Positives from Paris
As our train traverses the English Channel from continental Europe to the UK, it signals the beginning of the grass court season. At the same time, it means that my clay court season and Roland Garros adventure has come to an end.
It’s never easy losing a match and leaving a tournament, especially a Grand Slam, but I feel there were some really good positives for me to take away from my time in Paris.
From a results standpoint, I was happy to reach the round of 16 in a slam for the second time in my career and the first time at Roland Garros. From a performance standpoint, I played three good matches to make the fourth round. Even though I did take a hard beating from David Ferrer, I learned several lessons from that match, which will help me in the future.
Losing to Ferrer by a convincing scoreline was not easy to deal with. I knew beforehand that it was going to be a tough match and I was going to have to play well in order to win. The Spaniard has proven himself to be one of top clay court players in the world - his game is a model of movement and consistency.
Having beaten Ferrer in Indian Wells earlier in the year, I entered the match with confidence. However, I did not get off to the start I was looking for, losing my opening service game to trail 0-3.
I played better for the rest of the first set but I couldn’t find a way to break back – I lost it 3-6.
In the second and third sets a combination of factors were at play: Ferrer produced high quality tennis to neutralise both my serve and groundstrokes. Even though I didn’t feel like I was playing badly, I made a few too many mistakes, especially at times when I did have small openings to get back into the match.
My highlight of the tournament was my match against Milos Raonic in the round of 32. I had played Raonic once before, in his beloved San Jose (he won the title there the past three years) and had lost in two close sets.
Raonic has one of the best serves on tour, so I knew I was going to have to not only play very solid tennis throughout the match, but also try to capitalise on any opportunities that came my way.
I started the match well, holding my service games comfortably while creating a few break-point opportunities on his serve. Even though I couldn’t convert the first few, I eventually got the break at 5-5 in the first set. The second set was even closer, with neither of us dropping serve.
I got off to a good start in the breaker, getting a mini break with a backhand cross-court passing shot on the first point. I held steady and won the tie-breaker 7-4.
In the third set, I lost my service game to go down 1-2. Mentally this was quite tough. However, I played a really good service game at 1-3 and even though I sat on the changeover down a break 2-3, I felt that I was playing well and that if I kept going an opportunity would come my way. I won the next four games of the match, to make it five games in a row to ultimately triumph. It was a great feeling winning the match and doing so in straight sets.
Prior to Roland Garros I was asked at a press conference if I would be surprised if I reached the round of 16 at the tournament. And at the time, my honest answer was that I wouldn’t be.
I knew that I would have to work hard and continue to improve on the clay but I have always said that it is a surface that I enjoy playing on. Each year, I feel that I continue to improve and I have attained some consistent results on my path to success.
While I won’t play on clay again until next year, it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. Joining the ‘last 8’ club at Roland Garros in 2014 will be very much on my radar.