Roger Federer has reached his first final in 2013. It took a long time coming, but it’s finally here and I couldn’t be any happier… well I could, obviously, if he wins the tourney. But given his start to the year and the fact that he’s never been that comfortable in Rome, I think this has already been a great achievement by him.
He had tricky opponents, who might not have looked intimidating on paper but were in great form, especially the QFs and SFs with Janowicz and Paire. The match with Paire was not pretty. After three flawless matches, Roger had quite a lot of unforced errors and much more errors than winners. He had errors off the forehand and down the line backhands and his first serve percentage dipped as well. In the first set, Roger looked the more uncomfortable player on court, struggling to hold serve in a few games while Paire had an easier time. When serving to go up 4-3, Roger was broken but the very next game Roger broke Paire to get back on serve at 4 all. After that Roger held serve much better and soon we were in a tie-break. Roger was immediately a mini-break down; he got it back and then was down again. With Paire serving at 5*-4 this should’ve been the Frenchman’s set but instead he gave up both points to Roger. This time Roger didn’t miss and took the first set despite not playing his best or even as well as Paire.
In the second set, Roger played much better. His first serve percentage went up and he was sharper on court. He broke Benoit on his 2nd service game to go up a break at 2*-1. Roger consolidated and from then on, Benoit never provided another break point; but none were needed. Even though Roger provided 2 break point opportunities of his own, Benoit failed to take them and ultimately Roger served out a love game to win the match in 1 hour and 28 minutes, 7-6(7-5), 6-4. He is now in his 3rd Rome final, and the first since 2006.
Speaking of 2006, his opponent was none other than Rafa Nadal. A 19 year old Rafa fought him hard and the match went to 5 sets (of course Masters tournies used to be 5 setters back then). It was one of their most fiercely fought battles. It took 5 hours and 5 minutes before Rafa ultimately edged out despite being match points down. And now 7 years later, Roger is back in the final facing none other than…. Rafa Nadal – in other words, we have a ‘Fedal’ final. We haven’t had one since Roland Garros 2011. But somehow it’s almost poetic justice that they’re there considering how the world seemed/seems intent on writing them off hailing Novak and Andy as the ones to watch.
I won’t elaborate too much on the final now; I’ll leave that for tomorrow. It will be their 30th meeting and incredibly their 20th final. And I won’t mention the H2H stats as all Federer fans know how miserable they are especially on clay. It is what it is and we can only look forward at this point. Frankly speaking, Federer needs to play a cleaner match than he did today if he is to have a chance, Rafa has gotten better and better and he was ruthless in taking out Berdych. But if Roger can get his pristine form of the first few Rome matches back, then the match will be a treat to watch. I will still say Rafa is not 100% so there is the teeniest of chances to make something happen for sure. For me nothing much will change really. I will support him like I always do; except I will already be happy and proud for him having reached the final. If he plays well that will make this a joyous ending for the tournament. If he wins, well, tune in tomorrow to gauge my reaction for right now I have no idea exactly how much euphoria I will feel. We are already proud of you Roger! Hope you have a good night’s sleep and bring your A game to the court tomorrow! Allez!