Miami: Carrots and Sticks.

“My game has issues at this moment,” Federer said. “I’ve had timing issues the last couple weeks and it leaves my confidence lacking.”

Let’s see – up a break early in the first, 8 breakpoints and 0 converted in the second, and match point in the third set. Apart from the first set horror story, respectable quality tennis through most of the second and third sets.

And yet, we’re left with a Federer loss as Birdy def Ferdy 64 67 76. Just wait til I’m done with you, Federbear!

The million dollar question still remains – why hasn’t Roger Federer done well in Indian Wells and Miami for the last 4 years?

Sure, we can excuse him for his recovery from mono in 08, back injury in 09 and I suppose playing 3 matches in 2 and a half months didn’t do him any good. But excuses aside, what it is about Indian Wells and Miami that just seem to bring out the worst in Fed?

Just throwing this out there for y’all to chew on:

The difference between tournaments like Indian Wells or Miami and the likes of Cincinnati, Madrid or Hamburg is that the IW/Miami double are an end unto themselves. In the grand scheme of things, they’re the anticlimatic climax. Winners pocket fat cheques and become hot topics for a week or two, before the abrupt start of the clay season kills the buzz.

Do they lead to legacy? To glory? To something worth talking about in 10 or 20 years?

By contrast, tournaments like Cincinnati and Madrid are means to an end – grand slam glory. Like all Masters Series tournaments, they are statement victories, but they also provide the momentum going into a slam, they boost a player’s odds as well as confidence. They are the final pit stop before the climax.

By the same logic, the flip side of a warm-up tournament is that underperformance raises self-doubt and questions in the media as to who is the real favourite at a subsequent slam.

Carrots and sticks, it’s what drives donkeys … and apparently Monkeys.

For Fed, who climaxes his year around the 4 slams, Indian Wells and Miami provide neither the carrot nor the stick for him to compete with gusto. Or even to attend a warm up tournament in Dubai. If he wins, the momentum doesn’t roll over into the clay season. And when he’s lost early, the results equally haven’t bled onto the red dirt of Europe.

But can I say this for good luck? “Thank God the hard court season is over.”

xx doots


Tags: ,

35 responses to “Miami: Carrots and Sticks.”

  1. PJ says :

    I heart you, your writing, and your blog. I couldn’t have said it better myself, and you put a lot of very negative thoughts in my head to rest. As Fed fans, we cry when he turns into Ferd, but ultimately, still heart him a lot.

    Don’t heart him a LOT right now, but it’ll come back.

  2. pban says :

    According to a recent interview Roger’s top priority at this point in his career is winning Wimbledon, in fact he mentioned being no 1 as an after thought.Fact is it is difficult to question his logic, and we have to bear with fortitude the horror shows of these 2 ATP events….but it is not easy.I agree with you completely doots regarding the placement of these 2 events since we jump straightaway into clay. I just want Rafa to win now and regain the 2nd spot…in fact I was never very excited about a Fedal meeting right now, another loss to Rafa (and it was inevitable with his form now) is so not my idea of fun.What is really worrying is the complete inability to win the key points 😦 ,I am almost missing the 6-2 scoreline in the 3rd set losses.Losing 2 TB in the 3rd is 2007 Canas all over again

  3. pban says :

    By the way just how many UE did he make in the entire match,he had 35 in the beginning of the 2nd.

    • dootsiez says :

      Off the top of my head, 62. Or somewhere in that vicinity.

      “Losing 2 TB in the 3rd is 2007 Canas all over again”

      I could do with 2007 all over again. And again. And again.

      I actually think Federer cares about No 1, and he cares about the Masters. Even though he lost today and in Indian Wells, he was very pumped and slightly annoyed by the loss. He wants to win, but not enough that he’ll play warm-ups for IW/Miami, not enough that he’ll stop getting annoyed at himself and just concentrate on the match when things get tough.

      • TGIF says :

        There was no warm-up this year because he was sick; last year he was injured; the year before he was sick (and still played the warm-up but lost in 1st round) and the year before that he actually won Dubai and still crashed horrifically at IW/Miami.

