We’re back! We’re at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the last hardcourt tournament of Roger Federer’s published schedule for the year (till now). Roger received a bye for the first round but that didn’t mean he missed out on any match time because he had entered the doubles as well with fellow Swiss Davis Cup teammate and lifelong friend Michael Lammer. The pair unfortunately lost their tight match but then we received even sadder news that this was Michael’s last match on tour. It’s lovely that he was able to end his career playing doubles with his friend and I wish Michi all the best in the future and hope he stays involved with tennis. Do watch the video here to hear Lammer talk about his time on tour.
The doubles was done and dusted before Roger’s first singles match in the second round. His opponent was Diego Schwartzman, a young Argentinean ranked 63 in the world. Diego was super excited to play Roger, or ‘Su Majestad’ as he called him 😉 Roger had faced him once before, in 2014 at Roland Garros and had won in straight sets. But this was the first match of the tournament and anything could happen before Roger got used to the match conditions. Sure enough, it took the Swiss a bit of time to find rhythm. There were some aspects of his game that didn’t quite work in the match. This is why I felt he had 2 opponents on court. He had Diego, and then he also had himself making errors. There were times when it seemed Diego was the least of his worries as he got annoyed with his own mistakes.
Roger broke Diego early in set 1 and had chances to get a double break but wasn’t able to convert his breakpoints. One break was all he got but one was all he needed. He wrapped up the set 6-4 in 32 minutes and already it was quite clear which parts of his game were/were not clicking. When he got his first serves in, he won 77% of his points but the problem was getting them in at all. He hit 6 aces but his 1st serve percentage for the first set was a mere 50%. His net play worked well; he won 6 out of the 7 times he approached the net. However, his returning was not up to his usual level. He hit 11 winners but 16 unforced errors too.
The Maestro broke Diego twice in set 2 and took just 30 minutes to win it 6-2. His returning improved in this set especially off the second serves of Diego. He won 7 out of 7 times he came to the net and won even more points off his first serve. But the number of first serves he was able to get in dropped even more and ultimately he ended up with a 49% of first serves in as his match stat. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it that low. Even in this set he hit more unforced errors to winners, 12 to 8. For the whole match he hit 19 winners and 26 unforced errors.
Roger was acutely aware of his own failings each time and he let it be known through frustrated grunts and shakes of the head. It was almost as if Diego wasn’t even there; it was Roger playing and critiquing himself. Thankfully Diego didn’t present enough of a challenge to thwart the Maestro’s progress. Thus Roger’s annoyance was more about the Swiss being unsatisfied with his own level rather being down in the score. Here are the match stats.However, there were also some definite positive take-aways from the match. He didn’t expend too much energy, being on court for only 62 minutes. He had the right fighting attitude; he was annoyed rather than sullen, so it seems he’s mentally fresh. When he did get his first serves in, they gave him easy winners. His net points worked well throughout and his returning got better as he got deeper into the match. But above all else, his movement was sublime. There was no lethargy there even though he ran more than his 11 years younger opponent. He seems eager and hungry to win and that’s all I needed to see from his first match.
Up next is Andreas Seppi, the player who took him out at the Australian Open barely two months ago. Here is what Roger had to say on the topic. You can see the full presser video here too, where he also addresses questions on his longevity and the Davis Cup.
“I’m happy to play him again. I was very disappointed with the performance I had in Australia. I know he can play well and can beat me, that’s not the problem. It was the way I was hitting the ball. I wasn’t playing very committed. I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to hit my forehand and backhands. It was just a tough match overall and the match slipped away from me. I really thought Seppi did a good job and nice job of putting the pressure on me, as well… I hope this time around it’s going to go better for me. I will be prepared, there is no doubt about that. I’m happy I’m getting an opportunity to play him right away again.”
I don’t know if I’m as happy as Roger is about this match but I know by now that my definition of ‘fun’ doesn’t always match with the Maestro’s 😉 The match will be a night match, today, at 7:00pm local time. Come on Roger, let’s get this match done and hopefully move onwards and upwards! Allez!