Federer 4.0 Returns to Win 85th Title In Istanbul!

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As they say, all is well that ends well! After struggling all week, Roger put in a very solid performance in the final over a worthy opponent and won his 85th singles title 6-3, 7-6(11). It was also his first clay-court title since Madrid in 2012, and his third title in 2015 after winning Brisbane and Dubai. Not bad at all! No Masters or slam(yet) but they all count and to already have won three title at this point in the season is actually quite superb. That’s even better going than last season when Roger won his third title only in Cincy.

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The sweet thing is that he canceled out that bad loss in Monte Carlo with this title and his clay court season, which there was much hope for at the start, is back on track. He goes to Madrid with a clean slate where the altitude favors his attacking game. And yet another very encouraging thing is that he seems to have finally found his game on clay, right in the nick of time. Everything just kind of clicked in the final after struggling so much against Gimeno-Traver and Schwartzman.

  • Opening Set

Roger got off to the ideal start as he caught Cuevas off guard and broke him in the second game. From the get go, he was looking like an entirely different player from the one we saw in his last two matches. He was hitting the ball crisply and had a spring in his step. The enthusiasm was back. The serve was looking great from the beginning and he was mixing up the play very nicely with serve-and-volley plays, drop shots, and attacking returns. At 5-3 and 30-0 he looked nervous as he made a double fault and missed a routine volley.

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He also mishit a forehand out of the stadium at 40-30. But he managed to hold on and claim the first set 6-3 after a backhand unforced error from Cuevas. The good thing about the first set for Roger was that he looked to take the initiative. He wasn’t passive the way he was in his last two matches, waiting for the opponent to make a move. Once the first set was in the bag Roger was always going to be the favorite. But Cuevas was not going to go down without a fight…

  • Second Set

The second set was extremely close as the scoreline suggests. But not before Cuevas broke back after Roger got the initial break at 3-3 and was serving for a 5-3 lead. Until that point, it looked like it would be a routine straight-set victory for Roger. Like I said yesterday though, Cuevas knows how to navigate the dirt. I actually like his game quite a lot. Everything is quite good. His serve, his forehand, and also his ascetically pleasing one-handed backhand. He also has a calm on-court demeanor which I like.

It has to be said though that Roger played a pretty sloppy game at 4-3. Cuevas broke back and soon Roger found himself serving to stay in the set at 4-5, instead of serving for the title. There was some quality tennis played as both players continued to hold serve and we headed into a tie-break. Personally I was happy not to see a routine match in the final and I was hoping Cuevas could take the match to three sets too. The tie-break was a beauty, aside from the fact that it didn’t have the outcome I hoped for.

At first I thought it would be a disappointment as Roger hit a mishit backhand which caused Cuevas to shank the ball out and gave Roger the 5-4 lead with two serves to come. Roger then held two match points at 6-4 with a serve to come, and that is where the fun started. Roger made two consecutive unforced errors to even the score at 6-6 at the turn. At 7-6 he had another match point on his served but floated a slice approach wide. Then at 8-7 it was Cuevas’ turn to have a set point on his serve.

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He chose to serve-and-volley which wasn’t a bad play, but then missed a very nervous forehand volley into the net. That was his big chance. At 9-8 Roger had yet another match point on his serve and this time he made a slice unforced error into the net. Cuevas then got another mini-break and held another set point on his serve at 10-9. Again he served-and-volleyed and this time Roger came up with a smoking backhand return winner. That was an extraordinary shot under the circumstances and probably the shot that made the difference.

Finally with Cuevas serving at 11-12 a long baseline rally ensued which ended in an unforced error from Cuevas after a forehand drive down the line from Roger. I wasn’t particularly happy that it ended that way. I wanted a third set, but I’m grateful that at least it wasn’t a routine straight-set win and that we saw an entertaining tie-break and a good final. And of course it is nice to see Roger win another title and a clay title at that.

  • All Is Well That Ends Well

So after what seemed to be quite a bleak week for Roger he has gone on to win the title and ended it very well. Most importantly he seemed to have found his clay court game after struggling a lot with it in Monte Carlo and Istanbul. He looked like a spent force on clay but fought through the adversity and now he is primed for another good run in Madrid. It looks like he might skip Rome, but it doesn’t really matter. He is now on course to make deep runs in Madrid and possibly reach his goal of making semis in Paris(still not confirmed).

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After the Davis Cup final last year there were a lot of hopes, from my side anyway, that he has a lot of good clay court tennis left in him. And then after seeing him in Monte Carlo and Istanbul that hope started fading. But the important thing is that he kept grinding out wins the way Fed 4.0 is known to do. And inevitably it paid off in him finding his form on clay, which includes being aggressive and mixing things up a lot. He is obviously looking to shorten the points, but it took him some time to find his rhythm on clay.

This newfound clay court game will serve him very well in Madrid too, where the altitude favors attacking clay court tennis. And he will need to be at his best because his draw is difficult. At least now he is ready for it. If his clay court game has now stabilized I can see him making semis. Then he could even pose a threat to Nadal with Nadal’s current form. But Fedal matches have not exactly been in an abundant supply of late. So I am not even going to think about that anymore until it becomes a reality.

Looking forward to Madrid!

 

  • Highlights

  • Match Stats

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That first serve percentage! Breakpoint conversions? 

The  is in your court.

