Late night roller-coaster match + long day at work the next day = no time for a proper post. So I will make this my fastest recap ever. Roger Federer defeated Radek Stepanek in 3 sets, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 in a little over 2 hours. He will face Lukas Rosol in the Dubai QF in a few hours from now. These were my take-aways from the match:
- Roger got broken in his first service game of all three sets. He also got broken while serving for the match, just to keep things interesting.
- Roger hit 5 double faults.
- Radek won his first set against Roger since 2008.
- Despite all the ups and downs, Roger hit some seriously amazing shots when he was cruising.
- Roger started slow, in the first set then rapidly picked it up and got a double break to take the set.
- Very surprisingly, the momentum died right away with the beginning of the second set when he got broken out of nowhere. Yet again the Swiss went up another gear and stayed there till Radek, serving for the set got broken to level the scores at 5 all. The set went into a tie-break and then Roger uncharacteristically fell apart and lost the set.
- A despondent looking Roger got broken right away in the third set which was the lowest point of the match. That game reminded me of 2013 for the first time this year.
- Then, I told myself, enough with the negativity, and I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and said out loud, ‘I Believe’. Yes I know it’s all cheesy, you can laugh, but that’s really what I did. Whatever works to keep my sanity right?
- And I think somehow, thankfully Roger had decided the same thing at the same time. He decided to dig his heels in and fight.
- In the third set I saw a Roger of 2012 that not many remember. We tend to think of 2012 as a glorious year since he won all those titles including Wimbledon. What we forget are those matches where he was on the brink of a loss and then somehow pulled through. I give you the Del Potro matches in Dubai, Roland Garros and of course the Olympics, the Madrid final with Berdych, the Raonic match at Halle and the Benneteau match at Wimbledon. Those were all very tight matches with Roger often not playing at his best. But he won because talent and form are not the only ingredients of a great champion. He won because he fought, hard. Compared to his younger rivals he is always criticized for not having enough grit but yesterday, in that third set, grit, will, drive, focus and determination are what ultimately won him the match.
- We saw how he had multiple match points last year against Berdych in Dubai before squandering them and losing. That same scenario could have happened yesterday too, but it didn’t. Not even when he was broken serving for the match.
- More than anything, this mental fight that he was able to win will help his confidence a great deal and that, even more than the match win itself, is my most positive take-away.
I was very happy to hear that he had already analyzed his game from the match by the time of the presser. He said,
“I started to understand what I was doing wrong, which made me maybe play a little bit tentatively from the baseline, what made me not make enough shots [and] why I wasn’t playing as aggressively as I wanted to. I couldn’t find the right balance between offense and defense.
It was almost a bit too late for everything, but I kind of hung around and I took the positives out of the match. Radek did a good job of putting the pressure on me and mixing it up. From that standpoint, it was a really difficult match. I’m very pleased to come through.”
Here’s a clip of his post-match interview and here are the match stats.Roger’s next opponent is Lukas Rosol of the Nadal-Wimbledon match fame. They have never faced each other and I hope Rosol doesn’t get it in his head to use this as an opportunity to get another big name win on his resume. The form Rosol was in for that match against Rafa was ridiculous. But the good thing is Roger is definitely aware of the potential danger Rosol can bring to the table. So I hope this tough match with Radek, with the mental victory at the end is just what he needed to push things up to another level.
Fingers crossed for the Maestro! Only a few hours to go! Allez!
***Photo from: http://www.sportsmole.co.uk/***