Roger Federer edged past a red hot Bellucci to reach the QFs of the Swiss Indoors tournament in his hometown of Basel on Wednesday evening. Bellucci was immediately broken in the first game of the opening set but after that he held onto his serve masterfully, providing only one break point opportunity in the third set (which Roger could not convert) until the final game in that deciding set when the Swiss kicked it up a notch and broke him to win it 7-5. After 2 hours and 3 minutes the scoreline read 6-3 6-7(6) 7-5, Federer.
Bellucci played some great tennis with good serves and intelligent shot selections. He also has that lefty advantage which we know Roger doesn’t… well let’s say he’s just not a fan of. Both players held their serve for most of the match. Roger himself provided and saved only 2 break points. But his first serve, while better than in the Shanghai Masters, was at 61%. He needs to get it to mid 60s to give him the cushion of free points he needs in order to play his attacking game. This was still a marked improvement however, so Federer should feel pleased. His serve was actually quite off in the first and second sets, especially during the second set tie break. In the third set however, his 1st serve percentage went up to 77% while perhaps not so coincidentally, Bellucci’s 1st serve percentage was his lowest at 59% in this set.
Federer does need to improve his returning a bit. To quote the Maestro himself
I think I struggled on the return. I think I served smart. I played that part really well. I’m not too happy with my returning, but then again, he was a lefty and it was a change. Still, I would have hoped to have done a bit better.
For most of the match, there wasn’t much to separate these two. Ultimately it came down to big match experience, being able to handle clutch moments and not lose focus. And then there is the secret ingredient that all champions have and which FedEx has in abundance, the ability to raise one’s level at just the right moment, to find that extra gear and go that extra mile. And at that final game when it seemed to be heading towards another tie break, Bellucci faltered and Federer found his groove and the adoring home crowd heaved a collective sigh of relief and happiness.
On Friday, Federer will face the 6’5″, 23 year old Benoit Paire from France, ranked 46 in the world, his highest ranking to date. Paire took down 5th seed Andreas Seppi in round 1 before cruising through round 2 defeating Lukazs Kubot, 6-4 6-4. Federer and Paire have never met before so this match should be interesting to say the least. I am picking Federer to win this one but whether the victory will be clinical or not will depend largely on Federer’s own level. He needs to serve like he did in the third set on Wednesday and will hopefully be able to raise his return percentage as well. Federer fans will be hoping for an uninteresting straight victory for their champ after the scare he gave them against Bellucci.