        Given that he won them both back to back in 05-06 there’s nothing inherently in the tourneys that doesn’t suit him, just hasn’t been in great form during this part of the year for a while . . .

        • Mia says :

          The halcyon days of 05-06 … still the only player to do the IW/KB back-to-back in consecutive years. There’s no question about the ability — he can still whip the young ones asses’, his matchpoints being proof positive. The flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.

        • dootsiez says :

          Well this year it’s really just a form problem. Coming into Miami, he played 2 matches in almost 2 months.

          That’s longer than some off-seasons. And there’s no easing back into things either – because other players have been in the heat of competition all this time while Fed’s been dealing with his lungs, Mirka’s lungs, the Mighty Babes’ illness.

          If he’s still like this during clay, I’ll be worried. I can handle a few Canas-like defeats. But not another “Volandri” in Rome.

      • pban says :

        He never shows annoyance in a slam even when he is missing by the proverbial country mile, except maybe USopen 2008.

        • dootsiez says :

          US Open 2008 wasn’t so much annoyance and just A LOT of emotions.

          He was like he was letting out all that energy he had bottled up after Wimbledon.

  4. pban says :

    2007 slams were great, I just want the no1 record in the bag Fed.By the way I have a personal index for Roger’s form in a match…the forehand drive volley,when he misses those I just go oh oh in my head.He never wins on those days…wimby 2008 Hamburg 2008, Miami 2007 and yet on days he wins it is that shot which clicks ….at breakpoint 5th set Wimby final and I could just ramble on and on.Point is his timing is way off and he knows it, so do we have harden our hearts till the grass season??

    • sita says :

      This wasn’t a shocker after seeing the way things have been over the past couple of weeks. He plays with all his heart but comes up just short since his game is just not there. Thank God indeed , let’s move on to clay !

      Good thing Murray/Djoker have lost more points than he did and are defending a lot of points until the clay season. Hence will not threaten his no.1 ranking for a while.
      IIRC , it is sealed until the beginning of FO. But I don’t want it to boil down to Fed having to go really deep in the FO to get the record.

      pban : I thought you are not supposed to mention Wimby 2008 on this blog , I got a thrashing when I did 🙂

  5. Amandita_FP says :

    I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a report of Feddy’s loss, but as usual, your post well written & I liked it.
    And yeah “Thank God the hard court season is over.” =D

    I’m still worried about Federbear, though…


    • dootsiez says :

      Err Federbear the man? Or Federbear the beanie?

      Actually worry about both. Because I’m throwing Federbear the beanie into solitary confinement. Hmph!

  6. cecilia says :

    thx for putting sth positive into roger’s loss today
    i was so frustrated watching it
    maybe i shouldnt have watched it
    i dreaded the this match from the moment i saw the draws
    it’s ok, it’s not a slam
    *wipes IW and Miami from memory

    ok maybe not before Justine is finished yet
    cmon justine…i want a henin clijsters showdown atleast!

    • dootsiez says :

      Me too Cecilia! Hope Justine gets her revenge from Kim for Brissie.

      And I’ll join you in wiping IW/Miami from memory.

  7. BS says :

    You made this loss seem a lot better, great post. I’m glad I didn’t have to sit through it, but I don’t think that either of these past two losses would have been as frustrating if he hadn’t had match points in BOTH of them. I suppose it’s not the worst way to lose though and I think it would be a lot worse if he had lost to Rafa, Nole or Muzz because we would be hearing about fears for his game and how he might be finished. Again. He should definitely take a wildcard into Monte Carlo but it’s not gonna happen because we all know how stubborn he is. And yes, let’s all say it together for good luck: “Thank God the hardcourt season is over.” 😦 🙂

  8. flo says :

    Part of the equation is that his opponents aren’t intimidated in these matches anymore. Federer is a scalp to be claimed rather than the unstoppable machine. I get the sense people go in with the confidence to get a famous victory. They know that they can bring their B+ game and have a shot. Fortunately, all these players seem to drop their level for slams whereas Fed gets more consistent; it’s that dynamic that kept the semis streak going.

