Roger Federer has reached the SFs in Istanbul. How he got there I don’t exactly remember. I know it took 3 sets with 2 of them going to tie-breaks. I know it took close to 2.5 hours. I know he won more points than his opponent in every set. I know he converted only 3 out of 13 breakpoints. I know these stats. But even though I watched the entire match, I think for my own sake my brain is blocking out most of it.
It started off well enough with Roger getting a break right away. But then he couldn’t consolidate it and that should have told us we had a long way to go. His opponent was Daniel Gimeno-Traver and even though this was their first meeting, Daniel has been on tour for a while. He is a seasoned campaigner and showed no nerves even after losing that first game. The first set ultimately went to a tie-break. Despite losing a mini-break in the beginning, Roger played well enough to get another one and take the set.
The second set started disastrously for our champ as Daniel broke Roger and then consolidated to go up 4-1*. Roger held his own game after that but so did Daniel, and soon Roger had to serve to stay in the set at 2*-5. Roger held that game to bring the deficit down to 3-5* and it was up to Daniel to serve for the set. Finally Daniel’s nerves got to him and he got broken at love and we were back on serve. Roger held next to level the score at 5 all. But then Daniel, despite being down breakpoints, held on as well to go up 6-5* and made Roger serve for a chance at a second tie-break. In the tie-break, Roger got an immediate mini-break, again and lost it, again. Then he got a second one and lost it too. Can you guess what happened next? Daniel got a mini-break of his own. But unlike Roger, he figured these mini-breaks must be important so he held onto his and won the set. It was 1 all and by then I had torn off clumps of my hair from my head.
Set 3 started with Roger saving breakpoints in his very first game. It must be said that throughout this set, Roger kept pushing Daniel and often got to 30 all and deuce on the Spaniards games. But somehow, Daniel kept holding and that’s how it went on till 3 all. Serving at 3*-4 Daniel wavered and even though he was up 40-15, an error from him and two subsequent winners from Roger provided the Swiss his first breakpoint chance of the set. This time, when it counted the most, Roger finally took it with a gorgeous net point and suddenly he was serving for the match. Roger didn’t make any mistakes and sealed the deal with his first match point. Game, set, match, Federer 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 6-3. Here are the match stats.As I mentioned above, Roger won more points than Daniel but the Spaniard did a great job of winning the big points. He saved 10 of the 13 breakpoints he faced and held onto the one mini-break he got in the second set tie-break. As for Roger, his performance was up and down. The stats won’t tell you what a tough time he had on court. He was frustrated, he hit a few shanks, his shot selections were questionable at times and I think he didn’t slide and move as well as he can/should. He said in the post-match interview that these types of wins were good for his confidence, reiterating yet again how his understanding of the words “good”, “fun” and “exciting” is so different from the rest of us.
Up next is the young Argentinean player Diego Schwartzman. Diego had a mighty impressive win of his own right before Roger today. He has already faced Roger twice in his career, at Indian Wells this year and Roland Garros last year. Even though Roger won both times, Diego will come into the match confident and not awestruck at playing a legend for the first time.
On the other hand, I have no clue how Roger will perform. This looks easy on paper. But this is clay and Roger has been erratic so who knows what will happen. Even if Roger wins, don’t be surprised if it’s a tough one. It depends on whether Roger’s game comes together just in time for the match. The SF is scheduled at 3:30pm local time. Till then, enjoy set 1, set 2 (only if you want to torture yourself), set 3 and the on-court interview from today. See you at match time!