Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jim Courier blames Roger Federer's game plan, not preparation for early Aussie Open exit

Speaking on set with Brett Haber and Jon Wertheim of Tennis Channel, two-time Australian Open champion Jim Courier expressed his views on what factors might have contributed to Roger Federer’s shock loss to Andreas Seppi on Day 5.

Courier, unlike Martina Navratilova, didn’t believe that Federer’s preparation or possible over playing had anything to do with the loss.

“I don’t think that his preparation was poor at all,” said Courier. “I think he was ready. I just think that overall he had an off day. Everyone is prone to it, maybe as you get older they become a little more pronounced.” 

Additionally, Courier believes that Federer took the wrong approach to the contest with Seppi. “I didn’t like the gameplan," Courier stated. "I’m sorry that’s not a match where he should be attacking as much as he did. He should have been reading the tea leaves. If you’re not having success--when the facts change, you have to change with them and he didn’t do it.” 

Federer clearly had difficulty at net, winning only 29 of 50 forays with the Italian tattooing passing shots that eluded Federer’s racquet on many occasions.

“This is a matchup where [Federer is] so much better than Seppi—we know that, he was 10-0 against him. But Seppi’s a guy who likes a target. Federer, we know he’s been trying to get to the net and shorten points. You give Seppi a target and he can beat you. 

“Federer, I don’t think realized what was happening out there … [he] just didn’t have it physically and I also think he didn’t have it mentally.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Martina Hingis & Leander Paes into mixed doubles 2nd round at Australian Open

Leander Paes and Martina Hingis entered the mixed doubles second round, while the Indo-Czech combination of Rohan Bopanna and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova faltered in the first round of the Australian Open on Sunday.

The Indo-Swiss pair of Paes and Hingis defeated Australian pair of Masa Jovanovic and Sam Thompson 6-2, 7-6(2), as Bopanna-Strycova lost 2-6, 6-3, 4-10 against the French-Canadian third seeded combination of Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor at the Melbourne Park.

The Indo-Swiss mixed doubles pair of Paes and Hingis registered an easy win in the first set 6-2. But they were taken to task in the second set but managed to win it 7-6(2).

Paes-Hingis fired 21 winners to get the better of Jovanovic-Thompson, who managed only 15. Paes-Hingis made only nine unforced winners as compared to 21 by their opponents.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Australian Open Spotlight: Agnieszka Radwanska

Agnieszka Radwanska has long threatened to win a breakthrough Grand Slam. Her new partnership with Martina Navratilova might just give her the impetus to get over the line.

Trick-shot trophies are not what drove Agnieszka Radwanska to brave sub-zero temperatures training on rundown indoor courts, during icy Krakow winters, when she was growing up.

Nicknamed the Magician, the Polish world No.6 has won the WTA Shot of the Year in each of the past two seasons – in 2014, for an impressive overhead backhand at the Rogers Cup and in 2013, for a 360-degree full body spin, to hit a winning backhand volley in Miami.

Renowned for her exceptional court nous and intuitive defence, the 1.70m Radwanska joked that her aim was to hit one even better in 2015, and while such titles are a novel honour, the big picture is Grand Slam trophies.

The 25-year-old has come close once before, pushing Serena Williams to three sets in the 2012 Wimbledon decider. And despite finishing 2014 in the top 10 for the sixth time in the past seven years, it was her lowest finish since 2011.

It was time, she felt, to draw on the expertise of an 18-time Grand Slam singles champion – Martina Navratilova – a player also renowned for her court craft and regarded as among the greatest athletes to have played on the women’s tour.

Where Andy Murray ushered in the recent trend of super coaches – first hiring Ivan Lendl, before turning to Amelie Mauresmo – the successful trend did not go unnoticed to Radwanksa.

Novak Djokovic teamed up with Boris Becker and went on to win Wimbledon before finishing the year at No.1, Roger Federer called on Stefan Edberg and returned to the top two, Marin Cilic brought Goran Ivanisevic on board and won his first Grand Slam title, with Kei Nishikori reaching his first final after turning to Michael Chang for advice.

Martina Navratilova and Radwanska only started working together after Christmas and while the former Czech great did not make the trek to Perth, the change reaped rewards sooner than expected as Radwanska teamed up with Jerzy Janowicz to claim the Hopman Cup for Poland.

"The goal, of course, is a Grand Slam," Radwanska said of the appointment. "I didn't make it yet, so I'm trying everything to win those slams. Martina is a person who will be a huge experience with so many titles. With that I think she can help me out a lot.

