What Next for Federer? 2017 in Review, and a look ahead

Discussion in 'Pro Tennis (Mens)' started by El Dude, Jul 16, 2017 at 5:20 PM.

  1. El Dude

    El Dude Grand Slam Champion

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    Let's go back in time a bit. It is September 2015 and Roger Federer just lost his second Slam final to Novak Djokovic in a row at the US Open, and third in two years. Roger was still playing great tennis at age 34, but there was a sense that he had maxed out on his latter-career level and would never breakthrough the peaking Djokovic or win another Slam. When an injury-plagued 2016 ended with him coming up empty, there was a sense that the end was near and his greedy fans would be stuck on #17.

    Now it is July 16, 2017, and Roger Federer won not only #18, but #19 as well. Don't you remember "Dreams of 18?" All of sudden now, with Roger playing his next Slam as a 36-year old, it is Dreams of 20. It is almost like he's making up for missed opportunities, filling in the gaps of a very good last five years, but with a resume that doesn't come close to his early greatness. Roger seems bent on rectifying that.

    Statistical Interlude 1: Roger just won his 321st Grand Slam match, which is more than 80 more than anyone else, with Djokovic 2nd among Open Era players; but check this out: Roger now has more GS match wins than Borg plus any one of Becker, Edberg, Wilander, or McEnroe.

    Even more amazing is the fact that Roger has a 31-2 record this year, winning 94% of his matches - his best win% since 2006, his best year. 2017 is, as of this moment, quite easily his best year since 2009, and probably since 2007. In 2009 he won two Slams and two Masters, while this year he's already won an ATP 500 more than that, but of course 2009 saw him win his one and only French. But I think his AO performance this year more than makes up for it, and will go down as his greatest victory ever: beating his younger resurgent nemesis at the age of 35 after six months off.

    Oh yeah, and Roger's two losses? #116 Evgeny Donskoy and #302 Tommy Haas. He's 9-0 against top ten opponents, including three wins over Nadal, two over Wawrinka, and one each over Berdych (and a second win when he wasn't in the top 10), Nishikori, Raonic, and Cilic.

    Statistical Interlude 2: With 19 Slam titles, Federer now has as many Slam titles as McEnroe, Edberg, and Becker combined. Think about that for a moment. Here's another: Pete Sampras was born in August of 1971, Federer in August of 1981. There are thirteen Slam winners born between the two of them--Ivanisevic, Krajicek, Chang, Rafter, Kafelnikov, Johansson, Costa, Moya, Kuerten, Gaudio, Safin, Ferrero, and Hewitt. Roger now has as many Slam titles as all thirteen Slam winners born between Sampras and himself.
    Which brings me to the question: What next for Roger Federer? First, the short term: Clearly his next first priority is the US Open, and then the World Tour Finals, with four possible Masters and Basel scattered in-between. Barring any setbacks, the minimum tournaments he'll play are probably Cincinnati, the US Open, Basel, and the World Tour Finals. But I think we can assume that he'll also play one or two more Masters. Here are the starting dates of the relevant tournaments, with the "definites" in bold:

    August 7: Canada Masters
    August 14: Cincinnati Masters
    August 28: US Open

    October 9: Shanghai Masters
    October 23: Basel ATP 500
    October 30: Paris Masters
    November 13: ATP World Tour Finals
    What seems likely based upon rest is that he adds in Shanghai, and maybe Paris depending upon how he feels. It is also possible he plays Canada, given that he's got three weeks of rest beforehand. Bu that Canada-Cincinnati-US Open run is a lot of tennis four weeks, and we know Roger doesn't want to reduce his chances at #20. Regardless, 1-2 more Masters seems likely, which would bring his total ATP tournaments played this year to 12-13, quite a reduced schedule by the standards of a top player. Even if he plays all of the above, he ends with 14--his lowest non-injured total since 1999, when he was just coming up.

    But here's the thing. With his win at Wimbledon, Roger has narrowed the gap in the Race rankings. Here are the top five:
    1. 7095 Nadal
    2. 6545 Federer
    3. 3345 Thiem
    4. 3150 Wawrinka
    5. 2905 Cilic
    6. 2710 Zverev
    7. 2585 Djokovic
    8. 2290 Murray​

    As you can see, Roger is only 550 points behind Nadal, entering a stretch in which Roger has traditionally done well, and Rafa usually fades. Couple that with the fact that Roger has only played 33 matches this year, while Nadal has played 53 -- that's 20 more!

