oh roger roger…

Posted on May 9, 2008


Damn it!

It was supposed to be the perfect opportunity for Roger Federer to win the Rome Masters, especially with Rafael Nadal unexpectedly knocked out in the earlier rounds and Federer himself seemed to be going from strength to strength with each match so far. Other formidable rivals who excel on clay, such as David Ferrer and David Nalbandian, have also been eliminated, clearing the path for him.

But no one saw Federer’s defeat by Radek Stepanek in the quarterfinals of the tournament coming, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7). Federer was supposed to overcome Stepanek relatively easily and meet Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. Now that big match won’t happen.

Reuters photo

“I think I missed plenty of opportunities throughout the match. I think I led in both breakers with a mini break, and usually when I have the lead, you know, I don’t let it go, so it’s quite disappointing,” a downbeat Federer said in a post-match interview.

“To me it’s just disappointing the way I lost today. My focus is not at the bottom of the draw. It’s just I wish I could have played better, you know, and I played so poorly on the big points. It’s a tough loss.”

What is up with the tennis world these days?

Undisputed clay court god Nadal was stunned in the second round by Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Federer did not make it to the semifinals, even if he was playing on clay, not his best surface. Yet Andy Roddick, who has never shown much affinity for clay, is still hanging in there, making it to the semifinals.

Over at the women’s game, world number one Justine Henin was shown the door by Dinara Safina in round three of the German Open. Safina continued on her giant-killing spree, edging out Serena Williams in the quarterfinals in three sets. Madness.

On the bright side, Federer has improved on his results in Rome from last year, when he was defeated in round three by an unknown.

But on the other hand, it is a downhill slide for Federer. It’s only May and Federer has already notched up six losses so far this year. Last year, he suffered a total of nine defeats, which was actually a record for the Swiss world number one. His match win-loss numbers in 2006 were 92-5, 81-4 in 2005 and 74-6 in 2004.

Judging from the stats of the Federer-Stepanek match, it was an understandable disappointment for Federer, who actually held the upper hand throughout the match — more points won on serve and less double faults — and won more points in the match overall (88 out of 170). But he faltered in the tie-breaks, on which the match turned.

More worrying for Federer is the level of confidence so many players feel about beating him these days.

“He definitely doesn’t have the results he was used to in previous years,” Stepanek said about Federer. “But the other players are getting better. I came to the match with the belief that I can win.”

“Everybody is hungry,” Stepanek continued. “Two players can’t win all the tournaments.”

Can Federer prove him wrong, turn things around and make them work for him in time for the French Open, the Grand Slam tournament that begins in two weeks?

Let’s hope Federer is hungry enough to crush the competition and win the one Grand Slam trophy he has yet to have on his display mantle.

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