"All of her numbers and her winnings, I was very impressed like everyone. I am very happy she is a member of the team and I was in Miami before (Perth), so we practise together and she is coming to Sydney and Melbourne, of course. So far, so good, and we will see how it is going to be."

The title run in Perth was made all the more impressive after she thwarted the top-ranked Serena Williams in the final for the first time in nine matches.

Williams had not dropped a set against the Pole since their 2012 Wimbledon decider. "I think wins like this always give confidence, especially before a Grand Slam," she said. "Every year is a different story, but I feel very well this year and I´m healthy and ready to go, I´m ready for it.”

However, the Hopman Cup success took its toll in Sydney where, as the No.1 seed, Radwanska fell in the opening round to Garbine Muguruza.

Where grass has typically been her strongest surface – she also reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2013 – Australia, for the most part, has been a happy hunting ground.

She won the Sydney International in two years ago and reached the semifinals at last year’s Australian Open, where she downed two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals before losing to Dominika Cibulkova.

Victory at Melbourne Park in 2015 would make Radwanska the first Polish player to land a Grand Slam singles crown.

And while it may be too early to expect such a breakthrough after just one month with Navratilova, given the current run of successful super coach appointments, talk of grand slam trophies – as opposed to trick-shot titles – could well end up being the headline in 2015 for Radwanska.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Martina Navratilova: Lack of off season contributed to Roger Federer's early Australian Open exit

18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova chimed in on Roger Federer’s shocking Day 5 upset, saying that the Swiss maestro could have used a longer off-season.

Federer, who won his first career Davis Cup in late November before heading for India to take part in the Inaugural IPTL season, started 2015 with six consecutive victories, including the Brisbane title. But he fell on Friday to Italian Andreas Seppi in four sets, snapping his run of eleven consecutive trips to the Australian Open semifinals.

“You have to think that a lack of an off-season had something to do with it,” Navratilova said. “He had to be low on reserves coming into the tournament. As healthy as he was, playing great tennis, the Brisbane match that he beat Raonic in the finals took a lot out of him as well.

“But Davis Cup, and he played the IPTL, traveling all over the place and he had a week of exhibitions in Switzerland, it’s just too much and when you get older it gets hard.”

Navratilova isn’t surprised that Federer is more prone to the occasional off day, but despite the fact that he’ll be 34 by the last major of the year, the Czech legend still--after much unpleasant on-air deliberation--says she thinks he’ll take No. 18 home before he hangs up the stick for good.

“Can he [win a Slam]? Yes. Will he? The problem is when you get older," she said, "it’s not that you’re not consistent enough, it’s when you are a little off you’re more off. You can still win matches like that when you’re 25, 27, but when you’re thirty something, on your bad days you lose. And you can’t afford to have that bad day.”

Then came the aformentioned deliberation, and some good-natured ribbing from her on-air colleagues. Then, finally, the answer we all wanted to hear.

“I still have to say yes he will,” said Navratilova. Then, swiftly and mercifully, the subject changed.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Roger Federer post 3rd round Australian Open Q&A

Q. You didn't look quite comfortable out there today, especially the first two sets. Was something special going on or just a bad day?

ROGER FEDERER: Just a bad day, yeah. I mean, I wish I could have played better, but clearly it was tough losing the first two, you know. Had chances to get back into it. I let it slip, I mean, both times in some ways. I guess I won the wrong points out there today. I knew how important that second set tiebreaker was, so clearly that hurt, losing that one. The end wasn't pretty, you know. It wasn't easy to play with the shadow. But it was the same for both of us. Just a disappointing loss, you know.

Q. Did you have a chance to make a volley on the very final point?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I guess maybe if he hits it normally, maybe yes. But the way he hits it you think, This can't possibly land in. You kind of go and you're there and you're like, No, I'm going to let it go. As you're telling yourself that, you look behind you and you already know it's done, so... Because he was also running into the sun, so I have to cover cross-court just in case. That's where everybody goes. I don't know. Ask him how he felt hitting it. It's clearly a big blow because I actually hit my forehand pretty good.

Q. You never lost a set with him. Was it surprising the way he played? Do you think Seppi played his best ever?

ROGER FEDERER: Against me, you mean?

Q. Yes.

ROGER FEDERER: Possibly so. We had some good matches in the past. He hits a good ball, forehand and backhand, so I knew that on a quicker court where he gets more help on the serve it was potentially going to be more tricky. And I felt for some reason yesterday and this morning it was not going to be very simple today. Even in practice I still felt the same way. I was just hoping it was one of those feelings you sometimes have and it's totally not true and you just come out and you play a routine match. Yeah, it was a mistake. And I know the strength of Seppi, especially after he beat Chardy, who I know can play very well. I was aware of the test and was well-prepared. Just somehow couldn't play my best tennis today. It was definitely partially because of Andreas playing very well.

