Hello everyone. We’re back on the hard courts! Well actually we were back last week in Montreal but Roger Federer withdrew from it so in my biased mind the hard court season hadn’t truly started till Cincy ;). He arrived at Cincy earlier than usual and from the pictures flooding my twitter timeline it looked as though he was practicing hard with his new racquet and more importantly, with no tape on the back (YES!). When the tournament got underway we saw the Queen herself (well in our tennis world anyway) Mirka come to her husband’s practice sessions. It’s been a while since she’s done that so we knew the Federer team was extra serious about Cincy.
The day before the match, we learned that Roger was scheduled to be the last match on Center Court. We also learned that Roger was practicing with his previous 90” racquet which left everyone puzzled because he had mentioned how he was happy with the new one and had wanted to continue with it for now. Everyone was wondering which racquet he would bring to his match and lo and behold, the good ol’ 90” was back. However, I will mention his comments about this switch back to the smaller racquet later in the post because first, there is a match to report on!
He kicked off the tournament against the German player Philipp Kohlschreiber (who looks a lot like the guy in the Wilson ad, don’t you think?) Anyway, the first set was a dream set from Roger except for the 4th game with Philipp serving to go up to 2 all. He offered the Swiss 6 break points and Roger squandered all of them; well 4 of them, Kohlschreiber saved 2 with aces. But Roger kept pushing with his aggressive play while serving beautifully; no double faults, 3 aces, 87% of his first serve points won and 70% points won of his second. He offered no break points and had love holds and games where he allowed Kohlschreiber just one point. The German never even pushed him to deuce. The Maestro was rewarded in Philipp’s very next service game when he offered one more break point via a double fault. This time Roger made no mistake and broke to go up 4-2. Kohlschreiber offered no more breaking opportunities but none were needed as Roger ultimately took the set 6-3 in 39 minutes.
The second set was predictably much more competitive. Roger’s level and concentration dropped at crucial times while Philipp elevated his level overall. It was going according to plan except for his 3rd service game where he double faulted on break point to get broken by the German. Other than that game he served very well with more love holds. But that one lapse in focus saw the scores tilt in favor of Kohlschreiber as he went up 4-2. But continued to Roger returned well and mixed it up with some beautiful volleys to get a total of 3 break points in the very next game on Philipp’s serve. Thankfully for us he finally took the third and we were back on serve. Roger had one more break point with Philipp serving to go up 6-5 but he couldn’t take it and soon we were at the inevitable tie-break.
I hate tie-breaks in general but more so lately because Roger has had some trouble closing out tight matches. And right away I got scared because Philipp was immediately up a mini-break at 2*-0. However, Federer made him work for it and soon got that mini-break back and went up a mini-break of his own to get to 5-2*. Philipp won the next two points on his own serve and got the mini-break back to get to 5 all. At 6*-5 Roger had match point on Philipp’s serve but no luck and it was 6 all. Philipp then had set point on Roger’s serve but Roger held and soon had match point again on Philipp’s serve at 8-7*. After an intense rally the German finally netted the point and Roger won the set 7-6(9-7). Here are the complete match stats. It was an intense match with high level tennis from both players; Kohlschreiber was a formidable opponent. Roger faltered a bit in the 2nd set but it was very impressive how he came through in the end given his latest form. Hopefully he will use this win and the good energy from it for his next match which will be either against Tommy Haas or Marcell Granollers. When he was asked who he would prefer in the next round he said Tommy without any hesitation. You can see the post match on-court interview here.
It was good to hear that he was finally playing pain free and that he didn’t mind the cooler conditions at all. He was honest about his recent dip in form and said “I’ve had a tough last few weeks and months, so I mean, I’ve had to fight many things lately. It’s more than just the rust on top of it.” But also concluded that “Things are going well for me now, you know. I’m playing freely. I’m hitting the ball okay actually.” It seems he’s cognizant of his situation and what is working versus what isn’t and is overall feeling good about where he is with his game thus far. Check out more of his comments in this presser. As for his racquet switch he said the following:
“I just felt like, you know what, I’m going to play with the old racquet through the US Open right now, and I’m going to do more racquet testing when I have, again, some more time after the US Open. Yeah, I was playing for a month with the black one, but it’s a prototype. At the end, I just felt like, you know what, right now I feel like I need to simplify everything and just play with what I know best. I have too many things on my plate right now. So I just said, I want to definitely do my racquet testing and play more with the prototype, but right now I just wanted it to be about forehands and backhands and nothing else.”
So it seems that the racquet experiment is on hold for now. While I am generally in favor of him switching to a bigger racquet I fully understand why he switched back. If he had been able to fully test out the prototype in Hamburg and Gstaad we might have seen it in action in Cincy. However, the back problems got in the way and in the end, the new racquet was one too many variables to deal with. I actually have a feeling he won’t try the new racquet until the year is over. Maybe he’ll use it in November if he does his exhibition tour and then maybe Brisbane in 2014? Or perhaps not even until his big break post Indian Wells next year. Who knows. But I do think it was a positive sign he tried it and I hope he won’t abandon the idea entirely.
For now, he gets a day of rest while we get to find out who his next opponent will be. Roger wobbled a bit in this match and will need to concentrate more on holding his serve consistently because he has a tough draw and this was the easiest match (at least on paper). It will just get tougher from here on but he seems to like rising up to challenges, that fighter mentality doesn’t let him think otherwise. So hopefully we will see a strong, confident Roger win his Round 3 match on Thursday. Till then, sleep well Maestro!
*Thanks to @Sofia__RF for the photos 🙂