It was a strange match. Roger Federer won the toss and elected to receive, perhaps thinking he could make early in-roads into the Verdasco serve. Instead, within a few minutes the Maestro was quickly down a break serving at 0*-3 to get on the board. On the other side of the net, Fernando kept hitting clean winners and wrong-footing Roger every time. I knew it would take a bit of an adjustment with Verdasco’s lefty game but Roger looked especially out of sorts straight from the beginning. But the stumble was only temporary. He quickly regrouped and held to love to get on the board to 1-3* but then Verdasco held again and it was 4-1*.
But by then Roger had figured out how to go about this match and what followed next was otherworldly. He held to love to take the score to 2-4*. Then he stepped it up a notch to break Verdasco to love and we were now at 3*-4. He held to love again to consolidate the break and get back on serve at 4 all. Then, because there wasn’t enough magic already, he broke Fernando to love again to go up 5*-4 and serve for the set. Can you guess what happened next? If you detected the pattern then you are right, he held to love once more to take the set. Roger won an extraordinary 20 points in a row to climb out of 1*-4 down and take the set, 6-4.
The second set started with Verdasco finally getting a point on his own serve. But yet again, Roger had a breakpoint and continuing from the last set, he didn’t waste this breakpoint either and broke the Spaniard to start set 2 at 1*-0. But then, he had a strange lapse of concentration and before we could understand what was happening, Fernando had a breakpoint. Roger got broken and we were back on serve. The next two games continued with Roger making uncharacteristic errors and Fernando upping his game. We were level at 2 all.
Thankfully Roger’s mental fog didn’t last too long and he started to put the pressure on Verdasco soon enough. He had 2 breakpoints at 15*-40 but for the first time in the match, Roger missed both. But then he had another chance and this time he took it to go up 3*-2. From then on, there was no looking back. He consolidated with a love hold to go up 4-2*. Verdasco held, but then another quick love hold pushed the score to 5-3*. Fernando had to serve to stay in the match but by then the writing was on the wall. Roger got a match point and he took it right away. Game, set, match, Federer, 6-4, 6-3.
“I’m very happy how the match went,” said Federer. “I think it was a good quality match from my side. I think Fernando played well for spells, but I think I was quite consistent. Fernando is a shot maker and he takes it out of your racquet sometimes. So I’m still very, very pleased the way I played out here tonight.”
Here is a clip of the highlights, a clip of the amazing hot shot, a fun point here, a clip of his impeccable defense, a link to open the PDF version of his presser transcript and the match stats are given below.It took time for him to figure out Fernando, but once he did, Roger ran with it. Not sure what caused the temporary loss of focus at the beginning of the second but thankfully he quickly gathered himself and ensured that the match ultimately ended on his terms. Verdasco can be a tricky opponent when he’s really feeling his shots and the fact that he’s lefty gives him an advantage. But Verdasco is also known to have major mental lapses and that certainly helped Roger in this match. Other than those few blips where he got broken once per set, Roger played very well, with many love holds and a few love breaks too.
Up next is the Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Most of the French players give Roger some kind of trouble and many of them have defeated him more than once. Even though the H2H with Gasquet is 13-2 in Roger’s favor, quite a few of Roger’s wins have been tight matches. The match is schedule to be the first one of the night session and will start at 7:00pm local Dubai time. Good luck Roger!