Q. What was your feeling in practice this morning?

ROGER FEDERER: I don't know, maybe rhythm was missing. But I feel like that very often and then, you know, I come out and play a good match. Sometimes you feel too good and then you play a horrible match. I mean, the practice to me doesn't mean a thing anyways. But I was aware that this could be a tough match, so I wasn't mistaken this time around.

Q. What do you think let you down the most? Was it your serving or missing those breakpoints?

ROGER FEDERER: I guess it was just an overall feeling I had today out on the court that I couldn't, you know, really get the whole game flowing. You know, was it backhand? Was it forehand? Was it serve? It was a bit of everything. At the same time, I think I got broken in the last couple of sets. The second set also I only got broken once. I was hanging in there. Gee, what did I have, 4-1 in the breaker, 3-1 in the breaker? I don't remember what it was. I hit a pretty good serve that I shouldn't -- downwind I should never lose that point. So it wasn't all bad. It's just when it counted the most somehow it just ended up going his way. I think that was because overall I wasn't feeling it quite as well. I had to play it a little bit passively at times when normally I would play aggressive. You know, it was just a tough match for me.

Q. When you come to reflect, do you think you made it back on top after a very grueling, very emotional Davis Cup very late in the year? Maybe this event came in a bit of a rush.

ROGER FEDERER: Not really. I was actually very happy that it was the way it went, because it allowed me to stay within the rhythm and take the break after the Australian Open. I was playing very well in practice. I was playing very well in Brisbane. I was playing great in the practice leading into the tournament. So I don't want to say that I peaked too early, but I definitely was hitting the ball very well. I still believe I'd still be in the tournament, that I'd still have a chance to go very deep. Like I said at the very beginning of the tournament, I truly believe that. But then again, margins are small, and sometimes these things tend to happen. Clearly I'll have a look at it, but I don't think I did anything wrong honestly. I wanted to go to India. I wanted to go back to Switzerland for Christmas. I practiced as hard as I possibly could. Can't do more than that. Sure, the year ended late, but one week later than normal. At the end of the day, honestly I'm confident that what I did was the right thing.

Q. The first set you played versus Bolelli, there was this little sign of alarm. You were pushed by the forehand of Bolelli a lot, and maybe today the whole match instead of just one set or not?
ROGER FEDERER: Maybe. I don't know. I think I gave a lot of explanation. I wish I could have won the first set; then things would have been different. But I definitely wanted to go into the match, play aggressive, play the right way, play on my terms, but it was just hard to do. For some reason I struggled. Like I explained, it had things to do with Andreas' game and with my game as well. You put those things together, all of a sudden you're playing a match you don't want to play. The rallies are going in a way you don't like it. Then when I maybe needed my serve the most, it wasn't quite there, because my baseline game wasn't there either. It went in phases. But at least I was able to iron out things a bit and able to play much more solid at the back end of the match. But it just broke me to lose that second set. And actually the fourth, I should win it, too. Just a brutal couple of sets to lose there.

Q. Were you surprised you were playing in the morning session? Maybe the conditions might be different.

ROGER FEDERER: Who knows. I mean, it's totally no excuse. How many times have I played night session, day session, night session, day session or day session, night session? Who cares. I think he did well. I struggled today and he took advantage of it really. I wish I believed maybe if we played at night I would have been more comfortable, but at this point who cares, right? I mean, like I'm on the plane and he's not, so...

Q. What are you going to do next?

ROGER FEDERER: Rest, then get ready for practice really.

Q. Do you have any tournaments planned for February?

ROGER FEDERER: Dubai is my next one.

Q. Do you feel like you're having these off days, do you feel they're coming more often in the last couple of years?

ROGER FEDERER: Oh, no. This is a feeling I've had for 15 years. To me I don't read anything into that. It's just not the best feeling to have. It's not like I'm playing shocking or I'm feeling shocking. It's like one of those things you look back and maybe, Yeah, I didn't feel so good. But if you win, you never even question it. If I were you, I wouldn't read very much into that.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Roger Federer suffers shock defeat in 3rd round of Australian Open

Out. Third round. Australian Open. Not since 2001 has Roger Federer packed his bags so early in Melbourne, but "just a bad day" and an inspired Andreas Seppi shocked the tennis world on Friday.

For the first time in eight years, the Australian Open semifinals will not feature Roger Federer.

For the first time in 14 years, the Australian Open fourth round will not feature Roger Federer.

