Saturday, March 24, 2018

Roger Federer confirms he's skipping entire clay season after loss to Kokkinakis in Miami Open 2nd round

Roger Federer knows better than anyone, at 36, it is as much about keeping a spark of motivation alive as it is about managing his body. Defeat then to the 175th-ranked Thanasi Kokkinakis in his opening match at the Miami Open presented by Itau, comes with a silver lining – the chance to rest and reinvigorate that hunger in time for the grass-court swing.

The loss prompted an announcement that, for the second consecutive year, he would skip the clay-court season, including Roland Garros. It proved a masterstroke in 2017 as he went on to claim a record eighth Wimbledon title.

Federer will hand over the No. 1 ATP Ranking to Rafael Nadal on April 2, having spent 309 weeks at the top during his career. That in itself presents a new goal for the season ahead – to reclaim his place at the top.

“Yeah, I decided not to play,” Federer said of the upcoming clay-court season. “I didn't play great last week either, I felt, overall. Nothing new, in my opinion. I'm trying to figure things out, so... I have time now.

“I'm a positive thinker. I feel like every match is another opportunity. Especially after losing one, clearly I'm down right now. I'm disappointed. I'm frustrated a little bit that I couldn't find a way. It's unfortunate how it goes.

“It's pretty simple at the end of the day. You go back to the practice court or go on vacation, you really take a break, get away from it all. When you come back to the practice court to work, whatever it is, you do it at 100 per cent.”

The 21-year-old Australian's 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory drew high praise from the Swiss. This was an opponent Federer had spent time training with at his Dubai base, a player who had endured more than his share of injury hurdles in his young career.

“Look, he's a cool guy, a cool demeanour,” Federer said. “He's been to Dubai to practise with me a couple of times. I knew him very well. We have worked very hard together. I've always liked his game.

“I'm happy for him that on the big stage he was able to show it, centre court, Miami, people watching, beating me. It's a big result for him in his career. I hope it's going to launch him, really getting his ranking up.”

Not since 2014 when he lost the Monte-Carlo final (l. to Wawrinka) and first round in Rome (l. to Chardy) had Federer fallen in back-to-back matches. Coming off a narrow defeat in the BNP Paribas Open final (l. to Del Potro), a match in which three championship points went begging, Federer admitted that he struggled to sink his teeth into his opening match in Miami.

Still there was plenty to be upbeat about. His semi-final victory over Borna Coric in Indian Wells gave Federer his best start to a season (17-0).

“ I feel like I wasn't feeling good. The ball, I wasn't feeling. With my movement, things weren't absolutely working,” Federer said. “Look, it's disappointing. I don't know why I could never get to any level that I was happy with today. Sometimes you have these matches. Sometimes you find a way through. I just couldn't get it done today.

“He was just a bit better than me today. What exactly that was, I think you probably have to break it down to the key moments. He was a bit more relaxed. I was in search mode the whole match. I never got going.”

I think I'm mostly sad we won't get to see him before June now. But hopefully he comes back rejuvenated and rested and can do as well as he did at the beginning of the year.  

Enjoy your break Roger, we're gonna miss you (and the sadness of your loss will take me some time to get over as well). 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro could have a re-match at Miami Open

Juan Martin del Potro defeated World No. 1 Roger Federer at Indian Wells on Sunday, saving three match points to claim his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. And now, as the ATP World Tour travels to Florida for the Miami Open presented by Itau, the tennis world might be in for a treat: a rematch, just two weeks later.

Federer and Del Potro were drawn into opposite halves of the draw at the second Masters 1000 event of the season, and while recent form indicates that we may very well see both players across the net from one another again, one of them has a far more straightforward draw than the other.

World No. 1 Federer, who must advance to at least the quarter-finals to maintain his spot atop the ATP Rankings, has lost a total of two matches against the highest-ranked player he could face in each round en route to the final. And while he did lose a golden opportunity to retain his title in the Coachella Valley, don’t forget that Federer, a three-time champion in Miami, began his season 17-0 prior to that loss, a personal best for the 36-year-old.

The Swiss will open against a qualifier, before potentially facing an always-dangerous Fernando Verdasco in the third round (Federer leads FedEx ATP Head2Head 6-0). And despite the lopsided results, the pair has played just once since the 2012 US Open, and the Spaniard showed good form by defeating reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov at Indian Wells.

Federer has won all five of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against potential fourth-round and quarter-final opponents, No. 16 Pablo Carreno Busta (1-0) and No. 6 Kevin Anderson (4-0). But there are some other dangerous opponents lurking in the quarter-finals, including No. 10 Tomas Berdych, Australian Open semi-finalist Kyle Edmund and big-hitting Marseille champion Karen Khachanov. Fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who defeated Federer to win the Rogers Cup last year, is the second-highest seed in the Swiss’ half of the draw.

