The pleasure of an image called ‘Roger Federer’ & why it ain’t over yet

fed3Wimbledon is over and hard court season has set in. The ‘write-off Roger’ brigade seems to have suffered a setback after his heroic 4th set comeback at SW19 a few weeks ago. It will resurrect itself if he fails to float above the fray in the upcoming US Open.

I am presenting excerpts from my writings for Bleacher Report and it will tell you why for fans like me, it ain’t over until the man hangs up his boots and calls it a day. Continue reading

US Open: Why Federer Will Win 18th Slam Despite Djokovic & Murray in His Way

With two strong contenders—Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray—standing in the way of the World No. 1, some are already talking about how weakened Federer’s chances are. But, should it matter to the Swiss maestro?

Well-trodden path

This is not the first time that Federer has had to wade his way through younger opponents. Leave aside players like Stepanek, Haas, Hewitt and Roddick because most other players are younger and perhaps, stronger.

For the rest of the article, click Bleacher Report

Andy Murray: Will the US Open Be His Next Eureka Moment?

Some of us can script our own life story, only a rare few of us can edit it. It is this editing in sportspersons’ lives that decides where they will eventually stand.

Federer has done it: from being a racket-smashing youngster to a man on a seemingly never-ending tennis campaign of seduction with his preternatural authority in shot-making. As for how influential he is as a human being and as an ambassador of sport, a lot of ink has already been spilled.

For the rest of the article, click Bleacher Report

Roger Federer: This Beauty Isn’t Just a Streak. It’s the Feast of the GOAT

Many prayers have been heard. Many questions have been answered.

But, of all the solace one could savor having followed the Swiss genius loyally till his seventh Wimbledon title, the record 17th Slam and his march back to No.1, a blissful break from all the bunkum about his dying legacy tops the list. Period.

For the rest of the article, click ‘Bleacher Report’.

Was Wimbledon 2010 loss a turning point in Roger Federer’s career?

Sometimes, monumental losses prove not how far apart the talents of the winner and the runner-up were, but how agonizingly close.

The 2008 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal proved just that. On any other day, losing a match by five points (204 of Federer’s to 209 of Nadal’s) would not have turned out to be so colossal.

But it did. Such was the game and the rivalry.

For most of his fans, I think Federer’s first French Open in 2009 almost erased the pain caused by this loss. For me, it is still the most tragic moment. I knew he would win the FO some day.

Click Bleacher Report for the rest of the article.

Is Federer the only sustainable solution to injury-ridden men’s tennis?

Some players like Djokovic and Nadal make news about pullouts as much as they do about their wins and losses.

Djokovic has been off-colours lately. We have seen him struggling hard to catch a breath especially after long rallies in recent tournaments. And then came his loss to Nadal at Monte Carlo, putting to rest arguments about the likelihood of his continuing dominance.

Click Bleacher Report for the rest of the article.

Andy Roddick: The player with great staying power

When Andy Roddick lost to Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2009 finals, he sat down dripping with sweat while Federer took a victorious stroll around the Centre Court.

Despite one of his best fights, Roddick had lost to Federer for the third time at SW19 and fourth time in a Grand Slam.

Click Bleacher Report for the rest of the article.

Roger Federer at Indian Wells: Living & Dying by the Sword

There was incredible shot-making, high-impact assault and nonstop dread.

The semi-finals between Federer and Nadal at Indian Wells had oodles and oodles of high-strung drama. And, more.

But this time, it was the Spaniard who was at the receiving end, although not before Federer put himself through the familiar gut-wrenching tension each time he heard the murmurs of the demons somewhere in the back of his mind.

The demons of yesterday, as usual, had walked in with Federer to the court, striking him at crucial junctures.

Click Bleacher Report for the rest of the article.

Click here for my tennis articles archive written for Bleacher Report

After Nadal, Roger Federer Is Up Against His Second Biggest Enemy

The celebrations of the truly epic final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the 2012 Australian Open had just begun. Firecrackers were lighting up the sky. Champagne corks were popping. Djokovic was being elevated to the highest ranks. Tombstones were being erected for Maestro Roger Federer.

Click Bleacher Report for the rest of the article.

Pic source: Getty Images-B/R

Djokovic-Nadal: Signalling a More Riveting Rivalry in 2012

As it rained confetti at the 100th Australian Open awards ceremony, there stood Rafael Nadal next to Novak Djokovic—facing floodlights of despair, looking lost, but still holding on gracefully. A layer beneath this grace was the look of a stranger in a strange land.