Federer Uses Experience to Get Past Schwartzman In Istanbul

(Just a quick note to let you know that someone told me today that they are not able to view the reader comments on their Ipad with my new theme, and that I am working on the issue)

  • Federer vs Schwartzman

So another nailbiter today as Roger scraped by Schwartzman 2-6, 6-2, 7-5. For the third time this week Roger played against someone with no serious weapons, and for the second time he struggled mightily. But at least he is winning. One of Federer 4.0’s main characteristics is his mental strength and ability to win ugly and grind out matches. The other one is, of course, his improved net game. So at least he is staying true to Fed 4.0 by grinding out wins against lesser opponents.

It’s not pretty, but a win is a win. I have already said if he wins the tournament he would have done his job. Schwarzman is 5’7” and, therefore, doesn’t have a single big weapon, but he has solid ground strokes and moves quite well too. Things were looking bleak when Roger lost the first set 6-2. Had he lost this match it would have qualified as one of his worst clay court losses to date, but fortunately he reversed the first set score and from there on it was just a question of waiting for Schwartzman to choke.

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And Schwartzman did just that when serving at 5-6 in the third set to stay in the match. From 15-15, he made three straight unforced errors to hand the victory to Roger. That is what you call using experience to get the job done. Roger was clearly still struggling, but he knew if he hung in there long enough his lesser experienced opponent would probably fold. Also the fact that he was serving first in the third set did not hurt. Roger’s break point conversion rate was pathetic again and this time his first serve percentage was quite low too.

But against Schwartzman who he such a small guy that didn’t hurt him too much. I like the way Roger is still winning despite playing poorly. That shows me Fed 4.0 is still around. But he does need to win the title against Cuevas tomorrow for an 85th title. Like I said at the beginning of the week, that would cancel out what happened in Monte Carlo and give him a much-needed confidence boost going to Madrid. A title is a title. They all count. Cuevas is a good player though as he showed today by beating Dimitrov 6-2, 6-4.

  • The Cuevas Factor

Another thing I said earlier this week was that Dimitrov probably won’t make the final, and he was once again very disappointing against Cuevas. Fame seems to be more important to him that tennis which is why I don’t have time for him. As for Cuevas, he is ranked 23rd and has won three titles, all on clay. They were all won in the last couple of years too. Roger has never played him before which make things a little harder. I saw some of Cuevas today and was quite impressed.

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He doesn’t have any huge weapons either but he is a clay courter after all and he clearly knows what it takes on the surface. If Roger wants to win the title he is going to have to improve from his last two matches. He is now playing against a guy who has actually won ATP titles. I am looking forward to a good contest. I am expecting Roger to play better too after grinding out two tough matches. If he wins the title Fedfans can look forward to Madrid with renewed hope but if he loses he has serious problems.

  • Kyrgios and Thiem

Finally, Kyrgios and Thiem was playing today in Estoril and Munich respectively. Kyrgios had another good win over Carreno-Busta and will play against Gasquet tomorrow for the title while Thiem had a disappointing 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3 loss to Melzer. I watched that match and Thiem lost the match in the first set tie-break. He led 4-1 with two serves to come, missed a sitter at 4-4, and double faulted at 5-5. A mental collapse that maybe has to do with the fact that he played his own countryman.

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Thiem is usually mentally strong and playing your own countryman often creates a different kind of pressure. I’m not too worried. At least he got two clay court wins under his belt. He is still young and I have high hopes for him. Also in Munich, Murray has made it all the way to the final where he will play Kohlschreiber. So he could well win his first clay court title tomorrow and become a real factor on clay this year. I still don’t think he has a great game for clay, but he can surely have some good results and beat top players.

  • Highlights

  • Stats

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The  is in your court.

Federer Scores 200th Clay Win Over Nieminen in Istanbul

  • Federer vs Nieminen

So Roger notched up his 200th career win on clay today with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Nieminen in the second round of the inaugural Istanbul Open. I watched and although it was not an awfully exciting match at least Roger got another win on clay under his belt after the Monte Carlo blunder. With a head-to-head of 14-0 between the two Nieminen was never gonna trouble Roger, but at least he put up better resistance in the second set and made Roger work a little harder.

Nieminen has about as many weapons as Wozniacki which means he provides Roger with a good practice hit basically. As far as Roger’s game goes he served well with 63% first serves and 9 aces, but he made too many unforced errors off the ground. Fortunately for him it was just Nieminen so he didn’t pay for it. Roger will play Gimeno-Traver in the quarterfinals who he has never played before and who is just about your standard Spanish dirt baller.

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The Spaniard has never won an ATP title in his life and sits at #62 in the rankings. Roger’s draw is now even easier on paper than it was at the outset because Gimeno-Traver defeated the 6th seed Kukushkin with ease. It looks like Roger will stroll to the title here which he should do if he wants to become a factor in the clay court season. The most difficult opponent he can face is Dimitrov who has had a pretty pathetic season so far. I won’t even be surprised if he loses before the final.

  • The Young Guns

As far as the youngsters go this week Alexander Zverev had a first round win over Becker but then lost to Kohschreiber. Kyrgios also won his first round in Estoril in the third set tie-break and just defeated his second round opponent too. Coric also won his first round in Estoril against 6th seed Chardy but plays his second round tomorrow. Finally, Thiem survived his first round in Munich by the skin of his teeth as he defeated Pospisil 9-7 in the third set tie-break. He plays Fognini tomorrow which should be very interesting.

The youngsters are coming!

Highlights:

Stats:

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The  is in your court.