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Federer's Madrid Masters Preview

Updated on May 5, 2011

The Challenge Starts Early

Roger Federer enters his second clay tournament of the season and the challenge could not be bigger. Last year he reached the final only to lose to Nadal in straight sets although it was very close - 6-4, 7-6(5). Because he reached the finals last year, Federer will have 600 points of his own rankings to defend which means he must at least reach the finals to keep them.

For Federer, the first challenge will present itself immediately. Receiving a first round bye, he will play the winner of the first round between Milos Raonic and Feliciano Lopez. Raonic may be doubtful to play as he pulled out of his semi-final match with Fernando Verdasco in the Estoril tournament in Portugal. Feliciano Lopez is fresh off the Serbian Open where he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic.

If Federer passes the second round, Verdasco or Xavier Malisse will be waiting for him. He has convincing wins against both players. Lurking in the quarter-finals, a potential match up with Jo-Wilfred Tsonga or Robin Soderling. Federer has dominated Tsonga, losing only once to him on clay however, a healthy Robin Soderling could give the Swiss Maestro plenty to worry about.

Should Federer surpass all these obstacles, it is most certain that Rafael Nadal will meet him in the semi-finals. Since Federer has dropped to world number three ranking, many of the tournaments will now have him face off in Nadal's side of the draw.

Federer has had over two weeks to work on his game and he spent the last week getting acclimatized to the high altitude of Madrid. The conditions will slightly favor Federer's game as the conditions allow for greater ball speed and thus a greater success for execution of quick points.

He has only managed to defeat Nadal twice on the clay courts and both times he faced an exhausted Nadal. This year, Federer cannot rely on Djokovic to do him any favors battling Nadal since he (Djokovic) is on the other side of the draw.

The Madrid Masters comes ahead of the Rome Masters and Roland Garros. Both Madrid and Rome will allow Federer to gauge how fluent his game will be against most notably Nadal and Djokovic ahead of the French Open.

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      pilot727 6 years ago

      Some of you guys don't know what you're talking about here. Federer has been playing some of his best tennis akin to at anytime in his career peak. The ATP matches of lately, taking out Djokovic in the Roland Garros 2011 semi's, the smattering Nadal at London ATP 2011 finals, etc... Roger's proven he can compete quite well on clay. Heck. He grew up on it as well. He's fresh, rested and relaxed for Madrid 2012. Let's just see, heh? All you naysayers. Just like all of the "tennis pro" journalists that have written Roger off years ago. I definitely see another major win coming his way soon. Maybe even the Gold in London Olympics which would be a bonus.

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      Robertj64 7 years ago from Burlington, Ontario, Canada

      Hi John,

      While Federer's backhand needs increased consistency, his most important aspect of his game, I believe is his serve. He needs to place confidence in his serve placement especially against excellent returners such as Djokovic and Nadal. Half the battle is not being broken multiple times in his matches.

      Ian,

      Nice comments! Roger's form is a bit volatile these days and most of the media wrongfully associate it with him on the decline. I think we will see lots more great tennis from him. Whether he can compete with Nadal and Djokovic now entering their prime is another story. As you say, if Roger can tweak his game while maintaining a high level of consistency, he will compete. It will all depend on how focused he is and how hard his training will have pushed him to stay in shape and develop further.

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      Ian 7 years ago

      Obviously for Federer to do consistently well against his opponents, especially against those with big groundstrokes and serves, he needs to adopt many changes (some subtle, others less so and many of them in the moment as he plays). I think deep down he and his coaches know what most/ all of them are, but they don't obviously share them publically. I also think that they try to keep things simple so that Roger stays consistent and they do not make any big adjustments, which could lead to possible regression at the high levels that the Pros play at (like say to change to double-handed backhand, which at this level is not possible to do in the short term without maybe taking 6 - 18 months off and then there no gaurantees on his performance off that wing in high pressure/ profile moments/ matches.) I am sure that he gets great inputs and advice and that he surrounds himself with excellence as all champions do/ are forced to do, to remain great! I think though that his defeats do 'trouble' him more so than in the past, but I dont always think Roger always realises that he needs to constantly change to stay ahead. He also appears a bit 'stubborn' when he talks about his loses and what to do to rectify them, but this could just be what he does publicly. We obviously don't get to really see what conclusions he and his team makes after he loses. Roger must do what he and his team knows best and I have confidence that eventually he may get things consistently right as in London at the Masters Finals. I think that some of the changes he has already implemented/ done but not always as consistently, especially of late. Some of the changes are as follows: 1) RELAXED BODY AND MIND: I think that first he always needs to ensure is that he has a more relaxed mind,emotions and body when he plays against these players (Djoker, Nadal, etc) and at key moments. Lately, he appears far too rushed and nervous (and againts more and more varied players, not just Djoker and Nadal), especially when facing breakpoints and in long rallies. He does not seem to always access his natural fluid tennis and instincts and often plays to the strengths of some of his opponents. 2)TACTICALLY: a) I think that he also does not employ enough deception/ guile in his agressive groundstrokes. (Maybe he is afraid that he could twist their ankles, etc. I really don't know.) His guile when playing drop shots is good, especially on clay, but his opponents don't get to see enough guile when he hits aggressively. b) he always takes the ball early to attack. A few years ago and at the 2010 Masters Final in London, this tactic of taking the ball early worked and gave him some advantages, but now his opponents (Djoker/ Nadal, etc) 'read' him too well and are ready for him and pass him easily). c) he does not favour angles when he rallies, especially through the conventional forehand and backhand cross-court shots. d) he is far too defensive when returning serve (on both wings)and he only seems to adopt an attacking mode against some aggressive players. e) his backhand in rallies are too short and don't always have enough penetration. I think that we don't know what the increased family committments are having on Roger's mind and if he gets enough 'me' time so that it shows at key moments. I am sure that with time, as the kids get older, his true self will reappear again - we all hope very soon!! Anyway, I have always enjoyed Roger and what he has done already is good enough for me. We can't expect Roger to stay No 1 forever!!! He remains a great champion and role-model/example. Keep doing your best, Roger!

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      John Robinson 7 years ago

      Federer does not have the backhand that will see him rise to the heights he did previously. It is not that he ever had a backhand but his other attributes were so strong that they were sufficient to see him to victory after victory. This is not the case today and unless he does like all the other top players and develops a two backhanded he is doommed to disappointment after disappointment.

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