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Rotterdam Recap: Federer Crashes to Benneteau

Rotterdam Recap: Federer Crashes to Benneteau

Hey all, I’m back from a weekend in Rotterdam where as most of you know I didn’t get to see Federer play after he clowned up against Benneteau in the Quarter Finals. A little disappointing that he couldn’t make the Semi’s but what can you do?

I didn’t see any of the match live as I arrived quite late and only tuned into the scores at 30-30, 5-6 when he threw down a double fault at the worst possible moment to give Benneteau a match point which he took first time of asking. Sheer disbelief was the best way to describe it at the time, I mean how could he lose a match like that? Luckily Rotterdam had more to offer than just tennis so even without seeing Fed himself it was a really fun trip.

Now I’m back home I’ve had time to watch some extended highlights on YouTube so will give my thoughts on the match and Roger’s performance or lack of.

The first thing that will probably effect my critique is that I now know that Roger apparently had back problems all week in Rotterdam and has been plagued with them since Melbourne. He hasn’t mentioned it directly in his pressers (he never does) but it’s supposedly come via his coach Paul Annacone and it’d also explain the fact he was wearing under shirts at the Australian Open. Rotterdam was fairly cold too so that never helps which could have made things worse for him.

With back troubles in mind I’ll probably go a lot easier on him, if I’d written it just after the loss then he’d be getting a lot of stick as it looked like he wasn’t even trying out there!

Federer vs. Benneteau Analysis

Federer & Benneteau

There’s no real secrets to why this match was lost – Benneteau played consistently well and Roger had one of his worst serving days in a long time.

As he said himself after the match, he gave Benneteau too many 30 all opportunities on his serve and if you give a player that many chances the pressure keeps mounting and mounting to the point where a break of serve becomes inevitable.

Roger might have got away with serving like that against a lesser player but someone like Benneteau who actually has one of the most complete games on tour, that’s not going to happen. Usually what lets Benneteau down is the mental fortitude side of things but in terms of ball striking he can play some really good stuff in all areas of the court and if you keep giving a guy like that chance after chance it’s never going to end well.

Usually when Roger gets off to a bad start it can be a sign of things to come and that happened against Benneteau as he got broken in the first game. He did manage to break back but dropped serve two more times in the set to lose it 6-3.

Obviously with Roger 3.0 you know he’s capable of turning any kind of match around no matter how badly he plays early doors but falling 4-1 behind in the second set left him a mammoth uphill task to try and turn the match around. Strangely enough he actually did flirt with the idea and hit back to level the second at 5-5. He then created 0-40 on the Benneteau serve to give himself a chance of serving out the set and putting the match back on level terms.

Unlike the Davydenko match last year where he took his chances this time around they went begging and Benneteau held and broke in the very next game to seal a 6-3 7-5 victory. The last game summed up the match to be quite honest, a double fault (he hit 4 total in the match) at 30-30 and then a makeable backhand pass down the line on match point that went wide.

In terms of the key match stats then you only have to look as far as 4 double faults, only making 56% of his first serves and losing his serve 5 times as to why he lost the match.

Any Positives to take?

Federer Exits the Ahoy Arena

If I hadn’t seen the highlights then I’d have probably said no but there were still a few moments that were good from Roger’s side of the net. Despite looking completely disinterested and lackadaisical throughout the whole match he still managed to fight back from 4-1 down and almost take the match into a third set which would have made it very interesting. It would have been somewhat lucky had it happened but he had the chances but just couldn’t muster the break when he needed it.

In terms of the tournament as a whole then it’s probably not one he can look back on and get much confidence from, he played just 3 matches and didn’t really set the place alight. It’s best to just draw a line under it and prepare for the next tournament.

Was the Back a Problem?

Undershirt - Potential Back Problems

There’s been a lot of talk about Roger having back problems that could have been the reason behind his poor serving performance and subsequent loss to Benneteau. It’s not come from Federer himself so it’s hard to confirm but in my mind it sounds quite likely.

The back apparently was mentioned by Annacone which I’ve seen been discussed on Twitter/Blogs/Forums; obviously just because a lot of people say something doesn’t always mean it’s true but there’s also the fact Federer said he had hardly picked up a racket for two weeks until last Sunday.

I thought after playing well in the Australian Open he’d have been keen to kick on and at the very least keep his game ticking over on the practise courts yet by the sounds of it he’s just been not really doing anything.

