WB Eve of the Men’s Semi-finals

Roger I think covered it all here.

He’s been reading my blog. Sam is dangerous, so is Cilic and Berdych. I brought all of this to light in my QF preview and elsewhere. Also, Roger points-out, good luck to Novak and Andy getting healthy. In my Rant, I clarified how important player health is to the health of the tour, as well – the health of all players.

My preview underscored the questions surrounding Novak and Andy; they were favorites for most people because not much was made of the injuries. Novak, in an interview after his retirement, said the elbow has been bothering him for a year and a half. And he was seeking treatment, aggressively, from his and the ATP’s physio since the beginning of the tournament. Not sure if this violates the tour’s version of HIPPA, or some other privacy clause for locker-room competitive banter, but that information should have “leaked.” Novak looked unconvincing throughout his soft draw but I sill thought he would rise – just like I thought he would rebound at the French. I keep waiting for this guy to come around; and, at the same time, I keep charting the Djokollapse, which is an unreal decline of a great player; this is beyond a slump.

But if I’d been better aware of the extent of his injury, he’d have been written-off July 3.

Again, I think Roger did well to shed some light on what’s left at this tournament in the video; it’s pretty simple at his point.

Cilic v Querrey

Cilic is dangerous (this we’ve been on since Netherlands and Queen’s). Querrey, though that was an upset (Murray’s injury report was perhaps too quiet, as well), is also dangerous. The big serve of both makes them formidable and they have good feet on grass, can pummel ground strokes, etc. Cilic’s resume may seem bigger (it is, no doubt, given his Cincy and USO titles), but Querrey’s recent exploits can’t be overlooked. He beat Novak at WB last year and this year he beat a surging Nadal and rampant Kyrgios in February (along with the hometown boy here on CC).

The Kyrgios match was especially interesting because the Aussie had just straight-setted Novak, was playing dominant/confident tennis, but the American took care of business. I watched this live and everything from the American, including the body language back-and-forth with the antic-ridden Aussie was impressive. The Yankee then beat Nadal in the final in straight-sets. Sure this is February 2017 we’re talking about, and Acapulco; but that’s some firepower he handled pretty decisively.

Either way, good on Querrey for getting the job done against Andy, in emphatic bakery goods, 1 and 1 in-front of the home-crowd on Centre Court to advance to the WB SF. Pretty much a break-through match despite all of the big matches I’ve been referring to here in my case for Querrey. He’s in a semi-final match at the Championships.

Cilic is rolling. I might add that the 5-setter against Muller after Muller played a week-end holiday long R16 match against you-know-who probably isn’t ideal for the Croatian. You lean Marin here, based-on his potential form (he’s shown that kind of high level before on this stage), where the big serve and quick-strike tennis could dictate terms to Sam. But if Sam can find his feet, put pressure on Cilic’s serve, find rallies, we could be in to a long match, a kind of coin flip match. Sam can certainly go five. Can he get it to five?

That’s the real theme here: the read is a Cilic v Federer final, but some surprise and unexpected has taken a seat at our table, causing a bit of a scene.

PS Keep our eye on the Cilic FH that has been known to let him down.

Federer v Berdych

Federer should win this match. If Berdych wins, it’s an upset. What makes Berdych a little more, for me, than just a big hitter who has beaten Federer before is that match in March, in a Miami QF, where the Czech veteran held MP in the third set TB. That was 2017 Federer and Berdych played him even.

The run here has been solid, but Novak did retire due to injury; perhaps the most Tomas can say is that he’s rested and ready to give an old friend more than just an exhibition? Not sure if it’s the presence of Ivanišević, or Berdych’s maturity, but this career top-ten player with loads of game does seem just a bit more purposeful, has more character, etc.

Raonic and Berdych probably present similar kinds of obstacles for Roger: both big serves, and can put balls past the Swiss from the BL. Raonic, of course, does a little more at the net.

Looking back at the Raonic v Federer QF:

1st set: Federer 94% of first serve won, was 1/2 on BP, 14-2 (winner v UE) and hit more aces than Raonic (5 to 2). Raonic won 71 % of his second serve, which seemed pretty high, was 11-4 winner/UE and was 0/0 on BP.

Federer able to convert on that BP, a little more solid on serve, but the set pretty clean; Raonic did not play poorly.

2nd set: Federer breaks game 1. Big move here. More urgency, variety, passing shots that leave Raonic just shaking head.  Second break at 4-2 and serves out the set at love.
Federer 92% FS won and 2/4 on BP. Again, very clean in the winner v UE department – Federer just playing good Federer tennis.

Raonic down to 13% second serve won (huge drop from the first set). Again. 0/0 BP opportunities.

