Roger Federer Has Reasons To Be Gaining Confidence At The French Open

Donald FincherAnalyst IJune 3, 2009

PARIS - JUNE 03:  Match winner Roger Federer of Switzerland is congratulated by Gael Monfils of France following his victory during the Men's Singles Quarter Final match on day eleven of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 3, 2009 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Roger Federer is starting to take on that look. It's the look of confidence he used to wear very naturally. And, for Federer fans, it couldn't come soon enough.

Looking beyond mere body language, there are several milestones Federer has now surpassed. He has reason to believe things are finally going his way.

It's now fairly obvious that Federer was burdened by the thought of blowing it when he played poorly against Tommy Haas in the fourth round.

It would be such a squandered opportunity—not to mention the embarrassment—to lose to a veteran like Haas, whose best days are behind him. The table had been set with the upsets of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and Federer couldn't afford a slip-up.

Two sets down, Federer willed his way to taking the third set and setting up a come-from-behind victory. But it was obvious that he needed to get that match under his belt. He's had his rough patch.

His quarterfinal against Monfils looked like a potential landmine.

Federer had been enjoying the support of the French crowd. But the French love to root for their own and Monfils was the last French player left in the tournament. If Federer were going to face the headwinds of the crowd rather than the tailwinds, this would have been the time.

Fed beat Monfils in straight sets, and can now look forward to feeding off the energy from the crowd for the duration.

Federer's semifinal opponent, Juan Martin Del Potro, looks less dangerous than Monfils on paper.

Federer had to deal with another monkey on his back with the match against Monfils.

He has an amazing streak of consistency at slams. It would have been tough to face the questions of why he couldn't reach the last four at Roland Garros, when so many of the more difficult opponents had already been removed from his path.

The win over Monfils removes some pressure as he has now claimed his 20th straight semifinal appearance at a Grand Slam event.

Prior to the quarterfinals being played, Federer knew that he would potentially have had to deal with Andy Murray or Nikolay Davydenko—two players who have been camped out in the top 10 during the last couple of years.

Both were eliminated, which further eases his path and gives him confidence.

The tournament took a major twist when Nadal lost to the surprising Swede Robin Soderling in the fourth round.

The French Open started over as a new four-match tournament among those who were left. Federer has since won two of the four matches he needs to clinch the tournament.

Federer will like that Del Potro not only has never beaten him, but that he's never even challenged him.

Certain players create problems—or mismatches—with other players.

Federer is certainly a more talented player than Andy Roddick, but he's not 18-of-20 better. This vast advantage in their head-to-head encounters is not indicative of that big of a talent gap; rather, there's a mismatch in playing styles that favors Federer.

From what I have seen when Federer plays Del Potro, that mismatch is even more of a factor than it is with Roddick.

Federer uses Del Potro's height against him, and—because DelPo isn't a booming server— he's unable to counter the disadvantage.

Looking further ahead, Federer has only one loss in his entire career to any of the three players left.

This causes a sort of mental inertia for his opponents: They doubt themselves even before the first ball is struck.

Playing Fed has taught other players that, although the match may ebb and flow, Fed is the one who advances when all is said and done.

There are a couple of intangibles in play as well.

The first is match toughness. Federer has the match toughness and big-stage experience in spades, where the others are likely to melt under the glare and intensity of the moment.

Finally, it stands to reason that motivation will be greater for Fed than any of the others.

Motivation, if out of control, causes one to play tight and potentially choke it away. That's why Fed was fortunate to play Haas in the fourth round right after "the news."

But, having the choke possibility out of his system, motivation now becomes something he can channel and use productively.

If you combine all of these factors—the "settling back in" Federer has done since getting "the news," the crowd overwhelmingly on his side, the playing-style mismatches, the match experience on the big stage, the built-in belief by both players that Federer will emerge as the winner in the end, and Federer's motivation level—you have a recipe that is favorable for Federer.

I see both matches playing out similarly—with the one against Del Potro being the one that is put away sooner.

Federer will break serve in the first set in both matches—to the immense roar of the crowd.

Then, in what will be a combination of a freight train getting momentum on the part of Federer and a melting down in the big moment on the other side, Fed will win in three or four sets.

In fact, it will be palpable by the second set of the final. That crowd will be in such a frenzy that we will all universally wish we were there witnessing history.