15 reasons why Roger beats Novak this afternoon
Roger Federer has won in New York five times.
Here’s 15 reasons why I think the sixth will be this afternoon.
G’day from the Big Apple!
What an incredible final this one is shaping up to be. I was fortunate to be at the last two Wimbledon finals between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, and can’t wait for this one to start later today.
It is so difficult to pick against Novak for a long list of reasons. He is world number one, leads Roger 7-6 at Grand Slams, and there is nothing on paper that says he won’t win again today.
While Novak is in great form, only dropping two sets on the way to the final and torching Marin Cilic 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 in the semi, the guy on the other side of the net today is playing out his gourd.
Let’s analyze the following 15 points for today’s match – all key metrics that will shape the final outcome.
1. Arthur Ashe is playing fast.
Here’s what Stan Wawrinka said after his semi-final v Roger. “It’s playing really fast.” That is a definite advantage for Roger. Cincinnati plays fast, and Roger just beat Novak there 7-6(1), 6-3 las month. Dubai plays fast, and Roger beat Novak there 6-3, 7-5 at the start of the year.
2. Roger Federer is playing fast.
Straight from Stan’s mouth after the semi-final loss “For sure it doesn’t help when you play Roger and he’s trying to play really aggressive, really fast. When he get the lead, when he get the break, then he’s relaxed. The way he’s playing he’s reading better, moving better, so everything going faster for sure.” That’s what it’s like to play Roger this week – a playstation opponent stuck on fast forward. Must be a nightmare.
3. Roger is so tough to attack.
Stan the man said “I tried everything with what I had today, for sure. I wasn’t serving well at all. That doesn’t help because I don’t get a free point. I cannot really start the point from the baseline being aggressive.” Remember how well Stan powered through Novak in the Roland Garros final? And now Stan is saying he could not power through Roger. That’s a bad omen for Novak.
4. Roger has a crystal clear aggressive game plan
More hair-raising stuff from Stan “He’s moving really well, for sure. He’s reading well the game, and so he’s trying really to stay on the line, not to go back. Today he’s trying to be really, really aggressive, trying to come to the net every time he can and trying to stay on the line. Even when he’s in defense you can see he’s not going back. He’s staying on the line, trying to make half-volley passing.” This is EXACTLY the game style Roger needs to defeat Novak. If Roger is passive against Novak, the Super Serb wins every time. Roger is not being passive. He is being hyper-aggressive. That’s how he will win.
5. Arthur Ashe is now a wind-less cocoon.
Again from Stan = “For sure now there is almost no wind on the court, so it’s quite nice to play. He always played well here, always loved to play here, and, yeah, so far he’s been too good. It’s (Ashe) getting closer to an indoor court, that’s for sure, without the wind. Now you cannot even compare the center court with Armstrong, for example. It’s completely two different conditions. Armstrong it gets windy, when it feels a little bit of wind. Now you have nothing on center court. Yeah it’s getting faster, but it’s still a good court to play.” No wind = perfect Roger Federer playing conditions to constantly attack. His serve is better, and he can hold the baseline more, and get to the net. No storm is the perfect storm for Roger.
6. Roger is serving like a man possessed
Roger has made 65% 1st serves, won 82%, and won 61% of second serve points. God-like. Novak has made 64% 1st serves, won 78%, and won 64% second serves. Those numbers are also worthy of a bronze statue. But the key here is that those numbers have helped Roger only lose two service games, compared to eight for Novak. Novak has saved 14/22 break points, while Roger has saved 13/15. Another small edge for the Swiss.
Again from Stan = “He’s serving better than I have ever seen him serve. For me, tonight, he’s getting more angles.” Roger has served 82 service games at the 2015 U.S. Open and won 80 of them. Novak is going to have to break Roger at some stage to win, and that’s going to be a very tough thing to do.
7. Roger is returning as good as Novak
Roger is putting 69% returns in play, winning 38% against first serves and 52% against second serves. Novak has put 74% of returns in play, won 36% against first serves, and 56% against second serves. Add to the mix that Roger has hit 15 return winners (Novak 8), and you can clearly see that Roger is applying a lot of heat returning, and not giving away nearly as many free points with return errors.
