It was a 2-part match. Part 1 was Set 1, with Roger Federer not finding much rhythm, having trouble adjusting to the conditions and generally feeling ‘off’. In the midst of this ‘off-ness’ he kept flexing the fingers of his right hand, inspecting it every few minutes with great scrutiny as if he had grown a 2nd pinkie. Across the net was Simone Bolelli, a player who had never taken a set off our champ but was determined to stop that trend. This combo did not bode well for the Swiss and he got broken which allowed the Italian to take the first set, 6-3.
At the changeover, Roger called the trainer out on-court. Nervous fans looked on hoping to figure out what had happened to his hand but as the camera came close, he stopped the cameraman short as he wanted privacy to discuss his issue with the trainer. When set 2 started, we were no closer to knowing what this mystery ailment was but at least Roger looked to be rearing to go and that was the beginning of Part 2 of this two-part match. For a while the set was tense, with both players holding strong till 3 all. Roger served very well to go up 4-3* but as Bolelli was about to serve for 4 all, the Maestro had his chance. He kept pushing and kept Bolelli scampering and eventually got the crucial break. Roger served out the set, 6-3 and it was one set all.
The beginning of the third set was crucial for both players, either Roger was going to keep the momentum on his side or Simone would put a stop to that to start fresh. But Roger had begun to get in the groove by then and amped up his aggressive game from the first point. His relentlessness earned him a break point and a Bolelli forehand into the net, gave Roger the break. The Swiss quickly produced one of his one-minute holds to consolidate the break and put the pressure firmly back on Simone. Bolelli held but by then there was no stopping our Roger. He held again and then continued to impose his game on Bolelli’s own serve to go up a double break. A couple of aces consolidated the double break for Roger to go up 5-1* and even though Simone held the next game, Roger served out the set 6-2. 2 sets were now in the bag, we needed one more.
If Simone was going to mount a comeback, this was his last shot but Roger destroyed any hopes the Italian might have had by breaking him immediately and following that up with a blink-and-you-miss service hold to consolidate and go up 2-0*. Bolelli got on the board with the next game but then Roger took the next three games to get a double break and go up 5-1* leaving it to Simone to save himself with a service hold. The next game was full of unnecessary drama caused by multiple bad line-calls but ultimately Simone held, forcing Roger to serve for the match. Roger’s serves didn’t let him down and he took the final set 6-2 to win the match. Here are the match stats.That first set was not a good performance from our champ. He leaked errors, never found rhythm and had a hard time getting a read on Simone’s serves. I’m sure the strange finger issue, which might have been a bee sting (?) wasn’t the cause of losing that set but it definitely distracted him during it. Once he got the break in set 2, his tennis came back to life. He played more freely and as he began to pick up the pace. He grew more confident while Bolelli couldn’t sustain the high level he started with. What was good about the match was that Roger got better and better with each set in all departments; net play, returns and service games too. He was so superbly aggressive, it was a lot of fun to watch. Here is a link of the amazing dropshot he hit, a tiny highlights with match-point clip, a link to a clip of his presser and also the presser transcript. And a little preview video as well which you should watch 🙂
Up next for Round 3 is another Italian player, Andreas Seppi, who had a very good win against Jeremy Chardy and is coming into the match with confidence. Roger has a positive 10-0 H2H against Andreas and in those 10 matches he has dropped only one set so theoretically Roger should be able to win this. They haven’t played each other since 2013 Shanghai so it will probably take a bit of time for Roger to re-figure him out. It should be noted however, that the finger-pain mystery wasn’t really solved, at least not that we know of. Roger had a good practice session today with Severin Luthi and Stefan Edberg and
his finger didn’t have any taping on it so I am going to hope that the strange pain was really a one-time issue. EDIT: I just noticed a tiny tape on the finger on another practice photo but I am still optimistic about it being a small insignificant problem. Roger’s match is the last one of the Day session at the Rod Laver Arena. Only hours to go! C’mon Roger!