We have what we all want: Djokovic v Federer. They are tied in their H2H at 22, but I think you know how I feel about those H2H arguments. This one is especially irrelevant as one guy is still playing in his 35th year.
To reiterate, Federer has to come-up with a slightly different game plan if both men are in typical top form. We have seen this same match-up played-out a lot recently, different venues, different formats (Bo3, Bo5). Djokovic has the upper-hand, no doubt. If one of the two is off, has a bad match, throw everything out the window. On form, both men approaching the match as they have in the past, Djokovic triumphs. There is really no alternative.
Ultimately, here’s why: to beat Djokovic, you will have to go five sets and provide enough of a final “kick” to separate at the end. I do not have stats in-front of me, but Djokovic in five sets is a nightmare for anyone. You will have to outlast him. You will have to match his consistency for 4+ hours and then come-up with enough brilliant tennis at the end to pull away. Very very difficult. Quite impossible really, especially if we are talking about Roger, at his age.
That’s why I just don’t see a Federer victory tonight. Would it be special if it happens? Would be unreal. But that’s just it: probably unreal, as in not going to happen.
As I said at the release of the draw, being in the same half as Djokovic will be an advantage for Roger because the stakes are not as high. I used the Djokovic v Nadal 2015 FO QF as an example. That would have been a slightly different match, perhaps, if that was a final.
I would rather play Djokovic in a SF than a F. His recent tournament play clearly supports this view.
The other whisper of hope Roger has is the unknown. I am talking about this version of Roger, with Ivan the Terrible at the helm (okay, he’s been sitting in the second row of the box, so we can assume he’s second – or third – in command). Who knows.
But this is what I am going to infer, partially because I have been talking about this for months, and even more in the last few days. Roger is going to adopt a more patient tennis demeanor vs Djokovic. What he did at 2-1, 15-30 in the second set vs. Berdych is a microcosm of what he is going to do through-out this match. Djokovic is a backboard (he has the best baseline and return of serve in the sport) who will gladly go five sets. If you try to assert some kind of offensive assault on the Serb, he will destroy you, quickly. Guys like Djokovic and Nadal (at his peak) demoralize the offensive minded.
But if Roger can keep the ball in the middle of the court, play more conservatively (strategically) ala Simon, he can keep Djokovic at bay. Djokovic is reactive; he feeds off of his opponent’s pace. Having said that, his offense has become very very efficient, even deadly. But primarily he’s defensive.
Roger has to play WITH that, NOT AGAINST that. Roger is always ready to pounce. The best footwork of all-time is always ready to separate and sniper his opponent. But sloppy offense will not get it done.
Rumor has it: Ivan told Roger to put SABR in the proverbial attic. This suggests Ivan is thinking what I am thinking. The Federer offense has become bloated, fat, predictable and soft.
Federer has to contradict himself tonight from the baseline. It’s that simple. There will be opportunities to strike, to come to net, etc. But he has to hit with Nole. Federer has to relax, have fun. Enjoy a rally. Let Nole take some chances. When that happens, knock yourself out.
Federer has to let play develop; that point vs. Berdych was a prototype.
The new Roger (1st major of the Ljubičić era) has a slim chance – and still he will have to go 4+ hours to collect.
The old Roger (he’s really pretty old either way 😉 will be defeated in 3 or 4 sets.
I can not tell you how certain I am of this. Again, here are the conditions:
- Be attack oriented and be summarily dismissed OR
- Be more patient and defensive and have a chance
Of course, Roger’s first serve must be +70%. That’s it. Not too much to ask 🙂
All that other stuff (unforced errors, break point conversion) will be controlled by #1 and #2.
12:30am start here in Cali. Either I’m in bed by 1:30 (#1), or I’m calling in sick tomorrow (#2).