Roger 3.0 doesn’t just take 2 weeks off unless he really needs it and that’s either when he’s mentally drained or struggling physically. There’s no way he’s mentally tired 4 weeks into the season so it does look likely he could be suffering with a back problem.

As for what the problem is I’m not too sure but I don’t think it’s really an injury so to speak like a muscle strain or disc as that could probably be fixed with plenty of rest or even an operation. It seems more like a recurring problem that flares up due to various conditions be it cold, moisture or even the way he’s slept.

The bad news is it could hamper in more matches in the future but the good news is that I figure it will be manageable with the right treatment and scheduling. We really have no idea how long Federer’s had back troubles the first real big issues were in 2008 but he may well have had slight back pain earlier and I doubt he’s every played a full season without it effecting him at least once in recent years. True to his style though he never brings it up in matches or turns to it as an excuse so we’re always in the dark really.

Anyway, I don’t think there’s any need to start overly worrying just yet or writing off 2013 for Roger. There’s no way he’s going to just wilt overnight so I’m sure when he next takes to the court he will be motivated to prove a point and try to add another title to the collection.

My Trip to Rotterdam

Now obviously I didn’t see Roger play but I did watch two matches, first I saw Benneteau vs. Simon, gotta say it wasn’t really spectacular, they aren’t a good match up and the majority of the crowd had come hoping to see Federer so were pretty flat. That probably didn’t help them play at a top level and Simon as usual with his fragile body had to see the trainer in the second set before he lost the match in straights.

The final however was more enjoyable and Del Potro can be quite entertaining to watch partly because he is a big hitter but mainly because of his dopey mannerisms on court. It was also fun to watch him stand and speak Spanish into the camera during the trophy presentation for about 5 minutes with the majority of the crowd not having any idea what he was talking about.

I thought Del Potro played well in the final though really, he lost his serve a few times but he just had that bit too much for Benneteau, who is now 0-8 in ATP finals. Awful record really and it’s doubtful he can ever win one. As for Del Potro he looked in quite good form, I’d of course have loved to see how Roger played against him in the final as I think it could have been a very entertaining / tight match but we’ll probably see them two slug it out later in the year I’d imagine.

As for Rotterdam itself I had a really good time, in terms of the city there’s a lot of shops and restaurants as you’d expect. If you’re really into architecture and buildings then it’s probably not the best city for you as there’s a lot of concrete (the city was flattened in WWII apart from a couple of areas) but in and amongst the high rise buildings there’s a few older buildings / landmarks that are really cool, along with a lot of boats (still in use) and bridges that are fun to check out.

The Ahoy is also a great place to watch Tennis, I’ve always thought the o2 was a great arena but something about the Ahoy makes it more enjoyable. Maybe it’s the overall design or something as simple as the black seats that contrast with the Green courts and sponsors logo but whatever it is, it’s cool. I also like the fact they haven’t crammed in as many seats as possible so it remains spacious. So if anyone is thinking of going next year then I’d definitely recommend it :)

Back to the land of Tennis and Roger is in action next week in Dubai where he’s also the defending champion. I’m hoping he can perform better there than he did this week. Kyle from Lefty Advantage made a good point on Ru-ans blog that Dubai is a lot lot warmer than Rotterdam so his back is less likely to be a factor in those conditions. Sounds logical to me so hopefully that’s the case and he can end the mini title drought he’s on right now. Allez!

About Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer - I'll pretty much try and watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Fed and tennis in general.

35 comments

  1. We all know Fed doesn’t like talking about his injuries so we never really know but it seems like he definitely had back problems if Annacone said so. In the end, the loss may be a blessing in disguise as perhaps another two matches would have hurt his back more (and he would have probably lost to Delpo in the final). Murray isn’t playing in Dubai so it’s very likely he’ll play Berdych or Delpo in the semis if he makes it there. But that has always been a great tournament for him so I do see him at least making the final.

    The thing about Fed’s back is that it’s been an issue for a while now. He nearly had to retire against Lopez at Wimbledon in 2003 because of the back and as you say, I’m sure he’s been dealing with it all throughout his career. It is just something to manage and I’d say he has done pretty well at doing that over time.

