The 2013 BNP Paribas Open is Roger Federer’s 100th ATP masters tournament in his career and he took only 58 minutes to stamp his authority on his title defense at Indian Wells. The victim was the #1 Uzbek player in the world, ranked 48 in the ATP, Denis Istomin. Istomin had faced the Swiss 3 times previously and all meetings had the same result. But perhaps none of those meetings were quite as comprehensive as this one. FedEx was clad in a glorious outfit of white shorts paired with a ‘deep royal blue’ and ‘team orange’ combination – Nike take a bow, you’ve truly outdone yourselves here, from head(band) to toe. The colours were bold and electric but as much as I wanted to pause to enjoy the outfit, Roger kept distracting me with his ballerina movement, intense expressions and clinical shot making.
Back problems? What are those? For Roger never showed any signs of them this match. And shame on those who think of Roger as only an offense player. You don’t get to be ranked #1 for 302 weeks in this day and age if you don’t know defense and Roger defended beautifully. To be honest, Istomin didn’t play terribly (though his first serves failed him) but while he hit apparent winners across the court Roger put them all back in play until the Uzbek gave in to the inevitable error. Denis also made the mistake of giving Roger too many short balls allowing the Swiss plenty of time to create opportunities and strike.
Roger’s match stats were amazing, 72% first serves in and he won 96% of them. He dropped four points on his serve in total, two of which were double faults. He provided no break points and even converted 4 out of the 7 Istomin gave him, which, as any Federer fan knows, is quite a feat for our champ. He moved extremely well, side to side and back to front, at one point hitting an inside-out forehand from around the net post. The match displayed Roger’s full repertoire of shots; he mixed it up well, ending points with powerful overhead smashes but also gentle drop shots that stopped on a dime. Sure there were a few shanks here and there but there was never any doubt as to who was in control throughout the match. Roger knew it, the crowd knew it, the commentators knew it, we the fans across the world knew it and I believe Istomin knew it too.
I must say above all the stats, what made the biggest impression on me, was Roger’s attitude in the match. In my opinion, this is the fiercest he’s been all year which makes me want to rank this performance as even better than his first 4 rounds at the Australian Open. He looked downright scary out there both in body language and style of play and if I were Istomin I might have packed my bags just looking at the sheer ferocity on his face. The Maestro was in no mood to entertain any lapses in focus or his shot making. Roger’s movement during play was of course gorgeous but Roger’s walk and stride in between sets and points reminded me of a caged lion ready to pounce. Roger is always lightning fast and there were quite a few 1 minute 4 seconds games strewn across both sets. He was there to win and he won quickly, quietly, efficiently and yes, mercilessly. The only thing he needs to do right now is maintain this god-mode level for the rest of the tournament, no improvements necessary. Yes I know that’s easier said than done but I’m on a Federer-high so I am just going to enjoy this moment.
Roger closed out the match with a smash in front of a roaring crowd that included his wife and children, his entourage of coaches, manager, and physio with a rock-star thrown in. The score line read 6-2, 6-3 and here are the stats.Roger’s next opponent is Croatian Ivan Dodig, ranked 60 in the world (but was ranked as high as 32 in 2011) who caused an upset by taking out 28th ranked Frenchman Julien Benneteau. Benneteau of course was responsible defeating Federer in the Rotterdam QFs barely a month ago. Dodig rose to fame for his defeat of Rafa Nadal at Montreal in 2011 and prefers hard courts over any other surface. Federer and Dodig have never met however but if the Swiss continues in this form, Dodig should present no problems. Then again, this edition of Indian Wells has already shown quite a few upsets, the most high-profile being world #4, the Spaniard Ferrer crashing out, and I am not bold enough to push it and make my claims just yet. Rather, I’ll just entertain myself with this Sky Sports post-match interview and then the official ATP interview and continue my giddiness over the win. 1 down, 5 to go! In the meantime, take a look at the picture comparison I did below, what do you think? 😉 I KNEW I’d seen this position before!!!