With his 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory today over world #7 Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer has claimed the Madrid title for the 3rd time in his career, becoming the first man to ever win the Mutua Madrilena title on its controversial blue clay. For Federer, it was also his 20th Masters shield, his 74th career title, and his 3rd shield of the year, in what has been a very strong campaign so far. But in what may be the best development of the day, Federer has passed Nadal in the rankings, and will likely hold the 2nd spot through Roland Garros, which means that Federer should have an easier draw than Nadal, and may possibly avoid being in Rafa’s bracket. If that’s the case, then Djokovic and Nadal, the tour’s two chief cry baby complainers, would possibly have each other in the semi-final at Roland Garros, where they could literally kill each other, if we’re lucky. We’ll get back to them later.
As for Roger, what a week. In the opener, he played in one of the year’s most entertaining matches, so narrowly defeating the comer, Milos Raonic. We billed that match for you and it was probably even better than advertised. We always have loved betting tennis because the difference between players, even disparate players, is often way slimmer than the odds would purport. Like today. There really wasn’t much separating Berdych and Federer, and the big man had a lot of chances late, jumping out to 0-30 on the 1st 3 games on Roger’s serve in the third set. Berdych also broke back at 5-4 when Roger served for the match, then hit 3 aces to dig out of 0-40 in the next game, before Federer broke and served it out for good. These matches this week, a grand Serena, stirring upsets of Djokovic and Nadal, and Federer throughout, saw a high level of tennis on display.
Even better perhaps than today’s match, in which both players had positive winner to UFE ratios, was the Federer-Raonic affair. Federer was down 4-6, 5-5 (30-40), and on second serve, Federer came in, a tough proposition with Raonic passing him all the live long day, and had to come up with an extremely difficult half volley, which for him landed on the back of the line, sliding just a bit to force Raonic into a forehand error. Federer then worked the hold, and at 4-6, 6-5, in the 21st game of the match, finally won a few points off Raonic’s first serve. In the 1st 20 games of the match, Federer did not win one point off of Raonic’s first serve. Incredible, really.
We have to say how impressive Raonic is, yet again. This kid has the best flat forehand in the game today. Federer, thinking he had a good play in approaching to the Raonic backhand, got torched. He was only 15 of 29 at net, and yet, as one of TTC’s best voices, Robby Koenig said, he got the point he absolutely had to have. Because if Raonic gets that break, he serves out the match and wins 6-4, 7-5, and Federer is still 3rd tomorrow. He also has the best serve in the game right now, and has only really scratched the surface.
The Fed camp must’ve readjusted their gameplan going into today’s match with another big man with big strokes. Federer only came in 5 times today, which was the better play, to make Berdych have to go side to side a lot. Not that Berdych was complaining about his footing and movement on the blue, like some. Just because he isn’t the most mobile guy. For that matter, the only time Raonic was really exposed by Federer was on drop shots. His laterals were tremendous. So the work for he and Galo Blanco, and we are sure they are already back at it, is digging forward to play droppers and short slice. One last bit on the Berdych match as well. Berdych was slow to a drop shot in his last service game, and his forehand clipped the tape and popped long. That little play does not adequately separate a -330 favorite from a +250 dog.
But Roger loves Madrid, loves the altitude, which adds a little zip to the ball, and also like those blue courts. And if he didn’t, he still worked out, far far too classy to complain about a tournament so good for the game. Djokovic and Nadal should take a lesson. First Djokovic. He trashed the blue clay, and also trashed the ATP, and said that the former president, who ok’d the blue, was only thinking of himself. Now maybe it’s me, but I am having a hard time figuring out how the former ATP president personally benefited from these blue courts, unless he took a bribe from the manufacturer.
Look, we all know the ATP is shit. We may question the dubious stats that Mutua Madrilena released about the blue clay being 27% easier for players to see the ball on, and 21% easier for fans to pick up the ball than on red clay. While dubious to us, we must also be honest and say we did think it made for a striking court and visually pleasing tennis. Probably because the courts played fast and we didn’t have to snore through war of attrition tennis for once.
Spray painted blue clay, recently spray painted at that, is obviously going to be quick and slick. Instead of whining and crying, Djokovic and Nadal, who have dominated the game playing war of attrition tennis, should take the changes as a compliment. Even in Spain, they are tired of the same players and styles dominating. Every decade or so they will speed or slow the courts. They slowed the courts because big serves were prevailing “too easily” and now we see they are speeding the courts because guys aren’t hitting winners.
Djokovic’s rants were classless. And in his 2nd match against Wawrinka, it was Wawrinka who was frustrated with the court, smashing his racquet to bits on a changeover. But Wawrinka is also too classy to complain. As for Nadal, who says he’s never playing on the blue again, well, he should be more real. Nadal wouldn’t miss a match, let alone a tournament on clay if he was dying. He played at meaningless Barcelona in a 500, when Djokovic and Federer haven’t played any 500’s on clay this year or last. When Nadal goes into his yearly, um, slide, it’s always because of cumulative effect, the toll of his matches. So why play last week?
Because he’s a greedy, whiny moron. No one really honestly says what’s going on with Nadal. Nobody calls him out for bad sportsmanship when he stalls, or shadow boxes, or does his dumb laps or takes his little penguin steps, and fails to play to the speed of the server. We’d love to see him skip a tournament in his home nation on clay, but it isn’t going to happen. So why cry? He lost one match on clay in a year, and the time he loses, against a friend of his who finally gets to beat him after 14 previous losses or whatever it was, he has to complain. What a glaring lack of sportsmanship. The guy was up 2 breaks, 5-2 in the 3rd, and 15-0 when he put an easy smash into the net bottom. From there he got swept out like trash. That’s the issue, not the clay. Like Billie Jean King said of the surface, and of the complaining, champions adjust.
The first woman to win on the blue was Serena, who pretty much invalidated Azarenka’s banner year in about 55 minutes today, with a 6-1, 6-3 win over the now shaky new queen. In all likelihood, Azarenka was probably really done for in about 25 minutes after the 6-1 first set drubbing. We bet Azarenka, theoretically, and that was a bad bit of business, as we knew well it might have been. We said as much. In retrospect, with Serena laying waste to the competition on similar green clay in Charleston @ the FCC, we perhaps should’ve known better. But we still think for Serena, success on clay today doesn’t necessarily translate into success on clay tomorrow. But moving up from #9 with a stout win means she will play an easier draw at RG.
Here’s a nice stat for Serena Williams that we saw today and which earns her even more kudos. She has now beaten 13 world #1’s in her career, the 3rd most of all time. If you can name them all, we’ll owe you a bit of our own clay, a smoke-able number.
As for Berdych, you are still a winner, friend. You get to go home with Ester Satorova.