My first post of the year and we open 2014 with a win! Roger Federer defeated Jarkko Nieminen, 6-4, 6-2 and moved on to the QFs at Brisbane. The match was exactly what the Maestro needed. A tough opponent who gave him a fight, at least in the first set, and made him shake off the rust from the off-season. This was also the debut of Roger’s new racquet. We still don’t know the specifications of it but we do know it’s not the same one he tried out in Gstaad and Hamburg last year. He practiced with this new one in the off-season and today for the most part it looked like it was up for the job 🙂
The first set started with several quick holds of serve from both players. I should mention here that the Brisbane courts this year are apparently very fast. Thus much to the joy of many tennis enthusiasts including me, we are getting to see a much more attacking style of tennis than we are used to on the slower courts on tour for the rest of the year. On Tuesday, Roger played and won his first doubles match with Mahut and the points were lightening quick, with creative angles and intricate point constructions. This match was similar as well.
After 2 all in the first set, it got interesting. Neiminen was up 40-0 on his own serve when a spectacular, unreal lob from Roger brought the score to 40-15. A beautiful backhand volley winner took the score to 40-30. Jarkko started panicking, errors flowed and soon the Swiss has a break point. Jarkko finally sprayed a forehand long to give Roger the only break of the set. Roger had a tough service game right after, trying to consolidate. He had to save a break point before finally holding to go up 4-2*. After that, though both players were tested in their service games, they held on and soon it was time for the Maestro to serve it out. Nieminen took him to deuce twice before Roger sealed it with a service winner. Here are the stats from set 1.Nieminen pushed him from beginning to end and the only time Jarkko flinched was when he was broken. Roger had a few errors and possibly a bit of nerves while serving for the set but overall he found the lines and corners accurately and often, more so as the set went on and he found his groove. Some cross-court backhand returns took my breath away and his forehands in particular were scary good.
Onto set 2 and fresh from losing the first set, Jarkko seemed to be redlining it and going for too much only to commit errors. In the blink of an eye Roger had 2 break points and another error from Jarkko gave him an immediate break. Roger then quickly held and by the time Jarkko started his second service game, the Maestro was in the zone. Roger’s ability to take the ball super early, combined with his speed and precision was further enhanced by the quick court and together these factors made him deadly. Jarkko tried desperately to hang on and saved one break point but couldn’t save the second as the Swiss got the double break.
The next service match for Roger was the last time Jarkko was able to put him under pressure. Roger provided Nieminen 2 break points but then saved both quickly with wonderful serves. He had to save another break point before ultimately holding to go up 4-0*. Jarkko somehow held his next game and avoided a bagel and got to 1-4*. Roger quickly served to love to go up 5-1*. After that, even though Nieminen held his next service game, the writing was already on the wall. Serving for the match at 5*-2, Roger wasted no time and displayed no nerves as he calmly served out a love game and took the set, 6-2. Here are the set 2 stats.Roger served well, especially in the second set and hit 9 aces throughout the match. He was sharp off both wings and the new racquet looked fully integrated into his game. He seemed to have a good feel with it, especially as the match went on. I thought the new racquet added more power in his shots and he was able to blast away Jarkko off the court. You could see his confidence grow the deeper the match went. Here is the link for the full match vs. Nieminen and here is the link to his presser afterwards.
Roger faces an Aussie player next, Marinko Matosevic, who is having a great tourney of his own; he defeated Tursunov and Querrey along the way. Interestingly Roger and Marinko have never played each other before so I’m not sure what to expect. I won’t make any predictions but I suspect Roger is feeling better about his game especially after this R2 match.
But that QF match is on Friday, i.e. tomorrow. Meanwhile as I am posting this he just finished playing the QF in doubles with Mahut. He thoroughly enjoyed himself just like he did in the first doubles match. They played against Dimitrov/Chardy which resulted in a highly entertaining match with some fantastic shot-making from all four players. Both sets went to tie-breaks with Federer-Mahut winning the first one 7-3 and Dimitrov-Chardy winning the second 7-5. Federer-Mahut then finally won a thoroughly fun super tie-break at 11-9 to win the match and reach the SFs! Roger always looks happy when playing doubles, smiling away, so I’m really glad he playing them; good positive vibes. In fact provided he is fit, fresh and healthy, I would love to see him play more doubles here and there as the year goes on.
Well, that’s it from my end. My mantra post 2013 is to be cautiously optimistic and those are the feelings I am carrying into that QF match tomorrow. Fingers crossed the Maestro comes through!