8. Roger is as good from the baseline as Novak
Novak has won 57% of his baseline points for the tournament – tied for first with Jack Sock. Guess who next on the list? Roger has won 56% of his baseline points. I don’t think I have ever seen Roger perform so well from the back of the court. If he can match Novak in baseline play, serve better, sneak a few more points returning, then where else is there to go? The net… glad you asked!
9. Roger is dominating at the net
Roger has won 72% (110/153) of points at the net so far this year in New York, compared to 66% (103/155) for Novak. Roger is owning this part of the court as well, and expect him to continue to hold an edge in this key battleground this afternoon.
10. Roger’s backhand is a weapon (that is not a misprint – pick yourself up from the floor).
Normally we see Roger’s forehand dominate, and the backhand side just trying to minimize damage. Not this year. Roger has 59 forehand winners, and 44 backhand winners! That’s more backhand winners than Novak, who has 59 forehand winners and only 34 backhand winners. Roger has 73 backhand forced errors, and Novak has 90. Roger has 49 backhand unforced errors and Novak has 63. Are you getting the picture? Roger’s backhand is on cloud 9 at the moment.
11. Roger is better at longer rallies
Novak is winning 59% of short rallies of 0-4 shots. Roger is winning 57%, so slight edge to Novak. Novak is winning 59% of 5-8 shot rallies, and Roger is slightly better at 62%. Novak is winning 57% of 9+ shot rallies, while Roger is way ahead at 66%. So here’s how this will play out – Roger does not really want to play a lot of 9+ shot rallies, only playing 47 so far this year compared to 159 for Novak. But if Roger has to, he is doing really well and does not need to panic at all.
12. Roger has already climbed the mountain (John Isner)
There is always an advantage to playing against such a massive server, and then coming back to earth. Roger playing John Isner in the fourth round was a really good thing for him. He got to practice returns against such a big server, and he actually did really well. Since the Isner match, Roger is breaking at will. Here’s the scoreline of the next 6 sets after playing John – 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1. Roger should thank John for all the practice against such a tough serve – maybe 1/2 a paycheck? Now normal 1st serves from Richard Gasquet, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic all seem not quite as difficult.
13. Roger also has the serve and volley weapon up his sleeve.
Roger is winning 75% (48/64) with serving and volleying. Novak has only done it twice, winning one. In the semi final victory over Stan, Roger served and volleyed the most for him for the entire tournament, winning 13/17. It’s just another amazing weapon for him to use to hold serve more effectively, and ramp up the pressure at the front of the court.
The Sneaky Attack By Roger is freaking brilliant. The entire world will be looking for it each and every time Novak misses a first serve. And guess what – so will Novak. Roger hardly misses the shot, wins a lot of points doing it, as the opponent generally dumps it in the net scrambling to hit a passing shot with no time to get correctly positioned. Roger should use it in the opening return game if given the opportunity. I think it will go a long way to “rattling the cage”.
15. Perfect time to fix 2x passive Wimbledon finals
In general, I think there is no possible way Federer does not win another Slam. Then factor in this year’s Wimbledon final (and the year before), where Roger absolutely did not attack Novak in the final like he did against Andy Murray in the 2015 semi’s. Roger mauled Andy, but played with far less aggression against Novak. With perfect conditions, with excellent form, with already doing it in Cincinnati, and with the revenge factor from Wimbledon still fresh in his mind, I feel pretty sure that coach Stefan Edberg will have Roger primed to hold the baseline and swarm the net like he must do.
It’s always so incredibly difficult to pick against Novak Djokovic. He is an outstanding competitor, world number one, and nothing suggests he is playing poorly, or off his game. Novak is an excellent ambassador for our sport, and I go out of my way to recognize his excellent, as the rest of the world seems to have a hard time doing the same. I have the utmost respect for Novak’s game, and he could very well win this match today.
But, I think Roger gets him this time.
There is not a person on the planet that can beat Roger when he sticks to his aggressive game plan on a fast court. But, if there is a player on the planet that it sometimes does not turn up against, it’s Novak.
Typically with Roger, we will know his “weather” very early on. The opening two service games always give a great indication as to the mental and physical state of his game. If he stays back a lot in the opening 15 minutes, he will be in trouble for the next three hours. If he comes to the net a lot, even losing some points, that will eventually play out in his favor.
I am REALLY looking forward to this one, and will be live tweeting the match at @braingametennis. Come and follow along!
All the very best from NYC,