then Stepanek raised his level, playing nicely from the baseline and taking charge of a lot of the rallies. Fed almost seemed to lose his rhythm from the baseline and played more conservatively in sets two and three, which surely helped Steps implement his gameplan.

To see Roger fight back from a break down in the third set was good to see. Last year he wasn't winning these matches where he wasn't playing his best tennis throughout, but he found a way to get through this one. He played the same way under pressure he did in 2012, and we all know how great a year that was for him.

Next up is Lukas Rosol, known for upsetting Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012. A guy like him is always dangerous but Fed should have no problem getting by him, which would likely set up a semifinal with defending champion and world #2 Novak Djokovic.

Keep going Roger.