The grass season is finally here! And it’ll be gone just like that (one of my pet peeves with the circuit) so let’s enjoy it while we can! Roger Federer kicked off the green season with a Round 2 match at Halle facing a lefty German, 22 year old Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, ranked 166 in the world.
The match was a quick affair. The Swiss took only 68 minutes to win with a 6-3, 6-3 score line. But don’t let that fool you; it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Roger. He raced to a 5-2 lead and was about to serve for the first set but got broken. Federer appeared irritated with himself and promptly righted the course by breaking back and taking the set. There was certainly a lapse in concentration from Federer at the end of that set with some wild errors and erratic play; his unforced errors count was 10 compared to 8 winners. The second set was more or less the same with Stebe getting broken in his first service game. Although the German played well from then on and didn’t lose serve again, he still couldn’t do much to break Roger. And that’s despite Roger hitting quite a few errors and shanks to make a break seem like a possibility at times. Serving at 5*-3 the Maestro blew his first match point with a double fault that brought the scores back to deuce. After saving a break point he got his second match point and this time, he didn’t waste it. Here are the stats.Federer didn’t play a very clean match. There were shanks here and there and errors from the backhand in particular. Also, Stebe didn’t do much to trouble the Swiss so some of it was Roger playing against himself. His serve stats weren’t the best, with only 58% first serves in, combined with 2 double faults. The match didn’t get into much of a rhythm and there weren’t too many well constructed points. But at the end of the day, a win is a win is a win. Furthermore, it is his first match on grass and as we’ve seen from both Halle and Queens, the transition from clay to grass is not the easiest; quite a few seeds have already tumbled to lower ranked players. On a personal note, I cannot believe the grass ‘season’, if you can even call it that is so short, especially in light of Wimbledon. As Nishikori pointed out after his loss to Youzhny, “It’s not easy because it’s played only a few weeks during the year. I like the idea of a longer season on grass. Wimbledon is everybody’s dream to play.”
Sorry I digressed from the topic at hand, but I feel strongly about this issue and just had to let out some of my frustrations. Federer echoed the sentiments in having to switch gears with a change in surface when asked about his performance, “It was straightforward. I was playing with a lead. That’s always very helpful. I’m pleased. There are many things I could have done better but for the first round on grass, first time of the year, it was a pretty good performance.”
I fully agree with Roger here; he summed it up perfectly. Yes, there were misses and errors, but it’s the first match on grass and despite everything he won it quite comfortably and wasted no energy. I am giving his performance a B+ and moving on. I think as he starts getting used to the conditions he will get better and stronger with each match.
Meanwhile, with this win over Stebe, Roger won his 40th match at Halle. Even more impressive, he has now won a total of 118 grass court matches in his career, climbing to #3 behind McEnroe (119) and Connors (169). He already holds the record for his match winning percentage on this surface and now it stands at 118 wins to 17 losses i.e. 87.4%.
Up next is yet another lefty German, wildcard entry Mischa Zverev. He is ranked 156 in the world and took out David Goffin in Round 1 and lucky loser Mirza Basic in Round 2. Roger has a 1-0 H2H with him but he can be tricky and is quite adept at net play so Roger will need to change his tactics a bit. This match is scheduled for Friday and you can be sure millions of us will be tuning in to watch Roger weave his magic on his beloved surface.