Sunday, May 3, 2015

Federer claims 85th title in Istanbul

It was a topsy turvy week for Federer in Istanbul, but at the end of it all he was holding up a beautiful trophy to inaugurate this brand new tournament.  And who better to always have on record as the first title holder than the GOAT, the Maestro, his majesty Roger Federer?

The final started out strong for Roger, playing aggressively and cutting down on the errors that seemed to plague him through the week.  He closed out the first set easily at 6-2.  But from experience both watching and playing, I was well aware that a 6-2 first set doesn't necessarily mean anything.  And sure enough, the 2nd set was a much tighter affair.  In spite of a break which should have ended it in much easier fashion, this was given back, and other break point opportunities not taken (in part definitely due to some great play by Pablo Cuevas).  It inevitably went to a tiebreak and wow, what an experience that was.  Both players had some definite moments of choking, and really, I'm surprised it didn't end up in a 3rd set.  Roger had several wasted match points, but Pablo decided to return the favor by wasting his set points.  Ultimately some better play ensued and Roger was able to close it out finally at 13-11, after blood pressure rising and heart attacks from many Fed fans.

This was the first clay court win for Federer since Madrid 2012, but as that was blue clay it was surprisingly his first red clay title since 2009.  Now he will head to Madrid, I'm sure with more confidence, and hopefully a couple days rest before starting a difficult journey with a tough draw.  But that's a different story for a different day.  For now we will celebrate the happy feelings of his hard fought 85th trophy. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Federer's week so far in Istanbul

Roger Federer is into the final of the inaugural Istanbul Open.  It definitely hasn't been without a fight though!  In fact, the above picture I think portrays some of the emotions his fans have felt this week - the "what in the world is going on."  Before each of the last two matches I was feeling quite comfortable beforehand thinking he would get through fairly easily, against Gimeno-Traver and Schwartzman, both ranked quite a bit lower.  However, both matches went three sets, and in the semi against Schwartzman Roger lost the first set 6-2.  Schwartzman was definitely playing well, but at the same time the errors coming off of Roger's racquet were simply too many, and his frustration was evident at times, with even a code violation coming after hitting a ball out of the stadium.

It feels like he can't quite seem to get the feel on clay so far this year.  His early exit in Monte Carlo was a surprise after having made it to the final last year, but he said he just never felt comfortable.  Watching him this week it kind of feels the same way.  I'm trying to lower my expectations of what to expect for this clay season, with at least Madrid and the French Open coming up (still not sure of Rome).  To be honest I have never enjoyed clay.  The long grueling points, the difficulty in hitting winners because of the slow conditions and, yes, the fact that one unnamed player has been winning for the last decade.  I'm sure the long matches get more difficult on the body as Federer gets older, but he continues to soldier on, adding in this new tournament this year for the opportunity to play in and visit places he hasn't been to before, which is admirable.

And despite the difficult matches, he has a chance to win another title when he faces Pablo Cuevas, who surprisingly beat Dimitrov in straight sets.  Whether he wins or not, he has given himself a lot of clay practice this week, he had an enjoyable time as a sight see-er, and he has added some impressive stats once again.  One of these is that with his 200th win on clay he became only the 2nd player to have 300 hard court wins, 200 clay court wins and 100 grass court wins (along with Jimmy Connors).  He has also moved into third place with the most aces.  So regardless of whether he is kissing a trophy or holding a plate, it has overall been a successful (though slightly frustrating for those watching) week in Istanbul.  And Roger seems happy is and having fun, so that's what counts!