3rd set was a held-service convention though Raonic did see a BP in the 8th game. Raonic, again, looked good. Go watch his 2014 SF match with Federer a WB. He has built himself a nice little WB resume and could one day raise this trophy.

In the 3rd set TB, Raonic off to a 3-0 start, but Federer comes roaring back, taking the next five points. He closes the Canadian out at 7-4.

To make a long story short, how many BP opportunities will Berdych get tomorrow Reader/commenter Incondite stole my thunder by brining-up the lack of ROS in Berdych (or Cilic/Querrey).

All four of these SFinalists have big serves, but who can put pressure on another’s serve? Who has the best ROS? Federer does.

Without a ROS, the chances to break become minimized. If Federer serves well tomorrow (in that 90% FS winning range), Berdych will have trouble finding cracks to weaken a surging Federer. Federer’s ROS, even against the huge Raonic delivery, proved effective enough to wear down the 6’5″ 26 year-old.

That just seems to be the crux here: serve and ROS. If Federer continues this form, in fact even improves some, he’ll be tough to beat.

I have enjoyed reading the comments. Thank you! Some one (I think “Jason Bourne” – wow, international spy intrigue at Mcshow Tennis) brought-up the point of Federer succeeding in a draw that’s been opened-up like this, with Murray/Djokovic/Nadal out. One such was that 2009 US Open – where he was up 2 sets to 1, seeking his 6th straight USO title. Did not happen.

Not sure if from this same commenter, but another point: at this age, has Federer left enough on the plate to raise his game for a SF and/or Final? To answer this, I would say his Lajovic and Zverev matches were solid though not necessarily balletic. He seems to have raised his level vs. Dimitrov (who did fade at the sound of another loss) and Raonic.

But all good points. Indeed, Federer has much work to do and Berdych, I suspect (and even hope) gives Federer and the viewing audience more reason to scoot to the edge of our seats and live or die on some dramatic major SF tennis.

Sorry for the late post, folks.

Enjoy the tennis and talk to you all tomorrow!

18 comments

  1. Hi Matt, what I said was that Federer “needs” to play just a little poorly in 1 or 2 matches out of the 7, in order to win a GS. You related this to Federer having enough left in the tank to raise his game…I guess there is some relationship between the two, although not necessarily the same. Some examples of what I mean that I remember are 2006 AO, he played poorly against Kiefer, going to 5 sets. 2012 WB, where he had a 5 setter against a journeyman (was it Janowicz?). Of course, 2009 RG had this in spades…he was points away (or was it just 1 point away) from losing to Haas, 5 setters with DelPo, etc. But this “playing poorly” need not result in a loss of set or the such. It’s just that share of sloppiness he has to shed, I guess. Because in the 2009 RG final, he just played brilliant with great focus..unfazed by nothing, even a crazy court invader directly forcing a hat on him.

    So, I guess this share of sloppiness has more to do with mental sharpness than having fuel left in the tank. Maybe we should call it a dullness that gets sharpened afterwards…because he cannot be sharp at all times, in all 7 matches.

    Having said this, I don’t remember any sloppiness when he won AO 2007. I think that was his absolute peak (the peak of the peak of tennis brilliance sort of thing), which from then on he slightly but steadily started declining. To draw a parallel with Djokovic’s current slump which as you said begun in 4th set of RG 2016, that Prime Federer’s decline seemed to have begun as early as the WB 2007, getting outstretched to 5-set by Nadal…and then it showed again in USO 2007 final against Djokovic. Subsequently, Djokovic won his first GS at the very next slam, AO 2008.

    1. I would just call it having your best when it really matters, peaking at the end, etc. To say one needs a couple of close calls to win a major is vague. The Sampras approach (Djokovic adopted this some) would doing just enough to advance. By the final, you were playing a Pete who had plenty in the tank.

      Federer just needs to remain mentally strong. The Raonic interview was insightful on that. Federer is not letting -up. So much desire, variety, etc. He can presumably go 5 too.

      He should win today.

    2. I agree with your view, Jason B.
      Federer’s absolute peak was AO 2007.
      But for determining the start of his decline, I think one could go further back to Indian Wells 2007.
      During his prime (4+ years !) Federer’s grip on hard court was nearly limitless and flawless.
      Indian Wells 2007 however was a turning point as he lost there in straights to Guillermo Canas.

