I’m coming home
I’m coming home
tell the World I’m coming home
Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday
I know my kingdom awaits and they’ve forgiven my mistakes
I’m coming home, I’m coming home
tell the World I’m coming
– Lyrics by J. Cole
Roger Federer is back on court (after what seems like ages). He squared off against the lefty Frenchman Adrian Mannarino who never had much luck against our Maestro. As the camera peered into the tunnel we saw Roger and Adrian warmly clasp hands greeting each other before Adrian first stepped out on court. Roger followed him out to thunderous applause as expected in his hometown.
He won the toss and elected to receive which is something we’ve seen him do a lot this year. Still not sure on why but it seems to be his thing in 2013. The strategy worked as a nervous Mannarino got broken right away. Roger quickly consolidated but Adrian shook off his nerves after those two games and once he got on the board he pushed Roger to get a break point. The Swiss gave it up in the worst possible way with a double fault and we were back on serve. Both players held for the next two games to go up 3 all before Roger pushed Adrian with a divine Federer-esque game. He hit a searing forehand cross-court winner to go up 0-15. Then an unreal lob while running back to the baseline from the net to go up 0-30. He went up 0-40 from an error from Adrian to have 3 break points. The Frenchman saved the first break point with a fantastic serve and the second one from a backhand error from Roger. But Roger finally sealed it with a great forehand winner and there was no stopping the Maestro after that. Roger held to love and even though Adrian held and pushed Roger to serve it out, he did so without too much drama and hit quite a few winners to take the first set 6-4.
Roger had a miserable time getting his first serves in, only 46% and what partly saved him was Adrian’s first serves % was even lower at 41%. The match was not of the highest quality in the beginning but by the end of the first set Roger seemed to be finding his rhythm and the error frequency reduced a bit. Here are the stats for Set 1.On to Set 2 and Adrian immediately had a very tight service hold saving a break point in the process. Roger meanwhile struck a brilliant backhand smash to go up 15-0 and that ended with a comfortable love hold to get on the board at 1 all. Adrian raised his level as well and his 2nd service game produced a lot of pretty tennis from both players. Roger had two break points and Adrian saved them both with an ace and a winner to get to deuce. Roger pushed to two more deuces before getting another break point chance with a gorgeous rally from both players. Yet, Roger couldn’t capitalize on it and Mannarino finally held, 2-1*. The next service game was tough for the Swiss and he was pushed to deuce twice, one of which was because of his own double fault. He ultimately held and things got substantially easier for our champ from that point on. He kept pushing Mannarino by playing aggressively and forcing errors from the Frenchman. He got a break point opportunity and this time he did not waste it and took the game to go up 3*-2. He quickly consolidated and kept bullying Mannarino in his next service game and had 2 break points again. Mannarino saved both but then provided another one. The Maestro hit a forehand winner and got the double break to go up 5*-2. He served it out to love with some excellent serves. Game, set, match, Federer, 6-4, 6-2 in 71 minutes. Here are the stats for Set 2.Roger did everything better in the second set, especially towards the end of the match. His first serve stats are not making me happy and his break point conversion rate rarely pleases me these days. However, it should be noted that he did convert those break points at crucial times in the match and stepped up a gear during the big points. This is something he has struggled with this year so that was encouraging for me. It wasn’t the prettiest of matches but it didn’t need to be. He needs wins more than he needs pretty tennis at this point. With the wins, the confidence will come back. And once the confidence is there, the pretty tennis will flow automatically, as it was towards the end of the match. I know this match wasn’t against a big ranked opponent but a win is a win and it will help in getting him to a good mental place. He appeared frustrated a few times during the match and was even talking to himself which is rare. But I am going to focus on the win for now; as long as he gets there, it’s a good thing, regardless of how the win was achieved. Here are the highlights and here is the post-match interview in Swiss German.
Up next will be either Denis Istomin or Horacio Zeballos. His H2H with Istomin is 4-0 with his most recent win at Indian Wells, which was one of Roger’s best matches of this year. The Swiss has never faced Zeballos. Zeballos’ expertise is on clay and he has the distinction of being the only player besides Federer and Djokovic to have ever defeated Nadal on clay. He hasn’t been in the best of form lately so it might end up being Istomin who will face Roger. I think Roger’s next match will be on Wednesday but it could be pushed out to Thursday too. Till then, I’ll wait anxiously, with my fingers crossed and my mouth shut. No speculating, no theorizing. I’ll let the Maestro do the rest. *fistpump*