The great man was felled on Friday, in the third round of Australian Open 2015, by a display of brilliance, some brawn, and a lot of honest-to-goodness-bottle from Andreas Seppi. The perfect combination of a willing challenger and a challenged champion, ending 6-4 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(5).

“Just a bad day,” Federer said frankly. “It had things to do with Andreas' game and with my game as well. You put those things together, all of a sudden you're playing a match you don't want to play.”

For Federer, it was rather reminiscent of the US Open in 2013. A resurgent opponent showing no mercy on his backhand, leaving him to mis-time the forehand, and then pick him off in the open space. An opponent, Tommy Robredo, whom he hadn’t lost to in 10 previous meetings.

Seppi had also not beaten Federer in 10 previous meetings before Friday. He had won just one set, in Doha three years ago. He had also beaten just one member of the top 10 on 26 occasions. And yet on Friday at Melbourne Park, he showed up believing he could win.

“You don't play every day on a centre court, in front of a full stadium, against Roger Federer,” Seppi said. “But I was very calm. Is a special moment for me.”

For much of the early exchanges, debate flitted about as to whether Seppi was on or Federer was off. Maybe it was the dayglo yellow that made Federer look a little less serene. But whatever his opponent was doing, Seppi was concentrating on himself. He is a man who has persevered in this sport. Ever since struggling with his backhand as a junior, he has carried around a picture of Yevgeny Kafelnikov hitting a backhand. He did credit to his inspiration today.

At 4-4 in the first set, Seppi broke to love. He faced break-back points from Federer as he tried to serve out, but held his nerve. One set up: Seppi confident, Federer anxious.

The second set went to a tiebreak and Federer stormed ahead, only for Seppi to win six of the last seven points to take it as Federer went for a lunge volley and missed. Two sets up: Seppi buoyant, Federer deflated.

“I guess it was just an overall feeling I had today out on the court that I couldn't, you know, really get the whole game flowing. You know, was it backhand? Was it forehand? Was it serve? It was a bit of everything.

“I was hanging in there. Gee, what did I have, 4-1 in the breaker, 3-1 in the breaker? I don't remember what it was. I hit a pretty good serve that I shouldn't – downwind, I should never lose that point.”

In the third, Federer began to chat to himself. Amp himself up, and in three languages, no less. He broke to lead 2-1 with an ‘allez’, ‘komm jetz’ and a ‘come on’, and then served out the set to love at 6-3. Two sets to one: game on.

But he seemed tired in the fourth, and, as the sun’s shadow cut the court in half, Federer served to stay in the match at 5-4. He served out to love. Again Seppi held, and Federer served again. Clinging on by his neon as the score hovered around deuce, he sent a huge forehand skipping just inside the tramline to gain game point. He fist-pumped quietly. But he looked terrified.

“It went in phases,” Federer explained. “But at least I was able to iron out things a bit and able to play much more solid at the back end of the match. But it just broke me to lose that second set. And actually the fourth, I should win it, too.”

Three points later, an ace down the T sent the set to a tie-break, and again, Federer had the early advantage. Producing a backhand winner for practically the first time all match, he put himself up 5-4. He had two points on serve to add to his 369 tiebreaks won, rather than 189 lost.

But the next backhand was a shank, followed by a scintillating off-forehand into the open space from Seppi. Match point.

On match points, especially upset match points, the challenger is usually a bundle of nerves, tip-toeing around the baseline and desperately waiting for his opponent to muck it up. Not so Seppi. The pair flew forehand to forehand until, with the internet almost paused in anticipation, Federer rushed the net and Seppi passed him. A brilliant, beautiful forehand up-the-line.

“It was a winner, so I didn’t know how I can play a winner,” Seppi said, almost sheepishly. “At the beginning I thought I couldn't even reach the ball. Then, yeah, when I hit it, I didn't saw it going there. I just saw when it bounced in. Was, yeah, for sure one of the important shots of my life.”

“The way he hits it you think, this can't possibly land in,” Federer said. “You kind of go and you're there and you're like, ‘No, I'm going to let it go’. As you're telling yourself that, you look behind you and you already know it's done.”

Three sets to one: game over.

Bizarrely, Federer finished the match with one more point than Seppi – 145 to 144. But not the ones he needed to. And 55 unforced errors didn’t help, even when married with 57 winners.

“It's just when it counted the most somehow it just ended up going his way,” the 17-time Slam champion said. “I had to play it a little bit passively at times when normally I would play aggressive.”

By strange quirk of fate, it’s the second year that Seppi has done for the Brisbane champion, having ousted Lleyton Hewitt last year. But that’s immaterial. What matters here is that he’s beaten Roger Federer. He’s in a Grand Slam fourth round. Someone should send him a photo.

