Saturday, March 1, 2014
Title #78 for the incomparable Roger Federer
The "incomparable Roger Federer," as he was so aptly called in the trophy ceremony in Dubai, came back to win in three sets over Tomas Berdych in the final to capture his 78th career title, his first since June 2013. After a truly remarkable win in the semifinal over Novak Djokovic, also in three sets, for a while it looked like that may have taken all of Federer's mental edge and top level play that had been so captivating just the day before.
Although he took advantage in the first set of a poor service game by Berdych to go up a break, that was not to last even one game, as Berdych immediately broke back and reeled off the next five games, eventually taking the first set 6-3. Roger's first serve percentage was poor and he was throwing in shanks and puzzling mishits that had been missing for the most part during the majority of 2014. The second set didn't start much better as he went down a break and it looked for all the world like it was going to be a quick win for Tomas. From somewhere deep within, though, he summoned the energy and desire to keep fighting and managed to break back. He took the second set by breaking serve at 5-4. But it was anyone's guess as to what the next set would bring.
Federer managed to get an early break in the third set, but it was far from an easy road to victory. There were some very tense service games complete with break point opportunities that Berdych was unable to capitalize on. When Roger was unable to take advantage of a couple championship points on Berdych''s 2-5 service game I was a bit concerned if he would be able to serve it out being that it had been a long title drought for him. He eventually got it done, though, arms raised in victory for him and millions around the world, along with a few tears on my part.
This title was a big deal for Roger's progress on the comeback trail. It can play with a person's mind to be on the brink but not able to take the last step, so the combination of beating Djokovic this week and then coming back in the final in spite of the mental drain the semi had taken, and frankly not playing his best tennis in the final match, to get the win anyway will be a great confidence builder for him. So far this year he has had as many top 10 wins already as he had in the whole of 2013. Just this stat in itself proves to the many who have said he is in decline, and even that he should retire, that it was injury not decline that lead to his lack of results last year. He still has much left in him that he wants to show the world. I think he has many titles left to claim, hopefully one or two of them being majors still.
I will be heading to Indian Wells on Thursday for the fourth time but this time it will be for the duration of the tournament rather than just through the third round. Oh how I would love to see Roger holding that trophy! I will try to do as many updates as I can.