    It’s not that Federer doesn’t care but there’s also a desire beyond the normal frustration with losing. Look at Carol, not in the best condition, but at that point in her career where every masters is a chance for a breakthrough. The hunger is just natural and hence she digs out the win when I didn’t think she’d get through. That hunger well is something that a Roger, at this stage, cannot tap automatically.

    • dootsiez says :

      Good point about Carol. With Roger, the major difference between his performance at a non-slam level and at a slam level is the way he approaches his bad days. At the AO against Davydenko, he was probably playing just as bad as he was yesterday, but he kept working at it. He didn’t waste energy getting frustrated, he just prodded away because he knew his game can get better and his opponent’s level can drop.

      In non-slam matches, when he’s off, he gets pissy and wastes a whole lotta energy as he did yesterday just sulking. He doesn’t approach these non-slam “bad days” with nearly the same level of patience because deep down, he knows he can afford to stuff up here and there. At the slams, stuffing up is not an option.

      His opponents aren’t intimated anymore partly because Fed lets them into the match. Had Roger maintained his early break in the first set yesterday, he would’ve sucked the energy out of Berdy. Ditto Baghdatis the week before.

      Once you give up a break, or clock 60+ UFEs, the likes of Berdych and Baghdatis know they’ve got a chance. They may be brainless players, but they can sense Fed’s frustration and they *will* capitalise on it.

  9. Jack says :

    I’m not shocked by this loss as I was half-expecting it anyway. I am pissed with how he lost though. In a wierd way, I’d rather he lose 6-2 in the third then have match points and lose. But like Roger said, his game just hasn’t been clicking these past two tournaments.

    I’m not sure whether I want him to take a WC for Monte Carlo and gain some points or train hard and come back fresh for Rome.

    Even though I did want him to win Miami, I am happy with the one title he already has. I mean, out of the four tournaments he played this year, at least he’s won the most important one.

    I am glad with the way he fought his hardest in these losses. It shows that he hasn’t took a Serena approach to the non-slam events.

    I do hope his game starts clicking together in the clay season. As I want as big a points gap as possibe going into the French Open.

    • jfk says :

      I’m glad you mentioned “The Serena approach” because he’s not like that at all. You can tell how he fought so hard to try to win that match and looked really heartbroken after.
      Also, I remember when Fed lost early in Rogers Cup and Cincy 08 and still ended up winning The US Open.This isn’t the end people!

    • dootsiez says :

      Technically, he’s managed to underperform in IW/Miami, yet compared to last year, there’s much less doom-and-gloom. Particularly because of the events that transpired after and the tennis he played at the AO this year.

      Like Jack, I’m waiting til the clay season to decide if I’ll panic.

  10. TennisAce says :

    I am upset at the result and I always get mad when he loses to these players who then turn around lose in the very next round. Anyway, this morning the usual fanatics are around the internet ripping him because he said Berdy was lucky to win. Yeah, where were you all when Rafa said losing to Lubijic was an accident. It is always about the language barrier for Rafa but doucheness for Fed. *pissed off and letting everyone know about it

    • dootsiez says :

      There’s a good reason why I stopped going to tennis forums, TennisAce. It’s the same reason why I started the blog.

      People who intend on hating will continue to hate. You can’t argue with them because they don’t go by normal rationality. The only other alternative is to cut them out of your life.

      Not that it’s any loss. 😉

  11. roadrunnerz says :

    Ok, I admit during parts of last night’s match I was thinking, “Hmm…I wonder how Doots is maiming her Federbear right now…”

    And that was the only amusement I got out of THAT one. :-/

    I admit last night was a hard loss for a fan. The close ones always are, but if I took anything positive from it it’s that I feel like he’s got his fight back this year. Last year at this time, if he was down a break I knew he was done for…yesterday I just knew he’d find a way to get back into the match.

    Which of course makes the fact that he squandered a match point in the TB ON HIS SERVE all that more heartbreaking.


    Onto la terre battue svp….

    • dootsiez says :

      I know what you mean, these losses after get match points don’t sit well with me. I’ve promised myself after No 14, 15 and 16 that I wouldn’t frazzle over these matches anymore.

      But during the match last night, I was totally about to disown Federbear altogether.