Del Potro, who is fresh off back-to-back titles for the first time since 2012 Vienna and Basel, will have to blast forehands through a minefield of opponents virtually every step of the way as he attempts to back up his Indian Wells/Acapulco trophies and achieve his best result yet in Miami, where he has only advanced past the Round of 16 once in nine attempts (2009 SF, l. to Murray).

Past Five Miami Open presented by Itau Champions
Year Winne

2017 Roger Federer
2016 Novak Djokovic
2015 Novak Djokovic
2014 Novak Djokovic
2013 Andy Murry 

The ‘Tower of Tandil’, who will guarantee himself a return to the Top 5 for the first time since February 2014 should he complete the 'Sunshine Double', will open his campaign against Yuichi Sugita (leads 2-0) or Robin Haase (leads 4-0), who are both inside the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings at No. 43 and No. 44, respectively. But former World No. 4 and 2016 Miami finalist Kei Nishikori looms as a possible third-round opponent with six-time Miami titlist Novak Djokovic possibly awaiting the winner in the Round of 16. While the Serbian did not play the event last season, he has won it in his past three appearances and on five of his past six showings, winning 30 of his past 31 matches at the tournament.

And if that was not a dangerous enough path already, Del Potro — should he get through that section — could play the likes of Dimitrov or Indian Wells semi-finalist Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals, with the red-hot No. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman, who claimed his first ATP World Tour 500-level trophy in Rio de Janeiro, projected to play the Canadian in the third round.

Don’t forget about No. 29 seed Borna Coric, either. The Croatian played the tournament of his life at the BNP Paribas Open, leading Federer by a set and 4-2 in the semi-finals, and also by a break on two occasions in the third set, before succumbing against the top seed. He could potentially play No. 8 Jack Sock in the third round.

And it’s impossible to ignore second seed Marin Cilic, also in the bottom half, who has made the final at two of the past three Grand Slams. The Croatian, who was upset in the third round at Indian Wells by Philipp Kohlschreiber, will not be able to play his way into the draw in Miami. He will face one of two players who made the Round of 16 in California: #NextGenATP American Taylor Fritz or Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Seventh seed David Goffin, who assisted at Monday's draw ceremony, could meet Cilic in the quarter-finals of his first Masters 1000 tournament of 2018.

But Federer (17-1) and Del Potro (17-3), who are both tied with Dominic Thiem (17-4) for the most wins on the ATP World Tour thus far in 2017, have to be considered the favourites on their respective halves based on recent form. And after they brought the BNP Paribas Open to an epic close, there is a lot to be excited about at the second Masters 1000 event of the year.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Roger Federer reflects after first loss of the year at Indian Wells Finals

Titles have never defined who Roger Federer is, although, if they did, they'd have a lot to say for him. The Swiss right-hander was three times a swing away from winning his 28th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown and his 98th tour-level title on Sunday against Juan Martin del Potro during the BNP Paribas Open final in Indian Wells. But Del Potro erased all three championship points and captured his maiden Masters 1000 title 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(2).

Federer, however, long ago learned to achieve contentment in life, despite some on-court disappointments here and there. The 36-year-old Swiss said he achieved such peace years ago, shortly after he began to make his mark on the ATP World Tour and at Grand Slam tournaments.

“I have been content for a long, long time on the Tour. I guess ever since I became world No. 1 back in 2004 and won Wimbledon in 2003, my life was complete as a tennis player. Those were my dreams as a little kid,” he said.

Federer said that's why he still enjoys most things about the tour life. “That's why retirement can wait, and I'm just really enjoying the ride. I'm really having a good time on the Tour,” Federer said.

It's easy to forget that Federer has had tough moments during his career, times that have taught him how to stay positive regardless of the outcome on the court. After falling to Del Potro in the season's first Masters 1000 final, Federer spoke at length about his attitude.

“I think staying positive through the tough moments is really key. Because you're always going to go through ups and downs in your career, or as a person for that matter. Not every day is sun shining. It's sometimes a bit of a struggle and important that you take the right decisions, you surround yourself with the right people, you're happy with what you have,” Federer said.

“Of course you can always try to want more and have more and everything, but you might never be happy when you search for things like this.”

Federer's outlook has helped him move on from losses. His 17-match win streak to start the 2018 season – the longest of his career to begin a year – was snapped against Del Potro. But the World No. 1 knows he won't have a lot of time to dwell on the match. The season's second Masters 1000 tournament, the Miami Open presented by Itau, starts on Wednesday. Federer is the defending champion there, too.

“I feel frustrated, you know, that I let an opportunity like this go by. Serving 40/15, any game I probably win – I don't know what the stat is – 90-something per cent,” Federer said of his lead at 5-4 in the third set.

