It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fun. But it needed to be done. And so, despite having a frustrating time on court, Roger Federer defeated Andreas Seppi to reach R4 at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. The score looks simple enough, 6-3, 6-4, yet the journey was anything but.
The first set took 39 minutes. The serving woes continued for Roger although they were better than the previous match. Unlike the first match, his movement didn’t feel as fluid and his net play did not click. It seemed that he couldn’t find any rhythm and his timing was off. He hit only 9 winners to 15 unforced errors in the set. The pace of the set, and the match too actually, seemed jerky. He would be up 40-0 on his service games only to let Seppi back in to deuce before finally holding. Even though he allowed Andreas just one breakpoint chance, which he saved, it felt like he was constantly in danger of getting broken. He thankfully broke Seppi once after squandering 3 breakpoints and that proved to be enough for set 1.
Set 2 took 43 minutes and although this was a tricky set as well, I thought it was higher in quality than the first, especially towards the end. He still made errors at the net and his first serves in only slightly improved. But he returned much better and ended up with a total of 9 forehand winners in the match. It seemed he took more initiative in the second set and raised his game. He broke Seppi right away to begin the set but then got broken again for the scores to level at 3 all. As breakpoints came and went (he missed 6 out of 8 in this set), he got frustrated; nonetheless, he managed to keep his focus. Being relentless despite not having a good day paid off as he broke Seppi again at a crucial moment to go up 5-3* leaving Seppi to serve to stay in the match. Roger had 3 match points in this game but Seppi saved all of them including one by hitting a ridiculous lob that annoyed me to no end! Eventually the Italian forced Roger to serve for the match himself and despite a few wobbles, he ultimately did just that. Here are the match stats.Roger was not in vintage form but neither was Andreas. Both hit more errors than winners which rendered the match messy and uneven. Both were vocal on court with their annoyance too. I also noticed Roger having a mild case of the sniffles and coughing a few times throughout the match. It was just one of those days he needed to get through and he seemed to say as much. Here is the presser video clip as well.
“It absolutely was an opportunity right away to play him again and sort of erase it to some extent from the memory as the season moves forward. I don’t think we both played very well tonight. We both struggled with the conditions, the balls. I think it’s tough to get a hold of them, the right way with the right spin. Maybe as you move along in the tournament, hopefully it’s going to get better for me and for any player. It’s one of those matches you’re happy you’re through, and I was happy it was over.”
Up next is a new opponent for Roger, 22-year old American Jack Sock. Sock is coming back from an injury break but has played very well in this tournament so far with his latest victim being Bautista-Agut. This match will also be probably one of those rare occasions when Roger’s opponent has more fan support than him because Sock will be the local boy. Given that Roger hasn’t played him before, I expect it might take a bit of time for Roger to figure him out. The Swiss also won’t get as much of a break before this match as Sock will, since his R3 match was a night match and Jack’s was during the day. Roger had this to say about Sock,
“I’m very happy for him – anybody for that matter – who has been injured and is able to come back quickly. It’s nice to see. Always a great story. He’s clearly tough to beat, especially here in the States on the hard courts. That where he grew up playing on mostly. I don’t know him very well. Sort of a tough match.”
Roger hasn’t been at his best at this tournament, but then again, he hasn’t needed to be at that level thus far. The Maestro generally gets better as the tournament progresses so I am going to remain cautiously optimistic. The match will be the last match of the Day session, probably around 5pm local time. C’mon Roger, let’s do this!