“I guess I’m a clay court specialist now.” Roger told the press after losing to Julien Benneteau on Wednesday. “Indoors is not my surface anymore. . .”
Federer’s loss to the No. 49 ranked Frenchman was certainly a surprise – even greater than his lackluster loss to Djokovic in last weekend’s Bercy final. Roger admitted yesterday that his game is not where it should be:
“I definitely had chances. I missed them. Seems to happen a bit to me now looking at the Basel final and the US Open final. I have to be sure I don’t let chances go by like this all the time.”
“I definitely have some work to do. It’s a matter of how I played last week in Basel. I played very conservative. It got me through to the final and then I couldn’t change my game against Djokovic. So I just have to make sure I play more aggressive and don’t let the other guy dictate play too much.”
Conservative? You mean like a clay court specialist? Roger says he’ll be hitting the practice courts (hopefully hard, fast ones!) as soon as he returns to Switzerland:
“I’m back home tomorrow and back to the practice courts to make sure I’m in top shape for London . . . Hope I can at least make a good run there (at the year end championships) because I feel like I have some good tennis left in me. I’m not going to let my head hang after this tournament. These matches sometimes happen for me.”
When asked if he was feeling pressure to do well at Bercy after taking Roland Garros in the spring, Roger grinned and said: “The pressure is long gone since Paris and other great victories I’ve had. It was just more pleasure staying in Paris (this week) and coming back as the Roland Garros champion.”
It’s hard to know what to make of Roger’s comments. They’re like lighter-hearted versions of statements he made this spring. Remember “thank God the hard court season is over”? Of course, things worked out pretty well after that!
Roger was wrong about Benneteau, who he (jokingly) tipped to win the tournament. Quelle surprise, J.B. flamed out against Gael Monfils on Thursday. Andy Murray also looked hungover in his loss against Radek Stepanek.
Rafael Nadal scraped by Tommy Robredo, who failed to serve out their match in the third set. Perhaps knowing he’s closing in on the year-end No. 1 ranking helped the top Spaniard to persevere. From the ATP:
Following the top-ranked Roger Federer’s shock exit to Julien Benneteau on Wednesday, Nadal could significantly close the gap on his rival at the top of the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings. At the start of the week, Federer led by 1,495 points, but could see his lead cut to a mere 305 points should Nadal capture his sixth tour-level title of the season this week.
In other Thursday action, Nikolay Davydenko lost to Robin Soderling but still qualified for the seventh spot at the World Tour Finals when Fernando Verdasco lost to Marin Cilic. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic dominated their French opponents, Simon and Clement, respectively. Del Potro and Gonzalez have yet to finish their match.
Friday features some mouthwatering quarterfinal matchups: The match of the tournament in my mind will be Tsonga vs. Nadal, but Soderling vs. Djokovic, Monfils vs. Cilic and Stepanek vs. either Gonzo or del Po should all be great, as well.
This tournament is turning out to be pretty fun! Who needs that old clay court specialist from Switzerland, anyway?