Davis Cup Results: Why Does Roger Federer Keep Losing After Taking the 1st Set?

Jeff Cohn@jeff_cohnCorrespondent IIIFebruary 10, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26:  Roger Federer of Switzerland looks at a line call in his semifinal match against Rafael Nadal of Spain during day eleven of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

The U.S. team is taking on Switzerland (which has home turf) on red clay in the 2012 Davis Cup tie.

Day One saw Mardy Fish defeat Stanislas Wawrinka in five tight sets. Many believed Roger Federer would level the encounter by defeating John Isner, but instead, the American squad is up 2-0.

Roger did not have his best day at the office today, hitting several bad patches of unforced errors, missed first serves and many break-point chances he did not capitalize on.

He fell to the tall-standing Isner 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. He had many 0-40 chances and break points on the serving expert but could only convert one.

This has brought up an interesting side story to the alleged "Federer collapse" in the past year (or two).

Roger Federer is known to be perhaps the fastest starter on the entire tour, usually holding his serve comfortably and breaking his opponents early to capture the first set. His fans are also accustomed to seeing him lose his concentration and drop serve early in the second set, in which case he either digs himself out of the hole or he loses (which is less common).

When people face the Swiss superstar, they are often labeled underdogs. The opponents' game plan is usually high-risk and can work early on occasionally, but against the top players, their level just cannot keep up—especially over a three-out-of-five-set format in Grand Slams.

Is it possible that Roger himself is now finding it difficult to "keep up" his level in matches?

If we review the important matches in which he has lost (and even barely won) recently, we can perhaps draw a conclusion to explain his extended loss of concentration.



Federer def. Simon 6-2 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-3 (2011 Australian Open)

This started the 2011 string of Roger allowing opponents to come back to a decisive fifth set after winning the first two sets. Roger seemed to be struggling to penetrate through the court, but he was fortunate to hang on in the fifth and stop the more-aggressive-than-usual Gilles Simon.



Federer def. Djokovic 7- 6 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) (2011 French Open)

Roger came out guns-blazing in this semifinal, and Novak Djokovic did not seem to believe he could come back from the deficit.

The Swiss held serve comfortably in the fourth set, until all of a sudden, he could no longer make first serves.  

Novak broke to serve for the set and then Roger woke up to play inspired tennis to allow him to take it to a tiebreaker. But, had Novak won that fourth set, it would have been a little bit tough to pick Roger as the winner.



Tsonga def. Federer 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 (2011 Wimbledon)

Roger only had to win another set to get a shot at Novak Djokovic in the semifinals again. Although Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had other ideas and would not let Roger break his serve, Feds still coughed up three breaks from poor serving to grant Tsonga the win.

Prior to the loss, he was 178-0 after winning the first two sets in majors.



Djokovic def. Federer 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 (2011 U.S. Open)

Make that 178-2! Roger did have a very good chance to win in the fifth set, but why did he play so poorly in the third and fourth sets?

He let up on the aggression from his backhand wing and stopped making first serves, especially at the tail-end of the fourth.



Nadal def. Federer 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 (2012 Australian Open)

Again, Roger came out of the gates with something to prove and played sublime tennis...and again, he let Nadal come back into the opening set (which also happened in the 2011 French Open final—only that time, Roger was robbed of the set completely).

Roger was up a break in both the second and third sets, only to give it right back to the Spaniard.

As usual, Feds played well in the final game to give himself more chances to hang in the match, but it was far from being a changing of the tides.



And then the Davis Cup loss today...

The real reason is that Roger believes it is very hard for opponents to come from behind against him, in which case he understandably loosens up and plays more casually.

But, opponents are clawing their way back into the matches, and if Roger's serving percentage drops—which it has been doing lately—the chances of him hanging on are getting slimmer with each successive match.

Hopefully, he is learning from his losses and will keep his strategy the same consistently (even if it is boring to him). He should play the same aggressive way out of the gates all throughout the finish line.




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