Losing in the round of eight at the Madrid Open isn't much to panic about under most circumstances. However, Roger Federer's unexpected fall to Kei Nishikori (6-4, 1-6, 6-2) should have Fed and his fans worried.
Heading into the French Open, Federer would like to be playing his best tennis on clay. In this one, for the final tune up for the year's second Grand Slam, Federer wasn't in top form.
Instead of moving towards what seemed like an inevitable meeting with Rafael Nadal in the final, Federer is left to prepare for Roland Garros a little earlier than he expected.
The most troubling aspect of Federer's performance was his inability to return Nishikori's serve consistently.
He did not establish a break point in the first or third set. It is no coincidence that these are the two sets he lost. Nishikori is not known for having a strong service game.
This is just indicative of how poorly Fed played.
When he is on his game, he would easily handle Nishikori's serve and even take an aggressive approach against them. That simply wasn't the case on Friday.
The question for Federer now is if can he right the ship in time for the French Open. Nadal had to battle a bit to best his countryman David Ferrer on Friday, but ultimately he broke him down.
The King of Clay won 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-0. Every match he plays he looks more comfortable after battling injuries the last two years.
For Federer to have a chance to beat him—or any of the other solid clay-court players in the world—he has to play better than he did on Friday.
The only year Fed won the French Open, he beat Nadal in Madrid and it was clear he was playing well on clay. That is not the case right now.
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