Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On Guillermo Cañas & Roger Federer

by Craig Hickman

I think Roger was match sharp enough to win this. He just really played a bad match, period. He displayed a clinic in the second set, and almost ran away with it in the early 3rd set, then just suddenly tuned out. No excuses. He played bad from game 4 onwards in the 3rd.

Cañas is a regular guy on the draw he faces week-in, week-out. Nothing special. The guy's only redeeming feature is he ran down everything Fed threw at him. In Indian Wells, he played a great match against Roger and then almost meekly submitted to Carlos Moya (6-3, 6-4).

The tour's motto these days is - even if I don't win anything this year at least I can say that, of Roger's only 3-4 losses this year I gave him one. (In his case, 2.)

Posted by edma1022, ESPN message board

edma, it's been a mighty long time. Good to see you.

Why did Roger "tune out" and "play bad" from game 4 onwards in the 3rd? Precisely because Cañas "ran down everything Federer threw at him" and sent much of it back with interest. Which wasn't all Cañas did, by the way. He served well when he needed to (including on match point), and went for his shots when the stakes were raised. Fending off those break points to fall behind two breaks in the third was crucial. I would argue that was Federer's penultimate undoing.

Add to that, Federer got tired. Having to change his game and attack the net in the second set and hit the ball harder than he did in the first tired him out. (Federer was actually bashing the ball in the second set which took time away from Cañas, disallowing him from running everything down.) Which is why Roger only comes forward when he has to or when he doesn't fear his opponent's passing shots. He rarely attacks the net on his own terms against Lleyton Hewitt because Hewitt is, in Federer's own words, "a passing shot artist." I've also noticed that against players such as Robin Soderling, who whack the ball at will, Federer plays first-strike tennis as well, hitting bigger returns and groundstrokes than usual.

But back to Cañas.

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