      Yet somehow, even though he’s done worse than he did last year, these losses don’t seem as bad. Perhaps it’s because Nole, Muzz (and even Rafa yesterday with the Ferrer slugfest) are all doing badly. Perhaps it’s because this seems to be a form and timing issue. Rather than something more sinister like what we saw with the smashed racket in Miami last year.

  12. Lou says :

    Thank you! You make some good points and they do make me feel a bit better about the horrors of yesterday evening. Federbear still richly deserves that spanking though.

    Roger’s interview is strange – it’s one of the rare times he seems genuinely confused about why he’s not playing well recently. I dunno – it seems to me he is just not fit enough/not had enough practise since his illness.

    • dootsiez says :

      I know Lou, he doesn’t seem to understand his form either, and was just brutally honest about it in his press con. Coming to IW and Miami completely cold is always a bad idea. It’s different to an off season where the players have had time to rest, here Fed’s had some R&R, but the likes of Baghdatis and Berdych have been competing all this time.

      Not the same playing field in terms of match-fitness. Usually Fed can compensate for that simply because he’s the better player, but when his form is not where he wants it to be, IW/Miami aren’t exactly the sort of tournament you want to “ease back into things”.

  13. Deborah says :

    Actually you guys are more positive than some on As always after one of these late night or early morning losses, I pulled the covers over my head and dreaded the morning press, you know the ones who only notice if Roger loses. But several hours later, I feel better, no grief counseling required (actually can still use some to help with 2008 Wimby). Yes, indeed, thank God, the hardcourt season’s over! Get ready to play (and win) in the dirt! Go Roger!

    • dootsiez says :

      As much as I love and my fellow Fedophiles, doom and gloom breeds fast and is highly contagious.

      Scroll through the threads for an hour and you’ll feel the end is nigh.

  14. Fruitcake says :

    Only just found this site Doots .. I like it … a lot .. as a Fed fan I would, wouldn’t I? Lol. Only saw the t/b and from the start of it I didn’t think Fed was going to pull out the victory, even when he had that m/p. Berdych just looked toooo solid, tooo unruffled … too non-chokey. Perhaps Roger is right when he says that the illness he had took more out of him than he thought … so that after a few matches, energy levels start to drop ever so slightly and make the difference between getting to the right position to make the right shot, to think clearly, to have the power to get the ball over the net etc etc. is full of doom + gloom from what I see .. you’d never think Roger had already won the first Slam of the season … pffff. I believe Roger will come good again … but is he the same player of 2004-6? Of course not .. and I think its unreasonable to expect him to be. I take the wins when they come, sigh with the losses and am just thankful he still wants to play tennis for a few more years yet because even with the losses you still see some some Federer Magic.

    • dootsiez says :

      Hi Fruitcakes, welcome to the party.

      The way I see it – if I want to enjoy Federer’s wins, I’d have to take the losses that come along the way. Would RG have been as sweet if Fed hadn’t lost there a few times too many?

      I guess I’m not as worried as some of the other Fed fans. He’s got time, he’s got another surface coming up that has nothing to do with the Spring hard courts. And form is only temporary, but class is forever.

      Federer is blue-chip stock. He might take a tumble now and then, but he’ll always have great potential. 😀

  15. Ch says :

    dootsiez, I have never commented here very much but I do follow you occasionally and like your blog a lot. and I like this post a lot! I like your ability to keep things light, not get too “D&G” about losses. Roger knows he needs to just work on some things on the practice courts and it makes me happy that he still has a strong desire to improve, and then to show his improvements during matches. it makes me happy that he still cares, and that losses still disappoint him. he still has the “fire going.”
    anyway – thanks for the read. 😉

  16. pban says :

    Guys just remember the magic mantra -its not wimby, its not wimby,its not wimby…..repeat a thousand times all of you.I know all tourneys are important but it is a natural process that after 7 years at the top your goals change.With the babies around I don’t think MC is an option …it starts on the 12th so very unlikely he will play 😦 pity since he could have gained points.I am on panic mode 8 weeks a year and these losses wouldn’t have mattered were it not for the 287 weeks that we need so badly.

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