“So it should sting, like you said, for a bit. The question is how long? It won't be long, but it's disappointing talking about a great match like this, losing, even though I was right there.

“Obviously there is not too much time to dwell over it. Like I said, I'm happy for Juan Martin. It's a tough one. And I still had a good week here. I still see the positives at the end of the day.

“It was a great match, honestly. Good fun. Good intensity. We enjoy that. And also it was tough and fair on the court. It was Juan Martin and myself. At the end you saw we are appreciative of the finals that we played against each other, which I think is really important for both of us.”

That's all well and good Roger, but you still squandered 3 match points!.

And for us fans this one will sting for a bit (I had flash-backs to U.S. Open of '09 never a happy memory).

I know that Delpo always poses a danger to Federer, but this one was literally a point away and the fact he couldn't do it, frustrates me so much.

I would have less of a problem if Delpo just blew him off the court, but he did all that work and had the match on his racquet. UGH.

At least he's healthy and can just keep things going in Miami.

Here's hoping the result there is a win.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Roger Federer fights from the brink of defeat to reach his 8th Indian Wells final

Dear Roger please shave for the final tomorrow

Tennis fans will look back on Roger Federer's 2006 season as arguably the greatest in the Swiss' legendary career. A staggering 92-win campaign was kicked off with an impressive 16-0 run.

For more than a decade, that win streak has stood as Federer's best start to a season. Until now.

On Saturday, the World No. 1 completed a 17-0 run to kick off his 2018 campaign, storming back from the brink of defeat to overcome Borna Coric 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 at the BNP Paribas Open. Federer advanced to his eighth final in Indian Wells, exhibiting his trademark poise and guile to outlast his Croatian opponent in two hours and 21 minutes.

Very little was going Federer's way in the early stages, but the 36-year-old refused to go down without a fight. Peppering his backhand with bludgeoning blows, Coric employed great depth on his groundstrokes to rattle the Swiss and snatch the opener. And he demonstrated the maturity of a veteran to stick with his gameplan after conceding a break lead in the second set. But Federer would prove to be too strong in the end, advancing to his 146th tour-level final with a gritty three-set victory in front of a packed house on Stadium 1.

Federer, who is assured of remaining at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings through the end of the tournament, will vie for a sixth title against either Milos Raonic or Juan Martin del Potro. The defending champion in the desert, he extended his win streak in the desert to 10 straight.

Federer relinquished his first set of the fortnight at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and just his fourth thus far in 2018. Conditions vary greatly between the day and night sessions in Indian Wells, with the ball leaping off the court in the afternoon. Having almost exclusively featured under the lights entering today's encounter, with the exception of one rain-delayed set, he struggled to adjust his quick-strike game in the windier early stages.

As unforced errors leaked from the Swiss' groundstrokes, an aggressive Coric pounced. Striking the ball with great depth, the composed Croatian would secure a late break for 6-5 and captured the first set as Federer netted a backhand. In total, Coric fired eight winners including five off his forehand wing to claim the opener after 41 minutes. Seemingly feeding off Federer's pace, he hammered the ball with aplomb, often catching the five-time champ out of the position.

A forehand winner notched an immediate break to open the second set, but, as Coric neared the finish line, nerves settled into the 21-year-old's game. Federer struck just four unforced errors in the last four games of the set and Coric's serve would begin to fall short in the box, opening the door. The Swiss would take full advantage, breaking for 5-4 and forcing a decider as a Coric forehand sailed long. And Federer would claw back from a break down once again in the third set, eventually breaking to love to claim victory and secure his place in the championship clash.

With the victory, Federer extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head lead over Coric to 2-0, having previously earned a comprehensive 6-2, 6-1 win in the 2015 Dubai semi-finals.

17-0 in 2018 new personal best.  But it wasn't pretty.  

He's definitely going to need his first serve if he wants to win especially against Del Potro.  

Oh and thanks for the heart attack Rog!.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Roger Federer moves into semis and retains his #1 ranking at Indian Wells

Roger Federer Tumblr

Twenty-four year-old Roger Federer has nothing on 36-year-old Roger Federer.

The No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings matched his best start on Thursday at the BNP Paribas Open, improving to 16-0 in 2018 with a 7-5, 6-1 victory against Hyeon Chung of South Korea. The last time Federer started with such an unbeaten streak was 12 years ago in 2006.

“It's a great start. Hopefully I can do one more and beat my best streak on Saturday,” Federer said.

It was Federer's second win against the 21-year-old Chung this season, and they had a crowd of all-time greats watching. Tennis legends Rod Laver and Pete Sampras looked on, as did Bill Gates, Federer's philanthropic partner, and actor Will Ferrell.

