I’m always interested in seeing what specific keywords or phrases people use to look up information on my website. One that has been typed in a few times that I find rather funny (no offense to those who used it) is “will Federer be good again.” You can’t blame devoted Roger Federer fans for typing this in after another lackluster performance from the world No. 1 in Miami. Taking nothing away from Tomas Berdych’s win, but many times in the match Federer looked like he’d rather be anywhere than on that court.
It’s no big secret that Federer saves his best tennis for Grand Slams and let’s face it, even if he had won Miami, would it be that big a deal? In his press conference, Federer said his game was “missing something”. I actually think his game is fine and what he really has is something his fellow No.1 player on the WTA tour has – a severe case of “Serenaitis” aka unless this is a Grand Slam, don’t call me.
Having “Serenaitis” is actually a good thing for the Swiss star as he continues to adjust his game to a part-time status. What’s more troubling is the fact that last year’s finalists, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, are already showing symptoms of “Serenaitis”, when they shouldn’t be. But it’s Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal, whose willingness to spill their guts anytime, anyplace, proved that they are the ones to watch in 2010.
To analyze Federer’s loss to Berdych in Miami would be a waste of time as basically in the scheme of his career it means very little. Federer is focused on Grand Slam titles and I actually think he should stop playing Masters events unless he absolutely feels the need to do so. His next appearance will be in Rome bypassing Monte Carlo which is smart allowing him more time to retool his game. It would also add to the whole “GOAT” mystique if he shows up on a limited basis at smaller events. The downside is that it could leave Federer without enough match play going into big events. Unlike Serena, who can play her way into most Grand Slam draws, the men’s side is tougher so Federer will have to accept having more early round losses at other events. And that means his fans will have to accept them as well, if they can.
Meanwhile Djokovic and Murray seemed to read from Federer’s script last week, but not as convincing as the world No. 1. It doesn’t matter if either of them are burned out or worn out, the fact remains that neither player has figured out their schedule or what exactly should motivate them for the rest of the year, i.e. Davis Cup for Djokovic or big events for Murray. Unlike Federer, they don’t have the luxury of playing less. So until they work it out, any excuses both make for unexpected losses are just that – excuses.
Which leads us to Nadal. Even though he didn’t win Indian Wells or Miami despite being the clear favorite (again), Nadal certainly proved how bad he wants to win each event no matter what the ranking points. It’s still concerning that Nadal still doesn’t have a “Plan B” when someone takes it to him. Nadal called his loss to Ivan Ljubicic an “important accident” and one he would learn from. He obviously didn’t as Andy Roddick did the same thing in Miami which took Nadal by “surprise”. Look at this way, his other recent losses to Juan Martin del Potro, Nikolay Davydenko and Robin Soderling prove the top tier guys aren’t afraid of him and know if they stay the course, they can win. You still have to like Nadal’s chances that he’s going to win a big title this year, but one has to wonder if 2008 was the first and last year he will ever truly dominate the ATP.
Finally, what else is there to say about Andy Roddick’s title run except you have to tip your hat off to the guy for putting in the extra work when many, many people had written him off as a punching bag for the top guys. If Larry Stefanki, Roddick’s coach, is right in saying Roddick could have an “Agassi-like” renaissance at the end of his career, then we could be in for a real treat. And perhaps Roddick’s own second career of changing his game, adding new shots and finding new mental clarity on the court, will inspire even Federer to scale for higher heights. I mean if a mere mortal like Roddick can improve, certainly the “GOAT” can find a way to be good, if not great, again.