Federer in Doha discussing his back woes (above).

Let’s call it what it is, Fed fans. The great man is as likely to default away a match as Nadal is to call out the trainer. And yet, after a very lackluster match in which Federer survived, barely, against Andreas Seppi, Roger broke a date to play his semi-final tilt against newish rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Exxon Mobil in Doha. For only the second time ever in a 14 or so year career.

These aren’t the only negative omens for those of us looking for Roger to sneak away from Melbourne with his 17th major two weeks from Sunday. Sure, we were stoked when Roger displayed his vintage indoor form once again, in getting a nice match streak going, a little tournament win streak, and taking his record 6th YEC crown at the major that’s not. But but but, the sun, as the song says, will come out tomorrow, and that’s not good for the great man, because as good as he is indoors, the sun seems to be setting on Roger’s outdoor game.

Are we disturbed, you ask? Quite often, but not at the moment. We pay super close attention to the man’s almost every move, and therefore, we can only frown upon Roger’s official start to the new season and his unofficial start to the new season. When Roger got smoked by Djokovic in Mubadala, 6-1, 6-2 in 44 minutes, the worst beating we can ever recall him catching, exhibition or not, we had to frown. Looky…Roger is not trotting out anything but the most vanilla of game plans against Djokovic or anyone else, not even at an exo with his good buddy the Sheik in the crowd. We are big chocolate people but love the vanilla in that spot, and recall a tilt or two before a major or two when Andy Roddick got the rope a dope treatment, only to see Roger march on him at that upcoming major final.

The next night at Mubadala, a gimpy (is there any other kind?) Rafael Nadal, fresh off a smoking at the hands of David Ferrer, which, to no one’s surprise, Nadal afterward told the press that his shoulder was giving him problems and he wasn’t quite himself –Go Rafa!–way to discredit Ferrer again, even after a meaningless exhibition (bet he still took his clown lap prior to the contest), still beat up on Roger, 7-5, 6-1. Again, it’s all vanilla, but it would be good for the Fed Camp to notch some sort of win against Rafa outdoors this decade. In fact, Federer has not beaten Nadal outside in the elements since, we think, Madrid in 2009.

Now the ‘Kush’ seems to be playing fast on courts from India to the Middle East to Australia, and mere mortals seem to be popping serves well enough, like Radwanska today, who took out Wozniacki (surprise surprise) with her ‘Howitzer’…LOL. But she was well into the 100’s. Pretty good for a pop gun. But wethinks the courts are still playing too slow (evidenced by Giant John Isner’s upset earlier today), despite a real bang bang affair between Monfils and Tsonga in which fast court tennis, synonym: good, prevailed over slow court tennis, synonym: evil. Tsonga got down an early break and then basically dominated his countryman, who the commentators noted, was simply not coming up with nearly enough to beat a real tennis player. Yet, he beat Nadal easily in straights easily enough the previous night, but anyways, they also called Monfils a great “shot maker” so we guess they were only half right.

By the way, had to laugh when Tsonga came up with the clutch running one handed backhand pass. Who does that guy think he is? This isn’t 1985. Come on, JWT!! We are supposed to be playing bland, safe, homogenized tennis, also synonymous with evil. But back to Roger and Rafa…so so glad that Rafa has been whispering, and um, interviewing in two languages that he hasn’t gotten much work in and he needs a lot of work to ‘play like bull’ and blah blah blah because we all know that Djokovic is still gonna smoke him, one healthy shoulder, two, or three. And as for Roger, we’ve been thinking, despite the French Open title that almost was, that Roger needs a cakey draw and lots of luck to grab a major at this point, and isn’t prime to go through both the Djoker and Rafa back to back in best of 5’s.

Now for the inevitable Pete Sampras comparison portion of the narrative. As great as Roger ever was, is, and always will be, Pete was the better outdoor player later in the game, and the more clutch guy for that matter, always, until proven otherwise. But we aint proud. We’d love to get Roger in through the back door and feel he has more than 1 more major in the tank, and that the favorable circumstances he needs will present themselves. Which we hoped would be next week. How close was he last year, really? Nadal got topped by Ferrer, and Fed was a game on serve away from going one to one in sets with Djokovic, and claiming all the momentum on his way to a possible dream (for Federer) rematch with the other Andy.

So we were feeling good, but we only feel as good as Roger, and Roger no feel good…wait, that’s Nadal speak, sorry. Roger doesn’t feel good, as evidenced by his second ever game day withdrawal. And the comments…no me likey:

“I don’t feel a whole lot of improvement for today, and I just don’t think it’s the right time to risk anything more right now,” Federer said. “I still have pain, and that’s why it was the only right decision, a difficult one for me … So it’s a sad moment for me and for the tournament and for the fans, but health goes first.”

And:

“Then I wasn’t able to serve properly anymore,” Federer said. “Had the same thing yesterday. I was really playing, you know, with the hand brake on, and I was just trying to manage the situation, really. So it wasn’t very easy to deal with.”

And perhaps even worse:

“For Australia, I’m optimistic, just because it’s not very good but it isn’t crazy bad,” Federer said. “I have had bad backs in the past. This is definitely not very good; otherwise I would be playing. But I feel without play and the right treatment, I will get through it in the next few days.”

No disrespect intended above to Roger with the Pete comparisons, as Roger is most obviously a warrior’s warrior, but the back places very serious limitations on Roger’s serve, already to be corrupted by the Australian wind, and the soft as belly fat blue tacky track that Australia and California have succeeded in jamming down the world’s throat (and Miami’s Defense Pro gross soft green garbage is even more horrendous, if you must know).

Also, very rare indeed for Roger to hold court on an injury situation prior to an event, let alone a major. Hopefully the great man is with a great physical trainer at this very moment, and that they can get his back in working order, because even as the biggest of Fed supporters, we are thinking this might be the first time he misses the quarters at a major since Nalbandian at the USO in 2003.

We’ll speak more on it all this weekend when the draw is published, but as Roger said himself, “it isn’t very good”, and for him, he is probably as weak as he has ever come into a major minus mono.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)