What's wrong with Roger Federer?
On Thursday he lost in the third round of the Italian Open to the very talented Richard Gasquet of France 4-6, 7-6, 7-6.
One vital point illustrates the 16-time Grand Slam champion's frame of mind in the deciding set tie-break.
At that stage, former tennis professionals who were doing some TV commentary like Robbie Koenig of South Africa, or American Doug Adler would expect Federer to win this deciding tie-break.
Not so fast! On his serve, the 29-year-old badly missed a backhand on the first point of this crucial part of the match.
The man from Switzerland was the leading player for more than five years because of his abilities to play the key points so relaxed.
The former World No. 1, who is definitely one of the most gifted players of all time would never have done that two years ago. Why did he do it?
Simply because he is not on a winning streak anymore.
I have noticed Federer is getting more and more impatient with chair empires, which is another sign he is getting much more nervous on the court.
More over, last year's Australian Open champion keeps on having his lapse of concentration during matches, which is troubling.
Federer is still playing at a very high level, which his why he can still reach the semifinals of the events he enters. However, he can no longer afford to have his lapses of concentration against Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray without being eliminated.
On Thursday, Federer was beaten by Frenchman Richard Gasquet for the first time since Monte-Carlo in 2005.
At that time, Gasquet was on the rise at 19 years old, while French experts like Henri Leconte were believing he could be as good as Federer.
Gasquet definitely played at a very consistent level for three hours. It was all the more impressive since he lost the opening set and was lead by a break in the second.
What went wrong in Federer's head at that time? Why was he thinking of something else instead of focusing for three more games and close the match?
Only Federer has the answers to these crucial questions. It would be a good time to find some clues fast, as Roland Garros is only 10 days away.
It would not be fair to note Federer also had great moments in this match when hitting a total of 47 winners. However, he also made 30 unforced errors, which is too much for such a player.
Meanwhile, Richard Gasquet is lighting up the sun for the French flag at last while Monfils, Tsonga and Simon did not impress as much since the start of the season.
This victory was very welcomed news for the Gasquet family.
On May 9, 2009, French sports daily L'Équipe reported that Gasquet had tested positive for cocaine following his withdrawal from a tournament in Miami.
Gasquet was provisionally suspended, but was later cleared as a result of his explanation that he had inadvertently consumed the drug after kissing a woman who had consumed it at a party.
The 16th seed played one of his most relaxed matches since the Miami situation when making 17 volley winners and 25 backhand winners.
Gasquet's backhand down the line is the best one of the tour. The Frenchman has the ability to put the ball wherever he wants to with this shot when he is relaxed.
The 24-year-old's first serve percentage was at 75 percent for the whole match, which is excellent. It is thanks to the previous statistics, the World No. 16 could manage to have easy points and relax more between points.
Gasquet followed his amazing result with a three-set victory over the seventh seed Tomas Berdych on Friday, which will give him the opportunity to face Rafael Nadal for a place in the championship match of the Rome Masters.
You never know if we are going to see the relaxed Gasquet, or the nervous Gasquet in front of the net. That is why it's very difficult to face him since you don't know if he is going to be on fire for a whole match or not.
Nevertheless, Gasquet will have to send warnings to his future French Open opponents.
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