Tennis Prose



Is Federer at Perfection?


By Scoop Malinowski

Roger Federer hasn’t lost a set at this Australian Open. He’s practically breezed through the draw at age 36, exhibiting a form that may be the very best we’ve ever seen from this most extraordinary champion.

Everything is working in the Federer arsenal, to the point that the master himself said after defeating Hyeon Chung in the semifinal that his game is operating at the maximum, optimum level right now and there’s no need to improve anything in the final against Marin Cilic, whom Federer defeated comfortably in the Wimbledon final in 2017.

In his press conference after the Chung match, Federer was asked: Is there any part of your game you will have to improve against Cilic?

“No, I just have to play a good match. At this point it’s not about having to improve anything in particular. I think I’ve done everything pretty well. I just hope I’m going to have a good start to the match. I hope I can mix up my game. I hope I can start serving well from the get-go, not get into too much trouble early. I hope I can read his serve and all these things.”

“I’m just pleased that actually my game has been good from the very beginning of the tournament so far. I mean, I’ve won all my matches without dropping a set. Clearly I was a bit lucky against Berdych in that first set. But things must be all right if I’m in this stage right now not having dropped a set and in the finals.”

Did you catch that? Federer feels so perfect right now he actually says he does not need to improve anything. Does that sound like complacence? Or colossal confidence bordering on overconfidence?

If Federer manages to run through Cilic again in straight sets his aura of invincibility and his legendary status will be at an all time high point.

Unofficially he will be the best player in the world though he is still slightly behind Nadal in the ATP ranking points total. It will be curious to see if Federer will accept a wildcard into Rotterdamn or Dubai or Acapulco to try to regain the ATP No. 1 ranking and set a new ATP record of being the oldest man to hold the top ranking.

At 36, Roger Federer may have never been closer to peRFection as he is right now.

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  • Duke Carnoustie · January 26, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    The answer to this question is yes.

    Scoop I have your back against this Thompson character. I know what you are saying and see it the same way.

    Fritz vs. Opelka in Newport tomorrow in a major showdown. Fritz dominated his rematch vs. Rubin.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 27, 2018 at 2:05 am

    Sandgren is out of Dallas and Quito challengers.

  • catherine · January 27, 2018 at 6:27 am

    Well, my prediction was right but I wish I had been wrong.

    Great effort from Simona who must have been pretty exhausted.

    She’s got Paris to look forward to.

  • catherine · January 27, 2018 at 6:30 am

    Simona apparently spent more time on court this year than any woman in the history of the tournament. She should get a prize for that 🙂

  • catherine · January 27, 2018 at 6:33 am

    Plus the heat – both players affected.

  • Hartt · January 27, 2018 at 6:53 am

    Another riveting match. Great fight by both women. I was hoping for a Simona win, but kudos to Caro for getting back to the top after some disappointing years.

    Yes, Simona still has Paris to look forward to. But she really does need to win that one, she may not have many other chances.

  • catherine · January 27, 2018 at 7:37 am

    Hartt – well, Simona’s only 26 and Angie didn’t win her GSs until she was 28 so there’s hope for her yet !

  • Hartt · January 27, 2018 at 8:33 am

    For sure there is hope for Simona. And several players, such as Clijsters, Lendl and Murray, lost several Slam finals before winning one. But Serena will be back soon, and there are several players, Like Muguruza and Kerber, who are capable of winning Slams. So it does not get any easier.

  • catherine · January 27, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Don’t know – there have been several players who didn’t step up at this year’s AO – I might have a look at those later.
    And of course Serena is an unknown quantity.

    Angie could win another GS – I’d like it to be W’don because she plays well on grass and has already been runner-up. But my guess is she’ll have a decent year with regular good showings in tournaments but no replay of 2016.

