FRENCH OPEN: Roger Federer Will Beat Novak Djokovic. Here are 4 Reasons why

Roger Federer is going to beat Novak Djokovic Friday in the French Open semifinals.

The washed-up old guy is going to end the never-ending streak, beat the unbeatable player. He is going to ruin the coronation that everyone thought this tournament was all about, and remind people that he’s still here, still on the mountaintop.

This is Fab Friday at Roland Garros, as the world’s top four men’s players are meeting up. First, it’s Rafael Nadal against Andy Murray. Murray has been playing on a sore ankle, and Nadal finally found his mojo in the quarterfinals. I’ll take Nadal. 

But why Federer, when Djokovic has surpassed him and keeps looking stronger and stronger while Federer is starting to show age? Well, to me, everything is lining up perfectly for Federer. Every Federer flaw is negated, every strength enhanced. The predicted heavy winds, the new Babolat ball, the buildup, the slow clay. It all adds up on Federer’s side. Plus, Djokovic has to lose sometime. Plus, Federer has won the French before. Plus. . .

There is still the chance that Djokovic will simply power Federer off the court, push him backward. I just don’t think that’s going to happen. Here are four reasons why:

1) Pressure. It’s on Djokovic now. Federer has played his usual mind games by pointing that out, too. The No. 1 ranking goes to Djokovic for the first time if he wins this match. The winning streak closes in on the record. Federer? He has already proven all he needed to here. He’s still the third best player, not just riding a high ranking based on old computer points.

He has skated for two weeks, too. It’s the first time at a major in more than a year that no one has asked him what’s wrong with him? Meanwhile, he has clearly been working on his backhand, which now looks less jittery. It has been smooth and strong.

2) Gameplan: In the past few weeks, since Djokovic became invincible, the top players who aren’t afraid of him have been searching to make a new book on how to beat him. Last month in Rome, Murray lost the first set to Djokovic easily, and then started mixing up paces. That threw off Djokovic, who had to go all the way to a third-set tiebreaker to win. Next, Nadal tried moonballs as a test to see what might work in Roland Garros. And at Roland Garros, Juan Martin del Potro tried to out-slug Djokovic at first, but it didn’t work. Then, Delpo also started mixing up paces, crushing some, floating others right to Djokovic. It worked like a fastball pitcher finally mixing off-speed pitches. They make the fastball looks a whole lot faster. Del Potro won the second set and had the momentum, but that match stopped for darkness.

During Djokovic’ winning streak, Federer has tried to step close to the baseline and bash back at Djokovic. It’s what he has needed to do against most players. But it goes against what comes naturally to Federer. This time, I think Federer will mix things up. He can do it better than anyone. Djokovic is a timing animal, and Federer should know by now to mess up his timing.

3) Wind: Federer likes it. Timing animals don’t, especially ones with high serve tosses. Players complained about heavy winds at the U.S. Open last year, and Federer explained that he enjoys it. “Yeah, I do by now, yeah. Because I see it as a challenge and I see it as an opportunity to play differently. . .’’ he said. “I used to dislike it so much that I’m on the other side now. I was able to turn it around and kind of take enjoyment out of playing in the wind, actually.’’

Federer said he used to hate wind, but then decided that if he wanted to be the best, he would have to know how to play in all conditions. No surprises. So he practiced in high winds whenever the chance came up. Then, it became a mental thing.

“You know, I’ve played in such strong winds; I’ve practiced in such hot conditions,’’ he said. “Whatever you throw at me, I can do it. I mean, obviously, if it’s snowing and tough, then it gets a bit different. I haven’t had that yet, so I guess I would freak out when that starts happening.’’

There is no snow in the forecast.

4) Flaws negated: Federer has three developing flaws: He’s half a step slower than he used to be; he gets tense under pressure, and he can be pushed backward with that one-handed backhand and his old, flexible racquet. The slow red clay allows him a chance to catch up to the ball, giving him back some of his lost speed. And even though the tournament is using the new harder, faster ball, it is still slower than a hard court. That slows things down, making it hard to push him backward. As for the pressure, I already said: It’s on Djokovic.

By the end of the day, the next stage of the Federer-Nadal rivalry will be set for Sunday’s final. Unless it snows Friday. Then my predictions are off.

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

7 responses to “FRENCH OPEN: Roger Federer Will Beat Novak Djokovic. Here are 4 Reasons why

  • BruceLee

    1.Pressure! Well Mr. gregcouch, maybe you have not noticed, but new Djokovic handles pressure better than anyone on tour at the moment. I do not see him crumbling under since he had opportunities at Rome and Madrid, and failed to crumble.

    2. Gameplan! To execute such demanding game plan, Federer should bring his A+ game, and I haven’t seen him doing that for ages. Not consistently the whole match. And that is what it takes to bring Djokovic down.

    3. Wind! Federer and Djokovic already met under windy conditions, and guess who won. Do your work and check Google before stating nonsense. They should be at least even, so no advantage to Federer.

    4. Flaws negated! So who was there to test Federer flaws? Del Potro? Soderling? Noooooo. He plaid against minion Wawrinka and nut case Monfils. Federer should win those games with his eyes closed. Federer haven’t been tested On this year FO. Although it did not mind him to win it in the same fashion in 2009.

    All the best,
    Bruce

  • gregcouch

    Those are all good points. You forgot that Djokovic is a better player than Federer now. You can check Google all you want; I am going on what I’ve seen in person. Not stats, but how they handle conditions in my opinion.

  • roGER

    I hope Greg is right, but wonder if Roger has the consistency to execute a game plan? Age has robbed him of a bit of pace and a bit of hand-eye coordination. Sure, he still plays wonderful tennis with amazing movement and the ability to play shots that nobody else can imagine, let alone execute.

    But he now rushes more shots than he did, and frequently shanks the ball into the crowd on routine ground strokes.

    Djokovic is also playing unreal defensive tennis right now – what would be outright winners against any other player, Djokovic manages to reach and return. This means his opponents have to play very high risk tennis, and play two or three excellent shots to win a single point.

    Having said all that, sooner or later this amazing run of Djokovic will end, and if you have to pick a player to do it, then Roger Federer would be up near the top of the list. I just don’t think it’ll happen today.

    Hope I’m wrong and Greg is right!

  • Kyle Hoegh

    Snow OR side wind. If Djoker can take advantage when the wind is blowing away from Fed’s one-handed backhand it could be a blowout (pun intended). Gonna be an interesting match regardless!

  • Nancy

    Greg Couch…right on target!

  • roGER

    Wow! My apologies to Greg – he was absolutely correct. Well done!

    • gregcouch

      No need to apologize, but thanks for it. I like to make arguments. I’m wrong a lot. I was right once. I don’t apologize when I’m wrong, as long as I’m honest and not offensive.

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