  2. I’m glad you addressed the back issues since I had been hearing some of the same thing but didn’t know Paul Annacone had talked about it. Hopefully the warmer climate will help, but it’s frustrating how different tournaments always tend to put him in the evening where it’s cooler again. I mean, in Australia he only played one day match. I understand the money issue but it still doesn’t seem quite right. It was the same for the two matches I saw at Indian Wells last year. Seems he would do better in the day sessions at this point. Since part of the reason he was playing less this year was to get good practice time in I hope his back will allow him to do that. Sure won’t be much time before Dubai with his South Africa trip thrown in there too. And then I guess he will head to Indian Wells fairly quickly after that (where I will be going again this year! :)

    • Hey,

      Yeah I don’t know exactly where the Annacone thing came from so might not be 100% accurate…

      I do think the back is a likely factor though judging by how he played. Was never at the races!

      Should be fun in Indian Wells :)

  3. I didn’t watch this match. But there’s something that most people don’t know about Roger. He listens to his body. If he doesn’t feel the best, he won’t try too hard, not because he doesn’t want to try too hard, or that he isn’t committed to his loving fans, but to protect himself in the long run. He knows that titles will be won, and lost. But good health is the most important. Unlike Nadal, who either is MIA, or is WIA (Whining in Action).

    So, when you lose, give your opponent credit, because after all you did show up. And move on. I follow the same philosophy :)

  4. I agree with Kyle. That’s why I felt Roger will do better in Dubai. And in Indian Wells too.

  5. I think now that everything has settled, generally most Fed fans r ok about his loss to Benneteau. Apart from the initial reaction including myself was (WTF). But i am ok now. I like Sids discription of WIA of Nadal. Very funny especially with his recent comments at south America.
    And i wanted to ask Jonathan where did find that word Lacadaisy or whatever it is i have never heard of this. Or did u pick this word from Rotterdam?!? TBH i didnt think u was goin to do a blog on this result. But i still read it. Is the back issue for real or gossip?!? Cos i didnt see Paul Annacones interview. I defo think Fed will be ok. Not long now for the action in Dubai to start. Cheers Serajul. :) :)

    • I’m a walking talking thesaurus!

      No back problems confirmed, I haven’t seen the Annacone thing either, just a lot of people talking about it. Like I said in the post just because something spreads around doesn’t mean it’s true but I figure it could be likely based on the way he played. Sloppy serve / mediocre footwork. Could be just a bad day at the office but back could well be a factor.

      • The back was not just A factor, but THE factor in this loss to Benneteau. Just as I’m certain it was in Roger’s loss to Murray at the AO. It was already clear at the AO from his serving against Tsonga that he was in pain with his back. That meant the match ran far longer than it should have, and that of course ruled out the possibilty of his beating Murray, let alone Djoker in the final. I was relieved that at least Roger did not have to go through that.
        It’s always crystal clear from Roger’s play, especially his serving, when he is injured in some way. We don’t even need Annacone to tell us. As many people have noted, it’s happened a lot in the past and at least twice at Wimbledon in recent years, accounting for his early losses against Berdych and Tsonga (there Roger’s thigh was strapped, but even without that it was obvious he was far from physically fit). Sadly Roger’s back and other physical issues have prevented him from winning several recent majors. That, plus the methods that appear to help certain opponents recover in miraculous time, is the reason he doesn’t yet have 25 majors. If genius and hard work were the only criteria, he would have been there years ago.

  6. I forgot to add, i think Richard Kraicek owes u free tickets or money for your exellent sales pitch for Rotterdam in this post. Or a free meeting with Roger and introduction at next years tournament. Lol , thats the least Kraicek should do and for Katyani and all other people who bought tickets especially to see Roger!! Lol. About 95% of the Semi and finals were there to see Roger in action but it didnt happen. What a bummer!!!

  7. Hi Jonathan,

    Sorry for you not having seen Roger play… Now you know how I felt when in 2010 I bought tickets to the final in Estoril hoping to see him and he never got there; even worse than that was that I saw him lose to Albert Montanes… hehehe…

    Best,
    Vasco

    • Hey Vasco,

      Ah cheers, no worries man I’m over it now. Sure I’ll see him another time soon.

      Estoril, ah such a bad tournament that year!

      Least you got the one match though, even if he did stink up the joint!

      Jonathan

  8. Jonathan good to know you had a good time regardless of Federer who indeed clowned it up at the Ahoy. Oh well what can you do, move on and pick up for Dubai which is what it’s all about now!

