Roger Federer faced off against world # 34 Spaniard Marcel Granollers in his second round match in Dubai. And what ensued was 71 minutes of beautiful tennis. We all know Roger’s tennis is pretty but whenever he plays a doubles specialist, the matches are even more exciting with a lot of aggressive net play and quick, creative points. And credit to Marcel for he came in full of confidence and rearing to go. He held his own for the first two service games before a lapse in concentration resulted in 2 double faults and for once Roger didn’t waste his 3 break points and took the first one to go up 4-2. In Roger’s next service game Marcel came in with a beautiful slice winner to make it 30-all but Roger matched him with an exquisite backhand volley winner and ultimately consolidated the break to go up 5-2. Granollers next service game was quite shaky as well but he somehow managed to hold serve and force Roger to serve it out which the Maestro did with a love service game. The Swiss won the first set 6-3 in only 26 minutes. He didn’t provide a single break point to Marcel while winning 88% of the points on his first serve.
I had a feeling it would get tricky in the second set. When Federer is in god mode, he is so quick that the first set just flies by before the opponent gets an opportunity to get into the match. I knew Marcel would go up another gear in the second set and he did. He showed no sign of his confidence wavering even though he lost the first set. Yet despite his best efforts Granollers found himself in the exact same position in his third service game. At 30-all we were treated to the rally of the match. Marcel came to the net and dug out an acute angled Federer cross-court backhand with a volley just over the net. Federer rushed forward Usain Bolt style to lift up a lob which Marcel barely managed to get back only for the Maestro to flick it back to the baseline leaving the Spaniard scrambling to no avail. ATP deemed it the Hot Shot of the day. Although Marcel wiped away that break point and the subsequent one, Federer finally broke to go up 3-2. Roger’s next service game was a bit shaky and he offered Granollers his first break point but eventually consolidated the break to go up 4-2. Marcel showed great mental toughness holding his next serve game to love. He then pushed the Swiss hard in Roger’s own service game that had 4 deuces and 3 break points for Granollers. But as the Maestro often does, he found his way out of the sticky situation with some great serving and held on at 5-3. Finally it seemed to all catch up with Marcel as he started to make errors. He saved two break points again and pushed the score to 5-4 for Federer. By then however, the die had been cast and Federer served it out quite smoothly in the end. Game, set, match 6-3, 6-4 and Roger reached the QFs in Dubai for the 8th time. With today’s victory Federer achieved another milestone: 100 wins in an ATP 500 event. Here are the match stats.Overall I was very happy with Federer tonight. He hasn’t played this well since the first 4 rounds at the Australian Open earlier this year. I would say he was close to 90% of his early Australian Open form. Good to see that his serves were clicking much better tonight. His first serve percentage was 60% for the match and while I would ideally like to see this in the upper 60s, for now, I will take it. He won 84% of his first serve points which was crucial, especially when he needed them to erase the 3 break points he offered. I detected no hint of back problems and his movement was sublime.
He also approached the net a lot, which made me thrilled since I love it when players come to the net. I’m old school I know, but I think it just adds so much variety to your game if you have good net play in your bag of tricks. While Federer isn’t as good at the net as some of the doubles players out there, he is more than proficient and it seems that on the fast courts of Dubai he’s decided to approach the net much more. He said in his post-match interview that he doesn’t get to do it often but he does like being aggressive so I think we will be seeing this strategy as he goes deeper in the tournament. And as we all predicted he got over his adjustment period from the first match and definitely improved his level of play in pretty much all departments, serving, defense, offense and movement. His backhand in particular was just a beauty to watch as it kept finding the most acute angles, staying low yet generating a lot of pace.
It’s good that Roger seems to be finding his form now because Nikolay Davydenko awaits him in the QFs. Despite the lopsided 18-2 H2H, Davydenko has definitely troubled Roger in the past. He also likes fast hard courts and I can only imagine how hungry he must be after all these years to swing that H2H ever so slightly in his favor. I’m sure Roger knows all this and will not take him lightly. Their match will be the last one of the day on Center Court making it 11 straight night matches in a row for Roger since Round 2 of the Australian Open this year. I will obviously be watching, nervously as usual, but in the end I’ll cautiously predict for that H2H to tilt further to 19-2. What we know for sure is this will be an exciting match; but as long as the King comes out of it unscathed, I can handle it – I think. Well, we’ll see how many of my nails are intact by the end but that’s for the next post ;-). Go Roger!