Here we are, Roger Federer is into his 128th career final! And he was made to work for it till the last game of the final set. Yes, the match went to 3 sets again. Once more it was against a player who was not supposed to be as tough as he was today. But if you had seen the first set you would think Diego Schwartzman was the #1 seed and our champ the lost and frustrated newbie.
It was a tough match to sit through, especially in the beginning when Roger got broken twice in the first set and couldn’t find any rhythm or timing. The Maestro lost that set 2-6 in the blink of an eye. Some serious momentum shift was needed immediately but Diego was not in the mood to be swatted away. He may be only 5’7” tall but he had the speed of a DC comic hero in the match (yes, I’m a fan of the TV show, ‘The Flash’ obviously). But back to tennis, this young man basically got to every ball no matter how hard Roger hit them. Nonetheless, in set 2, Roger’s game went up a whole new level and he started to win his first serve points a lot more which made a big difference. He did not face any breakpoints and put Diego under pressure constantly. Roger had 8 breakpoint chances of his own in this set but Diego valiantly saved 6 of them. The 2 he didn’t were the ones that made the difference. Roger won that set 6-2.
Set 3 started with the momentum on Roger’s side but Diego decided to up the ante as well. This final set had the best quality of tennis in my opinion since both players were playing at their best. I constantly felt that Roger was playing just a little bit better and would break Diego any minute, but just like Gimeno-Traver in the last match, Diego played well when it counted the most. He hung in there and even saved one match point when he was serving at 4*-5. But eventually, Diego finally blinked at 5*-6, and Roger broke him to take the match, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5. Here is the link to part 1 which was strange, part 2 and the on-court interview. Here are the match stats.I will remember two things from this match. First, Diego played a very good match from the beginning till the end and deserved the applause he received at the end. I would prefer that Roger never plays him again but the Maestro hugged him so warmly at the net, I am afraid the crazy man actually enjoyed this tormenting match; he called it “fun” of course. Second, Roger was in a very bad mood. Bad enough to hit a ball out of the stadium in frustration and get a code violation in the process. Roger Federer getting a code violation! You don’t see that every day… or month, or year, or decade. Roger has not had a good time on the court the past few days and both matches were annoyingly and excruciatingly tedious. I can totally understand why he was so frustrated.
So far, his opponents have been lower ranked, relatively unknown, players who came at him with all they had, trying to score their one big upset. Unfortunately, the final will be no different. He will face Uruguayan player Pablo Cuevas, ranked 23 in the world. Pablo is 29 years old and he’s been on tour for a long time so it’s interesting that he has never faced Roger before. Cuevas is having the best year of his career as far as rankings go and to top it all off, he’s a clay court specialist. He has dropped only one set in the tournament and defeated Grigor Dimitrov in his SF match in relatively easy straight sets. He would have been a tough opponent on clay even in the best of days. But with Roger’s recent erratic performances, Pablo will definitely think he has a chance.
However Roger of course, has experience; specifically experience in playing finals and fighting for trophies. The Maestro knows how to win and if he is not too tired and can get his first serves firing, Roger will be tough to beat. I have no idea at all who will get that winners trophy, but I do feel that it will be determined on which Roger shows up. That match will begin at 5:00pm local time. Here’s hoping Roger the Champion comes to play!