Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Federer survives test to reach quarterfinals

Roger Federer was surprisingly tested by 35-year-old Radek Stepanek in his 2nd round win in Dubai, being taken to a 3rd set after a loss of the 2nd set tiebreak.  But as the picture suggests, he finally put his head down and eventually claimed victory.  It really was kind of a strange match.  On the one hand there was some brilliance really from both players, but there was also some ugliness mixed in with many breaks of serve, double faults, and just unforced errors that left us shaking our heads.  To his credit Stepanek played a strong match, showing how badly he wanted it with some diving shots around the court.  It's easy sometimes to look at a player like Stepanek and think it will be an easy win for Roger with their head-to-head and the fact he hasn't even won a set off of Federer since 2008.  We forget, though, that he is a seasoned player who knows what he's doing on the court, has had some great success in Davis Cup to give him confidence, and he can trouble the top players even if he doesn't necessarily pull off the win.

In an interview following the match Roger revealed that he usually struggles in early rounds in Dubai due to the quick courts and getting used to the conditions.  This made me feel a bit better, since I really was a bit puzzled by some of what was going on.  He also said the following after the match:

“I started to understand what I was doing wrong,” said Federer. “Which made me maybe play a little bit tentatively from the baseline, what made me not make enough shots [and] why I wasn't playing as aggressively as I wanted to. I couldn't find the right balance between offense and defense.
“It was almost a bit too late for everything, but I kind of hung around and I took the positives out of the match. Radek did a good job of putting the pressure on me and mixing it up. From that standpoint, it was a really difficult match. I'm very pleased to come through.”

Maybe having to struggle in this win will be what he needs to fully adjust to the conditions and be ready for bigger matches ahead.  His next opponent is Lukas Rosol, who he has never played before.  Rosol has the potential to take out the big guys, such as with his shock win against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon a couple years ago, but overall he has struggled since then, so if Roger stays committed to playing his game he should come out of that match to likely face Novak Djokovic, who is looking like a force to be reckoned with so far this tournament.  But one match at a time.  For now we will be happy with the victory that looked a little questionable for a while.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Federer showing great form in 1st round of Dubai

It was a day Federer fans had been anxiously awaiting for several weeks - Roger back in action in Dubai.  And it was definitely worth the wait.  Roger has once again been working hard during his off weeks, eager to get fully back to the form he knows he is still capable of after his difficult year in 2013 filled with injury, lack of sufficient practice and adjustment to new equipment.  He already proved in Australia that he is back close to his best again, and today's match against Benjamin Becker was no different.  The first set took only 22 minutes and he was in complete control.  The second was a little more challenging, but he showed the world what he is still capable of at the ripe old age of 32.

I'm sure all his fans have already seen this amazing point showing his GOATness, but I still have to post it anyway.  I have already watched it quite a few times myself.  I will have to just post the link, though, since I can't seem to embed it for the time being.

Right now he seems to be quite relaxed, enjoying his tennis again now that his body is cooperating with him, playing with aggression and confidence, which is so great to see.  Of course, the real test will be when he plays opponents the likes of Novak Djokovic, who he would meet in the semis if they both progress.  That would be a very good test for him, showing where his level really is at.  I desperately want to see him kissing some trophies again in the near future, but if he is feeling good, enjoying himself, and playing the kind of tennis that he showed in that amazing point which had had him tearing around the court like a 20-year-old, then I believe that will come, hopefully sooner rather than later.  Good days to come, fellow Fedfans!