3rd French Loss in a row
November 13, 2011 | 11:58 AM
The crowd would like to see have seen a 3rd set with another flawless must-win, 2nd set tie-breaker performance from Jo Tsonga, but they had to settle for one of Federer's flawless breakers (7-2). It was far from the first time Paris has crowned a foreign king, but after 4 Frenchman in a row have played for the crown, none has won since Jo in '08.
TSONGA's year can't be summed up yet as he goes to London to play for the Masters final over Thanksgiving, but by reaching 5 finals he's already had his most prolific year to date. He won 2 of 4 indoor finals, and lost the Queen's final outdoors on grass. The fact that he's now won 7 of 11 finals (with 2 of his 4 losses to Federer) is one illustration of his toughness in pressure situations. More evidence to describe Jo as a competitor is found in his won-loss record in deciding sets: 53 of 79 (67%). Moreover, he's come back to win 12 of 28 times he's lost the opening set this year.
Not surprisingly, all of his titles have been won on hard courts (5 of 7 have been indoors), and he's never reached the final in a clay event. In that statistic, he's not much more extreme than the other top 50 players from France. It's ironic that the nation which hosts the only clay major does not create players who perform well on clay relative to their records on other surfaces.
Compare the top 50 French players' title results on clay vs. indoors (and for contrast's sake, look at the record of Spain's top 50, with and without Nadal):
INDOOR TITLES WON CLAY TITLES WON CLAY FINALS REACHED
(of Total Titles Won) (of Total Titles Won) (of Total Finals Lost)
France Spain France Spain France Spain
14/31 7/101 7/31 77/104 8/29 37/63
% Won 45% 7% 23% 74% 28% 59%
Spain 6/55 44/58 37/63
Spain % 11% 76% 59%
Moving on from the obvious, today's FINAL was what could be called a MODERN FEDERER MASTERPIECE.
What does this mean?
Looking at what Federer did NOT do in winning this final 6-3, 7-6, that he would certainly have done in his prime,
- resort to aces on pressure points (he served only 4, and none occurred in the tie-breaker on his4 break point saves
- display defensive brilliance from behind the baseline (at 30, he is no longer one of the top scramblers; though he still makes gets that an improved big man like Isner or Soderling or even Del Potro would not, he does this more through anticipation and his racquet work gifts than with his legs and his heart - the latter is not telling him to run harder, a la Rafa)
- fight for every point, or even every return of serve (in the 2nd set, he looked at times like Isner had against mahut on Day 3, half-heartedly putting his racquet on Tsonga's bullets)
- display his artistry is almost every shot (he tried few drops or angles, and never made Jo work on an overhead)
What he DID do was:
- display discipline in sticking to his game plan throughout, and self control in his shot-making
- play within himself on BIG points, and resist showing bravado which has entertained viewers in the past but sometimes seemed to distract him and frustrate his opponents
- allow and sometimes even tempt his opponent to go for too much on BIG points, letting his opponent frustrate himself
How does this game plan work for him?
- it's won him a lot of matches and gotten him deep in almost every event he's played this year (he's avoided the embarrassing early losses he started to accumulate in '08 and '09)
- it has positioned him to fight for the #3 ranking in London (he trails Murray, who's suffering a niggling hamstring injury, and can pass him with a win at the O2, depending on how fare Murray goes there)
- it keep him relatively healthy on the tour at age 30, no mean feat given the wear of the tour on a champion
- it earns him a lot of money and keeps him in view for his lucrative sponsor arrangements worldwide
What it won't do for him:
- it will not make him #1 again, or even allow him to pile up multiple titles
This approach has NOT always worked for him and is probably responsible for his loss Tsonga at Wimbledon as well as other losses to players who rose to the occasion and overcame their frustrations, and has landed him squarely beneath the top 2 players. He will not challenge past greats for records such as Most Titles Won, Most Matches Won. etc. He should not, and does not care.
So, what exactly is The GAME PLAN? It is simple:
1. Get a high percentage of 1st serves in play, varying the pace, and using 'body' placements rather than going for lines.
Tsonga had a lot of difficulty with Fed's body serves today, which set up the wide serve to Jo's BH, as well; other Big Men have as much difficulty with this, including Berdych, Soderling and Del Potro. Had Fed used the body serve more in the '09 Open final v Delpo, the result might have been different.
2. Attack 2nd serves at strategic opportunities to take control of points and keep pressure on the server.
This also worked well today.
3. Hurry you opponent with your forehand at their body until an open court invites a high percentage winner.
Fed's percentages on winners vs. errors today was excellent (20 v. 15), while Jo felt pressure to go for too much in order to come back (28 v. 27).
4. Use your backhand topspin and slice to vary the pace and draw your opponent forward and back.
5. Come forward only to make easy finishes with swinging forehand volleys and knifed backhand drops and angles.
We are not seeing evidence that his coach Paul Annacone (the noted serve-and-volleyer) is encouraging Roger to try that tactic as much as before.
That's how the match was won. For the dramatic highlights and other statistics, go to a brief account from the ATP site and the tennis.com site.
ATP 2011, Paris 1000