    With everyone else more than 3,000 points behind, someone would have to win the US Open and Rafa and Roger go out relatively early and win multiple big titles and Rafa and Roger not win any. So chances are, it is almost certainly going to be one of Fedal as the year-end #1 in 2017, and with that 550 point deferential and the weight of history, Roger is now probably the favorite to do so (Rafa will almost certainly be #1 before that, however; he has very few points to defend going forward, while Andy has a ton; if Andy is injured and needs surgery and doesn't play for the next couple months, Rafa will be #1 after Cincinnati, even if he doesn't win a single point...of course if Roger plays and does well in Canada and Cincy, he's in the mix for #1 after Cincy)

    Statistical Interlude 3: If Roger Federer becomes #1 this year, it will be at 36 years old, after August 8. The oldest player in the ATP Era of 1973 to the present to be #1 was Andre Agassi in 2003, at age 33. The oldest player to be YE #1 was Agassi at 29 in 1999 and Murray at 29 in 2016. That said, Ken Rosewall was considered #1, or would have been #1 as late as parts of 1972, when he was 37 years old for most of the year.

    In a recent early Wimbledon interview, Roger said something to the effect that there's nothing like being #1. I think that implies that he does want to return to #1, and why not? With #18 and #19 in the bag and a real shot at #20, why not flesh out his schedule to go for #1? Again, I think he only really needs to add at least one Masters--probably Shanghai--to give himself the edge; a second Masters (either Canada or Paris) would increase his edge.

    2018 and Beyond
    Who knows. 2017 has been the Year of Fedal's Revival. They have won all three Slams between them, and four of five Masters. Given their improbable resurgence, I have no idea what to expect going forward. This could be a last gasp to cement their greatness, or it could be the first year of a several-year Indian Summer. All I know is that I'll miss them both when they're gone (but especially Roger ;)).
     
    MartyB, mrzz, Moxie and 1 other person like this.
  2. Moxie

    Moxie Multiple Major Winner

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    I was looking at the points on the week-to-week rankings. If we take Murray and Djokovic at their words and they are shutting down at least for a while, (the notion that they are both doubtful for the US Open seems to be what they're putting out there. Nadal is 315 points behind Murray, Federer 1205 behind #1, and 910 behind Nadal. (This from the live rankings.) If both Federer and Nadal play Canada, Rafa can regain #1 by getting to the SF or better. If Rafa skips or doesn't win 2 matches, and Roger wins the Rogers Cup, he returns to #1.
     
  3. mrzz

    mrzz Multiple Major Winner

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    Congrats, @El Dude , very well written post. Here´s my take: If Federer gets to #1 again, specially YE #1 (which in fact is his best shot), from next year on I guess he will focus solely on majors (and YEC), playing other tourneys, even the masters, basically as tune ups. And this way he´ll be as dangerous as hell.
     
  4. Moxie

    Moxie Multiple Major Winner

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    As opposed to now??
     
  5. mrzz

    mrzz Multiple Major Winner

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    ^This year he had weak competition.
     
  6. Moxie

    Moxie Multiple Major Winner

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    I was going to laugh at that as a good joke, but there is a soupçon of truth in it. Djokovic and Murray turned out to be duds.
     
  7. MartyB

    MartyB Club Member

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    For some reason there are certain tournaments that are almost a jinx for some of the elite players that they don't well or do extremely well in. Fed in Canada never a great one. Cincinnati yes indeed. So I expect he passes on Canada. If Murray & Djokovic shut down down then the US Open becomes a far different tournament for Fed/Nadal. Fed maybe ranked #3 but he is the best player of the year and I expect him to win the US Open. It won't be as easy as Wimbledon but he will get it done. Draws don't seem to matter as much as they used to these days..LoL
     
  8. Busted

    Busted Pro Tour Champion

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    Federer said at the Wimbledon post-match press conference that he'd play Cinci but the team would discuss Toronto\Montreal to see if he'd play that. It's 3 weeks away but I can't see him playing Toronto\Cinci back to back - especially if he makes the finals or wins in Toronto. Cinci's long been money in the bank for him, so he's more likely to just play Cinci.

    Also, he has already indicated that he'll play the Shanghai Masters. He's said for years that it's one of his favorite tourneys and it's the only one he plays in Asia so I don't think he'll skip that. I can see him skipping the Paris Masters after Basel though UNLESS #1 is a carrot dangling in his face.

    On another note about Roger's age vis-a-vis Ken Rosewall - just imagine if 3 of the Slams were still played on grass as they were in Rosewall's day...
     