  • catherine · January 27, 2018 at 10:27 am

    I watched Simona’s press conference and was impressed. she was articulate and dispassionate about why she didn’t win and what she felt were her strengths and weaknesses. Her English has improved a lot – a sideffect of having an English speaking coach no doubt – it’s very much better than Kerber’s and Simona seems more capable of analysis. Angie basically has only one thing to say in English- ‘I left everything on the court’. She may say more in German or on the other hand she may be a German version of Gabriela Sabatini – inhibited in both languages.

    Overall, Simona struck me as having matured mentally in the last year or so, physically as well – she’s grown into her face.

    Now let’s see who signs her up 🙂

  • Michael in UK · January 27, 2018 at 10:36 am

    That was a hugely exciting women’s final, so many dramatic moments and turnarounds thanks to the genius of the tennis scoring system. Fantastic shot making from both players I thought. I hope Simona can win a slam this year.

  • Michael in UK · January 27, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Also just seen Sebastian Korda won the boys’ final. Highlights video on the AO site.

    Unfortunately for tomorrow and the men’s final, it looks like the Melbourne heat and humidity cycle is reaching its peak. Forecast is around 35° even at 8 PM. It looks like ability to tolerate extreme heat may be a be decisive factor.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 27, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Real good tournament for the women just not American wonen. Interesting Caro finally won a slam after she finally got engaged—to David Lee I’d basketball game—but great semis and finals apparently—i’m In the wilds if Costa Rica not catching any of this—with Caro, Halep and Kerber all playing well. Men semis in comparison were totally uncompetitive and I don’t see Cilic giving Fed much o a run for his 20 th slam.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 27, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks brother Duke.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 27, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    Sandgren out of Dallas and Quito? He’s a star now. He is the unofficial top American male player right now.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 27, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    Simona showed frustration and aggravation throughout the match, at the end of the first set and in the third set. Something was annoying her. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was how focused and how well Caro was playing. She did not seem to be really enjoying the moment. Caro’s focus was machine like. Caro was a little better but that knee injury timeout at 3-4 down in the third was suspect. She won every game after that inj TO.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 27, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    I have to say I really feel for Simona. Hopefully the fans will take to her and will her to her first GS title. She has paid her dues. She has suffered enough. She has proven she is deserving and worthy of being a major champion. She should have two majors and it’s a frustrating shame that she is still at goose egg. Can’t think of another player that I so emphatically want to see win their first major. Nobody deserves it more than Simona. She is an uncrowned GS major champion.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 27, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Michael in UK; How impressive was Korda? He looked like a top 100 pro out there. at 17. Johan Kriek says he will be top ten in the world. Tremendous cool, poise, and a heavyweight game. Best looking junior GS winner I’ve seen in years. American tennis is looking fierce. Korda did not go the USTA route, his dad Petr is big influence. His dad Petr made Stepanek’s career, from journeyman doubles player into Davis Cup legend.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 27, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Sebastian Korda Biofile coming next week…stay tuned.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 28, 2018 at 12:37 am

    Scoop I deleted my Twitter long ago due to the attacks from you can guess who but I am glad to see you have kept yours going. Stay with it; I see you are fighting the good fight on social media for us.

    Simona really deserves a title. I hope it will happen and believe it will happen.

    Taylor Fritz and Klahn for all the marbles in Newport. They could also meet in round 2 in Dallas.

    Nishikori draws Nevolo once again in big D! Some other great 1st-rounders – Tiafoe v. Kozlov with the winner facing the winner of Mac Mac v. Ito. Another blockbuster is Kwiatkowski v. Opelka.

    Also have to mention that Kiki Mladenovic won doubles with Babaos over Vesnina/Makarov. I have to admire her success there while completely flaming out in this debacle of a singles losing streak.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 28, 2018 at 12:41 am

    Here’s a nice Caro interview with Mats Wilander and the gorgeous Barbara Schett…

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 1:28 am

    Scoop – I think Simona just reached the end of her physical endurance. She’d run miles and miles during the fortnight. She did say as much in her interview – she just hurt all over. She’s not enormously robust, has a slight figure.

    IMO Angie would have lost to Caro.

