Wake up from your slumber Federer fans! Roger Federer is already in Rotterdam and as he hit the practice courts with Davydenko, the Rotterdam draw came out so here we go!The draw gods are never with the Meastro it seems; in the past year I think he only lucked out in the ATP World Tour Finals Draw. Regardless, here we are and as luck would have it, Tsonga got placed in Roger’s half along with fellow Frenchman Simon and rising, unpredictable star Jerzy Janowicz. Which means Delpo seeded 2, will have to handle the likes of Gasquet, Seppi and Mayer.
First up for the Swiss is Grega Zemlja from Slovenia, ranked 60. They have played once, almost a year ago in Doha where he had made it to R3 before Roger stopped him with a straight sets win, 6-2, 6-3. I am hoping this match won’t cause FedEx too much trouble unless he just needs a bit of time to get in the groove of things after his break. Next up is Youzhny. They have met 14 times so far with Roger having an overwhelming 14-0 H2H. In those 14 times he dropped only 3 sets total. They met 3 times in 2012 in Dubai, Halle and Wimbledon but were actually scheduled to meet at Rotterdam as well before the Russian withdrew. I have to give this match to Roger. Youzhny might be in very good form or not at all (to be honest I haven’t followed him much lately), in either case, that 14-0 H2H will weigh heavily on the Mikhail’s mind.
Past R2, things will start to get interesting. In the bottom half of Roger’s draw quarter, there will be an intense R1 all-French match between Llodra and Benneteau. The winner of that will most likely play the volatile, 6ft 8in Jerzy Janowicz which should be another cracker of a match. I can honestly see any of the three coming through depending on who has a good/bad day. If the seeds hold then Jerzy will be Roger’s QF opponent. These two have never played before. Jerzy can serve big, he moves quite well for a guy his size and loves his dropshots. This combination might cause Roger to blink a few times, but I don’t think Jerzy has enough variety in his game yet. On top of that he is not known to have the best temperament. For reference please see his Australian Open meltdown that has since been remixed into this. I think he won’t roll over easy but Roger should ultimately prevail.
At the SFs, I can’t see anyone but Tsonga waiting for him. Tsonga’s toughest challenge will probably be Gilles Simon but if Jo-Willy is still in his Australian Open form, not only will Gilles be unable to challenge him but he could pose a serious threat to Roger as well. Just like Roger, Jo loves his indoor hard courts. He has an aggressive style of play, is very athletic and in my opinion, the only top 8 player besides Roger who likes to come to the net. On top of that, the match is a 3-setter rather than 5, so it leaves less time to recover should Roger fall behind. I give Roger a slight edge to win this in 3 tight sets.
The bottom half of the draw, especially the first quarter of Mayer and Gasquet, is chock-full of talent, albeit inconsistent at times. Grigor Dimitrov is in this half and once again we are deprived from the first ‘Baby Fed’ vs. King Federer match that is yet to take place. Of course if he sweeps aside all competition and rushes to the final, this hypothetical match can indeed happen. However, first he’ll have to overcome a juicy R1 match against Bernard Tomic. I expect this will be highly entertaining along with the R1 match of Paire vs. Baghdatis. And Mayer must not be too happy having to face Davydenko in R1 – an upset can definitely happen here. Gasquet has been doing well so far this season and in all likelihood he will reach the final but I am not entirely confident in this call. There are too many potential players here who can suddenly burn red hot and zip through the rest. We’ll just have to wait and see.
In Delpo’s quarter, his toughest match might be his first one against Gael Monfils who’s a wildcard entry. Barring that I don’t see him getting stopped by anyone till the SFs. In the SFs, if it is Gasquet, I don’t think he’ll have what it takes to take out the gentle giant. Thus there is a very real possibility of getting a repeat final from last year of Roger vs. Delpo. Delpo has won their last 2 encounters back to back in Basel and the ATP World Tour Finals at the end of 2012. But overall their H2H is 13-4 which gives us hope. Furthermore, something happened at the Australian Open where Delpo lost a 5 setter to Jeremy Chardy in R3 playing very uncharacteristic tennis. It was both Chardy and Delpo himself who combined to bring him down. His mental recovery from that match will be key as to whether he performs at his best.
Should the final be Roger vs. Delpo, I know Roger will want to break that streak of losing to him consecutively. I expect he will come out extra focused and aggressive. In my mind I can see Roger winning it all but who knows. Tsonga will give Roger some serious problems and he will need to recover from it immediately if he hopes to be in fighting shape against Juan Martin. I think Roger needs this win. He hasn’t won anything since Cincy last year, so almost 6 months have gone by without him lifting a trophy. This win will do his confidence a world of good.
Well that’s it for now, I will write more once the tournament commences. In the meantime, best wishes for the Maestro! Let the games begin!