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  9. Busted

    Busted Pro Tour Champion

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    Were you saying the same thing last year when Murray was amassing wins and points while Federer and Nadal were out and Djokovic had his head up his butt? Cuz I did. And I also said he'd never be able to defend them all. As I said about Nadal's "clay court dominance" this year where the average rank of the players he was beating was about 35-36 in the world - you can only play whoever shows up on the other side of the net. And these days Djokovic and Murray aren't showing up on the other side of the net for Roger to play.
     
  10. mrzz

    mrzz Multiple Major Winner

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    ^Actually I was just teasing a bit about the AO final...
     
  11. DarthFed

    DarthFed The GOAT

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    Exactly how I see it. Shouldn't play Canada and there is no reason to skip Shanghai. And yep, Roger should only play Paris if #1 is a huge race at the end. The Fall would be the only time where he should maybe chase points if he is gunning for #1. No need to think about #1 until after the USO
     
  12. Federberg

    Federberg Grand Slam Champion

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    @mrzz is a Fedfan. He was just being sarcastic :D He's a cool dude, even if he's utterly wrong about Maradona! :lol6:
     
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  13. mrzz

    mrzz Multiple Major Winner

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    Conventional wisdom, and a safe approach, surely tells you to skip Canada, but...

    Ok, the name of the game is save the body for the big goals. Majors are the bigger ones, YEC is another (even if smaller), and surely YE#1 is at least tied with YEC (and above occasional #1). So, the first question is: will two straight tournaments decisively put the USOPEN in danger? If that was clear, they would have dismissed Canada already. So they are thinking about the full year.

    Thing is that up till now Federer played very little. Just six tournaments, 2 of them 1 and out. AO was brutal, I agree, but then he had a long break, a quick one and out, and IW, in which he spent very little time on court. Then comes Miami, with two long and tough matches there, but all in all still just a bit more than the average effort the winner makes. Long break again, Stuttgart, one and out. Then, five quick two setters in Halle, and again no sets lost in Wimbledon, just a few tough ones. All that to say that up till now the guy spent very little energy, much less than you would expect from a guy fighting for #1, and probably less than anticipated. So he has something extra left in the tank.

    The question is: Where would you use it? Now, or after the USOPEN? Again, if you focus only on USOPEN, this is a no-brainer. But you could look it in another way: If he and Nadal find themselves fighting for #1, they both will play hard in the last part of the season, and for Federer that would mean Shangai, Basel, Paris and YEC, with some pressure. Now consider this: If by the end of USOPEN Federer is, say, close to 1500 points in front of Nadal, considering that Nadal does not historically do well in final part of the season, the Clay King might as well decide to save energy himself, in which case Federer could even chose only to play YEC and still guarantee YE #1. But if they are neck and neck in the race, it is a different story.

    Now back to Canada. If he wins, another big title, 1000 points, always good, and he can even chose to skip Cincy -- which is so much faster than USOPEN that maybe is not the best prep (and is a tourney were Nadal might struggle). If he loses early, ok, not much energy spent and he can play Cincy were he is almost a lock to win. The only bad combination would be, say, lose in the semis after a tough and long match (holding match points to keep the trend), so that would mean energy spent in 4 matches and a (relatively) small reward.

    Having said all this, I would play Canada in a very aggressive mode. I guess the risk/reward relation is quite good in this case.
     
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  14. Moxie

    Moxie Multiple Major Winner

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    Here's a notion about Roger skipping Canada (Montreal this year, btw): then he would be leaving it to Rafa, who has historically done well there. Very good chance he gets to #1 and gets a momentum boost. Not a bad way to move into the USO.
     
  15. GameSetAndMath

    GameSetAndMath The GOAT

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    I posted in the other thread (Fed Fan's talk) Fed's statements about his schedule in the post-finals presser. Roger has confirmed that he will be playing in Cinci, USO, Laver Cup, Shanghai and the Indoor Season (he did not get into the details of which tourneys in the indoor season). He specifically said he will not skip any particular swing completely (the remaining swings are: NA hard court swing, Asian hard court swing, Indoor Swing). He said his team will sit and discuss whether it is a good idea to play in Montreal and make a decision tomorrow. Even though he used the word "tomorrow", I don't expect them to make a decision on it for two more weeks (as there is no hurry for them to make a decision on it).

    The question of whether it is a good idea for Roger to play in Montreal is a good one. There can be arguments given for both and against doing so. YE #1 is definitely a priority. But, it is not important that Roger get to #1 ranking quickly; it can wait for few more weeks if needed. Hence, It looks like it may be a good idea to skip Montreal.

    If the gamble pays off and he wins USO as a result of being fresh again, he will be way ahead in the race for YE #1 that he can achieve it without altering the schedule for the rest of the year much.

