After a 17-year roller coaster, the glittering and sometimes controversial career of Maria Sharapova has come to an end.
It was not a Roger Federer like performance by the world’s number two player in his semi-final encounter with Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open. Federer sat behind the baseline and handed control to Djokovic in a role reversal to the Federer we have come to expect.
With the game slipping away, Federer would show little emotion; not even a ‘Come on!’ could be heard.
Everything about Federer on the night looked off. His body language (or lack of), shot selection, and court positioning, all indicated a bad day at the office. He was able to counter Djokovic briefly in the second set with trademark style.
However, this fizzled out as Djokovic took his game to another level. Once the second set had evaded Federer, the stats turned against him. The Swiss ace has never beaten a top 20 ranked player after loosing the first two sets.
It was more than stats that finished the game there and then. Federer looked prepared to lose. You could see him flick to power saver mode.
Stanislas Wawrinka was unlucky to have found himself against the bull and all his horns when facing Federer in the quarter-final. They may share an Olympic gold medal, but there was little empathy from Federer as the Swiss master picked apart every facet of the apprentice’s game.
Just two days later, Federer looked to have lost his way against a mighty Djokovic.
He now has three months of tennis between now and Roland Garros, the French Open starting on May 22.
With the punishing ATP schedule, Federer won’t be lounging around in the Swiss Alps. Federer’s schedule allows for no less then five tournaments, starting with the Dubai Championships later this month.
Djokovic, Murray and of course Federer will headline the list of competitors set to embark on the riches of the United Arab Emirates.
Djokovic will head into the tournament having winning the event in 2009 and last year, and this will be a chance for Federer to prove more than just a point. Federer excels in the indoor tournaments, and will return to Dubai with confidence.
His coach Paul Annacone will serve a vital role. Federer must work on his aggression. He whittles his opponents down to nothing, until they no longer have the will to think they can win. This is not the key to unlocking Federer’s game: this is Federer’s game.
Take away the bullets from a gun and there’s no danger, take away the aggression from Roger and there’s no Federer.
Federer will move on to Indian Wells, the Sony Ericsson Open, the Mutua Madrilena Masters, and the Internazionali BNL D’Italia following the completion of the Dubai Championships.
Many pundits will claim these five tournaments in the wake of the Australian Open are some of the most important Roger Federer is likely to face. I’m quick to second those thoughts as he strives towards the French Open, and further, Wimbledon on his quest for Grand Slam titles.
The good news is that Roger Federer is yet to reach DEFCON 1; in fact the bloke in charge of pressing that button should seek further employment. What we witnessed at Melbourne Park was an upset, not a change in tide.
An in-form Federer is the best in the world at what he does, and that includes making adjustments to his game. Dubai will be an important read for his French Open hopes.
More Roger Federer analysis: Feb 1 – Roger Federer is merely in transition