Simon Reed: Artful Roger building towards golden year

Reed on Federer's form


If we accept the consensus that the standard of tennis has improved year on year in the past three or four years, do we assume that Roger Federer is playing as well as he was when he was winning Grand Slams for fun? There is a case to be made for such a thought.

Favours were certainly done for him in Indian Wells with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beating Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic losing to John Isner along the way. That was a big surprise, but Federer can only beat the men in front of him. This he did with some style.

The only guy Federer had to beat in the top four was Rafael Nadal. He beat him fairly comfortable in the last four in Rafa-type conditions. The court was slow and played into Rafa's hands. It got very windy, and it seemed to affect Rafa more than Roger. Was it a hollow win? No. Wherever and whenever he beats Rafa, it means a lot to Roger simply because he has had such difficult times against him over the past five or six years.

I think it was a terrific week for Roger. He served very well, and was hitting the ball with real purpose. The work maybe had been done for Roger before the final with Andy and Novak going out, but that should not detract from what Federer is producing. It is very encouraging for him with 39 wins in his past 41 matches. It all looks good as he shortly heads into 'Rafa-territory' with all the main tournaments being on clay until June.

Roger may well cut back on his schedule on clay. He has always been very good at managing his schedule — perhaps the best in history in managing his time. I wouldn't be surprised if he misses one or two of the Masters events on clay to be ready for Roland Garros.

Going into last year's French Open, Djokovic was beating Rafa in clay court finals, but then Roger beat Novak in the semis leaving the path clear for Rafa in the final. Rafa won again on Roland Garros without playing too well.

Rafa obviously must be favourite for the French Open, but this is a tennis scene that continues to change from month to month. People say I keep changing my mind which I would agree with, because you have to readjust thinking to the form of the moment.

Roger is arguably the second best clay court player of all time. He has got a shot on every surface this season. Roger has to be favourite for Wimbledon. I know these matches are over three sets, but I don't think five sets is a hurdle for Roger. He trusts his talent to get him through some matches.

Roger is as fit as anybody. He is in amazing physical condition and has a great mental stamina. People are a bit more used to him than before. There is a way to beat him now that they maybe couldn't work out six or seven years ago.

Murray has not kicked on the way I thought he would have from the Australian Open. The same goes for Djokovic since winning in Melbourne.

This remains a vital period for Novak. He has to keep his intensity levels high because when it goes, it could disappear forever. We are looking for signs that he can maintain his levels. It wasn't too clever that he was beaten by Isner last week.

Roger remains remarkably fresh. He is a phenomenon. These guys do not have a sense of proportion. He is as playing as well as ever. He has untold riches, but continues to excel with real focus.

Djokovic and Rafa have tremendous intensity, but Roger doesn't need to bring that to matches. He brings Roger Federer to the court, and that is mostly good enough to get him through tight matches. I think he is very likely to win Wimbledon, and if he wins Wimbledon he will surely win the Olympics on the same court.

The world number one place is also a realistic option. I think he will win one or two Grand Slam this year, and I think Roger can be competitive for the next two or three years. Roger is so fluent, and is taking so little out of his body.

I think Federer will go on longer at the top than Rafa or Novak for sure. With Andy, you don't know. If the motivation is there for Roger, he could set a mark that nobody will pass. He is on 16 with more to come. I think that must be part of his thinking to set a mark that will never be beaten. Leaving his print on the game must be part of his thinking.

Rafa is the big threat to his total. He is not that far behind on 10, but the more Roger wins the less Rafa wins. At the back of his mind, Roger must be thinking that he can keep pushing the mark even higher. Federer's renaissance sets us up for a fascinating few months ahead.

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