Hi everyone. I hope you are well.
I watched Benneteau play pretty well to defeat a rather poor playing Federer. An unusual match for Federer in that there were not many parts of his game working. Usually, even when he is having a poor game in one or two areas, he manages to play well enough in the rest of his game to compensate enough to get past players outside the top 10. That ability is what has kept him getting to many semifinals and finals over his career.
But in this match, he rarely had much going for him, except for a brief spurt in the second set. His service was well below par, his ground game was average, his tactical play was poor as when faced with a choice of where to hit the ball he usually made it easy for Benneteau, especially in some volley exchanges at the net.
Benneteau on the other hand, played solidly and confidently. He frequently was aggressive with his shots, putting Federer's ground game under constant pressure. Federer's usually solid half volley was also more suspect than normal.
Simply, Federer had a bad day at the office for some reason and the better player won. Federer himself said that he would have been lucky to win the second set to push it to a third, and really didn't deserve to do so.
Unfortunately Rafa's match was quite late and I only saw the first set where Berlocq handled Nadal with confident play. Nadal's movement looked quite poor to me. There was one worrying point when Berlocq dropped a ball short and Rafa rushed in and had to shift direction suddenly and almost went down. He came up limping, but looked like he walked out of it.
From what I heard Berlocq had the match on his racquet in the third set but may have been rattled by the crowd, or the prospect of beating Nadal. Anyway, Nadal pulled it out, but to have such a tough time with a player of Berlocq's caliber means Rafa has a long way to go yet. It's unfortunate, but he really let much of his game go during his absence. He'll have his work cut out for him to be on top of his game by Monte-Carlo. I really don't see it happening by then, but I suppose it could.