Look Out, Tennis World. Roger Federer clinched his first clay title since winning the Roland Garros in 2009. That year he also won the Madrid Open for the first time, predicting the good things to come. Blue clay, Red Clay, doesn’t matter. After beating Tomas Berdych, Federer climbs back to #2 spot on the ATP rankings at the expense of Rafael Nadal.
So what does this mean? That Federer is the best right now, in what seems to be a never ending cycle which depends on the form of one of the top 3 players in the world? He’s the best in the world on Blue clay, that’s for sure. Whether that means he’ll be winning the Roland Garros is too soon to tell. The Rome Masters kicking off this week might be a better indicator.
But there’s no doubt that Federer is in the best form he’s been in years. Adding to the fact of the fragility of Rafael Nadal and his knees; Novak Djokovic looking beatable, and you might say that Federer can carry loads of confidence with him as he goes into the French Open, whatever happen in Italy.
Tomas Berdych never makes it easy for Federer, beating the Swiss four times in the past, including in last year’s Cincinnati Masters. Berdych took the first set 6-3, but lost twice 7-5. Big men and servers don’t usually trouble Federer but as usual, Berdych’s forehand and power gave a shaky Federer a lot of trouble. With the win, Federer has now tied Nadal’s record of 20 masters titles.
Just like Milos Raonic on the first day of the tournament. Raonic and Berdych are the only two players to take a set of Federer in Madrid, beating Gasquet, Tipsarevic and Ferrer in two sets. All three have a combined two wins in their careers against Federer.
But it’s not just this week’s form. Federer has now won four tournaments in 2012, two of them Masters. You might call him the most dominant three-set player in the world right now. It gives him 7 titles in his last 10 non-Grand Slam tournaments. It might not be the 17th title he wants to stretch his legacy and make his record even more untouchable, but it does give everyone an indication of where he is in his career.
Past his 30th birthday, actually closer to 31, Federer is still right up there with Djokovic and Nadal. Sure, they’re favorites to take him in the longer matches, but no one will be surprised if Roger comes up with another Roland Garros final next month. No one should be surprised when he goes into Wimbledon booming with confidence.
He’s well rested, giving up on Monte Carlo and Barcelona. At his age, you can’t play all the tournaments anymore. But we learned for another time over this tennis season, that Federer’s state of mind is a victorious and agressive one. When he dropped a potential match winning serving game in the third set to Berdych, you felt the old demons and ghosts of the past creeping up his arms. Nerves and those negative thoughts. They’ve pulled him down before in very winnable situations.
But not this time. He’s not perfect, and he isn’t the dominant player he was in 2004-2007. But he seems to be strong enough to mentally to overcome whatever time and age have taken away. He’s yet to meet Nadal and Djokovic on clay this season, but I’m not sure he should be regarded as the underdog when they do. Federer seems that good, that poised, despite everyone expecting differently.