And we’re back on tour! It feels good saying that! So after a month long hiatus, Roger Federer is back. He’s been in Shanghai for a while actually. He’s done a ton of promotional events followed by frenzied fans every step of the way. He has also entered the doubles at Shanghai with Chinese player Ze Zhang and they won their first match to the surprise of everyone including Roger! 😉 We’ll see how they do and in the midst of my singles coverage I might try and sneak in some doubles action into my next posts. Roger also did a hilarious twitter Q&A session with his fans using the hashtag #AskRF. But for now, for the sake of time, I’m only covering the first singles match Roger played vs. Italian Andreas Seppi in R2 of the Shanghai Masters.
As it usually has been for the past few years, Mirka and the twins don’t travel with him on the Asian swing. Neither does his coach Paul Annacone. The Swiss isn’t completely alone however; Severin Luthi, Tony Godsick and Stephane Vivier are with him. Nonetheless, without the Queen herself, his player’s box was going to be a bit empty. Or was it? Within two games into the first set the camera panned across the following seats:Yes, that’s Rafa Nadal, Marc Lopez, Fabio Fognini and Tommy Haas. Never fear, the bros are here! To be fair, Marc was probably there to keep Rafa company and Fabio was most likely supporting fellow Italian and doubles partner Seppi but the Maestro’s friendship with Tommy Haas is well known and Rafa, well that’s been going on for ages. Rivals on court and friends off-court, Rafa has been known to watch Roger play at other tournaments in the past. Before the Shanghai Rolex Masters started Rafa had some warm words for the Swiss and his chances of qualifying for London. Today he backed up that confidence by supporting his friend on court.
This was just as well because initially Roger needed a bit of support. He looked somewhat rusty while Seppi looked sharp. Roger faced a break point in just his second service game but somehow held. In his third service game he hit two double faults, the second one at break point and gifted Andreas the lead. Yes Rafa, you and I had the same expression just then :(.
The break however, galvanized Roger and soon he had 2 break point opportunities of his own. After a long rally he ended the point with a gorgeous smash and Rafa and I clapped in delight. I told you, we were in sync, Rafa and I ;). The match was back on serve at 3 all. I think that was the turning point of the match even though he faced 2 break points in his very next service game. But he saved them both to go up 4-3*. At this point Rafa took off, partly because he was mobbed by fans by then, partly because he had his own match coming up next but I’m sure also partly because he sensed the momentum had shifted in Roger’s favor, just like I did. The set continued on serve with Roger beginning to find his rhythm.
Serving to stay in the set, Seppi panicked and Roger stepped it up. Seppi got broken with an error of his own and it was 6-4 for the Maestro in 37 minutes. This wasn’t a clean set for Roger; he had quite a few unforced errors. But he remained cool, focused when needed and snatched the set away.
On to set 2 and Roger carried over his confidence from the first set for an emphatic love hold. He kept pushing Seppi who was still trying to regain some footing in the match. After the 3rd deuce Roger had a break point and an error from Andreas gave Roger the break. The Swiss smoothly consolidated the break to go up 3-0 and looking back, the match was already decided by then. The Maestro had well and truly settled in while Seppi got more frustrated. Both men held steady and didn’t offer any more break points and while that was wonderful for Roger (and us) it meant Andreas never got even a chance at leveling the set. Andreas made sure Roger had to serve for the match and knowing the kind of year Roger has had, in particular having trouble closing matches, I was justifiably nervous. Roger quickly went down love-30 while I covered my face, unwilling to see what might happen next. However, the Maestro thankfully had no time for nonsense and won the next 6 points in a row that included two aces. Game, set, match, Federer. Here are the match stats. Thought he had a rather shaky start, as the match went on, Roger got better and better and was in complete control by set 2. The winners to unforced errors ratio of 19 to 29 is a tad worrying but most of those errors came in the first set. He said going a set up and then an early break up in the second set was key for him. “Even though it remained tough, Seppi did a good job of hanging around. That’s the kind of match you want in this particular situation I’m in right now.” Here is a link to the highlights.
For those interested, Rafa was asked about his presence at Roger’s match and this is what he had to say. “It’s special, I had an opportunity today to watch a few games like a spectator in life. I enjoyed it. I watched [Federer] because I arrived early and I already practiced. I didn’t know what else to do. I went on court to watch a player like Roger, which I always enjoy doing.”
Up next for Roger is the highly talented, athletic, mercurial Frenchman, Gael Monfils. Their H2H is 6-1 with Roger winning their last encounter. Actually they haven’t played since 2011 so I’m not quite sure how this match-up will be given their current forms. But it’s bound to be entertaining for sure. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Roger comes out on the winning side at the end. Only about 11 hours to go! Allez!