Roger Federer was in no mood to waste any time. He has been playing doubles and singles at Indian Wells and it is coming down to the wire with only the last stages of the tournament left. Saving energy is crucial and he certainly made quick work of dispatching an in-form Kevin Anderson, defeating him in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1 in only 69 minutes.
To Anderson’s credit, he kept pace with Federer the entire first set. Roger opened the game with a hold followed by a hold from the South African to level the score to 1 all. In Roger’s next service game Kevin pushed him enough to get a break point. Little did Kevin know then that was the only look he was going to get at the Maestro’s serve in the entire match. Roger saved the break point with a fantastic serve and held. In Kevin’s next game he offered 4 break points, first at 0-40 down and then when Federer had the advantage, but the Swiss was unable to capitalize and it was 2 all. From then on there is no point in writing about Federer’s service games. He held his serve to love for the rest of the set i.e. 4 consecutive love holds. You can add the first game of the second set too in which case it would be 5. Yes, that’s how good he really was. Meanwhile, Kevin hung in there too and soon it was time to serve to take the set to a tie-break. Maybe Kevin was thinking ahead to the impending tie-break (like I was) and lost focus because in the blink of an eye, he was down 0-40. This time the Swiss didn’t miss his chance. He broke Kevin to love and roared in triumph. Here are the stats from Set 1.Roger started Set 2 with a love hold as I mentioned above. Kevin, probably still rattled from dropping serve at the worst possible time in the previous set, looked a bit lost. At 30-15 in Kevin’s first service game of the set, Roger hit the most ridiculous backhand lob over Kevin that must be seen to be believed so here is the link. That shot would demoralize anyone or at least that’s what it did to Kevin. An error from the South African gave Roger a break point and a subsequent error sealed it for our champ. Now the question was, would Roger be able to consolidate. He had problems in the previous match against Tommy Haas. But Roger was starting to feel imperious and also, Kevin is not Tommy 😉 Roger held and took the score to 3-0*. Kevin was yet to get on the board and was down 15-40 in his second service game. Yet again Roger took his first opportunity for a double break lead. Times like these are when the FedExpress moniker seems to make total sense. He was unstoppable. He of course held quickly and poor Kevin had to serve at 0*-5 down to avoid a bagel. He finally got on the board leaving the champ to serve it out himself. By then Roger could do no wrong. The Swiss served it out to love with a winning service point down the T. Here are the match stats.If you haven’t seen the match, I urge you to do so. This was really Vintage Federer. I didn’t think we would see him so soon and I am not going to get used to the idea that he will be there every time from now on, because that’s neither fair nor realistic. But yesterday, he was there, right on court, for all to admire and enjoy. Some of the shots he hit were straight out of his own special handbook. His court coverage was amazing, his movement was glorious, foot speed was excellent and he hit backhands with purpose and forehands with lethal precision. There was absolutely nothing to complain about the Maestro at all, I mean, just look at his stats! Honestly there really wasn’t much Kevin could have done either; Roger was just in an unplayable mode.
This match and the R4 match with Haas was Federer at a different level. If he continues in this vein we are in for a fantastic ride. I am trying to remain calm of course and prepare myself for whatever happens in the next match and so on but Roger is making it mighty difficult to lower expectations 😀
Speaking of his next match, he will face Alexandr Dolgopolov in the SFs. Dolgopolov knocked out the defending champion Rafa Nadal from this tournament two rounds earlier. He has always had an unorthodox style but used to be quite volatile in his performance. This season however it’s all clicking into place for the Ukrainian. He is very dangerous right now and after defeating the #1 seed I would say he is playing fearlessly. Roger has faced him once before in Basel in 2010 and won, but this isn’t the same Dolgopolov so he will not underestimate him I am sure.
But regardless of what happens in the next match here is what we are assured of. Come Monday, Roger will jump 3 places in the rankings and return back to the top 5! The last time he was there was in August 2013. After 30 weeks of being ranked from 6-8, he will be ranked #5 in the world. I know, it seemed really long, those 30 weeks. But then think of the 302 weeks he was ranked #1. My amazing math skills tell me he spent 10 times more weeks being on top of the world than he did ranked a “lowly” number 8 (please read the “lowly” with the sarcasm it deserves). Now there’s a bit of perspective right?
I cannot close out this post without mentioning what Roger said in the presser about proving it to himself, his team and his fans:
“Well, look, last year was difficult, so I’m just happy playing enough matches where, you know, you feel like you have momentum, you have some confidence as well and you’re enjoying it at the same time, because last year wasn’t always the case, you know. Good, better moments, but then also tougher ones. So I think just things are easier now, and I’m able to take advantage of the fact that I’m just healthy. Last year I wasn’t quite, you know, for most of the year. So then I can’t also expect so much from myself. But then when I do feel good again, this is kind of what I expect from myself. It’s nice proving it to myself and the team and my fans that they can still count on me. It’s nice giving yourself opportunities to win a tournament, no doubt about that.”
That bit about being able to count on him touched me deeply on many levels. First, the obvious one which is that he really does think about his fans and the impact he has on us. Second, I appreciate how open he has been, sharing his struggles of last year with the world. Third, I am floored by how much drive and motivation he has; after winning so much in his career already he still wanted to rise up and take last year as a challenge. That’s what separates the players from the champions and our Maestro is indeed the King of all Champions 😀
Last bit of trivia before I sign off: This is the 7th consecutive tournament where Roger has reached at least the SFs. The streak started in Basel last year and it has been a wonderful journey with Roger’s form improving from tournament to tournament 😀 Good luck tomorrow Maestro! Looking forward to watching you wield your Wilson wand!