We are back on the red dirt. It’s my least favorite season in many ways but Roger Federer has decided to play a full clay season this year so brace yourselves, we’ll be here for a while. Roger’s first match on clay came with his Monte Carlo Rolex Masters R2 face-off against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. Chardy has always caused Roger problems and despite Roger’s slim lead in their H2H at 2-1, Jeremy’s win came on clay in Rome last year. All their matches had been very tight and I expected a tough fight, especially given that this was the Maestro’s first match on this surface.
Jeremy started well enough. He held his first service game to get to 1 all. Then the proceedings quickly turned sour for the Frenchman as he got broken in his next serving game by double faulting on breakpoint. Roger held to love and in 14 minutes of match play, the Maestro was up 4-1* in the first set. Chardy held once more to take the score to 2-4* followed by another Roger hold that left Jeremy to serve to stay in the set. This was not to be ad he got broken again to give Roger the first set, 6-2 in 25 minutes.
The second set started with a hold from Roger and a break of Jeremy’s serve giving Roger a nice lead of 2*-0. But a random lapse in concentration while trying to consolidate the break gave Jeremy a breakpoint. Roger got broken and it was back on serve which gave Jeremy so much needed confidence. Roger sensed that slight shift in momentum too and set about making things right. Jeremy’s next game was the longest one of the match with the Frenchman separately trying to hold on and Roger constantly pushing him. After missing several breakpoint chances, Roger unleashed this beauty of a shot to break back. It was 3*-1 and I think whatever steam was left in Jeremy dissipated right then. Roger consolidated and then broke Jeremy once more to take a commanding lead of 5*-1 in the set. The Swiss got pushed to 30 all but that was all the resistance Jeremy could muster as Roget put away a winner on match point. Game, Set, Match, Federer 6-2, 6-1 in 53 minutes. Here is yet another hot shot and here is a link to his post-match presser. The match stats are below.
Clearly Jeremy was not at his best, his serve in particular let him down. Plus I got the feeling he was relying on the hit-to-Roger’s-backhand formula a bit too much and Roger’s backhand held up beautifully. Roger was glorious at the net winning 9 out of 12 points. He had 19 winners to 12 unforced errors and had excellent stats with his serve; 76% first serve points won and 70% second serve points won. I thought it was a good match played by Roger. He didn’t expend extra energy. He looked focused and played clean, clinical tennis.
He will need to dig deep in his next match even further as he faces off against another problematic Frenchman, Gael Monfils; their H2H is 8-3 in Roger’s favour. Gael had a very good win in his R2 match and the last time he played Roger was on clay at the Davis Cup final last year when he defeated Roger in straight sets. Yes, Roger was injured but then their match before that was at the US Open when Roger saved 2 match points. Gael can be a tough competitor with his acrobatic antics and he’s completely unpredictable and prone to faking out opponents. I am hoping Roger’s first match on clay has given him the confidence to not have his concentration disturbed by Monfils. Their match is the second one of the day session. Come on Roger!