Roger Federer won the Istanbul Open! The match had something for everyone. For a set and a half, the Maestro looked in cruise control. He took the first set 6-3 and was up a break in the second at 4*-3. Doesn’t that 6-3, 4*-3 score line look fun to you? Trust me, those of us who watched it live had a great time.
Then a thought hit Roger. While the millions of FedFans watching the match were waiting to countdown to the trophy winning moment, he suddenly felt deflated. He reflected back on the past few days; that boat ride on the Bosphorous was so much fun, the kids were so cute on Kids Day and he had been treated like a very special person from the moment he landed in this new country. Yet here he was, a mere 2 games away from his time in Turkey coming to a close. If he spent so little time on court, would it be fair to those wonderful fans who filled the stadium each day to see him? Perhaps it would be rude to leave so quickly? So the ever-considerate Swiss decided to provide the dedicated Turkish fans with a bit more Roger-time and promptly got broken back to get the set on serve again.
The second set was at 4 all and Pablo had a new lease on life. Both players hung in there and forced a tie-break. The tie-break was almost cartoonish because Pablo and Roger each had multiple epic fail moments, missing chances on set points and match points. But then Roger realized that if he didn’t win the tie-break, that would mean having to play a whole new set and who knows what might happen if he took that risk? He was already due to play in Madrid in 3 days. Maybe it was time to wrap it up so he can recover from a 2 set match instead of 3? So, finally, Roger won the set and the match 6-3, 7-6(13-11). He did a little hop on his way to the net to shake hands and the rest of us melted into a puddle of exhaustion, exasperation and exhilaration.
This was Roger’s best match of the tournament in all departments of his game. It was extra nice that he found his groove after 2 back to back grueling matches against Gimeno-Traver and Schwartzman. Going into Madrid, he will feel good about his performances and how his body held up thus far. Though it should be mentioned that Madrid’s conditions are very different to not just Istanbul, but every other clay tournament because of its altitude.
He is scheduled to face Nick Kyrgios in his opening match a few hours from now. Nick is a big hitter with a massive serve that will get extra pop in Madrid’s conditions. The two have never faced each other before so expect Roger to need a bit of time to work out how to play him. I hope our Maestro comes through unscathed.
Before I end this post, just a quick run-through of what the Istanbul title means for our champ. This was Roger’s:
• 85th career title in his 128th career final
• 1st title on clay since Madrid 2012
• 11th clay title in his career
• 3rd title of the year
• 1st title in Istanbul making Turkey the 19th country he has won a title in, which is a record
• 24th ATP 250 title. He is now second behind Muster who holds the record for most ATP 250s with 26
• 64th outdoor title. This is a new record though Nadal trails him by just 1. If Nadal wins in Madrid, he will tie with Roger again
• 765th outdoor match win, 1,017th career match win and 1,247th career match.
Roger had a fantastic time in Istanbul. He promoted the tournament very well and he was warmly appreciated for his efforts. You could see his enthusiasm of experiencing something new throughout the week and his unbridled joy when he won the final was there for all to see. It is that youthfulness that keeps his mind fresh on the tour which makes my next sentence even more amazing: Roger’s twin baby boys turned 1 year old today! Happy birthday Leo and Lenny! His excitement, motivation and positivity makes him seem so much younger than he is. Then it hits you that this dorky man is the father of four children! His dad mode was in full display at the Kids Clinic at Istanbul; he instinctively knows how to interact with children.
But Roger has many avatars. He is a dad one minute, a giggly school child another minute and then on court, during match time, he is a tennis god. It is this intoxicating and mesmerizing combination of attributes that make Roger who he is and brings fans from across the world to him like moths to a flame. And the best part is, no matter what happens in Madrid, or Halle or Basel or Roland Garros or even Wimbledon, we will continue to be moths and he will continue to burn bright. It’s not easy quitting Roger. If it were, then you wouldn’t be reading this but here you are! 😉 Good luck in Madrid Maestro!
***First 2 photos are AP Photos. Not sure about the third one.***