The Rod Laver Arena was no more the paradise that he inhabited some Slams ago. Someone else lives in there. And that someone has found answers to all the puzzles that helped him rattle his opponents and win ever so emphatically. The more defeats he suffers at the hands of his nemesis, the farther he walks from this paradise. Continue reading

Aussie Open Men’s Final: What a cracker of a match!

English: Djokovic with the Australian open trophy

Honestly speaking, I thought it was Nadal’s 11th. To think that you could beat the greatest retriever of the ball ever in the history of tennis in a five-setter that dragged on for nearly six hours is sheer audacity. More so after you go out of breath in the decider, go down a break and break back Nadal and break him again and serve out the for the championship! That’s crazy! Continue reading

Booed Berdych wins hearts with genuine fight against Nadal at AO

U.S. Open Friday, Sept. 4, 2009

Image via Wikipedia

Score card is often deceptive. Sometimes a win in three straights sets can make us believe that all went well with the winner. But in tennis, one or two bad games here and there, you might even lose the match despite having a higher number of winners in the books. It all boils down to reining in unforced errors and lapping up crucial points at crucial junctures. Continue reading

Roger Federer: 1000th Encounter, 2000th Set & Still Going Lethal at 100th Aussie Open

When I wrote my first article for B/R, I knew I was treading a difficult path. Owing allegiance to any team, any particular player means entering the battlefield with his/her rivals’ fans. They swoop down on you and rip you apart, questioning each of your points, assertions and opinions. Continue reading

World Tour Finals: Federer Has Work to Do on his Backhand

Roger Federer at work at Barclays ATP World Tour. He entered his 100th final after beating David Ferrer 7-5, 6-3.

In my previous article, I wrote that Roger Federer had tweaked three things post-US open: Improved first-serve returns, clear posturing to attack the second serve and, most importantly, a more powerful backhand.

In the first semifinal against David Ferrer in Barclays ATP World Tour Finals semis, a real and stern test of the improved Federer SHB was the most discernible aspect of his game.

It is fairly safe to say that Federer has more work to do on this front. One could witness a litany of errors late in the first set which allowed Ferrer to come within two points of claiming the first set.

For the rest of the article, click here.

Pick: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Roger Federer Tweaks a Bit, Conquers Basel & Paris

There was little doubt that World No.4 Roger Federer would cinch up two back-to-back victories at Basel Open and Paris Masters. The question was how definitive and spell-binding these wins would get.

I am not sure if “the old Roger” that Tomas Berdych talked about after he lost to the Swiss maestro in the Paris Masters semifinals is back to the circuit after a long title drought. We all know how some of the younger players have beaten Roger and stripped him of that aura of invincibility that he wore like an invisible cloak every time he waltzed into the court.

To read full article on ‘Bleacher Report’, click here.

(Visit “Racquet Science” for more tennis articles).

Fading Glory: Can Roger Federer’s Career Still End on a High?

When Roger Federer‘s ATP ranking slipped to No.4 recently, it kicked off yet another “write-off-Roger” season.

There have been quite a few of those already.

Back in 2008, Mats Wilander had prophesied that Roger would never equal Pete Sampras’s 14 grand slams. No wonder a majority of tennis experts kept him out of the pre-French Open buzz this year.

To read full article on ‘Bleacher Report’, click here.

Is Murray the new brain-teaser for Nadal?

Has Japan Open put together another brain-teaser for Rafael Nadal?

Having lost to Novak Djokovic in six of the 10 finals and beaten British No.1 Andy Murray in the last five matches, Nadal must have thought it would be yet another day in the post-tsunami Japan bringing in yet another victory over the world No. 4.

How Murray lost the first set of the Japan Open Finals today is a no-brainer: the same defensive Murray putting the ball back in and failing to dish out winners. Nadal kept thundering down winners after winners, while Murray struggled with his first serve. Continue reading

Nole wins, yet again!

Looks like the last thing Novak Djokovic’s coach Marian Vajda told the champion before he stepped out of the locker room was, “punish Nadal when he serves weak, push him way behind the baseline”.