Thursday's quarter-final was more competitive than Federer and Chung's Australian Open semi-final, which Chung aborted down 1-6, 2-5 because of blisters. But the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion, like everyone else on the ATP World Tour this year, had no lasting answer for the five-time BNP Paribas Open champion, who improved to 11-1 in Indian Wells quarter-finals.

By making the semi-finals, the Swiss right-hander guaranteed himself another two weeks at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings and will extend his record reign to 308 weeks.

Federer will next meet Croatia's Borna Coric, who reached his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final by beating Kevin Anderson of South Africa 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) earlier Thursday. Federer won their lone FedEx ATP Head2Head matchup, a 6-2, 6-1 rout at the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Federer, just as he had done in Melbourne, jumped out to an early lead against Chung, who was playing in his first Masters 1000 quarter-final. The top seed broke in the second game and led 3-0. But Chung grew more comfortable under the lights against Federer, and the South Korean broke back for 3-3.

From there, however, Federer didn't let up, mixing slice with power to break Chung in the 12th game and, in the second set, winning six of seven games to advance. The 36-year-old finished with 32 winners compared to eight from Chung.

“I'm happy I found a way. Started off really well, struggled afterwards, found my game back again and was able to protect it, saving big break points early on in the second set. I think that was the key to the match, those 10, 15 minutes where I broke at the end of the first and then saved break points early in the second,” Federer said. “I'm very happy. It was a good match. I played well.”

The 21-year-old Chung was upbeat about his Indian Wells run. On Monday, he will become the highest-ranked Asian player in the ATP Rankings, surpassing Japan's Kei Nishikori. Chung is projected to rise to a new career-high of No. 23.

“I'm really honoured to be No. 1 Asian. And Kei is playing really good and is a great player in the world, and I hope he plays good this year,” Chung said.

Roger Federer faces Chung in the quarters of Indian Wells

Roger Federer Tumblr

It was tighter than perhaps Roger Federer would have liked, but the No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings still pushed his way past the confident and big-hitting Jeremy Chardy on Wednesday, and is now only one win away from matching his best start ever.

The 36-year-old Swiss was untouchable on serve at the BNP Paribas Open, winning 90 per cent of his service points (44/49), including 100 per cent of his first-serve points (25/25), to beat Chardy 7-5, 6-4 in a packed Stadium One. It's only the fifth time Federer has won a match (not by retirement) without losing a first-serve point.

Serving Perfectly
First-Serve Points
2018 BNP Paribas Open 4R
d. Chardy
25 of 25
d. Tiafoe
21 of 21
2014 Nitto ATP Finals RR
d. Murray
14 of 14
d. Tipsarevic
25 of 25
2006 Tokyo SF
d. Becker
29 of 29

The five-time champion improved to 15-0 in 2018, with every match occurring on hard court. Even more remarkable, Federer has still lost only three sets this year (36-3 in sets).

If he can repeat his Australian Open semi-final victory and beat Hyeon Chung of South Korea in the Indian Wells quarter-finals, Federer will match his previous best start to a season, which came in 2006, when he was 24 years old (16-0).

“It's been great... But, look, it's a totally different year, many years after,” Federer said. “Felt like I found my range, my rhythm early in the year... So many years I felt good actually in Australia already. I don't know if it's Australia per se or taking the benefits from the hard work I put in into the new season.

“Then also Rotterdam was great. I was very happy that I was able to win the tournament there, not just get to the semis and get World No. 1. So that was nice.

“And here now I'm relieved that I was able to win three matches already. Because in a big, tough draw like here at Indian Wells, you're never quite sure what to expect. So I'm just happy I'm on a good run.”

Federer's Undefeated Starts
2005, 2011
2002, 2017

Chardy was loaded with confidence ahead of their fourth-round tangle, their fifth FedEx ATP Head2Head matchup (Federer now leads 4-1). In his second-round match, the Frenchman had come back from a set and 4-1 down to beat Italian Fabio Fognini, and he used that momentum to achieve his best showing in Indian Wells.

But although Chardy played aggressively with his forehand and defended his serve well, erasing three of five break points, he could never find a way into Federer's service games. The top seed never faced a break point and broke exactly when he needed to – in the 11th game of the first set and in the ninth game in the second.

“You can't plan for these runs to happen. Either they happen or they don't. Sometimes you need a bit of luck to keep the runs going. And this year it's just been really good, solid matches,” Federer said. “We'll see how long it lasts really. This might be the last day. So we'll see. It's just how it goes. Don't jinx it.”

His next opponent, Chung, has continued his impressive start to the season. The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion recorded his 15th win of the year by beating Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas 6-1, 6-3. Last year, Chung didn't reach 15 wins until the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Montreal in August.

Federer will go for win No. 61 at the BNP Paribas Open against Chung. He has now recorded 60 wins at six tournaments.

Federer's 60 Wins Club