Roger Federer nearly pulled off his grass-court aggression on the clay, against Dominic Thiem.

Roger Federer was ousted 3-6, 6-7(11), 4-6 in the Madrid Masters. Dominic Thiem played a terrific tie-breaker in the second, and a quality third set to send Federer out in the quarters.


Roger Federer came pretty close to successfully pulling off grass-court play on the clay.

We were expecting a straight set, albeit respectable, loss for Roger Federer against Dominic Thiem in the quarters of Madrid Masters. Just how talented is Roger Federer? He held two match points against Thiem and, like Monfils the day before, couldn’t capitalize on either. Even then, Roger Federer came pretty darn close to successfully pulling off grass-court play – against a clay court expert – on the clay!


Roger Federer

Roger allowed Thiem to settle into the match.

Towards the of the second set, Roger became too comfortable at the baseline and allowed Thiem the rhythm he requires to grind and muscle his way through the match. Federer tried to get back to the charge the net tactics after going down a break in the third, but – by then – it was too late and little as Thiem had fully settled in and was anticipating Roger’s game quite well by then.


Federer should have stuck to approaching the net as much and as soon as possible.

Roger should not be fooled by the stats which revealed five of the eight exchanges, with nine or more shots, in Roger’s favor. He won more of the longer points, by not allowing Thiem the rhythm in the first set. Thiem has a long back-swing on his ground shots and, Federer, therefore, by taking the ball early and rushing the net, didn’t allow Thiem the time to execute his ground shots properly. Once Thiem gained the rhythm, he was devastating from both wings and Federer, doubting his tactics, backed off just a little and only for a while to give Thiem the confidence to turn the match upside-down for Roger.


Roger Federer

Federer won over sixty-six percent of the net point.

Take for example the break-of-serve that Federer suffered in the third. After losing three points from the baseline and going down 0-40, Roger switched to rushing the net again and brought the score up to 30-40, but an outstanding passing shot from Thiem broke Roger on the next point. In that game, Federer won 2 of his 3 or 66% charges to the net, which, not too surprisingly, matched the overall percentage of the net-points he won in the match. Federer won – 23 of 35 – 66% of the net points against Thiem in the quarterfinal and, 26 of 35, 74% against Gael Monfils in the pre-quarters, and those stats should compel Roger to use net-rushing as a strategy rather than a tactic. Roger needs to make the winning play more often. He must hard-code a net-rushers mindset and, perhaps, flatten his shots a little more to exert even more pressure on his opponents.


Roger Federer is in a good place on the clay.

For his first clay-court event in three years, even Roger Federer was satisfied with where he is on the clay. “I feel very good about my game,” said Roger in his post-match interview. “I thought I had some good matches here, especially the last two, first one was good to get into it. Obviously, Gael and Dominic are tough on the clay, so it was a good battle. I feel good on the clay right now.”


Dominic Thiem

Is Dominic Thiem ready to win the French Open?

Dominic Thiem has beaten Rafael Nadal, Fabio Fognini, and Roger Federer on the clay within the last three weeks. What’s more, he has beaten all three with his typical clay court game and the big back-swing which, to his benefit, is far easier to execute on the clay than on the super-fast indoor surface. We believe he is ready but needs more confidence which he can gain by beating Novak Djokovic in the semi-final in Madrid. He has a reasonable shot of taking Djokovic out if he can bring the same, or better, level of play and intensity on Saturday.


So where does Federer go from here?

Federer is yet to confirm his participation in Rome and will do so within a few days.

We were against Federer playing on the clay, but his short three-match stint at the Madrid Masters opened our eyes and minds to the possibilities of the existence of a new dimension to playing on the clay and slow hard courts. After watching Federer in Madrid the obvious question, to us, was – can the boundaries be blurred between the clay and grass? We believe it can if you have the natural talent of Roger Federer; and, that answer leads to the final acceptance of the fact that it really cannot because not many in the top 100 have the talent to pull off an aggressive all-court game on the grass, let alone clay.

Conclusion: Enjoy Roger Federer‘s tennis for as long as you can.

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