In the sweltering heat of the hottest day at the Australian Open so far, Roger Federer faced off against an old nemesis who has been experiencing a bit of a mini-resurgence. Former world number 3, Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko reached the finals in Doha just weeks ago and has looked to be in ominous form. These two 31 year-olds have a long history having already played each other 19 times, though the H2H is heavily skewed in the Swiss’ favour at 17-2. Nonetheless, the Russian came into the match rearing to go, hoping to get his win column against Federer up to 3.
So the stage was set. Davydenko entered the Rod Laver Arena first and then came out the Maestro looking positively divine in his grey shirt with pink detail and black and pink shoes (which I think are to die for!). The match started with both players holding serve although as the set progressed it started to get harder to do so with both returning really well. Finally in the 6th match after saving 2 break points, Davydenko failed to save the 3rd as his cross-court backhand sailed wide. In Davydenko’s next game Federer had 3 break points but failed to convert any and thus had to serve for the set, which he did to love; first set Federer, 6-3. He had 7 break points and only converted 1, but that was enough.
The second set was much more competitive. Though Federer broke Davydenko early in the 3rd game of the set, the Russian never relented and kept coming back to try and break the Maestro. But time and time again, Federer’s stunning serves, both first and second, bailed him out of trouble. Roger ultimately served it out to take the set 6-4. In the 3rd set, Nikolay lost focus for a few minutes and before he realized it, FedEx broke him at love. Though Davydenko wasn’t broken again he could not break Roger back. Roger won the set with an ace at 6-3 and thus the match, in 119 minutes.
The match had some great attacking tennis where Federer in particular created unbelievable angles with shots that kissed the lines and dotted the corners. The backhand down the line in the 5th game of the 1st set was ridiculous as was the backhand in the 2nd game of the 3rd set at 30-all or the beautiful volley in the 6th game of the 3rd set at 40-0. And those are just 3 of the 35 winners the Maestro hit compared to Davydenko’s 17. You can take a look at the match stats below.I had predicted Roger would win the match in 3 tight sets or at worst he would drop a set. But though he had a few more errors than I’d like, he played brilliantly when needed; and with his attacking style of tennis, those errors tend to pile up a lot anyway. Actually I would say the only element of his game that concerns me is his break point conversion rate. He converted only 3 of 13 break points. Obviously only 3 were needed but as he goes deeper in the draw, he might not get 13 break points to choose from. Interestingly, he offered no break points to Davydenko at all. He saved all possibilities of any break points with his serves which brings me to what I am actually very pleased about in his game; his serve seems to be clicking so far. Roger was having trouble with especially his first serves towards the end of last year, so today’s clean serving was great to see. His net play was also effective; he won 14 out of 19 points.
As we know this is one tough draw for Federer and he will next play local hero Bernard Tomic who is in fine form, yet to be beaten this year. However, I am beginning to feel perversely good about this difficult draw. I think it’s giving him the match experience his fellow top 10 already had coming into the Open. Perhaps tough wins in straight sets are exactly what he needs, great match-buildups without ruining confidence or wasting too much energy. We’ll see how it all pans out on Saturday in what is sure to be another night match at the Rod Laver Arena given his opponent. And that means we’ll see Federer in pink again. Judging by what we saw today I’m ready to back pink power all the way!
*All photos have been taken from the Australian Open website and facebook page.