Grumpy as we are, and as big as they come in terms of our patronage of Roger Federer (struggling above), there’s just no way we can sugarcoat this. Any of it. By the way, great job (that’s sarcasm) by ESPN, finding a way to not televise one of the best nights of live tennis in both the men’s and women’s games when they are the exclusive rights holder, going instead with boxing or little league baseball or NASCAR or poker or whatever it was they were trying to pass off as programming, and will do so again today, finding new ways to submerge our game in a cesspool of Americana. But we were able to, thank God, pick up the feed to both matches live online, at the suggestion of one of our readers, who has a cool live streaming tennis site, and another site we found with a Google search. http://watchonlinetennis.com/ and www.fromsport.com have been saving my life over here, and we are currently watching Stosur and Vinci live in the first ladies quarter-final from the Rexall Center in Toronto.
There are multiple feeds to every match available, and for Roger/Tsonga, we were lucky enough to find Robby Koenig’s and Jason Goodall’s feed. Goodall asked Robby what was wrong with Roger while the players were snapping practice serves. Koenig was pointed, essentially lambasting Roger for having “no plan B”, for continuing to go for his shots when they aren’t working, and for not showing a lot of fight, particularly in his Wimbledon loss to Tsonga. We have to agree. In a best of 5 set match, one has plenty of opportunities to change the momentum in match. Slow the pace, speed the pace, call the trainer, take a bathroom break…do something. I mean, we say what we want about Nadal, obviously, but we have to hand it to him for being able to change a match’s momentum. In his last 2 major finals alone, Nadal changed the momentum at the end of the 1st set at Roland Garros that basically sewed up his 6th title there, and did so again, admirably, in defeat, to get the 3rd set from an unbeatable Djokovic at Wimbledon.
Roger? It almost seems like he wants off the court at times, rather than digging in. Sure he dug in against Nadal, 2 hours into the match, against his greatest rival, when the match was all but over. But against Tsonga, up 2 sets to love, he just slid back down the mountain like an avalanche. Okay, so we are in a mood and tough of on Roger here obviously, but we won’t apologize for it. Was he due to lose a match at a major after winning essentially 175 and losing zero when up 2 sets? Fuck that. For us, it marks a different Roger. And to see Roger in a return engagement with Tsonga here last night, watching him drop the first set in a breaker without facing a break point, and to, in the end, see the great man fall to the same guy not named Nadal or Djokovic in 2 of his last 3 matches?
We’ll come back to that. Paul Annacone came in, and we know what he’s about. I wouldn’t say he hasn’t made a difference. Roger is hitting more aces, and has his serve percentages up since Annacone came on board. Roger is serving and volleying more, and he’s winning a high percentage of those points as well. Overall, he is getting to the net more and finishing pretty well there. Last night in the second set, Roger’s set, he finished 12 points at net, and on this fast court, Tsonga could only get in 3 times. These aren’t the problems. For Roger, it’s pressure serving, and not bearing down on break points, a plague in big spots for him going back to the FO final in 2007 when he blew 18 chances, the Wimbledon final against Nadal in 2008 when he did not break serve at all (and let’s face it, Nadal’s strength is not his serve), and the 2009 extended fifth set final when it took him about 5 hours to finally break Andy Roddick’s serve.
It’s a much different denouement for Roger than for Pete Sampras, the closest comparable. When Pete began to slide, he packed in to the net much more, often looked like a dead man walking, and was frequently passed like a sitting duck. But Pete’s serve rarely faltered, and the great man could still muster up big man tennis when he served. And he could still catch lightning in a bottle, showing enough flashes of brilliance to get him his last USO title as an unseeded player at the age of 31.
When just about every set is going to a breaker, and one successful chip and charge could be all you need to grab a mini-break and thus the set, then you can still look dead as a dog on certain points and win. Like John Isner. The guy looks spent, but pulls out big serves, deft volleys, and huge forehands when he needs them, and often, it’s all he needs. Obviously Annacone has stressed this style to Roger, who seems content to abandon it. And speaking of big forehands, these alarming trends could be stopped cold if Roger stepped up and took control of points with his forehand, rather than allowing guys to pepper his backhand, Nadal style, until the wing breaks down and he’s shooting and spraying the ball long and short and wide.
Roger had a golden opportunity here. Nadal was vanquished, paving a smooth road to the final, which Roger needed to make in order to defend his points. Cincinnati is coming up, a place where Roger aabsolutely loves the court speed. Roger is the two-time defending there, and he’ll need to defend those points too. But moreso, it’s a place where he has probably looked the best overall in the last 2 years, bar none. If he is not himself there, then what we have come to know of Roger being himself might be by the boards. Today’s action below.
Masters 1000 Series Men — Montreal
12:00 PM EST
Mardy Fish: – 160
Stanislas Wawrinka: + 130
2:00 PM EST
Tomas Berdych: – 170
Janko Tipsarevic: + 130
5:30 PM EST
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: – 360
Nicolas Almagro: + 280
Novak Djokovic: – 1000
Gael Monfils: + 600
Canadian Open Ladies Championship — Toronto
1:00 PM EST
Galina Voskoboeva: + 400
Victoria Azarenka: – 600
3:00 PM EST
Agniezska Radwanska: – 125
Andrea Petkovic: – 105
7:00 PM EST
Lucie Safarova: + 400
Serena: – 600
By the way, huge props to our girl Serena on a most gutty win last night over Jie Zheng. Though it’s more easily willed in the women’s game due to diluted talent, Serena has been able to will some impressive victories since coming back, after having bad starts. At Stanford against Bartoli, the French women we despise so much was dominant early on, blasting serve after ugly serve, and making us think perhaps she had Serena’s number. And then Lady S pulled it together, reeled off about 8 consecutive games, and walked away with her first title since the comeback. Last night, Zheng looked to be timing the ball like Ted Williams, and you might have said to yourself, ‘well, Serena’s gotta lose sometime.’ But Serena kept coming, doing whatever it took. Shots on the run, groundstrokes on the line, a magical lob, angles that stretched the diminutive Zheng off the court, ridiculous passing shots. That was probably the match she needed to win in order to claim her first Masters level event since she has returned, with Clijsters, Zvonareva, and Kvitova all losing this week. And Kvitova’s loss, 6-1, 6-2 to Petkovic, is a further blight on the women’s game that should bolster even further the confidence of the Serena camp with The Open approaching. I mean, could anyone imagine the last 3 Wimbledon’s Mens Champs getting dusted like that in their next action after SW-19? Wouldn’t be happening. If and when Serena dusts Safarova this evening, she’ll face Azarenka/Voskoboeva in the semis tomorrow, and then the Stosur vs. Radwanska/Petkovic winner in the final. If our math is right, a winner’s trophy here could see her crack the top 30 in Monday’s rankings.
Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)