The day was windy. Roger Federer came out onto court with his most serious expression yet in the whole tournament. He looked all business and meant it. Only when he wrapped up the straight sets win, 6-3, 6-1, did he allow himself a big smile followed by a warm hug at the net. I thought he was quick in the last match, wrapping it up in 69 minutes. Last night he was even quicker, taking only 61 minutes to storm into his 5th final at Indian Wells.
Set 1 started with both players holding serve quickly to get on the board at 1 all. But Roger started putting the pressure on Alexandr right away from the Ukrainian’s second service game. Roger pushed him to deuce but Dolgopolov held and it was 2 all. A quick hold by the Maestro again before another tricky service game for Alexandr but two aces helped him hold, the score was 3 all. Roger’s next service game was the only one in the match when the Swiss struggled a bit. He was 15-30 down and then committed a double fault for deuce. Two spectacular serves, an ace and a high kick serve, got him out of trouble. The score was 4-3* with Dolgopolov to serve and seemed to be the perfect time for a break. The Swiss stepped on the pedal and pushed the game to deuce. An error from the Ukrainian gave Roger his first break point and another error sealed it. It was up to Roger to serve for the set. He committed one error but took the next 4 points with fine serving that included 2 aces and the set was wrapped up; 6-3 in 30 minutes. Here are the stats.Clearly Roger was dealing with the windy conditions much better than Alexandr. The Ukrainian looked frustrated and lost and I got the feeling Roger might be able to get an early break before Dolgopolov regrouped and refocused after losing the first set. That’s exactly what happened. Alexandr was still ruing his first set loss while the Maestro lunged for the kill. The Swiss got 3 break points. Alexandr saved the first with a good serve but a scintillating forehand winner from Roger got the break we were all hoping for. Just to add further salt to the wound, Roger consolidated the break with a love hold culminating with yet another ace. By then Dolgopolov had woken up to what was happening and held his next service game ensuring that he was only 1 break down. Little did he know then, that was to be his last hold.
Another hold to 15 by Roger which included an ace, took the score to 3-1*. Then came the Ukrainian’s marathon service game that had 6 deuces and took around 10 minutes. This game also gave us the shot of the day with the most ridiculous cross-court forehand return by Federer. Just watch! Roger had 4 break point opportunities and finally took the 4th for a double break. Roger next held to 30 and soon it was time for Dolgopolov to serve to stay in the match at 1*-5. By then Alexandr was resigned to his fate and didn’t put up a fight. He provided the Swiss 3 match points at 0-40 and got broken right away. Game, set match Federer, 6-3, 6-1. Here are the match stats.FedExpress was ruthless and never let up from the get go. Despite the wind he served beautifully, both first and second serves. Each shot was hit with conviction. He remained steely-faced and his body language was pumped up and aggressive, punctuated with roars of “Come On!” when necessary 🙂 He broke Dolgopolov’s will and mettle and then eventually his game. After match point the he greeted Dolgopolov with big smiles at the net and said “that was fun!” Unlike most players on tour, Alexandr is not a grinder, he is an aggressive shot-maker as well and the two seemed to enjoy playing each other. They had gotten to know each other in Dubai where they had practiced together only months before so there was an air of camaraderie with the net hug. The Ukrainian can be proud of himself for a great tournament that will see his rankings deservedly shoot up.
Meanwhile, our champ is now in his 116th career final! He has been getting better and better with each match and has yet to drop a set. I expect the final to possibly change that. On Sunday he will face an old foe, one more time. This will be their 33rd match and their second in just 2 weeks. Roger defeated Novak Djokovic in a highly entertaining SF match in Dubai and their H2H is very close indeed with a 17-15 in slight favor of the Swiss.
Novak has not had the easiest tournament but he benefited from a lighter half of the draw which allowed him time to find his groove. However, while his play was uneven I am absolutely positive his motivation is 100%. He must be sick and tired of answering questions about his form and why he still doesn’t have a title this year. I find that a bit strange to be honest, he’s only played the Australian Open and Dubai before this. Nonetheless, he has been hounded on it constantly so he will come out with guns blazing. A win here would stop those journalists from poking him, he would get his confidence back and revenge on Roger for Dubai would be the icing on the cake. Hard courts are where Novak thrives and I am expecting this to be a fierce battle and I have no clue who will win.
But whether he wins or not, I am already proud of our champ. Out of 4 tournaments this year he has reached the final in 3 of them. Best of all he will be back in the top 5 rankings regardless; he will trail Ferrer very closely for the #4 spot. And remember, Ferrer is defending finalist points in Miami while Roger can only gain if he plays there. Now if Roger wins at Indian Wells that’s a whole other story but I won’t jinx anything by mentioning it 😉
Novak needs this win much more than Roger and I hope that allows Roger to play freely and unleash his entire arsenal. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain Roger, so go for it!
One more time, make him fight for every point.
One more time, get him frustrated with your aces.
One more time, let him groan with dismay at your drop shots.
One more time, leave him open-mouthed at your precision forehands.
One more time, get him angry at your down the line backhands.
One more time, make him watch in awe at the art you create on the court.
One more time Maestro! One more time!