  2. 👍👏 Sorry, Matt, I’m gonna fangirl you again. But I have the licence. I”m truly a fangirl. Are there more females here “besotted” with Matt’s blog? Hands up! To my poor female soul, you are God tennis blogger, and I sincerely mean it. I hope you will keep blogging for as long as you can. I’m unashamedly a “Fedtard”(the “other” fangirl’s christening😊) but like you, I love a good and competitive match; I don’t wanna go to sleep perpetually searching for rigged draws and capitalist conspirators under my blanket😂 One more hour to go….The edge of my seat has been extra cushioned😀

  3. Yes, Jason, I’m with you on Federer shedding off some sloppiness in earlier rounds for the slams he has won, as far as I can recall except 2007 AO. That is certainly one of the reasons that I’m cautiously optimistic about his chances. There didn’t seem to be a sloppy one this Wimby. Maybe the one against Lajovic is closest? It certainly seem impossible, historically, and at his age especially, to play 7 troublefree matches. If he can pull it off, that is a whole new level of consistent sharpness we haven’t seen from him since his peak years. I think that long break has done more wonders for his mind than even his body.

    1. Hey TB et al,

      In the past, Roger just skated by on his unprecedented skill (or so I say, anyway).

      In his youth, he would get careless when he was having his way with an opponent, and have to spend an extra set – or sometimes two – to dismiss him. He seemed to play a ‘stream of consciousness’ kind of tennis, just flowing with the moment. If something didn’t work, it was just oh well… And too often, he would try to beat players at their own game, sometimes because they caught him in their pattern while Roger was operating in ‘fluid mode,’ and sometimes because of his own pride. How many times did he try to beat Nadal from the baseline, even on clay? Ok, Nadal is a special case, but I won’t get into that now.

      I think someone (maybe someone named Ivan) sat down with Roger pointed out how costly these kinds of mental errors were, not only in terms of a specific tournament, but to a season and even to a career. And Roger listened. Now he sees the end of his career looming, and he’s doing everything he can to take advantage.

      Recently we’ve been fortunate to watch a man who knows his best strength is his incredible versatility, who plays to keep his opponents unbalanced and out of their own game, instead of ‘just playing his own game’ – or even worse, playing theirs. It’s remarkable to think of how badly Roger could have ruined tennis if he’d just started this approach sooner! Matt might still be working on that theme, if Roger had adopted this approach earlier! 😉

      Yes, he could have won more slams, and we’ve discussed a few in the past day or so. But I think there were more, maybe even the last two slams against Novak, and even though the slower, wetter conditions favored Novak’s style of play.

      So I’d tend to think that in the past, he would peak at a tournament by expending a lot of physical effort, and then have a lapse. Now that he’s winning more with his tennis intelligence, he’s also saving a lot of physical energy for the “right moments” that Raonic referred to below. I’d say the way he ‘sheds sloppiness’ now is largely by keeping his mind sharper, staying in the moment, and executing a game plan that is tailored to the opponent.

      Something else I read recently that I haven’t seen on Matt’s blog is that Roger was dealing with a head cold in the early rounds of this tournament. I think that might explain some concerns we talked about regarding his forehand a few days ago, but in any event he seems to be hitting his stride now.

      Here are a few thoughts from Raonic, after losing to Roger in the QF:

      “I think the most significant thing is he’s mentally sharper and I think he’s moving better.”

      “I think he’s just mentally on top of it. There’s really no glimpses. You can see there’s not much doubt in his mind. He’s feeling it.”

      “I think the thing I was most impressed with, at least the years I’ve been on tour, he was extremely sharp mentally always in the right moments, just always on top of things. He kept a very high gear the whole entire time without giving many real glimpses. I think that was the most sort of defeating thing.”

      Anyone can have an off day, and Roger can lose today or sunday. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he beats Berdych in straights today, and I think that’s more likely than a Berdych victory. Once Roger gets an edge now, he’s even more dangerous than before.

      I hope everyone will enjoy the tennis, (almost) regardless of the outcome.
      😉

      1. Federer ruined tennis and yes that treatise will be completed all in due time. Federer has what it takes to win here, this year. No question.

        Cilic is through and looks very strong, as we’ve said for about a month now.

  4. Cilic is definitely a threat to win it all, but I hope Roger will give you a lot more material to include in your treatise, both here and at USO.
    😉

  5. Berdych with some massive FH misses. Wow.
    Shaky 1st set from the three seed who probably needed those gifts from the Berd man.

  6. Those of us who can’t watch really appreciate these updates!

    I thought you’d be too busy watching to check your blog… but please keep the updates coming!

    Anyway, I hope Roger’s feet are working…

  7. 2nd set Berdych has been at net more than Fed. Berdych is playing well, but has been pretty generous with critical errors. Berd serving to reach 2nd set TB.

  8. Considering how Cilic has been playing (nowhere near USO ’14 level, shaky to close the matches off) and how he isn’t that good of a returner either I don’t think he has a shot at winning the final.

    Roger’s campaign at WB seems eerily similar to Nadal at RG: no sets dropped, big four all dropping early, massive H2H lead against final opponent

What say you?