Roger Federer took 4 minutes longer to win this match than his previous one, 62 minutes to 58 minutes the previous day. The Maestro never looked to be truly troubled by his opponent, despite De Bakker bringing his A-game, at least most of the first set. I must say though that it wasn’t a clean performance from Roger. There were quite a few shanks here and there. He missed a few easy-for-Roger shots and was lackadaisical in a few others. Roger and his fans (well at least me) groaned ‘Nein!’ to these unforced errors; both Federer and I were unhappy at times with his uncharacteristic inconsistency. His serve had sudden dips in quality leading to 3 double faults and only 56% of his first serves going in (although he won 91% of those). Serving for the first set he had 2 back to back double faults at set-point before closing it out. In one of those, when his first serve was called for a fault and he challenged it which he typically lost. On his subsequent second fault serve he challenged again! The result was the same as before, leading to a double fault, 2 challenges gone, and smiles from Mohamed Lahyani (the chair umpire) and the Swiss.
However, it’s a testament to Federer’s quality of play which is on such a stratospheric standard that he can have an up and down day and still take the rest of the ATP (barring the top 10) to the cleaners. Of course it wouldn’t be a Federer match without some sexy shots that make you moan with pleasure… there I said it, it’s out there and admit it, you do it too. Federer’s backhand down the line is so beautiful that it should only be watched in slow motion, so you can savour it properly. A tweet on my twitter timeline said ‘I want to marry that BH DTL’ – enough said.
Even when he loses, you will still find those Federastic shots. And that’s why he’s such a joy to watch, his variety, his aggression and his creativity all combine into one supreme athlete. Which brings me to my next point: Despite his errors the one element I can’t complain about is his movement. He’s so quick off the block and yet never takes an extra step more than necessary; which means he requires less time to move for the next shot and so on. The other members of the Big 4 are known for their amazing returning skills but it would be ridiculous to not consider Federer as a great returner too. His movement allows for great defense as well as offense and even at 31 years of age, it requires a Nadal, Djokovic or Murray to break it down. De Bakker, unfortunately for himself, is not a Nadal, Djokovic or Murray and could not sustain his level for very long. His strength which are his forehands started to fail him and pretty soon the nail was on the coffin. 6-3, 6-4 and Federer moved into the QF – he has always made it to the QFs in Rotterdam and he kept the streak alive with this win. Here are the match stats.Federer’s QF opponent is the Frenchman Julien Benneteau, who famously took him to a 5-set thriller in the 2012 Wimbledon Round 3 match. In fact, he’s beaten Federer at Paris Bercy in 2009 which is also an indoor tournament like Rotterdam, though obviously with very different court speeds. For those reasons, despite the H2H of 4-1, I feel a little uneasy. Benneteau has been having a great tournament and only dropped 9 games (2 less than Roger) and no sets so far. So I am nervous about tonight’s match, especially if Roger is inconsistent, like yesterday. This might go to three sets based on the level play Roger displayed last night though I will still give him the edge to win the match. We shall see. Fingers crossed for our Maestro! Allez!