And we’re baaaaack! 3 weeks early too! Because instead of taking a month off the tour Roger Federer took a wildcard for Monte Carlo! After skipping the tournament for the past few years, his last minute entry caused a flurry in the tennis world.
I for one am very happy about this for many reasons. First, the fact that he entered another tournament after an already busy first quarter means he is feeling fit and healthy (yay!). Second, he might miss tournaments later on in the year when the baby comes so might as well shore up some bonus points now. Third, no harm in getting the clay season started a bit early along with the rest of the tour rather than waiting till Madrid. Last but not the least; it will give him a chance to try out the new racquet on clay before finalizing it for good. I really wanted to see how this racquet performs on clay. When he got the new racquet with the bigger head size I thought it would benefit his clay court game the most, giving him more power and reach over the slow and high-bounce surfaces. Soooo, I am excited and somewhat less stressed coming into Monte Carlo. It hasn’t been a happy tournament for him in the past so I don’t have any particular set of expectations. I just want him to go as far as he can, enjoy getting back to clay and pick up points along the way.
As it so happened, his opponent in R2 (R1 was a bye) was Radek Stepanek. Radek is a dangerous player. We saw how he pushed Roger only a few tournaments ago in Dubai. But the Radek that showed up today was not the same one. Plus unfortunately for Radek, the Roger he faced in Dubai wasn’t the same one across the net in Monte Carlo either. So what happens when an in-form Roger Federer meets a tired opponent? A 51 minute demolition.
Set 1 started with Roger serving and he got on the board immediately. Stepanek struggled in his very first game giving Federer a break point with a double fault. Looking back, that was the sign of things to come. Roger broke Radek and quickly held to 15 to go up a break, 3-0*. In Radek’s next service game he committed 3 double faults to give the Maestro a double break lead. Another quick hold by the Swiss and it was up to Radek to serve to stay in the set. He got on the board with a love hold where Roger made some unexpected errors (although my personal belief is that he doesn’t like bagels, especially against lower ranked opponents). Regardless, it was up to Roger to serve for the set and he had no problems wrapping it up 6-1 in only 22 minutes. Here are the stats for the set.I thought Set 2 might be a bit more competitive and it was… a bit. Roger broke Radek right away to get a 1*-0 lead and quickly held to consolidate. Maybe Radek decided he had nothing to lose because suddenly he elevated his level and held to love to get on the board. Roger responded with a love hold of his own. But by then Stepanek seemed to be getting in his groove and in the next game he held again keeping the break to just one. Perhaps the match was aching for some drama because as if on cue, Roger’s game just vanished and soon the Czech had 2 break points of his own. Roger saved both with two wonderful forehands before he finally held and kept the lead to 1 break at 4-2*. Missing those break points affected Radek because he got broken again to give the Swiss a double break. Roger then calmly served it out. Here are the match stats.In a match as lopsided as this, you already know the Maestro didn’t do much wrong. His forehand was particularly lethal as were his serves. Except for that one errant game in the second set, Roger serve couldn’t be touched. He converted all 4 of his break points and even came to the net quite successfully. Yes, some of this is due to Stepanek’s poor form, he is a better player than he showed in this match. But Roger played exceptionally well and kept his focus despite taking the first set with ease. He never let his concentration waver and quickly saved the 2 break points he faced. Given how chilly it seemed, I’m glad he was only out there for 51 minutes. Here is a link to his post-match interview.
Up next is Lukas Rosol. He played him for the first time in Dubai this year and that was the easiest match of the tournament for him. But Rosol is very erratic and when he catches fire who knows what can happen. But we won’t have to wait too long to find out. Their match is the 3rd one of the day, probably starting around 2:30pm local time, though a lot depends on the matches before it. So barely 8 hours to go! Allez Maestro!