Roger Federer’s match was supposed to start around 10:30pm my local time. This is a short version of my countdown to zero hour (times are approximate):
8:00pm: I debate whether to take a quick nap. Must be ready for a long night, in case Davydenko makes our champ sweat.
8:05pm: Oh wait! They’re showing the full replay of Roger’s match from yesterday on TV! I settle in to watch. Watching Roger twice in one night beats sleep any day.
9:00pm: The smile on my face from re-watching Roger’s win vs. Granollers is still there as the channel switches to live feed and Seppi comes out on court followed by Novak. I decide that there is no better time than now to eat dinner, do some chores and hunt for my cat, who has chosen this moment to play hide and seek. Searching for cat > watching Novak’s bakery dishing out bagels.
10:30pm: It’s almost Roger time! Quickly turn up TV volume, log onto twitter, open up a stream and the ATP website live scores window, all at once; one should always have backups.
10:40pm: Roger is on my TV! He chats and smiles with Nikolay in the hallway before they walk out on court. I’m getting a cautious yet good feeling about this.
10:41pm to 11:08pm: I utter: “oooooh!” “wow!” “Roger you are a genius!”
11:09pm: Roger has taken the first set 6-2
11:10pm to 11:33pm: By this time I am quite ecstatic: “Loving your backhand Roger!” “What a shot!” “Break him again Maestro!”
11:34pm: Roger has taken the 2nd set and the match 6-2, 6-2. He moves into the SFs where he will face Berdych.
I started mentally preparing for this match a full 2.5 hours before it started. Roger decided I had waited long enough and wasted no time, wrapping it all up in 54 minutes.
Roger was pristine tonight. He did nothing wrong. His serves were clean with pinpoint accuracy. He got 76% of his first serves in which is significantly higher than yesterday‘s match where it was 60%. Moreover, he won points off those 84% of the time. His second serve rendered dividends too in terms of points won, 7 out of 10. Roger’s returns were just as high quality as his service points and he even converted 4 out of 7 break points Nikolay offered him; Roger on the other hand didn’t provide any such opportunities. This win helped Roger’s H2H with Davydenko become even more lopsided at 19-2. I will let the match stats do the talking in detail so here it is.The match had everything, creative shot making, great rallies as well as first-strike tennis. Roger came to the net often as seems to be his strategy in Dubai this year. His trusty forehand is usually dependable and so it was tonight but what is extra special is how well that backhand has been working this tourney. I have mentioned in my previous posts how that single-handed backhanded is my favorite shot; not just in Roger’s repertoire of shots but in tennis as well. It’s by far the most elegant and artistic shot out there. And every time he stretches those arms out like a beautiful butterfly, pushes off the front foot and strikes the ball in one fluid motion, I know I’ll need to see clips of it again in slow motion to truly appreciate how glorious and majestic it is. Tonight that backhand found all the lines and corners with deadly accuracy and tremendous pace. If Roger can continue to hit his backhands with such precision, his SF opponent will have a tough time indeed.
Which brings me to the next topic of discussion; Tomas Berdych, ranked 6 in the world and seeded 4th is all set to face the Maestro in the Dubai SFs. Roger’s H2H with Berdych might be 11-5 but of those 5 losses the most recent one is from the US Open QFs just last year. Berdych’s big game always seems to trouble the Swiss. What complicates it all further is that Berdych seems to play inspired tennis against our hero while wilting away against other players. Most Federer fans are wary of this match-up. But I feel Roger is in amazing form right now. On top of which, Dubai courts are quick which allows him to be even more aggressive than he usually is. Obviously Berdych can return well and hits with tremendous power. But if Roger plays like he did today with that ruthlessness, maybe the tables can be turned on Berdych again after all. Berdych hasn’t been having the most enjoyable tournament. He hasn’t dropped a set yet but there were some shaky moments with Kamke in the second round. And Tomas has been arguing and complaining quite a bit with umpires about ball kids, time violations and line calls and so on. We’ll just have to see whether he can clear his head and bring the focus needed to defeat Federer tomorrow.
My prediction is the Swiss will win it in 3 tight sets. I might be too optimistic here but blame Federer for clouding my judgment tonight – all he needed was 54 minutes to display tennis peRFection and I was gone… 😉