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 2:07 am

    Duke – I’m afraid romance has entered Kiki’s life and tennis has flown out of the window 🙂

  • Hartt · January 28, 2018 at 3:34 am

    A doubles player to keep an eye on – Mate Pavic of Croatia. He has won everything – the men’s doubles (with Marach) and the mixed doubles (with Dabrowski) at the AO, after winning two other tourneys already in 2018. Pavic is just 24, a mere baby for a doubles player.

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 4:45 am

    Glad to see he’s playing mixed – maybe we’ll see him in Hopman Cup sometime – so many wómen all over the world eligible to play for Croatia 🙂

  • Hartt · January 28, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Well, that AO final was more than enough excitement! I did a match call on another site to try to keep my nerves in check, but that fifth set was almost too much. So many ups and downs throughout the match for a Fed fan. I wasn’t taken in by that poor first set by Cilic; I knew that once he got his nerves under control he would raise his level dramatically.

    Roger gave a terrific speech, acknowledging the Australian people and also the past tennis greats who were there. He nearly got through it before the tears came. I was OK until they showed Robbie in tears and then I started to cry too. It means so much after all those lean years when Fed fans kept hoping against hope, and had their hearts broken more than once.

    I said that now that Roger has won No. 20 I will never ask anything more from him. I will try to keep that pledge. But this huge win warrants double treats! 🙂

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Hartt what are you going to do when Roger retires ?
    No more treats.

    Maybe I’ve got a heart of stone but I can’t remember acrually crying over a player – especially when they’ve won 🙂

    I thought Fed got a bit tetchy in that match – perhaps it was the pressure and the occasion – not like him. Never really doubted he’d win.

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Saw Simona had to go to hospital to be re-hydrated. Not surprised. She really was at the end of her tether.

  • Hartt · January 28, 2018 at 9:48 am

    Catherine, remember I cried over Novotna, although my crying over tennis is pretty rare. This match was just so stressful. Also, Fed is the one player where I know quite a lot about his family, after reading (and re-reading) 2 bios about him. So I was touched by his father crying, more than Fed winning the match. In fact, Robbie is one of the few people related to tennis that I would like to meet.

    I did doubt whether he would win, so you did well not to doubt. As far as Fed retiring, I am getting more and more convinced Roger will be like Ken Rosewall and play until he is in his 40s!

    But in all honesty, now that Fed has won No. 20, I am fine with whatever happens in his career. In fact, I am more than ready for the younger players to start winning big tourneys, even if that means Roger losing them.

    As far as treats go, there are several players who are treats-eligible. Some, like Kohli, rarely win, but I have a soft spot for them. (Andy is another – I hope he can resume his career OK). And I have a few youngsters – Shapo, Felix and Bianca, so future treats are assured! 🙂

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Hartt – I did cry about Jana because she had died and I still feel sad when I think of her. Novotna had a sort of sweetness and integrity, added to all her talent as a player, and I think that’s why so many people reacted the way they did to her comparitively early death. You had a real sense of a life cut short. I may not have been listening, but I never heard anyone say anything bad about Jana and I never heard any gossip – not the kind you hear these days.

    I can watch her matches on video and not feel any emotion now. Just appreciate her play and regret that style is gone because I liked it so much.

    I admire Roger, but he doesn’t make me emotional. He’s too good. Maybe if Kerber won W’don I might feel a bit sentimental because it’s what she really wants and she’s worked so hard and had so many difficult times. Something like that. Those kind of players get to me. Not so much the Serenas.

    Roger will go on I’m sure, his tennis is so economical and saving of stress on his body. So stock up on the chocolate 🙂

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 10:34 am

    I see I’ve contradicted myself – I mean I can watch videos of Jana play and I don’t feel sad then – I just see the match.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 28, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Watched the fifth set and utter domination by Federer. I believe he has at least four more Slams in him. There is little doubt he will defend his Indian Wells and Miami titles. Then he should skip all the clay-court events again; it’s a winning formula and why change?

    Cilic is the Andy Roddick of this generation minus the American hype.