    A lot of people have said that since the QF at the AO that Roger’s serve has been off and I guess that’s true to a certain extent except Tsonga and Murray were doing great at the returns so need to look at it in the right context. Shanghai and Basel weren’t great in terms of serving for him I thought and now Rotterdam. I don’t know, maybe he will have more of those off serving days than usual as he gets older so no worries there.

    About the whole back issue, I don’t know what to think tbh. It would make sense if it was the back because Federer looked disinterested like there was nothing he could do? I thought the shirts in Australia were just keeping the muscles warm but now that there is all this information out, was his back playing up in Oz? We’ll never know. If it was the back in Rotterdam which 98% of Federer fans believe it was, then it’s not going to take any confidence away from his Dubai and IW campaign. Dubai is a fast court with warmer weather as Kyle mentioned, he still has the matches on his racquet (except if he serves like that, he doesn’t). It looked to me that Rotterdam seemed slower this year, since you were there you would have a better understanding but that was just my opinion through my computer screen.

    I thought it was HILARIOUS when Delpo was going to serve for the match and then got a nose bleed and had the cotton up his nose while playing…Ahh classic Delpo. But I was very impressed with him this week but I still don’t believe he will play this sort of tennis when it counts at the masters and slams. Not yet anyway.

    Hopefully Roger has a good inspiring trip in South Africa and bounces back strongly with the right confidence and motivation to make a run in Dubai. If he has a good draw and doesn’t seem to have aggravated the back I don’t see why he can’t make the finals where Novak will most probably be waiting. Apparently he is going to meet Nelson Mandela whilst he is in SA, wow what a sight that would be.

    Also Nadal has pretty much already said he is not gonna play Indian Wells, not surprised what so ever. Too scared to face the big dogs yet. That’s why he pulled out of Australia. He’s making a solid comeback but still got a lot of work to do. Fed has a chance during clay season I think, just needs the confidence.

    • Hey Alysha,

      Yeah good points!

      The back is a mystery really, never going to hear much from Roger on it I don’t think. Put up and shut up is his approach to it.

      I think it’s likely though. Roger 3.0 just doesn’t play full matches like that without really looking like he gives a shit.

      Like you, Kyle and Sid all said the warmer climate will help if it is true. I guess we will find out next week if he’s in good form.

  9. Welcome back Jonathan!

    I am sorry you couldn’t get to see Roger, in fact I wanted to cry just thinking about you and all who was hoping to see him live last weekend. It happened me in Wimbledon, too. (I had a great seat in centre court 2011 and guess what, Roger played in Court No.1 for only that day during the tournament!! I had to put up with Murray and Nadull…) But really glad that you had a good time in Rotterdam at least.

    As usual, your thoughtful match analysis made me feel much better about his loss, thanks. One good news is that now Fed ranked all time longest Top 2 for 410 weeks just past Lendl’s record of 409 and soon breaking Lendl’s records and becomes 2nd best after Connors for Top 3&4 and consecutive top 5 as well! Hope his back will better soon and win the title No.77 in Dubai, too. Allez!

    Is it too soon to plan any more trip to see Roger this year?

    • Hey,

      Ah it’s no big deal. I was annoyed at the time but the dust has settled now.

      Didn’t know that statistic, another record!

      Never too soon to plan to see the GOAT, I have nothing set in stone yet but hoping to do Wimbledon.

      Jonathan

  10. Yeah, sorry man! At least Del Po won and if Fed can’t, at least I’ll root for him. Fed has been in a dry spell recently (don’t know if I should use this). He hasn’t won a title for 6 months now! He always plays his best in Dubai and should win #6! Djokovic’s there though…. he looks good and Fed’s a little off… Fed should really get that serve back! Left him in Murray match IMP. I think Fed need momentum, so he needs a title and can easily carry the momentum through Indian Wells. What’s up with Rafa? There have been rumors that he is skipping Indian Wells and Miami and sticking to the red stuff. And I’ve also hear that Roger is cutting back this year so he can play more next year… You think Roger will play Miami next year or this year if he looses early in IW for more points?

    Never Forget this moment(from my tv!) http://vimeo.com/59939462

    • Hey man,

      Yeah it’s a bit of a lean spell, Cincy is a while ago now that’s for sure.

      If Dubai is fast and he can serve well then he should be able to take most of the matches away from his opponents. Either way I’m looking forward to it. Needs to start getting some momentum like you said.

