Patrick Mouratoglou is a world-renowned tennis coach who has worked with Marcos Baghdatis and Aravane Rezai. His French tennis academy is considered one of the top in the world. He'll provide commentary for Busted Racquet during the 2010 U.S. Open.
The final Grand Slam of the year has just ended and, as always, nostalgia is coming. The crowd, the energy and the constant noise have been replaced by silence, focus and emptiness. Let's look back on the 2010 U.S. Open:
The two faces of Roger Federer
For the first time since 2004, Roger Federer wasn't among thee finalists, falling in the semis to Novak Djokovic after missing two match points. It's a year now since the level of the Swiss has stopped being top-notch. We were used to way better coming from him. He isn't steady and constant enough during his matches. Yet we were kind of reassured by his summer. He was playing so much better. His matches against Djokovic and Berdych in Toronto brought the "old Roger" back: focused from the first to the last point, crushing and offensive. His footwork was again in shape and his game was benefiting from it, so we were keen on having huge ambitions for him in New York. But in the U.S. Open he didn't display any of this. Moving too slow, not really inspired in his attacking game and lacking too much aggressively, Roger has once again showed a face that we're starting to get used to. And that is that's he no more the number one player in the world.
So here are the questions that are now surfacing: Are those losses the evidences of the fading of the King Federer? Is Roger victim of a motivation crisis after the birth of his daughters but also after his triumph of 2009 in the French Open and Wimbledon? Is he injured? He has already admitted that he had been playing many matches with an injured back. If we're paying a lot of attention to the way he played here, to the way he moved, we could easily believe it. Anyway, this Federer isn't the old champion we know he is. He will have to solve, and fast, all his issues, mentally and physically speaking, because he won't be able to win Grand Slams again with this level of play, even if it's enough for now to get to the quarters or the semifinals.
The outstanding Rafael Nadal
On the other hand, Rafael Nadal is having an amazingly successful season, with three Grand Slams won and three Masters 1000 wins. He only failed at the Australian Open, injured during his match against Andy Murray. He was playing well enough there to win too. Rafa is dominating fields on all surfaces. He keeps improving, like on his serve and his backhand. The intensity he can display and the way he can stay so much focused make him a rare kind of player. I've personally never seen anyone able to hit each ball from January 1st to December 31st with the same will, the same power, the same rage to succeed. If he can stay healthy, he could totally prevent Federer from winning Majors again.
Novak Djokovic is shining again
The Serbian has been the feel-good story of the summer. Struggling a lot during the first part of the year, he was been preparing perfectly for the Open. He worked so hard and came so fit physically. His serve has been mainly back after this crisis born with Todd Martin's input on that shot. And finally his forehand is a weapon again and helps him to dictate the game when he needs to. Nole is on the right path, but if he wants to win an other Grand Slam, confronted to those two giants in Federer and Nadal, it seems like the road is still pretty long.
Murray and Berdych: The disillusion
Disillusion is the most appropriate word for what happened to these two. Murray is really having a disappointing season. He was seen as the outside favorite to win in New York following his victory in Toronto by beating Nadal and Federer, but he fell in the third round against Stanislas Wawrinka. The Scotsman is still capable of greatness, but he descends too much into mediocrity. He's inconsistent. It's been his main issue for two years now. He can't find the way to keep a steady level and it's still really hard to find a guideline in his game. The amazing talent is still here but he still hasn't succeeded in finding his own style, whereas the best players are always using the same weapons from a match to an other, finding intensity and confidence.
Concerning Tomas Berdych, he has improved a lot this year and he's way more consistent. He played the final in Wimbledon and the semifinal of the French Open. Yet, as I've already said, I still feel he's not at the same level as the top players. His game is really clean but maybe too predictable, lacking of diversity. In the U.S. Open, Michaël Lodra and his special way of playing have knocked him out in straight sets.IIn
A word finally on Baghdatis and Nalbandian who haven't confirmed their comeback to the top reaches of the sport. Often brilliant in less important events, the two can't get it together in Grand Slams and that's what makes a legacy. Seeing them back in shape is still encouraging and we'll have to keep an eye on them in the months to come.