  • Hartt · January 28, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Catherine, from what you and others have said, Novotna must have been an amazing woman – she obviously touched many people. I was moved by what people wrote about her, and also remembering those Wimbys, both the losses and the victory, so many years ago.

    I have never figured out why some players appeal to me, both for their tennis and their personalities, and others don’t. Usually I am taken with someone the first time I see them play. That was true of Kvitova when she won the Rogers Cup, and of course her recent story is very compelling. The same thing was true of Kohli. I saw him in a televised USO match, had never heard of him, and immediately wondered – who IS this guy, and have been a fan ever since, although he has not been a top player.

    Although I am a Shapo fan, it was Felix who caught my imagination first, and I can’t wait for him to be a regular on the main tour, so it is easier to see his matches. Heaven help me when Denis and Felix play each other, but I will probably root for Felix. There is just something very appealing about that kid.

    Roger, despite his near-perfection, has something about him that I don’t find with other top players. like Rafa and Novak, although I admire their skill.

    I can enjoy a well-played match between 2 players that I don’t pay a lot of attention to, but must admit that when I feel heavily invested with a player, I pay much closer attention and enjoy the match even more.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 28, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Looks like I was right about Tomas Berdych. Roger said he thought Birdman would beat him.

    Q. Why do you think you were so nervous going into this match? From the outside looking in, you’d think last year would probably be more nerve-wracking.
    ROGER FEDERER: You can’t explain it sometimes. It is just a feeling you get. It’s like against Berdych, I felt, like, I’m probably going to lose this one. I was not negative, but I just felt like I saw a loss was coming somehow. Not because I was not feel good or anything, I just felt like maybe Berdych is really feeling it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 28, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    Hartt. I saw Mate Pavic in Newport about three years ago when he was a nobody, he was playing with another unknown. I do remember he caught my eye because he looked good out there, just kind of silently stood out. Now he’s among the best doubles players in the world, maybe the best right now.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 28, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Two views on RF today. He’s the greatest champion in the history of sport. But part of me also would like to see him retire and let the young guys have a chance. Greed is not good. But then I think back to what a great champion he is for everyone, and his inspiration and examples are important in this upside down world.

  • Hartt · January 28, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    I watched Pavic’s doubles match – was interested in seeing him because he was playing mixed doubles with Dabbrowski. I was very impressed with him as well as with his partner, Marach. Even though he probably celebrated after the doubles win, he played very well in the mixed doubles. He carried the team, although Gaby did make a great return winner for championship point.

    He was very impressive in both matches. The commies said he could do well in singles as well, but it looks like he plans on specializing in doubles. If he and Marach remain together they could have some excellent results, to go with the 3 titles they have already won together this season.

  • Hartt · January 28, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Until the last year it wasn’t Fed who was standing in the way of the young players, but Novak, Andy and on clay, Rafa. With those players dealing with injuries, Fed may be the big stumbling block for the young guys now. But he is playing a limited schedule and is also impaired by back problems from time to time.

    So it is time for the youngsters to step up. Not necessarily the really young ones like Denis, but the guys like Kyrgios and Thiem, along with Sascha, (who is still very young). And certainly Dimitrov, at 26 years old, should be winning big tourneys. He did pretty well last season, but he needs to at least get to a Slam final this year.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 28, 2018 at 1:49 pm


    When you say Opelka v Mac Mac is a big match you e really got.challebger fever. Even though the Americans did not do well in AO and Tiafoe and the Koz particularly look as if they’ve slipped: Sandgren, MAC Mac and Kudla definitely upped their status’. Funny, in Costa Rica this morning the only tennis on the tv was a mt h between a Columbian woman a young American who’s last name is Ma. It was a packed stadium court and it must’ve been somewhere really hot because Ma looked plucked and when the Columbian won she acted lime she’d just won the AO.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 28, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Opelka is not facing Mac Mac – yet.