      Jonathan

  11. While I am not happy to hear Federer is having back problems, thank you for now I know the reason. He did look like he just wasn’t in to the match, couldn’t seem to get going and we know that Fed always gives 100% so … I think all of us knew something was wrong, and wondered at the back. I agree with Sid, he is taking care of his health first as it should be. I hope to in the warmer climes of Dubai this will be of help for him. Borrowing from Jonathan – ALLEZ ROGER!

  12. I went to Ahoy for the first time this year, for the opening day and Tuesday morning. Saw Roger practising with David Goffin on Court 1, so very close to the action! This was fascinating, and lasted almost as long as some of the actual matches. Roger did the official opening before the Tsonga match on Monday night, with Esther Vergeer – lots of fun. I agree with you, Jonathan, the Ahoy is a fabulous venue and I will certainly go again next year, and hope Roger shows up and is his usual peRFect self! Thanks for your articles – very enjoyable.

    • Hey June,

      Glad you had fun! I didn’t see the practice / outside courts.

      I think he will play next year, gotta capitalise on the indoor events especially after losing early this time around!

      Jonathan

  13. When RF loses, it is a back problem. Why not just giving credit to Benneteau who played an incredible tournament? RF played poorly whereas his opponent played well. End of story.

    • Nobody’s saying Benneteau didn’t play well or didn’t deserve to win. But Annacone said that Fed’s back was acting up and that certainly explains his poor serving.

    • “Roger might have got away with serving like that against a lesser player but someone like Benneteau who actually has one of the most complete games on tour, that’s not going to happen”

      Dude, I gave plenty credit to Benneteau, he may have even won had Roger served better (albeit unlikely).

      But the fact is Roger played a very poor match, and then there’s a ton of talk about his back problems so it has to be considered as a reason for as to why.

      Jonathan

    • Peter, are you a Dopal fan in sheeps clothing? :)

      Roger is 31, has an awesome one handed backhand, which, in arguably, is the worst thing for the back (the lower back more so). The weather was cool. I have no doubt in my mind Roger did have issues with his back.

      At full fitness, there is no way he would lose to Benneteau.

      I agree with Jonathan that Benneteau is one of the few all court players left in the game. And we know who the greatest all courter is :)

      • Did RF have lower back problems as well when he lost to Benneteau in Bercy in 09? Otherwise he would not have lost against him, eh? I don’t like when RF or Rafa blame their injuries when they lose and omit talking about them when they win. It is disrespectful towards their opponents.

      • [Did RF have lower back problems as well when he lost to Benneteau in Bercy in 09?]
        No, the end of 2009 was not kind to Roger. He lost to Benneteau, Del Po, and Davydenko, all fast indoor courts. The fatigue from a massive campaign, four slam finals, and two wins (two very tough losses), and regaining No.1. Notice all that or you’re just making random statements?

        [ I don’t like when RF or Rafa blame their injuries when they lose]
        Federer does it once in a while. No other player in the world goes so deep in tournaments as Federer. Nadal does it after every single loss. He does it before virtually every tournament. There’s a huge difference.

        You want to give credit to Benneteau? Here, follow this link: http://tennis.wettpoint.com/en/h2h/14620-21839.html

        You will see 2 wins for Benneteau and 4 for Roger. Credit given, eh? ;)

  14. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/22/us-tennis-federer-interview-idUSBRE91L03D20130222

    i think this is very interesting. Some twitter people have said maybe it’s the lack of family around him that affects his emotional side, and now Roger mentioned it himself:

    REUTERS: Your twin daughters are almost four years old now. Does having a family make you better or slow you down?

    FEDERER: I thought it would maybe slow me down a bit just because everybody says so. I’m happy that again I was able to prove that its possible to have a family and play well. Not only do I have a family but I have twin girls, so it was super intense in the first years, it’s still very intense now. But I made it work. I have an incredible wife who is so supportive and is willing to travel.

    At (the) Rotterdam (tournament last week) I was by myself, and I didn’t feel the same. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I didn’t play well, who knows? I miss them much.

    I’m happy that I’m able to combine both at the same time. Nine, 10 years ago I never thought of me being a dad, playing tennis, winning the big titles.

    In the dream or vision, you always see yourself with the trophy, but you never see yourself with the trophy looking at your kids like what happened at Wimbledon last year. I’m happy I had the opportunity to live through that, those memories will be with me for a lifetime.

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