    On the other hand, if he did not win USO, it is not the end of the story for YE #1. He can always throw in Paris (in addition to Basel and WTF) on the indoor season part. Further, he can even throw in Tokyo 500 (to compensate for the China 500 that Rafa will be playing in).

    There is no question YE #1 is important. Fed has had it only five times whereas Pete was YE #1 six times. If Fed can get to YE #1 again, he would tie that record of Pete.
     
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  16. DarthFed

    DarthFed The GOAT

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    To me it comes down to just playing well when he plays, especially USO. If he is rested and ready to go for USO he has a good chance and if he manages to win that he almost certainly will finish #1. And if it turns out that he needs to outgain Rafa by 1,000 or even 2,000 in Fall to get to #1 that is actually pretty manageable.
     
  17. GameSetAndMath

    GameSetAndMath The GOAT

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    In 2014, even though Roger did not win much, he was in many finals. As a result, late in the year it looked though Roger might end up as year end #1. He was chasing Novak who became #1 in July of that year. We eve had a special thread for it. However, he could not successfully do the chasing and in the final rankings Roger was #2, with about 1585 points less than Novak. But, it was not due to not participating in enough tournaments. Actually Roger played 19 tournaments that year in comparison to 17 of Novak. The problem was that Roger was coming in second too many times. Novak won 7 tourneys and Roger won 5. But, Roger was in the finals of 11 tourneys that year, a record for that year among all players.

    That year he lost to Novak in Wimbledon. More importantly the physical toll lead to Roger's walkover to Novak in the WTF due to back issues (the proverbial last straw that broke the camel is Stan's performance in SF at WTF).

    The point is that even if YE#1 is important, getting there is easier by winning tourneys as opposed to making it deep in too many tourneys.
    For example, if one plays two ATP 1000 events and reaches F in one and SF in another, the total points accumulated is 960 (600 + 360). However, one could do better than that by playing just one ATP 1000 and winning it. (1000 > 960).

    With Fed having huge history of success at Cincy, he should just play there and win it. More importantly, it would keep him fresh for the USO and a potential 2000. If he indeed takes those 3000 points, he will be virtually assured of YE #1 and will not have to pad up his schedules with tourneys that he really does not want to play.
     
    #17 GameSetAndMath, Jul 17, 2017 at 9:29 PM
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017 at 11:18 PM
  18. El Dude

    El Dude Grand Slam Champion

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    @mrzz and @GameSetAndMath both make good arguments about "to Canada or not to Canada." Not sure where I stand as I could both routes working to get to #1.
     
  19. GameSetAndMath

    GameSetAndMath The GOAT

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    Arguments can be given for both playing in Canada and skipping it. I am not sure as to which one is the right decision though leaning towards the idea that skipping is better. But, I believe whatever decision Roger finally makes will be the right decision. After all TMF is also scheduling master. Six months lay off gave him AO (so to speak) and sitting out clay season gave him Wimby (so to speak). So, I don't think any of us would complain if sitting out Montreal gives him USO.

    One might wonder that he may not get enough match practice if he skips Canada and goes out early in Cincy. First, the chances of him going out early in Cincy is very less, it being one of his favorite hunting ground. Second, Fed had previously won USO, even after goofing off in both Canada and Cincy. Should not be too difficult to play himself into form at USO, even with less match practice.
     
  20. El Dude

    El Dude Grand Slam Champion

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    OK folks, here's a chart to help us visualize this. Obviously red is Roger, orange is Rafa. I probably should have used colors that were more different,but I usually use those in my various charts. Anyhow, dark is "probable," light is "maybe." For Roger probably is Cincy, USO, Shanghai, Basel, WTF, with Canada and Paris as maybes. For Rafa, probable is pretty much everything, although it is unclear whether he'll actually play all that he's signed up for. I also wasn't sure about Basel, as I found conflicting info. Oh yeah, the tournaments with black background are big ones.

    [​IMG]

    The reason I made this chart is that I wanted to compare their paths, including possible points, and also see how many weeks off Roger will have, depending upon what he plays. The fact that he's got a week between Cincy and the USO--coupled with the possibility that if he doesn't play Canada or Paris, Rafa could have as many as 2,5000 more possible points--makes me think that he should just go for Canada.

    At the very least, I think Roger should and will play one of Canada and Paris, which would give him 7,000 possible points. Chances are Rafa won't play all of those tournaments, but if he does--and with his current 500ish point lead--it means Roger still has to out-play him by as many as 2,000 points. If he doesn't play either of Can/Paris, then it could be as many as 3,000.
     
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