Roger Federer has played and won his first 2 matches at Basel and is in the QFs! I experienced some technical difficulties i.e. computer issues and couldn’t write a post for his first match vs. Gilles Muller. But honestly, the match only took 46 minutes and I know it would have taken me longer than that to write a post for it so I think it’s ok I missed that one 😛 Roger did express concern after that match about whether ti was too short to give him enough information about the court conditions and in his next match, it became evident that he needed a bit of time to get into rhythm.
His round 2 opponent was Denis Istomin who was his round 2 opponent at Basel last year too. Just like last year, Istomin caused him problems. Roger’s serving was uneven with quick holds followed by bad ones, one of which Denis capitalized on and took the first set, 6-3 in 30 minutes. Roger hit winners but quite a few unforced errors too, 11 winners to 14 unforced errors. Roger was going to have to clean up his own game and begin to impose pressure on Denis. And so he did.
The second set went much better for our Maestro. He offered Istomin no breakpoints, won 100% of his first serves and 71% of his second. He was even more aggressive and won 8/10 net points and he hit only 6 unforced errors to his 12 winners. He had 3 breakpoints and converted on the last one and took the second set 6-3 in 31 minutes. We were at one set all and headed for a decider.
The third set started with Denis serving and immediately having to save breakpoints. Despite getting multiple opportunities however Roger failed to break Denis much to the chagrin of all his fans. Thankfully for us, Roger didn’t let it bother him and quickly served to love to get the score to 1 all and go back to putting the pressure on Denis again. He got quite a few breakpoints again but unlike the last game, this time Roger converted and broke Istomin with a roar. After that it was a matter of holding on to his own serve. To his credit, Istomin held on, barely, but he did and at 4-5* he forced Roger to serve for the match. By then Roger had found his spirit and resolve and had no problems closing it out.
In the end, he served well and he was aggressive, winning 23 out of 32 net points in the match. He hit 40 winners but also hit 31 unforced errors which led it to seem a more roller-coaster of a match than it ultimately was. Here are the partial highlights and here are the stats.Roger had some trouble getting into the groove at the beginning. He also seemed cranky and annoyed. Our champ has not been very happy at this tournament I’m sure due in part to the ongoing issues with the Basel tournament director and still not having a contract with the tournament itself. As he said in his preview interview, the reasons for him playing in Basel now are for the fans and for his friends and family even though the joy has gone out of it a little. Apparently he had even though of only playing doubles this year but then changed his mind as he still felt fresh after Shanghai. Here is the presser clip after his match with Muller. I’ll add the clip of his presser after the Istomin match if it is posted later.
With this win Roger has now reached the QFs where he faces a formidable challenge indeed. Just like last year at the QFs, he will face Grigor Dimitrov. Unlike last year however, Grigor is coming to this match having had a fantastic year and winning 3 titles to his name. He is not the same opponent as he was a year ago and nor will he have the awe of facing his idol for the first time like he did in 2013. Dimitrov demolished his round 2 opponent and looks awfully confident. But I have hopes that this tough match with Istomin gave Roger some confidence in turning things around, and also gave him more information about the court conditions and his own form. Tune in at 8pm local time for the last match of the day (of course).
Last bit of information before I sign off: This is Roger’s 13th QF out of 15 tournaments he’s played in 2014 (excluding Davis Cup). He has already won 63 matches this year which is obviously more than last year’s 45 wins but also more than 2009’s 61 wins. And he’s not done yet 😀 Allez!