“To have this win in my career, it's for sure something big,” Seppi said. “Now I know that I can handle also some very difficult moments or some big pressure.”

And Federer? He won’t be playing Nick Kyrgios in a dream fourth-round encounter. But he’s not going anywhere just yet.

“It's not like I'm playing shocking or I'm feeling shocking,” he said. “It's like one of those things you look back and maybe, yeah, I didn't feel so good. If I were you, I wouldn't read very much into that.”

It was just a bad day. That’s life.


I don't know if I'm upset, or just really disappointed (in much the same way I was after last year's Wimbledon).

Once again Roger had his chances, but either couldn't capitalize on them, or just squandered them.

And I guess if I'm being honest Roger just wasn't playing anywhere near his best. I honestly cannot recall the last time he had 9 double faults in any one match.

Here's hoping the media doesn't start those retirement rumors again.

Once again I find myself rooting for the women (go Genie Bouchard & Aga Radwanska!). At this moment I just don't have it in me to root for any of the remaining guys.

On a more positive note congratulations to my other favourite Swiss, Martina Hingis and her partner Flavia Pennetta who won their doubles and moved into 3rd round.  Good job ladies!.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Australian Open spotlight: Roger Federer

He may have 1000 wins on his glittering CV, but Roger Federer’s appetite for silverware remains as strong as ever.

Sometime in early June, as he approaches his 34th birthday, Roger Federer will have spent exactly half of his life as a professional tennis player.

As career choices go, it’s worked out pretty well for the world No.2. In Brisbane, he reached 1000 career victories by winning the final against Milos Raonic, a milestone reached by only Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl before him. Switzerland’s maiden Davis Cup title last year leaves just one major target on his hit list: Olympic singles gold.

Then there are those 17 Grand Slam titles, more than any other man to pick up a racquet, and the record 302 weeks as the ATP’s world No.1. Off court, the time has long passed since he might have felt the need to fret about his financial future, if indeed the thought ever entered his mind – and this for a father of four.

Still, the fire burns bright in Federer. With Stefan Edberg in his corner, a new racquet with a larger sweet spot in hand and commitment redoubled to his volley-focused attacking game, the 33-year-old won more matches than any other player on tour in 2014. He claimed five titles in all, including two Masters 1000 crowns, and reached a record ninth Wimbledon final, where he lost to Novak Djokovic over five scintillating sets. He ended the season as world No.2 behind the Serbian having hounded him for the top spot until the year’s final event, the ATP World Tour Finals.

But it’s not just the competition that keeps Federer going – it’s also the roar of the crowd, the privilege of playing to fans worldwide on the grandest stages tennis has to offer. When that ends, he admits, the time will come to consider the ‘R’ word.

"I definitely am fortunate to always be playing on centre court, and very often prime time," Federer said in a BBC radio interview aired on Boxing Day.

"I must say – and this is honest – I don't know if I would still be playing if they would put me on Court 4 every day. That would be difficult for me, having played on all these wonderful courts around the world and now playing in front of a fraction of those people, that would be rough."

There is little threat of Federer plying his trade on the on the outside courts at Melbourne Park any time soon. The four-time former champion has reached the semi-finals or better every year since his maiden victory back in 2004, and even the most mundane of practice sessions draw fans in their droves. His status as a star attraction remains unparalleled; as a contender, unquestioned.

Having debunked the theory that he was a fading force yet again in 2014, Federer heads into 2015 with his sights set no lower than the past, even if the field continues to close the gap on the game’s big three. Last year underlined both Federer’s ability to stay with the best at full fitness and the toll of that success on his back at the end of a lengthy season; the ageing great ishuman after all.

Should Federer fail to win in Melbourne, it would represent his longest run without major to his name since winning the first of those 17 titles, at Wimbledon in 2003. But if two seasons without a Grand Slam title represents an alarming drought, it only serves to illustrate how high a standard both he and we have come to expect of him. Federer remains the benchmark in men’s tennis and an inspiration not only to his fans but also to his fellow professionals, as Andy Murray made clear in the build-up to the Australian Open.

“The thing with Roger is he doesn’t give up,” Murray said in Abu Dhabi. “He had a very tough season [in 2013], and it would have been easy for him to look at things and think: ‘okay, I’ve had a great time, maybe it’s time to call it a day’, but he didn’t. He went away with his team and addressed the issues and came back stronger than ever.

“No matter how old you are or successful you have been, there is always more to learn and always things you can work on to improve yourself, and I think Roger has shown that.”

It is a half-life to be savoured, no doubt.