Federer wasted no time in hitting his stride today in defense of his French Open crown in his first round match against Peter Luczak from Australia. He looked comfortable right from the beginning, holding serve with consummate ease. Luczak, whose best surface is clay, put up decent resistance in the first set, but after that Roger began relaxing more and played some exquisite drop shots that left Luczak stranded on the base line. At one point in the third set there was a long rally and a lot of running, and finally Federer decided to end it with a drop shot from well behind the base line. Luczak didn’t even try to run for it. Roger obviously liked it as he raised a finger in the air. Another point that stood out for me was a slice lob with side spin over Luczak’s head. You can view the drop shot at 1:15 in the first video and the lob at 0:30 in the second video.
That backhand angle on match point was to bad either, was it? A thing of beauty. It looked like Federer was toying with his man in the second and third sets and I’m almost surprised that he played this well so early on in the event. When players play on center court they each get 30 minutes before the match to warm up. Apparently Roger only used 15 minutes of his allowed 30 minutes to hit some serves and get rhythm. It obviously payed off as Federer ended with an impressive first serve percentage of 71%. Everything else looked good as well, and his movement seemed to be really good. Roger was pretty happy with it himself:
Q. I had the impression that you were moving around nicely today on the court. Is it also your feeling? How would you explain this? Have you worked a lot with your foot practice over the past two weeks?
ROGER FEDERER: I didn’t have much time, but as I was saying before, the more I play on clay, the more natural it is to me. And I think it was a bit slippery today, because it was quite warm out there. The surface is the sand is very light, and then you tend to slide. You had to get used to this, but then frankly I didn’t have many problems with my footwork.
I was moving around okay at the beginning, and that’s very important not to miss balls to start with and to be lagging behind and then to play with more pressure on you, but it didn’t happen today. So it was a perfect match from the outset.
He talks about the conditions and it looked pretty fast out there today, which may have helped him as well. Roger says he likes slower clay but I don’t think there can be any doubt that faster conditions would be in his favor if he was to face Nadal. It all depends on the weather. If it’s hot and dry the courts will play faster. It was good to see Roger put in such a clinical performance today. He is obviously feeling relaxed after having won the title last year. This can only be good for his quest to defend his title. Also I loved to see him using the drop shot a lot, and it has almost become his muse on clay since last year when he first started using it a lot. Maybe it will provide the inspiration to defend his title this year. As I said yesterday, Roger is now facing Alejandro Falla, who he has never faced before.
More good news is that Filiciano Lopez lost today, which means that Roger’s draw has just got a little bit easier again. Both Wawrinka and Monfils won today, so it looks like Roger will face his first seeded player only in the fourth round. Roger’s draw really does look pretty good until the final! The other match that I mentioned yesterday, the one between Gasquet and Murray, turned out to be the thriller it promised to be. Gasquet won the first two sets 6-4, 7-6(5), and was a break up in the third, but ran out of ‘gas’ and ended up losing the last three sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. There is two things about this match that I didn’t understand. The first was why the French Tennis Federation did not grant Gasquet’s wish to play on Tuesday after he was obviously tired form winning two tournaments in two weeks. I mean don’t the French want their own players to do well? The other thing that I didn’t understand is that Gasquet made his request to play on Tuesday public.
In doing so he only gave Murray hope and let him know that he was tired. And during the match things weren’t much different. When Murray started coming back into the match Gasquet made things easier for him by showing his tiredness. It was written all over him. Again it comes down to mental toughness and not showing your opponent what they want to see. Roger said just the other day that he plays with pain 80% of the time. But you would never guess it by his on court demeanor. Tennis is all about pressure and when you show your opponent that you are hurt, you take pressure off him. You have to give credit to Murray as well, as much as you may dislike him, and it’s possible that he can make the semi-finals to meet Roger. I really wouldn’t mind that to be honest.
Presser: Thanks for the nice words about my country Rog… http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/news/interviews/2010-05-24/201005241274714153758.html
May the Fedforce be with you.
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Ps. I made a mistake. Roger has faced Fella twice before at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and won easily on both occasions.