Novak executed it so well that it was the best part of his gameplan, winning him his fourth major, second consecutive one after Wimbledon this year. Had he not lost to Roger Federer in the French Open semis this year, Nadal could have probably suffered Slam-drought just like Roger, and Novak would have walked away with a calendar year sweeping all four majors. Such is the ferocity of his play these days. Continue reading

Over the bump. Should it matter to Federer?

Looks like I am late to catch up with this current tennis season. Montreal whizzed past with, expectedly so, No.1 Novak Djokovic lifting the trophy, winning five ATP 1000 tournaments in a year, and tucking in “a winning percentage of 98.1  better than McEnroe’s season-ending percentage of 96.5  in 1984”.

No.2 Rafael Nadal and No.4 Andy Murray exited in the first round itself, while No.3 Roger Federer fell to Tsonga in a 3-setter despite playing some of his best tennis shots. Continue reading

US Open: It’s just got headier!

It’s difficult not to write about tennis after having lost many nights of sleep over rain delays and upset schedules. Frustrating times at the Flushing Meadows for the second consecutive year. But there’s another reason why it’s difficult to give in to my tired eyes and, sleep: the US Open just got headier.

The women’s line-up continues to remain as chaotic as ever with one of the favourites, Maria Sharapova, making an early exit, thanks to Flavia Pennetta. But the Italian later fell to 92-seeded little-known Angelique Kerber of Germany in the quarters. Caroline Wozniacki came back from a set down and in fact, was down 1-4 in the second set in Round 4. But she regrouped herself and won 12 of the last 14 games in a three-hour marathon against GS champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. This No.1 no-Slam wonder, who faces flak quite often for failing to raise her game and win a grand slam, seems to be setting the right notes at the US Open. Continue reading

The Serbian Surge

Seven titles (three of them against the world No.1 Rafael Nadal on clay!), a dream run of 43 matches halted by Roger Federer at this year’s French Open semis – this was clearly not the Novak Djokovic I have to come to watch for some years now.

I have never been much of a fan of Djokovic. I always thought he didn’t have the serve, the strokes, the style, and the stamina to make his game interesting enough for me to sit through the match unless he was pitted against a powerful opponent. But yes, he did well enough to hang around at No.3 for many years and win a grand slam at just 21. Beyond that, I would remember the Serbian for his antics and hilarious imitations on and off the court and his repeated exits due to breathing and other problems especially when he was on the verge of losing.

But now we are talking about a different Serbian – who, many say, has realised the need to put his personal and professional life in order and “being himself”. Had I heard him say this just a couple of months ago, I would have taken it for the usual PR spiel many sportsmen have come to master these days. It is believed that his physical trainer Milan Amanovic and nutritionist Igor Cetojevic, along with, of course, his coach and father-figure Marian Vajda have taken his game to a never-seen-before smash success. Apparently, it was his nutritionist who traced all his ordeals to gluten and helped the Djokovic realise his true mettle. This protein, found commonly in flours, is all set to become as famous as the virus mononucleosis that silently ate up Roger Federer from inside and denied him his 19th grand slam final in 2008 Australian Open.

The Serbian has surged to greater heights. There is such confidence in his eyes that it shines through each time he hits a winner. He swears at himself much less and is far more composed on the court. His first serves are often devastating and ground strokes are a lethal combination of power and accuracy – so much so that Nadal, known for his heavy topspin that curves inside the baseline no matter where he picks up the ball from, sometimes way far back from the baseline – has been left speechless many times in recent months. The result: Djokovic has shown how to beat Nadal because he is no more scared of the long and unnerving rallies that only Nadal could endure so far.

But a resurgent, gluten-free Djokovic faced a moment of crisis at the French Open semis when he lost the first set in a tie-breaker against Federer. Not that Djokovic was playing bad; just that Federer’s superb serving exhibition and backhand winners were leaving him awed and disarmed all at once. This is when Djokovic’s father Srđan suddenly deserted the player’s box and never returned. His mother Dijana too disappeared but somehow managed to come back a little later. When Djokovic looked up at his camp, his face fell. Cruel, indeed!

The duo, along with the rest of the family, makes such a vociferous, chest-beating team that Federer, during an ATP tournaments in April 2008, had looked up at the box and told the camp to just “shut up”.

Djokovic is now on a war path. He is all set to lift many more titles. But first, he must find ways to keep his home turf in order, knock some sense into his camp, and keep doing what he does best.

(Pic source: internet)
(A version of this article first appeared in Unboxed Writers on June 22, 2011)