    The Challengers have more intrigue because Fed is treating the majors like his personal playground. I don’t think he should retire to give others a chance necessarily but it makes the others in the sport look pedestrian the way he brushes them away. He is wiping away generations of players. I can’t imagine kids growing up want to be like him as old as he is.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 28, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Even though Djokovic is on the decline now, we would be remiss in nott remembering how his greatness between 2011-16 kept Fed away from even more major titles. Djoker was the one player outside of Nadal to stand up to Fed and make the legend doubt himself. That put’s Novak’s 12 titles in a different light because he beat Fed so many times in his amazing run.

    These two have not met now that Fed is back on top and Novak is in the dumps. I think Fed may still fear him and this could be the match Novak needs to get back on track. The problem is Novak has been beaten up the Next Gen unlike Fed so he knows the younger players have no fear of him.

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    Going back to the earlier thread about Simona’s clothing contract – apparently at the AO the dress she was wearing was one she chose online and had made up by a Chinese dressmaker, presumably when she was in China earlier this year.

    I liked the simplicity of her dress, it suited her, better than the blue and green fashion disaster which adidas produced. I’ll be interested to see how this story turns out.

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Duke – I don’t think anyone in the history of sport has ever had the altruism to retire just so others could have a chance.

  • Hartt · January 28, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Catherine, I liked Simona’s outfit as well. It was simple but the colour gave it some pizzazz. Sometimes I feel sorry for the players because of what their sponsors stick them with.

    The bad news for Simona is she has plantar fascitis on one foot to go with the ankle injury (on the other foot, I think).

    She is scheduled to play Fed Cup in a couple weeks. (In Romania against Canada)

  • Hartt · January 28, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Speaking of Challengers, Pospisil just won the Challenger in Rennes, France, over Berankis (6-1, 6-2). This was an important win for Vasek. He has jumped 20 spots to No. 85 in the rankings. Hopefully he will be able to play IW, Miami and RG without going through qualies.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 28, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    Dan, Sandgren shows how important Challengers are. Last year he turned his career around by winning two Challengers. Which vaulted him to suddenly out of the blue explode all the way to a Slam QF. There is no saying which player will turn his career around in Dallas. And you better believe everyone in Dallas is aspiring to be the next Tennys Sandgren.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 28, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Duke, good point, Federer’s revival may be largely based on Djokovic’s rapid collapse. Unless Papa Tiempo can slow down Fed, Djokovic may be the only candidate capable of slaying the Fedragon. Rafa has shown he’s not up to the task.

  • catherine · January 28, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    That’s bad news for Simona. A friend of mine has plantar fascitas and has to wear a special support. The ankle injury should heal up but the Pl can be a long job or even permanent. Hoping for the best.

    There’s no way she should be playing Fed Cup – a long lay off is the only cure.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 28, 2018 at 8:05 pm


    True, all the Challenger players want to follow Sandgren’s path, but the grim reality is few ever will. Jeff Salzensteiin basically played his whole career on the Challenger circuit and he won many of them. It’s very rare when a player can springboard onto the ATP tour and never go back to the Challengers. That’s basically what Spadea did when he made his comeback. But he was traumatized by the Challenger circuit. I remember once being with him at Evert’s when Reynolds and Delic were practicing with other Challenger players and said “Vince, you want to go over and talk with those guys” and he said “No way.” He didn’t want to get close to those guys. It’s like they had the plague and Vince didn’t want to catch it.

  • catherine · January 29, 2018 at 2:36 am

    Just a comment here on women who failed to step up at the AO –

    It’s early in the year but we should expect more from : Muguruza, Svitolina, Konta, Pliskova, CóCo (?) Keys (especially poor showing) and Sloane S, who really should take a long hard look at herself and her committment to the game.
    Ostapenko seems stuck in a groove somewhere.

    Caroline Garcia and Julia G disappointed but Julia is just continuing her GS jinx and Caroline probably needs a new coach,not her father. She showed at the end of last year what a good player she can be.

    BTW – Cornet is currently playing in St Petersburg so obviously no penalties for missed drug tests, at least so far.

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