I was ridiculously nervous before Roger Federer’s first match, almost unreasonably so. I think the fact that he hadn’t played in a while just kept nagging me. Although I did keep telling myself that it’s almost guaranteed Paire will just suddenly lose focus and start flailing on and off throughout, which should, hopefully, allow Federer to put a death-vice on the match. But I knew that in order for me to truly calm down, I would have to watch him play. And within the first game, when he broke Benoit, my heart rate came back down to normal levels of adrenaline.
It is probably too early to say that his decision to come into the Australian Open cold was a wise decision; the next few matches (hopefully the next 6!) will tell us that. But for today, Roger looked sharp, his backhand, that single-handed winged beauty of a shot, looked glorious. His forehands were lethal and accurate and first serve percentage for the match was 64% with 3 aces and he won 84% of his first serve points. The Maestro had 25 winners to 18 unforced errors, won 25 of 31 i.e. 81% of his net points and a total of 95 points.
Overall, at least for the first 2 sets, Benoit decided to try and play, and make a match of it. This resulted in quite a bit of pretty tennis for the fans to enjoy; lots of shots from both players that made one go ‘oooh!’. In the third set, Paire quickly unraveled mentally and then his game followed suit. Federer won 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in 1 hour 23 minutes and hardly broke a sweat. The match stats are given below.
One feels for Benoit but only just; he could’ve showed more fight in the 3rd set to a full Rod Laver Arena crowd who had paid good money to watch two players give their all. Paire certainly has some focus issues and unless he can get a handle on them, my personal feeling is he could switch to becoming a doubles player. He just won the Chennai Open in doubles with Stan Wawrinka and when he loses focus, as he did in the Chennai SFs, Stan picked up the slack and helped him refocus. They certainly seemed to enjoy playing with each other so I think both should give some thought to making this a more regular occurrence.
Next up for Federer will be the winner of the Davydenko-Sela match and I know most Federer fans will be rooting for Dudi to come through since Davydenko is never an easy customer. He was the runner-up in Doha; although he did have injury/strain issues towards the end of that match and Gasquet ultimately triumphed over him to lift the trophy. However Federer’s H2H with Davydenko is 17-2 so based on that alone, this shouldn’t be impossible for Roger. Federer’s Round 2 match will be on Thursday, January 17th. Till then, I hope the Swiss gets to relax a bit, enjoy his first win and then get ready to hit the courts again for practice because the journey’s just begun.